Category Archives: Writing

What It Comes Down To: The Pitch Conference After Action Report

canstockphoto411034For months, I’ve been eating, dreaming, walking through this pitch conference. I’d never been to a writing conference of any sort, and have long eschewed workshops and book clubs, and lived in my make-believe land of being a writer. This is the first concrete step I’d ever taken to make it real. And it was a great step. That I’ll likely never do again.

There are writers who remain oblivious to the market, to the numbers, to the sheer complexity and enormity of their dreams. They constantly send out work and occasionally hit their mark. There are writers like me who are painfully aware of the odds, see the enormity of the task before them and tell themselves someday. When I am ready. When I have time.

So here I am, almost 50 years old, trying to launch a writing career. I laugh using the word “launch”. More like a slow crawl, an inch worm’s speed. Talk to any writer who seems to be an overnight success and odds are, they’ve been doing a slow crawl for years. No one saw them, no one lauded their work, no one sharpened their pencils or handed them a guide.

Parts of the conference were the expected breakout sessions on querying and selling, but what most people came for was the golden ticket of being able to meet with three literary agents and/or editors for 8 minutes each to pitch their work. I researched and submitted my preferences in advance and ended up with two I’d requested and a last minute replacement I knew would not be a fit.

I wrote 50+ pitches in advance, talked to friends about the book, read all the advice articles on pitching, bought a suit and showed up on time. I came away with two requests for partials (10-50 first pages) and a full manuscript request. When I saw who my replacement agent would be, I did a nonfiction book proposal on the fly and she said they’d be interested in seeing my full proposal.

This was an optimum outcome for me. But what does it really mean?

It means that I know how to talk under pressure. Yay me. The last workshop I sat in for the day was about debut mistakes. Two local, established writers talked about their experiences and took questions. A moment of clarity hit me. I’m done being at a conference. These people had been working their asses off for years – around marriages, divorces, children, jobs, setbacks and personal demons. But what mattered to the writing was the writing.

This weekend was an important reminder to me. I can talk knowledgeably about the market and publishing of books. I could even become a writing advice blogger. I can pitch the hell out of my work. But it’s all bullshit. And manure only has value and meaning if there is something to nourish and nurture. I got caught up in the dressing, while the body was being neglected.

So, it’s back to work – reading, writing, editing, revising. It’s nice to know I have some people who’d be interested in seeing my work, but that was always the case – if the work was good. So back to making it as good as it can be.

 

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Filed under Personal, Writing

Leaning into the Fraudian Complex

canstockphoto17112100I’m a writer.

I speak several languages.

I am fit and active.

I love my family.

I believe love is the right choice.

But, but, but…

What about the fact that I’m none of these things consistently or expertly?

What about the fact that I don’t spend each and every day honing my writer’s craft? And that despite working on a novel, 80% of my reading is nonfiction?

What about the fact that if you ask me any question in the languages I know well on paper, I’ll have a blank look on my face?

What about the fact that I don’t look like an athlete? Or that I eat enough for four athletes…of the Sumo kind?

What about the fact that on Monday morning, I’m glad to see my family out the door?

And for all the love I purport to feel, to advocate for, why am I repeatedly calling fellow humans jackwads and dipshits while driving?

*****

I had the good fortune of hearing the author Elizabeth Strout (Olive Kitteridge, 2009 Pulitzer Prize), give a lecture last week. She talked about the value of fiction and why it’s important to readers. She spoke about how fiction gets to the truth of characters and in turn, to the truth of ourselves. I took notes and all I could think was – as a writer, I’m a complete and utter fraud. This is a bad thought to have a week before I’m scheduled to pitch my novel to three literary agents. But it’s bad in a way I have learned to value.

*****

When I started tutoring English learners, one of the students asked me in front of the class what languages I spoke. Ever eager to sound like I knew something of value, I muttered “I speak a little Spanish, German, French and Russian.”

It was, to my knowledge, true – if you wanted me to count to 10, list the colors of the rainbow or ask you where the bus station was. I’m proficient in asking for another beer in German or talking about military tank positions in Russian. I can accurately describe cows or the children at the swimming pool in French. In Spanish, I have a terrific food vocabulary, because Mexican food is the bomb.

So, in the back of my head, I really felt like I was telling a lie, even if I’d get off on a technicality. Lies bother me. Especially my own. I intone Jean-Luc Picard in my head Make it real. Since starting tutoring a few months ago, I’ve been relearning or building up languages. I start off every day on DuoLingo. It takes canstockphoto993916me about 20 minutes, but in the last two months, my language skills have improved exponentially. I started enjoying it so much that I’m ramping things up a bit with workbooks and online websites in those languages. I frequently wander the house repeating nonsensical phrases, sometimes mangling all four languages in the same sentence. International incident, here I come.

*****

I have never in my life looked like an athlete. I’m solid, but short and round. All my life I’ve been fairly active. I look in the mirror and it never reflects back at me who I think I am. This disconnect between how I feel and how I look frustrates me to no end. Years of martial arts, running, tromping around in combat boots hauling packs, endless numbers of push-ups, weight training, and in the end, I still look like a disheveled hausfrau. This time my body is a reflection of the lie.

canstockphoto2201991I’ve only ever dealt with half the equation – exercise. The reality is that I eat like a horse. A horse who could eat its own body weight in mashed potatoes. I eat well – really, really well. From my twenties on, I’ve resisted dieting, mostly to my benefit. But as my income grew, so did my access to all the foods I loved – foods that I didn’t get growing up and foods that I generally couldn’t afford or have access to during my Army and college years. Simple foods, even some that are quite healthy, I eat in large quantity.

My truth is that if I want the outside to truly reflect how hard I work, how much training I’ve done, I have to come to terms with the mentality I have, that whatever is in front of me now might be gone tomorrow, so I better get while the gettin’s good. I went through an absolute culling of personal belongings and clothing over the winter and found the same mentality at work. If I liked something, I bought two or got all the colors, because tomorrow it might be gone.

I want the reflection in the mirror to look like how I feel inside. I want to make it real. So I’ve begun doing that most mundane of dieting tasks – tracking calories and setting a target goal that I get all my servings of fruits and veggies. I just started Week 6 of an 8 week 5K training program. I’m starting to see results. My humble brag is less about the particular goals than it is about the fact that the lie had become untenable for me to sustain. It has simply become easier to make a lie the truth, than deal with the angst of wishing it to be so.

*****

Elizabeth Strout said it’s the job of the writer to be bring honesty to the reader, because it helps us get in touch with our own truths. That’s been rolling around in my head the last few days. My own truth is that despite all my experiences as a human, I am not an experienced writer. I have not, like Ms. Strout and so many working writers, spent my days and nights learning the craft.

Next week, when I sit in front of my first literary agent ever, I will be out of my depth. And that is the truth.

canstockphoto6167076Somehow, even confronting that truth head on, I find it invigorating. I have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Because when that conference is over, when I’ve gushed out the verbal vomit that will be my pitch, I will return home knowing that I need to make it real. I’ll spend my days and nights learning what other writers already know. My path is one of retroactive truths, but truths…eventually.

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Filed under Fitness, Personal, Writing

The Loci of Writing: Plantsing and Politics

It’s a year where satire and parody seem unnecessary – this political season has been aggravating and exhausting. I believe there are personal lessons to be learned and am mercenary about the sources. This last month, I’ve been thinking a lot about the people with whom I disagree. It would be a stretch to say I feel compassion or kinship or empathy, but challenging my thinking – a bouillabaisse of stereotypes, personal prejudice and simple loathing, is important to me.

canstockphoto3646334It’s about the locus of control. I’ve been a bit baffled by the people who are intensely invested in Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders or really, any political figure. It seems like they think one of these people would personally remove their credit card debt, mend their marriage, bring back their dead pets, educate them, make their children attractive, feed them well, make their everyday lives a bed of roses (but only after removing all the thorns, treating them with a non-toxic pesticide and laying them perfectly parallel). This is to say, they were relying on outside forces to make their lives better, provided they hand over their glass slipper of critical thinking skills and a vote.

This is where I can get into hostile and loud arguments with anyone, including friends. I am a cynic, but more than that, I cling intensely to an internal locus of control. Everything that happens to me that is bad is my fault. And most of the good things are luck meeting preparation. I just don’t speak the same language and when I hear a candidate’s supporters talk, it doesn’t make sense to me.

canstockphoto11597947To hear grown humans blaming the shittiness of their existence on immigrants or a global economy or god forbid, the civil expectation that you be polite to other humans (all that political correctness, doncha know), is mind-boggling. To hear some men, especially those in positions of power and influence, referring to women by body parts, pejorative gendered terms and bizarre biological theories is like stepping into a world where logic is suspended and civility is maligned. It’s on this same planet where compromise and working together suddenly seems like an 8th deadly sin. It’s a planet where the locus of control in their lives is completely external and they have no personal responsibility.

I grew up with a lot of people who couldn’t see their way clear of their own shitstorm. All that fear and insecurity and lack of knowledge was externalized and laid to rest on the shoulders of everyone and everything else around them. The problem with living this way, is that it means nothing will ever change. If you practice blaming everyone and everything else for your problems, this is what you will be good at, no matter how the external circumstances change.

canstockphoto15646582For whatever reason, I was one of those people who knew the only way out was to do. I joined the Army, went to college, slowly worked my way from a hotel toilet bowl cleaner to managerial roles. Every fuck-up of mine, I owned. It makes me less tolerant of blamers,  less compassionate towards handwringers and less patient with sky-is-falling humans and that’s not the only downside to the internal locus of control.

For me, it’s always been that no matter what happens to me, it’s on me to fix it, to bounce back, to learn from it, to change it. That’s a big responsibility in a world where there are many factors we have no control over. My practice habits now involve trying to recognize what is truly in my locus of control and what is not.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been preparing for November and December. It is my time to finish a good enough draft of my novel to send out to beta-readers. I’ve cleared the decks of old projects and I began meditating a few minutes every morning to prepare myself for the day. I’m not very good at it, but that’s why they call it a practice.

It’s taken me years to get to this point. Three steps forward, two-and-a-half steps back. It has felt like a nonstop struggle to get myself to sit down and write and to practice shutting out all the shoulds so that I could focus. My responsibility. If I look to external reasons for why I don’t write on some days, I’ll find them. It’s easy. But there are two things that I have picked up over the years.

  • If something is truly important to you, you’ll make time for it.
  • If you’re going to use an excuse, add it to a list – you only get to use it once (thanks AB, for that sage bit of advice!).

Now that it’s National Novel Writing Month, up crops the old discussion about whether or not someone is a pantser (flying by the seat of their pants) or a planner (color-coded outlines ahoy). I am a fantastic planner. I have character cards typed up, timelines tacked to boards, a small town drawn out, chapter outlines (at least 3 of them) and all the mailing supplies for my beta-readers lined up.

canstockphoto37898886It makes not one whit of difference to the writing, but I’ve accepted that it’s part of my process. When I write, I go where the story takes me and no amount of neatly typed notecards is going to change that. I’m a plantser. The planning pays homage to my internal locus of control – mirage or otherwise. The pantsing pays tribute to a creative spirit, which seems like something out of my control. And I honor it. I wouldn’t trust it to run the country, but I like to watch it race across the page.

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Filed under Creativity, Personal, Uncategorized, Writing

Here We Go Again: The Blog Dilemma

canstockphoto14284461 The Green Study’s Positively Happy Nice Story Contest is a great way to win for your local American Red Cross and there’s a mug! The deadline is Monday, October 3rd, 12:00pm. See here for details.

I took the summer off in hopes of refilling my word reservoir and bringing needed engagement back to blogging. In September, I kicked off an annual contest, dipped my toes into politics, attached my face to the blog, freaked myself out by doing an inept podcast, tiptoed around other people’s blogs and flopped around with no direction or sense of purpose. I baited the hook, but nothing in my brain is really taking the bite.

At least once a year, if not more, I have to justify my reasons for blogging. They’ve shifted over the last five years, but this year seems to be tougher than most. Part of the reason is that I’m seeing longtime favorite bloggers close up shop or disappear in the vapors of the ethernet. It begs the question: what do they know that I should be paying attention to?

canstockphoto12000846Since it’s an election year, I’ve exhausted myself reading political articles with the accompanying online antics of partisan citizens. My online time has been spent engaging less and being indignant more. I’ve tried to disconnect, but at least once a day, I check The Washington Post and FiveThirtyEight (which feels like playing political roulette). And an angry hour later, I get up in disgust to go rake or do dishes – anything to shake off the sense that we’re about to implode as a nation and that humans are awful.

I made a halfhearted effort to set up Facebook and Twitter accounts, cussing through the entire process and attempting to change settings so that any public contact will be highly unlikely. It all feels like dilution of my soul and I have started thinking about the idea that maybe my writing is suffering simply because I am incapable of talking, blogging, twittering and bookfacing so damned much. Maybe our word reservoirs have a limit, especially if one is an introvert.

Anna Quindlen, a Pulitzer-winning writer, suggested the possibility in a lecture I attended last week. She never talks about ongoing work, because she felt, at times, that she only had so many words. I’ve thought about this a lot since. I sometimes conflate social platforms with writing, which is fine, if that kind of writing were my goal. It’s not, but some days it seems it’s the only kind of writing I’m capable of: 700-1000 word personal essays that often feel like me chasing my own tail.

canstockphoto18118414There are successful bloggers who have transformed their blogging into writing careers, but they are few and far between. Some sell compilations of blog posts and make a little money that way. Some sell advice on how to transform blogging into money or job opportunities or social media mega-stardom. And I think, good for them. Not so good for me.

It’s too easy to get confused about purpose and therefore start spinning off in a thousand different directions, as I did last month. I learned what happens when I don’t give the intended impression. I think it was expected that I’d be more bombastic, more entertaining for a podcast interview, but I was just me, moderate in most ways and not interested in flame wars or Twitter beefs. The narrative became disjointed and despite my excitement about trying something new, I ended up feeling deflated.

Writing or speaking publicly means giving up an element of control. You cannot control how you will be presented or interpreted. That’s a problem for someone like me, who has spent a lifetime trying to control my moods, my words, my intentions. I’m as much a wingnut as the next person, I just usually know how to parse myself a little better.

This is all to say that writing a personal essay blog is not a platform from where I launch Michelle 2.0. It doesn’t serve a marketing or branding purpose. There is no gain that is immutable and no loss from which it is impossible to recover. This is a good thing, because traffic measured by those standards means I’m likely to file WordPress bankruptcy at any moment.

canstockphoto15203159Over the years, in comment exchanges with other bloggers and writers, we talk about purpose and why we continue to blog. Perhaps my blog has simply matured and without mixed media, cross-platform branding, purchasing power or magical blogging pixie dust, this is it. Writing, commenting, and watching other bloggers come and go.

My discouragement at this point is also related to my disappointing lack of growth, as a person and a writer. My blog posts over the years bear witness to the topics I return to over and over again, personal issues that are on a rinse-and-repeat cycle. It’s like reading my teenage diary and realizing I’m still as awkward and insecure as ever – a caterpillar that never fully metamorphosizes.

So the challenge lies before me. What purpose does writing a public journal serve? Is it an obstacle to writing goals offline? Does it dilute writing quality? At this point, the only thing weighing in favor of continued blogging is you. I’ve made connections over the years that I value – writers, photographers, readers, up-and-coming millennials, stay-at-home parents, retirees, humorists, people coping with mental illness, people just coping with life.

I can’t imagine disconnecting from you. Blogging opened up a world for me in years when I worked from home and only had contact with someone who ate crayons and wanted me to sing that dinosaur song again. Now, as I struggle to finish writing a novel, it has kept me from becoming too isolated, churning too much in my own compost. I don’t know if that is reason enough, but it is reason enough for now.

So thank you.

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Experiential Avoidance: The Green Study Confessional

As tempted as I was to write a blog post called “Doomsday Penis”, in light of yet another baffling Republican debate this last week, I decided to take a breather from politics. You’re welcome. I mentioned to my husband that using the word “penis” in a post might cause some unintended traffic. He replied that if someone is using “penis” as a search term, they were already accustomed to disappointment. Okay, funny man.

*****

canstockphoto14933208There’s a lot of talk in our culture about distractions. My daughter’s school has sent out multiple notifications of bullying with cell phones on social media, which has led to fights and police involvement. At a middle school. Every day, we have to look no farther than the grocery store to see people completely checked out – connected and disconnected all at once.

I read an article in which a local 17 year old texted and drove her way to hitting a father and his 10 year old daughter, killing them both. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a writer or if it’s because I’m too sensitive (what jackasses call people who find them irritating), but I could immediately see this from the perspective of all the people involved – the self-involved teenager, the family and friends who lost loved ones, the judge, and then me – with the creeping fear that this could happen to my husband and daughter.

Before I get on my high horse, I have my own issues. I’ve glanced at my phone at stoplights, picked up Bluetooth calls while driving. And although I deliberately decided to not use Facebook or Twitter, I can still be twitchy and disoriented catching headlines and email and watching my little WordPress notification come up on my phone. It feels like playing the slot machine at a casino. Ding. Ding. Ding.

canstockphoto27362692I fall asleep at night listening to the CBC. Those Canadians are so calm, one can’t help but relax. When I get in the car, my playlist starts up. I listen to audiobooks when I do chores. I play solitaire or fake read my Kindle (seriously, the e-reading thing just isn’t catching on with me, but I excel at Angry Birds), while I binge watch Netflix. All entertainment. All the time.

This week, I’ve been practicing stripping away distractions. It’s been made more difficult by a head cold. Silence sounds more like a waterfall rushing through my head. I’ve been making myself do things, one at a time, with no background activity. It’s very hard to do and I find that upsetting.

When did I change? When did I become this leg-jittering, humming, antsy person in need of a fix? That I can’t even sit in my own company without checking this device or that – it’s a wake up call.

canstockphoto3436262In psychological terms, much of what I do these days would be described as experiential avoidance. I quit my job a few years ago to commit to writing full-time. Thus far, most of what I’ve done is unfinished, unremarkable and uninspiring. I have, however, finally learned how to keep my house mostly clean and that if I don’t shower before 9am, I might as well just go back to bed, because nothing is going to happen that day. Except me getting smellier by the minute.

I’ve been avoiding failure and imperfections and bad writing, all to the long-term detriment of developing myself as a writer. I write in fits and spurts – not long enough to develop a longer work in any meaningful way. We all know the advice – just write. Hell, I’ve exhorted the very same thing on this blog. I’m exponentially wiser, the farther I am from my own reality.

I’ve spent years fighting myself. But in the last few weeks, I’ve really zeroed in on moving forward. I’ve finally admitted that I’m stuck and that things are not improving nor will they, unless I deliberately and painfully change my habits or at least learn how to turn some of them in my favor. Spring is around the corner – it’s a good time to make a change.

canstockphoto5867993I’ve read about people going on technology fasts and I think in light of having a child and other caregiving responsibilities, this is not a reasonable tact for me. For the month of March, I’m giving up Netflix and any streaming video. I haven’t watched television in years, so that’s not on the list. It’s a personal experiment in giving value to my time. I’m now going to lay on the study floor and twitch for awhile.

What’s your least helpful distraction? What are you avoiding?

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Marlon James and Notes in the Dark

canstockphoto15617395A good story makes you ask better questions. It’s scrawled twice in the margins of my notebook. I took notes last week in a darkened audience, attending a lecture by the 2015 Man Booker Prize winner, Marlon James. He received the award in October for his sprawling, intense novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings.

One of things on my writing hit list this year was to seek out better writers and better writing. I am fortunate to live in a metro area for some of the big name writers who give lectures, but I’ve also watched a lot of videos, listened to audio books and stepped up my reading habits. It isn’t that I’m seeking some sort of osmotic reaction. It’s that I want to live in that world where writing matters, where people value telling really good stories.

While whinging on about this novel I’ve been treading in for the last three years, a writer friend responded with silence. What? She hesitated. “Maybe you should write something else.” As I have done with numerous people, I adamantly held on to the premise that this must be done. This was the novel that was going to teach me how to be a proper novelist. I needed to just work through it. My argument has come to sound hollow and unenthusiastic.

After another mucky, miserable writing session yesterday, I flopped down on the couch. It was time to quit trying to ram through the novel – this door that would magically unlock the novelist within. I’m on a third rewrite and feel like my compulsion to finish and do it right will eventually stop me from writing it at all.

Marlon James shared advice he’d gotten early on: “Write about only three things: what you love, what you hate, and what you’re deeply conflicted about.” 

canstockphoto7418437That quote has been playing in my head repeatedly. The novel I’ve been working on is rooted in the past, in things I once hated and loved and things I’m no longer conflicted about. I wasn’t asking better questions. I was asking questions for which I’d already found answers. It makes sense that I’d be sick of the whole damned thing and unless I could bring something new to the story, it wasn’t worth writing.

Today I pulled down the story board cards, packed up the notepads, filed the drafts in a binder and backed up all my digital records. I’m taking the month off from working on it and diving into another story. Since it’s November and I have some writer friends who have been hemming and hawing about participating in National Novel Writing Month, I’ve had a change of heart and will give in to this particular, peculiar compulsion. A little free range writing might be fun. Or not.

RANDOM NOTES

This post by The Bloggess made me laugh so loudly this morning that I woke up my family.

And then that one time on twitter we all just became human and I laughed until I gave myself a headache.

It reminded me of volunteering on kindergarten registration night, when I had to request documentation for enrollment, to include birth certificates. An acquaintance arrived with her kindergartner, older son and a newborn. I smiled and proceeded to ask her for a copy of her birth control. I morphed into the worst volunteer ever, as I had to keep leaving the table to stop laughing and/or dying from embarrassment.

If you wonder how artists spent their days, I just finished a fun read in which I learned that having a wife, servants, a drinking problem and Benzedrine are really the tricks of the creative trade. Having none of those, I did also find that on average, many creative talents worked a solid 3-4 hours a day and spent a lot of time going on walks. I can do that.

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey, Editor

For those of you participating in NaNoWriMo, best wishes!

For those of you not participating, keep your eye roll at the ready, as writers lose their minds but always, always know their word count!

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Filed under Creativity, Personal, Uncategorized, Writing

In the Unlikely Event of My Happiness

canstockphoto21074062I’ve been freezing up at the keyboard. This last week freaked me out a bit. In the course of a week, my subscribed followers jumped by 1000+ readers, crossing over the 10,000 mark. The Likes on this Freshly Pressed post exceeded 1400. I answered 300+ comments.

I’d never experienced anything like this in the four years I’ve been blogging. I have to believe that it is because, for the first time ever on this blog, I used the word “clusterfuck”.

I’ve had the thought all week that okay, I’m done. Really, where do I go from here? Does this extra attention mean I need to change my blog theme, open a Twitter account, punch up my rhetoric, Instagram a boob selfie and find a picture from 20 years ago where I look less wrinkly and put it on the blog? What is expected of me now?

Panic. That’s what an introvert does when they get a little attention. The moment of glee morphed into dread over the week. Give me a moment of unmitigated joy and I’ll anxiously stomp on it before someone or something else does. Premeditated squashing.

This is how I move forward, never lingering too long, never resting on laurels, never asking for more. I think about happiness and what that might mean for me. I think about all the well-meaning advice of the attitude-of-gratitude-too-blessed-to-be-stressed crowd. I think, as I often have over the years, what is wrong with me?

canstockphoto15489769It’s easy to be a discontented, restless, and striving person in a world that feeds it. Consumerism is based on fomenting dissatisfaction, while memes of puppies, flowers and Buddhists exhort us to be happy in the moment. Meanwhile, Likes, Hits, Follows, Stars, Views, are all feeding the message that more is better. But more is just more.

When it comes to figuring out what makes a person happy, it gets weird. We are so often told what should/might/will likely make us happy that when it doesn’t, we’re left feeling that there is something wrong with us. I must remind myself what has, historically, been happy-making for me.

Solitude. I am often happiest as a party of one. It’s when I’m working in the garden, dirty from head to toe with sweat dripping into my eyes. Sitting back on my haunches, I notice the flurry of life around me, bees and butterflies and frantic squirrels – and I get to be right in the middle of it. Being part of something greater, I feel the privilege of being alive.

Love. Never one long for sentiment, I feel my attachments like ligaments to bone. A child who makes me see everything all over again. A man who baffles me with patience. Friends who have raucous laughs and who are, when I say “I need to be alone”, understanding, not bruised.

canstockphoto10265804A story. There’s that ending to a book, when I sit back and sigh. Marvelous. The writer was a magician performing sleight of hand. Who wouldn’t want that kind of skill – the ability to take a reader out of themselves?

Odd sources of happiness. I’m happiest when my desk is clean, when I’ve written something that makes me laugh, when I’m in the middle of a run, looking on the verge of a cardiac event, red-faced and dripping with sweat. There are extrinsic things that make me happy: coffee, when I make someone else laugh, live music, and being outdoors.

Like the ten pairs of glasses a middle-aged myopic owns, the things that make me happy have never been where I looked for them. It’s in the looking and striving that causes the disappointment and pain. In never expecting happiness as a given, I find myself constantly surprised.

I think of that unalienable right, in the U.S. Declaration of Independence, to the “pursuit of happiness”. Pursuit suggests a high speed chase, and less a saunter. If happiness requires a chase, it’s getting away. I stroll. I sit on park benches for long periods of time. And when a happy event runs me over, I have to sit with it for a long time to see that it’s a good thing.

In the end, I’ve realized that the things that make me happy will likely always make me happy, with an occasional addition, like my current addiction to burritos or meeting fellow writers.

When something happens, like a blog post exploding, I can marvel/freak out in the moment, but then it’s time to get back to being me, a bemused, caffeinated, and sardonic depressive who likes to write. Whee. Let the good times roll.

What makes you happy?

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