Working for the Weekend…

It’s Friday, my friends. I have a lot on my plate this weekend, but I’m happy to be home (for once!) and working and I plan to embrace productivity in all it’s exhaustive glory so long as I actually accomplish it all. I know, I know. I can do anything, but not everything.
For now, I’m struck by this thought that Shauna shared on her blog the other day,
“I choose to believe that inspiration is my responsibility—I create it in the life I lead…
It’s my responsibility to live a life that sustains me creatively, so that when it’s “go-time” and I’m staring at a blank screen, I’ve got something to say. The work of inspiration doesn’t happen when you sit down to write—it happens all the rest of time, when you’re reading great writing, when you’re taking walks or taking naps or taking pictures on your phone at the farmer’s market. Pay attention to what inspires you creatively, and work that into your life with the same urgency and intention that you plan writing time.”
I, like many many artists and creative people before me, struggle with effective inspiration-gathering. What is inspiration and what is wasted time? How do we live life and make time to write about it? How do I write about life if I’m not living it?
This weekend I know I have to dedicate myself to work and life – producing the articles and write-ups and quotes I’ve committed to, paying my bills, cleaning up around the house, scheduling my car repairs, going grocery shopping. It’s not glamorous and it’s not always fun, but I can’t avoid life if I’m going to write about it.
As for inspiration, I plan to make time for that promising 70 degrees and sunny Sunday headed our way and throw a cook-out with my favorite people. Good food and good company are a recipe for the best kind of writing, truly. And for tonight, I’m going on a date with my hubby. We plan to see Midnight in Paris and eat dinner together (a rarity for us right now, unfortunately.)
What will you do with your weekend? I hope it’s a good one.

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.

Creative Influences

Recently, my wonderful husband and I watched all three Anne of Green Gables movies start to finish. That’s right. Matt not only sat through them, but he’s the one that suggested we watch them in the first place! On VHS, no less.

I hadn’t watched them in several years, so watching each of them again reminded me of my early teens when I watched them endlessly, amused at Anne’s often silly yet sincere attempts to become a writer.


Funny as it is to reflect on now, I think it was watching those movies that encouraged me to think about becoming a writer. There are so many influences that encouraged me when I was young, but there was something about Anne’s character and her desperate yearning to be a successful writer that mirrored my own imagination and passion for reading and writing.
If I think about it, there were dozens of stories, films and books that influenced me when I was young, that “raised” me as a writer, in a sense. Belle of Beauty and the Beast loved to read, Judy Blume’s Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself is about a girl with a wild imagination and a flair for story-telling, Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy encouraged me to journal (although I didn’t journal about spying on neighbors and classmates), and there were many, many others. Yes, most of them female.
Further example: last night Matt’s bandmates came over to practice new songs. Afterward, Matt’s longtime friend and bandmate, Thad, pulled his old video cam-corder and played “old-skool” video footage from their old band. Some of the footage dated back 10 years, to their days of pipe-pants, spikey hair, pop/punk tunes and the occasional “rude-boy” outfit. It was hilarious to see and hear some of their influences, to listen to them laugh about their old haunts, friends, clothes, and how much they tried to be like this or that musician.
Influences can come from anywhere – books, film, music, images, fashion, and more. From stage of life to stage of life – from childhood, adolescence, young adulthood to adulthood – creative influences shape our imaginations as fixed icons that speak to us and later help us remember who we were and what we were like and what we loved when we were young.
After mulling over this concept through the past several days, I came across this quote:
“At all ages, if [fantasy and myth] is used well by the author and meets the right reader, it has the same power: to generalize while remaining concrete, to present in palpable form not concepts or even experiences but whole classes of experience, and to throw off irrelevancies. But at its best it can do more; it can give us experiences we have never had and thus, instead of ‘commenting on life,’ can add to it.” — C.S. Lewis
This speaks more to writing and fiction than music or fashion, but even so, when we think about how art influences us, when we recall those images, words, or sounds that inspired us most, we regard them as a part of what made us who we are now. They speak of life in terms that we understand, and therefore add to it.
So my question for you is : Who were your influences growing up? 
Do you have boxes of tattered and love-worn books from your youth? Old movies you watch on occasion? Albums or songs that throw you back in a time machine of places, feelings, friends, sights and smells? Stacks of magazines with corners folded to favorite looks that you still try to emulate or wish you could wear?