Whole “Lotta” Interruptions

*The title’s pun is explained below. Sorry, Led Z.

First of all, my apologies for my absence. I’ve been writing blog posts in my head but I can’t seem to get those to transfer over from brain to screen for some reason. Hmmm…ūü§ď

I had (have) a helpful post in my mental cue, ready to go. It was all about giving up unhealthy habits. But then…

Before I explain, let me say that I would have written this yesterday except I was happily helping a certain Someone celebrate his birthday. (Blatant excuse to use adorbs pic of my DH.) 


He wisely asked to go to Sweetwater to look at (and ultimately purchase) guitars before lunch. Being a certified chow hound, there’s not a whole lot I won’t do if there’s the promise of lunch after. If you feed me beforehand, I’ll be too “tired” to go. 

While I could almost live at Sweetwater (It’s uh-mazing! Shiny instruments, eco friendly in ways I’ve never heard of, field stone decorated everything, the friendliest, most helpful staff I’ve ever met, and free candy and video games!), after a few hours I’m ready to leave while someone’s only getting started.

(BTW: When you’re married to me you get strange things like the shower filled with birthday balloons.) 

And yes, lunch, when we finally got around to it, was delish. Did you know Smokey Bones now offers lettuce wrapped burgers for the carb conscious consumer? Holla! 

All of that to explain why I’m just now writing this post! 

As far as writing goes, I’m in this unenviable place where I’ve polished my rough draft to the point where I will trust my first beta reader to look at it. (Read: long-suffering-yet-gifted husband.) But the draft isn’t ready for my other sweet, willing betas. (Mainly because I’m experimenting with form and I’m hoping it works but I can’t be sure without feedback.) 

While I feel aimless and strange without a novel to work on, it’s also allowing me to work on other projects. Like painting a cabinet I rescued from the curb. 


Getting the “naughty” words off the otherwise gorgeous wood of another curbside find has been another project. (Hint: toothpaste. Yup, that’s all it took.) When someone asked what I was doing with toothpaste I said truthfully I was getting the f@ck off my table. ūüėč

We won’t talk about all of the furniture I put out on the curb during Spring Cleanup myself that, thankfully, was quickly snatched up. You wouldn’t think I’d adopt more. 

Before you call me a hoarder (I’m actually the opposite), at least I knew just where the new finds would go before I brought them inside. That’s a key difference. 

I’ve also been cooking. Probably too much. The grocery store just happened to have a gorgeous pork loin for sale. And I bought all eight pounds of it! Between that and other beefy projects our freezer is well stocked for when I succumb to the writing bug again. 

(In my defense, Indiana has the best pork.)

Sure, I could write. I have a few strong contenders for Next Novel, but I haven’t wanted to commit yet. I’ve made a few notes, even jotted down a really loose summary of one, but up until a few days ago, I hadn’t chosen. 

Sometimes you don’t get to choose.

I had a vivid dream the other night I couldn’t figure out.  I’m usually pretty good about detecting what my subconscious is trying to explain/complain about when I dream. This dream incorporated people I know, but I understood in it that they were only symbols. 

Symbols. My new girl was talking to me. Gotta say, she kinda hooked me with that dream. 

So I began to accept that maybe this character who I thought I had put in the “maybe” pile might be a front runner. Then.

Then I was taking a walk. Sure, I often think about writing when I walk, but this evening I was enjoying the violets, the scented, leaved trees. The sound of a bat connecting with a ball. I was marveling at how I can walk the same route and see something new every time. And I was cherishing the beauty of our small town. 

This character clearly did not enjoy my reverie, because she yelled “Write this down.” Which, of course, gave me (literally) pause.

This timid, shy character, one I thought might for once not give me as much spirited grief as my other two MC’s started talking. 

She told me the book’s title, and its opening words. I sighed because they worked. And because it meant she is spunky. I can’t resist writing spunky characters. 

Then she told me her nickname growing up, and I fell in love with her. Try to keep me from writing about her now. 

“Of course I’ll write your story,” I said. “Just don’t shout at me again. Ever.” She will. They all do when I get something wrong.  

To show her who’s boss, I didn’t write any of it down, either. Until I got home. 

I am working eagerly on some ancillary writing/design projects, so unless she insists I don’t plan to dive in for a few more months. If you want to make bets, go ahead. Not even I believe I’ll be able to stay away from her that long.

My second novel will (maybe) be far enough along in the revision process that by fall I’ll be ready to listen to her. ūü§ěūüŹĽ

Wait, who’s that kicking her heels against the back of my car seat? 

Fall, ‘Lotta. You gotta wait until fall. 

If she wrestles control of my writing hand before September, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, it’s back to all of my intruiging and challenging projects — More on them as they develop. They’ve been so much fun that I can’t wait to share. 

(One more gratuitous pic of the birthday dude.)

The Novel That Wouldn’t Die…Or Live!

   

Said hair after getting it ‘did’ today.

 
So you’re sitting in your hair stylist’s chair, revising your WIP. You look at your words, laugh, and almost warn her not to read over your shoulder if she’s easily offended because it contains adult language. Instead, you’re embarrassed by what you read for an entirely different reason.

Let me say that I’ve been nurturing this novel ever since it was a poem, and I’m getting, well, impatient is not the word. Irritated? That’s closer. Let’s go back to second person, shall we?

So you read a paragraph and then another and you realize your story’s tone sways. Your wise cracking feminist becomes a learned scholar and back in two easy paragraphs. Whiplash.

You know what you are trying to do. You know she’s a totally different person on the inside than she’s portraying. You are purposely playing with form. But for one, her persona is way more intriguing. Her intellectual interiority makes her sound emotionally frigid, even though that’s what interests you most about her, her thoughts.

Also: you are trying to achieve a goal one of your writing idols could not. And you think you know now why she couldn’t. Doesn’t mean you can do it, though.

Besides that, this MC is way too self aware, even for first person. 

Plus side: MC behaves deliciously horribly. The way you want to act sometimes IRL. She’s selfish, sometimes cruel, and seems shallow to others. But she’s loyal, talented, and a keen observer. She finds it beneficial to be underestimated.

Then there are these other characters who want to take over. They’re uber strong and entertaining, to the point where you struggle to draw the lead men. That’s right. Men. Plural. 

You didn’t expect to have the men share the spotlight. You kicked one out. He showed up again. You wrote him out. Back. Then you made the mistake of asking your Writing Mother what she thinks. “Keep him in.” So you do. 

Except this guy so far isn’t a strong character. You feel around blindly because you have to tell. There’s no showing this guy. Or maybe you still haven’t cracked the code that reveals who he really is. Maybe you never will.

Ah, and then there’s that other guy. He, too, is overpowered by the MC and friends, though you have more hope that you will be able to capture him. He’s a tune, not a tone, so that might be easier. Might. Still, you hold the poor guy at a distance.

And in the end you wonder if your ambitions exceed your abilities. If SHE couldn’t manage it, what makes you think you can?

But after all, your whole novel argues for accessibility. It seeks to rescue (the metaphorical) Rapunzel and all the ivory tower dwellers. You can have lofty thoughts and still live among mere mortals. 

I’m (reclaiming story by first person switch here) seeking to first destroy the ivory tower, then rebuild the Tower of Babel. So we can all communicate, ya’ll. Death to intellectual snobbery! Life to accessible ideas expressed with real-life language. 

I’ll still always love reading rich, dense essays, the kind I have to stop and stare up at the sky and mull over. Maybe I should start a translation service for busy people who aren’t theory heads.

With pen in hand, I’ll keep revising. I will either see this novel born or put it out to pasture myself. Clich√© intended. 

Am I overly ambitious? Let’s just  

 call me ambitious. Time will tell whether the “overly” fits or not. 

Ten Seconds? That’s a Mighty Long Time…

We all complain that we don’t have enough time to write. I get it. (My apologies to¬†our¬†dearly beloved, departed Prince for ripping off his song lyric for my title, but he’s understandably¬†on my mind. RIP.)

I worked¬†with a trainer for a short time at the gym Barry and I recently joined. She loved having me do planks on a bosu (half a ball on a¬†platform, if you’re not familiar. This:)

I don’t mind admitting that my core strength is not what it could be. She’d time me on that silly, wobbly thing and say, “Only¬†10 seconds left. You can do anything for 10 seconds.” That got me to thinking about time and our perception of it.

A while back I was¬†honored to¬†visit my former workplace and teach a writing lesson. It was awesome seeing former students, meeting new ones. One of the assignments I gave them was to write for five minutes. Now some of these students freeze up if you ask them to write an essay. They are terrified to put pen to paper, yet some of them wrote a couple of sentences. Some of them wrote nearly a page. In five minutes! Was it polished writing? Of course not. I don’t care who’s writing, rough drafts are always that. There were gems in their sentences, though,¬†to be mined later. I was impressed with what they accomplished and I hope they were too.

It took me less than 10 seconds to type this sentence. I timed myself. And that was with going back and fixing a typo. What if you typed ten-second sentences every time you got a chance? How much of a story would you have by the end of a day? (So I realize how difficult it is to pull yourself in and out of the flow, but it would be a fun experiment. Better yet if you can hook those short stints onto one another and give yourself five, maybe 10 minutes even.)

Back to that bosu: when you’re holding yourself in position and everything in you wants to drop, just give up, but there’s someone standing over you, believing in you, telling you that you can do it but can you really you think and then she says you’re halfway there and you can’t believe it’s only been five seconds and whoever said life was short must be insane because this sure isn’t and your abs burn and your arms say that they’re giving you all they’ve got, Captain, but is it enough and then she says it’s time but then maybe you go an extra second just to prove that you can. Whew. Yeah, I’m not at all convinced of the brevity of 10 seconds after all. (We call that stream of consciousness in writing, that big, self indulgent¬†gush without air, by the way. Yes, it’s just as much fun to write as it seems. Not as much fun to read unless you’re me. I like the stuff when other people write it.)

Ten seconds is longer than you think. Five minutes? An eternity. So take those bits of time. Pull out your list of ideas and get started on just one. Maybe you’ll start stealing time from things that used to matter that don’t now. You know your time wasters better than I. Just never underestimate the value of¬†10 seconds. Hey, maybe we should all plank for 10. On second thought, I have some writing to do.

Seriously, though, consider sharing one of your ten-second sentences with us. It doesn’t even have to be polished.

 

 

Why I “Dirty Bulked” My WIP

001

 

Yesterday at the gym I was talking with a trainer who said he’d gained 30 pounds by “dirty bulking.” My face must have told him I had no idea what he meant. In case you’re in the same boat, evidently it’s a method where hard gainers¬†put on weight¬†by eating junk food, massive amounts of it. “Oh, you mean what I do every day,” I said. Which isn’t entirely true, but it isn’t entirely false either. Depends on the day.

I recently dirty bulked my WIP. Yup. I’ve been changing directions/characters/locations in my novel, and I needed to print a copy because I revise best when I can see it in front of me and can mark it up, circle things, underline.

Because my MS was only at 185 pages or so and I wanted it to be a nice round¬†200 pages before I printed it, I dirty bulked. My writing version of eating donuts and ice cream, though, is “navel gazing” and philosophizing. (Navel gazing is just what it sounds like — you’re writing stuff that¬†probably does not at all advance the plot. Likely no one else cares about it. Not an iota.) I was actually¬†proud of some of it when I first wrote it. It flowed. It was “thinky.” I explored the meanings of words that are important to me¬†such as loyalty and feminism.

So, junk writing done,¬†I hit print and out of the printer flowed warm pages covered in ink. Happily I sat down, pen in hand, a chunk of the MS on my handy dandy book stand that my dear Barry bought me for Christmas last year. How excited I was to move things around, make big changes. Discover just how genius my new path was. That’s when the dirty bulk showed itself to be made of junk food. (Cue the “wunh wunh” music.)

Suffice it to say I have only put in the changes for 150 of those pages into my MS and I have already had to lose 15 pages. Fifteen bloated, useless (to the novel) pages marked out. Gone. Junk.

Do I regret my self-indulgent dirty bulk? Not entirely;¬†I saved some of it. Some of it was just for me in real life. Some of it was to know more about my characters and their struggles and their beliefs, which are sometimes in conflict with mine. I make them argue their side so I can understand them, even if I don’t agree. Sometimes I have to write characters I don’t like or identify with. (Mini-lecture: I refuse to say “with whom I identify.” Because I’m under 50 and because that flawed “rule” has been shown to be ridiculous and it is one with which I won’t put up — please tell me you get the joke.) I do respect my characters and their right to be who they are.

It will be interesting to see how much of this last 50 pages I lose. I enjoy purging my closets and cabinets, and it’s the same with words so it’s not as if I’ll mourn what I get rid of. I don’t think every¬†sentence I write is priceless. When my agent asked me to prune my last MS, I was happy to do so, and she was pleased with the results so it’s a skill worth having. Still, maybe next time I’ll think twice before imposing an arbitrary page count on myself to spare myself the rapid slash of my inky sword¬†across miles of words. (If you guessed that I would have cut the last half of that sentence if I read it anywhere else, you’re right. But I’m feeling playful so it stands.)

Whether you dirty bulk with words or junk food, there’s no judgment here. Let me know how it goes. On second thought, since I’m trying to stay away from donuts, maybe save the food porn and just let me know if you dirty bulk your story.

Write on, my friends, write on.

 

 

 

 

Featured on Chicken Soup for the Soul’s Podcast!

I’m so excited! First of all, I adore podcasts and Chicken Soup for the Soul is now podcasting. Did you know that? I’ve been enjoying them from day one.

Imagine my delight, then, when I recently received word that one of my stories will be featured on Chicken Soup for the Soul’s podcast tomorrow, March 10, 2016. They had a teaser for it on today’s podcast, and I found myself dancing around the house in happiness already.

It’s my story from “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Dreams and Premonitions” that I’ve blogged about before, based on a wake up call I had in the form of a dream a few years ago that transformed my marriage.

If you’re a podcast listener, please head over to ITunes tomorrow and take a listen to not just the broadcast featuring my story, but all of the other fabulous Chicken Soup podcasts¬†for an uplifting¬†moment in¬†your day.

And if you happen to miss it tomorrow, don’t worry: it will be available in their archives to hear whenever you’re ready.

I’m taking my mom shopping tomorrow, and I can’t wait to put on this “radio show” when I have her in the car to surprise her. Shhh…don’t tell!

 

When All You Want To Do Is Edit…Wait, That’s Not A Thing?

I’m sure that somewhere away from the page, away from my keyboard,¬†the weather is really just as hot as they claim.

I’m sure that ice cream still tastes fantastic, especially chocolate chip mint and caramel swirl (but maybe not together).

Undoubtedly vacation will come and I will be pulled from the editing zone by my husband holding plane tickets in one hand and my suitcase in the other. (So maybe at some point before the end of summer I should pack unless I want him doing it for me. I don’t. I really don’t.)

Until then, my head is deep into editing. In fact, I resent anything right now that is not me, pen in hand, paper, or putting those notes into my latest draft.

old computer pics 009

And, egomaniac that I apparently am, I’m kinda crushing on my own writing at the moment.

Don’t worry — I’ll get over it. Self doubt and agony “But am I any good?” will return to paralyze me. I had one of those mornings earlier this week. Um, it might have been yesterday. Until then, I’m enjoying myself.

Are you wondering where I found the time to pound out this lil’ missive?

The next pages up to edit are printing right now is how. (Pardon me while I shake my print cartridge to get the maximum number of pages before changing it. What, you don’t do that? You should give it a try.)

Oh great. Now my printer’s not working. Time to bang on it and curse. Wait, I’ll try shutting it down and restarting it.

Where’s my personal assistant? What, I don’t have one?

Note to self: start vetting discreet, efficient personal assistants with great techie skills who also like to clean house.

You’ll notice I started off by saying all I want to do is edit? Well, I sense a shift in mood coming on. Where’s that blasted ice cream? I could have it eaten in the amount of time it is taking this printer to shut down and come back on. For the love!

I suspect I now have black ink from the cartridge on my face and possibly on my new blouse. Merde.

Rescued blouse, did a visual check of face: all clear.

Unplugged printer, started alignment because printer demanded it.

Now it is spitting out pieces of blank paper.

I have no idea what this printer is doing now.  It claims to be aligning after getting jammed and wasting four pieces of paper.

And WHERE IS MY ASSISTANT? Oh, that’s right.

I do have someone who has offered to work for me when I’m ready; all I need do is say the word. Word. No, wait, not yet.

The printer says the alignment has failed.

My mom calls and says she has found a (redacted) that (redacted) wrote before (redacted). Now trying not to cry.

But the printer is printing again, even though it is telling me that the ink cartridge is low. I know; I shook it so I could squeeze thirty more pages out, remember, printer? Because I’m thrifty that way. Looks like I’m only going to maybe get 20 this time. Better than nothing.

Bemoaning that I want ice cream that I did not buy. No! Stop thinking about…

I am about 60 pages shy of printing the rest of my novel. This is on purpose. My process is this: edit a hard copy, maybe 50 pages or, ideally, a chapter or two. Then I put the edits into my computer file. Because otherwise I get really cranky trying to make all of those corrections at once. I like editing, but not looking between paper and screen. I prefer all paper or all computer, with my true preference leaning towards the hard copy.

Today, though, it was nice, editing. Though even after I transferred the changes I¬†was left with a hastily¬†scribbled note to myself that¬†there was a character who had walked offstage, never to be heard from again. Historically speaking that’s true, but I wanted my MC to be guilted into thinking about her. So I was able to add that with a few strokes. Yay for notes.

After having struggled with my printer (I will not change the cartridge, not yet, even though the pages are getting lighter) because if I do I will print the remainder of my book and I will try to rush through the edits not because I want to be finished but because I get single minded.

But the interruptions have been sufficient to return me to this world for the evening, I think, anyway. I may just put my newly printed pages into my backpack for tomorrow and take my evening walk.

Wait, didn’t I hear something about it being warm out?

My Podcast Crush of the Week: Nom Nom Paleo

I’ve admitted before how I love my podcasts. They’re great company when I’m running, walking, or cooking. They’re free and new ones arrive regularly. They’re like little gifts every week, or, as many as I subscribe to, every day. My favorite of the moment is Nom Nom Paleo.

Nota bene: I am not paleo. I am a longtime low carb disciple (when I’m eating in¬†the way that I know makes me feel¬†my best)¬†, trending towards keto. But the three are kissing cousins, so I listen to paleo podcasts too for useful tips and recipes.

The Nom Nom Paleo podcast is the newest project of the friendly, sweet Michelle Tam and her family including husband Henry Fong and their two children affectionately known as Big-O and Lil-O.

In case it wasn’t clear, the podcast is about, uh, living and cooking paleo. It makes me feel less lonely to know I am not the only one who uses an ungodly amount of eggs.

The weekly podcast is¬†like having a window into the family’s doings. Helpful, fun and always charming, the podcast stars the whole family, and I love¬†that.¬† I just discovered it last week and burned through the eight episodes they have. I was sad to hear this week that not only are they considering whether or not they can maintain their weekly pace with all of the projects they do, but they are taking a week off so I will be without a fresh episode for two weeks! (Should we start a petition?)

I suppose I will have to content myself in the meantime with¬†buying her cookbook. (Ooh…if I do I’ll have to review it here!) Or maybe the cool¬†vinyl figure of Michelle…I want an action figure of me (but of me running, not cooking !) But mine would have to come in two versions: the running, trimmer version and the not-so-much one. ūüėČ *Climbs onto soapbox*(Hey, while I don’t like it, I’ve accepted that my body weight will fluctuate. It’s my body and I will love it because it’s the only one I have and it’s done some amazing things for me. And because the things I value most about myself have nothing to do with my dress size! Well, not much, anyway. I do wish I could wear some of my thinner clothes right now because I miss them!) *Climbs off box*

Back to Nom Nom: The title of my blog post is appropriate because on their podcast they have the “Crush of the Week” that may or may not have anything to do with being paleo. My favorite so far¬†was silicone wedding rings. I did not know these existed, but¬†apparently fire fighters often wear them because they don’t get in the way and they are safer. Oh, and evidently you can buy them in bulk if you’re someone who frequently loses her jewelry…(Who? Me?)

One of the reasons I love the chirpy Michelle is it sounds as if our cooking and eating philosophies are similar: she loves food (so do I!) to the point of near obsession she admits, and I get the impression that she does a lot of trial and error stuff. Yup, that’s me. Just tonight I threw together a chicken-cauliflower casserole that was really not half bad.

The information on the podcasts is informative, certainly entertaining, and inspirational. I’m quite sure the reason I tried my quietly triumphant new recipe tonight was because I have been listening to Nom Nom.

Anyway, go to¬†iTunes and check out the podcast, or check out their blog: nomnompaleo.com. (Unless you are my friend who does everything I do — you know who you are — you are banned from doing one more thing I do without my express permission and a Mother May I? (What, me petty?)

While I wait for the podcast to return I will continue to edit my novel and work on an essay I will be reading at a local senior citizens center on Wednesday (my Dear Husband will entertain with song; I may join him for one as well). My essay topic is “Lessons Learned at a Thrift Shop.” It’s an idea I’ve had rolling around in my head for some time. I’ll let you know if it blooms. I wrote an outline of it in church Sunday, so I should be in decent shape. (Shh!)

If you listen to podcasts, what do you subscribe to and why?

Creative or Rule Follower?

My first conscious act of creating was in response to my elementary school principal’s command. She gave us a sheet of paper covered in circles and told us to come up with ONLY things that did not exist.

I was in the fifth grade. This principal was the strongest woman I knew — she was probably close to six feet tall, a large, craggy woman with a deep voice and half a dozen children if¬†I remember correctly. She had only to look sideways at a student for that student obey. I both feared and adored her.

Now, here’s the thing: when she gave me that paper, I knew I HAD to do what she asked, because she was the principal. Because I was afraid her eyes could melt me. And because I had already incurred her ire¬†two years before by wearing shorts and a strappy top to school, not having ever been told it was against the rules until she announced over the intercom that such attire was inappropriate. (I was not the only offender). I was mortified and spent the rest of the (very) hot day wearing my jacket, though my teacher begged me to take my jacket off. I refused, preferring to at least cover up my arms.

This principal, all eyes, glasses on a chain, and moles, now wanted me to lie, as it were. So I learned to create on command.

It turned out that I was the only one who obeyed — everyone else came up with basketballs and such, things that already existed. I had no idea that my worksheet would land me in the principal’s office for further questioning. She was taking, she told me later, a class on child development and because of that she asked me more questions based on what I had drawn. Why had I made an electric soccer ball? Why had I come up with a cheesy rat tunnel?

I have no idea if my answers satisfied her, but they did make me realize I was different, and that was invaluable. And better yet, she let me leave her office alive.

Recently I asked my husband this, though:¬†was I creative because I did what she asked or¬†was I more rigid than the others¬† because I felt compelled to follow her directions? Perhaps she scared me into creativity. Barry’s opinion is that she inadvertently helped me free my creativity. I suppose either way it doesn’t matter, but I am grateful, and I kinda miss her.¬† Go figure.

Writing and Little Women

little women

I’m reading Little Women with an online group, and in my excitement I went to dig out my copy only to discover — gasp — that I couldn’t find it.

The novel is one of the foundational books of my childhood, of my life. That I couldn’t find a single copy in our house shocked me. Why, just a few years ago I distinctly remember buying a couple of beautiful copies at a quaint local bookstore. I know I passed one along to my mother for her birthday, but I was convinced I had kept the second, until my search turned up nothing. (I may have inadvertently left the book at my former workplace where I taught. Which is fine if it’s getting some use.)

I started first¬†searching the bookshelves in my and Barry’s bedroom. I was sure I knew just where that book was. Nope. The more I searched, the more frantic I became.¬† Finally I gave up and asked Barry if he minded if I bought another copy. So I did. Unfortunately, they shipped me a different edition than I ordered. Then they apologized and said they do not have the one I wanted, but they let me keep the one they sent and refunded my money, so I was satisfied, mostly, although I had hoped that the one I ordered would have extra essays and such in it. This one does have a nice introduction, but that’s it.

I can’t say how old I was when I first read it, but I was probably eight or so. The book captivated me! I read it more than once.

While I didn’t have any Barbies as a child, somehow I did have a fashion doll of some sort with dark hair. I decided she was Jo. Because I was so worried that my father, as hers had, would be called away to war (not that a war was going on at the time that I was aware of as a child, but still) I had her sacrifice her hair just as she does in the book. Yes, I cut into a sweet bob and was quite happy with it. I also made her a gray poncho out of a scrap of fabric and had her become the last woman in the world because a nuclear war had occurred.¬†The poor young woman was left to take care of all of the children orphaned by the war on her own, which she did admirably (in Little Men and under the pine trees where I took “her” to tend her family), although I had no Professor Bhaer to give her.

Jo was my favorite character in the book, and I sometimes made life choices based on hers. I decided to become a writer. (That desire comes from several places, actually, but she is certainly one of the reasons.) In Little Men she opens an orphanage. Even as a child I picked out a huge, neglected green house in my hometown that I thought would make the perfect orphanage. (Alas, it was eventually torn down and I subsequently modified my ambition. But my husband and I did adopt two of the twelve children I had originally planned to.)

Perhaps the deepest print she left on me was her struggle to turn from writing “garbage” fiction for money versus writing from a deeper place: she wrote sensationalistic stories to send her dear, dying sister to the seashore. Who couldn’t understand that? And yet when Professor Bhaer gently redirects her, she quickly repents and vows to write only things that are worthy of her.

I’m pretty much a “live and let live” kind of person who truly believes we need to make our own choices, but I am with Professor Bhaer on this one. While perhaps his objections came from a place of moral concern for what she was writing, I do agree that we should only write those things that come from our souls. We should attempt to ignore what others expect or want us to write and create as if we never need a reader, an editor, or a publisher. There’s time to consider whether or not something needs tweaking later…craft is a different issue. But first write from your deepest depths.

Write on!

Life Hack: Of Podcasts and Procrastination — Both Can Be Your Friend

We’ve all done it, haven’t we? Procrastinated, I mean. In the past I’ve felt bad about it. When it comes to writing fiction, I don’t usually procrastinate. I have so much to say that I could pretty much write nonstop. But there are times…

Today began with a fun talk with my husband before he went off to work. Then I took an invigorating run followed by a leisurely breakfast. I was happily on the endorphin express. But.

After breakfast this morning I discovered that didn’t want to get dressed because I didn’t want to pick out clothes because I wasn’t in the mood to make choices. (I did it anyway, of course.)

Then I didn’t want to load my too heavy backpack onto my coat and lug it to the caf√© where I am working. Once there, I didn’t want to unbundle and set up all of my things: computer, books, paper, pens, plug the computer in by crawling in the floor in front of everyone, etc. Things that I do everyday without thought have been more difficult today.

And even though I own probably 50 scarves, I forgot to bring one, which bummed me out. Thankfully I am wearing double layers. (Note to self: tuck a neutral-colored one into your backpack for the future.)

Still, once I got here I made my daily “I will do/the universe will do” lists. Okay, I only wrote the “I will do” list. I know what I want the universe to do and most of it reads like a honey-do list: Shampoo the carpets, replace the caulk in the bathroom, put up the Christmas decorations. Things that don’t have to be done today, but it would be nice if they were done before our eagerly awaited holiday visitors arrive. (I have evolved to the point that I know those things will get finished, and I also realize that they have no deadlines attached, so we are good. In fact, some of those might even prove to be fun.)

And oh yeah, Universe: make my dad well.

So here I sit, proud that I have made as much progress as I have. Except I don’t want to do anything on that list I promptly hid after writing. After tunneling into my fiction for the weekend, I am finding it difficult to make the switch to nonfiction today.

My dad is in the hospital and I’m worried about him. I’ll get to see him tonight, but I wish I could ease his suffering and there’s nothing I can do. Nothing. If you know me, you know I can’t handle feeling helpless. I suspect this is the cause of my unease.

Before you think I am just foisting my ho-hum attitude upon you, read on. Because I just discovered today that procrastination is my friend and it can be yours, too. (Minor bit of required diversionary backstory forthcoming.)

I am a podcast junkie. I listen to them when I run. I listen to them while I cook. I listen to them while I clean. Don’t ask me what kind because it depends on my current taste, which is always changing.

This morning I was listening to one while I was stretching, and I was thrilled to hear someone say that when you procrastinate, what you’re actually doing is keeping yourself from taking action before you should. That is, your mind is not in a place where it’s time to do anything, so don’t make a move until it is. I LOVED hearing that. It was just what I needed today.

Maybe I needed to think about my dad a little today after I called my mom and got the not-great prognosis. Maybe it’s okay that I didn’t jump right into my usual routine and pretend that everything is fine when it’s not.

Maybe that hesitation I feel is because the right people aren’t available to interview today anyway, and if I just wait until tomorrow they will be.

Maybe by writing this today, I am not procrastinating at all, but I am writing it for someone who needs it as much as I do.

For some reason, though, I suddenly feel ready to look at that list again. Perhaps this time I will see friendly letters looking back at me that inspire me instead of an enemy with a whip (which the list sometimes feels like, no matter how slim I make it). Here’s hoping.