A Thanksgiving Lament: How can anyone possibly focus when the house smells this good?

I’m sure I’d be writing something witty or poignant except that I can’t stop thinking about those artery-clogging potatoes in the oven.

I’m thankful for so much. Friends, family, readers, good books, music, walks up my small mountain, cranberry sage stuffing.

My cup truly runneth over, except for writing ideas, which I still have to claw from a big box of nothing I keep next to my blank screen.

Thought I might drag something out between stuffing the bird and stuffing myself, but I’d rather hang out with my loved ones.

And rescue the wine from the freezer.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

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Things I’m Not Writing About

Just like on the previous fourteen days, I have been flailing around for a writing idea again today. As an added incentive, I told myself I couldn’t eat lunch until I post, which means I am getting ridiculously hungry and increasingly desperate.

So I have turned to a list of suggested writing prompts for assistance. Here’s sampling:

“Do you enjoy growing old or do you fight against it?”

No. I do not want to write about that. Does anyone? Perhaps yogis or saints.

Next up, “If you could permanently get rid of one worry, which one would it be?” You know what? Cataloguing and weighing each worry–starting with growing old, of course–has set off a mild anxiety attack. Thanks a lot, people.

Though it didn’t spawn ideas, this one did cheer me out of my funk: “You’re a Nigerian prince with millions in the bank but you can’t access it without an American co-signer. To your surprise and disappointment, nobody will help you transfer the money.”

Most promising at first read: “What is the one appliance that you can’t live without?” Easy: the toaster. Unfortunately, I don’t have anything to add to that besides the fact that toast is the most fabulous, most perfect food in the universe, unless you have run out of butter, and then…why bother?

Sadly, in the midst of my search, guess what appeared on the right side of my screen?

Dang.
Dang. This felt personal.

Hm. Must be time to put this post out of its misery. Kudos to you for slogging through it. Any suggestions for getting unstuck are indeed welcome.

Black Hole

From NASA's
From NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

I am staring at the page wondering: where are all of my ideas?

Over the weekend, I spent an embarrassing number of hours dragging a short story out of my “creative well.”

I had to beat it into a recognizable shape, and stretch it to meet guidelines and parameters. It was neither a graceful process, nor a painless one.

The story is not horrible; with a little fine-tuning I might like it.

What’s horrible is the black hole left behind–the fear that it was the very last idea I will hatch.

Fortunately, I can always write about writer’s block.

Bird by Bird

A different bird.
A different bird.                                                                                            ©2012 Beret Olsen

I was up half the night for reasons unbeknownst to me, then startled early from my sliver of sleep by the odd thumps of an imaginary intruder. Heart pounding, I dismissed my fears, forcing myself to lie still as a board for another forty-five minutes.

Today, bleary-eyed and unproductive, I parceled 15 minutes to close my eyes and breathe. My plan? To reboot and arise again, convincing myself I felt refreshed and clearheaded. But the second my head touched the pillow, the strangest sound curdled in my cat’s throat. Next thing I knew, a flailing blob of black fur hurled itself across the room and a small bird began dive-bombing my eyes. Swell.

Clearly a moment of zen was out of the question. Instead, I heaved myself back into a vertical position and set about finding the bird. I had to get that creature out of the house before the cat disemboweled it on the bed.

The weird thing was, I couldn’t find it. The cat was no help, either. She was just as perplexed as I was.

How long are you supposed to look for a trapped bird?

Eventually I gave up and settled back in front of the computer to knock out some work.

After five minutes of relative peace, there was a little scrambling sound, followed by something hopping on my foot.

You might imagine that the problem was now solved–bird located!–except it can be quite a production to convince a bird to try the open door rather than flying into shelving units and closed windows. It’s like trying to shepherd a drunk friend out of a party, and they keep curling up on a pile of shoes or wandering off into a closet.

Later, I found myself ruminating on the frequent appearance of birds. They are everywhere for me these days. I hear them mentioned in a turn of phrase, a discussion of Halloween costumes, or see one staring at me while I eat breakfast. Two surfed on the hood of my car for a block or two after I stopped for coffee recently. I suppose I shouldn’t mention that the bird pictured above was killed in a brutal showdown in my bedroom and then hidden by my triumphant feline friend. I didn’t find that poor soul for a few weeks. And that’s not all. Almost every book I have read in the past few months has featured birds…including:

  • Little Bird of Heaven–Joyce Carol Oates
  • The Goldfinch–Donna Tartt (Not finished. No spoilers!)
  • Ocean at the End of the Lane–Neil Gaiman
  • Bird by Bird–Anne Lamott
  • Imperfect Birds–Anne Lamott

Even Hyperbole and a Half, by Allie Brosh, had a chapter about a parrot that I read and reread repeatedly throughout the summer. And on my book list to read next? When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams. I swear. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I also read Gone Girl, which has no significant bird that I recall).

If they were all crows, I would assume something terrible were about to befall me. I’m hoping I attract birds for a more benign reason. Perhaps I smell like a flower, or a heap of birdseed.

In any event, it’s time to get a feeder and a bell for the cat.

What am I doing here?

From www.images.sodahead.com
From http://www.images.sodahead.com

I don’t remember why I started a blog.

I don’t even really know why I need to write. I just know that when I don’t, I get cranky.

When I do write, I feel fabulous–whether I end up posting or not. So why don’t I simply dump my thoughts in a journal and stick it on the shelf? Continue reading What am I doing here?

Medicine Head

From www.farm3.staticflickr.com
From http://www.farm3.staticflickr.com…Oh, how I wish I had taken this photograph myself.

My brain is lodged in the trash compactor,

unmoved by children’s Tylenol.

I stare, glassy-eyed, at a blank and patronizing screen

wondering

will I ever coax this contraption to do my bidding?

Saliva snags the back of my gullet, and travels like a barbed mouse through a snake.

Thick rivers of mucus dislodge all thought from rational moorings

and press angrily against the inside of my face.

One more attempt to form a sentence and I’ll erupt–

Vesuvius-style–

without Pliny to document my self-destruction.

My Sincere Gratitude + (special bonus!) My Dribble Cup of Fear

@a long, long time ago   Beret Olsen
@2003   Beret Olsen

I have no idea how it happened.

Somehow a lovely story wrangler named Michelle stumbled across my essay about sleeping in the hallway.

I find myself wondering: what are the odds? And I marvel a little at the sheer luck of it. I must have posted my essay on the right day, at the right time, on a topic she found interesting. I must have put just the right tags on it.

But what has been truly astonishing was that all of a sudden a whole community of writers appeared, and I realized that we are not on our own out here in cyberspace at all. I feel immense gratitude that you have taken the time to read my words and relate them to your own lives, and I’ve had the pleasure of reading your work as well.

Thank you.

Unfortunately, the inevitable has happened: I got stage fright. I am TERRIFIED to write anything at all.  I’m not typing away in a room by myself anymore, because now I know I am not alone. Someone might see if I have a crap day or make a poor word choice. Someone might judge my grammar errors as harshly as I would theirs. Mostly kidding.

Perhaps most paralyzing of all is the thought that I might not be able to write something worthwhile again before you all lose interest and wander off. Shoot, what if I never write something I like as well again?

Fortunately, someone showed me this quote from John Steinbeck when he was beginning to write The Grapes of Wrath:

“I don’t know whether I could write a decent book now,” he said. “That is the greatest fear of all. I’m working at it but I can’t tell. Something is poisoned in me. You pages—ten of you—you are the dribble cup—you are the cloth to wipe up the vomit. Maybe I can get these fears and disgusts on you and then burn you up. Then maybe I won’t be so haunted. I have to pretend it’s that way anyhow.”

I include this quote not because I am putting myself in his league, but because fear and writing seem to go hand in hand for many of us, no matter who we are, or what we have previously accomplished. But THAT IS NOT AN EXCUSE TO STOP. Imagine if Steinbeck had caved to his self-doubt and neglected to finish his novel. What a loss.

Thankfully, we don’t have to write The Grapes; that’s already been done. But we DO have something to say and a remarkably friendly forum in which to say it.

Well, it looks like I just wrote a whole post about not being able to write a post. Hope that is out of my system, now; that I can ‘burn these pages’ and move on to other topics. Come to think of it, you might be hoping the same thing. Now go write something awesome.