Muscle memory

Zaimu Challenge

If you don’t use it, you lose it. People say this often about second language learning, and really, most everything except riding a bicycle.

sophrologie-au-quotidienIt’s true, too, about blogging. For years I had a regular blogging practice, changing format, tone and location whenever I was ready for a change. In the past couple of years, my blogging has gotten more sporadic after dramatic shifts in my daily routines. Sometimes I miss it, but I’m not quite sure what to say. So I think about blogging, but leave the page blank.

Beginning April 28, I started a blogging challenge. My goal is to blog something every day through early June. The early going has proven as challenging as I expected it might be. I do expect as time goes on, I’ll write more reflections and musings and commentaries. But for now, I may rely on stream of consciousness, curation, and graphics to get back in the groove.

It’s #NaNoWriMo Day…

Personal Narrative

Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 10.01.06 PMToday is the first day of National Novel Writing Month. The competition, commonly hashtagged as #NaNoWriMo, encourages creative writers to draft 50,000 new words (a “novel”) in the month of November.

I’ve decided to participate this year, and I’ve set my own goal as I did when I wrote in 2013. My goal then was 30,000 words. Though that bar will be more difficult to accomplish this year, that’s my goal for 2015 as well. Yes, I create my own rules!

I’ve done more pre-work this year. Well, more isn’t saying much as I did none at all in the past. I’m very excited about my ideas in progress. They are a culmination of seeds long ago planted, and I can’t wait to tend to them.

Deciding on my project was a tug-of-war. The truth is, I can’t see an outlet for it. But believe it or not, that’s what made me truly press ahead with this idea and not another one. There’s no pressure to perform! There’s just fun and exploration! It’s an idea with themes, characters and conventions that are important to me, so I’m going to honor that inspiration and just write.

This has been the root of my most consistent acts of self-sabotage: worrying about the audience and the next steps instead of being true to my own ideas. Who’s gonna read it? Where might it go?

It doesn’t matter. I’m gonna read it and it’s going on the page.

Getting free is goodness. What’s holding you back? What small thing can you do today to set yourself free?

In the home stretch

30 Day Blog Challenge

It’s always an interesting exercise to blog every day for 30 days. As the month wears on, it gets alternately easier and more challenging. Mostly easier. I look back and realize there were a couple of interesting posts in the jumble of freewrites, last-minute entries, and comments on other people’s writing. That’s nice to see.

I have a little over a week in this particular challenge, and as usual, I’m thinking about my public vs. private writing. The things I want to write about and the things I end up blogging are often different. I have mixed feelings about this. But as this is my fourth time engaging in this sort of daily blogging practice and my findings have been the same each time, I’m going to act on the findings instead of opting to collect more data.

Today I ran. It was my 6th run this year. I started at 2.20 miles the first run, and have been steadily increasing a bit each run.

Today’s run was 3.25, a 5K. When I get up to 4 miles, I’ll be back at my average distance.

I’m thinking of making 5 or 6 miles be my new standard, or perhaps running 7 miles once a week and keep the other runs short (and faster with intervals).

Not sure yet.

I’m going to leave you with a quote I saw this morning; one of my long-standing favorites. It’s attributed to Goethe, but it seems unlikely he actually wrote it. Still, it vibrates with power, and isn’t that the best way to start off the work week?

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.

 

Give me my 10s

Personal Narrative

This was a milestone week for me in many ways, including the fact I finished two 10Ks! One was in miles and the other was in words.

On Sunday I was feeling, as they say, “froggy.” Out of the blue, I declared to myself that Monday I’d run 6 miles for the first time.

This has been a goal of mine for a long time. I know many people who’ve done it, and my personal long was 5.55 miles, from a year ago. I’ve only run five miles or more a handful of times in life, and the 10K/6.2 mile mark seemed scary, quite honestly.

On my days of high energy, I’d think about tackling it, and it just seemed a touch too far. Rather than drown in a sea of what ifs, I generally stopped thinking about it as soon as I felt the telltale adrenaline. I wasn’t sure why it made me nervous, but it did.

But Sunday, I felt up to the challenge. I wasn’t positive I’d actually go for it my next time out, but I knew it wouldn’t be long now. Blue ran with me Monday morning, and when we got to my usual two-mile turnaround point, we decided to go a little bit farther. Then a little more.

After running 6.2 miles on the Greenway.
After running 6.2 miles on the Greenway.

“How do you feel about round numbers?” he asked, taking a peek at his Garmin. I knew we were past two, but I couldn’t gauge how far.

“I like round numbers.”

Eventually we were at an even three, which was guaranteed to get me six by the time we arrived back at the start.

As we passed the 5.55 mile mark, I smiled. I was excited to best my personal long and even more excited to know I was going to finally accomplish a long-standing goal. When we got to the start, we doubled-back a tenth or so and came back to finish the .2.

So that was the second 10k.

The first 10k actually happened the day before, on the 10th of November. And now that I think of it, perhaps the earlier achievement  inspired the latter. After many false starts and absolutely zero words dedicated to the effort, I started my first novel this month.

Well, my second if you include the one I began in middle school (which my peers said was really good!).

In October, I announced my desire to be a romance novelist (among other things), and November, National Novel Writing Month, seemed like a great time to start. I’ve long been familiar with NaNoWriMo, the project which encourages authors to write a draft of a novel (50,000 words) in 30 days. Now, I don’t believe in gimmicks. And because that seemed irrational and unsustainable, I always rejected the project outright. But this month, on the first day of NaNoWriMo, I decided two things:

  1. If I only participated a few days, I would’ve at least gotten started on my novel. That’s more than I can say for the past several years of thinking about it.
  2. Who cares about that 50k goal? I could set whatever goal I wanted. One thousand words a day seemed doable, and again, if some days I couldn’t hit it, see number 1.

So I started. And on the 10th day I hit my 10,000th word. My first 10k!

In honor of my 10s this week, a word from B Scott:

On clarity and sabotage

30 Day Blog Challenge

This has been a year of transition.  Every season thus far has boasted some sort of change, and that remains true with the advent of fall. Recent professional shifts have left me considering next steps, which, in many ways, will be a return to previous steps. As I checked in with self about my current professional path, the thought above came to me.

When I say “supposed to be doing” I don’t mean according to some external metric.  These days it’s easy to be swayed by the expectations of Big Brother. We’re a surveillance-happy society, wherein we’ve virtually relinquished self-control and self-expression in favor of conformity via the policing of bodies and thoughts by peers, or nonconformity and the punishment industry. So no, I don’t mean what someone else thinks I’m supposed to be doing.

I mean the thing or things I truly desire deep down. The things I feel pulled toward when I am otherwise occupied. Over the years, that pull hasn’t been very strong, so I put plans on the back burner. Eventually I’ll get to this, that, or the other thing. But I have new goals and new plans to meet these goals, and right now daily life isn’t in alignment. In a moment of stillness, I felt that pull.

To the degree that I am clear on my desires, and my mission in life, my bouts of self-sabotage become more difficult to sustain.

It’s time to get in sync.

What to ask an author

30 Day Blog Challenge, Writer's Craft

Today, Tayari Jones is interviewing Khaled Hosseini, the author of Kite Runner. She’s been compiling and polishing questions to pose:

First of all, I love Tayari’s approach to life. I really enjoyed meeting her in person during the release of her novel, Silver Sparrow. She was vibrant and full of encouragement. I follow her musings and world traveling via social media, and I always find her updates authentic, thoughtful, or inspiring.

The tweets above are no exception.  She realizes Hosseini may be tired from a long flight, and she concedes the participants may not want to hear the standard questions asked of authors in general, or of this author in particular. I appreciate her open-minded, open-hearted approach to frame this experience for all involved.

I responded to Tayari on Twitter and FB. Here are a few questions I’d want an author to discuss:

  • Talk about your writing journey. Not just professionally, but personally. How/why did you begin writing?
  • You’re best known for {insert topic or genre here}. What other {topic or genre} would you be willing to tackle? Why?
  • What’s the dream project you’d love to write? (But maybe you haven’t b/c of time, expertise, doubt, etc.).
  • Do you ever have to balance writing authentically vs. writing for commercial success? If so, how do you navigate that? In other words, do you find yourself writing for the audience, more than  self?
  • Regarding an author’s favorite piece: What makes this piece your favorite? What do you hope readers will take from this work?
  • Especially of fiction writers: What is the writer’s role in today’s society?
  • Especially for seasoned writers: How has your approach to writing changed as your life circumstances have changed?

That’s my list! If you could pose any question to an author, what would you ask?

Today at lunch…

Feminist Thought, Personal Narrative

I mentioned my plans to transition out of K-12 and into reading/writing/teaching about women’s issues. I highlighted rape culture and sexual violence and fibroids by name, although my net is cast a bit wider than these. The woman who inquired about my goals made the raised eyebrow/pulled down lips/impressed face and nodded. “Wow. Good for you. What got you moving in that direction?”

Who knows?

It brings to mind a similar question asked of Angela Davis. In a lecture recorded as The Prison Industrial Complex, she discussed her activist beginnings: “What made you decide to become an activist? What was that pivotal event in your life? And for years and years I thought about it.” She went on to mention the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing that killed four little girls in Birmingham, Alabama, and how she initially believed that to be the catalyst. Upon further reflection, she realized that wasn’t it:

Finally, after struggling with this for years, I decided that there really was no particular moment when I decided to become an activist. As a matter of fact, I grew up with the idea that in order to live in segregated circumstances… my parents basically taught us that we had to be critical of the way things were. Otherwise, we could not affirm our own humanity. And that we had to dedicate our lives to the kind of transformation that would make this a better world to live in for all of us. And so I’ve learned that wherever I am, whatever I happen to be doing at the moment, I have to fulfill that commitment that has informed my life.

Now, I don’t have years invested in feminist activism and advocacy, so it’s not like I have a long history to consider. Despite my brief affiliation, I’m hard pressed to supply a satisfying answer. In fact, today was my first encounter with the question; I’ve simply never thought about why. So I sputtered. In fact, I’m writing now, more as a think-aloud, than to offer a definitive answer.

I think it’s a series of dots that are just now being connected. For instance, I’ve practiced Nichiren Buddhism for 13 years now. Studying and practicing a life philosophy grounded in human potential and equality leans one ever toward more progressive and compassionate ways of knowing and being. Encountering Paulo Freire and critical pedagogy in graduate school 5 years ago is another dot. A huge one really. Unlike the constant flow of the water of Buddhism, reading Freire and studying critical inquiry pedagogy caused a fiery, seismic shift.

Then there was the class that wasn’t. The University of Georgia offered a course on Black women’s narratives. I attended the first day, but enrollment was low, and the class didn’t make. The professor showed Chimamanda Adichie’s TED Talk on the Danger of the Single Story – which became seed as much as dot – and I eventually ordered all the books on her syllabus. I started my own class really, and began reading (and writing) when I could. Dot.

A series of shares in the Red Clay Writing Project’s Summer Institute led me to brainstorm a study on teenage rape narratives, and I wrote and studied my own as a pilot. Dot. An article here or there would move me to anger, tears, or elation. Dot. And suddenly, here we are. At the beginning, still. And like any other journey, each day is an opportunity for another step.

Onward.

Settling. Not yet still.

Personal Narrative

I’ve missed this space.

I’m finally settling into my house. I haven’t spent much time there yet, and we can now add renovating to the purging, reorganizing, unpacking mix. Seems it’s time for a new roof. Lots going on, suffice to say. Cousin Big Sister and my SO, Blue, have been amazingly supportive. I love and appreciate them.

I’m excited about  my Creating Room. I’m not sure that name’ll stick, but it’s basically a thinking/collaborative space. Or it will be. It was most recently known as the Everything Room – a dumping ground for miscellaneous or mislabeled boxes, and soon-to-be-purged items/furniture. It’s clear now, except for the closet, and after a fresh paint job and some intentional (inexpensive) furniture selections, I think it’ll be my new favorite place.

I’m getting clearer on professional goals and timelines. It’s just about time to move out of this thinking/planning stage and into the doing/being of it all. I’ve heard verbatim encouragement from two women I trust, and related words of support from friends and loved ones. Next steps…

Misogyny and rape culture. Vengeance. Fear. There’s plenty of work to do. Systems to help dismantle. Healing to facilitate. Plenty of stories to tell and investigate.

It always comes back to the stories. 

There is plenty of room for yours…

Love, violence and transformations: A recap.

30 Day Blog Challenge

March was a great month of endings, beginnings, and transformations in general. I updated this space every day while in the midst of a whirlwind. The high energy and nonstop pace is in full swing for another couple of days, but I wanted to take a breath to share the top posts from last month.

So I just moved. And I don’t know about you, but for me moving is a special process full of resistance, excitement, and everything in between. I was slow to get started, but eventually, I did start packing. I’ve only spent one night in my new place, so no, I’m not settled yet.

I’m always fascinated by narratives and the power of story, and maybe some of you are too? This blog about knowing your family’s narrative, got a lot of attention.

Early in the month I wrote about the importance of telling your own story – if not to others, then at the very least, to yourself. I didn’t know that post and subsequent events in the real world would set the stage for me to share my own story of sexual violence. I’ve been investigating my rape narrative for nearly two years now, and I felt moved to share my side of things with the ex who violated me. Readers and friends asked me what I hoped to gain by all of this. I wrote this in response. I found myself writing so much about sexual violence in March, I added a new category. I’ve been quiet on the topic as of late, but I expect to be writing more about it in the coming months.

Violence of any kind takes place when there is an absence of love. I don’t believe individuals and subsequently, society, can truly be whole without a serious infusion of love

Here’s to healing.