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Hiding & Seeking

It’s been ages.

Before the drama back in 2012, I felt like I was writing to a Mysterious Chorus of Friends; to a mix between myself and my journal and my girl friends and no one at all. And now it feels like a boundary issue, but it’s an issue both ways. Because I am a writer, and I crave being read. I crave what I write mattering and connecting to others (I suppose because I’m lonely, because I’m human, because this is the thing I love to do most).

Another bit of weirdness is the resistance to writing a book this summer/now; the fear, the big ol’ tidal wave I’m holding back by ignoring it, the anxiety of being spent and bowled over and consumed— lost, even though it always, always means being much more found in the end.

It’s hard to be a writer and say, ‘well, I’m not actually writing.’

Sometimes, I am writing. It’s just that I’m doing small stories, or brainstorming and dreaming, or doing some outlining, or picking up dropped stitches in “Jorian.”

But it’s hard to feel not at all close to Done.

And that is simultaneously silly— if what I love is the experience of writing, of being in a story, then why in the world do I have a fixation on getting more books all the way through the process and into print (with lovely covers and astute and delight-inducing titles)? Why must I stockpile finished books? Is it just about money or status?

My husband runs marathons sometimes. I think that is INSANE. I do not want to do that. Except, secretly, I do. (It’s not going to happen, due to my back… I mean, I think it will never happen). My longing to do a marathon (oh, god!) is the same as wanting to do a book: as much as I’m scared of doing SOMETHING BIG, I really, really want to. I want to be the smallest player, I want to be totally swallowed up, tumbled like beach glass, taken for a ride.

This is why we crave religion, the woods, Lake Superior. Because we are small. We are small pack animals, and even though the teeth on the back of my neck hurt just a bit too much, it’s a relief to be both put in my place and reminded ‘you belong.’

Thing is, I’ve been shying away from the pack, shying away from the alpha, worried about the pinch of initiation, about how much it might hurt.

It’s lonely this way.

I’ve caught myself doing all kinds of scheming to gather my creative/story community, strategies for talking more with my husband, alternately fantasizing about days and days totally alone. I miss my pack. I miss the stories. I miss the belonging that comes with committing to a book.

In “Eat, Pray, Love,” Liz Gilbert’s friend tells her that having a baby is like getting a tattoo on your face— you’d better be really sure you want it.

I think writing a novel is tattoo-level. Maybe it’s marriage-level. It’s sure a shit-ton bigger than just roommate level. There’s the fear of being marked. Of carrying the evidence with me forever. (Nevermind that it already is with me: I’m writing stories that are my childhood, my adolescence, my marriage— just in parallel worlds).

I am already marked. I am already destined to die. I am assigned these stories whether I write them as books or play them in mini-loops in my head or push them down and sit on the lid of the trunk for the rest of my life.

Tattoos, children, books, spouses— they are all visible. Every commitment makes me more visible: oh, she’s a wife. She’s a writer. She’s a mom. She’s got a thing for foxes.

The question isn’t whether or not “Jorian” should be finished this year or “Ghost Hatchery” should be written this summer— the question is, am I hiding or seeking? Hiding is stressful— and not at all effective since it’s really the way toddlers hide: by covering their own eyes. Seeking means beauty, curiosity, new friends, discovery.

And it means that rather than these marks being scars inflicted upon me, I can make them feel like prizes on a quest, like constellations in a familiar sky, like myself.

Honesty and Trust, Patreon and Amanda Palmer

I think the idea of Patreon is fascinating: the freedom and space to make your art for free (for everyone), and the gift of your community providing for you.

Amanda Palmer inspires me.

She models a life of trust.

Trust is essential, the whole context in which art is created.

(I trust in the Source enough to write down this story, to step onstage, to paint the unseeable).

She takes it to a greater level of trusting as a way of LIFE– not just a way of ART.

And with Patreon there’s no ‘selling,’ no convincing anyone your art has value.

It’s all voluntary.

It’s all a gift.

This feels much more honest to me, how it already really is, this Abundance.

What To Do When You Want To Do it All

I want to do it all. Always.

This is the feeling that precedes doing none of it.

Going on social media and scrolling.

Eating ice cream (not that ice cream is inherently bad; it’s a beautiful thing).

Feeling bad about myself.

I have a new system, because they seem to last for about a season and then they begin to decompose. (I resist, try to outsmart death by Doing It Righter, panic, enter into denial, and eventually give in and shuffle around waiting for that tap on my shoulder that tells me it’s time to begin again.) In my new structure I’m texting my writing goals to Kelsi on Mondays, and checking in by phone on Fridays. Hallelujah for accountability and friendship!

One item on this week’s list is to research two small publishers based in Minnesota who primarily supply the school market. So I got on the internet this evening… and opened five tabs. I didn’t stop at site number one and start compiling the writing sample and resume they require– I went on a research binge.

This might work well for others, but not for me. When I do too much research I get overwhelmed. And then I start making Big Goals to Do Everything. Now.

It’s scary to do something (note the small ‘s’).

It’s scarier to take a small, real step than a huge imaginary step. (Brene Brown in Daring Greatly comments that she can’t go for a ten minute walk because she’s supposed to go for a four mile run; a run that never happens).

What do I really want?

I want to be a clear channel for art to come into the world.

I want to get out of the way and be filled with creative energy.

I want to connect, to share delight, to reflect the beauty of life.

Goals, systems, publishers are supports for that, not the compass point.

Take a breath.

Ask yourself, what am I here for?

Then do your best and revel in it.

The Tweet-Sized Essay

The Copy Cure (Marie Forleo and Laura Roeder) said you can write a blog post with a tweet– that no one ever opened an email and said, “Man, that was too short!”

When I started thinking about life in facebook posts, (as in, “Oh, I’ll say…”) I felt a little worried.

It’s gross to always be broadcasting.

For a w hile I decided if I wanted to post a status, I actually had enough to say in a blog post– and I did.

Now I’ve been cutting way back on online time again– ‘Living Locally’– and I feel the shift happening again: I want to write.

To people.

But I want to write a letter, pass a note– sign your yearbook– not shout in a megaphone.

It feels beautiful to write out compact thoughts, to explore and give value and time to snippets.

And it’s true:  There’s a whole blog post or poem or letter in a tiny tweet.

Evidence: This one is written on two sides of a recipe card.

Why Creative Blocks are a Good Thing

On Writer’s Block jumped into my box at the Friends of the Library Book Sale.

I was wary– I’ve done The Artist’s Way, this could be old territory.

But Victoria Nelson had me Aha-ing with every chapter.

Primarily, she says that a block can be the sign of creative integrity.

It shows up and halts all activity when the Ego is trying to muscle the Soul/Unconscious into something that isn’t quite right.

We should use blocks as guideposts.

Stop and uncover what is at the cause of it.

What is the resistance?

I know this, but it was powerful and helpful to see it all written out so matter-of-factly.

A block safeguards the work until Ego can handle it.

A block stops you from digging around to see if the seeds are actually growing (an act that would kill the garden).

A block is a sign of creative health, not ever of failure.