Category Archives: Writing

She Yearns For A Hug

Required reading in high school was always daunting.

My high school didn’t offer Creative Writing as an English class while I was there, which bothered me to no end. I gladly would have taken that class instead of AP English Language. I tested out of the remedial 101/102 classes when I headed off to college. I knew I would, so I felt absolutely no disappointment when I scored a two on both my AP English tests.

Out of the many books we were required to read, I enjoyed only a few. King Lear, Romeo & Juliet, Regeneration, All Quiet On The Western Front; these books I happily read. I barreled through The Great Gatsby even, but didn’t really enjoy it until choosing to read it again a decade later. Everything else, though, I don’t remember reading.

There was one book that stood out. I devoured every page and wanted the story to never finish. I cried, I smiled, I fell madly in love with the art of storytelling. The book shocked me, and it seemed to speak to me directly. I felt as though the author wrote this book specifically and solely for me.

I’m certain I was required to read this book twice in high school. Or, I was required once, and decided to reread it for an elective book for different class. Whatever the case, I happily read it again.

This is a book that I feel everyone who speaks English should read, even if English is not their native tongue. It’s a famous story, but often not fully understood. You can say the title and people immediately recognize it. But, that doesn’t mean they’ve read it. People usually think of the horror movies that take very loose liberty with the plot. To this day, especially now, I find myself having to describe the plot and talk about the incredibly obvious themes, and explain that, while entertaining, the cheesy B-List horror movies that people automatically think of are somewhat of a disgrace, as there is so much more oomph and depth and enlightenment to the actual story.

Can you guess what the book is yet? I’m sure some of you can. If you’ve taken any honors English classes in high school or are an English Literature major, well, duh. Of course you should be able to guess!

My copy from high school started to fall apart a long time ago. It kept me company when I went off to college the first time round. About six or seven years ago, I finally replaced my well worn copy. This new(er) copy remains present on my nightstand. Sometimes, it gets place on my bookshelf if I’m engrossed in other books. Whatever the case, it is within reach. I have periods in my life that seem heavier, darker, and more introspective. This is when I really yearn for this book. I always want to get lost in the story, hoping to find a different answer or clue. I know that whilst getting lost in the words, I’ll come through the experience renewed and hopeful. People have often questioned why. There isn’t a concrete explanation as to why. I just know that the themes of loss & yearning, motherhood (creation, compassion), consciousness, free will, and good v. evil speak volumes to my soul. You have a man playing God, and let’s be real, he’s not very successful. We have a champion, a hero in this story, and it’s certainly not the man playing God. At least, I don’t find him to be any kind of hero. I hope that those of you who’ve read this book agree with me, or can, at least, understand where I am coming from.

If you haven’t guessed the book by now, shame on you! No, I kid. You don’t have to know what it is.

The one book that I keep coming back to is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Holy hell, this book is phenomenal. It cranks my gears. It makes me happy. It inspires me to read and write and create. For me, Frankenstein is one of those stories that stands the test of time. It touches on humanity in such a way that, even in our tech savvy times, we can all pick a theme or three from it, and acknowledge them within ourselves.

Seriously, though, if you haven’t read it already, go read it as soon as possible. Take your time with it. Digest it. Let the words dance around your mind. Then, go give your loved ones a hug.

Second Time Around

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If You Stare, You Pay

The shakes, the racing heart, the sweat, the confusion. They happen every single time.

This is nothing new, and it happens all the time. The moment puberty hit, speaking in front of and to a large group of people has been really uncomfortable. Don’t get me wrong, I thrive in large groups of people. I’m often the life of the party and would rather be surrounded by people than be alone. But, having to deliver news, information, or any kind of speech to more than three people? I’d really rather not.

I am sure many of you feel the same way. It takes a certain personality to be comfortable speaking eloquently to a large audience. One of my favorite public speakers is Martin Luther King, Jr. How he managed to calmly talk to thousands of people blows my mind. Never faltering, always level, he managed to get his message across with love and strength. I wish I had that ability.

But, I don’t.

I get nervous and clam up. My heart feels like it’s going to explode out of my chest. My palms get sweaty, and I shake very noticeably. I’m never confident that what I am about to say is real, true, correct, or even kind. I’m too concerned with making everyone happy, and I’m equally as concerned that I won’t sound intelligent enough. Sounding intelligent is a very big issue I constantly struggle with.

Casually put me in a room with a bunch of people, though, and I can wax poetic in small conversations about things I am passionate about. The desire to sound intelligent melts away. If I’m wrong or confusing, I’ll gladly take that to heart and seek out the correct information. A casual conversation has never been an issue, and probably never will be.

So, at 33, I’ve decided that if I ever am put in a situation that requires me to speak to a large group of people, I better get paid. That way, I will have the financial resources to research what I’m speaking about. And, I’ll have the financial resources to get help for the fear of public speaking. I promise, therapy is wonderful. Therapy is a great tool to guide people in positive directions. However, good therapy isn’t always cheap. For public speaking, I know that I would need an actual, physical human opposite me, giving me the right tools to melt the fear away.

Fear of public speaking is very real and very legitimate. Delivering information to large numbers of people requires a somewhat deep understanding of what is being discussed. It also requires the belief that what is being said is real, true, and correct. [Not all speeches have merit or are true. Look at Adolf Hitler. One of the things he is known for is his public speaking skills. Was a lot of what he said good or right? Of course not. But, he believed it, and that allowed him to be firm in what he said.] I’m decently educated. I attempted a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications and a minor in English Literature. I’m two classes away from a Paralegal Associate of Arts degree, and plan on eventually going back to university and getting a BA. But, I’m not educated perfectly. There are a lot of things in this world that I have to learn about. There is only a small handful of things I can comfortably talk about, and I know that there is a lot more to learn about these things. With that knowledge about myself, I am naturally scared that I will be judged by people listening. I automatically think to myself, “who here knows more than I do and will want to immediately judge and correct me?” I don’t mind being corrected. I welcome being corrected. But, the judgement? That’s scary.

Long story short: if I am going to be watched and stared at, someone better pay me.

Naked with Black Socks

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Our Favorite Books and Why We Love Them

There are some standard reads in here that everyone is recommended to read in high school honors English & college Literature classes. And, there are a couple others that I haven’t heard of. Good list!

The Daily Post

At Automattic, we have a plethora of book lovers. We love to read and we love to share. And today, we’re going to share books we’ve loved with you, in the hopes that you’ll return the favor and share your favorite books with us in the comments.

lorilooLori McLeese

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
Joan Didion allows us into her year after her husband, Gregory Dunne, died. I read this book once or twice a year, and it always brings tears, though I know the outcome. It’s not a romanticized love story, it’s a real love story, and it’s about those incredible, raw, numbing, forgetful moments you find yourself emerged in as grief washes over you.

My favorite passage:

Was it about faith or was it about grief?

Were faith and grief the same thing?

Were we unusually dependent on one another the summer we swam and…

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Required Reading from Journalism Professors

I would love to take these classes. Each seem truly enthralling and worth my time.

Longreads

Below, six syllabi from journalism professors on what you should be reading.

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1. Journalism 494: Pollner Seminar In Narrative Non-Fiction With Esquire’s Chris Jones (University of Montana)

“The purpose of this course is to teach students how to write publishable magazine-length narrative non-fiction: In other words, my aim is to help you learn how to write good, long, true stories. The course outline will mirror a typical writer’s progress through the birth of an idea to a finished, polished piece, including reporting, writing, editing, and fact-checking. In addition to classroom discussion, course readings will help students understand the difference between good and bad work. My hope is that by the end of the semester, you will have written the Best Story of Your Life So Far (BSOYLSF) and it will help you reach your future potential as an award-winning literary journalist.”

2. Journalism 141: Professional Problems and…

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I’m Not Lost, Just Wandering

Those who know me well enough understand that I get bored quickly. Because of that boredom, it’s hard for me to settle into much a groove. For a brief time, I thought I had ADD. Then it dawned on me that I haven’t settled into my ideal life and I am completely terrified of doing so. While I’ll find something interesting to pass the time, I ultimately put it aside and move on to something else. Most of the time, I’ll find my way back to the unfinished business.

But, I’m too old for that.

Three things I would love to spend the rest of my life doing: writing, taking photographs, and walking.

If I could walk for three hours and take photos along the way, stop to rest, eat, and write, then walk for another three hours, I would be in heaven. I might just be happy living a (quasi) nomadic life. All I need is a camera (with a back up battery and extra CF cards), a notebook or two, some pens and pencils, and a PO Box address (and possibly someone to check the box a couple times a month).

A few years ago, I came up with two photojournalistic type projects I wanted to do. I keep coming back to them & toying around with the logistics. How will I get to the places to photograph the people I need to? How will I convince these people to allow me to photograph them. These are things I learned and could have learned while at art school had I stuck it out. They are things I can still learn if I just go out and do it.

But, I’m poor. I am (or will soon be) a starving artist.

Alas, I will continue to write, will continue to photograph, will continue to walk. And, I will continue to will some sort of success and be grateful when it arrives.

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Cultivating Joy

We are more than halfway through the year and the time has flown by. For the first six months, I barreled through a full time school scheduled and attempted to work 20-25 hours on top of that. I understand that there are people who work full time while going to school full time and are able to make that happen. For some reason, I can’t quite get that balance. I would love to be able to do that, but in the last few months, I seemed to sink back into an incredibly blue, lost place. I struggled to get out of bed every day. I found little joy in anything, even doing school work – something I had been enjoying thoroughly up until April.

A couple weeks ago, I became frustrated with myself for allowing myself to sink back into an uncomfortably comfortable depression. The frustration doesn’t help, it doesn’t solve any problem. So, in the last few days, a mild shift happened. Putting on jeans that felt fine now feel a bit too tight. My torso is rounder than usual, and that’s awful, because my torso is already too soft.

And, let’s be real: I simply don’t want to be unhealthy, mentally and physically. I need to be healthy.

I devised a plan. Every single day, I have to do something creative, I have to do something physical, and I absolutely have to be grateful for something. How will I accomplish that? Write somewhere what (or who) I am grateful for. If it is a person, I will tell them. And, if I have ten spare minutes, I have to write down exactly how I am feeling or have felt that day. Twice, if not three times, a week I will go to the gym, even if I get on the treadmill for just 20 minutes. Four or five times a week, I will pick up the weights I have sitting in my room and MOVE. Even if I just do steps back and forth with weights in my hand while I watch a movie, that’s still movement. Once or twice a week I will do one of the many doable workouts I found on YouTube. I will set up a reward system for every hour of school work I do each day. Another thing I need to do is write down everything I eat and drink. Mindful eating and consumption is a practice that is effective in my life. By being accountable for how I am treating my body, I will become happier with myself.

One thing I plan on doing that isn’t going to be a daily thing will be the upkeep of my blogs. Twice a week I will do a post at any three of my blogs. I will write about whatever book I have just read, new music I’ve been enjoying, exercise that is fun & effective, fun craft projects I’ve done, and many more.

With all of these simple things I am going to do, I am going to mark reminders on my wall calendar and I am going to set up reminders on my phone. If I don’t see or hear any reminders, I won’t stick to the plan. Right now, I am hopeful. The anxiety that was surging through my body earlier has subsided. I’m excited to go to the gym tomorrow before work. I can’t wait to finish my book this weekend.

What do you to keep yourself happy and excited about life? Please share!

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Reborn

Daily Post, January 2nd 2014:
When you look back at your blog on January 2, 2015, what would you like to see?

There has been a lot of talk about writing more. In the last few years, I have gotten frustrated with myself because the writing seems to come to a complete halt for a few months at a time. I’d give up, move on to something a little more shiny, then forget I was even writing in the first place.

What happens when I don’t write regularly? I get antsy, frenetic, and combustible. Can a frenetic being be combustible? Am I being redundant? That’s what happens when I don’t write. I lose my focus and forget what words mean. That is very serious.

By January 2nd, 2015, I hope to have a combination of 156 blog posts. That means each blog of mine needs to be posted in once a week. Guess what? I’ve challenged myself to write a blog post every single day of January. I never promised I’d write a post in every blog every day of January. Ninety-three posts? Yikes. No thank you! With the 156 posts, I am allowing myself to not beat myself up if I miss a week.

Apart from frequency, I hope to see more viewership and subscribers. But, I think that goes for most bloggers. Many of us are writing to have our voices heard. Some readers might not like what we have to say and that is allowed. Humanity would be really boring if we all felt and thought exactly the same way. To boost viewership, I think I am going to start YouTubing. Depending on the response I get, I may do one vlog a month. If I manage to entertain enough people, I may vlog once a week later in the year.

Lastly, I am going to actually start writing about concerts I go to, books a read, and movies I have enjoyed seeing. That was the original purpose of my blogging, so why not get down to business? And, I plan on actually having some vacation time this year. I deserve it. I have been working hard at school while trying to not let work in a retail environment get me too wired. I want to be able to sit outside and look out at a lake or the ocean with a cup of tea, a book, and a pen & some paper. I would love to be still for awhile… Still…

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New Habits

Every year, I always tell myself I am going to write more. Somehow I seem to fall short a few months into the year. This year, 2014, I feel it is going to be different. Now I have three blogs going and am back in school, I have more passion in my life. The environment I have chosen to be in cultivates the habit of writing and learning and general curiosity.

On a friend’s Facebook page, she mentioned a site called 750 Words. I wish I had heard about it two days sooner! The premise of the site is that you are to write at least 750 words a day. No one (but the site admin, I assume) has access to what you write, so you can write whatever you want. Some people use it to help with their writing skills, others use it as a therapeutic tool, and some use it to get their creative juices flowing. I am so grateful to have found this site! Within half an hour of signing up, I was able to write almost twelve hundred words (I’m not a fast typer, I just have a lot to say).

For any of you who are creative in any way, please use this tool! It is a great way to help break up any blockage you may be experiencing!

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Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot

Happy New Year, everyone! May 2014 be an amazing year!

Let me give you the most traditional poem/song that is played when the year changes, sang by a Scotsman himself:

Auld Lang Syne, if sung by the right person, always gets me misty eyed. Robert Burns did well.

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Anxious Playback

She scraped the ladle against the side of the deep set pot of soup. “I’m glad she’s eating,” I thought to myself, “but my god, I wish she’d stop with the metal against metal.” Each ding and scrape, my blood surged and crept a degree higher until the moment she dropped the ladle back into the pot and sealed it with the lid.

“Right, I need to go for a run,” I told myself, “Now.”

I strapped on my neon blue running shoes, grabbed my iPod, and snuck out the side door. For the first mile, I walked faster than usual and had a conversation with myself. I’m not lonely, not schizophrenic. The metal on metal just made my spine hurt and I was hanging from an anxious, thorny branch. Someone needed to talk me down and I am the only one who knows how.

As I turned into the school grounds, I slipped my earphones in. The sound of my own painfully anxious thoughts were subsiding and I was ready to hear something pleasant. Portishead’s self titled album made the cut. “It’s so jarring,” someone once said when I played it for them. Not to me, never.

While I escaped into the sound of the greatest trip-hop album ever made, I ran. I ran the perimeter of the high school. The bleachers were calling my name and I managed a few. Then, I began to run around the track. Fifty minutes later, I had run the entire length of the album, so I stopped. In silence, I stood on the cushiony track and stared at the new scoreboard some generous alumnus donated. My breathing was steady and hard. The crisp winter air made my sweat prickle against my forehead. My lips curled up in a smile and I began to laugh the way I did when I was young. The loud, full bodied laughter filled the air and echoed off any surface it could find. The metal against metal, the self conversation, the Portishead, and the silence, they lead me down a happy path. I was happy… And I knew it, and I clapped my hands.

[By Ellie McHale, Inspired by Daily Prompt]

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