Searching…Again

My creativity seems to go through cycles, not only periods of inspiration and darker periods, but also times when I am more inspired in one way than another.  Sometimes I just go with the flow, writing when the words are there, sewing when the spirit moves me, whatever.  As long as something was created that day, I was usually all right.  Other times of course, I am not as relaxed.  I want to create using a specific medium and I want to do it now.  By now of course, I actually mean right now.

April’s session of Camp brought me about 75-85% of the way through the novel I was working on and I decided I wanted to get the other 15-25% done in May, giving me June to prepare for the July session of Camp.  Easy enough, right?  I know, famous last words.

Of course, the words have been stalled.  I’m not sure if it’s a story issue, or simply that I have been pressing too hard for too long.  The outline for the story is still there, but my inspiration seemed to disappear.

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Even without my inspiration, I have been sitting daily, getting at least a few words in.  Realistically, 1000+ words a day isn’t even that bad.  It’s more of the feel of the writing that has changed.  Yes, I am still writing daily, but I don’t seem to be connecting as well as I feel I should be.  It’s a petty problem, but it still stalls me out.

I’ve mentioned before one of the ways I push my inspiration higher is through travel.  Overtime we go on a trip, preferably for at least 3 days, I come home feeling relaxed, renewed, and ready to write.  I think it comes from reconnecting with the world.  I am seeing new things, watching people and seeing how they live their lives.  It shapes my writing by keeping me in reality.  Yes, I am writing fiction, but it needs to feel as though it could be fact.

Unfortunately, this isn’t exactly the type of fix that is possible right now.  Instead, I decided to see what I could do to capture that feeling at home.  I started with a couple of realities.  First, I had to be able to walk to where ever I was going, and second, it had to fit into the time frame I had before Little One would be dropped off by the bus.

My town is small, mostly residential with a median age of about 60, though I think it is slowly getting younger.  We have houses, a small grocery shop, a butcher, a new coffee shop (I’ll get to that in another post!), and of course since we are in Europe, a large church.

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You may have noticed, when we travel, we go to churches.  A lot.  The churches out here are different from the ones I saw growing up.  These are not modern buildings with benches, pulpits, sound systems, and jacuzzis they claim are only for baptisms.  These old churches are works of art, works of art that usually hide even more works of art.  It’s beautiful.

I’ve never been inside this church, inspire of living in its shadow for two and a half years.  (And I do mean in its shadow, I can see it from my backyard.)  I took a visit today, but I still haven’t been inside.  Firstly, because I am still deeply uncomfortable visiting churches without dressing up.  I may have moved away from the religion I grew up with, but it seems disrespectful to enter a church wearing jeans and meditation beads.  Maybe a rosary would have helped, but oh well.

The real reason I visited the church today was the cemetery.  I am a little embarrassed to admit that I didn’t even know there was a cemetery at the foot of the church until a few days ago.  I had past the church at least a hundred times, but never really paid attention to what I was seeing, and then poof.  It was there.

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The cemetery was small, with tombstones dating from the early 1930s to  the late 1960s.  My Flemish isn’t great, but it seemed to be a combination of priests who had served in the church with a few parishioners.  Some of the stones were old and worn, making it hard to even read the words.  Others  were shiny and new, as though they had only been put in yesterday.  There were plots with planters, where flowers could be growing, and others covered in marble.  Some of the graves seemed as though they had been forgotten, and others had clearly been visited recently, with gifts of flowers, wreaths, and even a candle (not lit anymore).  There was so much to see in such a small place.

I know, some people out there are instantly asking, why did I go there?  I didn’t know anyone, I wasn’t leaving flowers, or cleaning.  Simply put, I went to visit those who were gone.  Each of these people had a story.

The priest in the back, who died in his seventies, and was born in the later years of the 1880s.  His plot was large, covered in white marble with a simple black cross above his name.  As a priest, he obviously did’t have a wife or children, but someone felt it was important to bury him with well.  Even all of these years later, the tombstone is clean and well cared for.  It seemed obvious that he was well loved in his time to get such a tribute.

There was the couple buried under the large tree.  The husband was almost fifteen years older than his wife, but she died within two weeks of his passing.  People talk about dying from a broken heart; maybe she just couldn’t stand the idea of continuing on without him.

In a tiny corner, a plain cross marked the grave where a four year old was laid to rest.  The plot next to him was empty, perhaps still waiting for his parents to join him.

It is said that no one who is remembered is ever really dead.  I don’t know these people, but how they were laid to rest tells me a part of their story.  It’s stories of love, and heartbreak.  Most of our everyday lives are filled with routine, the boring things that must be done for us to continue on.  When we die, everything we ever were becomes clear because that is how we are remembered.

If this isn’t inspiring, I’m not sure what is.

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Opportunities

So much thought has been going into my fears for the future lately.  I’ve been afraid of what I should do, and afraid of what I can do, and afraid of what I might mess up.  I was looking for a sign, any sign, that might direct me to the right path.  Unfortunately, a sign was’t what I needed.  What I needed was an opportunity.  That was also what I didn’t have.  So I decided to make an opportunity of my own.

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My passion is creativity, my dream is writing, but technically my field is education.  Most of the time when people think about education they assume you are a teacher.  However, teaching is not all that there is to education. There are many more things I can do with my time while still making use of my current education.  As long as I am willing to make my own opportunities, and do things that might scare me a little.

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There are many good things that come with making a decision for your future.  I feel much calmer, focused, and sure of what is coming.  Of course deciding on the next step does not guarantee I will not fall, but of course, not taking any steps is just standing around.

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There is one downside.  While working to pursue new opportunities, I may have to let some things go.  Choosing what I want to let go is difficult; I am fortunate enough to have the ability to choose most of my activities right now.  When you enjoy so much of what you do, why would you want to give anything up?  Of course, I don’t.  Instead, I decided to release a little pressure without giving anything up.  I’m taking my timeline off of the 50 books challenge.  Without the looming deadline, which I was frightened I was going to miss anyway, I don’t need to rush through my reading.  Instead I can read the books at my leisure, and also have time to both pursue and create new opportunities.  I will still be able to finish the list, but not by July 31.

It’s slightly frightening, making a decision, but also liberating.  So, today I am liberated, and I am going to enjoy the freedom.

2015 Goals

All right, as it is January 12, and I am only now getting around to making some goals for the year, I suppose the first should be stop procrastinating, but that might be a little too obvious.  I actually have no guilt from setting goals a little late in the month.  I honestly feel a goal should be made when it makes sense; beginning of the year goals make sense because they have a built in time frame, but it is not the only time I will make goals for myself.  I do it all the time.  But whenever I do, I take the time to think about what I am doing, and make a goal I believe is right for me for many reasons.

With this in mind, here are my 2015 goals.  I know I could keep them to myself, and no one would ever need to know if I failed, but what is the point of having a group of strangers I talk to if I am not going to share with them my embarrassing moments?

Goal #1

Improve my technology/social media skills.

There is a large world online and it terrifies me.  I am barely comfortable blogging, rarely tweet, and almost always forget to instagram.  I want to get better, but there is so much out there for me to learn, and I am hampered by the absolute knowledge that no one cares about many of the stupid things I think, see, and do. Honestly, taking pictures while my food gets cold feels ridiculous, and 99% of people would not get the little jokes I can fit into 140 characters.  Maybe it’s a confidence thing, but whatever it is, I would like to get better.  I’m not sure I will ever be a video blogger, but I can get better at creating a layout for my site, and editing and posting better pictures.

Goal #2

Branch out with my writing.

Last year I made it a goal to finish more manuscripts, and I did all right, but not great.  I feel like my focus was so narrow, I didn’t have time to explore.  I would like to finish full novel manuscripts, but I would like to do something else as well.  I’d like to work a little on writing short stories, and improve my blogging habits.  I started out pretty regular, but it dropped off a lot.  I out off writing posts, and condensed some things way too much.  I mean come on, I spent a week in Rome, saw so much, and came back feeling inspired and desperate to see more. And then what did I do?  I condensed it all into one brief post that barely touched on my trip.  What the hell?  I call myself a writer and I couldn’t write a decent post about a place I loved so much?  I want to keep working on the old goal (publishing a novel), but I want to spend time writing about whatever inspires me, and not skimping on the details.

Goal # 3

Focus on my health.

Okay, this is a typical new years resolution thing, but it is not about weight.  I could easily make a goal with a specific number of pounds I want to lose, but that would only be part of my goal.  I want to feel better.  I want to run more, and do actual real world races again this year.  I want to focus on overcoming the depression and anxiety that threatens me frequently lately.  Losing weight or gaining muscles would be awesome, but feeling good is the actual goal.

Goal #4

Learn something new.

There are so many specific skills I considered listing as a goal.  I want to learn a new language, try knitting cables, play the ukulele, and paper piece quilting, just to name a few things.  Instead of listing a specific goal, I am leaving it open.  I’ve never been great with languages (said the writer) so I might not be able to master a language.  Maybe I will try the ukulele and decide I hate it.  There are variables I can’t control here.  Instead, I am going to make it a goal to work to learn something new, maybe many something news.  As long as I am trying, I am succeeding here.

Okay, I could swear I had five goals, but only four come to mind now.  I guess this is further proof that my methods are good; if I remember any other goals later, I can always add them.  After all, it’s about learning and growing, something I should always be working on.

Happy Monday, and Happy 2015!

Look Around

I’ve been in Belgium for almost two years now.  Sometimes it is great, other times it is less fun.  When things are going well I dance around my kitchen, I smile even when I am home alone, and notice the flowers in the yard.  When things are not going well, I curl up with my tea and binge watch Netflix.

In an effort to make things go well, I have been working to get out of my house.  It’s not that things cannot go well inside, but, well, simply put, getting out of the house gives me a reason to wear pants.  Sometimes I need that.

The other day, I was out for a walk with a friend. We were walking around my neighborhood, down a road I had not been on before, and talking.  We went around a corner, and were greeted by a beautiful sight.

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There is a pond less than a mile from my house.  Quite a large pond for that matter.  Two years, and I had no idea this was right by my house.  When I mentioned it to my husband, he simply shrugged and said he had known it was somewhere.  Apparently our town is named “Large Pond” and I had never known it.

The worst part about this?  This is not the first time I have been ignorant of something amazing in my own backyard.  Moments like this, I realize there may be a slightly uncomfortable truth that I need to accept.  Perhaps things are not going well because of me.

If I had been sitting home, watching things other had done, I would have missed out on something that had been right there all along.  But when I get out and look around I find the world can be amazing.

Wandering

It is an unfortunate truth that I go through periods of extreme writers block. 

No, that’s not quite right.  Writer’s block usually indicates to me that I have part of the plan, but I can’t quite make it work.  It isn’t a problem with generating ideas or even finding words to write.  It is a complete hopelessness. 

I become struck with the overwhelming futility of my efforts.  Very few people are able to make careers from creative pursuits, and I become instantly certain I will be one of those who cannot make it work.   Nothing I ever write will be good enough and all of my ideas are absolute crap.

On a regular basis, I force myself to plug away and churn out something; it doesn’t take away the problem, but it is better than nothing.  So far, the only real fix I have found is travel.  I take a trip, even for a couple of days, and do not write, or even think of writing.  When I come home, I am refreshed, invigorated, and what is more, inspired. 

It may be no secret that I am currently in one of my low points, which may explain the skipped posts, and posts that I fully admit could be much better written.  I am fortunate enough to also have a chance to take a vacation next month, as soon as we can decide where to go.

The original plan was a long drive through Italy, however we are reevaluating the original plan as it was full of potential problems that were already stressing me out.  Now, we are discussing where we should go instead.  There is a part of me that would love to go back to Scotland or Ireland again, maybe hitting North Ireland this time.  We have also discussed Romania, Greece, and Spain.

I am now seeking advice.  If you could go anywhere in Europe to find inspiration and fun, where would you go?

A Writer

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I’ve had a few off weeks, weeks where I have hardly had a desire to write.  I know the stories are still there, I just seem to have lost my way of getting them out into the world.  I’m in between steps in my writing currently.  I can’t bring myself to finish what has been started, to edit what has been finished, or to send off what has been edited.  I am lost in everything I want to be, everything I could be, and everything I feel I should be, I am losing who and where I am right now.  Then, as I searched for some inspiration to write a post today, I found this reminder.  If I want to think of myself as a writer I have one fundamental action to perform; I must write, not just think about writing.

Make Something

I’ve spent a few weeks in a writing funk.  This isn’t the first time this has happened, and I sincerely doubt it will be the last.  It is an unfortunate fact, but there it is.  Sometimes my writing ability can be interrupted by life.  I’m still getting my story ideas, but I am losing my inspiration to write them.

It started a few weeks ago, when I was working on getting some critique on the beginning of a story.  I went in knowing my own story weaknesses, but feeling like what I was submitting was all right.  I left realizing that everyone else saw the same weaknesses I had. 

Suddenly I was hit with an absolute knowledge that everything I wrote was crap.  Seeing my own problems was fine; I could pretend I was just being paranoid, or maybe giving myself a little tough love.  When someone else sees the same problems it means they are actually problems and I should fix them.

Trying to make a go of a creative career is not easy.  You have to be sensitive enough to follow your creative path, and express real emotion.  You have to open yourself up in a way that feels almost wrong; a part of you is exposed to the world that you would normally keep hidden.  You put that part out there, and then allow others to pass judgment in the name of making things better.  You have to be raw and place everything out there, yet tough enough to shrug off everything negative.  As soft as silk, and yet as tough as nails.  I’m not even sure what material out there would come close to that, but I’m sure I am not made from it.

I can’t take the critique without suffering a few scars.  Maybe it means in a few years I will be out, or at least in a perpetual state of ‘revising’ before letting anyone read.  Hearing negatives hurts, even if it is for my own good.  Sometimes, it breaks my confidence down for a little while, and makes it hard to write more.  This is my fatal writing flaw, worse than any grammatical or spelling error I will every make.  I take the hit, and I will get back up, but I might need a little rest first.

I think the worst of it all, knowing that some of it was true.  Many of my own fears of the piece were exactly what was said back to me.  I’d feel better if I could laugh and say they were wrong, but they zeroed right in on the target, and sent their shot there.  Sure, some of it I will brush off, because I know the purpose of the little facts that were included early on.  I know the big picture thoughts behind certain things, and maybe they just missed my point.  It’s all right.  Other things I will have to change because I know it is for the best of the story. 

After spending some time on my pity party is it time to pick myself back up.  Just because I made a few mistakes doesn’t mean I should never try again.  Every critique is important, as long as I take it as a lesson for future learning.  The most important thing is to get back at it, and make something.

 

 

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Working

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I have to admit, I’ve been having a bad day for over a week now.  Sometimes everything seems to be going horribly wrong, even when you know that technically it is only a couple of small issues.  I tell myself I will get out of this funk, as soon as inspiration calls.  Unfortunately, I was not at work, and inspiration did not leave a voicemail.  Time to get back to work and see if I am lucky enough for a call back today.