Broadway Cafe, Kansas City MO

I’m here in KC for a change of scenery and some writing time at my favorite cafe in town. I’m hoping I feel motivated to write on the story, because I’ve been struggling with that lately. I’ve skipped ahead to the last chapter to write on that, and maybe that’s the problem. Not much happens in the last chapter of a book except the tie up the loose ends. And in this case, a baby is definitely front and center.

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I don’t really understand babies. I’m childless by choice; I have never been graced with a maternal instinct. But enough of that; I am sitting in the best cafe in Kansas City.

Broadway Cafe is the real thing, with worn chairs and scuffed walls and young baristas. I don’t know if they do latte art because I’m drinking their coffee of the day, Guatemala. The coffee is roasted and brewed so well that it has notes. It doesn’t just taste like dark roast. If we hadn’t just had breakfast at AC Hotel, we would have some pastries

So from here, I write on the book. Damn babies. What do babies do at 3 months old? They eat, poop, cry, burp and squeeze your finger. How hard can that be? They smile, which is how they get away with eating, pooping, crying, and burping all the time.

And people make burbling noises at them.

Ok, back to grounding myself in my surroundings. I have coffee, and I’m about to write. I’m about to write the sappiest chapter in my life. All it needs is a cute dog. (It’s not going to get a cute dog).

Ok, time to write …

I Need Something to Wake Me Up

I mean that title metaphorically, not in the coffee sense.

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I have become sleepy lately (extending the metaphor). No Big Audacious Goals, just work and writing on a novel I’m afraid is sleepwalking across the countryside. No exciting plans this summer. No tempting opportunities. Nothing that gives my soul a psychic jolt of caffeine (this extended metaphor is getting silly).

I know I should be able to wake myself up, but inertia is so difficult to break. Which is why I need an assist from the Universe. I want this to be a good morning wake up, not a wake-up call in the colloquial sense, or a wake up and smell the coffee. A good gentle shake, or a cat plopping on my chest. Or fireworks, I’d take fireworks. Or someone yelling from the doorway.

In the meantime, I will see if I can make myself that metaphorical coffee.

Not Everything is Content

I just found a prompt on Loomly the other day (Loomly is a social media manager like Hootsuite except more user friendly and much cheaper) that suggested, just as I’ve seen suggested on TikTok, that ‘everything is content’. One should present what one is doing to the millions, thousands, or (in my case) dozens of followers on social media.

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I have problems with this. First, not everything someone does is ‘on message’. People expect a theme to one’s presence. On TikTok, @alexisnicole usually forages and makes amazing recipes with her wild crafting. @bdylanhollis cooks vintage recipes with often hilarious results. @dontcrossagayman tells his everyman hero stories about his interventions with bigots and creeps. They stay on message.

Second, not everything someone says should be out there. I have chronic bipolar depression. I know I can occasionally say “I’ve been dealing with depression,” but what I can’t do is go through a stream of consciousness about what it feels like to be depressed. That’s too much. I can’t ask my readers to be my therapist.

I must admit I struggle with content. I seem like I write all over the place, from reviews of apps to snippets of poetry to progress reports on my writing to my own personal experiences. If I have a message, it’s “This is what it’s like for me as a writer.” Part thunderstorms, part computer programs, part coffee, part cats, part violets. I hope it works, because I’m trying to stick to the good content.

Interrogating Leah

I’m sitting in the campus Starbucks, which is in the library, perhaps the coolest Bux in the US (or the nerdiest). My semester is over, which means flowers and warmer weather and more relaxed schedules are ahead of me.

I’m sitting in one of the coveted low upholstered chairs, which is what the early bird gets to sit in. The short table fits me perfectly, and I’m set up to write. Except I don’t feel motivated to write.

I have a novel to write on, and I’m on the first draft. All I can see is the imperfections — to where I’m reading the first half and putting huge comments on it. I haven’t even written the second half. NaNoWriMo and other guides suggest one gets the first draft written first, then edits.

I look up from my computer where I’ve been staring at the screen, and a tall, slender young woman sits in the chair across from me. Not one of my students, but I know her. She shouldn’t be here; she’s not real —

“Just because you wrote me doesn’t mean I’m not real,” Leah Inhofer points out as she pushes a wayward blond braid back. “I hear you’re having some problems.”

“Not really,” I say. “I just need to motivate myself.”

“Partially true,” Leah comments. “You need to motivate yourself. And you’re having problems.” When your character is a walking lie detector, lying to them is inadvisable.

“I don’t know if I like what I’m writing,” I confess. “I’m not even done writing, but I want to revise it. And I don’t know how.”

“First, you need to develop me and Baird better. Yeah, we’re sneaking around a bit at first, but we end up in love. Make us believable. Make our dilemma hefty enough that my pregnancy puts us in a spin.”

“You can’t be too much in love at first, or else there will not be the tension. You need to doubt the other person, not want to impose. Catch up to yourself before you admit to being in love.”

“I see where you’re coming from.” Leah leans forward to whisper. “It’s not like I know how Baird would be as a father. He seems so — clueless. I suppose that comes from having been born three years ago.”

“Was he really born, though? He’s a Nephilim — it’s more like he showed up fully adult to his birthday. Not like how your baby’s going to show up.”

“Just what I need. Morning sickness.” She takes a deep breath. “Boy or girl?”

“Girl,” I assure her.

Leah pumps her arm. “Sweet. Another generation to break the mold. My mom’s going to be thrilled.” She makes a sour face. “Will my mother ever forgive me for believing in the Maker religion?”

“Let’s just say you’ve given her a lot to think about.”

“Good. I should go find Baird. We’ve got a few minutes before my dad misses us.” And she stands quickly, braid swinging, and disappears.

It’s Raining and I Want To Take a Nap

We’re having a slow thunderstorm here in Maryville, MO. The heavy clouds hang overhead, darkening the sky. From the clouds, an ominous rumble emanates. It’s almost seven-thirty, and morning appears to have fled. A streak of horizontal lightning jolts the neighborhood.

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I sit in my writing place, on the loveseat in the living room, near the window, and I want to take a nap. I close my eyes to think about writing this piece and I fall asleep sitting up, just for a moment.

This is the opposite of who I want to be. I want to be awake, dynamic. I want to write beautiful prose. I want to get many things done —

Who am I kidding? I want to take a nap.

It’s the perfect day to crawl back into bed, ignoring coffee and work to do, and turn off the light. I feel like I could sleep for twelve hours and wake up happy, or at least less blah than this weather has made me.

But I have promises to keep (Thank you, Robert Frost) and coffee to drink (Thank you, Richard). I have to meet with my boss and hold office hours and attend a faculty meeting. I might have time to write on my WIP (Work in progress, in author-speak). I’ve already done some grading (I get up very early). Tonight will be soon enough to sleep.

On a Trip to Kansas City as a Writer

Why am I in KC?

I’m on an internship trip overnight, getting some away time in. I saw three interns yesterday, and will see another this morning. It’s part of the job of being their internship director. It’s fun seeing where my students are working.

I’m thinking about writing as I sit in a coffeehouse (Opera House KC) waiting for one of my favorite stores to open. I need some spices at Planters, and to look at gardening gadgets. I will also shop for Asian foods and eat Ethiopian for lunch. Life is good.

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Thinking about writing

As I think and drink lavender latte, I realize that, for me, thinking about writing isn’t thinking. It’s more like a sense of interest that envelops me, and I feel like following that interest in writing. Maybe that’s been my problem, thinking that thinking about writing was what I needed. No, I need to be a writer and follow that up with what I need to do to write.

It sounds bogus. First, be a writer; second, write. It’s not, in a way I have trouble explaining.

But it’s that way.

Working toward writing

Looking at an outline

I have progressed as far as looking at my outline and making minor notes — mostly wrong names. I’m trying to figure out when Leah gets pregnant, because that’s a dramatic beat. Leah should get pregnant at a place where tension increases, because that’s how this is done.

I need to decide to build this story into a Save the Cat framework and move things as needed. By a Save the Cat format, I mean a story structure that walks the writer through a build-up, a tension state, the climax, and the aftermath. But I feel so much torpor, much dragging of feet. I need a good session with my husband and plenty of coffee or tea (or coffee and tea).

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Camp NaNoWriMo

I hope to motivate myself to write through Camp NaNoWriMo in April. I won’t get the story done, but I will get it started. Maybe I’ll fall in love with my characters and find the energy to write the story. I hope.

Wish me luck!

Trouble in Paradise

Trouble with coffee

We’re having trouble with coffee in the household. A coffee crisis, one may say.

Our daily coffee brewing (using an electric vacuum pot, which is hard to find these days) has disintegrated into a pot of coffee that is half good. In other words, the first 1-2 cups are perfect and the rest is either weak or sour.

We’ve been playing with grind size, which is why we go from weak or sour. We’re probably not on the right grind size, or so my husband hypothesizes.

I think there’s something wrong with the heating element of the pot myself. Which is a shame, because KitchenAid no longer makes that coffee maker, and I’m not sure anyone else makes an electric vacuum pot either. It may be time to go back to a French press pot or a pourover or an non-electric vacuum pot or something else low-tech. Something that requires a little more work for this lazy household.

Were you expecting some other type of trouble?

Heavens, I hope not! Things at the household are actually going pretty smoothly, other than my blahs, and I’m about to go into counseling about that. I’ve suffered an identity crisis over the past seven years, because life now isn’t like life before bipolar meds. So I’m seeking some help over that. No trouble at all.

People Move Away and Time Flows On

People move away

I’m having coffee with a friend today. She will be moving to Arizona soon to enjoy her retirement in new surroundings. I don’t blame her; this is not a good town to retire in.

Coffee morning concept, coffee cup with small dish putting on old plank together with stack of notebook over forest outside as background.

We haven’t seen each other in the longest time because of COVID, but we’ve corresponded online in that somewhat indirect way allowed by Facebook. She participates in community band and runs marathons. I, on the other hand, write and self-publish, hoping to get some of my work traditionally published.

Our coffee date will no doubt be a way to catch up and, in a way, to get closure even with Facebook as a medium of exchange. She is embarking on an adventure.

Time flows on without me

I admit I’m jealous of my friend. I have been caught in gaffa (as in the Kate Bush song) for so long, with my writing, my adventures only in books. I used to ask God, “What am I called to do?” but got no tingling that told me what direction to go. I’m not getting too much excitement from writing these days. Nothing is calling me on a quest. No serendipity calls my name, and when I think it does, it falls flat.

I have spoken about this before. I don’t know if this anhedonia is something normal people feel, or if I’m just comparing this pale mood with the elations and depressions I felt before I was diagnosed with bipolar II.

But I’m looking for a quest, a re-energization within COVID, a pleasant surprise, a story to tell as I tell my friend goodbye.