Category Archives: writing

You are never quite finished stretching toward the sun.

reach-sun-tie-dye-shirt-girl

It’s been too long since I found something pretty to post on these pages. For months now, I’ve been quiet. Reserved. Tip-toeing toward something I couldn’t define.

I wasn’t happy. With this. With us. With the way my words always felt swallowed up and weak the next morning. When I hit the refresh button. And brewed another bag of tea. And when I laced up my kick-butt combat boots to head to Target, it was because I couldn’t quite find the guts to say failure was residing in my fingertips.

Failure to write, yes, but more so the kind of failure that leaves you skimming dictionary pages: what, what do you call it? This thing that means “Everything feels like soggy & watered down memories anymore. Everything feels like the sappy wrap-up to a once-upon-a-time sad story.”

I felt like every word was dripping with repetition. I had finished my growing. I had finished my stretching toward the sun.

Now, now I was going to march into the bright lights and conquer this so-called Real Life, this Monday morning mountain of emails and phone calls and messages and a to-do list that holds hundreds of unchecked boxes.

This weekend, I lost myself in silence. Blocks of sunshine warmed my arms, my forehead, the corners of my eyes, the knuckles of my toes. I almost fell asleep out there, a few steps and a sliding glass door from humanity, but I didn’t.

I realized, then, how much time it had been since I found comfort in the warm air, the cool nights, the mid-morning churn of a Sunday in the springtime. I had forgotten to lose track of time. I had forgotten to slip into worn & beaten lawn furniture, the crackle of my wind chimes lulling me to sleep.

I had forgotten to find peace & hope & strength in settling down. In the rhythm of my own heart. In the jolt of the screen door opening behind me. In the waking up from dreaming, the return to center, the moment before you begin to create.

That is a treasured moment. The world spins madly on, while the children crest slow hills in front of you and push tricycles down the sidewalk and form teams for hide-and-seek. And you awaken your mind to opportunity: to live & love & capture the sounds falling around you like raindrops before the pavement soaks them up and stifles you.

For months, I have let the pavement soak my captured moments up because I’ve believed none of them good enough, worthy enough, of space on these pages. And so I’ve chosen silence.

But silence means you forget how to find joy in the small moments. You forget to lift up the rocks of your life and search for something rich & full & exciting.

Some days, I catch myself feeling thankful for all the good & kind people & moments I get. The hands that hold me. The arms that wrap around my neck. The calls that pop up on my lock screen.

Writing is easy when you’re stuck in the past. It’s hard when you’re stuck in the beautiful present, when each day feels like a gift but none of them feel strong enough to serenade the young kids waiting for a story to elate them & push them.

The story is this: always, always find reasons to push through failure. Don’t let the craze of life lift away your spirit.

Shine, just shine.  You are never quite finished stretching toward the sun.

We’re broken, Pink. We’re full on broken.

ps i love you mailbox

[part one]

Some days, I wonder if you can send Christmas cards to heaven. Mine are sitting shrink wrapped on my coffee table, ready to be signed, sealed & delivered.

I’m yours. I hope you know that. I am yours.

I’d like to send him a Christmas card so he knows where to find me now, amidst all the clutter & chaos of shoppers & savings & sweaters & red Starbucks cups.

I am here.

I want to believe he cares: I have newness in my life brighter than the evergreen tree in Rockefeller Plaza and he cares. Right? Right? Of course he cares.

Instead, I am the person he could learn to love again if Pink pinned him up against a wall and said, “Come here. Come here and just give me a reason, just a little one’s enough, why you stopped loving me?”

We’re broken, Pink. We’re full on broken.

[part two]

I love sending Christmas cards. In the weeks after the mailman unloads the blue express drop box across the street from my apartment, I imagine them being stuffed into mail crates and the backs of trucks & vans before finally, finally landing in someone’s hands.

Most of the people I send Christmas cards to don’t spot me squeezing oranges in the grocery store on Saturday mornings. They haven’t watched my hair grow out. They don’t know where I work or what socks I wear when the temperature dips too deep.

But they loved me once. We once swapped stories in my kitchen with the light dimmed over the table. We once dished ice cream into bowls or screamed at football games or danced on the bay window in my family room.

We knew each other then. And so they get a Christmas card.

 [part three]

This holiday season always hits me like the only house in the neighborhood without Christmas lights or a fir tree in the family room. It hits me like a family room without a family.

For some, it’s time for togetherness. For me, the loneliness of loss starts to sync itself up with my iPhone calendar: one funeral here, another one there. Let me pencil you in as soon as I’m done crunching the cemetery gravel beneath my heels.

In the weeks between Thanksgiving & Christmas, I write love letters to strangers. One organization always warms my heart: More Love Letters. This year, I’ll spend 12 days finding the words for people who need it most. Like me, they’ve lost something or someone or some hope at a time when the bright lights are dotting their cul-de-sacs and stringing their streets.

It’s my way of sending them a Christmas card. Maybe, maybe I can’t ship one to heaven. He won’t have my return address printed and propped up on his mantel.

He can find me here. He can find me if he wants to.

I hope he knows, deep down, that I’m still his. And on days like today, when the jolly songs start playing & the lines at Target start growing, I remember him.

I remember him & know, sure as ever, that even if he’ll never step foot inside my new life, he can find me any time he wants.

The Cereal Aisle Is Full Of Blueberry Vanilla Almond Granola + The Internet Is Full Of Discordant Blogs

don't let your blog become just another box of blueberry almond granolaWriters, right now, are vying for spots on cereal aisle shelves.

Last month, Jane Friedman, a woman I’ve regarded as the editor for Writers Digest (though she’s since moved on to the Virginia Quarterly Review), shared this post by L.L. Barkat on her blog.

In it, Barkat told writers to stop blogging.

The title cycled like a nasty Google Display Ad traveling from one webpage to another as I browsed my Twitter feed.

Of course I disagreed. Of course I believed in blogging the way engineers believe in calculus or truck drivers believe in the speed limit (emphatically, that is to say, even when the rest of us groan trapped behind the mammoth beasts crawling our fast-lane interstates).

What he was saying was maybe, probably, OK definitely true for experienced writers. They’d done the dance and shimmied and shook for the whole literary world and we just craved more from them.

But for those of us who cannot make a small booster seat out of our published works, blogging is still a core component of writing growth.

We Blog For Ourselves

Writing is a personal act of creative expression. If that definition hasn’t hit you over the head yet, let this be a reminder.

You write because you need to say something and it’s bottled inside you like a message bobbing through the ocean of your heart for a hundred years before making landfall.

But your publishing content online should never ever smack-me-over-the-head-if-it-does alter that fact.

Blog for you and watch yourself grow. Watch your ideas converge. Watch your self-expression refine.

You don’t have to blog to do that, and sometimes the criticism of a few measly pageviews at the start will be enough to make you click the red circled (or blue squared for my PC lovers) X at the top of your web browser.

(That’s a shame, kids. That’s a real big shame.)

But if you stick around because it’s for you — or at least the people you care about — and you’ve got direction and drive, you’ll grow emotionally and intellectually from the experience.

We Find Our Voice In The Abyss

There will always be a difference between those who start blogs and bloggers. It begins with dedication and follows through with a mission.

Imagine starting a new cereal brand. You’ve got a wacky name in a stiff all-caps serif typeface printed across the top of each box (all different sizes, too) and you’re wondering why Wegmans and Shop Rite and Giant and Piggly Wiggly and Krogers refuse to put that future household name on the shelf.

Because. It’s Not. Going Somewhere.

You could have the tastiest blueberry vanilla almond granola sitting fresh and crunchy in a tight sealed eco-friendly recycled plastic pouch but ain’t nobody got time for your discordant cereal dreams.

There are too many other product lines featuring blueberry vanilla almond granola for anyone to even dream of picking your hott mess off the shelf, even if you didn’t get shut down by the big guys.

The same thing happens when you load yourself up with blogging ideas that don’t meet in the middle with some larger goal.

You write about the final exam you failed and then about the time your grandmother walked in on you toweling off from a hot shower.

You write about the reason you love one-for-one campaigns and the art of mastering the Facebook page as an Etsy storeowner.

And ya wonder why nobody put you in their Google Reader (oh, sorry, forgot that that ship has sailed out to the Bermuda Triangle)?

The abyss of blogs is too great for you not to write with a common thread, a dedicated mission of sorts, and expect somebody to stick around.

When you get serious about blogging, you find two things: your voice (because err’body decided writing didn’t have to be boring but nobody wanted to write with a little fear in their bones) and your purpose (for blogging).

It’s a little bit magical when you don’t think too hard on it. When you do, though, you realize that all those shenanigans you’ve been pulling by messing around, treating your blog like a diary that the whole world is privy to, only prevented you from practicing writing as a thing you, like, get paid for?

Yeah.

Let Us Taste The Ice Cream

I didn’t often listen to my mother’s writing advice growing up. She was full of it, too. Jamming my eardrums with steps for five-paragraph essays (which I still loathe) and red-penning the crap out of my school papers.

She made time, almost every year, for a visit to my English class where she would, inevitably, tell me later that night over dinner that that boy over in the back corner? He seemed nice.

So I tuned most of her lessons out.

Except, it turns out, one of the most important ones: to write like I spoke.

Doesn’t it suck when Mom knows best?

Maybe, but it’s the reason I’ve been able to craft a place for myself in the blogging world. And the reason I latch onto other bloggers whose hearts beat faster when they hit publish on a new post.

We were not born to write so that our words could fill trashcans. We were not born to kill trees or waste ink or stuff envelopes with empty thoughts.

We write because we are human beings with voices and those voices sit inside us like dormant volcanoes ready to erupt when something strikes us passionately or fervently.

It’s that lack of selfness, that manufactured voice, that pains me when I read a blog post or a magazine article written with so little personality it nearly fades into the background.

You’re a blogger; you understand.

We fear voice because it is vulnerability in the biggest way. We fear having our fingers on the pulse of our wrists because the minute we know what we want to say and how we want to say it? We have to.

To write well, you’ve got to have at least an ounce of reckless abandon in you. You’ve got to let go of the constraints a bit. You’ve got to stop forcing square phrases and overused idioms into your paragraphs and start feeling exactly what you want your reader to feel.

You’ve got to leave a chunk of your heart on the page.

you've got to leave a chunk of your heart on the page

It’s a massive risk; I get that.

It’s like calling your best friend to tell her your boyfriend didn’t get into the same college as you and she’s like, “Suck it up, man. Life’s tough.”

(She’s allowed to say that eventually, but not in between your heaving sobs.)

Or she said, “Cool, so what do you think of this dress? Should I buy it?”

You don’t know how your readers will react — or if they’ll react at all.

So you totter along writing “dear diary” entries about the ice cream shop you discovered last Friday night and the boy in anatomy class you’d like to offer your body to demonstrate.

But you don’t let us taste the ice cream on our lips. We don’t get a brain freeze. Our fingers don’t go numb. Our heart rate doesn’t increase.

That’s all we want from you — to feel your humanness so deeply it yanks us into a time where sitting in front of a computer is akin to opening an encapsulating novel.

Gosh, we want to dream with you.

Let us? Please, please let us. We will become insomniacs for you.