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May 2019

When the Paradigm Shifts

Doorway to HauteHey, my Writerly Women! I've just returned from heaven ... well, Concord, Massachusetts, where I spent a week ... wait for it ... researching for my novel, writing, writing, writing (and did I mention writing?) and taking a close look at where I am as writer and woman, and where I want to be. I made the trip solo, and although I missed my family (and all of you), I savored the solitude, the lack of obligation, the time and space to discover all kinds of things.

I try to snap pictures of doorways wherever I go (for obvious reasons), and this one is the entrance to one of my two favorite coffee shops in Concord -- The Haute.  Within these  walls, while sipping the most consistently perfect soy lattes anywhere, I not only got more of a feel for the almost magical place where my next four novels are set, but a palpable sense of who I am in this season of my life. I had what is known as a Paradigm Shift.

You've heard that term before, right? It was popularized by Thomas Kuhn, author of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. (And no, I have NOT read that book. Seriously?)  A paradigm (in case you need a refresher on the definition like I did) is a model or pattern or even a worldview underlying the theories of a usually a scientific subject, although most of us aren't using it that way. (If your eyes are starting to glaze over, hang with me for a few more sentences. I really am going somewhere relevant with this.)

A paradigm shift needs to happen when the whole structure of that model or view we've been living or working by becomes full of holes. When we've tried to fix it so many times it looks like Joan Rivers (if you don't remember Joan, she was a comedienne who was notorious for her many facelifts). Our paradigm needs a complete overhaul. A total make-over.  It's not a do-over or a revision. It's an entirely new  approach because you're seeing  everything with new eyes.   Sounds awesome, doesn't it? My desk in Concord

Yes. Awesome. And also pretty terrifying. Seriously, it's not that easy to change. Not everybody in your life is going to cheer you on (because you may not "be there for them" in the same ways). You may have to nudge your way out of what you thought was your comfort zone. Bottom line: it's change, and change means ohmygosh you could (dare I say it?) fail.

And yet -- this paradigm shift, if it comes to you as a genuine change in feeling and thinking, is your lifeline. It's pulling you toward growth into a new season.  Need an example? (Now we're getting to the Writerly Women part)

Ever since the Young Women Writers Retreat at Glen Eyrie in April, several of the writers who attended have reported that they feel different about their writing and the place it needs to occupy in their lives. One in particular -- ABIGAIL -- has experienced this paradigm shift we're talking about. I'm going to quote her because nobody says it better:

    * "Beating myself up is not humility."

  Chelsea and Abigail at YWW 2019  * "Writing isn't childish anymore. This is a big girl book. I'm writing a big girl book."

    * "Now I'm a writer who actually writes."

The words are great. The actions are even better. In the week I was away, she wrote 15 pages -- 15 fabulous pages -- of her novel. The shift in her view of her work was apparent the moment I started reading it. This is genuine change, and now nothing is the same.

This is not something we can "make" happen. But we CAN take the time  and the intention to look at our lives and our writing and see if the model we've been using is full of holes that can no longer be patched up like a pair of jeans. Maybe some questions will help:

    * Are you taking yourself seriously as a writer, even if you're not yet published?

    *  Are you saying (and saying honestly) that you want to write, but you're doing everything else BUT write? Is something making you  afraid to sit down and face the screen or the page?

    * Are you still thinking that devoting time to writing is somehow selfish (even though we've talked about that, ladies ...)? Is it you who's telling you that, or other people? Caffe Nero

    * Do you long to write, but when you do have time for it you're so exhausted from all the other things in your life you literally can't do it?

    * Are you being blocked by what Julia Cameron calls crazy-makers who discourage you from pursuing your gift, even subtly, perhaps by sabotaging your time just when you're about to turn to your work?

If  the answer to the first question is "no," or the answer to any of the other questions is "yes," it's time for a paradigm shift. As we've said, you can't force that, but you can allow it to happen, by doing any of these things:

    * Set aside time to consider deeply where you are and where you want to be. You don't have to leave home for a week like I did, but even a full day or an afternoon devoted entirely to that can make the difference between staying stuck with the patching of holes and embracing a whole new view.

  Tea in Concord  * Spread that out over several days if getting away isn't feasible. A minimum of an hour at a time, no electronic devices, everybody put on notice that you are not to be disturbed, can add up to some authentic discoveries.

    * If journalling, thinking, meditating on this is not your jam, try painting or collaging what's not satisfying and what satisfying could look like. 

    * Talk to someone you totally trust, who would be willing to dialogue with you without giving you advice or, worse yet, telling you to suck it up and count your blessings. I would do neither of those things, so feel free to  email me and we'll find a time to chat. I'm very serious about that, which should show you how important I believe this is.

What do you do once you begin to see things with those new-paradigm eyes? That's the beauty of it: you'll know. This different model that takes shape will naturally show you what needs to change, what steps you need to take. It won't happen overnight. It certainly isn't happening like that for me. But in mini-moves, with a far more authentic view of where I want to be, it's slowly taking place. It can for you too.

Right here in this community you have an opportunity to sort this out with like-minded people. Simply leave a comment telling us which question is leading you to consider what shift would be good for you. Or tell us what shift you've experienced lately. You can even rant about the shift you want to move into, but you're certain is never going to happen because ___________. As always, we're all in this together.

Now, something new to the blog -- the YOU MIGHT WANT TO READ section, where I'll recommend books that I've found mind-changing and want you to know about. This week's are all about people who experience major paradigm shifts and inspire us with the results.

FICTION: Where the Crawdads Sing,  Delia Owens

NARRATIVE NON-FICTION: Educated, by Tara Westover Week 1 books

INFORMATIVE NON-FICTION: Deep Creativity, by Deborah Anne Quibell, Dennis Patrick Slattery and Jennifer Leigh Selig

If you'd like a wonderful guide to executing that shift, look into Cultivating What Matters, by Lara Casey Media (order through www.cultivatewhatmatters.com. It's a little pricey but well worth the investment.

As our own GLORIA says, "Writing is like inhaling and reading is like exhaling. It's hard to breathe when you're always blowing out!"

 

Blessings!

Nancy Rue                     


The Why-Am-I-Torturing-Myself Spiral

Blank diagramHey, Writerly Women. How's it going?

Actually, that isn't just a greeting. It's the topic of today's post: How IS it going, this writing thing? In fact, IS it going at all?

Because I have a number of clients in From Shadow To Shelf and Doorways, it seems there is always at least one in the Writing Pit of Despair. We've probably all been there --

"I'm doing everything BUT writing. Seriously, who alphabetizes their spices when they don't even cook?"

  "Every time I sit down to write lately, all I can do is stare at the screen and think about enchiladas."

"I think I have to face the reality that all the good writing I'm going to do has already been done. I wonder if they need greeters at WalMart." Ashamed

Please feel free to write down your own wail. And once you've written it down, why not just go ahead and post it in a comment? The old adage is true: misery really does love another miserable person to sit down and commiserate with over coffee. The intriguing thing about that, though, is that pity parties for two or more often result in the participants deciding maybe they'll give it one more go.

That's my FIRST SUGGESTION for pulling out of the Why Am I Torturing Myself Spiral. Remember that tribe we talked about last week? Now -- when you're close to deciding you have no talent, no future, no self-discipline, nothing important to say (you get the idea)  -- is the perfect time to call, text or email one or all of them and say, "Do you have a minute to talk me down out of the Crazy Tree?"

We've all been up there, myself included. After the 2007 recession, the Golden Era of Christian Fiction began to rust and corrode. The 100+ books I'd had published made no difference in getting a new contract. "That last one didn't sell as well as we'd hoped" precluded new books. The day I realized the season of bliss was really and truly over, I started calling the members of my tribe. Paula. Dale. Father John. To name only a few. Granted, it took me another year to settle into a new season, but here I am. Writing. Mentoring writers. Looking at a new market. Thanks to the folks who gathered at the bottom of the Crazy Tree and talked me down.

Gloria at retreatAnd if you haven't quite found that group of supporters yet? It is quite possible to be your own supporter. My SECOND SUGGESTION is one that worked like the proverbial charm after the Young Women Writers Retreat last month. Being there was a high for all of us. Everybody was pawing the ground to get home and put all that great stuff they learned to work. Yeah, well, we'd all had that high before and we all knew how quickly you can come crashing down when faced with kids, stopped-up toilets, grouchy bosses, etc. SO -- each writer decorated a blank note card found in her goodie bag and addressed the envelope to herself. On the very last day, each person wrote herself an encouraging letter inside, specifically naming the things she'd learned, that had inspired her, as well as her next steps. They sealed them up and gave them to me. Two weeks after the event, I stamped them and mailed them out. SO many of them have contacted me with these reactions:

    "This came at EXACTLY the right moment."  

    "I was feeling like, 'what's the point?' and then I got my own letter and it changed everything."

    "I checked the mail every day, waiting for it. I did the happy dance when I got it. I can do this."

It works. The next time you're feeling pretty good about your sweet writer self, write yourself a note and seal it up. When you start to spiral down into the Pit, either open it up or mail it to yourself (if you can wait a few days). Seriously, do it. Because down in that space where your soul dwells, you KNOW you were meant to do this. You KNOW you can. Why not be as encouraging to yourself about that as you would be to a writer friend?

Now, sometimes the descent to the Pit has some evidence behind it. I wasn't getting contracts. No more requests to 'please write a book for us.' Fewer and fewer requests to speak. Clearly I had to find a different direction. One that still involved writing, just not the kind I'd been doing so successfully for 30 years. Maybe what I did can help you if you find yourself in the place of "This just isn't working."

    SUGGESTION #3.  Ask people who know you well what they see in you that is creative. That isn't a narcissistic question; you're gathering data. Fellow speaker Dawn Moore puts it this way: "What am I your go-to person for?" I was intrigued by the answers I received. They were enough to get me moving toward more exploration. I'm still doing it.

    SUGGESTION #4. If nobody's buying your work right now, write anyway. If you're even reading this blog post, I can safely say you can't not write. Journal. Finish that novel or short story or poem or non-fiction piece just because you want to -- not necessarily because somebody might publish it. Seriously, even if you're under contract, there is no total guarantee that your book will see print (publisher goes out of business, that kind of thing). If it does reach the shelves it might not be a best seller. We could all what-if ourselves endlessly ... or we could just write. Mj writing

    SUGGESTION #5. Do what GLORIA and ABIGAIL G. did recently. If you're stuck in the "Oh the heck with it" mire, call a writer friend and invite her to do a "Writing Sprint" with you. Hang up, set a time for 15 minutes and write without stopping. Then get on the phone/Skype/Zoom/Facetime again and compare. It worked wonders for them. I can't wait to try this at a retreat ...  

    SUGGESTION #6. See that blank diagram at the beginning of the post? It looks like you feel, right? -- gray, complicated ... How take a look at this one.

Concentric Japanese diagram

 

The possibilities that lie within a funk are really pretty creative and interesting and motivating. I did a whole BUNCH of self-exploration like this when I was floundering -- and the inspiration still hasn't stopped coming. I'm off to Concord, MA, next week to do research for my novels. A colleague and I are developing a program for non-fiction writers. Mentoring becomes more creative all the time  -- because God and I looked at me and said, "What else ya got?

Ladies, you got a lot. Come on up out of that spiral. Get down out of that crazy tree, or shout to us to help you. We're all in this together.

 

Blessings,

Nancy 

   


Creative Community: A Necessity

YWW 2019 groupHello, Writerly Women! Two weekends ago, we added to the community we've formed here on the blog. Some of the faces you see in this pic belong to writers whose names you've heard -- GLORIA, CAYLENE, ABIGAIL, SCOTIA. Others are new to the group -- two SARAHS, a JENNY, an AMALIE and a LAUREN. Our retreat at Glen Eyrie in Colorado Springs was nothing short of amazing --

    * one writer came away with a complete outline for her non-fiction book

  •   * one received a request for a proposal from the on site publisher
  •  
  •     * one is already taking steps to change her living situation to make room for who she is and what she wants to do
  •   * one discovered her creative self, just for the joy of it
  •   * still another reported feeling significant for the first time in her life

    There's more, but you get the idea, yes? As much as I would like to take credit for inspiring all that wonderfulness, I really can't. Most of it came from the sheer energy of authentic, creative women supporting each other, being transparent about their dreams and opening up about the BOHOs (Big Ol' Hairy Obstacles) we all run into. ALL of us. 

 
THAT is the definition of Creative Community. And it's contagious. Five of the young women you see here have formed a writing group in the Springs and meet monthly -- in addition to a pretty steady stream of communication among them. I can document the difference that has made: the writing of every single one of them has grown ten-fold since last year when they first came together. 

Another trio gathers whenever they can to brainstorm about their stories and get inspiration from obscure movies. They know they are among the crazies -- and they're owning it. Goofy YWW 2019

As God would have it, four of the retreat ladies were from Pennsylvania and didn't know each other before they came. They are now forming their own creative community, something they've never had before. Chelsea and Abigail at YWW 2019

If we're going to stay sane in this thing called creative writing, we can't do it alone. We need the tribe. And not just when we're first starting out. . .

I always return home from leading workshops happy and satisfied, but physically depleted. It usually takes me three days just to unpack. Not so this time. When I got home to Tennessee, I had almost as much energy as my 19 month old chocolate lab, which is saying something. Filled with the enthusiasm of those 17 young women writers (the word enthuse does come from the Greek for 'filled with God' -- just sayin'), I was ready for the next thing. I had announced at the retreat that I was going to retire from one-on-one mentoring in July of 2021 -- but in a matter of days after hitting home soil, I was already working with a colleague on providing help for serious non-fiction writers and having in-depth conversations with artists and tech people about offering my writing courses on line. There are workbooks in the development phase -- and I'm off to Concord, Massachusetts week after next to do research for my novel.

Even goofier YWW 2019What the Sam Hill happened?

Creative Community.

Before the retreat where I was supposed to inspire OTHER PEOPLE, I was looking ahead to retirement. After immersing myself in their  energy, I'm starting a new yet next logical venture. Alone, we can have ideas and dreams -- but together we can find the boost that gets us going. I think it comes down to this marvelous quote by Mother Teresa:

I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.

Mother Teresa

So what do you do with that? If you weren't able to make the retreat -- if you feel like you live out in the middle of Not-Creative Land -- if the people you try to share your writing dreams with nod politely and all but pat you on the head and change the subject to something scintillating ... like where to get a great manicure (or eyelashes -- what is WITH that, anyway? I digress)   How do YOU find your people? 

I have some thoughts on that. Let's see if this helps:

  • Comment here regularly. On this blog. Start conversations. Use it like a Facebook chat if you want. When I had my teen blog for 8 years, I was amazed at the friendships that grew from that. Some of those now-women still keep in touch -- really in touch, as in visit each other in different states! You aren't going to find as many of your kind of people many other places. It's a start. Kate at Glen
  • Reach out to even one other artist in your area -- and she doesn't have to be a writer; visual artists, musicians, choreographers, photographers all possess the same creative energy that you do. Make it a thing. "Come to my house for a glass of wine and a sharing of creative woes and victories on THIS DATE at THIS TIME." Or, "Will you meet me for coffee at _______, just to talk without somebody thinking we're nuts? How about THIS DATE at THIS TIME?" Notice the specificity of it. This is no time for, "We should get together." Be the one who makes it happen.
  •  Whenever you're in a crowd or group locally -- a party, a church small group, a baby or wedding shower, in line at Starbucks -- make it known that you're a writer (and whatever other creative thing you do ... LILY, for example, is an amazing artist and photographer, ESTHER is also a gifted visual artist, KELLY is a film editor. See if anyone else pipes up with a, "You are? So am I!" Then refer to the second bullet point above.

Shall we start right here? Leave a comment or click here to email me what area you live in. I'll be happy -- no, I'll be delighted -- to connect you with your fellow aspiring authors who aren't far away from you. I'll get everyone's permission, of course, before I start giving out  email addresses.

If you're already in a Creative Community, will you share how yours formed, how it works and what it's done for you? After all, we ARE all in this together.

Speaking of which, the Glen Eyrie Writers Workshops are happening July 6-9. As soon as the website goes live I'll provide a link. This could be the first step toward finding your tribe. We would love to have you.

 

Blessings!

Nancy Rue