Category Archives: Writing

Story Instead of Balance

People, including myself, talk a lot about leading a balanced life. In general, people mean this to be healthy, like eating a balanced diet.

However, I started thinking about it, and I really DON’T like the image of myself teetering along a rooftop, or walking a tightrope. Nor to I like to think of myself carrying a heavy bag on each shoulder in an attempt to remain balanced.  And I am definitely NOT a scale.

Yes, it’s just a saying – but I believe the way we think about these things matters. If I keep visualizing myself barely staying on the tightrope, I’m going to be scared and stressed out, and that is definitely not healthy.

So how can I visualize my life and manage all of the different demands it brings me?

Story is one way, and it’s something I’m learning more about. What is my story right now, and what do I really want it to be? How do my job, child-rearing, housekeeping, marriage and writing all fit into my story?  And how am I part of the larger story of God and the universe?

Big questions.  And I’m starting to find answers. I’m cooking up something on the writing front, and have a long-term goal in mind. But I think finding my story is about more than just goal-setting. I mean, a story is supposed to have a plot, and a theme, and a conflict to overcome.  It’s not just a steady plod toward a goal.

The glimmerings are there, in my head. I just have to put it all together.

I had this post half-written when I found that Chris Brogan was asking people to post about the importance of story in their lives. And he’s offering free books, so I figured I’d better get it done!  This post was also partly inspired by Christina Katz’s piece on balance in her weekly e-zine, The Prosperous Writer. And further inspired by a retreat I attended with Narrative Actualization.

Need Some Balance?

Here’s the deal. We just got home from a softball game, and now I have to do some child-nurturing and get myself to bed too. And I’m sending you elsewhere to read about balance, so that I can balance myself.

Actually, I’m suddenly wondering whether balance is really a good metaphor for life after all. I’ll have to think about that more.

But for now, here you go:

Author Christina Katz (The Writer Mama) recommends A Lovely Little Book About Claiming the Physical, Mental, and Emotional Space You Need to Write. Christina also has a new ebook out, Author Mama.

Debbie Ridpath Ohi interviewed Katz earlier this year on Time Management For Writers.

Fellow Portlander Katy Wolk-Stanley recently noted that control is an illusion.

And here’s a post from Zen Habits on The Lost Art of Solitude.

Good night!

Blogging Elsewhere, 2/28/10

In case you didn’t know, yes, I do blog elsewhere from time to time! Here’s a sampling of what I’ve been doing lately.

On What’s the Mission, I post spiritual reflections and book reviews (I belong to a great program called Viral Bloggers in which I get free books!).  Latest reviews include Picking Dandelions by Sarah Cunningham, Thy Kingdom Connected by Dwight J. Friesen, and A New Kind of Christianity by Brian McLaren.

Six Boxes of Books was started by my sister Wendy (who once read all of the Newbery Award winners), and has expanded to include all three Burton sisters. We mostly write about children’s and young adult books. Some posts are reviews and some cover other book-related topics, like school book orders. is a local news site/blog that I started for the neighborhood in which I live. It runs on the Neighborlogs platform.  I write about local schools, community events, sports, crime, businesses, or whatever I see that is interesting. Neighbors are invited to post, too. My most recent post is a roundup of coverage on the Aaron Campbell shooting, which occurred not far from here.

You can also find me on Twitter and Facebook pretty much every day.

What I Did On My Winter Vacation

No, I did NOT do what that guy in the picture is doing!  Almost two weeks ago I wrote about balancing everything I wanted to do during winter break. I’m going back to work tomorrow, so it’s time to take stock.

Cookie-baking: I wanted molasses cookies, because I had some delicious, buttery ones at an earlier holiday gathering. But rather than asking for the recipe, I searched for one online: “thin buttery molasses cookies”. Apparently there is something called “thin molasses cookies,” but they’re intended to be thin and candy-like. When I mixed up the batter, I didn’t like the consistency (mostly butter, sugar and molasses and very runny), so I added more flour.  When I baked them, they were first thin and chewy (didn’t puff up at all), and then thin and crunchy when they cooled. I had a lot of batter left, so I decided to add an egg, some baking soda, and a splash of vinegar to see what would happen. They pretty much turned out the same; just slightly less crunchy in the middle.  I didn’t like them, but the family ate them all.

Calling the optometrist’s office: Um. I still never did that.

Teaching the kid to read: That would be my four-year-old. No, I never intended to have her reading in two weeks. We did work on phonics and play games and read out loud a lot. She’s progressing nicely.

Losing weight: Ha ha. Yeah. I had good intentions of at least getting exercise, and did exercise on a few days out of the two weeks, but not enough. Why? We did have a lot of cold and/or rainy weather, but I’m pretty sure that’s not the only reason.

Spending time with family: Yes, definitely.We played games, read books, and watched movies together. We spent time with extended family members as well.  Last night we shrieked with laughter just from rolling a ball around the room. This was easily the most successful item on my list.

Writing: This went quite well, too. This is only the fourth entry I’ve put up on this blog in two weeks, which is low, but I also managed five pieces on and one on Six Boxes of Books. Best of all, I did some soul-searching and goal-setting.

I took advantage of Charlotte Rains Dixon‘s offer of a free 15-minute coaching session, in order to clarify where I want to go as a writer.  And in preparation, I did a lot of thinking about that, and came up with several things I haven’t been liking about my writing life. First, I haven’t been doing enough writing. But why? Sure, life gets in the way — but I think it’s also because writing is a dilemma for me. The dilemma is over what I should be doing – should I be writing list articles aimed at parenting magazines to make money, or cheap online articles for money, or blogging, or just whatever I want to write? We can certainly use money, so if I’m using my time not making money (as well as not cleaning house, spending time with family, etc.), I feel guilty.

Well, I’ve decided I want no more of that. I’m going to work hard on things I feel passionate about, whether it’s blogging or writing articles for magazines or trying some fiction.  My goals right now are simple: daily journaling (even if brief) and daily blogging (on at least one of my several blogs; it won’t always be this one). I’ll also be trying my hand at personal essays, with the goal of getting one published.

Reading good books: I read ten books I hadn’t read before, plus re-read The Dark Is Rising, The Grey King and Silver on the Tree by Susan Cooper (it’s a seasonal thing).  This resulted in too many late nights, but was both enjoyable and worthwhile.

Keeping up with social networks: I felt like I often spent less time horsing around online than usual, but was able to keep up just fine. Yesterday I took an entire day off from the internet, and my life did not fall apart!

Lastly, did I do all of this on a schedule, as I originally suggested I might? Not really. I did make a list of things I wanted or needed to do, and divided them into morning, afternoon, and evening tasks. For instance, I put writing in the morning, because once I’m fully awake that’s usually when I have the most energy. But I didn’t always follow that plan; just used it as a guideline.

Overall, I feel good about how I spent winter break. I felt a great deal of joy and optimism (no mean feat, as I’ve been struggling with depression all fall), and although I didn’t do everything I wanted to, I did do the things that were most important to me: reading, writing, and spending time with family.  I feel good about the writing goals I’ve set for the year, and about life in general.

Got My Mojo Back

Mojo, biking legs, whatever. I’ve been struggling for weeks, but this afternoon, I was once again riding without feeling exhausted. I don’t know whether my body’s stronger or it just needed the long weekend, but I’m glad of it either way.

I’ve also found my blogging mojo, thanks to NaBloPoMo. Yes, I missed a couple of days, but between all of my blogs, I did manage more than 30 posts in November. I saw traffic go up on both of my two main blogs, and I discovered that telling a story is generally more popular than preaching. And apparently, people like socks.

I’d like to thank you for reading and commenting and “liking” on Facebook.  I do enjoy interacting with you all, and hearing in person that you’ve read my blog always makes me smile.

I’d also like to invite you to do a couple of things.

Thanks again, and please stay tuned!

I’m On Fire!

IMG_1672I’ve been remiss in not telling you this. You see, there’s this really cool website called Portland on Fire. Mr. Rick Turoczy manages it. It’s a collection of profiles of interesting people in Portland, Oregon, and well worth looking at. If you’re in Portland, you can even submit  your own profile now, and that’s just what I did recently!  Don’t just read mine, though; take a few minutes to explore the site.

In other news, I’m planning to do NaBloPoMo this month. What? That’s National Blog Posting Month. That means I’m going to write at least one post per day. They may not all be on this blog, though. You can also find me at What’s the Mission,, and Portland WordPress User Group.

Writing My Technology Memoir

I’m dead tired tonight, and couldn’t deal with any of the topics on my list of things to blog about.  Still, I wanted to do some kind of writing, even if it wasn’t fit for public consumption.  So I’ve been writing, in a very rough form, my technology memoir.

New genre?  Sure. You see, when techie types get together (or get into a chat room), they often end up comparing notes on what their earliest technology experiences were.  What was your first computer?  Your first programming language? Who has the oldest and most obsolete knowledge in the room?

I know.  GEEKS!  But it is an interesting topic to me, so it got me writing. It’s a way out of writer’s block, or a way to keep writing even when you’re brain dead — just write about something you’re interested in, or about a memory or series of memories, and don’t worry about whether anyone will ever read it.

I’m not publishing my technology memoir (at least not in its current form), but for the record, my first computer (my school’s first computer, that is) was a Commodore PET, on which I learned to program in BASIC.