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?

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.

Why I Can’t Write

It’s looking like I could dedicate a blog to writing about why I can’t write. For now, I’m going to concentrate on the simple act of writing about writing about why I can’t write.

Whew! Confused yet?  Just stay with me!…

When I teach conversation or brainstorming, I say, “If you’re stuck, just talk or write about why you can’t.”

In other words, if you can’t think of anything to say, talk about why you can’t. Even if you have to write, “I can’t write, I can’t write” over and over. Even if you have to keep repeating yourself. Just keep going. Sooner or later, almost always, something new will emerge. Some new words will begin tumbling out.

So here I am. I can’t write, and yet I’m obviously writing… Because once you get started writing about what you can’t write, it works! You’ll be getting ideas out. Maybe not Shakespeare or Toni Morrison, but I doubt they began with perfect thoughts either.

We all know many legitimate obstacles than can keep us from writing. Not writing is so bloody easy and writing, even if it’s our favorite, most beloved past-time, can prove so damn hard to do.

Sometimes we have not nothing, but too much to say. This takes the form of information overload, the kind where you catch yourself at 2am bleary eyed from delving the webiverse that you’ve been surfing for—OMG—the past six hours! There was a commercial—for what I do not know—where a zombie-like person kept randomly spouting Wikipedia factoids. My brain can certainly feel like that.

A related problem, we’re presented with choices everywhere we look. There are news, features, ads, happenings. How to know which one to follow, which one is relevant? How to let the flow of information to gush past, blessedly unnoticed, while magnetizing the important bits to us? Wouldn’t that be gorgeous? Advertisers, unfortunately, are trying to accomplish that all the time—as if their product is the necessary part.

Because of this, we need the opposite help. We need a magic scientific algorithm to understand our unique needs and point of view. Then we could use that tool to bar what is static to us, while allowing what is useful to us onto our front page. Problem: half the time I’m not sure what I need to hear.

I often get caught up in the presentation of previews or posters for a show, or a summary of a book. I try very unscientifically to descry from the wording what I will like. Sadly, I’ve learned that is an unreliable method. There have been many times where my sketchy impression was proven wrong.

For example, there was the documentary about origami. In no way is folding paper interesting to me or in my life. But as I watched, I became captivated. Presently, I happen to be reading a whole book about being plastic free. I’m interested in the topic, but I was skeptical about the size of the book. How many ways can a person talk about reducing plastic? Yet so far I’ve enjoyed every page. Then there was the one about the sushi chef. Why—I asked myself—should I care about the life of a sushi chef? Interestingly, I found out why.

Did I enjoy this information? Yes. Is it something my grey matter should be storing? The answer, so far, does not compute.

Luckily, I have found a couple of places where I can find information that I’ve consistently appreciated. Rotten Tomatoes tops that list. The way that they throw all critics into a blender to form one number on a spectrum is brilliant. That clear simple computation is so comforting. I know that it represents many intelligent, cogent voices. Ah.

That is also to say that in any other part of life except movies (movies .5%, other life 99.5%) I still have the time consuming job of sifting information. It’s like a swarm of gnats on a hot summer night. We get more mail now in a week, I’ve read, than people used to get in a year. You can swat the information gnats, but it’s a waste of time.

Ah, time…

The modern favorite: Not enough time. Well of course not! When we’re spending so much time swatting gnats.

Now here is the good news. In all cases, writing about why we can’t write is an excellent start to writing.

This is because, one, I am putting pen to paper, or fingers to keys. Two, looking at obstacles is in itself very helpful. Thinking about what’s stopping me in my life gives voice to often unquantified issues that nag but aren’t clear. Diving into the why of why I can’t write allows me the space to study myself in a way that I often don’t, or can’t. It’s a doorway into studying –even recognizing things—thoughts, feelings, pressures—I might not have realized were there.

Ironically, by studying why I can’t write, I begin to write! Every word I find, every realization, even repeated, represents words on paper.

The gnats swarm, the information beckons. Time cruises by and people interrupt. But, if I take the time to, at worst complain and at best, set myself on a course for brain opening and revelation, I give myself that sacred time where I communicate with myself, and hopefully, my thoughts communicate with others’. This blog entry is evidence of that undertaking. Complaints, revelation–writing.

Only Half There

I had wanted to do a review each week of the Oscar films up until this day of the Oscars, but it hasn’t worked out that way. First, I haven’t been inspired by all of the films I’ve seen. Second, I have loved films that I haven’t yet reviewed, but I haven’t felt ready to post… or life got in the way.

I’ve had…

1 husband who was

3 days away on a trip

About 15 loads of laundry… a fun bout of lice visited us this month and all bedding has been packed into white garbage bags and loaded into the back of our Volvo wagon for about 3 weeks now.

We have planned on doing laundry approximately 5 times. But something always got in the way… like the stomach bug that hit the night after our pizza dinner last Thursday. My daughter woke up at 4 in the morning complaining of stomach pain. She kept saying “ouch” and I told her not to be so dramatic… until the hurling began. I lost two days of work to that one. Oh, and then I got said bug. And spend the night emptying the contents of my body. I never knew a human could hold so much STUFF. I know those intestines are incredibly long, but damn, do we really walk around with pounds of refuse in us all the time? That was an eye opener. In the end, I won’t complain about my smaller tummy.

In one of my favorite short-lived shows, “Accidentally On Purpose” the main character is a 30-something city girl now 8 months pregnant. In need of closet space, her boyfriend pulls out a slinky dress and says “what about getting rid of this one? You’ll never fit into this one again.” And she says “that’s my virus dress. Every woman has one.”

I thought that one of the sagest, funniest things I’ve heard on TV.

I tried to write another review, and got fairly far but my daughter got tired of her puzzle and started rolling around beneath my legs. There’s only so much rolling around beneath one’s legs a mom has patience for.

There were the 5 days of giant snow storm and 3 days kids were off of school where we were stuck in the house or anywhere we could make our way through snow. We had to carry a shovel wherever we walked.

When my husband got home from his trip I ran out to the local movie. We have no theater near us in Roslindale Boston so you have to travel at least 20 minutes whichever direction you go. Someone please get us a theater! I left at 6:35 for a 6:55 film knowing it was doubtful I would make it. First of all, it was a Saturday night. Second, the theater is in a huge mall where there would be a zillion cars and I knew I’d have to troll around for parking. Third, the theater is like an enormous whale. You have to rush down passage after passage, then escalators then long giant-made hallways to even reach the ticket windows. I would have to run a marathon to make it there on time. But still I went and I tried. I made it by 7:10 but then… it was sold out. I knew I could get to another film wayyy across town if I booked it. They had the same show at 7:50.

I made it. Was it worth the gas and trouble? Probably not.

The call came in the morning that my nephew is in the hospital for gall bladder infection. Family debates, talks, lots of web research and phone calls.

Finished a review of a film I loved… But haven’t been able to edit it. We had to eat dinner and it wasn’t going to cook itself. Thank goodness for leftovers… and microwaves.

Alas, this entry won’t get finished. My husband is giving me the eye. Has given it to me about a half dozen times so I’m about out of free time… Got to get to my errands list before kicking back to watch the show. That seems very far away from now. By then I’ll hopefully have done said loads of laundry (Bubbles Laundromat here we come), gone food shopping, picked up a new broom, groomed and cut family’s hair, put clothes away, swept, convinced my husband to vacuum, and that’s what I can think of for now.

Well, 1 computer put away and onward.

Sleep or Write? (Written At 1am This Morning)

otherwise known as: Why I haven’t written in a few days

When I was thirty-eight I worried about concepts like safety and survival for the first time in my heretofore careening up, down and sideways way of life. That was the year my daughter Mairead came into the mix. Up until then I had been happy to wander about, adventuring and learning where the wind took me. For most of my adult life I simply leapt in. I could try new things and go off to distant shores because I had no one to disappoint and no desire to be rooted. This was both by nature and deliberate.

When I met my then-to-be-husband Niall, the same held true. We both lived life the same way and chose each other to continue that roaming existence. Our wedding vows were all about freedom freedom freedom.

Yet, I was not wild. I regularly did my due diligence and asked myself that sagacious question: “If I did this, what would be the worst that could happen?”  My answer was that the worst would be to end up with nothing. …But then we could cut our losses and start over, which never seemed very hard for me, and which Niall and I did many times.

That’s not saying the losses weren’t painful. Our life was often painful. We often found ourselves smack in the middle of scary, embarrassing, and confusing piles of blunder. Just like everyone, it stung and it ached when I dove in and didn’t end up where I’d hoped. But it was always worth it, for the ride or for the lessons learned.

After more than twenty years of being my own captain o my captain, motherhood descended upon me and sang through me that it was time to learn about stability. For the first time I remember so well driving on the highway my usual 80mph and thinking: I have a family now. I have to slow down. And I turned into the slow lane. …Now I only take the fast lane if I have to.

Before I was a mom Niall and I moved every year. For eight years we lived in a new house each year. I’m not possessive, and I found it easy to sell off everything and start new. But now we had to keep a roof over our heads, and furniture in the rooms; useful furniture like high chairs and cribs.

I had learned to be afraid.
But dammit… An artist has to be fearless.

Maybe that sounds like a pasted up slogan or a wannabe intellectual’s teahouse cry. But damn if it’s not true. To create art, I’ve got to jam the outside noise  and only then can I hear the voices that live in me, just longing for me to tune in to them. Hordes of would-be distractions and concerns loom, ponderous and precarious, over my laptop. That doesn’t even account for the criticism, lethargy, bills, news, and social obligations that pull and pull and sometimes rend.

How can I weigh whether to do a load of laundry so that there are clean socks tomorrow—or to write? How do I know if I should work the weekend or spend time with the family—or write?

Date night or write?
Go food shopping or write?

While my choices are clear, my answers are opaque. Someone cheering me on would say write bllu write! Who cares if your house is a mess? If I could give myself that answer, that would be great. But that answer rarely feels doable or feasible or even right.

I’m not sure why. I’m not sure how much this is an emotional dilemma as opposed to a survival dilemma.

Which brings me to my final thought. One thing I think that I know is that mother as an entity is not compatible with most other roles. Yes, there is much successful co-existence. People juggle every day. …Sometimes this comes easily and with grace. Most of the time it can only be reached with much struggle, guilt, and not being sure what I am doing is right.

I’d love to write a book about how we all need a mother and a wife in our lives. While these are different roles, they both in some way mean: to take care of. Ahhh, doesn’t that sound goooood? Something every single person could use. But, when a mother and wife has no mother or wife to lean on, then what?

Many of us are lucky to have mothers, some even wives. But while the role needs to be filled by a person, I’m describing the role. That one who consoles, gives, hugs, calls, writes, talks to, endures, buys, keeps, carries, wipes, teaches, and of course loves.  Many a dad and husband fill this role; many a sister or cousin or aunt or grandfather or best friend. Mother energy is something we all need.

But to be a mother can one be an artist? Can one be anything else and do them both well? This is where I live right now, struggling to hear competing desires and unsure of how to answer. I do I try. I can’t say how often I succeed.  Blog entries, you keep score.