Category: writing (page 1 of 2)

Happy International Women’s Day!

International Women’s Day means to me: celebrating women. Doing and being me. Taking risks. Exploring. Standing up for myself. Listening to my inner voice and meeting my needs. Raising up other women. Disengaging from stuff I don’t believe in, stuff that tears women down. Being strong in and out of the workplace. Not listening to the “shoulds” anymore. Smirking when people tell me solo travel as a woman is “brave” (eyeroll much!?)

It’s stepping alone over snake tracks in the desert despite my fear, and marveling in the sunrise.

Making my own map, and my own destinations.

It’s celebrating the beauty in unexpected places. 

Much love to all my women and those who support us.

😘😘😘

 

solo women's travel

Catching sunrise in Death Valley

I want to make this into a t-shirt

Someone I know who has published his own books agreed to read my book.

He had excellent notes throughout, and some of it was really helpful.

But.

At the end, he goes:

“You need to buy a book on plot and read it.”

ZING/OUCH.

Once I got over that BURN enough to digest what he was saying, I started laughing. Something about the writer-on-writer passive aggression makes me giggle.

FTR: hidden in this burn is a huge compliment – that my book is a very realistic portrayal of a journalist. Which, I realized after the smoke cleared, was exactly what I had set out to do.

https://cdn.meme.am/instances/400x/56631950/yes-.jpg

His biggest complaints were the last sentences in the last few chapters, and the bit between the climax and ending. I don’t exactly need to read a book to figure this out 😛 I do have some choices to make about the ending, which is fair. And it IS where I pushed to just GET IT DONE.

Writing a book is hard, and editing it is no fun. I’m grateful to everyone who reads it, and appreciate all the feedback.

And now I have a new t-shirt design.

The Book is Done.

OMFG I finished my book.

Book. is. done.

Me, finishing my book.

“Finish” is a strong word, of course. I  still need to have it edited, picked up by an agent, publisher, edited by them, etc. etc.

But! The biggest, hardest, baddest part is done. And:

I WROTE A NOVEL Y’ALL.

It clocks in at 296 pages, 113,496 words. WOO doggies! Now THAT is a BOOK!

I did a mad push the past two weeks. My life-coach-friend “Portland” kind of called me out on sniveling my way through my third year of writing this thing. I *was* working on editing the beta draft. The pieces to the dress were cut out, it just hadn’t been sewn together yet.

Of course, he wanted me to finish in a night. There IS a solid balance between creativity, burnout, and leaping over roadblocks (self-imposed or otherwise.)

Why bother with this book?

I heard something in this time that smashed through one of my “blocks.”

“I procrastinate because I think, ‘why bother? it’ll never be good enough. it will never reach my standards of perfection. who’s going to care, anyway?'”

Ooo ee. Was I there for that!

It was nice to learn that I’m not the only writer that feels this way.

I wasn’t finishing my book, and I knew it wasn’t because I was lazy, didn’t like my story, had ‘writer’s block,’ etc. etc. There was SOMETHING else going on. It felt like a squishy foam pad over a trap door, but I couldn’t identify it.

I have read so many books: Artist’s Way, Bird By Bird, On Writing.

Still didn’t really tip it off.

But then a friend, sharing on why he procrastinated at work, said the above.

Zing! Beautiful. Totally Tetris’d into place for me.

Just sit down and write

For me, I’ve always known the very ‘easy’ answer: “Just sit down and write.” But crawling past my mental harpies to do it has, at times, been incredibly difficult. Especially when the task seems Sisyphean. Like … writing a book. You have no idea how many more pages ‘to go.’ So you just keep going.

Writing 10,000 words per day: is it possible?!

As we came to the end of National Novel Writing Month, one of the writers in my region posted this article by Rachel Aaron about how to go from writing 2,000 words a day to 10,000.

At that rate, you could write a novel (50,000 words) in five freaking days!

Is it possible?!

After toiling away on my novel for three years, the idea of upping my game appeals to me. I want to finish!!!

I completed NaNoWriMo for the first time this year (YAHOO!) but that was hard! And that was just 1,667 words per day. How the heck can I keep this up, so I get this stinkin’ book done, finally? (And in your lovely hands?!)

I see this article as the way, as my “challenge accepted.” What’s involved?

 

My office in the Tetons.

My office in the Tetons.

The Game Plan

First of all: I love the name of her blog.

Secondly, Rachel Aaron/Bach has three main suggestions. These are also in a helpful graphic in her post. Go check it out!

1. Know what you’re writing before you sit down to write.

She suggests writing it out on a pad of paper before you write.

2. Keep track of your writing time in a spreadsheet.

Statistics help! We’ve seen this with FitBit and Nano, so it makes sense. She recommends two months of tracking.

3. Get excited about what you’re writing today.

She realized that the most word count came when she wrote the scenes she’d been thinking of since conception of the novel. That makes sense, and I like how she put it!

Writing Results So Far

Lo! I’ve done pretty well. So far in December, I’ve written 15,042 words – just on my novel, not on all the blogs/texts/emails/books about Kanye I also write each day. I’ve averaged 3,000 words a day this month. I’ve also averaged 1832 words per hour, in the seven writing sessions I’ve had so far.  Rachel said her wph was 500-1500, which I just reread, so wow, I guess that’s pretty amazing!

LP Tracker

All of that comes from my handy dandy tracker. I’ve been using it for about a week now, and I really like opening it at the beginning of each session as a bit of a ritual, without going right into the novel.

My columns are: Date | Time | Location | Words Written | Hourly Rate | Pages | Music | Food | Kind of Sit/Distractions | Notes.

When I log in for the day, no matter how I’m feeling, and I see the previous day’s word count, I’m like, “oh yeah …” And get a little bit more energizy. After I insert my stats for the day, I see my progress. I also parse out the statistics (most productive time of day, best playlist, etc.) If I really want to nerd out, there’s the potential for GRAPHS and such in the future! Woot woot! (Nerd Alert!)

Hand Writing Ideas Helps

Part of the insane word count I get is that I type crazy fast. Like, fast enough that people comment on it when they see me typing on my phone. Still, I very much like her suggestion to start the beginning of each session with a quick, handwritten list of what that day’s scene(s) will be about. There’s something about the magic of handwriting, especially for writers, that is undeniable. This has really helped me focus and then dive in for the day. Thumbs up to this suggestion, too!

Get Pumped!

So, not going to lie … this one has been the hardest of the three. I think that comes from these ideas fermenting, and me writing or thinking some version of them, for like, 3 years. Overdone, much?

That’s not entirely true. I like that I’ve been able to get to about 3,000 words and stop, no matter where I am in the scene. I can see what’s coming next, which makes writing about it first in a notepad at the top of tomorrow’s writing sesh super easy. So it becomes this sweet self-perpetuating cycle!

I can get pumped about finishing this freaking book. And upping my word count as freaking awesomely as I have – and committing to a daily practice – is giving me the energy I need to get ‘er done.

Final Thoughts

One of the hardest things about writing a novel is that it seems Sisyphean. There’s so MUCH to write, and even 3,000 words is just 3% of a novel. Just sitting down that day will not mean I’ve “finished my novel” by the end of the work session. In journalism and PR, we have short, tight projects with measurable and attainable goals.  It can be overwhelming and hard to start. It’s probably why most people don’t write that book they’ve “been meaning to” or “always wanted to.”

Then, many of the things I have read about professional authors, and even Rachel in her blog, say that they sit down “at least four hours a day and write.” My eyes bug out at that. For multiple reasons.

One: I’m traveling around the country, so that’s a huge chunk of daylight that I could devote to sightseeing.

Two: that’s a huge chunk of time to get over my overwhelm, and be poring out my heart and soul.

It seems silly, having come from 8+ hours professionally at a computer, not to mention glued to my cell phone.

But fiction writing is different. It’s a totally different habit and set of issues to face. Frankly, I’m proud of building up to about an hour and a half solid writing (which, to hit 3,000 words can sometimes end up being 2 or 2.5 if I’m particularly ungrounded.) And I know the trials of trying to write on top of a full-time job, or trying to wake up early to write before that full-time job, etc.

So I’ll take this success and keep it up. Who knows? Maybe one day I can build up to four hours. Ole!

How to Write A Novel, in 98 Words

I am going through a big binder of novel writing printouts I’ve been “meaning” to read for ages. This includes “The Snowflake Method,” by Randy Ingermanson.

Exponential Expansion

It’s actually an interesting approach! The idea is you take one sentence, and then expand that, incrementally. In theory, that’s what you do even if you open Word and start at the beginning.

I like the clear direction and structure of this approach, and intend to try it on my next novel. (Yes, I’ve started my next before finishing my first!)

If you’re really interested in the details, I recommend you click over there for Randy’s full instructions.  Here’s my 98-word summary of how to write a novel.

How to Write a Novel: The Snowflake Method

1. Write one sentence summarizing your novel.
2. Expand that to a full paragraph.
3. Write one summary paragraph for each major character.
4. Expand each sentence of your book’s summary paragraph into a full paragraph.
5. Write a one page description of each major character, and a half page each for other important characters.
6. Expand the one-page plot synopsis from step 4 to four pages.
7. Expand your character descriptions into a full page, detailing everything about them. Most important: how will they change by the end of the story?
8. Using the four-page synopsis, list of all the scenes you’ll need to turn the story into a novel.
9. Write a multi-paragraph description for each scene.
10. Fill in the holes, and finish your book!

I DID IT! 50,000 Words in NaNoWriMo 2017

I won!

Nanowrimo: I won!

GUYS I FINALLY WON A NANOWRIMO!

 

NaNoWhaaa

NaNoWhaaa, you ask?

Dudes. Nanowrimo is an online community that helps encourage you to write 50,000 words in November. There’s a great word tracker with lots of details such as “days left,” “words left,” “words written today,” etc.

There are message boards and “regional” boards where you can talk to fellow writers. The organization also sends you pep talks by accomplished novelists as well.

It’s also a nonprofit that helps promote writing causes, especially in schools. Pretty neat!

Why 50,000?

That “counts” as a novel. Though I am finding that my novel’s beta draft is going to be about two times that!

How was it?

It was … well, actually. I think a week ago I would have said that it was “painful.” But I also realize that, looking back, it was really a habit-building process. Like going to the gym (I’m sure. I don’t go to the gym.)

I feel really great today, like it’s a special day. Which it is! Nearly 2,000 words per day is hella awesome.

Lasting Benefits

I think the most important thing is that this has given me momentum. Because of this, I have something I can look at and say, “well, I did this once. I can do it again!” Meaning: I’m going to keep up the writing habit.

It also helped break down into manageable steps what seemed like a Herculean, Sisyphean, amorphous task: “write a book!”

And it was nice to have an understanding community of people to talk to and support, as well as get support from.

I am not working currently. But I did have two friend visits. I visited four states and slept in at least seven different places this month. (Holy shit, on that last statistic.) So, I think, that I should be able to manage prioritizing this for the next month (just four places and three states …) And then definitely while I LIVE IN THE SAME PLACE in 2018. 🙂

 

 

 

Forty-five minutes to the nearest grocery: Notes from Cascadia

Out in Cascadia, living in the beautiful solace of aquamarine lakes and mountains also means a 90 minute round-trip drive to the nearest store, gas station, and showers.

Diablo Lake

Worth it, right? Diablo Lake. Yes, it’s really that color! Tiny debris from glaciers (“glacial flour”) reflects the sky & light, which makes it that color.

Travel Life

Finally found the showers. They were at this chi-chi campground outside the park and past town. I drove right by them yesterday because the place had recently been bought and the name changed.  The facility was actually really nice. It was newly remodeled and your $5 got you into what looked like the bathroom of someone’s house. The showers weren’t on a timer, either, so I took a big long one 🙂

In town, I also found free wifi! It was from this modular building that served as the library, though its hours were really limited so I just sat on the steps outside. Downloaded ten audiobooks, and talked to a few friends for a long time. I checked some emails, IG, FB, and texts. It was nice to plug in again … I guess ;).

The Sights

I then did the river loop trail and trail of the cedars and walked around the town of Newhalem, as well as the Ladder Creek Falls and the Gardens back there (very citizen kane, if you ask me), as well as checking out Diablo Lake again. I listened to the entirety of Mogul while I did that, and then Marie Forleo’s interview with Daymond James.

Skagit River

Skagit River from Trail of the Cedars bridge

Trail of the Cedars

Trail of the Cedars bridge, North Cascades National Park, Washington

 Details of the Day

The weather has been perfect: sunny and 75. It gets just cool enough overnight that it’s good for sleeping, but I don’t need tons of layers or blankets. Bless!

I wrote for 45 minutes this morning, too. Getting any kind of daily habit while moving around so much, and doing all the physical work of setting up the campsite, etc.

Came back and listened to a ton of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust.

Colored while making dinner and actually until almost 9:00 pm. It makes me feel better. Listened to Stardust until nearly 11, and then went to sleep listening to a guided meditation. Overall, I slept pretty well.

My air mattress is losing air more rapidly, but having the foam pad underneath has been helpful. I may have to take it out and see what’s up; it’s the one thing I didn’t take apart and clean in Missoula, so it may be time.

Nighty night!

T-Minus 20: Thai Food and Sleep.

Bon Giorgio! (That should say “bon giorno” but it autocorrected, and I like it!)

The latest: 

So, work today took a very weird turn. I won’t go into details, per basically every career advice article on the Internet. But, I would just like to submit to the record that as the odd timing and circumstances of things continues at a fast clip … “signs,” if you will? Yeah. There is no doubt I am meant to go on this journey. 

Sell-pdate

Today I only sold $10 worth of items, but it’s still amazing to me who will drive how far to buy $5 items. One guy was *jazzed* about this small vase I have. There are 100 stories to conjure from that! The first is: “is this secretly way more valuable than I realized and I need to look this up on Antique Roadshow or something?!” Or he could just really be into Pier One Bellagio-esque vases. Who knows! 

Still messaging with people at a steady rate, but it is distracting and annoying. The follow-through rate of some people! Or just the kind of defensive posturing or start to conversations. Sigh. It’s good perspective on “shit-together-ness,” I suppose.

Sleep

The bed thing … slept on my camp pad last night. It works and I love it, but it’s not my bed. Still in a mourning period I’m sure. Sleep is so important that I really feel like it affects the rest of my day. Also had some intense PT for my rotator cuff yesterday, so not sure if today’s discomfort is from weird sleep, or PT soreness. Days like this I with semi-terror that I may be in pain and feel like shit the whole trip. Nearly everyone has promised me not. My PT and chiro assure me that getting away from my desk is (in essence) the cure. (Yeah, the hazards of sitting are THAT real.) 

Sleep GOOP

Speaking of hazards: I tried some “Amazing GOOP” on my air mattress. Yes, that’s its name. No, it is not by Gwennie, but watch out for that fat lawsuit. Anyway: this adhesive advises use in highly ventilated areas. Except it’s still like 50 outside, so I may have to move my camp pad to a different room so I don’t die of pneumonia or fumes. Though, tbh, I’m not sure it’s active bc it came out like drying gum and sure applied looking like gum discarded on a sidewalk. But, shit, if it fixes my badass queen-sized air mattress, then … who cares?

I mean, uh… : Can’t wait to start sleeping on a cot in cold-ass natural elements!! (Oh hey daily, “CAMERON CARPENTER WHAT HAVE I DONE!?” (yes google him.))

Budget Time

I will need to start to more seriously watch my spending. I was in a fog after work. Combination of the work thing, general lack of sleep, and shoulder soreness. I’ve also eaten out since basically Friday night (mostly on other people’s incredible generosity, FTR 🙏) So I was like, f it, and took a walk to the Thai restaurant by my house.  A Nutella factory and a Thai restaurant are basically the only two things that should not be within walking distance of my house.

But! Walking is good, and I have been doing more lately, which is great. I definitely need the practice. Trying to bump up to 15K average steps/day, from 10K. Which is not terribly hard, interestingly. Once you get moving … 

Funny, reflecting on that & my work experience … early this am when I first woke up, I Tweeted: “Get to it to get through it … right?” 

Answered my own question today, it seems. 

With the help of relying heavily on my friends. And a bit of Thai. Now: to sleep?

Xo

LJP 

Gear Check: Considering The Cot

My sleeping plans for this trip are cornerstone to this trip.
Which makes this baby one of the most important items in my gear load. Yes, I have the Cadillac of all air mattresses, the Therm-A-Rest NeoAir Dream Mattress  (which, incidentally is listed for way more than when I bought it, wow.)

Comfortable sleeping arrangements are the only way I could do this trip. My back and shoulders are not in great shape (thanks to sitting at a desk all day!!!) And (as anyone who’s woken up near me knows) I’m useless if I don’t get enough sleep – my brain goes on strike for what seems to be the whole day. So, to be able to rely on the comfort of the Therm-A-Rest is well worth the money (or, as I put it: “the cost of 5 PT appointments”!) I’ve slept on it a bunch now camping & it’s fabulous.

So then I saw the REI Cadillac Cot and thought if I had that, I’d have a real “bed” of sorts … Well, it’s too big for my tent (pout!) So now I have to decide on a different one. The idea would be to put the air mattress on top of the cot. The question is, which cot?

Choices

I headed over to my frienemy Amazon. They conveniently have a whole section on cots that you can rank by rating. This Coleman “Converta” cot caught my eye. I like how the back comes up, to have a ‘couch’ or chaise, so I do not have to add  a camp chair as well.
But it looks like my air mattress is going to be right up to the edges of it. Not sure if the overlap on those middle supports on the side will hurt the air mattress.

I’m also concerned because the fabric that is wrapped around the bars creaks – A LOT – when I first sit on it. Other users on Amazon said theirs ripped, even if they were well under the weight load.
Coleman makes the same version of this one, but with bungee cords on the side. Those may make it more giving/comfortable?

Now, I’m leaning toward the Coleman ComfortSmart. It comes with its own mattress. I imagine my air mattress + this would be sweeeet. But is it going to be too thick once it’s folded & in my car?

Or do I go super-basic, flat, military-style, like this Coleman PackAway Cot?

T-Minus 31 Days: The Creative Muse Knocketh.

Good morning.

/ argh!

I *never* get out of bed if I wake up in the middle of the night. Usually I just pop a soothing video on YouTube & shut my eyes until its gentle sounds carry me back to the Land of Nod. But, no matter the amount of ASMR or meditation videos I watched in the last 1.5 hours, I have not been able to even start to close my eyes. Like, I made coffee when I woke up. At 12:30 a.m. That’s how futile I could physically feel my body saying it was to attempt sleep tonight.

I suppose I could blame this on the full moon, or the stress of the previous week, or the impending moving, or the excitement of my upcoming trip. Maybe the two homemade brownies from the pan my GED program supervisor made for us, and/or whatever the heck my foam roller stirred up. (Despite being miraculously physically FINE all day, I twinged my left sacriocillac muscle somehow, which is now messing with the bottom of my left shoulder blade. Lervely.) But, I’ve also been into this pattern of like, 6 hours of sleep a night, since I started stirring up my possessions & prepping for this move.

So, I guess now I stay up or wake up and write. Really late at night.

Like, my eyes are burning right now more than my brain is sleepy. I may actually be able to fall asleep because my eyeballs revolt & are like, “we can’t take being open anymore, mate! Fuck off to sleep now, would ya?”

This weekend, I was telling my mom about my fears of staying up too late when camping (mostly bc of fears, ie ‘what was that noise?!’) & then napping midday. She was all, “but, Circadian Rhythms!”

But, it turns out I may be on to something.

I have always been a night owl. In my wise 30s, I’ve sometimes practiced Arianna Huffington–style sleep hygiene and force myself to to sleep at 10 p.m., because I’m forced into this stupid 9-5 structure, and I’m at least learning, so that my productivity isn’t utterly shot the next day. (I’m starting to realize that has more to do with lack of inspiration at work …) But I usually feel like I could take a nice siesta from 2-4pm, and on my days off, I seem to follow a “get up and go, lull, go” pattern. I wonder if people survive on 4-6 hour nightly sleeps, with a 2-4 hour midday nap. Guess I will have literally all the time in the world until I run out of money to find out!

But, lately, call it alignment, call it whatever: the creative muse appears to be knocking and cannot, will not, be ignored. It feels like she’s Tinkerbell, in that scene from Peter Pan where she gets locked in the cupboard and is knocking about, sparking rage and sparkles everywhere.

That’s fine*.

Especially because it means I will be able to update, and back date, some of the stories from the previous 10 days or so that I’ve missed because of my uncle’s passing and my subsequent road trip to MI. So, in the interest of full disclosure: I’m writing on 4/14 the posts from 4/11-now, and not publishing any posts for 4/5 – 4/10 out of respect for my uncle & my need to grieve during that time.

Xo

LJP

*Except …

My internet isn’t working right now. Now! It picks this moment. Thanks, Mercury Retrograde 😉 (&Comcast. I just put my check in the mail! It’s not due for a few more days! WTF!) By this moment I mean apparently the entire hour and a half 3.5 hours now I’ve been up writing this.

So even if I wanted to, I apparently was not going to be able to watch any more videos in bed. I heed the call, and back date the blog with 3,000 7,000 words. Fortunately there’s Microsoft Word that I can save my musings into, until I figure out WTF is with the Internet. [Realizing things like “1700 words per hour + readthroughs … not bad, right?” affirm that my writing Tinkerbell was indeed a-knockin’ for a reason, and sometimes I think this is more valuable than sleep. J]

T-Minus 32: On Love, Death, & Family

So: it’s been a hell of a week.

As you guys may have seen, my uncle passed away last week after a two-year (two year and three day, how about that?) battle with pancreatic cancer.

It sucks. It fucking sucks. He was 57. He was my mom’s little brother. His kids are still in or barely out of college. One is set to graduate, one month and one day after his death.

It went quickly, or at least it seemed to for those of us on the outside. He was apparently up and walking around on the two-year mark, and then Sunday things got not good, Monday the doctor visited, and by Tuesday night he was gone. I got a call Monday, then Tuesday around noon, and then Tuesday around 8 p.m.

The date we found out about his diagnosis – that call, that night – I will never forget. Neither will my friend who was with me, I’m sure, as I kind of was in a fog and maybe punched a construction site fence. It was April Fool’s Day. My mom’s tone of voice – I knew this wasn’t a joke, but she kept saying over and over again, through tears,

She’d just lost her best friend, her cousin that grew up across the street from her, three weeks before. How fucked up is that? I’d just flown home for the funeral.

The two-year mark was important to me because the average life expectancy for stage 4 pancreatic cancer is 8 months. Eight! My grandma lived two weeks from when she got her diagnosis, in 2000. So we were lucky – immensely lucky – that we got three times as long as we could have.

And my uncle went to some of the best hospitals in the country: U of M, Johns Hopkins, and MD Anderson. So he definitely fought. I always hoped he’d be the one, of course, to break through and be the first one to get ‘the cure,’ or part of a class of those who could. He was still waiting to get into an experimental trial in MDA when he passed. I was lucky enough to help: help connect him, through my HS BFF’s pilot-dad, to the Angel flights that took him to JHU and MD Anderson, to a doctor at JHU I happened to meet at a Gala in DC. And I drove up to MI and drove him to U of M for a few appointments.

We had a really good day in the Dundee Cabela’s that I will never forget, and that’s actually where I got my Kelty Salida 2 that I will be taking on this trip with me. This is one of the most heart-warming things that’s ever happened to me:
My uncle and I went to Cabela’s in late June/early July 2015. I told him about how I was looking to get new, lighter gear for easy camping, I wanted to do more of it and even was thinking about taking “a road trip” someday, etc. I had a list and wanted to see some of the gear in person, and wanted his tips on what other kind of stuff I might need for a trip like this. He was looking for a sun hat, one of those wide-brimmed ones. He tried on one that made him look like the archeologist from Jurassic Park.

We walked around and looked at a lot of stuff, and he shared stories, tips and advice. This was back when he was getting chemo, so he would get worn down easily. But we walked all over that store, and looked at a lot of different things. I especially wanted to look at the tents, because I’d heard the Kelty Salida 2 was one of the best backpacking tents out there, and was really light with solid construction, so we went and checked out nearly all the tents they had. I was concerned about the poles, because they were made of something different than most tent poles (that’s how they could be so much ridiculously lighter.)

That Christmas, nearly six months later, my uncle came over for a combined birthday (his)/Christmas celebration. His wife, kids, and stepson all came, too. We passed out presents as usual.

Finally, I got to me, and I opened up mine. And stopped.

There, nestled in the box, was a Kelty Salida 2 tent.

I’m tearing up writing this now, just like I teared up then.

The only two tents I’ve ever owned have massive meaning, and this one more so than ever.

I want to say I don’t know what to write about grief, what to say here. It’s a whole life – how do you sum that up, in words, much less in a succinct manner?

Grief is an immense topic, too. There are times I get really mad – why this? Why did he have to get this? What’s the point? And if he did, why couldn’t the FDA approve the trial faster? [And then the rabbit hole of other ‘what if’ scenarios around treatments, cures, pharma, funding, etc.]

There are times that I get really confused or even depressed – wtf? Why? Why cancer, at all? Sometimes it’s at God, the Universe, whatever. I’ve often said in the past two years that I totally count “WTF?!!?!?!” as a prayer.

I also get despondent, especially when thinking about how he was only remarried for not even four years, or that his kids are still in or barely out of college, and there are so many things he will miss, that they will not have their dad present for.

Then there was the tension, the not-knowing. Sometimes it felt like Groundhog Day, where we kept seeing the bus that was about to hit, but never quite knew when the day would come.

But there are, I suppose, beautiful moments, too, in all this terribleness. There are certain ways to look at horrible things like this, certain facets like on a diamond that sparkle more brilliantly than others.

The walk we did in Ohio, and many other memories of our time together, was one. In a way, it drew us closer together as an extended family, and I saw many, many examples of love and support from family, friends and strangers that was endlessly inspiring.

Then, in the aftermath of the news, I got immediate shedloads of help from my friends last week, who were absolute all-stars: J talked to me for hours, C called me from Europe, there was a great outpouring of support on Facebook. My best friend from HS and his mom were stellar, and they even showed up to the funeral service!

My therapist and T both helped walk me through some of the more difficult family, and my therapist was a rock star by email last week, responding quickly & sometimes length-ily. I am definitely going to miss regular appointments with him.

And then there’s a way to look at the alternatives, too: if there had to be a choice, I suppose I’m grateful that this happened when I could get home, when I could be there for my family, when I still had therapy budgeted into the mix. When I was not stranded on a mountain where I maybe wouldn’t have heard about it, or maybe wouldn’t have been able to get home. Definitely not as simply as this.

I don’t know. I don’t know what I learned or how I grew, but in some ways I think that’s because it’s immeasurable. I do know I got two extra years with him, and that I called and visited and got to know him & talk to him as much as I could.

Maybe that’s all that matters.

Much love,

Lauren

PS – I’d be remiss to not mention this essay from Reddit user GSnow, which a friend sent me early on, just after we found out about my uncle’s diagnosis. It’s an oft-cited one, and a good resource for anyone also grappling with this issue & these questions. It ends:

If you’re lucky, you’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.

Xo

T-Minus 49 days: Sell everything.

Let’s see if this countdown calendar works. There we go.

Welcome, folks. Oy. It’s been a journey the past few days. I haven’t done my daily updates because I’ve been knee-deep in stuff.

Specifically, my stuff.

I’m working on selling all of my possessions. It’s been an interesting facet of this journey. I’d sort of been plodding along: signing a lease termination here, telling a friend there. But then, I had a breakdown over hiking boots that made me realize I needed to start taking action. So, that night, I touched everything in my apartment and had it sorted into “sell” “store” or “take.”

Take: The optimistic pile with the tag line, “surely all this will fit into my car!” (There will be a separate post on ‘gear.’)

Store: Right now, it’s things like boots*, fancy clothes, office clothes, deep winter clothes, and some tchotchkes that mean too much to sell. I’m kind of proud of my self that it’s not that big of a pile – I think it would fit into a second car, so maybe I won’t have to tackle finding and paying for a storage unit (and could, in theory, store it in my parents’ basement instead …) [*When I was touching each item in my apartment to decide which category it goes in, Kondo-style, I said out loud to my empty apartment, “Boots are non-negotiable. NOPE.” and put them in the store pile. Anyone who knows me will know this is my truth.]

Stuff for mom’s house: Oh, hey, how’d you get in here, extra category not mentioned above? This one is tricky. In theory, these are the items that I will store at my mom’s house in two boxes so she can ship to me when/if I need them (Wild style!) : 1. Winter clothes for my eventual settling point. 2. Work clothes in case I need them. It also has expanded to include some sensitive things like a few dear books & my violin that I don’t want kept in some strange dark box somewhere. I’m not sure it will all fit into my car for the journey home – but my hope is that I can use these items then as a kind of placeholder for some of the supplies I will gear up one when I get home. We’ll see.

I should probably talk to my folks about this … 😉

(I have, I have.)

Sell: OK, let’s hit it.

First of all, let’s just dispel a myth: those hippies who are like, “Yeah, I just sold everything …”

What an understatement. In reality, it’s a lot of work and organization and logistics, coordination and enterprising entrepreneurialship to do that. And in today’s world, tech-savviness.

(for the umpteenth time: I literally cannot imagine doing this trip in the 60s/pre-cell phones. Wow. I definitely would feel scared & isolated!) 

So yes, I’m patting myself on the back, because this was a huge investment of time & energy that I didn’t really anticipate. I also didn’t think I’d be as willing to sell as much of this stuff, but when you start to break down what you need, what you use, and what the alternative is (cash for the trip or paying for storage) … it becomes pretty easy. And also, some of this is up to the gods of Craigslist to see what stays or ends up going.

One whole corner of my apartment is dedicated to the sell pile. So far, I’ve gotten a decent chunk of change for my trip, and it’s only been about 4 days of selling (1/12th of the time I have left. Breathe …) Specifically, so far I have enough to cover the anticipated cost Comcast is going to ding me to get out of my contract early. (Unless I can argue out of that. That’s a fight for another week (specifically, next week, I think.))

Books: I’ve put about 150 books on Amazon since I started using their selling service, about a year ago. I still had about 50 left, which I’ve added to there in the past week. I made $50 overnight the first night, so that was encouraging. (It’s amazing to me that someone is like, “Ah! [Random title]! I’ve been waiting!”) I find their service the easiest/most mindless – it searches by title & auto-fills most of the information for you.

Then on the complete opposite end, there’s the DIY of Craigslist. That’s where I put most of my household goods (for this trip. I’ve also bought all of my furniture and gotten most of my apartments and roommates in the past 10 years off of Craigslist.) Right now, it seems to be best for furniture. I’ve sold two book cases, a chair and some accent pillows (these have freed up a lot of space in my LR, too, which is good.) I feel confident I will sell my couch & dining table & bed once I post those (another 3 weeks, or about 1 month before I leave. It’s a fine line between my anxiety to sell & my desire to savor the final moments of creature comforts I have remaining ;))

LetGo is new to me as of today. I’ve gotten some hits, but it remains to be seen what comes of it. I might switch my location from Alexandria to DC and see how that works out.

The clothing goes on eBay and now Poshmark, which a friend introduced me to. I haven’t sold any on eBay, but those just went up yesterday.

Poshmark, like LetGo, is an app-only photo upload, which is annoying as *(& because I took the photos on my fancy camera originally. It’d be way easier to also have a website that I could upload a bunch of things at once.

Finally, the big variable are the paintings I’ve done. I’m working on an Etsy page, but I don’t have that much ready to sell. As I get over this massive hurdle, I might work on finishing some more pieces & then posting them on Etsy. It’s a harder quandry than the rest of this. Anyway.

Are you exhausted reading this? Cuz I’m exhausted from doing it. Oh well, at least you know where I was, now. There, and Richmond, and brunch, and meeting up with my ex for more talking (that worked out and was nice, though. As were the rest of these things this weekend.)

Timeline

My timeline right now is to finish posting everything and see who bites, then start bringing the prices down weekly until a week or two out. That’s when the panic sets in, and I will need to figure out what to do with

Unsold Goods

There are a few untapped resources I will start spreading the word to as I get closer to M-Day: friends, local list servs, my apartment complex’s list serv, etc.

I suppose I’ll have a large, general … apartment/balcony sale (in Michigan we call them yard or garage sales, and I have neither. Perhaps a friend will be willing to lend a stoop.) I DO wish I could do it this weekend – I kind of just want this stuff OUT of here.  But, hopefully I’ll get more money this way.

Worst case, I’ll do a “free” posting on Craigslist – that should take care of anything I truly don’t want to store/pack up/take with me.

Sums

Overall time: 8+ hours right now (including organizing, taking the photos, posting it, coordinating pick-up, etc. Again: this is like, ALL of my possessions, so it’s a huge lift. Each photo-to-publish probably takes 5 minutes, which is NBD.)

Overall $ earned: I think I’m at about $25/hour so far. And in theory that $ will only go up, as most of my things are now posted.

Overall, I feel MUCH better. I’ve channeled my energy, I have something to occupy my days and it gives me an outlet to think and do things about the trip before I am on the road. Preparation leads to confidence, or “act as if until,” or something like that 🙂 I figure I’ll keep it focused on the present – shutting down my apartment and saying goodbye to friends (and doing my job, my side hustle, gym & GED tutoring … ) – before I start worrying about hiking boots. As basically everyone I’ve told that story to has said: I can buy hiking boots on the road.

And I’ll have much more money if I invest this time now on selling my stuff! 🙂

Next, we turn to packing … dun dun dun. But that’s a task – and post – for another day.

Night, lovers!

LJP

Update, 3/31: Just did a little Google. This was both overwhelming, & encouraging.

New Moon in Aries: Start something

It’s the Aries New Moon – the astrological new year of sorts; the real “New Year’s Resolution” intention-setting time. And wow, is it relevant to The Trip!

From Yasmin Boland of Moonology:

TIME TO COMMIT TO A BETTER LIFE

If you’re a Moon lover, you’re on the spiritual path, or you want to live consciously – pay attention! Today brings the New Moon in the sign of Aries. Aries is the start of the zodiac and so this New Moon is the start of a new New Moon cycle. If you want to live consciously, tuning into the monthly New Moon is one of the easiest ways. It will hook you into the planet’s rhythms and cycles. Any Moon is a good one but the Aries New Moon really offers you a chance now to commit to connecting with all 13 New Moons of the coming 12 months. That is the same thing as committing to a better life. Do it and you will have worked on all parts of your life as the Moon goes through all the signs.

Be courageous and start something new!

We are never as stuck as we feel we are in our life. If you aren’t sure how to make your dreams come true, here’s an idea; commit to doing a daily 15 minute meditation for the coming 12 months. Make it a priority every single day. Commit to making your New Moon wishes every month, checking in with how your wishes from the previous month unfolded. Do it as soon as possible after each New Moon. You really will start to change your life for the better, if you added these practises to your routines.

Affirmation of the month: “I am free to start all over again!”

::heh, heh:: “Start all over again.” “Be courageous and start something new.” Y’don’t say! 🙂

What’s funny too is last night Aaron & I did a Tarot card reading for me that was spot-bang on – all about letting go of the old to manifest the new and sun-shiny goals I dream of. And, today is the day to start that for the whole next 12 months. How approps!

I also really loved her point that “we are never as stuck as we feel in our life.” AMEN. And she even offers a solution, which resonated. I will commit to trying this 🙂 “If you aren’t sure how to make your dreams come true, here’s an idea; commit to doing a daily 15 minute meditation for the coming 12 months. Make it a priority every single day. Commit to making your New Moon wishes every month, checking in with how your wishes from the previous month unfolded. Do it as soon as possible after each New Moon. You really will start to change your life for the better.”

Finally, from her New Moon Page: here’s her suggested process to help augment the New Moon energies. I’ll be undertaking this tonight:

Here’s a quick, easy-to-use summary of the New Moon wishing process: 

1. Write down your top 10 wishes for the month. 

2. Visualize and feel your wishes in your body. Write down an affi rmation to support them. 

3. Write down how you intend to work towards making each wish happen. 

4. Meditate, and then release attachment to your wishes by saying For the good of all or not at all! and/or Om Namo Narayani.

I hope you do this! What are you wishing for today? I hope it all comes true! <3

Design the Life You Love: Vision Letter (spoiler: find out what I’m doing after the trpi)

In my desperate attempt to “figure out my life” before I go on this life-figuring-out trip, I grabbed two books. OK, it wasn’t that dramatic: my side hustle working with a career coach on her social media had me listen to a Hidden Brain podcast about “Designing Your Life.” One of the books I was led to was “Design The Life You Love” by Ayse Birsel. It applies design principles from a furniture/graphic designer.

Basically, you “deconstruct” your life and look at the present-day constraints, values, etc. You examine these from various “points of view.” Then you pick some role models that represent values that are important to you.

Then you “reconstruct” – use a metaphor for what your current life is, and what you want your life to look like. You highlight your values – your “manifesto”, et voila! New life!

What was interesting about this exercise was I noticed there were some pretty obvious things I was denying or putting down in context. In context, I was thinking about everything as will this make me income? Out of context – deconstructed down to the pure form, the values, what it represents, who I want to be like – it adds back up to a pretty rad existence. One that would be truly my own, and that would be energizing. Kind of the point of quitting a job I’m lackluster about, and a workplace that leaves me feeling like the peg that was trying to be shoved into the round hole.

My favorite part of the book was – shocker – “Vision Letter As Expression.” The best part is she had a template that tied all the previous work (answers) together. And it was the big reveal at the end (doo doo doo, wouldn’t know anything about wanting to go ahead and skip to the end!)

Just like how they tell you to share your weight loss/etc goals publicly, it’s also the part that I thought would be helpful to share, for some accountability. It is my vision statement, overall – maybe not  When people are like, Yeah, trip, awesome, BUT, “what are you going to do after?” I’m going to be like:

Dear Future Lauren,

I deconstructed my life recently and realized my constraints are my current career path, too little “me” time for nature/creative projects/ exercise. I’m really extroverted & value family, travel, and novelty.

My role models are Andy Warhol, Marie Forleo, Beyoncé, and anyone who’s ever published a book.

They remind me of my own values of strength, innovation, colors, energy, NGAF, creativity, ground-breaking, entrepreneurialship, tenacity and seeing things through to completion.

My life today is me gnawing my fingernails in the skydiving office, or maybe even still panicking in the car in the parking lot outside.

I’m redesigning it to be carried in a soaring hot air balloon, full of color, life, heat, energy, adventure, 30,000 foot views, etc.

What really matters to me is feeling love, fulfilled, soaring, serenity. It involves creative studying traction. Energy, self-care, travel. It’s positive, solid, and playful.

xoxo

LJP

Monetize yo self

I mentioned to a friend the other day that I was going to look into ways to “monetize my online properties to make passive income.”

Can you tell I’ve been listening to too many Tim Ferriss podcasts lately?

Anyway, I found a nice list with dozens of good ideas. I will look more into some of these as my trip (or money) ramps down. The idea of hibernating, hunkering down and churning out some actual work seems more like something to relish when I am refreshed. Here’s a sample for my fellow writers:

Please send me any additional ideas, successes or websites! I’ll definitely need them come the fall.

xoxo
LJP

Shame: The Monster in All Our Heads

 Ask Polly is one of my favorite columns right now. Sometimes I’ll flip through and read old ones, just for inspiration to keep going. I appreciate her grounded real talk.
Here’s a recent excerpt that struck me so hard I had to put it down for later: 
First, though, let’s clear away some of the noise in your head. You ask, “But if I really wanted to become my true self and live my life, wouldn’t I be doing it? Wouldn’t I be doing the work that needs to happen?” The answer is no. It takes a lot of time and work to become your true self. It’s not a small thing. Believing that you’re supposed to be experiencing desire in some different, overpowering, inescapable way — the wanting-to-want problem — is a totally paralyzing delusion. You can’t assume that other people want things more than you do, therefore they have no choice but to go out and pursue them. Those other people are just making choices and committing, just like you have to do.

[…]

That’s how I know it’s important: When I’m embarrassed, that’s a sign that I’m getting nearer to the center of things.

Lately, I can’t write. I know work will save me from the state I’m in, save me from this mood of despair that comes and goes, save me from how ashamed of myself I am sometimes, just for growing older and being largely powerless and for not being heroic enough. I have deadlines that seem unimportant, so they come and go and I do nothing. I am supposed to be reading one book and starting to write another one. But the world outside seems off-balance and sick to me, and when I take that in, I have trouble not blaming myself for all of it. The news is bad, and it’s getting worse, therefore I must be bad, therefore I must do better. But how?
I know I could exercise more, and that would help. I could try to spend more time with my kids. I could talk to my husband or my friends about how I feel. But these things don’t always bring a real breakthrough, and sometimes no one is available to talk. To work my way through this feeling, I have to slow down time.
I have to close my eyes and admit that I feel broken and that I blame myself for that broken feeling. I have to admit that I always suspect that things will fall apart at some point in the future and that it will be my fault when that happens. People will say, “See, I was right about her. She’s a fucking joke.” And other people will nod along. My future misfortunes always include a jeering Greek chorus.

Marcus Aurelius’s Guiding Principles: Meditations Book 1

As mentioned, I’ve been reading “Meditations” by Aurelius. Book 1 reads like a thank you/gratitude letter. Below, I break up the values that resonated with me by who he learned them from:

Male family members

  • decency
  • mild temper
  • modesty
  • masculinity
  • private school
  • good teachers
  • spend lavishly on good teachers

His adoptive father 

  • generosity
  •  no wavering
  • no need for honors
  • stamina and perserverance
  • ear for anyone with any proposal for the common good
  • knowing where to tighten and where to relax
  • foresight for the longer issues
  • unfussy control of the least detail
  • enjoy the comforts of life without

His mom  

  • piety
  • generosity
  • simplicity of living
  • avoid wrong-doing … and thoughts of it

Tutors and other philosophers

  • don’t pick sides in sports
  • tolerate pain
  • feel few needs
  • work with your own hands
  • mind your own business
  • ignore gossip
  • avoid empty enthusiasms
  • disbelieve ‘miracle mongers’
  • don’t be excited by animal fights
  • tolerate plain speaking
  • have an affinity for philosophy
  • listen to Baccheius, Tandasis and Marcianus; read Epicetus’s Discourses; understand Thrasea, Helvidius, Cato, Dio, Brutus
  • write essays
  • love simple furnishings
  • “wanting treatment and correction of my character”
  • avoid a taste for rhetoric, especially your own
  • use simple language
  • wear unaffected/simple clothes
  • forgive easily 
  • be the same man no matter what happens to you
  • be proof a person can “combine intensity and relaxation” 
  • have a kindly disposition
  • live life according to nature
  • practice tolerance
  • have an agreeable manner with all
  • never give the impression of anger or any other passion
  • praise without fanfare
  • wear great learning lightly 
  • don’t leap on the grammatical mistakes of others
  • to never say “I’m too busy” 
  • don’t ignore a friend’s criticism
  • work to restore a friend’s good will toward you
  • love family, truth and justice
  • equality and freedom of speech in the commonwealth
  • liberty 
  • benefience, generosity, optimism
  • confidence in affection of your friends
  • open likes and dislikes so no one needs to guess
  • self-mastery
  • good cheer in all circumstances, including illness
  • gentle, dignified
  • uncomplaining energy for what needs to be done 
  • to never be hurried or hesitant 
  • never downcast, cringing, angry or suspicious

Resources: Top 100 Personal Development Blogs

This is interesting! The Top 100 Personal Development Blogs, from Brendan Baker of “Start of Happiness.” Which of these do you use? Any from the lower 50? It’s a long, overwhelming list, but I definitely have encountered many:

Thought Catalog
MindBodyGreen
Brain Pickings
Four Hour Work Week
ZenHabits
Tiny Buddha
Mark Manson 
Marie Forleo
Live Your Legend
Purpose Fairy
Yoga Dork

I’ve also heard of, read, or read interviews with: Jack Cranfield, Louise Hay, Derek Sivers, Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, Penelope Trunk, Derek Sivers, Ryan Holiday, & Bulletproof Exec.

H/T Live Your Legend

What’s your list?

As I mentioned yesterday, Neil Gaiman‘s 2012 commencement speech at U Arts Philly contains a number of gems for writers.

One of the best was the reveal that his career was driven by a list of things he wanted to do, which he’d made when he was 15: “I didn’t have a career. I just did the next thing on the list.”
 Fifteen is great, it’s when you’re old enough to have seen some of the world and really imagine the possibilities, but young enough to be in tune with your likes and wants, without all that boring stuff that taints it, like bills and whatnot.

I wonder what 15-year-old me would’ve said? Many of the things I’ve already done – be a journalist, live in a big city, travel. Granted, these things look and feel different than what I envisioned, but I still did them.

And, a better exercise: what would your list look like today? Very appropriate, this first week after New Year’s Intentions/Resolutions, and what with Mercury Retrograde just starting.

Today, my list would look like this:

  • Visit lots of natural places, especially National Parks in the Western US
  • Finish my first novel
  • Write more fiction
  • Have an online presence  
  • Spend more time with my family 
  • Meditate on what I love that could earn me money
  • Paint more  
  • Have more time and space 
  • Lower resting heart rate, less neck pain, more strength

How about yours?

Neil Gaiman’s Commencement Speech: On Writing

Neil Gaiman‘s 2012 commencement speech at U Arts Philly contains a number of gems for writers – “everything I wish I’d known starting out”:

  • “[…] the prospect of four more years of enforced learning before I’d become the writer I wanted to be was stifling.”
  • I wrote, and I became a better writer the more I wrote, and I wrote some more, and nobody ever seemed to mind that I was making it up as I went along, they just read what I wrote and they paid for it, or they didn’t, and often they commissioned me to write something else for them.”
  • He made a list “of everything I wanted to do […]. I didn’t have a career. I just did the next thing on the list.”
  • When you start out on a career in the arts you have no idea what you are doing. This is great. People who know what they are doing know the rules, and know what is possible and impossible. You do not. And you should not. The rules on what is possible and impossible in the arts were made by people who had not tested the bounds of the possible by going beyond them. And you can. If you don’t know it’s impossible it’s easier to do.”
  • “If you have an idea of what you want to make, what you were put here to do, then just go and do that. And that’s much harder than it sounds and, sometimes in the end, so much easier than you might imagine.”
  • As a journalist, he “was being paid to learn how to write economically,  crisply, sometimes under adverse conditions, and on time.” 
  • Sometimes the way to do what you hope to do will be clear cut, and sometimes  it will be almost impossible to decide whether or not you are doing the correct thing […]. Something that worked for me was imagining that where I wanted to be […] was a mountain.”
    • “And I knew that as long as I kept walking towards the mountain I would be all right. And when I truly was not sure what to do, I could stop, and think about whether it was taking me towards or away from the mountain.”
    • “I said no to […] proper jobs that would have paid proper money because I knew that, attractive though they were, for me they would have been walking away from the mountain.”
  • “I learned to write by writing.”
  • “The problems of failure are problems of discouragement, of hopelessness, of hunger. You want everything to happen and you want it now, and things go wrong.
  • “I decided that I would do my best in future not to write books just for the money. If you didn’t get the money, then you didn’t have anything. If I did work I was proud of, and I didn’t get the money, at least I’d have the work.”
    • “Every now and again, I forget that rule, and whenever I do, the universe kicks me hard and reminds me.”
  • “I don’t know that it’s an issue for anybody but me, but it’s true that nothing I did where the only reason for doing it was the money was ever worth it, except as bitter experience. Usually I didn’t wind up getting the money, either.  The things I did because I was excited, and wanted to see them exist in reality have never let me down, and I’ve never regretted the time I spent on any of them”
  • “The first problem of any kind of even limited success is the unshakable conviction that you are getting away with something, and that any moment now they will discover you. It’s Imposter Syndrome, something my wife Amanda christened the Fraud Police. In my case, I was convinced that there would be a knock on the door, and a man with a clipboard (I don’t know why he carried a clipboard, in my head, but he did) would be there, to tell me it was all over, and they had caught up with me, and now I would have to go and get a real job, one that didn’t consist of making things up and writing them down, and reading books I wanted to read. And then I would go away quietly and get the kind of job where you don’t have to make things up any more.”
  • “[…] now they had to earn a certain amount every month just to keep where they were. They couldn’t go and do the things that mattered, and that they had really wanted to do; and that seemed as a big a tragedy as any problem of failure.”
  • “And the mistakes in themselves can be useful. I once misspelled Caroline, in a letter, transposing the A and the O, and I thought, “Coraline looks like a real name…”
  • “[…]whatever you do you have one thing that’s unique. You have the ability to make art.”
  • “Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do. Make good art.
  • “I didn’t stop and look around and go, this is really fun. I wish I’d enjoyed it more. It’s been an amazing ride. But there were parts of the ride I missed, because I was too worried about things going wrong, about what came next, to enjoy the bit I was on.That was the hardest lesson for me, I think: to let go and enjoy the ride, because the ride takes you to some remarkable and unexpected places.
  • “Someone asked me recently how to do something she thought was going to be difficult, in this case recording an audio book, and I suggested she pretend that she was someone who could do it. Not pretend to do it, but pretend she was someone who could. She put up a notice to this effect on the studio wall, and she said it helped.”
  • “And now go, and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make good art.”

-Neil Gaiman

h/t Tim Ferriss

How to Become a Better Writer

The secret on How to become a better writer is revealed, in that link, by Scott Adams (Dilbert). He references business and humor writing, and I can confirm this is what I learned getting a bachelor’s in journalism:

  • Keep things simple. “A good argument in five sentences will sway more people than a brilliant argument in a hundred sentences.”
  • Cut the fat (get rid of extra words.)
  • Word choice counts: “Don’t say ‘drink’ when you can say ‘swill.'”
  • “Your first sentence needs to grab the reader.”
  • “Write short sentences.”

I printed this out for my desk, and will happily send to the next person that asks me how they can be a better writer.
 
h/t: Tim Ferriss

Writing Exercise: The Date

10 minutes to write about 1 of 3 scenarios in Novel Writing Workshop on Wednesday. This was my piece. Handwritten, 10/15/14.

“Well?”

“Ma, I told you. He was nice.”

“I’m just asking. So, was he cute?”

Cheryl’s arm shot out, held the phone at full reach in a fist and shook it as she exhaled below, trying to compose herself. She threw herself back, feet up on the expensive yet hideous floral printed couch – another gift from her mother she despised. She returned the phone toher ear and the other hand to her forehead, clamping back impatience.

“I don’t know. He was fine. I mean, today.” And suddenly, she couldn’t stop herself, words pored out. “He ate like a pig, though. You would not believe it. Nearly lost my appetite. I mean, I could just see it in 25 years: me, two porker teenagers, and Mrs. Miller with a beard. I just couldn’t!”

She guffawed, hoping her mother would get in on the joke about the neighbor’s nephew that had happened to move to the same town as Cheryl recently.

Her mother’s voice was steely.

“My goodness, Cheryl. Mrs. Miller is a kind woman. You’d be lucky to get some of that. And we both know that looks fade. How were yours in this little picture?” she clipped, and then exhaled into the receiver. “It’s not like you’d know, though.”

“Know what, mother?” her hand was back on her forehead, bracing for whatever that could mean.

“How to keep a man that long.”

“Ah! There it is!” Cheryl roared, slamming her hand down on the flimsy Ikea table her roommate had bought.

Her mother kept talking over her.

“Well, I mean, if you want to keep going after these hulking lookers, and keep getting dumped for the next hot thing, that’s fine, if that’s what you want. I’m just trying to look out for yo-“

Cheryl paused her toothy assault on her lower lip to cut this off. “Ma! Cameron was like, a hundred years ago. And you are right! That is also porcine behavior! Whatever. All men are pigs. It’s not my fault.”

“You have no values, yet come up with ridiculous expectations. You don’t understand that this Romeo crap is never gonna happen. You have to train them. I regret ever reading you and your sister a single fairy tale! You’re just as desperate!”

“Yeah, yeah, I know, ma. You got dad wrapped around your pinkie, and it’s marital bliss.”

Her father never spoke much, and ferried himself from a job he seemed to loathe, to his wife’s to-do list, anything to keep her mom from nagging him. I feel ya, pops, Cheryl thought.

Her mother sputtered and then came out hot.

“Well, at least I wasn’t 90 before I gave my mother grandchildren!” she exploded. “I mean, would you rather that I have wisted my life away, waiting for a prince – royalty which has never visited South Rionick, New Jersey, I can assure you , or would you rather I brought you into the world?”

“Mom, I’m working on my career here! I’m trying to take care of myself so I can be free! I mean, look at Aunt Tessa. Three kids by 21, no degrees, no career, hubby leaves. She’s destitute, times are hard, step uncle Phil – her prince – is an asshole. I don’t do princes. That what you want for me?”

A concession hung between them. In the tense silence, Cheryl straightened her Vogues on the coffee table, counting higher in her head, resolving to wait her mother out.

“Well, just tell Mrs. Miller you had a good time,” her mother chirped finally.

###

Friday Funday

Book: Unbroken, Laura Hillibrand
I’ve never read any of her books, but the opening is crazy, and I’ve never wanted to run as much as when I was reading the beginning (and I hate running.)

Listening: iTunes Radio Pop. Sometimes you just need some solid pop music, and I like the introductions I got to it last night.

Eating: Blue Apron. (Well, not me, I’m still eating TJ salads, heh.) BA is all the rage with my friends, and Justin cooked us an amazing, healthy casserole with this seasoning that mixed Old Bay AND Cajun seasonings. SO yum.

Reading:
Inspiration: Farnam Street, What book has the most page for page wisdom?
Relationships: Jane Gaparick, A love that keeps you hanging
Life: Google searching ‘Life purpose and financial insecurity’

Writing:
Joined up with NaNoWriMo.
NWW (novel writing workshop) exercises.
HWWF MOOC exercises.
1st session of poetry coaching today at noon!

Thinking:
Positively. Take the positive tack, if the negative one starts to crop up.

Fashion:
Scarves, headbands, colored jeans, fat rings, yoga clothes for class later today.

Hope you are having a great day & have a great week ahead!

1st Draft of Greatness

I LOVE things like this: http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/text/manuscript-study-robert-lowells-epilogue

It reminds me that not everyone who’s admired just spits out Pulitzers.

The first time this concept gelled for me was when I saw a photo that George Stephanopoulos, Communications Director for President Bill Clinton, put in his own book, “All Too Human.” It illustrates this concept well. The photo doesn’t even show GS, whose job it was to deliver final drafts of speeches. It’s of Clinton, in the back of the limo, the door open, you can feel the tension as they are waiting for him to get out to get in the Capitol to deliver the State of the Union, already!, and he’s holding his script and a pen, poring over the paper, which is rampantly marked up with notes. There was not going to be any time to reload this into the teleprompter or reprint it, not with that many edits.

When I saw that photo, I thought, “Phew. OK.” 

Because 1, this proves speechwriting is hard, and 2, even what you think is a final draft might not be perfect, or might not ever be “done.”

It’s like they say: a piece of art is only “done” when you walk away.

Sometimes, that’s the hardest part.

New developments make for good stories and happy people

Cloudy day = 89 degrees instead of 90 = No heatwave. Eat that bastard weathermen.

Nice editor + healthy fear = her giving me her air conditioner for my room. <3!
She even let me take a half hour break on top of my lunch break to go to her apartment with her to “get it”, which turned into us walking her dog around her neighborhood and discussing journalism philosophy in a privileged heart to heart.

Also, comments the exact opposite of what I anticipated when I got in this a.m. = ROCK.

This adventure has turned out to be a very, very good one as of 7:19 p.m. Friday, June 10, 2005.

Let’s hope the rest of it follows!

Out with Jeff tonight, Hartford w/ the cool interns tmrw and then party @ Dave’s.

Rizzock.

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