Tag Archives: blog

For Now

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“Only those with tenacity can march forward in March.”

~ Ernest Agyemane Yeboah

I am struggling, this winter, to continue moving forward. My exercise program has become anything but “regular.” My daily walk takes me, many days, no farther than to the end of the driveway and back. “Morning Pages,” three pages of stream-of-consciousness writing that I recommitted to last year, has fallen by the wayside, beyond a few occasional fits and starts.

This writing, too, has been sorely neglected this year. Since I committed to this blog post – now more than seven years ago – I have published at least one essay every week. I’ve taken on mini-challenges within the larger commitment: there were a few month-long challenges; I wrote a family history, in installments; I dedicated one day per week to a Timeout for Art post; I went through two books of weekly “List” prompts; and I published a blog post every single day in 2016.

It often seemed like I may have run out of things to talk about. I noticed my writing was often devolving into complaints, to-do lists, and an inventory of frustrations. I set a new goal this year. My plan was to work my way through each of the writing prompts in Natalie Goldberg’s Old Friend from Far Away.

Maybe it wasn’t the best idea. Or, perhaps, that task would be better suited for my private journal pages. Does anyone really want to read a ten-minute essay about jell-o? Or dishes? Or nuts? With doubts running through my mind, I contemplated leaving this year’s plan behind, but had no clear idea of what to replace it with. So, my default was to just neglect it altogether.

This morning when I got up, the temperature outside was 13 below zero. The view from any window is snow, snow, and more snow. Under the snow, there is a thick bed of ice, that will throw me off balance if I don’t watch my step. When the sun comes out, gigantic icicles form along the eaves of the house.

The dogs have forged a network of paths leading from the back door, to get to the places where they choose to do their outside business, or where they can bark at the neighbors. Bored with the pace of this cold season, they spend a great deal of time going outside and coming back in, just for the sport of it, and the possibility of a reward. Today, they are sprawled together on the bed, grumbling their displeasure.

The long term weather forecast promises better days. By next week, we should see temperatures in the 30s, and into the forties by the end of the month. Undoubtedly, spring will eventually come. St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner. That celebration brings big excitement and an influx of visitors to this Irish island. It won’t be long after that before the warm weather residents and tourists arrive.

With that assurance comes new frustration at all the things I have not yet gotten done. Though today’s weather might seem to contradict the statement, time is running short for all of my winter’s plans. It’s time to make the big push, while there is still time. That, along with my feelings about the quality of my recent posts, has brought me to the conclusion that it’s time for a different tack.

“Don’t settle: Don’t finish bad books. If you don’t like the menu, leave the restaurant. If you’re not on the right path, get off it.”

~Chris Brogan

I’m not giving up on this blog; I’m not going to quit writing. What I’m giving up are all previously conceived notions and obligations regarding it. I will publish regularly, but not on a pre-planned regular schedule. I’ll write whatever I feel like sharing, even if that happens to sound like complaints, to-do lists, and an inventory of frustrations. It may take a surprising turn, as I direct my attention more to my health, art, or my home projects. I don’t know yet, but the possibilities are exciting to me. For now, that’s good enough!

Forty!

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Today is the fortieth day in my year-long writing commitment. Forty days in a row that I have posted a blog. Forty days without missing a day. In my life, this is big! Major! Maybe even unprecedented!

So, that’s what I’m going to focus on today.

The success.

Not the forty things I have let slide in order to keep up with this challenge.

Not the forty things I am behind on.

Not the “Creative Fire thirty-day journal challenge” that I dumped after less than one week.

Not the forty (more like four hundred!) other attempts to form good, productive habits over the years that have been abandoned. Like walking every day. Drawing every day. Starting every day with yoga. Meditating daily. Making the bed every day. I could go on and on. You get the idea.

And definitely not the three hundred and twenty-seven days yet to go, before this commitment is finished. Let’s not think about that.

Today, I have written a blog for every day of the year, so far. I have managed to find subject matter that has inspired me and – I hope – entertained those who stopped in to read. I have only rarely devolved into navel-gazing journal entries. I have averaged about four hundred words a day. For me, that’s a huge accomplishment.

For today, that’s what I’m going to celebrate.

What I Do

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Day two of my thirty day writing challenge.

I’m in that obsessive state of mind.

I couldn’t fall asleep last night for the excitement! I retrieved my journal from its low shelf to check the blog ideas I had listed there. I found my good, smooth-writing ink pen to make lists of new ideas. I pulled out one book after another.

I read about twenty pages into The Writer’s Devotional by Amy Peters, which is designed for reading one inspirational page per day.  “Each day of the week highlights a different aspect of a writer’s life…” Mondays are ‘Writers on Writing,” and that is the inspiration for this post today.

I finished another chapter of Mary Karr’s new book, The Art of Memoir. Her The Liar’s Club was one of my favorites, and started me on a whole tangent of memoir reading. It promises to be a wonderful, insightful book, but I didn’t feel like I could learn all she has to offer before today’s post.

Next, Theodore Roethke, On Poetry and Craft. He’s a favorite of mine, and the book is heavily marked with my underlines and exclamation points…but I deemed it too much to absorb in one night, and returned it to the shelf.

Finally, Do the Work by Steven Pressfield. A thin volume that I picked up in a bookstore several months ago, I hadn’t done more than glance at it until last night. Well, it’s simply brilliant!

“When you and I set out to create anything – art, commerce, science, love – or to advance in the direction of a higher, nobler version of ourselves, we uncork from the universe, ineluctably, an equal and opposite reaction.

That reaction is Resistance. Resistance is an active, intelligent, protean, malign force – tireless, relentless, and inextinguishable – whose sole object is to stop us from becoming our best selves and from achieving our higher goals.”

The book is made up of short chapters composed of paragraphs with startling titles like “The Crazier the Better,” “Suspend All Self-Judgment”  and “Welcome to Hell.” He spends an awful lot of time talking about resistance, and how it attacks. The first way? Making it seem necessary to research rather than just get to work.

Exactly what I was doing!

In fact, one of the things I always do.

None of these patterns are new to me.

First, I obsess.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a new art project, a diet, an exercise program, or this blogging commitment…obsession is first.

You’ll here me say things like:

“Oh, yeah, I started a new series of paintings…no big deal.”

“…just thought I’d try to lose a few pounds is all.”

“Just trying to move a little more.”

“Yes, I’m writing every day in November. A lot of people do it.”

But what’s going on in my mind is more like:

“OH MY GOD THIS IS GOING TO CHANGE MY ENTIRE LIFE AND I’LL FINALLY BE FAMOUS {SUCCESSFUL/LOVED/RESPECTED/YOU NAME IT}…IF ONLY I CAN PULL THIS OFF!!!”

And that’s when resistance sets in.

That’s when research begins. When hours investigating how it’s been done before, by others, or how others think it should be done, take the place of doing. When long lists of possibilities, “pros and cons” and things I’ll do when I am successful at whatever the undertaking is…actually undermine the possibility of success.

That’s how I roll.

Don’t worry, I’ll get over it.

In my sixty-three years, I’ve learned to ride this wild horse of my life. I recognize the highs and lows, the craziness and the obsessions. I push through it.

I just keep going.

Carrying On, Oblivious

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We had a severe winter storm last December that damaged many trees here on Beaver Island.

As the Winter snows melt away, the Spring waters recede and the deep mud dries up, I’m able to walk the dogs through areas that have been impassible for months. We often come upon trees that have fallen, casualties of that long ago storm. The big dog usually goes over; the small dog goes under. Most times I go around.

Last week, preparing to go off trail once again to circumvent the large treetop that was still in my path, I noticed a change that brought tears to my eyes, and caused me to investigate further.

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This is where the tree begins, far into the woods. The weight of the snow on its branches caused it to bow, and it eventually snapped. It took another, smaller tree down with it.

It is laid out through the woods, forty feet or more of it, from heavy trunk to the tiniest, topmost branches, which are spread out across the woodland path.

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And, close-up, look like this:

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Yes, oblivious to the fact that the trunk has been severed from the earth, that death is imminent and unavoidable, this tree is about to unfurl its leaves in a show of Springtime glory!

One of my entries here on WordPress was selected for “Freshly Pressed” a couple weeks ago. I think it’s a pretty big honor. I know it’s very flattering.

That distinction brought several new readers and “like”-ers and “follow”-ers (Welcome!) to my blog. It also made me afraid that I would never again have anything to say that would come close to that quality of writing. Which would mean that from here on out, everything I write will be a disappointment (Sorry!).

It really can be quite paralyzing.

Many years ago I worked with a young man named Jeff, the summer after his high school graduation. He had been a popular boy, a football player, the class president, well liked by both students and faculty. He’d had a wonderful high school experience, and he was smart enough to appreciate it. He was also intelligent enough to be thoughtful, and he was afraid. “What if those were the best years of my life?” he wondered, “How can anything else measure up?”

These are similar to my fears about this blog, since being “Freshly Pressed.”

I had opportunity to talk to Jeff ten years later. He’d learned that fresh challenges present themselves, new experiences bring joy, and those high school memories fade into the past, so that they are no longer the yardstick by which all other experiences are measured.

“And how did you come to learn that?” I asked him.

“Well, I guess I just blindly kept going, and things worked out,” he said.

So, with that magnificent, doomed tree and that thoughtful young man as examples, that’s what I’m doing.

Maybe one with a better perspective than I have can see that it’s hopeless. Maybe my best is behind me.

Oblivious to all that, I carry on.