Feeling What I Write

mixed media pastel drawing 'All The Other Angels Fled' by Cat Fink

My book’s third draft requires what I call bridges, written pieces to fill the gaps that exist in the second draft. 

Right now I am writing a series of bridges showing an emotional shift from denial into curiosity and the beginning of a willingness to look at a long, traumatic experience of illness.  Because this third draft is all about adding the emotional layer, I need to move deep into my emotions every time I write.

Yesterday I wrote about numbing out.  Numbing out is an emotion.  It’s a way of coping with and surviving other emotions which threaten to overwhelm. I know it intimately. It was my primary emotion for a very long time when I was ill.

Writing about a denial of emotion and, at the same time, providing the emotional connection for the reader is tricky.  I struggled with the words, I persevered, but by the time I was done I was numbed out to my writing.  I left my studio in doubt of any success.

This morning I realized what had happened.  I’d not only written about the emotional wall I lived behind when I was ill with fibromyalgia, I’d recreated it.

My mind, body, and heart don’t register a difference between an emotion felt via memory and an emotion felt via a current experience.  When I feel something, I feel the experience right now.  Present.  Immediate.

I’ve learned things today.  Trust my mind and body and heart to know what needs to be written, to feel the emotions truly, and to write that truth.  Remember that the emotions I am expressing on the page colour how I feel after the writing is done; bless them, and let them go. Trust my readers and their emotional experiences to understand and complete the emotional connection I’m offering.

The shorter version—trust and write what feels true.

The Library In My Home

I’ve heard it said the kitchen is the heart of the home.

I understand that.  When my family gathers, no matter how inviting and comfortable the living room couches and chairs, we always gravitate to the kitchen.  Here we find nourishment for both body and heart.

However, my home has a secret.  It has a second heart, a library.  In my home, these two places feed us whole—body, heart, mind, and spirit.

I am in love with libraries, and having one of my very own tickles me completely.  I take great delight in saying, “I have a library in my home.”

My library is a small room, no more than ten feet by ten feet square.  Three walls of books and a window in the fourth wall.  The light coming in is gold and green, the result of summer sun filtering through layers of grape leaves.  It’s cool in here right now, despite the noon heat outside.

Besides books, my library holds an old couch, extra pillows, and an afghan.  There’s a narrow, wood table with two leaves that fold out if you need more space for important things like mugs of tea and a teapot, paper to write on, and pencils. 

My library might be small but, like all libraries, it contains worlds, immense and uncountable, in each book that stands on the shelves around me.  Here is treasure, beyond abundant, as endless as every imagination of every writer whose name shines on these beloved books.

My heart thrives in my library, just as surely as it thrives in my family kitchen.  If home is where the heart is, I am doubly blessed and doubly home.

_____________________

In this post:

The image at the top of this post is from the accordion fold sketchbook I created for the Brooklyn Art Library. The sketchbook is a secret garden, rather like my library, and if you’re curious about it you can find all the images at my art site. https://www.walkingowlstudio.ca/gallery/the_sketchbook_project_the_secre/

Summer Mode

emma.fixed.large
I Dreamed I Was Water (Emma) – Cat Fink

I’m on summer vacation time this past week.  My internal clock finally adjusted itself.  It looked around, said ‘oh it’s July’, switched into slower, and then into slowwwww.  I am now in summer mode.  Hooray!

Summer mode means my time stretches.  Becomes casual and bendy.  I start tacking ‘ish’ onto my times for meeting friends and family.  Six-ish.  Noon-ish.  Eleven-ish.

I like ish-time.

I worked with a fellow who taught me about summer mode and ish-time.  Every year he would take his vacation, six weeks of it, as one piece.  On the morning of his first day off, he would pick up his watch, put it at the back of a drawer, and leave it there.  He moved through his vacation to the feel of each day in his body, to the rhythm of the sun rising and setting, to long conversations with friends, to the stars appearing at night.  Eating, moving, resting as the mood took him.

On the evening of the last day of his vacation he would go back to the drawer, pull out his watch, and return to the world of time and appointments set without ish on the end.

This summer it took me until mid-July to remember to take off my watch and put it away.  After an intense twelve months, it is time to play, to re-balance and recharge.  To wander through summer.  Let my days stretch.  Let my body and the sun tell me what time it is.  Let ish-time lead me where it will.

Thank you, David, wherever you are, for showing me this so many years ago.  Thank you for the gift.

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

Writing Pain

pastel drawing 'Archangel (Raphael)' by Cat Fink

It’s strange.

Writing well and true doesn’t always leave me feeling well and true, or happy.

This knowledge came home to me yesterday.

I had two days of writing draft for my book.  I knew what I needed to work on.  A bridge was necessary between the book’s opening pieces and the first moment when I discover a process that eventually heals me completely.

 I knew the writing must focus on the shift I experienced, moving from desperation and grief into the first flash of a kind of hope.  I knew I was capable of writing this.  I also knew I would have to dive into intense memories and feelings to find the words, and dive out again to get the words onto the page.

All my life I’ve been a master at hiding my feelings from myself.  I learned this while growing up.

Now I have to do the exact opposite.

I have to open to all I feel, and feel it deeply enough inwards, to capture and express it outwards.

This is exactly when I question what I am doing, writing what I’m writing.  A story which requires me to be wildly vulnerable, not only to myself but to my readers.

Oh my.

Yet here I am, open and writing as I intended.

I finish the draft.  It needs a few more bits here and there, but the bridge is mostly built.  Good for me.  Well done, Cat.

Except I don’t feel well-done and good-for-me feelings.  Instead I feel frustrated and, if I be honest, angry.

I have enough experience by now to set aside both feelings and writing once I am done for the day.  I know how to move myself to other things.  Yet I continue frustrated and angry through the afternoon and evening.

Distractions.  Things I love, that move me towards joy.  I read a good book.  I play with a new crossword puzzle.  I make an awesome, tasty dinner.  I water the garden while the dinner cooks, and let the scents of water, earth, and new roses surround me.  My husband and I go for a walk through the neighbourhood.  I watch episodes three and four of a fantasy series I am greatly enjoying.

Now I’m in bed.  The frustration has dissipated, but the anger remains.

I look at my day—it was a good one.  I am mystified at my mood.  Since I am nowhere near sleep, I decided to pick apart the anger.

I spent two days writing emotional pain.  Two days writing memories, seeing and feeling clearly what I had not allowed myself to see or feel at the time.  It was pure survival, years ago, pushing my life to be bearable.

Bearable.  Here is a word with edges, sharp with anger and heat.

Here is why I am angry.

Why should I have had to live a life, back then, that I could only describe as bearable?

Should I not have had a life that was joy and play, wonder and beauty and love?

Should I not have been able to love my life?

I couldn’t say that during the fibromyalgia years.  There were some things I loved about my life.  There were some things that gave me joy, things that allowed me to bear what the other side of my life held.  There were things I found that could carry me through what I would not think about, would not let myself look at or feel.

I survived.  That’s the best this anger will allow me to say.  And with that, to my surprise and relief, anger drops away.  I am left feeling a blessed, quiet emptiness.

I have seen and felt and understood.

I have acknowledged what was there, and said yes, that was true.

That was true, and now this is true—I no longer have to use ‘bearable’ to describe my life.  I can use the words I was desperate for, back then.  Joy, play, wonder, beauty, and love.

Here, on this side of the bridge I’ve written, I have a life I love, and I can feel it.  Well, true, and happy.

Music Saves Me

pastel by Cat Fink, titled 'Archangel For Mrs. St. Cyr (Uriel)'

I’ve been listening to an interview series on the web.  Some of the interviewees are musicians/composers/healers all in one.  Each has told the story of how the healer part of their life developed in balance with their music.

I get it, because music has healed and saved me, all my life.

As a child, I was taught to deny what I felt whenever the feeling was difficult and uncomfortable for others to witness.  Anger, sadness, confusion, overwhelm, and grief were just a few of the unacceptable emotions in our home.

Denying and hiding my emotion made those around me more comfortable, but it left me in turmoil, not being allowed to express what was rolling through me.

Music saved me.

I started piano lessons at age seven, and quickly discovered I not only heard music, I felt it within me.  Music unlocked the denied emotions, and the feelings translated themselves into the sounds my body created on the piano.

Here, sitting on the piano bench, my feet dangling far above the floor, I could feel loud and angry, or heartbroken and slow.  I could move my fingers over the keys, feel the sound vibrate through me, and send my emotion flying into the air around me.

I could express how I felt.

I could let go.

I could be free.

I could be myself.

Music still saves me.  Sometimes, when an emotion is too painful or frightening, I lapse into the pattern of denial and control I learned as a child.  I feel something within me, a hard, heavy rock lodged in my body, and it’s the signal I am hiding an emotion from myself.  That emotion needs to be seen and heard by me.  It needs to be felt and freed so I can come back into balance in my life, and back into love for myself.

On my beloved IPod I have 67.5 days of music.  Music, melody, and sound for every mood and every layered fraction of a feeling.  Exactly what I need to heal and save and power myself, exactly whenever I need it.

I also have a keyboard sitting by the studio window.  I’m looking at it right now.  I haven’t played with it in some time, and I can feel it calling me.  I can hear it calling the music in me.

Come and play, come and feel.

______________

In this post:

The online interview series is The Conscious Late Night Show, created and hosted by Scott Brandon Hoffman.  It’s fun and illuminating. It’s also about being true to your creative self.  www.ConsciousLateNight.com

Between Have-To And Happiness

Bigger is not better.

I’ve decided this societal norm is not my norm.  In fact, believing this does me harm.

Here’s how my mind translates ‘bigger is better’.

If bigger is better, then I must always be reaching, and never be satisfied or celebrating where I am now.  I always have to be more, which really means I am never enough.

I am never enough.

Because of this belief pattern, I set out to do too much.  Today I’ll get this, this, and this completed for my book.  Then, I don’t.  I finish one or one-and-a-half.

Instead of celebrating what I have accomplished, I focus on what didn’t get done.  I tell myself off for not working hard enough, for being too distracted, for being too slow a writer.  I need to do better in order for others to appreciate me.

Funny, when I don’t even appreciate myself.

‘Not enough’ has been a pattern in my life since elementary school. It makes me sad to realize I am so unkind to myself, and that I’ve been doing it for so long I accept the unkindness as normal.

I would not do this to someone else.  Instead, I would praise them, be excited for what they have accomplished.  I’d encourage them to pause and enjoy it before setting off on the next step.

Why do I not say this to myself?

I have a lively life of which writing is a vital and essential part.  But writing is only one part of my life, and it’s the fullness and variety in my life that enrich my writing.

I am a slow writer.  I have days between working on my book, and each time I return to the book I bring with me new experiences and ideas, and a new understanding of myself.  I am a better writer because of all else in my life.  The balance of my life fills my well.

I trust my creative process. Even though I’ve been telling myself off for being too slow, I truly trust the process of my writing enough to create the book I am creating. 

Now I need to transfer the trust of my creativity and writing into knowing I am enough, and allow myself to enjoy my writing process in the midst of enjoying my life.

I am enough.

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.