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Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Benefits of Barefooting

I have to write about the benefits of barefooting here on my Nitty Gritty of Writing blog because I feel that the very lifestyle of barefooting impacts my writing.

Yes, being barefoot is one of the Nitty Gritty facts of my own writing.

Being barefoot connects me with the earth, my surroundings, and therefore, with myself in terms of how I fit into this world. This, in turn, connects my writing to the most genuine core of my thoughts, ideas, ways of expression, and others – my readers and all the people in my life.

Now that I am back in the work world, i.e., the public sector, I feel the pressures of social “norms” to wear shoes and I am resisting it both practically and philosophically.

Following is a list of benefits and arguments to support them.

Safety: It is a myth that going barefoot is unsafe; shoes, on the other hand, are hazardous. Harm exists everywhere from a hot burner on the stove to jammed locks. Nearly all our daily activities pose potential for harm. Consider the use of a curling iron, a kitchen knife, a paper cutter, a razor; consider closing drawers and doors, driving a car, inserting contacts. Bare feet slip less than any kind of shoe on slick surfaces. Shoes can cause you to trip, stumble, wobble or tumble. Straps, buckles, heels and stings are all much more hazardous than bare feet. Finally, because of all the nerve endings on the soles of our feet, going barefoot allows you to make subtle and immediate adjustments on uneven ground, thereby making walking barefoot the safest way to go.

Health: Toe fungus and athletes foot require a warm, moist, dark environment to foster and grow; barefooters simply don’t have these ailments. Barefooting promotes health because without the restrictions of shoes, our feet are free to build up strength and maintain flexibility. This promotes strength in our joints and muscles in our ankles, legs, hips and on into our backs. Barefooting supports proper posture as well. Additionally, going barefoot has a therapeutic effect as walking on a variety of surfaces mirrors a foot massage. This not only promotes physical health, but mental and emotional health as well!

Cleanliness: Hands are significantly dirtier than feet. Even if you wash your hands several times throughout the day, hands touch unbelievably dirty things from public restroom door handles to hand railings and money. Then we touch other people. We even put our hands in our mouths, but we don’t tend to put our feet in our mouths. Why have we not all adopted fashion gloves like we have shoes? Bare feet do get dirty from walking, but they also get washed daily. What’s more, germs that our feet come into contact with are “cleaned” by the following steps we take. When is the last time you washed the bottoms of your shoes? Yet we wear our shoes in our homes and think that because we vacuum, our floors are clean. Think again. And one more thing – shoes harbor all the nasty stuff that grows from sweat and it all stays there for weeks, months, sometimes even years and we continue to put our feet into that environment over and over again.

Legalities: It is a myth that it is against the law to go barefoot in restaurants, stores, or when driving. There are no federal or state laws in the United States that ban bare feet in public places. This includes the health departments and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration.

Respect: Another point of contention is that it is disrespectful to go barefoot because it might offend others. Yes, but tattoos, wearing hats, cussing, showing cleavage, preaching religious or political views, overstaying your welcome, being late, talking too much….. all these things and more also considered disrespectful. Barefooters are not trying to be offensive, rather we tolerate all kinds of offensive behavior from others and think that we too, should simply be allowed to honor our own beliefs and convictions about health, safety, comfort, and lifestyle choice. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Balancing the day job with writing works in progress

I started a new job in the working world 6 weeks ago – you know, a job outside the home. For 2 years, I’ve been a full-time writer, making money writing articles, reports, and documents for clients. Now I’m teaching English as a Second Language at the university. When I took the teaching job, I was worried about how I could keep up with my writing. I knew I would have to cut back, but I was determined not to give it up all together because I’d worked so hard to build my repertoire and establish myself with my clients.

I only had one week between the time when the position was offered to me and when the job actually started. I spent that week doing reflective assessments of my work, my clients, and my income during my morning time. Then I wrote like crazy in the afternoons to get ahead with some of the projects I wanted to keep. This helped to secure my mind on what I could realistically do and to let go of the things I no longer needed to do for the income.

Now, 6 weeks into my day job, I realize that in essence, nothing has changed: the bulk of my time is spent doing work for the sake of bringing in money; personal writing happens only because of time management and my commitment to it. In both cases, the work that provides income has to come first, but it’s the personal works in progress that drives my inner most passion to write.

When I was dependent on my writing for all my income, I was keenly aware that writing for myself was taking away from writing time that would be paid. Now the two are more clearly separated: I go to an office at the university and classrooms to make money; I fulfill my writing desires at home and outside by the river. This frees me up considerably and writing is once again my playground!

The day job is chaotic and stressful. Some days I think it’s OK; other days I wonder if I can survive. But my final conclusion is that at least for now, this is exactly where I need to be.

The past 2 years of writing for clients served to establish good writing habits, self-motivation and self-discipline, speed, accuracy, good research skills and quick assessment skills, it helped to build confidence and it provided an excellent training ground for online writing, technical stuff, how to be resourceful, and how to make money writing.

In this new chapter of my life, I am ready and able to focus on my dream projects – those works in progress that have been stacked on my desk for way too long. Inspiration is beginning to rumble beneath the surface. I know this because my works in progress are hanging around my consciousness like dancing spirits preparing for a feast.

You too, can revive those old works in progress: put your day job in perspective and don’t bring it home with you. Clear your mind when you leave and let the writing festivities begin!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

An Online Presence

At the Kentucky Women Writer’s Conference there was much discussion about a writer’s online presence. Blogging, Twitter, Facebook, and forums were the tools most talked about. I have also been at the edge of many conversations about article writing and article marketing, other online avenues for building repertoire as well as establishing your online presence. Then last night I attended a program at the university that featured a conversation between comedian David Letterman and Twitter co-founder Biz Stone. Twitter. I have an account but haven’t used it in months…. Well, now I am re-inspired to spend some time with it once again.

Little by little layers of the whole online trend of society are being revealed to me. And I do mean little by little. On the one hand, it is complicated and amazing; on the other, it is overwhelming and intimidating. And yet, every now and then, I step out of myself and release all the words about it that clog up my brain. It is then that I realize that establishing an online presence does not require mastery of any of it. It is a process and we just have to putter around in it and get some feel for it that fits on a personal level. We can’t freak out over the speed at which technology is growing because unless you are 20-something, you simply won’t catch up or keep up. So just putter a bit. That’s OK!

The bottom line is this: writers do need to have an online presence.

You have to be familiar with the various tools because editors and publishers use them and expect you to be able to use them as well. Your readers may like to linger in bookstores, but that alone isn’t enough. There is a dramatic shift in what, where, and how we read and that shift is going online. None of us can stop that. So you need to join in, at least on some level. Connect with established fans and potential readers through one or more of these tools. Maybe eventually you will use them all and even more, but for now, just start.

Finally, keep in mind that you need to find a balance between constantly learning and doing and just being where you are in it all at this moment. Push and glide; push and glide. You will get there.
Today is a push day for me, how about you? 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Online Group Opportunity: The Artist’s Way

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron: I love that book! Some of the things I gained from my own experience with the book are now a part of my creative rituals and soul-nurturing activities. “Cameron outlines a twelve week/twelve step program for unblocking your creativity. It involves morning pages, artists’ dates, and different exercises and practices” (Linda Johnson). The book really lends itself to group work, though you can certainly do it alone. Most people I know who have read this book always say that they wish they could have done it with other writers, painters, dancers, … artists. So here is your opportunity:
Thanks to my friend, Linda, for pointing me to this blog where a new on-line group is forming on October first. Just check out the link and leave a comment to sign yourself up. I think it will be well worth your time – one of the biggest gifts you can give to yourself. 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Review: Kentucky Women Writer's Conference

I attended the Kentucky Women Writer’s Conference this weekend – my first ever writer’s conference! Full of expectation and yet expecting nothing at all, I went with an open mind with my spontaneity sensors all tuned up and shiny.

I can’t tell you yet specifically what I learned because I’m still swallowing it; it isn’t yet mine. Only when it is truly mine can I give it away. I can, however, turn to what Heather Sellers refers to as “the decoy” – the story I can talk about.

1)    1)   A two-part session with Heather Sellers titled Page After Page: Inspiration Meets Craft: 10 tips for finishing your book was serendipitously exactly what I needed to hear. Some of her tips are already a part of my writing ways and hearing them validated was both encouraging and energizing. I especially loved #3: “You won’t find time because Time isn’t hiding, you are”. In discussing this one, she commented that if you are creative enough to write, you can be creative enough to find time, or rather, use time creatively. Entertaining as well as relevant and real in a raw kind of way, Heather is an awesome presenter who made the conference well worth my hard-earned cash and precious time.

2)      2) Agent and publicist Erin Cox was the other great gem of the Kentucky Women Writer’s Conference for me. I was ready and ripe for words from the inside of the publishing world.

Kudos to the conference organizers and supporters! The Kentucky Women Writer’s Conference is a great conference – not too big; not too small; not too long and not over-packed. My first writer’s conference experience was tremendous and I would definitely recommend this one to other aspiring writers. Look forward to next year’s conference and be sure to register early so you can participate in small, specialized workshops because they fill up quickly!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Why Writers Need to be Organized

We produce. 
We produce. 
And we produce some more. 
We get inspired and write; 
some things get finished, most do not. 
We set pieces aside with the intention to return to them, 
but often, 
when we try to go back, we can’t find them.

There are journals and stories and poems and growing piles of great ideas. Before we even realize what is happening, we suddenly find ourselves in a tangle of storylines, as if being choked by weeds.

Yes, weeds
All those things we write, no matter how great they are, become weeds when they turn into piles that cannot be deciphered. Eventually they grow up around us like an untamed garden. The very life of our work can be choked by the sheer volume of our wonderful productions. Where is that masterpiece I was working on two years ago? Where are my roses??

Let’s run with this garden and weeds imagery here for a moment – would you ever plant a tomato and a rose seed in the same hole? No. And yet, we write grocery lists and poetry in the same notebook. That’s OK, but only for a short time being. We have to maintain our garden – pull out the weeds, throw them away, and prune our vines. We have to because that is the only way visitors will want to come. And let’s be honest, don’t we ultimately want to attract “visitors” (readers)?

So rip out those old “to do” lists and throw away the ramblings that once helped to clear your head. Put finished stories in labeled folders, works in progress in easy-to-reach files, works ready to submit on top of your desk to serve as nagging reminders to send them out. Put poetry in folders categorized by themes and ideas in a special “IDEA” container.

Spend the time to do this and keep up with it regularly so your mind can be supple and sponge-like to absorb new ideas. Free up your physical space so you can free up your mind because 
a writer with a free mind is most productive!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Time Management = YES!

Can I really do it all? Yes, I can! I know, we aren’t supposed to overload ourselves and I am always preaching the necessity to slow down and take time for peace, solitude and silence.

I started a new job.

The opportunity arose and I believed I should take it. But here’s the issue: I have worked hard to get to this point in my writing career and am therefore not at all willing to let go, even if the “real job” provides benefits and more than enough to pay for living expenses.

Four weeks ago I was peacefully sitting alone under trees writing – writing for myself and writing for others. My mind was free to explore the creative aspects of just about everything it encountered. Now it is dark under the trees when I get up and dark again when I return home. Now I walk (still barefooted) crowded hallways packed with college students and my mind is overloaded with details and logistics.

The job is overwhelming, the system chaotic, the demands greater than time allowed to meet them. Still, I am not willing to fore go my writing for the sake of the regular income. So I have to say yes, I CAN do it all!

Time Management – oh yeah! I remember that! Time management, realistic thinking, and compartmentalization skills have been thrown to the forefront of my priorities. I had already been practicing these things because my writing is literally all over the place – diversity in clients demanded compartmentalizing my thoughts and activities; deadlines required that I devote time to planning and scheduling my assignments, and the overall survival skill was to recognize my abilities and limitations and accept them: realistic thinking.

So now it is the same process, only magnified.

Before I started the job, I wrote two week’s worth of blog posts for my four regular blogs (pendants, bracelets, Forever My Momma and this one) in preparation. Other work would fall where it could.

Now, during the week I only have time to answer emails and take notes for the writing work to be done on the weekends. Each morning I have to fully and completely put my head in school – my body somehow follows. On the weekends, I rise early in the morning and go to the park. Settling under the trees, I enter my writing world where I write for myself and for others. The week’s notes fall into place and still, I believe, I CAN do it all.

When I accepted the job offer, I believed I could do it all. I couldn’t possibly have known how hard the job would be (had I known, I would have said “NO”). Nonetheless, I intend to maintain the belief that I can do it all. After all, isn’t half the challenge of making something rooted in the belief? Oh yes, faith is the driving force.

And so it is with faith that I balance all these new demands packed into short, intense hours, and maintain my commitment to my true passions and dreams: I write.

Time management, realistic thinking, and compartmentalization skills: years of cultivating these things are reaping rewards now when I need them the most.