NaBloPoMo #1: A day late and more than a dollar short

…but better late than never?

With yesterday being November 1, we saw the beginning of what is always a huge month in the writing world. National Novel Writing Month and National Blog Posting Month are taking over my Twitter feed and Facebook like nobody’s business.

I’ve always wanted to participate in this, but never seemed to find the time. And yesterday followed the trend. I had intentions of writing something, but before I knew it, I had turned off my computer and, quite frankly, didn’t feel like waiting for it to boot back up. But I did write. In a notebook. With a pen. I KNOW. It caused me to tweet this:

Putting pen to paper is so cathartic!

But I wrote. And it felt awesome.

And then this evening, I saw that Mary is participating in NaBloPoMo. And because she is often the inspiration for a lot of things in my life, I’m going to suck it up and do it too. SO I’ll post TWICE tonight to make up for yesterday.

I’ll go more in depth with what I wrote about last night in the next post, but it was basically about filling holes. One hole that’s been taking over my life lately is my lack of writing, in all venues, not just this blog.

There’s only one way to fill in holes and that is to dump a little shovelful of dirt in at a time, right? Here’s to that first shovel. It’s always the hardest, but before I know it, the hole will be filled in and I won’t have to jump over it anymore.

Ignorance Is Not Always Bliss

Have you ever felt so completely ignorant about something that you were actually ashamed? I’ve felt that way a couple of times in the past year about one particular issue.

One of my assignments for my freelance work recently was to research attractions in New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Arizona for a “vacation planner” for an art exhibition happening in New Mexico later this spring. Throughout my research, I learned a lot about the Navajo Nation and Navajo traditions.

It stirred in me this strong desire to travel out west again, to hit places like New Mexico and Arizona. A desire that I had no idea I would feel when I went to Montana last October. But it was that same sense of ignorance and a desire to learn that made me crave the West.

As an educated 24-year-old woman, I know very little about Native Americans. The people who were on this land long before the colonists, the people who lived and loved and worshipped the land.

For those who may not have been reading my blog at the time I was in Montana having my first experience with Native American culture (click the link to read the whole post!), I want to share this excerpt of a post with you:

It was a group of six men called the Chief Cliff Singers from the Kootenai Tribe in Montana. They are led by a man named Mike Kenmille, and his fellow performers tonight were all his sons and nephews. They used a large drum that is, get this…1,000 years old. When they first struck the drum, I got chills. They all play it together and sing and while I have absolutely no clue what they were saying, I couldn’t help but shiver at the sheer significance of it all.

For the second song, Mike told us that he also had his great-nephew there, an adorable little boy I had noticed dancing in his mother’s arms, and brought him up on stage. He told us about how in their tribe, children learn the songs and how to play the drum while still in the womb. As this little boy sat on his dad’s lap on stage, he was mimicking the drumming actions of his father, uncles, cousins and great-uncle. During this song, I teared up. I was on the verge of completely sobbing and I couldn’t really explain why at first. But then I realized why.

I am 23 years old. And this is the first experience I have had with the native people of my country. Their traditions are so strong, so sound and so much a part of their lives that I couldn’t help but wonder what they would have been like had their land not been taken away from them. And why…why in the world did I never have an experience like this earlier in my life?

I would love to get the opportunity to experience reservation life someday and write about it. To learn the history and the traditions and the culture. To get to know the people. To go back to Montana and watch the Kootenai children learn the songs. To understand why it’s so important that Navajo children learn how to weave. After all, their history is, in a way, our history.

I know more about aboriginal Australians than I do about my own country’s indigenous population, and that is unacceptable in my mind. But I think it’s representative of our society these days. People are fascinated by aboriginal Australians, by African tribes, by the Aztecs and the Mayans (if only because they’re telling us when the world is going to end). But not many Americans will seek knowledge about Native Americans.

I’m hoping to be able to change that for myself in the future. Maybe that’s an angle I’ll have to take in a travel pitch sometime soon.

And the Bad Blogger Award goes to…

Me!

I have been atrociously remiss with blogging the past week or so, but life kind of got in the way. So what things have been taking up my blogging time? Well, here are just a few:

  • A breakfast date with my favorite Texans: Last Monday I met up with Mary and Drew for breakfast. They were in town for a family event and before Mary took Drew to the airport, we met at a nearby Denny’s for bacon flapjacks, breakfast burritos and skillets, as well as lots of laughter and catching up. Even if it was only for an hour, I’m so glad I got to see them.
  • Car problems: On Monday when I went out to my car to leave for breakfast, I was not-so-pleasantly surprised to find that someone had knocked my driver’s side mirror off. Soooo there’s been a lot of hoopla with that…calling the insurance company, duct taping the mirror on, searching for the part cheap online, trying to organize a friend of the family to install it for me, etc. Yayyy for ignorant people who live in my apartment building.
  • Childhood purging: On Wednesday last week, I went home to help my mom clean out my bedroom there. This meant getting rid of pretty much all signs of my childhood. Stuffed animals? Gone. Really embarrassing CD collection? Gone. (And yes, that is the Space Jam soundtrack.) Glow in the dark stars on the ceiling? Adios. These are things I wasn’t ready to part with when I moved out in December 2009, but it’s time to say goodbye now.
  • Writing, writing, writing: So I’ve been writing, just not here. I’ve been working on my travel writing course assignments, which have been…interesting. Not entirely thrilled with them so far, but hopefully I’ll be getting better. AND I’ve recently become a writer for Go! Girl Guides, which I am psyched about. My first post for them went up on Friday about how to conquer public transportation, so go check it out! I’m anxious to write more for them and see where this could lead!
  • Reading, reading, reading: They say you should read what you want to write, so I’ve been absorbing myself in travel magazines lately, reading them cover to cover and trying to pick up inspiration, tips and some goals to work toward.
  • Best burger ever: I spent Friday and Saturday with Kirsten. Much of that time was spent watching episodes of How I Met Your Mother, including the one where they are on the hunt for the best burger in NYC. This reminded me that I have been craving a burger for like a month now, so we set out on a mission. Destination? Ray’s Hell Burger in Arlington. Time the establishment opens? Noon. Time we got there? 12:05. Number of tables available? 0. My burger of choice? The New Jack Zing. A cajun spiced burger, cooked PERFECTLY and OH so juicy, pepperjack cheese, grilled onions, charred jalapeños, lettuce, tomato and raw red onions. All on a fantastic bun. Number of paper towels I used? Five. Number of times I refilled my water? Three. Worth it? Absolutely. The best burger I’ve ever had, bar none. I can’t wait to go back.
  • Aussie Aussie Aussie!: (Oi Oi Oi!) Last night, I got to spend some time catching up with several of my friends from my semester abroad in Australia. One of the Australian girls is in the States this week to see her American boyfriend, who was part of my program. They decided to come to the DC area since Dustin, Will and I are all local and we could get a pretty big group together. Another one of our girl friends came down from Syracuse, so we had a decent sized group put together! I learned that I can revert back to my Australia partying style very easily, that Aussie accents sound a lot thicker after three years away from it, and that even after three years apart, some things never change and I still adore these people. It was a lovely night (that led to a not-so-lovely morning) and I am thrilled we all got together.
And of course today was Easter, so there was the requisite family time, which I always love. Hopefully I will be able to get back into the swing of blogging again this week. I do have a lot of things to be working on right now though, so we shall see! 
I hope everyone had a lovely weekend!

It Takes Guts to Show Up for Life

When my roommate gave me “The Heroine’s Bookshelf” for my birthday, I was intrigued by it and excited to check it out, but I had no idea what to expect. When I dove into it, what I found was the reflections of a woman on the lessons she learned from some of the most beloved books by female authors, mixed in with the histories of the authors themselves and how those backgrounds influenced their works.

Some of the books were ones I haven’t read (yet), such as “Gone With The Wind.” (It’s been on my bookshelf since I was like nine…I’ll get to it eventually.) And others are some of my all-time favorites, such as “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Jane Eyre,” and “Little Women.”

I appreciated Erin Blakemore’s ability to weave the histories of the authors with the stories of the heroines, all while giving her personal experiences with the books and the lessons she learned from them.

From the books I have read, I think she really pulled out accurate life lessons from them. For example, we learned about compassion from Scout Finch, simplicity from Laura Ingalls, and steadfastness from Jane Eyre.

But as I approached the end of the book the other night, I found myself dog-earring one page in particular. In reference to Jo March of “Little Women,” Blakemore writes the following:

Ambition is a heroine’s trait only when it adds to life instead of detracting from it. Louisa [May Alcott] would be proud and happy to see that a modern woman can choose any avenue for her life’s work, that our road is easier than the one she trod so resolutely and so ruefully. But fewer obstacles doesn’t mean fewer obligations. Though we have it relatively easy, we still face the challenges of being taken seriously, of proving that our efforts have some meaning and worth. It takes guts to show up for life, to tackle what we are handed. And it takes even more strength and courage not to confuse self-sacrifice with self-sustenance.

I couldn’t help but reread those last two sentences over and over again.

It takes guts to show up for life. What a powerful statement. Life is a funny thing. It’s forced upon us in a lot of ways. We’re dealt good and bad cards. We can either just float through life taking what’s handed to us without asking questions, or we can truly show up. Be present. Be active. Have the guts to show up and participate in our own lives. Tackle what we are handed.

Things are going to be hard every once in a while. They’re going to suck. But if we truly show up for our lives and tackle them head on, we’ll be better off for it in the end.

I think that’s what I’ve been trying to vocalize for myself the past couple of months, but I didn’t know how. I wasn’t showing up for my life. I sure as hell wasn’t standing up for my life. I was just letting things get thrown at me without tackling them. Now, I’m taking it all on. I have guts. I’m showing up. I’m shuffling the cards I’ve been dealt and I’m making the best hand I can out of it. I’m growing and I’m learning. And every day is a struggle in some way, but I’m really making a true effort to show up every single day.

But as Blakemore reminded me, “A heroine’s work — growth, self-definition, barrier-smashing — is never really done.”

I wasn’t expecting to file this read under The Self-Help Files, but I don’t think I have a choice now.

I’ll leave you now with one last passage from this chapter:

Let us heed Louisa’s warning and do as Jo does, taking up the work that’s right for us instead of that which we feel obligated to pursue…

Here’s to showing up for life, to having the guts to do what is right for you, and to learning lessons from the heroines we’ve been blessed to have in our lives, both real and fictional.

Writer’s Block

I have been suffering from a mad case of writer’s block since Sunday, at least in relation to my blog. I’ve been fine with my freelancing stuff, which is good since that’s where I need to be productive. But I’ve been missing my blog this week.

Creativity

I’ve started writing a post at least three times, but I can’t seem to finish it or even be happy with what I’ve written already.

Part of it may be that my blog was a common topic of conversation this past weekend. My friend Dustin called me on Friday night to confirm the plans for my birthday party on Saturday. After the usual “Hi, how are you, what’s going on?” conversation, he said:

OK, before I say anything else, I just have to tell you…
[insert ominous music in my head]
I’ve been reading your blog.”

At which point, I’m pretty sure my heart stopped. There’s always this weird sense of dread when you find out someone new has been reading your blog. I braced myself for what he would say, not sure what to expect.

“Freaking awesome, Lindsay.”

He went on for another few minutes about how he enjoyed reading so many of my posts, how he had no idea I was a writer, how I was able to take him right back to Australia with my posts about our time there, that I was really talented, etc., etc.

I felt tears fill my eyes as he told me all of this, not really knowing what to say other than a strained “thank you” through the tears and the ridiculous smile that I couldn’t wipe off my face for an hour or more.

While I get comments on here (and on Facebook) from people regularly, it’s always the same people. And I love those comments. I really do. I love reading your insights, taking your thoughts into consideration, getting advice from you.

But knowing that I had a “lurker” out there in the form of a very close friend really meant a lot to me. He’s always been someone whose opinion I’ve trusted and valued in the three years I’ve known him, so to hear him say that made me immensely happy. And especially if you know Dustin, he is the definition of blunt. If he doesn’t like something, you better believe he’ll let you know.

So, Dustin, if you’re reading this one…thank you.
You’ll never truly know what your words meant to me.

If you tell me you love my blog, you get a hug. But I'll still probably call you a "night terror." :)

The blog came up a few more times over the weekend…hanging out at my apartment Saturday afternoon, at the bar Saturday night, at breakfast Sunday morning.

And I think that is a big part of why I haven’t been able to write since my post on Saturday morning.

It’s like suddenly I realized…people are reading this thing. I’m feeling the pressure to keep up the quality of the posts. Which should be a good thing. I should be writing high quality stuff if I’m putting it out there for everyone to read. But suddenly…I’m intimidated as hell.

What if they don’t like this post? What if I’m not witty enough? What if I’m not being deep enough in this one? Is someone going to stop reading after they read this?

I’ve always looked for validation from others. And getting it this weekend, from an unexpected source, was amazing. But…where do I go now?

There are a few ideas floating around up there, half a dozen drafts saved, and a whole lot of emotion bursting inside this full heart waiting to get out. It’ll happen. I’ll get there. Just bear with me through the writer’s block and I’ll try not to disappoint.

And hey…thanks for reading. Really.

The Thrill of a Deadline

“Journalist: a person without any ideas but with an ability to express them;
a writer whose skill is improved by a deadline:
the more time he has, the worse he writes.”

Karl Kraus

Ever since my sophomore year of high school when I took my very first journalism class, I lived by deadlines. After seven years of journalism training between high school and undergrad, deadlines became natural. They dictate your speed, your intensity, your passion. They give you a finite goal to work toward and a source of accountability.

I have always worked better under a deadline because it puts some sense of pressure on the situation. No matter how late I had to stay up, how tired I was, how delirious I became, I never missed a deadline.

In my last job, I rarely had deadlines unless I imposed them on myself. There were multiple projects that I was told to work on, but I was never given a deadline. And once they slipped the mind of my supervisor, I often let them slip my mind as well while I moved on to the next project. I didn’t work well in that position.

I missed deadlines. I missed the pressure, the thrill, the stress, the anticipation. And I missed the result. Because no matter how stressful the experience of trying to meet a deadline can be, you always get a reward. Your work in print or on the web. This is one of the main reasons I decided to move on from that job and pursue my passion for writing and journalism. I missed deadlines.

I’ve sort of been floundering a little bit the past couple of weeks. Just waiting for something to come along and not really feeling confident in myself during that process. Yesterday, after a lovely two-hour lunch with my former co-worker / mentor, I came home and checked my e-mail, not expecting much, but trying to be positive. I had three assignments waiting for me from the company I just signed a subcontractor agreement with.

Three writing assignments. With three deadlines. As the details rolled in, my heart started racing and my fingers started frantically moving along the keys replying to my liaison within the company. And while I was a little bit stressed out as I realized I have deadlines each of the next three Mondays and I’ve got plans like birthday celebrations and concerts and doctor’s appointments, I couldn’t help but notice that a smile was creeping across my face.

I’m back, I thought. They’re back. The deadlines. The thrill. The excitement. The stress. The anticipation. And soon, the reward. In the form of web content. In the form of experience. And, perhaps most importantly right now, in the form of a paycheck.

Call me a journalism geek if you must, but man have I missed those deadlines. Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to go get to work.

Work. I love the sound of that.

Feeling Whole & Taking Control

Sometimes, you just don’t know what it is that is going to make you feel whole. And when it comes, even if it shouldn’t, it can take you by surprise and change your entire attitude.

For a couple weeks now, I’ve been making a list of potential article ideas for one of the freelance writing sites I signed up on. I registered three weeks ago, but had yet to write a single word, other than these lists. Ideas that were floating around in my head haphazardly, without any real substance or flow to them.

Suddenly, last night, without rhyme or reason, my mind started moving in the right direction. I had real ideas. Real things to write about that might actually, maybe, hopefully pleeeeease be of interest to people, and result in some sort of standing on this website.

As I was washing my face before bed, my head was exploding with ideas. While brushing my teeth, I came running back into my bedroom to jot down a note or type a few words to get across the point I was working on in this crazy head of mine. I was impatiently waiting for my toothbrushing cycle to be over (thank you, Sonicare, for ensuring I brush the proper length of time every single night) so I could get back to my computer and get more of the thoughts down before they floated right out of my head again.

I finished up a conversation I was having with a friend on gchat, and I sat down on my bed. (I don’t have a desk…but I could use a lapdesk of some sort for my MacBook…hmmm, birthday’s coming up…but I digress.) Instead of sitting in my usual place at the head of the bed, propped up by my pillows, I sat at the foot of my bed, facing my pillows, back to the mirror. I wasn’t going to get distracted by anything, and I was going to force myself into a zone of work rather than my usual lackadaisical blogging. The only things staring back at me were my photo collages from Australia, which always inspire me. I played Amos Lee very low in the background: chill music that wouldn’t distract me from the task at home, but would keep me from going crazy to the sound of my keys being assaulted by my fingers that were moving faster than my brain.

An hour later, I had furiously pounded out my first article that I am going to submit to this site. I need to do another edit of it, but I think it’s not too shabby. It’s nothing ground-breaking, but it was an easy one that I could get finished quickly and efficiently, without a ton of research time needed. Sometimes you just need to get that first obligation done and the rest just comes easy from there.

What surprised me, and I’m not sure why it did, was how accomplished, at ease and whole I felt while I was writing this article. I felt like me again, for the first time in a while. I was just telling my roommate earlier last night how I feel so lost right now, because it feels like nothing is in my control.

Maybe what I’m realizing though is that it is in my control, in some way. It’s in my control to do what makes me happy, what makes me feel like myself and what makes me feel whole. It’s in my control to get down to work and make it happen.

I can’t control what other people will do: which employers will ignore my cover letters, which ones will think my résumé is a joke, what my medical prognosis is going to be with this foot injury. I can’t control any of that.

But I can control how I deal with these things, both proactively and reactively. I can make sure I am putting my heart and soul into every single cover letter. I can work with an old friend on how to brand myself. I can pound out an article for a freelance site without any guarantee of payment or recognition, but what the hell, it will be a link to put out there. I can do my physical therapy exercises at home on my off days to make sure I’m keeping my foot active.

I can be in control. I have the power to take this into my own hands, at least with some elements of it all. Beyond what I have control over, well then, c’est la vie. There’s nothing I can do about it. If it doesn’t work out, it’s not meant to be, and something else is out there waiting for me. I just have to go find it. No more sitting idly and waiting for it to come to me. It’s time to take control.