Sunday, February 28, 2010

Creating in Community

“Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their work:
If one falls down, 

his friend can help him up. 

But pity the man who falls 

and has no one to help him up!
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. 

But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered, 

two can defend themselves. 

A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
-The Bible (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

What a success your ideas on motivation were. I got more done this week on my screenplay than I have in months! Those thoughts, in conjunction with a beautiful letter from a dear friend, got me thinking about creativity and how it flourishes in community.

I find it interesting that although I often seek solitude in which to write, I would have little to write about without those who surround me, both strangers and friends. Not only are others the source of my material but they are what make my dreams so brilliant. Shared excitement over a goal or vision is dynamic. A simple plan when encouraged by another’s enthusiasm can become a vital direction in a creative journey. It just takes the courage to share those dreams and plans.

I think everyone, especially every writer, artist, singer, gardener, creator(and who is not one of those things?), feels this tension between the unique experience that is their life and their desire to share who they are with others. I am not saying that it is not terrifying to allow another to gain a glimpse of your true self. I am simply saying that it is often where the most powerful and creative material springs from.

I encourage you to take just a moment to soak in gratitude for all those who have brought creativity into your life. For me, they have come in every shape and size. We have shared our stories: face to face, via phone, over email and, most recently, on our blogs. Where would I be without them? Do you share your dreams and aspirations? I hope you will share some this week.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


It is sometimes easier for me to deal with the big emotions like fear, love and even insecurity. However, it is somewhat more difficult to approach the more mundane feelings that keep us from taking risks and doing things. The enemy of action is most often inertia. It is boredom and laziness, not "feeling like" writing, moving, or taking a risk. This ennui is the father of procrastination.
So often I know that I could make time to write or do something I love an yet I don't simply because it takes too much energy. This is not the same thing as being exhausted or burned out. It is just the lack of desire and drive.
How do you pull yourself out of these sort of ruts? Do you just do it anyway, moving forward despite the lack of excitement? Or do you wait it out, knowing that this too shall pass? What keeps you motivated? I am eager to know. I am trying to store up a cache of motivation for the days (like today) when I feel totally sapped of all creative impulse.

Monday, February 15, 2010


I think one of the first things that amazed me about my husband (though there were many) was his validation of my writing. He liked to read my poetry, my childhood stories, my random thoughts while journaling, he loved to read everything I wrote and I was amazed. Now, I'm sure that this seems like I fell victim to the first flatterer to compliment my work. But this is certainly not the case. The part of this story that reveals the depth of our love is that I showed him my writing at all.
I began writing everyday in elementary school. I wrote in a locked diary, I wrote letters, notes- I even roped my sisters into writing a family newspaper with me. I wrote like my pen was on fire. I wrote like I had to get out onto paper everything that was in my head. And that was enough. I just wanted it on paper. I didn't care if anyone ever saw it or liked it. And for the most part I did not show anyone what I wrote. At least not until it was polished or perfect, usually I had someone read it only because it had to be submitted for a grade. My writing was mine and mine alone. It was my private world to escape to when this life seemed unbearable, unbelievable or amazing. I escaped there to sort things out, to think them through with myself.
But something about my husband made me trust him. I remember when he read the first poem I wrote for him. He paused for a long moment, looked up and told me, “You are a great writer.”
He reminded me that you cannot get any better unless you show others your work. You cannot write in a vacuum. He gave me confidence and I doubt that I ever would have begun writing seriously if not for him. He taught me to trust my writing instincts and not worry about being perfect but just about being me. How can I express my gratitude for his encouragement and love?
How about you? Do you have others you can count on to appreciate your work? I would love to hear about your critics, fans and inspirations.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Midnight Calls

There is nothing more jarring than the phone ringing past midnight and before dawn. It always means something bad, always. No one every calls at 2 am to say they are getting married or having a baby. In my experience, 8 times out of 10 someone has died. The 9th time might be news of a hospitalization and perhaps once you get lucky and it’s a wrong number.
I hate the sound breaking the silence of my sleep. The ring is so clear against the cold air. My half peaceful heart, always braced for disaster, wakes up pounding, dreading the worst, constructing obituaries for various names in my head.
Two years ago, just before Christmas, it was my husband’s grandmother.
I had been sick so I stayed in bed while he took the call. His family lives across the country so I reasoned they simply forgot about the time difference. But, the odds were against me.
When he came back to bed I asked him if everything was okay. He replied, “No.”
Its such a rare response to that question that I sat up, startled. He said, “Nana just died.”
I felt sick to my stomach. I felt the suck of words draining from my vocabulary- nothing to say. Fear of losing everyone filled me. Bad news never seems to come alone. I was afraid that this loss would divide us, hopeful that it would not. I was lost in his loss. I was uncomfortable, scared and still sick. My head ached with exhaustion but I could not sleep.
The rest of the week I prayed for peace, I looked for flights and finished up the exams and papers for my graduate classes.
After the funeral, after we were back, I got my end of term work back. One of my professors had scrawled, “Writing seems a bit rushed,” atop a paper. I tossed the work aside in great anger. It’s funny how quickly sadness can turn bitter and angry. “He doesn’t have a clue about my life,” I thought. Which was true. Yet, I had no desire to open up and give him a clue. So, I kept the B. It was the first B of my graduate school career.
Grieving authentically is a skill which our culture seems to ignore. How do we do that? What is a genuine response when things are not okay? My impulse is to write...and write...and write some more- pulling all I perceive out of my pain.