Hey, 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?
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."
* "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?
* 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.
* 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
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!"