The Stories I Tell ~ from The Word Cellar

Stories. Anecdotes. A free round of words for everyone!

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I love stories. I'm the one at social functions with a dozen new anecdotes. But I worry about hogging the conversation. Sometimes I tell myself that I'll be quiet and let others do the talking. But no matter how hard I try, my stories insist on bursting out! Here I can let my stories (the classics that I tell again and again, as well as new ones that unfold along the way) run free. I'm a professional writer and editor, and sole proprietor of The Word Cellar. I write for a variety of publications and clients on everything from green buildings and nuclear reactors to entrepreneurship and the arts. If you need words written, edited, or enlivened, I can help. Contact me.


Pitfalls of the Blogging Writer

There are many things I love about being a writer. There are many things I love about blogging. But sometimes, being a writer who blogs can be a real drag. Actually, being a writer has a number of pitfalls. I live in constant fear that I'll mispronounce the word "nuclear." I worry about undetected grammatical errors infiltrating my daily speech. Writing a quick email is never quick or easy. Words are my trade. Unfortunately, those very same words are what we English speakers use to communicate. So every written or verbal interaction is like a landmine for writers. One false move or double negative and BOOM! Not good.

I love using this space to tell stories. I also love that it's a place to make you laugh, share truth, and generally form and kindle connections. That's what I love about writing in general. So when I'm quiet for a few days (or nearly two weeks), it's not because I'm not thinking of you, dear reader. It's because I feel constrained by my role as Writer, capital W. I want to stop by and say, Hey friends, how's it goin'? It's cold and snowy here. Oh, and I've been working on a cool project. What's new with you?

But that's not very story-ish, now is it? (Plus, dropping the letter "g" from the ends of words could get me in trouble with the word police.) Even writing this post feels like a cop-out. In the back of my mind, I'm always aware that what I write on this blog can be used to judge me. Of course, that's true for all of us who blog or share our words in a public way: There's always the risk of judgement when we put ourselves out there. But that's a whole different emotional animal that deserves its own series of posts.

I mean that I know that potential clients and editors can come here and judge the quality of my writing or the content of my posts. I have no statistical data on this, but I believe that what I write here may be a factor in whether or not someone hires me. So I feel an unspoken pressure to make sure it's always good.

But that kind of pressure in this kind of format leads to no writing. While I often use this medium to share stories, a blog is something different than a book of essays. Sometimes I wonder if I should make it more like an online publication and less like my little corner of the virtual town square. But I've developed real friendships and made good professional contacts as a result of blogging. Erasing the community quotient from this space doesn't feel right.

I'd like to know how those of you who make your living creatively feel about this topic. Do you feel like everything you write must be a reinforcement of your personal "brand"? (I know, I know: many of you hate that term.) Does this issue of quality control impact other artists as much as it does writers? What about those of you in other fields? How do you balance staying in touch and building community with the need to provide quality content on a regular basis? And while you're at it in the comments, How you doin'?

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add to kirtsy | 2:49 AM | 5 comments


The Portfolio Project

Remember how I asked you to come back for this post if you like it quick and dirty? (Yes, I know: It's a stupid, base joke, but I can't help myself.) Well here you go, folks. You're just in time to play a great new game to help you overcome whatever has been blocking you from fulfilling your creative dreams.

The Jens Extradordinaire (that would be Lee and Lemen) got together and cooked up an idea they're calling the Portfolio Project. Here's how Lee describes it:

We came up with a 12-week action burst that would focus on daily production goals that will dramatically expand our body of work. This is a big game. What would your landscape look like, if 12 weeks from now you had 50 new paintings, or 100? If you had 50 new poems and short stories? What if they weren’t all amazing–don’t you think the odds are that plenty of them would be? That it would feel good to fish for the best from a vast ocean instead of a puddle of projects

The basic idea is to do your creating quick and dirty, not pretty and perfect. There is no room for perfection in this game. Just create, create, create, and see what comes out of it.

Ms. Lee is producing a series of podcasts exploring the ups and downs of the Portfolio Project. They're chockablock with little nuggets of wisdom and encouragement, so I highly suggest that you check them out and consider subscribing to find out when she posts a new one.

I'm starting to play the Portfolio Project today and invite you to join me and the others. The beauty of this game is that you can start when you want and make up your own rules. I've decided to set aside one hour a day to work on whatever kind of writing I want, free from the worries and constraints of getting it "right" or being "good enough."

Call it a game, a self-help project, an experiment. Just don't call it a New Year's resolution; those things are loaded with fear and failure rates. Be kind to yourself and start writing, painting, drawing, playing music, taking photos, making collages, whatever creative pursuit suits your fancy. And let us know how it's going.

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add to kirtsy | 2:23 AM | 2 comments


2008: The Quick & Dirty Review

At the start of last year, I posted my retrospective on 2007 and my hopes and plans for 2008. This year I'm taking a less introspective approach and giving you a quick and dirty look back.

I saw this idea on Jena Strong's blog, Bullseye, Baby! Jena apparently stole it from She She, who got it from Magpie Musing. (This internet sure is a tangled web, eh?) Below are the first lines of my first posts for each month of 2008. I'm not sure how well they capture the year as a whole, but I like this kind of word collage. I think it creates a sort of "found" poetry.

(Oh, and if you like it quick and dirty, come back for the next post, which will contain details on an exciting new project that encourages us to be just that in our creative pursuits.)

And now, I give you the first lines of 2008.

I can feel the hopes and goals for 2008 gently swirling around the outskirts of my thoughts.

Ten years ago, when I still lived at home with my parents, and my husband was just my new boyfriend, I inadvertently caused a car accident.

My Dear Body, Oh the times we've had! Do you remember when...

You know what? You're somebody.

There's a springtime snowglobe swirling outside my window.

I gave myself until 2:07am.

Your present question marks are going to succeed.

Thank you to everyone who left a comment on the last post, emailed me, or sent their support via Twitter.

At the beginning of the year, I wrote a retrospective on 2007 and a Mondo Beyondo Prospective for 2008.

I don't usually promote my other writing here, but the other day it occurred to me that perhaps a little link love might not be such a bad thing.

Awhile back, I wrote about my failed attempt to rename myself and the lingering desire to try it again.

What I learned from spending the day with a friend, a toddler, and a newborn:


add to kirtsy | 12:38 AM | 4 comments