writing

A Love Letter About Envy, The Bad Kind and The Good Kind

Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

Here’s a short list of people I envy:

All writers everywhere on the planet who have a book contract with a major publishing house.
All successful self-published writers.
All writers who have control of their own schedules, i.e., plenty of time to write.
All writers who do not live with seven- and three-year-old boy hooligans.
All writers who are photogenic on Instagram.
All writers who do videos. (I’m not sure why; I hate videos.)

And here are some things that people might envy me for:

That I get to go to France everywhere in a mostly-paid for trip because I teach writing there.
That I get to go to other cool places (Astoria, Oregon, Nashville, Louisville) to teach writing.
That I earned my MFA.
That I have an agent with a top-notch agency.
That I have an amazing network of writers in my community.
That I live with seven- and three-year-old boy hooligans.

My point is not to brag, because most days I’m hard pressed to remember any of these things and be as freaking grateful for them as I should be. And that would be because I’m too busy being envious of all the writers who have what I don’t have. The grass is always greener, never the twain shall meet, all those good clichés.

Because of this tendency to get so mired in desperately wanting what we don’t have, most of the time we think envy is bad. We know this, right? Of course we do. Envy is bad, period. It can so seriously overcome you that you stop writing. Because—all those writers you envy out there? Better than you. So, so much better. You might as well give up.

We’ve all been there, and it’s no fun.

But what about when envy is good? Can it ever good? I’ve been so indoctrinated that envy is bad that I’d never stopped to consider any other angle. But recently I read a quote in a book on creativity that made me stop and think about it. The author mentions a Dutch word, benijden, that means benign envy. “It refers to an envy that motivates you to self-improvement deriving from another person’s impressive example.”

(The book is called Conscious Creativity, by Philippa Stanton—and I confess I’ve not read it, just the excerpt on Amazon. But I’m thinking of ordering it because it looks good. And it already made me think.)

And I thought about how often this is true for me. I realize, for instance, how I so often admire writers and because of this admiration, am filled with the desire to write myself. go immediately to the page. How my envy inspires me to work harder. How reading a scene in a novel I like instructs me. Reading the online presences of other authors inspires me to emulate what they do. One more.

And, really, isn’t envy the reason most of us became writers in the first place? Didn’t your envy of a writer getting to spend their time spinning stories drive you to begin this journey? I know it did for me.

So for now on, I’m all over my envy. At least when it is benijden. And I’m going to work to see how I can turn bad envy into good. Are you with me?

Love, light, and good writing,

P.S. There’s still time to sign up for two spring retreats—scroll down for info. And, hit reply and tell me who or what you envy.

Things of Note

Articles

Stop the presses, I wrote a blog post. It’s been months, people. The plan is to build on this momentum and write more, but though I’ve got a book full of ideas, I’ve had a hard time getting to blogging lately. So I’m not yet making any promises. This post is on what to do when you get stuck in your writing.

When You’re Stuck, Side-Step: a Work-Around for Writers

And, I wrote another one!

What Would Your Life Be Like if You Weren’t a Writer?

Currently Reading

Forever, Interrupted by Taylor Jenkins Reid.  Woman falls in love, gets married, and nine days later her husband dies. I’m not that far in, but apparently she then forges a relationship with the mother-in-law, whom she’s never met.

Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win by Jo Piazza.  Yes, I am writing two novels at once. This one is a bit denser than the one above, which is quite light and breezy, despite it having a sad story. At least it’s sad at the beginning, where I still am. I didn’t plan to read two at once—usually I can manage a novel and a non-fiction at the same time—but there you go.

Dryer’s English, by Ben Dryer. Who knew a book on grammar could be so funny?

Ko-Fi

Here’s my ko-fi, where you can buy me a cup of coffee or any kind of drink you’d like (so far it has been running toward wine). Thank you in advance for the treat!

Happenings

So much going on as spring struggles to arrive! I’ve got two spring retreats on the calendar, one virtual and one local. I’m teaching in a bucolic location on the Oregon coast this June, and of course, there’s France in September. Read on for all the details.

Refresh, Renew, Retreat—For my Portland readers, Let’s Go Write is hosting a one-day retreat, which will be a chance to spend tons of time writing, enjoy the camaraderie of other writers, and get some one-on-one coaching. More here.

Free Live Virtual Spring Retreat—Many of you enjoyed the winter retreat I co-led with my dear friend Patty Bechtold, and so now we are offering a spring version, complete with reflective writing, guided meditation, poetry, and more. You can read about it and sign up here.

France 2019—Would you like to study writing in the south of France with me? You can! Find all the details here. Space is filling up fast—we’ve had several sign-ups in the last two weeks—so hop on over and check it out!

Novel-Writing Workshop—I’m also teaching at the Sitka center on the Oregon coast this June. This is a beautiful location conducive to learning and writing. Click here for more info.

Facebook Group

And of course, don’t forget to join the Facebook group if you haven’t already. I post lots of good links and often we get some good conversation going.

This post contains affiliate links.

Writing in Chaos (A Love Letter)

My life is chaos and distraction at the moment.

Photo by Erik Eastman on Unsplash

As many of you know, my daughter and her husband and two boys are living with us while we build an addition, after which my hub and I will move into that space and they will take over the main house. As if living with a seven-year-old poised to take over the world and a three-year-old ready to become a pirate is not chaos enough, having construction work going on is also a distraction. To put it mildly.

The addition is framed and roofed and the plumbers have done most of their work, though the city says they have to put in a bigger connector pipe. The day the plumbers were here I thought I’d go out of my mind trying to keep the indoor cats from getting out and my daughter’s dog from killing them. Or vice versa. We still have choices to make for bathroom finishing (who knew there were so many different kinds of bathroom vanities and medicine cabinets, not to mention lights to go over them).

Fast forward to Friday morning:

–Wake at 5 (I know, I wake up naturally at that time, no alarm), start writing, fight the urge to look again at bathroom vanities.
–Write a few words, take a quick hop over to Wayfair to, you guessed it, look at bathroom vanities.
–Write a few hundred words, take a quick break and realize that ETSY HAS BATHROOM VANITIES. Must investigate.
–Write a few hundred more words, discover that CRAIG’S LIST HAS BATHROOM VANITIES. Must research.
–Proceed like this for the better part of a couple hours and get almost to 1,000 words when daughter knocks on office door at 7 AM and says the electrician is coming.
–Close computer and tell myself I’ll finish my word count later in the day.
–Electrician arrives. “Good morning, I hope it is not too early!” Despite the fact that I’m in my awful looking jammies, no.
–Electrician requests meeting in the addition. Daughter and husband comply, leaving guess-who-yes-me with the boys.
–I fix their breakfast, repeatedly asking the seven-year-old to please quit reading and get dressed for school, secretly pleased that he loves reading so much.
–Eye on the clock. I have a 9 AM meeting with a client. And another meeting after that and several manuscripts to finish reading. Plus those random 200 words on the novel that didn’t get done first thing.
–Seven-year-old is still reading.
–Three-year-old is refusing to eat anything I fix him for breakfast. He’s been sick, but insists he wants to go to pre-school anyway. Will he get dressed, then? No.
–Daughter and husband are still in conference with electrician! Clock is ticking. Soon it will be time to leave for school!
–Manage to get seven-year-old dressed. But he’s got homework to finish! Which involves noting which books he has read all week—so he has to finish the book he’s reading in order to complete it.
–I need more coffee.
–Miracle occurs. Daughter and husband finish meeting, boys get to school on time, I’m able to shower. And get some work done! Except I never did get back to those elusive 200 words.

That’s my life these days. Of course, it is not always that crazy, and I do have the sanctuary of my office where I retire and lock the door (because it is the favorite space of all four of my grandchildren). The thing is, though, even when all is calm, there’s a lot pulling on my brain. I can feel it—I’m not at my sharpest. Just now I struggled to remember how to spell miracle. I could easily throw up my hands and decide not to write for a while.

But I don’t want to, because writing is the one thing that keeps me sane. It keeps me connected to the world. Without it, I’m unmoored—and I don’t need to be any more unmoored than I already am. So here’s what I’m trying to remember:

–It’s okay to take a break. When life gets chaotic and it is hard to accomplish everything on the to-do list, my inclination is to push myself to work harder. Often, the opposite tack is more effective. If I give myself a few minutes to sit down and knit or close my eyes, I’m more efficient.

–Self-care is a cliché for a reason. Because it helps you carry on through life! Keeping up with the things that keep me sane is vital. Things like drinking water, going on walks, doing my physical therapy exercises, eating right. And haircuts and pedicures and massages are good, too.

–It really is okay not to write for a while. The world is not going to quit turning on its axis if I don’t.

–It’s also okay to write if I want to! Because doing things that make me happy during chaotic times is important. And writing makes me happy.

–And….um….er….I forgot. I really did. Had something brilliant in mind to finish off this list and it just flew out of my mind. Because, chaos and distraction.

I hope your life is less chaotic and distracting than mine at the moment!

Leave a comment and tell me how you handle distraction!

Prompt

Here is your prompt of the week:

Lightning flashed and all around them was the sound of thunder.

Something New

Here’s my ko-fi, where you can buy me a cup of coffee or any kind of drink you’d like (so far it has been running toward wine). Thank you in advance for the treat!

Happenings

France 2019—Would you like to study writing in the south of France with me? You can! Find all the details here. Space is filling up fast so hop on over and check it out!

Novel-Writing Workshop—I’m also teaching at the Sitka center on the Oregon coast this June. This is a beautiful location conducive to learning and writing. Click here for more info.

Facebook Group--And of course, don’t forget to join the Facebook group if you haven’t already. I post lots of good links and often we get some good conversation going. 

Your Most Important Priority (A Love Letter)

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Last week amongst the flood of junk interesting emails in my inbox, I had two that stood out. Each one caught my attention separately, but since they were variations on a theme, their messages really caught my attention.

The first was from prolific author Chris Fox. His message? You don’t have priorities, you have one main priority. Or should. And, of course, he and I both think it should be writing. Because if you keep saying you want to write, but then you don’t do it, writing is not a priority.

Here’s more from Chris on the topic: “…you don’t have priorities. You have a single priority. The word was originally singular, but somewhere along the way we expanded it. And the problem with having more than one priority is that if eight things are important, nothing is. Establishing your priority is critical. If you make something a priority, then I guarantee you it will get done.”

Those words really resonated with me, because since August I’ve had a host of distractions from my writing. There was the month in France  in September (not complaining about that one), surgery in November (not complaining about it, either), and then, of course, Christmas. With all of that behind me, I’m ready to focus on new priorities. Oops, I mean a new priority, singular. Which is actually an old priority. Writing, of course.

Because I’ve had the experience over and over again that when I make writing my number one priority, everything else falls into place. There is magically time for the blog posts, the client work, the teaching, the creation of new products. When I’m writing regularly, there’s enough of everything—time, energy, and most of all, joy. When I’m not writing, all of those things feel in short supply.

Which is why the subject line of Skye Warren’s email caught my attention as well: “When You Want Something You Will Find a Way.” Um, yes. Turns out this part of a quote from Rachel Hollis: “When you want something you will find a way. When you don’t want something, you will find an excuse.”

Oh, ouch. Are you squirming uncomfortable like I am? Tough love (for all of us), babe. Years ago I read in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, a story that illustrated this maxim. It went something to the effect that when a man is interested in a woman, he will find the time to contact her. Okay, that story sounds a bit dated in today’s current cultural climate, but those of us of a certain age know there is truth in it. It’s really very simple. If you really, really want something, you’ll make time for it. This goes for exercise, or cooking healthy meals, or spending time with loved ones, or, oh yeah, writing.

For me, thinking of my writing as my priority makes everything else fall into place. It illuminates what is most important to me, and from that all else follows. I hope making writing your priority will do the same for you.

Prompts

Here is your prompt of the week:

Somewhere, beyond the horizon they sailed.

Happenings

France 2019—Would you like to study writing in the south of France with me? You can! Find all the details here.

Facebook Group

And of course, don’t forget to join the Facebook group if you haven’t already. I post lots of good links. Lately we’ve discussed the different types of editing, memoir writing, and more.

The Importance of Your Writer’s Ethos (A Love Letter)

Let’s all be as enthusiastic about our writing as this dog is about his ball.

I have long held the belief that the practice of writing involves two tracks: the writer’s craft and the writer’s ethos, or mindset. And, honestly? In many ways, the ethos is more important.

Here’s a definition of ethos for you: the distinguishing character, sentiment, moral nature, or guiding beliefs of a person, group, or institution. (Merriam Webster Online Dictionary)

So, think about it. What are your distinguishing characteristics as a writer? Are you cranky and negative? Gloomy about the state of the publishing world? Glum about your odds of success as a writer? Do you shun the company of other writers, and knock their work? Do you work when the muse strikes you, and oh well if that is just once in a blue moon?

Or, are you dedicated to your craft, working every day or as close to it as possible? Cheerful (most of the time) about your writing, because you are aware of how lucky you are to be one who writes? Do you network with other writers, and do your best to support them as much as you can? Are you open to new ideas, to learning?

Be honest—maybe you are a little of each. Most of us are. But I submit that those writers who fall more into the latter category will find more success in the end. Yes, it is cool to be cynical and sophisticated, especially in our current social media climate, but give me enthusiastic and positive any day—even if that enthusiasm edges toward naivete.

Because the writer with the enthusiastic, positive ethos is the one who will get their butt in the chair every week. The writer with the enthusiastic ethos is the one who will keep going when she gets discouraged, knowing that every writer faces fear and resistance and rejection. The writer with the enthusiastic ethos is the one who keeps honing his craft. The writer with the enthusiastic ethos is the one who is willing to learn something new—marketing? Publishing? Master a new genre? Social media? The enthusiastic writer may not be the most talented, but she will keep at it when others with talent in droves give up.

The writer with the positive, enthusiastic ethos is in it for the long haul. And that is what this business takes. Sure, there are flashes in the pan, but they tend to burn out quickly and are never heard from again.

This kind of writer—I’m certain you are one of them—is the one who will ultimately snag that agent, finish that memoir, get that novel published. And that is why honing your writer’s ethos is as important as honing your craft.

Prompts

Here is your prompt of the week:

When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

Happenings

Virtual New Year Retreat—There’s still time to sign up! I’ll be co-hosting this two-hour retreat with the wonderful Patty Bechtold. It’s free, and you can find more about it here

France 2019—Would you like to study writing in the south of France with me? You can! Find all the details here. There’s a discount if you commit before the end of the year, so check it out now.

Facebook Group

And of course, don’t forget to join the Facebook group if you haven’t already. I post lots of good links. Lately we’ve discussed the different types of editing, memoir writing, and more. 

On Constant Companions and Distraction (Tis the Season)

When I was younger, I smoked. It’s been twenty years now since I quit, but I still remember how much I loved smoking. (For years, I swore that once I hit my eighties I was going to take up smoking again, because at that age, who cares, right? But I no longer have any desire for it.) In response to a writing prompt recently, I wrote about how smoking had been my constant companion. The hardest thing about quitting was missing my best friend, cigarettes. They were with me always, through good times and bad, ready to soothe me whenever needed.

But when I thought about it more, I realized that my true lifelong companion has been writing. I’ve been scribbling in diaries and journals, writing poetry (that’s gone by the wayside) and reports and stories and articles and novels and blog posts and newsletters, some form of writing, all my life. Literally, since I was old enough to hold a pencil in my hand. And writing has been far more of a soothing comfort and BFF than smoking could ever have been. I’m grateful for it, so grateful.

Even constant companions get boring sometimes, though, and then it is easy to stray from them. Especially at this time of year, during the winter holidays, when everyone is shopping, wrapping presents, hanging out with family and friends, and so on. There’s a lot to get distracted by.  What’s a writer to do? I just happen to have some suggestions, based on hard experience.

Remember the value. Your constant companion, be it writing or drawing or painting or knitting or lawn mowing, is important. (Okay, let’s not lump smoking into this one.) Remember, not everyone has one.  This sounds dorky, but I feel like it is an honor to have one. I always have a place to go, no matter what. I have a place to go to bitch and moan, to celebrate, to laugh, to fall apart. Come to think of it my writing companion fills many of the same roles as a human companion without any of the other issues. (I will admit, I am a dedicated extrovert, so people are quite important to me as well.) And because I value it so highly, I will treat it with respect. At least most of the time.

Kaizen it. Kaizen is a Japanese philosophy that advocates small improvements, baby steps at a time. So often we think we have to do all the things, all at once, when, really, we can accomplish a lot a little at a time. Like writing, for instance. Because writing is accomplished one word at a time. The trick is to honor and congratulate yourself for every teeny, tiny step you take. It will add up!

Go back to it. The cool thing about constant companions is that they are always there for you. At least constant companions of the writing sort are. Stay away from your journal for a month and it makes no judgement about you when you return. It is just there, waiting for you, ready to take up where you left off. You don’t have to explain, or apologize, or get defensive about your absence (unlikely with a human). All you have to do it pick up your pen and start again, one word at a time.

Just relax and go with the distractions. Ha! I am so terrible at this. I planned a lovely four weeks of lazing about the house after my recent hip surgery, and that lasted about four days. I can barely get myself to take a nap, or enjoy an afternoon off. I’d rather torture myself by sitting at the computer staring at a blank page than giving up and doing something else. But maybe you are better at this than me? If so, I hereby give you permission to go for it. Allow the distractions to sweep you away, and most important, enjoy it while they do. Because, tis the season, the best time of the year, so you might as well have some fun.

So, in this festive season, I hope you have a constant companion that pleases you. And I also hope that if you are neglecting it amidst the current hustle and bustle, that you are not feeling guilty about it.  Because if it is a true constant companion, all the distractions in the world will ultimately not keep you from it.

Prompts

Here is your prompt of the week:

The most constant companion I’ve had in my life is….

Happenings

 A very cool teleseminar! It is called Writing Into the New Year. I’m going to be sending out full information on this to all of you this week (if you’re not on my list, click the button to the right to join), but on January 17, my dear friend Patty Bechtold  and I are doing a special expressive writing workshop.  It is called Writing Into the New Year, and it is FREE! Sign up here. 

 France 2019—We’ve posted the information for next year’s workshop! Find all the details here.  We’ve already had a few sign-ups and there’s a discount if you commit before the end of the year, so check it out now.

Coaching—I haven’t done a lot of it this past year, but I’m taking on a few new clients in January. If you are interested, email me and we will talk.

Facebook Group

And of course, don’t forget to join the Facebook group if you haven’t already.  I post lots of good links and we often have lively writerly discussions going.

 

Coming Out the Other Side + Holiday Special (A Love Letter)

Years ago I read a science fiction novel, the name and author of which is long lost in the mists of time and my brain. A female scientist (I think), living on another planet (of course), was studying an alien life form that appeared in the form of lights in a lake. The lights blinked on and off, saying I am here. I am alive. I am here.

I’m like one of those alien light forms. I am here! I am alive! I am here!

I made it through surgery with flying colors.  I woke in the recovery room, looked at the nurse, and said, “That’s it? It’s all done?” I was so amazed to remember nothing after being wheeled into the operating room—and then wake up two hours later, with nothing but blankness in between.

That was a week and a half ago and I’m doing great.  I’ve got very little pain, less than what I had before the surgery, to be honest. I’ve ditched my walker and am getting around easily with just a cane. (My advice to anybody getting hip replacement surgery: find a doc who does the direct superior approach. It is far less invasive and offers a much quicker recovery.) I’m working hard at physical therapy, doing my at-home exercises, and trying very hard not to do too much too fast.

And I am grateful. So, so grateful. It is such a gift to be given a second chance—an opportunity to live without pain. It’s a cliché bordering on the ludicrous to establish a gratitude practice, but the last few nights I’ve found myself spontaneously listing what and who I’m grateful for as I fall asleep.  My surgeon, all the nurses who cared for me, family, friends, and of course—you.

You who read my weekly missives, join the Facebook group, and read my blog posts. And so, in the spirit of this past weekend’s Black Friday/Small Business Saturday and the upcoming Cyber Monday, I am offering my own mine-sale.

Here’s the deal: two options, listed below. Please be aware that I won’t be booking any appointments until mid-December at the earliest. But you can grab the discount prices now and use the sessions any time over the next year. Prices good through Wednesday, November 28th at midnight Pacific time.

Also, please be aware that my rates will be going up in 2019.  I’ve had coaches yelling at me for years to raise them and it is time. So take advantage of one of these deals while you can!

You can pay direct by using the buttons below. Thank you!

 One Hour Coaching Session, during which we can talk about your work (you can send me up to 10 pages), brainstorm plot ideas, or talk about how to get your writing practice back on track.  $100.

 

Three Months Coaching at a killer price.   12 sessions of coaching, consisting of me reading 10-15 pages and a 30 minute phone or Skype conversation. $1,200. (You will NEVER get this low  price again.)



 

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

(No photos today because for some reason the media library is not accessible.)

 

On Deep Inner Magic (A Love Letter)

An email came into my inbox this week with the subject Deep Inner Magic. Being a sucker for such things, I clicked. It was a promo for a webinar that didn’t interest me much, but the phrase stuck with me.

Photo by Mervyn Chan on Unsplash

As I pondered why, I realized it’s because deep inner magic is what I believe happens to all the best story characters. The characters I love to read about in novels transform themselves in some way.  They are alchemists—transmuting metaphorical base metal into gold.

We readers experience that transformation with them. There’s a tension in watching a character transform.  The wise reader often knows exactly what the character needs to do, but it takes the character much longer to figure it out, since they are the ones doing the transforming. That tension sustains attention, and when a reader’s attention is sustained, the reader is much more likely to share the emotions of the main character. (All this is according to Psychology Today.)

And—wait for it—if the reader shares deep emotion with the character, they are more likely to mimic that emotion later in their own lives. Which is why reading truly is transformational, baby. And, I submit—why writing is transformational as well. Because I believe that we writers transform as we write our characters’ transformations as well. As the ancients used to say, as above, so below.  Transformation in one area of life is always echoed in another.  And if that isn’t deep inner magic, I don’t know what is.

But how do we make this magic happen?

You’ve heard it a million times before, but I’ll repeat it. Give your characters something they desire desperately—and then make it really difficult for them to get it. This is the simplest of story-writing advice, and putting it into practice is incredibly hard.

I think this is true for a couple of reasons. First of all, most of us have been trained not to go after what we want with everything we’ve got. And so we settle.  We settle for a good enough life, a good enough marriage, a good enough career. But the characters we love to read about don’t settle. They go after what they want with a vengeance. And get pushed down, knocked about, and pressed to the ground in the process.  Because so many of us don’t have experience doing that, it is hard to write about.

And second, we don’t like to torture our characters. I don’t know about you, but I fall in love with my characters, all of them, even the despicable ones. And then I want to make their lives easy and simple and sweet. However, sigh, easy and simple and sweet does not create deep inner magic. Or any kind of magic.

So, give your characters a fierce desire and huge obstacles to achieving it and watch the magic happen in your character, your reader, and yourself.

Monthly Round-up

Reading

 Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. This novel is the star of my October reading. I’ve heard how marvelous it is for years, but only just now got around to reading it. Ursula Todd is born, then dies, and is born again.  Throughout the book you read her different lives. I don’t know how Atkinson made it work, but she did. Not a quick read, but worth it.

Nantucket Wedding, by Nancy Thayer.  I’ve been reading Thayer’s books since I was a young woman with small children, an eon ago, and she is still at it. She’s traditionally been one of my favorites but I’m finding this one predictable and a bit boring. Yet still, I persist.

When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing,  by Daniel H Pink.  Pink consolidates tons of research and thought into a highly readable book.

10% Happier, by Dan Harris.  After an on-air panic attack, the he ABC News anchor started searching for answers to his anxiety. He writes a funny and engaging book about his journey through self-help. Ultimately, he lands on, wait for it, meditation. So of course he’s near and dear to my heart!

Make Something Good Today by Erin and Ben Napier.  In one of my free writes I had an idea for a story about a couple similar to this one and then I saw this book at the library, so I brought it home. The book exists for no other reason than that this cute couple has a TV show.

Watching

Oscar’s Oasis, Justin Time Go, The Cat in the Hat, Story Bots, and many more kids shows. Please don’t make me do a run-down of each of them for you.

 Don’t forget to join the Facebook group if you haven’t already.  I post lots of good links and we often have lively writerly discussions going.

This post contains affiliate links.

 

The Scourge of Not-Enoughness (A Love Letter)

I have it. You do too. But the funny thing is, most of the time I look at you and think you don’t have it. And you most likely look at me and feel the same.

But every human being on the planet, except for maybe Queen Elizabeth or Elon Musk or Gwyneth Paltrow, has it. And it is a scourge.

It is the scourge of not-enoughness.

Photo by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash

It manifests in many different ways.  Such as, my writing is not enough, my talent is not enough, my body is not enough, my brain is not enough. I’m not smart enough, thin enough, rich enough, famous enough. I don’t have enough money time or talent. There’s not enough, not enough, not enough.

Name your favorite not-enough scourge and someone else shares it. Which is scant comfort when you’re trying to deal with your own not-enough crap.

But deal with it you must. Because otherwise it will eat holes inside you that turn into yawning black chasms of depression, disgust and all the other dire emotions. And you won’t get a lick of writing done.

Myriad are the ways in which we can battle our not-enoughness.  Like meditating, exercising, eating right, reading a lot (but not the internet and definitely not social media), doing all the things we know are good for us and doing them regularly.

But the best way I know to battle not-enoughness is to write.

I feel enough when I’m doing my writing, period. Whether it is terrible (as first drafts are), or wonderful, whether the words flow like magic from a wand or they stay stubbornly locked inside me until I force them out, I feel enough when I have written something. Anything. I may go back to not-enoughness when I finish, but for the brief shining moments when I’m writing I can keep it at bay.

And then everything is enough. It is not only enough, the world is brimming with life and energy and vitality and good cheer and hopefulness and I am in love with it.

So that’s the best reason I can think of to pick up your pen.

 

Don’t Give Up On Your Creative Practice (A Love Letter)

This has been a crazy week.  Besides the usual round of appointments and teaching commitments (which I love), my daughter had hand surgery after slicing a tendon and a couple of nerves in her thumb.  Thus, I’ve been tending small children even more than usual. I know, you’ve probably had a crazy week, too. And even if you haven’t, there’s the constant onslaught of news to contend with.

Distractions galore.

It’s enough to make you run screaming and vow you’ll never write another work again. (Or paint another picture. Or plant another garden. Or knit another stitch.) Because who can write when life events are making you feel so very un-creative? So distracted and un-focused?

It’s so easy to go into overwhelm and decide it’s just too hard to write. Sure, you have a few minutes here and there to put pen to paper, but what’s the point? What difference do a few paltry minutes make? And so you don’t do it and then you just give up. You forget who you are at your core, and who you want to be, and you just go along the path of least resistance.

Sound familiar?

But I submit to you that taking those few precious minutes—or longer—is what will save you. And maybe the world, too. Because it is your writing that will ground you and center you and remind you of who you are through the darkest of times.

I adore my grandchildren beyond all reason, but this week as I changed diapers and made mac and cheese and picked up toys and coaxed a three-year-old to take a nap (which went about as well as you might expect), I forgot my creative self. Which I believe is my true self.

Photo by fotografierende on Unsplash

Except I picked up my pen and wrote for fifteen minutes every day. And then I remembered. That simple practice brought me back to myself and made it infinitely easier to hobble down the block after a toddler on the loose. And, make no mistake about it, writing is a practice, one that gets easier with every fifteen-minute spring you devote to it. A practice that makes it easier to commit to how you want to show up in the world, whether you observe from the safety of your office or go march to express your opinions. A practice that may some day bloom into a finished novel or memoir or garden or painting or sweater. And if it doesn’t, that’s okay, too. The sheer act of doing it is what’s important. Because that is what will steady you for whatever comes your way.

So no matter what is going on in your life, please don’t give up on your creative practice.  You need to, I need you to, and the world does, too.

The Delicious Effort of Story (A Love Letter)

Story takes effort.

Photo by Robert Baker on Unsplash

Sometimes at night I sit in front of the TV and I don’t have the energy to watch anything more than a thirty-minute sitcom, or a singing reality show, which I can digest in small bites and turn off when I get bored. Because the mental effort of engaging with a longer story takes too much effort.

Watching a story takes effort.

Sometimes I get in bed at night and read one page before my book falls out of my hands and clatters to the floor. It’s not even that I don’t like the book—it’s just that I’m tired and want to go to sleep.

Reading a story takes effort.

Sometimes I don’t think I have it in me to write. It is so much easier to consume words rather than create them myself.  So off I go to wander aimlessly around the internet, which mostly involves sort-of, kind-of word consuming.

Writing a story takes effort.

Here’s the moral: anything to do with story takes effort. Studies show  that you use more of your brain when listening to a story, and I surmise that the same holds true for reading a story and writing one as well.  The more tension in a story, the more you’ll pay attention, the more you pay attention, the more you’ll feel the emotion of the characters in the story, and the more you feel the emotion, the more likely you’ll be to mimic the behavior of the characters in the story afterwards.  Which kind of goes to show why everything to do with story takes such effort. It’s almost as if we’re living it ourselves as we watch, read, or write a story.

Because story changes us. Never forget that you wield that power as you write.  I don’t know about you but knowing that motivates me to write. It motivates me to open the computer on days I don’t feel like it, to spend the time it takes to get a story onto the page. To make the effort. Because I can’t think of anything more powerful than the ability to change a person’s life with the words you write. Can you?

And so, truly, story is worth the effort.

Here’s a related prompt for you:

The story begins when….

(Remember, just use the prompt as a starting point. And you don’t have to take it literally.)

Writing Workshop!

And if you would like to study story through the lens of the five senses, consider coming to Astoria, Oregon, for a winter workshop!  We’ll be offering a week-long writing workshop in fun, funky and eclectic Astoria, Oregon, the first week in February. Great seafood, fun shops, a week devoted to writing and writerly camaraderie. We’re so excited, and we’ve already had several sign-ups. Space is limited, so check it out soon! You can read all about it here.