How to outwit – outplay – outlast hate


Sometimes I think it would be great if I could hate — really hate — viciously hate without reservation, hesitation, or self-reproachment — free of any sensation other than the forceful surge that comes from riding that rising tide of red, roaring anger.

Hate has been invigorating for so many people this year. Their hate has been affirmed and amplified and shared. It’s like a habit they’ve had to hide from others because it was perceived of as gross, disgusting, or indecent — and suddenly it’s okay, it’s normalized, it’s even celebrated. Fueled by hate, any of us could easily ignore the wisdom of the head, the compassion of the heart, and the understanding of the soul, because hate overwhelms common sense and erases common decency.

When you feed on hate, it’s never enough. It’ll distort who you are and what you once believed. It will wrack you to your core and bend even the most upright human into a crouching, snarling, feral beast.

Hate is a drug. You’ll crave more, and then you’ll need to hate bigger. It won’t be enough to hold hate in your thoughts or act on hate through small deeds like posting ‘funny’ jokes that hurt a certain group of individuals or saying ugly things to like-minded peers. No, you’ll have to hate in a way that humiliates others — that causes them pain, first mental anguish, later perhaps physical pain because you grow immune to the thrill of hate unless you ratchet it up.

Hate is the veneer you apply on top of the fear, the loud bellowing that muffles the tears, the hurricane blast that knocks you off your feet and violently propels you well beyond the limits of rational self-control. It can feel good to hate because your own pain seems to diminish; you get carried away and you’re simply not responsible for what happens. You’re free of blame. Any wrongs are because of someone else.

I’ve read an onslaught of items — articles, essays, tweets and commentary — over the past few days that made me want to wrap myself in hate, because hate would be so much more powerful than despair.

But then I’m reminded that hate clouds judgment. No good decisions are made in a frenzy of hate. Hate burns you up, consumes you from the inside, isolates you because the goal isn’t connection but separation. Few if any have ever loved out of hate, married because of hate, given birth with hate in their hearts, though many have died because of it.

Haters gonna hate. And the rest of us, well, when they’re done breaking and smashing and despoiling, we’ll be here to pick up the pieces. Because you can either create or destroy, and hate’s legacy is damage, desecration, and devastation.

We’re running a marathon here, and the haters rarely pace themselves; instead they run hot and heavy and hard. The rest of us simply have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Over time, we’ll move forward, while the haters burn themselves out.

So keep your pace reasonable, your breath steady, your eyes focused on whatever you need to visualize to get you through this.

Just keep moving.
Just keep moving.
Just keep moving.

Don’t drop out. Because that’s what they want.

Don’t give them what they want. Don’t hate like they do.

The way out is the way through. Together, out of love.
Not hate.

Cross-posted at

Why you need an online presence as a writer


It’s hard enough to just sit down and write most days. And now you’re telling me, “Having an online presence as a writer is essential”? C’mon!

Yes, I’m telling you that. And I can hear the whine in your voice even though this conversation started inside my head…and has now moved over to yours.

Here’s why you need to have your own your website and/or blog associated with your name and why you need to start working on it now.

Assuming what you do is creative writing–generated by your own impulses and not by an editor who’s assigned you a subject and will send a check after publication–you choose what to write about, the style you assume and the tone you take, and you put your name on it because it’s yours. Total control from top to bottom–that’s what you have over your writing.

Now consider your image online. Someone sees something you’ve written and takes note of your name and byline. They like what they’ve read, they want to read more, and now they go searching for you. If you don’t have a website, you kinda just blew it. Because what they find is NOT under your control.

In fact, the results can seem random (at least to you, but there’s always a method to this madness). Sometimes, they don’t showcase your best efforts.

Worse,  Google–in its infinite algorithmic wisdom–may occasionally return results you will actually scream at when you click through and see what the link points to. (Been there, felt that, and that’s why I check my name regularly to see what comes up.)

Have a blog, have a website, but have something.

Because when you do, and when you update it regularly (more on that in another post), you’ll have Google’s attention when people search your name and ideally you’ll control that first impression right there at the top.

What prompted this post is a personal experience I had this morning related to my day job. I’m an independent radio producer for an NPR affiliate and every week when I write scripts I fact check against the guest’s bio online. Today, despite the guest’s prominence and field of expertise, there was no online bio. Nothing. Lots of mentions of the name in articles and journals, but nothing that says, Here I am, these are my credentials and affiliations, I approved this message.

“My word is my bond” was a statement we once believed in, an assurance that what we said could be trusted and was binding. I think that in the new media world order, our websites and/or blogs should be our bond. So if you’re not extending your hand to your potential audience–via words and content you are in total control of–you’re not the one shaking on the deal.

Here’s a brief but spot-on look at what makes for an effective online presence; it’s not geared to writers specifically, but much of the advice is similar to what I tell my blogging classes or clients who consult with me on their blogs or want to know how to go about starting one.

Cross-posted at and LinkedIn.

Photo courtesy Nick Karvounis/Unsplash

How to Respond to That Whiny Post About Friendship

Maybe I saw you yesterday. Maybe we haven’t seen each other in decades. Maybe we’ve never actually met and never will due to distance and circumstances. And yet, somehow, we’re friends on Facebook and that’s good enough for me.

Really. That’s it. You can stop reading.

I’m not here to:

  • pile on any social media guilt
  • ask you to recall how we met or describe me in one word
  • insist you cut and paste this message to prove something.

I’m just here to say in my own words — original, not copied from some viral post — that I pay attention to you and that you matter to me.

Details of your life come up in my feeds. I’m happy when I hear about the good things and I try to post on your wall to celebrate with you . Though I feel sad reading about the bad things, in those situations I try even harder to post, to lend support and send a little love your way.

I care, and I try to express it with integrity and sincerity, but lately I’ve felt judged because my care doesn’t appear to be measuring up.


I’ve noticed a ridiculous number of these “let’s determine the quality of our friendship by seeing who reads this to the end and then cuts and pastes this to their page” posts. To me, this is Mad Libs: My Sad Life — you know, that story with the blanks you fill in with random words selected out of context. The post whines about lost friendships, how this is the easy solution to figure out who really cares, just cut and paste and for god’s sake don’t simply ‘like’ because then it won’t count.

The closer I am to the person posting, the less I pay attention; I figure they’re aware of the quality of our relationship. But I also know what’s going on in their day-to-day lives, the real events and hurts and losses that don’t show up on social media, and if they’re in pain, I’ll reach out.

For those whom I only come in contact with through Facebook, I wonder.

I wonder if they’re cutting and pasting because they’re going through a rough patch and want to ask for support, but can’t bring themselves to do so in a direct way. When we’re shaken down to the core, sometimes the hardest thing is to admit fear or grief because that makes it real. So it’s less scary to put up a viral post. Others read it, they respond, everyone’s happy, life goes on…yada yada yada.

You might think I’m overreacting, but this type of post is bad for all of us. It’s the social media equivalent of emotional spam.

That’s because it’s not genuine. It’s not their words. It’s just a viral woe-is-me, not worthy of any of us. It prompts responses that are rarely heartfelt or moving. They’re words coerced by social force, and they pass right through us. They don’t stick. They’re the junk food of compassion, lacking real empathy, and they don’t satisfy anyone, least of all the person seeking validation.

I came to this understanding not through Facebook but through honest-to-goodness real-world face time in the writing classes I teach.

Every semester, adult students who are largely strangers show up at the writer’s center. They sign up for a course, enter the first class, sit down, and make themselves vulnerable. Most are willing to strip down to an emotionally naked state, trusting that I — and their fellow students — will take them seriously and their work even more seriously. Some expose their cruelest hurts and humiliations, hope for reassurance and the grace of connection and care, and email me privately with even worse stories because they have few other places to turn for support.

I give what I can, knowing that our best and worst selves pivot on a single, critical moment. I try to respond with honesty and authenticity. I try to show them that in that moment I hear them, I see them, I embrace them. Every aspect of them.

We want connection. Connection to our friends, acquaintances, even total strangers. It’s communicated most easily in a hug, when you can wrap your arms around them, offer protection however temporary, and take in physical pain or joy. Few of us can be where we ought to be in the exact moment we’re needed, so social media has become a substitute. Good or bad depends on the quality of the interaction. Garbage in, garbage out.

If you need that spark of connection reminding you what’s important and what matters — if you’ve hit a bad day and you’re here on Facebook to find one reassuring word, message me. This is why social media has become bigger than anyone could have predicted. At its best, it reconnects us in deeply meaningful and powerful ways. One to one. Specific and honest.

Don’t do a cut and paste. Don’t judge your friendships by who responds and who doesn’t. There are long stretches of time when I cannot be on Facebook and I may miss something vital in your life. But that doesn’t mean I don’t care.

Instead of sharing these silly “friendship test” posts, every time you open Facebook, find one person who’s had a good thing happen and one person who’s had a bad thing happen. Post your joy or your compassion on their page, and be authentic and present for what they’re feeling. Be there in the moment.

What goes around comes around. And when it comes to social media, karma’s not a bitch but a blessing. Be grateful for the community that surrounds you. I know I am.

Unpack the Basket: 7 Tips to Increase Productivity and Enhance Creativity

Ever dash into the grocery store intending to pick up just a couple of items — quick in, quick out? At the entrance, you take a shopping basket instead of a cart.

Before you’ve gone a dozen steps, something catches your eye. Ooh, you need that.

You go a little further. You need that as well. And that, and that, and that.

You’re walking around with far more items than you intended, lugging this overloaded basket through the store.

It’s heavy. It’s bulky. It’s too full, so you keep dropping stuff.

Carrying around all these extra items knocks you off your stride. You’re not moving quickly, steadily, confidently anymore.

Instead, you’ve slowed down. You’re tuckered out. Trying to manage all the contents of that basket has made it that much harder for you to move forward, let alone recall what you initially came into the store to get.

Now, imagine that basket isn’t a basket.

It’s your head.

Specifically, your brain.

A Tisket, A Tasket, Your Brain as a Basket

You have too much on your mind. You keep adding to it, however, and it’s beyond packed. It’s overflowing. Because of that, you drop a few things. Maybe you don’t even notice what’s gone missing. Maybe you forgot about those things, but still you keep on adding more and more and more.

Eventually, one of two things will happen: you won’t be able to move forward under the weight of it all, or you’ll explode from the pressure.

We want to multi-task — we’re sure we can do it — but we want clarity at the same time.

We talk about blue-sky thinking, but really, how can that happen if the inside of your head is as cluttered as an episode of Hoarders?

Unloading = Unpacking = Unburdening

It took me a long time to understand that having so much on my mind was actually hobbling me. The weight of this responsibility was a crushing burden; it diminished my productivity, inhibited my creativity.

I was sabotaging myself again and again, every single day of my life.

I didn’t put down the burden all at once. I’m still working on taking the pressure off myself in stages.

It’s like standing in line at the register, lowering that shopping basket until one end rests on the metal edge of the conveyer belt. A portion of the weight is transferred away from you, enabling you to steadily unload items, one after the other.

Tools to Turn To

I recently gave a talk to a business and networking group about using the tool of expressive writing to let go of emotional burdens and past traumas.

I’ll be honest — I began with other methods to unpack my mind; only now am I implementing the writing advice I gave them. But during the course of the presentation, when I described a few of the tools I turned to, much of the audience didn’t know the books I referenced and the websites and apps I mentioned.

Instead of explaining and re-explaining myself in the aftermath of that talk, I’m writing down what I use myself. Because holding that information inside my head is just one more item that needs to be unloaded.

So if your basket is too full and you want to explore ways to gain greater clarity and open up some space in your mind, here are my personal recommendations — the seven things that have helped me.

7 Tips to Increase Productivity and Enhance Creativity


  • David Allen, Getting Things Done
    The system millions swear by. Google the title and you’ll find the cult of GTD alive and well online, with hundreds of websites you can turn to for support and implementation advice in addition to the official GTD site.
  • Janet Conner, Writing Down Your Soul
    The personal account of a woman who’s become an enthusiastic advocate of expressive writing (see Pennebaker below), this book details how writing can free your inner voice to problem solve and guide you. Warning to atheists: it’s somewhat God-based (in the Christian spiritual tradition) in parts, but there’s also neuroscience to back up her claim that a daily writing practice (in which you address the difficult stuff) will bring you clarity.


  • Dr. James W. Pennebaker and Writing to Heal, The University of Texas at Austin
    The premise: write down your deepest feelings about an emotional upheaval in your life for 15 or 20 minutes a day for four consecutive days. Pennebaker’s decades of research prove the efficacy of this simple method.
  • The Secret Weapon by Braintoniq
    Described as “a no bs approach to personal productivity,” here you’ll find detailed instruction on how to use Evernote (see below) as the basis of your GTD system. You may not implement all of it, but it’ll help you establish a secure place to capture everything.


  • Evernote
    The elephant head in the green box will become your go-to app icon on your smartphone once you read GTD and The Secret Weapon. Evernote can hold everything, and it’s free.
  • Easily Do
    Combining the best of half a dozen other apps, this’ll track your packages, keep travel info and tickets instantly accessible, and remind you of appointments, birthdays, and events. Plus, it’ll curate Facebook for you, showing only important posts from the handful of friends you really care about and ignoring the endless junk posted by everyone else.
  • Headspace
    An app for meditation? Yes, and more. Beautifully designed, it becomes almost addictive once you try the free 10-day introductory series which guides you through a ten-minute meditation with new content each day. At the end, lather, rinse, repeat the series for free. Or sign up for a month, a year, or a two-year subscription with significant price breaks. If you subscribe and meditate every day, it’ll cost you just pennies per guided sitting. And if you complete a 30 day meditation streak, you’ll earn a free one-month subscription for a friend.

Letterman, Fallon, and Lowenin the middle

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Jimmy Fallon steps up to the Tonight Show. David Letterman steps down from the Late Show. Both those trending stories reinforce the fact that I’m stuck in the middle of a midlife crisis.

Fallon’s too old to be my son. Letterman’s too young to be my father. Me, I’m dead center between them age-wise, but one reminds me of my youth and the other reminds me that I’m old.

Fallon will be to my college-age daughters what Letterman was to me —  the embodiment of a future that was appealing because it felt effortless, careless, not something to be taken too seriously.

When Letterman went on the air in 1982, I was twenty-one, close to graduation, with a circle of friends planning for careers in media. College radio newspaper magazine types. We didn’t laugh at stuff. Too cool for that. But Letterman made us laugh because he didn’t take any of it seriously. “Sure, I’m hosting a late night talk show,” he’d admit through coded winks, smirks and nods, “but so what?”Continue reading “Letterman, Fallon, and Lowenin the middle”

The Writing Life, or Why I Don’t Blog Here Very Often

Embed from Getty Images Anyone who writes for the internet for a living and maintains a personal blog that hasn’t been updated in over a year should not be embarrassed. She should be ashamed.

I am ashamed. A fine example I set, considering that I recently told a client an effective blog needed to be updated with new content a minimum of 2-3 times a week to have any chance of ranking well on Google. Yet I do okay, because the only other “linda lowen” is a naturopath in Highbury, South Australia. Since we’re in different hemispheres and on different career paths we rarely are mistaken for each other.

My heart goes out to Mary Johnson, Sarah Brown and especially Susan White who probably gets confused with the 2814 other Susan Whites listed in the US White Pages. I don’t share that problem as Linda has largely gone out of vogue since the 1960s and Lowen is fairly uncommon.

All this to say that if I don’t update my personal blog but once a year, those searching for me will still find me. Fortunate me.

Before I shifted careers and became a full-time freelance writer, my words were largely restricted to specific audiences that numbered in the four digits on good days.

The interesting thing about writing for a living is that the more you do, the less your ego is wrapped up in the words that end up printed…or published…or viewed.Continue reading “The Writing Life, or Why I Don’t Blog Here Very Often”

From Great White Daddy to Katie Couric: Evolution of the evening news

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For a very long time, network news was all about comfort, authority, and the presence of what I’ve come to think of as the Great White Daddy. America grew up with the notion that at a certain time of day, we could all tune in to one of the Three Big Networks and see (and hear) men with patrician features and well-modulated voices telling us both the good and the bad of the day’s events.

As bad as it got, however, it was never so bad that the Great White Daddy would leave us in despair. Before the end of each newscast, there was some germ of hope, some belief that if the story didn’t end happily, it was at least resolved sufficiently enough for us to rest easy at night. Like the fathers of those neat-as-a-pin TV sitcoms, the Great White Daddy would tuck us in for the evening with soothing words and a calm strength that only men on TV (or Gregory Peck in “To Kill a Mockingbird”) seemed to possess.

Who was the first person to break the Great White Daddy role? Continue reading “From Great White Daddy to Katie Couric: Evolution of the evening news”


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I was never the sort of teenager who dreamed all her life about prom. The “girly arts” — styling hair, applying makeup, wearing nail polish — were not skills I wielded with confidence. Back then, prom attire was more low-key. Gunne Sax, Jessica McClintock’s line of teen formal dresses, was at the height of popularity. A fashion mashup of “Victorian Meets Little House on the Prairie,” the brand was about as revealing as a burqa without the head-dress.

My high school boyfriend was a year older than me, and during our time together I went to two Junior Proms (his and mine) and one Senior Ball (his). Long before Molly Ringwald starred in “Pretty In Pink,” I was doing cheap chic. I picked up three gowns for $15 apiece at a bridal/formal wear shop that was going out of business. One was red velvet with spaghetti straps and a velvet trimmed white lace jacket. The second was a Gunne Sax dress in pale blue cotton with a high-backed neck and a deeply scooped front detailed with lace. The third was my favorite – a lace-up bodice and full skirt combining dark blue velveteen with an acid-trip-inspired floral print. Lace, as you’re probably realizing, was a mainstay of prom gowns in those days.

By the time my last high school formal rolled around, the boyfriend was off to college and I was seeing someone else simply to have a date for Senior Ball. No longer a sweet young thing but shrewd and calculating, I broke free of the lace habit for something new and daring– a flesh-colored body-hugging dress with a jacket that fell in swoops like a toga. My parents paid $75 for that gown which in retrospect I can see was stunningly ugly. Only one photo of me in this dress exists; I am posing in front of a shaggy evergreen, with my mouth open and complaining. None of the other photos–all of which included my indentured date–came out; the film negatives were blank. This fed the family legend that my date was a vampire because he couldn’t be captured on film.Continue reading “Prom-arama”

Peace Corps’ rape cover-up culture comes to light in House committee hearings

At I’ve written about the ABC News story that exposed an ugly aspect of the Peace Corps — a culture of hiding/denying the rape and sexual assault of female Peace Corps volunteers. The story was in part prompted by my own fears as the mother of a wannabe Peace Corps volunteer who added an education minor to her college studies to make herself a more viable candidate.

Now that the House Foreign Affairs Committee is looking into the issue, more horrific stories are coming out, including one from a woman who was raped by her Nepalese program director, became pregnant, and was told by the Peace Corps to get an abortion or quit.Continue reading “Peace Corps’ rape cover-up culture comes to light in House committee hearings”

Note to the Facebook friend I unfriended

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It’s not because you’re obviously a misogynist and I’m pretty much a feminist.

It’s not because our politics are as different as different can be.

It’s not because you can’t read anything I write about Hilary Clinton without insisting that she’s “shrill” and “menopausal” and using those exact words in your public comments on my Wall.

It’s not because you’re male and I’m female.

It’s not because we were only very casual acquaintances in high school and haven’t been in touch since.

I unfriended you today on Facebook because you don’t listen — least of all with an open mind.Continue reading “Note to the Facebook friend I unfriended”