Dawn and endings.

30 Day Blog Challenge, Personal Narrative
first light
Dawn at Starbucks Bay.

It’s my favorite time of day – the dark before the dawn. First light alerts the world to the coming sunrise. This morning my cat is snuggled next to me as I write in my darkened bedroom. I have long favored early morning because it’s nearly silent, mostly still. Hints of noises and shadows of movements as many of nature’s beings prepare for the day ahead. Daniel once tweeted his praise for early mornings: the world is quiet, Spirit is loud. Yes. It’s a time of hope and possibilities. Beginnings. Today is also an ending of sorts.

Today marks my 30th post in as many days. I’ve completed my personal challenge. The last time I wrote 30 posts in 30 days I found the process wearing. I was glad to develop the discipline, but I felt it wasn’t a sustainable practice. The daily writing was (mostly) sustainable, but the writing daily for public consumption (while also fielding multiple obligations) was not. This time around, I dunno. The experience was very different and things evolved in a way I hadn’t planned.  I guess that’s reflective of life generally. What’s truly alive is not stagnant.

Tomorrow marks a new beginning. Blue arrives! In a few days, we’ll be heading home.

3 days. #countdown

A quick word on clarifying and silence.

30 Day Blog Challenge

I don’t give advice. I won’t go so far as to say I’ve never given suggestions or answered specific questions  (should I wear this dress or that one?), but life questions and, “here’s what you should do” stuff? No.

I’ve always been of the impression that I can’t tell you how to live your life, I can only offer you my perspective on how I might handle a similar situation. But it’s what I might do, not what you should do. And since it’s not about me – it’s about you, I turn the spotlight in the other direction and offer up a mirror besides.

My goal is to help you clarify your positioning to the topic/question/dilemma at hand, as well as your options and potential consequences. Clarifying, I can help you with; but deciding? That’s up to you. Our life is our best teacher. My wish is that we all become better learners.

Sometimes being a friend means mastering the art of timing. There is a time for silence. A time to let go and allow people to hurl themselves into their own destiny. And a time to prepare to pick up the pieces when it’s all over.
~Gloria Naylor

Looking forward.

30 Day Blog Challenge, Personal Narrative

A funny thing happened on the way to work. No, not really. But I needed a way to start today’s blog post, and, why not? Nothing to make you chuckle, but I did find today worthy of note…

As I drove through the more rural areas of Tampa Bay, I was greeted by canopy trees! If you’ve never spent time in Tallahassee, Florida, you may not be familiar with the canopy roads. These are long streets lined on either side by huge oaks dripping with Spanish moss. They hang over the roads like umbrellas, providing shade for the passing motorists. Canopies! And although the sight in Tampa Bay did not approach that glory, it was lovely to see the familiar splendor.

It reminded me of Tallahassee, yes, but also of St. Pete which has its own share of mossy oaks, and of my first love away from home – Savannah. Memories of Savannah summers are incomplete if they don’t include the endless sightings of Spanish moss. And just like that, I had fond memories of Georgia, and found myself looking forward (finally) to the move.

7 days left. #countdown

More on moving.

30 Day Blog Challenge, Personal Narrative

So the corollary to “have you started packing yet?” is, “are you excited yet?”

It’s the same answer: No.

NaBloPoMo March 2013I was excited when I debated the move, weighed the pros and cons. I considered the risks of moving versus the risks of staying. Did I want to chase dreams and new possibilities, or did I want to remain comfortable? I was excited when I put in my intent to vacate. It was official. The chase was on! But as we approach the actual day, my excitement has waned significantly. There’s a good reason for that.

I don’t know if you know this, but moving simply isn’t that much fun. Especially moving across state lines. There’s stuff to do. Mail to forward. Utilities to turn on. Boxes to tape and label. Items to donate. And even though I can pack and unpack my residence in two days on each side, I can’t say it brings me great joy. And despite the beautiful things I have planned once I relocate, I really do like my current surroundings.

Regardless, uprooting moving is stressful. I tend to bury stress, hiding it even from myself. Unless I’m really checking in with myself, I may not notice the tell-tale signs. I get a little quieter, more reserved. Maybe I’m not as patient. Perhaps I don’t laugh as much. My sweet tooth demands more attention. Excitement during these final days is hard to muster.

Ask me again around 3/31.

#countdown

Midpoint check in! #NaBloPoMo #amwriting

30 Day Blog Challenge
all white salsa
Jorge and me getting our salsa on!

Cue the salsa music! Let’s dance!

I’ve made it to the halfway point. I committed to writing 30 blogs in 30 days, and so far so good. I’m amazed and inspired this time around. I’ve wondered why it feels so much easier than August. I think it’s because:

There’s no angst. It’s something I’ve accomplished before, so I began with the foreknowledge I can definitely be successful. Whether stream of consciousness, quick check-ins, or other short entries, I can blog every day.

I’m wiser. I discovered a lot about my writing process, so I realize my morning brilliance may or may not be written (much less published) by afternoon. Sometimes thoughts need time to germinate. Related to that…

I’m more flexible. I thought I would work through some heady topics in August, and I found it too much pressure to write on them publicly every.single.day. Now I write whatever I feel moved to write, which is why I have a blog in the first place!

I was ready. In August it was someone else’s idea to write 30 in 30, and I took up the challenge. This time I was chomping at the bit to do another. In fact, I was planning to start April 1st, when my schedule slowed a bit, but I couldn’t bear waiting another month. I missed the structure and thinking space daily writing creates. I’m glad to have it back.

I’m proud of myself because I’ve taken more chances this time around, and I’ve been consistent, without stress. Regardless of what happens over the next 15-16 days, I love myself for the effort.

Here’s to the second half!

NaBloPoMo March 2013

It’s supposed to be fun…

Writer's Craft

It’s early yet, but so far this #30in30 has been pretty easygoing. I have less time this round, and, happily, less angst. I’m more relaxed, perhaps because I’ve done it once and I know I can do it. Or perhaps because I realize I can’t always publish thoughtful, well-crafted posts, and that’s fine. I’m exercising my writing muscles, and carving out more time to think about a variety of things, and that’s the main reason I took up the challenge. For bloggers out there feeling a little burned out, this one’s for you…

Saying Hello

Personal Narrative

I’ve been writing here and there, on sticky notes, mobile devices, and the like. I have many posts in draft form, and lots of prompts for others, but I’m finding it difficult to polish a piece (or a thought) for public consumption.

I know why this is.

My professional life currently takes up a lot of resources. For better or for worse, this will decrease in the coming weeks, and I hope plan to be more visible here.

Despite my lowered profile around these parts, I’ve committed myself to begin working on my book/workshop project in earnest this month. It’s a birthday gift to myself, inspired by Joshunda’s act of self-publishing her book for her birthday this year. I hope my work helps women and girls find, claim and refine their voices in powerful ways. At minimum, I hope it will help at least one.

With that wish in mind, I want to share something with you. It was an activity for the Red Clay 2011 Summer Institute (SI) – UGA’s affiliate of the National Writing Project. Early on, I blogged about it, and at the end of the SI, I created a digital version of “What I Want My Words To Do To You.” It’s low resolution, so bear that in mind. I think it encapsulates who I am, and what I hope to accomplish:

In case you missed it…

Personal Narrative

2010 marked the end of graduate school, and the end of writing by committee for a while. In 2011, I planned to write for self. And I did. Sort of. But not as much as I envisioned.

In 2012, I wrote more often than years past. And I wrote about things that were intellectually and/or emotionally fulfilling. This was especially true in August, when I participated in Tayari’s WriteLikeCrazy and Aliya’s 30 in 30 (30 blogs in 30 days) challenge. As a category, my 30-in-30 posts were the most rewarding to write and many of them ranked among the highest views for the year.

Creating time to write, and mustering courage to share my writing were two challenges I battled for nearly every post this year. But I did create the time. And I did share. And so did you…

Thanks so much for reading and sharing my rants, confessions, mini essays, declarations and lessons this year.  Here are the ones that seemed to resonate most:

2012 was a great journey, with milestones on many fronts. I hope to write my way through more of them in 2013, and share them with all of you.

In love,

Nicole, the LadyBuddha

SunsetWithLove

The Writer’s Garden | #30in30 #WriteLikeCrazy.

30 Day Blog Challenge, Writer's Craft

I wake up in the morning with writing on the brain. Prone in bed, stretching various limbs, I pepper myself with silent questions. What do you want to post today? Are you going to write that bit about civics? You’re going to the beach later, so how about starting your “Lessons from the Ocean” series? Oh! What about that interesting article? The one you favorited last night?

Grasping for ideas, one invariably jumps up and shouts, “Me! Pick me!”

“Ah-ha!” I think. “I’ve found you!” And so the game begins.

I start my day, usually with some sort of exercise. If I’m lucky, it’s a running day, and I mentally compose my post during the four-mile trek around my neighborhood.

More often than not, I am unable to write immediately after this exercise-induced mind-composing, but I keep those words in a death grip. Sometimes I jot down key ideas. Other times I whip out my phone and record a memo. Every now and then I leave it up to chance, because how could I ever forget this brilliant idea? {Insert knowing groan here}. Hours pass. Locations change. Energy levels rise and fall. But I maintain hopeful excitement. Today’s post will be easy! I’ve already composed it. I’ve just got to get it down.

Finally, writing time arrives. There I sit, fingers gently resting on the home row. I cue up the feeling I had when the idea demanded to be chosen. I pull up the post on my mental screen. And out comes…

Nothing.

I remind myself that this is no big deal, and where are the words you’ve already put together? Just type them! After staring at the screen, perusing whatever documents are handy, playing on social media, looking at my phone, etc., words pour out.

And they are wholly unrelated to the morning’s ah-ha! Not even distant cousins. Strangers.

But here’s the revelation: The words are not strangers to me. They are acquaintances. They are the ah-ha idea from a few days prior.

It’s almost as if the initial thinking is akin to my planting a seed. Just like any other seed, it isn’t ready to sprout right away. It requires nourishment and time. And when the proper conditions exist, the plant grows and blossoms.

This has made me realize a couple of things:

  1. I really do need to keep a steady stream of ideas flowing. If they each take their own sweet time to bloom, I’ve got to sow a full crop! Planting a new seed each day means I’ll have more to tend to and grow in the future.
  2. I must embrace my process. Rather than feeling frustrated that the words I intended are not yet ready to sprout, I should just feed them. That can mean more reading on the topic. Freewrites. Dreams. Talking about it with friends, and so on. Either way, the ideas of today are the essays of tomorrow. But only to the degree I nurture them.

I know what you’re thinking. Writers don’t always have the luxury of coming back to an idea when it’s ready. If you’re on a deadline, you must write anyway! Having written on deadlines, I know this is true. But I also know I usually have an assignment long before the deadline. I start thinking about it right away. I may start the mind-composing immediately, even jot down a few things. But a serious attempt at a draft? Nope.

Key parts of the story go underground. They need time to mature. Fortunately, most of the time, they are ready to bloom just when I’m ready write.

To my fellow writers – it’s just as Tayari and others say. We may not be able to writelikecrazy everyday, but we can trylikecrazy, and honor our process. Let’s keep planting seeds and tending our gardens. I’m confident our efforts will bear fruit.

Wherein I respond to a writing prompt.

Productivity, Writer's Craft

“What are you putting off that would make your life better if you did it?”
What’s a concrete step you can take towards that goal?

Although I take issue with the phrasing of the question, the spirit of the question is basically, what are you dreaming about, and how can you start to accomplish it?

Answer? I’m dreaming about writing novels. I can go write one.

I’m giggling because that’s a bold statement on many levels, but it really boils down to action. I don’t need to think about it. I don’t need to wonder about it. I don’t need to keep researching it. I just need to start (or continue, because I have, at least, begun).

Easier said than done. A recent Facebook exchange illustrates my thinking on the matter. “Him” was impressed by my unwavering status updates about exercising.

Him:    You are my hero :-). I wish I could become as motivated.
Me:     Ha. I think motivation is a byproduct of commitment.
Him:    I’m definitely committed… To eating.
Me:     Lol. Exactly. I bet it’s easy to get motivated to do it, too. 🙂

In short, I’m coming around to thinking that the motivation to continue comes after the decision (and action) to start. Actually, I would extend that and say, the motivation to continue comes after repeated decisions followed by repeated actions. Sometimes, you just have to do it, motivation or not. You have to will yourself against the inertia of inactivity.

I’m torn with my own revelation. I do many things based on inspiration, gut feelings, sixth senses, and the like. If something doesn’t feel good, or not quite right, I often won’t do it, continue it, etc.

The flip side is, sometimes I don’t follow through on things that do feel right. In those moments, I use procrastination, confusion, or many other tricks of self-sabotage to avoid doing the thing I claim I really want to do.

It begs the question… if I’m working this hard not to do something, is that thing really for me to do? Without getting into the psychology of why we prevent ourselves from doing things we actually want to do (I’m not a psychologist), I’ll say yes. That thing is often still for you, despite your reasons, excuses for not getting to it. And this is where my commitment first idea comes into play. A brief diversion is necessary to explain my point.

I have not always exercised daily – opting instead for three days per week. This was fine for a level of fitness, but it created many opportunities for procrastination. I mean four days off per week!? But I started to notice that the days I pushed myself to exercise anyway, I was always SO GLAD I did! And the days I didn’t? I was sluggish all day. If I had those choices to do over again, I’d drag myself kicking and screaming out of bed most of those off days.

Since I already knew the reward, or the benefit of exercise, the only thing missing was my commitment to it. I already knew I’d be happier on the other side, but getting over the hump was the trick.

Deciding to exercise, no matter what, and following through, no matter what, paid in dividends that made it EASY to continue! There was that previously elusive quality – motivation – in abundance! I had momentum on my side, the wind at my back, and all of that. Once I was committed, the motivation was there.

I hope this makes sense to someone other than me.

So back to the novel writing, or whatever it is you’d like to do…

Sitting around waiting for motivation to strike first is like waiting for the perfect breeze on a summer day in Georgia. It may come if you’re lucky, but then again, maybe not. For the daily grind, the motivation to continue comes after active commitment to begin.

I sometimes avoid writing like the plague. Even though I love it! Once I get in a groove, I’m in it, man! Once I have written a satisfying piece, I’m overjoyed. Even in the midst of thinking my way through a piece, when things get messy and confusing, I still enjoy it. I’m excited. I’m – you guessed it – motivated!

But getting started?

Hell no.

So should I wait until I feel like it to start? Welp. Let’s just say a certain 200 page document might still be unwritten if I had only worked the days on which I was “motivated” at the outset.

But here’s the deal. Clean water won’t flow through barely used pipes until the rusty water flows first. And no water, not even dirty water, is flowing through a closed tap.

So sit down. Open the tap. That small action, that active commitment, is what (eventually) creates the motivation. Your life, like that thirst-quenching water, is simply waiting on you!