As of Monday, Mars is retrograde in Virgo until April; in translation, it means that work, organization or systems will lag a bit. In particular, completing tasks and meeting goals will take longer.

If I know, you have to know but here are the stars for goal-gazing.

Yup, this is a check-in for A Round of Words in 80 Days (ROW 80). ROW80 is an exercise for writers who aspire to write and to live—preferably at the same time—and be happy about it. Of course, that is my interpretation of ROW80, as it happens to be my lifelong goal.

Writer Dorothy Parker—there is a Facebook page that features her—expressed it this way:

“If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.”

I am 60 this August, no longer young but still aspiring, although I’ve called myself a writer for over 30 years. Have not been without a copy of The Elements of Style in over 40 years, yet happiness, unlike so many needless words, has been omitted. However, believing  age favors my living on, I continue as a starry-eyed writer.

In my career(s), writing has always played a part: teaching writing at the junior college and university levels; editing two journals and a statewide newspaper; writing grants, proposals, and government reports. I have some fiction and poetry published, one novel written through, awaiting revision.

Some years ago, I chose writing over the love of a lifetime. Still amazes me, from time to time, but it’s not surprising, really. I have always written stories, sometimes in place of truth, but more often as a way to truth. Not sure there’s a difference.

loving yourself requires a courage unlike any other. It requires us to believe in and stay loyal to something no one else can see that keeps us in the world—our own self-worth” (Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening).

Rhythm of ROW 80 Wednesday Word Markers:

Since January 2, I have written almost 250 words per day or approximately 5000 words.

27 thoughts on “Goal-Gazing

  1. Ah, a fellow Nepo fan! Isn’t the book just a joy for every day of the rest of one’s life? Even if I didn’t write, I would get up every morning to read the meditation for the day. Similarly, I would wrap myself around the Tao with Dyer–or without–as the Tao is and isn’t.

    Writing is integral to my being, shanjeniah, a profound joy and constant friend. I write to find out what I’m thinking and not thinking. I cannot imagine a life without writing other than a life unfulfilled, as you say.

    Oh, I, too, write from my bed and have for years. Truly, we have so much in common, in particular, a love of words, which we share with Dorothy Parker.


    1. Yes, I love the Nepo book. His language is simple, poetic, and deep. I am sure I can credit that book for some major revelations in my life!

      I am honored to get to know others who understand that writing is not optional. Writing is life.

      The children, 10 and 7.5, are blown away when I tell them that I am always writing, even when there isn’t a Bic pen or keyboead anywhere near…..

      But it’s true…and I watch and listen when Annalise narrates her life or Jeremiah plays with the complexities of paradox and metaphor – because I see that, they, too, love words,and will have them in their lives in way that fulfill them, too….

      I think I write from my bed partly because that was the only place in my childhood home where I had even the semblance of ownership. Now, with a small house bustling with kid-life (kids who have never been to school do a LOT of living and learning in their houses; it’s bigger than I am, sometimes); and a husband who is less than tidy (yet warm and witty and wonderful and many other charming things), I find it;s the only place I can consistently have a level of order I can think clearly in…It still gets jumbled with books, notebooks, kid art to photo archive, and flotsam when i get wildly creative, but I know that I will be the only jumbler….

      And, because it’s a small house, I can come here often and leave my door open, and still be very much a part of the life of my family…..Miah and Lise are learning to check with me before coming in, and it is becoming a gradual easing-in for them for what I am hoping will be writing for passion AND pay…..

      I will say that any love who would force you to choose between them and writing wasn’t worth keeping. Jim used to be jealous, long ago, but now he’s seen that I am a kinder, sweeter happier person when I write. When I write, he and the children benefit.

      And, once in a while, I will read him some naughty bits. He likes that.


  2. As I write this, The Book Of Awakening is sitting at the foot of my bed (ahem, yeah, on the office desk…..yes, it’s true…..My favorite place to write has always been my bed!). I have read every meditation so far this month, the second January I have owned this awesome book.

    I confess, I am a little bewildered by how many people have the “just shoot me now, while I’m happy” as an attitude toward writing – or anything else.

    Writing is both passion and joy to me. It is the way I learn about myself, and process things in a life that has had abuse, tragedy, sorrow – and light, and life, and love.

    Happiness is internal. It is something I am responsible for creating for myself. Writing is a huge part of how I accomplish this.

    I’m not sure I would write if the act didn’t fill me with joy, or peace, or fulfillment. Certainly, I wouldn’t be writing now, while my children are still needing a joyful Mom who loves her life. Or while I have this amazing husband whose passion is food, and who needs a wife who can understand his joy when he comes home from the kitchen….

    I don’t know if I’m missing some essential piece, or if I’m holding a key that might unlock others’ joy…..

    I just know that my experience of my writing life is very different from what you’ve described….and I wish I could share the delight of it in a way that would bring you joy, too….


    1. Oh, I agree you 100 %, shanjeniah (pretty name, btw!) – writing is both a passion and a joy for me as well, and yes, I agree: happiness absolutely is internal. What I meant about “just shoot me now” is that – at least for me – when I’m on page such-and-such or chapter-whatever and my main character takes on a life of her own and basically tosses my outline out the window, I’m left feeling ambushed for awhile! That loss of control over “my” plot leaves me very frustrated and floundering until I finally just give in and let the protagonist run with the ball. At that point, I’m back in the bliss of writing … but it sometimes takes awhile to get there! Inevitably the novel is better because the characters do find their own voice, but I feel like a channeller and not an author sometimes!

      Anyone else have this experience?


      1. Just every writing moment, Lura. What an astute comment about the writer as a channel. Believe it was Joan Didion in her essay, “Why I Write,” who wrote: ” You don’t tell it. It tells you.” Think I’m pretty much used to it, now. And yes, shanjeniah is a pretty name.


      2. Aha! The difference may be that i don’t do a lot of plotting. I get general, character driven, dream-fed glimpses of the story arc, and I run with them, willy-nilly, while holding scissors, and laughing maniacally. =D

        Well, something like that……

        My characters are always there, living just under the surface, and sometimes on the surface of, my life. I learned a long time ago not to presume to tell them what to do – they are far too strong willed, and resist mightily when forced….

        Now that I think about it, it’s a lot like unschooling. I can guide my characters and my children, and make suggestions, which, if they trust me and my intentions, and find value in, they may choose to go along with.

        Forcing them to do my bidding might get a scene balkily and bulkily written, and it might get a bedroom cleaner than it’s been lately….snarlingly and sulkily, most likely.

        It won’t so much for my relationship with my characters or my children if i am the one always bossing them around…..

        So I treat them something like a cat. I don’t barge into the lives of my characters or my children as though that’s my right.


        I settle myself into a sunny place (literally or figuratively – or better, both!) and relax. I look more inviting than the furniture. i often provide good things to eat, snuggles, or tickles (only where and for as long as requested, though). I watch and listen. I breathe. I send outthe happy, welcome vibes. i give good surprises.

        I make myself a good host, and the characters and the children learn that I want to be a part of their lives, not the ruler of them…

        And I have learned to see the chaos of scenes and rooms that whirl away from all my efforts at structure or cohesion as the amazing gifts they always turn out to be….

        I get very image driven when I write all night. I just noticed that.


        1. …. and do you find yourself sometimes talking out loud to your characters, even when you’re with other people and should be addressing your conversation to THEM?! I’ve had that happen to me a couple of times – once, it was embarrassing, I was sooo caught up in a scene in my head; the other time my friends just shrugged it off with a laugh , “oh, she finds her characters more interesting than us!” LOL — unfortunately, that’s often very true!!


          1. I had a similar situation of “living” more with my characters than other people. I was having lunch with someone I did not know well yet I went on and on about a character in my novel. Finally, I stopped to ask my luncheon companion her opinion. She replied, “I don’t know. I never met her.” As you say, Lura, characters are often more interesting.


        2. All my writing life I have been a “pantser.” It is only now that I appreciate the plotter for finally, I understand scene. Am pretty sure I am becoming a hybrid, pantplotter. You notice which came first….


      3. Oh, and thank you both for the name compliments.

        I was born a Shannon Danielle. It’s a nice name, that has lived through some not-nice living.

        It needed to go, that name, and I needed to release it.

        I dropped my NON – Shan has more sass; I’m a sassy kinda woman, and happily so.

        Jeniah is my alter-ego protagonist. She’s tougher than I am; I’m more compassionate than she is. We’ve grown up together. She is part of me, and I of her.

        When the time is right, I believe I will change it legally, and fully own my own identity.


  3. How thoughtful of you to have two copies. At one time, I did have extra copies but, predictably, I am down to my tried and true single copy. Thank you for a kind and generous idea.


    1. I don’t know, Adrian, and have often wondered if I didn’t write, what would I think? Won’t know in this lifetime, and that’s a good thing. Write on, my friend.


  4. It’s always uplifting to read what you have to say. Some days it’s hard for me to feel that self love. I think that’s when you should hit me up along side the head with a fry pan! Joking, but maybe not!?! Thanks for always planting that seed in my brain my dear! You are a wonderful person.


  5. I applaud your efforts to keep on keepin’ on the writing track, Karen. It’s a noble commitment, though I do believe Dorothy Parker had it right: shooting might be easier in the long run! You’ve reminded me that I still haven’t read Mark Nepo … must bump “buy book” up on my To Do List.
    Love ya,
    Lura (email soon, I hope)


  6. I think I’m in love, KM… When the choices you made faced me, I always tried to compromise so others would be “happy with me”, but I wasn’t happy with myself, not usually. Thankfully I now have a love of my life who understands my obsession with writing. My son doesn’t yet, but at five, he’s already getting the writing bug himself. He wants to do his own NaNoWriMo…

    Thank you for the dose of “been there/done that” inspiration.


    1. And love is all there is so perhaps as long as we love and just give a nod to happiness, we’ll write. Good for your son and writing! NaNoWriMo is a kind of “new year” for me, whether I write through a novel or not.


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