Weekend Edition – Being Kind and Creative During a Revolution

River Reflections – Life Reflections

After writing more than 200 Weekend Edition and Sunday Shareworthy posts, my previously consistent weekend writing routine has hit a snag.  And I’m starting to think that’s not a bad thing.

As I explained in my a recent post, This Is Who I Am, “My identity as a writer is not yet fully baked.” And – while that makes the Type-A side of my brain twitch – that’s okay, too.

I’m experiencing a major shift in perspective that is making me reevaluate everything I do. This also, while a little painful, is not a bad thing. I’m taking a much closer, much harder look at WHY I engage in certain activities and routines. I’m getting more granular about assessing whether or not they deliver real value to me, to anyone else involved, or to the world in general. I’m shuffling the deck and reprioritizing and cleaning house.

It’s freeing, actually.

I read a couple of posts this week that got me thinking in new directions about some related questions and challenges that I’ve been rolling around in my head for a while now. The first post was by our very own Deborah Lee Luskin: How to  Sustain Political Activism and Write a Book.  I loved her no-nonsense take on how to marry persistence and self care while also exercising some reality checking on just how much activism you can handle on top of all the other obligations in your life. Smart woman.

The other piece was one I stumbled across via a Facebook friend. In her post, What If All I Want is a Mediocre Life?,  Krista O’Reilly-Davi-Digui writes,

The world is such a noisy place. Loud, haranguing voices lecturing me to hustle, to improve, build, strive, yearn, acquire, compete, and grasp for more. For bigger and better. Sacrifice sleep for productivity. Strive for excellence. Go big or go home. Have a huge impact in the world. Make your life count.

But what if I just don’t have it in me. What if all the striving for excellence leaves me sad, worn out, depleted. Drained of joy. Am I simply not enough?

Good question, Krista.

Too often, we forget that we cannot look outside ourselves to find happiness or contentment or approval. We have to stop letting media and other external influences define the life we think we want. We need to stop comparing ourselves to someone else’s vision of “right” or “good” or “enough.” As writers, the opportunities for comparison to other writers (those we admire from afar and our own peers) are excruciatingly endless.

Likewise, as many of us take on the time-consuming task of becoming more active citizens and feel the pressure to – quite literally – save the world, we need to step back and think hard about what our own definition of “enough” looks and feels like.

I read these two posts and was reminded of a recent column I wrote for my local paper. Though this piece starts out focusing on politics, as I read it again I realized that much of what I’m trying to convey also applies to the challenges of living a creative life in the midst of the chaos and responsibility of so-called “Real Life.”

Whether you’re talking about political activism, groundbreaking cultural shifts, or writing a novel, all Big Accomplishments are really just a long series of small, persistent actions. They all boil down to small, daily choices. Thinking of them in these terms, you realize that nothing (and I mean, nothing) is impossible.

With that, here is the column I wrote. Whether you are walking beside me as a writer, an activist, or both, I hope you enjoy it and find some words of encouragement and empowerment here. Think small. Think daily. Think happy. You’ve got this.

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For years, most of my social media profiles have included the line, “Believes in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings.” This quip has served as a kind of abbreviated mantra, meant to encompass the concepts of treating others as you would be treated, taking time to enjoy the little things in life, and always keeping hope and optimism in your heart.

But, as our country careens toward a new and frightening political reality, I find myself reading those words in a new context.

Perhaps more than ever before, the character and reputation of our country’s political leadership has been tainted by intrigue and espionage, shades of illegitimacy, vicious in-fighting, rampant corruption,  and — perhaps most worrying of all — the incoming administration’s growing disregard for the press, the truth, and First Amendment rights.

It’s no wonder many people are feeling overwhelmed and anxious. The current situation is exhausting. When I talk with people who share my concerns and my desire to make a difference, I hear the deep weariness in their voices and their sighs. Our conversations are punctuated with long pauses in which we try, through our disbelief, to process the latest headline or tweet.

There’s so much work to do.

It feels a little bit like being saddled with a monstrously huge and excruciating domestic chore. It’s as if you have to put away Christmas; pick up after an out-of-control kegger; and clean out the garage, basement, and attic … all in one day. Best of all, these extra responsibilities have been slapped on top of your existing day-to-day professional, family, and household obligations.

It can start to feel daunting and even hopeless very quickly, but here’s where a simplified version of my little mantra might offer some comfort. When I begin to worry that it’s all too much, I focus on the core attributes of my social media signature: small, daily, and happy.

When we look at someone’s personal transformation, a culture’s scientific achievement, or a turning point in world history, we are often so blown away by the scope and scale of the thing that we fail to see it for what it actually is. Our focus on the end result keeps us from fully comprehending the events that delivered the final outcome.

Without exception, there’s always much more to the story than we know; and nine times out of ten the “overnight” story is actually a tale of small, daily commitments. Each metamorphosis, discovery, and revolution is made up of countless small, daily actions. These unappreciated actions are unaccompanied by fanfare, but they are real building blocks of every great event in our personal and global history.

So, when you’re feeling overwhelmed and hopeless — whether in the face of a personal challenge or your desire to save the world — remember that you don’t have to take on everything at once. You just need to take small, daily actions that move you toward your goal, and you’ll get there. Sign a petition, make a donation, talk to someone, volunteer, attend a march, participate in a political meeting on the local or state level, read an in-depth news article, read a book, investigate an issue, share what you’ve learned on social media.

Keep your efforts small, and make them a daily practice, and you’ll be amazed at your progress.

Finally, don’t overlook the importance of “happy” in the equation. This isn’t just about being hopeful or optimistic. It’s also about operating from a place of joy and love. Instead of being motivated by fear or hate, be inspired by a desire to protect and share what you love. Only then can your actions become a comforting and heartfelt meditation on the beauty you see and seek. Let that feeling guide you and sustain you in your efforts. Small, daily, happy — this is how to be the change you want to see in the world.

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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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Writer Resistance – Roxane Gay

roxane-gay

Roxane Gay

According to Wikipedia, that most questionable but oh-so-convenient source of information, Roxane Gay is – among other things – “an American feminist writer, professor, editor and commentator … associate professor of English at Purdue University, [and] contributing opinion writer at The New York Times ...”

She is also, apparently, a champion for writers who want to stand up for their beliefs, even in the dog-eat-dog world of publishing.

Gay is perhaps best known for her NYT bestselling essay collection, Bad Feminist. But, she came across many new readers’ radar (mine included) in January when she pulled her upcoming book, How To Be Heard, from Simon & Schuster after learning that the company’s TED imprint, Threshold, had also signed to publish Milo Yiannopoulos’ book, Dangerous.

For those not familiar with Yiannopoulos, he is described in a related Washington Post article as a, “Greek-born, British writer who thrives on the publicity he generates by being outrageous. His incendiary and racist remarks about “Ghostbusters” actress and Saturday Night Live comedian Leslie Jones on Twitter got him permanently banned from the platform in July 2016.” They also note that, “His caustic viewpoints on women, minorities, Muslims and immigrants have made Yiannopoulos a de-facto mouthpiece for the ‘alt-right’ movement, short for alternative right, a small, far-right movement that seeks a whites-only state.”

In a January statement to Buzzfeed, Gay explained her stance and how it was her “putting my money where my mouth is.”

And to be clear, this isn’t about censorship. Milo has every right to say what he wants to say, however distasteful I and many others find it to be. He doesn’t have a right to have a book published by a major publisher but he has, in some bizarre twist of fate, been afforded that privilege. So be it. I’m not interested in doing business with a publisher willing to grant him that privilege. I am also fortunate enough to be in a position to make this decision. I recognize that other writers aren’t and understand that completely.

Yesterday, Simon & Schuster cancelled Yiannopoulos’ book deal. The publisher reportedly made the decision in response to statements Yiannopoulos made about pedophilia on a conservative radio talk show.

Gay posted a reaction to the publisher’s change of heart on her Tumblr:

In canceling Milo’s book contract, Simon & Schuster made a business decision the same way they made a business decision when they decided to publish that man in the first place. When his comments about pedophilia/pederasty came to light, Simon & Schuster realized it would cost them more money to do business with Milo than he could earn for them. They did not finally “do the right thing” and now we know where their threshold, pun intended, lies. They were fine with his racist and xenophobic and sexist ideologies. They were fine with his transphobia, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. They were fine with how he encourages his followers to harass women and people of color and transgender people online. Let me assure you, as someone who endured a bit of that harassment, it is breathtaking in its scope, intensity, and cruelty but hey, we must protect the freedom of speech. Certainly, Simon & Schuster was not alone in what they were willing to tolerate. A great many people were perfectly comfortable with the targets of Milo’s hateful attention until that attention hit too close to home.

.I share this story because I think there are several things we can learn from it and, specifically, from Gay’s words and actions.

First of all, freedom of speech must exist for everyone, even those whose opinions we find abhorrent. Censorship is not advisable as a solution because silencing any voice opens the door to silencing all voices. (Personally, I wish that more individuals and news institutions would stop providing free press and air time to people like Yiannopoulos, but that is – perhaps – an opinion for a different post.) We can, however, find other ways to condemn and cripple hate speech and oppression in all its forms. Gay’s choice to pull her book from the publisher was a powerful way for her to a) exercise her will in the situation, and b) bring wider attention to the story.

I also think there is something important about how far Yiannopoulos had to go before Simon & Schuster drew the line. I haven’t had time to fully digest what it means that, as Gay points out in her Tumblr post, the publisher was willing to look past all kinds of offensive opinions until pedophilia was in play. It makes me think of the quote from Martin Niemöller that begins, “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.”

Finally, I believe that artists – including writers – must very often play the role of canaries in the coal mine. While it is not mandatory that every creative endeavor carry the weight of political opinion, I believe history will show us again and again that artists are often the first line of defense against forces of oppression, in all their hideous forms.


Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. In addition to my bi-weekly weekday posts, you can also check out my Saturday Edition and Sunday Shareworthy archives. Off the blog, please introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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Top 5 Writer’s Weekend Edition Posts of 2016

As I mentioned in a recent post, I’m having a little trouble getting back in gear after the holidays. It’s the start of a shiny New Year, but I’m not quite all the way into the swing of it yet. Though part of my malaise may yet be due to holiday hangover, I think I must admit at this point – nearly two weeks into 2017 – that it’s also partly due to my continuing struggle to process and deal with all the crazy things happening in the news … in my country. The results of last year’s election have awakened my inner activist, and I find that I am frequently distracted by the latest developments on the political scene. (Those are words I never thought I’d write.)

That said, I am a writer, and I must write. So, while it may take me some time to adjust to being consistently productive in this new environment, that is what I will do.

For today, however, I would like to share the top five Writer’s Weekend Edition posts from last year. I’ve selected them based on the number of comments they received, because I figure if someone likes something enough to take the time to comment, that is the truest measurement of how much that piece of writing has done its job.

Looking forward to another great year of sharing my random (and not-so-random) thoughts with you, and hopefully once again having the privilege of engaging in dialog with you about those ramblings.

_jamie sig

 

 


Number 5: Stillness, Solitude, and the Practice of Writing

Retreat HesseWriting is a solitary act, but being a writer is not.  We live in the Real World with everyone else, and our lives are just as full and noisy and chaotic as the next person’s. We have friends and family to care for and enjoy. We have day jobs (with meetings and emails and conference calls) and households to manage (via negotiation and sometimes bribery). We are subjected to the same onslaught of news, social media, and sundry other local and global communications as every other non-luddite member of this hyper-connected human race.  [Read more …]

Number 4: 3 Steps to Your Perfect Writing Life

Image from megankatenelson.com

Image from megankatenelson.com

Do you remember the first time you wrote? I don’t mean the first time you formed the letters of the alphabet or wrote your name. I mean the first time you sat down alone and wrote something all your own. Do you remember what  you wrote, why you wrote it, or what it felt like to put words – your words – down on the page? Did you have any idea then that you would keep writing – day after day, year after year?

Today marks thirty-nine years, one month, and thirteen days since I wrote my first journal entry. I was seven years-old at the time, and the words I chose for the first page of my first notebook were not my own. They were Shakespeare’s.  [Read more …]


Number 3: Why Writing Matters (How to Justify Your Passion)

free diverSometimes, the gravity of real life threatens to pull me out of my creative orbit. The inescapable responsibility of being human weighs heavily – the “Real World” of work, relationships, and surviving on this fragile planet crushing in on me like pressure on an ascending deep sea diver. The closer I get to daylight, the further I am from the intimate, interior depths of my creative endeavors. That inner life disappears into the darkness below as I’m drawn toward the surface, my tenuous connection lost until I dive again.

Above the waves, my belief in the importance of the world below fades.  Submerged in the process, my work felt real and worthwhile. [Read more …]


Number 2: A Writer’s New Year

Like the years, the days are each part of a continuum.

Like the years, the days are each part of a continuum.

The New Year is a time to reflect and plan. It’s a time to reevaluate our priorities and our progress toward our goals. Midnight on December 31st marks the seam between the old and the new; it is the boundary between the past and the future – the threshold over which we must step in order to enter the next phase of our lives.

Damn. That’s a lot of pressure.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the idea of a fresh start. I also relish poring over the old year’s journal entries looking for thematic patterns in my thoughts and dreams. I love the creative process of finding the perfect word to embody my intentions for the year ahead, and the more arduous work of drilling down to discover exactly what those intentions might be. I love the myth and magic of the many New Year’s traditions that help us whisk away the old and ring in the new. [Read more …]


And the Number 1 Writer’s Weekend Edition Post of 2016 (based on number of comments): What’s Holding You Back from Your Writer’s Life?

Don't be scared of paper tigers.

Don’t be scared of paper tigers.

I’m in need of a writer-to-writer pep talk today, so I’ve decided to give myself one.

This isn’t going to be easy. I’m realizing, to my chagrin, that being optimistic and upbeat comes much more naturally when things are going well. Who’d have thought? Maintaining a good attitude is a bit more challenging when you’re stuck at the bottom of the proverbial well with no rope and no ladder (and a creeping suspicion that something malicious may be lurking down there with you, just waiting to jump out from the shadows and give you a nasty bite, or worse). [Read more …]


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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. In addition to my bi-weekly weekday posts, you can also check out my Saturday Edition and Sunday Shareworthy archives. Off the blog, please introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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Writer’s Weekend Edition – Grounding and Connecting

Michael Meade of mosaicvoices.org

Michael Meade of mosaicvoices.org

Other than a year-in-review post that I’m putting together for the 31st, this will be my final post of 2016. I can’t say I’m sorry to see this particular year come to an end, but – despite being a chronic optimist – I’m not entirely sure I’m ready to see what 2017 holds.

This year has been dramatic, to say the least, and the repercussions of recent political events here in the states and abroad will have far-reaching social, economic, and environmental consequences for years to come. They will change the stories we tell.

It’s a lot to take in.

We also suffered some especially painful losses in the world of arts and entertainment. Each year brings its own sorrows, but we lost so many amazing artists in 2016, among them David Bowie, Prince, Alan Rickman, Leonard Cohen, and Gene Wilder.  And we lost writers, too, including Harper Lee and Umberto Eco.

It’s no wonder that most people I know are looking forward to putting 2016 in the rearview mirror.

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Despite its many challenges, 2016 has also offered us opportunities for deep learning, which translates into a chance to grow. Like many other people I know, I am currently engaged in a self-taught crash course on the mechanics of politics. For the first time in my life, I am actively engaged in monitoring and discussing the kinds of news stories I’ve always avoided and ignored because they “weren’t my thing.” I was proud of not watching the news, of keeping my distance from such matters. Now I feel the sting of shame and regret for having been so irresponsible and for the unearned privilege that allowed me to say such things without even a twinge of remorse.

As a result of this new awareness, my eyes are now much more open to the true depth and breadth of the many injustices in the world. It’s not a pretty sight, and bearing witness even in the most benign way – via news stories and videos shared on social media – has wrought irrevocable changes in my perspective and my priorities. My inner champion for justice rails against the unceasing and often unspeakable wrongs perpetrated against not only the many persecuted peoples of the world, but also against the planet herself.

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All of this makes me want to cry. The massive scope and scale of the challenges we face is crushing. The weight of the responsibility we now must bear for ourselves and our children and the natural world is almost too much. And yet, we must shoulder it and move forward.

I understand the urge to flee. Earlier this week I posted a link on Facebook about a tiny, self-sufficient Scottish island that’s for sale. I captioned the link, “In certain moments this is so, SO tempting. #runaway” … and sometimes it is tempting. But, running away is not the answer, and neither is turning away.

The change we’re going through is hard. It’s painful and scary and we have no  idea how things are going to turn out. That is, perhaps, the worst part – the deep-seated uncertainty that haunts us … the not knowing. But, we can’t allow our fear of the unknown to keep us from looking our problems in the eye. This is not the time to allow ourselves the false luxury of pretending that everything is okay or that someone else will fix these broken things.

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Now, more than ever before in my lifetime, it’s so important for everyone, but especially for writers, to be plugged in to what’s happening all around us. It’s so important for us to find our footing in this new and changing world, find the stories that need telling, and tell them. The storytellers of the world have a lot of work to do.

We – you, dear reader,  and me and all the other writers and artists out there – must ground ourselves in our creative work. We must dig deep and hold on. We must remember why we started creating in the first place and stoke the fires of that passion so that the light never, ever goes out.

Some of us will choose to create in a way that addresses the global, societal, and cultural situations of the day head on. Others will choose to take a more subtle and oblique approach. But, each in his or her way, we will speak; and each story, each piece of art will make a difference. Our work is our voice, and our voices matter.

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As the year draws to a close, the way forward may be unclear. You may, like me, be hesitating, unsure of which path you should take. Don’t worry. Find your center and move from there.

I came across an interesting quote by someone named Michael Meade:

“We live in initiatory times when each soul can feel more isolated amidst the dying breath of one world and the uncertainty that attends the forming of life’s next design. It is not the lack of time that we modern people suffer from, but a lack of connection to things timeless, mythic and eternal.”

I believe there is much wisdom in this sentiment. We do need to connect more deeply and openly to “things timeless, mythic and eternal.” And that’s what story does. That’s what writers help us do when they share their stories. That’s what you do.

So, keep writing. Keep shining your light in the dark. It does matter, even when it feels like it doesn’t. And remember – you are never, ever alone.

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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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Writer’s Weekend Edition – Illuminate the Beautiful

On the multiple roles of The Artist …

My Instagram feed @suddenlyjamieI have made no secret of the fact that my worldview has been irreparably changed by bearing witness to the recent U.S. election and the ensuing fallout. As someone who has spent most of her life avoiding political discussions because it “wasn’t my thing,” I am now engaged in a self-guided crash course in civics so that I may speak and act responsibly and proactively in the days ahead.

That said, I am and always will be a writer – an artist – at heart. While I feel an urgent responsibility to actively engage in standing up against tyranny in all its forms, I do not want that battle to consume my every thought, or indeed, my ability to appreciate all the beauty and magic the world has to offer.

Earlier today, a friend of mine posted on Facebook inviting friends to find and share the “beauty in the madness.” Peter Beach is a designer/illustrator/photographer who, among other things, has created a startling and piercing collection of black and white photographs documenting the lives of the homeless of Miami Beach. Here is what he said in his Facebook post:

… let this image begin a new series: “Beauty in the Madness” – random observations of beauty in everyday life.

The goal: to create an awareness… acknowledgment… a conscious effort to notice, embrace and celebrate the smallest and most insignificant things that life presents each day — ultimately and most importantly, to counterbalance the daily negative onslaught we’re experiencing.

>>> feel free to extend the series – your own observations and personal interpretations of beauty throughout your daily travels – can’t wait to see them – the creative soul awaits!

This is an invitation I have accepted and would now like to extend to you.

Whether you are capturing your observations of beauty with a camera, a paintbrush, a pen, or a keyboard, I invite you to share them far and wide. Link to them in the comments. Tweet them. Instagram them. Snapchat, Facebook, and YouTube them. (Sorry for the grammatically incorrect use of nouns as verbs. My inner editor is cringing, but I’ve asked her to count to ten and move past it.) Send them in letters. Leave them on café tables. Tuck them into library books.

Seek and cherish images, words, and stories of beauty, and let your definition of beauty encompass all the world in all its astonishing mystery and diversity.

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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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Writing when it’s hectic

 

 

I mentioned in my response to the Friday question that writing has helped me to keep my balance in 2016. It has helped me to handle the rocky ride that this year has been.

And of course, now we are entering the holiday season. It’s the time of year when kids come home from college, party invitations arrive, and there’s always shopping or baking to get done.

But if you are a writer who gets her stress out by writing then it’s imperative that you continue writing during this hectic season.

Ways that I make myself write:

  • I create a to-do list every morning. Along with holiday tasks I have writing tasks. I recently sent out a pitch to a magazine that was accepted and now I’m working on the article. If “send a pitch” hadn’t been on my to-do list, I would have waited until after the commotion was over in January and who knows where the idea may have flown off to?
  • Brute force. When I can, I take myself to the library the next town over and set up shop in the quiet room. I try to stay for until I’m finished with a piece or until 3 hours is up, depends on which comes first.
  • Sometimes I set mini-goals. Maybe I can’t write a full article today, but I can certainly write a blog post, or add to an outline, or take notes for a book review.
  • When I’m stressed or insanely busy, I’ll pull out a fun project -that great idea for a story that I long ago shelved.
  • I ask my family to respect my writing. Mom’s busy right now, go ask Dad.
  • I don’t see my writing as something selfish (and therefore last on the list) I see it as an important way to contribute.
  • I keep a notebook with me at all times. Sometime when I read a book, see a movie, or even when I’m driving, an idea gets triggered. If I don’t write it down as soon as I can it gets lost.
  • I realize that sometimes the desire not to write is the desire not to write.

And in the end, if I can’t get any writing in today, I tell myself it’s okay, there’s always tomorrow.

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Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

Writer’s Weekend Resources – Working Together Plus Links and Tips

pin-one-personOne of the things I like best about being a writer is sharing the company of other writers. Whether it’s hanging out here or elsewhere online with fellow writers like you, sharing real-world coffee with a local scribe, or enjoying the camaraderie of storytellers at conferences or via an event like NaNoWriMo, I love being part of the worldwide community of writers. As I’ve written before, it’s almost like we’re members of a secret society, which is kind of a cool thing.

And I’ve always found writers to be a very inclusive crowd. I mean, I know there are certain individuals who lose their way when they let their egos get the better of them, but for the most part my experience with writers has always been pleasant, instructional, and inspiring. Though I cannot count them among my personal friends, I still consider even the most renowned of writers to be part of my writer’s circle.

After all, are we not all chasing after the same thing? Does it really matter if we are working side-by-side or in worlds that are centuries apart? Does it really make a difference if some of us are still struggling to complete our first manuscripts while others have a reserved seat at the top of the New York Times Book Review? As diverse a group as we are, we share the universal writer’s compulsion to ask questions, to get people thinking, to entertain and delight, to create something out of nothing, to find meaning.

As this incredibly crazy year draws to a close, I am more grateful than ever for all the writers – renowned and obscure – who are raising their voices in a refrain of awakening, courage, hope, and optimism. I thank each and every writer who has shared  story of pain in order to teach and to increase empathy. And I am especially thankful for those most talented of writers, in my humble opinion, who are able to illuminate truth through humor and find ways to engage people’s hearts and minds while making them laugh. Though I will likely never meet most of these fellow writers, I thank them from the bottom of my heart for every word that they write, every story they share, and every moment that they are part of the writing community that supports all of our efforts.

_jamie sig

 

 


Big Idea Posts of the Week:

In the aftermath of the election, many writers are reevaluating or reconfirming the role of their craft in the world.

Porter Anderson opens his piece on Writer Unboxed, Escapism is for Readers; Writers Stay, as follows:

Nobody blames you if recently you’ve felt like getting the hell out of Dodge.

To be really clear about this, I’m not going to tell you whether you should love or hate the results of the US general election. That’s for you to decide.

But everyone is feeling the pressure.

What follows is gentle but firm guidance for writers who may be, in this moment, inclined to “escape into their writing” (aka sticking their heads in the sand). Porter isn’t at all recommending that writers take up a propagandist style, but he is strongly suggesting that writers have an opportunity (one might even say a responsibility) to keep our eyes open, learn, and stay engaged.

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In her recent post, Our Job as WritersKate Johnston, a writer and writing coach, admits that she’s pretty cynical when it comes to politics, but that she was deeply affected by the outcome of the recent election. Though she began her writing journey with the fairly simple goal of writing the kind of stories she liked to read, that has begun to shift for her.

Over the past few years, that goal has reshaped, partly organically, partly through my own vision and awareness and growth. I came to see a writer’s job as something more than creating nether worlds. That calling that used to be all about words that entertain, had morphed into something a bit deeper, a bit daunting. Something that asked more of me.

And then, last week happened. The calling is no longer a calling. A mission, perhaps. A deal with the devil, even, or maybe just a really bad-ass angel. A chance to speak up. A dare to put myself to the test.

Johnston’s post is kind of a call to arms for writers. She closes her post with these words, “As writers, holding back, staying down—not an option. As writers, writing nothing—not an option. As writers, it is our job to help keep this world flourishing. As writers, we must write. And write like we mean it.”

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And then there is the revered and inimitable Ursula K. Le Guin. In her post, 119. The Election, Lao Tzu, a Cup of Water,  she shares her thoughts on the dangers of using the metaphor of war and how a different approach –the way of water – is needed in these changing times.

I know what I want. I want to live with courage, with compassion, in patience, in peace.

The way of the warrior fully admits only the first of these, and wholly denies the last.

The way of the water admits them all.

The flow of a river is a model for me of courage that can keep me going — carry me through the bad places, the bad times. A courage that is compliant by choice and uses force only when compelled, always seeking the best way, the easiest way, but if not finding any easy way still, always, going on.

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“Ever since the election, people have been telling me to shut up and go back to Fairyland. Be silent. Be good. Accept. Submit. Stop talking about politics. Stick to fairy tales. (As if fairy tales have ever not been about politics.) Go back to Fairyland,” says author Catherynne M. Valente in her post, Go Back to Fairyland. Like many other artists – writers, actors, musicians – she has been criticized for speaking her mind on politics. But, the disapproval of certain people only served as inspiration for her as she turned her pen to the creation of a short story featuring characters from her popular Fairyland series. In The Beasts Who Fought for Fairyland Until the Very End and Further Still, she tells a not-so-subtle tale about battles and happy endings and defiance.

“Perhaps this is not the end of the story, then,” the Green Wind said kindly, though he wasn’t sure he believed it. It was important to say it to the brokenhearted, to the young, to everyone, even if he didn’t believe his own words. Especially if he didn’t believe it. If no one said it, it couldn’t even start being true.

“It feels like the end,” said A-Through-L with a strangled cry.

“It always does, when you lose.” The Green Wind took off his green helmet and laid it on the grass between two arrows. “But haven’t we had tyrants and fools and hobgoblins on the throne before? Haven’t we had rather a lot of hobgoblins? Aren’t hobgoblins rather more the rule than the exception?”

“Yes…”

“And haven’t we always patched up their mischief and gotten back to more or less living how we want to live and loving who we want love and making what we want to make and being who we want to be?”

“Yes…”

“Perhaps Fairyland is stronger than her goblins, my ravishing reptile. Perhaps, if you take a long enough view, we are all stronger than our goblins.”

 


Books I’m Reading:

In addition to reading blog posts and news articles, I’ve also just finished listening to two audio books:

book-born-a-crimeThe first was Trevor Noah’s memoir, Born a Crime. For those of you who don’t know him, Noah is a comedian who recently took over at Comedy Central’s The Daily Show after long-time host Jon Stewart retired from the position. I didn’t know much about Noah and, though I was a loyal Stewart fan, hadn’t even paid him much attention on The Daily Show. Reading this book gave me a whole new perspective.

The book’s subtitle is “Stories from a South African Childhood.” Noah grew up in South Africa as apartheid was coming to an end. The collection of stories he shares from his childhood are intimate, and yet manage to capture a great deal of the larger and more complex picture of a very tumultuous time. From the Audible book description:

In his first book, Noah tells his coming-of-age story with his larger-than-life mother during the last gasps of apartheid-era South Africa and the turbulent years that followed. Noah was born illegal – the son of a white Dutch father and a black Xhosa mother, who had to pretend to be his nanny or his father’s servant in the brief moments when the family came together. His brilliantly eccentric mother loomed over his life – a comically zealous Christian (they went to church six days a week and three times on Sunday), a savvy hustler who kept food on their table during rough times, and an aggressively involved, if often seriously misguided, parent who set Noah on his bumpy path to stardom.

I very much recommend this book.

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book-bob-honeyI honestly don’t even know where to begin with this second book. Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff is purportedly written by someone named Pappy Pariah and narrated by actor and activist, Sean Penn.

I suppose I’ll offer up the official description as featured on the Audible site:

By turns tender and terrifying, Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff captures America on the verge of political upheaval in 2016 and introduces us to a man who just might be able to save us from the oncoming horror. Yes, Bob Honey – carnival carny, sewage specialist, and government operative, among other occupations – has spent years in preparation, crisscrossing the world in the employ of a mysterious government program that pays in small bills. He stopped in New Orleans to help Katrina victims; traveled to Baghdad, Beirut, South Sudan, and elsewhere on sewage emergencies; and submerged himself in the Pacific Ocean in search of sea life – all while living out of a quiet house on a residential street in Woodview, California, where he sometimes disturbs the neighbors with the sound of his lawn mower.

Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff marks the debut of a dazzling literary talent. With comic bravado and an urgent agenda, Pappy Pariah has created a haunting, hilarious vision of an American middle-aged man with a mission – a loner struggling to find truth amid the chaos of a political campaign that threatens to destroy the values of the country he loves.

This book is free on Audible and has been, I believe, since it was released last year. It’s a short book (only two-and-a-half hours). It’s kind of trippy. It’s poetic. It’s certainly political. There are moments of beauty, and plenty of horror. I also found it interesting that the reviews were completely polarized – people either loved it or hated it. Say what you will about any artwork, it’s generally true that when something manages to stir up such strong emotions on either or both ends of a spectrum, it’s something worth checking out.


My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:

CRAFT

PUBLISHING & MARKETING

INSPIRATION

THE WRITING LIFE


Sundry Links and Articles:

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Finally, a quote for the week:

pin-afraid-to-write

Quote by poet Nayyirah Waheed

Here’s to being a member of the global writer’s circle, filling your creative bank account, and writing even when you’re afraid … especially when you’re afraid. xo
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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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