If this was your wake up call, what would it be?

Seems like every time I turn around, someone I know is going through something big:

… Friends with cancer.

… My father facing health challenges.

… A neighbor’s house catching on fire.

… My cousin’s husband dying.

… Even my own roll-over car accident a few years back now.

The circle of those affected feels like it’s getting closer to me, like a tightening loop.

And it’s got me to thinking…


…Is there anything I’m not paying attention to that I want to be?

Am I going to wait for my next wake-up call, or what if I just paid attention now?


Change the rules that keep you in the dark.

Last night, we saw The Croods. I loved the message at the end: “We changed the rules that kept us in the dark.” (I love that they really spelled it out; it’s a kid’s movie after all.)

And that got me to thinking even more.

How am I keeping myself in the dark, operating out of fear rather than reaching out for tomorrow? Or living for today for that matter?

As writers and creatives, one of the biggest challenges we face every day is our fear. No wonder we act like we’re confronting our own mortality. On some level we are.

But I don’t like this question.

I’ve never liked how people say, “If you knew were going to die tomorrow, what would you do today?”

Maybe there’s something too cynical about me to fully appreciate that question, but there are things I commit to doing on a regular basis that I’m darn sure I wouldn’t do if I knew I’d be dying tomorrow, but I can’t live like that on an ongoing basis. Things like exercising and flossing and making sure my kid’s lunch is made, that yeah, I don’t think I’d pay attention to if the world was going to end.

On the other hand, I’m okay with it in the big picture.

But what about the big picture of our lives? I’m down with looking at that and making sure that what we’re doing matches with where we want to be now and where we want to end up.


It wasn’t too long ago that I got the message, “Write like your life depends on it.”

And I’m writing every day now, which is a heck of a lot more than I was doing at the time. Which was rarely, if at all.

But am I writing like my life depends on it?

Not yet.

So am I going to wait for the next cosmic two-by-four, or am I going to do something about it?

Well, you already know the answer, right?

Do something.

Saturday I got out a pad of paper and started redesigning my schedule to put the focus on more writing. It’s not quite where I want it to be, so I’m going to do some more work on it today. And then I’m going to begin the process of shifting my schedule more and more in that direction. It’s okay with me if it takes a little while to shift; it’s a kind of gradual herding things into the right corrals. But it works.

Having fun.

The other persistent message that I simply have to do something about is FUN.

I’m good at working hard, you probably know that about me by now.

And I’m fairly good at really luxuriating when I give myself the chance. (I just love taking days off and putting my feet up and watching movies and eating great food and treats.)

But I just don’t give myself the chance very often.

I come from a long line of self-sacrificers and workaholics and the buck is going to have to stop here, now.

The funny thing is, I’m still not sure what I truly want it to look like, this fun thing. Writing is fun, but it’s also work.

I think it’s more about lightness of spirit and regular adventures. I hesitate to schedule time for fun. But I also used to hesitate to schedule time for writing, and look where that got me!

What if fun was worth making time for?

That sounds like a ridiculous question even as I write it.

But sometimes my brain needs an excuse to think of things in a new way.

Being appreciative and being present.

And last, I think my perhaps my biggest one, is about appreciation and presence. I’m so good at appreciating things in other people, but not so good at appreciating them in my own life. This is huge, and hard to admit. I’ve got more work to do here.

My recent tech shabbats have shown me about the power of being present and not checked out into my own little world. So I’m getting there. And there’s more. There always is.

What about you?

If this was your wake-up call, what would it be?

What is the voice of your spirit asking you to pay attention to right now?

What have you been neglecting but you know, deep down, you want to attend to?

If the Universe was going to give you a whack upside the head with a cosmic two-by-four, what would it be trying to tell you?

Your turn

We’d love to hear from you in the comments. Anything you’re tolerating? Ignoring? Things you know you want to do but aren’t? What if you chose to tackle them head-on? I’m sure I’ve got a few more of them. Seems like it’s time for an inventory.



Coming Attractions

~> Monday, April 8th. Through April 8th, my OnDemand webinar, “10 Practical Tips for More Consistent Productive Writing“* with the Writer’s Store is on sale. Use the code ONDEMAND413 at checkout to save 50%.

~> Thursday, April 18th. Register by April 18th for the next session of my Writer’s Circle (starts April 22nd). Build a solid habit of daily writing and finish all your writing projects: http://JustDoTheWriting.com.


What I'm Up To

~> Writing. I’ve finished my read-through of Progeny and now I’m starting in on the editing and polishing in earnest. I’m also beginning to outline my next project, tentatively called Do Over, which will be a sweet little time travel romance. Can’t you just see it already?

~> Unplugging. Friday sundown to Saturday sundown. Join me!

~> Reading. Finished How to Train Your Dragon: How to Cheat a Dragon’s Curse* with my son. Now we’ve started in on A Boy and His Bot* by Daniel H. Wilson. I also finished Crucible of Gold* by Naomi Novik (loved it!) and then plowed through a re-read of Do The Work* by Steven Pressfield in one afternoon. Next up is finishing Adventures in the Screen Trade* by William Goldman and then tackling Making a Literary Life* by Carolyn See. Or maybe the other way around. I never do like rules. :)


Thanks for reading.


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  1. That’s interesting, Jenna. I don’t like that question either, “If you knew were going to die tomorrow, what would you do today?”

    I’m equally annoyed by, “Life’s too short…” The thought that got me out of my corporate job was “Life’s too long…” My take was, “I plan on having a lot more years on this planet, why would I want to invest so many more years in something that didn’t feed me?”

    Some might say, “Same difference,” but looking at living with a certain undesirable or status quo condition for a long time, was a wake-up call for me. Now, what would I wake up to if I considered the call today? Hmmm, maybe we need to discuss!

    • In a similar vein is the “enjoy every moment” when it comes to having kids. It’s a kooky kind of pressure and hard to do. I like your spin on “Life’s too long…” We all have to find what works for us. And yes, I’d be happy to discuss what you might wake up to today. Sounds like fun. :)

  2. And now where you are taking me with “enjoy every moment” is to remain “present” which is, ultimately, what’s it’s all about.

  3. My wake-up call happened about six years ago when I finally quit chasing a career that never materialized. It took me far too long to accept it but I was constantly being told stupid things like ‘have faith.’ Faith is good but when it comes to nothing it must be deemed fantasy.

    There have been a lot of missteps in this path of recreating who I am and what I’m about.
    But there have been good things as well: publication of three fiction novels, which in turn led to the discovery of screenwriting; the adventure of rewiring my brain as I learned to write screenplays; and a fun bit of stage acting along the way. The smile that disappeared while waiting for the fantasy has returned.

    • Screenwriting really is rewiring, isn’t it? My first screenwriting teacher told us we’d need to figure out if we liked the medium or not and I was afraid I wouldn’t. But I adore it.

      Wake up calls do come in all shapes and sizes. And I think there are always more of them. Anything new for you lately?

      • Some guy offering to ‘share’ his lottery win got me wondering: Why do we only dream of what we ‘could’ do if we suddenly came into wealth? Why don’t we figure out what it would take to reach those dreams without a big win? More often than not the impossible avails itself to those who don’t wait for the windfall. Work equals luck. ;)

        • I agree, Phyllis. I’ve heard way too many people — including ME — think / say, “When I have enough money I will…” There are always ways to do things way before we win the lottery, sell out for jobs we hate, etc. We just have to be determined and work at it.

  4. David John Hall says:

    Great focus! Great post.

    My wakeup call came when I was 19. My mother died from lung cancer. I changed majors, started writing — and haven’t stopped. That was over 20 years ago. Writing saved my sanity. And I learned the truth behind the adage — writers don’t write because they want to, they write because they have to.

    My take on the “If I died tomorrow” focus is to ask myself, if I could only write one more screenplay, which one would I write? Could be a drama, could be a comedy — depends on the day.

    Thanks for the great discussion!

    • Awesome, David. Writing has saved me too, in more ways than I can count. I agree, we write because we have to. But it’s funny how hard that can be to get to at the same time. Such an odd conundrum. Is there anything new from the Universe nudging you these days?

      And BTW, I love the twist on the “die tomorrow” in terms of only being able to write one more screenplay. I’ll have to put that on my list of “project selection” methods. Thanks for sharing it!

  5. My wake up call came 18 months after I heard an audible voice tell me it was time to change careers. I can’t think of one other person who would fail to recognize the wake up call in an audible voice from the Divine, but I’m stubborn like that.
    I’m still getting wake up calls, but they have decreased in drama as I’ve increased in paying attention.
    Each and every one has given me the same message… hard work is not the way, struggle is not the way, independence is not the way.
    I am repeatedly invited into flow, play, fun, love, joy, community, cooperation, and other equally delicious methods of manifestation. As I find myself dedicating more time to this, I write, paint, coach, and enjoy life more!
    Thank you. This article is another beautiful, subtle call to awareness. So much better than the two-by-four method!

    • Gotta love those audible voices! I’m pretty stubborn too. My TTI (time to implement) is often slower than I’d like.

      Like you, my wake up calls have decreased in drama, though the Universe does continue to surprise me and I do think there is always more.

      I love what you said here, “I am repeatedly invited into flow, play, fun, love, joy, community, cooperation, and other equally delicious methods of manifestation. As I find myself dedicating more time to this, I write, paint, coach, and enjoy life more!”

      Beautiful. Thank you!

  6. Hi Jenna-
    The timing of this article couldn’t be better for me, since I had a significant wake-up call last month when I had a heart attack, the result of a prolonged period of stress. I never expected to be a cardiac patient, given that I’ve always taken care of myself, but caring for an elderly parent and having higher risk genetics contributed to what has been one of the most transformative experiences of my life. Being completely immersed in a number of personal challenges, I hadn’t realized that my life had come off the tracks to such a degree that I needed the ‘ol cosmic two-by-four.
    Last night I spent the better part of an hour responding to this post where I described a lot of the details of how my life had become a mess and what I was doing about it. When I finished the post I hit the ‘post comment’ button and nothing happened, and I got a notice that I was not online. After getting back online I came back to this comment section and of course my little dissertation was gone. There’s that dingity dang universe reminding me to stay to the point, which in rambling on about my experience no doubt I hadn’t-
    I think as both an HSP and a creative person, I am particularly prone to shutting down my creativity when I’m under stress. Life can be like riding a bike while trying to play the tuba sometimes. But having orbited close to Mister Death, a lot of the distractions with what I really want to be doing with my life have been swept away. Writing is a form of oxygen for any writer, and I had allowed myself to be mired in the uglier details of life that were holding my head just below the surface. I was saying to myself ‘if only’ a lot- if only I had the financial security to focus more on writing, if only I had a patron who believed in my voice enough to want to support me, if only I had a loving and supportive family to back me up. But I know a number of writers, most of whom are published to some degree, and not one of them has a particularly distraction-free existence. And like your writer’s circles emphasize, getting that essential hit of oxygen comes from simply making time to write no matter what else is going on in one’s life. Believing in one’s self is critical to any success. And self-discipline is key. Neither of those things was my strong suit, before this event-
    The voice of my spirit is telling me that my purpose in this world is to express myself, and remind others that on some level we have all chosen to be here in this fantastically beautiful and crazy world. It tells me that everyone has a choice in how they move through life, and it can be filled with self-empowerment or self-defeat. I now know that for much too long I chose self-defeat, but thanks to that cosmic two-by-four at 2 AM on February 2, I have a new lease on life. I have another chance. It’s just a matter of staying true to myself. And that’s what makes all the difference-

    • Mark, wow, thank you so much for sharing this powerful story with us. You are so right, that “if only” is such a trap and I love how you described it as holding your head beneath the water. And I love your comments about getting that essential hit of oxygen from writing. YES!

      You are so clear and on purpose, “to remind others that on some level we have all chosen to be here in this fantastically beautiful and crazy world.” Thank you for doing that for us, right here, right now. I love to see you choosing self-empowerment! Write, write, write! I’m rooting for you.

  7. I have to see my writing professor today. My wake up call came when I read the blog and decided its time for some heavy duty encouragement from him. I need the encouragement right now because I have to send a new application to this one company I’ve been looking at. I’m scared to death of rejection like most of us. I want to submit my work though and that’s probably what I’m up to this weekend.

  8. Correction, not seeing professor until next week when classes start because I don’t think he’ll be in today. I have to go to the library to pick up a book though. So I guess I will not be seeing my professor today until next week when classes start.

    • Good for you for taking action to reach out for the support you want! How can keep things moving ahead even before he’s available next week?

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