Hinting at… Happiness?



What does a Harvard University professor have to do with flash fiction? Nothing. And everything. Or, at least, something.

I’ve thought for a long time now that good flash fiction packs a punch. It heightens emotional responses, engages readers, invites them to be a part of the story, makes them think…and keeps them thinking.

As I said in a recent guest post at D. Wallace Peach’s blog, “I want to make readers wonder what the hell just happened then decide for themselves three hours later because they can’t stop thinking about it.” Well, I’ve found a bit of scientific proof on why that could be a good thing.

Daniel Gilbert is a professor, psychologist, writer, speaker, award-winner, and all sorts of other cool stuff. He’s done numerous studies on our ability to imagine the future, anticipate outcomes, make decisions, and how all these things affect our happiness. He’s written and talked about it. A lot. You should check him out.

But what I’d like to focus on today is one study he referred to in an interview on NPR: Why We’re Bad At Predicting Our Own Happiness — And How We Can Get Better. Participants watched a movie. Some got to see the end and some did not. (I know, right? Gah!) Here’s part of the transcript:


GILBERT: Well, there’s no doubt that uncertainty can amplify emotions

We did a study in which people watched a movie. And for some of the people in our experiment, we didn’t let them watch how the movie ended. We didn’t let them see what happened to the main character. Now, if I asked you, which of these two movies would you rather see, 100 percent of the hands go up and say, I’d like to see the end of the movie, please.

But what we discovered was people who didn’t see the end of the movie liked it more, thought about it for longer, were still engaged in it and still enjoying it, even hours or days later. They didn’t see what happened to the last – the main character in the end, and so they kept wondering, gosh, I wonder if he went to college or he became a football player. What an interesting thing to be thinking about and enjoying.


Look at that: “people who didn’t see the end of the movie liked it more, thought about it for longer, were still engaged in it and still enjoying it, even hours or days later.”

You see where I’m going with this…

Flash fiction.

I know it’s not exactly the same thing but, wow, it really is similar if you think about it. I mean, you read a flash. And, although it often has a beginning, middle, and end…it hints. You finish the story with some fulfillment but with questions clinging to your brain.

A good flash story will give you enough to sink your teeth into but leave you wondering what happened before, what could happen next, what is going on around the edges of the story.

Readers might enjoy the story better when they use their imagination and creativity. Or not. Just a theory. Either way, they’ll most likely be thinking about it a bit longer, engaging a bit more, and perhaps even be a bit happier as they ponder all the possibilities.



Is It Really Self-Doubt?



What is doubt?

When we say we’re experiencing self-doubt, what are we talking about? Self-doubt is, well, doubting yourself. Pretty simple. But I think it’s become a catch-all phrase for beating ourselves up. (And writers tend to do that a lot. Just saying.)

Let’s dissect this, shall we?


verb: doubt

  • 1. feel uncertain about.

disbelieve…have misgivings about…question…feel uncertain or unsure…hesitate;


Basically, you’re unsure. You’re questioning something (yourself, in this case).

We’d say something like, “I’m not sure this is a good idea.” Or, “I’m not certain I’m up to this.” Or even a flat-out, “I don’t think I can do this.”

Does that sound familiar?


Or does this?

“I’m not submitting my story. I’d never win.”

“This chapter is crap. Forget editing…I’m deleting it.”

“I can’t believe I ever thought I could write.”

“What was I thinking, calling myself an ‘author’? What a joke.”

“Everyone else is so much better.”

“No one will like this.”

“I’m a fraud.”

“I can’t write.”

“I suck.”

Does that sound doubtful? Because it sounds pretty UN-doubtful to me. It sounds certain. Which is the opposite of doubt.

It sounds like…judgment.


verb: judge

  • 1. form an opinion or conclusion about.

form the opinion, conclude, decide…believe, think, deem…regard as, rate as;


When you form an opinion (whether you think it or voice it), you are judging. Judging yourself, your work, your worth.

When you say these things, with certainty and conviction, you, my friend, do not have self-doubt, you have self-judgment. We need to differentiate between the two, call it what it is, and do something about it.


My Sunday thoughts in (slightly over) 200 words.ThoughtBubble

Do you really have self-doubt? Or are you judging yourself? (I know what I’m doing… And I intend to stop. Easier said than done, but I’m damn sure going to try.)


My Virtual Facelift


You’ve probably noticed I’ve been taking stock lately. Assessing. Appraising. You know…having a mid-life crisis.

In a good way. And without the new cherry-red corvette.

I’m trying to get my sh*t together. Deciding what truly matters to me. Getting rid of what I don’t care about and making room for what I do care about.

Part of this wonderful evaluation was the rediscovery of joy last week. (Which I intend to keep up.)

Another part of this includes online stuff, such as my little Lemon Shark and its sister, Lemon Shark Reef. As you can see, there’s been some changes around here.

I’ve talked about how far removed from myself I’ve become. This space (as well as my other online platforms) has not represented me or my writing for a long while. I decided to do something about that. I went ahead and got a virtual facelift.

I’m remodeling. Seeing what works. Creating something that brings…wait for it…joy. I’m feeling more at home here already.

Oh, and that picture up there? It’s all mine. It’s me. I’m in love with that amazing, gritty, broken, beautiful heart. It speaks to me. It also captures my writing perfectly. Darkness, emotion, imperfection, beauty… I call it my distressed heart. Yup, that’s about right.

It was tough to think about getting rid of so much. I tend to stick with stuff. (I haven’t changed anything in three years.) But, when the time came, it was easy to do.

It’s freeing to let go. When our hands are empty of what we no longer need, they’re able to reach for what we now want.


My Sunday thoughts in (slightly over) 200 words.


Why do we hold on to things that no longer suit us? Are we afraid of change? Do we become too comfortable or set in our ways? Or do we just put it off for “another day” until we realize two years have gone by?


Raindrops on Roses & Whiskers on Kittens



I’m on my laptop, concentrating on work, when it starts to rain. I mean pouring rain. Like, build-an-ark rain. And it’s one of those sudden, out-of-nowhere downpours.

I go to the window, lean against the pane, and smile. I actually smile. And you know what I’m thinking? I’d love to go dance in that.

Then I check myself, turn away, and start back to my computer.

That’s when I hear screaming.

I run back to the window, all adrenaline and responsibility, ready to do what I can about whatever is happening. I am not, however, prepared for what I see.

Two children, across the street, are running around in circles, squealing in delight as the rain soaks them.

It is in that moment I realize how far away from myself I have moved. How lost I’ve become.

I know this. I’ve been working on it but, it is in times like these that I become aware of how much work I still have ahead of me.

When did I lose myself so completely? When did I lose the ability to follow my joy outside into the summer rain?


My Sunday thoughts in 200 words or less.



FYI: I did it. I really did. After a short pause, I said, “F*ck it! I’m going out!” And I went outside and danced in my yard, not caring what my neighbors thought. If they want to gossip about the crazy lady who was spinning around and laughing in the pouring rain last week, let them. Let them!

When is the last time you followed your joy?


Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t



Do what you feel in your heart to be right — for you’ll be criticized anyway.

~ Eleanor Roosevelt



Truer words were never spoken.

Or perhaps they were. Regardless, these are up there in the top ten of How to Live Your Life.

Eleanor goes on to say that “you’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.” Hot damn! She’s right.

You can never please everyone. Let me just go ahead and say that again. You can never. Please. Everyone.

Stop trying.

I’m speaking to myself, of course, as I often always do on this blog but I believe these words fiercely.

I know I’m a good person so why don’t I just do what I feel in my heart to be right?

Worrying what others might think or how they may perceive what I do (or don’t do) is a terrible way to live. How people choose to see me is not in my control. (And really not my problem. Unless I make it my problem. Which we’ve just established it’s not.)

The bottom line here is that, yes, you’ll be damned if you do, damned if you don’t. So…

Do what you want. Dammit.


My Sunday thoughts in 200 words or less.


Have a lovely week, gentle readers!


Excuse Me While I Get My Sh*t Together



Last week I discussed the awesome TEDx talk by Sarah Knight called The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck.

This past week, I’ve started a list. Note the word “started”…there is much more where this came from. (No, it’s not a ‘To Do’ list.)

It’s a budget of sorts. In other words, I’ve decided what I do and do not give a f*ck about.

And here is what I discovered:


Things I Give a F*ck About

(Things I need to give more time / energy / attention to)

  • My health
  • My family’s health
  • Spending time with my family
  • Getting “me” time
  • Self care
  • Writing
  • Reading
  • Eating
  • Sleeping

Sound selfish? Good. It should. 🙂


Things I Do Not Give a F*ck About

(Things I need to give less time / energy / attention to)

  • What people think of me
  • TV shows I’m supposed to be watching because they are popular
  • People who don’t hear the word “no”
  • (Most) sports
  • Celebrities’ haircuts, dresses, shoes, handbags, relationships, pets…
  • Demands on my time and/or energy
  • Expectations about what I “should” be doing
  • Number of followers on [insert social media platform here]
  • Stats on my blog
  • What my neighbor thinks of my lawn



I have to stop giving a f*ck about these things in the form of time, energy, or money.

I have to stop stressing about these things.

I have to say NO to these things.


Some will be as easy as getting up, grabbing a marker, and crossing them off. *cough* Celebrities, sports, TV, blog stats… I already seriously don’t care about these things.

Others will be a difficult process of undoing who I am and recreating myself in the image of “What brings me joy.”



The real work begins.


My Sunday thoughts in (slightly over) 200 words.


I’m going to take a bit to digest this information and attempt to free up some time and energy for the things I really want to do. The things that are important to me. The things that bring me joy.

I will probably be posting on here because this little Lemon Shark does bring me joy but I will not become obsessed with and/or stressed about what others think I should be doing. So… I’ll post when I want about what I want. 🙂


ICYMI, here’s the talk:


The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck
TEDx Talk by Sarah Knight


And here are the books:


Link: The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck

how to stop spending time you don’t have
with people you don’t like
doing things you don’t want to do


Link: Get Your Sh*t Together

how to stop worrying about what you should do
so you can finish what you need to do
and start doing what you want to do


The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck



I just saw this TEDx talk by Sarah Knight: The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck

Most of you have probably seen this or at least heard of it since it’s absurdly popular.

Knight is an internationally bestselling author and this TEDx talk has been viewed millions of times. But I live under a rock of responsibilities and obligations so I missed it.

As it turns out, that is fun and ironic because I needed to hear this woman tell me (yes, she was talking to me) how I can fix my current situation.

Some of the things she talks about are similar to what we stressed-out, unhappy people have heard before but it’s presented in Knight’s own, special way. Meaning…lots of swears. Kidding. (No, I’m not. But it is intelligent, insightful, and practical, too.) She has A PLAN. A simple one that, even in the midst of misery and overwhelm, we can manage:

1. Figure out what you don’t care about.

Are you ready for the mind-blowing next step???

2. Stop caring about it.

SAY NO to those things and DO NOT FEEL GUILTY for saying it. Free up time and energy to do things that bring you joy.

JOY! 🙂


I’m getting both her books. Now.

That’s the power Knight wields. (That was fun.)

Have a beautiful week, gentle readers. One full of joy.


The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck
TEDx Talk by Sarah Knight




Check out Knight’s books… (And just look at those subtitles! Don’t you want to do those things?!)

Link: The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck

how to stop spending time you don’t have
with people you don’t like
doing things you don’t want to do


Link: Get Your Sh*t Together

how to stop worrying about what you should do
so you can finish what you need to do
and start doing what you want to do


My Sunday thoughts in (slightly over) 200 words.






Balancing Blogging and Writing (Or not…)


Blogging and Writing -sig


There’s a blog trend happening.

Lots of people are leaving, taking a break, or slowing down—some for personal reasons, some to write.

I thought, “Huh. That’s cool. They’re writing. I could write. I’m a writer. I write things.”

And they’re announcing it. Which is nice. Unlike me. With people emailing to ask where I am. And by “people”, I mean like two. Two people. Since I’m small potatoes in the stew of the blogosphere, most probably didn’t even notice.

I haven’t so much stopped as slowed my pace. I haven’t been able to manage a balance.

I’m still blogging a bit but have relaxed my posting, not participated in some of my regular writing challenges, not been as active in reading your blogs. (Apologies.)

See, I’m working on stuff. Secret stuff.

No, it’s not secret. I’m writing. I do that sometimes. And not just on my blog.

Also, I’m stressing about life and loving life. Dealing with responsibilities and enjoying summer sunsets.

It’s all good. Writing is a thing we writers do that makes us happy. Maybe “happy” is a strong word. How about “alive”.

I’m writing, gentle readers, and sharing it with the world.

You have been warned.


My Sunday thoughts in 200 words or less.


Have you taken a blogging break/slowed down or have you kept up your usual pace? Are you working on a writing project? (If you’ve managed to balance blogging and writing, please share in the comments. Inquiring minds want to know.)


It’s My Blog and I Can Fail If I Want To


So. You want to be the next big thing in the blogging world. Cool. If that’s what floats your boat, I’ll wave to you from the dock.

I don’t want to be a “top” blogger. *gasp* What?! Who doesn’t want that? Me. I don’t. I’m good and sick of all the articles talking about being “successful”. In what way? How are they measuring my success when they have no idea what my goals are?

Also, what’s with the “everyone”? Everyone wants thousands or tens of thousands of followers and everyone wants their posts to go viral. If we’re talking viral here, I’d much rather get the flu.

One of the first things I learned (then taught) about writing is never use absolutes. See what I did there? That was fun.

Using “everyone” and “always” and “nobody” (as in “nobody wants to see pictures of your cat” when there must be someone who does) is totally uncool in professional writing. So is using words like “uncool”. And “awesome”. And peppering your posts with adverbs and fragments. Seriously. Whatever.

Maybe there are lots of people who want to be pro bloggers. But what I think is that lots of people want to blog. Just…blog. They might like more followers or comments but does every person who blogs want it to become their full-time job? Probably not. I’ll go as far as to say that the people who dream of making their living from blogging constitute a much smaller percentage than these articles lead you to believe. Which can make you doubt yourself and your cute, little blog (or your big, bold blog).

Don’t do that. If you want to blog, blog. There is nothing wrong with blogging for fun. Or chatting about books. Or posting pictures of your cat.

I’ve read lots of articles on blogging. Some of them are quite interesting and informative. If you need advice or tips, there are plenty of wonderful, knowledgeable people out there willing to help. They have experience and know what they’re talking about. We love them.

But if you’re searching the net out of some insecurity, spending way too much time in the sticky world wide webbiness of “you’re doing it all wrong”, close the tabs and blog. Blog whatever the hell you want.


Sarah B Seriously - sig