1. Storysculpting Authoring Writing Advice Writing Life

Sweeping Away Distractions

I have a serious inertia problem. Getting started is a bitch. Switching tasks is worse.

Yes, I know, concentration is hard for everyone. All the same, those who know me IRL will attest to my epic difficulties settling AND my amazing ability to barnacle once I’ve landed.

A high inertia score does have its upside. I have been known to forget meals and forego sleep entirely while immersed in a Big Doing. I can be nigh-impossible to pry loose from a task once settled. The trick these days is avoiding the perils of the internet.

I do not blame the internet for my inertia, no. Back in the day, I could channel-surf for hours. I could waste hours reading the newspaper. I would clean things. But unlike those old-school distractions, online bread & circuses ars ubiquitous and inescapable. It’s not only on my computer, it’s on my phone. My reading tablet. It tempts from all sides, at all hours, and willpower is a finite resource.

The nasty reality is that I either lose creative time to social media and my various online obsessions, or I can forfeit creative energy to the effort of ignoring those temptations.

Or I could enlist the aid of artificial intelligence in my fight to focus.  That’s the route I’ve taken. I now have an internet-blocking program to  fight the good fight for me.

I forked over ducats for the Freedom app. (Green butterfly logo.)  It has a simple interface, seamless cross-device compatibility, and it was the most customizable program I found. See, I need certain kinds of internet access for many aspects of my creative work, from use of the online thesaurus to historical fact-checking etc, but I need to be prevented from channel-surfing my way through other sites.

Why that app? There are pro’s and cons to all the internet blockers. Better bloggers than me have written excellent comparisons. I will not attempt to top them. A search on “reviews of apps to cut down on distractions” or “internet blocking app review” will net a fine selection. I did a lot of research. (Yes, I saw the irony in spending time online researching ways to spend less time online…but it had to be done.)

The Freedom app’s best aspect for me is the ability to schedule by day, time and device — I do not even have to will myself to turn on the distraction-remover. It happens automatically. And if I need-need-need to override it, I can do so on the phone or tablet easily.  But mostly I don’t.

I do not regret the hours I spend diving down figurative internet rabbit holes after odd facts & critical resources, and I am infinitely improved by time spent with the generous amazing folk who have befriended me in the virtual world.

But. Oh, BUT.

The online party never ends, and I can’t stay  24/7/365.  I have reading to do, I have plants to water,  I have a cat to brush…

I have stories to write. And now I have more time and more energy for them.

Not tired of my words yet? My published works are available on Amazon and all the other usual online retailers. Handy link:

Teacup Posts Writing Life

Celebrate: Christmas (Eve) is here!

It’s the last Adventword, not an order. It’s also another word that leaves me wrinkling my nose.  Celebrate. It really shouldn’t be an imperative. Stress, pressure, tension, baggage–they all conspire to make Special Occasions less than celebratory.

And yet I love to celebrate. I live to celebrate. I only hate forced pep, not genuine joy.  Spontaneity and freedom are the key. Celebrating is not an event. It happens at a lot of celebrations, but correlation is not causation.  The verb is an action.

To celebrate is to magnify happiness. Celebrating amplifies delight by sharing it.  Joy to the world, and all that. I adore that kind of celebrating. It makes life sparkle in a way that doesn’t need vacuuming the way real glitter does.

The flip side of the nihilist “Life has no meaning” philosophy is that life has exactly as much meaning as we give it, so why not bring life some joyous fun? Why bother celebrating? the nihilist asks. Me, I ask, why not celebrate?

Anyway. Genuine glee resulting from any old occurrence or item or act is always worth broadcasting. Doesn’t have to be a big thing. Give me a snack, and I will celebrate it. Just ask Spouseman about the happy food dance.

(I swear I had no idea I did little chair dances when I eat until he teased me. And then I tried to stop, because attention=bad is an ingrained response, but it didn’t work. Celebratory impulses will beat all restraint, even the amazing power of self-consciousness.)

So anyway.

Celebrating at celebration times can be hard when the associations are the opposite of joyful. But it is possible. It’s worth trying and trying again. And share even the small celebrations whenever you can.  Joy has a way of being contagious in ways mere cheer can never imitate.

May your days be merry and bright, and all that. It’s a good blessing.

Click here to see the global #AdventWord event/calendar I’ve been bending to my bloggish purposes: AdventWord

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Live: Adventword Dec 23

This was another toughie to slap an image on. Live!  Is it a shiny, positive-thinking imperative?  Or is it a reminder that existence is worth awareness? I live. You live. We live. Hey, we LIVE!

All the stock pictures went with door number 1. Standing atop mountains, trekking through jungle, contemplating suns on horizons, running through soft-focus wildflower meadows: they were all about manufactured YOLO moments.

I don’t know about you, but that isn’t my life. Most of my life isn’t about big, planned, designed-to-amaze events. It’s the adventure of the small.  It isn’t about “seeing the bright side.” It’s about owning every minute of whatever life happens to dish up.

Life is what happens when we’re making other plans and all that. So I live it. All of it. The travels and the travails.

If I was queen of the world and issuing imperatives,  the imperative live would be all about remembering to squeeze every drop of being out of whatever is happening right there, right then. Here’s me as Queen. “Hey, you there doing laundry. Again.  You made clean clothes! Own that victory right there. Savor it. Right on!”

Or “Hey, you  got your ass to work this morning even though you hate everything about it?  Good on you, because your co-workers would have had it harder if you’d called out. You did a right thing, even if you only did it because you need money to eat. It still counts.  Kudos.”

Yeah, sure, there’s the whole, “isn’t there more than this?” existential dilemma, and there’s the “pursue your dreams” mandate, and yes, we all should stretch for what we desire and ponder the big questions.  But the now keeps happening while we do that.

So I don’t like to let any mundane second slip by as if it doesn’t matter. In the end those seconds may be all we ever have–and even if not, there are a hell of a lot more Small Moments than Big Times.

Well, that was a downer, huh?

Oh, the pic? That’s me. At Newport Beach, I think?  A long time ago, when I was utterly, miserably, nauseously horrified by ocean surf. I couldn’t bear to swim or even wade out wearing a life jacket or do any of the exciting beach adventures my parents had planned for their three hatchlings. Parents pushed. I threw the world’s most hellacious meltdown and was banished to towel prison while my sibs adventured.

There I contentedly stared at sand grains and bits of shell until my sentence was served. Then I ran around at the ocean’s edge and caught water in my bucket and watched my toes disappear over and over in the tame, shallow wash of ebbing waves.

Very unexciting. But it was exactly what made me happy, and it’s my life.

Click here to learn more about the global #AdventWord event/calendar I’m bending to my bloggish purposes: AdventWord

Image credit: copyright William Morris. All rights reserved.

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Animate: Adventword Dec 22

This word got me in so much trouble when I was…twelve, I think?

Background. Girls Scout camp in the wilds of central Indiana in the mid-seventies. Not a hotbed of inclusive intellectualism, let’s say, and  I was in a unit led by a counselor who took the job because her friends were doing it, not because she liked camping. Many of us made made the mistake of knowing what we were doing in front of her those two weeks. (Building fires. Avoiding poison ivy. Taking the correct trail to the lake.) We annoyed her with these and other crimes like talking about books we had read.

So when the bookworm kid who annoyed her most (me)  used the word “animated” in table conversation at supper, of course her only possible course of action was to mock me loudly and publicly — making a point to bring the whole dining hall of 70+ girls into the conversation — about putting on airs and being a stupid child who was too big for her smart-mouthed britches because everyone knew that animated means cartoons.

I don’t think I cried. I recall being furious, which usually means tears, but I don’t remember bawling.  I do remember arguing the point (I’d been describing someone whose gestures were, in fact, animated and expressive) It ended in  a tie. KP duty for me, but sympathy from my tent mates and affirmation by another counselor (albeit after the meal, in private, with a not-apology and some useful advice on how to survive the rest of the session.) I took my half a loaf.

ANYway. That’s undoubtedly NOTHING to do with what today’s word is supposed to signify (something about bringing things or people or ideas to life, I’m sure) , but that’s what animate will always bring to my mind: my first remembered experience being belittled for being stupid and wrong when I was neither.

It took me several more decades to learn that some people aren’t worth arguing with…okay, no, I still haven’t learned that. I did start amassing a huge arsenal of sneaky rhetorical weapons after that battle so that I could win future ones. That’s something I guess.

I don’t know where that takes us, but I’m way outta time.

Click here to see the global #AdventWord event/calendar  I’m bending to my bloggish purposes: AdventWord

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Abide: Advent Dec 21

What a full and many-faceted word abide is. It can mean reside, stay, accept, tolerate, wait, bear patiently, put up with…it takes a web of concepts and tucks them all inside a quiet little word that rests easy in the mouth and soft on the heart.

‘Bide with me is a line made for love poetry. Abide pleads, “Put up with me, stay with me, be with me, live with me.” This take on love appeals to me more than the traditional “Be mine,” because I reject the idea that love has anything to do with ownership.

I don’t remember the poet, but I know there is a real line that’s “Come with me and be my love, and we will all the pleasures prove.”*  I know, the ‘biding is implied there, but that’s my reading of it, and interpretation is what poetry is all about, right? Of course right. Abide gets along with togetherness and endurance. Lasting and living.

So in a way it’s a survival word too, I guess or maybe a word that tells us there’s more than one spin on the whole idea of survival. “Generations come and go, but the earth abides,” or something like that. (That’s a Bible quote, if I recall correctly.) The phrase Earth Abides is a post-apocalypse novel about how the end of the world isn’t the end…

Anyway. I’m almost out of time. Lots of thinking between words.

So basically I have a biding affection for abide. It’s a comfy word, a gentle, quiet one that insists there’s value in the warmth of home fires. More fiery, flashy passions compete for our attention night and day all our lives.  Abide? It is willing to wait for us to learn how appreciate it.

*the poem is by Christopher Marlowe: The Passionate Shepherd To His Love.  I looked it up later.

Click here to see the global #AdventWord event/calendar I’m bending to my bloggish purposes: AdventWord

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