Jealousy. Envy. Not pleasant emotions. Personally, I don’t believe the two are interchangeable. To me, jealousy is about what somebody has, something that you want for yourself. Envy feels more inward. When I feel envy it’s because I want to be like that person. I want to have their qualities, not their things.
So, the other morning I realized I envy Dani Shapiro. I admire the hell out of her. I read all of her books. I listen to interviews with her. Every blog she posts feels like she is writing directly into my heart. So when envy came up I knew enough to pause instead of my usual MO when something uncomfortable arises which is to get the hell away from it. (Thank you yoga practice for teaching me to stay.)
Envy is an especially efficient mirror back to yourself if you stay with it. What you learn can act as a compass to your own truth north. I asked myself what I envied exactly.
~ All the books she’s written from memoir to novels to writing about writing
~ the way her days seems to be intimately woven around her writing life
~ she teaches meditation, yoga and writing retreats
~ she teaches in exotic locales like Positano, Italy
Then I ask myself what is exactly that I want in my life.
~ I want to explore different kinds of writing
I am taking notes now on a nonfiction book based on the class I created called Poses, Pens + Inner Peace while I continue to work on my novel and essays and blog posts.
~ I want to spend more portions of my days immersed in writing.
So, after meditating and a brief yoga practice to get all the kinks out my mind and body, I’ve begun taking my breakfast and tea straight to my desk where my first treat of the day is to dip back into Shapiro’s wonderful book on the creative life, “Still Writing.” From there I set a timer for 30 minutes and work on my novel. Then I do some mundane household task then come back to the novel or a blog post or some other piece of writing.
~ I already teach a class that combines yoga, mediation and writing.
It’s something I knew I wanted to do the minute I stepped on my mat. I feel the same energy on my mat that I feel in my writing—an energy that connects to deeper parts of myself. Holding space for a group as they release stories through yoga and writing and share with the class is an honor to me each and every week.
~ I want to expand Poses, Pens + Inner Peace beyond that one Thursday night class.
I envision taking this class as a retreat to different parts of the country, even abroad, bringing groups of women together in a sacred circle to heal, to reclaim parts of themselves they have lost, to celebrate their magnificent light.
So, really this is a thank you to Dani Shapiro. Thank you for living an authentic, beautiful, messy creative life that tugged at something in me and allowed to envision what kind of creative life I want for myself. Thank you for the example of your work ethic that I can admire and emulate to then take the steps to make that vision a reality. Thank you for the honesty of your words that pierce my heart. Thank you for sharing those words with the world.
I love lists so each Saturday my plan is to share a list of some sort, covering a range of topics
These are the top five books that started me on the writing path and that I turn to again and again.
- “Writing Down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg. This is the absolute first book that offered me a glimmer of recognition that perhaps I could write. Actually, that I must write.
- “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott She helped and continues to help me loosen the grip of perfectionism by taking it word by word, allowing myself to write shitty first drafts and writing what I can see through a 1-inch picture frame.
- “Ron Carlson Writes a Story” by Ron Carlson As he takes us meticulously through his process of writing one particular short story, Carlson reminds of the importance of doing the work, of staying in the room even when—especially when—I want leave.
- “The Writer’s Portable Mentor” by Priscilla Long This is a book about process and craft but it goes deep into all the layers of craft far beyond character, plot and setting. Never fails to get my pen moving again.
- “Still Writing” by Dani Shapiro I have read this gem at least three times, maybe four and am currently reading it each morning as I eat my breakfast and drink tea at my desk before plunging into my own writing. Her honest reflection of the writing life comforts me as I continue to show up to the page and to my own writing life.
What books illuminate the writer in you? Please share in the comments!
Each Friday I try to share five links that made me think, inspired me or I just found entertaining throughout the week.
- This whet my appetite for more international travel.
- Pretty sure I’ve had ALL these feelings.
- I love doing this kind of workout when I don’t have a lot of time.
- A great resource for vegan recipes. And these brownies look ah-may-zing!
- One of the best pieces I’ve read on the horror that descended on Charlottesville.
Each Thursday in honor of #TBT, I am going to feature a book that I truly love, that helped shape me as a writer, as a woman, as a human.
I sat at my desk this morning with some toast and a cup of tea and began reading this book again. It’s at least the third time, maybe even the fourth. With each re-reading, I underline new passages, make new notes in the margins and feel like I am in conversation with her. I pick this particular book up when I need tender yet tough guidance back to my writing self, back into a space of compassion yet dedication to the work, to the process. I love how she calls it a creative life. It’s holistic and permeates her days not just the time at her desk or on the computer. Every page, every blog post she writes, every interview she gives, I feel like she is speaking directly to me. As we begin to ease out of summer (my girls are back up at college) I needed a gentle yet firm nudge not only back to the page but back to living a writer’s life and she provides it once again.
“The writing life requires courage, patience, persistence, empathy, openness, and the ability to deal with rejection. It requires the willingness to be alone with oneself. To be gentle with oneself. To look at the world without blinders on. To observe and withstand what one sees. To be disciplined, and at the same time, take risks. To be willing to fail—not just once, but again and again, over the course of a lifetime.”
In my Poses, Pens + Inner Peace class that I teach (where we combine writing with mediation and yoga) we’ve been working through “Warrior Goddess Training” by Heatherash Amara. We finished it this past week with a writing exercise devoted to what she calls the big myth.
“Your big myth is the big picture for how and why your unique,precious Warrior Goddess light arrived own the planet…Pick a big myth that makes you glow. Forget sensible or practical or real. Make it big, magic medicine that you incarnated with.”
I loved this and wanted to share my big myth:
I come from the ancient stardust of comets taking flight across the universe. My tribe stand barefoot in a circle around a fire and watch the comet that is me meet the fire that is my life here on earth.
The stardust mingles with the flames and the earth and the voices of them chanting me into existence. Smoke swirls and rises as the women sway and dance around the fire until I stand fully formed in the sacred center of their circle, their skin glowing, hands clasped, eyes lighting up at my birth among them.
They each take a turn welcoming me into their sisterhood, their words like breadcrumbs on the path to rediscover my true self for once the circle is broken the knowledge of who I truly am and where I came from vanishes becoming a test for me to go out into the world and deep within myself to unearth that gift once again. Each barrier I encounter acting as a Guardian at the Gate, demanding to know how badly I want it.
I let their words seep into my skin, my breath, my bones, my heart…
Do not shrink to make others feel comfortable.
Take time for silence, time to be.
Listen more than you wait for your turn to speak.
Sing and dance and laugh and play. Never be afraid of looking foolish or silly. Embrace joy.
Guard your heart fiercely but hold it lightly.
Speak your truth to others and to yourself.
Keep the door open.
Tread lightly yet with purpose.
I cherish their words, knowing they are my compass home.