Life in General, Writing

The Problem With Ideas

Lilies by Dessa Kirk in the South President’s Court
of Chicago’s Grant Park

The problem with ideas is that I have so many.

But there was a time in my life, when I was a wee baby writer, that I was afraid of my ideas. I was afraid that if I used my best ideas for a novel, the only ones I had at the time, I would never come up with more. Or the ones I did come up with in the future wouldn’t be quite as good as the first. I was afraid I would be a one book wonder, if that.

And now, I have so many ideas I barely know what to do with them.

But the problem with ideas is that they are fleeting. Unless you jump on one and ride it out immediately, it is bound to run off into the horizon, to scatter in the wind, to shift and jumble, or to flat out disappear, never returning with the same strength or brilliance it once had. Many times I have made the mistake of not harnessing my ideas immediately, sometimes because I was afraid of wasting them, and other times because I didn’t think I had the time or life experience to properly develop them. And now, those ideas don’t seem as promising as they once did.

The problem with ideas is that some ideas stifle others. The practical ideas get in the way of the creative ones, halting any promise of what could be in favor what seems to be. The problem with ideas is that the bad ones masquerade as good, whispering that you don’t have the time or energy for them right now. The problem with ideas is the good ones can be too shy to properly introduce themselves as the marvels they are, and they slip away, unnoticed, soon to be forgotten.

The problem with ideas is that, even when they are right in front of you, strong and new, shiny with promise, and you have -no, make- the time to capture them, they are scary. Even if you catch the flow of creativity and are buzzing with the possibility of what your idea may become, the fear that you may not do your idea justice, or that you idea is not good enough. At times, the fear is enough to make you halt, mid sentence, and never…

The problem with ideas is that, if not handled with care, they can become self inflicted wounds. They scab and scar, never quite healing no matter how diligently and tenderly you tend to them or how long you leave them alone. The proof of their existence is there, with only the regret of what you could have done better to keep you company until the next one arrives.

The problem with ideas is not knowing exactly what to do with them once they sprout, how to properly cultivate them. And not always recognizing when the bud of an idea is aching to bloom.

But I have an idea.

In honor of spring, which I’m hoping is right around the corner, I think it is time to stop thinking about my ideas and start doing something about them. It’s time to tend to the seeds and see if they can blossom.

Lilies by Dessa Kirk in the South President’s Court of Chicago’s Grant Park

Life in General

The More Things Change…

…the more they stay the same.

It has been nearly a year since I last posted here, and, as it was originally penned in French, “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.”

Because, if we rewound exactly a year from today, you might not notice much difference at first glance:

I was and am still trying to hit a stride with my writing, consuming so much of other people’s work and writing my professional reviews but not truly dedicating myself to my own projects. At least, not in a way that feels meaningful; let this blog’s recent history be an example of that.
I was and am still figuring out a workout routine that hit the balance between happy yoga and healthy running and strength training; a happy medium between working to get ahead and stopping to smell the roses (and snap a few Instagram worthy photos of them, too).
I was then and am still a Chicago-dwelling, happily married dog mom, very much in love with my two favorite guys and my city.
I was and am still a nervous wreck about the state of our country, doing everything in my power -from marching on the streets to having conversations with loved ones to cold calling registered voters and elected officials alike- to make a difference.

But if you linger on today and focus on the scene before you, you’ll begin to see the subtle and not-so-subtle differences:

Back then I was in an inarguably urban condo overlooking the lake and presently I am in a cottage-like, nearly-suburban home with a garage and a yard and a twenty minute commute to work (down from nearly an hour).
A year ago my hair was a newly-transformed shade of rose-gold pink and today it is very close to my natural, dirty blonde hue (with plans to go even blonder soon).
I often called my thumbs black, almost with pride, as I couldn’t even keep a succulent gifted to me alive (I over-watered it). But another gifted plant lives in my house these days: a fiddle leaf fig, the mother of all Millennial trophies, and a challenge for even the most seasoned gardener. And yet, she thrives, and encouraged me to pick up another little green friend, a corn plant, for my bedroom (and I have my eyes on a ZZ, spider, and snake plant, too!).
While I have always been a traveller, I had not yet been to the European cities of my dreams: London, Brussels, Paris, and Amsterdam (in order of my desire to visit them). Nor had they permanently shifted in what they would mean to me and how much I would want to return to them: Paris, Amsterdam, London, and Brussels, in that order. I am now what I refer to as ‘a Paris girl’ (more on that soon).

And here, this place, it’s changed a bit, too.

You might have noticed the new layout if you visit from time to time. But I am always playing with that; tinkering to make things more aesthetically pleasing, more me: learning as I grow in content and coding.

Most notably, however, is that now I have a domain of my very own.

I’d been toying with the idea of making the jump for some time, but I am a sucker for sales and so… Happy Valentine’s Day to me. Hopefully this place where I am right now becomes and remains a place that I love (and that perhaps you do, too).

Writing

Convos With Writers

When talking to anyone, especially kids, about writing, I tell them you only need to do two things to be a writer: read and write.

That’s it.

You don’t have to read any one specific thing. You don’t have to write a certain amount or with any specific frequency. Reading anything will give you experience in how your own writing should (or shouldn’t!) sound, and writing will keep you in practice of putting words down and develop your own personal style.

Just read. Just write.

When a friend and patron of a library job long, long ago invited me to not only participate in her online series #ConvosWithWriters, but be her first live interviewee at Lakes Community High School’s Writers Week, I jumped at the opportunity.

What a thrill! Wha an honor! What on earth could I tell these kids about writing when I, myself, wasn’t really a writer?

Except that I am a writer, I reminded myself. I read a ton and I write a little. And sure, my writing isn’t always toward my pie in the sky goal of becoming a published novelist, but it’s writing nonetheless. It’s out there on social media, sometimes here at this blog, often in my offline journal, and published worldwide when on assignment for my School Library Journal reviews.

It’s writing. And that’s all that matters.

It’s enough for me to consider myself one, and it’s enough for a local columnist with a feature literally about writers to count me as enough of a writer to chat about it.

So here’s your reminder (and mine, again): just read, just write, and you are a writer.

Now, get writing.

Reading

I Came. I Read. I Conquered.

As you may have known, I was on a state-wide book award committee this past year: the Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Book Award. While I wish this was the sole explanation I had for my lack of writing (both here and in general), it isn’t. But I digress.

I knew serving on a book award committee would be challenging, but I am always up for a challenge. Over the span of 7 months, I read 60 books for the award alone and did so in a careful, measured fashion so I could take notes on the aspects of each novel that worked or didn’t work within the periphery of the award. It was tough. Especially when the title was one I wouldn’t have picked up on my own. Sometimes reading something outside your comfort zone surprises you and gives you a new perspective on a topic or genre you wouldn’t have otherwise known. And sometimes it’s just uncomfortable.

But through the pleasurable and uncomfortable reading and one long meeting in Champaign, Illinois (and a nostalgic walk around my old campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), myself and a few dozen other school and public librarians, teachers, and retirees who previously worked with children, a new list of 20 titles has been picked for students to vote on next March.

Not every book I wanted on the list made it, and I didn’t want every book on the list to make it, but I am very proud and honored to have been a part of this process and to put good books into the hands of readers all across the state of Illinois (and beyond!).

And, though it was tough, I can’t wait to do it again and again.

And then, since after three years my time on the committee will be up, maybe I’ll find another committee to sit on or award to read for.

But only time will tell.

Life in General, Writing

The Art of Not Writing

This has been a difficult year to be a creative. And what is most interesting is that, in times one finds most trying, art is usually not only the best personal escape but also the best community builder when often community most needs building.

Try telling that to my fingers that cannot click away from an endlessly scrolling newsreel to the eternal chasm of a blank page and blinking cursor. Tell that to my thoughts so wrapped up in the unfathomable reality of now that I cannot bring myself to forge a less-than-perfect alternative.

I know that in any time, these are tried and true excuses for not writing, and despite my common fears and anxieties about my country’s newfound political situation, writing has happened and art has been created this year (and in other even more difficult times in history). In years past, I have learned not to give yourself an excuse to stall writing because instead of progress you will have nothing but excuses and that same empty page.

But this year, I learned that given exceptional circumstances, there is a time to give yourself space. There is room to allow yourself to just exist, to consume, to learn.

I haven’t created much tangible art in 2017, but in that space where creativity would normally dwell I was able to create something else. I have created an awareness I previously did not possess, an empathy beyond what I previously did, a new way of viewing and absorbing the world around me that would not have been possible if I hadn’t allowed myself some stillness in that space.

I’ve created the ability to achieve some sense of peace even within a tempest.

And in 2017, stillness and peace are of the essence.

So this is the art of not writing, and these are the fruits it bears. Not knowledge, but wisdom. Knowledge is understanding that idleness does not create art, but wisdom is appreciating that there are times and circumstances when mindful idleness can create something else instead.

Something bright and powerful. Something that cannot be held back. Something that will propel you forward into your next endeavor and through your next finish line.

Something to say. A story to tell.

And when you have something to say, a story to tell, you cannot help but speak.

It’s time to start talking.