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!
I’ve been watching “The Handmaid’s Tale” on Hulu with equal parts fascination, fear and fury.
For those who don’t know the premise, it is based on the 1985 dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood. The former United States is now The Republic of Gilead. After extreme environmental devastation has left many women barren and men sterile, the new order steps in, sorting women into categories: young fertile women become Handmaids, some become Martha’s or maids, some are Aunts who are in charge of grooming the Handmaids for their new duties, while the rest are sent to work in the toxic camps where death is imminent. Cheery, so far, yes?
Handmaids are placed with a commander and his barren wife. Most of the commanders are sterile but that fact is no longer allowed in this society. (Dismissing of facts, sound familiar?) Only women are blamed for not being able to procreate. Their duty is to produce a child for the couple through The Ceremony which I find myself cringing through as I watch it.
One of the most disturbing aspects are the flashbacks which also greatly disturbed my 23-year-old daughter. In our current climate, setting the flashbacks in our time just makes the scenario seem not only possible but, at times, chillingly inevitable. Through the flashbacks we learn how women’s right were methodically stripped: firing them for their jobs, freezing their bank accounts so that only a husband or father could manage their money.
These are extreme actions that may, on the surface, feel completely unrealistic. We like to tell ourselves that would never happen here. But it already is. It comes down to how we value women and as a society we aren’t valued as much as men. We literally make less money for the same job just because are women. We are at the crux of a constant fight for control over our own bodies. We may be heading back to a time where our gender is considered a pre-existing condition and be charged more for our health insurance.
Beyond the issues of gender, another chilling scene was a brief flashback where men dressed in black with guns were throwing books and art into a fire. Why go after art? It is straight out of the dictator’s handbook. Go after the artists who use their voices to speak truth to power. Artists hold up a mirror to society—the good, the bad and the ugly. Once we see ourselves, we can’t unseen it. Therefore, it behooves a regime to not allow it to be seen or heard in the first place.
I’ve been watching as many artists struggle to find their voice in this new era of government where rights are threatened on an almost daily basis. Before the election, writer Julianna Baggott started a site inviting people to dedicate their no-Trump vote, sharing their stories about why they were not voting for him.
More than 600 American writers, including Stephen King, Dave Eggers, and Cheryl Strayed, penned an open letter against Trump.
Michael Moore reveals that he has been on a “creative tear” since last summer when he saw the inevitable train wreck coming at us. He encourages the use of satire and humor because it has been shown to get under the President’s extremely thin skin. What is a weakness in him becomes a strength for the resistance.
Many visual artists are turning to their work in this era of Trump to motivate action and educate the public on issues they are passionate about. As always, art is in the eyes of the beholder and there are consequences of expressing your views in such a public forum. For example, Ilma Gore’s painting of a nude Trump sporting a micropenis is currently on display at the Maddox gallery in London. She has been threatened not only by his lawyers but has received thousands of death and rape threats after posting the image online where it was shared over 260,000 times.
I find myself turning more to my writing than ever before. It soothes my anxiety, it helps me make sense of the chaos and it helps me discern what I think and how I feel within the chaos. Working on my novel five days week is often the one time of the day when I can block out the news and lose myself in another world. But I also find myself writing more political content in my journal, on social media and on my blog. I considered whether that would offend potential readers of my work and chose to use my voice. It is a gift I have and to not use it seems wrong. My audience is not huge but I have had people tell me over and over again how much they appreciate my words so I will keep sending them out into the world.
Ultimately, this election has been about waking up. Waking up to reality, to political action, to making myself heard whether through marches, town halls, calling and faxing my representatives or writing. Artists are awake to reality and they wake the rest of us up which is critical in these times.
I will leave you with the most chilling words from “The Handmaid’s Tale” so far:
Now I’m awake to the world. I was asleep before. That’s how we let it happen. When they slaughtered Congress, we didn’t wake up. When they blamed terrorists and suspended the Consitution, we didn’t wake up then, either. Nothing changes instantaneously. In a gradually heating bathtub, you’d be boiled to death before you knew it.
Let’s stay awake.
First quote to kick off a new year…
I am a huge fan of using Core Desired Feelings to set intentions for the new year rather than resolutions that are doomed to be broken within a month—if that. If you haven’t checked out “The Desire Map” by Danielle Laporte, I highly suggest you do. It’s a game changer.
This year my core desired feelings are: Awake, Vibrant and Courageous.
Awake: This is such a critical one for me that I will be doing a separate post about it soon. I will awaken to my strengths and weaknesses, to my light and my shadow.To what is happening in the world locally, statewide, nationwide and worldwide. No more looking the other way, assuming that I won’t be personally impacted in my own little privileged bubble. I will awaken too what is happening in my body,mind and emotional and energetic bodies at any given moment. I will awaken to what I desire, what I need, what I need to give and what I need to receive. No more walk-in around with my eyes closed, head turned or numbed out to my feeling say what Glennon Doyle Melton calls my “easy buttons.” For me that are wine, sugar, mindless social media, TV, shopping. Awaken to all of who I am, to all of the world has to offer.
Vibrant: Feeling healthy, energetic. Again, not hiding behind my easy buttons. Allowing myself to shine and sparkle and saying no to anything or anyone who tries to dim my brightness.
Courage: I love that courage has its root in the word for “heart.” To me, it mean living, acting and moving from the true space of my heart, Speaking up when I need to. Using my voice politically. Writing the truth as I know it, as I experience it. Being uncomfortable or afraid but staying present and taking action anyway—going to new places, making that phone call, having that difficult conversation with someone or myself. It means being what Brené Brown calls “wholehearted.”
I created the image at the top of my core desired feeling to remind me daily of how I want to feel, then every choice I make is filtered through those feelings. I put it as the screen saver on my phone, printed it out and hung it in my office, in my yoga room.
How do you enter the new year? How do you want to feel? Feel free to leave a comment or a link to your post.
Happy New Year!
Surprise Find(s) This Year.
So, here’s the thing I am realizing—I don’t often venture out of my reading comfort zone. I like the literary stories that I like, the authors I like, the inspiring spiritual stories I like, the memoirs I like, the books about writing that I like.
in 2017, I am going to expand my reading. I am going to venture out of the bubble of my comfort zone. Try genres I usually shy away from (maybe sci-fi, paranormal romance, historical non-fiction, classics) and find authors that aren’t on my amazon suggested list. It’s so easy to become isolated within the things we like, within a community that agrees with everything we believe. Now, more than ever, it is critical that we move beyond those spaces. Books are meant to crack open our world, expand our views but only if we let them, only if we invite them into our lives.
This coming year I am going to do just that.
Check out the challenge here.
To your Day / Life / Routines / Blog / Habits
I’ve made two big changes this year, both incredibly beneficial (so hopefully that is motivation to keep them going!).
The first is my “Don’t Break the Chain” challenge. I created 365 boxes on a dry erase board and put an “X” on each day that I wrote. I’ve managed to write every day this year. Now, some days it was just morning pages. Other days it was merely one sentence in my WIP. But, the point is, that I wrote something every single day of 2016… so far. Next year, my plan is to make it a little more challenging. Maybe I need to write 500 words on my WIP at least 5 days a week to earn that “X.”
The second thing I did (and it’s only been since November 9) is meditate every day. Most days it is for at least 15 minutes. 2 days it has been for 5 because the day was so crazy and I just needed to fit it in. I have resisted meditation for years. Even when one of my favorite writers and writing teachers, Natalie Goldberg, promised that meditation was the secret to writing, I still resisted. But now I am kind of in a groove. I feel like meditation creates space for all of my thoughts, all of my feelings. Nothing is being squashed or pushed aside. Meditation is holding sacred space for all for me. I find myself calmer, less reactive, more mindful, more focused…all great benefits for a writer.
What are some changes you’ve made this years or plan to make next year? I’d love to hear about them.
Check out the challenge here.
I’ve hit a planner dead-end lately. I used to use a simple datebook from One Spirit Book Club. For nine years, I ordered my new one in December. But then, they stopped producing one. Ever since then, I’ve been in planner limbo.
I’ve tried others but they are too much work. Or they don’t lay flat. Or they have each day laid out in 15-minute increment which I don’t need.
I end up feeling like Goldilocks and none of them is just right.
The calendar on my phone gets a lot of use. It took me a while to even start using it but now that I am, it’s working for me. I like the alerts I can set the day before and an hour before. I like that the address pops up, making it easy to get directions to where I need to go.
Mostly though, I’m an old-fashioned, handwritten to-do lis kind of gal. Just the act of writing something down on a list makes it 90% more possible that it will actually get done. I love the satisfaction of crossing things off my list. In fact, I will write something down that I have already done, just to be able to cross it off.
The last tool I use to keep me productive is my writing chart. I got the idea from Jerry Seinfeld who said to make an “X”each day you write (in his case, a joke) and pretty soon you’ll see them all add up and won’t want to break the chain. I created my own on a dry erase board and this year it has worked. My plan is to color in each triangle of the “X” over the next four years and, hopefully, have a five-year daily writing streak.
Check out the challenge here.
A blogging routine! Ha! I wish I had (or was consistent with) a blogging routine or some kind of structure. I am hoping this challenge will lead me to a routine. I find it annoying when I go to a blog I like and see that it hasn’t been updated for months or even years. I don’t want to be that person.
Ideally, my routine is a post on Mondays that usually sets the tone for what I am going to use as a theme in my yoga classes for the week. Tuesdays are “Quotable Tuesday” where I share a writing, yoga or other inspirational quote. I created a master template of the artwork in Adobe Illustrator then just change the quote each week. I find that I need to import it into Photoshop to resize it so I can then share it on Instagram.
For a while, I was doing a writing prompt each Wednesday from a photo or written prompt (which I keep pinned to a board on Pinterest) . The rules I gave myself were to just freewrite. No polishing but I could edit for spelling or grammar.
Fridays are for links that I want to share, called “Five on Friday.”
I tried to do something on the weekend but decided I just need to have the weekend off from posting. I use the weekend to write content and get it ready to post for the coming week and to read and comment on other blogs.
I don’t have a lot of knowledge about plug-ins but I did figure out how to add a giph yesterday to my post, so there’s that! Mostly, I feel like I blog by the seat of my pants, just figuring it out as I go. I am actually looking forward to reading other’s posts on this and maybe get some new ideas.
Check out the challenge here.