While writing in the studio on Friday, my critic began to rear her ugly head (why is my critic a woman?!) and I worked hard to overcome her. I let her have her say, I didn’t try to repress or ignore her. I gave her only 5 minutes to say everything that she could in those 5 minutes, but then I cut her off. In those 5 minutes she reminded me of my big fear of actually putting words to paper — the permanence of such an act–and being judged for those words. She then proceeded to tell me that I had nothing new to say. She then didn’t hold any punches and reminded me that there is always going to be someone smarter, better, and wittier than me…so why even try.
I then reminded myself that all the great writers say to write what you know…and so I did. And what follows is what came to mind…
June 1 has felt like a bit of a New Year’s beginning. Starting this week I’ll have a new schedule and just on cue, the weather has turned hot in Houston. This change in the month/seasons has been marked in our family by this book. I have also given myself another 30-day challenge — which I may or may not share. (So far though, day two, and I’m still on track!)
I was thinking of coming up with a Summer manifesto. Maybe it needs to be illustrated and not just put on a post-it. But this manifesto will include enjoying every ounce of the longest days of the year (another reason I love June) by riding bikes and grilling out more. I know by August and September I’ll be shuddered indoors like it’s the dead of winter in Michigan, so I want to take advantage of not melting while I can. But mostly I want to create more… more of everything.
And soon I’ll get to create with words and hopefully with some of you. This week marks the start of the summer writing workshops, so if you’re in Houston, let’s write together (Tuesdays & Fridays).
I did it! I wrote for 28-days in a row — first thing in the morning. Like I said before, the public accountability certainly helped a little, but really, I just wanted to do it. I love setting small goals and accomplishing them. And a 28-day goal seemed completely do-able. And it was.
I am as you might say, a bit of a cynic at times. I thought I would do this little “exercise” 1.) to make sure that I stayed focused on something that has something to do with writing and 2.) there’s a tiny little off chance that something might come of it.
Well, put egg all over my face because those pages were magic. All 103 pages of long-form, hand-written pages. I’m glad that I didn’t do the quick math in my head on day 1 because the thought of filling 84 pages would have been too much. So, I only thought of writing three…which turned into six. And there were a few more days just like that. And as I counted my filled pages last night, I couldn’t believe that I got passed 100.
I did just as Julia recommends and so many of my first words were about how grumpy, sleepy, and inconsolably frustrated I was at our cat. But somehow as my pen kept moving words would string together to form thoughts that I didn’t know I had still swimming around up there. A lot of it was just processing my dreams. I’ve got crazy vivid dreams (which I love). But somewhere around day 19 something clicked and a story began to form. Something I have been processing in my personal life started to take shape in the form of a story — a bit of creative non-fiction (with heavy emphasis on the fiction). But stranger still is that I was developing this story with vivid images, scenes if you will. I kept bouncing from scene to scene. It felt shaky, raw…like I was standing on fishes. On day 26 the hubs had to almost pull my journal from my hands as he ran around the house frantic that I had only 10 minutes left to get ready for the day.
And that my friends is the sweet spot — getting lost in time and space because the words are pouring out. What I wouldn’t have given to just continue to sit and write for hours more.
If I am honest, I am fearful that it is just a spark, one that will not turn into a flame. However, I am somewhat afraid of that flame. And afraid that I will put it out. I want to face it and find the courage to continue this creative pursuit.
If there’s one thing that I’ve gleaned from this, it’s that these morning pages seemed to have freed me from my usual “paralysis by analysis” and that I would like to keep my hand moving.
[Stunning photography here]
original art here
I am a big fan of TheStory.org with Dick Gordon. I was sad to learn that it will be going off the air this fall. But I have been perusing their archives lately and I found a story I hadn’t heard. The synopsis is as follows,
When she was 16, Anya Yurchyshyn’s father died in a car accident in Ukraine, and when she was 32, her mother died of heart failure stemming from chronic alcoholism. As Anya sorted through her mother’s house, she was overwhelmed by evidence that her parents were significantly more interesting, complex, and affectionate than she’d known them to be. She talks with Dick Gordon about getting to know her parents, after they’d died, through love letters, photographs, and her mother’s diary.
A complicated familial relationship? I’m in. The relationship Anya had with her family was extremely complicated; one I honestly could not relate to. But what I liked the most is that she was able to discover something unique about her parents as individuals — their lives before children — all through written documents and photos.
Unlike Anya’s mother, I’m not a pack rat. In fact, I think my own mother wishes I would be a little more sentimental about things because I tend to purge my home with consistency. However, I do tend to hang on to a small amount travel ephemera, movie stubs, (only profound!) sticky notes, and loads of old calendars that read more like diaries than schedules. And I’ve got an entire Rubbermaid bin full of those diaries too. I just can’t part with them (no matter how many times we move). I sometimes think that those little things give proof of my existence — my love, my life, etc. It might even be why I enjoy blogging. It’s just recording the ordinary. And the ordinary everyday seems to be what most of my life is made of. It’s not all grand gestures and forks in the road.
I’ve discovered that I tend to compartmentalize family members according to their role in my life; i.e. my grandmother was always a grandmother — not a young woman who flirted, danced all night, and drank beer. She had her own dreams and language, pain and love. And what a treat to be able to discover a note and or photo that expressed what she was thinking about at a certain time in her life.
Anya puts it this way in her interview:
…I was unwilling to let go of my ideas of who my parents were…. Going over their documents and really piecing together theirs lives through these photographs, and journals, and letters really, really allowed me to understand that these were people who were separate from me, who had incredible lives and incredibly complicated lives before I showed up in them; before I was even an idea… and very few people have the chance to ever know their parents separate from themselves…even as adults.
(You can here Anya’s full story (only 19 minutes) here.)
My Grandmothers, circa 1973.
I would highly encourage everyone to add to the top of their nightstand reading list Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly. This little book (almost) single-handedly emboldened me to believe that I could start this little project — my writing studio. (There was also the case of the insanely supportive husband at work too!) If you’re unsure if this book would even apply to you, it does — take this little nugget for instance:
Daring greatly is not about winning or losing. It’s about courage. In a world where scarcity and shame dominate and feeling afraid has become second nature, vulnerability is subversive. Uncomfortable. It’s even a little dangerous at times. And, without question, putting ourselves out there means there’s a far greater risk of feeling hurt. But as I look back on my own life and what Daring Greatly has meant to me, I can honestly say that nothing is as uncomfortable, dangerous, and hurtful as believing that I am standing on the outside of my life looking in and wondering what it would be like if I had the courage to show up and let myself be seen. ~ Brene Brown, Daring Greatly
It’s been so difficult to even attempt to “let myself be seen” — but I believe in what I’m doing and believe in the method that I facilitate. I believe that I can live an authentic life and encourage others to do so by writing in their original, unique voice. So, here I am, showing up — daring greatly.
About seven years ago, this novice writer found herself on the doorstep of her first-ever writing group. Only my journals had ever seen the ink from my pen, but there I was stepping out of my comfort zone with seven strangers, bonded only by our love of the written word. I had no idea what to expect; just who exactly were these other people and why in the world they would be interested in the same thing as me? But that first night in a beautiful house on the shores of Lake Michigan would turn into a full-blown, four-year love affair of not only writing, but writing with others.
I then moved from Michigan to my home state of Texas and my pen stopped moving for a long time. After the dust settled, something deep in my belly began stirring (and it wasn’t just all the amazing food that is Southeast Texas cuisine) and my pen felt a little restless. I missed my writing partners and the safe space we had created. So naturally, I would need to find another group…I was ready to begin again. However, to my dismay, AWA did not have a facilitator or chapter in Houston.
For months my disappointed little mind would play on repeat, “Awwww, man! I can’t believe there isn’t an AWA group in Houston. It’s the 4th largest city in the country for cryin’ out loud!” One day though, the light clicked on.
As I repeated the familiar (and by now worn out) lament, the downturned corners of my mouth gave way to slowly raised eyebrows, a faster repetition, and a few exclamation points at the end. At that moment I knew – the reason Houston didn’t have an AWA group is because I had not yet started one!
Life circumstances being what they are, my dream is finally becoming a reality. As of today, I am officially launching the Salt Water Writing Studio – Houston’s only AWA writing group and workshop. I hope to create a safe and stimulating writing space for beginners and experts, recovering MFA’s and moleskin journalers; a space where anyone who writes is a writer and a collaboration of unique and validated voices, whom we shall all learn from and with, together.
You can learn more about the AWA method here, but more importantly you can come write with me and experience it for yourself. Hold on Houston, this could be huge!