Weekend Edition – Conflicted. Torn between duty and dreams. Plus Good Reads and Writing Tips

Conflicted. A writer torn between duty and dreams.

“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve (or save) the world and a desire to enjoy (or savor) the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”

– E.B. White

three geese flyingI love the fall. It is, by far, my favorite season of the year. I love the cooler weather, the blazing foliage, and the return to routine. I love the sense of industry that comes in September, even though I am well past my school years. And, I love the prospect of curling up in cozy environs with a good book and a steaming mug of hazelnut truffle tea. (Fall and winter reading has always held more appeal for me than sticky, sandy summer reading.)

But, most of all, I love this season because, falling as it does at the three-quarter mark on the calendar, it is the perfect time to reflect on the year’s progress and, perhaps, find a new beginning. Autumn’s bittersweet quality brings me a sense of quiet peace and acceptance with a sharp edge of urgency and angst. The column I wrote for my local paper this week reflected on how this season’s inclination towards gentle assessment and intentional redirecting differs from the champagne-sipping pressures and sequin-clad expectations of the January New Year:

September is a much more appropriate time for a progress report. You are almost a year older (and presumably wiser), so you have greater perspective than you did nine months ago. The end of the year is in sight, providing a sense of urgency; but there are still a few months left in case you discover that your best intentions have, inexplicably, come off the rails. There is still a chance for the little GPS-inspired voice in your head to whisper reassuringly, “Recalculating.”

With the happy chaos of summer behind us and the joyful insanity of the holidays still far enough away to be safely ignored, we steal a moment to catch our collective breath. The turning foliage, a subtle reminder of our own mortality, prompts us to consider all the things we have put off for another day.

While no one would blame you for sighing with resignation at the enormity of everything left undone, September’s New Year is not without hope. After all, remember, there is still time before the end-of-year reckoning. You still have a chance to resurrect your resolutions from the rubble. Go ahead – pick up your lucky writing pen, lace up your running shoes, call about that cooking class. Whatever you had hoped to achieve, it’s not too late.

And herein lies my conflict.

Looking back at the year, I am mostly pleased with what I see. My business is doing well. I had a wonderful summer with my daughter and beau. I have done a better job at prioritizing time with friends and making space in my daily rounds for self-care. I have, most recently, taken baby steps towards increasing my commitment to “my” writing (as opposed to the writing I do for my content marketing clients). But, I still feel like I am, as Tolkien describes, standing on the edge of a knife.

Another year has gone by – flown by, in fact. 2014 is winding down and while I have lived a good year, I am really no closer to the Big Goals I set for myself. Though September invites quiet reflection, I also feel an urge to take fierce action – to make an abrupt correction that will send me careening back to the path I envisioned in January. But the risks associated with that kind of move are great. While the impulsive child in me would like to grab the wheel and burn rubber back toward her intended destination, the responsible adult in me knows that a more gradual realignment is a safer, saner course.

I don’t know which one to listen to.

Life is short and time runs fast. How are you feeling at this point in the year? Do you have any desire to do something a little crazy in order to get closer to realizing your temporarily neglected dreams? Or, are you feeling bound to duty and considering a more subtle approach to getting yourself back on track?


What I’m Writing:

nanowrimo shieldMy writing output these days is the usual bill-paying content marketing (websites, and ebooks, and case studies, oh my!), bi-weekly columns (thank the gods for a small, creative outlet), and morning pages. Nothing super exciting, but not too shabby either.

As September draws to a close, however, November and NaNoWriMo loom large on the horizon. A writer friend invited me to indulge in this international month of insanity with her. In the past, I have completed my 50,000 words to cross the NaNoWriMo finish line a “winner.” I have also give up halfway through and refused to even try. Talk about feeling conflicted.

IF I decide to do NaNoWriMo this year, I want to have something specific to work on. In other words, if I’m going to make this work, I need to make some time in October for planning and outlining.

Yeah, I know that kind of goes against the “no plot, no problem” spirit of NaNoWriMo, but if I’m going to invest 40 – 60 hours, I’d at least like to come out on the other side with a sh!##y first draft that’s worth editing.

So – what about you? Have you ever done NaNoWriMo? Are you thinking about it this year?

What I’m Reading:

book toujours provenceAfter recently re-read (via Audible) Peter Mayle’s wonderful A Year in Provence, I found I was reluctant to leave the south of France. I returned, again via Audible, to indulge in more culinarily inclined essays in Mayle’s follow-up collection, Toujours Provence. The duplicity of the season may cause my heart and head to dance back and forth between the shoulds and wants in my life, but plugging back into Mayle’s world of pastoral scenery, five-course lunches, and gastronomically experienced neighbors reminds me that what really matters is living in and savoring the moment.

book lord lady bunnyMy daughter and I also finished reading another follow-up book, this one from Polly Horvath. In Lord and Lady Bunny Almost Royalty, we once again get to ride along as the intrepid Mr. Bunny and ever-stylish Mrs. Bunny journey from their home in Canada to the realm of Queen Elizabeth. As with the first book, Mr. and Mrs. Bunny Detectives Extraordinaire, this tale is a fun read aloud with characters who aren’t afraid to speak their minds. I especially enjoy the good-natured ribbing between Mr. and Mrs. Bunny (or, perhaps, I should say, “Lord and Lady Bunny”).

book empowerFinally, I also read a few short stories from a couple of anthologies on my Kindle. The first, Empower: Fight Like a Girl is a collection of short stories by women TV writers. As its title suggests, the book’s theme is about empowering girls and women. I discovered the collection via Kam Miller’s (one of the contributing writers) and am enjoying doling out the stories over time. Though the genres (supernatural, crime, horror) are not my usual fare, it’s been fun to see how each of these writers chose to embody empowerment.

book irregular creaturesNext, I read the first story in Chuck Wendig’s Kindle Single, Irregular Creatures. I’ve been reading Wendig’s blog, terribleminds, for a while. I am by turns fascinated, impressed, and offended. Wendig is not the type to pull punches. His style is in-your-face and completely unapologetic. I bought Irregular Creatures after reading his blog rant titled, A PSA About Nude Photos. Though it is rife with, shall we say, colorful language, I thought it was spot on and passionate and worth the read. It made me want to support him as a writer, to learn more about the kinds of characters and stories that might come from such a mind … so I started small with the $0.99 collection of short stories. So far, I’m enjoying it and already considering additional purchases from his impressively prolific pen.

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin reading quiet

Here’s to hoping you find your own quiet time to accept the season’s invitation to stop and muse a while, to get all introspective, and to look ahead at the next adventure. Happy writing and happy reading. See you on the other side! 

Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and – occasionally –  trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.


Quote sourced from The New York Times on the Web

18 thoughts on “Weekend Edition – Conflicted. Torn between duty and dreams. Plus Good Reads and Writing Tips

  1. I love this! I think many writers can relate so well to your conflict. In fact, my last post is “the Virtue of Obsession”. I recently had the luxury of completely surrendering to creativity for a few days. I like your point about this time of year being ripe for assessing where we’re at etc.

  2. Oh that quote at the beginning! It describes my every day 😳 At your recommendation I popped over to Chuck Wendig’s blog and read his post on naked photos, and thought he was spot on. I love a bit of cussing, and the image of Shiva with a many armed one finger salute will stay with me for dome time 😄 I also really enjoyed Meg Rosoff’s article about not rushing your writing, and I get that, I really do. We have a life, and it demands to be lived, not just written about. Thanks for your weekend blog Jamie 🍂

    • It’s one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite writers.

      I’m glad you liked Wendig’s post. I think he did a great job – the Shiva image IS wonderful. Talk about raining down revenge. 😉

      I have to say, I was kind of relieved to read Rosoff’s post. I don’t create well under pressure. 😉

  3. Looking back over my goals for this year, I’ve achieved only one of ten. But instead of ruminating on my failures, I’m trying to plan small steps I can take over the next three months to get myself closer to those goals. I find the smaller timeframe encourages tangible progress rather than vague ideas about what you’d like to do over the course of a year. Recalculating indeed!

    • I agree – shorter timeframes can be very helpful in terms of narrowing our focus. If you have “a whole year” to do something, it’s easy to put it off until tomorrow. If you only have a few months, you’re more apt to feel like you ought to start now. Great point!
      Happy recalculating! 🙂

  4. I’m definitely considering doing NaNoWriMo. I agree an impending deadline or timeframe is often more achievable, there’s less opportunity to de distracted by other projects or events. Even a daily writing goal is more effective. As a screenwriter, the value of outlining is extremely paramount and is often the difference between writing a few 100 words to 1,000’s of words per day. 🙂

    • I agree – much easier to hack away at that minimum word count when you have a plan of attack. 😉

      What kind of screenwriting do you do? I know next to nothing about that form, but have always been interested because when I write stories, I “see” them as movies – the sets and scenes, the lighting, the blocking, etc. Instead of creating the world from words, it’s more like I see the world with my eyes and then do my best to describe what I see.

      • I started out writing features, then shorts. I’ve been writing for five years. The genre I write for is mostly drama. My first few screenplays have been written purely for learning the craft. I’m writing a Web series pilot at the moment.

        I start with the characters, then develop their world. The story springs from that. In a similar way, I picture scenes in my head as a movie. I’ve learned so much about structure and character development, that crosses over into novel writing.

        Have you thought about writing for film or tv?

      • Hello, again, Amelia. 🙂 I have thought, fleetingly, about writing for film or TV and am interested in learning more about that. My visual side definitely seems to lean in that direction, though my love of language longs for the novel form. In the end, it’s all story, right? 😉 TKS for the suggestion!

  5. I, for one, have avoided taking drastic action in my writing life for years, but lately I’ve been considering instituting some major changes. One of these changes involves doing everything I can to win NaNoWriMo–I tried last year but failed. This year will be much different in terms of how I schedule the month of November.
    I found this post to be thoughtful and inspirational, and I wish you the best of luck in your mid-year goals!

    • Thank you for your kind words. I’m glad you enjoyed the post.
      Nanowrimo is a challenging beast. Though I managed to “win” my first time out (in … 2009?), I have since either opted out or dropped out – not so much due to lack of time as to lack of belief that the process would deliver a benefit. Hence my desire to carve out some time for outlining before I commit to the 50,000 words. 😉

      Best of luck in your writing adventures!

  6. Pingback: desiderata | Young and Lost in City +63

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