Writing with Abandon

Is that crazy muse who lived in my childhood brain still available?

I have caught her trying to pop out and have her say now and again, but I have an ever-growing sledgehammer of a censor that keeps her in her place—hybernating in the depths of long ago.

She popped her head out and opened an eye this week, trying to read over my shoulder.  I didn’t reach for the sledgehammer.

I was too busy reading The Book Thief  by Markus Zusak. Okay, you and everybody else have probably already read it, but I just met it. I did view the film some time ago. I was duly and profoundly moved, but I never picked up the book until a few days ago.

So here is what I mean by “with Abandon.”

Don’t just sit down and write a story about a little girl caught in the mess Hitler was making of Germany and every other country he could get his hands on.

It gets harder and harder to get people’s attention these days, with all the digital distractions and so forth. Another horrible unthinkable tale from that era told in the the usual way might cause us to shake our heads, but ultimately put it aside. Yes, yes, I know—man’s inhumanity to man—it shouldn’t happen—it must not happen. 

But it did and it does and we all know it.

How to get our attention?

Let Death tell the story. Give him a sense of humor, of irony, of pity for the human race. Throw in up-to-the-minute bulletins of what lies ahead, but keep pulling the reader back into the story at hand. Commiserate with the readerwe all know what’s coming, but wait—let’s look at this first. Draw scratchy little illustrations. Keep forcing the reader back into the moments of each person’s existence. But don’t ever let him forget he is conversing with Death.

Full immersion.

This book gave my seventy-two-year-old bones a good shake. And it grabbed the interest of that little sleeping muse inside me. Maybe the two of us are eyeing each other cautiously, wondering what the shake-up is all about. Wondering if we have something in common—if we might find a way to work together.

Reading Mr. Zusak’s work reminded of how an open sense of play and anything-goes can  be a serious contributor toward getting the real bones of a story on paper.

I hope I have learned something from it.





















Alright, I’ll write

Already  I’m distracted by the title that I’ve opened with. All right, alright—just one more thing that is changing. Apparently the word and the phrase are now interchangeable.  Someone somewhere in my day yesterday—TV, internet, one of the books I’m reading—pronounced some version of “the only thing certain in life is change.”   Fine. Change is growth, change is healthy. But it is also exhausting.

Just when you think you know something or how to do something, new rules crop up.

But let me try to get back on the train of thought that brought me here this morning in the first place. The reason for the Alright.

I decided to start a personal blog about two and a half years ago on a sudden impulse to journal out loud during some major personal changes.  It turns out that even in this on-again, off-again,  who-am-I writing-to-anyway experiment, I have learned a few things.

First of all, I am a very private person. Of course I already knew that, but creating a blog highlighted this fact for me. When I journal in private, I work through things on a very personal level for my eyes only.  Some mornings I have written non-stop for hours on the blog only to save my words in a draft or post as “private” and finally end up deleting.

The next thing is that I am also an exhibitionist, at least where it comes to my writing. When I have put something down worth reading, I want someone to see it. Since I have been completely inconsistent with my ramblings, topics, and frequency of writing on my blog, I haven’t found an audience in Word Press. I did get a lot of response when I linked my blog to Facebook, but knowing  my words were jumping in front of an uncensored hodgepodge of friends and family near and far daunted my private persona.

The other thing is all that other writing that isn’t my blog. It takes a lot of time and energy and focus to try to do something with that. Can I do both?

I think I can.

I have learned one more thing in my blogging process. If I save it in a draft to get back to later, I won’t.  If I allow this to be my first thoughts (with minimal self-censoring as I go along) it works out better. It’s a whole different ballgame than writing a story or personal essay or poem.

Now if I can just figure out a way to focus it so that someone actually reads it……















Rise and Shine

But look: the valleys shine with promises,

And every burning morning is a prophesy of


Coming to raise and vindicate

Even our sorry flesh.

—-Thomas Merton

I woke up at 7:30 feeling as if I had risen from the dead, and looked outside to find an astonishing golden morning out there.  I followed an impulse to pick up Thomas Merton, A Book of Hours to read the entry for Friday, Dawn. The above quotation was the opening verse.

So I stopped reading and jumped into the next room for my laptop. I had to plow through a clamoring mob of media images and headlines demanding my attention before I arrived at the blank page to start writing. I have to do something about the entryway to my writing space.

By the time I messed around for 30 minutes trying to figure out why I couldn’t get the quotation to single space (without success), my outlook and mood changed somewhat.

It is already after 9:00.

I seem to be hyper-aware of time passing.  The main theme of my writings, back when I was anticipating my approaching retirement, was that I would have my own time. What I have come to learn is that I am just as much, if not more, of a demanding task-master than any previous boss.

The ways in which I have allowed my time to be usurped and frittered over the past seven years are legion, and there is no point in dwelling on the past. This is a new morning.

As was yesterday morning.

In my defense, I had not slept well the night before. I was still awake past 3:30 when I finally got up and had a cup of blueberry tea, but was up at 7:00 anyway. I had told myself I could take a nap later, but I didn’t do it.

I made myself a typically over-loaded to-do list, only wasted about 30 minutes on the Lumosity games, and headed into my day.

The things on my list I did accomplish: Go to library to print submissions for critique group; grocery store; update checkbook & pay bill; work on review; work on critiques; yoga session (gave out after one pose).

Things not accomplished: Blogging; work on story; crochet project; download and start reading book for VP group; publisher search; nap.

I burned out and wanted to go to bed by 5:30, which was too late for a nap and too early for bedtime. So I watched about half the PBS News Hour while I ate dinner, then killed time trying to concentrate on various distractions until the more suitable time of 8:00 arrived and I fell into bed.

But look: the valleys shine with promise.

No long lists this morning. Another cup of coffee, get dressed, and go take a walk.












Let the Retirement Project Begin (albeit seven years late)

It does seem auspicious that today turns out to be the exact anniversary of my first attempt at starting this blog. Originally, I needed to blow off steam after a series of life changes. I have returned to this medium to give myself a palpable touchstone. I am no longer blowing off steam, but since I quit my so-called retirement job at Goodwill about a month ago, I have been challenged to get myself on the track with my real goals.


That was this morning, and now it is coming up to eight in the evening, so now it is time for me to reckon with what I have actually accomplished today.

In keeping with my need to stay on track, I spent some of my morning playing Lumosity brain games. One I am particularly obsessed with is called Train of Thought. Engines chug down a maze of tracks, and the object is to get  each colored engine into its matching station. It is necessary to switch the direction of the tracks to direct the engines as they keep coming. Not a lot different from Lucy and Ethel running the conveyor belt at the chocolate factory.

As long as I stopped after one set of games and only a few re-plays of the train game, I get to count this as doing something constructive as opposed to wasting my precious time.

I spent most of the day reading and finished the book I am to review. I can’t share anything about the book here. I intend to submit the review tomorrow. The object is to get established enough to get paid for my efforts. I already submitted one review. They said they liked it, but I didn’t have enough posts on their site to qualify to get paid yet. So I accepted one more non-paying review. I believe I have enough points now.

I just thought I would try out the on-line book review gig to see if a person can actually get paid as they claim. An experiment. I also need some computer time just to get better at navigating the technology.

The world of blogs, Submittable, on-line journals and mags, etc., is staggering to my less-than-supple mind. I need to at least make an effort with the technology.

My other efforts at functioning today included baking some chêbê (a gluten-free Brazilian bread made with tapioca flour and cheese). That was such a treat, I had to stop my typing and warm a slice and eat it right now.

Also did a little housework and attended to some random paperwork in my “Attention” folder.

I didn’t actually get to working on the short story my group critiqued last Saturday. I am fortunately not lined up to submit this week. This particular piece was really more of an idea that I had not fully formed yet. If I didn’t realize that, my truly honest and exacting writer friends certainly did.

I did give some thought to that would-be story today. I think I want to try creating it as a flash fiction piece. I put in some time researching the craft of flash fiction today. I want to see if I am up to the challenge.

So, let’s see where this goes this time.

Trust in the Lord!