Thursday, May 31, 2007


For the last several years, I have started my summer by spending at least some of Memorial Day weekend in a sort of "writing intensive." I almost didn't do it this year, but I was inspired at the last minute. I wrote a plan for my writing this summer. (Hey, if you're having a hard time writing, might as well write about writing). It was helpful in both practical and emotional ways to keep with the tradition of visiting my writing goals at the beginning of the summer. And I discovered a couple of interesting things.
I have many more styles, approaches, and forms of writing in my toolbox than I thought I did. I use each of them differently depending on how I'm feeling and what I'm trying to communicate.
  • For journaling personal stuff, brain dumps, rants, and introspective stuff, I need my spiral bound notebook and my fountain pen.
  • I use loose leaf paper and gel pens for brainstorming works for publication. The freedom to shuffle papers around is important here.
  • When I get down to serious writing for publication, I need to be at the computer or my AlphaSmart. I think differently when I write than when I type.
  • Sometimes I have something I want to write about that I'm having a hard time putting into words. I have discovered that making handmade books is quite useful for this. The creative process bypasses my verbal barrier, helping me find the words I've lost.

If I haven't written in a while, I get this restless feeling. I know that's common among writers. What I find interesting is that when I need to write in one form or style, writing in one of the other ones is only minimally effective. If I need to do some book art and I've only got my journal, that's only a bit helpful. If I need to write an article for publication and I'm not near my PC, that's not so great either. So I'm learning to ask myself why I need to write and what I need to write instead of just "writing something."

Monday, May 28, 2007

Altered Books

Altered books is a form of art whereby paint, collage, and just about any other media is used to to alter pages in a book. Sometimes pages or whole sections of pages in the book are glued together or cut out to further modify the book. Some people have a problem with this because they don't like seeing a book "destroyed." Personally, I think it's a neat way to keep a garage sale special from ending up the the garbage can.
Last week, while visiting my friend Karen in Ohio, we stopped by the local art museum. We happened upon an exhibit that included several altered books, or book sculptures by Clare Murray Adams. Karen and I had fun interpreting this series of books. Although it wasn't exactly what the artist intended, we saw the books as reflecting a writer's thoughts and feelings throughout the process of writing. Some of the books were wired shut, some had the spines ripped from the bindings, some had shredded paper spilling out from the covers.
If you struggle with writing, especially writing for publication, perhaps you can identify with either wanting to physically and dramatically alter the book or the conflicting emotions that arise when others view and possibly alter our work. Seeing this book sculpture series makes me want to keep a few old books on hand for when I feel the need to rip out some spines- umm, I mean, express my feelings on the struggles of writing.
BTW, we know our interpretation of the book series wasn't what the author intended because shortly after we arrived, she came in to brief the docents on her work. So we got to hear her lecture on her materials and process. Too cool.

Friday, May 25, 2007


If I did this correctly, My 100's should be back up on the sidebar.
I know there are some other links I still want to add, but I haven't quite gotten around to it yet.
For the record, I don't like the available formats for my post archives, but I'm not sure there's much I can do about that.
I'm in the mood to redecorate, but I'm not sure what else I want to change on the blog.
I'm just saying...

Current Read: Miracles, CS Lewis
Current Music: KLOVE

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Spending Time

I know, I know. I haven't updated the blog for a few days. As a result, more than one of you has accused me of wasting time. But I wasn't wasting time, I was spending time.
Spending time is an investment. It's an intentional act. When we say we are going to spend some time doing something, we reflect the value of that on which we choose to spend the time.
For the last few days, I have spent time with a dear friend and her family. I've spent time healing. I've spent time thinking and brainstorming. I've spent time in Amish country. If you want an interesting perspective on how we invest our time, visit the Amish.
If we could spend time like we spend money, how much would it cost? Freelance professionals often calculate the value of their time by coming up with a desired income level and charging an hourly rate that reflects the work they do and the income goals they set.
There are those that say that every moment is precious, and in a sense I don't disagree with that. However, I wonder if the currency of time is more fluid than a standard hourly rate. I won't stay up late to wash dishes or other household chores. But I will stay up late to write, or update my blog, or help a friend.
Time well spent is priceless.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Wasting Time

Seen in a junk mail catalog: "The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time."
I just love adding a good new quote to my collection.
Of course, this truism can potentially be abused, much like anything. I'd rather waste time than pay my bills, but eventually the electric company will turn off my TV. This will severely impair my ability to waste time watching it. So at some point I need to stop wasting time and pay the bills.
However, maybe it's the Lutheran in me, but I have a hard time with the concept of wasting time. Even when I deliberately set aside time for a special treat, there's that nagging voice in the back of my head. The one that worries about productivity. The one that has the "to do" list memorized. The one that usually starts out "you should."
I think the quote means to say that if you are going to waste some time, waste it. I mean really waste it. And enjoy it. Otherwise, what's the point? Wasting a little time, with no guilt, might just make us more productive. Maybe we should waste a little time. I might even put it on my "to do" list.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

What I Learned From My Mother

Today my mom invited someone over to our Mother's Day celebration. Without her invitation, this person would have spent the day alone. This got me thinking about how I learned that sort of thing from her. I learned how even if you are just stopping by to pick someone up, if you walk into our house at Christmas time, you get a gift. I learned how to pay attention to what people love but never get for themselves, and how they take their coffee so you are prepared if you ever need to get them a cup.
In light of recent events, I found this poem that highlights the things my mom taught me.

What I Learned From My Mother
Julia Kasdorf
I learned from my mother how to love
the living, to have plenty of vases on hand
in case you have to rush to the hospital
with peonies cut from the lawn, black ants
still stuck to the buds. I learned to save jars
large enough to hold fruit salad for a whole
grieving household, to cube home-canned pears
and peaches, to slice through maroon grape skins
and flick out the sexual seeds with a knife point.
I learned to attend viewings even if I didn't know
the deceased, to press the moist hands
of the living, to look into their eyes and offer
sympathy, as though I understood loss even then.
I learned that whatever we say means nothing,
what anyone will remember is that we came.
I learned to believe I had the power to ease
awful pains materially like an angel.
Like a doctor, I learned to create
from another's suffering my own usefulness, and once
you know how to do this, you can never refuse.
To every house you enter you must offer
healing: a chocolate cake you baked yourself,
the blessing of your voice, your chaste touch.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Didja ever?

Didja ever think you were having a bad week and then come to realize you had no idea how bad it could be? I'm not talking about real tragedy here, I'm talking about inanimate objects aligning their forces against you, everyone you know needing something not particularly urgent from you right now, and traffic jams that take the plural out of "miles per hour." That kind of bad.
My theory is that kind of bad likes a little bit of attention. Once it knows its badness has been validated, it can go be bad to someone else for a while.
So here's a few of the minor troubles the badness has inflicted on me:
  • random paper cuts that go undetected until I use hand sanitizer. Ouch.
  • I told a co-worker I didn't think there was anything that could improve my day. She told me all the Oreos were gone. An Oreo could have improved my day.
  • There really was a traffic jam for no reason; quadrupling my commute.
  • And why is it all the songs I find emotionally distressing find their way to the radio on days like this?

OK badness, you can go away now.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

A Busy Week

Just a couple days after Mother's Day I will be heading out of town for a much needed vacation and visit with a dear friend. But first I have to get through this week. Last week didn't end so great & when that happens, it becomes kind of difficult to switch back into a positive frame of mind for the upcoming week. It's even more challenging because I have several meetings and assignments this week.
This is kind of a test. I've been trying to keep the commitments and obligations to a minimum while I take some time to heal from some very draining experiences. These days it takes me a little longer and a little more effort to do the things I absolutely have to do, and when I'm done with that I really just want to read, create some book art, or watch a movie.
There's not going to be a lot of time for that this week. So I need to find some shortcuts. One of the things that always makes me laugh is "For The Birds," the Pixar animated short that was released with the Monsters INC DVD. At about 3 minutes long, it fits the requirement of a shortcut to a smile. I even have it downloaded on my iPod.
So, what makes you laugh?

Current Read: The Red Tent, Anita Diamant
Current Music: In Time, REM

Friday, May 04, 2007

Why I Read Harry Potter

I'm quite a fan of the Harry Potter book series. I've enjoyed watching Harry grow up. I find his adventures touching, humorous, and even thought provoking.
This bothers some of my Christian friends.
To be honest, that bothers me.
I started reading Harry Potter after a couple of the books had come out. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. And I don't believe in jumping on a bandwagon (pro or con) without firsthand knowledge of what I'm talking about. So I started reading out of curiosity and ended up falling in love with Mr. Potter.
Is it great literature? Not really. Is it Christian? Well, no. Has the author gotten a little self indulgent with her plot lines (and deadlines)? I think so. But I don't think those are the right questions and answers.
Can we learn a lot about good & evil from Harry Potter? Yes. Can we and our children relate to him as a character? Most definitely. And us writers, can we learn a bit about what it is about a book that kids crave, about what makes them come back begging to read more? I certainly hope so.
Maybe Harry Potter isn't right for some kids, or some grown-ups for that matter. Maybe the idea of "magic" is alarming. But I don't think Harry's magic is in wands or potions. I think his magic is in getting kids to read. I think it's in sharing some important truths about overcoming hardship, and choosing to live with integrity. I hope the kids who read it see that. And I hope they aren't the only ones.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


The other day I was talking with some people about crying. We debated the pros & cons of crying when you’re sad. All the usual objections came up; it can be embarrassing, we want to be perceived as strong, we don’t want to lose control. Then someone said they didn’t understand the purpose of crying. After all, it doesn’t do anything to change the situation or communicate information about our experience to others. As I thought about the sometimes automatic experience of crying, I sort of understood what the person meant. Tears can come even if we’d really prefer they didn’t.
Then someone else said that we cry to express emotions that we don’t yet have words for. I believe that’s exactly right. Sometimes we just can’t use words to express our pain. The words aren’t enough.
As a writer, that’s frustrating for me. Words are not only the primary way we relate to the world, they are an important coping tool for me. And I am not a happy camper when my usual and customary coping tools don’t work. The good news is that once you’ve cried things get a little clearer. We might just need that catharsis to enable us to articulate what our pain is about and then discover if there is anything we can do about it.