Where and What is Your "Utah?"

"Other people have analysis. I have Utah." - Robert Redford One of the most important epiphanies from my Year by the Water was that we don't have to be anti-social to be pro-solitude.

What do I mean by that?

Well, last April I was driving out in the middle of nowhere listening to the Audible version of Gloria Steinem’s memoir, My Life on the Road.

I had always pictured Texas as hot, flat and barren. But this was spring. Much to my surprise, everything was green, rolling, vibrant. I didn't know what was over the next knoll, all I knew was it was going to be something interesting I'd never seen before.

I was driving at golden hour - that blessed hour right before the sun goes down and the air shimmers with special light. I came over a rise and there, stretched out to the horizon, were golden fields. I gasped out loud at the sheer beauty of it, pulled over, shut off the car engine and stepped outside to bask in its splendor. The only sound was a slight breeze through the leaves of a nearby tree.

I will always remember that exquisite experience. I can still see it in my mind's eye months later.

I got back in the car and resumed driving while listening to Gloria share stories and insights from her life. She quoted Virginia Woolf who believed, "Every woman needs a room of her own."

I laughed out loud as I realized, "I have a ROAD of my own."

I truly revel in my independence. To me, an open road means freedom, autonomy, the opportunity to go anywhere I want when I want to. It's esstential to life feeling right.

I stopped at a steak house that night for dinner. The waiter asked where I was from, and I told him about driving cross-country visiting bodies of water and writing about them. He was intrigued and asked where I'd been that day. I told him about my experience with the golden fields.

He said, somewhat incredulous, "You're doing this by yourself? Aren't you lonely??

I told him, "I'm never lonely as long as I'm paying attention."

He persisted, "I wouldn't want to drive cross-country unless I had someone to share it with. It seems like it'd be kind of an empty experience."

I smiled because, to me, that experience wasn't empty, it was alive. There wasn't absence, there was presence.

I told him, "Connection isn't just with people. I was connected to those fields and with that moment. I've found that as long as I'm appreciating what I'm seeing, feeling, thinking and hearing, I'm never really alone."

I could tell he didn't relate to what I was saying. When I got back on the road, I asked myself, "Why is it that I crave space? Why is that I don't feel "bereft" when I'm by myself?"

I think part of it is I feel connected to loved ones even when we're not together. The connection I have with my loved ones exists even when we're miles apart. They're with me ... even when they're not with me.

The fact is, I am an ambivert. I enjoy being with people and I enjoy not being with people. I am both a public person and a private person.

Being around smart, talented, interesting people energizes me. And exploring new places and spaces on my own energizes me. It's not an either-or, it's both. Socialization and solitude are two sides of the coin of a creatively productive life.

What I know fur sure is that I need time and space to "mull and muse."

What do I mean by "mull and muse?" Time and space to reflect on what I've seen, heard, read. Time to roll thoughts around in my head. To observe the world around me from all angles. To savor ideas and insights like you would a ripe piece of fruit. To connect dot thoughts in new ways.

Perhaps my favorite example of someone who also seemed to operate best with a mix of socialization and solitude was ... Abraham Lincoln.

Several years ago, I was hired to train the board of Entrepreneurs Organization in public speaking. As a special treat, they arranged for a private group dinner at Lincoln’s Cottage in Washington DC following our day-long training.

I got there an hour before the others arrived. The first thing I noticed as I walked in was how "spare" the cottage was. Each room had only a few items. A desk. A chair. A small table with a lamp. It was as if the walls were whispering, "Space to think. Space to think."

I instantly got it. This was where Lincoln came to be alone with his thoughts. Where he escaped the pressures of the White House and found much-needed solitude to reflect upon our history and create a visionary document that changed the course of our nation.

I don't imagine Lincoln felt "lonely" while writing that magnum opus. I imagine his mind and soul were on fire. I imagine he welcomed the opportunity to write without distractions.

I had a great life before I took off for my Year by the Water. However, like many people, I was going, going, going. There weren't many opportunities to be alone with my thoughts ... much less to reflect on them or write about them. I now have that time ... and I honor it.

Many creatives talk about their need for head space so they can do original work. Being alone is when they are able to dig deep - without interruption - and envision new ideas, original art, innovative break-throughs. It is where they access the exquisite state of flow.

Yet in today's "crazy busy" world, too few of us have time for contemplation. That's why I'm sharing these inspiring quotes about the importance of making time and space for ideation.

I hope these quotes catalyze insight - maybe even a conversation with friends and family members - about why you crave a room or road of your own to connect with your creativity.

And I hope you never again feel a need to apologize for needing space. It's not selfish, it's smart. Solitude and socialization are not mutually exclusive; they are the best of both worlds.

1. "The only time we waste is the time we spend thinking we're alone." - Mitch Albom

2. ”We need society, and we need solitude, as we need summer and winter, day and night, exercise and rest.” – Phillip G. Hamerton

3. ”Being solitary is being alone well: luxuriously immersed in doings of your own choice, aware of the fullness of your own presence rather than of the absence of others.” Alice Koller

4. ”To go out with the setting sun on an empty beach is to truly embrace your solitude.” – Jeanne Moreau

5. ”The more powerful and original a mind, the more it will incline towards the religion of solitude.” - Aldous Huxley

6. ”It is only in solitude that I ever find my own core.” – Anne Morrow Lindbergh

7. ”When you acknowledge the integrity of solitude, and settle into its mystery, your relationships with others take on a new warmth, adventure and wonder.” – John O’Donahue

8. ”Women need real moments of solitude and self-reflection to balance out how much of ourselves we give away.” – Barbara de Angelis

9. ”Who hears music feels his solitude peopled at once.” – Robert Browning

10. "Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone; solitude expresses the glory of being alone." - Paul Tillich

11. "Alone had always felt like an actual place to me, as if it weren't a state of being, but rather a room where I could retreat to be who I really was.” —Cheryl Strayed

Where and what is your Utah? Where do you retreat to be yourself by yourself?

Pablo Picasso said, "The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose is to give it away."

Please understand that part of of your legacy is contributing your gifts - your writing, startup, art, songs, screenplay, painting, sculpture, art, music, solutions, vision.

How, when and where will you give yourself a room - or road - of your own?

When will you temporarily "escape" from people and schedule in time for creative solitude so you can muse and mull your reflections, experiences, insights, stories?

It's not a luxury, it's a necessity. It's not indulgent, it's an investment.

Ideas in Your Head Help No One: Quotes to Get Your Work into the World

After organizing, emceeing and speaking at writers conferences for more than twenty years and publishing 8 books with a variety of publishers, my #1 lesson is this ... IDEAS IN YOUR HEAD HELP NO ONE.

Yet many people start their projects only to abandon them because doubts creep in. Who am I to write a book? Is this any good? Will anyone want to read it?

To them, I say, writing doesn't come from arrogance; it comes from service. Have you ever thought of it that way? If you have experiences, expertise and epiphanies that could benefit others; it's almost selfish to keep them to yourself.

Writing is an offering. It's a way of saying "Here's something I've observed or experienced; something I believe, know or think. I hope it might be of interest and value to you."

Yet, many writers start with good intentions and then life intervenes. They get busy; overwhelmed, put their creative project aside and never get back to it. That's a path to regrets.

Are you waiting for more time - for the right time - to work on your creative project? Face it. You'll never have more time than you have right now.

Aviation pioneer Chuck Yeager said, "At the moment of truth, there are either reasons or results."

If you want results instead of reasons, post these quotes where you'll see them every day. They'll keep your intentions to get your work into the world IN SIGHT - IN MIND instead of allowing them to drift out-of-sight, out-of-mind. They can help you focus on and finish your creative projects.

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing." - Benjamin Franklin

"Nothing works unless you do." - Maya Angelou

When Bryce Courtenay (author of The Power of One) was asked the secret to finishing his 600+ page magnum opus, he said wo words ... "Bum glue!"

"Being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life." - Lawrence Kasdan

"Creativity is always a leap of faith. You're faced with a blank page, blank easel, or an empty stage ... and you need to jump into it." - Julia Cameron

"I think writers are too worried it's all been said before. Sure it has, but not by you." - Asha Dornfest

“If my doctor told me I had only 6 months to live, I’d type a little faster.” – Isaac Asimov

"You've got to be a good date for the reader." - Kurt Vonnegut

“Inspiration usually comes during work, not before it.” – Madeleine L’Engle

“I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at 9 a.m. every morning.” – Peter DeVries

"If you are struggling with fear, self-sabotage, procrastination, self-doubt, etc., the problem is, you're thinking like an amateur. Amateurs let adversity defeat them. The pro thinks differently. He shows up, does his work, keeps on truckin', no matter what." - Steven Pressfield

“I think I did pretty well, considering I started out with nothing but a bunch of blank paper.” – Steve Martin

“I made a startling discovery. Time spent writing = output of work. Amazing.” – Ann Pachett

“Ever tried and failed? No matter. Try again and fail better.” – Samuel Beckett

"Procrastination is like a credit card: it's a lot of fun until you get the bill." Christopher Parker

“It’s never too late – in fiction or in life – to revise.” – Nancy Thayer

“If you want to write, you can. Fear stops most people from writing, not lack of talent. Who am I? What right have I to speak? Who will listen to me? You are a human being with a unique story to tell. You have every right.” – Richard Rhodes

“The way to resume is to resume. It is the only way. To resume.” – Gertrude Stein

“Best advice on writing I’ve ever received. Finish.” – Peter Mayle

"If you want to be certain, you should never attempt anything creative. In fact, you might as well just stay home. Because I don't know anybody who is certain. That need to be certain is just procrastination." - Mark Burnett

“When I am writing, I am doing the thing I was meant to do.” – Anne Sexton

“You can sit there, tense and worried, freezing the creative energies, or you can start writing something. It doesn't matter what. In five or ten minutes, the imagination will heat, the tightness will fade, and a certain spirit and rhythm will take over.” – Leonard Bernstein

“I went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged. I had pieces that were re-written so many times I suspect it was just a way of avoiding sending them out.” – Erica Jong

“Once you’ve done the mental work, there comes a point you have to throw yourself into action and put your heart on the line.” – Lakers basketball coach Phil Jackson

“The faster I write, the better my output. If I’m going slow, I’m in trouble. It means I’m pushing the words instead of being pulled by them.” – Raymond Chandler

“When you speak, your words echo across the room. When you write, your words echo across the ages.” – Chicken Soup for the Writers Soul author Bud Gardner

“Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.” – Carl Sandburg

“I don’t wait for moods. You accomplish nothing if you do that. Your mind has to know it has to get down to work.” – Pearl S. Buck

"Planning to write is not writing. Writing is writing." - E. L. Doctorow

"I think the worst, most insidious procrastination for me is research. I will look for some fact to include in the novel, and before I know, I've wasted an entire morning delving into that subject matter without a word written." - James Rollins

"Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone." - Pablo Picasso

"There's a trick I'm going to share with you. I learned it almost twenty years ago and I've never forgotten it ... so pay attention. Don't begin at the beginning." - Lawrence Block

"Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work and write; you don't give up." -Anne Lamott

"I write because I cannot fly, but words can, and when they land, worlds appear." - Susan Zeder

"If there's a book you really want to read but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." - Toni Morrison

“If you do not express your own original ideas, if you do not listen to your own being, you will have betrayed yourself.” – Rollo May

"Do you know the #1 precursor to change? A sense of urgency." John Kotter

"The idea is to write it so people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart." - Maya Angelou

"You know you're on the 'write track' when the words flow out so fast your fingers can hardly keep up." - Sam Horn

"Writing for me is simply thinking through my fingers." - Isaac Asimov

"Almost everything will work better if you unplug it for a few minutes. Including you." - Anne Lamott

"The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away." - Pablo Picasso

"Think left, think right, think low, think high. Oh, the things you can think up if only you try." - Dr. Seuss

"Don't you know yet? It is your light that lights the world." - Rumi

"No joy in the writer, no joy in the reader." - Robert Frost

"I'm not anti-social; I'm just pro-solitude." - Grumpy Cat

"The world is not made up of atoms; it's made up of stories." - Muriel Rukeyser

"Nobody reads a book to get to the middle." - Mickey Spillane

"It take an awful lot of time to NOT write a book." - Douglas Adams

"If you don't like my book, write your own." - Rita Mae Brown

It's time to feel a sense of urgency about getting your work out in the world.

As Paulo Coelho says, "One day you'll wake up and there won't be any time left to do the things you've always wanted to do."

What are ideas, observations, lessons you have that deserve to be shared? What is the story you were born to tell? What is a legacy message that could inspire or add value for others? What is a creative project you want to contribute?

As Dan Poynter used to say (Dan was a visionary on behalf of self-publisnging and spoke at MWC many times), "If you wait to write, you're not a writer, you're a waiter."

Promise to sit down today, and every day, and dedicate time to move your project forward. Even if it's proofing a chapter, writing a paragraph or two, or fleshing out a story you want to share; something is better than nothing.

Follow Walt Whitman's advice. "The secret of it all, is to write in the gush, the throb, the flood of the moment – to put things down without deliberation – without worrying about their style – without waiting for a fit time or place. I always worked that way. I took the first scrap of paper, the first doorstep, the first desk, and wrote – wrote, wrote, wrote. By writing at the instant the very heartbeat of life is caught."

Wow, "By writing at the instant the very heartbeat of life is caught."

That's the most important epiphany from my 17 years as Executive Director of the Maui Writers Conference. Our best-selling authors (e.g, Frank McCourt, Mitch Albom, Carrie Fisher, Dave Barry, Nicholas Sparks, Susan Isaacs) didn't agree on everything. What DID they agree on? "Ink in when you think it."

If you want to get in that lovely state of flow where your thoughts are coming so fast your fingers can hardly keep up, jot thoughts when they're hot. Muse 'em so you don't lose 'em. Draft, then craft. First get it written, THEN get it right.

As someone who's helped hundreds of people write, publish and market quality books, I promise, "You will never regret getting your work out into the world; you will only regret not getting it out there ... sooner. Write on!"

The Woods Would Be Very Silent If No Birds Sang Except Those Who Sang Best

"The woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those who sang best." - Henry Van Dyke Have you been thinking about creating something - a song, poem, book, blog or screenplay - but worry it won't be perfect?

I talked with a woman who’s been working on her book for five years. When I asked why she hadn’t pulled the trigger on it yet, she gave a lot of reasons (she hadn't had time because she’d been busy at work, she needed to take care of her mom who had gotten sick, she’d broken up with her boyfriend, etc.)

But what it really came down to was … doubts.

Doubts the book would succeed. Doubts that all the work would be worth it. Doubts about what other people would say or think.

I told her, “Perfectionism and procrastinating kill creativity. Put a date on the calendar. Until you do, your project will never get done. You’ll just keep coming up with reasons to put it aside.”

She said, “But how will I know when it’s ready?”

“You won’t. You just need to make a decision you’re going to get it out the door. You just need to get crystal clear that you’ll always regret it if you don’t finish it.”

I added, "My favorite line from Tina Fey’s book Bossypants was when she rushing to finish a skit in her first year at SNL and Lorne Michaels told her to wrap it up.

She protested, 'But it’s not ready.'

Lorne laughed and said, 'Tina, the show doesn’t go on because it’s ready. It goes on because it’s 11:30.'”

It's time for you to pick an 11:30 for your project.

Because if you don’t, chances are your project will never get out the door.

Our bestselling authors at the Maui Writers Conference - from Frank McCourt to Carrie Fisher to Mitch Albom - didn’t agree on much, but they did agree that they'd still be working on their books if it weren’t for their publisher's deadline.

We can always tweak things. We can always make our project better.

But creative work is better DONE than PERFECT. Because if you wait for it to be perfect, it will never get done.

I’ve collected some of my favorite quotes about perfectionism, procrastination and creative work.

You might want to review these, pick a favorite and post it where you can see it every day to remind yourself that, as Henry van Dyke said, “The woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those who sang best.”

Your creative project - whether it's a book, screenplay, poem, story or song - may not be the best; but it may be just what someone needs to see, hear, be reminded of THAT DAY.

1. "Procrastination is often misspelled as perfectionism." - Pinterest post

2. "Do the best you can until you know better. When you know better, do better." - Maya Angelou

3. "Everything you want is on the other side of fear. - Jack Canfield

4. "When perfectionism is driving ... shame is always running shotgun." - Brene Brown

5. "The bad news is, time flies. The good news is, you're the pilot." - Michael Altshuler

6. "Fear is boring." - Olympia Dukakis

7. "I didn't come this far to only come this far." - poster in library

8. "May your choices be based on your hopes and not your fears." - Nelson Mandela

9. "Don't tell it like it is, tell it like you want it to be." - Esther Hicks

10. "One person can make a difference and everyone should try." - John F. Kennedy

11. "You don't have to be brave to be courageous." - Sam Horn (more about that here)

12. "The only thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve is fear of failure." - Paulo Coelho

13. "Your life expands or contracts in proportion to your courage." - Anais Nin

14. "In any given moment, we have a choice is to step forward into growth or step back into safety." - Abraham Maslow

15. "I think writers are too worried it's all been said before. Sure it has, but not by you." - Asha Dornfest

16. "Thinking 'Here goes nothing' could be the start of everything." - Drew Wagner

17. "What makes you different or weird - that's your strength." - Meryl Streep

18. "What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create." - Buddha

19. "I don't think my story is over yet." - Serena Williams

20. "Working hard for something you don't care about is called stress. Working hard for something you love is called passion." - Simon Sinek

21. "You become what you believe." - Oprah Winfrey

22. "The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose is to give it away. - Pablo Picasso.

23. "Here's a test to find out whether your mission in life is complete. If you're alive, it isn't." - Lauren Bacall

24. "Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother." - Kahlil Gibran

25. "Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don't give up." - Anne Lamott

26. Art enables us to to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time." - Thomas Merton

Yes, getting your creative work out in the world can be scary. You know what's scarier? Regret.

It's time to pick a "11:30" to finish your work and get it out in the world - no matter what

The world needs more people willing to contribute their creativity.

We need to hear your song. Express yourself. Add to the symphony of life.

30 Top Quotes on Curiosity, Creativity, Innovation: "Think Left, Think Right, Think Low, Think High. Oh, the Things You Can Think Up if Only You Try"

Dr. Seuss Eleanor Roosevelt said, "I think, at a child's birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity."

I think one of the most useful gifts we can give anyone is curiosity. Curiosity means we care. It means we're attentive, connected, in love with ideas, life and potential.

If there's anything I've learned after twenty years of speaking, writing, and researching the topic of attention, concentration and focus .. it's that intrigued attention (aka curiosity) is the quickest way to create a life where the light is on in our eyes.

I've collected some of my favorite quotes about creativity and curiosity and share them here. Hope they spark your interest and remind you to look around and give the world and the people in it the appreciative attention and eyebrows-up interest they deserve.

1. “If there were a rehab for curiosity; I’d be in it.” – CBS news anchor Diane Sawyer

2. "Think left and think right, and think low and think high; Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try. " - Dr. Seuss

3. “Curiosity is free-wheeling intelligence." – Alistair Cooke

4. "Curiosity doesn’t kill the cat; it kills the competition.” – Sam Walton

5. “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and trying new things, because we are curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” – Walt Disney

6. “The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.” – Dorothy Parker

7. “The constant happiness is curiosity.” – Alice Munro

8. “Be curious, not judgmental.” –Walt Whitman

9. “I am neither clever nor especially gifted. I am only very, very curious.” – Albert Einstein

10. “Blessed are the curious, for they shall have adventures.” – Lovelle Drachman

11. “Curiosity will conquer fear more than bravery will." - James Stephenson

12. “I am in love with hope.’ – Mitch Albom (Hope is a form of curiosity.)

13. “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known." - Carl Sagan

14. “There is moment in every child’s life where a door opens and lets the future in.” – author Graham Greene

15. "Before there were drawing boards, what did we go back to?” – comedian George Carlin

16. Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit." - e. e. cummings

17. “I have found if you love life, life will love you back.” – composer Arthur Rubenstein (Loving life is a combination of creativity and curiosity.)

18. "Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose." - Zora Neale Hurston

19. “It is always with excitement that I wake up in the morning wondering what my intuition will toss up to me, like gifts from the sea. Intuition tells the thinking mind where to look next.” – Jonas Salk

20. “The world was shocked to learn I wrote a bestseller at 66. No matter how long you live, you have stories to tell. What else is there to do but head off on the Conestoga wagon of the soul?” – Pulitzer Prize winning author Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes

21.“When you can do a common thing in an uncommon way; you will command the attention of the world.” – inventor George Washington Carver (If it's common, it's not creative.)

22. “Creativity is based on the belief that there’s no particular virtue in doing things they way they’ve always been done.” – Rudolph Flesch

23. "Curiosity is the wick in the candle of learning." - William Ward

24. "The travel impulse is mental and physical curiosity. It's a passion. And I can't understand people who don't want to travel." - Paul Thoreaux

25. "You can't just give someone a creativity injection. You have to create an environment for curiosity and a way to encourage people and get the best out of them. Sir Ken Robinson

26. "Creativity is not just for artists. It's for business people looking for a new way to close a sale; it's for engineers trying to solve a problem; it's for parents who want their children to see the world in more than one way." - Twyla Tharp (I listened to Twyla Tharp's excellent book The Creative Habit while traveling across America. She says, "Every creative project needs a spine. What's yours?" Mine's intrigue and innovation.)

27, "Creativity is connecting things." - Steve Jobs

28. "It may be that our cosmic curiosity... is a genetically-encoded force that we illuminate when we look up and wonder." - Neil deGrasse Tyson

29. "Curiosity is at the core of creativity and intrigue is at the core of innovation." - Sam Horn

30. "Creativity is contagious. Pass it on." - Albert Einstein

YES to passing along creativity and curiosity. And feel free to pass along these quotes to anyone who might appreciate a curiosity-creativity boost.

- - -

Sam Horn, CEO of the Intrigue Agency, is on a mission to help people create quality presentations, books and brands that add value for all involved. Her TEDx talk and books - including POP!, Tongue Fu!, IDEApreneur and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? - have been featured in New York Times, Forbes, INC, and presented to NASA, Accenture, ASAE, Intel and National Geographic. Want Sam to present at your next convention? Contact

Currents of Connection

The theme of this past week on my Year by the Water?
Connection. Actually, that’s the ever-present theme of my life. It’s what makes it all worthwhile, what makes it feel ... right.
I’ve been listening to Twyla Tharp’s New York Times bestseller The Creative Habit on Audible as I drive cross-country.  twyla tharp
I heartily recommend this inspiring book. If you’re taking a trip, it will make the hours and miles race by as she shares thought-provoking insights and examples of how we can make the muse our mentor.
Twyla believes that every creative project needs a “spine.” Everything builds on this spine. It’s the theme that holds the work together and makes it cohesive.
I thought, “Discovery is the ‘spine’ – the river - that runs through my Year by the Water. It’s what makes every day something I look forward to.
The discovery of exploring uncharted territory, and the privilege of writing about the resulting experiences and epiphanies, fill me with joy. I never know what’s around the next bend, which keeps me in a constant state of anticipation, which keeps the light on in my eyes.
What I realized though, and this is really important, is that discovery rides, rests and is rooted in a current of connection. It depends on knowing that my family and friends are with me, even when they’re not with me. Connection is what makes everything else sing.  Discovery is the North Star that guides me, Connection is the Holy Grail that grounds me.
One of the things I’ve discovered on my Year by the Water is there are many types of connection.
This past week in Houston, there was the connection of my son Tom, grandson Mateo and me going to what we instantly dubbed “Pokeman Park.” Tom and Patty have a ritual of getting 2 year old Mateo outside every day when they get home from work. They are blessed to have a lovely park with a pond and a playground 5 minutes from their house, and have logged many happy hours there at golden hour.
tom mateo on slide
Tom and I decided to discover a new place so we headed to a park they hadn’t visited before. We laughed as soon as we saw the tell-tale signs of walkers, skateboarders and drivers all holding their phones out in front of them with the distinctive PokemanGO motion that means they’re triangulating the "pensar" or about to capture a "Bulbasaur."
What was different is how this game turned strangers,  who would probably otherwise not even talk to each other, into a connected community of people voluntarily and happily swapping tips and sharing directions to the nearest “gym.” Plus, this was a 100 degree day. Instead of staying inside, this game had motivated people to get off the couch and out of the house and connect with, and explore, their hometown.
So, that’s an example of how a gadget/game can actually connect people rather than isolate them.
Here’s another example of connection via tech.
Patty, who works in Mission Control at NASA's Johnson's Space Center, was in Moscow, acting as a liaison to the Russian Space Agency, for part of my visit. Yet, there she was, on the computer screen, sharing “dinner” with us thanks to the miracle of Skype. As I watched Mateo blow kisses to his mom halfway around the world, I thought, “Now that’s a modern family.”
There’s a third type of connection, and it involves feeling connected even when we’re not together in person.
When I moved to Hawaii in the early 1980’s, I was sad about leaving my good friends. My dad reassured me by saying, “True friendship doesn’t register time or space.” He was right. I didn’t leave those friends “behind.” When I moved back to Wash DC seventeen years later, we picked up right where we left off.
And that has been one of the most important discoveries of my life. True connection transcends time. True connection endures despite distance.
So it is with my sons Tom and Andrew, Patty, Miki, Mateo, family members Cheri, Christy, Joe and long-time friends Judy, Mary, Denise, Glenna, Joan, Jeanne, Gail, Mariah, Katie, Sue, Lee, Lynda and many others.
Some people, upon hearing about my Year by the Water, call me a “nomad.”
discovery text image
But a nomad doesn’t have a home. I have a home.y
My home is the ever-present connection I feel with my friends and family. They might as well be sitting right next to me as we explore this great country together
True connection lives in the heart. It is the river – the current – that runs through  our  life.  And I am deeply grateful for it.


Start with an OPEN Mind, Not the END In Mind

I have enjoyed every single moment of this private workshop at Monet's Garden with world-class photographers Charles Needle, Dewitt Jones and Jack H. Davis. I've had an opportunity to practice Bucky Fuller's advice to "Dare to become a beginner."

vernon church - flowers

The other participants have years of experience and dozens of lens.  They wear vests with pockets and pull carry-ons stocked with different cameras, tripods and gear.

I am the rube of the group, armed solely with my trusty iPhone.

The good news is, these renowned photographers are all fans of the smart phon'es miraculous ability to allow almost anyone to create gee-whiz images right out of the gate.

One of my biggest lessons of this past week is to NOT follow Stephen Covey's advice to "Start with the end in mind."

It's far more important to start with an open mind.

Here's what I mean.

We trekked to nearby Vernon for a field trip to historical Notre Dame Collegiate Church that was build between the 11th and 16th century.



Charles told us we would discover magic inside if we kept our eyes open.

So I walked in, looking for things that got my eyebrows up - a sure sign of intrigue.


I saw the sun glowing on this baptismal and thought, "THAT'S interesting" and snapped this picture of it.

Now, this image is nothing "special" but it did capture that moment and it's a starting point.


As Dewitt says, there is more than one right answer ... so I kept playing.

Let's try this.

How about that?

Let's get closer.

Wow.  Look at that!!


I keep experimenting - letting my gut be my guide.

As Charles says, "You have permission to play.  There are no penalties. You can have as many do-overs and fresh starts as you'd like."

I kept experimenting with different points of view.

blue reflection baptismal

Little gasps of delight surrounded me as we all experienced the coalescing of something beautiful and unexpected come into focus.

It reminded me ... do you know how Einstein knew he had a good idea?  He laughed out loud.

I found myself laughing out loud with the sheer joy of what emerged in front of my eyes.

Carrie Fisher says "Instant gratification takes too long."

Well, that's one of the many miracles of taking and making images with your iPhone.

In seconds, you can capture and then create something that didn't exist a moment before.

And it's available to anyone with a smart phone who's willing to play.

greeen reflection from baptismal

Little could I gave predicted when I saw the sun glowing on that baptismal that a few shots later, it would turn into this ...

This, of course, is a metaphor waiting to happen.

First, may we all have the courage to try something new and dare to be a beginner.

Second, DON'T start with the end in mind.  Start with an open  mind.

There's no way I could have conjured up these "end" images in the beginning.  I didn't even know they were possible.

Third, keep paying attention to what gets your eyebrows up.  Then, keep playing until something clicks for you.

Then, click it.

Voila!  (When in France, use French sayings:-)'re becoming an artist.

It's fun, incredibly rewarding ... and available to ANYONE.