The first Wednesday of the month is IWSG blog hop Wednesday.
Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!
You know the drill. Check us out and sign up here!
The optional question for this month is- As you look back on 2017, with all its successes/failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently?
One of the things I’ve tried to do over the last few decades is not dwell on my past. I spent most of my 20’s convinced that the best time of my life had already come and gone. Of course living in the past, wishing, longing, wondering ensures you’ll likely miss out on most of the awesomeness of your current life.
I think I’ve mentioned this before, but here it is again. Being 25 was the worst year of my life. I felt stagnant, and very unaccomplished. I was years away from graduating from college, which of course felt years away from being settled in a career. Most of my friends (and my wife) were well ahead of where I was, and I was sure my life were slipping away and there was little I could do to change it. I needed to somehow slow down, gain perspective. So, on my 26th birthday, I told a little lie. If anyone asked how old I was, I said 27. I told that story enough that after a few months, I actually believed I was 27.
It might seem counter productive, pretending to be older, but it had an amazing effect on my mental state. What day or month it was mattered less and less and focusing on the good things in my life became easier. I was 27 for two years, and by the time I turned 28, I was less consumed by regret and anguish over things I could never relive or change.
I’ve tried to hold onto that perspective as I’ve aged. I keep in mind that each choice alters my life, what I do, who I meet, and where I end up. And I usually like where I end up. So as for last year, I am perfectly okay with how everything played out. There isn’t anything I would do differently. Sure, It would be great if I’d written more, been more diligent in searching for an agent, or submitting stories and poetry, but I still have time to do those things. I will try and use this past year as a learning experience, not as a way to punish my lack of action or be too proud of the things I did accomplish. I can always do better, be better.
What a wonderful concept.
The kids are back in school. Seniors. Their last year of compulsory education has begun, and honestly I don’t know how to feel about it. On a abstract level, I understand that they are nine months away from graduation, a year from 18, from having to really decide in what direction they want to go. As for actually knowing what that will look like, or how it will impact me, I’m clueless. I can only hope I’ve given them enough information, skills and direction to make the best decisions they can.
This transition from summer to the school year feels the same as every other. One day the boys are here, all the time, no real responsibilities, sleeping in, hanging out with friends. The next morning the house takes on a strange stillness. This year, the puppy is taking up some of the slack, and all of my free time, but I’ve still noticed an altered energy. Something is clearly missing, again.
I can’t help but think of myself at their age, my last year of high school in front of me. It seems forever ago and almost like it just happened. I can clearly remember many things that I did, wanted to do, experienced. My kids are different. School is different. They will have a completely different experience than mine, which is just as it should be.
But just like mine, the school year will pass, it will be over before they know it.
If I’m being honest (and I try to be), I’m looking forward to the time when it is just Sheryl and me, alone again. I know how amazing it is to have the empty nest, and while I will always welcome my kids home, I’m excited for the places Sheryl and I will go, as well as the quiet nights when it is just the two of us.
The anticipation is killing me. The possibilities are exciting to ponder.
Anyway, here are a few pictures of the lads, the traditional first day of school photos.
The headless dog photobomb is my favorite.
Music has always been a very influential part of my life. It is hard for me to remember a day without the presence of some song or other. I’ve talked before about how music (and books) are sacred to me. Musicians are storytellers, and as a storyteller I feel a connection with them that goes beyond just enjoying their talents. Certain music has the ability to reconnect me with my past, transport me places, allow me the opportunity to experience old emotions, people. I’ve been moved to tears by music more times than I can count, and each time I’ve been grateful for the experience.
Music also fuels my writing.
There was a time when I needed silence to work, and any outside distraction was a detriment. I don’t know what changed, but now I cannot compose anything without some music playing. It influences the direction of my writing, the tone, the development. I know certain scenes in my first novel were created in direct response to what was on the stereo at the time I was writing them.
And I have so much of it.
Hundreds of vinyl records. Thousands of compact discs. A few lonely cassette tapes.
I’m always acquiring more as well. The more new stuff that I add to the collection, the more some albums get forgotten. Some albums have not been played in years, maybe decades.
In order to try and remember the lost ones, I determined to listen to each of my CD’s (in reverse alphabetical, reverse chronological order) over a two year period. I call it “The Great CD Listening Adventure. I started in the fall of 2016 and just moved through L and into the letter K this morning (L7 to Kylesa, in case you were wondering).
Because some albums have not aged well, I give myself some outs- I play everything, but if after three songs, I’m not feeling it, the disc gets yanked (set on the pile to take to my local record store where I can get store credit). I can skip live albums and greatest hits collections. Singles are also optional. Otherwise, it’s every album by every artist. It’s been so much fun. I’ve rediscovered some forgotten gems, and realized that I’ve lost interest in some bands completely.
My tastes have always been all over the place, ranging from bubblegum pop to Black Metal and most everything in between. I firmly believe that there is a gem in every genre, and that some of the best music ever made is being created right now. If you’re wondering, disagreeing, curious, I can give you a nice list of artists to consider.
What about you? What sort of role does music play in your life, your writing? When authors use music, does it have any affect on the way you perceive a scene?
Who are some of your favorite artists? Who are you listening to right now? Tell me all about your love of music, please.
“The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day.” Members post about their writing lives, their successes and failures, goals, achievements, and offer support and advice to others in the group. It is a time to lay our insecurities bare, because all writers are insecure writers at heart.
If you aren’t already a member, check us out and join up HERE.
The optional question for this month’s blog post is- Did you ever say “I quit”? If so, what happened to make you come back to writing?
I’ve said I quit many times before, mostly when I was younger and more prone to extreme emotional responses to writing difficulty. I’ve torn poems and stories from notebooks, ripped them to shreds because someone I respected didn’t like them, the people the writing was about made me feel unimportant somehow, or I was having a bad stretch and was sure all my writing was crap.
These fits rarely lasted more than a day or two.
I can only recall one instance where I actually quit writing for any extended period of time. I’d just graduated from the University of Utah with a (super useful) degree in English. Applications for graduate school had been submitted (to MFA programs), and I was supremely confident that very soon I would be sorting through multiple acceptance offers. In fact, I can’t think of a time I had been more sure of my writing ability, more certain that success was waiting for me to grab it.
One by one, each of the schools to which I’d applied sent rejections. Each was painful to receive, but the letter from the University of Utah delivered a crushing blow. The application deadline was July 15th, and my rejection was dated June 25th. Yeah, rejected before all applicants were considered. Ouch.
Convinced I was the worst writer of all time, I completely abandoned the craft
I spent the next two years without composing a single poem or short story. I did a masterful job of deceiving myself that I didn’t miss it, but that sort of dishonesty is hard to maintain.
Poetry brought me back. I’d joined an online community for a band I really liked, and many of the others participants were creative types. They shared snippets of stories, lines of poetry, other art, some of it quite good, and somewhere inside of me, I felt a compulsion to participate.
Completing five or ten line poems took hours at first. I questioned every word, every phrase and image, often deleting everything and starting over. It was difficult for sure, but I think I need writing to be very hard for a while. I had to earn back the skills I’d selfishly cast away in a fit of self pity.
Writing fiction again took me another four years. It wasn’t until I was well into earning a Masters degree in Library Science that I could no longer ignore the need to tell prose stories again (poems are stories, right?). There wasn’t single catalyst or event to get the ball rolling. Multiple factors came into play, but at my core, I’ve always felt compelled to write fiction most, and finally that voice refused to remain silent.
What about you? Have you ever quit writing? Why did you stop, and what brought you back?
Yesterday, I was fortunate to enjoy having breakfast with a very good friend. She doesn’t like eggs, but I am willing to look past that. I don’t see her as often as I’d like, which is mostly my fault. I need to do better. We worked at the library together. We did good things. I love the library. I love librarians. They are among the best people.
I also made plans to meet up with another library friend in the early afternoon. We both share a love for a certain band. They performed in Salt Lake this past weekend. I got to attend. He didn’t. His young son, also loves this band. I had acquired a clever poster of the band members, and thought his son would enjoy it. It gave me a good reason to get out of the house, go to the main library, which is a place that still means the world to me.
I worked at the Salt Lake City Public Library for a decade. It was a career I sort of stumbled into, not realizing how much I’d love it, or how deeply the philosophies of librarianship would penetrate my personal, emotional, intellectual life. I made the best of friends, shared hours of conversations and debates with like minded individuals. The best part was the reference work. Finding the correct information from the best possible resources, seeing someone light up with excitement, was very rewarding. It was important work, it had infinite integrity. I like to think I made a difference in a small way in people’s lives.
I miss it more than I’d like to admit.
Our family trip to Cancun was, as usual, wonderful. I can never get enough time near the stunning waters of the Gulf of Mexico/Caribbean. I have not stood and stared out at every sea, but I would still argue the water near Cancun is among the most beautiful in the world.
Even before I had ever actually seen one, I was compelled, intoxicated by the thought of the ocean. Incomprehensibly large, powerful, beautiful, my first experiences on the shoreline of the Atlantic Ocean have stayed with me throughout my adult life. I was 19, living in Maine, serving a mission for the LDS church. I stood on the sand of Old Orchard Beach, near dusk, staring out at the retreating tide, the evening sky darkening the water. I was humbled. Nothing has frightened or thrilled me as much as staring out at that vastness.
Most likely because of my affinity for the ocean, our Cancun trips usually consist of a week of sitting on the beach, gazing out at the water. The hum of it is endless. The ocean looks and sounds different as each day progresses. I tried to capture some of it.
At sunrise the sky dominates, and the ocean is a muted turquoise.
By mid morning, the sky pales and the blue green water is nearly impossible for me to look away from.
In the evening, the colors and textures are stunning.
Under a bright yellow moon, words fail me.
Last. A slightly edited image (shadows and light to bring out the textures of the clouds, the water) of an approaching storm.
I am glad to be home, back to the usual routines, but I miss the constant sound of the waves, the insistent wind. I’ll have to go back soon.
I have some of the worst handwriting in the history of handwriting. It is a family curse. All my siblings (and my father. My mother writes beautifully) create equally atrocious letters. If word processing had never been invented, if I were forced to write everything by hand, it is highly likely I would not be a writer.
Elementary schools used to (maybe they still do) include handwriting in their grading system. My first D’s were earned in handwriting. I remember the teacher’s comment- “Sloppy work. If Ryan were to practice, take his time, his handwriting would improve.” Sorry, Mrs Lindsay, some of us are deficient in our fine motor skills (I’m not allowed near scissors), and all the slowness and patience in the world isn’t going to make things any better.
Still, there is something very appealing to me about handwritten texts (letters, poems, stories). I enjoy going through the stacks of letters sent to me by family and friends over the years, not only to relive old memories, re-discover forgotten moments, but to revel in the intimate connection something handwritten provides. Each smudged letter, crossed out word, is a connection to the moment of composition, a closeness to the expression of thought.
At various points in my life, I’ve kept handwritten journals. Some of these are day to day, what did I do, sorts of writings, while others are sketches- of emotions I’m dealing with, people I’ve encountered or characters I’ve created. I like the difficulty of handwriting, the struggle I have to write legibly. It focuses my efforts, narrows my scope. Sometimes, I don’t bother and just fly through a page, laughing at myself as the ends of words blur into unintelligible squiggles; sentences and paragraphs that barely qualify.
I’ve just spend the last two days reading a journal I wrote when I was between the ages of 19 and 21. Terrible spelling. Every event described was either the most important or most mundane of my existence. Certain phrases repeated themselves on almost every page. As I read, each entry made me guffaw at my strangeness, cringe at my hyperbole. Today, I plan to read a journal from my early years at the community college. I expect to have a similar response.
Every time I go through one of these readings, I am ready to commit myself to writing more often. I’ve managed a page a month for the last two years, but I want more. So much of life gets lost over time, altered or forgotten, and while a handwritten (or typed) account of an event is not free of bias or distortion, it is an honest attempt at telling.
Do any of you keep journals? If so, are they something typed, stored in a file, or are they written out longhand? Is your handwriting like mine?