importing

emelgy.tumblr.com screen shot

I had a thought-provoking conversation with Nicole Rushin on Google+ last week. She had posted this blog post, where she talks about how she came to write her most recent “about” blurb for her website. (Read the whole Google+ conversation here.)

In a recent webinar, Eckhart Tolle talked about the importance of telling your story.

Justine Musk asked in a recent post, ‘What is your one sentence?’

Robert Moss reminded me in his book, Active Dreaming, that a human being is an animal that must define itself or else be defined by others.

I have also had a couple of things happen that made me feel like I was dragging too much of my past into my present.

So, I rewrote my ‘About’ page and thought I would share it here.

Her post really hit home, because I’ve been struggling myself for the last couple of weeks with updating the “about” page here on emelgy.com. Unlike the “about” pages on my other blogs, Mirificationis and Kitchen Sink Wisdom, which have very specific subjects and were easy for me to summarize, this blog feels somehow amorphous. I haven’t quite been able to pin down – at least in my own mind – why this blog even exists. Until now.

Nicole suggested writing an email to myself – as if to a friend – so that’s what I did. Here’s what it said.

Dear Michelle:

I fear this is going to make you feel guilty and ashamed (because you’ll think it’s show-off-y and not at all humble), but here’s the deal: You’re writing this blog first and foremost for you. It’s your online journal or daybook.

Do you remember the first published journal entries you read? They were Harriet’s notes in the book Harriet the Spy, and you started keeping private notebooks of your own because of them. And then there was Go Ask Alice, the diary of a teenage girl who gets lost in the San Francisco drug culture in the 1960s… and a number of other Young Adult books written using the journaling device. More recently, you’ve enjoyed Sabrina Ward Harrison's art journals, full of her hard-hitting questions and luscious illustrations. Not to mention your current favorite blogs, which include The Bloggess and Chookooloonks – both first-person perspectives on their creative authors’ lives.

You like reading about other people’s stories for the same reason that you loved going to your friends houses when you were seven years old. It amazed you to see how other people lived. It blew your mind that you had choices – that not everyone lived the way you and your family did. Shirley MacLaine once said (in an interview with Barbara Walters), “Show me who you are, and I’ll know more about who I am.” (You liked her autobiographical books, too.). You want to know who other people are, and you want to know who you are. That’s why you write.

So stop feeling ashamed. Don’t care one whit whether anyone’s going to read this or not. Put your heart on the screen. Give a voice to the song that you hear running through your mind’s ear. Show people the things that you find beautiful. (Like that line from the Depeche Mode song that you love, “Let me show you the world in my eyes.”)

Maybe, just maybe, there’s someone out there who will someday find what you’ve written, and realize that they, too, have choices.

___
I’ve recently imported my Tumblr blog, A Little Instant Emelgy, here to emelgy.com. It’s going to take me a while to add titles to the blog posts and clean up any tags, but feel free to explore my archives for photos from my last couple of years.

Update: The Tumblr import didn’t work out so well. I’ve deleted all the Tumblr posts. Not sure if I’m going to try again, or just let the whole thing be.

writing

writing in WordPress on laptop

When I was a little girl and started visiting my friends’ houses, I remember being blown away by the fact that not every family did things the way my family did. It was a life-transforming revelation to me. Suddenly my world – which had never before seemed limiting – became HUGE, as I realized that there were literally endless possibilities for living one’s life. Ever since then, I’ve been fascinated by the ways that other people live. That fascination is the reason I read so much, and so widely – because I want to discover my options.

I’m especially fascinated by other people’s work habits. One of my favorite blogs is From the Desk of… because it’s a voyeuristic look at writers’ and artists’ creative spaces. I also used to buy all those magazines featuring artists’ and crafters’ studios, for the same reason. I thought, If I can have a peek inside their workspaces, maybe I can begin to unravel how they do what they do. And maybe there’s some gold there for me.

Apart from assignments for school, I didn’t start writing regularly until my late 20s, when I first began seeking out work as a freelance writer. I loved being published (and being paid for my work!), but I found writing for a deadline agonizing. Most of my articles involved interviews with musicians and artists (which was awesome!), but that meant endless hours transcribing interview tapes. I hated transcribing. I also hated being tied to a word count, because that meant making decisions about what to include, and what to leave out. (In retrospect, this was a blessing. It made me a really good editor – quick to discern what’s essential, and what’s superfluous.) I never had a huge problem with procrastination – I always made my deadlines – but I did pull two or three near-all-nighters in order to submit a story on time, usually because the perfectionist in me fretted endlessly over word choice and word order.

Discovering blogging in the fall of 2006 was another revelation to me. For the first time ever, I got to write exactly what I wanted to write, and then see it immediately published. My writing exploded, and I created dozens of blogs as I came up with new ideas for subjects that I wanted to write about. (Most of these didn’t live to see the light of day, mercifully.)

Then I began working in the business and nonprofit sectors, and adapted my skills for proposal writing and technical writing. I still write every day for my paid job, and I appreciate this experience because it’s taught me to be a workhorse. The subject matter may not always be scintillating, but I’ve learned how to write when I’m not inspired, or don’t feel like writing. And I’ve learned that “perfect is the enemy of done.” I’ve learned to release the work to the world, and move on to the next project. I’ve acquired grit and stick-to-it-iveness and discipline. I’ve learned how to be fast and succinct. I’ve gained facility.

Since returning to regular blogging nearly a year ago, though, I’ve been experimenting with my extracurricular creative habits. I know how to be a writing drudge, but is that all there is? I hope not. I’m still looking for something deeper. I have a sense that there’s more to writing than just showing up at the screen. (Any blogger using WordPress will recognize the photo at the beginning of this post… and will probably also know the agony of showing up at that blank screen every time they write.)

I’ve read some amazing books in the last five months, including three by Steven Pressfield that continue to inspire me to explore what’s possible as a writer. The War of Art is about battling resistance to creative work. Do the Work is a step-by-step coaching session through a creative project. And his latest book, Turning Pro, is about crossing the mine field of addictive and diversionary behaviors that incapacitate the artist. It was humbling for me to read this book, because in it I recognized many parts of myself that I’m not proud of. I also recognized that I’ve spent most of my adult life engaged in “shadow careers.”

Sometimes, when we’re terrified of embracing our true calling, we’ll pursue a shadow calling instead. That shadow career is a metaphor for our real career. Its shape is similar, its contours feel tantalizingly the same. But a shadow career entails no real risk. If we fail at a shadow career, the consequences are meaningless to us.

Are you pursuing a shadow career?

Are you getting your Ph.D. in Elizabethan studies because you’re afraid to write the tragedies and comedies that you know you have inside you? Are you living the drugs-and-booze half of the musician’s life, without actually writing the music? Are you working in a support capacity for an innovator because you’re afraid to risk becoming an innovator yourself?

If you’re dissatisfied with your current life, ask yourself what your current life is a metaphor for.

That metaphor will point you toward your true calling.

There’s no running away from that realization. I know what my calling is. And I know what I need to do. And so I’ll continue to show up, every day, in my free time. And write. And write some more…

cowbird.com

avocado in blue glass bowl

I uploaded some new photo illustrations to Google+ yesterday, and I suddenly realized that I’d never really talked about Cowbird.com here on my personal blog. Cowbird is a community of storytellers. It was created by Jonathan Harris. (I think he’s awesome, by the way. You can see two of his TED Talks here and here to find out why.)

In February and March I tried to publish one story a day on Cowbird. In April I struggled to find time to continue doing that, but I haven’t abandoned the site. One of my favorite aspects of publishing there is creating the photo illustrations for my stories. A sample of some of my favorite Cowbird illustrations is below.

Beginning this month, I’m switching to weekday publishing only. See you Monday!

bunch of asparagas

cats on shelf

tree branches outside window

artichokes

red tulips

bananas and nuts

white garbage bag in trash can

All photographs taken with iPhone, and processed with Camera+

time for a change

Dali clock

A lot of people seem to flinch from change. Most of the time I’m not one of them. (There are a few things I don’t like to change, but I usually end up grudgingly accepting them in the end.)

I’ve been struggling with a lot of pain in the last couple of months, and I’ve decided to adjust my writing and blogging work in order to make more time for rest and play. I don’t know what that’s going to look like – I may still be posting every day, or I may decided to go for days without posting.

All I know is, something’s going to change. And I’m going to feel really great about it.

And on this special day, I’m also looking forward to an amazing year…

profile of a professional organizer

Michelle Lynne Goodfellow 2008

I was at a party last weekend, and as inevitably happens, someone asked me how I got into professional organizing.

(Well, first they were like, Really??? You do that??? Cool… you don’t want to see my house…)

My best friend introduces me to people as the most organized person she knows. Another friend asked me to manage his move (without, unfortunately, telling any of the other helping friends about it; the general consensus afterwards was that I was “bossy”). Any job I’ve ever had, I’ve spent all my downtime re-organizing everything in my immediate environment. I love to clean. I love to file. The books on my bookshelves are organized alphabetically by subject or by author. There are several subcategories of each. We organizers are a breed unto ourselves, as I’ve been finding this weekend at my first professional organizing convention.

My boyfriend calls me “Monk-elle.” After the television character. Early in our relationship, I was helping him set up an auditorium with chairs for a recital he was giving (he’s a classically trained tenor – we met through our then-mutual singing teacher). After all the chairs were pulled out from under the stage, and arranged by his “roadies” (long-suffering friends who had volunteered to help him with the business end of the recital), here was his new girlfriend, walking up and down the rows, crouching to eye the position of each chair in relationship with the others, making tiny adjustments to the position of rows which, to the untrained eye, looked perfectly straight already… Monk.

I had never seen Monk, and I didn’t find my boyfriend’s laughter amusing. (I think all his friends were laughing by that point, too.) He later showed me some episodes from his complete Monk boxed sets. I was offended. (But I really like the show.)

I still insist to this day that I am not a Monk – I mean, I do not compulsively touch lampposts; I don’t need an antibacterial hand-wipe every time I shake hands. But I kind of prefer it when everything is straight… (I’ve been known to stop a conversation to adjust a picture frame on a wall across the room) …and I can go into a frenzy of activity every time I get a stain on my clothing, not satisfied until I know it’s out. (Or maybe that’s just my Home Ec background, but that’s another story…)

I told a friend who knows me well that my boyfriend thought I was Monk. The friend says I am. I give up.

I’m trying to be more flexible, though. I only sweep the hardwood floor of my bachelor apartment once per day.

Okay, maybe twice.

Well, three times, if it really needs it…

~

This post was originally published on my professional organizing blog, An Organized Existence.