The Company of other Writers.

Write Smart, Write Happy

Today, I find myself sitting at the bookstore cafe with a grande soy chai, notebook and laptop open. Not an unusual scenario.

What is unusual, these days, is for me to be drawn to a book on writing. A book that promises to help me “become a more productive, resilient, and successful writer.”

Now, I used to devour these books daily when I first knew I wanted to write. It was how I taught myself to write. I read books on writing fiction, writing essays, writing from prompts, writing practice, the writing life, writing goals. You name it, I bought it and read it. What I didn’t do was write very much.

Oh, I’d write Morning Pages and I filled notebooks with writing practice gleaned from Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down the Bones.” I loved how she made writing so much more accessible by declaring that just as an athlete practiced drills or a pianist practiced scales, a writer also needed to practice. It bought writing back from that lofty pedestal I had placed it on. It took the fear out of it by calling it practice.

I hunkered down into my writing practice for years, filling notebook upon notebook. The problem was, I got stuck in practicing. Don’t get me wrong. It served me well. I learned to put pen to page and write under pretty much any circumstance. I learned how to make space and time for writing in the life I was currently living ( a stay-at-home mom with young children) instead of waiting for the perfect time. I learned to write past my censor.

But I didn’t use what I had learned to actually get in the game of writing. When I finally began writing stories, taking classes and workshops, that’s where the bulk of my learning took place. Writing and finishing stories taught me how to write.

I’ve written dozens of short stories, some published, some not. I have a completed novel-in-stories (looking for an agent). I am well into my second novel, about 6o,000 words into the first book of a YA fantasy trilogy and am beginning to gather notes for a memoir on writing and yoga.

So, with all that writing under my belt, why  do I find myself drawn to this particular book today?

Because it’s a process.

Because I am always a student.

Because I am not afraid to be a beginner.

Because of course I want to be a more productive, resilient and successful writer.

Because now I know that I can read a book like this but, more importantly, I know I have to follow through with action: writing, querying, submitting, reading, setting goals and meeting those goals.

I know there are no quick fixes or shortcuts to being a writer.

I know that merely reading about becoming a successful writer is not enough but I am humble enough to be open to advice from others along the path.

I know that I am willing to put in the hard work necessary. And these kinds of books feel like my own personal cheerleading squad, telling me I can do it. Telling me that I am not alone.

Telling me that it’s okay, that we can walk this path together.

I am grateful for their company.

Advertisements

Why is my Writing a Gift to the World?

Sark writing

Knowing that I was not “the only one having human experiences” is what made me fall in love with reading. Later, it’s what made me fall in love with writing.

Why I write, tends to evolve. But at the core, the reason why I write is because I find forgiveness, courage, realizations and remembering. I hope that my writing offers that to those who read it as well.

Each time I put my pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard, whether I am working on fiction or a post for this blog, I never quite know what will come out. I don’t know what I will discover, realize, remember. And that is what makes it so exciting.

Not knowing used to scare me. It used to keep me from showing up to the page. I’d think,”Shit, I just wrote my character into a corner and I have zero idea of what happens next.”

Now, I find myself curious. And that curiosity gets me to the page.

While I hope my words my words resonate with others, that they help them find a way into forgiveness or courage, realizations or remembering, the real gift of my writing is that it allows me to show up in the world authentic and beautifully flawed. My writing keeps me tethered to all aspects of myself—the parts I love and the parts that shame me. Writing gives me no place to hide and as I learn to have compassion for all those parts, that compassion spills out into the world.

May that be my gift to the world.

The Stories We Carry.

57b738166dbd93b57d72a925b553f73b

Image found via Pinterest.

Not only do we carry our stories, we are made of them.

We carry the stories of love and loss, birth and death, joy and grief.

We carry the stories of pain—our own physical, emotional and spiritual pain, the pain of our loved ones, the pain of the world.

We carry stories of who we are, who we think we are, who we want to be.

How do you introduce yourself ? What story do you offer to reveal who you are?

Hi, I’m Kim and I’m a yoga teacher.

I’m a writer.

I’m a mother.

I’ve been married for thirty years.

I am a woman writing herself home with every word that spills from her heart. 

Each version tells a different story. They are all true.

What stories to you tell yourself about your body? About your weight? Back pain?Leg pain? Heart? Do you carry the story that the women in your family all deal with hip pain? Or that heart disease runs in your family?

In Tim O’Brien’s story “The Things They Carried,” each character carries physical items such as boots, rations, weapons, a rain poncho as well as grief, love and loss. Each item, each collection of items reveal a story. A story each character carries.

I’ve always been fascinated by the theory of cellular memory. I remember reading once about a transplant patient who suddenly had cravings for beer and chicken McNuggets and it turned out that was a favorite combo of the donor.

So, if we can carry our likes and dislikes in our cells, why not emotional stories  or ancestral memories?

Some of our stories serve us, others do not. Most healing modalities from counseling and psychotherapy to yoga, cranial sacral and shamanism are ultimately about unearthing those stories. Keeping the ones we need, releasing the ones we don’t.

Through decades of writing and years of yoga and meditation, I have become more conscious of my own stories. The layers and layers of stories I have wrapped myself in are slowly revealed and released. Each time I cry in yoga, it is a story rising to the surface, a story that I’ve carried in my body, ready to be surrendered.

Every story released creates space for the stories that lift me up, that light me up, connecting me with my past, present and future, connecting me with the universe of stories within and around each of us.

Sticking with a Morning Routine.

good morning

Image found via Pinterest.

I’ve always struggled sticking with things.

I never played an instrument so didn’t have that structure of practice to fall back on.

I’ve been great at starting things, then letting them fall away out of boredom or frustration or because I didn’t know what came next.

Writing used to be that way for me.

I’d write for days and days at a stretch then I’d just stop. Picking up the pen after each day had passed got progressively harder and harder.

But now I’ve written something every single day since January 1, 2016. That discipline of showing up has carried over into other parts of my life.

I now have a morning routine that stays pretty consistent:

~ splash cold water on my face

~ scrape my tongue

~ drink a glass of water

~ meditate

~ my own yoga practice which consists of a variety of poses and exercises gleaned from classes, physical therapy and videos designed to realign the hips

That is how I start most mornings. Then I weave in healthy meals, writing Morning Pages, working on my WIP, posting here, taking long walks with my dog, taking a yoga class, reading, prepping to teach 8 classes a week.

The structure of showing up each day to write no matter what my mood has had a huge impact on my life. Sticking with this morning routine stems from that but it also comes from the fact that I just feel better when I treat myself well. When I take care of me. (It’s not just a hashtag.)

I’ve played with this routine, adding new things in (pelvic reset), letting other things go (pranayama). After all, there are only so many hours in a day. But what allows me to keep showing up to myself is the fact that it feels good. I feel better. I have more energy, I am more focused, I handle stress better and I sleep better so it is easier to get up the next morning and make choices that nourish me.

What about you? Do you have a morning routine that you follow? What does it include? I’d love to hear.

 

Journals: Evidence of a Life.

journals

Image found via Pinterest.

A friend recently texted me that this journaling stuff is powerful.

Oh, I’m aware.

I’ve seen it in my own stacks of notebooks, accumulated over decades, page by page, word by word.

I see it in the students who show up each week to my Poses, Pens + Inner Peace class, sharing their stories, sharing their hearts.

Writing in a journal can seem like navel-gazing. Ruminating on me, me, me. What I think. What I want. What makes me sad, angry, anxious.

Some days my pages bore the hell out of me, filled with the minutiae of my life. Some days writing feels like releasing a pressure valve allowing me to breathe again. Some days I have huge revelations.

But the power doesn’t come only from the huge revelations.

The power comes from the courage to show up to all aspects of my life. Every struggle, every joy, every mundane detail of my life, every dark thought making its way into the light.

The power comes from showing up to my life, exploring it, skimming the surface and diving deep.

All those pages, all those notebooks are evidence of a life.

A life lived.

A life examined.

A life cherished.

the unexamined life

Image found via Pinterest.

 

 

Poetry: A Path into Wonder.

Poetry month

April is National Poetry Month.

I love seeing what poems have touched people’s hearts as they share them on-line.

I love that we take a month to celebrate poets and how they see the world, how they allow us to see the world a little more clearly, a little more deeply.

I’ve had a complicated relationship with poetry. I resented that I didn’t always understand it. I resented being told what it meant. I resented being told that how I interpreted it was “wrong.”

How could I be wrong? These words touched me and like a tuning fork, reverberated within me. How could that be wrong?

I remember the first time I was drawn back to poetry as an adult. I was out of school so it wasn’t for an assignment. It was out of curiosity, out of joy. I was reading Natalie Goldberg and she shared coming across a book of poetry by Erica Jong about vegetables. Eggplant, I think. And she thought, “You can write poetry about eggplant?”

That was my thought, too.

I thought poetry had to be obscure and about serious things like “death.”

I started to dip my toe back into the pool of poetry. I remember reading a poem by Marge Piercy in her book, “My Mother’s Body.” It is called “Six Underrated Pleasures” where she writes a series of poems about:

  1. Folding sheets
  2. Picking pole beans
  3. Taking a hot bath
  4. Sleeping with cats
  5. Planting bulbs
  6. Canning

Wait. Poetry could be be about simple pleasures? It could be about folding a sheet?

Of course it could. Poetry is a path deep into the moment, not unlike yoga. Which is probably why I usually read a poem at the end of every yoga class I teach.

Poets know how to be present.

I am dawn to poetry that seems like it is about something mundane, like folding a sheet, or watching a grasshopper but then it veers off and I fall into this abyss of wonder.

That is what poetry is for me. A path into wonder.

It allows me to see the world with fresh eyes and an open heart, flinging me out into the beauty of an ordinary moment.

The Summer Day

Image found via Pinterest.

 

Saying Yes = Taking Up Space.

take up space

An aunt once said to my mom that I shouldn’t be going to the movies alone in the middle of the day. That there was always housework to do. My mom totally defended me, saying that I worked hard and deserved to take time for myself.

I felt judged and shamed. This came to me because of the struggle to say yes I wrote about recently. Sure, it’s hard to say yes usually because of fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of failure. Fear of (fill in the blank yourself).

But there’s this other, insidious reason I struggle to say yes.

Saying yes means taking up space in the world.

Saying yes means claiming my space in the world.

Saying yes means I think I deserve something that I desire, for myself.

It’s okay if we say yes to others. We aren’t questioned or judged if we say yes to being PTA president or making brownies for the bake sale or watching a friend’s baby. When we say yes to helping others we are a good person. When we say yes to ourselves, well…that’s selfish, right?

Women are taught to be nice which usually means saying yes even if we want to say no. We don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. We are taught to stay small literally (hello diet industry) and figuratively.

Hillary Clinton was extremely popular in polls as First Lady, Secretary of State and Senator. But only after she had achieved those positions. When she declared that she wanted those positions, her popularity plunged. How dare a woman want something for herself? How dare she want power? How dare she take up more space than we are comfortable with?

I am 53 years old and still struggling with this. It’s getting (a little) easier. Just being aware of this tendency opens my world up a little more

I’m learning to say yes more more often, not out of obligation but because it is what I want, whether it’s a new adventure or a movie in the middle of the day.

I’m finally beginning to believe that the world is big enough to hold all of me.

 

Mending the Broken World.

let your light shine

The world feels broken.

I know it’s seemed broken before. 9/11. Iraq. Vietnam. Korea. WWII. WWI. Cuban Missile Crisis. Kennedy Assassination. MLK Assassination. The Black Plague.

But even after 9/11, which I remember vividly, I didn’t feel this constant sense of impending doom hanging over our heads.

It’s not only the politics, although that is a huge part of it. It’s the environment, the extreme weather, the deteriorating public discourse.

I’ve marched. I’ve made calls to my representatives. I try to stay informed. I try to not let fear, anger and despair drag me under.

But it’s hard.

Here is what (usually) works for me.

~ Feel the pain, the brokenness, the anger, the fear, the despair. If I don’t feel it, it doesn’t just magically go away.

~ Write. I write into what I am feeling, what I think about what is happening. I write my own stories to immerse myself in the creation of something from nothing which is transformative.

~ I read. Writers and poets are tapped into the brokenness and hope in the world. I read their words and my soul is soothed.

~ I get out in nature. I’ve been taking long walks with my dog lately, getting out of my body and into the beautiful world.

~ I turn to my yoga practice. It unites my mind, breath and body. It grounds me. It soothes the anxiety. Whether I am with my yoga community at the studio or alone in my yoga room at home, each time I come to my mat, I am coming home to myself. Coming home to this moment.

~ I get off social media where it often feels like the end of the world is imminent and spend time with family and friends. I think of the false warning issued to the people of Hawaii when they thought a nuclear missile was headed their way. Some packed and retreated to the mountains. Some just held their loved ones closer. I don’t know what I would do. But the truth is, we don’t know what is going to happen in the next minute, next week, next month or next year. I do know that I don’t want to live my life afraid and anxious about what might happen and that’s how I’ve often felt since November.

Recently, this quote found me when I most needed it:

Brokenness of the world

These words instantly soothed my spirit. Lifted me out of the heaviness of despair and into the lightness of hope. All of these things I try to do are all about finding and stoking the light that is within me. That is within all of us.

So, yes, the world may feel broken right now. But it can be mended with intention.

My intention is to fan the flames of my inner light and share it with the world through my words, my classes, my laughter, my gratitude. My game plan is to love intentionally, extravagantly and unconditionally as often as I can.

Let that be my contribution to the brokenness of the world.

Room to Grow.

23561333_10211897695892553_3019160851980969597_n

As a wife and mom, I’m grateful that I’ve always had a room of my own.

When my husband and I moved into our first apartment, I got the spare room where I set up my drafting table and art supplies. After we moved to Arizona, he needed a home office so he took the spare room and I created my own space in the great room—a large open room off the kitchen and dining room. By this time, I was writing regularly so we set up my desk, bookshelves and our very first computer.

Our next move took us all the way across the street. That house had converted the third bay of the garage into an office, so he took that and I got the spare room downstairs. Our kids were little and I remember sitting in there, closing the door and trying to write, my ears and mom radar always on, waiting for them to need something. I alternated between getting up early to write and writing late at night. I preferred nighttime because I knew they were asleep and (probably) wouldn’t wake up until morning. But when I wrote in the morning, I was always waiting for them to let me know it was time to put my mom cap back on.

But it wasn’t just physical rooms I had. My husband has always given me room to grow, to change, to explore. When our daughters were five and three, he made it possible for me to attend my first writing retreat with Natalie Goldberg at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos , New Mexico. I remember sitting on the van driving up to Taos and feeling so…unencumbered. And then feeling guilty for feeling that.

But that week was turning point in my writing and not only because I filled three entire notebooks. It was more about the fact that I had given/taken/claimed that time for my writing, For myself.

23231442_10211848885992336_3281967115205237658_n

In our current house, I have two rooms of my own. One is my yoga room, the other is my writing room. Both are spaces where I can be alone and practice writing, yoga, meditation. But, again, it is more than just the physical space. Its about me claiming space and time for myself.

More than that, it is about the space my husband and I give each other to grow into the people we are meant to be. I don’t know a lot about plants. (Ask anyone who knows me.) But I do know that a plan cannot continue to grow in a pot that is too small. It needs to be repotted into a pot that has space to thrive.

We will be married thirty years this summer. People often ask how we’ve managed it. I never quite know what to say. Marriage is incredibly complicated. I think one of the keys to ours is the fact that we support each other’s passions and give each other the time to pursue them.

In our marriage, we each have a room of our own.

Resetting How my Days Begin.

ca5f4750288d4b51484a30fedced809e

Image found via Pinterest.

Lately, I’ve become all too aware that I am starting my days in an energy deficit.  Like many people, the first thing I reach for is my phone. And not just the phone, but I gravitate toward Facebook and Twitter to see what fresh new hell has popped up over night. The problem is is that I don’t just read and move on. No, I get immersed in the news, tangled up in the web of comments and find myself immobilized by anxiety, anger, sometimes despair.

And that is how my day begins.

Back when our daughters were little, we noticed that how the morning started set the tone for the rest of the day.

If the day started off with us impatient, wanting them to move faster than they were inlined to move, well, let’s just say the day didn’t improve from there.

We started having do-overs. We’d all climb back in our beds then”wake-up” again. It worked because A) it was a game that took everyone out of their mood and B) it gave us all a chance to reset.

I am in desperate need of a reset.

For now that reset looks like taking Twitter and Facebook off my phone. Not deleting the accounts completely (yet anyway). But making the access a little more difficult.

It looks like allowing my mind to wake up without dumping the garbage of the world into it first thing. Instead, I read in bed for a bit, then go to my yoga rom and meditate and do some yoga.

It looks like building an abundance of mental, emotional and spiritual energy to carry me through each day and all the days to come.

It looks like creating space for hope.