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A Love Letter from a Story

happieroutsideThe following letter was told to me by one of my characters – Evan, from Intertwined, a fantasy story about magic, defeating the old ways, and realizing that other cultures have the same heart.

Dialoguing with my characters is a technique I use to get to the center of my characters, or ask them to open up to me about what a certain problem is or figure out why they’re quiet. This particular instance resulted in him directing his thoughts towards me, and knowing I needed his reassurance that day. These characters of mine are why I keep writing. I can’t ever let them down.

Evan writes:

Hey gorgeous. I see the confusion in your eyes. You’re pulled in so many directions. You want to make everyone happy. You’re worried about security. You’re worried about making the wrong choices.

While your internal turmoil is twisting you into knots, might I just add that you should choose us? Your characters. Your stories. Here’s why – we’ll never let you down. You will never lack for worlds to create or plots to construct or relationships to cultivate.

Sure you could just continue reading others’ works and find some level of happiness. They won’t be the stories you need to write. They won’t be written with your voice. They won’t have your heart and soul entwined in them.

That’s why we love you. That’s why we show up when you ask it of us. That’s why we let you destroy our lives, our families, our relationships, so you can put us back together in a way only you can construct.

So while you’re making those grand choices and plans to secure your future, bank on us. We exist because of you, and we won’t ever let you down. We will love you through it all, and are so ready to come alive to your readers.

So choose us. We’re worth it.
Love, Evan

With communications like that, how could I ever not believe it?

Image snagged from my friends at Happier Outside.

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Camp NaNoWriMo Winner

2014-Winner-Vertical-BannerIt’s official – I successfully completed my goal of 10,000 words on my work in progress, The Fifth Anchor, since July 1st. This brings the total word count over 25,000.

While this may not seem like a lot to some writers, it gave me a huge boost of oomph on my story and the drive to complete it. That right there is worth its weight in gold. Or books, rather.

I think there is another 10,000 – 15,000 words on this story. I’m hoping to wrap up a first draft in another month. That’s the great thing that Camp NaNo helped me with – consistency. I’m going to continue on the pace that I started in July until this story is finished. Luckily I have another fellow camp buddy to keep me accountable.

Write on, dear ones. The story will only finish if you make it happen. I’ll keep the candle lit for you.

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Truth speaks in whispers of time

Maybe I’ve been away from my journal too long.

Those random, dark, annoying thoughts crowding my head are now turning the conduits sour. Cutting circulation. Making me wonder why I picked up a pen in the first place. Sliding a sharp knife between the ribs that isn’t felt until it’s in to the hilt. This isn’t limb severing. It’s core damage. It’s cheek muscles hurting from holding back tears. It’s feeling your rib cage shudder from silent sobbing. It’s past any comfort point.

Tear my heart out of my chest as it still beats and slice through the ties. It might feel better then. At least the hurt would ease.

Nothing goes deep enough, dark enough, true enough.

Truth only speaks in the whispers of time.

Country Romantic Fabric Quilted Tote Bag

Find the Joy

JoyAn online buddy of mine posted recently about his decision to quit fiction writing. He was depressed and miserable trying to push though the struggle to force words out. Of course people came out of the woodwork to tell him to stick with it, that it will get better, that he should try a, b, or c. What he has figured out though, is that if something is causing you heartache and misery, even if you love it, then it’s time to let go. It’s not right at this point in his life.

This has nudged me to look at much of my life and some of the same struggles I’ve been facing lately. Many of the areas of my life which I love completely, have been more challenging than they should be. I’m tired of being drained by the things that should be building me up instead. I’m not going to give up what I love, but I’m realizing it’s time to revamp my approach. Find a new rhythm, a new dance. Find the joy.

Horses

Anyone who knows me realizes I’ve loved these animals since I was young. I walk into a barn and it feels like home. I love the soft noses that nuzzle and the sweet gaze that follows me around. However, after being thrown, leasing horses that weren’t right for me, riding with folks that have different focuses and styles than I do, never regaining my confidence and not having the right fit for instruction and philosophy for me, I’m rethinking my approach. I appreciate everyone that I’ve worked with and those that have helped me along the way.

I need to keep seeking the right approach/fit/style that works for me. Currently that means taking a break and easing back into the horse world slowly. Not trying so hard. Finding the enjoyment of just being with these magnificent animals. Putting aside goals, even the one to have my own horse, until I’ve found the joy again. Letting a natural fit happen instead of trying to force it.

Crafts

Ah, yes. Another love. I have made everything from art quilt wallhangings to full sized bed quilts to wedding gowns, creatures and bags and costumes. If it’s fabric, I generally can figure out what to do with it. I also love paper crafts and have dabbled in crochet.

It was natural to try and turn those creative ventures into businesses. I did for a while, first doing the craft show circuit for a couple of years, then an Etsy business online. Although I learned a lot from both, and had fun, they were failures. Why? Lack of business experience/knowledge notwithstanding, the bottom line is that I hate production work. I prefer to work on one of a kind pieces that I can really get into. Plus working full time really puts a crunch on the preparation time needed for shows. So, I shut the businesses down, and besides the immense relief at not trying to prepare for craft shows or produce inventory for an online store, asked – now what?

Now what, indeed. I’m trying to learn how to create just for myself without thinking of sending the piece somewhere or needing to make multiple for sale. It’s harder than I thought it would be. I’m trying to finish some of the projects that were set aside in favor of production. I’m finding I love creating for friends, family, and exchanging work with other artists.

Writing

This is the hardest for me to talk about. From the second grade, I knew I wanted to be a writer. Growing up and into college, I took workshops and classes. Wrote poetry and short stories. Alternated between hearing that I was a brilliant writer, or I sucked. Listened to those stupid, annoying, and wrong people that said I sucked, and didn’t write for ten years. The stories wouldn’t let me go though, and with a nudge from my best friend – ok, actually a push – I jumped back into the world of stories.

I’ll admit that I haven’t finished any of them yet. There are eight total, all carrying varying degrees of weight around in my head and heart. I realize part of it is still dealing with my friend’s passing, as she was a constant catalyst for forward motion. And my beta reader. And the one I gave my work to first with complete trust. Finding that inspiration to write again is challenging.

The other aspect to all is the desire to fulfill my dream of becoming a full time writer. I’m realizing that all it’s doing is putting pressure on my stories – are they clever enough? Am I showing, not telling? Are the characters real and developed? Do the plots zing? Is there enough humor in the writing? And on, and on, and on. It’s enough to drive a writer mad and stop the creative flow. Performance anxiety, or something of that nature.

The only way to stop the pressure it to dissolve the dream. Take away the parameters, and the cage, that my writing is surrounded by. Decide not to care if I ever publish anything or if anyone besides me reads my work. Let it go. Does that seem counter intuitive? Perhaps, but it is the only thing that makes sense. I’ve tried everything else. I’ve listened to advice, followed it, tried other ideas, discarded them. The only thing left is to just let go.

It’s actually a freeing thought rather than a disappointment. My terms for creativity is that there are none. I’m not giving up creativity – it’s a part of my very essence. To be clear:

  • I am a horsewoman
  • I am a crafter
  • I am a writer

Just on my terms, and without the pressure. I am joy.

 

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Lighthouse Beacon

ID-100107989I’ve finally found a perspective for my writing and my blog to help me focus away from writing with others in mind and writing for myself first. Which all ties into authenticity, and the truth within the words. When I write for myself, the thoughts ring clear and true. When I write with others in mind – their opinions, feelings, considerations – I don’t write much, if at all.

In wondering how to combat the constant battle, which leads to stagnation and avoidance of showing up and putting my thoughts on paper, an image came to me. The lighthouse, with its guiding beacon.

Light emanating from the lighthouse lamps does two main things, guides and warns. Well, instead of warns, reveals might be a better term, for without that illumination, the ship’s crew may know the danger is there, but not how to avoid it.

The lighthouse exists as a vessel for a light to shine forth. Whether the ships decide to sail into port or move past makes no difference to the lighthouse. From its position on the coastline, the lighthouse sends out its message to the sea, cutting through fog and storms. Providing a haven for those that need it. Just existing.

That is what my writing is. The words that flow no matter the weather, no matter the reaction from others, no matter if the readers bypass my blog or my story for the next one. It is a constant beacon for the weary travelers that need my particular light. A place to welcome them and exchange stories. Or perhaps just highlighting the dangers to a ship that keeps sailing in the night.

Whatever the case or the reason for writing, the point I’ve learned is that I can’t stop. My words, my stories, need to be out in the world whether they are accepted or recognized. It doesn’t matter. All I need to do is continue being the constant, just as the lighthouse is. The ships that need my light will find me, even if they are just passing through.

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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A Snail’s Pace Forward

ID-1006129I’ve made some changes in my life. Small ones, because I can’t handle anything else. When I try to make large, sweeping changes in my life I set myself up for failure from being overwhelmed. Instead of trying to take large leaps and be disappointed, I am dancing in baby steps.

Yoga
I’ve added a yoga practice into my morning routine. Now, this is not some grand practice where I stand on my head or twist myself into a pretzel. No where close to that image. This is simply showing up at the yoga mat in my loft and doing some stretches. If I’m so inclined, add a few poses or flows. If I’m too tired or just out of it, I sit there, and breathe.

Journal Writing
Many times in my life I have thought about keeping a journal and started one, only to have it fizzle out within a couple of days. Oh I’d write in it periodically, especially when I was angry or frustrated or depressed. So what changed this time? I write in my journal directly after yoga, after the energy has moved through my body and my mind and heart are open. As with the yoga practice, I just show up. For the days where I have little to say, or basically nothing, I write a phrase that seems to be my current theme.

All I need is within.

Breathe
Breathe

Instead of trying to look outside myself and find the latest self help book or guru to lead me in a new direction, I’m looking within for the answers. I’m showing up to the mat. I’m opening the journal. Whatever comes out is what is supposed to be. No matter how little, or how crappy, it looks and I feel.

I’ve been consistent with these new habits for a month. Yes, between the two it takes about an hour every morning. Already though I’ve seen results. My back feels better. I’m moving more freely (which was even commented on in a recent exercise class). I’m pausing and taking deeper breaths and checking in with my body during the day.

The best result though? I’m working on my stories again. I’ve made more progress in the last month so far than I have in the previous six. I’m not asking for miracles with my stories or creating grandiose plans. I’m just showing up at my writing desk and working on a scene. One at a time. Solving one puzzle at a time.

There were times I thought I wouldn’t finish my stories, and that sent me into a spiral. It’s different now. There are no expectations. All I’m doing is showing up. So are they.

Once the energy in my body and the clutter from my mind cleared by doing yoga and writing in my journal, it paved the path for my stories to surface again.

That’s what has worked for me. Small changes. Baby steps. Just show up. The results may surprise you.

Snail image courtesy of Simon Howden/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Meditation image courtesy of tiverylucky/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Writing for Tanya

My beautiful friend
My beautiful friend

My heart hurts today from the loss of my friend earlier this year. Tanya’s birthday is in a couple of days. She would have turned 36. I’m just lost thinking of all the birthdays she won’t have. I want it to spur me on to accomplish many of our common goals that she won’t be able to fulfill. Being published, becoming a writer full time, continuing our warrior women and earth connection goals. I know I’ll do those things we talked so much about, but it hurts to know she won’t be by my side.

There are so many things that remind me of her. I’ll see a picture of a lake, of a dancer, of a triskele, and my mind instantly says, oh, Tanya would love that! Then I remember she’s not there. So I create a little shrine to keep her close, post images on a special For Tanya Pinterest board that remind me of her, and put one word on the page after another, slowly building my stories. I know she wants me to keep writing. I can almost feel her soft touch on my shoulder and her voice saying “don’t think, just write”! So I do.

The story I’m currently writing is about angels, and while it has turned into a paranormal fantasy, it started because of an image of Tanya following the goddess to the Summerland. I’ve been hesitating to finish it, and I think I know why now. Because I miss her, and writing that story is a way to keep her with me a little while longer. Yet, I hear her voice. Don’t think, just write! Do it! I know she’s with me all the way. So I will heed her words and finish the story, which honors her. Then I will share it with the world.

For Tanya, and for myself.

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Writing is a lonely journey

solitudeChoosing the writer’s path is never an easy one. We walk in solitary contemplation, pouring our heart and soul out onto blank pieces of paper or a computer screen and tearing out our essence from our bodies. We spend countless hours writing, crossing out words and paragraphs and pages then adding them back in. Sometimes the words flow like a river’s cascade, and other times we fight for every word. The battle scars are visible in our eyes for those that understand.

After we go through this trial another one looms. How in hell do you share your work with anyone? After all that time and effort we become momma lionesses protecting her cubs. Yet we have to hand over those children to others, sometimes strangers, for them to clean and polish. These cubs have to transform from awkward cubs to muscled and sleek lions that can hunt and lead. I’m pushing the metaphor a bit, but go with the spirit of it.

Finding the right beta readers for your work can be tough. There’s the question of genre, style, critique method, and just plain finding out if you like and trust someone enough to hand the raw draft to. I’ve been “interviewing” potential readers lately, trying to find those that I connect with. I am fortunate that I may have found a couple that are the best fit for my work.

Although writing is a lonely journey, we do not have to be alone in our struggles as writers. I’ve been finding a community on various social media sites, and I was astonished to find groups of other writers who welcome and freely share advice. To see everyone jumping in to help promote each other and answer questions about the writing process helped me ease the worry in my mind. I now have people I can reach out to and learn from, and even share my raw work with. That’s the power of writers when they come together as a community, despite being separated by miles and even oceans.

So to those I have met along the way and have yet to meet, thank you. I appreciate your thoughtfulness and your humor along the winding paths we follow.

In light, Autumn

Image courtesy of Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Where Magic Happens

Where the magic happens
Where the magic happens
A while back, my life coach (the amazing Lael Couper Jepson from SheChanges), and I were talking about space and its relation to my writing. I kept reiterating about wanting to write and publish my stories for the longest time. She gently nudged me to realize that unless I created the space and the time, it wasn’t going to happen. My stories were not a priority until I created that intention and honored my characters by giving them a place to exist. A place that wasn’t crowded with crafts or bills or horse magazines or random kitsch. Just my stories.

I thought I’d share the results of that introspection. I now have a comfortable and organized place that I write daily, filled with inspiration and reminders on how to weave the magic into my story lines.

For those burning desires in your heart – have you created the space and time necessary to make them a reality? It makes a difference.

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Freedom and Structure

By the FirePerusing through the She Writes network the other day, I came across this most excellent post, Driving a Car at Night; Do you Outline, or Not?, by Kamy Wicoff.

Seriously, go read it. Especially the comments. I’ll wait right here for you.

Welcome back. The reason I wanted you to read Kamy’s post is that I’ve been struggling with the exact same issues lately. Process. Expectations of process. Ultimately why my expectations have been holding me back.

I grew up outlining in all my creative writing classes. I love outlines. I rock at writing essays because I can set up my structure ahead of time, gather all the information and support I need, then bang out my essay. Simple, easy, done.

Then I started writing fiction, fantasy, primarily. I ran into a brick wall in the form of my characters. It’s taken me quite a while to realize that every time I tried to outline my story or follow any sort of regulated process, my characters would throw up their hands and walk away shaking their heads. “She doesn’t get it.” I heard that from them multiple times.

Finally I started listening. I hear them. They don’t like structure. I do. How do I reconcile the two opposite poles? The answer I’ve come up with is…I don’t. I have to first give up my expectations, my process, my ideals, and let my characters have full control. I am merely a vessel for them to speak through. I’m doing this with my current story. I have envisioned a fireside chat with all the main players in the room. A cold, snowy evening with a fire in the fireplace, hot cocoa or something stronger for everyone, and my characters in various comfy chairs or on the soft rugs. All I’m supposed to do is write the stories that they tell, capture their gestures, the dynamics between them, and hear what they don’t say. What they don’t want me to know yet. It’s my job to be still, listen, observe, and write. Suddenly the words start to flow.

When I’ve finished writing all that they need me to know, however, you can be sure as hell that I’m outlining to ensure that I have all bases covered, that the holes are filled, and that the plot has been threaded successfully. In the end, both my characters and I get what we want. Freedom, and structure. They can coexist.