Saturday, August 16, 2014

Moving On

I am on my way somewhere. I think I have an idea of the destination but really I'm unsure.

I'm the type that likes to hold onto things. As a nostalgic person, I'm very resistant to throwing things out. I hold on to old letters, redundant email addresses and ancient digital files. Those should be the easy things to trash but they aren't. Then there are the larger items, clothing, shoes, coats and books. You don't even want to know the age of my collection.

This morning I had a novel idea. I decided to pack things up and give most of them away. The nicer things I'd put on consignment. "Where's all that stuff going?" My husband asked as I carried bag after bag out the front door. "Away," I said, feeling as though my stuff had found a different place to live and was moving out.

When I reached the 25 pound weight-loss milestone I had what I thought was a clever idea. I began packing away clothing that was too big for me in chests and bins. Awaiting my attention was my clothing also packed away from leaner times. I admit now however that my efforts were lightweight at thinning out and packing away my clothes that were too big. Moreover, for what or for whom was I packing this stuff away so neatly? It took months to figure out the purpose.

I'm not a hoarder, still, since the "Hoarding: Buried Alive" TLC show is on the air, I had to check it out a few times just to make sure. I'm fond of my clothing. I carefully select each item in my wardrobe. Sometimes I'd saved up to purchase what I liked. Other times I'd go to thrift or consignment shops. Still other pieces were gifts. As I opened the door to the closet, I saw a lot of different elements of my life collected from over the past 20 years. I saw gifts from my mother, who has passed on. I thought, this is what I wore to that important job interview a couple of years ago. Oh, and that dress was for transitioning from pregnancy to post-partum. This outfit was for my son's graduation and so it went as I worked my way through the closet.

So, my closet isn't all the way here yet. There are somethings I'm still
clinging on to. Gradually I'll get here.

What sparked this movement, you may be wondering?

Why shopping of course. This time it was unplanned. I was out with a friend, set to have lunch but the restaurant we were going to was closed. So we went to the nearby consignment store. 

Now, I've told you I'm nostalgic. This store was the perfect place for me. In it were all sorts of designer vintage clothing from the 50's and 60's. Instantly I was transported, to a time I mainly know about through my parents. I was very happy to be in that space. Low and behold I found the perfect outfit for the wedding I'm going to at the end of the month. A sheath--by Calvin Klein--in a watercolor print. In no time at all I had coordinated it with a vintage purse, bracelet and necklace.

The shocking part for me, wasn't just what I'd done. You see, I'm not exactly what you'd call a fashionista. No, it wasn't the savvy part of putting it all together. It was that I could actually fit the dress. Somehow I had gone from a size 22 to a size 8!

I guess you can see now, why this woman who holds on to things for dear life knew that it was time to let go. Time for the big transition and to embrace mindfulness not just in meditation and yoga but in my closet.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Dans le Jardin

Magick and great ashe stems from engagement with plants. Over the years I've come to regard them as a reservoir of healing, font of wisdom and source of creativity. Healing with plants is an important facet of holistic health. Herbs are quite capable of gracing the mind, body and spirit with age-old energetic insights that lead to wellness.

I've written a good handful, maybe more, of posts about gardening. Gardening as a pastime, a pleasure, a metaphor and a space for cultivating hopes and dreams.

Do you remember when I shared the post Seeding the Snow? That was in March and I was so relieved that spring was actually going to show its face after a long, hard Chicago winter. Still, winter was unrelenting so it seemed as though you'd have to plant in the snow. The snow didn't want to make an exit.

Then there was this post called Weeding, which focuses around the activity of gardening as a form of mind/body/spirit therapy. When I wrote "Weeding" I was stressed out. De-cluttering my garden through weeding, taught lessons about clearing up my life. I learned about keeping and cultivating what is meaningful and beautiful while casting out what isn't.

Meadow of Dreams was posted at the beginning of July. In it I talked once again about sowing seeds. As a gardener, I got off to a late start this year. Planting my seeds directly from packets sometime in June. "Meadow of Dreams" is about how we randomly plant seeds of all sorts never really knowing what the end result will be come harvest time. Tossing seeds is similar to spreading energy in the world. We need to be discerning but not necessarily reserved,if we want to make a broad impact.

In June, I planted a variety of sunflower seeds and tossed wildflower seeds about. I had spent about 10 days prior to that digging and double digging the earth, to condition the soil and get rid of my prairie grass. The mystery packet was quite large and was called "heirloom wildflowers." I had no idea what that really meant or what the end result would be.

As of this weekend, this is the result of my plantings. This garden brings joy to numerous insects, birds, my dog, rabbits, squirrels, and hopefully many others who walk and drive by. It is a source inspiration for my writing, painting, drawing and journaling, as well as a great place to get some exercise, and to dream.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Blogging, Writing and Resting

(Untitled: Colored pencils on Paper by Stephanie Rose Bird)

Whew! That was a busy post I did previously called Getting the Word Out There. I wrote it as a member of IWSG for our monthly blog hop. Thanks so much to so many new people for stopping by during that event, joining this blog as members and adding me to your circles on Google+. I have been humbled by all of the new connections I've made with fellow bloggers, readers, writers, artists and people generally this past year. I am a private and quiet person. Coming out of my den and connecting with the world once again has been an inspiration.

As I was busy blog hopping last Wednesday and Thursday as a part of the support group experience, I stumbled upon a post by a fellow member Gwen Gardner called Giving it Another Try. One of the most compelling parts of her post for me was that she posed the question to us, is blogging dead?

As an artist specializing in painting, I've heard that topic discussed numerous times over the years in regards to painting. Thinking of that experience I also created a guest blog post on Blogging Authors called Is Herbalism Dead. Let's face it, I'm no longer a spring chicken so a lot of what I had grown to love is going out of favor...but surprise, it comes back--take maxi dresses and platform shoes as an example.

(Untitled: Colored Pencil on Paper by Stephanie Rose Bird)

When I started this post, I mentioned how I had retreated into my den. During that time I had little exposure to the blogs of others. I painted, wrote, reflected, and crafted with herbs, coming out to give presentations only now and then. It wasn't until this year that I really became involved with the blogging community. The 2014 Blogging from A to Z April Challenge had over 2000 bloggers sign up and participate. The IWSG currently has close to 300 bloggers engaged. If these numbers are any indication of whether or not blogging is dying out I'd say it'll be around for quite a while.

Gwen makes some really important points in her post however that brought me back to the post I wrote on the same day. The point is, at the heart of what we're doing, we are creative people. Some, like myself, are creative in several different artistic disciplines, complicating things further. I'm not sure how to describe blogging's place in my life. Sometimes I consider it a pastime, hobby, pleasure or way to purge much like journaling. It is not perfect and isn't fixed, making it pleasurable, exciting and interesting for readers and bloggers alike.

Getting back to the previous post. In some ways it was about going down way too many rabbit holes. It makes me start thinking about Alice in Wonderland. How does one get back on the right path after wondering into previously unknown, little understood worlds?

(Untitled: Colored Pencil on Paper by Stephanie Rose Bird)

Bloggers, many of which are also writers, face many challenges. One of the most significant is the question of where to place the most energy. Speaking of which, I've been heavily plugged in, unplugged entirely for a few weeks, and this week I've gone into hyper drive.

I know its not healthy to go too far in any one direction. I've done what was for me the hardest task, I looked in on my books. Saw their reviews, ratings, rankings, and my presentation of them to the world. I've updated, promoted, reached out and am pooped!

Tired...exhausted really but here I am back at blogging. I still can't really define blogging and its place in my life but for me it's here to stay. It's enjoyable and quite fun. Still, it's the weekend--thank the Goddess! I'm going to clear off my desk and busy thoughts to get some much needed rest.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Getting the Word out There

It's no big secret. I'm not fond of critiques. Last April I wrote a post called Critique Anxiety. This was about presenting an excerpt from my manuscript for a workshop. That was the same manuscript that I almost gave up on and wrote yet another post about my loathing of rejection called Query Burn Out. While it seemed to me that I was bathing in rejections, eventually I got a publishing deal for my debut work of fiction.

Now that the book will be published I have gone about setting up a blog tour or even hiring a publicist. I reached out to a publicist and unexpectedly she critiqued my online presence. Signing up for a critique or asking for one through your actions, such as submitting work for review, is one thing. When they come out of the blue, it's quite another.

Unbeknownst to me, the publicity firm combed through my social media. Then they reported back what they thought I needed to do to make it better. This didn't come quite as a total surprise. The fiction publisher has professional readers who reviewed my author platform. Unfortunately, they too thought mine needed work. They went so far as to say I don't have much of a presence as an author in social media, though tells a different story. Thankfully, the publicist gave specific recommendations. When I hear these sorts of things I tend to go into hyper-drive. Being the perfectionist that I am as a Virgo, I go above and beyond what is suggested.

You know that I have this blog. It is here that I post about the developments around my books, and writing activities along with the numerous topics explored. So there's that. I thought I was doing a decent job on twitter too. At first I'd neglect it for months and knew nothing of hashtags. More recently I have been steadily posting, hashtags and all. In the process I've gone from 200 to over 500 followers in just a few months. I've even been included in several of the twitter-generated newspapers called paper.Li. I've always done pretty well on LinkedIn. I find it to be professional and satisfying in that way. I soon found out it is not something these social media maven types find of interest. There is also my website, which I recently revamped. Still, the parties concerned were unimpressed. Was it my lack of a public Facebook page, I had begun to wonder. Oh well. To me Facebook was for family, friends and a few associates and that was that.

Back to the recommendations specific to writers. The publicist thought I needed to amp up my activities on I knew that one had been terribly neglected. What do authors and insecure writers find there? Ratings and reviews. Ugh! Nevertheless, I went there and started adding things like photographs and upcoming events. I even updated my bio. Perhaps I was on to something.

The folks I mentioned went on to criticize my lack of a Library Thing Author Page. What the heck is Library Thing I wondered? Once I found out I created one. I guess it couldn't hurt. Then too there was the lack of a Goodreads author page. Was there no end to these "author pages" online I started to ask. Really though, I don't want to know so please don't tell me if you do. Populating and refreshing these pages started last week around this time and I'm not finished yet.

My most recent excursions have been to my publishers websites. There I found once again how I was being represented was out of date. With two books published by Llewellyn Worldwide, at least there I could kill two birds with one stone. To my amazement I found out that since the last time I'd checked, which admittedly was four years ago, these publishers now post video footage of their author's presentations and upcoming events. Surely there must be an end in sight for my online presence work but I trudged on. I contacted Red Wheel Weiser/Hampton Roads and Chicago Review Press to request certain updates and additions. Now, some of these publishers were more helpful than others. I didn't even know the correct person to contact. Whatever. I'm not going to use this space to out them.

The last thing I set out to do was create a Facebook Like Page. I have mentioned previously I didn't want to have a public page on Facebook. For the insecure writer, what could be more humiliating than starting up such a page and no one showing that they liked it. What a ridiculous notion in the first place, I sulked. Late last Friday night, I relented and started one anyway, mostly to quiet down my social media critics. To my amazement people have shown that they like what is there. Almost overnight I had 50 likes.

Granted this is one of my longer posts and I'm not typically given to doing such a thing to my readers. There may be some wisdom here for other insecure writers in IWSG and elsewhere. Staying active online, be it through contributing articles, blogging, publishing, chatting, updating existing stuff, joining groups--whatever, may well have a positive outcome. Burying your head in the sand might be comforting but it does little to get the word out about what you're doing, would like to do or have done.