Redwoods

on

Oops - either Google got it wrong or I have fat fingers.  Oh well, I'm too lazy to change it.
Yes, the majestic Redwood of …oops – either Google got it wrong or I have fat fingers. Oh well, I’m too lazy to change it.

A few years ago I heard a speaker talk about redwood trees.  He mentioned how the redwoods, giants of the forest, had shallow roots.  Surprising, considering that those Ent-like beasts of beauty can reach up to 375 feet. There is no taproot, but the roots can spread out 50-80 feet from the base of the tree.  One of the things that makes the redwoods special is that they intertwine their roots systems.  They lean and depend on one another in some ways.  That is the only way that they can hold themselves together.  That is how they support themselves – by helping to support others.  Single redwoods simply don’t happen often because their roots can’t hold up the massive weight of the tree.

And this is how I feel about recovery and to a large extent, the blogging world.  I started as a lone wolf, just trying to carve out thoughts on blank bark here and while it served a purpose at the time, I knew that reaching out and being a part of a greater community was where I would truly grow.  And that I have done and continue to do.  With everyone’s help and guidance and support and love, I continue to learn and grow.

So you can imagine how chuffed I was to be asked to be a part of this blog tour thingy (I’m technical in talk, as you can see) that’s going around these her parts.   It’s not an award (I’m BPA and award-free here, and we haven’t had termites in ages), but an ongoing open project so to speak that gives bloggers a chance to share their writing process with others and in turn tag others to share as well.

I want to thank the lovely and talented Karen at Mended Musings for tapping me on the shoulder for this one.  If you don’t know Karen or her work, please make your way on over there.  Now.  I’ll wait. Where once her fine work leaned more to the recovery side, she’s blown the doors open in the last year or so and has crafted beautiful, thought-provoking (and Freshly Pressed!) posts that allows her light to shine, on all sorts of topics.  She’s as kind and unselfish a person as I have met out here. She’s a self-described Heart Teller, and always look forward to her work.  Her latest is heartbreaking, harrowing and yet hopeful.  And one of my new favourites from her – The Flashback.

Now to answer some questions.

We have ways of making you talk!  Now answer the questions!
We have ways of making you talk! Now answer the questions! (I just said I would. Chill.)

 

What am I working on?

I don’t have a project, per se.  I have a novel that I am supposed to be working on, but I have clearly decided that running is more important to me that the book right now.  And that’s okay.  I parked that book ages ago once the booze bug bit me and recently took a month long shot at it 9the book, not boozing), got some good work done on it, and then…nothing.  Story of my life – binge efforts on everything and then move on to the next shiny thing!

So this blog is my main focus.  I do write articles for my old treatment center’s newsletter, and I have been asked to do some other one-off writing things, some of it even paid, but the blog is where I butter my bread.  In a non-culinary way, of course (the screen wouldn’t hold up to all that saturated fat).  In fact, you can say this post is what I am working on right now.  But by the time you read this, it will have been done, so does that mean I am still working on it?  I just hurt my brain thinking about that.  So next…

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

In terms of recovery blogs, it’s not too different from the others.  I must say that I am fairly consistent in talking about how it was, what happened and what it’s like now.  And I am always trying to hit recovery from where I’m at (whether I am at a healthy place or not), and try not to preach.   I have to admit that I have painted myself in a bright green neon corner in terms of content .  I rarely stray from recovery talk and yet I feel that I am pretty open to whatever comes.

I think that the blog does try to be inclusive, even though I come at things from a 12-step background.  To me this is not about counting days or months, or talking about how I’m rebounding physically, or anything like that.  If i started this bad boy up from Day 1, I would probably would have talked about all that stuff.  Today, it’s about the journey within.  It’s about connecting.  It’s about getting plugged into the juice and living life in a way that never occurred to me before.  About making contact with the Maker and sharing my missteps and blunders, my small victories and thoughts.  It’s how I share.  Using what works best for me – words.

Oh, and pictures.  I put lots of silly, goofy pictures up around here.

You see - stuff like this.  It's pretty much non sequitur junk like this, you know?
You see – stuff like this. It’s pretty much non sequitur junk like this, you know?

Why do I write/create what I do?

There’s a pull in everyone to do something that seems to complete them.  Whether it be a small thing or a thing that takes them to Jules Verne-type leagues, we have an inner compulsion to move towards much needed soul food.  Writing for me is that nourishment.  I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler, nor can I carry a tune even if it had a handle on it.  I can’t carve a turnip out of a turnip or do anything more crafty than glue sprinkle onto a piece of construction paper.  But in terms of creative outlets, writing has always been my vehicle.  Not that it comes flawlessly to me, but when I have my fingers on home row, I truly am home.  I don’t feel bound or held under water.  It’s like I have wings.

Now when I abandoned my writing (I used to write short fiction), it was like my spirit was anaesthetized – and it was, with spirits.  My one form of confession and sanctity was cut off, and that pushed me further into the darkness.  It wasn’t until many months after I got sober that I was able to feel that twitch again, that drawing near to the Creator.  I was still gun shy about writing, so it was easier to segue into it by sharing my personal recovery thoughts.  It wasn’t about entering writing contests or hoping to get published by a lit mag.  It was about cracking open the vault and letting the stuff fly.  About reconnecting with my authentic self.

This blog is a way to tell on myself, to challenge myself, to shine the mirror on myself and to show others that it’s not that scary.  It serves me be of service because this is how I draw from the well of other people’s experiences and strength.  I create because I can and touching that place is drawing on what has been given to us – that thing in us that we can share without fear of failing…ordained to be shown.

How does my writing/creating process work?

My process comes from the seed of something planted within that I just allow to germinate and come to some fruition.  Sometimes the thoughts choke themselves out and it slips away.  Other times a singular thought brings me to many until I get a fuzzy sort of picture of what I want to share.  It’s funny, I find that precisely every four days, I get that itch to produce.  Sometimes it might be a day early or late, but it seems that 96 hours is my threshold of holding back the dam.

I don’t plan my posts like some bloggers do.  I don’t research when the “optimum” time to post is.  I post when I post.  I hit the blue publish button with hesitancy each time, unsure of what I am sending out, but I know that it’s meant to be, regardless of the final product.

I find that no matter how much I “write” in my head, the magic doesn’t happen until I sit back and have my digits on the keypad.  Stuff flows out from corners unseen.  That’s where I am at my calmest, and most frenetic.  That’s where I touch the unconscious.  And it touches me.

Editing? I wish!  I need to edit my words.  I was a ruthless editor when I wrote fiction, but for some reason I don’t edit much here.  Not sure why.  Just seems to be more stream of conscious at times, methinks.  But I have been aware of keeping length of the posts down, and have stuck to under 2,000 words.  Which is still a lot.   So sue me.

Okay, enough about me.  Here’s the folks you really need to be reading.

1) Kristen at Bye Bye Beer was one of the first people I followed when I was a newbie here on the scene.  She wrote in a way that I could really identify with, both as an alcoholic and as a work-in-progress.  She made me laugh and had a way with words.  Still does.  What I admire in Kristen’s writing is just how it flows and shows so much by saying so little.  She writes in a way that I wished I could.  If I wasn’t so enamoured by her style and personality, I would be jealous.  I love her soulful, holistic and yet tactile approach to her life and her journey.  Her works have matured into observations of her world and her place in it.  This isn’t just about saying Adios Pilsner, but of showing the afterglow of a life lived well.  One post that seems to have stuck with me:

Like lichen

2) Gina at Dawning on a New Day is very thoughtful and thorough in her writings.  She comes from a place of being centered and of gratitude.  I am attracted to the spirit behind her words and how she gently weaves through the nuances of her heart and places them right on the page.  While she does speak of recovery, she often speaks of writing of family, of issues that speak to her.  She is a “real” writer and I am so blessed to have crossed paths with her. A pleasure to read.  One of my favourite pieces:

Stories Told by Mack Trucks and Planes Soothe the Recesses of My Heart

3) Allie at And Everything Afterwards is new to the recovery blogging scene, and after reading her for a bit, I started to notice that her writing seemed to shift into new and different territory.  Always a good thing. I am impressed by her strong writing voice, her emotional temperament and her ability to craft a tale.  I always look forward to her posts, and always seem to find another layer to her work after re-reading it. She speaks honestly, with grace, with humour, with poignancy.  Always ringing true to her self. One of her finest:

…so that we were able to draw up to the fire and repair some of the damages of the day’s living

Now stop lollygagging around here and start reading those posts!

32 Comments Add yours

  1. You continue to amaze and inspire me, Paul. I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that I was working on my blog tour post today, too. Then I saw a shiny object, another idea popped into my head and I was off to write something different.
    So fascinating that you wrote fiction, too. Can we see some? I think you’d be naturally good. Your words always flow like a poet, make me think and I absolutely love the bits and pieces of light hearted humor you inflect at just the right times.
    And the redwoods…such a perfect analogy…I think we’ve discussed before.
    Thanks for pointing us to some really great writers. Happy to see our own Kristen in the mix…her Lichen post is one of my favorites, too.
    Bravo!

    1. Good morning Michelle!

      Thanks again for you always kind and warm and generous words. I need some of what you have there – that sparkling personality and outlook 🙂

      As for the short fiction – I haven’t really touched it in a while. I have a box with files with drafts, etc. I also have some stuff on a flash drive. Out of all the pieces, I would probably end up working on a handful only. I would probably pitch the rest. I might share them one day, thanks for asking 🙂

      And yes – I recall trotting out the redwoods analogy before, but I couldn’t remember when and/or where. But I couldn’t escape using it again (I will park it for a while after this!)

      Looking forward to your post!
      Paul

      1. Please don’t park that analogy…it’s so perfect! Growing up in the Midwest, we are limited to oaks, walnuts, sycamore ….roots run deep, far and wide. It’s all we know. Your view of redwoods help me see that people can stand together and get support in different ways…it helps a narrow mind that can sometimes develop living in the middle of the country.
        (PS: I DID get your e-mail. Yay!!)

        1. Glad you got the email 🙂

  2. NotAPunkRocker says:

    Thank you for sharing your process and thoughts with us 🙂

    1. Thanks J – it’s nothing very exciting, but it is interesting to see how we all create!

  3. Mrs D says:

    Yes, thank you very much Paul.. you rock xxx

  4. lifecorked says:

    Well, you got me at Redwoods. Having grown up on 14 acres of Redwoods, I can honestly say you taught me something I never knew – about their whole dependent root system! Amazing the things we take for granted when they’re right in front of us. Loved reading about your writing process – I could relate to much of it, especially the part of it getting buried while drinking. Ugh. To think of all that sweet time we wasted away – but then we wouldn’t be here. All is good.

    1. I would love to stand beside a real life Redwood. They look amazing in pictures – can’t imagine what they would be like to touch and behold one. And yeah, we did waste time – but perhaps we can make it up on this side of the sober/drunk line, yes? 🙂

  5. byebyebeer says:

    I always look forward to seeing the pictures in your posts. The Wendy’s one tickled me. These days I dream of dropping out and making fancy salads and Frosties.

    You used to write short fiction??! How did I not know this? Why haven’t I read any? More information is needed.

    Thank you for the very sweet, super kind mention. It’s the kind of thing I would clip and carry around in my pocket, except that’s what smart phones are for. It’s a little embarrassing how good your words made me feel. Thank you. And now I have two new blogs to check out. Thank you again.

    I’ll post my own blog tour thingie next week. Already thinking who to tag. I like this exercise because it’s about how and why we write, something we’re all obviously a little in love with.

    Thanks Paul, you’re the best.

    1. Oh yeah, I used to write short stories (very Canadian of me). That’s where I learned the basics of crafting words. Took many years of workshops / critique circles. I am a bit off my game, as I don’t edit much here and am not as scrupulous with my verbiage and syntax. Social media has dulled my edge too…lol.

      My pleasure on the tag. Well deserved, to say the least (esp. after reading your latest…wow). I too enjoy this writing exercise thing. A nice break from the usual 🙂

      Look forward to your writing post and who you tagged. Have a wonderful weekend!

      Paul

  6. Paul I loved your analogy. I spent the first 10 years of my life in California and every time we visited the Redwood forest, I felt an energy there that was comforting. Your analogy reminded me of something Steinbeck wrote:

    “The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe. It’s not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time.”

    ~John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America

    We could change the world in a profoundly wonderful way if we were as evolved and advanced as the Redwoods.

    1. Thanks Victoria – and I love what you said about that energy being there. I can see how that would be, considering how old those trees get. Silence and awe…ambassadors…wow. I love that Steinbeck quote – thanks for sharing that. I hope one day to stand in silence and awe there with the Redwoods.

      Thank you for the wonderful comments 🙂

  7. I love reading about how your mind works! I agree that it’s all about the journey within which when shared, connects us. Thank you for letting me tag you and for your incredibly kind introduction. I follow Kristen and Allie and can’t wait to get to know Gina!

    1. Hi Karen! I read your post and loved it=) Looking forward to getting to know you too! Xx

    2. Thank YOU for the tag and allowing me to be a part of this. I don’t normally get out of my little safety bubble like this, but it’s a nice change!

  8. Paul, what I love most about your blogging is the honesty, compassion and vitality I take away every time I read a post. I know you mentioned you mostly focus on your blog but I’m sure your readers already knew that… at least I did=) I sense it provides a great meaning to your life as you continue to grow and share your enlightenment in sobriety with the rest of us.
    I loved when you wrote, “Writing for me is that nourishment. I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler, nor can I carry a tune even if it had a handle on it. I can’t carve a turnip out of a turnip or do anything more crafty than glue sprinkle onto a piece of construction paper.” And that’s just it, my friend… writing breathes life into our hearts and minds. It keeps us focused and determined… not just on the story, but on EVERYTHING. We are creators, almost like the One above (well, maybe not almost but just enough=). We follow in His footsteps as we use our gift to help change the lives of others. I’ve only known you for a little less than a year but I’m already a better person because of this.
    Keep running, stay true to yourself and one day, I hope you get that book going. And I mean GOING=) I never thought I could write a novel until I sat down in the wee hours of the morning and just let the fingers, mind and heart go at each other. I think you have a great story to tell, Paul. And if not a novel, then at least we will always have the messages in a bottle beautifully written by you=)

    1. Thank you so much Gina for your kind and gentle words there. I stand in respect and awe of your passion for the written (or typed) word. I know one day that I will get there. Having two wee ones and a demanding job and trying to do this running thing already sucks the day from me, so unless I am to live with chronic insomnia, I have to pick my battles (or healthy vice!).

      I think we get told when we need to put pen to paper, and while I had a bit of a sneak peek, I know that I am not there yet. I was hoping to be, but for now I am compelled to move this middle aged body into something else. Perhaps when the boys are a bit older I can start cranking something out.

      Thanks for being here and thanks for letting me tag you…I look forward to reading how a real author like you gets her work done! 🙂

  9. stacilys says:

    Hey Paul
    Wow, I feel like I know you more now that we’ve talked. Listen, you are an amazing writer. I love your posts, sincerity, passion, talent. Now if I could only have a fraction of your talent I would be jumping off the walls happy.
    Great to read more about your creative side and process Paul. And so glad I’ve had the blessing of being able to have just a tiny taste of what you have to offer us here on wordpress.
    Bless you and big hugs from the southern hemisphere.
    Love from one Silva to another.
    🙂

    1. Staci!!! I didn’t want to email you because I wanted you to get rest and recoup from your long journey 🙂 Hope you are doing well now and everyone is settled in 🙂

      And hey – thanks for the kind words. Too generous of you, my friend, and you’re not giving yourself enough credit! You have a strong voice which makes me keep going back over there, ya know??? Anyway, it was a lot of fun chatting last week! Now, if I could have some of YOUR energy, I too would be jumping off the walls happy…lol.

      Love back at ya, Silva 😉

  10. My running has become my priority The new shiny thing? Maybe. I worry sometimes that it has become the new drug of choice, but that’s part of why I have a coach and a training plan — to keep me coloring inside the lines.

    I don’t really write as much about my recovery anymore, but it is a huge part of me. My first blog was all recovery stuff and it helped me so much to write every little detail of what I was struggling through and feeling less alone. It’s been fantastic for me to have discovered bloggers like you who share so many interests and are walking a similar path.

    1. I love that expression – colouring between the lines. I think I may have to do the same, Judith. Get me someone to wrangle me in. I got a Forerunner 305 the other day so I can see when I am going too hard or when I am slacking. But mostly I am a “if this much is good, then that much more must be better, right?” kind of guy. You know what I mean. more, more, more. And my body says no, no, no. I think a coach might be able to guide me, like those who have mentored me in other parts of my life.

      I too am glad to have crossed paths. I struggle with trying to walk a fine line around here, but I do enjoy branching out, which is what I have done lately – with some guest posts, blogging interactions, etc. Running is something that I do talk about, but try not to bore others here…lol. Which is why reading other runners in recovery (there are lots!) is so much fun. And that’s why I love your blog.

      Thanks for being here…and there 🙂

      Paul

  11. Chris says:

    Dude, you’re awesome. Thanks so much for being a warm, welcoming, supportive part of this community. You’ve helped me feel nothing but welcome.

    1. Thanks Chris – always glad to be on the side of rockin’ sobriety like yours. And for what you do – fantastic!

      Cheers
      Paul

  12. jeffstroud says:

    Hey Man,
    I saw your blog in my email days ago, I think I missed one too? So I am now catching up. Than you go and offer all these other links to writers I have to check out!! This could keep me busy for days.

    One thing we learn in recovery is we are not alone. The reaching out our roots or knowing our roots are intertwined with others for support is a life message I did not receive when under the influence and even ego got it the way for a long time…

    I love you humorous approach to all of this, to your recovery, to your writing, etc. Which is what makes reading your blog so much fun. You would be great to listen to at a meeting!!!

    Thank you Paul!

    1. Hey thanks Jeff!

      We certainly aren’t alone, and having comments like yours shows me that I am on the right path. Ego gets in my way, certainly. It likes to justify itself, you know? Of course you know…lol.

      Glad you’re in the forest here, Jeff. It’s an honour to be attached to ya 🙂

      Paul

  13. Lisa Neumann says:

    Eloquent, as always. I find it interesting how we tend to see the mass of anything (aka end result), but rarely do we understand the depth of thought, time, and energy and went into the creation of that “thing.” Whether a gold medal or a redwood, (lasting sobriety) the end result took effort.

    Like your other readers, I am indebted to you and your writing. Your roots extend far and draw many of us close who may not be in touch otherwise. My love. Lisa

    ps… I am too far behind on my reading to have to admit that I like the look of the site now of days. xox

    1. Hi Lisa,

      Thank you so much for your kind and insightful comments. You are right in that we rarely understand the depth of that “thing” when we see it as a whole. It’s a reminder for me to look past the mass and see the little things that brought that to fruition. Sobriety is something that we speak of in sometimes easy terms, but have to remember that a LOT has gone into mine and will continue to be like that in my life. It’s all the small and not-so-small roots that mingle up to create something greater than the sum of the parts.

      Thanks again for being here and for being a part of my recovery. You rock 🙂

      Paul

  14. Beautiful. I live in California, and I had no idea Redwoods were so mutually supportive. So you’re saying that might have something to do with their ability to reach prehistoric gigantic size. Makes sense.
    Bravo boy, on that tour thingy, and kudos to Karen at Mended Musings for giving you the tippy-tap.
    Paul, you are born writer. A writer’s writer. At least this writer’s writer and I think I’m pretty picky.
    I think you edit your own stuff just fine. I don’t see you needing any word-count Nazi breathing down your neck, because you got flow, bro. There’s a relaxed conversational ease to your work that I envy. I mean, I can pull-off a relaxed conversational ease in my stuff, too. I just have to spend weeks tediously torturing my words into compliance.
    (These last two paragraphs took me over four days to write)
    See what I mean?
    And lest anyone forget, content counts. You always have something valid to say. Some interesting insight to impart. Some gem you’ve combed from the mud of modern recovery. Some important reminder for those climbing up out of the crater. You’ve spiked and flagged some loose landslide rocks along the way. Mapped potential hazards. Pointed out breath-taking vistas.
    Sometimes that takes more words, than say, reviewing a Tijuana foam bar’s Wednesday ladies’ night.
    And yeah, maybe some drunk counting off the days until his hands stop shaking isn’t going to appreciate all that you have to offer. But that’s not to say they too wouldn’t glean something from it. “DO YOU LIKE FUNNY PICTURES! LOOK, FUNNY PICTURES!” Hand them another candy bar. “SOBRIETY GOOD!”
    I just think to really be able to drink the message fully from this bottle, you have to wait until most of the smoke has cleared. After all, you take on big things, Paul. Big thingies.
    But you always seem to cover the basics, too. And it NEVER comes off preachy or pedantic. Ever.
    You think I’d hang out at some preachy pedantic blog? Please, Paul.
    Nah, you got the touch. The magic fingers. They know how to massage the typer just right. Tickle the tummy with laughs, then skillfully bring it all to a happy ending.
    (wow, that went dirty fast. There’s my version of conversational ease creeping in. Back you beast!)
    Anyway, my friend, it’s a joy to watch this redwood grow. I like looking up at the sky through it’s branches.
    You make the forest an even happier place. Thank you for that.
    In mutual recovery,
    Marius

    1. If I didn’t know you better, I would have sworn you were a wood nymph. Sprightly and budding. But that ain’t you brother. You have some real rough bark on you. The type to carve love initials in surrounded by a heart. But still sappy on the inside – the good kind. Maple syrup type stuff. Strong sturdy and oh so good drizzled on pancakes. Lumberjack pancakes. But that’s life in the forest, isn’t it? Dichotomies and paradoxes. Like giving it away to keep it. That’s a paradox, isn’t it, Mr. G? That’s what they tell me. And you give away, kind sir. That means you have lots of that spirit sap in ya. And that’s what works for you…and us.

      Thanks for the kind words. They really did touch me, Marius. It’s because I know they come from someone I admire, and that means a lot to me. I don’t write for seeking validation. I write as is, but as you know, as an Academy Award (TM) winning blogger yourself, there are eyeballs on this stuff, so I have in the past veered my work in a certain way. But not sure I go there that much now. If you like it, groovy. If not, then there are tons of other sober blogs to read (and there ARE tons out there!). Of thee to a nunnery, I suppose. But here I do tend to be conversational (and I am yapper once you get to know me) hence the word verbage.

      I laughed at the “Sobriety good” candybar comment (funny, up here in Canada, we call them chocolate bars, not candy bars – we’re in another neck of the woods, y’hear?) because what I am finding is that I have to simplify things to the newcomer. I get a head of steam and hit them with way too much information (because I am bursting to share) and then they would walk away in an even foggier daze. So I am learning to just say things like “sobriety good”, and “don’t run away” or “sobriety *really* good”. and just leave it at that. Maybe give them my number if they want a more non-monsyllabic type convo.

      Thanks again for this, Mr. G. Read it and got the warm fuzzies.

      Glad to have my roots mingled up with yours any day.

      Paul

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