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Those Who Wait

1358A lot has been on my mind lately and I think this title pretty much sums everything up at the moment. I feel like I’m waiting for everything…I tend to get impatient when I want something to happen, and get frustrated when things happen at a slower pace. 

There are times (frequently) where I question whether anything will really happen or not. It’s hard not to get sucked into the vortex of despair and sadness wondering “when…if ever.” I tend to have an all or nothing attitude…if it doesn’t happen now, then it will never happen. Not quite fair to the universe or myself, but it’s a way of protecting myself in case it never does happen. Then I think I won’t feel the hurt, anger, despair, sadness as much. Wishful thinking. 

Sometimes I even wonder if God is listening or am I just blowing hot air into the empty sky? There are only questions and no answers. Waiting sucks. Royally. And I suck at waiting. So all around this just sucks. I start wondering…am I praying hard enough? Am I seeking enough? Am I doing something that is making me wait longer? Am I being punished for something? What more do I need to do? HOW MUCH  MORE DO I HAVE TO GIVE?

Every day I think I’ve hit the bottom of the well. I’ve been sucked dry. My soul is beaten down and I’ve given up. But, my stupid self with my damn eternal optimism wakes with a glimmer of hope every morning. I feel the grounding roots pushing through my feet, drawing on the earth’s energy, Her Sacred Divine, and my soul slowly unfurls to the sunlight, no matter how stubbornly I try to block it out with my misery. Still no answers…and for the time being…that’s okay.

Breathe…

A Life List, Not New Year’s Resolutions or a Bucket List

new year resolution

It’s a new year which often means resolutions. A long time I decided that I do not like nor do I create New Year’s resolutions. In my opinion, it was just setting myself up to fail. And fail it did. Miserably. Instead, I’ve been inspired to create a “Life List” which is my version of a bucket list. It isn’t about the things I want to do before I die, but because I want to live. Lesley, at Bucket List Publications, shared a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt that I think says it well: “The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experiences.” This applies to my art as well as my life philosophy. I always believe in trying something at least once. I may have fear, anxiety, and nerves about it, but usually, although not always (no spiders for me, thank you very much), the joy of having the experience outweighs the negatives.

Not only did I create a “Life List” of things I want to do, but I created a “Completed Life List” of things I’ve already done! It was awe-inspiring to look at that completed list and realize how much I’ve truly accomplished in my short 36 years. I highly recommend compiling both lists, and as you complete an item on the “Life List,” move it to the “Completed Life List.” The memories that come flooding back each time I read the completed list is one of my most treasured moments. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Life must be lived and curiosity kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life.” Here’s to living life to the fullest!

Why Do You Write and Why Does It Matter?

Credit: Ash4fire

Why do I write? To get out of my head for the most part. I’m a thinker and a dreamer. If I don’t write things down, it disappears into the mist of lost thoughts. This is the simple reason of why I chose to become a writer. The other side of the coin, and the ultimate reason for my writing, comes from my father. He is a master oral storyteller. My father can captivate even the smallest child and the oldest adult simply by weaving a tapestry of words, actions, and sounds. Sometimes, he acts out the scenes with common, simple props. But it is always with humor, silliness, and wit, to draw the listeners in until they are so lost in the story, when the main point is driven home, they gasp in astonishment and wonder. Yet, every story he tells is a way to teach ethics, values, and morals. He tells stories to provide comfort, illuminate direction, and to encourage others. I want to write stories the way he tells stories.

Storytelling is a means for sharing and interpreting experiences. Stories are universal in that they can bridge cultural, linguistic and age-related divides. Storytelling can be used as a method to teach ethics, values, and cultural norms and differences. Learning is most effective when it takes place in social environments that provide authentic social cues about how knowledge is to be applied. Stories provide a tool to transfer knowledge in a social context.

Human knowledge is based on stories and the human brain consists of cognitive machinery necessary to understand, remember and tell storiesHumans are storytelling organisms that both individually and socially, lead storied lives. Stories mirror human thought as humans think in narrative structures and most often remember facts in story form. Facts can be understood as smaller versions of a larger story thus storytelling can supplement analytical thinking.

Stories are effective educational tools because listeners become engaged and therefore remember. While the listener is engaged, they are able to imagine new perspectives, inviting a transformative and empathetic experience. Listening to a storyteller can create lasting personal connections, promote innovative problem solving and foster a shared understanding regarding future ambitions. The listener can then activate knowledge and imagine new possibilities. Together a storyteller and listener can seek best practices and invent new solutions.

Stories tend to be based on experiential learning, but learning from an experience is not automatic. Often a person needs to attempt to tell the story about that experience before realizing its value. In this case it is not only the listener that learns, but also the teller who becomes aware of their own unique experiences and backgrounds. This process of storytelling is empowering as the teller effectively conveys ideas and with practice is able to demonstrate the potential of human accomplishment. Story taps into existing knowledge and creates bridges both culturally and motivationally toward a solution.

I remember my father telling the story of how, as a child, he wanted to be just like his hero Superman and fly. He carried a ladder and propped it against the side of the house, then proceeded to scramble up the ladder to the rooftop. His yellow “Superman” cape flapped in the breeze as he gazed at the sky. And off he leaped into the air! Only to discover that humans can’t fly like Superman (of course). He crashed into the ground, broke both his wrists, and his leg. This tale leads into the comic aside of how, since he broke his wrists, he no longer floats in water. Instead, only his hands and wrists float and the rest of him sinks like a cement brick. (I’m not sure how accurate the reason is for the floating/sinking, but I do know from first-hand experience, he truly doesn’t float. Only his hands and wrists do!) Children and adults alike are stupefied, laughing, and in awe that he attempted something so irrational.  As he has them in the palm of his hands, he weaves the tale of heroes, and how we want to be like our heroes, and what his new hero, God, can do.

Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird, points out that becoming a writer is about becoming conscious. When you’re conscious and writing from a place of insight and simplicity and real caring about the truth, you have ability to “throw the lights on” for your reader. He or she will recognize his or her life and truth in what you say, in the pictures you have painted. If something inside you is real, we will probably find it interesting, and it will probably be universal. So you must risk placing real emotion at the center of your work. Tell the truth as you understand it.

Lamott shares a beautiful analogy in Bird by Bird.

You are lucky to be one of those people who wishes to build sand castles with words, who is willing to create a place where your imagination can wander. We build this place with the sand of memories; these castles are our memories and inventiveness made tangible. So part of us believes that when the tide starts coming in, we won’t really have lost anything, because actually only a symbol of it was there in the sand. Another part of us thinks we’ll figure out a way to divert the ocean. this is what separates artists from ordinary people: the belief, deep in our hearts, that if we build our castles well enough, somehow the ocean won’t wash them away. I think this is a wonderful kind of person to be.

As she exhorts, don’t underestimate this gift of finding a place in the writing world: if you really work at describing creatively on paper the truth as you understand it, as you have experienced it, with the people or material who are in you, who are asking that you help them get written, you will come to a secret feeling of honor. Being a writer is part of a noble tradition. No matter what happens in terms of fame and fortune, dedication to writing is a marching-step forward from where you were before, when you didn’t care about reaching out to the world, when you weren’t hoping to contribute, when you were just standing there doing some job into which you had fallen.

Even if only the people in your writing group read your memoirs or stories or novel, even if you only wrote your story so that one day your children would know what life was like when you were a child – still, to have written your version is an honorable thing to have done. Against all odds, you have put it down on paper, so that it won’t be lost. And who knows? Maybe what you’ve written will help others, will be a small part of the solution.

So why does our writing matter, again? Because of the spirit. Because of the heart. Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a chance to dance with, or at least clap along with, the absurdity of life instead of being squashed by it over and over again. As Lamott puts it, “It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.”

Embracing the Writer's Voice of Self-Doubt

Sometimes, it’s all worth it. I just received an email from Still Point Arts Quarterly that an article I submitted will be published this summer. This means I’m a published and PAID writer! An awesomely cool feeling and gives credence to the slogging away at the keyboard. And a reminder to never give up, despite the rejections and feelings of self-doubt.

As writers, we often face the cruelty of our minds – the ever-present

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nemesis of self-doubt and fear. We struggle to overcome our creeping negativity which is only compounded by the cold rejection letters. We face the fear of not being good enough, that people won’t like it, whether we can finish it or not, and being rejected. William Shakespeare once said, “Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.” Our fear and doubt can cripple us enough that we don’t even begin to write! If we aren’t willing to even attempt writing, we’ll lose out on any reward that may come our way, be it large or small.

Peggy Tabor Millin, Founder of ClarityWorks and teacher about writing and courage, likens writing similar to a spiritual journey. The Zen sayings “how you do anything is how you do everything” and “wherever you go, there you are” have become almost commonplace, to the point that we might not really hear them any more. She makes the point that writing will bring up all of our issues: self-doubt, concerns about criticism and humiliation, and so on. All of our closets will be emptied out for inspection, and not just for ourselves to inspect, but for every agent, editor, and reader to judge. No wonder we’re afraid to write and the voice of self-doubt shouts from the rooftops.

Carleen Brice, author of Orange Mint and Honey, offers several ways to deal with self-doubt.

Start small

Steven Barnes, life coach, screenwriter, speculative fiction writer and co-author of the Tennyson Hardwick mystery series (along with his wife Tananarive Due and actor Blair Underwood) says starting small is a great way to conquer doubt.

“Work on shorter projects. Short stories or articles,” he said. “Do not write books until you have published (and been paid for) shorter work. This is like running a marathon when you’ve never run around the block!”

But what if, like me, you’re already working on a novel? Barnes says the same advice to think small holds true.

“Divide your goals into tiny bite-sized chunks that can be accomplished in one day,” he said. “A fine goal is: write 1,000 words. If you are ‘blocked,’ then simply take a story written by a classic writer, and type that out. Do the work, no matter what.”

Create a new belief

Achieving a daily goal will help build confidence that you can achieve a more long-term goal. Robin Johnson, life coach and author of Awakening a Chocolate Mystic, calls this process “collecting evidence.”

“People often can carry an old unconsciousness belief that stems from some past event, such as a teacher giving a failing grade on an essay or getting some criticism about their work,” she said. “Now as an adult, this old belief is running underneath the new desire to be a writer.

“In order to change the old behavior, you must first install a new belief system about being a ‘wonderful writer,’” she said. “You collect evidence from new situations that show this new belief to be true. As feedback comes, new evidence is collected. This allows the new belief and new behavior to be anchored so that writing a book is now possible.”

Focus on your goal

Delving into why you haven’t succeeded in the past isn’t as important as focusing on what you want to accomplish now, says Diane Sieg, author of the CD and soon-to-be-published book, 30 Days to Grace. “What we focus on expands,” she said. “Once we decide what it is we really want, focus on it every day for 30 days and transformative change takes place. I have seen it in weight loss, increased sales and completion of writing projects.”

Keep the channel open

Start small, collect evidence, focus on what you want and the self-doubt goes away? Alas, no. Each new book brings its own form of doubt. Doubt is part of the process.

“I won’t say I’ve ever successfully subdued the doubt, at least not completely,” said Elizabeth Eslami, author of Bone Worship. “The best you can do is to recognize it, think of it as an unwelcome relative who shows up at your door with troubling regularity. Have some compassion for your fearful self. Then give your relative a hug, thank her for coming, and shove her the hell out of your way.”

Rosalyn Story, author of Wading Home, looks to the past for strength. “As a writer and musician I’ve learned and accepted that doubt comes with the territory,” she said. “I think it must be required for the creative process. But sometimes the doubt is so stunning that I need a little jolt just to get me back to the page or the practice room. When I have those moments of hopeless incompetence, I pull out my little note: a wonderful letter from Martha Graham to Agnes DeMile.”

“In it Martha tells Agnes, who’s obviously stuck in doubt, that we don’t even have to believe in ourselves or our work. We simply have to ‘keep the channel open’ – to stay open and aware of that urge that motivates us. Whenever I read this, I understand that if I can accept my talent, my creative urge, then I have to accept the doubt that comes with it,” Story said.

Accept it and use it, says Glorious author Bernice McFadden. “I use it as stepping stone to overcome my insecurities. I acknowledge it for a time – even entertain it – and then I crumple it into a ball, sprinkle it with sea salt and swallow it whole.”

How do you, as a writer, deal with your self-doubt and fears? Remember, “Doubt is the beginning not the end of wisdom.”

Monday Musings

“What’s the whisper you’ve been hearing for awhile?
What will you do about it now?”

The desire to write has always whispered enticingly, calling me by name. It is a passion, a love, a hate, an ever-present urge to scribble my thoughts down on paper. I’ve been writing since I was “knee-high to a grasshopper” through journals, poetry, and short stories. It is where I can go to be truly myself – to let go and just be, letting the stream of consciousness flow unhindered and uninhibited. Unfortunately, that desire was stomped on as a young adult when some people read my writings and took them to heart. They saw themselves in the writings and assumed (sometimes rightly so), that it was about them and they didn’t like the mirror that was held before them. My writings were used as weapons against me, swords wielded with slicing wounds. I became fearful of writing…afraid that my words would turn against me once again and for a period of three years, I bowed to that fear. I stopped writing. Completely. No journaling, no poetry, no stories, not even simple thoughts. I closed my blogs. I hid all my journals. I buried my pain.

But the desire never left. It constantly prodded my heart, my soul, wanting its voice to be heard, or written, if you will. Slowly, I ventured forth with short blurbs in my journals. Then I moved onto a website where I share my poetry and stories with a community. Next, I started blogging again. And here I am, fully pursuing my passion and desire by going back to school to get an M.F.A. in Creative Writing! A novel is bubbling forth, words sing a symphony through my spirit, and my inner scribe is set free. How liberating!

See, I realized that I can’t let someone or something keep me from my dreams and desires. It’s not worth stuffing it away like some unwanted dirty laundry, hoping it never sees the light of day again. The cost to myself was too much. Yes, there’s still fear niggling at the back of my brain like a constant devil on my shoulder. But there’s the angel on the other side, urging me forward. I refuse to bow to other people’s wants and needs, always thinking they know what’s best for me. Only I know what’s best for ME. Only YOU know what’s best for YOU. What are your dreams and desires? What’s a passion that’s been whispering to you? What will you do about it NOW?

~ Kat