“Are you still writing?”

“Are you still writing?”

Yes –

and no.

Writing isn’t my job anymore, but I write every day. Notes to myself in notebooks I keep close to my side, away from prying eyes. I write hopes and fears and to-dos and notes and lines of code.

Even I, though, wonder why I no longer write here.

In everything I write, there is a thing that I am writing about that I do not speak of. That I refuse to articulate. Whether it’s love or loss or a half hidden anxiety disorder, there is always something huge under the surface.

I write like an iceberg.

That’s why my style jumps from place to place, why I pull in poems and speeches and works of art. Like funhouse mirrors, they obscure as much as they reveal.

One of those chiaroscuri still lives where you wonder if there’s a shape in the darkness or if it’s your imagination. In the changing light, the shadows cast by paint strokes seem to move.

Like me at a party, I flicker from place to place, nervous energy in perpetual motion. If I keep moving, only the dedicated will be able to keep up. If I keep writing, I can keep speaking the truth without ever having to consider that you’ll hear it.

Every once in a while I will claim a corner and sit on the back porch railing and give you a piece of my mind, bold and invulnerable under the night sky.

∆∆

What am I not writing about now?

I’m not writing about how I can’t keep running, how I can’t keep moving. How I must, for my life, be still and focused.

See, I want something. I want something so badly that last winter I said no to ski dates more often than I said yes. I said no to the mountains and woods and freedom more often than I said yes. (Should I have said yes? These things are medicine, but they are also time. I do not feel like I have enough time, although I whisper the words my partner tells me: “The universe loves and supports you in all that you choose to do, and you have an abundance of time.” Whisper that to yourself. Try it right now. Whisper it with the almost cliché, embarrassing sincerity that forces you to believe it.)

See, I am going to be a professional programmer.

I say that now.

“Hi. I’m Liz. I am going to be a developer. It’s nice to meet you.”

See, I am already a developer. I write things. Code is just another kind of poetry, and I’m probably better at writing Javascript than iambic pentameter.

I’m not writing about that because it’s not interested in writing about it yet. For a long while, I was pretty bad at it. And then less bad. And so on. It will be a good story in retrospect, but right now, I’m in the middle of it.

Perspective makes the heart grow fonder because the view is more expansive, like an aperture opening to welcome in more light.

The things that are, perhaps, the most interesting to write about aren’t things that I really want to write about. It’ll either be too much or too little.

For me, I mean. I won’t be so arrogant as to dictate to you what your definition of lagom is. Define that for yourself.

I have miles to go.

∆∆

Shall I write about this – this morning after our walk, Nova jumped on the couch next to me. And after a few minutes of pets, she lay down and pushed her head into my lap (tentatively) and I screeched and massaged until she fell asleep with the weight of her pressed into me.

We camped a few weekends ago, and when it was time to sleep she curled into a tight ball next to me. I draped a vest over her back to ward off the chill. I wished she would come into the bag with me as I tried in vain to curl into a ball, too.

Doesn’t work the same in a sleeping bag.

I bought a new sleeping bag last week. One with enough room for me to tuck my legs up. There’s room for her, too, I think, if she ever does want to come in.

A few days later we slept half the night on the back porch, warm breeze like a balm. She curled up with me then, too, even though she could have slept sprawled out on the whole bed.

This is enough, but it’s all so saccharine, don’t you think? With each step we take together, I add more to my love song to Nova, my heart’s own companion. But sugar isn’t interesting alone.

I stare out of the window on gray days, daydreaming of Faerûn and Greyhawk and the Forgotten Realms.

I wonder if I should drink more.

I wonder if my grandmother was a Swedish citizen and if she was, if I would be able to claim citizen by birthright. I am made for high lands.

I press “pay now” on my very last student loan payment.

I’m building soil, I tell myself. One does not become a developer in a day.

I am certain of this. Nothing and no one will deter me.

Writing Where You Can See

Hello! How are you – won’t you tell me your name?

It’s springtime in Colorado, though for someone used to the growling weather in New England, it’s felt like spring for an awfully long time. The clouds roll in and high above us linger. Here, again unlike the east, the clouds seem so far away and, for all their attempts, appear thin. I swear I can feel the sun through them.

IMG_5404

Even the dark days seem bright.

Two weekends ago, driving back from a weekend in Fruita, we drove through sun, rain, snow, and rain again. Now that felt like home.

Do you remember (it feels so long ago) when I wrote down my resolutions post Wanderlust Fest? Once of them was to write where other people can see.

I’ve always been afraid of showing people what I write. But there’s this wonderful thing that happens when I’m busy or distracted. I write, I write well, I edit, and I publish without a moment’s thought to my inner critic because my coworkers have already gone over it to say, “Yes, yes. Change this, not that. Looks good. Hit send.”

In the course of these last five months, I’ve written a lot. I’ve conducted more interviews than I can probably count. Edited more articles than I can recall. And hit the publish button over and over again.

Here are just a few pieces I’m really proud of.

Interview with Bart Yasso, Chief Running Officer at Runner’s World.

Interview with Sarah Bowen Shea of Another Mother Runner.

What (and How) to Pack for the Backcountry.

Interview with Tim Robinson of Bentonville (and Walmart).

That last one?

That last one was actually pretty nuts. It was the first time I’d interviewed anyone since college, for one. For two, Tim Robinson was elected to the Bentonville, Arkansas city council. For three, he’s also a director for Walmart. He and I covered so much ground in that interview, me from my tiny desk after hours, him from his car overlooking the city. Far too much didn’t make it to the final piece.

We talked about bikes, you see. But what I was really fascinated was the look into Walmart that didn’t show an evil corporation, but instead showed the passionate, civic-minded people who really are trying.

I still hate Walmart. But.

I think that’s an important thing. Incredible things can be accomplished by people who try. 

Say Yes.

Night riding deserves a quiet night...
Night riding deserves a quiet night…

One of my first public blog posts ever no longer exists on the internet. It was published on the blog of the company I first worked for after college, which has since undergone a massive (and kind of perplexing) rebranding. Fortunately, I saved it: From Ugly to Design: Draplin Design Co. Rocks Vermont.

It was a run down on a presentation Aaron Draplin gave in a Burlington basement.

In the original blog, there are five direct quotes, but I frankly forgot about all but two. The two that, really, sum up the rest.

Say yes a little bit more than no.

Do good work for good people.

DnDCharacterSheet

Some days, the hardest part is saying yes more often than no. I have a deep appreciation for the word no. I don’t think it’s anywhere near as negative as people make it out to be. No is as much positive as it is negative (just as yes can really, honestly and truly, be a negative). That said, sometimes it feels so good to say yes.

Some things I have recently said yes to: 24 Hours in Chicago, Talking to strangers,  Cutting half my hair off, Extra hours in the office, One more cup of coffee at Ozo, Owning my geekiness (no matter how dweeby), Late night bike rides to clear the sickness from my throat.

What will you say yes to?

Sometimes, I write poems

Sometimes, I write poems. Not with any regularity. But every once in a while, I write poems.

They are written over the span of years, words added and subtracted like glaciers forming and calving. Sometimes, I go looking for their half-developed stanzas, sifting through documents and post-it notes. Other times, like tonight, I find one purely by accident while on the hunt for some other distant .doc.

My best guess is that this poem was started in 2010 or 2011. I finished it last night.

 

The Descent

We sprinted up mountains with hands pressed together like hips or

lips whistling for water. We went down running, rushing, every

step toe-stubbing, gasping for air.

                                                                        I really do forget the

frantic laugh of his kiss at the top and the weight

of that word in my mouth as it stumbled from

throat to tongue to teeth to out.

                                                             But what

of the hands held fast one–two? I do

recall the press & final release.

That I’ll keep. I’ll take too

the feeling, madcap &

reeling, of love as

it’s flying – Oh!

as it’s falling

down

hill.

Wanderesolutions

This is Megan, a performer from Quixotic. She and her team were absolutely amazing. Awe-inspiring & delighting. I'm also really, really proud of this photo. http://quixoticfusion.com/
This is Megan, a performer from Quixotic. She and her team were absolutely amazing. Awe-inspiring & delighting.
I’m also really, really proud of this photo. http://quixoticfusion.com/

I’m coming down from the high of Wanderlust-Stratton. While I’ve worked every day since the 16th, supporting the festival was hardly labor. As my first festival experience, I spent the entire four-day period wrapped in wonder, exploring. I’m sad to say I didn’t suck the marrow from the festival, but I’m also not surprised. I didn’t know how much I would be needed in the office, so didn’t sign up for many classes or lectures. I popped in on a few, but found that my body was so out of yoga shape that I was nearly crippled by day four, conveniently when I decided I wanted to do a Chi Running workshop.

Suffice to say I did not make it to the workshop.

But, even without the Chi Running coaching, I still feel kicked out of a weird little funk. See, I was not built for sitting still or windowless rooms. To remind myself of this, I want to write down my Wanderesolutions.

  • Move every day.
  • Explore, with wonder.
  • Write where someone else can see.
  • Appreciate the wealth in simplicity.
I totally posed this photo.
I totally posed this photo.

The first two points need no explanation. They come from Wanderlust directly. To move one’s body and explore everything, inside and out.

IMG_3785
Om shanti shanti shanti.

The second two merit, I think, some introduction. To write where someone else can see is to write bravely. Which means, mostly, writing here. But also, I’d like to write for publication. I’ve said this for years. Now that I’ve claimed my quiet places in both the woods and our house, it’s time to make time for that. To do it, perhaps with shyness, but to do it anyway.

As to simplicity. In middle school, I bought a copy of “Walden.” I started reading it, as evidenced by a few underlined passages. Past the pencil lines, I see a self-conscious un-understanding; knowing these things were personally significant while being uncomfortably aware that the words were not really significant yet. Like an premonition. It makes way more sense now.

In short, between now and next year, I have an awful lot of Wanderlusting to do. Let’s go.

On writing.

I’m not used to to talking about writing (or reading).

It seems I have a penchant for surrounding myself not with writers and readers, but biologists, programmers, and artists. They find poetry in the symmetry of shapes or the patterns of cellular structures… not the rhythms of syllables, the proper placement of punctuation, the languid arc of a captivating narrative. Even my friends who are writers, we never talk about writing. We talk philosophy, trading observations, puzzling over cracks in reason and in faith. (It seems we don’t even talk about the books we read. A simple, I enjoyed it, I didn’t, and why seems to suffice.)

As we speak, I’m working toward making writing a large part of my career. Making a business of it. Which means I’m being asked questions I never would have otherwise considered. “How do you deal with writer’s block? What is your writing process?”

With what? My what?

To help me answer these questions in some future interview or passing conversation, I’m going to write about them here. Sorry to interrupt the Slackerisms with something about hard work and ink-stained fingers, but not sorry. I’ll hide it all behind a cut, though I invite you to read on. (And let me know what you think of these questions in the comments – on your thoughts, your process, or whatever.)

Continue reading “On writing.”

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

It seems like Haruki Murakami is popping up on every bookshelf these days. His work appears on bedstands, in backpacks, and on tongues more often than any other single author. (Except for my homie, F. Scott. He’s experiencing a revival. I wonder why…)

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

His pervasiveness is exactly why I’ve been avoiding him. I’ve rented out my book-space to other works, some good, some bad. And then a friend handed me Murakami’s memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. Since I both respect this friend’s taste and desperately needed a new book to read, I cracked it open.

All skepticism was dispelled immediately. Murakami writes candidly, artfully, and with (astonishing) humility. Right off the bat, he established his athletic hobbies as no big deal – marathons and triathlons are simply things he does because he wants to do them. He’s not in it for the glory or prize money or whatever. He’s in it to be in it. This is exactly the attitude I most admire in others. Simple, honest doing it for the sake of doing it.

I love the casual, shrugging way he tells the story of becoming a runner and, seemingly with the same breath, how he became a writer. Throughout the piece, running and writing weave together. The two activities are so thoroughly intertwined in Murakami’s life that it’s difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins.

As a writer and runner who came to both writing and running in a gradual, almost accidental way way, I understand.

If I my pull just one passage to sum up the core of what I love about What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, it’s this:

“I didn’t start running because somebody asked me to become a runner. Just like I didn’t become a novelist because someone asked me to. One day, out of the blue, I wanted to write a novel. And one day, out of the blue, I started to run-simply because I wanted to. I’ve always done whatever I felt like doing in life. People may try to stop me, and convince me I’m wrong, but I won’t change.”

Excuse me. I have some running to do.

Have you read Murakami’s memoir or novels? What did you think?

Who inspires you to get up and go?

Processing moments

slackcountrying in Vermont's green mountains

So much has happened in the past two weeks. My mind-space is taken up by processing it, leaving little room for stringing meaningful syllables together.

Changes at my current job which sent me for an emotional roller coaster of disappointment, adrenalin, creativity, and hope.

Accepted a new job, which I’ll start in a week. (I’ll probably tell you about it come summer, because it fits quite well into my warm-weather slackcountry training plans. Suffice to say, I am: excited, elated, elevated.)

rough draft one
20 pages of moments

Started in on the second draft of #muse. (You know, that novella I mentioned before I realized that I’d rather talk about skiing?) Draft one is an enormous outline of scenes. Draft two is daunting, as it’ll have to be more of a… y’know… draft and less a collage of moments.

Not to mention weekends in the mountains, balancing delight with frustration. There’s nothing I love more than skiing, but at the same time I know there’s so much I can do better. I’m hyper-aware of my mistakes – especially my unending struggle with falling too far back on my skis. It’s becoming more and more apparent that I need a new pair of boots. And AT bindings, AT boots, and a bright headlamp.

I leave you with the promise of more posts to come and this moment from yesterday’s adventure.

slackcountrying in Vermont's green mountains
Not all who wander are lost. But some are. We weren’t. I swear.

“Focus on the seasonality of things.”

“Focus on the seasonality of things” is a line from my #muse, and I’ve decided to take my character’s advice.

I waited five minutes for fresh whipped cream. Best decision ever.
Espresso con panna from BTV’s Muddy Waters

I am thankful for:

  • how a layer of snow makes the world seem new
  • cold, bright days
  • the smell of tea tree oil
  • espresso con panna with fresh whipped cream
  • text messages from friends with new diamond rings
  • and, of course, days spent in the mountains

Practice makes practice

I thought MySpace angles were supposed to be slimming.
Does this MySpace angle make my strings look fat?

The week before I set up this blog, a challenge was issued. Write a blog post every day.

I protested half-heartedly. “Every day? That’s ridiculous. I can’t come up with good content every day… And then to do a good job editing…!”

“It doesn’t have to be good writing!” was the retort.

Now, I’m keeping a blog. This blog. I don’t write in it every day… Because some days I chicken out. Some days I’m distracted or busy or I completely forget. But I’m remembering more often already. And growing more comfortable with the idea that I’m chatting away to myself where you can hear.

This is all good practice, and I realized that practice really takes practice. I wrote about it over here not to long ago, but I’m writing again to remind myself.

I’m impatient when it comes to matters of my being. I expect myself to do well the first time. To succeed immediately and move on to the next task. Sometimes, this approach is awesome. I get shit done. But, there’s something to be said for the slower approach. Imagine taking a bite of your favorite food (mine’s steak); do you close your eyes and savor the sensations? From your tongue and teeth to your nose… the fork heavy against your fingers…

Practice can be like that. It’s a way to be aware of the sensations… The peculiar way I hold my breath as a write, as if afraid of blowing the words off the screen on an exhale… How my voice seems to change if I write rough drafts on a computer versus paper, or even between types of pens.

It’s a really cool process, and reading other peoples’ resolutions only reminds me of my list of 25 things to do before I turn 26. I wish “practice” was on it.

Maybe that can be my New Years Resolution – to practice practice and to savor every bite.

What about you – what are you practicing right now/this week/this year?