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.


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.


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.


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.


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.)