I am excited about my newest drawing which does not have a proper name, so Lobster Shack is it’s working name. It’s a pen and ink and colored pencil piece. This piece is all me, none of my teacher is in it, which I am very proud of. My drawings take a long time, so I will post the WIP pictures as I progress, but don’t expect the finished project to be done quickly. I’m just not that fast.
I’m working on a post about lifelong friendships and I would like for you to contribute your friendship story. This is about a special friend, one that has gone through your life with you, the one that means the most to you, the one you can be yourself with and pick up where you left off even if significant time has passed, or geography separates you.
Please share your story with me. You can keep it anonymous if you want, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll incorporate the story but change the names.
Thanks for taking the time to read and hopefully participate.
I couldn’t breathe…my tears were causing me to drown in sorrow and anguish. Not having children of my own, My animals are
my children. 2010 was a bad year for my animals and for me. I had two cats, one a black and white tuxedo, and one a white and black domestic short hair. Sneakers and Smudge. I had them for eight years. They were my life. Within six months of each other, they were gone and I was devastated, trying to breathe, trying to function. How could this be? They were indoor cats, pampered and sheltered. Smudge went first, the victim of a stroke. Sneakers died six months after, the victim of insecticide spray (I did not use it, my mother did). He had organ failure.
With my heart in a million shattered pieces, I went to the shelter. It had only been a couple of days, but I knew if I didn’t have something to love, I would not get through the heartbreak. The house was so empty. The food bowls and litter box evidence of loss. I felt directed to go to the Halifax Shelter. I steeled myself to face the need of the shelter’s inhabitants. No, I could not take them all home. I could only take one. There were so many and I had to put it out of my head that this shelter does euthanize. One. For me. Now. Stay focused. Breathe even though it hurts.
I said to myself, you’ll know it when you see it. You will fall in love with one, and that is The One. They allowed you to hold one at a time. There was a volunteer getting the cats out of their cages, which were clean and odor free. I must have held ten kittens, all the while watching the kitten in the arms of the man who was seated to my right. He was speaking to the kitten, and I strained to hear what he was saying. “You have to let them see your personality…You have to be at your best… Someone will take you home…” He was trying to find a good home for this special kitten. I asked to hold her. She was The One. I assured the man she was going to an excellent home. I picked her up the following day. I could breathe again. My heart was still broken, but there was light at the end of the black tunnel.
Bella (Yes, I’m a Twilight fan, so sue me)Bella is a Maine Coon. So pretty with her strips, her fluffy tail, her thick coat, but it’s her personality that makes her extraordinary. She is dog-like in her demeanor, greeting me with ferocity and adulation. We are joined at the hip and inseparable. I can finally breathe again.
I had always considered myself a dog person. My co-worker Angie was hell-bent on my adopting a cat. We debated for the afternoon, with no consensus. I was on the fence. Another heartbeat in my apartment would be nice, but a cat? You don’t know what you don’t know. I didn’t know cats.
I arrived at my apartment complex after the sun had set. I made my way to the mailbox station and I heard the distinct sound of a cat’s meow. It sounded sad. It sounded nearby. I looked out into the shadows and I saw two pencil thin white lines moving. They were the front paws of the thinnest cat I had ever seen. She meowed again and stopped. We looked at each other. I instinctively reached out to her. She came to me and meowed again. She wasn’t sad as much as hungry. She was beautiful, white with black spots and a spot on her nose.
I ran up to my apartment and brought down a can of tuna. I put it in the bushes for this poor, pathetic animal. I went home. The next day, I told Angie about my encounter with the stray. “THAT’S YOUR CAT!” screamed Angie. I stopped mid-sentence. “You’ve got to be kidding. She’s a wild cat who’s starving. She’s not My Cat” I said, defensively. “No, you don’t understand, cats don’t come to people easily when they are feral. They shy away from people. This cat has picked you out as her person. We have to get her tonight.” Now Angie is a force of nature and what she says will happen, happens. So I found myself looking for this elusive cat that night with Angie who was experienced at catching strays.
There she was. Unlike the night before, she ran away, Angie and I frantically trying to keep up with her. We split apart, each going a separate way around the apartment building. Angie yelled at me, “I’ve got her!” She turned the corner with the little white cat squirming in her arms and her fur was flying in clumps. “Why is her fur flying off her?” I asked. “It’s what cats do when they are really scared” she replied, struggling to hold her.
We took her up to my apartment, I felt unsure about a wild cat running loose in the small space, who knows what diseases she could have. We put her in the bathroom and closed the door. I made plans with Angie to take her to the vet the next day and get her checked out. Angie said “It’s wonderful to be owned by a cat, you’ll see!” I sat in the living room, amazed at what we had accomplished and feeling anxious about the entire unknown wild cat in my house situation.
About an hour later, the bathroom door opened and out came the scrawny white cat who then ran onto my lap and she lay down. I was so surprised, I didn’t move. Was this the same cat I had chased downstairs? She was purring loudly as she lay quietly on my lap. How had she opened the door? The mystery would always remain. Transformed into the picture of domestic bliss; we stayed on the couch for hours. I forgot my caution regarding potential disease, she was purring, she was sleeping, she was on my lap. I knew then Angie was right, I had been chosen to be owned by this particular cat. I named her Smudge and realized at that moment that I was a cat person after all.
I’m about to pay my first quarterly tax on money I received from writing. That makes me a writer, doesn’t it? I’ve paid taxes all my working life, but never for something I loved to do and for myself.
OK, many writers look down on the type of writing that paid me my first revenue, writing for content mills is not deemed worthy of mention in the writing community. I beg to differ. I am not making a lot of money, except for the Ebook chapter I wrote, but I am producing good work and meeting deadlines and client expectations. I am learning about research and SEO writing. I am paying my dues. It is worthy work for a writing virgin.
Paying taxes is such an adult thing to do. It is a form of validation in my eyes. I did work that was good enough to be paid for, and I did it doing something I love, playing with words. This is the beginning of a new chapter in my life, one where I am literally writing new rules to live by. My dreams, and goals are not grandiose and naïve. They are grounded and honed by someone experienced in life’s realities. I do not believe I will be on the NYT Bestseller’s list. I do not picture myself on the Today show. No, I seek simpler triumphs that are based in realistic attainability. For now it is enough to grow my blog, to work towards being published with my own byline and to build my platform and of course lose my weight for that book I’m planning to write about it.
There are a great many sources of information for new writers to research. I am on overload with instructions on building my platform, querying, honing my craft, watching my punctuation (my Achilles heel). Sometimes I think I will explode from all the information I am ingesting. And what is the loudest message I am receiving? Write. Just Write.
It is easy to get side-tracked by social media, by reading the endless amount of relevant blogs. It is easy to get too absorbed in the technical manuals of writing and craft. The thing that matters most is the act of showing up at the blank page and creating magic with words. Practice, Practice, Practice, it’s how we learn anything new.
Writing for me is still a mysterious act. Where do the words come from? Why can I put them together and other people can’t? Why can’t I write creative non-fiction on demand? I am forced to wait for the inspiration and the mood to be “just right” before the words flow. I read that you are to write even when you aren’t inspired. Is writing like a muscle that needs development and constant training for it to perform well? I don’t do well with mysteries. I like answers to questions, and I fear my questions will go unanswered for the duration of my writing career because writing is a mysterious process.
The act of creation cannot be accurately defined. I remember trying to explain the creative process to a very analytical lawyer, and failing miserably after three hours of attempts. I simply couldn’t give him the exact reason I had created a work of art. It simply had to come into this world by the actions of my hands didn’t cut it for him. He wanted to know what need the object fulfilled. There was no specific, tangible need. It was created from a stirring in me to express myself, but no other outward need. For him, the quilt had to be created because someone was cold and needed a blanket. I created it because the design was in me and needed to come out and be in the world. He never understood art; I never understood not understanding art.
What is in me now, stirring to get out? A book certainly, but the work the book will be chronicling is not done yet. It will be years before the weight-loss journey will be done. So in the interim I write essays and blog posts, and articles I ghost- write for others. The smaller pieces I am writing fulfill the need to create. Whether I am creating art or not is up for debate. What is important is that I am writing. Doing what the sage instructors and mentors of the craft recommend above all else; write, always write. I say, write and pay your taxes. You do the first to pay the second. But if you don’t do the second, you can’t do the first. Pay as you go, write at all costs, and tweet about everything, grounded lessons for a grounded neophyte. Now, where’s my checkbook?
If it’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that you should follow your heart and your gut, even if it means not following the established path of others. I think in publishing that holds true as well. This story exemplifies the need to be true to yourself.
I have nothing against the color blue, except when it’s flashing in my rear view mirror and I get to be intimidated by my counties finest. It’s the gun that gets me every time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a law-abiding citizen most of the time. It’s just that sometimes, when I’m driving my Kia, I think I’m driving an Escaladewith eight cylinders and attitude and I break the speed limit. No, I’m not going sixty in a thirty zone, I go over by five or ten miles an hour. It’s really because I’m bored, and a little rebellious, as though being a law-abiding citizen is something to chafe against. So, I am hyper-vigilent, looking for the cruisers and motorcycles that would make me have anything but a nice day. What does this say about me?
Is becoming a writer like driving your car? Do you chart a path of safety, clocking in at a pre-determined speed, careful not to break rules written and unwritten? There is so much traffic, and everyone is jockeying to get to the same places. And everyone is going at their own speed. On this road, there are no police, just a lot of gate keepers and toll booths that will alter your destination time and time again. On this road, I am not bored, I am anxious to get to my destination, the hell with the traffic, the gatekeepers. I want to get to the destination, but I really don’t want to drive. But you say “Getting there is half the fun”. That may be, but I have waited a lifetime to be in the driver’s seat. I am tired of waiting, now that I’ve made the decision to drive, to write.
Don’t get me wrong, I know how hard writers have to work to get published, to make a life writing. I know you have to pay your dues and work your way up in the craft. I know it takes time and persistence. I guess I just want my break to come sooner rather than later. Is that so bad? Of course I know I have to do all the things writers do, indeed I have to write more. But this road is filled with dreams, and sometimes the dreams get in the way of the work. All my life, I did not believe that I could be a writer since I did not go to school for writing. I know, very limited thinking. I thought that is what it takes to be a writer. But I am finding that while it certainly helps to have the paper behind you for moral support, you really only have to do two things to be a writer and that give yourself permission and then you write.
Getting published is part of the highway I’m traveling on. It requires diligence and patience and humility and bravado, (Yes you can have both at the same time.)You have to want the public destination that has your name on it for all to see, and you have to be willing to listen to those who are already at their destination and who are directing you. Bravado and humility. So, I do desire the public destination. I aspire to having my name appear before readers. Yes, I want recognition for my efforts. And I want to be wise about it, so all these other writers who are willing to share what they know are important to me. I want to know what they know. They are guiding my ride and are making me adhere to the posted speed…steady as she goes.
Before being published, (dreams getting in the way again) I have to find my voice. Sometimes when I write, I am inspired and the words flow and the piece comes together and it’s a very a good thing. It makes me happy and the experience is much like being a conduit for the act of creativity, the inspiration takes over and you simply are along for the ride. I love it when that happens. More often than not, I am working to make the subject interesting, to make the words spill onto the page coherently. This is what being a writer is all about. Writing with the inspiration, and writing without it. But always writing.
To be known to others that I’m a writer means jumping in headfirst to social media. Now my ride is feeling a little out of control. The newness of it all. Finding out that I’ve made some mistakes branding myself. Coming to terms with the fact that I am promoting myself as a product. I used to be in sales, and I can sell ice to Eskimos, but that was with someone else’s product that I believed in, now it’s all about me and I have to believe in myself as much as I believed in other people’s products. So, I tweet a little, I blog, and I write a lot. I read even more, always seeking guidance and directions from others. I don’t know squat and I am learning. The ride is still scary.
I will leave my lawlessness for when I’m behind the wheel of my car. For my writing I’m choosing the speed-limit-adhering directional wisdom of others who are making a living writing. The highway has many curves and turns and potholes. I plan to arrive at my publishing destination wise and grateful, and none the worse for the wear. Just because there are potholes doesn’t mean I have to drive through them. Avoiding them is acceptable on the journey. But there doesn’t seem to be a police presence on this writing highway, no flashing blue lights to ruin your day. But then again, this journey is just beginning. I think I may change my view on police once I work with some editors.