[From my friend, Kevin, who expresses so well the horror of these world events]
This isn’t the post I wanted to share today, the one I was hoping would end my writing slump — but the situation in Ukraine is occupying all of my thoughts and a frivolous post is impossible now. Like many of you, I am deeply saddened and angered by the Russian invasion, an action that […]
After participating in “Five Word Friday,” which occurs on the first Friday of each month, I did a little further reading on my friend Judith’s blog, and learned a couple things. First, I was doing it wrong. Rather than choose five individual words and write about them, as I did, the idea is to describe your current life situation in five words, and then expound on that. Second, I learned that “Five Word Friday” evolved from an earlier “Six Word Saturday” blog.
That reminds me of the six-word story. The most famous one, and maybe the one that started it all, is:
“For sale: baby shoes; never worn.”
It is generally attributed to Ernest Hemingway, though there is no proof that he ever wrote it. It does mimic Hemingway’s ability to say a great deal in a few select words. Writing groups often use this as a starting point to a longer story, and it’s pretty amazing to see some of the many interpretations people have come up with. Surprisingly, not all of them are as tragic as these six words indicate to me!
There used to be a web site dedicated to six-word stories; I don’t know if it’s still out there. But, aha, a quick search tells me that yes, it is, in several different incarnations, from six-word stories to six-word memoirs. There are, in fact, several web sites and hundreds of examples. Here are a few:
“A cry rings out. Life begins.”
“He died happy, knowing he lived.”
“Head on a pillow, not sleeping.”
“The cuts healed; her heart didn’t.”
“The universe is big. She’s lonely.
Today, my six-word story came to me without effort. I had not thought about writing today, and six-word stories had not even crossed my mind. Since it was Sunday morning, and the dogs let me get away with it, I slept in. Some of my most vivid, easily remembered dreams happen in those mornings when I’m able to wake up slowly.
In my dreams this morning, I was back at the Shamrock Pub & Restaurant, working as a waitress. Though I haven’t worked there in more than a decade, sometimes I still have food service dreams. And, though I loved working as a waitress, and was quite good at it, waitressing dreams are always borderline nightmares. This morning was no exception.
First, someone asked for a beer that I wasn’t familiar with. I found it, finally, in the end cooler, and then found it listed on the price sheet: three dollars and eighty-five cents. The customer gave me a ten dollar bill. I couldn’t read the buttons on the cash register. When I, after great difficulty, figured it out, and got the register to open, there was no cash inside of it. Then, I couldn’t find the safe, to get the cash drawer. “Is the safe in the basement?” I asked, and “where do they keep the safe, now?” But no one answered me, as my customer waited at the bar for her change, and other people gathered, waiting for service…
I got out of bed.
I flipped the switch to start the coffee brewing, and turned on the dryer on my way to the bathroom. I washed my hands and face and brushed my teeth before exiting. In the hallway, I opened the door of the dryer, and pulled out my warm bathrobe. The robe is white fleece, with an allover pattern of gray sheep. After days of wearing a raggedy cardigan sweater over my pajamas while the robe was in the laundry, it was a welcome change. Warm from the dryer, it felt quite luxurious! To finish the look, I added white and gray slippers that I picked up recently at the Resale Shop. That’s when my six-word story came to me:
I’ve been tossing around ideas for what to write about. I have a few, but haven’t taken time to flesh any of them out. To avoid letting another week go by without a blog post, my plan is to let the thoughts flow through the keyboard.
The last two (or three…or more?) books I’ve chosen for my morning study time have been in the Self-Help category. I always feel like I need help, so books offering ways to improve myself often appeal to me. Until I reach a point where I’ve had enough. Eventually, I get tired of the implied criticism wrapped up in pointed advice. Finally, I am fed up, at least for a while, with reading how to make myself a better person. Halfway through Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy, a guide to quit procrastinating, which followed the similar and self-explanatory Getting Things Done by David Allen, I promised myself that I would shelve the entire self-help category of books for a while.
There are ways to improve myself without nit-picking about my flaws. Studying Spanish, for instance, doesn’t make me feel bad about my current state of foreign language skills. Learning a new method of making art would not diminish what I’ve already done. There are plenty of areas of interest for me to explore, and I’ve been looking forward to getting started. A Writer’s Coach by Jack Hart is the book I chose to delve into. What a pleasure it is!
In fact, by sheer coincidence, I’ve started three new books all within a day of each other. For reading before bed, and for reading in restaurants, airplanes or waiting rooms. I depend on my Kindle reader. It’s easy to transport and, as my vision gets worse, the screen is easier to see in situations where the light is unpredictable. I finished Killer Instinct, the first in a series of mysteries by Zoe Sharp, and downloaded the second, Riot Act. I listen to books on Audible when I’m walking the dogs. I just finished The Maid, by Nita Prose, and started All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. For reading in the morning, when my mind is clearest for concentrating, and when I’m at the dining room table, with good light, and the ability to take notes, I am now enjoying A Writer’s Coach.
Hart suggests that there are two types of writers, planners and plungers. A planner likes to know the central point and the general direction his writing will take before getting started. A plunger jumps in to a topic and starts writing whatever comes to mind. “After a while,” he says, “a focus emerges.” This process is “free writing.”
It’s early yet – I’m only on page eleven, after all – but I may differ with the author on this point. Rather than “two types of writers,” I think it might better be introduced as two ways of writing. I know I work both ways, at different times. Sometimes, I know what I want to say, and have a good idea of how I want to say it. Other times, like today, I just plunge in!
Maybe the title should be “Nothing to Say,” rather than “Something to Say,” because that is more accurately the position I find myself in lately, but let’s see how this develops. Sometimes, when I start typing, the words come.
Now, not quite halfway through February, I have officially failed on every one of my few, paltry New Year’s resolutions. The plan to walk every day, which of all my resolutions, I had the most confidence in, fell quickly to the trash. I lost momentum when the winds picked up and the temperatures dropped. My neglect was exacerbated by the dogs. One day, I abandoned the effort when Rosa Parks developed a limp. Another day, Blackie Chan, usually my most enthusiastic and willing companion, faltered. Once, Darla’s insistence on following snowmobiles caused me to scrap the walk. So, just six weeks in to 2022, I’ve already missed seven days.
Exercise every day was another noble attempt that has already failed. I count exercise as separate from walking for a few reasons. My walks often devolve into what would more accurately be called a stroll, or at least such a series of starts and stops that they cannot be depended on for any kind of aerobic benefits. Exercise is one or more of any number of programs I do, depending on my mood, the time of day, and how I feel.
I have memorized a short, simple yoga routine, based on the little book, A Morning Cup of Yoga, that takes less than twenty minutes. I allow myself to count it as exercise, even if I only get through the series of four warm-up activities. In my exercise room upstairs, I have a dozen exercise tapes, featuring work with weights, Pilates, yoga, and dance. Two other simple routines are tacked to the wall. I have several five-to-fifteen minute routines downloaded on my computer. Many others are available, free, on YouTube. Daily exercise should be easy to keep up with. And yet, just 44 days into this year, I have missed nine days.
Determined to go easy on myself this year, “blog twice a week” was my third and final resolution. That fell by the wayside last week. As with the other two intentions, I have no good excuse. I wasn’t sick. I wasn’t incapacitated. I wasn’t away. I was busy at work and at home, but not to any extreme, and certainly not so busy as to offer a reason for my neglect. Mostly, it was simply a case of not having anything to say.
Accustomed to defeat, I don’t give up so quickly. I’m used to disappointing myself, and I’m good at beginning again. If there is one thing I should have learned by now, it’s that I should never, ever commit to specific numbers. I should have started this year with a simple list: Walk; Exercise; Blog. Let that be the end of it. If I’d been smart enough to do that, I’d be doing perfectly well, six weeks in to this new year!
Timeout for Art is something I’ve been neglecting to write about for the last several weeks. As I haven’t been working in the studio, I haven’t had anything fresh to offer. Winters are often my most productive time of year. That’s not the case this year. Not so far, anyway.
This year, I started a new job. No matter how pleasant, and especially at my age, change is hard work. A new environment, different responsibilities, and a change in schedule all require energy and attention.
Also with the new year, I’ve been focusing on getting back on track with some personal and health-related things that I let slide at holiday time. Time in the studio has been set aside while I concentrate on daily reading, exercise, writing, and sticking to my eating plan.
I’m still in the middle of that rearranging project upstairs, too. The one that started when I dragged a no-longer-needed kitchen cabinet upstairs, with the intention of putting it in the closet that is under the eaves on one side of the room. That decision necessitated moving a dresser out of that space, which led to a re-thinking of what I keep under the eaves on the other side of the room, because that access will be blocked by the dresser…and on, and on. On top of that, I took down the Christmas decorations, brought them upstairs, and added them to the jumble.
While none of that directly affects the studio, that room has been used for overflow, as I shuffle things around on the other side of the landing. It goes from being a little crowded, to being completely blocked from use. And that will continue until I get the other room done.
Another fact that I keep in mind is that I still have more than eighty pieces of art stored downstate in my sister’s basement. These are works that I finished and framed, to display in an art show last October. I remember naively figuring out what my profit would be, when everything sold. Of course that didn’t happen. So, the sometimes desperate need to get new work done just doesn’t apply this year.
I’ve been going easy on myself when I have time off. I don’t worry that I’m not getting studio time in; I’m not concerned that I’m not making art. The main problem is just that I have nothing to report in a “Time Out for Art” blog.
In January, we started setting aside time on Wednesdays for creative pursuits at the Community Center. The first Wednesday was “Open Studio,” where participants could bring whatever they’d like to work on, just to have the company of others. Four people took part, which, for a cold winter evening on Beaver Island, was enough to be encouraging. Last week, we got together to make Valentine cards. It was, again, a small but enthusiastic group, and the results were inspiring.
We have several interesting workshops planned, with open studio sessions on the in-between weeks. A little time out for art is a nice diversion on a winter evening!
My friend, Judith, who writes her blog from New Zealand, said, “come join us in this new challenge. You know what to do. Describe your life now in only five words and then go on to tell us more.” I was almost stopped when she said, “link back here,” as I don’t know exactly how to do that. But, I’m up for a challenge (especially when it only involves five words!), and happy for the inspiration, so I’m in.
Technology. Ugh. I have a lap top computer, a small Android tablet, and, since last October, a cell phone. I feel like they are each necessary and helpful devices that I should know better. The computer sits on my desk. It is where I write, watch the news, check social media, and stream videos. I feel like I’m well acquainted with its operations and capabilities. Until someone says, “link back here.” or some other such process that I haven’t done before, or don’t on a regular enough basis to remember how. Then, I’m right back at “square one.” The tablet has a good camera, my Kindle account for reading, my Audible account for listening, and a word game that I play with my sisters. It gets a lot of use, and we are usually on pretty good terms. Until it tells me I’m out of storage space or some such nonsense, and I have to call a daughter to figure out how to delete files or “send things to the cloud.” The cell phone, oh my gosh, I can’t even begin! Oh, that link, I think, is here: https://growingyoungereachday.wordpress.com/2022/02/04/16854/
Cold. I could not possibly describe my life, in February, in northern Michigan, in the middle of this winter, without considering the cold! It has been bitter! We’ve had a spate of low temperatures, and wind chills that make it feel even more frigid. It seems to permeate the walls of my little house, making it difficult to leave my warm bed in the mornings. Walking the dogs is a chore in this weather, with fingers and toes burning with cold, no matter how many layers I pile on. Snow has frozen into sheets and blocks of ice, making it a challenge to get around. When I left work last evening, I had to scrape ice off the inside of my windshield!
Exercise. With the new year, of course , come new resolutions. Exercise is not new to my life, but I’ve increased the type and quantity, and renewed my commitment to make it a daily habit. I find that I work best in small increments. Hour-long exercise tapes seem unbearable; I feel defeated before I even get started! Fifteen minutes seems just about right. There are plenty of short routines available for free on the internet. I usually do several of them back-to-back, tricking myself into getting a decent workout.
Spring. This is the time of year when seed catalogs come almost daily in the mail. Their variety alone is intriguing. Some opt for bright photos, while others go for the look of an old-fashioned catalogue. Some emphasize hardiness and disease-resistance; others on the history or heirloom nature of a particular plant. Every single one is worth a good look. Together, they have me planning my garden, and wishing for spring!
Work. I really like my new job! I work in a beautiful building right in the center of town. I feel that I’m able to utilize many skills that I’ve acquired through my life. I feel appreciated! And, since I’m due to be there in an hour, I’d better get moving!
That’s it for my first five-word Friday. Maybe I’ll make it a regular thing! What five words would describe your life, right now?