Acknowledging Ms. Rule-Maker.

Ms. Rule-Maker.JPG

Today I felt like a slug.

I took one nighttime sinus pill last night to help with a lingering headache and the effects seem to weigh me down. I laid on the couch until it felt like I was melting into it.

Finally, I hauled myself off of it and into the shower. Got myself dressed. Came to the bookstore. Ordered a chai (hoping the caffeine would help jumpstart me out of this energetic stupor) then began to write my morning pages (even though it was two o’clock in the afternoon.)

One of the first things to come out was this so-called rule that if I had to go to the bookstore to write rather than sit in the perfectly lovely writing space I created at home, then I wasn’t a real writer.

Wait, what?

I recently unearthed a bunch of rules I have absorbed over the years about food. It was a long list.

So, I decided to do the same with this. What other rules were lurking around?

I should have a degree to be a real writer.

I should have a book published to be a real writer.

I should write a certain amount of words or for a certain length of time on my current WIP to be a real writer. (The amounts are always totally unrealistic.)

I should work on my WIP and not the ten other kinds of writing I may do on any given day.

I picture this rule-maker as an older woman, dressed in black, with a tight severe bun, pacing around, slapping a ruler against her palm.Once I have a visual it is easier to remember that her job is create rules. She thinks she is helping me. Just like it is my mind’s job to churn out thoughts. My job isn’t to stop either one. My job is to observe and then move on.

Meditating doesn’t mean not thinking. That happen when we die. Meditation is about observing the thoughts, becoming intimate with the mind while not getting swept away by the current.

Same with Ms. Rule-Maker. Once I acknowledge her, I can give her a brief nod that says, “Thank you for your input, I’ll keep that in mind” then go on my way.

That is exactly what I did today. And I managed to get everything on my writing agenda done:

Morning Pages 

Writing Practice

Read and do exercises from “You Are a Badass at Making Money”

Work on WIP

New rule: Writing anywhere, on anything for any length of time makes me a writer.

 

 

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The Heart of the World.

heart of the world

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I read to slip into other worlds. To escape the world I am living in. While writing is solitary and it isolates me, it doesn’t allow me to escape the world. I don’t escape my life. If anything, writing slams me smack into my life. It slips into the crevices ands corners, hiding in the shadows that I’ve overlooked, taking me deeper into what I think, feel, believe at any given moment. 

Meditation, yoga and writing all allow me to slip deeper into myself, rather than away from myself. In each practice, I meet myself exactly where I am. I sit on my meditation cushion, set a timer and just observe my thoughts, observe my breath. Some days it is easier than others but it is never easy. I step on my mat and meet my body where it is that day. Rather than just moving through the poses, I try to drop deeper, connecting with my breath and my mind. Writing brings all of these together. It’s a practice I’ve been showing up for for over 30 years when I first picked up “Writing Down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg. I began filling notebooks with timed writings, not expecting them to lead me to a destination such as a story or a published book, for once just being content on the journey.

Once my girls were in school and Pre-K, I used my precious alone time to go to the Starbucks around the corner from the school to write. I didn’t call myself a writer. I just wrote. Sitting there with my soy chai latte and pumpkin scone I picked up a pen, opened my notebook and let the words spill out of me. Being a stay-at-home mom, I had a lot of pent up words.

I began to use writing as a way of untangling the knot of thoughts in my head. Stories that were guiding my actions—and reactions—but that were rarely based in reality. Once I found yoga, I learned that those stories have a word: samskara. Things that happened in the past that we don’t process and they get stuck in the body as energy. 

No matter what I write—fiction, memoir, personal essays or a blog post—there is no hiding from the world, from myself. Everything I write reveals my obsessions, reveals a piece of me that I may have been avoiding or was completely unaware of. Natalie Goldberg says, “Wild Mind isn’t just your mind; it’s the whole world moving through you.”

Reading allows me to go into other worlds; writing takes me straight into the messy, pulsing heart of the world.

Owning my Dream.

I REALLY REALLY WANT

My jaw has been clenched a lot lately.

Usually I write it off as stress. But in my Poses, Pens + Inner Peace class last night, I wrote this:

I wonder what I’m trying to hold back by clamping my  mouth shut.

Wow! Such a tiny yet huge shift in perspective. So, today in my Morning Pages I explored that question. I was stunned by what I discovered:

What else? I don’t say how badly I want to be published. I focus on how much I love the process and even if I never published another word I would still write. And that is true. But this is also true:

I REALLY REALLY REALLY WANT TO HAVE MY BOOKS PUBLISHED.

There I said it. I declared it. I owned it. It’s scary because now I can fail by not getting published. It was safer the other way, just dipping my toe into publishing here and there but focusing more on the process. I could hang out in that limbo forever. 

But that is not what I want.

And I am uncomfortable with wants. I’ve usually focused more on needs. Wants felt self-indulgent. Frivolous. Dangerous. Because then not getting what I want feels like a failure. Feels like I am a failure.

No wonder I’ve stayed away from wanting this, from declaring I want this.

But no longer. I want this and I am willing to work my ass off to make it happen.

What dream have you been afraid to own? What goal have you kept your enthusiasm tepid about in case it revealed how badly you truly want it to happen? Share it in the comments.

Want it badly enough to declare it to the Universe.

Onward!

 

 

Doing What I Love.

Do what you love

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I remember sitting on the front porch with a stack of new books on graphic design that had just arrived in the mail and I was so excited. My best friend remarked that she couldn’t imagine being excited over a pile of books from her profession (lab tech at the time.)

I realize how lucky I am to spend my work time and free time doing what I love. Graphic design has slowly dropped out of the picture but has been replaced with writing and yoga. My shelves are lined with books on both and it doesn’t feel like work or homework to read them. I am excited to dive deeper into both practices

“Practice” is the key word. Even though I teach yoga and even though I am trying to be published and generate income from my writing, the fact is that both are practices that sustain and nourish me day to day, year to year. So, anything that takes me deeper into them, leads me deeper into myself, into the heart of who I am.

Now, I am well aware that I have a luxury that many do not. I do not have to support myself with my incomes. It helps for sure, but it helps provide the wants of our life, not the needs. Not only am I aware of that fact, I am incredibly grateful.

Both writing and yoga have become such seamless facets of my daily life that it is no longer a choice of whether I will practice or not.  After writing every day for the last 3 1/2 years, I simply show up to the page. And over time, my whole life has become my yoga practice.

It is what I do.

It is who I am.

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.

1,026 Days in a Row.

1026 days

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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.

Coming Home to Writing Practice.

writing practice

I entered this writing path through the writing practice Natalie Goldberg teaches. Practicing writing the same way an athlete practices her sport, the same way a pianist practices scales. Showing up to the page, grabbing a prompt and just writing for ten minutes without stopping, without crossing anything out.

The end product didn’t matter. The process of showing up and writing and connecting with the wilderness of my own heart and mind is what mattered.

Then I decided I needed to be more disciplined. I needed to produce more. More stories, blog posts, novels. And I let writing practice slip away, not counting it as “real” writing.

This summer I joined an on-line writing class hosted by the luminous Bryonie Wise called “Human is What We Are.” Honestly, I was hesitant. I have committed time and money to so many on-line classes over the years and I rarely finish them. My enthusiasm wanes then my connection to the group fades and I’m off on my own again.

This time has been different. First, I am intimately familiar with writing practice. Slipping back into it has been soothing and inspiring. It has been reconnecting with an old friend who really knows me, who sees all of me.

Second, Bryonie makes is all so accessible: writing, creativity, life. She gives us permission to meet ourselves where we are. She assures us that there is no wrong way to do this. That there is no such thing as being behind. We are where we are.

Third, summer has been the perfect time for this kind of loose but supportive structure. Ten minutes a day for ten days then we have a break to let everything germinate, let it settle and find its way into our bones.

My own notebook is more than half-filled. I have three separate pages filled with prompts that will draw me back to the page long after our third and final session ends. Coming back to writing practice has illuminated my creative process, allowing me to find inspiration everywhere.

It has reminded me of why I write at all: to come back home to myself which allows me to connect more deeply with the world around me.

The Practice of Curiosity.

stay curious

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I wonder…

Those two small yet powerful words help me to break through creative blocks, fear and stagnation.

I often forget them when I am in the midst any of those those three things or some combination of them.

But when I remember, they are the key that sets me free.

When faced with an impending empty nest I found myself thinking, ” I wonder if I should take Yoga Teacher Training.”

My class, “Poses, Pens + Inner Peace” came into being when I wondered how writing and yoga intersected and wondered how they could nourish each other.

When I hit a block in my work-in-progress, any “I wonder’ will get the pen moving. What is written may not stay in but that is not the point of curiosity. The point is to generate some movement.

Fear equals stagnation.

Stagnation begets stagnation.

Curiosity is light. It doesn’t come in hot demanding that I change and DO something, fix it, fix everything now.

No, curiosity invites me to sit down and play.

No pressure to fix something.

No pressure to fix everything with my next action.

It just asks me to wonder.

To ask what if.

And that gentle invitation is all I need to step out of fear, out of stagnation and back into the cycle of creative energy.

Curiosity only does one thing

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A Letter from Risk.

risk

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I am not here to take over your life.

I am not here to destroy our life.

I am here  to dance with you into the deep heart of your life.

Each risk you take is a success, no matter the end result.

Each risk expands your heart, expands your mind, expands your life.

Dance with me rather than standing at odds.

Dancing is fluid. It is playful. It invites curiosity and wonder.

Don’t bring such a heaviness to me. 

Let me be light.

Let me light your path.

A path of possibilities.

Let my light bring clarity .

Let that clarity be your light, the light that you shine out into the world.

 

What Happens Next.

show up

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Although I am still showing up to write every day, lately I have been stuck on one particular chapter.

Sure, I still open my laptop, read what I have and manage to squeeze out a few more sentences. But when I close the laptop I still have no idea what happens next so I have no idea where to start the next day.

But the next days arrives and I open my work-in-progress and eke out a sentence or two. I close it, satisfied that I am living up to my goal of writing something each day, disappointed that it feels like such a lame, extremely low bar effort.

This went on for a couple of weeks.

Then today, I take myself to the bookstore, snag my favorite table by the window, get my venti iced soy chai, open my laptop, pop in my earplugs, and set Freedom for a ninety- minute session and start to write.

Reader, by the end of the session, I finished that chapter. And I am set up perfectly for the next chapter.

I am stuck in the messy, bogged down middle of my novel. I can’t imagine it ever being done. But I show up each day anyway. Each word, no matter how few or how lame they may seem, leads me forward.

And that is why I continue to show up, day after day, even when—no, especially when— I have no idea what happens next.  Because showing up daily has taught me to trust that eventually I will write my way into exactly what happens next.