Posted by: scintillatingspeck | January 17, 2016

It matters.

Recently I’ve had occasion to become vastly re-motivated to gain momentum with writing my book, you know, the one based on this Kickstarter project and the cross-country trip I took with Lily in the summer of 2014.  I want to explain how this re-motivation came to pass, how I’ve gained inspiration from other writers, how I’ve done some crucial, time-consuming, emotional labor, and how I’ve created a plan for moving forward.

I think I reached a nadir last year.  Some of you will remember that I had a bit of a freak-out in August, a crisis of confidence in just about every area of my life.  At that time I reached out to my Kickstarter supporters in a fit of despair and offered everyone a refund.  Nobody took me up on that.

And I’m glad, because my work isn’t done.

Emotional Labor

Nobody told me that the hardest part of writing would be when my fingers were not on the keyboard.  Nevertheless, that’s what’s been true for me.  There are tricky logistical challenges to writing for me, as well—not to dismiss those, especially carving out time and energy as a single, unschooling mom without enough external support.  Despite those real challenges, by far the dominant ones have been dealing with my own messy thoughts and emotions: insecurity, fear, panic, feelings of worthlessness, melancholy, deprivation, dread—oh, what a list, and such words will never adequately describe the particulars of what I’ve experienced.  I had particular blockages that needed to be sat with, cried over, kept company.

Patience is a much-lauded virtue.  It seems palatable enough when it’s counted in days or weeks rather than years, or when you can see an obvious end in sight, even if it’s far-off.  It’s a more grueling call when you can’t see or even grope your way forward.  Sometimes the only way forward is to be absolutely still, to realize the merit of stasis.  And along with that, to realize the merits of loneliness, of absence, of emptiness.  If you avoid your Shadow it will always come around to demand its due, I’ve learned.  I’ve spent a whole lot of time with my Shadow in the past several months.  I’m not sure if we’re friends, exactly, but it’s a hard-won intimacy.

Inspiration

There was a stretch of time when all that was keeping me going with my book project was a sense of obligation and sheer stubbornness.  Running a crowdfunding campaign is insidious in that way; it can start to feel very transactional, a tit-for-tat arrangement in which I-promise-you-this-in-return-for-your-support.  But writing, and creative expression in general, does not necessarily fall in line with this essentially consumerist approach.  I’ve learned that a solid motivation for creative work cannot be born from obligation alone; it sucks all the meaning right out of it.  I had to re-connect with my original pursuit of meaning, had to ask again and again, “Why am I doing this?  Who is this for?  Why did this feel important, originally?  Why does it feel important now?

At a pivotal moment, I read this essay by Rebecca Solnit, “Men Explain Lolita to Me.”  Aside from being a fantastic description of the phenomenon of mansplaining, what moved me to tears were these words:

“You read enough books in which people like you are disposable, or are dirt, or are silent, absent, or worthless, and it makes an impact on you. Because art makes the world, because it matters, because it makes us. Or breaks us.”

It matters.  That’s what hit me.  It matters, because women matter.  Because women writers matter.  Because little girls matter.  Because mothers matter, and children, and anyone who cares about life and sanity matters.  Because sexual and relational minorities matter, and radicals matter, and self-emancipated wild-minded feral earth lovers matter.

It isn’t right that the voices that get heard or even make it to the point of being expressed at all tend to fall into a narrow band of what’s considered Worthy (mostly Straight-White-Priviliged-Guys™).  It isn’t right, either, to expect that other non-Straight-White-Priviliged-Guys™ are going to do the speaking and writing for us (although there are many, and they are worthy of being listened to and read).  There are real, daily consequences because of this.  It’s about survival: not just in body, but in spirit.

It clicked for me, and keeps clicking, that if voices that matter need to be heard, then I’m damn well going to have to value my own voice and make it heard.  I might not have the reach of fame or stature; I don’t have any MFA in writing, I don’t have a literary agent, I don’t have any writerly connections—none of that.  But that’s not what matters.  What matters is making my life, my art, visible, to the best of my ability.  It can’t be nipped in the bud from the outset by all the issues that plague the less-privileged: lack of time, lack of money, lack of confidence, fears of mediocrity and vulnerability and humiliation, old traumas trying to pull the strings and keep me safe.

It doesn’t matter how far this book goes or who reads it.  It doesn’t even matter if I think it sucks, or more likely, that I think it won’t be or isn’t good enough, or is purely embarrassing.  What matters is that I write it.  What matters is that I’m birthing myself all the time, and for some reason Writing tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Here’s your medium.  Here’s how you, Jennifer Hartley, give meaning to your life.”  And there will be one more book in the world that says, “You are not disposable.  You are not dirt, or silent, or absent, or worthless.”  I’m still making the world I want to live in, and it’s my sacred duty to encourage others to do the same, directly, and by example.

Moving Forward

I’m almost done fleshing out the outline for my book; I had been playing with a number of structural ideas for a long time, but I’ve settled on the idea of a largely chronological narrative of the trip (including the events preceding it, so roughly a year’s worth of my life, from the fall of 2013 to the fall of 2014), interspersed with topical essays that could also stand alone.

I’ve also come up with three overarching, overlapping themes to help me organize my thoughts: 1.) the radical prioritization of relational being and intimacy, 2.) the reevaluation of notions of risk and safety and consequent impacts on living life fully and facing mortality, and 3.) confronting the culture of alienation.

I have a bunch of content that I’ve written since the trip concluded, and I’ll be examining it and seeing what fits and what doesn’t with the above frameworks/themes.  And of course I’ll be doing a lot more writing.

It would appear that there’s a light over yonder.

Photo on 2016-01-17 at 13.03

Posted by: scintillatingspeck | December 29, 2015

This is work.

I’m in my house, listening to the clock ticking, as if it could measure the length and breadth of life.  I’m alone.  The strange warmth of this late December has been replaced by sleet and ice.  I’m trying to shake off the ragged remnants of Insomnia that has been plaguing me for weeks, along with her compatriot Melancholia.  I might have a foothold, now, after finally getting a solid stretch of sleep last night.

There are things I want to get done, you know.  I have a book I’m writing.  I have a house I’m rearranging, organizing, trying to make it feel more like home, even though I’ve lived here for four years.  Even though I don’t want to be here.  I have a child I’m mothering, although she is elsewhere for ten days, and her absence is stark; I’ve told myself now is the time to sort through all her books, organize all the art and craft supplies, plan field trips, finish setting up her new room (we just transferred all her stuff into the guest room/Tom’s former bedroom).  There’s no lack of stuff I want to accomplish.

Still, my heart has conspired to turn my attention away from the tangible work, away from anything I can present as Results.  Heart doesn’t care how I come across to others right now, or if I visibly accomplish anything.  She’s quietly insistent that I slow everything down and deal with my emotional and spiritual being.  Maybe she invited Insomnia to the table, to force me to confront stuff.  Maybe she invited the literal ache pervading my head and limbs.  She says it can’t wait.

This is work.  Kahlil Gibran wrote, “Work is love made visible.”  That’s why I’m writing this, making it visible, to myself.  It’s arduous, real, and hurts.  Most of it happens in the dark, inside me.

I work to understand more thoroughly, on a heart-level, and that means dismantling illusions as best I can.  The illusions circle around and around, flapping and making a great ruckus, like a bunch of uppity roosters, trying to make their case for existence.  Sometimes they get mean.  They don’t want to end up as soup.

I hold onto the commitments I’ve made to see things through.
I’m not going to give up.

 

Posted by: scintillatingspeck | December 15, 2015

Dilemmas of social engagement.

Posted by: scintillatingspeck | December 13, 2015

Art surge.

My sister and I visited MASS MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art) in North Adams today.  I’m experiencing art-overstimulation, on the whole, this weekend, as we also went to the Cottage Street Open Studios yesterday, and tonight a friend and I went to a storytelling/lullaby performance by members of the Royal Frog Ballet.  All this art infusion is making my mind explode.

Which is why it was perfect that my sister captured a few images of me, immersed, exploding, surging in waves.  I suppose I look relatively staid, but you might know me better by now.

This is what the inside of my head looks like sometimes.  Especially these days.  Art by Jena Priebe; photo by Liz von Wagner.

This is what the inside of my head looks like sometimes. Especially these days.  Exhibit: “Bibliotechaphilia.” Art by Jena Priebe; photo by Liz von Wagner.

This installation of digital waves by artist Clifford Ross took my breath away—the still image doesn’t do it justice, as this was pointilism in aqueous motion.  I wanted to stand there a long time, possibly break into song, or cry, and alarm the other museum-goers.  Remember I wrote a poem a few days ago, I pour out the Great Lake?  Here it was, tidal and ravishing.  The artist calls it a “Wave Cathedral.”

Ravished in the cathedral of water.  Art by Clifford Ross; photo by Liz von Wagner.

Ravished in the cathedral of water. Art by Clifford Ross; photo by Liz von Wagner.

I want us to be awed together, loves, by the ever-flowing washes of inspiration, by the intimacy of shared thoughts and visions, by the tenderness of lullabies in the night.

Posted by: scintillatingspeck | December 11, 2015

I wrote.

Okay, I really wanted to title this “I wrote shit.”  Not in the sense of “I wrote stuff,” but in the sense of “I wrote excrement.”

As I’ve mentioned before, it is good for me to meet with Dave for companionable writing time.  (Screeching internal gargoyle interrupts to say, it’s good?  You wrote shitGee, thanks, Señor Diabólico.  Moving right along.)  We convened this evening at Dobra Tea where the tables are a little too small and the chairs are not very comfortable, and wrote in timed 20-minute sessions.  My patience with myself was a little too small and my mind’s circumambulations?  Not very comfortable.  (The chai, however, was good.)

Delving a bit more into why the writing was shit, exactly: I needed to excrete some rather dark and human stuff, and apparently my Being was insistent that this was the sort of writing that needed to happen, as a matter of spiritual-intestinal regularity and fortitude.  I wrote about things like massive disorientation, contradictions, integrity, chickenshittiness, impossibilities, bravery, foolishness, love, beauty, failure, and pilgrimage as a sure way to shred one’s knees.  I despaired that I could ever write bookishly.  I reflected on how deeply ingrained, still, is the belief in Achievement in me—and by belief I don’t mean fealty, but a sort of fear, like Achievement is a wrathful god ready to stone me to death for not Achieving.  I don’t know how many years it’s going to take to dismantle that false idol.  Maybe I’ll never be able to remove it entirely.  It’s the kind of Achievement that is never, ever good enough.

But I showed up.  I wrote.  That’s what I set out to do.  I even further clarified some painful truths to myself.  That’s pretty darn good, eh?  Now all that remains is for someone to cheerfully point out that shit is fertilizer.  Just shut up, okay?  Let me sulk in peace.

Posted by: scintillatingspeck | December 10, 2015

I pour out the Great Lake.

I pour out the Great Lake
of my channeled love,

scouring every narrow chasm
in roiling spasms of confined desire.

What fabricated waterway could contain
the gushing eons of lust,

the ancient meltwater
fresh, rushing, roaring our names?

See the levees pushed and breached,
leaching the juice of your kiss

into the abyss of aching.
My body obeys only the gravity

of water screaming
to the sea.

 

DSCN5061

Posted by: scintillatingspeck | December 5, 2015

How I live is how I write.

Today I met up with my writing compañero Dave.  It’s a good thing to have a scheduled time and place for writing and a person who is expecting me to show up.  It’s like committing to anything that’s challenging: make time, make space, demonstrate accountability.  Showing up is more than half of the work.  There’s no way around that showing up bit.

It should come as no surprise that the way I write is the way I live.  They are both mind-bogglingly difficult at times, and I’m often afraid to formulate words, put myself out there, and get it wrong.  But get it wrong I will, again and again and again.  (My friend Marlowe has even exhorted me to do myself a favor and get it wrong the first time around.  She didn’t say anything about the 27th time around.)  The most I can hope for is to occasionally hit upon a beautiful phrase, a shining moment, a few reminders to myself that I did the best I could to be creative, generous, kind, and true.

Neither writing nor life is amenable to doing the equivalent of holding one’s breath, afraid to budge lest bad things happen.  Let’s face it; bad things will happen anyway.  Might as well allow for some fortuitous things to happen, too.

To that end, I’m resolving to not only show up for writing, but to let it teach me to live differently, to loosen up, to be seriously playful.  It doesn’t come easily, people.  The times that I’ve been able to really play, with focus and joy and letting go of outcome, are the times that I recall as being the happiest times in my life.  I’m seeing “play” in the vein of Csikszentmihalyi‘s descriptions of “flow”—not undisciplined, not carefree, but immersive and exhilarating.  (And as an aside: could anyone not love the Hungarian intricacy of a name like Csikzentmihalyi?)

Writing (and life) are teaching me to get rid of the idea of a Master Plan.  Yes, I can eventually produce a book.  I know I can do this.  But it won’t be any good if I don’t let it have its own time and space to evolve, to experiment, to get it wrong a whole bunch of times.  It’s a lot of unlearning for me, the one who relied upon getting every paper right the first time in school, editing every step of the way.  Inner Wise Woman says:  This isn’t a paper, love.  This isn’t school.  This is so much more important and more rewarding, and not just in the end, but in the beginning.  There are no grades here.  This is not about fulfilling the expectations of others.  This is not about satisfying your inner editor.  This is about being Alive.

 

Posted by: scintillatingspeck | December 1, 2015

Inhabiting desire.

I thought I’d try on a question I wrote the other day and elucidate a bit on it, slowly and deliberately.  Here is the soft, woolen garment I’m wrapping around me, right now, embroidery needle in hand, ready to vivify the fabric:  How can I fully inhabit my desire?

I suppose I’m revealing that I don’t think desire is passively received, other than in our original incarnations stretching back and back and back—we are born to desire the way stars are born to radiate and expand.  Not-desiring is a sort of death, a depressive annihilation, anti-matter.  We’re alive.  I’m alive.  Everything in me rebels against what would squelch my vitality, or yours.

Desire is too magnanimous to be hastily shoved into cramped definition.  Desire is not merely sexual, nor is “sexual” ever “mere”—how deeply this culture has conditioned me to disavow, or at least create vast dissociations around what is sexual.  This culture tells me: you should put in disclaimers about your desire.  You should make it presentable.  You will face consequences if you don’t.  Even a word like “desire” is a little suspect—can’t you tone it down?  Can’t you stop wanting?  Or can you at least just want what you’re told to want?  The imagined Harsh Judge of Behavior and Expression is such an imperious asshole, honestly.

In defiance of this Judge (do I even need to describe the outlines of this creature’s shape?  do we not all know?), I have something to say to it:

Don’t presume to ask me to draw lines around my desire that conform to your expectations.  Don’t ask me to indulge your madonna/whore dichotomies.  Don’t demand that I be some sort of detached icon, elevated above, trammeled below.  Screw your hierarchies.  I swore no oath to your invented dystopia.  I belong to the elements and the shared pulse of Being.  That pulse thrums with desire.  I won’t dissect it, segment it, shred it into unrecognizable ribbons.  I won’t carve up my heart to fit more neatly into your contrived systems.  There is nothing natural about those systems.  My love, my ardor, my resonance follows patterns of roots and lightning.

Fully inhabiting my desire requires resistance to the bombardment of false demands, and a vehement faithfulness to heeding the deepest call.

 

Posted by: scintillatingspeck | November 30, 2015

Piled-up questions, and what’s underneath.

I’m finding myself simultaneously wanting to give voice to some of what I’m going through, and wanting to withdraw, insulate my vulnerability, not make my struggle visible.  I guess voice prevails, unless I decide not to post this.  I think I used to be pretty reckless in voicing my vulnerability, believing it was the only honest way for me to exist in the world.  Sometimes I look at some of my past posts on this blog and shudder.  I think, Holy crap, girl.  You done gone and threw yourself over emotional cliff after emotional cliff.  I guess it was a backlash against excessive self-restraint, and a lot of rage, if I think about it.  I made a conscious decision, from the beginning, not to delete anything from this blog, but to let it all stand no matter how I felt about it in retrospect.  It’s an act of telling myself that my life, my words, my revelations, are not shameful.

The questions come thick and fast lately, when I’m able to focus, piling up in drifts.  They aren’t snow-soft, although I think they are trying to lay a winter blanket over the grief that wells up in me, seemingly without end.

Where should I be directing my energy?  How much choice do I have about that?

How the &*#$ can I feel like I’m moving forward with writing?  What do I really need?  Can I stand to put it plainly to myself?  Does it hurt too much to witness the unmet needs in my life?

How is spirit calling me to serve the community?  (Actually, spirit said to write this as a start, and I’m mad at it.  But anyway.)  How can I get over the idea that I need to be all chipper and functional in order to fulfill my purpose, my meaning?  Maybe spirit thinks I need to proceed brokenly, that that’s part of the job.  Manifest brokenness.  Live meaningfully anyway.

And who or what, exactly, is my community?  Is it just a nice idea someone had once?  Is community dispersed, alienated, crying for ma?

What is going on with me and relationship?  How can I stop feeling like I don’t matter?  How can I let in the love?  Who can I trust?  Who shows up, and how?  Do I show up?  Have I fallen down on the job?

Who should I ask for help, and what should I ask of them?  What can I offer?

How can I fully inhabit my desire?  How can I seek it as a life force and not simply conclude that my vitality is over?

How do I manage all of this and try to be a good mother at the same time?  How can I cleave to what I know is good and right and discard the rest?  Do I have to live in constant dread of how all this personal and societal and global Stuff is messing up my kid?  She’s so radiant.  Thinking of all that could dim that light makes me want to take up a flaming sword, bare my teeth and growl menacingly.  I could never insulate her from all the Stuff.

Piling up and piling up.  I could list questions until the nonexistent cows on my nonexistent farm-commune come home.  Wherever home is.

Underneath are the tears that go unseen in solitude, the grief that steps forth out of the stillness, the recognition of so much loss, so much confusion, so much for which there is no solving or fixing or making sense.

Inner Wise Woman says, It’s a good season for it, in this dark time of the year.

Posted by: scintillatingspeck | November 24, 2015

Asking for help.

I think I’m ready to do some asking, now.  It doesn’t guarantee any particular response, or even any response at all, from others.  It does allow me to articulate my thoughts more fully, to engage at least individually in the important work of figuring out what might happen next and how I can prioritize things.

I don’t think broadcasting this via my blog (or via Facebook, or any other online platform, for that matter) is the key component of asking for help.  I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about broadcasting as hiding, in fact.  It’s one of the reasons I’ve been avoiding Facebook—not because I want to be disengaged, but because I fear that at times, it counter-intuitively creates conditions that lead to disengagement.  I might have more to say about that at some point soon.  I want to emphasize, though, that I don’t see this blog post as an end point in asking for help, but rather a starting point, a way to give myself a little extra oomph in approaching individuals directly, or perhaps opening the door to people who might want to offer some ideas or encouragement.

I’m partly inspired by a friend of mine who finds it very, very hard to ask for help, and is willing to make that fact plain to me.  Who here also understands that it’s even hard to acknowledge that asking for help is hard?  It’s so &$^%ing hard!  I felt it would be important not only to ask for help with a specific issue (yes, people, I will get to it, and I will stick to ONE issue) but to write about the hurdles in asking for help at all.  I have a wee suspicion that this is a widespread problem in a culture such as ours.

Why is it so hard to ask for help?  What are my fears?

  • I fear that I’ll be perceived as weak and not having my sh*t together.  The truth is, I don’t feel like I have it together nearly as much as I would like.  If I am honest with myself, I can also see that I’m not as much of a mess as my most insidious demons would like to harass me about, but I’m also lacking some key resources and support.
  • I fear that I’ll be perceived as all neediness and no strength, as if it’s an all-or-nothing proposition.
  • I fear that I’ll feel really vulnerable and this might manifest itself in some ugly ways, like getting snarly, or saying/doing other embarrassing things that make me feel like a toddler.
  • I fear that nobody will respond or want to help and I’ll feel unloved and abandoned.
  • I fear that somebody will respond in all the wrong ways.
  • I fear that I will radically increase the chances that I’ll go into a downward shame spiral, even though I believe that needing and asking for help is not shameful.
  • I fear that people will be disgusted when I continue to have needs and either burn out or avoid me entirely.
  • I fear that people will forget that I want to help them.  I fear that they won’t ask for help themselves, and I’ll be the dumb-ass putting myself out there while they don’t.  I fear that they’ll think I’m not capable of helping, just because I have my own needs, or because they perceive me as weak.

Well.  Do you think we might be living in a highly individualist, competitive culture or something?

OK, onwards to the request for help.

 


 

I need help figuring out a strategy for moving forward with my book.  I want to identify each and every hurdle that’s facing me, and see if those hurdles are surmountable or not.  If not, I will need to identify a strategy for dealing with that, too.

It’s striking me that this is a bit similar to some previous challenges on this whole trajectory.  When I was launching my Kickstarter campaign, I had somewhat of a strategy but no assurances of any success.  It’s still astonishing to me that I pulled off the fundraising AND the three-month, cross-country trip in 2014.  While solo parenting a 7-year-old.  While negotiating and carrying out the separation process with my husband.  While unschooling.  While doing it all on a financial shoestring.  It had a huge, HUGE impact on my life and the lives of my family members, and we’re still processing everything.  I don’t want to forget, though, that I pulled off some stuff that I wasn’t sure was possible.

It’s clear that I was naïve about what would be involved in writing a book under my current circumstances.  The other stuff (fundraising, budgeting, long-distance traveling, camping, parenting, trying to be a decent guest, etc.) I actually had some experience with, even though, all combined, it pretty much kicked my ass.  Writing a book is something I’ve never done before, not to mention a deeply personal book about my life.  It doesn’t help that I seem prone to severe shame episodes about the fact that I have not yet produced a book to present to my financial backers.

What are the hurdles I can identify so far?  I’m a little tempted to separate them into categories (like logistical hurdles, emotional/mental hurdles, book-writing-process hurdles) but I’m going to resist that inclination, since they all seem to bleed into each other.  I need help determining how to prioritize this list, given the other priorities in my life.

  • Time.  Clearly, time is finite.  Currently, the bulk of my time commitments involve parenting/unschooling my 8 year old and attending to our basic necessities.  There is a lot more detail I could go into, but I’d rather not do that here and now.
  • Money.  Also finite.  Of the funds that were raised through Kickstarter, approximately half were spent on the trip, and another half is being held in reserve for printing/shipping rewards (i.e. the book).  I did not budget for anything like child care, or editing, or help with writing, mostly because I wanted to set a fundraising goal that I thought could actually be reached.  Although I’m earning a small amount doing some part-time work from home, it’s small.  Lily and I are dependent on Tom for income, and that income covers two households, and no, it is not a six-figure income.  You can probably figure out that I am not flush with cash.  I think it was in August or September that I posted something to Facebook, asking for help finding writing support, and I was fairly devastated to realize that almost all of the suggestions involved paying money that I don’t have.  Please bear that in mind if you are tempted to write something like “Here’s this great writing coach.”  I respect that there are wonderful writing coaches and such out there who are deservedly seeking to be paid, but unless you are willing to sit down with me and reexamine my budget (what whole swaths would I cut out?  The electric bills?  The one paid homeschool activity Lily still does?  The internet connection?), please refrain from suggesting stuff that costs more than, say, $10-20.
  • Concentration.  It has not escaped my notice that my concentration has frequently been shot.  I think this is due to stress, depression, insomnia, and parenting.  It is almost impossible to write when I can’t concentrate enough to string a sentence together.  I find myself looking for rare opportunities when I’ve had enough sleep and feel calm and balanced enough and also am not distracted by my child.  This doesn’t happen a lot.  (However, it is happening right now, which is why I’m seizing the chance to write this blog post!)
  • Emotional regulation.  I resisted calling this simply “depression” although that certainly falls under this heading; I just hate the word “depression” and other associated “diagnoses.”  I’m sure you can find other writings on this blog where I rant about that.  Regardless, it’s a hurdle, and one that I’m trying hard to address on a daily basis.  I’m pretty darn sure that this would need to be near or at the top of a prioritized list of What I Need to Address.  The point is, when one is depressed, nothing can effectively happen.  Not even staying alive, sometimes.  I need assistance from people who agree that “staying alive” is a top priority.
  • Feelings of vulnerability.  This writing process is bringing up intense feelings of exposure and fear.  I need strategies for dealing with that.  I need help with managing fears about potential backlashes or discrimination in the future.
  • Self-doubt.  I don’t know if I can actually do this.  I find myself doubting my writing skills and whether I have anything useful or eloquent or important to say.  The inner gargoyles sometimes get the better of me and don’t shut up when I need them to shut up and let me write.  They are mean little bastards.
  • Wanting to protect others.  A lot of the stuff I need to write about involves other people and intimate details about our lives.  Some of them I can make pretty much anonymous, by changing names and identifying details.  Others I can never make anonymous, like my child and my husband.  I need help managing this.  I need to be able to write freely and then make determinations later about how to present the material.  I desperately wish I had an editor.  I have no money to pay an editor.  I’m not willing to accept volunteer editing offers unless I am sure that it’s a good match.  I would take choosing an editor as seriously as choosing a spouse.  I may have to be resigned to the idea that there will be no editor.
  • Confusion about scope.  I have devoted a lot of thought to trying to figure out where my story begins and ends.  The beginning, in particular, is elusive to me.  Clearly, it doesn’t start when my trip starts—it starts quite a while before that, because I need to get into all the reasons why the trip/project felt so immensely urgent.  When I composed the text on the original Kickstarter page about why I wanted to do this, I had a whole bunch of HUGE life questions, and I don’t feel I can address each one in totality—it would turn into the Jen Encyclopedia.  Egads.  NO, that is not what I want.  I need someone to talk to, confidentially, about the arc of my life, and which pieces make sense to include in this book, and which don’t.
  • Continuing struggles with theme(s).  My elevator speech about this trip/project has always centered on themes about home, community, and connection.  I feel like I am continually reaching to refine it even further, to zero in on the most relevant theme, lest it become impossibly broad.  The closest I’ve come so far is something like intimacy or intimate connection but in the context of a culture of dissociation and disengagement.  I need to flesh this out more in dialogue with someone I can trust.  I want it to be the touchstone I can return to, throughout.
  • Confusion about audience.  I have long been asking, who am I writing this for?  Writing advice is often about getting clear about who your audience is, and writing for them.  Clearly, a lot of this writing process is for me, but it can’t only be about me since I want to actually publish it.  I want to talk to someone about this.

Alright, dears.  I have come to the end of the time I have to devote to this, today.  May it be sufficient.  I request your help, of any degree or type.  You can respond to me in comments on my blog, or privately by email (scintillatingspeck at gmail dot com), or by calling me on the phone, or Skyping (jen.hartley), or letter-writing, or (gasp) talking to me in person.  If you comment on Facebook, I will not see it, so please don’t.  (One of the other issues I wanted to ask for help with is whether I should consider using Facebook again to a limited degree, but I’ll leave that for another day.)

I’m grateful for your witness and your presence in my life.  Paz y amor.

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