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.

 

 

 

 

How Dedicating Yourself to Writing is Like Owning a Dog.

“A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life.”  Liz Gilbert, Big Magic

Writing is like deciding to get a dog.

You spend your time thinking about what kind of dog you should get and imagine your joyous life frolicking with your wonderful companion.

You envision people asking, “Is that your dog?” and saying how beautiful she is, as you’ll say, “Yeah, that’s my dog.”

There’s no question getting a dog will benefit you and open a glorious new chapter in your life.

So, you start telling people, “I’m getting a dog,” like one might say, “I’m going to be a writer.”

People will encourage you; it’s so exciting. “Oh, my gosh! A puppy!”

You take on the identity of a dog owner (writer) before you even have a dog or pick up one tootsie roll poop (receive one rejection letter).

First, you commit to a breed (genre). Then, you invest in the proper kennel and leash and find the perfect place for this dog to sleep (ha!).

You read about how to care for this animal you imagine you’ll master.

Of course, you search the internet, find out which dogs are the most popular and how they’re best trained (what sells).

You might read expert advice, like The Dog Whisperer (The Artist’s Way).

Determining to become a writer is like deciding to own a dog in that it starts in your head, like all fantasies.

However, real writing is more like owning an actual animal who wakes you up at 5 a.m. with a lick you find embarrassingly delicious and coaxes you out of bed ready for play.

Becoming a writer is also similar to owning the dog who refuses to fetch a ball, jumps on company, and eats your $250 Maui Jim sunglasses.

That dog is work. That dog tries your patience. You’ll wonder if that dog might be better off belonging to someone else.

Plus, there’s so much poop to be picked up (revisions to be made)!

Writing is the dog that demands attention and time devoted in the present moment when you might prefer to be eating potato chips and reading about the preposterous President.

Writing, real writing is like owning the dog who runs away, but makes you gasp with glee, relief and the giddiness of a young girl when she returns.

The neighbors will ask, “Is that your dog” (running wild in the street)? “Yeah,” you’ll say, “She’s mine.”

How We Can Create a Respect Movement.

Will you meet me on The Respect, Compassion and Action Bridge in 2018?

“It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes. Distinctions in society will always exist…but when the law undertakes to add to these natural and just advantages artificial distinctions… exclusive privileges to make the rich richer and the more potent more powerful, the humble members of society have a right to complain of the injustices of their Government. There are no necessary evils in government. Its evil exists only in its abuses.’ ~ President Andrew Jackson

Hello 2018,

We greet you with raw and ready hearts. 2017 challenged us.

For me, not like 2016 when my beloved died. That year almost broke me.

Still, I limped through most of 2017. Is it true for the collective? Are we all in this together?

What’s worse than being knocked down or crawling through the struggle is starting to believe stagnation, or even backsliding is normal.

When we get smacked down with too many triggers or linger too long in a season that’s meant to be temporary, grief becomes us.

Bombarded with too much danger, too much rhetoric, too much power wielded illegitimately and selfishly at the expense of people’s souls, too much fake patriotism, fake Christianity, and fake politicians leading us, we crave a break from what’s happening in our country and the world.

Sh*t! We almost want to watch fake reality shows!

This is us. This is our country, The United States of America. Acting divided.

Our 2017 experience included Mother Nature sweeping with her hurricane broom. She’s cleaning up. And we came together in times like that. Thank God.

Chaos. Catastrophe. Disaster. Scandal. Death. Lies. Corruption. Collusion.

All this made my personal grief feel minor next to the collective mourning over our country’s pandemonium.

But, hello 2018! Welcome to the shift.

Listen, we’re Americans. We’re stubborn. We’re independent. We don’t like to be told to come to the table; we like to be invited. And, we expect there to be food for all when we arrive.

See, we like things running smoothly. We want to believe in our justice and electoral systems. We prefer our Presidents act Presidential.

We want people to be treated with respect, dignity, fair pay, and opportunity to compete for the American dream—so we can focus on our own lives.

Yeah, we’re a little self-centered. We’re used to being entertained.

Things are changing. The 11th hour is upon us. We might be a little out of shape, but we won’t stay out of the big game. Not when it counts.

In 2018, we do not like greedy men manipulating our democracy.

We’re not British, but we Americans have a certain decorum.

It does not include crass and violent actions against women or crazy boys with bad hair banging drums for nuclear war.

In our hang-loose American society, we still care about the least among us.

Education, health care, environment are the seeds we sow for our children and our children’s children. These are the safety nets of civilized society.

Hey, we might be slow to the table, but don’t think just because you didn’t invite us, we won’t show up.

We go when we feel called. Truthfully, we didn’t think our voice was required. We thought we had systems in place. Geez, gosh! We never thought it would get this bad.

But, now you arrive and enliven us, 2018. Now, we hear the call.

To save our democracy, decency, decorum, respect and kindness. To restore the dignified character of our country.

Truth and advocacy.

We’re opening our eyes, thinking for ourselves, researching facts, and reaching a boiling point in our individual minds and hearts.

Collectively, we move toward the good. We consider our neighbors. We’re Americans, in the best sense of the word that some have tried to pervert.

There’s a shift, like when you’ve been dating the wrong guy and you’re trying to see the positive, but he keeps doing stupid things and so you’re in the in-between… until he crosses some nonnegotiable line you may not have even known you had.

Suddenly, it’s game on.

You stand up and speak truth. You remember who you are. This isn’t it.

Like when you’re searching for a new job before you’ve told anyone, and one day your lips tell your boss you quit. Scary. This is a time for reckoning.

Like when you start packing before you even know where you’re moving.

Taking in the ridiculous scenarios of 2017 packed our bags and mentally readied us to move. Forward. With the heavy baggage.

Or, for some of us, 2018 may slap us awake like the day I witnessed a teenage girl beating the crap out of another at the park across the street while other kids laughed, cheered, and videoed the fight on their phones.

“Hey, what the hell are you doing? I called the police,” I said, even though my leg shook like Elvis and in my panic I forgot to hit send after 911.

Our democracy is the girl being beaten. What’s going on is wrong. People are applauding. Others hide in our houses and pretend what we clearly see is not as bad as it is.

No more.

In 2018, we speak. We question. We consider. We make noise. We show compassion. We listen to what’s behind the rhetoric. We research.

We bring back a little thing called FACTS.

We avoid violence and name calling. We focus on shared values and ideals.

We find common ground on which to restore and strengthen our communities, society and country.

We’re not fools; we know there’s a lot of faking going on.

Let’s be real. We can create the kind of country that offers fulfillment for all.

Not prideful. Not egotistical. Not my-hands-are-bigger-than-your-hands charades.

What about a Respect Movement? Respect yourself. Respect your neighbors and fellow citizens. Fellow humans. You know, God’s children.

Kind of like Jesus did in the Bible, if you believe he was a good example. When the times called for it, like when religion was perverted and money was worshipped, that dude got mad!

Blind belief after the truth has frayed is ignorance waiting to be revealed.

We’re not blind. Now, we speak from our hearts and minds.

Profit isn’t the only bottom line. There’s a cost to pretense.

This moment in history can be the blip or this can be the blow-up. We’ve got to show up.

Let’s peak behind the curtain and see what’s behind the political reality show because we might just marry one of these fellows.

Do we respect these folks? Do we believe their words? Very few. Regardless, we, the people still regard the United States of America and our ideals.

Here’s a few words from THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE:

That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the Consent of the Governed, that when any form of Government becomes destructive to these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient Causes; and accordingly all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security.

Those framers gave us the manual: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness—not Power, Greed and Inequality.

This isn’t the beginning of our country and this isn’t Selma, but these growing pains call for courage.

I haven’t been as brave and actionable as I liked to believe I would’ve been if old enough during the intense 1960s.

See, my generation has enjoyed the good fortune of not having to be involved. We’ve been riding on the work of generations before us.

This isn’t about politics. It’s about civics. Doing our civic duties. Yep, all of us. We’re a family and we all have chores.

Let’s not let our American house and family go down in shambles.

Let’s not be the naïve child who believes her parents will never divorce, although she’s witnessed her family’s splintering all along.

We insist our children get an education. It’s not just to get a good paying job, is it? What have we learned? What were the lessons?

Civil rights. Vietnam. Suffragettes. Authoritarianism. Journalism. Voting Rights. Environmental Protections. Dictators. Authoritarian regimes. Rhetoric.

Gosh, what about the bomb on Nagasaki that was a baby compared to the ones we’ve created now?

Oh, please. The time is late, but it’s ours. It seems big, overwhelming. I know.

Let’s start small.

Let’s start with respect, the kind of self-respect that calls us to step up.

Respect is a bridge we can walk toward tomorrow.

Let’s do this.

 

How to Be a Successful Rebel. #bloglikecrazy

What’s reflective and adaptive in the short run may carry the highest price tag over time. ~ Harriet Goldhor Lerner, PhD

Dear Young Rebel, I see you.

I see you with my old woman eyes. I know the lies you tell because I was once young and told them, too.

I was old enough to do what I wanted and fool the fools.

I didn’t realize the one I was ripping off was me.

I skipped much of high school or found myself sick with the flu, and even though it was true, I missed out on a slice of life I can never get back.

I barely graduated high school, not because I was dumb, but because I thought I was too smart to play by the rules.

Kids who went to class, did homework, or listened to their parents’ advice seemed weak.

Not me, I was strong.

I do what I want! was my motto.

The truth is I was lost and scared. I didn’t know what I wanted or who I was.

I was (and still am) a rebel.

When we’re young, it seems everyone is running the same race. As the years pass, the trajectory of actions and consequences spreads wider.

It’s revealed in careers, homes, travel, marriages, and a myriad of things that require time and attention.

Maybe you’re so smart you won’t listen to me or let this be anything other than some dumb adult thinking she can tell you anything when you’re an adult yourself and you already know, right?

The only reason I’m saying anything is because I wish somebody would’ve pulled me aside, realized I was just trying to make my way, and helped me make better choices. Nobody did.

Or, at least I didn’t hear them, like you might not hear this. And, that’s ok.

And yet, when I look back, I wish someone would’ve said: You can do this.

See, I thought everyone was saying I had to and that alone made me not want to. I thought the hard work and school stuff was for them.

I doubted anyone’s sincerity that anything good was meant for me. Nobody understood what I was going through. Or, so I thought.

I’m not telling you I totally get you. I’m saying I care and you can do this.

You can stop fighting against what could benefit you.

You deserve a good life.

But no, you spoiled little brat, it won’t be handed to you.

Ooh, right there, I bet that pissed you off. Now, do you want to be all self-righteous, like Who the hell does she think she is?

Here’s who I am: a grown woman who was once a spoiled brat.

Now, I’m old enough to admit it. I admit it wasn’t the world or my father who were so hard on me; I made things hard by trying to get away with doing things the easy way.

This is not a condemnation of you. It’s the concern I wish somebody would’ve shown me.
I see you. Can you see yourself?

Can you see what I couldn’t when I was your age, but is so clear now?

Can you look at how you’re living and imagine the kind of life you might be creating?

I know how smart you are and what a rebel you can be. It’s awesome!

However, combine that with misused freedom and you might just run yourself off a cliff.
Can you see how you could be hurting yourself? You know when you move out of your parents’ house, they won’t go with you, but you will?

Your thoughts and ideas. Your money habits. Your work habits. Your ways of getting along with others (or not). It all moves with you.

You create it. Then, you own it. It’s your life.

I’m asking: Do you like the one you’re crafting?

Well, I’m not really asking because I see you and I know.

I see you avoiding life and responsibility because it seems so hard.

It’s difficult to imagine, but it’s actually easier to go to class, do the work, study for the test, and go to the job than it is to avoid and fib (especially to yourself).

Gosh, if I could give you that one truth and you believed it, it would be a springboard in your life. It could save you years.

But, maybe you’re like me; you’ve got years to waste.

If so, keep at it. You’re on track.

If you want to follow in my footsteps, please, at all costs, refuse to invest yourself in anything that will actually matter 5-10 years from now.

That’s how I didn’t truly become a student until I was 37 years old, when the pain of not having a degree caught up to me—financially, sure, but more the screaming in my soul.

See, I only had excuses while other people lived with real reasons for not finishing school. They couldn’t afford it, were working two jobs, got pregnant, or just weren’t smart like us.

Actually, back then, I thought I was dumb. Nope. I just didn’t go to class.

I later learned: attendance changes everything.

I didn’t know that then, like you don’t now.

Like you, my parents paid for almost everything in the early days and I blew it all. I blew the money and I trashed the time.

Of course, you won’t blow it like I did. Yeah, that’s what I said.

For three years, I played at college, majored in partying, skipping classes and collecting my dad’s checks as if he owed me and I was getting back at him for his lack of achieving my standards of the kind of father he should be.

I missed the examples around me of people my age building successes, despite having harsher disadvantages and fewer opportunities.

I spent money on pizzas, margaritas and good times. I threw money around like confetti while wiser students juggled jobs, attended classes, clubs and sporting events, and still made time for fun.

I fumbled everything. Don’t be me.

I know, you say you won’t (because you’re smart). That’s what I said—when I dropped out of college “for a semester” three years in.

I chose the easy route and it was anything but easy later on.

I couldn’t see how fast the years would stack up.

I see you, young rebel, calling yourself an adult while doing childish things.

I hear you saying you’re smart, but acting otherwise.

I see you dancing and crafting manipulations, but more importantly, I see you miscalculating the consequences you’re setting yourself up for.

It’s not trouble from your father you should worry about. I know, like me, that doesn’t worry you at all.

The worst kind of trouble is that of your soul when you let the gifts and opportunities you’ve been given slide.

All the blame in the world won’t make your life belong to someone else.

Our souls know the truth even if it takes decades to catch up.

I traded too many years for cheap thrills while other gals and guys gathered degrees and built lives of purpose.

I told myself I didn’t care. I told myself it was just a piece of paper.

Occasionally, I even chanted the victim’s cry, “It’s not fair!”

No, it wasn’t fair that I didn’t show up for class or work or life and expected the same rewards as those who did.

See, life is fair in its unfairness and sometimes the things we get away with today we pay for in the long run.

It wasn’t my father’s actions or attitude which shaped my life. It was my mine.

As time passes, the stories that matter most are the ones we tell ourselves.

When we hold back, we’re paving a path we might not like walking later.

In our teens and 20s, it’s ok to have little money or work retail and restaurant jobs. But trust me; it’s not a thrill in your 30s.

Choosing jobs like that is fine. However, some folks just get lost, and then get stuck.

I see you, young rebel and I hope you don’t get stuck.

I hope you’re not like the guy who says he won’t run out of gas, even though the gage says empty and the light flashes. He keeps driving until what he denies becomes reality.

I was that guy. Well, that young girl playing at life and pushing the limits for the sake of proving something, maybe that no one could control me.

The thing is I didn’t control myself. I didn’t take responsibility. I didn’t go to class. I didn’t plan, study, and prepare for a better life.

I wasted money because I could. I wasted years of my life.

Somehow, I thought I’d be missing out if I did the responsible things and I was too cool for rules and damn if I’d let anyone tell me what to do.

When I look back, I wish I could grab my young hand the first time I didn’t go to class and went to a movie in the middle of the afternoon with a friend and no one said a word.

I wish I could make my young eyes see that friend didn’t have a father like mine paying the bills, so she worked that day and every other. The movie was a treat she gave herself for acing a test, not a way of life like the one I was living.

I wish the young rebel I was knew that when I lied and told my boyfriend my math class was cancelled at 8:00 am every Friday, he still went to class, loved me, had fun, and did his homework. So, he earned a degree.

I see her now, the young rebel I was, having fun. She’s a little sad.

I see the woman I am now and I’m happy with my life.

I don’t have regrets, so maybe you won’t either.

You’ll find your way, as I did.

You might find, like I did, the shortcuts aren’t.

Young rebel, I see you. You’ve got this. You’re smart.

In fact, you’re smarter than me, aren’t you?