1. My Dog – The Fed Ex dude is here again. Don’t worry… I’m on it.
2. My Mother – Why aren’t you answering my phone calls? Why aren’t you responding to me!! I found an ant in the kitchen. I think it means something! Is it a sign? I think it's a sign. Why aren’t you answering me??? I Love You, Mom.
3. The Man Who Captured My Heart – What’s for dinner?
4. Random Editor At Random Magazine – You are awesome. We love you. We’ll pay you two grand a month to type the alphabet and use lots of “ly” words.
5. The Pekin Duck I Feed In The Backyard Every Morning – I didn’t get enough corn. When are you coming back? And your dog won’t shut up. I can’t lay eggs under this kind of pressure.
6. My Man’s Eighteen Year Old Son – What am I supposed to get Dad for Fathers Day?
7. My Man’s Twenty Two Year Old Daughter – What am I supposed to get Dad for Fathers Day?
8. My Neighbor – That duck is crapping all over your back porch.
9. My Other Neighbor – That duck is pooping on your back porch again.
10. The Man Who Captured My Heart – Why haven’t you answered me? What’s for dinner tonight?
11. My Sister – F******g call Mom.
I keep a small stack of books on my desk. During times when I’ve not had a writing table, the pile sat on the nightstand beside my bed. It’s important to me these books stay close. They are my writers Bible, the guides to my personal enlightenment. I need them on hand.
This small stack has become my essential, invaluable Crew. My Swifty Squad.
Some came to me via friends. One from my Mother. Another I found on my own at a used book sale. Some I’d never heard of, but all broke my heart at a time when my heart was already broken. Does that make sense?
A new breaking?
The years I squandered, searching for love, for meaning, for content were wrapped in a little burrito of good words and the wisdom of those who passed my way before.
So when people ask (because they always do when they find out you’re a writer) what books I’m reading, what books I love… I refer to this little stack of loveliness.
As A Man Thinketh by James Allen
The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Letters To A Young Poet by Rilke
Chosen By A Horse by Susan Richards
The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo
The more I write, the more I find it necessary to study. I remember hearing a joke once about attorneys… something along the lines of “Why would you pick a job where you have to study for the rest of your life?”
I’m pretty sure writing is exactly the same, except I love to study now. LLLLUUUURRRRVVVV it. I look forward to getting on my computer and scouring my social media, looking for new writers, new motivators and publications. I can spend hours reading articles and book reviews and blogs.
The other thing I’ve noticed as I’ve moved along in this process? The more I study, the more my mind becomes an idea machine. How does that happen and where was that machine when I was first starting out? Back then, I couldn’t come up with enough ideas to fill an index card. Now, I keep running lists with paragraphs of notes, some articles half written already on my phone, on my laptop and in a notebook in my purse. Oh… and a stack of index cards on my desk.
The more I delve into the world of writing, the more I fall in love with it. The process of finding and pitching new publications exhilarates me. I keep an open file in excel where I track publications, who I pitch to and who I’ve heard back from. Every day the list gets longer and every day, I think to myself that it isn’t long enough.
Sometimes the ideas come so fast, that I have a dozen documents open on my laptop and work through each one, a little at a time. I worry my mind moves so fast that there is no way I’ll ever finish all of them. But then I read an interview with a writer I admire and she talked about how she usually has so many tabs and documents open that her computer slows down. And then I saw an interview with James Patterson on CBS Sunday Morning and they showed his office and how many open projects he’s working on and I thought… nah… that’s just how we roll.
Miles of homework that never ends.
As a writer… and someone who believes in “signs” from above… and an eternal optimist…. I believe there is meaning in all the precious details.
My cell phone died. Or rather, it was slowly murdered by the dude at the cell phone glass repair place in the mall. I go into full panic mode every time something goes awry with my cell phone. I’m like Chicken Little running around screaming “The sky is falling!”
In this case… “My cell phone is dying!”
So I’m on the household “back-up” phone. Ironically, I was the last one to use it when my cell phone died in a tragic sea kayaking accident on vacation last year.
Going through the phone today, I found old text messages that didn’t make sense anymore.
And one precious text from my darling friend and former Editor, Karen. She past away from cancer earlier this year.
As a writer, I struggle with feelings of inadequacy. I am constantly selling myself. I am forever trying to find time to write and pitch and query. I am “on” all the time, looking for ideas or inspiration. My brain is constantly working toward more. Whatever more may be.
My hopefulness knows no bounds. It can’t. It’s not allowed to.
Karen was my encourager. She understood what I was doing and had as much enthusiasm for my career as I did. She was always passing on ideas or names or juicy tidbits that might somehow spur me on to a new level of greatness.
She became my friend. She was rare and exciting. And every Editor I work with, from here to eternity will be compared with her indelible spirit.
That’s the gem in the kink of this months cell phone drama. The beautiful and delicate detail that could have been overlooked: Karen was here today… and in two little text messages, she reminded me how much I missed her and how grateful I am to have had her in my life.
What a gift.
I love springy, green grass that cushions my toes and makes me feel like I’m walking on soft clouds of fluff.
I love an old pair of jeans, washed to soft perfection.
I love a spring day when the earth smells new. If spring cold be a color, is would be pastel in shade and roll around the air like a wiggly puppy: in and out and all over at the same time.
I love bright pink nail polish and a fresh pedicure. My friend once called this shade Dime Store Whore Pink.
And I love the ability to find a spot in the yard that doesn't have a small pile of duck, dog or rabbit poo.
I wanted to be a lot of things when I was young: a vet, a gymnast, astronaut, Olympian. I even had a phase when I was trying to be a park ranger out west.
I might have been infatuated with the idea of living in a cabin in the woods and getting one of those Smokey the Bear hats.
(I might still be in love with that idea, hat included)
However, I don’t recall a time when I was going around telling people I wanted to be a writer. Writing was just something I always did. It was like the latent baseball stats some men seemed to have from birth. (How do they know all that stuff? Where does it come from?) Words were always in the background. I have journals filled with pages of writing in my scrubby childhood hand. I remember sitting on rocks by a stream or a log in the woods and watching the way sunlight moved and the shadows leaves made.
I took in sensory details like I was writing them in a notebook.
At some point, it became obvious. I should write! Of course it took a few more years before I actually put my butt in a chair with a notebook. And maybe five more years before I sent any of my precious words out in to the Big Bad Public Eye…
a.k.a. Magazine Editors.
But send them out, I did. A few rejection letters came.
Then someone said yes.
I was with one of my best friends when it happened. I read the email and started flummoxing about, crying, trying to talk and not make sense... He thought someone had died.
Instead, I was about embark on a career that the ten year old me, on a log in the woods, wouldn’t have imagined.
Today, when I tell people I’m a writer, the response is a wholesome mix of awe, respect and wonder at how I can support myself, forgo regular paychecks, insurance and the ability to plan a cool vacation that involves a balcony overlooking the beach instead of a friends couch.
To be honest, I have all the same responses everyone else does. Especially the frustration at planning awesome vacations.
On a daily basis.
But damn, the girl in my memory… the one on the log? She thinks this whole writer thing is pretty cool. She’s the only one I wanted to impress anyway.