Wednesday, September 18, 2013

On Writing...

     As I was searching Google for some pictures to use on the front of a journal packet I am creating for my students, I came upon this quote today:

"When I say work I only mean writing. Everything else is just odd jobs.”
—Margaret Laurence
It is a funny thing to think that my life's work has been filled with only odd jobs. For various reasons (O.K. I like to eat and have a car) I have not been able to make writing my sole profession.
     And yet, I think I have all the makings of a writer. I dream about writing, not just in a metaphorical way, but actually dream about writing. It wakes me up with story lines and ideas, conversations and colors; the way people look and the spaces they inhabit, bits and pieces of information. And I allow my brain to absorb all of this and save it away, in a safe place, for the next time I can find the time to sit down and put pencil to paper, or in reality, fingers to keyboard. Then I hope I can remember it all; the nuances, the right person saying the right thing, the brilliant idea I had for one pure sentence.
     One of my favorite authors is Anne Lamott. In her book Bird by Bird she writes about writing: "You put a piece of paper in the typewriter, or you turn on the computer and bring up the right file, and then you stare at it for an hour or so. You begin rocking, just a little at first, and then like a huge autistic child. You look at the ceiling, and over at the clock, yawn, and stare at the paper again. Then, with your fingers poised on the keyboard, you squint at an image that is forming in your mind -- a scene, a locale, a character, whatever -- and you try to quiet your mind so you can hear what that landscape or character has to say above the other voices in your mind.” 
     I have had those moments but only in college when I had to write essays on topics I didn't particularly want to write about. I wanted to be writing on my thoughts and ideas. I didn't want to waste time on the academic process. But that was where I was at the time. I had to accomplish that in a timely manner, now, and then I would have time to write, really write. I don't have those moments now when I sit down to write. The words and sentences flow on the paper, usually so quickly that I have to really slow down or it would look like a toddler playing on a keyboard.
     And I have written over the years, but not as much or as often as I would like. Life gets in my way.
     Now, especially since I have started this blog, I am writing on a more regular basis. I want to write. there is an intrinsic need inside of me to write. When I don't blog for awhile I get an anxious feeling inside, kind of like the butterflies people get when they are going into an unknown situation. I think about writing. I try to scrape out time to write. And like an addict, once I write I feel o.k. for a time. But not very long. Sometimes only a day. Many times I want to write again in an hour. But the responsibilities of life won't allow me.
     I cave to the responsible me. Sometimes I justify it but many times I think I am a coward. I think that if I was serious about writing, I would scrape out time and make writing a priority. that if I really wanted to be a writer, I would make it happen. I would figure out what is really stopping me and fix it. I would trade in my "odd job" of writing and make it my only work.

Friday, September 13, 2013


     I have realized, at this point in my life, that I have very little control over my life. No, I am not speaking about the whole question of "fate", although I do believe in fate. I am talking about everyday events that control many of my hours. I wake up to an alarm clock set for 5:30 a.m. And if that is not bad enough, our cat, Jerome, is already in anticipation of the alarm and starts softly meowing in my face before the dreaded buzzer goes off. I think he hears our neighbor, who leaves for work around 5:30, getting out of his house and into his car. Smart cat. Then, Jerome leads the way and sits on the side of the tub as I use the bathroom, waiting for water from the tub faucet, because it's morning-drinking-water-out-of the faucet-time. Then, we parade to the kitchen where he waits on the rug in front of the sink for his daily portion of 1/2 can of wet food. He leave me to my own devices as I make coffee and cook breakfast but reappears as I sit to watch the news and eat my breakfast, waiting for me to finish so he can have, what has come to be known as, "belly time." After he is satisfied with the amount of attention I lavish on him, because you know, a cat laying in your lap on his back with his belly exposed is just too cute to resist, he jumps off and goes to his napping place for the day. This could be on our bed, in the bedroom chair, on a box in my sewing room, on my cutting table, or any other place he deems nap-worthy. Then I am tasked with checking my phone for important, can't put it off, have to answer, email. Then I must check the games. I am playing several games with friends and family members; can't ignore them. This is too much responsibility! My mornings used to be so quiet.
     My mornings are controlled by the cat and technology, and less importantly, my need for coffee and food. But food and coffee could be ignored or forgotten or postponed, if entirely necessary; the cat, especially, cannot.
     My husband and I were having a discussion a couple of weeks ago; we were talking about which one of us would "go" first. I know that is kind of a morbid thing to discuss, but as one gets older, these things must be talked about. A man on T.V. had stated that he didn't want to die before his wife because he didn't want to live without her. Doug repeated the same sediment to me and I thought, being a mushy moment, that I would say it back to him. How sweet. He looked at me and said, "Really? I think you want to go first so you don't have to figure out all the technology I handle in the house!" I had to laugh. He's not too far off in that assumption.
     My day at school is controlled by the bells. Bells ring at the end of the block, at the 7 minute warning for the passing period ending and at the final 3 minute - you-better-hoof-it-to-class-warning. The bells! The bells! Isn't that phrase from some movie? At least our bells are pleasant to hear. We have bells that sound like the call of the congregation to church, symbolic of the school's mascot: Santa Maria Saints. When we adopted these, they tried out several sounds and we decided that these were the best of what was offered.
     I get home from school at 3:30 most days. Jerome is waiting in the living room for me. It's "Greenie time!" He seems to be saying, "Where have you been? It's getting late and I haven't had my Greenies! How do you expect me to take a decent afternoon nap on an empty stomach?" This even though I have pointed out to him numerous times, that his food bowl, in the kitchen, is never empty. He doesn't care. Greenie time is Greenie time. Oh, for those of you who are not familiar with Greenies: it is a brand name of a kitty treat. So, we have Greenie time and most days, he promptly falls asleep on my lap. What do I do? I take a nap too. After an hour or so, I decide that as long as I am stranded in my chair I might as well check my email. This act determines how I spend my evening; whether it be on my computer in the bedroom or lazily sharing time with Doug as we watch out favorite T.V. shows.
     Not that I am begrudging of technology (well, I am a little, because there is also email and grading and attendance that occupies my time in the classroom) but I have not always lived with technology. When I was the age of the students I teach, fax machines were only being used in big businesses, carbon paper was still a staple and people weren't connected to a smart phone 24/7. If people called you and you weren't available, for whatever reason, they called back.
     I am afraid we have come too far into the world of technology to go back now. And I must admit, some of it has made my life more enjoyable (like being able to watch past seasons of Downton Abby on Hulu when I need a fix. Is the next season EVER going to start?) but so much of the time I find it tends to control me and my time. I suppose I could make a rule about email and games on my phone; no playing certain times of the day, but would I be shirking my responsibility to the others I play with? Maybe. But I would like to be less "controlled" and I think that might help. The cat, on the other hand, is a whole different matter...