Dear Small Writer Desiring to be Huge (A Love Letter).

“You can measure your worth by your dedication to your path, not by your successes or failures.” ~ Liz Gilbert, Big Magic

Dear Small Writer,

I see you. I see you journaling and churning words into publishable pieces.

I see you slogging through the blogging, learning the techniques to land the large audience.

I witness you apprenticing for publications that pay in bylines below their big names.

You’ve gone to school, gathered degrees, filled your toolbox, and taken too many classes from the masses you call masters.

You’ve written your book, hired an editor, held focus groups, invested your soul, and revised yourself into numbness.

Now, you find yourself on the floor praying your small voice can mean something more.

I see you. Standing on the precipice, wondering if you’ll ever fly.

Maybe you should just jump. End it all—because if you can’t do this—the thing you determined and believe to be your divine destiny, what’s it all worth?

You thought you had a purpose: to be of benefit and make a difference by giving your words to the world.

Maybe it will never be enough.

Maybe this noisy world will never hear you.

Maybe the world wide web is weaving itself around you, burying you.

It’s possible you’re not as capable as you imagined.

So, you consider returning to the world, working for the man, going under your self-doubt, and living a life of loud desperation.

Joining the masses, for you dear writer, is death.

Let’s not forget your contribution conspires for the good of the collective.

How dare you measure your worth by if you land on Oprah’s booklist?

All the writers who stand beside her do the reality pinch because it’s so far beyond where they started.

They started where you are, but that’s not to say you’ll be there one day.

Probably, like most, you will not sit in sunny Maui with inside chairs outside under lush trees, a camera crew, and the queen herself.

Let it f*cking go!

Instead, tell me about your joys on your journey so far.

Reading in your writers’ group—and they cried.

Your previous pastor’s brother (who you’ve never met) confessed you helped him heal after losing his soulmate of 30 years. Gulp.

A check for $300 from Chicken Soup for the Soul (even though your professor told you it was the worst contract in the world and you should’ve never signed it).

Writing about being raped and keeping it quiet for a decade. One reader said she finally understood the denial and the desire not to tell.

How about the night your family gathered on your parents’ back porch to listen to your words and you heard laughter and saw tears, evoked by you?

What did you feel in those “small” triumphs? Did you want to quit?

You crave the world stamp you legit, but baby, don’t forget, you were born for this.

You are on your path.

You arrived on this earth to spread your soul on the page like one big messy map.

Remember when you were a kid and your dad taught you how to read a map?

It blew your mind that one inch equaled 500 miles. You started in New Mexico meant to go all the way to California.

Since then, my dear, you’ve travelled back and forth in a car across the country multiple times, so often solo.

Yet, you never once confused a rest stop for your destination.

You’re always surprised about the long drives, until you arrive and realize the pure pleasure of the trip.

Stay on the road. Keep driving yourself.

Oh, how wonderful it’ll be for your ego when you land that life-changing book contract!

Isn’t that silly since your soul’s been dancing since the day you said yes?

The day you vowed, God, whatever it takes. I want to be a writer, you became one.

Money and fame may follow. Or not.

I see you. Confusing worldly success with your purpose.

Stop pretending that’s your why.

You’ve come so far. Now, you must go back.

Go back to being small and willing.

Go back to the whispers of your soul and the dancing of your heart.

Writing is a craft and a profession, but for you, it’s the calling you’ve heard since 3rd grade.

To pretend you’d ever put down your purple pen is deceit.

When the world is full of fools aching for accolades, let the angels kiss your tears away. Let your guides whisper, Let’s go.

Today, Valentine’s Day, love your small writer self so you can grow, not loud and large, but full, fulfilled, and true. Be true.

 

 

 

 

Why I Can’t Not Write. #bloglikecrazy

“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear. My courage is reborn.” ~ Anne Frank

I longed to be a writer the way some women long to be a wife or mother.

I married my writing without even realizing it. There was no ceremony or announcement, just deep commitment and the cherishing.

Writing is my friend, confidante, and if I dare say, a sensual lover. She aligns me with my purpose.

Writing awakens my higher self to reveal my scary, funny, sad, shameful, passionate truth.

Writing connects me with my tribe and family of weirdoes and misfits.

This gift and joy paved my path since 3rd grade Friday afternoon workshops left me alone and happy under a sign that read Creative Writing.

Writing serves as my bridge across difficult and wonderful relationships and life decisions, encouraging me in a way that my verbal voice only aspires to.

Writing coaxed me through two divorces and too many loved ones’ deaths.

Writing’s my nonnegotiable necessity.

Men come and go, but with writing, I find faith and forgiveness, especially of my own errors, which, were I not to go to the page, I might never recognize.

Writing is essential to my growth and maturity.

For years, I treated her like a luxury for special people and occasions.

Yet, I treasure the writing process: morning pages that may never produce anything publishable, poems just because, and letters that need to be written, like the one I wrote my father forgiving him for not being he’d like to have been.

Writing heals. It’s divinely cathartic.

Once written, I read and relish my writer’s voice, recognizing its uniqueness.

Writing inserts purpose and agenda into my daily life, serving as my clear and commanding calling.

After treating it like a trinket through my 20s, 30s, and too far into my 40s, now any inkling of turning away is replaced by an indomitable spirit within me screaming NO! I will not sell out. I will not get sidetracked.

It’s not, “I will never go hungry again!” It’s even if I must go hungry.

Nothing feeds my soul the way writing does.

It’s easy to be distracted in this world. In the past, I set writing aside to chase money, career, security, and even men who claimed to support, but compared my writing to hunting, like a hobby.

My writing is not a choice. Teaching or selling? That’s a choice. Staying married or not? A choice. Living in Santa Fe or St. Paul? Another choice.

For me, in this chapter of my life, writing is a decision made.

I either own my writing and offer it to the world or to wear regret like a tattoo. I hate tattoos.

 

 

Why Contemplation Belongs in the Writers’ Toolbox #bloglikecrazy

“Five hundred a year stands for the power to contemplate… a lock on the door means the power to think for oneself.” ~ Virginia Woolf

Some people are trying to raise children. I’m trying to raise a writer.

I’m trying to raise my writer self, and in doing so, I’ve had to discover what works for her.

Like a neglected child, she often has to be sweet talked after so many times of being set aside.

After dreaming so many dreams of becoming a writer and waking up to find myself a server, salesperson or teacher, my writer self sometimes sneers and says, Oh, please with that, like you’re ever…

My writer self is a wild, unruly child, but when in solitude, she dances, sings, gives speeches, and writes books.

However, when she hears a key in the door, a television, or God forbid, someone asks, “What are you up to?” she freezes.

It’s not fear so much as shifting gears from action demanding my whole being into interactions with another, even if it’s just being alert to their presence or saying hello.

Politeness demands turning from introspection into simple conversation.

Sometimes it’s the subtleties of life that let me settle for not writing, while a small shift can send me into an afternoon dancing with words.

Our writer selves require solitude, a space of our own, and time unleashed.

This is where pondering presents epiphanies, and profound ways of seeing or expressing ourselves.

It sounds simple. Go to your room, a coffee shop, or a park. Ta-da! Here’s your time! Sure, but it’s not just physical space we seek. We must find the mental space away from the chaos of daily life and to-do lists.

Amid the noise, without an agent, deadline, or outside demand, the small voices shout—to return my father’s phone call, check my email, do the laundry, or more often, put away the pile of laundry I did last week.

We need a lock on the door of our writers’ minds—the passageway into the world of words that refuse to dance in the company of commotion.

Sometimes, we wait for words. What if words await us on the other side of that door, pages preparing themselves to be written, if we can just lock out life’s little inconveniences?

Five hundred a year, some relative sum from Virginia Woolf’s time, purchases physical security—money pays the rent, feeds the dog, and keeps the lights on—and mental opportunity—the permission slip that says: Writing, you may now step to the front of the line.

When writing is relegated to farther back than our souls intend, it gets impatient, even petulant, watching us rush about.

Writing grabs furiously for our attention, the way an ignored child would, staring us down as we dart away to teach yoga, be present for margaritas with the girls, or make the meet-up group for writers.

What about me? writing cries.

She whines in the background while we resists with lists: I’ve got to order tires for my car. What are we doing for Thanksgiving dinner? Do I need to shop? Oh God, is Christmas really coming again this year? Sh*t! I forgot to call my dad. Oh, and those clothes!

Investing in contemplation ignites and expands our writing into ideas and words that flow, rather than feeling forced.

Time to mentally wrestle is the gift many of us deny ourselves in the same way we deny other luxuries.

How is it we feed ourselves junk media and divorce ourselves from nourishing contemplation?

We don’t have time. Yeah, like we don’t have time to work out.

Contemplation feeds a writer’s soul like mama’s cooking feeds the body.

The writing self, at least mine, needs nurturing.

She craves my attention and direction. She wants to be told it’s ok to play.

Contemplation is play, but that doesn’t get much credit in our society.

Contemplation isn’t something you pursue, win, or earn recognition for. It’s not like a degree, a man or a promotion. Thought is its own reward.

Contemplation catapults our writer selves into their own private rooms filled with writer toys: pens, paper, keyboards, words, and quiet.

Shhh, lock the door. Don’t tell anyone we’re in here. Let’s create something beautiful.

 

How to Embrace Opportunity for Metamorphosis. #bloglikecrazy

“Birds sing after a storm; why shouldn’t people feel as free to delight in whatever remains to them?” ~ Rose Kennedy

My friend is lucky.
Her love lives.
She has a wife and a kid.

She’s unlucky.
As writers, we declared
Long ago: j-o-b-s distract.
She’s dedicated to a distraction.

Committed by way of marriage
And her ego’s need for independence
Managing the only 24 hours given each day.

I’m lucky, granted—by grace and my sister’s magic—
Freedom to pursue my passion daily.
The gift every writer dreams of: time
To work on our calling, the way others work
On their professions. Writing defines everything.
Writing rights us. We know no other way.
We’ll squeeze the whole world out to fit our
Writing in, but we don’t want to do it that way.

I don’t have to. I’m lucky.
Certainly luckier than most.
Of course, unluckier than many.
Losing everything, and my beloved dying.

I live my grandfather’s legacy:
I’ve had a lot of loss, but
I’ve had a lot of love.

Both unlucky and lucky,
Like my friend, all my
Friends, family and strangers.

Love, freedom, time and money.
Health, opportunities and obligations.
Coping, managing and manifesting.

Luck. We can’t hold it. It’s a
Hot potato. Good and bad luck.
We juggle them both, knowing:

For all the good, there’s a price.
I willingly pay.
And the bad?
Opportunity for metamorphosis.
I play my part.

I change. I grow.

We’re all lucky. And unlucky. Then, lucky again.

Sometimes life swings full
Circle and you realize
How lucky you are.
How lucky you are!

How I Exercise my Introvert/Extrovert Status

If someone says, “She’s high maintenance” referring to me, I’ve got one thing to say: You’re damn right.

I don’t understand low-maintenance, high-functioning folks. Sometimes I see people maintaining themselves by sucking on other people’s energy.

I sustain my own energy by tending to the two sides of me.

I envy extroverts who get revved up by hanging with others.

For me, these are my required maintenance procedures:
1. Writing—morning pages, journaling and writing with purpose for publication.
2. Yoga or stretching. My body gets physically knotted up and I’m in pain if I don’t find a way to untie the knots. (Massage works, too.)
3. Walking in nature. It’s the act of movement, and nature kisses my skin and whispers to my soul if I go it alone.
4. Reading—expands my mind and heart.
5. Prayer—to God, angels, guides, Mother Mary, Jesus Christ, Holy Spirit, and my loved ones on the other side. It can take a while.
6. Meditation—without it I’d come undone.

These are solo pursuits. When I take these steps I’m better able to connect with the world.

Also, I love being alone. I’m not bored. I’m not lonely.

Extroverts, I love you with your eager invitations and how you can’t fathom my time alone is your competition. It is.

Introverts, I’m with you in the magnitude of solitude, silence drawing out peace and presence for ourselves in order to invoke any magnificence we may hope to possess.

Extroverts, you drag me from the dark depths of myself—beyond the blackness. Some days and nights, I stand at death’s door begging for entry into something beyond. You entertain me and keep me awake to others’ laughter, dancing, voices and stories.

You make me come out and live. Thank you.

Introverts, we know our time alone can be where we feel most alive, authentic and valid. They may think we’re hiding, but it’s here where we face life head on. We’re not afraid of darkness. Or light. The sacred ignites our souls. We see stars intimately. We speak poetry as if it’s our first language. We dance with music because it becomes us. Alone, we’re more than we care to explain, show or present to the great pretenders running the world we run away from.

Extroverts, I adore your laughter and our connections. Yet, I can’t comprehend your apprehension toward solitude. How can it not soothe you?

Don’t you dare to dance with your one true soul mate—you?

We introverts don’t quite understand the loneliness you speak of, for others tend to engulf us in emotional claustrophobia.

Me, I dance between the world of people and parties and my full-on presence. Too much out there invites pretense, lest I speak truth most don’t care for.

Truth—I kiss her and let her seep inside my soul alone on quiet nights and precious days. She allows me to return full and ready, capable of conjuring words, not to hurt but ideally to awaken and elevate.

I’m two sides of the personality coin: introvert/extrovert. I must spend them equally. And so I dance—in the world and in my kitchen.

 

Butterfly

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Every time grief washes over my sister’s face, I feel it like a slap. I want to fix it—the way she’s fixed me up and put me back on my feet.

My sister doesn’t yet see her reflection as the butterfly she’s becoming. It’s still sticky where she lives, in a cocoon of grief. But, the sunshine is bursting in and someday soon she’ll realize she has wings.

Right now, she’s remembering all that went wrong and why can’t it just be yesterday? From the sidelines, it’s almost too much to endure, like watching a teenager attacked by hormones screaming hatred and then melting into a hug like only the innocent and broken can do. But a grown woman does it all with poise.

My sister was broken when I arrived to live with her. Now, she’s spiraling up in life. She’s loosened her grip. Sure, occasionally she trips. And no, she’s not there yet. And yes, grief’s shadow haunts her every step.

Still, sometimes I stand a few steps below. The vision of my sister is radiant. She turns to look at me, always looking out for me. She sees me beaming back at her and gives me undue credit. She can’t see all the light shining from behind or the team of angels assuring, “We got her.”

My sister can’t see her ocean-blue eyes are alive again. She stands oblivious to the formation of her wings. Perched at the edge, just a little bend and the right whiff in her direction, this gal’s going to fly.

Running as a Metaphor for Writing

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I used to be a runner. Cross-country. Track. I even ran two marathons. I dreamed of being a world-class marathoner. Hey, you dream big when you don’t know better.

And sometimes, even when you do. I still dream of being on Oprah showcasing my book, even though the Oprah show is now her OWN program. Even though the odds are a gazillion to one, let alone an unknown writer like me to get branded brilliant by the woman who raised reading to a place of esteem in the mainstream.

So, maybe me walking onto Oprah’s stage, sitting in the yellow chair to her right and conversing about my book stands along the lines of a “world-class” dream.

Still, I did run a marathon. Two, in fact. Those seemed as unsurmountable as writing my memoir did when I started. Some challenges seduce me.

These days, I no longer feel called to run much. Sporadically. Not far. Pain in my knees, not fun. So, I take walks. Often.

Today I ran. Well, jogged, but let’s not quivle. I was moving, listening to music, feeling the wind in my long, loose hair, and shouting affirmations into the blue sky. I ran on a country road out by my boyfriend’s house. I took a right to “Hamburger Hill.”

I’ve walked to the top of the long, steep, blacktop numerous times. Often, I jogged just so far and turned around, telling myself it didn’t matter. Nobody’s watching. I don’t have anything to prove.

But, that telephone pole that stood as my marker of the top seemed to always say, “Ok, hon, next time.”

Today, my earbuds were in. The pounding of the music kept time with my feet on the pavement. I didn’t determine I’m getting up there today! like my past tendency of wanting to power the world by my will. Like the way I determined to land an agent, but I haven’t. Or get published in The Huffington Post. Not yet.

There’s a difference between motivation and inspiration. I lived highly motivated in my 20s and 30s. Now, in my 50s, I try to live more in line with my internal intuitions and nudges.

What? Did I fail to mention how I felt in my 40s? Fucked. Thus, the wake up and change up.

Today, I wasn’t motivated to dominate that hill. I was reminded of all the hills I ran in high school. My coach used to say, “Imagine there’s two hands on your butt pushing you up the hill.”

I felt those hands today as I glanced up at the telephone pole finish line. I didn’t speed up. I didn’t slow down. I just put one foot in front of the other because it felt good to pick them up and roll into the next stride. My mind flowed free like the leaves in the wind.

I tugged my black lab Phoenix each time a smell captured her. “Leave it!” I commanded. She doesn’t think of me as a leader, more like a suggester. So, I yanked hard on my 85-pound sweetheart. Why? Any other day, I’d let her distraction become mine.

Today called me to the top—even after all the days I turned around. It was an unexpected day for an irrelevant triumph.

No one greeted me at the top. I didn’t even stop there. I went on to the next telephone pole. Because I was high on accomplishment.

A little, meaningless milestone. Not a marathon. Far from world-class anything. It didn’t matter. The moment belonged to me, the runner in me and the writer, too.

I skipped down the hill, ready again. Ready to submit to magazines. Ready to revise. Ready to risk—ah, for the sweet taste of victory.