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January 2021

Treatment Plan: Get You an Aesthetic, Girl

Emii's wordHey, Insanely Interesting Writerly Women. Recent private interactions I've had with a few of you, as well as your novella-length comments (which I love!) have brought back a memory.

In the fall of 2019, when we could still safely go out and do stuff, I was at a craft show and a woman came up to me and said, "You look beautiful. I love your aesthetic." I thought, Huh, I didn't even know I had one. What exactly is that, anyway?

My ten-year-old granddaughter, Maeryn, is way ahead of me. Recently we were talking about her goals, and on her list  she included, "I want a more pleasing aesthetic for my room." 

They're getting smarter, these mini-women.

Lately that word has been popping up in my daily round. In Bella Grace magazine, which I highly recommend by the way, I read an article about an aesthetic known as Dark Academia. Some of it (not the darker, more horror-slanted aspects) intrigues me and I'm reading more about it. Mae's birthdayThe aforementioned granddaughter is going for an Anime aesthetic, and pulling it off nicely, I might add. 

Then quite without realizing it, some of you gave me glimpses of your aesthetic, or what is even more commonly known as your core, from the French word coeur, the heart (as in Cottage Core, Bardcore, Fairycore etc.) .

LILY sent me this picture of the things that inspire and encourage her. The firewood, the Phantom of the opera and the books and the jar of gratitude and the feedback from a friend -- there is something positive Lily's writing encouragementsand earthy about her intentional journey.

EMII shared the above visual which she created for her word for the year -- HUMAN. It is spare, full of space, and the use of gray is significant it seems to me. She gives us a peek into her aesthetic of grace and patience and humility.

This nudged me to ask GLORIA if I could use some of the artwork she did for the online courses I eventually opted not to develop. THIS is the Gloria aesthetic -- somehow zany yet straightforward in a simple way. In essence, she artistically nails it. Gloria's drawing

And what, pray tell does this have to do with our writing? Everything, ladies.

Teachers of the craft call this style, which most will admit they can't teach you. They can only open the doors so you can discover it and remove any obstacles that stand in your way. They aren't wrong by any means. I've said and done that myself with clients and students. It's tough for a lot of writers, especially in this competitive climate where everybody seems to be writing and nobody we know seems to be getting published. The temptation is to find out what's selling, what's trending and then somehow shape our work to fit into that.

Have you noticed that it doesn't work?

What if instead we thought of writing style as simply a reflection of our personal aesthetic. Not the aesthetic we're going for or trying on. That's great for Maeryn. She's a tween, experimenting with different selves to see which one really fits. I'm talking about that natural vibe that when it's there in what we do, what we say, how we dress, how we create our environment, we feel that sweet peace down in the core of ourselves. It's right. We're in the groove.

So, new CHALLENGE. Here are the suggested steps. Note the word "suggested." Feel free to be creative, as long as the intention is there:

        1. Take some time to look at yourself when you are the most authentic. Think about what look makes you feel confident. What decor draws you in when you're flipping through a magazine or wandering around in HomeGoods (is anybody actually doing that right now?)? Is there a theme to the books you reread or have on your Amazon wish list? What's on your playlist? What's in your podcast cue? Who do you admire, alive or dead, not to copy but to be inspired by? 

    2. I love me a collage for putting this kind of thing together. A mood board is also effective. Even one photograph or piece of art can capture it.You may be more partial to a list. I can see Gloria, Lily and some of our other visual artists drawing images. A fair few of you will naturally turn this into a poem or creative paragraph. Whatever it is, find a way to get the big picture in front of you.

    3. Try to put it into a few sentences. Remember, this is about your aesthetic, the look and feel and sound of your life.

    4. THEN, look at your most recent piece of writing. Does the style you see there match your personal aesthetic? Is the essential you reflected there? If so, go with that. Be even more brave and free in expressing that core in your work. If not, can you rewrite a portion of it while --

    * wearing a confidence-inspiring outfit

    * with your playlist on shuffle

    * and something on your writing space that makes a statement about who you are?

Will you share #3 and #4 with us? Take your time. Don't rush this. Enjoy this delicious process. I'm going to do it right along with you, since some things have definitely emerged for me of late. When you do feel like, yes, this is it,  think about how you might share this with us.  Your visual? Before and after paragraphs? A creative description of what you've discovered?

I want to fill up the blog next week with daily reports from you. ONE of you will be selected (not sure about the selection process yet) to do a guest post here on Doorways, based on your feedback.

Oh, yeah. This feels luscious.

Blessings,

Nancy Rue    P.S. Just to get your started. This is what I surround myself with on the regular. Fireplace aesthetic
Am I going to be writing dystopian YA or a gritty thriller?        

     


Good Neighborhoods!

Front porchHey, 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. Gilmore girls

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. Lily's space
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.

Blessings,

Nancy Rue       

     


Walking Down Another Street

Walden 1Hey, Writerly Women,

It's so easy to retreat into our caves in seasons like the one we're experiencing now, isn't it? While we probably need to do a little of that, just to stay sane, most of us don't write well in hidey-holes. Not enough air in there. Not enough vision. Not enough of any of the things that allow us to be our best creative selves. 

Again, some of that is due to the circumstances of the pandemic and the political turmoil, and some of it comes from our old patterns. Tough times? Take cover! Whatever cover looks like to each of us -- be it eat all the things, do all the things, watch all the shows, take all the naps or clean all the things. Okay, maybe not that last one.

The point is, if we're going to continue to do one of the things that remains essential -- which is to write -- I'm thinking we need to be conscious of what cave we may be cowering in.  What hole we're falling into.

You may have seen this poem before, but even if you have, it bears looking at in this context. It was written by Portia Nelson in her book There's a Hole in My Sidewalk: The Romance of Self-Discovery.

 

 

 

“I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
      I am lost... I am helpless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I am in the same place.
But, it isn't my fault.
It still takes me a long time to get out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in. It's a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault. I get out immediately.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

I walk down another street.” MV5BMmIyYPortia Nelson

 

When I first read Ms. Nelson's piece, I cringed, but we don't have time for self-recrimination right now. Instead, I believe that as writers, we need to do two things:

(1) Look at the hole we keep falling into

and

(2) Find another street

Shall I give you an example?

The street I've been walking down for 8 days now is Grief Boulevard. Took me until this morning to find the sign that named it, which is no wonder, since I have spent most of those 8 days in a major pothole right in the middle of it. That's where I  tell myself I can't fold, even though I want to wrap in a blanket by the fire and pray into the flames and discover what is really mine to do. It's the place where instead I keep moving, keep reading, keep trying to write, all while I stop eating, stop taking walks, stop falling asleep without an episode of Shakespeare and Hathaway flickering its ridiculous self across the TV screen. The crater is small, so I'm basically running in circles.

About two days in, when I began to experience deadening fatigue, I started to claw my way out with self-talk. Slow down. Rest. Take an afternoon off.  It took forever.

Once I was out I spent the next couple of days acting like the temptation to jump back in wasn't there. Until I heard in my head, "Get it together! You're being a sloth. A slug. Stop babying yourself and get things done."

But how was I supposed to balance that rest vs. keep busy seesaw? I knew that was what was happening. Actually, it was good to see it. At least I knew what I needed to do.  

So for another day or so, I focused on creating a different rhythm. A healing rhythm. The pothole was still there, but I could skirt it as I practiced more meditation. As I prayed more. As I journaled how I really felt and shared that with some intimates in my life. Finally this morning, I'd spent enough time out of the pit to be able to look up and see the street sign. Oh. This is Grief. It makes sense. Something I'd held onto -- my trust of most Americans -- was slipping away. I was so busy grasping for it, I couldn't see that the segment of the population that is creating chaos and fear is a relatively small slice. Even that piece is painful, but there is still hope.

I looked for another street. I found Essential Avenue.I like it here.

This morning, I wrote ten pages.

VisionI would love, love, love it if you would give this image a try. What street have you been walking down that contains a pothole you continually fall into that keeps you from writing? (It doesn't have to be related to the country's current climate.) What does it look like in there? Is there another street you could walk down? Something positive you can attach yourself to?

As has happened all week, I know your responses will be like little forklifts, pulling us all out of those hidey-holes -- so we can see ourselves, see God, see what is ours to write.

Meanwhile, let's keep our eyes open. 

Blessings,

Nancy Rue   

       

      


Words That Land

Word of the yearHey, Writerly Women. I think I would be in false-perky, head-in-the-sand mode if I didn't refer to last week's disturbing events at the Capitol and their reverberations around the world. Not to worry. I'm not opening the door to a political discussion here. I actually only want to make one statement which I think applies to us as remarkable writers:

Words were the catalyst for that attack.  

Words that lied. Words that incited violence. Words that fanned unfounded flames.

Many words have been spoken and written since then. Words that have backpedaled. Words that have exposed. Words that have echoed outrage and spoken of conviction.

Whether they've been words that give us real information and hope and positive direction or words that have added fuel to the dangerously irresponsible attitudes and mistaken beliefs ..

  Words have landed, and they have landed loud and hard.

Not all, of course. Everybody and her mother has tweeted and Facebooked and TikToked and YouTubed. Many of those posted words have simply reiterated and faded. In my view, the ones that have truly created a vibration have been fresh ones. Intelligently chosen ones. Precise ones.

The statement made by former Vice President Al Gore is a fine example: "Today Americans looked into the abyss created by Donald Trump, and my fervent hope is that even his enablers will now finally draw back in horror."

That gives us a visual -- and a vivid one. We can see ourselves in that picture, and with that seeing comes feeling and, hopefully, a solid urge to act from the truth. That is word-use at its most powerful. It lands.

I am not suggesting that we all try to make image-filled statements about the disturbing events we're seeing. Our written responses have to come from a deep compulsion to speak truth, or they are better left unsaid. What I AM saying is that when we do find ourselves unable to hold back, when we do see a viable opportunity to make a statement that may actually enlighten, we must make sure our words will land.

I'm not usually vocal about my political beliefs. My energies are most often directed elsewhere. But when the very fabric of my country is torn, my hands reach for my keyboard. But only if I think my words will find a place where they will matter. And then only if I can shape those words into a form that will be remembered for as long as it needs to be.

That chance came just a few hours ago. A friend I've known for a long time sent an email to a group of mutual friends urging us to visit sites that are protesting the fact that Twitter and other social media venues are blocking certain people from their sites, saying that such actions are a violation of Free Speech. I thought about it carefully before I responded, because this person's friendship is important to me. But the truth is MORE important, and I know that in the past she has at least listened to me when our opinions differed. So I wrote --

There is freedom in limitation. Otherwise, chaos would reign, just as it did on Capitol Hill. Free speech has its limits, lines that can't be crossed. We seldom see those lines because the space we are allowed in which to express ourselves is so vast. But when social media is used to make threats and incite violence, that is a dangerous step over the line. That is when those limits have to be imposed, or we will all be trampled.

Not a masterpiece to rival the Gettysburg Address, but I can see it and it makes very clear sense to me. I hope it lands with her. Lincoln

Do with this what you will, beloved women. I'm purposely not inviting you to share what you do write because, again, this is not the forum for political discussion. That would be like opening a discussion about fashion on a sports blog. My example is offered only as a writing sample. 

I hope your words, if you write them, land well.

 

Blessings,

Nancy Rue