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/
Thursday I had my last session with my coach. Yes, I am a creativity coach-artist-writer-blogger who has a coach. I should say, had a coach.
For this past year we have been talking, every two weeks. Sometimes emailing in between the talking.
I’ll tell you how I feel right now. Sad. I am going to miss our biweekly conversations. I am also elated, excited, pleased with myself. I keep hearing ‘I did it!’ popping into my thoughts. I am grounded and balanced within myself and my life. I feel like I just graduated from a Master’s Degree program. I feel like I just ran a whole marathon.
So what did I do that has me celebrating?
Last April I got very honest with myself. I looked at my nineteen years as a professional artist. Looked at my writing and my blogging. At my book with the half-completed second draft. At the creativity workshops and coaching I was doing.
I loved all I was doing and creating, loved the connections and community I was building. But I had no focus. It all felt very random, with no clear path ahead. My usual way of working was feeling chaotic rather than organic.
This is where I am, I said to myself. Where do I want to go? How do these pieces of my creativity fit together?
I am the kid who always says ‘I can do it myself’, and does. Not this time. I need help, I said to myself, and Source heard my request.
Linda is a Master Coach. Yes, the capital letters are deliberate and appropriate. She coaches CEO’s and entrepreneurs.
Linda listened to me with her heart and her head.
I have a bad attitude around business, I said. Business and art don’t belong in the same sentence.
We can do this, she said.
Over twelve months we shifted me, my life, and my creativity into focus. We talked about the nuts and bolts of what I was doing, the energy and feel of what I was creating. About where I was and where I wanted to be. We used our heads and our hearts. Feeling and knowing what was right for me, and what was not.
Two (of the thousand) things I learned from Linda:
Feel and think. My heart carries my dreams and inspiration and path. My head carries the organizing and details, the process, the nuts and bolts of building. When I connect all of this, the whole of me, I see clearly the next step in front of me. I feel the energy of the people I am connecting with, and what they are asking for. I see how this matches my inspiration, the workshops and coaching, the words and drawings I will create in response.
Use everything. Instead of pushing away what I don’t like, I get curious about it. What does this feel like? What is it telling me? Why is it showing up? How can I use it? I am fascinated at how there is always a way to turn something around and let it inspire me.
Linda has been my Believing Mirror. She met me exactly where I was, and saw the future me as I wanted to be. Step by step she walked with me into that place. Transformation.
What is best? I am now my own Believing Mirror. I see where I am, and I see where I am going to be. That vision of where I will be pulls me forward. It creates the space for me to walk into, and the steps to get there.
I am thinking about the second draft of my book. The one I put aside last September.
I am coming back to it. I’ve made a pact with my friend who is also writing. She’s close to the end of her first draft. We both need someone to write with, partner, give us each that extra push to reach the finishing line by the end of the summer. Tell us in a sure voice, yes, you are doing it, almost there.
Chocolate and iced mochas, cafes and beaches will help as well. Bribery works.
I wonder, as I look at my half-done second draft, why I wrote the first draft. What sent me to the page? Who was I writing for when I sat all those days at my studio work table, moving words and pen across the paper?
I can give the usual answers. I was writing for me. Writing to understand what I experienced. Writing to make sense of the path I walked.
These are all true. Not specific enough, for me, right now.
What was it that sent me to the page with enough words to fill a whole book?
Here I have to pause. Feel back to where I was when I began the writing. Not think. Feel.
Like all I create, it was the push of an idea. You might say ideas are thoughts, and thoughts are not physical. This may be true for you. Not for me.
My ideas and thoughts carry weight. I feel them in my body. No two feel exactly the same. This idea to put words to my experience was heavy and insistent. It sat in my belly, all of my belly. It was very sure of itself and its importance. It would not leave. The only choice was to birth it. Sit at my work table and write. Day and day and day. Let the idea flow as words from belly through heart to hand to ink and paper.
The insistence and sureness and sheer weight of idea into words is what carried me through to the end of the first draft. This, and joy. Joy runs as a thread through all my creating.
These things sent me to the page.
I tell you what I know for sure. Without that weight in my body where the idea sat, the writing would not have happened. That weight was the connection between the idea and me. That weight told me the idea was real, here and whole already, even though I had yet to write a word.
Now that the first draft is done, and the second draft half-done, paused and returned to, is the idea and its weight still here in my body?
It is. I feel it now, sure and insistent and whole, waiting for me. I am not going anywhere, it tells me, until we are done.
This feeling is a gift of knowing. It has carried me, and continues to carry me, as I write. This knowing is all I need to know. This book will be.
I am three years old. I am standing in the living room. My mom is sitting in the chair in front of me, holding blankets. My dad is crouched beside me, at my level, telling me this is my new baby sister. Her name is Carrie.
See? Say hello. You can touch her. My mom leans forward so I can see inside the blankets. There is a small face. Red. The eyes are closed. There are black eyelashes.
I don’t recall if I said anything or if I touched her. I do know how I felt. I can feel it now as I remember. I feel confused. I don’t know what this means. Why is she here? Is she staying with me and my parents? My parents are doing a lot of holding her. They’re not holding me. Do they love her now? Does this mean they don’t love me anymore? Now I feel sad and somehow smaller. I am starting to feel angry at this baby sister, whatever she is, who is taking my place.
This is what I remember.
I am four years old. I am in my bedroom, standing in the middle of the room. I can see the back yard through my window. It is sunny outside. I feel my feet warm in my pink socks, feel the wood floor solid under me. I am happy, peaceful, connected to everything around me. I feel secure in myself—who I am, what I can do, my place in the world. I know I have a voice and ideas worthy of listening to.
What happens in the year between these two memories?
My dad comes home from work. He changes from his work clothes to his home clothes. He comes into the kitchen, talks with my mom, talks to my baby sister in her play pen. Then he and I go into the living room.
We lay on the thick rug, my dad on his stomach and I beside him.
And we talk. Just the two of us. He asks me what did I do today? And then he listens.
I tell him what I did, what I found in the back yard (ants, a slug, and two rocks), the songs I sing as I swing on my yellow and blue swing set (Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Somewhere Over the Rainbow). I sing them to him as loud as I can. I know all the words.
This is the immense gift my dad gives me. His focused attention. It may be only fifteen or twenty minutes each day. It feels like always and forever. In this gift, he tells me he loves me, that I am important to him and worthy of his time, that I have ideas and thoughts worth listening to.
My dad’s gift moves me from a confused, sad, angry three-year-old who wonders if she is losing her parents’ love, into a four-year-old secure and sure in herself and her world, happy, loved, and loving.
This gift of a few minutes each day. So small, yet it is everything.
Undivided, loving, interested attention. I learn what this is and how it feels. I take it into me.
I know now the infinite value of this gift. I practise it and pass it to whoever I can. This gift says I love you, and you are worth attention and time. You are important to me. You are interesting.
Thank you, Dad, for the gift of attention. I love you. And Carrie, I love you too.
Guess what? My internal critic is back. Yes, she’s back, rather like the Terminator but not half so interesting.
I should say, she is trying to come back. I am not letting her. There is choice involved here, and I am using it. The word to my internal critic is NO.
The thing about my internal critic is she tries to make me feel I have no power and no choice. She tells me how badly I am doing, how I don’t possess the skills or experience I need. How what I am creating is all wrong. It is ugly, or stupid, or been done before or better by others. It’s not worth anyone’s time and I’m not worth anyone’s time. I’ll embarrass myself, family, friends.
Putting it plainly, my internal critic is a bitch. No sugar-coating it. A bitch who is attempting to keep me safe by stopping me from creating and from creating publicly. She is all fear. There is no love in anything she says. Safety is not the same as love.
What I have recently discovered is that my internal critic actually serves a purpose for me. When she shows up, I know I am not standing in my authentic self as artist, writer, creativity coach, blogger. She tells me when I am not claiming and using my power as the creator I am.
She tells me when I am working and creating from my head and not my heart. My best, strongest, most expansive creations come from my heart and love. Passion. My head is brilliant at organizing, planning, structure, logic, and detail. I need and treasure what it does, but what it does must be partnered by my heart and love.
I know why my internal critic has been especially active the last two weeks. I am moving into a big creation right now, taking a major dream and making it real and public. Something this important and integral to me feels both amazing and scary. My internal critic has noticed and turned up her volume in order to protect me from getting hurt.
She is trying to stop me.
Stopping? Not going to happen.
Not creating this dream would hurt me most.
So, my internal critic, I thank you for voicing your noisy, negative concern. Believe it or not, I love you for helping me see.
Here is how it will go. The creator in me feels and knows where I am going and what dream I am making real. The creator in me feels and knows the possibilities that are here shining before me. The creator in me knows my power and how to use it.
This is what I choose. My power is love. I make my dream real.
You will know from my posts that Julia Cameron, Natalie Goldberg, and Lynda Barry are my creativity heroes. In their books, they talk about the internal critic, how it affects them, struggling with it and what they do about it, how they move past her or him (or it) to get to their creating. Their stories have taught me how to work with my internal critic, and how to get past to where the creating is. If you are curious, my ‘Resources I Use’ page, https://catfinkknowtrustchoosecreate.com/resources-i-use/ , has more information about these awesome creators and their books.
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?
Know. Trust. Choose. Create. This is what I do every day to consciously create my life. Small things, like a conveniently placed parking spot or a table in my favourite cafe. Big things, like an artist residency.
Some of my creations take time, like the artist residency. I keep watch for the things that support it, and act on them. I am building my creation, and the path to it. Each action fitted to the next.
I have a partner in this. I call my partner Source, or God, or the Great Creator, or the One Energy, or the Universe. Source loves creating. Source is creation energy, whole and complete.
What I am doing takes love, lots of it. It takes attention, wide and inviting, open and allowing. The more I do this, the more I love, the better I get at creating my life, and the better my life gets.
Here is what Dee Wallace says in her weekly e-blast, January 26, 2015, about what gets in the way of creating my life:
‘Whenever you feel out of sorts or imbalanced, ask yourself these four guiding questions:
-Am I in love with myself in this moment?
-Am I loving others in this moment?
-Am I here, in the present, or worrying about the future or the past?
-Am I remembering I am my own creator? Or have I given my creation away to something or someone else in this moment?’
Dee is talking about paying attention and making conscious choices. I choose I love myself and others, unconditionally. I choose I am here always in this present moment. I choose I create my life. I don’t just choose these things. I feel them, all the way through me.
Creation, for me, is like music. When the singers and the musical instruments are in tune and in time with each other, the music flows through me, clear, sweet, warm to my senses, and the song is created.
When one or more of the singers and instruments sound the wrong note, are off-key or off-timing, the music stutters and sours and jars me. The song and the flow of the song are marred or stopped. The song is created differently than it was intended, or stops being created altogether.
Creating my life moves exactly like creating music. Harmony, timing, flow. It is intention, attention, and the energy of love I am playing with. It is Source as my partner, each of us in harmony with the other through love.
Know. Trust. Choose. Create. This is what I do.
Know. Feel the earth under my feet and feel the breath in my body. Let my thoughts slow until the feeling in my body takes the place of the words in my head. Here. This quiet place. Feel the love I have for myself, open, full, unconditional. Let it fill all the space that I am. I am only and all Love.
Trust. Let the love for myself spill beyond me, out into the world, the Universe around me. Wide. Accepting and allowing all. Love. Unconditional.
Choose. Let my awareness be here now, chosen and grounded in this love and this moment, focused on the intention of my creation. Feel my creation with all of my senses here in front of me, created out of love.
Create. Feel surely and completely I am this unconditional love, I am the creator of my life and all in it. My love, my attention and intention, my clear choosing, and my loving knowing, here and now. This energy. This music. This song. Love creates me. I create love. I choose this.
I choose love.
Know. Trust. Choose. Create. I choose this song.
Mentioned in this post:
Dee Wallace. https://iamdeewallace.com/. Dee’s new book Getting Stuff: Everything is Possible is about creating through love. A clear, detailed, easy read. Get it, read it, and go create your life!
Thank you, big sister Dee, for inspiring this blog post.