Posts filed under Building Your Craft

The impossibility of writing

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I want to take a nap.

Jubal is down for a few hours, and I have some time to myself in a house that gloriously quiet and I want to nap.

And some days, I let myself. I set an alarm and I curl under my blankets and I close my eyes and remind myself what rest feels like.

But today is not one of those days. Today is one for remembering something different.

Remember when you took any quiet moment as a chance to write?
Remember when you didn’t have a list of things you needed to clean?
Remember when that didn’t even matter?

It was Stephen King who once told us to not come lightly to the blank page — do you remember that quote? It was everywhere for a few years, when those of us inching our way into the online space found our voices and croaked out words for the first time.

I’ve never forgotten it, but I’m also one for melodrama. I don’t know if I come lightly to anything.

I’ve been trying to get past that. I’ve been trying to figure out what it means to just write and not worry about the sharing. I’ve been separating marketing and ROI from my words. No expectations. Just….writing.

Just me.

A few months ago, someone I respect told me to keep writing. I just love your writing style, she told me. I did the opposite. Mostly because of fear and grief.

Sometimes I still worry that I am all out of words. Like, even though I have all of these things I want to say, whatever I am dealing with is so overwhelming and I have this expectation hanging over me to “not come lightly to the blank page” and it feels like I can’t articulate these emotions swirling inside.

Like sometimes, you’ll really love your job and then suddenly you’ll hate it and then just as suddenly, you’ll love it again.
Or sometimes, you’ll begin to understand the inherent lack of respect we put up with as women.
Or sometimes, you’ll be so very done with people asking you to calm down.

Even though I coach that losing your words is impossible and sometimes you just need to take a breath, give yourself some space, let the words flow. Even though I know, intrinsically, that my words will show up when they’re ready.

When you have a thing that came so easy for you in the past, it makes sense that you begin to question that same thing when it’s not so easy anymore.

Some people are surprised when I say this — when I admit that writing can be hard and feel futile.

I don’t know. These are my confessions? I saw a friend at a book signing a few weeks ago and nearly packed everything up and quit because at one point, I coached her. And now she’s a bestselling author and I’m attached to a headset all day long and I don’t even know how many books I’ve even sold this year and the last time I published a book I wasn’t a mother so you can do the math.

Right now, writing feels impossible. And that’s okay. Because ultimately, it is impossible. We just get to experience the alchemy of pulling together impossible sentences and paragraphs and stories.

Maybe you wait for the words or maybe you pry them out of your bones whether they’re ready or not. However you do it, excavation never feels pretty.

Posted on October 1, 2018 and filed under Building Your Craft.

Open

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Ten minutes to write. 

Ten minutes to breathe, and show up, bare foot in my purpose.

What does that look like these days? Before it looked like workshops and books and long days spent behind the computer connecting with other like-minded individuals. 

Now it feels harder. More cumbersome. My purpose is always present, painting the area around me with this murky shine, like when the sun tries desperately to break through the clouds on a day where they're so thick the sky is white with heaviness. 

I remember what it feels like to find a story. I remember the feeling of it settling in my bones and resting there, knowing I would take care of it, knowing I would share it when the time was right.

And I always did. I always took that purpose seriously. I know the words are coming. I feel them in the way I pause at what I've written before, a familiarity looming right behind the veil. 

I know you, I think. Do you know me?

I have this white board in my office at home. On it I write my goals for the month that align with how I'm wanting to feel. 

Alchemic, it says. It's written in purple, on accident but really on purpose, because that's the color of creativity and intuition. Listen for book #5 is scrawled next to the feeling, a mantra I have whispered since I hit publish on INDIE CONFIDENCE over two years ago. 

I know what you're thinking: I've written that fifth book, haven't I? My memoir? And I did, you're right. But I see that manuscript as a bridge between then and now. It helped me in so many ways catalogue my life in a way that felt validating, but it's not for the general public. Not yet. In its form, it is still very much incomplete. 

And so, I listen. 

I stay open. 

I wait for the words that are on their way to me. The words that are settling in my bones as I type. The story I am meant to tell but don't even know it yet.

I am ready. 

Posted on February 10, 2018 and filed under Building Your Craft, The Memoirs.

Art: The Demanding Mistress

There’s no way around it: Art is a demanding mistress. 

She’ll wake you in the middle of the night. She’ll have you falling asleep at the crack of dawn only to get you out of bed a few hours later. When Art visits, there’s nothing else you can do.

This is a lie I used to believe.

Now I know that Art, and her twin Inspiration, visit quietly. This is different than silent. There is no sneak attack of words these days, no looking over my shoulder for when an idea will slap me upside the head. I know now that she sounds like the trees rustling in the wind or the distant rumble of thunder in a summer storm. She sounds like my husband breathing in the middle of the night. She sounds like the sound of a laugh that comes from the gut, eyes wide shut in glee. 

And if I’m honest with myself, when an idea comes to me, I feel the weight of the roots internally.  Ideas do not come on a whim, they breathe and grow and learn our grooves. The succulent ones take over and make themselves known. The titillating ones — the ones meant to distract — they grow with abandon but have nothing holding them down. It’s why they tickle. There’s no substance there and they feel like a feather across your insides.

But here’s the thing: I know that if I’m not careful, I can miss Art in how she comes to me. My first clue is an erratic sleep schedule — up earlier than I should to hit the daily grind (and not to read and write) and falling asleep in the pitch black hours of night, mostly because I’ve been glued to Netflix.

I become a zombie. Get up, scroll through Facebook, get dressed, go to work, come home, eat dinner, watch Netflix, fall asleep. Art keeps me alive. She fills my lungs with poetry and beauty. I never lose sight of my purpose.

When Art goes silent, I know Fear has taken her place. 

It can happen for a number of reasons: my schedules goes haywire; I’m faced with a crisis; I receive a criticism; I question my story.

Regardless of why he shoed up, there’s always one thing true: when Fear takes root he demands our attention. It’s easy to talk yourself out of creating in this moment. 

You’re too tired and want to sleep.
You want to stay up and read this book.
You need to clean the kitchen instead.

Or, you don’t even need to talk yourself out of creating. Usually, when Fear has come to stay, I am so easily distracted by social media. I wake up early to write and then scroll through Facebook until I have to leave for work. I sit down to finally write a blog post but then get caught reading every one else’s words instead of creating my own. 

Art keeps our vision straight toward the horizon. This provides movement. Fear keeps our vision peripheral. This keeps us stuck. 

If you feel stuck, if the frustration is getting higher and higher and you feel a little suffocated, ask yourself —

what is it I’m afraid of here?

Get quiet. Go still. Stay in this position until you hear the answer and resist the judgment and shame that may surface.

Every artist faces fear at some point in the career. For me, I have to face him down daily. But looking him in the eye brings the power back to you. Looking him in the eye and demanding an answer shifts the momentum and allows space for Art to breathe again. 

Remember: art is not a demanding mistress. She waits for the signal. 

So if you’re struggling because you’re not a writer….
Or if you feel the tightness in your chest because there’s just never enough time….
Or if the thoughts are pinging about you having nothing to say….

You have a story that needs to be told….and only you can tell it. 
Fear keeps our breath short and lacking….breathe deep and remember you have all the space you need.
Fear likes to grow in urgency and need….if you go still in order to find words you will not be forgotten.

Don’t let fear win.

You are a storyteller. There is time for you to breathe. And you absolutely have something to say.

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Posted on May 11, 2017 and filed under Building Your Craft.