How can a writer floundering through an existential crisis inspire herself to keep writing, let alone encourage you, the reader? You got me.
Let's get real. I'm tired. I've been at this game a while now, and at my "real" job of raising a family a whole lot longer. Most of it is hard work. Much of it I love, and some really sucks. Several tasks have gotten easier with time, but just when I get the knack and think I've finally mastered either writing or life, the rules change. It seems like I'm forever playing catch up; on sleep, on marketing, on word counts, and always on being a good mom/human. I'm hard on myself, yeah, but I'm hard on everyone else too, so it's only fair, I guess.
Self-pity makes me teary. I don't like wallowing despite the depth of my current state of self-loathing, but time and again, I crawl back into this dreaded pit that takes me twice as long to tunnel my way out of. (Yes, I know I ended that sentence in a preposition; I don't care!) I have enough mom guilt for a dozen moms, and writer's block on top of that. When you add the age factor, outside commitments, the stress of trying to put kids through college (and parenting young adults- yikes!), and me still not making a dent in the family finances except to deplete them, it all adds up to more than I can shoulder. Today, anyhow.
So, how does this whine-fest help anyone? Why would I bother to blog when all I can do is moan?
Sometimes all we need to hear is that we're not alone, that someone else understands. That they've been where we are, and believe things will get better. Your story might be different, but "the pits" are common territory. Whatever put you down here, please know that you have company. You may not have anyone reaching down to pull you up. You may have to get up under your own power. I write this from our shared pit to bolster you, both of us struggling, because I know - if I choose to - I will get back to where the sun shines again. I want to see you there.
Let's dig our way out together.
Yep, this is just about how my lawn looks, and guess what? I don't care! Soon as I finish this post, I'm headed out to the pool again with my youngest, and letting the weeds live to see another day. Summer in new England is just too short to waste.
Don't get me wrong, I love the way the yard looks (and smells!) freshly mown. Our little, rural slice of heaven can be quite stunning despite dilapidated out-buildings, a perpetually overgrown perennial garden (I haven't thinned it in years) and random divots scratched out by chickens enjoying their dust baths. But... a beautifully manicured lawn isn't as high on the priority list as a little rest and relaxation time with family. In fact, the mom in me takes family over manicured anything. I can't tell you the last time I had my nails painted. I can, however, recall the sound of my daughter's delighted laughter over the giant air bubble that got trapped in in my bathing suit and made me look like I was wearing an inner-tube earlier today.
Part of me is a little sad over lost writing time now that school is out. Let's face it, a busy household is not the best place to concentrate on developing plot lines. But, in the greater scheme of things, I would rather be present as my own story unfolds. I'm reminded of a quote - Don't get so busy chasing dreams that you lose sight of reality. The weeds are real, but so are the children who are growing up just as fast. Thank goodness I have summertime to slow down and enjoy them.
A new horizon is opening for this year's graduates. I can hardly wait to see what lies beyond it!
Exceedingly proud of all of my children, I revel in their accomplishments and celebrate what makes each one unique. When my fourth child walks across that stage next week with diploma in hand she'll be headed toward a career in neuroscience - my mind is officially blown! The coolest thing is that she could have chosen any number of career paths to follow, just like her similarly multi-talented siblings before her. The opportunities open to all of them are practically endless, unlike when I was stepping out into the world. Business or nursing were my most likely options ---- which, of course, I ignored to pursue an art degree. So, I guess I kind of set an example for them to follow:
Pursue your own dreams!
Mine are still in the process of coming true. It's a lifetime thing. I refused to be locked into something I knew wouldn't fulfill me then, and continue to make dreams my reality today through hard work and perseverance. That is another example I hope my children will follow. Let the next one commence!
Green grass is back, and with it bare feet - yippee!
I love the tickle of lawn under my tootsies, the freedom of unencumbered toes connecting with the earth. How absolutely glorious after months of snow and boots! My husband, however, does not share my affinity for barefootedness, probably due to breaking a toe the last time he ran around sans shoes. He is naturally protective of his otherwise perfect feet, and while his caution serves him well, it is not a pleasure I am prepared to forgo.
I already gave up rollerblading, my once-yearly adrenaline rush of extreme (for me) sports, engaged in only while on vacation in flatter regions. Since breaking a back is a little more life-changing than breaking a toe, I feel justified, but I still miss it. Summer hasn't been the same since, and I really hate that my fear of falling is keeping me from doing something I love.
Sometimes we give up something for a season - like running across the lawn barefoot - and sometimes we give it up permanently (I said goodbye to ice skating, too), and sometimes we don't have to do either. Sometimes we just psyche ourselves out, fear of falling - figurative or literal - getting the better of us, keeping us from doing what we would really love to do.
This spring I have decided that I am going to work hard to get back in shape, and (fingers crossed) give rollerblading another go. It is going to take effort on my part to overcome not only that fear, but the subsequent challenges of extra weight and decreased coordination. It has been nine years since I laced up my skates, but you know what? I stopped writing for even longer, and came back stronger than ever. It is, I believe, all in the attitude.
That, and a little thicker skin. Oh, and extra padding helps.
C.A. Morgan is an author/illustrator who doesn't believe in the zombie apocalypse, but does keep a well stocked pantry, and offers encouragement wherever she can. For more info check out the about page, and be sure to visit and like her on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/reademrysia/
I love words. I always have. Though I profess to be a writer, sometimes the right words still escape me. I'm good with the well-mulled phrase, but my tongue usually takes a while to catch up. While grasping for snappy comebacks or soothing consolations in real time, I have more than once turned to the words of others for what I could not readily express.
There is no shame, then, that one of my all-time favorite pastimes is collecting quotes. Words already made famous (or infamous) and even utterances by family or friends unknown to the rest of the world; all are fair game when my own wit won't suffice. Yet of all the thousands of quotes I've collected over the years, there are just five well-known phrases that I insist on passing on - a legacy, if you will, of collective simple wisdom. I think you'll recognize them:
The only thing to do with good advice is pass it on. It is never any use to oneself.- Oscar Wilde
"This too shall pass."
Often attributed to King Solomon, this timeless nugget (and favorite of my wonderful mother-in-law, God rest her soul) doesn't actually show up in the Bible, though it feels like the gospel truth. Everything has a beginning and end - every mountaintop experience and every dark night of the soul. If you don't like the way things currently stand, don't worry; sooner or later circumstances will change. You've heard the term "temporal", right? Well, everything in this world is subject to time. Don't get too attached - especially to feelings that drag you down. They are fleeting in the greater scheme of things. Sure, sometimes it feels like we're stuck in the pits forever, but only if we insist on dwelling there. Make sure to enjoy the good times, too, while they last. Soon enough, all will be just a memory.
Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn't. - Erica Jong
"It's all good."
This cracker-barrel phrase used to irritate me to no end, but I've long since realized the truth of it. Everything has purpose, whether or not we like, or even get, it. Noted psychologist Mihaly Csikszmihaly studied happiness around the world throughout various socioeconomic groups, and found that circumstances matter very little in determining overall happiness. What does matter is attitude. A positive one always serves us better... which leads to my next anonymous tidbit:
"No rain, no rainbow."
Look for the upside, the proverbial "silver lining" of any situation, and you'll eventually find it. About now you are probably saying "Wow - what gall! What about about all the suffering in the world, the horrible and horrendous things people do to each other, the senseless tragedies?" While I can't condone many things people do, believe it or not, even senseless tragedy is integral to the greater scheme of things. Just as nights separate days, and shadows accentuate what they surround, we can only fully experience the mountaintops when they are punctuated with valleys. Nothing makes us appreciate wellness so much as being sick, or realize how rich we are until we know poverty. Experiencing the negative aspects of life enables us to develop compassion, to move beyond our flawed humanity to embrace the divine. At the risk of sounding preachy, it's how we learn the merits of sacrificial love first hand. Sometimes we're the recipient, and sometimes the giver, and we are incomplete until we've been both. Want blue skies, not constant gray? Let the rain fall, and the foul wind blow away the clouds to what lies beyond them.
"Can't never did."
A similar maxim utilized by moms and successful people throughout the world - Failure is a choice. Unfortunately, it is a common one. Most often, failure occurs because we're not even brave enough to enter the starting gate. Remember: "Try" might eventually win, and "will" always will.
I am glad that I paid so little attention to good advice; had I abided by it I might have been saved from some of my most valuable mistakes.- Edna St. Vincent Millay
"Actions speak louder than words."
Lip service is an ugly form of flattery, one that masquerades as compelling. I have been taken in by it, and I've served it up, and in either circumstance was left empty as a piecrust promise. What we do matters more than what we say we'll do. Not that words are powerless; those meant to console become a knife in the back when follow-through fails to happen. To make words work for, and not against you, be a person of integrity. Do what you say you'll do, and while you're at it, "Do good".
Good advice is always certain to be ignored, but that's no reason not to give it.- Agatha Christie
Okay, so I snuck in a few extras. I never claimed to be good at math! What are your favorite quotes and words to live by?
People frequently ask how I come up with my story ideas. They wonder how I ever found time to write three novels. They sigh, wistfully lamenting their own lack of discipline, imagination or ability, and seldom believe me when I tell them they could do it, too, if they really wanted to badly enough. I know it's true because, aside from always dreaming of being an author, I am no different. I am just your average schmo, no special training - heck, I've never even taken a college English course! Yet, somehow I've managed to publish a trilogy. My degree in Commercial Art makes it possible for me to illustrate my work, but even my seventeen year old daughter knows more about sentence structure and composition than I do.
So, how do I convince them - and you - that you can achieve your dreams, whatever they may be?
Let me start by sharing a little something I've learned in the writing process:
It's all about the editing.
When the idea for my series first sparked, I mentally filed it away, too "busy" and lacking in confidence to do anything concrete with it. Over the years that file grew. Life experiences sparked other ideas, most seemingly unconnected, yet somehow meaningful. These got tucked away as well; sometimes whole chapters worth. A name here. A description there. I took notes on any available scrap of paper, and lost more of these jottings than I saved. By the time I actually buckled down and attempted to make a coherent story of it all, it had morphed into an amalgam barely recognizable from that first firing of the imagination. Some of the new material was golden. Some was embarrassingly full of holes. Some of it I loved, but eventually had to part with anyhow. That's where knowing what to edit comes in.
Often, less really is more. Dreams and ideas aside, we need discipline to make room for what really matters. Our modern lives are overcrowded, our days jam-packed with work, activities and...well...other less important stuff. Along with the good we accumulate sludge and detritus - like mindless binge TV watching and FaceBook scrolling. Such constant entertainment and opinion bantering, with no purpose beyond numbing ourselves to reality or making our point known, saps our energy. It distracts from what is meaningful, and lulls us into complacency. Our days disappear in a blur.
I get sucked in, too - which is exactly why I haven't produced much of worth in the last few months. Sure, I've been busy with some important stuff, but I've also indulged in a lot of fluff that needs editing out if I ever want to finish my WIP. Fluff that actually weighs down dreams. My initial goal to publish was only realized because I took inspiration and gave it the time to grow, along with proper trimming when necessary. Doing the same in our day to day lives creates beauty and order. It allows our reality to exceed former expectations, and grow into the stuff of dreams.
What do you need to edit out?
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I knew this winter was predicted to be a long one, but no one could have warned me just how long it would turn out to be. Though we've had nearly record breaking levels of snow, and still sport it knee-deep at this elevation, the fluffy white stuff was the least of it. Looking at the weather map that says the next storm may dump another foot on us isn't the worst.
What makes this winter so intolerably long (besides the political climate) is that I am currently suffering a writing slump. I started the fall season great guns, and got up to chapter 12 on my WIP - a prequel for my Emrysia series - before Christmas vacation and a busy houseful derailed me. I've been so busy with other things since then it has been easy to neglect my writing. Unfortunately, I can't neglect the fact that I miss it desperately. (Self-inflicted wounds are always the worst!) Fortunately, I'm nearing my pain threshold.
One of my recent visitors from Japan told me that after visiting Harvard and MIT, he now regrets not attending an English speaking school when he had the opportunity. I wanted to encourage him that it is never too late. (He is young, so it's actually really early in his game.) It is important to acknowledge our mistakes, but also to realize that regret doesn't help in the slightest. You can only push through a barrier by recognizing it as such, and moving forward. Sure we might get sidetracked - I've made a habit of it! - but like an in-breath in yoga, a pause before you reach higher can help ease you toward your goal. (I just started doing yoga, so hopefully this analogy makes sense.) A moment of mindfulness helps you release where you are, and move further into where you want to be. It is just as important as the movement that is contingent upon it. But, you shouldn't stay there dwelling on things any more than you should hold your breath forever.
Spring is coming. I'm almost ready to exhale again.
My long moment of mindfulness is almost over.
A shout out to Fumihiro, Kai and Ryoma - thanks for visiting; we miss you already! And Yuto, come back and see us sometime. Our door is always open.