Writing as Prayer.

(This is inspired by the Mindful Writing Challenge with Nadia Colburn. The prompt comes from a poem by Mary Oliver. It also came out of a prompt from Poses, Pens + Inner Peace.)

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Image found via Pinterest.

Writing is prayer. It is my prayer.

My way of paying attention. Paying attention to the stack of books and notebooks teetering next to me in the living while the dog sleeps on the couch, her lip caught in her tiny teeth. Paying attention to the the empty mason jar with just a residue of sweet creamy chai lingering at the bottom. To the sliding glass door that is open to the deck, in letting fresh air, the song of birds and the whine of highway traffic drift in through the mesh screen.

Paying attention is a kind of prayer. I’ve became acutely aware of what I am paying attention to during this time. Some days I only pay attention to the losses: lives, health, jobs, health insurance, events, security.

I pay attention to the grief. To the despair. And that’s okay. They need tending, too.

To pay attention is to tend with my energy. To tend is to pray.

Writing is my prayer. It is sacred. It connects my body, mind and heart. It connects me to wisdom. To something that is greater than myself.

Writing is how I pay attention and prayer is paying attention.

To this moment.

This breath.

To this feeling.

This thought.

Writing is my prayer. My path inward and my path out. Out of confusion, out of my own tiny life and into the larger life that surrounds me.

Writing is a way in. To the center. To the stillness. To the white hot chaos of being human, especially during this time of such upheaval and uncertainty.

Writing is my prayer. Not a child’s prayer of asking for things like a Christmas list, but a way of honoring my life. My body. My time. The people in my life. Life itself. Honoring the fact of my existence.

Each word is a statement of here I am .

I am here.

I exist.

I am.

I.

Am.

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Why Write Now?

(This is from a prompt on the 27 Wildest Days writing challenge by Laurie Wagner which is from a beautiful new poem by Jane Hirshfield.)

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Today when I could do nothing what do I do? I reach for my pen and journal. I breathe deep, put pen to paper, heart to hand and I write. Not for something or someone. It’s not a record of what it’s like for me to live in this time. At least, that is not why I do it. It may be that, but it is not my intention.

So, when I could do nothing, why do I still write?

Why write when a pandemic is sweeping across the globe, gathering bodies and souls in its wake?

Why write when our financial future and security have been pulled out from under us?

Why write when I can’t see my students in person and can only connect occasionally through screens and technology?

When I can’t hug my friends but only see a grid of their beautiful faces on my computer?

When I send my husband out for groceries in gloves and a mask, praying that he doesn’t bring that invisible bug into our home.

When I could do anything or nothing, I still choose to write because it it is who I am. It is how I know who I am. How I discover who I am, who I was and who I want to be. And in times like this, it is essential that we have clarity around that vision of ourselves.

I write through this crisis and into it because I know of no other way to understand or connect with myself and that which is beyond myself. Moving deeply into my Self and far beyond my Self feels essential right now.

So I write.

I write in my journal.

I write from prompts and fragments of poems.

I write scenes for my YA fantasy that drops me into another world.

I write about and into the boredom.

The monotony.

The confusion.

The clarity.

The anxiety.

The calm.

The losses.

The gifts.

The grief.

The gratitude.

I write about and into all of it.

Today when I could do nothing, when I could do anything, one of the things I choose to do is write. You see, writing is essential to me. It is what nourishes me and during this time of great challenge it’s essential that we nourish ourselves.

Today when I could do nothing I make a cup of hot chai, drape myself in a cozy blanket and curl up in front of the fire with my journal open. All that white space waiting for me. No expectations. No judgments. Just space for me to be exactly who I am in this moment.

And this is why I choose to write today when I could do nothing, when I could do anything.

 

Why Write Now?

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Image found via Pinterest.

I don’t even know what to write. Or why to write.

Why write in the midst of an actual pandemic? Why write when entire countries are shutting down? When states have closed entire school systems?

Why write in the midst of such anxiety, uncertainty and fear?

I write for exactly all of these reasons. To connect with myself, with what I am feeling. If I choose to share it, it connects me with other human hearts who may read my words and think, “Oh, I’m not alone. It’s not just me.”

I write to understand. There is so much confusion. So much chaos. Writing helps me find some clarity and order.

Why write? Because it brings me comfort. Maybe even some joy. It is familiar. It is my sanctuary. The place I return to again and again to rest, to vent, to explore, to recharge, to renew.

So, even in (or especially in) the middle of fear about what is happening, anxiety about what could still happen, I pick up my pen and connect it to the paper, to my heart.

The fire is flickering softly. I can hear the hiss. My husband is watching an old movie. The girls are getting ready to go in the hot tub, the dogs and cat are sleeping. We just had a delicious homemade dinner followed by a delicious homemade chocolate chip cookie.

I am remembering to breathe, to unclench my jaw, to move my body. To not get stuck in the endless social media feeds.

We have some time now to just be.

I take time to feel immense gratitude that we have a home to social distance ourselves in. That we have the means to stock up on food and sundries.

I pick up my pen because, as I come to the end of this particular journal entry, I feel a little lighter, a little more at ease, a little more present.

I am not picking up my pen in this time of upheaval to change the world. I pick up my pen to remember my place in it. To remember that we are all connected.

Am I Really Meant to Publish my Novels?

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I am constantly in awe at the synchronicity of the Universe.

I had this fleeting thought earlier today that maybe I wasn’t meant to publish my novels because of all the rejections I am piling up and because I find it so much easier to write here or on Instagram than to hunker down and work on my novel.

Then I opened up The Journal Compendium and saw this quote from Julia Cameron:

What you really want to do, is what you are really meant to do.

Whoa!!

I felt immediate relief reading those words. This sense of spaciousness. Of potential. Of permission to pursue what I really want even though I haven’t followed the common path, even though I am 54…so many more “even thoughs” are silenced, or at least soothed by these words.

Then I began to Mother myself:

Of course it’s easier to write for your blog or on Instagram. It’s just a moment moving through you. It’s who you are right now. You write it. You release it. You move on.

Writing a novel lives in whole other galaxy. It’s its own entity that requires constant care, attention and nourishment for a very long time. And chances are you will change during that timeframe, so who you were when you began writing it is not who you are at the end.

So, yes, it’s more difficult. It doesn’t mean you aren’t meant to publish your novels. There are readers out there who will deeply resonate with your stories.. You have already heard from them over the years. Your words touch people’s heart. 

There is an agent out there who is the perfect fit for you, who is your ideal reader and will champion you and your books as you both make your way out into the wider world.

Just keep sending your work out. Don’t take the rejections personally.

Just keep writing.

Just keep doing what you are doing.

Believe in yourself like I do, like your friends do, like anyone who has read and resonated with your stories does.

The answer to the title of this blog?

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Image found via Pinterest.

Now, I’m off to work on my novel.

Write Every Damn Day- It’s Not Just a Hashtag Anymore.

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I started this board in 2016 to help me write every single day. (I got the idea from Jerry Seinfeld.)

While I had high hopes and high expectations for myself (always true at the start of a new year) I didn’t actually, truly believe that I would be able to write every day for a whole year much less almost 4 years!

But I have.

I wrote through the flu.

Through having my wisdom teeth pulled while I had the flu. That was a fun time!

I wrote on vacation.

I wrote when I was happy.

When I was sad.

Or anxious.’Or depressed.

Or enraged.

I wrote in my journals.

I wrote morning pages.

I wrote blog posts.

I wrote in my novel.

I wrote when I was motivated and when I didn’t want to write at all.

I wrote when I knew exactly what I wanted to write and when I had absolutely no idea what to write.

I wrote in the morning, the afternoon, at night.

I wrote at my desk, at the bookstore, at the coffeeshop, on the beach, on planes, in the car, on my yoga mat, on the deck, in bed.

I wrote alone and with others.

I wrote my way out of stories that had me all tangled up.

I wrote my way into myself.

Now, writing is no longer what I do. It is who I am. Writing is like breathing and reading. Non-negotiable.

#writeeverydamnday is no longer just a hashtag.

It’s an intricate, essential, sacred part of each and every one of my days.

 

 

Enough with Not Enough.

I am always looking for topics to inspire my writing and specifically topics that ask me to inquire deeper into my own writing life. When I came across the Writing Contest: You Are Enough, hosted by the Positive Writer, I knew I had to explore it.

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Typewriter image found via Pinterest. I am enough found via Pinterest. Photos merged using Photos Merge.

Enough. It is a word that has haunted me for years. 

There is an entire advertising and marketing industry designed to make us feel like we don’t have enough, don’t do enough and aren’t (fill-in-the-blank) enough. Thin. Strong. Curvy. Blonde. Rich. Spiritual. 

I have especially felt this tug of not-enoughness in my writing. See, I didn’t go the traditional route, which I used to consider a hindrance but eventually came to see as a strength. I earned an Associate’s Degree in Fashion Illustration right out of high school. No general education courses. No literature classes. Just art.

I worked as a graphic designer for years which allowed me to eventually ease into a freelance career so that I could stay home and raise our two daughters. 

Along the way, I kept up with my own voracious reading and sporadic journaling. At some point I stumbled across a book called “The New Diary” by Tristine Rainier. It opened up a new way of journal writing that was more spontaneous, deeper and even (gasp) fun. I began filling up blank pages with my words.

The next turning point came when I discovered “Writing Down the Bones.” Just the title gave me goosebumps. I picked it up, stroking the image of ink spilling across the cover, already aware on some level that my life was about to change.

I began filling notebooks with what Natalie Goldberg called writing practice. Practice made it easier to approach. I wasn’t “writing.” I was practicing. I continued to practice and read. A lot. My work colleagues were used to seeing me with my nose in a book at lunch, usually a different book every couple of days. A friend finally commented that at this pace I’d soon run out of books to read and would have to start writing my own. Hmmmm… the seed was planted.

Once we were settled in Arizona, writing found me over and over again. I was fortunate enough to attend a week-ling retreat in New Mexico with Natalie Goldberg where I filled 3 notebooks in 7 days. I also discovered a fantastic program through the Phoenix YMCA called “Writer’s Voice.” They offered a “MothersWrite” class. It was a free, ten-week writing class that provided childcare. It was a lifesaver. A sanity saver. It allowed me to keep connected to that tenuous creative part of myself at a time when I felt stretched thin with the demands of motherhood. They also offered various creative writing classes as well as Master-level workshops that required you to submit work in order to be admitted. It took a long time for me to take the step of submitting my work but when I did I was accepted and attended an intense ten-week workshop with Elizabeth Evans and later, a second one with Simon Ortiz. Later I audited a fiction writing class with Melissa Pritchard at ASU. I always felt slightly out of place in these academic since I was usually the only one without any kind of four-year degree backing me up.

Over the years, I’ve considered going back to school to get that degree. Or maybe attend a low residency MFA program that would waive the Bachelor’s Degree. They’re out there. I’ve looked. But with two girls to help put through college, I really couldn’t justify the expense. It’s not like I want to teach at the college level. I want to write. Realistically, all I need is a pen, paper and if I’m lucky, a computer, all of which I have. I’m more envious of the experience of the MFA rather than the physical piece of paper. I salivate at the thought of immersing myself in writing for two years– eating, breathing, talking, dreaming books and writing. But really, my life can’t hold that right now. What it can hold is this: a writing group; occasional workshops; lots and lots of books; and lots and lots of writing.

Yoga has also played an essential role in my writing. As soon as I began to practice yoga, I saw the connection between the two. Both require me to show up, to meet myself where I am and to be present. I now teach 7 yoga classes a week including one I created that combines writing and yoga called “Poses, Pens + Inner Peace.”

Yoga has helped me cultivate a relationship with my mind. With my whole self, not just the shiny parts. It has helped me see beyond the veil of not-enoughness to the deep truth that I am more than enough exactly as I am.

As of today, I have filled dozens upon dozens of notebooks. I have written many short stories and even had a few published. I have a novel-in-stories that is complete and looking for an agent. I am deep into the third draft of another novel. Then there is the YA fantasy trilogy simmering as well as a memoir based on my journey with yoga and writing.

At the age of 54, “enough” has a totally different connotation. It is no longer a word I use to judge and bludgeon myself with. It has become a word that fills me with hope. With a sense of ease and grace.

I write every day. Some days I write more than others. And it is enough.

I show up to the blank page. And it is enough.

I read as much as I can. And it is enough.

I submit my novel and stories and essays. And it is enough.

I have created a life that not only makes space for writing but truly nurtures it. And that is more than enough.

Day 12 ~ #NaNoWriMo2019

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I haven’t been posting every day but I have been writing every day. There’s only been one day where I wrote but didn’t work on this novel. I’ll take it.

Learning a few things about myself and my writing as I get deeper into finishing this draft:

• I desperately need to learn the different between lay and lie (I had a cheat sheet at one point but I’ve lost it.)

• I also need to learn the difference between effect and affect.

• I need to write as early in the day as possible. My focus fades fast the more I get into my day.

• I am learning to write good enough for now. Good enough for this draft, this scene. Good enough to be able to come back and fix it up in the next draft.

• I am learning to use placeholders. Just put a random name in of a person or song or singer or street that I can then figure out later (with FIX IT in all caps after it). Don’t let “research” be an excuse to stop writing.

• I work best in 30-45 minute increments. Then I need to get up and do something for 15 minutes to get the energy flowing: yoga, browse the bookstore, play with the dogs or do some light household task.

• Accountability is key for me. I know that nobody really cares if I finish this draft or not, but since I declared that I would, I feel pressure to honor that.

• Planning for the next day is really helpful. I like to know when and where I plan to write and have little assignments ready to get me started.

• Mostly, I am learning to be my own personal cheerleader instead of constantly judging and criticizing my efforts. I mean, I am writing a novel! Another one, actually. Not many people do that. It is a huge deal. A huge commitment. It is helping me let go of the I-am-lazy story I tell myself and replace it with I-am-a-badass-writer-devoted-to-her-craft story.

If you are participating in NaNoWriMo, what are you learning about yourself? Your writing? Your process? I would love to hear!

 

#NaNoWriMo2019 ~ Day 3

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Change of plans today. My writing buddy is feeling under the weather so we are rescheduling. But since I had already planned on going out to write, I stuck with that. Brought a PBJ, got a soy chai and now it’s time to write!

Session 1: 12:17 PM Set Freedom for 30 minutes

It’s amazing how much progress can be made when I lift my perfection filter and just write a scene, even if it’s the shittiest scene ever. At least a shitty scene can be revised. Now for a short stroll through the bookstore to refresh my body and mid then time for another session.

Session 2: Set Freedom for 30 minutes

Finished a chapter. Moving onto next one. Making notes of pieces that need to move up earlier. 

Plan for tomorrow:

At desk by 7 AM. 2 sessions before going to yoga at 9:30.

Besides making progress, I am immersing myself in wondering and dreaming about this story and the characters again. so even when I am not physically at my desk, I am still writing. 

Notes:

Need description of Lydia’s house

Write Thanskgiving scene

Reward: Finally check out the new indie bookstore in town!

#NaNoWriMo2019~Day 1

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I am using this year to finally finish the draft of my current novel. I think this will be the third. But it has changed so much that it almost feels like the first draft again.

First session: Set Freedom for 30 minutes and go.

I realize that I often edit as I go and that is why it is taking oh so long. Now, I am placing notes to move a scene or blanks to fill in later so I can just keep going.

After the 30 minutes, I got up and did the dishes, folded a load of laundry, made the bed then went up to my yoga room for a few sun salutations. Now, I’m back at my desk and ready for round 2.

Second session: Set Freedom for 30 minutes. 

Started a new scene. Bringing back in an old character. Trusting that even time spent staring out the window and wondering is time well spent. 

Bundled up and took a 45-minute walk through the neighborhood while listening to IMG_1035an interview with Dani Shapiro and Gabrielle Bernstein on the Beautiful Writers Podcast.

Session 3: Set Freedom for 30 minutes.

I notice that part of my process involves writing my way backward into a scene. I’ll start in the character’s head then realize I need to ground them in a body and in a place then that usually sends me into a flashback that I then realize is not actually a flashback but part of the current story.

Got a shower and got dressed for the rest of my day.

Plan for tomorrow:

Pick up with current scene.

Be at desk by 8 AM. (I was going to say by 7 but I just saw that an event tonight will keep me out until 11:00.) At least one session but more likely, two, then it’s off to a 90-minute yoga class at 10:00.

The Day I Fell Back in Love with Writing.

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Writing is my way into the word. It is connection. It connects me to what I think, feel, experience, believe, fear, want. Writing is who I am at the deepest level.

Writing is like breathing. That essential. That integral to my being.

Lately, even though I am showing up to write every day (I am well into my fourth year of this) I’ve lost the joy in writing. The playfulness. I often feel like I am merely showing up to page in order to make the “X” on my dry erase board. The accumulation of these marks has been immensely satisfying and motivating but I am afraid I am giving up something in the process of showing up. Giving up a depth of experience, giving up a certain lightness or playfulness.

Just as I was articulating these feelings, an ad for a workshop called “Fall in Love with Your Writing” appeared in my Facebook feed. (One of the few perks of their invasive algorithms). I didn’t know the writer but I loved the title. And it felt like a gift from the Universe so I wasn’t about to turn it away. 

I joined 16 other writers for an afternoon of writing filled with laughter and tears, getting out of our comfort zones and just filling the page for the sake of filling the page.

I wasn’t trying to add an “X” to my board.

It wasn’t about finishing a scene or a chapter for my WIP.

It was about seducing my writing.

Seducing it back into my life, not out of obligation but out of desire.

Desire to play on the page.

Play with words.

Play with language.

Play with genre.

Desire to explore out of curiosity.

Desire to immerse my self in the process rather than focusing only on the end-product.

I once had an art teacher give me some advice. I had drawn a self-portrait in pencil that was all monotone. He told me to just get in there and create some depth and contrast and he didn’t even care if it turned into one big black hole of a mess. My stomach clenched at that. I couldn’t “ruin” it that way. Could I?

But his advice was perfect. He saw how tightly I clung to not wanting to make a mistake. How I wanted to do it “right” And how that kept me stuck and safe on the outside.

It was the first time I had been given permission to “fail.” 

At the end of this afternoon workshop I once again had permission again to fail. To play. To not play it safe all the time. I felt I had loosened the incredibly tight reins I hold on myself to be productive. 

And true to the title, I fell in love with my writing again.

(Huge, heartfelt thanks to Kristine E. Brickey for gathering us together and giving us the space to play and explore in a safe, supportive environment!)