Smile, Write, and Breathe

Sarah M. Chenby Sarah M. Chen

The past couple weeks have been a roller coaster of emotions for me. But what’s been helping me stay on track is to think positive.

I’m probably the last person people would expect to say this. I tend to see the glass as half empty. Friends and family call me “the worrywart.” My therapist tells me that if you think enough negative thoughts, your brain develops these “negative grooves.” The key is to create new brain grooves with positive thoughts. And yes, this is extremely difficult for people like me. The longer you’ve been thinking negative thoughts, the easier it is for your brain to go right into that pattern because the groove is already there. Creating a new groove takes discipline.

However, I’ve made a considerable effort the past couple weeks to make some changes, both in my outlook and in my actions. As for my outlook, positivity is a big one. Here are some ways I’ve been doing this over the past week:

1)Visiting one of my favorite cities, Boston.


Connie Johnson Hamblay and I with our copies of WINDWARD.

2) Having a short story in Level Best BooksWINDWARD: BEST NEW ENGLAND CRIME STORIES and attending the launch party at Crime Bake in Dedham, MA last weekend.

3) Meeting fellow anthology authors like Connie Johnson Hambley, Christine Bagley, and Al Blanchard Award winner, P. Jo Anne Burgh (love our Twitter discussions!).

4) Visiting a new bookstore. It took me over 45 minutes on the T from my hotel but it was worth it. Brookline Booksmith was crowded and cozy, everything I love in a bookstore.


5) Buying a signed copy of Rob Hart’s SOUTH VILLAGE, the third in his Ash McKenna series. I just finished the second, CITY OF ROSE, on the plane and couldn’t wait to read the third.20161112_154059

6) Touring around Hyannis with a friend I rarely see. What a cute town. We talked about writing and the 80s (maybe the fact I’m in a 1980s anthology had something to do with it). I came away inspired and energized.20161113_132312

7) Writing during the trip. I even left the conference early to return to my hotel to write. I’m always jealous of those writers who can do this. I was determined to be one of these writers. I even wrote on the plane the entire trip home (almost 6 hours) on my shiny new laptop (another thing that makes me happy).


I’ll be heading to Phoenix for Thanksgiving so I’m hoping I can keep up this momentum to be inspired, think positive, and write. Even if I don’t write, I’ll be with friends whom I love dearly and when it comes down to it, that’s exactly what I need—what any of us ever need, really.


Sarah M. Chen juggles several jobs including indie bookseller, transcriber, and insurance adjuster. She has over 20 crime fiction short stories published in various anthologies and online including Shotgun Honey, All Due Respect, Crime Factory, Betty Fedora, Out of the Gutter, and Dead Guns Press. Her debut book, Cleaning Up Finn, was published May 2016 by All Due Respect Books.



21 thoughts on “Smile, Write, and Breathe

  1. Loved your post and your efforts to be a positive thinker. I saw a sign the other day that “Happiness is a choice,” and I think we should always plan for it. It does become a habit in how we think, and I do think we catch it from perhaps parents or others in our life. Sounds like being good to yourself is wonderful way to start. Congrats on the short story published!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Neva. I do agree that parents can be an influence on how we think growing up. My dad is a classic worrywart. It is most definitely a choice and I want to adhere to the saying, “Choose to be happy.” Thanks for reading and commenting!


  2. Sarah, Have a great journey, some wonderful events seem to happening along the way. Personally, I’m one who sees the glass filling up. (Oh well *grin*). I’m a bit jealous as all the writing you’re doing, but I’ve no one but myself to take to task for that.

    I’m so happy for you. May your trip to Phoenix be more than you expect and the grooves you’re working to create happen easily for you. Doris

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Doris. You’re very fortunate to see the glass as half-full. It’s a struggle for me but I’m keeping at it as best I can! I’m very much looking forward to Phoenix and time spent with friends. I appreciate the read and comment!


  3. Great post, Sarah! Yes, we all need to find that pathway of peace and positiveness. It’s easy to get locked in and sucked in to all the negativity around us. I turn off the news and listen to uplifting, relaxing music, focus on my writing, family, friends, and pets, and read positive devotions each morning — that all helps. I’m so glad you were able to do so many things you enjoy and I hope that this Thanksgiving provides respite and joy and that you return home re-energized once again. Thank you for your inspiring post!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sounds like you have your ducks in a row and are keeping them well-fed. I am in awe of someone who can leave a party early and return to a hotel room to write – kudos! It sounds to me like you have isolated the things that are important in your life and are taking great pains to keep them aligned. Good luck! Enjoyed the post immensely!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Linda! I always watched writers who snuck out of conference parties or gatherings early, mumbling, “I gotta write” with mixed feelings of jealousy and awe. I am proud of myself for following suit, although don’t know if that will repeat itself in Phoenix or anytime soon! Hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving.


  5. It’s always good to read how others keep the glass half full as you chart out what’s important in your life and work to make it happen. The time in Boston makes me envious. I’ve known people who have lived in the city, and they always talked wonderfully about it. An old friend from my Florida days lives there now. He wants me to visit, and I really should try to get out there and see how his life is going.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You should, Mike! Boston is a wonderful city, an eclectic mix of historical and modern. And the food…that alone is reason to go! You won’t regret it. Just go during the spring or fall. I tend to go during November which now I’m used to the chill but Sept-Oct is ideal with the beautiful foliage. Thanks for reading and commenting. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Sarah,
    Great post! It looks like all the hard work you’ve done in 2016 is paying off. I agree about trying to stay positive helps. It’s a decision you can make; like if a person cuts you off in traffic you can berate him in your car or you can say to yourself, that person must be late and I hope he gets there on time. I’ve done it a couple of times and it does help. But I haven’t done it all the time. I think the more you do it the easier it is to maintain.
    Have a great time in Phoenix and Happy Thanksgiving!
    – Stephen

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Positives need discipline- as you say, Sarah, that seems so true. I don’t think that all negatives need to be dispelled before the positive kicks in but being really good with dedication gets you there! Your visits sound very appealing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Nancy. You’re right. It’s not healthy to ignore all negative thoughts. They may surface for a reason. But I need to work on that knee-jerk negative reaction to things. I appreciate your read and comment!


  8. Sarah, I am the opposite. I am the half-full gal, so my friends, and even my family are surprised when I get depressed or a little down. Sometimes I think life would be easier if I didn’t have an A personality. If I didn’t have to be doing something 24/7. If I didn’t have to keep that smile going. But then I realize, that’s me, it’s part of what makes me–me. The people who love me, even if they say relax or calm down, don’t really want me that way. We need to embrace ourselves no matter where we fit into the glass. Sounds like you have made some great new grooves. Love the photos. Cher’ley

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Cher’ley. The world needs all types, and people who are smiley and positive balance out negative Nancys like me. Lol. You’re right; we need to embrace who we are. But a nice balance is a healthy goal I think. Thank you for the comment and I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!


  9. I was always a half-empty person, but smiling and being positive is good for the immune system, so these days I smile as much as I can. Being positive can make good things happen. I wish I’d understood that years ago. As you said, it takes discipline, but it can be done. Thanks for the post, and best wishes as you start on this new path.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thanks, Kathy. Yes, I wish I understood this as well. There are studies that show people who smile more and have a happier outlook are healthier. It is something I’m trying to consciously think about but after years of doing the opposite, it’s hard! Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving.


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