1. I can’t get enough of Dani Shapiro lately. Here’s an interview in which she gives us a new perspective on self-doubt in writers.
2. Really looking forward to Gretchen Rubin’s new book on habits.
3. Finding and creating poems within a page of text is a fun way to play with words. maybe use it as a warm-up before the work begins.
4. This may be my favorite essay ever on having the heart of a writer. I could quote the entire piece but here’s one that really spoke to me: “We occupy a kind of border country, focused on the details that speak to us. Ask those who marry us, or those who don’t: we’re too intensely involved, yet never quite present. Perhaps we’re difficult to live with as adults, but often we were precocious, overly-responsible children — not in what we accomplished, necessarily, but in what we remembered, in the emotional burdens we took on.” (Italics are mine.)
5. I kinda fell in love with this print as soon as I saw it. Good thing Christmas is coming up:)
Enjoy your weekend!
I’ve been thinking a lot about habits lately. I recently finished a 21-Day Cleanse with a group from my yoga studio where we omitted all animal products, gluten, sugar, caffeine and alcohol. I happened to get majorly sick smack in the middle of it so that contributed to the eight pounds I lost. And I admit, I started off doing it for the weight loss possibility but it ended up being more about becoming aware of my habits. Habits like snacking while I make lunch or dinner, “needing” a piece of chocolate after a meal, having that glass or two of wine at the end of the day. Once I noticed these habits then it became about figuring out what feelings were hiding under the habits and you know, feeling them. Crabby, bored, tired, frustrated? Then it was about replacing it with something else. I think that was the key that helped me stay on it for the full 21 days and I still don’t feel the need to go binge on chocolate or wine. Sure, I gave up a lot of things, but I also tried out many new recipes and the food was real, filling and delicious. Many of my replacements involved tea. Instead of wine I’d have a cup of Bedtime Tea. Instead of snacking while I cooked, I had a cup of Lemon Ginger tea. But it wasn’t just about replacing wine with tea. More importantly, the tea didn’t numb me or disconnect me. Instead, it gave me moments to be really present to my life, to my Self.
So, these are all habits around food but I am also looking at other habits and hoping to bring the same kind of awareness to them and find more nurturing replacements. Watching TV while I eat? Checking Facebook way too often? Most of my bad habits are really just ways I distract myself. From what is the big question, right? That’s what I hope to uncover. And instead of labeling habits “good” or “bad” I am trying something new. In fact, I used this whole theme when I taught my yoga and journaling class, “Write Into Yoga” earlier this week. I love the idea of identifying your top five values then listing habits that move you toward living those values, those that lead you away from them and future habits that you want to implement that will help you live the values you chose. For example, if I value health I might include practicing yoga in the first column, procrastinating on scheduling my physical in the second and incorporating more cardio into my week in the third. With that in front of me, I see what works, what doesn’t so I can make a change and what other habits I can welcome into my days. As Annie Dillard says, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” How do you want to spend yours?
I used to ask for homework in grade school before they actually gave homework. I think I drove my teachers a little crazy. I just loved going home and doing the work instead of in the classroom. I also think that part of it was the recognition from the teachers. Getting that proverbial gold star from outside myself. Somebody else recognizing my hard work. As an adult and a writer I have to learn to give myself the gold stars, to recognize my own hard work and reward myself for the process of showing up, not merely the finished product.
How about you? How do recognize your own hard work?
1. Motivation to finish your novel.
2. Tips to boost your creativity
3. Using structure to loosen up. (I am a big believer in this.)
4. Read about this in “O Magazine.” Looks intriguing.
5. I could totally relate to this stay-at-home mom’s experience. Less judgment, more empathy would go a long way in general and among women specifically.
1. Here’s an interesting opportunity for any novelists under contract out there.
2. New Year’s Resolutions in October? Apparently so.
3. Jonathan Safran Foer on writing and the creative process.
4. This is disturbing. Foods you think are healthy or healthy-ish but actually aren’t.
5. Joss Whedon on how to be prolific.
I recently burned twenty plus years worth of old notebooks and journals.
Wow. Did I really write that? Did I really do that?
Yes to both. It seems almost a sacrilegious confession for a writer to make. How could I destroy all those pages? All those words? All that energy?
All that energy. There it was. That was why. All those pages stacked in my closet, oozing all these tedious, negative, judgmental thoughts. As a writer, I believe words have power. So why was I keeping all those words where I beat myself up, judged myself, berated myself? I used to think that maybe, someday, if I became a “famous writer”, those notebooks might be of interest to somebody. Then I realized that I never wanted anybody to read them. Hell, I didn’t even read them. Ever. So back to the original question, why was I keeping them? Attachment? To what? My past. Who I used to be.
Letting go of anything is hard. A piece of clothing. Books. Beliefs. Habits. A grudge. Letting go of all those pieces of me- that would be really hard, right? It wasn’t. But it wasn’t easy either. I’d watch a page turn brown around the edges, the exact color of a perfectly roasted marshmallow, then black before the flames flared turning it to ash. I’d be reading some of the words as they burned and part of me would think, “Wait! Stop! Not that page. Not that sentence.” Then I’d sit back and watch it disappear and this feeling of calm settled over me. A lightness of Spirit. A faith that more words would come. Trust that I was not the same person now who wrote those words five, ten, twenty years ago.
It took me two afternoons to finish the job. One of the best lessons from the experience came from the actual logistics of burning the pages. Just when I thought the fire was out, the pile of papers stagnant, all I had to do was stoke it, poke it, rustle it a bit and every time, every single time, the flames burst back to life. Just like any creative endeavor. No matter how stuck I get, how stagnant a project seems, all I need to do is stoke it with some fresh movement, fresh air to breathe life back into it.
Once I was done, I smudged my writing space and especially the closet where the notebooks had lived for so long, giving thanks, letting go of what no longer serves me, inviting in what serves me now. While a part of me is sad at losing those pieces of me, mostly I am liberated. I feel I have opened up all this new space in and around me, space for new words, new work, new stories, new habits. In releasing the echoes of who I used to be, I welcome who I am now, in this moment and look forward to who I will be in the next moment, next week, next year and decades to come.
1. This is powerful and disturbing and sad and true and she is amazing for putting it into words.
2. I downloaded this and hopefully it will inspire me to keep blogging on a regular-ish basis.
3. A great interview with claire Messud.
4. Stephen King on creative sleep.
5. Just finished reading her new book, “Still Writing” and LOVED it.
I’ve had to rethink this blog. Obviously, I haven’t been as engaged lately with so much going on this year, so I had to ask myself some questions:
Do I still even want to blog? Yes.
Do I want it to be strictly about writing? No.
Do I want to create an entirely separate blog? No.
On my four-mile walk around the lake this morning, listening to the awesome Brené Brown, I realized that I no longer feel connected to the theme and title of my old blog, No Credentials Necessary. It felt like I was tying myself to scarcity, what I didn’t have, namely a few letters to go behind my name. I decided I didn’t want a lack of something to be my focus. So, I began thinking about what I do have in my life: writing, reading, art, yoga not to mention family and friends. And what connects all of these things is being present, and being present is a practice, an art. Aha…the art of practice.
So, here I am. A new focus, a new direction. It’s where I am now and that is something I am trying to honor daily, even moment by moment. It’s a practice, for sure. And it’s practice to stay open to what is possible, to all that is possible.