Monday, December 31, 2012

At the Cliff's Edge

I’m poised in a precarious position, here between 2012 and 2013.  I’m standing at the cliff’s edge, feeling the unease of the dizzying height and the pull of the abyss mix with the fervent wish that the release will be worth stepping off.  That is, stepping off the writing cliff. 
In January I set out on a journey to what I thought was a summit, one step at a time, following a deliberate trail with a self-made map for my writing year.  I wanted to write more, establish some discipline, continue my self-education, connect with a writing community and find a way to reach out of my comfort zone.  Daunting goals indeed.    
January 1st was the first step, with my first blog on My Writing Corner.  I completed 67 posts this year (including this one) and met a blog challenge of 28 posts in April.  In numbers, not as many as I’d hoped for, but at least two each month and I hit my self-imposed goal of 500 – 700 words per post.  Goal #1 & 2 met!
Trudging on, I learned the software to edit and update my website, Amy Writes, instead of having to ask my ever supportive husband, Steve, to do it for me (lucky for me he’s always in the wings, ready to lend a helping hand when my mind goes blank on how to do something or I’ve lost my notes!).   
There was sustenance along the way in an overwhelming smorgasbord of writers and blogs to follow on the internet.    After overfilling my plate for many months, I learned to appreciate smaller portions and honed it to a manageable half dozen sites or so.  Learning from and commenting on those blogs has provided a daily balanced meal of an online writing community that I’m very grateful for.  Goal #3 & 4 met! 
I sent a few scouts out in the form of submissions and although I didn’t get any of them published, it was a nice sense of accomplishment to set a submission goal and meet it by deadline and guidelines.  One submission from 2011 hit the bull’s-eye and took me completely by surprise.  Journey’s Beginning” got accepted and published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: finding my faith in October. 
That singular event, more than any other, propelled me to the cliff’s edge.  It was a spotlight I was not prepared for.  It lead to newspaper articles in print and online, recognition at the University I work at in my non-writing day job and had me doing a bit self-promotion (NOT something I am comfortable with).  It’s been a test in learning to accept compliments on my story and writing in general from the readers it’s brought to My Writing Corner.  Goal #5 met…..sort of…
Which brings me to my cliff.  I know in my heart, I may have met the goals, but I didn’t exceed.  I didn’t reach the summit wrung out and totally spent.  I’ve found in my real hiking with Steve, if I plod along at an even pace, and stop every now and then I can always reach the summit we set out for.  And although I feel accomplished to have made it here, to my writing summit, I didn’t have to stretch far.  If I really want those first four goals to reach beyond my wildest dreams, to be surprised at what I produce, I need to get out of my comfort zone.  I need to be willing to jump off the cliff.   
So…I jump into 2013 with a six week course that starts on January 7th with Lisa Romeo titled: “I Should Be Writing Boot Camp - Jan 2013”. I’ve also made a personal challenge to face head on, the “3 Quiet Fears That Stop Writers From Writing”, by delving into Janna Malamud Smith’s book, An Absorbing Errand: How Artists and Craftsmen Make Their Way to Mastery.    I’m looking for these two pieces alone to be a catalyst to further my writing and an introduction to my non-comfort zone.   
Clenched in my hand are my goals for 2013.  More depth and honesty in my writing. Steadier and more targeted submissions.  Dedicated schedule for blog posts. Continued education in the craft. Become stronger in the writing and creative community, both online and in person.    With persistence, hard work and yes, a bit of luck, I’m hoping the accomplished goals will land at the bottom before me, a cushion to land on this time next year.    
It’s scary here at the edge.  But off I step, with the fervent wish that the release will be worth it.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Magic and Belief

I pull the Christmas music box string very slowly and wooden figures of snowman, elf, angel and Mr. and Mrs. Claus peek at me through the windows and door openings of their little yellow house as they travel backward, winding up in Ferris wheel fashion.  The small nails that hold them to the rotating board are delicate, allowing them to sway back and forth as they make their rounds… 

I’ve pulled that string, watched the figurines peek out at me and listened to the slightly tin sound of Jingle Bells, for just over 45 years now.   

I was three when my brothers gave the music box to our mom for Christmas in ‘67.  Three years ago when my parents passed, my siblings granted my wish to have the music box.  Now as I hang it on my kitchen wall, I don’t see the age it carries or the areas where the glitter, meant to be sparkling snow on the eaves, has long since rubbed off in the packing and unpacking over the years.   What I see, what I feel, is a direct link to my childhood Christmas and all the magic it held.   

Twenty nine years ago this Christmas, about to celebrate my first Christmas married and in my own home, mom gave Steven and I a ceramic manger scene.  In two words, it’s big.  With 18 pieces and camels and wise men that stand eight inches tall, it could be overwhelming, but her artistic talent shines through in the incredible detailing of each piece, the deep, rich colors she used and in the delicate features conveying the wonder of the moment.  Amidst the often hectic holiday madness, it never fails to make me pause and renews the spiritual meaning of Christmas for me.

Our home is not large.  These two very different holiday pieces are physically about five steps from each other.  Yet they bridge the years for me between child and adult, between daughter and wife/mother seamlessly.  There’s no theme to my Christmas decorations.  The house is not done in ribbons of blue and silver, in red and gold balls in glass vases, nor in country chic.  It doesn’t look like any spread in the pages of a magazine.  It’s much like my mother’s was; warm and comforting; a blending of pieces that hold more meaning in the history or memory of receiving them than in the purchasing of them for a “look”.  What’s developed is a blend of my Christmas past with my Christmas present.   

I pull the string and listen to Jingle Bells.  My eyes travel from the figurines in the music box to the figurines in the manger scene.  A final gift from mom, a mixture of magic and the wonder of belief.