A Cool Dream

I usually forget my dreams immediately upon opening my eyes. But sometimes they’re so fascinating I repeat them over and over in my head until I can write them down. This was such a dream.

In it, I was a writer. (Big stretch, right?) But I was living inside what I wrote. For example, if I wrote of a lush, green forest, one would appear around me. (Yes, I dream in color.) I could conjure butterflies and birds and deer and flowers.

I sat at my writing desk and I created three dimensional, living, breathing art. It was really exciting. It felt as though I was conducting an orchestra and painting a picture at the same time.

And then, I got writer’s block. So I wrote about a coffee table book, and one appeared on my writing table. It was a big, thick one, full of glossy photos. All I had to do was open the book and look at a photo, and I’d be inspired to write about it. And so the creativity continued.

I can’t describe the feeling of contentment and joy I was experiencing. It makes me happy to think that I’m now in a place in my life where such positive dreams are flowing out of my subconscious. It was a creative, problem-solving kind of place. I could have lived in there forever.

And then my dog Quagmire kicked me in the ribs and I woke up. The magical world popped like a soap bubble. Even so, I gave Quag a big good morning hug. That dream made me feel really empowered, but my dog makes me feel loved. So that’ll do quite nicely.

Fantasy Forest

Like the way my weird mind works? Then you’ll enjoy my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Having Something to Say

It occurred to me recently that before you can be a writer, you must first have something to say. You have to have opinions and thoughts and ideas. You have to be good at explaining and/or describing things. You can’t be hesitant to speak your mind.

I’ve always had something to say. No doubt about it. Even when I would take those tests at school that are supposed to help you decide what career path to take, mine would always come out “writer” and nothing else. I mean, seriously, while my friends would have 5 or 6 suggested career paths, all I’d have was writer. (I strongly suspect bridgetenders are not even on the list of careers for those tests. Most people don’t even know we exist.)

My whole life I’ve been told that I have very strong opinions. But that was meant as an insult. As in, “Shut up, female, and leave the thinking to the rest of us.” People rarely accuse men of having strong opinions. And I would get that criticism from men and women alike, because a lot of women don’t realize how complicit we can be in our own oppression.

Well, I thank God for my strong opinions. Without them, this blog wouldn’t exist. And I’d be a heck of a lot less interesting.

Fortunately, I’m not the kind of person who expects everyone to share my opinions. People like that are insufferable (in my opinion). I don’t think I’m very good at pointing that out, though. It’s definitely something I need to work on. It never occurs to me that some people view opinions as coercion.

I don’t see opinions that way. I also don’t think of them as being right or wrong. Opinions are simply points of view. No two people will see things from the same angle. The world might be easier to live in if we did, but it would sure be monotonous.

If you want to be a writer, I urge you to get out there and experience life, and, yes, form opinions about those experiences. Listen and learn as much as you can. Be open to unique people, places and things. And most of all, don’t be afraid to express yourself, even if the whole world tries to shut you up.

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An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

David Sedaris Will Never Read This

Recently I attended a workshop with a friend. It was hosted by one of my favorite authors, David Sedaris, and the purpose was to help him with the final edit of his upcoming book, Theft by Finding, which will be excerpts from the daily diary he’s been keeping since 1977.

Talk about some mad promotional skills! He was in Seattle all week, in a theater that seats 250 people, and the workshop sold out each night. We each paid 50 dollars a pop to help this man with his next book.

Does anyone want to pay me 50 dollars to help me with my next book? Because I’ll take it. Just saying.

In fairness, this was not some dry proofreading event. He read portions of the book and basically gauged the success of those portions by how hard we laughed. And oh, did we laugh. The man is hysterical. I can guarantee that this book will join the pantheon of all his other bestsellers.

Afterward he allowed us to ask questions. And that’s why I know he’ll never read this. He said he never, ever reads anything written about himself. As a matter of fact, he allowed an author to interview him so that the man could write a book about him, and he’s never read the book. This is probably a mentally healthy way to live your life, but personally, I could never be that incurious.

David Sedaris inspires my writing a great deal. I love the way he can be forthright about his quirks. He exposes himself, lays himself wide open as a matter of fact, the good, the bad, and the ugly, for your reading pleasure. I find that incredibly charming. That’s one of the reasons I tend to expose myself so thoroughly in this blog. Let your freak flag fly!

When my friend approached Mr. Sedaris for his autograph, I went with her, and gave him a copy of my book. He actually noticed it in my hand and asked about it before I could even say anything. I told him that he inspired my writing. He was very gracious and thanked me for it.

Now I have this fantasy that he’ll peruse a few pages of it while sitting in his lonely hotel room, or while on the long flight back to his home in France. I would love to know what becomes of that book. It will probably sit on an airport bench somewhere until someone else picks it up. But the fact that one of my writing heroes even touched it, even looked at the cover, is enough to make me smile.

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Be just like David Sedaris. Hold my book in your hand! http://amzn.to/2cCHgUu

Sentence Envy

As a writer, my ears always prick up when I hear a pithy word combination or an elegant turn of phrase. All these droll fragments get stored in my mental treasure chest, to be trotted out on this blog when the spirit moves me. My thoughts may be original to me, but the way I express them is often a mish-mash of things I’ve heard from so many places that I couldn’t possibly tell you their origins.

It’s a little harder to do that with entire sentences, though, without having to own up to downright plagiarism. Take this sentence that I read in a story written by my friend Paul Currington, the leader of the monthly storytelling group I attend called Fresh Ground Stories: “In the coal mine of life my canary is always dead.”

I just have to say, it’s a rare sentence that makes me roll back my chair and exclaim out loud. “Dang! That’s good!” Okay, so I might have punctuated it differently, but that’s just my pea-green jealousy talking.

That sentence is a thing of beauty. I’m in love with that sentence. I would have sex with that sentence if I could. Dammit, why didn’t I think of it?

Moments like this are rather bittersweet. I will always remember that sentence, and how it made me feel when my eyes touched it, but in good conscience I’ll never be able to use it.

That’s like being treated to the best gelato on earth, but being told you only get to have it once. Given that option, it would take me quite some time to decide if it was worth it, if it meant a lifetime of depravation. (But yeah, in the end I’d have it. I know me.)

I will admit that I’ve also written a few really good sentences in my life. My favorite one from this blog is: “Barack Obama eats boysenberry aspic on melba toast while doing the watusi in a frothy silk kimono.”

To understand why I wrote it, you’ll just have to check out the blog entry in question.

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I Feel a Blog Coming On

People often ask me how I’ve managed to come up with a new topic for this blog every single day for the past few years. Frankly, it surprises me, too. I assumed that I’d only be able to keep up this pace for 6 months at most, and yet here I am. I think it helps that I am a bottomless pit of curiosity, and I’d like to think I’m leading an interesting life. I also have a job that lets me live deep inside my colorful imagination much of the time.

What I discovered is that after a while you get into a sort of blog mindset. Every conversation you have, every daydream, every Facebook post, radio broadcast or billboard is potential blog fodder. It’s gotten so there’s actually a distinct feeling I get. It’s usually triggered by my thinking, “That’s interesting,” or “Wow!” or “I never knew that,” or “I wonder why…” When that feeling comes over me, I tend to say, “I feel a blog coming on.”

I’d be lying, though, if I said that it always came that easily. Sometimes just reading the bumper stickers on my commute home doesn’t quite cut it. I’ve actually been reduced to looking at words in the dictionary, or cruising randomly through Wikipedia. I’ve even been known to post on Facebook, “Gaaaaah! I can’t think of anything to write about in my blog! Help!”

Wherever inspiration comes from, I welcome it. This blog has become a huge part of my life. Thank you, dear readers, for taking the journey with me.

[Image credit: torquemag.io]
[Image credit: torquemag.io]

A Totally Different View — www.nathanvass.com

It’s a rare thing indeed to come across a writer whose voice is so unique that it comes through loud and clear in his work. Recently I met such a writer at the Fresh Ground Stories meetup group in Seattle. Nathan drives a city bus for a living, so his views from the bus are completely different than my views from a drawbridge. He has a lot more human interaction, and he deals with it with aplomb. And then he writes about it in his blog.

If you read just a few entries, you’ll see what I mean. He doesn’t write about who he is, but you can see it through his conversations with people.  He knows how to diffuse tense situations. He doesn’t judge people, not even for a second. He has a way of making people open up and reveal things that they never would to most of us. You can tell that he genuinely cares about people and is fascinated by their unique perspectives. He makes himself a blank slate and allows people to write their stories upon him.

I’m not sure he realizes how unusual and outstanding his qualities are. This is a young man who will have an impact on people wherever he may find himself in life. Some people are just exceptional. Nathan Vass is one of those. Read his blog. You’ll be transported.

Nathan on his bus. {Image credit: pinterest.com]
Nathan on his bus. {Image credit: pinterest.com]

Stolen Lives

Recently I heard an interview with Andrew McCarthy. He’s probably best known for his acting in the movies Pretty in Pink and Weekend at Bernie’s. But in this interview he talked more about his job as an editor at large for National Geographic Traveler magazine.

Okay, this pisses me off. Not only has he maintained his dimpled good looks despite being 2 years older than me, not only is he successful, but now he has my dream job, too? Oh, and he has published books. Even better. My inner child is screaming, “Not fair! Not fair!”

If I were about a half century younger, I’d be throwing a tantrum right now. Why can’t I lead a charmed life? I’m a nice person. I work hard. I’m intelligent. I recycle. But noooooo…

Andrew McCarthy, you’ve stolen my life! I want it back. (Well, “back” is a relative term, since I never had it in the first place. But you know what I mean!!!)

Okay, so, yeah, he struggled with alcoholism and went to rehab and has been divorced, which are things I’ve never had to cope with, but… still…

Sigh. I guess the rain falls on all of us every now and then. And with that, I’ll leave you with this quote:

Everyone is screwed up, broken, clingy, and scared, even the people who seem to have it more or less together. They are much more like you than you would believe. So try not to compare your insides to their outsides.

–Anne Lamott

Andrew McCarthy [Image credit: pinterest.com]
Andrew McCarthy
[Image credit: pinterest.com]

“American Blogger Killed”

When I read that headline the other day, my blood ran cold. Because, hey, I’m an American Blogger, so I take stuff like this personally. (Okay, so my notoriety isn’t that overwhelming, but it still strikes a chord.)

According to the Reuters article, the blogger in question, Avijit Roy, was based in Bangladesh, which, let’s face it, does not have a great reputation for freedom of the press. He spoke out against religious extremism. For his trouble, he and his wife were hacked to death by machetes. What a grisly way to go just for speaking your mind.

This kind of reaction to speech in general is incredibly foreign to my very nature. It has never occurred to me to keep my opinions to myself. And sometimes that has irritated those around me. I get that. But I have never, ever, EVER required or even assumed that others will share my opinion. I don’t think of myself as an influential or persuasive person. I’m just someone who shoots her mouth off. Take it or leave it. It’s all the same to me.

So the whole concept of someone slaughtering someone else simply because of what they write or say will always shock me. I mean, if you disagree with someone or something, go elsewhere for your information. Change the channel. Buy a different paper. You know what I’m saying? Take a life? Who does that? It’s insane.

Maybe that’s because I firmly believe that people have minds of their own and can draw their own conclusions. I assume that people who think it’s okay to kill someone for their opinion must really think the power of the word is much stronger than I do. They must think that words actually change things. Perhaps they do, sometimes, but let’s be honest. Tomorrow you’ll have forgotten that you even read this, and that’s true of 99 percent of the things that you read, unless you only read things like the preamble to the constitution or Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech.

The thought that there might be some nut job out there in the blogiverse who is reading my ramblings and thinking, “This chick has got to go,” gives me the shivers. But it won’t shut me up.

Rest in peace, Avijit Roy.

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[Image credit: lorihamann.com]

“You Have a Book in You.”

Since about the age of 8 I’ve been told I should be a writer. Indeed, I’ve had a few articles published, but nothing for pay. And of course there’s this blog, which is a creative outlet that I have found I can no longer do without.

In every job I’ve had I seem to eventually wash up on the shores of writer-land. Either I get volunteered to write the company newsletter or I’m asked to put together a contract proposal on the side. Currently I’ve been approached to join a committee and get involved in writing training procedures. Don’t get me wrong. I love doing these things. It’s just a constant source of amusement that I seem to always land in this place in spite of the fact that I honestly don’t see myself consciously paddling my boat in this direction. It’s as if I’m in some sort of writers’ Gulf Stream that carries me along without my having to navigate.

I’ve been told I should write for a living. To that I say, “Pish!” I like to eat and pay my bills. Many people have said I should write a book, and maybe I will someday, but there are quite a few hurdles I’d have to jump over before I could reach that goal. First of all, it’s easier to be struck by lightning than it is to be published these days. People are just not buying books like they used to. And even if you get published, the big publishing houses don’t seem to be promoting their authors that much anymore, unless you’re one of their all-stars.

Self-publish? Maybe. But then you have to be a phenomenal PR person, and persuasion has never been my strong suit. It’s hard to get the public’s attention, and that is a skill set that I don’t seem to have.

Also, anyone can put out an e-book or self-publish. Yes, there are a lot of good writers who do this, but you have to wade through an ocean of crap to find them, and most readers aren’t willing to do so. Believe me, I know several people who hare published and the product they have put out is an embarrassment to the written word. So there’s a stigma.

But the main roadblock to my writing a full length book is my utter lack of follow through. If you could only see my cluttered house you’d know that to be true. How could I write a novel when I can’t even be bothered to balance my checkbook?

And then there’s the confidence thing. I can’t imagine that I have enough to say on any one topic that I could hold someone’s interest for 300 pages. I mean, seriously, who am I? Yes, interesting things have happened in my life, and I’d like to think that I have a unique perspective. But when I contemplate trying to hold forth on that perspective for any length of time, I get no pictures.

Maybe that’s why this blog appeals to me so much. Each day I can write about something new, and I don’t have to plan that far ahead. I don’t have to develop a plot or come up with a story arc. I just get to do what I like to do, which is write. Just because you love to do something and have a knack for it doesn’t mean you have to twist it into a money making machine.

If I had all the money and time in the world, I’d pursue a Masters of Fine Arts degree. I think that would be fun and exciting and I’m sure I’d learn a great deal from it. But I already have 3 degrees that have gotten me nowhere in life. I’m still paying off the last one, and I’m loathe to add a fourth to my wall of shame.

Maybe I do have a book in me. Maybe not. Maybe writer-land is actually a chain of islands, and I’ve been washing up on one of the small ones, like Molokai, instead of the big island of Hawaii. Who knows where the current will take me next. But I have to say, if it turns out to be my final destination,  Molokai isn’t such a bad place to be.

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Revealing My Soft Underbelly

When you write a blog and have to come up with a brand new topic day after day, month after month, you find yourself getting more and more personal. The other day a rumor got back to me that several coworkers have been shocked at some of my revelations. “I can’t believe she would say that.”

Well, I’ve never had much of a filter to begin with, but a daily blog tends to boil you down to your basic elements rather quickly, and you find that you have less and less to hide behind. That was part of the experience that I wasn’t expecting. People who value their privacy shouldn’t blog.

If you read everything I’ve written for the past 15 months, you basically know everything about me except my name, rank, and serial number. I mean, yes, I’ve changed a few names to protect the innocent, but one way or another this is all about me and who I am and what I think.

I’ve told you that I’ve been fired. I’ve told you that I’ve been scammed. I’ve told you my politics, my preferences, and my bad taste in clothes. I’ve revealed that I’m fat and extremely well endowed and prone to depression and that I make mistakes. I’ve showed you my dogs and my socks and my friends and my fantasies. I’ve described who I admire and what gives me the creeps. I’ve taken you with me on my travels and shared a few laughs with you.

So far none of this has come back to bite me in the butt, and I hope it never will because I don’t expect I’ll suddenly encounter a sense of discretion at this late date. I’m having too much fun. Having said all that, I invite you to continue to join me for the ride. It might get exciting when you least suspect it.

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