30 WYA Challenge: The 1 Thing I Didn’t Do Taught Me the Most

Photo found on Pinterest via travimp.com.

Photo found on Pinterest via travimp.com.

I recently participated in the 30-Day Write Yourself Alive Challenge with Andrea Balt and Tyler Knott Gregson. I connected with so many amazing writers from around the globe. I connected with my words, my stories, my Self.

I showed up, I did the prompts, I put my words out there.

The one thing I didn’t do was show up everyday.

The one thing I didn’t do was give my writing top priority over everything else: yoga, meditation, dirty dishes, laundry, TV, internet.

Some days I didn’t write at all. Other days I wrote pages and pages, catching up by doing five, six or seven prompts in one sitting. And that was great—riding that energy that had built up over days, feeling those words simmering just below the surface of my skin, aching to find a way out. It’s fun to surf that wave of creative energy.

It’s fun but it’s not sustainable.

It’s fun but it is not dependable.

What is dependable is structure, routine, consistency.

Not fun words, are they?

But it is what I need. What my creative process needs. I’d rather sit down every day, not knowing what comes next, not knowing if I will eek out a few meager sentences or if pages will spill out of my pen than wait for the words to build up until they can’t be contained anymore.

So, for the next 7 days I am committing to show up each day. To work on my current WIP each and every day for seven days. To build up that muscle of dedication and consistency.

To have fun within the structure of discipline.

How about you? Are you an every day writer or does more sporadic work for you? I love hearing about your process. Please share.

Five on Friday

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1. Save yourself the time it would take to read Moby Dick and read David Ebenbach’s interview with Ishmael.

2. What happened when one writer committed herself to the 30 Day Write Yourself Alive challenge with Andrea Balt and Tyler Knott Gregson.

3. Margaret Atwood has a new book coming out this year.

4. My new favorite TV show.

5. Add to your TBR pile with these spring releases.

Day 13 of #WriteYourselfAlive Challenge

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(A short piece based on 3 random photos in my instagram feed)
A jumble of letters lay on your desk. Your baby rests at your feet, smiling and snug in her bouncy seat, just content to gaze up at you. But you break the gaze and it feels like a tiny piece of your heart snagged on the moment. That moment of turning away from her to your desk. From her to yourself.

Your palms press into the smooth wood. Sitting here feels foreign, like you don’t quite fit here anymore. Not like you used to.

Not like when you could stay up until 2 AM because the words were just spilling out of you and who would walk away from that for mere sleep?

But now.

Now sleep is precious. You hoard moments of sleep like a vagrant lost in the depths of the desert hoards drops of water.

Now you gladly trade words for sleep.

No wonder you no longer fit here.

You swipe up a handful of the letters, shaking them in your palm like dice, feeling and hearing the solid yet delicate clink of ceramic edges gently colliding. Maybe if you shake long enough actual words will emerge from the letters.

Maybe a whole story will tumble onto the desk like the elusive Yahtzee you played as a kid.

The misshapen cubes fall out of your hand, landing on the desk, scattering into an incoherent pattern. No story. No words. Just random letters adding up to nothing.

You glance down at your daughter and see her eyes have closed. She is asleep. You know you should follow the rule of new motherhood and sleep when she does. But rolling those dice in your hands has left your palms itchy. That familiar twitching of your blood and cells beneath your skin tugs at you to show up to the page. You remember it doesn’t matter what you write at this point. Just write. Just show up and who knows where you’ll end up.

Maybe in the skin of an old woman sitting on a bench in the grocery store next to the mechanical horse.

Maybe you’ll end up in a memory of your grandma knitting a pair of slippers with pom-poms that bounced off the front of your foot with each step.

Or maybe you’ll end up on a boat with children, gliding through space, parting the stars with the bow, leaving a swath of stardust in its wake.

You never know where you’ll end up unless you show up.

You pick up a pen.

You open a notebook.

You begin.

She Shows Up.

Image found on Pinterest via Free People Blog.

Image found on Pinterest via Free People Blog.

The snow slants to the frozen earth outside her window.

A wind comes and disrupts the precision with which the snow descends, scattering those individual particles of frozen atmospheric water vapor frozen awry, off the path.

Her path is on the snowy white of the paper beneath her hand. Or the glaring white of the screen on her desktop. Both waiting to be filled with the “breathings of her heart.”

They don’t care about the quality of the words, of the sentences, of the stories. They only wait for the presence of the words, sentences and stories she needs to tell in any given moment.

Sitting at her desk, her dog curled up behind her, the silence broken only by the soft hum of the space heater at her feet, she writes.

She claims this time as her own.

Claims the space as her own.

The space around her.

The space within her.

She claims the page.

The words.

She claims it all.

But mostly she claims herself as a writer.

And don’t ask if you can buy her books on amazon or find them in the library as if having her words bound and packaged and marketed for human consumption is the only proof available to back up such an audacious claim.

That kind of question diminishes her path.

Diminishes her claim.

And she won’t be diminished.

Each time she shows up to the page, she stakes her claim on this path of writing.

Of language.

Of stories.

The path is slanted like the snow outside her window.

It is easily blown off course.

It is filled with mud

And much

And potholes

And vast swaths of desert

And frozen tundra.

But she shows up.

Not for the so-called validation of having a book published but

because she must.

If she doesn’t show up

to the page,

she doesn’t show up

to her

Self.

This was written in response to Day 11 of the #WriteYourselfAlive challenge.

Books Read in January

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“Yes Please” by Amy Poehler

I like hard work and I don’t like pretending things are perfect.

I’m a fan of any book that starts with a preface titled: Writing is Hard.

I’m even more of a fan when that book is written by Amy Poehler.

I mean, I’ve always liked her. Loved her on SNL. Thought she and Tina Fey killed it on Weekend Update. And I think they should host every award show from now until the end of time.

But after reading her book, I wanna be her BFF. She’s funny, smart as hell, sassy, real, takes no shit, tells it like it is.

And she admits writing is hard. Because it is.

I love the structure of her book. Or maybe it’s an anti-structure. It’s not a straight up memoir. It’s a collection of essays, thoughts, lists, letters, and haiku. Yep, haiku like this:

We know it’s Botox

And not your vegan diet

Nice try, Margaret

She cracks me up.

We hear about her life from childhood to her improve days.

We hear behind the scenes stuff from her time at SNL especially the memorable Sarah Palin rap.

We hear about her marriage, divorce and the mature stable relationship they’ve managed to maintain for the sake of their kids.

We hear about her kids and being a mom.

She tells us her rules for sex for men and women.

She tells us about her friendship with Tina Fey.

What it’s like being a woman in comedy.

We hear it all.

And I still wanted more.

A sentence I love: It takes years as a woman to unlearn what you have been taught to be sorry for.

The Good Sister cover

“The Good Sister” a YA novel by Jamie Kain

It’s strange how someone you never knew and will never know can change the course of your life forever.

The three Kinsey sisters grew up with hippie parents and without many rules. When, Sarah, the good sister, is lost in a mysterious accident the other two sisters Asha and Rachel are left even more adrift than before Sarah’s death. They grieve alone, pushing each other’s buttons as sisters do leaving themselves isolated without the weight of Sarah’s presence to anchor them.

The story is told in alternating chapters of each sister’s voice, including Sarah who has died and is trying to make sense of her life and her death.

Each sister has a unique voice and story and they weave together to finally discover the truth behind Sarah’s life and death.

A sentence I love: Everything about my life felt stolen.

Her Days.

Photo: Patty via Flickr

Photo: Patty via Flickr

Day 2 of the Write Yourself Alive Challenge.

Narrate a day in your life as the main character of an autobiographical novel.

She is getting used to the silent days. So much silence, it is like another presence, sharing space with her. What she wouldn’t have given for that peace and quiet when her kids were little and the only quiet time she had was in the shower or while she slept. But even then, even in those moments, the quiet was punctured by this underlying waiting, this awareness of others in the house, others who could need her at any moment.

She lived her life on guard.

Now, for the most part of most days, she is in the house alone. When her husband travels, the only time she hears her own voice is when she talks to her dog. She lavishes her with language, as much for the dog and for herself.

She tells herself that all that silence feeds her writing. And it does, When she lets it. Some days though she hides from it. Dodging the silence all day long by calling people, mindless meandering across the internet, binge watching a show on Hulu, pouring the glass of wine a little earlier than normal. Those days, the silence feels like a call to a duel, a duel she has no energy to engage in.

Other days, she embraces the silence, the solitude. She starts the day with meditation, that thing she has resisted for so many years but now feels familiar. Not always comfortable but definitely familiar. A candle glows on her altar, the sweet sugary scent reminding her of a bakery first thing in the morning. Then she goes to her desk and opens a notebook to fill three pages with the ramblings of her mind, no product in mind, just pure process of connecting pen to paper, heart to mind. Then it’s over to the computer where she dismantles the internet through Freedom for 45 minutes and manages to eek out at least 500 words on her novel.

Those days are good days. Those days she gives her writing and silence the attention and priority they deserve.

She’s learning to have compassion for all of her days. Trying not to label them as good or bad. Trying not to label herself as good or bad. Learning there are days when she is present and days when she is not.

And they are just days.

Her precious days.

Then she remembers the Annie Dillard quote:

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

Her life has been made up and is made up of days, some loud and crowded and pulsing with other’s needs and some quiet and subdued and just aching for her to look at her own needs. But they are all her days making up her life, a life that she tries to rise up and meet every single morning the best she can, honoring the ebb and flow of moods, energy, attention, awareness.

Honoring her self.

Honoring her wild and precious days.

Honoring her one wild and precious life.