There is so little time to love

Spartacus was a great dog

water droplets on glass window
Photo by Jr Korpa on Unsplash

There’s this website that posts poems by different writers. One of those poems was by Raymond Carver, a self-aware/self-loathing bit about writing a poem about his daughter’s dog’s death. There are a lot of reasons I found that poem today, but I can’t quite write about those reasons yet. Maybe I can by the end of the post.

Instead, I want to focus on what I saw on the comments.

For background, Raymond Carver died in 1988. The website even says this.

The poem, of course, hurts my heart in a multitude of way, but what caught me is this comment:

And then these comments.

There were people who complained that Carver’s writing style was too choppy for a poem. There were people who loved it. And then, of course, there were people that didn’t get that he, himself, was dead and that this was a website that just posted other people’s poems, not the poem posting their own.

Sometimes, I think, humans are so hard to understand.

And dogs?

Dogs are a lot easier. Dogs are beautiful and far too good for us. Sparty was one of those dogs. Bumble bees and wasps would hitch rides on his back and head when we hiked or just walked in the woods. Cats would claim him as their own. He never met a dog or person, cat or bumble bee, UPS driver, Fed Ex driver or random squirrel that he wasn’t an instant fan of.

Hair dryers and x-ray tables at vets? Totally different story.

One of the hardest things in life isn’t realizing that people really lack attention to detail or that they like to make proclamations about a poet’s or another person’s worth (or lack of it), but that we have so little time to love, to get over ourselves, and just love.

I haven’t posted about Sparty on social media yet. But this is him, here, looking goofy and adorable and like a dog that doesn’t read the comments.

Smuggling Giraffe Poop and Tell Me Lies, Tell Me Sweet Little Lies: Character Misbelief is Hot When You Write Novels

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Smuggling Giraffe Poop and Tell Me Lies, Tell Me Sweet Little Lies: Character Misbelief is Hot When You Write Novels

So far we’ve talked (and written) twice about character misbeliefs. Then we took a baby break because we’re like that, but we’re back on it now, my friends.

Those earlier posts are linked below.

First off to recap, the big lie or character misbelief in your story is what motivates them or causes them to act in a certain way. If your character grows in a positive way, during the story, they usually realize by the end that the lie was a big ole lie and not a glorious simple truth and voila—life is better.

Your lie has to move the plot forward and it has to relate to your story’s theme.

According to LitCharts, theme is just “a universal idea, lesson, or message explored throughout a work of literature.”

So a character lie is something like “MIGHT MAKES RIGHT” because your character believes this with all their mighty heart. The theme might be love is more powerful than might. Often, the theme disproves the lie, right?


Now, when you’re building characters for your novel and building the plot around them, you want to use that theme and that lie to make your story resonate, to make your readers or audience feel for the characters involved and root for them to stop lying to themselves and get some wisdom (in the form of the story’s theme).

So basically, you find the theme and the opposite (kind of tweaked) is usually the character’s misbelief.

So, here’s how it goes, step by step for those of you who like steps:

  • Figure out the theme.
  • Think of what’s the opposite of the truth of that theme (the lie).
  • Think about why your main character believes this hideous lie.
  • Write a little scene about it. Call it backstory. Think deeply about whether it actually needs to be in the story AS SCENE or if it can be sprinkled in.
  • Think about other moments that made your poor honey of character believe this BS.
  • Think about how believing this lie has totally messed up your character’s life right now in the story.
  • Figure out if your main does something that they think sparks joy because of this BS lie but they are totally wrong?
  • How does your character go after a goal that deals with the lie or the theme? This is the plot of your book.

Cool, right?


Every once in awhile reassess the things you believe about yourself and the world. Are they really true? Why do you even believe them?

What’s the theme of your life? It sounds like we’ve had some Mary Jane, but seriously, as Kira Newman at the Greater Good asks,

“If your life were a movie, where would the plot be headed right now?

“You may not be immortalized in film anytime soon, but your life is still a story. According to psychologists, we all have an internalized narrative that explains how we became the person we are today and where we are headed tomorrow. Like any Hollywood blockbuster, this narrative has settings, scenes, a plot, characters, and themes.”


A lot of books are flat not because they aren’t clever or the plot doesn’t have cool things. They are flat because the characters are. The characters are often flat because there’s no big lie that’s part of their motivation.


Exploration and Recovery: Mental Illness and The Awakenings Review


“The Awakenings Review is an award-winning literary magazine committed to publishing poetry, short stories, nonfiction, and photography by writers, poets, and artists who write from experience with mental illness: either in themselves, family members, or friends. Located in the Chicago area but international in scope, our print publication is one of the nation’s leading journals of this genre. By its nature, mental illness is a troubling, distressing, and painful experience. At The Awakenings Review we love to get works of renewal and healing, a positive outcome to your suffering and distress. We are currently accepting submissions for our Spring 2024 issue. Please read our submission guidelines at”


Over on the Reedsy blog, there is a post about finding your novel’s theme. You can read it in full over there, but we’re going to encapsulate it here:

  1. Write nouns that deal with your novel. Hobbits. Friendship. Powerful ring. Hot elves.
  2. Pick one to be your center noun. Power.
  3. Make a thematic statement with that theme. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.


Write Better NowNeither of Us are Lookers, Seventh Grade Insults and Character Misbeliefs

Carrie Jones


Sep 28

Neither of Us are Lookers, Seventh Grade Insults and Character Misbeliefs

Read full story


Carrie Jones


Sep 21


We’re doing a hybrid writing tip and podcast this week. All the important stuff is written down here. All the fun stuff and Shaun aka The Talent is in the podcast where we talk about this important writing stuff and other things. So, let’s get started.

Read full story


Poop there it is


The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. 

Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.


We have a podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream biweekly live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and YouTube on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook. But she also has extra cool content focused on writing tips here.

Carrie is reading one of her raw poems every once in awhile on CARRIE DOES POEMS. And there you go! Whew! That’s a lot!


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Be Brave Wednesday.

So, a lot of time, I have to remind myself that I’m a writer.

And to do that, I’ve started drafting poems each morning. They are poems that I will probably never actually look at again. But poems are actually why I started loving writing when I was little. Poems are the things that made my life better again and again and again. They saved me in second grade, in high school, junior year of college.

But, I never felt like my voice was refined enough to fit in the poetry world.

So, I stopped writing them for a long time. I became afraid of the things that had saved me over and over again.

I’ve decided to not do that any longer. So, now I write a poem when I wake up in the morning before I do anything else. They don’t need to be approved by poetry gatekeepers or even get likes on Instagram. It’s good enough that I know that they are there.

Here’s this morning’s.

I hope you find a way to embrace the things that save you. I hope you find a way to realize that you deserve those things and the embrace.



Young Woman at the Cocktail Party

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Young Woman at the Cocktail Party

A poem for Monday!

Be Brave Friday: Maybe it’s a little brave to have no freaking clue

I’ve been working on this painting a bit this week, but mostly staring at it and trying to figure it out. It is a bit of a homage to my cousin and her little girl (who isn’t so little now, but just so beautiful) and then it branches out into something bigger.

It gives me so many questions that I don’t have answers to yet. Do I even out the color, the brush strokes? Do I go into the trees? Do I paint it all over and start new?

My life is a bit like that, too. I feel like I’m staring at it, not really seeing the full thing, trying to figure it out.

And there’s this constant pull, right?

Do I take action steps? Do I visualize what I want?

Do I let go, tune into the vibe of the universe and let it take me where I’m meant to go?

Life is so full with those one or the other choices. We’re pushed into this or that. As a novelist, I do the same thing to my characters, put them in situations, lean into their choices that make the story happen.

So, the question becomes how do we do that for life? How do we make life happen in a way that’s good for us, for our bodies, brains, heart and soul?

That’s my big ponder this week. Maybe it’s not so brave to ponder it. Maybe it is. I’m not sure. And that not being sure? I guess that’s my point this Be Brave Friday. It’s okay to not be sure.

Maybe it’s okay not to be focused on always being right.

Maybe it’s okay to admit that you have no freaking clue what’s going on about everything all the time.

And in a world where everyone is so adamant that their opinion is the true one, the only correct one? Maybe it’s even a little brave to not be 100 percent sure.

Yes, people might say you waffle. Yes, people might say you’re milquetoast. But that only matters if you let it matter. Maybe don’t let it matter, be unsure, look for facts and truths, embrace that journey toward being sure rather than insisting that you always are.

Also, I’m really into this hydrangea in our front yard.


I’m teaching a FREE workshop (live) at the Writing Barn. The link is in the bio. The photo is very very old.

Click here to learn more!


And also there is this:


I’ve been quietly writing poems first thing every morning for a couple of weeks now. I guess, it’s my idea of morning pages, which is a writer thing where you write in the morning. Or maybe like journaling, which is a self-help thing where you get your brain ready for the day.

So, I write a poem in the morning lately.

This morning’s poem is up there.

And I’ve been not-so-quietly writing a hyper-local news blog for about a year now. It gets about 70,000 views every month, which is pretty cool and also sort of amazing since I kind of thought it would get–maybe 100?

And on this Friday, I’m trying to be a bit braver about the things I do maybe too quietly and to not be afraid to go a bit bigger in ambition and voice and focus.

It’s weird to go bigger when people expect you to be small.

This, of course, made me think about expectations.

This woman I met last week did the typical, “Oh what do you do?” as if my occupation defined me. I know! I know! People ask that to make small talk, but I’d so much rather we got to know each other by asking questions like, “Do you talk to birds?” or “Have you ever hugged a tree?” or “Do you believe that dancing in the rain is a cliche, silly, ridiculous, or a must-do whenever it is raining?”

Anyway, she asked me what I did.

I said, “I write novels.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Oh, really?”

She asked the next question, which if you are a writer, you know is always, “Have you published any?”

And I got to say, “Yes.”

Shaun yelled in, “She’s an NYT and internationally bestselling author.”

And her other eyebrow went up into that shocked look. I shrugged.

Here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter if some of my books randomly made those lists. What matters is that I love stories and creating them and sharing them.

What matters isn’t that I’m now somehow more acceptable because of a bench mark of success.

What matters is that I talk to birds and have definitely hug a tree and think dancing in the rain can be whatever you want it to be.

It’s okay to be big when people expect you to be small. It’s okay to create your art and not have to have it become a “mark of external success.”

And it’s also okay to be small when people expect you to be big.

We get to be who we are. That’s it. Be who you are.

And also I hope you have a great and brave Friday!

Here’s my painting this week. It’s a couple of colors that almost don’t go together. Kind of like expectations and reality, right?

Want to hook the reader into your story?

Don’t be too much.


AUG 10, 2023


In real life, I can kind of be a lot if you know me. I’m pretty enthusiastic and exuberant like a puppy and this? Well, this is not for everyone.

And just like real life, sometimes book beginnings can be a bit too much.

So, when we writers talk about hooking readers, we talk about how to draw them in to the beginning of the story. It’s usually a lot of do’s rather than don’t, which is lovely because it’s lovely to be positive.

But one of the big things about hooking your reader is that you don’t want to be too much. Yo

What’s that mean?

It means that you don’t want to

1.     Confuse them

2.     Overwhelm them

3.     Purple prose the heck out of them

4.     Not have context

So, what would an example of too much be?

It might be this:

Carrie’s an anchor. She’s something that pulls me down into the netherworld of an abyss and gets me set to implode and stuff. Get it? Netherworld. Ha! That’s a great thing about the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, right? How they have the netherworld, which is so Chabon of them. Did you know that once Carrie took photos for the Democrat party for a fundraiser for Obama  (Bethany asked her to or maybe it was Heather) who wasn’t president yet and she went to a rented out place in Blue Hill with all these linen shirts and Michael Chabon and Ayelet Wadman who had just been on Oprah and she walked through the house and all the wind slammed the doors behind her, one after one, after one, like some sort of poltergeist, unless she was the poltergeist or, you know, (Hahaha) channeling Carrie from the Stephen King novel that his wife threw out. Man, I love that this happened.

It’s just a lot, right? And Carrie isn’t even the narrator, someone nameless is. And there are asides and jokes and a backstory and random details and namedropping, and what is going on.

Don’t do that.


Judy Blume has a MasterClass on writing and in it she talks about how ideas area all around us. Her assignment for students is below.



According to Reedsy, “On the lookout for distinctive voices with fresh perspectives, AGNI magazine proudly showcases talented writers from all around the globe. Judging by its recent issues, this magazine focuses on stories from writers in the early stages of their careers 一 making it an invaluable platform for emerging literary talent.”

Submission window: September 1st – December 15th | February 15th – May 31st
Compensation: $20 per printed page
Word Count: No set word limit
Submission GuidelinesHere


I’m teaching a FREE workshop (live) at the Writing Barn. The link is in the bio. The photo is very very old.


Click here to learn more!

The Crows

I wrote a poem.

Navigating Liminal Spaces: A Journey from Perceptual Boundaries to Empowered Perception

Living Happy Extra


JUL 29, 2023

I posted this on my substack last week, but I thought I might share it here, too!

Also, I’m teaching a free workshop at the Writing Barn, August 22. You should come! Here’s the link

I was born backwards and with the caul wrapped around my head. For a long time, doctors thought I was blind, but then, eventually, my eyes reacted to light. At one, I had an operation. But even then, after the patches and then with tiny blue glasses perched on my itty-bitty nose, I didn’t see right. I’d see eight of things, then eventually four, and then eventually two, until the ability to use both eyes at the same time left.

Stuck at age five, still with glasses, but unable to see the world with any depth. I grew up terrible at volleyball, baseball, tennis because I couldn’t judge how close the ball was to my face when it flew through the air. I ran into trees when I raced bikes in the woods behind Deb Muir’s house because I misjudged the jumps they made with plywood. I’d run through my own back woods, searching for Bigfoot and take massive Superman diggers, tripped up by New Hampshire tree roots that I didn’t realize were quite so high.

The bruises collected, but I refused to accept that I wasn’t seeing the world the right way, that everyone else could except me.

a person in a garment
Apparently I was looking for Big Foot in the wrong place. Photo by Jon Sailer on Unsplash

My mother, god bless her, was proficient at fixing broken glasses and pressing cold compresses on bruises, smoking her Marlboro Lights and admonishing me to protect myself.

“You don’t have to always be going and doing, Carrie,” she’d say while giving me a kiss and a hug, removing an ice pack or putting on a bandage. “It’s okay to sometimes just be still.”

My mother, god bless her again, wasn’t very still herself. “You’re going to be the death of me,” she’d say sadly before sending me off with a kiss. I wasn’t. Diabetes and those cigarettes were.


brown wooden house near brown wooden fence during daytime
Photo by Michael Förtsch on Unsplash

I wrote a post over here this morning about my town and liminal spaces—those transitory thresholds in our world, our architecture, our community, our own lives. And it may have sort of done me in, which was bad planning on my part when it comes to this post.

But I’m going to give it a go. When I think about my inability to see the world correctly, in all its full 3D glory, I think a lot about the liminal spaces, the existing in between things.

The liminal space is often defined as that in between. You are not where you were, maybe, and not where you want to be, maybe.

There are a lot of maybes when it comes to liminality. Just like there are a lot of maybes when you move through the world without depth perception.

Liminal means threshold. In architecture it’s often defined as “the physical space between one destination and the next.” 

There are tons of internet spaces (see what I did there?) that talk about physical liminal spaces, but the kind I’m a little more interested right now are the ones in a life.

Some people think liminal spaces have a sense of unease to them. Some think it’s more magical.

silhouette photography of person
Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

I like to think of it as both. It’s a place where you can feel change coming sometimes and change can be scary as heck but also so magical and full of possibility.

It’s when you just graduate and don’t have a job yet. It’s when you move to a new city or are about to leave the old one. It’s when you apply to college and aren’t sure where you’ll attend or when you are about to go to high school—that whole summer before. It’s when you’re waiting for an operation, when your kids go to college, when you’re about to retire or separate or you need to figure out a new way to make enough money to survive or thrive.

A quick look at word origins shows us that the base of liminal is limen, which is Latin for threshold.

Liminal places are thresholds, stairways, elevators, escalators. Liminal spaces are the space or the moment or the location between one point and another.

Richard Rohr describes the emotional/life journey part of liminality as:

“…an inner state and sometimes an outer situation where we can begin to think and act in new ways. It is where we are betwixt and between, having left one room or stage of life but not yet entered the next.”


a group of people standing around a display of video screens
Photo by Maxim Hopman on Unsplash

I think, though, that it can be smaller than what Rohr talks about. You can enter these spaces every day when you pause and notice where you are, what you’re doing, how you’re feeling; when you take a breath between one task and another one; when you connect with just existing instead of focusing on thinking and doing.

Weird, I know, right?

But the way my brain ended up being wired after an illness gave me epilepsy in college is that most of the time my brain isn’t thinking in words or in pictures; it’s just sort of there. Just being.

Shaun, my husband, will constantly ask me what I’m thinking about and I’ll say, “Nothing.”

Super frustrating for poor Shaun, but that’s because a lot of the time my thoughts aren’t in words, they are just in knowings. And a lot of times the knowings are quiet and still. I know! I know! You now know too much about my brain.

Anyway, emptiness is kind of scary. We rush away from it even picking up our phone when we’re in the bathroom to play Wordle, or by scrolling through whatever social media app we’re into when we’re on the couch because it’s too hard to just sit and surrender to doing nothing or to that very big nothingness.

When my daughter was little, she wouldn’t go to sleep easily. I’d ask her why, wondering if she had nightmares. “What are you scared of?”

“The emptiness,” she’d say. “The nothing.”

“When you’re asleep?”

“No,” she’d say, “before.”

That cliff between being asleep and awake can sometimes be full of the nothing that she was afraid of, but it can also be a place where the conscious and subconscious sort of dance together like in a surreal painting.

The cool truth of this world is that we don’t all have to fill our days up and our brains up all of the time. The cool truth of this world is that we can all think and exist and see in different ways or in ways that are the same. The cool truth of this world is that those liminal spaces can be launching points toward something extraordinary.

house surrounded by withered trees and snow
Photo by Simon Berger on Unsplash

Living Happy and Write Better Now! is a mostly self-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber. Thanks so much for reading this and hanging out here with me.


It’s a poem!


It was like one of those self-help blogs
That only talk in abstractions
About the power of self-love

Or how to end a toxic relationship.
That’s when I realized 
That the person not showing up

Was me. All that bemoaning
About not putting in the effort,
Not taking the time to make sure

Sentences weren’t orders
And feelings were considered,
To temper my tone with kindness, 

It was just me being the bully to myself
Before ghosting off to do other things
For people, with people, to people
without even saying goodbye.
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