For Friederike, A New Look at Brewing a Story.

I started out writing this post as a comment in response to Friederike, who commented on my last post. But then I realized, why not explore this further in an actual blog post? So here are her thoughts and my response. And thank you, Friederike. Though we have yet to meet in person, your tweets and comments are a huge encouragement and motivation for me to write!

I like the idea of brewing a story - like coffee! Because I am both, coffee- and literature-addicted, and I also know that the taste of coffee changes, depending on the time of day you brew it, of the place and even country where you do it. (May[be] it depends on the water ...) Think about Greek mokka or Turkish coffee! What I am thinking about: When I change the place, live somewhere else, will I brew another writing style?

Bethany Says:

Friederike, that is SO true! I know that when I write, the setting that I am in, my daily routine, my experiences each day, the people I am with, etc, will inevitably influence the tone in which I write something and what I am willing to write about.

For example, when I was traveling in Europe for 3 months, my writing was nonstop. More than that, the subjects I wrote about changed. How I wrote about myself and the world changed. How I viewed the home I returned to changed. (Not to mention my preferences in coffee!)

And now, I've found that having my own space - my own office, and my new apartment - has had a surprising influence on my writing habits. I write more, I write freely, I'm less discouraged then I was before.

Last night I was working on a piece, and when I got to that point where I wasn't articulating accurately anymore, I was actually able to stop and say to myself, "Come back to it later, and you'll have the words you need to finish it."

That is quite possibly the first time I've ever had the self control to do that. At least when it comes to my personal work.

This is why I have a hard time agreeing with critics who claim that a writer's personal life doesn't have an influence on their work. We may never know for sure the extent to which a writer's personal life flavored their writing, but you can taste the difference from one writer to the next.

That's part of what makes writing so incredibly important : CONTEXT. History, culture, personality, experiences. It's what makes it taste and feel so right. It's what keeps us coming back for more. Fiction or non, there is an underlying context to the written word. One sip will give you a taste of the rich soil that it was grown in. The toil or tender care that went into harvesting it. The journey that turned a seed into a good story. And it's addicting, just like any good brew. 

This is also why I find it so important to remove myself from distractions - television, music, company - when I'm writing. You have to be able to hear your own thoughts and discern whether it was you or something else that has tainted or flavored them.

Thanks again Friederike, for that intriguing comment! I will now go back to sipping my morning coffee and get to work.

You can find Friederike's blog here, though some of you might need to brush up on your Deutsch. :) 


Monday Morning Brew.

Oh Monday. My office is empty while everyone recovers from a high-activity work weekend that I was not obligated to be a part of. I'm eating dry cereal and drinking Folgers that I made myself.

And I'm pondering this constant mystery: my husband always brews the coffee better than I do. Even Folgers. I'm gulping mine down, hoping that when I get to the bottom of the cup I will get to the bottom of what it is I am doing wrong to make it taste like... salty dirt in lukewarm water with nutty undertones. And hopefully I'll be able to extract what little caffeine is actually in this brew. I never seem to wind up getting the buzz I would get from a cup of good ole Starbucks. [Or is that just what my addiction is telling me?]

I'm also pondering - still - what I am supposed to write for my meeting with my writing partner this week. Bring something old that we're proud of, and something new that we've been working on... The only thing I've written outside of work in the last year is my journal and my blog. Good practice, but I want whatever we work on to be a venture into new territory. I want to work towards writing something that someone else will be willing to publish.

My ideal job: to be a writer for a newspaper or magazine. 

So the constant question is: what do I have to contribute? What do I have to say that matters? How do I brew a good story?

I read others' pieces, and read my own. And I'm still trying to figure out what elements I am missing. What is it about my work that makes me feel... bland when I want it to be bold, sweet, refreshing?
I guess I'll have to write, edit, submit, repeat until I figure out how to infuse my thoughts and words together for the right story.


What Am I Doing Here?

Last night my best friend and I sat down for our usual movie & wine night. Our flick for the evening: "Definitely Maybe." I will never get sick of that movie. It's full of wit, charm, and kernels of truth found in unexpected moments. I can identify with Ryan Reynold's character, especially in the early stages of the film when he's the toilet paper gopher for his job. I'll admit I'm a notch up from that, but the moments when he becomes completely frustrated and shouts in the middle of the office: "WHAT AM I DOING HERE?" is something I have felt like doing on more than one occasion.

It got me thinking. This isn't my question alone; it's everyone's question. At this moment in time, I think it's something my peers are weighted down with especially. With our economy in the crap-hole and an enormous amount of debt to deal with after gaining that top-notch education that was supposed to catapult us into our ideal jobs, we're starting to look for our own "bootstraps" to pull ourselves out of the mess. We're realizing we have to get creative and we have to be relentless and we have to fight harder than we ever thought.

In my previous posts, I've been writing about how weighted down I feel with the desperate desire to make the right choices and avoid mistakes at all costs. And when I'm not writing here, I am wondering what I should be writing about and what I will do that will make a difference.

As Mario so aptly put it in his comment on "The Market of Decision-Making" post, we can't allow ourselves to be frozen, to be victims of "paralysis by analysis."

I have writer friends, designer friends, architecture friends, psychology friends, musician friends, photographer friends. I have friends that are in the fields of marketing, business, information technology. I have friends that are involved in ministry and social justice. And we're all searching for our purpose, our path to making our life and our work a positive influence in this world.

So I think that my goal with this blog, aside from building a compendium of my writing and personal experiences, is to share and contribute to the collective experience of learning what it takes to make it for my generation.

My new assignment: once each week I will post about someone else's blog, website, or business for you to follow and enjoy. I may write a short post with a link, or I will allow them to do a guest post.

One of our "bootstraps" is networking. Blogging and other social media are making it easier to cultivate good business connections, partnerships, and support systems. I want to support people who are trying to make it happen for themselves. We could all use a hand. So let's network. Let's support. Let's figure out what we're doing here.

[If you'd like to submit a guest post, please email me at : shewritesandrights@gmail.com]


The Not-So-Secret Secret

I have a secret... I have a writing accountability partner. It's a "secret" because whenever I think about it, it's like my thoughts are whispering. It's like, if I let my subconscious know, then it'll suck my newly-inspired well of motivation dry and then I'll suddenly be aware of how crazy this sounds and I won't do it. The reason for this, I think, is because my natural instinct is to hide everything I write. If I let others see it and I actually put it out there, then bad things will happen. People will dislike what I read. People will tell me that I suck. And then, I will lose the one thing I feel like I am able to do. It will confirm my worst fear: that I am not good at what I love. This crazy cycle of fear that I am just now beginning to realize that EVERY writer experiences has, in fact, been the grim reaper of my writing efforts. And this realization is what has brought me to this very decision: if I don't have an accountability partner, then my fears will kill my confidence in what I am supposed to be doing, which is writing.

Writing is a very personal and vulnerable act. Many people live their lives without ever indulging in it. Some people simply are no good at it. The thing about writing is that at its core, it is an act of confession, an act of admitting your innermost thoughts on all manner of subjects. And if what you write is not something that others agree with or at least understand, then you feel like they're disagreeing with and misunderstanding who YOU are, at YOUR core.

I've existed behind a façade of realism - I tell myself that I'm just trying to admit that I'm not the greatest writer and that I know I'm not an expert on what I'm writing about. I mean, if I'm not an expert at anything, then what direction do I have to go in?
But actually, that mindset has just been a rationalization for my fear that I'm not good enough.

So my friend and I have made a decision to help each other move forward with our writing. Instead of hm-ing and haw-ing at what should we write and doubting whether our opinion matters or whether we're making sense, we're going to write and meet and discuss and edit and encourage and TRY.

So our assignment for this coming week is:

1) Bring something to share that you have written that you are proud of.
2) Bring something new that you are working on.

Something to boost our confidence, and something to work towards... This might just work.

So my question for you, dear readers, is: What is your best writing motivator? Or if you're not a writer, what is your best creative motivator? How do you make yourself do the thing you think you cannot do?


The Market of Decision-Making.

We're getting settled into our apartment, and I am thoroughly enjoying the routine of a full time job. And yet. There are still so many things that I wonder about and so many things that I didn't realize I needed to learn.

Grocery shopping, for example. Didn't think that something I felt was so routine in my family of five would be so hard to do for just myself and my spouse when I 'grew up.'

Of all the things that I watched my mom do, I always remember watching her stroll confidently through the store, snatching up the things our family needed to thrive. Vegetables, meat, cereal, bread, juice, milk, ice cream...

Now, I find myself wandering through the store trying to make a million different decisions while balancing all of the things we're concerned about: our budget, our health, smart consumerism, our tastes. My husband and I, although we both share a love for food and healthy appetites, have differing opinions on which issue carries the most weight with our choices.

What constitutes "healthy?" Read the FDA requirements for labeling a product as "all natural" versus "organic" and you'll see what I mean.

We want to buy fair trade, organic, eco-friendly, budget-safe products. But how smart can we really be as consumers? [I've gone more than 12 weeks without purchasing BP, but are we setting up another company for an epic failure down the road?] Maybe trying to do it all isn't possible.

I realize now that despite how carefully our parents and their parents tried to protect our well-being, they still learned the hard way that our food, our toys, our education, our energy sources, our transportation, our economy, our government - all have been tainted by one thing or another. None are as sustainable as we had hoped.

When I'm grocery shopping, I feel the profound weight of deciding more than just what we'll be eating for dinner. We are deciding what kind of lives we'll be leading. We are deciding what kind of economy we can sustain. We are deciding who is in charge of our resources. We are deciding whether the health of the world is worth investing in. That's a hard decision to make.


Moving Forward

June was a month of many changes. Despite the iTunes debacle, which has yet to be resolved and did yet more damage AFTER my last post, the hubs and I were able to move into an apartment and out of my in-laws place. And the peasants rejoiced! Just kidding. There was much rejoicing, by all involved. I am thankful for the love, support, and heavy lifting everyone did as we made this transition. We are truly blessed with amazing friends and family.

At the same time that I was moving into a new apartment, I got to move into a new office! That's right: all in one month, I started full-time in the position I've been working for a year and a half, I moved to a new apartment with my hubs, and I got my own office. It doesn't get much better than that, but it wasn't an easy month, that's for sure.

I - once again - feel moved by revelations, by an increasing awareness of many different truths, but mostly:

1. "Life is what happens when you're making other plans," Lennon so wisely noted. June was supposed to be our month to save a nice little nest egg before we moved in. The iTunes thing happened at the worst possible moment, making our saving plans impossible. But we survived it. And these unpredictable experiences are a fact of life. So how will we deal with it?
Mario's comment in my previous post is very true: while it's great that Matt and I were able to support each other through a crazy experience, it does highlight our insecurities about money, which can (and does) cripple our ability to make wise financial decisions. It's time to reevaluate our attitudes and how they can affect our future finances.

2. I have no other way to articulate it than this: God's fidelity. If you're not religious or you don't have faith in Christ, please hear me out. 

This is what I've experienced: His provision in all circumstances. 

It's not coincidence; it's too perfect for that. It's not my own doing; I'm not smart enough or strong enough to make these things happen. I just know that whenever I think 'Well, this is the end of the rope - we have no money, no way to make it, etc..." that's when something completely miraculous happens. And it's not what I expect or want to happen; it's a door that opens that I didn't know existed. And it's faithful - unending, never failing, even when I'm sure I don't deserve it.

It isn't blowing out a birthday candle and getting every present you hoped for. It's an unforeseen intersection of what you later realize you needed and what you could not imagine was possible. It's not finding the answer to the mystery; it's learning to be content with it. It's not wearing rose-colored glasses; it's removing tainted perspectives to see what's really there.

Opportunities come along, for us to give and to receive and to move forward, when we thought we were on the wrong side of a brick wall. We may not understand these circumstances for a long time, but choosing to see life for the short, unpredictable, sacred miracle that it is makes it easier to see the truth, in my experience.