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{April 19, 2015}   Dead Poets Make Great Friends

Jane Kenyon

My Latest Library Books

Dead poets make great friends; they let you know they understand, and they don’t reject you or make you feel untalented like live ones do.

Whose quote is that? My own.

After I read Donald Hall’s essays, the next thing on my library list became Jane Kenyon, A Literary Life by John H. Timmerman and Jane Kenyon Collected Poems., because I am fascinated by poet/poet relationships (e.g. Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath). For those who don’t know, She was the wife of Donald Hall and she died tragically at the age of 47 from leukemia.

Although I had heard of Jane Kenyon, I had not sat down and done a concentrated reading of her poetry. WOW…She became a favorite in seconds flat. It could be that reading about someone’s life at the same time as reading their poetry makes for a feeling of closeness that reading the poetry alone does not give. Or maybe having read about her from her husband’s point of view first also adds to the feeling that she is someone I know, a friend that I haven’t seen in a long time.

I put the books down and immediately wrote three poems in my notebook. Hallelujah!

This one was not the best of the three, but it goes with this post. Copying it fresh off the notebook page without editing here reveals my immediate spontaneous feelings without polishing:

TEA WITH JANE KENYON

I look up from a book of your poems

expecting to see your face in an opposite chair,

your cup paused halfway,

like it is floating in the air.

Your words hang in the air too

like an echo, though your mouth doesn’t move.

You look me in the eyes

with first a question, then recognition;

we share a smile, the same smile,

like looking in a mirror.

But I blink and focus

and my opposite space is empty.

I think if I say out loud,
“My grandmother was a Methodist too…

and “she liked to listen to Teleevangelists…”

and “I know that yearning — the need to rebel

against rules instilled by someone you loved…”

Then I hope you’ll be interested enough to walk

back into the empty space and sit down

and talk awhile

and I would not be alone

with my demanding white paper and pen,

a strict teacher forcing me

to write something

over and over

until I learn my lesson

and get it right.

Susan Merrifield Desrocher

But now I leave you with a unpublished nugget from Jane’s college years, quoted in Timmerman’s book:

Today

I got

no mail.

What is it about the world that it wants

my cubby hole

kept in poverty.

My mailbox is bloated with emptiness

its opening —

an orifice

waiting for a word.

Hey.

Occupant,

That’s me.

And, my lesson to learn, this poem…

The Clothes Pin

How much better it is

to carry wood to the fire

than to moan about your life.

How much better

to throw the garbage

into the compost, or to pin the clean

sheet on the line

with a gray-brown wooden clothes pin!

Discover her or rediscover her during National Poetry Month…you won’t regret it! And maybe. like me, you’ll feel like you have found a new friend. 🙂




Donald Hall, "Essays After Eighty"

Donald Hall’s latest book

Why would a fifty-something-year-old woman relate to the essays of an eighty-something-year-old man? Does that say something about him, about me, or both of us? This is not really a review, but a review of sorts; my stream-of-consciousness emotional reaction to his latest book. In all reality, just what a writer really wants…a confirmation of a connection made, not just an intellectual criticism of the writing.

I have always liked Donald Hall’s poetry, and when I read John Freeman‘s well-written interview with him in Poets and Writers (Nov/Dec edition) and read the excerpts from the book, Essays After Eighty, I was burning to read it. So off to the library I went.

Sitting down to read the first essay “Out the Window,” (without a window in sight) I can see what he sees — the old barn, the snow falling, the birds at the feeder — because he describes his view in vivid language, in a poet’s way. But I also feel what he feels — the isolation of New Hampshire in winter (having just been through the worst winter in my life in MA), feeling unable to do what used to be easily accomplished, and feeling abandoned by contemporaries and left to spend time with the ghosts of old ancestors (those to be joined sooner rather than later). His writing just seems to add credence to what I already know…why? Because my best friend right now is my mother, who is 86. I talk to her daily. She watches out the window when she can and has dreams of cooking and cleaning and doing things she can do now only with difficulty, so I understand the mindset and the feelings. That, and the fact that timing and circumstances took me out of challenging but ultimately satisfying work too young; I have felt abandoned by a changed world that no longer values my skills and my abilities ($9 to $10 an hour to proofread…really?), and no longer believes in my beliefs.

Donald Hall describes old age and aging as “…alien, and old people are a separate form of life. They have green skin, with two heads that sprout antennae…If we forget for a moment that we are old, we are reminded when we try to stand up, or when we encounter someone young, who appears to observe green skin, extra heads, and protuberances.”

And though I have some decades to go before I officially get to his age, I feel the separateness as he describes, as if I went to sleep and woke up on a planet I didn’t recognize, where I was suddenly an outcast, where suddenly people could see my antennae.

Well, that is easily rectified you might think: study the creatures of this new world and remake yourself to be like them. Hide those antennae or — better yet — cut them off. But I can’t do it, ugly as they seem to be, all of my beauty is there. And all the positive personal development books I read tell me to value them. They represent that last crumb of hope I still possess that someday another alien will show up at my door with their own antennae displayed in all their glory, smile, and come in and sit down for tea. Maybe that being will tell me of a colony of others like us, which still exists, and that my isolation has kept me from finding. And we will set out together, where the warm sun and exercise will make me feel 50 again. The gears of my mind will squeak and groan, at first reluctant with pain, but begin to chip off the rust and neglect, and then revel in something too long lost and left behind. But I digress…as old people do.

The book also contains an essay entitled “A Yeti in the District.” Each of the essays in the book ends with Hall’s tongue in cheek, a wry twist on what has come before. This one made me smile from ear to ear. Its truth reflected in my librarian’s reaction to my checking out of the book.

Mr Hall reminisces about trips he made to Washington DC over the years, including the year he was Poet Laureate, and the most recent trip to receive a National Medal of the Arts from President Obama. Let me be clear: the author is “scruffy” in his advanced years, but it doesn’t bother me (he looks much like my own brother!) In the “Yeti” essay, the author writes of the picture published in his local paper of him receiving the Medal. “Top of the first page was a photograph of the President looming over me, hanging the medal around my neck. My mouth is open in life’s widest smile as I confront the neatly dressed Obama in my sports coat and khakis, with my frizzy hair and reckless beard.”

He goes on to tell of the picture then being picked up by a blogger for the Washington Post named Alexandra Petri. “She identified me, called me a poet, and assured her audience that I was not a yeti. She announced a contest for a caption.” But of course in this age of Internet bullying, the picture brought in entry after entry “…gleeful with ridicule. Then there were reactions. I was praised and Ms. Petri was scolded. I was defended as a poet, and flattered despite my appearance.” He ends the essay with this: “…With our increasing longevity, Ms. Petri should live to be a hundred. May she grow a beard.”

Now back to my librarian. She handed me the book and said, “That’s quite the cover art,” with what I sensed as some distaste (and perhaps a little insult to me for wanting to read it??) I said, “well, yes, it is a bit of a close-up.” I chuckled to release the sense of “judgement(?)” I felt. And she went on, “Yes, I wouldn’t want to put that on my bedside table.” (I hadn’t read the book yet or I would have questioned whether she knew Ms. Petri?). This time I didn’t answer. And she still went on, “Yes, I wouldn’t want to put it on my bedside table because I would feel like someone was watching me.” I then made a judgment on her in return…You are a librarian and you are passing judgment on a Poet Laureate and Medal of the Arts winner???? But again, I digress.

Bottom line is that I enjoyed the book because I enjoy Donald Hall’s writing, his irreverence, and his sense of humor. I’m glad that after eighty he is still writing. And I hope there are plenty of people who won’t judge a book by its cover!




Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

Imperfection

 

Does this happen to you? Books seem to appear just when you need them? And they all tie together?

A co-worker dropped this off at my cubicle with the caveat: “My friend loved this book and gave it to me…it didn’t do anything for me, but I thought you might like it…if you don’t, pass it on.”

I will admit that my co-worker and I have had book discussions, so she has some idea about what books I like to read, but…I REALLY needed to read this book…NOW.

I have been struggling to embrace and accept my imperfections for a while (including the blurry photo at the left, which I took several times. I figured as long as you can see it and read it…it doesn’t have to be PERFECT). It fulfills its purpose as is.

I recently had a get-together with some wonderful supportive friends who love me and see me as gifted, talented and creative. I read some poems for them, including one I had recently, with trepidation, brought to a workshop. I was sharing with them some of the comments (which actually were mostly good and quite helpful). I told them “when it was finished” I was going to submit it. They thought it was fine the way it was. We laughed about how nothing was ever “finished” for me. I now know why: I believe that there is ONE thing I will create that will be THE thing that will prove my worthiness…if I keep working at it and never finish it…then the magical piece of work might still exist (like believing in Santa Claus…or the Elusive Comic Book!) I guess it is my way of believing life can change overnight. Though this appears to happen to some people, it is for the most part, not true. It certainly is not something I can will or force to happen. Life happens when you live it.

This book helped me understand why I can’t create a body of work. Perfectionism is a big, bad monster for me. I am “hustling” for my worthiness as Brene Brown says in her book. (I LOVE this phrase…I picture myself walking the streets, begging people to appreciate me.)

The book is broken into ten guideposts that represent ways of thinking you need to let go of in order to embrace your imperfection and believe in your own worthiness. Guidepost #2 is “Cultivating Self-Compassion: Letting Go of Perfectionism”.

And my favorite (V8…knock in the head) moment while I was reading the book was when the author wrote, “I think everyone should read Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist — I try to read it at least once a year. It’s a powerful way of seeing the connections between our gifts, our spirituality, and our work…and how they come together to create meaning in our lives.” WHAT?! I recently wrote a blog about that book!

I just love when the dots connect!

BTW…I submitted the poem last week…with some of the workshop suggestions. 😀



{February 22, 2014}   Survival Lessons

Survival Lessons

Survival Lessons

A friend recently recommended this book to me. I like Alice Hoffman‘s writing very much, so I got it out of the library.

I like to read thought-provoking or spiritual  materials in the morning. In the preface, Alice Hoffman describes her book as a guidebook for going through a life crisis; in her case, being diagnosed and fighting breast cancer. She said she wanted to write the book that she was looking for at that time, but couldn’t find.

It took me 1 hour to read: the time it took me to have two cups of tea and a couple of pieces of toast, so in effect, I devoured it. I would definitely recommend it as a “breakfast time book.” As I read it,  I could think of many friends I would love to give it to, people with loved ones going through battles with the big C. All of that being said, when I finished it, I thought, “If she wasn’t already a successful writer, this book wouldn’t have been published.” Not because it was wasn’t worthwhile, but because it was so simple. Some thoughts about life thrown together (not in a bad way), like having a good conversation over breakfast with a friend or reading some of the well-written blogs out there, complete with uplifting quotes and pictures. The reviews were quite good, if you would like to read them, but this is not a review…it is where my mind went after reading the book.

Every day I feel like I’m learning my own survival lessons, though I’m not going through a crisis of Alice Hoffman’s magnitude. Perhaps if I was, I would have gotten more out of it. I have been sick all week and I have been struggling through each day, unable to take a day off. Ok, I admit I was feeling some self-pity. I don’t have anyone to take care of me, and I live so on the edge financially that illness means a lot of money spent that I don’t have. It is a minor disaster to have to buy kleenex and medicine.

As I walked into the lady’s room with a coworker yesterday, I complained a little. She said, “what you need to do is talk to someone who is worse off than you.” Now, I have been told that before…and yes, sometimes it does the trick. But at what point does being surrounded by people with disasters in their lives make you suffer survivor guilt or give you a vision that life just contains too much pain and too little joy? A bit later I overheard her talking with her daughter on the phone and I knew she was suffering her own problems. I got up from my chair and went over to her, “That person worse off than me that you were talking about…was that you?” I said. Her eyes teared up, she gave me a quick synopsis and I gave her a hug.

A little bit later I had a conversation with another coworker who is in the process of finding out whether the cancer she just had removed is anywhere else in her body. She is extremely anxious about it, which is understandable, and I feel for her.

I said, “Ok God, I got the message,” and I shut my mouth because I didn’t deserve to complain. But I do have some bones to pick with the “do what you want to do” attitude portrayed in positive message blogs and in “Survival Lessons.”

Alice Hoffman recommends a lot of things in her book, one of which is to go on a trip to someplace wonderful: she chose Venice. And where does a normal person who is surviving one day at a time get the money to finance such a trip?? The people in crisis I know are lucky if they can pay their mortgage or afford their medical procedures. If I thought I was going to die soon, would I spend my retirement money? Yes. But, my grandmothers lived to be 102 and 96; unless the unforeseen happens, I have to be responsible and prepared to be able to take care of myself for many years to come, so a big “dream” trip is not reality for me.

I see people post wonderful blogs about doing all the things you want to do. I applaud them for doing what makes them happy, but I’m not a risk-taker so I’m not going to jump out of an airplane, and to be honest, I have no desire to. Even watching the skiers and snowboarders at the Olympics do the crazy things they do, gives me the shivers. So how does someone who doesn’t have big dreams or financial means celebrate life?

In very small, not particularly exciting ways. I enjoy walking, reading, blogging and playing with my cats. I am glad to say I have times when I feel content. But when I see others actually getting “excited” about things, I think I’m doing something wrong. I have convinced myself I don’t need much and really want for nothing, which is healthy, but is it real? I sometimes miss my younger days when a new CD or going to a show made me gush. Nowadays I don’t think anything is important enough to keep me from getting my sleep (including the Olympics).

So… “Survival Lessons,” I think I have achieved a passing grade: I am surviving. I have learned to appreciate each day in a quiet and grateful way, but sometimes I ask myself, am I living?



{December 27, 2013}   The Best Book I’ve Ever Read

The wording of the title seems to imply I have a definitive answer. Yet on any given day my answer might be different. My lack of conviction on this and other “favorite” questions has often felt like a problem to me: one that indicated that I had no core, no strength of conviction, or no knowledge of myself. I either assumed my lack of an answer was because I am too wishy-washy (when I was feeling bad about myself) or because I am too intellectually curious (when I’m feeling good about myself).

Many books have vied to be the answer to that question for me over the course of my life: Leaves of Grass, Wuthering Heights, Tuesdays with Morrie, A Gift from the Sea, Simple Abundance, The Artist’s Way…the list could go on and on because reading has always been a staple in my life. And I have always had this crazy concept of commitment when it comes to reading that if I start a book, I have to finish it. This creed results in my slogging through books at times (I have done this lately, making me think that I no longer liked to read).

Book cover for The Alchemist

Then the other day when I started reading “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho. TODAY, this is my answer to the question/statement of this blog’s title. I know I’m arriving late to this party: the book was published in 1988, and the number of translations and books sold is staggering…but it is brand new TO ME. It came to me on a free table at work, and it appeared for me exactly when it needed to appear.

I have recently been in a dark place…a very scary place. For someone who has LOVED Christmas her whole life to want to turn her back on it forever, sleep through it (or skip it as John Grisham wrote — the comedy movie version of his book is what I watched yesterday trying to get out of my bad mood) is not a good sign for holding onto a joy of living. I was also finally considering giving up on this blog, one of the few things that has brought me joy and kept me going the last couple of years. But during this time I was also reading Paulo Coelho’s book.

This morning I read this:

“Everyone on earth has a treasure that awaits him,” his heart said. “We, people’s hearts, seldom say much about those treasures, because people no longer want to go in search of them…few follow the path laid out for them — the path to their Personal Legends, and to happiness. Most people see the world as a threatening place, and, because they do, the world turns out, indeed to be a threatening place.

“So, we, their hearts speak more and more softly. We never stop speaking out, but we begin to hope that our words won’t be heard: we don’t want people to suffer because they don’t follow their hearts.”

“Why don’t people’s hearts tell them to continue to follow their dreams?” the boy asked the alchemist.

“Because that’s what makes a heart suffer most, and hearts don’t like to suffer.”

The alchemist then told the boy…”What you still need to know is this: before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way. It does this not because it is evil, but so that we can, in addition to realizing our dreams, master the lessons we’ve learned as we’ve moved toward that dream. That’s the point at which, as we say in the language of the desert, one ‘dies of thirst just when the palm trees have appeared on the horizon.’

“Every search begins with beginner’s luck. And every search ends with the victor’s being severely tested.”

When I read this, I recognized the place where I am; I could hear my heart again (which had become quiet) and I came back to the keyboard and back to the blog. I have read a lot of inspiring and positive blogs and books recently trying to light my way out of the black hole, but for some reason, this spoke to me in a way that nothing else I read did. I believe it is because it was what I needed to read and it was put there to help me on this part of my life’s journey.

Now I feel that it is fitting that the answer to the question, “What is the best book you ever read?” can change throughout your life. Because the best book you ever read is the one that touches you and communicates to you when you need it. Today I give a hearty “Thank You,” to the person who put this book on the free table to share it, to Paulo Coelho for writing it, and to the Soul of the World for communicating it to him.

P.S. As I sat down to write this, I realized this was also the topic of the Daily Post prompt today. It was my moment of clarity for what has been bothering me…if that isn’t a message from the Universe, I don’t know what is. 🙂




inspirational books, midlife books

My Navigation Manuals

I mean this in more ways than one. Literally, it IS time for me to rewrite the brief, third-person “about” page I wrote when I started this blog almost 4 years ago, when I had no idea what I was doing beyond reaching out desperately for a purpose in my disconnected desert of a life. But…I am also at the stage of my life when I have been struggling to find out who I really am (better late than never!). If you are into labels, there are many — menopause, mid-life crisis, empty nest syndrome — and just as many ways that it can play itself out in life. Sometimes it is a brief sense of vertigo where you lose your footing for a moment but get right back up with just a scraped knee; sometimes it is like suffering a stroke and having to learn to walk and talk again. We don’t choose the path; it appears before us. It is almost always a time of loss of some sort, but it can also be a time of renewal; it depends on how you approach it. As Christiane Northrup, M.D. writes in her book, “The Wisdom of Menopause”:

At midlife, I, like thousands of others, had to give up my fantasies of how I thought my life would be. I had to face, head-on, the old adage about how hard it is to lose what you never really had. It means giving up all your illusions, and it is very difficult. But for me the issue was larger than where, and with whom, I would grow old. It was a warning, coming from deep within my spirit, that said, “Grow…or die.” Those were my choices. I chose to grow.

I’m making that choice as well. I have had days when I literally felt like I was fighting for my life; dark thoughts were demons I allowed to hide and survive in the “gloom and doom” inside for too many years, and they came at me with ferocity. But I proved equally fierce. The time had come to break open the caves and let in the sunlight, sending them racing off to live somewhere else. To this end, I have been meditating and reading a lot. The aforementioned book is one that has helped me. “Simple Abundance” by Sarah Ban Breathnach is another. And these books appeared on a “free table” at work, calling my name; others were given to me. I MUST CONCLUDE I HAVE A COMPANION ON THIS JOURNEY WHO IS HELPING ME ALONG. And I am comforted by that.

For years I have been questioning why the things that used to bring me joy do not anymore, as if it were a sign of an illness or disease, distressing myself all the more, not knowing how to “cure” myself. Reading Christiane’s book made me feel more relaxed about it, made me feel it is not something “wrong” with me, but a normal part of a growth process. Sarah Ban Breathnach gave me the “discovery journal” and “personal treasure map” as navigation tools for my journey. She says it better than I can:

Pray your journey be a long one. Savor the stops along the way. They make the search marvelous. Meaningful. Memorable. Find and honor your own pace. There are still so many harbors to be seen for the first time. You’re headed for someplace you’ve never been before. Keep your thoughts held high….Set your course for Authentica. Legend has it that once you reach her shores, you’ll not leave the same woman.

I’m set to enjoy the journey. For those new to my blog I hope you’ll want to join me and enjoy it as well. For those who have been with me for a while…I hope you are enjoying it…there are still so many harbors to be seen…don’t get off the boat!



{July 31, 2013}   The Garden of Books…

Garden at Flower Show

This morning I read Colline’s blog about curling up on the couch with a book and tea…Oh, I could so relate!

It inspired me to pull out a poem I wrote several years ago about reading and share it.  My reading time has always been the highlight of my day (except for going for a walk outside on a beautiful day). Reading is going for a virtual walk. 🙂

Reading in the Morning

 The story grabs me

like a childhood friend;

Together we tumble

through a garden gate,

where the words are blooms,

some delicate, some loud,

vying for my raptured gaze.

In this garden of a book,

there are places to pause and sit

and soak it in,

and places to roll,

smell the soft grass.

I watch the sun

scamper squirrel-like

around the garden,

teasing the leaves

and branches.

I watch them brush each other

hesitant, yet tender

as new lovers,

my vicarious pleasure,

becomes longing and then…

I come to the end.

There is reality,

solid as a wall my fingers can touch;

away from the sun,

the stones are cold.

Duty time has come

too soon.

The world calls,

harsh as a crow’s caw.

Time to leave this place;

place my closed book

aside

and get to work.




Argentinean Ants

I have a lot of daily chores in my new, smaller place. I’m very aware that keeping things cleaned up can transform an overstuffed look into an everything-in-its-place look. I had expected to do my dishes immediately, scoop the cat box twice a day, and constantly vacuum the high-traffic-area throw rugs, but what I didn’t expect was to be killing and cleaning up bugs twice a day.

To be honest, I’ve lived quite a few places in my lifetime and I’ve never seen these before. But perhaps that is because they are easy to miss…tiny, tiny ants like a period on a page. It is only their sheer numbers that makes them visible. I looked them up on the Internet: they are called “sugar ants” (though that is also said to be a misnomer). One article that I read said that they come out in the heat and dryness and are attracted to sugar and water.

So despite my initial panic, I am not intimidated. They don’t bite, and from what I researched, their presence is not a reflection on the host’s cleanliness (though you apparently have to be more diligent than you think). They are annoying and overwhelm you with their numbers. My problem did not seem to originate with my sink; it was the cat food.

My first reaction upon seeing them was to toss the overrun cat food dishes into the sink and run the hottest water I could, then desperately downpour on the ants with the only thing I had: multipurpose Lysol cleaner, which I then followed by wiping up the bodies with a paper towel. After getting rid of the ones I could see, I went to the store and bought Lysol spray instead. I didn’t want to use poison of any sort because of the cats (although I suppose too much cleaner is also poison). My mother suggested bay leaves so I purchased those as well (that was also mentioned on the Internet, as well as cloves). My landlady said we needed a mixture of Borax and Karo Syrup to poison them. I decided to forgo that and see how I made out with my Lysol and bay leaves.

So far, I am managing to keep them from overrunning my whole apartment, but they are not going away easily. As I was writing this, I suddenly remembered a favorite passage of mine from a Margaret Atwood book, “Lady Oracle.” The main character engages with the ants:

“The ants were into the spinach I’d bought the day before. They lived in the outside wall, spinach and meat were the only thing they’d actively hunt, everything else they’d ignore as long as you put out a saucer of sugar and water for them. I’d already done this and they’d found it, they were marching back and forth between the saucer and their nest…I poured myself another drink, then dipped my finger into the saucer and wrote my initials in sugar-water on the windowsill. I waited to see my name spelled out for me in ants: a living legend.”

At the time I read it, the only ants I had ever seen were carpenter ants, so my reader’s vision of big black ants spelling out a name like all-cap boldface type, was off-base. Now that I know what sugar ants look like, I can appreciate the subtlety of the image. I can imagine a “dotted” marquis look.

With that literary image in my head, I take wiping them out a little less seriously, but it is an uneasy truce. Give me a few days and I’m sure I’ll be stashing the Borax and Karo Syrup in my cupboard. There’s romance and then there’s reality…




Writing In FlowMy morning routine includes reading a chapter of a book about writing and then writing my “morning pages” (as coined by Julia Cameron). I am currently reading “Writing in Flow: keys to enhanced creativity” by Susan K Perry, PhD. According to Ms. Perry, Key One is to Have a Reason to Write. In the questions at the end of the chapter she suggests that the reader examine his/her motivations for writing. She knows that her readers will find many. (I certainly did.) Her theory is that when you clear away the peripheral ones, you will get to the heart of the matter and learn a lot about how to foster flow in your writing.

It has always been easy to tell when I’m “inspired” in my writing vs. when I am not. It is as if I am a completely different person. When entering college I was required to write an essay to see whether I could opt-out of Freshman English. Unfortunately the topic was something I knew nothing about and had no interest in…so it was Freshman English for me. Once in class, we were able to choose our own subject as long as we followed the assigned format: comparison essay, descriptive essay, argumentative essay, etc.  Lo and behold, by the time I got to the third paper, my professor had written “A+” and a note that said, “Do you really belong in this class? See me.” Ah, the power of writing about something that interests me!

But I don’t want to depend on being “inspired” to write well, that’s why I am reading the book. So…what is my motivation for writing? I have loved books from the time I was a small child. Consequently I have always admired writers; it was always a club I longed to join. Also, one strong aspect of my personality is that I am a “communicator,” someone who is constantly trying to make sense of my world and interpret what I see, to create relationships between people and things that may not appear to be related (i.e., creating metaphors, the source of my poetic bent). And I want to connect with others, gain their respect, and have them appreciate what I have to say. But although I found many of my reasons have to do with connecting with others, I have written so much that no one has read: endless journals and poems that I haven’t shared. I’m thinking getting to know myself and being comfortable with myself is also an important reason that I write; it may be the bare bones reason, because even if no one reads what I have written but me, I still feel compelled to do it.

One of the most important things I learned from this exercise, though, had to do with a motivation that wasn’t there: making a living with writing. I’ve always struggled with that: making money by editing is one thing, doing it by writing is another. I have often felt conflicted, at times guilty, envious of others, and angry at myself for being a “failure” at making my writing “pay off.”  I often beat myself up about this “failure” and think that “I should” be making money. This exercise helped me work through some of those feelings. I simply don’t have the motivation for it. I am not a “failure” as a writer because I’m not making money at it. If I really wanted to make money at it, I would approach it differently. I would be writing what I think others are interested in; I would be doing research and treating it as a profession. I have to recognize that I am “choosing” not to make it a living at it.

I’ve got a long way to go with this book. I’m interested in what else I will learn about myself and where it will take me. My readers, have you ever REALLY explored your motivations for your passion?



{March 6, 2013}   A Writer’s Sense of Service

Julia Cameron's booksI have recently been rereading Julia Cameron‘s books to give my creativity a boost, but it’s also been making me think about being a writer with a “sense of service” or an “attitude of gratitude.” I decided that what I really like about Julia’s books is her teacher’s sensibility and her nurturing attitude. I’m not naive enough not to recognize that she’s trying to sell books, but I see some sincerity there. I think she truly believes in writing as the salvation and glorious gift it can be and wants others to experience that feeling. It lead me to thinking about being “of service” as a writer and what that means.

One of my coworkers writes poems for her church in her spare time. Her church publishes them in their program and sometimes they read them as a congregation. I think this is a wonderful use of her gift. This is her third Easter performing this service and if you think it is easy to keep seeing a topic in a new way and creating fresh material, then you haven’t tried to do it.

For myself, it has been most gratifying to me when I have been able to write a poem for a friend going through some kind of worry or difficulty: a death in the family or a sibling serving overseas. This is one way I can be “of service” as a writer.

How else can we be of service as writers? The most important way is to encourage and nurture other writers; this is what I feel Julia does very successfully. This type of service could be as small and simple as “liking” someone’s work on Facebook or a blog, or attending a poetry reading. If you feel confident and can take an interest, critique their work in a positive and constructive way. If you have extra money, you could purchase their book. Give them the kudos they need and deserve for completing such an undertaking.

Funny thing, though, I think a lot of writers, once they start to have a following forget what it was like to need that support. They forget what it was like to be someone struggling to find their voice, struggling to feel that what they have to say is relevant. Many writers write because they have a need to be heard. If they don’t feel heard, they give up, and I believe the world loses something important. We let jealousy stand in the way of being of service as writers. (See the video where Julia addresses this topic.)

I believe every writer, famous or not, has a duty to encourage other writers; they are performing a very important service if they do. So…you bloggers reading this…go out and like someone’s blog, comment on someone’s poem…do your part to keep the world writing!



et cetera
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