What’s that word?

I was out walking last week, and noticed a familiar plant, whose name I couldn’t recall.

It wasn’t until a couple of days later, when I passed another garden with the same plant, that I realized the word still hadn’t popped into my head. I knew it started with “h,” I knew we’d had one in front of our old house, and I knew I’d used the word in an article I wrote in 2007 about Berlin.

Disconcerted, I mentioned my memory lapse to my walking partner, who wasn’t familiar with the plant. A few minutes later, the word came to me. Hosta!

It’s not a word that’s part of my everyday vocabulary. Forgetting a word I use all the time would be more of a concern. But it’s interesting to me that I remembered the exact article I used it in. I like words, and once in a while, when I have occasion to use a word or phrase that I don’t use often, it makes a long-lasting impression.

Hosta – I think it will stay fresh in my mind for a while.

 

 

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Getting unstuck

I’d like to say that I’ve had writer’s block lately, but I think it’s more honest to say I’ve been stuck, or just busy with other things. However, I think the universe is conspiring to unstick me, or at least point me in the right direction.

Earlier this week, I found a post on Gretchen Rubin’s blog that included this quote from author Eric Hoffer: “When we do not do the one thing we ought to do, we have no time for anything else.”

A side note – Rubin is the author of The Happiness Project, a book about finding more happiness, and why it’s important to do so. I found it so interesting when I first read it on a plane, that I pulled out a notebook and started making notes.

When I read her post this week, I knew immediately that the one big thing I ought to be doing is getting my house organized, as I wrote in November after reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, by Marie Kondo.

Even though I didn’t make a formal New Year’s resolution this year, I decided that 2015 would be the year I tame my black holes, purge items I no longer need, and go through the last few unopened boxes from our move ten years ago.

And even though it’s only February, the decluttering and organizing have been calling my name more loudly than the writing projects have. Sigh.

I’ve been fairly consistent about decluttering, but there’s still a lot to do, and I’ve been reluctant to blog about it. My two main focuses in this blog have been writing and food. Decluttering would be a whole other blog. But, especially when you work from home, life tends to seep into your work, and vice versa.

I do have a freelance assignment that I’ll be working on this weekend, so that’s one thing that will move my writing off the back burner.

I also ran into a colleague the other day, and we talked about freelancing. I was curious about how he structured his day, and was inspired by his productivity.

This morning, I read Judith Timson’s column in the Toronto Star about “our stuff,” which made me feel better about my own stuff, and spurred me to write this post. The truth is, I haven’t put off writing this post  just because it’s outside the scope of my blog, but also because I’m a bit embarrassed by how long it’s taking me to deal with the “stuff.”

But one of the lessons I’ve learned since I lost my dad in 2008 is that things take as long as they take. Grief, for example. Decluttering, too.

I’ve found that getting rid of stuff isn’t actually hard. Deciding what to keep, and what not to, is the real difficulty, and sometimes the slowest part. Kondo’s book has helped me think differently about some items that I might have kept for sentimental reasons in the past, but the whole process is still a challenge.

When the one big thing you need to do could take a whole year, you have to figure out how to make time for other things that are also important.

Progress isn’t necessarily linear. You move forward, you slip back for a bit, and then you move forward again.

 

 

 

 

 

Hello, January

I have a whole bunch of things I could blog about today, but seeing as this is the first full week of 2015, I’m focusing on getting back in writing mode.

Blogging has been my foundation for the past year and a half, providing structure to my week, and putting me in writing mode on a regular basis. But I haven’t been very productive recently. I didn’t blog during my two-week trip to Japan last month, and then I was busy catching up with other things before going into end-of-December holiday mode.

Yesterday, as I was catching up with my emails, I opened the end-of-year summary that WordPress sent to let me know how my blog has been doing.

Considering I took a hiatus from blogging over the summer, and that I didn’t blog much toward the end of the year, I was pleased to see that I had 8,800 hits in 2014. That’s the equivalent – as WordPress put it – of three sold-out performances at the Sydney Opera House, which has almost 2,700 seats in its Concert Hall.

I used to think of myself as one of the “January people” – the ones who join a gym or revamp their diets at the beginning of the year. I think this year I’ll just take one day, and one blog post, at a time.

One of the writing blogs I follow (Live to Write – Write to Live, by the New Hampshire Writers’ Network) had an interesting post this morning about digital filing for writers. I’ll have to digitally file it, or – um – maybe just refer back to this post.

Hello, January! Happy (and healthy) New Year, everyone!

An evening with Jodi Picoult

Last week, my son and I went to hear Jodi Picoult talk about her latest novel, Leaving Time, at the St. Lawrence Centre in Toronto.

It was a delightful evening – quality mother-son time, fun with family friends who also attended, and a talk that resonated for me as a writer. Not to mention that admission to the Canadian Living “VIP” event included a signed copy of Jodi’s book, a lovely dessert spread, and a giveaway bag.

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From left, Ryan, me, Jodi, and our friends Laurie and Susan at the signing table.

As a writer and freelance journalist, I left feeling inspired. A few months ago, I tried my hand at writing a short children’s story, and the experience made me think that maybe I do have the imagination to attempt fiction – even adult fiction! I certainly enjoy reading it.

I loved hearing how Jodi came up with the idea for Leaving Time, the story of a 13-year-old girl who enlists the help of a psychic and a detective to find her mother, an elephant researcher who disappeared years before.

It started with an article she read about elephant mothers and daughters who stay together their entire lives. The article piqued her curiosity at a time when she was dealing with her own feelings about her daughter leaving the nest for college.

The back story captured my imagination. To research something purely out of interest, and spin it into a novel – an entire fictional world – is an enticing idea.

Research for a novel would draw on my journalistic skills, and now that I’ve had a taste of using real life as a starting point for fiction in my children’s story, I see new possibilities.

Not that I’m unhappy writing non-fiction. On the contrary, it makes me very happy. And I do want to finish my memoir on the year I lost my dad, which I’m about half-way through.

Jodi Picoult has written 22 books, approximately one a year (the same number of years that I worked as a full-time reporter!). On working days, she said, she edits what she’s written, then continues writing, fuelled by coffee until she stops in the late afternoon. Repeat often enough… and you have a book!

I told my son, who is one of Jodi’s biggest fans, that – with luck and longevity – I can write 22 books too. Maybe I should start drinking more coffee.

 

 

 

What I did on my summer (blog) vacation

Now that it’s mid-October, I absolutely can’t pretend I’m still on summer hiatus from blogging.

I believe that starting this blog was the best thing I did after being downsized last year – it helped me evolve and keep writing – but it was good for me to take a break.

Not blogging for the past few months has allowed me to devote more time to my other writing, and to explore new types of writing.

In the spring, I started freelancing for The Canadian Jewish News again. I’ve also spent more time working on my book, and even tried my hand at children’s fiction.

I made a note whenever I had an idea for a post-hiatus blog post, and – to my surprise – the list has more writing-related ideas than food or chocolate ones. We’ll see where that goes. It’s not that I haven’t been cooking, but I’ve been using a lot of tried-and-true recipes that are already on my blog. Time to get more creative in the kitchen again, not just at the computer.

One last thing I’ve been thinking about – earlier this year, I made a family history book as a gift for a young cousin. A couple of people have suggested that this is something I could do for other people too, professionally. The project was a labour of love, but it drew on my journalistic skills, and I enjoyed it tremendously. I’ve been looking into how viable it would be to add it to my freelance repertoire.

So I have a few new directions to consider, and I’m also thinking about where my blog is going.

Until this summer, I was posting on a fairly regular schedule: Tuesdays and Thursdays about writing, journalism and being downsized; Fridays about food; and Sundays about chocolate.

I may scale down a bit… or not. I might not post four days a week every week, but I plan to stick to my designated topics and designated days.

🙂

 

 

Writer’s Procrastination

A Facebook friend of mine posted a comment yesterday about writer’s procrastination. It’s extremely common, if Google is any indicator.

The first article that pops up in a search is called “Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators.” Ouch.

I don’t think I’ve ever put off writing because I was afraid the end result wouldn’t be good enough, as the article suggests, but I can think of a few other reasons.

1. My deadline wasn’t imminent, and other tasks were more time-sensitive.

2. I wanted the material to be fresh, especially for speeches and blog posts.

3. Something else captured my attention, or needed to be done first, and I was distracted for longer than anticipated.

4. I hadn’t yet figured out where to begin.

Years ago, my editor asked me about an article I was working on. I hadn’t started writing it, but it was percolating in my head. Is that procrastination? Maybe. But I think it can also be part of the process.

How to counter procrastination? A few things that have worked for me:

1. Just start. I may end up changing what I’ve written, but at least there’s something to work with.

2. Work in small chunks. 100 words, then another 100 words. And another. Usually that builds enough momentum for me to keep going.

3. Alternating tasks. Switching focus may not work for everyone, but if I put in a certain number of minutes or write “x” number of words, then switch to a different task (even a different writing task), I find I get more done. At some point, momentum builds, and I don’t need – or want – to leave what I’m working on.

4. Um, chocolate? Or whatever else works as a “reward.” To be used as needed. In moderation.

Further suggestions are welcome. 🙂