One For The Road

More than anything else, I love to make people smile. While I think that it can be a good thing, I also think that it makes me try a little too hard at times, that it makes me occasionally forget to take care of myself, because I’m trying so hard to take care of the people I love instead. 

This art journal that I made for my friend is one such labor of love. I put a lot of myself into it, and I poured in so much love and light. I want my friend to be able to open it at any page and feel like I’m right there smiling and supporting him on his journey. This art journal is his “one for the road”…

I find creative journals inspiring. I like to look at pictures of other people’s journals, whether they are art journals or bullet journals or poetry journals. The type of journal doesn’t matter to me. I find that they all make me feel sparks of inspiration, that they all make me want to create something of my own. 

I am not very good at sharing my creations, my poems or my artwork. Years ago, I was more open, and I got too much unwelcome attention, and it’s made me fear being open again. I love my privacy more than most people, I guess. I don’t chase after fame or attention, and I rarely post on social media. I’m a quiet soul, private and withdrawn, a bit hermit-like, if I’m honest. 

Also, it seems like so few people truly want to know someone else deeply. It has become a shallow culture, filled with too much surface level talk and too little depth and passion. I crave depth. I crave long and drawn conversations about life and pain and passion. I want to know what makes a person keep going when they’ve been down to rock bottom, and I want to know what sparks their soul into flames. 

Someday, maybe, I will be brave enough to be honest and open and vulnerable again. For now, here are several photos of the art journal I made for my friend’s birthday. A bit of magic in a muggle world. 💕

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The Road to Writing Flash Fiction

I’m going to start writing flash fiction. I keep bouncing the idea around in my brain. It’s like this pinball of thought that keeps making its way back to me.

It all started when I checked out a book from the library by Naomi Shihab Nye. In the past, I’ve really enjoyed her poetry, so when I saw her name on a book of very short stories, I snatched it up. A classmate of mine recommended flash fiction to me years ago, but it seemed so far out there. I’d never heard of it before, never read any of it and thought it was too different to be something that I could do that would be taken seriously. That’s pretty silly of me, I know. I mean, what’s so great about being taken seriously anyway? Wouldn’t it be okay for me to write whatever I wanted to write as long as I enjoyed the process of writing it?

Loop to the top. Long story short, I’m going to start writing flash fiction. I’m excited about it. I’ve been really enjoying this book by NSN, really feeling the possibilities of that type of writing open up for me.

Today, I cooked. I cleaned. I did laundry and dishes. I took care of the kids and went to Parent Day at their school and helped with their homework and shopped for new clothes for them. I did all these little things that needed doing, and before I knew it, the day was over and I still hadn’t written. Tomorrow I am going to try writing something while listening to music and drinking my morning coffee. Did I mention that I’m excited!?

a person of letters

Today is a slouchy sort of day, the type of day when the heat slumps over on you like a drunk person who falls asleep next to you on a train. Not that I’ve ever had a drunk person fall asleep on my shoulder. But somewhere, years ago, someone did fall asleep on me, and I imagine the heat to feel something like that weight and also the caution with which I sat still so as not to wake him.

I’m reading more lately, learning words like outsize and tumid, words that are large and swollen, words you can use to describe a sex scene if you want to put a literary spin on it. I read as a sort of shield, a way of lying to myself that I’m actually working on my writing by seeing what other people have written. I tell myself that I’m contributing to society by reading books, by slowly eating my way through them the way I’d want someone to devour something, anything, that I wrote.

I write here because I don’t have anyone to write letters to. If I could have any little thing right now, I think I would choose to have someone with whom to exchange letters, someone with whom I could exchange book reviews and scraps of poetry, postcards and drafts of short stories. I fantasize that I will miraculously turn into a person of letters (whatever that means) simply by writing this nonexistent writer friend of mine over and over again for decades on end. In my mind, this person is someone whose brilliance is underestimated, someone whose work I would read with delight, exclaiming over all the sections in which I could see myself.

It’s silly, isn’t it? To wish for someone to write letters to when no one writes letters anymore. We blog. We text. We email every now and then when we can’t get away with sending a series of texts. But we hardly ever, practically never, get out a piece of paper and a pen and sit down and write someone a letter. It used to be that I could recognize my friends’ handwriting. Now I rarely know what any of their handwriting looks like. If I close my eyes, I can still recall Amy’s bubbly letters, Christina’s blocky text, Ethan’s messy script. I’m not in touch with any of them anymore, but I still remember the way their writing looked on a page.

When I hold a pen now, my hand cramps up. I have been unused to writing by hand, everything being letters on a screen. But on this humid day, I want nothing more than to go down to the end of the driveway and look into my box and find a letter from a friend. I want to curl up in front of the air conditioner with a glass of sweet tea and savour each paragraph that my friend wrote. Alas, no friends of mine write letters. The box, when I checked it, was full of junk mail and magazines, and I remain very much not a lady of letters.

Beginning The Daily Writer

I’ve decided that I’m going to work my way through The Daily Writer by Fred White which is a book of writing exercises. 366 of them to be exact. Every morning, along with my morning coffee, I am going to flip this book open and tackle one of the exercises within, either the one for the current day or another one if that one doesn’t seem to fit me very well. I’m excited about it because I haven’t known how to break into writing, how to ready myself and begin to write something that’s fiction and not autobiographical. Believe me, I’ve got autobiography down, but even I get tired of hearing about myself all the time. It’s time for me to branch out and write fiction instead.

I am hesitant, because I wonder how much I have to say. I wonder if there are any stories inside me and, if there are, what they are and who they’re about. I want to write beautiful things, to construct dream catchers out of sentence strings, to create a world where good triumphs over the rotten, the ugly, the mundane. I want to create a magical place where anything can happen. Maybe that is too much to ask of myself, but all I know is that I have to try. I feel that, when the words start coming, the world will open up as if a black walnut shell with a hinge, and inside will be this perfectly wild nut.

 

July 8 — Writing Exercise

She headed down the hill toward the library. It was her favorite place on campus. It had recently been rebuilt with a lengthy colonnade across its front. Students would congregate there under the columns, cardboard cups of coffee in hand, backpacks abandoned, their contents spilling out onto the steps as the students talked and smoked, some leaning back against the columns, others circling and laughing.

She kept her eyes to the ground as she headed up the steps, weaving her way through the throng. She felt the sweat on her back. A bead of it slid down her chest, and she absently wiped it away, reaching down quickly and swiping at it. A blast of air conditioning hit her as the doors slid back noiselessly. She threaded her way through the study tables and backpacks and headed down a staircase tucked away in a corner. It was industrial with thick plastic pads on each stair and an iron bannister more utilitarian than attractive.

This was where the new library ended and the old one began. As she pulled open the heavy oak door, the smell of old books and stale air hit her as well as the rush of air that was even colder than the main floor. She shivered as she wound down the narrow aisles toward the back corner of the long room. This was the basement of the library. Mostly it was abandoned, quiet and dusty, with low ceilings and rectangular fluorescent lights.

When she reached the back table, a study table with a shelf erected on the front of it like blinders on a horse, she deposited her bag on the desktop and began to unpack. Folder. 3 ring binder. Fine point Sharpies. With a quick look around to determine that no one was looking, she pulled her travel coffee mug out from where she’d had it carefully concealed upright in her bag and placed it on the desktop under the shelf, out of sight to the rare person who would walk by. She tugged her cardigan on and sat down on the scarred wooden chair. Propping her elbows on the desktop, she placed ear buds in her ears and selected Emancipator from the list of artists on her iPod. She listened to only instrumental music when she was working, the sounds washing over her and becoming as much of the background as the rows of desks with their shelving blinders, as the narrow aisles of old blue and red hardback books with faded lettering. Head down, she began to work, marker out. Today was an editing day, and she went back through the sloppy prose, scratching out the embarrassingly juvenile sections furiously before paying closer attention to the sections with promise.

fighting to escape

Who am I? It seems as though I am always searching for meaning, looking for “more”. I want my life to mean something to me, to my friends, to my children. I want to make a positive difference in someone’s life. I’m okay with that difference being miniscule. I just want to know that what I said or did mattered in some way.

I know that there have been writers I’ve read whose words have had the power to lift me out of my circumstances and transport me to another world, writers who have given me my dreams back when real life stole them away. I would like to be that type of writer, but if I can’t be that type of writer, maybe I could at least write something that would ease someone’s mind, that would make the day more enjoyable, something like a poem they could read aloud and get lost in.

That is one of the things that I love about Neruda’s poetry. I love reading him out loud. I feel like he is (and I do believe I’m not the first to say this) the people’s poet. He’s not a poet that you have to go to grad school to be able to understand. He doesn’t require me to have a dictionary next to his book so I can look up every word. I read him and I feel like I am lost in a forest or walking along a cliff by the seaside or meandering through a desert. He makes me want to get lost in nature for a while. He makes me want to learn the names of the wildflowers and the birds and paint each one of them into a poem.

Perhaps I should read more of him. Perhaps I should pull out this book of his that I love and once again devour his words, get lost in the wild lands he writes about, lands full of so much love.

I just know that I need to soak up someone’s words. I need to find my inspiration again, need to be passionate about my writing again. It has been too long, and I have felt the longing caking on me like rust or barnacles, like something that needs oiled or scraped off and removed.

Writing here is my attempt to reach out, to touch someone with my words, to be touched by the words I read in return. I’ve been a solitary creature for too long. I have been reclusive, antisocial, and so burdened by the mundane that I’ve just about given up on the passionate, creative, spiritual side of myself.

Writing here is teaching me that the part of me that I most love isn’t dead after all. It was simply in hibernation. Now I feel a tingle in my fingertips, the beginnings of a dream reawakening, and I breathe a sigh of relief that I’m making it through one of the darker chapters in my life.

I didn’t die that time that I tried. It was messy, and I learned what it was like to be hospitalized (more than once), but maybe all that has shaped me into who I am now. A fighter. An intense woman, a strong person full of compassion and love.

Now I need to turn my experiences into poetry or prose, mold it into something worth reading. I don’t know how to do that. When faced with the blank page, I feel this overwhelming sense of inadequacy, this overwhelming fear of failing. I need to overcome that, though, because my voice is fighting to escape.

a home for a nomad

one of my favorite books

I’m frustrated today because I came across a reference to this book, and I was unable to find my copy of it. Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones is one of my favorite writing books. It’s one of the few (no, I think it’s the only) writing books that I’ve bought more than one copy of. When I read her writing, I’m inspired. It makes me want to try again just when I’ve come close to giving up. She writes,

I write because I am alone and move through the world alone. No one will know what has passed through me… I write because there are stories that people have forgotten to tell, because I am a woman trying to stand up in my life… I write out of hurt and how to make hurt okay; how to make myself strong and come home, and it may be the only real home I’ll ever have.

She really speaks to me in these words. I have always felt like a nomad, endlessly traveling, without a place or a home I could call my own. I think, though, that my home is something that I carry within me. Maybe it is found only there where it cannot be destroyed, where it cannot be knocked down or devalued, devoured or pissed upon. Maybe it is a hidden gem within me, one of the few things that is mine and mine alone.

I take comfort in thinking that my home cannot be destroyed. When so much else of what I love I have lost, it is a relief to know that there is something important, something necessary that I can’t lose or gamble away. Whenever I need it, it is there waiting for me, fresh as an early morning rain, consistent as the ocean’s waves.