All Out Of Ink

June 10, 2012

How Do You Journal?

Filed under: Inspiration,Writer's Block — Laynie @ 12:03 pm
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One of my favorite writing activities is keeping or creating journals. I have traditionally kept my daily journals and random poetry in black and white marble composition notebooks. Not to brag (okay, in order to brag), but I have filled more than 30 of these books.

There are other journals I keep also. Here is one of them. It’s a journal I keep almost daily. It takes less than 5 minutes before bed at night to write down the date and a few things from the day that are only good. I don’t mean I write down things that can turn into good later down the road. I mean completely good things, things that make me smile. Hidden blessings are great, but I save those for another time, place, and page. This is for things that cannot be mistaken for anything but good.

There are always things I can list. At the very least, I can write down “My comfy bed,”

Here is a sample page from this journal. It is the most recent spread.

Try it! It might spark another project, or it might be what you need all on its own.

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September 4, 2011

Reflections of Myself (or, Staying Inspired)

Filed under: Inspiration,Pieces of Life,Writer's Block — Laynie @ 12:34 am

Lately, when I manage to blog or journal about writing, I spend most of my time exploring the idea of maintaining my inspiration or further defining autonomy in the course of life as I live it. Day after day, I pursue good things for my family. I arrange our lives so they compliment and cooperate with one another. Logistics of a household, wellbeing of each family member… these and similar pursuits consume most of my time and concentration.

Tonight, I read a wonderful blog by Tim Floyd on his blog Life Aperture about eyes, and I began thinking about one morning about four years ago when I looked in the mirror.

Life events had carried me far away from what I’d grown up believing I would one day become. I knew I was missing essential parts of myself, and I was sad they were gone. But one day, something happened when I walked by a mirror. I was a visitor in the home, so it wasn’t a mirror I was accustomed to using. Was that the reason it looked unusual? Was it the transition of my life what allowed me to see something different? Whatever it was, the result was stunning.

I was in the middle of a phone call, discussing my uncertain plans for the future, and the image took my breath away. My friend’s voice faded into the background, asking if I was still there, but my mind had shifted from the conversation to what was before me.

My fingers touched my face. “I have my mother’s cheekbones,” I nearly whispered. “And my father’s eyes in a different shade.” I turned, noticing the profile of my nose, the shape of my ears, the contour of my lips. It didn’t matter what anyone else thought of my appearance. For that moment, I found myself beautiful. You could say my eyes were opened to something that had been right in front of my face (or more accurately, right on my face) but that I hadn’t seen in a long time.

The night of my eighth grade graduation, I looked at myself that way, searching my own eyes and looking at the precursor to what the grown-up me would look like. And now, with the grown-up me in the mirror, I could say to that child, “You’ll be proud of the person you will become.”

Through your eyes, your body swallows everything around you, takes it in and turns it upsidedown. Your thoughts arrange themselves in and around it, turn it another direction, and it changes you from the inside. You come to contain something you didn’t previously possess. Now, it’s something you can offer. You take your pen and that’s exactly what you do. You offer it.

You offer it in verse. You offer it in memoir. You offer in in fiction. You offer it in a journal or a letter. Let your eyes swallow something today. Let them see something they’ve never seen before in the common sights of your normal day. Let them swallow something new in the midst of all that doesn’t change. Look at the pattern of your dishes as a stranger would, someone who has never seen them before. Notice the glare of the sun through the windshield and how you squint in the light, see the way the color of the road changes with that light on it. Or in a moment when you happen to be near a mirror, brushing your teeth, combing your hair, setting something on the dresser, look at your own eyes. Swallow a bit of yourself as if you were not you. Let the beauty in. When you turn away, you will contain a small part of yourself that wasn’t yours before. Now you can offer it.

May 10, 2011

The Benefits of a Creative Affair

Filed under: Writer's Block — Laynie @ 12:46 pm

As a lover of words, I have tried to be faithful. I have made a sincere effort. Time after time though, I find myself growing weary of the same old rut and longing for more. The grass is always greener, they say, but what if you’re sick of grass and you just want to sit down with a knife and fork and tear into a steak dinner?

Enter: The Creative Affair

To be clear, I am 200% against unfaithfulness, adultery, and polygamy, especially the marriage kind. But when it comes to my writing, well, that’s a different sort of union. When we quarrel, I need to turn elsewhere for comfort.

Writing is not the only thing I will ever need to love, just as I am not the only person the writing demon (or angel, or spirit of any variety) must possess. Reading is only half a step away from writing because I’m still entertaining that spirit.  I need something more.

I’m not talking about a one-night-stand-up comedy routine at a hotel ballroom. And Disney World is fun, but it’s just a summer fling. I need another solid relationship I can be sure of. I need something that’s going to be there consistently. I need an art on the side.

Remember the days when writing was all you needed? When you never got bored with it because the ideas were fresh and new and had room in your mind and soul to breathe? If you think you remember that, you can forget it. Writing was never the only thing you needed. And if you still think it was, realize that just as your child has necessitated adjustments in every other relationship in your life, your relationship with words must also grow and change. Don’t worry though. Just as room appeared in your heart for that little person, your creativity will expand as necessary for this too.

So what’s it going to be?

I enjoy photography. Some benefits are that it gets me out of my same-old-same-old environment and lets me go places, like the lake or the park, where Em can have fun too. On outings where your kid has to be the primary focus, you can still be on the lookout for creative opportunities to snap a shot or two, especially candids of the little one. To make this easier, I often opt for my smaller point-and-shoot over my DSLR because it interferes less with life between pictures, making the outing more fun and less frustrating (and involves less financial risk).

BC (Before Child), I enjoyed singing, playing the guitar, and occasionally picking up Chris’ violin. It’s hard to fit guitar time into my daily schedule without Em wanting to play too. And my violin playing would probably make her cry. But what I can do is put music on in the house during the day while I’m doing other things. Em enjoys it, so sometimes we’ll dance and sing along. It doesn’t matter if I can carry a tune or if I know all the words; she doesn’t care.

If you don’t always feel artistic but enjoy making something pretty, get yourself a book of mandalas and share the kiddo’s colored pencils for some fun-time you can both enjoy. It sounds silly, but my bet is you’ll find yourself coloring one when the kid’s not around. Mandalas are great for meditation and look so beautiful when they’re finished.

Maybe you like to keep a flower bed or vegetable garden looking nice. Maybe you enjoy cooking or baking. Drawing is a fairly portable fun thing. So is needlework if you’re of a meticulous mind. Glass etching is a fun naptime or evening project. Painting might be a bit too involved for the narrower time slots in your day, but if you can carve out the time periodically, it’s a great art form. There’s also woodworking, fixing up an old car, mowing the lawn.

The possibilities are not necessarily endless (after all, you still have someone pulling on your pantleg the whole time you’re stirring the cake batter), but there are enough that you can find something you enjoy and that will fit your lifestyle.

Once you’ve gotten the writing frustration out of your system, you can pull the project back into your life again. After all, no matter what else you are (butcher, baker, candlestick maker, whatever else), you’re a writer.

For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, for as long as you both shall live.

PS – Have a look at my page Fun Favorite Links for more on where to get mandala books. I’ll be adding more info on glass etching, photography, and some other things over time.

May 9, 2011

Finding the Time (or, Writing in Spite of Exhaustion)

Filed under: Inspiration,Writer's Block — Laynie @ 6:19 pm

I hate to disappoint you, but I cannot tell you how this is done. Many helpful blogs, parenting websites, self-help books, magazines, and childless great-aunts exist to help you learn how to do it with a dramatic energy second only to Bon Jovi at Jazz Fest. (This is on my mind because Bon Jovi was as Jazz Fest last weekend 30 miles from my house and I couldn’t go.)

If I was presumptuous enough to think I could tell everyone how to find time for writing, you would be within your rights to dismiss everything else I had to say as hogwash. But what I have to say is not hogwash, and to prove it, I am not going to be presumptuous like that. My goal is to help us all push past the special brand of writer’s block that develops along with our children.

Right now, exhaustion has me a little stuck. My brain can’t seem to find its way into the land of the living. Only my body moves. I’m typing, not because I have something helpful to say, but because I’m supposed to be blogging. Just like I change diapers because I’m supposed to be doing it. Or washing dishes. Or chasing the toddler who’s chasing the cat that’s not supposed to be inside. I’m here because I’m supposed to be.

Yet, words have begun to happen.

When I get stuck, one thing I do is think of someone I admire. Today, I thought of John Keats. He wrote a vast number of pieces considering he died when he was 25. His words have echoed my own thoughts many times.

Keats once wrote about how he felt the first time he saw the Elgin Marbles. His amazement caused me to learn what the Elgin Marbles were, and I also found them — and their history — amazing. (For more on the Elgin Marbles, here is a site that gives pictures, history, and the poem itself: Learn More)

Historical art forms may not serve as inspiration for you, but something does. I don’t mean inspiration like the “ah-ha” moment that comes before an idea for a 3-part novel (Lord of the Rings) or an epic (The Iliad). I mean inspiration that gives you the ability to like an idea enough to write a sentence about it. Just one sentence. Everything ever written started with a word or group of words that conveyed either a piece of life, or a reaction to a piece of life. If your mind is too tired to create a piece of life, then react to someone else’s.

Let me say that again. If you just can’t create something new and special, if you don’t have anything in yourself to share, then let your mind react to something someone else has already created.

Your reactions serve as the basis for everything you will eventually create because your observations change you. When you are different, your creations will be different. Your response to another idea is important. Don’t hesitate to record it.

It can be as complex and remarkable as “On Seeing the Elgin Marbles.” It can be as simple as a sentence stating why you like or don’t like a quote someone posted on facebook. And then, over time, it might develop into something more. If not, that’s fine. You have created something.

I don’t know about you, but that’s what makes me feel like a writer who’s not all out of ink.

(One note of apology: This works primarily for creative writing. Academic and research writing don’t always benefit from this exercise, though it can be a good way to get enthusiasm rolling if your subject doesn’t immediately intrigue you.)

May 5, 2011

The Wall

Filed under: Writer's Block,Writing Tips — Laynie @ 9:17 pm

There are many entries in the Great Phone Book of Life for The Wall.

The Wall, Hang a Picture On
The Wall, Arrange the Furniture Along
The Wall, What Color Shall We Paint
The Wall, Another Brick In

Each of those has its own listing. My number, however, has multiple entries.

The Wall, Clean the Crayon off of
The Wall, Beat My Head Against
The Wall, I Said Do Not Lick (I only wish I was kidding)
and the one that hurts the most:
The Wall, I Was Writing and I Hit

Throughout my writing life, I have hit many walls, some of them repeatedly. Usually, I experienced a period of great frustration, re-discovered my direction, and pressed forward with renewed determination (which is never as simple as that sentence makes it sound).

One day, as I was making rip-roaring progress on a book project, I ran into a very little wall. This wall was 19.75 inches tall, um, I mean 19.75 inches long. She arrived by scheduled c-section one Friday morning. When I saw her, I said, “Hello. Are you confused?” I knew how confused I felt much of the time, and I’d had 29 years to adjust to the variations of life. For her, the world was suddenly much bigger than she’d realized, and it wasn’t very comfy. Poor little thing.

I didn’t wait for her to answer. I passed out.

When I regained consciousness about a year later, I was unpacking in a new house. Boxes of notebooks, journals, legal pads, file folders, presentation portfolios, and plain old stacks of paper filled with my writing. I prepared to put them in attic storage, but my husband, Chris, stopped me. “You’re not putting that stuff in the attic.”

“I never use it. Besides, if I want it, I know where to find it.”

“But it’s your writing. You wouldn’t let me put my writing in the attic.”

“No,” I admitted. “But you actually write.”

“Why don’t you?” he asked.

Right about that time, a little blond giggle came around the corner, bumped into my leg, landed on her bum, looked up at me, and smiled. I didn’t have to say anything else.

Chris had a point, though. I couldn’t put it all away. I’d lost a lot of bits and pieces of individuality since Em was born, but I couldn’t sacrifice being a writer. It had never been just something I did. It had always been something I was whether I was actively writing or not.

It’s the same for every writer who suddenly finds herself (or himself) in charge of a small person (or persons) and filling more bottles than journals. You haven’t stopped being a writer. You’re a writer who’s doing something else right now.

Do you remember how easy it was before? How effortless it was to sit down and say what you meant, how simple it was to make the time? If you think you can remember that, you need to forget it. Creating something was never that easy, and it never will be. It is difficult. And if you think it’s harder than it used to be, remember you’re a different kind of strong than you once were. You can handle it.

You’ve experienced a period of great transition; now it’s time to reorient yourself and push forward again. I know it’s not as simple as that sentence sounds. That’s why I made this blog: for ideas that work, ideas that don’t work, frustrations, solutions, successes, non-successes, and everything in between. It’s the new entry in the Great Phone Book of Life:

The Wall, What to Do When You Hit

My book is coming along, by the way. But if I’m going to finish it this summer, I better get back to it.

More soon…

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