What a Prayer Can Be.

(Inspired by the  27 Wildest Days writing challenge by Laurie Wagner, which is inspired by this poem from Brad Modlin.)

ballpen blank desk journal

Photo by Jessica Lewis on Pexels.com

Peeling potatoes can be a form of prayer. The slices of brown or rose or yellow skin shaved into a bowl nestled in the sink, revealing a white bulb of flesh that fits into the palm of a hand.

Washing dishes can be a form of prayer. Bowls clanking, scraping remnants into the trash, putting forks tines down in the basket, setting the cups in a neat row up top, lining the plates up on the bottom as if standing at attention.

If I sewed, I imagine it would be a form of prayer. Stitching together what has been torn, creating garments to clothe this body of flesh.

Walking can be a form of prayer. I remember when my back went out and it hurt to walk down the stairs in our home. I remember when my best friend had open heart surgery a year ago and how she could barely walk to our neighbor’s mailbox when she came to our home to recover. Walking is such a simple act that moves us from place to place, activity to activity.  I remember walking the streets of Lisbon, Rome, Naples, Mykonos, and Amsterdam with my daughters last year. Walking was one of our main modes of transportation. It was our way of exploring, seeing and connecting with the world which is a form of prayer.

Writing is a form of prayer, for me anyway. I come to the page everyday with the intention of connecting, of diving deeper in to my life, into the moment. it is one of my practices along with yoga and meditation. Anything I practice regularly with intention is a form of prayer. These words spilling onto the page in purple ink, not knowing what comes next but trusting the process is a form of prayer.

Trust is a form of prayer. I am learning that now more than ever. Trust without knowing. Trust without certainty. Trust without guarantees.

Soaking in our hot tub can be a form of prayer. I never bring my phone with me. If I’m alone I just sink into the water, sink into my body, arms floating, letting the water cradle me, being acutely aware of the silky warmth enveloping me, the jets pulsing against my low back or kidneys or that tender spot on the side of the left foot. If I am with family or friends, I am present. We sit it silence or we talk and it feels like communion.

For a girl who wasn’t raised in any religion, I find prayer everywhere. Prayer isn’t asking for things like I believed as a child. Imagining God as Santa only living in Heaven instead of the North Pole.

Prayer is listening.

Prayer is paying exquisite attention to every detail of life from peeling potatoes to resting in a hot tub to writing these words.

Anything can be a form of prayer.

Everything can be.

If only we let it.

A Life in Books.

(Inspired by the  27 Wildest Days writing challenge by Laurie Wagner, which is inspired by “I Remember” by Joe Brainard.)

pile of hardbound books with white and pink floral ceramic teacup and saucer

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

I remember getting a set of children’s encyclopedias for Christmas one year from my aunt and uncle and being in awe of all the information that was now at my fingertips.

I remember learning the Dewey Decimal system in school then going home and numbering all of my books, creating my own little library.

I remember seeing how much my cousin Kelly read and looking to her to see what books I could look forward to reading: Agatha Christie, Taylor Caldwell.

I remember checking out “Little Women” in third grade from the school library. I was more impressed with the weight and heft of it than actually reading it at that age.

I remember how the library down the hill from us used to be a church and that felt right to me because books are sacred, reading a temple.

I remember packing to leave for art school and finding a library copy of “the Great Gatsby” that I had never returned.

I remember reading a book required for a high school english class about a girl who was sexually assaulted while babysitting and I was afraid to babysit after that.

I remember the first time I bought more than one book at a time. My husband and I were at the mall. We went into a B. Dalton I think and I found several books that I wanted so I bought them all. This snowballed over the years, never allowing me to catch up with my TBR pile.

I remember getting several Nancy Drew books for Christmas one year and I packed them for our trip up-north, grateful to have almost four hours to lose myself in them.

I remember reading Judy Blume and feeling truly seen and heard for the first time.

I remember reading “The New Diary” and how it got me writing.

I remember reading “Writing Down the Bones” on the train out of Philadelphia, unable to put it own, knowing that I was being changed forever.

I remember reading a book at work one day during lunch and my boss commented that I’d run out  of books to read soon and would have to start writing my own.

I remember a high school english teacher writing in my yearbook: “keep up that wonderfully sensitive writing.”

I remember walking into my favorite bookstore in Arizona and one of the booksellers had a book he set aside for me that he thought I’d like.

I remember looking for story collection written by men because I only read women. He gave me a book by Tobias Wolff and opened it to “Bullet in the Brain” and told me to sit down and read it right there. I did. I had no idea what a short  story could be.

I don’t remember learning to read.

I don’t remember that moment when all those random marks and squiggles suddenly made sense, creating  a whole world on a flat page.

I wish I did.

I bet it was magic.

 

What is Essential.

This came out of a prompt I offered in my Poses, Pens + Inner Peace class this past Thursday night: This is what is essential.

1ba53892844d5c11bbd94df3fda552e5

Image found via Pinterest.

This is what is essential. This space to connect on the page, connect with each other. To excavate our voices and share them in our circle. Lifting our voices up so they can reverberate out into the world.

Excavating those truths that have been buried deep beneath all the shoulds and expectations, letting them see the light of day and sharing these truths, claiming them and in doing so, we claim ourselves.

This is what is essential. Claiming ourselves. Out truth. Our voice. Our power

The world needs that now more than ever. How can we share what we don’t  see? It is essential to see all the pieces of ourselves we have shoved into the shadows. The pieces that we were were told were too much. The thing is, the truth is that the world needs our “too-muchness.”

It doesn’t need our endless apologies.

It doesn’t need our whispers.

It doesn’t need our masks.

Or our lies. The ones we tell each other and the ones we tell ourselves.

The world needs us to stand up.

To speak the truth. Your truth. My truth. Our truth. Loud and clear.

It needs us to stand in our power.

It is essential for the healing and transformation of the world that we all do this.

Now, more than ever.

a366ca1beb06f0dd0732d13a8d277f28

Image found via Pinterest.

 

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.)

IMG_12E3E2956138-1

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.

 

Am I Really Meant to Publish my Novels?

IMG_2032

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?

985ee35e9f0c5af26270260c746136c8

Image found via Pinterest.

Now, I’m off to work on my novel.

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

IMG_1422

IMG_1449

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.

 

 

#NaNoWriMo2019 Results.

IMG_1273.JPG

My goal was to finish this draft of my current novel.

I didn’t meet that goal. But I am totally okay with that because I learned a lot while trying to reach it:

  1. Consistently showing up really churns up the story in my mind. I find myself having breakthroughs and ideas even while I am not actively writing.
  2. Forward momentum is what gets a draft done. I found myself hitting the same place I keep getting stuck which is the soggy middle and I forced myself to just keep plowing ahead,
  3. Showing up day after day brought clarity to a story that felt incredibly murky. I was up to over 113K words and ended up at just over 62K and that was perfect. I saw what was dead weight, I cut strands of the story that no longer fit and I have a clearer vision of where the story is headed. I don’t know the exact ending but I know and trust that I am headed in the right direction.
  4. I trust myself as a writer. I trust my process more, no longer questioning the fallow times, knowing that my creative energy needs to ebb and flow for balance, to recharge. I trust my writing chops. I learn more and more with every sentence, every scene, every chapter I write about character, setting, dialogue, plot, motivation.

So, while I didn’t meet my goal, I am still celebrating.

I am celebrating all the progress I did make.

I am celebrating my tenacity to stick with a project over the long haul even though nobody, and I mean nobody is expecting anything from me. This motivation is all internal and that is huge for me.

I am celebrating that I can see me easily finishing this draft by the new year.

I am celebrating myself as a writer.

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.

IMG_1211

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 14 ~ #NaNoWriMo2019

eed872e264fafa532448253ae9a47322

Image found via Pinterest.

I find myself getting mired in the murky middle of this draft. Again.

I am going back through it, taking notes on each chapter, seeing where the story is at, where it needs to go. Noting when something is a repeat. Filling in with new chapters.

But I find myself avoiding my novel. The enthusiasm to finish it this month has waned,

This morning I realized why.

I am editing when I need to just be writing.

Writing it through to the end. Not caring if I change tense or repeat a scene or throw a whole new story arc into the mix.

I can fix all of those things. But only after I have a full next draft done.

So, that is what I am doing now. Just writing the damn thing through to the end no matter how messy or imperfect or incoherent or poorly written it is.

I can fix messy and imperfect and incoherent and poorly written.

I can’t fix not written at all.

19a25fcf7eed56d8c60ff29625e356eb

Image found via Pinterest.

Day 12 ~ #NaNoWriMo2019

CB359B2A-53C9-4314-840A-9F385A7E85A4

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!