Welcome Back

I know, the first post after a long hiatus is always awkward. The writer apologizes for the long absence, maybe even provides a reason for it before rushing through a giant listing of everything which has happen in the last day/month/decade. Then, a good half of the time, there’s zero follow-up posts. Just one “hey, guys, I’m backkkk!” then, silence.

So, where does this bring us? Well, here’s my update, in my own hand.

I do plan to actually get back into the swing of things. Things have calmed down ever so slightly and I am hopeful my life will not fill right back up to overflowing. And I actually have a plan. Took-a-page-in-a-notebook sort of a plan. With bullet points and a calendar and all that fancy stuff.

You should be impressed. But not too impressed. This is my blog, after all.

Move over Moleskine – Welcome, Midori

I used to be obsessed with the Moleskine line of notebooks. Ten years ago, I was spending my first summer in California and learned of the simple notebooks with a ribbon bookmark and high quality paper. They only came in a few basic types then – lined, blank, blank thicker paper, and grid/graph paper in one of two sizes and a standard opening or reporter-style that flipped open along the short edge. Of course, they’ve now expanded into all sorts of sizes and paper options and even have their own bags and pens. Basically, they’ve sold out.

I wasn’t looking to give them up, however. I regularly use other notebooks, mostly cheaper ones that didn’t intimidate me as much as my Moleskines did. The ‘skines were pretty and expensive and had a great history that they give you in the little print out tucked into the back cover. The sort of notebook that is just begging for art and excellent writing and everything I thought I wasn’t capable of producing on an average day. In short, I was intimidated by them. I buy a new one and spend weeks or months carrying it around, rarely actually using it. Just this morning, I found four of them among my things in my office, mostly empty.

But then I found Midori. These are more expensive notebooks, with even higher quality paper. They’re still handmade, even. And, yet, somehow, I don’t have that same intimidation factor. Maybe it’s becuase they’re not that old – only haven gotten started in the last 5 years. Maybe it’s because they aren’t that popular. Maybe because they are refillable rather than leaving the user stuck with the default paper type and 200 or so pages.

Whatever convinced me, I am very happy.

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I got the notebook a little over a week ago and have faithfully spent twenty minutes writing in it each day. Eventually, I’m hoping to get up the nerve to draw in my notebook or remember to collect more ephemera from my daily life. But, for now, I’m really liking what the notebook has lead to. I’m writing. Daily. I’m inspired and excited. It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing.

Filling the Hours

There’s only so many hours in the day and not quite enough to do all of those things I want to do. (We’ll ignore my to do list. That just sort of sits without anything done until a hard deadline – like taxes being due April 15th.)

Don’t get me wrong, I’m lucky enough to have a good two to three hours free most evenings after Squirms has gone to bed. Most nights, Matt and I hang out together (we watch TV, he plays on his phone, I write letter or knit or play on my phone) but sometimes, like tonight, he’s off in his office, playing video games so I’m left to my own devices. And, yet, what am I doing? Watching tons of episodes of Scrubs and attempting to write up a few blog posts to catch folks up on what’s been going on in my life.

What would i do if I had unlimited time? And, somehow, could focus enough to do them?

  • Write that memoir I have made zero progress on.
  • Learn to write calligraphy or in a cool hand-written font.
  • Make a cross stitch sampler of all of the Dr. Who’s.
  • Sew myself some awesome skirts. (Requires actually learning how to sew, for real.)
  • Watch through all of the seasons of Friends, X-Files, Sex in the City
  • Catch up on Squirm’s scrapbook (do have photos from Jan – March printed but have yet to make the pages)
  • Write here, you know, more than once every two months
  • Make a sweater for myself I actually like
  • Take some programming classes online
  • Write letters to the rest of the people on my list (which is down to 8 from the 90+ I had in January)
  • Make some sort of a collage
  • Write to Squirms daily about what she’s done that day and things I want her to know about me
  • Make a few books by hand, especially journals
  • Make a bunch of dishcloths

Angela Leese, Memoir Writer

I am going to write a memoir. Not an autobiography but a memoir because, as I read earlier, you can only write one autobiography but many memoirs. This one will be about how anxiety has infiltrated my life, from the time I was little until today. I probably won’t be posting any of that here – the first draft is just for me – though I will be continuing to post about what’s current going on in my life and may post every now and then about my general progress. Working title: Worrisome One.

So, like I always do, I started with research. Because I’m not capable of just diving into something without doing tons of research first. (Second memoir idea, how I love rules. When they’re not too restrictive.)

I bought a new book on writing, deciding that reading Writing Down the Bones for the fifth time would probably not provide me as much insight as seeing what someone else had to say about it. I decided on A Year of Writing Dangerously: 365 Days of Inspiration and Encouragement by Barbara Abercrombie. I’ve been working through the vignets the last eight days and am really enjoying that the daily pages force you to slowly read the book, rather than just plowing through it like I did my first few times through Natalie’s book.

I also Googled something like “how to write a memoir” because, well, why not? I found some really great articles, after throwing out the ones that are obvious click bait, fake how-tos, and blogs that feature a handwriting-like font that’s impossible to read.

  • Writing a Memoir from Linda Joy Myers – love number 4: When in doubt about what to write, select a scene, a significant scene, and write it.
  • Salon’s Guide to Writing a Memoir – tips from some of the best memoir writers out there (I just read my way through Stitches by Anne Lamott which isn’t really a memoir but, whatever. I like her writing.)
  • Memoir Writing for Dummies – yes, from the people with the bright yellow books but it’s quite a good list.
  • Rules for Writing a Life-Changing Memoir – I’m going to try to ignore the “it has to be interesting” rule as I draft things or I’ll lose my voice and start to write what peoeple would want to read rather than the truth.
  • How to Write Your Memoir by Abigail Thomas – Ignore the website it’s on and read her tips. Apparently this is where the quote I loved in Abercrombie’s book (credited to the original writer) was from: But the jumping-off place isn’t always so obvious. You can’t always find the way in. Sometimes you need a side door.

Have you ever thought about writing a memoir or, somehow, are you a memoir writer who ran across my blog? What scares you most about writing a memoir? What parts seem (or actually are) easy?

Thankful

(I’m a few days late on this, but it’s never too late to be thankful, right? My excuse is we spent the last week with some of Matt’s family in Southern Colorado. More on that later.)

In no particular order, my list of things I’m thankful for this year:

  • Matt for his support, affection, taking such amazing care of Elizabeth, cooking us dinner
  • Squirms: smiles, laughter, love of food, sweet disposition
  • Our house and neighborhood
  • Challenging job
  • In-laws who love to babysit
  • Love of writing has returned
  • FaceTime for connecting with my parents and friends who are far away
  • Ability to fly to visit family for holidays
  • Friends who I can talk to after months/years like no time has passed
  • Sustained commitment to being healthier/losing weight
  • Amazon Prime and Target’s in-store pickup
  • Music that motivates me to wash dishes/clear

I’m a failure and that’s okay

When I signed up for this thing, I knew it would be hard. If have to take time every day to write something to post. I made a giant list of ideas of all of the things I could write about. I scheduled time each evening to write. I told Matt about my goal so he could provide me support.

But, still, I failed. I didn’t write a thing yesterday for the blog. I took some photos and had this great idea of walking you through my Saturday. Boring, perhaps, but it was something.

Then I realized what I was doing. Yes, I love to write and I liked the challenge of having to come up with something I was comfortable sharing here daily. But I wasn’t as much a part of my life because of it. It wasn’t the time but the mental attention I had to give it. I couldn’t get it off my mind when I was supposed to be giving Matt or Squirms or other people my attention. I was so tuned in to finding writing topics, things just slipped me by.

It was particularly bad early this week. I knew Matt and Squirms would be out of town later in the week and I treated them like normal days. They didn’t need all of my attention all the time, it was just two days away, but I didn’t give them any extra hugs or tell Squirms I was just going away for a little while. I was beyond excited to have that time, all that extra time between work and sleep to write and take photos and have great blog posts.

I blog because I want to record what goes on in my life and you have to actually live your life if you want to have something to record. And you can’t do that if you focus so much in having to produce something daily. Or, at least, I can’t. This, then, is likely to be my last NaBloPoMo attempt. But, don’t worry, I have no plans for radio silence, either.

More Natalie Says…

Whenever I feel like I need to write but can’t come up with something to actually write about or need general inspiration, I turn to Natalie Goldberg and either my Kindle or paperback copy of Writing Down the Bones. I turn to a random chapter and start reading until I get inspired. She’s full of advice about how to write, what to write about, but there’s also something about her words themselves, how she describes things that pulls me in. It wants me to be like her, to write more but also to write in such a way that I have most accurately captured whatever it is I want to say.

With the month almost half over, I’m sure I’m not the only NaBloPoMo-er looking for things to write about. And, of course, Natalie has plenty of ideas. So, let’s see what Natalie says.

  1. Talk about the quality of the light coming in through your window.
  2. Begin with “I remember.” Write lots of small memories. If you fall into one large memory, write that.
  3. Take something you feel strongly about, whether it is positive or negative, and write about it as though you love it. Go as far as you can, writing as though you love it, then flip over and write about the same thing as though you hate it. Then write about it perfectly neutral.
  4. Choose a color – for instance, pink – and take a fifteen-minute walk. On your walk notice whenever there is pink. Come back to you notebook and write for fifteen minutes.
  5. Write in different places – for example, in a laundry mat, and pic up on the rhythm of the washing machines. Write at bus stops, in cafes, write about what is going on around you.
  6. Give me your morning. Breakfast, waking up, walking to the bus stop. Be as specific as possible. Slow down in your mind and go over the details of your morning.
  7. Visualize a place that you really love, be there, see the details. Now write about it. What colors are thee, sounds, smells?
  8. Write about “leaving.” Approach it any way you want. Write about your divorce, leaving the house this morning, or a friend dying.
  9. What is your first memory?
  10. Who are the people you have loved?
  11. Write about the streets of your city.
  12. Describe a grandparent.
  13. Write about:
    • swimming
    • the stars
    • the most frightened you’ve ever been
    • green places
    • how you learned about sex
    • your first sexual experience
    • the closest you ever felt to God or nature
    • reading and books that changed your life
    • physical endurance
    • a teacher you had
  14. Take a poetry book. Open to any page, grab a line, write it down, and continue from there. If you begin with a great line, it helps because you start write off from a lofty place.
  15. What kind of animal are you? Do you think you are really a cow, chipmunk, fox, horse underneath?
  16. Make a list of your obsessions. Now you have a list of things to write about.
  17. Make a list of the stories you tell over and over – write those stories.