Pen Pals in Today’s World

Computers rock! LaptopComputer
I can’t believe I just wrote that, but it is true. I’ve often written post in support of pen and paper (Rock, Paper, Laptop). Don’t get me wrong, they still occupy plenty of space in my home and always will. Yet, my appreciation and respect for my keyboard increased significantly during the past five weeks.

My daughter sent me a link,, because she knew I might be interested in taking a class that was being offered, Crafting an Effective Writer. Coursera is an education company that partners with the top universities and organizations in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free. I’m all about learning and jumped at the chance to take a free class to update my grammar and punctuation skills. For the record, the site also offers many classes that have nothing to do with writing.

Besides refreshing my over 60 brain on the proper use of pronoun antecedent agreement and compound-complex sentences, it connected me to the rest of the world, much like pen pals could when I was young. Information shared in the discussion forums indicated 43,000 participants initially signed up for the class.
Imagine my delight in communicating with students from Mongolia, Egypt, Bangladesh, Malaysia and the Ukraine, just to name a few, who all shared a similar interest in writing.

I gained a profound appreciation for my native tongue. For a large majority of the students, English was a second language. Having only taken Latin in high school, all of which I have since forgotten, I couldn’t imagine trying to achieve success in a challenging course written in another language. I admired and learned a great deal of humility from my fellow writers across the world. I also hope to take a second language as soon as the class becomes available.

One of the first expectations of the course was to record the weekly writing assignments in a blog, such as WordPress My knowledge of this blog site, as limited as it is, helped me immensely and the weekly assignments gave me new ideas for my posts. What a win-win situation and I even gained quite a few new followers.

Yes, I can honestly proclaim, computers rock. Getting and giving immediate feedback is better than snail mail, especially when you are taking a five week course, but there is still something endearing about finding a handwritten letter in my mailbox from time to time.

What’s in it for You?

It amazes me how many people publish books and write blogs.  There were over a million posts on just today.  My inherent desire to understand fellow writers leads me to ask the question “Why do you write?”

For me, I think there are three main reasons that come to mind.

  1. Writing is my passion.  Pens and paper can be found on nearly every flat surface in my house.  It comforts me to work through my emotions whether I am happy or sad, frustrated or fulfilled.  Writing my first book, Peaks and Valley, (available through Amazon and Kindle) provided me an opportunity to revisit my childhood.  It also allowed me to recognize issues that sometimes kept me from embracing life to the fullest.  The therapeutic aspect was an unexpected bonus.  By writing I can script romantic fascinations and be openly honest without risking being misunderstood by family and friends.
  2. When I retired, I began to feel removed from people other than my immediate family.  I thrive on being connected to other people.  Writing my blog increases the chance of connecting with people who share a common interest, fellow writers.  When I check my stats and see that someone read one of my posts, it brings a smile to my face.  Should someone take the time to leave a comment, I am delighted and encouraged to keep writing.
  3. On numerous occasions, something I wrote, a poem, a letter, a short story, has touched another person’s soul and perhaps made their day a little brighter.  There is a voice in my head, call it divine intervention or a gift that speaks words of comfort for me to share with others in times of need.  It is my belief that each of us are blessed with gifts and once we recognize them, it is our duty to share them.

So why do you write?  I’d love to know.

Brain Power

The human mind amazes me.  As more gray hair finds it way onto my scalp, my brain continues to function in high gear with few failures and occasionally, almost by accident, I get a little wiser.

Before I retired two years ago, my ability to multi-task surprised even me.  I supervised an office staff of sixteen, prepared reports, served as Safety and Logistics Officer, resolved every personnel issue and equipment malfunction imaginable, and still found time to be a wife, caretaker, and volunteer facilitator.

Now that I am a woman of leisure, I often have to force myself to stifle my need to perform numerous functions at one time.  Take writing, for example.  I have four different projects open on the computer as I draft this blog.  I toggle back and forth frequently as needed.  My upcoming novel, Burning Embers, remains open on my laptop at all times as I work diligently on the rewrites.  At the rate I’m going, it should be completed by 2015.

In the past ten minutes, besides beginning this piece, I emptied the dishwasher, filled it again, prepared the coffee pot for the next brew, went outside and picked up the mail, began preparing lunch and referenced my thesaurus (which resides permanently next to my computer).  Mind you, I realize they are all unimportant, menial tasks, yet, not bad for a sixty-year old mind in a short period of time.

I once challenged myself to see if I could function with a solitary thought for more than five minutes.  The longest attempt neared forty-five seconds

In full disclosure, one of the items is not a writing assignment.  It is a game called FreeCell.  My husband and daughter think I am addicted to it.  I tell them I am trying to keep my brain cells active, which I am.  That appeases them briefly, but does not change their assumption.

This card game challenges the player to unscramble the order of the cards before running out of moves.  I am embarrassed to mention how many of these games I have played, but it has been two years and whenever I am bored or watching television, I am competing to raise my success score, which has been stuck at 65%.

I have proof that this hobby stimulates my brain.

One of the options on the game allows the player to undo the last move and try another.  I recently realized that if I utilize that function and repeat it multiple times, I can win nearly every game.  Once I opened my mind to the possibility, it changed my entire perspective about the game.  Instead of hitting the button that says, start a new game when I get stuck, I challenge myself to stick with each session until I succeed.  I have won all but one of the last twenty-five games.

One of the courses I facilitated for years included a poster that said CYA (check your assumptions).  I assumed that losing was a normal outcome of the game.  I wonder how many times in my life I have limited my success without realizing it.

Have any of you ever found that by changing their belief about something, it opened up new possibilities.  I’d love to hear from you about your challenge or Aha moment.