Thursday, July 31, 2014

5 minute Friday - Begin (Again)


Beginnings are usually scary, endings are usually sad, but it’s in the middle that counts. So when you find yourself at the beginning, just give hope a chance to float up. And it will.

This season is the beginning of a lot of things in my life. It’s the ending of a lot of things too, but someone I love always taught me that the ending of something is always just a new beginning.

 And I’ve never been good at beginnings. Whenever I open a new journal, I always stare at the first page for a long time and wonder where all these pages will take me. What will happen mid-way through? What will have changed by the time I reach the end? I’m always so afraid to begin writing, to leave my mark on this previously untouched page.

 Beginnings sometimes come softly, creeping up on you and before you know it it’s there and it’s begun and the hard part – the part where you actually begin – is over. And other times beginnings come loudly, with gongs and symbols. And the idea of beginning is scarier then the actual beginning itself.

 I’m there right now, where the idea of the beginning is much scarier then I know the actual beginning will be. Because it’s new and it’s untouched and it’s all just waiting there for me to put my mark on it. To grow here and touch here and love here, yes, but also to mess up here and make mistakes and fall flat on my face again, and again.

 I think beginnings are always necessary. They bring promise, and hope. Even if you mess up in this one, there’s always a new beginning. There’s always a new day, a new hour, a new week, a new month, a new year. People tend to be really romantic about new beginnings, but I guess I tend to see them for what they really are.

 We carry our old selves into new beginnings. We just add new layers, change and shape what already exists. The change that comes, that’s the hard part. Beginnings leave so much room for error, but so much room for the sweet things too. And I think I need to remember that.

 I need to remember that it’s time to begin, and that they aren’t nearly as scary as I make them out to be.

 It’s time to begin reaching out and reaching in and making decisions.

 It’s time to begin being honest because it’s in this honesty where the healing can begin.

 It’s time to begin making room in my heart for the new things, and letting the old things be changed without fearing what’s coming next.

 It’s time to let go and watch my life begin again, and wait for hope to rise up. Because it will. It always does.

 Beginnings make room for all this hope to rise. And let me tell you, that’s the best part.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

No man is an island unto himself (and sometimes i forget)

I so often forget that I need people.
This afternoon I had an appointment with my massage therapist. And as I was lying there she began telling me her life story. Maybe she was telling me because she needed someone to listen and I was there. I don't know what made her trust me with her story, but in her telling of it I knew it was something precious. I wanted to leap up off the table and give her a hug. I wanted to go sit by a river with her early self and listen to her and toss rocks into the water.
Later my mom and I went for supper. We got on the topic of friendship, and I realized just how distant things have become. Summer changes people, and I know this. Graduating high school and moving on to college and working and planning for a future changes people. I know it's changed me.
But I was thinking the other night how sad it is that in this season of life I'm feeling very untethered.
I know it's partly my fault. I get into these seasons where I am writing and thinking and processing and go very inward and I forget that I still need people.
I become very self reliant. I get so busy in the process of becoming that I forget. I forget that I need people, that I am not an island.
I think at times it gets lonely being by myself. For a while it's satisfying, and I'm creating and discovering and it's exciting and I love it. I love this time to dive deeper into myself and make art and make messes and make changes and discoveries. And then I seem to hit a wall. And it's not that I'm no longer enjoying the solitary process of creating and self discovery, but it's that when the creating process stops, or when I have this big discovery that I just have to share, or when something unplanned happens, life has already gone on without me.
And I know it's not true, and that the people I love are still out there waiting for me to catch up, but it feels like since they are not exactly where I left them when I wandered off into myself that it's harder to find them.
It's hard for me to look at myself in the mirror and admit that I need people. Maybe it's a pride thing. Maybe it's because despite everything I still like to think I'm invincible and don't need anyone or anything.
I feel like maybe I missed that day in school where they taught you how to be a good friend. I'm fiercely loyal to the people that I love. But I go into these places where I forget I need people. And I go into these places where all I need is people and I feel like I exhaust those I love. It seems like there's never this state of evenness, this state of the right amount of give and take.
I think everybody just wants somebody to listen. Everybody wants somebody to step in and let them know that they're not alone. If I'm being totally honest I wish that friendship was easy and I never had to work at being a good friend and that I naturally loved being around people all the time.
But I don't.
I don't because I go into these periods of time when I'm a solitary creature and I'm very self reliant and I forget that sometimes I need people to take care of me. And then I'm too proud to admit that I need people so instead I stubbornly hold myself away and wish for someone to break through the wall they probably didn't even know I had.
I forget that I need people. But I think everyone does. I think everyone who has ever existed and will ever exist needs somebody, even if they say they don't.
I think we need people in our lives to talk to and listen to and keep us accountable and teach us about life. We need people so we can feel connected, and be reminded that no one is an island unto himself. Everyone is a part of something so much bigger than themselves. And maybe I forget this.
I forget that I need my people, to stand with me in the good, the bad and the ugly, and to love and to grow with.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Music, Magic and Opportunities

I've written before about my involvement with the Melodic Caring Project, and how amazed I am by what they do.
It's almost like every time I watch one of their concerts, I get to experience the magic all over again. I get to experience the awe that comes with hearing someone you've only heard on CD or in an ITunes playlist mention you by name, the wonder that comes with hearing the crowd cheer for you.
But as I sat in a concert last night, I experienced something else, something besides the magic of it all.
I experienced the connection.
Music brings people together. For a few hours during a concert, there is no separation. There is only a group of people singing the same song, shouting back the lyrics, and being reminded of the memories that come attached to each one.
During a Melodic Caring Project concert the connection comes from knowing that there are these people out there who see your fight, and call it worth while.
I am so blessed to have experienced this sense of community, and to be involved with such an amazing organization.
The people who run MCP are wonderful, and it's hard to believe that humans can be this selfless and caring. They have opened up so many doors for me, not only to see these concerts and experience the magic for myself time and time again, but also inviting me to contribute to their blog.
They believe in me, and I'm honored to get to write posts about what they do, what music does, and offer insight into the life of someone journeying with a chronic illness.
It's not hard, as all the magic happens from their end and I'm only a witness, but I'm honored to be a part of it.

This is a post I recently wrote for MCP about the power of music, connection and what it all means. I'd be so grateful if you guys went and checked it out, and checked out this beautiful organization and the work that they do.

Friday, July 18, 2014

a Q&A on Writing

 The past few nights have been filled with writer's passion, the kind of nights where I stay up until some insane hour sketching out a story, or trying to get down ideas for a poem.
I find this kind of fueled frenzy much more wonderful than the kind where I write nothing. While I have no novel in the works, no one story that I'm working on, I always find that wordiness is better than none.
My friend Hannah posted these questions to her blog on writing, so I figured I'd answer a few of them.

* When did you first start writing?
- I've been writing for as long as I can remember, which I know is the cliché writerly thing to say. I remember writing my first actual story in 2nd grade. It was called little Meerkat's big adventure, and was complete with a construction paper cover and badly drawn illustrations. I still have it somewhere, I think. As crazy as it sounds, little Meerkat was the first 'person' who made me believe I could be a writer

* What was your favorite book growing up?
- When I was growing up, I devoured the Little House on the Prairie series. I shared it with my cousin, and my best friend at the time. I made up pretend games which I literally called the Little House game. My Halloween costume one year was Laura Ingalls. She was, and still is, a huge inspiration to me.

* Are you an avid reader?
- Yes! I read, and own, many books. I don't read as much as I used to, but I still try to read when I can. And there are some books that I can still devour in a day

* Have you ever thrown a book across the room?
- Yes, though I can't remember which book it is and I'm sure it was more for the drama and being able to say I did it

* Have you ever been a part of a critique group?
- Yes and no. I have an amazing community of writers over on tumblr. They are amazingly supportive, and wonderful. I've been a part of a few things were people strictly comment on each other's work, but I never really liked the idea of it. I always felt people were judging me for writing wrong. Maybe I just went to the wrong groups. I'd be willing to try a critique group again in the future, as I love feedback on my work, but for now I like my little online group just fine

* What's your favorite book cover?
- I like John Green's covers, a lot. Also Jodi Picoult's covers. I like things that aren't faces, usually.

* Who is your favorite author?
- The two people I mentioned above. Also love Sarah Dessen, Lisa Genova, Nancy Rue, Ann Brashares

* What's your favorite writing quote?
- Write with blood is always one that's stuck out to me. Also the one about sitting down at the type writer and bleeding.

*What would you say has inspired you the most?
-  The world around me definitely inspires me a lot. the things I'm feeling is a huge, and vital, part of all my work. Even if not directly, almost every single piece is addressed to a person or a situation. And other writers definitely inspire me.

*Would you like your books to be turned into TV shows, movies, video games or none?
- I always said I would love a movie to be made out of a few of the things I've written. I still love the idea, but I think I would be way too much of a control freak to actually let them make a good movie

* How do you feel about love triangles/
- In books or real life? I like the idea of love triangles, but I've seen them quite often in books recently, so I'm getting kind of done with them. The same applies to real life

*Do you outline?
- No. And I've been told I should. It has driven teachers crazy that I don't. Sometimes I wish I did. but I can't, for the life of me, sit down and write an outline. I have an idea in my head of how the story's going to go, and it all goes from there.

*Do you start with characters or plot?
-Usually plot. Sometimes a really good character comes to me and won't leave me alone until I put him/her in a story, but usually I start with a plot and then get character ideas.

*Favorite and least favorite part of making characters?
- I love getting to explore personalities, and how usually they are, in some degree, a reflection of myself and the people around me. I love the research that goes into creating a character, and the time spent searching for the perfect name. I hate having to try and make my characters diverse.

* Favorite and least favorite part of plotting?
- I love it when new ideas come, and they are still undiscovered and great and I see something and go "That should be in a story! Someone should write about that!" And I hate trying to figure out where the plot should go when I'm stuck, and when I'm getting really impatient so I throw in these really awful plot twists.

*Advice to young writers?
- Write your truth. Write because you have something to say. Write bad things (something that took me forever to learn!) and then write good things. Get excited about your work. Ask lots of questions. Read books. Contact other writers, as they will become your best friends on those late nights when you're trying to get an idea out on paper. But mostly I think be honest. As they say, write drunk and edit sober. Or write for yourself and then edit and make it pretty

*What is your favorite genre to write?
- I love writing things that could happen in real life, and exposing issues, and talking about things people don't usually talk about. I also really like writing YA, which is usually pretty much the same thing as when my characters are adults instead of teenagers. Usually I just begin writing what I need to write and the genre kind of unfolds from there. Also, I found out I love writing poetry, and prose. Those are definitely some of my favorites

*Which do you find the hardest: beginning, middle or end?
- Definitely beginning. I think each section has it's challenges. But I find getting started the hardest

*Which do you find the easiest, writing or editing?
- writing, for sure. I hate editing

* Have you ever been published?
- Yes! A few of my short stories, actually. Never a novel, but I'm working on that

*How do you feel about friends and close relatives reading your work?
- For the most part I don't mind it. I appreciate their support, definitely. But I find I can be more honest when I'm writing and I know that no one I know will read it. I think there's always that fear of writing something and putting it out there and then the person it's about finding out. I think it's always scary to be vulnerable like that, especially if it's with people you see every day. But I do appreciate all the support and kind words I've gotten from people who read my blog or just stuff I've written. I love hearing from people that something I wrote impacted them.

*Describe your writing space?
- I am not one of those people who has a neat little writing spot. My writing space is on my bed. I think every single story I've ever written has been writing on this bed, so I guess in that sense it does hold some kind of magic for me.

*What's your favorite time of the day for writing?
- At night, usually when everyone else is asleep. Or when I have the house to myself. I feel more free to write and think and experiment when I feel alone in the world.

*Do you listen to music while you write?
- No. I do listen to music while I'm in the process of writing a novel or something, and have certain songs that hold meaning to me as I write the story, but I never actually listen to music and write at the same time

* What's your oldest work in progress?
- I've started a lot of projects and not finished them. I have no idea what my oldest work in progress would be. I know I have a novel that I started last summer and am still kind of working on. I have an ambitious plan to finish that one day.

* What's your current work in progress?
- I have a couple of poems that are still works in progress. Since I'm going through that phase of writing what I'm thinking and not really filtering, I have a few poems in my notebook about heartbreak and loss that are still very much in progress. And then a few love poems, and a poem about stars. I'm also working on this kind of personal collection of essays thing, which I've been wanting to do for a long time and only have the first little bit done. So I'd love to finish that

*Weirdest story idea you've ever had?
- I wrote this one story a few years back about a girl who went to work on a sheep farm and ended up finding out she had Schizophrenia and driving her car off a bridge. It was, and is, the strangest story I have written to date. Mostly I was just impatient, I think. It was definitely crazy

* Which is your favorite original character and why?
- I have a few! The first short story I got published featured 2 people named Caleb and Ashley. That story, before the editing, was one of my absolute favorites. The first collection of novels I wrote when I was in elementary school featured a guy named Shane. They were totally lame books, but I've always loved his character and wondered how I could bring him back and make him better. Sophie was the main character in my first Nano novel, so she definitely has to be included. At the time of writing, I was very attached to her and always have wanted to revisit her story as well.

*What do you do if your characters aren't following the outline?
- Follow them.

*Do you enjoy making your characters suffer?
- This is going to sound awful, but yes. I love the complexity of the story when my characters suffer in some sort of way.

*Have you ever killed a main character?
- A few actually. I wrote one novel a while ago that was based around my main character's death.

*If you could steal one character from another author and make it yours, who would it be and why?
- I would love to steal Alaska from John Green's Looking for Alaska. I love the different layers of her character, and how complex she is. Also I'd love to steal my Hazel Grace, and Charlotte O' Keefe from Handle with Care.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

when sparks fly (a love story)

He wrapped his hands around her waist and I saw it. Maybe not for the first time, probably not for the last time, but it was there, undeniable and real. And I knew in that moment that he loved her.
I closed my eyes and remembered playing paper dolls, reading books and making up pretend games. I remember all the times growing up felt like a betrayal because it meant I was one step closer to losing this. She was my first best friend, my childhood playmate, my family.
And life has a funny way of changing. Boy meets girl, they fall in love and, if they are lucky, they get a happily ever after.
I remember the first time I met him, and I thought to myself no one would ever be good enough for her. And I was wrong. Because when I saw him look at her that way, I knew she was a question he wanted to spend the rest of his life answering. And that made it enough.
I'm not a huge fan of weddings, with the ceremony and reception and lots of people I don't know and standing around awkwardly. But I love watching two people in love.
I love watching the first glances, the tearful smiles, the kiss and the beaming excitement.
Today I got to watch two people promise each other forever. And I didn't cry (much) as I watched these beautiful people enter into a life together, creating their own little family.
I want that someday. I want someone to look at me like the groom looks at his bride, full of love and joy.
My heart is full. I am so in love with my beautiful little family, and the expansion of it. I am remembering the past, dreaming about the future, and embracing all that is.
It's not perfect but it's mine, and it's enough.
Congratulations happy couple, love you both and wish you all the best as you begin your new life together.

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it isn't proud. It is not rude, it is not self seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."

Thursday, July 3, 2014

dear thirteen year old me

Recently I had the privilege of writing a guest post for Nancy Rue's teen blog. As I am in the process of transition from this blog to her young adult blog, I was asked to give my final thoughts. I decided to answer the question of what I know for sure, and decided to write about what is turning out to be one of the defining moments of my life, and in a good way.
I wrote about the things I would say if I got to meet my thirteen year old self for coffee, and how my life has changed dramatically and also how its stayed the same.
I'm still that girl, but looking back I have come so far. I don't know if i'll ever reach the top of this mountain, but the climb has been a good one.
So if I got to meet my thirteen year old self, I would tell her to enjoy eating food, I would tell her to write because in the end it will be what saves you. I would tell her to have fun and make memories and not take life so seriously and fall in love and then fall in love again, because you can never love too much. Mistakes are what shape you. Shame and guilt just keep you locked up in the past. Forgive. Ask questions. Tell the truth, always.
And never forget how loved you are.
Dear thirteen year old me, may you never forget the brilliant light of your own being.

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