25 questions part II: Culture, ideas & paradigms

by Kristin on February 4, 2009

in Culture, ideas & paradigms

Photo by Ethan Lofton

This is the second installment of answers to the questions many of you asked in response to this post. These questions are grouped loosely within the category “Culture, ideas & paradigms.” Check back tomorrow for my answers to your questions about “Love, family and community.” And thanks again for making me smile and making me think. I wish we could actually sit down and have that cup of coffee together.

What was the first music you bought for yourself with your own money? In case you’re too embarrassed to admit yours, mine was the soundtrack to Xanadu. (Natalie Hart)

What could possibly be embarrassing about the early eighties? :) The first time I bought my own music with my own money, I rode my bike to the Ben Franklin five-and-dime and bought a 45 of Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.” I was probably in 5th grade. (By the way, I also owned and LOVED Xanadu, but it was a Christmas gift, not an allowance purchase.)

Is it better to be the editor with final authority and a free hand to re-shape a writer’s work, or to be the writer responsible for the creation of the work but subject to the demands of editors and publishers? (Jim Arehart)

I’d rather be the writer. When I’m wearing my editor’s hat, there’s a constant internal struggle. On one hand, I’m so acutely aware of how I would have written it differently; on the other hand, I have a strong desire to respect another writer’s voice and perspective. It’s a very fine—and therefore stressful—line to walk.

When did you first begin to write? (Cpond)

I have been compelled to write for as long as I can remember. I’ll have to ask my parents to share an anecdote about one of my earliest creative endeavors, but my own earliest memories of sitting down and crafting something descriptive and poetic revolve around writing letters to my grandparents, who lived far away in California (I wrote about that here). When I think about it now, letter writing was an exercise in observation, storytelling, character development, detailed description, and closure—all perfect practice for the type of life writing I do on my blog.

Oh, another important detail: My parents gave me a wonderful desk for my birthday one year, when I was in elementary school. It was the kind of desk with a door that swung down to create the writing surface. Inside the desk were numerous cubbies for letters, and shelves for stationery and journals. It was the sort of desk a girl could sit at and imagine herself as a “real” writer.

Have you ever taken family vacations anywhere besides Michigan? (Lorna)

The five of us have been a family for only a couple of years, so we’ve had a strong desire to catch up on some family tradition-building. In light of that, we’ve made renting a cottage on Lake Michigan near Saugatuck our vacation priority for three summers now. We’ve also enjoyed many weekend trips to Chicago and St. Louis, and in the next several years we’d love to take the girls to Portland, Washington D. C., and maybe even New Zealand, where my uncle and cousins live.

I would ask about freelancing and your work/home balance. Does it get easier as your kids get older? How do you “turn off work” at the end of the day? What advice do you have for other freelancers—what lessons have you learned? (Anne)

The first thing I learned about “working from home” is that I can work “physically” from home, but I can’t work in that mental and emotional space that I call home. In other words, the highly romanticized vision of getting two hours of solid work done while your toddler takes a two-hour nap isn’t worth getting attached to.

I have always done my work from home when my kids are away—at part-time daycare when they were little, and now at school and day camp in the summer. In order to truly get anything accomplished, I have to be able to mentally transform myself and my space into work mode. When I can’t do that transformation—because there are dishes to do or the air is otherwise full of maternal condensation—I pack up and go to a cafe.

Getting my expectations in order is also key for me. The moment I hope my kids will play nicely together after school so I can wrap up a project, I am sure to be disappointed and take out my frustration on them. Once in a while I can get some time-sensitive work done when they’re home, though, and then I can be pleasantly surprised and grateful. (I wrote more about freelancing in the post Collaborating alone.)

What color was your first bike? (Nick B.)

The first bike that was truly mine—not a hand-me-down from my brother—was a yellow banana seat bike with orange and white accents and streamers on the handle bars. It was a birthday present, and it came with a name, of course, written in script on the chain guard: Desert Rose.

What’s your favourite magazine? (Leona)

I have subscribed to The New Yorker since I graduated from college. By now, it’s so enmeshed in my sofa routines that it’s hard to imagine being able to relax in the same way with any other magazine. There are many reasons other than habit to read it, too. The quality of the writing is always impressive; the political and social commentary makes me think; the fiction and poetry move and entertain me; the long, long articles prove there’s something worth having a long attention span for; the cartoons make me laugh.

What are your favorite and least favorite things about growing up in a small Midwestern town like St. Johns? (Brent)

The best thing about growing up in a small town was the freedom. We were allowed to bike wherever we wanted—to friends’ houses, the pool, the tennis courts, the bakery for custard-filled long johns, the dime store to buy gum and records. Saturdays and summers were endless, and the whole town was ours.

The worst thing about growing up in a small Midwestern town was the lack of exposure to diversity. I think when you grow up in a place where most people are similar in many ways to most other people, it gives you a sense that there’s such a thing as “normal.” (And you all know how I feel about that.) Luckily, my parents were devoted to travel and cultural experiences. We spent a lot of time visiting a whole gamut of big cities—from San Francisco to Detroit—and we went to a church in downtown Lansing with a great ministry to the homeless.

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  • http://www.jungleoflife.com Lance

    Hi Kristin,

    Shortly out of college, I lived in Kalamzoo, MI – and we spent lots of time along the eastern lakeshore of Lake Michigan, from South Haven to Holland – right in the neck of the woods you visit!!! And I had an orange banana-seat bike. And…I grew up in s small, small town (in Wisconsin)! That’s all pretty wild!! Anyway, I love these posts where you’re answering questions about ‘you’ – it’s all very cool!

  • Rick

    First music purchase: Cassette tape, Def Leppard, Pyromania, October 1983, Crossroads Mall in Portage, Michigan.

  • Kristin

    Lance, it’s amazing how many things we have in common! My parents actually met in Kalamazoo, as students at WMU. Thanks for being interested in so many silly details about me. :)

    Rick, YES! That’s all I have to say. Oh, and “rock on.”