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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Writing

Liz Gilbert Writing Inspiration

Perusing through Instagram I was stopped short by the photo above. Sometimes I berate myself for scrolling through social media when I could be doing other, more useful things. But how would I stumble upon gems like this? I was instantly intrigued. Elizabeth Gilbert has the secret knowledge of how to be a successful writer (and in ten easy steps!). Success and ease are not guaranteed but she does share some ideas that work.

  1. Tell your story to 1 person using your own voice.
  2. Start at the beginng and tell the whole story.
  3. Use simple sentences.
  4. Don’t worry if it’s good, just finish.
  5. Don’t write to change anyone’s life.
  6. Tell stories instead of explaining stuff.
  7. It doesn’t have to be a particular length or geared to a specific audience.
  8. You have been doing research your whole life just by existing- use it.
  9. Day after day, keep going.
  10. Be willing to let it be easy.

I’ve chopped her advice into tiny nuggets here so if you want to read it in her own words, take a meander over to Instagram. She’s a voice I find inspirational to follow.

MC

Writing

Just keep writing

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For a moment I got sucked into the vortex of blog stats. How many people are reading this? How many visitors did I have last month? This year? Look at how many more I had last year. Gosh. Why did I even look at these stats? Why do I care? How can people read what I’m not writing? Write for yourself whispers my soul.

I’m not going to lie. It isn’t easy to stick to writing, especially when the inspiration isn’t there. I see how much I wrote last year, particularly February when I committed to blogging every day for that month. I had stats! I had likes and follows. I’m not going to lie. It felt easy and good. This year I’ve been adrift and honestly (why do I think I have to keep prefacing myself about honesty!) when I lost my job, I lost my mojo, even though it had been steadily seeping away for some time.

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Life

A Yellow Notepad

This morning as I was doing my own kind of meditation where I lie in bed and send prayers and good thoughts for the day, I asked God to help me see what I should be in the world. On Sunday night we went to mass at a local Catholic college and it was amazing. For me, amazing doesn’t happen at mass all the time, but that night I felt so in tune with what the priest was enthusiastically asserting in his homily and it was all about being who and what we are supposed to be.

It didn’t come to me in a thunderbolt as I mulled this over in bed today but my thoughts drifted to a letter I need to write to a family member to set my side of the relationship right. It’s something I let go too long but it’s never too late, right? The letter needs to be hand written, something I haven’t done in many, many years.

Into my mind popped a vision of a yellow notepad, a notepad I used abundantly during the summer of 1988 to write letters to my brother, Jeff, who had taken his life 17 months prior. I was in the anger stage of my grieving process. It was the summer after my sophomore year of college and I was unable to find employment where my parents lived and so my uncle generously found me a well paying flag person job and I went to live with him, my aunt and young cousins 100 miles from home.

Standing in a u-turn on a major highway, alone for 12 hours a day gives a person quite a bit of time to think. I did a lot of that, headphones in my ears as I listened to the soundtrack of that summer: Walking in Memphis, Simply Irresistible, Hands to Heaven and everything by Phil Collins. When I hear these songs I can be transported back to that summer like it was last week.

Back to the yellow notepad. I would be exhausted at the end of the day and even though I had a boyfriend living nearby, I mostly spent the evenings in my room, scrawling out these lengthy messages to my dead brother. I was trying to come to grips with the why, a nearly fruitless endeavor for suicide survivors. This was long before I heard of the concept of a suicide survivors group. I also eschewed therapy, preferring to go it alone (a common theme in my life).

I wrote on those notepad pages until my hand hurt and then would carefully pull the pages from the pad, fold it in thirds as though I were about to tuck it into a number 10 envelope and then deposit it in the top drawer of the dresser. By the end of the summer the drawer was full but I was no closer to the answers I sought. If I packed them up as I left for my dorm that fall, I don’t remember.

Writing on that yellow pad was an integral part of my very long recovery process. Like the songs of the summer of 1988, I can’t see a yellow pad without remembering the angst of my nocturnal writing during those summer months. If I could write a letter to my 20 year old self, I’d tell her it was going to get better. Time heals all wounds is a trope no grieving person ever wants to hear even if it is true.

Somehow, over time (lots and lots of time), my heart patched over and I was able to work through my grieving process. I was able to go on and work with other survivors, listen on a hotline as people called in with the things that weighed heavily on their mind. Is remembering the notepad part of God’s mission for me? I think it is, at least for today because it was the first image I saw when I looked at Twitter this morning. I will keep seeking the clues He sends me.

MC

Writing

A New Routine

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Today is day one of my new, unemployed life. What came before, these last two weeks was just the trial run. A period similar (but certainly not as devastating) to the events experienced after the death of a loved one. The period that is suspended in time where your tribe gathers around. Makes daily inquiries as to your well being. There is much to do in those first few days. Organize and prepare for what lies ahead. A pre-planned getaway to Florida followed my first week away from the job and there was a flurry of activity awaiting me there. But now I am home and everyone is back to work and school and I’m here to let the dust settle around me and find a new routine.

This is exactly what I have wanted for months on end. Time to write. Time to see if I have what it takes to birth a book. I’m hopeful because it is early days and I see nothing but time stretching ahead of me. I have a bit of money saved and with unemployment kicking in soon, I’ll have enough to get me through the next few months. I know how lucky I am. If I can’t make it work now, I don’t see how it’s going to happen for me. I know I have to sit my butt in front of my computer and let the words out, even if they are gibberish and nonsensical.

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Life

I’m messing up my resolutions already

I’m not sure why we circle around the date of January 1 to recalibrate our lives. Lose weight, eat healthier, exercise, set new goals. The only goal I banged out of the park in 2018 was my reading goal which I consider research toward my goal of one day writing a novel.

But this year, as I was on my last minute shopping run to Barnes & Noble, my eyes lit up when I saw a daily calendar of writing prompts by Writer’s Digest. I have really missed the daily prompt on WordPress which was way more than just a prompt because it allowed me to connect with other writers and discover new voices and I admit it keeps me away from blogging regularly because I no longer get that daily email.

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Musings

A Billion Dollars

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I did not win the $1.6 billion lottery last night. That’s ok because I didn’t even buy a ticket as I was hoping to ride my husband’s office pool ticket to a win. Do you ever imagine what would happen if you won a big lottery pot of gold? I must be a glass half empty kind of girl because my mind always goes to the stories where people’s lives are ruined by a big windfall. The ones where everyone is fighting over the money. The money is spent in a grandiose and spendthrift manner and is gone in the blink of an eye. I don’t like drama in my life and I think where there is big money, there is big drama.

If I were to win some money, I would only want enough to pay off all our debts (which are not huge at this point in my life) and those of my family. Maybe it would be nice to win enough to quit my job and pursue my dream to write full time. I don’t think I’m cut out for a life of leisure. Spa days and shopping jags are fun but an occasional splurge is all I can handle. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about retirement (objects in mirror are closer than they appear). I wonder what I’ll do with my days as I’ll no longer have a kid to launch into the world which takes up about 80% of my free time.

I try to bring my mind back to the present when I start to look so far into the future. I have to stay grounded in today and not worry so much about a future that is hazy at best. I’m plugging away day by day. Trying to create memories for my family and myself that will be waiting for me when I’m old and gray. There, I did it again. Bringing it back to today.

MC

 

 

 

 

 

Life

Having a “me” day

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Today is a small miracle. A gift, really. Even with the rain and the damp and the lingering sad thoughts from watching the Kavanaugh/Ford hearing yesterday.  Today is good. I can finally rest and do what I want to do for me today.

I don’t take this gift lightly and promise myself not to spend any time on my phone cruising twitter for the aftermath of yesterday’s hearing or browsing other social media sites to kill time. I am not going to an exercise class or to the grocery store and I’m not going to do any laundry. Thanks to the very fun girl’s night (another important form of self-care!) at my house last Friday, the house is still in decent shape.

I survived a raucous sleepover last weekend with my son and his friends. I survived a week with my husband out of the country, running Liam to activities every night during the week and because he doesn’t take a bus, I’ve done drop off and pick up duty too. Plus there is the job I get paid to do as well. I am tired.

This is by no means a complaint. Being productive is a fulfilling achievement in its own right. I love ticking things off. I can handle the unexpected errands (like how I had to run and buy Liam a new school blazer – the fourth one since the beginning of the last school year – because he is a serial misplacer of things and because school pictures) and how we ran out of dog treats mid-week. I’ve got this.

But I don’t have to do any of that today. I can have a day for me and knowing that is enough to lift my tired soul. I can read. I can write. I can go to a movie if I want. I can stay in my pajamas all day or not. I can make cookies or do nothing. I can breathe.

MC

 

Writing

Not writing

write-until-it-becomes-as-natural-as-breathing_tw.pngI haven’t been writing. At. All. No words have been transferred from my brain to paper or computer in over a month and it feels like a dam is going to burst. I’ve barely even tried to write. I had been toting around a journal wherever I went for months on end and I finally even dumped that on my bedside stand no longer making a pretense that I might just write something down while I’m waiting somewhere.

I barely recognize myself these days. I keep telling myself I’ll feel better when the house is back in order. I keep telling myself we’re almost there. Just a few more weeks and then I can reboot my life. I am in a funk and it’s not fun. Don’t get me wrong, there are pockets of joy. I take them as they come and wrap myself around them trying to pull every spark of that good energy close to me to savor.

But yesterday was a very bad day. My dad was swindled out of a large sum of money that he cannot afford. We had our eleven-year-old at a therapy appointment because we can barely tolerate his attitude and behavior on a daily basis, only to be told he is suffering from an advanced case of teenageritis. A form email rejection for a job I applied to a couple of months ago without the benefit of even a phone interview. I spent the day crying until I didn’t know what I was even crying about anymore.

But today I dust myself off and tackle the issues at hand. A new day. A fresh start. I am resilient. I can do this. Fake it until you make it. I am re-committing myself to writing every day. It’s the only way back for me regardless if I hit the publish button or not. I am writing.

MC

Life

2018 Goals Check-in

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Back in January, I wrote out a lengthy list of things I wanted to accomplish or do better in 2018. I got myself a brand new fancy notebook (I definitely have a problem with buying notebooks and journals) and promptly lost it under a pile of papers and books to read. So much for getting organized! I dug it out last week to see what I wrote and how I was doing with it. Continue reading “2018 Goals Check-in”