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Posts Tagged ‘writing’

My kids used to love Legos.

We would build farms and houses and castles and helicopters, there was a roller coaster once, some cars and some superheros. Sometimes, there were missing pieces, it didn’t stop us — a few creative adjustments and our house would come to life. We would step back and look at it, not worrying about the pieces we couldn’t find, our Lego house was perfect just the way it was. If we wanted to make a change, if we wanted our Lego house to now be a Lego spaceship…  we could knock it all down and build it back up again.  The stories we played out with our Legos one day, could be changed the next, and we had so many stories to tell, so many pieces to learn how to assemble.

I’m finding the final words to the “shitty first draft” of the book I’m writing. Reviewing the last five years of my life has been a terrifying/exhilarating/tiresome/worrisome/scary/courageous undertaking… holding a mirror up to your inner most thoughts and taking in the reflection that comes back to you is many things. The reflection I’ve seen hasn’t always made me smile. Sometimes I run as far away from the words that I’m typing out as possible. Sometimes I sit and read the words over and over and I am back in the moment that they occurred. Sometimes I wonder if the words are really from my life, they seem so foreign to me now.

There was a time when I was in the midst of reeling and swirling and flailing about, not moving… just standing still. I was scared that some pieces of me had disappeared, washed out to sea as I stood in the ocean and let the waves pound me relentlessly… too tired to fight. About that time, I had a conversation with someone who I’m not exactly friends with, we don’t really know each other, but our paths intersected — for me, it was perfect timing. His words adhered themselves to my inner most self and I’ve held them ever since. He said that I wasn’t missing any pieces, I had everything I needed already in me, I just needed to put them back together.

This book, this look back on the last five years of my life, is like gathering all the pieces to a Lego house. I put a piece here and one there. I build the foundation and a few walls. I step back and see a few cracks, perfectly placed. I have just enough pieces to make a beautiful home, I’ve always had enough pieces to make a beautiful home. And if things go wrong, I can knock it all down — I know how to build it back up again.

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Bonus!

So, obviously I didn’t think raising three (completely amazing) kids, having a full-time career (as an Autism Consultant for the public schools for almost 22 years!), writing a memoir (about the most gut-wrenching years of my life), managing this blog (that has allowed me to meet all of you amazing people as I’ve (at times) cut out pieces of myself and handed them to you and you’ve held them and nurtured them and continue to be a huge support system for me) — I thought I might as well add something else to the mix, so… I opened an Etsy store!

Now, the story behind the Etsy store is this, in the last year, I started opening up to other areas of creativity as a way to relax and calm my often trembling soul. In the process, I began painting and making creative art pieces specifically for people in my life to show them how much I love them — I wanted to give a little happy away. But, I was the one who was getting this amazing feeling of calm and love and my inner rumblings are a bit quieter. I realized that we do really get back from this world what we put out into it — so, an Etsy store. My hope is to create items for others so that they can throw a little love out into the world. Click my Etsy button ~~~> and lets spread a little love.

If someone thinks that love and peace is a cliché that must have been left behind in the Sixties, that’s his problem. Love and peace are eternal. ~~ John Lennon
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Each of us carry around a world of words inside us, those words form stories, some of those stories make sense… we can feel them and see them and touch them. Some of those stories are out-of-order, scrambled, strewn about in all the dark crevasses of our minds — we search for a beginning and an ending, something, anything that puts the words in order to form a story that we can accept.

Often, the stories inside us define us, not because they should. Some of those stories don’t deserve to be given any energy, those stories that keep pushing our heads under water every time we try to surface for a breath — the lies we tell ourselves.

Towards the end of October, I decided I wanted to let the words out, I had to let the words out — to give them life. We all have those stories in us, we can’t keep them inside… it hurts, and we can’t ignore the hurting — hurting requires us to pay attention to it. So we release them… to our friends over coffee, to our sisters over the phone — we release them and it feels so good, and the hurting stops.

I’ve been lucky enough to have formed connections with some amazing writers who can break me open with one well placed sentence, I took a breath and sent one of those friends a message one day and told her I was writing a book, a memoir. Even writing the word “memoir” made me cringe, still, I cringe. I think a piece of me wanted her to talk me out of it. Statistically speaking, the likelihood of writing a memoir and getting it published is, well, bleak. There are probably 1000 novels and memoirs and short story collections and poetry chap books that are written for every one that actually gets published and the one that actually gets published may not be the best, just the luckiest — so, I was almost hoping her response would be an emphatic “No!” I’ve never written anything longer than 4000 words (I’m sure my graduate papers don’t actually count although my professor told me my papers resembled an article in Us magazine more than they did a research paper — she was puzzled when I smiled and told her, “Thank you!”), this could be, not one of my wiser ideas. But my friends response was full of exclamation points and cheer and hope, so I became full of exclamation points and cheer and hope.

I had to ask what a WIP was and what it meant when someone wanted to be a reader for you and how long is a memoir and what’s a manuscript and what is a query and how do you revise and when do you revise… I think me going into this with no knowledge might be the best way, for me.

I am writing this memoir for me, to try to organize the stories from the last five years that have been floating around haphazardly in my brain. As with all the pieces of myself I’ve left here on this blog, I hope to cut myself open and bleed all over the pages of this memoir and maybe we’ll gather up the pieces of ourselves, together.

So… I began…

And those words… they just started spilling out.

I went from zero words to 65,000 words in about 30 days… and then, the words became harder to set free. That’s where I am now, trying to set the last 15,000 words free so I can officially have a “shitty first draft“. The trouble with memoir is, it’s difficult to pinpoint the end of the story because I am the end of the story. The words I’m trying to put into order form the story of me. But, here I am… cutting myself open and divulging all the broken pieces and the dark crevasses and the bottomless rabbit holes with the hope that our stories connect us — we all have a story that needs to be told and needs to be heard and somewhere in the midst of all of those words, the breaking becomes the healing.

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… I write,

because if I keep the words inside it hurts.

… I write,

because I need to figure this mess out.

… I write,

because you beckon me to.

… I write,

just so you’ll read.

… I write,

because the words get stuck in my throat.

… I write,

because I have to.

… I write to think.

… I write to breathe.

… I write to hear.

… I write to listen.

… I write to understand.

… I write to be understood.

… I write,

because it feels so good.

… I write,

to cover up this pain.

… I write,

because screaming causes a scene.

… I write,

because I have a story to tell.

… I write,

to quiet the constant ruminations.

… I write,

until the words run out.

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I am not a writer.

I imagine that writers are very sure of their words. They rarely stumble — a stutter is unheard of. I imagine they effortlessly put down on paper the thoughts they have and can articulate them in such a way that everyone reads them with no other interpretation except the one the writer wanted them to have. Right?

I am not a writer.

I imagine that writers don’t have a spiral notebook hidden in the bottom of the side table drawer. A writer certainly wouldn’t sneak that notebook out in the dark of the night and jot down the poems and prose and words and thoughts that pop in to her mind and when she’s done, she safely tucks all those words back underneath all the forgotten bills so no one is the wiser. Right?

I am not a writer.

I imagine that writers write. They don’t stop to take care of their children or pause to run to the store for the forgotten dog food or jump as far away from an unhealthy marriage as possible or watch their parents die a slow painful death or run to the movies just because. Writers write. Right?

I am not a writer.

I imagine that writers always know how to write from their heart. They never get their words confused and release words that should have stayed hidden. Writers know how to pull the thoughts that are causing the beating of their hearts to race and put them down on paper. They know how to sort through the broken musings and unveil only the whole thoughts. Right?

I am not a writer.

I imagine that writers don’t have fragmented hearts. I imagine that writers write from their hearts because they all have perfectly symmetrical hearts ripe with emotion and the thoughts of a life lived in perfect harmony. Writers don’t confuse writing from a fragmented heart using fragmented words and fragmented thoughts with writing from their perfectly beating heart. Right?

I am not a writer.

I imagine that writers have learned all the lessons in life, that’s why they can write. They don’t need to learn any lessons, they don’t need people to teach them, they aren’t perpetual students. Writers have lived and loved and done it all without regret so that when they put their words down on paper, the meaning is clear. Right?

I am not a writer.

I imagine that writers can open their hearts and spill their souls out on to the page and let themselves be seen in the most naked sense of the word and they can be safe and whole and not have missing pieces. Writers are like the perfect puzzle that never has a missing piece and fits together perfectly no matter how many times the pieces are thrown in anger off the table — they always fall back in to place. Right?

I am not a writer.

I imagine that writers know the difference between writing that brings about understanding and conversation and evolution as opposed to releasing a small amount of atomic energy that should have been left to the disposal of little men in hazmat suits. They think and breath and love and trust and open themselves up for all the world to gaze at. They don’t confuse revolving and evolving because they live and write from their hearts — their whole, un-fragmented hearts. Right?

I am not a writer.

I imagine that writers write with wild abandon and are sure-footed and proud of all they put on paper. Writers are the teachers for us all. They have overcome all the lessons that life has handed them and now they can guide us to a better understanding of our own soul-searching efforts. We are all but perpetual students filling the classroom of their thoughts… hanging on their every word. Right?

I am not a writer.

I imagine that writers know when to step away and see things from a distance — the big picture. Writers probably know when they’ve gone too far or not quite far enough. They know the perfect words to use and how to use them… how to order them. Writers know how to write. Right?

I am not a writer.

We are all but perpetual students.

Learning.

Evolving.

Stepping away.

Right?

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I love this blog. Make no mistake about it — I love this blog. But, still, I have posed a question to myself on many occasions — to blog or not to blog.

I’ve discovered many things about having a blog and maintaining a blog and being a blogger and how all of that sounds completely vain and self-professed and a touch nerdy.

Here’s something I discovered recently, blog is short for weblog, which, of course, was a word coined to be the abbreviation of…  “we were very awkward and nerdy in high school and now we spew forth our teenage angst on the pages of our blogs hoping that you find us creative and awesome and mysteriously intelligent”.

One of the (many) problems with being a blogger is the blank stares and hushed whispers that often come from people who have discovered that you are a “blogger”. To squash these naysayers you must strive to have a successful blog.

I often question successful bloggers about how they do it all… how they maintain a popular blog while at the same time, growing as individuals and writers. The answer they give me is usually profound, “I don’t know…” (thank you, successful bloggers, for the insight).

Blogs are defined as… a web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer (blogger). Okay… so far so good, I do that stuff. But still… how do I let people know I have a blog without sounding like… well, a nerdy putz?

A great way to get the word out that you have a blog is to mention it in everyday conversation as much as possible. You can always turn the conversation to somehow include mention of your blog: “…oh, you cooked out last night? Well, on my blog I one time mention starting a fire. Oh yes, I have a blog.”

Once you mention the fact that you have a blog the conversation usually… well, it usually has nothing to do with your blog. In fact, on occasion, I’ve heard a pin drop and a distant clock ticking away the seconds as I waited for a response to my self-professed bloggy greatness. The mention of the blog can have devastating consequences that cause you to remember the true meaning of “blog” — “we were very awkward and nerdy in high school and now we spew forth our teenage angst on the pages of our blogs hoping that you find us creative and awesome and mysteriously intelligent”.

Another way to get the word out that you have a (the ultimate) blog is to somehow secure a guest blogger appearance on some of the more popular blogs. In reality, some of these blogs have so many guest bloggers that you could actually just say you guest blogged on the site and it would take years before anyone could prove you wrong… as a matter of fact, I recently made a guest blog appearance on TMZ, oh wait, no, I meant Perez Hilton (this statement just gained me at least one reader and is totally false).

Now, if neither of those options do your blog stats any justice, you can use your blog to mention other blogs that are, truly, great blogs — you know, guilt by association. Find a blog that doesn’t suck, like this one from my friend The Black Addler (of course you’ll see that this blog does, in fact, suck but for a whole different reason). Also, mention a blog that pulls at the heartstrings of your reader(s) like this one about dog rescue stories by Julie Klam. Julie also happens to be a best-selling author and my close personal friend… umm, right Julie? Julie? She’s a little busy right now with a new book coming out and all. This brings me to another good way of proving to all that you have an okay (totally awesome) blog — the name drop.

Like for instance, say you happen to be close personal friends with someone like say… Allison Winn Scotch or Laura Zigman or Elizabeth Eslami or Joe Wallace. Spreading their names across your blog might hush the naysayers once and for all. (Are we all still on for coffee later? Call me!)

Unfortunately, once you point out to your readers what a non-sucky blog looks and feels and sounds like… you will soon start assessing all the reasons why your blog might suck. A few reasons might be:

  • you choose a metaphoric background like, say… a puzzle (oh crap)
  • you describe your blog as a means to help you work through your “life journey” (oh crap)
  • you talk about how your blog can “fill your soul” (oh crap)
  • you spew forth thoughts that sometimes make your reader(s) cringe with the honesty (oh crap)
  • you are your blogs most frequent visitor (oh crap)
  • you constantly jot down notes in your everyday conversations that you know will make a great blog post (oh crap)
  • you describe why your blog could possibly suck to your reader(s) (oh crap)

In all (somewhat) seriousness, there were two very dark days since starting this blog that I came here with the intention of deleting the whole thing — just wiping it away. I can’t. I won’t (no matter how many petitions you send, so… stop already!). I guess only two days of thinking I needed this all to go away isn’t a bad average.

Sometimes I think this blog to be more of my personal journal and I left the key to it out on the kitchen table and the pesky neighbor came over and helped himself to my thoughts, my quirks, my pain, my words. Sometimes I think, “I can not believe I just pushed publish on that one”, and I laugh at the absurdity of my own thoughts — only to look back at some point during the day and have a wonderful comment make me glad I did. Sometimes I think, “wow, I hope no one I’m going to run in to today reads this and asks me questions”. Sometimes I think, “damn, I need to be funnier”.

So there it is… to blog or not to blog. I guess that’s the question (the fact that I’m still here should give you my answer).

Now it’s your turn. What are some of your favorite blogs and why? Yes… I’m possibly going to use this information to garner a guest blog spot — I have a blog you know.

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I have a friend (I love saying that even though we’ve never actually met), she’s a writer — a real writer. Like a kick-ass-slap-you-in-the-face-and-make-you-stand-up-straight writer. Her mother died recently, a long drawn out emotionally draining death to that bitch cancer. But here’s my take-away on a piece of this… she’s writing. And it’s amazing. And she’s touching my soul and making me think about things I thought I was quite comfortably past.

My father died in November a couple of years ago. He had been in the hospital for over 30 days, a week of which was in the hospice unit. During those 30 days, I visited everyday — everyday. I spent many nights in that horrific chair that folds almost flat. If my day at work brought me close to the hospital, I would stop in there for lunch in the cafeteria with my mom — usually 2 or 3 times a week and every weekend.

My routine was simple, I went to my dad’s room. He would immediately say, “Hi sweetheart” or “Hi bulldog” (he took to calling me bulldog during that last month for some reasons I might talk about on another day), then he would say, “take your mother out of here”. My mom would already be getting up to come with me to the cafeteria. It wasn’t an enormous amount of time we would spend in there together — maybe 30 or 40 minutes. But it was our time — time to not worry about the cancer that was taking over my father’s body, time to not worry about the next test or medicine or oxygen levels. We would peruse all the various staples the cafe had to offer then we would sit off to the side and people watch — the greatest pastime of all. We would eavesdrop on conversations and smile at the familiar nurses as they walked by. We would make plans on what do to when they finally let Dad go home — a hospital bed and nursing care and a wheelchair… we had it all worked out. When we were done, we would head back up to Dad’s room (I always stopped at the coffee kiosk to get him a cup of coffee and mom one too), I would kiss him goodbye and let him know which night I would be staying with him and which day I would bring the kids by — and I would leave and carry on with my day. This was my routine… for a month, this was my routine.

After my mom died, I felt I was mourning both their deaths because it all happened so quick. I was numb for a while — in the beginning. One day, I found myself driving in a familiar area at lunch time — my car guided itself into the hospital parking garage. I walked to the cafeteria and perused the various offerings. I sat off to the side and I eavesdropped on a few conversations. I smiled at a few familiar faces. I stopped at the coffee kiosk on my way to the waiting area on the hospice floor. I sat down and drank my coffee… and I left and carried on with my day. There were no thoughts, no cognitive processing — just physical actions. I did this about 3 or 4 times over the next month or two — I don’t know why… but it felt good, the routine, the familiarity of it.

So, my friend, the kick-ass writer — brought that deeply buried memory of that routine to the forefront of my thoughts. Words do that for us sometimes. Words matter. They help us, they heal us, they break us, they anger us, they sadden us, they make us shake in fits of laughter. That’s my take-away from this — I don’t know why… but it feels good to experience all those things.

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