Notebook Love.

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I love notebooks/journals.

I keep so many going at once:

  • one for morning pages
  • one for each WIP which is currently 3
  • one for writing practice
  • one for writing books I am working with like “The Writer’s Portable Mentor”
  • one for the Poses, Pens + Inner Peace class that I teach since I also write along with my students
  • one for yoga workshops
  • one for capturing themes & ideas for yoga classes I teach
  • a mini-notebook that fits in my purse

I figure the more opportunities I offer myself to write, the greater the possibility that I will actually write.

And it appears to be working.

“Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up into your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter, and lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.” ~ Jack London

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The Mindful Practice of Morning Pages.

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Image found here.

There are many reasons to write Morning Pages.

Lately, I find that they are a great tool for practicing mindfulness. My focus is not as laser sharp as I want it to be these days, to say the least. Pretty sure I’ve rewired my brain to look for the next shiny thing on Twitter or Facebook which is not the best result for a writer.

In meditation, my mind wanders over and over again. The practice is noticing when that happens and coming back to my breath or body or mantra or sounds. Writing morning pages I feel the impulse to lift my pen over and over again before I get to the end of my three, handwritten pages. When I lift my pen, my mind drifts. When my mind drifts it is oh so easy and tempting to reach for my phone or click on a tab on my laptop.

When I feel that impulse I just keep the pen moving In fact, I actually write, “just keep writing.” I feel the ink flowing across the surface. I hear the sound of the pen scratching against the paper. I see the trail of pink left behind. At this point, the words don’t even matter.

What matters is staying present.

What matters is not letting my hand lift, not letting my mind wander. Not checking my phone.

What matters is rewiring my brain to stay on the page, to stay in the moment.

As with meditation, keeping my hand moving, connecting to all the senses as I write leads me gently into that “serene encounter with reality.”

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.

Sticking with a Morning Routine.

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Image found via Pinterest.

I’ve always struggled sticking with things.

I never played an instrument so didn’t have that structure of practice to fall back on.

I’ve been great at starting things, then letting them fall away out of boredom or frustration or because I didn’t know what came next.

Writing used to be that way for me.

I’d write for days and days at a stretch then I’d just stop. Picking up the pen after each day had passed got progressively harder and harder.

But now I’ve written something every single day since January 1, 2016. That discipline of showing up has carried over into other parts of my life.

I now have a morning routine that stays pretty consistent:

~ splash cold water on my face

~ scrape my tongue

~ drink a glass of water

~ meditate

~ my own yoga practice which consists of a variety of poses and exercises gleaned from classes, physical therapy and videos designed to realign the hips

That is how I start most mornings. Then I weave in healthy meals, writing Morning Pages, working on my WIP, posting here, taking long walks with my dog, taking a yoga class, reading, prepping to teach 8 classes a week.

The structure of showing up each day to write no matter what my mood has had a huge impact on my life. Sticking with this morning routine stems from that but it also comes from the fact that I just feel better when I treat myself well. When I take care of me. (It’s not just a hashtag.)

I’ve played with this routine, adding new things in (pelvic reset), letting other things go (pranayama). After all, there are only so many hours in a day. But what allows me to keep showing up to myself is the fact that it feels good. I feel better. I have more energy, I am more focused, I handle stress better and I sleep better so it is easier to get up the next morning and make choices that nourish me.

What about you? Do you have a morning routine that you follow? What does it include? I’d love to hear.

 

The Artist’s Way ~ Week 11

Week 11 ~ Recovering your Sense of Autonomy

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  1. I did my Morning Pages every morning. Or, at least, every day. And I have recommended them to many people over the years if they feel stuck in their lives or stuck on a particular issue. Morning Pages allow things to flow again, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. While much of the writing for me is whiny petty stuff (better out than in) there are times I connect with that inner wisdom, and I am grateful for what it has to say and grateful that it is always there if I just make space for it. And Morning Pages create that space.
  2. I painted this week for my Artist’s Date. I had way too many expectations around it and it is not finished yet. All I wanted was to get lost in the process of painting. Of feeling the texture of the paint gliding onto the paper. The joy of exploring colors, mixing them to create my own new colors. But I got caught up in my head. What am I painting? What should I paint? It needs to look like something so I can take a picture and share it on Instagram or here on my blog. I’ll try it again maybe with the express intention of NOT sharing it at all.
  3. I can’t recall any instances of synchronicity this week though I am sure they happened. I really need keep a little synchronicity notebook to capture them and invite them more freely into my life. I did find recalling instances of personal synchronicity in my life interesting: 1) A book  finds me at the perfect time that I need to read it even if it’s been lounging on my shelves for years 2) Hearing or reading something  that fits like a missing puzzle piece into my current WIP. 3) Thinking about somebody then having them call or text 4) At the studio we often echo each other’s themes or poses without ever talking about it 5) Not getting into Antonya Nelson’s writing class years ago and instead took a class with a local writer and teacher, Maureen Dunphy who has ended up having such a huge, positive impact on my writing life: learned so much for her class, became part of a writing group with her, she is my ideal reader and sees things in my writing that I wasn’t even aware of, connected me with my current writing group.
  4. I ended up having a dialogue one day in my Morning pages between me and my writing. I was struggling with giving, what I consider, the scraps of my energy and attention to my writing.

Writing: Why do I get the scraps of your attention, energy and focus?

Me: I know. I’m sorry. But honestly, yoga makes me money, you don’t.

W: Not yet. And not ever if I get the bare minimum and besides, is money the main criteria on how you spend your energy?

Me: No, I guess not. I guess I’m embarrassed. And a little ashamed at how little effort I put into you. Even though I show up daily, the effort feels shallow. The work feels shallow.

W: I know it feels that way to you, but to me, every word, every moment of energy you direct in my direction adds up. These layers add up Layers of years, pages, words, layers of your devotion, your perseverance—it all adds up to deep work.

Me: Really? I didn’t think of it that way.

W: I know. You often see yourself in the weakest, harshest light possible.

Me: I know I do…

W: I just wish…

Me: What?

W: I just wish you had more faith in me. In us.

Me: Faith? Not a better work ethic?

W: Fuck no. More faith in the process of showing up, of keeping the creative momentum going. That’s priceless. Faith in your stories, your words. Faith in the impact your writing has. Faith in the process. Faith that the right readers will find you and you will find them. But—

Me: I have to send my work out.

W: Yes. You do. And not just once. But over and over again. As long as it takes.

Me: Okay. Faith it is.

 

The Artist’s Way ~ Week 7

Week 7 ~ Recovering a Sense of Connection

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  1. I did my Morning Pages every day this week. Some days felt like trying to get water from a stone, other times, the words just gushed onto the page resembling the draft of an essay or poem. What I’m trying to two with these pages is immerse myself in the process of them rather than the product and hopefully that ripples out to the rest of my life and creative pursuits.
  2. My Artist’s Date was going to see “Blank Panther.” I’ve been a fan of going to the movies alone for a long time. When my daughters were little, that was my mommy time-out. My husband would come home, take one look at me and gently suggest that I get dressed and go see a movie. It always worked. I’d come back refreshed. This movie not only left me refreshed but incredibly inspired and I will definitely be seeing it again. It was a visual feast and the story was profoundly moving.
  3. I am not usually aware of synchronicity but the more I notice them as I work through this process, the more they appear. Three things happened this week. First, I woke up one morning after a poor night’s sleep and my mind was immediately on and racing. I lay there, trying to just observe it and be amused other than frustrated. When  I open the book I am working with, “108 Days of Transformation,” the theme for that day was watching the mind. Second, I posted a photo of a book I was reading, “Buets” by Maggie Nelson and there was a particular student I wanted to make sure I recommended it to. When  I went back to tag her, I saw that she had already commented that she loved the book! Third, I became obsessed with a quote I saw online and was using it as a theme in my yoga classes. I was trying to find the source of the quote by Mary Oliver. I thought it was from her book “Devotions” (it wasn’t) and was browsing the shelf for it. No luck. There was a tiny volume tucked away and I almost didn’t crouch down to check it out but then I did. It wasn’t the book I was looking for but it was the book the Universe wanted me to have. It was called “Devotions” but by Patti Smith, not Mary Oliver. I gasped when i saw the title. Then I opened the first page and knew I had to buy it. It felt like the Universe had dropped a trail of breadcrumbs for me to follow to find that book.
  4. I completed some of the tasks. The one I enjoyed the most was the collage. I even inspired me to use the scraps to create a page in my art journal that I haven’t picked up in over a year. The women in my group posted their collages and it was a beautiful explosion of images revealing their hearts and souls. I swear that I would’ve been able to tell who created which collage because each seemed to beautifully reflect its creator.
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Collage task sitting in the alter in my yoga room.

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Page from my art journal.

The Artist’s Way ~ Week 6

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Week 6 ~ Recovering a Sense of Abundance

Abundance…the one subject I am always eager to explore and the one I dread. Like many of us (especially artists) I have a complicated relationship with money. One that I am working on.

  1. The counting reminded me of how I’ve been counting calories. It’s how I’ve lost 31 pounds since the end of September. And it makes sense. Money and food are both energy. When I lose track of either one (calories in or money spent) that’s when I get into trouble. I think I will keep counting what I spend. I keep track online and categorize each expenditure but writing it down in a little notebook as I spend it makes me feel more accountable.
  2. I’ve written my Morning Pages every day, just not every morning. I’ve noticed there’s a perfect window to write them and it is definitely in the morning. Wen I wait until the mid-afternoon my brain is foggy, my attention diffuse. When I wait until late at night I’m just too tired to focus.
  3. For my Artist’s Date I went to Earth Lore and treated myself to a few little luxuries that really nurture my creative and spiritual self: some teas,  a beautiful deck of cards, a book on creativity and yoga (two of my favorite things!) and some incense. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular but found exactly what  needed. 27972595_10212577978179185_7783535907238460880_n
  4. Noticed a couple of instances of synchronicity this week: my sister posted the poem, “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver and I had been reading it at the end of my yoga classes all week. A student brought in a stone with the word “trust” painted on it and I had already planned on using trust as one of our writing prompts for the class that night. While giving Reiki to a friend the title of my memoir came to me along with the structure. What a gift!

Onward!

The Artist’s Way • Week 5

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Check-in

  1. I did my Morning Pages every day, not always in the morning but every day. Often I’d hit this wall of “what is the point of this?” It feels like a waste of time, a waste of paper, a waste of trees as I struggled to fill three pages. Today, as I was whining about that very thing again, it hit me that this is a process not a product. It matters less what I write but that I write. That I show up. That I honor the commitment I’ve made to myself, that I just fill the pages without expectations of having a breakthrough or insight or even as Julia Cameron calls it a “truth point.”
  2. Even though I took my BFF as my date I’m going to go ahead and count this as my Artist’ s Date and here’s why. I was tempted to turn down this Artist’s Date that was literally gifted to me for free. A student had tickets to Yamato-The Drummers of Japan and offered them to me when she was too sick to use them. My initial response was no. No, I don’t even know who they are. No, I don’t want to go out after having to teach two classes early in the morning. No, I don’t want to drive up there and back late at night. Then I remembered this process of honoring my artist, of playing, of saying yes whenever possible. So, I googled who they were and they looked amazing and I said yes. And it was amazing. The show was engaging on so many levels: visually stunning, I not only heard the music but literally felt it thrumming through my body. It’s made me wonder why my initial reaction to something new is usually no. I am trying to catch myself and saying yes more and more.
  3. Synchronicity: Looking back the one thing I noticed is how I got the tickets. When she realized she couldn’t use them the went on Facebook to find somebody to give them to and I was the first person she saw. I haven’t actually been keeping an eye out for synchronicity so that is something I need to start consciously holding as an intention.
  4. Other issues: This week it felt like I kept this whole process on the back burner. Even though I did my Morning Pages daily, and went on my AD, I feel like I dropped the thread of the theme, of the process this week. I did a couple of the in-chapter exercises early in the week then nothing. Today I did all of the tasks. So it felt like I bookended my week with this work rather than letting it flow through me and around me throughout the week. The good news is I don’t feel bad about it or about me. It’s just something I noticed and thought, “Huh, this isn’t working for me. Let’s change it.”