Tag Archives: writing life

Writing Through the Fog

Writing has been my life for four years now.

I started this blog after I graduated with my Master’s because I needed an outlet–to write out what I think, believe. A verbal map of where I have been, a compass to where I am going. Many times, I write and let the blog fall silent for months. Sometimes, it goes quiet because I’m working feverishly on my fiction, or I allow others to intimidate me into writing nothing. (Note: cyber stalking your ex’s blog says more about you than your ex or his wife).

But most of the time, I am just trying to write myself through the fog. 

Where the storytelling happens

Where the storytelling happens

Two weeks ago, I took the train from Lynchburg to Baltimore to visit my aunts. I had my laptop to write, but I couldn’t. I read a novel and stared out the window as the kudzu passed by. For a writer, travel always inspires me. Going somewhere new or in this case somewhere I haven’t been in 15 years, I soaked up the good food and experiences. But nothing really inspired me to write.

Until we went to the Baltimore Museum of Art. I had been several times before, before I called myself a writer. We walked through the Cone collection first–a large eclectic display of Matisse to Picasso to Monet. But the two Monet paintings struck my writing nerve. Both of the same bridge in London except the light and the fog were different. In one painting, you notice all of the hushed blues and violets as you try to make out the outline of the bridge and factories. The fog obscures everything but the basic shapes. The second painting, the fog has cleared. Greens and light and distinct buildings appear without the fog. Staring at these paintings side-by-side, something hit me about my writing.

We have to write through the fog.

Nothing is ever clear when I sit down to write. I don’t fully know my characters or the plot, and sometimes, I use these as excuses for not writing. Albeit, writing makes me happy, so not writing isn’t the best choice. The fog can discourage us because it can be so thick around us, hiding the essential thing that we are towards, but when we show up and do the work and write through that fog–we see our work more clearly, better even.

Today, I needed to write on this blog because the fog has been more like fear and discouragement. I needed to write past my fears, past the those who want me to be silent or unhappy, past my inner editor who says my writing isn’t very good.

Now, the fog has lifted; let’s write.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Writing

On Writing and Going to the Gym

I.

I started going to the gym again. Seriously, going to the gym in April. Not the if I feel like I need to go or to satisfy some girl math so I can eat frozen yogurt or tacos. But really going to work out. I hadn’t been feeling like myself for a long time in that bloated, I don’t like how I look way. I could feel the stress everywhere on my body–the sore ache that clenches tight all of my muscles and exhausts me. So, I started going back to the gym. One Word

II.

Writing became too hard, too emotional to handle. I started a few stories then stopped, too tired to keep my ass in the chair. For awhile, I told myself that watching reruns of the Big Bang Theory would help or another episode of No Reservations. Any lie to help me believe that muse needed to be fed before I could work. Like my physical muscles, I could feel the tension in my writing muscles tightened to a chokehold. Nothing came. I wanted to write but didn’t want to actually sit down and bang words out on the laptop. But my writing self started to wither, and  I couldn’t keep up this self-medicating on television reruns. So, I started to write shitty first drafts again.

III.

For some reason, I entered a Twitter contest to win free personal training sessions or a free water bottle. I was hoping for the water bottle. But of course, I won the personal training sessions. I don’t really know if I had an ideal trainer in mind. Maybe, someone trained in yoga or pilates. Someone graceful and lithe who would help me find a workout routine that wouldn’t hurt so much and perform some type of miracle fat exorcism.

That’s not who I got. My trainer is more drill sergeant less namaste. My gym is fairly small, so I had seen him before. Several times actually. He rules over the free weight section like a king. Every so often, making his rounds, checking on the other more intense weight lifters, all those people who usually ignore those of us more casual gym goers. Those of us who run to the locker room and slink toward the back row of ellipticals, those of us who believe that if we cross too far over the line into the free weight section something bad will happen.

I assumed that we wouldn’t get along. That he was just like all the other overly athletic guys I’ve known. The kind that only talk to me if they needed help on their English homework or if I were leading the literature study group. Sometimes, it becomes too easy to construct a whole back story for someone you don’t know and judge him. Like most assumptions, I was wrong. He was nice, really nice. So, I actually enjoyed going to our personal training sessions even thought I once convinced myself I wouldn’t.

IV.

Going to a real writing conference sounded like a good idea. I had been to one writing retreat last year. A small one and loved it, but a writer’s conference felt too big, too many people, too much to take in. But Saint Anne would be speaking, and I needed to hear her. Of course, Anne Lamott could talk about anything and I would try to save my money to buy a ticket. She’s been the driving force behind my writing for a long time. When I hate what I’ve been writing, I read her book “Bird by Bird.” Always helps my writing and me become closer.

I didn’t realize how empty my creativity tank was until I went to the Festival of Faith and Writing in Grand Rapids. There just wasn’t anything left to give except a few tired clichés and some whining about being exhausted. My internet friends would be there which helped me decide to go. After the first day, I started to feel the enthusiasm brewing again. My love for writing awakening from its slumber, and I could feel myself refreshed and ready to write again.

And now, a month after the conference, I’m not sure that I want to do a full recap of it. Too personal, too private as my muse and self finally got some much needed R&R. We can’t write on empty forever. Or at least, I can’t.  So, I allowed myself to be filled again in order to write.

V.

Writers tend to be superstitious. When something is going well, we keep doing it, hoping the muse will never leave or at least find us hard at work. Maybe, it is a coincidence that my writing has been so much better, richer since I started going to the gym, working out with my personal trainer. I don’t know. But what I do know is that writing and going to the gym are too similar for me. I know I need to go and I know I need to write, but I don’t. Then, I worry about it, and everything starts to unravel. For me, I have to do the work and show up. I will admit that I am never thrilled to walk through those gym doors, nor excited to stare at the blinking cursor on a blank page. But I do the work. That’s all I can do.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Writing

7 Things NOT to Say to a Writer

Everyone should have one friend who is a writer. writer pens

In case, you don’t have one, you may consider me your friend via the interwebs because I hate people being left out. But really, everyone needs an in real life writer-friend if for nothing else, you may be immortalized in her work.

Maybe, you are a part of the lucky few who do have real live writers for friends, and you might want to keep them as friends. Because there is nothing worse than a pissed off writer working on a zombie novel–hint, hint, your character isn’t going to make it.

Of course, I digress. 

As a writer, I have a vested interest in bridging the growing chasm between writers and non-writers, simply because non-writers have a tendency to say or ask certain things that make writers crazy.

Here are 7 things NOT to say to a writer:

  1. “I don’t really like to read much.” Well, to borrow the cliche–this puts your relationship with said writer behind the 8 ball made out of C4. I’m not sure what compels sweet, caring people to tell me, a writer, that they don’t like to read. Of course, it is always AFTER I tell them I’m a writer. Even if reading isn’t your thing(I don’t understand why not, but okay), don’t tell me. A safe way to fix this faux pas is to ask me about my writing. I always like people to ask me about my writing.
  2. “When’s your book getting published?” A fair question, but let me be clear–publishing is NOT the end goal of writing. Just like being thinner or prettier or richer won’t make you happier, being published doesn’t make a writer any happier either. Writing is the end and reward.
  3. “Hasn’t somebody already written that?” The answer is probably. In fact, we could go even say that most of the truly “original” ideas for novels, short stories, plays, etc. already exist. The whole point of writing isn’t to say something new, but to say it in a new and creative way. How many riffs of Romeo and Juliet exist? A lot. Also, that idea wasn’t even “original” with Shakespeare either.
  4. “Aren’t there enough books already?” Enough? Are there enough scarves or quilts or crafts that involve mason jars? Yet, we don’t ask people who sew or craft or scrapbook if there is ENOUGH of whatever they make. So, rule of thumb: don’t ask a writer if there are enough books out there already. Just don’t do it.
  5. “What if you run out of ideas?” This is loosely translated in any writer’s mind into: WHAT IF YOU FAIL! We writers always have that worry, the horrible specter of writer’s block hovering in the shadows, so reminding us of it doesn’t really help. For most of us, we sit our bottoms in our chairs and hit those keyboard keys until something starts clicking. Then, thank God that revision exists.
  6. “Oh, well, everyone needs a hobby.” Let me be clear–writing is not a hobby. For me, writing is my life, my obsession, what keeps  me both sane and tipping toward the chasm of insanity. A hobby suggests that I can just leave it when it isn’t fun any more or I find something better. This is not writing. Even when I’m not writing, I’m listening to how people talk, waiting for inspiration–a phrase, an image– anything, composing plot lines in my head. Writing is my life.
  7. “What if no one reads your stuff?” Of all the other 6 things not to say to a writer, this one hurts the most. All writers want someone to read their work. In fact, this writer would love nothing more than if you would subscribe to my blog and read my stuff. We worry that what we write won’t resonate with anyone besides ourselves, and what makes this hurt the most is that a friend is asking this question. If a writer shares her work with you, take a minute to read it.

What else would you add to this list? Share in the comments section.

Like what you read? Get more thoughts on writing and the writing life by subscribing to my blog!Enter your email address:Delivered by FeedBurner

1 Comment

Filed under Writing

Celebrating Summer’s Good Things

This is my 400th post.

Apparently, I’ve had many, many things to say in these past 3 years of blogging. Probably too much to say, but that could simply be my INFJ showing a bit.

But 400 posts? I will admit that this post gave me writer’s block for a month.

What would be so amazing and special and wonderful to celebrate 400 posts? I really had no idea which is why I waited so long to post anything because I’m super awesome at freaking myself out over something as insignificant as a number. We all know that post 401 won’t be as difficult to write. But I digress…

Today is for celebrating this summer.

Hatteras Beach

Back in May, I decided to take my writing to the next scary level–submitting for publication. I joined Duotrope and scoured the markets and sent my words into the void. And waited and waited…got lots of rejections and waited and waited (Funny, how movies on writer’s lives never really feature this part of the story). In June, it finally happened—

I got my FIRST acceptance!

Believe me, this is when life needs to have a soundtrack playing because I totally heard “We Are the Champions” in my head. My flash fiction piece “Stolen Cake” had been picked up by a great publication called Writing Tomorrow. 

(Click here to go to the current issue with my piece in it)

Even as I went back reread my piece, I still really love it because it represents hours of writing, revisions, second guessing, and just telling my OCD to take a hike. It most certain wasn’t effortless, but so worth it.

I celebrated 7 years with my very own Redneck Romeo.

Wedding

I don’t know where the years have gone. We’ve loved and endured and smiled and laughed and changed and stayed the same. But this is life, my life, and I wouldn’t ask for a different one. Maybe, another trip to Disney World. We headed to Charlotte, NC for a night and explored the downtown or uptown or whatever area near the stadiums. Poolside, fruity drinks, and a good book then fancy appetizers at WoodVine. The braised pork belly in phyllo dough plus triple creme cheese and Spanish wine equals AMAZING! Afterwards, we had Jimmy Johns because tapas will never fill up my Cuddly Bear of a husband. Another lesson learned during these 7 years.

IMG_1087

I got to hang in REAL life with my blogging friend Alise Wright.

During our brief trip to Charlotte, I met up with Alise. While we’ve done the Google Hangout thing a couple of times, countless Twitter conversations, and discussions on our respective blogs, meeting her in real life was a bazillion times better.

Alise and Sarah

We chatted about books and life and blogging and writing. This is one of the great things about the internets–so many awesome people to meet. But it is also one of the sucky parts too because Alise should totally live closer to me along with so many of my internet only for now friends.

So, tell me what you’re celebrating this summer? What kind of posts would you like to see in the next 400 posts?

2 Comments

Filed under fun stuff, Writing

Celebrating the Small

When I practice silence, I realize how often we over-emphasize the big. These days I’m more interested in the small things. IMG_0070

Epiphanies come to me slowly, in the quiet space between, when I have shut down all excess and choose to be.

I’ve called myself a writer and a poet for a long time now. Well, long in terms of how the internet measures time which means I have probably lost all relevance whatsoever. But I really don’t care. I’m writing my stories and poetry anyway.

The internet likes big victories, big announcements, big anything really, but I’ve grown tired of this constant waiting for that one BIG break to come. I’ve spent too much time on the merry-go-round of I’ll be successful, happy, excited, when… that I have forgotten all those small things that led me to where I am as a writer, a poet. The right now sort of things that sneak past us when we don’t look for them because we have our eyes fixed on a nebulous horizon.

In truth, I want to dance like the happy hippos from Fantasia about my small everyday things rather than some “maybe it might happen…” down the road.

  1. Not killing the petunias in my fancy planters…my home is usually where all plants die except for weeds. And a few rogue sage and oregano plants.
  2. Finishing two books on my 11 Read My Shelves Challenge despite one being so utterly dull I almost gave up…and didn’t.
  3. Writing each day even after receiving all those lovely form rejections…rejection comes with the writing life. Not especially my favorite part, but it makes the excitement of publication even sweeter.
  4. Asking myself–what have I done to make my writing a priority today?  Then, I do something about it.
  5. Learning to place the those little voices of doubt on the shelf and just write.
  6. Totally beasting my To-Do list each day and holding myself to daily word counts.
  7. Allowing  grace when I don’t check off everything on the To-Do list. Life happens. It will be okay.
  8. Being brave and submitting my writing for publication. My natural response is to horde my words, to hide behind my computer screen and just play at being a writer. No more.
  9. Showing up to writing class with pieces that I’m genuinely proud to say I wrote all those words, string images together like beads.
  10. Showing up to writing class with something less than amazing and still being brave enough to read it. Time spent writing isn’t wasted just not always worth pursuing further.
  11. Remembering to eat all of my meals. You would think this would go without saying, but sometimes, I forget that I need to take care of myself too.
  12. Practicing radical self-care. Write, Read, Eat, Cook. Living well despite  life’s shit factory.
  13. Ditching the drama making machine and all those who contribute. If you’re all into drama and being a royal bitch, consider this an eviction notice from my life. I have too much good, too much to do, too much to write to be bothered with petty people.
  14. Not ending my list on a 13 because I’m still a writer who is slightly superstitious  and doesn’t want to anger the fates. Or it could simply be my OCD acting up because I have an affinity for even numbers. I really don’t know…

What small victories are you celebrating today? Share in the comments.

4 Comments

Filed under Writing

Why I Bother Writing

Why I bother?

Because writing as a vice isn’t quite as bad as drinking, smoking, or collecting cats(my epitaph will not read: she was a crazy cat lady). Writing appeases my OCD personality to have something to create, to perfect, to pursue relentlessly.Or just offers another excuse to ignore the dishes, the laundry, and the unmopped floors. My OCD is fickle and cares not for such trivialities–it longs for something grander; hence, I write.

This is why I bother writing. 

I know there are so many writers that we drown  new books and NY TIMES bestsellers list, and maybe my words are just adding to the noise. But so what? If I don’t satisfy this compulsion to connect my feelings and experiences to words, then I’m not sure how I can make sense of this effed up world(except maybe in a therapist’s office, but writing doesn’t require a co-pay). Somehow, writing unlocks something deep in my subconscious that wouldn’t have come out unless written down. I can write things in journals that I feel but can’t speak aloud. This is freedom.

This is why I bother writing.

True, I vacillate between bestseller and the hack with no talent; punch drunk on the illusions of fame and hiding behind the mask of nobody.  While the comparison bitch screws me over every time always halting my writing process, it takes all I can do to shut her up and just write a few more words.

Perhaps in those next few words, I can free my voice just a little bit more,

feel something a bit deeper, hone this beautifully naracisstic craft.

 

This is why I bother writing.

And quite possibly, I don’t want to be the crazy cat lady.

 

 

Never Miss a Post. Subscribe by entering your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

1 Comment

Filed under process, Writing

My So-Called Glamorous Writing Life

I sit down at my L-shaped desk and fidget with the piles of school papers, Post-It notes, and books. Once my desk is tidy, my overwhelming email addiction demands that I check every single email account and answer every single email based upon importance. I probably need a 12 step program for email addiction, but it can go on my to do list right after my writing. The whole reason that I sat down at my desk is to write. But after an hour, I haven’t written one damn word. Except my to do list which says: “write a good paragraph.” Four words and no more.

But lately, my writing wallows at the end of a mile long list of crap. Despite putting it as number one, I choose to print out coupons(number seven on the list) or check Twitter and Facebook(not even on the list) or random internet searches(I’ll call this research). Next, I check my blog for comments, respond to comments(yes, this counts as writing. Or that’s what I tell myself), then I proceed to comment on my friends’ blogs. Certainly, they need someone to say nice things about their writing, right? Somehow, I meander to YouTube, and I’m sure I could have put off watching the Basset Hounds in slow motion until after writing. But they were so cute.

Five hours after I sat down to write, words meet ink and paper. To escape the noise and whining, I sit on the front porch with my legal pad and favorite blue pen. I bask in the warm sunshine and listen to the wheels whirring on 421. Finally, I wrestled myself free from the distractions—kids, the internet, social media, and myself(sort of). Holding my breath, I waited to see if I would be followed outside, but the doors never opened. I was safe. A few moments of quiet and writing time.

While I should have been thrilled, I berated myself for wasting five hours on stupid, mindless distractions. I imagined all of the words that could have been written each hour pushed towards a precipice. Once the hour passed, they tumbled down into vast nothingness. Never to have lived on paper. They haunt me, fuel my guilt, and strangle my creativity. My muse chokes upon the bile of these undead words.

Like so many unproductive days, I placed myself on trial for wasted writing time. I’m always guilty. Perhaps, I should feel some remorse and shame for all of the time misused. But then again, it’s just another excuse to avoid writing. Yet, I replay this cycle of distraction and guilt too often. Another moment to wallow in self-pity, another moment to poison my muse. Guilt and regret mingled together kill every ounce of creative energy.

But now, I see blue inked out words. Words breathing out their lives upon paper, and I feel a bit of the writer’s guilt melting away. With each new word, I forgive myself. Sentences take shape, and paragraphs lumber along. I keep writing and forming my thoughts, but mostly, I repent of the five hours wasted and work in the hours I have now. It’s the only thing I can do. Until tomorrow.

 Question: What things get in the way of your writing, art, etc? How do you overcome them?

Photo credit: Keith Williams via Flickr Creative Commons

Never Miss a Post. Subscribe by entering your email address: Delivered by FeedBurner

8 Comments

Filed under Blogging, Writing