Wanderlust.

Winter time in San Diego. This was last January here in Imperial Beach.

Winter time in San Diego. This was last January here in Imperial Beach.

Winter is finally rolling into San Diego, as much as winters do in these parts. The air is brisk at night, the leaves blowing off the few deciduous varieties here by the beach. The daytime temperatures are still in the high 70’s, though, and the sky stays the clear blue of a robin’s egg. It’s idyllic, and I know this, but I can’t help the yearning I feel for a real wintertime. My spirit wants the smell of pine and the dry, clear cold that only comes on winter nights where it falls below freezing. When I started university in San Diego, I never thought I’d stay here past the few years it took to graduate. Little did I know that I’d meet my future hubby and grow roots here. The thought of digging up the little ones and taking them into the unknown is daunting. My blood is transient.

The truth is, staying physically put in the same monotony of every day life drains me. Ever since I married my spouse, I’ve been eager to pack it up and keep exploring. San Diego was supposed to be a pit-stop, nothing more than a baby step away from my parent’s home so I could begin to stretch my boundaries. So far it’s been a 17 year pit-stop, and I’m antsy. I can’t help but feel that we were meant to move, to be fluid like a river and reach our fingers wherever the the earth will take us. What happens when we sit still for too long? Do we go stagnant or dry up? This, I fear.

As the years have past, I’ve grown and changed so much, but the nature of my heart is the same. Exploration and new experiences are life-giving. I know that it will be painful to leave the community that we have here, but bittersweet. Technology and ease of travel mean that family and friends-like-family are always accessible. My kids need to learn to explore the world and to not fear the unknown. I know not everyone is wired like me, but new experiences make everyone grow.

We are not 100% sure, but I think we are going to make the jump sometime in the next year. We have been researching and praying for clear direction. We want to be somewhere where we can be doing something positive in whatever community we are planted in. This spring, we will make the trip to Detroit to check out the city and get a feel for its heartbeat. Along the way, we will check out a few other places like Kansas City and St. Louis, too, but we are feeling a real draw to the Motor City.

Check out the video and article below for some more insight and stats. Are you from Detroit? Ever been there? We would love any words of wisdom or connections to check out in the comments. We love community development and working with youth and have a good amount of experience in both.

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/taking-back-detroit/explore-detroit.html

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A Human Challenge

Today I am following yesterday’s prompt from The Daily Post, which challenges us to write on anything we want for exactly 10 minutes:

I’ve held a conviction lately that we, as humans, aren’t supportive enough of each other. This sounds very broad, yes, but within it I’d like to create a challenge. I challenge you to donate 10% of your income to helping other people.

This seems quite simple and maybe even redundant to. Biblically, tithing is supposed to be 10% of your income donated to the church. Regardless of your religion, I challenge you (yes, you!) to set aside that 10% and figure out a way you can bless someone with it. How different would our lives look if we simply did this to help out our fellow humans?

Recently we got a bill from my husbands life insurance company. It was for a few hundred dollars, just to maintain our insurance in the case of his accidental death. This is the incident that really got me thinking. I could throw away that few hundred dollars to a huge insurance corporation with the hopes that I might get to see some of it in the case of my husband’s untimely death. And God forbid anything happen to me, because then we’re screwed. Or I can take that cash and donate it to some of my friends. I know that many of them are hurting for various reasons. One is going through treatment for Lyme disease. One just lost her husband. One is trying to save for an adoption. What would it mean if we, as humans, supported each other instead of insurance companies? Medical bills for untimely illnesses aren’t covered by any insurance companies, so anyone that is sick is guaranteed to have mounting expenses that they are probably having trouble paying for.

So, I challenge you this: Invest in each other. Bless people financially where they are hurting. There isn’t always a whole lot we can do to physically help each other, but sometimes money can take so much weight off of someones shoulders. Invest in each other, and have faith that if catastrophe ever found you, those people would rally around YOU and support you, too. I guarantee that the people in your life care more about you than any insurance company. Pour your heart into them and have faith that what goes around, comes around.

**GoFundMe.com and YouCaring.com are great crowd sourcing sites where many people with expenses that they can’t afford are investing their hope in fellow humans. Check them out if you like this idea and want to find people who need help!

The Red Pen of Death

Ha! I love this challenge on Killing your Darlings  so much! It’s just so difficult, though, isn’t it? I will for sure be doing this, but not until I get to the END the first time around! I tend to want to edit things to death without moving forward. Also, this short post by The Story Medic is really insightful and reminds you of important guidelines to keep front and center. So, any good insights or words of advice? Anyone want to trade? You kill mine and I’ll kill yours…

Losing My Voice (and trying to find it)

I’ve always been a wordy person, in the written sense, anyway. Don’t ask me something unless you want ten times the answer you bargained for, plus all of the research to back it up. I love complex issues, and I’m a very opinionated person. Call me a woman. It’s been interesting, then, that I’ve felt very lost since I’ve decided to really try to pursue writing as a career. The first step was easy. I wrote a few articles and found a job that semi-pays the bills and lets me work on my writing (in one sense, at least, even if it is very dry.) The tough part for me has been what comes next. It’s like this huge door was opened and I’ve got the whole world in front of me, but I don’t even know where to step. Intimidation almost to the point of paralysis. Have any of you had this happen? How did you overcome it?

I’ve got a head full of ideas and I haven’t taken the first step in many of them. I started writing a novel, got about 30 pages in, then went back edited, then re-edited based on my mood du jour. Sometimes I think there’s another book I should be writing, something better or more my style (or mood) but I don’t know if it’s ok to have two books going on at the same time. Do any of you write more than one book at a time?

I think that one reason I’ve been so paralyzed is because I’ve gotten caught up in this idea “writing for others” or, er, this concept of writing for money 😉 I am trying to fill in gaps by thinking of articles that might sell, but between that and my side job, it takes up all my brainpower. Or maybe I’m just hiding behind articles because it’s easy and I don’t have to be too creative on my own. I’ve got a million excuses, but the truth is that I just haven’t gotten very far. What tricks do you use to get yourself writing more, for you?

I think I am going to use this blog for ramblings like this, but also for short pieces that I’ve been thinking about putting into book form. I worked for a long time at a non-profit with youth that spent a lot of time incarcerated. We taught them soft job skills such as being timely and working on a team, plus the necessities like filling out resumes and interviewing skills. I still work there part time as a mentor coordinator. I am always struck by how amazing these kids (young adults, really) are. I’ve always thought it’d be amazing to write a little on their lives, how much they’ve lived through and how dedicated and brave they truly are. The kid with tattoos on his face working at Jack-in-the-Box probably has one of the most amazing stories you’ve ever heard, but no one’s helping him tell it. I’ve struggled with wondering if this is exploitation, or a story that deserves to be told one way or another. Can I even do them justice by putting their lives in my words? By simplifying them into a series of shorts? I think I need to try.

Another idea that keeps tugging at me is writing a memoir of sorts. I live a funky sort of life. My family lives with another family in a cooperative living situation in the middle of San Diego. We have a small farm in the middle of the city, with goats and chickens and rabbits. Throw in a few dogs, some cats, turkeys, a parrot and a gaggle of kids and you kind of come close to who we are. When we embarked on this journey, we didn’t know how long it would last. We dove in head-first and it’s truly been a wonderful ride. We didn’t know we were essentially marrying another couple when we started this, but that’s really what it’s been like. Ups and downs and life altering moments that we’ve had to get through together, and it’s made us infinitely stronger. It’s been 4 years now, and I don’t think there’s an end in sight. But then I think, who would want to read all about my life and my anecdotes? This is what I need to get out of my head — I should write it for me and my community and not worry so much about who on earth would read it.

Here lies the problem. We say that we are writing for ourselves, but truth be told we wouldn’t be here if we weren’t writing for each other, too. I wouldn’t care to put it on my blog, I wouldn’t fret about where to start. I do care if you read it, and I care that you actually like it. How do we get around that?

1000 words

This is a number I heard recently. I am not sure it’s true, but it seems like a good starting place. Someone told me that you need to write at least a thousand words to get anywhere in writing. The first 500 words are kind of obsolete — just greasing up your engines, so to speak. Have you noticed this to be true? I have. I think the hardest part is actually getting motivated to sit down and start somewhere. Once you get the words going, the rest comes easier. It’s all of the “oooh’s” and “aaaah’s” and anxiety about where to begin or where to go, or where to pick up and which direction to take it.

Here is another tip/interesting thought an instructor gave me recently: according to him, his first novel took only a couple of months to write while his latest novel has taken over 8 years. He attributes it to the word processor. He says that when he wrote his first novel on a typewriter, you couldn’t go back and edit (and re-edit, and re-re-edit) the work so easily. This helped to only move forward and not look back. He recommends turning the screen off and blind typing if you can, or even just putting pen to paper (gasp!) I think this tactic could work wonders. What about you? Any tricks of the trade?

On another note, I got two rejections yesterday. I haven’t submitted much, but these were the only two fiction pieces I’ve tried to get anywhere. It’s good for me, I am in a good place to take it in stride and keep trying to write better. I’d like more short fiction outlets, to read and submit. I will try to find some in the next week or two and post. I know I said that before and I haven’t gotten anywhere, but I swear I will one day soon. Post here if you’ve got any!

Momentum

So, I am pretty all over the place when it comes to work, in general, and what I want to do with my life. It’s really difficult to put my aspirations and life goals in a single box and label it. I can’t imagine working at the same job with the same people for a hundred years before retiring and dying. My life is just not about that. I know some people thrive on that, but it honestly freaks me out. I think that’s a big reason I am so drawn to writing.

When I chose to embark on this journey, I knew I couldn’t put myself in a box. I write web copy on one hand, and some days I am really good with that. I love researching and creating a logical flow to these articles. Other days, I never fully wake up from my dreams and I pour my time into living in someone else’s head, telling the story of some made-up character. Sometimes, I am so convicted by something happening in my neighborhood or the world-at-large that I have to rant about it on my other blog. Recently, I decided that I was going to start submitting these outpourings of things in my head to various outlets and see what would happen. Realistically, if I want to keep doing this I need to somehow make some money — my husband will only give me so much leeway.

Well, a couple of days ago I got my first acceptance! My article will be published in our local news magazine. I know it’s not that big of a deal for some of you, but it was just the nudge forward that I needed to keep going with this. I needed this small pat on my back to let me know that somewhere out there, this is possible. Don’t laugh, but real published writers have always been like movie stars to me. Something awe-inspiring and unachievable.

I love that I can write something different everyday, depending on my mood. I am submitting essays, flash fiction, travel stories, neighborhood news, and working on my novel. I think I might start another novel that I can write simultaneously, on a completely different subject. I think I’ve finally found my niche, something that can keep me occupied no matter which direction I happen to be going on a particular day. I just need to find enough outlets! If you have suggestions for open submissions or queries, post them here. I’ll post what I find, too, and maybe we can help each other.

Growing My Writing Muscles

So, here’s the thing about trying to get started with a job in writing since I’ve never had one before. I’ve got no experience. I don’t have a degree in English or lit or journalism, I don’t have anything exciting published. It’s a dream, and that’s it. I’ve got some ideas of what I think I should do to make this dream happen. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

1) Write everyday. I’ve heard this over and over again, and it must be true. I’ve noticed even writing the dry how-to articles that I am doing for work is helping me become clearer and faster with my writing. It’s exercising my writing muscles.

2) Write for yourself. Sure, bills have to be paid but my goal is to carve out some time every day to write for myself by either working on my stories, on this blog or another one I’m a contributor to over at Radio Acres Farm. Dry, boring research copy will only get me so far before my sanity is shot and I decide I hate writing, after all.

3) It’s going to be necessary to write for other outlets that I won’t get paid for, in order to get more practice in and to try to break through the publishing wall. Get over it. It’s good to have other prompts and styles to work on.

4) Classes are probably a good idea. I am currently taking a fiction writing class, and I should probably continue to sign up for workshops and classes whenever possible to learn more. Even classes where I feel like I’ll already know everything. Especially those classes.

5) I need to be extraordinarily persistent, and networking doesn’t hurt, either. I’ve already submitted a handful of unsolicited articles and short fiction into the ether and haven’t heard back. I think this will be common. I need to keep my chin up and push forward.

6) A bit of good old-fashioned luck wouldn’t hurt. With everything so web-based, it’s tough to “get in” with the right people. Someone out there just has to like something they read, then we’ll go from there. Fingers are crossed! I have faith.

I’m sure that there are many other things I will come up with as time goes on. If you’ve got any other ideas for ways to keep working my writing muscles, I would love to hear them. Any bits of sage advice, or ways to find luck are also much appreciated.