Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Voices Begone!

Today I am suffering from a major case of the writer’s blues. Struggling with thoughts of, will I ever write anything again? I am suffering the aftermath of Inner Critic, who was on patrol all weekend doing a number in my head. Every time I took pencil in hand and put that pencil to the page, said pencil remained motionless. Inner Critic had a field day with this. So you think you can write it snarled at me sarcastically. “Yes,” I replied, apprehensively. Inner Critic immediately jumped on the hesitant reply and in an attempt to crush what little resolve I had left, reminded me of all the unfinished projects I have tucked away in a yellow binder. Not to mention the hours wasted dawdling and procrastinating over said projects.


Why are there three unfinished projects in what has become the infamous yellow binder? I started each one of these stories with such enthusiasm. The first 5000 words could not wait to leap onto the page. Then with virtually no warning, the pace changed, it became sluggish. A short while later when I attempted to add an historical event, unfinished story number one came to a crashing halt. I had eagerly begun searching for the details of this historical event. Thinking it would just take a few quick clicks of the mouse to get the facts I needed. How hard could it be? I ended up searching for hours. I needed the date, time and venue where a prominent politician of the day had given a speech. A street, a square, a hotel, anything but I couldn’t pin it down. Trying a different tact, I searched for the content of the speech. No luck there either. This information is important only in the context of the times the story is set. I should be able to move on with the rest of the story but I was stuck because this bump brought Inner Perfectionist to the fore. Inner Perfectionist insists another word cannot be written until the information is found. Having roused Inner Perfectionist, Inner Critic now had competition and became louder and more insistent. Inner Perfectionist says I cannot move along with the story until I get my facts right. Inner Critic says I cannot move on with the story because I cannot write. And so the characters of story number one languish in the abyss known as the yellow binder.

Inner Perfectionist has also regulated Story number two to the yellow binder. I needed the layout of a ship, the date it departed from Cobh and the day it arrived in New York in the late 1950’s. Once again, I mistakenly thought this information was only a few quick mouse clicks away. It has taken me six months to find the dates of this particular crossing. I still have not found information on the fares or the layout of the ship. A writer really does need to know where the characters are actually hanging out. I could make up a ship, but Inner Perfectionist is appalled by the very idea of this. Inner Critic laughs, exuding a, you have to be kidding me attitude.

Story number three is a flashback story. The main character is looking back, trying to figure out how she got to the dark ugly place she now inhabits. She is just about to open a letter. Inner Perfectionist raises her interfering little head and asks, what is in this letter exactly? How is it addressed, give me the wording. My mind goes blank. I cannot for the life of me get the wording of this letter past Inner Perfectionist. Inner Critic says; look if you can’t even write a letter what makes you think you can write a story. I grow tired of being badgered, so into the yellow binder goes story number three joining its fellow uncompleted projects.

Even as I write this Inner Perfectionist and Inner Critic are chitchatting away in the background. Inner Perfectionist is appalled at the phraseology of this piece. Inner Critic scoffs, you call this writing, are you joking me, this is just a load of rubbishy ramblings. No one will read this. It would bore anyone to death. Well I am finally answering back. I am not as concerned about whether anyone reads this, as I am about actually writing it and breaking the block. Is that silence I hear? It seems the only way to silence the bullies is to just write, even if it is only rubbishy ramblings. Otherwise, the bullies in your head win! And we can’t have that now can we? Oh and I am going out later today to buy a new binder. I think florescent pink might be the thing. I have gone off yellow.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Not All Sweat Lodges Are Created Equal!

The Sweat Lodge has been the focus of much discussion these past two weeks, due to the tragic deaths that occurred in Sedona, Arizona on Thursday, October 8. I first learned of these tragic deaths from my husband. On arriving home from work he related what he had heard on the news about the sweat lodge deaths. "Don’t you go to those sweat lodges," he asked? He knew my answer was yes. I have been to four sweat lodges in as many years and had just reserved my space for another one on November 1, called “The House of the Ancestors and All Souls Day.”

Unlike the facilitator of the tragic Sedona sweat lodge, a Shamana, who has studied with indigenous medicine people from North America and South America, runs the sweat lodges I attend. She has been practicing shamanic spiritual healing for over twenty years and teaches shamanism internationally.

Also unlike the tragic Sedona sweat lodge, there is no fee for the sweat lodges I attend. You may leave a donation if you wish, but it is not required. If you do decide to leave a donation, it is anonymous. As you leave the house after the feast you may notice a jar sitting on a bench by the door. It is up to you, if you decide to drop a few dollars into it, or pass it by.

The focus of this sweat lodge is to honour our ancestors. We have been asked to bring a photograph of a departed love one and a favorite dish of theirs in their honour for the feast/smorgasbord that will be rounding off this sweat lodge ceremony. The feast being the time to socialize with all your fellow sweat lodge buddies.

The ceremony is scheduled to start at 11 am. Preparing the lodge for entering at noon is the first order of business. It will be a three round Sweat Lodge, which is a Saami tradition as opposed to the four rounds of the Native American Sweat Lodge. Lee’s sweat lodges are very open and user friendly. You may bring water into the lodge with you. You may leave the lodge at anytime durning the ceremony, if you feel the need. The actual sweat lodge, which is only a third of the whole ceremony, lasts under one hour. Our sweat lodge on November 1, will start as I said at 11 am with the preparation of the lodge and placing our photographs on an altar in the house. We will be entering the sweat lodge at noon, sharing stories that are dear to our hearts about those we have loved and lost. On exiting the lodge at about one pm, we will then go back into the house and partake of the feast. There will be a closing ceremony after the feast and we should all be heading home by three thirty, refreshed, glowing from the natural sauna and feeling relaxed.

You do have to book a place in Lee's sweat lodges. She limits the number of people. You are not packed like sardines in this sweat lodge. There is plenty of room to move about so you are not stifled by overcrowding. I have never been to a sweat lodge where anyone has had to leave, but still it is made very clear to everyone before entering the lodge that if you feel you need to leave, do not hesitate. So when my husband asked me if I was going to cancel my November 1, sweat lodge, my answer was No! Absolutely not. I know my sweat lodge is safe. The materials used to construct the lodge are all natural materials. Therefore, the lodge can breathe, and the steam can escape. I know the lodge will not be overcrowded. I also know that Lee takes her responsibility for the spiritual and physical safety of all who participate in her sweat lodges very seriously. I am attending a sweat lodge with a knowledgeable responsible facilitator, who is more interested in the ceremonial rites and the benefits to the participants as opposed to monetary gain. A true spiritual teacher!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Thanks to My Blog Bible!

This week I purchased a book my sister, Trisha recommended to me, on how to blog. “The Huffington Post Complete Guide to Blogging,” by the editors of Huffington Post. I am only a third of way through this book and I have to say it has been very helpful. I would highly recommend it to all novice bloggers. So far I have followed instructions and successfully added a stat counter to see if anyone is in fact visiting my blog. The next step came under the heading of “alerting your own networks,” which for me meant my limited list of friends on facebook. I spent a few hours trying to figure out how to accomplish this, and in the end, I think I got it.

Chapter three, "Getting Noticed," is where I am now in what has become my how to Blog Bible! Self promotion is what this chapter is all about. Something I am not naturally comfortable with. Grappling with the deepset feeling of it being rude, even obnoxious to expound on your own abilities. I did not learn this at home from my parents as most people would expect. Quite the contrary in my case. I grew up being told that I could do anything, be anything I wanted. Except for that one thing. When my brother was born an only son in a family of girls and in the United States, my parents regularly gushed proudly into his little face, you can be anything you want. You could even be president of the United States. I was twelve when my brother was born and on hearing this inquired if I too could be president of the United States. To my dismay at the time, I was told no, I could not. The reason for this stumbling block, I had not been born in the United States. I was happy for my baby brother and didn't dwell any further on this impediment. Being the President’s big sister, would be cool enough.

So where did my discomfort of self promotion come from? I suppose it could be put down to the many schools I attended. Twelve years, six schools, two countries. I was different wherever I went, even while living in the US. Later in life I came to embrace my uniqueness, but as children we want to fit in, be the same. When I lived in NY I had an Irish accent. When we went back to Ireland I had a NY accent. When I lived in Chicago, I had an Irish/NY accent. When we moved to Madison, WI I had an Irish, NY, Chicago accent. Things were getting very complicated accent wise. Then we moved back to Ireland and I just had an American accent. Much less complicated!

When we moved back to Ireland, Americans were regarded as loud and boastful. Unfortunately, descriptions very apt to the Americans visiting Ireland in that era, the returned Yanks or those polyester plaid clad bus tourists of the seventies. So I guess it would be correct to surmise that it was peer/community pressure that knocked the self promotion gene from my psyche.

I spent the last day or two wondering if this self promotion thing was such a good idea. Am I making a fool of myself? I took a deep breath, told myself to get over myself and just do it. And I have. I thought of going back and taking the blog link off facebook, but I haven’t figured out how to do it yet. My B.B. doesn’t have instructions for that!

Chapter four is about finding your voice. Maybe by the time I get through this next chapter, I will have found a more focused voice. Bet you are hoping for the same thing.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Lions and Tigers and Snow, OH MY

When I opened my curtains this morning there it was. Snow!!! My heart sank along with my spirits. Snow this early, oh no! It's way too early the voice in my head roared, or did I actually roar. I turned on the television to get the weather report. That only added to my angst. The very well groomed Meteorologist informed me that not only was it going to snow all day long, but we could expect a record-breaking snowfall of two inches. Last winter only ended in May. Yes you read right, May, we actually had a snowstorm in May! At this rate, winter will last at the very least seven long months.

In years past, I sat, watched, and marveled at the mystical beauty of that first snowfall of the season. Well not this morning! It was bleak, sad, and quite honestly depressing. Nothing mystical or magical happening this morning.

I was not the only one in my house feeling less than pleased with the early appearance of this year’s first snow. No, my new puppy Louie was downright aggrieved. When I came downstairs this morning and let him out of his crate, he was his usual happy tail wagging puppy self. I opened up the back door and out he pranced. Coming to a dead stop when he spotted the white stuff at the end of the deck, and then he noticed the white stuff falling from the sky. He ruffed at it in the way he ruffs at things that frighten him. Things like stones, gates, traffic lights, the usual scary things of life! Then the ruff developed into barking, agitated barking. He needed to get out there and do his business, but he had no intention leaving the safety of the deck. He scratched on the door and whined to be left back in, and when the door was opened, he ran into the kitchen skidding across the tiled floor, to hide under the table as fast as his little puppy legs could carry him. I tried him outside once again about twenty minutes later. He had not changed his mind about that snow stuff falling from the sky. In fact, his reaction was exactly the same, skidding and all. Poor Louie is going to have at least seven long months to conquer his fear of snow. I mean he is going to have to venture off the deck at some stage! As for me, I hope to experience the wonder and the beauty of the first snowfall during the second snow fall in December!!!!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Blogging, The Way to Go

Blogging, I was told is the way to go for aspiring writers. My sister, Siobhan first mentioned the concept to me while I was at home in Ireland this summer. She informed me her friend Barbara, who is a writer told her blogging was the only way to go for the writers of today.

I filed this idea in the back of my mind. My thoughts on blogging last summer were, how do I even start to wrap my head around this blogging thing. I mean I had only gotten myself sorted on Facebook. Begging my children to please let me be your friend. It was embarrassing for weeks I only had three friends. My youngest refusing to be my friend. He informed me Facebook was not for Moms!

Anyway back to blogging. So I attended the WRWA (Wisconsin Regional Writers Association)last weekend and lo and behold, blogging was once more being hailed as the way to go for writers. A way to create a platform for oneself. I spent one long week trying to figure out how to create this blog. To make it pretty and give it a name that would reflect creativity.

Well here it is. I don't know what I am suppose to do now. I guess I will just have to play it by ear and hope for the best.

Have a great day as they say in America!

Ann