Tag Archives: writing

Procrastination

 

napkin

I am notorious, as most writers, at procrastinating. I attend a monthly writing group, and typically write something that afternoon. I regret that because I feel that the time is a precious opportunity to get feedback on my writing — and I don’t want to waste anyone’s time.

However, month after month the same thing happens. To a point that it is a joke with the group. This past month, when I told my friend Roxanne that I had started my writing for that night on a napkin at lunchtime, she wrote two Haikus for me. (FYI – A Haiku has three lines, with 5 syllables in the first, 7 in the second and 5 in the third. They have no title)

A Haiku for Sally #1

Yep, just a napkin

Sally has done it again

That is all she needs

A Haiku for Sally #2

What has she written?

I can hardly wait to see

How does she do it?

 

I loved them. Wonder what I’ll do next month. Thank you, Roxanne Fawley – I don’t know how you did it so succinctly!

Vulnerability

Here are some snapshots from my artistic life when I’ve bared, shared, and written things that I didn’t know if anyone would understand. Moments when I shared paintings with people I don’t know. Points in time when I made the decision to proceed rather than to pull inward:

  • Inhale, hold breath — I just went to my first writing group and handed people copies of my writing. The first time that I ever shared anything that I wrote.
  • Yikes! What had I done — I just hit the Enter key on my keyboard and agreed to publish a book.
  • Are you kidding? I just registered as an artist in Art Prize.
  • I have no picture to accompany a blog post so I’ll draw something groan-worthy in MS Paint. Is it too silly?

In each instance I cringed, wondering if I was making a fool of myself or opening a new door in my life. However, the drive to share was compelling.

Rewarding snapshots from my life I’ve received as a writer and artist:

  • “Your essay made me feel like I’m not alone in the world.”
  • “We are excited to connect with you as your Venue for ArtPrize 2015! We are thrilled to be showing your work!”
  • “I have seen your board on Pinterest, and have to thank you for making me feel that I am not alone!”
  • “Bought your book for my father (3 years post op for removal of AN) and he said, ‘it’s like I wrote the book.’ Passing it through the family so we can understand more what he is dealing with.”

Discouraging snapshots from my life as a writer and artist also happen, but I’m pretty good at denial, rationalization, and seeing rejection as a closed door redirecting me to a better path. I’m also vastly capable of self-pity, and wallow in it as I process life lessons. However, before long I get sick of myself and look for the next step to take. There’s always a new direction, new adventure, or a new opportunity. Artistic work is subject to interpretation and garners rejection as much or more than acceptance and praise. Acceptance without any rejection feels unbalanced. Rejection hones our skills as much or more than success.

Blogging allows me to think out loud. I’m merely talking and hoping that someone will hear me. I exhale feelings and observations. I write through things to figure them out, to better understand, to process what I’m experiencing. When someone comments on something I wrote, I feel satisfaction to know that what I wrote meant something to another human being. No currency of material worth has passed, but the currency of love, compassion, and connection was paid in full.

Painting is something that I do because it’s fun but am still surprised when someone sees beauty in my work. I love the medium of melted beeswax because if I don’t like it I apply heat to melt it down. Or I may apply a scrapper to remove layers of neatly applied colors. Conversely, I may delicately carve details into a piece that is coming along nicely to add accents or focus. When a piece speaks to someone and they see something in it that I hadn’t, I realize that art shared is no longer owned by my own perception.

I question why God placed a strong desire to share within me. Why can’t I just kick my feet up on the desk and read a book?  Why do I feel that need to make others feel understood and to be understood?  Why do I feel that strong responsibility for my fellow human beings?  Why do I keep exposing who I am and what’s going on inside?  I feel squirmy when I feel vulnerable but am driven to produce pictures with words and paintings with wax. Being vulnerable means being open to damage. However, without vulnerability, we live in an insulated life.

Vulnerability is what Jesus bared through his journey on earth. Jesus was drawn to vulnerable people. Baring of our hearts and souls is something that the God of our universe desires and blesses. While he’s the creator of each atom in the world’s most valuable diamonds and gold, he cares most about what is not tangible – but what’s in our hearts and relationships.

Vulnerability makes us stronger. Writers draw readers with vulnerability.  Sharing what is lurking in pockets of our minds and hearts allows others to recognize their own reflection in a pond of words. Being understood and cared for is one of our strongest and most basic needs and cannot be attained by being alone and closed.

So, as much as I would like to disappear into the forest, a need for relationships draws me into the world. The desire for connection keeps me tethered to earth. The reward of touching someone’s heart keeps me going. It keeps me being vulnerable. It keeps me creating. It keeps me humbly remembering how tiny our vulnerabilities are in the eyes of God. Snapshots of joy are to be shared with others.

The Identity Crisis of Blogging: What is our purpose?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

How does a blog (technically the blogger) identify its audience? When is the target scope too broad or too narrow? How does each blog find its audience in the blogosphere? Some are by writers who write for other writers. Some are specific to a disease, a cause, or a population. Some are content-driven based on the mood of the writer. Some are inspirational with the blogger sharing a bit of wisdom and an observation about the world or their beliefs. I have two blogs and guest post on TheBlogPile each month. Sometimes I take a moment – or five – to think about what and why I am writing.

The first blog I established was www.smilingagainbook.com. When publishing a book, I learned the importance of social media. I learned that I needed to establish a “platform” for book exposure. So, when my book, Smiling Again: Coming Back to Life and Faith After Brain Surgery, was published, I became a reluctant blogger. Of course, it isn’t popular to write entry after entry that says “buy my book,” so I had to figure out why anyone would want to read anything I wrote. At first it was short little blips from my book, or a few lines of what I had experienced. However, after posting for a while I have established loyal readers in the Acoustic neuroma brain tumor world. I’ve found my posts keep getting longer and longer. I feel that, for this blog I have found my voice even though technically I’m breaking blog length rules. I know my purpose is contributing to the acoustic neuroma community.

My entries have gotten numerous comments from people who seemed to really benefit from what I wrote. Really? I’m blown away that anyone wants to read my writing, let alone what I, at times, consider redundant points. However, the brain tumor club welcomes unwilling members daily. There, unfortunately, is a continual flow of newly diagnosed people with questions. There are also recently treated and longtime survivors with chronic health issues. I’m not fixing anything in anyone’s life, but I’m giving people a feeling of not being alone on a tough journey.

Occasionally, people will take a bit of exception to the focus of one of my posts. It has been pointed out that what I write about isn’t limited to one type of brain tumor patient, or even to brain tumors at all. While I agree, does that mean that I should broaden my writing to more general health and life issues? My decision has been no, and hope that anyone who finds my blog and benefits from it will return regardless of their situation. If someone buys a book, that’s great, but that’s a one-time purchase. What I have gained is more than a book sale, but a connection with another person in this very impersonal and electronic world.

My second blog is www.sallystap.com, a blog I established to be “non-brain tumor stuff.” Well, okay, that is pretty broad! I write observations about life. I write about my faith in God on this more personal blog. I am not disciplined about new posts because I write when I feel like it, which is never a good deadline to give a writer. At the same time, I wonder who will find it, benefit, and why. What is my purpose in building a readership? I could say future books, but it’s actually my desire for community. When someone reads something that I wrote and gives me feedback, it makes me feel connected. If someone says, “You wrote what I feel but haven’t ever been able to put words into,” I feel accomplished. What will my voice be on this blog? Only time will tell what my purpose is with this blog.

TheBlogPile, which this post was actually written for, is “An anthology blog of Christian authors.” Several individuals post monthly, unless a month slips by here or there. We have been discussing the readership of this blog and are trying to determine a direction. Are we writing to promote writing? Are we writing to share our Christian beliefs? Or are we writing something in the hopes it will draw people to our individual blogs? We have Christian in the title but have agreed we don’t want to sound preachy – which is a word that I’m continually struggling with when determining what and how to write. What is our purpose? Which direction should we take if any different from the current one?

In the blog world we measure success by the number of subscribers and frequency of comments. There are statistics that tell us how many times a page was clicked. We get caught up in questions of value and purpose. We get more spam comments that need to be discarded than valid ones. We are willing to sort through the junk to get a few gems and affirmation back. Comments that tell us what we are writing is making a difference for even one person.

Sometimes when I get caught up in the definition of “success” as a blogger, I focus more on our purpose in life. We are here to honor God and to seek his wisdom. We are here to commune with each other and not to count statistics.

God is the blogger of the universe. He knows each one of us. He is focused on an individual relationship with each “reader.” I’m guessing he isn’t checking statistics. He’s measuring the closeness with which we hold our beliefs. He is not measuring how many trials we each face, but how we traverse them. He isn’t measuring the number of worries we have, but how well we hand them over to Him. Can you imagine how many “spam” prayers He gets? He listens for our individual heartfelt voice in the crowd, ready to make a difference in our lives.

NOTE: THEBLOGPILE is currently on hiatus, so I’ve moved the posts to here.

Fear

p IMG_0985

Laguna Beach, California

Some people like the charge they get from a “good” horror movie or scary Halloween costume. I am not one of them. Others love the thrill of a roller coaster. No, not that either. After going on numerous rides with my daughters years ago, one day I decided that it wasn’t a good thrill that I got when my stomach flipped while rapidly dropping dramatic distances. That was my last roller coaster ride. Whether you are a thrill seeker or a find life itself enough of a thrill, it’s okay.

Fear can be lighthearted fear at Halloween but also heart wrenching from life events. Fear fills our minds instantly and churns our insides when we get a hint that something is wrong. Fear triggers our autonomic nervous system – what controls our bodies below the level of consciousness. This effects our heart rate, breathing, digestion and even perspiration. Autonomic functions are involuntary but work with voluntary control in the somatic nervous system.

That was technical and I don’t fully understand what I just said. However, it means is that we are frustratingly not totally in control when facing fear. We each experience fear in our individual way, even when faced with the same situation. For some that means dry humor. For others it means prayer and meditation. For some it means curling up in a ball and for others it’s angry screaming.

Fear can take over our bodies such that we spend energy trying to control our physical reactions. We try to not shake, or cry, or stammer, but it happens. We may want to speak but words do not come. Everyone is different, but we all fight a balance of voluntary and involuntary when facing fear. Ranging from controlled worry to the desire to escape our bodies, fear is jarring.

I’ve faced fear in my life. As a kid I was cautiously fearful at Halloween. As an adult, I’ve experienced fear that was physically debilitating. What I learned is that when all is taken away, it is myself and God. I had to choose between the option of trusting my faith in God or giving in to theories of randomness.

I chose faith. Prayer calms me. Asking for guidance from God lightens the weight of my burden. I stepped out in faith believing verses like “For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” (Isaiah 41:13 NIV) and “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6 NIV)

Only when I learned to accept that I’m truly not alone was I able to gain the gift of living and not fearing. Only with the gift of hindsight have I been able to see that I’ve never been alone.

Ghosts and goblins are not for me, but I’ll help with the Halloween candy. . .