writing

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October Goals

green and orange pumpkinsSeptember felt kind of long! I wasn’t wishing it away or anything, it just felt like I got a lot done. We also had a couple busy weeks of hosting. It was really great to host people in the new house, and to have an actual guest bedroom in which to host them. Chrystina came to visit for a weekend, and then my mother-in-law stopped by for a few days. Chad’s brothers also each dropped in separately for a bit.

I submitted two posts to Town Dish, and I got to interview the chef behind Lancaster’s new favorite restaurant, and the designers and builders behind some of the beautiful restaurant interiors in downtown Lancaster. I also wrapped up a couple web projects and lined up a few more that should keep me busy for awhile.

In addition to all that, here’s how my goals for September went:

1. Get through chapter 3 of Data Visualization with JavaScript. So close. Chapter 2 turned out to be hefty, and I really started to dive into the interactive pieces of data visualization, which has been fun but tricky.

2. Have a new heating system installation underway. Done. I mean, my part is done. We’re waiting six to eight weeks for the gas company to run the gas line in. I really hope it doesn’t get too cold by then.

3. Hang art in the newly painted living room and bedroom! I’m excited to take stock of all of the art we have and maybe mix it up a bit as far as what pieces go in what room. Done-ish! We hung some paintings in the living room, but nothing in the bedroom. It’s still kind of in progress, because we still don’t have a bedframe. We also ended up painting the dining room in September, and it makes all the difference! It feels great to have almost the whole downstairs cleaned up and painted. It’s like a whole different house.

4. Dig out my calligraphy stuff and spend a few minutes playing with it a few times a week. I’m registered for a handlettering class at PCAD starting next week, so I feel like that will be motivational. Done-ish! I’ve been spending a chunk of time about three or four days a week playing with brush pens. I did haul out my calligraphy stuff, and I feel like getting better at one will also make me better at the other.

5. Post here regularly. Take time to write, photograph, and share. I want this space to be a community and a record of the story I’m living, more than it has been lately. Done-ish! I feel better about this month than I have for awhile. This is something I want to continue, though, so it’ll stay as an ongoing goal, just not in this list every month.

On to October!

1. Get a bedframe, settle on a mattress, and hang art in the bedroom. This bedroom has been a saga, y’all. A marathon, not a sprint. We’re not totally sold on the Helix mattress we bought, but I want to try it on an actual bedframe and not just on the floor. I don’t understand how people keep mattresses on the floor. It doesn’t look bohemian and carefree in our room, it just looks like a mess. It’s hard to get in and out of (also hi, I’m getting old apparently), and the cats drag dirt in and out of it. So once we get a bedframe, we’ll decide if we’re sending the mattress back and going with a conventional pillowtop. I just really love pillowtops. I’m not so into the foam. And I’m dying to see how this fence panel will do as a headboard.

2. Do an outfit post here! Part of me really wants to do an occasional outfit post, but another part of me is scared to come off as annoying and vain and like I’m vying for attention. But I like other people’s outfit posts, so I’m gonna try to get over my complex! Chad got me a remote so I can start playing around with taking my own photos without running back and forth to the camera, like we did here.

3. Finish my first go at rebuilding this site from scratch. Between work stuff, freelance stuff, finding and buying a house, moving, and some unfortunate life/health stuff, this has fallen off big time. After a ton of experimentation and testing different things out, I’ve been building my own custom WordPress theme. No framework, no parent theme. I really like it. I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t, and it’s been a really valuable experience. I can already tell that it could be my favorite way to work going forward.

4. Take some photos of the house and start sharing the process. It’s against my nature to show in-progress things as opposed to the finished product, but I’m realizing I may never feel like I’m finished with house stuff. Better to share along the way than to wait for someday that may never come.

5. Feel relaxed and at home in my space and life. I have some major things coming up this fall that I’ll hopefully be able to share about down the road, but for now I need to focus on taking care of myself and feeling like I’m set up well for dealing with them. Specific things that will help: A tidy space, minimizing stressful social situations, keeping the kitchen stocked, books to read, exercising regularly, and a creative endeavor, such as journaling, practicing brush lettering, or taking photos.

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Prompt Club & An Interview with Jennifer Snyder

Prompt Club

Courtesy of Jennifer Snyder

If you’ve ever had a conversation with me about writing, journaling, or creativity, I’ll bet you’ve heard me talk about morning pages. So when Jennifer Snyder, writer, editor, consultant, and podcaster, asked if she could interview me about my journaling practice for her upcoming ecourse, Prompt Club, I was pretty psyched.

Prompt Club is an eight-week journaling course that’s designed to feel more like a club. It’s for anyone who considers themselves a writer, keeps a journal, or doesn’t keep a journal but wants to start! I really enjoyed chatting with Jennifer about my history with writing and journaling, so I thought it’d be fun to ask her a few questions, too, to revive my very inconsistent Interviews With Interesting People series. And! She’s offering a free spot to one of you to join us. Get to know her a little bit below, and read on to find out how to win a spot in Prompt Club.

What’s your favorite type of work to do? Your favorite type of non-work?

This is such a great question! I tend to do a lot of different types of work, but I think what really gets me going is the act of sharing stories. Whether I’m writing a very personal nonfiction essay, interviewing someone for my podcast or writing an article for publication, my heart is happiest when I’m sharing a story that matters. If rounding up my favorite spots in Sacramento helps someone plan their trip, I’m happy. If chatting with a maker and airing their story on my show helps their business in some way, I’m happy. If I share something about my own journey that offers up a “me too” moment for someone else, I’m happy.

As far as non-work goes, get me outside. I feel a very strong pull toward nature and the more time I spend outside exploring (preferably with loved ones!), the better I am at life. Truly—I’m no good if I’m cooped up for too long. Ask my husband!

What prompted you (tee-hee) to create Prompt Club?

Good one!

Well, to be frank: writing is hard. So often we can get in our own heads about things—life, work, etc.—and journaling really helps clear out that mental clutter.

That said, sitting down with a pen and paper can be downright intimidating. I have trouble getting out of my own way every time I start to write. So, I wanted to create a course that offers a bit of guidance for those of us who sometimes need a little push.

Journaling has become a place where I can unpack all of things that life throws my way, but as a writer I tend to self-edit before I even begin. I’ve had to be very intentional about giving myself the space to write badly. My journals (and word documents—I often use different mediums to journal) are full of terrible entries. Sometimes, however, tiny bits of great writing shine through. Then, I can use those bits for a larger purpose. Other times I just work through whatever is on my mind and then tuck it away, never to be read again.

What are you most excited about regarding Prompt Club?

I’m really excited to see how others respond to the prompts! I don’t necessarily expect people to share their entries, but I’m curious to see how they decide to approach each prompt. Will they love it? Will they hate it? Will they take it in a direction I never thought was possible? I think that will be the most rewarding part for me and for others taking the course.

What are you most excited about outside of work right now?

To be honest, I’ve been sort of structuring a lot of my life around the work I’m doing. It isn’t always the healthiest thing to do, but I’m pretty passionate about my work at the moment and that line is a bit blurry.

I think taking my podcast on the road is going to be a really wonderful experience. I love to travel, so combining the two is pretty perfect.

I’m also pretty excited about the bits of time I’ll be spending with family and friends this year. I don’t always get to spend enough time with loved ones who are spread all over the country, but even a small amount of time can create pretty stellar memories.

How would you spend the perfect day?

Oh gosh. This is a tough one! I think the perfect day would include copious amounts of caffeine, a solid breakfast and several hours spent hiking someplace beautiful with my husband and pups. Again, get me outside and I’m a new woman.

Thanks, Jennifer! If you’re interested in joining us in Prompt Club, be sure to register by March 20. She’s also offering a spot for one of you to join in for free! If you’re interested in entering, let me know in the comments what you’d be most excited about in the course, what your history with journaling has been, or your thoughts about the ecourse. Be sure to include an active email address so that we can get you added to the course if you win! I’ll choose a random winner next Tuesday, 3/17.

EDIT: Congratulations, Brenda, and thanks everyone for your comments! I hope to see you all over in Prompt Club in a couple weeks!

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Lunchtime Reads 9.2.14

Burro on Calle Toro in Salamanca, Spain

Hola from Spain! I’m here for a little over a week, spending a few days in Salamanca, where I studied for a semester in 2007, before flying on to Barcelona and then to Madrid to finish out the trip. If you want to follow along, I’ve been posting to Instagram like a fiend at @_lisli. I’ll be sure to share more from our trip in the coming days, but for now here are some links to get you through the post-holiday slump.

I believe in writing. Writing for yourself, writing for an audience, it doesn’t really matter. Also, Allie Vesterfelt is a doll. “Writing is incredibly healing. It is beautifully calming. It can help us find our way home.” If you write, you’re a writer.

I also solidly believe that people with humanities backgrounds can thrive in tech careers, despite whatever the toolbag bigwig venture capitalists may say. Top tech CEOs apparently agree with me.

Though I’ve decided to give myself a break this trip and not work at all, I have been thinking about the realities of working abroad for more lengthy periods of time. This is a great post that outlines some of the more practical and less glamorous ways to work as a digital nomad.

I’ve spent so much of my life in this place of total overwhelm. I’ve been thinking about it a lot this trip, because it’s completely counter to the way the Spanish spend their days, and thus the way they spend their lives. I want to be more like that. “Caught up in what I’ve come to call the Overwhelm, the thought kept nagging me: Was I not just bad at time, but was I squandering my one and only life?”

Last but not least, if you’re at all bilingual, love Spanish food, or at least love really beautiful food photography, check out El invitado de invierno, a Spanish food blog. I don’t think Miriam & I will get to meet up on this trip, but her recipes look amazing!

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Travel, Making Art, & Permission

Record Shop, Lancaster PADo you remember the Amtrak Writers’ Residency craze that was happening several months ago? It felt like everyone I knew was talking about it some capacity, most of them longingly. What could be done with weeks on a train to write one’s heart out? Artists wanted in on it too, calling for an artists’ residency.

I have a trip coming up myself, and in the midst of a busy 9 to 5, a booked-solid freelance schedule, and a recent move, I can’t wait for the mental break. I recently stumbled across a printable form to be filled out with self-imposed travel arts residency information. You fill out where you’re going, what you’ve created, who you’ve talked told about it, and a bunch of other information. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, but just enough that if I filled it out, I’d feel committed to creating something while traveling. It’s a really great idea and something I would totally do if I ever find the link again. (Have you seen it? Please tell me if you know what I’m talking about and where to find it!)

But perhaps the most interesting and powerful thing about the concept is that it gives you permission. It’s a promise you make to yourself (and maybe to your seatmate on your flight?) to be playfully productive during your explorations, but without the pressure of doing actual “work.”

So now I’m wondering what would happen if, even if I can’t find this form, I give myself permission to create my own traveling artist’s/writer’s residency. No excuses, no self-consciousness, no feeling like I have no business with creativity or that I’m not good enough. Just a pressure-free assignment to be where I am and document the journey.

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I am a Contributor: We Are the Contributors Project

We Are the Contributors

Credit: We Are the Contributors

I’ve been so busy with starting my new job, working on contract projects, and trying to stay warm the past few weeks (perhaps the most difficult task of all here in Philly!), that I neglected to share a really wonderful project that I got to be a part of last month!

Melanie Biehle and Sandra Harris joined together to start We Are The Contributors, an online community and publication that exists to showcase art in all its forms and to highlight makers across different media.

I participated in the most recent project by contributing an essay. You can read that and see amazing work by 11 other people at We Are the Contributors.

It was a really valuable experience for me to have a low-stakes venue, supportive community, and deadline that forced me into creative writing again. I’ve had a very fraught relationship with writing (and, tangentially, any really creative work) for the past ten years, so it was a powerful opportunity for me to throw a piece of writing out into the world. Not only that, but I also met a new Philly friend in the process!