It seems that whenever I turn my iTunes on “shuffle” and just let the music play, the right songs - with the right messages for that moment - come through. Cold Play, “A Message,” Eva Cassidy, “Songbird,” then “Thank U” by Alanis Morrissette, “Your Body is a Wonderland” by John Mayer, and finally “Feelin’ Groovy” by Simon & Garfunkel. I was needing a message - a song of hope - to remind myself that when I am feeling low, to be thankful anyway, and no less to remember that I am a wonderland and that makes me feel groovy. What’s up with the little elves in my computer that know just what to play for me, exactly at the right time and depending on my mood? I was needing inspiration, and I got it. Music heals, I tell you. Truly does.
I apologize to my ten subscribers (p.s. I love you!) that I haven’t written a blip in about three weeks. Like many other things in my life, I’m often gung-ho, uber-psyched for the first few rounds. It’s just the next thousand that I need help with. My friend, Christine, made a similar comment about exercise. The first week, we loose five pounds of water weight and feel amazing. The next week? We gain .5 and that second slice of chocolate cake looks way to good to be wasted. What is it that makes us – let’s call ourselves – artists (we all are in some way) loose our momentum? Distractions? Yes. The television. An amazing king-sized, super-soft bed and a God-given ability to hit the snooze button as many times as we darn well please. A phone call. Dinner. The opposite sex. Sex, for that matter. That incredibly interesting 7th episode of Lost (season 1) that I just have to see because I can in an instant (…now that I got Netflix. I tried to avoid the whole scam that is television by conscientiously choosing not to have a television, but Netflix has me hooked. Do you know about this service, people? You should! --- just kidding. I’m the turtle in the tech race…but, remember who won the race, folks! That’s right! anyway…)
Speaking of…distractions, digressions…these things that keep me from writing. What is so darn compelling about them that they pull me away from what I love? I love writing. I really do. I get lost in it. Time rolls by. Suddenly it’s three hours later and I’m taking a breath. It is the “Rhythm of [my] Life” (Paula Cole song presently playing on my iTunes shuffle). I love writing, so why is it always the first thing to be sacrificed when the schedule gets full? Or better yet, why do I fill my schedule with everything but writing? Why do I not carve out time for the thing I love most? This blog is so fun! I don’t even care if people read it (though it is extremely gratifying to get a “comment’ in my inbox…so keep ‘em coming fellow artistas!)!
I just love to write stuff. Since I was little. When I was like seven or eight, I wrote this really funny 7-page story. (I remember being very proud of the number of pages – SEVEN!). It was very complex. I wrote about a cat that chased a mouse around the house and finally the mouse stopped running one day to ask the cat, “Why are you doing this?” The cat couldn’t come up with a good answer for the senseless roundabouts, so the two decided to become friends.
I wrote the story in big block letters in a little black journal. I think I even skipped lines – I was taking myself very seriously. The left margin, however, progressively crowded in towards the right margin, which made the text on each page shaped like an upside-down pyramid. I had a hard time with margins, I suppose…and coloring in the lines for that matter. In fact, my kindergarten teacher told my mother I would never be creative. Isn’t that funny? What is it with those kindergarten teachers? Well, I did turn out to be creative (So there, Mrs. Whateveryournamewasnotnicewoman!). I’m just right-brained (hence, the right-leaning margins). Anyway, the cat/mouse plot was my first creative story. It had an exposition (“once upon a time…”), some rising action (…”round and round they went every day…”), a climax (“…the mouse turns to the cat and says, “Why are you chasing me, anyway?”) and a resolution (“…and they lived happily ever after.”) Not totally original, but a story nonetheless. I was in 3rd grade maybe? I have kept a journal ever since. I think I wrote a story for a contest in Owl Magazine, too. Didn’t win a Pulitzer for that one, but it’s all good (they probably just lost my entry). It’s not about the fame, anyway, but for solitary souls like us writers, seeing something you’ve written in print is quite gratifying. (Hence, the blog.)
Okay, back to my thoughts about distractions (speaking of) and iTunes songs. Since my recent layoff and the ending of an important relationship in my life, I decided to dive headlong into going back to graduate school to get my PhD. Well! If that’s not a reason to stop writing and get my ass in gear, I don’t know what is! Right? Right. No. Wait. Really? I’m not sure it is. I think I just wanted something to do (as if “doing writing” is not doing really anything). Studying for the GRE’s, however, (both the regular one and what they call the “English Literature Subject Area” GRE – a horrible, tortuous ETS joke), and researching schools, and emailing professors, and browsing through impossible-to-understand faculty “areas of research” and trying to figure out which one could be a mentor for me…whew! Now that’s DOING something! There’s so much to do, bygonnit! No time to write. What a silly pastime! A PhD…now that’s a worthy pursuit!
Well, that was three weeks ago and no blog since then. And guess what? I don’t like it. I feel overwhelmed and over my head. Tonight, after talking to my too-wise-for-his-age brother, I realized I’ve gotten into something that might be considered a distraction. I need to get back to balance. Writing heals me. It understands me. Even when I have nothing to offer it, somehow it still appreciates me and gives me an opportunity to grow.
The PhD? Well, the verdict is still out. I have been studying like a madwoman for the GRE’s (which are in November). I’m revisiting Chaucer (Old English, right?), Alexander Pope (Restoration period poet…got the flashcard), and Lord knows who else is on the list next (Norton Anthologies are my best friend these days). My mind is a-flutter. It’s nearly impossible to study ALL of English Literature, but somehow the ETS folks decided what constitutes the basics of what any undergraduate English major should know (and remember…ha! the cruelest joke of all!) and then puts it together in a test which is used as a determiner of your ability to be successful as a PhD student. Whatever! Being a PhD candidate, I’m finding out, is A LOT different than just extended MA or BA work (all the academics go, “DUH!”). You actually have to start researching and writing, like, cutting-edge rhetorical theories and literary philosophies and discover areas of literature that have not yet been discovered! But…no pressure. I just want to write a book or two and teach college, man. Why all that other stuff? Can’t I just get back to my simple cat and mouse story, a cup of coffee, and a syllabus that no student reads?
So here I am. At my desk. The mouse just stopped me and said, “Why are you doing this?” (this, being the PhD chase.) Cool it, man. Let’s be friends. Let’s write simply, which is my way through this. I am not sure which path to take. Or perhaps all the paths I see are good to take a few steps into, and one will prove the right way while the others fall away. Maybe I should put aside the distractions, stop trying to “play the perfect dream” to suit my mood, and just put my dreams on “shuffle” and let the little elves choose the right dream to play. Right? Shouldn’t it be that easy? I think so. Let go of the distractions and, maybe just listen, follow the insights, and grow.