Day 57: Long Days

I try to write my blog posts during lunch but today was one of those days when it just didn’t happen. And all I thought about while plowing though my stacks of work was wanting to write this and how, when I got home, I needed go through my writing and find some pieces to read at tomorrow’s ROW open mic online. Then I worked until 7:00, filled up my car, fed stray, feral, and wild outside critters when I got home. I just ate and as soon as I finish this, I’ll go through my writing file. It’s harder some days than others to juggle a job and your “real” and creative lives. There are days like today when I still think about giving up on my creative life but after the jumpstart that it’s received over the last few months, I won’t do that. I know I’m not the only creative person that feels this way. We have to make a living so we can’t walk away from that. We have to eat, sleep and spend time with our significant others and family. We have other responsibilities as well so what do we give up? Our ability to create is one of the things that gives our lives meaning so how could we give that up? I did for a while and I regret it every single day. That’s why I’m determined to stick with it. So we keep on with the necessities while we carve out bits of time to write. And we keep dreaming about the day when writing will be our day job. It’s a long shot but it’s happened to others so we have to keep working to make it happen for ourselves. We cannot give up our dream.

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Day 56: The Mental State of Creative People

All my life, I have heard that creative people are more prone to have mental illnesses.  When you look at the creatives that have come before us, that seems to have merit.  Suicides, alcoholism, drug abuse, self-mutilation, aberrant behavior, schizophrenia, generally self-destructive behavior, etc….  I personally have been in therapy off and on since I was 21.  The last therapist that I saw for about 6 years diagnosed me with PTSD, cyclothymia (a form of bipolar disorder), suicidal ideation (which means I think about it but don’t attempt it and am not a risk to myself…basically, when depressed, I think about just not existing any longer, not actually committing suicide.  It’s a coping mechanism), anxiety, derealization/depersonalization (which are forms of dissociative identity disorder), ADHD, and OCD.  I’ve never had a problem with alcohol or drugs although I did partake in my twenties and thirties.  I have exhibited some self-destructive behavior but not to the point where I went off of the deep end…I was always able to pull myself back in before that happened.  I have never harmed myself or tried to commit suicide.  So, although I do have all of those diagnoses, I’m relatively sane.  Or appear so anyway.  Some of my diagnoses are the result of traumatic experiences in my past…PTSD, anxiety, OCD, DID, suicidal ideation…so I can’t blame it all on brain chemistry even though my shrink said that I was more susceptible to those things because of it.  So, am I creative because of all of this…because of my brain chemistry…or in spite of it?  I can say without a doubt that when I am very depressed or extremely angry, I write my very best poetry.  And when I’m on the manic side of the cyclothymia, I write excellent prose.  So, for myself, there is some correlation between my creativity and my mental state.  You often hear about artists that are being treated for schizophrenia and they say that when they are on their meds, they can’t paint…that it causes them to lose their creative ability.  So they go off of their meds in order to be creative again, which many times does not end well.  But my question is if we’re born with brain chemistry that makes us more susceptible to mental illness, does that mean that we are born with this creativity pre-installed in our brain or do we become creative because of it…is it learned behavior as a way of dealing with mental illness?  What about brilliantly creative children like Mozart who wrote his 1st full symphony at 8 and had been performing since he was 5?  Did his brilliance at such an early age foreshadow the mental illness that was to come?  Or was it just a coincidence?  I personally do not think that it’s a coincidence.  I think that there is a definite correlation between the 2 but I don’t know the “mechanics” of how it all works and happens.  I do know that there are creatives that either do not have a mental illness or have it well under control and keep it hidden and they produce spectacular works of art and writing.  I know that I exorcise a lot of my demons and negative emotions through my writing.  I know that I’ve had mental issues since childhood.  I know that I’ve had an amazing imagination since childhood.  But I don’t have any hard proof that the two things are related…it’s just my belief that they are based on observation and my own experiences.  What do you think…is it coincidence or are they related? 

“Writers can treat their mental illnesses every day.” ~ Kurt Vonnegut

 

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Day 55: My Writer’s Journey

My mom always told me that I “lived in my head”.  She also told me that I needed to stop because I was getting too old for it.  This was when I was still pretty young too.  I really didn’t understand at that point in time exactly what she meant.  As I grew older, and her meaning became clear, I decided that I liked living in my head.  It was more colorful, comfortable, safe, exciting, and welcoming than the physical world in which I actually dwelt.  And my imagination could run wild and no one told me to get my head out of the clouds.  It was my world and I loved it.  I’ve tried to figure out if I invented that world because I felt as though I didn’t really fit in with everyone else or if the world inside me had always existed and I just moved deeper into it as I discovered that I didn’t fit in elsewhere.  The girls in my neighborhood were real girly-girls.  They liked dolls, playing with their moms’ makeup, frilly dresses, etc….  I was a bit of a tomboy…horses, bikes, dirt bikes, going with my dad to our farm where we had cattle, etc….  But I was most at home in my bedroom with my imagination going full blast.  I went on some of the most wonderful adventures while lying in my bed or sitting on the floor.  I think that my parents were maybe just the tiniest bit concerned about whether I knew the difference between the real world and my fantasy world.  I always knew what was real and what was a figment of my imagination and had no problem jumping back and forth between worlds…so I was a bit twisted and bent but not broken.  When I hit my teens, I really began writing a lot.  I kept a diary religiously until about 16 or 17 when I realized that with a mother that was a first class snoop, it was no longer a diary, it was evidence.  She and my brother read notes from friends, my diary, and anything else that she could find in my room.  It didn’t matter that I was a pretty perfect teen…attended church regularly, hadn’t tried drugs of any kind at that point, hadn’t developed a taste for alcohol, I had a high school sweetheart that had basically become a member of the family and he was a nice boy all the time…not just when he was around my parents… and, except for him and a few others, the majority of my friends were members of our church, I’d never been in any kind of trouble, and so forth and so on.  So there was absolutely no reason for her to snoop.  But that was part of her personality.  So, my diaries became stories with the names changed to protect the guilty and the innocent.  Notes were left behind in my locker.  My latter teen years and early twenties were spent in a teen version of an espionage thriller.  All of that, while a bit stifling and insulting, expanded my imagination.  I’ll skip forward about 10 years (I will say from 23 – 28, while in an extremely abusive marriage, I turned back to my writing to help deal with it) to when I was 28, newly divorced, living on my own for the first time except while in college, supporting myself with a full-time job and 2 part-time jobs, and having a blast.  I was doing everything that my mother was afraid that I was doing in high school but was a lot smarter about it than I would have been back then.  I was hanging out with wild, uninhibited, creative, talented people and I learned more about myself during that period of time than I did in the previous 27 years.  And it freed my mind…I wrote poetry and short stories.  I dated artists that helped me to visualize my writing and make it more vivid.  I filled dozens of journals that detailed every tiny part of my life.  I was, for lack of a better word, a bohemian and I even dressed the part.  It was definitive proof that if you opened your mind wide to things, your brain would not fall out!  I lived that life for a little over 6 years.  I met my husband who was the antithesis of bohemian and over the years, I was somewhat domesticated.  I would still go out with friends but I wasn’t the same person anymore so, with the exception of a couple of them, we lost touch.  People married, had kids, moved away, etc….  We all changed.  We married and it became about being a married couple.  He was 12 years older than me, served in Vietnam while I was in 1st grade, had been married for almost 25 years, started his photography business when I was 12, had 3 kids, went through a nasty contentious divorce and was the polar opposite of every single man I’d ever dated.  But we clicked and will celebrate our 23rd anniversary next month.  He has been nothing but supportive of me in all of my endeavors since we married…even when he doesn’t totally understand them.  I still wrote but not as much because of a new job and I was taking more accounting and legal studies classes which required a lot of my time.  Found my dream job and worked at it for a couple of years before they were bought out by another group whom I worked for another 2 years.  Then I was in a really bad head-on collision one night on the way home.  Fractured my pelvis, broke my clavicle and a bunch of ribs and gave me head to toe deep tissue bruises.  The EMT that was finally able to get to me after they cut the door off told me that I was a living, breathing miracle…he said most people don’t survive a wreck like mine and if they do, they have serious head injuries.  Several small random things saved my life.  I was off work for almost 4 months and when I was able to go back, our backer had pulled out and the business folded.  So, I found a job close to home so that I didn’t have to drive as much… I was gun shy.  It was then that I really got back into my writing.  I was writing a lot of poetry and trying some short stories but decided that I was better at poetry than I was at prose.  I read a lot of books on writing and began developing my “voice”.  Then I met a group of creatives on MySpace…yes, I’m that old!  And that all moved over to FaceBook eventually where I got involved with more creatives.  With the encouragement of a few people in that group, I began writing my novel, Rapture and discovered that I was actually good at prose.  Life got in the way a few times but I would at least take it out and add to it occasionally.  Now after about nine years, finally, I am actually consistently working on it and am in a creativity group and a writing incubator group where I am receiving so much encouragement.  Rick still doesn’t understand it but he’s my biggest cheerleader.  And that’s how I got to where I am right now.              

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Day 54: Guilt

Most writers are consumed with guilt.  And most of that guilt comes from not writing, not meeting goals, not paying enough attention to family and/or work, etc….  I am feeling that guilt this morning.  I set a goal of writing for 30 minutes last night after I got home and I didn’t do it.  I completely underestimated the effect that my diabetic episode had on me yesterday.  I got home at 6:30, changed my work clothes and got comfortable then ate in front of the TV while playing Trivia Crack (I’m addicted) and I had every intention of writing as soon as I finished eating.  Instead, I fell fast asleep and woke up over an hour later feeling like death warmed over and decided that writing just wasn’t in the cards.  And the guilt began immediately after I made that decision.  But I have something to say about guilt…get over it!  Yes, it’s good to set goals and even better to meet our goals but sometimes it’s just not going to happen.  Maybe we’re ill, have a work thing after work or a family thing or maybe we are just dead ass tired from juggling writing, work, home, and family, not getting enough sleep, etc….  We are not superheroes.  We do not wear capes…well, at least I don’t.  We are just regular human beings with too much to do and not enough time to get it all done.  Or we’re too ill or just plain worn out.  So, when that happens, take the night off…just don’t make a habit of it.  AND DON’T FEEL GUILTY ABOUT IT!  We will need to get back into our routine as soon as possible though so that we don’t lose any momentum.  Maybe we could double up on Saturday and/or Sunday to make up for that lost writing time.  After taking a day off, we might feel a bit more energized and creative because we had been running on empty for so long and that night off was just what we needed to bounce back.  We have to take care of ourselves because as writers, we are our own creative instrument.  So, get a check-up, eat healthier, stay hydrated, get enough rest, take a vacation day and have a little fun, etc…, so that our instrument is in tip-top shape because, if it isn’t, our writing will eventually suffer.  So, we have to stop beating ourselves up if we miss a writing session.  It’s not a sin for which we need absolution.  We just have to forgive ourselves and jump back into our routine.  No guilt!   

“Take care of your body.  It’s the only place you have to live.” ~ Jim Rohn               

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Day 53: Slice of Life: A Writer with a Full-time Job

Ever have one of those days where from the second that you wake up, every single thing goes wrong?  For me, that day is today.  I woke up and checked my blood glucose and it was LOW.  That is bad for several reasons.  First, you feel drained.  Second, you need to get it back up without pushing it too high so you drink a small glass of juice, wait 15 minutes and check it again.  Still too low…drink more juice or eat a small piece of fruit.  You keep that up until you’re back to a normal level.  All that while trying to put on makeup, fix your hair, get dressed, pack a lunch, make your coffee, etc….  It slows you down physically and mentally.  Third, and the biggest issue on the first day back at work after 5 days off, is that you feel like death warmed over all day long.  And the only way to fix it is to go to bed and sleep so I’ll feel this way all day long.  So, I finally get myself ready and get my glucose up to where it’s safe for me to drive to work.  The drive is quick and easy.  I get to work and forget to take my sunglasses off and put on my regular glasses.  The problem with that is that I only have my glasses, my favorite pair, about halfway in the pocket on my bag and they fall out just as I reach the door.  They fall lens side down so there are multiple deep scratches that line up perfectly with my pupils.  They are ruined.  I have another pair of glasses here at work that I kind of hate but I can at least see.  I finally get into my office and just dump all my stuff into the visitor’s chair.  After I take off my coat, I try pulling 1 bag out from under the others and the clip on the over the shoulder strap snaps.  Like my glasses, the strap is now useless and that makes the bag somewhat inconvenient to tote around with everything else I carry.  And it wasn’t a cheap bag.  But, now I’m safe in my office and I haven’t destroyed anything else since I broke the strap.  Still trying to get my glucose up to a decent level so I’m eating lunch a little early.  Plus, I have an appointment with my cardiovascular surgeon later this afternoon so I need to have my glucose at a steady maintainable level without letting it go too high.  If I were a full-time writer, I could deal with all of this so much better.  This is just one of the reasons that I have to get off of my ass and WRITE.  Write like the wind.  I know that the odds are against me and that unless you have a Harry Potter or Twilight in the works, the money isn’t going to be “Stephen King” kind of money but if I don’t do it, I’ll never know, will I?  That’s why we can’t give up on this dream that we have.  We are unique so our writing is unique.  No one else can tell that story.  So, even though I’m dragging myself through this day and the day, in general, has sucked, I will go home and write.  Even if it’s just 30 minutes, I will write.  Even if what I write is terrible, I will write.  That is my mantra for the day…I will write.  It should be yours as well.  Take that leap of faith and write that novel or poem and submit it.  The odds may be against us but they were also against Stephen King, J. K. Rowling, and Stephanie Meyer but they still took that leap of faith and just look at them now.  It happened to them and it could happen for us…but first, we have to write.               

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Day 52: Excuses

A writer’s life is full of excuses.  Excuses about why we can’t write, didn’t write or did write but didn’t write as much as we planned.  Work has been too hectic and/or I’m working late.  Household chores and maintenance are taking up my time.  I need a nap because I didn’t sleep well last night.  I need to get my things together for tomorrow.  The words just aren’t flowing.  My writing haven isn’t organized the way that I want it to be and I need to work on that first because it’s distracting.  I’m watching a female Blue Jay eating berries right outside my window (that’s my excuse right now).  Everything I write is crap.  I’ll never get published, so why bother?  And so on and so forth.  We have an excuse for every possible situation.  We don’t even have to think about them…they’re right on the tip of our tongue.  Why is that?  Do we really believe our excuses when we offer them up or do we know that they are just reasons to avoid writing?  Or are they reasons to avoid possible failure?  I know that I’m guilty of that.  I’m also guilty of wanting time to just be numb to everything and when we are truly engaged when writing, the very last thing that we are is numb.  Let me also say that there is nothing wrong with needing that time but we can’t do it from the time we get home from work until bedtime every single night.  Writing can be difficult and draining so I completely understand the need to step away sometimes but the trick is…we have to come back to it sooner rather than later.  We didn’t start in order to just let it sit in our laptop, halfway completed.  We began writing it because we had something to say and we still do.  We have to get beyond the excuses and just sit down at our laptop or notebook and write.  It might be crap but we can fix that.  There is no fixing a blank page except to fill it with words…our words.  Make it a ritual.  Sit down every single night and write for 30 minutes.  Just 30 minutes.  Set a timer.  Some nights we might only type a paragraph and will be thrilled when the 30 minutes is up but other nights will be different…we will need to write for more than 30 minutes because the words are flowing and when that timer goes off we’ll slap that off button and keep on writing.  And during that 30 minutes…no distractions.  Just us and our words.  We can do 30 minutes.  We’ll put it on our calendar, we’ll tell our significant others and friends and we will set our timers and write.  After just 30 minutes, we can take out the trash, help the kids with homework, load the dishwasher, do the laundry or just numb ourselves with a movie or some music.  Or we’ll keep on writing.  No more excuses. 

“There are many excuses not to write.  Try using writing as an excuse not to do other things.” ~ J. C. Hewitt            

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Day 51: I Don’t Want to be Beige

I’ve decided that I want to be a rainbow…only with more colors than ROYGBIV.  I want to brighten up every single room into which I enter.  I’m tired of being beige.  Tired of wearing the same type of clothes every single day because there seems to be no point in wearing anything else.  Tired of being the introvert when entering into a situation where I’m not completely comfortable and only showing my extroverted side in known situations with known people.  I want to walk into a room and completely overwhelm them with my bright shimmering colors that never dim.  I want to be talked about after I leave the room because I’m too difficult to forget.  I want to be the life of the party even when there’s no party.  Hell, I’ll be the party.  I’m done with timidly saying, “I write in my spare time” like I’m ashamed or not completely sure that I actually write.  I am now going to say, “I am a writer” loud and proud.  I’m going to lead with it rather than telling people that I’m an Operations Manager/Safety Coordinator and I write in my spare time.  It will now be, “I’m a writer and I also work as an Operations Manager/Safety Coordinator.”  I might even leave the last part out.  I will no longer say if, maybe, hopefully, etc…, when talking about finishing Rapture and getting it published because a rainbow is sure of itself and its ability to shine.  And no one dims a rainbow’s shine…not even the rainbow.  It shines because it shines.  Rainbows are bold, bright, strong, and unafraid to shine.  And if I grow too bright, well, good for me.  You can’t tell me to dim myself because this is my sky.  And I won’t even need the sunshine to reflect, refract, or disperse the light in the tiny water droplets.  No, I will make my own sunshine because if you depend on anything or anyone else to make you shine you’re sure to be disappointed because not even the sun shines all of the time.  With each success, small or large, I will grow brighter.  So, put on some shades, people, there’s about to be some serious sparkle going on here! 

“The white light streams down to be broken up by all those human prisms into all the colors of the rainbow.  Take your own color in the pattern and be just that.” ~ Charles R. Brown.  

              

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Day 50: Accepting & Acknowledging Our Gifts

I am not good at receiving gifts.  First, I don’t like being the center of attention.  Second, even if I absolutely love the gift and tell the giver profusely that I love and adore it, I still feel like my gratitude rings false for some reason even though they seem happy with my words.  I don’t know when that started…sometime after my teens, I think.  It’s something that I struggle with even now.  So I suppose that it’s not such a big surprise that I even struggle with acknowledging and accepting my innate gifts.  It’s as though my brain is split into two sections (other than left and right)…the “Yea, Donna, you’re so amazing” section and the “What makes you think that you’re a writer or have any kind of talent at all” section.  I’ve written before about the Inner Critic and the Inner Wise Self and how they are in an eternal struggle inside my head but I think that this goes even deeper than that.  It probably goes back to my childhood.  There was some emotional damage done back then but I don’t think that until recently, I’d really even considered it as having affected my ability to accept and make proper use of my gifts.  I don’t believe that I’m God’s gift to writing but one side of my brain knows that I do have a gift and that I have worked over the years to develop it.  I know that I have written some really good stuff…poetry and prose.  It has been praised and I have been encouraged by those with so much talent that I am in awe of them.  And yet, I doubt myself and my ability to write.  And it is holding me back.  Correction, I am holding myself back.  I don’t want to be a writer that failed because I was too afraid to fail.  Paradoxical, isn’t it?  Dammit, if I am going to fail, I want it to be because of something that I did, not something that I didn’t do!  And I don’t want to just give up because someone tells me that my writing isn’t good enough.  I want them to give me a reason so that I can go back to that piece and figure out why what they said was accurate, or not, and then fix it.  I need to succeed or fail through my own actions.  So that means that I have to write.  And write some more.  And not give up…ever. 

We all get in our own way more than others ever do.  We are afraid of rejection and failure and of the words running dry in our heads.  News flash…as writers that write and submit our writing, we are going to be rejected, probably more times than we would have ever thought possible.  But, all it takes is one piece of good writing landing on the right person’s desk at the right time to be published.  And one rejection or even ten rejections is not failure…it is part of our learning process.  Failure is quitting writing because you feel like a failure.  Suck it up.  Writing is hard.  Succeeding as a writer is even harder.  We have to be tougher than that.  Our skin has to be thicker.  We have to be determined.  And we have to persevere.  And our words will never dry up.  There will days when it’s a trickle rather than a flood but if we push through they will begin to flow more freely.  And when they are flowing freely, just write.  Don’t stop and try to edit and correct it as we go.  Get it all out first and then go back to edit it.  We also can’t make the mistake of judging our writing by our first drafts because they are like a newly mined diamond that needs to be cleaned up, evaluated and cut.  The first draft is not the finished product…no one’s is, not even a bestselling author’s.  But we have to get the words on the paper before we can start editing.  We are the harshest judge of our own writing so we need unbiased, truthful readers to give us critiques and input.  And we mustn’t take them the wrong way.  We have to accept them and, as I said before, figure out if they’re accurate or not.  That’s why we should always try to get at least two people to read our writing and to find people that would be an audience for our writing.  And go from there.  Remember, when Stephen King wrote Carrie while teaching school, he actually threw the manuscript into the trash and his wife, Tabitha, got it out and made him submit it.  And the legend was born.  We have to believe in, acknowledge and accept our gifts and use them! 

So, if I’m going to fail, I’m going to fail actively, not passively.  However, I am not going to fail!

“Books aren’t written – they’re rewritten.  Including your own.  It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.” ~ Michael Crichton              

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Day 49: Thanks & Gratitude

There are many things in my life that I could bitch, whine, and moan about but there are far more things to be thankful for right now.  I have a wonderful, loving husband that treats me like a queen and he’s in the kitchen right now putting our Thanksgiving feast.  Did I mention that he could seriously be a chef…he is that good.  He worries about me, advocates for me, and loves me more than I sometimes feel I deserve.  And I am beyond thankful for that.  I have 3 dogs…Blue, a Blue Heeler; Brown, an Australian Terrier; and Dude, a long-haired Chihuahua.  All 3 were rehomed after their owners surrendered them.  How people can do that, I don’t know.  But they are loved and well cared for now.  We have 5 cats, 3 of which were formerly feral, and 2 from animal services.  The formerly feral are Stinky, Zippy, and Spike.  The other 2 are Sadie and Sybil.  They all had tough starts but have wonderful lives now and are loved.  We have a home built in 1956 on a little over an acre of land in the historical area in the middle of a thriving city that we got a great deal on 22 years ago after we got married.  It’s still partially agriculturally zoned so our neighbors have chickens and sometimes have horses or goats or sheep.  They have 2 peacocks that visit our house on a regular basis.  We have a well that our sprinkler system is attached to so we don’t have to worry about high water bills in the Texas summer.  It has big, tall, old trees, wisteria vines, honeysuckle, rosemary, and lavender.  We have a vegetable and herb garden in the summer and fall.  And a pool to enjoy.  We are very fortunate to live here and it was a complete serendipitous miracle that we found, were able to afford and buy this house back then so, of course, I am very thankful to live here.  I am thankful for my job.  It isn’t my dream job but it is fast-paced and diverse and the pay and benefits are decent.  I get along with my coworkers and my boss is pretty easy going.  I can take off for all of my doctor’s appointments, which are covered by my pretty affordable company-provided health insurance, when I need to with little advance notice and I have enough sick, vacation, and personal time to cover them all.  Plus, I can vary my work hours to make up for the time rather than using my vacation time if I run out of sick time.  It’s a 10 – 15-minute drive on surface streets to get there so it saves gas.  So, I ‘m very thankful for my job.  I’m thankful for my wonderful doctors who I literally trust with my life.  I am thankful for my new CGM, continuous glucose monitor that I had put on Monday.  I’m a Type 1 diabetic so this will save me many thousands of finger pricks over my lifetime and I am extremely grateful for that and for the control that it gives me over my diabetes.  I am thankful for SARK, SWW, and ROW for helping to make my writing dreams come true.  I am thankful for the friends that I have made in SWW and ROW and for the inspiration and encouragement that I have received from each one of them time and time again.  They are some of the warmest, welcoming people I’ve ever met.  I am truly grateful for their impact on my creativity and my future writing plans.  They have energized me and my need and desire to write.  I will be forever thankful to SARK for organizing these groups and for her books, and for her mentoring.  Because of her, I am working to make my dreams come true. 

Our lunch was unbelievable.  I am ready for a long nap.

This is only a partial list.  I truly have so much to be thankful and grateful for and I need to remember that every single day.  Well, I need to go feed and water my strays and ferals out front.  I wish that I could bring them all in but all I can do is give them food and water twice a day.  Of course, I’m also feeding squirrels, raccoons, possums, and God only knows what else.  But I’m good with that.  I’ll feed any hungry animal.  They all deserve that much from humans.  So I hope that you have all had a wonderful day with your loved ones and that you have a peaceful, restful night.

“There is a calmness to a life lived in gratitude.  A quiet joy.”  ~ Ralph H Blum

      

 

            

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Day 48: How Did We Get to This Place

I often wonder when I decided to be a writer because I keep thinking that there has to be one defining moment that set this all in motion.  Writing was an escape and for comfort when I was a child and teenager.  As I grew older, it was a way to deal with emotions and thoughts that I didn’t feel comfortable expressing in other ways.  So, if someone stumbled upon a poem or story, I could just tell them that it’s fictional and deflect their insinuation that it was more personal than that.  I had a few teachers and professors that told me that I had talent and to keep writing but no one specifically said that I could ever be anything more than someone who wrote just for the hell of it in their spare time.  I didn’t receive that kind of encouragement until I was in my mid-forties.  And even then, I was skeptical but I still had a tiny thread of hope that I could more than a closeted writer.  But since then, through the encouragement of others and, more recently, the support of other writers in the groups that I’m in, I have more than just a thread of hope.  It’s maybe ribbon sized now.  I know that still seems relatively small but it’s actually pretty huge.  So I am determined to be published in some way within the next year.  In my ROW Retreat Saturday, I read a poem that everyone loved and I was even encouraged to submit it to the New Yorker.  I’m going to do just that and if it’s rejected, then I’ll submit it somewhere else.  They said that it was a perfect expression of womanhood in the #MeToo movement times.  Arnold said that the world needs more angry women.  So, unlike in the past, I am listening and accepting, not deflecting, this praise and encouragement.  I guess the question that I’m pondering is why do we need the outside encouragement to make it possible for us to even begin to consider the fact that we might be a talented writer.  I know that not all writers are this way but a lot of us are.  Why are we so insecure about and critical of our writing?  I know that we need to be able to turn a critical eye on writing but we also need to be able to look at it from a more neutral perspective.  Some people think that everything they write is gold while others of us think that what we write is mud.  We’re unable to see the gold that the mud hides and to realize that the mud is actually our inability to see our own worth and ability.  While there’s nothing wrong with wanting outside opinions and praise, we have to also be willing to praise ourselves and to value the writing that we do.  For most of us, we didn’t start out writing with the intent to be published.  We began writing for ourselves and no one else.  And, being children, we didn’t turn an overly critical eye upon what we had created.  We were proud of it.  Of course, no one had told us the cold hard truth about the odds of our work being published or rejected time after time or how critical others can be or any of the other things that we found out later in life.  Those things made us think twice about our ability and whether it was even worth our time to continue to write.  But still, we wrote.  Or maybe we did have 1 piece of writing that was complete mud or just a diamond in the rough that someone gave an extremely negative critique on and made us feel like the worst writer in the entire world and we definitely considered giving up our passion.  But, we didn’t.  We kept on writing but began to turn an even more negative eye upon it.  Or we read or heard someone else’s writing and we compared ours to theirs…which we all know never works out in our favor.  At that point, the best thing probably is to get outside praise and positive critiques because something is needed to turn our thinking around.  But, the thing is, there isn’t always going to be a cheerleader beside our desk while we write.  It’s just going to be us…alone.  So we have to be a better judge of our own writing.  We have to stop looking at our first draft and comparing it to an edited, finished masterpiece.  And we have to be our own cheerleaders.  And I know as well as anyone just how difficult that is to do.  After already being exhausted from work, home duties, relationships, and life in general when we sit down to write how can we possibly be more positive?  Well, first, after all of that, we sat down and we’re writing.  Second, the more we write, the better we’ll get.  Third, we have to write because it’s our passion so we have to be positive.  I know that’s a bit of a tautology but it is what it is, tautologically speaking.  We are amazing.  We are creative.  We are passionate.  We are committed.  We are unstoppable.  We have to stop doubting ourselves and being negative about our ability and what we create.  Accept and believe it.  And even if others doubt us, we are still going to write because it’s what we do.  So, we’re going to get out of our own way and write.  And it’s going to be amazing!   

“It is impossible to discourage the real writers – they don’t give a damn what you say, they’re going to write.” ~ Sinclair Lewis         

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