Shooting The Curl

Something changed in the last month, my friends. Something kind of big. I didn’t really feel it at first, much like a solar flare or an earthquake a thousand miles away. The gentle flap of a butterfly’s wings somewhere in Malaysia. That’s how it began. Just an itch. A bit of a tickle…

You see, for the past seven or so years I’ve been on this track, inspired by the loss of a friend who left this dizzying ride far too soon. The day his light went out, I vowed to shine mine brighter; to burn out if necessary, but to always, always push towards my desires and passions.

And I succeeded in many respects. I achieved goals I had set, I went forth, even with paralyzing fear, to put myself and my work out there, to try new things, to live each day as if death might snatch me in my sleep.

And it’s a beautiful way to live. But no one mentions how hard it is to burn that intensely for so long. It’s nearly impossible to sustain in any healthy way. And I ended up sustaining it in not so healthy ways. Losing sleep, detrimental coping mechanisms, the overwrought sense of always being tired and worn out. Damage to my physical body. Damage to my mental health.

That’s when the butterfly fluttered somewhere in the distant neurons of my brain, and inspired this rising tsunami.

Living like you might die is a great way to get shit done. But I think I’m coming to grips with the idea that I might not go out like a candle extinguished, surprising and fast. That maybe, I’ll make it to 98…and if that’s the case, I have to slow my roll enough to make those fifty-some years just as beautiful and full.

Well, watch the wave come in…

I have to learn to slow the moments down. I am learning to say no to what doesn’t bring me joy. I am learning that not every day, week, month, year is the day, week, month, year that will see startling changes and massive accomplishments.

Sometimes I won’t get out of my pajamas all day. Sometimes, even after being a meticulous worker for most of my life, I won’t take the extra shifts. I may even put on a few pounds and kick my fucking scale to the curb.

Because I’m learning to save my effort for the things that really matter.

I’m committing myself to the things that fill my time with meaning.

This life-altering shift has helped me take a hard pass on things that have only been important because they mattered to the other people oscillating nearby. It’s got me skipping out on the mundane shit that doesn’t serve the purpose of my joy. Most importantly, it’s giving me permission to let go of people who don’t deserve my time or energy.

Does that mean I walk around being an asshole to everyone, shirking my commitments, and letting the laundry and bathroom scum build up to disgusting proportions? No. Because I might not die tomorrow, but if I did, I’m not going to leave a dirty mess behind me.

But does it mean if the bathroom looks fine but for a few spots on the mirror and some toothpaste in the sink I’ll put aside my ten pages of editing to clean it up?

Not any more.

Does it mean I’ll take all the jobs I can get, pro bono, because my platform ‘needs’ the solid underbelly from it?

Not any more.

My time is worthwhile, my craft is worthwhile. And if I don’t get any more of those little side jobs because they cost even the kindest, well-intentioned acquaintances then at least I will have the time that they took for me. And that’s priceless.

Does it mean I’ll drop my precious hours of writing, or family time, to take on a few extra shifts at my part-time jobs?

Not anymore.

Does it mean I’ll sign up for the time consuming races that guarantee I’ll end up with some injury, just for the ‘glory’ of bragging rights and the ‘challenge’?

Not this year.

I think I’m done with bragging. I’ve proven I can rise to challenges and I think I’m good with getting over giant accomplishments. I think I’m going to shoot the curl of this tsunami and ride it out…let it take me past all of the underlying reasons and expectations of others and do what’s best for me.

After all, I’ve only got half my life left. I spent a great deal of the first pleasing others, trying to anticipate and follow through with what they expected and needed of me.

I think it’s time I shook up some of those misperceptions.

 

Turning Point

No one likes to be rejected. Well, I can’t generalize, maybe there are those that get a kick out of it. Maybe for some, it serves as a driving force to continue with even more fervor. Maybe they’ve never had a problem with self-esteem or feelings of inadequacy.

I’m not one of those people.

My rational brain knows that there’s nothing personal meant. My rational brain knows that it’s just one opinion in a sea of possibilities. But day after day, letter after letter, even the most devoted to their art have to ask…did I miss my calling as a waitress?

Or a forensic anthropologist, or an archaeologist, or a pilot, or a teacher, or an EMT, or…ANY other job that doesn’t require me to put my heart in the hands of someone else to be judged and weighed to justify doing what I love?

Wouldn’t it be nice to just go into a nine-to-five, perform some task that doesn’t have to have any of my heart in it, go home, and get a paycheck and possibly health insurance if I’m lucky?

Writers…man, we’re a strange breed.

Rising in the dark early hours, still up at dark late hours, scribbling on napkins and notebooks. Our mental faculties always distracted to some degree by the dialogue in our heads. We write, we pour out, we mull over, and edit, and form, and shape, and create. We fester and brood. And when it looks, to our over-thinking eye, that it might be something worth sharing we throw it out into a world that’s saturated with thousands of other ideas worth sharing.

And we wait. And we hope. And we fester some more.

So it should be a relief when we get the rejection…the thirtieth or first, because now we know. And It’s better to know.

Isn’t it?

So you can go back to the drawing board and change your heart all over again. Mold it into something someone wants to read…make it something that’s acceptable.

Sometimes, you do everything they ask and find you hardly recognize your own voice afterwards.

So one has to wonder; if we take our hearts and cut them to fit the trend of the market, how much of us are we really offering to the world? And is it worth selling out to get our name on the front cover? And what makes that any different than a nine-to-five, heartless job with dental?

Except there’s no dental…

So much time, effort, and tears spent trying to tell the world a story, or explain the feelings of our hearts only to be told it isn’t enough. That if we change our story, that if we change our hearts we might be able to garner a $2.50 royalty someday.

Sounds like madness to me.

Sounds like unchecked mental disease.

At some point, don’t we have to admit, that maybe, our thoughts, our stories, are just not good enough, and maybe it would be less painful to just stop trying.

After all, life’s plenty painful enough on its own.

VerseDay 1-31-19

The last day of the month of new beginnings.

How goes it in your world? Did you evoke change? Did you come to terms with what you are and are not?

Big questions. I blame the sinus meds.

Enjoy a little verse, carry it with you today as you head into the next month of possibility.

 

Bricks and Stitches

 

The cocoon of pleasantries

A trap of sorts,

to keep at bay the dark undercurrent of 

what this heart aches to shout.

I lay, brick by brick,

this wall…this shelter

to keep the storm inside.

Pin the chaos down, 

safely tuck it away,

guard what is true, in its own alluring ugliness.

I’ll bluff the hell out of this hand

of clubs and hearts,

and keep it close to my chest.

Though it flutters against my throat,

a tickle of cough, a threat of reveal.

The magician’s trick 

exposed and flooding secrets over the sharp edges,

like an infected wound held too long with faulty stitches.

less magic,

and more disease simmering.

I try to hold it all inside,

by bricks or stitches, magic and pins

keeping it to myself,

so only my heart suffers the weight. 

 

VerseDay 1-24-19

Before you immerse yourself in this succulent little slice of verbiage, take a moment to remember that I’m still calling for submissions to the poetry anthology and look forward to featuring your work here on my website. IT’S FREE PEOPLE…and you get all the feel-good bragging rights of being ‘published’. So consider and send me your stuff.

 

Okay, proceed to the Verse…

 

 

Puzzle

If I could stand in those empty fields once more.

The sun and wind bearing down,

Driving back the faint of heart.

If I could catch the notes of sage on the back of my tongue,

And the distant blue horizon

Far and stretching for eons

The time of endless days, turned eye-blinks.

If I could walk those creaky halls, and the comfort of shadow

The patterns of wood and love

If I could smell the dust of my bedroom, hear the closet door creak,

Lean against kitchen countertops, where the coffee pot left

Traces of brown on the laminate.

If I could just go back.

To that time

To that girl.

Maybe I could find the pattern of me,

The places before broken lines were drawn.

And piece the puzzle back together.

Maybe in this place, the dirt that grew beneath my fingernails,

The dust that scattered through my hair

The sweet sunshine that painted my cheeks in freckles

And the smell of an innocent child who belonged to the wild.

If I could just run those tracks, single and winding through empty fields,

On the squeaky tires, of the most faithful steed,

Who’s cracked seat pinched tender thighs, if ever the thought to sit occurred.

If I could spend the day on an adventure,

I could find the greatest one yet.

The one that tells the story,

Of a girl who was fearless

A girl who loved the wind and the sun

And the freedom beneath her was a fair gale to wings

Of a girl who wouldn’t give up.

Not ever.

Of a girl who persisted and

Stayed wild.

Maybe I could find the pattern of me,

Before the broken lines were drawn,

And piece the puzzle of myself together again.

Soul Food

 

Sometimes opportunity knocks on the door…sometimes it knocks the door down.

 

Gentle readers, this week I’ve been filling my life up with a few new opportunities though time is sparse and energy is waning.

 

Times like these often make me question my ever-lovin’ sanity.

 

I know that we’re all busy. I know that we’re all overworked, and underpaid, and hanging on to the ledge by our fingernails. But sometimes…

 

Sometimes a light breaks out of the storm clouds above you and shines on a seemingly small and inconsequential moment. Everything else around it falls away… And you just know that this is something worth exploring.

 

This, a diamond in the rough.

 

When that kind of light shines in your life, the reason you tend to drop everything else is that what you’re looking at isn’t just an opportunity; it’s something more.

It’s food for your soul. In a world where we’ve been starving our spirit for lack of genuine sustenance, these moments and opportunities strike a stark contrast.

And we have to re-learn what we so often forget; that the soul will not be dissuaded.

Despite that fact, sometimes we fight the idea. We shy away. It’s too brilliant, it’s too bright; it could burn us or illuminate all of our own shortcomings. It will be too much work and presents a slippery a slope.

It could be our downfall.

It’s the sun and we, Icarus.

T’was ambition that killed Caesar… and all that jazz.

 

 

But what if this light is something so much bigger than you and your human fears of failure? And what if it’s not just an opportunity for you but for a better world, a small piece at a time? What if it’s a hand to someone who’s been too long forgotten. What if this dangerous journey, hard-pressed and gritty, means more than just your own happiness?

What if it’s a chance to use your voice to change the world?

 

Well then, you chase that light. You open that goddamn door.

 

You don’t hesitate, you don’t reconsider. You fling it open and feed your soul.

 

Times in this country are pretty fucking dark. I’m not even kidding, ya’ll.

We’re spiraling down the bowl of a very large toilet. Hate, hurt, injustice, anger, suicide, depression, gloom…it’s all a shadowy mass, constantly pressing in.

I’m asking…nay, tell you—chase the light. Find a way to be of some use…not for the perpetuation of hate and hurt but for the healing of our country, our world, and our place in history.

How do you want your grandchildren…your great grandchildren to remember your actions in this time? Will they remember your hatred? Will they look back to see disgusting and disrespectful behavior towards your fellow human beings?

 

If that’s your idea of legacy, you can go kick rocks, kid…I don’t want your kind in my playground.

 

It is no longer enough to sit idly by and just do no harm. It is time to actively participate in doing good. In lifting the downtrodden, and striking out against those who keep us all underfoot.

 

So go out there, find your brilliant light, your opportunity to make a difference, and throw yourself into the fire of it. Feed your soul.

Can I Get a Prompt?

Pssst….

Hey there kid, want to do something different?

Well, if you read this blog I’m willing to bet that part of your time is spent on creative endeavors of some kind. And I thought it might be a good time to remind you about improvisation exercises as a healthy and fun part of your writing routine.

Whether you are a novelist, a poet, a technical writer, historical non-fiction guru or children’s phenom, everyone’s creativity waxes and wanes with the progression of our career and lives. It is, therefore, important that we spend some time practicing in different ways to jog the old idea factory into an efficient, work-producing machine.

This particular exercise is about improvising (on the fly you might say) with one sentence prompts. You may have had to do this at conferences or class and present your material after the allotted time. As an introvert it might have be akin to a claustrophobic getting stuck in the kiddie tube slide at the park (Breath, Sarah…breath…just keep squirming.)

So, in defense of all of those out there not wanting to share their words yet but in need of something that boosts their creativity, I’m going to give you some pointers on prompts and let you go to proverbial town on them.

The important things to remember with these kinds of exercises are:

  1. DO NOT (repeated it after me) DO NOT, censor yourself or edit. Let yourself run with the idea, no matter how stupid or silly.
  2. Stay true to the character you’re given to work with or the situation, this is not about what you’d do, it’s about what they do. And they’re crazy bastards. So let their freak flag fly.
  3. The funnier the better. The sadder the better. The more horrific, the better. Improvisation should be a lot of things but none of those is BORING. Make it snappy, or if it must be reserved, do it to build tension for a whiz bang ending.
  4. Emotion is important. The only time to pause in writing for a prompt is to ask yourself, what’s the most intense thing this person feels in this moment and how does that look on the outside. How do I make my reader jump into the character’s skin and feel that intensity?
  5. Challenge yourself with prompts that may not seem interesting or your ‘type’ of writing. You will surprise yourself at what comes out from behind those locked doors.

 

I’m going to give you three prompts. I could give you a length requirement, but we’re not middle schoolers here (though my humor sometimes digresses to such a level). Get dark, get dirty, get freaky, get sweet. Make it something that shocks you. Share it in the comments if you want to or in a private message to me.

At the end of this article I’ll link some really amazing references for doing more of these kinds of exercises on your own. If you are gripping your computer screen, shouting at me with spittle flying, that you “DON’T HAVE THAT KIND OF TIME!!” calm your tits…this will take five minutes tops. You can do it while you wait at the doctor’s office for your appointment for excessive salivation. You can do it in the car while you wait for your kids to get out of school. You can do it over your first cup of coffee…

Think of it as the second-most-fun form of “quickie” you get in life.

(Come on…I warned you about the seventh-grade humor, don’t look shocked.)

Ok…. Here’s your prompts. Pick one, or two, or make it a trifecta. In a perfect world, quickies are not limited. (And, yes, I mean that in all the ways)

  1. A rancher comes across a mutilated cow in her field, and all of the organs have been replaced by…
  2. A man is dared by his friends to ask the next woman who walks through the bar’s door to marry him. The next woman who walks through the door is…
  3. A child finds an ordinary rock on the playground that begins to make his wishes, big and small, come true. He brings it home and his mom finds it in the wash and puts it in her pocket without thinking…

 

Go play.

Here’s some books you should read or apps (for you tech savvy geniuses) you can download to help bring a little fun and playfulness to your art.

 

“A Writer’s Book of Days” by Judy Reeves

“Pocket Muse” (1 and 2) by Monica Wood

“The Daily Poet: Day-By-Day Prompts for Your Writing Practice” Kelli Russell Agodon

Apps:

Prompts for Writing

The Brainstormer

WordPallette

 

 

Writer vs. Idioms

 

Biting the Dust and Chewing the Fat: A Word About Idioms

 

My daughter is learning about idioms in school. With new eyes on them, these expressions and figures of speech can range from all-out ridiculous to so over used that we barely notice them. Keep your eyes open, I’m about to idiom all over this place.

 

The conversation with my daughter got the ball rolling in my head, thinking about the idioms that pepper my own work. Writing coaches and how-to books tell you constantly to watch out for these little story killers, and with good reason. They dull your dialogues. They’re cliche, they’re drab, and boring and are the written word equivalent to a speaker saying ‘um’ and ‘uh’. Idioms are skipped over by the reader’s eye because they are so common as fixtures of language and culture. In other words, they’re time and space wasters.

bath-splashing-ducks-joy-162587.jpeg
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Now, I don’t want to steal someone’s thunder or throw the baby out with the bathwater because sometimes idioms can be useful. Occasionally a specific phrase used in dialogue can denote or solidify where your character comes from or give us insight into their personality.

 

Saying ‘that dog won’t hunt’ or that someone ‘doesn’t know shit from Shinola’ (oh, and ‘please excuse my French’) are phrases one expects from a certain region or even generation. But unless it is something your character is at home saying, or that paints them in more vibrant colors to the reader, avoid them like the plague. After all, do we really need to swing a cat in a room to see if it’s big enough to do so?

 

It’s hard to cull the herd of idioms in our language; to make our work more precise and original, but it is part of fighting the good fight. When editing, ask yourself if the line has a double meaning. Ask if it’s the best possible way to say what you mean. If it’s an obvious idiom, what could you use instead? Does it contribute to the scene and charm of the moment, or distract from it?

 

So don’t beat around the bush or cry over spilt milk. When the ball is in your court and you’re back to the drawing board, remember; although idioms can be a cloud with a rare silver lining, it is always better to hit the nail on the head and kick overused phrases to the curb.

 

Now, if I can get the use of the Oxford comma right and stop double spacing after periods, I may just level the playing field.

 

If it’s not one thing…it’s another.

 

What are some of your common (or favorite) over-used expressions?

 

VerseDay 12-27-18

For the last VerseDay of 2018 I wanted to give you something amazing and powerful. Alas, this is what you get instead. (Well? Laugh!)

 

Next week, dawning the New Year, I will once again be promoting my submissions to VerseDay for the anthology out next fall. If you want to see your poem in print, please feel free to email or contact me with your poetry and/or essays.

 

And now…the final poem of 2018’s VerseDay adventure…

 

Honey Bee

 

Sometimes,

I miss you.

Miss the sound of your voice,

And the slight buzz 

Dripping Carolina, Honey

 

sweet.

 

I miss your fire,

the uplifting energy; an element so unconfined

The rushing ideas,

The rebellious feeling and defiant

 

heart.

 

I miss you, and your hover,

The way you called my flower the sweetest,

The only, under this sun,

You’ve ever loved, and danced so delicately across my

 

petals.

 

I don’t miss the way

Your deluge engulfed me,

Suffocated and overran in conversation,

The sting of barrage, welting my heart over and over again

And feeling that I was never quite important enough

To stop and take a

 

breath.

 

I don’t miss the pain,

Of the aching guilt you pierced me with,

The weight of what I should be,

What you wanted me to be,

The ideal you set

A high ivory honeycomb of complex,

 

deception.

 

Life does this.

It educates us.

Sometimes in human form,

and one sweetly hovering honeybee

Hard and hurtful once lured by the beguiling warmth

We must choose the limb to chew off to spare our

 

freedom.

 

You were my lesson

To enjoy the drawl but not submit to the voice

To know the sweetness of honey, without succumbing to its

 

taste.

 

To stoke my own energy,

To comprehend that I don’t need yours.

Orbiting in the clouds of your unfathomable passion taught me

To look for the fire in

 

Myself.

 

The Human Genre

 

We’re not only defined by what we chose to do in our lives, but how we do it. We are categorized by outward and inward perceptions, each of us, akin to novels, and are thusly classified into genres.

 

Ah, she’s a romantic mystery with a dash of humor.

That guy over there is a political intrigue, with a splash of old school patriarchy.

Ah, she’s a pushy self-help, peppered with self-righteousness and a healthy pinch of praise-Jesus.

That lady over there is a bitter cozy mystery with a hint of post-menopausal lack of fucks to give.

 

We are defined by the things we do. We’re put into categories by people we know, and by companies that gather our data. Even when we don’t ask for it, we’re given a neat little label. And sometimes, when we’re overloaded and overworked, we start using that label as our only sense of self, as we desperately try to remember our purpose… And sometimes, we use those labels as a scapegoat for our less-than-desirable behaviors.

 

I’ve been trying to meditate every day and have been working through a series on my app (yeah, look at me, getting all tech-savvy with an app to help me reconnect with my humanness…seems oxymoronic) about acceptance, depression, letting go, and stress management.

 

One recurring phrase I hear is: You are not your thoughts or your feelings.

 

This is a hard concept to grasp.

Humans are this odd mishmash of biology and higher neuronic thought processes. I mean on one of our great ape-grasping hands we’re barely getting used to this hairless bipedal thing, on the other hand we’re philosophical, heavy in the head, braining entities who, when left to our own devices will overthink ourselves into a coma.

Maybe there’s a fear that if we disconnect to our thoughts then we won’t know who we are.

Maybe we fear we’ll lose the basis of our existence if we let go of the ideas and feelings tethering us down.

 

But this is not so.

 

You see, thoughts and emotions change. All the time. And the reason humans become so miserable is that we tie ourselves to them, try to define ourselves by them. Then we are less apt to let them go, especially when they hold the addictive qualities of self-spiraling sadness and anger. We feel sad. We are sadness. We feel anger. We’re angry humans.

Conversely, when we are happy or elated and the emotion passes, as it will with the natural ebb and flow of life, we cling to it desperately and feel like something’s gone wrong when its tying us down.

Should we let go of happiness. No. Should we reject sadness and admonish ourselves for anger? Absolutely not. Be in the moment, with the emotion, understand it is a feeling, acknowledge it and let it go. You’re all that’s left.

 

Just as we aren’t tied to labels; we are not one genre, we are all genres.

 

Why is it important that we understand this?

 

Two reasons:

 

If we are boxed in to what the world has categorized us as, to our labels, we won’t know we can change. We become stagnant and perpetuate behaviors that are detrimental to our happiness and the benefit of humanity.

 

Secondly: We will feel trapped. And trapped animals lose the will to live. Without will, without passion, we cannot create, we cannot solve, we cannot continue to thrive in the world.

 

So how do we escape?

 

Here’s the dirty little secret:

 

I’m not entirely sure.

 

I think it has something to do with opening your mind to new ideas, allowing yourself to be different, to change the things about your life you don’t want to be a part of anymore, without guilt or self blame, and to let go of the idea that you are the personification of your thoughts and feelings.

 

You can be anything. Or just some things.

 

Or nothing at all.

 

Cross genres. Explore. Maintain your free will. While those that seek to control will tell you, free will is our greatest vice as human beings, that it causes us to make decisions that don’t align with status-quo, religious concepts, or dictator-imposed law and thus brings about the downfall of society, this is not the case.

 

There’s a reason the Dark Ages happened.

 

Free will, your ability to change, to move, to think differently are vital to not just survival but your purpose in life.

 

So what genre are you today?

 

Distance

Distance. One word with a myriad of attached ideas. The space between two points, the play between perspectives, and how it can shift the way we see the world.

As a mom, wife, friend, co-worker, volunteer, writer, runner, kenpoist and all the other shit I personify in life, I get really bogged down in how the world sees me.

We all have responsibilities and I know that I talk about this a lot. But I think that part of the beauty of being human is trying to find a balance between what we have to do and what we want to do in terms of how we create artistically.

It’s generally agreed upon that the have-to’s rarely help out the want to’s. That is, when we are so embroiled in buying groceries and appeasing children, and working the hours, and mopping the floors, we have very little left of brain and body to contribute to our art.

wood fire hot glow
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Maybe some people don’t have this problem and the fire in their core burns bright enough to fuel all of their endeavors whether they are necessary or casual.

But I ain’t one of those people.

In our world today we’re seeing a startling trend of human beings snapping.

 

I think it’s the fast pace. I think it’s the constant technological interconnection and human disconnection. I think it’s the noise that barrages us, nonstop. I think it’s the expectations, and the anger, the powerlessness that often comes when we realize how fragile we are and how big the world’s problems can seem when they’re looming over our heads.

All. The. Time.

No wonder we medicate. No wonder we drink. No wonder we take out our aggression on innocent bystanders and make scapegoats out of whatever group we think could be the root of suffering.

It isn’t right, it isn’t just. But our poor little lizard brains can’t contemplate or find order under such constant distress. Most of us, aren’t self-aware enough to stop and gain perspective on it all.

 

And that brings me back to distance.

 

Distance and perspective are fraternal twins. Borne of the same womb but different in their nature. We need one to have the other. Both are vitally important to our survival as a species.

 

Distance as an artist can be hard to gain. It means dropping the roles we are pegged into, permanently or at least temporarily, in order to have hour proverbial hands free to create, to problem solve, and to ease the process of gaining proper perspective that will, eventually lead to healthier choices, lifestyles and hopefully communities at large.

 

So stop. For a day. For a week. Hell, for an hour. Disconnect.

woman looking at sunset
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Leave behind the have to’s and make it okay for yourself to let go.

Let your overactive, overachieving brain know that this is the time to not.

To not think too much, to not make lists or plans or organize the day. Let your brain know that there’s no shame in stillness. In staring out the window at the snow, or sleeping in. Or writing just to write, and not feeling obligated to anything else. To paint without interruption unless you feel like getting out for a walk.

How many of us have ever let our bodies and brains do just what they wanted, just when they wanted?

Not many. We always have too much shit to do.

So drop the shit. Let it go.

Be okay with just being.

 

You’d be surprised the calm that will find you. And a calm mind is a happy mind.

A creative mind

A forgiving mind.

An open and accepting mind.

It can become all of the things our world needs.

 

So go find some distance. Get out of town, get out of your cubicle, get out of your head.

 

So you can get back into your soul.