The Double Life of An Unpaid Writer

For minutes at a stretch, I hole myself up at the dining room table, hunched over, feverishly pecking away at the keys. Then it’s gone, that train of thoughts I’m inexplicably compelled to board and then disparagingly alight just as mysteriously.

Do other passions treat their passengers this way? I wonder about writing, and writers.

I decide it’s time to drift off with a sip of hot tea that’s gone stone cold because drinking it at its hot prime would have required me to actually remove half of my fingers from the keyboard, and somehow that just wouldn’t be right, or correct.

I have only eternal gratitude for my grade seven typing teacher, Mr. Whoever he is now.

I’m stuck on the platform, alone, waiting for this train that seems as if it’ll never arrive. So how will I? I gaze out into the pouring rain that I’d just now sensed had been keeping time with my own tap, tap, tapping all along, flooding me with words, right ones too.

I suppose all writers worry about the well running dry.” — Richard Russo

Suddenly I’m lurched forward, and my fingers begin flying again, with the opposable digit on the right side keeping that familiar, offbeat rhythm that comes from word choice and length, a strange, primal music to the writer within. She’s arrived.

And then, someone dares to step through the invisible, fourth wall of the dining room. It’s an ugly moment, this instance of being snapped back into this surreal world in which I’m not a writer. It feels wholly unnatural, even threatening at times.

I snarl inside, though I’m ashamed to admit it.

Ctrl+S. Twice.

This animal writer accepts her state of grace.

It’s a double life we writers live, especially if writing isn’t yet a livelihood. Yet there’s such hope in that little word, yet.

An unpaid writer has to get out there and live.

And work. And parent. And spouse (it seems like a verb at times). And grocery shop. And cook. And clean. And hope to experience, real or imagined, something, anything that’ll knock my arse right back into the chair and just write.

For years my real, everyday life usurped this writing life. And I allowed it to. I believed that working and parenting and spousing (a real and present participle verb) and shopping and cooking and cleaning were of greater importance.

No longer do I believe that, no matter what my mind and its voice of reason might think. Writing has beckoned to me all these years. And for good reason. I’ve finally answered its call. And it’s brought happiness to me, and to others.

I’m a much happier human because I write.

Still, an unpaid writer has to steal away from her everyday life, mere minutes at a time. I write as often as I dare, right beside the loads of laundry, piles of paperwork, and soot sprites.

I write without hearing the tea kettle whistle. I write without hearing the pleads of others.

It’s simply the way of this unpaid writing life.

It’s a double-edged sort of double life. At the same time life stops this writer, it gives her such fodder, such as it is. Right now, I write short pieces about my simple life. It’s enough.

These short stretches of writing seem to sustain the writer within, the animal, and me too.

Is there a wild one within you who’s compelled to create? Do you live a double life of sorts? How do you trek through both?

This blog was inspired by the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge: Writerly Reflections
Photo credit: vk-red via photopin cc

Making It All Up & Then Make Believing It

I’m guilty of making it all up sometimes, make-believing it.

I see or hear other people, and then I quickly imagine what’s going on in their lives, how they live their lives, who they are. Then, just as hastily, I decide what I believe about them.

I make assumptions about them and even judge them.

It’s an uncomfortable thing to admit to, that I sometimes act so small. I wonder if it’s wonder that makes my imagination run amok, and run away from compassion and kindness.

I’ve also been on the other side of this make-believing.

Sometimes I’m quieter than I am at other times, contemplative I prefer to think. Other people make up reasons for my silence, assuming that I’m sad or mad, or some other made-up emotion.

And sometimes I actually end up feeling sad or mad because they made it all up.

Why won’t they simply see what’s real? I’m just quieter than usual. And if they’re so concerned, why don’t they just ask me about it? I might just tell them.

Sometimes I think people actually prefer to make it all up. That way, they can have their way, they can believe whatever they want.

And this goes for me too, I’m embarrassed to admit. I do so want to quit.

Meddling Monkey Mind

The meddling monkey mind is impatiently curious. It predicts what hasn’t happened. It jumps to crazy conclusions. It judges with a heavy hammer. It worries over what’s not known.

Where does your mind go when you don’t know something, when things don’t go as you planned, or expected, or wanted them to go?

Whether the mind is making up sunshiny scenarios or doom and gloom outcomes, the thoughts are still made up.

Stop making them up. And stop believing them. Deal with what is real, even if that means it isn’t knowable.

Communicate with Care

Just because something isn’t known to you, it doesn’t mean you don’t sense something. You do. Your observational skills and your intuition sense when something’s up.

At this moment, just remember not to make something up. You have far and away, way better choices. You can allow the person to simply be, or you can find out what’s really going on.

If whatever you’re sensing seems to signal your compassion, you can simply offer kindness. Let the person know you’re sensing something, without being meddlesome or judgmental.

Just saying something like, “I’m sensing something’s going on with you right now. If so, I just want you to know that I’m here to listen and help,” is enough to open minds and hearts.

Allow What Comes to Be

After you’ve opened up, just let the person be. Sometimes the person will soften and open up too. Other times, the other person isn’t yet ready to process emotions, organize thoughts, and speak or act.

If the person says something like, “Oh, it’s nothing,” accept this truth and allow what comes to be. Do not press the person for more, or insist that you know better. You don’t.

We all meet our own emotional experiences in different ways. Some of us prefer the silence of solitude until we are ready to connect. Others just want a loving ear to listen to them.

Showing compassion and kindness, loving others, can just be allowing others to feel, think, and connect in their own ways and in their own time. Trust that they know what’s best.

Whenever you sense that something’s going on with someone, making it all up isn’t helpful. In fact, it can be hurtful, even harmful.

Hurt feelings, resentment, and anger can arise from saying and doing things while under the influence of untruths. Words can be spoken and actions can be taken that worsen matters.

Just keeping ourselves open to what is real and what can really come from compassion and kindness opens us all up to love.

And love is really what we all want and are worthy of, no matter what’s really going on and what we’re really going through.

Do you sometimes make it all up and believe it? If so, how do you practice finding out what’s real and allowing it to be, even when you don’t know?

Illustration courtesy of ArtJSan via

The Comparison Trap

Comparison Shopping

I silently stand still in the market aisle, scanning shelves, reading labels, comparing prices per whatever unfitting unit is labeled. They measure this by that? I know what they’re trying to do.

It won’t work with me. Time and money are no barrier to the greater good of my family’s food. It just involves a fair amount of mathematics, hence my sustained standing.

Natural Comparisons

We’re human. We seek information around us to better help us survive. As a social creature, we naturally compare ourselves with others.

We often compare ourselves to standards and expectations that are considered to be cultural (or sub-cultural) norms. We can think we’re deficient compared with those who we judge to be better than us, or proficient compared with those who we think are worse off.

The problem in comparing is that our comparisons are usually highly inaccurate. We compare ourselves at our worst with someone else’s best. It’s a constant apples to oranges ensnarement, this comparison trap.

Conscious Comparisons

The first step I take to avoid the comparison trap is to simply recognize a comparison. Be wary, ’cause a comparison can be cleverly disguised.

It can be comparing your spouse or partner with who or how they once were, or who or how we wish them to be. We even compare them with others.

I do that. When I first met my husband, he used to be so thoughtful. I swear, he didn’t even pass gas. See? That’s a comparison with how he used to be.

Is it real?
After I recognize a comparison, I discern whether it’s real. In other words, does it serve a real purpose in my life or the lives of others around me.

A real comparison can be determining the best price on organic, non-GMO tortilla chips to go with the guacamole dip I’m mixing up for my husband.

Imaginary comparisons don’t compare what is real, right now. They often compare based on the past or the future, or just our wishful thinking.

Maybe it’s just me, but imaginary comparisons only seem to cause trouble. They can result in disappointment, judgement, and even unhappiness.

Why does my husband pass so much gas? Is that what happens when men age? I bet So-and-so’s husband doesn’t fart in front of her all the time!

I just remember it’s best to release it (yes, even my husband’s gas). I’ve recognized it as an imaginary comparison, I see it isn’t real, and I just let it go.

Sometimes we compare people with how they once were, who we wish them to be, and even other people.

These comparisons serve no real, positive purpose, and they negatively affect our happiness. They devalue ourselves and others because when we compare we’re not valuing who we really are now.

Just think about what or who you’re comparing and why. This is usually enough to begin consciously comparing. And real conscious comparisons can serve us well.

In the case of shopping at the market, comparing serves me and my family. In the case of my husband, it doesn’t serve either of us to wish away what is a real fart, I mean part of life.

What kinds of comparisons do you make? How do you recognize them, tell if they’re real, and release them if need be?

Illustration courtesy of Boykung via

Do You Want to Be Right or Happy?

White knuckler!

The little love is learning to drive.

The other day, after picking up the little love from school and then me from work, Daddy-O decided to bust a move in traffic that was pretty impatient and, to me, possibly dangerous.

No need to let danger hitch a ride, ’cause life’s dangerous enough as it is.

As a defensive driver, I decided to let my knickers get in a twist. So I told him so. And then he told me such-and-such. So I told him so again. And then he said this-and-that. And so on.


We’d made a wrong turn, right smack-dab into the Bickerson’s driveway. Now we were really modeling it up for the little love who’s learning fast.

Suddenly, I remembered a bit of advice a wise, old friend once asked me.

Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?

And my ego was instantly launched from the ejection seat. I gave in and up. Because the signpost up ahead read Happiness. And I was glad to be home.

Do you sometimes veer off just to be right? How do you get back on the road again toward happiness?

They Only Look Like Thunder Thighs to You


“Thunder Thighs!”

You wouldn’t believe what I heard back then—I don’t believe it either, now. Good thing for me.

What sorts of names were you called as a kid? I imagine there were as many names called back then as there were kids. Perhaps you were a name caller and not a recipient. I was both at times.

No matter. The past is simply made up of stories in which the freedom of forgiveness is ours in the end.

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