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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.

I Took a Solo Retreat

I took a 5 day solo retreat in early August.

I was scared– so much time, what would I do?

Just me and myself– what would we talk about?

I sensed I shouldn’t make it a “production” retreat.

I needed to recharge.

I would do my standard amount of fiction writing for Friday and Monday to stay on track– that was it.

I journaled.

I read two YA novels.

I sat by the lake and did nothing– was blank, like the stones I sat on.

I swam often because it was hot.

I paddled my kayak to the Palisades, one of my favorite Boundary Waters spots.

I listened to loons.

I listened to my own strange circuitous, critical, whimsical loop of thoughts.

I slept about 12 hours a day.

I loved it.

I ate blueberries, half-crouched and grazing like a bear (in a pink bikini).

I talked (aloud) to myself.

I lived without pressure, hurry or expectation.

It reset me.

It brought me back to myself:

Home.

What If Daphne Doesn’t Have to Grow Up Too Soon?

I’ve been stuck in a manuscript for about a year.

It’s been sad and frustrating: What if I never get back to it and all those beautiful characters languish and then just shrivel up and disappear, like those forfeited souls kept by Disney’s sea witch, Ursula??

But I’ve also known that I just had to wait, that there was something I was missing without which I couldn’t carry on writing the story.

Then, in the midst of musing that someday I’ll write a seven-book series akin to “Harry Potter” it hit me:

What if Daphne not only doesn’t have to leave Extraordinaria in a month but she spends seven years (and seven books) there?

What if she actually doesn’t have to grow up too soon?

What if it’s a better deal (and bigger adventures) than Narnia?

Somewhere in this big house I feel a door swing open.

A breeze blows through and stirs the air.

The story moves, flutters, begins to wake.

The Northern Lights Came to my Birthday Party

The Northern Lights came to my birthday party.

It was not yet 10:30, in town, with a nearly-full moon– but when we looked up from our backyard campfire, the sky was dancing in green and purple and white.

We cried out.

We climbed the swing set for a better look.

We ran into the (dark and quiet) street and marveled at this good luck.

Everyone said it was for me– a sign for my 33rd year and how fortuitous it would be.

This is a magical year– I felt it before the sky sent its message.

Art.

Extravagance.

Natural alignment.

Being present.

Living locally (rather than virtually).

We took no pictures, posted no status updates.

Instead we laid down on the still-warm asphalt and watched the sky above us shift, change and glow.

We savored good food, stared at flames, shared five conversations at once.

Here’s to being alive.

When You Have Too Many Ideas

What do you do when you have too many ideas?

You set them free. You turn them loose.

When they rush up and crowd around you, you say, “Back up, back up.”

They are frisky, like horses and not-quite-grown puppies.

They are like children and will get as close as they can.

The thing you must know and believe and trust when you send them away, is you are not killing them. You are not banishing them forever (or at all!).

You are living in alignment, honoring the present moment.

And if you can trust that you, will not panic when they come up to sniff your trousers, nuzzle in your hair, or search for an apple in your pocket.

When you relax and sense the timing of things, the natural progression and lifespan and maturation, you will be able to enjoy your brief encounters, let them nudge your subconscious, and then go back to play.

This world is timeless.

There is space for you.

Nothing is lost.

Lizzie + Bluebeard: Sharing a Work-in-Progress

Lizzie Bluebeard_blog banner

It seems backward to write a book while also working the busiest season at our B+B and performing in the summer musical– but the energy of summer and long daylight (and some writing buddies to check in with three days a week) make it pretty easy.

This is the first time I’ve shared a book as I go. It’s always been tempting… and terrifying. Now the timing is right, and it’s been a great way to have accountability.

A surprise benefit has been writing up chapter summaries as I go. (I know internet strangers won’t all start reading at chapter one). I’m not an outliner, but I do appreciate having a loose outline form as I go. (I use Scrivener, which makes all of this a fast process).

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This is how I imagine Bluebeard’s forbidden North Tower. Image: https://mediaandpcmodreveiws.wordpress.com/2013/07/16/oblivion-mod-dungeons-of-ivellon/

I’ve often read that you should ‘write for an audience.’ And that’s just never been my natural style. I write for me. I write for the same reason I read: to discover a new land, to fall in love, to be delighted and transformed.

But I have a couple of good friends who, without any prodding on my part, have been reading the novel regularly. Sue just sent me a facebook message today saying she’s especially enjoyed the last two chapters. Julie reads the new chapters before bed. (Since the book is based on the very gory “Bluebeard” fairytale, this surprised me…) It’s nice to have that little boost to keep writing each week.

Start reading “Lizzie + Bluebeard”

Lizzie + Bluebeard is built on the Bluebeard fairy tale, but also incorporates a few other stories I came across in my career as an oral storyteller, including “The Giant With No Heart in His Body” and various “Baba Yaga” tales. Today I got to write the meeting of Lizzie, Bluebeard’s 36th wife, and Baba Yaga, the Mother of All Witches…

Ch 29: Inside the Witch’s Hut

Dawn breaks as Lizzie enters the witch’s yard. It is deserted but charged with magic. She knocks at the door…

What about you? What are you dreaming up?

Rose

“I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change”

I used to assume that living in a city meant more artistic opportunities and chances for exposure, but I’ve found the opposite is true, at least here in Grand Marais. It’s easy to get air time– just give a call to the station, assemble the cast, and start singing.

The cast of “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change”

Have a listen to the show’s finale (we sing at 4:45). We open Friday!! You can get tickets here.

She Slept Alone for 40 Nights: 10 First Sentences

1. She slept alone for 40 nights.

10 First Sentences

2. How big is a whale, really?

3. It was an occasion for silly hats, and Brad did not care for hats.

4. ‘If’ and ‘When’ and ‘How’– they all mean such subtly different things.

5. “The parade’s coming! I hear the– oh, no.”

6. He had worked at the fair for 25 years and he did the same routine at two o’clock each day.

7. She was a hesitant pianist.

8. The sky was orange for days from the far-off fires.

9. The latest thing to catch her interest was mushrooming.

10. “If you only knew how precious you were,” said Aunt Margaret in a tone that said something else entirely.


 

Kelly Barnhill mentioned that she writes 10 First Sentences everyday. I love this. I love seeing glimpses into so many worlds. (It reminds me of reading Enid Blyton’s The Faraway Tree as a kid).

Share your 10 First Sentences in a comment– or write what comes next!

Drunken Monkeys & Morning Pages

I lead my first ever Virtual Writing Group today [Jan 2013]. To begin, I talked about my writing philosophy. I faithfully follow the wise advice of Natalie Goldberg who instructs me to leave my pen on the page and to keep it moving.
 
Write now. Edit later.
 
This means writing in spite of the “drunken monkeys and screaming banshees,” as Anne Lammott calls the clamboring noises in her head.
As I explained this today, I realized that I have become very good at writing no matter what those critical voices say. And this is because I do Morning Pages.
 


Morning Pages are one of two essential elements in Julia Cameron’sThe Artist’s Way, a book I recommend to everyone. What are they?
 
They are three pages, written long-hand, done first thing in the morning, every morning. 
 
They are whatever pours out of my head. Often my jumbled dreams and plans for the day have space there. Sometimes they are even poetic. For about the first two or three years they were exclusively whiny. I have made countless mention of how I should have peed before I started them. 
There is no wrong way to do them, as long as you do them: write three pages without stopping. Content is not important.
In the last year or two, as my sense of self has been greatly challeneged and deepened, I have found that I am able to allow the Censor, Critic or Drunken Monkey space on the page. It began as an experiment: What happens if, instead of fearing what it will say, I let it talk?
For a few months I really needed to write up a whole page of affirmations afterward to avoid a major self-esteem deficit. Now I can immediately tell by the tone which inner voice is talking. Is it my Higher Self with good advice? Or my Critic?
The surprising thing is that I have learned my Critic can be just as useful to me as those wise words that sometimes come. When the Critic pipes up, I know right away that something is scaring it and it feels threatened. This is great! This means I’m on to something! The Critic gets nasty when I am serving my own growth and evolution. I am on the right track.
Then I can strategize for how to be doubly kind to myself. I get a heads up that this project will need extra support. I can see the pattern and avoid being pulled into the drama. 
It’s like parenting a toddler during a tantrum: instead of being the toddler, I get to be the adult standing calmly by, knowing that no harm is coming to anyone and that this, too, shall pass.
I get to write and create and be prolific, no matter what the Critic has to say.
 
 

TRY IT

  • It takes at least a month to really create a habit, so commit to that. You won’t regret it.
  • Get up 45 minutes earlier everyday.
    • Mine only take 20 minutes now, but I’m fast and I have years of practice. 
  • Use a standard spiral bound notebook and a comfortable pen.
    • I recommend wide rule over college rule: I’m fast because I’m messy.
    • Natalie says pencils have too much drag on the page, and I agree.
  • Write whatever comes into your head for 3 whole pages without stopping.
    • even, “I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write. I don’t know…”
  • After a week, see how you feel. How is your day impacted?
  • If you need some support, email me. 
    • Or pick up a copy of The Artist’s Way
    • Or start this with a buddy and check in daily or weekly.
 
No matter what kind of artist you are, and even if you don’t call yourself an artist at all, doing Morning Pages will help quiet your mind and tell you who is driving the bus today. And that makes a profound and marked difference in your life.
p.s. What supports you? Do you have a helpful daily habit?