A Future So Bright: C4 Blogathon, Day 4

I’m great at lists, not so great at goal-setting. So goal-setting for my writing is a challenge,
but here goes.

1. Five goals to achieve w/in next ten years (personal or professional)

  • Find a regular, paying outlet for creative non-fiction essay
  • Write a few non-fiction books on extraordinary women, first Evelyn Wynn-Dixon, then Sofya Kovalevsky
  • Devote more time, in a more concentrated way, to reclaim the joy of being creative person
  • Get out of debt and get my kids through college
  • Visit some places that I love, and some that I daydream about

2. Now, five goals that need to be achieved in short-term to make these a reality

  • Engage more with writers in my virtual and real-time communities and attend readings and submit work to journals I admire
  • Investigate and understand the process of writing biography, develop book proposals, and pitch
  • Concentrate on centering happiness within myself, not seeking it from validation or support from Erik who cannot provide it
  • Save money, and establish and adhere to budget

3. Now, five goals, this year

  • Write the book proposal and participate in pitchfests I have registered for
  • Connect with people who are skilled in writing nonfiction and learn from them (especially an expert on this, Walter Isaacson)
  • Continue to follow steps to pay down debt, which I insituted this year
  • Continue to work on strategies to address chronic physical pain, and spiritual pain
  • Keep arranging small road trips, either solo or with family, that energize me

Writing these down makes me feel anxious–but I have a good friend who often tells me to put ideas into the universe, that this stating of intentions is the first step to making them a reality. As for a photo, I will insert one from today. This time last year, I thought I was on my last-ever ski trip, due to arthritis and finances. But I am on new meds that make the knees not so bad, and I found a great deal. In this photo, I am on top of a mountain, with the whole world spread out before me. I am not anxious, and nothing is holding me back.


Janice on the mountaintop


I Knew More Then Than I Know Now: C4Atlanta, Day 3

Just under the wire, responding to the question of my favorite work–my own piece of writing. This question reminds me of the hedging that sometimes occur when people ask about favorite children; as the mother of six, I have come to see that I love them all–but some days, am proudest of one’s accomplishments, or most anxious about another’s challenges. The love is constant, but the focus changes.

I write in a few genres: poetry, nonfiction essays, and journalism. Within each of these, I have favorite pieces. (And others which I would once have tossed in the trash, that are now immortalized somewhere on the web.) Among my favorites is a long poem I wrote when I was 18: “Sixty-four caprices for a long-distance swimmer.” At the time, I’d have been a likely candidate to major in English, but instead chose math, always a challenge for me.

I hated writing papers! And so to avoid having to write one for a psychology class, received persmission to write a narrative poem. I swam almost daily in the brand-new pool at Guilford College, and just loved the place: the view of the campus woods, the solitude, the occasional interactions with half-naked professors. The poem eventually appeared in an anthology of sports poetry–the only collection of verse ever reviewed by Sports Illustrated.

Some years later, the poem was anthologized in a collection of English literature: positioned on pages between Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman! I was stunned by my arrival.

This spring, when Diana Nyad completed her historic swim, I googled the poem, and discovered a version online, courtesy of a Yale professor who was using it to teach an undergraduate class. As close as I’ll ever get to Yale!

Anymore, when I read that poem, I can hear the girl I was: She was so sure of herself. She was so confident in her vision. She was so certain in every thing she had to say, and so sure others would be delighted to hear.

That’s the point to which I would like to return as my creative journey continues: That confident center, that willingness to write without self-criticism preventing the first word from reaching the page. And then to release the work into a larger world, where others can make of it what they will. That connection is what I crave and enjoy most.


Key words: poetry, writing, swimming, sports, C4Atlanta

A Day Late, but Never Short

Thanks to creative friends, I am participating in a 15-day blogathon hosted by C4Atlanta, whose mission is to bring arts and creativity–and so, joy–to Atlanta and to others in the virtual community. Yesterday, Day 1, was spent in a car, driving through the perilous, dark winding roads of rural West Virginia, trying to get to a ski resort before today’s big storm hits. On the way, in the midst of the usual arguing with spouse, my son became quite ill, but paramedics checked him out, advised us what to do, and we got through the night. He is recuperating today, and I am watching the dark clouds gather outside the window. Slopes tomorrow, words today.

I did write a haiku for yesterday, about my view of my creative life. Here it is:

I pick up my pen.
Critic perched on my shoulder
Cannot slow me down

In response to today’s prompt-brief answers due to arthritic fingers:

1. Have been writing from the moment I knew how, and have always loved the feel of language, play of words, and opportunities to explore my experience, and develop its connection to others’.
2. Where is it going? Hoping to apply my voice to a new project, that I hope will be a biography of an extraordinary woman whose story and work absolutely inspire me. Writing connects people in so many ways, and it has connected the two of us. I cannot wait to tell her story.
3. How evolving? My first love was always poetry, but over the years, have learned to apply my poetic voice to longer, non-fiction work. For some reason, in the last few years, that voice of the essayist has really come to the fore. Some of that is simply because I write all the time. Everything is a possible source, and everyone is a story. I write and write and write.
4. Experience inspires me, and hearing stories from others always inspires me. I have found that my essays in The Washington Post and on Architects of Change for Maria Shriver touch other people. The best moment is when someone sends me a note or even calls to say, “I read your story. It is exactly like my experience. Thank you for telling it.”
5. What next? How to apply all that I know to the very disciplined work it requires to write a biography. I am wide open to suggestions and insights from others.

There! Day 2 of C4Atlanta! I did it.