Tuesday, March 30, 2010

An Elusive Magic

Well, once again I’ve been caught short and, if I am honest, I have only myself to blame.

I could spin a tantalizing yarn about a weekend wasted on fruitless pursuits and a disappointing end to what could have been a great relationship. I could sit here and tell you that the well of my inspiration was emptied by the fear that comes with hearing a tornado siren for the first time. The lack of sleep brought on by the dread and worry of tornadoes in the night has stunted the refilling of that well and the nature of my employment has meant that the village of ideas in my mind is dying of thirst.

But, really, it's absolute bollocks. I’m just making excuses. And my excuse for tonight? Oh, yes, the release of Sherlock Holmes on DVD. For as long as I can remember, Holmes has been my favorite detective, with Poirot and Columbo tying for second. So, of course, I was thrilled when the most famous detective in the world got an update.

However, as this new Holmes kicks ass in the background, I started thinking. Here is a character that was created over one hundred years ago in an era of staunch Victorianism. He is so unlike anyone else in the world that it really seems strange that he has survived as a popular character for so long.

What is it about Holmes that makes us love him so? We shouldn’t, if you think about it. He is quite rude, kind of misogynistic, and has an ego that defies belief. Yet we adore him.

You see, this is a piece of magic that I have been striving to learn for a long time now; the magic of a well written character. I want to create characters that people feel very strongly about.

And so I have a question for you. What, in your mind, makes a good character? What qualities or faults do they possess?

I’ll set an example. Thomas Covenant, from Stephen Donaldson’s The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, is the best character I’ve ever read about. Truthfully, I hated this character from the very beginning; not because he was badly written, but because he, as a person, was just horrid. That made him believable and thus made the story more believable, even though it was a fantasy novel.

So, who’s you favorite character, flaws and all?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Impediments, Part V: Fear and Self-Doubt

I put off writing this post. Fear and self-doubt are at the heart of the funks, the distractions, the comparisons, and the deflated egos we talked about this month. I hoped to cure my rampant insecurity so I could share the process with you (not that you need it), and we’d never again have impediments to our magic. I’m nervous writing this paragraph, which I’m taking as a sign I’m not cured.

Fear and self-doubt keep me from socializing with people of creativity and accepting the help they provide. Fear and self-doubt gum up the writing. I stare at the page, delete the work, decide my creativity flatlined during second grade, and google the Hemlock Society.

There are times (read: every stinking day) when I think my pages of writing will be useful for nothing but wiping dog poop from my shoe treads. I’m so afraid of failure that I don’t want to start. Remember I told you the husband called me out on this self-sabotage?

There’s also fear of success. Fear of losing relationships because of all the time devoted to magic. Fear of “making it” by other people’s standards but not my own or at the expense of my standards. Fear of losing the passion. Fear of others’ judgments. Fear of achieving my dreams only to realize they aren’t what I imagined….

I could go on all day, which would be easier than writing the meat of the post since I have no advice I can verify from experience.

Except one thing. Everyone needs a support system. My husband invented something he calls Exorcising the Inner-Editor. He does a laying on of hands Baptist-style and pantomimes removing the editor, beating it, stomping it, and throwing it out. His antics break the morose shell and I move on. You might consider recruiting a few lovable lunatics to break the enticing spell of self pity.

Lucy loaned me a copy of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and I’m forever grateful. Anne’s humor, honesty, and suggestions saved the tattered shreds of my sanity on numerous occasions. She outlines how she overcomes the doubt that greets her at the computer every day:

  • Close your eyes.
  • Breathe.
  • Call a friend.
  • Use that fear, paranoia, and doubt in your creativity; express it.
  • Kill perfectionism. She writes, “I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”
  • Write a letter to yourself, a loved one, anyone at all.
  • Fill yourself back up with the memories, flavors, ideas, visions, and observations that give life its zest.
  • Find those filling things by asking what you’d do if you knew you’d die tomorrow.
  • Realize that all of life is recycling the ideas that came before, but you have your own sensibility, pathos, and meaning to add.
  • Make a present for someone else.

Elizabeth George exercises.

Madeleine L’Engle said we have to find satisfaction in who we are, the work we produce: “We are never satisfied with what we have done. We know that our best is never adequate. If I had to be satisfied with what I have written I’d still be on my first novel. But I wrote what was for me the best book I could write at that moment in time.”

Make magic the best you can. That is enough.

What do you do to overcome fear and self-doubt?

Weekend Magic

The title says it all.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wednesday Wonders

Oh, Wednesday. You have been my favorite day for years. Oh ye middle of days, everything falls downhill towards the weekend after you have your turn in the sun. Also known as "hump day," you sure have a way of breaking things down and saying, "Hang in there, it's almost Friday."

Here are a few Wednesday Wonders (videos, songs, web sites, whatevers) that have captured my attention this past week. Maybe it will lighten up your remaining weekdays as you fall toward the weekend.

Songs: "Shout", by Donora. Also check out the video to their song "I Think I like You," in which a girl is hula hooping and makes me smile. "Bright, Bright, Bright" by Dark, Dark, Dark. also, "The Con" by Tegan and Sara.

Web Sites: From the makers of NaNoWriMo comes: "Write a script in a month! EGADS! It's Script Frenzy!" The Selvedge Yard is lots of old photographs and misc. Taxidermy Ravishing Beasts... cause I like bizarre. Alice in Wonderland TEA CUPS AND DINNERWARE! Emerald Isle Surf Report sometimes makes me glad of where I live. I keep a journal and write in it almost every day and Old Fashioned Living (a web site I had to visit for a homework assignment) reiterates how good it is to keep a journal.

Books: Very much into Wicked by Gregory Maguire right now and going to see the Broadway play in May (insert geeking out noises here). I know I'm a little late on the reading of this book but better late than never. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Aroblewski is delicious. A collection of comic books called Flight. Flight 6 came out in 2009... ahh mazing.

Video: Go ahead. Scream or laugh out loud when you watch this one.

P.S. what things have made you wonder this week?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Time Has Come

At last! Winter has been dragged off stage by a comedy shepherd’s crook and Spring has lithely taken its place. Trees are blooming, birds are singing (loudly), and every yard is full of the happy yellow blooms of jonquils.

This year the advent of Spring has special significance, as it was also the day that the sun entered the sign of Aries, my sign. And presto, viola! I am in my element! The zodiac entering Aries is, to use a silly analogy, my yellow sun. It is my Power of Grayskull, my Moon Prism Power.

Now wait a minute. I know what you are thinking. “Does she really go in for all that astrology mumbo-jumbo?” The answer is yes, to some degree. I’ve seen way too many people, myself included, who exemplify their sign to not believe in it.

Don’t worry though; I’m far from pulling out a mystic amulet and shouting some inane catch phrase to turn into a ram-horned super hero. (Although, really, how cool would that be?!) No, I’m only saying that there is a special kind of magic in feeling that the Universe has afforded you the mystic power of the cosmos, even if it is only for a month.

For that span of time, I feel that I can do anything; I can become my alter ego and I can take on the entire world.

And now I am curious. How many of you embrace your inner zodiac warrior to fight the good fight against what holds your magic back? And does anyone else suddenly want to form a band of super heroes?

Aries Cosmos Power, baby.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Impediments, Part IV: Canoodle Your Ego

Who hasn’t been deflated by a harsh word or review? If you know someone who hasn’t, let me know, because I want to start taking classes from her. Everyone I know has, at some point, heard the pointed statement that eviscerates without breaking the skin. Then we pick up our stomachs, our hearts, our livers, and our gallbladders and limp away to catalog the injuries.

Instead of letting those statements dominate our self-perception and taint our magic, we need to canoodle our self-esteem. We need to take a break from the negativity marching band in our head and listen to the single woodwind of self confidence playing away behind the bleachers.

(Think I use enough metaphors today?)So how do I canoodle my self-esteem when I’m down?

  • I give myself permission to grieve.
  • I remind myself that while my emotions are valid, I still choose what I say and how I react outwardly.
  • I work on another project or trait. The hiatus gives me time to be more objective.
  • When something I feel is crucial to my identity is criticized, it is easy to believe I’m a rotten person all around. I tell myself that I’m more than one thing.
  • I remember the offending criticizer had something worthwhile to say, but his rhetoric hindered the reception. Miscommunications remind me that we all have our flaws. I try to forgive him for his.
  • Then I try to forgive myself. I try to forgive myself for the nasty things I mutter under my breath, the I’ll-show-yous, the two hours I spend curled up on the couch staring into space, the hiatus, and the way I weep to my husband.
  • I express gratitude to the people who are there for me, especially my husband.
  • I let people know the positive I see in them and their work.

Getting a critique can be a productive and empowering experience. Check out how Slushbusters build up contributors.

Remember, even the great magic-makers have bad days. Madeleine L’Engle even had rough times: “If you’re going to write and be published, you’ve got to expect to have a few arrows thrown at you. They’re going to hurt, and you’re going to bleed. You’re probably going to cry if you’re like me. But that’s just part of it and you have to learn.”

We learn who we are and how to canoodle our fragile egos.

Weekend Magic

Adam and I spent Saturday at the Virginia Festival of the Book. Every year hundreds of people meet because they love books. There are readers and authors and thousands of great titles. There are readings and panels and signings and book fairs and kids' parades. I geek out just thinking about it.

And there are great people. I reconnected with Sarah, Michelle, and Alison of Slushbusters, a Charlottesville critique group I met at the James River Writers conference. I follow their blog, but I haven't seen them since October. They are creative, funny people who are just as warm in person as they are on their blog, and I loved talking with them.

On Saturday I couldn't stop saying awesome, amazing, fantastic, exciting. The festival was that good.

How was your weekend?

Me, Sarah, and Michelle

Impediments post coming tonight....

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Message From Hank Squiggles

Hank Squiggles is one of my monster friends. His cohorts include Nie Hallow, a hollow laurel tree, and Id and Ego, two monsters that go together like.... id and ego.

Hank is just Hank. A squiggle monster with tentacles that tickle imaginations and get into everything.

I try to listen to his advice when he sits on my shoulder late at night whispering sweet everythings. So today I'll eat all my magics to grow up big and creative and delicious like my Hank Squiggles.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Collisions of Motorcycles & Gumption

I should probably let you all in on a little secret.

I can't ride a bike.

Well, I'm sure I could if I really wanted to. Seeing people riding bikes also looks like a heck of a good time. I even remember being able to ride a bike when I was younger and having no problem at all.

For whatever reason, I never kept up with bike riding. I'm guessing it's largely in part due to the fact that I have no balance. I walk a crooked line when I'm sober, I fall over a lot even when I'm standing still. Trying to perform the balance poses in yoga was something I'm sure is akin to water boarding. At least it was for me...

So yeah. I can't ride a bike. What the hell made me think I could ride a motorcycle?

Well, for one, what I lack in balance I make up for in gumption. For another, I became completely enthralled, (read: excitedly scared senseless), when I first got to ride on one nearly two years ago. The experience was what you could imagine it was: Scary, thrilling, freeing, beautiful, and oddly serene. So really the question wasn't 'why a motorcycle?'. The question instead was, "Well, why NOT?"

I enrolled in the beginner motorcycle safety course offered thru a local community college. I researched what helmet I should buy (lucky for me it came in sparkly red!), and got myself geared up mentally for the class. I knew that the possibility of me + motorcycle= fail was high, but I still had to give it a shot.

Sure enough, on the second day of the weekend long course I panicked to the point where I wouldn't even put my feet on the petals. I couldn't let go of the pavement beneath my feet. I used the tarmac as a security blanket. And you know what? I ended up falling on my butt not once, not twice,....but thrice. After trying to shake it off, trying not to cry, trying not to listen to the other girls mocking me in the ladies room...I left.

Yup. I decided that being black and blue from the knees down and having dropped several hundred pounds of motorcycle on my big toe was about all I could handle. So, I wussed out and came home.

Ohhh, and believe me...I cried. I felt like a flop. Complete failure. The Hero wasn't going to ride into the blazing sunset on her Harley-Davidson. I can't ride a bike (engine or no), so I obviously won't be able to cure cancer! And you know what? I don't need to.

We can't always make magic. Sometimes it's just not meant to happen. The reason isn't always revealed to us immediately. Sometimes the reason isn't revealed to us at all. Sometimes the only magic there is is in the trying. With every try we become less and less afraid. And eventually, we learn to take our feet off the ground so that we may learn to leap: regardless.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Cure for the Common Blah

Greetings, folks! Once again I feel I must offer my apologies. My work is kicking my ass something fierce and as a result I’ve nothing terribly witty or profound to offer (not that I do usually but…).

You see, stress has been running a bit high. A new and particularly sneaky malware hit my work computer and I’ve had to do my job in a rather piecemeal way.

Isn’t it funny how a malfunctioning computer can effectively stop your life in its tracks? You don’t realize how much you depend on it until it’s not there. So, to escape to stress and strain of the digital world I went to visit my parents this weekend. That, in and of itself, isn’t unusual as I visit them quite a lot. The great part about visiting this time was that we all decided to trek down to my parent’s pond despite the ground being of a consistency akin to oatmeal.

So there we were, muddy and slightly chilled, watching my father skim algae off the surface of the pond, hoping to catch a glimmer or glow of orange from the (probably dead) fish. I can’t quite remember what led up to it, but I ended up with a large stick in my hand and, absent mindedly, began hitting it against a nearby tree. That action set off a chain reaction.

I know that all of the people who drove by that afternoon must believe that we are a family of lunatics. All three of us were down in the woods, by a muddy pond, hitting trees with pieces of fallen wood and having a right jolly joke at the expense of Bigfoot researchers. And all of us were laughing like maniacs.

And you know what? I don’t care. I was having a ball down there with my parents. We laughed at just about everything that happened, from my comedic attempts to split a piece of wood to the cat stumbling ungracefully while walking on the beams of the gazebo.

So what if everyone thinks we’re a bunch of freaks. Laughter really is the best therapy. And the cheapest, as long you don’t mind suffering a loss of dignity.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Impediments, Part III: The Green-Eyed Monster and Other Subconscious Beasts

“O beware, my lord, of jealousy! It is the green-ey’d monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on.”

-Shakespeare, Othello, 3:3

You go to a conference or reunion, and in the midst of all the catching up and showing off, someone says her magic is going phenomenally well. You’re thrilled. Really you are. The thoughts of crying in the bathroom might be there, lurking in the background, ready to catch you the moment you start to think about all she’s accomplished—perhaps it’s even your dream, too—while you’re still trying.

Has that happened to you? Or is it just from my diary of a neurotic kid?

Creative magic is subjective and its process fluid, which makes it easy for me to go on the Crazy-Self Carousel of Comparison. When Crazy-Self takes over, I feel like a failure if I’m not doing as well as someone else was at the same age. It’s a sign from the universe that I suck. I’m so busy looking at those beside me that I cannot focus on the work in front of me, so I get off the Crazy-Self Carousel of Comparison a little sick and no farther than where I started.

I’m far from an expert on coping with comparison and jealousy (not from a lack of trying), but I try these tricks to beat the green-eyed monster into submission, and I’d like to share in case the beast sneaks up on you in a dark alley or cocktail party (not that it would).

  1. I read Anne Lamont’s Bird by Bird. She has a chapter about jealousy I swear she could have picked from my brain, except she offers great insight:

And I, who have been the Leona Helmsley of jealousy, have come to believe that the only things that help ease or transform it are (a) getting older, (b) talking about it until the fever breaks, and (c) using it as material. Also, someone somewhere along the line is going to be able to make you start laughing about it, and then you will be on your way home.

Anne mentions Clive James’s poem “The Book of My Enemy Has Been Remaindered” made her laugh. Anne Lamont makes me laugh, so do my friends and the husband.

  1. I remember why I’m doing this in the first place. It isn’t for accolades or a check mark on the tally card of life. The magic is an addiction for me, a high brought on by creation. And I love it when other people share their magic. It feels like someone gave me a birthday cake. Someday I’d like to pass that gift along, even if the icing is too stiff and the layers are wonky on my offering.

  1. I thank the heavens that magic is being made. If someone else makes magic, we’re not lessened by it. The world is enriched. Jean Rhys said, “Listen to me. All of writing is a huge lake. There are great rivers that feed the lake, like Tolstoy and Dostyevsky. And there are mere trickles, like Jean Rhys. All that matters is feeding the lake. I don’t matter. The lake matters. You must keep feeding the lake.” At the end of the day, it isn’t about me. It is about the art and those who receive it. I am a vehicle. I can serve faithfully and keep the channels open for the magic or I can jam them with contempt and jealousy.

How do you get off the Crazy-Self Carousel of Comparison? How do you deal with jealousy?

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Wonder of Alice

With the release of Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" last weekend magic has been in full force. As I sat in the theatre with Clara, each of us grinning like the Cheshire cats that we are, I couldn't help but remember a time when I myself felt like I was in wonderland.

In the fall of 2002, (My god, eight years ago?! I FEEL OLD! *ahem*), I was fresh meat up for fodder at Meredith College, an all woman's college in "Nawth" Carolina. It was wonderful, new, exciting and...odd. Amongst the pearls and pigtails, the popped collars and the Ugg boots, and the Southern Belles I proudly strutted my citrusy self and rocked my Decepticon t-shirt and faded jeans.

I spent that first year being entranced by all the possibilities that lay before me. However, as the year ran on and I entered into my second year, I couldn't help but feel like a fishwife among housewives. I didn't care how I dressed particularly. I was not into the party scene. I didn't have a car...Quite frankly I wondered more and more if this was how Alice felt in Wonderland. I was a very fitting definition of 'Curiouser & Curiouser'.

Thankfully, this was the year that I also learned of one of the many traditions of my college. Once every college generation, the faculty and staff would produce and perform their own rendition of Alice in Wonderland. The tradition started during the flu epidemic of 1924. Then, most of the faculty and staff lived on campus along with the students. That Christmas, the campus was shut down and quarantined. None of the students were allowed to go home for Christmas break. Seeing the sadness amongst the students, someone struck up an idea...They would put on a play! Something to cheer up the students and keep up moral and be fun for all involved...Thus, 'Meredith College Presents Alice in Wonderland' was born!

The entire production is kept secret as to who is cast to play which part. Dance routines are choreographed, and sketches are incorporated to reflect and make mockery of the current times. Janet Jackson's unfortunate *ahem* ""Wardrobe Malfunction"" for example, was incorporated into the Lobster Dance when the can-can line flashed their flesh colored cloth and red glitter covered ta-ta's at the audience.

The play always opens with one of the music professors banging boldly away on the pipe organ, (usually the favored 'Toccata en fugue'). While the intermission is comprised of the 'Cards' (staffers dressed to the hilt as playing cards), running up and down the aisles to pop music, throwing confetti, paper hearts, and playing cards all over the attendees. Truly a Mad Tea Party if ever there were...

Having a show of this madness and magnitude really made me feel more at ease. Seeing my favorite English professor recite The Walrus and the Carpenter, and another History professor portray a hippie flower were the highlights of my years at Meredith. I regained my Muchness, celebrated my Madness, and Made Magic... What more can a girl ask for? :)


My Dear Friends- How do you regain your Muchness and celebrate your own Madness?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Speeding on a Sunday Afternoon

I said I wasn’t going to do it, but I must. I’m indulging in my inner anorak and I’m bringing cars into the equation. But don’t worry, I’ll not bore you with brake horsepower figures or acceleration times; I’ll not even mention my undying love for AMG tuned SLKs or the fantastic Gallardo Balboni.

No, I’m going to talk about my 11 year old Jeep Cherokee. More specifically, I’m going to talk about the amazing afternoon I had in it.

You see, last week I wrote about that little bit of magic that likes to hide in common, everyday things. This week I found a spark of magic that I had forgotten about over the winter. It was phenomenally nice outside on Sunday, my ideal weather. I had gone shopping in the next town over and decided that on the way back I should take the back road.

It is called River Road and there’s a stretch between that town and mine that is perfection. I don’t know when it was originally paved, but I don’t think it’s been touched since then. It is a winding, twisting ribbon of driving fun.

Fate had to have been on my side that afternoon. The windows were down, there was no traffic and, as the white lines of city maintenance disappeared, T. Rex came on my player. I floored it.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am here to tell you that there is nothing quite like driving very quickly on a road you know very well. And there you have it. In that 20 some mile stretch of road, I had found some magic. In those few minutes of driving, I didn’t care that I had work the next day or that I had bills to pay. I had no cares in the world; there was only me, my Jeep, an empty road, and T. Rex.

I will probably never get to drive an F430 down the Stelvio Pass, but for an afternoon, I came pretty close. That, in my book, is magical.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Clutter Buster

S. O. S. – I was drowning in clutter: life obligations, distractions, and tangible stuff that wasn’t improving my life or anyone else’s.

My home was relatively tidy, but over the years the corners and top shelves and isolated drawers filled with forgotten things. Newspapers. Knick knacks. Expired coupons. Too tight jeans. The warped dish-rack drain pan that I told myself I could salvage and use one day.

I tried to resist the urge to buy these things, but I went on vacation and saw the perfect souvenir; I caved at a school fundraiser; there was a sale. Two weeks later I often could not remember why I thought my memento was anything but a glittery ball of fired crap.

The intangible clutter was worse. It was all the should-do and wanna-do tasks and events that filled every moment of my day. At least once a month I came close to a screaming fit over the mountain of things on my to-do list. All that stuff sapped my time for the magical pursuits that bring me joy. It was time to purge.

I outlined these steps to rid my life of clutter and make more magic. I’ve been at them for a couple weeks now and they’ve worked.

  1. Stop saying “one day.” If I cannot think of a use for it today, it is better with someone else or in recycling.
  2. If I’ve forgotten I have it, chances are my life will not be worse off without it. A little research showed I’m not the only one who uses this mantra. I almost danced a jig when I read Eleven Myths of De-Cluttering and A Secret to Happiness: Don’t Get Organized. I like 27 Tips for Keeping Your House in Order.
  3. Listen to the husband when he says that I cannot do all things at this moment. Focus on one or two big goals. Accomplish them and move on. Sacrifice some of the other good intentions. It’s difficult, but it isn’t forever. Don’t feel guilty about it. I don’t have to do it all; even Superwoman leaves rescuing kittens to someone else.
  4. Develop a plan. (I use Google calendars, accessed through my gmail account, because I can color code each type of calendar entry, choose which to display, share it with the husband, and set repeating appointments.)
    1. The husband and I plan menus for a week or more at a time. Knowing what we’re having for dinner and how long it takes to prepare makes me more likely to cook. I also look forward to the nights we plan to eat out.
    2. We plan out chores. We break down house tasks into small chunks, like vacuuming or changing the sheets, and set them as repeating appointments. When I finish my chore for the day I can relax because I know everything else will be taken care of eventually. I don’t waste time stressing over it.
    3. I write down my work wardrobe for the week. On the weekend I wash what is necessary for that week and try to iron it. In the morning I don’t stress about what to wear, and I can writer earlier.
    4. Scheduling makes me see where my expectations are unrealistic. I cannot write, clean the kitchen, read, do laundry, call the family, email friends, and talk with the husband all from eight until nine. That is when I refer to #3 and start pruning my list.
  5. Realize clutter is no excuse to ignore magic, particularly writing. Do not wait for inspiration to strike. I find my best writing occurs when I’m in front of the page toiling through a scene. Wordsmith-Extraordinaire and My-Inspiration-Par-Excellence Madeleine L’Engle summed it up beautifully:

“Ultimately, you have to sit down and start to write. And even if all you do is type out ‘I can’t write this morning; I can’t write this morning; oh bother, I can’t write this morning,’ that will sometimes prime the pump and get it started. It is a matter of discipline. It is particularly a matter of discipline for a woman who has children or who has another job.”

That is my list. I hope you can find at least a tiny takeaway that will help you as it’s helped me.

What is your biggest area of tangible or intangible clutter? Any ideas how to fix it?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Magically Scrumpti-licious

Personally: I've not been posting because of the many things that got in the way of being creative. Thanks to the lovely inspiring posts from my fellow spatulans I've been butt-kicked into posting on time this time.

Spatulan: I'm going to try a short
series of "happy inducing" posts. I'm going to share a song/video/photo/quote/story (if i have one) that made me extremely happy and hope you get some joy out of my random google/yahoo searches.

The song that made me happy today was "Handbags and the Gladrags" by Rod Stewart.

This video has made me happy today:

The photos that made me happy today were some really neat Alice in Wonderland cupcakes made by Natalie Bode aka obliviousfire on flicker.

And the quote is more Alice in Wonderland from the new 2010 release:

Alice: "Have I gone mad?"
Dad: "I'm afraid so. You're entirely bonkers. But I'll tell you a secret.
All the best people are."

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Permission to Boogie.

My Dear Friends-

Today I give you permission.
Permission to mess up,
to let loose, to let go,
& just let it be.

You have permission,
to be old when you are young.
And young when you are old.

You have permission,
to do whatever makes you happy.
As long as it does not impede
someone elses happiness.

You have permission,
to be happy- to be free
to make magic - and make change
to be still,
...or to boogie. 


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tempus Fugit?

It's a little bit scary, isn't it? March is here. Where has all the time gone? Summer will be here before you know it. Blink, and there's autumn.

Indeed, time has passed so quickly that I've been caught off guard. I usually try to write my posts on Sunday so that I won't have to hurry to write something during the week when, as Kristi so astutely pointed out, the evening funk sets in after a tiring day at work.

Alas! Time conspired against me this weekend. A series of intertwining events have left me bereft of wit and something good to post. (In my defense, I was ill all weekend and my cat tried to kill me.)

So with my most sincere apologies, I will pose a query and let that serve as my post. I have said before that little everyday acts can be magical. Hearing a piece of music that touches your soul, reconnecting with childhood memories, the smile of a dishy man (well, for me anyway!); all of these stir emotions in us and impact our loves in small and completely powerful ways.

I've found another little bit of everyday magic. It may not be quite as profound as music or memories, but while I was feeling so very ill this weekend this little bit of magic helped me relax and recuperate. And that, ladies and gents, is the magic of a warm blanket straight from the dryer. There's nothing better.

Or is there? What little bit of everyday magic do you perform when you need a bit of happiness?

Monday, March 1, 2010

March Madness & Spring Cleaning

Ah, March! At last we’re approaching spring and the promise of flowers and no more snow. A lot is going on this month, including Virginia Festival of the Book. The busyness and the spring cleaning made me think about ways to get my life in order.

During March I want to have a dialogue about what impedes us from making magic. I’m going to open a discussion on things that keep me and my friends from making magic and give a few thoughts on how I deal with them. I hope you’ll contribute how you overcome your obstacles.

The Evening Funk

How many of us stumble home after work and head directly for the couch? Some days all I want is my couch and a pair of fuzzy socks. I call this phenomenon the evening funk. The evening funk might occur because work was too demanding or not challenging enough. Some days the public or coworkers drain all energy, leaving none for being civil or putting sentences together. It’s difficult to take care of the necessities: cooking, cleaning, bathing, making magic.

It is even worse when the funk turns from an occasional day into a trend. For a few weeks back in January, I had a lingering case of the evening funk. I settled on the couch and popped in an episode—or four—of Bones. The husband and I had four seasons on DVD to go through; we watched them all that month. We don’t usually watch television, so this type of potato fest screamed something was wrong.

My desire to shut out the world caused laundry to pile up until Pisa called to say they wanted the monopoly on leaning towers. In January, I wrote about 20,000 words on my rough draft, compared to 62,000 I wrote in November. I had to make a change.

But how?

I fell back on what brings me joy and what makes me, me. That statement sounds obtuse, but it can be practical. The husband reminded me I function well in the morning, especially when I write. Writing after 9pm is a sure bet that I’ll be cranky and self deprecating. I go to bed earlier, which is really what I wanted to do all along, and get up early to make some magic when I’m at my best. My motivation isn’t dependent on how the work day goes because it hasn’t happened. The new schedule lets me start my day on my terms. I get to make sure every day starts out as a good day.

The husband and I also plan rewards to look forward to after we’ve slogged through the week.

I now do little things to make me smile throughout the day. I bring fuzzy socks in my purse and slip them on while I sit at my desk. I listen to podcasts while I work, which gives me ideas for my magic. I made a mascot, Frazzled Fred, who sits on my desk, reminding me to lighten up. A coworker personalizes her space by putting cute photographs on the walls with googly eyes affixed to them.

Make magic just for yourself. I write short stories and journal entries that are ways to work through my thoughts or exorcise my frustrations. Clara said she writes stuff no one else will see as “Draino for the creative pipes.”

I also take advice from people who know a thing or ten million about balancing life and magic. Author, blogger, wife, mom, artist, and musician Maggie Stiefvater swears by egg timers. Yes, you read that right: egg timers. I read the egg timer proselytizing on her blog a couple times and heard her say it in person before I was ready to give it a shot.

Maggie knows what she’s talking about. The incessant tick isn’t distracting or annoying. It marks the time as sacred. I don’t worry about intra-office relations or what to do for my mother-in-law’s birthday until the buzzer sounds. Once I got the egg timer, my focus increased, my energy level sky rocketed, and I finished the rough draft. All that for $3. Can’t beat it.

I heard New York Times bestselling author David L. Robbins talk about the voices in his head. Okay, so I’m paraphrasing, but he basically said he can’t waste time when his characters are in his head reminding him they have guns pointed at theirs. He takes care of creativity first; then, he goes on to do leisure and other work. Family and friends will still be there after the scene is written. I take this advice as a blessing to respect my characters and make time for them, too.

Of course, there can be lots of subtle reasons for the evening funk, which I plan to discuss later in the month. Stay tuned.

For now, do you ever have the evening funk? If so, how do you combat it?