New Writing Goals: Set in Concrete

diablo lake cascade mountains

Two days after we returned from our last-minute, end-of-summer vacation, my daughter was back in school and I was back to work with some new writing goals. I settled back into my home office with the renewed vigor and enthusiasm that comes of going out into the world and experiencing different places, people and ways of life, and then returning home to appreciate your own familiar routines with a fresh eye.

And, it turns out, with a bit of a spring in my step. In addition to the freelance content marketing writing I do, I came home excited to revisit some of my creative roots, such as essay writing.

Long ago, I launched my freelance writing career by selling an essay about how many Hawaii graduates wear congratulatory flower leis stacked to their eyebrows. I sold it as a personal commentary to NPR’s All Things Considered and it was my first-ever freelance sale. I sold them, and voiced, a couple more essays after that. Later I did several commentaries specifically for Hawaii Public Radio. I’ve published essays elsewhere, as well, but not for years. Life and work got busy and I got out of the habit.

Suddenly, surprisingly, ideas are again leaping out at me, so many that I am carrying around a yellow composition book to catch them.

I also want to get back to writing books. I’ve written a couple books that publishers approached me about, but now I’m ready to focus on my own books. One of the things I’m sure about in life is that if I don’t write the books I have inside me, I’ll regret it.

Fresh Start, New Goals

The start of a new school year feels like exactly the right time to add these writing goals to my plate. It’s astonishing to me that school here starts at the beginning of August, and that they call it “fall semester” with a straight face. Maybe that’s why this summer zipped by before I got around to planning our vacation.

I booked our quick, last-minute trip to Seattle, chosen partly because we get tired of being hot all the time and expected cooler weather there. It turned out to be unseasonably warm, but our five-day getaway was great nonetheless.

writing goals

We stayed with one of my favorite cousins, and kept stopping at fruit stands for delicious peaches, nectarines and Rainier cherries like we cannot get at home. I loved catching up with my cousin and his family, and stuffed myself with too much ripe sweet fruit, and then I ate more.

We drove over the bridge at the northernmost end of beautiful Whidbey Island and spent a whole day cruising down the long, narrow island. It was fun to poke around in the island’s galleries and bookstores and see its cute, wild bunnies. We ate a delicious lunch at the Noe José Cafe in Oak Harbor (where a waiter mentioned that the owners are Noe and José and the name is a play on words: The “No Way José” Café). Dinner was great barbecue from The Big W Food Truck in Langley, where we ordered alongside locals who all seemed to know each other or the truck owners. Some were picking up dinner while walking their dogs. At the end of that good day, we drove our rental car onto the ferry on the south end of the island to head back to the mainland.

We spent a different day driving through the Cascade Mountains, where we ate good food at 5b’s Bakery in Concrete, Washington. It was highly recommended on Yelp, and Yelp was right.

Some interesting facts about Concrete:

They made the concrete for Seattle’s Space Needle there. Author Tobias Wolff attended Concrete High School. And while 1938 Concrete residents listened to Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds” radio drama, there was a town-wide power failure that also took down telephone service. People fainted, others grabbed their families and headed into the mountains, and the town’s reaction made international news. Also, Concrete has ghosts.

In the North Cascades, we hiked through forests of pine and fir that smell like camping. We watched eagles soar quietly back and forth over the rushing Skagit River, and looked down at beautiful, huge, calm lakes of the deepest aquamarine.

We went indoor skydiving, which I didn’t know I would love that much, although not so much I would ever jump out of a plane.

At the crowded Pike Place Market, we touristed-out by taking photos in front of the first-ever Starbucks and its original logo in the window. We had lunch there just off the beaten path and I ordered a BLT. It included “S,” the freshest, most perfectly prepared salmon I’ve ever eaten. (“Salmon and bacon in the same sandwich!” said the waitress in approval. “There’s nothing better.”)

Writing Goals: As Good as Salmon and Bacon

Turns out she was right. It’s another great memory to have back here at my desk where I am rejuvenated about doing satisfying work. I have plenty of good assignments, hospitality technology and other content marketing writing work, for which I am grateful. Every day is different and interesting and I enjoy what I do.

But the change in scenery – and people, places, things, ideas – made me arrive back home feeling able to do anything. It’s exciting to add essays and books back into what I write. This is my public declaration so you will hold me to these goals, even if (when) the next new thing distracts me. Look, cute wild bunnies!

I’m interested to see where I’m at with these writing goals by the time this 2017-18 school year draws to a close. I scheduled a follow-up blog post on my calendar for next May. Watch for it here. I’ll blog about my creative progress along the way, too.

Is there something you aren’t making yourself get around to? Will you regret if you don’t even try? Feel free to make your own goals declaration here if you’d like, and we can encourage and remind each other to make these things happen.

And stay tuned.

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The Magic of Letters

I was already a huge believer in reading and writing and the power of it all — but have a look or listen to this woman from Nepal, who was a child bride and didn’t learn to read until she was 21, and tell me it’s not magic.

The story she tells — her story — is enormous and beautiful. Now that is somehow who has learned to appreciate the power of the alphabet. Wow. Leslie Lang, Writer, Ghostwriter, Memoir, Content Marketing, Hawaii

It’s another This I Believe story from over at NPR. What an amazing collection of essays they are gathering, saving, sharing.  People have the most incredible stories. I think everybody probably has one. This woman’s story really struck me.

From her essay, which someone else read in English:

…Before learning how to write, my life was like the nearby Indrasarovar Lake, always stagnant. I had the pain of child marriage, my husband did not support me, abject poverty was my way of life and I didn’t have any skill or courage to do anything. But I saw that the number of people learning to read and write was growing — and their lives were improving. I then realized it was neither wealth nor beauty that I lacked, but letters…

Powerful.

There’s a TED talk by Isabel Allende, one of my favorite authors, in which she discusses passion and also women. Specifically, the plight of women in much of the non-privileged world — and it made me think about this one Nepalese woman’s words.

Allende’s talk is really worth a listen. It’s humorous (she says someone asked Sophia Loren how she can look so sexy in her 70s, and she replied something like, “Posture. My spine is always straight. And I don’t make old people noises”) and also poignant and important. Listen to it here.

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Record a Personal History & Stop the World

When I read this excellent essay at NPR’s website, I thought: That is why we take the time and make the effort to record people’s stories, their personal histories. Because it’s the stories that keep our parents, our grandparents, our siblings who died too early and cherished friends and great-grandparents and others from winking out of our memories.

From npr.org:

September 20, 2010

by ROBERT KRULWICH 

Now that it’s almost fall and there is a hint again of things passing, I think about a boy who once looked out a window, and wistful about time slipping by, he made it stop. Yes, he stopped time.

I love this story. It was told by Loren Eiseley, an anthropologist and one of my favorite science writers. Eiseley grew up in Nebraska and one day, when he was in high school, he happened to glance out the window and saw a junkman heading up a city street.

In 1923, junk men collected potentially valuable garbage and hauled it off for resale. This particular junkman, Eiseley wrote, had “a broken old horse plodding before a cart laden with bags of cast-off clothing, discarded furniture and abandoned metal. The horse’s harness was a makeshift combination of straps mended with rope. The bearded man perched high in the driver’s seat looked as though he had been compounded from the assorted junk heap in the wagon bed.” 

A few moments later, when the junkman and his wagon were about to round a corner at the intersection of R and 14th streets, Loren says he “leaned from a high school window a block away, absorbed as only a sixteen year old may sometimes be with the sudden discovery of time. It is all going, I thought with the bitter desperation of the young confronting history. No one can hold us. Each and all, we are riding into the dark.”

That is when he stopped the world….  READ THE REST

This story fascinated me, and well-illustrates why I help people organize, record and publish the personal or family histories that are most important to them. It is so satisfying to help people keep their stories from disappearing. So the people in their stories stay alive for the people still to come.

So they don’t wink out.

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Writing Clearly

writing1As I motored along this morning with NPR on the radio, I heard this story “And The Award For Convoluted Legalese Goes to….

As my livelihood is all about not writing convoluted anything, my ears perked up and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it.

Here’s a little tidbit from it:

Mr. MALKI: …I definitely acknowledge that there are legal terms that need to be portrayed, you know, certain guidelines laid out in a very clear and legal way in case it’s ever contested. However, there are a lot of freelance writers who need some work. And they could easily be hired.

Ms. CHEEK: Right. Writing clearly is not easy. And I think writing is one of those things that many people think I don’t need an expert; I can do it myself. But I think it is something that needs an expert, particularly when you have a team of technical people and legal people, I think a critical third member of that team is someone who knows how to write clearly. And very often that team member is not there at all.

Hear the rest of the story at NPR.

I am a clear writer. I don’t like reading things that only make life harder, and if you are suffering with this sort of writing in your business or life, you should call me. I can help.

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The Magic of Letters: I Believe It, Too

Wow. I am a huge believer in reading and writing and the power of it all — but have a look or listen to this woman from Nepal, who was a child bride and didn’t learn to read until she was 21.

The story she tells — her story — is enormous and beautiful. Now that is somehow who has learned to appreciate the power of the alphabet. Wow.
book

It’s another This I Believe story from over at NPR. What an amazing collection of essays they are gathering, saving, sharing.  People have the most incredible stories. I think everybody probably has one. This woman’s story really struck me.

From her essay, which someone else read in English:

…Before learning how to write, my life was like the nearby Indrasarovar Lake, always stagnant. I had the pain of child marriage, my husband did not support me, abject poverty was my way of life and I didn’t have any skill or courage to do anything. But I saw that the number of people learning to read and write was growing — and their lives were improving. I then realized it was neither wealth nor beauty that I lacked, but letters…

Powerful.

Edited to add: I just stumbled upon a TED presentation (do you know those? fascinating) by Isabel Allende, one of my favorite authors. In her video, she discusses passion and also women. Specifically, the plight of women in much of the non-privileged world — and it brought me back to thinking about this one Nepalese woman’s words. 

Her talk is really worth a listen. It’s humorous (she says someone asked Sophia Loren how she can look so sexy in her 70s, and she replied something like, “Posture. My spine is always straight. And I don’t make old people noises”) and also poignant and important. Listen to it here.

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