To Do List: 2017

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I hesitate to make so-called resolutions, but I do love a good to-do list. Instead of making the oh so predictable list of goals for the year, I’m going to dig through the list of things in my head I keep meaning to do. These are things that keep piling up thanks to life getting in the way or they are simply forgotten in the cluttered mess that is my head.

Item #1: Declutter

Give the state of my head, this one makes sense! However, the clutter in my head is only part of the problem. The house is cluttered, My classroom is cluttered. The past is cluttered.

The last one is probably why everything else in my life is full of just too much. After four years of many personal losses, it’s been hard to let things go. The fact that I have awareness and understanding of this fact is why I’m now able to move forward. I no longer need to hold onto so many things to feel anchored. I can let go.

The following areas are where I’m focusing my energy:

Shelves

  • Bookshelves throughout the house. This is actually where I started. On January 1, I cleared out close to 150 books.
  • DVD shelf – we have almost 1,000 DVDs. There’s no way we need that many. Clearly, we love TV and Movies, but I know there are quite a few duds on the shelf!
  • CD Shelf – Same deal as the DVD shelf. There is some weird stuff on this shelf and it’s time to sift out the duds.

Closets: There’s too much of just about everything: blankets, sheets, clothes, shoes, etc.

  • master closet
  • linen closet
  • hobby closet

Hobby/Guest Room

  • Multiple shelves jammed with stuff (not even sure what)
  • Barbie Collection – I have close to a hundred dolls, but I want the collection to be more streamlined to reflect my love of vintage and vintage-look dolls. So far, I’ve pulled 21 dolls to give away or sell. 

Writing Area

  • One of the biggest culprits of clutter are old journals, multiple novel drafts, and writing reference books. A lot of this comes from figuring out who I am as a writer. I’ve figured it out and now it’s time to sort through the paper trail and discard what no longer matters, (i.e. rough drafts, journals full of scribbles).

Classroom

  • Supply closet – OMG. So much stuff has landed here over 17 years.
  • Storage area in department office – started this last year, but more work needs to be done

Item #2: Publish Something

Over the last couple of years, I’ve written over a thousand haiku. I think it’s about time to put together a chapbook or two! I’m probably going to self-publish using a digital platform. There are so many options out there, many of which are free, so I don’t have much of an excuse not to do this!

The same goes for my novel. I’m going to get back into the game of sending out query packages, but I’m also going to dig deeper into research regarding self-publishing outlets. It’s time to get this done!

Item #3: Read 35 Books

As I have for the last five years, I’ve once again joined the Goodreads Reading Challenge.

Item #4: Survive National Board Certification

The road to National Board Certification has been brutal. It is not fun navigating a newly rolled out process because there are so many unknowns. Previously certified teachers can’t really help, nor can the coaches. I have one more component to finish and hopefully it will be enough to not only survive, but achieve National Board Certification.

Item #5: Take Better Care of Myself

I need to eat better, sleep better, and leave more stress at the door. I let the day job invade much too large of a space in my life and it’s time to push it back to where it belongs: at work.

Item #6: Go Somewhere

I miss traveling. It’s time for another adventure. 🙂

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What’s on your To Do List for 2017?

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c.b.w. 2017

November Challenges: Week #4

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The close of November brought the end of both NaNoWriMo and the Poem A Day Challenge (via Poetic Asides on Writer’s Digest). By some miracle, I managed to complete my goals for both challenges despite a few days of writer’s block and the Thanksgiving holiday.

NaNoWriMo

Early Bird word count: 1,611

Week 1 word count: 3,262

Week 2 word count: 4,567

Week 3 word count: 3,535

Week 4 word count: 2,416

Total: 15,391

I hit my goal of 15,000 words (plus a little more). It doesn’t get any better than that! All I can say is I’m grateful for planning a little bit ahead when I clocked in three early bird writing days. I knew Thanksgiving weekend was going to be crazy, so I worked in a few extra days beforehand to alleviate the stress of cramming in writing time while also trying to spend time with family. Thank goodness the only pantsing going on was with the actual writing, rather than with scheduling!

The Month’s Trends:

I pantsed it the entire time!

I fully expect to be referencing my notebook during the next phase of my novel, but the first seven chapters were completed pantsed. And I loved every second of it! I never would have guessed it, but pantsing is quite liberating.

I’ve always planned everything I write, but this time my characters had other things in mind. I fully intend on giving them more control as the process continues. Why bother fighting them? They know their story best, right?

Music Matters

I’ve always used carefully constructed playlists to help fuel my muse’s imagination. Even with pantsing, this is still true. Imagine Dragons, Junip, and Muse all played a key role in giving my main characters a deeper sense of emotion, while also unearthing some pretty interesting secrets.

I have a lucky charm.

My typewriter key pendant has become a talisman of inspiration. I don’t know if I’m just imagining things, but my writing time always seemed to go a little smoother when I wore it. I’ll be wearing it until The Muse’s sequel is finished.

There’s always time to write.

Is my life crazy busy? Yes. But this month has reminded me that there is always time to write. I just have to want it bad enough. Small sacrifices had to be made, but it was worth it overall to get the chance to tell the story that’s been inside my head for so long.

November Poem A Day Challenge

A month of poeming has come to an end and I’m proud to say I wrote a poem for each day in November. I had to play catch-up a couple of times, but I still completed the challenge on time.

The next step is choosing 20 poems to create a chapbook submission. I’ve entered this competition several times before without success, but I’ll jump in again anyway. It’s free to enter and I love the challenge of piecing together a collection. I learn something every year about what works and what doesn’t when selecting poems for a chapbook.

The last batch of poems I wrote for the PAD challenge will be posted on my haiku blog, Haiku Tree, throughout this week. Check it out!

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How did you fare on your goals for November?

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c.b.w. 2016

 

A Plan For NaNoWriMo

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Over the last few days, I’ve asked myself if it’s actually a good idea to do NaNoWriMo. My schedule is already ridiculously full and my stress level is already off the charts. Do I really need to add writing 500 words a day to my insane list of things to do?

In a word: YES. Writing is actually a stress reliever for me. Just like knitting helps me sleep (the repetition helps to slow down the thought train in my brain), writing lets me escape everything giving me a headache.

The only thing I’m worried about is having a enough time to complete 500 words. From past experience, I know I can punch out 500 words in an hour if I’m really focused. During the work week finding that kind focus will be challenging.

To deal with the work week challenge, I’m giving myself the freedom to have variant word count days as long as I hit a weekly goal of 3,500 words (which works out to 500 words/day). Some days I’ll be happy to get 200 words, while on others I might get up to 1,000. I know this isn’t how NaNoWriMo traditionally works, but I know what will work best for me!

I have several days off in November due to Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving. I’ll be using those days off to their full advantage, along with weekends. Hopefully, I’ll be able to work ahead whenever the day job isn’t taking up 12 hours of my day.

We’ll see how it goes. While I’m motivated to dig into my novel, I’m also realistic. If I make my goals, great. If not, I’m not going to beat myself up over it. This is supposed to be a fun stress reliever, not a source of stroke inducing deadlines!

In any case, I hope my favorite coffee shop ordered extra mocha so they can keep me happily caffeinated while I write!

Stay tuned for updates on progress!

What’s your plan for NaNoWriMo?

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c.b.w. 2016

Filling The Motivation Tank

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The start of a new school year brings about a certain amount of excitement … then professional development happens and all that excitement is sucked into a black hole.

I spent the first day back in a district level meeting that lasted from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. with only one break for lunch. The topic: training for the new textbook and website. While this sounds logical – we should know the materials we are using to teach our students – it is in fact ridiculous. I’ve been around long enough to know how to use a textbook and I’m pretty sure I know my way around a website (I’ve only created three of them for my classes). This is a training that should have lasted an hour tops. But no.

Within the first 30 minutes, I had already gone through the entire website and found all the nifty little resources I can access for my students. Then, I found all the mistakes in the tests and quizzes (oh, my goodness there were A LOT of errors). I sat for the rest of the training watching every bit of enthusiasm I might have had for the new school year slowly and painfully drain out of me.

This is pretty much how it goes every year. I learned a long time ago that I have to be responsible for my own motivation. After sixteen years in the teaching profession, I’ve constructed an arsenal of empowering, uplifting, and motivational tools to remind me why I stay in this profession.

Sir Ken Robinson: TED Talks and Books

Every year, Ken Robinson reminds me how important creativity is to learning and how important it is treat students as individuals. He inspires me that I have power to help students learn and explore their strengths and talents. He advocates an education revolution that redefines how schools work and how students are taught. It’s a revolution I quietly foster each and every day in my classroom.

Do Schools Kill Creativity?

Bring on the Learning Revolution!

How To Escape Education’s Death Valley

After watching Robinson’s TED Talks, I flip through his groundbreaking book The ElementI keep a copy on my desk and reference it often. I’ve underlined countless passages and sticky tabbed dozens of pages.

This summer I read Robinson’s latest book, Creative Schools. I had to read it with a pencil in my hand so I could underline nugget after nugget of inspiration. It’s going on my desk, right next to The Element.

David Foster Wallace – This Is Water

Back in 2005, David Foster Wallace gave a commencement speech at Kenyon College. The speech has since been published as both a book and audiobook, (This is Water) It is a deeply moving, funny, and thought provoking observation of education, life, and philosophical perspective. It reminds me to get out of my own head to see things as they really are and to do so with compassion.

Anis Mojgani – Shake the Dust

I first heard this piece of slam poetry at the tail end of Mat Kearney’s song Heartbreak Dreamer. It is an incredibly elegant and powerful piece of poetry that reminds us all to face our challenges and find the strength that lives inside. It was so powerful, I decided not to keep it to myself. I share it with my students during the first week to inspire them to fight through their own personal challenges.

Too bad I can’t convince my administration to borrow a few of these for future professional developments!

A new batch of students is set to walk through my classroom door this week. My tank is full and I’m ready for a new and great school year.

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c.b.w. 2016

 

Poetic Strategy

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Last night, my husband asked me out of the blue, “How do you write your poetry?” Well, that’s a loaded question! It largely depends on what kind of poetry I’m writing.

My chosen forms of poetry are haiku, black out, and free verse. It’s no accident that each of the forms has a certain amount of freedom and spontaneity involved. I like the concept of having no idea what a poem is going to be until it is finished. Perhaps it’s my trust in my muse or maybe I just like to be surprised!

Haiku is the most structured form I write, but I ignore the 17-syllable rule completely. Instead, I favor the modern english language haiku where the focus is less on syllable count and more on capturing a moment (as per the Japanese tradition). I prefer to keep my haiku under 13 syllables, but it’s not a steadfast rule.

The appealing element of haiku for me is the focus on a singular moment. All I have to do is look up or conjure a memory of somewhere I’ve been and the words just come. Rarely, do I need more than a few minutes to compose a haiku and it’s always amazing to me that they come so fast.

Overthinking haiku almost diminishes the purpose of a form that is so rooted in Zen. It’s about being one with nature, a moment, or a feeling. If you think too hard, you miss the point.

Black out poetry is very similar. While Zen isn’t the central influence, the idea of singling a few words out of a page of text requires a little selective observation. They key is choosing just a few words that string together. Too many muddles the poem into a long piece of verse that doesn’t make sense. Or worse, the “poem” becomes an overwritten mess!  I liken it to a student highlighting an entire page of text instead of just the important sections!

You have to let go of the instinct to circle every single interesting word. In many ways, it’s a lesson in letting things go and making decisions without fear. Overthinking it makes it impossible to single out the words that work the best together.

For years, free verse was my chosen (non)form. The lack of rules made poetry seem far less daunting. To a certain extent, I still enjoy writing free verse. However, it does take me longer to compose than haiku or black out. The lack of rules is very liberating, but it also widens the field of inspiration and possibilities which can be overwhelming.

No matter what kind of poem I’m writing, I employ one simple strategy: trust my muse. I don’t try to force anything or rack my brain trying to write the perfect poem. The words always come if I just breathe and trust myself to find them.

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c.b.w. 2016