Why I write: the tone and hue of my words

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When my lovely friend, Katrina Kenison, wrote to ask me to participate in a blog tour she had joined, my heart stopped and I trembled for days, so frightened I could scarcely draw a breath. With a new blog only four months old, I felt unequal to the challenge. Although I’ve scribbled in diaries and journals all my life, I’m still accustomed to, and far more comfortable with, hiding my work away. Although I accepted Katrina’s out-of-the-blue request with quaking and trepidation, I’m glad I did accept. Attempting to answer these straight forward, yet open-ended blog tour questions became an invitation to do some profitable soul-searching, an opportunity which has caused me to stretch, reach back, reach forward, and grow, and in the process, to know myself better. For this experience, for gentle words of encouragement and unfailing support, and most of all, for the gift of her friendship, I’m ever grateful to Katrina.

Before I continue with my small story, it’s my privilege and pleasure to introduce my friend and fellow writer, Jessica Halepis, who has graciously agreed to join this blog tour. Jessica is a gentle archaeologist of the soul, a gifted writer who digs deep in order to offer her readers gems of wisdom and delicate beauty. “Life,” she writes, “is about sinking into tenderness. It’s about learning to bend, to fall. It’s time and again learning how to open yourself like a new flower to the give and take of love.”

A glance back. . .

In 2011, while researching a now-forgotten topic, I happened upon Katrina Kenison’s exquisite video, The Gift of an Ordinary Day. I wept over, and was smitten by, the gentle wisdom she shared about motherhood and children, about noticing and celebrating the preciousness of each day. Two weeks later, my dear friend, Ann, wrote from Washington to say she’d just found a wonderful book at her library, a book whose words and message kept making her think of me. Ann wanted to recommend The Gift of an Ordinary Day. (How about that!) She was certain I’d find in its author a kindred spirit, and she was right!

I read Katrina’s books, and loved them, discovered she keeps a blog, and, subscribing to it, became a devoted follower. Through Katrina, I found another of my favorite writers, the marvelous Lindsey Mead. Lindsey and Katrina became – and remain – my twin pillars of inspiration. In occasional private correspondence over the past couple of years, I’ve visited with them about words they’ve written which resonate so with me. Reading their weekly posts continues to spark my imagination and fill my mind with good things, with gorgeous thoughts and soul-filling words. Because of their shining example, I brought to fruition my dream of starting a blog of my own, a place where I, too, might share the things I love – beautiful quotes and poetry, photographs of nature, and above all, peace.

I am always ready to disqualify my dreams of writing because I don’t have a degree in English. Rebecca Murphy, a friend and mentor I met through Lindsey, taught me not to be my own worst enemy and to believe in myself. Lindsey, Katrina, and many of my closest friends have also offered me encouragement. I think a lot of writers shrink with anxiety. Scratch that. I think everyone suffers from occasional feelings of anxiety and inadequacy. We all fear being judged, yet we put ourselves out there and hope to be noticed for our own special gifts. We long to share our uniqueness and be accepted, just as we are.

As time has gone by, and in the few short months I’ve been publishing My Path with Stars Bestrewn, I’ve continued to learn what a warm and welcoming community is present here among the bloggers and writers – fascinating individuals who share hopes and dreams, joys and sorrows, creativity, words, and marvelous diversity. I simply can’t get enough, and I’m thankful each day to have an opportunity to absorb it all.

I have no special ambitions in the days ahead. I intend only to go right back to doing what I love, which is to take my fledgling hops with language, to post all I find beautiful and share it here, quietly and heart to heart, from a place of peace.

 

What am I working on?

I’m working on the various components of this blog. The occasional essays I post here require time and inspiration. Inspiration, I’ve discovered, is an inelegant house guest. She’ll thunder in unannounced and disrupt me in the middle of my work day, just when I’m figuring quarterly taxes or trying to catch up on bookwork. I’ve spread many a banquet in her honor only to find that she won’t touch a crumb. She’ll sit in stony silence, arms folded. Just when I’ve thought of what I should say to her, she’s gone, without having bothered to close the door. She is drawn to the woods – I’ve heard her singing there – so I walk down to woods’ edge alone to shoot photos; perhaps I’ll catch a glimpse of her. I’m lonesome while she’s away, so while I await her return, I wander at will through my quote garden, console myself with poetry. Inspiration is an elusive enchantress and a fickle friend, but I adore her just the same. She’ll be back.

 

How does my work/writing differ from others of its genre?

I have no genre. Since this blog is in its infancy, it’s difficult to know how to describe it, or how to compare it to others. For now, I can say that I consider it my home journal, where I decorate my walls with nature and surround myself with poetry and quotes that inspire me, a place where I can weave my quiet thoughts and dreams, an online nest I can fly to.

 

Why do I write what I do?

Have you ever accidentally spilled a cup of uncooked rice, heard the disheartening clatter as it strikes the counter, helpless as the bits and pieces careen in every direction? That’s what would happen to me, to my thoughts, if I didn’t write. Writing, journaling, is my unspilled rice cup, the container which holds each grain of thought, where I can select and examine each one, or, at least, store it for future use. I write to contain my thoughts, to preserve them, to prevent them from skittering away.

My About me page explains a bit more about what I value, who I am, and how I approach my work.

 

How does my writing process work?

Because I’m new to the world of publishing my writing in a blog, it feels awkward and presumptuous to talk about my supposed writing processes. However, I’ve been writing privately for most of my life, so what I have to say on this topic pertains primarily to this previous experience.

I will write at any hour of day or night. I perch in the faded recliner in our sunroom with my journal and a pencil (while our kitty, who dutifully oversees all my creative endeavors, purrs in my lap, curls at my feet, or stops in at regular intervals to check my progress). I’ll jot a line or two, then stop to gaze out at the woods. During the day, I watch birds flutter in to visit our feeders, I study the clouds. At night, I keep the light low and enjoy the stillness and hush – a peaceful silence interrupted only by the soft tones of our wind chimes or the occasional hooting of our resident owls. I habitually lean towards writing at night, a holdover from my days as a young mother, when my quiet time arrived after my darlings were snug and slumbering.

I will sit at my keyboard to write, but I’m beginning to discover I’m easily distracted and led astray when I do. It’s tempting to interrupt my thought flow and check Facebook or send messages instead. (I love my family and friends and enjoy keeping up with their lives.) So – I’m trying to do more of my quiet journaling. Somehow, it seems more intimate to write in pencil; it stills my busy thoughts and helps me focus.

Sometimes, words flow from me seamlessly with little need of editing. Usually, though, writing is a slow, methodical process. When that rascal, Inspiration, comes to call, I’ll compose a lengthy draft all at once while she’s here. I’ll write for hours at a time, oblivious to my surroundings, neither hungry nor thirsty, completely absorbed. Later, I’ll go back and carve away excess material; in this sense, writing is like sculpting. Next, I’ll consider the tone and hue of my words, adding and subtracting until my palette, as it were, is to my liking; writing is so like painting. When I’m close to finishing an essay, I’ll read certain lines over and over, in search of a cadence or sound; for me, there is music in words, and I write to make them sing. Sometimes, and rarely, what I’m writing comes from a place deep within, and in this instance, writing is prayer. If I never write another jot, I’m satisfied with having composed  While my pretty one sleeps, an essay I wrote about and for my gentle mother, words straight from my soul, words of remembrance, of love, of gratitude – of peace. I would not be the woman or the writer I am today without her; she’s in everything I do.

 

Would you like to meet my lovely friends? These are my fellow blog hop writers. . .

 

Jessica-HalepisJessica Halepis is a mother and a writer who lives in New Hampshire with her husband and three children. When she isn’t making dinner, folding laundry, hugging her kids, reading, or looking out the window, she writes. All of her writing can be found on her blog, Nourished Mom. Her work has also appeared on Mamapedia and the Huffington Post.

 

 

 

authorphoto200Katrina Kenison has traced the seasons of a woman’s life through three books: Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry (2000) now considered a classic for parents of young children, The Gift of an Ordinary Day: A Mother’s Memoir (2009), and Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment (2013).

In the process of writing a memoir, she says, “I’ve learned to celebrate the beauty of ordinary days and to savor the pleasure of small moments well lived.”

Before becoming an author, Katrina spent many years working in publishing, first as an editor at Houghton Mifflin Company in New Haven, New York, and Boston, and then, from 1990 through 2006, as the series editor of the best-selling The Best American Short Stories anthology, published annually by Houghton Mifflin-Harcourt. She co-edited, with John Updike, The Best American Short Stories of the Century.

Katrina is also the author, with Rolf Gates, of Meditations from the Mat: Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga. With Kathleen Hirsch she co-edited an anthology of short stories about motherhood, Mothers: Twenty Stories of Contemporary Motherhood. Her writing has appeared in O: The Oprah Magazine, Woman’s Day, Real Simple,Country Living, Family Circle, Redbook, and other publications.

A Reiki practitioner, gardener, writing and yoga teacher, Katrina lives with her family in rural New Hampshire. Her YouTube video for The Gift of an Ordinary Day has had well over two million views. She blogs weekly at http://www.katrinakenison.com.

20 thoughts on “Why I write: the tone and hue of my words

    • Oh, yes, John. All I’ve ever wanted is to share my very small collection of earthly treasures. For me, a feather, a leaf, a petal, the sound of wind, of rain on my roof, light refracted through clouds, a bit of lace, poetry; this is enough.

  1. Oh, Amy, I so wish I had your gift of writing to be able to respond to this properly. My heart knows what it feels, but my mind isn’t cooperating to give me the ability to express it. Your paragraph on Inspiration alone was enough to delight me, but then, the whole blog continued to be marvelous. You need to add one more quality to your “inelegant house guest;” she allows you to “pay it forward” to inspire others – not exactly to write, but to reflect on nature, beauty, love, friendship, and peace. Your beautiful writing and photos always leave me with a smile on my face and a goal to seek. I am so grateful you have entered my life!
    Big Hugs,
    Carol

    • Oh, Carol, bless you. Just when I’m feeling the lack of an English degree, when the words I offer seem scant and off the mark, your kindness comes in like so much sunlight, and I’m grateful. If what I post here has caused you to reflect on the things I so treasure – nature, beauty, love, friendship, and peace – I have succeeded, and my heart can rest. Thank you. xoxo

  2. I adored this post Amy…you have a wonderful way with words and your description of your inelegant house guest, had me in fits of giggles. If she is missing, it may be that she has found her way to Saigon. I will be sure to bounce her back when she comes calling. Thanks so much for your lovely comment on my post. It has been a pleasure getting to know you! 🙂

    • Thank you, Jeanne! It’s so wonderful to hear from you this morning. The fact that my asides about my inelegant house guest reduced you to giggles is a sure sign you know her well. (Of course you do!) I probably shouldn’t say such things about her. She’s lovely, really. I must apologize, however, because I just imagined how she must look when she barges in at your place, all grumpy and red-eyed from hours of flight, and I laughed. xoxo

  3. Thank you, Amy, for sharing so openly your innermost thoughts and dreams.

    You have created a beautiful sanctuary here, for your own thoughts as well as ours. How fortunate are we, to have been handed the key to your garden gate!

    I like watching your quotation garden grow, because it oftentimes plants its lovely seeds in mine. Too, I admire the way you create word bouquets of your very own–no way an English degree could bestow on someone the ability to write so beautifully, in such an intimate and generous way! Lucky me, lucky us, that we’re able to bear witness –to see, feel and otherwise benefit from– the generous outcroppings of your tender heart and soul.

    • Your kindness is a sweet zephyr that breezes in through the garden gate to wander among the plants, stopping here and there to lightly lift a sagging bud and coax it into blossom. You’re a welcome guest here in my sanctuary, sweet Melodye. It is for lovely souls like you that I create my word bouquets. Bless you, my friend. You do my heart a world of good. xox

  4. Gosh, I’m incredibly honored and touched to read your kind words. To see my name in the company of Rebecca and Katrina feels like a dream – what a privilege. I love your writing, your blog, and all that you do in the world. The characterization of inspiration as an inelegant houseguest particularly stuck with me! xox

    • It’s an honor, a joy, and a privilege, Lindsey, every single time I hear from you. I’m humbled, and so pleased, to know my offerings here have met with your approval – it feels like a dream. Thank you. xoxo

  5. Oh, Amy, what a pleasure it was to read this. Thank you for the lovely introduction, and for the invitation to join you on this blog tour. When I think of you, my friend, I feel grateful on so many levels. There is SO much about this post I love, especially the glimpse into your process, the way you compare writing to sculpture, painting, music, and to prayer. I see it very much the same way. We are all very fortunate to witness your quiet thoughts and dreams. Thank you for sharing them with us. How is it that I have never read that piece about your mother? I will definitely have to do that soon. xoxo

    • Jessica, your friendship is a perpetual blessing, and I’m ecstatic that you’ve agreed to join me on this blog tour! Your writing is exquisite, and I can’t wait to read what you’ll share next week. I love knowing we see the writing process through a similar filter.

      My essay about my mother is a page torn from my heart; I consider it my magnum opus, and I look forward to sharing it with you. xoxoxo

  6. Amy, I can only second Melodye’s words: your online home is a sanctuary. Each time I visit, I feel refreshed and enlivened and a bit more connected to the beauty that is right in front of me whenever I pause to notice. Your writing is luminous.

    • Katrina,

      I’m wide-eyed and wakeful tonight, keeping poets’ hours. You are one of the brightest stars along my path: thank you for your perpetual loveliness. My garden gate stands wide open for you, night and day — you’re always welcome here.

      Thank you for the great honor of inviting me to join your blog tour – it has been the experience of a lifetime. xoxo

  7. May I join the chorus in saying the paragraph describing your inelegant houseguest is elegance itself? That, and the image of rice skittering all over the counter and floor…yes, that sums it up for me as well. Such a pleasure to discover your garden.

    • I’m honored to know you’ve found pleasure within my small garden enclosure, my friend. How thoughtful and kind of you to post such lovely words here. Thank you! Blessings~ xoxo

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