• Ever had a day where you just wanted some quiet and got anything but? You start off your day with good intentions but then everything goes wrong?

 

  • Today I was off and designated this to be a writing day. Since I became a writer I have learned that no one. Literally no one respects the writing day–not even the writer. I often try to sabotage my own writing day with trips to the mall and inane phone calls. But not today. Not…..Today…..

 

  • I told a few people that this is a, “don’t bother Caroline unless your house is on fire or aliens have crash landed into our town and you want to warn me to put on a helmet or something” kind of day.

 

  • This did little to stop the barrage of texts, calls and “can you call this patient back even though we can technically take care of it for you?” phone calls this morning.

 

  • So I bravely put my phone away this morning and pretended it didn’t exist. In my world, that’s as insane as announcing that I’m going to chuck it all and finally become that ventriloquist I was meant to be.

 

  • My phone is like my child. I generally like to keep it near. I miss it when it’s far away. It needs me.

 

  • When people regale me of stories of how they “left their phone at home” or just “forgot to carry it.” I stare at them in shock and horror as if they just told me they locked their kid in a hot car and went for ice cream alone.

 

  • I decided to take a deep breath and calm myself. I went to the couches on the outside patio of my apartment building. There I found an impossible magical oasis where there were umbrellas and 12 couches completely devoid of humans and only the occasional singing of the birds to keep me company.

 

  • I rubbed my eyes and stared at it for a moment. Could this be real? I walked over and touched one of the couches. Nope, not a mirage. I really had the place to myself.

 

  • Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t like people. I do. I work with people all day long. For some reason I’m a people person. I don’t know how it happened. It wasn’t part of the plan. Even babies love me. They giggle and coo when they see me. One time a stranger’s baby tried to jump into my arms. My patients love me. They actually think I’m sweet and a great listener–and they want to come back and see me again and again. I don’t know how that happened either.

However….

  • When I want to have a writing day, I’m someone else entirely. I become “the other me.“ I don’t like human contact of any kind when I want to write. I’m a different creature. Anything another person does, whether it’s talking, standing, sitting, chewing gum or even just existing in this dimension is a major distraction and completely annoying. Many writers will tell you the same thing.

 

  • Writers like to hide from the world while writing. Then when they have written enough for that day, they rub their eyes blinded by the sunlight, and emerge into the world and want to rejoin society again. Once again they are friendly, cordial and want to be around others. The urge to stab someone with their pen for distracting them is gone. Not that we would ever do that of course. But we may fantasize about it a little.

 

  • Back to the couches…I paused and marveled at how beautiful this umbrella laden comfortable couch scene was. It was a perfect weather kind of day. It was a writing day and the prospect of no interruptions and actual real life peace and quiet made me want to call people just to tell them what a miraculous place I found. But then calls would defeat the purpose. Besides, who would want to be on the other end of that call?

Me: “I found a couch with no people!!!”

Them: “Umm that’s great Caroline…(awkward pause and silence) Yeah, I’m going to go now.”

 

I’d be sure to hear from them again…

  • For about 5 wonderful minutes, I enjoyed the peace and was able to hear myself again without the barrage of noise and distractions that permeate my mind every minute of every day. I began writing.

 

  • My heaven did not last long.

 

  • Today was the day the building wanted the grounds mowed, edged, gardened and leaf blown–even though there were no leaves. I don’t know what they were leaf blowing. I think they were there just to blow my thoughts and last shred of sanity away so I couldn’t write.

 

  • Soon the man on the mower began happily driving it and passing me going the left, then right, then left, then right, then left, then right, then in front of me, then behind me, then in front of me…you get my drift. (and by “drift” I mean, “aghhhhhhhh!!“) As he slowly and patiently made his tracks in the grass, I tried not to let it distract me. I really tried.

 

  • Then I pretended the mowing was just the sound of kittens meowing or the sound of the ocean. That didn’t work.

 

  • I even began praying to God to make him stop. You know you’re at the end of your rope when you begin praying to a higher power to make a mower stop working.

 

  • As soon as I prayed, the mowing stopped. I thanked God. Then the mowing started again 10 seconds later. God has a great sense of humor. He did get him to stop, I just didn’t specify for how long.

 

  • Soon I began fantasizing about the mower malfunctioning, I even envisioned myself slashing its tires. Not that I would actually do that of course. But a girl can dream. (Who have I become?!!)

 

  • Then the mowing symphony was accompanied by those electric edgers, edging the near walls and creating an awful sound that would make ponies cry.

 

  • Then the mower got even closer as if he was mocking me. I began to think crazy thoughts that perhaps the mower was doing this to me on purpose. He somehow knew it was a writing day.

 

  • Let’s forget the fact that I’m allergic to freshly cut grass. I tried to ignore that fact as the allergen particles filled the air and landed all over my face, hair and body. I continued to avoid the fact as water filled my eyes and my nose began to itch. I ignored it so hard that the allergy symptoms actually went away. Mind over matter works people! Except not when you want to ignore noise.

 

  • Suddenly, I heard a loud banging. When I say “loud”, I mean it was earsplitting. It sounded like someone was dropping a large boulder plucked from a mountain right on top of a car–repeatedly and 2 feet away from me. The ground was actually shaking. I felt my soul disconnect momentarily from my body and then change its mind and return again.

 

  • I don’t know where it was coming from. Perhaps from behind the trees there was construction. Perhaps it was just the sound of my own sanity meeting its final breaking point.

 

  • Finally the banging stopped. Then soon after, the mowing stopped. It really stopped. The edgers stopped too.

I breathed a sigh of relief. I thanked the heavens.

Then the leaf blowers began…..

  • The side eye look I gave the leaf blower man who WALKED RIGHT UP TO ME WITH THE BLOWER ON (ok he was just doing his job) made him back away from me slowly. There weren’t any leaves anyway. I think I scared him. I wonder what it’s like to be at the other end of my stare? Too frightening a concept. When someone is disturbing my peace, I think I own a stare that would make a rabid angry dog run and hide. I shiver at the thought.

 

  • Then a lady sat down at one of the couches far away from me and began speaking in what I think was Russian. She was far, but I could still hear her. I don’t know what she said, but I can tell it was gossip– and gossip is an international language. I could tell she was imitating another woman and making fun of that woman‘s laughter.

I somehow managed to keep writing.

 

  • Then a spider fell from above and landed in my hair. It began moving quickly through my strands looking for prime real estate. I brushed it off and kept writing.

 

  • A minute later, a bug landed on my hand, I tried to swat it away but it was too fat and slow and I ended up just murdering it right there on the back of my hand. It left a trail of blood on my hand.

 

  • I left the blood there as a gentle reminder of our mortality and kept writing.

 

  • Then a man came outside and began smoking again. This was his second cigarette in an hour. He had a cough. I said aloud to myself, “if he quits, maybe he will stop coughing.“ I even contemplated telling him this.

 

  • At this point, I realize the fact that I even know this about him, means I’m too distracted. That’s when I began to give up and decide to change venue.

 

  • Allergen provoking mowing, edging and leaf blowing and a gossiping lady is one thing. But trying to murder me with second hand smoke when I’m trying to write is enough to send me fleeing. The disdainful look I gave the smoker was enough to make him back away slowly and go back into the building tossing away a half smoked cigarette. I must have had a pretty frightening look.

 

  • Then I was finally at peace. However, that lady was still on the phone. It had been two hours and she was STILL ON THE PHONE. Who has so much to say for two hours straight? Literally no one. Even the most interesting person will stop being interesting after 45 minutes of non-stop talking.

But it was a writing day…sniffle sniffle….

Why don’t I just write at home you wonder? Too many inanimate distractions there. Which is actually worse…

My quest continues…..

Maybe I can buy my own island…but then a coconut may fall off a tree knocking me in the head, rendering me unconscious–and that’s too embarrassing to explain to my family.

Caroline

Share

The Life of a Writer

Writing is a crazy, bumpy road where you’re not sure where it’s going to take you, but you enjoy the ride anyway.

  • Sometimes I think the writer’s lot in life is a tough one. What we do is often misunderstood. Too many times people ask me, “So when are you going to hurry up and finish your book so I can read it!” Or my personal favorite, “What’s taking so long?” And “So you started your book last week? When is it going to be in book form? Next month?“

 

  • Unless you’re a writer or in the business of writing and publishing you won’t understand that writing is a process. The road to publishing can be lengthy.

 

  • You can write a book that can take you years to finish and another manuscript, which can take you only a few months to complete.

 

  • Your manuscript becomes a baby you gave birth to, nurtured, fed, and spent many hours of your life creating. You ignored phone calls, hid in coffee shops, bookstores, libraries or in the corner of your house working diligently.

 

  • You had your crazy rituals you abided by in order to finish your precious manuscript. (I often liked to have Christmas lights on in my house when I wrote and my surroundings had to be spotless otherwise my mind would be too cluttered to write. I would also meditate before writing)

 

  • You fought back those tough days when the voice in the back of your head whispered lies that you’re not a writer and won’t amount to anything in this business.

 

  • You persevered and drank massive amounts of coffee and tea. Caffeine became your unlikely ally.
  • You miraculously found quiet time to write in your otherwise busy schedule. You had to find creative ways to “invent” time that didn’t exist in your life.

 

  • All of that effort comes down to one finished manuscript that’s edited, labored over, finalized and ready to publish.

 

  • Is all of that work worth it? Absolutely. Because there is nothing like that feeling of finishing something and putting it out in the universe for all to see. The result is both frightening and exhilarating at the same time and well worth it. You send your baby out into the wild and hope it doesn’t get eaten by lions, tigers or bears, and comes home to you in one piece.

As writers are we slightly out of our minds for spending so much time with one manuscript after another, and not knowing what will happen to it? Maybe, but that’s the fun part…..

Caroline

Share

Your Secret Hiding Place

Everyone Needs a Hiding Place

When you were a kid you had one. You used it every time you wanted to get away from your parents, siblings or just to avoid chores. You need one now too. Probably even more urgently than when you were younger.

  • Mine is a little corner of my favorite Starbucks where they have an electric outlet right behind my chair to plug in my laptop, a window view for the sun to warm my back and a clear view of the counter so I can jump up and grab my drink when it’s ready. (I’m sitting there now)

 

  • I don’t know why, but this is where I’m most productive with my writing and feel at peace. 1 hour at Starbucks = 5 hours of failed writing attempts at home.

 

  • My apartment is perfectly quiet and I have a desk all to myself where I can work as long as I want. Unfortunately the call of the TV, cell phone, email, Facebook and the refrigerator call me with their individual siren songs.

 

  • If you were a fly on the wall watching me try to write at home you would fall of the wall laughing.

 

  • I get up at least 5 times every 20 minutes to do whatever is unimportant.

 

  • The other day, I left my manuscript and decided that I simply must empty the half empty trash cans and throw them away. Ten minutes later and I was checking my email, watching my all my friends’ snowman photos on Facebook. Then I went back to work for 10 more minutes, only to stop again because I was suddenly curious where the concept of snowmen came from and decided to Google it, since, of course, you can Google anything.

 

  • It’s amazing how much you can Google in a given day if you want to distract yourself badly enough.

Here’s the mystery:

  • I can Google at Starbucks, check Facebook, email, make phone calls and even jump up to the counter every 10 minutes and order something new like a crazy person. But I don’t.

Why?

  • Maybe because I have a deep respect for my hiding place. I don’t want to offend it with trivial distracted activities.

 

  • Perhaps it’s because getting here in time to grab my favorite seat before someone snatches it is a gift. I appreciate that gift and want to spend my time wisely.

 

  • It’s my set time allotted to myself-which is why I respect it.

 

  • At home, I don’t need to fight anyone for that seat. It’s there whenever I need it and that’s probably why I take it for granted. I misuse it with fake, wasted, internet surfing and a million breaks to straighten, organize, make my bed, alpabetize my credit cards, and refold towels. All in the name of wasting time and avoiding the task at hand.

 

  • If you ever came to my place while I’m writing and see that it‘s spotless, and everything is in order, it means I’ve been wasting time. Scold me.

 

  • If you come to my place while I’m writing and see a mess, papers everywhere, the dishes not washed, the bed unmade and my hair disheveled but I still look happy, that means I’ve been a good girl. Give me a cookie. Then I will kick you out so that I can write some more.

 

Note: Nothing makes a writer more insane than someone who tries to disturb that writing time with a phone call, repeated texts or an ill-timed visit.

  • Don’t take it personally. You are wonderful. It’s being in what I like to call, “The writing zone”, that can make any writer crazy when it is disturbed. We often behave like lions who just found out that someone was trying to hurt their babies. Our baby is our writing time. It’s a precious gift in this busy world.

 

  •  It’s like we are Smeagol from Lord of the rings and you are the trespasser trying to take our “Precious” away. Be careful. We may bite ;) (and yes, I actually took the time to look up the correct spelling of Sméagol. I Googled. Can’t help it.)

 

  • Do you have a hiding place that you go to? What hobby or dream do you cultivate there?

 

  • If you don’t have a hiding place, you need to get one. The louder and messier your life is, the more you need one. It will keep you sane. You will get back in touch with yourself, your purpose and what you are meant to do.

 

  • Your hiding place makes it possible for you to endure the crazy world we live in. You are better equipped to handle the rest of the world outside of your cozy hiding place.

 

When you find it, you must protect your time there and guard it with your life.

Caroline

Share

When you love to write

Writing is the air that I breathe. When I can say that with complete honesty, then I know I found what I’m looking for.
Today I read an excerpt from The Diary of Anne Frank. I think I read her book when I was in grade school, but it was too long ago to remember the details. I never realized she wanted to be a writer!
How silly of me since she wrote in her diary every day. As writers, we love to express ourselves through the written word. It pulls us out of our own heads and onto the page.
Here is the excerpt she wrote that described how she felt about writing.  Her words echoed in my heart:
Wednesday, April 25, 1944
“I finally realized that I must do my schoolwork to keep from being ignorant, to get on in life, to become a journalist, because that’s what I want! I know I can write …, but it remains to be seen whether I really have talent….
And if I don’t have the talent to write books or newspaper articles, I can always write for myself. But I want to achieve more than that. I can’t imagine living like Mother, Mrs. van Daan and all the women who go about their work and are then forgotten. I need to have something besides a husband and children to devote myself to! …
I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death! And that’s why I’m so grateful to God for having given me this gift, which I can use to develop myself and to express all that’s inside me!
When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived! But, and that’s a big question, will I ever be able to write something great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer?”
— Anne Frank
What is your passion in life??
Caroline
Share

Ode To Writer’s Block

Today I was going to write a post and I literally just stared at the blank screen for a good half hour. The screen was mocking me, challenging me to write a word, any word. I did nothing and continued to stare at the offending screen.

I started to write a sentence then decided against it and erased it. Then I wrote another and erased that one too. It was like my brain was not letting me type. I figured it was a classic case of temporary writer’s block rearing its ugly head. I knew this condition all too well. It attacked me many times when I was working on my book. Each time I swatted it away like it was an annoying mosquito. It would always try to return again with a sly little voice saying, “Hi Caroline, did you miss me?” No I didn’t.

Perhaps it was the fact that I ran around all day today that drained me of my creative energy. Maybe I shouldn’t have done all of that house work first. But I had to fold last weeks’ laundry, and do this weeks, do the dishes, clean my bedroom, empty the trash and clean the floors. Isn’t Sunday supposed to be a day of rest?

A friend sent me a text telling me that I am not the only one on this earth who waits until a week goes by before folding the laundry. It made me feel less alone. It’s comforting when you find out others have the same wierd issues you do.

So laundry folded, housework done and errands run, and here I sat staring at the blank screen. Temporary writer’s block is a frustrating thing. You try to pry the words, ideas and thoughts from your brain but they remain hidden somewhere inaccessible.

You start to let your mind wander hoping that if you let your mind go where it wants to then it will end up in a place where ideas are found. It’s like ideas are found in a special room in your brain and you just have to find the exact door that will open it. Then once you get there you have to make sure you brought the key with you.

My mind did not go to the “idea room”. Instead it wandered into the, “what should I make for dinner? Weren’t quarterly taxes due last week? Should I buy a coffee grinder? Do I really need to be drinking coffee anyways? Maybe tea is better. But I love coffee. Did I mail the bills?” room. I accidentally wandered into the “random thought and worry room”. It provided no information. It only made me worry and want coffee.

Finally I gave up and instead wrote what you are reading right now. If you are still reading it then you deserve a medal or some kind of trophy for humoring my thoughts on this lazy Sunday evening.

The thing to remember about writer’s block is that even though you have it, you should write something anyways. That block is only temporary. It is not just writing, it can be anything in life. If you love to do something, just make sure you show up everyday and do it. For me, it’s writing, even on days when the words do not want to come so easily. For you it may be something else. Just show up and do your best. Don’t give that so-called block the power it does not deserve. Keep moving forward.

Knowing me, I will probably come up with an amazing idea at 2 am. Everyone knows all good ideas happen when our brain is asleep….bad ones too.  But then again, despite the blockage, I just wrote 618 words. Not bad at all.

 I just remembered I still have to put the 2nd load of clothes in the dryer. I always remember to wash the clothes and then forget until it is about 11pm that I didn’t bother drying them. Sometimes I don’t remember until the next day after I have come home from work. Then there are times that I will actually remember to put them in the dryer but then I forget to push the button to start the machine…enough about my laundry issues. At least I don’t have to wash the laundry while wading in a river and beating the clothes against a rock. I have that going for me. Perspective. :)

Caroline

Share

The Blank Sheet of Paper

Every Writers Challenge:

1) blank sheet of paper

2) empty computer screen

3) the pen that sits undisturbed

4) the keyboard that is collecting dust

5) self confidence

These are all hurdles a writer must jump over in order to begin the first words on the page. You stare at the blank sheet of paper or computer screen and it stares back  mocking you. This experience is not for the faint of heart. The good news is that once you learn to jump over these hurdles everyday, you will get better and stronger. The hurdles will eventually seem smaller until they are just merely ant hills.

This doesn’t apply to just writers. With any difficulty in your life, if you face it everyday, you naturally will get better at it. The difficult parts will be easier for you. It makes sense, the more you practice, the better you will get.

I remember in dental school, we were learning how to do a dental procedure for the first time (don’t worry it was on a mannequin not a real person). We were new at it and many of us were struggling with it. I remember a girl in my class asked a teacher, “Will it ever get any easier??” I will never forget his answer. He said, “no, but you will get better and faster”. That answer struck a chord with me, so much that I still remember it after all these years. It’s true, dentistry does not get any easier, but we do get better and quicker if we keep doing it.

If I Ignore It, Then It Will Go Away

If you ignore the difficulties in your life, you are only making them bigger. In a previous post on procrastination I mentioned that the hardest part of getting myself to write again was opening the box to my new laptop. The longer I ignored the unopened box in the corner, the harder it became to actually start. Ignoring what was staring me in the face everyday was only hurting me. It wasn’t until I went to the page everyday and wrote, that gradually my fears melted away and everything became easier.

If you have stayed away from something that you are afraid to face, it makes it even harder for you. In your mind that ant hill becomes a mountain. If you put your fears aside and go after what you want, you can turn the mountains back into ant hills.

We all have a hurdle or two to jump over. It could be the athlete who avoids the sport for too long and is afraid to jump back into it; The artist who has to face the blank canvas; the writer who meets the page each day; the person who decides to go back to school. It can apply to anyone.  The things that we want to do with our lives may be difficult at first but will get easier the more we do it. We just have to show up everyday.

Life is practice. We learn, grow and get better with time, but only if we keep practicing.

Happy almost Friday!!!

Caroline

 

Share