All Around The Writing

There are days I’d like writing a book to be only writing.  Pencil to paper.  Fingertips to keyboard.  Mind and heart to telling a story.  That’s the best part.

I resist the other parts of writing a book, the planning and organizing parts.  I know they are as essential as the actual writing.  I do them, but I can’t seem to convince myself to approach them with the same joy.

Already I can see this is about heart and head.

Telling the story, for me, is rooted in my heart.  I feel it, and words flow from the feelings.

Planning and organizing are rooted in my head.  I think, I don’t feel.  No wonder the joy is missing.  I find satisfaction here, but I’m in the wrong place to expect joy.  Silly me.

I need to find a way to partner my heart with my head when I approach the non-writing parts of book-making.  Find a way to leave aside the resistance, and bring a peaceful curiosity to the work instead.

Much of the work I did during the Story Genius process was planning and organizing, yet I didn’t resist.  I didn’t resist because I was learning something new, and I could see and feel how this process was enriching and expanding the story I wanted to tell.

My heart was invested in getting this done because it loved the story I was creating.

Here is the key.

I love this story and I need to invest my heart in all the parts of creating it. I need to feel how all the work around the writing teaches me something new, and gives me the knowledge and experience to make me a better writer. I need to let myself be curious and enjoy exploring the possibilities around putting a story together.

Invest my heart. Feel how everything I do gives my story a base and bones to stand strong. Gives my story detail that offers connection for my readers.  Gives my story flow that creates a living place for my readers’ imaginations.

The time I spend on planning and organization is not stolen from the writing.  It adds to it.

I’m not losing.  I’m gaining, and then my readers will gain too.

It’s all a win.

_________________

In this post:

Story Genius by Lisa Cron, published by Ten Speed Press, 2016.  http://wiredforstory.com/story-genius-1

I Feel, Therefore I Am

pastel drawing 'Summer Sandals' by Cat Fink

I am changing the well-known saying by Rene Descartes, “I think, therefore I am.” 

I’ve decided writers require their own version.  “I feel, therefore I am.”

The writing for my book’s third draft is all about emotional context and connection.  The book is nonfiction, but it still requires the feeling connection with the reader.  Without it, my words have no depth, and trusting them is questionable.

It’s no surprise to me that the first two drafts lacked emotional context.  I am a master at masking my own feelings from myself.  Thing is, this lack is a definite problem when writing a memoir that tells of healing through learning to open my heart.

We are all masters at sensing other people’s feelings.  Often we call it intuition, but it’s really an emotional connection that runs below thought.  From experience, I am aware how I trust the feeling of someone’s words more than I trust the words themselves.  I can’t expect a reader to trust and connect to my story without also sharing with them the emotions that accompany it.

Sharing my emotions leaves me feeling shaky, naked, and vulnerable.  Sharing them publicly is terrifying, but I am walking myself through the terror, and writing anyways.

I am not doing this alone.

I have my precious group of friends and allies who read my draft, allowing their truest selves to be vulnerable enough to offer me their honest critiques.

I have an editor, and we are forging a heart connection between ourselves and the story to create it true.

I have writers and artists who are mentors via their books and images.  One and all, they walked a path of emotional vulnerability, and now they are showing me how to do the same.  When I get too scared, I pull one of their books from my shelves and borrow their courage.

Walking willingly into vulnerability is terrifying.  What surprises me is how grounded, open, and strong I feel after each writing session.  Allowing myself to see, feel, and express my truest heart is strength, not weakness.

Allowing my vulnerability is strength.  Opening the emotional connection is strength.  Sharing the words that come of this is strength.

I feel, therefore I am.

__________________

In this post:

In case you were wondering, a few of my mentors include Natalie Goldberg, Julia Cameron, Dee Wallace, Tom Hart, and Brene Brown.

Tending To What Is Already Here

I love gardens, but I’m not a gardener.

My home is set in a half acre of trees, flowers, and grasses.  I love its mix of wild and cultured growth.  A thousand shades of green (maybe more), dotted with roses and wild flowers, populated by five kinds of bees (I counted) and two kinds of hummingbirds.  Paradise.

This Eden came with our home.  Someone who was very much a gardener loved this land and created this beauty.  I am the grateful recipient of their creative soul.

You will see me outside watering, clearing pathways, pruning back the abundant wild blackberries lest they completely take over.  They would.  Their joyful growth would cover all in a rush for the sun.  They have the area along the fence at the bottom of the garden, and will have to be content with that.

Today I realized being the writer of a book is like my shifting not-gardener status.

I love books, but I always claimed I’d never have the patience to write one.  All that time on a single project—not me.

Look at me now.  Here I am, determined to see this book into full, abundant growth.

What changed?

The secret is the same as with my garden.  I loved what was already present, and out of that love, I began tending to it.

I love reading.  I love words and what they do for my heart.  I love playing with word puzzles.  I’d started writing a book when I was eight, and again when I was eleven.  I loved writing stories in school and university, and I let myself forget that during my love affair with drawing.

Writing was within me.  For years, words showed up as background and foreground in my drawings, as poems that burst forth in the midst of my sketchbooks, as morning pages, as essays accompanying my art shows.

Like the wild blackberries, writing showed up all around me, asking for a place of its own to grow and flourish.

Unlike the wild blackberries, I chose to let writing sprout up everywhere in my life.  The more I wrote, the richer my writing time became.

And now here I am.  I am an artist who writes.  I am an artist creating a book.

I’ve surprised myself.  I do have enough patience to take the time to grow a single project.

I may be wrong about being a not-gardener, too.

______________________

In this post:

The image is from a sketchbook I created for the Brooklyn Art Library’s Sketchbook Project 2018. I titled my sketchbook The Secret Garden. It’s the garden of my heart. You can view the entire artwork here https://www.walkingowlstudio.ca/gallery/the_sketchbook_project_the_secre/

The Woods And The Path

Something is happening as I write my book.  There is a discard pile developing, the writing I am sure won’t fit into the final draft. 

These discards aren’t bad or wrong.  What they are is a different path through the same tale.  

It feels like there are a million ways of telling my tale.  For my book to be the best telling, I need to find the path that fits both the story and the kind of writer I am.

Philip Pullman, in his book Daemon Voices: On Stories And Storytelling, talks about the woods and the path.  The woods are the biggest picture, everything about and around this tale, whether strongly or vaguely linked.  The woods are vast, shadowed in places, bright and open in others, both chaos and order.  Somehow I write a path through these woods, and the path becomes my book.

I am a writer who blogs about living a creative life with an open heart.  Knowing this about myself helps me choose the path I take through the woods of my book.  The woods are the illness and healing I experienced.  The path follows my heart’s tale, telling what happened when my heart was besieged by the illness of my body.  Telling what happened when my heart declared “no more”, and found a way to break my body free, a way most everyone else told me did not exist.  (It does so exist.)

Yes, here is the path I write through the woods.  My heart showed me how to heal my body, and how to choose love instead of fear.  The path tells how I learned to listen and trust what my heart told me. The path tells how I learned love. 

I know there are a million other paths through these woods.  For now, for this book, I have found mine.

___________________

In this post:

Philip Pullman, Daemon Voices: On Stories And Storytelling, Knopf Doubleday, 2018, page 139:  “There are the events, and what you tell about the events.  There is the wood and the path.”  https://www.philip-pullman.com/

About my discard pile:  I always keep the pieces that don’t fit, no matter what writing project I am into.  It’s something I learned as an artist, not to toss away what isn’t working.  Put it aside, and let time show me if it fits somewhere else.

Receiving Everything Most Loved

April was a writing month for me. I pushed myself. Pushing was the right thing to do, because now I am exactly where I wish to be, deep into my book draft.

Today I am changing my creative routine, receiving rather than giving. It’s a reward for all the creative work, and it’s one of the things I love most. I’m having a reading weekend, beginning today.

Julia Cameron would say I am replenishing my creative well. Yes, I am and with great pleasure.

My book list contains one mystery novel and three non-fiction. The non-fiction include one on energy work, one on creativity, and one a melding of memoir and creative writing. Here is my list:

Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear. This is a murder mystery set in 1930’s London, and the detective is Maisie Dobbs. She searches and solves with both heart and head.

The Answer Is Energy by Jarrad Hewett. Everything is energy, including thought, belief, and emotion. Jarrad’s work helped me to heal fibromyalgia.

Keep Going by Austin Kleon. This is Austin’s new book. Yayyyyyyy!

Tomorrow I’m adding one more book to the weekend reading pile. The staff are saving it for me at the local bookstore–Where The Past Begins: Memory And Imagination by Amy Tan. I read her previous book on writing, The Opposite Of Fate: Memories Of A Writing Life, and completely enjoyed it. There is fourteen years between these books, so I am curious to see what Amy has to say now.

I haven’t decided if I will read through one book before moving on to the next, or if I will hop back and forth. The choice is mine, whatever I feel like in the moment.

A stack of books. Hot milky coffee. Background music by George Winston and Joe Hisaishi. My comfy studio couch. Four days of receiving something I love most–good writing.

_____________________

In this post:

Jacqueline Winspear http://jacquelinewinspear.com/

Jarrad Hewett https://jarradhewett.com/

Austin Kleon https://austinkleon.com/

Amy Tan http://www.amytan.net/

Everything Matters

A few months ago I listened to a webcast.  The speaker compared life’s experiences to climbing a ladder.

“Every rung is important,” he said, “Every rung is equal.”

At first, the idea of “everything matters equally” felt paralyzing.  Taking even the simplest of actions could be life-or-death in a world where all is so completely important. I might do it wrong.

Then I heard the words differently.

Everything in life has equal meaning. 

At first, this didn’t seem logical.  Holding a door open for someone and saving someone’s life has equal meaning? 

Yes, it does. 

Last Fall I was deep in grief over the deaths of my Dad and my cousin.  The feelings came and went, unpredictable tides that left me feeling helpless and lost.  On a day when things were especially colourless and I desperately needed to feel better, I took myself to the library.

As I walked towards the door, it swung open and someone came out.  Their arms were loaded with books, a balancing act, but when they saw me they paused and waited, holding the door open wide.  They looked me in the eyes and smiled.  I thanked them and walked through. 

Holding the door open for someone and smiling, a momentary gesture frequently repeated, nothing really in the larger movements of life. Except this someone, a stranger, smiled for me as if we knew and loved each other well.

That brief action was pure kindness, a connection that gave me light and space and breath.  I was offered a moment of love that buoyed me for the rest of the day.

I don’t know what happens as my actions and choices ripple outwards.  I don’t know who I affect every day in my life.

I do know I want my life’s touch to be as kind and loving as the gift I received that day.

If everything is important and equal, if everything has meaning, I choose to do my days with kindness and love for the people around me and for myself.

Saying Yes Please To Help

I was one of those children who regularly insisted, “I can do it myself.”  My parents heard those words a million times.  Bless their patience.

Now I am in the messy middle of writing a book, and I can most definitely not do it myself.

I didn’t fully realize, when I began this process, creating a book is a communal effort.  I kind of knew, but hadn’t considered it at depth.  After all, book covers say “by author’s name”.  They don’t say “by long list of names.”

The clue is inside the book on the acknowledgements page if the writer has added one, and most do.  Right there is the long list.

When I think on it, I had help long before the book idea crossed my mind.  Every creativity book I have worked my way through, and every author of everything I’ve read throughout my life have helped me.  They’ve laid paths and rhythms of language within me.  I move to that beat when I write.

I learned from every teacher ways I wanted to play with words, and ways I didn’t.

My circle of friends are artists, writers, and readers, book lovers all.  They patiently read my drafts and ask exactly the right questions to unstick me from swamps of my own making.  They celebrate, commiserate, and push when I need it.  I do the same for them, and gain a deeper understanding of my own creative process.

In my future beyond the drafts stage, there is a stream of wise partners who will help me create, support, and present the book that shows up online, in bookstores, and in readers’ hands and minds.

The help list is long and growing.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I treasure the community coming into being, the wisdom and experience shared with me, the yes they are offering my project.

I was a do-it-myself child.

It’s a good thing I have changed.

(Written at a friend’s home, grey-blue ocean beyond the windows and a morning sky clearing towards a sunny day.  Thanks Wren, for lending me your place!)

When Nothing Makes Me Feel Better

The last few weeks have been a slow roller coaster.  My moods have traveled up and down, and longer in the downs.  This week I’ve settled, a blessed relief.

I could list the reasons, but it’s easier to simply list ‘life’.

I am exactly like my son when he was five years old.

It was a tough day at school (kindergarten is not always easy), and he came home angry.  He didn’t want to talk, and he bashed his way around the house until I became angry too.  Better we separate when we’re both angry.  I told him to go to his room. I stayed in the kitchen.

I listened as he stomped away, as his door slammed, as the noise and activity level in his bedroom peaked, then quieted.

After a few minutes, concern and curiosity led me down the hallway.  I knocked on his door, then opened it.

He looked at me, mourning written all over him.  “Mom, I’ve tried everything and nothing makes me feel better.”

The evidence of his effort lay all around him, on the floor and the bed.  Toys, Lego pieces, stuffed animals, his favourite blanket.  He had tried so hard.  My upset dissolved in an instant.

Love is what I gave my precious son that day, and received love back.  We sat on his bed and hugged, held hands, talked about nothing important.  We had all the time in the world.

I’ve tried and nothing makes me feel better–I know that place.

Luckily, I am now old enough I’ve learned what to do.

I don’t push the feelings away.  I don’t try to make myself better.  I’m upset for a reason and my feelings are broadcasting what and why.  I need to feel and listen, so I do.  I put on music, or let the house be silent , wrap myself in my favourite blanket, cocoon myself on the couch, become still.  An hour or a day, I feel and listen.  I treat myself gently, a precious being broken and hurting and needing love.

Love is what I give myself when I am hurting and needing.  Love and all the time in the world.  Love fills the cracks and mends the breaks.  Love tells me I am something precious, and makes me whole again.

My son doesn’t remember that day, but I do always.  He gave me the most perfect gift of feeling and understanding what keeps us whole.  Love.  Love.  Love.  Love.

________________

In this post:

I didn’t always know how to love myself.  I still forget sometimes, but each time the gap is smaller.  Dee Wallace’s Red Dot Exercise is one of the things that helped me learn what unconditional self-love feels like. 

My experience doing the Red Dot Exercise is here on my blog, postings from December 23 and 24, 2014:

Dee’s website is at https://iamdeewallace.com/