Category Archives: Process

The Truth, Part Two

P.S. Yesterday when I wrote about the truth of my creative process, I left something out. Turns out it wasn’t the whole truth. I told you about the difficulty, the mess and the moodling, but didn’t to say anything about the moments that are easy. There aren’t many of these, so it’s no wonder I didn’t tell you, they are easy to forget amidst the fuss of the rest, but they are there and worth mentioning.

For example, that post, the explanation of my process was easy. I’d sat with my journal after completing the Reader’s Write piece, reflecting on the experience. I didn’t plan it as a blog post, wasn’t thinking I’d share it, was simply contemplating, figuring out what I thought, looking for meaning, working towards understanding by writing it down. It was that reflection, fully formed with only minor edits for clarity and style, that I shared with you, that I typed and published.

So I left that out, kind and gentle reader: sometimes my process is easy. I do something naturally and for myself, no resistance, no pushing or trying, it just happens–easy. Sometimes creating starts out this way, without any struggle. I am grateful for it, but I don’t hope, don’t expect it. Whether it’s difficult or easy, I do the same–show up for the process with an open heart and allow it to happen, invite and accept whatever wants to come.

The Truth

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The imagination needs moodling – long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling, and puttering. ~Brenda Ueland

My creative process isn’t tidy, and parts of it are quite painful. I have a longing, followed by an intention, but then there’s resistance to work with, obstacles to work through, a lot of moodling and outright avoidance happens before I even start, as I must eventually.

In the same way I feel stiff some mornings at the beginning of a walk or a yoga class, but eventually warm up, I start to write. At first I move to be moving even though there’s no grace in it and it might be messy and awful and not feel good. I show up and move because I must, there simply is no other option. It is just this way with writing, with making anything with my heart and my hands.

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But eventually there is a shift, a spark, a warming, and I move into a flow, I’m connected and creating. It makes sense, feels good, and there are moments of beauty and grace and truth.

This happened the other day, when I sat down to work on a submission for The Sun Magazine’s Reader’s Write feature. Each month, there is a single word, and reader’s submit a short piece of nonfiction in response, “subjects on which they’re the only authorities.” It’s on my Mondo Beyondo list to be selected for publication in this section someday, so I’m going to start submitting something every month. The word I was working with was “honesty.”

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Nothing came at first. Then I started scribbling, just to be writing something, anything, but it was all total crap, like a freshman composition essay that starts with “Webster’s Dictionary defines honesty as…” or “Since the beginning of mankind, the dawn of time, the birth of civilization, humans have struggled with the concept of honesty.” I let myself go like that, then got a little closer to something real, an acceptable collection of words but nothing special.

Another run, a fresh start using one moment from that collection, extended and connected to something else, something bigger, and it all starts to work, there is a subtle magic there which I hadn’t expected, couldn’t have planned. I had to show up when I didn’t really want to, start without a plan, keep going even though it wasn’t working, stay with it until I had moved towards the light.

There is a lot of trust involved in that. You have to remember every time starts slow and seems hopeless, trust that if you maintain your effort, stay open and in your seat, something will arise, will arrive to meet you there. You have to be willing to practice, to show up for the process with an open heart and allow it to happen, invite and accept whatever wants to come.

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Here’s what I’ll be submitting, Honesty, which ended up being a mix of something old and something new:

The way we were taught to write academic essays in grade school was so painful—consult an encyclopedia or textbook for the facts, make an outline, retell the story using your own words but don’t use “I.” I resisted writing one particular history essay in the 6th grade so completely that I didn’t even start it, which forced me into a lie.

The 6th grade is a particularly awkward and confusing time for girls everywhere. I’d started my period before any of my friends and was hiding it from them through elaborate measures, including an especially desperate shower routine after gym class. I was fairly popular, which isn’t so hard in a small town, a small school where there were less than 10 girls in your class. But I wore long sleeves to hide the tiny warts that had developed on my elbows, and a pair of Sticky Fingers painter style jeans that I put on every day because they were the most fashionable thing I had ever owned. Other kids teased me, called it my “uniform,” said my pants must be so dirty from wearing them so much that they could probably stand up on their own.

The day the history essay was due, I panicked, couldn’t admit I hadn’t done my homework—upset my parents, disappoint my teacher, shame and embarass myself. One of the things I was popular for, praised for was being smart, a good student. So I lied, said I’d finished it but lost it, tried but couldn’t find it. I claimed to have lost it in the classroom somewhere, and my teacher had the whole class help look for it. When we couldn’t find it, he gave me an extension, extra time to finish another essay.

This is the same teacher that told me later in the year, after a few creative writing assignments, “You could be a writer if you wanted to. You could be anything you want to be.” He was sitting in a bright red, child-sized chair, knees pushed up into his chest, leaning towards me with his eyes wide, gesturing his hands wildly at the future he wanted me to be able to see. He believed in my potential and encouraged me to believe also. I was desperate to believe him, to believe such a thing about myself—the girl who sweat too much, cried herself to sleep sometimes, and loved books more than anything. I had trouble internalizing his faith as my own, but I held tight to the memory, turning it over and around in my mind, watching the way the light would catch it. It seemed like the truth.

Something Good

1. I’d Do Anything to Stop This Pain by Jennifer Gresham on Everyday Bright.

2. This quote: We’re in a giant car headed toward a brick wall and everyone’s arguing over where they’re going to sit. ~David Suzuki. This is Buddhist wisdom I’ve heard before, the idea that we we’ve all bought a ticket on a ship that’s sinking, that we are boarding a plane that’s guaranteed to crash, that this is the reality of life (death), but the additional wisdom here is that even knowing this, we spend our time on the dumbest things, like worrying what to pack or complaining about the snacks.

3. Biz Ladies: Part I — Your Blog Is Your Book This is very good news indeed.

4. Ayurveda at a Glance I am working on a guest post about meditation for Niight’s blog.

5. This wisdom from Tulku Thondup

The key is to make meditation a part of your life, like part of the fabric of a tapestry. Bring an attitude of enjoyment to your meditation, that helps tremendously. Also, bring the peaceful feelings of meditation into your daily activities. That is how to begin tasting the fruits of your efforts. When the healing of mind becomes a habit, our minds become like a great river. The river may not always appear to be moving. But if we look closely enough we will see how the water is slowly, slowly making its way to the sea.

And this:

Meditation is a way of training ourselves to develop a more peaceful mind. Everyone has different capabilities and needs when it comes to this training. We don’t want to push ourselves or be too forceful, but we also want to avoid being slack or lazy. Each of us needs to develop a sense of what’s best for us.

6. Love Letter to the World: Rachel W. Cole

7. Fiona Apple recently canceled her South American tour, because her sweet dog is dying. If you’ve ever loved a dog, lost a dog, the letter she wrote in explanation will break your heart. This comforted me, “she is coming close to the time where she will stop being a dog, and start instead to be part of everything” and this wrecked me:

I wish we could also appreciate the time that lies right beside the end of time. I know that I will feel the most overwhelming knowledge of her, and of her life and of my love for her, in the last moments. I need to do my damnedest to be there for that. Because it will be the most beautiful, the most intense, the most enriching experience of life I’ve ever known. When she dies.

this boy is at my feet right now, doing his own dying–slowly but for certain, while I do my damnedest to be here for it

8. From the Daily Flame:

Why do you judge yourself when you feel tired? Why do you allow fatigue to turn into a story about how you’re not [something] enough? Have you ever thought that perhaps I speak to you through feelings of tiredness, that perhaps, you’re not hearing my whispers, telling you to slow down, and fatigue is the spell I slap on you to help you listen? If you’re tired today, what do you think I might be telling you? Listen up. I have a message for you…

And this one:

Sometimes the longings of your heart feel crazy, don’t they? You wonder how you can possibly trust desires that are so outlandish, impractical, out of control, fickle, and passion-laden. Yet what can you trust more than the stirrings of the heart? Stay there, with your heart wide open. This is where I live, not in your mind, but in the interior spaciousness of pure possibility and divine love.

9. This from Marianne Williamson: “Let there be a ceasefire in all our hearts. Let’s make peace with ourselves, our God, our past, and each other. Let’s all together declare peace on earth.” And this, “Now, in this moment, you are who you have always been and will always be. All spiritual practice — forgiveness, meditation and prayer — is for the purpose of training the mind to see through the illusions of a world that would convince you otherwise.”

10. Dear Sugar, The Rumpus Advice Column #90: 94 Ways of Saying Thank You

11. 15 Gifts You Can Give Yourself for Free from Marc and Angel Hack Life

12. This quote, by way of Lindsey on A Design So Vast:

…be comforted in the fact that the ache in your heart and the confusion in your soul means that you are still alive, still human, and still open to the beauty of the world, even though you have done nothing to deserve it. ~Paul Harding

13. Emerging Icons: Demystifying the Process from Jen Lee

14. This quote: If you want to be happy, be. ~Leo Tolstoy

15. This quote: Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind. ~ Henry James

16. This quote: Underneath it all, we are wild and we know it. ~Reggie Ray

17. This quote from Mary Gaitskill:

Writing is…. being able to take something whole and fiercely alive that exists inside you in some unknowable combination of thought, feeling, physicality, and spirit, and to then store it like a genie in tense, tiny black symbols on a calm white page. If the wrong reader comes across the words, they will remain just words. But for the right readers, your vision blooms off the page and is absorbed into their minds like smoke, where it will re-form, whole and alive, fully adapted to its new environment.

18. The Daily Routines of Famous Writers from Brain Pickings.

19. Recipes I want to try: Sweet Potato Biscuits, Apple Hand Pies, and Graham Crackers.

20. Shirley and Jenny: Two Elephants Reunited After More Than 20 Years, which I’ve seen before, but was reminded of this morning by Sas, and is why I drank tear flavored coffee.

21. Rachel Cole’s Holiday Gift Guide. I’m totally going to make some of the homemade surprise balls.

22. I may have posted this before, but it’s worth repeating: 55 gentle ways to take care of yourself when you’re busy busy busy

23. Every time I read Ken’s story, I am amazed at how similar it is to my own.

24. This sweet interview. “Joshua Littman, a 12-year-old boy with Asperger’s syndrome, interviews his mother, Sarah. Joshua’s unique questions and Sarah’s loving, unguarded answers reveal a beautiful relationship that reminds us of the best—and the most challenging—parts of being a parent.”

25. This quote from Geneen Roth:

Right here, this exact moment, is the doorway to the peace and the joy you want. No matter how much you ate in the last few days, no matter how much you did or didn’t do, can you stop your mind’s nattering? Can you, are you willing to, take in the fact that you have a body, arms, legs, eyes. That you can see, hear, touch, taste. Are you willing to break the trance of unworthiness right now?

26. PicMonkeyI love photo editing, adding quotes, and this site makes it so easy. I can’t wait to waste some serious time with this.

27. Don’t Just Create. Liberate., a great post from yogi Jonathan Fields.

28. Deck the Blog: Favorite Design Resources from Laura Simms on Scoutie Girl. This is going to be fun.

29. This quote: “When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That’s the message he is sending.” ~Thich
Nhat Hanh

30. No Shit from Whatever, Etc. Every woman who has ever cried in a dressing room, or wanted to when she looked in the mirror, or thought she would lose her mind shopping for a swimming suit or pair of jeans that fit needs to read this.