Achieving “Fortytude”

It’s a little challenging trying to write Hubs to get some kind of writing “career” (for lack of a better term) started, but wanting to write here, for the wonderful community of connections that I have been building. Today, for example, I wanted to share with you the lucky serendipity of my discovery of the book by Sarah Brokaw called Fortytude: making the Next Decades the Best Years of Your Life–through the 40s, 50s, and Beyond but I also realized how much it fit into my series of Reinventing Self posts on the HubPages. So, I decided to do both, allowing this post to become the more personal exploration of the topic and the other to be a little more generic. If you are interested in both, here is the link to “How to Reinvent Yourself: Living Life with ‘Fortytude'”

But enough business. I do suggest you go out and read this book, because it is making me rethink a lot of things about life. I plan on exploring a lot of the questions it is forming over the next few days, and knowing me I’ll do it right here in the blog for all to share. As soon as I started reading, I found myself scribbling notes frantically as thoughts and questions blossomed into my brain. I haven’t finished reading yet, but have filled front and back of three large note cards with things I want to write about. I wanted to share a picture of them, but for some reason I am being defeated by technology today. So instead, I am going to share some of the notes and questions I’ve written down. If they inspire you, please feel free to explore them in your own writing, and let me know or share the link below in the comments:

  • Brokaw writes about “sparkling moments” which, to her are moments that often get the label of problems. She suggests that “sparkling moments” provide “opportunities to change, experiment, push yourself, grow, and learn new skills” (3) I want to explore the sparkling moments that exist in my life.
  • “Why do I . . . allow myself to be undermined by the very values I choose not to ascribe to?” (Brokaw 7)
  • How do I exhibit grace in my life? What does grace mean to me?
  • Write about a time when I was told that I was not “good enough” and how that changed my life completely.
  • What defines my femininity?
  • What are the “sprinkles” in my life? (According to one of the women Brokaw interviewed in the book “Adding a few sprinkles to your ice cream made all the difference in the world. Sprinkles change your mind-set.”

  • How do I feel connected and establish connections? (Part of that answer exists in the very nature of this blog)
  • How do I define a quality friendship?
  • What does mentoring mean to me?
  • What does it mean to be an accomplished woman? What am I accomplished at? What is accomplishment? (This one is a really important one for me to explore).
  • Am I good enough? Why don’t I feel good enough? Will I ever be good enough?
  • What does the word career even mean to me?
  • When I am 90, what will I regret?
  • Be creative with definitions of what I do well. I need to define myself in new ways.
  • What is adventure? What does adventure mean to me? How do I define it?
  • What is my body telling me?
  • What would I love to do if age has no meaning. This comes from a discussion in the book about Blame Sally, a rock band started by women in their 40s and 50s and succeeding against all odds.

There you have it my friends, a babbling list of questions that will hopefully inspire future posts–for myself and perhaps for a few of you as well.

More later. Thanks for reading.

Lisa

 

Revealing My Strengths

My commitment and search to reinvent myself has begun more seriously now. I’m taking steps toward earning a living, creating employment, and understanding myself better so that I am not just doing a job but embracing living and working in the most fulfilling way possible. I’m not going to go into too many details here, as one of the steps I took in this direction involves writing post for HubPages, a place where I could potentially earn some money off of my words.  I wrote my first post there today. Check it out.

Don’t worry though, WordPress is my first blogging home, and this community is very important to me. This the place where I can write, and explore, and dream, and vent, and complain. This is the place where I laugh and cry, and share all of the craziness of my life. This is the place where I have made friends and connections that have given me the courage to take this bizarre journey that I am on, a journey into finding my strengths and creating a life full of joy.

What exactly are these strengths, you wonder?  Well, this morning I took the on-line survey from Strengths Finder, to find some eerily accurate descriptions of myself. I’ve only skimmed the surface of what the analysis has to say, but to break it down in a few bullets, some of my strengths include:

  • Thinking and discussing ideas with others.
  • Being innovative and facing challenges creatively.
  • Learning new things and searching out the knowledge I need to successfully (and creatively) face my challenges.
  • Willingness to work hard, but apparently I work harder when I get recognition for the work I do. (I’m not sure this is true, but I do know that I get frustrated when I have worked hard and get no recognition).
  • Gathering information and reading.
  • Apparently I have some skill with words and writing. (Tee hee hee)

So what does all this mean? I have no idea yet, but it is an interesting journey.

 

Tomorrow I should have regular access to the internet so I will be back to commenting and responding to your comments. I’ve missed you all!

Reflections on Writing

My thanks go to Vicky at Little Miss Everything for tagging me with the rather daunting task of looking over my own writing and choosing the “best.” Actually, I really am grateful because I am back in the

BLOCKED ZONE!!!!

You know, that zone where you feel like you have nothing worthwhile to say and even less worthwhile to read. Perhaps looking over some of my old posts might inspire me, or alternatively it may make me realize that writing is a ridiculous dream that I should give up completely. So here goes:

1. Most Beautiful Post . . . I’m going to cheat a little and simply link to my most a recent post about Beauty called The Search for True Beauty.

2. Most Controversial Post . . . Despite the fact that I seem to have a tendency to rant in my posts, I don’t seem to spark a lot of controversy. Maybe I simply don’t have enough readers for a true public debate, or maybe I only interest readers who, for the most part, understand my point. However, I wrote Hell is Living in the Bible Belt knowing that I might trigger some people, and got a few comments that basically told me I was going to Hell. If that’s not controversial, I don’t know what is.

3. Most Helpful Post . . . I don’t know that any of my posts have been extremely helpful except by introducing a few bloggers to each other (I seem to be good at making the connections between bloggers). But here’s a (barely read) post that I think could be very helpful to those of us (or many of us) who struggle with The Persistent Power of Perfectionism.

4. A Post Whose Success Surprised Me . . . this one is the easiest for me to pick because I simply looked up the post that got the most hits and voila, Birthday Wishes comes to the top. I think its success merely comes from people searching for words to say to someone else for their birthday. But, as I read over this post, I realized something pretty incredible. Many of those birthday wishes have come true. Not all, but many.  Maybe there is some magic to a wish made on your birthday.

5. A post that didn’t get the attention that I felt it deserved . . . I don’t know that anybody ever read my post The Culture of Bullying, but I think it said something important.

6. Post I’m most proud of . . .I struggle with this one, as I find it hard to be proud of any of my writing. I still battle the “its not good unless I’m Freshly Pressed” or “I can’t be a good writer because nobody comments.” But, I think the post I am most proud of is a recent one, where I share the lessons I learned working with a very special community of people–Appropriate Age Appropriateness.

Now I need to pass  this task challenge onto 5 of my fellow bloggers. I don’t know that I can do that. So, rather than pick 5 specific people, I offer this challenge to anyone who wants to take it up.  Consider yourself TAGGED!

Seriously, I think this is a good exercise for all  especially for those of us who tend to be overly critical of our own work. Looking through past posts has shown me that I have some good stuff as well as garbage. I’ve come a long way since I first started this blog, and I guess I’ll keep going until I figure out what to do next.

Take the challenge, and share some posts with the world! I’ll be sure to read them

The Magic is in the Details

Writing

Today I want to point out two magnificent posts from the past week that have made me realize something about my own writing, something that I am going to challenge myself to change. Both these writers captured me with the eloquence of their details–details which made the locations and people that they were writing about  come alive in my heart and  my brain.

Ed, over at Salt ‘n Peppah, wrote this stunning descriptive passage on a day when  New York took a positive step toward change by legalizing gay marriage:

“The Stonewall Inn was barely open this early afternoon. “The gays” typically don’t begin bar hopping until much later in the early evening, so the bar was deserted, except for a short little fire plug bartender named typically, Joe. He welcomed us in immediately as if desperate for company on this miserable Saturday afternoon. Folding our dripping umbrellas and leaving them by the front door, I looked around. You could smell the age and the mustiness of this dark and dingy place. A thick painted tin ceiling and dark poster filled walls hugged us as small tables were tossed about a small elevated “stage” hardly protected by a single red velvet rope. Black and white photos of the now famous “Stonewall Riots” were haphazardly placed around on the deep paneled walls of this establishment. Framed newspaper and magazine clippings of history were draped behind the bar. Somehow the light of day made this bar look like me when I wake up in the morning. Raw and exposed. Pale and puffy. Vulnerable yet somehow as cozy as the thick fleece robe I throw on to ward off the early morning chill.”

(Here’s the link to the rest of his post, called “Stonewall“.) Eds post was powerful because of its timeliness, but also because of  the details. He described a place in a way that showed an emotion and brought into focus the world around us. I wish I could do that. Yes, I know that I am good at ideas and issues, but I feel severely lacking in the details.

As usual  when I read Kathy’s post at Reinventing the Invent Horizon, my awe of people who can  write the details so they strengthen the message only grew.  Kathy is a master at  making details come to life to show the truth in the story she shares. Here’s an example from the post called “Close Encounters with Well-Wigged Old Women and other Adventures in Government-Subsidized Housing”:

“Bea, like Evelyn, had obviously, at one time, been a stunningly beautiful woman, a fact betrayed by facial features that shown through despite her age—high cheek bones and big, blue eyes that still twinkled when she smiled.

Bea was one of the few ladies in the group who didn’t wear a wig, and for a woman well into her 90s she had a head of gorgeous, light brown curls.  True her hair was largely gray, but she retained enough of the brown to surprise you, since otherwise she looked so old and borderline antique.

Bea was also one of the ladies who slept most afternoons, waking herself up every few minutes with her own overly-sized snores.

But then again, Bea never stayed more than 30 minutes at a time, as when nicotine called at least twice an hour, she struggled to her feet from the over-stuffed chair, shuffled her pink-slippered feet across the industrial blue carpet, and disappeared into her apartment several doors down, only to reemerge a few minutes later having snuck a cigarette or two, still insisting upon her return that she had had to use the rest room or make a phone call.  Never mind she smelled like smoke over the tic-tac she sucked and the Avon she had sprayed post-puff.”

The magic is in the details.

I am setting myself a writing challenge this week. I am going to focus on the details of whatever stories I write. I’m going to write stories that have details, not just the rants that I seem to be known for. But, I need your help, because as much as I want to do this, I’m also afraid. So here is how you can help, if you would like. Ask me specific questions. Some of you have read me enough to know that I have had a bizarre life, but for some reason I find it trouble to write about the details of that life. I avoid the specifics, and write more about the sweeping philosophies and lessons learned. Maybe, if you ask me specific questions, I’ll be able to focus more on the details.

I know that is my next step to grow as a writer. Can you help?

In order to help me do this, I decided to create an award that I am giving to Ed and Kathy. I’m not very good at creating graphics, so forgive my lame attempt (and if someone is better at it and wants to improve the details of my design please let me know). But here is the first official The Magic is in the Details Award. Congratulations to Ed and Kathy–ignore this as you will.

 

Deciding to Get the Words Out There

Cover of "Kindle Wireless Reading Device,...

Cover via Amazon

Writers write.

I know, that’s not news, but it is true. Writer’s write.

Why do writer’s write? The numerous answers to that question would make this post far too long and uninteresting. Some say they write for themselves. Others say they write because they have to. Some say they write to learn. Others say they write to heal.

I suggest writer’s write in the hopes that the words they write will be read.

Now, I recognize that sometimes the words we put down on a page are too personal to be shared. But I am the first to admit that I picture my great-great-great grandchild picking up the fragile pages of my journals in order to learn more about his/her family, in order to learn about my life. Do I want those journals published now? No way. But I still write them (although I haven’t for a long time) in the hopes that someday someone will read them.

I would that writer’s of stories, in particular, write words that beg to be read. So, if you’ve written something and labored over it, editing, revising, crafting and so on, the last thing you want is for it to sit on your shelves gathering dust and loneliness.

My manuscript for Giving Up the Ghosts has done just that.

But, in typical Lisa fashion, the fact that I have not found a home for that book has led somewhat to my inability to focus on writing another. I’ve started several, but deep inside my overly critical brain I hear this voice:

“Why bother loser? Nobody would publish your last one. Don’t waste your time!”

Sometimes I wish that little voice would just be quiet!

Yesterday, while I was talking to my partner in creative crime, Jackie she asked, “Why don’t you just publish it to kindle?”

Why don’t I? I could give you all the lame reasons and arguments I’ve said before about not self-publishing–but really they all boil down to one thing.

FEAR!

But, everyone I’ve shared this book with loves it. I worked hard. I know it is good. Do I expect to get rich off of it? No. But, I am even poorer if I don’t allow the book out in the world for people to read. Even if I only have a few readers, at least it would be read.

So, when I got back last night, I looked up how to publish it to Kindle, and it is super easy. I also discovered what looks like a super easy to publish physical (paper back) copies as well, that can be printed on demand.

So folks, I’m going to set my words free. Of course, some day I would love to get a publishing contract and sell books the traditional way–but, as in most of my life, the traditional way doesn’t always seem to work for me. So now I’m going to do it a less traditional way.

Why? Because writers write and stories want to be read.

Stay tuned for more specifics and wish me luck.

The Spark of Creativity

Yesterday Sparks In Shadow asked some difficult question in response to my questions about my blog. She said:

As to the topics I find most interesting to read about here — for me it would be anything to do with the writing or artistic process, because I like hearing how other artists tackle the issues I’m also dealing with. (I’ve really got to get back to your previous post about the play writing class/workshop. I need to get back to it when I can immerse myself without distraction.) How do we tend to shape our stories or art? How much do we consider the way our art is experienced by others? Is our goal to make things only with ourselves in mind, or do we want to grow into wider acceptance by incorporating aspects of feedback and certain kinds of structure? How does that feel? How do we handle re-writes or other changes? How much and how do we want to be different, in terms of pushing the limits or heading into abstraction, or do we want to excel at more accepted norms? What does that even mean?”

Ah that Sparks, she likes to ask the difficult questions. 😉

This morning as I lay in bed trying to ignore the insistent whining of Lizzy that I get up and feed her, I thought about the mystery of creativity. 

Two nights ago I crawled into bed to read a little after declaring my intent to write because I want to. I’m reading a book called Literary Women:The Great Writers by Ellen Moers. This somewhat dated book takes a feminist look at the women writers who had influence on writing today, although they may not have had as much recognition as the men. I say it is dated because it was written in 1976 and I think that more women have made impact on the writing world since that time, and received more recognition for that impact. But, I bought this book at a library sale, hoping to find more ideas about women who have been swallowed up into history as written by men.

I’ve been finding lots of interesting things. But as I read two nights ago something sparked in me. A simple phrase formed itself in my mind, “She was not allowed words.” The phrase kept repeating itself in my head, and then grew in urgency. A voice called to me, “You must write this down now or you will regret it!” and the phrase repeated itself again. I jumped out of bed, having moved my dream journal a few days ago when I used it for something else and forgotten to return it, and scrambled around for something to write on. I found two  large index cards and then searched for a pen.

Then I wrote. “She was not allowed words. No woman was.” And a story started pouring out, or at least the beginnings of one. I’m not ready to share more of it yet, but maybe one of these days.

I wrote, filling three sides of the index cards. Then I put them aside until yesterday morning.

Yesterday I woke up thinking about those cards and that story. I’ve heard that story before, I thought to myself. Where have I heard that story? Then I remembered. Several years back I took an advanced course in writing books for young people through The Institute of Children’s Literature. The end result of that course was Giving up the Ghosts the book that still hasn’t found a home. In the beginning of the course, I had to write several book proposals so that my instructor could help me choose the best one to work on. Sadly, I seem to have deleted some of that work accidentally, but I still have hard copies of most of it. At first I proposed ideas for two fiction books and two non-fiction (both having something to do with the arts and theater, one I think about perfectionism). My instructor, after reading my lengthy letter describing my life, nixed the non-fiction saying that it sounded like I needed a break from that stress and pressure. She had me write proposals for four fantasy fiction books that I might be interested in writing. One of them was called Judith of Lexiconia, and told the story of a girl who had the power of words even though girls were not allowed to read them. She discovered that her power extended to being able to write about something, and have that thing come true. [No offense, but I would like to remind you about copyright for a moment. ;)]

My story started years ago, and now it wants to be told. I’m not sure yet if it will take the same form, or where it is going, but somehow the words spoke through me urging me to listen.

Where do those ideas come from? What sparked that moment and made me get up and actually follow that urge? I’ve had plenty of ideas pop into my head during the night, but often (much to my own regret) I am simply too tired or too annoyed to actually write them down. But this time the call could not be ignored.

I remember reading long ago in The Artist’s Way the idea that creative energy surrounds us, with all the ideas floating around waiting to be plucked from the energetic mix. I’m obviously paraphrasing from a long ago memory here; I would quote the book directly, but I don’t know where my copy is at the moment. 😦 I believe that we are all connected by that creative energy and that some people have more easy access than others.

I don’t always have access, but once in a while the spark ignites and takes me on a journey that is both terrifying and joyful. This time, however, I think I am truly excited for this journey and ready for it, because of the warm support system I have found in the blogging world.

Where does the spark come from? What are some of your answers to Sparks In Shadows questions?


Q is for Quitting

From Natalie Dee

I am a quitter.

I quit.

I am quitting!

You may notice a missing button on my blog today because I am officially quitting the Post A Day 2011 challenge.

Call me quitter if you want, but I think it is the right thing to do.

Why, you ask? For a number of reasons which I will now share:

  • Sure it has helped me commit to daily writing. But about the only daily writing I am doing is the posts. Have I started any new projects? No. Have I focused on any of the projects I already started? No. Have I gotten my book published? No. Have I written query letters or books proposals? No. (Although I have done some letter writing and other writing for work).
  • If you look at my Tag cloud, the tag that stands out is Postaday2011. I don’t really want to be a blog known for posting. I want to be someone who posts about art and education, about life and people, about creativity and imagination, about concerns and dreams. I want people to visit me because they think I have interesting things to say; and that I say things in interesting ways.
  • As I read comments on other people’s posts who seem to be struggling with Post a Day, I’ve come to question the commitment. Was this challenge started to help us find our voices or to help WordPress boost its numbers? I don’t want to obsess about numbers anymore. Yes, I would like to be able to, someday, make a living with my writing. But the chances of me being discovered because I have a zillion hits on my blog (which I don’t but I actually am approaching 10,000) are probably a zillion to one. The only way I am ever going to get published and paid for that work is to actually work on projects that people want to pay for.
  • That doesn’t mean I’m giving up blogging. I’ve discovered something wonderful here. I’ve discovered a group of friends. I’ve discovered a joy in the diversity of ideas and the exchange of support. I want to continue to build those relationships and grow from this sharing of ideas, thoughts, memories and dreams. But I don’t want to do this because I committed to a challenge that I’ve moved beyond. I want this relationship to grow because it is really a relationship, and because I have something to say that someone wants to read, and vice versa.
  • I may even quit the A to Z challenge, but there are only 9 letters left, so I may consider that a writing assignment and keep going. It depends on how I feel tomorrow.

So there you have it folks. I am officially a quitter, but I’m okay with that.

Anyone care to join me?

O is for Only Five Sentences

This post will be longer than five sentences. 😉

Marsha Norman

I went to the Master Class taught by Marsha Norman on Saturday. (By the way, she never ended up getting to my scene–all that worry and she didn’t even go. :(. Sigh)

This class was, of course, focused on playwriting, but again I think her advice crosses disciplines and maybe helpful to my friends here.

She asked the group to write down five sentences:

“1. This play is about ________________.

2. It takes place in _________________.

3. The main character wants __________ but _____________.

4. It starts when ______________.

5. It ends when ______________.”

We then shared these and selected some of the memorable ones (there were a lot of people in attendance) for a vote until eventually, as a group,  we narrowed it down to one play that we would produce. (Side note, I knew which one it would be as soon as we had the first voting list–and, no, it wasn’t mine)

Through this process, Marsha pointed out some interesting things:

  • We all want to go to a play that takes place in an interesting location or a place that we want to know more about. But often writers forget about the importance of place.
  • There are some truly universal stories or themes that we all lean toward, for example the lost girl trying to find her way home.
  • When writing the actual play, she said “By page 8 you must let the audience know when they can go home.” (Marsha Norman) In other words, early on you tell the audience what needs to happen for this story to end.

Marsha went on to say, this is how to begin any playwriting process. She told us to do this, tell it to someone, and then LISTEN. The key thing is listening. According to her, if the response is “Oh, that’s interesting” or “that sounds like a good idea” then the play is not worth pursuing. However, if the response is another story, “Oh, that reminds me of the time when _______,” then you have a good idea.

I thought about how it relates to many of us in this community that hope to write an excellent story someday. In particular, Kathy’s story at Reinventing the Event Horizon popped into my mind. She has been working on her memoir of mental illness and sharing with us art and memories from that time. Today, she also shared some beautiful creations from the time when  her “bipolar symptoms have been managed by medication” proving that her amazing artistic ability and creativity move beyond her manic phase. If you read any of her marvelous posts, and then look at the comments below her posts you see something wonderful–you see more stories. Kathy’s stories touch us all in some deep ways, in ways that make us want to look at our own lives and share our own stories.

By Kathy McCullough--this is one of her later pieces.

By Kathy McCullough. This one was painted while she was dealing with the illness.

Her five sentences might be something like this (and these words are mine, not hers):

  1. This is a story about a woman trying to understand her history of mental illness.
  2. It takes place in her mind and in mental institutions in Lexington, KY
  3. The woman wants to feel normal but doesn’t want to lose the creativity and passion that come with her symptoms.
  4. It begins when she becomes overwhelmed by a reality other people cannot see.
  5. It ends when she embraces the true artist that encompasses all sides of her personality.

That, my friends, is a story that resonates with all. Please go visit her site if you haven’t already.

I think I need to start working on only five sentences, and see where they take me.

What are your five sentences?

Notes on Nothing, Notes on Everything.

I’m making a double N post today, because the post I just posted about Nathan wasn’t the one I originally started with and because I have been up since 3am but still cannot sleep. I understand if you choose not to read all of my posts. 🙂 But, to quote a comment from Kaye Peters of Have Coffee . . . Will Write on one of my recent posts, “you’re posting like a woman possessed”. Possessed . . . manic . . . whatever, I’m simply going with the flow right now. So here are a few notes:

More Marsha Norman

“Write what you urgently need to write.” Those were Marsha Norman’s words  when asked if she had ever returned to a work she gave up on. “If it is over two years, don’t try to go back.”

Now, of course she was talking specifically about writing plays, but her point resonated with me. Basically she argued that if you are still struggling with something after two years, then maybe that is not the story that you need to tell. Maybe it is not your story to tell.

I have so many stories that I began but never finished. I have so many possible plans for books and other writing ideas that I couldn’t follow through. I have also always thought that I have a story that I have yet to discover, a story that truly needs to be told. It grows inside me until someday, I hope, it will burst out of me. The words will speak through me.

I just hope that happens soon.

She also talked about characters speaking through her, rather than her creating them.  I have only had a few moments where that has happened. Where the words and the voice of the character just poured through me and into my fingers. It is a powerful sensation, and one I yearn to feel again.

I want to be open and receptive to that energy.

New Thanks

Much to my surprise, yesterday I was honored with another blogging award. The Inspiring Blog award given to me by Dierdre Coppel from A Story Book World.  Talk about inspiring, Dierdre is an incredibly talented writer and artist who does everything from creating her own artwork (including this beautiful award among others) and interviewing publishers and editors, to writing fantasies and delving into the paranormal. I am truly honored that she chose me for this award. Please go visit her site. You won’t regret it.

New Updates

  • My scene seems to be getting good responses. Rumor has it that M.N. might come see it today.
  • My panel went well and led to an interesting discussion on the value of theater in general
  • I apologize for falling behind on reading this week, but I am proud of myself for regaining a little control over this blogging obsession of mine. 🙂
  • I actually submitted my Moon Lady, which I’ve really titled “Rebirth of Japan” to an art show. Insanity, I know.

I think that is all for now except that I feel like everyone out there (myself included) needs another  good virtual hug. So here you go (and I know I have used this image before, but how can you go wrong with Calvin and Hobbes?)


Waking Up to Warm Fuzzies

Dear Readers,

I learned something from you all yesterday. I learned what a warm, wonderful, supportive community we are building here. I would like to share this with all of you who sent me kind thoughts and helpful comments.

I don’t know yet what my next step in the world of writing will be. I’m not making any decisions at the moment, and simply going to continue on my blogging journey into the unknown. But I am feeling truly honored to have connected with so many of you in such meaningful ways. I hope to get to know you all better. May our journeys continue with joy.

Love,

Lisa

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