Z is for…Zabuton

A zabuton is a type of meditation cushion. Mine is a flat rectangle that serves as a base for a smaller zafu (a round meditation cushion) or a meditation bench. I’m making it sound like I have a robust, sustained meditation practice. In truth, the cushions get far more use by my cats than by me. But my lackluster meditation practice is perhaps a topic for another day.

I went to a panel at AWP about authors and social media. One panelist made the observation that any work authors do on social media should be to support their writing, not to take the place of it. While I’ve dedicated a bunch of time to the blog this month (and will be scaling back for a time starting tomorrow), my blog – and the  A to Z Challenge in particular – have supported my writing, just as the zabuton acts as a support for meditation:

  • The challenge helped me develop my blogging voice and also spurred me to consider how I continue to develop my own voice as a fiction writer, as well the unique voices of my characters.
  • The challenge provided 26 opportunities to write succinctly and quickly. I’ve already seen this lesson at work in my shorter and longer pieces. When I was working on my fiction this month and laboring over a scene, this was part of my inner chatter: “Get to the point already, Julie.” It was usually good advice.
  • The challenge offered time and space to reflect on – and share – the contours of my writing career as it currently stands, especially in the context of my life. There’s something very powerful about sharing some of my innermost thoughts, fears and hopes for writing with the wider world.
  • The challenge facilitated connections with other bloggers and writers. While I didn’t visit as many blogs as I intended this month, I have the whole list of participating blogs to visit over the coming months. And through the generosity of other bloggers who visited and commented on my posts, I’ve already found several kindred blogging spirits.

Thanks to everyone who made this journey with me, whether you read snippets here or there or if you read every single post. A special thanks to my readers who get new posts delivered to their inbox. That’s a lot of mail from me in the course of one month! Thanks for sticking with it.

I’m off to rest – wishing all of you time and space to reflect on all the things that support your lives, as well as the courage to discern and make necessary changes.

P is for…Pajamas

(P could also be for…I almost forgot to post today.)

My blog is called Cemeteries and Pajamas because I like to visit cemeteries and I write in my pajamas. Since we covered cemeteries on day three, we are focused on pajamas today.

I have already taken to heart the advice that says don’t dress for the job you have, dress for the one you want. Done. I’m sure there are some writers who dress somewhat formally to write. (And by “somewhat formally,” I mean jeans without holes in the knees.) I am not one of those writers.

I have always been more interested in comfort than fashion. (And In my experience, the two do not go hand in hand.) I don’t wear high heels because my toes get pinched (plus I HATE feeling wobbly). I don’t wear makeup because I don’t like the way it feels on my face.  And I don’t wear skirts unless it is at least 60 degrees, because I live on the tundra and I’m not going to freeze the lower portion of my body for the sake of  being fashionable.

There’s a bigger reason why I don’t dress up much – I don’t feel like myself unless I’m completely comfortable. When I don’t feel like myself, it’s harder to write. I’m too busy thinking about how these boots are giving me blisters or how that waistband is cutting into my skin to think and write well.

Thus, jammies. Flannel pants and sweatshirt in the winter. T-shirt and shorts (complete with elastic waistband, of course) in the summer. Sometimes it’s the little things that offer the most support for writing.


Why Cemeteries and Pajamas?

Fort Ridgely CemeteryAt first glance (and even at second), cemeteries and pajamas don’t appear to have much in common, unless you want to engage in a belabored pun about resting, which I really, really don’t.   So why did I name my blog Cemeteries and Pajamas?

For me, these two things are linked by the fact that I’m on sabbatical.  When people ask what I’m doing this year, I tell them that I’m spending a lot of time wandering around cemeteries.  Sometimes I’m wearing my pajamas during these conversations.  This usual ends the conversation quickly, which this introvert appreciates.

I spent a fantastic fall visiting over a dozen cemeteries near my home, marking all the visits on a giant map of my county.  When I wasn’t taking photos in the cemeteries, I was at my desk, wearing my pajamas, furiously pounding out the first draft of a new novel about a young woman who can hear the final thoughts of the dead.  

Sabbatical has given me time to rethink my life, including asking myself what I want to accomplish before I myself am in the ground.  (Well, cremated, really, but you get the idea.) Writing – and sharing that writing with the world – has been pretty high on that list for years.  Also, finding a career where I can primarily work in my pajamas.  Score.