Ditching my Usual MO.

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I’ve been having a hard time settling back into my life after 16 days in Europe, my month-long sabbatical from teaching yoga and just being out of my routine.

The daily barrage of horrifying news hasn’t helped..

The gloomy weather hasn’t helped.

What did help?

Writing. Writing always helps. It doesn’t solve every problem immediately but it definitely shifts my energy.

Yoga. Yoga grounds me in my body, in the moment where everything is okay no matter what my head is thinking. In this moment right here I am okay. Yoga reminds me of that over and over.

Meditating. I resist it but it always ends of being of benefit. Just finding that stillness. Or just observing  my mind being yanked around in twelve different directions. It always helps. Always. In all ways.

Feeling crappy. Yep. You read that right. If I am feeling crappy for whatever reason, I need to feel crappy. I can’t immediately go to the thing that will erase that crappy feeling. It’s there for a reason.

Friday night I had zero intention of going to the Summer Solstice ceremony at my studio. I was home alone most of the day. I cleaned the house which felt good. But I kept having this wanting to crawl out of my skin feeling. When I was finally able to pin down what I was feeling it was this: in flux, stuck and like I was unraveling.

Now, a lot of the time I would avoid those feelings. I would drink some wine, eat some chocolate, binge watch Netflix, mindlessly scroll through social media. None of those things help. In fact, they all make it worse.

Somehow, some part of me convinced me to go the ceremony. So, I dragged myself there. I actually felt like I was hauling a hundred pound duffel bag behind me, but I got in the car and I drove there.

There is something magical about being in community. Being in a sacred circle. My whole body just sighed with relief. This was where I was supposed to be.

Now, I’ve attended several of these ceremonies that include journal prompts which I love. I thought I had discovered all I had to discover about this resistance I feel in my writing. No, not the writing itself, but the getting the writing out into the world. How I sabotage myself just when I get in the groove of submitting my work.

I’m not going to go into the specific details but let’s just say I had not discovered everything I needed to know. I discovered something new. Something that had been there this whole time, just staring me in the face but I hadn’t seen it. I thought my resistance was about one thing and it turns out there was this whole other piece I hadn’t even considered. When I saw it I was stunned. But, of course, it made perfect sense.

And that piece I discovered? I also discovered that it was not mine to carry.

So, I let it  go.

I burned it in the ceremony.

I released it.

And I left that ceremony feeling a hundred pounds lighter.

If I had gone into my usual MO for dealing  with feeling crappy I would have missed this.

If I had ignored that voice inside me, nudging me to go to the ceremony when it was the last thing I wanted to do, I would have missed this.

We never know what small movement forward will make a huge impact.

Listen.

Make that move, no matter how small.

Be stunned at what you may discover.

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Still Squaring Off with my Not-Enougness.

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I am extraordinarily hard on myself.

I don’t always see it, but when I finally do I am stunned at how I talk to myself and what I expect from myself. Sometimes it’s just a frustration with myself but other times it spirals into something a little darker and I wonder why I am alway trying to fix myself instead of just living my life and is this what I am meant to be doing and I start questioning everything and if I am struggling this much then how can I possibly teach? And it just spirals out from there.

Here is what I wrote a few minutes ago:

Just spent an hour trying to figure out a structure for my days. As Annie Dillard says a routine is a net for catching days and I need to catch my days. They seem to slip through my fingers without any effort on my part. And that is the problem. Zero effort on my part. I need to step up, step in, lean in to my life, into my days. I can’t keep sitting on the sidelines pretending to be doing the work and then be upset when nothing happens. For so many years…like SOOOOO many years, I have felt like I’ve been dipping my toe into the shallow end of my life. Just hanging out there, waiting for the water to feel good instead of just taking the plunge. Diving in, diving deep, no matter what the water feels like, no matter how deep the water is, no matter if I can no longer see the shore. I seriously cannot believe I am still struggling with this bullshit. 

Luckily, a wise, compassionate part of me stepped up and stepped in:

Okay. Stop. Breathe. It’s time for some perspective. Let’s see what you have accomplished. You are a 200 RYT who teaches 7-8 classes a week and you have built a strong, supportive community within your classes. You made and saved enough money to take an amazing 16-day trip to Europe with your daughters. You have managed to write something every single day for over three years. That’s not nothing. You have submitted your work more in the last four month than you have in the last 4 years. Sure, you’ve lost some momentum in the last few months but let’s take stock of what has been going on. Your best friend had open heart surgery and you helped her through it. You’ve been preparing for this trip. You took a month-long sabbatical. You took the trip and now you are back and experiencing some reentry pains. Let that happen. Take a breath. Don’t jump on the what a lazy-ass, terrible-human-you are bandwagon. That’s a bunch of bullshit. This path you’ve been on, it’s not easy but you have stayed on it. You are creating this life for yourself. Maybe these lessons are the lessons you are meant to share, not because you have conquered them but because you keep persisting through them. You don’t let them stop you. You do not have to be perfect. You have to be real. That’s it. That’s all anybody wants from you: your family, friends, students, readers. They just want you to be real. And this struggle you are dealing with, that’s part of being real. So share it. Don’t wait until you have it all figured out. That may never happen. Just jump in from where you are now. That is all that is necessary. Breathe and take it all one step at a time. What are you doing in this moment. Are you showing up? Yes. You are. Here you are, typing, writing when nobody cares or is expecting you to. Doing it for yourself and not for an agent or an editor takes grit. And you have that. I just with you could see it.

img_9558.jpgOkay, so here I am taking a breath and sharing the not pretty parts of myself. The parts that struggle with my not-enoughness. Not doing enough, not being enough. I am not sharing this to get praise or validation. I did that for myself. I am doing it to be real. To share all the parts not just the shiny, photoshopped, pretty-filtered pieces of my life. 

May it be of benefit.

How I Spend my Days.

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I have written something every day for the last 1,222 days.

I have meditated every day for the last 311 days.

Why to I keep track of these activities? It started as  a way to motivate myself to do the things I ket saying I wanted to do but somehow kept putting off doing. Taking a cue from Jerry Seinfeld, I created a yearly chart on a dry erase board and marked an “X” in each box every day I wrote. Seeing that chain of x’s created enough momentum that I didn’t want to break the chain.

Same with meditation. I use an app that keeps track of my sessions. It’s so encouraging and empowering to see the days add up.

As the days add up, I notice a shift. A shift in how I relate to myself, to the world, to my writing, to my thoughts.

As the days add up, I realize I am no longer longing to live the life I want to live, I am actually living it. As Annie Dillard says:

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My Days of Hesitancy are Behind Me.

Days of Hesitancy

My days of hesitancy are behind me.

I recently came across these words while reading “Prayers of Honoring Voice” by the inspiring Pixie Lighthorse. It comes from her prayer, “Honoring Security.”

When I read them them I felt goosebumps multiply up and down my arms. I underlined them. I read them over and over.

My days of hesitancy are behind me.

My days of hesitancy are behind me.

I also just finished reading (and actually doing the work in!) “You Are a Badass” by the awesome Jen Sincero. Her books have been on my radar for a while. I have her book about money and I’ve read part of it. Recently I found that copy, then bought her first and her most recent books.

Books find me when I am ready. I truly believe that. I worked with Sincero’s exercises, even (or especially) the ones that made me uncomfortable or felt a little too “woo-woo.” I worked with affirmations, visualization, beliefs and stories and rewriting them.

Then I read those words: My days of hesitancy are behind me.

It felt like I was in the perfect alignment to receive the power of those words. I was riding the flow of the universe. I was doing the work and this was my gift.

Since then (it’s only been about 3 days) I have sent my novel-in-stories to 4 agents.

4 agents in 3 days.

I haven’t sent my work out to 4 agents ever.

I already received a kind rejection and while I was disappointed my first thought was this:

My agent is out there, we just have’t found each other yet.

And I finally, actually, truly believe that.

My days of hesitancy are truly behind me.

Writing into the Deep.

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After a session with a psychic (something I’ve always wanted to do), I’ve changed the focus of my blog to, well, focus more on writing. I realized I was trying to cover everything that interests me: writing, reading, yoga, marriage, family, being vegan, politics. And by trying to cover everything, it all became a bit too diffuse. Nothing was getting the attention it deserved.

By streamlining my focus here, I am finding my focus more streamlined in real life as well. I am currently reading “Rapt” by Winifred Gallagher and she writes about how the quality of our lives depends on where we put our attention. And, just as importantly, where we don’t. (Yeah, social media I’m looking at you.)

In 2019, I am pouring my attention and devotion into writing. Into writing daily. Into submitting my work to magazines. Into finally finding an agent. Into publishing the novel-in-stories that is already done. Into finishing a draft of my current novel. Into finishing a draft of book one in my YA fantasy trilogy. 

Writing into the Deep means writing with deep focus, deep passion. It means writing and stepping into the unknown. It means staying afloat when I don’t know what happens next in a scene or in the submission process. It means writing far past first thoughts into what Natalie Goldberg calls “wild mind” where all the juiciness lives and thrives. 

So, here’s to 2019 and all that it may bring and all that I will bring to it!

What are your 2019 writing intentions/focus/plans/goals? I’d love to hear. 

1,026 Days in a Row.

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Today marks the 1,026 day in a row that I have written.

I’m kind of bummed that I missed the 1000th day but this is still something to acknowledge and commemorate.

See, I still carry the belief that I am lazy, that I don’t work hard enough, that I don’t follow through enough. But the fact that I have written something every single day for 1,026 days in a row seems to disprove that belief. But beliefs aren’t grounded in facts. They are built on feelings, on those stories we hold in our bones.

When I was first starting out in my twenties, I could not bring myself to say that I am a writer. I didn’t have a degree in english or journalism or communications. I didn’t even have a Bachelor’s degree, much less the much lauded MFA. I had an Associate’s in Fashion Illustration. I also had a love of books and a desire to explore the world through language. I jumped into that yearning and proceeded to fill notebook after notebook with writing practice. I went to classes, attended week-long writing retreats, formed writing groups, even taught writing workshops to moms with young children. Still, I hesitated to call myself a writer.

I’m not sure when that changed. But it did. Not completely. I still take a breath before I say the words, waiting for the inevitable question of where can I find your books? I can list the places I’ve been published. I can declare that I have one completed novel and that I am looking for an agent. That I am halfway through novel number two as well as into writing a YA fantasy trilogy. These are all facts. But they aren’t what matters.

Now, that I am in my fifties, what matters is that  I know that writing is no longer something I do, it’s not even a label or title I need to claim.

It’s who I am.

A Love Letter to Indie Bookstores.

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“Consumers control the marketplace by deciding where to spend their money. If what a bookstore offers matters to you, then shop at a bookstore. If you feel that the experience of reading a book is valuable, then read the book. This is how we change the world: we grab hold of it. We change ourselves.”

~ Ann Patchett, bestselling author and co-owner of Parnassus Books

Dear Indie Bookstores,

Thank you.

Thank you for your love of books, of stories, of community.

Thank you for standing strong in the face of e-books and on-line selling.

Thank you for your passion.

That you for knowing the difference between fiction and non-fiction. (I’ve been to chain stores where this was not the case.)

Thank you for not only knowing what book I am trying to describe but offering another book I might like as well.

Thank you for being a third place for us to gather, allowing neighborhoods to thrive.

I love how you support writers, how you give them a platform to connect with their readers.

I love how you respect your customers by knowing us, knowing books and knowing the communities you are part of.

I love how when I walk into an indie bookstore anywhere in the world, my soul feels like it has come home.

 

Fear Compass.

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“Fear compass.” I heard this term on NPR this morning and it reverberated through my whole being like a tuning fork.

It got me thinking not only about fear as a compass, but any strong emotion. They all reveal something.

Envy reveals what I desire for myself.

Anger reveals where a boundary has been breached.

Fear reveals what is important to me.

Liz Gilbert’s suggestion to live life with curiosity rather than fear also resonates with me. Wonder becomes a door into and through fear.

I wonder if this agent is a good fit for my novel, instead of only focusing on if they will like it.

I wonder what happens in this next scene, instead of being paralyzed into writing nothing because I have no idea.

I wonder if I could be a yoga teacher, instead of letting anxiety about my looming empty nest crush me.

Wondering if I could combine writing with yoga led me to find my authentic voice and create a sacred space for students to find theirs.

So, it seems that fear points me in the direction of curiosity, leading me to live a creative life in awe of the wonder around and within me.

Where does fear point you?

 

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.

Facing the Challenge of the Agent Query

Keep calm and query on

I worked on my agent query letter yesterday.

I am finding it truly difficult. It’s not just the logistics of paring my novel-in-stories down to 100-200 words that give enough info to pique an agent’s interest but without giving everything away—though that is challenging.

It’s also the idea that I am committing to sending these 60,000 words out into the world. Once they are out there I have no control over how people react or respond. That’s a little ( okay…a lot) unnerving.

There’s also this other piece of the puzzle that dawned on me yesterday. I don’t like asking for things. The query letter is all about asking an agent to take time out of their already hectic schedule to read my book. I am asking them to help me get it published.

I understand it’s their business and they are in the market to take on a book they feel passionate about and they have a vested interest in getting it out into the world. But it still feels like I am asking for a favor.

So, instead of letting all that stop me like it has before, here’s what I did:

I felt all the feelings: nervous, scared, excited, vulnerable with a little bit of guilt and dread thrown in.

I breathed through it all (thank you yoga).

And I revised my letter. I read other successful query letters and decided what fit best for my voice and the voice of my story and I just did it. It’s still not quite right but it is getting there.

I’ll let it sit for another day and read it again with fresh eyes. Meanwhile, there’s this YA novel that I am about 40K words into…

 

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