Writing Comes First

After the Christmas holidays I’m filled with new ideas and energy for writing, spring cleaning, organizing my house, crafting, cooking…you get the idea.  I always overdo it with the new year’s resolutions, but I’m eager to make 2014 the best year ever. Since January first I’ve been reflecting on what I think is important for me to accomplish in 2014.  Instead of resolving to change many aspects of my life as I do almost every year, I want to make one change, one change that will become a habit and produce the success I’m after.

I think I’ve found it, and it’s pretty simple. I’m going to get up ten minutes early so I can write for 45 minutes to an hour before work. Ten minutes doesn’t seem like a problem, I know. Right now I wake up at five AM. I spend about half an hour with my dog in the morning sipping my coffee and sometimes reading if I can keep my eyes open. She naps at my feet. Being with her in the early morning gives me a peaceful beginning to an otherwise hectic day centered around my high school students.

My new routine on school days will go something like this: Turn on my computer, pour a cup of coffee, and climb to my loft. Write or revise from 5 AM until 5:45 AM.

Changing my habits won’t be easy for me; I love my sleep and my time with Stella. But I ‘m ready to sail into a new phase of of my life. I’m ready to change to succeed in my writing career (what others see as only a hobby for me I’m sure). I’m tired of answering the question of how’s the writing going with, “Pretty good. I’m revising still.”  By the end of this year, the answer to that question will be, “I’m finishing writing my second book and have an agent who just sold my first manuscript!”

This is my time to make my dreams my reality. My writing life will come first, before work, before exercise, before breakfast… but not before coffee. I think my muse needs coffee. She’s addicted, but she shows up! This year will be full of new possibilities for me.  I am a writer.  I will succeed. 2014 is my year!

What habits are you cultivating this new year? What success are you planning for 2014?

Hello world!

Southern Roots and Northern Blossoms

Twenty six years ago as one of my bridal showers was wrapping up, Mrs. Shirley Friedman and I were talking about my upcoming marriage. I felt overwhelmed with the generosity of my mother’s friends and wondered what would become of me when I left my home in Georgia to marry my handsome Marine husband.

You see, he was also a Yankee which could only mean one thing—he didn’t have the appreciation for the South that native Southerners do, a potential problem when it comes to choosing where to live. I was scared to death he would take me out of the South; I was right to be afraid. Though we didn’t immediately move away from all that was dear and familiar to me, moving was inevitable when he became a helicopter pilot.

I confessed my misgivings to Ms. Shirley. (Any well-raised southern child knows you never address one of your elders by their first name. You always include an honorific even with a first name.) She understood my dilemma immediately.

When she wedded Mr. Maurice, she lived in LaGrange, Georgia, and he moved her all the way to Sandersville, only a couple of hours away, but back then it might as well have been a world away. She tried to ease my mind. “You shouldn’t worry, Sugar,” she told me. “You’ll have Southern roots but you’ll have Northern blossoms!” I was charmed but still dubious. I wasn’t sure I could be as optimistic about my future away from home, but if Ms. Shirley had faith that I could blossom in the midst of a strange locale.

It has taken me many years to acclimate to the Midwest and to lose a great deal of the accent that so marked my language when we first moved here, but I have remembered Ms. Shirley’s words. Her words have inspired me to do something with my life, to plant seeds and nurture them to see what my “blossoms” will be. I have worked as a travel agent, substitute teacher, stringer reporter, and high school English teacher. I am now moving into the next phase of my life.

Ms. Shirley is still my mother’s friend. She and I still keep in touch, occasionally through the mail but also through Mama. I owe her a debt of gratitude not only for the title of my blog, but also for her faith in me, a faith I’ve finally come to share. In my early years I was sustained by family, by red Georgia clay under a sky shaded by pines. The South with all its flaws and finery formed my core.

In the South I absorbed the stories of my people, the cadence of their language, the history of my home, but now I walk among those with clipped vowels and curt nods. I bathe in the lakes and rivers of the Midwest where I feel the essence of this land coursing through me. Something about this place feels limitless—I know why settlers went west years ago—it’s a place where I can create my own place, my own destiny. This is a place where a woman like me can become what she wills. A writer. With southern roots and northern blossoms.