As my first year of blogging comes to an end, I can’t help but look back and notice that I “only” made twenty-two posts, including this one. Instead of being disappointed though, I’m choosing to focus on the fact that I posted throughout the entire year, regardless of the final count.
If 2013 has taught me anything, it’s that I’m done with synopsizing my accomplishments with the use of such words and phrases as “only,” “at least,” and “yes, but….” In fact, I’m quite proud of and honored by the fact that in 2013 – the first year I spread my writing wings – I managed to get four flash fiction pieces, two poems, and two short stories published. I simply refuse to let the dozen or so rejections I also received to taint my thinking otherwise. And by the way – I prefer to think in terms of the other publishers “declining” my offers, not outrightly rejecting them.
As for the purpose of this last blog post for 2013 – for the last few weeks, my Facebook news feed has had quite a few posts from people talking about their “chosen word” for 2014. I had never really heard of such a concept, but I liked the sound of it. I spent a lot of time thinking about what word I might like to focus on for the upcoming year and the word that kept whispering in my ear – no matter how hard I tried to ignore it – was actually “focus.” It seemed too intense for what I had in mind, but it finally dawned on me that it only had to be that way if that’s what I CHOSE to focus on.
I’m not sure why, but once I “had” my word, I went on a Pinterest quest to search for inspiration. I was pleasantly surprised at how much my focus expanded (no pun intended) on that one word. I ended up with 87 pins on my Pinterest Focus board and I’m certain there will be plenty more throughout 2014.
But why choose “focus,” you might wonder? For me, it’s primarily a shift in my writing about everything and anything, to defining a short list of what I’d like to focus on writing. But it extends far beyond just my writing. It’s about focusing on my dreams – not on my doubts; on what I can do – not on what I can’t do; on what I have to gain – not on what I have to lose; on how far I’ve come – not on how far I still have to go; on living – not just on surviving. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg (again a matter of focus).
There truly are layers upon layers to much of what our days present us with. It’s up to each one of us to decide what we need and/or want to focus on. And while we might never solve Edgar Allen Poe’s riddle of why a raven is like a writing desk, we can enjoy the journey of discovery, even if it “only” leads us to more layers vying for our attention and focus.
I’d LOVE to hear what word you might have chosen for yourself to focus on in 2014. I’d also REALLY like to hear your thoughts on the actual word “focus.” Until then, as 2013 fades into the rearview mirror and as 2014 comes into focus above the horizon, may each of you be filled with the joy of peaceful possibilities that patiently await your gaze.
Addendum: For anyone who might be curious about what had my attention for the last month or so, it was my Flash Cards Project, something I might expand – and continue to focus on – in 2014. You can see pictures of the completed project on my Flash Cards Project Pinterest board.
One of the many inspiring things that happened while I was at Design Your Life Camp, was being introduced to the world of “Tandem Poetry” created by Maya Stein and Amy Tingle Williamson. All you had to do was give these two amazing poets one word of your own choosing and – in less than five minutes – they each created a poem for you on their manual typewriters and 3″ x 5″ index cards. It was both magical and mesmerizing to watch them in action; it was silent, other than the tap-tap-tapping as they wove their words.
I’ve been home from camp for three weeks and I’m just now beginning to feel that I’ve rejoined the real world. There’s been so much good stuff to process that I’ve often felt overwhelmed. Joyously so.
Moved by Maya’s and Amy’s approach to creating great work with minimal time and small spaces, I’ve begun what I’ve dubbed the “Flash Cards” project. It’s a totally selfish project devised to prompt me to write at least SOMETHING every day. All I do is use a random word generator (I began with the letter “a”) to provide me with my word for the day; a word that I then try to tell a “flash fiction” story within a sentence or two. I jot down what I come up with onto the template of a library card that I scanned into my computer. (And for those who are curious…that’s NOT my handwriting. I use Picmonkey and the La Belle Aurore font.)
I’m only three days into this project, but I have to confess that I’m really enjoying it. I don’t pretend to have any grand illusions that it will lead me to some great new place in my life, but I’m open to following whatever path it does take me on.
Sometimes writing is just about writing. Having fun with the process, creating a practice you love, and starting all over again the next day. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings. All I know is that it will involve at least one word that begins with the letter “d.”
If you’re interested in following this project, I’ll be posting my creations on my Flash Cards Project Pinterest board.
Sixty-one days have passed since my last blog post. Instead of feeling apologetic about such an absence, I’m ecstatic! How’s that possible, you wonder?
Although it’s been quite a lengthy “caesura,” it’s actually been a VERY productive writing time for me. I not only submitted five poems, eleven flash fiction pieces (which had to be limited to only six words each – a true miracle of brevity for me!), and one fictional story to several publications, but I also managed to write 4,900 words towards my goal of 13,000 for Camp NaNoWriMo. I also entered one poem and one fiction story in various contests. I’m pleasantly surprised and far-beyond overjoyed to be able to announce that I’ve had three flash fiction pieces and one poem accepted…so far.
For me though, these past few weeks haven’t been about getting things published. They’ve been about routinely “showing up” and doing the work. Work that I’m passionate about and that feels more like “joy in mind motion.” During my time away, I had to remind myself that I didn’t start this blog to simply add to the blogosphere chatter. In my very first post, I had focused on my New Year’s intention to “show up for my life and to give it my all.” Although I’m not showing up HERE as often as I had thought I might, I’m giving it my all in other ways to the writing pages of my life and I simply could NOT be happier.
In the process of laying down so many words, I’m finally learning that shorter truly can be sweeter. And if someone had told me that I would one day succumb to writing poetry and fiction – versus non-fiction, which I had always considered my “calling” – I might have been forever frightened away from picking up a pen. Who knew that I’d be glad to not always have a clue about what’s going to flow from my fingertips?
As a huge fan of synchronicity and/or coincidence – call it whatever you like – I must admit that today left me a little weak in the knees. I’ve been (im)patiently awaiting the arrival of my copies of the flash fiction pieces I had accepted for print in Haunted Waters Press, “From the Depths.” Not only did they finally appear on my doorstep this afternoon, but sitting on top of them was another box. In that package was a fabulously, funky, red purse I had purchased online from a lady who’s on an amazing mission to downsize and declutter her life. That woman is my writing instructor – the one who has forever changed my life for the better. Not only had she enclosed a lovely handwritten note on an index card (her “parchment of choice” for many class assignments), but the pieces I had published were formatted in the journal to also appear as if they were on an index card!
As someone who has spent years looking for a sign that my life is finally on the “right” path, I heard you loud and clear today dear Universe and I can’t wait to see what lies on the path ahead. I promise to keep showing up and to do the work as best I can.
Addendum: Just as I was getting ready to hit the “publish” button, my husband told me that I might want to look off to the east to witness what was possibly another sign. I’m so blessed to be a part of this wonderful world…
“All I know for sure is that it took so long that I almost gave up several times. Not because I was doubtful of the possibility. Rather, I was certain of its possibility.” ~Michael Grab
I do not use the word “awestruck” lightly. In fact, if I was to rely on the most common definition which references having mixed emotions of both wonder and fear, it would be difficult for me to even think of other times in my life when that word would be applicable. All of that changed though when a dear friend of mine (thank you Ginny!) recently introduced me to the online world of Michael Grab, a self-professed Rock Balancer.
Instead of me trying to adequately describe just what it is that Michael does and how it is that he left me so awestruck, I implore you to PLEASE take three minutes and fifty-five seconds out of your busy life to watch firsthand the video below of his “work.” Fair warning though (especially for Type A personalities) – be patient and do NOT take your eyes off what he’s doing. I can honestly say that, the first time I watched this, I not only “saw” the second everything came together, but I literally “felt” it deep within. I was NOT expecting either. In a nanosecond, my shrunken heart that had been fearing a collapse almost burst from the soul-expanding wonder of witnessing something that seems to defy all possibility of existing. Enter…..awestruck.
Right about now, you’re probably sitting there – like I initially was – debating whether or not some “rock balancing guy” is worth an investment of the precious time that it will take you to view the video and/or to finish reading this blog post about him. Let me provide you with a little more insight about Michael before you make that critical decision.
One of his core beliefs about what he does is, “it’s all about presence in the moment. SLOW down. Become the balance.” If you do watch the video (or perhaps you already did – hooray for you!), you almost get a sense of time frozen, perhaps due to Michael’s intense – almost meditative – patience with the process. Patience that had me both breathless and squirming in my seat.
Michael is so much more though than rocks, balance, and patience. In his February 5th, 2013 blog post (entitled “Following the Heart’s Intuition”), he begins with a meme quote (author unknown to him, but I believe it to be Lawrence Pearsall Jacks) that he saw on Facebook and that stated, “The person who is a master in the art of living makes little distinction between their work and their play. Their labor and their leisure, their mind and their body……They hardly know which is which. They simply pursue their vision of excellence and grace in whatever they do, leaving others to decide whether they are working or playing. To them, they are always doing both.” In his own words, he goes on to say that, “I can’t emphasize enough the value of following your own sacred intuition…those deep down feelings and spiritual excitements. By doing this I have learned to relax in the face of uncertainty, to exist in the moment more easily and thoroughly. Balancing rocks teaches many disciplines. The balance pictured here (photo below) took about an hour, maybe two, to realize. All I know for sure is that it took so long that I almost gave up several times. Not because I was doubtful of the possibility. Rather, I was certain of its possibility.”
And that – THAT – is why I felt I had to share Michael and his work/art with the world, in whatever way I could. Not because he and I both have a love affair with the artist nature of stones, but because of his unyielding belief that art is possible in even the most unlikeliest of forms.
This is a guy who literally immerses himself in his work. He also not only realizes – but accepts – the fleeting nature of all that we create. As a writer, I personally can learn a lot from a young man like that.
When he talks about “find[ing] a zero point or silence within [him]self,” I imagine how that translates into my own need to sit patiently at my desk while I find my own starting/balance point to begin constructing the (hopefully) rock-solid foundation of my next piece. When he discusses how “…rocks collaborate into an extremely complex system of balance. One piece slightly adjusted by fractions of a millimeter will yield collapse…,” I realize how every word I write ties into the next one and how my editing has the power to build the piece stronger, as well as to cause its destruction. “Slow down. Become the balance.” There really is no other way, is there?
I hope that you or someone you know – someone who is perhaps struggling with believing in the possibility of their own art and/or in finding the balance of that art within the context of the rest of their life – finds some inspiration in the magic that Michael creates. For additional motivation, be sure to check out his website, especially his portfolio that depicts some of his amazing “towers.” As for his “bridges” and “spheres” – oh my! You just have to see them for yourself. The good news is, you can also buy prints of his work.
One final note…..if you’re interested and if you can spare nine more minutes and fifteen seconds, I would highly recommend that you watch this other video. As the camera used for filming it is suspended directly from Michael’s head, it will let you experience the amazing process directly from his point of view. Art from yet another glorious angle…..