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On remembering your why.

Published October 2, 2019 by mandileighbean

womanwriter

Anyone who’s been reading this blog for any length of time will know that I am
A L W A Y S open to signs from the universe. I mean, who doesn’t want validation and reassurance that she is on the right path and making the best decisions, no matter how mystical that validation may be?

I was worried about starting the school year. I knew my professional life would be challenging, but I also knew my personal life was in upheaval. I wondered if I would be lonely, if the feeling of being an outcast would follow me into the school year. Luckily (or as a sign from the universe – you decide), my colleague took it upon herself to start an initiative in the building where groups of teachers engage in fun activities together to improve school climate and to improve building morale. It’s been a success so far and I know that I feel more connected and more supported. I asked for a safety net and the universe delivered from the unlikeliest of places. If you knew this colleague a year ago, and I told you she would be the one to bring the building more together, you would have laughed in my face. It makes me so happy and proud to see her growing and neglecting the negativity so she can focus on what she wants. Thus, it seemed fitting when my group intention was “Remember Your Why.”

I’ve been struggling to “Remember My Why” for writing. I miss the writer I used to be, scribbling every second I could steal, and tirelessly inventing and transcribing scenes. But lately, my writing life has been nonexistent. I’m tired after work, but that’s no excuse. I know I need to make time for what I am most passionate about, for what I love. At home, I sit at my desk, but the words won’t come. I’m just focused on feeling tired and uninspired, which is especially frustrating since not too long ago, I was in Manhattan surrounded by brilliant Irish writers and feeling rejuvenated. I’m desperate to get back to that place, to get back to who I was in so many different facets, and I believe remembering my why is an essential part of that journey.

Earlier today, I grabbed my notebook from that conference I mentioned, and I flipped through the pages. I remembered that Professor Sarah Moore Fitzgerald had kicked off the weekend with an absolutely wonderful lecture about writing in general and the writer’s life. Part of that dealt with writer’s block, and Professor Fitzgerald emphasized that the demon of self-doubt MUST be banished! She freely admitted that process is cyclical because the demon always returns, but to remember that self-doubt is mundane and that doubts are the least interesting things about anyone because e v e r y o n e has doubts. She encouraged all of us to remind ourselves of our reasons, to be reflective, and to figure out our W H Y. So I’ve been asking myself, what’s my why? Why have I written in the past? Why do I want to keep writing?

And if the self-motivation is lacking, Professor Fitzgerald also encouraged us to find inspiration by constantly reading anything and everything – canonical literature, all sorts of poetry, all sorts of stories. Doing so is a beginning to connecting with the creative self, which is a long, contextualized, complicated, and complex process. It’s important to
S W I T C H  O F F, which I KNOW I need to start doing more of. She told us what none of us really want to hear, that there is NO SUCH THING AS MULTI-TASKING. To that end, I’m planning on starting a pretty serious garden, and I’ve researched more ways to practically embrace a more Bohemian lifestyle in this demanding, technological, modern age.

I’ve been bitter about some recent success of some writer friends of mine, and that’s so messed up. I need to remember Professor Fitzgerald’s words, that writing is collaborative and NOT competitive. It’s important that all writers share with and support one another. There’s room for everyone because I am the O N L Y person who has seen the world the way I see it. I need to tell my stories, whatever they may be, and bask in the “beauty of exuberant imperfection”!

She told us that perfect happiness is when what you’re doing and what you’re thinking about are the same thing.

Professor Fitzgerald knew what she was talking about on SO many levels. She was participating in a research project about why writers write, and she shared that ultimately, there are seven reasons why writers write:

  1. ESSENTIALITY (it’s a need, part of their identity)
  2. WORK (they’re disciplined, committed to a routine)
  3. MAGIC (writing is a kind of enchantment, gives life to dreams)
  4. LIGHT (writing brings comfort, joy, love, safety and sanity)
  5. DARKNESS (writing can safely explore madness, pain, trouble, and struggle)
  6. COMMUNICATION (writing makes sense of the world)
  7. PLAY (writing allows writers to experiment and takes risks)

As I sit here, writing this blog post, I realize I need to discover my why, my reason for writing. Then, and only then, can I really grow and feel better. I need to remember why writing is a large part of my identity.

And then, I need to get started on writing.

ca. 1900 --- Woman Reclining at Desk Next to Typewriter --- Image by © CORBIS

On trusting … and letting go.

Published October 13, 2013 by mandileighbean

This weekend, I slept and slept and slept.  I feel guilty for being so wildly unproductive, but I rationalize the guilt away by consoling myself with the fact that I’ll be supremely busy next weekend.  Still, I feel sheepish because I should be writing.  That being said, I did finish this week’s writing prompt, so that is something to be proud of.

Tuesday, October 15th, at 7:00PM at Manchester Branch of Ocean County Library is my first author event.  I am nervous and honestly terrified no one will show up and I’ll be laughed at.  That may not be a rational fear, exactly, but I’m sure it’s common for young authors.  Wish me luck.

 

WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT #4: “Let go.  You can trust me.”

lettinggo

Were Jayme ever asked how she came to be in the current position she was in, she did not believe that she would ever have an answer.  Jayme was fully convinced that life has an increasingly bizarre way of leaving one stranded, that the cosmos would arrange themselves to simply screw with unsuspecting human beings.  At this very moment, she was just such a victim as she was unable to pinpoint or adequately describe what had led her to the rooftop of an impressive building in the heart of Manhattan, cold concrete scratching at the back of her bare calves as she was backed up against the ultimate age.  The wind whipped viciously, strands of hair stinging the sensitive skin it lashed, and she was bent at an outrageously uncomfortable angle, nearly a perfect ninety degrees backwards, so that her back was not guarded by anything and would meet the sidewalk with a sickening sort of splat if (when?) she fell.  The only reason she had not met her demise via the concrete and asphalt and impact was because she was clinging in a clichéd, desperate manner to the rough and calloused hands of a man.

 

The man was not someone she knew or had even seen before.  All Jayme remembered was that she had been returning from lunch, from some trendy restaurant just a few blocks away, and had been doing her utmost to return to the office on time.  She had her elbows discreetly perpendicular to her sides, creating space among the masses to walk a clearer path and thereby proceed faster.  She had been only a door or two away from the impressive building which housed the publishing firm she worked tirelessly for when the man had stopped her.  He had a winning, charming smile and no pamphlet to hand over, which Jayme thought confirmed his credibility of being sane, normal, and rational.  Upon reflection, however, Jayme did note that his hair had been messy and askew, which should have been a sign that something was off.  And, the more she thought about it, the intense lines should have been a sign as well because although the features of his face were clearly defined with bold lines, everything inside was something sort of fuzzy because it was ever changing.  It was possibly indicative of his inability to complete a thought, or to be anything other than clinically insane.  But Jayme had not had these misgivings when it mattered, so when the man asked her why she was in such a rush, she had stopped long enough to smile and explain her lunch hour was rapidly drawing to a close and she did not want to be late.

 

His eyebrows shifted slightly to display his confusion.  “You’re rushing to get back to work?”

 

Jayme had laughed to display her own confusing at his confusion.  “It’s not that uncommon; conscientious workers often do their best not to be late.”  No longer intrigued or entertained, she made to step around him and continue on, chalking up the encounter to nothing more than a crazy New York story that happened so often, really, that crazy became a misnomer; it was normal.

 

He had stopped her with a strong and steadying hand on her arm.  It had not been a threatening gesture, but it certainly was not what she had been expecting.  She looked up at him with squinted eyes and parted lips, anxious to ask many questions.  He said, “Don’t you think you should be rushing towards something else, something worthwhile and everlasting?”

 

Jayme knew she should resist any desire whatsoever to engage him in conversation because she knew he was only spouting so much existential hoopla.  She could not help herself, though.  Maybe it was something is his eyes, dark and wild and free, or maybe it truly was what he was talking about, the opportunity to do something out of the ordinary which could be incredibly meaningful and life-altering.  So Jayme asked, “Like what?”

 

“Come with me and I’ll show you,” he said.  He took her hand in his and began to lead her.  Jayme could have planted her feet, could have resisted and been dragged, could have screamed for help.  But she was helpless against the romanticism of it all; a handsome stranger urging her to make her day count.  What if there was some invaluable lesson to be learned, something beautifully optimistic that she could then pass on?  What if this truly was one of those moments that mark the end of the mundane and the beginning of fulfillment?  So Jayme willingly followed him into the building they had stopped in front of.  She went with him onto the elevator and had been slightly disappointed when they rode it all the way to the stop.  There was something predictable and cheesy about it.  Was this some kind of lame, extended metaphor?  Because if it was, she truly did not have time for such anti-climactic antics.  When the soft ding sounded their arrival, and the metallic doors slid open, the strange man led her out into the hallway and to their immediate left.  Her curiosity was turning to impatience, and that quickly transformed into apprehension when she realized they were about to burst through the door clearly labeled roof access.  Her steps started to stutter and she began to verbally express her doubt and her fear.

 

“Hey now, wait a minute; where are we going?”  He did not answer and Jayme was not surprised but she was not deterred, either.  She continued her chain of questions, her self-soothing rambling.  “I do not want to go up on the roof.  Let me go now, seriously.  I’ll start screaming if you don’t stop and then you’ll be in a world of trouble.  The cops will be here so fast, your head will spin, I promise.”

 

Jayme’s questions were unheeded and the progress was not impeded.  When he met the door, he kicked it in.  Was he terribly strong, or was the door terribly old, with rusted hinges and weak joints and whatnot?  She hoped the latter proved to be true.  They stepped through the doorway into the dazzling, blinding sunlight and he abruptly turned to face her.  He took her by the shoulders, firm but not threatening, and pushed her backwards.  Jayme was now terrified and she was screaming, twisting her head left and right to try and see where he wanted her final destination to be.  She tried to resist, tried to move against him, but he was so strong and she was so scared that coordinating her weak and trembling muscles with any kind of directive thought proved exceedingly difficult.  He pushed her until he had backed her up against the edge, until there was literally nowhere else to go but over, and then hurtle towards death.

 

He grabbed her hands in his in a painful grip and pushed against her until she had no other option but to lean back.  Jayme was leaning back over the busy, city street below, freely screaming and crying and waiting for the inevitable end.  The wind whipped and the traffic sounded farther than it actually was.  Her ears felt as if they were filled with cotton and her mouth had gone dry, despite the streaming tears and snot slowly beginning to leak out of her nose.  There was nothing pretty or glamorous about facing death.  She was snotty and sweaty and pleading just like anyone else would be.  Jayme closed her eyes and shut her mouth, realizing that reasoning was futile because one could not talk to a lunatic like a normal human being.  Moments that stretched forever passed.

 

Then Jayme felt hot breath against her ear.  “Let go.  You can trust me.”

 

Jayme’s eyes shot open.  The shock had sobered her up and brought her back into the actual moment rather than the fear of the future.  He was smiling so kindly, but clearly his intentions were not good.  If she let go, she would die, plummet to her death and become nothing more than smashed and splattered guts and bones and blood on the sidewalk.  How could he ask this of her with so gentle a smile?  What was this madness?

 

But seeing no other alternative, Jayme let go.

lettinggo1

On the fact that yearbooks never lie.

Published July 22, 2013 by mandileighbean

“The space between the tears we cry is the laughter that keeps us coming back for more.”
– Dave Matthews Band

Life, for a complete and utter lack of a better adjective, is crazy.  As people, we experience and live through events that make and/or break us in varying degrees of intensity.  We feel triumph in finding a parking spot near our destination in a crowded city.  We feel triumph when we finally land that dream job or finally purchase the dream car.  We can be devastated if we miss out on an incredible deal.  We can be devastated when we get into a car accident or misplace something valuable.  Every human has major and mini crises throughout the day; there is no revelation in such an observation, but I think what strikes me is how often these events occur and how differently each individual reacts to a particular set of circumstances.  Because of problems within my immediate family, I have been doing some soul searching and deep thinking as of later, and as far as rationalization and understanding go, this paragraph is all I could come up with.  The kick in the proverbial pants is that there is no explanation for all of the things that happen.  And what’s more, even if there was, people would reject what was in front of them in search for something better, something more suited to what they want it all to mean.  Is that cynical?  Am I losing faith?

I finished the first chapter of my next novel, which is currently titled Moody Blue.  I feel proud and accomplished, but I am worried that I rushed the ending of the chapter.  I printed a copy for my mother to read; she helped me edit my first novel and it was only after I took her advice that I was published – and on her birthday, no less.  She’s my good luck charm.

I am currently scheduling an author talk and signing at the Manchester Branch of the Ocean County Library for sometime in October or November.  I think this latter half of 2013 is going to prove to be an exciting time for me.  Between you and I, I need it to be better.  I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

I went for an ultrasound of my gall bladder last week, and the results came back clean.  My doctor, and my best friend, and my mother, all seem to think it is stress that is tearing my insides apart.  This makes sense to me, especially when I think about how many nights are restless, and how often I toss and turn, unable to escape my own head and the endless list of worries.  I am even beginning to have horrible dreams.  Most recently, I had a dream that featured someone who is dead and has been dead.  In the dream, this person was in a darkened bedroom with only the light from the blaring television and perhaps a bedside lamp.  I do not know if this was inside a house, or an apartment, or what – the surroundings were completely unfamiliar.  As a matter of fact, the person did not even look familiar, but I understood who it was and I knew that this individual was supposed to be dead.  I was in the bedroom, but I had no desire to be there.  It felt horribly wrong and it was bizarre.  The blanket and sheet were pulled down and away so that they pooled near his waist and his bare, pale chest and loose stomach were exposed.  On his chest and stomach was balanced a large glass bowl and two tall glasses.  I made to move them, to pick them up and carry them to a kitchen somewhere.  I was hesitant in approaching because his eyes were only slightly closed.  It was like he was awake and aware, and only pretending to sleep.  I think I called out to him and said his name once or twice.  But I was scared and so I ran, only grabbing the glass bowl which turned out to be full of water (so were the two tall glasses), and the dream ended as quickly as it began.

My father knocks on bedroom doors before entering, even when he know there is no one inside.

Thursday, I traveled to Hartford, Connecticut to listen to Stephen King have a conversation with some pretentious blowhard.  It was 103 degrees, and I walked around Hartford in that ungodly heat in a panic, looking for somewhere to quickly eat before the event began.  I arrived ninety minutes later than I had planned because of horrendous, horrific traffic.  I ate a restaurant called Hook and Ladder, located next to the firehouse.  The décor and atmosphere were great, but I was really disappointed in my grilled cheese sandwich.  I can’t believe I broke my diet for that.  But the event was awesome; King is a brilliant, accessible mind.  He shares my passion for the Boss, believes in God, and believes that love can be and should be and most often is limitless.  Ali from MSU was there, but we didn’t get a chance to speak.  She purchased a copy of his newest book Joyland, pre-signed, for $200.  I used to be that dedicated.  Or maybe I am just more fiscally responsible than I used to be.

There were fireworks that night.  So many cars were pulled over on I-84 to watch them explode.

I hit another 90 minutes of traffic traversing onto the George Washington Bridge.  Such is life.

But I promised in my last entry to accentuate the positive.  So, here goes nothing: I lost seven pounds in my first week of dieting and exercising.  I spent a birthday with two absolutely amazing friends in Brooklyn after surviving the drive in.  I was totally enchanted by Brooklyn and developed a crush on a friend’s neighbor, which is exciting and fun.  I have that story to tell, in my overly romantic way, for next week’s blog.

friends1 friends2

Stay golden. xoxo

On Sleepy Hollow.

Published October 7, 2012 by mandileighbean

This weekend was enjoyable, productive, and – most of all – much needed.  Yesterday, I ventured to Sleepy Hollow with my good friends Dom and Raina, and Raina’s parents, and Raina’s parents friends.  I met everyone at Raina’s house, which was an adventure in and of itself.  I was pulled over on the parkway by a State Trooper for speeding, but he was understanding, and patient, and because my driving record is close to impeccable, he cut me a huge break.  Still, the experience was somewhat nerve-rattling because I had never been pulled over before and I was anxious just to get to Raina’s house and out from behind the wheel.  The issuing of the ticket made me late, as did generally leaving my house later than I would have liked, but I did arrive.  Dom showed up after I did, so my lateness was forgiven, and then the seven of us piled into two cars and hit the road.

The scenery was absolutely beautiful.  The leaves were all different shades of flaming red, burning orange, and resilient green and the mountains and hills we passed were covered in trees and seemed to go on for miles.  Dom frequently mentioned that it had been quite some time since he had smelled grass and he swore the sky was different in that part of the country.  We rode over bridges that provided safe travel over beautiful, dark water.  Dom, Raina and I caught up, shared snacks and were anticipating spending the evening in a historically creepy geographical location such as Sleepy Hollow, New York. 

The town caught us all by surprise.  We thought it would be … well, sleepier.  It was a “blue collar” town that was diverse in population as far as wealth and ethnicity.  We parked at Phillipsburg Manor, but traveled into the heart of Sleepy Hollow for dinner.  The meal was good and we survived the perilous task of parallel parking, and the gift shop had several interesting items for purchase.  I bought two books (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving and The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter) and a witch hat with a celestial theme.  I enjoyed hot chocolate and freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.  I also thoroughly enjoyed the company and the scenery.  The walking path from the parking lots to the manor was lit by candles encased in glass lanterns.  It would have been romantic had we not been able to hear the blood-curdling screams of tourists venturing through “Horseman’s Hollow,” the very attraction we had purchased tickets for.

Dom has a talent for conversation; he is one of the most eloquent people I have ever had the distinct, intellectual pleasure of meeting.  When we were waiting for our turn to line up for the haunted walk, he engaged one of the security guards in conversation and we learned interesting tidbits about the history of the town, the attractions, and the origin of the commercialism surrounding Sleepy Hollow and its legend penned by Irving.  He mentioned Irving’s estate, named Sunnyside, and I made a mental note to visit it as soon as possible.  I also hope to make it to the cemetery, which is purported to be an entertaining, interesting tourist trap.  Dom also engaged the young man checking tickets at the entrance and he was a writer, working on a fantasy/adventure piece for about six years – since he was in high school.  For the first time in a few months, I introduced myself as a writer instead of as a teacher and it felt right.  I felt fulfilled and – for lack of a better term – cool.

The walk itself was definitely creepy and I did scream through most of it and maintain a quickened pace.  The costumed and makeup were remarkable, nearly everything seemed authentic, and we laughed as much as we shrieked.  Our biggest disappointment was that there was not more to do; we had hoped the town would fully and enthusiastically embrace its place in spooky folklore but as it turns out, this is only the third year they had done something to recognize Sleepy Hollow and its legend on a grand scale.  In particular, Dom had wanted to be immersed in history and after talking about that, we decided to make a try for Salem, Massachusetts.  The festivities there do have a historical authenticity and the three of us have yet to travel there and have yet to hear someone speak ill of Salem around Halloween (except for some strangers behind us on line, who claimed Sleepy Hollow was more entertaining than Salem, and that surprised us).

I really hope Salem works out, but I do not want to miss my cousin Cory’s visit.  One day last week, he quit his job because his boss was unkind.  He walked right off the job and embarked on one hell of a road trip.  He has kept me updated through messages, pictures, and Facebook statuses, and I am incredibly jealous.  I would love to be able to just leave, to shirk all responsibility and do exactly what I want.  I would love to get behind the wheel and see the country.  Cory explained that he only has one life and he will not waste it, will not let days go by without having seen and experienced “cool shit.”  I could not agree with him more.  I am so glad I went to Sleepy Hollow.

It was not just for the Halloween fun and atmosphere; it was to travel with friends.  Dom, Raina and I ended up at the Bridge View Tavern at the end of Beekman Avenue.  While the restaurant was all out of appetizers, the view of the Hudson River and the Tappan Zee Bridge was breathtaking.  The beer and wine were cold and tasty and the fries hit the spot.  We talked of people we know, some we still know and others we wish we could forget.  We were appreciative of the gorgeous night and the seasonal radiance particular to fall in October.

If I am to be perfectly honest, the ride home was my favorite part of the night.  Raina drove and to help keep her awake, Dom and I took turns reading from The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter.  The short stories were disturbing and entrancing, but I think the coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts takes the most credit for keeping us up.  Although, when we returned to Raina’s house, we all stayed up to hear the end of the longer story and I cannot even begin to express what that meant and still means to me.  Picture it; three twenty-somethings lounged on couches, attentively listening to a story being read aloud.  The television was not on.  We were not wearing ear buds to hear iPods.  There was an occasional perusal of the iPhone, but for the most part, we were totally engaged by the written word.  That is how I want every night to end.

On trepidations and self-imposed writer’s block.

Published October 6, 2012 by mandileighbean

“Nobody said it was easy.  No one ever said it would be this hard.”

– Coldplay

 

I am powerless against pasta.  Nothing makes me happier than slurping strands so that it sounds like a quick, childish kiss as sauce splashes around my lips and covers my mouth in tomato red.  Last night, Mom added sausage, chicken and shrimp to the sauce.  How could I resist?  It was unfair of me to even ask myself to say no.  If pasta is my kryptonite, then I wonder what my super power is?

I have newly discovered tea with orange honey and I absolutely love it.

Today, my friend Raina and I are going to Sleepy Hollow.  I cannot wait to hit the road and am elated to be celebrating Halloween.  As an avid horror fan, I thoroughly enjoy and become involved the October holiday festivities.  Last year, just after Halloween, I traveled with my little brother’s Boy Scout troop to where “Friday the 13th” was filmed and even stayed in the same cabin the final fight scene was shot in.  Last night, I watched the “Alfred Hitchcock Hour” with my mom.  It was not terrifying, but was unnerving and certainly creepy.  I was in awe of the dialogue and Hitchcock’s ability to turn what should be cheap and easy into something artful and masterful.  To transform a somewhat simple and clichéd plot into a piece of film that makes the audience cringe and want to turn away is a talent I admire, respect and covet.

I suspect that is why my latest writing endeavor is not capturing my interest the way Her Beautiful Monster did.  I am trying my literary (and I use that term loosely) hand at romance – a much older, married man striking up a relationship with a much younger girl to try and stave off aging and death.  To add complexity to that storyline, I made the much older man a famous musician and I made the much younger girl a fan.  I wanted to explore what it means to be an adult and the power death has over us from the very moment we take our first breaths.  I also just wanted to be romantic and passionate – imagining scenes between the two to fill some kind of loneliness and ache within me, which is a tool I most certainly employed throughout Her Beautiful Monster and if it worked once, why not use it again?

But I felt the plot was lacking in suspense, which I believe to be my forte.  I decided to develop the much older man’s wife into a fuller character and in a desperate fit of revenge, she would claim a younger lover of her own.  But this young boy toy would prove more dangerous than anything else, as I envisioned him becoming more and more obsessed and less and less emotionally stable.  For the ending, I had decided the young girl would die in an ironic twist of fate, since she was always accusing the much older man of using her to feel young and invincible.  I wanted the obsessed lover to be responsible, figuring in some kind of car crash scenario a la The Great Gatsby.  Clearly, I am still working out the mechanics and logistics in my cluttered, tired mind.

I have a few other ideas that seem promising, but I am reluctant to give up on the much older musician.  I was working on beginning to write near the end of the summer and was shocked when I pumped out twenty handwritten pages, front and back.  I am a big believer in fate, so I do not believe it is an accident that I was able to do so.  This story is within me and wants to be released, and so I will.  I think I am hesitant and unsure because I have a full-time job now and more adult responsibilities than I did when I wrote Her Beautiful Monster and for some weird reason, that scares me.  But writers write; so if I want to be a writer, I have to write.

I have to stop over analyzing every blessed thing and just do it.  Hopefully, this inspires some of you to take one last deep breath and dive in to whatever it is you wish.  And if you do, know that I am cheering from the stands and wholly and completely on your side.

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