Hey, Writerly Women! As you can see from my responses to your comments, I am SO impressed with your thoughts about the new streets you want to live on this year. We have MARGIE moving from Fear Lane to Confident Street. CATHY refuses to hang out any longer on Troubled Health Road and has relocated to a boulevard known as Overcoming For the Generations. COLLEEN has abandoned Striving Street for Dwelling Road. I've taken up residence on Essential Avenue.
Of course we'd love to hear from LILY, EMII, SKELI, GLORIA -- every insanely interesting woman -- but what I've seen so far has taken me further into the idea of not only walking down a different street (see last week's post if you have no idea what I'm talking about!) but building what you need there in order to ensure that you'll stay. We're talking about creating a Good Neighborhood of Thought.
I wish I could say this was original to me, but I learned it in a mindfulness class I took last spring. The whole concept of being present every single moment, with each soap bubble as I washed the dishes, with every tooth as I flossed, just wasn't resonating with me. I told the teacher that those were the times when the very best ideas came to me. Seriously, how many scathingly brilliant things have occurred to you in the shower or while you're driving to the post office or blow drying your hair? I said, "If I'm trying to stay present with every piece of lint I vacuum up, I'm missing the chance to discover what's going to happen in my next scene." The answer she gave me was brilliant in itself. She said: If you're in a good neighborhood of thought, you don't have to leave.
That changed everything.
It led me to consider what Bad Neighborhoods of Thought I'd been hanging out in, especially in terms of writing. That, of course, became a visual. I mean, who wouldn't order craft stamps of houses and create a whole picture of S.H.A.M.E. Chapel (Should Have Already Mastered Everything). Should Cafe. The Too Late Bookstore. You get the idea. Seeing those ramshackle buildings (Halloween stamps came in handy there), looking at the bare trees and the billboards shouting deprecating slogan at me -- I couldn't get out of there fast enough.
So I put together the Good Neighborhood of Thought. In vivid color -- unlike the blacks, whites and grays of the BNofT -- I stamped and drew and stickered Inspiration Church, the Brainstorm Cafe, the Anything Goes Bookstore. There were all kinds of nooks and crannies conducive to dreaming and literary risk-taking. Other cozy spaces invited my cohorts to gather. Think the set of the Gilmore Girls and you'll have it.
I added to and looked at and meditated on that picture of my Good Neighborhood of Thought until I knew I was there. That is not to say that sometimes I don't find myself walking the streets of my former place of residence. It's just that now I have another place to go, and it is home.
Setting is such an important part of writing, particularly in fiction but in narrative non-fiction as well. It's one we all need to be skilled in creating. It simply seems natural that we could each use that particular aspect of writing to create mental neighborhoods where, like our protagonists, our hidden needs can be met. Where although there will be antagonists who show up just to make things interesting we have supporting characters to turn to and places to reflect and other spots for living out what we have learned. As writers we are imaginers. This comes naturally to us.
We're not talking about setting up a great place to write, though that's important to0. LILY shared hers, which she manages to get to even while raising four kids.
This is about a great place in your head, place of positivity and inspiration and courage and confidence. Those are wonderful words, but it's easy to forget them if we don't have something concrete to represent them.
So, how about it, writerly women? Will you imagine that Good Neighborhood of Thought? Create the shops and cafes and chapels and green spaces and give them names? People it with supporters and encouragers and wise ones? OF COURSE it would be great if you put together a visual, but that isn't required for it to be real. If you want to think castles, go for it. If all you need is a travel trailer, do it. If a city full of opportunities is your jam, good on ya. We are, after all, insanely interesting people who can make pictures with words.
Will you do it? Will you take some time to play? Will you share? You'll have company from here on your main street. And who knows ... some of it might even come true.
While working with my therapist, she would ask me, "Go to your safe place." For a few minutes, she would have me close my eyes and envision a place I felt completely safe, comfortable, content. I knew the first time she asked exactly where that would be - the hunting cabin my family vacationed in all my growing up years and where Kevin and I took our daughters as often as a member of the hunting club was there and invited us. I can close my eyes any time of the day or night and feel like I'm there. I know every place a porcupine gnawed on the outside, every hinge that squeaks on cabinet doors that could wake a sleeping vacationer, every dish with a slight crack on which not to place a hot meal. And I loved it all.
I no longer get to go there in person very often, and it hurts. I drew so much peace and contentment from our times there. So, when my therapist asks me to "visit" a safe place in my mind, that's where I go.
It's also the place where several of my novels-to-be take place and where I often set random writing exercise related pieces (when I work with young people and want to participate in the activity myself). I would need both hands and feet to count the number of stories I've started in this place, including a self-published magazine I sent to shut-ins in the early years of my marriage 40 years ago. (Maybe someday one will get finished and published??)
THIS is my GOOD NEIGHBORHOOD where my thoughts and memories cling of the good ,the beautiful, the positive. The stories I write while there make me happy. No, I haven't finished most, but the writing is a joy and that's all that matters sometimes. Blessings, dear friends, as you seek to find those GOOD places, the places where you and God can commune and create pieces to bring you joy first, then bring your readers a piece of you they can connect with and feel your love coming through.
Posted by: Cathy Mayfield | 01/23/2021 at 08:21 AM
I want to acknowledge that I read this. And as always, Nancy’s posts are thought-provoking. I can’t just respond right off. Like Pam, I’m going to mull over it But I do want to say how much I appreciate the time and care that go into writing such meaty posts. I really look forward to them. Anyway, just to say I was here, I Am Here, and I will be back. Hugs!
Posted by: Colleen | 01/23/2021 at 06:17 AM
I have to think on this.
Posted by: Pam Halter | 01/22/2021 at 08:58 PM