Happy Mothers Day! What better way to celebrate than to share a heartwarming story by Allie Potts who routinely captures bits of wisdom from her children. Comments are closed here, so click through to Allie’s wonderful blog and smile.
Let’s go to the place where the sidewalk ends
By Allie Potts
LT sat on the tire swing in our backyard, alone. His brother had gone to play with a friend leaving LT to amuse himself while his father and I completed our chores. His legs were curled up as they wouldn’t touch the ground even if extended. As a result, the swing was nearly motionless except for a gentle sway with the breeze. I watched as his mouth move and wondered what the conversation he was having with himself might be about. He looked content, but it was a lonely image.
The last of my cleaning could wait. “Do you want to go to the park?” I called out, thinking there might be other kids he could play with. LT beamed, eagerly accepting my offer and soon we were walking down the street to our local playground. LT chattered about things like clouds, giants and other friendly monsters, smiling at everybody we passed along the way. Never once did I have to tell him to hurry up, or stay with me, or explain why he shouldn’t be carried. Who was this child?
Continue Reading: Let’s go to the place where the sidewalk ends
I just put in a patio… for the second time.
That seems to be how I do things … twice. I try something with zero planning and no idea what the heck I’m doing. It’s pure adrenaline and inspiration, and usually, I have a lot of fun despite my first-time failures.
I wrote a book that way. Zipped through it, scribbling like a lunatic, 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. In 30 days I wrote 189,000 words. I loved every single moment of it. Then I learned a thing or two (or 50) about writing and had to rewrite the whole book from start to finish. It took me two years.
It’s how I roll, apparently. I was raised believing I could accomplish anything if I put my mind to it and applied a hefty dose of elbow grease. A good impetus for trying new things, even though my first efforts are often disasters.
Imagine the worst sheetrock job of the century, the crumbling stone wall, the warped floor, the divorce, the singing waitress job (yup, I did that).
I put in this patio a couple years ago without any preparation – no sand, no wire, no plastic, no concrete, no level. I just set everything on top of the dirt. Each rock was a different size and I dug individual holes so they would all be even. It was spectacular.
My friends out here in the rainforest asked me how I prepped the foundation. “Oh, I just lay everything on the dirt,” I said cluelessly. They exchanged wide-eyed glances and bit their lips but had the grace not to explode my happy-bubble.
Did I mention the rainforest? The place where green things grow 2 feet a day… all year round. Within a month, the weeds between the stones were waist high. The squirrel-sized moles had tunneled beneath the whole thing, pushing stones aside and heaping up knee-high piles of dirt. For two years my beautiful “patio” was a jungle of thistle, ferns, burdock, blackberries, and grass. Yeesh.
So, it was time to do it over again… completely. When my eyeballs dried up from editing, I went outside and pulled up rocks and bricks and pavers and piled them in the woods. I weeded from one end to the other and relaid every single stone … the right way.
The point? Don’t be afraid to try new things if you feel inspired. A little planning and preparation is probably a good idea. But even if you jump in with both feet, like I do, know that failure is a great teacher and nothing to be shy about. The end result is often worth it, and you might surprise yourself!
I just spent 5 days editing without changing out of my pajamas. It seemed a good time to share an old guest post I had the honor of contributing to Seumas Gallacher’s wonderful blog. Thus…Writing in Pajamas.
To me, flannel pajamas are symbolic. Whenever I get the chance, I wear them all day, and in case you were wondering, I’m pj-clad as I type this post.
In my mother’s generation, all-day pajamas indicated a mortifying degree of sloth. Pinch-lipped gossips would roll their eyes toward heaven, conjuring images of beer before breakfast, dust bunnies, and soap operas. If a woman wore pajamas all day, she certainly didn’t chair the holiday bazaar or volunteer at the library. Her kids lacked appropriate moral supervision and, no doubt, roamed the neighborhood like hooligans. Never mind her neglected spouse nibbling TV dinners after a long day at the plant.
My guess is some people still think that way, and now and then, they’re probably not wrong. Yet, I never ascribed to that characterization. My pajamas epitomize the wonderful and rare days when I can slide from bed straight into writing mode. I rouse myself to pour more coffee and toss a log in the woodstove, but that’s about it. No volunteering, no grocery shopping, no babysitting, the house to myself…It’s a bit of creative heaven.
If I’m still in my woolly slippers and snowman pajamas when the clock strikes two, I’m at my peak, fulfilling a mission, playing God. Worlds are being created and razed, characters loved and destroyed. Pathos, humor, desperation, joy, and death tap like magic from my fingertips. Who has time to get dressed with a universe in the throes of chaos?
Sometimes I go a touch far, I’ll admit. I want to hold onto that “this day is mine, mine, mine” feeling. I cling to the illusion that I haven’t surrendered my creative immersion to other tasks. There are days when my pajama-wearing mulishness raises eyebrows.
None of you, hopefully, is shocked by my occasional dash in slippers and assorted-fruit flannels to retrieve something from the car or the shed. You all do that, right? And, you’ve gone to the mailbox and…um, walked the dog? Those are things normal people do in pajamas, don’t they?
Of course, I don’t stop there. Yesterday, I split wood in my slippers and snowflake pj’s, an almost farcical feat for which there are no pictures, thank the stars. Still in my pajamas, I’ve visited my neighbor to pick up my weekly goat’s milk supply, and on occasion, I’ve stopped in at the post office to mail books. I frequently wear my slippers to meetings. (If they want me to volunteer, they can deal with my choice of footwear, right?) And if I feel the need to dress up all fancy, I change the bottom half into jeans and yank a sweatshirt over the green turtles adorning the top.
I live in the northwest Oregon mountains outside a dinky town where everyone knows everyone else. I get away with this peculiar behavior because I’m a fantasy author. I’m permitted to be a bit eccentric. If they don’t remember me for my books, they’ll remember me as a lunatic. I’m fine either way.
To be honest, the real reason for my overindulgence in sleepwear is that once my little forays into the normal world are accomplished, I can return to my chair, my coffee, and my laptop without missing a beat. Wearing my pajamas is the bridge that keeps me connected to the fantastical side of my imagination. I relegate the outside world to a space between two parentheses, so the stories inside my head can continue unabated. That’s where I prefer to spend my time, and pajamas give me permission to dream.
Passion and Priorities may sound like a Jane Austin novel…but nope, nothing so restrained.
I’m talking about a circus act, a high-wire attempt at juggling while riding a unicycle with five bowling pins flipping through the air. It’s an act of balance.
Anyone possessed with an all-consuming passion, knows what I refer to. Whether it’s an artistic endeavor, a desire to race cars in the desert, to savor exotic foods, ban landmines, or never wear the same shoes twice, the need for balance occasionally sets that high-wire a-wiggling. Sometimes it’s the clown stomping around down there in the three rings, the one with the diapered terrier on a hip, pointing at the kiddie pool, demanding a reassessment of one’s priorities.
I walk that tightrope a lot, relishing the thrill, the single-minded concentration as I surrender to my passion for the written word. To immerse myself fully in my world of imagination, without regard for other priorities, is liberating. I’m spinning plates on spindly poles and no one’s shouting to save the dinnerware.
But I’m also that orange-haired, red-nosed fussbudget with her clown shoes slapping the ground in furious circles. Under my polka-dot skirt, I must mind my clown family and friends, a squeaky car that needs oiling, more terriers due for the vet, and grocery bags overflowing with bananas. I can pretend this part of me isn’t real or that she’s just a joke, but in truth, she’s a necessary part of the big show.
In my thirties, I used to wonder what I would do when I “grew up.” I remember those drifting days of waiting…for inspiration…for passion…for the circus to come to town. Always an eye on the magical tomorrow when something wonderful would happen. The big top finally arrived and I’m making up for lost time. Juggling those priorities, keeping all the pins and plates spinning in the air. It’s a grand problem to have.
Are you like me? How do you keep your balance?
Writing can be crazy-making. We read posts making fun of the writing life, our quirks and insecurities, our endless search for balance. I’m blessed to live with a person who supports my passion, values my work, and stays out of my creative way. Charles Yallowitz wrote this great post with another take on how to support the writer(s) in your life. In case you missed it…
Many of us have seen the above picture and it’s right. That is a great way to support an author that you enjoy and want to see them continue. Yet, there is another area of support that I wanted to touch on. What do you do if the author in question isn’t a favorite, but part of your non-cyberspace circle? Maybe a spouse, a sibling, a friend, or somebody that you interact with outside of a computer. Is there anything else you can do besides the following phrase?
“I support you and know you can do it.”
This is a powerful phrase, but you have to be ready to back it up with actions such as simply telling others about the book or even beta reading if asked. Don’t say it and follow up by asking about the author’s Plan B, grilling them about sales made, pointing…
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The holidays come to a hectic close and my favorite time of year ambles in. Here is Oregon, if you gaze out the window at the January weather, you’ll find a misty, drippy, icy, foggy-soggy mess, at least through May. That gives me five whole months of lighter obligations and a complete lack of guilt for not “enjoying the weather.” In a climate boasting only three months of sunshine, the Vitamin D police are checking every household for us slackers.
For quite a few creative sorts, our pursuits get back-burnered by other more pressing responsibilities – jobs, violin lessons, soccer practice, staining the deck, grocery shopping, sorting socks…it’s amazing that anything in the world ever gets painted, composed, sculpted, or tapped out on the keyboard.
We, who aren’t independently wealthy or already famous, squeeze precious moments for inspiration from the cracks of our crowded lives. We hide in our cubbyholes, our converted attics, our bedrooms and garages. (Oh, I’ve written in the bathroom too). We rise before dawn with a steamy cup of coffee, kiss our lovers goodnight and stay up with the stars. A weekend alone isn’t a time for melancholy wishes; it’s a little taste of heaven with a neglected muse.
Creative time is sacred time, hours marked with inky conviction on the calendar that can’t be erased. As artists, we need to cultivate a belief in the importance of what we do, even when other duties jostle for our attention. We need to believe in the intrinsic value of our art, even when no paycheck arrives in the mail. We need to honor our creative calling and spirit of inspiration, even when the doubters tell us how nice it is we have a hobby to fill our free time!
In Oregon, the winter weather comes bearing the creative gift of unassigned hours. No matter where you live, dedicate a few empty squares of your calendar to nourish your creative soul and save the dates as you would for your child’s wedding. Be resolved.