Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Award Time

I really didn't know what I wanted to write about this week, which is perhaps a reflection on all of the things I didn't want to blog about: my forays into house cleaning in preparation for company, my obsession with my snowman-themed Christmas tree, my flat out addiction to Christmas music, or how much I laugh at my border collie when he eats too much snow and gets brain freeze and whines. Thankfully, Caroline gave me the perfect topic for the day: an award.

The duties inherent in said award include sharing one fun fact about my childhood reading life and sharing five blogs to visit.

Okay, prepare yourself because my childhood reading fact is embarassing (not slightly). I loved the Black Stallion series by Walter Farley and could often be found reading them while seated on my imagined horse, complete with rope reins in case the chair/horse (yes, it had a self-made saddle on it) got too unruly. "Whoa, horsey," I uttered more often than I should admit. Thank goodness my parents didn't have a video camera, otherwise that clip would be airing on Youtube.

Five (Read as Two because I'm in a hurry) Blogs to Visit:

1. Kasie West cracks me up, and you've got to read her post lambasting the elbow.

2. Let's push Debbie Schubert to embrace Subliminal Mondays. (I'm treasurer of the peer-pressure campaign. We do need someone to make buttons and flyers.)

Quote for the Day

"Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow"

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I’ve Got a Question, and I’m Pretty Sure You Have the Answer

The time has come for me to make this announcement: I need some help. There is a decision I must make, and it got me wondering about how my fellow writers make the same decisions. I assume I am not the only one with a writing-related mission statement that includes working hard, getting an agent, an editor, a book deal, a publishing date, a successful debut, and the opportunity to work really hard on the next project. So, my mission statement is in place, but that still leaves me with a lot of grey area.

My question for you: How do you decide what project to work on next?

I would guess that I am anything but alone in having stories whispering to me while I listen to the radio, cook dinner, do the dishes, or while I’m sleeping. Which leaves me with many choices when it comes time to work on the next project. The decisions become even more unruly given my already full nursery of stories ready to become grown-up, edited, ready-to-take-on-the-world final drafts. Current tally: four first drafts, two new ideas that are coming together (one will require more research than the other), and one new idea that bubbled up on my way to taking my dogs to the groomer this morning.

What to do?

My inner writer—who loves crayons, unicorns, and the color pink—loves to write first drafts. It’s funny how my analogy about first drafts resembling baby stories (from Monday’s post) could work just as well with the different personas writers have to morph into throughout the writing process. To write a first draft, we must be dreamers, but dreamers alone don’t finish things. So, to edit, we must be analytical and able to endure frustration. And to submit our work, we must be able to do battle with doubt and the pain that comes with rejection; we must be brave and fierce to keep pushing no matter what comes at us. In other words, while the dreamer writes the story, it’s the hard-nosed warrior we become in the marketing process who is the real hero.

And I am a big supporter of tending both the dreamer and the hero, at the proper times. That has been part of my motivation for my first-draft-a-thon. The warrior within has done her work and I continue to submit queries, partials, and fulls, but the dreamer needed time to play and I gave her that. But now what?

Do I round up the most worthy of the first drafts (and that might just be another blog post in how we decide such a thing) and send them through the editing process? Allow the dreamer more glee by telling another first draft before we get to the hard work of editing one of the stories? Or bribe my inner dreamer with a promise that after the next edited work is ready to go, she can write another first draft (while twirling in a fairy-inspired, pink tutu... what can I say, the dreamer is spunky)? New stories are the motivators for me, like the “if you eat right all week, you can have ________ (insert name of most decadent and beloved food here).” Maybe that is the most effective plan, bold and unapologetic bribery to get another story ready for marketing next year.

Please, weigh in. How do you pick your next story when several are bubbling up? Do you take every project through the editing process, or do you alternate around like I do? Am I the only fickle writer out there who must always have many projects going to be able to focus? What is it that draws you to one story over another? Character? Setting? Major, already-imagined scene? I really look forward to getting to know the thinking process of fellow writers. And thanks again for your thoughts.

Quote for the Day from Peace Like a River by Leif Enger (one of the most amazing books I’ve read this year)

“My sister, Swede, who often sees to the nub, offered this: People fear miracles because they fear being changed—though ignoring them will change you also.”

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Story Nursery: A Good Day for Writing

So, I've been thinking, I started this blog a little over two months ago and we are sixteen posts in and I haven’t mentioned my writing much at all. Part of this is because I spend so much time in awe of the amazing books I read that I’d rather gush about them on the blog, and another part is that I think I’m on the shy side when it comes to my writing. As I mentioned before, this whole out-in-the-world lack of anonymity was a stretch for me, and part of me is hanging onto that in reference to my writing.

But yesterday was a really good writing day, and I guess I want to share it with others who will understand the fun and the need for the fun. As anyone who has reached the querying stage knows (and those who see it on the horizon can well imagine), the marketing stage of this publishing journey is on the tougher side. The ability to continue after experiencing the waiting, the rejections, and the endurance trial that is querying is what sets apart the dreamers from the doers.

For everything, I have a game plan, and my game plan for developing the perseverance to continue is to make sure that writing is still playful and fun. And thus, the first-draft-a-thon was created. While I have been marketing one YA fantasy, I have been playing in fantastical worlds and meeting new and interesting characters. All of this without feeling like I need to judge these new playful projects, because they are for fun. They have not been edited. It’s all about the first drafts, the babies of the writing process.

My feeling is that when a book gets edited it goes through adolescence, where everything feels gawky and even the best-looking teens feel like creatures from the depths. And when the book reaches its final-draft stage, it’s a grown-up, ready to go out and work for its living, endure the rejections, and keep on fighting the good fight.

I love my grown-up YA story that is being marketed, but as anyone who has been paying attention to my blog and my adoration for Debbie’s new niece, the radiant Miss Devyn, knows, I heart babies and baby stories, too.

And right now the story nursery is getting full with four new first drafts that I’ve written this year. They coo and giggle at me, and I smile and wave and say ridiculous things that make me sound like a lunatic. But such is my writing process.

And yesterday, I finished the fourth of the first drafts after a marathon writing session that filled me with glee. There is a time and place for reading rejections; sending more queries; preparing fulls, partials, and synopses, but there is also a time to write because a story is lingering in the ethers, waiting to be told. There is a time for spending an entire day writing, filled with true joy to be lucky enough to get to be on this writing journey. Not everyone hears the stories like we do. Some people dream of having a niche in this world, of knowing what they want. We do.

Yesterday was a beautiful day for writing. And as I move toward deciding which of my story babies is ready for adolescence and adulthood next year, I’m really feeling blessed. This journey is hard, as anyone will attest to, but it is worth every low point, every hope raised and dropped, and every single minute when my fingers scramble quickly over the keys while a story unfolds before my eyes.

And I hope that no matter how rocky the road, you feel that way, too.

Quote for the Day from Henry V by William Shakespeare

“O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend

The brightest heaven of invention”

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Let’s Talk About Companions

And if you were a fan of the short-lived, but brilliant, Firefly, just FYI, we’re not talking about those types of companions. Nor are we talking about companion animals, travel companions, or companion planting (I’m not really sure what that is, but Google seemed to think it was important). What we are talking about, unsurprisingly, is the concept of companion books. In case any readers are unfamiliar with companion books, take a little journey with me.

Once upon a time, an author writes a book, edits it fiercely, submits it to agents, wins an agent, gets a book deal and a lovely editor with a grand publishing house, edits feverishly, waits, and then poof, overnight success. And then, the author has to write another book and decides not to write it about Character A, who was beloved by millions, but instead about Character A’s third cousin, twice removed. Consequently, the world of the story is similar, but without the beloved Character A. The cover of this new book reads, The Danger-fraught Journey of Character A’s Third Cousin, Twice Removed, A Companion Book to The Thrilling-fraught Journey of Character A.

So, that’s a companion book. And I’m very curious to know what other devoted readers think of these companion books, because sometimes they rankle me and other times they make me gush. Case in point, with the gushing (cause you know I’m not going to spill about the rankling), is FIRE by Kristin Cashore. But we really can’t begin with FIRE; we have to begin with GRACELING, her first book involving this story world and its wonderful inhabitants.

Let’s see if I can be not-with-the-gushy... okay, probably not. I loved GRACELING. I loved Katsa. I loved Po. I loved the story’s journey, the sense of the geography, the characters, their flaws, and the exceptionally pleasing ending (although, I did get miffed that the book ended... period, but nobody buys infinity books anymore, so books have to end—drat them). And what got me through the trauma (my own, not having to do with the plot) of the book’s end was that I knew there was another book, and I assumed that it continued the tale of Katsa and Po. So, off I went to the bookstore, picked up FIRE, and walked directly to the register, but stopped abruptly when I saw on the cover the fateful words, “A Companion to GRACELING.” What?! No Katsa. No Po. What? Huh? No! And so, grumbling inwardly (hopefully), I marched up and bought FIRE, while mourning the loss of my bubbly excitement.

At home, after whining to my exceedingly tolerant BFF, I opened the book. And whoosh. Ms. Cashore, after an interesting prologue, had me at the first line. And tell me, why wouldn’t she?

It did not surprise Fire that the man in the forest shot her. What surprised her was that he shot her by accident.

What followed was Ms. Cashore’s brilliant writing, exceptional story crafting, and me devouring the book with speed the equivalent of a cheetah in a land race. The story was so engrossing that I was instantly more concerned with Fire’s journey and much less worried about missing Katsa and Po. (This doesn’t mean that I am not anxious to have their story continue, because I certainly am. But I am much more excited that I have a new favorite author, whose writing I will follow wherever it goes.)

Since I don’t like to give plot descriptions in my book reviews (because I don’t like to read them before I read a new book), I will give you a few more glimpses into Ms. Cashore’s beautiful writing.

For example:

Their arguments, however they squashed her, were drawn from the wells of two very large hearts.

I loved this line and its gift of remembrance that very few of our loved ones mean to do the damage they sometimes do.

Fire added immaturity to the things she could accuse him of in the fight they weren’t going to have.

If I had a cupcake for every imaginary fight I had prepared in my mind, I would have fallen over from sugar shock a long time ago.

The enthusiastic massacre began once more.

You’d think this line was horrible, until I tell you this: the line is in reference to children attempting to play instruments. Massacre is the only good word for it.

So, companion books? What do you think? My take is that companion books are only as good or bad as the connections we are able to make with the new characters. I connected with the characters in FIRE and consequently loved it. Probably the most well known (and unfortunately somewhat squashed) and desired companion book in sort-of existence is MIDNIGHT SUN, Stephenie Meyer’s retelling of the story of TWILIGHT from hottie Edward’s perspective. I did read it after Ms. Meyer posted a portion on her website and loved it, and like many others hope that one day the muse will be there and Ms. Meyer will finish it. My favorite of all companion books would have to be the LORD OF THE RINGS (not sure of the distinction here between sequel and companion, but the feel of the books is different enough for me to think companion). My least-liked companion book had everything to do with a new main character I couldn’t stand, and I only read it to get to the bits that included a couple previously known characters, though I ended up disliking even most of their parts.

But I would love for you to weigh in: companion books, love them or hate them? What are your favorites? Do you dream of writing companion books of your own? And why aren’t you reading FIRE yet? (Note: it really doesn’t matter whether you read FIRE first or GRACELING; there’s a case to be made that FIRE might just make a better setup for GRACELING if you read it first. What does matter is that you don’t miss these amazing stories.)

Quote for the Day from FIRE.

From the warmth of her fondness for her horse she constructed a fragile and changeable thing that almost resembled courage.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Bouquet on the First Snowy Day

Sandra Leigh, over at Amazing Voyages of the Turtle, was kind enough to send me this little bouquet, which smells a whole lot like the cinnamon tea I'm drinking in case you wondered. What a treat, especially since I've felt like a neglectful blogger of late. The holiday-induced fugue state seems to be negatively affecting my ability to focus, or at least sit down for more than a few seconds put together. But now is the time. The carpet has been shampooed, check. The tree, up. The sheets, washed. The company countdown clock is sounding a lot like those T-minus warnings when the space shuttle lifts off. And I am ready for a new blog post.

Okay, so the rules. Seven things you don't know about me, and pass the award on to seven other lovely bloggers. Here goes.

About Me:

1. I used to rock climb... in the winter (I know, cold, dangerous, and complete with frozen gear. I'm older and wiser now, mostly).

2. Somewhere, in a box probably, I still have my life expectations for 1985 that included getting married to John Taylor of Duran Duran. Poor man would have been arrested, but it all made sense to me at the time.

3. I had a major tree-preparation style error when I purchased a white Christmas tree yesterday, only to get it home and start to put it up and realize that all of my ornaments, and even some of the lights, are snowmen. It looked like I was going for a camouflaged snowmen motif. Seriously, stylish-istas, nothing popped. And back to the store I went.

4. And after yesterday's decoration disaster, I counted myself as blessed that two of my dearest friends in the world are Jewish, since I'm thinking that for Christmas next year, I am running away to the beach with one of them.

5. I make some of the best healthy whole wheat bread that the world has ever experienced, and sharing is difficult. :)

6. If I could only hear one song over and over again for the rest of my life, today that song would be Moon and Moon, by Bat for Lashes. It is hauntingly beautiful.

7. And last but not least, one of the high points of my year was meeting my new mini BFF, Devyn (Debbie's new niece). Big thanks to her mom for allowing the introduction, and to all of Debbie's family for making me feel very welcome. I still want to know how a certain art project did.

Now, to share the virtual bouquet with others:

1. Debbie over at Write on Target deserves passels of bouquets, since this is decidedly a big year for her. Thanks for always being there for me and sharing your amazing journey (and that wonderful family of yours).

2. To Kasie West, who continually provides needed levity to my days, I bestow a bouquet. And I did see New Moon, based on your recommendation, and all I can say is, "Yummy!" I did not become a shape-shifting werewolf type, of which I am not certain whether to be elated or depressed. :)

3. For introducing me to SHIVER and providing many other wonderful book recommendations, I send a bouquet to Suzie Townsend at Confessions of a Wandering Heart. Keep up the great work, because I am always looking for a new favorite (though SHIVER is still the reigning champion for this year).

4. I found Tricia's amazing blog because of a hysterical comment she made on Kasie's blog that caused hot tea to seek exits other than the intended path down my throat. (How's that for an embarrassing confession, but her shock collars for werewolves comments were really that funny.) And if that doesn't deserve a bouquet, I just don't know what does.

5. Caroline's blog is a pretty recent find, and I am loving it and her perspective on books and the publishing experience. By the way, I just finished GRACELING (loved it) and am reading FIRE now (it's amazing, and those two books will provide the substance of my next blog post, in case you are interested).

6. Another very enjoyable blog that deserves a hefty bouquet is Melissa's Chasing the Dream blog. I love her way of looking at the writing process and her clear devotion to her characters.

7. And last but not least, a bouquet filled with lots of love and warmth, I hereby bestow upon the ever-neglected and abused Laptop, Kiersten White's computer. She uses him like a workhorse, but never shows him any fun. Too bad there isn't an equivalent of PETA for me to rat her out to (I would, I seriously would). Be well and happy, Laptop, and know that a beautiful life awaits you (but I suggest you keep working right or your cruel master might pitch you for a newer and shinier model. ;)

Quote for the Day from Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Beware the Boxes

No this isn’t a warning to avoid packages because of germs, toxins, or an irrational fear of UPS employees. It actually has very little to do with literal boxes. And here I go again into figurative land as I present my holiday get-together advice.

And I feel a disclaimer is in order. I am not a therapist, nor do I play one on TV. And I’ve been guilty of moving very far away and avoiding holiday get-togethers in the past. But since I’m currently at an airport about to head out to a holiday gathering, I’m feeling like almost an expert at this. Now, back to the boxes.... patterns and a little allusion to writing and character development.

I’d like to introduce you to the concept of people boxes. (And no, I’m not suggesting cramming the least-liked family member into a box in order to facilitate a peaceful/illegal holiday.) People boxes represent the way we see each other. Often from a very young age, families find ways of creating the people boxes to provide understanding of family members. And once created, those people boxes are often powerful and difficult to change. If in a person’s youth, they were a rebel, they might end up wearing the rebel box their entire lives, even though what they feel inside is anything but the image they wore in younger and wilder days. And the glamour box can be particularly difficult, for those who were stunning cheerleaders in their younger days, and now look like middle-aged, real people. The smart and driven people boxes can be difficult to live up to and end up making people never feel like they are good enough. No matter if the box is a positive or negative image, it can feel solid and static, even though we people are anything but.

People really do change. Some by choice and others because life changes them. We grow in ways that family might love or hate, but ultimately our own journeys are something that not even the closest of families can always understand. And when it comes to getting together, sometimes there can be a struggle because of out-dated people boxes.

And compounding problems are the patterns that once established have a life of their own. Mature, capable adults can suddenly become sniveling teenagers when around their parents and siblings. Siblings who are extraordinarily evolved people can be reduced to “I know you are, but what am I?” within seconds of reconnecting. And those Duran Duran pins that were stolen by a sibling seem to have left a gaping hole in a person, even though it happened more than twenty years ago. Stolen boyfriends, bigger Christmas gifts, disappointments, and words spoken years before become living things, all because of the power of patterns.

So, people boxes and patterns are the problems. And now a writerly solution. Every writer I’ve ever met or even heard of has been surprised by what their characters have done. Those moments when you see and hear what your character is doing and say, “Oh, you did not just do that.” I had a main character up and decide that the love interest I picked for him was simply not good enough and he went for the hotty-potatty bad girl. As much as I argued and whined, ultimately I had to let him be who he was and off he went with the baddy. Stephenie Meyer, in an interview I read a while back, mentioned that Edward’s dramatic actions at the beginning of New Moon completely took her by surprise, but she had to just give in and go on the ride. Which leads us to the writerly advice: let your family members be the characters that shock you, and roll with it. See where the new story takes you. I promise you that if you let go of the patterns and the people boxes, a real chance to get to know people for who they are now will be yours. And what do you really have to lose other than all that is tired and predictable. Life is a great adventure if we let it be. And people are the ever-present part of this adventure. Let them wow you and most of all be open to really seeing people for who they are, not where they come from, what they’ve done (both accomplishments and letdowns), or even the images they might want you to believe. Search for the truth and experience the only story that never really ends.

Quote for the Day from John Denver

"I'm leaving on a jet plane..."

Friday, November 20, 2009

Falling Into Winter

I admit it. The change of the seasons gets to me. And technically this might make me a hypocrite at worst, and fickle at best, because my most consistent whine as a teenager growing up in a season-challenged location was, “This place sucks. I want seasons!” I even used to write hostile, geographically based poetry about the constant heat, brutal blue skies, and the permanent absence of even a single cloud (with much swearing added for teenagey, angsty goodness).

Now, I’m grown up (technically) and living in a place with real seasons (the leaves change, the snow falls, the flowers bloom, and the fireflies beam), and I love it here, but...

You knew there was a but coming; well here it is.

... but watching the leaves fall and knowing how long it’s going to be until spring really does get to me.

I get a little more mellow, except when I’m racing to touch my face (and the dogs’ faces) to any ray of sunshine I can find, knowing they are there to be counted and revered until the sun once again graces us next summer. I also take stock of my life, occasionally like an officious and ill-tempered dwarf of some sort, measuring accomplishments, logging productive hours, and searching for the meaning of it all. And I find myself thinking more about what I want, what accomplishments I have yet to begin the course toward, and who I want to be when I really grow up.

It really isn’t a sadness that autumn finds in me, more the willingness to focus inwardly and open myself to the beauty/agony of change. And for that, I think the fall likes me (if you will allow me to anthropo-season-ize a bit). The past two and half years (since moving to a new place and away from everything known and everyone loved) have been a time of near-constant change. And after so much change, it’s easy to think that I might want things to settle down, but I find the opposite is true. I’m all wanderlusty and wondering what my next adventure will be, both on the actual landscape as well as on the inner landscape. I will definitely let you know how that goes.

For now though, I’ve realized that I always seek out two things to help me weather life as we fall into winter and I thought I would share them with you.

The number one thing that accompanies me through this change of seasons is the music of the brilliant and talented Loreena McKennitt. Her music seems made for introspection, for seeking the beauty in simple moments, and consequently makes for an excellent soundtrack through the inner landscape of a questioning soul. The purity of her voice leads to thoughts of different times and different places and brings the knowledge that everything around us has changed and is certain to continue changing. And we can either change with it or be left behind; perhaps even in the stasis of being left behind, we might one day fuel the romantic sensibilities of artists as the Celtic culture has for Ms. McKennitt.

The exquisite lyrics that accompany her music’s journeys provide her with some serious street cred as a poet. Take a look at these.

Dante’s Prayer (music and lyrics by Loreena McKennitt)

“I did not believe because I could not see
Though you came to me in the night
When the dawn seemed forever lost
You showed me your love in the light of the stars”

Penelope’s Song (music and lyrics by Loreena McKennitt)

“Long as the day in the summer time
Deep as the wine dark sea
I’ll keep your heart with mine.
Till you come to me.”

Caravanserai (music and lyrics by Loreena McKennitt)

“What is this life that pulls me far away
What is that home where we cannot reside
What is that quest that pulls me onward
My heart is full when you are by my side”

Never-Ending Road (music and lyrics by Loreena McKennitt)

“Here is my heart and I give it to you
Take me with you across this land
These are my dreams, so simple and few
Dreams we hold in the palm of our hands”

Ms. McKennitt’s music provides a companion for me along an often solitary path and for that reason will always be my autumn soundtrack. The second thing on my list seems too much of a trifle to discuss now that I’m listening to my favorite songs and waxing nostalgic about a pretty darned blessed life. So, I’ll save it for later.

If you’ve never seen or heard Ms. McKennitt, take a little walk with me through my favorite of her songs and one that makes me pine to travel not just the inside world of me, but through the amazing world around us (okay, and maybe I pine just a bit for the hurdy gurdy player, but I can't help that!).

Quote for the Day from Full Circle by Loreena McKennitt

“Somewhere the sun rose, o'er dunes in the desert
such was the stillness, I ne'er felt before
Was this the question, pulling, pulling, pulling you
in your heart, in your soul, did you find rest there?

Elsewhere a snowfall, the first in the winter
covered the ground as the bells filled the air
You in your robes sang, calling, calling, calling him
in your heart, in your soul, did you find peace there?”

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Only Joy

Life’s tests are pesky, without question. Sometimes they come upon us like a jealous whisper and other times like a bellowing, evil cheerleader. Wants are common culprits for introducing us to life’s little lessons. Wanting things is something that ties every human being together. To want is to be alive, I think. Certainly the varieties in wants characterize the lives we are either fortunate to live or grateful to survive. For example, I want an iPhone. In that, it’s easy to surmise that I am lucky enough to have a roof over my head, Swiss chard and yellow and orange bell peppers ready to be cooked for dinner, and affordably stylish clothes at my disposal. For others, that roof is a hefty want as fall turns to winter. Wanting food and knowing hunger define levels of existence perhaps the most powerfully. And clothing, stylish or not, to keep the cold out is a potent want.

But for today, we’re discussing other kinds of wants, things like time (who doesn’t want more of that), success (in all its incarnations), and I’m going to go ahead and throw this into the mix: love. Compared to time, success, and love, that iPhone can’t really compare (and not because it doesn’t try by being cute and fun and embodying the American spirit of capitalism and wonder). The truth is no object could possibly compete against our biggest wants, the ones that revolutionize our lives, bring purpose and hope, and raise our journey to a new more transcendent level.

And where is all of this leading? Life Lesson 317.4a and Life Test 248-a, both entitled What happens when our friends get/have the things we want?

Not too long ago, I blogged about my high school reunion and the memories that brought up, memories I wouldn’t choose to wander through on a regular basis because there is no past I want to disappear into. I am all about the now, but, for the sake of today’s blog, I’m going to delve into what I will call the D&D Affair (having nothing to do with Dungeons and Dragons, in case some newbies wandered onto the blog... run now, while you have the chance). In high school, there was this boy, who we will refer to as D. He was shiny, charming, talented, friendly, wise, and wonderful. And I wanted him. So badly. So muchly (yeah, I made another word). I just had to have him. And a dance was coming up. Would he? Could he? Be mine?

Not so much. Because a girl, who will be referred to also as D, came to me and told me that He-D had asked her to the highly anticipated dance. She-D was beautiful, sweet, lovely, talented, and momentously kind even as a high school popular girl. She came to me to let me know because she knew of my pining. “Would it be okay if I went with him or would you rather I said no?” This is what she asked me. She gave me the choice because my friendship meant something to her and because her kindness made my feelings matter more than her dance plans. I told her to go. He’d chosen her. And that I’d appreciated her thoughtfulness.

(On a side note, look at the memory she created. It wasn’t the story of being wronged by a friend. It was the story of a beautiful friendship. Thanks for that, She-D.)

So, I didn’t get the dance experience that I’d dreamt of and never got to date He-D. I didn’t get a lot of the high school experiences that we are taught to value by Hollywood. And in the loss of wanted things, envy is born. And in my life, I have envied others for having more time to do things, for not having to work, for being able to do things easily, for not being alone, for having perfect holidays and bubbly children.

But, since I have taken to the writing road, the envies and jealousies are fewer. This is not to say that they don’t still rear up and demand attention. What’s different now is that in my life-living knapsack, I carry an Envy Basher and within minutes, usually, I have beaten the envy to a puddle of muck and moved on with the gratitude I feel to have lived long enough to find the road I currently walk.

Recently, I had the opportunity to see just how far I’ve come from my younger self who envied with abandon to my less-younger self (calling myself old seemed off-putting), who discovered something very beautiful in the good fortune of a dear friend.

My writerly BFF, Debbie Schubert, received some news worthy of being shouted from all the fair peaks in the land (and do believe that she will soon be shouting) and I was one of the first who knew the news. Now, months ago, Debbie and I had talked about how it would feel to have one of us receive said news before the other, both knowing that we would be happy for the other, but wondering if we would harbor the envy beast in our hopeful hearts.

I don’t think it would count as a proper science fair project, but we certainly had the chance for experimentation. And at the moment of happy news disclosure, I felt around in my insides and found only joy. Delightful, bubbly, wondrous joy. I was as thrilled for her as I would be for myself, maybe more because I really believe that this is her time to shine and she’s found someone who can appreciate all the talent and love-inspiring qualities I see in her.

To quote Grey’s Anatomy (which I am still watching obsessively... for the love of all that’s decent, please get me a Grey’s Anatomy patch or something), Debbie has found “her person.”

And I couldn’t be happier. I thought maybe in my hours of solitude after the call, the envy beasts might appear and I looked around and found... only joy again.

This is a huge step for Debbie, for me, and for our friendship. This was life’s little test for me and I passed.

Quote for the Day from Me.

“Our greatest joys are greater and our darkest times brighter, just for being lucky enough to have friends to witness, to nurture, and to share.” (Look at me, thinking I’m all that and making my own quote for the day). ;)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Resting My Driven

So, as I have mentioned before, I have plans. My plans have plans. My strategies have strategies. Multi-tiered goals are in progress at all times. And then something happened. I got tired. I have no idea how this happened, and I swear on all I hold dear that I eat my spinach, broccoli, Swiss chard, and thanks to CityGirl’s blog, my exquisite acorn squash drizzled with a cilantro chili vinaigrette. But this tired thing happened anyway. Drat the tired.

As a practiced expert in self-analysis, I sat myself down for a little therapy session (no, I’m really not completely crazy), and said, “Okay, you’re tired. It’s time to ease up. Hey, you can even watch TV and knit if you like.” And the frazzled, overworked mule within almost wept. So, away I went to catch up on a season and a half of Grey’s Anatomy (I swoon for Major/Dr. Owen Hunt) and picked up my knitting project (this is a good time to admit that my very first knitting project was a blanket... really, I should have started with a nice scarf).

Inexplicably, my mood got murkier. That was completely not the point of this resting-up exercise. So, then I said, “Self, we were tired, and now our mood is like the bottom layer of a toxic dump run-off ditch. What now?” More Grey’s Anatomy. Check.

As my outlook further declined, I started to marvel (with a dose of horror) at the amount of work I had put into goals that hadn’t yielded much, and that started to depress the stuffing out of me. But I couldn’t find the exact words to describe this until last weekend, when, during a puppy-induced walking extravaganza, I realized that I felt as though I had been investing in the Never Bank. And that it was likely I would just keep using up my life force to make deposits in a bank that might never yield anything. Hardly inspiring. Well, as much as the pups loved their walk, my bright, energetic, and cheery wasn’t found and I marched home to wallow in knitting and more Grey’s Anatomy, thinking that at least Major Dr. Owen Hunt would understand me (he’s all broody, tortured, and earnest just like I love my television romances).

A week passed, and everything in my life became more bland. Bright moments still happened (like that acorn squash recipe), but overall, my writing didn’t give me the familiar spark and my life in general became mostly joyless. Bleck, I say.

Worse, thoughtless comments flying around me actually hit their mark and made me sadder, where normally, I would have brushed them off like pigeon droppings from above. Somehow, thoughtless ugly comments and pigeon doodoo go together. But without my droppings brusher at the ready, my mood, laden with the uglies (and not the good kind), deteriorated, enough that I think I worried some of my trusty friends who are used to the more upbeat, conquer-the-world me.

Thankfully, another puppy walk, or three, later, I realized exactly what I need to do to fix this little troublesome patch. I need to boot my driven off the couch and back to work. It isn’t time to look around and wonder where the spoils are, and I have to know myself enough to realize that forward motion is everything to me. As long as I am making progress, either by my daily writing, or even walking or getting out and meeting people (or starting a blog and loving every minute of connecting with fabulous people), I am moving forward. Forward is what matters, not that elusive image of what success looks like. Success is showing up and participating in the journey. And that is exactly what I forgot while I wasn’t pushing myself with enough force.

The truth is, there is a time for rest, but only as a rest stop, not as a state of being. And I don’t mean to imply that I don’t take rest time even during my busy, driven days. I do. I seek stillness. But even in that, I push myself to give myself that time. Also, since I’ve gotten my diet cleaned up, my body really tells me what it wants and most specifically when it wants to go to bed. I am not pushing myself to stay up writing until midnight and then wake at five to get to work anymore (I did that for a year). And it’s okay that I couldn’t keep up that pace, because taking care of my body is one of my innumerable goals.

So, the moral of my little story is “you got to know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ‘em. Know when to walk away and know when to run.” (Thanks Kenny Rogers.)

I am curious to know how you deal with the stresses of going after goals or how you stay positive under the strain of hectic lives. I’m always looking for new strategies (and any good, healthy recipes.) Please note, I can't have chocolate. ;)

Quote for the Day from The Mountain is Young by Han Suyin

"Do not worry to give a name to what you do, my friend. Is it not sufficient that to you something is given, not to be buried in the ground, but to use? Use it well, with no thought of success or failure..."