I have a two-word mantra that guides my days. Choose love.
This morning I decided to put my blog on ‘pause’ for the next few weeks, or months. I’m not sure how long.
The reason is simple. I’m pausing for the sake of love of the book I’m writing. I love the story, love how the words are coming together, love the structure that is building itself as I write, love what is showing up to be expressed.
Don’t get me wrong. Loving how my book is growing doesn’t mean it isn’t work, because it is, and doesn’t mean it’s easy, because often it definitely isn’t. I want this book to be the best I’m able to create, and the combination of love, work, and not-easy tells me I need to focus my time and energy and creative power on one thing–the book.
It feels odd to think I won’t write my blog for the next few weeks or months. My blog and I have been writing partners for close on five years, and the weekly writing fills my heart. Yet, I know this is the right choice, and I trust what I feel.
I may change my mind and be back here sooner than I think. I really don’t know.
In the meantime, while my blog is on pause, thank you for the past five years, and bless you for reading the words and hearing my heart.
When a story has happened for real, you’d think possibility and imagination have a lesser place in the writing process than in a story of fiction.
Not so. The very first time an adult asked me, as a young child, to tell them “what happened”, I understood I had more than one path for telling the story. The things I knew had happened, the things I wanted them to know, and what they wanted to know were three very different lists. You can bet I chose the path of my desire over theirs.
If I know my desire lines, I know how to tell the story, because desire lines inform my choices.
My reason for writing the book is a desire line, and the readers I’m focused towards are another desire line. These lines work together. They guide me to specific story-telling choices and structures, and they point to aspects of the story to emphasize, include, or leave out.
There’s a desire line within the story as well.
The person I was eight years ago was desperate to heal her body, desperate to be well enough to work in her art studio. This very specific desire is what drove her into choices and actions she would never have otherwise taken, and it changed who she was.
This desire line drives the story, and it runs through all the writing I do, whether it’s a direct part of the book draft or in support of it. If a written piece doesn’t touch the desire line, I know right away it doesn’t belong in the story.
There’s a desire line running through me every time I write and every time I draw. I’m in love with creating, and that’s the biggest, most wide open, most full of possibilities, most imaginative desire line of all.
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
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.
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
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,
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.