That’s No Way to Write At All

I am always weary of talking about the way I write. I am no expert and I am pretty sure I am doing every thing wrong. I’d hate to start any one down the wrong path or encourage bad habits. Then again, the way I do things works for me, most of the time, and maybe someone could benefit from hearing what I have to say on the craft. Probably not but I want to share anyway. So, here’s what I do, which is definitely no way to be a writer…

Every morning I wake up and panic about all the writing I wanted to do the day before and haven’t completed. I remember that I have a blogging event that must be posted today, or that is such-and-such holiday which I should comment on, or I decide that whatever I did write is actually crap and went in the wrong direction. It has to be rewritten right now.

I do keep an editorial calendar, which is nothing more than a Moleskine cahier with each page divided in half. Each half is a day where I list everything I need to do, including what to blog about, or what hashtags should be used. I also keep a small pocket notebook for writing down bits of ideas that don’t always have to do with actual posts. Like sidebar widgets I’d like to add or Instagram hashtags I should probably start using.

I’m horrible at sticking to this method and often forget to actually look in the notebooks but it is a hell of a lot better than when I tried to use my phone for notes.

I spend the mornings working my day job which means looking at my phone a lot when I’m not supposed to be. I check Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest for ideas and to stay in the loop about what the kids are doing these days. If I’m lucky there might be an interesting post or tweet that inspires me and I’ll save it and try to make a note in one of my neglected notebooks. I also try to post something to each of these networks myself so my small sampling of followers knows I am still alive.

Or, that is what I am supposed to be doing, more often than not I get sucked in to scrolling Facebook instead which rarely results in anything useful for my writing endeavors.

I am drawn to topics that are philosophical in nature. Anything on the subject of what humans do, why humans do it, and what humans ought to do always piques my interest. I like things that make you feel stuff and make your brain open up. I also like things that are incredibly ordinary or obvious but get over looked. I like quotes and sayings, I like clichés. I like hearing new perspectives, and I like a good rant.

I also like people making a fool of themselves and saying things that were better left unsaid. I like the insight into the hidden ways in which people can be complete jerks. It forces me to consider ethically ambiguous topics I wouldn’t otherwise.

I spend the hours in the middle of the day writing whatever I remembered to write about. I work a split shift so generally from 10 to Noon I am free as long as my boss doesn’t need me. I write at a work computer because it’s easier and maximizes my time. I don’t usually draft much but if I did I usually use WordPress’ draft feature or Evernote. A draft for me means a list of points to cover and links to whatever inspired me. I tend to deviate pretty quickly from what I originally wanted to say and often end up writing another draft or two which includes the new things I thought of.

It’s like fighting a hydra, two more drafts appear whenever I get rid of one. Every so often I get frustrated and scrap the whole thing because my brain won’t cooperate.

I don’t have the luxury of writing where it is quiet. I have people asking me questions, I’m up and down helping coworkers when they need it, I have friends who want to talk about their weekend, or want to share a funny video they saw. I had to learn to write in the chaos of an office environment and I have to write quickly. One thing that has helped is spending the time I can’t write mentally going over what I want to say. This way I can remember how I wanted to say it. Then when I write I can focus more on clarity and flow, and make sure to end my posts well.

I also make sure to spend more time than ever wanted to searching for the perfect photo to use with my post. Thank god for Unsplash and Death to the Stock Photo.

After that I work my afternoon shift where I continue stealing glances at my phone on a never ending search for more inspiration and knowledge. Lately, I have been too tired though and do nothing for my writing. I tell myself that I will work on it later at home and that it will be fine. In the back of my mind that panic is already building and the self-doubt sets in that I am actually a horrible writer and I will never be able to do anything with this.

At this point I usually check my blog stats and sigh in relief. They are always better than I think they will be even if they are still shit. On a really good day I get an encouraging comment or two letting me know people hear me and like what I have to say. I do my best to reply to them then.

When I get home I usually text my girlfriend my newest follower count. To which she replies with a ton of happy face emojis and tells me I am “blog famous”. It’s cute because she has no idea that my numbers are pathetic. She tells me she doesn’t care and that I have more followers than people who aren’t trying at all. I tell her she’s right and make another attempt to write something worth sharing. I also watch a lot of educational type YouTube videos while writing to keep myself inspired and thinking.

I also fix myself a drink and play games on my iPad because “I deserve time to relax too”.

Right before bed I check social media again and try to get more ideas. I update Tumblr about my day and I congratulate myself on at least trying. I tell myself that I am getting better and that I can do this. I tell myself that one day it won’t be so hard and I’ll get to spend my whole day writing. I also promise myself that tomorrow I’ll do better. I’ll write better and I’ll write more. I tell myself that I am doing good.

My writing ritual isn’t something I do during just one part of the day. For me writing takes up just about every moment I have to give it. From my first thought in the morning, the mental check list and the feeling of urgency, to the  most important part of my writing ritual, the nightly pep talk, the last dose of self encouragement, the act of ending on a high note.

I might not do it all right, or the way that most do, but I do what I can.

I do the best I can.

P.S. On the weekends writing time isn’t a guarantee. I get up early, by about 6 or 7, and write as much as I can throughout the day, which is never as much as I’d like.

Written in response to Daily Post’s Blogging U. course, Writing 101 assignment: The space to write. Part of the assignment is to ask our readers what kinds of posts they’d like to see. Please, please, please, if you have the time, let me know what kind of post you like to see here on Zen and Pi either by leaving a comment or using the contact form below. Thank you!

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The Season of the Hunter // A Haiku

 

Earth moves in orbit
Axis tilt brings seasons change
Orion approaches

 

 

In response to Daily Post’s Blogging U. course, Writing 101 assignment: A story in a single image

Original image via Unsplash

 

photo-1422640805998-18a4dd89bec2_orion

Do You Regret It?

For the cool boys in school who made fun of me for being poor. Who told me they thought I was pretty in private but treated me badly in front of others, do you regret it? Do you lay awake at night and wish you had shown that little quiet girl in school a little more compassion?

To all the teachers who labeled me a bad kid and kicked me out or shuffled me around, do you regret it? You never saw the potential in me and you never made an effort to help. You thought I was going no where and wanted to wash your hands of me. Do you see me in the faces of your other students now and give them a little more attention and patience so you don’t make the same mistake twice?

What about you, the first girl to break my heart? The girl who told me she wanted me but kissed other boys behind my back. The girl who had her friends tell me she didn’t want to speak to me anymore. Do you regret it? Does your shame in the way you acted keep you honest?

To the roommate who disappeared and left me hanging with all the bills. You don’t know this but I struggled for a year to get my finances right after you left. Do you regret it? Do you miss any of your stuff I threw out because you were too much of a coward to come get any of it? Or did you try and were surprised to find if changed the locks? I hope you are more responsible now.

To all the bosses I’ve had over the years, yes all of you, who never understand how hard life can be when you make close to nothing. Who aren’t understanding about transportation issues or the fact that even though you don’t offer me health insurance doesn’t mean I don’t get sick. Are you still so uncaring? Do you still see your employees as nothing more than bodies to work to exhaustion and replace when they can no longer keep up with your demands?

And finally to you, my reader, is there anyone that you might have treated badly in the past? Have you forgotten to see your fellow man as people who have the same emotions, dreams, and needs as you? Do you regret it? Do you wish you had acted differently? Has this regret changed you?

In response to Daily Post’s Blogging U. course, Writing 101 assignment: One-word inspiration and Blankpage

Featured image: Wife Beater Sober Regret

A Very Specific List of 13 Things I Like Very Much

Earlier today I wrote another list, a negative list, a list of things I do not like. I was having a bad day and needed to vent some annoyances but I feel much better now. I’m home and relaxing and I think I ought to end the day on a more positive note. So, I made another list. This time it’s some very specific thing that I like very much. Enjoy!

  1. Date nights with my girlfriend at The Alamo Drafthouse. They have these awesome packages that include the movie ticket, a meal, and drinks to go with the movie you are seeing. Plus they have a strict no talking policy!
  2. Drinking a cold beer while taking a hot shower after a long day at work. I don’t know what it is but a hot shower makes a cold beer (or hard cider) so much better. Try it!
  3. Eating a big bowl of vanilla ice cream. I hate all the fancy flavors, just give me plain old, tried and true, vanilla please.
  4. Words that describe very specific things, for example:

    Qualtagh (n.): The first person one encounters, either after leaving one’s home or (sometimes) outside one’s home, especially on New Year’s Day.

  5. When my girlfriend tells me stories from her childhood. It’s nice to get a glimpse of who she was before she every met me, especially if the story is particularly funny or embarrassing.
  6. The feeling I get when I am with my family. It’s a weird mix of anxious and nervous but also relaxed and joyful. I wonder if there is a specific word for that sort of feeling?
  7. Watering all the house plants early on Saturday mornings. I like to get up before my girlfriend and do a few things around the house and write. The start of this process is watering the plants, which sets the mood and gives my brain time to think and my tea time to steep.
  8. Trying to imagine a new color. I know it an impossible thing to do but the exercise is one of those things that unlocks your brain and makes you think differently. Like asking if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
  9. Taco Tuesdays at the Mexican restaurant around the corner. Unlimited tacos and 1/2 off maragritas, what more could I want?
  10. Eating just one almond joy a day. I have this weird thing where I like to ration my sweets. I think it makes me appreciate the treat better. I buy the king size, which has four almond joys in it, and I enjoy just one a day. Mmmmmm!
  11. Spelling difficult words right on the first try. Definitely, experience, conscious, and weird are some of the ones I struggle with the most but on occasion I get them right and I mentally pat myself on the back for being so awesome. I never spell guarantee right though.
  12. Having one to many Mimosas at brunch. About once I month I do brunch with my girlfriend and drink just slightly too much. Afterwards we have a blast shopping at a near-by outdoor mall :)
  13. Those times when the colors of the sunset are so strong everything around you gets tinted orange. Whenever this happens I feel like I am witnessing some rare and incredible phenomenon. In reality it happens pretty regularly but it’s still beautiful to me every time it happens.

What do you think? Are there things you agree with? Disagree with? Are there some awesome things that make you happy that you’d like to share? If so let me know in the comments :)

In response to Daily Post’s Blogging U. course, Writing 101 assignment: Write a list

Featured image: Sunset In Denver

A Very Specific List of 13 Things I Do Not Like

Normally I hate to post anything negative but today is just one of those days. I’m feeling pretty irritated with the universe and I need to release some of this annoyance. In order to do that I have decided to compile a short list things I just cannot stand! Enjoy.

  1. The sound of people biting their nails. I especially hate if they are acrylic nails, which seems like such a waste of money.
  2. Sharing a cup of milk, or yogurt, or ice cream….Sharing any dairy products is just gross to me.
  3. People helping me before I ask. I’m short, that doesn’t mean I need you to reach things or lift stuff for me.
  4. The way powdered dishwasher soap some times leaves a film on the glasses and makes them feel funny. *Shivers*
  5. When my boss wants to act like we are friends and tries to joke with me too much. I like clear boundaries.
  6. People asking me if I’m awake yet first thing in the morning. Oh, and people telling me to smile, for what??
  7. The fact that I get hiccups more than any other adult I know, and they hurt!
  8. Being involved in someone else’s lie. I am very bad at hiding my feelings and I cannot guarantee I can keep your story straight under pressure.
  9. Crocs. They look like they make people’s feet stink. Bleck!
  10. Close talkers and people who are too touchy-feely. I also don’t like how they take personal offense to me not wanting them to invade my space.
  11. Related: High fives. I find them incredibly stupid and awkward.
  12. People who think being unnecessarily harsh is okay because they are “just being honest”.
  13. People who don’t like me but won’t tell me why they don’t like me. What did I do wrong?? :(

Do you have things that just irk you to your very core? Are there certain sounds, smells, or pieces of clothing that piss you off? Let me know what you hate the most in the comments :)

In response to Daily Post’s Blogging U. course, Writing 101 assignment: Write a list

And So I Write

I write because ever since I can remember, I have cared just a little too much. I have been a little too vulnerable and I have been much too sensitive too. All my life people have told me to grow a thicker skin, to quit caring so damn much, and to learn to be a bitch but try as I might my heart hurts for the environment, my eyes tear up when I see the how war is affecting us all, and I get angry at all the lives wasted by poverty.

I am a bleeding heart and proud of it and I think the world needs more like me.

I write because something inside has to try to do something to make this world a tiny bit better. The way I see it, the only way to change the world is to change the minds of the masses. I don’t pretend that I could reach even a decent fraction of the world directly. I think all I can hope for is to reach a few people, who in turn might reach a few people too, and so on.

I want to change the future the way a rock can change the surface of a pond. I want my short life to leave a few small ripples in time.

I write because not everything is black and white and finding the right path for each individual and finding the right path for all of society are hard things to do. They require a lot of thought and a lot of talk about meaning, happiness, suffering, sadness, change, pain, education, history, numbers, the universe, and more. We have to talk about everything because the world has become an awful place and we can’t go on like this much longer

What better way to start a conversation about everything than to start a blog about everything too?

Everyday we can think about something else and maybe we can talk about it too, if you’d like. Maybe you can talk about it with someone else afterwards? Maybe they will talk about it too? Maybe we all can make a ripple?

Then little by little we can move the minds in the right direction, and little by little maybe the world won’t be such a hard place to live in. One day things might not be so unfair. One day people might not have to struggle so much. One day people might not suffer so damn much. Wouldn’t that be nice?

All it takes if for more people to think, and talk, and care, and maybe it could all start with a little blog like this one?

And so I write, because this world is an awful place for so many but we have the power to make it better and so we must.

“You write in order to change the world … if you alter, even by a millimeter, the way people look at reality, then you can change it.”

― James Baldwin

In response to Daily Post’s Blogging U. course, Writing 101 assignment: I write because . . .

A Letter to the Writer in Me

Dear me,

I know that writing has consumed your mind lately and you can think of nothing else, but please, remember to actually enjoy yourself. I worry you are beginning to take it too seriously. Writing is supposed to be fun and fulfilling, not tedious and frustrating. Remember to take your time and write for yourself first. I know that your readers are important to you but trust me, they would not want you to stress over writing either.

I know that you have been feeling like a fraud. I want you to know that you are in fact a writer. I that because you feel like you have no idea what you are doing, you feel like you have no right to call yourself a writer, but you do. As long as you are writing and putting yourself out there, you are a writer. As long as you are expressing yourself genuinely and authentically you are a writer. As long as you keep your passion and never forget the way writing makes feel, you are a writer.

I want you to know I am proud of you and you are doing a good job. I know right now it seems like everything you type is crap but it’s really not. You are new to this and it takes time to get better. Remember to strive for progress, not perfection. It will be a long time before you see perfection, and maybe it will never feel like perfection, but you will always feel progress. Just keep pushing forward.

Again, remember I am proud of you. It’s not easy to do what you are doing. Never let anyone take that away from you. Never listen to the people who make fun of you or put down your efforts. You are strong and brave, you are intelligent and creative, and you are kind and caring. If all of that doesn’t add up to make you a great writer than I don’t know what does.

Dear Me prompt via The Writer’s Hub, a community blog for the participants odd the September Writing 101 course.

My Worst Fears

Fear is a hard thing for me to write about. Not because of of a fear of talking about fear but because I have so many fears! I am secretly full of anxiety everyday but I try my best to mask it. Fake it til you make it right? My worst fears center around the meaning of my life and the impact of my death. Two sides of the same coin really. I have written about this before. I think about death a lot, just about everyday. I worry I will die soon and I worry my life means nothing.

I’m afraid that if I died my girlfriend would be left alone and depressed. I’m afraid she would never recover from the loss of me. She keeps to herself a lot and doesn’t reveal her feelings often. I’m afraid if she lost me she wouldn’t have anyone to talk to. I’m afraid for her emotionally on so many levels. She needs me just as much as I need her. We take care of each other and I have tasked myself with being the keeper of her secrets. I know her better than anyone and I fear that if I died I would be taking a part of her with me.

I’m afraid that if I died my family would fall apart too. I worry about all of them so much and I worry that if I wasn’t here there would be no one left to worry. I also do my best to help them out whenever I can. I’m there for them emotionally and financially, although they haven’t needed me as much recently. I’m still here though and I worry about what would happen to them if they needed me and I wasn’t here. I also try hard to be the peace keeper. In the past this has often backfired on me but in the end we almost always work it out. I try to act as a go between and talk to all parties involved and help them understand that we are family and we need each other.

I guess also afraid if I died I’d miss out on their lives. I’m also afraid to mourn anyone. I don’t want to miss out on my niece and nephew growing up. I don’t want to miss my little sisters wedding. I don’t even want to miss my parents funerals. I am afraid of them dying too but I want to be there for my siblings when it happens. I want to be there to see my soon-to-be wife grow old. I want to be there to experience all the joys of life in my old age.

I also fear of finding out there was no point in me being on this earth at all. I’m afraid the I am the epitome of insignificance. What if I do die and no one really cares? What if I die and it’s like I was never even here. I want to have some impact on the world. I want my family to remember me but I also hope that I have some affect of the world outside of my small circle of friends and family. Guess that is why I’m here and why one day I’d like to write a book. I want shout something to the world before I’m gone. My hope is someone will hear me, and maybe that person will even begin to think about the way they live and make a change. Maybe they will pass on my message and maybe a few people will change. That’s my hope, but my fear is I am talking to a void and my life will have meant nothing.

And finally, I am afraid that my life actually does mean something. This clearly contradicts my fear of being insignificant but we all know the human mind often makes no sense at all. The saying “be careful what you wish for” comes to mind a lot. What if what I think I want isn’t what I want at all? The drive to be something in this world is incredibly pressuring. If I mean something then I have to always be aware of what I say and do. My actions will live on after I am gone and I would hate to be remembered as anything less than good. If I mean something than I have to try hard everyday. If I mean something then I have to be something.

I deal with these fears everyday. I do my best to accept and overcome them. Worrying about things I cannot change doesn’t help me at all. I have to just do my best to be good and make the best of the time I have with my loved ones. I have to try to be true to myself and make an impact wherever and whenever I can. Maybe I will get to live the life I want. A life of happiness and meaning. Or maybe I won’t but I do think I have done enough good and seen enough joy that I could die happy.

Prompt via the Daily Post’s Writing 101 course. 

An Open Letter To My Older Cat Who Keeps Freaking Out Because I Brought Home Kittens

Dear Sophia,

I get it! You hate the cute kittens I brought home. They are in your space, playing with your toys, and trying to eat your food, and none of that is okay. I give them attention that I used to give you and that isn’t okay either. I understand how you’re feeling, really I do, but I need you to calm the fuck down, please?

I think you have forgotten what you were like when I first brought you home 10 years ago. You were just as annoying and frustrating but I was patient with you and now I love you very much. It could be them same with them if you would just make an effort. One day they will calm down and stop chewing things and running around, just like you did. Please try to understand, they are young and wild, but they are family too.

I also think that if you would just relax, they would leave you alone. I know they would. That only try to push your buttons because they know they can. It is a game to them and you are letting them win! Also if you would just relax I would stop having to spray all of you with the water bottle for getting all worked up and hissing and being complete assholes to each other.

Look, I love you and that is never going to change. I still want to make time for you everyday but you have to accept that the kittens are going to be here now too. I can pet you and them. I can sit with you and them. We can all cuddle in bed together too. All you have to do is fucking relax.

From your loving owner,
Lisa61d4096e8a3011e1a39b1231381b7ba1_7

How I Built a Writing Habit

I’ve wanted to start a blog for as long as I can remember having the internet. Over the years I started many but I had issues with people I knew reading about my innermost feelings and angst. Many of the blogs I started ended because someone I knew found out about my blog. The more recent ones failed because I knew what I wanted to say but not how to say it. I never thought I needed to know how to write, i thought I could just do it. Oh how wrong I was! I didn’t know the first thing about how to write anything!

Years ago I found a website called 750 Words that has helped me tremendously in building a better writing habit and learning how to write better. I read about how every writer should be writing three pages a day, which amounts to about 750 words. I have written about the site before and I highly recommend it to everyone who wants to practice writing. I am sad to say that it is no longer free though.

I’ve long been inspired by an idea I first learned about in The Artist’s Way called morning pages. Morning pages are three pages of writing done every day, typically encouraged to be in “long hand”, typically done in the morning, that can be about anything and everything that comes into your head. It’s about getting it all out of your head, and is not supposed to be edited or censored in any way. The idea is that if you can get in the habit of writing three pages a day, that it will help clear your mind and get the ideas flowing for the rest of the day. Unlike many of the other exercises in that book, I found that this one actually worked and was really really useful.

– Excerpt from 750 Words explaining what the website is about.

There are two things I like about the site. One is that it keeps track of how many days in a row you have been writing and tells you what your streak is. The longer your streak is the more you want to keep going. Losing a significant streak, let’s say 50 or 100 days, really makes you feel crappy. So writing becomes more and more of a priority and you work harder and harder to fit it in to your schedule and get it done.

The second is that it is completely private. You can practice everyday and never have to worry about someone reading it. I use this a lot to free write about a topic I’d like to blog about. I free write there where no one can read it and I say whatever I want. Then I will often copy and paste it into the WordPress editor and edit and add images. Bam! A new post. Easy peasy!

If you are unwilling to pay for access to 750 Words the same thing can be accomplished with any word processing program, Microsoft Word or even Google Docs, a calendar, and a red marker. This article on Lifehacker explains the idea but basically everyday that you just sit down and write. Everyday after you write, you put a read X over the date. After you have a few days you have built a chain. Don’t break the chain!

I do have to warn you though, if, or maybe I should say when, you do break the chain it is very hard to get started again. I was working on a 100 day streak and I messed up and forgot to write one day. I was 60 days in and I was devastated! Al that hard work I had done was lost! That’s how I felt at first. That’s how I felt for almost a month!

I finally decided to try again and I realized even though I had broken the chain I had learned something. My writing was better and it was getting easier. Now when I mess up and I break the chain I will start again right away! The point is to make writing something that comes easier and easier. The only way to do that is to practice. I still don’t consider even consider myself a writer, let alone a good writer, but I am getting better everyday. I just have to remember, don’t break the chain!

Image via @ Fran Efless

Prompt inspired by the twist in today’s assignment on WordPress’ Writing 101 course. The twist was to You’ll commit to a writing practice. The frequency and the amount of time you choose to spend today — and moving forward — are up to you, but we recommend a minimum of fifteen uninterrupted minutes per day. Because I already have a god writing habit I decided to write more about that instead and possibly help other new bloggers.