FLATTENED DAYS

My novel is finished. My birthday is finished. This morning my body decided it was finished. It simply crashed. My body didn’t want to do anything I wanted it to do.

I texted my friend in Africa and told her I’ve been going in circles with nothing accomplished today.

My nun friend from Sierra Leone texted me back:

“Even in circles something is done.”

 

Whoa! Sounded like a Zen Master. I took a deep breath, resigned that my body had the right to take a break. It over rode my desires. It shut me down. It’s got a grip that won’t let go and so I befriended it. What else can you do?

It’s amazing that we women, American women in particular, feel we cannot stop for anything but our own personal day-to-day agendas, many of which we have no control over. Unless, of course we come down with the flu. I distinctly remember when my own children were growing up I looked forward to my annual sinus infection because it gave me an excuse to be a slacker for a week. That’s if you can be a slacker with five children.

Now that I look back at that, I continue to be astounded that we women feel pressured to perform, even out perform, to get it right, to get it perfect … whatever “it” is … to pick up kids, to work in the marketplace, to volunteer if you’re not holding down a full-time job. We never feel comfortable to take down time. It’s like we have this insidious virus inside us that propels us into this constant state of frenzy.

One of my problems is I have a desk littered with things I need to do. Contacts to contact, bunches of stuff to put away, file (yes, I still file a few things), including a Wonder Woman notebook to help me think I can do it all. And you notice in the picture she is sitting right next to St. Jude.

 

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On the back of the St. Jude card it says: “when one seems to be deprived of all visible help….” St. Jude inspired Danny Thomas early in his career and then Thomas built St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in gratitude. If it was good enough for Danny Thomas …. And then we all know about Wonder Woman. (Should I have switched that around?) St. Jude has been around longer than Wonder Woman.

It all goes back to what it is that gives us peace in our minds, encourages us to feel optimistic and grateful. What about you?

What do you do to help you through the flattened days?

 

 

Negative Presumptions

In Maputo I struggled down sidewalks navigating the crushed concrete while sight-seeing. As I tripped, two African friends rescued me, leaning me against the side of a storefront.

A Mozambican man apparently glued to a folding chair near a small table four yards from us studied my agonizing situation. I swayed, then bent over struggling to regain my equilibrium. My two friends, the principal of a South African school and her administrative assistant, grabbed my arms and wrapped them around their shoulders as they carefully pulled me down the street.

Taking a breather, I turned to look back at the inconsiderate jerk one more time. Why had he not had the common courtesy to assist me, give me his seat, anything?

I presumed he was rude.

I was wrong.

I presumed he didn’t care.

Probably I was wrong about that as well.

I may have presumed he was lazy.

Then I realized all my presumptions were wrong.

Staring at him from the side, no tablecloth to hide him, I saw.

The man had no feet.

That vision has stayed, as well as visions of the torture he had endured. I’d heard the tales of how the enemy would simply cut off a hand, a leg, two feet.

That was the day I decided to take a second look. To not jump to conclusions that danced in my head. That was the day I realized there were negative presumptions and I had to let go.

As writers, we all have Negative Presumptions. Let me name a few.

  1. We’ll never be published. Hogwash. Total nonsense. Of course we will. Write more. Read more. Work smart.
  2. We’ll never be able to talk to a roomful of people. A book signing? Holy cow. Talk to people, actually stand up and pull our stomachs in? Wear presentable clothes? Never mind we’ve been writing in our robes for the past eight years.
  3. Social Media????? Are you kidding me? What’s that all about? Believe me, you can learn the basics. Get a friend to assist you. Take a three-night course at the local community college. It’s fun. Enjoy your profession. You are a writer.
  4. Teach. “Who Me?” Now you’re really kidding me. No, no. Think about it. It’s not fair. If you have info gleaned from years of struggles, you need to pass it on to others. It’s a duty. And, yes you can!

 

“THE CHIEF DANGER IN LIFE IS THAT YOU MAY TAKE TOO

MANY PRECAUTIONS.”

Alfred Adler

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COMING SOON! INSPIRATION!

Inspiration is everywhere. Ah, but whether you stop and notice, that’s the issue.

Mindlessly watching television, I found the end of a tennis tournament. Suddenly, there’s Kevin Spacey being interviewed. Quick blurb. “Defeat, failure, falling on your face, falling on your ass are the only things that teach you how to win.”

That applies to us all. Does it inspire you?

Read it again.

“Defeat, failure, falling on your face, falling on your ass are the only things that teach you how to win.”

Heck yeah it inspires whether you’re running the next marathon, competing for a client’s business, or writing your first novel. Or your next novel. Or your short story.

A few days alter, Inspiration surprised me while walking through the boy’s  department in a popular store.  I snapped a picture.

 

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What inspires you? Whatever it is, take advantage of it. If it’s a sign on Pinterest or the World Cup stage or a blurb in a magazine. Use it. Make a copy. Put it in your office or in your kitchen where you love to write. PUT IT UP. See it every day. We are visual creatures. Remind yourself that what you are doing is important. What you are doing is important. Do I have to say it again?

In an earlier blog, I took a picture of a tiny plant driving itself up through the concrete to about three inches on the side of the street where I walk everyday. The picture stayed on my board for a year.

The other evening I discovered the same plant like a familiar friend. It had come back and was bigger and stronger. I walked past it. Had second thoughts. Then I turned around with my iPhone and snapped a current picture.

It reminded me where I’d been last year. The umpteenth draft. Now I was finished with my book. I felt miles ahead of where I was last year. And the plant was a visual reinforcement. It made me feel stronger. It made me proud of myself.

Just think of inspiration as a coming attraction.

“”Coming Soon. Inspiration. “”

Don’t wait for it.

But, do watch for it.

 

 

 

 

NOT WRITING — NOT AN OPTION !

What is it you tell yourself when you’re supposed to be — but you’re not — writing?

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9 EXCUSES

  1. The smoke alarm went off all night. No fire. Too high to replace the battery. I need a nap. I’ll write better after I catch a few.
  2. I’ll watch “Murder in the First.” Then I’ll start writing. It’s research!
  3. The leaves on my weeping fig tree need cleaning. I can think and plot as I clean.
  4. Look at all the books on my shelves. I’ve never read half of them. Reading is essential to writing. I’ll spend a few hours reading.
  5. I need to sit on the deck and think about the ending to my book. Maybe  I’ll get some new ideas.
  6. Wonder what Plato said about excuses? I should research that.
  7. My blog is what’s important. Helping other writers learn to write better. That should come first, shouldn’t it?
  8. My pro bono editing. The client is waiting half a world away for corrections.
  9. What about all those people waiting on my novel? Hmmm.

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JOY IN MUDVILLE

Nothing can match the joy I felt when I opened a brown box with no return address. Thinking about it now, I suppose I should have been cautious. Not me. I instantly ripped right into it.

get-attachment.aspxMy cup, my cup!

An anonymous reader miraculously found the exact cup to replace my broken one. (See blog before last)

“There was joy in Mudville tonight.”  Why did that quote come to me? Why did I  say that?

I thought I had heard it before. It came creaking into my brain from somewhere. Oh, yeah, it was a poem. Junior High School.

As a writer, I became curious. I looked it up. The quote was in reference to a baseball player named Casey who struck out. The correct quote was  “But there is no joy in Mudville – mighty Casey has struck out.”

As a writer, I became curious.

Who wrote something so long ago that had resonated with me on some level even today and stayed with me for more years than I want to count?

Ernest Lawrence Thayer. Born in 1863, died in 1940.  Edited Harvard’s satirical magazine, the Lampoon. Worked on the West Coast in the newspaper era for the San Francisco Examiner, contributed occasional humorous columns to the paper under the pen name “Phin”–derived from a college nickname, “Phineas.”

Although he had poor health, he continued to write for the Examiner, much of his work syndicated by the Examiner.

DeWolf Hopper, a comedian/actor read his poem at the Wallack’s Theatre in New York City. That particular evening was a “baseball night.” The crowd loved it!

For years no one knew who Phin was, but in the early 1900’s it became clear the author of the famous poem was indeed Thayer.

As writers our work comes in many stages from many directions and inspirations, easing out into the public in many forms. And we may not know what people think of our work right upfront. In some cases, we may never know.

As a columnist for years, I received instant feedback. As a blogger, I receive instant feedback. But if you’re writing a novel, not so instant.

Thayer’s story can teach us one sure thing. If you’re writing and no recognition should ever come, would you still write?

If you are a true writer, yes.

So get to it.

 

BLESS YOUR IKEA HEART

The reflection of IKEA is in my rear view mirror. I’m early. Traffic is congested on I-25 where I have an excellent view. Something to entertain me until the doors behind me open.

imagesUsually, I’m in the middle of traffic, dodging vehicles, changing lanes, looking for roads less traveled.

Everyone is going. Or coming. And I wonder randomly about all those drivers.

I think of their TO DO lists.

People on personal missions.  What holds them back? Did they plan well? Did they think it out? Are they going to make it to their destinations? Or will they change their minds in the middle of the journey? Being  in the right place at the right time. How many will make it to work on time?

Writing toward publication is like that.

We have our chosen work, something we believe in. Each day we show up. Things change. Our vision is altered. We inadvertently change our course.  Or we allow someone else to change our course. We take a wrong turn. Turn right when it should have been left. Was it enough planning? Was it new information that grabbed us by the hair of our heads? Redo, Redo. The words flash before us.

Have we depended on an expired GPS?

Listening to too many people and adjusting to a collaborative vision?

Allowing traffic to interfere.

Have the whiz-bang gurus disrupted your idea, misled you?

Regroup.

Move on.

But move.

 

A CUP IS A CUP IS A CUP

Windows wide open, birds warbling, rain drops struggling for freedom in grey hovering clouds. Beautiful except for one thing. I am mourning.

It is not a life or death loss many of us have had to endure. But it is a personal, straight to the heart loss that cannot be dealt with except with the passage of time.

It concerns the destruction of something very dear to me. And perhaps you will laugh or maybe relate.

Someone broke my coffee cup. And worse, I don’t have a picture of it. (The insert is nothing like my cup, but it will have to suffice.)

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I hear a snicker or two from a couple of you. I see the roll of eyes. But you have to understand that I drink copious amounts of coffee every morning and that white cup with a red postage stamp on the outside of it was the only cup I faithfully used every morning for three years. I still see the dark steaming liquid swirling against the red interior.

It was love at first sight.  It was a celebratory white cup made for Valentine’s Day. I carefully lifted it off the Starbucks shelf as if I’d found the Ark. I clutched it and took it home as if it were the dearest friend I’d ever had.

That cup was with me through the writing of my novel, through the editing of my novel, through the angst of my novel and through the happiness and delight of my novel.

That cup was there to greet me at 3:30 in the morning. It was valiant and lovely and truly my best friend. It was devoted to me. Rarely did I share it for fear that it might break.

And when I least expected it,  it did.

To the person who threw away the pieces it was only a cup. And I can understand that. How could she have possibly known?

Immediately I searched online for another. Nada. Even if I could have procured another exactly like it, it would never have been the same. Not really.

It reminded me of one thing. Enjoy the cup you are with. Live in the very moment.

Take no cup for granted.