Practice at Bringing Things Back into Focus

I think there three kinds of people in this world: reporters, people to report about, and those that haven’t learned to accept who they are. I’m one of the ones that haven’t yet learned.

I don’t want to be a reporter. I’m uncomfortable there, looking into things, finding out what’s going on, jumping into what everyone else is doing, but I’m also afraid to walk away from the crowd. I’m afraid of being alone. I’m afraid that if I’m not out there watching and reporting, I’ll miss out on something important.

I believe that I want to be alone and creating, alone and thinking, alone and at peace with myself. What stops me? Why do I allow the other voices, the ones outside my own head, tell me what it is I SHOULD be doing, what it is I SHOULD be caring about?

I read the book “Essentialism” by Greg Mckeown last year and it began to change my outlook in positive ways. I just added it to my “re-read in 2020” list. Through it, I learned that I can pare down, not just my stuff, but my thinking and my obligations so that I can focus and do my best on what is most important to me specifically.

Everyone is different. Some people need the community, the feeling of being busy, the camaraderie, to be happy. It has only brought me anxiety and confusion. I want to be more outgoing, but it doesn’t serve me. It drains me and leaves little energy for me to create with. From the outside, it may look like I have plenty of time to help you with your project, but I don’t, not without sacrificing my own.

I need more quiet, reflective time, away from outside obligations. I can start by curbing my social media habit. I can’t sit among three hundred conversations and have a clear thought of my own. I’m reacting 90% of my week. It doesn’t feel conducive to creativity.

Funny…I know I’ve complained about this before, very recently. I’m not complaining this time. I’m making observations and (hopefully) adjusting a course. To start, I took the social media buttons off my phone’s main screen. I had to go find the button to open it, remember that I was looking out of habit, and it gave me the space to stop myself. It didn’t last long though. I noticed they were still at the bottom of my “recently used” screen and my brain rerouted the habit through there.

Over the weekend, I took a complete social media fast. That worked well. I just did not look until Sunday evening when I wanted to share something cool. I put the phone away and focused on working in the yard all day on Saturday until I was exhausted. And then Sunday was spent going out to breakfast and then shopping at Costco with my husband. Yes, that is considered one of our favorite dates! We go up and down every aisle just looking at things, laughing, and wondering if we need that or if it’s a good deal. I think we were there for three hours. We’re easily entertained, and we came out with a month’s supply of our favorite foods, a new whiskey to try (they don’t give samples of alcohol, whatever), and some new sheets.

I was feeling overwhelmed and addicted but I willfully chose to do something else than my habit. I didn’t have to make an announcement. I didn’t have to find a way to stop the app from working on my phone. I didn’t have to call in reinforcements to make me stop. I simply chose not to open the apps. I gave myself a goal and I achieved it. One day without any social media turned into two. It was the start of a new habit.

On Monday, I kept the ball rolling by making the choice to only post my article and spend thirty minutes over lunch replying and checking in with friends. Then I put it away. By Wednesday, I was scrolling here and there to occupy myself while I waited and then it snowballed. My time total on Wednesday was over an hour and a half, far less than in the past but still too much. On Thursday, I started first thing in the morning and before noon I was grumpily tapping away responses to people (in my journal, not online) instead of writing anything productive.

It’s Monday now and I’ve refocused once again. I’m looking for a reminder, like a bell when I meditate, that pulls me out of my unconscious habit and brings me back to what I choose to focus on. Like learning to meditate longer and longer, instead of getting angry or frustrated that my mind has wandered, I notice it and bring it back to my peaceful focus. Each time I do, the focus is sustained longer and longer. It’s practice. And practice makes progress.

Why Consume So Much Information?

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Photo by Alex Jones on Unsplash

I get discouraged when I spend a lot of time reading, listening, and experiencing but rarely creating. I feel like I’m consuming life instead of adding to it when the scale tips more to the input than the output side of creativity.

And then I heard the analogy of “a block of clay.”

The artist is in all of us, born within us. What we spend most of our life doing is gathering a block of clay to sculpt in the future.

I gather clay by reading, watching, and experiencing life. I stay curious. I research and study. I travel and listen. And each experience adds to my block, making it bigger and bigger.

When I make time for myself to reflect, I look at the block of clay and start peeling away pieces, chiseling out parts and sculpting it into a piece of artwork that is unique from my hands, from my perspective. My story, my article, my social media post is the result of that creative time.

The time we spend consciously gathering input from any source added to the time we take to reflect and process it, equals our creative output. That output can be anything, from poetry, painting, music, and storytelling, to our children, our businesses, and our homes.

What are you gathering these days? Do you know what that creative output will be or are you still searching for it?

Reassurance IS Futile

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A cactus will grow with very little soil or water.

I heard Seth Godin say on a podcast recently, “Everyone has self-doubt” and “Reassurance is futile.” He also said that we don’t HAVE to hear criticism if we don’t want to and I’ve decided he’s completely right.

I have been crippled with self-doubt in the past. There are few things that I am truly confident about and writing is not one of them. I’m confident about my use of words and my grasp on English grammar and spelling but, expressing my opinion in public terrifies me. Do I really have anything to add to the conversation? Surely, it’s been said before. Am I sure I’m seeing clearly and have a right to say so?

My Dad and my husband are two of my loudest fans, but I’ve often thought that if I had just a few encouragers out there, a few less biased people with some positive feedback, some unsolicited reassurance, then I’d learn to put my self-doubt behind me. I’d be more confident. I know deep down that it’s just not true. I’ve had positive feedback and reassurance from several corners and the next day I’m just as doubtful about my message. He’s right. Reassurance is futile.

But you know what’s not futile, learning to stand on my own two feet. Accepting that I may make mistakes, I may not always be on top of things, and I have much to learn, but I still have my own perspective on this world and I have every right to tell it as I see it. I can put the self-doubt aside for a moment, write out what I want to say (even imperfectly or wrong), and post anyway.

For the critics? You may think I’m wrong. You may not like what I have to say. You may think I could say it in a better way or not bother to say it at all. And that’s ok. This message isn’t for you. You can move along and read something else.

For everyone else? Thanks for reading. I very much appreciate it.

Pain, Cats, and New Books!

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My Shadow, Abe

Back in September, my sweet husband, in an attempt to help me, bought me a Chromebook to write on. I had complained over the summer that between him talking to customers on one side and the boys and their antics on the other, I just couldn’t focus at my desktop in my office. If I had a laptop, I could take myself out to the trailer and lock the door. Alone in silence, without the distractions of, “Where’s the butter?” “Have you seen my red shoes?” and “Have you tried deleting the app and reinstalling?” maybe I could better focus on writing and make a go of this author thing. Laptops are expensive just to buy for an experiment, so he got the Chromebook as a test. If taking it out to the trailer alone proved to be helpful, then it would make sense to buy a better laptop for me to use.

Now, before you get disgruntled with my husband’s lack of confidence that I NEEDED the laptop, I’m notorious for wanting to do things and then getting bored or losing interest. We’ve been married for twenty years and known each other much longer. He knows me, sometimes better than I know myself. Once again, he made a good decision in going cheap before jumping in with both feet, but not for the reason we thought!

Since the beginning of November, my right elbow and wrist had started hurting. I’m not talking a little. It has been painful to the point of tears. After attempting to scoop cookies out onto a tray for Christmas, my arm was shaking in pain. Ibuprofen did nothing, but CBD oil helped a bit. It would start to subside but come back in full force anytime I forgot about it and reached to grasp and turn anything with my right hand.

I was becoming discouraged, to say the least. I thought it might be arthritis. I am getting older and the weather at the beginning of November had turned cold and wet suddenly, and it has stayed that way. I was considering going to the doctor to see if there was anything she could do. Maybe I have elbow cancer and there is something they could do to save me if I don’t wait?

These are my actual thoughts. I hate doctors and do everything I can to avoid going, but anytime something hurts, I instantly think it’s the end…but I still don’t see a doctor. I’m convinced that’s how I’ll die. Something will bother me for years, I’ll try to ignore it, attempt to cure the ailment myself, and finally break down and make an appointment. Then they’ll tell me that I have only a few weeks to live, but I could have been saved if I had only seen a doctor earlier.

But I digress.

This morning, when I  sat down to get back to a regular habit of writing every morning (for the sixth time this month), I picked up my Chromebook, set it in my lap, and started on my journal, my wrist immediately started to ache worse than ever. That’s when it dawned on me. You know what else started the week my wrist started hurting? Nanowrimo. It’s the first year that I made the commitment to write every morning from 10am to noon and I was keeping it. By day five, my elbow started hurting and I blamed it on the cold weather and age.

These are the things we do, people. You’d think it would be obvious what’s to blame for our troubles, but we live blind most of the time. I can’t believe I didn’t see that. A friend even suggested that it sounded like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and I just shook my head, “I can’t imagine what repetitive wrist action I do that would do that!” Maybe it was because it started in my elbow and not my wrist?

Today, I’m back at my desktop in my office with the door shut and earplugs in. Not being able to hear really helps. It’s like the world is shut out. The bonus is that I’m right here with my notebooks and more coffee when I need it! Oh, and that cat. He keeps walking over my hands between my face and the screen because he’s a cat and his mission is to drive me bonkers! I’d lock him out but then he’d just scratch up my door to get in.

And now on to what I thought I’d be writing about this morning! I started reading Nick Hornby’s “Ten Years in the Tub” a couple days ago. How is it that I come across just the book I need at just the right time?

I picked the book up at Barnes & Noble a few weeks ago, right off the shelf, not even out in the middle with a “Must Read!” sign on it. I was browsing through the shelves and there it was. A book about reading books? A book about what he’s reading and why? It sounded like a decent way to find some new interesting books to read next year!

I’d never heard of Nick Hornby, but when I posted a picture of the book on Facebook, as I do each time I start one, a friend said she loved his writing. Intriguing.

Diving into it a few mornings ago, I was instantly happy I bought it, and even happier that I decided to read it now, in the last few days of the year, even though it’s a fat book and I won’t finish it before January 1st, so I won’t be able to add it to 2019’s book totals. Yes, it’s all about the list and making it look as good as possible.

Speaking of that list, I’m really excited to get started on my January 1, 2020, post! It will be the third year in a row that I’ve welcomed the new year with a tally of the hours, pages, and the number of books I’ve read over the past 12 months. I know you’re looking forward to it! Don’t worry, I’ll compare the previous year’s totals!

Back to Nick Hornby’s book about a reading list! How lucky is this guy to be paid to do exactly what I’ve been dreaming of doing, what I love doing? And then I got sad. He already does it. Why would I do it? But hold the freakin’ phone a moment! He’s a totally different person, from a completely different background, reading entirely different books. What I read, why, and what I think about it, comes from my personal perspective, my journey, my voice. It’s not the same. That’s like saying someone already wrote a book about space travel, so why would I?

Self-talk. It’s what I do.

I’m going to wrap this post up, but before I go, let me just give you a heads up. This coming week, I’m going to post an “Hasta La Vista, 2019!” essay and another about my precious reading statistics. The latest Star Wars movie (and a trip to Disneyland) has inspired some deep Jedi thoughts, but I have to finish watching all the old movies with my son before I see the new one again before I can really do that essay justice, so have patience Padawan!

Last thing, I promise, my goal this week is to post SOMETHING every day of the week, even if it’s just a few words. Prepare yourself to be inundated!

Happy Monday to you all!

I follow my passions where they lead and probably “overshare.”

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I generally write a journal page to get my brain going before I attempt any brilliance (that’s sarcasm) in blog post form. I used to handwrite journals, but I feel like when I use my laptop, I get more than just a few highlights in my journal entries. When I can type and edit the mess, I get more of my feelings about the day, more details about what’s going on in the world around me and inside my head. I’ve given up a bit of the more personal for more intimate details about my life. I think it’s a fair trade.

Sometimes something comes up in a journal entry that I copy and paste into a new document to expand on for a blog post. I thought I’d end up doing that very thing with a piece of this entry, but it flowed so organically out of mind that I felt like I had to add it in its entirety.

I hope you like this ride on my train of thought!

December 10, 2019, Tuesday 5:44am

A little early, don’t you think? Yeah, I’m usually finishing up an hour of reading and getting to my yoga and meditation at this hour, but yesterday someone suggested writing first thing in the morning and I decided to consider it an option.

I thought I had been writing first thing in the morning, but generally, I’ve been getting started around 10am. Well, last month I did. This month I never seem to get to it. I have some holiday something going on every morning this week that I’ve let take precedence over the writing. Then again, when I do get a chance to sit down to be brilliant, nothing comes to mind and I sit in silent sadness, questioning my existence. It kind of sucks.

I read a lot. Books, magazines, online articles. I read novels, classics, and non-fiction history, self-help, and religion. I read about writing, building a brand, creating email lists, writing better content. The bottom line for me right now, the thing I keep coming back around to is…what the heck am I doing here? What is it that I’m trying to say? I have no focus, either in life or writing. I write whatever comes to mind. Sometimes it’s about family life, social media, books, writing, homeschooling, kids, cats, hiking, self-whatever. I recently put my hand to a bit of fiction just because it got in my head and I went with it.

When someone suggests that I send out a weekly newsletter, I think, “About what? Five random thoughts of a stay at home mom?” I’m not even really that anymore. My youngest is almost 18. He’s at work or college most of the time and doesn’t really need my help. I’m simply a housewife now. What can I possibly say to anyone?

I can talk about the past, homeschool and parenting stuff, reflections. I can talk about the books I read, the desert, hiking…it all sounds so damn boring. Who the hell wants to read my thoughts on what my damn cat is doing and what geocaches I found?

But then…I have learned a lot over the last twenty years. I feel like I do have a unique perspective to show the world. What if someone out there is waiting to hear that they can simply enjoy having their kids around the house instead of sending them to school? I survived being a homeschool Mom! I learned to enjoy the moment and not worry so much.

I don’t have one thing I write about. I just don’t have an all-encompassing passion for one thing. I love a lot of stuff. I like getting a little into everything. I enjoy people, in small doses. I follow my heart into all kinds of situations, from reading to knitting to hiking to coffee dates. I like movies and books and mountain trails and Disneyland. I like going out and staying in. I like quilting even though I’m terrible at it. I collect things. I work in my garden but rarely grow anything. I love the weather. I like traveling in my car and want to do more of it. I genuinely love my kids, my parents, my husband, and my friends just as they are right at this moment, even when they are being punks.

Can I just write about those things? Can my posts just be about living happy and content with what I have? Can it be about my own process of creating a satisfying life? I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t have a game plan for success to share. All I have is my own light to shine. This is what I have created. This is how I’m doing it. Maybe it will work for you, or maybe it will inspire you to try out your own ideas. I don’t know. Take away what you want, leave the rest.

All I know is that I can’t stop writing and posting. I don’t want to. I just want to write the same way I live, the same way I talk with my friends and family. I want to be open and honest about my feelings and share my life, my thinking, my light with others in the hopes that it might make them happy. I just want to bring a little bit of joy into the world.

Attempting to Slow Down the Input Rate

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Photo by Dinh Pham on Unsplash

“Input!”

“Johnny 5 is alive!”

That’s the scene that runs through my head as I listen to a podcast on the drive to my dentist appointment. I can’t just waste time driving, must have more input!

I want to do something with all the information that is thrown at me but I honestly can’t organize what I’m getting well enough for daily use. I can’t maintain forty strong daily relationships. I can’t read ALL the books. I can’t comment on all the posts I find interesting. I can’t read all the articles or see and laugh at all the memes. There are other things that need to be done. Groceries to buy, laundry to do, meals to be made. Not to mention words to write, creating more input for others!

But my words have to relate to something, don’t they? I do need some input to process. I can’t just cut myself off from the world and think that I’ll still have something to write about. One has to have the brushes and paint, the clay or metal, the seeds and mulch, the fabric to quilt!

Quilting. Now there’s an interesting train of thought. I know a lot of quilters and something they all have in common is the problem of collecting fabric. It becomes a habit and an obsession to some. They go back to the fabric store to get thread or a piece they need to finish a quilt and while they are there they notice a nice new pattern, a sale on pretty solids, or an eye-catching collection of fat quarters and they pick them up thinking they’ll use it someday on something. Time goes by and their sewing room becomes piled high with fabric for future use. When they go to make a new quilt, they look at that wall of fabric and are overwhelmed by it. None of it seems useful. None of it catches their eye for this piece. The best pieces are bunched up and hidden behind less appealing pieces and then end up forgetting what they have. So they go to the store and buy all new fabrics, ones more easily accessible and organized by color and pattern.

I’m starting to think information overload is the same thing. I have a project in mind on one hand and a huge pile of information on the other. The whole time I’m trying to sift through the information I’ve already collected, there’s more input every moment. A text from a friend, an email from a blog, a new book is coming out, Facebook and Instagram feeds, not to mention family members wanting to call and share their lives with me. It’s all good stuff. It’s all positive (or can be, I tend to block out the ugly as much as possible). How do I filter and organize it so that I know what I have and where to use it?

There are a couple of things I’m going to start doing. My phone is my gateway and I’ll admit I do have an issue about being unreachable for any amount of time. Maybe it’s a Mom thing that I’ve latched on to, but if my phone is off or out of reach, I can’t relax. What if one of the kids needs me? The truth is that no one really NEEDS me that badly. My kids are grown and while they may want to talk to their mom in the middle of the night, it can probably wait until morning. And they know if it were an emergency, they could call their Dad because his work phone is always on. My phone will stay on at night just in case, but when I get up in the morning, all notifications will be off until I’m ready to communicate with the outside world. I’m not an emergency room doctor. I’m just not that important and that’s not self-deprecation. It’s reality.

Social media is another big input I have and I’m so addicted to it in the best ways. I’ve found so much joy there, so much connection with the big wide world. It inspires me to see all the awesome stuff, all the wise words, all the wonderful people that make up this planet. The trouble is, like a wonderfully written book that I can’t put down, I keep going back to it every chance I get. And unlike a book, I don’t need silence and focus to just pop in and have a look around, so I tend to spend quite a bit of time there.

At first, it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but the trouble is that it adds to my stash of information in big ways. I save clips from articles, memes, comments, all to use in the future. Maybe I’ll write about that. I could add this to my story. This looks like a good place to visit. Suddenly, I’m overwhelmed by it all and nothing else gets done. I look like a zombie slobbering “input” instead of “brains.”

So I need to limit my time there and save my energy. I’ll try to check in only while I eat breakfast and lunch for now. Sounds pretty wishy-washy, I know, but it’s the best I can do. I’ve never been one for hard and fast rules. Sometimes an afternoon of mindless scrolling and laughing at people’s antics is what I need. I’m not going to deny myself, but I will promise to be more mindful of what I’m doing.

And last, but certainly not least, my newest habit of “going to my trailer” to write. My phone doesn’t come with me. I make sure my husband knows where I am, not that he would worry and come looking for me if I went missing for a couple hours, he is working too after all, but I would sit with anxiety thinking he might. Every day, whether or not it is quiet in the house, I’m going to be there for at least an hour and half. There are no dishes to do, no pet antics, no bookshelves to peruse, out here. It’s just me, the laptop, my notebook, and a cup of coffee. I’m training my brain to see the trailer and think “work time.” And so far it’s working nicely…except when I look around me and think, “We need to go on a road trip in this baby!”

The plan: Write one hour. Edit up to one hour. Post after lunch.

That’s how I’m going to make this writing shit work. I’m not aiming for complete solitude or hermitage. My goal is to slow down the input to the point where my poor brain can process and use the information or at least store it in a way that makes it more easily accessible.

I’m also not aiming for perfect or beautiful. My goal is consistency and focus. The more often I can sit down and create with focus, the more likely something beautiful will be discovered.

Here’s to some new habit building! Let’s see what happens!

Is Social Media a Waste of Time or A Call Into the Canyon?

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Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

Something that has kind of bugged me for a while now is, “What in the actual F am I doing?” I’m trying to write daily and sometimes it’s decent enough to post, but really, why? Practice? I’m not sure really.

I have my Instagram page humming along. I’m getting far more followers there than on my Facebook page, but I post there daily as well. I share things to my Facebook page that seem interesting, that flow into my consciousness. But then sometimes I’m sitting there scrolling through both, wasting my own time looking at mindless crap that I know is all geared to market someone else’s product to me, and think…that’s what I’m doing. I’m marketing my mindless crap to others, pulling their attention away from their real, physical life, to show them mine, in the hopes of gaining followers so that I can market a book. What am I doing? Really? Do I have anything important, anything tangible to add to the conversation? Am I doing the world any good?

I believe I am. When I think of pulling away, it makes me sad. I have words to say. I have ideas to share. Why should I stop trying to influence others? I want to be a positive, joyful voice on the internet. That’s why I’m online. That’s why I check in with Instagram and Facebook.

Where does this voice come from? This ugly one that whispers in my ear, “You’re feeding a monster.” These are the times when I look around me and think maybe I do spend too much time there. Maybe my time and creative energy would be better spent elsewhere.

There’s that old buzzword again, “balance.” Ugg…I hate it. “Everything in balance.” I hear people say. “Everything in moderation.” Should I moderate my joy, my patience? Should I balance my time between good and evil things? No, not everything. There are loads of things that should give in to with abandon. I should love without moderation. I should share my passions without a filter. And that’s what I feel like I’m doing when I’m scrolling through feeds and sharing my thoughts anywhere on the internet.

There are times when I look at my own posts and wish I had more interaction with people, though. Why don’t people share my posts? Why don’t people comment? I started doing more of that myself. I comment when I see something pretty instead of just “like” and I share when I feel like other people would probably love this as much as do, or they’d at least know me better because I shared it.

It seems like hating the internet and social media is all the rage lately, but I just can’t understand that. There are downsides to everything. Just about everyone can use anything in a negative way. But overall, it’s a good thing to me. It’s brought me quite a bit of joy. It’s helped me make new friends. It’s helped me reconnect and keep in touch. It’s shown me whole other worlds and ways of thinking.

Why am I there? Why do I have my blog, my Medium account, Facebook AND Instagram pages? Because I want to add to the conversation and share in the joy of this world. I have something to say and something to show. I’m yelling out into the canyon and waiting for the echo. I’m waiting for an answer to my call.

Hello? I’m here! Is anyone out there?

Held Captive by the Writing on the Wall

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Photo by Henry & Co. on Unsplash

“D.D.S.R.”

The letters stood out black and heavy on the clean white wall of her cell. She sat there before them, cross-legged, and puzzled.

How long had she been here, she couldn’t say, but she did remember when they arrived to take her. She could still hear the doorbell ring. She flew, freshly showered and barefoot, to the door only to find three men in black suits instead of the friend she expected.

These are no salesmen, she thought, immediately trying to close the door and blot out the vision before her. Before she could get the door closed and latched, a heavy arm clothed in black polyester reached though and stopped it. She could still see his hand on the door, his fat fingers curling around the edge, and the door suddenly pushing open into her face, the blinding pain as the door hit her nose and knocked her backward.

As the doorknob pulled from her hands, she reflexively reached to her face and stumbled backward into the foyer. The first man at the door entered quickly, the other on his heels, the last turned to shut the door behind him.

He strode quickly toward her and grabbed her upper arms to stop her from falling completely to the floor. The man behind, taller and thinner than the fat-fingered man that had hit her with the door, moved lithely to her left side and behind her, holding her shoulders so tightly she knew there would be no struggling against them. They had her pinned. She was upright but not standing on her own two feet.

The third man, the one that turned to shut the door as the first two entered, stood quietly by the door. So surprised by the sudden attack, she wanted to scream out but could not find the breath. She was held between the two men in shocked silence.

The door shutter, also clothed in a fine black suit, clean-shaven and serious, like the characters in Men in Black, looked from his steel-blue eyes and blankly stated, “You know why we’re here.”

She stared. “I do?” she stammered out.

“Don’t play stupid, Carrie. We know who you are. You can’t talk or buy your way out of it this time.”

With a flick of his wrist, he signaled to her captors to bring her toward him. Turning to the door, he opened it, took one quick look down the street, saw no one, and motioned them to follow. They lifted her like she were a floor lamp, clamping a smelly cloth over her mouth as they approached the door.

That was all she remembered. When she woke, she was unmolested. Nothing hurt but her nose from when the door hit it. She was dressed the same as when she had so eagerly answered the door. But now she found herself in this empty, windowless room, with these letters hastily painted on the wall before her.

Where was she? Why did they call her Carrie? And what did these letters mean?

Who’s Medea and Why Should I Know Her From Mary Poppins?

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My son took me to see “The Addams Family,” the musical not the new movie, at a local theater this past weekend and an interesting thought occurred when I heard this line in the play.

Side note: I’m the geek with an open notebook and pencil during plays, by the way. It helps me remember bits that caught my eye during the performance. The notebook is hilarious. I hold it however it’s easiest in my seat in the dark and I can’t see the words I’m writing, so it looks much like the ravings of a lunatic in a padded cell, allowed a notebook after days if pleading.

“Please” she whispers quietly in the dark, “just a piece of paper and a pencil.” What can she possibly need to write down? Is it a ploy to get materials needed for escape? They can’t figure out why, so they eventually give in to stop the pathetic crying, and when they sneak in and steal it away from her while she sleeps, all they see is random words and symbols written any which way. They can make no sense of the scribblings, so they give it back to her and allow her to continue her ravings on paper.

But I digress.

What was that line? Oh yes, “This stuff turns Mary Poppins into Medea.”

I laughed at the visual the line gave me. But I wondered if my son had the same image. He knows Mary Poppins, but I wasn’t sure if he remembered Medea from our journeys through literature. I jotted down the two names to remember to ask him after the show.

If you don’t know either character, this line means absolutely nothing, doesn’t it? It only works for a specific audience. It’s strange how we use references to other stories to describe things. There was a Star Trek episode that came across a people that communicated in nothing but references to events. They (the humans) couldn’t understand anything the aliens said because they didn’t know the events they referenced. To learn that language, one would need to study the whole history of the planet, not just the grammar and alphabet.

How else could that line be written? “This potion or liquid dose turns a human that is generally loving, kind, and levelheaded into a self-centered, crazy person, determined to get her own way.” Not very poetic or funny is it? Writing it the other way assumes that your audience is familiar with at least one of the characters. It drops flat if they know of neither.

What happens if we lose the common cultural background of stories? What if we are all reading, watching, and experiencing different stories? I suppose we’ll have to stop using those colorful references and use more descriptive adverbs and adjectives instead.
We could lament the loss of common cultural stories or we could embrace the change and learn to communicate in new (or old) ways that cross national, cultural, and species (oh please let there be extraterrestrial aliens out there) lines. Language has always evolved. It’s not new. It’s not the end of the world as we know it. It’s just different and progressing in unexpected ways.

A New Passion Has Emerged

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https://writerswrite.co.za/mos

At the beginning of the month, I found a graphic of one or two-word writing prompts for each day in the month of October and thought, maybe this would help me warm up a bit. I’ve been having a hell of a time thinking of things to write when I try to write every single day. Maybe this would jar things loose?

Seventeen days into October…it’s totally working. Some days I have things I’d like to write about. There are things that I read in books that prompt my thinking and things I hear people talking about or post on social media that I feel compelled to comment on. Podcasts and quiet time to think also spark my commentary. But these prompts, they are something different. I look at the word first thing in the morning and most times nothing comes to mind right away, but then, sometime around the dishes or watering the yard, it hits me. It comes in like a scene from a movie in my head. Sometimes it sparks a memory that comes out on the written page as an embellished memoir. Other times it hits me right at the center of my imagination and the new scene just comes pouring out.

All month I’ve been wondering where it came from. What new skill have I just discovered I can tap into? But yesterday, as I was driving to meet a friend for coffee, it dawned on me. It’s not new at all. I’ve always been accused of making something bigger than it really was, of attributing words to children that never said them and romanticizing the truth. And my worries, my anxiety? Guess where they from? My imagination. I don’t worry about little things, or what might happen in a vague way. I create vivid scenes in my head from a horrific accident to the details of the funeral and having to deal with people feeling bad about my loss. I don’t think, “Oh I hope my son doesn’t get into trouble.” And wring my hands over it. I see the whole scene played out before me down to the last detail. I don’t wonder what my husband is thinking when he’s quiet. I build up whole storylines about what could be going on in his head and end up sobbing in bed over the fiction I created.

When I was younger, I used to act on the feelings I created in myself with those imaginary scenes. I’d change my plans to go on a road trip because I imagined that I had a premonition about a horrible car accident. I wouldn’t let my kids play at the park the afternoon I imagined what life would be like if they were kidnapped and murdered. I went into a two-day depression spiral because I imagined that the reason my husband was late home from work was that he’d met up with new friends that coerced him into a going to party and got too stoned and drunk to get home to me.

It wasn’t until I was late into my thirties before I had some control over letting my imagination run wild. Why it took so long, I may never understand, but I finally figured out how to separate my imagination from reality on a permanent basis…mostly. I still embellish the truth a bit from time to time. Stories are much better told with a flourish of language in my opinion.

And now, because I just happened across a writing prompt graphic on social media, I’ve discovered a new passion and expanded on it. When I write fiction, it’s me in those scenes. It can get a little stressful because I feel it and sense it all. I want to sit in my imagination and find ways to describe everything I see, feel, and smell. I want to think the horrible thoughts, taste the food, and touch the things I see. When I write the story, it isn’t what really happened, it’s what I imagine would if I were there. I feel like I’ve finally found a healthy way to explore those thoughts which used to terrify me. I’ve found a way to express those imagined feelings without losing my grip on reality. It’s incredibly exciting and I hope you like reading them.

I’m thoroughly enjoying diving into that well of imagination and using it for good instead of evil. Who knows where it will go? I’m still writing non-fiction. I feel like I have a lot to say, a lot to process and share. But now, I feel like I have a new outlet, a new direction for my passion for words.

And don’t worry. I’ll clearly mark my “stories” fiction at the top. I’d hate for someone to read a non-fiction post from me one day and be inspired only to find a fiction one the next and wonder what kind of insanity has been occurring at this house!