1,026 Days in a Row.

1026 days

Image found via Pinterest.

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.

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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.

Happy National Book Lovers Day!

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“I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

I don’t remember the first book I ever read.

I can’t remember that moment when the strange black marks on a page turned into words, which turned into images which turned into stories I could see in my mind.

I do remember that Library Day was my favorite day of the week in elementary school. I checked out the same series of books over and over about three Swedish sisters named Flicka, Ricka and Dicka.

At some point I gravitated to “Gone with the Winds’ but the librarian steered me away, deeming me too young to read it.

I remember receiving Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden books for Christmas and being so happy we had the 4-hour drive up north so that I could lose myself in them.

I went through an Agatha Christie phase and a Taylor Caldwell phase spurred on my older cousin who was also a bookworm. I went through a phase of devouring romance novels in a single sitting.

I now have six bookshelves bulging with books, both read and to-be-read. The ratio is getting to be about 50/50. Don’t judge. There are worse habits I could have than loving books and having way more than I can possibly read in this lifetime.

I try to read widely and diversely: different genres, authors of varying ages, ethnicities, gender.

Not surprisingly, before I was a writer, I was a reader. A huge, avid reader. Every single report card mentions my love of words.

As a writer, I am even more of a reader, if that is even possible. I still read for the reasons I used to: to escape, to immerse myself in other lives, other cultures, other worlds. To see life through the lens of another. But I also read with this other layer of attention, of curiosity, of wonder. How did they structure the book, the story? Why did they choose to use that point of view? How did they write such a beautiful sentence that took my breath away?

I may not remember exactly when I learned to read or what my first book was. I definitely don’t remember all of the books I’ve consumed over the years, and “consume’ is the perfect word. Each book is absorbed into who I am, helping to mold me into who I am becoming.

As Emerson so eloquently states, they have made me.

Happy National Book Lovers Day!! What are some of your favorite books? Book memories? Writers? Please feel free to share in the comments.

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.

What Happens Next.

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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.

 

 

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.

 

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

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 Deep Dive Into the Unknown.

underwater

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I’ve never been deep-sea diving but I imagine writing to be similar—only without the apparatus to help me breath.

Each day I show up to the page, not knowing what I will find, not knowing what I will write, not knowing where I will end up but I take a deep breath and dive in anyway.

I dive beneath the surface of my mind, swimming toward the dark murky shadows, pushing myself further and further out until I’ve lost all sense of direction. Not only do my feet not reach the bottom, but there is a whole other world beneath me now. Which way do I turn? Which way is up?

I remember snowmobiling on frozen lakes as a kid, the shore swallowed up beneath the snow, all landmarks gone no sense of where to turn next.

Writing so often feels like that.

I think I am too hard on myself  when I still find it hard to get to the page. When I don’t write as many words as I think I should. When I get stuck on a scene.

Writing is hard. The getting lost. The not knowing. The getting even more lost. Followed by even more not knowing.

I only do it because I can’t imagine not doing it.

Nobody is waiting for my words. Not an agent. Not an editor. Not a publisher. Not a reader. Yet I still show up, day after day, willing to take a deep breath and plunge back into the inky depths of the unknown.

Writing in the Age of Distraction.

Distraction

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It used to be so easy to sink into my writing. Even though I had two small children, once I dropped my youngest off at pre-school, I’d slip into the nearest Starbucks, order my chai and a pumpkin scone and hunker down at a table for the next two hours.

The writing itself wasn’t easy, but the ability to focus and disappear into my writing was.

See, this was almost twenty years ago. Before cell phones and the internet and Twitter and Facebook. Back then the only thing standing between me and my writing was me, not the entire world in the palm of my hand.

Sure, I’d get distracted by looking out the window or watching people but those activities kept me in that dreamy receptive state necessary to write. Checking my phone rips a hole in that state, tearing it to shreds as I allow the noise of the world in, drowning out my voice, the voice of my story and characters.

The Freedom app helps. As soon as I set a session, turning off access to the internet on all of my devices, I immediately feel a little more present. My breath has some ease, my mind and heart unclench and I am able to turn my attention to the page for a certain amount of time. When I get to a scene where I don’t know what happens, instead of reaching for my phone, I gaze out the window and dream.

And dreaming is where the stories exist.