Thursday, July 24, 2008

So who’s invited?

Like a lot of other people, I watched CNN’s “Black in America” special. At the moment, one of the segments I’ve fixated on was the one about a young successful African American screenwriter who’s reluctant to put her lifestyle on hold just to have a man. Her comment went something to the effect that the party’s already in progress and a man would have to bring something to it.

That sounds fair, don’t you think?

I mean, who doesn’t get annoyed at that brother, sister, relative or co-worker who always shows up empty-handed ready for the time of his/her life at your expense?

But in the realm of relationships – whether you’re male or female, what are the standards for inviting someone to your soiree? Should a potential significant other be prepared to show up with a bottle of Cristal? A carafe of wine? A two-liter pop? Or a bag of ice?

To me, the whole notion raised so many issues and ideas, I’d like CNN (BET, Michael Baisden, whoever) to spend a week discussing the idea of self-worth as mate magnet. After all, your party – the life you deserve, want, are working toward, etc. – stems from your own level of self-esteem, right? And we all (go ahead, admit it) aspire to be at least equally yoked.

But, what if "Insecurity the Party Pooper" has crashed your set? Do you find yourself settling for a bag of ice hoping that it will materialize into a fine Merlot with time? Call me jaded, but I say don’t count on the water turning to wine unless there’s a whole lot of fermented grapes in that mix.

While I believe that people grow, mature and sharpen their focus on this road of life, I don’t believe that the core values people bring to relationships change. No matter how hard you work to get the fizz out of that champagne-flavored pop, it will never be Cristal. Even after all your patient cajoling, it will remain an unfulfilling, flat substitute.

Does this sound selfish? Well, it is. But, think about it: Sure, that fine stranger you invite into a relationship on looks or unproven potential alone might one day be the love of your life. The charming guest could also become the spouse at the root of irreconcilable differences that weight your spirit, split your family, and become an inseparable contributor to the lifeblood you leave as future generations.

When do you make the decision to not be an equal-opportunity host and start narrowing your guest list? That’s up to you, of course. Just know that at some point in your life you need to be acutely aware of the people you love, live and lie down with.

So I say, get your relationship party on. But, yes, you have the right – a duty to self – to guard that guest list with your life.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Relax, release, relate

I wish I could blame my lack of blogging on mounting manuscript pages. But I can’t. No, in fact, I’ve been in a wee bit of a writing slump. Now, that’s not for lack of ideas or words, but more a feeling of ever-present distraction. If they had a twelve-step program for people who are perpetually sidetracked, maybe that’s where I’d be.

Instead, I’m here with a mounting to-do list that has little to do with what I’d really like to be doing: writing. Mind you, most of the tasks on that Distractions list relate to writing in some way, but very few of them amount to words on a page or pages in a stack or getting closer to THE END.

See, it’s a self-destructive cycle really: I get distracted. I wind up doing too many things that don’t bring me fulfillment. I begin feeling too overloaded to write. I start to feel bad because I’m not writing. I look for time-occupiers to take my mind off the fact that I’m not writing. I stay distracted.

That’s not to say that I haven’t accomplished anything over the last six months. I finished an anthology, am close to proving that I really can write a 14-page story, planned a writers’ conference, and re-designed my web site. Yesterday, I started a new crochet project that I aim to complete in the next three weeks. And, today, I’m blogging.

Some author I came across years ago said she doesn’t have writer’s block or get into slumps. Why? Butt in chair, fingers on keyboard. And I have to admit, that right now – having assumed that position – watching my words fill this white space feels really good.

OK. So let me go back to the way that works for me and get off this waylaid treadmill:

  1. I will resurrect my writing journal
  2. I will set measurable and attainable monthly writing goals – classes, word counts, promotional activities, events – at the start of each month
  3. I will log my progress every day and make notes to encourage tomorrow’s work
  4. I will flip-flop my priorities and allow myself one hour per day to pursue my distractions and dedicate 3-4 hours per day to building my word count. Not the other way around.
  5. I’ll do a better job of taking care of me.
  6. I will then be able to write every day
  7. I will write every day

Woosa. . .