Author Archives: Lara Schiffbauer

You Say Tomato…

Photo by benoit_d at Flickr

“What we see depends mainly on what we look for.” John Lubbock

Sometimes success seems elusive.  Before we get to where we want to be, we burn out, or lose interest in what we are striving for.  We become frustrated with where we are, and the results of our hard work.

It’s at these moments that perspective makes all the difference.

We begin writing goals and objectives with a certain destination in mind.  That destination is the best guess at what we want to achieve.  It may not be a measurable destination. It may not be a realistic destination.  It might be a destination filled with all the emotion of our hopes and dreams, and it might not ever be achievable.

But what happens when we are miserable and stressed out?  What do we do when our dreams don’t seem to be coming along as well as we’d hoped?  If we’re like most people, we say “Don’t give up.  You can do it.”  And maybe we can.  We never know unless we try, right?

There seems to be an embarrassment about changing our destinations, our goals.  If we say we are going to do “X”, then we can’t deviate from it.  If we do deviate from the plan, then we are weak and unsuccessful.

Is it a cop out to modify our goals?  I don’t think so.  At any given time we do what we can do, with the information we have.  Life changes, people change, and priorities change.  Why can’t our goals change?

What I appreciate about the John Lubbock quote above is the freedom to look at other pathways.  When we get to that point where our goals seem farther away than ever, and the motivation to continue on is fading, we can look at other options without being a failure.

Have you modified any goals lately?  Did you feel better or worse after you did so?


Four Reasons Why I’m Proud to Be an American

Photo courtesy

At first glance, you might not think I’m a patriotic type person.  I tend to lean toward the more liberal points of views on things like civil rights, gay marriage, and social programs.  While I live in the west, I’m not “country.”  When I grew up, I was a rebel looking for a cause.

But patriotism runs deep in my family, and has a pretty good hold in me, as well.  My maternal grandfather and great-uncle were decorated pilots in the Korean War and World War II, respectively.  My paternal great-grandparents immigrated from Italy, and most of their male children served in some war or another for the United States. The female children (including my grandmother) were part of the woman’s military auxillary groups.

My father served in the Army, and the country school I attended taught me to respect our flag.  I know how to fold one up into a nice triangle, and to never let the edges droop onto the ground.

Growing up I was indoctrinated with a healthy respect for our servicemen and women and our country.  It grieves me to hear American’s talk smack about the United States.  I have to wonder if they have ever been outside of our borders.

We have poverty here, but some of our poor people would be considered pretty well off in many countries.  When I visited Peru, I learned that in Cusco there are entire neighborhoods without running water.  This isn’t a situational problem, it’s a chronic problem.  They don’t have plumbing that runs into the hills where the poor people live.  In other countries, families live in the trash dumps.  And let’s not even get started talking about the violent and abysmal living conditions in some African countries.

We are able to choose our own careers.  We don’t have someone dictate to us based on test scores what career field we should study.  I was shocked when I learned from a German friend that he wanted to study to be a brewer, but he didn’t score high enough on the tests, so he was directed into a different food-oriented career path.  We are still the land of opportunity.  We can have our dreams and strive to reach them, too.

Photo Courtesy

In the United States we have a hugely diverse environment.  Travel a couple of hours in any direction and the surroundings are completely different.  There is so much to see, all within our borders.  One year I traveled from Wyoming to Astoria, Oregon.  Over two days I saw soft-brown prairies, verdant grasslands, dormant volcanoes, gigantic redwoods, and sandy beaches.

But most of all, I’m proud to be an American because of the people.  Yes, there are the hateful, aggressive political people who annoy me greatly (and I mean people on both sides of the political fence), but I believe overall the people of the United States are concerned and compassionate, sturdy and hard-working.

Our history is full of persevering, focused figures.  Without the ability to dream, persevere, and achieve the goals set before them, the United States would not be  what it is today.

I am proud to be an American.  I know things here aren’t perfect, but since I’ve always been a glass-half-full kind of person, I’ll focus on the positives, while we continue to work out the negatives.

Have a happy Fourth of July, and I send out a special “Thank You” to all our servicemen and women, past and present.

What else makes the United States a great place to live?

Don’t Waste Energy on Negativity

Worry is a misuse of imagination – Dan Zadra

On my blog, Motivation for Creation, I have posted quite a bit about self-doubt. Self-doubt is one of those plentiful emotions we all have, which kills creativity and destroys dreams.  Insidious in nature, one little negative thought worms its way into our psyche and leaves us confused of what our true abilities are.

Self-doubt is worry turned inward.  We worry we can’t do what is required to be successful and reach our goals.  We worry we aren’t as good as we thought.  We worry we bit off more than we can chew.  We worry we’re going to fail, and look stupid.  We may even worry that other people are laughing at us.

Think of all that energy we waste dwelling on… well, nothing, really.  All that worry is nothing but a bunch of electrical impulses in the synapses of our brains, a waste of imagination.

It all boils down to choices.

When we experience failure or rejection from outside of ourselves, which is usually the trigger to our self-doubt, we have a choice.

We can quit, or we can go on.

It really is that simple.

If we choose to continue to work to meet our goals, then we need to tell the little nasty inner critic to shut up.  Listening to the voice does us no good.  It only slows us down, or gives us indigestion.  Or both.

There are many different techniques to end bad habits, which is what listening to self-doubt is.  The technique I find most helpful is:

  1. Identify the negative thought.
  2. Tell it to shut up.
  3. Replace the negative thought with a positive one.
  4. Distract myself, often by doing something that will help me to reach the very goal I’m feeling insecure about.

Yes, it seems too simple.  However, it’s cognitive therapy.  It works.

Our minds really do believe what we tell it.  So, let’s stop wasting our imaginations.  Let’s be positive, and hopeful, and optimistic about ourselves and our abilities.  Let’s give ourselves every opportunity to be successful, and feel good getting there, as well!

Do you have any tricks to banishing negative thoughts?


If you missed Gary Gauthier’s post on Wednesday, please scroll down and check it out.  He never disappoints!  Also, next Wednesday (June 13th) Jess Witkins is scheduled to post, so be sure to come back then!

Oh Muse, Where Art Thou?

Photo courtesy Nicole N




All three are words attributed to the occasionally elusive creature called the Muse.

While us artist-types rely on the Muse to inspire our current artistic endeavors, we aren’t the only people with muses.  Everyone has creativity, and needs creativity to solve problems.

Through the creative process, we move through the mundane to come up with unique and original ideas.  We use this process every day, from when we determine an alternate route when our traditional route to work is blocked, to deciding what to have for dinner.

How creative we are is influenced by our intelligence, memory, personality, attitude, mental health, and physical health, among others.  While some of these factors are beyond our control, many of them aren’t.  By altering those over which we have control, we can sharpen and develop our creativity.  We can grow our muses.


Exercise is one of the fastest ways to influence creativity, for several reasons.  First, exercise decreases the effects of stress by releasing endorphins which positively affect our mental health.  Positive mental health leads to a positive attitude.  A positive attitude leads to increased mental flexibility, which makes it easier to be creative.

Exercise improves every aspect of cognition, including creativity.  There is something about activating the right side of the brain that enhances creativity, and instead of trying to explain it, I’m giving you the link to a fascinating article about it here.

Work on Your Working Memory

Working memory is also called short-term memory.  It is the part of our brain that stores information for short periods of time so that we can manipulate the information to understand and reason what we saw, learned, etc…  Exercising your brain, whether through brain games, chess, word puzzles, etc… you can increase your working memory.

Become a Brainstorming Genius

In the article “How to Get Mindpopping Ideas,”  Michael Michalko likens creativity to the universe, and creative ideas to the subatomic particles found throughout.   He gives three ways to harvest all those millions of ideas and thoughts while brainstorming.

Photo by Free Digital Photos

Observe and record each thought as a possibility.  The key word here is observe.  Don’t place judgment or value to anything your subconscious brain puts forth.  When we judge the value of our thoughts, we snuff out creativity.

Become inclusive.  When brainstorming, accept every thought as important and potentially valuable, no matter how crazy or random it seems. Creativity is the combining of elements in new and unusual ways.

Keep a written record.  Writing down our thoughts and ideas moves them into long-term memory.  Even if we aren’t consciously thinking of the idea, our subconscious is, and will create more and more ideas.

What are some ways you increase communication with your muse?

Better Writing through Pressure

This past weekend I was so fortunate to get to attend the Pikes Peak Writer’s Conference.  Let me first say the conference is listed as one of the best by Writer’s Digest for a reason.  Informative presentations, friendly people and surprising opportunities made this conference an amazing experience.

Early on in the conference, I had an a-ha moment.  One of those moments that make me say “A-ha! Now I get it!”  Surprisingly, it wasn’t about writing, story structure, or character development (although I had lots of those, too.)  No, it was about pressure.

Eyjafjallajokull volcano plume

Pressure is a word that is misused in our vocabulary.When you start thinking of pressure, it’s because you’ve started to think of failure.  Tommy Lasorda

I signed up for a read and critique session and happened to draw Leis Pederson, who is an Associate Editor at Berkley books.  On Friday, I was so tense about reading my first page to an editor who could make a difference in my life the muscles in my shoulders felt like rocks.  All of a sudden, I realized that most of the pressure I was feeling originated from myself.  My expectations, my plans, my goals.

I wish I could say what exactly triggered my a-ha moment, but I can’t.  It just became so clear that, until I have externally imposed writer-ly deadlines, it’s all coming from me.

There is no such thing as talent.  There is pressure.  Alfred Adler

Pressure is good to have.  I am a firm believer in goal setting because of the pressure inherent in writing down a goal, and creating a plan to attain it.

Pushing yourself to meet that goal, no matter the cost, is not good.

There were people crying at the conference because their pitch sessions didn’t go as they hoped.  I was a nervous wreck because I was placing so much importance on the possibilities that might occur at the conference.  There has to be a balance.  As much as I want to be a success at writing, and would love to have a big enough of a writing career to be able to write books for a living, it is not life and death.

No pressure, no diamonds. Thomas Carlyle

Mr. Lightman/freedigitalphotos

Pressure is a necessary component to success.  If we wait around for things to happen for us, they most likely never will.  One of the speakers I went to, Linda Rohrbough, said “Prepare for success.  You can fail without any effort at all.”  Pressure to succeed is what moves us forward.

Pressure is there to inspire us and make us do our best and achieve our dreams.  Pressure can also stress us out, and create anxiety about the future.  Whether pressure is a positive force or a negative force in our life depends upon our perspective.  The decision is ours.