O to be a Writer!

A summer well spent.

 fun to some people

I have been self-employed for most of my adult life and it’s been great to have control over my time. I’m far from rich but being free to create my priorities is a valuable trade-off.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t work, and it’s extremely rare that I take a day off. I juggle new classes and projects each year and often semester. The last time I took time for myself was maternity leave for a semester—and that was not for ‘myself’; that was being dropped with no parachute into an unknown and very real jungle of sleeplessness and nappies. When I went back to work 4 months later, it was with relief. Who can agree with that?

 They forgot “Distraction”

Fast forward a little more than five years later to this summer and I was finally able to take some time, yes, actually for ME. Yippee yiy-ay!

This meant teaching two less classes than my usual slate of six or seven a week. But what it really meant was that I had two days off a week—ah lovely Mondays and Tuesdays. What it meant was that I had half a day to myself on Wednesdays—if I planned right.

As I wrote in my previous entry here, I took off mainly to write, which I did with extreme abandon and frenzy. From the moment my fingers hit the keys I knew I was racing the calendar and the clock. In June I yelled a GO!, then bumped and bruised thereafter to keep up with the finite squares on my wall. There was no way to change or reason with the calendar. I had roughly two months… And then September came.

For that brief, wonderful period of time I tasted the ambrosia of what it might feel like to live an author’s life. To have a book deal, advance cash, a scaffolding of support for such a private, intense endeavor. Damn it was lovely.

 O to be a Writer!

As you may notice, I took off writing this blog too, as it’s hard for me to write intensively and then write in another forum. But now it’s September. The question is ‘what does my writing future look like?’ How can I continue now that the fall season and work is revving up. It’s start your engines in another direction, absolutely away from the lines of my chapters and verses and the characters who wait completion.

 Not my problem

I just hope that today’s conundrum becomes tomorrow’s plan. Solved, salvaged, salved, saved.

Does anyone have a solution that works that does not require large amounts of trust funds?

Writer’s Block, Writer’s Flood

You’ve got to be ready.

As a writer, you never know what’s going to hit you!

 Kaaaaaaa-boom!

You were minding your business, quietly writing padding peddling along. Then BOOM! an asteroid came and threw you off your trajectory. It could have been a wonderful asteroid like in my case the birth of my daughter, or it could be something awful like when my friend’s father died.

It could be something totally boring like the onset of just plain wooden block.

No matter how, it’s happened. You’ve been thrown off your path, the one that your fingers tapping on your keys kept you tied to, and now you’re floating in space. You are catapulted up and then down, landing with an “AHHHHRGH” flat on your butt. You look around and the world’s shifted. There’s no GPS out here. Even if you’ve been lost in this maze before, that is far from comforting. You remember how hard it is to find your way back. There’s no way to snap your fingers or click your heels. You’re stuck searching for any guidepost, a sign you can use to get back.

It has to be said that sometimes, when you’re lucky, the wandering is not sucky at all but another adventure! You’ve derailed onto another fulfilling or fun path. Bravo! At least when you’re not writing you’re doing something else you love.

I tried that, I spent over 5K of my own savings to go back to school to become an interior designer. However, once out I realized that having a young child and a husband who was also self-employed was not—very much not—conducive to building a design practice. I quickly realized my job choice, at least at this time of life, was not doable.  And, worse, going back to school pulled me even farther from writing than I’d been when my daughter was born.  Then, time moved on my girl was turning 4, and I saw the truth: I was so far gone that I had no idea how to find my way back.

you’ve come to the corner of…

  and 

But I’m not easily deterred. I set my vision far ahead and put on my proverbial hiking boots. First, I did one thing I do best: Read. I paged through book after book about people’s transformation, growth and writing. I was inspired and I was moved. But still no sign back. Then in December 2012, the stars aligned, I took the right medicine, and I found the book at my local library’s New Book Shelf. Wild, by Cheryl Strayed. Each chapter I was transported closer and closer to my destination, until by the end of the book I found myself there again, this flowing threshold of creative possibility.

I was ready to write again, but darn if the whole world had changed. In the 5 years since typing my last period, there’d been a revolution in social media. It wasn’t going to be like the old days. Doing my diligence and trying to find writing gigs, there are a million blog jobs out there. I was overwhelmed and not a little confused. So, I decided to start simple with a little blog.

I started here reviewing Cheryl’s book and put my shoulder to the task, learning, studying, until after three faithful months of blogging SHAZAM! it hit me like another asteroid—the words, dreams, visions just started coming. Gushing. Flowing. All the while I had been hiking through the trees and all of a sudden I came to that gorgeous clearing ,the overlook where the sky opens before you and the horizon fills your eyes, and you want to cry “Hallelujah!”

  Fluttershy knows what I”m talking about.

So that’s the wonderful place my creative mind has been for the past two months. Writing in my cave, watching the dust bunnies pile up around me, trying to give my family enough time and, yes, missing my blog.

I don’t know about other writers, but I’ve found it very difficult, in fact terrifying, to try to do my creative work as well as this blog. Every time my mind has wandered to a blog piece, I’d jealously wrench it back to my book, unwilling to give one iota of creative energy to something else. I’m hyper-aware that block can rear up again.  I scan the trees for it every time I look up from a page, wary, belligerent. Stay away! I pray to the Muses, “Please let me finish my book!”

I’m so paranoid that I struggle with the superstition that even admitting this will somehow juju me with a malevolent, sapping spell.

And yet here I am writing my blog again. I’ve looked for sneaky ways to have my cake and eat it too, and I’m tip-toeing behind my book to write this. I pray that tomorrow, when I finish and publish this, I am rewarded and not turned into some creative pillar of salt. Ye of all faiths, pray for me too!

I want to keep up with you out there in social media land. I like our connection. Maybe if this one works, I can continue to sneak away from my book periodically, until I finish it. Finish it. I can’t wait to type those words at the end: FINI!

For now, Hello again. I’d love to hear from anyone who writes more than one project at once. I’d love to hear how you manage it.

Cheers,  bllu

Peace: A Work in Progress

Last night at my women’s spiritual group, we had to do a writing exercise about PEACE. The board asked: What brings me peace? Do I believe that people, given a choice, would choose peace?

The two people in my discussion group gave adamant no’s, which surprised and saddened me. These are the kindest, gentlest women you’d meet, so their despondency marked a change in my understanding of people today and made me feel like sharing my response about PEACE.

In our 2013 lives we face many challenges but most of them are safe and fed people’s challenges. This means that they are important, but not essential. Most Americans are not poor nor rich, but rather in the middle. We have stable homes, our kids know they can go to school and graduate, we have enough food, and we know that our laws, insurance and societal moral fabric will protect us most of the time.

I would never say that this is always true. I would never say that our country is perfect or even exemplary. Personally, I would not point to the USA as the model of how a country should be run. Yet, all that said, I am very thankful that I live here, where I don’t have to worry about my or my family’s lives. My community is strong. We all have access to education. We walk comfortably down our street. We sleep without anxiety in our beds. We trust the people we meet and deal with. We know that most of our neighbors operate from a will to do good. This is a solid foundation on which to build a life.

That life may fall apart. The weather twists and howls. Prices rise. We may suffer a blow to health or lose a job. We may even be forced to leave our home. Sh$##t happens—all the time.

Yet the foundation, with rare exceptions, remains. And I have learned to take time each day to ponder that with complete concentration:

I am safe.
I am loved.
I am fed and sated.
I am clothed and bathed and warm.

This alone is wondrous.

Then there is all the rest that comes with being middle class: the culture of too much. Almost every group of things a person can have, we have.

My husband opened his closet the other day and with exasperation announced “I don’t have anything to wear!” And my daughter sitting next to him laughed. She saw the closet full of clothes and thought he was telling an ‘April Fools’ joke. She said, “Mommy, Daddy is being silly!” And I had to laugh too because I say the same thing far more than he does, and because we are silly.

We spend most of our chores time getting rid of things. How we amass them is something that hurts my head to ponder. But the truth is, we are crammed chockablock. In this era of cheap available stuff, we pretty much have it all—and that’s on half of what many consider a living salary and refusing to shop at places like Walmart.

 Help! My Stuff is attacking me!

OK, I’ll fess up–my passion for thrift shopping is one culprit. Can I help it if Boston offers a cornucopia of gorgeous second-hand stores?  Kid’s books and clothes, furniture, books, games, clothing, shoes, kitchenware, jewelry, bikes, sports equipment, and all sorts of vintage finds are just some of the things we can get cheaply and easily. And get stuffed.

Another conundrum of this age is that we are starved for time. We are a country on the run, where seeing friends is akin to thievery to ‘steal a few minutes’ together. In the good US of A, family-time is a label with little meaning or support. New fathers are lucky to get 2 weeks off; kids get holidays off from school yet parents are expected to work.

I won’t even talk about mail, and how many trees died to print useless super-saver coupons and replicate credit card offers.

Lots of bad decisions are made and bad people are not punished. As a nation, we suffer from acute politicitus (yes, I made that up)

Do I trust everyone? No. Do I think the government is great? No.

       

SOMETIMES YOU JUST GOTTA CRY IT OUT

Do I pull my hair out over issues that I can’t believe we have to live with, much less debate? Yes yes yes.

Yet, I am capable of peace.

Is this wrong of me? … In light of all the crap that goes on, I wonder if people might think so. I wonder if people might think me guilty of shucking the weight of the world. And perhaps, feel guilty of doing so themselves. I know I’ve been guilty of feeling guilty! (hmmm)

Yet, I am capable of peace.

The truth is most mornings I wake in…
1) a bad mood because I hate mornings in general,
2) a semi-alive state because I am a night person and I am almost always woken up early (aka any time before 8am) by my child,
3) creaky, because I am no longer a spry young-un.

 I always look lovely when I sleep

Yet, I scramble slowly up, shuffle down the hall blindly until I wash my face with warm water and slip on my glasses. Then I stretch. I do believe without a doubt that I’d be a different person, maybe even not alive, if I did not practice stretching. Each lift of the arm, each salutation, each deep breath rolls out tension. Rolls out each cobweb and creak and squeak.

Give me about ten minutes and I’m smoothed out. I can see. I can manage a smile. I can face the world.

Then, I stop and look inward to seek that banner that lists what I love, what I’m thankful for, what I enjoy and savor and appreciate. I borrow from my spiritual teacher Pema Chodron when I offer thanks each morning to these obliging old friends:

Safety,
love,
warmth.

Then, I give gratitude for my most essential gift:

I have another chance to be alive, to love my loved ones, to do my best, to make this world a better place in my little way.

I am here today. Yay! Cause for celebration. I get another chance this day. This present.

I woke up.

Literally, that was my change. I woke up. Once I simply assumed that I would unfailingly rest and rise, like the sun. But one auspicious day a lightbulb went on and I saw that waking up is an amazing miracle: Isn’t it cool that I get to open my eyes, that I get a beating heart, that I get a body that’s mine to move through the world in?  I get to hug my husband and kiss my daughter on her cheeks and nose and forehead. I get to see the new Spring flowers start to bloom.

Because one day I won’t wake. Or one day I’ll wake and look in the mirror like it’s any day in a row and that will be the last time I stare at my face. Then I’ll be gone. Chances over. No more time to try.

So I am thankful for today. I try today and today only. And in this way, I can feel peace.

May my lightbulb be your lightbulb.

Diary of a Messy Writer

Was there ever a writer writing within a neat house?

Was there ever a writer who looked over their screen or typewriter or notebook onto a smooth expanse of wooden floor that gleamed freshly mopped? I imagine that expanse of floor easy to test for cleanliness because it is free from toys and shoes, bags and bins of laundry. That floor contains only the furniture it needs and fresh, fluffy rugs. I imagine all surfaces dustless, which is easy to see because there are no items plopped there and forgotten; no piles of unfolded clothes, no stacks of magazines that are half folded back to the articles that were read and halted midway.

There are no backpacks slumping full of stuff that has to be sorted and emptied. There are no matchless gloves waiting to find their mates, no Lego squares swiped from the corners they fell into, and definitely no cards from holidays months past that still haven’t been put away.

No. That writer looks out over thriving plants still sparkling with the dew of their watering. That writer can enjoy the view to their backyard through clear, fingerprintless glass.  There are no dishes blocking the sink and no laundry piled almost to the ceiling. That writer has found a way to meet and enlist the aid of the writer fairy. The one that those in the know pray to exchange the dirty sock they leave beneath their pillow for an overnight zing of a cleanup. I’ve heard tell of such a fairy, but remain skeptical about making such a pact. Are all fairies good, as we tell our children? Or are there some who’ve fallen from grace, looking to make a bargain? So far I’ve resisted finding out.

Instead, I communicate to the world over my laptop that needs a dusting and a good wash cloth. (New yellow sticky: Clean laptop!) I look out over rooms that no one on a good day who loves me to bits could call clean. My husband insists that we are clean, that is, not dirty. Ok, but why doesn’t that distinction comfort me?

I can choose a small hideaway to close off the clutter. Or I can brave the airy main room that affords a panorama of every jumbled and messy pile. Either way, the collective muddle calls out: ha ha! We’re staying another day!

I’m not one of those ostrich types who can pretend it’s not there—the tissues my daughter threw on the floor crumpled into delicate balls after a night of sneezing, the kitchen floor on which I can distinguish at least 3 strange colors, the table I promised myself I would give a good scrub after the latest playdate with markers that didn’t make it onto paper.

You would never guess that I am naturally a very neat person, and that I hate clutter. I even have problems with things out of place. Something as simple as a disorganized room gives me vertigo. I’m a spatial thinker and my mental picture of my home is something that is ready for a photo spread in Architectural Digest. I’m a designer and I could create that space.

But alas I don’t. Not when I’m writing, that is, and since I want to write more than I want to do anything, I have learned to put showroom quality—or any quality above ‘not dirty’—away. It’s not easy. My second most happy thing to do is design. But I’ve got to adhere to priorities or I have learned that I turn into a semi-happy and often depressed designer who can’t find time to write.

Right now I’m settling for a happy most days writer with a pinch of weekly clutter anxiety. Top of list when I become successful is a cleaning person who can do all the things a writer fairy does, minus any suspicious pacts.

Right now I trade being a clean and frustrated writer for a messy and actually writing writer. If you are a clean writer with kids, all I can say is WOW. Excuse me while I close my jaw.

Right now, like most of us writers writing out there, I’m just winging it. I’m a five minute sort here, a ten minute scrub down there kind of person. A 10 at night food shop and 11 pm making lunch for the next day kind of person. A water the plants with bathwater kind of person. A try not to trip over the recycling and not put away boots kind of person. A filling up pages with thoughts and stories and dreams kind of person.

Here’s a great list I’m inspired by

25 ways to be a Happy Writer

Blogging is a We, not a Me

Today I learned something new. A few things actually. Today was my day to learn more about blogging. I went down to my local library and talked to the Reference librarian who happily stacked a pile of books on my table.

 I was surrounded with titles like the ubiquitous Blogging for Dummies…

Smashing WordPress: Beyond the Blog   and the violent sounding Smashing WordPress

I wondered for the hundredth time, what have I gotten myself into?

When I began my blog January first, it was a new year’s resolution. I just wanted a nice little corner to sharpen and prove my writing chops again before moving on to writing for magazines.

But…This blogging thing is way more than I bargained for. It’s way more than I realized it was. It’s bigger, farther reaching, broader, far more in depth, and a hell of a lot more work than what I thought I was going to do. For no pay.

Lots of work = no pay.

So why am I doing this? And what’s more, why are gazillions of others blogging doing this too?

I repeat, I repeat. It’s not for the money. Yes, there are get-richers, but like in most other sectors, they are the vast minority. This, from my short experience and from the blogging books today, I have learned.

My goal, my Mount Olympus on this quest, is Magazine writing. Yet I’m realizing that’s another fruit from blogging in almost every single way… if you are following an apples/oranges scenario.

When I used to write articles, I signed off, they went to press and voila, my writing was out there to be anonymously read by a whole bunch of subscribers and people who picked up the magazine from the rack. I didn’t have to talk to them or communicate. There was no back and forth. There was little or no commentary. Assignment done. Bang. Ka-ching$

What I learned today, the infant that I am, is that blogging is a form of social media. Well, that is a whopper to have gone over my head, I know.

I’ve been writing theblluroom for about two and a half months now, and I’ve learned a lot just by trial and error. I just learned what an RSS feed is last week. Not that I know how to use it yet.

Or, honestly, want to.

I’m sure as time passes I’ll want to and wish I had figured it out long ago. I do want people to read my writing, after all! But I’m not in this as a business venture. And yet… I’d love to be paid to write (as I’ve blogged about).

But the truth is that bloggers, the ones I have painstakingly found and love, the couple I add to my following list each week, these writers blog because they love to write.

The book said that too. Several tomes I scanned today underscored that there’s really no way to continue persistently without the passion. I’ve got the passion to write. But to blog? To persistently, consistently keep the creative spigot on? History will tell that one.

The last thing one of the blogging books said that got me was that I’m supposed to have shorter entries. I use my old format of longer articles, like I’d write for a magazine. But perhaps the long format keeps people from staying with my writing, and the last thing I want to inspire is snoring.

 sorry!

I know what I’ve liked in other’s writing, and the entries are usually shorter than mine. So, from now on I’ll give my entries a snip. I’m interested to see how that pans out.

Yet, the most important realization I had today about my blog adventure is that as time-consuming as the writing, commenting, finding and following process is, I’m surprised to say that I’m enjoying it.

It’s intriguing, this blog process. It’s honest and bare, funny and lame. It’s a lot of mommies. Who rock. And shared neighborhoods across the world.  It’s a complex, strange habitat of partially known people sharing tidbits right alongside their deepest hearts. It’s structured by these white pixel-lit squares we stare into.

 Recognize yourself?

This is how I see bloggers.

We bloggers are often not friends, but we’re intimate. We support, but not in a chat-roomy dogmatic way. Even when we are using other’s thoughts and words, we are using our thoughts and words to do so. I’m learning that blogging’s not so much about my thoughts as our thoughts.

The passion derived from a book or article are both discrete delights that I love. But what I’ve found special about blogging, what I really dig, is that in this blogsphere passion is shared and followed, and when the writer gets it right, that passion blossoms into something loftier than the original post. The comment section can become a sort of jubilant town meeting.

Blogging, I’m finding, is a we, not a me.

And I like being part of this organic, electronic being.