Coming Home to Writing Practice.

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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.

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What Happens Next.

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Image found via Pinterest.

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.

 

 

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.

 

Today.

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Today, I changed my profile picture on social media to a black square, symbolizing my grief.

Today, I went to yoga, allowing myself to be both grounded and lifted up by my practice and yoga community.

Today, I chose to not watch the inauguration.

Today, I wrote over 700 more words on my novel. Each day, I show up and add more words and they begin to add up to something substantial. They add up to scenes, to pages, to characters, to stories, eventually to a full novel.

In the days and years ahead of us, showing up each day to what is happening in our communities, states and country will be critical. Each action, no matter how small, adds up to something substantial.

Make that call to your representative voicing your concern about healthcare or education or the environment or whatever cause is dear to your heart.

Join a local political action group.

Write an Op-Ed.

Reach out to somebody in your community who feels afraid, disenfranchised.

Take radical care of yourself.

Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint.

Today, as I grieve at what we’ve lost and are afraid of losing I am also looking at what we have gained.

We have gained an awakening.

People are waking up from complacency.

Waking up to the sobering responsibilities of being a citizen of the great country.

I see people waking up to support each other.

To lift each other up.

To standing up to bullies, misogyny, racism, xenophobia.

Standing up for progress.

Tomorrow I will join many of you as I attend a local progressive rally in my very conservative town before heading to our state capitol for the Sister March.

There will be excitement.

There will be passion.

There will be pussyhats and signs and lots and lots of energy.

But that is only the very first step in a very long journey.

So, yes, today a black square is representing my mourning.

Tomorrow, it will be replaced by my original picture with the words, “When sleeping women wake, mountains move.”

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Today, I mourn. Tomorrow I take the first of many, many steps to move mountains.

I hope you’ll join me.