Every. Dang. Day.
Every. Dang. Day.
Here we are. Again.
But why? Our days are full. Our plates are full. Our minds are full. Adding one more thing feels impossible.
After spending an hour reading the posts of others who have committed 31 days of their writing lives to share with the world, it was evident as to what brings us here.
Some writing friends feel the nudge through the energy of others, feeling a pull to connect with like-minded-teacher-writer-soul-sisters. We work in places where perhaps others do not write or wish to write, nor do they understand why in the world we would WANT to write. We are all writers here. Join in and hold hands. High five!
Some writing friends are carrying pain, dreariness and are walking through sludge at this time of year. Whether they or a loved one is going through difficult times, or maybe just feeling the pressures and stress of our vocation that March brings, we know someone here will understand and lift us up. There is connection here. If a writer is hurting, we all open up and feel her heart. Grab a tissue because tears will be shed.
Some writing friends have been asleep at the wheel. Attuned to the spin cycle in the mind and neglecting the gifts the world puts before us. A sharpened writing mind takes us out of our craziness and into the present. We crave this awareness of the world – of others – and the wonder of living as a human. This sense of awe is what keeps us alive and brings bliss to our souls.
Some writing friends have not been writing and wish for a cultivated habit of coming to the page each day. They realize they have not been story-catching the moments of their existence. Fear sets in. How will anyone know we were ever here on this planet without the snippets of a life well-lived left behind? A SOL challenge will get that stuff down.
For me, it’s all of this. Connection. Well-being. Community. Awareness. Story-catching.
But, mostly, it’s because of the mystery of not knowing where I’ll end up. Each writing journey starts with a line and ends up somewhere else. It’s like a present I give myself each day. A good writing friend once told me it’s the surprise in the next line that becomes the writer’s addiction. Or, maybe that was Donald Murray. 🙂
And,the best part? Writing is free.
Words are free! All of them! Even the long ones!
Not the notebooks, though. . . and the pens. . . and the books. . . and the cookies I need to eat to keep me writing. . .
But the words? Yeah. They’re free.
Why would anyone NOT want to write?
“I can’t think of anything to write,” is a continuous phrase I not only hear from students, but it also happens to myself if I’m honest. (However, the opposite is the case more often as I have so many things I want to write about that I have issues choosing.) When we know we have to produce writing every day, activating our awareness is pretty important and sometimes we need tools to help us develop a lens of what to look for.
I was introduced to Lynda Barry a few years ago by Austin Kleon on Twitter. In her book, Syllabus, she teaches her students how to create a Quick Diary page each day to keep track the happenings of the day. While I don’t do this every day, I probably do it once a week or when I just want to get something in my notebook for that day. I revised Lynda’s format a little – because its my notebook and I can do whatever I want in there. I’m pretty adamant about that.
So, I chose a nugget from yesterday’s Quick Diary entry to do a quick narrative for today.
In a sketch.
Because you can tell a narrative in a little sketch – and possibly tell the story better.
(And quicker – do you see a theme here?)
My sugar problems are also a theme in my notebooks.
Another notebook is nearly full. My goal is to fill a notebook a month. Yes, there are notebooks that adorn my shelves and fill baskets everywhere. What am I to do? I have a lot to say.
Mixed feelings stir inside me when the ending of a notebook is near. Melancholy. A sadness that the journey with this notebook is over, yet excitement to begin with a new one. I grieve for a while as the old notebook is set aside and eventually stored in a basket or on a shelf.
It must be hard for the notebook to understand.
Seriously? You have no idea.
Excuse me? I reply to the voice.
You carry me around with you everywhere for a solid month or more. I give you my pages and they accept everything your pen scribbles into me. I never whine or complain. So patient, I am. Waiting and waiting for your words. Oh so grateful when your hand finally reaches for my spine in the mornings. Everything I give — you complete me and then. . . I’m set aside. . . like a one night stand.
Oh, Dear Notebook of Mine,
That is not how it is. I treasure you! My heart fills with anguish the closer I get to the last of your pages, knowing that soon – I have to let you go – and begin again.
It doesn’t feel that way to me. I see all those other notebooks tucked away in baskets and stacked on your shelves. Forgotten – for years. In a day or two, that will be me.
Oh, Dear Notebook of Mine,
You are correct. I’m so sorry. But – I do visit you from time to time, rereading your pages, reliving the joys we spent together.
That’s not enough. I am meaningless sitting in a basket. I want to be used.
But, that is not true, Dear Notebook. It could not be further from the truth. You contain pieces of me that no human in this world has. You hold my history – the stories of me. I give you ALL of me.
Well. . . .
You are my safest place, Dear Notebook. I trust you to hold these tender stories and keep them safe. Forever, if need be. You have such a responsibility – all the gems I’ve given you – a treasure box you are. And just like treasures that are sometimes buried or lost at sea for millions of years, so must you.
Millions of years? I don’t have that much time.
But, you must. It is an honor to be a notebook and house history. One day, I will be gone, but you will still be here, carrying all that I was, you help me to live on – for my children and grandchildren. You are that carrier, the link, the sweet nectar of my humanness. Tending to these stories is a privilege bestowed to you.
I’m sorry . . . I guess I didn’t realize.
It’s quite alright, Dear Notebook, you are young and want to be the center of attention for a little while longer. I understand. Once you are with the other notebooks, you will become wise. You will learn of your importance.
Okay. I will try to understand. And, be more patient. I will. I promise.
You, Dear Notebook, are the Keeper of the Flame for this short period of my life – January 22nd to March 5th of 2017. Only YOU alone holds this part of me. You need to guard it with your life.
Yes, I will. I am honored to be this protector of your history. But. . . when will you come back and visit me? I don’t know any of those other notebooks, even.
I may – I may not. Even so – be willing to live on. The other notebooks are your friends.
Yes, yes. . . I must. . . I will. Thank you. Thank you so much for giving me your heart – your soul. For trusting me. I understand now. Good bye, dear friend. . . until we meet again.
Good bye, dear friend as well. And, thank you, for waiting for me each day and greeting me with your open arms.
I love you.
And, I love you.
Here I sit. . . in tears. . . saying good by to a notebook. Did I just say, “I love you?”. . to my notebook?
Good heavens. What has become of me.
I am grateful I am home alone today.
Mysteriously, this song came on my Pandora station as I finished this post:
I love it when my angels do that. 🙂
I awoke this morning wondering what planet I was on – a week of sleepless nights had finally caught up to me and at last . . . a good solid rest. Already, I’m whispering gratitudes.
Searching for my slippers, the wind is roaring and the sun piercing through the window already, Sandy (our lab), senses I am finally up and follows me around, waiting for me to notice her. She wants her breakfast.
Her water dish has still gone untouched. For three days now. It’s just an ice cream pail and I’m wondering if my husband used it to mix water and Pine Sol in that last time he had to scrub up one of Sandy’s messes. I don’t smell a Pine Sol scent in there, yet perhaps a dog can smell the residue. Where would she be getting her water for the last three days?
Then I realize that the bathroom door is always open.
I give her a fresh dish of water.
While the coffee brews, the checking of the news takes place.
Let’s see. . .
Trump is now accusing Obama of a Nixon/Watergate plot to wiretap the Trump Tower. Says The Washington Post. There is no evidence.
Seven tweets in a row – another middle of the night rant, conjuring up new bait for the people to chase after so we forget about his real issues.
If I had a penny for all the times he does this, my little piggy could go to market more often. (That’s such a good line. I just had to use it, Brittany, before I forgot about it.) 🙂
He even poked a jab at The Terminator again for his bad ratings on The Apprentice.
Honestly. (eye ball roll)
Switching to my emails – there are plenty of new Slice of Life posts to read this morning and I’m excited. I adore this community and the writing lives of teachers are so real and at home with me.
Bernice taunts me, “You can’t go there now! Later!”
I quick head over to Facebook.
Just for a minute.
A high school friend is moving to England for a few months and wants to take her sewing machine (she is a mean quilter). Another friend tells her the power/current is different in Europe and it might not work there. They encourage her to buy an adapter or just buy a new machine when she gets to England.
Well. . . isn’t that the strangest thing. Whoda thought we’d have to consider electricity when traveling the world? I need to get out more. I know nothing.
More posts about calling my senators to veto bills. Geez, I should do that.
And, oh my heavens, can you believe there are major cities in the world that are actually making plans to BAN cars within their cities? It’s an effort to reduce carbon emissions and make more room for pedestrians and bicyclists. No US cities are on the list (I don’t think there will be for at least 4 years) but New York is trying to make way for more pedestrians and bike riders on their streets. It’s a start, I guess. But, my, how far the rest of the world is ahead of us.
Moving on to Twitter, I check to see if Trump’s tweets are real.
They are. (eye ball roll again adding a head shake and lip pursing like my mother)
I come across words of Parker Palmer that make me chuckle. Sandy jumps. He restates the words of John Stuewart:
“The presidency is supposed to age the president, not the public.”
Thank you for your truth, Mr. Parker Palmer.
I screen shot those words for a later reference.
Oh Snapchat, my eldest son is in a bar somewhere with two girls singing, “Any Man of Mine”. I’m grateful that’s all he sends me.
My grandson, Greyson, is in his high chair feeding their dog, Jax, his Cheerios.
My heart smiles.
My only Snapchat friends are my four children (aged 21-27) so I know what’s going on.But, I don’t want to know EVERYTHING that’s going on. So, I’ve warned them that I can see them. They need to block me if there is inappropriate stuff. I have enough to worry about. Bar brawls and swearing put me over the edge.
The phone is put away and my coffee topped off.
Time to write and head out into this beautiful world and look for more stories that need to be told.
Laundry, cleaning, and homework will have to wait.
I’m in Storycatcher Mode.
I was contemplating the multiple ways in which we tell a story. My notebook is overflowing with writing fodder, but much of it is internal dialogue, collected words and wonderings. Shaping snippets into story is an art and I really intend to focus more effort on exploring the countless way a story can be told.
I grabbed a couple of books off of my shelf to guide me. Storycatcher, by Christina Baldwin and The Art of Memior, by Marie Carr jump out to my hands first. Opening to pages scribbled with the chicken tracks of my thinking, both books remind me that our stories are interpretations of our own events.
“Yeah, yeah, I know that,” I babble . “I’m looking for structure here.”
My mind darted back to last summer when I took an online writing course from Jen Louden. I sought many structures for the story I had drafted. Amy Krouse Rosenthal, one of my mentor writers and favorite authors popped into my head. A post was penned about her here. Don’t go here now. Do it later. You must read to the end of this story first.
“Perhaps I just need to look back at my own dang notes to see what I’ve already pondered,” I scold myself.
So, I did.
“Good stuff here,” I congratulated myself.
My dog, Sandy whined to go outside, so I crankily got up to let her out, and before I sat down to write, I picked up my phone and checked the world’s news.
The first news report on my phone was an article titled, “You May Want to Marry My Husband,” reported by the New York Times.
Okay ~ this is odd. This first story is not about Donald Trump? It must be good. So, I figured I’d better read it. Besides, it’s by the one and only Amy Krouse Rosenthal.
Oh, how I love her. Go figure.
You can read it here: “You May Want to Marry My Husband” by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. And, you must. Because you will not understand anymore of this post if you do not. Do it now.
After I wipe up this puddle of tears, I will study how she did this.
But for now, my post/story ends here today.
I have more important things to do.
Slice of Life 2017.
I pondered whether or not to tackle the 31 day marathon of writing for an audience this year. My life is full. Do I need one more thing to add to my plate?
“Your life will always be full,” I hear a voice say.
So, I tried to think of other reasons.
The reasons filled up several pages. (If you’ve done this before, you know what they are.)
I migrate to my desk to write every morning, but, even my notebook is bored of my same old tales. It’s an audience that pushes you out of your ruts. Good heavens, you could never write for an audience, day after day, about how pathetic you are because you didn’t exercise. . . again. Or, tiredness. Please. Or, how filthy the kitchen floor is. Or, how you wish you could get more done. Or, how you promise – tomorrow – no sugar.
Sometimes, I wish my notebook could play a recording that repeats, “You said that already,” every time I write the same old stuff.
I’m excited for where I hope to push myself to this year.
New structures and voices – deeper wonders and more detailed noticings. Experimenting, sharing and connecting with others.
I discover so many new ways to write from other slicers. And, the community of writers who take the time to read my words and comment are amazingly kind. Never a drop of criticism for a word spelled wrong or a verb tense issue (I do that a lot). I know my weaknesses. I discover more every day.
And so, I’m taking the pledge.
To 31 days of putting it out there. 31 days of committed writing.
I’m a little bit of a freak when it comes to keeping up with what my favorite authors are working on.
Okay. I’m more of a stalker.
Regardless. . . waiting is hard work.
But, finally . . . something is coming.
Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s new book comes out next month!
She is genius.
I am giddy about the unique text structure she choose to write these “nonlinear reflections and insights” (Penguin Random House Publishers). Unlike most personal growth, memoir type books, Amy has organized this book by subject headings such as Social Studies, Math, Music, Language Arts, etc. The writers at Penguin Random House Publishers describe it as such:
“Not exactly a memoir, not just a collection of observations, Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal is an exploration into the many ways we are connected on this planet and speaks to the awe, bewilderment, and poignancy of being alive.”
How can you not rush directly to Amazon and hit that dang one-click purchase button? It’s only at the pre-order state though. It’s not coming out until August 9th. Oh, the agony!
Her previous book, The Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life, is also her brain child organizational structure to use for writing, non fiction or not. She gathers all of her snippets of wisdom, quotes, observations, lists and documented happenings and hangs them on the framework of the encyclopedia.
I am drawn to this right now as I mine through my own notebooks digging for gems, not knowing what they will become. It’s life stuff and most of it is garbage, loads of blah, blah, blah, but there are some tidbits that I’d like to do something with. Organization is the framework of how to think about our ideas. It helps us visualize the possibilities of what our writing could be. Writing then begins to take shape.
The teacher in me also wants to use these books as mentor texts to share with students. We are required to teach our students the standard forms/genres of writing: narrative, non-fiction and persuasive. However, there are creative ways to organize writing that go beyond the 5 paragraph essay for persuasion, a basic personal narrative, or a categorical nonfiction report. Within these forms of writing, we teach how to write in chronological, compare/contrast, problem/solution and cause/effect text structures. Of course, there are a variety of plot structures for narratives, as well. All of these must be taught as they are used under the umbrella of an entire piece of work.
But, it’s the authors that go so out of the box with unique ways to organize a book that makes reading and writing exciting. When I discover a new structure, energy sizzles.
I headed to my book shelves to seek out other ideas for possible structures for my own writing gobbledy-gook. Surely, I had much to learn from right here in front of me.
Here are a few I found:
Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen
Anna organizes her memoir type reflections at midlife into chapters that focus on a theme such as:
stuff, girlfriends, generations, solitude, expectations, and faith
For me, these themes could each be a book, yet she is able to synthesize it all into tight chapters. This would take tons of work for me as I am more detail oriented.
Mining my own notebooks, I think I would choose topics with more specificity, such as:
popcorn, sugar, hair, pie, walking, hips and knees, Captain Morgan, coffee and dogs
Perhaps each of these could be a vignette under a larger theme or section like:
Addictions, Wisdom, Body, Soul, Heart, Mind, Marriage
This is a possibility. I love to think about what is possible.
The Rural Life by Verlyn Klinkenborg
Verlyn writes about his life in the country. By Month.
Love. Love. Love.
We live in seasons. I have realized over the years, that I go through many of the same experiences every September, just as I do in February. The book could be called, The Teaching Life, The Mother’s Life, or even The Human Life. The chapters could be narratives, poems or reflections.
Again. . . so many possibilities with this structure.
You Learn by Living by Eleanor Roosevelt
Eleanor organizes her book by important keys for living a more fulfilling life. I think about this as each chapter being a lesson learned. And, hopefully, a narrative to detail how she learned that lesson. What lessons have I learned by midlife? Are there lessons that I still need to learn? I know there are lessons I am working on every day of my life. As I scan over my pages of writing, each entry holds a lesson. Each story teaches us something about living on this Earth School and what it means to be human.
Would my book be lessons about teaching? or just stuff I’ve learned along the way?
Hmmmmm. . . .
This reminds me of Dorothy Allison’s Two or Three Things I know For Sure? Could we not write a book on what we THINK we have figured out?
I had to generate a list of possible structures as well – just to have some fun in brainstorming session.
The best teachers are other books, so I’m going to compile a good list of books to show my third graders what other authors have done to organize their books. We can then generate our own list together.
Then, we can all dwell in the possibilities of what our writing might become.
Dreamers, we are.
The month of March slipped away like a shadow into shade .
The challenge was to write a slice of life every day for the entire month of March and post it. Well, I made it 21 days out of 31.
21 blog posts in 31 days! Although I did not accomplish the challenge of posting every day, I still am wearing my achievement cape like a superhero . Since I began my blog in 2012, writing a post every six months had become my going rate. So, mathematically, I’ve increased my production from .005% to 66% if I keep up the pace. My writing muscles are greased and the Bernice Brain has quieted long enough for me to put stuff out there.
If I were to be totally honest, it was not really the challenge that got me writing, it was this writing community. Holy Kamoly. I have never seen such an inspiring, encouraging, uplifting, dedicated, creative group of human beings.
Never once did I have a post sit there lonely without some cheers from my fellow writers, (and sometimes my mother). Feedback is crucial to the writer, whether only a pat on the back for showing up to write or a serious shot of gratitude for writing something that was resonated with. Even more so, to give me another perspective in my own little narrow viewed world. It is then that I really know my words were taken in. Love that.
I anxiously awaited the posts of other slicers. Sometimes I sought inspiration and it was the content or structure of another writer that made my own fingers later dance at the keyboard. Other times, I seriously didn’t wish to write at all and filled my coffee cup just to read and comment on other’s words. It felt as if we were exchanging small gifts, enjoying each other’s company and allowing one another to get a little peek into the world of other teacher-writer-lovely-people. Always, I felt a calm peace after reading other’s posts.
I am jealous of writers who have writing communities or writing groups that they meet with face to face on a regular basis. I have yet to find that. But, this community here is the closest I have come to realize I will ever get. At least right now. I am so grateful to have had this.
Thank you to the writing teachers at Two Writing Teachers for the enormous amount of work this challenge must have added to their already busy days. Their commitment to writing and fostering teachers who write is remarkable.
Thank you to Elisabeth Ellington who voiced she was taking the plunge to do the challenge this year. I saw her tweet and there was this little nudge in me that said, “Do it.” I needed her words to give me the confidence to take it on.
And, good heavens, thank you to anyone who took a few moments out of your busy lives to read my words and then to comment. The comments kept me writing. They told me that my words matter.
And, now the pump is primed.