Thursday, May 30, 2013

Confession Tuesday on Thursday: The Swamped Edition (Or How to Stop Being an Overwhelmed Swamp Monster)Sel

Self Portrait with Deadlines

Dear Readers,

I confess I'm swamped.

I confess when I'm swamped the blog falls to the end of my list (and oddly, somehow procrastination and spending time on things I shouldn't be doing starts to slide up to the top.)

Though I'm getting a lot done, I do find in times where I feel completely overwhelmed (as I do this week), things like email and the blog are completely ignored and things like staring into space, checking Facebook, and oddly, going to websites (aka MSN, Twitter, & the HuffPost) that do me absolutely NO GOOD seem like a good idea.

Professionals call this "distraction."  Some people use it for other anxieties in their lives.  I use it when I feel I have so many deadlines I'm not sure where to begin or what to do.

And I know better.

I can handle a lot when it comes to multiple deadlines (I thank my early life at a corporate job for that "gift"), but occasionally, there's this tipping point, this point where my head hurts from looking at my To Do list.

It doesn't happen too much, more in the last 6 months than in the last three years, but it does happen to me.

What do I do when this happens?  Here's a few steps on how I get my life back in order--

1) Before bed, create a "Next Day" To Do List

-- I actually do this step in bed.  I write down (or honestly, I already have all these written down) ALL the things I have to do on this list.  Everything.  Every deadline.  Every task.  Every single thing that is on my mind.

If there's a specific email I know I should respond to, but haven't, I write that email down as well. Anything that I feel I've been "trying" to remember--from "I need to get coffee at the store" to "Turn in manuscript."

2)  Once everything is listed, number your TOP priorities or anything you must get done in the next two days with a #1.  

This is probably from the Cult of Franklin Covey, but it works.  You figure out your TOP priorities and well, put them at the top.

3)  Highlight your TOP 6 priorities.

One may be "buy coffee" --that's okay.  Now, on a separate piece of paper, put them in order of how you want to do them.

This is where Franklin Covey and I have words.  I'm sure Franklin would say, "Put them in order of their importance or priority," but I say, "Put them in order of how you want to do them, making sure there are a few 'easier' tasks on the list."  Why?  It feels GREAT to cross something off the list.

If you put "buy coffee" and happen to pick some up after you drop your child off at school, congrats, you are one less task from being completely overwhelmed when you get home.

4)  For extra credit, on the back of the paper with the TOP 6 list, put down what you'd like to work on next.  

These may or may not be your top priorities, but if you finish your TOP 6 list, if you're like me, you may need to know what to do next or you're "spin your wheels" when you're done ("spin your wheels" is a metaphor for "browse Facebook" btw).

5)  When you wake up the next morning, before you do anything else (well, except get coffee), LOOK AT YOUR LIST.

Seriously.  Then just start.  Give yourself a reward every time you cross 2 things off.

For example, on my writing residency, I told myself I could have breakfast (my favorite meal of the day) once my acknowledgments were done.  Okay, that's not really a reward, but a withholding, but that works for my personality.

6)  Do the things on your list without getting distracted with new things or the internet (or whatever your personal downfall is).  

7)  At the end of the day, make a new To Do List for tomorrow.

8)  Repeat 1-7 as needed until you are no longer a Swamp Monster.


That's it, it's how I do it.

The evening To Do list for the next day is my easiest way out of the swamp.

Also, if you ask why I have Top 6 instead of Top 3 or Top 5, the reason is, there are always a few smaller items that can put on your list that by finishing them make you feel better. I believe in small victories very much.

Also, by having 6, you're getting ahead more than the self that would only do 3-5 things.

I believe in the benefits of overachieving and aiming a little higher than what is normal.  This small stretch in everything you do will always benefit you.


I confess by writing this my head feels a little cleaner and while this post doesn't benefit ANYTHING on my To Do list, I feel better and am ready to get to work.


~ Kells

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Confession Tuesday: From a Writing Residency Edition

Dear Reader,

I am writing in a cabin on a cliff surrounded by blackberry bushes and ferns.  There are old madrona trees and California poppies, stairs to climb, and a small bunny that runs through the grass occasionally.

As they say in the Chicago song, "Everybody needs a little time away..."

To the confessional--

It's a lazy day of rain and writing, and by lazy I mean productive, but I am still in pajamas and will be in them most the day.

I confess there will be naps interrupted by genius ideas or spiders.

I am working on Hourglass Museum, ready to send it off to my editor, hoping I have made it better, stronger.

I'm not writing new poems for it, but just tinkering, making sure I haven't left out any small words, words I hear in my head, but have forgotten to put on paper.

Being on a writing residency disconnects me from everyday stuff that clogs my brain.

I confess I realize how much I need these just to clear my head, especially once I arrive.

Once my head is clear, I can see the manuscript opening up, expanding.  I can see my work in the right lighting, or place it in its best lighting so you can't see the concealer, the bags under its eyes, under my eyes.

If you have never gone on a writing retreat, you should.

You should take time for yourself to write, to go so deeply into your work that you feel this state of ecstasy.

By the end of this week, I will feel that too.  It's a strange feeling I ache for.  Though sometimes it scares me because it is so strong, and it worries me that what I feel is not in sync with what you will (hopefully) read.  It's a euphoria I do not feel when writing at home because after a day of writing at home, an evening of home life, of wearing other hats, begins.

Here I am only a writer, an artist.

I confess I think every writer should do this at least once a year if not more.

You should go on a writing retreat and decide to do this for yourself because no one else is going to give you permission.  You must choose yourself.

In this world, you must step forward.

You must say as a writer or artist, "I am worth it."

You must ignore what others think and choose you sometimes.

I confess this isn't easy to do.  People love to let you know what they think of your choices, how you are living your life, how you are raising your children, how you _____________________ fill-in-the-blank.

What they forget is the "your" infront of the word "life."  Not "their" or "my."

We each create the life we want and if you're not happy with it, there's this wonderful thing called choice, called action, called changing plans.

I confess this post is just as much for me as it is for you.

My brain is saying yes to art right now.

I confess I love this place.  I confess I love hearing the rain drip on the blackberry vines and having no other place to be.


~ Kells

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Friday, May 17, 2013

Writers-- Think of yourself as an athlete:

~ Kells

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Confession Tuesday: Just Create Edition

Dear Reader,

It's been a crazy week.  I've been noticing conflicts happening all around me, opening my side door, sneaking into someone else's back door, and wandering down the street.  Even the news is strange, all of it though returns me to art and creating.

So let's talk about it.  To the confessional--

I confess when conflict happens I feel this intense need to back away, to get small, then I come out with this overwhelming desire to fight, to push back, to live an even more expansive writing life.

Expansive?  Is that the word I'm looking for?  Expanding, stretching, an artistic life that leans in to listen.

When there are challenges, I move to writing, to creating, to art.

The more I feel my time, my art, my creativity, my work are being challenged, the more I see myself like this--

me as a Halloween cat.

Like cat from Red Dwarf (she says wondering who will get this reference?), "I'm gonna make myself big."

In the end, the things people can never take from you are not things.

No one can ever take away your education, your creativity, and your choice to create (or not to create).

I confess there will always be challenges in life and we all have our own ways to deal with them.
Retreat at first if you must, but come back swinging.
Shut the door to the people who bring you down.
Use your energy to create.

Let karma take care of the rest.


~ Kells

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Thursday, May 09, 2013

Confession Thursday: On Being Rejected as a Writer or The WTH? Edition

All rejection letters should be so kind (and funny)

Dear Reader, 

I usually confess on Tuesday.  I usually tell you all the things I've been up to, or thinking about, or yadda yadda yadda...on Tuesday.

But it's not normally 80 degrees in Seattle in May.
It's normally warm enough to go paddleboarding and mountain biking.

None of this is normal, so apparently, my confession isn't either.  So let's begin...

To the Confessional--

I confess when I read what Cheryl Strayed wrote for a status on her Facebook page, I was thankful.

Here's what she wrote:

Going through a drawer I found the submissions/applications log I've kept off and on over the years. Just in case you think it's all been roses I'd like to report that Yaddo rejected me (as recently as 2011). McDowell rejected me. Hedgebrook rejected me twice. The Georgia Review rejected me and Ploughshares rejected me and Tin House rejected me, as did about twenty other journals and magazines. Both The Sun and The Missouri Review rejected me before I appeared in their pages. Literary Arts declined to give me a fellowship three times before I won one. I've applied for an NEA five times and it's always been a no. Harper's magazine never even bothered to reply. I say it all the time but I'll say it again: keep on writing. Never give up. Rejection is part of a writer's life. Then, now, always.

I confess I like it when writers tell you they are rejected, they still have doubts about their writing.


I confess I am working on the final of my manuscript that is due the END of this month and I question myself.

I question myself, my work, my ideas, my vision.
I look at a poem and roll my eyes.

Here is the dialogue that goes on in my head as I take poems out and put them back in:

Poem, you are not the beautiful thing I thought I created, you are just a page filler and I can't stand you.

Poem, I'm sorry I took you out, you're not as ugly I thought, I'll put you back in, but somewhere new that will improve your beauty.

Poem, you're hideous, leave the manuscript now.

Poem, I'm sorry, why was I so hard on you? I can see your subtle features.

Poem, I'm over you again.  I've found a new poem, a better poem.  

And so on.  For hours.  Me revising.


I confess rejections hurt more.  Some days rejections don't hurt at all.  Most days, they're just annoying like mosquitoes that won't let me enjoy my veggie burger.

Some days being a writer is sitting around a campfire toasting marshmallows.  Occasionally, you lose one or two marshmallows to the fire.  Occasionally, one marshmallow will turn out perfectly.
Mostly, you rush through the toasting of the marshmallow and burn it.

What's worse than rejection?  Never trying.
What's worse than rejection?  Not submitting.
What's worse than rejection?  Feeling afraid to be rejected.

What's worse than rejection?  
Not living the life you want because someone else said no.


I confess the older I get, the more I do what I want, despite public approval.

I confess the older I get, I still want to write the best poems and essays, and I want people to like it.

But negative reviews won't stop me.

I'll write for the ones who like Green Rivers, Mexican chocolate, and keylime pie.  I'll write for the ones who love postage stamps and typewriters.  I'll write for the ones who adore hedgehogs and could spend the days watching clouds.

This is my perfect audience.

And when doubt comes in, I'll confess it still haunts me, but I push through it.
And I hope you do too.

A favorite quote from Sylvia Plath:  

       I love my rejection slips. They show me I try.


~ Kells

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It's Okay. Writers should be strange.

Write about the strange.

~ Kells

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Thursday, May 02, 2013

Make Good Art

Always a good suggestion....

~ Kells

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First, thank you all who entered!  I appreciate "meeting" new folks, learning names, and just hearing your comments.

I love to give things away, so after I chose the winners, I decided to choose a couple more for some door prizes just for fun.  So if you left me a comment on my original post, your name was entered in all the drawings.

Here are the winners and what they will receive (by the way, if you see your name on the list, email your mailing address to me at  kelli (at) agodon. com  --otherwise, I'll be contacting you in the next week.)

1) My book: Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room 

Cathy Warner
Ron Lewis

2)  Postage Due by Julie Marie Wade:

Renee (at this quiet hour)

3)  One Year Subscription to Crab Creek Review:

Adriana Grant


Limited Edition Broadside of my poem "Speech Lessons":

Patrick Dixon
R. Wilder Jr.
Erin Borchik
Mary Stebbins Taitt

Typewriter Postcards
(from my series "Have Typewriter, Will Travel):

Ann Marie

Thank you ALL who entered as well as those who didn't but visit here to stay connected with poetry, writing, and creativity.

Hope to have more giveaways before our next Big Poetry Giveaway April 2014... Thanks for playing.  You're all winners (in my book).


~ Kells

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Salvador Dali Telling it Like it Is -

Now that you don't have this to worry about this, just create!

~ Kells

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Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Confession Tuesday: The Respect Our Girls Edition

Dear Reader,

I confess I'm not thinking about writing or creativity today, but the mixed messages we send our girls.

Here's something I don't write about much because I like to keep my family life separate from from writing life, but I'm the mother of an incredible daughter who constantly amazes me in all she does.

Recently, she's been having a lot of questions about being a girl, a middle-school girl, which honestly, maybe be one of the hardest times in a girl's life because they're at that "mid" point--not women, but not children either.

So I've been thinking a lot about the mixed messages our societies gives girls--of all ages, we so want them to grow up into smart, kind, strong women, but right now, as kids, we're kind of messing with their heads.

We tell them to love themselves for who they are, while grown women complain about their thighs, wrinkles, tummy fat, or gray hairs.  Some women go out and get plastic surgery, botox. Some women diet constantly, skip dessert.

Then Dove comes out with a huge campaign about loving ourselves and our natural beauty, while selling us anti-aging cream on the side.

We tell our girls "don't dress sexy," then sell them padded bras and padded bikinis.

We say "it's important to be smart," then make a snide comment about another woman while browsing a tabloid magazine in the checkout line.

We tell them "be empowered and be yourself," but if "yourself" includes something that doesn't fit our definition of beauty, sometimes we freak out a bit.

We tell the girls not to "dress provocatively," instead of telling boys not to rape.

We tell them not to be bossy, then tell them to stick up for themselves & be assertive (though we rarely tell the boys not to be bossy).

We say "it doesn't matter what other people think," then live a lifestyle above our means to fit in or impress people ourselves.

We make dress codes for the girls so they don't "distract" the boys, instead of teaching boys that you respect a girl whether she's in a scoop neck t-shirt & short skirt or a button-up polo shirt & long pants.

And we don't do all of this all the time, but we do it enough that I can see in the faces of these girls, the what-the-heck-is-going-on? look, the who-are-we-supposed-to-be?

And I know, this middle-place is hard for girls, their bodies feel as if they are part of some sort of hormonal experiment, but their bodies are theirs, their styles are theirs, and really, our girls are trying to figure out who they are.

Just as each of us at times in life, re-evaluate our life and values.

So in this time of change and crazy hormones, ease up on the girls, especially the ones in the middle, they are just muddling through this time as did we.  And help them support other girls who are also just doing the best they can and making the best choices they know how to at this very moment.

Love them for their baggy t-shirts or skinny jeans.  Their long crazy-colored hair or their short, this-will-do cropped style.  Their raccoon-eye make-up or their struggle with forehead acne.  Love them for their good and bad choices, their mistakes and what they learn from them.

Thank them when do something kind, no matter how small.  Girlworld folds in on itself and it can be hard to realize life is going on throughout the world and not just on your corner of the universe.

Let them know that no, they aren't crazy, our culture is giving them mixed messages constantly.

Remind them how much they are loved and valued for who they are not how they look.  And that we as grown women will continue to try to make the world a better place for them by what we do and say.  In certain ways, these girls are a compact mirror of our who we are and the struggles we still have as women, so we need to love them and love ourselves, while constantly trying to make things better for generations of both girls and boys to come.


~ Kells

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