February 2, 2010 — by Jacqueline
The truth is, I didn’t get over hiding my body until I was with child. Until it wasn’t my body anymore. Then it became more of a display case, for the life, the girl that was about to be. It became part hers, part mine, but neither of ours, really. It was then that I had nothing to be ashamed of.
I think we’re all ashamed of ourselves until the moment we feel that it isn’t about us anymore. And then we’re too busy giving of ourselves to be conscious that we even have a body to justify and defend. For some of us, we take our whole lives to get there, to the point of surrender, the point where we’ve gathered enough faith to let go.
Some of us never make it there, and still others, get close to the edge, too tired to keep control, letting go out of desperation instead of faith. Most of us want to say we’d never do anything out of desperation, we want to think we’re that noble. But desperation doesn’t derive out of wealth. It comes from a house of poverty, a place of no other choice.
And when these people come running out, with everything they own in hand, we cannot judge. All we can do is help them carry the naked babies trailing behind their feet. You show them that yes, we’re in this together.
And if we’re the ones running out of the house with nothing but dirty clothes on our backs, maybe a few odds and ends, then we have to be willing to throw our hands up in the air and say, “This is me. This is what I need.”
We cannot hide from being loved.
When I first seriously considered being a writer, I was in college. I was majoring in Music, but going to a liberal arts college meant that I was also taking at least three other classes not directly related to my major.
In addition to the one Creative Writing class I was taking (finally, as a senior, I managed to get in), I was practicing the piano for at least two hours a day and taking music classes. I could also be found studying at the last minute for another Earth and Space Science test that I had forgotten about again; trying to memorize vocabulary for French class; and changing clothes after softball frantically so I could get to my part time job at a bookstore on time, where I would spend the rest of the evening either selling calendars at a kiosk in the mall or trying to persuade customers to sign up for our club card in the bookstore itself. If I was feeling awake enough after work, I’d go back to school and practice the piano some more, sometimes until security came to close the building.
Creative Writing gave me a serious reason to push a few things aside and sit down and write. After all, I had to hand assignments in like I did for any other class. Whether I was inspired to write or not, I was going to have to do it.
But writing was more difficult than I imagined. Our professor had few requirements for what we were supposed to write, and I found that having so much free reign was difficult. Where to begin? What exactly should I be writing about? I didn’t have any characters, I didn’t have a plot or an imaginary land. What I concluded was that my creative energy was pushed toward music, and any that I had left was distributed too thinly among my other classes. There just wasn’t enough left for Creative Writing.
I had little time for idle daydreams. I had little time for imagining. And so I would try to find easy ways to get ideas. Writing prompts were the solution. Little one-line ideas that I could take and run with. But even these could only take me so far, and so writing in college was largely a struggle.
I know now that writers need more than the time to write down the words. They need the time to think and dream and create. You should read this essay written by author Neil Gaiman if you don’t agree … or if you want more insight. He knows how important imagination is when you want to create a truly unique story.
My husband and I are creative, right-brain people. We are educated and capable. We know we have good ideas, we know we have connections and resources to help us. We discuss all kinds of creative things we could do: create websites, make videos, write stories, write music, just to name a few. We both have careers that are pretty awesome and allow us to use some of our creativity and talent. But what will it take for us to take it a step further? What will it take for us to cash in on all of those ideas and turn them into realities?
My guess is that like many others, we feel overwhelmed by the competition. Just jump online and you become one of millions trying to do the same thing: stand out and be noticed. While wading through all of the ad-laden garbage as well as all of the well-designed, spectacular sites, one might almost feel the same sense of dread as they might when looking for a job online. Not only are there so many jobs to pick through, but there is also contacting each one, getting up the confidence to even do that, and then trying to present yourself in the best possible light through your resume — your life and achievements, crunched onto one page that hopefully someone will read.
Taking a leap into launching something online can feel the same way. The solution? Pull yourself together and do it. It’s the same as if you desperately needed a career change. You can only sit by the sidelines so long before finally jumping in and doing it.
So what are you passionate about? Do you enjoy painting, writing, singing? Is sketching elephants your only talent? So what? Capitalize on it. Even if you’re only considering yourself an amateur, consider the fact that you have nothing to lose by putting yourself out there. Not only that, but no one can sketch an elephant exactly like you. No one has your distinct flair, your subtle humor, your same capabilities.
A site that really got me thinking about this was Etsy, an online store of handmade items. From hand drawn greeting cards to beautiful handmade clothing and unique sculptures, there is an array of talent to be found.
Consider Etsy, YouTube, or even Ebay to put yourself out there. Start a blog, find a community. But above all, get started!
My attempts at being online-savvy or even very social are halfhearted at the most. But if I hadn’t been fooling around on Twitter for a half hour, I wouldn’t have started following Colin Meloy (The Decemberists), and I wouldn’t have discovered this sweet new music he linked to.
Take a listen. Enjoy!
Note: For an article on how to discover the world, scroll to the bottom of this post.
My husband and I returned from a 9,500-mile road trip not too long ago. We didn’t quite “drop everything and go” but we sure did leave it all behind for the four weeks we were gone. Jobs, friends, and obligations were put on hold while we went in a gigantic loop around the U.S. — from Maryland to Ohio and across the northern states; to Olympic National Forest in northwest Washington; down the west coast and across the south to Georgia; and then straight up back home.
It would take more than just a blog post to describe everything we saw and how it all felt, and to tell the stories of the random crazy things that happened to us, but here is what I can tell you now. Before we left, we told people about our plans and received nothing but encouragement and comments from people who had either done a similar trip in the past — or wished they could do one now. I will strongly encourage you, too: Do it. You will see and experience things that you would likely never see or experience in your hometown or in the places you frequent in your day-to-day life. The United States is huge, let alone the world, and we are blessed in this day and age to have means of travel that people once didn’t even dream of.
If you’re very attached to and enjoy your career, you may find it difficult to leave. But if you’ve got a job that isn’t your career, let alone your life, a car, a tent, and a little money saved is all you need to get started. There will never be a convenient time to take weeks out of your life and do nothing but travel, and you will never have as much money as you “need” to go — so you have to make it happen and work with what you have. In our case, we worked with a small amount of money, a ‘97 Saturn, and borrowed camping equipment.
Here are a few things we did to save money while on the road:
1. Camping is usually cheaper than getting the seediest of motel rooms. If you’re not used to camping, you’ll get used to it quick — after a few times, you’ll be able to set up a tent to quickly that it won’t seem like a chore.
2. Bring along store-bought groceries instead of eating out, and have a small propane-powered stove to cook on. Especially if you travel in the summer, there may be burn bans in effect and you won’t be able to build a fire.
3. Bring along gallons of water to use for drinking, washing dishes, and cleaning.
4. Being clean is a priority for some people (me! me!), but not all campsite have facilities. You can either sponge bath if you’ve got the privacy for it, go out of your way to find campsites that have facilities, or find a truck/travel stop, where you can purchase a shower for about $10.
5. Keep track of your mileage and get oil changes every 3,000 miles while on the road. If you have a regularly maintained vehicle, chances are that it will do fine on a long trip as long as you continue to maintain it.
6. Pick and choose your battles. After paying $25 fees at a few large national parks, we decided to not go to all of the ones on our list because the cost was adding up. Instead, we spent a few extra days visiting with friends and taking drives through states that we weren’t even planning on seeing. Instead of getting a hotel room, treat yourself to a nice meal out instead.
Now, if you want to discover the world while on a budget, see Nora Dunn’s article “Travel full time for less than $14,000 per year” . If this doesn’t inspire you to become the traveler you’ve always dreamed of being, I don’t know what will!
For some pictures from my trip, visit my other blog.
As November approaches, friendly emails start arriving in my inbox, trying to get me geared up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I look forward to NaNoWriMo all year, and yet now as I consider the fact that I have no idea what I want to write about let alone have an outline for it, my stomach tightens and a slight feeling of dread comes over me.
In the past, I have started novels and scrapped them 20 pages in. When you’re aiming for at least 50,000 words in a month, losing that many pages is … well, it’s pretty bad. But I do have until November 1st to come up with something, over a week, so hopefully I can get my creative act together! In addition to updating my personal blog, I will update here as well, to keep all of our fellow story tellers and story lovers in the loop. If you are also a NaNoWriMo participant, you can friend me on their website — I’m squirtt7.
If there are any novel writers out there, what do you come up with first for your novels? What do you build on initially? Characters? One character? The setting, or the plot? The antagonist?
August 10, 2009 — by Jacqueline
Frank McCourt died this month. I purposefully waited to announce my grief.
Grief isn’t timely. She conjures up old memories and feelings. Grief causes nostalgia.
On the day I found out he died, I arrived home from work, and walked straight back into my bedroom, to my bookshelf, and found my 12-year-old copy of McCourt’s memoir, “Angela’s Ashes”.
Skipping dinner and changing out of my work clothes, I fell onto my bed, and soaked myself in his story all over again.
How this book came to me? For one of my many middle school book reports, I found Mccourt’s memoir in a best-seller section of a small bookstore. I should mention that I was in love with books as a child. Writing a book report, not to mention going book shopping, was more like a hobby than actual school work.
The way I shopped for books as a prepubescent child is still how I shop for books. It has proven to be the best method.
I walk in, pick up a book and read the first sentence. Then, I flip to the middle of the book and find another sentence. It’s not about whether the action is enthralling. If the voice speaks to me in such a way, I take the book.
For that particular book report, “Angela’s Ashes” called me.
My 12-year-old self read the 460 pages in three days. McCourt’s writing voice had a power over me. Memoirs are now my favorite genre, and if I had to explain it, I’d simply say that the way an author’s mind pours their life memories onto a series of bound pages resonates with me.
Yes, I felt like I knew the man after reading his book.
And yes, the memoir is tragic, elaborating about his impoverished Irish childhood. But from what I understand, he became one of the best teachers in New York.
So, in the end, his character is not tragic.
But I remember my tween self completely encapsulated with his ability to sit through writing a whole book about having and being nothing. Knowing nothing of poverty, I was completely in awe of his ability to endure and share the beauty if it all with me, a simple middle-schooler.
There is a reason his book is still on my bookshelf.
“Work is not always required. There is such a thing as sacred idleness.”
The Mind Sprocket staff has been so wrapped up in Documenting the Unseen that we haven’t been pushing as hard for pieces to publish on the website. Thankfully, we’ve pulled ourselves together and returned to our roots long enough to get not just any writing, but some HUMOR writing on the site!
We welcome warmly to our writer ranks Paige Dunn, author of The Holey Chicken Truck, which is featured under Pithy Tales as Mind Sprocket’s newest and most humorous submission. What began for Paige as a typical long-distance drive featuring the “frequent smashed armadillo” turns into a drive that the Mind Sprocket staff wishes we could have been along for in person. She recounts her story, told in a creative and thoughtful narrative, here at Mind Sprocket, where readers can take a drive behind … The Holey Chicken Truck.
“Pole!” he said. “Is that fair? Have I been doing anything of the sort this term? Didn’t I stand up to Carter about the rabbit? And didn’t I keep the secret about Spivvins — under torture too? And didn’t I –”
“I d-don’t know and I don’t care,” sobbed Jill.
Scrubb saw that she wasn’t quite herself yet and very sensibly offered her a peppermint. He had one too. Presently Jill began to see things in a clearer light.
–From “The Silver Chair” by C.S. Lewis
Yesterday I helped take photos of a boy who had cerebral palsy. My role was to keep his attention, his eyes looking into the camera lens.
We rang the bells and called his name.
It seemed to work some of the time.
On a break his mother told us that his biggest frustration at school was that he couldn’t hear.
She had been letting us talk to him as if he could hear. She didn’t stop us, “Wait! He can’t hear! Just ignore him!”
Maybe that’s what we were supposed to do. Keep talking to him like he was the rest of us.
She told us how he doesn’t get what he needs at school. “He’s thrown in a classroom with all the other misfits with just one teacher.” Wow, I thought to myself. I’m not trained for this. But really, does a class teach us how to show compassion?
They need individual attention.
Like all children.
Like all humans.
I kept saying his name, tickling his cheek, maybe he could hear the vibrations of my voice.
Some of the greatest composers wrote music even though they were deaf.
This child was still a boy, a child worth loving.
I kept calling his name.
Perfect. Living captured on camera.