The Necessity of Structure.

dress forms

Image found via Pinterest.

I just played with my first haiku since high school.

As part of the Write Yourself Alive challenge, I am trying to do the prompts that, well, challenge me.

Poetry challenges me.

Structured poetry challenges me even more.

But here’s what I learned. Or, maybe, it’s something I remembered.

Structure is essential to creativity.

It seems counterintuitive, I know. Creativity is free flowing,exactly the opposite of structured.

But nothing gets done without a structure.

All those pages I have filled over the years would have just stayed pages of free-writing, or practice unless I came up with a structure to contain them whether it was a story, novel, essay, blog post or even just a Facebook post.

We need to structure our time or nothing gets written or created. Nothing gets finished. Nothing gets submitted or shared with the world.

My yoga mat is a type of structure. My practice is a container for my attention. I have this one hour on my mat to connect with my body, my mind, with this moment. Without the structure of a practice I would completely lose that connection.

A recipe is a structure for a meal.

The tools you choose to create are the structure for the next piece or art whether its paper, scissors and glue or paint and canvas.

A pattern gives structure to a dress, otherwise it stays a lump of material.

Goals give structure to our dreams otherwise they stay dreams.

Where do you need more structure in your life? Feel free to share in the comments!

Oh, and here’s the Haiku Series I wrote:

Just Us

The days of just us
in our own little cocoon
of freedom and love.

Then fertility
crept in with charts and hormones
leaving us afloat.

Let go of that dream.
Immersed myself in college
then the line appears.

And two became three.
Three easily became four
Perfect square of love.

Small and big moments
Wove us together as one
Fights, fun, tears and joys.

Then college takes one
Creating a triangle
Leaving a true gap.

Then the other leaves.
Two there and two here alone.
Learning to embrace

The silence and space.
Standing face to face once more
Just the two of us.

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Without Apology.

Okay…so this is a little anxiety-producing.

As part of the Write Yourself Alive Challenge, I wrote a rambling meditation, then recorded it and now…gulp…am sharing it here. But, hey, this was part of the reason I joined this challenge—to break the hell out of my comfort zone.

Without Apology

This is a rambling meditation through the silky seaweed of thoughts

undulating through the dark shadowy spaces of my mind.

Mining the mind for what is truly there,

not merely what I think is there.

Diving below that still surface of

polite thoughts of please and thank you and,

most insidious of all, I’m sorry.

Those apologies of the soul, for the soul.

Apologizing for taking up too much space,

for saying the wrong thing on the outside though it felt so right on the inside.

Slipping into the crevice between apologizing and owning.

Owning the space inside my head,

inside my heart.

Daring to disturb the mirror-like surface with

one pebble of truth

and allowing those ripples to flow wherever they may go.

Watching them extend far beyond the safety of polite

without apology.

 

WYA Challenge Day 17

Sharon Stone as Muse

Image credit.

My dear sweet Muse,
I implore you to wave your wand, sprinkle your creative dust (or tool of choice) and wrap me in a distraction-free bubble each time I sit down to write.
Shield me from the habitual grooves of my brain (wait, my computer just pinged. Did someone like my post? Which one? Who is it?) that yearn to hop on-line when I’ve barely written three sentences. Keep me encased in a beautifully translucent (yet strong impenetrable)  bubble where I have zero desire to check my Facebook or Twitter feeds or Pinterest boards or play a game of 2048 or do laundry or dishes or watch TV or…or…or.
Please, keep my focus on the page or the screen in front of me. Allow my focus to grow, diving deep beneath the surface of my story, deep into the lives of my characters.
I so envy (Okay, okay… sometimes “hate” is the word. As is “doubt.”) people who claim they lose all track of time when they write. That they forget to eat. Forget to eat? Really? They claim they look up and four, eight even ten hours have passed. Again, really? They didn’t have to pee once during that time? Then they are obviously not drinking enough water.
Me? I am distracted by every itch and twitch, every internal gurgle and grumble. Just once, I would love to be so completely absorbed by the world of my story that I forget about the world I am actually in.
Do you think you can help me with that? Cuz that’d be great.
Sincerely,
Your focus-challenged, distraction-attracting creative charge

WYA Challenge: Day 8

WYA

Before I write, I feel edgy. Restless.

Still , I often resist the page.

I resist the words that long to spill out of me. Words that have gotten lodged in my body, leaving me feeling on edge, fidgety, like I want to crawl out of my skin.

I ignore the page and instead clean or do laundry or scroll through Facebook or call a friend, trying to dislodge the words indirectly. But they are too deep. Only the precise motion of the pen across the page can excise them.

There. A word is shaved off a rib. Another coaxed out from the tender space behind a knee. More peeled away from the wet meaty flesh of my heart. Still more sifted out of the blood flowing through my body behind my shin.

Each word that is freed from the body and captured on the page leaves me feeling both lighter and more grounded.

It’s not the words that create the heaviness but the battle with resistance. All the restlessness that I try to channel into cleaning or organizing doesn’t touch the depth of the resistance. Those tasks merely mask that trapped energy, mask those words that have gotten stuck and no amount of busy work will lure them out.

Only the gentle movement of breath and the steady motion of my pen across the page will release the pent up energy that bubbles just below the surface of my soul.

The effort of writing is always worth the ease of being that follows.

The transformation is almost instant. With each word that escapes from the end of my pen, the easier I breathe, the more content I feel in my skin.

After I write, I am more present.

After I write, I am more me.

•   •   •   •   •   •

Creativity Check-in

How much did I write today?

2 hours

 

What did I work on?

Morning Pages

Healthy Living Journal

WYA Dig Deeper and Writing Prompt

WIP

 

Times of day:

 

M

morning, late afternoon, and night

Mood: 

Eager to show up to the work.

 

Greatest Obstacle:

MY WIP feels like a giant jumble of puzzle pieces that have no edges and are all the same color.

 

Greatest Strength:

Carefully reading through what I have, chapter by chapter, noting the balance of current story versus back story, making notes of questions alone the way.

 

Creative affirmation:

I tend to my writing daily and it flourishes even when it feels dormant.

 

Write Yourself Alive: A 30 Day Challenge

WYA Challenge: Day 4

WYA

“Good Writing is supposed to evoke sensations in the reader—not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.” ~ E.L. Doctorow

The house is quiet when I walk in from work. But his truck is in the driveway, so he must be here. As I shrug off my coat I see him in the kitchen. Oh, how sweet. He is cooking dinner. Cones of light shine down from the vaulted ceiling, steam swirling upward, quickly dissipating. The rest of the house is dark and I feel like I am watching a play. The gentle clanking of metal against metal and the hiss of hot oil echo in the room.

It’s always in slow motion when I remember this. It felt like slow motion as it played out. Maybe a part of me knew what was coming and tried to fend it off any way I could.

When he sees me, he turns the burners down and walks toward me, telling me that M. called. I remember thinking it was odd that he called instead of H.

But mostly I am focused on his face. I  haven’t seen this face before. We’ve been married for only a few years. I realize there is so much more for us to learn about each other.

When he reaches me, his hands wrap gently, oh so tenderly around my arms. I still have no idea what is going on. No idea what he is about to say.

But when the words leave his mouth, they feel inevitable.

“B. is dead.”

Inevitable.

But not true.

A part of me knows.

A part of me repels the idea. The words.

“No, she’s not.”

He nods, not wanting to say it again.

I shake my head, wrapping my own arms tightly around my body, as if to keep it from imploding, chanting the same words over and over.

No, she’s not.

No she’s not.

Noshesnot. Noshesnot.

Until they no longer even sound like words.

Until they are merely sounds vomiting from this new, deep, raw sad of part of me I didn’t even know existed.

•   •   •   •   •   •

Creativity Check-in

How much did I write today?

2 1/2 hours

 

What did I work on?

Morning Pages

Healthy Living Journal

WYA Dig Deeper and Writing Prompt

 

Times of day:

3:30 5:30 in my nook

5:45 – 6:15 at my computer

 

Mood: 

A little tired. Had a lazy day. Too much TV. Left me mentally sluggish. And I waited until too late in the day to work again. Mornings are prime time for me.

 

Greatest Obstacle:

Put off writing until my mental energy was oh so low.

 

Greatest Strength:

I showed up anyway and wrote.

 

Creative affirmation:

Each day that I write is day that I didn’t quit.

 

Write Yourself Alive: A 30 Day Challenge

WYA Challenge: Day 3

Day 3

Image found via Pinterest.

“Appealing workplaces are to be avoided. One wants a room with no view, so imagination can meet memory in the dark.” ~ Annie Dillard

This is one time when time I don’t agree with Annie Dillard. I need my workspace to be appealing on some level. It is so easy to resist doing the work, why put up another roadblock by making the space where I write unappealing?

I am not precious about where I write. I’ve written at my desk in my writing space, in my writing/reading nook in the living room, at the bookstore, in the car, on a plane, at a picnic table by the lake.

The space around me is not the distracting thing. It’s the space in my head that can be distracting. It’s the lure of the world at my literal fingertips with the click of a mouse that is distracting.

So, I guess it’s less of an unappealing workplace that I need and more of a non-distracting one. I’ve found a fe within stop help with that.

I use earplugs when I am out in the world writing. It mutes the sounds swirling around me. I will even use them at home if others are in the house. It creates an instant cocoon of concentration.

Downloading the Freedom app is an amazing distraction eraser. I set the timer for how long I want to be locked out of internet access and I write without the temptation of Pinterest, Facebook or Twitter taunting me.

My biggest distraction can be my own mind. That’s where meditation comes in. I resisted it for so long. Felt like a fraud everytime I tried to meditate. But now it has become the cornerstone of my writing practice. It doesn’t clear my mind of all its clutter. As a writer, that’s not what I want anyway. It’s more like it allows everything to settle just enough so I can focus. It’s easier to let thoughts go, to stay present to what I am doing. As a writer, that is what I need the most. I need to be present to the words, to the characters, to the story—to the next word, sentence, scene that needs to be written.

Meditation also allows me to befriend my mind. To notice with a light curiosity what exactly goes on in there. Seeing how the mind is one of a writer’s greatest tools, anything that bridges the gap is welcome. It also teaches me to become comfortable with being uncomfortable which is also a great asset as a writer.

Meditation is a tool just like my notebook or computer at this point—essential and non-negotiable.

 

Creativity Check-in

How much did I write today?

3 hours

 

What did I work on?

WIP for 3o solid minutes. ( I set a timer). It was the firs thing I worked on which helped my concentration.

Morning Pages

Healthy Living Journal

WAY Dig Deeper and Writing Prompt

 

Times of day:

2-4 at the bookstore

9 PM – 10 PM in my writing nook

 

Mood:

A little tired. Mid afternoon is not prime time for me. Also a little frustrated with my WIP. Feeling a little stuck about about the sequence of events and some backstory. Started taking notes on what happens in each chapter and whether it is Current Story or Back story. That is helping.

 

Greatest Obstacle:

Feeling stuck.

 

Greatest Strength:

Instead of needing to produce more words, I used my time to figure out what I have and what the story needs.

 

Creative affirmation:

Any time spent working on the story is well spent even if the word count doesn’t increase.

 

Write Yourself Alive: A 30 Day Challenge

WYA Challenge: Day 2

WYA

My epitaph:

“Awake and present to it All, she wrote into the stars and into the earth, into her heart and into her gut—eyes open, heart open, mind open, pen poised.”

 

Creativity check-in:

How much did I write today:

3 hours

 

What I worked on:

Morning pages

WYA Challenge: Dig Deeper, Writing prompt and something inspired by the Writing tip

My blog

My YA novel

 

Time(s) of day:

2:30 – 5:30

 

Mood:

Tired (first day of teaching 2 early morning yoga classes)

Excited and distracted by the number of views a blog post has been getting

 

Greatest obstacle:

Settling into to work on my novel. I saved it for last and my energy and focus were spent. Think I need to start with it tomorrow.

 

Greatest strength:

Allowing some painful shit to come up in the writing today.

 

Creative affirmation:

I am strong enough to be present with whatever comes up in my writing.

 

Write Yourself Alive: A 30 Day Challenge

WYA Day 1: Why I Write

Dive deep

Image found via Pinterest.

Why I write.

I write to dive in past the shallow surface of life.

I write to remember who I was, who I am and who it is possible for me to be.

Writing is a thread that ties my experiences together and reveals something deeper.

I write to dislodge rage, to soothe anxiety, to revel in joy, to ease shame, to immerse myself in the beautiful chaos of being human, in this body, as this woman, at this time in history that feels as if it is teetering on some huge precipice.

Writing keeps me sane. Or saner amidst the chaos within and without.

If I couldn’t write, I would paint huge sprawling canvases and petite fragile ones and every size in between using line, shape, color and texture to connect with the world around me. Crescents of paint dried under my nails, smudged on my cheek, scraps of paper glued to the delicate bone on the side of my wrist.

Or perhaps I’d weave notes into the air from a piano or guitar, creating a cocoon of sound to both comfort and liberate.

That, right there, is why I write.

It both comforts and liberates me.

I seek solace on the page and I find liberation when the mask is finally shattered and my raw whole self is there, just as I am.

If I couldn’t write or paint or create music, perhaps my creativity would just be me, fully embracing each messy, painful, blissful moment of my life. Writing is my doorway to living from that space.

Writing keeps me awake and present to all of it.

There’s no place to hide when I write.

I’m present to the light and the dark, to the angst and the bliss, to the lies and the truth, the heavy and light, the calm and chaos, the fear and boldness, the mundane and profound.

Me, awake and present to all of it.

That’s why I write.

 

Creativity Check-in

How much did I write today? (time, words, pages)

2 hours

What did I work on?

3 Morning Pages

3 WYA pages

A blog post

Mood:

Tired, brain foggy

Greatest obstacle:

Taught three yoga classes so my attention was spread thin today.

Greatest strength:

Making the time anyway, no matter how I felt.

Creative Affirmation:

I show up to the page daily to keep the creative momentum going.

 

 

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

B_9unJRUYAAzvrU.jpg-large

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.