Divide and Conquer

img_0337 I have come to understand how it is that editing a book takes longer than writing the actual book and I think the reason is this:  To edit a book is to rewrite it. It is writing the book all over again, only much more carefully this time around.

If getting the first draft down is creating the foundation, editing it is inspecting the foundation, and giving it walls, a roof, and doors to be unlocked by the reader; it is making sure there is something valuable to enter, a place to settle in to and not just a pile of material, no matter how gleaming the pile may be.

It’s got to work. The reader has to want to enter, and then to stay, to dwell in the place that is the story, with all its startling turns, secret crannies and brilliant color.  That is no small task for the writer, at least not for this writer. 

It is a sweet, scary feeling to be nearing the end of a project that feels like a lifetime of words, laid bare. But when the end is near and it is time to lay the carpet? Well, there’s no place like home.

Today I am reflecting on all of the tricks and plans and resources and time that I used to get myself to get it all down, to do the work, have the courage, to dig deep, and to build build build. Dig, build. Dig, build. Add. Subtract. Move. Change. Fix.

It has taken me far longer than I think it should have taken me.  No doubt that I could have worked faster, smarter, harder. I could have started the book so much sooner and wrapped it up more quickly. I could have spent more time on it, copious amounts of time these past few years, and gotten it done already.  

But here I am, with the end in sight anyhow, so close in view now that it feels right to change my strategy for wrapping things up. Up until now, I have thought in terms of time: spend time on it today, spend this minimal amount of time on it tomorrow. this week, this month. Move the book for forward by putting in the time.  Now I am thinking in terms of simple math and math has never felt so fun, so exhilarating. Never have I loved organizing and exacting and dividing so much as I do now.

It’s quite simple. To be finished editing by the end of this year, finally, I divided the number of days available to me by the number of pages that need editing. 

I am well aware at this point in the editing process, that a single page may be turned into two or three or five pages while editing. Or it can be deleted altogether. During the editing process, paragraphs are added; sometimes full scenes are too. Words eliminated, changed around, discarded. But my simple math says this:  If I edit five more pages per day, every  day (with a few exceptions for holidays) from now until December 31st, I will be done.

Here is my take on it:  When you see the light at the end of the tunnel, it is  time to do the math. Heck. maybe it is time to do this before you see the end in sight. Maybe some people work this way from the beginning, mapping  out a big project in order to calculate the precise steps, the daily requirement needed. to hold themselves to each day. But for me, it was starts and stops, ebbs and flows, feasts and famines for so much of this project.

But now that I am nearing the end, it is Divide and Conquer.

Sweet, sweet division without a remainder, lead me home. 

Finding the fun in healthy

It seems to me that aligning body, mind and soul is the ultimate goal of everyone, consciously or not. When out of alignment, our bodies tell us so. We feel lethargic, over-stressed or uninspired.

When in alignment, we feel vibrancy, energy, peace and creativity.

How do we align?

Perhaps we each have our own way. There are so many ways. We can start with our thoughts, or our environment.

Or we can start with the body.

Moving the body.

Feeding the body well.

20160826_175534 (1)

Tangy Lentil Salad

 

I promised myself that turning fifty would be the catalyst for becoming the healthiest I’ve ever been.  And I’ve got to say, the journey is a blast. I’m seriously having the most fun on the path to good health than I’ve ever had.

Fun is the answer!

facebook_1472724379117For me, that means trying new and healthy recipes, sometimes mimicking those I’ve enjoyed in restaurants. Fun is visiting a new juice bar with my daughters, researching the best blender to purchase, reading some of Jason Vale’s books just for fun and then getting inspired by his near perfect health. https://www.amazon.com/Jason-Vale/e/B0034IZDB6/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1472730018&sr=8-2-ent

Fun is a long walk with my husband or a new playlist for my solo jog.

It’s my favorite yoga class or paddling a kayak under a beautiful blue sky.

It’s a pile of books to read that feeds my mind and distracts me from the sugar I am not ingesting.

It’s having all the energy I need to be as productive as I want to be. I love love love this.

Being productive feels fun. 

Fun is writing  when the words  are  flowing, finally, after a bout of writer’s block. What is writer’s block anyhow? I think it’s just like any other energy block; remove the sludge in all its forms and open the channels.

Flow.

Momentum.

Health.

Inspiration. 

It’s basically free and fun and feels fantastic. 

 

Opening the creative conduit, aligning with the purest energy that is ours for the taking, is a far better buzz than I will ever get from the best margarita ever made. And I do like margaritas.

It’s lighter than stuff.

Sweeter than chocolate.

Good for the body= clarity for the mind=joy for the soul.

Oh joy!

 

 

50 days ’til 50

In fifty days, I will turn fifty.

Let me just say that I loved my forties. I still feel like I belong in my forties.  Warm and comfortable, cloaked around me, forty-nine is a good fit.  I’m not ready to shed it, to stand shivering at the threshold of a new decade.

Fifty does not sound natural to me, not at all. It sounds like an age someone else turns. I’d rather not claim that birthday, thank you anyway.

But of course there’s no choice. So rather than arriving at my fiftieth year with my heels dug in tight, I’ve got to prove to myself it doesn’t have to suck, not even a little.

It can be graceful and powerful.

It can in fact, be even better than forty-nine.

I know it’s up to me to make that so.

I know the best antidote to aging is just to keep getting better. Live better, eat better, do better, and feel better.

Be brave.

Do our best.

Shed the layers.

Another birthday reminds me that there is no more time to waste.

I will not watch the video of Horambe the gorilla again, in horror.

Nor will I watch another interview of Trump, with equal horror.

Or spend energy loathing anything that I cannot control.

Or generally waste copious amounts of time.

I will not accumulate unnecessary stuff.

I don’t have room for any of that, in my mental or physical space.

I’ve got stuff to do.

Words to write.  Things to say. People to love.

 

20160608_134237.jpgYesterday I went through our book shelves and finally parted with all of the books from my children’s adolescence.

Then I organized my writing books and afterwards claimed a spare room, tucked away in our basement.

I wasn’t sure how this new space would feel, because I‘ve gotten used to writing in our dining room. I can see out the window there; an animal, a neighbor, the school bus stopping across the street. I see when the mail arrives and when someone is coming to the door. If someone else is home, I see them, hear them, and engage in conversation.  My dog meanders over to his food, my husband makes his lunch.

It feels different in this new room, something like meditation, when I settle in. I don’t hear any sounds other than the humming of a dehumidifier. I see nothing in front of me but my words.

Seclusion is like a carpet laid out for my thoughts, an easy place to fall.

It is uncensored by the density of movement or noise.

Inviting to the soul.

It feels right.

And maybe that’s what will happen with turning fifty.

Maybe it will just feel right.

 

 

Yesterday’s post: https://musingsimplicity.wordpress.com/2016/06/07/love-and-choices/

 

 

 

 

 

The Mystery of Ideas

images treeI cannot think of any better time of year to contemplate the mystery of ideas.  For at least a moment, but preferably for a lifetime, I am asking you to consider the possibility that ideas and inspiration may come from an inexplicable source, from something divine and alive, perhaps from your own soul or as some may say, even from God Herself.  An idea can come out of a desperate plea or, more often,  from a simple opening  created in stillness.

However you choose to think about the concept of ideas that come to us, or through us, there is this universal truth: we all get them. 

But we most definitely do not always notice them, or invite them, or act on them. I think that much of the time we swat them away like flies. Why? I guess we are often too busy, too comfortable, too skeptical, too insecure, or just too darn attached to inertia. It’s just easier to ignore an idea than to engage in it.

In her newest book, Big Magic : Creative Living Beyond Fear, Elizabeth Gilbert has this to say about ideas:

Ideas are driven by a single impulse: to be made manifest. And the only way…is through collaboration with a human partner.

Ideas can be as varied as the people who host them, but I am talking about the creative ideas that spur us to make something new, or change something old. An idea may come as a whisper or it may include a bodily sensation such as excitement mixed with nervousness. And when you’re truly lucky, the idea may grip you with such force that there is only one way to go with it: forward.

 We are all creative beings after all, and I think we are just happier when we are creating something, even if it just a clever and satisfying tweak to our environment or routine, but especially when it is something even bigger.

So how can we invite ideas, the kind of another realm, the ones that bring joy and change and creations of all kinds?

Well since you asked, here’s my answer based on my own experiences as well as a boatload of reading on the topic (because it intrigues me to no end).

Eliminate Chaos.  Eliminate all of it, or as much as you can. Clear the decks, because ideas prefer a clear path. They cannot reach you if they are tripping over the clutter in and around you. Clean up the mess, literally and figuratively, and ideas will stand a chance of getting your attention.

For the love of ideas, Take Care of Yourself. You know what to do. Eat well, sleep well, get exercise, keep a reasonable schedule.

Pay Attention. When you receive that idea, don’t swat it away. It may hang around for a while, and you may get another chance at it, but eventually it will give up on you and move on. We’re all going to miss out on some ideas, but don’t let them all get away; especially not the big, scary ones, because those are rare and amazing. The bigger the commitment, the bigger the payoff.

 Follow Your Curiosities. Every new invention, creation, positive change or idea started with a question. What about this? What if..? What really happened?  What if I tried that? I wonder who, what , where…? Consider that your curiosities are gifts, leading you somewhere new. I don’t care if you are ninety years old, we all have curiosities. Have the conversation, take the new road, ask the darn questions. Even when it is inconvenient or unsettling or out of your comfort zone, don’t accept what you know as all you want to know. Allow curiosity. Follow it. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it brought the human to life.

 Take Your Ideas Seriously. Please.  I don’t mean in a rigid, stoic sort of way. I mean consider them. Play with them. Don’t be quick to dismiss them. Ideas come to us for a reason. Focus on it. Obsess over it if you have that luxury, but at least commune with an idea in a consistent manner, as soon as you can. Devote yourself to an idea and watch it grow. Be afraid if you must, but do it anyway. Make mistakes, ask for help, feel silly trying, inconvenience someone, but follow that damn idea. It’s yours.

That’s the best I’ve got.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and most of all, I hope you enjoy the mystery. Love the mystery. Leave some room for a new idea, and pull it close. It chose you.

Simplifying = getting sh*t done

20151130_124530Simplifying is not for nothing, folks.

Simplifying means getting sh*t done.

It means you have more time and space and freedom to spend on what is important to you.

Whether you simplify your diet, your routine, your home or your schedule, you will reap the rewards.

And here is my favorite reward:

Creative projects coming to fruition! 

I am in the process of editing my book. I love this part. It is a lot of work, but I get to apply my love for organizing to the whole process.  I printed out a hard copy because I find it easier to edit this way. I can spread chapters out across my table, move things around, write notes in red ink and feel the weight of my project, literally. All the pages I see represent not only what I’ve gotten done, but all the things I chose to let go of in order to focus on this.

I’ve made the decision that I will get this book ready for publication, no matter what it takes. That is a good feeling. Not having it out in the world is simply not an option for me. I will spend any amount of time and effort that is required. End of story.

 

Creative Nesting

I wonder if other writers experience this nesting phenomenon, much like before a baby is born, but instead it occurs at the brink of binge writing, or giving birth to a creative project.

I spent a good four hours nesting recently. I had this desire to know what I have, to love it or leave it, and to move things around or put them away.

There’s a kind of ‘shopping at home’ where you simply move things around until you find something that you just don’t like no matter where you put it.  I like to do this before replacing something or buying something new. A wall hanging that is unappealing in one area of the house might be perfect in another spot. I switched a couple large plants around too,  and thought them perfect again.

I went through my jewelry and my linens. I swapped out our gold chandelier that I never liked for a matte nickel one that is so much more aesthetically pleasing to me. I  have this feeling of fullness, of having everything I need, not feeling especially attached to any of it, but loving all of it. That’s the sweet spot with material things, I think- to love everything you have without being too attached to any of it.

20150828_215042At the end of my nesting, I ordered one large canvas art print and gave one old framed picture away. The look of the old one was cluttered and too country for my current taste. The new painting arrived, a splash of vibrant color across a lone branch. It looks both natural and modern to me, and I love it.

A chapter out of place, or no longer relevant, I move it or let it go. I feel the labor pains of writing: the blocks and the struggle, the fear and the pushing.

The bliss!

The fullness of it, when the words match my memory. The sentences, like thoughts on canvas, now visible. Fresh words, new perspective.

A labor of love, bursting forth to completion.

Create it, love it, let it go.

I have everything I need.

The NFL never promised us a rose garden

Don’t hate me because I hate football. I never gave it a chance, really. In junior high, I sold hotdogs and soda in the concession stand while my father coached his football team. I never once felt compelled to watch the game. At home, I strolled past the droning of the Sunday game on television that my parents watched faithfully, sprawled out in the living room. I could only escape the sound if I went to my room where I preferred to write poetry and daydream. And when I dated a football player, I never once thought to ask ‘how was your game?’

No one really attempted to engage my interest and who knows if it would have made a difference.  My indifference was solid, and drawing me in probably would’ve have required a personality change or some other unlikely feat.

I played field hockey because my parents told me to and I was a decent player, kind of fast, and I liked to win as much as the next girl. The enjoyment of competition and sports is not lost to me and so I gave my daughters a fair shake at all sports available to them.

Collectively, they tried basketball, soccer and softball. Individually, they happily left all those sports behind well before they even reached puberty. My middle daughter set the record for shortest time spent in a sport. During her first soccer game in kindergarten, she was taken aback by the excitability of the players and coaches over the ball. It made her feel anxious and annoyed. She was just six years old. Maybe I introduced her to the sport too soon, but the order of the day was the earlier they start the better.  Who knows?

My youngest daughter got a stomach ache every Saturday before basketball practice. Finally, I called her coach and said she was quitting. She was elated, relieved. I had tried encouraging and cajoling each of them to stay with the sport long enough to give it a fair try. But when they were done, they were done. I think sticking things out that make you utterly miserable is pointless. If being a quitter means orchestrating a life you want to participate in, and leaving something behind that is not suited to you, then by all means, be a quitter.

The arts were something my kids all enjoyed. Literature, music and dance. Painting and crafts. The arts can help us turn down the volume of an over wired, fast paced life. They help us remember how to pay attention for more than a few seconds, to wonder and to  just be. They remind us of the interconnection of things, of each other. They touch our spirits. In an environment of scarcity, the arts can make us rich with shared humanity.

Often for too-little pay, an artist manages to intuitively take a universal idea, or one of life’s mysteries, and churn out beauty, and creative meaning, for us to contemplate and enjoy. This is something society needs more than ever, yet it is something we collectively do not seem to value.

We are entertainment junkies, an easily distracted, attention deficit society. And we LOVE the distraction of the NFL . It is easy and fun to rant about the injustices of allowing a felon to get paid millions of dollars to play a game for our entertainment while we keep supporting it. It feels much more righteous to go on about the unfairness of letting someone we deem unworthy and abusive to appear on our large screen televisions than it does to acknowledge any poor treatment in our own lives, our families, our neighborhoods, our schools.  While being entertained (and simultaneously supporting the entire NFL industry with our hyper interest), we don’t have to change a damn thing.

While obsessing over ‘the stars’, we don’t have time to be the stars of our own play before the curtain is drawn, the whistle is blown. What do we want to do with our lives, our time? What do we want to give, to create, and to be? It is hard to do all that while obsessing over the larger than life NFL. I am doing it too. I am writing about it right now. On a blog about simplicity, I’m writing about goddamn football. It bleeds into my day and I kind of resent that. I’m still that girl who doesn’t want to turn my head toward the football field because it bores me to death. But now I have and I don’t like that.

Maybe it’s because I have a an adult child in the arts who pores her heart and soul into a project, a dance or a painting, and then barely profits enough to purchase the next set of paints. Yet she would no more stop doing it than stop breathing. Maybe it’s because my husband is not a football fan either and so I’ve been able to remain mostly unsympathetic to the obsession. Maybe this and more is why I’ve not given a rat’s ass about the goings on of the NFL. At least until now.   But now it has grabbed my attention and spills out onto the page. Now I too breathe life into it.

Yes, there is abuse and terrible injury and huge injustices and sleazy, profit driven decisions within the NFL. Just like there are actors who can have horrendous personal lives and still make their livelihoods on the big screen because they entertain us. There will probably always be footballs players who are dangerous, unhealthy, brain damaged and in desperate need of rehabilitation. And we keep feeding the drama because it gives us yet another thing to focus on. It turns our heads and steals our attention.

13165306503_8752c90da5_sWhat do we expect? The NFL never promised us a rose garden. But it promised us entertainment, and it delivers. We’ve got to admit, this is partly a reflection of our values as a society. We can rant and argue, protest and debate over the deflated balls versus the other wrong doings of the players, but it’s everything we have asked for, everything we have supported, paid for and focused on. We are not victims here.

I am sick to death of the NFL talk. It consists of a sport where grown men are headbutting each other into oblivion. Brain damage. Obscene amounts of money. Entitlement. But it’s also fun for the fans, I know. It’s American. It’s entertaining and can be uniting. It’s friendly competition and games and chicken wings and parties and family and friends. But I really don’t care who plays and who doesn’t and what’s being done to the balls. Just like I don’t care what Miley Cyrus is wearing. Have you seen what you own daughter is wearing? Now there’s something to focus on.

The ills of the NFL simply shine a spotlight on some of the ills of society. And now we’re trying to blow the whistle. We want to have a say in who must take their ball and go home and who gets to stay. But it doesn’t work that way. The game isn’t about morality. It’s about profit and entertainment. We’re the spectators and the NFL is serving up what we ordered. What we pay for. What we value. We’re players in this NFL game. And when we’ve had enough? Well, I support the quitters.