Epiphanies at The Green Study

It’s been a productive week at The Green Study. Every surface is covered with books, files, and random Post-It notes. The white boards have hastily-scrawled notes and lists. After weeks of struggling with insomnia, I stopped struggling and sometimes I was up at 2:30 a.m. writing. It reset my brain to be up at odd times and ideas started pouring out. This post is a reflection of that – a little bit of everything.

It’s the Spirit of Intent

I spent a lot of time doing work for the League of Women Voters this week. Things are stepping up as we get closer to the midterms. I felt a strong desire to focus on these nonpartisan issues, even as I felt the dark cloud of partisan hackery above, preparing to rain down on all our heads.

canstockphoto13457331Some days it seems like too many ethically-challenged, bad people are gaining power and steam. I was lucky enough to come across the feed of writer, A.R. Moxon, who also has a blog. It was this thread that made me think about the spirit of each of the various tribes of people – what direction were they moving in? What future did they think awaited them? Who did they choose to follow? What was the intent, the outcome, the process? Who were they becoming in that process?

And what about the idea of bad people? Is it helpful? Politics is not a useful framework for defining our spirit. It is not Survivor or a team sport – there are no true winners if we cannot find common ground and serve the common good. And this is evident from all tribes – the fierceness, the words and memes meant to cut someone down to size. We are responsible for who we become as individuals. This week, I want to be like the women in my LWV chapter who have served the cause of voting rights for decades – dedicated, steadfast, deliberate, singular in purpose and thoughtful in words.

We get to choose which spirit we follow and embody.

canstockphoto51898111

Book Talk

canstockphoto13243997I was contacted by JKS Communications, publicists who work with a writer I admire. They’d seen the blog and wondered if they could send me some of the books they were representing, in case I’d like to talk about them here.  This never happened to me before, but let’s just say I did a giddy little dance around the house. I believe at one point I picked up a book, stared at it lovingly, and whirled about belting out “the hills are alive…with books”. When I babbled excitedly to my husband and daughter, they both glanced warily about the study, as precarious stacks of lit magazines and books were everywhere.

I told the representative that I don’t write reviews. I just write about what I read. I waited for a response. And she was perfectly lovely about it. This is all to say that I’m going to read a couple of books and likely will tell you about them, but for the sake of integrity, felt compelled to be up front about it. Plus, I’m still a little giddy.

34462968One book that I didn’t get gratis, was by a blogger who I have been following for a couple of years. Dave Astor blogs at Dave Astor on Literature and I’ve enjoyed his wonderful posts, rambling through literary connections and themes. He has a nifty little tome called Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time: The Book Lover’s Guide to Literary Trivia. My only complaint was that each chapter left me wanting more. Maybe next volume, Dave.

My One Thing

There was a Billy Crystal movie in 1991 called City Slickers. In a scene between Curly, a crusty old cowboy and Crystal’s character, Mitch, he talks about the meaning of life.

Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is? [holds up one finger] This.
Mitch: Your finger?
Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean shit.
Mitch: But, what is the “one thing?”
Curly: That’s what you have to find out.

I was 24 at the time so I sort of, kind of, understood, but not really. The characters in the movie were on the cusp of being middle-aged. As I move from the middle to just straight-up aged, I’ve been struggling with a sense of purpose. It feels like it’s been this way always – likely an innate part of the human condition. The challenge is getting out of my own way, cutting through the imperfect perfectionism and procrastination. I have awkwardly begun to do what I want to do.

canstockphoto43567403Dirty dishes sat on the counter, my daughter ran out of jeans, my family foraged for their own meals, and the cats scratched their own bellies. I was writing. I wrote and wrote and wrote, consequences be damned. I submitted a short story to a lit mag and didn’t throw up from anxiety. I came up with a plan for November’s National Novel Writing Month. This time I’m writing a big sociopolitical novel that I’m very excited about. The world did not stop spinning on its axis because I ignored my chores. My child did not need bail money. My husband was able to find things. Nothing happened except for one thing.

Life got easier. All the things that I’d been wrestling with, from feeling sort of useless as a human to getting enough exercise to my exhaustion from heavy social interaction. It all faded away to the background. I had finally brought the right thing into focus. My one thing. I brushed away the fleeting thought that I’d wasted a lot of time getting here. If you’re a writer, I rationalized, it’s all research and material, no matter what you’ve been doing.

If you’re doing NaNoWriMo next month and want a writing buddy, you can find me on the site at MMJayne.

Gratitude

Thank you to the Writers’ Studio, a group of lovely and talented people I joined in September. Having that space to read, write, listen, and talk about writing has encouraged me to embrace my one thing.

Thanks also to Amy, who has bravely embarked on a nonfiction collaboration with me. I love that our connection has found new ways to expand and grow.

And last, but definitely not least, thank you for reading, subscribing, or commenting. As I canstockphoto31378283close in on this blog’s seventh anniversary, I marvel at how much the online world has changed since I began, but that I still enjoy writing here. With so many things grabbing our attention, it becomes harder to find community and connections. Anything we do to improve that, from connecting with bloggers on the other side of the planet to giving each other an encouraging Like or Hell, Yeah in the comments – these things do make a difference.

21 Comments on “Epiphanies at The Green Study

  1. Great news that you are writing. Enjoyed the don’t touch sign of a broom and dustpan. I need to learn to leave housework behind as you did. Low priorities need to take a backseat to our work. So I’m pleased and excited for you.

    Hugs, Deborah

    Like

    • Thanks, Deborah! My psyche has let out a huge sigh of relief: oh, so this is what I’m supposed to be doing. I don’t think I’ve learned this lesson as a permanent state, though. We’re constantly in flux and I imagine I’ll have to re-learn this again and again, hoping that most of the time I get it right.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for your reply.

        I know what you mean about the lesson of the One Thing. I’ve forgotten it for now coping with numerous health issues, none of which are fatal. I do hope I can get back on that horse and write daily.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Bill. I’m feeling pretty good. A little more focused and determined and occasionally having this odd, unfamiliar feeling (at least in the last few years) – I think it might be joy. Hope all is well with you!

      Like

  2. WOW!! That is definitely one helluva week you had. I can feel your joy all the way in Toronto and I couldn’t be happier for you. Happy writing!

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  3. Joy and energy seemed to be pouring out of my screen as I read your post this morning, Michelle. Looking forward to following your adventures. Thanks for the introduction to A.R. Moxon and his very thought-provoking Twitter thread. I’m now following him. I agree that labeling so many people as “bad” is problematic. We lose the ability to spot and separate out the truly bad ones—the ones dripping in corruption and oozing malice. I like his notion of “spirit.” Happy writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Donna. I found myself really, really wanting to just think of others as “bad” or “good”, but the rational side knows that is extraordinarily lazy and inaccurate thinking. Humans are mixed, dichotomous bags of irrational beliefs and illogical thoughts. It serves no purpose to put focus on sorting.
      I like the idea of knowing one’s own sense of purpose, spirit, and intent and sticking with it. It is also a way of letting ourselves stop judging people and start judging intent and spirit – our own more than that of others. Hmm…it sounds like I might be experiencing the influence of a certain book…

      Liked by 1 person

      • For some reason, I am reminded of one of my favorite of Brian Andreas’ “Story People” illustrations, where part of the caption is: “it may be that the real reason we are here is to love each other & to eat each other’s cooking & say it was good.” Story People is my daily dose of “yes!” (wisdom, humor, and whimsy combined, http://www.storypeople.com)

        Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve been reading Ra Avis’s blog for several years – she’s got quite the heart-wrenching personal story. I’m not sure that I did the concept as much justice as she, but it is something I’m still thinking about. Thanks for sharing that link!

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  4. Glad to see you in a good space. I also am trying to write more and forget about the quality of that writing. I’ve also got a lot of other things going on that make it definitely not the “one thing” right now. But it’s better than a bunch of no things. Cheers!

    Like

    • To me, it isn’t that “one thing” is the only thing. Life goes on, along with all its demands. I think it’s more a mental shift than anything else. Good luck with your writing – I’m getting used to writing in Anne Lamott’s words, “a shitty first draft”. Lots of shitty second and 40th drafts as well…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Highly-readable, Michelle, as ever! I enjoy the informality of your posts, which contain so much more as a result. Formal book/film reviews are fine in their way but I like the personal connections you make. It helps this reader identify … as to public figures, they should admit to human failings instead of the Big I Am. Then we might believe in them more!

    Like

    • Thanks, Dave. I used to read a lot of book reviews and I found a couple of things out about myself as a reader – I no longer wanted to read the work and if I did, I couldn’t get the reviewer’s voice out of my head. So I prefer casual mentions of work without too much characterization.
      As for public figures, it would be refreshing to hear less certitude (actually less from the public at large as well) and a little more curiosity. Wouldn’t the conversation suddenly becoming interesting and thoughtful?

      Liked by 1 person

      • You’re right about reviewers, especially at the ‘quality’ end of the market. They’ve often got their own books to sell, so frequently use the review as a showcase of their writing talents. That said I quite like reading them, being lazy and old, because it means I don’t have to bother with the book. I do buy them sometimes, though.

        Yes to your question, by the way! Maybe that certitude is a symptom of viewpoints becoming more polarised …

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  6. This was my favorite. Mostly because I could connect so well with the topic and the subject matter. I especially liked the part about the world not falling apart because you dedicated yourself to writing. Write on! Word! Hell yeah!

    Like

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