300 & Counting

I’ve hit a landmark.  Recently, I reached 300 followers.  For many blogs, this number may seem small, tiny, inconsequential.  For me, though, it means the world.

When blogging, it’s always a challenge to straddle the line between creating quality content for the sake of your readers and quality content for sake of pleasing yourself.  I do my best to write posts that readers will enjoy.  I love you guys and want you to stick around.  At the end of the day, though, my ultimate goal is to remain true to myself.

I’m a selfish writer.  I really am.  I do this because it brings me life and I can’t imagine ever stopping.  I know that everyone who follows Keep Your Feet isn’t necessarily a reader.  That’s okay.  Although I try to follow only sites I will actually read, there is a tendency to follow others just for the follow-back.  I get that.

But for those of you who DO read, thank you.  For those of you who have not just hit “Follow”,  but take time to come along side me and spend time with my words, thank you.  By reading, liking, and commenting, you inspire me to keep going.  I’ve got a universe of words within me and there are days when I just want to throw them in a bucket and let them rot.  When this happens, the thought of you is what motivates me cherish my words and lovingly string them into coherent thoughts.  I’ve learned a great deal about myself and my identity as a writer over the past few months, and that would not have been possible without you.  Your words and encouragement mean the world to me.

I don’t know where Keep Your Feet is going.  I don’t know if it’ll stay at is it is or grow or shrink into obscurity.  Frankly, I don’t care.  I’m just thankful to be where I am today.

Apples & Writing

Lately, I’ve been embracing my identity as a writer.  I currently live at home and work on my family’s farm, so writing and agriculture have been on my mind.  I’ve been learning that writing and farming are more similar than one would think.

My family’s business is apples.  In the spring, apple trees bud and blossom.  Alone, these flowers are beautiful and fragrant, but fleeting.  It takes external forces, namely bees, to preserve their beauty.  Once the flowers are pollinated, fruit sets in.  But that’s not the end.  It takes months and months of growing and care for the fruit to grow.  Even then, it’s not always ready when you think.

This process reminds me of writing.  As a writer, I have universes in my mind.  Thoughts, feelings, ideas, entire novel length stories exist between my ears.  Sometimes when I sit down to put these sentiments to words, I find myself unable to speak.  Like apple blossoms, bursts of inspiration alone aren’t enough.  It takes external forces–life experiences–to give the inspiration the depth and meaning it needs to bear fruit.  Even then, sometimes the words aren’t ready.  It takes months and months of bouncing around in the back of my mind to grow and take shape.

We have field trips at our orchard and one of the things my mom tells the kids is actually really important: Just because an apple is red doesn’t mean it’s ripe.

It’s the same with words.  Recently, I’ve found the need to write bubbling up in my spirit and bursting forth at unexpected moments.  But just because words are building at the tip of my toungue does not mean they are ready yet.  It doesn’t mean they’re ripe.  I’ve got an ever-growing list of post ideas, but not all of them feel quite right yet.

So I wait.  I mull over the words and scribble drafts.  I put down my pen and let the world around me pollinate my ideas.  I wake up in the morning, go to work, read books, spend time with friends, and wait.

When the time comes for the words to burst forth, I’ll be ready.

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swiftly, silently (a poem)

swiftly, silently

the hours slip into the fog

as she gives up counting sheep

no bleating penetrates the haze

boundaries between light and dark

are lost amid vacant pastures

of unspoken verse

and today slips into tomorrow.

she loses herself in the rhythm

of poetry that has not been penned

savoring the unsung words,

        rolling the idea of vowels across the threshold of her lips

like a puff from a midnight cigarette

what will she say to you?

what will she say to you when her time comes?

in that moment

when syntax must harden

when the verbs and nouns align

into concrete—

will you press your hands into the cool pavement?

will you make your mark upon the page?

empty fragments floating amid

ungrazed grass, waiting for the Sandman

to sprinkle his dust and claim

the syrupy, smooth whispers of verses

melding as midnight and morning intertwine

fog shifts over the water

she braces herself against the steel railing

white haze encompassing

stirring in her the need to reach out—

to grasp the words, to fill a pasture with her pen

but the damp river air washes away the sounds

they slip through her fingers

kissing her ears before sliding away

as a blush on the horizon signals the coming of dawn. . .

alone she remains.

hand extended towards the fading mist—

silently

swiftly

I don’t often write poetry, but when I do, it shows up on my blog years later.  This was drafted during my semester abroad in London.  I submitted it in my Innovative Creative Writing class a few semesters ago, where I received lots of wonderful feedback from my classmates.  As an inconsistent poet, it feels good to let these words finally see the light of day.

What do you think?  Should I do the whole poetry-thing more often?

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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.

I Don’t Know How to Stop (Writing 101, Day 1)

Today’s assignment is to answer a question that isn’t actually as simple as it sounds: Why do you write?

My gut reaction: It’s complicated.

I could say I write for a lot of reasons. I write to lose myself; I write to find myself. I write to know; I write to forget. I write because it’s akin to breathing. I write to make my thoughts clear. I write because I am. I write because I write.

Those reasons sound beautiful and poetic… they’re the kind of thing you’d imagine a writer to say. But are any of them actually true?

As long as I can remember, I have been writing. When I was eight years old, I decided that my greatest ambition was to see my name on the cover of a book. This dream persisted most of my early years.

Growing up, I wrote because I was good at it. At least, that’s what everyone told me. I remember in fifth grade I wrote a little essay on the importance/value of reading and, during my parent-teacher conference, Mrs. Klinke told my mom that it was phenomenal. In eighth grade, we had to craft our own stories based on Greek Mythology. Mine was fifteen pages long and my teacher gave me a special award because, in his forty years of teaching, it was the best he had ever received. In high school, I was on the Speech Team in the category of Creative Expression, enabling me to perform my own work. Once I had two years of competition under my belt, not a meet passed where I didn’t make the final round. I even went to state. As long as I’ve been writing, I’ve been told that I’m good.

Many years, fairy stories, embarrassing Harry Potter fan fics, and creative writing classes later, I realized that although I love to write, I don’t want to write books.

College quickly dissolved any notions that I was a great writer. Sure, I had a natural knack for words, but I was constantly blown away by the work of my peers. Among such storytellers and poets, I realized that I lack the drive, dedication, and attention to detail to make a career of the craft.

Still, I continued to write. I was the weird kid who loved essays. When I sat down to work on an essay analyzing spirituality in Dracula or artists in Biographical Novels or constructing allegories about Courtly Love, I would enter zen-mode. It felt like being underwater. Everything in the world faded away and nothing existed but the text I was grappling with. I would bury myself in the library for hours on end, emerging rumpled and triumphant. It was so satisfying.

I loved my time as an English major, but the farther in I got, the more I realized that many of the standard careers were not for me. Teaching? No thanks. Copy editing? Too much detail. Creative writing? WAY too much detail. Research? I’d suffocate.

During school, I wrote because I had to and I loved it. But now that I’m out… why do I write?

I’m still not sure I know how to answer that question.

I suppose I’ve been writing for so long it so long that I don’t know how to stop. It’s habit—something that has been part of my life since I was eight years old. I can’t imagine my life without it.

That’s why I blog.

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

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At Year’s End

Dear readers,

It’s the end of the year and I am tired.

2014 was a challenging year.  There were a lot of ups, don’t get me wrong, and I made some fantastic memories.  But boy, am I eager to see it go.  I actually wrote up a big post analyzing my year, explaining everything that happened and whatnot.  But I don’t think I’m going to post it.  I feel like I should be putting more effort into the whole blogging thing.  I feel like I should engage more, follow more blogs, immerse myself in the splendor that is WordPress.  I want to.  But lately, whenever I think about sitting down to write a simple post… all I can think of is how tired I am.

The words are there.  There are so many things I can say right now.  But I’m not sure if I want to talk.  I’ve got a long road ahead of me and there are a number of stories to tell.  Right now, though, I don’t know if I want to let people in.  I just want to hole up in myself and be.

It’s been quiet here on my blog since Christmas.  It’ll be a quiet New Years–I’m going to Wisconsin for a few days to celebrate Christmas with extended family and won’t have internet access.  It may be quiet for a while.  I’ll come back, don’t worry. At this point, blogging is in my blood.  I’ve been doing it since I was fifteen and know I won’t be able to stop.  But, for now, my stories need to be mine for a while.

In light of all of this, I just want to let you know (yes, YOU reading these words) how much you mean to me.  I haven’t engaged with you as well as I should, but know that wherever you are, I am thankful for you.  Thank you for taking time to read my blog, and I look forward to getting to know you better as 2015 comes around.

Happy New Year, friends!  Let’s make this next one the best yet.

Amelia

450 Years

On this day, four hundred and fifty years ago, one of the greatest writers to pen in the English language came into the world.  That’s right… I’m talking about Shakespeare.

There’s a lot I can say about my experience with Shakespeare.  I could tell you about reading Romeo & Juliet in ninth grade and the five quizzes per act my teacher forced upon us.  I could tell you about the first time I saw one of his plays live–a production of Macbeth at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis five years ago.  I could tell you about the time I lived in England and got to see a show at the Globe.  Or when I visited Stratford-Upon-Avon, toured his birth home, and cried a river of nerdy English major tears over his grave.

But, instead, I’m going to let the man speak for himself.  Here’s a passage from Hamlet–my favorite Shakespeare play thus far.  It comes from Act 2. Scene II where the title character talks to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.  When I stood in the room the Bard was born in, there was an actor sitting in the rafter reciting these words.  It was so beautiful, so poignant, I was rendered motionless, standing stupidly, unknown emotions pouring through my poor English major heart.  These words, on the surface, don’t appear to be anything special.  They’re not “to be or not to be”, or Macbeth’s “Out, out brief candle”… but in that moment, they were special.  So here they are.

I will tell you why; so shall my anticipation
prevent your discovery, and your secrecy to the king
and queen moult no feather. I have of late–but
wherefore I know not–lost all my mirth, forgone all
custom of exercises; and indeed it goes so heavily
with my disposition that this goodly frame, the
earth, seems to me a sterile promontory, this most
excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave
o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted
with golden fire, why, it appears no other thing to
me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours.
What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason!
how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how
express and admirable! in action how like an angel!
in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the
world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me,
what is this quintessence of dust? man delights not
me…

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Here’s me standing in front of Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford-Upon-Avon!

Those pesky words

I can’t count how many times I crack open my computer, flip to WordPress, and open a “New Post” link.  Each time is the same.  I stare blankly at the white box (the one I am now filling with words) and my eyes glaze over.  The grey “Enter title here” text goes all fuzzy, kind of like when you go to the eye doctor and they ask you to read the bottom line.  Although you try your very hardest, you just can’t make sense of those last few letters.

I wish I could write.  Oh, I truly wish I could.  Late at night, I’ll be at my post behind the Circulation desk at the library and, between organizing book trucks to shelve and handing back printing (chirping “Five cents is your change!” in the most chipper voice possible after midnight), and the thought will flash across my mind: I want to blog.  Sometimes I have an idea, sometimes I don’t.  But in those moments, I miss the thrill of opening that “New Post” link and letting the words fly.

So I do it.  I open a new link.  But the words… the words just won’t come.

Why have my words abandoned me?

I blame academia.  With all the essays I have to write week after week after week, my brain has no room to breathe.  When I finally get a moment to actually write something for enjoyment, it’s so exhausted that it simply looks at the empty post and declares, “NO.”

It’s like there’s something stuck in my word generating system.  It’s not like the words aren’t there.  They are.  I can feel them simmering just behind my ears, tiny assemblages of letters attempting to find a subject to fixate on.  But then, when I attempt to access them, something gets in the way.  My mind hits a wall and the words stir about, giggling maliciously to themselves as they dart away.

They think they’re so clever, those words.

Apparently, the words are sick and tired of being used for purposes they don’t want to be used for.  They are in rebellion.  “No,” they protest, “we hate being used to analyze visionary oscillation in Virginia Woolf’s novels.  We don’t like being subjected to constructing a rhetorical criticism, even if we’ll be shedding light on Churchill and Lenin.  What do you mean those interpersonal communication reflections should be a piece of cake?  No!  We think they’re stupid.  We don’t want to help.  Oh… you have to write some creative pieces for your class?  Sorry.  No can do.”

It’s very annoying when words don’t want to cooperate.  I feel rather foolish, staring at that blank white box all the time, feeling all the potential words roiling in the back of my mind, knowing that none of them will be kind enough to come to my assistance.  So I’m stuck here in my meta-world of writing about writing, wrapped in a ball of frustration, waiting for the semester to be over.