Zen and the Art of Typewriter Adaptation: The Beginning

     Ever since I was young, I’ve had an affinity for typewriters.  As a preschooler, I would occasionally go to work with my mother, a radiology tech, and play for hours with one of the hospital’s electric typewriters.  The clickety-clack of the keys, the weight of them on my fingers, felt… right.  I may have been too young to type in complete sentences, or much more than my name really, but I think this may have been an early manifestation of my desire to write and I would type out my name over and over again like Jack in The Shining without the homicidal insanity. Mostly.
     I was a whiz in my high school typing class.  I may not have been the quickest, but I was certainly the most accurate.  I played the oboe the same way.  My fingers were not very nimble, but I was able to produce lovely music, earning primarily first place medals in school solo/ensemble contests.
     Recently, I purchased a Spectre X2 convertible laptop so that I could be more mobile when writing.  It’s light and thin and I love it, but there was still something missing.  The keys feel better than writing longhand–hell, anything feels better than that–but there is still something that doesn’t quite work for me.  Just the other day, I realized what it was: the noise.  Or rather, the lack of noise.  I seem to have a hard time “getting in the zone” without some background noise.
     Looking back, I realize that sound was always a part of how I worked.  I would have the television on for background noise while I was lost in my head writing term papers, but I never got the hang of taking notes during a lecture.  Every time I tried, I missed important points while concentrating more on making my handwriting legible than whatever the professor might be saying.  I can’t listen and write at the same time, but noise seems to help me access my thoughts more easily.
     Somehow, somewhere along the way I had lost that critical part of my writing process.  Now, whenever I listen to music I usually just end up singing along instead of working.  The television has become a time-sucking nightmare thanks to all the good shows available on Netflix.  And my beloved Spectre, well, it has access to Facebook and I’m weak.  So very, very weak.  I have, however, found a solution.  It is possible to convert a manual typewriter into a computer keyboard!
     And so my journey begins.  I have purchased a 1950s-ish Royal Keystone typewriter, cleaned it—okay, mostly just dusted it–, and have conscripted my wonderful, computer genius husband into helping me transform it into a Retro Writing Tool of Awesomeness!
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I’m so pretty!

     Stay tuned for updates on my progress and happy St. Patrick’s Day, my homesnakes!

Finding My Way Back

“Hello.

It’s been a while.

I’ve missed you.”

This is what I’d say to my muse if I had the courage to reach out. Sometimes keeping in touch with my creativity gets away from me, and before I know it, it’s been so long that I feel awkward just trying to make a connection out of the blue.

What if it’s busy? I don’t want to be a distraction. What if it has moved on to some other author who lavishes it with attention? What if it hates me for neglecting it? What if it’s gone? Gone…forever?

It would serve me right for treating my inspiration that way. Always pushing it to the side, expecting it to be true while receiving no loyalty in return, callously allowing it to wither in the darkness. I couldn’t blame it for turning its back on me, seeking comfort with another. The fault is entirely my own.

But what if it hasn’t left? Would my muse welcome me back? Would it even speak to me after I treated it so?

I have to know. I can wait no longer. I close my eyes, breathe in deeply, lightly run my fingertips along the keys…

…and we connect.

Relief washes over me and ideas spring to life as we chat like old friends over coffee. No judgement. No admonishments. Only a warm embrace and a bouyant hope that we will never again be so long without one another.

It is only now that I realize that, without me, my muse does not exist. For what is inspiration without someone to inspire? However, without creativity, a part of me is missing, like a flash of lighting without thunder rumbling in its wake. I’m incomplete. Empty. Unfulfilled.

I don’t wish to feel that way again. I said I missed my muse, but that statement doesn’t capture the ache of knowing something isn’t quite right but not being able to put your finger on it. The tightness in your chest when you’ve lost something–something important–but what it is remains elusive. The drudgery of dragging yourself through days, weeks, sometimes months of mind-numbingly ordinary activities with a piece of yourself absent.

I reach out and grasp my muse by the hand. No more will I be alone on this journey. We are one once again. And together, we will dream, tell stories, and create.

Reach out to your muse. Find that piece of your soul that makes you feel alive and once you do, don’t ever let it go. Live, love, dream, create. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

The Change in My Wallet

NaBloPoMo 2015

Day 9: What’s in my wallet

Happy Anniversary to me! According to WordPress, I began the TotallyTawn blog five years ago today.  My, how times change! What began as one timid post asking what the hell I was getting myself into blossomed into something so amazing that I still have trouble believing how much my life has evolved.

Of course, many other things have changed in the last five years as well.  That’s what life is, after all.  Change.

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I used to lug around a giant totebag purse with a ton of stuff in it: makeup, aspirin, wet-wipes, a book or tablet, a crochet project, wallet, phone, lint, hopes and dreams; You get the picture. Despite being prepared for almost anything, I would go months without actually using any of those items as more than a collection of tiny anchors relentlessly pulling one shoulder lower than the other.

Since then, I’ve learned that it’s easier for me to make a pit stop if I need anything rather than drag it around on the off chance that I might someday need a wet-wipe and the nearest store is more than a block away.  Besides, I can now stash that junk in my car’s glove compartment.

Now I have an adorable orange wristlet wallet with a pink strap from Thirty-One which holds my phone, my credit cards, a picture of my kids, my library card (of course), and a crumpled wad of receipts that I keep forgetting to give to my husband to file.  That’s it.

No cash – I would only spend it unwisely and 99.5% of establishments take plastic anyway, so why bother?  No picture of my husband. Part of the reason I have a photo of my kids is in case anything happened to them and I needed to give the police a picture for the milk carton, so I must not be worried about my husband in quite the same way. In hindsight, I have a ton of pictures of my family (and my cat) on my phone, so there’s really no reason to have that photo in there anyway.

That’s it. There’s really no room for anything else, which is fine with me. No more back pain!  Hurrah for life changes!

Come back later and I’ll tell you about the best trip of my life.  Well, the one I remember anyway.

My Fears

NaBloPoMo 2015

Day 6: What am I afraid of?

When I was a child, I had recurring nightmares. There were two scenarios, but both essentially involved being chased by something hideous. Since I dream in color, these nightmares – which I would have every single night for months on end – were as real to me as my waking hours. Sometimes more real, since I can still recall them in great detail while my memories from kindergarten on are generally foggy and riddled with blind spots.

One beautiful summer afternoon a few years after my last recurring nightmare, I overheard my mother and my aunt talking about a book called Wolfen. The tiny portion of storyline that I heard was enough to stoke my overactive imagination into a frenzy, resulting in months of night terrors in which I was convinced that I could see a werewolf slip into my darkened room once the rest of the house was asleep.

As a teenager, I spent the night at my aunt’s house on many occasions. One morning, she told me that my screams had awakened her in the middle of the night. When she checked on me, I was sitting up, eyes open, and even had a conversation with her. I don’t recall any of that incident because I was asleep the entire time.

I have fears – lots of them. Sure, they’ve evolved from childhood nightmares to the more realistic fears of an adult, but that doesn’t make them any less terrifying. For instance, I always take a mental note of what my children are wearing before they leave the house on the very remote chance that something might happen to them on their way to school. I have irrational fears about a traffic accident or something just as mundane taking my husband from me. I fear what losing any of them would do to me almost as much as I fear what I would do to anyone that hurt them.

Sometimes fear holds me back, keeping me from saying or doing things that would offend others or cause them pain. I also struggle to put emotions into my stories because I’m afraid I’ll lose myself in experiencing the burning anger, haunting despair, or primal fear that would give my words life.

Sometimes the fear makes me stronger. It pulls me outside my cozy realm of familiarity and forces me to look it in the eyes, to stare it down and grow from the experience. Only by facing your fears can you overcome them.

At one time, I had been deathly afraid to share my writing with anyone. Those days are far behind me, but still there are times that I feel a cold hand grab hold of my heart and squeeze, all while whispering in my ear that I am not good enough, not real enough, that I will only fail and embarrass myself. Those are the fears that steal my confidence, make me feel like a fraud, and sink their hooks so far into my soul that facing them results in an almost physical pain.

So what makes me most afraid? Loss. Losing my family, my sense of self, control of my emotions, or even a loss of credibility is enough to keep me awake at night. Every day, I battle these fears, thankful that I even feel frightened in the first place, for it seems to me that the only way I can truly get over my fear is to not have anything left to lose.

Tomorrow’s post, my top five songs, will be much more lighthearted than today’s topic, I promise. See you tomorrow!

Pride and Sloth… wait, what?

NaBloPoMo 2015

Day 5: My Proudest Moment

What is up with these topics? Each one is harder than the last. I have had so many moments of pride that I’m positive I’ve earned a ticket on the express handbasket to Hell for committing that deadly sin alone. Which is saying a lot, since my middle name is Sloth and I own vacation property in Gluttony.the-7-deadly-sins_o_1724615

However, one particular incident stands apart from the rest because it wasn’t something that I accomplished, at least not directly. It was something my son did.
Once upon a time, in a galaxy really, really close by, my children and I found ourselves waiting for hours to retrieve my husband from a police station. He had be apprehended by the railroad cops – seriously – for doing something more stupid than unlawful, and because people with no criminal past take longer to process, it had been a long day for all of us. My daughter had gotten sick all over herself and my back seat, and my son and I needed to pee so badly that we were seconds from using the nearest squad car as a port-a-potty.

Despite all of this, there was another family in the waiting area that looked like their day had been even worse than ours.  A harried young mother with her bedraggled son who couldn’t have been more than three huddled in the far corner of the station.  She looked positively exhausted, and they had a garbage bag with them with might have contained everything they owned in the world for all we knew.  The child never left his mother’s side, almost melting into her as if it was all he could do to hold back frightened tears.

My son saw them and asked me if I thought they were okay.  I told him I didn’t know, but they looked tired and sad to me.  He nodded absently and then, without another word to me, walked over to the child, spoke softly to him, and placed the McDonald’s toy he had gotten earlier that day in the boy’s hands.   The child’s face lit up, and the mother thanked my son with a grateful smile.  When he returned to my side, I asked him why he did that and he said, “I don’t know.  I just thought I could cheer him up.”

That small gesture proved my worth as a mother.  I might not always get it right, but by instilling compassion in my children, I’m making the world a better place through them.  This was my proudest moment.

Come back tomorrow when I share my deepest fear.  Here’s a hint:  It’s not spiders.  Probably.

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What’s in a Name?

As many of you know, November is an important month to many writers. It is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, and many of my peers are participating. The goal is to write 50,000 words – the length of a novel – in a month. In order to keep up with this grueling schedule, many writers participate in word sprints, write-ins, and other communal efforts to encourage each other much like bystanders cheering marathon runners.

Alas, much like a marathon, NaNoWriMo requires preparation and training, and I am simply not up to the task. I am not ashamed to admit that I am a glacially slow writer and, as an introvert, social writing is not for me. I am fully aware that no amount of community support is going to magically transform this tortoise into a hare.

However, just because 50,000 words in 30 days is galaxies out of my reach – for now – it doesn’t mean that I want to pass up an opportunity to develop the habit of writing daily, a much more realistic and attainable goal. So I decided to do my own version of NaNoWriMo: 30 Days of Blogging.

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I found this image online and will be sticking to its format. I invite you to come along with me for the ride. You can do your own 30 Days of Blogging, or just stop by on occasion and learn a little bit about me. Either way, it’s not going to cost you anything more than a bit of your time. And maybe some coffee if you’ve got it. I love coffee.

Day 1: Your Blog’s Name

I named my blog – and my website – TotallyTawn mainly because I couldn’t think of anything better. My given name is Tawn and this is the place where you will get “nothin’ but Tawn” with all my crazy opinions, weird idiosyncrasies, and inappropriate humor.

Where did “Tawn” come from, you ask? Well, my mother has told me that she had too much morphine at my birth, or it was misspelled on my birth certificate, or – the one I choose to believe – I was named after a friend in Germany. The fact that she has never once talked about this friend does not sway me in the least. My name is not short for anything, and I hate being called Tawny, because it reminds me of the blonde from Weekend at Bernie’s, an oblivious one-dimensional character who was only included in the movie as window dressing. I don’t even know why they bothered to give her a name.

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Attractive window dressing is still decorative. Sorry, Tawny.

I have met another Tawn through the wonders of Facebook, and she told me that she was named after a character in a book called The Web of Days by Edna Lee. I promptly tracked down and purchased the book for my library. I have yet to read it, but Tawn is indeed a character. I checked.

It may surprise you to learn that I wasn’t always known as Tawn. My middle name is Kimberlee, and this is the name I went by for the first fifteen years of my life. I’m not sure why my parents chose to call me by my middle name rather than my first – my mother insists it’s a German thing – but I can tell how long I’ve known a person by what they call me. And just a side note, it’s Kimber-LEE, not Kimber-LY, in honor of my Uncle Lee.

Names are an important part of our identities. I feel like Kimberlee was me as a child, and now Tawn is who I am as an adult. I kept my maiden name when I married because it just didn’t feel like me, as if I would lose something of myself in the transition. Plus, changing your name is expensive and time consuming process involving a lot of paperwork and I am one of the laziest people you will ever meet. I use my married name when I write because I feel that Tawn Krakowski is an author and Tawn Makela is a pilot. Hence, at TotallyTawn, all of these facets of my life come together. In hindsight, I suppose TotalLeeTawn would make more sense, but I only just thought of it now and it would probably be too hard to find with the odd spelling.

In any case, that’s all the explanation I have for my blog’s name. Come back tomorrow when I will reveal 20 facts about me for Day 2 of 30 Days of Blogging.

Happy Los Dias de los Muertos!

I See Dragons

Wow, I have neglected my poor blog.  Why would I do such a terrible thing, you ask?

There are many reasons a blog fades into non-existence.  In my case, it was a combination of other projects – three books, a 4 season series currently in production, and tons of audio narrations – taking precedence; general health and family issues like moving to a new state and a disastrous campaign against an insurgent army of fat cells laying siege to my midsection (I shall win the war!); and a sudden notion that my blog should have a theme (or be coherent) coupled with a rising fear that I had no business fashioning myself as a writer in the first place.

It’s amazing what my brain whispers to me in the dead of night.  It’s even more unfathomable that I believe any of those whispers in the morning.  I seem to forget that being a writer is not a destination, it’s a journey.  It took me this long to realize that comparing myself to any one of my peers is pointless.  Not only have we reached different points on our career path, we are on entirely different roads.  The only person to whom I should compare myself is the person that I was yesterday, and the only person I could hope to be tomorrow is a better version of myself today.

In this spirit, I have decided that TotallyTawn shall be a place for me to flex my writing muscles by allowing myself the freedom to grow, learn, and enjoy the journey.  I will tell stories, reminisce, share things that I have learned, and maybe brag just a little bit every now and then.

You may have noticed my new cover photo: I see dragons.  One of my favorite things to do is to find “dragons” hidden in the clouds.  If you walk with me, I promise to point them out.  I’ve also spruced up the place, so feel free to hang out with me for as long as you like.

Oh, look!  There’s a dragon now…