Monday, January 23, 2017

A Mid-Winter Update

One of my goals for this year is to write more, and I haven’t been very good about keeping up with that.  (Though I'm rocking my other goals - high five!)  I really love writing – “writer” was one of the first archetypes/identities that attached itself to me.  However, the older I get, the busier I am, and the more my life takes me in other directions.  (other awesome directions, to be fair!)

raw DATA!
There are folks in my past who know me as things like WRITER and BISEXUAL and FEMINIST, but since coming to North Carolina nearly ten years ago, other labels have been attached to me – THERAPIST is one that’s been clinging strong these days, but I also enjoy PRIESTESS and COMMUNITY ORGANIZER and FRIEND.

All of these things are great, and I’m very proud of them.  But in the end, I’m just Amanda, and Amanda is a writer, first and foremost.  My bachelor’s degree is in journalism, and I’ve been writing fiction since I was in elementary school.  I’ve participated in National Novel Writer’s Month half a dozen times or more over the years, and I have a file cabinet full of old stories and notes for stories, and a computer and external hard drive filled with even more.

Writing makes other aspects of my life way easier – it was a savior in graduate school since I could pop out papers relatively easily.  I can write rituals semi-quickly, as well as blog posts and other copy for both Gaia’s Circle and TAPA.  Progress notes and assessments are pretty easy to me, so it's important for me to remember that in one way or another, I write all the time.  But, it’s not the same.  I’d like to be writing fiction, to be honest, or if not fiction, I’d like to be writing thought-provoking blog posts and articles.  But, sigh, life gets in the way I suppose.

I listen to a lot of podcasts, and one of the most recent social work podcasts I had on was about research.  The interview was with a guy who actually wrote one of the books I used in graduate school, and it was a good interview.  I realized that I’ll probably never go back to school or go on to get my PhD because I hate research.  Not a fan at all!  So instead my plan is to get as many bad-ass certifications and licenses as I can so I can have an alphabet soup behind my name.  (So far I have MSW and LCSW-A, with a lovely little Rev. right in front!). 

Anyway, while listening to this podcast I was thinking about my own qualifications.  If I were to go back to school, if I were to write research articles, if I were to do research, what would I focus on?  My mind cycled through stuff a bit, then settled onto the other thing in my life I have attained at least some mastery and knowledge over – Paganism and the occult.  For a long time I was down on myself for wasting my 20s, but I realized recently that that time was not a waste at all.  I spent ages 21 – 28 or so focusing, intently, on Paganism, new age stuff, witchcraft, the occult.  I have a huge generalist knowledge, and also mastery over many of the basics.  I’m a group leader, a community organizer, a minister, a priestess, a sibyl, a Space Witch, and so many other things.  And anyway, the whole reason why I went to graduate school was so I could better serve my community as a Pagan clergy-person. 

So I started thinking about ways I have done that – groups, rituals, networking, workshops, and more.  And then I began to recall places where my social work expertise has intersected with Paganism (which happens more and more as I dive deeper into pro-bono work and pastoral counseling.)  And then I remembered when I was invited to speak at Duke, how excited I was, and how proud.  Back in 2015 I was invited by the chaplain at Duke University Hospital to present on Paganism and Pagan’s experience with healthcare.  It was a hard presentation to put together because I had so much to talk about.  At the time I was working on my Cosmic Love blog for Pagan Square, and had posted a survey to get some feedback from the actual community about Paganism and healthcare.  Much to my amazement, I received over 700 responses, which is great for any research study (let alone a 45-minute presentation at a hospital.)  I always told myself that I’d do something with all of that data (beautiful, beautiful data.)  But it’s been two years, and it’s just been sitting there.  But now it is time.

I want to take the next step in my Paganism, especially in regards to my community leadership and ministerial duties.  I also want to move forward in my career as a professional social worker, and this talk at Duke was a place where those roles beautifully intersected.  Combined with my “interest” in research, and my desire to write more… plus, I need to admit that I am more than qualified to write on this subject, that’s the whole reason why I went back to school!

So, all of that said (thanks for sitting through my little pre-amble) I’m working on a book!  I’m taking my data from the survey I did for the talk at Duke, and I’m turning that into a book.  My goal is to have the data analyzed by this summer (six month mark), present on the data at the Mystic South Conference in Atlanta (if they accept my proposal!  I'll know in March, fingers crossed), and then spend the rest of the year writing the actual book.  (Don’t worry, I have plenty of notes and outlines already!)

During the Druid’s Saturnalia ritual, before Gods and Family, I vowed to write this book this year.  Now, anyone who knows me well knows that I don’t take vows lightly at all, as in, I pretty much refuse to make them.  But it spoke to me in that moment, and I did it.  I vowed to write this book this year, so it would be ready by winter 2018 to be submitted for publication.  I have a rough timeline, and that will become more solid as I dive deeper into this project, learn more about the data, and the final project becomes more clear.

I’ve been outlining a ton, doing some brainstorming, but this weekend I finally sat down and started working towards quantifying some of my data.  It’s fun, and exciting, and I’m getting all sorts of ideas (not just looking at averages, but also at correlations, too!  Yay, statistics!).  Re-learning the statistics will be a bit challenging for me, and I need to make a point to dive into some of the academic literature, but overall, I’m very excited.  I’m proud to have a long-term project, and I know that I’m in a very good position to make this happen.

Friends!  Keep me honest.  Ask about my book, ask about the research, ask about the writing.  I’m going to try to post more in this blog to help keep me honest, but also to generate some reports and discussion about the results I’m finding.  I really, really feel like I have a strong chance at publication with this piece, and I thinking having an active blog will help with that, too.

So… that’s my mid-winter report!  A vow made before Gods, and Friends, and Family, and now you, dear reader.  Thanks for reading, and thanks for the support.  I look forward to sharing this work with you in the weeks to come!

And while you're at it, be sure to read about my experience speaking at Duke!

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