My Very Perfect Magical Sunshine Job Description

This photo is totally unrelated to this post, but I think the people at Fletch would like it.

This photo is totally unrelated to this post, but I think the people at Fletch would like it.

I'm not job hunting, but I got the silly idea the other day to create a my perfect job ad. I'm not talking about the job ad your career counselor has you write so you can figure out what keywords to click on I'm talking about the fantastical job ad that would make you gasp out loud because could this actually be a job? was I stalked and secretly monitored so this job would be just for me? 

No, it can't actually be a job because this is total fantasy, but I had such a good time coming up with it that I'm totally okay with that. And I have all these other ideas now for other perfect job ads (because you can obviously have more than one perfect fantastical job). 

So here it is: my very perfect magical sunshine job ad from my very perfect magical sunshine made-up company.

Director of Communications and Audience Engagement


The Director of Communications and Audience Engagement will work closely with the CEO to create, curate, and market an expansive collection of film clips (full episodes and movies as well as short clips) focused on bringing light escapist pleasure to the (mostly female) masses. The ideal candidate will have a strong working knowledge of 80s and 90s television, including shows like Murder She Wrote and Cheers; a deep understanding of a variety of romantic comedies; and a love for WWC (watching while crafting).

The Director of Communications and Audience Engagement is primarily a teleworking position. However, the Director will be expected to attend certain office functions, such as Little House on the Prairie marathon watch parties, company writing retreats, the annual knit-a-long, volunteer work days, and the holiday dessert potluck and cream puff eating competition. 

Primary Duties

  • Screen television shows and movies for inclusion in the film database
  • Draft compelling copy describing clip highlights as well as suitability for WWC (watching while crafting)
  • Develop material for and run weekly podcast with interviews of actors, writers, crafters, and highly engaged fans
  • Serve as editor of the quarterly Cheesy FanFic Review, showcasing the best fanfiction about 80s and 90s television shows, primarily Matlock and Murder She Wrote-style mysteries
  • Monitor virtual watch-and-craft-a-thons, using social media to drive interest and showcase examples of exceptional WWC skills 
  • Maintain a personal writing practice and seek publication outside Fletch, preferably on topics of interest to a similar demographic

Desired Skills and Qualifications

  • Multiple degrees in a variety of (perhaps unrelated) fields, indicating a zest for life and learning
  • Expertise in marathon-ing television shows while crafting
  • Experience writing about television shows and movies from a fangirl perspective 
  • Experience with social media platforms, including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, and Pinterest 
  • Ability to craft a compelling story
  • Passion for our mission: personal joy through cheesy television and crafting
  • Ability to quickly and effectively answer the questions, "Which Golden Girl are you?" "Which Designing Woman are you?" "What is your favorite Meg Ryan film?"  "Who is your favorite romantic comedy lead?" "Sheriff Tupper or Sheriff Metzger?" etc
  • Kind and thoughtful communication with colleagues, audience members, and guests

I would so kill this interview. 

Please please tell me what your very perfect magical sunshine job description would be! It's super fun, and I want to know!

p.s. I've talked about Murder She Wrote seven times on this blog. Little House on the Prairie? 13 times.

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Not Writing

All last week I looked forward to Sunday. My wife had to work for a few hours, and I was going to spend that time writing - some for the blog, some for a few other pieces I'm working on, some for fiction. I was going to sit down with my computer and a cup of tea and access all that creativity that's been pinned up inside. 

Things I did Sunday instead of write:

1. Go to Costco. I mean, the price of organic frozen fruit at the grocery store is bananas, and how can we live without our smoothies? What else could I possibly eat for breakfast?
2. Make a huge vat of homemade pizza sauce from the tomatoes I froze during the summer. Honestly, I bill myself as this Little House on the Prairie-loving gardener-type. What would people think if I didn't make a big batch of something and can it? 
3. Make homemade pizza dough. There is absolutely no store-bought pizza dough that's 100% whole wheat and doesn't add sugar, and how else are we going to eat the pizza sauce?
4. Wash dishes and load the dishwasher. All that cooking makes so many dirty dishes, and I can't just leave them there, can I?
5. Create a spreadsheet analysis of the different options for consolidating/refinancing my student loans. Okay, that's totally legit. They're out of control. 

I will spend hours thinking about how I want to write. I will listen to writing podcasts as I drive to and from work. I will bemoan the lack of time for writing, and then when I could write, I will not write. All these other things pop up that I "need" to do. And what's frustrating is that, in the moment, I really do think I "need" to do them.

Why is it so hard to set aside time for writing? 

I keep thinking that there's a deep psychological reason I haven't figured out yet, some key that will surface when I put the correct puzzle pieces together. But I never seem to find the right ones. 

When I'm able to get up early in the morning, I have the most success at getting words on the page. Aside from sleeping, there's nothing else to interfere at 5:00 am. I'm not going to get out of bed and start making strawberry jam. And yet, though it is 5:22 am, and I'm here on the couch putting words into this machine, the early morning routine feels tenuous. I had it for so many months, and then I lost it. I have missed it, that quiet time just for me. And yet missing it has not made it easier to get out of bed in the morning. 

I can't tell you how many times I've set the alarm for 4:30 or 5:00 and then woken up at 3:15 to turn over or go to the bathroom and thought Oh hell no. I am TIRED, and opened up my phone to turn off the alarm. 

And it wouldn't matter - writing doesn't have to happen first thing in the morning - except that I will apparently do almost anything else during the day than sit down and write. It doesn't make a lick of sense because I long to write all the time. I think about writing. I come up with little snippets of dialogue or story lines or themes. 

Don't even get me started about all the times I plan to write when I get home from work. At 10 am, when I'm thinking about an article idea while sitting in a meeting, that sounds perfect. At 7 pm when I pull into the driveway? All I want is to watch The Mysteries of Laura and eat a giant bowl of pasta.

I'm reaching out here for serious, folks: Are there things you love to do that you somehow never find time to do? Or, are you amazing at finding/making time to do the things you love to do? Tell me your secret. (I know it's not a secret. It's just making time to do it. But pretend it's a secret so I'll feel better!)

p.s. I spilled coffee in my J.B. Fletcher tote bag this week. Total fail.

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Writer's Block Wednesday

No, this is not a new series where I have writer's block once a week. Or at least I hope not.

I sat at my computer this morning at 5 am, totally blank. I noodled around on the internet trying to find some inspiration (which is almost never where inspiration appears). I began a few words of a post that I abandoned for lack of adequate interest and research. I began a few words of a second post and closed it out for the same reason.

And at 5:41, I gave in to the truth. For the first time since January 29, when, under the umbrella of practice makes perfect, I committed to myself to post 5 days a week, I can't think of anything to say.

Perhaps it's because you guys gave me such love yesterday and now the pressure is on.

But more likely, it is simply the cycle of inspiration and the effects of tiredness and a busy work life that has nothing to do with these pages.

Either way, the words are missing. 

And yet, look what we have here: words on a page. 

You know what they say. Showing up is half the battle. Also, practice makes perfect. 

In truth, I think sometimes showing up might be the whole battle. And practice makes space for more practice, better practice, practice again tomorrow. 

See you then. 

p.s. The Ease of Wanting

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Brokenness and Community

My sewing machine is broken. Or its user is. Maybe both.

I figured out how to change the foot and the needle. So proud of myself, I pressed it down onto the knit fabric - my first time sewing on anything other than cotton - and it jammed up. Thread stuck in the bobbin and wrapped around it and held firm, and the needle wouldn't budge. I pulled out the manual and took apart the bobbin case and put it back together and tried again. Jammed again. 

I took the manual back out and removed the machine from its table. Nothing I said to the man at the repair shop seemed to ring a bell. Not the "I know exactly what the problem is" I'd been hoping for. He said he'd give it a tune up, and when I returned for the machine four days later, that's what he'd done. He found no problems, just adjusted the bobbin tension a bit. 

I brought it home, screwed it back to the table, sat in my chair, put the fabric back under there. Jammed. 

I cursed and put my hands over my face and tried again with the same result, the sewing project I had planned for the blog thwarted for the second week in a row. 

* * * 

There's this thing that happens as a blogger, where you spend a lot of time typing some part of yourself into the keys of your computer, and no matter how much you try to be "real," the story that comes out is inaccurate. At least it seems that way as you see it mirrored back to you in the words of friends or readers, when people start using phrases like "do it all" or "have it all together."

In a world where so many of us use the successes of others as weapons against ourselves, as proof of our own failures, I feel some obligation to set the record straight. To say that these pages are a tiny piece of the story and sometimes I am talking about Facebook or pie or quilts, and while you are reading those words, I am at home falling apart or screaming at my sewing machine, that I have a billion questions and almost no answers, that I cry and yell and think mean thoughts and sometimes say unfair things. That I have worries and fears and goals that I'm too embarrassed or ashamed or protective to share on these pages. Or they just don't belong here.

And yet somehow the simple act of writing these words down and sharing them with you here gives the impression of having sealed it all up in a tidy bow. I don't know how to kick that. Maybe I'm not supposed to.

Writing is reflective. It's not tidy, but it does provide some context, some meaning, to its subject. A broken sewing machine (or a broken user) is no longer just that. On the page, I am no longer the woman sitting in tearful frustration in front of an antique machine that befuddles her. Instead, I am a woman acknowledging her limits, sharing her humanity - with you and with herself. 

* * * 

I've read a lot of sewing blogs over the years. I've seen countless projects - bags and dresses and shirts and table runners and quilts. I've never read a word about someone fighting with their sewing machine, jamming the bobbin, perpetually screwing up the tension, at least not from someone who isn't sitting down at a machine for the very first time. As far as I can tell, I'm the only craft-oriented blogger on the internet who can't figure this crap out. I'm the only one who's dumb enough to be bested by this hunk of metal.

And yet that can't be true, right? I am not so unique that I can claim this particular frustration as mine alone. I don't want to. 

I want a community around it. I want all of the people staring at their sewing machines in confusion and anger to yell across the web to each other, "ME TOO!" and wave their hands and then point and laugh at their screwed up projects because hey, we're all in this together. 

I am just as broken as you. Maybe more so, depending on the day. What you see on these pages, what looks like life tied up in a bow is me, seeking community. It is me, sharing my humanity and, in my deepest dreams, creating a space for you to share your humanity too. To wave from across the internet and say hey, me too. And to smile because you're not alone. And neither am I. 

p.s. Fickle or Renaissance?

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The Well Runneth Dry

Over the winter, we woke one morning to find that our faucets would produce only the tiniest trickle of water. My wife and I began rushing around in a panic, yelling across the house at each other as we turned on each one, hoping for more than a dribble. No luck. Our town listserv had been busy with stories of frozen pipes for days, and we finally stopped and looked at each other in resignation.

We called some plumbers, who said what we were dealing with didn't sound like frozen pipes. Great! we thought. Frozen pipes had been our biggest concern - in fact, we'd been leaving the faucets slightly dripping on the coldest nights just to be sure. So what else could it be, we wondered. And that's when we heard the truly terrifying words.

Shut off your valves. It might be that your well's run dry.

I was afraid to ask what we would do if that turned out to be the case.

We'd either dig down deeper or dig you another well.

I sat at the dining room table, foot tapping, fingers jumping on my keys, pretending to work while the man from the well company knelt outside in the snow to test the level of the well. I hopped up and walked to the front door when I heard him step onto the porch. I looked at him, eyebrows raised in a question.

Well, you've got water. 

I let out my breath and then asked what happened. Why did we lose water if our pipes hadn't frozen and our well hadn't run dry?

He explained that wells can run temporarily dry. Basically, the use of the water outpaces the flow of groundwater into the well. It can happen in really dry seasons or really cold ones when the frost reaches deep into the ground. Or it can happen when there's a leak, even a tiny one. He checked our faucets and our toilets and tightened some things up. Those little drips could add up to a lot of water over time, he said. 

* * *

Today my well is dry. Perhaps it's temporary, and I just need to find the leak. Shut off the valve, tighten a few things, and wait for the inspiration to fill me back up.

Or maybe it's truly spent. Empty. No more. And then what?

Dig down deeper.

Or dig another well.

p.s. Hello.

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Writing More Letters

It started during our visit to the Grand Canyon this summer. All the gift shops had postcards of these fabulous vintage posters from the 1930s. I loved them instantly and wanted to share them. So I bought seven and sat on the edge of the Canyon and wrote quick little notes about how stunningly beautiful and expansive and life-affirming it all was and sent them off to my friends and family.

And then for the next few days, I thought about each of them opening the mailbox and finding a little note and smiling because there was something pretty and nice tucked in among the bills and new car insurance offers.

It's a little Do Unto Others, I guess, because I love getting snail mail. Receiving an unexpected card can brighten my whole day. And so can writing one.

I write different things on a card than I would in an email. I don't plan it that way, but I find myself writing about the slope of the snow on our back deck, the song I heard on the radio that reminded me of them, the feel of Jammer curled up next to me. My words are softer with a pen in my hand than with my fingers on the keys.

I don't worry about whether life will have changed by the time they receive my card, whether what I wrote on that paper will no longer be true because I think part of the magic of snail mail is that it allows a little time travel. 

With a letter, I capture a moment in time, the way I was feeling, the things I was seeing, the thoughts that were running through my mind. I seal that moment up and send it away. And a few days later, someone I love experiences that moment again, filtered through their own heart and mind. My letter bent the space-time continuum. 

I love that about snail mail - the utter snail-ness of it. When I get a card from my friend Beth, I think about the fact that she sent it three days ago and right now she's not even thinking about it. She's eating dinner or grading papers and maybe even forgot she sent me a letter at all, but I'm with her in that moment from 72 hours ago and it's living again in me.

I'm not one to spend much time complaining about social media or the speed with which we receive information. I love email and twitter and imdb. 

But I'm having an affair with snail mail, and it's pure magic. 

p.s. My new stamp had me pulling out my ink pad, which I haven't used since I made these Thank You cards. 

Invisibility: The Internet's Greatest Gift?

Here's a question for you:

Why does anyone blog?

Put more specifically, why does a person with no celebrity status ever think that people (aside from their parents and closest friends) will want to stop by the little corner of the internet they've set up to share photos of their living room or their garden or their summer vacation, to explain their thoughts on common core or marathon techniques or the minimum wage or homeschooling or the particular merits of a neutral color scheme in the living room (spoiler alert: it lets you change your look seasonally at low cost with accessories in "pops of color!")?

It sounds ridiculous.

And yet perhaps one of the most fascinating phenomena of this particular moment in time is that, apparently, the person who believes that people care enough to follow their little story is not crazy. Folks will follow. Some point to the social media frenzy as a narcissistic tragedy of modern culture. Perhaps there are elements of truth there. But it's not the whole story.

What seems both more apparent and less traumatic is the complete fascination that we have with each others lives. If internet behavior is to be believed at all, people do want to know what you did over the weekend. They'd like to see pictures and read about your mishap with the dishwasher. They want to sign on to Facebook and hear about how potty training your toddler is going. They want to know who you're planning to vote for in the upcoming election, what type of shampoo you just switched to, what articles you're reading, why you've decided to stop eating gluten, and how you made that quilted table runner.

Not everyone, of course. Some will scroll through or will jump off a page after a quick scan of the photos, but a shockingly large number of people - more than most folks could rally on a street corner with a flyer that promised "Come see photos of this stranger's holiday decorations!" - are showing up to read the stories, from the short twitter versions to the multi-scroll blog post versions, of people they don't even know.

* * *

In an episode of This American Life, John Hodgman asks people whether they'd rather have the ability to fly or the ability to make themselves invisible. Through the responses, a picture emerges of the people who choose to fly as bold and guileless and the people who choose to be invisible as ashamed perverts (who want to watch other people have sex) or thieves (who want to steal clothes or sneak into movie theaters without getting caught). As someone who instantly chose the invisibility cloak, I questioned this outcome.

There is no doubt why I want to be invisible - to spy on other people's lives. In fact, for weeks after hearing the episode, I caught myself in moments of fantasy where I had the power to stand hidden in someone else's living room and watch them have dinner with their spouse.

I'm not denying the sneakiness factor, but spying is such a sinister word - what I'm really talking about is an intense curiosity about other people. How do they behave when they're alone washing the dishes? What do they talk about with their spouse at night after the kids are in bed? What makes them cry or dance around the kitchen? And perhaps, yes, what is it like when they have sex?

Of course, there's no doubt some self-comparison in it: Does she eat spoonfuls of peanut butter straight from the jar after a bad day too? Does that couple also fight about drawers left open in the kitchen? Does he talk to himself in the mirror? Are they like me? Am I normal? How much the same are we? How much different?

* * *

The internet - for better or for worse - is a giant invisibility cloak. Slip it on and cruise around other people's lives unannounced. See what they had for dinner last night, what made them cry, what they're fighting about, and even what turns them on if you want. They've put it out there for all to see, but chances are, they're not thinking about you showing up. They don't even know who you are.

Much has been written about how the anonymity of the internet turns people into the worst versions of themselves, and there are truly deplorable instances out there. But the vast majority of internet perusal appears to be of the invisible sort. We "like" a birth announcement, retweet a funny joke about our favorite tv show, comment on our best friend's blog. But for the most part, we scroll through unannounced. We lurk. We stand silently in someone else's living room and satisfy our curiosity.

And maybe that's not a bad thing.

In all the fear of anonymity and the "selfie culture" and the concern about a tragedy of narcissism, the incredible gift of invisibility gets forgotten. Perhaps curiosity killed the cat, but it's also responsible for the majority of human progress. It is by being curious that we learn. And here, on the internet, we can satisfy that curiosity without being perverts or thieves. We don't have to sneak into someone's house under cover of dark to find out if they're pacing back and forth, paralyzed with fear about the zombie apocalypse.

Nope. They have kindly invited us in by sharing their entire zombie apocalypse strategy (minus the exact location of their safe house, of course). People share their stories of depression, and we find comfort in the knowledge that someone else's brain works like ours or we realize that the way we've been telling our friend that it'll all get better hasn't been helping, or we file it away in the back of our mind and remember it one day when our ten year old says he wants to die. A woman posts on Facebook about her kid's struggle at school, and we give our coworker a break the next morning when she's cranky because we remember that she had to get two children into their clothes with lunches packed and onto a school bus before we were out of our pajamas.

Someone posts about their mother's death and we include them in our prayers that night (after we call our moms). We read tweets from gay people if we're straight, black people if we're white, disabled people if we're able bodied, people who have mental illness, people who have kids when we don't, and we get a glimpse. We get perspective. We get knowledge. If we're having a good day, hopefully we say a quiet thank you to them for sharing their lives so we can learn from them.

Our curiosity is our connector. It's what gives us the desire to learn. And social media is curiosity's workhorse.

Through Twitter, I travel to Iraq, the Gaza Strip, a gluten-free kitchen, the bed of a depressed author, the streets of Ferguson, the writers room of my favorite tv show, the hallway of a high school, the desk of a jewelry maker. And I go many of those places with not just a media-approved story. I go there with a regular person whispering 140 characters into my ear about their opinion or their experience, what they think is funny or sad or poignant or unacceptable. And every one broadens my understanding of the human experience - even the ones that make my jaw clench.

Every one helps me better understand what it means to be a person muddling through this confusing landscape.

On my best days, they allow me to see the world through someone else's perspective. On my worst days, they confirm that there are others out their grappling with similar demons.

I started here with the aim of sharing why I stopped blogging a year ago and why I'm thinking about blogging again. But I couldn't get that question out of my mind - why do we share at all? This is my answer.

This is me, taking off my invisibility cloak, walking into your living room and giving you a big juicy kiss on the cheek.

Thank you for the photos of your child in their Halloween costume, for all the Facebook posts about how much you hate your job (though I hope you aren't friends with your boss or coworkers on there), for the tweets about your morning coffee habit, for the blogs about your home renovation, for the posts calling for prayers and assistance, for the times you told us what you had for dinner, who you voted for, how you fell in love, how you fell out of love, why you started meditating, how to build a compost bin, what you believe (or don't) about God, why you homeschool, how to make your grandmother's cornbread, and on and on and on.

Thank you for letting us in.
Thank you for your stories.

I have some I'd like to share too.

Writing in November

I wrote these words last November, just a little over a year ago, and then they sat in my list of drafts. 

My hands have been busy this November – a constant tension between writing and knitting.  The cold weather hits, and all I want is to curl up on the couch with a ball of yarn in my lap and click my needles together.  Except I also want to write a novel, and NaNoWriMo has called to me for a second year.  I try to balance a bit.  Some writing, some knitting.  I get into a flow with one and forget the other.  Then I switch.  It’s yin and yang –calming, exciting, calming, exciting.

This month I feel enormous gratitude for both of them, for the feel of yarn as it runs across my hand, a fresh scarf wrapped around my neck, for making words come out of the mouths of characters I create, for the luxury of precious minutes at my computer to live in my imaginary world. 

I didn't meet my NaNoWriMo goal of 50,000 words. I only made it to 20,000, and I can't even remember now what stood in the way. Certainly not knitting, unless I bundle the piles of yarn into the category of All Things Not Writing. 

Life, I suppose. The ups and downs, and all the events and feelings that pulled me away from the page. I did some writing - some on the novel, some on some short stories, a little journaling here and there. But for the most part, in the last year, I have found myself drawn more toward knitting and reading and watching television - things that calm me and pull me out of myself rather than the thing that turns my attention toward my own mind. 

Even with fiction, when I am writing about worlds that are not my own, there is still a turning inward, the way I rely on my own imagination and consciousness to create something interesting on the page. I must be alive, alert, engaged. 

I've heard people talk about the loss of their faith, the hole that it leaves and the panic about not being able to get it back again. Not wanting to write has felt a little like that to me. Obviously I'm not a prolific author who makes my living by the written word, but writing has been, for as long as I remember, a place of discovery. Sometimes it has been the only way I have found to truly express myself to others, but more often it is the key to expressing my own feelings to me.  

In the last year, sitting down to write, I felt empty.  The words on the page seemed detached from me, and it was scary. 

With snow on the ground and hibernation in the air, I don't know if I'm back or why, but there's a tingling - a desire for my pen and my keyboard - that I missed. I'm afraid to put too much pressure on it. I have this sense that if I chase it, I'll find that it has flown away. 

Instead, I'm trying to take nice slow breaths and approach it gently, with the hopes that when I look again, it will be there sitting quietly on my shoulder. 


I keep wanting to talk to you guys.  I keep thinking of things to tell you, ways to share what is in my heart, how I spend my days, the things I love and the things that hurt me.  The science is right (of course).  A body at rest stays at rest.  Inertia is incredible. 

The longer I don’t write here, the harder it is to come back to these pages.  They feel foreign.  The act of publishing becomes filled with meaning, as if the words must be particularly special now to warrant so long an absence. 

What if I don’t live up to it?

What if my words are just words after a long absence?  No more brilliant or filled with epiphanies than any other words on these pages?

Fear is such a bully – so comfortable stepping into the driver’s seat and taking the wheel whether you asked or not.  Fear will pick the whole route for you if you don’t shove it out the door and slide over.
* * *

Hey guys.

I’m here.  Living day to day.  Some are good.  Some are bad.  Most are a mix, and I’m practicing practicing practicing - like scales on the piano - gratitude.  Sometimes I forget.  I’m late for work, and the house is a disaster, and there are still boxes, and another person tells me my job is ruining their life, and I am overwhelmed.  And I don’t want to practice anymore.  I want to scream and cry and eat ice cream and cheese puffs and feel miserably, inconsolably sorry for myself.  And then it starts to flurry and I catch a downy woodpecker nibbling on the suet my dad hung outside my kitchen window and my wife’s chin fits perfectly in the curve of my neck.  And then I remember. 

These are my days. 

My NaNoWriMo Experience

I spent the month of November in a state of excited - sometimes panicked - bliss.

For those of you who aren't familiar with it, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it's a one-month challenge that happens every November.  Thousands of writers and would-be writers make a promise to themselves, to the internet, to their NaNoWriMo homepage - a promise that they will write 50,000 words of a novel by November 31.

I decided to sign up two days before it started.  I've written a little bit about how empowering my experience was here.

But it wasn't just empowering, it was thrilling.

I was writing a novel.

A novel!  With characters!  And a plot!  (Hopefully.)

I love writing on this blog.  I love writing about creativity and sharing my life.  I love words in general.  But here on the blog I'm telling you about something that happened, something that I did, something I made.

When I write fiction, I am creating something.  I'm creating people, life, whole worlds.  And it's like being on drugs.  Really good drugs.

Navah said I looked like I was on something when I finished a writing session. Wild eyed with a cat-that-ate-the-canary grin, I was drunk with power.

During November, I sat in coffee shops, giggling about the dialogue I was splattering onto the page, patting myself on the back for a new character development, making subtle movements that I hoped no one would notice while I tried to figure out the right description for my characters' ticks and quirks.

I wrote in my head constantly.  I thought about my characters all the time and actually said "aha!" on multiple occasions after coming up with what I thought were particularly good ideas.

Every time I put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), I thought why haven't I been doing this forever?

And that's the thing that's so great about NaNoWriMo and why I would recommend it to anyone who ever thought for one second that they'd like to be a writer.  IT MAKES YOU WRITE.

I always wanted to be  a novelist.  Ever since I read Anne of Green Gables and then Little Women, I wanted to be a novelist.  I wanted to send off my manuscript wrapped up in brown paper, tied with a piece of kitchen twine.  I envisioned receiving the envelope in the mail, my hands shaking as I opened it to reveal a kind note congratulating me.  I imagined running my hands over the smooth cover of a book with my name on it.

But the actual writing of a novel?  I never actually believed I could write one.  I read novels, and they were like magic to me. How could anyone do that?  Make people and a whole world from nothing? From their mind?

That belief - or lack of belief - kept me from writing.

I wrote a little short story here or there, putzed around a bit, but I guess I hoped that one day a whole novel would spring, fully formed, into my mind. 

Because I never actually believed I could create one.

Thank god there is no time for believing or not believing during NaNoWriMo.  You either write or you don't.  And sometimes that means you either don't write or you write crap.  When you're up against a deadline, you write crap if that's what you have to do.

But that crap is still your creation.  That crap is a little morsel.  It might get thrown out or it might lead to something else.  You never know until you put the words on the paper.

And after 30 days of that, you look down and realize you've got 146 pages of words, of people that you created, people that do things and say things and have feelings.  And if you're like me, most of it is truly, utterly horrible.

But that's okay.  In fact, that's fabulous.  It means you get to keep working on it.  It means there's more creating to do.  It means you get to keep taking the drug.

When I would tell Navah that what I was writing was terrible, she'd try to comfort me or admonish me for being critical of myself.  Are you kidding? I'd say.  This is awesome! I think it's terrible and I'm still writing it. I'm not letting that stop me. I'm writing because that's what you do if you want to be a writer, no matter what. Now there's actually hope that I could get better and I could be a novelist. I could actually write a novelI AM writing a novel. 

I'm in the revising stage now, going through page by page to see what's there.  Sometimes I'm surprised.  I've forgotten whole scenes.  I'm wrapping my head around this story I'm creating, figuring out where there's more to say, where there are other, small stories to include.

I think I'll be writing this one for a long time.



What I Learned About Blogging When I Quit Blogging

At the end of October, I took a three-month sabbatical from my blog to pursue some other writing interests.  I approached the break with some excitement and a lot of trepidation.  I worried at the time that I was making a terrible mistake, but I've come to decide it was one of the best things I've ever done - not because there was anything wrong with my blog, but because stepping away from it was an act of courage.  I didn't have any great epiphanies during those 90 days, but the separation from the blog gave me the distance I needed to get a few things into perspective. 

 I own my blog.  My blog does not own me.

The web is overflowing with information about how to grow your blog.  In fact, if you read a lot of blogs, you will inevitably find posts or ads in the sidebar or tweets about how to increase your readership, about all the things you need to do to get bigger and better.  When I'm blogging, I get completely sucked into it.  My mindset shifts from thinking about what I want to talk about or take pictures of to thinking about how to grow, grow, grow.

Taking a break reminded me that my life does not depend on the size of my blog.  In fact, my life zipped along just fine with no blog at all.  Perhaps you're thinking "duh," but I think we can all recognize times where we our perspective gets a little skewed by external information.  It's not that I don't want to grow my blog - I think it's pretty obvious that I do.  But I don't have to.  My blog is not a failure if I don't.   I am not a failure if I don't. 

My blog is here because I enjoy writing and taking photos and sharing.  That's it.  If I don't enjoy it, then what's the point?

 My blog is not an imposition on others.

Before I took the break, I always had this lingering thought in the back of my mind that I should feel a little guilty, a little ashamed of my blog. Who was I to ask people to read what I wrote?  Why did I think I was so special that I could request that from someone else?  Deep down, I worried that people were bothered by the space I took up on the internet. 

There's more to unpack there than a simple bullet point in a list (therapy, anyone?), but I learned these last three months that people missed my blog.  Maybe not hundreds of people, or even dozens.  But I got emails and Facebook messages from folks asking when I would be back.  It felt really nice.  And it made me think about all the blogs I read and what I think when I see an alert on Facebook or in my twitter feed about a new post.

I might not click over, but I realized I never, ever feel imposed upon by someone else's desire to share.  In fact, what I almost always feel is appreciation that they took the time to create a recipe or take a beautiful photo or explain their writing process or put into words their battle with depression or tell a funny story about dinner time at their house. 

I see their words as a gift.  Why should I see my own words any differently?

 Niche blogging can be a shifty business.

I started ktmade as a crafting and cooking blog - a domestic oasis of sorts - because I was reading lots of crafting and cooking blogs and wanted to participate in that community.  It was my third blog -after two law school-focused blogs that I'd started because I wanted to participate in that community. 

When I took my blogging break, I had time for a lot more blog reading.  And instead of reading with an eye toward comparison, I was reading just for pleasure.  I have a lot of different interests.  I read fashion blogs, cooking blogs, sewing blogs, knitting blogs, lifestyle blogs, blogs about faith, blogs about traveling, blogs about writing.  I also go in phases.  I'll be obsessed with home design blogs and then get totally bored with them and focus on cooking blogs. 

My personality - and what I want to share on my blog - doesn't really work with a niche.  I can't be sure that I'm going to keep enjoying something unless that something is broad enough to include...well, a whole lot.  If I want to stay interested in my own blog, it can't be just about cooking and crafting.  It has to be broad enough to encompass whatever I'm interested in that moment, which makes it more of a lifestyle blog than anything else.  And I'm okay with that.

My blog will not be the place anyone goes when they want to learn everything there is to know about quilting or whole wheat baking, but it will hopefully be a joyful place of sharing creative pursuits. 

Writing blog posts may not (and does not have to) satisfy all writing desires.

In taking the time off to work on some other writing goals, I finally, finally accepted what I've certainly known was true for quite a while.  Blogging isn't enough for me, in terms of writing.  I love this blog - the creativity and the discipline and the sharing.  But I also have other loves - the characters I've created, the books and stories that are forming inside me. 

I have wanted - for the sake of mental and emotional tidiness, I suppose - to have one place where I pour our my creative energy and fill my creative well.  But if these last few months did anything at all, their best gift was in convincing me to give up that myopic image of what a creative life looks like.  Mine looks like writing of all types all over the place - some edited and good for sharing on the pages of this blog, some fiction saved in the folder "novel" on my computer, some private craziness in the pages of my journal, some tidbits of this and that saved on my phone, on scraps of paper in my purse, and in emails sent and re-sent to myself. 

In practice this means that I'm pulling back a bit on the number of posts per week so I can leave some space in my schedule and in my brain for that other writing.  And I'll be sharing some more about my writing experience with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) down the road.

Hobby bloggers can't play by full-time blogger rules.

Of course there are no real "rules" about blogging (though some will say they are), but it's easy to look at all the bloggers you love and start to come up with a list of things you should be doing, ways you should be writing or taking photos, ways your blog should look.  At least, that's very easy for me.

What I realized while combing through my google reader list of blogs is that almost every single blog I love and look to for guidance or inspiration is written by someone who does not work at a different job outside their home.  Some are full-time bloggers; some are stay at home moms; some are artist/bloggers or writer/bloggers.  Not a single one of my top ten favorites (the ones I compare myself to) works outside of their home. 

So when I look at the number of times they post or the quality of their photos or the professionalism of their blog design, I have to keep all that in mind.  It's not that they don't work hard - in fact, I know how hard it is to get great photos and content up on a blog.  It's just that their life situations are such that their blog is their business (or at least part of their business).  And whatever feelings I have about it, for now, that's not my life situation.  I can't expect evenings and weekends working on my blog to create the same result as someone who works at it as their day job. 

I can enjoy and admire and even be inspired by those blogs, but I have to accept my limits.

I'm so glad to be back here in this space, with a new appreciation for where it fits (and doesn't fit) in my life.  A big thank you to all of you who show up here and read my words, and a hug to all those who wondered when I would be back, who shared excitement for the experience of seeing my post pop up on their computer.  And a thank you to all the bloggers who share their words and their images and their hearts every day, for everyone who opens themselves to the vast internet so that we all have a chance to connect with worlds that are not our own.  What a gift.

The Ease of Wanting

Be forewarned: This post is filled with questions and concerns and not a single answer. I usually prefer to hold off writing about a personal creative issue until I can tie it up at the end with an answer or a message or something that I've learned, but I've determined that I may never be able to tie this one up, so I should probably just put it out there and gain some strength or wisdom from the Universe. 

A while ago, I told you guys about my box of ideas and dreams - the little slips of paper that fueled me while I worked at my big job in the city.

The post got a big response. People connected with what I had to say about following your dreams, about having courage and being honest. I meant all of it. 

But there's a reason they say walking the walk is harder than talking the talk. For weeks, I didn't open the box. I thought about it each night before I went to bed - tomorrow I'll read through them. And then tomorrow would come and go, and the box would stay closed. I tried to get myself excited. All those ideas! But the truth - I was really scared. 

What would happen when I opened the box and read through all those little folded scraps? Would I really be able to greet them with honesty and courage?

While they stayed in the box, I could think of them as these abstract ideas hanging out somewhere, waiting to be called upon. And when I was super busy back in DC, I told myself that I didn't really have time to do the calling.

But once I left my job and was no longer "too busy," I knew that it had been - at least in part - an excuse.

The truth was that once I read the ideas, I felt like I would owe them something. I would have to honor them. Once I pulled them out into the sunshine, I would have a responsibility to carry through. And what if I couldn't? Or didn't want to? Or didn't know how?

I finally forced myself. 

I took them with me to a coffee shop and opened them one by one. And I categorized them into piles - craft ideas, career ideas, blog ideas, writing ideas, and miscellaneous. There were things in there that I had completely forgotten - some that I still think are excellent ideas, some that gave me a little pride in my idea-thinking-up skills. 

The end result is both what I had hoped for and what I had feared. One pile was much bigger than all the rest combined. 

Writing ideas.

There were 72 little slips of paper with ideas for books, short stories, articles, screenplays, poems. There was nonfiction, fiction, comedy, fantasy, young adult, children's. There were snippets of conversations and character sketches. There were some with a single opening sentence and some with full-blown plot ideas. 

I sat at the table with my cup of coffee and realized that I was looking at the idea box of someone who wants to be a writer. 

And it was mine. 

I sat. I finished my coffee.

I folded all the pieces of paper back up and put them in the box. 

And since then I've carried them - folded in piles - with me all over the place. I took them in my carry-on to Rwanda. I took them in a canvas tote to Atlanta. They're in my purse right now. 

I keep meaning to look at them, but I haven't unfolded a single one since that day at the coffee shop. 

So what's going on here?

I'm not sure I know the whole story. I know some of it's about fear - of failure and rejection.

But there's also fear of stepping out of the "wanting" phase and into the "doing" phase. Wanting might feel angsty, but how hard is it really in comparison to actually having what you want, or being what you want to be?

Take parenting, for example. I want to have a baby - be a parent - so badly that sometimes I feel physical pain. I know it will happen eventually, but I want it now. I dreamed recently that I was caressing my own very pregnant stomach and cooing to a little baby inside. In the dream, everything was warm and soft and peaceful. When I woke up, I reached down for my belly and instantly burst into tears. The pain of wanting is real. 

But compare it to the difficulty of having a baby - the birth, then getting up 3 and 4 times a night, dealing with temper tantrums, juggling work and family, wondering if you're doing the right things. That's not mind work. That's real work. 

And it's the same story for writing. I think about wanting it, and the longing feels heavy. But right now I'm just jotting down ideas. Can I do the work of being a writer? Getting up early and staying up late to fit it in around my day job, putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard until an idea becomes pages of text, revising and editing and re-editing and revising again, learning the market so I know how to submit my work, and stomaching rejection after rejection for who knows how long? Can I do that work? Do I want to do that work?

In comparison, wanting is a breeze. 

So where do I go from here?

I have the blog for now. And some would say - hey! you're writing already! But it feels like a cop-out in some ways. Don't get me wrong - I love this blog. It sustains me in a lot of ways. But I can't do everything, and I have to be honest that right now I'm choosing the blog over a writing practice that heads in the direction of the ideas on those pieces of paper. 

The blog is a lot of work, but it's an easier road than my writer idea box road. It's an instant gratification road. Write. Publish. Bam. 

And I'm honestly not sure which road I want to be on. 

Maybe I can be on both, and I don't even realize it yet.

For now I'm staying the course, but there's a nagging voice that worries I'm taking the easy road, a road where I'm always wanting but never doing the work to have or be what I want.


Dreaming and fearing and dreaming

Idea Box 1

For the last year at my old job, I kept a box on the shelf above my desk.  When I had an idea - for a post, for an art project, a book, a career path, whatever - I would write it down and tuck it inside.  It was my way of making it through a time when I felt zapped of any time or energy for creating.  Each little slip of paper was a promise to myself that when I left, I would take out all of those ideas and get down to business on the things that excited me.

Before I packed the box away - back in DC - I thumbed through it, glancing at a few pieces of paper, and then I closed the box and made the promise to myself again, except this time it was that when I got to Vermont, I would dig in.

possible plot

But since getting here, it's been go, go, go. Unpacking and getting parking permits and furniture and vet visits and now studying for the bar.  It's good and exciting stuff (minus the bar part). And I'm still so very happy to be here in this place. But the box of ideas is sitting and waiting.  

post about

And the closer I get to actually being able to sit down with it, the more I think about what I might do with those ideas.  The result is that I've been thinking a lot about dreams. Not the ones where I'm wandering the halls of my highschool without pants on.  I'm talking about day-time dreams and the dreams that you whisper to yourself when you're alone.  The amorphous things that you hope for and maybe fear saying out loud.

It's those dreams that are behind so many of the ideas in the box.  Dreams become ideas. And those ideas become goals, which become actions, which hopefully become dreams...realized.

brilliant idea for future life

But the process isn't straightforward.  There are hang-ups and detours and ruminations over whether that dream is really our dream at all.  Fears about whether we're silly to let ourselves dream such impossible/selfish/insert-your-word-here dreams. Fears about whether all we can do is dream up dreams and ideas, that maybe the next steps - goals and actions - are beyond us. That we don't have what it takes to put those dreams into motion.

Or maybe that's just me.  Maybe everyone else honors their dreams and knows how to carry through. (Another big fear). Or perhaps no one else is quite so silly as to be doing all this dreaming business. (The really big fear).

Rewrite the story

So the closer I get to opening that box and sitting down with all those slips of paper, the more excited I am. But, at the same time, the more afraid I am. Dreams are fun, and ideas can be exhilarating, but the next steps might be hard and scary. And they will requires choices - one dream over another, one idea over another. And trust that I'm making the right decisions. Or that if I'm not, that's okay.


I hope that when the day comes, I will honor each idea as I read it. I hope that I will have the strength to sit with those ideas and listen to myself - to refrain from judging the ideas by any standard other than what I really want and what sends my heart soaring. I hope that I will be honest with myself about what I am capable of, both what i'm not and what I am. I hope that I will have the courage to make the necessary decisions, to head in the direction of one dream even if that means folding up another and putting it back in the box for another day. I hope that I will have the humility to ask for help where I need it. And then I hope that I will leap.

If you build it they will come

I have always loved this poem by the French poet Guillaume Appollinaire:

Come to the edge, no we will fall...
Come to the edge, no we will fall...
They came to the edge, He pushed them, and they flew!

idea box 2