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Gleanings: Time, Dirt, and Money, and Writing

Time, Dirt, and Money was the working title of the book writer Olive Ann Burns was working on when she died. The title came from a sentiment her mother often put forth that life came down to a struggle with three things: time, dirt, and money.  I have over the years come to see the clear truth of that statement.

This morning I was up at my usual 5:30 am, going through all my routine of tea, reading, prayer, and then, 6:30 arrives along with my 8 year old grandson, and it is as if I get shot out of a cannon. I fly around to get myself dressed, cook grandson a hot meal, clear the table, and get us out the door and off to school. “Put that Kindle down…don’t let the dog out…hurry, hurry…keep your feet off the seat.” I grip the steering wheel and sort of lean forward, because we are, as usual, running late.

We come flying up to the school. There’s no Sheriff’s deputy directing traffic, and there is no traffic at all. We must be really late! “Hurry, hurry, give me a kiss and off you go.”

He pops out, and I watch him go to the door, and in it, as I always do, because somehow I think something quite vague that amounts to the fear that someone lurking in the bushes could grab him. But in he goes, and I start to drive away, when– there’s a woman at the glass waving frantically. Good thing I watched him go in. See, I tell the one who makes fun of my fears.

“There’s no school today!” the woman calls to me.

So here I am with a small boy to mind today, and errands that must be run, and bills that have to be paid, and all of it today.

Olive Ann Burns’ life wisdom pops to mind. In just the space of an hour, I have dealt with time, dirt, and money. What I do with each, how I handle them, whether I face them or run away, it’s all up to me. (I’m leaning toward running away at this minute, with grandson having a hissy fit about ‘nothing to do’.) I think it’s helpful to know I don’t have to do any of it perfectly. In fact, accept that I won’t, and get on with it. I find it great progress to see that I carved out an hour to write.

Time, Dirt, and Money, was published as Leaving Cold Sassy, an unfinished sequel to Cold Sassy Tree after Burns’ death. Thinking of it this morning, I pulled the book off the shelf and of course had to start reading. As I read of Olive Ann Burns’ courage in facing her illness and life, I find myself grateful for the time, dirt, and money countless writers have slogged through and produced wonderful works that benefit my own slogging.

God bless your valiant slogging today.



Gleanings: One Small Act of Self-discipline, armament for the writer

“In order to be a good writer, you’ve got to be a bad boss. Self-discipline and stamina are the two major arms in a writer’s arsenal.” ~ Leon Uris

I went looking for self-discipline quotes to boost me. I am boosted just to see I want to read about self-discipline. I used to avoid the mention of the word. It scared me, because I felt I couldn’t do it, that it would be too hard, that I was a failure in that area. Today I know that self-discipline is nothing more than giving things one more try. And I can rest in between tries.

Sometimes I have to rest every other minute, because I’m so overwhelmed. Overwhelmed because I can’t get my thoughts to find focus, because someone said my baby book project was ugly, because it is a gloomy day, because I’ve got the taxes hanging over my head, not only my own this year, but my mother’s, as well (is God crazy, leaving me here alone to have to do taxes?!), because there is always so much noise in this house, because my head feels like a goldfish bowl. The list of distractions is endless, but I’ve come to know the cure for any and all is a bit of loving self-discipline. I say loving, not the sort to take a club and beat yourself over the head. That is not self-discipline but self-abuse. What I’m talking about is doing what you know is good for you, and doing it in small increments that you can manage, not a great push.

Following routine is a life saver. If you are still working on getting a routine, then do it, in a small chunk.

The trick is not to give up. That’s really all self-discipline is, refusing to give up, so you do what you need to do. You don’t have to do everything. Do what feeds your soul. And one tiny few minutes count.

I got the Leon Uris quote from Affirmations for Artists, by Eric Maisel, who writes in the book:

“I know that however small the act may be–just a daily hour in the studio, just an extra hour of instrument practice–every effort I make toward greater self-discipline benefits me.”

I wanted to chuck my life today and run away. But I came to the writing. Only an hour or maybe hour and a half today, but already started, I’m feeling stronger.

Sending you all love. Pass it on.

Gleanings: Writing Indulgence–go for it.

“It strikes me as interesting that if someone loved banking, he wouldn’t chastise or castigate himself for choosing that life. If someone loved history and wanted a life as a history professor, that would be a socially acceptable choice, although it is, in fact, ever bit as self-indulgent as doing anything else you love–writing, for example. ~ Julia Cameron, The Right to Write.

I am struck by the question: So what if it looks self-indulgent? Who is to judge?

When I first began writing, eons ago, I felt guilty about the hours spent, when I ‘should’ be cleaning house, cooking dinners, sewing clothes, volunteering on school field trips, maybe getting a ‘real’ job to make managing the budget easier. But the compulsion pulled at me–I just had to write, something I barely realized. I simply felt terribly guilty, even while I wrote. After I was a selling writer, I felt somewhat better, but still, the roles of wife and mother that in my mind, how I was raised to think of those roles, nagged at me. I tried to do it all–keeping the house, being available as a mother and wife, yes, I went and read to children at school and went on field trips, and every evening met my husband with a glass of cold tea and helped him with his projects, too. During the day, I wrote. I pushed myself beyond all my body’s ability to do and be everything to everyone. Eventually I broke under the weight of all the ‘should’ I imposed on myself, and all of it distorted thinking because I did not understand how much the world imposes ideals on us.

Today I am back at my writing, because I finally realize it is an enormous part of me and a requirement to keep breathing on the earth. Mornings are mine. I have an urge to shout it at the world. Mornings are when I write, or dream, or putter, or read. Don’t interrupt me. Yes, I still have a bit of trouble holding fast to this, but I’m getting better. In fact, as I write this, I think of a situation with someone that I will have to step up and change, because it interferes with my morning. It occurs to me also that there are sacrifices involved. This is called responsibility for my life.

What happens when you finally take responsibility for your life? No one to blame.

I’m not talking about leaving your spouse and children. I’m not speaking of the immature self-indulgence–although, really, who is to decide this but each of us individually? But I do say today is given to you, 24 hours given to you, not to the world to tell you how to live. Make a choice for at least a portion of those hours to write, to bake, to garden, to let yourself hear what is in your heart to do, even if it takes trying different things to find out. Even if it looks like a waste to other people. It occurs to me that what we are about is allowing ourselves to be ourselves.


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