Writing

Keep (Free) Writing

After months and months of daily writing on 750words.com, I abruptly stopped a week and a half ago. Blog ideas were coming to me and I was feeling inspired and thought my creative dryspell had gone bye bye. But it was more like that writing had helped me gain momentum and in order to keep it, I needed to keep going. An object in motion stays in motion, right? Stopping writing, the ideas began to dry up again.

So once again I’m free writing in the mornings but instead of slogging through what’s happening in my current life, I find that I’m drifting back in time, digging into old memories – some good and some not so good. In one of my AA meetings, we read a passage called Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow and it’s all about staying in the day but for us writers, that’s a tough place to remain. We like to drift.

In anticipation of vacationing on Cape Cod (a place I’ve never been unless you count a rainy March weekend on Nantucket), I’ve been picking through the vacation memories of my young life when my parents would pack the station wagon with the seven of us, a tent and a mix of warm clothes and bathing suits for a week in Wells, Maine. I distinctly remember needing the warm clothes more than the bathing suits even though it was the middle of summer because the nights were very cool in this northern U.S. city. I don’t have memories of enjoying the beach but we must have.

That stream of consciousness led me to places and things I’d forgotten about as I remembered how we spent our free time on those trips. Cards, Yahtzee, truth or dare. I was the youngest of five at the time and probably no more than six with the oldest of my siblings between thirteen and fifteen so there was a wide range of experience for when someone chose truth. I did not have any secrets back then and what a nostalgic place to be. A time with no secrets, shame or regret.

So here we are, embarking on brand new memories, in a brand new place, something that doesn’t happen to me (us) often these days as quarantine has turned life upside down. What will I pack, what books will I bring and what will the car snacks be for this three plus hour ride to the Eastern seaboard? We’re leaving in a little over an hour so there’s no time to spare.

Keep writing.

Writing

Word by word

Writing a book is daunting. I’ve made a few stabs at it but the words don’t come in a way I feel satisfied with. I read other people’s work with longing. And regret. Regret that I can’t pull together a plot or even sentences the way other people can and even though I know it’s not easy for them either (I’m subscribed to the hashtag WritingCommunity on Twitter), I feel like they were gifted with some sort of innate talent that I wasn’t. Maybe it is my lot in life to be just a reader. No, I want to be one of those people where words pour out, a flow of ideas – the story, the magical sentences. I hear these people exist.

I have been writing every day. OK, so it’s pretty much nonsensical words thrown on the page describing the most mundane life moments which are pretty much the same from day to day. This is not “real” writing but for some reason, I can’t get beyond this and promise myself tomorrow will be different. I love when Ann Lamott says to just sit your butt in a chair and write and as I open a new document the words that come to me are bird by bird. However, I don’t have even one bird.

On Monday I forgot to even write. I carry guilt about not writing with me through every day and Monday was the first day in months that I didn’t feel anxious for not having written by the end of the day. Either part of me forgot I hadn’t written or the writer in me shut itself off. Powered down. Unplugged itself. But then when I sat down to write on Tuesday, I saw the gap in days between Sunday and Tuesday and still let myself off the hook from writing for one more day. I was too damn tired and now I have a two day gap.

But I pick up where I left off and write the nonsense from two lost days. And just as I come to the end of my allotted 750 words and as I’m about to get ready for work, a germ of an idea comes. I tag a few sentences at the end of my daily drivel so I have an idea where I left off. But now I have to go and hope for the best for later. Or tomorrow.

Life

Life is weird and good

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It’s 8:00 a.m. on a Friday and Starbuck’s is nearly empty, a half dozen tables moved to the front of the store with chairs stacked on top, denote we are living in a new time. It’s chilly (for August) and raining but the three meagerly spaced tables outdoors, under the eave of the building are occupied with the die hard coffee and wifi borrowing devotees who need to be in the vicinity of a coffee shop to write. Today, I am one of them as I wait while my dad undergoes a quick procedure at the hospital before he is released back out into the world. Of course, I wasn’t allowed to go in with him because – COVID.

But sitting here writing in a once bustling shop is a starker reminder of the unusual times we are living in. Weirder than masking up to grocery shop and go to work. There are no tables of early morning seniors or students or business people having a quick early meeting over a cup. The tables aren’t full of writers or readers or others just needing a quick escape from home. This particular Starbucks carries noise in perpetual motion around the room from front to back, side to side, but no conversations are bouncing back to me today. Just the peripheral vision of masked customers waiting 6 feet apart for their name to be called. A quick pick up and run.

School is on my mind these days because I have a rising eighth grader and the memories of a chaotic spring semester of online schooling from home are whirling back to me. What is school going to look like this year? Will there be sports (probably not), will there be a regular school day (probably not), will there be a return to a teen social life (probably not) – or a parent social life?! We are grinning and bearing it as best we can but the teen hasn’t been out of my vicinity (except when I do my fifteen hours a week at my job) since mid-March and I think we both need a break. COVID has changed so much for all of us but we still have each other and the instincts to keep going on regardless, day after day. We are resilient, thank God.

I can’t help but wonder what our country would be like today if we had a different leader who could have given us some real guidance in the time of this pandemic. I will leave it at that as I shy away from political commentary here. The thing I am grateful for is that I only have to worry about today. Sitting here, enjoying a coffee, retrieving my dad from the hospital and getting him back to his loved ones. Life is still good. Weird but good.

 

 

Writing

Routine changes

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From the time my dad came for a visit, and maybe even before that, I let go of my daily routines. No more prayer, meditation, affirmations and my writing was no longer anchored to the morning. The primary reason for this (or so I tell myself) was to give my dad as much attention as possible and since he was an early riser, I wanted to sit and have coffee with him and listen to what he had to say. It’s easy to get out of routines and harder to reclaim them. The one thing I didn’t let go of was daily writing which wasn’t always easy but using the website 750words.com was like a having an invisible bull whip to get me to sit down before the end of the day and empty my brain on the page. It’s five dollars a month for the service and even though it’s a small amount compared to say a gym membership (which I was less devoted to even in the best of times) it was enough of an incentive to keep me coming back and the daily streak tally was a boon as I watched it climb each day.

With my dad now gone to rehab for a fall he took here, my mornings are suddenly, sadly free but the routines have not been recouped. Why is it so hard to do the things you know are good for you? One thing I’ve promised myself is to reclaim my voice and this blog because even if no one reads my words, I can feel like I’m making progress toward a writing goal at the very least. My daily writing is consumed by the minutia of the day and I want more for myself than that. What we had for dinner, the chores I completed, the books I was reading. Sometimes I use superfulous words and break every writing rule just to get to 750 words each day because I’ve left it until it’s nearing the end of the day and I just about have the 20 minutes left until midnight to get it in.

But starting now, I am here. I am back to writing in public and I hope to see you more often in the future.

MC

poetry

Tuesday

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We landed on Tuesday, again.
How do we keep the days new and fresh
in a changed world?

Seeking outside ourselves the answer
to what lies within,
we close our eyes to memory and dreams.

Imagine if things were different. Where would
we be and doing?
Going slowly toward sanity or madness.

Generations before have seen better and worse
and yet we survive another day.
We landed on Tuesday, again.

Writing

Writing Routine

 

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Creativity is not something I associate with the word routine although I do love a good routine. Each morning I wake, say the rosary, meditate, write affirmations and then sit down to write. But first coffee. I don’t have a particular routine around my writing, though, but I’m starting to build one. First, the morning pages. I was writing them by hand for a long time, filling up notebook upon notebook but a couple of things happen when writing at length with a pen. I grip it hard and the nail of my ring finger digs into the palm of my hand leaving a throbbing indent. Also my hand goes a bit numb after a while. And then I discovered 750words.com and I moved my morning pages online, which is cheating, I know, but better than nothing. It also makes my writing searchable which is great.

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Life

Writing is hard

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When WordPress did away with their daily writing prompts in May of 2018, I was very sad as were many of my fellow bloggers. I started writing in 2016 as a way to process my days of early recovery from alcoholism and without it, I might still be drinking today. Pouring out my experience here, helped get me through a very hard time. But after a few months when I was starting to feel better and wanted to write about other things, the daily prompt was great inspiration. It helped me think about things I hadn’t thought of in years whether it was happy, sad, weird or just a string of a memory. It enabled me to discover other writers too, as the the post for the prompt catalogued all those who participated.

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Life

A vision for 2020

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Hello and Happy New Year! I have been thinking about writing every day and missing this space and I realized that with every passing day it was getting harder to return. I haven’t been writing. Again. But it’s all good. I haven’t been without routine these past few weeks but I’ve been at a loss on where to fit the writing in. You have to just get started somewhere, so here I am.

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Life

Building daily habits

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Back in September, I started a daily journaling exercise called the 6-Minute Diary. The basic outline is that for three minutes in the morning you answer three items:

  • Three things to be grateful for
  • A couple of sentences on how to make the day great
  • A positive affirmation

At the end of the day you complete three more exercises:

  • Your good deed for the day
  • How you’ll improve
  • Three great things you experienced that day

I just passed the critical juncture (66 days according to research cited by the author of this book) for establishing a solid habit. This is 66 days of positive thinking first thing in the morning and last thing before going to bed. I have to say it works for me and makes my days a little more meaningful. I have to put thought into my daily good deed. I have to think about how I can do better tomorrow. Even on a bad day, there have to be three good things.

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Writing

A Writer’s Beginning

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One thing I learned many years ago in my very first college writing class: do not begin every sentence with the word I. In fact, try to start as many sentences as possible without starting with I. This is something that despite everything else I must have learned in college, always stays with me when I am writing. The essays and stories I wrote in that class in 1987 are still boarders in the basement of my home. They have lived in a Rubbermaid bin for over 25 years and have moved with me from apartment to apartment. And there were a lot of apartments.

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