The Power of Asking Questions

Photo by Emily Morter on Unsplash

I’ve taught a class about how to overcome creative roadblocks several times over the last few months. It’s become more and more relevant as the stresses of COVID and the political atmosphere have made creativity harder to find. The largest part of the class is learning to ask yourself questions and then allowing yourself to answer them honestly.

Questions have a power all on their own. They demand answers. Good questions lead to a greater understanding. Vague questions lead to more confusion. If you can learn the skill of asking yourself the right questions, you can solve a whole host of problems.

The other night I woke up to a panic attack. When it was happening, all I knew is that my mind was spinning and I couldn’t shake the feeling of being overwhelmed. It felt as if I had too many things on my plate and there was no possible way to get them all done. What was worse, it also felt as if there were invisible things on my plate that I needed to figure out, but no clues as to what they might be.

The attacks don’t happen often, thankfully. This one was caused by being overtired. The night before I hadn’t slept well because we were camping and I was too hot. Piled on top of that was the coming of another Monday and still not feeling confident about how online schooling was working for my kiddos and if they had the support they needed from me. I know the teachers are doing the best they can and I’m grateful for them. All I need now is for them all to agree to use the cool virtual teaching tools in roughly the same way so I can easily find what the assignments are and make sure they get done.

In a funny way, being part of online school has taught me far more about my kids personalities than anything else.

When these panic attacks strike, it’s time to start asking questions. What are my biggest worries? What of these worries can I do anything about? What of these worries can I let go of? What plans do I need to make to address the things I can change? What needs to be added to my to do list so I can stop trying to hold it in my head? What needs to change in my schedule to accommodate these needs that hasn’t already been added?

As the questions keep flowing, the answers start coming. I write down everything with the intention that no one will see these words besides myself. This writing is a tool, not a product. Once all the questions have been asked and answered and my pages are full, I know what direction I need to go.

There are still stresses, and if I don’t take better care of myself, there’s a chance of another attack in the near future. But, I have a plan in place and the confidence in knowing that the plan works.

Here’s to conquering each and every one of life’s challenges, both big and small.


Meet the Strong Moms

For the past year and a half, I’ve been sharing my store of motherly wit and wisdom with a group of women who affectionately call themselves the Strong Moms. These posts go out once a week under the wide umbrella of “Strong Mom Tips” and are usually focused on good psychological advice ranging from productivity, to health, to anger management.

Recently the Strong Moms have started their own website, specifically made to contain all the awesomeness of the best of their posts, mine included. If you’re a mom who needs a lift and would like a friendly place to go for a virtual hug, the Strong Moms site has all the warmth and love of a chocolate chip cookie still gooey from the oven.

Head over here to check them out on Facebook.

Go here to explore the website.

The last few weeks I’ve sharing several different ideas that are important to me, especially as we enter school season once again. The first demonstrates the importance of stepping back and letting our kids learn to entertain themselves from a young age to help them learn self sufficiency and independence. Another post explores the psychology behind finishing the goals we start, even if it doesn’t turn out the way we expect.

A few of the other articles that have recently been posted on the blog include a beautiful piece one called “Becoming” which explores how we can shape our experience through the power of our thought patterns. Another discusses the very practical issue of when one should consider supplementing an infants feeding with formula.

With new articles being posted daily, there’s always something new. You’re sure to find a helpful article, and inspirational story, or a shared experience to make you laugh.


Thank you dear reader for stopping by! If you’d like to be notified of future posts here at JodiLMilner.com, be sure to ‘subscribe’ using the handy links. Or, even better, sign up to be part of my mailing list and get a signup bonus of one of my short stories for free.

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Adventure is out there!

As the summer rolls on, it’s becoming harder and harder to hide in my cute little office and work. There are exciting things to do, things to see, and I might be a teensy weensy bit stir crazy. When the crazies set in, it’s time for a change of scenery.

This weekend that drive to adventure took our family up Big Cottonwood Canyon to explore the Mill B area. What’s great about this spot is that the water from the river cools down the canyon floor making it a welcome break from the summer heat. There are stunning waterfalls, comfortable short hikes, and plenty of rocks for the kiddos to scramble around on.

On a recommendation from a family member, we found Hidden Falls which is marked only by a tiny sign. It’s not even a hike, but rather a climb up the side of a hidden stream that leads to a lovely isolated grotto. The kids had a great time climbing and traversing the stream on half submerged rocks like a real world “floor is lava” game, and I was thrilled to get them away from their screens for a while.

To finish up the afternoon, we hiked Mill B South which is also a short well-maintained and nearly flat trail that leads to a larger staircase waterfall at the end. It’s a perfect place to bring a picnic and get away from things.

A lot of this area is what I imagine the dramatic canyons and mountains in Stonebearer’s Betrayal to feel like. There are steep slopes and hidden gems just waiting to be found. Maybe if I go far enough, I’ll find an immense castle occupied by magical immortals.

Hey, a girl can dream.

What are your favorite outdoor activities?


Thank you dear reader for stopping by! If you’d like to be notified of future posts here at JodiLMilner.com, be sure to ‘subscribe’ using the handy links. Or, even better, sign up to be part of my mailing list and get a signup bonus of one of my short stories for free.

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Too Many Goals, a Cautionary Tale

As an ambitious person, I tend to go overboard when it comes to setting goals. A good goal should force you to stretch yourself to reach, but still be doable. They require real effort. This is a good thing. Reaching for a goal means that even when I don’t complete it in its entirety, I still work harder and get more done than if I hadn’t set the goal at all.

The problem I keep running into is setting too many goals at one time. When this happens, I spend each day scrambling to try to reach the most important ones and lamenting the ones I didn’t have time to work on. It’s a nasty cycle. Without fail, I’ll say stupid things to myself like “I can catch up on that tomorrow or over the weekend” fully knowing that the time fairy isn’t going to grant me more hours, even if I promise to slip her into one of my stories. Sometimes it’s not time that causes the problem, but energy. It doesn’t matter how much free time you have if you’re too tired to think or work.

I started July like I start every month, by looking over what I really wanted to make progress on and then setting goals that would help me do so. Turns out there were plenty of things I wanted to be more consistent doing that included house and yard work, personal health goals, and of course, authoring pursuits.

When I counted the things on my list today, I found sixteen different tasks that I needed to accomplish if I wanted to reach all those goals today. Some only take a few minutes, but most take anywhere from twenty minutes to two hours each. It doesn’t take a genius to do the math there. Even on a great day, there’s no way I’d have the time. Especially since I’ve also got the kiddos at home and need to give them attention as well, not to mention keep everyone fed.

Yep, just thinking about it is stressing me out a little.

Will I learn my lesson when I set goals for August? I surely hope so. The good thing is that every time I work through one of these challenges, I do learn a few things. This time I learned that tracking that many goals becomes stressful and tedious. It’s best to limit goals to the things that are truly important and then do the best you can with the rest.

My question to you is, are you a goal setter? If so, what does your goal setting practice look like?


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A Different Kind of Tired

I know you’ve felt it, heck, you might be feeling it right now. There are different flavors of being tired. The one most associated with the word tired is that fatigue that results from lack of sleep or doing too much. If your stress levels have been like mine, you probably have had bouts of insomnia to accompany the whirlwind that is adapting to everyday life, which in turn makes the vicious cycle of being tired that much worse.

Photo by Abbie Bernet on Unsplash

Then, there is the tired that actually means overwhelmed. This is when there are too many items on the to do list, too many thoughts in your head, and too many responsibilities that you feel you can’t possibly meet. Often it’s not that there are actually too many things to do, it’s that trying to wrap your head around doing all of them is downright scary.

It gets even worse when any of those items are frightening by themselves. Lately, some of the simplest things have become scary. Before COVID, I never liked grocery shopping and treated it more like the Grand Prix; prepare ahead, plan my route, get in, get fueled up, pay, get out. The faster the better.

Going to the grocery store now has an extra layer of scary. Nothing like the chance of catching a horrible case of death to spice things up, right? There are all sorts of new rules that people should be following, but everyone you see are doing their own interpretation. Psst … the masks go over the nose, people.

Photo by Scott Warman on Unsplash

This entire week as been filled with the dreadful anxiety that comes with being overwhelmed. This time it’s not the perpetual hedonistic treadmill that is policing my darling kiddos through the rigors of online school, we got that all figured out. It’s not even the ever growing pile of dishes that seem to spontaneously reproduce in the sink and then vomit out all over the kitchen. They’re annoying, but they don’t make my blood pressure go up.

Nope, the biggest source of my overwhelm tiredness hamster wheel is reaching the ‘you better get it done stage’ of releasing book two of the Stonebearer Saga. I’ve made so many promises to get it out earlier this year and I’ve broken everyone. After having to adjust my timeline so many times already, actually committing to something makes me break out in a cold sweat. The goal was to have it out in March. Yeah, that March – you know, the one when the world closed it’s doors and the economy started to slip down the drain.

If I commit to a release date again, I have to complete it. But this time, I’m armed with a manuscript that’s about five hours away from being called completely done. Which leads me to make the following announcement.

Drum roll please …

Stonebearer’s Apprentice will be released June 12 come hell or high water.

Photo by Austin Schmid on Unsplash

For early bird access to the cover reveal and preorders, come join my Fantasy Reader Community. My readers get everything from free ebooks from authors around the world, sneak peeks inside my writing world, random advice about life, and the occasional opportunity to help me shape the concepts I use in future stories.

This announcement also means that YES, I am looking for reviewers and friends on social media to help me spread the word. If you are interested, let me know and I’d love to work something out!

Squee! So exciting!


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Be The Least Interesting Person at the Table

The other day I stumbled on a phrase that caught in my brain and has refused to let go.

Be the least interesting person at the table

At first it sounds horrible. I mean, who wants to hang out with a boring person? But as I peeled back the different layers, a truth started to emerge that I found not only insightful, but downright liberating.

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

That truth? You are not required to prove yourself to anyone

Think deeply for a moment. The people that are by far the most obnoxious at any gathering are the ones who are always proving how awesome they are. They talk about important or famous people they’ve met, the amazing projects they’re involved in, the classes they’ve taken, and the people they’ve bested in any way. Not only is it hard to listen to, it often kicks off a ‘proving’ match among those present as everyone tries to best each other.

There is an equally obnoxious counterpart to those trying to prove themselves as awesome, and that is the person trying to prove how hard their life is. Everything is a burden, no one has it worse than they do, they have a laundry list of complaints and issues that they are eager to share with any sucker willing to listen. Sometimes we call these people emotional vampires because they tend to suck people’s energy dry.

You don’t have to prove anything

Both the pity seeker and the one working to gain social awesomeness are either consciously or subconsciously trying to get something from the listener. But, the thing they’re trying to get isn’t concrete. There is no trophy, no gold star, and no crown that goes to whoever wins. Usually all they get is a sense that no one really understands them or was able to give their accomplishments or burdens the attention they deserved.

This is why the idea of being the least interested person in the room is so compelling to me. After being around several of both kinds of attention seekers it’s clear that working to convince people of being cool or a sad sack doesn’t result in literally anything except perhaps coming off as a needy or conceited person.

Wise words from Hamilton

So then, what’s the alternative?

Become the world’s best conversationalist. By shaking off the need to prove yourself, you open yourself to a wide range of opportunities to learn about everyone else. When given a chance, most people have things they’re dying to talk about but can never find an opening – possibly because a needy person is oversharing. They would love nothing better than someone to ask them an interesting question. If you ask the questions, you can steer the conversation toward topics that you find interesting as well. It’s a well known fact that the best relationships are built on what people have in common.

If you’ve never done it before, taking charge of a conversation can be a daunting task. This is where it might help to come prepared. Before the stress makes it hard to think, come up with a couple things that you want to find out. It can be as easy as, “Hey, you watch any of that Tiger King show yet?” or perhaps “What have you read lately that you thought was interesting?”

A cool thing happens when you lose the sense of needing

When the focus shifts from feeling needy to wanting to share and learn, the whole dynamic changes. A one sided monologue turns into a interesting discussion where everyone wants to share their experience or what they’ve learned. There is a special energy that you can’t find anywhere else when a good conversation is underway.

Be the questioner, be the listener, make magic happen

Not all groups will be able to make the sparkly energy flow, sometimes the people that are really good at having conversations like this need to be hunted down and brought into your circle. Or, perhaps they are already there, but need some gentle encouragement to open up. Regardless of how you find your next conversation, do your part by being the interested listener, the thoughtful questioner, and the least interesting person in the room.

When was the last time you had a terrific discussion? Please share!


Feeling locked up and need a short escape?

Grab my free alternate creation short story, “Breath” which asks, Is a life without love worth living?

Click here to download “Breath” to the eReader of your choice

Thank you dear reader for stopping by! If you’d like to be notified of future posts here at JodiLMilner.com, be sure to ‘subscribe’ using the handy links. Or, even better, sign up to be part of my mailing list.

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The Irresistible Pull of Laughter

The other day hubby was browsing Reddit and suddenly he started laughing. It was one of those infectious belly laughs that instantly grabs the attention of anyone nearby and makes them smile. I’m convinced that nothing pulls on the curiosity harder than figuring out what has made someone else truly laugh.

Sure enough, as soon as hubby laughed I stopped what I was doing to see what it was and my youngest son (who was supposed to be finishing his dinner) did also.

If you’ve ever been out in public, obviously not recently, and caught someone truly laughing in joy or amusement over something, I bet you smiled too.

Let’s share some smiles today!

Here are a few things that made me smile recently, feel free to share them with friends!

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Meditating when you’re cold

It’s a well known fact that modern life is stressful. I’ve harped on this a few time before – probably because I don’t like stress and I want to be proactive in reducing it in my life. I can’t always kill off one my characters when I’ve had a really bad day. For starters, it takes forever to fix that, especially if you need that character in the future, like at all. Don’t ask me how many times I’ve resurrected characters that accidentally got dead.

Finding inner peace is one of those things that sounds like a good idea until you try it. For me, I lean on a few methods that work for me, namely journaling and meditation. The benefits of both are measurable in my own life and I feel it when I’ve missed a few days. My meditation practice isn’t a terribly formal thing. I literally do it while waiting in my car for my kid to get out of school – using an app or YouTube when the network isn’t being fussy.

The car is fairly comfortable and I’m assured a few minutes of undisturbed peace. Even better, since I literally can’t do anything else, thoughts of housework don’t haunt me.

There is only one snag. The drive to the school isn’t long enough to let the car heat up and I refuse to idle the engine as I sit there parked. During the winter months it’s cold. Even in a jacket you can’t get away from it. And, because I’ve spent the last few hours madly typing away in my office, I’m already a little chilled to start with.

Let me tell you right now, trying to achieve a state of relaxed contentment is impossible when you’re shivering. There’s no relaxing when your shoulders are huddling around your ears for warmth.

Mr. Pug has the right idea. Snuggle in a blankie.

So why try? If it’s frustrating, then maybe trying to meditate in a car when it’s cold is a bad idea. Maybe I should find a happy alternative involving chocolate and reading a juicy novel. Maybe I’ll do that anyway … wait, sorry. Got distracted.

Hang on, hear me out. A meditation practice is meant to help people find their zen state, even when the conditions aren’t ideal. Someone who regularly spends time doing breathing exercises and finding their inner calm will be able to find that calm much easier when things are frantic.

Meditating when cold isn’t a complete waste of time. Instead, it demonstrates a challenging situation where it’s necessary to adapt. Getting mad at it won’t help, so you have to learn to roll with it. Or wear a warmer coat, and gloves, and a hat.

That said, I’m happy it’s warming up. I’d rather find my inner peace without a challenge. (thankyouverymuch).

How do you cope with stress? Does it include chocolate? Inquiring minds want to know.


Psst! If you’re the type that likes a good indulgence read, grab my free story today. Like the rest of my writing, it’s lovely, dark, and deep. You can also sign up for my mailing list while you’re at it (win!).

Thank you dear reader for stopping by! If you’d like to be notified of future posts here at JodiLMilner.com, be sure to ‘subscribe’ using the handy links. Or, even better, sign up to be part of my mailing list.

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The Soundtrack of your Life

Music is a powerful thing. It excites, calms, energizes, and acts as a fortune teller?

Recently, my inner soundtrack has been trying to tell me things. Not creepy, emotional vampire earworm kind of things, but more like a secret codes to my inner psyche. On days I’m feeling confident and optimistic I might get Katy Perry’s “Roar” or Colbie Callat’s “Try.”

On days where things aren’t going so, hot I might get P!nk’s “True Love” where it talks about how much she wants to throttle her significant other.

Occasionally I’ll get a touch of classical. Does it mean I’m feeling refined? Absolutely not.
Photo by Stefany Andrade on Unsplash

So, there are these parties I don’t want to be at

These last two months have ushered me through a whole lot of experiences that I wouldn’t personally choose. Nothing bad, but not my thing. I’m not super social by nature, as navigating the whole social thing tends to be exhausting. This is the text book definition of being an introvert, by the way. We don’t mind being in public or with people, but we find it tiring and need time to rest and recover before doing it again.

This was the song that played endlessly in my head for six weeks:

I’m at a party I don’t wanna be at
And I don’t ever wear a suit and tie
Wonderin’ if I could sneak out the back
Nobody’s even lookin’ me in my eyes
Then you take my hand
Finish my drink, say, “Shall we dance?” Hell, yeah
You know I love you, did I ever tell you?
You make it better like that

Don’t think I fit in at this party
Everyone’s got so much to say, yeah
I always feel like I’m nobody, mm
Who wants to fit in anyway?

“I Don’t Care” by Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber

The first time I stopped to think about why this song might be stuck in my head I didn’t get past the first phrase. “I’m at a party I don’t want to be at.” Most of these social events were formal parties, with dresses and shirt and tie. Unlike any other party, layered on top of being required to socialize with people you don’t really know yet, there’s that added awkwardness of wearing clothes that aren’t terribly comfortable, heels, and makeup. Ick.

So yeah. It was a party I didn’t want to be at.

Chic, lovely, and really not my thing.
Photo by Alasdair Elmes on Unsplash

But, there’s hope!

But then I read down further into the song and saw that there’s this cute moment where the person who doesn’t want to be at the party finally hooks up with their girlfriend and they dance and have a good time.

My dearest hubby makes these events worth going to. Even when he’s super busy with whatever responsibility he’s been shackled with, he makes a point to be sure I’m having a good time. [Thank you sweetie, you’re the best.]

The other song I’ve had stuck in my head is “Sweet, but Psycho.” Fellow authors will understand. Sometimes the stuff that goes through our heads for a story are a little out there.

What was the last song you had stuck in your head? What do you think it says about you?


Thank you dear reader for stopping by! If you’d like to be notified of future posts here at JodiLMilner.com, be sure to ‘subscribe’ using the handy links. Or, even better, sign up to be part of my mailing list.

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The 100 decisions we make everyday

Hello busy, busy people. I’m glad you made the decision to come hang out with me on my blog today! I’d like to present you with a hypothetical situation. Let’s pretend that you only have 100 decisions you can make everyday. Once you reach 100, you are unable to accomplish do anything else without it being tiring.

You might think that sounds pretty easy. There’s no way you make that many decisions in a day. But, the truth might surprise you. Here are ten decisions that might come up before you even eat breakfast.

  • Should I sleep in?
  • What clothes should I wear?
  • Which shoes should I wear?
  • Do my pajamas need to go in the wash?
  • What do I want to watch/listen to as I get ready?
  • Is today a flossing sort of day?
  • Do I need to make the bed?
  • Is today the day the bathroom needs cleaning?
  • Should I start a load of laundry?
  • Should I check my email?

Anyone feeling a little frantic just reading that list? That, dearest reader, is what we call decision fatigue.

Just looking at this gives me a bit of anxiety.
Photo by Victoriano Izquierdo on Unsplash

My personal journey with decision fatigue

For me, decision fatigue strikes fast and furious and I can clearly feel when I’ve hit the wall and don’t want to have to think any more. Going to a store or to an event is exhausting because there are so many decisions to be considered. Everything from what to wear, to what to talk about with the people I’m with, to what to buy, to what to order, to where to sit, to which class to attend, all stacks up into a huge decision overload.

And just like a pegged out computer, I start processing slower, start lagging and glitching, start making mistakes, and every so often hit the blue screen of death. At this point I either have to call it quits, or hit the reset button and restart.

Having kids hasn’t helped. Take the normal number of decisions you believe to be healthy. If 100 borders on overload, then I’d say around 80 is a safe number. That breaks down to around five decisions per waking hour. Multiply that hourly rate for each kid plus one and you get the decision rate per hour when you’re taking care of kids. For me that number is four (three kids plus me) so when the kids are home from school, I burn through 20 decisions an hour.

Yeah. If I look a little frazzled at the end of the day, that’s why.

No mom, my office doesn’t look like this. Yet.
Photo by Brandon Lopez on Unsplash

Creative decisions don’t carry the same weight

Now, if you are a creative person, there is a whole different batch of decisions that have to be made. For me, I have to decide what my characters are doing, how they are doing it, how they feel about it, where they are, what that looks like, and if there is any external influences, like weather to consider.

Luckily, not all decisions carry the same weight. I enjoy creative decision making so I can run through hundreds of these micro decisions and not feel the strain for hours. But, eventually those story decisions start taking their toll and I hit the wall. Working past that point usually results in bad decision making and it’s best to call it for the day.

Strategies for reducing decision fatigue

Never fear! There is hope out there. There are a few things you can do to reduce the amount of decisions that need to be made on a daily basis. This will free up space for all those creative decisions that you want to be making on whatever project you are working on.

Steve Jobs is famous for always wearing the same outfit. He never has to stop and think what he wants to wear and that frees up head space for the things he wants to think about. There are hundreds of professionals who do the same thing, for the same reason.

Some people eat the same breakfast and lunch everyday. Some create routines around the mundane stuff in their life so they can put it on auto pilot and not have to think about it. Some people buy the same brands for everything they use on a daily basis. Once you realize how much energy you spend on things that don’t really matter, you might want to consider automating the boring stuff in your life as well.

For me, I tend to wear the same thing when I don’t have anywhere to go. It’s usually a t-shirt and leggings. I do like choosing my t-shirts because it brings me joy. I have the same breakfast and same general morning routine. When I’m in the zone, I can whip through my to do list fairly quickly and leave time for all the things I want to do.

What do you do to reduce decision fatigue in your life? Let’s talk about it!


Thank you dear reader for stopping by! If you’d like to be notified of future posts here at JodiLMilner.com, be sure to ‘subscribe’ using the handy links. Or, even better, sign up to be part of my mailing list.

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