Search

Amy F. Quincy Author/Freelance Writer

Month

April 2012

Change

A few days ago, I found out that one of Frankie’s favorite humans had suffered a stroke. Probably, when I was writing in a recent post the cautionary words that tragedy could strike at any moment.

Jim and his wife, Virginia, would walk First Street nearly every morning. Frankie and I would always see them. Jim would carry two dog biscuits in his pocket just for Frankie. I’ve been around when other dogs and their owners stopped and Jim came up empty-handed. It’s not like he had a pocketful of dog treats to befriend all the neighborhood dogs. Just two. Just Frankie.

It crosses your mind when you haven’t seen some people in a while. I wondered, but had no way of knowing. Until another “regular” we pass told me Jim was in the hospital. They’re just neighbors I met with Frankie. And yet, they’d become a part of our routine I looked forward to. I don’t like change. Nobody does.

Jim carried an old golf club turned makeshift walking stick. Frankie would hear the tell-tale clacks long before I would. By the time they approached, Frankie was jumping for joy. He even let out a couple of excited yips once in awhile. Then he’d receive his treats. But just two. Jim and Virginia don’t have a dog. Did they buy dog biscuits at the store just for Frankie?

Virginia and James Keys

I always intended to write about them, though not in this way. I learned some time ago that they were local celebrities. Virginia (Atter Keys)  had been a radio and television icon in the ’50s through ’80s. I just knew she remembered Frankie’s name because of Frankie Valli. And then she would start singing.

I don’t know that we’ll see them out walking again, though I do plan to stop by their house. With Frankie. He’ll be excited even without the treats. I don’t know how bad a stroke it was. Maybe we can all sit in the driveway.

So, I’m sad. I miss seeing them out walking. I miss our exchange and Frankie’s enthusiasm. I miss the routine. Remember, things can change in an instant. Soak up the now.

Advertisements

Age Defiers

The neighbor across from my mom recently asked her if she’d like to go somewhere.

“That depends on where,” said my mother, ever wary of being roped into doing something she doesn’t want to do.

It was Bingo Night at the Senior Center.

I laughed out loud when my mother relayed the news of this invitation. There’s probably nothing my mother would like to do less. Try out the latest trendy restaurant, maybe. Watch the newest action flick complete with lots of cussing and gory violence, sure. Or perhaps, head downtown for a concert. But not bingo. And not the Senior Center. See, my mom is an Age Defier.

The couple across the street are lovely. But they’re more typical. She cooks and bakes, he eats. She wears housedresses, he has house slippers. They delight in their grandchildren and go square dancing at least once a month. And did I mention? They’re younger than my mom.

I’m sure it’s because I’m getting older myself, but I see Age Defiers everywhere. I have a friend, 70, who rides horses, cycles long distances and helps build houses for Habitat for Humanity. There are two men I run into regularly on their bikes when I’m out walking Frankie. They’re both approaching 80. Another 78 year-old woman I know crossed the street to greet me in her workout shorts and sports bra. And she looked good! I’d rather be caught dead than in anything sleeveless. And let’s not forget the wonderful women of my writing group. I’m the baby there at 42. The most seasoned member is 80 and recently published her novel.

I come from a long line of Age Defiers. It’s as if, being native Floridians (or in my grandmother’s case, having lived here long enough she might as well be,) they’ve found the Fountain of Youth. My father still rides an ATV on the beach during summer mornings counting sea turtle nests  like some kind of young park ranger. My 93 year-old grandmother rides a tricycle on a wooded trail two miles every day. I don’t even log two miles a day in my power chair.

I missed the age defying gene. In fact, time can’t seem to go by quick enough for me. I act well beyond my middle-aged years. I utter the phrase “Lord have mercy” on a regular basis. I often turn down the music in my mom’s car. And I once yelled at kids to stop playing in my yard when I was 31.

Stephen King must be an Age Advancer like me. My mom is reading his new behemoth-sized, 1000+ page novel, Under the Dome.  In it, he describes an “elderly” character who just turned 70. He himself is in his 60’s! By his own standards, he’s about to become elderly.

Even if I do act older in my mannerisms, I like the idea of defying stereotypes. When my dad informed me I was middle-aged at 36, I told him he was mistaken, I was young. I’m willing to admit to being middle-aged now, but I’m sure it lasts till I’m 60. And when I’m 70 for God’s sake, I’ll be a senior, not elderly. Even if I do like to play bingo (and I do.)  Besides, housedresses just make good sense in the wheelchair.

The Desire

I’m in line at a book signing with my writing pal, Mary. When it’s our turn, Mary asks the author a question he must have answered a million times. “Do you write every day?”

He doesn’t hesitate, “Yes.”

What were we expecting? The general consensus on the subject seems to be that writers should write every day. I think we were looking for a way out of it.

In her book, Becoming a Writer, Dorothea Brand  suggests giving yourself an absolute, non-negotiable 15 minutes a day to start. She then states, in unequivocal terms,”If you fail repeatedly at this exercise, give up writing.” Ouch. She goes on to explain that, for those people, their resistance is actually greater than their desire to write.

I know I would pass the test. I know I would. My desire to write is definitely greater than my resistance. Look, I churn out this blog every week — no excuses. So why is committing to a daily practice such a struggle?

Well for starters, Dorothea Brand is not in my living room. Sure, I get up way before the sun every day with the intention of writing. And most days I do. But some mornings I just return emails. So no, I’m sure I’m not writing every single day.

See, there’s no one hanging over me, waiting for my daily allotment of words to be produced. It does help greatly to be held accountable. Hence, the successful regularity of this blog.

Stephen King writes 2,000 words a day. Anthony Trollope, one of the most prolific English novelists of the Victorian era, wrote three hours a day, every day. Jack London wrote 16-18 hours a day and produced 50 books in 16 years. He also killed himself at the age of forty.

I prefer to hear about Judith Viorst who writes for children and adults by setting a goal of a page a day. She can get ahead, but never fall behind. So when she’s cranking out pages, she can take a few days off. I’m spending all day Friday writing this so I can take the rest of the weekend off for a visiting friend. I think this kind of on again, off again affair with writing worked for Hemingway. You hear about his writing for three to four hours every day, but in his letters he mentions easing off those months when the fishing was good.

And if you’re a writer not writing, prepare to pay in guilt. Gloria Steinem said, “Writing is the only thing that … when I’m doing it, I don’t feel that I should be doing something else instead.”

My writing coach encourages us to write every day. She gave us a nice quote by somebody I can’t remember and whose words I’m paraphrasing, but it went something like this. If someone told you that inspiration (spirit, muse, an angel) was going to show up near your house on a rock at ten o’clock, wouldn’t you go to that rock every day and wait?

I would. And so, I’ll keep heading to my desk long before I hear the first seagull outside. I’ll continue to set my alarm even though sometimes, I confess, I go back to sleep. Keep striving for the solution that works for you. Remember, if your desire outweighs your resistance, you’re a writer. You’ll find a way. Just don’t give up.

Stay off Task

Amid the crazy multi-tasking I’m attempting, with my list of things to do a mile long, a friend calls midday, “Want to go for a run on the beach?”

I should say no. There’s so much to do. And I’m actually beginning to make progress! I need to put in another load of laundry, there are dishes in the sink and I just heard the tones of more email hitting my inbox. I have newspaper articles spread out on the bed (I’m still trying to update my website,) the cat just stunk up her litter box till I can’t breathe and I have to finish writing a story for my book and writing group.

“Love to,” I say.

I don’t want to lose sight of what’s important. And something happened this past week that served as a good reminder.

The days-old grand-baby of my writing coach underwent open-heart surgery. Disturbed by her shallow breathing, doctors discovered a malformation that needed correcting. Barely out of the womb, little Lucy now recovers engulfed by a tangle of tubes and IV’s. At a time when they should be bonding and changing diapers, her parents are watching and praying as she is weaned off a ventilator. They should be sleepless, but not this way. It’ll be weeks before Lucy’s out of the ICU. Just weeks before, we listened to her first cries recorded by a proud grandmom. It’s a lesson I’ve learned before, but it bears repeating. Things can change in an instant.

As my friend and I move down the beach, she runs through the shallow water, pushing my beach wheelchair. I call it my dune buggy because of the fat tires. Another friend always slips and calls it a stroller, cause that’s what it must feel like when jogging. It’s a beautiful spring day and the cool water splashes up on my legs, then quickly dries in the sun.

When I was still in the hospital after the hemorrhage, friends took me outside to sit beside a small pond and fountain. It was just the parking lot really, but to me it might as well have been a day at the beach. My best friend says she’ll never forget the look on my face as I turned my face toward the sun and breeze and closed my eyes. Gratitude. Most people never get the chance to truly appreciate something as simple as warm sunshine on your face. I did that day, but I can already feel it slipping away.

I love the catchphrase for the TBS channel. Stay off task. But I don’t mean it like they do. They want you to watch more mindless T.V. I’m suggesting you stay off task doing something mindful. I need to repeat that slogan every so often so I don’t get bogged down by all the little, daily things.

If tragedy struck tomorrow, what could wait? Would that phone call, email or work project really matter? Of course not. Make headway on those things, yes. After all, for many of you, that’s what pays the bills. But, every once in awhile, remember to stay off task. Don’t lose sight of the important stuff: friendships, loved ones and a day at the beach.

Happy Blog-versary!

Plan more than you can do, then do it.

Bite off more than you can chew, then chew it.

Hitch your wagon to a star, keep your seat, and there you are.

~Unknown

                                                                                                                                                                       I first heard the term “blog-versary” when a writing pal, Mary, celebrated the five year mark of her blog, Random Thoughts. Five years. I can’t even fathom.

I started this blog roughly one year ago, against all wise advice to the contrary. I had, still have, a book to finish. I’m sure I’d have been finished by now if I wasn’t spending half my writing time here. More really, if you count thinking time (and I do.) My biggest struggle has always been the thinking, dreaming up ideas. One year. That’s 52 blog topics to come up with.

Luckily, I never looked at it that way. I just jumped in. I think that’s what you have to do. Don’t dip your toe in to find out the water is freezing or you’ll stand there shivering in dreaded anticipation. Just jump. Don’t think about it too much. Or fear may stop your forward progress. Have a little faith.

You’ve heard it before. Leap and the net will appear. I love that.

I also love this quote about writing by E.L. Doctorow that can be applied to any risk-taking in life. “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” Writing a blog is like driving a car at night, too. When things are flowing smoothly, I have topics planned two or three weeks ahead. It gets more nerve wracking during the week before a Sunday when I haven’t a clue.  For example, when I wrote the post “Material,” I had no idea what to write about until my wheelchair fell off the back of Mom’s jeep a few days prior. See? No use worrying. I should’ve had faith that this little disaster would occur.

The commitment of a weekly deadline has got me thinking like a writer. I go through life always on the lookout, always observing, trying to see the humor in any situation. That’s not a bad way to go through life. I’m also more likely to accept an invitation or take a risk because at the very least, I may get a blog post out of it.

There are other benefits, too. (Writers, listen up.) It’s great practice. You can fine-tune technique, work on style, or find your voice. And no one can deny there’s great satisfaction to be had in building an audience. Last week, I had someone subscribe to my blog in Thailand. Thailand. How cool is that? It feels a bit too presumptuous and egotistical calling you all fans, so I’ll call you my loyal readers. And your number is growing.

So, don’t worry about where the money is coming from, just plan the vacation. It doesn’t make sense to stop painting the picture because you don’t know where you’ll hang it. And don’t stay at that dead-end job just because you don’t have another one. Oh wait — that one’s sound. But you get the idea. Just leap.

WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: