Archive for 2011|Yearly archive page

Un-Doing Days

In Classes, Craft, General, Musings on July 12, 2011 at 4:54 am

It wasn’t long ago that I purposely set my alarm clock for5:30 a.m.every morning, slipped out of bed before the sun rose, and sank my toes into the slightly scratchy carpet of our then-apartment with a cup of coffee and readiness to write. The darkness, the slither of silence, the burnt chicory smell of good java—these things were my company as I took special time for myself before my “real work” several hours into daylight later.

Those were my “doing days” as I’m thinking of them now. I wrote so early because once my colleagues and clients awoke there’d be emails to exchange and the mounting pressure of “must-get-it-all-done” riding hard on my spine. In my doing days I was so proud of how much I did—writing freelance articles, a book, a novel, editing manuscripts, recording book reviews–in such quantities that I’d sometimes look at my “to-do” board with a feeling of terror, wonder at how I would get it all done, and if working for myself was folly or fortune. The higher and tighter my shoulders by the end of the day, the greater the sign that I’d somehow measured up, that I was capable of carrying a load so heavy without fail.

Once I became pregnant I was amused and annoyed by the most ethereal sense of distraction that came over me—my mind flitted wherever it pleased and could barely be reined in, a flying creature with barely any mass. I was tired, so so tired all the time, and could not roll out of bed so early, and if I did, I’d sit staring at the blank page wondering what I thought I had to say. At the time it was infuriating, but now I look back and see my body beginning to help me make a shift that would change the shape of my days forever. For a spacy mind was the least of the changes having my son would bring.

 Three years into my son’s life, the map of my working life looks like a seismograph. From doing almost nothing for the first three months of his life, to rallying back around to writing a novel in his nap hours, to putting him in nearly-full time daycare only to feel the familiar pains of a body that is doing too much…I have begun to circle around to this new place and time. These are un-doing days.

Today, I sat at the top of a man-made rainforest, where blue butterflies the size of my palm circulated with what looked like a brash certainty in their freedom. If I stood still long enough, they skimmed the top of my head, grazed a cheek, teased my eyelashes. The heat of the building, the chatter of tourists–none of it bothered me. I was completely enchanted by their flight. I realized, I could sit here for hours and do nothing but watch them fly. And in that seemed the crux of the lesson I am beginning to learn, and which I hope my readers will take to heart too: there is value in stillness, in rest, in observation.

I am undoing old habits of working too hard and too long. I am taking more time off, and spending more moments relishing my son’s short-lived youth. There are fewer achievements, shiny and hot with effort, to hold up on a platter over my head, and yet, there are deeper seams to tap now, both creatively and in my work, roads that I have refused to take out of fear of letting go, stopping.

And how does this play out here? Everything is going to change now. You’ll see a new website very soon, with this blog integrated in it.  I’m going to be teaching more–stay tuned for some new twists on my classes that will allow for more interaction–and doing less of other things. In a nutshell, my new goal and direction is to write, and to thus bring to all of you the lessons and experimentation and thoughts on craft that I, myself, am continually integrating into my own work.

 Come, un-do with me.

Strong Wind

In Mothers and Writing, Musings on June 13, 2011 at 4:19 am

This post keeps unfurling in my mind, I catch a glimpse of it, and then it’s gone, like the tail of a garden snake slithering away in tall grass. I think: I will start by telling the story of my brother’s graduation from college yesterday, about the many tiny little things that “went wrong” because I was in something of a rush–a rush to get there, a rush to make it to the ceremony on time, and a rush to get back to my husband and son who were not feeling well at home. I think: I will find a way to make it funny that the end result of that mad 24 hours–after dodging drunk grads (and being hit by one on skateboard) in the Animal House like neighborhood of his vicininty, and listening to wide-eyed speeches in which diem was carped and futures were full-wattage,  is a kink in my neck so bad I cannot turn my head fully to either side and a case of the hiccups…

And then I see a different tail and it is this: Me, standing at the sink, washing dishes. My wonderful husband, sensing my gloom, asking me how I am.  With a sensation in my chest as though a fist is trying to squeeze water out of my heart I say, “I’m tired of myself…of my own thoughts…my patterns.” I quickly reassure him that this doesn’ t mean anything dire–I have never been to a place so dark I wanted to end it. But I do want to end certain habits I have, and lately, more than ever, they are waking up like dragons at every turn, and I walk around in a cage of self-imposed limitations.

After spending 24 hours with the part of my family where I have always felt like a buoy bobbing in a strange sea, a sea I am both intimately part of, and alien to, I return home to the family I have carved out for myself–my husband and son–feeling weighted down. My body hurts. My heart is heavy…I am having the most profound urge to be a child again, to be mothered. For someone to gather me up in their arms, lay me down in a soft bed, tickle my back, smooth out the wrinkles of night, sing me sweet songs and tell me everything is okay. But of course, this is my job. There is a runny nose, and bumped knees to tend. A boy who misses his mama after she was gone overnight.

Then, the blog post splits, it’s a rare two-headed beast, staring at me with four beady eyes before it’s off into dark underbrush again. “Remember,” it says in a sibliant snaky voice, “the family friend/astrologer telling who told you years ago: ‘There are many addictions, including the addiction to doing too much. You have this tendency, be careful.'” At the time I thought, “No, all this ‘doing’ is just ambition, drive…it’s good, it means I get things done. I’m never idle.”  But tonight as my spine feels like an iron rod bending unerringly toward the ground beneath a freight train; after a day where I watched myself tap dance to make unnecessary things happen from afar; after trying so carefully to only do and say that which would not cause conflict, or the least amount, where I worried and fretted my spine into this knot (the kind that tethers Titanic-sized ships to their ports)…I wonder how wrong I am. I wonder what happens when the doing is undone. What comes up from that dark, quiet place? Am I brave enough to find out?

I wonder what it’s like to be a person who doesn’t rush. Who doesn’t try to please everyone in a 3 mile radius–even when the pleasing is really only a stop-gap for my own anxiety.

I wonder what it would be like not to bounce from thing to thing hourly, moment by moment, shifting, twisting, contorting.

I wonder what it’s like to simply say: I need this. I can’t do that. I feel this way about it.

And not worry that everything will fall apart.

My wise friend  Amy said to me: “Pick your lead horse, and let the others run astray.” She meant: let there be priorities, like health and children. Worry over those. Let the rest of them fall where they may.

My other wise friend Alegra said, and I am paraphrasing: “Let go of the illusion that you are always in control.”

I catch the original thought for this post in my hand. It’s no snake, not even a worm. It’s the cord I use to bind myself to these false ideas. It’s thin, and mauve-colored, its end trying to dance on the breeze. I’m just waiting on a strong wind.

The Thousand Things

In General, Mothers and Writing on June 2, 2011 at 3:52 am

On the phone with a writing client today I say, “It’s a crazy week,” and he laughs knowingly.

“It’s always a crazy week,” he says. I can’t read his tone. Is he chastising me?  It does seem that I say this to him each week during our standing appointment. Is this his impression of the person he’s hired to “coach” him through seeing his manuscript through to publication? “It’s always crazy, for everyone,” he amends, but somehow I still feel guilty.

The day spins out like a yo-yo flung too far and gone slack. I’ve finished several critiques and a book review on time and suddenly it’s time for the one truly luxurious part of this day, of the month: a trip to get lunch and pedicures with dear friends, if only I can get out the door–already thinking ahead to the after-pampering plans. The last time I let someone pamper me like this was the morning of my wedding, nearly 12 years ago. I am not in the habit of stopping, resting. Resting is the thing I do at night, when my body crashes against the waiting cup of my bed.

The pedicure is a blur of lovely sensations–warm water on my toes, strong hands on the tender points of my soles; a massaging chair that shimmies like I am crushing a small person, making us laugh; even the act of cutting away the calluses feels good, restorative, like dead hours shaved away. And the slick red paint that I never bother to apply myself reveals ten little shiny reminders that there are feet somewhere below my head, the tiny little fort of brain matter where I am tucked away most of the day, forgetting about the hard packed earth that holds me up.

 Then there is a rushed hurry to get my son on time from daycare, a burst of arms and bared teeth as he explodes toward me the moment I enter the room, and I remember that we parted this morning in frustration with each other over limit testing and not listening. I gather his towheaded sweaty boy sweetness into my arms and kiss him all over his face, and tuck him into the car, stop by the store, make it home to begin dinner early so I can make it to an evening exercise class.

And somewhere between the fresh gleaming raspberries gathering an inedible dusting of sand from his sandbox, and the lasagne noodles boiling into a mass of glutinous rectangles I can’t do anything with, and speaking for 15 minutes to my producer at the radio station where I have been slogging through a book commentary I hope to record while my son peppers me with questions about the baby who was temporarily kidnapped yesterday, and remembering to drain the spinach I set in the sink,  rescuing my son from the top of his play structure, making sure he doesn’t have an accident on the living room floor, calling the auto mechanic who never called me back, fielding a tantrum borne of disallowing television…a big rush of air leaves my lungs and I find myself slumping to the floor of my kitchen,  broom in hand, task abandoned.

Here, the cold of the linoleum pressed against my bare calves is jarring and enlivening, a cool, hard contrast to that watery womb I soaked in earlier. I never was very good at switching channels–a child who was forced to go back and forth between her parents’ houses weekly until I was 16–I hate this zig-zagging energy of moving from one thing to another. And yet…that is how my life moves, how children move,  how a freelancer’s business moves.  But sometimes, in the spaces between the thousands of things, thousands of harmless and normal activities of a day, I feel as though I am a creature made of steel being asked to bend like rubber. I feel as though I will crack under the strain of constant shifting.

I wiggle my red painted toes. In a few minutes I’ll be stuffing them into tennies and we’ll be heading out to an exercise class, an hour of another kind of motion, one that seems to help keep my disparate parts from turning into useless jelly, gives me fortitude to keep up the bustle. 

But in this moment I don’t want to put on my shoes, or move off the floor, or do anything but listen to the sound of my son talking to his toys in his sandbox outside, even though I know in a moment I’ll have to run out there and pluck stickers from his socks, or brush sand off his snacks.

Right now, I am still. Right now, stillness is perfect.

A Great Good Place

In Musings on April 7, 2011 at 7:57 pm

One of my favorite places to bring my netbook and work when I’m tired of being the house-bound freelancer is my local independent bookstore, BookSmart. When my husband and I moved to our “new” town 5.5 years ago, knowing nobody, after six months of isolated work-from-home and no social life, I took a part-time job at Booksmart to stave off a desperate lonlieness. (In the photo, that’s me in the blue to the right, and one of the owners, Cinda, to the left in the black t-shirt and long hair).

Not only did working there assuage the hollow feeling of being temporarily friendless, I quickly saw that BookSmart was a hub for the community—a resource for teachers, a respite for tired moms who could let their wild toddlers run rampant in the toys while they combed through the recommendations; a meeting place for retired ladies and singles to have coffee; a place for teens to hang out without causing chaos; and more, of course.  It seemed so essential to the people who came on a regular basis, and myself.  Am I just a special breed of bookstore lover, shaped by a childhood in which my single father took me weekly—sometimes several times a week—to one of three bookstores in our Marin county home? I can still vividly remember the mold-and-ink smell of the used bookstore, BookSmith, in San Anselmo, can still orient myself to the far left corner, up one brown-carpet covered step and to the right of the bathroom, where he stocked the hard-cover Nancy Drew mysteries I was allowed to purchase.  Do I just have a special place in my heart for these shops?

Then I think back on a big topic of conversation floating around in my liberal arts major back in college in the 90s, that of a “third place”—neither work nor home—where people can go, in fact NEED to go to fulfill other social and personal needs; “anchors” of community life  that “facilitate and foster broader, more creative interaction…” as posited by Ray Oldenberg in his book The Great Good Place.   Independent bookstores—notorious for being peopled with eccentric, down-to-earth folks and funky little cafes—are classic third places that fulfill a need, one that is enhanced by the presence of all that knowledge, stored between paper covers, hovering just in arm’s reach.

As accepting as I am about the inevitability of digital publishing, of the slimming reality of print books, I have to admit that if the rise of digital publishing signals the end of my most favorite third place, it will be with great mourning.

What’s your favorite third place?

Abandon the Bloodless Pursuit…

In Musings, Publishing on March 23, 2011 at 3:41 pm

 Here’s a question you don’t hear asked often in today’s writing/publishing climate: What if the only end result of writing was to tell a wonderful story to an audience? And what if that “audience” was as small as a circle of a dozen friends, or a social group, or a family gathering? Would you still write?

I ask myself this question more and more as I watch the illusion of a “big payout” in the publishing world glimmer as though in a distant galaxy, winking in and out of clarity. Big Name Writers are walking away from Big Money at Big Publishers to sell directly to the people, and,  thanks to the rise of the e-reader, the little people are publishing themselves. (Hopefully, everyone engaging in an act of publication is taking great care to hone their words, to *care* about what they write, too. Because it matters, even if it’s only a circle of 12–more on that soon).

And while the little girl in me who dreamed of being her generation’s Louisa May Alcott has a few moments of disappointment or sorrow at this collapse of the old model, more and more now I’m feeling excited. Why? Because I see it as an opportunity for writers to get back in touch with what really matters about writing: Writing as a Path, with a capital P, and also a Practice. Not writing to get rich, or writing to become famous, but writing to apprentice oneself to a meaningful craft because it expands one’s own heart, soul an sense of purpose in the world.

Don’t get me wrong, I think writers should be well-paid for their art, just as I think teachers and healers and others of that ilk should be. Every time I meet a writer who lives on the fruits of his or her labor, I thrill inside that there is another one!  But it has taken me a long time to realize that the writing has to give as much to the writer as it does to the reader, and that soulless, bloodless pursuit of publication probably does more harm than good.

And not to empty a cache of easy cliches, but I believe Joseph Campbell’s statement that if you “follow your bliss” the doors open, the money flows, and more importantly, happiness.

What would it be like if you wrote because it made you feel worthy, bigger, and joyful?

The New Gatekeeper is You

In Craft on March 21, 2011 at 11:23 pm

It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged and at first I thought it was just overwhelm, but then I realized, I can’t talk about writing in the same way I once did. There are two reasons: the first is motherhood, which has so profoundly changed my writing practice and my life these nearly three years, but even more so as my son becomes ever more a person with more complex needs. Second, the resculpting of the publishing industry, which seems to be putting more power (and more responsibility) in writers’ hands, has caused me to feel like I am a biologist witnessing the evolution of a species I thought I knew intricately. Certainty is giving way to curiosity andd doubt.

What I do know are making their truths more evident every day and they finally feel worthy of a blog post

First–craft is crucial. We should always be striving to write as though there are gatekeepers to success. Those gatekepers may increasingly become fewer publishers/agents and more individual readers we find and reach on our own, but they will remain. This means that self-publishing even more than ever will be challenged to never  become the route of: “I don’t have to work as hard.” You’re writing to say something, to entertains and awaken, enrich or share, after all. In fact, with no mighty engine of publisher behind you, you may in fact, have to work harder than ever. And why wouldn’t you want to?  This brings me to point two:

Second: writing has to count for something greater than becoming a name or finding a platform, even making a living, worthy a livelihood as it may be. For me, in this new life as a mother, where my time to write wars with my time to earn money, all of which pales in comparison to the need to give my child what he deserves, my writing has to contribute to the quality of my being, to my sanity, happiness, and spiritual fulfillment. Otherwise it’s just another thing to check off a list, another thing that I am turning away from my family to do.

Perhaps what I am saying is no different from what else is being said across the blogosphere, but it is suddenly, urgently important to me. We must hone our craft, not just because money or audience or fame is at stake, but as a practice, a refuge, a betterment of ourselves, just as you would carefully build a house or a chair or make a meal out of practicality and love.

So whether you wait for the iron gates of existing publishing to open from your efforts, or you forge your own path, keep the deepest parts of yourself in mind, your heart, your soul, and the people who look to you.

Make yourself proud.


“We should write because…writing claims our world. It makes it directly and specifically our own. We should write because humans are spiritual beings and writing is a powerful form of prayer and meditation, connecting us both to our own insights and to a higher and deeper level of inner guidance as well.

We should write because writing brings clarity and passion to the act of living. Writing is sensual, experiential, grounding. We should write because writing yields us a body of work, a felt path through the world we live in.”

–Julia Cameron, the Right to Write

Sage Cohen Uses Both Sides of Her Brain: So Can You

In Business of Writing, Craft, Interviews, Profiles on January 17, 2011 at 7:40 pm

 Sage Cohen first slipped quietly onto my radar via Christina Katz, (whom many of you know as Writer Mama). I quickly friended Sage on Facebook and watched in awe at her productivity and grace, all the while becoming a new mother. She continues to inspire me with the publication of her third book: The Productive Writer, which speaks to both the artist and the business person in every writer. Join me for a Q and A with her now about learning to place as much importance on process vs. results, using both sides of your brain, structuring your time wisely, and much more.

JR: What inspired you to write/create The Productive Writer?

 SC: My first book, Writing the Life Poetic, was published by Writer’s Digest Books. When I learned that another editor at WDB wanted to publish a book focused on organization for writers, I pitched it and they bought it. As we got under way, the topic fanned out a bit and morphed from “organization” to “productivity.” It’s been a really fun and relevant topic for me, and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to share my ideas with readers.

JR: One of the things I love best about your book is that it couples strong work ethics with what you might call more “artist-friendly” concepts like building a writer’s “blueprint” and “embracing fear.”  How does this blend of right and left brain help writers be more productive?

SC: In my experience, the best strategies and tools are not effective when layered on top of the shaky foundation of bad habits and attitudes. So, my goal is to help people create the writing lives they want by first understanding who they are, how they think and work and vision and plan best, and then engaging these strengths to get the results they want.

 I invite readers to answer questions such as: What motivates me? What do I most want to accomplish? How much time do I have and how do I intend to use it? What do I want to produce? How do I define productivity in my writing life? What did I just do that worked, and what strategies do I want to reinvent?

 Once the reader has a clear picture of her own writing goals and work style, she can choose and use the tools and techniques that are best suited to her. I also offer a range of strategies for identifying and managing resistance along the way—such that even procrastination and fear can be channeled productively.

 JR: In Chapter 16 you discuss the importance of not always relying on external validation. What are some first steps a writer can take to start validating herself even in the face of rejection or not yet achieving publishing goals?

 SC: I think the absolute most important thing is to stay focused on and committed to your love for your work. If you’re writing because you have to—because you’re called to—then what So-And-So thinks about your final product is going to be far less relevant than that YES feeling you get when you’re engaged with your craft. This clarity of commitment is a safe harbor a writer can always return to.

 The other choice a writer can make again and again throughout his career is to focus on and appreciate her process, rather than her results. For instance, if I’m striving to have poems published in a certain publication, when I drop that envelope in the mail, I celebrate the fact that I got three poems written and polished, sealed, and sent according to specs and in time for the deadline. In short, I appreciate myself for doing everything I could to move toward that goal. The rest is out of my hands.

 Along these lines of process (versus results) thinking, I look at every rejection not as an end point of failure but an opportunity to try something new that might work better. And I invite readers to do the same, because there’s always a seed of opportunity in every so-called “failure.” In chapter 20, I share “My Writing Success Log” that’s designed to help writers track what’s working, what could work better, and what they intend for the future. Having a written record of your determination to succeed is a powerful way to stay motivated and grateful for all of your hard work.

 JR: You say in Ch. 6 “Consciousness is the first step toward change.” Tell us how this applies to writing.

 When we know what we’re doing well––or poorly––we then have an opportunity to either repeat what’s working or start experimenting with alternatives to attitudes or behaviors that are not accomplishing what we had hoped.

 For example, let’s say a writer starts using the daily time log that I recommend for a few weeks. He discovers that it typically takes him about an hour to write 1,000 words of rough-draft fiction. He sees also that he spends at least three hours a week on Facebook. He is surprised to see both how much time he was wasting online and how quickly he was able to get words down on the page. He decides to cut his time online down to one hour/week and commit to writing 2,000 more words every week. He continues to track his time and his results, fine-tuning his process and goals from there. 

 JR: I think your publishing story is a very inspiring one, as you are a poet first, and it might not seem intuitive that you would go on to publish writing books…was it a surprise to you as well?

 SC: You bring up a very interesting issue of identity here. It is true that I have identified as a poet first and foremost, and then as a writer of other genres later. Yet, fiction and essays, strategic content and thesis-driven papers have all shaped who I am as a writer. My major in college was comparative literature, and I have been writing marketing communications and advertising content professionally my entire adult life. 

In a way, the unfolding of each of my identities as a writer has been surprising––because writing has always been so intimately entwined with whom I am. Realizing that I was “a poet” in my early 20’s nearly knocked me off of my chair. And each succeeding revelation about the various writing realms I have named and claimed has been equally stunning.

I always expected that I would write books, but didn’t have a clear picture of the trajectory for doing so. In the movie The Secret, Jack Canfield explains that he drove in the dark all the way from California to New York, seeing with his headlights only 200 feet ahead of him at a time. This is how it was for me in arriving at the doorstep of authoring books. I got clear about my destination, took small and consistent steps in that direction, and was surprised to find myself clear across the country in no time at all.

 JR: Tell us something that you learned in the writing of this book that was unexpected…or anything else you’d like to say that I haven’t asked.

 SC: I learned that it isn’t necessarily any easier to write a second book than it is to write the first! For me, it was like first training a Labrador retriever and thinking, “I have the hang of this master-of-the-pack attitude.” Then you get a German shepherd puppy, and you find that none of your training accomplishments translate to this new relationship. Instead, you have to start at ground zero to adapt yourself to this dog’s herding instincts, hair-trigger fear of just about everything and hard-coding to chase cats and squirrels. I was reminded that in any writing project, we are always a beginner finding our way in new terrain, no matter how many days or years or decades we have been sitting down to the blank page.


About Sage Cohen

Sage Cohen is the author of The Productive Writer (just released from Writer’s Digest Books); Writing the Life Poetic and the poetry collection Like the Heart, the World. She blogs about all that is possible in the writing life at, where you can: Download a FREE “Productivity Power Tools” workbook companion to The Productive Writer. Get the FREE, 10-week email series, “10 Ways to Boost Writing Productivity” when you sign up to receive email updates. Sign up for the FREE, Writing the Life Poetic e-zine. Plus, check out the events page for the latest free teleclasses, scholarships and more.

How to Talk Yourself Off The Ledge of Creative Despair

In Craft, Musings on January 15, 2011 at 9:12 pm

I’m standing up on a ledge that barely has enough room for my feet. Every micro-inch of movement kicks grains of pebbles down into a roaring abyss of traffic and noise. I got myself up here, but how will I get down? People I trust and love are standing just outside my line of sight, promising me that it will all be okay if I only listen, take their hands and trust, but I am frozen in place, with terror. What if I don’t make it?

This is the metaphor for the place I get to in my darkest moments of doubt about my writing. The ledge. Different things can send me up there: sometimes it’s feedback I’ve heard a thousand times hitting the “I don’t want to!” temper tantrum place inside me. Sometimes it’s missing the precious blank morning hours of solitude that I had to write in before my son was born. Sometimes it’s the latest news about the publishing industry, or the feeling that the “destination” I’m aiming at with my writing is just so damn far away and that I don’t have the stamina to get there. And every time it comes with the same thought: I am a fraud. Who am I to teach others about writing when I can’t even do it myself? Am I doomed to be the one who sees what must be done, but never the one to do it?

Thankfully, I can tell you the answer is no. When I was up on the ledge most recently, the wind chilling my face, the exhaust burning acrid in my throat, I wasn’t so sure either, but I got down. Here is my recipe for taking yourself down off the ledge when you think you might not otherwise make it:

1. Write it Out: The only way I make any headway is to first discover what I am going through. The only way I know how to do this, is to write about it. Journal, stream of consciousness, morning pages–whatever method you have that works for you, make sure you know what it is. You might think it’s one thing: you received a rejection, let’s say. When, upon writing, you discover it’s that you were rejected by a publication you didn’t really want to be published in…or in my case, I went to the place of: “I am just mediocre,” only to realize what it was really about was: “I don’t have the luxury of time I once had in which to work as hard as I know I have to work.” (ironically this is the very theme about which I want to be writing, balancing work and art, motherhood and writing…)

2. Feel it. Before you move on to step three, I find that if you can just give yourself a tiny bit of alone time to feel the grief or frustration, rage or disappointment, you will be on a much faster track to getting rid of it.

3. Talk it Out: After I know what’s troubling me, I have found that this artist’s despair gets lodged in the body, tugging down the emotions and the attitude with it, and that I must almost literally extract it from my physical person. The way I do this best is to talk about it, let it be witnessed, shine the light of other people’s wisdom, gentleness and kindness on it, purge it from me.

4. Walk it Off: After you get a witness to your pain, someone who can simply validate what you’re going through and offer gentleness, nothing like a good old fashioned walk, or yoga hour, or any kind of exercise…this will further help you to extract it from your body, where it leads to illness and fatigue and eating bad things.

5. Educate Yourself: So often I get stuck in know-it-all mode. Because I teach writing and write about writing, I must know all there is to know, and therefore be a failure when I can’t do it myself. That’s when it’s time to take a class. I signed up for a class I’ve wanted to take for ages, finally giving it to myself. Or, if you find yourself in the opposite situation, where you feel like you don’t know anything, sometimes the best thing you can do is pick a focus, just one thing to work on, and take a class, go to a lecture, a writing conference, or even just pick up a book, rather than trying to take on the whole thing at once.

6. Back on the Horse: Finally, the only way you’ll make any forward progress, is to come back to the painful source and start again. Whether it’s revisiting feedback on a piece, starting something fresh, switching projects, if you don’t come back, you are, in essence, stuck on the ledge, with the night bearing down, cold and lonely upon you. And that’s just no fun at all.

A Year of Spaciousness

In General, Musings on January 3, 2011 at 5:02 am

 I will not begin the New Year with an apology for my lack of posting. Instead I will begin it with a sense of gratitude that my life is so full, and yes, occasionally overly-full such that I can’t even take the time to post a blog.

My writing partner and friend, Becca Lawton, and I are declaring 2011 the Year of Spaciousness. I suppose this might conjure running along vast open spaces like beaches or wild meadows–and it certainly can. But to us it means setting up our lives to be able to include all the important things, without pushing those things to the wayside, or letting stress and overwhelm rule the day. We want our lives to be big, billowing with creativity, family time, various regimens of health and writing and socializing that feed us. 

To make a spacious life means to decide what is important and what can wait. To ask, at the end of my life, will I say “I wish I’d done more of x…” Or hopefully: “I’m so glad I made time for”…making shadow puppets and playdough sculptures with my son; staring into my husband’s eyes over coffee or lunch, just the two of us; writing in messy, wild bursts, and then burnishing those words to a powerful, potent gleam; testing the edges of the amazing vessel of a body we’re all given, seeing how strong and fit I can make it; spending time with people who make me laugh and nod, and feel so far from alone.

So in my year of spaciousness I intend not to care a whole lot about bottom lines and the desolate predictions of the publishing industry. I will work hard, but not so hard I neglect my family or my health. I will joyfully tend to my writing with care and craft, and I will choose events and people that are the real life equivalent of an wide, open, inviting shoreline crashing up against a vast and powerful ocean.

Will you join me?