Thursday, January 3, 2013

Writing Rituals

Finding the right rhythm to write. It’s like finding the right rhythm to exercise, meditate, or feed yourself. It’s elusive and imperative, a pain to nail down. But once you find it, and it could take some time, it should be blissful. You should find yourself skipping towards it as if you were having a gorgeous lunch with your most treasured person on the planet.

Yes, it should be that good.

If you’re reading this, you either know me through social media, are related to me, or found this through a search. If you are the former, “Hey there! How are you?” If you are the latter, you are seeking, as I have done, ways to get your head into the framework of writing (so as to nourish your soul) on a regular basis...

This was written for you, seeker.

First of all, let me admonish you for wasting time doing searches on writing tips, writing rituals, and/or ways to write more. You should just be writing--says the girl sitting in a coffee shop writing this blog post when she should be editing and working on her own half-finished novel. 

But it’s true. 

You should write and write and write and write. 

But I understand why you are here. Let me ask you this, what stops you from writing?

  •       You can’t find the time?
  •       You procrastinate too much? Skirt the task like a tired dog circles his bed?
  •       Find yourself uncomfortable once you’ve set yourself to the task?

I understand. It’s going to be okay. (Feel better? Not yet? Keep reading.)

Can’t find the time solutions:

When I was a working mom, my life felt like a conveyor belt of endless tasks. From the moment I opened my eyes until the moment I shut them I was in ‘go-mode.’ It sucked. But I still snuck in time to write. No, I’m not Jessica Alba, Bethany Skinny Girl Whatever, or any of those other powerhouse moms who can look gorgeous, skin and dress a deer, make a wreath out of the antlers, do the laundry, all while driving their perfectly behaved children to equestrian ninja classes.

That’s not me. 

I looked like crap, I felt like crap. I did not feel that I was enjoying the ride of life. I was beneath the ride, somewhere in the sewer with my head barely above the filth. I digress. I found time to write in the strangest places--on breaks, at lunch, and during endless, faculty meetings  I found time in the car waiting for my parents to make the hand-off with my little darling. If I was rested, I found time after dinner, or in the morning before work. I found time when my daughter napped on weekends (if I wasn’t napping too.) There was no ritual at that time. Finding the time was the ritual. But I did what I could. A paragraph here, a sentence there. Every word counts.
If you are on the conveyor belt of life, I’m sorry and hope that you are finding peace wherever you can get it, but I also hope you will try to sneak in your passion for writing wherever and whenever you can. 

This mermaid is also sending you a hug—sounds like you need it.

This print is courtesy of Robin and Helen.
You, too, could own this...Go on over and tell them Heather sent you, then buy it for $20!

Procrastinate too much/Skirt the task like a tired dog circles his bed solutions:

Do you really want to write? I’m serious. Ask yourself this question. Listen to the answer. Think out loud with someone who you trust. Tell them, I need you to ask me this question: Do you want to write? For real life? Then start dishing. I give you full permission to NOT want to write. Maybe you thought you did. Maybe you’re still on the journey to finding your creative passion. I just found out that I don’t want to concentrate on my artwork as a career. I don’t want to teach art anymore. I would only do those things to make money. That’s not a good reason to feed your soul. Is there something else you would rather be doing? Then go do it. This may be why you’re procrastinating. 

OR it could be you have issues with allowing yourself to be happy. Do you prolong happiness? I do. I store it up and wait until I am too exhausted to do anything and then I don’t appreciate it at all because I am soooo not in the moment. I’m a mom. I’m good at putting myself last. This is not okay. No, really it’s not. No, I don’t mean get all selfish and such. You don’t need to be getting a pedicure everyday or reading magazines constantly and ignoring your children. That’s not cool. 

Julia Child said, “Everything in moderation…including moderation.” That includes allowing yourself to be happy. Do it. Schedule it. Don’t put it off until you reach the point of exhaustion. Life is not a marathon, you don’t need to be clambering up the hill of life, clawing your way to “you time.” Btw, I’m not good at this either—but I’m working on it! This could be why you clean the whole house before you write, or finish that one last thing, before you write, or make a quilt for your daughter because you said you would, before you write. Maybe I’m talking about myself here… Anyway, take a cue from any 12 step program—step one is admitting that you have a problem. Recognize, acknowledge, ignore the truly unnecessary junk that is preventing you from writing, and go write!

A girl, her Americano, buttered olive bread, and her laptop.

Find yourself uncomfortable once you’ve set yourself to the task solutions:

Everyone is different. Everyone has their own ritual. Some writers have their writing cave. They go there at the same time every day and don’t come out until they achieve their daily word count. I applaud them and their enviable word count.

I cannot write in our 700 sq ft apartment. That’s way too much temptation for me to procrastinate (see above). I need to be in a public place, a noisy one. Maybe it’s the knowledge that others can watch me. My drive to perform and please others comes into play here. I am fully aware that these are strangers who are, most likely, not aware of my presence…yes, I have some issues. I recognize and acknowledge. But it works, so I’m not going to question the crazy bubbling just below the surface. My daughter is in pre-school every Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Last school year and for some of this new school year, I have gone all over, around, and outside Providence, RI in search of the perfect place to write. I will post my findings and notes of various writing venues at another time.

I have discovered that my favorite place to write is Seven Stars Bakery on Broadway (SSOB). Here’s why. They have the perfect writing beverage and snack—an Americano with a slice of freshly-made, olive bread slathered in butter. The tables are small but square. I cannot write at a round table. It throws off my chi. The height of the table is imperative too. Often, I find the Starbuck’s tables to be of an unworkable height and my writing sessions (when SSOB is closed) at Starbucks are often short. SSOB also offers the most wonderful array of hipsters exceptionally eccentrically dressed comingled with impeccably manicured, three-piece-suit types mixed with Providence fire and police personnel in their uniforms and turnout gear. It’s a constant parade of clothing that nourishes my vision the way the olive bread and perfectly brewed coffee nourishes my taste buds and caffeine addiction. But my favorite thing about SSOB is the lack of internet access. That’s heavenly. It means I cannot goof off on the internet. If I need to check a fact or something, I have to use my phone. 

I did not realize how important this ritual of SSOB time was until it was taken away from me. My daughter’s pre-school needed a substitute teacher for two months while one of the teachers was on maternity leave. I did it willingly, to see my daughter in her own environment, to have the opportunity to teach my own daughter, to see if I liked teaching pre-school, and to teach alongside one of the most amazing teachers (really, she is a force of nature and one of the most dedicated, creative, brilliant, caring individuals I have ever met in the teaching profession. It was an honor to be by her side.) BUT it took me away from my Tuesday/Thursday writing ritual. I have been cranky beyond belief.

Today, I am back. I dropped off the peanut and was surprised when the lovely woman who had returned from her maternity leave handed me a bag of Holiday presents. I can count on one hand the number of memorable Holiday gifts I received from the twelve years of teaching eighth grade. This was stunning. As I pulled into my parking spot on Broadway, I reached into the bag and pulled out an envelope. I’m still not sure why I did it, but I did. Inside was a lovely card from one of the cherubs I taught, and from her mom, bless her, bless her, bless her…was a gift card for Seven Stars.

At that moment, I knew I was where I was supposed to be and hopefully, with a little luck and searching you will find your place as well. Keep searching.

Good luck to you, writer…
Your favorite mermaid

Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 - I'm over you and your bad juju...

There are lots of ways people say goodbye to the year that is ending. Some seem more effective and useful than others. Some seem insane...

I worked with a lady who was Cape Verdean, and it was part of her culture (this could have been specific only to her family. Who knows? It's my story now, damn it) to clean her entire house, sweep the stairs, dump out all the trash, dirt, lint, unmentionables, all the bad juju so as not to bring that nastiness into the new year.

I know another friend of mine who writes down all the things she didn't like about the previous year, and then burns the list so as not to bring that nastiness into the new year.

I know other people who will plunge themselves into the icy depths of coastal, New England waters. They call these Polar Plunges or Penguin Swims. I call them ridiculous. Maybe it's madness, bravado, or some new age, new year baptismal--a way of cleansing the bad juju so as not to bring that nastiness into the new year.

Then there's me.

I've tried cleaning like a mad woman. I've made the bad juju list (and burned it and almost my kitchen.) I've thought about subjecting my pasty, weenie self to frigid New England waters (and then rejected that really bad idea!) But the ritual I like the most is making a list of things I'd like to see happen. No, they're not resolutions, more like suggestions to myself. I started this in 2010 and it has been interesting to check in on my past self, one year later. Here is a sample list from last year:

Looking over this list, I have to admit that I did achieve a lot of these goals. Then again, some of them I sucked at achieving or just plain ignored them.

Interesting point though, the first one:


Huh. Before I wrote this post, I was stressing about vacuuming the apartment, folding the laundry, and getting my tutu ready for the party I'm going to later on this evening. Then it hit me...


Do I need to vacuum? Hell, no. Do I need to fold that laundry over there (yes, you laundry, don't think I don't see you staring me down, getin' all wrinkly and can deal.)? Hell, no. Do I NEED to be stressing over a tutu, for Christ's sake? Hell, no. No one cares. No bad juju is going to happen in 2013 just because I did not do the damn laundry on the last frickn' day of 2012.

I've had a good year. I started running, I wrote and finished a novel, I've been published, I made some AMAZING new friends. It all happened because I focused more on what mattered to me and not what didn't.

So, if you're out there reading this, my advice to you is screw the laundry every now and then, eff the vacuuming, don't put pressure on yourself to make everything on your Pinterest board. It doesn't matter. Be true to yourself, relax more, make goals like:

  • Paint your nails more (it forces you to sit still)
  • Read more (also forcing you to sit still)
  • Take time to take care of your miraculous body that you have been blessed with (get out and move it around, it likes that!)
  • Hug and kiss the people you love (This year was full of loss and tragedy. Treasure those around you)
  • Ask yourself, what will make me happy? And listen to yourself!
I wish you all good juju in 2013, dear reader, and I hope you will be better to yourself (I'm hoping the same for future me!) And if you don't make a list, you know what? It doesn't frickn' matter...

Your Favorite Mermaid