Jun 142017
 


It took me a long time to become willing to be part of a writers’ group. Frankly, I’d heard some fairly awful things about them. I had heard such groups could be competitive and repetitive. That some groups were more in love with the idea of writing than getting anything done and that those meetings sounded more like a roomful of angsty teens than a bunch of grown-up word nerds trying to help one another improve.

A bunch of grown-up word nerds trying to help one another improve... Click To Tweet

Whenever I’m trying to get better at something, I seek out people who are striving to improve a similar skill set or someone who is far more accomplished and willing to share expertise. And, while I always hope to find people with a passion for improvement and excellence, I loathe the expression “like-minded.” When I’m trying to learn new skills, or I’ve backed myself into a corner, I can be impatient or hard on myself. I don’t want or need a mind like mine. I need fresh eyes, different experiences, humor, and compassion. I need my very own word nerds. The ones who love me and have got my back.

I made some false starts before finding my group. I attended some critiques that bordered on mean and others that appear to have been fueled by lollipops and rainbows. I’ve been asked questions by (usually male) newbies who proceeded to argue and mansplain my answers away or treated like a kindergartener by a facilitator. And there were groups that didn’t recognize my genre and people who believe that “real” writers limit themselves to longhand, legal pads and lead.

Do real writers limit themselves to longhand, legal pads and lead? Click To Tweet

A year or so ago, a mentor of mine questioned me about my efforts to find a writers’ group. His experience had been wonderful and, not only did he want to understand my tenderness around the topic, he also wanted me to experience the growth that can come from participating in a good group.

I decided to pursue a new genre and joined a group as the member with the least experience with that sort of work. After attending a few meetings, they asked me to read. To my amazement, they listened attentively, respected my boundaries about the kind of feedback I wanted and encouraged me to keep going.

Today’s meeting was inconvenient. I hadn’t read the facilitator’s materials or found a segment of my work to bring for critique. Early this morning, I did a public presentation on an unrelated topic.  My husband is hours away from some big, disruptive travel, and my son’s home decided to develop “issues” while he is somewhere at the other end of the country. I was hungry, over-tired, unprepared, it was raining again… and I was shocked. I couldn’t wait to get there.

As it turns out, everyone who showed up was in the same boat for different reasons: grant deadlines without cooperation from grantees, house construction delays, family member illnesses, returned-to-the nest adult children. Stuff.

So we tossed the agenda and talked about our stuff. Then we talked about some new and exciting projects. And awards we had applied for and conferences we were attending. And, eventually, after having each experienced one? We talked about character arc. And we laughed.

 June 14, 2017  Posted by  E, Happiness, Writing and Reading 11 Responses »
May 312017
 

Dog sleeping on meditation cushion in front of buddha

What does it mean to live an inspired life? It’s a phrase that can bring to mind images of artists, monastics, and martyrs. It also makes me think of sweeping the floor and tending my weeds.

I think the phrase got stuck in my head the other day when one of my friends referred to another as an inspiration. Word nerd that I am, I was intrigued; my friend the inspiration has a breathing disorder and one of the definitions of “inspire” is “to breathe in.”

What does it mean to live an inspired life? Click To Tweet

purple coffee cup in woman's hands

Spending time with other writers and artists, I hear a lot of talk about “inspiration.” Sometimes it sounds magical and mystical; it can seem impossible to achieve. We can sound like we’re sitting around waiting to be hit by the inspiration stick. I don’t think I’m alone when I say my ability to produce quality work ebbs and flows. I’m not always happy enough with what I’m writing to share it with you — even here. I think that has more to do with my personal standards than a lack of inspiration.

I don't want to sit around waiting to be hit by the inspiration stick! Click To Tweet

“Breathe in. Soften. Go a little deeper.” I’m new to yoga and fascinated by the various instructors’ descriptions of breath… the ways they coach us to be aware of it. Maybe that’s what has me thinking about inspired life.

the words namaste yall against a starry sky

My husband goes on silent meditation retreats. Some of my friends paint. I write. And occasionally try my hand at other forms of art: redacted poetry, multi-media painting, landscape design. It all feels connected.

I also just finished reading Painting Life by my friend Carol Walsh. It’s a memoir about balancing her life as an artist and her life as a therapist. And about the endless process of reinventing the self. Sometimes I wish I had known more about self-care and reinvention when I was a young advocate but, eventually, I learned to embrace both. Maybe there is no “wrong.” Maybe there’s only “next.”

What if the fact we have breath means we are inspired? Click To Tweet

What if inspiration only meant “breath?” What if the fact that we have breath means we are inspired? What if it’s all really that simple? How do we best use that precious gift?

 

 

 

 May 31, 2017  Posted by  E, Fun & Inspiration, Self care, Thinking 5 Responses »
Apr 142017
 

Once upon a time, I got frustrated with waiting too long and paying too much… so I figured out how to build my own website. And, while I can’t always make it do exactly what I want it to? Most days I come pretty close.

Once upon a time, I got frustrated with waiting too long and paying too much... Click To Tweet

The other day I got to help a fellow author launch his blog and, through more trial and error than I had hoped for, we got it up and running. Apparently, if I’m going to remember how to do these things, I’m going to have to use some of the skills more often.

The other thing that complicates this particular learning curve? App developers keep making things better and, generally speaking, this is a good thing… except when I only know one way to do something and the ability to update it has expired. Pfft.

This point was driven home earlier this week when I realized that only my old parenting posts were working their way over to my Facebook page. I guess that’s OK… but I’ve been writing about other topics and wanted to share those posts, too.

Long story short? Evidently, it worked. So, instead of the usual “test post” I decided to celebrate with a picture taken at our former home in New Hampshire. I’m not sure my friend Nancy believed me when I told her we used to live “smack in the middle of nowhere.”

I decided to celebrate with a photo taken from our former home... smack in the middle of nowhere! Click To Tweet

Please enjoy a post celebrating the serenity I feel every time something technical goes well. And providing photographic evidence for my friend the meticulous researcher and award-winning author? That’s just a bonus.

 April 14, 2017  Posted by  Fun & Inspiration, Social Media No Responses »
Apr 122017
 

 

What do relocation to a new climate, a chronic health issue, and a lifestyle change have in common? They are a few of the things that ganged up on me to create chaos in my closet.

For a while, I ignored the fact that nothing felt right: either too heavy for the intensely hot weather, or too formal for our lovely island lifestyle. I mixed and matched, tried alterations and new accessories, but no matter how hard I tried, the things in my closet didn’t match my life. Everything felt slightly “off.”

So, I decided to take the now-famous Marie Kondo approach: I took EVERYTHING out of the closet and the drawers and made a big, confused pile. I brought in the largest empty storage bin I could locate. Anything that didn’t fit? Anything I thought I “should” want? Clothing that would look better when I lose a few pounds? Items that didn’t spark joy? Gone. Into the bin. It took several hours, but I made a decision about every single piece of clothing I own.

Less sorting. Less organizing. Less ironing. Click To Tweet

I started to think about how much easier it would be to pack for our trip next weekend… and how much less time would be devoted to laundry. Less sorting. Less organizing. Less ironing.

I remembered a long-ago campaign. “Clean closets save lives.” Wow. That blast from the past was a promotion we put together when I was the director of a domestic violence program. We made an arrangement with one of the local thrift stores so donors could bring items directly to them and donate on behalf of the organization. And when clients needed clothing they went straight to that store. No more piles in the back room of the agency or of our donors’ closets. It wasn’t our biggest fundraiser, but it became one of our most consistent.

What happens when we let go of things that no longer fit? Click To Tweet

What happens when we let go of things that no longer fit?

My closet feels like a finished manuscript. Neat. Logical. There’s no more “should.” “Someday” seems to be gone, too. Also missing is “what if” as in “what if I need it?” If it’s not here, I don’t need it. And that feels good. It feels like peace and space for more of what is wonderful.

 

 April 12, 2017  Posted by  Happiness, Inner Critic 5 Responses »
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