Just Wait

Do you ever get stuck in the middle of writing something? Pressed for time, stressed, frustrated and wish you could just summon the muse and order up an idea?

The following is kind of a follow up to a piece of flash fiction I wrote awhile back, Conversations With a Muse. This post spurred a train of thought that led to many things, but mostly the idea of what it would be like to have a muse to chat with, and after writing that one I had some distinct ideas about what mine would be like.

A few days ago I got stuck writing a critical turning point of my book, so I started thinking about what my muse would say if I tried to order up an idea. It went something like this…

***

“What good is hopen window snowaving a muse if inspiration is only ever random?” I wonder out loud, staring at the snow-capped row of houses in the distance. I’ve been sitting at my desk, not writing for an hour. The wintry air coming through the half-open window has turned my fingers to ice (I often write with the window open, even in winter. I have a theory that stale air leads to stale thoughts) and now typing at the keyboard is literally, physically painful.

I’m stuck in a critical scene of the book I’m working on. I know something crucial happens at this point, my main character sees a ghost- or something akin to a ghost, and those are the only details I know for certain. I seem to be missing the serendipitous knowing of details that will make the scene flow into the story. I’ve been listening to ethereal violin music and reading Poe and chapters from ghost stories all morning, no luck. It’s obvious this solution is not currently firing somewhere in the synapses inside my brain.

I need a muse.

“You know it doesn’t work that way,” a musical voice says, seeming to come from above and below and behind. “You don’t just call us up, order up an idea and that’s it. If that’s what you want go ask a human.”

“Christopher, you scared the hell out of me. I thought you only showed up at night. Where are you anyway?”

“I show up when I want to show up. I’m seen when I want to be seen.”

“Yeah,” I huff. “I know. But since you’re here maybe you could give it a whirl.”

“I’m not an accountant. You don’t just call me up, I provide the service you want and then we both go on our way.” I can’t see him but I can hear that his words are soaked in a smirk.

“Why not?”

“Well, if you want to get technical, if we…do business like humans do, you’d have to pay me. And believe me honey, you couldn’t afford it.”

“Yes, you’re very valuable. Also hilarious.” I try to mirror his sarcasm but mine only comes out half as effective. “So…if you can’t help me why are you here?”

“Listen. Art is born of inspiration. And inspiration can’t become art unless it’s pure.”

“Wait. What? What does that even mean?”

“Gaaahh, you humans can be so thick. Alright because I know there’s talent in that head of yours…somewhere, I’ll spell it out.” He clears his throat. “If you don’t have the answer yet, it’s for a reason.”

“But— I only have so much time to write. I have kids, remember?”

“Just be quiet. For an hour. For a day. A week even. Just be still and patient and wait. And hey, here’s something innovative: Listen.

“That’s it? That’s your answer? Just wait?”

“That’s it. Brilliant, no?”

The voice fades to a whisper and the room is quiet again. The only sound is the swooshing of an occasional car maneuvering the slush-soaked road behind my house. I sigh, close my laptop, climb into bed and close my eyes.

And I wait.

Advertisements

Eureka! My Story is an Infant…

I claim to be a writer of all things.

Sometimes, that feels like a lie.

It’s not as if I don’t have good reason to make this claim. In the past 15 years or so, I literally have written just about everything. From employee training manuals to web content, news articles to speeches. I covered events I had never been to and wrote multi-page news stories about them. I’ve cranked out literally hundreds of pages of web content about things so foreign to me I had to learn a new language to write it.

I don’t claim to be the best, I don’t even claim to be good. I just do what I am stirred to do. Writing is my bread and water. I breathe it in, it sustains me. I’ve done so much writing in so many different ways that none of it really intimidates me anymore. Except for one thing.

Which is why saying I’m a writer of all things sometimes feels like a farce.

I’ve been working on writing a fictional novel off and on for almost nine years. I’ve talked myself in and out of it a thousand times. I’ve (driven my writer’s group crazy) completely given up on it, and then the story comes lurking into my peripheral vision again, and I’m summoned to pull my butt out of bed at 3am to hammer out a new scene. The writer’s version of self-masochism.

Writing a novel is my biggest dream. It also scares the hell out of me.

Why? Because all that other writing, web content and news articles and speeches and such, that’s all small potatoes. If you ask me, fiction is the real McCoy. You’ve got to be a damn good writer to make a fictional story REAL.

This notion terrifies me.

You see, I have these wonderfully enchanting, beguiling stories in my head. (Trust me when I say that having an overzealous muse is both a blessing and a curse.) My characters are…beautiful. They are lovable and jaded and scarred and passionate and mysterious and utterly human. They have rich and complicated histories that bring them to perfectly fit into their place in the story. My book is full of intoxicating circumstances and exciting plot twists and turns that I know, if written well, will keep readers turning pages into the latest hours of the night.

Those are the things that I know, will sell my book. Those are also the things that keep me from writing it.

How will I do them justice?

How will I give my story the writing it deserves?

And so I start and stop and edit and rewrite and quit. I swear novel-writing off for good, go to work on other projects and am slowly drawn back into it. (Damn it.)

I go through it all again. And Again. And Again.It’s like that on-again, off-again boyfriend that you were both drawn to and repulsed by at the same time. (I now fully understand why all the literary greats were drinkers.)

Which brings me back to my book. Which I’m writing. For the hundred and seventy second time. Again.

This go-round has gone unexpectedly well. Last week I finished outlining the plot and chapter sequence and for a flash of a second, I felt like I might actually be able to kick this feeling of inadequacy and get this story written, once and for all.

Eureka!  I drove home from the coffee shop screaming out my car window: “I’m wriiiiiiting a noooveeeeell!” Several strange glances ensued. But I didn’t care. For the first time in maybe, EVER I actually felt like the real McCoy.

And then life happened. Work. Laundry. Kids. School. Tantrums. Grocery shopping. Sicknesses. Cleaning. Family dinners. I didn’t have an opportunity to write again for nearly a week.

And by then, of course I had over-thought the chapter sequence ten thousand times, to the point of convincing myself that all the holes in the story were going to be its downfall.

Aaaaaaaaaaghhhhh! Someone please make it stop!

But….

One night after the house was silent and all the family was long asleep, my muse awoke and beckoned me. I crept over to my desk and flipped open my laptop.

Go on, open it up love. Give it a read.

Read what?

Don’t be bloody ridiculous. You know what.

Since when are you British?

I have your attention, do I not?

Yes.

Ahhh, then no need for further discussion. So let’s have a look then shall we?

Go on love, read on.

I double-clicked the draft of my story on my desktop, and blindly started reading. The first chapter, along with some other passages, sections I had edited and rewritten half a dozen times, struck me as well-crafted. Others were not so hot, obviously slammed out in a twenty five minute increment between a laundry-folding marathon and pick up time at preschool. Some of the dialogue read like choking on cream cheese. And of course a whole hell of a lot of it what I had in my draft, I wanted to cut and paste into the recycle bin.

Keep going.

Why? Self torture?

Just do it.

So I read on. I read through the entire draft. Sure enough, I found more cheese and more garbage. But every so often, I’d uncover gem, glittering in the midst of telling-not-showing, cheesy dialogue and mindless narrative. In a few, fleeting passages I found pieces of the real, whole, perfect story. Characters, waiting for the story to morph and unfold them out of the confines of their pages, to come alive in the hearts and minds of readers. Waiting to be made real.

*Sigh*

I closed the document and sat quietly, my face illuminated by the glow of my laptop screen. I sunk my chin into the palm of my hand and stared into a picture of my two daughters, sitting on my desk.The voice appeared again, like a faint jingling of tiny bells  inside some quiet corner of my brain.

Your daughters. What lovely creatures they are.

They are a lot of time. And work. And patience. But they are lovely, aren’t they?

They are the very products of your life and your love.

Did you know how you were going to teach them things, when they were born?

No.

 When they were infants, did you ever fault them for not knowing how to smile?

Of course not. Watching a smile cross their faces for the first time was magic.

Did you ever give up teaching them how to talk? How to walk?

No. The little one had some trouble. I took her to physical therapy… after that she was off and running in no time.

Will you stop giving them any less love, knowing they still have so far to go?

Not a chance.

I have loved them, adored them at every stage. Watching them grow and evolve, supple spring leaves sprouting, unfolding, fading into a thousand brilliant shades, a new hue and texture and purpose for every season. That has been the greatest joy of my life.

This is what your writing needs, love. Love.

Yeah, but what about the—

You have to love your story for what it is, at any given time. All of it. At every stage.

It is no less loveable now, in its infancy, than your toddler was when she learned to walk. Your 8 year old learning to sing, or when she is a teenager and gives her heart away for the first time…

As you give your time and your love and effort to it, it will grow. It will get bigger and better and stronger and more beautiful with every stroke of the keys on your keyboard.

Slowly, it will become whole.

 And when it is ready, you will know. And then you will let go.

I took a breath. The voice fell silent and I sat for awhile in the dark, thinking about my story, about  what I had written from a new perspective. With the love and hope that every parent carries in her heart.

I realized that at nearly a decade old, my story was still in its infancy. Newborn and pliable and naive and lovable, drool and spit-up and wobbly legs and all. Cheesy and awkward, a little broken in parts, not understanding yet what it means to be whole.

My story is an infant. Wishing for me to love it, waiting for me to help it grow.

*Eureka.*

Back to the keyboard, then, love.

Till next time,

~CindyImage

Fruit Flies…and An Announcement

Yep. You read that right. This post is about fruit flies.

It does, after all, follow Lori’s tomato sandwich story. And what comes after fresh produce inevitably? Fruit flies.

Our group resides in Northern Utah and this time of year is known as harvest season. So many wonderful fruits and veggies for the taking! In early autumn I become kind of a fruit-stand spaz and try to hit every one of the local farmers stands within 20 miles of my house. I’m a serial produce buyer.

Needless to say over the past six weeks I’ve been collecting (and consuming) fresh peaches, apples, pears, onions and garlic from a variety of different micro climates in my area. Not to mention harvesting the tomatoes, peppers and raspberries from my own garden.

And with all the lovely, delectable foods come the fruit flies. Hundreds of them. Some are the usual, tiny gray variety, others are fat and darker in color. We found a sort of striped-looking brown one in the pantry the other day and I wondered if I had inadvertently discovered a new species.

The fruit flies at my house are ethnically diverse and rich in background and history, because they have hitchhiked on the journeys of produce from a hundred different farms. They have found refuge in the warmth and plentiful fruit of my kitchen.

I’m like Nelson Mandela for gnats.

For awhile I tried to be cool about it, shrugged and said that bugs are part of life. Had the live and let live philosophy, don’t sweat the small stuff, exist in my natural environment sort of mindset. Because I’m cool and green and open like that.

Except that I’m not.

Right around the time I found a fruit fly hovering around my toothbrush, just after flicking one off the rim of my coffee cup, the cool and green and open Cindy went far, far away. The anxiety-ridden, control-freakish germaphob manifested in her place and I went:

“Eeeeeeeew! THERE ARE A THOUSAND BUGS LIVING AROUND ME.“

That night my husband agreed that the ethnically diverse fruit flies had become like the 28 year old chain-smoking gaming-fanatic that won’t leave his parents’ basement.

It was time for them to go. He went to the almighty Google for answers.

“Trick them with yogurt or apple cider vinegar in a cup,” it said. “Create a funnel with paper around the cup. They can crawl through the hole but they can’t find their way out. Collect the fruit flies and simply throw the cup away.”

He went to work on finding the ingredients and designing the funnel. He, being the mechanically minded perfectionist that he is spent so long designing and re-designing the funnel that I (watching Parenthood, drinking an apple ale and trying to forget that vagrant bugs were in every room) became annoyed and said,

“Seriously, they are fruit flies! How complicated does it need to be?”

Proving me both stupid and wrong.

BoromirWe set out the cups of yogurt and apple cider vinegar. The fruit flies did not climb into the funnel, the colonies did not disappear. Some flies did not even leave the refuge of tomatoes and peaches, ripening on the kitchen counter. They “simply” gathered around the rim, as to enjoy the wonderful new smell. They seemed more relaxed than ever before.

You don’t think fruit flies can get more relaxed? Well, I’m here to tell you they can.

So now not only is my home a safe haven from frost for refugee fruit flies from many lands, I’m providing them with aromatherapy. Hell, next I’ll probably open a fruit-fly gluten-free bakery and yoga studio.

Probably the colonies at the local fruit stands have created mythical stories about a ginormic bug saint who arrives with reusable, eco-friendly shopping bags and exalts the faithful to a land of warmth and manna.

I got to thinking about their hanging out around the veritable hot tub of aromas. The fruit flies didn’t know we were trying to trap them, and frankly I don’t think they cared. The cup smelled nice and rotten and yeasty and so they went there. They didn’t go: “Wait! What if this is the wrong choice? What if following these horrible, wonderful and enchanting smells will eventually lead to our demise?”

They just DID it. And for the fruit flies that landed at my house, it worked out pretty well.

Even if I had kept my mouth shut and my husband had designed the Ultimate Fruit Fly Snare of Death and they had ended up at death’s door, I’m pretty sure they would have been okay with that too, because even death is an inevitable part of the fruit fly version of Who Are We Supposed to Be and What We Are Supposed to Do.

At this point you might be asking yourself what fruit flies has to do with writing. (Or maybe you don’t care, either of which is okay. We accept all kinds here at WTF.) The answer is nothing, (other than the fact that I’ve swatted like seven of them away while writing this post.)

The answer is also everything.

After a year of getting in my own way and a summer spent deliberating what the point was to my life, I decided I was just going to stop taking everything so seriously, just be who I am and start writing the novel I’ve always wanted to write.

And yeah, it might not turn out in my favor. I may drive myself insane trying to figure out the three different timelines I’ve created. I may waste an enormous amount of time and then decide to move on to bigger and better things.I may die in utter euphoria, in a pool of warm yogurt.

But you know what? Maybe it will turn out in my favor.

And for that reason alone I have to try. To put all other unnecessary things aside and do the thing I was born to do. To write the #*$(&! book!

I’m at a point in my life I truly have no choice other than move forward purely on instinct. Kind of like the fruit flies. (There goes one now.)

*sigh*

Alright, fruit flies. I owe you for one epiphany. You can hang around until I find a better place to ripen my peaches. But if I see you giving one another massages, so help me I’m calling the exterminator.

Till next time,

~Cindy

Beltane

bonfire

This has been a long time in coming. We’ve promised, several times, to let you know what it was that we have learned this summer. We’ve all been so busy applying what we’ve learned that we haven’t actually had time to write about it on the blog. (Although, there has been PLENTY of writing about it.)

Our lessons came in a few, somewhat insane, highly symbolic, events.

By the end of winter, all of us had become aware of significant doubt, pain, and regrets that we each felt within our hearts. It was a difficult winter for each of us in different ways. Our desolation and heartache were keeping us from becoming who we needed to be. We had lost ourselves somewhere in the past. All of us could see it in the others, but somehow missed it in ourselves.

Natalie came to us with the notion of Beltane (Pronounced: BEY-al-TIN-ah). It’s a Celtic holiday which celebrates the coming of summer and new growth. We didn’t need the growth of crops, however, we needed to expand our souls. We needed to let the things from the past fall away, and to encourage our spirits to move on to the next part of who we were to become.

We formed a plan. In the weeks leading up to Beltane, we each thought about what we wanted most in life. We were to gather pictures of the things we wanted most and put them in a vision board, the desires of our inner selves made manifest in photos.

Our vision boards became a topic of discussion every time we were together. It wasn’t unusual to hear, “Ooo! I want to put that on mine!” Nor, was it unusual for us to stalk people, houses, and things, snap pictures, and find a place for it on our vision board. The beauty of this exercise was that we were limited only by our imaginations. (With a group of writers, imagination is abundant.)

Traditionally, there would be a bonfire at a Beltane. We decided that we would write down those things which we needed to let go, past injuries, regrets, unhealthy desires and we would throw the list into the fire. We wanted to begin letting go of the negativity in our lives by watching it go up in smoke – literally.

It was all wonderfully planned.

However, something was missing.

We needed to do something symbolic to remind ourselves to let our dreams grow, to pay attention to the whisperings of our souls. My Aunt, who is in tune with our little group even though she lives in Wales, suggested that we plant our vision board in a pot and let it nourish a plant. Our dreams would feed the plant just as they feed us. As we tended to the life of the plant, we would be reminded to tend to our dreams, keeping them alive as well.

The day of our celebration came.

We lit a small fire and watched the flames ripple upward. We sat is silence. Each of us took a moment to reflect and release the sadness and suffering that had been plaguing us for decades. When we were ready, we tossed our list of troubles into the fire, watching the light catch hold of the the list. The paper blazed brightly, then turned to black ash, the fire easily dissolving our problems in its power.

Something similar happened in our souls as we watched them burn. It was as if a fire was rekindled in our own hearts. One that could envelope and destroy agony, defeat, and sorrow and empower us to LIVE.

It’s strange how one action, when done in the right moment, with the right people, can instil you with ancient knowledge, knowledge that has always been there waiting for you to see it.

We sat in silence for a few moments, lost in the freedom of purging such darkness from within ourselves.

One of us asked whether the others wanted to share our dreams. A discussion, which has never quite ended, began that night. We discussed our desires, and the things we felt that we were supposed to accomplish in this life. There were tears, encouragement and beauty as we began to realize all that we wanted lay at our fingertips. We came to understand that we were born to succeed.

The light began to die down and it came time to plant young, fresh, lavender with our vision boards. The soil seemed to clean our hearts as we gently tucked our vision in among the roots.

We departed in the enchantment that only comes in a May evening.

In the months since, we have continued to believe in ourselves. Something happened that night, an openness that was not there before. We know where we are going, we have faith in each other and in ourselves.

This was the beginning of the Summer of Magic. We have had to renew our commitment to our dreams. Occasionally had to readjust our lives to get back in line with what we want. But that night, among fire, soil and the beauty that is May, we gave ourselves over to what we could become.

There is power in letting go.

There is magic.

There is freedom.

There is love.

There is completeness.

MagicColor4

Top Ten Tuesday: Candles

candle-light

I have a young friend who is struggling. She is severely depressed and experiencing extreme loneliness.

I have been where she is.

I know the pain.

There are two great lies about depression. One is told by Depression herself; that it will never end.

As bad as that is, the other lie is just as damaging, although at first glance it doesn’t seem like it. We are lead to believe that depression is just temporary and if you change your circumstances it will get better.

The first lie causes hopelessness. When you’re wading through it, it doesn’t seem as though it will ever end. Life loses all of its reason, flavor and beauty. It seems like an endless dark cave with no hope of ever seeing the light again.

The second lie, that it is temporary, leaves room for hope. The danger is that it is often a false hope. True, real, deep depression is not temporary. It can last for years enduring the voices of those around you telling you, “Come on! It will get better!” is annoying and can cause you to sink deeper into depression. Because it can last; it can last for a very long time. People will try to change. They will change their living arrangements, marriages, jobs and anything else, but the depression stays.

The truth lies somewhere in the middle. Depression can last, but if you hang on, even in the darkness, there are bright moments. There are even bright days, months, and years when depression sleeps and you awaken to light and joy.

I believe that a person can live with depression, and I believe that it you can make it a good life. Part of the secret, for me, has been the choice to notice and reflect on beauty, goodness and hope. I cling to those things. I take them out of my memory and examine them again and again. They become a candle in the darkness, lighting the way for just a moment.

And so, my dear young friend, I give you the top ten beautiful things I’ve seen this week. I hope that maybe, just maybe, my words can penetrate the darkness around you and give you a glimpse of the other side.

10. It was a dank, dark, stormy day. The steel clouds hung in the sky threatening to rain. I looked at the clock on my dash and pushed the pedal down to the floor. I was late…again. The freeway seemed to stretch on forever. I came to the top of a hill. Suddenly, a narrow slit opened in the clouds and golden light poured into the valley making homes, streets and treetops gleam like part of a heavenly city set into earthly life.

9. My hair stuck to the back of my neck and sweat trickled down between my shoulder blades. It had been over a year since I had been hiking. My legs burned, and my lungs greedily sucked air into my body. I rounded a corner and peeked down a narrow path. Water! I scraped my way down to a fresh spring shooting out the side of a stony hill. I put my hands into the crystal water and washed the sweat from my face. Drinking in the nectar of life, I let it cool me to my very soul.

8. A woman, hands shaking, stood in the wings watching the play unfold. Her part was fast approaching. “I can’t do this,” her voice wavered. “What have I gotten myself into?”

Her cue echoed across the stage.

She took a deep breath and stepped into the spotlight discovering, for the first time, that she was capable of more than she knew.

7. An infant’s sleepy eyes drift to the face of his mother as she cuddles close to him on a large, cool bed. He gives her a peaceful grin and drifts into slumber, knowing that he will be safe, warm and loved as he sleeps.

6. Clouds sweep up the face of a rocky mountain on a cool autumn morning. Gray light settles in the valley, slightly shadowing the brilliant colors of fall. I smile, sip my lavender tea and sink back into my favorite novel.

5. The sun sets on an industrial building. Individuals for the next shift park their cars and are slowly swallowed up into the vast structure. Their faces are blank, and their steps slow. The stream of people finally ends and all is quiet once more.

Suddenly, an SUV comes screaming into the parking lot and stops just feet from the entrance. A woman leaps from the passenger side. All the windows come down and small faces appear with puckered lips. She walks around the vehicle reaching to kiss each child. She smiles, shouts, “I love you!” and runs through the door.

4. A dog sprawls across the floor. A small, feverish little girl leans into her softness as the child watches her favorite show on television, feeling the warmth of her fur between her fingers. They both drift into and out of sleep; each needing nothing but the company of the other.

3. A group of woman sit around a table at the coffee shop. They laugh until their faces hurt and tears stream down their cheeks. Each of them came to the meeting feeling lonely and weak. Each of them leave knowing that they are connected to each other in ways they don’t understand. Each renewed with strength.

2. A young girl stacks blocks between herself and her younger brother. She waits, holding her breath. He swings his arm and blocks go flying and bounce across the floor. Peals of laughter ring through the room as she gathers the blocks again.

1. Whispered prayers and silent hopes are answered every day. Miracles are present in the beating of our hearts, the friendships that we forge, the peace that we find in spite of our emotional challenges, the coming of autumn, warmth of spring, kindness at Christmas, good chocolate, warm beds, red roses, pumpkin pie, and emails from friends.

This is what Depression tries to hide from us, the beauty of everyday life.

We are children of a loving and giving God.

The Universe is ours to see it as we will.

This is what experience has taught me: There is a way through. There is hope for brighter days if we choose to hold to those moments which bring us joy. Yes, they can be short and distant, but holding on to them gives us hope and reminds us that there is light in the world.

These become our candles, tiny points of light, to get us through the deepest blackness of depression.

Your writing prompt for today is to write in 100 words or less about one of your candles. Write about something that you’ve found beautiful this week.

Superstitious, crazy, or just plain magical?

The OfficeCr

Happy F-13 Firefans,

Last night I noticed a fellow writer’s Facebook Post:

“I’m on 13,000 words and I have to go to bed soon. What do I do? What do I DO?!”

And then in the comments he explained:

“You don’t seem to understand the severity of this situation. I am on 13,000 words, in less than 3 hours it will officially be Friday the 13th, and I have to be in bed soon if I wanna be up in time for work. I. Am. Going. To. DIE.”

Part of me wanted to reassure him that superstition has only as much power as a person allows it to have. The other part wanted to say:  “What are you insane? You KNOW you have to keep writing, right? And stop talking about it here, you’re going to jinx yourself!”

Superstitions. Jinxes. Talismans. Lucky charms.  Odd traditions and rituals we think can ward off bad luck. Society’s creative-minded are synonymous with believing in some kind of other-worldly magic that can influence the course of our daily lives. Why is that? What is it about creating art that makes us…well frankly, paranoid?

For me it isn’t the notions widely believed in by society. Nope. Too cliché.  I tend to shy away from any idea that the general population accepts as truth. Things like black cats being cursed, four-leaf clovers bringing luck to the finder, that the Twilight series is actually good. You know, that kind of thing.

Nah, I tend to put serendipitous stock in my own self-established little rituals and idiosyncrasies. Let me illustrate.

For many years, I thought that if I didn’t wear matching bra and underwear, I’d encounter all kinds of mishaps during the day. (I think it’s important to note that I had to give this notion up after having kids, and start wearing whatever the hell was clean and within my sleep-deprived grasp.) But since I was a teenager, and to this day I will still wear specific pieces of jewelry when I’m going to be with certain people. I have a random assortment of items I keep in my desk drawer—(A smoothed river stone. A seashell.  A picture of my Grandpa. An antique key. A green candle.)  I keep them near my working space because there is a small part of me that believes they hold some kind of magic that gives me the power to think, and write creatively.

I once discussed some of my weird little superstitions with a therapist. Yep, I said the “T” word. Truly, if you know me, you can’t be all that surprised. (But ahhhh, therapy. I highly recommend it, especially if you are a writer of any kind. For all the useless BS you come out with, you’ll double that in writing material.)

Anyway, she smiled and told me that this, assigning meaning to random objects and rituals is very common. She said it was something called “Magical Thinking.”

I sat there and thought about it for a few seconds, and then said: “Yeah, I always knew I was magical.”

The fear in her eyes, combined with an overall look of resigned defeat was a moment I won’t forget. It was superb. True story. But that’s beside the point.

The point is, writers, artists, actors, musicians…most of us are just a tad superstitious, whether we choose to acknowledge it as that or not. Some pretty famous creative minds have had what my therapist so condescendingly dubbed “Magical Thinking.” Truman Capote felt his writing wasn’t true to form unless he was lying down puffing a cigarette and drinking a sherry. When T.S. Eliot was writing, he insisted visitors address him as “The Captain” and smeared his face with green tinted powder.

I could go on and on with evidence of crazy writers and artists in history.  But the point is not WHY most of us believe in all kinds of weird rituals and superstitions. The point is that they seem to work.

For whatever reasons, believing in these things allows us to capture and transform our creative thoughts into things that others can enjoy. And whether it’s because there are truly supernatural forces at work, or whether it’s simply us manifesting our own success with the power of believing, doesn’t really matter. It just is.

So I was thinking about all of this, earlier today while I did some housecleaning. I was on my way upstairs with a handful of hangers and tripped, fell up the steps, poked myself in the eye with one of the hangers, and landed with my chin dangerously close to my preschooler’s pee-soaked pull-up. (Yes. I have a preschooler that wears pull-ups at night. Don’t judge, believe me, it’s the least of my worries.) While lying there pondering my fate, my mind reeled off into that very artist-like weirdness.

This happened. It’s because it’s Friday the 13th. And tonight I’m going to a poetry awards banquet, during which it is a slight possibility that I will win an award and get called onstage and….Wait, or worse! There is a slight possibility that I won’t win anything and get called onstage at all, because it’s Friday the Freakin 13th!. What a horrible, horrible day to be attending the first writing contest awards ceremony I’ve ever taken part in! Aaaaah!

Then I pulled my chin out of the pee, tossed the hanger aside and thought. Nah. I don’t believe in Friday the 13th, anyway. I make my own fate, and I’m going to enjoy having entered my first writing contest whether or not I win.

And then I went and changed into green underwear.

Top Ten Ways to Make a Woman Angry

I don’t know if it’s the end of summer and everyone is at the peak of laziness/apathy, or if there are just several men who are acting a little stupid lately, but I want to post this as a public service announcement. Please take note.

10. Leave your laundry on the bathroom floor – We are not your maid nor your mother. It is laundrynearly as easy to remove your clothes and put them in the hamper as it is to toss them on the bathroom floor. We hate walking into the bathroom and stepping on your clothes, especially your underwear. (You know the reason as well as we do.) We hate hunting for your socks behind the toilet. Just put your clothing in the appropriate receptacle and avoid the problem.

9. Whining – We know that things don’t always go your way. We know that you’re working hard and that you have a lot on your plate. So do we. Whining does not make it better, in fact, it makes the situation nearly unbearable. Please. If you want to complain, at least find a creative way to do it.

8. Anger at stupid things – This might seem hypocritical, but seriously, when you want to kick someone’s ass for cutting you off in traffic, we want to kick your ass.

7. Call watching YOUR children “baby-sitting” – When you spend time with your children without their mother you are NOT baby-sitting. What you are doing is being a father. Fatherhood is frightening, confusing, messy and chaotic. So is motherhood. Mothers do not have all the answers. We’re winging it just like you are. Creating children takes two. So does raising them.

6. Treating us as if we’re irrational…all the time – Look. We know that there are certain times of the month that we may seem a little bit emotional, or out of sorts. But that’s not every day. Sometimes we have a point and if you ask if it’s “that time of the month” we’re going to be upset. Even if it is “that time” why would that make what we say invalid?

5. Minimize her feelings – this one goes along with number six. Even if we might, maybe, could be irrational. The feelings we are having are real and disregarding them doesn’t make them go away. In fact, if we ignore our feelings they just get bottled up and the situation gets worse and worse. If we are feeling angry, sad or anxious, don’t tell us to NOT feel that way. Say that you understand and bring us a cup of tea, some chocolate, and listen. We’ll be happier…and so will you.

action-figures4. Putting too much stock in toys – Okay we understand that you like the X-box. We have things that we like too. We know you might have a passion for firearms, or games, or…I don’t know…action figures. Whatever it is, people are more important than your toys. Your children, your significant other, your parents, visitors, all more important. Keep your priorities straight. If someone breaks a toy, be polite, it’s okay to be upset. It’s not okay to act as if the world is about to end or to make whoever broke it feel as if they are worthless.

3. Laugh at her passion – This blog is primarily for writers, but all women have something that is their passion. Trust me, there is a fire within her for something. If she shares it with you and you treat it as if it is a joke, you’ll not only make her angry, you’ll extinguish some of that fire. Instead of laughing at her, take some time to explore her passion with her. You’ll learn something about her that will fascinate you. You’ll get a glimpse of her that she won’t show you unless she feels safe. We promise, she will come alive and you’ll be amazed at the depth of your love.

2. Ignoring magic – Magic exists. It is all around us, and most of the women I know can see it. There is magic at the turning of the seasons. There is magic in the birth of a child, in new love, in old love, in music, in poetry. Most women can see it, grow with it and enjoy it. If we try to share something magical with you, it’s probably in your best interest to agree that whatever we are speaking of is beautiful. Or at least smile and nod. If we’re trying to share magic with you and you just stare at us and then say, “Hey, did you pay the car payment? It was due yesterday.” We’re going to be really angry.

1. Forgetting to show compassion – The ability to imagine another person’s plight is part of what makes us human. Too often, we forget to try to see a person’s life through their eyes. Lacking compassion makes us judgmental and negative. Without compassion, we’re dooming ourselves to see the world through a single pair of eyes – our own. How boring! And how empty! If you want to keep us happy, practice compassion with everyone you meet. Try to understand your fellow beings on their terms. Not only will it keep us happy, you will live a more fulfilled life. It will allow you to see people as God does, as wonderful, fallible beings full of potential and promise.

compassionate