Shelley Widhalm

Archive for the ‘Moving’ Category

Writing and Moving

In Moving, Shelley Widhalm, Writing, Writing Discipline, Writing Processes on July 13, 2014 at 11:00 am

This summer, I moved from one apartment to another to not even the opposite side of town, but one block north and a half block east.

This move’s like my writing life: I took chances but not huge ones, and I packed to unpack.

I relocated to move in with my fiancé, but I didn’t want to let go of my old apartment: the high ceilings, tall windows and hard-wood floors. To put it another way, I was having a difficult time killing my darlings, meaning my darling apartment decorated exactly how I liked it with all of my stuff.

Welcome the man with his geometric style of decorating, decorations that didn’t mean anything to me and way of putting together stuff that clashed with my sense of style.

How does one compromise: Argue, debate, talk, give in a little, accept, let go, pack up a few things.
I packed a dozen boxes of the few dozen I had unpacked, labeled them and took them off to storage. I had to reduce what I thought I needed, get rid of stuff I didn’t need and rethink my (our) space. I went from three closets (front, walk-in linen and bedroom) to a shared closet in the bedroom.

In other words, I had too much stuff for our shared 600 square feet of space. Through the process of repacking, I realized I didn’t need extra sets of towels and sheets, an extra set of bedding, three extra pillows, winter pajamas in the summer, baskets to store stuff now that I had less storage space and my collection of Starbucks teddy bears.

I had to fit what I wanted to keep into smaller bathroom drawers, fewer kitchen cabinets and half a closet (actually three-fifths from my crossing over to his side). At first, I didn’t think I could find space for and reassemble my belongings to work within the geometric shapes of drawers, shelves and cabinets, while also keeping it all assessable in case I wanted any of those things.

This reconfiguring is like how I pack and unpack with my writing.

When I write news and feature articles, I follow a loose formula, writing my lead and basing the rest of what I write on the first graf or two, followed by a quote and narrowing in on the information I provide from the most important to least important. I write in a box with some sense of freedom when I choose the lead, pick out the best and sparkly quotes, and find the best descriptions for the five W’s and H.

Writing a novel, I follow the outline, venturing off here and there, but still keeping within the parameters of my story.

With short story writing, I sit down for a session or two and let my mind burst out of the parameters until I figure out the story, and then I pack my words into the framework I’ve created.

And for poetry, I wait for inspiration, feeling the freest in this form because I am not thinking about story structure, setting and character identity but writing out of feeling, allowing that later I will edit.

The editing part is getting rid of the junk you don’t need, storing away great sentences and paragraphs that don’t fit the scene or the page, and coming up with a new reality from what you thought was in your head. It’s now on paper with a shape that you can see, feel and almost touch.

That’s what moving does to you: it makes you reshape and re-see what you own and what you really need and don’t need. Editing gets down to the most essential of what you’re writing, and that’s what living should be: the best and the important, not all the stuff, the junk and the unnecessary things.

A “Moving” Experience

In Moving, My house, Not an easy task, What's important on October 31, 2010 at 11:55 pm

Two weeks ago, I moved out of my mother and brother’s house, where I’ve been renting a room the past two years, to an apartment in a small city to the south. I haven’t been blogging lately, because the only thing on my mind is unpacking. I can’t seem to function if my life is in boxes.

I approached unpacking like a system, this after moving a dozen times since college. I unpacked each room first and as I did so, planned ahead where I would put categories of items. To describe this process would be too much of a how-to article and make me sound a bit nerdy. I don’t want anyone to know the truth about how I like everything to be in its place.

That’s why these two weeks, I’ve been late, saying the wrong words and stopping mid-sentence and wondering, “What am I thinking about?”

Then there was the whole sentimental part of unpacking. I found items I forgot I had, as well as items that brought up memories. I did a little dance when I found this journal I thought I had lost during my last move. I paused over my photo albums, flipping through periods of my life, hastily to get on to more unpacking.

And then I got mad. The glass inserts for my coffee and end tables were totally shattered. The moving company I hired for my cross-country move two years ago was lousy, to say the least. I had most of my stuff in storage and have just discovered many problems with the movers I hired. They scratched several pieces of furniture, stained my white couch, cut my ottoman and smashed down boxes, but luckily the things inside were unharmed.

My emotional landscape from the move went from elation – I am living in a vaulted ceiling, many-windowed, all-new apartment with a view of downtown – to reminiscing to anger, but as my mother said, this, too, shall pass.

What I’ll Miss

In Moving, Packing, Reuniting with Zoey on October 10, 2010 at 9:10 pm

My dachshund Zoey moved in with my dad on Oct. 16, 2009. Ironically enough, she’ll be moving in with me this Saturday on Oct. 16. Zoey lived with me for a few months, but my mom, who I had been living with for a year by then, no longer wanted to dog sit while I went to work.

I have lived with my mom and brother for two years, but it’s probably time for me to move out. I want to have my own kitchen, plus I’ll feel more grownup being in my own place. I moved home twice right after college while I was between jobs, but this time was for a longer haul given the uncertainty of possible layoffs where I worked.

Yesterday, I started packing, and I felt sentimental.

I’m going to miss my basement bedroom that feels totally closed off from the rest of the world with only a small window with two pillows on the ledge to block out the sunlight. I’m going to miss the time I had with my mother, spending time together on the weekends doing errands, getting dinner and going out to coffee. I will miss her hugs and just talking with her about my life and hers, as well as religion and politics, topics off limits at work and during most casual encounters.

I’m going to miss the house where I grew up and the neighborhood with the memories I find when I go on walks. I’m going to miss home-cooked food and sitting on the back porch when my dad does a barbecue during his visits.

As I begin to miss this place that I lived most of my years, I can pack up my memories with everything I’m putting into boxes and take this period of time with my family to my new place, my heart stronger knowing that I come from a home, not a house, a place, an address. I can have home in my heart wherever I go.