"The best thing one can do when it's raining is to let it rain."

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Not a writer.

I am so not a writer. Never have been. But I should be. This week I have had a lot of assignments that have made me reflect on why I am doing what I am doing (academically speaking) and all that good stuff and I can tell you now, I am not doing what I’m doing because I am a writer. Au contraire… But anyway… the same professor that has encouraged us to write our “little slices of life” challenged us the other day to think of what one word would define our 2014. As I thought about that, a few words came to mind. If we could choose two words, or even four, I would have gone with “no fear, no shame” (shout-out to kswag and our new life goals). But one word is a horse of a different color! I thought of things like “balance” and “perspective” and such. But one word kept coming to mind: WRITER. It is almost like my “inner-self” is trying to encourage me to get over my writing fears… so I am going to try.
I am not a writer. But maybe in 2014 I can become one. Why does it matter? I don’t know why. But it feels important –it feels like it is an opportunity to conquer an old fear. And by old fear, I really mean daily weight that oppresses my soul. Maybe I actually do know why I need to work on this whole “permanent writer’s block” thing…
It all started in sixth grade….

Nothing like a medieval banquet to encourage students to do some extra homework! You know elementary kids do get excited about such things… Our teacher was going to be having a fancy banquet for us, with only one small catch. Our position at the banquet was dependent upon how many points we earned and we earned these points by doing things like reading and writing papers and doing art projects. I was determined to be part of the “nobility” and since I knew I didn’t stand a chance with the art projects, I dedicated hours to writing extra papers. Papers about Joan of Arc and Eleanor of Aquitaine and Charlemagne –among many others. I remember taking one of these papers to my mom one day to look at. I thought my paper was brilliant, but she explained to me that it just didn’t really make any sense. None of my papers really did. Ever. Sometimes I think my ideas were just too big for the skills I had to work with, and that was a losing combination. I was not a writer.
I loved reading, but I just couldn’t hack it in the writing world. I wasn’t actually that great at communicating my thoughts in general. When I called friends to see if they could play my mom would write out little scripts for me because I would get nervous. Things like “Hey (insert friend name). Can you play? My house or yours?” If they didn’t answer I couldn’t emotionally handle leaving a voicemail. I always hung up. Don’t get me wrong- I was probably always quite the chatterbox, but certain types of communication just really didn’t go well for me….
And that is where Barbara comes in….. (and Anne Shirley and Cyrano and Sir Percy and all my other friends who kept giving me a reason to try. When you love the worlds of the stories you read, you can’t get away from writing! Unfortunately.) Streisand, that is. Barbara singing, “Funny. Did you hear that? Funny. Yeah, the guy said ‘Honey, you’re a funny girl.’ That’s me.” Followed up with the belting of, “Don’t tell me not to live, just sit and putter. Life’s candy and the sun’s a ball of butter. Don’t bring around a cloud to rain on my parade… I simply gotta march, my heart’s a drummer. No, nobody, no nobody, is ever gonna rain on my parade.” (watch here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aO3Gb5mkwTc)

Barbara reminded me that nobody could rain on my parade. Not even me. I might not have been a writer, but I loved the field of literature. Was I going to let my lack of writing skills get in my way? I think not! I would just maybe need to work on it a little bit more. So I did. I kept at it, even tried out for the school paper. I think writing for the school paper was the first time I started to feel more confident in my writing. I had fun doing that kind of writing and it gave me some good practice.
One might say that after the writing I did in high school, I was feeling a little bit better about the progress I had made… until my first English class at BYU.  I probably sat and stared at my computer for hours to even get started on that first paper I had to write. I was terrified. I didn’t want to get a bad grade, but I hadn’t the faintest what to write about. And don’t get me started on my history class. I got my first paper in that class back with a very dismal letter-representation of my efforts and skill.
Fast forward to spring of 2011. I am about to go on my study abroad to London. I had dreamed of this moment pretty much my entire life. Walking the halls of John Keat’s home, seeing the sights that inspired so many of my favorite authors, experiencing the wonder of Shakespare at the Globe. My mom tells me to start a blog so her and my grandparents and such can see what I am up to. Like the mostly-obedient-daughter that I am, I recruit a friend to help me set the blog up (I can write better than I can deal with computers. Ask anyone. And no, I am not ready to tackle that fear yet.) and my “blog adventures” began. I discovered that I didn’t receive grades for blogging, and that I could get away with whatever style I wanted. I felt better about writing. Until I returned to campus.
All the magic of London fades and I am back to my usual, staring-at-the-walls, writer’s block lifestyle. The classes I have are interesting, especially my Shakespeare class. I feel, once again, like I am in sixth grade and my ideas and desires are bigger than I have the skills to manage. About this time I also get really interested in myths and fairy tales. I scrape my way through the year and then… go on a mission.
My writing? In the form of letters and journal entries. Which is perhaps why I find myself so behind for the semester. I don’t remember how to write like I did before. I didn’t even feel that confident before, but I felt more confident than I feel now! I tell myself it will come back. I hope that it will come back better. I resign myself to the fact that it usually doesn’t happen like that.
Instead, I just remember the one word: Writer. 2014 can be the year that I become a writer (cue the English-class-type-discussion as to “what it really means to be a writer”). Nobody’s going to rain on that parade!

PS- Just in case anybody else connected those dots... my blog is actually named after that song as well. Do with that what you will:) 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Ten Minutes

In one of my classes, our Professor has asked us to write a little “slice of life” entry here and there and just share some normal, everyday stuff. She told us if we had a blog, we could just do it on our blog. As she said that, I remembered –I have a blog. A blog that has remained rather lifeless for a few months… maybe eighteen or so…
Sometimes you look at your life and wonder how you get to where you are, and you kind of know, but at the same time you just think, “What the heck happened?” You find yourself in a world that used to be really familiar –it was your world. But now it is like another planet, and they aren’t the aliens –you are. You find yourself following routines that used to be “normal,” and as you follow these routines you receive a few flashbacks of the past. These flashbacks force you to recognize that the situation isn’t weird –you are.
“You can do anything for ten minutes,” my mother informed me as we continued our training down the canyon. I am not sure what mile we were on in this particular run- but after all the training and sweating (and hating), I knew the end goal -26.2 miles –and the rest often blended together.  Once you run a marathon and people find out about that, they inevitably ask, “so, are you going to do it again?” An innocent question, but in my head I always think “been there, done that,” while I diplomatically respond, “Well, it was a really great experience, but I am not sure I am willing to dedicate that much time to training again.” Though I am not overanxious to repeat the event, I did learn that very valuable lesson:  You can do anything for ten minutes.
Not only can you do anything for ten minutes, but you can also do it for the ten minutes after that, and after that… You know what they say (and by “they” I really mean the scriptures), diligence wins the prize.
“You can do anything for ten minutes” has been a sort-of mantra, a reminder for me in many moments –through high school drama and the panic of freshman year. Through the stress of grades and finals week, and, most recently, through my mission. As I was biking or walking (sometimes running) through adverse  elements I would just remind myself, “You can do anything for ten minutes.”
I have found that phrase coming often to my mind this first week and a half of school- “Tara, you can do anything for ten minutes.” The encouraging reminder that big goals and projects can be broken down, that most battles are just battles of endurance.  All of that good stuff. And also the reminder that I didn’t always love running –sometimes I was really slow (you can just ask my mom), sometimes I had the flu and still ran 7 miles, sometimes we did a 20-miler in St. George before a family reunion and we ran the same street three times, sometimes I studied chemistry while I ran. But sometimes, I listened to great music. Sometimes running felt good and I wasn't slow. Sometimes I even wanted to keep going. (No specific memories of that last one actually come to mind, but it is possible). And in the end, that stuff doesn't even matter that much, because I RAN A MARATHON. 
As I look at the road I have mapped for the next year or so, I have this tendency to get really overwhelmed. I reach for a bag, but instead grab a book because I'm in the library. And no bag is going to solve these problems! Instead I just remind myself “ten minutes.” Or as Kris Kringle taught the Winter Warlock, “You just put one foot in front of the other…”

So though I am sometimes not really sure how I got myself to this point, or what “this point” really means… I know that “you can do anything for ten minutes.”