Inspiration in the New Year: Simplicity

Now that the holidays are (finally) over, we writers can get back to work (or at least I can, since I seem to have taken too long a holiday from it). As a result of busily working two jobs for the last several months, my writing outside of this blog has all but disappeared and I madly desire to get back on track. My imagination craves an outlet for the myriad scenarios running amok in my mind. But first I need to whittle it all down to a doable list of projects.

That new nutrition book, for example; you know, the one with the first few chapters already completed? Probably going to make its way to the Recycle Bin on my laptop; it was one of the works I referenced in Lay Your Past to Rest. I’ve decided there are already some excellent books out on that very topic, so why try to compete with them? They’re written by successful colleagues with more than twenty-five years of practice under each of their belts (I have less than twelve). What could I possibly say that they haven’t? What would you do?

I’m even re-vamping my workshop. I decided a fresh approach is needed to draw more people in for the all-day class. What’s my inspiration? Boredom, mostly, with the “same-old, same-old”. Time to breathe new life into a stagnant one. Throw out the old, bring in the new, right?

Has your writing become a bit stale as of late? With a whole new year upon us, perhaps it’s time to take a writing inventory to decide what’s still working and what’s not. I like writing nonfiction, but I realized I prefer fiction – more freedom of expression, which to me, is far better (and more fun).

“When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.” ~ Confucius

Where to find inspiration for our writing this new year? With a new presidency almost upon us, I feel we will not be lacking for parody material…it’s as if the situation demands it. There’s a lot going on out there in our big world. How can we be heard? How can we stand out? As always, we must create in a way that is best for each of us, not in a way that someone else thinks is right. Which is why I’m cutting back on following various groups on LinkedIn (and other sites) – it’s information overload. In this new year I wish to simplify my life a bit more. Avoiding frivolous junk news will surely increase the amount (and quality) of work I produce, simply because there will be less interference from trivial events that have no bearing on my life.

Perhaps in this new year we writers can decide to live more simply to create more fully. With less interruptions, we can better focus on what’s important: telling our stories.

“Writing is an escape from a world that crowds me. I like being alone in a room. It’s almost a form of meditation- an investigation of my own life. It has nothing to do with – I’ve got to get another play.” ~ Neil Simon

Paint a Picture: Our Words As Our Brushes

As writers, we are artists whose canvass is the mind of the reader; our brushes are the words we use to create the story. Some paint a broad picture while others paint a smaller, more narrow picture. I prefer to read stories with some (but not too much) well-placed descriptives (adjectives and other modifiers), as they lead me through a maze of landscapes, cityscapes, and textures I knew not of, with characters carved as from real life.

Has writing fiction nowadays changed the way we paint our broad brushes? The evolution of language has certainly modified our written expression to a great extent, especially in the last two centuries. What if someone wrote in the frenetic way Van Gogh painted?  What if someone wrote as Pablo Picasso painted during his Cubist period, or his Blue period, or during his early years when his work was more realistic? An interesting thought to ponder, comparing their art to ours.

One shining example of just-the-right-amount of descriptive words (in my opinion, anyway) is the book The Long Knives are Crying, by Joseph Marshall III. As a result of his writing savvy and storytelling prowess, he paints a broad but exceptionally detailed picture of life on the Plains in the late 18th century, during a time of war and strife between Lakota and the U.S. government. Throughout the whole book, I was carried along by his choice of descriptive words. I swear I can find my way across that part of the country based solely on his knack for painting a picture of the landscape down to the tiniest detail:

“High above the frozen river, the Lakota sentry hidden inside a tangle of deadfall gazed intently at the horse and rider below him on a wide plateau. His expression changed little as he noted that the buckskin horse was following the game trail along the north bank of the meandering ribbon of snow-covered ice, moving in a westerly direction.”

The following is a portion of a bad example of descriptive writing I found online; it’s too long and wordy for this blog, so I’ll share only a portion:

“Chocolate. Three different types and three different distinct flavors, each of which  has its own unique benefits. Because, you know, chocolate is sooooo healthy. It has no sugar in it whatsoever, and has tons of vitamins and minerals (she wrote sarcastically) Chocolate may not have health benefits, but its unique and rich flavor has been influencing human actions since the time of the Aztecs,  who used cocoa beans. Historians estimate that chocolate has been consumed for OVER 2000 years!!! That means that chocolate has been around since the fall of the Egyptian empire. When most people think chocolate, they think of a yummy delicious substance that can be eaten, but what about a substance that people can drink? Not hot chocolate, but actual normal chocolate that you can drink?” (source: https://sites.google.com/a/g.coppellisd.com/expository-writing–carrie-erin-katie-aparna-stephanie/descriptive/bad-examples)

I love to learn how to better include descriptive words in my own writing by reading other shining examples. With the explosion of self-publishing sites, many more writers are taking a turn at telling their stories. But are they of good quality? Do they dare to take us for that imaginative ride so many crave from good fiction? I dare say, with the Digital Age upon us, I am concerned that our ability to express ourselves with language will continue to devolve, as our dependence on computers that think for us grows. Bad grammar abounds and I find myself craving the classics, for the likes of Rudyard Kipling, Jack London, and Robert Luis Stevenson. They were writers that painted with their words as beautifully as any Picasso or Van Gogh painting.

 

The Christmas Card List

I’ve had this poem on my laptop(s) for years. I can’t remember where I found it or even who wrote it, but it’s my favorite  way to tell family and friends what they mean to me. My apology to the author for not properly crediting him/her. If anyone knows who wrote this, please let me know. In the meantime, feel free to share this with your family and friends. I like to print it out on slips of paper and tuck it into Xmas cards. This year I simply emailed it to everyone to ensure timely receipt. (I love to send cards as they’re more personal, but the past several months have been a difficult time for me and I wanted to make sure I didn’t forget anyone.)

the-christmas-card-list

Merry Wishes for a Bright and Loving Holiday Season

mistletoe

Lay Your Past to Rest

I’m a Tarot fan and I check my reading daily. Today I got the Judgment card. With Fire as its ruling element, Judgement is about rebirth and resurrection, and laying the past to rest. It got me thinking, as cards like this usually do. Along with the usual emotional basement of hidden/repressed childhood experiences I’ve yet to resolve, I find myself pondering the mystery of my unfinished works: a sequel novel (to Rescue on White Thunder), a coffee table blend of family tree/cookbook, a separate adventure novel, another nutrition book, and some miscellaneous works. Should I finish them or move on? There seem to be many starts but few completions. I desire to finish them but I don’t. Do you have the same experience? What would you do in this situation?

I particularly liked this part of the reading:

“There is no way to leave the past behind. Each step wears down the shoe just a bit, and so shapes the next step you take, and the next and the next. Your past is always under your feet. You cannot hide from it, run from it, or rid yourself of it. But you can call it up, and come to terms with it. Are you willing to do that?”

So each book I write shapes the next book I write? I suppose I could apply it that way. I’ve ignored my writing for some time now; working two jobs leaves little time or energy for tapping the imagination or doing the nonfiction research. But this message is more about making the conscious decision, and having the courage, to let go of whatever is not working. And that includes any unfinished writing. Perhaps unfinished work is meant to be an exercise, a way to stretch my mind and sharpen my writing skills. Perhaps it’s a way to find my voice, a way to come to terms with who I am as a writer and storyteller. Am I willing to let go? Only time will tell.

In the end, it will be best to lay some of it to rest, and focus on what is most likely to flourish (and allow me to grow as a writer). I wish the same for you.

Happy Holidays

 mistletoe

 

 

Writing with Purpose

Yesterday I posted a link to a well-written article on the Dakota Pipeline project and its effect on Native peoples of that region. While it is not my intention to politicize my blog, I deemed this article, written by an intelligent and compassionate woman, an important read.

As writers, we cannot shy away from the dirty or difficult issues in our nonfiction work or occasionally in our blogs. Important issues, however difficult or delicate, must be discussed. It is, in my opinion as a writer, our duty to use our words and to string them together in a way that educates, enlivens, and fills those who read our blogs/books/articles with a sense of purpose and to motivate. And as a Native person, I simply CANNOT ignore this subject and therefore I must write this post with a sense of purpose.

This pipeline is a major issue that will affect far more people (and animals and nature in general) than Native peoples. A friend of mine from here in NorCal left for the Dakotas with his wife several days ago. They’re bringing clothing donations directly to the people on the front lines. With everything that’s happened thus far – hosing innocent protesters with icy water in already freezing temperatures, for example – I am concerned about their safety (and the safety of all those brave warriors on the front lines there). Is this going to be a repeat of what happened in Pine Ridge in the early 70s, leaving an innocent man (Leonard Peltier) to rot in jail for the rest of his life because of a clash of cultures? I fear we may, as a nation, walk that ugly path again but I hope not. I hope many of us have learned from that debacle and history, in this case, will not repeat itself.

We as writers are obligated to write our stories with purpose, even if they offend some folks (hey, we can’t please everyone, right?). We are obligated to be truthful and use integrity as a tool, not a weapon.

For those of you who might be interested in helping the warriors on the front lines in some way, here are a few web links:

  1. http://sacredstonecamp.org/
  2. https://nodaplsolidarity.org/
  3. https://www.gofundme.com/sacredstonecamp
  4. http://standingrock.org/
  5. http://www.nodapl.life/

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We Are All Related)

A Writer’s Legacy in a Digital World

I’m not trying to be morose but something has been nagging at me for some time now, and it’s important to discuss with all of you. I’ve been wondering what to do with my intellectual property (as well as my material property) once I’ve walked on from this life (or become incapacitated in some way). Perhaps some of you have pondered this as well if, like me, you’re in the second half of life. I perused a few articles and even asked an acquaintance, who happens to be a lawyer, about this issue. He mentioned that since this is such a new situation, it has presented some difficulties and obstacles when drawing up the paperwork for a client’s estate: Will, Power of Attorney, Health Proxy, Advanced Directive, etc. Did you know that most Americans don’t even have a Will? They figure the family will somehow work it all out. Believe me, they couldn’t be more WRONG. (I would’ve had a nightmare situation with my family if I hadn’t taken my mother to an attorney to complete all the paperwork years before her death.)

Attorneys refer to these as your Digital Assets (DA). Do you trust someone enough to have access when you’re unable or gone? Need to think about this one, because not everyone’s as trustworthy as one might think, especially if money or personal information is involved. First step is to take an inventory of your DA:

  • Do you have a Paypal or any account that has monetary value? Who will have access in case you’re incapacitated? Or worse, if you die? What happens to the money? Who benefits?
  • What about email accounts (personal and/or business), blogs, and podcasts? Personal and business websites? Do you want them up and running for people to read your when-you-were-a-breathing-starving-artist work?
  • Do you keep a list of logins and passwords to all the accounts you use? I do, and I update it regularly. But I abbreviate the logins so no one else will figure them out if they get their hands on the list. I also keep an updated copy in one of those many cloud accounts in case something happens to my computer. The list is getting longer, though, since one can’t shop on sites as a guest anymore. I just cleaned out my list and it’s still a full page of two columns (it had been two pages)! 
  • What electronic devices do you own that need a password for access? Do you have a laptop, smartphone, tablet, DVR/Tivo, or a home burglary system?
  • Do you bank online? What about mortgage payments, investment banking, utilities, or airline memberships?
  • Do you have any online accounts like Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube? Any accounts to e-commerce sites (Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, Ebay, etc.)? You also need to check the policies of these companies regarding access by another person – which is why you will need to legally designate someone  if you want that person to clean up your online mess.
  • How much of your writing is unfinished? Do you want someone else to finish it? Or would you prefer your Executor/Executrix just heave every incomplete project, every potential novel/poetry book/best-selling short story into a shredder (digital or physical)? What will you do with the work you have completed? Published? Who gets the royalties? It’s a bit mind-boggling to think about it. But you MUST think about it – and DECIDE.
  • What about cleaning up your personal information collected by those data-mining companies? If you think it won’t matter once you’re gone, you’re wrong. Someone could use your identity and then perhaps gain access to your DA and online life – and then your hard-earned money.

Whew. This is not an exhaustive list but it will hopefully get many of you thinking more about your DA and how to protect it (in perpetuity) or do away with it. It’s a sobering experience to think of your life in these terms, but in the long run you’re doing your family or loved ones a favor by setting it down on paper. If you’re not sure you can trust someone to take care of everything, why not designate your attorney? They’re legally bound to follow the client’s directives, so your DA would be protected or disposed of according to the terms of your Will.

I’m planning to do this; at least then I’ll have some peace of mind about what happens to my work when I’m gone. Perhaps I’ll set up some sort of trust so that revenues (royalties) from my books will be donated to nonprofit organizations of my choosing. That will be my legacy.

What will your legacy be?

estate-planning2

A Story of Obstacles and Desires

Some time ago I saw a cartoon of a dog straining at its leash, barking ferociously at a cat, as if to say, “Just lemme at ’em.” The cat wasn’t too shabby – actually looked mean – and was at least as big as the dog. All of a sudden in the middle of a ferocious bark, the leash snapped so the dog was free to go after the cat. He looked astonished. Scared to death. He quickly grabbed the leash, ran back and tied a triple knot. Then, he could again safely strain at the leash and bark his fiery, “Just lemme at ’em.”

Every story of an obstacle has a shadow story of desire. The obstacle contains yet conceals the desire. What you seek is camouflaged in what you fear.

The secret hiding in the open is that an obstacle is the unconscious mnemonic of desire – it reminds you of what you want, but makes it safe to want if you’re afraid.

When viewing a scene in a film you don’t want to see, you cover your face with your hands as if to say, “No, I don’t want to look.” But then the desire creeps in and you peek through your fingers at what you’re drawn to see. The obstacle makes looking acceptable.

Sometimes we need an obstacle to free a desire. When the obstacle is unpacked, the forbidden desire also emerges. When Pandora’s box was opened, all of the evils were released into the world. Remember the last thing to emerge? It was hope.

Pay attention to the obstacles that you construct, especially to your vocabulary of impediments. Worry simply holds onto things, as a form of storage.

When you find yourself focusing on an obstacle (“I can’t find time to exercise”, “I can’t put away any savings”), reflect on the underlying desire. When you’re ready to consider that you create the obstacle, you’re also ready to consider the possibility of not creating it.

Imagine what it would be like to not create your obstacles.

Dr. David Krueger, M.D. is Dean of Curriculum at Coach Training Alliance, CEO of MentorPath, and author of The Secret Language of Money (McGraw Hill), a Business Bestseller translated into 10 languages.

The Story of Three Needles

This is a true story – because it’s my story, told in my first book, A Bump in the Road (Chapter 5, now retired). I just wanted to share something uplifting today, considering the election results.

Dr. Aaron Chen was a small-built man in his forties with boyish features, short jet black hair, and wore eyeglasses reminiscent of John Lennon. His smile was genuine and wide as he extended his hand to me. I liked him immediately. I felt renewed just being in his presence. A positive connection like that is vital to the patient’s healing process, I quickly realized.

He led me from the reception area to a room decorated with antique Asian décor; the scent of sandalwood swirled about the room. In the far right corner sat two camelback chairs upholstered in a bold, China red silk fabric embossed with gold Chinese characters. A simple wooden table placed between them held little clutter: a metallic miniature desk lamp, a small red statue of Buddha, and a jade green Chinese tea cup containing several pens. On the opposite wall stood a handsomely carved mahogany bookcase crammed with textbooks and other academic works. Some of the books were at least three inches thick and I wondered if he’d read their contents. Most likely. Okay, I’m impressed, I thought. The area rug covering the polished wood floor was noticeably Persian; its earthy tones complemented the bolder colors of the furniture. Placed on top of that striking rug, in the center, was the treatment table. Light in the room glowed softly from a torchier lamp in the corner behind one of the chairs.

Dr. Chen invited me to sit in one of the gorgeous silk chairs, he sat in the other. In his hands was a file folder, presumably mine, and he pulled out a form on which he began writing my personal information – name, age, main complaint, etc. He questioned me for almost forty-five minutes. Some of the questions seemed a bit odd to me: describe the color, consistency, and frequency of my urine and stools, for example. I’d answered his questions as best I could and hoped he would be able to make sense of the information I’d provided. He checked my pulses and asked me to stick out my tongue, then wrote again on the form. He was a kind and caring man; I knew that from the start. Having explained my financial situation on the phone earlier, he had agreed to charge me a reduced fee – he was more concerned with treating my urgent health issues. Then Dr. Chen requested I change into the dressing gown on the table and he departed the room, allowing me privacy.

I suffered from bouts of vertigo, nausea and vomiting in addition to the hand pains and heart palpitations. When Dr. Chen returned, he asked if I was able to lie on my back. I said I was not. We compromised and I slowly reclined on to my left side. He delayed beginning the treatment until the dizzy spell had passed. Once settled, he began the process of inserting the acupuncture needles; he made it clear that I should not move at all once the needles were inserted. I nodded in acknowledgement.

Here’s the really amazing part: because I couldn’t lie on my back for a full treatment, he used only THREE needles to address my symptoms. That’s right, three needles. With the needles in, he began acupressure on other areas of my body to help reduce my overall anxiety – it was calming, to say the least. Twenty-five minutes later the needles were removed and I sat up slowly, fearful the dizziness would rise up, make the room spin and knock me off balance. It didn’t happen. As a matter of fact, the vertigo was gone. So was the nausea (and therefore, the vomiting). I was dumbfounded. Walking into walls and vomiting in the car disappeared like they had never existed. Now I could focus on getting rid of the insomnia, those damned palpitations, and the hand pains. I was thrilled that I’d made the right choice.

I hopped down the stairs of Dr. Chen’s office with a spring in my step I hadn’t had in…well, it had been so long I couldn’t remember when…carrying an appointment card confirming my next visit. I drove home with all the windows down, letting in the fresh breeze of a summer’s day and letting out all my cares, eager for my next visit with Dr. Chen. I wondered what other miracles he might accomplish.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.

 

Reign in Presidential Hegemony with the Write Words

A short note:

A precarious election looms. One candidate is a misogynistic, chauvinistic, greedy corporate scallywag; the other is a power-hungry, temperamental, maligning bully with many dark secrets. Neither truly has our best interests at heart. As writers, we MUST utilize the First Amendment and use the power of our WORDS to protect our tenuous rights (first obliterated by the idiot Bush Jr., when free association embodied terrorism to him and his cronies). While they speak of fixing what is wrong with our country, neither of these presidential candidates will walk the talk.

As usual.

Vote your conscience today. VOICE your opinion, as is your CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT.

Writers: Do You Podcast?

Are you a writer? Do you podcast? Have you been considering doing a podcast? Have you considered doing a podcast on your writing? I could go on with these questions. For some time now, I’ve been considering doing a podcast. But every time I look into it, I become overwhelmed by all the technical aspects (due to the fact that I’m NOT the least bit tech-savvy). The whole process of putting together (producing) a podcast, uploading the podcast to a hosting site, making it available to Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), learning Audacity or Garageband (Macs only)…gives me the willies. I’ve been told more than once I should be speaking to audiences and I admit I feel very comfortable talking into a mic (I’ve recorded before). But the thought of me having to do ALL of it without a producer or at least a friend with some broadcasting know-how seems a hurdle too huge to jump at the moment. But the urge grows within me.

Currently, an average of 1 BILLION (that’s right) people listen to podcasts, and roughly 47% of Americans listen to radio, according to Edison Research and Triton Digital statistics. Think about it; we have the whole world at our disposal if we can find the right stories to tell, find the right niche to fill. That’s the tricky part, I imagine. With millions already podcasting out there (and the numbers grow each year), how to not be the veritable needle in the haystack with your message? I suppose it all goes back to the same process we go through with our writing and the marketing of our books/work.

So I Googled podcasting sites and a here’s a short list of some good ones: Podbean, Libsyn (I personally like this one), Buzzsprout (like this one, too), Podomatic, Sound Cloud, Conclusion, and Archive.Org. Podbean wants $200 per month to let you monetize your podcast (in other words, ask for a ‘donation’ so you can afford to keep producing shows); that seems a bit steep for my taste so I’m looking elsewhere for an affordable option.

Buzzsprout has a page, How to Make a Podcast, where they literally walk you through every step of putting together a podcast and it’s jam-packed with good information. For writers unsure of which topics to cover in their podcasts, here are two of several suggestions from the same page:

  • Repurpose Your Blog Content Are you a blogger? Finding a great podcast ideas is as close as your blog. Take your readers’ favorite posts, add extra content, and *presto* it’s a podcast. Bonus: you’ve already tested this content and know it matches your demographic’s interests.

  • Recreate Popular Content With Your Spin Even if you don’t have a blog, you can use a similar strategy. What is your target audience reading and listening to? Improve it! See lots of complaints on popular posts? Create a podcast that provides the missing pieces.

This is the year I think I will make the leap from writing blogs on writing (and other topics) to recording podcasts discussing a variety of topics (social, environmental, and economic issues) that will hopefully cause folks to think more critically. I miss dialectic and want to create a podcast where I invite intelligent discussion, discourse, and argument. And in the process, perhaps, create a small revolution (change) in the way we perceive this world and our places in it. 

Remember:

“Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius. And it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”

Unknown

A Writing Life (on the road)

I’ll be honest – I like to go back and re-read my musings once I’ve posted them here on my blog. Sometimes they joggle my memory of past adventures or give me an idea for a blog post about new adventures. The most recent, The Write to Roam, struck me differently after about the third read. I realized I already know how to ‘live’ on the road, in a sense. Over the last eleven years (beginning in Aug 2005) I’ve crisscrossed the U.S. four times, in the form of moving to new places, seeking new adventures, all while honing my writing skills. Whether in a U-Haul truck or my own vehicle, I ventured out beyond whatever borders encased my life at the time. Four cross-country trips later (not including mini-excursions to neighboring states), I find myself once again feeling the call of the road. Only it’s different now because I want to actually LIVE on the road, in a 30-40 ft RV, and to focus more on my writing, both fiction and nonfiction. And I want to tell stories. After all, isn’t that why most of us writers write to begin with, to tell others’ stories?

Pictures speak a thousand words, it has been said. In the case of my picture-taking while on road trips, I’ve written a novel equivalent to War and Peace. I have either lived in (bold) or traveled through these states: MA, CT, VT, ME, NH, RI (New England), NY, NJ, OH, VA, WV, MD, DC, PA, DE, FL, TN, IN, IL, AK, GA, MN, TX, OK, MO, KS, CO, NM, AZ, UT, ID, OR, WA, CA. Whew. Only 16 states left to discover or pass through on my way to somewhere else.

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Windsor, CA
Windsor, CA 2014

arkansas-rest-area

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There’s a whole big, beautiful continent waiting out there for those of us who dare to have both a writing life and a roaming life. Somewhere in between the corporate greed, political cronyism, the struggle to maintain our constitutional rights, environmental issues, human rights issues, etc., there are stories to be found in the lives of regular people. I think their stories are far more interesting and relevant than, say, the plethora of empty-headed narcissists parading around on those so-called reality shows (talk about needing to get a life). It’s their stories that bind us together as a nation, a community, and a people/species. And it’s those stories I might like to tell. They’re the ones worth reading, in my opinion (and I’m an expert on that).

 

 

The Write to Roam

I want to learn more about how to live life on the road and write while I’m on it. I want to upgrade my car to an RV. That way wherever I roam, I’m already home. No more spending hard-earned money on a storage unit to keep my life in and no more wasting money on rent. Or trying to prove I’m a good person so some management company will rent an over-priced apartment to me; or a roommate who doesn’t fear I’ll sneak into her room late one night and stab her 150 times just for the helluva it.

(A quick aside: I firmly believe credit checks are a new form of discrimination against people  who have fallen on hard times – once known as the middle class – and are scrambling to work their way up from the pit of poverty they’ve fallen into thanks to greedy politicians and corporations determined to serve their own purposes over our needs.)

I’ve been thinking about doing this for some time, and recent events have perhaps emboldened me to JUST DO IT (or at least begin to plan for it).

I want to roam North America and meet people from all walks of life, which I’ve already done on four brazen cross-country trips as I moved to some new location, having become bored with the last one, because it became stale and uninteresting. I enjoyed meeting people for those brief moments, while they allowed me a glimpse into their storied lives.

One of my favorite memories came on my first cross-country trip (on the move from CT to NM on a semester break from graduate school): Charlie and his two friends (shame on me, I didn’t note all their names and have since forgotten) were riding their Harleys to the Sturgis bike rally in August of 2005. We met while staying at a small motel in Kanorado, a spit of a town on the border of Kansas and Colorado, hence the name. If memory serves me, we met while checking in at the front desk. We chatted while checking in and exchanged reasons for needing rooms. They were pleasant fellows and invited me to have breakfast with them the following morning after checkout, at a nearby diner. We had great conversation and I remember laughing most of the time. They hailed from Alabama and had a slight drawl in their speech. Charlie (the fellow on the furthest right in the photo on the left) was just a big teddy bear and he’s the one who made me laugh the most. This is what I remember of these guys and always will. Funny how people who barely touch your life can become some of the most memorable recollections. And now I get to write about them, weaving them into my life’s story.

I’ve been doing some research into starting a podcast as another MPC and it seems awfully techie to me at this point, which has a tendency to deflate my enthusiasm. There are excellent tips on the Smart Passive Income site by Pat Flynn and on some other sites I found. Hope to build it up to a point where I can actually provide for myself from it and give myself the gift of life on the road. Wouldn’t it be grand to podcast from every corner of North America!

A nomadic lifestyle, once the cornerstone of life on this continent (thanks to the many Indigenous peoples who have lived here for eons), has once again become popular. Somewhere in between being strangled by a 30-year mortgage (where the house owns you, not the other way around, as most people proclaim) and working in a square-peg-round-hole, soul-sucking J-O-B, many folks have felt the need to escape a life of conformity and embrace adventure into the unknown. Like Charles Kuralt and his always interesting On the Road series and travel books, I wish to embrace the freedom, challenge, and all the details of a life on the road – so I can have the write to roam.

The everyday kindness of the back roads more than makes up for the acts of greed in the headlines.

{Charles Kuralt}

It was so much fun to have the freedom to wander America, with no assignments. For 25 or 30 years I never had an assignment. These were all stories I wanted to do myself. 

Writing From the Heart

In recent posts I have alluded to a big change in my life coming this week. The time is nigh and I find myself in a quandary, which is why I’m late with my weekly post. Because I’m about to go through something that will (once again) turn my life upside-down for a bit (which could be good or bad, I just don’t know yet), I decided to share an excerpt of my personal memoir, written many years ago. It was written on the heels of both the 9/11 tragedy (I was working in NYC before, during, and after this life-altering day) and my mother’s death from cancer. The experience nearly wrenched my heart from me (emotionally and spiritually, anyway) and I find myself, once again, in a similar situation. The book, as it turns out, was a cathartic exercise for me, thus my title for this week’s post.

I would never accuse any writer of not writing from the heart; but I think the writing is different when the heart hurts in some way. Perhaps the catharsis of writing it down on paper helps. I’ve struggled with my writing this week (actually I’ve avoided it altogether). The words seem stuck in a nether world and I’m unable to retrieve them, as the pain is blocking my “juice,” which I wrote about in my last post.

Here it is then:

“As I move through writing about a difficult phase in my life, I spend a good amount of time thinking about universal energies. What lesson was I not learning that the universe brought me to the brink and forced me to look over the edge? I read a column in a local newspaper discussing this very subject. It seemed fitting because I’ve had a bit of writer’s block off and on lately. I believe there is no such thing as a coincidence. The universe has its own way of letting us in on the lesson/s to be learned in its own good time. One lesson I have learned: part of the reason I ended up losing so much was that the universal energies were telling me it was time to go, time to let go, and to rebuild, and move on, even though I felt I wasn’t ready. The universe, however, knew better. Fear keeps us in stagnant lives and relationships and we’re unwilling to move along even though we’ve done all we could with them. One way or another, the universe manages to bring us face to face with our issues and we are forced to work with them, whether we want to or not. If we put off dealing with our demons, they will only rear their ugly heads again in another situation farther down the road, in one possibly far worse than that which had been avoided out of fear of confrontation.  As it said in the column, “same lesson, different package.” I make a conscious effort to remember that I wasn’t being punished – though I certainly felt that way many times. Instead, I was freed from a life that was not working, not fulfilling my destiny, whatever that may be. It became time to explore the unknown, to step outside the box as it were, and to seek out new adventures and challenges.”

I really needed to read this again and I hope it helps you as well. 

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.

When I let go of what I have, I receive what I need.”

– the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu

 

Is No Pain Really No Gain?

I know artists are supposed to write/paint/create from their pain, but it never works for me. If anything, it makes my writing worse, downright pathetic. What sounds good or interesting or adventurous in my mind when I’m sad, depressed, or stressed never comes out good on paper. Do any of you have this experience or can you work/create from pain? Do you feel that personal pain gives your work a certain je ne sais quoi?

The other morning I daydreamed instead of getting up to start my day at the usual time. I ran a scenario through my mind in relation to both a book I’ve contemplated writing (international suspense) and some life-changing events currently making my life way more challenging than I’d like (or can handle). The dialogue was West Wing-esque, one-liner banter between me and a male protagonist who I turned into not much of a protagonist after all. When I did finally arise, I thought about putting it on paper later in the day (I like to write after dinner, as I am now), because it sounded like it would be a good alternate beginning to the suspense novel.

The words flowed from my fingers. I struggled with a bit of the dialogue, trying to remember exactly how I’d envisioned it earlier, to get the feel of the scene just right. I tried to seamlessly weave it into the suspense book as a prologue to what I’d already written. That didn’t work. So I thought I’d try it out as a separate chapter that would explain my how main character got dragged into the mess happening in the book. That didn’t work either. As I read and re-read the three or so paragraphs, the words seemed lifeless, dull, and inadequate. The main character (a facsimile of me) sounded even worse on paper than what had been in my mind that morning. She was supposed to be someone down on her luck who happens across this man and together they become involved in a tangled web of deceit complete with mobsters, money laundering, extortion, and murder. I thought if I used my personal angst as the main character’s, she would come off as brave and high-spirited, facing danger and uncertainty. Instead, she came off sounding sullen and sarcastic, and completely unlikable. Absolutely paltry. Even I don’t like her and I’m practically her!

 I haven’t deleted it (yet) but I have decided to stick with the original opening. Maybe I can work it in somewhere, maybe not. Maybe I’ll keep it for now, as a reminder of what not to write. Or to not write at all when I’m not in a good place. For me, no pain is definitely gain – it’s when I have the most “juice.” Seems I write best when I’m feeling on top of the world and nothing or no one can bring me down.