RAW NEWS Gives Me Direction for the Future
In April, I wrote How to Craft Your Ideal Day…and Live It. I had a few book ideas and was looking for a way to make writing a big part of every day. I was focused on product, on doing what I’d been doing–writing for publication–but in an arena other than education.
Then, in May, I was Happy to Be Lost. Searching for a New Identity in Retirement. I wasn’t going to obsess about writing books right away, and was actively seeking activities that would allow me to focus on who I am rather than what I (used to) do.
I flailed around for the next few months. The days were pleasant, but I wasn’t doing the things that I kept saying were important to me. Intentions and actions weren’t aligned; I knew I needed a structure for my days, but it had to be one that was supportive, not restrictive.
By George, I Think I’ve Got It!
Drum roll, please. I’ve finally found it, a direction for the foreseeable future. My daily intentions are summarized by the acronym RAW NEWS.
I’m really excited about RAW NEWS. As soon as I came up with it, I remembered a favourite character in Robertson Davies’ wonderful novel, Fifth Business. Dunstable is back from war and explaining to a girl why he can’t stay with her:
“I managed to make it clear that what I most wanted was time to grow up. The war had not matured me; I was like a piece of meat that is burned on one side, raw on the other, and it was on the raw side that I needed to work.”
I have felt that way for as long as I can remember–overdeveloped to the point of burnout in my career, raw in many other aspects of life.
RAW NEWS Explained Plus What I Did Last Week
I typically read 150 books a year, both fiction and nonfiction. It’s one of the great pleasures of my life. Last week I read:
Ladder of Years by Anne Tyler. Ladder of Years is about a woman, Delia, who walks away from her marriage and family to start her life over. If you’d like to know more, this reviewer from the New York Times does a better job than I ever could.
Anne Tyler is a beautiful writer. Here’s one paragraph that I loved:
“Just a few scattered moments, she thought, have a way of summing up a person’s life. Just five or six tableaux that flip past again and again, like tarot cards constantly reshuffled and redealt. A patch of sunlight in a window seat where someone big was scrubbing Delia’s hands with a washcloth. A grade-school spelling bee where Eliza (sister) showed up unannounced and Delia saw her for an instant as a stranger. The gleam of Sam’s (husband’s) fair head against the molasses-dark wood of the rocker. Her father propped on two pillows, struggling to speak. And Delia walking south alongside the Atlantic Ocean.” (p.128)
The paragraph made me think of writing memoir. I wonder which five or six tableaux sum up my life? Yours?
The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner. I”m on a bit of an Eric Weiner kick ever since reading and enjoying The Geography of Genius, which I wrote about in an earlier post. While I didn’t like this one anywhere near as much, it had a few interesting ideas. For example, most people in the world consider themselves somewhere between 5-8 on a 10 point happiness scale. Except the people in Moldovia. Apparently, Moldovia is the unhappiest place in the the world. Who knew?
This is the big, scary one for me.
I love visual arts–drawing, painting, collage, sculpture. If I ever win a lottery, my dream is to give artists the gift of time to do their work. But I also want to explore artistic creativity myself. In the early days of Profound Journey, my intention was to write about these explorations, but I was too scared to do them, never mind write about them! That is finally changing.
For the past six Fridays from 1:00-3:00, I’ve been with nine other women in the Seniors Room at my local community centre. We are all students of artist and teacher Rod Bergeron, who has instructed us in a course with the perfect title of “Drawing for Absolute Beginners”.
I loved the course so much that this Friday afternoon, I’m joining Rod and several of my classmates for a six week run of “Painting for Absolute Beginners”.
I’ll say more about my Absolute Beginners courses in future posts. For now, it’s thrilling to me that I’ve finally started to draw, instead of just talk and read about drawing.
I truly love to write, not just Profound Journey, but journal entries, memoir and, maybe someday, a screenplay or novel or creative nonfiction. I want and need to spend more time playing with writing about a variety of topics in a variety of genres.
After breakfast, I undertake the steps my Morning Pages have suggested. It’s a rare day when the pages fail to dictate the next right thing.Julia Cameron
Last week, I mostly wrote journal entries and Morning Pages. Are you familiar with Morning Pages? The idea comes from creativity coach and author of The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron. Before doing anything else, before even getting out of bed in the morning, do three pages of longhand stream of consciousness writing. Don’t share it with anyone else. Don’t even bother rereading it if you don’t want to. Just let it be a place where you become aware of all of the thoughts swirling around in your brain, and you dump them on to paper.
Coach Anna Sundt talks about Morning Pages and their benefits in this 1:53 minute video.
I tried to make Morning Pages a daily routine many years ago when I first heard of them, but I was too rigid about them and too busy. Now I’m finding that they are a favourite pre-dawn activity. I make a cup of peppermint tea, prop myself up in bed, and write until the brain swirling stops. Most days I write many more than three pages, but if I don’t, I don’t worry about it. And if I miss a day or two or three of Morning Pages, I don’t worry about that either. I’m getting sloppy, relaxed or wise –take your pick!
The foundational pieces to support my RAW creative life include:
I’m still trying to lose weight. I want my outsides to more accurately mirror my insides. I also want more consistent energy throughout each day so that I don’t keep reaching for sugar to prop myself up. The past couple of months, Gerri and I have been experimenting with and enjoying a more plant-based (veggies and fruit) diet, and want to continue making this a priority.
Last week, I made my favourite shredded kale salad a couple of times. Kale is so good for us, but I don’t usually consider it a very appealing green to eat. When it’s chopped into little bits, as it is in this salad, and I’ve added dried cranberries and the delicious sweet yet tart dressing, it’s a winner.
Gerri (my mom) is 81 years old and living proof of the adage, “Move it or lose it.” She is in great shape from decades of physically challenging work, indoors and out. In this section of RAW NEWS, I’m focused on various forms of physical activity from work around the house, through formal ‘exercise’, to time with the dogs.
Gerri’s strength is all that stood between me and a charge of elder abuse. Last week, we attempted to get to a trail through the woods that I had the forestry guys make last spring. We forced our way through marsh grass that was well over our heads, and fell in streams that we couldn’t see at our feet. When we finally got into the woods, trees had been uprooted with the season’s fierce winds. Not only were the fallen trees making the trail difficult to navigate, but in many cases we couldn’t find the trail markers. I suspect the brightly coloured bits of plastic were tied to tree limbs that are now facedown on the forest floor.
We ended up lost a few hundred yards from home. What should have been a pleasant half-hour stroll turned into an almost two hour endurance test. Ultimately, we were able to maintain a sense of humour and fun throughout, especially important when I realized that the trail was never going to be accessible and I’d wasted hundreds of dollars unrealistically trying to make it so. I’m really glad I have until next spring before I even start to think of a new trail in a new location.
My favourite compliment of all times was when a friend called me a “learner on steroids.” I want to keep feeding that passion for learning through new experiences, research, reading, and courses. The wonder section also includes my interest in exploring spirituality.
Last week, I was researching bullet journals. I thought it might be fun and clever to write entries for this Journal part of the site in a variety of journal formats, and I still might do that, but the bullet journal won’t be one of them. I’ve seen lots of gorgeous bullet journals online, and kudos to those who embrace them, but good grief, the diehards are rule-bound!
A bullet journal is a combination to-do list, short- and long-term planner, and journal. A few of the many rules include:
- Do “rapid logging” meaning bullets and short notes, rather than full sentences.
- Number every page, and maintain an index at the front of the book so you can find things later.
- Mark every note with a symbol to help categorize it. Create a key in the front or back of the journal to keep track of what the symbols mean.
I’m going to borrow some of the best ideas in my next journal, but I refuse to drink the Kool-Aid and fully embrace the BuJo craze. However, if you’re in the workforce and/or you really, really like organizational aids and planners, you might want to give bullet journalling a go. Here’s one of many useful resources available for beginners.
I’d actually forgotten about self-care until I started writing this post. Isn’t that so often the case? The simple pleasures that brighten our days get relegated to last place and then, eventually, shoved out of each day entirely. Lately, I’ve been researching the Danish concept of hygge, and look forward to both practicing it on a daily basis and to writing about it.
Although I’d forgotten about self-care (the acronym was RAW NEW until today), I’ve actually been doing a great job of practicing it. Clearing the decks, meaning decluttering, cleaning and organizing, is one of my very favourite activities and autumn is my favourite season for fresh starts.
It started with leaving my baggage behind by discarding work materials. In the past six weeks, it expanded to every horizontal surface–drawers, cupboards, closets–being emptied, sorted, organized, and cleaned. Then the painter came in and repainted many of the rooms, hardwood floor was laid in the library, and the living room carpets were professionally cleaned. Even my computer files are well organized, and I’m back to Inbox Zero. (No guarantees on how long that will last!)
So that’s RAW NEWS in a not-so-small nutshell. Thanks to Raindrop Memory for permission to use the hand drawn icons.
I promise that future journal posts won’t be as wordy. There will be many times when I will write about a single element of RAW NEWS. And even if I’m reviewing every bit of the acronym, I won’t need to provide explanations for each letter.
What activities or routines are essential to a good day or week for you? Please let us know in the comments below.