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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.

Avoiding the Gate: When the Project Feels Slow

I’m publishing my first book and it’s going so slowly.

Not too slowly, but slower than my imagination.

I’m a skittish colt leaping around instead of running straight through the open gate.

But the colt (and I) aren’t wrong.

We’re not lazy or bad or even distracted.

We’re young and there’s a lot of extra energy and it’s spring and everything is new– and, most importantly– there is time.

There is time for leaping and snorting, pawing at the ground, tossing our heads, putting on a show.

This isn’t a term paper, and we don’t have a death sentence.

Sometimes the rhythm and goals of life are urgent, pressing– but all things happen in their right time.

There is no mistake.

It always goes exactly how it must go– but sometimes I had other predictions or step-skipping hopes.

But in the end, I know I will be satisfied and the gate will be beautiful– even my friend.

Take Comfort in What I’m Telling You

Dear Younger Rose,

By the time I write this to you, things that seem impossible to you have already been done a dozen times.

Publishing books is easy.

Connecting with readers is easy.

And making a good living writing, channeling, sharing creativity and being SEEN is easy. It’s LIFE now.

I believe you that it feels hard and impossible. It happens anyway. You can’t stop it, it’s just how our life goes. Isn’t that a comfort? So try not to kick and fight so much along the way. Certainly don’t berate yourself. It all turns out. I know because I live it now.

My life is good now because of all the things you’ve been doing, even the things that at the moment seem like nothing. Starting to write a few short blog posts has led to books on creativity and support, and professional speaking tours that open people up to themselves and their Muse.

Lizzie’s story as a trilogy is complete and wonderful! It’s widely read and well-loved. It has changed people’s lives. It’s beautiful writing and it has been pivotal in the story of women, identity and worth.

And yeah, I’ve met Philip Pullman and Neil Gaiman. (And once you get a letter from Older-Older Rose you’re going to find out and have to accept that we’ve been given an Astrid Lindgren award. Pretty cool, huh?)

But the most amazing and wonderful thing is that you’ve kept writing. I’ve kept writing. We write every day. I live a life I love because of you, because of all the shit and tangled stuff you’re stumbling through. It really has made a huge difference. Thank you for doing that, especially when it just feels like wasted energy, like spinning your wheels. It’s not, I promise.

I have a 401k and a retirement account. I have full health care. Yes, I finally got braces. It was easier and quicker than you think it will be.

And Ennis turns out amazing, like you always knew he would. He’s still my best teacher and the most beautiful person I’ve ever met.

And things are good with Jay, too. I know that’s been a sore subject for a while and you don’t really want to open up and hear it, but all that messy, painful stuff wasn’t such a big deal. It works out, really, and it’s not just tolerable. We really do understand each other better. Again, all that messy shit you’ve been going through that feels so pointless and painful is what has made all this possible. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

The house got painted.

The laundry got folded.

The addition got finished.

The savings account filled up.

The credit cards went to zero.

The cat lived along and happy life.

You got a dog who was wonderful.

Your mom moved to Grand Marais.

You forgave yourself for not being able to save your parents’ marriage.

You started writing letters again and now I get to open the p.o. box to a rainbow of lovely words from around the world.

You biked around Britain with your family.

You learned how to do acupuncture and energy healing.

You got back into exercising (and you dropped off and got back on again, but you accepted the cycle).

You acted in so many plays! So many great plays!

And you opened up to people you love.

You gathered your tribe around you, and now I am wise and grounded and I get to be free with them– I get to share and love freely and fearlessly, and I’m so happy.

That weight on your chest is gone.

You DO get enough sleep.

You DO have a healthy life. It really just was the young-child-years that felt to busy and exhausting. Don’t worry, you don’t go back to them.

I know you’re aching for all of this now. I feel the waves of your deep longing across time. Take comfort in what I’m telling you: that it all comes to good. This life comes to good! Every moment of imperfection is not to be seen as evidence of failure– they become so unremarkable with time! In the golden light of where I am now. The edges soften and things make so much sense.

I know you don’t want to waste anything.

I know you want to be enough.

I know you want to rest.

Be enough.

Rest.

Let go of everything and nothing is wasted.

Every good thing? You deserve it.

I give it to you as a gift because I adore you, no other reason.

Take it easily and do whatever you want with it– there are no strings attached.

If you would like to send me a present, my favorite thing in the world is your joy. Your light. What I want most is for you to live easily, to feel the space around you, to know that you are exactly enough, exactly right, exactly the only way I could ever possibly want you to be. I don’t mean be kind to yourself in a lie. I mean be alive and joyful and free in the truth that there is nothing wrong with you; there is nothing wrong here. Nothing wrong at all.

You are exactly right.

I love you completely.

Goodnight.

-R.