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.


The Joy of a Beautiful Pen

This year I’ve developed a strange fascination with fountain pens. At the beginning of the year I taught a class with the Salt Lake Genre Writers, a chapter of the League of Utah Writers, and my friend there had this gorgeous pen. They told me all about how much they loved using it and all the different people in the League who were also pen aficionados. That idea of having a gorgeous pocket-sized piece of functional art stuck in my brain.

Photo by John Jennings on Unsplash

Years before, when I had been enamored with illuminated manuscripts and calligraphy, I received a very basic fountain pen set as a gift. I didn’t do much with it then as I was much more interested in the pens specifically used in calligraphy. Fast forward to a few months ago when I finally dug that old set out, cleaned out the old crusty ink, found a few cartridges that hadn’t dried out, and gave it a try.

There’s a reason fountain pens have stood the test of time. Compared to any other pen I’ve used, a fountain pen flows smoother and faster. Dare I say it it even beats out my beloved Uniball Jetstream 1.0. My initial foray into fountain pen use had me experimenting with different pen nibs in different widths. Initially, my favorite was an extra fine chiseled tip that gave just a hint of the calligraphy feel, without looking pretentious.

For my birthday I received a gift card to go shopping for a new beautiful fountain pen. While my newly minted fountain pen friends recommended a few different brands all ranging in style and price, I was drawn to the look of the Moonman pen. With its smooth curves and clear body, not to mention an impressively huge ink reservoir, I thought this would be the perfect pen to test drive. And did I mention purple? It came in purple.

Behold! My purple Moonman taking a space walk

Because I’d liked the extra fine points in my old set, I chose an extra fine point for my Moonman. Little did I know that extra fine points can vary between manufacturers. My Moonman screams along the page like the worlds best gel pen, both fast and incredibly smooth, but doesn’t have the sharp edges of a chisel tip. All hobbies have a learning curve, and this is mine. I still love using it, but perhaps if I get Christmas money I’ll invest in a different style and compare the two.

All in all, writing with this beautiful pen brings me joy and elevates my morning journaling practice. I love having it out on my desk where I can look at it. It feels great in my hand. Pens can be such simple things. We forget that the experience of putting ink to paper can be more than just jotting down words, it can be an experience.


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