The Practice of Curiosity.

stay curious

Image found via Pinterest.

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

Image found via Pinterest.

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Surrounding Myself with Inspiration.

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The Celtic Goddess Boann is the most recent addition to my writing space. She is the Goddess of Inspiration and Creativity.

Judith Shaw writes, “In the same way that flowing waters clear debris in its path, Boann clears your mind of mental debris and negativity. She helps open your soul to receive divine inspiration. Call on Boann when seeking your own creative voice, an open door to spiritual insight and our connection to source.”

I love that!

My writing space cloaks me in inspiration from the colors (poppy and robin’s egg blue) to all of the books lining my shelves, from artwork and quotes to the view out the window.

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I’ve created a writing nest, a writing cocoon. I finally prefer to write here than out  in public. I light a candle (something sweet in the winter and fall, a fresh scent in spring and summer), sit at my desk that is nestled between two bookshelves with a view into our front yard, pop in earplugs, open a notebook or laptop and dive in.

The objects, words and images that surround me in this space were chosen specifically because they spoke to me. They challenge me to show up daily, to find my voice, to connect with my source.

 

My Love Affair with Writing Prompts.

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I love writing prompts.

I taught myself how to write using them. It started with prompts from Tristine Rainier’s book,”The New Diary” then I found Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down the Bones” and began filling notebook after notebook with writing practice.

I knew I had to write and not just read about how to write to, you know, actually be a writer. Prompts got me writing. They bypassed the the censor and let me just get directly to the writing. I didn’t have to think up what to write about.

Prompts are a springboard that let me dive into the deep end instead of lingering at the edge, dipping my toe in as I try to decide what exactly to write every single time I sit down to the blank page.

When I began writing fiction, I still used prompts only I wrote them from the POV of my characters. Sometimes nothing came of them except that I got words on a page (always a good thing). But often some new, crucial information was revealed about the character or plot. Those days felt magical.

This story published on literary mama.com began as an exercise in a class from a prompt using a photograph of a chair by the side of a house.

My finished novel-in-stories began as prompt from this black and white photo by Mary Ellen Mark:

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Image found via NPR.

 

It’s not that I imagine the characters look like the girls in this photo. The energy between them, the juxtaposition of tween girls in a kiddie pool and the cigarette just intrigued me and led me to explore (for years) that energy that first sparked something in me.

While photographs work really for me (I keep a board on Pinterest) I’m also drawn to other types of prompts as well. Contributions to Post Secret can provide rich material. And I have written through every prompt in Judy Reeves’ “Writer’s book of Days” several times. I once wrote a short story based on something I overheard a man say on a cell phone while at the airport.

Prompts allow me to get back to that playfulness of writing that I had when I first started out. They allow me to get out of my head and into my subconscious where all the juicy things wait.

But mostly they just get me writing no matter what my mood or energy or anxieties. For that reason, prompts are priceless.

#AMonthofFaves2016 ~ Best Changes We Made This Year

To your Day / Life / Routines / Blog / Habits

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I’ve made two big changes this year, both incredibly beneficial (so hopefully that is motivation to keep them going!).

The first is my “Don’t Break the Chain” challenge. I created 365 boxes on a dry erase board and put an “X” on each day that I wrote. I’ve managed to write every day this year. Now, some days it was just morning pages. Other days it was merely one sentence in my WIP. But, the point is, that I wrote something every single day of 2016… so far. Next year, my plan is to make it a little more challenging. Maybe I need to write 500 words on my WIP at least 5 days a week to earn that “X.”

meditation

The second thing I did (and it’s only been since November 9) is meditate every day. Most days it is for at least 15 minutes. 2 days it has been for 5 because the day was so crazy and I just needed to fit it in. I have resisted meditation for years. Even when one of my favorite writers and writing teachers, Natalie Goldberg,  promised that meditation was the secret to writing, I still resisted. But now I am kind of in a groove. I feel like meditation creates space for all of my thoughts, all of my feelings. Nothing is being squashed or pushed aside. Meditation is holding sacred space for all for me. I find myself calmer, less reactive, more mindful, more focused…all great benefits for a writer.

What are some changes you’ve made this years or plan to make next year? I’d love to hear about them.

Check out the challenge here. 

Books Read in May + June.

May June books

“Furiously Happy- A Funny Book About Horrible Things” by Jenny Lawson

This is where I was going to put a simple Mary Oliver quote but instead I decided to replace it with the idea I had for the cover of this book because I’m pretty sure it’ll never get accepted and I don’t want it to go to waste.

A funny book about a lifelong struggle with anxiety and depression? Yep. And only Jenny Lawson could pull it off.

As I read this book, each page either made me laugh out loud or cringe a little or left a little ding in my heart—sometimes all three at once.

If you haven’t discovered Jenny Lawson via her on-line presence as “The Bloggess” (and why haven’t you?) go, right now and check her out. Unless you’re easily offended. Or don’t like edgy, dark humor. But if you do, and if you appreciate a woman who is funny AF and is able to laugh at herself and plunder the depths of her mental illness for all to see then check out her blog and definitely check out this book.

A sentence I love: It’s as if risotto doesn’t know if it’s mashed potatoes or rice so it just decided to be both. But badly.

“Crash Course—essays from where writing and life collide” by Robin Black

The only person in my home who thinks about words more than I do is my younger daughter.

This is probably one of my favorite books on writing. And that is saying a lot. I used to devour writing books in lieu of, you, know, actually writing. The books that really resonate with me are the ones less about craft and more about—well the subtitle of this collection—that space where writing and life collide.

Black covers everything from ADHD to home improvements, from rejections to queries. She writes from her own life and shares a deep, behind-the-scenes look at how her life has impacted her writing and how writing impacts her life.

My favorite essay (if I had to choose just 1!) may be the advice on how (not) to query where she ignored all of the advice on how you should write a query and basically just wrote from her own charming, real self.

Reading these essays felt like I was sitting down over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine with a mentor who really gets me and who only wants me to succeed in the space where my own life and writing collide. And for that I thank her.

A sentence I love: I hunt for the points of inaction that my characters might themselves later regret, those decisions that might inspire in them the rich fictions of which we are all such gifted authors when we are sorry to have chosen the safer, less active of two possible paths.

“I Don’t Want to, I Don’t Feel Like It—How Resistance Controls your life and What to Do About It” by Cheri Huber & Ashwini Narayanan

There’s an impulse:

–I want to lose weight, eat better, join the gym.

Aaahh…resistance. That relentless puppy nipping at our heels constantly. This is the first book to not only explain the origins of resistance but what to do to bypass it and live the kind of life you want to live, be the kind of person you want to be.

It’s written in a casual font that helps you to slow down and really read each sentence. There are even simple, hand-drawn illustration throughout. There’s a lot of repletion but it is needed. It’s needed because our Ego doesn’t want us to understand how to bypass it. Ego wants us to stay exactly as we are, as it is.

I love that there are fifteen 2-day exercises to complete at the end to help us implement the tools rather than merely read about them.

A sentence I love: We cannot have the life we want if we are unable to drop the conversation and be present to life as it is.

“The Empathy Exams” essays by Leslie Jamison

My job title is medical actor, which means I play sick.

This eclectic collection of essays explore the idea, role and expression of empathy in our lives. Jamison mines her personal life for spaces where she learned empathy, displayed or encountered it as well as the times it alluded her.

We are given access to her time as a medical actor, pretending to be a patient with a script memorized so medical students could practice on her. They got points for showing empathy. Which led her to wonder what exactly empathy was and how was it expressed. The mere fact that the med student is given points for it takes away from the sincerity of the expression.

She explores her travels outside the country as well her personal health crises and injuries. In the last essay (my favorite) she explores the idea of women and pain, feminine wounds weaving in everything from Dracula to Carrie, from anorexia to cutting.

I led a book group on this and the discussion was fascinating. The feeling that Jamison failed to display the very empathy she was attempting to explore by viewing herself so closely and mining others’ struggles came across as the antithesis of empathy. I find it a fine line writers must straddle when writing from personal experiences. When does it cross the line into navel-gazing? I felt she balanced it all, risking alienating some (as in my book club) by delving deep into her own pain in order to illuminate how we can feel the pain of others.

A sentence I love: [On anorexia] Not just at the familiarity of these metaphors—bone as hieroglyph, clavicle as cry—but at the way they risk performing the same valorization they claim to refute: ascribing eloquence to the starving body, a kind of lyric grace.

The More I Befriend my Writing…

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Today is the 130th day of 2016.

I have written every one of those days.

Some days I have half-assed it, just barely showing up enough to call it writing.

But most days I. Show. Up.

I write. I edit. I revise. I re-imagine scenes to make them deeper, more real. I haul out the words and stories buried in my body, in my psyche, ones that are weighing me down, holding me back.

Today, as I rolled out of a 30-minute meditation, trying to stay in that soft space, I picked up my notebook and pen, watching the pink ink spill across the page and I realized that writing is no longer just something I show up for. It’s not longer just a red “x” I make on my board.

Writing has become my soft place to land everyday—even when what I am writing is hard and jagged.

Writing is no longer (well, more often) this “other” that I battle, compare, belittle and judge.

I have finally befriended my writing and it has befriended me.

It reminds of this:

befriending

And here is the fascinating thing:

The more I befriend my writing, the more I am befriending my body—the more I befriend my whole self.

The more real I am on the page, the more I let it all out, the more compassion I seem to generate for myself and all the parts I used to deem as broken or unacceptable or unlovable.

My youngest daughter (19 years old) recently attended my Poses, Pens + Inner Peace class which combines some writing with yoga. The topic of that “inner mean girl” voice came up. Later at dinner, I asked E.if she experienced that voice.

She shrugged and said, “Nah…my voice petty much says ‘You do you, Girl!'”

As her mom, I loved hearing that.

,As a woman I loved hearing that.

As a writer, I realize that is exactly what my writing says to me:

“You do you, Girl. I got your back.”