Gophering

Gopher_CaddyshackI’m guessing you’ve heard the expression, “She’s suffering from verbal diarrhea.” I certainly have! That being situation normal where I am concerned, for the past two months I’ve been uncharacteristically down with a serious case of verbal constipation. Nevertheless, I thought I’d pop (yes, pop, still not pooping many words here) my head up to say hello and let you know that I’m alive and, for the most part, well, but struggling to write much of anything these days. The little bit I’ve been doing has focused on poetry, probably because of the typically succinct nature of the form. And I’m reticent to share my poetry here because it’s even more revealing than my most exhibitionist blog.

There are a multitude of reasons for the long hiatus. Life has been anything but stultifying. In fact, it’s been chaotic, hectic, full, wonderful, challenging, exciting, wild, turbulent, emotional, exhausting, titillating, and exuberant. And that just describes my surf sessions!

Recently however, some pressure was applied to the gaping wound that is my writing productivity by the talented and charming author Katrina Hodge Willis when she chose me as one of three bloggers to participate in the Writer’s Write bog hop. Yeah, I didn’t know what a blog hop was either, but just enter the key words “writers write” into a search and a multitude of blogs will appear that will answer your question. It’s basically a pyramid scam to get people to contribute content to a topic. That invitation came almost three weeks ago. Yes, the irony of my contributing to a blog series called “Writers Write” is not lost on me.

I’ve had plenty other things to write about here over the past two months, but for some reason, I stopped short of sharing. Some things, like being interviewed on a poetry and technology radio show, seemed too immodest. Other happenings were too personal and involved other people I’m pretty sure would rather remain anonymous. Same goes for a surf break I visited that I wish was still anonymous in the surf world – it’s already overrun with southern Californians and I don’t want something I write here to further contribute to the crowds. But the main reason I haven’t put anything down here, is because I have not felt inspired to do so. None of the aforementioned topics really got me excited enough. So maybe I’m a little off, a little down, a little unsure, and a whole lot human in my reticence to put it all out there for public consumption. I’m pretty sure, however, that it’s a passing phase and I’ll be over-sharing once again before you know it. But for the time being, I’m tucking back into my underground lair to return only if and when the muse chooses to speak to me.

Stuck in a Moment?

"Rock, Hard Place" Road Sign with dramatic clouds and sky.I’m feeling that prickly sensation of mild sunburn on my forehead and the backs of my legs. After two weeks out of the water and away from Baja, it’s good to be home. I wasn’t so sure that I’d be feeling this way though. I wasn’t sure I was going to want to come home.

I’ve not only been MIA from this blog for a while, but I’ve been feeling MIA from life a fair bit too. I’ve been struggling, depressed and lonely. I’ve been fighting with the realities of my lifestyle.

I’m pretty sure I can hear you thinking where do I get off feeling this way? Believe me, I’ve been told many times and am usually very aware that I have every reason to be content, that I live a life most people would give a few fingers for. My ex, in his eloquence, is fond of saying I’ve “got it dicked.” And I usually can convince myself that’s true and find a reason to be content, if not outright happy. But there’s something missing and so much of what is obvious from the outside looking in just masks the difficult realities of my lifestyle. To compound the problem, I feel a tremendous amount of guilt any time I feel dissatisfied. Feeling guilty about how I’m feeling does nothing to help the situation.

When I find myself in this place, I do my best not to wallow or let it drag me down into a pit of self-pity. What I do instead is gratefully acknowledge everything I have, eat right, drink less and try to figure out what fundamentally is making me feel like crap so I can fix it. The fix is always one of two things – an attitude adjustment or something external I can change. Typically the former approach is enough to turn things around, but when the depression is the result of too much partying and surfing, and not enough sleep, changing my external circumstances can work wonders. This time though the only cause I could come up with was that I had been living in isolation for eight months and needed to get out. Getting out, however, requires funds, which are in short supply (for now, she optimistically writes), so I turned to my ex who’d been asking me to come help him with a landscaping project on Maui. He’d fly me to Hawaii in exchange for help with his project, some baking and home cooked meals.

The remarkable thing is that as soon as I booked my tickets, I felt better. Instantly. Days before my scheduled departure. I woke up early, enthusiastic for what the day would bring and looking forward to what lay ahead. I thought, “!s that all it takes? Something different to look forward to?”

As the plane took off and banked North in the direction of San Francisco, I felt a elephantine weight lift and my mood shifted skyward with the plane. Less than 24 hours in San Francisco and I started to think, “Maybe I should move to California and get a real job, get involved in some kind of community work…rejoin civilization.” Yeah, I can barely believe it either.

And then, rather than laugh at myself, leave it at that unbelievable thought, and return to my unreal life, I said out loud to three well-connected people, “So if you know anyone who’s looking for someone to house sit, a writer or editor, or anything really, let me know.”

On Maui, I began the process of formulating a plan that would make my new dream come true. I even came up with a way I could have my cake and eat it too. “I’ll get a writing job that only requires that I be in the office periodically.” And there were thoughts of landing a regular house- and animal-sitting gig.

The time on the island went fast. Too fast. I kept thinking up reasons why I should stay longer. “We didn’t accomplish enough on the project.” “I should go to this writing workshop that’s scheduled on the Sunday after I’m supposed leave.” “I didn’t get to have good pizza.” “I really should go see friend X.” But I had responsibilities back home that couldn’t wait and some disturbed weather off the coast of southern Mexico suggested a tropical storm might form sooner rather than later. I kept to the original plan and promised myself I’d return to the City by the Bay this fall or winter.

The flight from Maui to San Francisco, via Portland is not short. I had plenty of time to get caught up on my reading. I’d packed my Kindle in my checked baggage by mistake, so I read the only thing I had handy – Volume 24.3 of The Surfers Journal. And as I read from front to back cover, three quotes in three separate articles resonated with me, revealing a theme that shed light on the source of my dissatisfaction.

It’s easy to feel isolated when you’re no longer part of mainstream life.”

Day after day, no matter how perfect the waves get, there is a feeling of remoteness here, a sense that the rest of the world is moving along, more engaged, more connected, and more interesting.”

I felt a pang of recognition delivered with the pointier end of a stick as I read the last one:

If every day is a holiday, there are no more holidays.”

There they were, hard, sharp, and undeniable on the page – the three main reasons I was feeling down, along with their remedies:

Isolation, remoteness, and monotony versus engaged, connected, and interesting.

I feel, often, like I am on another planet or could be, for all the interaction I have with people. The little bit I have is limited in scope and time. What I’m struggling with, bumping up against, is the need to feel connected, deeply connected, to other members of the human race and to feel engaged in some cause that benefits others. But I’m scared by what that means. Really scared. That ache-in-the-pit-of-your-stomach scared. It’s the changes I’d have to make implied by this realization that scare the living shit out of me. And then I think, “What if this feeling is something that will pass and I end up regretting it for the rest of my life?” After all, we’re talking about walking away from what, for the most part, is a pretty amazing lifestyle. Then I worry that I’m looking in the wrong place for a solution to my dissatisfaction – external conditions. Maybe I just need to “do the work” and everything will turn rosy again. Maybe, just maybe, I’m “stuck in a moment and can’t get out of it.” But the memory of the epiphany I had on that plane tells me that’s just wishful thinking. The prospect of leaving this surfers’ paradise is daunting. But if at the other end I find meaning and fulfillment, the choice seems pretty obvious. Nevertheless, I don’t know. I just don’t know. Do you?

San Francisco Writers Conference Delivers Inspiration

It can be tough to remain inspired to put word to page when you live at the end of the road, off-the-grid, with only six dogs and an illiterate Mexican caretaker to keep you company. Two years ago, I attended the San Francisco Writers Conference and was inspired beyond expectation. For the past two years, I’ve vowed to return for another injection.

Each time, however, as I gazed longingly at that year’s offerings, it became obvious I couldn’t afford it. After a couple of months during which my brain was fogged with fantasies of unexpected windfall, I recalled meeting someone at the 2010 conference who worked as a volunteer.  I didn’t know what was involved, but figured it was worth exploring the possibilities.  I quickly ascertained that I was eligible and filled out the application form. And that was it. I was in like Flynn.

And I was not disappointed. Organizers of the conference this year once again succeeded in putting on an event that managed to inspire, educate and excite me. The three days were jam-packed with keynote speeches and break-away sessions covering everything from refining your craft to the specifics of how to find an agent, an editor, to getting published, the ins and outs of self-publishing, self-editing, and much more. Additional workshops open to the public were offered by the San Francisco Writers University all day Monday. Outside of active conference hours and volunteer duties there were opportunities to mix it up with some of the country’s (if not the world’s) best writers, agents, editors and publishers.

For those who were ready, there was the opportunity to pitch projects to agents representing big name authors like Sara Gruen, Garth Stein, David Guterson and Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil. Despite not actively seeking them out, at social gatherings a few agents I stumbled across asked me what I was working on, giving me a chance to try out the pitch I’d hurriedly penned hours earlier in the back of my notebook on them. Their feedback, on both the pitch and the project itself, were invaluable.

I booked a session to have professional headshots made by Mark Bennington of Bennington Headshots. I approached Mark’s booth feeling timid and unsure of myself, but Mark quickly put me at ease. Furthermore, the quality of his work on display convinced me that I was in good hands. His enthusiasm and positivity during the actual shooting helped me relax and feel confident, all of which translated to the results, which I believe speak for themselves.

There were ample opportunities to make contacts and for one-on-one interaction with agents and publishers. Each night a no-host dinner was held at one of the excellent local restaurants within walking distance of the venue to which presenters and attendees were invited. On Saturday night an open mic session that was part poetry slam, part literary reading was held at the conference venue. Poets were accompanied by musicians on drums, guitar and saxophone giving the event a Beat/ Gingsbergesque aura. Published authors and neophytes alike were welcome to present. The quality of the offerings was, to understate it, awe-inspiring. By that I mean that every time someone got up and presented my mouth literally hung agape in amazement at the beauty of the work presented.

Inspired? [using my best John Wayne voice] You bet your sweet caboose I am. I’m already planning to volunteer again next year. Will you join me?