Garden of Steel Magnolias

Dreams from the trash

Although this ad is to encourage recycling, I started listening to the words. It transfixed me.  My family wondered why I was recording a recycling ad.  But listen with me: “They told me I was a piece of  trash and that is all I would ever be. . . a bottle couldn’t see the ocean . . . give up and go back to the dumpster.”

There are people told this every day.  I was one of them.  Not smart enough, not pretty enough, not important enough to have dreams. Dumb and ugly should know its place and stay there.  I refused, in little ways at first, but louder and bolder as I grew up.

It took years for me to dream, and more to feel I deserved to dream, but, much like that little plastic bottle, I have gotten there.

I wonder if the creators of the ad had any thought of deeper layers in  the words–of talking about people as well as plastic.  Life is recycling, after all, changing, growing, re-inventing oneself.

Am I  odd  alone in seeing this ad and thinking of all the “disposable” people in the world? Is it just my childhood memories coloring my vision?

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ROW80

Chasing Success

Eleanor Roosevelt, power of dreams
From Brainy Quote http://www.brainyquote.com/

In the interesting juxtaposition that often happens in life, I ran across this quotation from Eleanor Roosevelt on the same day that my academic writing group had the following topic: What does success mean for you in the context of your Work, not of the employment or study within which you do that work?”

For most academics, research ends up taking the back seat to the more immediate demands of the job: syllabi, grading, office hours, and less so, committees, administration, and University or College service.  Thus, for most of the group, “Work” equals “Research.” For me, part of “Work” is my scholarly research, but a large part of it is the “off-the-clock” writing. I do find myself chasing success in the day job, which has its merits but is not fulfilling in the same way that my Work would be. I guard against falling headfirst into that rabbit hole by reminding myself that the day job does not reflect the “real me,” but merely something that I do well that pays reasonably well

The existence of public and private selves has set up a dissonance in my life, analogous to the harmonic resonance that shatters crystal. I’ve never been good at keeping the “important, but not urgent” goals in the forefront, finding myself far more persuaded by the “urgent, but not important” that pays my bills. I tend to say, “when I have a sabbatical,” or “when I retire,” which is less and less satisfying.

I’m finally to the point where my fear of failing is less than my fear of never trying.  As for my  ROW80 goals: slow and steady wins the race. I keep falling down, but I keep picking myself up, more importantly.  Excelsior!

What does success mean for you?

Please go visit some of the participants here. We’re headed into the dreaded middle of the challenge, which is almost as boggy as the middle of a WIP.

ROW80

ROW 80 check-in February 3, 2013

A delightful retreat from Wonderful Rooms

My husband sent me this picture, knowing that I would love the confluence of books and trees.  I dream of a writer’s cabin in the mountains that would have this feel.

First I must give my mea culpa, since I disappeared off the face of the earth for two weeks. I am behind on my sponsor visits, but plan to make them up in the next 24 hours.

Several days on either side of last weekend were spent at a library conference in Seattle.  Flying across the top quarter of the country in January is tailor-made for flight delays, insomnia, and general ill-will on my part. Having conference meetings on Saturday and Sunday for which I cannot take compensatory time off makes me grumpy. I did get to see my niece who moved to Seattle a year ago, which exorcised some of the grumpiness.

Writing:

  • Spend at least four hours a week on an article, in whatever configuration works for me.  Although I  usually write before work, I find that frustrating when I want to spend more time than I have between my comatose and rush-out-the-door states. Only partial success  In addition to whatever form of jet lag I had, several work-related things came due this past week.  Sigh. On a happy note, I did write the first draft of a guest post that is due the end of the month. Yay to an organized me. *throws confetti*

Community:

  • As a sponsor, I will visit blogs twice a week. No success here, but I have time blocked out to catch up.
  • I will reply to all comments on my blogs.  Still more to do, but time is blocked out for this task as well.
  • I will spend no more than 5 hours a week on social media.  This one was easy, since I was grousing all week, and would have been horrible company.


Exercise:

  • I will walk for twenty minutes an evening. Success for the most part. I walked miles on end in Seattle, and in intervening airports, so I took one evening off upon my return.
  • I will continue to use the stairs. Done.
  • I will look into the gym at work.  The thought doesn’t appeal, but it is handy and cheap. Still in the planning stages. I barely managed to eat lunch at work this past week. Sigh.


Personal:

  • I will set aside a half-hour every evening to read.  I got nothing read in Seattle, but finished Alison Goodman’s Eona, and created a list of books by people I know through WANA and ROW for the next few weeks of reading.
  • I will spend at least one hour a week contacting a friend by whatever means work best. Only partial success on this front. I’ve had some contact with some friends, but nothing in depth.
  • I will have a “date night” with my husband at least twice a month. Partial success; we certainly spent several hours in airports and airplanes together!
  • I will spend at least one hour a week with at least one of my kids. Done.

Please go encourage someone on the Round; all their links are here.

ROW80

ROW80 Check-in Change is a’Coming

Elizabeth Anne Mitchell, University at Albany, academic podium, snow,winter, campus
Academic podium in snow, January 2013

My husband took this picture out his office window; the snow of a few weeks ago has melted for the most part, and this snowfall has renewed the clean whiteness that enchants the landscape.

Kristen Lamb’s blogging course is shifting into high gear, so there will be many changes to this blog over the next few weeks. I am trying to put everything in this self-named blog, but need to transfer some of the posts I don’t want to leave behind.  I also have a growing list of posts I want to write, and will have to adjust my goals to fit some time in for them.

Also, I want to thank Claire at Word by Word for alerting me to Mslexia magazine.  Although I will probably have to content myself with the digital version, since I live in the States, I was very excited to find out about it.

Writing:

  • Spend at least four hours a week on an article, in whatever configuration works for me.  Although I  usually write before work, I find that frustrating when I want to spend more time than I have between my comatose and rush-out-the-door states. Total fail.  I struggled with insomnia this week, a heavy schedule of work commitments, and a stomach bug that arrived just when everything else left my plate. I want to work on this article; I need to work on this article, and I am beyond frustrated with my inability to get to it.

Community:

  • As a sponsor, I will visit blogs twice a week. I missed Wednesday’s posts, but plan to visit today.  Partial fail.
  • I will reply to all comments on my blogs.  I replied to the latest set of comments, but there are more to do. Partial fail.
  • I will spend no more than 5 hours a week on social media.  Done.

Exercise:

  • I will walk for twenty minutes an evening. I did well at the beginning of the week, but had to work Thursday night, and that threw me off.  Partial fail.
  • I will continue to use the stairs. Done.
  • I will look into the gym at work. I did visit, and got the times and prices of lockers and towels.  A slow start, but a start just the same.

Personal:

  • I will set aside a half-hour every evening to read.  This past week I finished Mastiff, the third in the Beka Cooper series, and started and finished Eon by Allison Goodman. I started Eona, which is the second book in the series.
  • I will spend at least one hour a week contacting a friend by whatever means work best. I had lunch with Eden on Friday, which was very nice.
  • I will have a “date night” with my husband at least twice a month. Partial fail; a stomach virus hit me yesterday morning and is proving hard to shake.
  • I will spend at least one hour a week with at least one of my kids. Done.

Please go encourage the participants here.  We have a varied, interesting group.

Renegade Reflections, ROW80

ROW80 Check-in Chops or Not

As often is the case, I found many interesting posts this past week. Cate Russell-Cole pointed me to More Love Letters, which appeals to my love of writing on paper, as well as paying it forward by sending words of encouragement to those who need them.

Lena Corazon pointed me to Chad Carver’s post on imperfection.
I’ve struggled with perfectionism all my conscious life, so I found Chad’s take on imperfection a interesting and fruitful one.

I’m beginning to think I should have a post of links every so often, since I follow so many wonderful bloggers.  That may well become one of my blogging goals. I’m still struggling through Kristen Lamb’s blogging course.  I tend to feel inadequate (what else is new?) and my previously supportive family has suggested an evaluation of my life goals.  My main problem is that I can see their point, much as I wish I didn’t.  But for now, excelsior remains my mantra, along with “strength, courage, and wisdom,” which I completely stole from Lena Corazon (with her blessing, mind you).

Writing:

  • Spend at least four hours a week on an article, in whatever configuration works for me.  Although I  usually write before work, I find that frustrating when I want to spend more time than I have between my comatose and rush-out-the-door states. Yes.  I spent a lot of time getting back into the research, but it was necessary.  Then the effort was in reading through the text, cleaning up the structure and diminishing the holes in the argument.

Community:

  • As a sponsor, I will visit blogs twice a week. Yes, and here’s a list:

http://www.laurengarafalo.com/something-new-for-2013/

http://emilyjeanroche.blogspot.com/2013/01/a-round-of-words-in-80-days-goals.html

http://julieglover.com/2013/01/06/christmas-gifts-and-row80/

http://melaniewritings.wordpress.com/2013/01/06/430/

http://dammitwomansays.wordpress.com/2013/01/02/a-round-of-words-in-80-days/

http://storypassages.com/2013/01/04/rigging-the-ship/

http://annstanleywriting.wordpress.com/row80-round-number-one-for-2013/

http://www.thevirtualpilgrim.com/?p=944

For the first check-in and for the mid-week:
http://www.doreeanderson.com/1/post/2012/10/holidays-are-right-around-the-corner.html

http://www.jenpowell.com/blog/valentines-witches-thrills-and-romance-past-and-present-plus-row80-check-in/

http://slaybelle.wordpress.com/2013/01/09/rw80-checking-in-looking-good/

http://musecraftonline.com/?p=716

http://wordsbydesign.wordpress.com/2013/01/09/hump-day/

http://rantravewrite.com/row80/#checkin

  • I will reply to all comments on my blogs.  Not yet, but I hope to do that today or tomorrow.
  • I will spend no more than 5 hours a week on social media.  Done.

Exercise:

  • I will walk for twenty minutes an evening. Only a couple of evenings.
  • I will continue to use the stairs. Done.
  • I will look into the gym at work.  The thought doesn’t appeal, but it is handy and cheap. Um, not yet *blush*

Personal:

  • I will set aside a half-hour every evening to read. This is an easy one. I’m on a Tamora Pierce kick right now.  This past week I finished Bloodhound, the second in the Beka Cooper series, and started Mastiff, the third in the series. I read Tamora Pierce with my sons when they were about 9 and 10, and I still love to sink back into her world.
  • I will spend at least one hour a week contacting a friend by whatever means work best. I spent some  time chatting with some online friends a bit over a week ago–this week sped by, so I need to work more on this goal.
  • I will have a “date night” with my husband at least twice a month. Not yet.
  • I will spend at least one hour a week with at least one of my kids. Done.

Please go encourage someone on the list of participants.  A friendly word, especially at this early stage, may help someone continue to work at their goals this Round.  You’ll find them all here.

ROW80

Round 1 Goals for 2013

The following are my goals for the first Round of a Round of Words in 80 Days in 2013.  What is A Round of Words, or ROW80, as  participants like to call it? It is a writing challenge that “knows you have a life.”  Click here to read more about it from the creator of the challenge, Kait Nolan.

2012 was a tough year for a lot of people, including me.  I found myself having trouble fighting my self-doubt and staying on track, often thinking, “Oh, what’s the use? I’ve not got the chops for this anyway.”

This round I have to concentrate on non-fiction, finishing a couple of articles for the day job, since I have an annual evaluation coming up in March.

Writing:

  • Spend at least four hours a week on an article, in whatever configuration works for me.  Although I  usually write before work, I find that frustrating when I want to spend more time than I have between my comatose and rush-out-the-door states.


Community:

  • As a sponsor, I will visit my assigned blogs twice a week.
  • I will reply to all comments on my blogs.
  • I will spend no more than 5 hours a week on social media.  


Exercise:

  • I will walk for twenty minutes an evening.
  • I will continue to use the stairs.
  • I will look into the gym at work.  The thought doesn’t appeal, but it is handy and cheap.


Personal:

  • I will set aside a half-hour every evening to read.
  • I will spend at least one hour a week contacting a friend by whatever means work best.
  • I will have a “date night” with my husband at least twice a month.
  • I will spend at least one hour a week with at least one of my kids.
Renegade Reflections, ROW80

Midlife Woes


Last Sunday, I wrote in the check-in the modified goals:

  • I commit myself to being a better sponsor for the rest of the Round;
  • I commit to spending half an hour a day writing something;
  • I commit to re-acquainting myself with Cinderella, (which for the moment, is what I am calling my writing)

So, how am I doing?

  • I have gone back to comment on the folks whose blogs I missed earlier. Check!
  • I have spent half an hour a day on writing.  True, for several days, it was the research article, but I write non-fiction as well as fiction. Check!
  • Cinderella and I have chatted; I’ve persuaded her to put down the poker.  I’ve explained why I have neglected her lately, as she seems to understand.  My muse is going nuts, throwing all sorts of ideas at me, some in dreams, some out of the blue, and some hard-won, but I’m glad to take them all, write them all down, and let them simmer. Check!

 

I will not claim that I am back on the wagon for good.  I’m still in the throes of mid-life crisis, with the ship yawing wildly in the oncoming waves.  It’s hard to see progress when the deck is rising and dropping in an uneven rhythm, knocking you on your butt every other minute.

I will say that mid-life crisis does tend to offer myriad opportunities for blog posts and savage short stories, as long as I can laugh at myself, so all those opportunities are going into the stockpile as well.  Dante wrote his Commedia at the midpoint of his life; what better precedent could I follow?

Please go encourage someone here.

Renegade Reflections, ROW80

Writing as Cinderella

Have you ever had to follow your own advice, when you don’t want to, because you will look hypocritical otherwise?  In the last Round, I wrote my inspirational post about not disappearing, even when you have fallen off the wagon, which is an apt description, since I should stand up  to proclaim, “My name is Elizabeth, and I am unable to stick to goals and timetables,” much like in an AA meeting.

Yes, I have had reasons to disappear. My brother ended up in the emergency room last Monday with pneumonia. His oncologist thought he’d have to operate last week to ease his breathing, but by the end of the week, my brother was breathing better, pulled off the “nuclear war” antibiotics, as he put it, and the surgery has been slightly postponed.

Also, I’m up to my nostrils in the blogging course, and have some draft posts in the hopper. I’ve been doing a lot of housekeeping of electronic files, paring back an overgrown inbox, planning for the arrival of my new boss in January, who will want to know what I’ve been doing with myself these last eight months.  I have entered the full marathon of new committees and supervisory assignments as well. One task force meeting was two hours away, and lasted from 10:00 to 3:00, effectively torpedoing one work day. I’ve been working assiduously on the article based on my Pierpont Morgan research trip.

However, I’m just not feeling much of anything this week. Flat, hollow, meh.  The topic of the week for the academic writing group was whether our writing is an ally or a foe.  One of the participants, Z, gave a compelling description of writing as “a prisoner of war.”

This image struck me, because writing has always been my ally, my confidante, my friend, something that understood me when my colleagues did not. Perhaps because I have worked in many non-tenure-accruing environments, I have always been a bit odd in enjoying writing, since many of my colleagues chose such positions in order to avoid writing.  In my current day job, I have quickly become known as a “great editor,” when I am really just a bit more practiced and efficient in my writing, and abhor institutional doublespeak.

Even among graduate students, a group that one would think would embrace writing, I’ve known many bright, engaged, thinkers who lost themselves when handed a compass and a canteen and told to journey forth into the great Dissertation desert.  Some, if not most, of their failure is due to mentoring or lack thereof, but there are many who just discovered they didn’t enjoy writing.

If I am honest, I have often thought of my writing as Cinderella, something that is largely ignored, forgotten, sitting in the ashes of the fireplace, but hard-working and able to shine if given a bath and some attention. However, I am guilty of pushing my writing back into the fireplace as often as not, complicit in keeping it ignored and dull.  I fall far too easily into the “It’s urgent, it must be important,” trap, as well as cancelling appointments with myself, or shorting goals because others are always more important than I am.  I should not be surprised that Cinderella sometimes refuses to work with me, sulking in the corner, or worse, picks up the poker and cuffs me upside the head with it.

I commit myself to being a better sponsor for the rest of the Round; I commit to spending half an hour a day writing something; I commit to re-acquainting myself with Cinderella.

The end of the Round is nigh; please go encourage someone in the group.  The blog hop link is here.

Renegade Reflections, ROW80

A cautionary tale

editing, writing, red pen,
Red Pen by Cellar Door FIlms from WANA Commons

Please scroll down for my ROW80 check-in.

Earlier this week, I was pointed to a funny, true, and far-too-self-revelatory comic by The Oatmeal on creativity. (Thank you, Kristen Lamb). I heard from fellow writers that The Oatmeal is well-known, although not to me.

I sent the link to my husband, who, as it happens, follows law blogs and copyright law.  He said, “Oh, yeah, that guy was in a lawsuit,” and proceeded to send me all the relevant blog posts.

It is a cautionary tale for those of us who create.  The Oatmeal called out a site that posts creative works without permission or attribution; the site’s response was to threaten legal action.  An awesome set of bloggers, known as Popehat, found lawyers to work pro bono for The Oatmeal.

I cannot tell the story better than the string of posts about it on Popehat; the snark is delicious and redolent. They are in reverse chronological order, so one has to read up, but they are numbered after number 3.

I was touched that Popehat puts up a Popehat signal (yes, like Batman) when they feel someone needs legal assistance; lawyers respond by the legion, and offer pro bono help. It seems the name Popehat is an inside joke among the founding bloggers, with nothing to do with the papacy or Roman Catholicism, but coming from a staunch Irish Catholic family, I had to love the Popehat as a Batman-type signal.

I also love to see lawyers paying it forward in this way.  I cannot say with any certainty, but I suspect some of those offering pro bono work enjoy fighting the sleazebags who have given lawyers a bad name since Shakespeare’s time.

A incident like this one makes me nervous about sharing anything I’ve created. I would hate to feel powerless against a legal threat when I merely want the rights to my own work.  Early in my academic career, it was accepted procedure to sign away all rights to the journal publishing one’s article.  The sea change has happened in that world as well, with academics keeping the rights to their work.

I have no snappy conclusions or smart solutions.  I wanted to call your attention to some of the good guys. I think it is arrogant for a site to think they can post things without attribution or permission.  I am glad that, with Popehat’s help, The Oatmeal won the day.

How do you feel about having your work out there?  Do you post excerpts or serial snippets? Have you ever had anything posted without permission or attribution?

ROW80

I’m still in the chrysalis phase, uncertain whether I am Swallowtail Spicebush or Monarch. The blogging class is coming along reasonably well, and I am learning some elementary things like embedding videos and the like.

I spent most of the week feeling like I’d been drained by vampires, with none of the eroticism. I’m probably valiantly fighting off some virus making the rounds of the students, so I’m not worried, but it has put paid to my doing much outside of the day job.  I have gotten most of an article written for the day job, which does help keep the pump primed for fiction writing.  All in all, I’ll take it. 🙂

Please go encourage some of the cohort here.

ROW80

Re-assessment of Goals

Kait’s check-in asked whether we have to adjust our goals. I have been thinking for some time that I need to do so.  My original goals are in roman font, my emendations in italic. As it turns out, I have been best at my personal goals.  I have felt somewhat uncertain about writing and being a grown-up the past few weeks. Taking Kristen Lamb’s Blogging class has given me a wealth of information, but has slightly eroded my confidence.  I know it will pass, and I will shake it off, but it does show in my progress toward my goals.

Writing:

Fiction:

  • I will create an outline of the entire novel, spending at least 7 hours a week in whatever configuration works for that week. This work is just not happening this Round.  Deferred.

Non-Fiction:

  • I’m starting a blogging course on October 8th, and will keep up with the assignments. I am slightly behind, but keeping up within a few days of target dates.  I’m learning a lot, and the learning curve is much steeper than I expected.
  • I will be doing research the week of October 1-5, which I will turn into a first draft of an article, spending at least 4 hours a week from October 8th on, in whatever configuration. This first draft needs to be done by Christmas; I enjoy working on it, so even though I am falling behind, it stays as a goal.

Community:

  • As a sponsor, I will visit my assigned blogs twice a week. I often fall a day or two behind, but am managing to keep up within that time.
  • I will reply to all comments on my blogs. I am about a week behind on this goal, but it is very important to me, and I will leave it as is.
  • I will spend no more than 5 hours a week on social media.  I will assess which platforms work for me, and which ones do not. I have been largely absent from social media, except for the time that the blogging class assignments require.  I am getting a better idea of what is working and what is not.

Exercise:

  • I got stress fractures in two metatarsals by walking, so I will walk for only twenty minutes an evening. Nope.  Changed to three times a week, which is not giving up entirely, but is still a stretch.
  • I will continue to use the stairs. At least one goal that is working out still!
  • Starting October 8th, I will investigate low impact exercise, choosing one by week’s end. I have done the investigation, looking at Tai Chi and Yoga.  A sharp decline in my shoulder has deferred actually pursuing this exercise until at least the next Round.


Personal:

  • I will set aside a half-hour every evening to read. I read before I fall asleep, which is proving very helpful for understanding structure, dialogue, and genre.
  • I will spend at least one hour a week contacting a friend by whatever means work best. Although I haven’t managed an hour every week, I want to keep this goal, as I have come close most weeks.
  • I will have a “date night” with my husband at least twice a month.  This one is actually working as well.
  • I will spend at least one hour a week with at least one of my kids.  Again, although I haven’t managed an hour every week, I want to keep this goal, as I have come close most weeks.