Congratulations, Andrea!

Celebrate Hey, Writerly Women! Will you join me in congratulating our own ANDREA CHATMAN? She has been offered a contract by Elk Lake Publishing for her novel Beneath the Deep. Elk Lake is a small but traditional royalty-paying house publishing books of a Christian nature. This is HUGE for Andrea, and I'm thrilled for her as I know you are. We'll celebrate Saturday.

Anytime you have a milestone in your writing journey -- be it, "I wrote 5,000 words this week," or "An agent wants to see my manuscript," or "I had a short story published," or "I got a contract!" -- I would love to share that here so we can all do the happy dance with you.

See you Saturday!  

  Andrea 2Blessings,

Nancy Rue 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Andrea Chatman, author of Beneath the Deep

 

 

 


Being Out With Lanterns: Part Four

Gloria at retreatHey, my Writerly Women. Can I just say what a great bunch of people you are? Two new members have joined us recently, and you have been all ABOUT welcoming them. If I weren't already a part of this group, I would want to be!

We're all going to have a chance to be together on Zoom this Saturday, March 20 at 2:00 p.m. Central Time. If you'd like to take part, please email me and I'll get an invitation out to you at once. You can do this as late as noon Saturday. If you HAVE let me know you want to hang with us but you haven't received an invite, let me know immediately. I don't want anyone who wants to join us to miss out.

In last week's post I mentioned a possible topic for Saturday -- in addition to checking in with everyone to see what you're up to and what you might be wrestling with in the writing life.

* How does having an image of your exploring self help you in your writing? What are some specific ways it can feed your work?

    * What can we do when that just isn't working? When we're just plain stuck?

    * How does this apply to getting published? Does anyone out there in a traditional pub house care whether we're writing from our essential selves? Is it possible to procure an agent or a publishing contract if we're not writing what's on trend?

 I'd love some feedback if that doesn't resonate with you and you want to talk about something else instead. I'll need to know that by Friday, either via comment here or in an email. Our community is always about YOU.

Speaking of YOU, I'd like to explore with you the fourth part of our "Being Out With Lanterns" series. If you haven't been able to play with the challenges you can still go back to our lanterns posts:

Part One. February 25. A reaction to Gloria's photo

Part Two. February 26. An image that says in a flash what it looks like when you are in search of yourself

Part Three. March 3. A phrase or sentence that describes who you are when you're engaged in the exploration of yourself, via your metaphor from Part Two 

Your challenge for Part Four will lead you into our Zoom session, though I hope you'll try this even if you can't be there Saturday. Below I've provided another photograph. Getting yourself into that marvelous person you are when you're honestly exploring yourself (the brave adventurer in the jungle, the remarkably free woman galloping down the beach on a stallion, etc.), write a paragraph. Here are the guidelines:

    1. Do this at a time when you're pretty sure you won't be interrupted.

    2. Don't overthink it. Just feel it as if you WERE that explorer, that overcomer -- because you ARE -- and write from there.

    3. Write in the form that you are most natural and free. For some that would a poem. For others, the start of a story. For still others something a little more straightforward.

    4. The first time through, don't stop to correct yourself. Pam's Little Engine That Could doesn't stop to edit herself.

Since this is a short piece, absolutely feel free to post it here as a comment. If you're still a little shy, you are welcome to email it to me. I think you know by now that you can trust this community to embrace whatever you put out there. You are, after all, Insanely Interesting Women.

Here's your photo:
Paige should
If you'd like to save yours to read to us on Saturday, we'd LOVE that. See you soon, my loves.

 

Blessings,

Nancy Rue

 


Zoom News!

ColleenColleen says she's "geeked out" about our upcoming Zoom session, and I have to say I feel the same. Thanks for speaking for us, fellow writerly woman.

I've scheduled the Zoom for:

Saturday, March 20, 2021

2:00 p.m. Central Time

An email has been sent out to the 13 people who have said, "I'm in!", so if you have let me know you want to join us but you don't receive that email, please, let me know. I don't want anyone who wants to be there to miss out because I made a mistake -- which has been known to happen a time or two. Or three. Or ad infinitum.

If you haven't told me you want to be part of this session, you still have plenty of time. You can even wait until that morning if you want. Either post a comment here or email me and I'll get an invitation out to you. We would love to have you.

Speaking of loving to have someone, Kelly is a new member of our community, and if you haven't read her comment introducing herself, you're going to want to do that. She is Insanely Interesting! Please make her welcome. She's joining us for the Zoom session, too, so you'll have a chance to get to know her a little better then.

As I'm thinking about this 90-minite-ish meeting, I'm pondering what topic or topics might be the most beneficial for us to explore. I've listed some suggestions below which relate to our recent Going Out With Lanterns series. Tell us what you think.

    * How does having an image of your exploring self help you in your writing? What are some specific ways it can feed your work?

    * What can we do when that just isn't working? When we're just plain stuck?

    * How does this apply to getting published? Does anyone out there in a traditional pub house care whether we're writing from our essential selves? Is it possible to procure an agent or a publishing contract if we're not writing what's on trend?

    If you have any additional ideas, please don't hesitate to let me know, either via email or in a comment. This is about YOU, and I need to know what's crying out from your souls. In addition to simply connecting and savoring each other, I long for you to come away from the session with something that will carry you forward in this sacred work you do. Little engine 2

I'll post tomorrow on our next step in Being Out With Lanterns, but let me just say now that your responses have been nothing short of magical. Even Pammy's Little Engine That Could!

Blessings,

Nancy Rue


Being Out With Lanterns: Part Three

Night-1156519_640Hey, Writerly Women,

    Do you not LOVE this image by Jose Antonio Alba? I think this young woman is one of us, going out with lanterns in search of herself, just as Natasha and Laureen are hacking through the jungle with a machete trying to get to the unreachable castle (keep hacking, Natasha; you'll get there) and just as Gloria continues to dive deeper and deeper into the ocean, below the creatures she's already familiar with. Your images of you looking for you have been nothing short of exquisite, and I hope those of you who haven't tried this yet will do so. If you have no clue what I'm talking about, just take a peek at the post entitled, "Being Out With Lanterns: Part Two."

    Your responses indicate that moving on will produce even more wonderfulness, so let's do that. But first, an announcement:

THE ZOOM SESSION SATURDAY,  MARCH 20 AT 2:00 P.M. CENTRAL TIME  IS A GO!!!

Many of you have emailed or posted that you're in, and I'll send each of you a Zoom invite this weekend. If you haven't let me know you'd like to be included, please do. Again, either post a comment or email me. More details to come!

Now, back to the searching.

Since you may be wondering what this has to do with our writing, let me explain before I extend this next challenge. I've been working on my latest novel for far longer than I have ever engaged with a project before. In the glory days of Christian fiction, I was known as something of a speed writer, so to linger and ponder and revise and step back comprises a relatively new approach for me. My process has changed. Solitude

At first I thought that was because I was luxuriating in the deliciousness of not having a deadline or a hovering editor I needed to please, and that was definitely part of my slowing down. But recently I've discovered that the main reason is that I'm learning more about myself in the writing of this book than I ever have in my almost 40 years as a published author. I've always discovered something, usually in retrospect. This time, however, I am keenly aware that shaping this story is all ABOUT swinging lanterns into corners of darkness.

This has now become intentional, and my writing has deepened as a result. Like Gloria I'm diving beneath the familiar fish. Like Colleen, I'm often going down that gold-studded tunnel with a flashlight. I'm like every one of you who has an image of this journey to the core of the soul.

This, I believe, is why we write. This is what makes for the most vivid and meaningful stories and non-fiction pieces. This is what breaks us out of trying to figure out what "they" want -- what's hot right now -- what has the best chance of getting us published.

The THIS I'm speaking of is that glimmer of yourself that you find while galloping mentally down the beach on a stallion like Andrea or mining for gold in a tunnel like Colleen. You see THIS, and it becomes your theme. You see THIS and it plumps out a character who before was flat. You find THIS and the story Pam post conferencetakes as many twists and turns as you've taken to get here. You hear THIS and your mind sings and your fingers tap out a rhythm on the keyboard that is yours and yours alone.

So here's your challenge -- because we learn our art best by doing.

   1. Spend some mental time with your image (or Emily Dickinson's lanterns).  Imagine yourself in that jungle, in those woods, under that ocean, riding down that beach. Do it in your mind or on paper.

    3. Who are you when you're engaged in that exploration? Is she someone you know? Or is she someone you want to be?

    4. In either case, she is you. Find one word or one phrase or one sentence that describes THAT you. Don't overthink it. Go with what immediately comes to you. Whether it appeals to you or not, capture it.

    5. Then share it with us. Be as succinct as you want to, because there will be another challenge at the end of the week. And trust me: This is all going somewhere. Somewhere good. Somewhere writerly.

In the meantime, let the process be Insanely Interesting. Just like you.    

Blessings,

                                                            Nancy Rue       


Zoom, Zoom, Zoom II

HairGood morning, Writerly Women. Recently I had to announce that the 2019 Young Women Writers Retreat at Glen Eyrie was the last one. I look at photos like this one and feel a bittersweetness in my soul. Such delicious times, so many splendid results. I know I've made the right choice for the future, but in the present, I simply want to be with you -- all of you - young and young-at-heart.

Many of you have expressed those same feelings, so let's do the next best thing. Let's schedule another Zoom session. In addition to potential newcomer Kelly, Hannah C., Lily, Abigail H., Chelsea, Pam, Margie, Jenny D., Pam, Andrea, Emii and Gloria have already said they're in, so it's a go. Are the rest of you up for joining us?

Here's the plan:

  1. Let me know if this date and time works for you: SATURDAY, MARCH 20, 2:00 P.M. CENTRAL TIME (noon Pacific, 1:00 mountain, 3:00 Eastern). You can post a comment here or email me. Feel free to give alternatives.
  2. 2. On March 8, I'll set up the Zoom (either at that time or one that seems to be better for the majority of you) and email the invitation to each of you who lets me know you want to participate. LAUREEN -- I don't seem to have your email address for some reason. DARLO, I might be missing yours too.

3. Meanwhile, I'll post choices for topics and give you an opportunity to suggest some as well. Once I've arrived at an agenda designed by you, I'll post that so you can mentally prepare. It's also okay to just show up and enjoy! 

Can I just say that there is much GEEKING OUT over this? It is going to be Insanely Interesting!  Orchard Houser

I' m also LOVING your responses to our last post -- Being Out With Lanterns: Part Two. Here's  the link in case you missed it. I'll be here with Part III on Wednesday, so if you haven't shared your image with us, there's still time. Of course, there is always time to respond to past challenges. We're nothing if not flexible here!

Blessings,

Nancy Rue

 


Being Out With Lanterns: Part Two

Emily DickinsonYou have once again proven how insanely interesting you are, Writerly Women! In case any of you missed it, yesterday I shared a marvelous picture of our Gloria reading a book entitled, well, How To Read a Book with a look of what Lily described as "disbelief" on her face. Aside from the kudos about the wonderful pink hue of her hair, your responses to the quickie challenge to write down the first thing that came into your minds were exactly what I expected. (If they hadn't been, this series would have needed some serious revamping from the gitgo ...) Here's what you've shared so far:

Jennifer G. – “How to Read a Book” was not written well.”

Pam – “Seriously? You wrote a book on how to read a book? And got it published? What the heck?!”

Lily – Disbelief Lily's rough week

Colleen - “Obviously I got it all wrong up to now!”

Natasha – “I need a metaphor about apples for her cheeks because they are gorgeous.”

Cathy – “It’s me! Every time I try to read a book (watch a movie, read a blog post, check my watch!) I get a great writing idea of my own and completely lose track of where I’m at in the story. That’s my look of saying, ‘Not again! Will I never get to finish a book in peace??’” (Cathy's shortest comment on record.)

Emii – “I THOUGHT I knew. Maybe I don’t know.”

Darlo – “You must what? I can’t believe I’m reading a book on how to read a book!” (By the way, welcome to the group, Darlo! It's good to hear from you.) 

Not a single person said anything close to, "I need to get that book." None of us can believe that anybody even got a thing like that published (especially those of us who have worked our butts off to even get an agent to take a look at our work!). Down to a woman, it was all, "Who needs this? I want to try pink hair!" Gloria

All of that leads me to another insanely interesting woman: Emily Dickinson. You know, Emily, right? Somewhat reclusive poet who left us, posthumously, some of the most meaningful poetry in the English language? Who among us can't recall "Hope is a thing with feathers that perches on the soul," or "I dwell in possibility," or my favorite, "So public, like a frog." She is one of us.

And when I came across this line from one of her letters, I knew that I knew that I knew she is still among us:

I go out with lanterns in search of myself.

You and I don't read books about how to read books. We don't search the internet to find what we must write about. We don't let YouTube videos and TikTok clips and Instagram posts tell us what we need to strive for.

And we don't let anyone tell us who we are.

Like Emily, we go out -- and in -- with a light in front of us -- searching, ever searching for the truth about us.

Another insta-challenge for you.

Think of an image -- if you don't already have one -- that says in its visual flash what it looks like when you are in search of yourself. Emily went out with lanterns. Henry David Thoreau went into the woods to live deliberately. (He literally did that, but the metaphor is still there) James Michner wrote of finding a mansion within that you can inhabit with dignity all your life. Poet William Butler Yeats referred to this as entering the abyss of yourself, which, he said, requires more courage than going onto a battlefield. Herman Hesse found the road toward himself. With THoreau

It's interesting that all but one of those quotable people are men. Let's be the women who hold the metaphors for self-searching, shall we?

        * Write down that image

        * Share it with us. No explanation required.

        * Come back Monday and get the next challenge. Bring your lanterns.

Blessings,

Nancy Rue   

P.S. This is me with Henry David in 2018. I, too, went to Walden Pond.


Being Out With Lanterns: Part One

Gloria FebHello, fellow Writerly Women. Today we're starting a new series here on the Doorways Blog, a number of linked posts inspired by two Insanely Interesting Women. Gloria. And Emily Dickinson.

We're going to go about this a little differently than usual, because we are nothing here if not creative, am I right? 

We'll begin with our Gloria, whose photo gives rise to all KINDS of creative thoughts. What actually is going on in this scene? That's a real question.

 What I would LOVE for us all to do is take a moment -- and not much more than that -- to write down the first thing that comes into our heads when we look at this picture. Whether that's what you think is running through Gloria's mind or a title you'd give the photograph or a word that says it all -- there are no rules. Just write it down.

Then share it in a comment.

We are all wordsmiths here so I'm not going to tell you to limit your comment in any way. I think I'd have a mutiny on my hands, led by Cathy! Just know that all I'm suggesting is a word, possibly a few, maybe a string of them in a sentence.  This is a quickie challenge.

It IS going to take us somewhere. I'll post Part Two tomorrow. The title of this series will be made clear then.

Meanwhile, thanks, Gloria, for letting me post this provocative snapshot. You rock!

Blessings

Nancy Rue

     


Treatment Plan #9: Be a Geek!

Lily's rough weekHey, Writerly Women,

I love that Lily gave me permission to use this amazing photo! Doesn't she just say without words what we're all dealing with right now? Feel free to email me a photo of yourself expressing your own frustrations and funkiness and fun. Jpeg attached to an email is the best way to share.

We writerly artists are, at our best, an authentic group, and to me that means taking the risk to do what I learned a few years ago from gifted editor Kathleen Kerr (Harvest House). I invited her to teach at the Writing Through the Ages conference for children's and youth authors, and when she arrived at Glen Eyrie, she threw her arms around me and squealed, "I am so geeked out about this!" Kathleen Kerr

   I admit that until then I'd always thought of "geeks" in connection with computers - guys (okay, and gals) rattling off obscure facts about megabytes and broadband width that left my eyes glazed over. When in technological need, I had no problem calling on the so-named Squad, but I sure didn't want to be a member.

Enter Kathleen with her marvelous enthusiasm and knowledge and deep focus on finding the best writers in the business for kids in a challenging market. She spread all of that and more over the four days we all played together, always being true to the geek she is. 

After that, I wanted to be one too -- a geek, that is. But it isn't as easy as it seems. To be a true geek, several things are necessary:

    * You have to stop caring about what other people think of you. 

    * You have to cease only doing what's expected of you.

    * You have to own your geek-self and live it.

One of the trends when I was in college in the 1970's were the Jesus Freaks, people who completely turned themselves over to living as our Lord did on earth. Some of what they adopted were the trappings -- beards (just the guys!), robes, sandals, crosses on leather cords, Volkswagen vans painted with all manner of Christian symbolism. But the genuine among them were immersed in the life, the way, the truth.  We called them freaks, and they willingly owned that. 

I'm not suggesting we revive that lifestyle as it was then. I am saying that, like Kathleen, we would do well to at least internally geek out for God, so that we can also embrace our OTHER geeky-selves.

For instance:

    * Our Pam is an unabashed geek for all things fairy. She sees evidence of fairies in nature, looks for it, in fact.  Dragon emergence 7According to her, this is a dragon emerging, and I have to say I do see it. Pam is active in Realm Makers and misses no opportunity to don fairy garb and eat with her hands. I have experienced the latter with her, and I have to say it puts dining in a whole different light. 

 * Kate B. has no problem with expressing her great geek self in the way she dresses. 

Kate at GlenAnd that is reflected in the imaginative creativity of her writing.

We don't have to be Lady Gaga to be geeks, though I do love me some Gaga (her performance at the Inauguration was absolutely stellar) 

  • * Colleen can geek out with the best of them when it comes to kids.
  • * Andrea is a complete geek about science and the existence of sea monsters.
  • * Abigail, Caylene, Gloria Chelsea and Kelly get together on the regular and go up into the stratosphere of geekiness about their fantasy novels. I've witnessed it myself, and it is inspiring to behold.

And that's the thing, that inspiring part. Just in case you're thinking that this is all a little silly and self-serving, we do stir up enthusiasm in other people about their own passions when we are unashamedly committed to our own. I am continually energized by my deeply geeky ten year old granddaughter who immerses herself in all things Anime.   Am I going to put on a wig and paint freckles on my face and act like a character out of My Hero Academia? Mae animeUh, no, but when she leaves here every week, I want to fully embrace what fascinates me.

Maybe we should all do the same.

I confess, though, that this isn't a pattern with me. Yet. I blame that on so many years writing within the parameters of the CBA -- of working within the confines of public school teaching -- of putting my energy into mentoring writers without unduly influencing them in ways that would interfere with their authenticity. None of that is "bad." It has made me a responsible, successful person.

It just hasn't always made me a free one. A whole one. A completely expressive one. But I'm also experiencing a certain hitch in my writing that I haven't in the past, and I'm coming to realize that perhaps I'm not enough of a geek these days. I actually was one about tween girls and doing research and going after bullying and encouraging authenticity. It could be time to go deeper into geekdom and revive the creativity and imagination in my soul.

Wanna do this with me? Want to uncover what geeks you out and makes you want to do the things, write the stuff, push the limits, explore fresh territory?

I do.

So, the Treatment Plan I'm giving myself which you may want to try.

    * Brainstorm all the things that make you want to get up in the morning. (It doesn't have to be at the crack of dawn!)

    * Then brainstorm the stuff that makes you forget to say "should" and beat yourself up and eat an entire package of Oreos

    * Then add the items you want to tell your besties about, maybe in your brand of a squeal

    * Tell us. That's the first step in ceasing to worry about what anybody else thinks. 

My brainstorm lists revealed that I am a total Anglophile. That I count the days until the newest issue of Bella Grace magazine comes out. That I'm passionate about the ethical principles of yoga and how they parallel the teachings of our Lord. That I want to learn about my roots, maybe even doing one of those DNA tests and reconnecting with a cousin (I'd better do it soon; he's in his 80's ...) who studied our family genealogy some years ago.

Interesting ... I now know exactly what to do with the last section of my novel.  

SQUEAL!

So, my insanely interesting writerly women -- geek out!!!

Blessings,

Nancy Rue


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 

 


The Perfect Word

Hope 2Happy New Year, insanely interesting Writerly Women! The only thing I like better than starting a fresh season is starting it with all of you. I'm serious about that. Even just your comments to each other regarding the last post about "Borrowing Faith" proved that we ARE a community and we can make a difference to each other. That doesn't even require a Resolution. It's simply a fact. 

Speaking of resolutions ... only 9% of people who make them on January 1 actually keep them. That's actually a higher percentage than I suspected, to tell you the truth. However, having one word that guides you through the year has been shown to be pretty darn effective, and that makes sense. Seriously which is more compelling:

    * I'm going to lose fifteen pounds, write 100,000 words and read my Bible twice a day?

OR

    * I'm going to attach myself to HOPE this year?

And here's the deal: if you focus on HOPE and do only those things that express or reflect that hope, you will probably believe you can lose needed weight, write your best stuff and deepen your relationship with the sacred text of your faith. That's because, having just one word as your frame of reference:

    * Takes away any possibility of failure. Really, how do you measure how much HOPE you have? And if you can't measure it, you can't fall short. 

    * Widens your range of opportunities. You aren't just tied to working out in your basement and giving up sugar. HOPE gives you the courage to try some new foods, take up Wonder Walking, look for a style that looks good on YOUR body. 

    * Makes your outlook more positive. Resolutions like the ones we're using as examples suggest that we have been lacking. A guiding word speaks to what we want more of. 

ThankfulThis approach is perfect for us. We are wordsmiths. We know how to choose the perfect word that precisely fits our meaning. Why not put that gift, that skill to work for ourselves and, ultimately, everyone around us. I mean, who doesn't want to be around a person who is moved by HOPE or Spring loveLOVE or HONESTY or GRATITUDE or VISION?

 

And because words are our forte, we can be even more precise in our choices than our accountant and engineer friends. My word for 2021 is ESSENTIAL. I want to attach myself to those things that are authentic to my essential nature -- the people I'm with, the work I do, the personal passions I pursue, even in the way I shape my home. 

  ESSENTIALWhen my almost-ten-year-old granddaughter and I were trying to discover her word for the coming year, I asked her some questions which might be helpful to you too in case no marvelous piece of vocabulary pops immediately to mind.

  • What do you want to do MORE of this year?
  • What do you want to be like at the end of 2021?
  • What are you dreaming of or hoping for right now?
  • What perfect word describes the essence of you?
  •  (We can add, of course, what word comes to mind when you meditate on this with God?)

(Incidentally, her answer to all of those questions was an honest, "I don't know." She pointed out that she is pretty happy right NOW, so that became her word.)

That's not all. Because we are creative women, why wouldn't we turn our chosen word into a visual of some kind that we can envision, especially when supporting that concept becomes challenging? It doesn't have to be a work of art.  Keep it realIt just needs to reflect you and what you're about this year.

2020 has been a difficult year for the entire world, and we can't count on the fact that when we wake up tomorrow morning, all the remnants of the last ten months will have disappeared. Even on Inauguration Day or when we all get vaccines we won't see a dramatic change at once. But each of us, as Gandhi so wisely said, can be the change we want to see in the world.

One word at a time.

Your challenge: pray, meditate, ponder, write and discover your word. Share it with us, and if you really want to commit, create a visual, take a picture and email it to me -- nnrue@att.net. I can think of few things more encouraging than a gallery of the lexicon that will take us into 2021.

Again, Happy New Year, Ladies. Happy New Year.

 

Blessings,

Nancy Rue 

 


Treatment Plan #7: Borrowing Faith

Jim and me in Santa hats      Hey, Writerly Women! I'm loving seeing the progress you're making in our Treatment Plans as evidenced by your comments. Colleen, Emii, Margie, Natasha, Pam and Skeli have all weighed in recently on seeing what it's like to do what you WANT instead of trying to WILL yourself to ________ (fill in the blank.) That has led you to --

  • letting go of the notion of productivity
  • discovering a new, more authentic story idea
  • going for the "Juice" in every scene
  • focusing on developing a website

If you haven't read the Treatment Plan #6 post, you might want to click here to check it out and join in the doing-what-you-want challenge. It's as freeing as it sounds. And if it sounds like cutting class to go have a hot chocolate, you're on the right track.

Of course, simply going for what your soul desires takes confidence in that desire as good and godly and right and all those things that tend to drive the bus. They're good drivers, no question, as long as we also allow what compels us and makes us want to get out of bed in the morning to take the wheel as well. Being able to say to yourself, "This is what I'm supposed to do on a soul level," takes a kind of certainty that isn't always easy to come by.

At least not alone.

Which brings me to the above picture.

Jim and I hit some speed bumps last week, as so many of us are experiencing right now in this CoVid Christmas season. We had to tell a dear friend who always joins us from out of town for the holidays that air travel wasn't safe for any of us and he'd have to say home. Alone. We realized several of the people we love will be celebrating solo this year. Some have become ill. Our spirits were sagging.

And then we received a box in the mail from Jim's mom (she's 95!) and sister containing two zany Santa hats, a Christmas lights necklace, a set of holiday stampers and a Christmas activity book for each of us. (How long has it been since YOU did dot-to-dots?) As if that weren't enough delight, we found out that the other two sisters and their spouses had also received such care packages. We all sent pictures and howled. Seriously, we are everyone of us in our sixties and seventies, yet we instantly became children in all the best ways and gained the perspective that usually only the youngest among us can attain in the face of crisis. Ten minutes before we opened the box, we didn't have faith in the joy the season usually brings. Ten minutes after, we were making hot toddies and baking ready-made dough cookies and planning a Feliz Navidad supper for Christmas Eve.  How did it happen?

We borrowed some faith.

It IS possible to do that, you know. You probably think of it as "being encouraged", and you're not wrong. The word "encourage" comes from the Old French "encoragier", which means to make strong, to hearten. It's a passive as well as an active verb. You can both encourage and be encouraged. In this case, let's focus on the passive. If we don't have the courage, the strength, the heart for something, we can receive that from someone else. Contrary to the American principle of independence and self-reliance and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps (I don't even know what the heck those ARE ...), it is impossible for human beings to ALWAYS maintain confidence in their abilities or their choices or even what they think they hear their hearts telling them ALL BY THEMSELVES. We. Need. Each. Other. Gloria at retreat

That is not to say that we need to be seeking affirmation and permission at every turn. What is does say is that when we're DIScouraged -- when we feel stuck -- when we are riddled with self-doubt -- one of the many things we can do to be restored to balance is borrow some faith from someone who believes in us. Who has been where we are and knows whereof she speaks. Who can say, "You can totally do this. You've got it in you."

Here is what that does NOT mean:

    * that you are a wimp and have to have someone else tell you're good all the time, or you can't write a word

    * that you are needy and whiny and wallowing in self-doubt

    * that you're a narcissist looking for constant approbation

This is what it DOES look like, and what I'm challenging you to incorporate into your Treatment Plan:

    * Seek out at least one person who believes in your gifts AND knows what he or she is talking about (not necessarily your significant other who kind of has to tell you that you're great) Because only honest feedback is going to help you restore your flagging confidence, be sure you trust this person. Someone who is a blocked writer himself, or who is notoriously blunt, or who has a jealous nature may do your confidence more harm than good. 

    * Ask an honest, specific question, something you particularly need to know the answer to in order to move forward right now. "Is my protagonist sympathetic?"  "Is my prose too esoteric?" "Does it sound like I'm talking down to my kid readers?" "Did you ever feel like totally giving up on a writing project even though you love it?" "Am I nuts to keep pursuing this?" Not, "Am I a good writer?" or "Do you think I'll ever get published?" The first one you already know. The second no one can answer.

    * Accept the encouragement. If you've ever been around me for more than, like, ten minutes, you know that I am on a personal mission to get every woman to learn how to accept a dadgum compliment. When I tell someone she looks great or she's a delight to be around, nine times out of ten she'll come back with something like, "Thank you but I could stand to lose ten pounds" or "You haven't seen me with my kids at 4:00 p.m." Yeah, and why don't you take that gift I just gave you and rip it up in front of me? Why can't we receive genuine praise and authentic positive insights and the very real assurance that we are pretty dang awesome? Just believe it, for Pete's sake.

    * Take it to heart (be heartened) and get back to it. Renewed faith leads to action.

Donald-Maass-1-AI'll give you two examples:

    #1. When I had my one-on-one with Donald Maass -- whose opinion I value very highly -- I asked him point blank, "Do I have the chops for the general market?" He said, "Yes, you have a good, strong commercial fiction voice. Just make the story bigger -- Jodi Piccoult big."  That's what I'm doing.

    #2. Recently I had a conversation with a dear friend who is opening a new literary agency in January and I asked him if I was too old for him to take me on as a client if he liked my new project. He said, "You are on my list of people to approach about signing on with me." He'll be hearing from me when the novel is done

Do I need to keep going back to these two guys and saying, "Did you mean that? Are you sure?" Uh, no. What they said is enough to keep me moving forward when I realize I'm stalling. That and my nine-year-old granddaughter who is writing a chapter book -- she really is -- and looks up every now and then and says, "I'm have ______ words now. How many do you have?" She is always impressed with my answer.  Mae and me writing

Be encouraged, insanely interesting writerly women. Your challenge this week is clear. In order to get you loosened up and free, will you post one specific question you'd like to ask  a trusted someone who might be able to boost your confidence? Let the queries abound! Some of them I might even be able to respond to.

Because I believe in you.

 

Blessings,

Nancy Rue   

P.S. Is my husband not ADORABLE?

     

                 


Treatment Plan #6: What would if feel like to ________

Mae writing 1Hey, insanely interesting Writerly Women. I try to limit my granddaughter stories to one per conversation. Otherwise I would be even more insufferable than I am now. But, I mean, seriously, it does not get cooler than this in my world. (Even with the kitchen reno still in progress around us.)

Maeryn is writing a chapter book for her parents for Christmas as part of our homeschooling for writing in M&N Studio (Maeryn and Nanny). With the story board done, she writes a chapter or two in each session and is now up to 1100 words, an achievement of which she is understandably proud. My new favorite question coming out of her mouth: Do you want to hear what I have so far? That usually means going all the way back to the beginning every time, but who am I to argue with that?

The project has evolved. It started off as a short story, and the more she added to the story board,  the more it became apparent that that container wasn't big enough to hold everything. When I asked her if she wanted to give a chapter book a go, she was all over it. She wanted to see what it felt like to write a book. 

So far, it seems to feel pretty good. ADHD makes some forms of concentration a challenge, but when Maeryn is plugged into writing this piece of fiction, she can sit for 30 to 40 minutes, typing, re-reading, editing and, of course, sharing with me. When she really gets into it, she starts abandoning articles of clothing and changing position so she can keep going.  I act like I'm also working on my novel beside her, when in truth I'm simply basking. Bask. Ing. Mae writing 2

My nine-year-old granddaughter is  sticking with her project by experiencing what it feels like to write something she loves.  It feels good, satisfying, confidence-building, so she wants to do it some more. She reflects what I have come to know as a truth: if we allow ourselves to do something that makes us feel positive and fulfilled, we'll want to repeat that experience. It won't feel like self-discipline to clean the house if the end result is some pretty smug satisfaction. It won't require an act of will to practice yoga or Pilates if you come out of a session feeling energized. Who needs accountability to stay on a healthy eating plan when those jeans you couldn't squeeze into last winter now zip up without your having to hyperventilate in the process? We do what brings us into the zone that feels most like us, in our True Nature.

The same applies to "finding time to write." If we're "making ourselves" sit in front of the computer and write 500 words before we're allowed to get up for a coffee, we're not going to stay with that regimen for very long, as we talked about in a previous post. But what if it felt GOOD to create a scene? What if finding just the right word or image made you grin, earring to earring? What if putting in 90 minutes without interruption was right up there with savoring a bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream? Actually, if that isn't the feeling we get, why are we writing in the first place?

I've shared with you that I was fooling myself into thinking I was writing when in truth I was sort of afraid to.  So I tried an experiment. What if I did just turn off my phone, close down the email, fix myself the perfect cup of tea and luxuriate in writing a chapter of my novel? How would I feel? That involved shedding the Donald-Maass voice in my head -- the wails of fellow writers about the market -- the tape that turns on and says, Isn't it a little late to be starting down a new writing path? It involved composing at the keyboard for the sheer joy of it. Writing at Walden POndI gave me permission to stop if I started to feel anxious -- if I began questioning my work, my abilities -- basically if it ceased to be a joy.

I never had to. Because the better I felt about my creative session, the more delicious the experience turned out to be, the more I wanted to do it. I'm not suggesting that writing is always sheer Nirvana. It's called a WORK of literature for a reason. But I'm thinking that if we always dread it -- if we find ourselves grinding our teeth in front of the screen -- if we can't wait for it to be over so we can, oh, I don't know, go clean the toilet -- we need to ask ourselves if this is really how we want to spend our time. 

I'm betting that giving up completely and getting into origami or something isn't an option for you, or you wouldn't be here. So, let's try an experiment, yes? Here's your challenge:

        * Name your favorite part of the writing experience. Maybe it's tapping out a first draft with abandon (like Emii). Could be it's doing the research or journaling with the characters. Very possibly you like coming up with great dialogue or precise images or writing fight scenes. 

        * Set aside time and space -- at least an hour -- and do THAT part of writing. Even if that's not where you are with your current project, you can adapt or focus on a new work. Savor. Make it delicious. Do it like you're already a published author in demand and have nothing to worry about from editors or agents. Let. It. Be. FUN.

        * Share with us how that felt. Tell us if you want to do it again. And again and again and again. Can you just do that part of writing all the time? Um, no. But if you have a positive experience in front of that laptop or with that legal pad in this one area, that will translate into the rest of the process. It's that good, satisfied feeling that keeps us going -- not stick-to-it-ive-ness -- not grit -- not guilt. Hannah doing research

I'm here to tell ya, if you feel great while you write, someone holding your book in her hand at some future time is going to feel great while she reads. I have it on the best authority.

Can't wait to hear from you -- ALL of you. Even if you've been lurking in the shadows, come into the light and for Pete's sake have some FUN!      

 

Blessings,

Nancy Rue           


Some Inspiration: Joyce Hollyday

Joyce Hollyday  (2),Hey, Writerly Women. If this looks like someone you'd find insanely interesting, you'd be right. Meet Joyce Hollyday, former editor of  Sojourners, author of a number of powerful works of non-fiction, genuine activist in the most meaningful sense of the word and, most recently, the creator of a wonderful historical novel Pillar of Fire, based on the medieval mystics known as the Beguines. 

I'll tell you why I bring her to you as one of us.

I met Joyce when I was a student at the Academy for Spiritual Formation. She was one of our presenters, and I spent five days studying under her, sharing some meals, becoming acquainted as spiritual women. I fell in love with her authenticity. After serving as a pastor on death row, working as an advocate for survivors of domestic violence and as an ally for immigrant women, there was no call for pulling punches. Having traveled extensively to cover faith-based efforts for justice and peace in the U.S., Nicaragua and apartheid-era South Africa, she was very much at home with herself and with what is real. Basically, you don't spend nights in jail with prostitutes and fellow protestors without becoming strong enough to use your voice without fear of what people will think. 

But it was with vulnerability that Joyce came to me and asked me to walk her through writing a draft of her first novel. She'd collaborated on and solo-written successful non-fiction books -- including Then Shall Your Light Rise, Clothed With the Sun and On the Heels of Freedom -- but true to her nature she had no problem saying she wasn't sure what she was doing when it came to fiction. The story had been stirring in her soul for some time (sound familiar?). She couldn't not write it (sound even more familiar?). But she wasn't entirely sure how to go about it (sound most familiar of all?) That courage so characteristic of this woman kicked in, though, and she was willing to go for it.

With no promise of representation or publication.

No guarantee that it would ever go anywhere.

No assurance that she might spend her time on more of a sure thing.

Do I need to mention that she was right where you are? Where we all are?

We worked together through the drafts, and I became attached to Clarissa and the other characters -- and found myself crying, becoming righteously angry, realizing the story was changing me.  This novel was a slam dunk in my opinion.

Too bad my opinion couldn't get her an agent or a publisher. You would think that having that strong platform everybody wants and an impressive list of publishing credits already she'd be a literary dream for someone. But rejections piled up. One possibility looked really promising, and then fell through because "nobody's reading epics right now." (That's the gist of it, anyway -- that isn't an exact quote). I didn't hear from Joyce for a while, and I was afraid she'd given up. 

She hadn't. She did other things in the interim -- you know, got married, moved into a genuinely spiritual community with like-minded people in Vermont, continued to lead retreats. If the time wasn't right for this novel, so be it. 

And then suddenly, she was emailing me asking me for an endorsement because Pillar of Fire was being published -- eight years after she said to me, "I'm trying to write a novel." Pillar of Fire cover

So what happened?

For one thing, though discouraged Joyce didn't question herself as a writer. The market wasn't biting, but that didn't mean what she was offering was, well, crap. She knew that.

She was willing to bide her time. To abide doesn't mean to sit around gnawing at our nails and bewailing the cluelessness of the publishing world. Joyce continued to move forward with what she believed in. Her book was one part of that, but everything didn't hinge on it, least of all her view of own self worth.

And she remained connected. This publication offer didn't appear in her inbox. It came through talking with people, showing up where those who believe in working for the same things she does hang out. 

We can all do that.

    *  Rather than questioning and doubting ourselves as writers, we can continue to align ourselves with the whole truth of what we're writing about. Remember that exercise we did this fall in which we listed what we know to be true? Maybe it's time for each of us to revisit those lists.

    * While we're writing and/or sending out submissions, we can keep living full, creative lives. We've spent a great deal of time discussing and naming our Dream and Soul Space. Are we actually taking that space?

    * Instead of becoming increasingly discouraged about the state of the market, we can show up where those who might help us hang out. Does an author you respect and admire have an interactive blog or on-line classes?  SKELI recommends a cool course on Creativelive.com called "The Power of Habits" by "a guy who actually studies" things like getting a practical handle on changing habits. As Jennifer G. said during our Zoom session, we can gather more writing tools in our kit. There is also our own BookShelf which I'm going to add to later this week. Once you've read a book or listened to a podcast that changes things for you, don't hesitate to contact the author/speaker with praise. That won't directly get your foot in the publishing door, but the more your name comes up, the chances of an editor or agent thinking, "I've heard of this person" rise. That's how successful Christian fantasy writer Mary Christine Weber made her presence felt before she was published. ALA with Mary

Right now we're looking at the patterns that keep us from doing the above. Getting to the roots. Doing the opposite. Discovering new, positive patterns. Let's allow insanely interesting women like Joyce Hollyday and M. Christine Weber and each other to inspire us in that direction.

Blessings,

Nancy Rue

For more about Joyce, check out her website, www.joycehollyday.com

     


Treatment Plan #5: Allowing Positive Patterns

SkeliHappy Day After Thanksgiving weekend, insanely interesting Writerly Women. Do I even need to say that I am insanely grateful for you and this community? It is indeed one of the most valuable treasures I have discovered this year, and I hold you all close to me. I hope Thursday  found you feasting in some way, despite the restrictions we're all having to observe. Maybe it lends to more quiet gratitude, yes? (But for heaven's sake, I hope you had some mashed potatoes and gravy. Not to is unAmerican. I hope Skeli, Natasha, Emii and Colleen, who are in non-U.S. countries, also dished up some and gave thanks!) 

As we reflect on the celebration, we don't necessarily want to dwell on those limited patterns we talked about in our last post, important as they are. Go ahead and give yourself a break before you get back to getting deep into yourself and discovering the root of what keeps you stuck in patterns that prevent you from writing. A few of you have already done that --

   AMALIE says the biggest pattern she's uncovered so far is not giving herself space, not disciplining herself. to stay in one place. She learned to multitask for survival in her childhood, but that is not healthy for an Enneagram 5. (If you're not familiar with the Ennagream, you might want to put The Road Back to You by Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile on your Christmas list. It's a wonderful introduction to the concepts Amalie has studied in depth.) It moves her into a scattered place, a place of conflict between doing something she wants to do and doing what she "should" do, and launches her into some ADHD! We'll get back to Amalie in a moment.  

EMII shares that one of her patterns is that having a dream is a lot more attractive to her than a reality. So, why would she plunge into a second draft when she likes the idea of being a published author better than that possibly actually HAPPENING? Another thing that makes it difficult is simply not knowing what to do. This past year she had a writing goal each day and she wrote her words every single morning. (now THAT is impressive ...)  But now that the first draft is done, she doesn't know how to show up at her desk each day because trying to fix a draft is a lot harder than smashing out a thousand words. It feels like a waste of time, to be honest. She can't see any progress, so why would she do it? EMII will want to go a little deeper and see where that pattern comes from. Is it fear of success for some reason? That isn't uncommon. Praying for you, Em, as you take a deep breath and go on in. Emii

It takes a while to (a) discover your patterns and (b) find out where they come from. I'm not suggesting that you should have accomplished that after reading one post! When I say " a while" I'm not talking just days or even weeks, though some of you may slide into this more quickly because you've done a lot of self-examination before. And even once you use some of the techniques we talked about in our last post to get to the root of the issue, just naming it doesn't resolve it. 

When you DO have an epiphany about this -- God being an inherent part of the process -- what do you do about it? You can't change the root. If you had a critical parent, for instance, or a series of hard-nosed teachers or you experienced any kind of trauma that forced you to find a way to protect yourself, you can't make that go away. It happened and it is part of you. 

But it doesn't have to drive the bus.

How, then, do we get a limiting pattern out of the driver's seat? Again, we don't want to jump ahead and start fixing when we don't have a complete picture of the problem. But the day before a major holiday, a time of focusing on giving thanks, I think it's appropriate to consider something positive. And that is this ...

Changing a negative, self-limiting pattern involves replacing it with a positive one.

This is not the same as distracting yourself. You can't get yourself to write so you go out for a caramel machiato and a cinnamon bun -- that's not a new, positive pattern. That's part of the old one. Delicious as it may be and as lovely as it feels at the moment, it doesn't get you closer to working on your project. It actually takes you farther away.

Nor is it the same as spiritual bypassing. Shrugging your shoulders and saying, Now that I have confessed my pattern, God will transform me and I'll know when I'm ready to get back to the keyboard. This is a partnership between us and God. Jesus never said, "You just sit there, eyes closed, and I'll do a total healing." He said "Follow me." "Take up your cross and follow me." "Pick up your mat and start walking."

AmalieA positive pattern to replace a negative one looks like this for Amalie:

    * She GIVES herself intentional permission to carve out time to write

    * She ELIMINATES distractions

    * She HIDES her to do list in a file cabinet in her brain

Those are ACTIVE steps. Creating new patterns requires us to DO something.

SKELI, who is represented by that awesome picture at the top of this post, named two of her writing challenges (i.e. patterns) as I suck at endings and I write epic monsters, like 900-pagers. She has begun to create a new pattern by truly looking deeply at what she KNOWS to be true so she can get to the end of the story. These are a few of the truths on her list:

           * There is grace available even for monsters; even for the worst, creepiest, vilest human. It is a spark inside us wired right into our DNA, a flaming wire along every nerve. We can't throw it out no matter how hard we try.

  •     *But to understand this, we have to let go the idea of punishment, of the savour of vengeance for wrongs done by others, or to us, or done ourselves.
  •     *The truth is people wither under shame, and rise under love.
  • We need to see and promote the good in each other, and stop giving voice to the ugly. To quote Star Wars: "That's how we're gonna win. Not fighting what we hate, saving what we love."
  • The good is attractive all by itself. All we have to do is clear the garbage and show it.
  • So much energy is wasted assigning blame, scoping the borders of an offence. That solves nothing.
  • Simply sweep up the debris, repair the damage and move on to building the next good thing, uncovering the next treasure.
  • There are some things we can only learn in the storm, in pain. It sucks, but there it is.
  • There are some questions that don't get answered here. Why is often one of them, and the answer doesn't matter anyway. We only need to know why when we have no one to trust, no one who loves us, no one who cares. If God is who He says He is, this is never the case.
  • Sometimes pain is so great there is nothing to be done, except be with the one suffering. No words are required, just a willingness to be there in it, helpless, and knowing there is no fixing it. But there nonetheless.

I think she can write that ending now.

Are you up for another challenge, even if you aren't quite there with the last one? If so, here you go:

What is the opposite of your root-driven pattern?

What one thing can you do to take that opposite action?

An example might help:

    NEGATIVE PATTERN:  I get stuck in "I haven't written anything for the general market since the 1980's.  I might be "too old. I'm basically starting over when most of my friends are collecting Social Security and playing with their grandchildren and taking up watercolor. Maybe I'll create an awesome writing lesson for Maeryn or make yet another writing schedule. At least I know I can do that.

    ROOT OF THE PATTERN: For a number of reasons, I grew up believing that being loved was conditional on doing something spectacularly well. In fact, doing a lot of things spectacularly well. It doesn't take Sigmund Freud to see the link between that belief and the negative pattern.

    OPPOSITE OF THE PATTERN: Not doing it spectacularly well. Just doing it for fun.

    POSITIVE REPLACEMENT PATTERN: I have ABANDONED the idea of being published again. I CREATE ways for my work on my novel to be fun. I WRITE in a journal before and after a session (because I love journaling.) I RECAPTURE the week of purely living the writing life when I was in Concord in as many ways as possible -- wonder walks, coffee/tea/Matcha as rituals, time to savor every word, every image, every piece of dialogue because I don't have any deadlines, only alive lines. Orchard Houser

Is it hard to stick with that? Actually no, because those are all things I WANT to do. Things I LOVE to do. And, ironically, they are things I do WELL. I do NOT love combing the market for trends, researching agents, reading blogs about how to write a killer query letter, or talking about the dismal chances of actually getting a book in print. Will I need to do those things later? Probably -- but as long as they interfere with the joy of writing right now, I'm not going there.

After all, I am driving the bus.

And so are you.

Now that the turkey and stuffing and pumpkin pie have been digested, do a little dreaming and share a possible positive pattern with us. I'll be so grateful.


Blessings,

Nancy Rue     

 


Treatment Plan #4: Get To the Root

          Asher plannerHey, Insanely Interesting Writerly Women (our name keeps getting longer! ) You provided so many pertinent topics during our Zoom session Saturday, for a minute I didn't know what to use first. I decided that the subject of scheduling time to write is a logical place to start.

    After making that choice, there is nothing else logical about "making time to write."

    We think it has to be logical and organized, and why wouldn't we? The picture you see here was taken by one of the girls on my TEEN BLOG several years ago. She couldn't have been more than 15, and she was clearly a gifted artist, but she had the whole make-a-plan-and-stick-to-it thing down to a science. She lived in China (if I remember correctly) and had an Asian mom and a British dad, so there was a natural propensity there to be precise. But she was -- and is -- not unlike the rest of us who are surrounded by the pressure to plan. Go into any craft store -- like Joann, Michael's or Hobby Lobby -- not to mention the calendar section at Target, Barnes and Noble, Wal-Mart -- heck, even Dollar General -- and you'll find a full display of planners, stickers, stamps and books on how to put it all together. We can't just insert our important dates on Outlook anymore -- we have to make it look good enough to post on Instagram.

We're surrounded by information about making the most of our days. I don't know about you, but I've read more books on time management than I care to admit now. Not all of them had titles like Getting Things Done (it's an actual book). Some have been geared to the creative mind -- Cultivate What Matters, for instance. I've even picked up ideas from some of them that have stayed with me, but for the most part none of these systems is sustainable unless you have a full-time personal assistant to keep the thing flowing. I'm sure I would drive that poor person nuts. Cultivate

Here's the thing: whether you're a natural planner like me or you would rather chew glass than make a daily schedule or you fall somewhere in between, what goes on a calendar doesn't always apply to things creative.  How, then, do we write on a regular basis?  I'd write a book called  Getting Your Writing Done, but I don't think it would be any more effective than Nike's "Just do it!"

The reason is that creating a writing schedule and trying to stick to it is an act of WILL, and I'm learning that willing yourself to do something. Does. Not. Work. As one of my yoga teachers says flat out: "Accountability is for amateurs." Sure, you can force yourself to do something once. Maybe twice. Perhaps even three times, but you won't do it regularly.

    That's why New Year's Resolutions are forgotten in a week, if you get that far with them.

    That's why most diets don't stick.

    That's why year long Bible studies  can go by the wayside.

    That's why anything you make yourself do is doomed to failure. 

Let's look for a moment at why some diets do result in weight loss and some studies of Scripture become habitual and certain people can quit drinking, go off drugs  or give up an unhealthy relationship for good. It happens because the person WANTS to do it. If a gal gets a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes, she WANTS to shed those pounds so she doesn't, I don't know ... DIE! If  a woman realizes she's lost and only God can restore her to sanity, she WANTS to dive into that Bible and find her truth. If someone hits rock bottom and there is no one there to pull her out but AA, she WANTS to go to 90 meetings in 90 days. 

The situation doesn't have to be that drastic for this very basic principle to apply: we do what we truly WANT to do.

"I WANT to write!" you may be wailing (and weeping and gnashing your teeth). "So why don't I?"

We've established that we can't make ourselves do something for very long, even if we want that end result. What then, do we do? We find out WHY. We discover what exactly is standing between us and that thing we long for. And we do that by processing the patterns.

The best way I can explain that is with an example from my own situation.

    * I closed my mentoring business for a number of reasons, one of which was that I WANTED to return to my own writing. 

    * Once I had the space and time, I reworked my entire outline, reorganized my office and turned it into a studio and made a master plan on my giant vision board. That took four months.

    *  I wrote during that time, though not with the intensity I'd planned. Stuff kept niggling at me. The feedback I got from Donald Maass, which while encouraging wasn't the "Let me be your agent" I'd secretly hoped for. The fact that I haven't written anything for the general market since the 1980's. The creeping doubt that I might be "too old." The realization that I'm basically starting over when most of my friends are collecting Social Security and playing with their grandchildren and taking up watercolor. Yeah, I WANTED to write. But some days it was easier to create an awesome writing lesson for Maeryn or make yet another plan. 

   Melissa * And then because a health issue demanded it, I started working with a yoga therapist, who did a whole lot more than design a practice for me so I could get rid of a two-year headache. I'll spare you all the details, but this marvelous Indian-American woman raised Jain has helped me come closer to my God and to myself than I thought possible. We have uncovered my patterns of shame and the need to be "special" -- my sense of not-enoughness and my endless striving to be worthy -- my fear that I may be a fraud and my constant search for my true self. I still work with Melissa, and I'm enrolled in a year-long program to deepen my yoga. The result is a better understanding of the teachings of Jesus and the realization that all that "stuff" is my false self desperate to spare me from humiliation and failure.

    * I retired in November 2019. This genuine shift became apparent in August 2020. That was when I revived our blog. When I shaped a writing rhythm that has been working for me ever since. When I started keeping a writing journal so I can clearly see when those old patterns are creeping in. Because the patterns are never completely gone. We can just get better at recognizing them when they try to drive the bus.   

I'm not saying that you should all find a therapist, a counselor or a spiritual director to help you get down to the patterns that are keeping you from doing what you want to do -- although none of those is a bad idea. In fact, if you start digging deep and discover something really upsetting, getting that kind of help is essential. But most of the time we can take steps on our own to begin to uncover what's holding us back. 

Want to try some?

    1. I recommend going to God in whatever way you best connect to the Divine and laying the whole thing out. Journaling works for me. I can hear Pam shuddering at the very thought, and if you can relate to that, you might go with praying out loud while you walk or hike, using prayer beads to focus your attention or even drawing what you're feeling. Those are all ways of asking God to reveal the blockages.

  2. You may find one, perhaps two patterns. I discovered four. I don't suggest dealing with them all at once, but one by one. Spend as much time as you need to writing about that pattern, visualizing it, observing it in yourself. Awareness won't automatically erase it, but unless we are conscious of what we're doing (or not doing!), we have no hope of its being changed.

 3. Process with another person. My friends Loretta and Kacky and Zondra are my go-to gals, as well as my daughter Marijean. (My husband is amazing, but he wants to fix. Men do that.) Sometimes we don't know exactly what we're feeling until it comes out of our mouths. And wisdom can come out of THEIR mouths unexpectedly. It's a divine conversation, with God being a third party.  It was Kacky who pointed out that I am harder on myself than any other human being she has ever known. Loretta taught me about sitting in adoration of God, without asking anything; who knew the fruits of that could be so sweet? My daughter says things like, "You've been doing it this way for over fifty years. It's going to take a minute to change." Mj writing

4. Once you're well acquainted with the obstacle, you can dialogue with it (this is where it gets woo-woo, but bear with me). Give it a name. Write a script between the two of you. Tell it that it has served you well in the past but you're trying something different now.  The point is to be very, very gentle with yourself .

Notice that none of those steps involves your WILL. You don't have to make yourself do anything. Change will happen -- and we'll talk more about that in posts to come. For now, how about a challenge?

See if you can uncover just ONE pattern that keeps you from doing what you WANT to do, which is write.

For example:

I know it isn't going to be perfect, and imperfect makes me feel like a loser.

It feels selfish to write, but if I get everything else done first, I won't feel guilty.

I'm afraid if I do sit down to write, nothing will come, and then I'll know I'm not really a writer.

There's no guarantee this will go anywhere, and I can't do failure. I just can't.

 

There is no pressure to share that with us, but I hope you can trust this community enough to put it out there. I guarantee you that you will not be alone in thinking, feeling and fearing whatever it is. Are you up for it?

 

Blessings,

Nancy Rue

 

                                                                                                  


Zoom Follow-up

Andrea 2Hey, Writerly Women! Saturday's Zoom session with GLORIA, LORRIE, NATASHA, EMII, COLLEEN, ANDREA, LILY, JENNY, AMALIE, JENNIFER and MARGIE was quite meaningful -- at least for me! -- and I hope those of you who couldn't make it can join us next time -- in January. Many of you sent me emails saying how awesome it was to put faces and voices with names, which draws us even closer together as a community. Yes, we will do this again.

I want to start my review of the session by giving a huge thanks to ANDREA. I asked her to write down some of the quotes that came out of the Insanely Interesting Women as we talked, but Andrea took her recordings to another level and sent me an entire summary of our time together. Good on ya, Geology Lady. Couldn't have said it better myself...

We each shared an object or a thought that keeps us going with our writing. GLORIA'S was the Writer's Block she made at our last YWW in Glen Eyrie, and on it she wrote: "There is someone who needs this, and sometimes that person is you." That dovetailed nicely with AMALIE'S intention to simply write what she's learning, honoring her journey, without thinking about publishing. We all agreed that whatever it is you use to help you remain "on task" needs to be something that provides that shift from all the other stuff of life to this creative thing we're doing. The object or small ritual is especially useful when your writing space is also your kitchen, your workspace or the spot where you home school your kids. The aforementioned Writer's Block works, as does lighting a candle, turning on the playlist created specifically for your creative time or writing in a journal. Writing journal cover   

We talked next about how the blog has been useful to each of us and what we like about the set-up in general. Far and away the consensus was that here on Doorways we find a sense of community. As someone said -- was it COLLEEN, perhaps? - "It feels like a tribe." We are no longer isolated. We can process our thoughts with other writers without fear of judgement. Even when life interrupts and you have to be away from the posts for a while, you can come back, pick up where we are and still feel a part of the group.

Some of the most valuable input came from the questions each Insanely Interesting writer asked. From there we formulated a list of future topics, challenges and chances to showcase our work.

In terms of process --

    * What to do when your old process doesn't work. How do you find a new one? (GLORIA)

    * Marrying your journey, the one you're writing about, to where you want your reader to be. (AMALIE)

    * How to transition from one project to another when you have multiple pieces going simultaneously (LORRIE)

   Colleen * How to choose the projects you really want to do, especially when you feel like you're running out of time. COLLEEN put it beautifully: "What is my Holy Obligation?"

    * Finishing what we start (ALL OF US!)    

    * How to quiet your mind and write when the world around you is in chaos (MARGIE in a follow-up text)

 

The discouragement dilemma --

    * When so much of what we hear about publishing is negative, how do we keep writing through the discouragement? (ANDREA)

    * How to deal with REJECTION! How do we keep going with a project when everything seems to be going against it? (LILY)

    * The stamina vs. stuckness thing. (NATASHA)  JENNIFER suggested we discuss expanding our toolboxes to help here

    * Highlighting the positive. Remembering that we don't always know the positive effects our writing is having on readers (AMALIE) Amalie

 

To schedule or not to schedule --

    * Very few of you even try to schedule your writing time. much less stick to it. But how, then, do we get the writing done? (MARGIE)

    * Establishing a rhythm, which is different from a schedule (recommended reading: The War of Art) (NANCY)

 

 The market --

    * How to make the switch from the CBA (Christian market) to the ABA (General market) (LORRIE)

    * The differences between the two markets (LORRIE)

    * How to handle the issue of "platform" and the social media requirements imposed by many Christian agents and publishers (ANDREA)

 

The craft --

Gloria * Beginnings: how to start the story and introduce characters to an audience that doesn't know them, when you are intimately acquainted with them as the author (GLORIA)

    * The transition from the creative writing of an early draft to the editing of a final one  (LORRIE)

    * How to move from the first draft to the second draft; steps to making that process less intimidating (JENNY)

 

Possible changes in the blog itself --

   * My job is to slow down the challenges a little so I'm not providing too many opportunities in one week. Duly noted! (JENNIFER)

    * NATASHA suggested a forum of some kind so you can post questions and create discussion among you, rather than having to plow through all the comments. I'll look into that. Natasha

One of you (GLORIA?)  shared a marvelous quote from the new  Little Women movie:  "I like adventures," says Jo Marsh, "and I'm gonna find some." I don't know about you, but this community IS an adventure, and it inspires me to seek even more opportunities and challenges and fun forages into the unknown. I can't wait to sort out all these marvelous topics and create a way for us to look at each one thoroughly as part of our Treatment Plans.

If you have anything to add to the list please do, either in a comment or via an email to me. Whatever you suggest, I know it will be Insanely Interesting, because that's so you.

 

Blessings,

Nancy Rue

 

 

 


Insanely Interesting Preparation

AmalieHey, Writerly Women. Below you'll find a list of the things we've talked about here on the blog since its revival on August 28. One of the things I hope you'll share with us in tomorrow's Zoom session is what, if anything, has helped you the most in our discussions and challenges. Of course feel free to mention anything that isn't shown here. Sometimes the best stuff happens in a comment.

Here you go:

  •     * Expressing HOPE in our work, in our art and in ourselves. What hope are you expressing in your writing?
  •     * Our purpose here on the blog: To create community, give practical help with discovering individual process and provide spiritual support for the deeper writing and creating issues. How are we doing with that so far?
  •     * If not you, who? If not now, when? What won’t leave you alone that must come out in your writing?
  • Writing nekkid (naked). What if we wrote without editing and second-guessing? (The results of this exercise were amazing)
  • Being as humble as Hildegard. We each made an exhaustive, unedited list of the truths we want to tell. Again, the results were some of the best pieces of writing I’ve seen.
  • In more naked writing, we made lists of what we do WELL as writers. It was hard. Very hard. But you did it. Has it helped? Gloria
  • Sadly, it was easier to make nekkid lists of our challenges as writers. We went at that by asking, “What are we not seeing because we are seeing what we’re seeing?” We limited ourselves to five things. How are you doing with those challenges, ladies?
  • Once we’d diagnosed ourselves, we learned to “let go of the banana.” We wrote down ten expectations of ourselves as writers and of our writing careers, but we were only allowed to keep five – and those five had to be things over which we actually have control. Are you still letting go of those pointless bananas and only maintaining realistic intentions?
  • The next step in the Treatment Plan was to focus on our OWN intentions (our bamboo shoots) rather than being distracted by what other people are doing. Are you doing that? Or like the elephants are you swinging your trunk around all over the place? It’s worth doing a self-check.
  • Lily 2020That was followed by organizing ourselves to support our intentions – and that meant internal organization. Finding out why it’s hard to stick to a plan, why it’s difficult to claim time and space to write. We came up with baby steps. Have you taken yours? One at a time?
  • In setting intentions, we had to be careful to set “alive-lines” rather than deadlines. We figured out what time ranges would keep our intentions alive.  How’s that working for you?
  • We realized that some of our intentions needed to include time and space to dream, ponder and be inspired. To that end, we each named five things that inspire us, and used THOSE as inspiration for what we are now calling “Space – Dream and Soul.” Have you taken your first one yet?
  • We began to create an Insanely Interesting Book Shelf. Anything to add to that?

And now here we are, about to have our first Convivium of Insanely Interesting Writerly Women.

As we come together to talk about Brave Authenticity, do think about one question you’d like to ask and one thing we’ve covered in these 2 ½ months that has been especially helpful to you.

I’ll also want suggestions for future topics and thoughts on how to make the blog as a whole more applicable to you.

You have made this a vital community, ladies.

I hope you feel as blessed as I do.

Nancy Rue  


Central Time!

20 minutesJust in case you read yesterday's post about Saturday's Zoom session before I went back and edited it, we will begin at 2:00 p.m. CENTRAL TIME, not Eastern. Thank you, Amalie, for catching that.

If you haven't requested an invitation and you'd like to join us, you can do that now. Just email me and I'll get that off to you pronto.

To make mental preparation for our session easier, tomorrow I'll post a list of all the topics we've covered since the end of August. That way you don't have to comb through past posts. Seriously, who has that kind of time? 

Can't wait to see your wonderful and Insanely Interesting selves. And by the way, using that term does not imply that you have to try to be fascinating. The point is, Writerly Women, that you already are. God doesn't make boring. I have that on the best authority.

Blessings,

Nancy


A Convivium of Writerly Women: Getting Ready

YWW crazy pictureThe time has come! On Saturday, November 14, at 2:00 p.m. Central  Time, our insanely interesting group of Writerly Women will come together using the magic of Zoom. I don't know about you, but I cannot WAIT! 

Fortunately we have a few days before we gather, which gives us a chance to prepare. And if we're to make the most of our community time, there are some things we can do ahead.

  •    * If you want to join us for any or all of the 90-minute convivium and you haven't emailed me, please do. As soon as I receive your email I'll send you an invitation.

    * Our topic is Brave Authenticity (and the obstacles between it and you!) This will be a culmination of all the things we've talked about here since the blog was revived on August 28, 2020. Feel free to skim through the posts to refresh your memory and possibly come up with questions or comments you want to share.

  • Each person will have an opportunity to ask a question, hopefully pertaining to the general topic. That bears thinking about before hand. 
  • During the course of the session you can also either "Raise Your Hand", which I'll explain how to do at the beginning, or type a question or comment in the Chat. When I call on you, I'll unmute you. Otherwise, you'll be muted so that mass chaos doesn't reign! Frog in tea
  • This first Zoom meeting will also be a springboard into what comes next here on the blog, so if you have ideas, suggestions or possible topics in mind, either post them in a comment, email me or have them ready on Saturday.
  • If you have ANY questions at all, please feel free to contact me 

I also think we should have a bit of fun SO, if you feel so moved, bring an object that helps keep you going when you get distracted, frustrated, discouraged or have "Why am I even doing this?" moments. As you each take a few minutes to introduce yourselves, we'll want to see that item in case you want to share.

This being our Maiden Voyage, so to speak, I'm sure we'll learn more about how we want to shape our sessions in the future. But with all of us together, our faces lit up on the screen, I don't see how it could be anything but ... INSANELY INTERESTING!

Blessings,

Nancy Rue


In Case of a Tie ...

Andrea 2Hey, Writerly Women. In our "election" of a new name for artist dates that suits a group of Insanely Interesting women writers, I have counted every vote -- six or seven times -- and the fact remains that we have a TIE. BOTH Dream Space and Soul Space are winners. We could vote again, but I'm thinking ANDREA (Dream Space)  and COLLEEN (Soul Space) each deserve a prize.  I'll contact you ladies to set up critiquing and a one-on-one session via Zoom. Congrats!

Colleen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although ... that still leaves us without a name for our creative excursion break thingies! Just goes to show that writers, as Emily Dickinson would say, dwell in possibility. PAMMY suggested combining them, so we could call them Dream Space for the Soul, though that's a mouthful, right? DSS sounds like a mental health diagnosis, which isn't entirely inappropriate here but doesn't have a creative ring to it. So what if we do this?

Let's just call it Space. "I'm going to make Space this afternoon." "Where can I block out Space on my calendar this week?"  In yourself you can decide if the Space you're taking is for your Soul, or it's just to Dream, or both.

Dancing in autumn

The point is that we TAKE that Space. On a regular basis. Even as challenging as it is to figure out where to go as we experience another wave of CoVid-19. We can do this. I mean, seriously, we have shown ourselves to be highly creative women.  Andrea makes a chai latte and gets out the paint pens. Cathy takes Intentional Musing walks and listens to Christmas music. Lily takes pictures of doors and coffee shops. Margie has tea in period costume. Emii curls up in front of "Enola Holmes."  I turn on the faux fireplace in the sunroom, Matcha green tea latte in hand, wrap in a blanket and look at the old photographs I just unearthed from a closet we're tearing out. (Speaking of renovations, in the re-do of our kitchen, the only casualty has been the ceiling of said closet starting to cave in, and me accidentally flushing a plastic measuring spoon down the toilet. Don't ask ...)

The only prescription for Taking Space is:

Be intentional about scheduling it, or it probably won't happen.

Do it solo.

Think only of taking in, rather than producing something as a result. Eventually you will anyway.

I loved having a contest, so there will be more in the future. Meanwhile, don't forget Saturday's Zoom session. If you want to join us, let me know via email and I'll send you an invitation. Tomorrow I'll post some things to think about in preparation for our time together. I'm absolutely salivating at the thought of us gathering face-to-face. Yes.

 

Blessings,

Nancy Rue 


Voting Ends Tomorrow!

Gloria's treeGood morning, Insanely Interesting Writerly Women. It is a GREAT day! And it is made even more so by your involvement in what has become a very special community here.

We so appreciate your votes for the new name for artist's dates, and so far the count is VERY close. As in, closer than Georgia. Unlike my Southern neighbor state, I will stop the count tomorrow -- November 9 -- and we'll have a winner. So if you haven't voted yet, please post a comment with your choice or, as some have done, shoot me an email. If you're late to the party, the two choices are:

DREAM SPACE

and

SOUL SPACE

Whatever you're currently calling these mini-forays into imagination and creativity and away from work and responsibilities, Gloria is taking hers. She fulfilled an old childhood dream and bought herself a bonsai tree. Isn't it the cutest little ol' thing? GLORIA, care to share why this has been a creative goal of yours? You are, of course, insanely interesting.

ANDREA has also carved out some space for a little creative indulgence. As you may remember, she is in disaster management in Hawaii, which means her job is to follow the progress of storms, earthquakes and other things that rock the natural world. Andrea's latte 2She calls this her "needed a Chai Latte break because I'm so over Storm Season" creation. And BTW, Andrea, you're getting really good at this since you bought yourself a frother. I highly recommend them.

CATHY is finding her space in listening to the Christmas music her local radio station is already playing. We all know how much she LOVES the season. Normally I would say, aren't these stations rushing things a little? But right now, in the midst of the once-again rising Covid numbers and a week of anxiety over the election, we need to celebrate, and what better thing to decorate for and sing about and bake in honor of than Jesus's birthday? 

Because it's not terribly safe to go out and do stuff right now, I've been taking a Wonder Walk every day. Gibbs (my chocolate lab) and I set out at lunchtime for our one-to-two mile amble (okay, it's a little more brisk than an amble with his three-year-old self along), and I set my intention to notice at least one thing that makes me wonder in that magic way only nature can provide. Usually that finds itself into a haiku, which I can't wait to get home and write down. Not being what you would call Hiker Adventure Barbie, this is a new thing for me, and I'm finding it to be quite, well, wonder-full. It doesn't take much, ladies. 

If you haven't received an email invitation to the Zoom session on Saturday, November 14, from 2:00 - 3:30 p.m. Central Time, please email me. We'll welcome at that time newcomer LORRIE. And other-newcomer, LAUREEN, if you want to join us that day, please shoot me an email. ALL writerly women are welcome. It goes without saying that you are Insanely Interesting. Even if you don't know it yet ...

Blessings,

Nancy Rue

 


Choose Your Space!

Leslie's coffee shop spaceGood morning, Insanely Interesting Writerly Women. I have to say that we are better at counting votes than they are in Nevada. I appreciate their diligence and accuracy, but my WORD! I digress ...

Thank you for casting your votes for our own original name for those artist's dates we're all committed to taking. From those many great choices, you have shown an attraction for "Space," which I think tells us a great deal about what we want from our times away from the computer and other obligations so we can nurture our artistic selves.

  We have a tie between:

Dream Space

and

Soul Space

 

Let's set Monday, November 9 as the final day for voting in this run-off. Please vote in a comment for one of these awesome options by 4:00 p.m. Central Time Monday.

Meanwhile, if you're up for the Zoom session on Saturday, November 14 at 2:00 p.m.  Central Time, and you haven't emailed Savoring Saturday morningme already, please do so . As soon as I hear from you I'll send you an invitation. Looks like it's going to be -- what else -- an insanely interesting gathering.

I'm finding it hard to settle down right now to anything creative in my writing. Rather than veg in front of "Father Brown", which isn't altogether a bad thing ... I'm focusing on active tasks, some of them related to my novel, so I don't connect to negative possibilities. Shall we all make it a thing today and maybe even tomorrow (if Nevada continues to count votes on an abacus, for Pete's sake!) to link to the positive -- in ourselves, in our actions and in our God? If you want to share what's positive for you right now, please do. This applies to you, too, Canadian Natasha and Skeli. We are powerful neighbors of yours; what affects us affects you too.

Thanks for being here, Writerly Women. You continue to rock.

 

Blessings,

Nancy Rue   


Our Own Voting Day

Big pencilI don't know about you, my Insanely Interesting Writerly Friends, but I have never been so anxious about a national election. I've barely been able to settle into anything all afternoon, and I want to go to sleep for about three days and wake up when the votes are all counted. But that still wouldn't make me any less fearful of the results or more concerned about our country's future. 

There IS one thing I CAN focus on -- an election for which the results will be nothing BUT positive and fun and joyful and lead to all manner of fulfilling and creative things. Actually, I feel better already having written that.

In case you're just tuning in, we're having a contest to design a name of our own for what Julia Cameron calls Artist's Dates. The deadline for submissions just passed moments ago, and it's time to cast your vote. The author of the name you choose as a group will receive a free critique and Zoom session with me.

You sent in SO many suggestions, I think this may have to be a primary! Please choose the name listed below which most resonates with you and post your vote in a comment Commentby 9:00 p.m. Central Time tomorrow, Wednesday, November 4. Thursday morning we'll take it from there.

Ready? Drum roll please ...

     

Benedictional Break

Calming Breaths

Creative Musings

Creative Musings and Serenades

Creative Rendezvous

Dream Space

Intentional Musings

Interactive Intake

Life Bursts

Obcordate Oasis (in Botany, obcordate means heart-shaped)

Soul Space

Triple R Rendezvous (refresh, restore, reboot)

Thank you for these great submissions, Writerly Women. I would be delighted to use any one of them for my next creative excursion.

Decisions

While I have you, don't forget to email me if you want an invitation to the Zoom session on November 14 at 2:00 p.m. Central Time. I've received lots of responses already -- it's going to be an Insanely Interesting time!

 

Blessings,

Nancy Rue

 


Zoom, Zoom, Zoom!

Margie VictorianNow, seriously, don't you want to hang out with this lady? One of the items on our Margie's inspiration list is "dressing in historical fashions and enjoying tea parties." She says that takes her to a past world of beauty and elegance.  She is INSANELY INTERESTING!

So, of course, is Lily, who came up with seven items on her inspiration list -- from butterflies to singing opera to Pippi Longstockings (remember her?). She got so involved with it, she turned it into a blog post which you can check out here. As if that weren't creative enough, she swept up my idea of an A to Z inspiration list and made her own. A few  of my favorites there are craft chocolate, harpsichord and Schubert. I bet she'd share the whole thing if you asked her ...

The point is that a group like this needs to gather and share our marvelous insanity. So, it's time for a Zoom session. Here's what I'm thinking:

  • I probably can't find a day and time that will be convenient for everybody, so each month I'll choose a different time slot. Fair enough?
  • We'll have ninety minutes (I now have unlimited Zoom. Yeah, baby!)
  • If you plan to attend, you'll need to email me so I can send you the link. I may be able to figure out how to post it here too. Researching that  is on my list (though not my inspiration list! Technology does NOT inspire me!)
  • I'll also post the topic so you can prepare your questions and the things you want to share.
  • As with all Zoom sessions of any size, everyone will be muted except me, and when you "raise your hand" I'll unmute you. Otherwise, chaos reigns. You'll also be able to ask questions via the chat feature so we can cover everyone's concerns. 

    * In case you aren't familiar with Zoom, I'll go over all of this at the beginning of the session. If you have any questions now, post them in a comment, because I'm sure if you're wondering about something, a bunch of others are thinking about the same thing.

Okay, ready for the info? Drum Roll Please!

    DATE: November 14, 2020

    TIME: 2:00 p.m. Central Standard Time (3:00 Eastern, 1:00 Mountain, noon Pacific)

    TOPIC:  Brave Authenticity (and the obstacles between it and you!)

    DURATION: 90 minutes, give or take

    TO SIGN UP: email me and I will send you the link via email a few days before 

Hannah writing

We've been on our own for far too long. It's time we fixed that.

Meanwhile, don't forget to email me your entry for the new-name-for-Artist's-Dates contest. Don't know what I'm talking about?  click here  Entries are due by 6:00 p.m. Central Time TOMORROW! We have some delicious ones to choose from. But that is no surprise. You are INSANELY INTERESTING WOMEN!

Blessings,

Nancy

 

 


Inspiration in the Pages

My bookshelfI'm looking out at a study in grays on this chilly afternoon. A sky like that creates the perfect neutral backdrop for the few bright leaves that still cling to the trees. Feels like a good time to do something I've been wanting to institute here since I revived the blog a few months ago, and that is to provide us with our very own ...

Insanely Interesting Book Shelf

Books on writing and creativity are some of my favorites to read and study and are among the few I'll read over and over again. (Life just feels too short at this point to re-read, you know?) Below you'll find the ones that inspired me, taught me and kept me motivated through my thirty-plus years as a writer. And as a growing-toward-wholeness person.

 

Artist's Way As I mentioned in a prervious post, Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way had a profound impact in my life as a whole, not just as a writer. Her work helped me make the decision to go to full-time writing, and I have never looked back with regret.  I can't recommend it enough.

If you are in the over 50 crowd, I think you'd love her more recent book, It's Never Too Late To Begin Again. This one makes you feel like the best is yet to come -- and I'm discovering she's right! 

Never Too lateI like to read books on writing by my favorite fiction authors, so when I found Write Away by Elizabeth George in a used bookstore, I pounced on it. Even if she isn't your jam, finding books on the draft by your own favorite writers is a great way to jumpstart yourself and keep going. Stephen King's ______________, Gail Godwin's Publishing, and The Lost Landscape by Joyce Carol Oates are all worth looking into.

War of ArtAnother writing book by a great author deserves its own shout-out, and that is The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield. If you can handle a little profanity, this is one you don't want to miss, especially if you struggle with getting yourself to sit down and write. It definitely helped me through a rough patch. His other work on writing, The Artist's Journey, is great for the continuing writing journey, as well as the on-going search for meaning. In both books the chapters are very short and pithy, and they hit the target like no other.  

For ANY point in your life as a writer, Donald Maass has a book for it. Some of my go-to volumes are Writing the Breakout Novel and The Emotional Craft of Fiction. If you can't get to one of his in-person intensives after the pandemic has passed -- they are a bit pricey though worth every dollar -- reading any of his books is the next best thing, and it is not a poor substitute. Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook is one I used after I outlined every one of my novels after 2006. There are several very full copies of it packing in a bin somewhere. (Come to think of it, who is ever going to look at those?)

There are two on my list that I haven't read yet, and I'd love to know if any of you have.

  • If You Want To Write by Brenda Ueland, which is about the writing process

*  Escaping Into the Open by Elizabeth Berg

Definitely my next read will be Writing To Change the World, by Mary Pipher. Doesn't it sound just delicious?

You know what comes now, right? Please fill us in on the writing books that have helped create your path. I'll set up a Book Shelf in the right margin of the blog so we can continually add to it, and all our besties will be in one place for quick reference.

In the meantime, let's avoid the pitfall of just reading about writing and not actually DOING it! It can happen -- and none of these authors wants that, I'm sure. Can't wait to hear from you!

 

Blessings,

Nancy

 

 

 

 

 


Assorted Stuff!

Andrea's pumpkin artInsanely Interesting Writerly Women! I am SO glad to be back. Don't even get me started on my tirade about our internet server. I try to keep it positive here! Thanks for hanging in. We have a lot to catch up on.

First of all, your inspiration lists are, well, inspiring. ANDREA hasn't just made a list ... she went out and got her some new paint pens and look what she did! I've known her for a while now, and I have no idea she had a gift for visual art as well as writing. Andrea, there is a zaniness here that I would love to see even more of in your written work. And, y'know, since so much of what inspires you is kid-related, have you ever considered writing for them?

I say all that to point out that these Artist's Dates (which we are in the process of renaming) aren't just rituals to get our minds off other concerns. They're freeing ways to discover more of what we are and what we might write about and how.  The product of Andrea's outing for paint pens is not just the cutest darn art pumpkin ever but also the inspiration to explore new avenues and maybe even a new audience.

If taking that time to think about and carry out these dates with yourself still snags you (I don't have time, I can't think of anything, I need to be writing) it might help for us to have our own name for these outings (and innings!) that better defines what they're actually about. Maybe for us the word "Date" is too formal. (Does anyone actually date anymore?) I think we need -- Celebrate

A CONTEST!!!!!

Between now and Tuesday, November 3, submit your suggestion in an email to me (nnrue@att.net) . The following have been entered already:

Intentional Musings

Dream Space

Maker's Meandering

I'll compile them all Tuesday evening and post them Wednesday, November 4.

You'll have twenty-four hours to vote for your fave (I'm having you email your entries so you're not biased by the author)

On Thursday, November 5 I'll post the winner

Here's the prize:

The winner receives a critique from me of 1,000 words of her writing and a one-hour Zoom or Skype session to discuss.

Are you in?

Speaking of Zoom sessions, in tomorrow's post I'll give you instructions for signing up for a group one. This is a freebie! It's something we've talked about doing, and the time has come.

Friday, internet willing, we'll begin our Insanely Interesting Book Shelf, so be thinking about the books that have inspired you as a writer and as a growing person. My bookshelf

I told you we had a lot to catch up on! Okay, let's hear about those what are not called Artist Dates but will soon be called something original to us AND I can't wait to see your entries for the contest. Spread the word to anyone you haven't seen here on the blog lately.

Until tomorrow -- Write On!

 

Blessings,

Nancy

 


Treatment Plan #3: Come Alive

Julia-cameron-bwHey, Insanely Interesting Writerly Women. This lady -- Julia Cameron, another IIWW -- doesn't know it but she changed my creative life in 1995 with her still-in-print masterpiece, The Artist's Way.

In case you're not familiar with it, this not a book that you merely read. In order to derive full benefit from Ms. Cameron's wisdom, you have to DO this 12-step program for recovering your creativity. I followed it to the letter, did all of the things. Except one.

The Artist Date.

One of the tools for recovery that Julia prescribes is a weekly solo outing for at least an hour if not two in which you take your child artist on a creative excursion. It could be anything from cruising the aisles of a high end art supply store to digging through the bins at a thrift shop. From spending an afternoon in an art gallery to taking yourself to a matinee. The possibilities, she says, are endless. 

I did not find that to be true. Every time I got to the part in my week when I was supposed to venture out on an A.D., I couldn't think of a  single thing that appealed to me. The idea was to allow yourself to be inspired while simply enjoying, being free, taking in creativity instead of churning it out. But I hit a wall every time, and it invariably brought me to tears.

Sometimes it still does. Artist's Way

If I can't think of anything that might allow me to be absorbed in art, beauty, creativity, I must be more boring than a chemistry class (that's just me ...). You can only hang out in so many bookstores, which at times only depressed me because how was my stuff every going to compete with all this other great writing? Maybe I should stay home and keep working. She predicted that would happen and urged us to do it anyway. I can't say I tried that hard. I finally came to the conclusion that I was afraid I didn't know how to be inspired. It was too scary to pursue.

Until I stopped mentoring full time and no longer had the excuse that I needed to work. In this almost-year since my retirement, I've realized the seriousness of my workaholism. One of the most effective antidotes is to do the opposite. To play. I would have hit the same wall as I always had if I hadn't started reading magazines like In Her Studio, Where Women Create and Bella Grace, which are suffused with the absolute truth that we cannot create without inspiration, and we cannot be inspired unless we are intentional about seeking things that light us up and stir our passions.

 

This isn't just an artsy-fartsy idea. Howard Thurman,  African-American author, philosopher, theologian, educator, and civil rights leader, said:

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."

Howard_thurman

Those Artist's Dates. Those creative excursions (I think that was what Sara Ban Breathnach called them in Simple Abundance) . Those forays into inspiration that all creativity gurus walk about. Those are the actions that reveal what makes us come alive. And what makes us come alive is what makes great writing.

As I look back, I realize I actually used to open myself up to inspiration, just not in the structured way Ms. Cameron suggests. I took amazing research trips and always carved out time just to walk around and observe and absorb. I came away with more than just information for my novels. I came away changed. Now I see -- especially in this safer-at-home season -- that I don't have to leave town for two weeks in order to seek the things that make me come alive. I'm not skilled at this yet, but here's what I've learned so far.

Watching amazing series like Call the Midwife and Father Brown (I'm pretty much addicted to BritBox) brings out my desire to go deeper, to touch the hurt places, not just in my characters but in me. I set myself up with the perfect cup of tea (one must sip tea while watching British television) and my fave blanket and, of course, Gibbs, and absorb even episodes I've seen multiple times. I keep a leather notebook handy (a gift from HANNAH C!) to write down things that I want to ponder.

      THAT'S  AN ARTIST'S DATE

Father-brown

 

Almost every day Gibbs and I take what I'm calling a Wonder Walk. My intention is to come back each time with evidence of something that took me into the land of wonder. It might be a haiku in my head, a particularly beautiful weathered leaf or an image I can't wait to write down. Sometimes I have to walk a while to discover it. My mind tends to wander back to what to thaw out for dinner or how to handle a funky situation -- but I'm getting there. 

THAT'S AN ARTIST'S DATE

Gibbs at window

 

Mask securely on, I venture into Books-A-Million, buy the latest issue of one of those magazines mentioned above, come home and make a latte -- and spend the rest of the afternoon devouring it and pulling out quotes and pictures for later use in collages, blog posts, journals. That never fails to bring me to life.

THAT'S AN ARTIST'S DATE

Latte

 

Maybe this convivvium of insanely interesting writerly women should call them something different. Our intention is not just to be better writers. We want to, as Howard Thurman, bring ourselves to life. SO, I have two challenges for you this week:

CHALLENGE #1

WHAT DO YOU THINK WE SHOULD NAME OUR INTENTIONALLY INSPIRATIONAL THINGIES?

 

CHALLENGE #2

NAME FIVE (5) THINGS THAT INSPIRE YOU

( I tried to think of something for every letter of the alphabet, so that might be a way to approach it if you feel, well, uninspired)

 

Of COURSE share in a comment or by emailing me (nnrue@att.net). That is, as always, how we'll inspire each other.  I have no doubt you'll make your list in some marvelously creative way, just as LILY, CATHY, EMII, KATE B. -- ALL of you are wont to do.

Come alive, ladies. Come alive.

 

Blessings,

Nancy Rue

 

 

   


More Support for Our Intentions: Alive-Lines!

Jefferson deadline Hey, insanely interesting Writerly Women. I am LOVING not only your Intentions and your commitment to supporting them in concrete, realistic ways, but your encouragement of each other. Sharing ideas, being inspired, just saying, "Oh, you can SO do this" -- that's what this community is about.

One of the things I like most about what we're doing here is the lack of stress. I haven't heard anyone say, "I HAVE to get this thing done," or "If I'm not published by the end of 2021, I'm giving it up." I didn't suggest that we set expectations of time, and no one else has either.

Thank the good Lord.

Most goal-setting strategies include at least some kind of time range. Doesn't the T in SMART goal stand for "time"? We're not calling what we're formulating goals, because they're Intentions, so the time thing doesn't apply in the same way. However, most of us don't do well if we don't have some sense of when we'd like to see certain things happen.

Let's just not call them "deadlines."

It's no accident that the word "dead" is in this dreaded word for "it has to be done by ______" The term 'deadline' was first used during the American Civil War as the name for the line in a prison camp which the prisoner could not cross or he'd be shot! I mean, seriously. Actually, earlier in the 19th century, it described a line on a printing press, beyond which text would not print properly, so how that leap was made, no one is quite sure. 

By the early 1900's, "deadline" was being used for any line that shouldn't be crossed, not just one where the offender would be struck down. Though you would think that was true, the way some editors have viewed it since 1920 when it shifted to a synonym for "time limit", mostly in newspaper jargon. I once had a pencil that said "Deadlines amuse me," but those waiting for a manuscript seldom feel that way. Trust me. 

So, no, we won't be setting deadlines for ourselves. What I DO suggest is that we establish "Alive-Lines." I don't think that term will go viral, but for our purposes it works. Let's each ask:

What time range would keep that Intention alive?

20 minutesHere's what I mean.

As I was looking at my Intention to finish Book 1 of the Footnotes Collection, Mandatory Sentence, which I have been working on for longer than I have ever worked on a book before because I always had a (shudder) deadline, I found myself WANTING some sort of rhythm to keep me going, keep the thing alive. So I came up with some loose ranges that feel comfortable and yet somehow inspiring. I have a range for finishing Part I, writing Part II, writing Part III, completing revisions, researching agents, developing a proposal. I have them taped to the back of my journal, and I feel good about them. They feel real and fresh and provide just the amount of professionalism I need.

And I will not be shot -- self-inflicted or otherwise -- if life happens and I have to shift them a little.

So here's a mini-challenge for you -- before we look at the next part of our Treatment Plan tomorrow--

What is ONE Alive-Line you can establish for one of your Intentions?

And, of course, share! I want to highlight you insanely interesting women.

 

Blessings,

Nancy Rue

 

 


Supporting Those Intentions: Margie, Lily, Nancy ... and Victor

Victor HugoHey, insanely interesting Writerly Women. Legend has it that when Victor Hugo was faced with a brutal deadline, he gave away all his clothes except for a shawl (thank goodness) so he HAD to stay at home and work. The result: The Hunchback of Notre Dame. While we seem to have a theme of clothing removal on this blog (remember the truth-telling list?), I don't think we have to resort to that in order to meet our Intentions. 

But -- action IS required, and you. Are. On it.

Margie, who wants to finish Book 2, has scheduled her writing days and has garnered the support of friends and her book prayer team.

Lily's intention is to write in a way that changes lives. She's asking friends how they WANT their lives to change -- 8 so far! I was honored to be one of them. 

As for me, one of my intentions is to keep a meaningful writing journal. Journaling always keeps me centered and focused, and in this case I know it will bring me down out of the crazy tree when I start seriously wondering if I can do this novel thing again. My first step was to find the journal I started, but it seems to have gone the way of all flesh. So -- I made a new one. I like it so much better than the lost one, and I've used it ever since. Okay, so it's only been two days but it already feels like a friend. Wanna see?

Writing journal cover

I was trying to channel LILY with my little vignettes, but I think I need some practice. Still, it was fun! And, my loves, if this writing life isn't fun at least 80 percent of the time, we need to set THAT as an intention.

Writing Journal inside

Have a great weekend. Send me your First Step or post as a comment. And check in Monday when we'll talk about Zoom sessions. Oh, yes!

Blessings,

Nancy Rue

 

 


Treatment Plan #2: Full-On Support

DrewHey insanely interesting Writerly Women. You have make your realistic, doable intentions clear, and that has been an inspiration to us. I am still treasuring and pondering so many of the things you've shared.

So ... what do we do with that stuff?

My first meditation teacher, Drew Sevel (hands down the most deliberate person I have ever met) always said, "Organize your body to support your intention." In order to meet the intention of, say, "Maintaining focus on God," or "Returning to God when I'm distracted," the body has to be aligned and alert and comfortable. There was something about the word "organizing" that really worked for me. I am, after all, the ultimate straightener, sorter and binder-maker!

Those wise words apply not just to the intentions set for meditation. They work for anything we choose to focus on. They will work for those bamboo shoots we've decided to carry proudly, heedless of the bins of other fruits that tempt us to toss our thought-trunks into things that are not ours to do. So let's talk about --

Organizing Yourself to Support Your Intention

If you are not a list-making, calendar creating, penultimate planner like I am, fear not! We're not talking about THAT kind of "organizing." If you've ever spent time and energy cleaning out your space or your Writing Bag, lining your pens up in a drawer and setting up folders for, well, everything, in the hope that your mind will be clearer and your writing will flow and you'll find yourself working on that novel or that poetry every. Single. Day -- you know it doesn't work that way. That only helps once you're truly motivated and confident and all those things we've said we want to be. Leslie's space

We're talking here about taking just one step to set yourself up to meet the first intention on your list. That step MAY be an action, but it could also be entirely internal. Some examples might help --

    KATE B. says she will complete her first book by the end of the year.  Her first step in organizing herself to meet that intention MAY be to set up a realistic writing schedule or figure out how many pages a day she'll need to write in order to get 'er done by December 31. OR it may be to journal about why it's so hard for her to work on this novel she loves so much or create an inspirational collage to inspire her. These steps might work for LILY too.

   AMALIE says she wants to have space and time that is allotted to writing. On the surface that may seem to be an entirely external intention, and on one level it is. A step might be having a family meeting and alerting the people in her household that X day and Y space are not to be disturbed. However, there may be something deeper going on. She might have to free-write about why it's tough for her to claim those hours and that square footage. Or have some interactions with other writers who do seem to carve that out, just to find out how they do it. That kind of moving forward might resonate with CATHY too.

With THoreau ANDREA states that she will be able to just have fun with her writing. How do we organize ourselves for fun?! This might seem like the hardest one yet, so she may have to make a playlist to listen to during her writing sessions or create cut-outs of her characters and have them hanging out on her desk. Internally, though, Andrea might have to explore just what fun looks like  for her or ask the people who love her what's delightful about her. (I suggest LESLIE for that job, Andrea!) I'm thinking these steps of joy might be perfect for COLLEEN as well.

You get the idea? I'll break it down for us:

1. Choose one of your bamboo-shoot intentions. You can decide whether you want to start with the easiest one or the hardest, or just close your eyes and point.

2. See if you can prayerfully discern whether your first step (and only the first) needs to be an external one (something you do or change physically) or an internal one (something you want to creatively explore within yourself)

3. With that determined, write down what that step will be. Make it short term and doable and, most important, something you can't wait to do. LILY will probably immediately create some kind of art around it. I can see EMII expressing it poetically. PAM --who knows, she might put it on a quilt square! If you just don't know what step to take first, brainstorm for every step you can think of -- on paper -- and the right one will rise to the top like cream.  

4. PUT IT ON YOUR CALENDAR! "Eventually" is not a word you'll want to use in this case. Carve out time to do it NOW, or at least within the next few days. Cultivate

5. Get outside support for that step. Ask a friend to check in with you in 24 hours to see if you've done it. Talk it over with your significant other, if that person is typically supportive. You have a READY-MADE source of support RIGHT HERE. Take a minute to post a comment -- (It doesn't have to be a tome!)

Here's how to do that.

INTENTION: Find my niche. STEP: I'm going to  write a paragraph about the same thing for 5 different audiences. (Sound good, Colleen?)

INTENTION: My writing will change lives for the better, globally. STEP: I'm going to take ask  5 friends how they want their lives to change. (What do you think, Lily?)

INTENTION: Figure out who I am without the writing. STEP: Collect images that resonate with me, spread them out and see what the whole says about who I am. (Just a thought, Natasha ...)

If you're meeting inner resistance -- But this isn't writing! It won't get my book done. Tell me how to DO this! -- trust me --

  • Every piece of writing began with one step, and most of those steps had nothing to do with plot, characters, point of view or followers on Twitter.
  • If you're stuck, just sitting there staring at the screen until you can't stand it and you have to go binge on ice cream or Netflix or Instagram isn't going to get you unstuck. Taking one small step will.
  • Once you take this step and others we'll talk about, those creative juices will begin to squeeze out like fresh lemonade. Before you know it, you'll be adding sugar and lapping it up. 

ConfusedAsk me how I know this ...

I'll do it with you:


INTENTION: I will keep a meaningful writing journal

STEP: Pull out the one I started for my novel, clip the old pages together and set up a fresh new page. With stamps and snippets of paper ...

SUPPORT: Tell Marijean (my daughter)  I'm doing it and tell her I'll show it to her next Thursday when we have our weekly Skype/creative journalling session.   

I need to close this post so I can go do that! I'm salivating ...

Post a comment, yes? Intention. Step. Support.

Salivating about that too. I need a napkin ...

Blessings,

Nancy Rue 


Holding Onto Those Bamboo Shoots: Colleen, Lily, Kate, Natasha (and Introducing Margie!)

LIly's cards 1
 Hey, insanely interesting Writerly Women. This post is going to be so rich with YOU-ness you might want to sit down with a cuppa and a treat. Pumpkin squares sound like a good idea, don't they? Truly savor the bamboo shoots -- AKA intentions -- of our fellow writers, and be as inspired as I am.

LILY

 My initial reaction to the exercise was a mixture of concern that I had nothing substantive or helpful to offer and confusion. To prepare and motivate myself to do the activity well, I employed some of my crafting and artsy skills to make fun cards to write on. That process also gave me time to think through and discern my expectations and hopes for a writing career. It took awhile for me to think of ten expectations to write. This was the first time in a long time I intentionally wrote down my dreams for a writing career. Once I was done, I flipped the cards over, so the writing was face down. I had each of my four kiddos flip one card over, and then I turned the last card over.

I couldn't wait to see what cards were turned over. I was probably much less anxious about what had been randomly chosen, because Nancy had added the caveat that we get to choose which desires or expectations we want to pursue. So, we could swap in and out whatever cards we want. Still, I wondered whether I'd keep what got turned over or swap some out. Lily's cards 2

These five cards with expectations for my writing career were the ones that were flipped over:

* My novels and/or writing become bestsellers.

* An agent gets passionate about my writing and chooses to represent me.

* I finish writing Nina's (as well as Anna's, Charles', and Erik's) story, however many books it takes, no matter what.

Lily's cards 3* My novels will be published by a major publishing house.

* My writing will change lives for the better, globally.

I didn't have any desire to flip over the other ones to see what I had missed. Rather, I wanted to embrace and pursue the ones that got chosen. Some of them gave me a surprising but good sort of jolt, an electrifying and encouraging wake-up: finishing Nina's story and improving lives. I don't want my writing to sit on people's shelves or inboxes. I want to encourage and make a difference in people's lives. Lilys cards 4

*****

Lily's whole thing makes me want to create little scenes for myself and photograph them. She is living the creative life. It's an innate intention with her. And can I just add that in a text to me, Lily said, "I realized I really need to keep moving forward. The wallowing needs to stop."

 
KATE B.

    Kate calls her collection her "Unintentional Bananas" . She created them in her fave coffee shop, which makes me want to fly to Colorado and join her. I know we will ALL meet there one day. Ah, but on to the list: (BTW -- Kate sent me great pictures and they would NOT upload. ):  )

I have to say that this was tough and took me a while to actually understand the assignment. Expectations for my Writing Career? Ha, I’d just be happy to finish my first draft by the end of the year -  a goal I'm driven to accomplish. I never looked beyond that, but imagine my surprise when I found that to be the farthest thing from the truth.

As with most things that confuse me, I waited till I could see what others put up so I could better understand. Daily posts rolled out, and not only was I further confused, but I wondered if I could actually do it. Like plotting a book, planning 5yr-goals, or setting an intended path, I have trouble with expectations because I don't expect anything for myself. Yes, FOR myself. To be honest, That realization startled me. Looking at those aspects of me would go against something I long ago established for myself.

Plot twist: I set an expectation on myself to never have any expectations in the first place, or to expect them to never come to pass.

Yes, I'll admit, this assignment scared me.

So, when I was  “called out” by you, Nancy, I knew I had face this fear whether I understood or not.

With my Writer Space Bag packed, I drove to my favorite cafe. I pulled out my index cards and twilled my favorite purple pen, thinking. I may run from ‘expectations’ but I know my hopes and desires, my bananas. The first 5 came easy, but the last ones took a while and I unearthed hidden expectations I didn't knew i had! I know this i mean to bring hope, but is it a little weird to be excited to see which ones I’d let go. Facing these intentions was the most eye opening I ever challenged myself to do.

Among my ‘Keep’ Bananas
1. I will complete my first book (by the end of the year)
2. I will  make a ‘world’ where many readers will want to explore
3 I will write to make all my readers engaged and happy
4. I intend to make Role Models for PreTeens/ Teens will want to be.
5. I will be published

Out of these only 1 is in my control -  Completing my first book.  
I may be able to make expansive worlds, character role models, hope that what I write will be exciting,  but the expectation fell on the READERS and if they’re as enamored as I hoped. However, the drive to create these elements in my writing is something I can at least strive for.

Among my 'Letting Go' Bananas
1. I will write from the heart - unfiltered
2. I will be the Author to Challenge and Renew the imaginations of the next generation.
3. I intend to write unique messages to come through my work
4. I hope to have a joint book signing with 1) my brother, and 2) my friends.
5. I intend to write 2-4 hours 3x a week.

Kate added: "Now, I'm willing to accept that whether or not others enjoy my writing is not in my control and I can let it go. After facing down this fear of mine, once I let go, I hope I can run free once more over the field of written word with an unbridled hand." With writing like that, Kate, I know those intentions will be met.

COLLEEN:

"Even as I struggled to write down ten intentions, it revealed my heart," Colleen said in her email to me. "I whittled them down to these five."

  1. Be intentional in my time with God and create with Him, not write what occurs to me for Him and then ask for His stamp of approval. 
  2. Have the guts to make the journey to my heart and then write what I find there. 
  3. Peel back the veil when I write--tell the truth, no matter how hard.
  4. Find my niche (alias Sweet Spot) and hunker down into it. Colleen

    5.Write consistently for a year and have fun doing it, for cryin' out loud!

Do you not LOVE this woman?

 

NATASHA:

    First Natasha bewailed the insanity of her life right now which is keeping her from being with us as much as she'd like. She said she'd have to just let this challenge simmer for a while .. and then ...

As an afterthought, I guess the simmering has gotten through a little- I think I've realized I don't want to let go of *any* of my expectations because the hope of becoming a writer, a real published speaks-into-someones-life writer, has been what's kept me going through a whole lot of hard times. If I let go of it, my future can seem quite bleak. And that's not a good thing.

 

*****

We've seen a range of wonderful, realistic intentions as wide as the Rockies themselves. Everyone of them is meet-able because we have let go of the bananas that aren't worth being trapped for and are proudly carrying the bamboo shoots that are ours to hold, as long as we are holding God within. I hope those of you who haven't shared yours will do so in a comment or at the very least post them somewhere in your own space where you can see them often. Always. 

Meanwhile, we continue to welcome insanely interesting women into our community. MARGIE has been with us in the past and is now reconnecting. I hope you'll give her a writerly greeting.

Margie 

Strengths

  1. Determination when I set my mind to accomplish something, such as writing a book.
  2. Love the brainstorming process - creating the story world and the characters
  3. Fall in love with my characters and they are always with me. I continually want to make them better so the reader will fall in love with them too!
  4. Pushing through the “really bad” writing has made me a better writer.
  5. Journaling with my characters (thanks for teaching me that, Nancy!) - learning their backstory/strength/weaknesses 
  6. I love being a part of several writing communities and the connection with other writers
  7. It’s so fun to encourage new writers as they begin their writing journey
  8. Took the very scary plunge and self published my first book.
  9. Have a deep faith and trust in God and know that He’s given me the story and will help me complete the writing and publishing process of book two.

Weaknesses

  1. Belief in my self and my abilities. Not seeing myself as God and others see me.
  2. Time management/procrastination
  3. Seems to take lots of time to wrap my brain around some writing concepts - like “POV”.
  4. I’m too hard on myself.
  5. Compare my writing to others and feel inadequate.
  6. I really dislike Marketing/website/newsletters.
  7. Creating tension and conflict in the story is hard because I love my characters and don’t want to see them suffer. Lol
  8.  My expectations are usually way higher than reality and that brings disappointments.

(NOTE: Margie's novel is available on Good Reads Margie's book

Tomorrow, in our regular post, we're going to talk about Treatment Plan #2 -- how to make those expectations happen. I'm going to lighten up a little on the challenge so you can catch your breath -- but there will be one. Get ready!

 

Blessings,

Nancy Rue


Holding Onto Their Bamboo Shoots: Andrea and Amalie

Andrea's IntentionsHey, insanely interesting Writerly Women. The concept of setting realistic intentions which we have the power to fulfill has apparently struck a chord. Yeah, baby! If you read yesterday's post, you get the metaphor of holding onto your bamboo shoots. We CAN keep those elephant trunks from flailing all around -- and making us frustrated and guilty and prone to just vegging in front of Amazon Prime. (Though I do admit to a serious addiction to Father Brown).

Two of those among you who have met that challenge are Andrea and Amalie, and I think you'll be as inspired by their responses as I was.

 

ANDREA

 I took a deep breath, scribbled my heart onto 10 purple post-its (I love post-its and purple), folded them up, mixed well (as ordered), plucked out 5 and opened them up...and cried. They turned out to be my 5 biggest bananas. 

  1. My book will be published.
  2. I will be able to just have fun.
  3. I will make a difference. 
  4. I will let rejection go - as it only shows which doors are closed for a reason.
  5. I will make a living with my writing.

I like that you and Emii call them Intentions. Intentions give me hope. Out of the 5, I only have control over 2 - have fun and let go of rejection. I will choose to release the rest to the only One that has control, and hope the banana I have now is small enough to slip from the bottle. 

Okay, how much do you LOVE that last bit? "I hope the banana I have now is small enough to slip from the bottle." We want Costa Rican bananas. They are very small and very sweet. There's nothing like a metaphor that continues to serve! Thank you, Andrea. Andrea's latte (I hope she also intends to continue making those pumpkin spice lattes with brown sugar and foamed half and half. Oh. My. Word. I can taste it all the way from Hawaii.)

 Amalie's list seems to come from her previous list of Writing Challenges. That might be helpful to those of you who are still pondering the exercise. You ARE pondering it, aren't you -- Lily, Abigail, Hannah F., Gloria and Colleen?

 

AMALIE

 Writing expectations:

Keep: 

I want to write a work that will challenge people at a soul level, and will dare them to live with authenticity. 

I want to express myself and my experiences in a way that reflects God to others, and invites them to Him.

I want to have space and time that is allotted to writing. 

I want to write to clarify my thoughts for myself. 

I want to keep up with a community of writers. This is harder for me, as I prefer to watch and observe rather than to be seen and heard. 

 

Toss. These are not in my control. A lot of them need to be talked about with God as value issues. 

I want to be seen as wise and authentic for what and how I write. (Enneagram 5 with a 4 wing)

I want my words to make a difference.

I want to be seen, known, and understood through my writing.

I want to accomplish writing a book because other people say I can. I don’t want to let them down, and I want to prove that their faith in me is valid. 

I want to be published, despite my doubts that I would be.

 

Amalie totally gets it, doesn't she? She can write, she can express, she can carve out time and space, she can clarify and she can be in community. What comes of all of that ... completely up to God. 

Blah blah noWhat I love about all of your responses -- including CATHY'S in her comment -- is the conscious letting go. Cathy even got it down to specific words to avoid when setting intentions: "make" -- "stop" -- and I would include "get".    Andrea said this gives her hope. Now THAT is a word we want to keep and use and live our writing lives by. It is, after all, a God-thing. 

Tomorrow we'll hear from MARGIE, one of the hardest working writers I know. Thursday -- we'll move forward with what to DO with these bamboo shoots of ours. I'm licking my chops at the prospect.

Blessings,

Nancy Rue

 


Other People's Bananas

Elephant-eating-bamboo-stick-isolated-white-141942855Hey, Insanely Interesting Writerly Women. As you're sharing your Intentions -- the ones you're keeping because they are actually in your power to maintain -- it's good to keep in mind that those "expectations" are yours and yours alone.

This story has come up in several different places in the last week so I'm thinking it's important. Elephants are a part of major festivities in India. You've probably seen pictures of them being paraded down the narrow streets, decked in gorgeous silk and even jewels. Another signature part of such celebrations are the vendors along those side streets, displaying delicious treats and sparkly stuff. Put those two things together and you have a situation. If unchecked, the playful, curious elephants (I LOVE these wonderful creatures for that reason) swing their ginormous trunks and pick up said treats and sparklies, from which chaos, of course, ensues. The trainers weren't born yesterday. Most will coax their elephants to hold onto a bamboo stick, so that those mischievous trunks stay occupied and the parade isn't disrupted by sweets and jewelry being strewn all over.  

It's been pointed out by more than one wise person that we can be like those elephants IF we don't have something that is ours to focus on. In our case, that would be our minimized list of intentions. What often keeps us from maintaining our focus is OTHER people's sweets and bananas and sparkling gems. If AMALIE and ANDREA and probably more of you who will be posting this week (how about it, Jenny, Hannah, the Kates, Chelsea, Kelly, Caylene ... no pressure, of course ...) -- if all of we  uniquely gifted women think too much about what OTHER writers are accomplishing,we'll start swinging our trunks and creating chaos for ourselves.

    * Someone in your writers' group has gotten a contract. You're still trying to finish your first draft. That contract is HER banana. Hang onto that stick and write the dang book

    * Somebody here on the blog shares that she intends to immerse herself in research so her work will be richer and better informed. You are in the process of editing your completed novel. That research immersion is HER banana. Hang onto that stick and revise your own book, layer by layer.

    * I say my intention is to keep a meaningful writing journal. The very thought of that breaks YOU out in full-body hives. That is MY banana. Hang onto your own stick and do whatever keeps you on track with your intention.

As long as your intentions are authentic and in your power to carry them out, regardless of the fruits, you will stay proudly on your course, holding that bamboo stick high. No chaos. No disorder. No flailing around comparing yourself to other writers. Revise those Intentions, will you? And then share them with us?

One more thing about the elephant story. The purpose of a beautifully bedecked elephant in the Indian festivities is to carry the likeness of a deity on her back. It goes without saying -- and yet we need to say it regularly -- this IS all for God. We ARE the image and likeness of God. We carry that ours-alone piece of bamboo FOR God. Kind of puts the bananas in perspective, doesn't it?

Blessings,

Nancy Rue   (NOTE: I don't advocate the use of elephants of any other animals for display if they are in any way neglected or mistreated. At the same time, I respect the traditions of other cultures, again, as long as the creatures involved have good lives.) 


Great Bananas ... uh Expectations: Nancy's List

Great-expectationsHey, Writerly Women. After doing the exercise I prescribed yesterday as part of our Treatment Plan for discouragement, it became clear to me that Charles Dickens -- or should I say, Pip -- had nothing on me (and perhaps all of us) when it comes to Great Expectations. Or in our case, bananas.  All he expected was to marry Estelle and be rich. My goals are far loftier -- and yours may be too.

Emii agrees. In her comment yesterday, she said her "bananas" were, "Things I didn’t even know I was holding, or at least didn’t think they were heavy and influential." That was certainly true for me. Oh, I knew I was clinging to them, but I didn't realize how, to use Emii's well-chosen word "influential", they have been, how heavily (another apt Emii word choice) they have weighed down my writing.

If you're thinking, "Oh, get over yourself, Nancy. How many books have you had published over the years -- and you don't have this in hand YET?" ya gotta remember that those books came out in the Golden Years of Christian publishing when it was relatively easy to find that agent and that traditional house -- at least far easier than it is now. AND I'm launching into a completely different market, which is like starting over, so as I've said before, I'm right where you are. And I'm every bit as human and vulnerable.

The point is (yeah, will you get to it, Nance?): some of those big old bananas DO set us up for being deprived of our freedom, just like those poor monkeys in India. (I still haven't figured out why people feel the need to capture them, and I'm trying not to be judgmental). I proved that to myself by doing the Ten Expectations Exercise from yesterday's post.

I didn't think I HAD 10 expectations until I started whipping through the cards. When I looked at the completed spread, I realized that only two of them were things I expected/hoped for from outside myself. Cards 1Which means they are  ultimately out of my control. I can do everything I can to sign with a general market agent and have my next however many books published by a traditional gm house, but I am not, in the end, the one who will decide whether that actually happens. The rest are all things I expect of myself. Interesting.  (They're face down in the picture because I was trying to follow my own rules!)

As prescribed, I chose five, sight un-seen.  I will live like a writer. I will write all four of the Footnotes Collection novels. I will write something for Rosen Publishing (New York house I used to write for). I will immerse myself in writing 4 mornings a week. I will be published with a traditional general market house. 

Cards 2When I studied those five, I was disappointed that some of the ones I really hoped I'd pick weren't in that group. THAT was when it occurred to me that we get to CHOOSE what our expectations and hopes are. There is no "rule"  that says we're stuck with a particular bunch of bananas.  I don't have to give up keeping a meaningful writing journal just so I can hold onto I will be published. Of course I would love to be published again, but that's an expectation left over from my former writing life.  I would love even more to create a meaningful journey to the best creative work I've ever done.

As Emii said in her comment,  "I love that there's only five." There is great freedom in that limitation, as long as we ourselves carefully and prayerfully select what those five things will be.

I was practically giddy as I picked my five -- and I decided to call them INTENTIONS. An intention is something we can keep doing forever. There is no "failure" to complete it, because it isn't so much something to achieve as it is a way to be.  Again, to quote Emii, "The things I’m keeping are very hopeful." Mine are too. Cards 3

I will be intentional about providing time and space to dream, reflect and plan.

I will keep a meaningful writing journal.

I will live like a writer, putting writing first in my creative blocks of time.

I will immerse myself in those blocks of time 4 mornings a week. 

I will write all four of the Footnotes Collection novels simply because I can't not.

The pressure is off. Those are MY intentions and I have what it takes to live into them. I can't fail.

The bottom line question, of course, is :

Can you continue writing if only those expectations over which you have control are met?

In my case, can I keep creating these novels if I don't sign on with an agent, successfully promote my back list, get published by a New York house and try pursue those other writing projects and my current one simultaneously? (I used to juggle multiple projects at once -- back when I was nuts. Okay, nuttier than I am now. Okay, just younger than I am now.) The answer to that is --

Yes!!!

Because that feels free. That releases me from the Is this good enough for "them?" That allows me to be intentional without even thinking about the fruits my efforts are "supposed" to bear. We don't actually grow fruit anyway. We plant, we nurture, we take care -- and the fruit will grow or it won't. The gardening itself has to be worth it WHILE WE ARE DOING IT. 

So, to add to our Treatment Plan: do all the steps as outlined yesterday. Then as you look at the five you've picked at random, CHOOSE whether those are actually bananas worth holding onto. Free yourself to CHOOSE the intentions that truly resonate with you.

And then, of course, please, please share. You make this community the safe, rich, encouraging, wise place that it is. That is always our intention!

 

Blessings,

Nancy Rue


Treatment Plan #1: Let Go of the Banana

Monkey-bananav3Hey, Writerly Women! I'm loving our little friend. Sort of reminds me of myself these days ... wrinkles and funky hair and total focus on yummy stuff. He's here for a different reason, though. Bear with me -- there IS a connection for you.

 For some reason in India, where there are a lot of monkeys, the locals feel a need to catch them from time to time. Their method is inventive to say the least. They anchor a bottle to the ground, the neck of which is just large enough for a monkey's hand to fit through. Then they put a small banana in the bottle, sit back and wait.

Before long a monkey comes by, sees the banana, reaches his hand into the bottle, and grabs it. Here's the catch -- literally: the monkey discovers that he can't get his hand out of the bottle while holding onto the banana. He freaks out -- still clutching his find -- while the trap-setter calmly walks over and puts a burlap sack over him. Freaking out even more, the monkey finally releases that yellow piece of fruit and -- gotcha. He's captured.

Of course it's obvious to us that if the monkey just let go of the dang banana, he could run and a person could never catch him. Primates are fast. But most of the monkeys hang on to the banana until the sack goes over their head. Sure, that banana has significance to the little guy, but is it worth sacrificing his whole self for?

We may well ask, those of us who face the challenges of wanting this writing life SO much and yet meeting rejection after rejection. Why am I holding onto this dream banana when I could just let go and relieve myself of all this stress and disappointment? Why don't I just run before the final burlap sack finally drops over my head?

But that isn't really the question, in my view. The question is, what are we holding onto that makes this writing challenge so hard? What do we need to let go of that would keep us from being smothered in a bag of frustration because nobody wants our stuff?

In essence, what is your basic banana?

To make this easier, what do you say we try an exercise? You've been great about giving every challenge a shot, and I think this one may be our most important yet. Humor me? And yourselves?

Here we go:

Step 1.   Get yourself 10 index cards or 10 small pieces of paper. Hannah's plot cards

Step 2.  On each one, write one expectation or hope you have for your writing career. That could be anything from I will get an agent to I'll be able to make my living as a writer to Somebody, anybody with credentials, will say "This shows promise." One on each card or slip of paper. Ten of them.

Step 3. Turn them all over, face down. Mix them up. Really mix them up so there's no way you know what's written on them.

Step 4.  Without looking at them, choose five. Put the rest aside.

Step 5.  Turn the remaining 5 over so you can read them. Imagine these five hopes, dreams, expectations are the only ones that will ever be met. The rest? Forget about it. Will that be enough to keep you going? 

Step 6. Now the important question: Can you let go of the banana that is those other five things? Can you release those expectations and just write? Just. Write. 

Let it GoThat, my loves, is the Treatment Plan for the challenge every single one of you indicated in some way -- the seemingly insurmountable wall that is Is this really going anywhere? Am I doing all this creative work for nothing? The prescription:

Let go of half of your expectations and hopes. Write without thought of what the fruits of your labors might be. 

That is simple -- but harder to do than it sounds. If it were easy, they wouldn't be catching many monkeys in India. Fortunately we are not monkeys. We can change the way we think. And that can change our writing to a labor of love.

Next step: will you share with us those five things you're willing to release? Those five expectations that will release YOU from pressure and disappointment and frustration? Putting them in writing and saying, "Here's how I'm freeing myself," can make all the difference.

I'll post my list tomorrow, because I am right where you are. And we together are the Writerly Women.

Blessings,

Nancy Rue

 

 


Diagnosing Ourselves: Andrea and Lily

Andrea 2Hey, Writerly Women. Okay, THIS is going to be "insanely interesting." (I'm thinking we need to adopt that as our mantra!) Today we have BOTH lists from Andrea and from Lily. I'm loving the prospect of showcasing the strengths and challenges side by side -- so we can see how positive BOTH explorations are. 

Let's start with Andrea:

Ten things I excel at - with writing

  1. I can create scenes that twist your heart strings. Hurt/Comfort/Angst was my favorite to write for fanfiction. Usually when I have a rough day and just need a mental hug.
  1. I write killer cliff hangers. 
  1. I have a crazy imagination. I dream in technicolor. 
  1. I twist excellent plots.
  1. I create relatable characters. 
  1. I can paint with words. Description was the only story I got an A plus on in Creative Writing. I love to paint with words. 
  1. I can dream big - and make it seem realistic enough that the reader will believe it.
  1. I can see all sides of the story. I know the motivations and the back stories for all of my characters - even though I only show the POV of one. 
  1. I can play the book in my head - like a movie.
  2.  I am a plantzer - I rarely write out my whole plot when I write - but I do have to have to know the ending before I begin writing.

 

 (I can attest to the truth of everything on that list. I know Andrea's work well!)

Now ...

5 Things I need to work on: Andrea

  1. Fear of failure. I am an Enneagram 6 and I tend to overthink. A lot. About the story, will it be good enough, why would someone want to read it, what do I have to say that someone hasn’t already said better. Jay Shetty (great podcaster) says to just start - don’t think, just do it. That has helped a lot. I write for me first - and then for others. 
  1. Commas -- I use too many.
  1. I get overwhelmed and then I get blocked. Too many ideas - not sure which one to go with. 
  1. I’m not good with waiting. Sending stories into the ‘void’ of publishing and getting crickets in return gives me major anxiety. Why should I even try? It is just different than the fast paced Disaster world that I exist in. Getting used to it - and finding peace with waiting.
  2. Rejection - I made friends recently with an author who has published in my genre. She shared that it was really difficult for her to find an agent. And then to find a publisher. She eventually went to self publishing (which is expensive - especially in a world where thousands of books are published every day). Creation Science is controversial - which is really sad. I wrote the book I wanted to read - because no one had written one - and I searched and searched. I believe God gave me this story - and I believe that He will get it into the hands of the readers who need it. Whether that is 1 or 1,000 or 1 million is not my responsibility.

One of the many things I love about Andrea's list is that she already knows how to meet most of these challenges. As Kate B. said in her comment yesterday, we can't even begin to solve a problem if we haven't looked directly at it. Once we do, the answers are there.

Lily 2020Lily was more reluctant to share her strengths, as you will see, but what she came up with is a great piece of writing in itself. Check it out:

I heard someone call my name! I got called out to the carpet, and I'm gonna answer. (Eyes widening with resolve). I didn't answer the question, because I felt like I had no answers to offer. Writing strengths? I've got none. No agent has gotten excited enough about my writing to represent me and my work. I know writing worth isn't tied to that, but rejection comes hard. Here's my attempt at including some writing strengths:
1. I'm good at expressing feelings and emotions when I write, because I'm sharing from personal experiences.
2. Writing poetry is a go-to for me.
3. Some of my most powerful, fast, polished writing involves laying out dark, evil scenes. Some of those are so scary, I feel so dirty and disgusted afterward that I feel an urgent need to get together with friends for some rest and rehabilitation.
4. I've gotten pretty good at brainstorming all kinds of weird and fun scenes.
5. I have and continue to encourage others through my writing.
6. I motivate people through speaking and writing. Maybe that's related to the previous point.
 
Okay, so it isn't ten, Lily, but ya did good, girl. Knowing your writing, I can think of tons more ... As for those challenges:
 
 1. I struggle with how much setting to include.
2. I don't know how much character details to include.
3. I need to work on including more suspense, especially the kind that's drawn out in bits and pieces throughout the manuscript.
4. Working on the manuscript is hard, when I keep getting query rejections. But the truth is, I still very much believe in what I'm doing through my writing and I need to keep going.
5. I need to include more interior dialogue (I think it's more of a monologue). Lily and me
 
 
So what will we do with all this honest, clear, diagnostic stuff?
 
As I said in yesterday's post, all of the challenges we face are treatable. And they're treatable in part because we know our strengths. and because, going back several weeks, we know the truths we want to tell. have to tell. We know the things we need to develop are worth working on. 
 
So beginning tomorrow, we're going to look at our challenges one by one. I'll provide options, exercises, ways for you to share your work with us. I know you'll bring support and encouragement and share the approaches that have worked for you. As you've seen, one gal's forte is another woman's struggle. Together, we can find a treatment for absolutely everything.
 
I don't know about you, but this is sounding pretty delicious to me.
 
Blessings,
Nancy Rue

Diagnosing Ourselves: Kate and Colleen

Kate at GlenHey, Writerly Women. In a recent comment, I told Kate B. that her list of challenges (which you are about to read) was totally treatable. So why not think of these self-studies we're doing as a way of diagnosing what needs attention in our writing? Rather than "Here's where I'm a LOSER," we look at it as, "Here's where I need treatment." We gotta know what's wrong before we can fix it.   

So, I give you Kate's diagnosis of herself:

  1. Make a solid Plot and Sticking to it. - I don’t normally ‘plot’ as much I just want to explore a situation until I run it into the ground. But The second I need to Plot something I can’t stick to it and something always changes. That or I have issues with stack or extending a scene far longer than I intended. In the end I get half way though and I have a revelation that changes the story from the beginning.

2. Juggling different personalities. Most times when I write, my characters cast similar personalities that are close to mine because I get caught up in the situation. Even if I like the different quirks that come with each personality, separating them out in one story is a struggle for me.

3. Raising the Stakes. I love My characters and sometime I have trouble bringing their world crashing down around them. I can push their emotional buttons until I make them break and sometimes I do it too early, but the physical stakes I have a hard time with.

4. World Building. I’m a fantasy writer and this is the biggest issue. I can say I want a, b, and c to happen… But then the world doesn’t always exist.

5. Ideas. This is both a strength and a challenge because I Come up with too many. I’ll be 100 or so pages in and I’ll get and epiphany that I need to go back and write it in or it changes something . Or I come up with all the different paths my story can go and I fall in love with all 5 paths and then I get stuck having to hash out which one is best. 

As I said, totally treatable. We'll get to that, but first, Colleen ...

  1. While on the one hand I think it’s positive I’m not married to my work when someone critiques or edits it, something seems off that I’m not more invested in it. That concerns me.
  1. Even when I plan and plot my work, I tend to peter out before I get to the end. I’ve learned that this is because I don’t engage with my characters—I don’t know them well, so I don’t seem to care enough to see them through. I tend to look at plot before character, and intrinsically know this will cost me.
  1. I have a really hard time writing long. Although I appreciate it when other writers take the care to fill out the details of the ambience of a story and their characters’ feelings, I don’t seem to know how to do it in length. I’m the same way when I speak. If I can say it in twenty minutes, why do it in forty? Yet, I find myself in situations that require me to speak those forty minutes. *me shrugging* Colleen
  2. Sticking to a writing schedule. Oy vey. I know all the reasons why it is necessary and the adjoining benefits, yet I don’t do it. This is connected to number five in this list.

5.  I don’t trust my gut. When I have an idea I love, or conjure up a character I think everyone could love, I convince myself before I even get to the starting gate that I’m crazy to think I can do it. “Yeah, that’s fine for Harper Lee, Sheila Turnage, or Nancy J. Cavanaugh, but you? What makes you think you could do anything like that?” I hyperventilate and my heart races at the pure thought of trying. And yet something niggles at the back of mind . . . “You don’t know if that’s true or not. And how are you going to know if you don’t give it a rip?”*****I'm literally licking my chops to start treating these challenges, but I want to give all of you a chance to bring yours to the examining table. These brave ladies have provided the path. They're saying, "Do this! You're safe here!" Post as a comment or email me at nnrue@att.net.

Tomorrow we'll hear from Andrea, who has brought both of her lists at once. Comparing them will be a blast. YOU are a blast. Thank you for your honest, open and wonderfully witty contributions to this community.

Blessings,

Nancy Rue


We Rock: Gloria and Amalie

With GloriaGloria says she is "reporting from the front lines of fighting writer's block." Who among us has not found ourselves THERE? She also says, "You're right, of course. It's good to take a good solid look at what you're good at from time to time." here's her good, solid look. Trust me, you're going to enjoy this.

1. I’m good at conveying my characters’ inner monologue, I really get inside their heads. 

2. My prose and writing style has a poetic rhythm to it that I love. 

3. I make fantastic one-liners. 

4. I’ve made great improvements in writing fight scenes, to the point where I get excited about twisting the knives and setting everything on fire. 

5. I’m good at helping other writers brainstorm and helping them bounce ideas around. Sometimes helping someone else with their stories makes things jingle loose with mine!

6. Uhhh, I’m starting to struggle here... I had the courage to ask a girl at my Panera Bread restaurant, who was  studying to become a mortician, how one might (hypothetically) fake their death, since one of the girls in my writing group had just sent out the question. [she was super nice and I still wonder how she’s doing all the time]

7. My metaphors are pretty unique and vivid. 

8. I’m good at putting an unexpected twist or shift of perspective at the end of my flash fiction pieces. 

9. I’m very comfortable writing from more than one perspective. 

10. I pour so much of my heart into my words. 

******

Amalie says she is trying to stay current with all the blog prompts, even as she's recovering from heart surgery. Anyone else feel like a slacker after reading that? More importantly she shared that she loved being able to channel her "energy toward something that grounds me to my soul." Yes. All of the yes. Amalie

 

I am an enneagram 5. I don’t often feel things, but when I do, I feel them big! If I write in those moments, I can communicate what I am feeling in a way that translates to the reader.

I see and understand both details and overarching themes that are generally missed by others. This shows up in my writing.

I love words, my vocabulary is expansive, and I actually know what the words mean when I use them. 🤣

I have a love for the ridiculous, and I’m pretty hilarious. Not many people get to see that side of me because of my fear of being foolish. As I learn to stop editing, and give my self permission to be fun, this aspect comes out more in my writing. Right now, it comes out more as subtle sarcasm, which can be missed by many readers. And, if I’m being honest, my sarcasm is really a self contemptuous shield to hide the thoughts and feelings I’m afraid to openly show.  I’d like to become more comfortable in conveying the humor I see and feel in ways that are freely and purely expressed.

I am intelligent, and I can write fairly intelligently on any topic that has captured my interest.

I am very good at researching.

I have a very good memory, when I’m not flared and if it’s something that is interesting to me.

I am a somewhat dexterous typist now. 🤪

My tush has just enough padding in the right spots to be able to sit comfortably while writing. 😉

 

Pam is right -- we are encouraging each other with these lists. And what a fascinating group we are. I think we prove what a person known as Atlas says on MindsJournal:

"I find it amusing that we're all pretending to be normal when we could be insanely interesting instead."

There is no pretending going on here!  Tomorrow we'll see the insanely interesting Colleen's list of 5 challenges. Wednesday, we're talking BOTH of Andrea's lists, which will be fun to compare. And then, of course, our regular Thursday post. Stand by for another challenge. And some help too.

 

Blessings,

Nancy Rue

 


We Rock: Natasha and Emii

AshamedHey, Writerly Women! While some of you are thinking about your lists of 5 areas where you feel challenged with your writing, I'm delighted to present a few more lists of strengths.  These are apparently hard to come by, (You would think I was asking you to cut off your earlobe!) so I think each one needs to be highlighted. 

Let's celebrate Natasha first. Yes, she said the process was painful and made her feel "pathetic," but she put her big girl panties on and did that little thing:

  1. People are constantly telling me that they “feel” what I post- that the emotions I’m expressing are ones they themselves have. So I think the vulnerability in my writing is a gift, to remind others AND myself that we aren’t alone. The human experience is a universal one. 
  2. In prose for my novels, I do not write filtered- I write the world as I see it, which makes my writing real. Wow, I think this is the same as the last point- I write vulnerably, so I write believably, relateably. 
  3. I am really good at critiquing. This is not a craft one, but I *love* critiquing and I’m really good at helping point in the right direction while still affirming and praising the strong aspects of someone’s work. 
  4. I have my own voice. I think, if I had physical books, you could pick one off the shelf and be like, “Oh yeah, that’s Natasha’s work!” 

    5. I am emotionally connected to my work. Sometimes this bites me in the butt for my own head-space, but in terms of my writing itself it pays off big time. Again, this has so much to do with connection and creating feelings and experiences that reflect those of others where they are at. It's not 10 but it's a great start. Natashs's blog(This is Natasha's Blog)

 

Emii responded to my naming and shaming (there's something to be said for that technique) and gives us this:

 

o   Poetry is a natural language I use to convey big ideas

o   I find pleasure in cutting away unnecessary words

o   Can give myself fully to what I’m writing – emptying myself out + entirely energised (and losing track of time)

o   I know how to use grammar, which is handy because I’ve never understood grammar rules

o   My writing imitates the voice of whoever I’m reading at the time (not sure if that’s a strength or a case of still finding my own voice)

o   I can write fast!

o   I can stick to a writing schedule

o   I trust the process of creativity – in the words of The Artist’s Way, ‘I commit to bringing the quantity + trust God to bring the quality’!

o   I put myself on the page, trusting that what is most personal is most universal

o   I can write funny dialogue 

Emii

As I read these rockin' lists, I see that they're all different. We are strong in various, individual ways, which means to me that we're going to be able to help and guide each other. I intend to call on you for your input as we deal in our posts with the areas where you don't feel as sure, as confident.  Places where you feel like you're "taking a hit" as one of you expressed it in an email to me. Times when you're discouraged because you just can't make it come out right. Issues that make you want to consider underwater basket weaving or frog raising or chinchilla grooming as an alternative career. None of us has all the answers, but each of us has some of them.

Monday, get ready for Gloria and Amalie and how they rock. Meanwhile, make those lists of five (5) challenges. Just be kind to yourselves in the process!

 

Blessings,

Nancy Rue     


Seeing What We're Not Seeing

Yogiraj"

Hey, Writerly Women. I promised -- or maybe I should say "threatened!" -- to guide us through the making of our second list: what are the areas of writing that challenge you most? Some of us had a tough time with the first list -- 10 Areas of Strength in Your Writing -- and I get the sense some of us are chomping at the proverbial bit to beat ourselves up. "Only five items?" you say. "But I could go on for pages!"

I'm not gonna let you wallow, ladies. As the Baroness of Beating Myself Up, I know whereof I speak: getting too far down that road is discouraging and defeating and leads to despair.

And there's enough of that going on, for very real reasons. Let's take a look at what Pam shared with us in a comment:

 "Just yesterday, I said out loud what I've been wondering for a few years now - is it time for me to stop writing? It's not that I believe I'm a bad writer, but with all the self publishing and all the pulling back of traditional houses accepting what I write, the market is so glutted and people don't want to pay more than a couple of dollars for the novel that took me 12 years to write (which included many hours of angst and tears and paying $$ for writing getaways and all the rest) and no marketing help and telling us we have to do all the social media, etc ... it all just makes me want to cry. And yet, I have IDEAS. Good ones! And when I stop writing to do other things, after a while I feel "off" and have to sit down at the computer and pull up a manuscript. Sigh. My therapist asked me yesterday - what would it look like if I stopped writing? I really don't know." Pam
Natasha echoed that: "Pam- I GET IT. It is soooooooo exhausting, the act of pouring yourself out there for what often feels like so little return. I constantly think of the "pearls before swine" saying, although I don't actually think the people not enjoying my work are swine. I hate feeling crushed after another rejection, or staring at my screen and wondering why it is I'm working on possibly another dead-end book when I could be writing an essay or heck, watching Netflix with my fam- I don't think I could just not write. And how much sanity does it bring me?" Natasha

Natasha and Pam are not alone. I hear this ALL the time -- sometimes even in my own head. I wish I had a perfect answer for you. I don't, but I do have some things to share that I hope will help. I'll start with a question asked by Yogiraj Achala, the author of Pigs Eat Wolves (the title alone makes you want to order it immediately, doesn't it?): 

"What are you not seeing because you are seeing what you are seeing?"

As we wrestle with the kinds of dilemmas we're talking about here, what are we seeing?

    * We're seeing an industry that is a hot mess right now, especially in Christian publishing. Even individual publishers I respect have told me they're struggling as much as we are.

    * We're seeing authors all OVER social media, posting and tweeting and Instagramming about their books, and we become nauseated at the very thought of doing that.

    * Unfortunately we're also seeing the discouragement turn to jealousy and anger. One gifted writer emailed me just last week and said,  "I have seen so many hurtful comments on FB within the Christian writers’ industry. I know there is only one God, but I question whether some us can be connected to the same God and believe so differently. Oh, and the meanness. Not necessarily toward me, but toward each other. I’ve had to step up on my praying and faith walk." 

With all that yuck smearing our lenses it's impossible to see what's actually true. Where the hope is. Where the path lies. So what do we do when our lenses are clouded? We clean them. And if that doesn't do the job, we get new ones. Only then can we start seeing what we weren't able to before. New glasses 2019

I don't know what that might look like for you, but here's what my vision tells me:

    * Something's gotta give with this industry soon. Otherwise it's going to die. That tells me two things.

        (1) We have to be ready with the best work we're capable of when the shift happens. I came in on the ground floor of the Christian fiction movement when I was in my late 30's, early 40's. Nobody was yet publishing the almost-edgy stuff I was writing, but they were ready for it. And so was I. Ten years earlier, it probably wouldn't have happened.

    (2) We have to be willing to rebuild it if it does wither on the vine completely. Some of the indie publishers are doing that already. We can be part of the creation of a new market, a new approach. The work you've submitted here makes that very clear. You are truth-tellers -- word-weavers -- image-makers. It's up to us, and we have the creative gifts for that. Why do you think I've revived this blog to bring us all together? So we can figure that out.

    * You know how they say, "Haters gotta hate?" I don't believe that, but I do believe that writers gotta write. Pam talks about "feeling off" when she doesn't write. Natasha intimates that it provides her with sanity. As for me -- it just won't leave me alone. It's like a nagging child: the only way to shut that kid up is to pay attention to her.

    * This writing that we're doing is essential to our inner journeys toward oneness with God. Notice what my email friend says: "I've had to step up on my praying and faith walk." That is in response to the discouragement and meanness she's seeing from Christian writers on Facebook. She goes on to say: "We never arrive spiritually, but God has shown me some areas in need of growth that I thought I'd already conquered. I guess sometimes we walk, fall and then get back up running." Only sometimes?  I too have a very long way still to travel, but I am the God-loving person I am now because of all the writing I've done, all the ways I've had to find to express truths through story.         

    * If you have a gift -- and every one of you does -- and you feel a call or a nudge or a conviction -- which I'm sure you do -- I believe we have an obligation to God to use it. We can't spend our time trying to determine what the fruits of our labors are likely to be. Doctors don't say, I'm not going to treat this patient because she might die anyway. Lawyers don't say, I know for a fact this guy is innocent, but I'm not going to defend him because I might lose. New mothers don't say, This world being what it is, this baby might grow up to be a shoplifter or a topless dancer. I'm taking her back to the hospital...

So why the Sam Hill are we saying, This might not get published. I might not find an agent. I might not sell many copies. I'm going to be embarrassed if this comes to nothing. I should take a job as an accountant, which I know I'll hate, because at least I'll make some money, which I will very likely never do as a writer. 

TRUE CONFESSION: I have written a bunch of books and they've been published and many were really successful. But I haven't had a new book published since 2015. So, yes, when I'm tired or I think I'm looking a lot older than I did yesterday, I wonder, Am I done? Do I actually have a place in the general market? Should I just quit and rest on my laurels so I don't look like a pathetic has-been? And then I recall the 80 year old woman at the Donald Maass Intensive last year who keeps cranking out books that she's self-publishing because it's, as she put it, "a gas!"I don't know what her religious beliefs were, if any, but she was doing the God-thing. 

How can we do less?

This may seem like an odd way to start, but here's the challenge:

    1. Make a list of ONLY FIVE areas of your writing where you feel challenged.

    2. Get yourself a cup of cocoa or green tea or whatever (I highly recommend matcha, for which you need an official dadgum bowl ... but I digress) and sip while you look at your list, as if it were written by a professional writer who does not give up on the constant improvement of her craft. No matter what the fruits may -- or may not -- be.

    3. Share that list, either in a comment or via email to me: nnrue@att.net.

Here's mine:

    1. I always write longer and wordier than the appropriate word count. It never fails: I get to about Chapter 7 and think, "This thing is going on forever!"

    2. I really have to work at expressing emotions through a character that I shy away from myself -- like anger, grief and despair.

   3. Describing geography and nature is a HUGE challenge for me. What the heck is a glen, a meadow, a ridge? 

   4. I second-guess myself about how much body language in dialogue is the right amount.

   5. I have to be super vigilant about not creating every protagonist to sound like me. There's my writing voice, and then there are their individual voices. 

Promise me that you will remember as you craft your list that yo2020-0118-Chase-1u are doing this to move yourself closer and closer to the writer you want to be. As one of my yoga mentors, Chase Bossart, says, "Set your intention., and what is important will be established in your life." I think Jesus would totally agree. 

Blessings,

Nancy Rue

  

 

 

 

 

 

 


We Rock: Cathy's List

 

CathyHey Writerly Women! Uh, has anyone noticed that the three who have been BRAVE enough to share their lists of writing strengths -- me, Colleen and Cathy -- are all well into the second half of our lives? I'm thinking those of you who are still considered YOUNG women -- you know, Natasha, Andrea, Emii, Gloria, Lily, to shame -- I mean name -- only a few -- need to step the heck up. I'll say it again, how do we expect God to guide us along this writing path if we aren't appreciative of the gifts we've already been given for the journey.

Just sayin'.

Okay, enough with the finger-wagging. Let's look at Cathy's list. She posted these in a comment, but I thought they needed to be spotlighted.

 1. Teach (This is my passion. I would rather teach writing than write, especially to young writers.)

2. Edit (I had one critique with a professional editor of a novel chapter in which she found no editing errors, something she said had never happened before.)

3. Get ideas for writing prompts easily

4. Get ideas for devotions/articles easily

5. Get ideas for fiction easily (Do you see a pattern here? Thanks to God’s sense of humor, nary a day goes by during which I’m not jotting some idea for some writing project. Three yesterday, one today ... so far. Two of our daughters, each, made me places in which to keep all these ideas!)

6. Write devotions (I’ve become adept at condensing a 650-word devotional piece to a 250-word devotion! Woohoo!)

7. Do prewriting (I’ve been called the “queen of prewriting”!)

8. Help other writers brainstorm (Super fun!)

9. Help other writers with their work (also can be one of those areas where I should practice the word “no” ... LOL!)

10. Developed a flare for writing fiction (something I truly feel has come from all the young people I’ve worked with over 30+ years, through helping them flesh out their story arcs/themes, characters, settings, plots, paragraphs, edits, etc.)

*****

If that doesn't inspire you, I don't know what will!

Tomorrow we're going to look at that other List -- the one where you write down five (and ONLY five) areas of writing that challenge you. We'll explore that concept a little differently than you might expect, so definitely come by. Embarrassed 3 And in the meantime, MORE GIFT LISTS PLEASE! I want you all glowing. You don't light a lamp and then hide it under a bushel. AKA, don't be a reclining chair that burps. Again, just sayin' ...

Blessings,

Nancy Rue


We Rock: Colleen's List

ColleenGood morning, Writerly Women. Before I give you Colleen, I just want to say that I haven't responded to your recent comments because when I've read them, I've found myself being choked up. There is something about the honesty and the discouragement and the taking hold of courage that brings all kinds of emotions to the surface. I will reply to each one of you when I get the tears under control.

And call me slow, but I just this very moment when I wrote that last sentence realized that "discouragement" and "courage" come from the same root word "cor", which means "heart." I don't think I have to explain that to this intelligent group. I think it's very evident in what Colleen calls her "twenty minutes of truth-telling." She said in her email, "Trust me, this is unedited. If it were, it would be so much neater and shorter. Not so messy, emotionally speaking. I hardly ever face these things."

Once you read this, you'll be glad she did.

****

  1. 1. I’m excellent at short and synthesis. Count on me for short stories, articles, essays, meditations, blog posts, summaries, and book cover blurbs. However, writing long pieces (read book) is daunting.
  2. I’m great at helping others dig into the medulla of their work and cut out fluff. My nickname is Choppinator.
  3. Descriptions, albeit short, are a strength.
  4. I’m a grammar Nazi and a good speller. I mind-edit store signs, menus, and projected lyrics at church, a habit that can drive me and others close by bonkers.
  5. I meet deadlines.
  6. I prioritize simile and metaphor originality.
  7. My assessments are kind regarding writers and their work. I don’t struggle with jealousy or competitiveness. I do have one envy exception—J.I. Packer is my hero, and Knowing God and Concise Theology are the books I wish I’d written!
  8. I’m ruthless with adverbs, sentence tags, and echoes.
  9. I see it as a huge plus that the Flesch-Kincaid grade level of most of my writing, for kids or adults, is 4th-5th
  10. I don’t marry my work. I listen to critiques from those I trust, and have learned which suggestions to implement or reject.*****I think I want to BE Colleen when I grow up. By the way, she is a fascinating person. With her husband she has spent the last 20+ years in Chile doing great work, particularly in the field of education. She is a delight to be with, and she has a right-on voice for middle grade, especially boys. Trust me, you want to have coffee with this lady!

Tomorrow I'll highlight a few more of you who have shared your lists with me. On Thursday we'll address Pam's comment, which will lead us perfectly into the topic of our roadblocks. YOU are shaping this blog. You indeed rock.

Blessings,

Nancy Rue


Don't Deny the Possible

LatteHey, Writerly Women! In her comment, Andrea requested a latte, so here you go. You may actually want your warm beverage of choice for this post, ladies. It calls for some dipping deep. 

You've shared some AWESOME writing with us these last few weeks. Naked stuff. Raw, truthful things. Some of the best word-smithing and creating of metaphors I've seen in a long time -- and I read a LOT. I think we've proven that writing without fear and telling our truth is not only freeing ... it brings out the best from our pens and keyboards. And yet ...

Something seems to happen when we sit down to do the "real writing." The story we hope to have published. The book we long to see in print, between stunning covers, in an end cap in the Barnes and Noble. That's when the doubts start. Is an agent ever going to take this on? Will any publishing house actually think this is even decent? Are people going to choose this over the bajillion other books available on Amazon?

Every time we allow a "no" answer to any of those questions to creep in, we tighten up. We get that knot Colleen talked about in her comment. Then every sentence -- make that every WORD -- becomes suspect. That's a cliche. That's lame. There is nothing fresh here. I'm a loser. Once we get there, the temptation to close the laptop and go eat an entire package of Oreos (or make three lattes back to back) is almost irresistible.

I'm not saying those questions about whether you'll get an agent, find a publisher and sell any books at all aren't realistic. What isn't valid is trying to write naked and true with all that going on in your head. I'm not going to tell you to just stop thinking about all that and merely write. That would be like saying, "Don't think about a white horse." Soon as I do that, you have a whole heard of albino mustangs stampeding through your head. Am I right?

What I will do is offer an approach I've found to be incredibly helpful, because, like you, I wonder those same things from time to time. 

Let's start with a quote by Dr. Dennis Saleebey, who was a passionate believer in encouraging people to build on their strengths and translated that into practice at the Strengths Institute, which is part of the school of social welfare at the University of Kansas. He was well known in his field for his book The Strengths Perspective in Social Work Practice, but what he has to say speaks to us as writers as well:

"It is as wrong to deny the possible as it is to deny the problem."

Dennis-Saleeby-photo-260x390

We can't ignore the fact that it is difficult to get published these days. That agents seem to be looking for reasons to say no. That even when we do get a book out, so much of the responsibility for marketing it falls on us, a job for which most of us are completely unqualified. To forget that would be to deny the problem, and that would be a mistake. But Dr. Saleebey said (he unfortunately passed away in 2014;  he was a person I would have loved to have talked to over coffee) we also have to look at the possible. Otherwise, we do nothing at all.

In training social workers, he always required his graduate students to begin their study by making a list of their 10 strengths. That sounds fun and encouraging and positive, right? Apparently you'd be surprised how many people hate doing that exercise. When asked to list their 5 limitations or places where they need growth, most have trouble stopping at just five. It seems to be human nature to focus on our shortcomings and shrug off our strengths.

Again, I know that applies to us specifically as we wrangle and worry over our work in progress. Let's give it a try. Swear to me you'll at least take a shot at it?

    1.   Thinking just about yourself as a writer, make a list of 10 things you do well. Do it naked. Tell yourself the truth.

    2.  Look over that list and flesh out anything general. Rather than "I'm good at plotting", you might say, "I can raise the stakes like no other," and "Talk about crafting cliff-hangers -- that's me." Instead of "My characters are good," you'd want to go with "My characters are three-dimensional" and "I can make the reader actually see them." 

    3. If you think you've listed all of your strengths as a writer and you have less than ten, dig deeper. According to Donald Maass, in making lists related to your work, the things you write down last are usually the most true. Don't forget things like, "I can write 4 pages in less than an hour when I'm on a roll," or "I edit and pare down until I reach the silvery essentials."

    4. If you still can't come up with ten, set the list aside but think about it while you're washing your car or unloading the dishwasher. More will come to you. Looking at some of your writing will help as well. Be objective. Overlook any "flaws" and go for the good stuff. Even, "I'm pretty much a perfect speller" is valid.

In case this feels conceited and self-indulgent, fuh-get about it! We have to know where we excel, where we shine, what our possibilities are, or we will forever be editing our manuscripts until they start to look like Joan Rivers (Remember her? Lady who had so many face lifts she was barely recognizable as herself?) If it makes you feel any better, next week we'll do the other list. Just promise me you'll do your best not to go there yet.

What makes this community so amazing is your participation. And not just your comments but the sharing of your work. I love that you trust this to be a safe place. SO -- will you send me your lists? Either via email (nnrue@att.net) or in a comment? If there is any trace of "Everybody will think I consider myself to be all that and a bag of chips" in your mind, tell it thanks but you're doing it anyway.  It takes a great deal of courage to own your strengths and let them be known. Would it help if I shared some of my list?

    * I am the ultimate planner, and that has served me well over and over and over. I have just about every detail outlined before I start my draft. And it never seems to make the writing stale. I love it!

    * I love writing dialogue and I work very consciously to make it real. Maybe that's because I'm also the ultimate eavesdropper.

    * Research is my forte. I always go to the place where my novel or series takes place and soak in all the details, the food, the dialect, the landscape, everything. Writing at Walden POnd

    * My characters become so real to me that when I finish writing a book, I grieve because I won't be hanging out with them any more. I can practically smell them.

    * I write tight. There's a lot of detail -- a lot -- but I make sure every piece of it does something to enhance the story. I have very few conversation-over-tea scenes. 

    * I always know my protagonist's hidden need before I begin. The story is organized around that.

    * But I am also open to new ideas that present themselves as I write, as long as they don't take me off on a completely different track. I've even had new characters show up who had to be dealt with.

That's seven, but you get the idea, right? Do share with us. We want to celebrate your awesomeness with you.

Blessings,

Nancy   

 

 


Truths We Want to Tell: Andrea

AndreaOh, Writerly Women, your honest and raw courage are beyond inspiring. You humble me, and that is a beautiful thing. Andrea adds to the body of work we're growing here as she reveals the truths she wants to tell. Savor.

*****

 

I am a geologist. I look at the rocks, and they tell me their stories. 

Every grain, a word. Every layer, a chapter. Every formation, a story. Insight and wonder into a world our ancestors witnessed. A world buried and preserved in rock layers, all over the earth. And what story do they tell? I look at the rocks and the minerals within them. I look at the structure, every fault and every bend. I look - and I read. 

I am a disaster scientist. I study the forces of nature, and am awed by their terrible beauty. 

The swirl of the hurricane, the shake of the earthquake, the dance of the tornado, the hunger of the wildfire, and the raw power of water...I watch, I learn, and I teach in the hope of lessening disaster.

I am a geologist, and a disaster scientist. I question, and I study. I theorize, and I test. 

I look at the rocks, and they tell me their stories. Of how they were laid, of the mighty forces that placed them there. Forces that fractured, and sheared and buried. Massive formations of minerals, trees spanning multiple layers of rock, thick beds of uniform sediment, boulders and pebbles in a matrix of what was once mud -  now frozen in time. I look at the rocks and they tell me a story - of a massive, catastrophic water event. 

*****

I don't know about you, but I see something deeply metaphorical in that truth. You have all shown your layers. Let's continue to do that, shall we? You have made this a safe place to express who we are. Myself included.

Blessings,

Nancy Rue


Truths We Want to Tell: Emii

EmiiWhen I asked you to share the truths you want to tell, I'm not sure why I didn't expect exquisite writing rather than a bullet list. Of course you'd respond with imagery and detail and soul-words. It's you we're talking about, and you are writers in your very cells.

Emii was the first to send me a piece, and I hope you savor every word, just as I did. This passage is so rich, you may want to ponder one paragraph and tell us how it wrapped itself around you. You'll see what I mean ...

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Pirouette.

Autumn’s fingers unfurling.

Cyclical return to earth.

                                                                                                    Face God, bared, intimate.

Know myself whole that I can bleed love to you and receive your own like drink, like consummate bread. Drink deep of God. Let go and receive you whole. Let go of what I need to hold so I can fall into the embrace of the universe, the fulness of Christ composing singularity, this luminous spectacularity of cosmic unity.

Give myself without fear of rejection or abandonment or feeling inadequate. To keep practicing belovedness and pour out heart in stream of consciousness and close eyes and let go of the dictation that occupies waking and sleeping and let go, return to presence, oh naked intent, simple kenosis.

This becoming and undoing, unravelling and revealing.

Whisper to me, whisper with me, I whisper to you. We are trees swinging and swaying, wind that moves invisibly, articulating depths of earth and sky. Body carved, sculpted, shaped into light, into life, resplendent reflection of significance, this shadow and light making pictures upon the universe. Dancing in autumn

We are secrets and impressions buried in earth, sunk into sky, the deep breath and exhalation of story and recovery and the long journey through night, pieces falling and spinning, waiting, undone, left with nothing. Left with nothing but whispers and wonderings of God in grains of sand and ocean’s sigh. Inhale, exhale, let go, return.

Too many things to know. Let go. Let go that I might know what it is I do not yet know. Let go, let go, let go. Celebrate with me. Suffer with me. I’m whole and ready. Celebrate with me. Suffer with me. I’m whole and ready. Blood and bone, energetic light splaying. You’re whole and ready. Blood and bone, energetic light splaying. Oh, come and see. Bow down in curiosity.

In the bowing, the releasing, the gentle allowing of everything. They say repetition isn’t redundancy and I let go of that to which I cling. This surrendering of control into the name of everything, intrinsic Reality, eating and drinking, bowing, sinking into the rising energy of the breath. Life, me to returning.

What is the cry, the deep fear of the night, the hesitancy to see light? Why run? Why scream, why hide? Come, Child calls. Return with me, to this curious light of silent matrimony. Where hill and sky and dirt all parade down the aisle of kenotic energy, this exalting embrace of ordinary. A holy inhalation of everything. Tell me more. Let go of everything, arrive. Bare. O naked intent.

*****

We would love to see everyone's "naked intent." Just email me your piece. And may you pirouette today.

 

Blessings,

Nancy Rue

 


Nekkid Writing: Exhibit J

Kate PWriterly women! I've received a few Truths I Want To Tell pieces which I'll post this week. First, though, I wanted you to see the latest passage of "nekkid" writing, from our Kate Prater. Kate lives in Texas where she teaches -- as you can see from the background in her great pic -- and while I just know she's a superb educator, I wish she had more time to write because she's so stinkin' good. In her email to me in which she shared her nekkid poem, she said, "I tried to write Nekkid ... And couldn't. When I sat to write, I struggled for words that would be raw and seen without fear, and I wrestled with words. So I sat and listened and wrote what I heard inside instead." I think you'll resonate with what she indeed heard.

*****

Courage, Dear Heart.

From a Lion, from a Lamb, through my book to my Soul.

I gave you Power. I gave you Love. I gave you a Sound Mind. 

You have what you need, for you have Me.

 

Courage, Dear Heart.

Awaken. Hear My Voice, hear My Love, hear My Command and obey.

You may weep for I love you and shelter you.  

 

Courage, Dear Heart. 

You are strongest when you are broken at My feet for only then can I make you New. 

Refined by fire, moulded by My Hands, you will rise out of ashes, Beloved.

 

Courage, Dear Heart

I Am in you and you are in Me Wrap yourself in Me. Feel My Presence beat in your chest, stronger than any heartbeat, follow where I lead and lead to follow. 

But only by Lamplight.

 

Courage, Dear Heart.

Wear My Words ‘round your neck, on your tongue, in your heart, through your hands, be My feet. Do, say, be as I Am.

Think only on these things, on Me.

Courage, Dear Heart,

When shadows come.

All feel fear, all feel pain, all feel weak. 

But I will take your tears, your pain, your doubt, your sins and give you 

Courage, Dear Heart.

*****

May we all take courage from that, yes? Thank you Kate P.

 


NEKKID WRITING: EXHIBITS G, H AND I

Lily 2020Hey, Writerly Women. Soon we're going to run out of letters for our Exhibits. What a lovely problem to have, yes?

Today I first bring you Lily Chang, who you can get better acquainted with on  Instagram. Lily and I go back to Glen Eyrie days, and we have evolved from mentoring to friendship in the years that followed. Doctorate in philosophy, mother of four, gifted artist, musician and writer -- the list goes on. 

Here is her piece of "nekkid" writing which, like much of her work, is sheer poetry.

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Writing Bare

Vivid and bold. But I am not cold. Sadness and pain color what I see. Love and laughter set me free. Predictable and Unpredictable, craziness and order to the full. Nothing left out. Truth laid bare. That's the way I write, vivid and bold, I dare.

 

 

**********

 

Cathy Mayfield chimed in next. She's the mother of our own Sarah, but she is also a writer in her own right, as well as a teacher of writing. The Montrose Christian Writers Conference would be bereft without her. The piece she's sharing with us is from her work in progress.

******

Her mother’s bedroom door was open, so Abby started to walk in, then paused. Her mother sat on the edge of the bed. She held something small in her hands, pressed against her heart, and tears trailed down her cheeks. Abby didn’t know whether to disturb her to ask what was wrong or retreat to give her mother privacy. Before Abby could decide, her mother sighed from a secret place deep in her soul. She leaned over to the nightstand beside her bed and placed the object in her hands on it. The empty photo frame. Abby hadn’t thought of that frame in years. Cathy
She knew it held a special place in her mother’s heart, but neither she nor Claire knew why. She’d promised to tell them someday, but that day never came. Whose picture should have been in that tiny pewter frame? Whose face should the delicate scrollwork have accented? Would her mother tell her now? Should she ask or let the ghosts of the past stay hidden? “Mama?” Miriam Lowry wiped the tears from her face and turned to her youngest daughter. As she did so, Abby noticed her mother’s shoulders heave with a deep breath, shoving the past to its hidden spot. No, now might not be the time to ask.

*****

GloriaAnd finally, Gloria. A charter member of the Glen Eyrie Young Women Writers, Gloria lives and writes and is her delightful self in Colorado where she creates everything from drawings to knitted pieces to marvelous hairstyles. I personally think she shines most at story telling.  In her nekkid passage she talks about, well, writing ... (She wrote it sitting in her car, though not while driving!)

***

How do you write about lacking words to interpret your thoughts? The very act is ironic, and the brain says ‘if you manage this, and not that, it is a waste

But what if these are the words that block the way?

There is truth and there are lies, and we hurt ourselves with lies to avoid the pain of truth. 

The mind holds an intricate web of impossible pictures and complex ideas, spun across years and gathered from every breath taken. To show it to someone else is madness, and yet. Here I am. Building a bridge of words. Hoping to give a glimpse, an impression, an inkling of what I hold. 

Because everyone holds a piece of the pictures formed, painted with a different brush, hung on different walls. 

And perhaps this glimpse,

this bridge,

is all we need

to convey

and the rest is painted in. 

Different, unique, pictures

of the same image. 

*****

This Nekkid Writing challenge has far exceeded my hopes, ladies. That has to be a God-thing. Through your honest, trusting participation you have made this YOUR community, and I am feeling in the marrow of me that you will continue to. EMII has already sent me her List of Truths She Wants to Tell, and I'm eager for more of you to do the same. If you have no clue what I'm talking about, check out  yesterday's post. Write your list naked. We now know how amazing the results will be.

 

Blessings,

Nancy