Category Archives: The Writing Life

I’m Relocating!!


But just online… 🙂

I’ve been handing out business cards with a new website URL on them for several months, so it’s high time I got it set up, don’t you think?? So, here it is…

The new website is a .com, which looks a little more legit than a site (in my humble opinion), and now that I’m getting my freelance business off the ground, I thought it was time. I considered leaving all the old content here and starting fresh there, but then I thought I may as well carry all my building blocks with me. Some of my older posts here are pretty rough (who knew visuals made such a difference!?) and I’ll continue to improve my content and style as I go along, but a little history never hurt anybody.

If you are signed up to receive notices via email when I post a new entry (You’re awesome! Thank you!!), it looks like those connections did not transfer over to the new site. Please visit me at my new site, take a look around, sign up to get updates, and feel free to let me know what you think of the place. I still have a few tweaks to make… curtains to hang and ottomans to pick out… but it’s mostly done.

Onward and upward, friends!!



Haunted Blog Hop – Part III


Continued from Minivan Momma (…

Gillian got to the desk just as the final strokes were typed onto the yellowing parchment…

"Up the stairs and to the right..."

“Up the stairs, and to the right… the tutu hides a gruesome sight.”

She found it hard to believe a tutu could hide anything gruesome. When she was a little girl, she dreamed of dancing in a ballet, but her father wouldn’t hear of it. He made it very clear that his daughters would have no part in any activity that encouraged them to dance. When they visited museums she would gaze at paintings of dancers as though she were lovestruck. Even now that she was an adult, nothing could make her feel quite as giddy as her annual trip to see The Nutcracker in December.

By now, it was clear that there was no turning back. While this cottage was certainly creepy enough to hide a bent and broken old witch covered with warts, she was hopeful that she would find something a little less predictable…Gillian decided she couldn’t feel comfortable staying in the cottage without knowing what the tutu mentioned by the ghost-writer was hiding. She found a candle on a table near the fireplace, and used matches she found in a drawer to light it. The candle created enough light to help her breathe a little easier, and she set off down the hall to the staircase.

Every step on the staircase seemed to have a voice of its own crying out warnings – squeaks and creaks, groans and moans – until she reached the landing. “Up the stairs and to the right…” she whispered under her breath, hoping no one whispered back. She crept slowly down the hall, looking right and left only long enough to notice the doors to each room were securely shut. She decided it was probably for the best, since she wasn’t sure she wanted to see what was on the other side of them just yet.

Then she saw it; at the end of the hall was a large painting in a gilt frame featuring the beautiful ballerinas she idolized as a girl. She was struck by a sudden memory of a gift she received from her grandmother when she was very young… a locket on a chain, engraved with the image of a dancing girl in a tutu. Her father never let her wear the locket, and over the years she’d forgotten all about it.

But there, shining in the soft glow of her candle on a table beneath the painting, was her locket. There was nothing gruesome about it. In fact, it was lovely. As she picked up the pendant, she noticed the envelope on the table next to it… It was inscribed with her name. Gillian L. Rutledge. But the address was that of the cottage.

She reached out to touch the envelope with a shaking hand and took a deep breath.

The next chapter will be revealed tomorrow on Lucky Mama…  follow along, if you dare!

One stone at a time.


I love the look and feel of old cobblestone roads. The old bricks, worn down over time by the carriage wheels and feet and cars and horses. The connection I have with teachers and professional influences in my life make me think of those roads. It seems I’m about to write yet another metaphor-laden blog post. Maybe I need to create an essay collection called Life in Metaphors…

A year ago this month I went to a conference for bloggers, the Arkansas Women Bloggers Unplugged. I had already started writing a little for a couple of outlets, and had met a few local bloggers through that bit of work, but I met more at the conference and at other local events afterward. Attending the book-release parties was particularly inspiring for a wanna-be writer! Everyone has different experiences when thrust into a crowd of women… (hello!? drama can ensue!) but for me, the connection to this group of women has been overwhelmingly positive.

As I made the decision to start working as a freelance writer a few months ago, I was hopeful that my network of women who were already writing and managing clients’ social media platforms would be a good resource for information and advice, but it has become more than that. One of my friends, Jamie, has a successful freelance business, and was willing to sit down with me for lunch and offer her suggestions and encouragement soon after I made the leap. Then, last month, she asked if I was willing to do some writing for her when she had too much to do herself. Work with someone already doing what I want to do? Earn while I learn? Um, yes, please. 🙂

Then, this morning while I sat at the local coffee shop dutifully filling my calendar and figuring out what I needed to be doing with my days the rest of this week, I happened to run into another friend I have had the pleasure of knowing this last year. Jasmine is a fearless blogger, a social media maven, a roller derby queen, and a fantastic supporter of her friends and fellow writers. She’s put me in touch with great networking opportunities and people over the last year since we roomed together at AWBU, and has just been personally encouraging of my efforts to become A Writer. She asked what I’m doing now, and suggested that she might have some work that she could pass on to me as part of a new supervisory role she has taken on for a client of hers. I gave her a card and told her I’d love to hear more.

On our path through this life, we meet lots and lots of people. At least, I have. (Makes me wish I were better with names…) Some are broken or weak and are unable to support us as we go, and we have to put them aside. Or, better yet, be the bricks in THEIR road. Others are the bricks and stones that we need to lay in front of us on our road, the ones that we will be able to rely on as we move toward our goals and dreams. For me, this group of writers I have connected with over the past year or so have been exactly what I needed as I made the leap into working for myself. I didn’t know, when I went to AWBU a year ago, that I would be freelancing today. I may or may not have gone simply because Country Outfitter was offering a pair of free boots to all attendees. (<— keeping it real) But I was open to the experience of learning from those women and cultivating those relationships, and it has served me so well.

No matter where your path is headed, seek out those who are doing what you want to do… if you are an actor, hang out with actors (and casting directors! ;)), if you’re a designer, hang out with designers… pick their brain, follow their pages on Facebook and their blogs. Interact, attend workshops and seminars. Hand out your business card and collect theirs. If you don’t have a business card – create one RIGHT NOW!!! Shame on you… You never know, when you’re meeting new people, who will become important in your life. But as you travel your road, those cobblestone people will be there for you.

Pulling weeds.


I’m not sure what it is about pulling on gardening gloves and getting out in the dirt that invites philosophical introspection for me… but it does. Sometimes, it’s just a great quiet time to not have to think about anything except getting rid of weeds and cut worms. Other times, there is a great metaphor in the work that settles down over my shoulders and wraps me in a gnat infested, dappled-shade-colored hug. Today was one of the latter.

The last few years have been a struggle for me. I may have been depressed, but I never pursued any professional opinion on the matter so I can’t say that’s technically true. I was working, I had a kid that was having difficulty in school, a kid starting college and joining the Army, another kid who was having difficulty accepting adulthood and was still living with us, and a grand-kid who was living with her mom in our house. It was busy… I didn’t have time to be depressed, or even just really sad and frustrated, if that’s all it was.

But this summer started off with me leaving my job, and since that unexpected move, things have changed. We were fortunate enough to have a good financial cushion in the bank, although it was intended for things like a deck and maybe new floors – not food and gasoline. But at least it was there – I didn’t have to go get a job at the local gentlemen’s club. Gentlemen everywhere are relieved. 🙂  I spent the summer hanging out with my son, helping my sister move to Oregon, helping my daughter move into her own place, and cleaning out closets. There are more closets waiting, but the work has begun on getting the weeds out of my life.

This feels sooooo good!

This feels sooooo good!

Metaphorical weeds are just like regular old weeds. They suck up all the nutrients and sunshine and water, and leave the herbs and flowers we wanted to see struggling to mature. We spend years cultivating an education, make the proper choice in a spouse, provide music lessons for the kids, and have a stack of great cookbooks on the counter. But our “weeds” grow up and choke out the beauty that can grow from the seeds we have planted. When we fill our lives with clutter – physical and psychological – the creative moments, and the moments of sincere enjoyment of the life we are living, are buried. I have begun to pull weeds in my life, and I believe it’s going to help me focus on the things that truly make me happiest; being creative and enjoying my family.

This summer, as I organized closets, and decorated the newly-vacant guest room, and cleaned the guest bathroom, I realized the things that had been cluttering my head and my daily schedule were going away. As those weeds were pulled,  the creative part of me began to peek out again. Or, I guess it’s more accurate to say that it began to bloom. It had remained there the whole time – it just wasn’t thriving.

See what you find when you clear the weeds?

See what you find when you clear the weeds?

Aside from the psychological weeds, I had also let a lot of physical weeds grow up around me over the last few years. I spent time and money stockpiling materials that I was sure I would use eventually… things that would be great once I had time to come up with an idea. And of course, those ideas would need to be followed by time to actually act on the idea. The end result is that I have a Large Amount of stuff that I am now finally ready to thin. I think I have a handle on the time and inclination I have and can fairly judge what piles to keep, and what I can let go. My husband will be thrilled. 🙂

So, today, as I pulled weeds and contemplated the creative projects I had waiting for me in my workspace, I felt good knowing that things were headed in the right direction. Eventually, I’ll stop lying in bed worrying about money. Eventually, my hair will stop thinning from stress (why can’t I lose weight when I’m stressed instead of hair!!??). And eventually, I’ll look back on the last few years and feel confident that they were incubation years; that the things I was learning and the people I was meeting were nurturing me, even as I was unable to act on their help. There will be more weeds, of course, but I’m hoping that they’re only in the garden.

Being a Grown Up


“When adult life becomes so overwhelmingly frustrating, I almost feel like I want to be able to remove the skin I’m in and step out of it, taking on a new reality just as I change duvet covers when the seasons change. I don’t itch, not in a physical sense… it’s like a psychological itch; a discomfort that almost, but not quite, allows me to understand why some women simply walk out the door and leave their home and family behind when the challenges of life are piled on top of them.”

I wrote this paragraph a couple of weeks ago. For the life of me, I can’t remember the precise details of what was stressing me so much that I needed to capture these feelings. Obviously, it was intense. And, just as obviously, it worked itself out and I’m still happily married and devoted to my children and husband. I think sometimes the collision of Things I Can’t Control and Things That Don’t Go As Planned just creates the perfect emotional storm, you know?

Do you ever experience these feelings of wanting to just lock the door behind you and walk away? What makes you stay? I think I may need to investigate a little deeper and pull a book idea out of this…

The Universe is a BULLY!


The word “bully” has a negative connotation… so I guess I should use a different word to describe the way I’ve been treated by the Universe. In reality, recent changes are very positive, and, in fact, I’m grateful for the shove. I didn’t fall down so much as just get moving. The Universe was that kid behind you when you’re standing in line for lunch and get distracted by the pretty pictures hanging on the wall outside the art classroom… it had to get my attention. Had to say “HEY!! It’s lunchtime – go get some FOOD!”

Okay, that’s enough allegorical description, don’t you think?

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago it became very clear to me that I needed to stop talking about being a full-time writer and creator, and just do it already. So, I did. I resigned from my very satisfying yet predictable job with a local organization that I am passionate about and that does amazing things in our community, and became a new person. This person is eager to get out of bed each day and tackle that day’s to-do list. This person happily tidies up the house as she goes from task to task, and spends quality time with her son after school. This person went grocery shopping and was actually excited about the idea of planning meals!

I know, it’s ridiculous. But there it is. I am so excited about the prospect of getting projects knocked out during the week rather than having to cram as much as possible into my weekends and then go back to work exhausted, with half-completed projects waiting for me until the next weekend. I’m not saying I’m thrilled about having to cancel the housekeeper we had coming every other week (oh, how I loved the way the house smelled every other Wednesday!!), but being home more during the day means I can keep things looking presentable with very minimal effort. I really don’t mind cleaning if I can do it along with the other things I want/need to do. It’s only frustrating when I have to do it in the evenings after a long day at work, or on weekends when I’d much rather be on a river, or my patio, or a road trip.

My garden is celebrating with me…

White Iris


But, alas, I’m not married to a Rockefeller, so I am not allowed to be an idle woman. Not that I would be happy being idle anyway… I have already lined up one free-lance writing job locally, and have been putting out feelers with other connections I have. I’m confident that I will be able to replace my income with my writing and my creating, I just have to make it happen.

And just a note on that… over the last year or so I feel like I have been able to create some fantastic relationships with others in my area who are making a living from their artistic or creative endeavors. Artists, other writers, bloggers, and “slashers” who cobble together several of their talents into a career that suits their family, their experience and abilities and still allows them to live the life they are comfortable with. I’m so grateful for those people in my life – and the family I have who supports me.

Five years ago, when I got the job I just left, I was eager to embark on a new adventure – working as a fundraiser and communicator for a non-profit organization. Four months later, my beautiful mother was diagnosed with brain cancer, and the people I worked with became my support system, my shoulders to cry on… I was exactly where I needed to be during the year she was ill, and the years after she died. Now I’m headed down a different road, and again I am confident that it’s the one I need to be on. My mother always encouraged my creative pursuits, and was one of the biggest fans of my writing. I guess that’s a mom thing, right? I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s the one encouraging the Universe to bully me. Thanks mom. For everything.

My creative mom.

I love this picture of my mother working on some kind of craft. She taught me so much about living creatively.


Now all I need is motivation.


As I shared last month, I have signed up for Ali Edwards’ One Little Word project. I chose the word “listen”, but after thinking on it for a while, decided it wasn’t really the word I needed to focus on. I’m changing my word to Create.


I started putting together my list of intentions for the year – one for each month – and am really excited about the ideas they are putting in my head. I’ve noticed one difficulty; I want to do them all THIS MONTH. But that would kind of screw up the whole idea of focusing on one at a time and managing them thoughtfully and with intent. So, I will try to follow a schedule like this:

January  Create: A Plan – ‘nuf said

February Create: Intimacy – Spend more time on my marriage with date night plans, weekends away and “honeymoon” conversation about dreams and plans for the future

March Create: Order – Clean my craft room, closets, drawers, laundry room, and bathroom pantries and update my blog calendar (and stick to it!)

April Create: Health – Start planning menus to embrace our new diet needs and put together a regular exercise routine for myself

May Create: Community – Connect with other artists and crafters in Northwest Arkansas to help facilitate a support network 

June Create: Peace – Schedule time for yoga or tai chi every week, or make time for quiet reading and brainstorming ideas for writing

July Create: Time – Organize household chores by day of the week and stick to the schedule; make efficiency (clothing put away, lunches made night before, waking up earlier)

August Create: Opportunity – Tell EVERYONE I’m a writer and maker, and find connections in the community who can offer me opportunities to move toward a free-lance career

September Create: Words – Write, write and write some more; write poetry; work on my story

October Create: Art – Work on handmade gifts; try new mediums (oil paint, jewelry, screenprinting)

November Create: Memories – Cookbooks for siblings using family recipes; sort mom’s photos and scan to discs; spend time with my kids and grandbaby

December Create: Future – Holiday tradition-making; look back on 2013 and look forward to 2014

See what I mean? There are several things listed later in the year that I want to work on now. I suppose that I can keep all of these in mind every month, but put a gold star on the list beside an individual one each month.

What goals are you working on this year? Are you doing anything similar to One Little Word? Link to your blog here so we can follow you!