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Amy F. Quincy Author/Freelance Writer

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January 2013

Blocked!

122304157463CcpkWriting is hard. If there’s any doubt about that — consider this: the title and first three-word sentence of this post took me over an hour. No lie.

I usually cruise along, feeling inspired, laughing at my own clever wit or admiring a certain turn of phrase. Not today. It’s been another half-hour since I typed the words “no lie.” No lie.

Other than dribbling out words at the rate of two an hour,  I’ve been sitting here, munching on a bag of baby carrots, sighing and staring at the screen. I think this is what they call a serious case of writer’s block. Okay, not a serious case. I’ve heard of some writers that can’t write for years. Now that’s serious. But I don’t get that. How can you call yourself a writer if you don’t write?

More likely, I’m suffering from a temporary inability to deal with the task at hand. And I’m in good company. While most writers usually experience being blocked at one point or other, even famous folks like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Virginia Woolf were known to have felt their genius run dry at times. (Of course, they were also alcoholic, depressed or suicidal, but that often comes with the territory. I’m probably way too happy to be truly great.)

Although it’s a little insulting, the following advice by author Phillip Pullman made me laugh and rang true. I’m going to start thinking of writing as my full-time job.  And since I’m having a hard time thinking of my own words, his will have to do. Besides, it’s the weekend. And I don’t work weekends.

“Writer’s block…a lot of howling nonsense would be avoided if, in every sentence containing the word WRITER, that word was taken out and the word PLUMBER substituted; and the result examined for the sense it makes. Do plumbers get plumber’s block? What would you think of a plumber who used that as an excuse not to do any work that day?

The fact is that writing is hard work, and sometimes you don’t want to do it, and you can’t think of what to write next, and you’re fed up with the whole damn business. Do you think plumbers don’t feel like that about their work from time to time? Of course there will be days when the stuff is not flowing freely. What you do then is MAKE IT UP.

Writer’s block is a condition that affects amateurs and people who aren’t serious about writing (ouch.) So is the opposite, namely inspiration, which amateurs are also very fond of. Putting it another way: a professional writer is someone who writes just as well when they’re not inspired as when they are.”  

~Phillip Pullman

 
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Moxie Personified

amy & dianaAnd you guys think I’m gutsy. Meet Diana Lain. More positive, more adventurous, more disabled than me. And more full of life than most anyone I know, able-bodied or otherwise.

It’s not often I meet someone with this much gumption. She’s game for anything and loves speed. Some of you may recognize her from other adaptive sport photos. She waterskis, body surfs and plays power soccer (driving the ball into the goal with a power wheelchair.) Not to mention, occasionally joins in on bowling and billiards nights. All this is made more remarkable because she doesn’t have much use of her limbs.

Diana was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1992 and has lived with friend, caregiver and trusty sidekick, Kathy Bailey, for close to 10 years (read the recent article that appeared in The Florida Times-Union.) I don’t remember actually meeting them. It seems, instead, they’ve always been there, giving me countless rides in their wheelchair van since my own disability, and becoming my good friends along the way.

So, I didn’t hesitate when they invited me to check out Little Talbot Island on New Year’s Day. The park has plenty of boardwalks, bike trails and accessible restrooms, so it didn’t feel I was living too close to the edge. I forgot who my companions were.

Our first escapade came when Diana spotted a seagull with a broken wing in a parking lot. I think I have a bleeding heart when it comes to creatures of nature. Next to Diana, I’m the hunter poised to take out Bambi’s mom. Continue reading “Moxie Personified”

Fresh Starts

ResolutionsI love January. The resolve. The hope. The promise of a new, healthier year. This year, I plan on losing weight, saving money and being more patient with my mom. I always make grandiose plans for a wonderful new me. I have my resolutions written down by Christmas. And then, next season, I resolve to do it all over again the following year.

That I always seem to be making the same resolutions doesn’t bother me. Ongoing failure doesn’t deter me one bit. Where would we be today if Thomas Edison had thrown in the towel after his thousandth attempt at the lightbulb? Or if Bill Gates hadn’t followed up on his first business failure, Traf-o-Data, with Microsoft? Imagine if Stephen King had given up on Carrie. Actually, he did. Bad example. It was his wife who fished the manuscript out of the trash.

But, you get the point. Very few people succeed right out of the gate. Instead, they make multiple attempts and — this is key — learn something as to why they failed, so they can get closer to reaching their goal the next time.

For example, in my quest to shed pounds, I have learned that the all natural supplement, raspberry ketones, touted as the number one miracle fat-burner in a bottle, just makes me nauseous. (Serves me right for looking for an easy way out.) I’ve also learned (or re-learned) that I have absolutely no willpower. So yes, Twizzlers are a nice, low-calorie snack to have on hand to satisfy a sweet tooth. But, if you eat the whole package it’s still 250 calories, 28 grams of sugar and no way to lose weight. It’s best for me not to even have it in the house. Lesson learned.

When I was just a wee little perfectionist, I remember trying my very best to say my pleases and thank yous, not to swear and not to call anyone a stupidhead. Whenever I messed up, I’d quickly give myself a do-over and say “starting now.” This is warped on many levels, I know, but what I’m trying to illustrate here is how easily I simply began again. More than three decades later, I don’t call anyone a stupidhead (to their face) and mostly remember my manners, though I do go ahead and curse freely. Two out of three ain’t bad. A saying my Grandma Weeze liked, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” So, here are some tips to help you keep that resolve. Starting now.

~Be realistic. The surest way to fall short is to make your goal unattainable. My resolution to read a book every other month is laughable, even now. I’m revising it to a book a season.

~Reward yourself. Treat yourself to something you enjoy that doesn’t contradict your resolution. So, rewarding myself for losing ten pounds by ordering a pizza is not the way to go.

~Tell everyone. Force yourself to be accountable. The more people that know and may ask you how it’s going, the better.

~Write it down. On paper. It makes it more official and you can’t change the parameters easily. Besides, I think there’s power in this. (See my previous post “Write it Down, Make it Happen.”)

~Get support. Don’t go it alone if you don’t have to. Particularly, if your resolution involves an addiction, like quitting smoking.

Speaking for the Trees

The LoraxI come from a long line of tree huggers.

Both my father and aunt were officers in local chapters of The Audubon Society. You know — the bird-watchers? Or, as I’ve been corrected — the birders? My grandmother is an avid birder. She has over 3,000 different birds on her master “Birds of the World” life checklist. This should impress you if you know anything about birding. I don’t. I was disappointed to find out that number is well below half of the 9,000 some odd total. Then she informed me it would raise a birder’s eyebrows. I guess I thought she’d have more. I mean, she is 94. And she’s been all over the world. Literally. She’s even looked for birds in Madagascar. The real place, not the movie!

The point is, my family likes birds. I’ve been in the car any number of times when my grandmother (or any family member, really) has hollered for whoever was driving to pull over so everyone could pile out and count the number of winged things flitting about in some ditch.

But it’s not just birds. It’s also bobcats, timberwolves, gopher tortoises, sea turtles, manatees or any other creature of the wild, particularly if it’s endangered. We like to save things. My father saved manatees attracted by the warm waters into power plants and relocated hawks or eagles off power lines when he headed up the environmental department of Florida Power & Light years ago. My stepmother is the director of a local nature center. She educates children at her nature camp and leads sea turtle walks on the beach so the public can see nesting females. She and my father have an owl cage in their backyard and frozen mice to feed it in the freezer. They were married in a swamp (nature preserve.)

So with roots like these, it’s no wonder this past week’s DVD rental, The Lorax, had me in tears. A girlfriend called partway through it. “Are you watching a cartoon again?” For the record, it’s not a cartoon. It’s an animation.

And, in truth, as far as animations go — it’s no Pixar. The techniques weren’t new or unique, the writing wasn’t paticularly clever and there were no catchy musical numbers. But, the message got me. I was boo-hooing by the time the last truffela tree was chopped down and the sad bears, hacking birds and oily fish were sent away by the Lorax (voice of Danny DeVito.)

I’m passionate about the environment, yes. But, unlike most of my family, I don’t feel it’s what I’m here to do. So, I’ll do the next best thing: write about it. The power of the pen.

The reason your children or grandchildren (or you yourself) should see this environmentally themed film is so we’re not raising a bunch of uncaring, money-hungry citizens of Thneedville. I see it coming in the recent Play 60 campaign done by the NFL. Children are so busy playing with Game Boys and Wii dancing that they have to be reminded to go outside! We had to be told repeatedly it was time to come in! I remember entire imaginary rooms where I played for hours in the giant ficus trees that surrounded my childhood home. How many trees are there in your neighborhood that are even climbable?

I promised myself when I started this blog that I wouldn’t get too political. But, since Superstorm Sandy, most sane people have accepted global warming as fact now, right? Even the cover of Bloomberg Businessweek reported “It’s Global Warming, Stupid.”

So, I’ll end this post with a call to action. Get on the “going green” bandwagon. I’m not the Lorax, but I do what I can. Educate your children, change your ways. Volunteer your time or give your money. There are some great organizations like The Nature Conservancy or Environmental Defense Fund that are dedicated to protecting our natural places and its creatures. And remember the wise words of the good doctor…

“UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

~Dr. Seuss

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