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.

New Moon, New Start

Personal Narrative

It’s been a long time. I shouldn’t have left you…

Keep going if you know the words. Meanwhile, I’ll just bob my head and smile. It has been a while. And since I’ve last appeared in this space, I’ve been out and about in the world collecting experiences. My most recent one was a glorious trip to Sesimbra, Portugal with my cousins. I may write more about that later.

brown beauties in portugal
Brown beauties in Portugal.

Today I’m dusting off the blog to say hello. It’s fall in the western hemisphere and it’s a new moon. And y’all know I love a good reason any reason for a fresh start. After this hiatus, I’ve got a lot on my mind. Some of it I’ll share here, but other things I may share in two new spaces currently under development. Every few years I reimagine my online identities and now feels like a good time to allow some things to stand on their own.

We’ll see.

In the short term, I just wanted to tap the mic, say hello, and welcome you back to the studio. coco’s brewing…

Blog Tour: My Writing Process

Writer's Craft

I can’t lie. I shimmied when I received Tayari’s invitation to the blog tour. I’ve admired and appreciated her since the release of her wonderful book, Silver Sparrow. I met her via Twitter, and because she was so warm and engaging, I bought the book and attended her book signing in Athens, Georgia. Gracious and welcoming, she shared her wisdom, time and friends with me that day.

So the purpose of this blog tour is to showcase the ways writers engage in the writing process. To that end, bloggers answer four questions and pass the baton to two others. The questions and my responses are below:

novel outlineWhat are you working on?
I’m in the early stages of a short story. I’ve not written very many of those, and in fact, my last attempt was years ago. I’m also 30,000 words into a novel, but I’ve spent time away from it and I’m just about ready to start over. I need to rework the central conflict and stop making life so easy for my protagonist. I can’t help it though. It’s my first time writing a novel and I want things to work out for her in the end (spoiler alert?).

Fiction is a major departure for me even though I’ve always wanted to write it. I have lots of ideas to explore, most of which are grounded in compassion and love.

How does your work differ from others’ work in the same genre?
Generally I write because I need to express an idea, document an event, or think through something. Rather than writing for public recognition, I write to recognize myself. To that end, I usually write personal narratives and the occasional brief essay. I’ve not modeled my work after anyone, nor have I sought to distinguish myself from anyone. I seek to understand and be true to myself on the page.

Recently I began reading short stories penned by a well-respected writer. I couldn’t finish them because they were simply too depressing. The men were abusive and abrasive. The women were abused and wholly devoid of agency. Horrific circumstances happen in real life, but so does fighting back. So does healing. This collection is not representative of short stories, but as I move into fiction, I’m clear I want to tell stories that uplift. I want us to imagine and live lives of joy. I want to write stories that help us do that.

Why do you write what you do?
I write because I am moved to do so. Sometimes my heart is full and I want to share that feeling. Sometimes I completely disagree with the prevailing thought and I want to provide an alternative point of view. These two ideas also undergird the writing I have planned in the near future. I believe in peace. I believe in restoration over retribution. I want to challenge people to reconsider the ways we treat people individually, societally, institutionally. I write to make us think, feel. I write to confirm triumphs of the human spirit.

longhandHow does your writing process work?
If I already have ideas about what I want to say, I sit at the computer and type stream-of-consciousness. It pours out pretty quickly and do not censor as I go.

I write as much as I can, as fast as I can, placing {insert _____ here} or XXXX whenever I am missing a word or detail. I don’t search for anything midstream. I go until I’ve expressed everything I can.

It’s out of order. It’s repetitive. It’s a mess.

I reread and elaborate where it makes sense, and move sentences and whole paragraphs from place to place. If it’s a longer work, I print it out with line numbers and physically cut out paragraphs and sections, moving them as I go. Once I feel like most of the ideas are on the page and more or less in the right place, I fill in missing details. Crafting (poetics) is the last step.

But what if I don’t really know where I stand? Or I’m not really sure where I’m going? That’s when it’s pen to paper. Longhand helps me think. I write until I have sense of where I’m going. Then I either type what I’ve written, and revise it as needed, or I start a new brain dump on the computer.

Sometimes I’m stuck and need a push to keep going. At those times I find a relevant or provocative quote and write a response, or I type a question a friend or editor might ask about the work and answer it. Somewhere in there is the catalyst I need to continue my work.

There’s more to say about preparing the space, carving out time to write and strategies I use to focus. Maybe I’ll tweet about them…


So who’s got next? Stacia and Joshunda.

Stacia crafts gorgeous prose about life – hers and society at large. She recently finished a weeklong stint blogging at the Washington Post and she has a few social media outlets. You can always find her here.

Joshunda is a prolific author and journalist. Every time I turn around she has a thoughtful piece in yet another publication. She has an inspirational Tumblr and her main home on the web is here.

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.

 

Midway check-in

30 Day Blog Challenge, 30 in 30 April

Blue skies swirl to pink lights. Fade to gray.

It’s dusk.

I missed the blood moon eclipse last night, but I’m enjoying the sunset tonight.

I’ve been sweeping away cobwebs, opening taps, stretching writing muscles. This is blog entry #15 in 15 days, and as usual, I’m glad I opted for the challenge. Also as usual, there are pros and cons to posting every day. But the benefits outweigh the drawbacks and I’m glad to get back into a writing rhythm.

I’ve tried different approaches, but none seem to work as well as writing everyday. Writing everyday doesn’t mean publishing my writing everyday, and that’s the balance I’ll work on once we enter May.

For now, I shall continue with my daily entries.

To strive even higher, to do even better—the creative process is a desperate struggle to go beyond what we were yesterday. It is a battle against resting on our laurels, against the fear of losing what we have. It is an adventure into unknown territory. ~Daisaku Ikeda

April Fool Freewrite

30 Day Blog Challenge, 30 in 30 April

There’s been a lot on my mind in recent weeks. Days. Hours. Even just now as I started to write this entry, I decided against any number of topics and decided to simply say hello.

Hello!

I’m being indecisive, but I’m almost sure this is my first entry in another #30in30. Once in a while I challenge myself to blog every day for a month. Here are the entries from my previous forays. Generally I decide on a whim and just go for it.

I’ve felt a little stuck with my writing lately. No shortage of ideas, but time is at a premium as of late. Maybe this will help me work around and through a few things.

Here’s to the ride. You coming along?

 

New Year’s Eve

Personal Narrative, Text Talk

It’s here. The last day of 2013. Can you believe it?

I awoke to find an email from WordPress, detailing the milestones and stats for the year. My top posts included a brief remembrance of my mother, Marla’s narrative on living with lupus, and the introduction of the Joy Jar – a beautiful idea I may revisit in the coming year.

I also began writing about sexual violence and I spent a good deal of time pondering a theory of love, something I plan to do a great deal more of in 2014. My thinking and writing are always evolving and it’s enlightening to see what resonates from month to month and year to year. I hope you’ll continue to join me on the journey.

Wherever you are in space and time, I hope you are winding down the year with an abundance of peace and joy. I pray the dawning year is full of beauty, love, and good cheer. And if you should wish it, a standing ovation…

wonder“Bravo!” I heard Dad yelling through his hands.

“Why is everyone getting up?” I said.

“It’s a standing ovation,” said Mom, getting up.

So I got up and clapped and clapped. I clapped until my hands hurt. For a second, I imagined how cool it would be to be Via and Justin right then, having all these people standing up and cheering for them.

I think there should be a rule that everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their lives.

Top posts for September

30 Day Blog Challenge

Here are the top posts from last month’s 30in30 challenge:

September is my mom’s birth month. She was on my mind, and subsequently, on my blog. Early in the month, I wrote about the Barnes and Noble she never had the chance to enjoy. Later, on her birthday, I shared a co-worker’s wisdom about mothers and grief. In short, losing a mother can leave you broken-hearted, even a decade later.

I talked about vulnerability and learning to be “intentionally transparent” with the one you love. Easy to want, but often hard to do. It boils down to being honest with yourself first. That level of honesty and clarity about myself and my needs is at the root of an emotional wellness strategy I learned in September.

Emotional wellness is important, but wellness extends to many domains. In honor of National Women’s Health & Fitness day, I wrote about prioritzing physical wellness in the face of a busy lifestyle.

Last month, Diana Nyad made history, and she endures as a testament to dreaming big, and never giving up. It is with that spirit that I welcome October. I’m revising and devising my goals and striving forward each day. I wish the same for you.

You are the sunshine of my life…

30 Day Blog Challenge

The blogosphere can be a cheerful place, and one of the things I like best about it is how fellow bloggers cheer each other on. We do this by commenting on posts and amplifying favorite posts across social media. We also give kudos and encouragement by nominating each other for awards. In her entry yesterday, Alexis nominated me for a Sunshine Award. The requirement for this award? Another blogger simply enjoying my blog! It’s a sweet sentiment and a nice reminder that although people aren’t always visible or vocal, they’re still reading.

Sunshine Award recipients have duties:

  • Include the Sunshine Award logo (above) in your blog post.
  • Link to the person who nominated you.
  • Answer these 10 questions about yourself (below).
  • Nominate 10 bloggers and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.

I don’t read 10 blogs regularly, so I won’t nominate that many. I will say that two of my favorite blogs are Joshunda’s Tumblr which is always inspirational and interesting, and Intelligentsia Brown’s Get Chose Movement which is probably best described as scholarly ratchetry. She hasn’t written  much as of late, but neither have I. I’m hoping for a resurgence soon. There are a few others I enjoy from time to time, and I reserve the right to add to this list throughout the month. :-).

So about those questions…

1. If you couldn’t blog anymore, what would your “outlet” be?

I love Twitter, and I definitely use that as a way to fellowship and communicate and develop ideas. I have a decent following there and I learn a lot through engaging my tweeps.

2. If you could go to a spa and get any treatment they provided, what would you get?

I go to spas at least annually (on my birthday), but I strive for more often than that. I always get a massage and a pedicure, but lately I’ve also added facials. The best treatment I’ve had was a combo wrap, scrub, massage, reflexology deal in Mexico a few years ago. So what would I get? All of the above, please.

3. If you could go back in time, would you have followed a different career path than you did? What would it be?

I have a journalism degree, and I’d still like to dust it off and put it to good use. If I could have a do over I may have pursued magazine journalism or creative writing – both things I was angling toward when I veered toward teaching instead. In any event, I’m happy I became an educator, and I plan to begin my second career as a writer sometime around my 40th birthday.

4. You can plan any type of vacation you want. Would you want relaxing or adventurous?

I’m all about relaxation. Sure, we can add a little bit of adventure to the mix, but mostly I long for time and space to recuperate and recharge. Give me a couple of days on Caribbean island and I’m set.

5. What food do you hide from your kids and sneak after they go to bed?

I don’t have kids. If I have any later, or become a stepmom at some point, I’m not quite sure what I’d hide from them. I don’t eat anything that I don’t recommend children eat.

6. What TV show (that is currently on) are you addicted to?

I stopped watching live TV over a year ago, and I haven’t plugged my television up since I moved in April. Because so many people have talked about Orange is the New Black, I have started watching Season 1 on Netflix. I enjoy it, but I’m not addicted. I generally spend free time reading, tweeting, or spending time with my SO.

7. What was the best book you’ve ever read?

Hmm. This is a hard one. There are lots of best books. In fact, I’m gonna just refuse to name one. Some of my favorites include:

  • most of the Harry Potter books,
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God,
  • Silver Sparrow,
  • 32 Candles,
  • The Narrative of Frederick Douglass,
  • The Bluest Eye,
  • several of the early Alex Cross novels,
  • The Watsons Go to Birmingham,
  • most Judy Blume books,
  • Philip Hall Likes Me, I Reckon, Maybe,
  • I Wish I Had a Red Dress, and
  • Interviewing as Qualitative Research.

As you can see, I find pleasure in all sorts of books.

8. Do you play a musical instrument? If not, what would you play if you could?

I’m a flautist. Or was. I’d love to learn piano. I took lessons for two weeks one summer and it was great.

9. What was the first and last concert you’ve been to?

Tricky. Growing up, I went to a few concerts with my parents. One stands out in particular: The Tempting Temptations and the Fabulous Four Tops at Chastain Park in Atlanta. I haven’t really been to concerts much since then. The only other one that stands out was 2 Live Crew at FAMU my freshman year. Ratchet, yes indeed.

10. What is your favorite holiday?

Growing up it was Christmas. Mainly because I loved Christmas lights and singing Christmas songs around the house. I remember shunning the commercial aspect of Christmas as early as elementary school, and I never really celebrated for religious purposes. For both of those reasons, I’m not really into holidays at all now, but I do enjoy celebrating days of personal importance. Birthdays. Anniversaries. Days like that are special, or holy to me. I have an anniversary coming up, actually. September 15th. Blue and I will celebrate one year together. That’s not significant to anyone else, but it’s important to us.

And speaking of sunshine…

Hello, July.

Personal Narrative

If you’ve been around these parts for a bit, you know I tend to blog in spurts. I’ll go for a few weeks of daily posting and then go off the grid allegedly to work on other things.

Generally speaking, I have good reasons for taking breaks. Eventually, those good reasons fade away into habitual neglect and I find myself wondering when I’m going to start back up again.

Dormancy/ recuperation is one thing. Neglect/ atrophy is something else entirely. The past couple of weeks in particular, my refusal to blog or write offline has felt more like the latter than the former.

I enjoy blogging when I’m actually blogging, so it seems today is the day to get back to it. I’ve been mulling quite a few topics in recent weeks. I’m not sure which, if any, will make it to the blog. I suppose we’ll find out together.

I’ve missed this space. It’s nice to be back.