Lonna Whiting

Crafty writer, strategic thinker, curious learner.

Archive for the month “January, 2013”

Existential Influenza

Today I stayed home from work because I’m sick.

I don’t have the flu, a stomach bug, a sore throat, a headache, or even a hangnail for that matter. In fact, I’m feeling pretty physically sound. But when I woke up around 7:15 to the dull gray curtain of winter creeping open to reveal an overcast daylight, I took one turn in the sheets and said, “Today, this ain’t gonna happen.”

About five minutes later, I got on the email train and alerted my colleagues at the office that I was “not feeling well and wouldn’t be in today.” I wasn’t lying. I didn’t feel well in a way that most people would call “A case of the Mondays.” Most people would have enough gumption to get themselves out of the damn sheets and face the day like only consumerist, capitalist middle Americans can. But the last thing on my mind this morning was how I could work harder so I could spend more. What was on my mind, however, is how I could do less and feel less guilt. Because of course, the minute I emailed my boss, a cloud of guilt moved its way over my soul, similar to that feeling you get when you have to say no to your mother when she asks you to go shopping with her.

Kevin was up making his morning smoothie when I came downstairs and told him: “I’m not doing today. I’m going back to bed.” He turned around silently and threw an empty bag of frozen peaches in the garbage, which I noticed was nearing full. In a futile attempt to make myself useful (because isn’t that all we ever want in life – to feel useful?), I began to pull the swelling garbage out of the bin. Just at that moment, however, Kevin approached me in a halting yet gentle manner, grabbed the garbage and said, “If you’re going to take the day off, you’re going to take the day off.” Was he being sarcastic? Ironic? Or was he just being insensitive?

“Fine then, I won’t bother you,” I stammered away in my UGG slippers and made my way up the stairs and back to bed.

Surely it’s a coincidence that my existential flu hit on a dreary Monday morning. I’m no less prone to feeling this way on a rather insignificant day of the week, say Tuesday, but one thing’s for sure: I gave into my need to stay away from people. From work. I didn’t get out of my pajamas. I read “The Subtle Knife,” the second book in Philip Pullman’s fantastical His Dark Materials trilogy. I made toast and spread it lavishly with real butter, then ate it. I took a nap. I knit the second in a set of legwarmers for my niece. I read three issues of The New Yorker that I’d been neglecting for weeks. I balanced my checkbook. Snuggled with the cats. Pondered my existence.

It was healing.

Later today, I realized that when Kevin refused my assistance at the garbage can earlier in the day, he wasn’t being sarcastic, ironic or insensitive. He was merely stating the obvious: If I’m going to go through the effort of essentially paying myself to stay home (salary. PTO.) then I might as well do absolutely nothing I would normally do on a Monday, which is work, stress out, work some more, go to the gym, come home and prepare to do it all again the next day. I broke the pattern of my work life, and it feels great.

Am I super excited to get back to work tomorrow? Not really. Am I glad I just said no to today? Yes. Am I still feeling guilty on the meetings I missed and the assistance I could have given had I been present in the office? Of course. Once a consumerist capitalist, always a consumerist capitalist.

Today and the days like this I am surely to experience in the future, they are a dilemma of existence. They remind me that I am wholeheartedly a contradiction in character and action. I work hard like I have since I was 11 years old. But I want you to stay away from me every once in a while. I love writing as a job, but don’t tell me it’s wrong to just hate it sometimes, too.

Tomorrow will be my Monday on a Tuesday. People at work will ask me if I’m feeling better, and I promise myself not to lie. Instead of feigning a cough or hoarse voice, I’m just going to tell them the truth. That I hated even the idea of facing them, but now I’m over it. I’m ready for the work week. I’m ready to work more so I can spend more. So I can do it all over again next Monday. And so I can do it all over again on the hundreds of other work Mondays I’m certain to face in the future.

Are you a Non-Writer Writer?

Here’s what I know.

I know how to use a calculator to balance my checkbook, but that doesn’t make me an accountant.

I know I’m pretty handy with the mirror and a flashlight when examining moles for discoloration or suspicious changes, but I’m no dermatologist.

I also know there’s very little else that irks a writer more than when non-writers think they know how to write.

What’s a non-writer writer, you ask? Non-writer writers are a specific type of person, and they are often colleagues and even close friends to people like me, a writer writer. Non-writers have these funny little character traits in common with one another. They think they are writers even if they aren’t, which of course is like me calling myself a sports medicine doctor because I wrapped my boyfriend’s sprained ankle once.

Who is a Non-Writer Writer?

A non-writer writer has a writing need and follows up a meeting with a ten-page pdf email attachment outlining the project with “suggested copy.”

A non-writer writer is known to say: “I’m no writer, but …” and then continue to talk about what they would have done.

A non-writer writer will spend a whole week on one draft of a project proposal, the approximate time it would take an actual writer to draft five proposals and still have time for lunch and a nap.

A non-writer writer has never faced 40 hours a week navigating Microsoft Word exclusively.

A non-writer writer can’t make farm equipment, rectal exams or taxes seem exciting and compelling.

Now that I’ve briefly outlined who a non-writer writer is, perhaps you’ve identified with this personality a little more than you thought you would. Please don’t be offended. I’m not offended when people tell me I’m not an accountant or dermatologist! It’s perfectly fine to be a non-writer writer; the cure is simple: Next time you’re itching to say: “I’m no writer, but …” don’t say it at all, and let the writer writer in the room do what she does best: write.

Perched on the corner of a blank page

Here’s what I’m staring at right now.

Screen Shot 2013-01-17 at 11.03.01 AMYep, a blank page. It’s been like that for about ten minutes now. The cursor blinks at me like a Do Not Walk sign on an empty street. I’m standing at the corner of that street and obeying the signal, even though there’s not a chance in hell that anything bad could happen if I just go for it. Make my move. Cross the street. Cross it already! Write that first goddamn sentence, even if it’s the shittiest thing ever to be typed on a computer in the history of all computer typing!

But I just won’t budge. Eventually this page needs to be filled with inspiring copy that’s suppose to encourage moms-to-be to choose Dr. X over Dr. Y because Dr. X has a better team …

Screen Shot 2013-01-17 at 11.28.44 AM

Get the cliches out of the way … and a little inappropriateness. Chuckle. Delete.

Repeat.

There’s not much I can do when I have writer’s block. Others have told me to get up and go for a walk, but when I do that I just find myself loitering by the break room in the off-chance that there will be free food. I try listening to relaxing music but then I start falling asleep. Music with vocals are out of the picture because then I start writing copy that sounds like the song I’m listening to at the moment. I’ve tried free writing. Foot tapping. Self-massage. Pinterest. Facebook. Googling mysterious illnesses. I’ve tried calling other writer friends for inspiration and encouragement. I’ve tried just staring at the white void of the blank page in front of me as the minutes make me older.

Time. Is there any worse enemy?

Actually, time isn’t all that bad. Eventually I’ll get somewhere. I’ll imagine Dr. X is this heroic OB/GYN character who is so awesome at delivering babies he can do it drunk using only his left foot. I’ll pretend the delivery room is a magical palace where moms and dads get to sip on mimosas and when the nurse calls out “PUSH,” all the mom has to do is toot and out pops baby.

Yep, time is my good buddy. Time gives me free reign to imagine whole new worlds, make up people who can do anything I will them to do. Time makes me work harder – or not hard at all – depending on the deadline, which in this case is tight. But it doesn’t matter, really. I’m going to cross the street. I’ll get to the other side eventually. I’m no chicken. All I need is a little time.

Don’t come here if you’re looking for advice

Hi there. This is my first post on my second blog ever. It’s going to be entirely devoted to all things writing, editing, creative and inspiring. I hope you visit and visit often because I’m going to rock your universe with poetry, prose and performance.

The first order of business is to tell you that I’m not going to offer you writing advice. So if you’re looking for advice or if you’re asking yourself at this very moment “What would Lonna do?” it’s going to be a while until you hear back from me.

The second order of business is to tell you that I’m going to show you good writing. And I’m going to tell you why it’s good writing, because in showing you this you will no longer need to ask “What would Lonna do?” Likely if I’ve posted something, I find it of value as a learning tool that we can discuss together. I think we can learn a lot from each other, don’t you?

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