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Posts tagged ‘Writing’

Memory

Anxious by nature, my thoughts tend to run rampant through an overstimulated nervous system.  My nights are full of images, worries, replays of the days events.  Sleep is peppered with hours of laying awake, ruminating over the past and future.  Last night I chased after memories, nervously pursuing them through the dark.  The more frantic my attempts to recall them, the more elusive they became.  My father died after years of dementia.  When it first started he told my sister, “Something is stealing my memories.”  That statement haunts me, frightens me.  Like my father in so many ways, I wonder how much of my forgetting is age and how much might be a foreshadowing.

Memory is a trickster, a friend, a teacher.  It comforts, chides, runs away laughing as my empty hands reach out for it.  Through the soft, dark folds of my mind I reach out, feeling for the texture of it.  There are so many convolutions, so many dead ends.  A complex labyrinth of thoughts and emotions that ignite a web of neurons, each  with an intricate connection to another.  I get lost easily in the stories there and wonder at the enormity of each constellation of stored experience.  It is frightening as the wiring begins to fail and the lights begin to wink out, one by one.

An Elegant Branch

A dark, slender branch

elegantly dressed in snow

reaches for the sun.

Running for Dan

I’ve been running since August.  I’ve always loved running, but haven’t been able to do it consistently since I had back surgery in my 20’s.  Fibromyalgia pain on top of that made running seem impossible.  My last race was the Hospital Hill 10k/Half-Marathon in 1987. (www.hospitalhillrun.com)  I never thought I’d run in a race again.

Today is the Towamencin Township Turkey Trot. (www.towamencin.org/events.html)  I signed up for it in October after running for a couple of months.  I’m nervous and a little scared.  Despite that, I will run in the race.  I am not runniing for a specific time or to win anything.  I am running because I love it, but also because my son Daniel can’t.  Dan has ataxia-telangiectasia  (http://www.atcp.org) a rare, genetic, neurodegenerative disease.  Dan hasn’t run or walked in years.  He has become fatalistic of late, saying things like “I’m never going to get better” or “I just want a normal life.”  I will carry the pain of that as I run today.

I’m not a good fundraiser.  I don’t like asking people for money, even when I know it is for a good cause.  I didn’t set-up a fundraising account because I was afraid something would happen and I wouldn’t come through.  That didn’t happen though, so I will run today, for Dan and for all kids with A-T, in the hope that a treatment will be found.

I could not have done this without our Weimaraner Odie.  He will not be able to run with me today, but his energy and sweet spirit have kept me running on many days when I faltered.  We adopted Odie from Tri-State Weimaraner Rescue.(www.tristateweimrescue.org).  I am forever thankful to them for allowing us to help abandoned Weimaraners by volunteering and for Odie.

Time to go run.  Wish me luck and thanks for reading.

Water droplets

Clear and round

Water droplets hang suspended

from bare branches.

I see the water droplets almost every morning now.  My blog is subtitled “Trying to Find The Words.”  That is the difficulty and the joy of writing.  How do you convey in language the myriad images and feelings that come to mind when you see the world around you?  How do you strip away the rich language of metaphor to get to the bones of experience?  The water droplets reflect the waning light as the earth moves away from the sun.  They mirror the colors of the dying leaves, crimson and brown.  They are still and beautiful in the cold morning.  They are full and empty.  There is peace in dwelling upon them as the busy world whirls around them.  Simple, stark, they will be gone as the sun climbs higher.  Until tomorrow, when they will appear again.

Afternoon colors

Brown and black on green,

red-winged blackbirds and finches,

glean our buggy lawn.

Lessons in writing

Most authors I’ve had the pleasure of reading interviews with have said that one of the hardest aspects of writing is sitting down to do it. In addition, and perhaps even worse, you have to put up with writing a lot of garbage (and reading it) before you write something really good.  I’ve spent my life simultaneously writing, and avoiding writing.  I’ve kept a journal since I was able form letters into words with some sort of writing implement.  I’ve let thousands of stories come and go, or languish in said journals due to my dread of having to actually revise them.  Confronting the “crap” that many of us start out writing has kept me from an art form that is my greatest passion.  Given the choice of watching television or reading a book, I’d choose the book 99.9% of the time.  When I was in elementary school I would walk to and from school reading, and even read during lunch at home. (much to my Mom’s frustration – sorry Mom!)  Yes, it was an escape but it was also the words.  Words are glorious, amazing, and completely inadequate at times.  Spending hours fretting over a relatively small number of letters as you try to capture the essence of an experience is your daily task.  It is a type of  insanity!

I read the work of successful authors (published and able to make their living doing it), and it all looks so seamless.  Then (as I wrote above) I hear them speak or read an interview, and find out they have had to do the same thing I struggle with – except they actually DO it!  What’s more they put themselves out there and face rejection, bad (or cruel) reviews, and KEEP doing it.  Writing (and the arts in general) has to be one of the most difficult “jobs” there is.  You have to be brave to be a writer, and writers who put out several books a year are my heroes and heroines.

My disabled son is stuck upstairs waiting for me to come up and help him start his day.  That tension of wanting to keep writing but knowing he needs me is indescribable.  I know, it should be easy.  Go upstairs, help him as he needs, and THEN come down and finish this.  There are writers who can do this, certainly.  Unfortunately, I tend to be emotionally labile and my head may be in a completely different place by the time I get back to this.  Of course he will win out because I love him, and I try to be a decent Mom, if not a decent writer.  So, I lift my iced coffee in celebration of all the literary giants, and unheard of nobodies, who take a crack at this craft.  To quote Tiny Tim from Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, “God Bless Us Every One!”

“I’m coming son – sorry!!!”

Writing as a profession

I’ve been away from blogging and writing for weeks now, and it has had a definite impact on my overall view of myself and my life.  Writing has always been important to me, as it is for many of us.  It is stated in countless books about writing that for some, if not all authors, the act of writing is in part a desire to be understood.  One of the ways our inner editor negatively impacts our lives as writers is when people close to us misinterpret or personalize aspects of our writing in ways we didn’t intend (published authors know the pain of this better than anyone).  Critics can be harsh and unrelenting, even for just a few words written in a status update on Facebook or Twitter.  This can silence you before you even begin to explore the depths of your creative soul.  No, your life doesn’t have to be tragic to grant you access to the world of publication.  Tragedy that becomes a success is a story line people identify with and dream of, especially right now with the horrific downturn in the economy and its impact on the 99% of us who are not wealthy.  It is hard not to feel cynical in times like these about “following your bliss.”  Especially when you have children who need food, a roof over their heads, and clothes.

Recently, and for the first time in my life, I’ve experienced what it’s like to not have dental insurance.  It’s sobering and the idea of life without health insurance begins to take on nightmare dimensions.  Positive thinking, banishing worry, and letting go of attachment to outcomes is very difficult when you have a family in which almost every member has a pre-existing condition that would make buying health insurance privately impossible.  Fair or unfair, when both members of a marriage are unemployed either spouse can feel a sense of betrayal, especially if there is little or no prospect of re-employment.  Trying to turn towards the positive, the optimistic view, in times of nation-wide, even world-wide depression, takes an immense effort and for some (like me) even medication.  Writing as a profession takes incredible discipline and talent.  It helps if the writer has a partner with a conventional job that provides basic insurance for health and dental care. (vision care is another plus)  Again, stories (like J.K. Rowling‘s) of authors who overcome incredible odds and hardships can help prop us up for a time, but measured against the totality of human suffering and depravation in our world today they become more like tales from the lottery or urban legends than they do realities that can be emulated or aspired to.  “True” writers don’t do so for money anyway.  Such pecuniary goals are laughable in the upper circles of creative nobility.

There are no easy answers.  Hope is a delicate flower that needs constant care if it is to blossom and grow.  Writing can nourish hope, but choosing to do so in a public way (especially if you feel compelled to be true to yourself) can invite the most soul crushing kind of criticism.  May your spiritual practice, whatever it might be, sustain you in these times that challenge even those with the hardiest dispositions.  To those who share my dream of a writer’s life (or any of the creative arts), hold fast to your aspirations.  May your muse be ever near, and support be available to you in abundance.  Namaste’.

Navigating the stream

Writing at home full-time is a dream of mine.  I realize it’s a dream shared by millions, if not billions, of people and very few have the privilege of living it.  You need a benefactor, or a windfall of money, to sustain yourself financially and that’s if you’re only trying to support yourself.  In addition to the practical reality of surviving, you also need self-discipline and self-confidence to keep at it when your ideas dry up and you doubt your talent.  The two blogs I write have generated little interest in the online world, but that doesn’t take away the joy I’ve found creating them.  It’s a benefit that few people have read either one because I haven’t had to withstand scathing criticism, deserved or not.  Praise, I suspect, is less apt to be found from writing in this way although it’s nice when someone comments positively.

The two enemies I most commonly encounter daily are fatigue, and loss of time.  I live with a man who can survive on 4 hours of sleep a night during the work week, and then “make-up” for what he’s lost on the weekend by sleeping in.  This is not a cycle that works especially well for me, and being a light sleeper I end up getting very broken sleep as well as too few hours of it.  Once everyone has left for work and school, I usually crawl back into bed and grab an hour while I can.  This has a HUGE impact on my productivity.  Guilt inevitably follows these naps and I often find it’s 3:00 before I’ve actually begun anything.  This leaves me with 30 minutes until the first child gets home from school, and the other two follow in succession soon after.   This is where time management skills would benefit me greatly.  It is so easy to get buffeted about by the stream of thoughts and emotions that cascade from my fractious mind.  Checking my email is often the first thing I do when starting my day.  This can take minutes to hours depending on what newsletters have arrived with links to other websites that lead me inexorably toward accomplishing nothing, other than reading, which while mentally rewarding does not generate anything I can point to as a “product.”  Attending to my blogs helps make the day seem worthwhile, but the benefits to my family are hard to assess. (a more mentally balanced Mom?)

The physics of time makes no sense to me, whether due to my PTSD, my inborn genetics, or some combination of factors.  Minutes, even hours, disappear in a stretch and I’ve yet to find a way of reclaiming them.  The tool I’ve found most helpful in staunching the flow of  insensible time loss from my day is mindfulness practice.  It’s slow going.  That’s probably best though, with the time left in this life running quickly by.  Anything that can help bring me back to presence, even for an instant, is a blessing.  Spending time with my Father, which I shared about in my last “Reintegrating” post, has shown me how vital being present is.  A moment of thankfulness is here, right now, for that.  To those of you who are successfully living the dream, I’ll be watching for tips as I continue in my own pursuit of it.

Namaste’.

Writing time

I’ve been reading a lot of quotes lately from writers about finding time to write.  The consensus seems to be that “real” writers spend time, significant time, every day, working.  You can read books, blogs, magazines, and find thousands of distractions but if writing is your life, you devote yourself to it .  That means a lot of words and sentences, whole paragraphs and pages, that may be crap.  Crappy or not though, you’re not likely to write well if you aren’t writing for several hours a day.  It’s not an easy life, to say the least.  I say that as an unpublished, aspiring writer, and it’s far from original.  It’s an encouragement to myself to stick with this.  I had Chicken Soup for the Writer’s Soul for a while, and it was great for giving examples of how perserverence paid off for authors.  The love of writing has to carry you when your belief in your own talent is minimal.  Ultimately, you face yourself every day and that’s probably the most daunting aspect of writing, at least for me.

I’ve taken to ending my blog posts with a wish, or a blessing, for anyone who might read it as well as for everyone who doesn’t. (the vast majority)  May each of us trying to find our voice have the strength to open our minds and ignore our inner critic.  May we be willing to write crap, knowing that within it there are jewels of inestimable value.  May we also trust our heart that says with every beat, “write it, write it, write it,” knowing we have something to say that is worth writing about.  Bless us, published and unpublished, famous and unknown, as we gather up our courage and strike the first key with our fingertip, launching ourselves into a new galaxy one word at a time.

Writer envy

I spend almost no time at all on my writing.  I read about writing incessantly, I read in my genre voraciously, and visit my favorite author’s websites obsessively.  All time that should be spent – wait for it – WRITING!!!  I learned this week that Nora Roberts’ rule for writing is “butt in chair” (or something close to that).  It’s a great rule and one I’d like to say I follow.  The only problem I have with it is that when my butt is in my chair, I’m looking at a computer screen.  My computer happens to be connected to the internet, which is a good thing because otherwise you wouldn’t be reading my blog!  It can also add to the distractions that keep me from writing, which are infinite on the ‘net without even starting on those in my home life.  So, what’s a budding, non-published author to do?  Make Nora’s motto my own, “butt in chair, browser in your blog (or word processing software)!”  Thousands of  ideas are running around in my brain, and as they come up I tend to ignore them because I let the editor in my brain censor me or the real life crises that tend to make up my day take over.  There has to be a way to transcend this, because two writers I admire started their careers because:  a.) one was up in the night with nothing left in the house to read and started to write something she would want to read, and b.) one was stuck in a blizzard with no way out of her house, and small children to entertain.

It would be easy to say I have more challenges than most because my now 11-yr-old son Daniel was diagnosed with a fatal, neuro-degenerative disorder when he was 2 & 1/2 years old.  That pretty much blew my life to hell for the next decade.   He’s had more hospitalizations than I can count, and challenged me as a mother in ways I would never have thought I could survive.  As exhausting as it gets, all he has to do is smile and every effort I make seems pitifully small in comparison to what he lives with on a daily basis.

Yes, I envy published authors and escape into their books as often as I possibly can.  It’s easier to lose myself in their writing than it is in my own – so far.  As Daniel has shown me over and over again, each day is a new opportunity and you never know what life will offer you unless you choose to live it.

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