Blog Et Cetera

Balancing the Myth

I haven’t written a blog on this website in a couple of months. My original plan was to make sure I was penning something at least once a month. But, enter life and all of its gloriously annoying distractions.

Work has been the culprit these last few months.  It has sucked the time from my days like a vampire would drain a body, with little remorse or apathy.

Work, work, work…very little play.

A well-meaning friend told me that life needs to be lived with balance in mind. That’s when I told her what she could do with her balance. 

This is the problem with all the advice everyone is dishing out: it’s just another opportunity to keep track of something, to judge…to fall short. No thank you. 

Let’s face it- if you’re living a life, balance is an unobtainable illusion. And, my rebel cry is: down with balance. Down with being praised for living a perfectly orchestrated life…crossing all the t’s and dotting all the i’s. Down with the energy and concentration it takes to maintain balance, waiting for the inevitable faltering when reality comes for a visit. Down with people using the word balance like it’s a magic potion for all.

The balance of trying to please others, while still trying to please yourself…just stop. The idea that a balanced life is a better life…laughable.

If I need to concentrate on work for a couple of months, then that’s what I’ll do. If my children need me, then that’s where my time will be spent. If I get to write to my heart’s desire, then I welcome the opportunity. If a friend calls in the middle of the night, then I go.

The myth is that if you’re not living a life in balance- it must be one of chaos. Untrue.

There is this beautiful middle ground where you get to calmly look between the scales of balance and the din of chaos and know you’ve found just the right spot. 

 

 

 

 

 

The Big Finish

I think the hardest thing to do, when writing, is to come up with the perfect ending. Did I say perfect? Maybe that word is a no-no, but it’s staying put.

No matter what is being written: an essay, poem, short story, novel, screen play, etc., all the words lead up to the last ones. There is a better chance the reader will remember the last sentence than a random sentence on page 42.

Maybe my conclusion stems from some vexing condition deeply rooted in my past, but it’s here to stay, so I’m learning to live with it.

If only that was my singular hang-up. But, alas, when you are shooting for perfection, the fear of imperfection rears its head…and then, starts barking at you. “I don’t think that was a strong ending…did it convey what you were going for…how are the readers going to feel about it…did you say too much or not enough…

At some point, you give the barking beast a treat and tell it to go lay down in the corner. And while its not looking, busy with other menacing activities, you type “the end.” Even if you have to fake some confidence, deciding you know exactly what you’re doing.

It has to end sometime. The editing, polishing and wrestling with the story has got to eventually come to a close. If there’s no ending, it halts new beginnings.

It won’t be perfect. Nothing out there is. But, I hope there is beauty in the imperfection, and another wonderful opportunity to forgive myself.

 

Freshman

Very soon, my husband and I will be taking our first born child to college, and dropping her off to begin her freshman year.

We have attended orientation…completed necessary paperwork…packed a good portion of belongings already. My thinking is that if we’re prepared, perhaps I’ll also be adequately prepared emotionally for the experience. (Fat chance).

Over and over, I keep telling myself it is “time” for her to go. In truth, it is. She needs to spread her wings, grow as a human and learn more about life amid her peers.

We went shopping yesterday for a couple of specific items of clothing she wanted. The saleswoman asked her what size pants she wears. My daughter looked at me to supply an answer!

“You should know what size pants you wear!” I scolded. “You’re eighteen!”

Once she received her size, the saleswoman and I chatted. A song that my daughter liked came on over the sound system.

“She isn’t trying on the pants anymore,” I said to the woman, shaking my head. “She’s dancing in the dressing room.”

When she came out of the dressing room, the saleswoman asked her if she was dancing.

“If you’re going to play a jam like that,” my daughter said, “I can’t be held responsible.”

So grown and still so much a little kid. I hope she never loses her child-like spirit.    

It won’t be long before we are pulling away from her college dorm, and I am crying like a baby. Most likely, it will start way sooner than that. And I have to seriously search my heart and wonder, why the tears if this is such a good thing?

And it dawns on me that the next time I see her, she’ll be a little different, because life experience involves and includes change.

That shouldn’t be cause for tears. I’ll have more of her to love.

Good luck my darling girl. Oh, how I’ll miss you. With all my heart, Mom.

Timing

Timing

Writing has been a serious exercise in discipline for me over the last few years. And, along the way, the amount of discovery experienced has not quite matched the heap of questions that are encountered.

I still don’t know what the best time of day is to write. I thought it was first thing in the morning, but some of my best writing is accomplished in the afternoon or evening. Is there a day that springs forth more imagination or output? A season? The weather? You see where I’m headed.

There are times in my writing where I can use metaphors and engage a subject deeply- other times, the pages are packed with fluff. Inspiration often visits without reason or invitation. Yet, when I pursue it- it can be elusive and unattainable.

It feels as though I am in control of very little…only the choice to sit down and wrestle with the story, regardless of all that surrounds me.

How very much like life.

 

 

Editing

Edit : To prepare (something written) to be published or used: to make changes, correct mistakes, etc.

Without a doubt, one of my least favorite verbs in the English language. Editing, as necessary as it is, can be quite tedious and frustrating. When beginning a new project, I often think to myself: I will do this, but I’m not going to like it.

It’s a rare occurrence for me to read anything and not find a mistake. Authors nowadays, myself included, commonly tinker with grammatical rules. (“Rules” is also on my list of least favorite words).

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that we merely use guidelines in our writing. As writers, we are usually aware of our failures or inconsistencies. My worst foible as a “writer” is that I am mercilessly inconsistent with my use of commas. All the commas are legal, but the same comma rules are not used throughout.

In this day and age, anyone can pick up a computer, pen a story and publish it. However, not everyone should. Don’t get me wrong, this is not meant to be a message of discouragement. Write your story, but pretty please have someone edit it. It’s a necessary evil to the process. A reader may like your topic, voice and story, but cannot get through the jungle of mistakes while reading.

I have seen many book reviews where the reader says: “I really wanted to like this book, but more editing was necessary.” Another common opinion is: “I couldn’t finish. The mistakes were too distracting.”

The bottom line is that the reader is rooting for you. They have decided to read your work and devoted time to doing so. They don’t want this to be a waste of their time- they wish to be entertained, escape into the story, awaken their imagination or to be challenged. They want the writer to be good…great, if possible.

Everyone is not going to enjoy your particular genre or the story you have to tell, but if someone is interested in your genre and can’t read it because of the errors- that’s a problem.

It doesn’t need to cost you an arm and a leg. Befriend readers that devour books. They will gladly help with your project. Readers always have a lot of opinions about what they have read, and many of them will be valuable to your project. Be willing to listen to the thoughts of others, while still maintaining your voice.

Let me leave you here with a little hope. I received my “Writer’s Digest” yesterday. For those that don’t know, it’s a magazine to help writers with all manner of their craft.

Page 7 and 8 can be found between 64 and 65. This is a magazine that hammers home the importance of editing all the time. I’m going to let this slide only because it is their “Creativity Issue” and perhaps they were thinking outside of the box. I doubt it, but sometimes grace is such a beautiful thing to bestow.

So I hope you find a good “editor” for your project or readers with a lot of grace to give. If you find both- there can be no stopping you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Value

“Try not to become a man (woman) of success, but rather try to become a man of value.”  -Albert Einstein

I have been thinking about this quote a lot lately. The two words- success and value are sometimes used interchangeably, but they are vastly different.

It would be much easier to label something or someone a success- than of value. Often, success can be determined at a glance…a quick judgement.

inspectValue requires more time and effort to uncover. Not too much effort, but just enough that requires a closeness not all of us are comfortable with. It brings the visual to mind of a person inspecting a diamond. Diamonds are costly, but you don’t know what their value is until taking a closer look.

I will never forget reading Steve Jobs’ last thoughts about life. It was heart-breaking. By all accounts, he could be seen as one of the most successful men on the planet. However, when he was on his death bed- he assured us that none of that mattered as much as time spent with his family or friends. He had regrets.

It wasn’t his success that he questioned- it was his value. I imagine at the end of this life, we will all carry our little suitcases of regret, and play the “woulda, coulda, shoulda” game with ourselves. Human nature almost requires it.

I believe every life has been gifted with value, and that all of us have a unique ability to share that as we travel on this round globe. Value looks different to everyone. We do not all have the same passions or love for the same causes, but we can support each other in them.

When the whole world is clamoring for success, it takes a lot of courage to concentrate on being of value. Be brave.

 

 

 

Reality

I recently heard someone say: “Harsh reality is better than false hope.”

The quote seems based in negativity. I’m sure some would disagree, but the fact that reality is described as “harsh” and hope as “false,” leads me to believe it is not a saying used to offer encouragement very often.   

Sayings like this get the juices flowing. It would be more advantageous to concentrate on other things, but there is no controlling my mind when it wanders. So, I pack it a little bag, make sure it has snacks for the trip, and off it goes.

Taking the adjectives off the main words, leaves an even more dismal message: “Reality is better than hope.” If that were true, just take me now, Lord. I’m done.

Reality is extremely important…a springboard for all other actions or choices moving forward. I do not believe reality to always be harsh, although it certainly can be. Here is another saying that comes to mind (one that gives a couple of my friends fits): “It is what it is”. That saying is neither negative or positive, just very plain speech, which clearly identifies reality. It does not mean that circumstances can not change, improve or deteriorate. It means- here we are…this is our reality. So, now what?

How exactly does one equate “false hope?” In order to do so, an awful lot of judgement would need to be swung around- deciding something will never come to fruition for another. It would be like telling a woman 100 years ago, that the right to vote was a false hope. Sixty years ago- telling NASA that a man on the moon was an impossibility. Twenty years ago- denying that a man of color would ever be president.

footprint

Reality is that spot on the map, marked with a big red X, that says: you are here. And hope is everything that is not visible on the map. It is in the underbrush of the outlying areas and on the mountaintops off in the distance. It is in the birth of a child, the start of a love, and truth.

As my mind returns from its little outing, there is no grand thought or finality on the subject. Hope and reality are in a constant state of change. I find it incredibly hard to keep up.

 

Pain

We have all, at one time or another, experienced disappointment, pain or sadness. I’m talking  about the deep, wounding afflictions that make you wonder if it’s all worth drawing your next breath.

For those of you that have no idea what I speak of- you will. Not to be the voice of doom, but such is life. In order for life to be full, it requires an assortment of experiences, one of which is suffering.

Pain is a four letter word (rightfully so). Even though the definition is very straight forward, pain can be extremely subjective. A good example of this is when you go to a hospital and are asked to “rate the pain.” You know what I’m talking about, the chart that goes from 1 to 10, with all the expressions on it. Those were the first emoji’s- we just didn’t have a name for them yet. It’s always a struggle to select the right pain number. The nurse needs to know there is pain, but you don’t want to appear weak either. And how do you pick 10? Do we truly even know what the worst possible pain is? Would we want to? No thanks!

pain

And, it’s an especially interesting conversation when people try to compare pains. For example, giving birth vs. a tear in the meniscus. Unbelievably, my ears have heard that conversation more than a few times.

Thankfully, we don’t argue over emotional pains, to include grief. Can you imagine? The emotional pains are the ones that lay bare, but are not visible. That people may inadvertently poke with a stick and without knowledge disregard the torment inflicted.

I will never forget losing my father. The roiling pain and anguish seemed too much to bear. And then, I received a message from my friend just a week after the death of my father. She asked that I pray for her because she was on her way home- her 23 year old son was just found dead in her house. (He had an enlarged heart that was never diagnosed).

And then, I started to compare an emotional pain. I had my father for a very long time. He was amazing and we never left anything unsaid. My friend had lost a child- I couldn’t imagine that kind of pain…I didn’t want to.

There is a very interesting side to the word pain. The word “pains” means: to take trouble, care or effort to accomplish something.

It means that sometimes after a tragedy, it requires great pains to deal with pain. To find the strength to breath, to get up in the morning, to hold tightly to a hope that seems fuzzy through the tears.

I have turned my back on hope, I have childishly refused it, and I have found it difficult to spot, but it is there…it is always there.

 

Allergies

A few years ago, I was feeling run down and decided to make an appointment with the doctor. My guess was a cold, but it had gone on for quite some time…not getting worse or better. When the doctor came into the examination room, he asked a few questions. It didn’t take long for him to render his diagnosis.

“Well, it looks like you have allergies,” he announced, shaking his head up and down.

“I’ve never had allergies,” I resisted.

“It’s very common for people your age, or any age to get them later in life- even if you have never had them before,” he educated.

“Oh, goody,” I said sarcastically. 

He then offered to do skin testing to find out what allergies were affecting me, but I declined. He explained the different medicines or treatments which also met my refusal. My line of thinking goes something like this: Whatever I am allergic to isn’t life-threatening, so knowing what it is will not make me any less allergic. The medicine for allergies makes my head a little foggy (I’ve tried a couple)- which is very close to the way a cold or allergies make me feel.

Yes, I could try to avoid pollen or mold but those are in oxygen, which is said to be an important element. And what if I am suddenly allergic to my dogs? Do I just ship them off to the nearest shelter? Never gonna happen.  

There are hundreds of things that could make my eyes water or stuff up my nose. Maybe it’s a food allergy, but I don’t believe so. There are people who suffer from peanut, shellfish or fruit allergies. Some are lactose intolerant. There are gluten sensitivities. Certain spices will send someone straight to the hospital.

The most disturbing thing that I have discovered during a heightened awareness of the allergy life- is that people must think we are incredibly stupid. There was a warning on a package of peeled, hard-boiled eggs that I bought. It read: Caution, contains eggs. Similar warnings have been put on nuts or edamame.

A company that sells allergy medication, wraps up their slogan in the idea that their product helps with 6 allergy symptoms, instead of just one. Apparently, six is more than one, and better than one. Truly inspiring. Where do we send the thank you letters for that Earth-shattering information? 

If you are reading this and suffer from any kind of allergy- be strong. I now know first-hand how awful they can be. If you don’t have allergies: Good news! You can get them at any time. And, something that should have been mentioned earlier, for the safety of the reader: This blog was written in a house that contains nuts.   

 

 

Bad Review

Well, it had to happen some time. I received my first harsh review on Amazon. It could have been worse, and scored a one or two out of five, but three out of five still hurt a bit.

Here it is:

I chose 3 stars because, while story was good, it ended abruptly in a cliffhanger. This really irritated me, as I see it as a tool to get the reader to buy the next book in series. A good story doesn’t need that incentive, the reader will be anxious for the next one, not feeling cheated out of their leisure time by a lazy author.

Oh boy. There is a lot for me to say about this, but it will be sufficient to highlight the major points. This person liked the story (which means more to me than the other comments that were made in the review).

The way the book ended irritated me too. When I finished, I re-read the last line over and over again…wondering if more needed to be said. No, I thought- the reader can decide for themselves what happens. However, after the beta reading was complete- everyone thought there needed to be another book. Arguing the point was only possible for so long, when seriously outnumbered.

So I set out to start the second book. Begrudgingly, painfully and resigned to the fact that it should be completed within a year. If readers thought there should be a sequel, I wouldn’t want them to have to wait for it.

The reader who left this review, most likely downloaded the book while it was free. There were over 8,000 free downloads in five days. So, I am glad she didn’t pay for something that irritated her. No matter how I would have ended it- there would be cause to call it a cliffhanger.

Everyone has the right to their opinion, and this book is not for everyone, but it’s the last line of the review that makes me laugh. “…not feeling cheated out of their leisure time by a lazy author.” I wonder why people feel the need to judge and name-call? This person has never met me, yet based on the way I ended a book- she assumes there must be laziness at work?

I truly hope she will find better reading in her leisure time. I’ll just be over here working full time, raising a family, running a household, trying to make time to write a second book, and dreaming about someday having this thing she calls “leisure time.”

Signed,

The Lazy Author 🙂