Defining the “writer.”

Had an interesting discussion with someone recently (a fairly famous someone) about the concept of writing — the romanticized, “oh I want to be a writer!” people versus the actual writers. It wasn’t a pretentious conversation. You don’t call someone a doctor simply because they’re a WebMD enthusiast.

Long story short, writers have a refined craft. Aspiring writers may diagnose you with leprosy when you have dry skin.

 

Everything, nothing, somethings, sometimes, maybe so.

I hate cliche writing. Nothing pisses me off more than verbs and adjectives tumbling from sub par storylines– creaking floors, “perfect” this and that. That’s not writing. That’s spelling and sentences and coherence, but that’s not creative writing.

The busyness (or lack thereof) in my life always seems to vary between the cliche and the outrageous. For months and months — or even years — I’ll meander along, decisions presenting themselves as unavoidable. That’s just the natural next step, yes? Yes. The cliche of decisions — the creaking and the perfects of the world.

And then fortunately, thankfully, I’m sabotaged by a great story. The floor isn’t creaking — it’s groaning under the weight of a century of footsteps carelessly traversing its weathered slats. Nothing is perfect. It’s excellent or terrifying or satisfying or fading or childlike or any other myriad of possibilities in the well from which I can take a sip and digest slowly.

I’ve been living in a sweeping succession of these digestible moments lately. One magnificent mistake sent me spinning, and I’ve yet to recover. I never will. This is my new reality. But in this new reality I am braver, stronger, more willing to try…and more susceptible to the outrageous.

I feel myself being pulled toward the unavoidable, but it’s not cliche this go-around. I’m baffled and astounded and shocked and feeling the tug toward an exciting proposition, a pivot point in my life drawing me to something more.

I don’t care what that damn groundhog says. Spring is here.

On desk diaries and To Do lists. 

I love To Do lists, and I’ve kept a desk diary since I was eight years old. I think it’s one of the more compulsive sides of my INTJ nature, but it also serves the very practical purpose of helping me accomplish my goals. It just makes me want to do more. 

Gym? Check. Laundry? Check. Book query? Check. Blog? Working on it. 

I’ve had too many things on my list lately, which initially made me very frustrated. I like the satisfaction of closing out a week or even month with an entire list completed. But life has had other ideas, the result of which has been a large and ongoing list of longer-ranging goals.

After several weeks of frankly being entirely ticked off, it occurred to me that these longer items were the result of two primary things: A full life and bigger dreams.

I have a good career that keeps me busy. I have words in my heart that constantly need put on paper. I have a gym to go to, a venture that is giving me immense satisfaction, a full travel schedule, beautiful fur babies, family to see, and dreams to soak in, soak up, and realize.

So, while I still love my desk diary, it’s no longer my leader, but rather a complement to my life. A friend who reminds me that even though life isn’t always what I think it should be or easy or even fun, it is so very worth it.
NaBloWriMo Day 2? … Check. (Kidding! Sort of.)

NaBloWriMo

“I closed my eyes and just let go.”

It’s one of my favorite lines in my novel, Sixteen Days. A simple statement that reflected emotional nudity. A complex decision that reflected an inability to ever go back. 

As we enter this NaBloWriMo season, my goal is to share tips of this trade, secrets and tricks to improving your writing, as well as explore my own journey as an editor and author.

Care to join? Close your eyes and just let go.

Downtime.

Life has been quiet lately. I seem to vary between work-walk-sleep. I feel a little bad that I haven’t devoted this month to tons of travel, but I’ve frankly needed the downtime, and considering what September will entail, I’m sure I’ll look back and be glad I spent my days walking the ways of a Mancunian.

I’m learning that not everything in life has the movie credits ending. You know — the awesome conclusion, fireworks, and complete closure. There’s not always a pretty little bow to seal things up. This is a hard lesson for my brain to learn. It wants the crumbs swept up or it goes into shock — rage, deny; deny, rage.

So I’ve used August as a time for reflection. I feel like Thoreau, observing the changing of the leaves from my humble tree-lined view. As if you could kill time without injuring eternity. I really need to get a tattoo for that. I guess the truth is I’m slowly emerging from my cocoon, realizing that humans carry scars long after the wounds are healed. And it’s true: a scar can last a lifetime. There’s plenty of religious rhetoric about that, but I’ve found it’s far easier to quote something than to actually understand the depth of a person’s plight and realize what they are like, what they have struggled with, and — why, perhaps — their pain cannot be sealed up as nicely as an outsider opinion would like it to be.

Funny enough, I think I’m becoming the person I always wanted to be. More thoughtful, more reflective, and yes, a little more jaded.

It’s a quiet, chilly night, and I’m thinking of things that no longer exist. I’m reflective and full of memories, embracing a handful of emotions society wants us to think should only be discussed in hushed whispers. I’m sad, and I am allowed to be.

“It’s okay to be sad sometimes.”

Truer words have never been spoken.

 

 

 

On conversion.

While having dinner with friends a couple of weeks ago, they asked me if I considered myself religious. I thought about it for a moment and said, “well, I am a Christian, so I suppose in some ways I am religious.” 

The conversation drifted into talk about a recent study, which found that over half of Britons say they are non-religious. Though this is significantly lower than the U.S., our Christian numbers are slipping every year. 

Why is that? Why are these once Christian nations now living in post-Christian society?

A lot of it has to do with approach. 

“Religious Christianity” is a parasite ripping its way through good intentions, the Joel Osteens of this world (note the previous link was taken from a conservative-leaning website) promising people they will be “blessed” if they contribute to his lavish lifestyle, while the likes of Joyce Meyers persist in hatefully yelling at you to have joy. Right. 

And here’s the thing: those of us who dare speak out against the so-called prosperity gospel, the TBN televangelists of this world, are suddenly not “Christian enough” for the Cool Kids Religious Club.

The wailing and flailing and associating politics with religion to the point that you’re unwelcome certainly doesn’t make me very interested in stepping foot in a church — and I was practically born on the front pew.

Where does that leave the rest of the world?

Less than motivated. 

While walking through Manchester on Saturday, the soothing sounds of prayers and light music wafted through an area with a large amount of foot traffic. As I came closer to the origination of the sound, I saw it was an Islamic outreach. Two large tables were full of varying types of informational books, and the people in charge were standing some distance away, enabling people to freely wander up, observe, and learn at their own pace. I was surprised by how calm it felt and suddenly understood why this is a religion increasing in number. These lay people made it feel approachable.

Because irony is a thing, I continued meandering down the walkway and into a large square in downtown Manchester. As I made my way along, I started to hear someone yelling — was there a fight? An accident? 

And then…”oh no,” I thought. Dread crept upon me like vines tightly encasing an old brick building.

There he was in all his glory. 

A red-faced, loud mouth with a crackling mic, yelling at people, “know the one, true living God! You are not from chimpanzees. Evolution is not real!”

His small set up included a handcrafted wooden cross, a t-shirt on a mannequin (not sure if they were for sale or what)…and that’s it. A man and his soapbox. 

People were snickering in clusters from a safe distance away, giggling at the “crazy guy” talking about Jesus. 

It’s symptomatic of the larger issue with Christianity: the right-fighters. Notice he didn’t speak about the love of Christ or how He died on a cross. He didn’t even mention the concept of sin and how there is forgiveness. He pushed a political and scientific agenda and attempted to angrily convince passersby that this behavior somehow, some way, meant his religion was superior.

Tell me — if you were among the 53% of non-religious UK residents, which religious approach would have interested you the most? Or at least not closed the door to the positives of said religion? 

Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners at the Hands of an Angry God” is one of America’s most important and fascinating religious texts. And while I believe in Jesus and the tenets of Christianity — though I stumble, God knows — Edwards died in 1758, and the world is now a very different place.

Maybe it’s time that approach died, too. Maybe it’s time the religious right stepped off their self-righteous pedestal and learned to study the Bible without their Evangelical politics. Maybe it’s time to give people a safe space to feel welcome and explore instead of yelling religious dogma in the streets. 

 

 

(image credit: Pixabay)

Mirrors.

Two months ago I saw a picture of myself and gasped. Like I literally gasped. I can’t even show you the picture, because I deleted it after throwing up in my mouth a little.

My long hair — my security blanket, my love, my I’m-afraid-to-be-seen-so-I’ll-just-hide-behind-this-big-ass-blanket-of-hair — was weighing me down. I looked tired, weary, and uncomfortable. Despite having almost always been “the girl with long hair,” I suddenly wasn’t me.

I booked a hair consultation the next day.

When I went in, I told the stylist I wanted my hair to look like this (and if she could make the rest of me look like her, that was cool, too). After trying to bleach some of my raven tresses to no avail, we settled on purple extensions to complete my foray into the goth-lite realm, scheduled a full appointment out for the following week, and I spent the next several days emotionally parting ways with hair that was mere inches from my waist in the back.

It’s funny how, when something feels right, the fear subsides.

I sat down in the salon chair five days later; the stylist asked, “Are you ready?”

I took one blurry sans-glasses look into the mirror and emphatically responded, “Yes! This is so overdue.”

And with that, a foot of hair was chopped off in a matter of moments. Some two hours later I emerged a new person, not because I’d made a physical change, but because the physical finally matched the girl on the inside.

After a long two years of what I realize now was a severe struggle with depression, I looked in the mirror and finally saw myself in the reflection. I wasn’t the drab girl that “could be”; I wasn’t the girl who “if only.” I was me. Andrea. The girl with sexy — and much shorter — black and purple hair, who suddenly felt like she owned herself.

Mirrors. They only work if we’re brave enough to look. IMG_1666-1.JPG

 

What’s in your fridge?

When I kissed my luxury condo goodbye some time ago, the most time wasn’t spent on sorting clothes or knick-knacks. Strangely, it was the food that took forever.

Did you know that poppy seeds can go rancid?

According to the internetz, nuts — like seeds — are high in oils (duh), and thus can get bitter/go rancid, and otherwise end up pretty disgusting and useless. I had a five year old jar of poppy seeds in my cupboard. Suffice it to say the poppy seeds didn’t come with me to England.

Months later, here I am in Manchester, and do you know what I have? A mini fridge, folks. I’m talking college-freshman-in-a-dorm mini fridge. And do you know what’s so amazing about this? It’s enough. To Westerners, and Americans in particular, that’s a pretty foreign concept. I think my adaptability has surprised even me.

But, here’s the thing: you can only eat so many calories in a day (assuming you want to be a generally healthy person), and grocery stores are not yet going out of style, though I do suspect Amazon’s proposed takeover of Whole Foods will be a game-changer for the industry.

As it sits, I consume roughly 1400 calories per day. This amounts to a simple breakfast of tea with yogurt or muesli, some sort of grain, protein and fruit for lunch, and typically a protein-heavy dinner. None of what I just described requires an “American-sized refrigerator,” as the Brits and Aussies call them, or a Costco membership.

All it requires is a mini fridge.

I don’t have my poppy seeds anymore. Or my two year old packages of pasta noodles, 5lb bag of flour or that rotting cucumber I bought last October. Instead, I have a two to three day supply of fresh food, as well as a small shelf of longer-lasting items like Hobnobs and tea.

And let me tell you, that fresh food supply is glorious. I savor every single thing in my little mini fridge, because it was purchased with a purpose. I no longer meander through the grocery loading up a cart. I think strategically about what can fit into a bag or two, how long those items will be good and where I can use those items over the course of a couple of days — sliced avocado in a salad for dinner one night; mashed avocado on toast with a boiled egg for lunch the next day, for instance.

This idea, this theory — The Mini Fridge Theory, if you will — is a metaphor for my life. Five years ago, all I wanted was a bigger home — more curb appeal, more grass, more bedrooms, more granite counter tops…more, more, more. Two years ago, I wanted more luxury, more prestige, more respect from society.

But today?

Today, all I want is my mini fridge. My freedom. My statement to the world that my place on this planet isn’t about how much space I can take up but how little space I can consume while seeing how much of the world I can explore.

Blueberries, plums, yogurt, cheese, Charcuterie meats. That’s what’s in my fridge right now.

What’s in yours?