Sunday, November 17, 2013

Making Time

You don't have time to write. 

I know you don't. Neither do I. 

That's because time doesn't hand itself to me. It just floats by, and I wander around NOT doing the things I want to be doing because of other have-tos. 

And yet I don't. I make time for exercise. EVERY DAY. Sometimes 2 1/2 hours of it. Sometimes more (I do take off the occasional day, but not very often). 

I do make time to teach my kids. LOTS of time. I make time to play on the computer in the mornings. I make time to read, even if it's just a half hour before bed (but it's usually more). I would make time for writing if I made it a priority. 

Sounds like it's time for a list. I'm brilliant with lists--they are part of my daily life. I keep a book of them around me at all times. But this is not a daily list. This list is an expression of what is most important to me, judging by what I do. IN ORDER. And it shows why I don't write enough.

1. My children and their schooling.
2. My job at the Firehouse (must keep it!).
3. Exercise.
4. Cleaning my house.
5. Reading.
6. Paying bills.
7. The hubby (isn't it horrible that he's so far down the list?).
8. Artistic pursuits (writing, painting, drawing, sewing, cooking, piano, everything).

THIS is why I don't write. I put it last on the list. I am more likely to take out the trash or wash my car than write! Ack!

What the list should be…

1. My children and their schooling.
2. The hubby (sorry I don't keep you here).
3. Exercise (have to keep it here for health reasons).
4. My writing.
5. Other artistic pursuits.
6. My job at the Firehouse.
7. Cleaning house.
8. Paying bills and other necessaries.
9. Reading.

Now I just need to print this out and follow it! 

Can you re-prioritize? If you did, what would you change?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Pulling Teeth

I did manage to write a little yesterday. Okay, I revised, but given that I'm changing verb tense throughout the novel, AND trying to make it into what it should be at the same time, I'm practically re-writing it.

But I don't have much time to write at this point. Homeschooling is taking every free moment I have (unless it's 6 a.m, and the kids are still sleeping, which is why I can write this entry). Getting my kids to DO THEIR WORK is about as difficult as getting myself to face this novel for the umpteenth time to make it better.

So everything in my life is dragging. And the stress that results is about to kill me. I looked in the mirror last night and thought THIS is the year I get my gray hairs. No way around it, not with this stress.

Could I send the kids to school? Yup, but it wouldn't work. I've tried that. It was nearly as time-consuming, between working all afternoon and late into the night with my daughter on work the school had brushed over, and going to face the principal and teachers when my son was acting up, acting out, or just refusing to participate in anything classroom-related. And then standing over him to make him do the make-up work that he refused to finish in class.


I'd rather be at the dentist.

In a bit, I'll have to start the long day again… my one-person fight to help my kids find something to love about school, to get them to take responsibility for their own tasks, to teach, to find any time for myself, to find joy in the moment, in the day, in the year.

Taoism specifically describes the "way" or "flow" of one's life. If one is following the natural "way," or "tao," one feels calm, one finds the tasks run smoothly, one has a sense that all the pieces fit together.

And that suggests to me that I am not following the natural flow of my life, for I feel as if I'm wading upstream, the stream is at flood stage, and I'm dragging a semi-truck that someone has tied around my waist. And I'm making no progress at all.

How do I find the correct path? I feel like I've been off the right road for so long that I will never find my way back.

I have no answers. I had hoped, with morning, that they would come--any of them--but I wait in vain.


Monday, November 11, 2013

What's the Worst that Could Happen?

If I don't write, the world won't come to an end.

Will it?

Besides, the laundry needed doing. I'm only finishing the last load this morning because I spent more time on it yesterday than I did on writing. I had the afternoon--and I was planning to write, really--but then I realized I had the whole week's lesson plans to do.

Now that the internet is working on my work computer, I have a mass e-mail to send out. And arts classes to plan. And vendors to e-mail. And I still have to fold the last two loads of laundry. And teach class.

And I'm sure I can think of other things to fill my time with instead of writing. Let's see, there's "take a nap," in case I'm the slightest bit tired. I could also "unload the dishwasher," even though the kids can do that on their own. And "nag kids to do their homework" should take up at least an hour or two. If I don't take the time to nag them, I won't really feel like a mom. I can't write down "paint," though. Too creative. I have to put that at the bottom of the list, along with "sew." Wouldn't want to get any actual MAKING done today. Better to feel the day is a complete scrap.


As long as I put writing at the bottom of the list--along with music, art, and any other creative pursuits--it won't get done. And then I'll never finish a project. And I'll never have to face critics. The pressure will be off.

But I won't be a writer. Or an artist. Or a costume designer.

I guess I better get to work. The REAL work, too. Not sweeping. Not laundry. Writing.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Snarky Voices

Some people have their own cheering section. You know these people. Perhaps you are one of these people, but you'll never admit it. These are the people who go out for American Idol and insist to the world that they are the best singers EVER. And they stink. Absolutely stink. But they have no understanding of singing, or what it takes to sing well, and cannot hear how horrid they are.

These are the ones who don't understand why they don't just "get" grades they want. Why don't people see how smart they are? Why don't people recognize their brilliance, and all rally behind them because they are, simply put, AWESOME? These people are frustrated when others don't simply agree with them. After all, they are ALWAYS RIGHT.

Hubris. Gotta love it.

I think it spreads around a lot more than we are willing to admit.

But then, I wouldn't know. I'm so far from hubris it's amazing I'm still trying. Sure, these self-assured people can get annoying, but it would be nice to BE one of these people, if only for a day.

I got the snarky voices instead. The critical ones who don't stop talking even when I relax at the piano keys. Who grumble even when I actually do make some headway on my novel revisions. I'm wondering more and more whether I am just schizophrenic, if these voices are a manifestation of my own insanity.

All I know is they won't stop talking, and they don't say anything nice.

Where do they come from? Every corner of my life. Every stray negative comment. Sure, I can block them out, but not completely. I can argue with them, or take action despite their derision, but I still hear them. That is why I am ultra cautious about what I tell others. I don't want to contribute to their own voices… at least not the way I contribute to my own.

But I will continue to fight them. I will keep writing, keep painting, keep drawing, and keep writing, despite all they say. I will never give up.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Wake Up, Stupid

It's 6:08 a.m., the time of the day when I seem most able to write.

Not because I'm brilliant at this time in the morning. No... but at this time all I hear is my grandfather clock ticking, and everyone else is still sleeping. The hubby has been quite obliging lately, elbowing me to get up by 4:15 each morning (as if he's dreaming that I'm sleeping through an alarm I didn't even set), so I've had time to catch up on e-mail, pay some bills, and even do a Sudoku game up to this point.

So I'm awake, I guess. But not really.

How much are we really awake during the day, anyway?

It's a basic question, not too complicated. How much do we pay attention when we are driving, for instance? I drove right past the library on Tuesday, then drove right past the post office Wednesday. If I'm on auto-pilot in the car, when I probably pay attention most, what am I doing the rest of the day?

The truth is, I'm distracted. I have thoughts racing through my head--fears, too--and lately they are keeping me from enveloping myself in the present moment. Even as I counsel my daughter about math or nag my son about his homework, I'm fearing the future if they can't grasp the concepts I'm teaching. Even as I write this (or work on novels), the voices I mentioned earlier (in a post two days ago) creep into my consciousness, slithering around until what I would like to write is a jumble.

I feel like I'm half awake, only half aware, and it's not a good feeling.

My kids are only half-engaged, too. They are brooding through their assignments, most of their brain energy focused on the moment they will get to play video games. But that is the whole problem. Their lack of focus means that homework is five times harder and takes five times longer to do. And that means they are literally finishing up their final piece of it right before bed. No video games for them!

So last night I took it all away. No TV, no video games, no computer for the time being. Until they can focus, their only outlet will be physical activity...

That has to be my rule, as well. No TV, no video games, nothing but physical activity until I really throw myself into this novel. (I have to get the physical activity, or I will go completely crazy, and crazy is no way to write--or is it? Hmmm... must think about that one.)

IF I revise at least a chapter AND/OR spend at least an hour on my novel today, I get some TV or other fun time. If I don't... well, then I get diddly squat, as I'd say to my kids. We've all got to wake up, get our work done, and earn the play time at the end of the day.

If you have advice for me, advice to make me wake up, to stop putting off my writing, please let me know!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Stop the Voices!

Courtesy of michi2004 (

The voices keep coming. It took them no time at all to grapple with my brain cells, yanking and yanking as they pulled out connections, added confusion, and debilitated my writing...

My daughter has them, too, but only when it comes to math word problems. She just took a test, missing all but one word problem at the end of the exam, though her overall grade was pretty good.

I looked over the test with her yesterday. "I see your brain shut off right here."

"Yup," she agreed. "I hate word problems."


"I just can't do them." She had just repeated what the voices told her, and she and I both knew it. We've been working on what I call "Math Therapy" for a few weeks now, practicing over and over what she is going to say every time those voices crop up and tell her You can't do this.

"What were you supposed to say to them?" I ask her.

"Shut up." This is her talking to the voices, not to me, of course.

"That's right," I tell her, nodding.

But then I face my novel, again. The one I had started to revise before my laptop's hard drive blew up. The one I was really turning into something brilliant. Before the great big bang. Before it was all gone.

And the voices come back as I am revising. You'll never get it back the way it was, they say.

"Shut up. I'll make it even better."

You can't even remember how you moved sections of it around. 

"Shut up!" But I couldn't stop listening. The voice was right. Everything seemed jumbled.

It's not going to work.

The voices continued, creepier and creepier as the minutes passed. I made it to page eight, sweating like a pig by the time I gave up for the night.

But I'm going back, voices and all. If my daughter can face word problems day after day, I can do this too.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Really Not Writing--UNTIL TODAY!!!

You know this already. This is not new information.

I'm not writing.

Nope, haven't written a page of anything in weeks!

A shocker. Yet again, I've filled my life with everything in the world I possibly can to keep myself from writing.

I could blame the kids for needed to be home schooled. (Okay, I'm one of those weird moms who pull their kids out of school and then torture them with whiteboards, essay assignments, Latin, Astronomy, and all sorts of odd subjects inside my own house.) It takes a lot of time.

I could blame my stupid hard drive for developing "mechanical failure," meaning that all info on it once it's crashed becomes completely inaccessible except to the CIA. It certainly punched me in the gut, especially once I realized that I'd e-mailed only my finished novels to myself, and not the latest revision of my ghost story (which I was halfway through editing), nor--*gasp*--last year's NANOWRIMO novel all about mermaids. It was like I'd never written it.

But the truth is, these are all excuses. If I don't write, it's because I have chosen not to. It's my own damn fault, and no one else's. If I really wanted to write, I would have written.

Now that I've accepted responsibility, it's time to write.

No, really. I'm going to write. I wrote here, didn't I? My first entry since LAST APRIL, people! Jeez! And it's only going to get better the more I write. And easier.

So I'm writing. I have one more blog entry to do, on my other site, Creative Arts Anonymous, and then I'm off to start my funeral novel (all about dead people and a funeral director...). And I will make time for writing EVERY SINGLE DAY. WITHOUT FAIL. I will put writing on the top of my list every day, not the bottom.

With my new external hard drive in hand, ready to back-up everything, I will succeed and restarting, at returning to what I truly love to do, without fear, without regret, without anything holding me back.

And I will get it done.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Just Give Up

You know it's hopeless.

So just give up already.

You've been trying for weeks to lose weight, but you've eaten just enough cookies to negate the extra walking you've been doing. But you can't give up cookies FOREVER. So just give up. Go on. Accept that you'll always have that stomach, just the way it is. All those Biggest Loser contestants have different chromosomes than you do.

So give up. Quit trying.

And it's not like you'll ever get a real job again. Why the hell are you even wasting your time applying? Just suck it up, keep the job you hate. Don't bother with college. Years from now, it's not like you'll suddenly have a job you like. Why even try? Just go home and watch TV. Take your mind off your crummy life.

But accept that it's crummy. And it always will be. So give it up already.

Why are you still working on your goddamn novels. They all suck, and even if they ever don't suck, even if you finally get them where you want them to be, it's not like the publishers out there will ever read them. Or at least it will take time--years maybe--and that's too long. Better to use your time eating your way through three pints of ice cream than working on those stupid novels. At least ice cream tastes good. Okay, sure, there are some really good parts to that novel. Yeah, sure, you might actually have fun writing all that crap. Or even revising it, if you're a complete lunatic. Just don't think, for one minute, that it's going to get you anywhere.

So give up. Just give up.

Like anybody gets anywhere just by working at it. Sheesh!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Being Means Doing

It took me years to call myself a writer.

Now I can use the term in public--without that weird clog in my throat I used to get trying to make the words come out--but I'm still a fraud. I say, "I'm a writer."

But it isn't true. A writer, above all, writes. Notice the present tense. Better yet, make it present progressive: A writer is writing. Currently. Right now. Putting words on a page, revising, creating worlds and characters, designing suspenseful and meaningful plots, enjoying the Lego-like building and destruction that children enjoy.

A writer is planning query letters. Reading scenes aloud to hear the dialogue. Arranging words in their best order for poetry. Perhaps even finding a rhyme or two (though that's rarely me).

I have a friend who is a painter. She told me, "I try to make painting a priority--try to spend at least three days a week painting."

I asked her, "You get three days a week in? That's impressive."

She frowned at me, thought a bit, and said, "No, I get about one day every two weeks." Yet she is far more of a painter than I am a writer.

I do write. A little. I am writing this blog entry. I write a poem here or there. But mostly I just grade essays. Mostly I do laundry and dishes. Mostly I write business letters for my other jobs, assess journals for my classes, prep for teaching. Clean my house.

But I don't write. If I have a few minutes of free time, I go play piano. Hell, I even paint more than I write. I go to play rehearsal. I watch TV, even if I hate everything I watch. I fill my hours with tasks I dislike, instead of pulling back, taking days here and there just to write.

I still can't figure out why I do it, but I do it nonetheless. And until I start writing again, I'm not a writer.

Maybe someday I will be.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Why Do I Listen to Myself?

I have given in at times...

I've backed away from a challenge when people suggested I wasn't good enough to do something. I've held back from trying when I knew no one expected me to make it.

But I've also proven people wrong so many times. I wasn't supposed to marry my hubby--it wouldn't work, my family said--but we're about to celebrate 20 years of marriage. I was told not to try being a teacher (it wouldn't suit me), yet I've managed to get three degrees in English and teach for nearly as many years as I've been married. And I'm a good teacher. I'm interesting, I'm effective, and I'm fair but tough.

I've learned to ignore what people say. They are too quick to give up on me, to likely to be skeptical about my abilities, too likely to brush over me, dismiss me, ignore me.

But then my own inner voices come... and they tell me the same things... and I don't ignore them. I let them shove me down, pull me back, shiver me into a corner. I back away from challenge. I hold back, I keep quiet, I shut myself up entirely.

Why? Why do I listen? Why don't I slap those nasty voices into next week (oops, there's a bad pun), toss them in the trash where they belong, wash myself free of them in the shower, letting them go down the drain and disappear for good?

Better yet, why don't I try to SHOW them? I do this with outside people, but I don't challenge my own voices. Why don't I just see this as a challenge?

It's because they are me. They are my caution, my tact, my defensive mechanisms. These same voices keep me from saying stupid or mean things out of anger. Sometimes shutting up is the best choice, and I'm grateful when they help me make it, too.

I can't just chunk them out a random window. They are as much me as the determination, the work ethic, the sensitivity, the everything of me. But they need to go to their room sometimes, and let me work. They need to leave off. They need to go take a nap or something so that I can get back to writing without them screaming at me.

Wow. They're listening. I'm amazed. I can see their shoulders hunching a little in shame. I can see their sad looks. Their off to their rooms to think about what they've done. Are they giving me the day off? I sure hope so. I could use the afternoon for writing. Without their looking over my shoulder.

Now I'm off. If they pop their heads out, I'll just glare until the heads disappear. If they start grumbling, I'll turn on the radio to drown them out.

Maybe I should turn on the radio NOW.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Not So Philosophical

Sometimes I find it hard to think when everyone around me is screaming.

The amount of trauma drama all around me right now astonishes me. And I believe most of it is invented, self-inflicted, self-wounding. People raging all around at each other, then keening loudly because everyone has abandoned them. People taking everything personally. People harming each other, then wondering why others seem so ticked. What could the matter be?

Tough life.

Thank God I don't have to live it. Not because the swirling waters around all around my ankles, but because around my ankles they can't sweep me off to drown. I have to choose to walk into the deeper water.

I don't choose to. And I won't choose to.

Life is just life. It's good and bad. People are kind and cruel. But I have a choice. We all do. My choice is to do what makes me happy, avoid the trauma drama, and help my kids keep their equilibrium, too. So this morning, with the world falling all around me, I'm at peace, knowing that I have not lost my mind. I can calm the waters all around me, give my kids a chance to swim in the warm water, and have a glorious, sunny day.

Despite the trauma drama.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


I'd love to start working on my Mermaid novel again.

I really would. But I have two syllabi to finish... and they need to be finished NOW. Class starts Monday for one, Tuesday for the other.

My little devil voices have been whispering... "Why not just get part of it planned, and then you can plan out the rest as you go?"

I'm no fool. I haven't been teaching 20 years for nothing. If I don't plan it out now, I'll be scrambling mid-semester to get it done, and then I'll have papers that need grading, other projects pending, and God only knows what else.

You see, the syllabi seem like hurdles right now... and they sort of are... but they are self-imposed. I could do what the voices say, but I'd be putting off more planning, starting the semester without a crystal clear idea of where the semester will end up, setting myself up for panic later.

And I don't like panic.

Same with novel writing. Only once have I written a whole draft of a novel without planning it out meticulously. And my next "revision" of that novel will mean scrapping 75% of it, minimum. It means more work for me in the long run, not less.

That's why I plan. And that's why I'm off to finish those &%*#(@ syllabi, to save myself a world of time later.

Anything you're in the midst of planning?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

I Resolve Nothing

I make resolutions every freaking year.

By the time the end of the years rolls around, I can't even remember what they were. No, really, I can't. And nothing ever seems to change. I watched the ball drop last night (it doesn't get less lame with time, I'm afraid), and then the year 2013 popped up on the screen.

I looked at the hubby, and he looked at me. He shook his head, reading my thoughts the way I read his. "It looks like an ugly number, doesn't it?"

I nodded. I normally love the number 13, but the flashing year numeral looked wrong on the screen--garish, mistyped, overblown, or something--and I took a step back. The hubby disappeared, and I found him moments later in the other room, away from the crowd, just sitting and looking at his knees.

A few minutes later we drove home. And now it's morning, the day looks normal, and I have a list of work things to get done before the week ends. This list reminds me of daily tasks, ones that simply MUST get done, and they leave no room for long-term resolutions.

So, for the first time in God knows how long, I'm not making any year-long goals. I'm going to take today, do what I can with it, and do the same thing tomorrow. That's it. No lofty guilt-inducing goals to become a runway model, save the world, find a cure for cancer, or write fifteen books.

I'm just going to face each day, one by one, and make the most of living in the moment.

Be blessed this year, everyone. For those of you who have made resolutions, I hope your daily behaviors get you there, and you meet your goals. For those too caught up in turmoil to handle what you have now, may you find calm and peace enough to balance out your lives a bit more.

For those of you who truly believe you can change the world for the better this year, I send all my good karma and wish you all the success in the world. But only today is promised to me, so...