This will be brief.
Mostly it will be brief because I don’t know how to talk about what is going on in my family.
That may cause some confusion, because I actually mean “family of origin” but I ain’t that fancy and family’s family. My family by marriage is my family. My siblings and their spouses and my parents are my family. My husband and my children are my family. When something impacts one of them, it impacts us all.
My dad is sick. He was in the hospital for a week. We just brought him back to his house (with my mom) last night.
He has cancer. It is lung cancer. No, he is not a smoker, but if you think it matters or somehow a person who did smoke who develops cancer somehow deserved it, then you’ve never seen someone get sick. You don’t wish this on anyone, unless you’re a real dink.
There are many complicating medical factors that I won’t go into here.
I’ve stepped away from blogging, mostly because I’ve been busy trying to stay out of bed. Everything takes a monumental amount of effort, and I’m not the one who’s sick. I’m just on the sidelines and I find it challenging to keep moving.
As of today I’ve bought one Christmas present.
To blog about this, about this journey or the unfolding (or collapsing) of this could be a good thing.
It could also be getting personal gain from a difficult situation. I’m not talking “make lemonade from lemons” here. I’m talking about ambulance chasing, zero-ing in on that elusive “niche” that writers are supposed to find:
“How’d you become such a popular blogger?”
“I cashed in on the fact that my dad developed lung cancer at 67. It worked out pretty sweet for me. Sucks to be him.”
No thank you.
The thing for me is that writing has always been a way of processing things going on, whether that’s in my head or things around me. There’s that so-called “curse of self-awareness” that even as something is happening we’re aware of it, observing it. So as my dad positions on his shoulders a prayer shawl knitted by some kind people at a church in Colorado, I observe the way it clings to him, stretches and shapes to his body, how the yarn is bumpy and multifaceted with color, how I hope it covers him in prayers and envelops him with God’s peace. And as a person who writes and has been training myself to look for these stamp-sized images, I feel guilty for noticing.
It’s as if by observing, I remove myself from experiencing the situation in real time. And the one thing I can do for my dad is to walk through this with him, in real time, no self-preservation of distance or clinical observation. It is awful. But it is also infused with holy moments when all artifice is stripped away, all distance between presentation and reality is removed and we all are ourselves at our most raw, terrified, vulnerable and helpless. But we are together. And there is beauty in that.
Because of all this, and even though it snuck up on me and I’m not ready for it, it is also Christmas, and because I need to analyze why I would be writing about my life right now, I’m going to step away from blogging for a while. I may check in every so often with a quick hello, but I think it best to put it on hold for now.
Thank you for reading. Thank you for commenting. Thanks for being a really fun part of my days. I like y’all a lot. I hope to be back before too long. Have a wonderful Christmas, New Years, and any other holidays in December and January. Blessings. ~TC Larson
November is National Novel Writing Month (abbreviated NaNoWriMo and then whittled down further to NaNo), and I’m going to be writing like a fiend.
You should plan to be my mental support group as I try to hit my word count every day. Don’t worry, it won’t require too much – just blankets, snacks, beverages, and encouragement not to go back and delete everything I’ve written so far. If you want to come over and do my dishes and feed my family that would be helpful.
I’m planning to be bold and share the Work In Progress (WIP) as I slog through November. I hope to make it pretty regular, but if you see a decrease in the number of posts from me, you’ll know why. You can picture me at my kitchen table, hair pulled up into a messy (read: not cute) ponytail/bun, dirty coffee cup within easy reach, a slightly frenzied look in my eye.
Because I’m not all that creative and not trying to write sci-fi or something that requires me to create whole new worlds , I use bits and pieces from life around me. Usually that means something real is the seed that becomes a new plant in the story. It could be a scene captured in my mind long ago, a conversation that was meaningful, a situation that never got resolved, even the smell of a lake during autumn, but these things rarely stay in their purest form while I’m writing. The grain of truth is there underneath but (at least this is how it’s worked so far) it gets trained on the trellis and becomes a new version of itself.
I’m telling you all this so that if you have deja vu while you read parts of the WIP you won’t feel threatened. I’m not here to air anybody’s secrets or write some kind of tell-all. I wouldn’t have much to tell, and I mean that in all the best ways. My experiences have been pleasantly devoid of scandal so you’ll know I’m making stuff up if things get juicy.
My new story for this year’s NaNoWriMo
The idea I want to focus on for NaNo focuses on camp. Did you ever go to camp as a kid, work there as a college student? I did both, and camp was a central player in my life for many years. Even now, I remain loosely tied to camp and value the camp experience for most everybody.
There are many people who outline and plot their WIP far in advance, and others who just wing it. I’ve only done NaNo one time (last year) and that time I had a rough plan for a story, most of which I kept in my head. Because you’re trying to write 50,000 words in one month and based on my experience last year, I think it is helpful to have a rough sketch of major plot points, kind of as a road map of where you want the story to go. Of course, you must be prepared to ditch the plan and go with what is happening (sometimes those characters are wily critters!).
That’s about all I can tell you right now, since I’m still percolating on many details. Some of them I won’t figure out until I’m already knee-deep in the story.
Wish me luck, and I hope to check in (in a more limited form) throughout November!
I’d welcome any vivid memories from those times at camp, positive or negative. I’m looking for inspiration, so even little details can be helpful. Do you have any stories you’d care to share?
For some time now I’ve been thinking about upgrading this blog. I’ve been reading about the ever important “platform” conversation and “social media presence” necessary for writers. Am I a writer? Well, I write stuff, therefore I am a writer. There are varying degrees of seriousness. I may be on the early side of writer-hood but I’m on that path even if I’m doing at a turtle’s pace. Upon review I realized I’ve been blogging for a good four years now, an eternity in many ways. I definitely didn’t know what I was doing in the beginning, and my concern over privacy and protecting my family has kept me fairly private. In talking with a dear friend today, I was able to process some of the pros and cons of getting a domain name and what one to choose. I’m going to let you eavesdrop on that conversation and others I’ve had about blogging.
1. Picking a name is important.
This seems obvious, but there are a lot of different aspects to choosing a name. Writers are often told their name is their brand. In that sense it is practical to use your own name as a blog address. However, there are times when a blog name conveys what that blog is about. Some people choose to use that same name on other forms of social media, being “that-dog-lady” across various forms. As I think about picking a name…
I’m taking into account the fact that I have small kids and want their identities, and that of my husband, to remain private.
I’m taking into account that I don’t want my expressed opinions to reflect negatively on my family of origin.
I’m thinking about the longevity of the written word and the Internet, in addition to having an online presence and reputation of integrity.
I’m considering the fact that I have used a pen name Nita Holiday in the past. My Twitter account is associated with it, along with TC Larson.
2. Your site should cooperate.
When people try to get to your site, they should be able to do so with minimal trouble. If you use a service that has trouble (we’ve all seen those pages where the link is broken or unavailable) people get easily frustrated. They are also easily distracted. You don’t have much time to engage people on your site. If they have to work at it, you’ll lose them. There are books written by knowledgeable techies about the various hosts, so I won’t bore you with that here, but as I look into switching from a “wordpress.com” name to a simple “.com” I want to use something that will be dependable and offer help to a tech limited person like me.
3. SEO Nonsense and blogging to current trends.
There are strategists who recommend watching what is trending on social media and writing about those topics. That is one approach to blogging. I don’t happen to agree with it. I happen to be a big fan of authenticity. I get it that you can authentically want people to read your blog. I want people to read mine. But I’m not willing to write about things that are unimportant to me or an area in which I have no expertise. Ask me about parenting a toddler, I’ve got opinions and experience to back it up. If it was the Tour de France that was the trending topic, I’d be out of my element, unless we were talking about how to find a really inexpensive hybrid bike (which I’m trying to do right now).
You should write about the things that interest you. That’s what will keep you going. That’s where you’ll find other people who resonate with what you have to say. We all have our little niches. I just saw a picture of a bunny hopping around underneath a high chair, eating what the child had dropped. If you let your bunny hop around loose inside your house, there are other people who do too. You could write about it, and attract a huge following of other bunny-freedom-lovers.
Up to this point, using a wordpress.com template has worked great for me. I’ve been glad to use this service and I’ve come a long way from my first days of blogging. That said, I know I have a lot to learn. There’s a lot to think about before I actually go for the upgrade. And I’d welcome your wisdom in this process. Here are some questions for you:
Do you blog and how did you decide when to buy a more premium package?
How did you come up with your blog’s name?
What are your favorite blogs and why?
And if you’d be so kind, I’d love to get your feedback on the following poll:
There was a post shared on Twitter not too long ago about how the game Candy Crush has pretty much ruined her life. You can read her hilarious article here: http://www.lisa-laura.blogspot.com/search?q=Candy+Crush#!http://lisa-laura.blogspot.com/2013/09/how-candy-crush-saved-my-life.html
I read it and laughed out loud. But I disagreed with her in a lot of ways, even though she was super funny. And so I offer you a counter argument of sorts.
Candy Crush Develops Your Focus
Not exclusive to Candy Crush, video games of various kinds develop your ability to focus and tune out the real world around you. I know this since I’ve observed it in my kids and myself. How many times should I call from the top of the stairs until I have to go to the basement, make eye contact, and touch my son’s shoulders to make sure he actually heard me and isn’t just yelling, “Okay Mom!” with no actual processing of the words I’m communicating?
And I’m no better. Last night my kids were getting ready for bed and while they were brushing their teeth I thought I’d work on one level (the elusive level, the one that I cannot beat no matter how many times I try). When I came to, they kids were already in their beds, my husband had showered and was already in bed half-asleep. I’m claiming time warp.
It’s great for developing your ability to tune out everything around you. Another case in point: After a while you don’t even hear that crazy harpsichord song over and over again. That take focus, I tell ya.
It Makes You Resourceful
How many times do writers claim they just don’t have time to write? They sit down to write and the messy kitchen suddenly becomes unbearable. Or access to free wifi at that coffee shop leads down a dark path of following links posted on Twitter rather than actually writing, which was the whole reason you came to the coffee shop in the first place…because the kitchen was too messy to be able to work there, remember?
Candy Crush lets you fit in a quick game wherever you are. Waiting for your turn at the DMV? Candy Crush. Dentist office? Candy Crush. In the car line to pick up the kids after school? Candy Crush. If only we’d keep our notebook, index card, or phone note-taker program/app as readily in our minds as Candy Crush, we’d be on our way to completing that project already.
Candy Crush Hones Strategic Advanced Planning
It’s not elegant like chess. I get that. It doesn’t smell of cigars and coffee and well-aged leather.
If it had a smell, I imagine it as more of a State Fair midway, cotton candy mixed with cigarette aroma.
That aside, Candy Crush makes you look for patterns, see interconnections and forces you to ignore the more obvious glowing options it tries to point out to you. Sure, the glowing options are possibilities, but they aren’t usually the best ones. They are moves for moves’ sake. But if you can find the less obvious combination, you’ll be surprised by the candies (read: plot lines) that drop into place. When you pay attention to the domino effect (to mix up my game usage) when you slide that idea over there, the other ideas in that article go clickity click and it all comes together.
There, see? Now you can play Candy Crush with a clean conscience. It is a skill developer, and it is part of your overall plan to refine your craft. Take THAT unfolded basket of clean laundry. I’m working on bettering my writing over here!
Do you have any helpful tips for me to get past Level 29 without spending any money? Are you someone who takes games seriously? And seriously, how can I pass Level 29?
My husband grew up spending much of the summer at the family’s cabin. It was always part of the rhythm of his family. His dad worked in the public schools and his mom worked at a college so they had the majority of their summers off from work. This allowed them to spend weeks, sometimes a whole month, up north.
He was one of those golden boys of summer, the ones who were athletic, outdoorsy, as comfortable on water skis or a sailboat as they were on land. One of those who caused an ache in my chest as I watched from the shoreline. He still is that golden boy, just more grown up.
He’s always helped his dad with various chores around the cabin, the biggest project being management of the wooden dock. I had no idea of the magnitude of dock management because I didn’t grow up going to a cabin. In the spring the water tends to be high, meaning that the dock needs to be almost at the tippytop of the posts. As summer goes on and water levels go down, the dock need to be lowered so it isn’t two feet above the top of the water. Then there’s the huge task of getting the dock into the water in the first place, and the job of taking it out of the water at the end of the season.
It was during the annual dock removal a few years ago that my husband lost his wallet. It fell out of his pocket and out of the waders he wore to make the water temperature more comfortable (or at least allowing him to still feel his extremities).
He didn’t know it was lost until a few hours later. When he realized it, he was already on the drive back home, which at the time was more than four hours from the cabin. He got by for a week until he could drive all the way back up north, pull on the clumsy waders and search the lake bottom for the wallet. He knew where he’d been working, so he thought it would be easy to find.
He eventually gave up, left it for the fish, drove back home and replaced the wallet and its contents.
That’s No Sunny
Fast forward five years.
The lost wallet is forgotten.
The IDs, credit card, business cards and miscellaneous wallet-y items have been replaced.
We are up at the cabin at the end of a dry summer. The dock has been lowered twice as the water receaded, and my husband and my father-in-law are working to move out the boat lift. The motor on the boat drags against sandy lake bottom even when partially raised and the boat lift needs to be deeper. Refreshing coolness in the heat of summer, their wrenches work against screws, twisting them to comply, make-shift levers and cinder blocks, the scent of metal, gasoline, pine trees and lake water. Cabin.
My husband’s high arch brushes up against something in the sand, something not a pumpkin seed sunfish. Waist deep, six foot pole in hand, his curiosity fishes out the item.
His lost wallet.
Five years later, he finds it.
My Own Lost Wallet
There are times when I feel like writing is my lost wallet.
The business of having a child every two years (they’re now 5, 7 and 9) took all my attention. I was all in, being either pregnant or nursing for the majority of seven+ years straight. Getting dishes into the dishwasher, making sure kids got enough iron and calcium and tummy-time and large muscle development took up all my brain space. My husband and friends helped me through my moments of feeling overwhelmed and inadequate, sure I was ruining the kids, one minute protecting them too much, the next minute letting them do to much, wanting them to know it was okay to fail at things.
There were things in the wallet we had forgotten about. An old picture, a business card from someone met in an airport, a list of old passwords. Much of the information was outdated, addresses had changed, personal information had changed, our family had expanded. Finding the wallet was finding something that had once been valuable, that had once been necessary and held important weight in my husband’s back pocket. Had he functioned without it? Yes. He was able to order a new driver’s license, replacement insurance cards. It would have been easier had it not dropped out of his waders and into the lake, but it didn’t stop his life from moving forward.
That’s much like writing has been for me.
I’ve been writing my whole life in one way or another. Even when I was pursuing a career outside the home unrelated to writing, the words were still there, still a part of everything I did, even if that was a peripheral responsibility. My life moved forward with no consideration of writing or how that fit into things.
The past four years have been a process of rediscovery.
I don’t know why it happened when it did.
I don’t know where it will lead, if it even leads anywhere external.
It doesn’t have to.
My journey of going by feel, digging around in the sand with my feet, bumping into something unexpected, grasping and unearthing something definite has brought me great joy and creative expression. It has allowed me to organize my thoughts, to speak aloud my observations and questions, to “verbalize” my journey and encourage others on their journey.
Sometimes when you find something you lost, you remember how valuable it once was. And in the intermediate time, it can become even more valuable, like a well-aged wine or lost coin. So even though it might be a little waterlogged, I’m drying out this writing wallet and reclaiming something that has always held value,
It just got lost for a while.
Do you have any passions that you had to lay aside for a season? What were those passions, and do you see yourself rediscovering them in the future? In what way do you express yourself creatively?
Today I’m over at Tim Gallen’s site, writing about silence. If you know me personally you might think I’m the last person to write about silence – I tend to whistle, hum, talk to inanimate objects, just generally make a racket as I move through life. But today’s post is about that silence you hear (wait a minute, can you hear the absence of sound??) when waiting.
Tim’s a great guy with a hilarious sense of humor and tons of creativity. I’d love it if you’d take your sweet little fingers and click over to check out my post. While you’re there, be sure to look around because I’m confident you’ll find lots of fun things to read and consider. Here’s the link, and feel free to tell all your friends! http://timgallen.com/when-silence-aint-golden/