Sunday, November 20, 2011

Ruminations on a Beach Walk

I wrote this a couple of weeks ago. I am full of gratitude as I walk the beach on this beautiful morn. The thoughts of the lying, corruption and greed that is so disturbingly inherent in today’s society have deserted me. Thank God. In the bring sunshine, all around me are millions of seashells, some still clinging to the bright green seaweed that the ocean just ejected. It is a sobering thought that each one of these little seashells had a life and thus has a story.

Writing Ideas Flow When We Change our Venue

Almost immediately writing ideas began to flow. Thoughts of times in the past when writing was hard remind me that a change of venue, for me the best is the ocean, woke my muse. I came to a rock jetty and decided I’d risk painful knees and walk out to the end. If you’ve never walked a jetty, you might not know how carefully you have to choose each boulder you are going to make your next step on before you step. Sometimes there isn’t an easy way to proceed and you have to scramble down one boulder and back up another one before you can go on to the next boulder.

Is it really Writer’s Block or Something Else?

Isn’t this a lot like writing? Sometimes the words flow and then there are the times when stymied on how to get to the next word you’re stopped in your tracks. I don’t believe in writer’s block. I think sometimes writers become lazy and don’t want to do the work of finding the right next word so they procrastinate and soon find themselves out of a good writing habit. The only thing to do is write your way back.

I suggest changing your venue. Of course, not everyone has an ocean nearby to run away to, hence my gratitude. Other places will wake up your muse. For me it is always water. If you cannot get to the ocean for that rhythmic tidal flow of water, look for the nearest lake. Some writers might find the mountains inspiring.

Walk yourself into a Story

Walking is also a great way to set aside the mundane events of life and bring the creative thoughts forward. Walking is not only good exercise, but there is something about the rhythm of putting one foot after another that also reaches our creative depths. It is good to bring along a small pad and a pencil to record those thoughts as they come.

As I walk the beach, I’m watching a flock of sandpipers running back and forth with the flow of the tide, digging out and eating the little crabs. Immediately I wonder is it possible that we humans look like these little sandpipers to some creatures who might be watching us from outer space? AHA there might be a story in that thought.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Aging is Walking up Hills

I love to walk. I think it comes from my childhood when I had to walk miles to school. My kids hate to hear that one! I did live way down a long winding wooded lane in the backwoods of Pennsylvania. I still remember the excitement of watching for what I might see around the next bend. Sometimes it was a deer or bunny or a new wildflower in bloom. Twice it was a bear. My love of ‘all that is nature’ grew out of these experiences.

Always Look for What’s Next

One of my walking routes now takes me up a long hill with many notches. Each time I reach a crest. I stop, rest and consider quitting but I always want to see what is just over the next peak of the hill. I’m never disappointed. Each pinnacle shows me something more – a wildflower in bloom I hadn’t seen before, a deserted dilapidated house (I feel they all have a story waiting to be written), or a beautiful scenic view. Even when I walk the same route many days in a row, I still see things I haven’t seen before.

Then I reach the very top and there to delight me is a meadow full of wildflowers and singing birds flitting from bush to bush. I rest a bit and turn to go back but hear the drumming of a woodpecker a little ways ahead. Just a little further, I tell myself, and on I go.

Understanding the Journey

I see my walk through life as being very similar. As I age through each ridge of the hill (really feels more like a mountain) of life, new challenges and experiences present themselves. I gather them up and take a deliberate and conscious effort to understand my journey. Each new walk has something to offer me to feed my spirit if only I take the time to pay attention.

It’s Up to You

Each decade offers new opportunities and forks in the road and I know that as I reach another one, I have a decision to make. I can either wring my hands and bemoan how old I am and get out the rocking chair or I can thank God for bringing me this far and put on my walking shoes and set out for the next crest with enthusiasm.

Since I’m a very practical person and I have more walking shoes than slippers, the choice is easy for me. As the Nancy Sinatra’s song tell us, “These boots are made for walking.” I intend to continue to embrace life and walk (or crawl if I have to) to see what’s over the next bluff until I come to the final zenith. There are too many books to read and write to stop now.

Plus, I have forbidden myself to die before my book, Tracing the Invisible Women, is published.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

November – Finish a Book Month

I’ve been working on my book “Tracing the Invisible Women” for a long time now and know I need a way to rejuvenate my commitment. I have participated in NANOWRIMO (for those who don’t know, this is a program for writing a novel in a month) a couple of times for short periods, but it didn’t work for me. I am primarily a narrative nonfiction writer. Short stories are a possibility I have explored in past years, but this year in the middle of a nonfiction book, I just didn’t think NANO was going to work for me.

The Challenge for Nonfiction Writers

Lo and behold one morning I saw a post (somewhere – I am definitely on social media overload) by Nina Amir about her blog, “Challenge to Write and Publish Nonfiction All Year Long.” Immediately drawn to the section on the her website entitled “Write Nonfiction in November,” where Nina explains that WNN is a blog and a challenge not a contest, I thought, this is what I need.

Information to Get Me There

Nina has suggestions on her blog (http://awesm/5XYoE) about planning the month ahead of time, which I am doing now. Preparation is extremely important. I’m busy tying up loose ends and other projects so I can concentrate on just finishing the book. It is amazing how differently I am looking at the month of November, not normally a month that I like. To me, November is a harbinger of winter, the season I hate. Now I’m excited that November is coming.

All Goals Need a Plan

I have torn the November page from my calendar to map out my daily goals. What delights me about this program is that a month is so little time; I won't be able to let up. The 30-day deadline is something I can manage. There have been times in the past, especially when I was publishing a magazine, when a project deadline required an all-nighter. I’m hoping that I’m being realistic with my daily plans so none of those are necessary. All-nighters (for any purpose) are for when you’re young. I see this program as 30 deadlines and I have never missed a deadline in my writing career.

How Not to Let the Pressure Become Stress

My number one method to avoid the burnout of writing intensely under time pressure on a large project such as a book is exercise. For the month of November, I’m treating myself to a membership in the fitness center down the street. An hour on the treadmill will rev up the creative juices and start the day off with a jolt.

To me this is akin to a marathon. When I reach the finish line on Nov. 30, I will be celebrating the completion of my book, “Tracing the Invisible Women.”