Endings, New Beginnings, Patience

Soon, E and I will be moving into our first home. That’s one of the big firsts I talked about when I last posted (oh so long ago) about the exciting things happening—new book, new home. Everything feels like a new beginning…

…but with new beginnings come hard work.

What started out as a few simple updates before we moved in has spiraled into a major renovation. Like all major projects, we’ve had moments of joy and discovery, moments of frustration and hardship. But we’re so close to being ready to move in! (We have to be out of our apartment just a few days before Tuesday, when Chasing the Sun launches. Life happens all at once, doesn’t it?)

And so, I’ve been busy. And ecstatic. And sometimes overwhelmed.

(The office, pre-floors and post-popcorn ceiling removal.)

Yesterday, covered in sweat and sawdust from chopping planks of laminate flooring and walking back and forth between the garage and my (future) office to snap force them into place, I realized something. There were maybe 10 square feet left to install. I could finally, after days, nights, weeks, sense the end of this project in my sights.

One little piece started giving me trouble, and I started putting all my weight and frustration into it.

And then I stopped. I took a deep breath.

Just when you’re close to the finish line, that’s when patience is most important.

Until next week…



A Change of Setting & Some Thoughts On Place

Last month, I moved my writing desk from the office to a small corner in our living room that had more sunlight. There’s something invigorating about changing your surroundings, even if it is something as small moving your desk. My new writing nook has two white walls for me to play with. It’s became a fun project—how will I decorate? More importantly, how will I decorate with meaning? Yes, it’d be lovely if my nook looked like anthropologie and etsy had a baby, but I want the objects I surround myself with to inspire me with their stories.

Here’s how it’s shaping up so far:

The blank pages. A couple of years ago, my husband did a photography series focused on seeing everyday objects differently. This photo of piles and piles of blank pages became my favorite. Last week, I had it printed on canvas for my office. On the back I wrote “It all starts with the blank page” in permanent marker.


The kite. I knew the second I saw this kite that I wanted it for my desk. It’s handmade by Michelle M. Jones, one of the first writers whose blogs I started following way back when. Somewhere along the way Michelle announced she was heading in a new direction and a few weeks ago she opened her kite shop, Uplift Artisan. There’s nothing that inspires me more than seeing people pursue and achieve their dreams; in Michelle’s case, it was an actual dream that inspired her. It’s a beautiful story. You can read it and see more of her kites here.













There’s also the Texas star, and the Texas license plate, each representing different times in my life when I’ve called this state home. There’s a framed portrait of my husband, Maggie and me, hand-drawn by my cousin, and a painting gifted to us by E’s aunt when we moved. There are books I choose to surround myself with for too many reasons to list here. There are notes and quotes like this one.

What are some of the more meaningful objects in your work space? What are their stories?

*Speaking of place, this week at The Debutante Ball I wrote about the less literal sense of place that we all write from, and why moving around can be a good thing. I hope you’ll stop by.

25 Wonderful Photos of Today’s Women Writers At Work

A couple of weeks ago I came across this post called 16 Wonderful Photos of Women Writers at Work. I loved that it captured so many of the writers who inspired women like me to pursue our love of the written word. They helped fuel entire generations of writers after them, and there was something special about seeing these women in action, in a moment as private as writing behind a desk or as public as signing books for fans.

I wondered what a post like this would look like today, so I put out a call for women writers to send me pictures of themselves at work. I’m tempted to say so much about these pictures, but I think they more than speak for themselves:

1. Camille Noe Pagán, author of The Art of Forgetting

2. Sharon Short, author of My One Square Inch of Alaska, and Emilie Richards, author of Somewhere Between Luck and Trust

3. Suzy Spencer, author of Secret Sex Lives (photo credit: Joe O’Connell)

[Read more…]

In the Vastness of Memory

I was finishing up work yesterday evening when I caught sight of the sunset through our balcony. It was breathtaking—a swirl of deep, burning orange fading into a nearly indigo purple. I grabbed my phone and tried to take a picture when an odd thing happened.

Seeing the sky through the tiny lens of my smartphone did it no justice. As the camera struggled to focus, it created an illusion of distance, making the sunset appear shrunken, both in beauty and in scope. I thought, of course. How foolish of me. I put away the phone and watched the sun disappear over the horizon.

I think I’d meant to share it. Maybe post it on Instagram or Facebook. It was, after all, just me and my dogs on the balcony, but shouldn’t that be enough? We’ve gotten so used to sharing the most beautiful moments of our lives (or at least, the most photogenic moments) as if broadcasting them to our social networks somehow validates them. As if it’s proof that we exist, that we live this life, somewhere in this alternate online dimension. Sometimes I wonder who we’re trying so hard to prove it to.

I know it’s an odd thing to express on a blog of all things. It might even seem hypocritical. I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with social networking lately. I love the people it’s helped me connect to. I hate the co-dependency that constantly being plugged in has fostered. Please don’t get me wrong: That compulsion, that need to check for updates multiple times a day or else feel like I’m missing out on something…that has nothing to do with you or the many friends I’ve met online. It has everything to do with repeated habits that become behaviors that become hard to break when we’re so constantly and instantly gratified with a timeline of tidbits and pictures and articles that is endlessly being refreshed.

I’m not saying let’s all be done with it. I’m just saying I want the control back. I want to share the occasional moment and be at peace with keeping some for myself, to revel in and enjoy as they happen with the people I love so much in my life.

And I have a feeling a lot of us do, too. If it’s not too late to make a new year’s resolution, or a resolution for all my years to come, here it is:

When I look back at my life I want to know I didn’t spend it trying to capture the sky in something as small as a smartphone but rather in the vastness of memory.

Why Every Writer Needs a Dark, Safe Place

For the past week or so, this has been my view when I sit down to write:

That image is not an error. I have literally been writing in the dark, with my favorite bandana as a blindfold and my computer on my lap. Thank goodness I learned how to type without looking when I was eight, or my exercise in getting the romance back into my writing would have failed miserably.

But I’m so happy to tell you it’s really worked. It’s liberating, actually, to not have to see the words as they appear on the screen, and to know that I can’t delete more than a few keys because otherwise I’d lose my train of thought. When I’m writing in the dark, there are no distractions—I can’t let my gaze wander away from my computer to my bookshelf or the park outside, or to my dogs playing tug-of-war. I can’t remove my fingers from the keyboard unless I want to struggle to find my place again. By forcing myself to see nothing, the images in my mind become clearer, and I worry less about how they look on the screen and more about just jotting them down. I’ve become kind of addicted to this game of typing for what seems like a short amount of time, only to realize I have several pages’ worth of writing when I remove the blindfold. Of course, then it’s time to edit. That’s a job done with eyes wide open.

Around this time last year, I read a post by Dani Shapiro called On Writing in the Dark. Her darkness was a figurative place, but it resonated with me so much that ever since I’ve always wanted to get back there. In the post she laments not having stayed in the dark longer. Talking about her unpublished writing students, she writes: “In the dark, they are free to grow, blooming like midnight plants. Even though it’s not always comfortable, that darkness is the best possible place a writer can live. There are no expectations, no definitions.”

But stepping “out of the dark” doesn’t just apply to published writers anymore; it applies to aspiring authors wanting to build their online platforms, writers who monitor Twitter and blogs to learn more about craft and the publishing industry. Eventually we realize that all this information needs to be managed properly or else our world gets too noisy. We need to be able to step away sometimes, lower the volume, turn off the lights, and find a quiet place with our thoughts.

For me, for now, I feel like I’ve finally found that place. I just wasn’t expecting it to be so literal.

Have you ever tried writing in the dark? What do you do when you need to clear your mind and focus on the writing?