Jan 12 2012

#writingislikelife

Last night a new reader joked that my blog depresses her.  “Please write an upbeat (albeit fake) post!” she requested.  And I’m nothing if not accommodating to new fans.

Especially since, in looking back over the last six or seven months, I realize that my writing has adopted a somewhat intense tone.  And sure, I’m intense sometimes.  I’m stormy and occasionally grumpy and now and then I get angry or sad.  But I’m also pretty goofy, really.  I go to happy hours with big groups of girls where we tell dirty jokes (or true, dirty stories) and make friends with the bartenders.  I play wiffle ball and ultimate and my favorite thing in yoga is handstands.  I have a huge sweet tooth that makes it impossible to resist chocolate and very sugary coffee.  I teach middle school and write young adult fiction largely because, in my heart, I’m a big kid who still giggles at bathroom humor.  This is, actually, who I am a lot of the time.  Where did this always-serious girl come from? 

While the trappings and realities of this grown-up life do have the potential to bring me down at times, I would hazard to say that I’m usually quite up.  So here it is – my first (deliberately) “upbeat” post of 2012!

***

Some time ago a good friend tweeted, “Writing is like life:  Transitions are rough and conclusions are hard.”  I’m pretty sure that I proved part of this assessment when I transitioned from potty-talk to being a grown-up.  Awkward and clunky, indeed!  Transitions are rough.

But we didn’t need my poor writing to know that Allison is quite right (and not only because this wise observation emerged from the veritable hell inside her Dissertation-Writing-Closet-of-Death).  Allow me, if you will, to expound on a few more writing/life parallels…

On Paragraphing and Structure:  Sure, it’s nice when things are neat and organized, and you can separate your ideas into clear and concise groupings of 5-7 sentences.  But when the dog is tearing the stuffing out of her new chew toy, and you have 150 essays to grade, and you’re searching for a reasonably-priced bridesmaid dress, and you’re querying literary agents and paying bills at the same desk, and your mom keeps emailing you about buying a condo, and you’re between gym memberships, and all you really really want to do is watch that new episode of Glee…well, who can stay organized all the time?  Isn’t it easier to just allow things to be a little helter-skelter?  To let work overlap into your personal life?  To make the professional personal in your writing?  To grade papers at teacher happy hours?  (Well, maybe not that last bit…) 

Verb Tense (in)Consistency:  I can’t compartmentalize!  The past bleeds into the present, and sometimes gets confused with the future.  And irregular verbs?  Forget about it.

Diction (a.k.a., Word Choice) = Trouble:  Ah, the moments when we realize that we’ve just said something (unknowingly) uncouth, and everyone quietly scratches their heads in uncomfortable silence.  Damn, those times when we misuse a word, or say exactly the thing that everyone else is avoiding.  Sometimes, word choice is everything.  Speaking of which, should I quit while I’m ahead?  Or should I have quit three paragraphs ago?  Is it already too late?  Oh, man…Stop…writing…Colleen…   

Punctuation is Inconsistent and Confusing:  Those little dashes and marks, the curls and dots…they can be so baffling.  And they change everything.  They dictate meaning as much as the words themselves.  Sometimes they appear completely arbitrary and unpredictable.  And they raise so many questions.  Does this sentence require a question mark or an exclamation point?  Where the hell do the quotation marks go at the end of that statement?  When and how does one utilize parentheses?  (Seriously, I really don’t know.  And I totally over-use them.)  And can someone please explain the semi-colon, for godsake? 

Yes, writing is like life, Allison.  Glorious and joyful, tragic and complicated, filled with beauty and ugliness.  And that’s not phony at all.


Jan 1 2012

Welcome, 2012: Saying Yes To What Is

Whew, 2011. 

You were one sassy bitch.

My blog is evidence that I’ve had some major highs and lows in 2011.  I was busy, to say the very least, and that included an upswing in writing over the spring/summer and a distinctly somber fall. 

But I’m not here to re-live the last twelve months.  I’m writing now in an effort to welcome the coming year with broad, open arms and warm hugs.  I sit quietly on New Year’s Eve, my third glass of wine cozying up to my laptop like they’re old friends.  (And really, who am I kidding?  They are.)  Matt the Electrician sings his version of “Jesse’s Girl” on my speakers, and the Christmas lights still twinkle from all corners of my living room. 

I could write a bulleted list of New Year’s Resolutions, as I have the last two years.  (Full disclosure:  I will be jotting down just such a list in my brand-new journal very soon.)  But that’s not what I want to do with this post.  This is about one resolution, and one resolution only:  “Say yes to what is.”

While I was visiting my family in Massachusetts last week, one of my oldest and best friends, Will, recited this mantra to me.  Will and I have been friends since kindergarten, when I refused to share my cheeseballs with him in the Fort River Elementary cafeteria.  He knows me better than most people in my life, and he’s aware that I often struggle with letting go.  New Year’s Eve is frequently a bittersweet holiday for me, because I perceive it as a goodbye; as forced closure; as the relentless passage of time when all I want is for things to (please, please, please) just slow down

Will (and his bright, insightful, bombshell-hot girlfriend Genevieve) talked with me about our lives over spiked hot chocolate in front of a crackling fire.  We evaluated just how much has changed and how much is happening for me right now.  They recognized that it’s a complicated, challenging, and altogether exciting time.  Yes, some doors are closing for me along with 2011, and that is sad in many ways.  But 2012 holds so much promise…

And so Will advised that, obstacles-be-damned, I should say yes to what is.  Look toward this new year with an open heart and an eager mind. 

I’m so lucky to have friends like these, who recognize that life is never simple.  That it’s best, in fact, when we live in those shades of gray and see the beauty and wonder in the darkness.  I resolve to take Will’s advice.  I’m looking into the unknown – even though I’ve always been afraid of the dark – and rushing headlong into what is.  

And so now it’s New Year’s Day…And after I post this latest insight into my sordid and crazy life, I plan to put on a bikini and head to the Polar Bear Plunge at Barton Springs.  Yes, this northerner will be swimming on January 1st.  Step One toward saying yes.