Monday, December 27, 2010

A trusty list for parents


I've been off track, again ... lost because of lack of time because being a mom has me spinning in confusion and chaos. I'm lost because of trying to be something I am not. I can't hide any of these roles that I play every single day.

It's hard having a writer's heart ... and being a parent. Shit, it's hard being a parent.

I'm reading a great book right now (more on that in another post) that I bought with a Christmas gift certificate from my amazing husband. I needed something real. I needed something honest. I needed something inspirational that only a really good book can provide.

Amazingly, I found just the right book in a short trip into the store. Thus, writing here again.

After just one little chapter of reading the new book, I was in the kitchen, making quiche and listening to Emmy Lou Harris, when I had a parenting epiphany to write a soothing message for myself. And when I was finished, I wondered if I should share it with others.

For those with amazing kids. For those with kids who are not so amazing now and then. For those who write with kids. For those who care for kids. For those who are the most patient -- and the not so patient. For those who now and then want to lose their shizz because their kids are, well, testing them in various ways like kicking and smacking their siblings.

And, this little list of mine was also inspired by this other little list of trust by Momma Zen who became a good friend years ago around the time she wrote her list. I write my list for all the parents traveling this road behind me and in honor of all those who have gone before me. Only we, the parents, know what is best. And yet we know nothing at all. We just have to learn to trust.

A Trusty list for Parents

Trust that they know when they are not hungry.
Trust when they are.
Trust that they will eat just fine some day.
Trust that they might not.
Trust that they will sleep when tired.
Trust that they will rise when they are done sleeping.
Trust when they have had a bad dream.
Trust when the blankets aren’t just so.
Trust that they truly cannot go back to sleep.
Trust that they’ve had enough.
Trust when they haven’t.
Trust when their harsh words mean something more.
Trust when their harsh words are just words.
Trust that they love when they hate.
Trust that they hate when they love.
Trust the process for making up.
Trust that they will make up.
Trust that they can work it out on their own.
Trust them.
Trust their hearts.
Trust their heads.
Trust their nice hands.
Trust their mean words.
Trust their friendship.
Trust their bonds to you.
Trust that they do get it.
Trust that they understand.
Trust that they do not understand.
Trust that this too shall pass.
Trust that this too shall escalate to something else.
Trust that there will always be another phase.
Trust when they say no.
Trust when they say uh-uh.
Trust when they giggle.
Trust when they say they can do it.
Trust when they say they need help.
Trust when yes means no.
Trust when no means yes.
Trust when they say they love you.
Trust when they say they hate you.
Trust when they say nothing at all.
Trust when their faces say everything.
Trust when their faces say nothing.
Trust when times get tough.
Trust that times will get tough.
Trust when times turn wonderful.
Trust that they will be wonderful.
Trust that love is enough.
Trust that love isn’t enough.
Trust your heart.
Trust your Yeses.
Trust your Nos.
Trust yourself.
Trust your kids.
Trust that there will be another day to get it right.

Photo credit: Valeria

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

December 1st means only one thing

Advent.

Not just any advent calendar. An activity advent. This means that we don't just throw (more) candy into a box and count the day. No, we spend quality time together, usually laughing and doing awe-inspiring things, like wrapping each other up in green crepe paper and pretending we're Christmas trees. This year, we're adding a race to see who can wrap each other up fastest with toilet paper, black buttons and scarves to become snowladies and one snowman.

This year, the list is the best ever because I've done this for the third year and now know the best ones to do.

Granted, I realize that I am ridiculous about this and go way overboard but I look at it as a way to fill the entire month of December with spirit and joy and love. Also, I do two activites a day so that each girl (twins!) gets to pull a card out of the stocking. To see previous years, go here and here.

Here are some of the things we're doing:


1.Make list -- sing carols
2.Look for color red -- dance party
3.A joke -- city light up night
4. Decorate the doors -- visit santa
5. Movie night -- make cookies
6. Paint nails red and green -- make gift tags
7. Play with cookie cutters -- mail cards
8. Hang candy canes -- snowscapes with shaving cream
9. Find the color green -- camp under the tree
10. Drink hot chocolate -- read around the tree
11.Count the red lights -- christmas magic
12.Family tree activity -- make cards for teachers
13. Make homemade gifts -- be an elf for the night
14.Santa's helper/wrap a gift game -- create gift kits
15. Make choc. covered pretzels -- make seating cards
16. Pin the nose on rudolph game --write a Christmas story
17. Make ornaments/wrap gifts -- red and green snack
18. Snowman Race -- Light a candle in memory of dog Prince
19. Put on a christmas play -- eat dessert first
20. Create a winter alter -- jingle bell dance around the tree
21. Winter Solstice celebration -- star gaze
22. wear red and green -- eat breakfast for dinner
22.Jingle bells dance -- make sugar cone trees
23. Hand out gifts to teachers -- star watch
24. set out cookies and milk -- sprinkle magic reindeer food outside

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Creative Soul Rebirth



My creative soul is in the middle of a rebirth, a coming-of-age that's long overdue, again. This happens every year this time, I realized recently.

My love for the crisp fall air is deep but I have been having haunting memories of how this time of the year deeply hurts, too. My relationships are almost always strained and I am not communicating wisely to stay on top of that trend. I feel hurt that people don't see me or get me.

Writing is such a powerful tool to be heard but it cannot help you be seen. Jen Lemen wrote some seriously awesome words about this and, like many of her posts, I can't stop thinking about the amazing vulnerability of being seen.

I've always worried about not being heard. I've always worried about not being taken seriously.

But it all comes back to not being seen. Really seen.

Authenticity has to be a combination of all of these things and truly not giving a shit about any of them. But I do still ... which is a wake-up call for me to wake up and start writing more and worrying less.

But this is a lesson I learn over and over in life. It comes and goes like the tide, washing the memories away inch by inch.

Life is not perfect yet and therefore we must keep drudging through the thick sands, creating our own legacies.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Special Guest Post: Magpie Girl



It can be really hard to navigate friendships as a creative person. So many people walk through life just going through the motions, hardly noticing the flits and flutters of their own dreams. Sometimes I feel people look at me strangely when they understand that I have dreams beyond raising my daughters and working.

A year or so ago, I discovered Magpie Girl -- Rachelle Mee-Chapman -- who has helped me find my creative identity through various exercises.

But, it was early on when I read her e-book "SoulRetreats: How to host a tribe with art and soul" and was instantly inspired to to find my own tribe of like-minded, creative people. That has turned into a small but beautiful book club. I hope to someday turn the idea into a retreat, as her book suggests.

This is not the first online friendship to lead me to amazing creative exploration. I've had many online friends over the last three years.

Rachelle is doing 30 Stories in 30 days in honor of her birthday this month. She's here visiting today, on my blog, to answer this question I asked her about In Real Life vs. Online friendships:


Q: How do you balance between IRL and online friendships? Are they the same or different for you?

Because of my deep dependence on online friendships during my 3 years abroad, I tend to think of IRL and online friendships as being very similar. For a long time there was great debate in the blogosphere about community and friendsh

ip online. Was there really a “there” there? My answer, unequivocally, is “Yes.”

We cannot always have our soultribe at nearby IRL (in real life). We might live in a community that doesn’t “get” us. We might live in a country where we don’t speak the language. We might travel a lot. We might be ill and unable to make the dinner party rounds. Thankfully, online community can help bridge the gap. With the advent of blogging, social networking sites like Facebook, and specific-topic communities managed by programs like Ning, there are lots of options for online connection.

When I moved abroad to Denmark the online community was a HUGE source of support, resource and camaraderie. Without the “there” that was there, I would have been completely isolated. As I left my IRL life friends on the other side of a 9hour time difference, the internet friends became my comfort and my colleagues. As my online friend Melanie Martin puts it, Twitter is “my tearoom” – a place to take a break from writing and have a chat over a cuppa. Facebook, IM chats, and Skype video talks kept me connected on work projects, and people I knew only over the internet like Leonie Allen and Susannah Conway became my coaches and colleagues. And over the years, both before and since Copenhagen, blog crushes and online pals have become friends, work partners and soulsisters IRL as well. Jen Lemen, Jennifer McGuiggian, Jolie Guillebeau, Becky Knight, Bethany Basset, J.Renee Pekol, and Jessica Schafer are all online acquaintances who have I have personally hugged. (Bethany and I even had our first IRL TweetUp on an overnight girl’s weekend to Rome!)

On the other hand, there’s something special that happens when you can meet someone face to face. I was recently able to meet up with photographer Darrah Parker, someone I previously knew only on line. In 90 minutes over coffee we were able to brainstorm and problem-solve more work related stuff than we could have in dozens of Tweets. And by meeting each IRL we got a more nuanced understanding of each other’s work and way of communicating.

Now that I’m back on home turf in Seattle, I have less time to run the social networking gauntlet online. But I still try to stay connected with online and IRL friends based on the same general rule of thumb. IRL I would spend time with people who

  • Make an effort to keep in touch.
  • Have interests that are similar to mine or which intrigue me.
  • Who make me laugh; and who can have a meaningful conversation.

The same is true with my online connections.

I do have one warning sign that I am spending too much time online in general – when I started doing that vague clicking around thing, triple checking for new email/Facebook updates/tweets, and generally trying to find the miracle answer to what’s bugging me online. Do you know what I mean? When I start thinking the answer to life could be found if I could just find the right thing to click on, it’s time to log off!

What about you? How do you related to

your online and IRL connections? What are your warning signs for you that you are going off-balance with how you spend your time between the two? Is there a real “there” there for you in online communities? We’d love to hear your thoughts because “there ain’t know where to go but together.”


Rachelle Mee-Chapman, specializes in customized soulcare for spiritual misfits. She works with clients at Magpie Girl to help them find a spirituality that fits; and hosts Flock, an online soulcare community. You can learn more about her creative approach in her free ecourse, Magpie Speak: a new vocabulary for soulcare.

Friend :: Follow :: Presents!

Friday, October 1, 2010

How to be a writer


We've been starting our weekends lately playing outside, often at a local park, sometimes with a picnic dinner. Even as the weather gets colder -- especially as it gets colder -- we find being out there, as a family, is a booster to our time together.

Tonight, at the start of October, the reality of what we're facing set in. The sun set at just 7:15 p.m. Darkness took over and many families like ours, shuffled quickly into cars and headed home.

Summer is gone. Long gone now. Soon, those of us with cold, snowy winters will be hibernating in the midst of winter's grips, wishing for the warm weather but relishing the holidays and building snow creatures.

And yet tonight was so peaceful, so full of hope. The pink sky illuminated every tree branch, every blade of grass, every building and I found myself peering into windows of homes lived in by people we do not know.

There are so many people we will never meet. I wondered, briefly, who I am yet to meet.

I had this same thought tonight about writers and books. There are so many writers whose words I will never read. Writers who shed tears, probably, over the fact that they didn't have enough time, enough skill, enough ideas to be a writer. And yet they did it. They had the willpower, the gumption to write their own story to become an author and sell books.

Is it that simple? Just forging forward with nothing but finishing in mind? I hope so.

My fearless writing class starts next week! Time to start prepping and planning for how it will flow -- and, how, I will be turning it into an online adventure. Super exciting.

Please stay tuned for a great guest post on Sunday.

Photo credit: Big thanks to JKonig

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Ready. Set. Go!


While I'm nursing a sore throat and an overall sense of yuckiness this Sunday night, I'm also doing lots of planning and plotting for the Fearless Writing class that starts in a little less than two weeks.

It's such good timing as I am slowly rising up from this terrible, awful, no good funk and learning a lot about courage. Courage to know when toxic habits aren't fruitful. Courage to know when enough is enough. Courage to know who to let in, and who to let go.

Mostly, courage to just wait out this storm and ride the waves, knowing that this, too, shall pass. Courage to set writing aside. Real writing, anyway. I've filled up journals upon journals lately so the hand is still working. The words do still flow. But what I've had to say hasn't been worth sharing.

Courage takes shape in many ways. Some days, courage is just putting all of our dreams aside to take care of children, to just be with them. Or to take care of good friends. Or to add just one more -- oh it can't be so -- thing to our day to just show someone that we care.

I'm ready to see some creative progress this week. I printed out all 300+ pages of my manuscript last week. I'm back to blogging this week. I hope to settle down each night with at least one creative goal in mind -- to write again. Real writing. The stuff that comes from my bones and stretches me to every edge.

So long as this sore throat goes away ...

Big huge thanks to Chrisc25 for the photo!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Book Review: Four Word Self Help by Patti Digh


I've never been someone who needed self-help books. That's probably because I've always written through my problems in journals. I've kept nearly every single journal, too, to prove that.

And yet recently I've found comfort in self help books by Patti Digh. Her first book, Life is a Verb, is the result of our choice in my creative soul's book club, a group I formed this past spring. We all loved that book. It was so beautiful and full of wonderful stories.

I had actually forgotten that I signed up to receive a review copy of her next book, Four Word Self Help: Simple Wisdom for Complex Lives.

It arrived on a very low day for me, a day when I felt my world collapsing all around me. My values and honor system had been greatly compromised. And, to make matters worse, I had few people to talk to about any of it.

I opened the box, and then book to find the sweetest, most lovely book I've ever laid my eyes on. It's full of wonderful quotes and original art, just like Life is a Verb, and yet it's so full of simple, short pieces of advice that I was able to read it in just one day. I finished it at bedtime, with a smile on my face. I've read it twice since.

I have plans to buy it for a young woman I am mentoring and for a few people for Christmas. It's that lovely.

My favorite pieces of advice in it (there are many):

Eat less, Move more (always a needed reminder for me)
Give up Toxic people
Mean what you say
Embrace Solitude, not loneliness
Stop trying so hard
Let other people drive
Do Less, Be More

The stories are full of deep, big-picture thoughts all in Patti style. I admit, Patti is truly one of my modern day heroes both for her strong, authentic writing voice and style as well as her fierce advocacy on social justice issues.

I highly recommend both of her books, but especially Self Help as it's a neat little book that you can pull out of your purse or bookbag or briefcase in a moment's notice and just sink into and feel happy -- like when you're world is collapsing, or you just woke up on the wrong side of the bed.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Sometimes you just can't write


This was not the post I was going to write. It wasn't the one planned, and sitting unwritten in my head.

But, sometimes, you just can't write. It's not that you don't want to or even that you don't have time. It's that other things, more pressing things, need to rise to the surface and be released before you can return to the page.

This has been the case for me for the last week and a half. It's been utter nonsense, truly, but enough to raise all of my little emotional sensors that says enough is enough. You are enough. You don't have to add one more thing to the mix.

But, just because I know I can't write anything *great* right now, doesn't mean I shouldn't be working -- working on things with less emotional weight, working on stringing words together in any shape.

Like lists. Oh, mercy, I love a good list. Just last night, in a fit of "I have to write something!" I wrote a wonderful Autumn to-do list. I sat under a comfy blanket next to a breezy window and used a brown marker from my little girls' stash and started. The list started off small but soon a wild amount of potential -- and creativity -- bled through that list, all of which left me feeling so excited.

Character Sheets. I also started character sheets for my finished manuscript to use while editing. As I go through the book, I see so many inconsistencies on the minor details of my characters .... these sheets will help me nail it all down so that I can truly get through that thing ASAP.

Poetry. Formerly written poetry. Knowing I had to do something, I started gathering ALL of my many journals and notebooks and scouring them for bits of gold and transferring that gold into a new, more final notebook to keep track of the good stuff. By doing this, I actually improved a few pieces drastically and realized I know a bit more about poetry than I like to admit to. Poetry is theraputic to write during a writing stop (this is not a creative block, by the way. But that's another post).

Do something with your hands. I like to do mixed media collages when I'm frustrated. It works in harmony with my desire to use words but also create without rules. Since I am not a fine artist, I never feel like my paintings/collage need to be very good. Now and then, they aren't terrible.

Play. Play. Play. Enough said on that.

Finally, Read. Reading can take the place of writing solely by being the reading detective. Now, I admit, I wasn't a reading detective until I actually finished my first book. Now, I totally get it and it's rather freaking addictive. And, the result is that I often now cannot go to sleep from reading because I'm so hooked on uncovering it's little nuggets of writing. Still, it's a true must for any writer. Read everything you can get your hands on, in preparation.

How about you? When you CAN'T write, what is it that you CAN do instead? When life is truly too busy, too chaotic, too problem-filled, how do you get your writing on? How do you stay in the game of creativity?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The best line ever

"Make your own damn dinner because I'm making my own damn art."

Marion Lawrence

I go to church with Marion and she's a talented woman who understands that art comes first before everything else. I loved this title of her sermon today and wanted to share it with you.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Seasonal Shifts in Clarity and Writing

There's something about the smell of fall that triggers good, let's-start-over feelings internally for me. Its back-to-school, new year, new phase, new everything feeling actually feeds my New Year mentality more than the actual New Year.

I know I am not alone in this. So many people -- women, mostly -- have been saying the same thing to me.

I love the crunch, crunch, crunch of walking on baby acorns, gathering them up in my hands and understanding what they mean to this earth, this cycle of seasons.

I often wonder what it's like to live in a place where there are no seasons. My Creative Soul is at the mercy of the seasons like my body is to water. When spring and summer fall upon my part of the world, I am at peace and create like a mad woman. Deep in the belly of winter and summer, I am scattered and lost and hardly productive at all.

At least I finally understand this about my own rhythms and ebbs and flows and can embrace it, as frustrating at it is at the time.

Still, fall brings with it so many other struggles such as loss of daylight and my inability to get myself out of bed early without a mean alarm clock. And yet that is exactly what I need to do to get things done.

My friend Stacey, with her own blog, recently commented on developing a fall schedule. This is exactly what I have done for the last few years, not just for fall but for every season. I write lists upon lists of what my ideal schedule should look like -- when I'll exercise, when I'll write, when I'll enjoy the crisp, fall breeze. I will also write lists upon lists of seasonal gifts to enjoy such as picking apples and pumpkins, going for hayrides, hiking and walking through corn mazes, into the deep woods and, of course, cooking my seasonal favorites. I will spent most of my time outside, drinking wine and coffee and apple cider. And writing.

Oh goodness, the writing. This season's writing can make my mind spin with excitement. I hope it doesn't disappoint. That is, if I can just hunker down and carve out the time much like carving out the features of a poet in a pumpkin.

How about you? How will you fall into creativity as the season's change? Does cooler weather bring more clarity to your pursuits or not? I'm curious to know.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Monday Muse: Being Fearless

Some time ago, I set out on a mission to try to help others like myself start putting the Creative Life ahead of everything else. Perhaps creativity is my spirituality these days. Writing and painting are my Dharma. Creative to-do lists are my textbooks.

My husband, a writer himself, and I sat under the moon recently -- me with my feet dangling poolside and he on a lounge chair -- chatting. What would I want from a creative writing class? The moon pulled at me that night and our conversation led to Fearless Writing.

It spoke to me not just because of writing, but because I just don't want to be afraid of anything anymore.

I don't want to be afraid to think the things I do, or fear what I haven't yet done. I don't want to be afraid to put my writing out into the Universe and I most definitely do not want to be afraid to write what I feel.

The whole culture of fear is tiresome and a burden far heavier than I wish to bear.

Fearless Writing is a class I've dreamed up that mixes everything I've learned about being a writer and a creative soul into one small, seven-week course.

I'm happy that seven lovelies have already signed up to take the class so far and we still have another month and a half before it starts. By class end, I hope I've inspired a person or two to be less afraid in their daily life and to start taking a few more risks -- especially in writing, but not just in writing. Why? Because so much of writing is about experiencing life to its fullest. But if we are too afraid to take that next step, how in the world are we going to finish that first draft, paint that first painting or craft that first poem?

My hope is that once I get through this first class, in real life, I will have enough ideas on how to turn it into a wonderful yet AFFORDABLE online class.

What about you? What does being fearless mean to you? What are you afraid of or what do you no longer want to fear?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Scattered thoughts


This, that and another thing -- actually, many things -- have left me with so very little time to do do any writing. I'm finding ways to be creative here and there (a non-fiction piece or two, a poem here and there, and some painting, actually), but not in any organized fashion and certainly without a purpose.

Just when I think I've got a handle on my schedule and routine, the time changes, the daylight fades and small things here and there crop up into my life, impossible to ignore or say no to.

I'm a big fan of the No, thank you, but lately I've been saying Yes more. Thanks to Patti Digh's "Life is a Verb" for that. The minute I cracked open her book, it seeped goodness and all those ideas of living life to its fullest oozed into the crevices of my mind that I had been able to keep occupied and focused for so long while writing my book and starting my side business.

I will not lie, though, there's not enough time for it all -- the living life to the fullest, the working so hard all day, the taking care of the girls and still wanting to be with the girls as well as all the other millions of little things and big that call my attention all day, every day.

I'm sure it's a phase but right now, at this very minute, I'm ready to throw my hands up in the air and say I give up, I can't handle it all!

But, I know that I'm just really tired and that a good night's sleep is probably all that I need. And yet I know I will be tired again tomorrow and the day after that ... and yet.

This isn't advice by any means. It's a confession that I started dropping some balls about a month ago and I've had a really hard time picking up the mess and now I am running around, this way and that, trying to find that oh so lovely groove that held me tightly long enough to finish my novel.

Yeah, that's it. I am really missing my groove. I miss that clarity that I had to fleetingly.

Then again, perhaps it's my purpose now to develop a new groove -- an editing and revision groove, a let's-try-new-things groove or a just-dive-in-and-forget-it-all groove. I'm open to that as I brush at the weeds in front of my face and clear the clutter.

Luckily, I've been through this so many times before that I know -- well, really hope -- that the groove will, indeed, return and when it does, I must be ready for it. I must be ready to shut out out the world and start making writing my life again.

Thanks for reading my mutterings.

P.S. That's one of my girls in a local painter's studio and the picture is just so fitting for how I feel right now. Half of me is a woman trying to be an artist; the other half is a woman trying to be a great mother.

Monday, August 16, 2010

No More Mondays


There was a time when weekends were weekends and weekdays were weekdays and all I did was wish for the freedom of Saturdays and Sundays.


I woke up. My faith and spirituality has led me to this more than anything. Every moment is precious and every moment can slip away if we aren't careful.


When we work full-time it can be easy to compartmentalize the good from the bad, the creative and the not-so-creative times and the me time vs. the man's time.


As soon as I awoke to the idea of No More Mondays and that creative time, fun time and me time all has to co-exist much like all of humanity should, I became a creative being. My creative soul was born as soon as I understood that now is the time.


It is not enough to wait for the perfect time to create anything -- let alone the life you want most. If I did this, I would never have finished my manuscript. If I did this, I would never have time for doing creative family projects like setting up a carnival in our basement. I live for these moments and I do not have time to wait for a Saturday and Sunday to do them.


Being creative must come from the heart from the minute we wake up in the morning and not end until we shut our eyes at night. If we all did this, imagine how our businesses would thrive, our kids would flourish in and out of school and families would be much happier as they live out their dreams and have fun instead of just walking dead on this earth.


Mondays and every other day of the week are not just for working or volunteering on a bunch of committees but for getting up early, when the birds just start singing, and listening to your heart about what your imagination and your heart is calling for you to do today. Every day provides a new possibility, a new joy to live out and a new passion to seek.


What will you seek out today? What creative pursuit is calling your heart today? What will make you get up early or stay up late just to make sure you never have another Monday?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Let the thoughts pour out of you




Just how much crap can one person -- someone who built a career on writing -- write?

I wonder this sometimes. I write a lot of bad stuff. That's when I'm actually writing, too.

In college, I read and reviewed a book on writing and time management. I was working to put myself through college, and of course, partying, a lot. What a laugh that I didn't have enough time to write. I had nothing but time to write. I wrote a lot of crap and criticized myself a great deal. I wrote a few standout pieces, one of which was so good the same idea became a bestselling novel and a movie. Only wish I had tried to publish my piece. I was lazy and lost and full of self-doubt.

Now, with kids, I'm busier than ever and yet I have more time to write than ever. That's because I understand what time means to me. I know exactly what can happen in 17 minutes.

It's not that I have more time, it's that I know how to use precious few minutes to my advantage. Some days -- few, actually -- pass without a word written on paper or on the computer. Sometimes they are written standing in line, waiting at the doctor's office and often at the playground, watching my girls run and play.

But rarely do I ever not write something, anything.

The key, I believe, is in the mornings.

I've read "The Artist's Way," by Julia Cameron a few times here and there and I've started morning pages and stopped for various reasons -- mainly sleep and children.

But, recently, I've been writing My Three Pages consistently. And I reap volumes of benefits from those few minutes in the morning. I follow the rule of writing three full pages. I dump all the crap out of my life in the first page, focus my attention and daily intentions on the second page and then get creative on the third page. This system has worked wonders for me.

Page Three is consistently phenomenal. Something always pops up on Page Three that surprises me or makes me smile and want to jump up and down. I've had many ah-ha moments on page three.

The trick is not being worried about how you write or what you write but that you just write. The emphasis has to be on purging the junk -- the gremlins -- out onto the page so you can move on to bigger and better creative projects. When something is really bothering me and blocking me, I write through it on all three pages.

For mothers like me, this may seem nearly impossible. I assure you it is not. My kids wake up early and usually find me with my turquoise coffee cup steaming full on the counter with my head in my journal, scribbling fast and furious. That's when they grab their own journals and writing materials and sit down next to me and start doing their writing. Some of it is unrecognizable. Sometimes they only draw. All of it is pure delight to me, to see them learning about taking that precious time in the morning to gather thoughts and be creative before everything else. I love watching them give birth to their own creative souls.

Liana inspires me with how she will write this in about 30 seconds: a d L i i i h T B o I H H H. Silly you, it means we are going to the carnival today. (we're not really)

Writing needs to feel like going to a carnival. It should feel like spinning long and hard and getting so dizzy you just want to collapse onto the cool grass and watch the earth fall drunk before your eyes.

And if you let yourself write long enough that's exactly what it can feel like.

Pure bliss.

Now, go do your morning pages and tell me about your Page Three.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Monday Muse: Creating Intentions

We are all so busy.

Sometimes it makes me laugh to hear someone say how busy they are. It's just not something I like to complain about. I love being busy. I'm busy from the second I'm woken up -- yes, every day like clockwork -- until the minute I close my book to go to sleep at night. I have to work rest into my schedule like exercise and meal planning.

I do so much in a day that I often have to write down what I did accomplish so that I remember some of it. I call them Ta-Da Lists. More on that in another post.

What I have found to be an anchor for my creative life is to set intentions. I set various intentions throughout a week. Each moment can be different though they are often very similar.

It's very easy to set intentions for what you want to create, accomplish or even how you want to emotionally feel during the week. It sounds a bit hokey at first but trust me this is the best piece of advice you might ever get.

I often set my intentions in writing as part of my morning pages. But, they can easily be done over a candle during meditation or prayer, during a walk, while showering or even while pouring cereal. So long as you take a few minutes to consider what needs your attention at that moment and claim it!

Monday Morning Intentions: These are the intentions for the week. Perhaps last week you were, say, really, really grouchy and people were not at all impressing you. Just hypothetically. well, this week your intentions could focus your energies on putting that behind you and just being at peace. I am a Part-time Buddhist so I say these kinds of loving-kindness phrases to msyelf every Monday, but usually every morning as well.

May I be at peace
May I be loving
May I be balanced
May I have lots of creative energy.
May I take care of my body.

These intentions are important because what you say will most likely be how your week plays out. So watch out what you wish for.

Daily intentions: These, to me, are very different than affirmations. I like to wake each day and focus on one area that I can excel or accomplish. Perhaps it's to revise one chapter of my novel. Perhaps it's to just play with my kids. Sometimes, it's just stay quiet all day. Actually, that's often my intention. This is also when I plan my best activities for the girls to learn and play, which helps us all be a little more creative each day. Some daily intentions I use often are BE QUIET, LISTEN MORE, WRITE, PLAY WITH GIRLS, MEDITATE and BE LOVING.

Weekend Intentions: This is a BIG one for me. We used to have weekends that were so mishap and chaotic, and for good reasons being twins and all. But, truthfully, a lot of it was that I never knew what I wanted in a weekend. And, as a mother, it's really important to know what I want and what will make me feel good so that I can be both a creative being, a writer and a happy person. I set weekend intentions on Fridays and then the night before I really think about what Saturday and what Sunday need to be for this to be a WONDERFUL weekend. By setting the intentions early enough, it allows for mishaps and chaos so those states do not rule the weekend. Some weekend intentions are REST, BE IN NATURE, SOLITUDE, BE SOCIAL, GET ORGANIZED, ROMANCE, GET OUT OF TOWN, HAVE FUN.

There's lots of other times to use intentions -- such as before meetings, outings with friends, going shopping, etc. But these are the ones that use all the time and I find them helpful to being able to accomplish creative endeavors.

So, what is your weekly intention right now? What needs every ounce of your attention this week in order for you to be a Happy person or a Happy Writer?

My intention for this week: STAY QUIET. I need to spend some undivided attention writing some real stuff this week. For realz. I also need to take a break from some aspects of social media this week. Mostly The Twitter but not just that. I want to leave my CRACKBERRY alone more.

Namaste.

Share your intentions for today or this week in the comments. Please do not be shy. We only learn from each other here.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Live * Laugh * Write Fridays: Quiet edition




Be happy in the moment, that's enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.
-Mother Teresa


Here's what I've been trying to read this week despite all the other stuff that has been keeping me from it.

Live

Seriously considering/needing this. Love that she goes into more than just Unplugging but how to do it with quality, not just quantity.

This, too, would be helpful for me at this scattered stage of being.

It won't rain outside, so I've brought it inside. I love summer evening rains.

Laugh

I love this idea to do with the girls.

I could watch this a million times and the smile on my face would never fade.

Write

I'm obsessing over stretching myself as a writer. My writing career was in print non-fiction. I've written my book. I'm now editing that novel. Now, I have a hankering to do something different. Different, like this. I've actually written these before but not for years though many blog posts certainly could have counted. I have selfish reasons for wanting to perfect this genre, though.

Of course, the best way to write is to write. Duh.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The building blocks to authenticity

My last post spoke directly to the many boxes that I carry for baggage. They make up everything that I am. I do find it hard to manage them all, depending on the situation.

But I own them. They are mine.

Authenticity is not something I struggle with.

Every little detail in my life relates to another. I hear myself saying often these days that I respect people who walk the walk. That's because I appreciate those people more than anyone. Those who do not just talk about believing something, but who also do something to show it.

We believe in our city, so we moved there. It didn't feel right after seven years so we moved out but we still believe in it and so we spend at least one day or evening there on the weekends and I work there 45 hours a week. It's where our girls attend preschool. It's where I buy gifts and produce.

We believe in anti-racism so we attend ant-racism events such as unity marches and picnics -- and many other things as well.

We believe in gay rights and religious diversity and standing up for ALL people so we attend a church that welcomes everyone no matter who they are or what they believe or who they love.

We believe in building a creative class, so we inspire our kids to get involved in art as much as possible. We also believe in protecting the earth by buying less of everything, wasting less and buying locally.

How does any of this relate to being creative or writing? These values all add up to equal my authenticity. And while it comes by us easily, I realize it's a lot harder for others. When all of these boxes -- my personal building blocks -- are in alignment and at the forefront of my existence, they help me write with authority and honesty. They give me fodder, yes, but they also give me peace of mind and, best of all, a little hope.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Life's many boxes



I dream ... of being a writer. No, not just a writer. A published novelist. Stories grow like vines along my mind and writing is the only way I know how to release them.

Ever since I quit journalism to be more involved in my community, I have been cautious to call myself a writer. Only when I was actually getting paid to write, did I ever feel like I could call myself a writer.

Perhaps I am not alone when I say that my life is made up of various boxes. I'm not sure if they are boxes I've established or if they were established for me by society.

There's the box that is the mother and all things motherhood. There's the box who is a writer and creative type. There's the box that holds wife/household CEO. There's also the friendship box. The real job work box. The politics box. The social justice interests/volunteer box.

So many boxes. I often feel like I'm flitting about from one box to another, never allowing any of the boxes to touch or stack together like a solid structure or mass. But perhaps it's about brevity. Who really wants to sit through an introduction like: I'm a liberal, anti-racist mother who works for the House of Representatives who aspires to write novels, solve world problems and create art all day.

Instead, the boxes are laid out on a map and I happily -- or not so happily -- travel on paths, some smooth, some rocky, from one area to the other like a good little child who doesn't misbehave.

At work, I am not a writer. When marketing my writing, I hide that side of me who is a government worker, afraid of allowing one life to clash with the other. When I'm with friends, I am not always the mother. Or, I'm the mother, not wanting to be the mother and just wanting to be just a woman.

More often than not, I'm a woman who wants to be creative but cannot because of so many other boxes that don't allow for that.

I woke up to this reality a few months ago and decided that being a writer is who I am and that will never change no matter what I'm doing. I set out with fierce intentions to be known as that and nothing more. It will take time to change that image of the many persons I have been known as. It started with my Twitter account but I'm changing it in my social circles as well. Simply by saying, I have a dream to friends is enough to let the dream soar through the air.

I have also found that releasing my dreams has helped other friends release theirs. Then, they no longer are just another mother or another co-worker but women who dream of being something more.

I used to think that to be happy, I needed to be just one thing. Now, I just think that all of these boxes -- scattered and crazy -- are exactly who I am meant to be.

Authenticity, I now believe, is not being afraid to carry these boxes, even if one at a time, and be willing to open them when the time is ripe -- and close the others when you know they need closed.

Now that you know my dream. What is yours? Start yelling it across the rooftops right here, right now.

(I also dream of learning to cook authentic Indian food.)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Personal vs. Community




It's no secret that so much of writing is holing up in a vacant space and zeroing in on a computer screen or a notebook and shutting the world out.

We have to shut you out, you see. It's the only way the work can get done.

And yet. And yet I have always had this inner calling to be a fixer in my community. That's a large part of why it took me 10 years to write my first novel.

I take on too many causes. Join too many committees. Tackle too many problems. Problems that, ultimately, are not solvable by just me and perhaps not even in my lifetime, such as racism.

I'm a die-hard anti-racist. I run themes of this in my novel and I plan to write my second book just on this topic. It is more than a passion. It's a lifestyle. Diversity and acceptance are our family values.

So when does a writer know when enough is enough? How do we walk that very fine line of shutting out the world and yet being a part of that bigger picture of making it better?

I do not have the answers.

I know for myself that by establishing very firm values, it's easier to pick and choose which committees (between work and personal volunteer time I sit on 15 committees plus two board of directors).

Sometimes, it takes being militant about your schedule. No, I can't go out tonight. No, I can't talk tonight. No, I won't clean tonight. (my favorite!)

It's not that writers aren't interested in their community or economic development or community, it's that their jobs can't be done with people yelling in their ear with complaints.

Which is why I choose to stay on a committee as long as the vibe is positive and gets things done as opposed to sitting around complaining and not doing anything. Being there takes up energy in my mind and that means it's taking time away from my personal goals, my family and my home.

No, writing is not a social act by any means. But, by being active socially in the community and looking at the larger problems, writing is enhanced. Writers have more images, people and situations to draw from for content or plot, depending on what genre they work in.

I might not ever be the perfect volunteer because I am a writer and I'm always putting a writing project (and my kids) first. But, I would not be a great writer if I didn't at least try to be something more in my community than just a writer.

Photo: That's actually me participating in my first 5K race in the Race Against Racism this past April.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Family Artists Dates


Writing is just something I've come to known as my art form but most recently I've learned it's not the only art form that I enjoy. I happen to be much better at writing than most other types of mediums but nonetheless creating with my hands feels really good. Especially since writing a book of 90,000 words took so long, I found that doing a simple art project felt like a good accomplishment.

I learned to incorporate art very early into our family. In fact, the girls were 10 months old and still in high chairs when I decided to quit working full-time and I have video of using ketchup as paint on their high chair trays. That's how long we've been creating in the house. But, it's only been the last two years or so when I've started joining in, making their art time my art time as well.

If they are painting, I try to paint, too. If they are writing, I write, too.
These family art dates -- much like the idea behind Julia Cameron's artists dates -- are exactly what drives my creativity every single week. Without those simple, artistic moments, I would have nothing to offer. I live for those dates of making mini books, cutting paper and doing collages. I get some of my more creative ideas during these projects. I guess my muse lives amongst crayons and construction paper, sometimes.

To make the most of our artist dates, I follow these simple guidelines:

1. Plan Ahead -- Art is best when it comes natural but it's best to plan ahead and have some of the best art materials laying around so that we can do just about whatever we want when we're inspired.

2.
Go with the flow -- Sometimes our art projects last two minutes, sometimes they last an hour. I have no expectations, no rules, no final product in mind. We just do it and the act of creating is what brings smiles to our faces. Everything they do is good enough. They are good enough.

3.
Celebrate it all -- Sometimes a paper only has two lines on it. Celebrate that. Sometimes the googly eyes are all off. That's just fine. It's art. It's not fine art. It's supposed to be a fun process, not a final process.

4.
Steal other ideas -- I steal so many ideas from my very good friend Jean at the Artful Parent, who I often wish I was neighbors with. I know our girls would just be the best of friends as would she and I. Pretty much most of her ideas, we take on around our house. But, there are so many other great Web sites with great family art ideas. There's not enough hours to do them all.

5.
Make Art Every Day -- If it doesn't happen in the morning, we fit it in before or after dinner or just before bed. We get pretty cranky around these parts if we don't do an art project. It's how we go quiet together, as a family.

6.
Use imagination -- The best piece of advice I ever read was in the girls first year, thanks to Jean, told me not to pigeon hole my girls art work. I don't tell them to draw anything, I don't tell them what I think their art looks like and I don't show them how to draw anything. Well, not much. By doing this, there is no right and wrong and they've grown by leaps and bounds under their own creativity, not mine. The result is that I have become so much more creative learning from their freedom and curiosity.

For a while, Dan, my husband, would get anxious during art projects. He wasn't accustomed to the messiness and just letting it go like I was. It does take a bit of restraint to just let them make a mess and not worry about it. That's where my spirituality comes into play and being mindful of the beauty of seeing two little girls' imaginations run wild.

In the picture above, Dan had created a maze for the girls with sidewalk chalk. It was a rare moment to draw something for them but they turned that maze into so much more -- a Zoo, where wild animals lived and a store, I think.

Sometimes we teach them a thing or two. But, mostly, we're the students learning how to shed the rules and just be artists even when our instinct is to say we're not good enough.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Live * Laugh * Write Weekend Inspiration

Just like every Friday around here, but this week the links were hot! Enjoy these lovelies that were inspiring me this past week.

Live

10 Rules for Brilliant Women (or anyone, really)

Take a Creative Time Out.

101+ Kids Outdoor Activities (never just for kids)

Laugh

Be Enough, won't ya?

I really want this. Like, seriously.

Have more Fun in life

Write

Olympics and Writing

Like meditation, return to writing/creating every day

If Janet Fitch told me to jump off a cliff to be a great writer, I just might have to because I love, love, love, love her and I love her writing tips. Swoon!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

5 Ways to let go of Perfection




We all have those gremlins that haunt our every move. We know those bad things they say that we then internalize.

You're not good enough. You can't do it. You aren't as good as she is. What if no one likes me/it/this wonderful project I'm working on?

It took a long time to shed these thoughts, fight off the gremlins and rise above it to just do the impossible: follow a dream to the end.

Here are 5 Ways to let go of imperfection:

1. Show up ready to fight. Put your gloves on and wear a mouth guard. Be ready to roll with the punches but also fight back when the worst demons start hitting you in the gut. You are good enough for this project -- right now at this very moment. Why else would it be calling you?

2. Journal it. No matter the problem or the worry, write about it. Write about it until you can honestly not write about it anymore. Worried about not making enough money? Write about it? Worried that your next-door-neighbor's sister's cousin won't like your art, write about it. Worried you're not the next Picasso or Pulitzer Prize winner? Write about it. Write about it until there is nothing left to say. It just goes away after that.

3. Mess up. Go out of your way to create a piece of crap. Get it off your mind by just shoving it out there into the world and then crumble it up, if you want, and toss it away into the wind. Whoosh!

4. Roll up your sleeves. Work. Hard. Always. If you're a writer, write. If you're a volunteer, act. If you're an artist, paint/draw/whatever. It's not about wanting to be anything. It's about doing it.

5. See it through to the end: Vow to finish, even if it's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad art. It's OK if it's not perfect. Just finish. Finish, already!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Time of your life: Balance


Even as I sit here now, I have in the back of my mind all that I know I should be doing -- cleaning the kitchen, reading the three books I've started, writing for my latest project, revising my novel ... relaxing, exercising, meditating, cooking.

Productivity has never been a flaw of mine. Being overly ambitious about productivity has been, though. Until I realized last year that juggling too much actually stalls my productivity, I had a million projects started. None were finished, though. Imagine that?

So, it has taken me a long time to be able to figure out how to return to blogging when I barely have enough time to spare with everything else that I'm supposed to be doing. I wonder how people fit it all in, if they have a magic key to some world I don't understand. But then I think about it again and realize that it doesn't matter. If I can't post here five days a week, the world will not end.

The balance begins with me. If I can fit these blog posts into a small window of my week, and still find ways to be fulfilled and energized about the rest of my real-world life, I will be that Happy Writer I keep talking about.

So much of the blogosphere inspires me and I owe the mother and woman I've become to the amazing people who devote time here in these sacred spaces online. I could never just give it up. I just have to find that delicate balance between being a great mom and being a blogger, again.

Photo credit: Dannerzz

Monday, July 19, 2010

Monday Muse: Solitude




Most of last year and the start of this year, I was feeling down and lost and irrelevant. I saw black and white and gray and nothing more. Desperate to figure out what was bothering me so much, I started doing some internal searching.

I devoted hours to writing lists, coaching myself for what was calling within me. I longed to be something more than I had been. What I had been was a go-between, a replacement, a proxy -- always on the edge of something, but never fully there as me, myself. I was the caretaker, the mother, the other half, the manager, the scheduler, the housekeeper, the notes keeper, and many other things.

I was never just me.

This bothered me. I knew I needed something for myself. After all, I built a career for 12 plus years on a simple phrase: my name. That's a big ego trip, you know.

To soothe myself, every day, I sat in quiet and wrote lists. Dozens of lists. (More on those in another post.)

By going inward and focusing on what was bothering me, I came upon something -- a feeling -- that lifted me up, that brought a smile to my face that kept me going, moving forward. Those moments -- and there were many, many, many -- helped me finish my novel.

I wanted to be something more.

More. I wanted to be relevant.

It wasn't a longing to be like others or to even be popular; it was about proving to myself that I am worth more than being a stand-in for other people. I am more than that.

I wanted to be authentically creative.

Solitude has become my best friend. At the end of a long day, I need silence. I need a room to myself. Before kids, I took this kind of peaceful state for granted; I could get it whenever I needed it. Now, it's like the gold nugget of my day and I relish it's fleeting presence, like a handful of sand slipping through my fingers.

Once I realized what I needed and wanted in life, my world fragmented into a billion colors, all beautiful. I was left with such happiness and inner peace.

This is what led me to create. This is what led me to sit down and write. This is what led me to write a 90,000-word novel. That made-up-just-for-fun world sustained me well enough but I couldn't have done it without peace and quiet to let the vision of images and words intersect at that point right between my eyes.

I just need to be left alone for a minute.

That is why this post spoke to me so much. It solidified many things I have been reflecting on in this post-first-book world. I need solitude as much as I need water and food. Without it, I am a mess, on edge and anxious. But, more than that, it helps me productive, helps guide me to what my intentions are for that one moment. Otherwise, my mind is drawn in too many directions and not the one direction I need to go in.

How about you? What do you need to sustain your creative energy? Do you need those connections or do you need quiet?

Photo Credit: Much thanks for this awesome image goes to Tori.Malea