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Posts Tagged ‘Creative writing’


Who knew that bringing in the newspaper Monday morning would change my life. It was just an ordinary morning, arriving home from my daily dog walk and reaching into the newspaper receptacle as I do every morning. What looked like an innocent stack of leaves instantly turned into a sled on top of slick water once I stepped on them. They were still damp from periodic rains we’d experienced, much appreciated after our 7-month drought. Today, for some reason I lost my balance and toppled onto the street, twisting my ankle on the way down. Crack. There it was, loud and clear. And in that instant I fractured my fibula.

brokenankle1

As a child I broke my ankle after falling off of somebody’s shoulder on the playground and lived in a white cast for weeks, I think. The only thing I remember about that experience was the extreme immediate pain and then total inconvenience for, what seemed like, an eternity.

brokenankle2This time, a boot stuffed with soft fleece and fastened by super Velcro will live on my lower right leg for 6-weeks. Can’t put any weight on it or drive for the duration. What a difference life can bring when living on one leg.

Our first floor has been rearranged. My bathroom is now downstairs and handicap equipped. The guest room is now my sleeping quarters and pants that can fit over a big boot have become my clothes of choice. Rugs have been rolled up. One slip on shoe with a rubber traction sole is all I can wear. Getting in and out of bed as well as on and off sofas and chairs are new challenges to be mastered. This boot is heavy and lugging it around over a broken ankle is not for the misty eyed. It’s a lead weight so I’m learning to flex my foot, charge my thigh and engage my core before lifting that leg. Who knew?

After day one I was convinced those nasty crutches were not my solution to getting around. So ingenuity had to prevail in a number of ways.

Aha! The rolling chair in my office could serve as a make-shift wheel chair with my left leg as the engine and my arms as the navigators. Multi-tasking is a must. So when I go to the kitchen I envision everything I’ll need for a meal, dump it on my lap and wheel to the counter. When I strategically position myself, I can stand up and reach 80% of what will be necessary for that meal. Sometimes a couple of chair trips will finish the task. Believe it or not, it exerts a lot of energy to stand up, sit down and motor around on one leg – all day. I’m “feeling the burn” as they say, in my left thigh and glutes as though I’m working through leg rotations in the gym. But on just one leg.

As a yoga practitioner for many years I understand correct body alignment and the need for stretching to avoid injury so I’ve figured out how to stretch my hamstrings and do hip openers. On both legs! Extra precaution is taken on my right side to keep my lower leg stabilized. But, surprise, I can also do thigh lifts so I’m not too weak when I get that leg back. I want this sucker off as soon as possible – with my knees, thighs and back aligned and intact!

Bathing is now mastered, while also keeping that durn right boot dry. Laundry was my new challenge today. My husband helper brought all the dirty clothes fit to be washed to the laundry room. The rest I can do! Wheel, stand, wheel, stand – load, unload and fold, slowly. In fact everything now is much slower. It takes twice as long to accomplish tasks I took for granted on two legs. As I write I’m sitting on our back deck enjoying a 50-degree, beautiful sunny day. All by myself I’m proud to say. How? Ha! Loaded everything I needed onto my lap grabbed my crutches and wheeled to the patio doors where I stood, lifted one wheel at a time over the runners and sat down on the other side. Whee! I have my chair outside and my crutches inside the door – just in case I happen to need them. Victory!

I’m learning that slowing down is not a bad thing. Reading for longer periods at a time is good for my brain. More frequent meditation is healthy for my soul. Taking late afternoon naps to restore energy used up in my daily motoring is refreshing. I’ve read that slowing down inspires creativity. It does.

I also have utter empathy and compassion for all the long-term disabled people whose lives were also changed in an instant. I’m lucky, in 6-weeks I’ll have two functioning legs again. Those people won’t. I’ll resume hiking, walking my dog, practicing yoga, enjoying water aerobics and driving my car again. Most of those people won’t. I feel accomplished when mastering new methods for mundane tasks. Their challenges far surpass mine. And yet those people often master extreme challenges exerting much more effort than I have to.  I’m most fortunate.

Now, though, it’s time to maneuver back into the house, through the living-room, down the hall and into the laundry room to unload the washer and load the dryer. Wheel, navigate, stand. Wheel, stand. Wheel, stand. And this is day 4. But who’s counting?

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Every Wednesday I head to my patient’s house for a few hours, though I spend very little time with her.  She’s bedridden and has been uncommunicative for many years, living our her last days with Alzheimer’s Disease.  Her husband sees to her every need while she receives hospice care.  He’s home day in and day out, leaving only when someone sits vigil in his stead.  That’s where I enter, to give him necessary time away.  There’s a lot to learn about living when spending time with the dying and with those who are charged with their assistance. What I’ve learned has certainly enhanced my appreciation for life and good health.

Frankly I’ve always marveled at how my life has unfolded over the years, starting with a rocky childhood and evolving into a stimulating career for 30 years, which allowed me to travel, meet intriguing people and do impactful work.  Three years ago I left my job and decided to stop working for a while, which might last for the rest of my life.  Who knows?  I do know that I’ve been using this newly created time for personal growth – spiritually, experientially and creatively.

The key is to pay attention along the way: notice the serendipity and how one experience, book or person begets another.   Dr. Lee Lipsenthal says to “enjoy every sandwich” in his book with the same title.  Make everything in life meaningful as though it was your last experience alive.  It’s an intriguing concept, one that dying people take to heart with each final day that ticks away.

I recently adapted a challenge posed in my discussion group.   The charge is to calculate the number of years I have left to live – using family history and lifestyle as consideration points.  Multiply that by months and gather that many stones in a bowl.  At the end of each month, remove a stone for the month that no longer remains and evaluate how I’ve spent that month.  Powerful stuff.  While I’m not prepared to commit to that exercise for the rest of my life, I am intrigued to try it for a year.

My bowl will be filled with 12 shells I’ve collected from my travels.  Each month I’ll pull one out and glue it to a frame that will surround a collage of photos, each one representing something important from that month.  In essence, it will be a scrapbook from a year of my life.

These pages will be filled with musings from those experiences.  My areas of concentration will include the very things that fill my life …

Healthy eating – I spent 16 months losing the 45 extra pounds on my small frame.  It’s a challenge to keep them off.

Exercise – usually in the form of walking, biking and hiking – where I’ve been, with whom and the adventures along the way.

Hospice work – experiences with my current patient and spouse or the next one – and the accompanying, inevitable deaths.

Animals – my five cats and dog as well as the rescue horses that I help to rehabilitate from abuse and neglect.  There’s always much to learn from animals when you listen and pay attention.

Relationships – with my husband, family and others with whom I’m involved, or met.

Adventures – however that’s defined.  It could be trips in our RV or by car.  Maybe it’s something else; time will tell.

The point is to live each month consciously while my life ticks away.  I’m curious to see how it unfolds and whether I can actually stay tuned in.

Ready, set … go.  September lived, coming up.  You’re welcomed to play along!

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I walk along the beach where the vast Atlantic ocean slaps the shoreline with cresting waves whose spent power trickles under my feet and tickles my toes with each step.  Ocean sovereignty untamed by humans ends at this boundary.  Perhaps that’s the magnetism that draws the land species to the edge of two worlds both vibrant with life, neither can subsist in the other.

I hear the ocean yell with roars louder than my thoughts.  Its domination drowns any quiet solitude simmering within.

It demands to be noticed,

to be admired,

to be respected,

to be awed.

And we land people yield to that force.

Why do you come? it booms in my ears, penetrating every cell in my body. You land people flock to my shores.  Stare at my waves for hours on end.  Walk along my borders where children dig into my sand and dogs romp through my swells.  Some of you try to ride me but never succeed in conquering me.  Some of you hunt my people to eat and become the occasional hunted for our sustenance. You explore my depths but can’t penetrate my soul.  You can’t live here but continually need to explore here.  You need me. You need us. You are me.  You are us.

We land people go to the ocean to be swept up beyond ourselves where thoughts don’t reside.  The roar is too loud for problems.  Too mighty for anything but complete submission.  Quietude comes later.

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New York makes me nervous.  The constant rushing, people walking every which way, mobs of people moving shoulder to shoulder – it makes me irritable and brusque at the same time it stimulates and invigorates.

It doesn’t help to stay in the theater district during Thanksgiving time.  Broadway around Times Square is one packed people mover, everybody with their own agendas and absorbed in their own worlds.  And if it’s raining?  Forget it – expect to be poked and prodded with umbrellas – no body part is off-limits as people rush in every direction hurrying to their destinations.  Me included, by the way.  I have no patience for strolling tourists who block entries to stores and stand gawking at the galaxy of mega neon signs in high-rise city.  They stand in the middle of the sidewalk, oblivious to pedestrian traffic around them.  This is every man and woman for themselves time and I find my temperament adjusting accordingly.

When we finally make it to the hotel and into the pint-sized elevator to our closet sized room the quiet becomes a deafening respite to the symphony of noises outside.  Sigh…. and collapse onto the bed.  At home in Tennessee, every window invites a view of the woods and gardens.  Here on the 6th floor of the Amsterdam Court Hotel on 50th between Broadway and 7th – I get a peek through a dirty window at an even dirtier building next door.  There is no nature to soothe the senses until you make it to one of the many small parks – and the mother of them all, Central Park.

And yet – I love it.  For a short time it’s the only place I want to be.  Enveloped in a myriad of foreign languages, I love the direct and forthrightness of life in the Big Apple.  Listening to New Yorkers yell at each other as part of casual conversational discourse is refreshing and reminiscent of home in Philadelphia.  That’s just the way North Easterners talk to each other, thank you very much.  A brusque, in your face, no holds barred style of conversing.  Say it like it is, no hidden agendas.  Ahhhhh… home.

The sophistication, the melting pot of nationalities, the open-minded acceptance of every creed and sexual identity is what America is about.  Should be about, anyway.  And I appreciate the individual expression of it all.

But I’m also glad to come home.  To take a rest from the crazy, bustling, busy busy busy world of NYC to the woods, hills and mountains of Tennessee.  The nervousness fades, the irritation subsides and the deep breathing resumes.

Carry on…

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The discouraged Nenene suffering from writer's...

I think I’m going through the phenomenon writers call writer’s block (although I just read a writer’s diatribe that it doesn’t exist.  He says if a writer can’t write, she’s not a writer.) Each time I sit down to write to an idea I’ve had, nothing but the first line comes out.  And when I push myself to continue, sentences form, sure enough, but they go nowhere with no point being made.  It’s maddening and it’s tiring.

It’s also unfamiliar to me.  As a professional developer of ideas that get concocted from thin air and build into television events or projects it stands to reason that the prolific creativity machine should be well oiled to avoid misfires.  It’s not.

Writer's Block

Image by thorinside via Flickr

This writing thing is a different medium.  And I’m not so bold as to actually call myself a writer; I’m not (see Mr. Writer expert?).  I’m practicing to become one.  To find my voice.  To develop a style.  To stumble upon a genre.  And to be honest, because truth-telling is one of those necessary virtues in non-fiction writing, which seems to be my preference.  At least for now.

After participating in a 4-week non-fiction creative writing series for women, I came away a little more practiced and fluid, but with no principles to stash in my back pocket to help with construction.  She said there were none.  Maybe that’s the case for creative writing.  But certainly there are things to remember when putting fingers to the keyboard with the intention of making the material interesting to people.

Barnes & Noble.

Image by _e.t via Flickr

As I write I’m sitting in the Barnes & Noble Cafe with a stack of writing and pop culture magazines to get my juices flowing.  This technique always worked during my TV years.  Bring a notebook, grab some magazines and books, peruse them and brainstorm new concepts.  And in fact, as soon as I sat down with my tall decaf and biscotti, this notion of spilling my guts occurred to me.  Maybe if I actually record my stuckness, I’ll become unstuck?

My years of television creation appealing to a mass public has taught me that if you want people to watch, you have to give them something they can identify with, become fascinated by, aspire to or become informed by.  And you have to target the right crowd.

Well my crowd is the boomer population, particularly boomer women with professional backgrounds because that’s where I am in my life.  Working to discover “next” that’s as exciting as what was.  And to share the process as I live life unencumbered by the daily routine of deadlines, expectations and management challenges.

But I digress.  My dear friend in California is in the throes of self publishing her first book.  How cool is that?  We worked together in radio many moons ago and she’s moved on to a number of things, one of which keeps her passion for writing alive.  I can’t wait to buy a copy.

For now, I’ll continue to muddle my way through.  I’m discovering writing to be an interesting challenge.  And I got a gig as a community columnist for our local daily paper.  I hope to make those pieces interesting.  And I really really hope I don’t experience this kind of obstacle with my deadline looming.  I have 3 in the can, so to speak, ready for tweaking.  Cross your fingers for me.

gif for avatar used on Webpages/Weblogs

In the meantime — tell me, how do you oil your writing machines?  Please oh please share!  Now on to my magazines!

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A comment by Annie Liebowitz has really gained a foot hold in my psyche, naming the amorphous ramblings in my brain about what might be next for me.  She has a new photography book out called “Pilgrimage” and she was recently interviewed about it by Dominique Browning in the Times.  She wrote it to “save myself,” she told Browning, “to remind myself of what I like to do, what I can do.”

She was looking for a way to nurture her creativity in a new raw, rather primal testament to where she stands in her life now – and she photographed objects instead of people.

For some reason the thought of Annie Liebowitz experiencing a creative crisis is anathema to me.  She’s certainly among the most well-known photographers of this era, amassing a healthy livelihood along the way.  And yet she reached a point in her life where she questioned, what’s next?

Her talent is photography; more importantly, she’s able to communicate a mood, attitude of a subject that transcends the page and penetrates our soul.

What is this nebulous noun, talent, and how is it recognized and, ultimately, grown?  According to Liebowitz it can disappear.  “It needs to be nurtured, taken care of.”  And that’s why she’s forging experimental terrain with her “Pilgrimage” subject matter.

Winfrey on the first national broadcast of The...

Image via Wikipedia

Oprah’s talent is communication and empathy.

Steve Jobs shows off iPhone 4 at the 2010 Worl...

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Steve Jobs married intuition with innovation to realize his blazing talent.

Thomas Friedman, American journalist, columnis...

Image via Wikipedia

Thomas Friedman blends the gift of writing with insight and intellect to manifest his talent.

What about the rest of us?  How do we grow our talent, help it to blossom and bear fruit?

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It’s autumn here in East Tennessee and it’s shouted its arrival in a big way.  I’m talking colors here.  Big, bold, vibrant, HELLO LOOK AT ME!  colors that stop you dead in your tracks to gawk at the amazement of Mother Nature.  And today was the perfect day to enjoy the full show in the Smoky Mountains.

Fall seems like such an oxymoron.  Trees pop with color in such a vivacious tribute to life and yet the glorious show is a prelude to death.  After a couple of weeks the leaves shrivel and drop to the ground into brittle debris, ultimately becoming fertilizer to new life.

This bold season feels like a metaphor for mid-life.  These are the years when many of us leave our professions behind to re-invent new lives.  To discover new passions, friends, experiences.  And in many ways I feel more alive now than the days I was engrossed in my paid working hours.

Work life was thrilling for me yet was surprisingly predictable in its unpredictability.  Make sense?  Every day we had a new show to produce or stories to write or projects to continue with the same constraints to face and paradigm to follow.  Every morning I knew what my office hours were likely to be.

Now each day offers a blank canvas to paint whatever picture comes to mind (metaphorically speaking since I don’t paint).  And I can invent what my next years may look like.  I’ve grown my hair longer, dropped a few pounds and have become quite active through bicycling, horseback riding, hiking and attending more yoga classes.  I feel like I’m on the cusp of something new.

Is autumn to winter as mid-life is to old age?  Could this time period be our final hurrah?

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