A Conscious Walk

HOlzer bookHey, Writerly Women. Before I get into today's pondering point, I just want to say how jazzed I am that conversations are taking place in the Comments section and that you're sharing what you glean from the posts. Community is happening, which is essential. Writing can be isolating. We need our fellow story-tellers to assure us we haven't, as they say in England, "gone 'round the bend." 

So ... why the book cover today? This book was written by Burghild Nina Holzer. How could she be anything BUT a writer with a marvelous name like that? ( I confess to wanting to say it with a thick German accent and lots of spitting in the process. But I digress ...) One of the things she says absolutely nails what we've been talking about here: going deeper.

The reason so many people block themselves from writing, from creating, is that they are not here. They have a head full of blueprints for the goal, they have elaborate outlines of how to get there, but they have never taken a conscious walk from their bedroom to their bathroom.   

I don't think she's just talking about the stumble there at five in the morning. The metaphor is apt. Let's unpack it.

Last time, I asked you to think about your canvas --- that one theme that everything you write authentically will add a brush stroke to. GLORIA says hers is "Everyone wants to be seen and heard." NATASHA came in with, "Everyone has a story to tell." At first glance it seems that they could write one book about that and then have to move on. But if they -- and we -- stay here with that theme, dwelling, as Emily Dickinson says, in possibility, we find that those possibilities are virtually endless. 

The key is to  stop (often) all the planning, the angsting over the market and the social media demands, the stressing when we realize halfway through our manuscript that it isn't going anywhere. In fact, before we even begin a project, we truly do need to sit with it, where we are, and be conscious.

Now, if you're like me, you can't go hang out by a lake and dwell on this until it comes to you. (I live steps from the bank of one and I can count on the fingers of one hand how many times I've done that). If you can, I am in awe of you. Most of us, though, need to go through more of a process. Let's call it the Percolating Process. Percolator
(Friend and author Tim Shoemaker calls himself a crock pot when he does this; not to be confused with crack pot. Just wanted to be clear on that.)  I don't know if you're ever seen and heard a percolator do its thing, but it's quite charming. My parents had one when I was growing up, and I loved to watch and listen to it. When it's first turned on, it doesn't do anything. Then one blurt of weak coffee will appear in that glass thingie on the top and quickly disappear. Then two in a row, and then three, and so on with increasing frequency. The blurts make a sound that I'm having a hard time describing in words (should I admit that?) It's like bloop. Bloop-bloop. Bloop-bloop-bloop. Bloop-bloop-bloop-bloop-bloop BLOOP-bloop. It was part of the soundtrack of my childhood. When the blooping stops, the coffee is done. I can still picture my father's face when he took that first sip. The man knew how to enjoy.

When we are HERE, when we're CONSCIOUS, we can -- and must -- percolate. What does that look like? For me, it's this:

    1. First bloop: the hint of an idea. For my current novel, that came from hearing a spot on NPR.

2. Second bloop: the idea keeps coming back. That NPR story wouldn't leave me alone. I had to look it up on the internet, at which point I became even more intrigued.

3. Bloop-bloop-bloop: somebody that idea can happen to starts to take shape in my mind. The mother of a murdered teenage girl. Broken by the tragedy. Just now coming back to herself when ... Thoreau 4

4. Serious blooping: journaling. I wrote about Meredith for reams of pages, and then let her write to me. 

5. Deep blooping: epiphany. I happened to do a study (unrelated) of  Mary Magdalene and somehow I knew what my Merry (Meredith) was about. As always, there was a part of her that was a part of me I hadn't admitted to myself.

6. Stillness: going deeper. I researched Transcendentalism (you'll see why if/when you read it). I talked to women whose spiritual journeys I know are genuine. I kept journaling. Slowly I knew what the story was about -- not the plot but the inner journey. Merry's and this phase of mine.

7. Time to drink the coffee: enjoying shaping the novel. As a Planner, I did the fun part (for me) -- the character analyses, the plot skeleton, the rest of the research, the trip to Concord, Massachusetts, the interviews with experts. It felt delicious to put it all together in what I call my first draft, which is a 40+ page chapter by chapter outline.

I can never get to Step 7 if I don't percolate my way through Steps 1 through 6. 

Whatever your process is, you skip the percolation at your peril. Perked coffee, drip coffee, even Keurig coffee if it's good quality (check out the Black Rifle Company for the best I've tasted) is all far superior to instant. Does anybody even drink that anymore? Even when it comes to tea, yeah, I can make it in the microwave, but waiting for the kettle to boil and hearing the steam whistle and pouring the hot water over loose leaves of Cream of Earl Grey ... THAT is a process worth going through.

So, to think about, and hopefully comment on: Are you HERE with your current project? Have you taken the CONSCIOUS WALK through your protagonist's inner journey, and your own? Give it a shot. Ponder what brush stroke it adds to your canvas.   Share that with us, will you?

Our blog friend SARAH has joined the roster for the Glen Eyrie Young Women Writers Retreat. There's still room for 7 more. Just sayin'.  Click here for infoIMG_9678

                                                                            Blessings,

                                                                            Nancy Rue         


News From Natasha

Natashs's blog Hey, Writerly Women, this just in: NATASHA has a wonderful blog. She's writing about tough, timely things in a voice we NEED out there.

Check it out , and if you can, leave her a comment. I think you'll want to.

While I have you here, you DO know about the Young Women Writers Retreat April 12-14 at Glen Eyrie Conference Center in Colorado Springs, right? If not, hie thee hence to the website and check it out. HANNAH, ESTHER, GLORIA, JENNY,  CHELSEA, KELLY, SCOTIA, CAYLENE, KATE, ABIGAIL and AMALIE are all going to be there, and there is still room for 9 more. Scholarships are available through Glen Eyrie. Crazy group without Estherr  

 

 

Seriously, who wouldn't want to be part of this action? Our theme this year is "Making Room for Your Writing" , and I have a bunch of new activities planned and fresh approaches to implement. If you need more info, just email me.  The only requirements are that you be between 18  and 39  and you want writing to be part of your life.

See you back here Wednesday?

 

Blessings,

Nancy Rue       


What's Your Canvas?

EverybodyHey, Writerly Women. Can I just say how delighted I am that our community here is coming together so beautifully? You're encouraging each other, celebrating victories, hopping onto your fellow writers' blogs and websites. Writing is such an isolating art most of the time, and the fact that you're participating in a group which recognizes that and comes in with support for that loneliness is, to me, a God thing. So welcome, our two latest additions: HANNAH and NATASHA -- both young, awesome fiction authors I'm honored to work with.

SO, how's the journaling going? I'm personally digging the whole spiral journaling thing. If you haven't read last week's post you might want to go there, because we'll be referring to that practice from time to time in the weeks to come. I'd still love to have pictures of your journals, and do feel free to comment about what your personal writing is showing you any time. 

That, of course, is part of our 40 days of going deeper into ourselves in order to go deeper in our writing. Good books have been written about creating richer characters and more complex stories. My favorite of those is Donald Maass's The Emotional Craft of Fiction.  Emotional craftI not only recommend it to my clients but I use it myself. I could just tell you to go buy it and end this post right here, seeing how "The Don"  -- as he's referred to by those who have studied under him -- poses many questions that encourage writers to search their own souls before they search those of their characters. In fact, do check it out if you haven't already.

But I'd like to approach this in a little bit different way -- from my own experience, which is basically what we all work from, right? (I'm trying not to be narcissistic here!). At the time I wrote the book you see above (with the world's longest title!) Everybody Tells Me To Be Myself, But I Don't Know Who I Am, I realized I wasn't saying anything I hadn't said before in the fiction I'd written, both for tweens and their grown-ups. Everything I'd written up to that point was about authenticity. Didn't matter if it was a tween fiction series, a set of novels for teens, a novel trilogy targeted to adult women, non-fiction books for all of those age groups ... even my blogs and Facebook posts ... they were all centered around the theme of being one's true self. I started pondering whether I should come up with something new. How much fruit could actually still be on that tree?

And then our priest (I'm Episcopalian) preached a sermon in which she said that it's quite true that every pastor, preacher, priest or what-have-you has only one sermon that he or she preaches over and over in some way. After explaining what hers was -- and son of a gun, she was right! -- she said (and this is one of my favorite phrases now): "The brush stroke I'm going to add to that canvas today is_____"

I have to admit I didn't hear much of the rest of that sermon (I'd heard it before obviously!) because I couldn't get that out of my mind. That was what I was doing as a writer. I only had one book in me. I just kept writing it in different ways and -- and this is the important part -- adding a new brush stroke every time.

That didn't just serve as a way to "get me off the hook". It actually forced me to go deeper with that same theme. If I was going to have new brush strokes to add, I myself needed to become more and more authentic, getting down to those false places where it can actually be painful to scrape junk out and make space for what's real. I quickly learned that it was not for the faint of heart. Girl artist

Writing isn't, unless we're putting out formula romances or cozy mysteries (and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, okay?). If we want to write with meaning, with passion, with power we pretty much have to open a vein. But before we get out the scalpels, we need to know just what that canvas is.

    What is that theme your characters keep pulling you back to?

    What is the recurring issue in your life that seems to be taking years to resolve?

    What is common to the novels you read over and over, the films you'll watch repeatedly, the non-fiction books that continue to speak to you?

    What do you admire in the people you respect? What do you want to emulate?

Those are just a few of the questions that will help you discover the grand painting your life's work is creating. The answer to them will not only deepen your writing ... it will deepen you. If I hadn't written as much as I did from age 30 to age 62 (when I began to divide my writing time with mentoring) I wouldn't be the same person I am today. I'm not "there" yet. Seriously, we're not done 'til we're dead, are we? But I would not be as far along as I am if not for creating Lily and Sophie and Lucy and the Mean Girls and Sullivan Crisp and the 'Nama Beach High crowd and the Flagpole Girls and all the other characters who showed up on the page. They added brush stroke after brush stroke, and yet my new characters in my work-in-progress have found even more places on the canvas that need filling in with color and texture and perhaps some new styling. Asher's U collage 

You see what we're doing here, don't you? We're looking at not just one book out of you. We're talking about a body of work, each project taking us deeper. THAT right there is why it's so important to know, or at least have the whisper of an idea, what our life/writing theme is. Just one word -- that's all you need. 

Really, really, really this doesn't mean you're "stuck" with only one thing to write about. The possibilities for what you do with that if you're true to yourself are virtually endless. It's also guaranteed that it will evolve and grow as you do. So don't think of this as a decision you have to make for the rest of your life, but as an awesome discovery that will carry you on its creative wings for years to come. 

Will you tell us what your WORD is? Or if you don't know yet, will you describe how you're playing with ideas until the solid one comes to you? We would love to hear. This is big stuff. Who doesn't need the support of other artists who say, "Yes. You've got this. Get the brushes ready." 

Blessings on your delicious seeking,

Nancy Rue               


Spiraling

JournalsOne of my all-time favorite quotes is from the great Russian playwright Anton Chekhov. He told his writing students: "If you want to work on your art, work on your life." That's what we're about during this Lenten season -- deepening our lives so we can deepen our writing.   

LILY is doing it this way. "For the Lenten season this year, my plan is to observe, describe, and write down how the Lord is present and working in our lives on a daily basis. I'm pretty sure this will also impact my writing as I work on book 2. I'll be in a better position to see the magic and to notice attitude and related issues that need to be explored."

SARAH... recently attended a blogging weekend with some awesome ladies and is tentatively trying to start writing one.

AMANDA, like me, is also developing an at-home yoga practice.

In her new blog, HEIDI is appealing to something deeper by making sure that her time with God's word is more important than her own words.

HeidiWait for it ...

Some of you are going to cringe, roll your eyes, etc. when I say this, but one of the almost magical ways to arrive at that "something deeper" is through journaling. I know just because you're a writer doesn't mean you're drawn to keeping a journal. And most writers aren't as into the whole thing as I am. The picture above shows just four of the journals I have going at the moment (one for my protagonist, one for yoga, one for just me and one for my deep spiritual study.) Don't click off here -- I'm not going to suggest anybody else has to chronicle every moment of their lives the way I seem to. Seriously.

However ... I'm putting this out there. According to Socrates, an unexamined life is not worth living. Before you come back with: And an unlived life is not worth examining, hear me out. If we're to write in a way that goes deep into the soul of our characters (in fiction) or the very spirit of our readers (in non-fiction), I think we need to be able to write into our OWN souls and psyches and spirits as well. And besides, you never know what you're going to discover in there.

Spiral journaling

Will you try something with me? One of the things I love most about being alive is that there is always something new to be learned, and just this week while reading a book on women and journaling I came across this scathingly brilliant idea. Here's how it works:

  • Write one page  -- in your own handwriting -- on a topic that's personal to you. I've offered some prompts below but absolutely feel free to do your own thing. It IS a journal, after all -- the freest kind of writing you can do. Write without stopping until you fill up a page. And 8 1/2 by 11 page, ladies ... no itty bitty pocket journals for this exercise.
  • Read through what you've written and highlight or underline one sentence or phrase that stands out for you. I promise you that in the midst of your rambling you'll find at least one pithy, jarring or shocking word or passage.
  • Write just that at the top of a clean page.
  • Now write one page on THAT. A whole page, without stopping.
  • Read THAT page and highlight or underline one word, phrase, or sentence that practically leaps off the page at you, waves its hand and says, "Pick me! Pick me!"
  • Write just that at the top of a clean page.
  • Write on page on THAT. A whole page, without stopping.     

Donald-Maass-1-AThis is called spiral journaling, and it's kind of amazing. It reminds me of an exercise Donald Maass has writers do in his workshops. You list five things that might be a protagonist's motivation for doing a particular thing or having a certain goal. Then you write 5 more. Finally, you choose the last one you listed and try that as the character's reason. Somehow, doing that takes you deeper. I share this with you in case you are still balking at the idea of recording your thoughts in anything resembling a diary.  You can just write a list. 

If you've ever worked with me in a writing class or as a client, you've probably been asked to journal with your protagonist or your antagonist. If you come to any in the future, you'll experience spiral journaling for your character. I'm finding it to be really, really telling.

Other options

First, though, I'm convinced we need to go deeper into our selves. If you save all your writing for projects, try spiral painting or drawing. Sketch or free paint a symbol for something you're struggling with. Find what strikes you most about this piece of art, hone in on just that in your next piece, and so on. I mentioned yesterday that KATHLEEN does something visually creative before she sits down to work on her non-fiction book, and I can personally tell you the results in her writing are like quantum leaps.

To get you started

If you'd like to try this but you're not sure what you want to write about (and by the way, it could be the thing you're most resisting...) these are some prompts that might get your inner wheels turning. SARAH says hers are a little rusty, but give them some mental WD-40 and you're good to go. Nobody is going to read this except you. It doesn't have to be "good." It just has to be you.

    * What's putting you on the interior hamster wheel right now? Or up the crazy tree? Or listening to that tape that keeps looping in your brain? 

    * What do you need to talk to someone about but you're afraid to for whatever reason? Olivia's journal

    * Is a "what if_" occupying your thoughts right now? 

    * Do you want to have a specific conversation with someone but you're putting it off? Losing yourself in Facebook or polishing the door handles instead?

    * Do you have a hope that you think sounds ridiculous when you say it out loud, but you want to explore it anyway? 

Want to comment?

If you want to comment this time, of course tell us anything you want to (except maybe, "Nancy, this is the all-time worst idea you've ever come up with.") But I would LOVE to hear:

                    How this exercise went if you tried it.

                    Your other experiences with journaling.

                    What other methods you use for exploring interior territory.

AND -- if you want me to include a picture of your journal in my next post, by all means email it to me

Meanwhile, enjoy this exploration. It think you'll find it's not as scary in there as you might think.

 

Blessings,

Nancy Rue     


Celebrate With ... Caylene!

Caylene

Hey, Writerly Women, drum roll, please --

 

Our own CAYLENE has published!!!

 

Just   click here to check out her novella, Courage In the Mountains.  It CAN be done. Thanks, Caylene, for inspiring us all. 

If you have a milestone to share, please leave a comment or email me. We're in this together.

AND if you haven't read yesterday's post, click here to go there now and leave a comment to let us know you're in. Read the comments, too, because seven of you (that's 7) have reported in how you plan to go deeper -- in both your writing and your selves -- during these 40 days of Lent.  

In case you missed today's Quick Post, you might want to see what LILY is up to. Click here to check it out. Lily and me

I'm eager to get into the meat of our 40 days together ... so much so that I plan to post tomorrow. Yeah, don't keel over into a faint.

 

Love you, Writerly Women. Let's do this thing.

Blessings,

Nancy Rue


Love, love, LOVE that Colleen, Amanda, Jennifer, Lily, Sarah, Karen Kay and Gloria are on board -- and those are just the writerly women who left comments. We are on a Lenten roll! If you want to check out LILY's blog, too, she's at http://writingandartinthemaking.com You'll love it over there! Check out today's new post for another milestone to celebrate.

Getting THERE vs. Being HERE

Writing day 2019Good morning, fellow Writerly Women. I hope you're still here. I am. I won't go into all the reasons why I haven't reached out to you since November. Nobody needs to hear all that, trust me. But this is now, and I can't think of a more fitting day to push the reset button than Ash Wednesday.

Yeah, Mardi Gras -- or at least the Shrove Tuesday pancake supper -- is over, and those who observe Lent are moving into a season of introspection -- soul searching -- and hopefully transforming. I'm already into and loving it, even in light of the not-so-awesome things I'm having to face about myself. It's sort of like cleaning out a closet, right? It's a pain to do, but it feels Marie Kondo-worthy when you're done.

I think we can observe a Lent of sorts as writers too. I could give you post after post about techniques and information on 'what publishers want' (okay, maybe I can't do that last one because, really, who the heck knows anymore?). But you can get that from any number of great writing blogs. In fact, any expert on social media for authors will tell you: "Don't do a writing blog." (notice how carefully I paid attention to that ...) What I want to do for these next 40 days is offer some ways to go deeper as writers and, consequently, as people. It's going to look something like this:

    * Searching questions about your willingness to get below the surface in your work

    * Some Explorations, as we call them in the Doorways Program, to show you personally how you can get beneath the existing layers

    * An open invitation to include us in your discovery process

    * My experience as I excavate right along with you. 

Are you in? Even if you don't usually comment will you just post a quick one to let us know you're with us, albeit silently?

To get you started, you might want to look at what some of our Writerly Women are already doing to dig deeper, rather than simply "Get There."

    Heidi just launched a blog yesterday that I think you'll love. (I have it on personal authority that she is both a hoot and a deep-thinking person. 

                                        https://www.heidimfields.com/writing/todays-the-day      

   

Abigail G. also has an engaging blog that will speak right to you.

                               https://ramblings-of-an-obsessive-bookworm.blog/a-r-geiger/

 

Behind the scenes ...

    Loretta has been inspired to change the entire ending of her work in progress -- no small feat in an epic novel.

    Scotia is revising her entire non-fiction book -- which we thought was ready for prime-time viewing -- in light of new things she's discovering about herself.

     Carell has taken up journaling, something she's balked at until recently. She's finding not only her protagonist but herself. Go figure. 

    Kathleen is discovering that painting before she sits down to write allows her to delve into those painful places that will make her non-fiction book a work of art in itself.

    Andrea is now writing for Clubhouse Magazine because she was willing to dip into a facet of herself she hadn't used in her authorial career before. 

    After finishing Book 2, Dawn is rewriting her already-self-published Book 1 to reflect the strides she's made in going deeper.

      Leslie is taking a break from working on her novel to immerse herself in important issues, an experience that will enrich that book when she returns to it.  Leslie 2
The same goes for Pam, Hannah F. and Sandra.

I could go on, but the point is that each of these women is focusing on BEING HERE rather than GETTING THERE -- that elusive place we dream of that can't be reached through better techniques, the right writer's conference or even revising until our eyes bulge from their sockets.  So  --

        Let's BE HERE for the next 40 days together.

        Let's support each other as we take the risk to go down just a little bit further into our own authenticity.

       Let's learn to live -- and consequently write -- from our beautiful God-made souls.

I can't ask you to do the above if I'm not doing it myself, and I am. I've taken up yoga more seriously, attending two classes a week at a wonderful studio on the newly-updated Lebanon Square (with tempting boutiques and coffee shops nearby for Artist Dates; just sayin') and practicing at home. I've coupled that with Centering Prayer and even more of my usual journaling. I'm beginning to see the effects of that not only in the work I'm doing on my novel two days a week, but in my mentoring as well. Everything seems more creative. Who knew?

One more thing. If you're between the ages of 19 and 35-ish, you can now register for the third annual Young Women Writers Retreat April 12-14 at the Glen Eyrie center in Colorado Springs. Check out the link. We will definitely be going deeper there.

https://gleneyrie.org/event/young-women-writers-workshop/

Glen 2019If you're over 35, no worries. The Glen Eyrie Writers Workshops are happening July 6-9. As soon as the site goes live, I'll let you know.

If you can't make it to a retreat, that's okay. We'll make THIS our weekly (and hopefully more often) gathering place for working our way in. I can't wait to hear from you. Again, let us know if you're on board for the journey.

 

Blessings,

Nancy Rue