Sometimes weekends away are relaxing. Some are more along the lines of work. Other times they are a hybrid of the two and you come away exhausted but content. But, definitely exhausted:)
Two weekends ago I went on a "retreat" that I had no business going on because life was rather ramped up at the moment with four kids back to school and sports exploding all over the calendar in addition to those not-so-savory things a person has to do--like clean the house, do the laundry, break into the fall wardrobe while still floating the summer shorts.
Don't even get me started on the socks!
Socks. On the floor. A basket of matchless singles growing and growing. Smelly socks stuffed in shoes. Inside out socks in the middle of the stairs. Even socks OUTSIDE! Enough about the socks. On this retreat there wasn't a sock in sight. :)
There I was, on a writer's retreat to Squam Lake. What a beautiful location! So beautiful that it was a challenge to not spend the whole time walking around exploring or jumping in the lake. I was there to focus on my writing, so I soaked all the nature in from a comfortable and semi-productive distance.
What was so exhausting about that?
Well, it was a bit like a mini-conference and anybody who has ever been to a conference knows there's a lot of talking, meeting people, introducing yourself, figuring out what it is you might tell them, wondering more about them, and sharing a room with a stranger. Sure, she'll feel like a friend by the end of the weekend, but there's a process and so sharing a room can add to the lethargy. Throw in a wonderful old cabin that doesn't muffle anything and only amplifies every footstep and shift of weight. A toilet flushing? Sounds like Niagra Falls has just dumped down the walls and onto the floor.
It's all part of the charm, but also the process of allowing yourself to be uncomfortable, a little awkward, and eventually feel a bit like family when it's all said and done. It was a great experience and it felt so good to meet so many wonderful, creative, nerdy minds like myself. People who wrote, researched, animated, edited, agented, revised, read, made dolls and were all interested in each other. It's a great feeling to be surrounded by people committed to creativity!
The weather was perfect. Everything was photogenic, as you'll see below, and the whole experience helped me to grow a little bit more as a writer, a reader, and a member of the big wide creative community I love being a part of.
Delete. It's magic and it's a curse that's available at the touch of a finger.
No wand required.
This (here) text block had previously waxed poetic about Due Dates.
Yes, I went on about it for about the same length I will consequently go on about Dew Points, but with one important difference: I deleted the block about Due Dates.
Did I mean to? No. I had inserted an image and then something went kaflooey, as things tend to do in the tech world, and as I thought, "Maybe I should copy the text in case something goes wrong." Another thought pushed that first thought out of the way insisting, "Just keep going--fast. Do it. Press that little 'x' and only the image will disappear, not all of the text too."
So, I went with option number two and "Delete" happened. And, worse? I did not see an "Undo" for the life of me.
Come on! No "undo" to hit?
I'm not rewriting it. I'm writing this rant instead and since this is a blog and not a term paper, or a novel, I can do that.
Thank the good Lord for blogs and journals.
Now, onto Dew Points . . .
Wow--how did I go most of my life without caring or even knowing what these were?
It's not the heat, it's the humidity. No--it's the dew point! Dang that number that either means I'm going to have a refreshing breeze dance by or that I'm going to feel beads of sweat gather and drip down my back or from the inside crease of my elbow at some point. Ugh and ew!
Does that change anything? No. But today started out with a dew point in the 70s, which is nasty, and it ends somewhere in the 50s, which is Shangri-La.
After a summer that has been moist in all the worst ways and yet somehow extremely dry also in all the worst ways, I am running towards September and its promise of low dew points and long sweaters with absolute adoration in my eyes.
I have a few wonderful events coming up that will mark the transition from summer--when I let my brain go into detox and veg mode--to fall--when I fire up my pens and all things start to buzz and bubble with energy. Next weekend (not to be confused with this weekend:) I am off to a Writers' Retreat at Squam Lake. Boy, could I use anything with the word "retreat" in the title just about now. Then the following week is the Commonwealth Pen Show in Somerville, MA where I can go and luxuriate in all things pen and ink and paper. If there is a better two-weekend lineup that inspires the written word, I can't imagine it right now.
So, go. Retreat. Write. Then, pen. Write some more.
I'll put the pen show flier below for those who would like to attend and need more concrete details than my general gushing above offers.
Here's to extended deadlines and falling dew points!
The world is opening up slowly but surely. Hopefully it follows spring's lead and petal by petal it stretches into a bloom so that we can enjoy life more fully. Imagine if flowers stayed buds forever?
What a tease.
The Massachusetts State Poetry Society had a meeting this past weekend. It was in-person at the Beverly Public Library, and it has been a while since I have attended any workshop or gathering in-person for the sake of being creative--even if only in bite-sized pieces. Poetry is sort of famous for being bite-sized, so this was a good start.
Poetry also has a habit of being famously impenetrable or snobbish. But, like so many things in life, if you can push past your own preconceived notions about poetry you'll see it's just words like everything else.
It's a magnifying glass for emotion and feeling.
It tries to get right to the point.
Its love for the heart of the matter can be seen as obstinate at times.
This is where this weekend's workshop on Acrostic Poetry comes in. Acrostic Poetry is quite possibly the perfect ambassador between people and poetry. It provides the suggestion of structure but does not slap you across the knuckles with its rules as some forms have a habit of doing. It simply provides a very entry-level chain link fence where you can see outside, but you are asked to play within its boundaries. What you play is up to you.
Some may see the fence and find it, well--offensive (pardon the wordplay:). It seems too elementary. In fact, you may remember writing an acrostic poem in elementary school. What an insult to your intelligence, because while you may not be up for the snobbery of a Shakespearean Sonnet, you will not be subjected to the ABCs of an Acrostic! Pfft!!
Well, I must admit to you, my attitude was quite the same. It had been years--decades--since I'd laid eyes, let alone my own pen, onto an acrostic poem. And yet, I played along.
I was brought over to the fenced in area.
The rules were simple and clear--refreshingly so.
So, I played.
And . . .
I absolutely loved it. Simple enough for my overwhelmed mind to participate and yet once I allowed myself to forget about the world beyond the fence, I felt safe and had some fun with words. I didn't drone on as I tend to do with prose. I picked and plucked and tried to put together a bouquet. Rearranging, crossing out, rewriting. It has been so long since I'd allowed myself to work at a poem that wasn't simply "freestyle." The "rules" offered just enough challenge without making the exercise daunting or frustrating.
So, I encourage you. I implore you: write an Acrostic Poem. Here's a link to get you started: Acrostic Poem
Many thanks to Jeanette Maes, President of the Massachusetts State Poetry Society, who facilitated the workshop this past weekend. The poem I wrote is titled "Gardening" and it could do with some reworking, but I'll include it as it stands currently.
It felt good to take a snapshot of thought and force it onto paper. There is a satisfaction in creating that we cannot, as humans, dismiss or constantly defer. I'm glad I shook myself from default to get my hot mess of a self into the car and to that meeting so I could start to remember why I love poetry and words as a medium, so very much.
As many of you know, the other hat I wear is Founder and Director of The Room to Write, which is a nonprofit that supports writers of all ages, abilities and means. So, it makes sense to share things that I think will benefit other writers and readers on my author site as well. This event definitely falls into that category. Here are the details:
TRtW thought it would be fun to coordinate a Writers and Illustrators Meet & Greets--with a twist.
In addition to the actual meeting "event" with writers and illustrators of all genres and levels, The Room to Write wants to do a little extra to celebrate the books created and published by local authors and illustrators during two very challenging years as well as those being released in the year ahead. (2020, 2021, & 2022)
BEFORE: Wed, January 26th: Receive the meeting link by emailing: email@example.com Published authors and illustrators can send a video where they show us and tell us about their book. Sending the video ahead is our preference so we can show them during the event. Please send your 30-60 second Video through We Transfer to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Video Instructions: LIGHTS: Be sure lighting is taken into consideration. You don't want to be sitting in the dark with big shadows. CAMERA: For those recording on a cell phone, please be sure the camera is held horizontally. (Hamburger no Hotdog) This will give the audience the best view of each author. ACTION: Please be sure to record in a spot that has minimal sound. Speak slowly and clearly.
Ideas: Hold the book up, show your smile (or scowl:) and be sure to tell us your name, the book title, where you live (town/city is fun, but county, region or state will do). Tell us about your book. It's great practice to see what you can fit into 60 seconds or less. The genre? Age of intended audience? Is it a debut novel or your fifth? Date of publication?
ON: Wed, January 26th at 7:00pm: Join us for a virtual Meet & Greet where we will highlight recently published books by local authors and illustrators and enjoy creative community.
Didn’t publish, but would like to learn about recently released books by fellow artists or gather some motivation to continue with or finish your current work in progress? Gathering among other creative minds helps-- even if you're shy and just want to listen and absorb some positive energy.
Published? Published authors can show up and share a book during the meeting. Sharing will be limited to 60 seconds maximum whether live or pre-recorded. You'll have more time to share and answer questions during the Meet & Greet. We will add any additional Show & Tell spots to the existing video to be shared after the event.
AFTER: Wed, January 26th: If you don't get your video to us prior to the meeting and are not able to join the event, please follow the instructions above to be added afterwards. This video will be a helpful resource that can be added to for up to two weeks after the meeting, so by Wed, February 9th. We'll send out an updated version on Valentine's Day with all the local authors we love and support!
Truly, there is something about having a room of one's own.
Not in the same sense that my daughter wants a room of her own.
She does have her own corner in a room she shares.
And really, that is all I'm talking about here:
This room is not mine, though it feels like it is right now. It is a shared room where my aunt visiting from Mississippi was able to sleep this past summer, a family friend who plows in the winter can lay his head, and where my husband has worked daily since he was sent home from his office space back in March 2020. The cat often stretches out in here, too.
But, recently this space became "available" three days a week. The only thing missing? A desk--or a table to write on. Yesterday I pulled a TV table up to a chair, but I needed something a bit more permanent and less chaotic.
Something shoved into the corner would be out of the way and much more functional.
Not enough is said about the beauty of corners.
Able to corral thoughts and papers together.
For fifty-eight dollars and tax, I found an adorable, functional desk that fit into the 36-ish inches of space I had available to work with. I didn't know most desks were 40+ inches, so there were not many options.
But, I love the one I snagged.
So now: a small space:
an in-house efficiency
in which to work,
to contemplate and
Might help make all the difference.
We shall see.
Have you ever found yourself moving right along at a gallop and then all of a sudden you look down and there's no horse beneath you and kerplunk--you land with a thud? Well, that is exactly what happened to me towards the end of October and the start of November. Life as (un)usual seems to have picked up.
Additionally, anybody who is a parent, grandparent or who helps care for kids may have experienced a bit of whiplash with the increase in social and extracurricular activities for youth that suddenly increased this fall, especially juxtaposed with last year's halt (or virtual equivalent) of nearly everything.
And, it wasn't just my kids who had more things on the calendar. Theatres opened up, concert venues welcomed musicians back, festivals were held, book clubs returned and the nonprofit that I direct came out of hibernation. The Room to Write participated in the Festival by the Lake--the first event for the nonprofit in over a year--at the beginning of October. It was great, but it sure was busy.
A cup that had been three-quarters full already had suddenly started running over. I was completely overwhelmed with so many different needs in so many completely different directions. My self-managed writing projects (manuscript content and revisions, blog entries, newsletters, poetry) went back on the shelf not long after I had hoped to make them a priority. Kids back in school seemed like a big window was opening, but it filled almost instantly with things I decided were more important. Sometimes they were. Sometimes they weren't.
The internet can be a wonderful thing and yet it is a procrastinator's dream. I love to garden and find myself looking up plants and information on gardening when I feel overwhelmed by too many needs pressing in around me. With an endless variety of plants, dreaming up gardens is an easy way to fall down the black hole of time.
Bringing kids here, there and everywhere--another frequent time warp tunnel for me. Answering emails, coordinating meetings or events, and "looking" at things for others who ask me to edit a document are other ways that time is quickly siphoned off of my days.
So, where do I go from here? I'm not sure. I need to make a schedule, but more importantly I need to try to follow a schedule. I've discovered I'm a terrible self-manager. If somebody asks me to do something, consider it done! But, without a deadline or someone on the other end waiting for my writing--it gets pushed aside. Once again, this highlights the importance of a critique group and reminds me why I am so thankful for mine. We meet monthly and I facilitate the meetings, so it forces me to make progress on my manuscript even if only in bite-sized portions. It helps that I coordinate and run the meetings because then I make them a priority. Others are counting on me.
Yesterday I met with two writers. What a boost! It felt so good to talk about writing and new ways to bring writing into the community, encourage others to tell stories, and to write them down. Tomorrow I meet with another writer I haven't connected with in over a year and I am really looking forward to it. I feel like there's an exchange of energy when I meet with other writers--it's a give and a take for both of us. It's something that I haven't found a consistent pace with, but would like to incorporate into my life more often. These meetings used to happen more regularly pre-pandemic when workshops, conferences and other events took place. But we are not quite beyond the pandemic and so we creatives need to coordinate our own one-off collaborations and meetups.
Hopefully I can find the balance that keeps my cup full but not running over.
What's your self-management secret? :)