I’ve posted several times about doing the second draft of my book. This is the latest installment in the eighteen-month story of my efforts.
One word describes things at the moment. Confused.
I’m adding others. Messy. I am okay with messy. Messy happens in all my creating at some point. It gives me possibilities. Having been a neat and tidy child, as an adult I enjoy messy. Also, I know how to go from messy to focused, a useful talent.
Another word. Procrastinating. Somehow, and I have said this before, other jobs and delights keep taking precedence over my second draft. Strange how that happens.
Yesterday I am telling one of my fellow artist-writer friends about this. We come to the conclusion I need to clear a chunk of time for only the draft. Yes. I do this. Now marked off in my diary is February through May. My friend will meet with me throughout this time to help me keep accountable to myself in getting the draft done. Cool.
A third word. Blind. This draft feels like I’m doing a jigsaw puzzle without the picture from the box top to tell me how things should look.
I tell this to another artist-writer friend. She talks about finding the arc of the story, a kind of outline. Oh.
I know about outlines. I tried one out at the start and it drove me crazy. I learned I am a writer who feels her way through the story. As Nanowrimo fans say, I’m a pantser, not a plotter.
I am very visual in my thinking. My friend says ‘arc of the story’. In response, I see the image of an arc drawn on a big sheet of paper, with me writing sticky notes all along it. This makes sense. A way of creating an outline that works for me. Here is my picture of how things will look when I am done. Yay! The picture will likely shift as I go. That’s okay. I still have a picture to play with.
I’ve been reading about vulnerability in Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly. Her words have me feeling and remembering.
Growing up, no one told me that strength included vulnerability. If they did, I didn’t hear them. Maybe the people around me did not know this either.
Growing up, I was taught that being strong meant holding back my feelings from public view. Show a calm, controlled front. Always pretend everything is okay. I became so good at this, even I didn’t know what I was feeling sometimes.
I kept pushing my feelings away. I thought I was getting rid of them. Truth is I was storing them behind a fence of ‘okay’.
This is not the way to live. I knew it, but did not know how to be different.
Things changed when I was twenty-one. I began the relationship with my future husband. He saw my heart behind the fence, and he loved it, and he wouldn’t let go.
Something in me knew it was time to build a gate. A skinny gate at first, but enough to let me say out loud for the first time in my life, to someone, I love you.
I was terrified saying it. This was laying myself open, a direct path to hurt me and reject what I offered. Despite all of the loving actions and words Lyle had given me, I did not trust I was truly worthy of love. I didn’t much love myself, so how could someone else love me?
I could not say ‘I love you’ to Lyle as a statement. I said it like a question needing the right answer.
He said it. He said I love you. He answered. To me.
Love made the gate in my fence. Love and the courage to love. I don’t know where the courage came from, and the ability to hear the voice that whispered inside me, ‘do this’.
I knew this was a choice, to stay with fear or to step forward to love. I knew Lyle saw me differently than I saw myself. He saw a world that did not require fear, and he saw me in this world braver than I saw myself. Maybe this is how my courage appeared. His vision sparked my belief, and my belief sparked courage to arise, be seen, and claim out loud my ability to love.
Lyle showed up for me when I needed someone to help open a way through the fence I had built around myself.
Lyle told me how he felt and what he saw in me. But louder than the words were his actions. He treated me as a person of great value, who had gifts to be seen and shared.
He believed in me.
This is what we do for each other. We see the best in the person standing before us, even and especially when they can’t see it themselves. We believe in them. We say ‘let’s do this together’.
We all have the gift and possibility of being a Believing Mirror for the person standing before us. We just have to choose to see that in ourselves, and be vulnerable enough to offer it to someone else.
‘I believe in you.’ Words as precious and important and life-changing as ‘I love you’.
Lyle and I have been together thirty-seven years. We have a son to be proud of. My fence? It shows up sometimes as a ghost of itself. Old habits, old patterns of thinking and reacting, reminding me where I was, and showing me where I am now. I pat it kindly, and thank it for keeping me safe at a time when I thought I needed protection. Then I walk around it.
Lyle, I love you. Happy Father’s Day.
In this post:
Brene Brown, book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Avery, 2012. http://brenebrown.com/
It is Thursday and I am here in my studio, writing. Through my windows I see pine and fir and aspen forest, all around me. From my front door, I see rows of round hills moving into the distance. Greens and smoky blues. The wood thrush has returned for the summer’s nesting. I heard him calling yesterday, a song that sings like water over stone.
Beauty is here. Yet today, it is not enough. My heart is longing for the ocean.
What is it in me that can move away from peace so easily?
I love my studio here in the trees at the top of the round hill. I open my window and the air breathes me. The songbirds and the ravens companion me. Their calls inspire me to imagine and write and play. Peace and creation live here with me. Fall, winter, spring.
When summer comes, I move my studio to Victoria on Vancouver Island. There, I have ocean close to me. On three sides of me, when I look on the city map. I can leave my summer studio, drive four minutes in my car, and I am there with my beloved ocean.
I love my studio there, where the ocean lives close by. I open my window and the beach rushes in. I hear the seagulls yelling from their heights in the sky, hear the baby crows demanding their place in the world. When I sit at the beach and write, the waves move in time with my words. Peace and creation live there with me.
What is it that moves me so easily into longing? Time. I have been away from my ocean for nine months. The forest and hills have filled me, and now I come close to the time for change, to become washed by my ocean.
Oh, my heart, love here where I am now. Love here where I am creating these words to the sound of the wind in the trees and the wood thrush song. Know that I am blessed to move from peace to peace. From forest and hill to ocean and beach. From beauty to beauty.
Love what is here before me today, and love what I know will come soon enough. Love the longing I feel today, that created the words on this page. Cradle my longing. Whisper ‘Thank you.’ And whisper ‘Soon, I promise, soon.’
This is all I want to say today. Love your neighbour.
We have one planet to live on. Everything we do affects all of us. Our emotions are contagious. I get angry and afraid, and the person next to me begins to feel angry and afraid too. And then we make decisions that hurt everyone.
I would rather feel love than anger or fear. Wouldn’t you?
I was not planning on writing my blog post today. I feel tired and uninspired. I had a stomach flu two and a half weeks ago, and some of it is still hanging on. Too much of it hanging on today. So the plan is lay on the couch and sleep.
Then I remember Natalie Goldberg saying, start where you are.
Start where I am. I struggle with being sick. I fight it. I force my body to be okay, even if it isn’t. Do things even if I don’t feel like it. Be strong, I think, get things done, whatever ‘things’ happen to be.
Not this time.
This time, when I got sick two and a half weeks ago, I surrendered to how I felt. I listened to my body and what it needed. Sleep mostly. Naps and kindness and going slow. Letting myself drift.
Surrender has never been in my vocabulary. Surrender, to me, meant giving up. Note the past tense there. My understanding of surrender is changing.
Surrender now feels like a kind of trust, of being here right now and listening, sensing what is happening. Paying attention, and then moving with the flow rather than against it. There is relief in this, and ease. Letting go of what I think should be happening and what I think I should be doing.
Letting go. Letting go is not something I have been good at either. Life, for me, has been mostly about control. Being safe. No unwanted surprises. I can feel, even as I write about surrendering to my body and what it needs, a part of me really wants control. Pushing, shoving, struggling, making something happen. Making ‘not sick’ happen.
No. Not doing that today.
Today, it is Let Go. Be exactly where I am in this moment. Feel exactly what I feel. Trust and surrender myself to Source, God, the One Energy, the Universe. Let things be as they are. Let myself be cared for, loved, partnered by this moment.
Let the words come through me and be written slowly on the page, on the laptop. And done.
And now, let myself rest, sleep, let go, trust, surrender.
In this post:
Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones, Shambhala, 2nd Edition, 2005. Try out pages 110 and 111 ‘Write Anyplace’. http://nataliegoldberg.com/
Last week, Wednesday, I am pulling books from my studio shelves. Preparation to lead a writing workshop on Friday.
I pull down Living Color by Natalie Goldberg. I have had this book since 1997. Have read it through at least four times, and thumbed through it many times more. Inspiration, from writer to writer, from artist to artist.
I open the book and a piece of folded, loose leaf paper falls to the floor. I pick it up, open the page. In pencil, all caps, printed across the top margin, underlined, in my hand—what I learned from Natalie’s book ‘Living Color’.
Mystified. I don’t recall writing this. I did, obviously. After the first reading of Nat’s book, or the fourth. I sit down and read.
Here is Natalie’s wisdom distilled through mine, writer to writer, artist to artist:
‘Finish every piece, even when I think I just doomed it with my last marks or words. Take off from there into a different relationship with the drawing or the writing.
Nothing I ever create will hold that same intensity of joy I feel while I am creating it. The joy is inside me.
Trust and act on how I feel (my artist’s instinct).
Slow down and look.
If I really know a thing, it is there in my work whether I can see it or not.
The tantrum continued. Friday. Saturday. Sunday. Monday. Then, Monday afternoon, for no apparent reason, it faded away.
I can feel echoes of it today. A ghost in the background. My desire to write and create is stronger. I sit down at my studio table and begin. The ghost vanishes. Gone.
As I write these words, I have not figured out what pushed me into this cranky, unwilling mood last week, or why it hung on through Monday. My mind longs to have this figured out so it can prevent it from happening again. My mind has judged this full-on-tantrum mode as something bad. Especially since I felt really uncomfortable when I was in the middle of it.
My mind is doing its job, trying to understand so it can protect me from what hurts.
Except, I need to feel everything, even when it feels bad. My heart knows that feelings are information. They might be painful, but they are not bad. The feelings tell me something if I pay attention, open my heart, and listen.
I need to do this right now. Ask about last week, listen with my heart. What do I hear?
I am trying to push the river.
That might sound odd, but I know exactly what it means.
I’ve been stepping outside of my natural flow. I’ve been pushing myself too hard, and not playing enough.
Ah. I get it.
I played on Saturday. I read. Did crossword puzzles. Coloured with all fifty of my Crayola felt pens. Watched a 1940’s pirate movie with my husband.
I played on Sunday too. In between three laundry loads and making dinner, I watched the movie Mary Poppins. How many times have I seen this movie? A dozen, at least. It makes me laugh. I love the songs. I love the idea that I can jump into a drawing and wander around the landscape, meet whoever lives there. I love the idea that if I laugh hard enough, I’ll float up to the ceiling, turn somersaults in the air if I wish.
Play. Imagination. Laughter.
I pushed myself, pushed the river so hard, that I left play and imagination and laughter behind. Left my magic behind.
Which resulted in the five day tantrum. Resistant. Unwilling. Grouchy.
I played on Saturday and Sunday, despite the tantrum. Good idea. Which resulted in the tantrum fading away on Monday.
Thank you, my heart, for feeling and talking with me. Thank you, tantrum, for yelling at me to stop and notice what is happening. Thank you, my mind, for trying to understand and protect me from what felt painful.
I have my magic back. It never really left me. It just felt like it, because I had forgotten to play.
I’m in resistance mode today. Unwilling. Grouchy. I am a two-year-old in tantrum. Don’t wanna.
What don’t I want to do? Anything that my mind decides feels like work, like writing this blog post, paying the bills due today, doing up the grocery list for tomorrow’s shopping. Don’t wanna, my mind keeps saying.
What do I want to do? Lay on the couch and read all afternoon. I am on page 221 of The Peripheral by William Gibson. Bought it during Christmas holidays and started reading it this week. Yes, it’s GOOD, and that’s why I want to read all afternoon. Find out what happens next—the hallmark of a well-written book. Thank you for sharing this, William.
So what am I going to do about all this ‘don’t wanna’?
I am bribing myself. I have a big mug of cocoa at my side, one of my last candy canes melted into it. I have music on, a combination of melody and the sound of ocean waves running against a rocky beach. I have my Minions standing guard atop the unruly pile of papers on my work table. Kevin with his banana and black English bowler hat. Stuart in his blue vampire cape, showing off his spikey teeth. They make me laugh. And they are cheering me on.
Bribery and a cheering section. This works.
So I sit myself at my studio work table. Pick up my purple BIC pen. Lay in front of me a stack of loose leaf paper. I have a blog post to create. What do I write?
I start here, where I am. Unwilling. Crabby. Bad mood. Resisting everything. And I write exactly this. How I feel. Struggling to not struggle.
I learned this from both Natalie Goldberg and Julia Cameron. Begin where I am. Become present to my life just as it is in this moment, bad mood and all, says Natalie.
Accept it, and write anyways. Place my tantrum on the page, put the drama where it belongs, says Julia.
The page accepts everything. Holds it for me so I don’t have to. Tells me it is alright and I am alright. The mood I am in will shift and change and fade to something else. Let it. I know it fades quicker when I let myself create.
Am I feeling better? Yes. Is the ‘don’t wanna’ still hanging around? Yes, but not as loud. I’ll get through and past this tantrum.
Sitting here writing, I suddenly know why I am grouchy. Yesterday I wrote for four-plus hours, material for a creativity course I am teaching in the Fall. Felt awesome while I was deep in creation. Excited, inspired, energized. Ideas and words flowing. Unstoppable.
And now today, the water level in my creative well is low. Almost drained. I need to refill it. Julia taught me to understand this, too.
I know what to do. Play. Lay on the couch and read William’s book. Do a crossword puzzle or two with my pink BIC pen. Colour in my new colouring book with my set of fifty Crayola felt pens scattered across the table top. Watch one of the animated movies I have collected, and laugh. Marvel at the collective imagination of those who created the movie characters and the story. Laugh more.
And then love myself. Love and celebrate what I created yesterday. Love and celebrate what I create today. Just love myself, resistance and bad mood and writer and artist and all.
I am who I am in each moment. Love this, and allow, and accept. Create from exactly where I am, especially if it requires some bribery to get to the studio and pick up my pen.
Love my unwillingness. It gives me a place to begin today. It gives me a blog post to write and share. It reminds me to love myself, whatever is happening.