There is no secret bullet to success as a writer. Or, if there is, I'm not in on the secret. I am finally getting the gist of what it takes to be satisfied however, and that is making all the difference.
Intentionality is not even a word according to spellcheck (Google still likes it), but employing it has turned around my habits, and attitude. Instead of whining about the unfairness of it all, I have daily goals I'm working toward that keep me on track. I'm not talking word counts or number of pages written. No - it's more abstract than that; the non-conformist in me insists.
Instead of looking at my whole week, month or year, now I delegate to each day what I hope to accomplish:
Sunday - Worship, rest & fun
Monday - Organize & plan
Tuesday - Outreach & connect
Wednesday - Unplug & write
Thursday - Creative challenge
Friday - Finish something
Saturday - Family time & outdoor exercise
That's how it stands right now. That doesn't mean I don't let myself do other things on specific days, too - and I still try to write something every day - but what I no longer do is wake up Monday morning totally overwhelmed. I don't even have to think about tomorrow, just focus on the task at hand. Incorporating activity and family into my plan not only reinforces their importance, but makes me more intentional in the time I give to them whether or not it's on the schedule. They aren't keeping me from my life's work; they are part of it.
Your "intentions" may look entirely different. Or you may think charting is juvenile, and disregard the idea altogether. But, what is hard to ignore is the fact that I'm happier now. And more productive.
So...If you're not happy where you are, what are you doing to improve your satisfaction?
Your standard of success and how you achieve it is up to you. Frankly, I want us all to win. But in the words of Mr. Incredible:
"We'll get there when we get there!"
Here's to an enjoyable journey!
People ask all the time where my ideas come from, as if the act of writing a few books has made me an expert on thought processing. I'm not. I'm just like everyone else. Thoughts float into my consciousness, and sometimes they float right out again. But... sometimes they take root and grow.
"It's what you do with ideas that really matters."
The idea for Emrysia floated into my head while I was sketching my vision of the elusive, perfect female for my picky, single brother. I tend to lose myself while I'm drawing, and the world of Emrysia blossomed almost outside of my awareness as the natural home for this fair creature, who was light and healing personified. I called her a fairy at first, but soon knew she was so much more than that - a luminarie.
I could have have left it at that, but a space had been opened. Fleshing out my thoughts, I invented a name for her, and a personality. Next came a genealogy, language, friends and adventures. One fantasy creature became three (and then some!) and they became characters who needed their own stories.
There is still space for more, ideas just waiting for a breath of life. There are worlds yet to invent.
What is inspiring you today?
My children are all talented poets, among other things. Some excel at recitation, others at slam, but each one has the knack to write beautifully. While I have dabbled, I have never claimed to be a poet of any note, though I did get the chance to listen to former poet laureate Billy Collins read his work recently. If you get the chance, trust me - you should take it.
One of my daughters especially loves writing sestinas. (Don't worry, I had never heard of them either, before she started writing them.) These poems consist of six six-line stanzas and a three-line envoy. Each stanza repeats the end words of the lines of the first stanza, but in a different order. The envoy employs the six words again - three in the middle of each line, and three at the end. (It helps to chart it out.) This same daughter challenged me to write a sestina, so yesterday I spent most of my writing time on it. Working on something new, something so structured yet random, really was a challenge, but a good one.
"It's not the familiar that makes us grow so much as the difficult."
Anyhow, here it is. They won't clamor to make me the next poet laureate after this - I'll stick to novels and blog posts! - but I had fun, and feel accomplished. And, just maybe, one of my talented children will enjoy that honor someday...
(Note* I took some liberty with the words "peace/piece"; don't know if that is allowed, but I've always been a rebel!)
The morning shimmers, crisp and fragrant, perfect weather for reflection, and a walk
As Summer leans into the impending birth
Of Autumn, crowning, welcomed by September's light,
A gift not yet fully present
To a long- laboring mother
Who dreams only of peace.
Autumn will sing out in full glory soon, piece by colorful piece,
Leaves to rain over her as she walks
And reconnects with her own Inner Mother,
Sharing tears of celebration over a birth
Longed for, yet too soon present,
Her steps brindled with shadow and light.
It is softer and more forgiving, this light
A golden riot in the midst of peace
Caught between bold seasons of green and white, a moment half-present.
A quieter walk.
A chance for a weary mother
To reengage. A re-birth.
A late-Summer mother
Strolling into Autumn light
Announcing that rebirth
Piece by piece
As she walks
Into a simpler present.
Ladies & gentlemen -or, more accurately, youngest daughters still at home - I now present...
Your New, Improved Mother!
She can talk and walk.
She can still comfort in the darkness, or light,
Mete out justice and keep the peace,
And, though now barren, she can still give birth...
- for dying to self is a kind of birth.
Living to learn only in the Present,
Relinquishing the broken pieces of her that formerly stole everyone's peace.
An older mother,
Filled with dim, self-righteous light,
Stumbled through Summer with a pronounced limp, but then... she took a walk.
Self-doubt won't walk with her into this new birth -
Autumn light to light Winters soon to be present -
Of a mother who has finally found peace.
Dropping my daughter off at college this weekend, we were stuck in a line of loaded cars waiting to get to the dorms. It was a loooooong line, and my husband, daughter and I were all feeling a little hangry. Normally, I am the absolute worst in such situations, and my family knows to steer clear. But fortunately, on the long drive down that day, this had popped into my head:
People get hungry.
They get tired.
But...they do not BECOME their hunger, nor their weariness, anymore than they are consumed permanently by other feelings or emotions. At times, though, we identify sooo strongly with them, often to the point of thinking they are us.
Outrage is one such emotion.
Fear is another.
Feelings are like fashion - a garment you possess and wear until it is either worn out or you weary of it.
Some feelings flair up unbidden, and just as suddenly disappear; others we cling to for most of our lives. Still others we try on and think - hmmm...that fits - only to discover when we look in the mirror that it really doesn't suit us.
Like any garment, feelings that are worn for an extended period of time need to be evaluated for soil and damage. Emotions need an occasional airing, a purifying if you will, to keep from being offensive to others, and to ourselves. Even those we chose to always live in, the ones that become like a second skin.
Sometimes a little scrubbing will do the trick; at others, they need to be discarded altogether - no matter how much we may want to cling to them! And sometimes, with just a little alteration, they can fit again perfectly.
What emotions are you wearing right now? Do you need a change of wardrobe?
Have you ever lifted a rock in the springtime and found stringy, white shoots growing wildly beneath it, like a bean-plant science project gone awry? Expose them to the light and what appears to be a confused tangle soon flourishes green. People are sometimes like that, just waiting on a little more space for the next phase of life to start.
As another college bound freshman packs up her belongings readying to take off, I realize that I'm holding my breath. Sigh.........another seedling about to be transplanted. Her frenzied activity brushes aside the loosening soil that once nurtured her, making room so that she might seek her place in the sun. She has dreamed of, and dreaded, this day. We both have.
It seemed so far away, this unnamed future when children grow independent of their mother-root; independent enough for other things to fill up the hours - theirs and mine. I sometimes feared it would never come, and then - blink! - a new day. And, so soon!
I have never regretted choosing to be a stay-at-home mom, though a good portion of my time spent parenting was in survival mode. Putting dreams on hold to raise a family, I know a little something about patience and perseverance, about waiting for your day in the sun.
Laying dormant, it's not easy to recognize what you want, what you think you need, and be denied - even when you're the one doing the denying.
You could say I chose my own rock to grow under, and grew slower than those who lingered in the sun. But my children and husband grew there along with me, all of us tangled up in each other's lives, sometimes close to strangling each other, always somehow managing to thrive. And now? Now we're slowly spreading out into the bright world, seeking new sustenance, some of us laying down new roots, some revisiting what used to feed us. Still connected, yet clearly our own individual selves.
This, too, is survival mode, this replanting, this finding new space to grow. It is how seedlings become gardens.