Things have changed in oh so many ways. And I suspect the changes in my life, both at work and at home, are going to continue, in wild and unexpected ways. For better and for worse. As all of ours will due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
I was banished from my workplace yesterday. It came to light via email yesterday morning that I may have had contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19 last week. Not anyone at work, but an unknown individual (HIPPA prevents the employer of this person from publicly naming them) at a location where I was picking up items for our food bank.
While I donned a face mask during this pick up and am fairly certain did not get any closer than 6 feet from anyone else there, my employer gave me the rest of the week off (with pay, thankfully) as a precaution.
So here I am now, at home, overthinking everything and anything. Unsure what to do next. Determined to maintain continuous virtual contact with my co-workers, at the ready to answer questions or complete other tasks assigned to me that can be done from home (what those tasks might be remains to be seen, but I am determined to roll with it). In other words, I finally broke down and decided it is in my as well as my employers best interest to sync my personal cell phone to my work email account. I suppose I’ll be setting up a Zoom account on this phone shortly too.
All that said, I am, alas, at home today until next Monday (with maybe one trip to the store in the mix). So clearly I ought to take care of our little sanctuary. Do some cleaning. Organizing. It’ll make me feel better and it will increase our collective level of comfort.
But not until I engage in some serious ventinglamenting writing. I can’t tell you how long I’ve been fantasizing about just one day during which I inhabit the role of a full-on, at home, creative writer. One who furiously taps away on her Chromebook drinking an array of beverages all the while-starting with coffee and ending with a glass of fine Pinto Grigio. Wearing the comfiest of clothes , making sure to get up and stretch and/or dance to keep those muscles loose and the mental energy high.
So that’s my plan for today. I think anyway. Because I also know this….
Recently I changed my primary work password to “GOODJuJu!!”
And I don’t care that you all know it now. What on earth would you do with it anyway? Break into my office, type it in and read my totally uninteresting emails? Go ahead, knock yourself out.
I think this is the best password I’ve ever come up with. Every time I type it in, I remind myself that my daily goal is to spread light in all my interactions with others. Not like I achieve that goal on the regular. But I try nevertheless.
Since I’ve shared my work password, it makes sense to follow the thread of spilling secrets. Tell you about the stuff that I’ve been doing to gain clarity for myself as an ambitious and creative writer.
Don’t get too excited. It’s all really just baby steps. But I think they still count for something.
First secret: I partook in David Sedaris’ Master Class online for Storytelling and Humor. Truth be told, I signed up for this class because of the “storytelling and humor” part-not so much for David Sedaris. I can’t say that I don’t like him, I do; it’s just that I knew of him but hadn’t read anything he has written. Still haven’t, actually.
Signing up for this class was something I did to help me learn in more detail how I can improve my creative writing. My ability to tell humorous stories that people can relate to and appreciate. It was a purely selfish investment that I decided to make in myself. And I have no regrets.
I had have great interest in interacting with the “community” within this online class. I’ve introduced myself, entered a piece of my writing in a contest even. The prize in this contest is David’s feedback on your piece. I think it’s safe for me to assume that I’m not going to win. And this is not me feeling sorry for myself or me being fake humble. My life is too good and blessed for that shit.
I’m not a great writer. I might be, someday. Or not. Either way, the joy writing gives me will not be overtaken by feelings of self-doubt about my ability to grow my readership on this blog or elsewhere.
I would estimate that it took me 3 hours, within the span of 5 days, to decide which piece I should enter for this contest. That’s how I found “Grammerly”, because in order for my piece to be accepted for consideration, it had to be under 600 words.
“Grammerly” also informed me that my piece was at an 11th to 12th grade level. So clearly, there’s room for improvement.
After doing a bit of editing on the piece I chose, I gave it a couple of days, then went back in to see the one comment made on my piece. It was “I feel like there’s too much information in this piece. I’d like to see it pared down to it’s bare bones”. He was spot on. I veer into the rabbit hole of verbosity in both my speech and my writing.
Whether or not I go back in, make some major edits and re-submit is up in the air. I honestly don’t know if that’s even allowed or appropriate. Or maybe it’s expected?
For now, though, I just want to share what struck me most from being a student of this class. The following is taken directly from the notes I made to myself as I participated in this class and worked through the accompanying workbook.
David’s “work spaces”. Loved the imagery. Made me think that I could write about my ideal work space. Like a “she shed” type deal.
Tuning into your surroundings will open you up to moments that could become stories and the parts of your world that belong in your writing.
“I don’t like to write about people I don’t like”. I concur, David. Neither do I. So I won’t. Period. Hopefully this declaration doesn’t come and bite me in the ass later.
David has a conversation with every person in line at his book signings. He also writes thank you letters. He’s such a nice boy.
Take incidents and stitch them together for a story. I love the creative reference of stitching. Also, following threads. And rabbit holes.
Paint a mental picture in a readers head. Go to readings?? David said he learned a lot from doing this. A lot about what not to do, that is.
Now onto my second secret (or is it my third? That’s subjective, I suppose): During the time I was taking this class, I received an email announcing spring 2020 dates for the Listen to Your Mother shows.
Let me back up for a sec: I first heard about this annual event in 2016 from a local-ish “mommy” blogger named Stephanie. Essentially, LTYM is a franchise that is locally produced in various cities in the U.S. Primarily women get up on a stage and read original pieces on the theme of “Motherhood”. A percentage of the proceeds from ticket sales goes to charity.
I instantly loved this whole concept. The idea of others sharing their personal stories about motherhood, a topic dear to my heart and which I have much to say about, really intrigues me. I knew I wanted to be a part of it, someway, somehow.
So, with David encouraging me to do readings, I started considering applying to be part of the cast. I congratulated myself recently when I realized that I could simply click on the “word cloud” I have featured on my blog’s front page and read all the posts I have written on one particular topic.
But then after reading the few posts I have published that featured “Motherhood” and then proceeded to view video clips of past LTYM speakers, I was overcome with self-doubt. I mean, if this is is all I’ve got to offer and these are examples of my potential “competition” why the hell should I proceed?
Now is the part of this post where you might expect me to say something along the lines of “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” or “What’s the worst that could happen?”. Both of which are 100% true.
However, while I’m not closing the door to auditioning for LTYM, I’m also not necessarily doing it this year. At least not with any of the pieces about motherhood I have published on this blog.
I think it’d be wise to heed David’s advice: attend readings. For me, it’ll be the LTYM show this spring. See what it’s like. Take notes. Make some connections.
As a writer, I’m perpetually searching for fodder. Music is the sort of fodder that I’m naturally drawn to on a daily basis.
It’s the stuff that fuels me. It inspires me. It soothes me. It motivates me. It nurtures me in a way nothing else really can.
That is why I’ve decided to create a bold new playlist for just me, myself, and I. It will be chock full of tracks that will keep me focused on my own self improvement path. Songs that contain the messages I need to hear.
So indulge me while I play “DJ” for a minute (a job I’ve always wanted to sample) and share with you the “must have” songs for me in 2020:
“Shower the People” by James Taylor. The lyric “Shower the people you love with love, show them the way that you feel; things are gonna get so much better if you only will” is….just well, “IT” for how I aim to interact with others on the daily this year.
“Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing” by Stevie Wonder. Not only does this song prompt me to break out in a happy dance, but it instantly improves my outlook. I like to think of it as a song that God inspired Stevie Wonder to write as a love letter to his beloved children. At it’s heart, it’s a song about faith.
“Everybody’s Cup of Tea” by Kasey Musgraves. I’m going to include a clip of this one because I don’t think it’s terribly well known, though it should be. I need to keep it on my soundtrack because I know that with my blogging and writing, not to mention my actual personal life, there’s going to always be people who don’t appreciate me. To stay strong and keep plowing ahead, I need to embrace that fact.
“Taking Care of Business” by Bachman Turner-Overdrive. It’s the lyric, “Taking care of business, every day, taking care of business, every way”, that gets my motor going. It motivates me to stay on top of shit. To not get so sucked into social media, binge-watching Netflix, or even blogging that I’m not fully taking care of important business. Like keeping our home in good order. Getting to work on time each day and completing each task that presents itself to me. Self-care in all it’s varied forms.
“Thank You for Being a Friend” by Andrew Gold. This song will be on my 2020 soundtrack because it’s important to me this year to make friendships, old and new, a bigger priority than in years past. To appreciate all the friends I have and nurture those relationships.
“Anticipation” by Carly Simon. This song is a very important one as I move forward in 2020. On account of my squirrel brain (which almost always has multiple tabs open simultaneously), I relate to the lyric “And I wonder if I’m really with you now, or just chasing after some finer day”. It stops me in my tracks and reminds me to be present. To focus on the “right now” instead of the “what’s next”. Because tomorrow is not a given.
“Take that Step” from “Bathtubs Over Broadway”. If you haven’t yet seen this Netflix documentary, do yourself a favor and watch it. Unless you don’t want to feel joy or be uplifted this year. The lyric “find that path others missed, life is better with a twist” is particularly inspiring to me as a writer with ambition!
“I Can See Clearly Now” by Jimmy Cliff. I’m sure you all know this song. It’s a universal musical “pick me up”, don’t you think? The reason it’s going on my 2020 soundtrack is because 2019 was a hell of a year. A lot of not-so-great things happened; however towards the end of the year things started to really look up again. On top of that, this song represents what I’m seeking most in 2020: Clarity.
This soundtrack of mine, much like this blog, is a WIP. Throughout 2020, behind the scenes, I will be ISO more songs that will guide me through the year with a sense of purpose, love for myself and others, and the mindset and energy level I need to accomplish the goals I’m setting for myself.
Do you, fellow music lovers, have any songs in mind for your own 2020 soundtrack? Please share in the comments 🙂
Man, I love myself a good acronym. Almost as much as a finely crafted mantronym (for those of you new to this blog, that’s a mantra that presents as an acronym).
The first time I saw “ISO” it was on a work email. One of the other social workers was “ISO” something or other. Probably a way to get rid of bed bugs, because that is the type of shit we had to help our clients with on a disturbingly regular basis. I had to read the body of the email before I understood that “ISO” was “in search of”.
My personal theory is that we are all “ISO” pretty much all the time. It might be a lost sock or cell phone. It might be recommendations for a dog walker. It might be for the best cheesecake recipe. Or it might be something deeper; like meaning, purpose, or peace. Or maybe a little bit of all of the above and more.
This song comes to mind as I’m writing this. I happened to hear a truly awesome version of it recently as I was tooling around in my CRV. Here it is:
I have gratitude for the fact that in this life I have found what I was looking for: a happy marriage, a place to call home, two awesome adult children, a grandson, a dog, and a career that have all brought me a lot of happiness.
But there’s still more I’m ISO.
What might that be? Well, a whole bunch of things honestly. But what it boils down to more than anything is balance.
Balance between writing/doing/connecting is what I’m searching for in 2020. Maybe I should christen 2020 as my year of Clarity.I need to avoid the “overwhelm” and remain rooted in the present, in my writing life, professional life, and personal life.
One of the major take-aways for me from 2019 is that working is highly important to me. Working at my part time job running the food bank. Working on my writing; improving my blogging skills. Working on strengthening the connections I have with the people I love and making new connections with those people I have yet to meet. I like staying busy, moving forward, accomplishing things.
What I know for sure about 2020 is that it’s incumbent upon me to work even harder that I did in 2019. Up my game at work. Find ways to improve myself professionally. So that I can contribute more to the team, to our clients, to our mission.
Another thing I know for sure about 2020 is that I will need to hyper-focus on my writing via this blog (and otherwise, but that is currently a batch of baby WIPS that will need some careful coaxing to show themselves to the world).
Suffice it to say: I have much to say about a variety of things-from my personal history, my current reality and the (hopefully) fabulous future. I have stories to tell. I have more to say about some of the topics I brought up on this blog in 2019. I have more to do and say in and about the present. And I have a freaking ton to say about the future.
While all of the above is true and right and good for me personally, I recognize that I can’t blow off taking care of myself. Because in real day to day life of the year 2020, there’s gonna be obstacles. Some I am fully cognizant of and others will be new and uninvited. So while I don’t anticipate becoming a self-care guru (because really, we have so many of them we can refer to on the internets and in real life if we are so fortunate), behind the scenes of this here blog, I will be aiming to practice a healthy amount of it.
I sincerely hope you stay tuned.
But first, please indulge me and answer this question in the comments:
What are you ISO in 2020? This particularly curious mind would love to know.
I’m such a weirdo. I like to think the other weirdos out here in the blogosphere have received that memo by now. I like to think I’m in good company.
But just in case, let me tell you about my guiding acronym mantronym (because it’s not just a mere acronym, it’s also my mantra). The one that has been stuck in my head probably since I started blogging. The one that suits me best. The one that speaks to me. The one that repeats itself in my head as I write like an earworm.
That mantronym is KISS.
Traditionally, it stands for Keep It Simple Stupid. But for me, it stands for Keep It Simple Sister. Because no good can come from me calling myself stupid. I believed the lie that I was stupid for far too long and now I’m 52 and the fucks I gave in the past are (mostly) history. I’ve evolved.
Keep it Simple Sister is a kind yet firm way to remind myself to not be verbose when I’m writing. Because while I am a bonafide spaz, I don’t think my readers need to be pounded in the head with it when they read my posts. You all have lives, right? Responsibilities. Schedules. Important shit to do. Me getting to the fucking point already in my blog posts is essentially my way of recognizing and respecting that.
But very possibly the best thing about my beloved acronym of KISS is how darn versatile it is. While “Keep It Simple Sister” will forever be the guiding principle as I write my blog posts (and live my life), there’s often alternate versions of this mantronym at play within them.
For instance, “Keep It Specific Sister”. This one came to me while I was using my wicked crafting skills creative energy to put together my vision board. I firmly believe that having a physical picture of what specific things or experiences you want in your life increases the chances of it becoming reality. For instance, instead of affixing a picture of, say, a wine bottle or grapes to my vision board, I affixed a picture of Napa Valley because that is a place I very much wish to visit with Hubs, asap. Seeing it every day keeps it fresh in my mind, which is good because, I am 52.
Then there’s “Keep It Sincere Sister”. Bottom line-I’m just going to be me. I will continue to write (and breathe) with my heart in the right place. Which happens to be on my sleeve.
I also enjoy the “Keep It Sassy Sister” version of KISS. Because. THIS.
A highly important version of my beloved KISS is “Keep It Surprising Sister”, because that is what I’m aiming for. I want to surprise you, dear readers, as well as myself. But in an interesting and smart way of course. In a brave and new way. A meaningful way.
A more recent version of KISS that I seek to inject into each blog post is “Keep It Sincere, Seeker”. Because while what I write comes from my heart, I’m also very much a seeker. A student who’s learning and growing as a blogger and a human. I’m eager to continue that, with the knowledge that I don’t know what I don’t know. I read lots of other blogs for tips and tricks as well as for inspiration. It keeps me engaged in the whole process. And I know that by continuing this practice, I am likely to keep improving as a blogger.
Any of you other fellow weirdos have a mantronym? Or a mantra? Or a guiding acronym? Or does “KISS” resonate with you? Perhaps you have other suggestions for what “KISS” could stand for? I’d love to read any commentary you have about this 🙂
I think I’m in this writing thing, or maybe I should say blogging thing, for the long haul. I’ve been at it for over 2 years now, and while I don’t have a ton of followers, I continue to gain them.
I have no intention of monetizing this blog. First off, I don’t have the time or energy for this. Or the interest. It just wouldn’t feel right to me. That’s not to say that I don’t fervently hope that at some point in the not-too-distant future, someone somewhere will stumble across this blog and be like “this woman needs to have her own column in our online magazine” or, “We need to make this woman a part of our writing team”, or “I need to be this woman’s agent because she’s going to write a bestseller some day”.
I think over time, I’ve honed in on the primary (but most certainly not only) topics I want to write about: food, music, travel, and pop culture. But I really want to write more posts about politics; however, experience has taught me that this does not result in many likes or comments; nor does it garner me new followers. On the flip side, however, if I were to flash forward 20 years into the future, do I want my spawn’s spawn or their spawn to uncover my writings and be disgusted by the fact that with all the turmoil and injustice that occurred on a daily basis due to the Trump presidency, I chose to write about frivolous things like my favorite playlists or the travel experiences/dreams I had, as opposed to using my voice to rail against the forces of evil? I wouldn’t want to be perceived in the future as being complicit in these tumultuous times.
This is such a huge conundrum for me as a human being and a writer. Perhaps I’m overthinking it. I am such a champ at that.
What I am most certainly not a champ at is the whole tech side of blogging. I joined another Facebook bloggers group a few months ago, which I haven’t been engaged in at all. Because the members are clearly in a different league than I. They are far more ambitious and I don’t understand their language. I feel like if I were to decide to become a fully participating member of this group, translating their lingo would eat up so much of my time and energy that I’d be tempted to throw my hands up and quit blogging altogether. So I don’t even know where to begin. What questions to ask of them or how to phrase them.
If only I had an intern for a few hours a week to do the behind-the-scenes techy stuff for me. I could pay them with home baked goodies and free wi-fi. Pimp Radar out for free puppy cuddles.
Then there’s the fiction I have been working on. Or, more to the point, wrote a bit of but got distracted by life and kind of forgot about. Will I ever actually share it? If I do, how might it be received? If it’s well-received, do I have it within me to continue the story and create something really special, entertaining, funny, relatable, and financially rewarding for me and Hubs down the road so we can have the most awesome early retirement life ever?
These are my honest-to-God struggles these days when it comes to this blogging thing.
How about you, my fellow bloggers? How are you all rolling “write” now? This curious mind would love to know.