:: WHY WE BE ::

Boo to false, self-imposed limits, we say. These champion oracles want to live enthusiastically. Follow our trip through projects that challenge, frustrate, and/or scare us. In the end (which is really the middle) we want to live like big bright free and authentically awesome people.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

COFFEE Project Post Four: Always Look Eye (Tawni)

I am hoping the brave Sensei Miyagi meaning behind my blog title will give me back some of my fighting spirit.

Because really, I must confess: I’ve been in a funk. A slump. A slacker-black tar pit from which the woolly mammoth of my motivation cannot escape. (Prehistoric theme this time? SCORE.)

“Rub some dirt in it and get back in the game, Freebird!” I had to bark at myself this week.

(I call myself “Freebird” when I’m mad at me. My nickname evolved from sarcastic band mates changing my last name from “Freeland” to this by jokingly taunting, “Way to go, Freebird,” if I botched a guitar note or something. Yep. Comedians, every one of them.)

Around Thanksgiving, I went to Arizona for most of a week to visit my dear family, which was really incredible. I didn’t even bother trying to keep track of my writing progress, for I knew there would be none. I was completely out of my routine (and state), with a very active four-year-old boy in tow, so it was impossible to plan time alone to write. Plus, I wanted to hang out with my family and stuff. I miss them.

I returned home with good intentions, desperately trying to ignore the paved road to hell, and proceeded to have a week of physical therapy, doctor appointments and nightmarish trips to the DMV where I was temporarily confused for a woman in Oklahoma who has a name oddly similar to my own unique name and an identical birth date. (I know, right? Another story.)

Rambling paragraph of more lame excuses short, I only wrote one day of the two I’d promised when I got back to town. Since I had nothing more to report here, I didn’t even post my regularly scheduled COFFEE blog. And yes, the irony of failing to write a blog about my goal of trying to make more time to write occurred to me.

I don’t know if it’s the way the bitterly cold weather makes me want to lie under my electric blanket and eat carbs until March, or if I’m just depressed, but I have been not feeling it with a capital NUH-UH lately.

I do this every winter, and no amount of children’s gummy vitamin D supplements munched along with my son seems to prevent it. I don’t do cold well. It makes me feel tense and tired. And then I’m whiny and annoying to be around. It’s a living.

When I reached the low point in my de-motivated haze of late during which my husband started quoting inspirational songs from the movie Karate Kid, I knew I had to do something. Because my husband dramatically singing at me, “You're the best around... nothing's gonna ever keep you down!” always calls for drastic measures. (And earmuffs.)

Before he had a chance to smack me over the head with his Club of Enthusiasm and drag me back to the cave to write, I started my no-editing blog, Literary Lampshade.

(I’m really trying to work the dinosaur days metaphors in here. Are you noticing?)

I know I said I was going to wait until January, but I decided I needed a kick in the ass right now. I also needed more writing motivation besides the word “BOOK” in a bold 72 point font, perched heavily upon my insecure shoulders like a prehistoric monkey.

(Okay, that one was a bit forced. I’ll workshop it.)

(How about “perched heavily upon my insecure shoulders like a terrible lizard”? Is that better?)


I gave myself permission to use word or photo prompts for my little creative writing lessons in stream-of-consciousness, but so far, it’s the photos that have been inspiring me, so I think I’m going to make that the official theme. See Photo/Write About It.

Here are the rules:

1. Find an image that makes me think, or stimulates my brain in any direction, and post it on the blog.

2. Write down whatever thoughts pop into my mind while I look at that picture; no guidelines, and no restrictions. Any length, anything it makes me feel, or any story I want to make up about it is fine. (The second rule of Write Club is that there are no rules.)

3. Do not obsess over grammar, style, repetition, or do any editing beyond basic readability issues.

(For example: if I use a word a lot throughout, I am not allowed to sit and ponder new words to use instead, or change sentences and paragraphs around. But if a word gets the red wiggly spell-check underline, I am allowed to fix it. Because spelling is important.)

4. Do not worry that whatever I’ve written looks like a thirteen-year-old girl posted her diary online, or worse; like thirteen-year-old ME posted her diary online. I don’t care, I don’t care, I don’t care… okay, I do care, but I will stop caring… because the point to this exercise is to force me to get over my self-consciousness and writing inhibition.

So bring on the public humiliation! BRING IT, Inner Chicken-Sloth! Show me what you’ve got! I am not going to be afraid anymore. To put it like my Karate Kid-quoting husband: “Fear does not exist in this dojo!

I wrote a few of these quick picture-prompted pieces this week, and I must say; I truly enjoyed the process. I especially liked perusing gorgeous random photos, because as I’ve told you before; I’m very visually stimulated, like men and that Tyrannosaurus rex in Jurassic Park. (Prehistoric callback!) When an image hit me the right way, I actually had a great time writing a fictional scenario around it.

I think that in addition to helping me get over my fear of Putting It Out There, the no-edit blog is going to be really good writing practice for me as well. I am also hoping it will train me to tap into my creativity faster. I gave myself a twenty minute time limit each time, and noticed that when I knew there would be no editing allowed, I took my time and chose my words more carefully than usual, which seems like a good thing. Definitely a success.

Another positive thing that came from last week was that because of my weird experience at the DMV, the main character of my book will find out she has a twin sister during confusion at the DMV. I’m going to use that weird experience. I’m excited about taking the story in a new direction.

The other little victory I experienced since my last COFFEE Project writing was the acquisition of my very first laptop computer.

I have wanted a laptop for years, but it has never been in the budget. There have been so many moments when I’ve sat watching my son play in the yard, and felt like writing. I’ve always imagined it would be helpful to have a way to write outside of the office.

This fortuitous gift from the heavens happened because I saved money that I received for my birthday in October, and $400 I won in cooking/recipe contests (I like to creatively cook). I also have a husband who vigorously researched laptops on Consumer Reports, and then took advantage of a screaming post-Thanksgiving online deal. I still can’t believe I have a laptop of my own. I get all giggly inside whenever I use it.

Now, when my son is riding his bike on the sidewalk in front of our house, instead of sitting in a chair writing things in my head that I vow to remember but never do, I can immediately save them. I am so very grateful for my new laptop, and think it is definitely going to facilitate more writing from me.

Actually, I know it will facilitate more writing because it already has. The best thing about it is that when I’m feeling winter-whiny, I can crank my heated blanket up, crawl into my bed, and write in toasty goodness. I wrote on it a few afternoons this week, with a cup of Earl Grey on the bedside table, and feeling in my toes. And it was good.

So that’s my latest progress update. Before I end this, I want to thank my fellow COFFEE Project ladies for inspiring me this week; and especially for making me feel less alone. Seriously. What an amazing group of women we have writing here. Reading about the your accomplishments makes me cheer inside for you, ladies, and reading that you’ve also experienced setbacks lately makes me feel like it’s okay to be human. You’re all like a big hug for my inner drill sergeant, and I appreciate your thoughtful words so much.

Here are some pictures taken by my new laptop as I sat outside in the cold garage, watching my son ride his bike on the sidewalk:

Feeling joyful about my new laptop.

Feeling grateful for my new laptop.


Holly said...

Tawni, I sat in bed until about 2pm yesterday with my laptop. I wasn't writing....but I could've been. It was lovely and toasty. I love having a laptop. I can feel a prolific wave coming from you in the near future!!
Part of my new life will be writing...so, I love getting tips from the COFFEE writers who have been doing it for awhile. I will definitely be checking out your blog. I like the exercise and the rules. I also really love the writing a story about a photo. And, your happy laptop photos! I am a little perplexed about writing outside in the cold on a laptop?? Brrrr!! Don't your little fingers freeze up???
I think we've all been in a funk during these last few weeks at some point or another. I think the great part about being a part of this group is not only feeling validated that we all have funks, but that we might get out of the funks faster as a result of the group. How's that for a run on sentence???
Anyway...thanks for the inspiration and for posting today!!

patresa said...


And the laptop, too? Yes, this is the beginning of big things. I can feel it all the way over here in Iowa.

And how freakin' weird is that about the DMV and your birthday twin?! That's crazy! You should go find her. You're probably supposed to meet.

Finally, you are cute cute in your furry hood!

Tanner May (Tanya) said...

YAY, you got a laptop and now creativity will be ENDLESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS! Woo!

I also quite like the Freebird commentary.... it made me giggle even later in the shower. Just too funny in context.

And you won $400 cooking! Um, ok, WOW! I still stumble with the microwave.

Also, I think you are beautiful and have a super fantastic smile (with great pearlies by the way). I bet the other DMV lady doesn't have the same, just a gut feeling.

Thanks for a great post! Here's to all the Freebird moments that make things interesting! :)

patresa said...

oh, yeah! the cooking contest! i didn't remember that when i was commenting. yes! i too am super impressed with this, and i very much want to know what earned you the prize! share, t-free!

Wendy said...

Freebird (i LIKE that nickname and the story that went with it!), I love that picture of you. It makes me happy and you look so pretty.

I'm with P. Is the $400 recipe a secret one? If not, share pleeeez! I am a chronic recipe reader. Seriously, I do it just for fun.

I love love your ideas for motivating yourself to write. I am going to think about them for myself.

Congrats on your laptop!! Girrrrrl, you're going to be so glad you got it.

Katie said...

Tawni! Congrats on the laptop - nothing like the feeling of freedom when you can capture any stray thought from any room in the house!

Also, I would definetely love the recipe - like Wendy, sometimes I just go to bookstores and read cookbooks. Yummy. Unless it's secret of course, then we'll just have to have you come and make it for us.

Also, you're super cute in your furry hood. You could be a furry hood model. A little mischevious, a little pensive, ready for snow, but not willing to stoop to moon boots fashion either. Brava.

Also, your use of "Write Club" makes me happy at your cleverness and sense of word play. Clever girl.

Nice job!

amy said...

Tawni, Tawni! I'm so jealous of you and your new laptop! AND it has a webcam thingy on it?! Man. I know what's going on my birthday list in 2011. (My laptop just went on the fritz again, and now I'm on this slow, poopy, dial-up-speed-even-though-it's-cable-internet computer.

I deeply (so deeply) empathize with you on the winter blahs. I've tried everything from vitamin D to happy lights (do you know about these? they're supposed to increase winter happiness, but turn out to be incredibly depressing because you have to sit with them shining in your eyes like 12 hours/day, ALL winter). In addition, it was 25 degrees here today, and I am still annoyed about it.

And active toddlers make writing time (or any kind of personal time, even bathroom time) deeply challenging.

I think the fact you churned out a blog here should give you 100 extra bonus points.

And furthermore:

Creative cooking?! I'm currently baking up (heh) some quizzes for people I know who are doing some things I admire/wish to add to my life. I smell a cooking quiz in your near future.

Write Club! Yes! I think everyone should be part of some type of Write Club, whether it's a group or an exclusive, in-your-own-head club.

You look super cute in those cold weather photos!

Steph said...

Adorable photos, and congrats on getting your laptop! YAY, you!
Mr. Miyagi would totally get behind you and your post title, I'm sure of it.
I, too, despise the cold. It literally shuts me down - physically, emotionally, mentally. I HATE it. Why I live in the midwest still, I'll never know. Oh yeah, this is where my job and family is... anyway, I totally feel you. ARGH.
I can't wait to check out Literary Lampshade! AttaFreebird! Visual prompts. Huh... That's awesome... Again, Miyagi would approve, especially since there's no fear in your dojo anymore! (LOVE IT!)
Take advantage of that laptop, lady, and enjoy the process... It's a great ride, and I'm glad you're along for it!

T-Free said...

@Holly: Yay! I'm not the only bed-snuggling laptop lady! I can't help but be completely wowed by modern technology when I do this. I grew up in the time before computers and cell phones, so I am still a little in awe of them. We are so lucky to have all of these cool ways to entertain ourselves. Yay, us! :)

@P: "The EMANCIPATION OF TAWNI FREEBIRD" made me giggle. You are so funny. And yes, I totally want to choke back my dumb shyness and seek out my DMV twin. So weird! I wonder if she looks like me too?

@Tanya: Thank you so much. :) And yes... I finally got a laptop! Endless creativity! I have pined for one for years. I even have a piece of cardboard with cut-out laptop ads taped all over it, so I could compare features and prices to make sure I got the best deal possible. My little laptop Dream Board finally came true. Yippee!

@Wendy: Aw, thanks. I won the recipe money $100 at a time, actually, for four different recipes, so don't be too impressed. They're only a bunch of $100 recipes, not a $400 one. My mom finds cool cooking contests to enter, and lets me in on them. Then we spend entirely too much time on the phone discussing food ideas. She even had me come to Arizona during State Fair time one year and enter in the cooking contests there to win money. We like to competitively cook. It's a living. Haha. I'm going to figure out where to post recipes (maybe a blog?) and I will let you know where in case you want to read them. :)

And yes, I love my new laptop! Love, love, love! Soooooo happy about it! *happy dances*

@Katie: Thanks for the Write Club props. I thought that was funny too. We are all in a little Write Club here, aren't we?

This cracked me up: "A little mischievous, a little pensive, ready for snow, but not willing to stoop to moon boots fashion either." Hahaha!

I think I'm going to have to share the recipes in a blog, aren't I? :)

@Amy: I didn't even know if it had the webcam thingy until my husband brought it home. I was so happy to find out that it did! A new toy! A new toy!

Oh, girlfriend. You know it's true. The active toddlers make it hard to even keep a train of thought on track for a minute, let alone link together many of them in a written format. My poor kiddo was sick all week too, so he will be home from preschool 3 weeks instead of the usual Christmas vacation of two weeks. Me Time is scarce this month!

We are in a Write Club. Except that nobody gets beaten up here but FEAR. :)

@Steph: Thank you! And I agree about the complete shutdown by the cold. It sucks the life out of us. If I didn't have familial ties in the Midwest, I would be West Coast bound in a heartbeat. Thank goodness for warm beds and shiny new laptops, yes? :)