Poetry & Words, Theology

Let the words fall again

Technology as a hindrance to overcoming writers block

Mason Jennings has a new album, due out November 12 (11.12.13). I haven’t really listened to any of the sneak peeks yet. But I am struck by the way he wrote this album.

“After nearly a year of writer’s block, Jennings holed himself up in a cabin with only a handful of tools at his disposal: a guitar, electric piano, bookshelf, notebook, tape recorder and one 90-minute cassette.

…’I was overwhelmed by all the technology,’ Jennings says, ‘and it was getting in the way of the true core, the mystery of songwriting.'” [via this article.]

I love that.

Maybe when the writing stops coming, maybe it’s because I’m letting things chase the words away. Maybe I need to chase everything else away, and the words will return.

I want the words to fall again, like delicate leaves, slightly broken, let loose from an autumn tree. I want them to fall again, to gather around my feet, to follow the path they were meant to flow in the middle of the silent forest.

Maybe I need to chase away the howling wind.

Life in Photos, Poetry & Words, Theology

Spelling out hope in all kinds of ways

June 2013 - Aveline waking up near window
June 2013 - Aveline looking out window

We wake up slowly this morning, the hum of the air conditioner and the dehumidifier a constant reminder of the tropical climate. They are the new silent, the steady noise which blends into the background and becomes a part of these walls and this life.

Outside, the landscapers’ lawn mowers rattle across the sidewalks and through the landscaping mulch, sending a spray of pebbles and bark across the bottom third of the front door. I cringe a little, thinking of the helpless, newly-transplanted moss rose and marigolds in terracotta pots on the front stoop.  The new pinwheel, whirring happily to the blast of mower exhaust, doesn’t mind. It just spins and blends the colors into a sphere anyway.

Aveline wants to see it all, and settles in by the second-story window to watch. It’s a Monday-morning routine, at least when the rain stays away long enough for the landscapers to trim and edge and cut and sweep.

Maybe later, we’ll spread out a towel on the narrow strip of sidewalk in front of the door, and sit side-by-side in the sun to “make ABCs” on the concrete, until our fingers and knees are covered in dusty blue and pink and yellow.

She wants to “make ABCs” with her pens and crayons and chalk, this one, not houses or trees or little boys and girls. She flips book pages and pretends to read, and screeches “TWO A’s!” whenever she spots a word which has, indeed, two letter A’s. She can’t pronounce her own name, but she can make a letter “T” from pretzel sticks, and she turns her felt number 2 upside-down to “make Z”.

I don’t know where she gets these crazy ideas. I know how it feels to love letters, though.

I love letters. I love the words you can make from them. I love that 26 characters can be scrambled and pushed into thousands and thousands of different orders to spell out love, or fear, or hope, or happiness.

May she grow up to spell out lots and lots and lots of hope.

Poetry & Words

POETRY & WORDS :: What Bloggers Knew 10 Years Ago That We Forget

What Bloggers Knew 10 Years Ago That We Forget

I’ve been blogging for ten years. TEN! Well, I’ve been writing online for longer than that, because I was posting in garish-colored fonts on antique website before I even had a blog. But I’ve been blogging continuously for an entire decade now. (Yikes!)

And you know? While I don’t miss the animated clipart or MIDI sound files, I do miss the blogging world from ten years ago. Why? Precisely because it wasn’t a blogging world. It wasn’t a popularity contest.

Bloggers then was people with things to say, and plain little weblogs which gave them the space to spell out the words. Blogging then was writing. You could type as much or as little as you wanted. You didn’t have to promote it anywhere, because there was no social media.

Perhaps nostalgia is clouding my eyes, but I feel like back then, “Content is king” wasn’t just a good bit of blogging advice. Content actually was king. And it was something you had to create yourself, otherwise you didn’t have anything to post. There were no themed weekly series or linkups or duckface selfies. There were no #OOTD posts or shopping roundups.

And the mystery of how to drive engagement? There was no mystery. It was simple. If a reader had something to say, he or she manually typed it out in the comment box. There simply weren’t any other options (well, except for Xanga e-props). No one could star your post on Twitter or click the thumbs-up on Facebook because neither of those websites existed.

I’m not being a Luddite. I love the internet. I love the possibilities and opportunities the internet provides. I’m a technology — and social media — junkie. I think it’s nothing short of incredible that I can sit here with the world at my fingertips and plan out marketing strategy and email people the world over about a business idea. I think the global connectivity made possible by technology is incredible. I don’t think we should ditch our laptops and plug our land lines back in. I love my WiFi and my laptop and my Netflix and my camera and my phone and my iPod Touch. I don’t think we should all start buying wheat berries, churn our own butter, and learn Morse Code.

But I do think that those of us who have been blogging for a long time need to look back on why we first picked up a keyboard and a URL.

For me, it was the same drive that always caused me to pick up a pen and notebook — an insatiable urge to pour words out of ink, and push and twist them into life on the page.

As bloggers, maybe it’s time we injected a little more of that life back into our blogs.

I don’t mean we have to lose the themed weekly series and the linkups and the OOTDs and the roundups (although it would be nice if profile pictures were duckface-free). But let’s keep perspective. Let’s not become so crazed chasing higher follower numbers and obsessing over stats and wishing big blogs would invite us over to play that we forget why it is we started to blog once upon a time.

I’m typing this in the fullscreen mode of the WordPress editor, and each time I pause, a prompt appears on the screen.

It’s simple.

It’s powerful.

It was the driving force of the early blogging movement.

And imagine what would happen today if we did more of it!

What Bloggers Knew 10 Years Ago That We Forget

Poetry & Words, Theology

The Muse of Realization

“And what do you do?”

“Well, um, I like to write.”

“Oh, interesting! What do you write?”

“. . .”

The Muse of Realization - On yearning but not knowing what to do - via Oaxacaborn

Someday, I want to have an answer to that question.

Right now, when the words “I like to write” slip out of my mouth, I hear instead “Well, I like the idea of writing something someday.”

But no person ever became a writer by thinking about it.

I think about plenty, though. It’s just been a long time since I’ve written.

Today I thought about how today’s sky was softer than yesterday’s sky; how today’s sky made Florida less of a seven-letter-word and more like something that might even be able to someday remind me of home. I thought about how the back of Aveline’s head still smells as pure and perfect as it did two years ago, and how when I go home my own momma pulls me close and breathes in and says, “Mmm, you smell good.” I thought about how I wanted to be able to do the same thing years from now, and then I thought about how, really, years aren’t given. Years are loaned, and years aren’t ours alone to hold.

I thought about heaven and how the soft sky would one day split, and I thought about the colors that would pour down. I wondered if there would be more than cerulean and midnight blue and the lavender of heather after the dew.

I thought about how music notes are really alive on their own, and I thought about how individually they dance, and how together they become something new every second, something beyond corralling with words.

And I thought about this earth, and the countries on every part of these sphere, and the children on the streets and in the orphanages, and the children with no homes. And I thought about how I don’t know how to help them and I don’t know what do, except that I need to do more. And I thought about all the tears I’ve cried over this, and how a burdened heart alone can’t change the world.

And I thought about all the times I’ve thought and not written, and thought but not acted, and thought but not done.

And then I remembered Wendell Berry, and the Muse of Realization, and thought about how maybe this place in the journey is exactly where I am supposed to be.

“There are, it seems, two muses: the Muse of Inspiration, who gives us inarticulate visions and desires, and the Muse of Realization, who returns again and again to say “It is yet more difficult than you thought.” This is the muse of form. It may be then that form serves us best when it works as an obstruction, to baffle us and deflect our intended course. It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.”

I want to sing.

Life in Photos

LIFE IN PHOTOS :: Letters and Numbers

Aveline - January 2013 - Aveline's attempt to make 8's - Photo via Oaxacaborn dot com

Aveline - January 2013 - Coloring on Worksheets - Photo via Oaxacaborn dot com

We’re both sitting here this morning working on letters (well, she’s working on numbers, too.) I push little square plastic buttons on the keyboard and the letters appear, black and sans-serif, perfectly aligned; yet still I rearrange them endlessly.

She chooses from among sixty-four colors like marigold and cerulean and orchid, and fills in the centers of her O’s and 8’s and sings her version of the alphabet, which currently sounds like “O-O-B-O-E-E-E-O.”

I open another blank document; she runs to the printer for another worksheet.

We’re not that different, she and I.

(Thanks to Marie of A Sea Apart for the link to these great printable worksheets.)

Babiekins Magazine, Poetry & Words

WRITING & WORDS :: Morning, in Which I Pull Letters into Words so you can Read Them /or/ The Humble Beginnings of a Magazine Article

Guatemala Coffee Sack of Burlap 150 lbs

It’s a rare morning, this. Up earlier than the baby, and unable to fall back asleep, I pull the lace-trimmed sheets back up to my chin.

I roll over and reach for my iDevice, and touch the screen to open the YouVersion app. I will my eyes to focus, and read out loud quietly.

“When the Cloud lifted above the Tent, the People of Israel marched out; and when the Cloud descended the people camped….It made no difference whether the Cloud hovered over The Dwelling for two days or a month or a year, as long as the Cloud was there, they were there. And when the Cloud went up, they got up and marched. They camped at God’s command and they marched at God’s command.” -Numbers 9

“I like that the longest time listed is a year”, says Josiah. I smile.

“I’m serious,” he continues. “It’s nice that it doesn’t say, ‘…ten years’ or something.”

I nod, and look back at the passage. I don’t always know why we are here. But I know God’s presence is here. I like that. I like knowing that. He leads us.

I get out of bed, sleepy but happy.

“Let’s have coffee?” I ask hopefully. He always makes the coffee.

I stare out the window, watching the light at the toll booth turn red, green, red. Every so often, a car speeds through without paying and the light stays red.

Words tumble in my mind, as I mentally start sorting sentences for the magazine articles I am working on. I sit down at the table, and start to scratch out words the old-fashioned way, with a pen. I move words around with a ink-drawn arrow, not a virtual one.

Drafting Article for Magazine

Slowly, the words begin to flow. I feel a sudden surge of excitement; I might actually be able to knock these articles out this morning! And then, just a few sentences in, I sneeze involuntarily, and my sneeze is echoed by Aveline’s sudden cry.

I can’t help but smile, even as I shake my head in disbelief.

I close my notebook.

“Good morning, Aveline!” I call out as I walk through the sunshine to her bedroom door.

Until I sit down again, these sentences will be calling to me, waiting for me to pull each of these letters and words into living stories so you can drink them in.

Poetry & Words

WRITING & WORDS :: Recurring dreams of minor chords :: Rediscovering the reason I write

Sometimes it’s hard to remember how much I need words, until the words of someone who knows how to paint and bend and pull letters into life reminds me. And it’s then, inside the pages of a master wordsmith, that I remember —

Remember that I’ve forgotten what it is to pick up a pen with no purpose other than to let the words untangle themselves. I’ve forgotten what it is to write with no other purpose than to set words free from the confines of my own mind. It used to only take the first scratch of pen against the paper fibers, and the words would begin to flow. As my fingers moved in fluid curves across the page, the words would run up and down the lines, and I would watch as they wrapped around the corners, into the margins, pressed up against the edges, free.

Once upon a time, I wrote as if no one would read it, wrote as if there were no such things as blogs and stats and page views. I wrote without second-guessing my words, wrote without considering my audience (there was none!), wrote without fear. And the words brought joy.

“Oh now the roots are reminiscing
Recurring dreams of minor chords
Metred time
Muted chimes find the beat

And in the pulse there lies conviction
A steady push and pull routine
The cymbals swell
High notes flail into reach.” -Maria Taylor, Song Beneath the Song

Maybe it’s time. Maybe it’s time to let the words free again.

“[Writing] is… a kind of leaving of notes for another to find, and a willingness to have them fall into the wrong hands.” –Matthew Hollis

I’m willing.

These are my notes.

Babiekins Magazine, Poetry & Words

WRITING & WORDS :: My Story “Little Miss Green Thumb”, Published in the Spring 2012 Issue of Babiekins Magazine

Have you read the gorgeous spring edition of Babiekins Magazine?  I definitely squealed when I saw the fantastic illustrations Rosy Designs did for my story “Little Miss Green Thumb”!

Little Miss Green Thumb - Illustrations by Rosy Designs - Story by Gina Munsey - Babiekins Magazine Issue 8 Page 151

Little Miss Green Thumb - Illustrations by Rosy Designs - Story by Gina Munsey - Babiekins Magazine Issue 8 Page 153

Thank you, Babiekins Magazine! It’s thrilling to see my name under the “Writers” heading. I’m ecstatic for what this year will bring. (Have you heard, readers? The Fall issue will be in print, like, IN BOOKSTORES!

So, so exciting.)

To read my story, which is located on pages 151-154, go to Babiekins Magazine, click on “Table of Contents” in the upper left hand corner, then click on “Little Miss Green Thumb” in the fourth column.