Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sunday Sorting, with Showers. . .

 If you follow me on Instagram, you've already seen the photo above, so please pardon the repetition -- I've added a couple here, though, that I won't be posting there. The clever street murals recently replaced the graphics on construction hoardings enclosing the expansion/renovation of a coffee-shop that's part of a well-known globalised chain whose beginnings were in Seattle.  I loved these rainy portraits even more before I knew that (there are so many great independent coffee stores around, or if not independent, at least part of more local chains). But if you're going to be a Big International Chain pushing your way into every gentrifying corner of every city in the world, you win some points by adding Graphic/Decorative Art to the street scene.
 On another note:  I'm aware that I'm falling short here lately. Content is less substantive than I would like it to be.  There are a number of reasons for this, not least among them a number of family commitments -- and this will not lessen in the immediate future while our crew from Rome is here for a month --  I want as many minutes with them as they can spare.

As well, I've committed myself to a personal writing project, something I began a half year into retirement, thinking I'd finally found time for it. Then I abandoned it last February as we prepared to put our house on the market, left it locked away in a file in the CPU of my desktop computer.  Pater spent a few hours two weeks ago getting that CPU set up with keyboard and monitor (there were a few recovery issues!), and with some encouragement from Julia Cameron (in The Artist's Way), I'm managing to ignore all the inner voices that tell me why it's not worth the time. Fifteen minutes here, half an hour there, I've been adding paragraphs some days, barely sentences others, and then deleting whole pages on discouraging others. It's at a very early draft stage, but I'm pleased to find that I'm incrementally, if slowly, adding words onto the page/screen. . .

In fact, I took the photos above on Friday morning en route to a local Bakery/Café, laptop in my backpack, with the intention of writing there for an hour or so. I've always been very skeptical of this approach, despite the countless examples of writers who've had great success scribbling important works this way. Surely, if I can't buckle down and get the words down at home, where I can arrange my writing station to my satisfaction, how will I be more likely to do it in an environment with more distractions, where I have so much less control.

But in my "morning pages," I'd decided that I might formalise my commitment to this writing project by pencilling in one or two weekly "away" appointments for it. Further, I thought I'd try to make those writing dates enticing by choosing appealing locations -- and if the spots were a kilometre or so from home, I'd have just enough walking time for an effective mental transition. I'm happy to report that one cranberry scone and two decaf Americanos later, after an hour and a half at a small wooden table in a window bay, I had added over a thousand words. First-draft words. Words which will have to be replaced or deleted or massaged or moved, yes, but a big satisfying swack of  words.

Words which arrived despite -- or because of? -- the occupants of the five other small tables in the fairly cosy space changing regularly. A family group (A young-ish Grandma and Grandpa with their two beautiful adult daughters and their equally beautiful and not-too-boisterous grandchildren) pulled three tables together, but only lasted about ten minutes (after the ten of getting their coffees, their scones, their cinnamon buns, their teas, their juices, taking the coats off and slinging them onto chairbacks, sitting this child next to her favourite cousin) before they had to leave -- presumably for a park which might be more amenable to the children's activity levels.

Yes, I noticed all this activity, but I found it surprisingly soothing. I'd look up at a beautifully open little face, surrounded by an aura of golden curls, and then catch the eye of the little one's grandmother, and smile, but then lower my eyes back to my screen. I suspect the complete lack of obligation to anyone at the table allowed me to refresh my mental screen at the most superficial level without disrupting my concentration. . . .

A late-thirties professional woman had her work spread across a table in the corner when I arrived, but must have left while I was engaged in determining the logical sequence of several paragraphs. I might have been considering the connotations of a particular word when I didn't notice another woman, this one in her fifties, slide a four-year-old grandson into a chair across the table, but there they were, when I looked up a bit later. And so on, through the ninety minutes, musical chairs being played all around me, and occasionally the whole place would be nearly empty and the barista would take a break to clear tables and sweep the floor.

A thousand words later, as I said, I "saved" the file, shut down my laptop, and declared the experiment a success. I've "booked" another "appointment" for myself this week. No idea what shape my pages will take eventually (okay, that's a lie, arising out of fear -- I might have an idea or two, but I'm afraid to set myself up for failure or ridicule or disappointment by exposing those ideas right now. Working on that). But I'm encouraged enough that I'm going to keep adding pages for now and see what shape they might suggest.

As I do this, however, I'm also trying to figure out how the blog will fit in. On Friday, those thousand words followed the seven hundred or so of my "morning pages." As you might imagine, I was unable to muster words for a blogpost after that much writing. Even just those three free-writing, start-the-day pages, at anywhere from 500-750 words, while valuable for generating ideas and for helping me discern my needs and desires, undeniably pull time and writing energy that would normally find its way to this screen.

I'd like to find a way to balance both writing goals, but I'm not sure how that will look eventually, and quite honestly, I intend to be a bit selfish in the short term. Much as I love this blogging community, I want to give my writing self a fair shot at exploring other possibilities. I hope you'll keep visiting as I sort this all out -- after all, you've been part of my life for almost ten years now!



30 comments:

  1. Your writing adventure absolutely thrills me. I must confess that there is a project I'd like to pursue once I get the time for it. I even have some pages tucked away already on my hard disk, waiting to be unearthed and continued. The mere idea of sitting in a café on an ordinary workday morning and doing what I desperately want to do is so attractive that I can hardly wait. I can easily imagine that this situation alone is enough to free one's creative potential.

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    1. What a good first comment to encourage me and remind me how very fortunate I am -- know that I'm egging you on toward retirement, toward that moment when you sit down in a café on a weekday when you'd normally have been working, and begin a different kind of work, so satisfying.

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  2. I have complete confidence that you will sort all this out, and will of course keep visiting to see what develops - your balancing act is sounding like a lot of fun now!

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    1. Thanks so very much for this encouragement, Marsha. And yes, we sometimes forget, when we speak of balance, how fun that was, as a child, to stand midpoint on the teeter-totter and Play! with equilibrium. It can be Fun!

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  3. Your project sounds lovely. Much as I enjoy popping by from time to time I would totally recommend family time and writing project time over blog time. Just saying... BTW loved your leopard print coat. Mary

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    1. I hear you, Mary, and I'm prioritising along those ways, at least until I gain some traction in new directions. Thanks so much.

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  4. I, too, have a writing project on the go that seems to get ignored far too frequently. I loved picturing the dynamic scene at your local coffee shop, the flow of customers paralleling the flow of words. Balancing is a tricky thing.

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    1. I hope you get to your project someday as well, Lorrie, although you're still juggling the Career/Work ball, and it requires considerable momentum to stay in the air. . . Someday.
      And thanks for the focused observation about my words here -- thoughtful encouragement much appreciated.

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  6. I"m excited for you! Try to keep us in your loop...we can help you with impetus!!

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    1. What a good thing to say, Leslie! I'm sure help with impetus will be much appreciated along the way.

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  7. How thrilling your adventure sounds, and so it is. I can see how, just by exiting oneself from the expectation of being in your space, a new creative spark may be kindled. Take your time; what is blogging anyway, but sharing and like all things sometimes the flow wanes and at others it gushes away. I'll be here (and there's been a lot of trickling of the worst sort on my own blog),.

    Mardel

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    1. Nothing you write is ever "of the worst sort" Mardel! But we can tell, can't we, when the writing is more place-holding than anything else. And then to decide if that's a worthwhile endeavour, which I believe it can definitely be.

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  8. I totally understand. All that matters is that you are figuring out, parsing your new free time and your new commitments and setting up the structure of your new life.

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    1. I guess, and thank you for that. I'm clinging, though, really don't want to lose what I've got here. . .

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  9. Your project sounds great-go for it!
    We enjoy being with you and reading your musings,but you have to follow your inspiration,instincts and feelings
    When (and if)you'll have the wish to write here-it would be nice. But don't feel the pressure or obligaton
    I love to spend some time alone in a coffee shop-reading,thinking,making lists....
    I'm writing this in ER,with the broken finger-not important for this story-waiting for my father to arrive with the ambulance.
    Life is a candy box indeed :-)
    Dottoressa

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  10. Distractions are different when you don't need to do anything about them. And getting out of the house means you don't have any excuses to jump up from your work (My house was never so clean as when I was studying for exams.)

    I will keep visiting as long as you want to keep talking, at a frequency that suits you. (Oh, are you going to continue 'Reads'? Will you turn the comments back on for viewing at some point?)

    Those portraits remind me of the Morton Salt girl. A personal little rain shower. I like the way the artist has treated the rain/paint.

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    1. Ah yes! That Morton Salt girl -- true, that resemblance, and I wonder if that delightful association was part of my instant response -- a smile ;-)
      and of course now you know I've turned the comments on "over there" -- Thanks for the nudge.

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  11. Balance? You can't find it till you've passed it. And it's never where it was last time. Congratulations on your courage to rebalance!

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    1. That's so true! It's constant, this balancing act. Thank you!

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  12. Go where the mood takes you. Your blog, your rules, I say (Well, choice sounds a little less aggressive and more what I had in mind)

    And when you turn up on the red carpet in a fancy frock because you're the screenwriter of some blockbuster classic in the making* or sim, then we can all say we knew you way back when...

    (I'm thinking there'll be a part in it for Meryl but haven't decided who you'll line up for the male lead. Redford again?)

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    1. You have such confidence in me -- and isn't it funny how that makes my Inner Critic scoff and my Attempting-to-Emerge Inner Writer want to scurry back into her hole and pull a rock over the entrance? Working on it. . . ;-)

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  13. Aahhh, does the heart good to see so much heart-felt bolstering of another person's dreams.
    Wish you well, but mostly hoping you enjoy every last drop of visiting family while you can.
    Have so much fun, Frances.
    A. in London

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    1. Doesn't it, A?! Such a generous community here -- you can see why I don't want to mess with my place in it.

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  14. There is something wonderfully freeing about these coffeeshops, our modern-day "third places". I've found that I'm productive there as well. Sometimes writing and studying can feel so lonely and alienating that being surrounded by a wonderful assortment of humanity--with no strings or obligations--is just what is needed. Write on, right on. (And I think the much touted balance comes over a lifetime--if at all--not over a day, or week, or month, or year.) To every season....

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    1. So much wisdom in this comment, Elle -- yes to "third places/spaces" -- especially in urban life as I'm learning and living it now.
      And balance -- I Tweeted something in response to Lisa/Amid Privilege a few weeks back, about balance being a good thing but that sometimes it depended on some folks daring the extremes. Not that I'm ever likely to edge out that far, but allowing for a dip or two of the teeter-totter might be a good thing.

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  15. My comment get lost (leave it there if you'll find it)
    Please,don't feel any obligations,follow your inspiration, and instincts
    When (and if) you'll want to write again here or have a conversation,I'll be happy to be with all of you again
    I love to be alone in coffeeshop (as well as with friends ,thanks to Elle for "the third place" definition,it is a place where we could meet,come and go without many obligations. It might seem superficial,but,in my case, it is not. It is a little island of time we want to spend together and meet,without planning expeditions to visit each other )-enjoying the moment of solitude (la solitudine....:-)),taking a break,making plans and lists......it could be inspirational.
    It's a place where you could be you, maybe more than at home (where we have to play all the usual roles),as on the top of a montain (but with a table and different air...)
    Dottoressa

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    1. I spotted your comment, I think, via the email version, but I'm guessing it's ended up in Blogger's Spam file again. I hope your father's as okay as he can be, and the rest of you are coping.
      I love the solidarity of knowing you enjoy these "third place" solitudes as well, you and so many of the readers here. Not superficial at all, is it? And this idea where I can be a Me there that there might not be as much room for at home (I first recognised this possibility as a "mature student" in a grad school classroom).

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  16. This sounds so tremulously exciting. Write on, sister.

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    1. Brilliant! "tremulously exciting" -- accent on the tremulous, a word which deserves much more use . . .

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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