A Very Rough Draft

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I reach the word count limit of 3750 words, but I haven’t finished the article. I highlight everything in the last subsection because I know I need to revise it. I estimate that have at least another 600 words to go, so I will have go through the manuscript and make it more concise. That’s actually one of my favorite editing jobs, trying to convey the same message with fewer words.

I have to admit this article is currently a rough draft . . . a very rough draft. It’s so rough it deserves the empty descriptor “very,” the kind of word I would immediately cut out of a draft. It reminds me of my life in general. Right now, it’s a rough draft . . . a very rough draft, and I still need to do a lot of editing to make it more concise.

Fortunately, this is the last week of classes for the summer and then I have a short break before fall. It won’t be three weeks of vacation, though. I scheduled a four-day trip to Orlando with “the little,” but the rest of the time I will spend planning for the academic year ahead. The difference between dreams and goals are action steps, and I will need to schedule a whole lot of action steps to get where I want to go.

I hit the save button and close my article for the evening. Although being productive is important, so is resting and regenerating. Tomorrow, I will wake up early and start again.

Closed Form, Open Form

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I take another bite of tuna fish on pumpernickel, and wash it down with sip of iced green tea. I cue episode 2 of Westworld. It’s 8:00 pm, and I’m done working for the evening. I wrap a fluffy robe around me and sit on my bed with my tablet on my lap.

After teaching class, and consulting at the writing center, I came home and worked on my scholarly article. Writing an academic article is like putting a puzzle together, conforming to the expected structure, blending original ideas with supporting research. A restrictive, closed form. My students think I have forgotten the stress of academic composition. But, I haven’t. My word count just got longer.

Now, I sit back and tap out words between scenes on tv. I no loner worry about form. I no longer worry about proving my point. Do I even have a point? Blogging, for me, is just an experiment in which I connect one word to the next, one thought to another. No critique. No peer review. I write as an act of exploration, the most open of forms.

I feel the tension slowly dissolve as I wander through my metadiscourse. My hands shape words like a potter molds clay. I feel them slip between my fingers, spinning on the potter’s wheel. Pulling here, pushing there, my hands morph the clay into a vessel, the words into meaning.

Are you still with me dear reader? Are you committed to our rambling stroll through the word garden? We pluck a bouquet of flowers: adjectives, nouns, verbs. We ad a spray of prepositions for delicacy. What do they smell like to you? Sweet? Subtle? I smell the exotic sandalwood scent of incense. Words flap overhead like Tibetan prayer flags.

Is this how a word feels after you scribble it on a scrap of paper and stick in a book? Hidden words become soft memories waiting to be spoken back to life. I close the tattered book and slip it back onto the shelf. I will save the rest of the words for later.

Rituals for Living by The Dragon Tree

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I dump my colored pens onto the table and open my new planner. I uncap the orange pen and start to answer the first question: “What are you longing for most in life?” With each consecutive question, I uncap another pen, filling the planner with a rainbow of color.

This is not just another planner, it’s my new Rituals for Living Dreambook and Planner from The Dragon Tree. I have written before about my struggles to commit to my weekly planner. Although, I love the concepts of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, the planning tools, though effective, felt a little too linear for me. I wanted something that was more like an art journal. I feel like I have found it with this new tool.

The Rituals for Living Dreambook and Planner starts with probing questions about core values and your vision for the future in many key areas of your life. It then uses a mind mapping technique for goal setting in 1, 3, and 10-year intervals. The ritualize section helps you break down your dream into actionable steps, then monthly and weekly calendars help you stay focused on those long-term goals on a day to day basis.

I am really excited about using this book because I feel like I can use my right brain and left brain together. I feel like there is plenty of room to make my planner colorful and personalized. More importantly, it fits in my backpack, so I can use it review it often.

A New Journal: A Timeless Perspective

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I remove the cellophane wrapping from my new journal, and open it to the first line page. There I write today’s date July 14, 2017. I also record today’s date on the first page of the old journal, just below the date Oct 23, 2016. Nine months was a long run for a single journal. I suppose it’s a testament to how busy I have been. My journaling was limited to a short fifteen-minute blurb while drinking my morning coffee.

There is only one page left in the journal, and I will use it today. After, I open my new journal and on the first three pages, I will copy my personal mission statement and the basic principles from a book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I copy them into the front of each journal, so I can review them often.

As I have already revealed my personal mission statement in a previous post, I will enumerate the basic principles of The Artist’s Way here:

  1. Creativity is the natural order of life. Life is energy: pure creative energy.
  2. There is an underlying, indwelling creative force infusing all of life—including ourselves.
  3. When we open ourselves to our creativity, we open ourselves to the creator’s creativity within us and our lives.
  4. We are, ourselves, creations. And we, in turn, are meant to continue creativity by being creative ourselves.
  5. Creativity is God’s gift to us. Using our creativity is our gift back to God.
  6. The refusal to be creative is counter to our true nature.
  7. When we open ourselves to exploring our creativity, we open ourselves to God: good orderly direction
  8. As we open our creative channel to our creator, many gentle but powerful changes are to be expected.
  9. It is safe to open ourselves up to greater and greater creativity.
  10. Our creative dreams and yearnings come from a divine source. As we move toward our dreams, we move towards our divinity.

I return to these principles whenever I find myself placing my own creative expression low on my priority list. Sometimes I get so task oriented that I forget about quality of life. It is pointless to complete task after task, to achieve financial and career goals, without nurturing your soul.

I hope these 10 principles will help inspire some of my creative friends out there in the blogosphere.

Writing 1000 Words a Day

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The clean scents of lime and kiwi shampoo and cucumber and agave body wash strip away the salty musk of the gym. I stood in this same spot 14 hours ago as I struggled to start my day. This time the water is cool, counteracting a day of heat and humidity.

In a clean set of pajamas, I sit at my keyboard, and wait for the tablet to boot up. I pop piece of diced watermelon into my mouth and the pop and crunch of each bite releases cold juice as it is reduced to a grainy pulp.

This is my second post of the day. I have been posting twice a day for a week now. I try to keep them short, around 500 words, but that means I am writing about 1000 words a day. Has it been worth it? Well, I am a writer, writing 1000 words a day. For a while, I struggled to write: my book, academic articles. Sometimes my perfectionist brain gets in the way. There is a big difference between 1000 words and 1000 publishable words.

As a composition instructor and a writing coach, I always tell students that perfection doesn’t matter with the first draft, just get something down on paper. Funny how we can give advice better than we can take it.

My blog is different. I don’t worry about structure or audience, rhetorical devices or literary themes. I’m just having an ongoing conversation with the universe. I play with words and thoughts the way one might arrange wild flowers in an empty bottle. Should I feel guilty for such self-indulgent “selfies.” I don’t think so.

Writing 1000 words a day, whether they are part of a novel, article, or blog is still an accomplishment. It takes dedication to sit your butt down each day and just write, no matter what. The consistent crafting of words also refines your skills, no matter what you are writing about. Am I taking time away from “more important” projects? I don’t think so. I usually don’t do structured writing first thing in the morning or at the end of the day, when my mind is lazy or unruly.  This is my time to just let words flow.

Most importantly, writing 1000 words a day proves I can do it to the only person I need to convince . . .  me. Now, I believe I can do it, and I can do it easily. My fingers fly across the keyboard catching my thoughts as fast as they come, no stopping and over thinking, stacking ideas and images like a child balancing building blocks. “Look at what I can do!” I say to myself with innocent pride. Perhaps the balance is a little off here and there, perhaps my little castle will collapse with the next sentence, but that’s ok. Tomorrow morning, I will start again. It’s not about the product, it’s about the play.