Writing for Myself

I’ve been writing for most of my adult life. Except for a few published works in anthologies, newspapers and magazines, my writing languished in forlorn folders on my computer. No one saw it but me.  The new age of blogging and self-publishing got me thinking this might be a way to get some exposure.

It was while thinking about blogging, I happened upon the movie, Julie and Julia.  It’s the true story of how writer, Julie Powell, blogged about her adventures, cooking her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The result was a book deal (2005), a movie deal (2009) and being launched as a writer. My goals were less grand but her experiences helped me in some surprising ways to find my own path.

In the movie, Julie let the whole experience unravel her life. She worried about who was reading her and was she disappointing them; she had self-described “meltdowns” that wreaked havoc on her life, her work and her marriage. This insanity was something I knew I wanted no part of.

I was sure of only one thing. If I was going to do this it had to be for me. I wanted my writing out there and thought this might give me a sense of accomplishment. Writing friends reminded me that once a piece was on the blog it would be considered “published.” I decided I could live with that. Actually, that fit my goals perfectly.

Lastly, I found help. I searched for someone with computer skills and her own blog. I chose WordPress because I liked their layout and choices. We met once a month as she constructed my site. In between sessions, I began to post my writing and become more comfortable with the program. It was money well spent.

But I don’t think of what I do as blogging. I consider my site a website. My pieces are essays, personal and memoir. Each piece is complete on its own. I pay no attention to word count; I’m just interested in telling the story.

I have over a dozen pages on my website so that my stories can be posted into the appropriate category.  I have a page for family stories; another for retirement essays. Work, girlfriends, health, poetry and even a page about writing. I’ve been doing this since 2015 and have nearly 200 pieces posted.

For any piece that was previously published, I’ve included the date and place of publication at the beginning of the post. This process has me writing nearly every day and I’m always working on something. I’m energized and motivated to write all my stories because now have a place to put them. That’s the payoff when writing for myself

 

 

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Retirement in Stages

Retirement isn’t something that’s done in a day. One day you’re working, the next day you’re not and that’s all there is to it. I’d always said, quite defiantly: I’m not the retiring type; I’m going to work as long as I can. So, when I finally did it five years ago, the adjustment was rough. For me, it’s been a process and as I look back, I see that  it’s something I had to do in stages.

Adding to my angst was the fact I’d gotten divorced, moved and retired all in a short span of time. Even though I fully agree with the advice articles saying it isn’t good to make more than one change at a time, I did it anyway.But once moved, every day was like a slap in the face. I had nowhere I had to be. No one expecting me somewhere. No one needing anything from me. The pull to feel useful was strong. And I succumbed.

I’d been a volunteer board member of a small non-profit writing organization for several years. The organization had helped me build a strong writing community for myself and now I had the time to give back, get more involved. So, I volunteered to be the secretary of this organization that was in disarray.

My goal was to update the infrastructure. That included those tedious activities that are put off until   “we have the time.” I dove in and it felt good to have a to-do list once again. Then, on top of all that, the organization was experiencing change and needed a new president. With hardly any board members to draw from, I took the job and became both secretary and president for a three-year term.

I think I let the whole thing get the best of me. Before I knew it, I was busy everyday with various organization details. In addition to the usual duties, I received a stockpile of archival materials a member had stored in his garage. Fourteen boxes of decades old items that took over a year to organize and decide what to keep, what to shred or dispose of.  My penchant of stepping in to help out was tested to the max but my list of completed projects grew.

We now have a complete operations manual that includes current bylaws, policies and procedures, job descriptions and program guidelines. I’ve rebuilt the board of directors to full capacity. The important information from those fourteen boxes have been taken to the Wisconsin Historical Society for permanent storage. Our history is in good hands.

I’m proud that the organization is being left in better shape than when I started. So, as the three-year stint comes to an end, I’ve learned a great deal about myself. I always knew I was most comfortable as a middle manager. I like having a project and reporting to someone. I’m definitely not boss material. So, I’ll never take on such a task again. If I’ve learned anything it’s to curb my impulse to help out.

Anyone who has volunteered knows what I’m talking about. There’s always more to do than there are people to get the job done. And while most are happy to make suggestions, point out what isn’t being done or offer other sage advice, there are so few willing to jump in to help.

This three-year commitment was a stage in my adjustment to retirement. It filled a gap, made me feel useful and now I’m ready to be completely retired. So, gone now are the days of waking up with my first thought being what volunteer duties need to get done today.

In these last five years, I’ve reconnected with old friends, found a book group, two writing groups and a theater group. Not to mention the out to lunch and movie occasions with various friends. The need to be useful has slipped away to be replaced by enjoyment of each day. The relief I’m feeling as the end-date approaches is a sign I’m doing the right thing.

 

doing the right thing.

Blocked

My writing is blocked….
rocked from one topic to another…
taking stock of what’s needed to create….
even the clock of forced writing is a crock….
outside forces leave me shell-shocked…
who knows where our country is headed….

My reading is blocked….
I lock my mind into the story and instead wander….
after five pages, wonder: who is this character anyway ….
enjoyment, the bedrock of reading nowhere in sight……
disheartened by leaders who go off half-cocked….
and by others who stay silent but follow like a flock ….

My concentration is blocked….….
trouble following any conversation….
watch TV and lose track of the story……
rewind the recorder to hear that again…
this gridlock persists though I resist like a hawk….
the latest best idea is to arm teachers….
students balk…

My sleeping is blocked….
strange dreams full of people I’ve never met….
but who’ve mocked me and socked me ……
can’t remember the details but know I’m being stalked……
I wake thinking there’s something I have to do…
then realize it was in the dream….
shocked by the dishonesty and deceit of our government……
our whole country is in a similar deadlock….

My optimism is blocked….

 

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