On Un-inspiration

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And My Own Fallacy of Un-motivation


Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash

The last time I wrote a story on the Medium platform (and this blog) was February 1, and that was something I had written before, reworked, and published. I’m very proud of it.

My last brand new work on Medium (and this blog) was January 28.

I have lost followers, views, and dolla dolla bills, ya’ll. I used to be a top writer in Photography. No longer.

I feel guilty. I chastise myself for my lack of focus. I complain that I have no motivation. I say that I’m waiting for The Muse, but she’s reluctant.

I have a familiar Greek chorus singing songs of “you suck” rolling loud, bumping the bass, in my brain.

So what really happened?

I got uninspired. It happens. I would not call what this is writer’s block. I can and do write. Honestly, I just got a little uninspired about writing on Medium. It isn’t fatal, I’m still here, but after letting my momentum lapse, I have some work to do. Or maybe, you know, not.

I needed to take a hard look at myself as it pertains to my own use of Medium. None of this is Medium’s fault, the platform and its algorithms roll on with our without me. No, this is just some good personal introspection. Needed. Necessary.

I’ve lived long enough on this planet to know a few things about myself. I will never live long enough to know everything and I can’t seem to stop repeating the same mistakes, but I do try. I amuse and surprise myself almost daily. May I always be a source of comedy to my own mind.

Here is the lesson that I learned about myself again. And again. And again: Numbers, stats, measurements…they make me crazy. I’m not talking some ha-ha-ha isn’t that funny, I look at my stats, count my steps, weigh myself, SO darn much kind-of-cute crazy.

No, I mean that obsession with measurements of all kinds can make me slip off my carefully balanced nut. I know this about myself and still fall down a hole far too often.

That stats page on Medium? Oooh, yeah, that is a long cool cigarette to smoker trying to quit.

Partner Program earnings? Just one drag won’t hurt.

There are so many well-meaning and helpful writers on Medium with tens of thousands of followers who will describe the large amounts of dollars they make each month and how you can too. How if you aren’t publishing every day what are you even doing here. How they are a top writer in 82 different topics, and are you even trying?

This seeps into the folds of my brain like black mold and grows if I leave it unchecked. Turns out I must carefully curate what I let in and what I leave behind.


Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash


I love writing. I have been seriously writing for the better part of 20 years and less seriously all of my life. I work hard at it. It matters. It is who I am.

Writing on Medium would seem a perfect fit, wouldn’t it? And it is. But I was starting to make myself crazy. I was going nuts looking at stats, chastising myself for not having more views, wondering how to get more reads, bemoaning every story that was not curated and hating myself for not being better, faster, more, more, more.

The inner voice told me I must suck as a writer if I can’t even make $50 a month (my best month is $18 and I am super proud of that).

In the same timeframe that I have been riddled with guilt and convinced I lacked both inspiration and motivation, I have had three short stories published in respectable literary journals. OneTwo. Three (will be published tomorrow).

I competed in a short story contest and worked my ass off on a story I am incredibly proud of in a genre (sci-fi) that is a challenge for me. I turned that story out like a boss.

I created a beautiful photograph that took second place in my photo club’s monthly contest (the theme was reflection/symmetry) and had it published in a newsletter with a reach of about 5,000 people. That publication returned to me such amazing feedback and compliments, I rode on a cloud of good words for days.

When people say that to make it on Medium “you have to do the work,” I am in complete agreement. So when I chastise myself for not “doing the work” here I realize I have for damn sure been doing the work, just somewhere else.

I have to give myself a little credit, even when that credit is a little less measurable than pretty crooked numbers on a clean crisp stats page.

As artists, we judge each other, but we judge ourselves the hardest. I am humbled, once again, by just how mean and dark my own brain can be.

Today I’m here. I am a writer. I’m putting down words. I am saying what is on my heart. I might get two views (from my two family members also on this platform — hi!) or I might get 100. I might get curated. I might not.

I am going to try to ignore the reads and percentages and pennies and just write for the joy of letting words flow from my brain to my fingers to this electronic form.

I wrote something today, and I am proud of these 700+ words. They are all mine and they are beautiful.

This item first appeared on Medium, find more of my work @karenfayeth over there.

When Did I Become The Grown Up?

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My parents were pretty strict when I was growing up, but I’m not here to complain about that. I think my brother, sister and I turned out pretty well, overall. Well, my brother and sister did, jury is still out on me.

But it’s true, my folks were a bit old fashioned and handed down strict discipline. They kept us in line.

One thing my Dad was all about was his kids answering “yes, sir” or “yes, ma’am” when addressed by an adult. It’s ingrained in me, automatic. It’s a show of respect for elders, along with respect for a person’s position.

And so when either of my parents would call out “hey Karen?” I would automatically drop a “yes, sir” or “yes, ma’am” without hesitation.

It’s carried into my adult life and usually has served me well. On a recent visit with one of my favorite Aunties in Michigan, she at one point called out my name and I dutifully replied “yes, ma’am,” and I knew it was right. I felt like a good kid.

As the digits in my age advance, however, I also notice that I get ma’amed here and there. At first I didn’t like it, but then I began to appreciate that for those younger than me, their parents raised them with that same value. Yes sir!




Here’s where it gets weird: My new boss at work? She’s my same age. In fact maybe a year or two younger. She was my peer for the past several years and was recently made the acting manager. It’s also very likely that she will soon be the permanent manager. And I’m okay with that.

I have nothing but respect for her and we’re working out the bounds of going from peers to boss and employee.

Yesterday, she came wheeling into my office, fresh off one of her many meetings each day and with something on her mind. “Hey Karen?” she said sharply.

“Yes ma’am!” I replied.

And she looked at me kind of strangely.

And I looked at her kind of sheepishly.

“Ahem. What can I do for you?” I revised.

It made me think maybe I need to change up the ma’am/sir thing. I mean, it still fits in many cases. For example, if I come across any of the distinguished scientists that I work with, I’m sure as heck going to ma’am or sir them, regardless of age. Or any dignitary.

But maybe I have to realize that I am the grown up now. I am the one to receive the ma’am treatment. I suppose it is time to finally own my own mildly elder status. Right?

It’s just so weeeird! And will take a while to reprogram my brain.




The Blues & The Words

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The 26th of February. That what today is. February 26, 2016.

My, my, how time does fly.

Speaking of flying time, I see that the last time words were posted to this space was in November. That was like, yesterday, right?

Nope. 26th. Of February. Of 2016. Whew.

Well, okay, gotta try to shake that off and keep rolling. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about this little ol’ blog. It used to be that I’d knock out a post every weekday. Then three times a week. And then nothing since November.

Been wondering what got in my way.

Three things, really. First, I got a little worn out. I’d pushed The Muse and it was getting harder to think of interesting ideas to write about. Eventually The Muse asked me to give it a rest.

Another contributor was starting a different job. I used have a free lunch hour where I both ate and knocked out the words for this blog. In my new job, I am in so galldarn many meetings each day that my lunch break is now me eating while my staff streams in the door to grab a few moments of my time.

Finally, I started wondering a little bit about the fate of so-called long form blogs in an ever-shortening attention span world. I read an article a few years ago declaring blogs dead in favor of tweets and Tumblr. I kind of took it to heart.

So I let my word field lay fallow. And maybe that is okay. It needed some rain and some decay and some time to become fertile again.

One of the most compelling reasons that I started this blog was to be a place for writing practice.




Practice, practice, practice. When I kicked off these pages back in 2007 I felt like I had something to say and needed a venue, so I made my own.

Over many years I wrote something every weekday and watched my writing both inside and outside the blog become stronger, sleeker, and more concise.

While I still benefit from all of that work, the last few times I’ve been working on a short story, I’m noticing the flow just isn’t there. It’s always an uphill climb but without the many days a week practice to keep me limber, the hill got a little steeper (and a lot more pedantic).

There is a widely debated theory that it takes ten thousand hours of practice to become a master at something. I am not sure that is true because any artist I know would say you never master your medium, no matter how much or how hard you practice.

But what I do know is that as of the moment I am putting these words into print, there are over six hundred thousand words that I created and added to this blog. That hasn’t taken me ten thousand hours to create, but it’s still not nothing. It’s something that matters and something I am proud of.

Last weekend while I was sprucing up the blog and giving it a Spring cleaning (I’m kind of in love with this shade of blue) in preparation for my return to the words, I looked hard at that number in the footer of this page and thought to myself “I’m not done.”

And so I’m not.

One added benefit is that I get to grab those crazy thoughts from my mind and get them down. There’s good stuff in there. No more trying to blog it out loud to my kindly understanding spouse or my long-suffering coworkers.




So here I am, back for today and hopefully back again soon. I want to push out my elbows and make the space in my world for the words, the practice, and the ever wonderfully agonizing quest to get better at what I love to do most.




Carnegie Hall cartoon found here.

Blogging out loud cartoon found here.






Gimme Me the Check

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In those heady days of youth when skin was firm, recovery time was fast and the brain still spongy, I remember thinking “pfft, I don’t need to use lists to remember things. That’s so lame.”

Then somewhere in my late twenties I had to make the hard admission that my memory was just never going to be what I wanted it to be. I thought it would always be easy to remember things, and then suddenly it wasn’t so easy. Too many seemingly obvious missed items at the grocery store and dammnit, you start to love a real honest to goodness list.

So I started, grudgingly, making lists. Usually only a couple items on a sticky note, words to jog the brain. Over time that just wasn’t enough. The random words were no longer enough to evoke memory. I had to put down multiple and specific words. No longer could I trust my brain at ALL. These were dark days, indeed.

Years passed and my eyes got worse and my hair more gray and the little lines at the corners of my eyes were no longer laughs but crows, and I learned to love my Swiss cheese memory.

These days I am all about my to do lists. I write one up, by hand, every few days at work. Hand writing the tasks helps me to have SOME potential for a wispy memory of them.

I get out a shiny orange Sharpie and then I get all of those pesky things I am supposed to remember down onto a big sticky note. Once written, it feels good to let them go. No longer does my brain have to work to keep important tasks retained, nope. I can fill the brain holes with mental cotton candy like the score of last night’s Giant’s game (don’t ask) and the fact that there is going to be a Sharknado 2 (not that I saw the first one).

I love my lists so much that I actually keep some of lists that have all of the tasks marked off. It’s a keepsake to show me that busting my butt at work really does matter. A visual and handwritten progress bar that keeps me motivated.

There is a little dopamine blast I get when I check several items off the list. Yeah baby, that is the stuff. Gimme some more.

I even like to use the British colloquialism “tick the box” instead of check mark because “tick the box” is fun to say. It makes things feel official and proper and oh yeah, there’s that dopamine rush again. Gimme, gimme, gimme.

Seeing an unticked list doesn’t demoralize me, it peps me up. If I work a little harder, stay a little more focused, I can get out the black Sharpie and POW! Mark off the list. That little huff of Sharpie ink. The sound of the pen across the words. The tingles in my spine. The smug satisfaction I feel. Yeah. Love it. Love everything about it.

Even making the little fake list for the end of this post was utterly satisfying…

I should probably get help.









Photo and To Do List © 2014, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons License in the right column of this page. Taken with an iPhone5 and the Camera+ app.




I Bet I’m Not The Only One

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I started writing today thinking about how crazy or wacky I am regarding the topic of this post.

Then I realized something. I bet I am not that crazy. I bet I am not the only one that has felt this way.

Here’s the scoop:

I have found that if I take my lunch to work, I have a much better day. My office is situated in an oddball industrial slash office neighborhood. It is an area that is rapidly gentrifying.

While we do have some nearby places to go and grab lunch, and on certain days food trucks, the choices are not robust. Also, I work in the far back corner of an office building that is a converted warehouse. It takes me about ten minutes at a brisk clip just to walk to the front door.

This means if I don’t have a lunch packed and I am super busy, I end up with no lunch.

No lunch makes Karen a very cranky girl.

In the New Year I have been working a lot harder on bringing my lunch so Karen is a less cranky girl.

That’s just good for everyone.

Sometimes I lack imagination when making lunches and I eat the same thing day after day. But if it’s good food, then all is well. I’ll eat it and become a manageable and reasonably peaceful person.

When I am able to get my lunch packed the night before that is even better. Oh how I love myself on those days.

Anyhow, this morning I woke up groggy and tired. It’s already been a long week.

As I struggled to break the surface of fatigue and start my day, I remembered that I needed to make my lunch.

It’s Thursday which means most of the good eats in the fridge have already been eaten, and there wasn’t much left that looked good.

The one bit of leftovers we have is something I have eaten for the past three days in a row, and I just wasn’t feeling it.

So it was time to be creative, and creative isn’t something I am in the small dark hours of the morning.

I saw that we still had some of this really good bread that The Good Man had bought. Ok, yum.

I poked around the fridge to see if I could put anything into a sandwich.

Hey, I have a fresh jar of pickles! There is some tasty cheese! Still have a tomato for slicing and some sprouts for fiber and a few other good items. Hey, we still had half an avocado left. SCORE!

This made me so happy. I laid out the details on the countertop and hand crafted one hell of a good-looking sandwich. I did this thing up like an artist in her studio.

When it was completed, I carefully wrapped it up in wax paper, cut it, and wrapped it again, then put it in my lunch bag.

Now here’s the crazy-not-crazy part.

Now that I have made this delicious sandwich for my lunch, I can’t stop thinking about it.

All the way on the ride in to work I was thinking about eating that sandwich. Mouth watering, full anticipation. Oh yes. Gimme my sandwich!

Now!

Sammie sammie sammie sammie sammie is all my Pavlov brain is giving me today.

It’s about 10:30 and I have had a little breakfast but still all I can think about is that damn lunch I packed.

Gimme!

I have work to do and real world grown up decisions to make and I have to be a boss and employee but damnit, all I can focus on is my sandwich!

I will do my best to wait until noon, but I’m not making any promises.

I’m not the only one, right?

___________________


Edit 1: You know who really loves a good sandwich? The British. It’s like a religion to those folks. I should write a whole post on that.


Edit 2: It’s now 12:40 and this sandwich is *delicious*. Worth the wait? Of course. Worth the OCD? You know it. Happy tummy!









Image found here.