Category: From the Writing Desk


The Light at the Writing DeskA teacher friend of mine just retired, which got me to thinking about how the very best teachers are always teaching, always ready to explain, help, and lift up. My friend, though now retired, is that kind of teacher.

And it got me to thinking that writing, like teaching, is a way of life kind of job, one of those jobs that says a lot about who you are because it’s a part of you and the way you approach the world.

I imagined, for a moment, about writer retirement, though I don’t think there is such a thing. Sure, you can leave a writing job, and some simply “stop” writing. But I don’t think you retire from the craft. The light at the writing desk is always on.

A life in writing is a lot like being a student, who, at times struggles with the material, yet always strives for the A. When you truly want a good grade, you put in the time, studying and doing your homework, to the point that even when the homework is done, you think about the class, think about the material, and review it all in your head. And even as you eat dinner or go to the movies, your mind is working through the puzzles. In the back of all your thoughts there it is, unable to be let go. For that kind of all-encompassing work, your heart has to be in it.

No one wants to be defined by what they do unless they love it. And most jobs manage to trickle their way into your non-working life, one way or another. Life is too short to work a job you hate. Work, without passion, is just a place to collect paychecks.

So strive for the love. Strive for your way of life that doesn’t turn off when you exit the classroom or punch out for the day, or even when you retire. The light in your mind is always on.

~
Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler. To learn more about her current writing projects, or for ways to donate toward their completion, see JodyBrown.com/writing.

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When in doubt buy the artI attended an Author Event at a local library this week. Twelve local authors represented their books, and all twelve have the same publisher (not mine), so I was on the other side of the table for this one. I entered the cramped room and took a chair in the back of the audience. As the authors stood up and talked about their books and why they wrote them, I sat back, happy to relax and listen–and a bit grateful that I didn’t have to stand up and speak for a change.

One author, Chip Bell, I had read about in the newspaper and felt a little familiar with his work before I arrived, stood up and described the feeling when his first book went number one on Amazon downloads for 70+ hours. Of all the authors and all their stories, some funny and some very, very poignant, Mr. Bell’s story of the 70+ hours is what made me tear up. Others around me nodded and smiled at Mr. Bell’s accomplishment in a good for you way, and I nearly jumped out of my chair and shouted, “That is so hard to do!! Your first book? That’s amazing!”

Somehow I managed to stay in my seat and not make a scene. But it took effort. And when they all had finished speaking and the Q&A had ended, they opened the floor for audience members to purchase books and have the authors sign them. At this, I did not hold back.

At events like these, often you can pay less than the retail price for books, and the authors are happy to sign and personalize them for you. I gathered a stack of books, some for myself and some as gifts, and carried them from author to author to have them all signed.

When buying books from authors, like art from craft shows and music from someone playing at a restaurant, you not only give a nod to a local artist that you enjoy their work, you also start to ensure that the artist has the funds to keep practicing and keep producing more art. To someone pouring heart and soul into work without the [for better or worse] benefit or security of an employer, these purchases are not only encouragement but a lifeline.

This gift-giving season and always, remember that art is a gift that keeps on giving.

~
Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler. To learn more about her current writing projects, or for ways to donate toward their completion, see JodyBrown.com/writing.

Quarters on Ice

Quarters on IceI’m typically quiet in a crowd, not often interjecting my opinion and preferring instead to stand back and listen. But if specifically asked what I know, I’ll tell you. And I’ll be quick to site the sources, too, because nothing makes me crazier than hearing someone speak with authority on something that they really don’t know.

I recently overheard a young girl tell her father about someone else’s injury, “The doctor says the swelling could go down as early as tomorrow. But I highly doubt that.” Maybe it was her eye roll that did it for me, because as her father simply nodded, I thought, “Why do you doubt that, and especially highly? Do you know more than the doctor, or know something the doctor doesn’t?”

And then there’s this: fingerprints on glass. It boggles the mind how others don’t see these things in their nightmares. Seeing smudges on windows sends me running for the Windex.

And, the good citer that I am, I know exactly where I picked up these aversions. I worked in financial services for years, and my employer then would daily tout the importance of knowing the facts. “Get it in writing,” he’d say about any rules and stipulations for moving money around, so that we could avoid making any mistakes that would cost the client money or a loss in benefits. We made no assumptions. Unknown answers were to be clearly stated, “I don’t know. But I’ll find out.” No decision was ever based on a mere, “I think so.” It stuck with me.

And as for the glass, well, that I got from my mother. My sister and I were never allowed to touch glass growing up, and if any handprints appeared by magic (and they always appeared by magic), we went running for the Windex to clean it up before Mom saw it. It was only a few years ago that I realized that handprints on glass don’t bother me. What bothers me is that my mom will see them. But the handprints themselves? Big deal.

The poet John Donne wrote in his Meditation XVII, “No man is an island…” Such interconnection means we won’t get through life completely unaffected by one another. There’s no need, even, to brace ourselves for the coming wave. Even the hardest block of ice on the coldest day of the year will bear the impression of what touches it.

~
Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler. To learn more about her current writing projects, or for ways to donate toward their completion, see JodyBrown.com/writing.

The Needful Places

The Needful PlacesIt’s snowing outside here and the temperature is dropping. I’m sipping a cup of black coffee and simultaneously a cup of English tea with cream and sugar. I’m writing holiday scenes today, filling myself with these warm beverages and thinking pleasant thoughts, the way you can before the real hustle of the season sweeps you up. I take small breaks here and there to watch the snow change directions on the wind.

It’s the kind of day that makes me wonder why I don’t take the time to do this every day, think happy and glowing thoughts and turn them into my work. Having written that last line, I realize that that’s pretty much what I do every day, I’m just not always conscious of the serenity when I’m in the middle of it. Usually it hits me later that I’m happy with my day’s work. Sometimes that’s in the afternoon, and sometimes that’s at midnight. The trick is to feel it as it’s happening and allow it to extend its reach into life’s needful places, filling them as it goes.

Perhaps it’s a strange analogy, or the food I can smell cooking in the other room, but I just keep thinking about the time I tried to savor dinner when I was a kid. It only happened once, because I learned my lesson. I had a choice bite on my plate, and I ate all the other things around it, saving that best morsel for last. I even suffered through a side dish I didn’t want, all the while thinking about how good that last bite would be, and when I finally got to it of course I was stuffed. Those of you who know me know I would never walk away from something delectable like that: I ate it anyway. But instead of enjoying it, it became nearly as difficult to eat as the lousy side dish I’d forced down. I’d savored and withheld into ruination, and I learned then and there the importance of allowing enjoyment to happen in the moment.

And while those needful places never quite disappear entirely, the moment’s abundance does wonders to keep them placated.

~
Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler. To learn more about her current writing projects, or for ways to donate toward their completion, see JodyBrown.com/writing.

Daisy Images

Daisy ImagesThis morning I hopped online to start my day and found last night’s Google search for daisy images still on my screen (the great daisy vs. chrysanthemum debate late yesterday needed to be solved with visual aids).

First thing this morning those little flower faces, all sunshiny and silly, and staring at me, caught my sleepy self off guard. On second glance, I saw that some seemed to be ogling the camera in clusters, vying for attention, and others looked as if they were doing bobble dances wind and I had a great and hearty laugh and a moment of gratitude for nonstop imagination before getting down to business.

I’m telling you, jumpstart the happy in your day by leaving yourself daisy images.

Start the day’s work by handing the keys over to imagination, seeing where it takes you, and thanking it for the ride. Wake up to your next great journey.

~My first book, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon. I’m working on the second.

Mystery Picture

“A picture is worth 10,000 words.”

Fred Barnard, ad writer

Mystery Picture postI took this picture, but I don’t remember taking it. I was on a hike with friends and this photo found its way into my camera.

It was quite the hike, straight up a mountainside, along the ridge overlooking the Mediterranean, and straight back down again. I remember the pictures taken along the way, but not this one. My friends and I didn’t take breaks or exchange items that we carried during the hike. I’m sure I took the picture, (and I’m sure I know what I was thinking at the time), but I have no real memory of taking it. My friends, likewise, had no similar pictures in their caches.

Because of the mystery of this picture and my consistent thoughts about it, I printed it and hung it up in my office so I could see it daily. My consistent thoughts? Well, every time I see it, I think the same thing: Pirates.

Not the murderous, international incident qualities of pirates, but the swashbuckling, wooden-boat-launching, hide-the-jewels side of pirates. Goonies pirates. Adventure pirates. Peg-leg and parrot-on-the-shoulder pirates.

I look at this picture, and I instantly think, “Now, that’s a place where someone would hide something valuable.”

I’m sure that’s why I took the mystery picture in the first place, because when such a setting before you can bring up stories and images of pirates hiding a treasure, one that perhaps I would find, I wanted to capture it, the story, I mean. And I have found that every time I sit at my writing desk and look up to see this photo, the stories and images come to mind.

If a picture can do that, then the least I can do is watch and listen and write them down.

~
Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler. Her current writing projects, including her daily blog endeavor, #Project365, can be found at JodyBrown.com/writing

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