Category Archives: process

Another Memorial

Remember the fallen today.

Those who’ve given their lives in the long slog toward justice and equality…

I know some veterans, but I have never known someone killed on a battlefield.

This Memorial Day, I am thinking of a different kind of soldier, because two of those were just killed in the city where I lived: Portland.

“Three US men [were] attacked while defending a Muslim teenager and her friend on a train. Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche and Ricky John Best were killed and Micah David-Cole Fletcher was severely injured in Portland, Oregon on Friday. They…intervened after a man launched into a verbal tirade against the teens, one wearing a hijab.” [source]

I was a little shocked by the closeness of such a crime, but it was only my friend Claire’s words of warning becoming visible: Portland is still infested with the white supremacists that founded this state. Then when someone I knew had known one of these fallen heroes, it hit me even closer to home.

I am tired of the metaphors of war. I doubt their effectiveness, even as they continue to mobilize parts of the population. But this war–on ignorance and prejudice, on arrogance and insecurity–is being fought everywhere. From the MAX train to my family’s Thanksgiving dinner table:

black lives matter yellow button

I’d been to a rally after the disastrous election and picked up a Black Lives Matter button. I had it on a puffy vest, and though I hesitated wearing it home for the holidays, I felt my hesitation as cowardice, and left it on the vest, packed into my suitcase for the cold weather.

When I wore the vest, the first glance of my brother-in-law, a former Marine and current Republican, produced a leaden silence. Then, my sister: “Really? I would’ve thought if anything you’d have an ALL Lives Matter one.”

How close can you get?

Me with my Americorps service, my international living, my frequent travel, my peacenik views… but I fallback on the simple analogies that explain the Black Lives Matter movement, and its reason for existing: black people’s lives are disposed of much more cavalierly than white people’s in America.

All lives do matter, but we don’t need to champion that message for some of those lives.  Black Lives Matter Just As Much.

And Muslim lives.

And Queer lives.

Everyone. Deserves. To Live.

Here’s to America finding its way back to Liberty and Justice for ALL.

Faith of a Different Kind

What is the relationship between faith and expectations?

I just finished Christine Hassler’s book, Expectation Hangover, after having it in my TBR queue for a loooong time.

One of the points she makes that rings true is about having a long period of adjusting and learning after each bout of disappointment (which she brands as a ‘Hangover’).

Days, months, years, even.

carl nightingale quote time will pass anyway pinterest

But it gets shorter and less deep each time, because you get better at processing, detaching, and learning.

The years are needed because this is when you develop faith, the kind I’m talking about, faith in yourself.

“Faith is not developed in times of certainty, but rather in the vast sea of the unknown.”

Last year I struck out to sample how a full-time writer’s life might look and feel. I had oodles of free time, most of which I spent at home alone. I could frame it as the life of an aristocrat, or the poor church mouse, because at different times I felt like both.

But when it came to the tasks I had set myself to accomplish: getting a professional author photo, updating book covers, submitting proposals for speaking gigs, etc–I labored in the dark, with too-big rubber gloves.

I felt stuck, and merely kept trying new things, to see if any would shake loose some results, either in terms of book sales, speaking engagements, writing contacts, or some unknown new variable.

Now that I am back in my busiest schedule since college (27 credits and a part-time job? Sure!), I continue to fumble along, no longer seeing clearly my stepped graph of new marketing efforts with each book’s publication.

normal vs my love life graph humor

Substitute “Career” for “Love Life”

My graph has got more complicated, overlapping, looping back, subsiding, sparking unexpectedly. With Book Number Four taking longer, I have had to innovate in different ways.

I still can’t predict which efforts will yield the results I seek, and merely keep on keepin’ on, some days.

This is faith.

And expectations? The way to avoid a hangover, in 3 simple steps:

  1. Reward your efforts, not your results, in healthy ways.
  2. Bolster your sense of self with replenishing solitude and social time with supportive friends.
  3. No matter the rate, don’t quit trying new things and putting in the time to improve.

These are the things I learned on my own, while waiting to read Christine’s book.


Does this resonate? How has your faith changed, or your expectations evolved, over your writing career?


Images via Pinterest

Solitude vs. Loneliness, and Productivity

I was thinking the other day of the highs and lows of loneliness and connectedness in my life.

And then I was thinking of the highs and lows of productivity in my life.

plot of sin and cos curves

And then I was trying to think of how they intersected.

(not my strong suit, spatial relations)

But before I can explain my analysis of this relationship for the benefit of all you writers out there, I feel compelled to highlight the difference between loneliness and solitude.

paul tillich quote loneliness solitude

I enjoy a lot of solitude in my life right now. I work outside the home one day a week, maybe two. I live alone (well, now there are two cats, as of two weeks ago–yes, we are all three still alive). I live on a tight budget because revenue is currently at a trickle, which means not a lot of going out for meals and drinks with friends.

As an introvert, I love looking out at heaps and bunches and gobs of alone time such as this. As a social human, I do manage to stick a pin in, here and there, for Gaelic, karaoke, coffee, etc. but I do enjoy structuring my own time.

Mornings have a certain rhythm.

Chores don’t feel so onerous when they are break from intellectual work.

I SO enjoy not having to worry about another person’s comfort in my space.

introverts often alone rarely lonely

But in between these yawning stretches of satisfaction and comfort, I sometimes miss having someone to talk to, to hand me a mug of tea, to drive me somewhere, to change the light bulb. You know, share the responsibility of being an adult in the modern world. Key word: share.

Another key word: witness.

That is loneliness. And it only gets worse when you try to reach out for a connection–what the Gottmans call a bid for connection–and are met with flakiness (I’ll drop by) or dismissal (I can’t right now).

In terms of how this interacts with my writing life, I think that solitude clearly allows for work to be assessed, scheduled, and accomplished, if not quickly, at least when the projects are ripe creatively.

But loneliness? It builds a wall around the writer and makes the vision go blurry and the creative impulse go slack. We may write a world into being in order to feel connected, but eventually we’ll realize we need the real thing.

Characters can’t give you a hug. Neither can they laugh at you with that sparkle in their eyes that makes you feel part of a tribe.

When I think about the times when I am most writing-productive, it is when there is a clear goal, a flexible strategy, a loose and diverse community, and a finish line in sight. You know what I’m talking about, right??

NaNoWriMo! I’ve written four out of my five novel-length drafts during NaNo. Not that they came out perfect, but they came out. It has proven to be a good annual challenge for me, so I intend to keep using it. You may have a similar retreat time every year, or a weekend ritual, or a great critique group.

Think about how your ritual is or isn’t working. Ask yourself if solitude or loneliness might be playing a part.

Try giving yourself some more solitude. And if the mean reds start to get you down, reach out! Play in some snow! Dial a friend! Sing a song! Host a potluck! Attend a bookstore reading!

When you settle back down, you’ll feel all right. And the work will get done.


Image via Univ. of GeorgiaPinterest, & Pinterest

Aftermath of NaNoWriMo…NaNoMath?

Well, NaNos, we did it.

nanowrimo 2016 winner badge

We dared censure, derision, skepticism, and impossibility to come to this:

Thousands of words from our brain have been transmitted to paper, and a story has begun.

Maybe it has sketched out its full arc, and now it is time to give it a rest before revising.

Maybe it got into the meaty part of the conflict, and ran out of steam.

Maybe you picked and chose, and are now the proud possessor of a heap of vignettes, loosely tied together, but needing a quilter’s skill to stitch them together.

Any way you look at it, you’ve made a start, and I’m proud of you! Now, don’t waste that momentum–take the next step!

For me, that is finishing up the last two scenes for the story to sweep to its conclusion. (I learned from last year; I will not leave it in the drawer quite yet.) When that happens, probably tomorrow during a snowflake armageddon, I will then get to take my step back for objectivity.

THEN, I will be swooping down onto Book 2, whose progress was halted for NaNoWriMo, with my sharpened scythe. Because now that Book 3 has a shape, Book 2 has boundaries. Time to slice and dice.

Does writing a series work like this for anyone else? No? OK, then. I can only imagine the uproar if I decided to just publish Book 3 ahead of Book 2…but what is self-publishing for, if not causing a ruckus?

I ended November at 52, 389 words, a respectable slow-down distance after the finish line. I hope my posts helped motivate and encourage some of you writers out there to push through the fatigue and frustration. NOW. Let’s put 2016 out of its misery with a Christmas full of gratitude and joy!

charlie brown christmas singing ending


Images via NaNoWriMo and Timbuktu

Famous Last Lines to Finish Strong

Here are some stirring last lines, or just inspiring lines, from famous works to keep you going these last three days on #NaNoWriMo2016!

tom hiddleston henry v

From Henry V: (not the last line)

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more, Or close the wall up with our English dead! In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man As modest stillness and humility; But when the blast of war blows in our ears, Then imitate the action of the tiger: Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood. (Act III, Scene I) 

gandalf aragorn legolas black gate lotr

From Lord of the Rings: (not the last line)

I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is notthis day.

jamie claire outlander liquid courageFrom The Fiery Cross:

“When the day shall come, that we do part,’ he said softly, and turned to look at me, ‘if my last words are not ‘I love you’ – ye’ll ken it was because I didna have time.”

From Gone With the Wind:

“After all, tomorrow is another day.”


All right, enough inspiration! Get thee to the Page!


Images via Collider, Simon Kepp, Giphy, and Zimbio