Archive of ‘The Write Stuff’ category

A Change of Scenery

I decided to take my own advice and enjoy a change of scenery while I write today’s blog post. On weekdays, my morning routine is to get up early, make a cup of coffee, solve the Wordle, open up my laptop, and write at my kitchen counter. The house is quiet, and I’m at my creative best at this time of day. On weekends, the kitchen is the absolute worst place to write. The phone rings endlessly, thanks to sales calls about our timeshare, recorded messages from elected officials, and prescription reminders from CVS. The only juices flowing in there is the one made from oranges.

I do have some other viable options of places to write on the weekends. I’ll sit on the couch by the bay window, which brings lots of sunlight. There is good pillow action there and no tv in the room. But, when I settled into the couch with my brand-new lap desk, I realized my laptop was too big for it. It slides off in this annoying way that is not conducive to the writing process.

My daughter’s bedroom is also available, and she has a door that closes. It’s an excellent alternative, except for our dog. Chloe will ultimately find me there and scratch incessantly at the door until I open it and pay attention to her.

So, this morning I found myself thinking: where else could I write?

And then, I remembered that we have a new library building that I don’t take advantage of often enough. It is air-conditioned, well-lit, quiet, and void of distractions, diversions, and dogs. I quickly packed up my bag with everything I thought I needed – my laptop, laptop charger, cell phone, cell phone charger, earbuds to listen to music, and the dongle to plug into my iPhone. I also brought a mask, a notebook, a pack of tissues, and a bottle of Gatorade.

I grabbed my keys, and away I went for an amazing afternoon of productive writing time! WOO-HOO!

As I unpacked, I patted myself on the back for putting this time to good use and carving out quality time for my craft. Why haven’t I done this before? This library is the perfect spot for writing. It’s not crowded. The Wi-Fi works and no password is required. There are plenty of nice spaces for me to choose from and settle in. If I want a study room, I can reserve it ahead of time. If not, I can plop myself down in a spacious cubicle and look out the window at the pretty trees surrounding the building. I happily set up my workspace and got busy.

It was then that I realized I had forgotten my purse. Inside my purse are a few other essentials I hadn’t considered bringing until I needed them the most.

  • Reading glasses to see the laptop screen clearly
  • A pen to write in my notebook
  • A library card because I should probably check out the book I want to read instead of buying it at the bookstore.
  • My driver’s license, money, credit cards, house key, etc.

Seriously?! What woman leaves their house without a purse. (I’m sure many women do, but I am not one of them). I could do without the library card. My husband is home, so I don’t need my house key. But, a pen and reading glasses are some necessities. It’s like going hiking and leaving my outdoor boots and water bottle home. I am not prepared!

But, it is so peaceful here that I decided to make the best of it. I have lots of laundry at home, and once I start on that, who knows if I’ll get anything written today. I’ll consider this library trip a dry run and not make the same mistakes twice.

P.S. If you see any typos in today’s post, now you know why. 🙂

Writing for My Life

Last night, I had the honor of meeting Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist and best-selling author Anna Quindlen.

Okay, when I say I “met” her, I sat in the audience and heard her speak about her new book, “Write For Your Life,” asked her a question about writing my memoir, and stood in line for her to sign my book. I spoke to her for no more than a minute, and yet her words have changed me as a writer.

For instance, why write? Yes, I have a personal connection to Parkinson’s Disease and often feel I was put on this Earth to raise awareness and tell that story. However, it isn’t the only reason. I also write to be known. That doesn’t mean I long to be famous or win awards, far from it. I hope someday my 50-year-old grandchild (f I should be so lucky to have one) discovers my blog, reads my stories, soaks in my words, resonates with them on a personal level, and ultimately knows me as a person. And then, my writing becomes my legacy long after I’m gone.

Another gem from last night was during the Q&A when someone asked Ms. Quindlen what advice she has for aspiring writers. I love when people ask this of other authors. The answers always vary and are often either practical, inspiring, or esoteric. Quindlen did not disappoint.

“Put your butt in the chair,” she said. It is the only way to be a prolific writer. She said to write when you are in the mood and when you aren’t. Write when you feel you have nothing to talk about. And write the minute something strikes you because if you don’t, you run the risk of forgetting about it.

She is so right. Sitting down to write can be a challenge for me. It isn’t that I don’t have something to say. (I always have something to say. 🙂 ) It’s the real-world distractions like housework and errands that keep me from my passion. I also have a day job that I love, but where I constantly write, leaving little creative juices left for writing my memoir. All of this is why this blog too often winds up at the bottom of my to-do list.

So, I’ve taken a few actions to remedy this problem. This week, I signed up for HippoCamp, a small writer’s conference in Lancaster, PA, specifically for creative non-fiction writers. This is an important distinction because so many events focus on fiction writing, with only a handful of workshops dedicated to personal essays, biographies, and memoirs. At HippoCamp, I’ll learn to fact-check my family story, use my five senses to bring back long-lost memories, and how to infuse my weird sense of humor into complex topics. The writers who attend this conference are supportive, brilliant, inspiring, and, like me, they want their stories to be known.

I’m also putting my butt in the chair. This requires a drastic change to my morning routine. No more sitting on the couch for an hour and scrolling through Facebook. I waste precious time there. Mornings are the best time for me to write. So, I will set my alarm and stop hitting the snooze button. When I wake up, I will drink coffee, do the Wordle, and write. Because this book isn’t going to write itself, and this blog will soon be forgotten if I don’t give it some love and post more often.

Most importantly, I will never be truly known, and that yet-to-exist grandchild will never read these stories until I sit down to write them.

Anti-Oxford Comma

Yes, it’s true. I am anti-oxford comma.

There, I said it.

I feel much better now.

Do you still like me?

Are you going to unfriend me?

Unsubscribe to my blog?

Call my mom and tell on me?

All of the above?

For those unfamiliar with this ongoing debate, this discretionary punctuation mark has caused quite an uproar in writing workshops, high-school English classrooms, and even courtrooms around the country. It is a fight to the death over whether or not a comma needs to precede the last element in a series – like red, white and blue.

Does it make your skin crawl that I didn’t use an Oxford comma just now? I’m sorry. I can’t help it. Baby, I was born this way.

I know I’m in the minority here. Lots of people disagree with me. Even Grammarly is against me. Every mistake it catches in this post is comma-related. Hey! I pay for Grammarly premium. I expect a special setting for comma preferences with my subscription.

Here is the tricky part. As a non-profit communications professional, I am obligated to follow the style guide assigned to me by the powers that be. If they follow the Associated Press (AP) style guide – as many sensible organizations do – AP is much more liberal and doesn’t care whether you use it as long as you pick a side and remain consistent throughout the document. It’s very democratic, and I, for one, am quite pleased with this compromise. There is no judgment. No muss. No fuss. No tracked changes or vetoes from the majority. Everyone is happy.

I mean, really, doesn’t this make sense? Can’t we all just get along?

Unfortunately, the non-profit I currently work for uses the Chicago Manual of Style guide (UGH!), which strictly forbids omitting said (and sad) serial comma. This means that if I want to get paid, I must relinquish my inherent – and practically religious – belief on this issue and acquiesce.

After all, I have two children to put through college. I can be a team player. And I’ll just save my recreational, controversial and reckless anti-oxford comma activities for my blog and someday my book.

Unless I find an editor who is pro-Oxford comma, then we may have a problem.

P.S. – I hope this doesn’t change things between us. I still love you regardless of your punctuation preferences. No matter how misguided they may be. 😉

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