How to change my thinking

We have failed our children.

We must show our children strength in adversity.

We have failed the earth.

We must fight for our planet.

We have failed our LGBTQ community.

We must tell our gay men, our lesbian women, our trans brothers&sisters, that we will not stop fighting for them.

We have failed our women, our minorities, our immigrants.

We must honor the sacrifices made in the long, long arc of the moral universe as it bend slowly towards justice. We must continue what those who came before us started. We must not falter.

We have underestimated the power of fear and ignorance and hate.

We must extend love in all directions.

We have failed as educators.

We must educate.

We have elected a bully.

We must not be bullied.

There is no hope, only despair.

Out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope.

Taking a Break from Blogging #Blog #Break #Timeout

Here looking for a new update? You won’t find one. I started this blog in 2009 as a report to the New Hampshire community after the State Art Council awarded me a fellowship. Originally, it was a blog devoted to discussing my writing. Since then, I’ve used it to post many things–art, life, family, music, and the like. But now I’m taking a break. In the event that someone has stumbled to this site looking for a way to contact me, the contact function will still work. I just won’t be putting up any new writing in the foreseeable future. Thanks to those who came here to read my thoughts over the past couple of years. Perhaps I’ll post more someday. Until then, I hope to see you in the real world. Be well.

Expectations

It’s been a long time since I posted. Vacation and general business has kept me…well, busy. Generally, this is a post about writing and I struggle with taking the time to write or taking the time to write about writing. You’d think, since I’ve been staying away from the blog so long, that I’d have plenty of fiction to show for it. I laugh at your expectations!

Actually, expectations killed my writing over the summer. They were honest expectations, of course. Last summer, I had an incredible writing experience. Eight short stories in nine weeks. I hit the desk even though I was busy. I wrote through two weeks of teaching (the class was from eight to two everyday, but I still managed to write) and a ten day trip to Seattle, where I managed to write, and a week long trip to Virginia, where I managed to write. The stories were solid; messy but solid. I worked all fall and winter on revision.

I expected to write the same this summer. Crankin’ out lots of words. I had a project and a goal for the work. What happened? Who knows. Fickle muse, I suspect. I did spend the time at the desk, but the work was like pulling teeth.

Partly it was the subject matter. I spent several weeks worried that I was writing simply because I thought I could sell a zombie book. My “artistic honesty” was at stake. This is a blog, so you can’t see the sarcasm dripping from those words. But it’s there, believe me.

Partly it was me being disappointed in my own writing. It’s supposed to be easy to write genre stuff, right? I figured anyone could crank out a zombie book. I figured I could write this thing quickly. Turns out, I can’t write anything quickly. Turns out, the zombie craze may be over before I get this done. Turns out, a whole mess of literary writers are publishing zombie books this fall, so what’s the point. Oh, the futility.

Partly, I’m still mourning the last manuscript that I couldn’t sell. It’s silly that I can’t let it go. It was a strange book and I have a feeling it was more for me than anyone else, but I really like it and every time I sat down to write about zombies, I felt like I was writing down from that book. I was trying to make the book as solid on as many levels as I could, but I couldn’t help feel that The Aurora Project was dead in the water so what’s the hope for Apocalypse Nation?

But mostly, it’s the weight of my own expectations. Today, for instance, my last day of creative freedom. Or at least the last day in which I might theoretically devote all of my time to this creative project. I expected too much. The daily life of chores pushed forward and I relinquished the time I had at the table to do those things. That’s my fault. It’s nothing that other writers don’t deal with every single day. But I expected something different and if I’ve proved anything to myself in my years trying to write, it’s that whatever I expect my writing life to be like…is wrong. The idealized writing life–the writer I’ve always imagined myself to be–doesn’t exist. The only writer that exists is this one. The writer I am.

 

Acceptance?

Certainly acceptance is something that I need to practice in my life–in my writing life especially–but in everyday life, too. Have you ever seen those bumper stickers that say something along the lines of  “if you ain’t angry, you ain’t paying attention”? What an awful way to live, driving around being pissed off about everything you see, grinding your teeth when you see another bumper sticker that pisses you off, speeding up to see the jerk who so flagrantly flaunts his/her wrong-headed ideas, spending the rest of the day thinking about how much of a jerk that guy was?

Wait, am I writing about bumper stickers? What was it? Oh, right acceptance. What do I have to accept. Everything. Does this mean I’m the world’s doormat? Not at all. But when I’m practicing acceptance, I’m aware of the limitations of my actions, aware that I can only do certain things on this day and that the things I can do tomorrow are not a part of the equation, because no matter how much I plan, they do not exist yet. Likewise, the “certain things” I did yesterday no longer exist either. I accept that tonight, a few moments before I go to bed, things are the way they are. Seems rather elementary, really, but our whole culture is based, it seemed, on living without acceptance.

As a writer, I’ve often written about rejection and what that means. I’m sure I’ll write about rejection again. Understanding and accepting rejection has made me the writer I am today. Often, when people read my writing on rejection, they say things like: “don’t worry! Keep your chin up!” Or, “Think positive!” Aside from the fact that “think positive!” doesn’t make any sense (without the “ly”, positive is just a noun and one cannot “think” nounly. A little message from the Grammar Police, Adverb Division GPAD) I’m afraid my ramblings about rejection haven’t done what I thought they would. Like any writer, I hated rejection letters at first. Then I loathed them for a while. Then I hated them some more. Then I laughed at them, HA-HA, and tossed my hair about insouciantly. And then something strange happened. I stopped caring about them. I get them in the mail now and I don’t really think about them. The people that reject me are doing the hard work of putting out a literary magazine. I didn’t make the cut. I toss the envelope in the recycling been. Without even knowing it, I’d started practicing acceptance for the rejections. Does that mean I give up? Not at all. In fact, today, I searched for new places to send my work to and I’ll send it out, do all I can, make the stories as good as I’m capable of making them, drop them in the mail and then it’s out of my hands. Nothing to do but write more stories.

But what happens when I get accepted? That’s the new wrench in the cogs. Since February, I’ve had six stories accepted for publication. That is, quite literally, more stories than I’ve had accepted in the last decade. I’ve had stories accepted at Eclipse, Limestone, Nimrod, Conjunctions and two other places that I can’t mention yet because they are connected with contests that have not publicized their results. These are a mix of small and large literary magazines and such acceptances have left me feeling oddly confused. I never thought I’d struggle to accept acceptance on this scale. But like everything else, I suppose it takes practice. Of course, I can’t count on acceptance letters. I have to accept whatever comes my way.

Having six stories accepted feels like the roof of my writing life has been stripped. I’m exposed to the elements. Luckily for me, my house is currently in this state, so I can show you what it feels like. Here’s a picture of my attic without shingles. Metaphorically, it’s kind of cool.