Tag Archives: Christina Katz

Living With Mess: Radical Acceptance

Christina Katz has a great post over on her Prosperous Writer E-zine this week about what she calls “clarity.” She defines clarity as “lucidity…exactness…simplicity.”

It’s about figuring out what you need and what you want as a writer and paring down your obligations and responsibilities so that you can really zero in on what’s important. (Note: you must subscribe to her free e-zine to read this post, which I heartily recommend.)

This is great advice for both writing and life, and something I continually have to remind myself to do when I start feeling overwhelmed. “Simplicity, Simplicity, Simplicity,” as the man said.

The problem is that isn’t always that…well…simple. Sometimes you can’t achieve clarity because there are too many loose ends in your life and you have to accept that some of these just aren’t going to get tied up in short order.

Which is where I’m at right now with – oh – just about everything in my life. You see, I’ve just moved house. So everywhere I look I see unopened boxes.

There are the real boxes, those last stubborn few that simply refuse to empty themselves because – if you cared to tackle them – they’d require you to scratch your head and say: Now where does that plug go? Which cannister is that the top to? And why, again, did we decide to save that yarmulke from that bar mitzvah five years ago?

Then there are the metaphorical boxes:  The stack of New Yorkers that lie unread. The emails that began to pile up the day of the move and some of which sit still – unopened – in the dark recesses of my inbox. Those last few changes of address that haven’t yet happened because it turns out that you actually need to call the pension fund in the U.S. where you still have some pocket of retirement savings during (its) business hours because they can’t process an overseas address on-line.

And then there are all those technological boxes that can’t be opened because this is the U.K. where the customer comes last. So the internet provider lost track of your account and now you have to wait another 10 days for them to come to your neighborhood to set it up. Or the bank forgot to update your address so your credit card keeps getting rejected. Or – my personal favorite – the satellite dish for the TV can’t be installed because you live on the third floor and their ladders don’t go that high. (Um…no offense, but isn’t this what you do for a living?)

It drives me insane, all this mess. Because I hate things that are un-finished. I’m the lady who sometimes adds things to my to-do list *after* I’ve done them just to feel the satisfaction of crossing them off, remember?

So I’ve been feeling really unsettled lately. (It didn’t help that for the first five days of my move the U.K. didn’t have a government. I was like “C’mon, guys! Just make up your minds, would ya?“)

And then, something weird happened. Yesterday night was my monthly book group meeting. And, on top of everything, I hadn’t finished the book. This has never happened to me before. I’m one of those hard-core, unsympathetic book group types who *always* finishes the book. But this time, I just couldn’t.

But because I love my book club, I went anyway. Even though I hadn’t finished and felt wretched about that. (It helps that we were reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s marvelous Half of A Yellow Sun about the Biafran War. Speaking of learning how to live with mess…)

And you know what? It felt OK to be there, even half-read. Because it was the best I could do.

My life coach has a great phrase for moments like this. She calls it “radical acceptance.” It’s for situations where things are exactly how you’d like them *not* to be  – where you can’t, yet, achieve “clarity.”

So you force yourself to extend the parameters of what you’d normally find acceptable. And you decide to  just roll with it. Because you know that you are on the road to clarity.

And that’s O.K.

Radical Acceptance.

Image: Unopened Boxes by CDaisyM via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Tips For Adulthood: Five Ways to Establish A Tone

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

As a writer, I think a lot about tone. Does any given essay/blog post/tweet that I write convey not just the meaning – but the attitude – that I’m after?

Setting a tone in writing is no less important than setting a tone in person. How we speak to other people and the verbal and non-verbal message we communicate to them often determines whether they want to listen to us, befriend us, or – dare I say it – be our children/siblings/parents/spouses.

With this in mind, I’ve chosen five bloggers I regularly follow whom I think have mastered  “tone” in their writing, which in turn makes them very inviting as people. In each case, I highlight what they bring to their blogs to cultivate this tone:

1. Curiosity. Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project is a must for anyone out there looking for concrete, practical steps to leading a happier life. Sometimes this means cleaning out a closet; sometimes reading more Virginia Woolf. But the main thing Gretchen communicates on her blog  is a deep and abiding curiosity about the world around her. From the diverse range of articles and blogs that she recommends on a daily basis to her willingness to try pretty much anything  – like singing in the morning – in order to see if it actually makes her happier, you get the sense that she is, at all times, drinking in life.

2. Community. Another hugely practical site is the Freelance Writing Jobs blog network, founded and managed by Deb Ng. A lot of people come to this blog for its diverse set of writing tips, as well as its amazing daily listings of freelance jobs. I come because Deb’s passion for building community is almost irresistible. It shines through her daily tweets which always begin with “Good Morning World” (usually followed by an observation about D.C. weather), as well as the way in which all of her posts are infused with an appreciation for- and commitment to – the community of writers she’s gathered around her.

3. Introspection. You’d be hard-pressed to read a single post on Colleen Wainwright’s glorious Communicatrix and not come away feeling that this was a person who was putting herself out there, for all to see, day in and day out. Laugh-out-loud funny – but also brutally honest – this is a “self-development” blog that succeeds in making you feel like you are accompanying the author on the journey, not just listening to her ex-post musings. Check out her trademark 21-day Salutes. (She’s in the midst of one right now.) They will convince you – if you needed convincing – that the examined life is definitely the one worth living.

4. Enthusiasm. Christina Katz’ Writer Mama blog brims with enthusiasm. Written by a team of “writer mamas,”  this blog offers writing tips, links to online writing classes as well as observations on the writing life. But what most stands out about the blog is the indefatigable Christina Katz herself, who sounds so genuinely enthusiastic about writing, parenting, networking and – above all – platform building, that it’s infectious. To Christina’s credit, she not only promotes her own work on the blog. She is also extremely generous about highlighting the success of her co-bloggers and former students.

5. Wisdom. It’s really tough to try and offer advice to other authors while being sincere and funny at the same time. But Nicola Morgan’s Help! I Need A Publisher! blog does just that. Nicola manages to somehow combine a strong dose of wit and “telling it like it is” with a lot of really smart advice. Read this post where Nicola reacts to the self-doubts of a struggling writer and see if you don’t find yourself laughing while also nodding your head in agreement.

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Image: Tone by Passetti via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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