Monday, 28 July 2008

Take Me Out to the (English) Ball Game

We've been in transition mode for the past week. The Other Half has been adjusting to life “off the clock,” while, at the same time, my daily schedule (if you can call it that) has been thrown off-kilter because I'm not used to having him home during the day. I must admit that I've been spending a fair bit of my time lately with my butt firmly planted on the sofa, trying to motivate myself to write and submit some articles and doing some research on the writing life... in between a few games of Internet Spades. We'll adjust and settle into a new routine pretty soon; I think we both just need this time to relax before our little Crumpet arrives and we have to make even bigger adjustments to our lives.

So after a week of allowing ourselves the chance to do "nothing," we escaped yesterday to the neighboring county of Surrey for a family barbecue with some of The Other Half's cousins. We ate, we drank (juice for me, of course), we made merry. And we even indulged in a little all-American (oops, I mean "all-English") fun with a game of rounders in the local park.

Rounders is very similar to baseball, with a few exceptions. We were two teams of young and old, short and tall, male and female, “round” and not-so-round (insert obvious pregnancy-related pun here). Even with my increasingly-protruding belly, I still impressed with my bowling (pitching) ability. And, apparently, I even shocked one spectator with my athletic prowess (I know, I know – me, athletic prowess?) despite my “delicate” condition: “When you started running around those bases, I was having kittens,” said one of the elderly guests. Having kittens? Just another one of those unusual, uniquely “English” phrases I am getting used to.

I woke up this morning feeling a bit stretched and strained. And, I might add, quite a bit round.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Confessions of a Reluctant Blogger

I must admit that I hemmed and hawed for quite some time before committing to starting my blog. The whole notion of the blogging world was a bit foreign to me. Just the word "blog" contained such mixed connotations. All I could think of were web pages devoted to exhibitionism, self-promotion, and the notion of "celebrity," and I wasn't sure I wanted to put myself out there on the world's stage. The idea that anyone could read my thoughts (and have their own opinions on such thoughts) was a little disconcerting.

But then I started to read other blogs (travel blogs, writing blogs, parenting blogs), and I realized how broad the sprectrum is. Slowly, as I became a little addicted to certain blogs, I grew more open to the idea that “Hey, I can do that too.” As I began my “research” about getting started as a freelance writer, more often than not I came across other writers advising “would-bes” like me to start a blog. Apparently, this is a great forum for showcasing and promoting one's writing, not to mention the fact that it's great practice because maintaining a blog in itself involves writing (duh). But who's to say I had anything worthwhile to say... or that anyone would even be interested?

I must have navigated to Google's Blogger web site half a dozen times before actually registering for an account. And even when I did, I started a blog only to delete it that day. Finally, I figured I'd just be brave and “give it a go.” But I laid myself some specific ground rules, the most important being that there is a limit to how personal I will get. Although some of my entries will no doubt chronicle my life abroad, my experiences as a new mother, and anecdotes about my family, etc., I won't be revealing family secrets here (so my family members can now all breathe a sigh of relief and rest assured that your skeletons will remain under lock and key) or posting intimate photos of my loved ones. Hopefully, I can find a balance and make sure this blog is personal without being invasive.

It wasn't until after I started my blog that I came to the realization that posting a blog isn't so different from publishing a book. If (I mean when) I eventually have the good fortune of having a book grace the bookshelves of Barnes and Noble or Waterstones (or the virtual bookshelves of Amazon), I will be just as much on display. It's just that a blog is published in a different medium and, therefore, available to a wider range of people -- and instantly. Once I had come to terms with that, I started to loosen up a bit.

I'll still call myself a “reluctant” blogger, but I'm learning my way, and, in the process, I hope I have something interesting to say.

Monday, 21 July 2008

A Kick in the Pants

Well, if anything was going to kick my notions of being a freelancer into high gear, it was the news my husband (whom I shall refer to from here on out as The Other Half on account of his desire to not have an Internet presence) received today that he has been made redundant. For my fellow American readers, that means he has been laid off. And what brilliant bloody timing, huh?

If there is a silver lining to any of this it is that: a) he wasn't fired -- we can easily blame the world's downward-spiralling economy; b) he now has some time to actually finish the mountain of household projects that need to be done before Crumpet arrives; and c) his redundancy (severance) package means that he doesn't need to rush out tomorrow and get some crappy job at Tesco (yet). And, of course, he's lucky to have a wife who is an English major and can write him a snazzy CV.

Fortunately, we live in a country where healthcare is free.* I don't know what I'd do if we were in the U.S. right now and had to worry about making insurance payments. So for everyone who has asked me at some point when we're planning to move back, I think I can safely say that it won't be anytime soon. I think we'll at least wait until we've had our kids before we consider another overseas move. I wouldn't want to have to go into debt before the little darlings even took their first breaths.

So now I'll be writing more and digging deeper into my well of "potentials." Perhaps I'll even be inspired to finish the "great American novel." Either that or we'll finally have to win the lottery. Sadly, I think the former has more of a chance of actually happening.

In the meantime, anyone out there need a writer?

*Of course it's not really free. It comes out of our taxes. But in situations like this, at least we don't have to choose between eating and staying healthy.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Back in the Saddle

As cliche as the title of this post most certainly is, it is the best way to describe my current state of mind. After months of frustration, I have started writing (and submitting) again.

It's rather depressing when I stop to think about the fact that it has been almost three years since I have written a new poem. The last time I was struck by the muse was when I was working on my Master's thesis in the fall of 2005. It's not for lack of trying, but for some reason the words just haven't come as easily as they used to. Perhaps it's because my self-diagnosed OCD has gotten worse since then, and now I labor over every word, whereas I used to write with a sort of reckless abandon. Maybe that's a sign of growth as a writer, or maybe I've just been so out of practice that I need to learn to trust my instincts once again. In some ways, I miss the inexperienced writer I once was.

It's not that I haven't been writing at all. I have been working on a novel for quite some time, but that has come to a standstill. Call it writer's block, call it laziness, call it lack of inspiration... the fact is that I just can't seem to get motivated to finish the damn thing.

So, as an antidote to my frustrations, I have started writing shorter pieces -- travel essays and articles, creative nonfiction, etc. At least I feel productive now when I can actually finish something (as "finished" as any writer's work ever is); the only problem is that my ADD (again, self-diagnosed) means that I am having a hard time focusing on one piece at a time, so I've got several on the go. But I've been trying to rediscover the poet in me in all of these forms of writing, and maybe, as a result, the muse will return and I'll be able to crank out another few poems or another chapter that I can be proud of. I've also started digging out some old poems and am submitting them to various literary magazines and journals. Hopefully, some publications (or rejections, more likely) will inspire me to keep going and start writing some new pieces.

My goal is to get as much writing done as possible in the next couple of months, when I will probably be taking a bit of a hiatus in order to focus on the fruits of another type of labor (more on that to come).

Until then, stay tuned...