Tag Archives: writing

The world is angry!

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I live in a small town. You know what they say about small towns: Big Hell!
Until recently, I was very content in my small town, living my life, enjoying
the odd social gathering and essentially knowing how my days would begin
and end. The last several months have been increasing my discomfort level
as I hear and see many acquaintances really get into the misery the rest of the
world seems intent on living.

My writing has always been a need for me. I cannot agree with people who say
they “love” to write, for that has never been my feeling. I need to write, I want
to write and get paid for it, but even though I don’t get paid for it, I still need
to do it every single day. Some days it is just a sentence in my head. Some
days I actually draft things out in a notebook the old-fashioned way, with pen
and paper and then I forget how important the particular prose felt in the
moment and I lose the paper, or the notebook until I am clearing off a particular
space and come upon it again.

The social media rants that I voluntarily read increasingly rob me of time and
energy and deplete whatever optimism lives in me; yet I find myself having to
really exercise discipline to sign off or at the very least, put my phone aside to
do other things. It is amazing, I rarely respond to posts even though many of
them stir deep feelings. I get a kick out of those who do because they often end
up saying things I am sure they regret. Not to mention getting “blocked” by the
administrators for offensive and crude language. I can’t entertain the idea of
ever being blocked so I simply do what many others do, read and move on.

I live in a small town that has a large quantity of expats. Although I lived in a
different country and learned its culture well, I am now living in my birth land
and identify more with it. I find that the typical expat (whether originating in
U.S., Canada, Europe, Asia or Africa) believes their new country is somehow
lacking and wants things to be just the way they were “back home”. This attitude
irks me but I remain silent because silence is the path to peace and understanding.

There are so many things that can be said about learning a new language, about
preparing mentally to make a huge move, especially when the one certain is that
wherever you go, there YOU are. I lived in Puerto Rico once. I do remember that
the absence of family and friends was a bit lonely, but it was also tremendously
liberating. I found that I developed some new (positive) traits by not being labeled
or thought of the way family and old friends can see and pigeonhole one. Rather
than wanting things the way they were in my past, I was thrilled to be living in a
completely different culture and learned to love it just the way it was.

I don’t really remember where I was going with this blog, but there it is. I guess
the lesson for today is that if you want to make a smooth transition into a place,
it is best to go gently and quietly into its spaces to first absorb and understand
and then to pitch changes if they are necessary or even wanted.

 

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A fuzzy brain

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A few years ago, suffering from constant clutter, I came across
the Fly Lady, the woman who would change my life from CHAOS
to serene! Well, it was good while it lasted until I started to receive
so many emails per day from her that I had to release her. Email
clutter is just as bad as physical clutter. I found eventually that I
had subscribed to a lot of sites just because I didn’t want to have
nothing to read on a daily basis. Then I figured out that the
amount of time I was wasting on the computer was taking its toll
on my home and family (even though they didn’t realize it).

I can say that I made very good use of lots of the Fly Lady’s advice
and to this day (although it was a habit of mine already), my kitchen
sink (where it all begins) is shining (well, as much as possible since
the material it’s made from doesn’t really shine, but you get the point).

These days, I feel like I am having a constant battle with brain fog. You
know, you start doing an activity, or looking something up, or gathering
materials for a project and suddenly, you freeze because you can’t recall
exactly what you were going to do. I feel that maybe it is because I have
way too many things on my mind…not able to prioritize so that at the
end of each day I feel like I got nothing done.

Take today for an example: my cleaning lady is here. I find that her (very
much needed) presence is an intrusion. I love the fact that the house is
dusted and the floors are mopped and things look lovely but I dislike the
fact that I have to prepare for her arrival which cuts into the time that I
would ordinarily use to draft an essay or at least devote some time to it.
In the end, though, I know that it is really just an excuse, that in fact, I have
nothing thought out or outlined and perhaps for the very first time in my
life, I feel like I am flying by the seat of my pants. I have never been this way
but then again, I have never had the life I have today.

I find myself a little lost. Every day since my mother’s passing on January 1st
has reminded me of the temporary nature of things. Granted my mother lived
almost 89 years, an almost permanent presence in my life but I wonder now if
my brain fog is my way of grieving. Since I was expecting my mother to die, I
didn’t get hysterical in the moment. So many things needed to be done. I had
joined Weight Watchers just a month before and I was so determined to lose
the weight this time, that except for one night where I had an excessive
amount of Johnny Walker Black label Whiskey (and no hangover!), I did not
grieve by eating myself through it. I know she would be proud of me for not
overeating.

I think of my mother every single day,  I guess I always did; she was an6
incredibly strong influence in my life; of both what to do and what NOT
to do when faced with life’s adversities. I was always very proud of her
and I hope she knew it because I don’t remember every saying it to her in
quite that way.

So Weight Watchers has been pretty good to me. I find that I can “connect”
with others who, like me, struggle to get back to a good weight and know
that it will be a lifetime commitment. My husband and I celebrated our
anniversary yesterday. Our daughter posted a picture of us taken one year
ago, and although we both look very happy, it is obvious we are both in the
category of “American overweight couples”! It isn’t funny and while I have
lost about 20 lbs. since the picture was taken, I feel a bit embarrassed that I
allowed the weight to creep up like that. But onward…getting menus for the
week done is a good way to clear up some of that brain fog today. I think I
will get to it.

 

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Behind the spyglass…

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Understanding the motivation behind a person’s behavior is something that has always
been of interest to me. Rather than just accepting that so and so did this and that and
is now facing the consequences of the action, I spend some time reflecting on what made
them do it. I used to ponder these things out loud but realized that many people in my
circle were impatient and really not interested so I have become a “closet” thinker. I
believe that in order for me to invent a character (protagonist) that is multidimensional,
I need to invest energy in finding out just exactly what makes him/her tick. It has not
been easy or perhaps I should just say I have not had the discipline or courage to let my
mind simply focus on a subject long enough to grasp their very essence and then turn it
into narratives that will work in a novel.

I live in a really small town. It is in a developing country where recent years have found
it attracting all sorts of people who come here to do tourism and go back home, or those
who find it so laid back and beautiful that they actually commit to living here despite all
the obstacles. Some people are wonderful, bringing with them the enthusiasm they feel
for nature and living in peace. They contribute their time, their ideas, their resources so
that the community can benefit. Other people come with the intention of establishing
communities that they would not be able to have in their country of origin.

In the recent past, I have encountered people whose communities can only be described
as “cultish”, and this is scary. The leaders look pretty “normal”; their message is anything
but. It boggles my mind to see how many reasonably intelligent people are taken in by
these reckless individuals whose motivation can only be financial gain or fame. In the past
I would have exposed them at once but that was not beneficial to me so after turning 60 a
couple of years ago, I turned to the pen as my collaborator in unmasking these creatures.

They make interesting subjects for my narratives and provide much entertainment to me,
and I am hoping to capture their essence to develop my villains. Life is often so much more
satisfactory from the point of view of the observer, sitting a distance away in a comfortable
recliner.

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Writing…

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only gets done by sitting down and writing! How true it is. Yesterday I was incredibly prolific,
not sure any of my writing made sense or would be worthy of a pulitzer prize but it was plentiful
and by day’s end, I felt that I had found a nice rhythm. For this week, I would like to challenge
myself to just sit and write without worrying too much about grammar, topic, misspellings,
using words incorrectly, etc. Indeed, it is better to just sit, write and then go back and edit
than to spend a lot of time thinking about a good topic.

In my country, elections are coming up in another 5 weeks (second round). I am nervous
about the outcome, it seems to me that people are focusing more on the personality of the
candidates (neither of which got to this point by being particularly popular with anyone)
rather than their plans to get us out of debt and back on track to celebrating our 200th
anniversary with our Carbon Neutrality in place.

Yesterday I wrote a little bit about our small writers group and how one member suggested
we invite others along. Although I am fine with the status quo, I guess it is not entirely up to
me to decide for everyone else.

I have been reading and watching movies that I would not normally watch. I think getting away
from my “Pollyana-like” choices has opened my eyes to a lot of things. Some of the dark humor
contained in the recent movies I’ve watched (plus the fact that they are foreign) has allowed me
to tap into my imagination the way I used to when I was a child. Hopefully this will translate into
some kind of motivation to write more and to write different and to add those necessary traits
that will allow my protagonist to have some depth.

Another weekend …

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They come so quickly, the weekends! On Sunday afternoons, I usually feel the blahs that so
many of us are prone to as we start to make the switch from two days of (mostly) relaxing
to the upcoming obligations of work, school and general parenting.

When I was a young, single gal in “like” with a co-worker, I used to hate weekends and love
Monday mornings! Naturally, it was because my quasi SO would be there to greet me. I am
happy that I have those memories because sometimes I can remember what it felt like to be
excited about Mondays and try to “fool” my brain into thinking all those things that made me
feel giddy will be mine again.

I have not been writing in this blog, although I have been quite busy writing everywhere else.
Ever since I was a child, I have placed many responsibilities on my shoulders, something that
I can’t explain and maybe I shouldn’t try. The reality is that while my siblings were out there
enjoying their allotted 1/3 of the day of “their” time, I was busy doing whatever it took to keep
the home fires burning and the household running smoothly. It was not my job, and in fact
try as I may, I cannot place any blame on my parents for this self-imposed mandate. My
mother worried sometimes that I was not social enough. I never thought of myself as a wall-
flower but I can look back and see that indeed when all my friends were out having fun, I could
be found listening to music in the background while I vacuumed, loaded or emptied the dish-
washer, did the laundry, started dinner, etc. I guess I felt needed in a way and then it just
became a habit so ingrained in me that to this day, I feel I am wasting time if I am not doing
something I consider “productive”.

My life is very different right now. At this moment, my children are grown and living in another
country. We have a wonderful relationship and communicate almost on a daily basis. My husband
in away for the next 12 days or so. We have a dog who is about to turn 8 and of course, I have my
dad who is 89. These are my very strong connections and I love them all. Today, after the cleaning
lady left (my house is spotless for one day!), I realized that I have a very blessed existence. I can
do or not do anything I want after I meet my obligations. I have fed my dog, turned off the water
that is making the lawn a lovely green in this dry weather and am eating a comforting lentil soup
that I made earlier this week. My kitchen is spotless, just the way I like it, no dishes in the sink.
My food plan has been successful this week and for that I am also very glad.

I look forward to this particular weekend because I get to indulge in a massage tomorrow. It has
become a necessity rather than a luxury and I am blessed to be living in a country where household
help and massages are affordable. My writing is coming along and hopefully this weekend will have
me taking out my latest attempt at a novel and begin again to work on it. My protagonist needs to
get some attention, he is so superficial I can’t even fall in love with him, how do I expect my readers
to do so.

Let’s all have a great weekend, and us writers especially!

 

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The surreal world we’re living in…

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I was speaking with my husband this morning and he mentioned that we are
living in surreal times. I stopped to think about what he was saying and wondered
what (of the many different examples he could choose) particular event had triggered
his need to make the statement. He began by mentioning the bizarre words and
behaviours coming from leaders and countries all over the world that were heretofore
unthinkable. Nuclear weapons threats, bullying and immature behaviour by people
who should not only know better but with positions that demand they conduct
themselves with more elegance.

The world events relating to weather might or might not be the effects of climate change.
It is true that hurricanes have been happening for a long time and so have earthquakes;
but what is mysterious is that everything seems to be happening at the same time. We
no sooner minimally recover from one disaster when we are plunged into another.

Earthquakes, hurricanes, fires, landslides, volcanic eruptions, that’s Nature. But what
about genocides, nuclear threats, bullying, corruption, have we lost our minds? Are all
our world leaders so bent on their own creed of greed that they have no empathy at all
or any thought whatsoever that “what goes around really does come around”?

All my life I have sought to be “good”. I know that I am more Pollyana than cynical
and most days, I am grateful because of my ingenuity, I can still be shocked by what
is becoming more and more “normal” behaviour. Even on television and in popular
music, what we say and the words we use to say things are showing exactly the same
lack of creativity and laziness which are replaced by violence and shaming or really
foul language. If my children were toddlers now, I am not sure what kind of schools
or neighborhoods I would be comfortable being part of.

It saddens me for our young people. I, at least, was a child when the world was still
a pretty good place to live and I had plenty of sunshine, fruits and family to make me
feel special and loved. Today’s fast pace (where are we going?) means that children
are left with caregivers who may or may not have what it takes to really nurture a child.
Children are largely left to their own devices but unlike in the past where a child could
venture to a park or a friend’s backyard to play and make discoveries about him/herself
and the world, today their world is indoors and under the dome of a technology they
may not be ready to tackle.

I am a writer. Exploring ideas is how I get my characters to move from one point to
another. Lately, I am not sure what traits my protagonists need in order to navigate
the complicated world I create for them in my mind. Today’s surreal/real world, the
one my husband mentioned is scarier than any Stephen King horror novel I have ever
read. Heck, even he says so!

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Small success feels good!

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Although this graphic looks like it is only for enormous success, I feel that the really small step
that I took yesterday to eat a healthy breakfast instead of a tasty one is very worthy of celebrating.

My mood was good all day, even though it was Monday and I have a lot of trouble getting “started”
on Mondays after the couple of days of relaxation. Tuesdays are good for the most part because I
try not to schedule too many errands so I can devote myself to writing. It is incredible that this
morning I was done with shower and dressing early but have spent the last 5 hours trying to
schedule an upcoming cruise that I will be taking with my daughter later this year. I guess I had
forgotten that looking at dates and cost comparison plus the regular interruptions mean that my
unrealistic expectations that it would be done in a flash were not correct.

I am trying to read and write more regularly but it does take some discipline. I am very pleased
to see that my efforts have culminated in a few more visitors to this blog which is really a kind of
drafting place where I am a bit more unreserved in the topics that I share.

This morning I found out that someone who I thought was a friend has sold his property and
moved out of the country. Upon hearing this news, I was a little disconcerted because I was not
aware a drastic move like this was in his mind. When I asked myself a few more questions, I
realized that we were “friendly” because he worked on pools and I have one but I don’t know a
single thing about him or his wife because we met only on a professional basis. That is when it
became clear that true friendships are hard to come by, especially as we get older.

So if you have friends you care about, share things with them and make sure you let them
know how you feel. Life passes by and each person that touches your life should bring meaning
to it and vice versa.

 

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Reading helps with writing!

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I have wanted to write for as long as I can remember. I knew that writing was important
because every morning when I was a child, my parents kept asking about whether or not the
newspaper had been delivered. I began at about age 4 to look out the window and when I
saw the paper delivery person arrive, I would announce this news to the family. I can
remember that my parents couldn’t wait to get their hands on the source of news! That’s
why I knew that telling stuff in writing was a good thing.

Fast forward almost 60 years and I can definitely say that I have been writing one way or
another all of my life. When I was in my 20’s, I wrote a short story (humor) and sent it off
to an agent who proceeded to tell me that it was good but that in its current presentation,
it would not be bought by anyone. So for a fee of only (whatever it was at the time, I can’t
remember), they would edit and submit it to several publishers. I sent in my money but got
nothing but rejection letter after rejection letter. I gave up and don’t know what I did
with the story which was a loose version of an autobiographical incident that took place in
my own life. The agents, of course, strongly suggested that for an additional fee they might
be able to revamp the story and make it ‘sellable’. I was not so sure.

In the last 10 years, I have written and published a local on line magazine which I stopped
working on in March. In a way, it was a pity to end it because there were some very worthy
journalists who contributed each month, but it had become a heavy responsibility and I found
I had no time to write or develop the themes that have been dancing in my head for years.
Now I have a little bit of spare hours each day but I find that I can distract myself with
all manner of occupations before I eventually find my tush on the chair. I try to look at
this situation objectively instead of taking aim at myself and my writing habits.

Last week I had to renew a 600 page book at the library because I was not able to finish
reading it in the 3 weeks they loaned it to me for. The story is fascinating and it moves
fast but I rarely take the time to read during the day, saving it for bedtime when I know
that as soon as I put head to pillow, I fall asleep! Today, I will try to visit the recliner
I purchased a month ago (but used only 5 times so far) and read for an hour to advance in
the story. I find that when I am reading, I can actually work out some of the details that
are holding me back in my own stories.

Reading helps my writing because I can experience for myself the way another author
transports readers from one place to another. I am hoping to write more frequently
and more easily about universal things that interest all of us. It is true that every story
has been told. It is equally true that we can all tell the same story in a different manner.
Just ask any family with lots of siblings and they will each remember the same incident
in a different way.

I came across that lovely sentence by Steven Aitchison quite by accident. One click
usually leads to many clicks and hours wasted spent searching one thing or another,
but in this case, it was a good find.

Happy reading, happy writing, happy musing!

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The strange things we do…

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I’ve been house and pet sitting for a couple of days. I didn’t really know what to
anticipate except that I was looking forward to spending a couple of days on my own
with little responsibilities and lots of time to devote to my writing.

As I did yesterday, I have spent most of my day doing things that make it difficult
to sit down and write. For example, I took out the garbage from the disposal shed
and brought it outside where the carting company has not yet shown up to remove it.
I am worried about that because in the urban area where I live, a fine is issued if
garbage is placed outside earlier than the regulations call for or if the area is not
properly cleaned after the garbage has been picked up. This lack of removal has made
a very good excuse for me to go to the window and check out the situation. While I’m
at the window, I might as well look and see what is going on in the world and thus use
up a few more precious minutes that I could have employed writing.

It is raining, so every time I let the dog out for a short run to relieve her bladder,
I need to devote a few minutes to open and close doors, make sure she is dry before
letting her into the house, making sure I pick up her “deposit”…you get the picture.

Then of course, there is the distraction of getting breakfast, lunch, making coffee, tea,
taking a shower, making the bed, sweeping the floors, setting up the food and snacks
for the cat and dog…

It is just after 1 p.m. I have had my lunch and my tea. I am now all set up to begin
to write but find that I am cold so I will have to get up and look for a sweater to wear.
That means spending (wasting?) a few minutes on that and pondering life afterwards. I am
feeling sleepy all of a sudden, the light rain on the window and the slight chill in the
air conduce and seduce me to take a place on the comfy couch like I used to when I was
in high school. There is something about cold, rainy days that invites introspection but
is not a good companion to actual writing. Well, at least I was able to complete this
blog entry.

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Work cut out!

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“Oh boy”, my colleague exclaimed after she heard my boss’ instructions to me, “you’ve got
your work cut out for you!”

I didn’t give it much thought at the time, I just began my day like always, prioritizing
the many tasks that would have required someone else many more hours to complete and
got to work. I have always been like that, efficient and a hard worker, rarely whining
and never knowing when too much is too much. As a child, in order to stop my mother from
complaining when she arrived home to a messy house and sink full of dishes, I would do my
chores and others that were left undone by my siblings. Peace at all costs was my motto
and something that has been part of my life for as long as I remember. I blame no one,
I have learned over the years that we are all responsible for the life we live.

The last couple of months have seen me drop projects that take up too much of my time.
Surprisingly, after the first few days of guilt, I find I am quite comfortable saying
no and meaning it. Unfortunately, I have not yet become comfortable with the “extra”
time and instead of filling it by sitting down and writing, I look for ways to distract
myself from that daily goal (read: laundry, clearing out closets, reading the paper,
going on FB, etc.) and at the end of the day, find that I still have not advanced very
much on my essays. One of my goals for this year is to write for AARP with a focus on
age-related issues but I need to really focus.

I am glad that at least for the last few days, I have taken 15 minutes to write some of
my musings into this blog. It is a step in the right direction.

Have a great day and keep doing good work!