Monday, January 26, 2015

A dream come true

s/v Whisper at anchor in Salt Whistle Bay, Mayreau, The Grenadines
This photo is so much more to me than just a beautiful tropical beach photo. In the years preceding our sailing trip, we worked and worked, both at our paid jobs and on the boat. Saving money and preparing the boat for the voyage. We were in Washington, DC and my first job was as an assistant to an attorney who represented oil companies. Nope, I wasn't saving the world friends. My "office" was a partitioned cubicle in the middle of the firm's office with no windows. Just the charming gray felt board that is the ubiquitous cubicle wall. I filed documents, I reorganized all the cases and the filing system, I typed up hand written notes and briefs. I edited. I made phone calls. I answered the phone. Are you asleep yet? Because I was. What kept me going? My daily workout at the gym, a good friend who worked in the same office, and a photo. Tacked up to that gray felt board was a photo, very similar to the one I took off Whisper's bow, years later. I had ripped it out of a magazine, it was a photo off someone else's boat, someone else's bow, of a tropical island, somewhere. I knew that someday we were going to sail our own boat to that tropical island.

We did, and I have the picture to prove it.

I'm not surrounded by gray felt board anymore (thank God), but I am beginning to feel the same feelings of waiting. We're in-between. We're waiting for the next big thing. We're biding our time while Hans gets his skills and knowledge down pat. We know that something bigger and something better is around the corner, we're just not there yet. So we do what we did when we lived in DC: we make the best of the time we have now, because, yes, now is really, really good.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Motivated to write

I’ve been reading the wrong books. I want to read a lot to inspire and engage me and encourage me to write more. Learn from your peers and all that. I’ve been reading page-turners because those are relaxing and if I have a good page-turner, chances are that I’ll read a book instead of wile away my time in front of the computer. But I’m not writing. No inspiration. No motivation. A couple days ago I picked up a book about a guy who gets in a boat and cruises the US Gulf Coast - from the Texas-Mexico border to the Dry Tortugas. He cruises the entire distance. It is so engaging and so entertaining and so . . . so well written. Reading it makes me want to crumple up my manuscript (theoretically of course since I don’t have it in any kind of hard copy format) and rewrite the whole thing.

This author, Peter Jenkins, writes so naturally and so fluidly. It’s matter-of-fact and funny and fun. It’s well-written but it’s not poetic and rhythmic and pretty. It’s just words on paper, him retelling a story that he lived. That’s the kind of writing I like. I want to like the poetic style of non-fiction (it feels so literary to me, so high brow, surely I should like it!), but when I read something good, something that simply conveys the story, it’s good. Plain and simple good.

A few years ago when I first acknowledged my inclination to write, my mom, ever my champion, sent me a few books about the art of writing. They are old, but timeless. They don’t contain grammar rules or tips on how to reach your ideal audience. They contain snippets and paragraphs and anecdotes of writerly wisdom. The most important piece of advice is a common one: just sit down and write.  Write whatever comes out of your head and onto paper. I type, so when I want to write I sit down and type whatever words flow from my head and through my hands. Write plainly. Write clearly. Write without thought to style or prose. Tell your story in simple words. Don’t try to entertain, don’t try to be funny. Don't try, just write. (Is this "Nike for Writers?")

That is hard advice to put into practice. I’m a bit of a (read: major) perfectionist when it comes to grammar and sentence structure and overall theme and content of a piece. I like love (let’s be honest here) outlines and lists. It is very hard for me to type and type and type without re-reading each sentence the second after I type a period. Don't even get me started on fact-checking and substantiating my claims. But words don’t flow when you’re constantly analyzing them and thinking about your audience. Words don’t flow when you’re trying  to achieve an objective, be it humor, rhythm, fact, or style. In my writer's heart, I believe that style is innate. If you write enough, your own style will develop. And your own style is good.

I self-critique a lot. A lot. I have little idiosyncrasies in my writing that I don’t like. I write too many lists. I have my own set of comma rules (Carbonetti's comma rules, to be precise. Like an inside joke, you have to have been there. 10th grade English class.) and I put too much emphasis on transition words. I sacrifice getting words down on paper because I spend too much time worrying about nit-picking my own work instead of just writing.

My cure? It’s back to that old adage: write, and write a lot. Every day. Exercise the creative muscle. I’m excited to start a new project. I don’t know what it is, but I’m sure that it will come to me through my daily writing, my daily exercise. And, maybe, just maybe, if I get used to writing every single day, I’ll stop reading my writing as I write. I’ll get so used to writing that I’ll just write. The words will flow and it will be easy. Because when it’s good (at least when I think so), it’s good. The writing is easy and fun and the words flow. They really do. When I overthink, that’s when it gets clunky. So here’s to more flow and less clunk!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


It's a long way up, but you just need to step on!
The ideas are in my head, the words will flow. Just step on!

 Getting motivated

Recently I've been thinking a lot about motivation. What motivates us? Where do we get our drive from? What pushes someone to take a risk, take a chance, do something new? Can motivation live in a vacuum, or does it rely on external forces.

And, the most compelling question for me right now: Why am I not motivated? And, How can I change that?

New year, new you, and all that. Except I'm not feeling that rush of energy and can-do spirit that is so prevalent in January. What gives? What do I want to do, and what is preventing me from taking that step?

I want to write every day. I want to get a project out the door and off my plate. I want to move from being a passive participant in the world of ideas - merely reading and thinking - to an active participant.

Instead I . . . read articles online. I read other people's blogs. I nap. I read a book. I watch TV. I wile away hours on airbnb looking for that perfect vacation. I go through ebbs and flows. I spend months where I get into a routine and sit down and write every single day while the girls nap. I'm productive and I feel like my brain is working and I'm living outside of cooking, cleaning, and childcare. But then I stop. For a day, or two, or a week. It's so much easier to stop than it is to start again. I can justify my lack of action in 101 different ways. (I'm busy, I'm tired, why stay-at-home if I'm stuck on a schedule, I should enjoy myself, etc. etc.)

Lack of motivation to prevent cognitive dissonance?

Is my lack of motivation simply me trying to reduce the cognitive dissonance in my life? If cognitive dissonance is defined as the personal stress caused by someone's own differing beliefs and views, maybe my writing is disrupting my own easy status quo. My lack of motivation, therefore, is a form of self-defense.

Probably not. While my writing does make me think critically about my own life, it certainly isn't profound enough to make me question my fundamental values and viewpoints.

Writer's block.

Writer's block. That's an easy answer. I'm stuck and need to reboot my creative energy. Possibly. But if I simply sit down and start typing, I have 101 different things to write about. Throughout the day, while I'm pushing a kid on a swing or riding my bike, in my head I'm also composing a blog entry or an article for an online magazine.

Ok, so I'm just not motivated.

It's not writer's block and I don't need to worry about cognitive dissonance. It really is just a lack of motivation (possibly combined with awesome weather that keeps me outside as much as possible). I'm simply not feeling motivated to break out of my daily functions. And that's okay. It's really, really, nice to nap on the couch in the sun every afternoon. But I also know what it feels like when I write every day. I feel energized. I feel like I'm contributing to something bigger. I feel like my life is moving forward, and more than just chronologically.

Finding inspiration and putting pen to paper

So how do I get motivated? Where does my own personal motivation come from? How do other people get motivated to kick the internet and create something?

For me, it's two-fold. 1) Writing a to-do list hold me accountable to my goals; and 2) Sticking to a schedule carves out the time to work toward those goals.

To go beyond the basic 1-2 punch of getting something done, I need peer collaboration to encourage me, critique me, and inspire me. I'm an extrovert and I rely on other people to get the job done.

Simply writing this post is revitalizing me to get back to work. Stick with me, more posts will follow!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A new year; a new challenge

photo by Hans Eriksson

New year, new resolutions

As the  calender flips from December to January, we are filled with new resolutions, new plans, new goals, and new challenges. It's a new year. A time of new beginnings and (re)newed dreams. It's easy to take stock of your life and set ambitious new starts: I'll start exercising more. I'll start eating better. I'll start spending more time with people and less time with the screen.

When the calendar flipped from 2014 to 2015 I was in Sweden. So not only was I thinking about new starts for the new year, I was also out of my regular routine and rhythms. I've found that it's common to step back and look critically at your life when you're out traveling, away from home and the daily grind. It is only natural, therefore, that as I cheered in 2015 in a different country that my introspection about my life was a little more intense than usual. This is a good thing. A really good thing.

image courtesy of

Outside of my comfort zone

Sitting outside of my comfort zone, I was able to look in and get a little perspective on what is currently making me happy; what is frustrating me; and what I want to change. It turns out that my comfort zone consists of two small people and the boat that we call home. Home and kid maintenance (and the minimal husband maintenance that I provide) take up nearly all my time. Freja will be four in March, so, if we don't count the time I was pregnant with her, I've spent the last four years of my life channeling nearly all my energy into my one role as mamma.

Whoa. Back pedal. I always knew, always, that when my kids were young, I'd stay at home with them. I never planned my dream wedding or dream job, but I did plan on staying home with young kiddos. So, in the grand scheme of my life, I'm exactly where I've always wanted to be. But four years is a long time. A really long time to sing the "Wheels on the Bus" every day.

The new plan

So what's next? I want to push myself out of my comfort zone of mom-hood and challenge myself a little. Is that in the form of a job? A writing challenge? Back to school? I'm not sure, but I'm feeling the call of something different. I'm limited, of course, by time and money. Someone's gotta take care of the rug rats. But other moms inspire me to be a full-time mom and also pursue my own passions.

I tend not to make tangible resolutions - ones that can be quantified and ticked off in a box. Apparently a glutton for punishment, I tend to look to the broader resolutions, along the vague lines of "live better." This year I feel like I've gone a bit further than a simple "live better" resolution. I feel like I'm asking myself to fundamentally look at my life, at the direction it's going, and change that. My life. Not my family's life. My life.