It’s not a writer’s life. . .but then it is

So I’ve been insanely, exhaustingly busy this week, and aside from a ton of e-mails, I haven’t gotten much writing done. So what’s been keeping me from my sessions with the Muse?

I submit to you, dear readers, photographic evidence of my week:

Last Saturday, my youngest, hip, drinking buddy aunt (who lost over 80 lbs in the last year or so), walked the Cooper River Bridge Run and Walk for the first time. No, this isn’t a picture of her – I was squeeing and waving around a “Team Linda – You GO GIRL!” sign when she went by. However, I DID see almost all 42,000 people pass by our spot in front of the Francis Marion Hotel.

On the way there, in the wee hours before dawn, I saw this graffiti and had to take a picture.

I posted it on Facebook, and I had friends say they thought it was a statement on homelessness. Another said that it was the name of a local band. When I took it, though, it felt more like a statement about Charleston – that this remarkably beautiful city IS home. At least, that’s why I took the picture. Or, a more amusing thought was that the people who lived in the apartment above this sidewalk regularly stumbled home drunk, and needed confirmation of where they should go.

Sunday: My Daddy, who has been married to my Mom since April 1954 (yes, children, that translates to 57 years this coming week), finally decided he could be apart from her no longer and drove down from NC. He brought with him my repaired lawn tractor and my mom’s Cadillac of wheelie walkers. We already had the wheelchair for her. Honey couldn’t resist snapping a picture of the three of us in our unconventional yard seats.

My mother would KILL ME if she knew I put a picture of her in shorts and knee high socks on the internet. SHHhhhh. . . .

Monday – Friday: I work from home. This is my messy desk in my still un-finished office.

Yes, that’s a cassette tape you see. Don’t judge me.

THIS is what I see, 6-8 hours a day:

Well. . .to be honest, I should have a Facebook chat session up with the Asiagoans, but those are private and I WOULD get my ass beat for showing you THAT.

On Wednesday, I got to take my Daddy out on the Thriller Charleston boat, which I promote as part of my day job. He was an early NASCAR small track race car driver, so I knew that the adrenaline rush would be perfect for him.

I did NOT expect him to wrap up against the spray from the waves like a Babushka.

We did have a blast.

Sadly, I don’t have photos of my Wednesday evening event – a fancy cocktail party I had to attend for work. I took my aunt, who loves a good party, along for company. She bought an outfit for the occasion, so I really will have to share a picture later. She looked WAY more glamorous than I did (as she always does), and greatly enjoyed the premium booze and food while I schmoozed. We then retired to Mercato, where I had a fantastic glass of wine and the yummiest pizza I’ve had in a long while. But alas, again, no photos. I was too busy nomming.

Again, Monday – Friday: My family can’t just visit. Oh no. Their hands itch to be busy all the time, but especially when they visit me in my old fixer-upper 1940s era house. I had a list of things I wanted to accomplish – finish the office (including paint and new curtains) and new curtains for the living room. Well. . .we at least bought the fabric for the curtains.*

The rest of the week, the family decided to make their own agenda. You see, Honey and I have an enormous yard full of old growth azaleas and trees. We both also have allergies to a most everything out there, so I leave the weekly maintenance to a yard guy and let the vines and dead growth just. . you know. . .create a thicker privacy barrier. Well, the family couldn’t take it anymore.

That neighboring house? We couldn’t see it before yesterday.** My Dad and aunt have been to the dump to haul so much brush away that I’m going to have to buy them a tank of gas.

What have I been doing, besides working the day job (and occasionally wandering outside to beg them to stop) while they did this? I’ve been doing this:

Squoozing Chaucer McLovin the Lovin’ Kitty makes it ALL BETTER.

Tonight: Dinner with the fabulous Angela Morgane and her equally fantastic main squeeze.

Tomorrow: The World Grits Festival, where there will apparently be people rolling in grits. Ah, the glamour. Hey, but then I get to have dinner with Matt Dean and HIS fantastic darling of a life mate, so the glamour quotient WILL go up for the day.

I swear, there’s poetry in ALL OF THIS. I just have to sit down long enough to write it.

*This actually took DAYS, and involved buying and returning stuff. My aunt is an artiste and often changes her mind.

**And we LIKED IT THAT WAY. Damn it. We’re hermits and we don’t like our neighbors LOOKING AT US.

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Procrastination and Other Evils

“Procrastination is the bad habit of putting off until the day after tomorrow what should have been done the day before yesterday.” ~ Napoleon Hill

It has been nearly two months since my last blog post. When I began, I had every intention of sticking to a daily post schedule, even if that post ended up being a short update on the day, or a link to a cute YouTube video.

I obviously didn’t stick with it, and I must apologize to you, dear readers.

My reasons are lame, and mostly have to do with procrastination. The greatest evil of procrastination is that it breeds yet more procrastination, which leads to profound guilt and self-loathing, which leads to even MORE procrastination.

I decided today would be the day to cut through the ties that have bound me to that pattern. My life lately has involved an awful lot of letting go of the stuff that holds me back.

If you’re curious about what I’ve been up to since the beginning of February, you can get a taste over at the Asiagoans group blog (where I have faithfully been posting my weekly obligatory post because it was a commitment to a group effort, and not just me prattling on to the ether).

Oh, what the heck. Here’s a quick re-cap:

1) Jobby job work. Things move along. We’re still in early days with building our client base, but overall I’m feeling optimistic.

2) My office, which for several years has been more of a storage unit than a productive work space, is in the middle of a major overhaul. I have taken out bags and bags of old bills and files and garbage, several bins of yard sale goods, and offered a sofa and a couple of bookcases to a friend who is setting up house. In return, I get lovely turquoise blue walls, a full wall of bookcases, and room to THINK. More to come on this project. It’s having babies and spreading into other parts of my house.

3) Honey had surgery to remove her gallbladder last week. We’ve been dealing with nearly two months of tests and doctor appointments to get to the point of having it removed. That involved much worry, and certainly pain on her point. Here’s hoping that surgery indeed solves at least THIS issue.

So here’s what I can promise, dear readers. I am going to make a concerted effort to post more frequently. I’m going to aim at a more reasonable 2-3 times a week. I invite you to call me on it if you find that I’m not holding up to my commitment. Sometimes a girl needs to know that she’s talking to someone besides herself. Give me a holler, will you? Leave a comment here, or contact me directly at SarahTurpinLeyland@gmail.com.

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Knitting*

I grew up in a family populated with extremely talented, crafty women.  My grandmother was a born seamstress.  If “Project Runway” had existed in her day, there would have been no question of her winning.  I spent the first ten years of my life almost exclusively wearing clothes that she made on her 1940′s Singer, and I still sleep beneath a quilt that she made.  Every stitch is perfect.

Her eldest daughter, my Aunt Belle, could not only sew almost as well as my grandmother, but could knit, crochet, tat, and master any type of needlepoint you can imagine.  When I remember her, it is with some sort of textile in her hands.  Every knit hat or lace collar that I wore until puberty was her work.  There were no mistakes, no dropped stitches.

My youngest aunt, Ellen, is a whiz not only at making curtains and duvet covers, but at tiling bathrooms, building shelving units, and wallpapering a house from top to bottom.  The grout lines are always straight, and you can’t find the seam in the pattern of anything she makes.

My mother, the middle daughter, was not gifted in any of these things.  She recognized it early and chose to retreat to the tobacco fields to help her Daddy with the “boy” work.

I was not as smart as my mother.

You see, I wanted to make pretty things like the rest of the women in my family.  As I grew up, I watched my older female cousin pick up cross stitch and render works so beautiful that they made my grandmother cry.  I wanted to feel the needle between my fingers, to have my place around the edge of the quilting rack.

So I asked to learn all manner of things.  I don’t remember what came first – maybe simple quilting with my grandmother.  By the time I was seven or eight, I had made attempts at cross stitch, crochet and knitting.  No matter what I picked up, the lesson always went the same way.  We would sit down on my Aunt Belle’s olive green pleather sofa, and my teacher (usually Aunt Belle) would show me, in her perfect, fluid movements, how to begin.  She would then hand me the craft and wait for me to repeat what she had done.  My fingers would all turn to thumbs.  I would knot the yarn, break the string.  My aunt would sigh, and help me get started again.  Within a few minutes, I would mess up worse than the first time.  At this point, her sigh would turn into this sound that I have only ever heard a member of my family make – a cross between a sigh and a whistle of disgust.  The craft would be taken from me, my mistake pointed out in great detail, and then she would say to me, “Why don’t you let me get it started?  You can try again later.”  Later never came.  I would watch in miserable silence as each perfect stitch was made, my fingers twitching with a desire to learn how to do what she was doing.  I would watch until she grew tired of having me stare at her, and then would be sent outside to play.

As I grew to womanhood, it was occasionally said that I was my mother’s child for sure.

Fast forward thirty or so years.  I am a professional, educated woman.  I can pay my own bills and cook my own dinner (a talent that boggled my mother’s mind when she first ate my cooking – she didn’t think I could learn on my own).  Until recently, anything that was done to improve my house was done by one of my crafty family members.  My Aunt Ellen forbade me to paint my own plaster walls without her assistance.  They don’t even expect me to help.  It was decided years ago that it would just be easier if they take care of things and keep me out of the way.  They don’t call my name – they call for Honey, who IS crafty and capable with a hammer.

I realized this week that this pattern has affected my whole creative life.

A few days ago, I decided to give knitting another shot.  I have wanted to try again for years, but always talked myself out of it.  Finally, Honey suggested I take a class.  I pursued signing up, a feeling of dread sitting at the pit of my stomach.  My solace was that I would at least be paying these people with money I earned myself.  They HAD to teach me.

A friend heard my plan though, and (not knowing my painful history), offered to teach me.  She showed up at a regular gathering with needles and yarn.  To my surprise, I wasn’t as bad at it as I expected, and she was a very patient teacher.  When I started for home that evening, I stopped to buy some yarn and needles and sat down to try it on my own.  I watched several online videos, and they all looked simple enough.  When I picked up the needles and yarn to begin, though, I was all thumbs again, and I felt a terror that I haven’t known since I was a little girl with blonde hair.  I kept making mistakes.  When I finally figured out something and got some confidence, I would drop a stitch or lose count.  The specter of my aunts and grandmother loomed large.

My writing has followed a similar path.  I have always started with optimism and confidence, but when I would find myself following pointless plot bunnies, or experiencing one of those days when the words just wouldn’t flow, I would stop and panic.  Why write if I didn’t write perfectly every time?  I want to be Anne Rice at the pinnacle of her writing flow (IMHO, 1990′s “The Witching Hour,”), not some hack who won’t ever be picked up by an agent.  If I’m not perfect, what is the point?  Maybe I should just give up and let the pros do it.

But here’s the thing, folks.  My fingers have always wanted to move over a keyboard, and they have ached to create beautiful things.  I have spent my life watching other people do what they love, and render it perfect.  I haven’t had a lot of experience with starting and finishing something worthy of sharing with others.

So what did I do with the knitting?  I unraveled it and started again.  I’m going to keep doing that until I’ve learned from my experiences with the yarn and needles.  I’m done with giving up and letting other people take over my dreams.  I am tired of being jealous of people who create while I watch.  So no matter how ugly the start is, or how many times I have to unravel a scarf or a story until I figure out how to make it well, I’m going to do it.  I’m going to practice until it’s perfect, and I’m going to figure out how to fix my own mistakes.  The time of surrendering to masters is past.  This self-taught Creatrix is going to apprentice herself.

*Originally posted at http://www.asiagoans.com

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I confess to being a Lame Ass

And for that, I am very sorry.

I have been concentrating on the jobby-job for the last few days.  When I haven’t been working, I’ve been having a life and becoming more deeply addicted to Twitter than I already was a few days ago.*

So yes, I’ve been neglecting you and this blog.

To make up for it, let me give you this:

This is so the kid Honey and I would have if we could procreate.

*I promise to write something substantial in a day or so.  Until then, check out the my writing group’s blog, http://www.asiagoans.wordpress.com.

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Welcome to “What’s New Wednesday!”

I’m so pleased to kick off a new weekly posting, “What’s New Wednesday,” with delightful news from the homefront.

My local writing peeps and I have been working hard on a sooper sekrit project for a couple of weeks, and I’m very excited to FINALLY be able to reveal it!  We, the Asiagoans, lovers of glorious prose, witty (ok, occasionally snarky) remarks about the world we live in, things that sparkle, and Asiago bagels (especially Asiago bagels) are proud to unveil our group blog!

You can follow us at http://www.asiagoans.com.

Angela Morgane (www.sashiraqs.wordpress.com), Matt Dean (www.mattdean.info), Mina Mahal (www.minamahal.wordpress.com), Rebecca Enzor (www.stickynotestories.com) and I will take turns writing daily about the creative process, motivation to keep writing and creating, and keep you up to date on our own efforts to be published.  We will occasionally offer contests and other fun interactive stuff, so I hope you will add us to your daily read!

EDIT:  I neglected, in my quick typing, to include the fabulous and much-loved L.Anne (www.lannewriter.com).  Go follow her, too!

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Get off the Someday train

There is nowhere to go.  What you are looking for is right here.

Open the fist clenched in wanting and see what you already

hold in your hand.

There is no waiting for something to happen,

no point in the future to get to.

All you have ever longed for is here in this moment, right now.

~Oriah Mountain Dreamer, “The Call”

I have always been a great believer in “Someday.”  We all have our own version, but for me, Someday was a place where I would wake up and find myself a beloved, revered resident.   I would be a published, lauded, New York Times best-selling writer.  I would spend my days in a sun-drenched, perfectly neat (yet eclectic) office, sitting at my wide, clutter-free desk overlooking a charming and well-kept garden.  My dog would sit contentedly at my feet, and there would always a ready supply of hot tea.  The windows would be thrown open to welcome the tunes of the local song birds.  My bank account would naturally be so full of money from royalties earned from books that my dedicated fans buy in hardback and paperback editions (one to keep perfectly, and one to destroy from repeated readings) that I would have all of my bills set to auto-draft and trust my accountant with the rest.  My only concerns would be where to vacation next, and how to kill off my main character in the last chapter.  Writing would be easy, and always a pleasure.  I would practically bound from my bed at dawn to write and I would have more ideas than I could ever use in a lifetime of writing.

My GPS system refuses to give me the coordinates for “Someday.”  My reality looks nothing like that dreamy picture.  I bet yours doesn’t either.

It has taken me quite a while to be all right with reality.  For most of my adult life, I didn’t think that I could be a “real” writer unless I had hours every day to write in the perfect conditions.  I have wasted years putting off working on my novel because there was too much clutter in the office, or because I was too poor to buy a cup of coffee and some time at a table in the local coffee shop.  I have put the minutia of life ahead of my writing and my goal to be a writer.  I would do it Someday.  You know, when I grow up.  When I get a better job with better money.  When Honey does the same.  When we win the lottery, and have nothing to do and nothing to worry about, THEN I would write.  Until that time, I would ignore the characters begging to have their stories told.  Until then, I would read other people’s books.

I looked all over for the magical pass to grant me access to Someday.  I even opened my mind a bit and began to imagine that Someday might be a modern-day Glinda, or Willy Wonka.  I became a master glad-hander, always hoping that I might attend the right party and shake Someday’s hand.

Fortunately, a couple of years ago I started following several writers as they blogged, and I woke up enough to realize that Someday is never going to arrive at my doorstep with a bundt cake and a polite excuse for her tardiness.  Universally, these working writers are all doing their taxes, cleaning their fish tanks, and complaining that they don’t have enough money to do more than sit at home and write.  Some are successful enough to write full-time, but most either still have a day job, or have held one so recently that the shape of that life still shades their days.  They write prolifically, and usually complete more than one novel per year in addition to short stories, poems, daily blog posts, and dozens of tweets a day.

So I figured, if they can write while doing laundry and baking a black forest cake, so can I.

I signed up as a participant of NaNoWriMo (www.nanowrimo.org), wrote 56,000+ words in a month – while working full-time and doing all of the other grown-up things that had been my excuse before.  I taught myself that I can write in the middle of real life.  Some of what I wrote is crap and was painful to write, but some of it breaks my heart with its lyrical strength.  I can’t believe that work came out of me while I was working my day job and keeping my gas tank full.  There were moments of perfect synchronicity and bliss.  Words flowed out of me with such ease that it didn’t seem fair to call it work.  Nothing I had ever dreamed of for Someday matched the feeling of being a conduit for something beautiful and profound today.

I finally realized that I am a writer.   This is all I have ever wanted to be.  It took me 37 years to figure out that writing is something you DO, and not just someone you are or will grow up to be.  It isn’t about the perfect office or the right pen and notebook.  Writing is about becoming friends with your characters, following them on their adventures, and getting the hell out of your own way.

Writers WRITE.  The rest is just cake.

Find authors that you love online.  Follow their blogs or their tweets, and learn more about the daily life of a writer.  Study them.  Be inspired by them.

But most importantly, stop looking for your lottery ticket to Someday, sit your ass down, and write.

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Days of Squirrel nutters and porn stars

This will be a mighty quick post because. . .well, because.  Give me a break.  It’s after 11:30 on a Saturday night and sometimes, a girl just needs to take it easy.

So here’s the quick and easy method of posting:

Things accomplished in the jobby-job: Got confirmation of my first real client’s intention to sign with us.  Can I get a WOOT?  Responded to e-mails.  Pushed some paper around.

Writerly accomplishments: I spent a heck of a lot of time in front of the “writing/publishing” bookshelf at Barnes and Noble, researching for a post I plan to write for my writer’s group blog.  Yep, that’s about it.

What else did I do with my day? Well, I slept late trying to rid myself of a headache, woke up grumpy, struggled to pull myself together in order to leave the house, activated the highest setting on the Ultrasonic Box of DOOM, had a leisurely lunch, read a good bit of “Alice I Have Been” by Melanie Benjamin, tootled around town searching for Wi-fi in a place not crawling with children, and attended a lecture on the adult porn industry.

Yeah, you didn’t see that last bit coming, I bet.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about the lecture and the discussion after.  I attended to support a good friend, who was the main organizer of the event.  The presenter really pushed a lot of buttons, not only for me, but for most of the crowd.  She basically stated that pornography of any sort is a blight on our society, and is the root cause of most of the rapes and violence toward women.  She very much took a stance of superiority, and left no room for opposition.  The promotional material made it obvious that the lecture would lean toward a feminist ideology, but it seemed that most of the feminists in the room (me included) were pretty pissed off by her attitude and approach.  She alienated many of the men in the room, and at least one stood up and walked out.  I was a little concerned that a lynch mob might break out.  I wasn’t entirely sure that I wouldn’t have participated.  The discussion was heated at times, and I didn’t think that the presenter did a very good or fair job of moderating.  I left the event happy that my friend had a success as far as attendance and engaged participation, but I was disturbed.  I probably was meant to be.  I may blog about it later at greater length – or I might not.  I think I need to sleep on it.

Anyhoo.  It made for some interesting conversation with Honey over dinner.

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