Z is for Zzzz

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Is there anyone crossing the finish line of the A to Z Challenge who is not ready for a good long nap? I know I am. It’s been quite a marathon. Or is it 26 consecutive sprints? Whatever it is, I’m exhausted. And exhilarated.  Glad that it’s over, really glad I did it, and really, really glad we are not talking Cyrillic alphabet here.

Before I retire, some shout-outs to:

  • Claire, who encouraged me to take the Challenge (I will take this up with you privately later, Claire!)
  • The Write On Mamas and my two small writing groups, always encouraging, gracious, and generous
  • The Challenge hosts and their minions, who put in huge efforts to make it all work
  • My family, who accepted very casual dining (not to mention spotty housekeeping and spottier attentiveness) with good cheer
  • My fellow bloggers, who provided inspiration and camaraderie
  • My readers, who made it all worthwhile
  • My commenters, who erased that dreadful feeling of writing into a black hole, and who really keep me going.

Now, to catch some Zzzz’s.

Except that I can’t.

For one thing, there’s all that catch-up from a month of neglect: Bills to pay, correspondence to respond to, laundry to fold, groceries to buy, Facebook to scroll through, the New York Times to read. (On the other hand, in my Challenge-hazed world, Freddie Gray is still alive and Baltimore and Nepal are still standing, so perhaps falling behind has its advantages.)

For another thing, as a post-menopausal woman, I never sleep well, even when I am good about shutting down those electronic devices early and limiting my caffeine consumption. Long-time readers of Shrinkrapped may remember my Holy-Grail-like quest for a new mattress. Alas, third time’s not been the charm.

And finally, how can I possibly sleep when alphabet visions keep dancing through my head? For more than a month my brain has been exploding with letters and corresponding ideas, and I can’t stop obsessing! Whatever happened to L is for Lucky Charm? Or N is for Narcissism? Or R is for Recycling/Repurposing? Or S is for Serendipity? Or W is for Weight Watchers; Writing About One’s Children; Write On Mamas; Wikipedia (where would we be without it)?

WTF! That’s a lot of W’s! Well, there’s always next year!

So thanks, and good night! Sweet dreams . . .


 What did you think of the A to Z Blogging Challenge? Any favorites?

Q is for Quick and Dirty

quick and dirtyMy apologies if you were hoping for something steamier, but that’s not the kind of quick and dirty I have in mind. I’m talking about the shortcuts, the cheats, the tricks and tips that are good to employ when time is short but obligations long.

Such as the obligation to post something every day but Sunday during the A-Z Challenge, when you are already wrung out from L-M-N-O-P, but are about to leave for a few days of hiking.

One of the reasons I took the Challenge was to become better at a daily writing practice. When I am not actively avoiding writing, I dither and agonize. I like to write on topical events, but by the time I get around to it, the events belong to ancient history. I need to stop overthinking everything, write faster, and stop trying to weave together a million disparate threads to create a beautiful word tapestry that nobody understands.

I need to write quick and dirty.

Mark Trautwein, the editor of KQED’s Perspectives, wrote a wonderful essay a few years ago for the New York Times on what it is like when your AIDS death sentence is commuted by the advent of protease inhibitors. An editor he knew at the Times had called and asked if he’d like to contribute to their special anniversary feature.

“Yes, of course—but when do you need it?” Mark inquired.

“Yesterday,” came the reply. “But get it to me within six hours.”

Deadlines, as we know, sharpen the mind. Mark told me he wrote faster and better because it had to be quick.

I don’t know about better in my case, but the Challenge has definitely helped me write faster, not to mention more often.

I’ve come to view quick and dirty not so much as a guilty cheat, but as an absolute necessity. Apparently I’m not alone: There’s a whole website devoted to quick and dirty tips for just about everything. One of my favorites for writing is Grammar Girl.

And then, of course, there’s the #1 Quick and Dirty of All Time—Wikipedia. Where would we be without it?


What are some of your favorite Q&Ds?

A is for April Fool

At least I feel a bit foolish committing to a month of daily blog posts with only Sundays off. When it comes to describing my writing practice, A words like avoidance and ambivalence spring to mind. A few years ago when I cut back on my work life to devote more time to writing, and people asked how it was going, I had to confess, “Well, it turns out I’ve freed up more time to avoid writing.”

Not only am I undisciplined, I have also made a sad discovery: The Spirit—the one I rely on to speak through me as if I am just taking dictation rather than toiling away —also suffers from writer’s block.

But rather than throw in the towel, I have thrown myself into the A to Z Blogging Challenge. I’d heard about it a couple of years ago from my writing friend Claire, who participated. Then last year, the Write On Mamas, to which I belong, participated in the Challenge in a kind of round-robin way, with the members each contributing a letter. (Mine was E is for Empty Nest, which I reveal here with some trepidation in case I want to recycle it for this year’s Challenge. On the other hand, recycling is a conscientious choice for a planet threatened with environmental degradation, so if you see it here again in a few days, it is not because I am ambivalent and avoidant—aka lazy—but because it is the ethical thing to do.)

As part of our writing group’s effort, I also wrote a post on my own blog called A-Z: A Writer’s Alphabet. I was not yet ready to take the plunge, but I could at least come up with a line pertaining to writing for every letter of the alphabet. I had gotten into the habit of writing one line, a far less daunting task, with my friend Mary’s encouragement.

Then the aforementioned Claire said, “You really ought to do the A to Z Challenge! It’ll be good for you.” (Actually, she said “A to Zed,” because she’s British, which makes everything she says sound persuasive.) So now I am trying to think of writing as just a bunch of lines, strung together. One line upon another building into a paragraph, a post, an essay, an article, even a book. Or at least a month of daily blogging.

As you can see, my blog is called Shrinkrapped. It’s not about therapy, but I am a therapist, so psychology suffuses my world view. I’m particularly interested in how the personal, the political, and the psychological come together.

Some of my current favorite obsessions include: Motherhood; The Empty Nest (and, since my daughter has recently moved back, the not-so-empty nest); Politics; Psychology; Friendships; and Ruptures in Women’s Friendships. Plus, since everything is copy, one unwelcome obsession: What I’m calling my Cancer Detour, a new muse that showed up in my life in September 2012 (I’m fine now).

I hope you enjoy Shrinkrapped. Let the Challenge begin, and please chime in!