A Blog In Progress

FearI’ve been blogging off and on since 2009, the year I lost my job during the not-so-great recession.

Back then I blogged to purge my thoughts and never thought about finding a niche for my blog. I considered blogging a platform for testing ideas, where I could meet other bloggers and get feedback on my posts.

But over the years as I’ve changed, so have my blogging needs and ergo my focus.

As a writer/blogger/person in progress, I’ve received lots of advice from experts on what I should write or not write about and the topics on which I should focus my blog. I agonized for months to find a focus for my blog, and my writing by association.

With my thoughts caught in a perpetual tug-of-war, my sanity stepped in and forced me to make an executive decision. “Whatcha gonna do girl?”

“I’ll focus my blog on finding my focus,” I said, with indecisive certainty, “which includes a large chunk of everything.”

“A no-no!” yelled the “they sayers” in the blogosphere who advise bloggers to narrow their audience.

Impossible for someone like me with a genre disorder. Someone who vacillates between writing and blogging, nonfiction and fiction, humor, culture, and politics. Oh, my!

Add ADHD to the mix (I’ve got attention deficit disorder.), plus a four-day work week, three days w/o a routine (dangerous for an ADDer), and I’m back in a 2010 time loop, the beginning of my underemployment status, which left me in a creative vacuum.

Lost in an ADD world where time is an anachronism, I’ve never been able to cobble together a major success in my tilted perception. Success means landing a book deal with an agent or just sticking to one project until the “end,” which isn’t permanent anyway in writing until printed in ink.

Today, at the start of another unstructured day, I kidnapped myself and duct taped my butt to the chair in front of the computer, then asked myself: what should I write about? To which I replied, I have no friggin idea.

My head is filled with lots of ideas, which end up in three or four notebooks on my desk, or a digital “note” file on my Mac. Where do I begin when I can’t see past a flock of ideas that block my view like a Sharkanado cloud?

How can I focus when lingering childhood insecurities bully their way into my conscious thoughts? I know. We’re all products of dysfunctional families. But many of us are able to escape the cycle of “almost there’s” when we grow into our adult selves.

I feel like I’ve been idling on off ramps for years, with a few successful stops along the way, one of which is my 27-year old son. He has surpassed all my expectations by overcoming the educational and social hurdles that encumber a child with Asperger’s Syndrome.

It’s a huge accomplishment and I would never minimize my contribution to his success.

Now that my son is on the path to success, I thought it was time for me to cement my own path.

I need to stop the vicious cycle of “I’m stupid” in which I’ve been stuck, leftover from the adolescent years and the stigma of growing up with a mentally challenged brother 22 months my senior.  This is my time to get unstuck and reboot my life, replace the negative inner voice, “I can’t” with the positive, “I can.”

A long time ago, I realized that when life sends you down a circuitous route, having GPS is helpful, but only the person at the wheel can drive you to your destination.

Do you feel stuck?

A Draft From My Fleeting Thoughts

Jenny looking out the windowI tried writing a blog post today and ended up floating through social media sites, adhering to the parameters of my short attention span.

On Twitter, I attempted to write 140 characters of prose for the 1st-line Wednesday hashtag game. Instead, I wrote 116 characters, which included the hashtag #1linewed, falling short of my 500-word goal.

Writing is hard. I know this and have accepted it, embraced the work ethic required that I haven’t yet mustered.

I castigate myself every time I get distracted and end up on the Internet. “You’re better than this,” I say.

If only I listened to myself.

I know I should disconnect when I’m sitting at the computer or use a distraction blocker to keep my focus on the screen, but I don’t. I allow the allure of whimsy to attract me.

I allow my thoughts to get stuck in the dusty light of fleeting things and end up writing something only 116 characters long, not worthy of the word “accomplishment.”

Why do I let myself slip into this redundant behavior of idling nothingness, the place self-control gives in to a quick digital fix? Why do I embrace the instant gratification of a social media high after which I drop into a hole so deep I can’t climb out?

Why do I allow my attention to mindlessly float in a sphere of whimsy? A conscious coma in which my thoughts slip into a montage of talk show appearances where I promote that book I never wrote.

Fantastical mind-wandering thoughts that float in my head like pond scum, eventually get stuck in the drain suck of inertia where passion nods off.

A sudden reflexive jerk snaps me back to another meaningless hashtag game, the rush of instant gratification gone as soon as I leave the page.

Nothing gained from my mindless wandering. Just fleeting thoughts of fancy that embrace you while you drift, then slip away.

Drifting is pleasant. Writing is painful. It’s black and blue. Dark and light.

It’s acceptable human torture when you’re not in the zone. Getting there requires discipline and a workable routine. That’s hard to harness when you’ve got time to squander on a week off (without pay).

A rigid time-constrained schedule keeps you within the designated lines on which you need to write. Without them, you fall off the document into the gray moat around the page.

How do you discipline yourself?

Do you have a regular writing routine?

America Elects Its Next Celebrity President

Trump Thank You TourIt’s not surprising that Trump won the election. Americans love reality television. Millions of viewers tune it to watch Survivor every Wednesday night, others can’t survive without their Tuesday fix of Dancing with the Stars. When the election mutated into a spin-off of The Apprentice, Americans couldn’t get enough of Trump’s on-the-trail antics, some of it funny, some of it scary, yet entertaining all the same.

The media also embraced the campaign’s carnival-like atmosphere, analyzing Trump’s tweets and monitoring his rallies, waiting for him to say something outrageous that would drive the 24/7 news cycle. Every day, it seemed, a Trump narrative dominated the headlines, stealing airtime from Hillary. Even when Trump wasn’t the focus of the news, his response to Hillary’s bad press became news when he inevitably stepped on the story with one of his blunders.

“This one will sink him,” the talking heads predicted, first during the primaries and then the campaign.

“He’s the Teflon Don,” another shot back. “Nothing has sunk him yet.”

That turned out to be accurate. No matter how outrageous or inflammatory Trump could be, his supporters stuck by their guy. He was entertaining, wasn’t politically correct (to a fault). He spoke to them like a friend and was somebody they wanted to have a beer with. His recognizable face and brand made them feel warm and fuzzy. They knew this guy. They had watched him on TV: The Apprentice, the Miss America Pageant, and Access Hollywood. While Hillary became ensnared in a character battle with Trump that brought out her greatest weaknesses, Trump was celebrated for his. “It was just Trump being Trump,” the guy who was everything that Washington was not.

He was the anti-presidential candidate. Though his negatives were higher than Hillary’s was, it became an asset for him, not for her. He was, Mr. Reality TV, was supposed to be outrageous and politically incorrect. That was his brand.

The Clinton campaign made a grave error using character as their focus of the campaign. Character was her greatest weakness, his greatest strength… because he was the likable reality TV star, she, the dishonest wonk, according to Trump and his supporters. The Clintons underestimated the power of a reality TV star and the audience that adored and trusted him. Even if Trump supporters thought he was a clown, he was a clown they knew. They didn’t really know Hillary, even though she had been active in politics for many years. They had heard about Benghazi and Monica Lewinsky. Knew they shouldn’t like her. But not until the email scandal and Trump’s branding of her as “Crooked Hilary,” was her character transformation complete. A complicit media that had an appetite for demonizing Clinton, assisted in propelling the narrative that Trump had created.

The media fell in love with Trump, the rating’s magnet; they adored him, even when abused by him, and overlooked facts for the sake of audience market share. They followed Trump’s Twitter activity more than leads on his questionable business dealings and character flaws. Had the media latched onto Trump’s taxes as firmly as Hillary’s emails, Trump may have been forced to release them before he takes the Oath of Office on January 20th.

I thought the media would have learned their lessons from the campaign. But they continue to allow Trump to drive the narrative, dictate the script, while they report on every tweet. They treat him like a TV star, not a president-elect. They embrace his weaknesses: his thin skin and erratic behavior, to bolster their ratings, instead of reporting on how his flaws could adversely affect our country and the world. They want to cultivate favors with the new president-elect, not alienate him.

While we watch Trump captivate the media with his outrageous statements: his bigotry, bullying, xenophobia, and sexism, as he flip-flops on his campaign promises (mostly overlooked by the press) — America loses its soul. Because they elected a celebrity they thought they knew, but really didn’t know.

The media and their audience focused on Trump’s shenanigans instead of his backstory: his global financial ties, not vetted, Russian involvement in the election (and possible coordination with the Trump campaign) mostly glossed over, along with the Trump Foundation and Trump University.

The media didn’t hound Trump to release his taxes and his supporters didn’t care if he released them or not. They believed Trump when he told them that he was under audit and that the “dishonest media” was out to get him, would crucify him if he released his taxes. By defusing the media’s influence, questioning the veracity of every negative story about him, Trump became the media authority, the only honest news source according to Trump. Because of his recognizable brand and power of celebrity to “grab them by the pussy” or “do whatever the hell I want,” he seduced the American people, who idolized their TV star, and convinced them that he would “Make America Great Again,” despite not having substantial plans to backup his claims.

Because the media embraced the notion that Americans wanted to be entertained, not informed, we are now involuntary participants in a reality TV show, unlike anything we’ve seen before. No one received a call from central casting, and yet we have accepted our roles as the electorate in a Trump presidency.

As in all reality TV shows, there will be winners and losers. However, if President-elect Trump’s cabinet picks are an indication of what to expect in future episodes, there will be no winners, except for the star and cast of the Trump POTUS TV show that will run for four consecutive seasons on every station.

We will be a captive audience whether we like it or not.

Writer’s Block: Blame It On Trump!

Trump 60 Minutes Interview

I had every intention of writing a blog post but that same old dread enveloped me like a noxious fog — President Trump.

Eye twitches.

I tried to calm myself by meditating: ohm, ohm… Oh, my God, President Trump.

Throat constricts.

I tried taking a walk to get inspired: Trees, birds… Trump.

Brain freezes.

I’ve got nothing, I said. Any thoughts? I asked Myself, usually a very good listener and purveyor of good advice.

But she wasn’t helpful this time. “I don’t know,” Myself said introspectively. “Maybe write something about Trump.”

“But that’s depressing,” I grumbled. “Thinking about Trump makes me grumpy, or dare I say, Trumpy. You know I haven’t written anything in months because of Trump.”

Myself just sighed. She knew that Trump’s bigoted, unhinged comments stifled my creativity and provoked me to yell at inanimate objects like the shoe I just tripped over.

“What the hell, shoe!” I yelled. “Are you trying to kill me?”

The shoe offered a laced up rebuke. “You left me here,” it said. “… abandoned me like all the ideas you’ve scribbled on torn pages in your notebook. This one is on you, missy!”

“But, but?”

But, there were no more buts. The shoe was right–literally.

I had no business yelling at anything and went on an apology tour to all the inanimate objects in the house.

I realized that being depressed and stuck is exactly what a bully would want from the ladies he’s grabbed by the pussy, metaphorically or figuratively.

It didn’t matter. If I allowed Trump to victimize me from afar, my voice would be silenced–exactly what Trump would want.

So, I’ll do my best not to get Trumped and rant in run-on sentences with protruding cartoon eyes. It only upsets my blog who stares at me blankly, sputtering nonsensical words across an anemic-looking page.

“Damn it!” I screamed. “Write something smart!”

At which point the sidearm of my chair slapped my wrist and said, “Stop choking the monitor!”

“My God. I’m a monster!” I unclenched the computer and wiped my fingerprints from the screen.

“Sorry blog. This anger thing is unconscious and scary pervasive. I need to get a grip without getting a grip. Use my hands for good, instead of evil.”

“The power of Christ compels you” to purge the beast and write.

But write about what? Puppies or politics?

I love puppies but their cuteness is wasted on words, best captured in video or pictures.

I love politics but lately just see the giant orange burrito spew guacamole on TV. It sends me on a taco spending spree to crush them in the compactor.

No, I need a Trumpectomy, to turn off the TV and get Trump out of my head. Once there’s nothing left of him, I’ll be able to write again.

Now, if I only could think of something to write about.

Has your writing been Trumped?

Perfectionism, What Is It Good For?

Door ClosedI was revising a post about the pitfalls of perfectionism and realized I couldn’t stop revising it. I had fallen into the very pitfall I wrote about in the post that no one would read.

What a conundrum and interesting predicament.

Interesting, because this predicament of mine could serve as a learning experience for other perfectionists. The perfect opportunity, I thought, to think out loud while asking the question: Why can’t I finish a post I’ve revised countless times and now look at with contempt?

Is the problem really my dissatisfaction with the piece or is there a deeper, darker reason why I can’t finish it?

I don’t have the answer because I just started asking the question.

This will be my therapy session. And I will be the therapist, which I know, seems unfair and probably counterproductive. But since I have the floor or whatever it is I have, I will continue asking the question, and hopefully, you will continue reading.

A Q&A will follow at which point I hope you’ll jump in with your thoughts or recommendation that I should be committed by the Geek Squad.

I should also probably mention that I’m ADD and a bit neurotic.

Anyway, as I type these rambling words (that never stop), I had an epiphany about my post that I had blamed perfectionism for not completing and realized that perfectionism was the symptom, not the cause — Because the cause was fear.

Yes, my thoughts were stuck in that cerebral mud pit in my brain known as fear, or post-traumatic post syndrome when I should have realized that writing a piece of anything, whether crap or candy, doesn’t matter. Writing something, anything is the point.

And making a point doesn’t hurt either.

Allowing the fear of failure to hold me or you back is really the true meaning of insanity and should be served with a restraining order.

Now, write something, then rinse and repeat.

For The Love Of Writing

The creative process

I’ve always wanted to be a writer, which is a silly notion. How can you want to be something you already are?

Writing became me. It is intrinsic to how I live my life. I am a scribbler, an anthropologist, a curator of words.

Writing is my religion. It’s as close to God as I can get. When I write, I reach a meditative state known as “getting in the zone,” where I allow my mind to wander and find my creative sweet spot.

To stop writing because you think your work sucks or don’t know what to write about contradicts the writing process. Yes, we’re told to have a focus for our writing, to know our audience. But, writing isn’t like the movie “Field of Dreams” — write the post, and they will come. If you write for others and not for yourself, squandering the passion that compels you to write, your writing loses its shine.

Over the past year, I’ve been questioning my writing focus. Instead of embracing spontaneity and writing in raw form — dumping thoughts onto the page, an essential step in the creative process — I embraced perfectionism, which doesn’t exist, and mitigates the impact of a word.

If you stop to edit while you write, you drop out of “the zone” and lose your creative edge. Your writing becomes dull.

The other word destroyer, overwriting — not knowing when to stop revising a draft — muddies the qualities that make your writing unique.

If you’re stuck on a sentence, stop revising it and walk away. Let your unconscious mind take the wheel. You will likely find the answer you seek while emptying the dishwasher or performing another mundane task.

Don’t obsess over changing a word you think is too simple. Sometimes a fifth-grade level word is a better choice than a college level word. The simple word expresses the rawness of your feelings during an emotional purge.

Venting your frustrations in rough form is a visceral response to an impulsive emotional thought. You wrote it because it came from the heart. Wrote it for yourself, not for a publisher, or agent or target audience.

Sure, it’s rewarding when your work elicits a positive response from a reader. But, to write for validation or praise shouldn’t be what drives a writer to write.

A writer must be passionate about the process. Enjoy the discovery of words and how they sound when read aloud. It’s the pleasant torture of word wrangling during a revision and knowing when to stop, which comes with experience.

Over the past year, I discovered that I write because I enjoy the writing process — the words, the sounds of vowels and consonants, the joy of creating something out of nothing.

If I allow outside or inside critics to distract or deter me from writing, then shame on me. It’s time to shut out the noise and refocus on the passion. I don’t write for the accolades or validation of others, I write for myself.

Do inside/outside influences distract you from writing?