The Writing Relationship

images-1I’ve had a relationship with Writing for most of my life.

I was formally introduced to Writing in kindergarten. I learned about her, letter by letter, and I understood her mentally, but sometimes our physical relationship struggled as my 5 year-old hand shook and cramped, holding the pencil over the special dot-dash paper.

As I grew, Writing became something I needed to convey my thoughts in school. I used her to tell my teacher what I wanted to be when I grew up (at the time, a restauranteur), to organize all the information I’d learned about mourning doves, and to express myself in letters to friends and cards to family. I liked Writing about those things, and my ability to do it well made me feel “good at school,” but I never considered spending much personal time with Writing.

In middle school, my maturing thoughts and feelings became too mixed up to straighten out in my head, so I turned to Writing to help me untangle, grow and become who I wanted to be. I wrote big, in sketchpads with colorful markers. I chronicled my life. Sometimes I thought about using Writing to tell the stories I made up in my head- my “imaginings,” as I called them, in homage to Anne Shirley. I’d start a story now and then, but I didn’t understand enough about the art of storytelling to continue them. Writing and I were personal friends, but I wasn’t ready to take it to the next level. Continue reading

How Do You Keep Healthy Habits When You’re Sick?

tired dog

A resting role model

I’ve had a sinus infection for about 5 months now. It started in November as mild congestion in the mornings and evenings. I saw my doctor about it in December, and she diagnosed it as a sinus infection, but it was mild enough at that point that we chose to treat it naturally, with nasal spray and steaming techniques. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough, and at the end of February I had an awful week when I was exhausted with a clogged nose, drippy throat and painful stomachache. My doctor put me on a course of antibiotics (milder ones, as I’m still nursing) and that helped for awhile. A few weeks later, though, it was all back. I went on a second course of different antibiotics. That helped too, for awhile. But last week, a few days after I finished the pills, I started getting congested and tired again. A lot more tired, in fact. It’s been a tough week, as I’ve been fatigued, and Edwin has a cold. It’s a lot harder to keep a sick kid happy and distracted when you’re too exhausted to do anything fun. Today I’m going to see an ENT to see if something else can be done.

In the meantime, I’ve found it very difficult to keep up with my healthy habits, especially my “moderator” habits. In general, I’m a disciplined person, and after instilling and committing to a healthy habit, I don’t have too much trouble maintaining it. But when I’m sick, everything goes out the window. All I want are sweets and carbs. Continue reading

“Doing” or “Not Doing”- Is “Doing” Always Better?

There’s a saying people use sometimes to decide whether or not to do an activity: “When I’m 80, will I be glad I did this (skydive, go to the theater, leave the house) today?” This question is designed to push the person toward activities that create memories. And while that’s a noble goal, I don’t think memorability should be the only criterion. Just because something will be memorable doesn’t mean it will be enjoyable.

Here’s an example of a time I said “no” to a very memorable event, and didn’t regret it. When I was in college, I had the opportunity to do a summer semester teaching music in England. I was in a group of five girls, and in between our teaching assignments, we did a lot of traveling together. Just by happenstance, we were in England during a major historical event: Queen Elizabeth’s Jubilee celebration, the 50th anniversary of her coronation. (We were also there while England was competing in the World Cup, and it was so much fun cheering on David Beckham and seeing the white flag with red cross hanging on every house and pub.)

My four friends decided there was no way they were missing the Jubilee celebration parade. For a week, they all tried talking me into going with them to London. I thought about it. I knew it was a memory I’d be able to tell my grandchildren- that I saw the Queen of England ride by in her carriage. But how much of her would I really get to see? How many hours would I have to wait, on my feet, in a crushing crowd? Continue reading

How 5 Minutes Can Make Your Day 100% Better

imagesI’ve had a pretty ordinary week, with a couple of extraordinarily productive days. Looking at which days were productive, and which were just average, helped me to see a pattern. I’ve recently started setting my alarm clock, even though Edwin’s an early riser and I don’t really need it. My rationale was that if I got up at the same time every day, instead of potentially varying it by 30-40 minutes, I might re-tune my body clock so I feel more refreshed when I wake up. But it had an unintended side effect: on the days Edwin slept a little later than my alarm, I got a few minutes to write in the mornings. One day this week, I got a whole serendipitous hour. That was obviously the most productive day. But I found something interesting: even on the days I only got 5 minutes, I saw a big boost in productivity. 

What did I do with that 5 minutes? Continue reading

The One Big Rule I’ve Been Breaking Since 2012

images-1Since August 2012, I’ve been breaking a big blogging rule. That was when I stopped writing only about books and reading, and decided to open up the blog to new ideas and themes. Since then, I’ve written on a variety of topics: parenting, gratitude, cancer, style, time management, self improvement… the number of categories listed on the right sidebar speaks for itself! I’ve enjoyed writing about all these things, but I’ve always felt that my blog was a bit… well, disorganized. It didn’t have a theme, a niche, a central message. Each post was in a different category from the previous post (with the exception of the blog series). I knew I was breaking a major blogging rule by being “niche-less,” and I was even breaking my own rules, because I personally prefer to read blogs that revolve around a predictable topic or point of view. And yet I continued to blog on a variety of topics, because I liked the variety, and because I didn’t know what my niche should be. I liked blogging about books and reading in the first year, but after awhile, it felt too confining, and I began to get stressed about sticking to the topic. I was afraid that picking a new niche would eventually bring up the same issues.

However, it kept bugging me that I couldn’t define my blog. If someone asked me what it was about, I couldn’t tell them. It bothered me a lot, but I stayed stuck on the feeling that I didn’t want to feel trapped in a particular topic.

Then I had my “A-ha!” moment. (Picture me hitting myself on the forehead, crying, “Of course! Leanne, you idiot!”) I realized that I didn’t need a topic. What I needed was a perspective, a point of view. I had to figure out what my message was, is and should be. Continue reading

I’m a Writer, Not a Blogger

images-1I have six months left to live. 

That’s what my writing career is telling me.

(Actually, it’s more like five months now.)

It’s an exaggeration, yes, but not a huge one. In September, I’ll be going back to teaching full-time. Writing will no longer be my primary work focus. I am determined to still make time to write every day, even if, on a busy day, it’s just for half an hour after Edwin goes to bed. But I’ll no longer have two hours in the afternoon while Edwin naps, or half an hour while he’s engrossed in Sesame Street, or all that mental time to think about characters and plot points and blog posts while I’m watching him play. Writing will go from being a major part of my day to something I have to work hard to squeeze in. I’ve accepted these circumstances, I’ve mourned for my writing loss, and I’m ready to think about what I want to accomplish with the time I have left.

I’m trying to build a writing career, and I’ve put a lot of work into the foundation. I’ve taken several classes and read countless writing method books. I’ve created strong writing habits. I’ve experimented with different structures and styles. I’ve produced a lot of work, some of which has been published. I’m adding those “published” bricks to the foundation and starting to build walls. I know what I want my structure to look like. I know how I want it to feel inside. I know where I want it to go.

I don’t just want to be a writer. I want to write books.  Continue reading