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  • March 14th, 2011 | 11:50 AM
5 Things I've Learned About Myself Recently

I was going to post this on Friday for a Friday five but then it started getting really long. Then I was going to post it on Saturday and didn't. By Sunday I convinced myself to wait until Monday. That's the way my thought process has been going these days.

I haven't been around the blogosphere lately because I've been doing a lot of pondering about myself and my writing and my online life and art and a whole bunch of stuff. Not sure that many folks even read this any more because I haven't been good about interacting and I know that's what makes you fall off of other people's radar. Anyway, here are some thoughts around some of the things I've been thinking.

1. It's important to think about the whys behind your doing of things.

I have become (mostly unintentionally) greatly disconnected from the online world. Some of this is a carryover from all the house stuff last year but some of it is me dog-paddling for so long that I just don't have the energy to keep it up anymore. Hard to keep swimming when you don't see any land in sight. So lately I'm not Tweeting. I'm not blogging or responding to blogs. I'm trying to keep up on Facebook status updates but that's about it. In some ways this has been good. Online is noisy and even if the noise is virtual, for me it's like being at a rock concert 24/7. And I don't do concerts.

Taking in all that info, trying to remember who to check in with, making the rounds and making the rounds and then, one more time, making the rounds it can drain me. It can also fill me, when there's the give and take with people but because of my unintentional disconnect, there hasn't been that give and take. I've taken from everyone for too long without giving back so people move on. I understand. It's the way things work. The trouble is figuring out where to jump back in again because it's not just the jumping in...it's the convincing myself to keep going beyond those quiet times while things build back up again. So this has been the subject of much pondering on my part.

I recently bought and watched a CD from Brene Brown called The Hustle For Worthniess which was an extension from one of her books (sorry, I can't remember which one) but the idea of hustling around, doing things we think will make us worthy of someone's attention rang a little bit too true for me. So I've been wondering, why do I Tweet? Why do I use Facebook? And most importantly, why do I blog? Am I trying to help other people or am I seeking attention for myself? And if I want the attention, is that a bad thing, a hustling for worthiness sort of thing? I'm still trying to figure that one out. What confuses me is that a friend told me recently that I am at my best when I put myself out there with honesty and transparency. That rings true for me but then it is all about me, me, me and I don't know that I am offering anything else to the world.

2. Not everything you try is going to work, and that's okay.

I am probably going to retire The Poetry Push I started on Tuesdays. It hasn't taken off and I know that a big reason for that is because of my own lack of participation in the event and in other online things. I think the result might have been different if I had started it during a peak rather than a valley. I might use the list poem prompts as my project for National Poetry month since that's coming up next month and I have no idea what I am going to do for that. Two years ago when I participated for the first time I wrote haiku about my native garden. Last year I wrote poems about the father I never knew.This year I have no idea. I thought about trying to write poems about Cassie but I don't know if I could come up with 30 of them. I thought about doing a different poetry prompt each day, doing the exercise myself and hoping more people would participate. I thought about trying to write about art and what it is adding/doing to my life. But so far nothing seems both right and achievable. Because I really hate failing.

3. Play time is an important gift to give yourself, especially guilt-free play time.

I gave myself the gift of March as an entire month of play. It came about as a result of taking with a friend about working and not working and she said you know, there's a big difference between not working and beating yourself up about it and feeling guilty and then, instead, giving yourself permission to take time off and then not feeling guilty about not working. She was right so when I went to my Asilomar conference at the end of March I let myself think about which one I was doing and finally decided to give myself a month of guilt-free play. I've been taking painting lessons online and doing a lot of art. I've been sitting in the garden and doing nothing. I've been reading non-fiction. And I've been waiting for stories to tell me they want me to pay attention to them. The stories, well they've surprised me. I've been reading more poetry and feeling, at times, less like writing it. I am being drawn back to some middle grade prose ideas I've played with. Then of course I start to second-guess myself about why I feel less like writing poetry when I go back and read what I've written and mostly like it. I think some of it has to do with the labels and pressures that are placed on verse novelists. (Not that labels and pressures aren't places on all writers.) Which goes back to my first point and wondering if it is about chasing worthiness again? I'll continue to let myself see-saw on story thoughts for the next couple of weeks and see how I feel at the end of March.

4. Doing something with a friend makes it more fun. Plus there's that accountability factor.

Some of you might have read laurasalas posting about an upcoming poetry adventure she and I are undertaking together. So many times we get poetry books (or writing craft books) and we really MEAN to do the exercises but we don't. So Laura and I are starting a weekly feature called Write After Reading where we actually, gasp, plan to DO the exercises in a book as we read it and then discuss it in alternating weeks on our blogs. The first book we are starting with is Writing the Life Poetic and we'd love for you to join us. I'll write more about it all in a separate post later but for now you can pop over and read about it on Laura's blog. She's started us off on Wednesday.

5. Learning something new makes you look at everything else in life differently.

I've been mostly focused on art this month and really stretching myself to learn a lot of new things about art in a short amount of time. I love the excitement that comes with learning something new. I love the lack of pressure that comes from being a newbie. I love making "mistakes" and just letting go of the mistake as learning experience and not beating myself up.

I dug into my stash of "beautiful blank books" and just started throwing paint on the blank pages. (oh yes, artists suffer from blank page syndrome just like writers do.) I wanted to overcome the idea that the book was too beautiful for me to use and anything I put into it had to be beautiful too. I had a stash of craft paints that have (to me) a horrible chalky texture that I can't stand to touch, especially after becoming addicting to Golden Fluid Acrylics. So I decided to use them as a first layer in a new art journal. Every time Cassie rang the bell to go outside I'd sit down at the art desk and slap a coat of paint on a couple of pages. After about a week the journal is mostly filled up with color. Some color I like. Some I don't. It doesn't matter. It just the first layer and it's only paint. I can paint over it. I can collage over it. I can even rip the pages out if I really don't like it. But I no longer have a blank page staring at me. Now I have something to edit. Just like writing. You can't revise a blank page.

As usual this went on a lot longer than most people want to read but hey, I'm consistent with my gabbiness. Here's hoping to be around the blogosphere more in the future.
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There are so many stories only you can tell.Tell them, please.


( 27 comments — Leave comment )
March 14th, 2011 07:34 pm (UTC)
I think you've got your priorities in the right place. Take time for yourself. Take time for your writing, because we love to read your work. And know that we are all cheering you on. Always.
March 15th, 2011 05:41 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Jeni. It's hard for me to value myself enough to spend the time but I am trying. I'm just so sure that people will forget all about me and not want to interact when I come around again. I really appreciate your kind words and support.
March 14th, 2011 07:56 pm (UTC)
Number 2 really is important. Loved your list!
March 15th, 2011 05:41 pm (UTC)
Thanks! And yes, I think it has taken me a long time to learn that second one and I still backslide. But it's an important lesson.
March 14th, 2011 08:33 pm (UTC)
I loved this whole post and every thing you have ever posted! I would have done the list poems except I felt like I could not take the time... hahaha. and maybe my list poems would be soooo bad people would pity me...
I have not posted much because of some difficulties and a lot of despair because I'm reading but not writing any of my projects. Maybe I'll give myself the rest of the month off to get other things straight. Anyhow I would love to do the poetry thing when it starts.
I am always glad to see your posts and I get a lot out of them. I can't really do facebook or tweet, so LJ is my connection and I love it.
Please keep blogging here.
March 15th, 2011 05:45 pm (UTC)
Patty, I am so very grateful for your continual support. Yours is one of the faces I see as I write my posts...picturing the reader. I totally understand the difficulties and despair keeping you from posting. Been there, done that, way too many times. And somehow the deeper in despair we are, the more we need to post and connect but the harder it is to do so. For me I figured who wants to read all the blecky, yucky stuff all the time.

I treasure the LJ connection and don't ever plan to let it go. I just need to figure out how to get more semi-regular again so I can feel like part of the crowd.

We start the poetry thing tomorrow so see if your library maybe has the book? You can join in with us at any time. I'll post more about it when I get back home this afternoon.
March 14th, 2011 09:09 pm (UTC)
Sounds like you've been quite busy. I've no doubt it's all for the better.

I love your posts and encourage you to pop in and say Hi, if nothing else. LJ is my only real connection to others who share my lust for life in writing.

You've been taking an amazing journey. I'm impressed. Do what You feel is needed or desirable, not what "labelers" tell you. That's key. And you seem to have a handle on it.

Until later... I remain a fan.
March 15th, 2011 05:46 pm (UTC)
You have touched my heart today. Thank you. It's been really tough to take this journey for myself but I am feeling more and more that it is the right thing to do. I'll be around more and more I think in the future...with my feet a little more firmly on the ground.
March 14th, 2011 09:10 pm (UTC)
I'm always happy when I see you here, Susan. I do the pull away and come back thing, too. I'm getting better about not beating up on myself when I'm not "present" as much as I'd like. I've realized I enjoy blogging because it helps me sort through things and document where I'm at from week to week. But if it didn't make me happy, I'd stop.

I'm very glad you're enjoying a guilt-free March. Go, Susan, go! Or not. :)
March 15th, 2011 05:52 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Tracy. That beating up thing, man it's hard to let go of! But I'm trying to. And I want to use the blogging as a way to document where I'm at too. I just need to remove all those other ideas about who comments, who doesn't comment, how important are my posts to the writing community, to the world, to my friends...all those crazy pressures I put on myself that don't really matter in the giant scheme.

I have to keep reminding myself to leave the guilt out of my month but it is getting easier to pull myself back into the moment.
March 14th, 2011 09:43 pm (UTC)
I enjoyed reading this, Susan, and agree with most of what Tracy and Patty say. I see people come and go, and try not to worry when they go, but just cheer when they come back. One really can't do everything, and everyone has to decide what works for them. And sometimes that will change.

I think it's great when you're blogging, but I trust you're doing important things when you're away. You are always in my heart, whether you're stopping by or not.

and I hope to participate in your and Laura's Wednesdays -- we'll see, but I will be reading as I read the Poetry Push (but like you said about the books, cool, but I just didn't do the work...
March 15th, 2011 05:49 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Jeannine. You are one of my heroes when I think of balance. I don't know if you have it figured out in real life but from here it sure looks like you do. :)

I think learning how to trust myself, to follow my instincts, to allow myself time to be the creative person I am on many levels....all this I think is the important work I am supposed to be doing right now. Perhaps it is removing the idea that writing and selling my next book is the be-all, end-all to my existence. Because my life can't be all wrapped up in just writing....I need to remember to live in order to have something to write about.
(Deleted comment)
March 15th, 2011 05:47 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Melodye. I love your brand of encouragement and am ever grateful for it.
Yes, me too on the jonesing for a chat. How's the rest of your week look? Today (Tuesday) is rather shot.
March 15th, 2011 05:10 am (UTC)
It sounds like you and I have been in the same place lately. Half of what you wrote here could have come from my own head.

Funny, but after I posted last Friday, I began to wonder how much of LJ I was missing, and how much of it I actually missed. I don't know how many people still read my LJ, either (not that there's been anything to read lately), but I do miss the community that I had with you, Melodye, Tracy, Laura, and the rest of the "Nerd Herd." Maybe it's time to just weed out the "work" part of it, and pay more attention to the fun parts. It's easy on a blog like this to just let everything jumble together, and it can get really overwhelming.
March 16th, 2011 04:13 am (UTC)
I was glad to see your post along the same lines. I miss the community, the water cooler feeling and that's what I want to try and bring back.

I'm in the middle of a new website design and what I am hoping is that the blog there will be the strictly writing one and that I can be more free here.

I think a big problem for me is that I stink at schedules and I really need to start scheduling my time in order to actually be able to do these things on a regular basis. I don't know how I did it before.
March 16th, 2011 04:18 am (UTC)
I hear ya! Trying to just stick with it when you've let go for awhile it kind of tough. I feel like I have so much free time these days, but I know it's not as much as it seems.

Good luck with the new design! We will persevere! <^O^>
March 15th, 2011 10:01 am (UTC)
My Personal Challenge for April
After reading your blog I realised just how much I beat myself up about stuff.
The first question I asked myself then was why?
Taking time out sounds good to me. Taking time out for myself sounds even better.

I think I also just realised that in this life I am trying too hard. I trying for perfection and that is far too hard for anyone. Yes life especially my life has its challenges but I am adding to those with things that don't even need to be there.

Worry about things before they even happen if in fact they do. Worry about things that have happened in my past when it is hard enough to cope with the present. The right here right now stuff. If I take away my past and not worry about the future I might just be able to cope.

Funny how 100's pf people can tell you the same things but until you are ready to believe them yourself. To believe in yourself it is impossible to do. I have said it before I find it easier to believe in the good in other people and neglect to look for the good in myself.

So goal for me for as long as I can anyway to start trying to find something good about myself each day. Maybe in April instead of doing the poetry challenge or a Haiku challenge. It will be hard enough for me to do that.

Note to self for April find something good or positive about yourself each day. Lets see if I am up to the challenge. After all how hard can it be to find 30 good things about oneself. We will soon find out. I will anyway. Not sure if it is something I can share. I may just let you know if I succeed though.

- Anne McKenna
March 15th, 2011 05:52 pm (UTC)
Re: My Personal Challenge for April
Anne, I think this is a FABULOUS idea for you and I hope you will follow up on it. You could use the NOTES application on Facebook to do it.
March 15th, 2011 01:06 pm (UTC)
Sounds to me like you are doing good work now. Wishing you strength!
March 15th, 2011 05:53 pm (UTC)
Thank you. This IS good work and important work and work I've not been willing to do in the past. It is easier to live in the past or project to the future than it is to live here, now...but I am learning and loving it.
March 15th, 2011 01:54 pm (UTC)
Great list, Susan.

I haven't been blogging much OR reading other people's blogs. It does take a bit of effort to write something of substance and I'm pretty much substanced out.
March 16th, 2011 04:24 am (UTC)

And yeah, that substance thing, it's a toughie. :)
March 15th, 2011 05:53 pm (UTC)
Great post!

I think the going around and around thing is always draining and being drained should be avoided.

I also think things have changed a lot. I was away from the blogosphere for a while--months of being mostly "off" and then actually away for about a year. When I came back I noticed how dramatically it's changed. For one thing there are MANY more people blogging, mostly not on LJ. And that, plus Twitter and FB, has led to fewer conversations in comments threads.

I think you should just have as much fun with it as possible.
March 16th, 2011 04:35 am (UTC)
Thanks, Dot! Yes, the round and round is what really drains me and you're right, things have changed from the early days when there were so many fewer of us. But it seems to be one of those areas where the change is difficult for me.

Fun is the idea though. I really to remember that.
March 15th, 2011 08:27 pm (UTC)
I just came back from an unintentional online hiatus too! I think for me, it's seasonal, but I'm glad to see you're back. :)
March 16th, 2011 04:42 am (UTC)
Ditto on glad to see you back!
March 17th, 2011 02:11 pm (UTC)
Beautiful post, Susan. I've been too drained by other things to get here much lately, so this really spoke to me. Guilt-free play and permission to make a mess -- I do with both of those! So why don't I make time for them? Lots of food for thought.
( 27 comments — Leave comment )

Who am I?I was born on the Cancer/Leo cusp and share a birthday with Ernest Hemingway and Robin Williams. The similarities don't stop there as I can go from depressed to ecstatic without ever passing go. I feel scared most of the time though my friends call me brave and I find it easier to believe in my friends than to believe in my own abilities to make what I want out of my life.

Who am I? A wife, a mother, a daughter, and even, gulp, a grandmother.

Who am I? A writer who never gets tired of playing with words, even when the words are hard to find. A writer of books for children and articles for grown-ups and many things in-between.

Who am I? A motivational speaker, writing instructor, workshop leader and full-time follower of dreams.

Who am I? Read and find out.

Susan Taylor Brown

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