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.

L is for…Learning Curve

Whenever I call myself a writer, I feel a surge of excitement, happiness and contentment. Underneath the feeling of “rightness,” however, there’s a slow-moving mass of uncertainty and doubt. I’ve known about it for a few years, but, like anybody with an internet connection, I pretended it wasn’t there in favor of taking BuzzFeed quizzes. (Daniel Day-Lewis will play me in the movie, I am more Rachel than Monica and yes, I am smarter than a 5th grader, but not by much.)

It wasn’t until I attended a panel at AWP that I had a better sense of the uneasiness and doubt I felt. The panel, “Second Acts: Creative Writing as a Second Career,” featured a panel of wise women, all of whom were coming to writing after successful careers in other fields. I was especially moved and inspired by something author & panelist Bridgett Davis said. She said that second career writers need to be kind to themselves. Allow and honor the fact that you will need years to hone and develop the craft. (And also honor the fact that the craft itself requires years to explore and master.)

She also noted that it’s an adjustment for people who were probably very successful in their first careers. Second career writers often feel like we should be instantly good at writing because we are good at our first career. It’s a psychological leap to go from being at or near the top of a profession to the bottom of another one. We need to carve out the space and time to devote to this new act.

Yes. Exactly. This is why I’ve felt doubt about my writing career. Suddenly I’m on the bottom again, after achieving professional success in my library career. And that’s okay. That was the other big theme that the conference itself reminded me repeatedly – writing takes time. It takes time to write novels, it takes time to build writing communities, it takes time to learn the craft. (And as regular readers know, I wrestle with issues of time a lot.) I’ve felt like I’m behind but really, I’m exactly where I need to be on the learning curve.

I'll try anything on the equinox

photo (11)Remember the episode of the West Wing where CJ Cregg insists that you can balance an egg on its end, but only at the EXACT moment of the vernal equinox?  Every year I intend to try this.  Today the equinox was at 11:57 AM.  I had good intentions, but ended up going out for lunch with my special guy and forgot to bring an egg.

The interwebz informs me you actually can balance an egg on end – and not just today but any day – as long as you are patient.  Aha!  That’s the problem.  I am not a patient person.  So enjoy a picture I took of eggs laying on their sides.

I am a huge fan of spring and the equinox in particular, despite my lack of egg balancing patience.  Darkness and light are in balance, there is new growth and a return of energy.  I’ve been in a bit of a funk for the past few months (see Monday’s post), not particularly unhappy but not particularly happy, either.  I did a lot of pondering and waiting over the winter, and while these are normal – and often useful – periods, I am also impatient enough (see above) that the stillness of winter didn’t sit well with me.

But now I’ve taken steps to make writing a much larger part of my life, I’ve figured out some goals and am incredibly optimistic and excited about where these paths might lead.  The second draft of my novel is finally (finally!) chugging along.

I’m also learning some patience, too.  For awhile, I was blah that writing wasn’t panning out as quickly as I desired.  I created a blog, for goodness sake!  I decided that writing was my vocation! Shouldn’t all my wildest dreams immediately come true?

That’s not how life works, of course.  And sometimes our best-laid plans can be cruelly undermined.  Life is precious, and I’m happy that today I realize it.  I’m also thankful that I have so much time to sit and look out my window, to scribble in a journal and send loooooong emails to friends who are kind enough to reply (especially when they are having exciting overseas adventures).  This reflection has helped me find my own sense of balance as I move forward, which is perhaps the greatest  gift of sabbatical.

Happy Spring!