I Write Because I Refuse to Stop (Writing 101, Day 20)

Four weeks ago, I was asked an important question: Why do you write?  Unsure of how to respond, I gave it some thought and came to the conclusion that I write because I always have and cannot seem to stop.

I’ve learned a few things about myself in the past few weeks.  I now realize that, at some point during college, I lost sight of my identity as a writer. It always seemed like my classmates were so much better than I was.  Compared to their eloquent prose and poetry, my words felt feeble, hollow, and lifeless.  But maybe that is because, all along, I wasn’t doing the right kind of writing.  I took creative writing classes, but I’m not a creative writer.  I’ve won essay contests, but I’m not an academic.  That’s not me.

This place, this blog, these posts… this is me.

So much time has been spent comparing myself with other writers that I’ve forgotten who I am.  Participating in Writing 101 has brought everything back.  My identity, ultimately, does not stream from my classmates, friends, and fellow bloggers.  It comes from myself.  It comes from the fact that there are words bubbling from deep within me, waiting to be released.  The words pester me.  They nag, pulling at the back of my mind.  I cannot keep silent.

At the beginning of Writing 101, I stated that I write because I cannot stop.  At the end, I find my answer has changed.

I write because I cannot stop; I write because I refuse to stop;  I write because this is who I am.

Recent Reads (Writing 101, Day 19)

One of my modivations for signing up for Writing 101 was to push myself out of my comfort zone.  Part of this has included pushing myself to become more active and actually comment on sites.  Today marks another challenge.  With my busy schedule, I totally forgot to interview someone.  Instead, I’m compiling a list of posts I’ve recently read and enjoyed.  I always feel weird linking to blogs I don’t feel I know well… but here goes.

These are all posts I really enjoyed!  I hope you like them as well.

What posts have you been reading lately?

Lines and Dots (Writing 101, Day 18)

Lines and dots… that’s all a map really is.  Lines and dots printed in tiny colors on sheets of paper that you can never seem to fold the same way twice.  You don’t want to be seen with a map, else the locals pushing past you on the street mutter about annoying tourists under their breaths.  So you try to be as inconspicuous as possible, shoving it quickly in your purse, backpack, briefcase, or pocket to avoid notice.  The lines and dots are helpful, but can sometimes make you stick out like a sore thumb.

It’s what the dots mean and where the lines go that make a map important.

Consider the image below.  At first, it doesn’t mean much.  Can anyone guess where this is?

MyLondon Places (for blog)

If you guessed London, you’re right.  It’s nothing but a series of lines and dots.  In this case, the white and yellow lines signify roads.  The blue windy line is the Thames.  The dots here have numbers, symbolizing how many of my Facebook photos are tagged at different locations.

A map can tell you so much, but there hits a point where its meaning is different for everyone.

When you look at this image, you may see nothing but meaningless lines and dots.

When I take a peek, though, I see memories playing in the back of my mind of my semester abroad.  I picture myself walking through the campus of my host university, squeezing my way into a Tube train at Piccadilly Circus after attending the theater, and nipping in for a few minutes with my favorite paintings at the National Gallery.  The lines are paths my feet have taken.  The dots are places I’ve stopped to explore.  Part of my heart aches when I look at the image, wishing desperately that I could be back in that place.

A map can tell you all about a place, but it can’t tell you what it’s like to be there.  It gives you facts, but not experiences.

Great writers, though, can give meaning to maps with words.  Most fantasy novels have maps at the beginning of them, giving a guide of lines and dots to follow and the story fills in the details.

I don’t claim to be a great writer, so I’m not sure I’m able to give meaning to the map of London that I have shared with you.  However, being an English major has introduced me to lots of great writers who know the city even better than I do.  I have a complicated relationship with Virginia Woolf, but she gives you a pretty good idea what London is like in her novel, Mrs. Dalloway.

“One feels even in the midst of the traffic, or waking at night, Clarissa was positive, a particular hush, or solemnity; an indescribable pause; a suspense before Big Ben strikes. There! Out it boomed. First a warning, musical; then the hour, irrevocable. The leaden circles dissolved in the air. Such fools we are, she thought, crossing Victoria Street. For Heaven only knows why one loves it so, how one sees it so, making it up, building it round one, tumbling it, creating it every moment afresh; but the veriest frumps, the most dejected of miseries sitting on doorsteps (drink their downfall) do the same; can’t be dealt with, she felt positive, by Acts of Parliament for that very reason: they love life. In people’s eyes, in the swing, tramp, and trudge; in the bellow and the uproar; the carriages, motor cars, omnibuses, vans, sandwich men shuffling and swinging; brass bands; barrel organs; in the triumph and the jingle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead was what she loved; life; London; this moment in June.”

There.  Do you feel it?  For a moment, you were right there with Clairissa Dalloway, Virginia Woolf, and me, walking the streets of London and basking in the bustle of life.

Do you have any maps with special meaning?  What places are most special to you and why?

This post is inspired by an assignment for the Blogging University class Writing 101: Finding Everyday Inspiration.

When You Write Young (Writing 101, Day 17)

Today’s Writing 101 assignment involves digging into your drafts and work with something uncompleted.  My burst of inspiration brought me to the stack of old journals in my closet.  Paging through the woes of my high school self, I couldn’t help but think of a post I had written several months ago.  In Writing 101, we’ve been doing a great deal of writing (go figure!), which has me thinking a lot about what it means to be a writer.  I think that this post lines up well with what I’ve been learning as a writer and blogger.  Since I’m short on time today (I’ll be posting about why later this week), I thought I’d share that post.

Here we go…

It’s amazing to look back and see how you grow as a writer.  But more on that later.  First, a story.

One of the traditions of my high school’s marching band was giving personalized gifts to the graduating seniors at the end of the year indoor concert.  After my final season, one of my good friends bestowed upon me a notebook covered in cats.  He offered the following explanation: “We’re giving you a journal because some things don’t belong on the internet.”

Recently, I hung out with my old high school buddies.  Sitting around a bonfire reminiscing about times that we really don’t miss, the marching band senior gifts came up.  I had completely forgotten the incident.  It was one of my fellow graduates who remembered my gift and the above explanation.  How he recalled such a specific quote, I have no idea.  But I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

When you start blogging at the age of fifteen, you make some blunders.  And, often times, those blunders affect people.  Enthralled at the freedom of calling a corner of the internet my own, I was not always wise with what I shared on my blog.  (Mind you, those were back in the Blogger days.)  Although I always tried to be careful not to give names–anonymity is really important when publishing personal information–keeping my drama off the internet sometimes didn’t happen.  What’s worse… keeping that drama away from the eyes of my friends was an impossibility.

Often times, I’d turn to my blog to express myself in times of conflict with friends.  I’d vent a bit, then go on with my life.  But then my friends would find out and that’s when things got messy.

At the time, I didn’t think much of my senior gift.  In fact, I thought so little of it that I didn’t even remember it happening.  But it’s amazing what hindsight can do.  I now see that there was a bit of a barb to the gesture–that my friend was being funny, but also critical.  He didn’t like what I had to say in such a public arena and used the situation as an opportunity to get me to express myself in a more healthy, private place.  (The sad thing is, I didn’t take the hint.)

As much as I hate to admit it, that friend was right.  Four years later, I agree with his statement wholeheartedly.  Some things DON’T belong on the internet.  Self-expression is a wonderful thing, but what one sees as nothing but blowing-off-steam soon blows out of proportion.  What is meant as a personal rant suddenly becomes incredibly public.  There’s a line and, if you’re not careful, you’ll slip across without even noticing.

I’ve grown a great deal as a blogger over the years.  I wish I can say I skipped the rough patches, that all was smooth sailing, and that I never crossed the line (excuse me for all the cliches)… but that’s all a lie.  When you write young, you make mistakes.  Looking back, I regret the hurt I caused my friends.  But what’s done is done.  Anything I do now can’t change what is cemented in the past.

The only thing you can do is grow from your mistakes, watch your words and best of all, learn to love your journal just as much as you love your blog.  And never, ever, stop writing.

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This post is inspired by an assignment for the Blogging University class Writing 101: Finding Everyday Inspiration.  Find my original post here.

What’s Wrong With Being an Introvert? (Writing 101, Day 16)

People are always surprised when I tell them I’m an introvert.  “Really?” They ask.  “You seem so…” Fill in the blank:

  • Socially adept
  • Outgoing
  • Normal

In general, there’s a stigma surrounding what it means to be an introvert.  Introverts are the shy, awkward loners who sit in a corner avoiding people.  I can’t count the amount of times someone has criticized another by saying, “They’re just so introverted!”

But the thing is… none of this has to do with being an introvert.

Introversion is seen as a negative trait when, in reality, it’s nothing of the sort.  It has nothing to do with being socially awkward.  It has to do with where you get your energy/rest.  Extroverts gain their energy from being around other people–thus, they are seen as more social.  Being alone drains them.  Introverts are the opposite.  Being around people drains them and they refuel by doing things alone.  Another misconception is that you are either one or the other.  I tend to see introversion and extroversion not as categories, but as a scale.  On a scale of Introvert to Extrovert, where do you land?

Found this useful graphic on Google. Yay Google!

I’ve always been an introvert, but it’s been a journey figuring out how to take care of myself.  Because, opposed to popular belief, I actually really like being with people.  When I was younger, I’d hang out with large groups of people all the time.  While on church or band trips, where you’re surrounded by people, I didn’t know that I needed to pull away.  Because I didn’t know how to take care of myself in this aspect, I’d find myself experiencing bursts of crabbiness that did nothing to help my friendships.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to understand my introversion much better.  I’ve learned that removing myself from company and spending time alone is necessary to my mental health.  I now plan “Me-Time” into my schedule.  If I know I’ve got plans with friends or other social activities, I make sure to have time the day afterwards where I hang out by myself.  If I’m going on a big trip where I’ll be surrounded by people all the time, I sometimes go off on my own while everyone is hanging out.  Working at camp for three summers is a huge challenge for an introvert, but I usually managed to find time to sneak off on my own to re-fuel.

On the spectrum, I fall just to the left of the middle line.  I’m an introvert, but I’m less introverted than many of my friends.  I have found that too much time in my own head isn’t necessarily healthy. If I’m alone too long, I get angsty and lonely. That’s where the spectrum mindset it so useful. Because I’m aware, I’m very careful to balance  people time with me time. This involves making plans with friends a few times a week while keeping enough nights free to be alone.

I love being an introvert!  Most of my favorite pastimes require no company and the hours I spend reading, writing, and painting are what I most look forward to in the day.  Sometimes, I feel like I live for the few hours in the evening where I retreat into my own little world.

Where, readers, do you fall on the spectrum? Are you an introvert? Extrovert? Or a bit of both? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

This post is inspired by an assignment for the Blogging University class Writing 101: Finding Everyday Inspiration.

Rivers & Roads (Writing 101, Day 15)

“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent” Victor Hugo

There’s something about music that is essential to life.  It reaches into our souls and expresses the inexpressible.  I’ve always loved music and, after four years of failed piano lessons, played the flute in middle and high school.  These days, I don’t do much in the way of music creation, but oh boy am I a consumer.  Most of the music I now listen to isn’t played on the radio.  Top 40, while catchy, doesn’t hold much appeal.  I tend to favor indie-folk/rock–the kind of bands that you can see in small clubs for only $15.

If I had to choose a favorite song, it would have to be “Rivers and Roads” by The Head and the Heart.

The lyrics are deeply nostalgic, filled with a longing for times gone by.  It’s a song about seasons and change, how people grow apart with time.  The people who are near you now will someday be far away.  Although we know it’s inevitable, it’s still heartbreaking.  I feel like this song captures something we as humans all feel at some point in our lives.  In my experiences and travels, I’ve made some very dear friends who are now very far away.  Some are only an hour or two, others across the country, many across the world.  When I listen to this song, I think of all the people I love.

As heartbreaking as the song is, it hangs on to hope.  It ends with a repetition of the following lyrics:

Rivers and roads

Rivers and roads

Rivers ’til I reach you

There is distance between us, but distance can be crossed.  It may take time and dedication, but it’s possible to reclaim what is lost.  We may become separated from the ones we love, but we can never be disconnected entirely.  The people I care about may be far.  I miss them terribly, but there is hope.  We will see each other someday.  These ties are weakened over continents and years, but they are not and will never be lost.

Take a listen to the song and let me know what think.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

(Today’s assignment included a quote by Nietzsche, but I like Hugo’s better.)

This post is inspired by an assignment for the Blogging University class Writing 101: Finding Everyday Inspiration.

Sometimes, You Have a Bad Day (Writing 101, Day 14)

It was an all-around off day.  Let me explain.

———- ———- ———-

Around 2 AM, I crawled out of bed to grab a drink of water.  I’m usually able to navigate back through the dark rooms to my bed with no problems whatsoever.  Apparently, I was more asleep than awake though because as I made a dive for my bed, I discovered that my aim was off by two feet.  Instead of rolling up in a cozy blanket burrito, I found myself launching towards the foot of the bed, ricocheting off, and banging my side painfully on the corner of my desk.  Glad that my brothers weren’t around to laugh, I crawled back under the covers clutching my hip.

———- ———- ———-

This morning at 7:00 AM, my alarm went off with the clanging of church bells.  I silenced it immediately, wanting to soak in the hazy bleariness of drifting between being asleep and being awake.  I could still feel an ache in my side from the night’s mishap, but ignored the dull pain.  After several minutes of rolling around and cuddling stuffed animals, I pushed myself to a sitting position… only to bang my elbow painfully on the way.  Dang it.  Not again.

———- ———- ———-

At work, everyone was crabby.  Mom was being nitpicky about sorting apples, which royally pissed my older brother off.  She told the lady who works in the store to stay home, leaving me to run things all morning.  It rained for hours, which meant business was slow.  It also meant that we couldn’t pick apples, leaving us another day behind schedule.  Dad putzed from one task to the next, cursing under his breath because any task, no matter how small, seems to eat up more time than it should.  I tried to sing the “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” song from Monty Python to cheer him up, but it kind of backfired.

———- ———- ———-

It’s the little things, sometimes, that break down a day.  Our kittens recently started living on our front steps and made the place a giant litter box.  Stepping out the door is now a smelly experience.  One of the leaders of an organization Mom is involved with handed in her two-weeks notice, leaving lots of big decisions to make in a short amount of time.  The floor needs to be swept for the third time today.  An employee has a cold, but insists on working.  My little brother is coming home from college tomorrow and someone has to pick him up.  The packing line is clogged and must be dismantled and scrubbed before we can clean any more apples.  The dishes haven’t been washed.

———- ———- ———-

It’s amazing how irritability builds and spreads to everyone.  I haven’t been infected too badly yet.  I plan to lie low, stay out of the way, and flashback to the middle school days with the following song:

Sometimes, you have a bad day.  But things could always be worse.

This post is inspired by an assignment for the Blogging University class Writing 101: Finding Everyday Inspiration.

Moments of Transition (Writing 101, Day 13)

As I stood in the crowded hallway clutching my trapper-keeper, the writhing in my belly felt less like butterflies and more like a jar of wriggling worms.  I huddled near the haven of my locker, cringing as the unfamiliar bell clanged, longing for the safety of Mrs. Klinke’s fifth grade class.  But the happy days of recess and snack time were gone.  Unfamiliar faces pressed in from all sides.  They all seemed to know each other.  I took a deep breath.  This is my life now.

———- ———- ———-

“All right, girls, is everyone in their bunks?”  I watched as my ten-year-old charges clambered up under sheets.  An occasional fluffy stuffed animal could be seen, clutched tightly to the campers’ chests.  “Lights are going out in five… four… three… two… “ I flipped the switch to a chorus of giggles.  I groped for my flashlight, finding my way to the counselor’s bunk.  Wiggling into my slippery sleeping bag, I pulled out my journal and pen.  Eyelids heavy, I began to recount the day’s adventures, scribbling memories into the wee hours.  This is my life now.

———- ———- ———-

The air felt stale, like plastic and greasy pizza.  The sun had sunk beyond the prairie horizon hours ago.  You couldn’t see them, but plastic packing boxes littered the floor of my new dorm room.  Clothing and books were piled on every free surface.  The endless stream of faces at the door had finally ceased.  Huddled in my lofted bed, I listened as the stranger who I now lived with snored noisily and tried not to think about the way my parents held hands as I watched them from my fourth floor window.  I blinked back tears.  This is my life now.

———- ———- ———-

Pushing against the surge of people outside the Tube station, I stepped into the unexpected sunlight.  I thought it always rained here?  A tall clock tower gleamed ahead, proudly surveying the stately streets.  A pang of pleasure surged in my chest.  I would recognize this place anywhere.  After a lifetime of dreaming, I had finally crossed the pond.  My face broke into a silly grin as I stepped in with the crowd.  This is my life now.

———- ———- ———-

Hunched slightly from an afternoon of packing apples and harvesting pumpkins, my fingers dart quickly across the laptop keys.  My eyelids feel sluggish, product of too many hours at work and too little sleep, but I continue to write.  In the next room, Dad’s voice orders everyone to be quiet so he can hear the weather report on the news.  Mom calls from the kitchen to make salads for dinner.  I’m about to respond when an unexpected softness brushes my calf and I look down to find my yellow cat, Paco, watching me expectantly.  With a sigh, I hit “save” in my document and reach down to give his head a scratch.  This is my life now.

———- ———- ———-

Today’s assignment was to write a series of vignettes.  I chose to capture different times of transition throughout my life, starting with my first day of middle school and ending with the present day.  It’s been a long time since I did any kind of creative writing.  What do you think?

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This post is inspired by an assignment for the Blogging University class Writing 101: Finding Everyday Inspiration.

To Stay or To Go (Writing 101, Day 12)

All I ever wanted was adventure–to leap into the unknown–to cut ties with everything familiar.  I wanted to lose myself in the wider world and, in the process, truly know what it is to live.

But I don’t know what doors to knock on.  I don’t know how to maintain responsibility whilst plunging into adventure. I’m considering applying for a big-girl job in my home town because student loans must be paid somehow. I’m making this up as I go along.

Am I settling?

Will the chance to leap come again?

This post is inspired by an assignment for the Blogging University class Writing 101: Finding Everyday Inspiration.

Am I the only one who hated today’s assignment?  I feel like fussing with word count sucked my inspiration rather than fueled it.

When I’m Not Writing, I’m Doing Something Useful (Writing 101, Day 11)

Someone once asked me why I didn’t have any useful hobbies.  I didn’t respond to the question.  It wasn’t worth my time.  In response, though, I have some questions of my own.

What is more useful than learning to see things from other people’s perspectives?  Reading does that.

What is more useful than creating something beautiful?  This happens every time I pick up a paintbrush.

Lately, I’ve spent a great deal of my free time writing.  I mean… what do you expect when your course is titled Writing 101?  But writing isn’t all I do.

I love books.  Those three words don’t even begin to describe my love for the written word.  I count myself among the world’s bibliophiles.  To read a book is akin to breathing.  As long as I can remember, I’ve been a reader.  Nothing has changed over the years.  College was awesome because it gave me an excuse to read all kinds of interesting books and get graded for it.  I used to be a one-book-at-a-time kind of girl.  Now I usually balance two or three at a time.  My bedroom has no less than six shelves–all full to the brim.  My “To-Read” list is endless.  In case you were wondering, right now I’m balancing a book of feminist essays, Love Does by Bob Geoff, and some fluffy YA fiction.

I also love art.  One of my favorite places during my semester in London was the National Gallery.  Whenever I had twenty minutes to kill, I’d duck in and spend time with Monet and Rembrandt.  But my love isn’t limited to viewing art.  I love creating it.  Like reading, I’ve been drawing as long as I can remember.  I got very serious about it when I was eleven and have been striving ever since.  A year ago, I picked up watercolors.  It’s been a blast learning the ins and outs of the new medium and combining it with my drawings.  My work isn’t high brow, art museum level.  It’s not even Art Major level.  But it doesn’t have to be.  I don’t make art to excel–I make art to fill me up.

Reading and painting bring me life.  They make me happy and they make others happy.  I love giving people hand-crafted art to put on their wall or hold their pages in a book.  What is more useful than touching the lives of the people you love?

This is just a sampling of some of the things I've painted recently.
This is just a sampling of some of the things I’ve painted recently.

This post is inspired by an assignment for the Blogging University class Writing 101: Finding Everyday Inspiration.