I just spent a most enjoyable morning with the eighth graders at Danville School. Today is the last day before Winter Break and, hopefully, I left them inspired to read fantasy over the next week and beyond.
It has been awhile since I visited a school, and this was my first ever public school appearance. I wasn't nervous, though I wasn't overly prepared either, having decided to go into this author visit and just be myself, which is someone who loves encouraging others.
It's true that people live up to what you expect of them. I wasn't sure what to expect when I walked into that library this morning, but I knew one thing: those kids are just kids. They aren't scary. They aren't challenging. They aren't even apathetic, though sometimes they might come across that way. They are just kids who want someone to believe in them, so they can believe in themselves.
Peeking at the rapt faces over the top of my reading glasses, I saw young people who have a lot to offer the world. In fact, what they have no one else can offer. Each of us is unique. If we don't leave our mark, it won't get left by anyone else. My characters - Aryelle, Lureli & Eleanor - learn this the hard way. I'm praying these students will take an easier route and decide to make the world a better place than they found it before it tries to break them.
It's raining out now, but it's still a beautiful day, full of potential for growing. Here's to seeds just planted - may they be nourished in the fertile soil of a rich imagination, and produce great fruit!
Here I am between a rock and a hard place again, unable to move forward and unwilling to go back.
You've been there too, I'm guessing. We all have, and eventually we get through it. Sometimes it just Takes. So. Loooooong!
Writing is my bliss, along with making art and music. To quote Hungarian psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, it is when my "flow" happens, a state of concentration wherein I am equally challenged and gratified. While "flow" is present I lose track of time, forget to eat, and basically become so absorbed in whatever I am doing that everything else ceases to exist. As a wife and mother this can be a bit challenging (the family usually appreciates dinner on time over my latest project), but as one who loves to create it is awesome!
My Hard Place
The fact that I have so many ways to achieve flow and, so far, none of them have panned out economically to the extent they should is trying, to say the least. I'm a lousy business person, and like artists throughout the ages, I struggle to find the balance between doing what I love and what I must. If only making art were as profitable as, say - cleaning toilets (my hardworking hubby does janitor work on the side) there would be no predicament, but periodically I get tired of being a drain on the family's resources enough to actually go out and look for a paying job. That option is closing in on me right now.
Lest you think this is one big whine-fest, think again. It's more of a reality check and reminding myself that, no matter what, all things are doable. The only failure is never trying. In the last several years I have succeeded in: writing a fine trilogy with above average sales (not that most people have ever heard of it); starting my own publishing company; becoming an illustrator; teaching dozens of folks to paint; et cetera. I'm not going to stop doing the things I love doing. I may, however, stop trying to make it work.
By that, I mean - make it my job.
As I see it, one way to get unstuck is to ride the current instead of fight against it. Acceptance creates it's own kind of flow.
Life is a beautiful thing when we respond to what hinders us with positivity. Certainly circumstances will influence us, change our course, even redirect us entirely. We can feel stuck, letting pressure build like a geyser until we blow..............or we can adapt and make something else that is beautiful.
In the past, even though I have always considered myself an optimist, I've had a hard time seeing the bright side when it comes to putting my writing/artistic career back on hold. I've wanted to stay the course, keep flowing Csíkszentmihályi style, and see where that takes me. But I'm older now - hopefully a little wiser, too - and beginning to understand that there is joy to be found in all situations, if only we choose to seek it.
One of my biggest regrets is not that I stepped away from my dreams, but that I didn't always realize what a dream I was already living. My children, whom I adore, have been very supportive of my art and writing, but may have gotten the impression that I would rather be doing other things than devoting myself to being a full-time, actively engaged mom. They were right, of course, yet now that most of them are following their own dreams, I can see that our our short time together could have been less turbulent had I embraced the situation instead of feeling stuck so often. Here we are further down the river all the same. I'm happier now with more time for my passions, but I could have been happier then, too.
Stuck is a choice, just like happiness. Like love.
I'm going to choose to love whatever I bump into along the way now, be it hard or forgiving. I'm going to let this new flow happen, and try to never feel stuck again. You can too. All it takes is the realization that you'll get there when you get there. Might as well enjoy the journey and create something beautiful along the way. It might not be what you planned. It might be better.