This is the poem I have been memorizing the last several weeks. My challenge was to memorize one great poem a week. But, I keep forgetting and end up spending several weeks one. I’ll admit it, Shakespeare is so hard to understand, that I typically stay away from the great bard. But I learned long ago, that the way to understand him, is to find the paraphrase and then plug it plug it back into the original text. And, then I understand why people are so in love in with Shakespeare. His poetry is exquisite that way.
This one is about being in love, and how when two people are in love, nothing can stop them. And true love, withstands the test of time, crisis, and even infidelity. According to Shakespeare, you can never truly fall out of love, I guess.
So here it is, Sonnet 116, and its paraphrase below. Enjoy.
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved
Let me not declare any reasons why two
True-minded people should not be married. Love
is not love
Which changes when it finds a change in circumstances,
Or bends from its firm stand even when a love is
Oh no! It is a lighthouse
That sees storms but is never shaken
Love is the guiding north star to every lost ship,
Whose value cannot be calculated, although its
altitude can be measured
Love is not at the mercy of Time, though physical beauty
Comes within the compass of his sickle
Love does not alter with hours and weeks,
But rather, it endures until the last day of life
If I am proved wrong about these thoughts on love
Then I recant all that I have written, and no man
has ever truly loved
Writers, like all artists, have an intense, fiery, love-hate relationship to our art. We love it. We crave it. We don’t want to really do anything else. We would give up everything for it. Yet, when it comes to actually doing it, we want to do anything but sit down in that chair. Our office suddenly seems to be a torture chamber. Please, please don’t make me do it, we say. Anything but writing. For those days, there is the writer’s best friend—procrastination. We can get quite creative with our procrastination attempts. Let’s face it, sometimes, this is what our work day really looks like.
1. Start by cleaning your keyboard with a Q-Tip dipped in rubbing alcohol. Tell yourself a clean desk is a clean mind.
2. Decide you need one of those compressed air can keyboard cleaner things, and browse several online office supply stores for them.
3. Add several to your cart. Buy none of them.
4. Instead buy a ceramic elephant to put on your desk to remind you of that quote, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at time.” It will arrive from Hong Kong in 8-12 weeks.
5. Eat lunch.
6. Browse all your online writing communities, checking in on your worldwide colleagues.
7. Feel a little smug that you are more successful than many of them, and answer someone’s request for advice with a reply that is so long and involved, it’s about half a chapter of a writing textbook.
8. Edit it six times.
9. Ponder teaching writing classes for extra money.
10. Browse homeschool communities to see if they have any openings for a part-time creative writing teacher.
11. Abandon the idea when you notice they would only pay $50 a class anyway.
12. Read a book by your favorite author so that you can mimic their voice for this piece you need to write today.
13. Cry or go into drunken depression that they are a wildly successful author and you are not.
14. Go to the gym to work off your funk.
15. While at the gym, come up with five really great ideas.
16. Rethink them in the locker room.
17. Arrive home to your quiet and empty house and feel nauseated at the very sight of your computer.
18. Decide you don’t “have it” today and take the rest of the day off.
19. Wake up bright eyed and bushy tailed and browse Pinterest for inspirational/motivational memes.
20. Download them to your computer, and then perfect them in PhotoShop.
21. Set them as wallpaper on all your devices.
22. Print out the rest of them, and come up with a really great collage/mixed media/framed art project for display in your office.
23. Go to the craft store for supplies.
24. While you are out, stop at three different places for the compressed air thing. Buy none of them.
25. Call a friend for lunch only to find out they are busy.
26. Eat lunch alone, feeling rejected and abandoned. Wonder why everyone else is so busy. What is this epidemic of busy-ness?
27. Sit in your darkened office and tap into your feelings of isolation and abandonment so that you can articulate them properly for future use in a piece.
28. Spend the next four hours writing a piece about an astronaut who gets stranded on a planet and dies alone.
29. Realize it’s starting to sound like a movie you saw, and browse for clips of that movie to see how much of it you subconsciously plagiarized.
30. Get interested in the movie again, and see if you can find a place to watch it online.
31. Feel guilty when you find that since it’s not on Netflix, you’re considering watching it on pirated sites.
32. Send up more pleas for forgiveness than there are sheep in New Zealand so that Art Piracy Karma might not come down upon you.
33. Shut down for the day, feeling somewhat productive, but still wondering if you will ever be able to do anything with that piece.
34. Awake the next morning by a phone call from your editor.
35. Groan and let it go to voicemail, swearing you will just do better today, and that there is no way in hell you are subjecting yourself to whatever is in that voicemail.
36. Jump out of bed, get dressed and start the day with determined energy.
37. Write NO MORE PROCRASTINATING on the bathroom mirror.
38. Underline it.
40. Decide that the house is just too comfortable, you need to get out of it to get some work done.
41. Spend twenty minutes packing your computer bag for the coffee shop.
42. This includes six minutes on the mobile app checking your rewards points, seeing if you have any coupons, trying to figure out how to use the Order Ahead feature, changing your mind when you decide it’s not worth the hassle, and then checking in on your banking app and swearing not to spend more money.
43. Arrive at the coffee shop, order and use the restroom.
44. Notice the coffee shop has gender-neutralized their bathrooms and wonder if you should do a piece on that.
45. Spend ten minutes sitting on the toilet staring off, while you write a piece in your head about gender fluidity.
46. Snap out of it only when someone knocks on the door.
47. Set up a table with all your supplies and drink arranged just so.
48. Spend ten minutes on Spotify getting a writing playlist together.
49. Check to find out when your free trial of Premium ends.
50. Decide you need a snack. Order a piece of coffee cake.
51. Open your e-mails to find a no-subject message from your editor.
52. Open it to find it simply reads, “????!!!!!”
53. Swear loudly causing everyone in the coffee shop to stare.
54. Apologize and briefly consider writing a piece on what constitutes vulgarity. I mean, seriously, who decided what the swear words were?
55. Banish the thought and dash off an apologetic and excuse-ridden reply to your editor, asking for a deadline extension.
56. Cover your bases and send a text as well.
57. Receive begrudging permission.
58. Open the draft and spend twenty minutes actually writing.
59. Reread it and decide it sucks, and re-evaluate your choice of profession. Maybe you should just give it up and get a basic nine-to-five.
60. Browse Craigslist job ads for a total of two and a half minutes, and let the idea of spending the rest of your professional life in a cubicle scare you straight.
61. Spend an hour doing online research on your article topic to get a better angle.
62. Remember that an old friend used to have a lot of experience on the topic. Decide that maybe you should interview her.
63. Browse her Facebook profile to make sure she is still involved in that field. Catch up on her kids and watch three videos of her two-year-old waving arms and growling, “I’m a monster.”
64. Spend 20 minutes crafting a Facebook message asking for an interview, with just the perfect blend of wittiness, professionalism and friendliness.
65. Send it, and then reread it at least ten times, still questioning whether you said it just right.
66. Take a photo of your table that makes you look really productive…open laptop with multiple open windows, coffee cup, half eaten food, maybe a notebook and pen, and a computer bag resting on a chair….post it to Facebook. Caption it with something witty and use a lot of hashtags to make people think you are a busy, sophisticated writer out there making it happen for you. Tag the coffee shop, hoping the owner might give you a free drink.
67. Read a blog post you wrote last week and edit it three times.
68. Reread that Facebook message and wish you could take it back because you’re not sure if that one sentence was clear enough.
69. Contemplate sending a clarification message, and draft it, but decide not to send it because it makes you look desperate.
70. Eat lunch.
71. After lunch, go to the mall for a “brain break.”
72. Walk around aimlessly, finally ending up at Barnes and Noble.
73. Notice that the Barnes and Noble Writer’s Group meeting is in session.
74. Use your writing skills to make yourself sound way more accomplished than you really are, admitting that you are a “professional in the field.”
75. Get asked three times for your business card, and receive two “unfinished,” manuscripts for critique, weighing five pounds each.
76. Leave while your head will still fit through the door.
77. Stop at the grocery store for dinner, and walk around aimlessly before finally admitting, “Who am I kidding?! ME, cook?!”
78. Buy three squashes and go home wondering if that was the proper way to pluralize squash.
79. Unpack your computer and tidy up your office. A clean desk is a clean mind, you recite.
80. Remember what you wrote on the bathroom mirror and rightly ascertain you are definitely procrastinating.
81. Sit down at your desk, and boot up your computer.
82. Find the manuscripts from the writing group and get a headache while skimming the first paragraph—an elaborate and intricate fantasy battle scene in single spaced type.
83. Move to the second one that opens with a very intense and graphic child molestation scene, where an over-the-top tone clearly indicates the writer is drawing on personal experience.
84. Write a blog post on how to properly handle trauma in your writing without making your reader feel like they have mistakenly stumbled into your therapy session.
85. Post it on that writing advice site that you guest blog for now and then.
86. Check to see if they have changed their policy about not paying their contributors. They haven’t, and you are actually a little relieved because it gives you an excuse to write for them without spending too much time on their pieces. You get what you pay for.
87. Ignore the irony that that was the only real writing you’ve done in three days.
88. Reread that earlier Facebook message, allegedly to see if it was marked “Seen.” It hasn’t, and upon closer inspection, decide that the one sentence was clear enough after all.
89. Go back to astronaut piece from yesterday and roll your eyes at how whiny you sounded, feeling relieved that no one ever saw it.
90. Get e-mail notifications that you’re getting “Likes” on your trauma writing blog post.
91. Go back and reread the post, trying to see it from the eyes of perfect strangers.
92. Realize that it is the end of the business day and you have barely touched your “real work.” But you did buy three extra days, so you’re good.
93. Spend the evening Netflixing over Chinese delivery, while admiring the pure talent of the scriptwriters on Arrested Development. If only you could get it together….
94. Cut the crap, switch off the TV and make a pot of coffee.
95. Stay up all night writing a KICK BUTT piece for your editor, remembering the entire time why you love writing.
96. Dash it off to your editor somewhere around four AM.
97. Wake up somewhere around nine by a ping on your phone.
98. Groggily check it to find an e-mail from your editor. The piece was genius, and can you possibly do five more pieces? 99. Feel like a rockstar, roll over and sleep until noon.
So, this week I have been shopping for a car, after Hurricane Harvey ate my shiny, pretty Altima last fall.
Everyone always asks me if I got some of the government money doled out for victims of the storm. I didn’t. For one, it didn’t occur to me until much later that I could apply for assistance, so I was late to the game and much of the money had already been spent. My denial letter came with instructions on how to appeal the denial, but then I got into conversation after conversation with people who were ripping out sheetrock, shacking up with relatives, and lugging waterlogged boxes of all their earthly possessions out to the curb.
My little engine problems seemed petty, considering I waited the storm out comfortably and happily in my cozy little third story apartment. So, I took my losses from Mother Nature in stride. After all, it is not the United States government’s fault that I lost my car.
Now, I am finally able to buy another one, so I am car shopping. Car shopping for me is a bit different for me than for most people. Most people go to dealerships and talk to slick salespeople on commission, and then fork over a sizable down payment. Then tell their entire life story several times over on forms. At the end of it, they drive away in a shiny new purchase. They say this is the way car buying should be.
I’m a bit of a different breed. Car buying for me, involves what I call, “the sketchy dudes.” It’s some sort of sketchy character–of ANY race, mind you— that fixes up clunkers and sells them for about the same as a down payment. For some reason, I like things this way. Car buying for me–is quick and dirty.
It’s all done in some back parking lot somewhere, usually at night after work. Tires get kicked, the customer inspects the engine, while the car’s owner rambles about the stellar maintenance trying not to get defensive. Then the extra drivers wait around during a test drive, uncomfortably making small talk or hiding in their respective cars. Finally, money exchanges hands in an envelope and counted covertly in a backseat. And then everyone drives off, like nothing happened. To me, this is much easier. No banks. No computers. No FICO scores. No forms. Barely even a name exchange.
These guys are the same ones that when the mechanic gives you an $1100 estimate, they will fix it in their front yard for $200 (and a burger and fries).
I’ve been thinking today about the economic importance of the “sketchy dudes.” These guys are useful in the world. As long as you don’t look into their personal lives, they provide cheap cars and cheap maintenance. This is an important place in the economy. And for this, I applaud the efforts of the sketchy dudes. You are important and long may you live.
I haven’t blogged in a while. I have been so caught up in my life, working two jobs, and going crazy trying to keep up, that I haven’t had the time or focus to write. I miss writing.
Yesterday I was reading this book, called The Music Teacher. It was about this failed violinist that teaches lessons at a music store. She hangs out with the other teachers—all similarly failed musicians ,and they all sit around being cynics and exchanging anecdotes of their sad lives with their failed careers and failed marriages and what not. It was a pretty depressing book. The only thing that kept me reading was this mysterious plot line about one of their students—a teen prodigy with an odd home life that disappeared from her music lessons with no explanation.
But, anyway, one of the customers in the book remarks to the character that the store’s owner doesn’t encourage music.
“What’s wrong with that?” she replied.
The customer was flustered and explained that it would make people want to abandon their music.
She shrugged and said, “If they can do something else, they should.”
That’s how I feel about writing sometimes. If I could do something else, and not miss writing so terribly, I would. But, there will always be something drawing me back to it.
One day I hope I won’t be a broke writer anymore. Writing costs me so much. I have given up on so many other career paths to do this. I could be rich. Well, not necessarily rich, but if I had given in to other career paths years ago, I would be making really good money by now. If I had stayed on the ministry career path that I was on—I would have a very different life. But no matter what I do, no matter what opportunities come around—there is always that whining voice in my head, “But, what about my writing? I need to be able to focus on my writing.”
Right now, I don’t know if it will ever pay off. Sometimes I think it will. But, other times, I wonder if I will always one step one away from going back to some job as the “cute young thing behind the front desk.” But, my “cute young thing” days have sailed, and so then what’s left? McDonald’s?
I guess I’m in a whiny mood today. But that’s what blogs are for, I think. To whine about life, and the things that bother you. Tomorrow I will be in a much better mood, hopefully ready to slay dragons again, writing inspirational essays about self-discipline and the drive to overcome obstacles.
But I write this today, because this is all part of the artistic journey. Being an artist isn’t always about slaying dragons and celebrating success along with the mild self-correction to have more discipline. Part of being an artist is the intense lows. It’s about self-doubt and wondering if anything is going anywhere. It’s about realizing what you have given up as an artist and not being sure if it was the worth the cost.
One day, I hope I will be a famous writer and I will look back on this essay and say, “It was definitely worth it.” But I have no guarantees that this road will ever lead anywhere.
Maybe that’s all part of what makes you strong. Maybe that’s what instills the drive in you. Maybe it is what filters out the weak that couldn’t handle success anyway. I don’t know. But I have tried so hard, and given so much, that I feel like I am strong enough.
My life is a spinning compass. Out of control, seeking direction and looking for a place to land. I feel lost here, in this moment. Spiraling. looking for meaning, purpose and the voice of God somewhere. Anywhere. There a thousand pieces, images that flash in my mind, like still frames in a movie montage. And I can’t seem to put them together. They just whiz by, and I am left confused. Directionless. Spinning compass stop for just a moment, and show the way. Because I don’t know where to go from here. Because I feel so close to something real. Something beautiful. But I can’t seem to find the sure steps along the way.
When I was young, I dreamed of success as a writer. I envisioned my life as a millionaire author by the time I was 25. And, in my college mind, my thirties would be spent running a media company, based around the many screenplay adaptations of my successful novels.
Oh, and somewhere in there, I had time to marry a rock star (that passionately loved Jesus), and raise two highly artistic children that had traveled the world with us based on my husband’s tour schedule. We had houses in Europe, and would bounce back and forth between countries as our demanding schedules permitted.
But, the problem was, I couldn’t even get my college term papers done on time. It didn’t occur to me then, that the two were related. So, as my twenties passed by, through tedious work, blood, sweat and tears pouring into a stop and start writing/receptionist/retail career, I didn’t understand.
Why wasn’t God giving me all the things He had promised me? Obviously, I knew that some of my dreams were just playful fantasy. But, the gist of those dreams, were so powerful in my heart, that I knew it was part of God’s plan for me.
It all hit me today. Today, I applied for this writing job. It would be making a lot more money than I’ve ever made, and would be a lot of work, but nothing I haven’t done before. And, I realized, everything I had worked for, was coming together in some way. Now, this job is hardly “the dream.” It’s just one more train car on the track to success. But, as I thought about the work it would require, I realized, I could completely handle this job–now.
If I had been given the same opportunity a decade ago, or even a few years ago, I would have floundered. I would have not had the self-discipline, or the organization, or have some of the practical job skills that would have made the job work. I had the raw talent, that had been pruned by some formal training, but those were not enough to allow me to succeed at this job.
And suddenly, so many of the questions of my life began to make sense. There is wisdom in that phrase, “working up to it.” God doesn’t give us success until we are ready to handle it.
So, that’s my question to you–can you handle success? If you were given the keys to everything you wanted, could you handle it? Or would you flounder? I don’t know. It’s an interesting question. My own answer isn’t a resounding, “yes.” Success comes in levels. I could handle some levels of what I am after, but if I were to put myself at the pinnacle of my own definition of success, I would have to say “no.” And God, in his infinite mercy, knew it all along, and all of these years, has kept me from falling flat on my tail.