Morning Light

You know when the cloud lifts and the light comes in? When things are vivid and asking you to smile and go easy and say thank you? Annie Lamott says these are her two favorite prayers, “Help me help me help me,” and “Thank you thank you thank you.” I’m not sure how it is that we shift from the first to the second, but this morning, after a month of Help me’s, there it was: Thank you.

I’ve spent the last 20 years when I’m not working or being a mother, escaping to my office to write novels. And as of a year ago yesterday, when my New York Times piece got published in Modern Love, my life utterly changed. Suddenly I have a product which brings in a pay check and pays for my kid’s soccer cleats and organic strawberry splurges, (but not quite health insurance)…and in order to perpetuate this, I don’t have time for those novels. Not now.

This blog brings me joy because in it I get to share my little moments. I get to hear from readers and know that my writing has helped them somehow and respond to them. But for the last month, as I tread through the strange new waters of social media, Twittering and Facebooking, and investigating the amazingly powerful communities like Good Reads and She Writes and Blogher, and Huffington Post, and and and…I just started to want out of those waters altogether. I wanted to make some tea and sit here and do what I know how to do and that’s write books.

It seems like a LOT of writers feel this way. Especially those of us who didn’t come up in the age of the internet. Especially those of us who are used to long moments of focusing on one thing and making it as good as we can. Widening the third eye takes focus and solitude. Sometimes social media feels like there’s a swarm of mosquitoes in my office biting at me and I can’t find that focus. It’s maniac. I complained about it all month to cherished author friends. Sort of guiltily, because there’s so much to LOVE about the opportunity social media affords the writer. It means you can reach your audience without the publishing world. That is fantastic news! It’s just a new paradigm, and it has turned my writing life as I’ve known if for half my life up…side…down.

One author friend shared this quote with me:
I start a book as a poet-warrior armed with the noblest intentions, but by the end of the publishing process, I feel like a door-to-door
salesman
.” — James Sturm.

Do you think that when Longfellow wrote these sagacious words:
The heights by great men reached and kept, were not obtained by sudden flight. But they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night,” he meant that we should fragment our energy into piggybacking on other people’s dreams and successes, obsessively, from our dark room by computer screen glow? Or that he meant that we should be using those upward toiling nights to mine our lives, widening that third eye until it’s sharp and keen like a hawk, putting our hearts and minds to a focus, not a series of shoulder taps.

Don’t get me wrong, I am thank you thank you thank you (and a bit of help me help me help me) in regard to social media. But this morning, I vowed that I would do like I used to. Wake up early, make some tea, and sit down to work on a new novel. And with a fresh new document that one day will become 300 or 400 pages…when the teapot screamed, I went into the kitchen and saw the cinnamon buns I’d lain on a plate for the kids, wrapped in morning light. Beautiful and basking.

There is freedom in creature comfort.

37 Comments

Filed under "Those Aren't Fighting Words, Dear", A Place For Writers To Share, Food, My Posts

37 Responses to Morning Light

  1. You had me at the picture of the cinnamon buns!

    Seriously, I totally relate. I haven’t even been doing the social media thing that long myself, but already I am weary. Already I find days that go by where there’s been much networking, not so much writing. I hate the way I feel when I’ve done too much of the former (no offense to all those I meet through social media – I’ve met many wonderful, fabulous people, and there IS so much to love about these opportunities), and I miss the latter.

    In the end, I think we have to come back to, and focus on, the work. Without the writing, all the rest is pointless. It’s the writing that fills our souls, and it’s the filling our souls that matters.

    Enjoy a cinnamon bun for me!

    • lauramunson

      Thanks, Pam. I know– it’s so confusing because I have made some unbelievable new friends via social media too and am inspired in ways I wasn’t, before it came into my life. It’s really about ME needing to learn how to turn it off. There was once a time when people came home from work, and there was no way to KEEP working. I miss those days. My father knew those days. I watched him change into his home clothes like Mr. Rogers, and watch Andy Griffith and shake off his work day. We need a little Andy Griffith, I’m thinking! yrs. Laura

      • I agree – and more “unplug” days! Especially challenging because the Internet and my novel are both in this same little box.

        Did you post on your no-TV experiment? If so, I missed it. I’m curious how that has been for you and your family!

        • lauramunson

          Hi, Pam– The no-TV experiment has, I’m afraid, morphed into sort of a different experiment. I’m planning on posting something about it. Experiment still in the works. Thanks for asking! yrs. Laura

  2. You definitely need to schedule social networking time or it will drive you crazy. It’s not necessary to engage every day either. And you can ignore vast amounts of the buzz. No one is offended if you don’t respond. Why not give it a rest for awhile?

    • lauramunson

      Susan– thank you! I think that I might spend August re-posting stuff I posted last year at this time when no one knew who I was. This blog is actually FULL of my stuff that no one reads. Great idea. I love my blog, actually, and the whole process of it. It’s a GREAT writing warm up. And I’m going to use it to then launch into my next novel starting TODAY! It’s just all the other stuff that is so crowded and as a person with a HUGE heart, I get a bit confused and mangled around. It’s all been so fast and furious, this last year of my life. Thank god I know myself on the page, and thank god I have readers like you. yrs. Laura

      • One of my blogger friends Kerry at http://www.cluewagon.com/ wrote a post back in May that equated Twitter to a big party. I love the analogy and think it applies more generally to the buzz of all social media platforms, not just Twitter. As we engage in this new form of social interacting we have to rediscover what is really expected us. At a large party you can come and go, talk to one person or ten persons or no one. It is an environment in which you’re invited to interact in a way that suits you, extending your social network in the process.

        • lauramunson

          Love this, Susan. As with all things, be authentic, yes? I’m finding my Twitter voice! The bat and dead cat in my afternoon yesterday helped in a weird way. Thanks for all the support and good words. Yrs. Laura

  3. When I was writing my first book, I asked an editor friend of mine about how to sell it and she gave me some terrific advice. She said, “When you’re writing, put on your creative hat and write and don’t let anything get in the way. When you think you’re done, then put away the writing hat for a bit and put on your selling hat. The two are totally separate and should remain that way.”

    Unfortunately, in this age of social media, it feels like we have to do both simultaneously. I, too, am overwhelmed by it all, but ultimately the reason I write is because I love it and I am compelled to do so. Without the joy of writing I’m certain I’d dry up and blow away, so I guess I will continue to make sure that, at least while I am writing, the only hat I am wearing is the creative one.

    • lauramunson

      I love this. Two hats. That’s how it’s got to be. I feel it. THANK YOU! yrs. Laura

      How is that I’m actually getting such great therapy on my own blog!? I love you guys.

  4. Hi Laura, I feel your pain — and that particular sensation of simultaneously sinking into mud and scrambling on a hamster wheel that comes over me when I am spending too much time in social media land. I think this is especially true when you are in the thick of book promotion and feel like you have to be doing absolutely EVERYTHING to promote your book. I have actually been relieved recently to feel that pressure ebb away a bit…
    I wanted to share a post on my own blog about Social Media, entitled: Why People on Facebook Care that My Cat is Disgusting.
    http://zoefitzgeraldcarter.com/blog/2010/06/why-people-on-facebook-care-that-my-cat-is-disgusting/
    Basically, I have found that people respond to posts that are authentic and human and that too much self-promotion is a turn-off.
    So please excuse the self-promo embedded in this comment — and keep writing! I will try to do the same.
    Zoe

    • lauramunson

      Zoe– you are wise with your words. Thanks for this. I have your book on my bedside table. I consider you a special sister in words via our meeting in SF. Glad you’ve had some lifting of the load. yrs. Laura

  5. Ellen Liauw

    I love Neil Gaiman. He is an amazing writer but also a prolific blogger and twitter…. but even he has stopped blogging while needing to finish work. He is also NOT the father of young children. I often wonder if having a family makes it difficult to be creative. You often read of writers who have this discipline of writing a certain number of pages per day/night regardless but most of these people lived in a time before social media. I think it is a double edged sword. In this age of media saturation you have to be constantly producing work, to be seen to be out there I often wonder at the cost.
    I wonder what Thomas Pynchon would have to say…
    Good luck, I’m sure if you find the answer to a creative work/life balance in the age of social media you’ll have another best seller on your hands :)

    • lauramunson

      You are wonderful. Thank you. I feel like I’ve been in therapy for the last hour answering all these great responses. I know how to be a writer. I love this blog and I love connecting. I’m just thinking about my stressed out father coming home in his felt fedora, changing into his khakies and white button down shirt, having a drink, and chilling out. The internet makes it possible to GO GO GO all day and never stop. I’m learning how to stop– to be architectural about it. Having a glorious moment: Kids outside playing on the Slip n’ Slide. Listening to Leonard Cohen. Getting ready to edit my fist chapter of my new novel. I’m at home. Just not sure about the whole Twitter thing. LOVE this new community. A year ago I felt lonely in all this. Now I feel…well…blessed. Thanks, Ellen, for being here. yrs. Laura

    • lauramunson

      Ellen– after I cook the corn and serve the steak…I’m sitting down with Neil Gaiman. THANK YOU. yrs. Laura

  6. I know what you mean Laura. It’s a crazy world on the internet, but if it wasn’t for the internet, I wouldn’t have met you and probably wouldn’t have met Tricia. I’m very thankful for that. Since I’m not doing much with Mags./ Newspapers at the moment, my blog is where it’s at. My best writing comes out there. I do it everyday. I’m currently on 215 out of 365 days. That is writing. That is my work. Now that my book is on the horizon, it’s a lot! However, I’ve built up a fan base there so I want to keep it going. I think it’s important to schedule time for internet and schedule time for everything else. I’m under the belief that if you have good work out there, it will be found. Corralling people to come to your site is not the most effective way to have them stay. I think it’s about the writing. That has to be FIRST and if it’s authentic, it will bring people. Great post!

    • lauramunson

      Love your words, friend. (tis true we have social media to thank for it!!!!) Thank you. You always inspire me. yrs. Laura

  7. I hear you. I loved this post because this is so often what I wrestle with — doing the social media thing v doing actual work, and by that I mean the work that pays the mortgage and private school tuition.
    I, too, like the access of social media but often feel like it’s too much to deal with — such a time suck. Most days I do just get up and sit down at my desk and do the thing that I know how to do — research and write magazine articles and personal essays. It’s nice to have those outlets to publicize the work once it’s done and published or posted … but honestly, sometimes days go by without my logging into FB or SW or Twitter. That’s good workwise, but I definitely feel like I’m missing some Big Conversation. And I wonder if I’m being left behind in some way. But the work that actually pays the bills has gotta get done, you know? So I tune it out.

    • lauramunson

      Oh, I love the missing the BIG CONVERSATION comment! It’s a lot like high school and missing the BIG PARTY! I think you just gave me major insight into why I’m having boundary issues with Social Media. THANK YOU! And yet…here’s the conundrum: social media just gave me a major aha moment via a lovely stranger. Now if one of you could come to my office and make the mouse go away who is making my writing life smell so gross. I think this is a sign. GET THEE OUT of the office and go plein air write like you did when you were a kid…. yrs. Laura

  8. Laura,
    If I didn’t know better, I’d SWEAR you’ve been living inside the dark, whiney, cranky, thankful, overwhelmed alleys inside my head that have “paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”

    When I first made the decision to write, I pictured myself, waking up to feed my mouthy muses, (our goats and chickens), strutting out to the gym, and coming home to write- hugged by the bouquet of my apple strudel candles, gazing over our pond. Then…I attended a writer’s conference and discovered something called, “platform.” Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, etc.
    Ever since the gym called and said, “Listen, it’s not you, it’s me,” and the only gazing I’ve done is at my computer screen, that’s a stage five clinger.
    I so appreciate your honesty. My sense is what draws people to your work is that you embrace transparency.
    Thank you, thank you, thank you for making me feel like even NYT bestselling authors share the same challenges and triumphs (I’m working on the triumph part).
    Now, I’m going to play ping pong with my Facebook Page and Twitter account.
    Help me, help me, help me. ;-)

    • lauramunson

      Just write. That’s what I’ve got to share. That’s who I’ve been. That’s the me that I know. I know you know, sister in words. yrs. Laura

  9. wendy hill

    Laura-

    Small world – just friended your brother John on FB (of all places – I call it *Timesuck* but, then, without it I would never have found this and all these connections he and I have). I just finished “This Is Not…” and I cannot tell you how much it hit home, and is helping me through a very difficult time. I am recommending it to EVERYONE I KNOW. You are a beautiful writer, and I hope to meet you some day. In the meantime, one of my favorite quotes re: writing comes from, of all people, Helen Gurley Brown (Cosmo) who said, so simply, “A writer writes.” xo W.

  10. Lauren, Thank you for your terrific thoughts. You are right-on! I just finished writing my first novel – first draft. Now, I’m revising like a mad-woman. What I cherish the most is the process – and that first cup of green tea in the morning. Thank you for your inspiration. Balancing all of this is a challenge. Warm wishes and blessings to you.
    Julie

  11. Pingback: In This Corner The Art of Writing and In This Corner Social Media and Platform Building : Stephanie Baffone

    • lauramunson

      Stephanie, you honor me so often and with such abundance. I hope somebody does this for you! I hope I can be a part of it!yrs. Laura

  12. It’s so true! I’ve been hankering for some kind of routine, the comfort and ritual of it. This last half of the summer has been pretty haphazard – not all in bad ways, but now I find myself dreaming of new routines. My husband and children will be going back to school, my first draft is done, there’s lots to do, including social networking. And I want to figure out how to manage it without becoming overwhelmed.

    • lauramunson

      I keep telling myself that it’s all about generosity. And what I know that is OF me. What can I share that will help? And then it is easy. But I will def need to figure out how much time to spend where online. You’re smart to want structure and to make it occur. I love responding to people. That’s my favorite part. And then I think it’s: go get that second cup of tea and write the book. And don’t peek on Twitter or FB until end of the day. That’s how I’m rollin’ now. Did I tell you that I think my cat died under my porch??? I’m so freaked out right now. Thought he’d gone to the cat house in the sky…but there is a serious stench…and my writing desk is very close to this stench. Maybe he decided I was working too hard and to repell me from this post. TMI. Sorry. yrs. Laura

  13. Laura, Thank you for your “cheer!” Don’t worry, I will persevere! Thank you! Thank you!

  14. My pal, my writer buddy… You do speak for so many of us writers out here in the world, living our dreams, and not entirely sure the dream isn’t choking in the hubris of the business. As authors are asked to become avid publicists/salesmen of their own work, the spring of creativity grows bogged. I celebrate your resolution! I’ve made the same choice many times myself, taking my tea to my office to write least I forget why I write, forget my love for the craft, forget writing is about the process for me and not so much the marketing of the end product (as it is, and should be, for publishers). The longer I boat the publishing waters, the more I realize readers link directly to what we write, and the business of getting them to do that, is largely just as you put it, “a swarm of mosquitos, buzzing around your head.” I think of the many paths in the social media world now as paths that readers can explore to find us. We don’t need to light the sky in neon for them to do so.

    • lauramunson

      YOU NAILED IT, Glenda. The pressure to light the sky in neon is large as we embark on our first bout with a published book. Especially, in my case at least, after so many years of not having a platform. I’m learning how to be a business person and an artist at mach speed, and sometimes it’s staggering. HOWEVER, it’s all so wonderful. I need to give myself rules about when to wear those hats. Learning curve is at black diamond vertical at present. By summer’s end, I think I’ll have a good grasp on it, just in time for autumn chill which always brings with it sacred time time. What I’m learning via social media is that it can be really fun to have community in this solitary writer’s life. I just need to get used to it. I’ve been flying solo for a long time at this writing desk. Thanks for relating. I need to go to Seattle this fall, so it would be fun to stop in on you in your neck of the woods! yrs. Laura

  15. Laura,
    You have a gift and it lives within you. Thank you for sharing it with the world at this time in space.

    Namaste,
    -CATHRINE WHITE

  16. Laura, you have a gift that lives within you, thank you for sharing it with the world.

    Namaste,
    -CATHRINE WHITE

    • lauramunson

      Cathrine, thank you for those kind words. Takes one to know one. GORGEOUS photographs! And I see you know a certain Ms. Lee Woodruff, esq. I love the woman. Such a circle of sisters…yrs. Laura

      • For a while after my book, The Crack between the Worlds: a dancer’s memoir of loss, faith and family, was published, I felt overwhelmed not just by social media but by everything about marketing. It was an unwelcome challenge and took me away from writing. But as the end of the book’s first year draws near, I find that I love talking to people and stimulating discussions around the book and its topics. Readings have gradually given way to speaking engagements in many different contexts, and this feels as worthwhile as writing itself. Dates and places where I’ll be speaking or teaching are on my blog, ritualandrhubarbpie.blogspot.com

        • lauramunson

          Thanks, Maggie. I love connecting with people too. I’m learning how to do this effectively so that I can work on my next book and keep my life in balance. It’s really great to hear from other writers about how to do this. I’ll look forward to reading your blog! yrs. Laura

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>