Do What Gives You Peace : Write.

I was in the midst of an enthusiastic email today when I realized how rarely I speak to myself in such a way. A very very kind colleague of mine recommended me for a new writing opportunity and as I wrote my email submission, I was saying,
Writing is my life passion, it’s what I live for! 
when I stopped and thought to myself,
If that’s true, then why am I constantly constraining myself whenever I feel the urge to write? 


The urge comes so often and so naturally that my first instinct is to sift through the thought and pick it apart rather than immediately writing it down. I self-edit before the words even reach the page. If my brain were visible by computer screen, the cursor would move back and forth so fast that hardly a sentence or idea would ever reach completion on most days.
I continued writing the email and submitted it, but the frustration with myself stuck with me. Add it to the list – there is a lot in my life to be frustrated about at the moment. Finances. Family. My grossly unkempt apartment with week old dirty dishes and laundry that’s clean but unfolded and receipts scattered everywhere. Time feels like a farce when it runs faster than your mind can keep up with.
This is the drama that is my life. In the midst of everything that is truly sad and scary and strange that I cannot control, I allow the one thing I have going for me, my true passion, to be to an insecurity, something to fear. And because it has the vast potential to transform my life and I know it, I allow my dream to become entangled with all that I am terrified to hold fast to, and also to let go of.
When I let myself do it, it gives voice to unspeakable peace. Yes, it is a paradox. The things I cannot say, the feelings that I live with and the fears and worries and also the irrepressible, naive, cock-eyed hope and faith that I carry with me can be uncovered and unpacked and analyzed and laid to rest, maybe even with the chance that it will grow and flourish into something new, if I only let it.
In the midst of my frustration, I read a post by one of my favorite writers, Shauna Niequist, this morning about her process of learning through writing. She’s on her third book now, and she says,

“Once again today, I’m reminded that writing is more about learning than telling, more about discovering than reporting, more about revealing than pronouncing. I’m showing up today for the first time in a long time, humble before the page, or the laptop as it were, ready to learn, ready to discover.”

I self-edit because I think I have to have it figured out before I say it. In some cases, that habit works to my advantage, but in writing it squelches my creativity and exposes my self-consciousness.
If the only constant in life is that we are all learning to live, then as I write about living, I am in a process of learning. And I can be at peace with that.
Thanks for reminding me through your reminder, Shauna.

Dream, Quote, Move: Create.

Picture 3
I recently had a dream that I am still mulling over.


In the dream I was driving down a street in my hometown when I saw an author that I really respect passing out flyers and advertisements about his new book. I was so excited that I slowed down and called out to him. He recognized me, greeted me by name and then invited me to meet him at a conference he was speaking at later that same day at the high school I attended. When I arrived at the school, I searched but could not find him. Frantic that I was supposed to meet him but was late and lost, I continued searching but the more I looked and dashed down hallways and opened office doors into broom closets, the less I recognized my surroundings and the more lost I became. Gradually, I could not remember why I had wanted to meet him so badly, what we would have talked about, and then – who was I looking for? Where am I? What was I doing before? I woke up sincerely confused – what was that about?


I can make a lot of projections about that dream. Maybe in my search to speak with an author I regard so highly, who so often speaks to my own fears and insecurities and hopes and beliefs, who leads the kind of life and professional success I desire for myself, I confused my envy for his career with respect for his writing. Maybe, in some sense, I am doing this in my waking life and God was trying to reveal how fruitless it is to pursue someone else’s success rather than being satisfied with the simple act of practicing my passion. I can already write. I love the act of writing, and I love to read, and people enjoy reading my writing. What else do I need that I don’t already have, and could that author have given it to me?
Or maybe as a friend suggested, the author represents the writer in me, the part of me that writes for writing’s sake and does it well and is self-assured in it, and I somehow feel that I have lost her and am desperate to reconnect with her.
Or maybe, like my husband says, the dream is a lesson in not reading too much right before bed. But like I’ve mentioned before, my dreams often reveal important things about my life and have a lot to do with my writing.
Either way, the dream has lingered with me for several days, begging the question:
Am I pursuing success, or am I pursuing my art?
I often get self conscious about my blog. It’s a blog about the process of creativity and writing, but how often am I posting my writing versus posting my thoughts on writing? There is art, and then there is talking about art. Like this post, for instance.
I started to write a different post today, but as I reflected on this quote I stumbled across early on Monday, my thoughts took on a new form:

If you have a rhythm, if you get up every morning and work for a few hours, and you like the getting up and the work, and you don’t think about how great it will be when it’s done, but rather how great it is every day that you get to get up and do the work, your creation will be tremendous. Don’t think about the finished product. Stop rewarding yourself with something that doesn’t exist, and may never exist. Instead, think about how delightful it is you get to do this, you get to make this, and how delightful it will be to get up and do it again tomorrow.” -Don Miller

An interesting connection of seemingly unrelated dots, I think.
I’ve written four poems just since reading it, but why? That’s more poetry than I’ve written in three years, easily. It could be any number of things. Maybe it was the simple act of enjoying the form and the act of writing rather than pursuing some imaginary success and “reward that may never come” as Miller put it.
I still struggle with the idea of submitting or posting my work. I can stand on both sides of it and make cases against whether or not to expose my work to anyone. If I do, I could get rejected. If I don’t, what’s the joy and purpose of doing it at all?
Miller addresses this question, too:

“Most of the things we worry about as creators never happen. We are not as rejected as we think we are; in fact, our creation has given us a greater community, even if we do have a few critics. And we did not fail as badly as we thought we would; and if we did fail, people hardly noticed. Most of the fears we entertain as creators have to do with hypothetical situations, things that could happen. But this is a waste of valuable creative energy. Most likely, things we think will happen won’t. A creator takes risks, a consumer lives in safety. Are you a creator or consumer?”


I know the answer to that question: I want to contribute. I want to create. But sometimes it feels easier, safer, to link to someone else rather than say it myself. It is sometimes easier to talk about doing it, rather than actually doing it. Because writing is an act of vulnerability. It is an act in voicing thoughts and allowing people to study, scrutinize, reject or partake in who I am and what I believe. I’m good at gathering and collecting inspiration, bad at making that brave, vulnerable movement into the next step: creating.
In the spirit of making the move, tomorrow I’ll post one of my poems that I wrote this week. So what move are you struggling to make this week, friends? Take the leap with me.

Better Mistakes Tomorrow.

This is my new philosophy:
I am not perfect. Far from it, in fact, and it’s really been bothering me. I annoy myself, quite often.
It doesn’t help that I have this theory that writers, more than most people (except for maybe designers and politicians) are thrown over the coals for mistakes we make. Why? Because our mistakes are out there in black and white.
It’s rather crippling when you think about it. And I think about it a lot.
Like, for example, when I’m about to send a mass email to 2,000+ people, or share a Facebook status, or publish an article on a website, or post on my blog… the possibilities are frightening. I scan every word, phrase and punctuation mark to see if I’ve done it right.
… And then, let the palm-to-forehead moment commence!
Or not.
Either way, I’m terrified that I’ve screwed everything up.
This is my excuse for the notebooks full of ideas that have never been explored, the plethora of blog drafts that have never been published, the unwritten articles that float around in my head: It’s scary.
Trust me. I’m notorious as the picky, stuck-up writer that’s constantly correcting others’ spelling, grammar, punctuation and pronunciation flubs.
The truth is, I spend a lot of time worrying that someone else is judging me just as harshly. It happens! And when it does it stings, like a band aid has been ripped off and all my insides are exposed. My flaws, raw and real for everyone to see. A classic case of the pot vs. the kettle.
Jon’s first post on his new site reminded me today, though, that a plethora of unwritten articles, a notebook full of unexplored ideas and a blog full of unpublished drafts mean nothing. They don’t help anyone, least of all myself. Of course, as a writer I believe in avoiding posting the first draft of anything. But the real problem comes when I never post anything.
My old philosophy: if you can’t write it “right,” then don’t write it at all. But that’s not what this blog is about, nor is it an effective philosophy for a writer.
The true process is always the same:
1. Write.
2. Then right.
3. Repeat until you come to the best combination of fresh words and edits.
4. Publish.
5. Give gratitude (or apologize) when appropriate.
So, my new philosophy is about accepting my mistakes, swallowing my pride, and doing my best. And if I fail, at least I have a lesson to learn from.
Strive for excellence, not perfection. Perfection doesn’t exist. Perfection is that nasty, cynical voice in your head, criticizing everyone around you and at the same time, telling you:
“If you try it, you could fail and that’s worse than if you never did it at all.”
In truth, perfection is envious of the freedom and confidence that others exhibit when they accept themselves as they are.
Maybe that’s why God made me a writer: it continues to teach me about grace. Our flaws are part of who we are, but they’re not the only part. The flaws don’t outweigh the gifts, and the passion that we possess to fulfill our purpose in life.
So here’s to tomorrow, to better mistakes next time, and the grace to write about it anyway.

[ _ ]

Why does this post not have a title? Because I’ve chosen the anti-theme.The theme is : there is no theme.The theme is : there is no synopsized, clever label for what my life is about right now.
Writers get very fussy when there seems to be no linguistic solution for whatever it is they feel. At least this writer does. Articulation is my life. I’m not the try-this-on-for-size writer that says the same thing fifty different ways of average. No. A clear, concise, carefully-crafted thesis is my policy. On the one hand, I’m proud of it; words are a finicky medium.
The best writing is like oil-painting. I’ve always found both to be difficult, because at some point you just have to leave the piece alone. An extra stroke or word or phrase will only make it muddy. The image will lose it’s vibrancy and it’s clarity, it’s meaning.
Sometimes writers don’t know when they’ve written something that it makes readers feel like they’re running a marathon on a path made of… pudding. Thick, messy, icky-sweet, utterly debilitating. They’ll never make it to the finish-line.
On the other hand, the times – like now – when I feel like I can’t articulate myself, I become too restless to let the writing process flow easily. I write, erase, rewrite, and slaughter.
Clear and concise thesis? Abandoned.
I’m left with scraps and ramblings. I’m left with a muddy, indistinguishable image of my life, where my thoughts and feelings run together like all the wrong colors from a dirty brush.
And I also find reading others’ writing tough to swallow. I’m often envious of the phrase or analogy that they were smart enough to articulate before I could reach it myself.
Yes! That’s exactly what I mean/think/feel! Damn. They said it first…
So I am both frustrated with myself and starving for inspiration, for something that doesn’t make me feel like this whole writing business is a spectacular myth. My solution-oriented self isn’t handling this well, clearly.
Before I get too whiny and cynical about “how hard writing is,” let me just say that I haven’t given up. I know this is only a funk, a season, a ‘tude, a phase. I will exhibit confidence in my writing through action, if not in thought.I need to put myself out there more. I need to write, write, write, even when other things may feel wrong.So I will.

Restless Writer.

Today is my ritual Writing Saturday. I’m at Starbucks, all by my writing self and a goooood cup of coffee. And I’m enjoying it… sort of. I have a lot of thoughts rolling around and none of them are very helpful. After a long, busy, roller-coaster week, I have nothing to show for it – at least not in terms of my writing.

Last Saturday I felt the same way. I wrote a solid 1,500 words, but none of what I wrote is anything that I would inflict on others. Now I sit, coffee in hand, listening to the friendly but distracting sounds of the cafe and I question, Did I come here this morning for the coffee or the writing? I might have just pulled myself into a bad writing habit by coming here instead of sitting at home in the quiet.

I know that’s not the only thing bothering me, though. I feel stumped. Uninspired. Frustrated. Displaced. Like something I once had is now gone; I feel the void, but what is it exactly that I’ve lost? I’m just wondering, for you writers and bloggers out there,

When you feel like something is missing in your writing, how do you find it? I have a feeling that many of you will say, “I keep writing.”

Thank you. That was very helpful. But how do you subdue the anxiety that accompanies the sense of aimlessness?

Truth be told, I feel bored with my writing self. Possibly, I am bored with my self self, and it’s infringing on my writing self. (Am I helping or hurting my writing by separating my writing self from my whole self?) When I become restless with my writing, it often feels like I’m talking my writing self down from the ledge. Don’t be so over-dramatic. The thing you’re missing? It will come back to you. Just be patient. Wait it out. Write it out. And then, my self-self gets frustrated. I am talking to myself. I am insane. I’m the crazy writer girl that’s going to start wearing all white and never leave my house. Or I’ll wind up sticking rocks in my trench coat pockets and wander into the river. Or stick my head in an oven and inhale deeply until the unhelpful thoughts go away…. See what I mean? It would be great if I could actually be satisfied with my writing self before the end of my life. (Disclaimer: I’m not actually suicidal. I just find it sad and amusing that so many great writers never recognized their giftedness.)

I know I’m not alone in this, so tell me, how do I talk my writing self back from the ledge? How do I break the cycle of unhelpful thoughts? Advice, please. For now, I’m going to keep working on an unfinished writing project from a few weeks ago and hope that it yields something reader-worthy….