If We Were Having Coffee // Time to Get Spooky!

Hello dear readers. Thanks for stopping by for a bit of coffee and conversation. I’m feeling anxious today. The caffeine isn’t helping. Actually, the caffeine might be the cause.

Actually, the caffeine might be the cause. I’d been drinking cold brew coffee for months but since the mornings are growing colder and colder, and I need something warm and strong to start the day again. Drip coffee tastes like bitter water now, so I’ve dusted off my espresso machine and moved to drinking a couple of warm, velvety shots instead. I’m still figuring out the right ratio of coffee grounds to water and I may have overdone it.

“Coffee for two
The sweetest and most bitter
Bold in taste
Warm in conversation
Lovely in embrace
Coffee for me
Coffee for you”

— NB // Coffee For Two

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I’m feeling much better this Sunday than I was the last. The world still feels like it’s ending nearly every day, but I made sure to take breaks from social media and to limit my intake of the news to once or twice a day. Some of the shit still found its way in.

Between Harvey Weinstein’s predation coming to light, the short-sighted call to boycott Twitter in response to Rose McGowan being suspended, the fires in California, and Trump sabotaging what little health care we can get in this country I still found plenty of reasons to be depressed and anxious, but less so than the week before. It was good to unplug for a while.

Not that I have been any more productive instead. I found new ways to waste time, and new ways to be disappointed in myself. It wasn’t a good writing week at all. I had such hope after starting a list of specific topics to write about here and after deciding on the theme for an upcoming personal writing project I thought it would be easy-peasy from here. Nope, the hardest part is still keeping my ass in the chair and just doing the damn writing.

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that there is hope though. I’ve started reading Things Are What You Make of Them by Adam J. Kurtz, and I’m feeling a little less afraid of writing. Or, I feel a little less alone in my fear and my failure. It always helps to know you aren’t struggling alone. It helps to know it isn’t all you, being creative and putting yourself out there are just hard things to do, but you can do it if you just don’t give up.

I’m also reading The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. I started it last Thursday, and I’m already halfway done. It’s such a dream to read! I’ve seen the movie about a million time but it’s such a unique story told from such an intriguing perspective that it still draws me in and excites me.

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If we were having coffee, I would wish you a belated happy Friday the 13th! Being a fan of all things horror, I’m always excited when the 13th falls on a Friday of any month, but having it happen in October is an especially spooky treat. To mark the occasion my sister, and my girlfriend and I went out to take advantage of some Friday the 13th tattoo and piercing specials. My sister got her nostril pierced. My girlfriend got a lucky white rabbit tattoo, and I got this cute little fly that reminded me of the film The Fly, the 1986 version specifically, thank you very much.

This is my second Friday the 13th tattoo, and I’m already looking to getting another next Friday, which just happens to be my birthday!

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that the highlight of my week, besides the tattoo, was last night when we met up with some friends for a couple’s night out.

We started at a small pizza place downtown for dinner and drinks. It was a new place, and I was pleasantly surprised. The calzones we ordered were enormous and delicious, and the menu featured an extensive list of microbrews and cocktails. Afterward, we went to a huge haunted house to get spooky! After that, we went for even more drinks!

It’s been too long since we were last out with friends, I didn’t realize how much I had missed it. Especially these friends, two other couples who understand what it means to be with someone for years. I enjoy watching them interact with each other. Like everything else, it helps to know you are normal.

We're the cutest 😍😙

A post shared by Lisa Blair (@zenandpi) on

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that it’s getting late and I have to get going. There’s more writing to do, posts to draft and notes to type up plus laundry to do, dinner to get in the oven, and the cocktails that need to be made before The Duece comes on.

I hope you had a wonderful week. I hope you found time to take care of you this weekend. I hope it’s beginning to feel like Halloween and you are enjoying the spooky vibes too.

Until next time

The world's shrinking.

A post shared by Lisa Blair (@zenandpi) on

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Thanks for reading! If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for inspiring reads + existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering. Or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

Written for the #WeekendCoffeeShare link-up, now hosted over at Eclectic Alli!

Featured photo is by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

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September 2017 // Fall Brings Its Own Kind of Warmth

The last of summer has faded, the leaves are changing, and I feel myself changing too. I’m curling up inside myself, making a place to keep warm and safe before winter moves in. It’s a sad time for me. Summer has always been my favorite season and this time of year is the farthest I will be from that freedom again, but I am trying to change my perspective. I’m learning that fall has its own kind of warmth, one I can find inside myself.

September always feels like the longest month of the year, and this one was no exception. I had a ton of birthdays to mark, my girlfriend, her father, her sister, two of my sisters, one of my brothers, and a cousin. I didn’t celebrate with them as much as I’d wanted to because things are still pretty crazy at work but as the month worn on though things began to calm down. I’m allowing myself to believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel. October might be a return to some normalcy, and I am so ready for it.

But first, here is what I am currently:

Writing…something? I have had an idea, it’s still small, but it’s important and full of potential, I think. See, I’ve been having a hard time dealing with my death anxiety, and everyone is telling me to get help but I already researched ways to cope, and I have plenty of people will listen when I need to talk. The reality is, this will probably always be a part of me, and the best I can do is learn to soothe and redirect myself when I need to, but there may be something else I can do. Maybe turning it into something creative and giving it a purpose can help too. I’m writing things down, but I have no idea what they will be exactly. It’s exciting!

Planning My next big writing goal, another fellowship, this time it’s with Buzzfeed! The BuzzFeed Emerging Writers Fellowship includes four months of financial support and mentorship focusing on personal essays and cultural reporting and criticism from Buzzfeed!. It’s a dream come true. Applications are due by December 4th, and while that might seem like plenty of time, there’s a lot that is required, and I figure I better get started before my brain has time to get overwhelmed or decide it’s a waste of a time for a talentless hack such as myself.

Making a very long list of blog post ideas. This blog hasn’t been focused in a very long time, and I want to get control of it and make it into what I always wanted it to be. A place for self-care, mindfulness, philosophy, science, art, society, and culture. Whew! I’ve got my topics figured out, at least 15 in all, and I’m writing 3 posts for each slowly but surely to get me started. You won’t see them for awhile, maybe not even until the new year, but they are coming.

Anticipating Halloween! It’s time to get spooky dear readers, and I am ready! This month we are seeing a ballet performance of Dracula, a play about Jack the Ripper starring a friend of ours, and heading to a haunted house with friends. I’m hoping to hit up Fright Nights at Elitch Gardens, a movie party at the Alamo Drafthouse, and a party if I can convince some friends of friends to open their home. Mostly though I will be watching every horror movie, I can find streaming on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and HBO!

Reading Phi: A Voyage from the Brain to the Soul by Giulio Tononi. I’ve read it before but it’s such a beautiful book, bok in its writing and in the presentation, I had to pick it up again. I finished Mrs. Dalloway, finally, and breezed through Memoirs of a Geisha and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest as well this month. I’ve started setting a goal of 40 pages a day, and reading during my lunch and between my afternoon routes instead of napping. It has really helped, and there’s hope yet that I might accomplish my reading goal for the year if I keep it up.

Watching The Duece on HBO, Starring big names like James Franco and Maggie Gyllenhaal The Duece is a semi-fictional account of the rise of the porn industry during the 70s in New York. The show is only a few episodes in, but I can tell you its pretty damn good so far. I’ve also been watching American Horror Story: Cult and the new season of Transparent but neither has sucked me in like The Duece.

Feeling A bit introverted lately. Maybe it’s just the changing of the seasons, or my focus on this new project and my lofty writing goal, or maybe it’s my anxiety, I’m not sure, but something is putting up a wall between me and everyone around me. I’ve turned into  Very Serious Woman with no time for jokes. Having any kind of conversation feels pointless, and I can’t imagine there is anything anyone might say that would make me feel better. Of course, I know that isn’t true, and I’m trying to make time every day to socialize in some way. It’s good for people to be with people, even when we least want to be.

Needing more hours in the day, please? I know that isn’t possible, so I’m willing to settle for more days doing more of what I want and less of what the world needs. This damn capitalist culture is taking all of my free time and paying me back very little of what these precious hours of my life are worth.

Loving fall cocktails! My girlfriend has been making Hot Buttered Rum before bedtime, and I’ll be picking up some Fireball Whiskey to make Angry Balls too. I’m even thinking about trying these Caramel Apple Mimosas. They look delicious!

Hating Um, Trump? Again? More? I mean a week doesn’t go by where he doesn’t say something insulting or inflammatory and nothing his administration has done makes me feel like this country is great and has only confirmed that we never really were in the first place. The American Dream made that man. He’s everything this country pushes people to be and that ought to be a warning and reason enough to reevaluate everything we think is good and right in the world. The people of Puerto Rico are in my thoughts, and I am proud of every player taking a knee.

Hoping October takes it easy on my loved ones and me. After Halloween, the pressure of the holidays follows. The pressure to be the most giving, the most grateful, the happiest, and most tolerant of your family’s crap because they are family. It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time, but it’s the most stressful! October will be the last chance I’ll have to enjoy being a little selfish. I hope the month’s demands won’t be too harsh.

All in all, September was alright. I was busy and anxious for most of it, but I’m proud to have made it through still focused and motivated. I’m proud that I never once let the demands put on me by work and family pull me down into depression and I never gave up on my personal goals. I simply did my work quickly and utilized every minute I had left over to further my goals. At least, I did on most days. There were certainly a few evenings I came home to grouchy and full of pity for myself to do anything. As always though, progress, not perfection is the goal. I am definitely progressed!

So, how about you? How did September treat you? What did you accomplish? What did you learn? Do you have any fun Halloween plans or costume ideas?

Let me know in the comments (:

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Thank you for reading! If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for inspiring reads + existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering. Or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

The inspiration for this posts come from Andrea at Create.Share.Love.

Featured image by Owen CL on Unsplash

August 2017 // I Did the Thing!

Wow, the end of August really snuck up on me! I went the half the day writing the date on forms and staring at it on my calendar before I realized what it meant, tomorrow is September, and then it took the other half to reflect on everything that happened.

This month was a buzzing busy one. The kids have all gone back to school with means I have gone back to working a regular schedule and this school year has been off to the rockiest start I’ve seen in my 11 years here. With the employee shortage, we are all having to chip in and work a little more. My girlfriend is working very long hours, so I’ve been picking up some slack at home all the while plugging away at a big scary goal I had at for myself too. I sent in an application for the Bitch Media Fellowship for Writers under the topic of sexual politics.

I’ve never done anything like this before which means I had no experience working cover letters, crafting a CV, or putting together writing samples, but I did it. I agonized over it. I fought my fear of it. I thought of my future self and how I hoped she would be proud rather than disappointed. I did the thing, guys. I did the big scary thing, and now I’m ready for September to begin.

But before it does, here is what I am currently:

Writing: Nothing. Well, not nothing. I’m posting here and working on a few little things, but after having worked so hard on that application, I’m kind of burned out. I’m going to take a little break from the pressure and deadlines. I’m just reading and brainstorming. I say nothing, and I say I’m taking a break but to be honest with you I’ve already been making interesting little notes I might make into something one day.

Planning a long weekend away! So, work got in the way, and our big trip west won’t be happening after all. Bummer. But since my girlfriend’s birthday is on Sunday, and since this weekend marks the 40th anniversary of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and since Birth.Movies.Death is teaming up with SyFy and showing the movie in Wyoming at the base of Devil’s Tower we ARE DRIVING NORTH FOR THE WEEKEND! I’m so excited. Oh, and I guess I better start planning for the 100 other birthdays of close friends and family falling in this month too.

Making a new art journal. I think I’ve said this before, and I didn’t really do it, but I finally have just the right piece of cardboard for the cover and plenty of scrap paper to make a nice thick book out of it. I want so badly to get back into drawing but trying to do it in the same art journal I failed to keep up with is just a reminder of my failure. I can’t draw when I feel like a failure, so there needs to be a clean slate. Art will be the thing I do that is entirely for me. Writing used to be that thing, but now I write for you all too, and while I love sharing my passion with you, I’m just one of those people who needs something that is just for me too.

Anticipating the end of September! I hate to see the season go but Halloween is my favorite holiday, and as far as I’m concerned it begins on October 1st. I’m ready for candy corn and all the horror movies I can watch. The good ones and the cheesy ones too, I love them all. Plus I’m so ready for the next season of Stranger Things. I have a feeling September is going to dragggggggggg.

Reading Mrs. Dalloway, still, because I caved and reinstalled Candy Crush on my phone. I’m so addicted to the game that even talking about it now makes me want to close my laptop and get a hit of that sweet, sweet color matching action. I need to delete it, and I will, I promise, just one…more…level. It’s not just the game though, the book’s stream of conscious style was hard to get the hang of, but I am making progress. I believe I’ll get through it before the weekend is over. Next up I’ll be reading either Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare or Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden.

Watching Last Chance High on Viceland. Many of the years 11 years I’ve worked in this school district were spent with children who have emotional and behavioral disorders. These kids are defiant, violent, and angry but they are also so caring, and smart, and afraid. There is a serious lack of public understanding of how these disorders develop and how to treat them. People believe these kids need to be ashamed, bullied, and beat into better behavior but it is precisely this treatment that leads to this behavior. Last Chance High chronicles the harsh world these kinds of kids live in and teaches us that love, affection, protection, and understanding is how you help them heal.

Feeling a little alone. I’m surrounded by people who are too busy living their own lives to pay attention to me, but I’m doing my best not to be too whiny about it. I’m taking some time to learn how to be alone with myself without anxiety and existential dread creeping in. I’m learning to be self-motivated and disciplined and to soothe myself and take care of me without help. I’ve never been on my own, and even now I’m not truly alone, only bored and having a small internal tantrum over not having attention paid to me the moment I want it.

Needing the world to get back on some kind of even keel again. Everything feels so upside down and up in the air. I’m afraid of the future, for our country and for my own small family and circle of friends. The big political and economic landscape have had real world effects. My job can’t find or keep enough qualified employees, my friends can’t afford the skyrocketing rent prices in this city, and I’m afraid to lose my rights, my healthcare, and my sanity. I’m worried about war and natural disasters victims who will lose their homes. I’m afraid there is nothing I can do, and I’m afraid there is so much I can do, and I’m only too weak or lazy to do it.

Loving that last season of Game of Thrones! Best season yet despite being so short. Every episode was action packed and full of surprises and bombshells of information. I sat on the edge of my seat for seven whole weeks. I have no idea how I’m going to wait out the next year or two until the eighth season premieres, and I have no idea how I will live without the show in my life after that final season ends.

Hating that I’ve had to stop being so open to people emotionally. I used to pride myself on being so willing to hear the pains and complaints of others. I k ow how much we all just want to be heard and I know not every is so lucky to have someone in their lives to listen, but lately, there has been so much negativity and lying around me that I’ve had to take a step back. With my own support system working at a lower capacity than usual I just don’t have the emotional strength right now to deal with toxic attitudes. I hate it, but it’s necessary for now.

Hoping I get picked for this fellowship, and I’m also hoping I don’t. I want it because I really think with some mentorship and a little direction I could turn out to be at the very least a damn decent writer. I want this because it will give me a purpose and a place for my writing to call home. I want this because I want to feel proud and I want people to feel proud of me too. But as much as I want it I still have this sinking feeling that I’m not good enough and that I have made myself a liar by trying to convince the nice people at Bitch Media that I am. I’m afraid to waste their time, to find out I’m incompetent, and to let everyone down. Mostly I’m just hoping I can put it out of my mind and keep myself from going crazy until November 15th when the 2018 fellows are announced.

Mostly I’m just hoping I can put it out of my mind and keep myself from going crazy until November 15th when the 2018 fellows are announced.

All in all, this month was a really hard one, but I’m so proud of myself, and my girlfriend, and of us for making it through it all together.This month was about growth and maturity and about loving each other enough to put our own feelings and sometimes needs aside to be supportive of one another. She supported me and took time out of her day to proofread and give me her opinion. I did my best to take some worries off her mind, and we both let go of our frustration to make the most of what time we had.

I hope things improve next month, but I know that if it doesn’t, we can handle it. We can take on whatever the world throws at us, separately and together. We’re growing up finally, and it feels good.

So, how about you? How did August treat you? Are you ready for fall? Do you have any last-minute summer plans to squeeze in? What did you think of Game of Thrones season 7?

Let me know in the comments (:

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Thank you for reading! If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for inspiring reads + existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering. Or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

The inspiration for these posts come from Andrea at Create.Share.Love.

Featured image by Dixit Motiwala on Unsplash

 

Stephen King and Writing by Questions

Writing, like any other art or discipline, takes daily practice and dedication to learning about the craft from those who have come before you. In learning, I like to teach, so each week I will take a piece of advice from the greats—both living and dead, famous and not—apply their lessons to my own work and share my thoughts and progress with you.

This week’s inspiration comes from the prolific American author Stephen King.

“You’ve blown up your TV and committed yourself to a thousand words a day, come hell or high water. Now comes the big question: What are you going to write about?”

— Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

The first hurdle to writing is getting your butt in the chair and keeping it there. The second hurdle is getting the pen moving, or your fingers typing. The body only needs training. You only have to employ a few days of treats and punishments to get the hang of sit and stay but to get your mind to show up is like coercing a stray cat to follow you home.

I can get my butt in the chair but lately getting my mind to show up is near impossible. My body is easy to control. My mind, on the other hand, has one of its own. It wanders inside itself and finds plenty to do that isn’t writing at all. It thinks about all the things I should be doing, the dishes, the laundry, that email, that book I wanted to read, that movie I wanted to watch. I get antsy. I get tired. I feel guilty and decide that I don’t want to write. If it happens often enough, I decide I shouldn’t write. I’m obviously not good enough or disciplined enough.

I give up and get up and doing everything but write. I do anything but write. The pen doesn’t move the screen stays blank.

But there has to be a way to coerce the cat, and there has to be a way wrangle a mind and wring the words from it. One bit of advice I’ve come across time and time again is to start with questions. Questions get the wheels turning. Questions interest the mind and make it want to work with you. Questions lure it along the way you wish to go and reveal what it is you are setting out to say to write about.

The first question you should ask yourself is an easy one, what do I want to write about. You don’t have to be specific here. I like to write about humans, and emotions, and the way how we ought to live. Simple.

You can’t begin if you don’t know what you are talking about. What genre are you writing? Is it fact or fiction, persuasive or story telling. Are you going to write a poem? A story? An essay? Who are you writing about? Yourself, a celebrity, a person who doesn’t exist, are they even a person? You have to get these basics down before you can build a shape or structure but those questions aren’t so hard, and you can always change the answers when you please.

So, once you’ve gotten a start, the next step is getting you to the end, another writing hurdle. I’ve found that the best way is to keep asking questions of yourself, and your writing.

Begin with the what and then make a list of whos, hows, and whys to keep you going. You need this list of questions to tease out what you mean to say and how you can go about saying it in the clearest way possible. The list is personal. And after you have one you can copy and tweak it for every piece you write. You can have one for fiction and memoir and maybe one for blog posts and for articles you pitch. You come up with whatever questions you like, or you can steal them from other writers. Here are some of mine:

  1. What do I want people to get out of this?
  2. Who am I speaking to? Who am I speaking for?
  3. Why should they care?
  4. What am I trying to say?
  5. How do I want to make people feel?
  6. What will people learn? About me? Themselves? The world?
  7. What has been forgotten?
  8. What is the truth?
  9. Where does it hurt?
  10. What has helped?
  11. What is missing?
  12. What makes this any different?
  13. Is this boring? What would it look like if it wasn’t?

I don’t always have all the answers, and many of the ones I do have are similar, but the differences are subtle enough that they can help me illuminate what I think and feel and how I can structure my writing to articulate that to my readers. These questions aren’t perfect, and they do not guarantee concise or compelling writing, obviously, but they help get me home even if the path is rocky and winding and I get lost a few times along the way.

The answers can be long or short and often I can write the whole piece by taking my answers, expanding them, rearranging them, and adding a little emotional flair.

I tend to check in more than once while writing a piece. I write my first draft and go over the questions again to see if my convictions have changed and if I need to move n a different direction. I write a second and check in again, and after editing to grammar and structure, I glance over it one more time and ask myself if I’ve said what I needed to say.

Writing this way keeps me focused and on topic and whatever I wanted to say that didn’t fit can become another post or piece, and I can answer the questions all over again from another angle.

Of course, you can come up with your own questions, ones that work for you and the way you write and whatever genre you work in. You are free to borrow my list too, or you can search for other ones from writer’s who know much better than I. Here are a few I’ve found:

“We believe the one who has power. He is the one who gets to write the story. So when you study history you must ask yourself, Whose story am I missing?, Whose voice was suppressed so that this voice could come forth? Once you have figured that out, you must find that story too. From there you get a clearer, yet still imperfect, picture.”

― Yaa Gyasi, Homegoing

and

A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus:

  1. What am I trying to say?
  2. What words will express it?
  3. What image or idiom will make it clearer?
  4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?

And he will probably ask himself two more:

  1. Could I put it more shortly?
  2. Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?

— George Orwell, Politics and the English Language

Some others I am considering:

  1. Why do I need to write this?
  2. Am I ready to share this?
  3. Can I get paid to write this?

Sometimes I have more fun answering these questions than I do in writing the actual piece. And sometimes I get too focused on them and have a hard time moving from a list of facts to writing something with color and emotion. It’s easy to figure out what you mean to say, the hard part is figuring out how you mean to say it. So, when I realize I am only spinning my wheels, doing something that feels like writing but isn’t, I keep in mind the second half of Orwell’s advice:

But you are not obliged to go to all this trouble. You can shirk it by simply throwing your mind open and letting the ready-made phrases come crowding in. They will construct your sentences for you — even think your thoughts for you, to a certain extent — and at need they will perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning even from yourself.

I don’t think he was actually endorsing this method, but I think there may be some value in employing it as needed. Whenever you become too strict, too wound up, when the boundaries of all these questions make your mind move in mechanical ways, and your writing loses its humanity it may be time to open your mind and let whatever words float by make their way on to the page, for a while.

You have to give yourself boundaries, but you also have to give yourself time to just write it all out of yourself, no matter how bad or ugly it might be at first. Then, when you have exhausted your ready-made sentences and your mimicry you can go back to your list of facts and find a middle ground.

It’s good to have more than one approach, one structured and one not to keep you from getting bored or lost. The brain needs both, creativity needs both. If you find yourself having trouble finishing your writing, or maybe you have trouble writing when inspiration and motivation are running low, try beginning with questions and go back to them whenever you need a little leading to the end.

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3389Stephen Edwin King was born the second son of Donald and Nellie Ruth Pillsbury King. After his father left them when Stephen was two, he and his older brother, David, were raised by his mother.

Stephen attended the grammar school in Durham and Lisbon Falls High School, graduating in 1966. From his sophomore year at the University of Maine at Orono, he wrote a weekly column for the school newspaper, THE MAINE CAMPUS.

In the fall of 1971, Stephen began teaching English at Hampden Academy, the public high school in Hampden, Maine. Writing in the evenings and on the weekends, he continued to produce short stories and to work on novels.

In 1973, King’s first novel Carrie was accepted by publishing house, Doubleday. King had thrown an early draft of the novel into the trash after becoming discouraged with his progress writing about a teenage girl with psychic powers. His wife retrieved the manuscript and encouraged him to finish it. His advance for Carrie was $2,500; King’s paperback rights later earned $400,000.

King and his family moved to southern Maine because of his mother’s failing health. At this time, he began Salem’s Lot. Soon after Carrie’s release in 1974, King’s mother died of uterine cancer. His Aunt Emrine had read the novel to her before she died.

After his mother’s death, King and his family moved to Boulder, Colorado, where King wrote The Shining. The family returned to western Maine in 1975, where King completed his fourth novel, The Stand.

In all King has published 54 novels, including seven under the pen name Richard Bachman, and six non-fiction books. He has written nearly 200 short stories, most of which have been collected in book collections. Many of his stories are set in his home state of Maine. His books have sold more than 350 million copies, many of which have been adapted into feature films, miniseries, television shows, and comic books.

Seriously, I cannot recommend his memoir On Writing enough.

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Thank you for reading! If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for inspiring reads + existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering. Or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee

Check out my previous quotes from Stephen King.

Featured image via Unsplash

If We Were Having Coffee // Winter is Here

Hello, dear readers and thank you for stopping by for a bit of caffeine and catching up. The weather is gorgeous today. Yesterday was all gloom and rain but the sun is back today, and I have all the blinds open to let it in. But I’m still feeling a bit tense and tired. I was up too late last night, and I have too much to do today, but I’m happy to stop for a moment and talk to you about how my week has gone and hear a bit about what you’ve been up to.

“Coffee is a language in itself.”

— Jackie Chan

If we were having coffee, I would wish you a very happy Game of Thrones day! Winter is finally here, and I am so ready! Me and most of my friends, the cool ones anyway, haven’t been able to talk about anything else. We have been counting down, talking up our favorite characters, and sharing rumors we’ve read online. Nothing else really matters today.

If you don’t watch you might feel like my excitement is a little over the top. To you, I say, why the hell aren’t you watching this show? I don’t watch a whole lot of TV, most of the day it’s just CBS News and most evenings its Vice News. I don’t say because I think TV is bad or because I think I’m better in some way for not watching it, it’s just not a lot of shows or movies are more exciting to me than writing. So if I like a show enough to stop writing, then it’s a damn good show, and if it’s a damn good show, it’s worth getting this excited over.

I treat these things like holidays or big sports events. I’ll be heading to the store soon for the drink, snack, and dinner ingredients we need for tonight. On the menu, tonight is a bacon wrapped figs stuffed with goat cheese appetizer, a shrimp and sausage boil/bake for dinner, and a blueberry-lavender chia pudding with a simple bourbon old fashioned for dessert.

If you want to join me in all the hype and excitement, I’ll be on twitter shouting and fangirling and following along with everyone else.

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If we were having coffee I would tell you that this week I started a Coursera course on Women’s Rights and Human Rights and even though I barely have the time for it, and I’m already falling behind and stressed about having to type up a few paragraphs on the final reading of the week BY TONIGHT, I am loving it!

I love learning and studying in a structured setting and from experts and professors but there aren’t many chances for it when you aren’t going to college. This has been my first experience with anything like being a student and having homework in many, many years but it has been so inspiring and surprisingly fun that I’m already looking forward to taking another course and maybe really going to school one day.

I think it helps too that the subject matter I chose is one I am already interested in. I call myself a feminist and I feel strongly about women’s rights but I am lacking a lot of knowledge and context for the state of women’s rights-or lack thereof-on a global and historical scale. I want to learn more about the reasons why women are treated the way they are and why it’s been so hard to make progress toward a more equal society, worldwide.

Check it out if you want to join, I think you can begin whenever you want but I’d like to have a buddy or two learning along with me right now too.

 

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If we were having coffee I would tell you that it wasn’t a good writing week, but it wasn’t a bad one either. Work was work and took up more of my time than I wanted it to but I did make progress toward less napping and more writing in my free time. I did manage one post here and I did get my “weekly” newsletter out for the first time in months, but I still didn’t do as well as I hoped.

I am happy to say that I sent my first pitch for an article this week, a piece for Wear Your Voice. I don’t think it was what they were looking for since I haven’t heard back yet but I’m proud of myself for having the courage to try. Now that I’ve sent one and presumably been rejected, I’m ready to jump in and send another.

Oh, by the way, I’m looking for a few guest posting opportunities too, I think. I want to try writing more than just personal essays. I want to get out of just talking about myself for a while. So, if you have a blog that posts a lot of feminist, civil rights, or pop culture type stuff and you are looking for contributors, please let me know in the comments and I’ll se if I can come up with something.

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If we were having coffee I would tell you that I didn’t get out a whole lot this week. My girlfriend has been working a lot and by the time that she gets home it’s either too late or she’s too mentally and physically exhausted to go. I’m not upset over it, only worried about her. She’s been so stressed and it’s hard not being able to help or take on some of the load myself. I’ve been keeping up with the house the best I can, and I want to start cooking more and finding ways to make our time at home special too.

Last night we did get out for some drinks and bowling for an old friends 30th birthday. It was nice to reconnect and find that none of us are sad about turning thirty. We all agree that everything feels better now. We’re a little less confused and unsure about the world and ourselves, and we are fucking up way less than we used to. It’s been liberating!

We want to try to see each other more. We’re hoping 30 has been good to some other friends we’ve grown away from and we can reach out and reconnect. We are hoping the anger has had time to cool and there is a chance to repair the damage that was done within our group now that we’re all a little more mature and secure in ourselves.

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that unfortunately, I have to go. The chia seed pudding needs time to chill before tonight, and there is still laundry that I have to do before leaving for errands and grocery shopping. I hope you all had a wonderful week and that your weekend was as relaxing as you needed it to be before the work week begins again. If you are watching Game of Thrones tonight like me, let me know in the comments and if you aren’t you better have a damn good reason why.

Until next time.

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If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for inspiring reads + existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering. Or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

Written for the weekly Weekend Coffee Share link up hosted, once again by Part-Time Monster

Featured image via Unsplash

Kahlil Gibran on Weariness and Writing

Writing, like any art or discipline, takes daily practice and dedication to learning about the craft from those who have come before you. In learning, I like to teach, so each week I will take a piece of advice from the greats, both living and dead, famous and not, and apply their lessons to my own work and share my thoughts and progress with you.

This week’s inspiration comes from the Lebanese-American artist, poet, and writer Kahlil Gibran.

“I want to write more but I cannot. I am a little weary and the silence in my soul is black. I wish I could rest my head on your shoulder.”

— Kahlil Gibran, Beloved Prophet: The Love Letters of Kahlil Gibran and Mary Haskell, and Her Private Journal

These past few weeks something strange happened to me. I have been touching on it and mentioned it in post after post because writing it out feels like the logical way to solve this problem. The problem? I stopped wanting to write.

Writer’s block isn’t something I believed in. I learned from Austin Kleon that a problem of output is almost always a problem of input. If I felt stuck I only needed to get out in the world, in real life and online equally, to search for ideas to steal, to pull apart, to transform into something all my own. For as long as I have been blogging I have never had a shortage of ideas.

No, this was something different. I stopped wanting to try to write.

Writing felt like work. It felt pointless. It felt pointless because there are so many who are better than me. It felt pointless because I don’t know how to be more writer and less blogger—not there is anything wrong with blogger. It felt pointless because I am worthless as a writer. I want to say things, but I have no idea how to say them. Too much is flying around inside my head. I flit from one thought to another, one message to another, one interest to another. It felt pointless because I am so turned around and confused and insecure and scared and lost, and I don’t know how to get out.

I do know. I’ve written about that too. I just have to do the work, but first I have to work out how that looks for me.

In the meantime, I’m acknowledging how hard this is and why. I’m spending a little time letting myself feel what it’s like to try to be a writer. I’m looking at what is working and what isn’t, what sets my soul on fire, what turns it black, and what makes it go silent and keeping track of what I do in response.

I’m marking what I do when I can’t write, and what it is that gets me writing again. So far I’ve only found that rest is important and a sense of safety and support is crucial. Part of the reason I chose this quote specifically is that a shoulder to lay on has been the best help I could find.

Every writer I have read seems to have trouble writing, a revelation that is both comforting and frightening. I feel on more even footing with the greats but even more fearful that this dread, this pain, this fear will never go away. Writing will never be something I can do easily and with pure joy. It will always be this hard. I imagine it will always feel something like drowning, or like pulling teeth, or like healing broken bones. The only difference between the greats and me is that their pain produces better results than mine, for now.

If writing is so taxing for the soul, then all writers must have a home to run to too when they become weary. If they don’t, I imagine they write about that too. Maybe they move from writing poems to expressing themselves in other ways. Home can be found within yourself as well, you know?

As for me,  I have someone who loves and supports me. I am one of the lucky ones. I have a shoulder to lay on, arms to hold me, and ears to hear me whine and rage about my future failures. I have someone who cheers me on when I make progress and who supports me when I fail.

It’s wonderful to have such a home inside of such a person, but all the love, support, and self-reflection will only get me so far. The rest of the way has to be made with hard work and words on paper. I just have to fucking write.

So, I will keep a notebook with me at all times and keep my pockets filled with pens. I’ll have a journal to fill page by page every day and a tiny notebook to take with me wherever I go to jot every passing thought in. I will write on scraps of paper and in the margins of books making conversation with every author I whose work I read.

I will write love letters and thank you notes. I will write to rant and to praise. I will write essays and poems and stories both true and false. I will write what hurts and what feels good. I will write the lie and the truth. I will write what has been forgotten and what has yet to be known. I will spill secrets and expose my darkness to the light. I will write what life is and what it isn’t, what it should be and how we make it there.

I will do what I always set out to do and what I had always done before it occurred to me that writing could be something I do for me, for others, for money, and for recognition. I’ll just write and forget all the rest.

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khalil-gibran-9Kahlil Gibran was born on January 6, 1883, in the town of Bsharri in modern-day Lebanon (then part of Ottoman Mount Lebanon) to Khalil Gibran and Kamila Gibran. As a result of his family’s poverty, Gibran received no formal schooling during his youth in Lebanon. However, priests visited him regularly and taught him about the Bible and the Arabic language.

As a young man, he emigrated with his family to the United States where he studied art and began his literary career, writing in both English and Arabic. In the Arab world, Gibran is regarded as a literary and political rebel. His romantic style was at the heart of a renaissance in modern Arabic literature, especially prose poetry, breaking away from the classical school. In Lebanon, he is still celebrated as a literary hero.

He is chiefly known in the English-speaking world for his 1923 book The Prophet. The book, composed of twenty-six poetic essays, is an early example of inspirational fiction including a series of philosophical essays written in English poetic prose. The book sold well despite a cool critical reception, gaining popularity in the 1930s and again especially in the 1960s counterculture.

Gibran was an accomplished artist, especially in drawing and watercolor, having attended the Académie Julian art school in Paris from 1908 to 1910, pursuing a symbolist and romantic style over the then up-and-coming realism. Gibran held his first art exhibition of his drawings in 1904 in Boston, at Day’s studio. During this exhibition, Gibran met Mary Elizabeth Haskell, a respected headmistress ten years his senior. The two formed an important friendship that lasted the rest of Gibran’s life.

Haskell spent large sums of money to support Gibran, extensively edited all his English writings. Sometimes Gibran dictated his ideas to Haskell while Haskell found the proper words. Haskell’ contribution to his writing, including The Prophet, was such that by today’s standard she would be acknowledged as co-author.

The nature of their romantic relationship remains obscure; while some biographers assert the two were lovers but never married because Haskell’s family objected, other evidence suggests that their relationship never was physically consummated. Gibran and Haskell were engaged briefly, but Gibran called it off. Gibran didn’t intend to marry her while had affairs with other women. Haskell later married another man, but then she continued to support Gibran financially and to use her influence to advance his career.

Gibran died in New York City on April 10, 1931, at the age of 48. The causes were cirrhosis of the liver and tuberculosis due to prolonged serious alcoholism.

He is the third best-selling poet of all time, behind Shakespeare and Lao-Tzu.

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If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for inspiring reads + existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering. Or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

Biographical information via Goodreads and Wikipedia

Featured image via Unsplash

Jorie Graham on Capturing the Past

Writing, like any art or discipline, takes daily practice and dedication to learning about the craft from those who have come before you. In learning, I like to teach, so each week I will take a piece of advice from the greats, both living and dead, famous and not, and apply their lessons to my own work and share my thoughts and progress with you.

This week I have chosen a quote from the poet Jorie Graham.

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Jorie Graham was born in New York City in 1950, the daughter of a journalist and a sculptor. She was raised in Rome, Italy and educated in French schools. She studied philosophy at the Sorbonne in Paris before attending New York University as an undergraduate, where she studied filmmaking. She received an MFA in poetry from the University of Iowa.

Graham is the author of numerous collections of poetry, most recently Sea Change (Ecco, 2008), Never (2002), Swarm (2000), and The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems 1974-1994, which won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

About her work, James Longenbach wrote in the New York Times: “For 30 years Jorie Graham has engaged the whole human contraption — intellectual, global, domestic, apocalyptic — rather than the narrow emotional slice of it most often reserved for poems. She thinks of the poet not as a recorder but as a constructor of experience. Like Rilke or Yeats, she imagines the hermetic poet as a public figure, someone who addresses the most urgent philosophical and political issues of the time simply by writing poems.”

Graham has also edited two anthologies, Earth Took of Earth: 100 Great Poems of the English Language (1996) and The Best American Poetry 1990.

Graham is known for her deep interest in history, language, and perception; the critic Calvin Bedient has noted that she is, “never less than in dialogue with everything. She is the world champion at shot-putting the great questions. It hardly matters what the title is: the subject itself is always ‘the outermost question being asked me by the World today.’ What counts is the hope in the questioning itself, not the answers.” Graham has received numerous honors and awards for her work, including the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship and the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.

She has taught at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and is currently the Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard University. She served as a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets from 1997 to 2003.

“There’s no way back believe me.
I’m writing you from there.”

— Jorie Graham, Overlord: Poems

It seems like a sign or an interesting coincidence that I should come across this quote from Graham so soon after finishing F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, which was concerned very much about returning to the past. When I saw I thought immediately of a scene near the middle of the book, when the narrator, Nick, is talking to Gatsby about his longing to get back Daisy Buchanan, a girl he had to let go some years before, and who he hope to get back.

Gatsby has been throwing one of his famous parties and invited Daisy to attend. She didn’t have a good time nor did she seem to like the company Gatsby is keeping. He’s a bit disappointed at not being able to please her and make her understand what he is trying to do. Nick listens and advises him not to be too hard on Daisy, after all, “you can’t repeat the past.” Gatsby replies:

“Can’t repeat the past? Why of course you can! I’m going to fix everything just the way it was before.”

Nick goes on to wonder about Gatsby:

“He talked a lot about the past, and I gathered that he wanted to recover something, some idea of himself perhaps, that had gone into loving Daisy. His life had been confused and disordered since then, but if he could once return to a certain starting place and go over it all slowly, he could find out what that thing was…”

Of course, Gatsby’s longing to return to the past, to go after Daisy and try to recapture what they had will be his downfall, that is how these kinds of stories go. If he had only moved on, and let her move on to, he might have made a good life for himself. Or if he had discovered writing and found a way back to the past that offered closure and cleansing

The laws of this universe are such that time moves one way and one way only. The past can’t be returned to, but we can express our frustration at being forced to live with no instructions or guarantees and no ability to go back and fix what we got wrong. We can express our heartbreak and our loss and our suffering/. We can even express our wishes and our dreams of what might have been had we turned left instead of right at the fork five years ago. We can’t relive the past but we can sure as shit rewrite it.

It’s strange to think too that everything you read is from the past and everything you write is to the future. I mean, I know that but to consider the past, and the future too, as a physical place that writing is either going to or coming from feels weird.

By the time you are reading this, I will have left my place behind this screen and gone on to finish my day. You may even be reading it days, weeks, maybe a year or two from now. I wonder where I am? I wonder what twists and turns my life has taken in that time. I wonder what wisdom I could send out to myself, or to you from here?

As for the past, I may not be able to speak to my old self, but I can comfort the part of me that is still hurting. I can talk with an old self who feels joy and hope. I can sit with myself as a child and capture a bit of her innocence again, in a way.

This is the loophole, a poor one, but it’s all we have for now. We’ve been gifted with an ability to vividly imagine new worlds, and we have cultivated out knack for language and learned to share those worlds with each other. We found a way to beat time, to loop back, to jump forward, to redo this life or make a new one entirely. We can live on this planet or another, light years from here. We can live in another time. We can travel to heaven or hell. We can see our lost loved ones again and tell them what we never could in life. We can fall in love, give birth, beat our enemies, become the leader, the savior, the hero, the genius, the one that everyone wants to have or wants to be.

We can be Gods.

But only in our heads, and only on paper, and that just has to be enough. Trying to go back never works. It can’t be done. Writing can help though. It can get you through your feelings. You can get them out, you can find closure, you can have what you want, in a way. Writing can be your therapy and your friend. It can help you discover the thing, that part of yourself, that you missed and reclaim it. It can keep you from getting stuck.

We’ve never been able to revisit the past, but somehow we have never gotten over the desire. We’ve never been able to let go of regret, but we found another way with writing. Take advantage of it because there is no other way back.

Trust me, we are all either writing from there, or writing about then, and we should know.

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If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for some existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering + some interesting reads from others. Or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

Biographical information via Joriegraham.com and The Poetry Foundation

Featured image via Unsplash