Chasing Inspiration

Friday, February 27, 2009

Soundtrack Friday

I've been working all week and while trying to adapt back to the work of 9-to-5, I didn't get today's post written ahead of time. And because I shouldn't be taking time away from working, I am going to give you this, a happy song for a sunny Friday!

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I'm Tired

How did I manage to balance everything I have going on back when I worked full time before? I've only been out of work for 3 months and I started a job today. 32-40 hours/week. Today I worked 7 hours. And I feel as if I worked 7 days. But there's no rest for me. I need to finish the projected household budget for March, write at least a page in my current work-in-progress, do dishes, make lunch for tomorrow, put away laundry, and spend some quality time with the husband.

Man, I'm pooped just thinking about it! It really does make me wonder how I managed juggling all this before. And reminds me just how tired I was all the time before as well. Since I've been out of work, I've been alert and awake. The fibromyalgia hasn't been horrible and I've been enjoying the lower levels of fatigue and pain. I need to be consciously aware of my body's signals to avoid the pitfalls I ran into headlong before. Since this is a short term contract, I'm treating this like training for a full time job.

Consciousness. I guess that's a theme for this week. To be more conscious of my actions, reactions and choices. To be more intentional. Not that I haven't been, but with this drastic change in my schedule I could opt to let life happen and the chips can fall where they may. Or I can be intentional and aware. Conscious.

And on that note, my body is telling me it's very tired so I'm going to head to bed now before very tired becomes exhausted and I lose all this wonderful momentum. How's that for conscious and intentional? *grin*

Monday, February 23, 2009

I Don't Like Change

You know, I thought I would be all excited to be starting this new job. Oh, you didn't know? Yes, I'm going to be working on a short term contract for one of my previous bosses. I enjoy working with her. She has huge vision and is a lot of fun. And I always end up learning something new from her.

I set the alarm early Friday, Saturday, Sunday, today to try to get myself acclimated to getting up early so I can be at work by 7am. I do this because then I can leave around 4. And get home before the husband which means getting some alone time before we spend time together. It works for me.

However, over the last three and a half months I've gotten used to getting up at 8am. And doing the job search in my comfy clothes. And leisurely taking care of business. Starting tomorrow, I'll have to compress the time I spend doing "home" stuff into my evenings again. And weekends. I'll have to be a better manager of my time. And be more focused. This isn't a bad thing. It's just a change. And I'm okay with changing how I manage my evenings and such. But I'm really not loving the early mornings. The change from sleeping until I felt like waking up to getting up on demand isn't going so well. I may have to rethink my strategy. Perhaps I could start work at 8am instead of 7am. Perhaps I don't need to have Friday afternoons off. That would mean I could just work 8 hour days instead of four 9 hour days and one 4 hour day. Hmmm. Perhaps I don't have to change things as radically as I once thought. Perhaps I won't even be allowed to. I'm just assuming I can work the system. :)

Anyway, as much as I say I like to change things up, I'm finding I have some sacred cows. Things I don't want to change for either internal or external reasons. Things I want total control over. Things that I may have to let go. And I'm not sure how I feel about that.

How do you deal with your sacred cows? Do you make peace with them? Do you kick them to the curb? Do you sacrifice them for the greater good? How tightly do you hold on to them before they start to control you?

My sacred cows have to be looked at closely and I need to decide what I'm willing to give on and what I intend to hold on to fiercely. I figure at least I'll be conscious about these things. And in being conscious I can be aware of when the cows are no longer useful and I can course correct. Thinning the herd is a good thing. Right? *grin*

Friday, February 20, 2009

Soundtrack Friday

There are some songs that are anthems. Others that are iconic. And then there are those songs that make us smile with fond remembrances, even if the songs themselves were mediocre at best.

Bryan Adams is one of those artists. I don't know if he is considered super talented. But when I hear one of his songs on the radio, I stop and smile, remember the days of my youth when Summer of 69 was the hot song in Canada and the guy I had a crush on that year and...well, you get the picture.

One of the songs that has burned itself into my brain and no matter how overplayed on the radio brings a smile to my face is Everything I Do, I Do It For You. Yes, the theme of Kevin Costner's interesting take on the Robin Hood mythology is a song that forever brings a smile to my heart and a shiver to my soul. Why? Because beneath the pop-for-hire lyrics is a song of yearning and commitment and devotion. Sure, it's creepy in that the devotion is sort of obsessive and stalkerish if you listen too carefully. But it touches a cord in me and reminds me of a simpler time in my life when I didn't realize that true love is more than devotion. It's work and compromise and messy. But oh so worth it.

When I long for the simple devotion I listen to this song. Yes, I'm a sap. Sue me.

I give you Every Thing I Do... The Stewie Griffin version.

And as a flash from the past, I give you the original Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves version...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Evolution of a Dream

When I was first married, I used to dream of being a housewife just like my mom. Those of you who know me might find that amusing, and improbable. But I did. I had a part-time job working evenings and spent all day doing wifely things like dishes, laundry, cleaning, managing the budget, shopping. I was organized and on top of the world. Sure, we didn't have much money, but life was good and I was having fun being the queen of my home.

Then I got a full time job so we could pay for my graduate school. I liked working full time and going to school. Because I was so busy, I got a lot done. I was still organized, but I was busy. And the job wasn't a super hard job so I didn't mind going in to work every day and socializing while getting my tasks done.

I've been working full time ever since, with the exception of a year where I worked 3/4 time and two years where I worked full time during the school year but had summers off. Up until the last two years, it was fun. There was travel associated with one job that made everything worth while. And I was able to coach and present and that was a lot of fun! But the last year was not fun and it was hard to remain engaged.

I think having this time off right now feels like therapy. I'm renewing and refocusing after the big layoff. I know I need a job soon to help with expenses but I'm starting to get my feet back under me and get myself organized at home. Things that have slid due to time pressures are finally getting done. And I'm enjoying being able to stay in the house during the icky cold of winter. I miss being around other people and there are days I don't feel productive at all. But over all, I'm enjoying being home with no deadlines and no boss.

You would think I would be writing more during this time, and I did at first. But January came and I had a bit of a freak out. Sort of like, once I was given the gift of time the pressure to perform became way too great. So I've backed off on my expectations and am doing things to make the writing fun again. And I'm trying to figure out what I want to do next, knowing full well that in this economy the job I take may not be what I want to do but may be that intermediate step toward getting back into the employment game.

But in the back of my head I'm wondering if it will be that bad if I don't work and stay home to take care of things. Perhaps I can start a business I can run from home or find a part time job that pays at least what I'm getting on UI but gives me the time to be home. What I'm learning is that at heart, if I'm not out traveling, I'm really a home body. And wouldn't it be nice to be that housewife I used to dream about being after all...

Friday, February 13, 2009

Soundtrack Friday

I love blues. There is something earthy and primal about the sleek riffs and gutsy all out vocals that makes me believe this white girl has rhythm. It's a soul to soul connection that grabs me. Strips me bare and once it's through putting my soul through the wringer, it smooths me out and stands me up again.

Yeah, I guess you could say I love the blues.

And for today's Soundtrack Friday, I have Marc Cohn's perennial hit Walking in Memphis. I can remember exactly where I was the first time I heard this song play on the radio. It was 1991 and I was driving a parts truck at a pulp and paper mill in my home town as a summer job. I was getting paid union wages, which at the time seemed like a fortune. I had the radio on and blasting as I drove between mills on a road that overlooked the river. And the opening chords to Walking In Memphis sang through the speakers. Yeah, I had to stop the truck and close my eyes and listen.

Walking In Memphis is on the soundtrack I'm using for Mallory's story. The lyrics themselves don't literally translate to her story, but the emotion evoked both by the music and the lyrics translate to part of her journey. And there is something about Marc Cohn's voice that inspires me to write. I have had one of his songs on every work-in-progress soundtrack I've created. I have saved Walking In Memphis for a special story. Who knew it would be Mallory's?

I give you Walking In Memphis, and since I couldn't find the video for Mark, I have a video compelation of Marc and Cher. There's a pairing I wouldn't have thought of in a million years. *grin*

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Power of Words

Words have power.

I hear this all the time. From fellow writers. From coaches. From religious figures. From motivational gurus. From experts in various fields. From parents. There is power in words.

I think about this as I write Mallory's story. And the question I ask myself most often while I make my way through the pages is this - am I using the right words to convey her story?

Mallory's story is an emotional one and I want to be sure it doesn't read as mellow drama. It would be a disservice to her and to any readers, should I get this published. So I struggle for the right words, and to have a conservancy of words as I tend to wax on and on about things. I also tend to put too many layers of description in the story. Or so I think. We'll see when it's finished.

As I struggle, I think of powerful words. Words that are crisp and sharp and cut to the heart of the matter. Words that are soft and warm and wrap the reader in a comforting embrace. Words that allude and words that leave no doubt as to their meaning. And I think about how I use words in real life. Words have power. When we tell ourselves something over and over again, we start to believe those words. If I tell myself I can't write Mallory's story, I won't write it. If I tell myself I'm not a good candidate for a job, I won't apply for it. If I tell myself I choose joy, then I start to look at my world a little differently.

And if I have all this power over myself, how do my words impact others? Am I using the right words to let my husband know just how much he means to me? And how thankful I am he is supportive of me? Do I tell my niece how unique and wonderful she is more than I sigh and tell her she needs to calm down? Do I use the right words with clients to help them dig deeper into their own purpose and power?

I am choosing to be more conscious of my words. While I am not responsible for how another may take my words, I am responsible for my choice of words.

How would your life be impacted if you were more conscious of your words?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Fear and Joy

I had a bit of a meltdown this week. Last week I learned that I wasn't going to move forward in interviews toward a position I was really excited about. Last week I had a few hours of "But why, God? Why?" and then I pushed back into job search mode. However, it seemed that every open door closed on me. Ever. Single. One. And the determination I forced myself into started to crack and crumble beneath me.

I entered into fear. Fear is not all bad. Fear of something that is truly dangerous can preserve our lives instead of allowing us to rush headlong into something foolishly. However, fear can be that thing that keeps you paralyzed in a life you don't want to be living. It can cause you to be inactive, to become a victim. To never experience life. Fear can keep you from risking, from trying, from failing.

And that's just wrong. Failure is not a bad thing. Failure allows you to learn. How many inventors out there failed and failed and failed over and over again until they got it right? They learned something from each failure that moved them forward to success. They may have been fearful that they would never find the answer, but they didn't let fear defeat them.

And yesterday, that's where I was. Letting fear defeat me. Before I had even tried. I made up stories in my head that fed the fear and when my husband came home from work I was a weepy mess of a woman. He talked me off the ledge, as did a dear friend who is constantly reminding me to turn to God when I am afraid. And once I was off that ledge, I started to think about my fears. Where did they come from and how could I defeat them. I know where some of them come from. Others elude me. But I do know that one cure for fear is joy. There is no room for fear when you fill your heart and soul and life with joy.

These are hard times for people to choose joy. Yes, choose. A deliberate action that allows joy to come into our lives. I was reminded this morning as I looked around my home office for a book to motivate me, that joy is a choice. Tim Hansel, author and speaker and one who lives in chronic pain, wrote in his book You Gotta Keep Dancin', that
Joy is something which defies circumstances and occurs in spite of difficult situations. Whereas happiness is a feeling, joy is an attitude. A posture. A position. A place.
When I have joy, there isn't room for the fear to suck the life out of me. That doesn't mean that joy is foolish or simplistic or denial of one's situation. I've been laidoff. When unemployment runs out, if I don't have a job, there won't be income coming in to even partially cover what I was making before. This is fact. But, I can be anxious or fearful about it, as I have been. Or I can choose joy and find the opportunities in the situation and listen to life and learn the lessons I'm being directed to learn.

Joy doesn't abdicate me from my responsibilities to work to find a job. Joy gives me the strength to do so with an attitude that is light instead of an attitude that is doomed.

I wonder how Mallory, the character in my current work-in-progress, would say if I gave her this little pep talk. Mallory is living in a world of fear. And she's stalled. Stuck. Perhaps it's time for her to take a look around and start to replace some of that fear with joy so she can start dancing again. Perhaps I should, as well.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Getting To Know Your Characters

One of my side jobs is relationship coaching. It's a passion of mine and one of the reasons I earned a master's degree in counseling psychology. I love working with people who are in relationships to help them deepen and grow those relationships. Small wonder I love to read and write romantic fiction, huh?

I was writing up my notes from one of my sessions and I had one of those Duh! moments. I coach my clients through blocks to their relationships. We work out scenarios and discuss options and causes and triggers. And on a subconscious level I do that with my characters.

If I told you I sat down and coached my characters, you would think I was taking my work a bit too far, wouldn't you? Since my characters aren't living and breathing entities and exist only in my head and on paper, I don't actually sit down with them, but I do interview them. I ask them what they do in certain situations, how they react to certain things. I ask the hard questions - what do they fear, what do they love, how far would they go to protect the things/people most precious to them. And while I ask these questions I get insight into their character, into what makes them tick.

For me this is better than creating character worksheets, at least in the initial stages of writing. Character worksheets are important to get the details down about the character, but by questioning their values, motivation and behavior, I see deeper into the character and the character starts to become real to me and writing that character becomes easier. I won't say effortless because writing is seldom that. At least it isn't effortless to me. It's hard work and some days I feel like pulling my hair out and being done with the whole thing. But at least I have an understanding about the core of the character and it becomes easier to stay true to the character's faults, strengths and foibles. And I hope, it makes the character more believable.

If you write, try this sometime. Sit down with a comforting beverage, a notebook and imagine you are conversing with your characters. Ask them the hard questions that probe deep into their psyches and ask them how they would react to certain situations. Ask then what brings them joy and what makes them cry. Ask them what is the most precious thing in the world to them. I guarantee the information you glean from these conversations will make finding their Goal, Motivation and Conflict so much easier and it will allow you to stay true to the heart of the people you are writing about.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Soundtrack Friday

I don't know about you, but sometimes my life has a sound track. I think it comes from the fact that music - the rhythm and beats and melody and points and counter points - stirs something in my soul. Sometimes the lyrics stir right along with it and sometimes the music moves despite the lyrics.

Anyway, I thought in an effort to be authentic and real, and to show you a little bit of what keeps the writing moving forward and what keeps me moving forward, every Friday I'll share with you something from my personal or writing soundtrack. God, this makes me feel naked. *grin*

So, for today, I'm going to start with this song that haunts me. The music more than the lyrics makes me feel both heavy and hopeful. There is something about that underscoring driving beat that says to me - walk forward and walk steady. This week I've had to be reminded to walk forward and walk steady despite the potholes and cracks that keep wanting to trip me up. I listen to this and I don't feel sad, but hopeful. Thoughtful. And like I can move forward.

As for the writing, the lyrics grabbed me and Mallory, the character I'm currently working with. Mallory turned to me while I was typing a scene and laid her hands on my fingers and told me to listen. Just listen. "This is me," she said, with that hopeful sadness in her eyes. So I've been listening, trying to figure out what in the song was her, but I think it has to do with the chorus. In any case, I'll keep listening and unraveling Mallory's secrets until I can put them on the page. And while I'm doing that, please enjoy this week's soundtrack - Second Chance by Shinedown.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

A Crisis of Identity

I realized something yesterday after I had written my blog post. Losing my job has created the perfect storm of conditions that have led me to a crisis of identity. I think this is fairly common in Western culture where we are judge not by who we are but by what we do. From the time we start school we are asked about what we do, what our parents do, what we plan to do. We are asked about careers and jobs and activities. We are not asked about who we are.

I think about this as I learn of more and more people who are finding themselves where I am - laid off and cut off from the life that defined them for potentially many years. I worked at my last company for over 6 years. It wasn't always good, but it was comfortable and known. I built many friendships there and I hoped to carry many of them with me when I left. I learned anew what I knew to be true - out of sight often does mean out of mind. But that's a different blog post.

When I left my job I no longer had words for what I did. And I let that become a lack of words for who I was. There's almost a shame that goes along with this lack of language. I didn't realize it until after interviewing for a position I was hopeful to obtain that I was undergoing a crisis. I no longer know who I am without a job to define me.

Okay, that's a bit of an overstatement for me. I do know who I am. I may not always remember it and the shock of not moving forward in interviews rattled me some. But there are those who truly no longer know who they are when they don't have a job to define them. They are forced into a crisis of identity. And part of me wishes the nation would be thrust into this existential tug-of-war because the crisis is the crucible that allows us to really explore who we are in essence and in truth. It can spur us toward authenticity.

Why is this crisis a good thing? Because we are not what we do! I firmly believe that to be true. What we do for a career is based on so many factors, who we are and our skills (or lack thereof), being a part of that whole. But what we do does not make us who we are.

So, who are we? That's not an easy answer, nor should it be. Depending on your belief system, who you are is based on a Creator and who that Creator made you. Who you are also consists of your beliefs, your values, your DNA, your experiences, your personality. Who you are is, I believe, growing and evolving every day. And it can take a life time to get to know yourself.

I challenge you to stop thinking about yourself based on what you do. Join me in this crisis of identity and tear back the layers so you can get to know yourself on a deeper, more authentic level. It won't always be easy, but I firmly believe it will be worth it in the end.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The Long Road

I try to not use this blog to talk about the frustration and pain of the job search. I was laid off in November. This is true. And I did apply for a position that I felt was a perfect fit for me, but something told the hiring manager I wasn't a good fit for them. It's frustrating. Especially when you don't know what it was that caused you from moving forward.

Anyway, I'm trying to dust off and move forward. I had no idea how excited I was about this potential job until I interviewed and then I waited...and waited...and waited. There is this part of me that wants to be depressed, to go to the manager and beg for a second chance. There there is the more dignified part of me that wants to ask for feedback, thank him for his time and move forward.

I think the problem is I know what I want to be when I grow up but I struggle with that and the fact that I also like regular pay checks. I think I'm being told to step away from the safety net. And I'm not comfortable jumping without a net. So what is a girl to do?

When the road is long, a girl gathers her friends around her and she finds her strength again while she gives her bruised soul some time to heal. A girl sits down and prays for direction and is thankful that if this wasn't the right fit, for whatever reason, that the position is no longer an option. The girl finds something positive to focus on because in the end, it's being positive that is going to get her through.

How do you handle fear and disappointment? I'm curious. I have no brave words for how I handle it. Yesterday I cried and ate ice cream. Today I'm still sad but I can't sit at home in my bathrobe and do nothing. I have to push forward. I'm just thankful I have a great support system around me. I think, in the end, that makes all the difference.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Books Read in January

When Gods Die by C. S. Harris -- The second installment of the Sebastian St. Cyr series. I loved the incorporation of the Prince Regent in the storytelling.

Why Mermaids Sing by C. S. Harris -- Book Three in the Sebastian St. Cyr series and the series gets better and better.

Fish Out Of Water by MaryJanice Davidson -- The last Fred the Mermaid book and a lot of fun.

Bound by Flame and Bound By Light by Anna Windsor -- Books 2 & 3 of the Sybil series. Good stories and an interesting addition to the paranormal romance genre.

Affair by Amanda Quick -- A fun historical read that made me remember why I used to read Amanda Quick.

Eye of Heaven by Marjorie M. Liu -- Part of the Dirk & Steele paranormal romance series, this book falls in the middle of the series. Now I want to reread the entire series, not just this book.

What I Did For Love by Susan Elizabeth Phillips -- SEP's newest book. Almost vintage SEP and worth the wait!

Glitter Baby by Susan Elizabeth Phillips -- An author's edition of SEP's 1980's era novel. Very epic and well done, but I like the original better. :)