Monthly Archives: November 2015

Too Much Mr. Ed

People yak-it-ti-yak a streak
and waste your time of day,
but Mister Ed will never speak,
unless he has something to say.
“Mr. Ed” theme song
Written by Jay Livingston & Ray Evans

Today is the final day of my first “someday”. My goal was to write and publish a non-fiction book in 30 days. I’ve already acknowledged I didn’t make my goal, but I’m not calling it a failure. I will continue to work on my book and it will be published within 366 days of when I started. The month has not been a waste. I have learned two very important lessons this month, which is why I’m not calling this a failure.

First, as I’ve written about before, this challenge was a lot harder than I expected. That’s okay as long as I don’t let the difficulty completely derail me – and I won’t. Second, I’ve come to realize I am Mr. Ed in my writing practice. Mr. Ed was a 1960s sitcom featuring a talking horse. Crazy, I know, and not up to the standards of today’s “sophisticated” sitcoms, but I loved this show. As you can see from the theme song above, Mr. Ed only spoke when he had something to say. That’s how I write – only when I have something to say. I’m reading Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg; she recommends having a writing practice that includes regular writing of any type just for the sake of writing. She makes the analogy of a football team. Nobody would expect a team to run out on the field on game day and play a superlative game without prior practice. So, why expect to sit down and write with quality without practicing writing beforehand? I have trouble with writing for the sake of writing, but I’ve realized this month, I need to do more of that type of writing. Writing just for myself, whatever comes into my mind, just to get myself into the habit of regular writing.

So, my takeaways from this month are: stay the course, even though I’m behind schedule; and, unlike Mr. Ed, I need to write…and write…and write. I need to write more yak-it-ti-yak.

A Different Type of Holiday Prep

Thanksgiving is not yet over and I’m prepping for December.  Every year there are the early preparations for Christmas:  ordering Christmas cards, compiling gift lists and starting the shopping, planning holiday events.  This year, in addition, I’m prepping for my December “Someday” – meditation and mindfulness.  I specifically chose this “Someday” for December because the holiday season can be so crazy and I wanted to force myself to slow down and be aware of the joys, the events, and time with family and friends.

Developing a meditation practice will be a big challenge for me.  After all, my motto is “Embrace the Crazy”.  One meditation expert says a key to mindfulness is to “live without frenzy” – seems a bit of a conundrum.  How will I figure out how to embrace the crazy while living without frenzy during the Christmas season?  My first step in preparation for next month is listening to an audiobook, Practicing Mindfulness: An Introduction to Meditation.  I began listening yesterday.  No practice yet.  These are baby steps.  I’m beginning slowly: listen this week and be ready to set aside a few minutes a day for practice next week.

The Shitty First Draft

My initial goal for the month of November, my first “someday”, and the WNFIN challenge, was to write and e-publish a non-fiction book in 30 days.  Now, one week before the end of 30 days, I’ve revised my goal.  Instead of getting the book all the way through publication, I am now aiming at completing the “Shitty First Draft”.  This is quite a shortfall from where I had hoped to be, but I’m okay with the adjustment.  Writing the book has been much more challenging than I expected.  The length alone makes it a totally different type of writing style than what I have been accustomed to.  Then there’s the storytelling aspect – again, quite different.  I have gone from believing I’d write straight through from the Introduction to the final chapter, to writing a hodgepodge of ideas and stories that are only partly related to my initial outline.  Hence, the Shitty First Draft.

In Bird by Bird Anne Lamont urges writers to embrace the shitty first draft claiming it can lead to clarity and even brilliance in the second and third drafts.  Ernest Hemingway claimed, “The first draft of anything is shit.”  Instead of letting my perfectionism and ego rule how I feel about the shortfall of my goal this first month, I’m going to look at this experience and know I’m in good company.  However, I’m not going to say I’ll finish the book Someday – that would be counterintuitive to the point of my 366 Somedays challenge.  Instead, I will commit that it will be done by Day 366 – hopefully significantly sooner.  On to the second draft…

“Writing is an adventure.”

–Winston Churchill

Big Words

While doing some research, I came across a comment that said, simply, “Existential angst.”  I looked at that and thought, Really?  I don’t mean to denigrate people who use big words (some might think denigrate is a big word), but I prefer to read and write more simply.  Am I lazy or incapable?  Neither!  When I read, I’m fine with needing to roll the ideas around in my head, but I don’t want to be running to the dictionary to understand the meaning of seldom-used “big words”.  My writing style is pretty much my talking style.  I want my writing to come across as if we’re sitting at a café having a conversation.

“One should use common words to say uncommon things.”

–Arthur Schopenhauer

That describes what I like to read and also my dream goal when I write.

The Enemy of Soul

I haven’t yet told anyone except my husband the topic of the non-fiction book I’m working on this month for my first “someday” and during the WNFIN challenge, but I’m revealing it now.  My book is about marriage and how to do it right.  My husband and I married when we were only 19-years-old (too young to get married), but we’ve been very happily married for 38 years and I think we’ve done a lot of things right along the way.  So, I want to share our experience.  I’d love for every married or long-term committed couple to have what we have; to know what we now know.  But remember back to one of my first entries about “Resistance”?  Well, Resistance is back and it’s talking smack to me.  “You’re not a marriage expert.  You don’t know enough to tell people how to be married.  Hell, you’re not even a writer!”

I’m not one to crawl back in my hole, but I must admit to giving Resistance’s resistance a bit of a listen.  My project has stalled and I realized this morning the stall has been caused by Resistance.  So, once again, it’s time to smack Resistance upside the head and get back to what my soul is telling me to do.  Yes, it’s true:  Resistance does not live in one’s soul.  Resistance is the opposite of soul.  Resistance is the enemy of soul.

Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard.

–Anne Sexton

Fuel for the Brain

This weekend marked the halfway point in my first monthly “someday”.  During the month of November, I am participating in a challenge to write and complete a work of nonfiction (WNFIN).  On this halfway point weekend, I decided to do something contrary:  instead of writing, I read.

2015 has been a year of transitions for me.  My husband and I bought a company in a different town.  He’s actively engaged in the company and is spending part of each week in that town.  In order to make his commute shorter, and to complete a long held dream, we moved from the home where we’ve raised our family to a dream home four hours away.  We have one child left at home, a high school senior, who has moved with us.  The move has dragged on for months.  The old house is not yet ready to put on the market.  It’s been a crazy year.  To compensate for my lack of time, I’ve pretty much given up reading.  Then, with the beginning of my yearlong personal challenge on November 1st, reading took a seat even farther back in the bus of my life.  This weekend, I remedied that by reading.

I realized, while I love to think ideas through in my head until they’re ready to put into readable words, I also crave the influx of ideas and knowledge I get from reading.  Reading is a fuel for my brain and creativity and cannot take a back seat to writing, cleaning, moving, or any other task I come up with to banish it to a low priority need.

“Reading is fuel for the brain.  Writing is fuel for the spirit…"
                                         –Megan S. Johnston

I need both!

Let the Spinning Wheel Fly — December’s Sneak Peek

Blood, Sweat & Tears’ song Spinning Wheel has been spinning around in my head since I woke up this morning.  At first I thought there was nothing in the lyrics that is particularly relevant to me, but my husband pointed out it’s actually quite relevant.

Did you find the directing sign
On the straight and narrow highway

I’ve planned out what I will do for the coming year in order to harness all those ideas and dreams floating around in my wish list – I’m heading down the straight and narrow highway.

I thought the song was in my head simply because I have so much stuff spinning around in my brain.  Working on writing my book plus journaling the process through this blog has meant ideas are constantly spinning ‘round.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I do a lot of thinking prior to writing.  I’m finding that trying to write a book, not just a short blog post, means I’m almost always thinking about my topic.  I feel my brain isn’t getting much rest and I’m not thinking about much else.

My December “someday”, in contrast, is going to be to learn about meditation and begin a meditation practice.

Drop all your troubles by the riverside
Ride a painted pony, let the spinning wheel fly

Yes, I guess the song is relevant and, yes, my brain will be ready for December!

Time & Space

I’ve been writing regularly for almost eight years.  During that time, I estimate 95% of my writing has been done before the sun comes up.  This month, while I’m tackling my first “someday”, write a non-fiction book in 30 days, I have found I need to write at other times as well.  Part of the issue has been this blog because I write here first and the book writing gets pushed to a later time.  Writing by the light of day – interesting idea.

Prior to November 1st when my “someday” project began, I worked at prepping my office/studio so I could write there.  We moved recently and my space is the last to be organized.  It still isn’t completely organized, but it does have a comfy chair with a table beside it.  Still, here I am, writing in the living room.

I guess the takeaway is it really doesn’t matter where I write or when I write.  If I want this “someday” to happen, I just need TO WRITE!

I’m writing a book.  I’ve got the page numbers done.
                                            –Steven Wright

Sneak Peek — January’s “Someday”

I did it!  My January “someday” is to conquer a physical challenge.  No, I haven’t conquered the challenge yet, but I have taken the first step.  I’ve done many races, mostly 5ks and 10ks and I’ve also completed a handful of half-marathons.  In 2001 I completed my biggest challenge to date – I walked a marathon.  It was not a pleasant event.  My feet were covered in blisters and I almost stopped at mile 22, but I continued on when a friend mistakenly called my phone number instead of my husband’s and admitted they’d conspired to all meet me at the finish line.  Obviously, I had to finish.  As I limped along with my blistered feet, an aide worker at mile 25 suggested I stop walking and check-in to the medical tent.  I kept going.  It was pretty ugly, but I finished and I’m glad I did.  It was an accomplishment I’m not sure I’ll repeat, though if I did, now I’d do it as a runner/walker.

There’s another type of running/walking challenge I’ve toyed with the last few years, but always managed to talk myself out of doing.  Not this year!  Someday is now, after all.  The challenge is the Oregon Road Runners Club’s “1200 Club” and I signed up today for the 2016 event!  It’s not really an event; it’s a year-long program to run or walk 1200 miles from January 1st to December 31st.  That averages out to 4 miles per day, 6 days per week.

I’ll admit I’ve been practicing to see what that kind of mileage is like and I feel confident I can do the daily mileage.  The challenge will be in doing it day-after-day, week-after-week, month-after-month, through snow and ice, sun and heat, vacations, and sickness.  Yes, it will be a challenge.

So, stay tuned.  I begin the challenge January 1st and will be focusing on getting a good sound start that month.  I’ll report on how it goes, how I feel, the challenges, and the victories.

Challenge your body before your body challenges you.

The Grandma Moses Program

When I was a child, I loved The Night Before Christmas.  Actually, it is still my favorite Christmas book.  At some point, someone gave me a second copy of the book; this one illustrated by Grandma Moses.  I remember having conflicting emotions about the illustrations.  They were childlike and unprofessional, yet I was amazed at the story of this old lady who didn’t start painting until she was in her late 70s.  In the back of the book was a picture of this old grandma-like lady, sitting outside at her easel.  Her face was full of joy.

As I contemplated the idea of tackling my “somedays” during the next year, the thought crossed my mind that some people in their late 50s might think they’re too old to take on their lapsed dreams.  I determined a decade or so ago I would not become “too old” and I try to live each day with that in mind.  As I struggle with my first “someday” of writing a non-fiction book in 30 days, I keep Grandma Moses in mind.  She painted in her own style – I will write in my own style.  And, I’m not too old to start writing or to do any of the other “somedays” yet to come.  Heck, at 57, I’m two decades early under the Grandma Moses Program!