A State of Gratitude

“Gratitude is a powerful emotion to use for manifesting because normally we feel gratitude after we receive something. So the emotional signature of gratitude means it has already happened.”

Dr. Joe Dispenza

And maintaining a state of gratitude creates an environment conducive to receiving what you want, because energy takes the path of least resistance. It’s science (😏).

I am grateful.

I am grateful for the warmth of my children in my arms, dense with blood and breath and bone–solid, squeezable, kissable. I am grateful for their cough and my gritty eyes from being kept awake by their cold, because it means their bodies are strong enough to fight to keep them healthy. I am grateful for soft and swelling music and lyrics that bring tears to my eyes. I am grateful for the turn of summer to fall at night and the wind whispering through the trees. I am grateful for the cold sip of a beer, the hot sip of black coffee, and the cool sip of clean water. I am grateful for the look of understanding–almost telepathic in nature–shared with my partner over the heads of our children. I am grateful for light falling through the shades, striated and languid–the sun has yet to die; we get to have another day. I am grateful for snuggly cats seeking me out in quiet moments (it’s pretty much guaranteed that if you have cats and lay down with a book, a cat will manifest on your chest). I am grateful for the soreness of muscles that have worked hard and dry, worn hands–a working creator’s hands.

I am grateful for the books I can get cozy with and lost in (The Heart’s Invisible Furies and The Darkness Outside Us right now). I’m grateful for the movies and shows that fill up my well, for the memories of my father that come to me when I watch Star Trek: Next Generation–he was a sci-fi and fantasy geek like I am now, and I never realized that before. I am grateful to keep finding books and film and art and music to enjoy because it means the hunger inside of me is infinite. And it means the hunger inside others is infinite. And it means that I will never run out of experiences that let me feel connected to other human beings and their voices and stories.

I am grateful for the people giving me the opportunity to work with them and the venues who have published and will publish my own attempts to connect with other humans. The Grey Rooms Podcast accepted my first short story (twenty drafts later, mind you), and I will get to hear that story being given life.

I am grateful for the girl who used to come home from working two and three jobs while going to school full time to burn the midnight oil writing crappy stories. For the woman who continues writing with a demanding day job and two 5-year-olds. The stories are still crappy sometimes, but I am grateful for them, grateful for the passion and my patience to continue working with them, to mold each story into its final form.

I am grateful for the story I am molding right now.

Bonesetting

For years, she will lie awake and tell herself stories of the girl she’d been, in hopes of holding fast to every fleeting fragment, but it will have the opposite effect–the memories like talismans, too often touched; like saint’s coins, the etching worn down to silver plate and faint impressions.”

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by VE Schwab

It’s difficult to find moments that reassure me of writing as my path. Especially, when most of the work is toiling away alone–as my fellow writing kind know–private achievements like meeting a word count for the day or finally finishing revisions on a certain chapter, or the snatches of paragraphs and sometimes only lines or words I fit in in 20 minute increments (how most of my raw words are drafted). But there is a recognition and sense of achievement and belonging I feel at having something published. Though I wouldn’t consider myself a poet more than just a writer, that achievement after twisting and molding words, phrases, concepts into something that reaches into another human being’s chest is so vital to a creator who works with words.

So it is pride and great pleasure that I get to say my sixth poetry publication is appearing in Months to Years now. My poem Bonesetting is so very close to my heart.

You can read it at Months to Years, a literary venue publishing works on grief, by clicking the lovely pitch perfect image below:

Photo Credit: Months To Years

This poem, specifically the final lines, was a revelation. It unveiled to me the purpose and inherent movement of poetry: write to discover. If someone had asked me, I wouldn’t have been able to articulate this feeling about my father’s death getting farther away from me after creating life. But when I sat with this strange, tender idea long enough, it formed itself into Bonesetting. I hope you enjoy it.

It’s Okay to Say No

“Today is the first day of November and, so, today, someone will die. –The Scorpio Races, Maggie Stiefvater

Not to be dramatic, but I always feel a side of fear with my excitement on
November 1st. Yes, you’ve guessed it. This is yet another post about NaNoWriMo, where writers world-wide converge into one collective unconscious creation amoeba and delve into a 50,000 word-writing sprint over the course of November’s 30 fall-flavored days.

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Since I started doing NaNoWriMo in 2013, this will be the first time I will not be participating[1]. Learning to manage expectations is just as much a part of a writer’s growth as learning the mechanics of writing. As I sit beside my writing and critique partner, whom I am also fortunate to have as a best friend, and she clacks away at her brand spanking new novel, I realize, for once, I do not feel envious of her ability to jump into new worlds with such ease. This is how she writes. She enjoys world-building, the excitement and possibility of beginnings, while I fear beginnings and yearn, from the outset, for the delicious center, where all the secrets begin to surface like bodies rising in the Dead Marshes. I’ve also been fortunate enough to view Maggie
Stiefvater’s seminar on writing
(which she’s offering for half off today!), and it has reinforced my instinct to hold off on putting this project down into words; the seminar teaches temperance as I hold my novel baby in the realm of perfect forms in the furnace of my brain and continue weaving it like candy floss in this space, safely hidden away from the imperfect translation of thought-to-word.

I completed an exercise from Stiefvater’s seminar to explore the mood and test which point of view this novel might work best in. As I wrote, I was freshly astounded at how stories are woven: an image that creates a story in your head and takes off on its own if you’re lucky or practiced. It seems like a random image that ignites a random movie that plays on your brain screen. However, both that seed of a story and the resulting array of Power Point slides stem from an infinite combination of stimuli and memories that make your unique map of synapses and the sparks traded between them like paper
fortune-teller predictions in grade school. So don’t discount the experience of just writing to write, without feeling like it has to fit in anywhere or be applied to any tangible Work or Project. Even if it never finds permanence in your body of work, it has done important work in your brain and exercised that story-telling instinct with which humans, in all of our pattern-seeking wiring, are born.

I used to think of myself as a procrastinator, when actually I am afraid to commit something to paper before I have an idea of what I’m setting out to do. Not necessarily an entire outline, but as Stiefvater beautifully puts it in her seminar, it is integral to the writing process to know what kind of book I want to hold in my hands at the end of it all, what kind of emotions I want the reader to feel during and days after reading it, and what I want them to remember, years later, about how they felt when they see it on their shelves. We are, after all, conductors eliciting a mood in our readers; we need to know the mood before we can adequately translate it. This has given me the peace to refrain from writing while I fill out its form in my head, letting the rain build before ripping the cloud apart. This takes less time for some people, like my writing partner who asked me to assign her a genre[2] and had a solid idea, characters, and pages of plot and dialogue in 24 hours. For me, it takes more.

I thought this would be a pep talk so that I didn’t feel some type of way about skipping NaNoWriMo, but it’s more of an affirmation that this is the right decision. And if this speaks to anyone else, then welcome to my kumbaya circle. I’m not a particular fan of Kenny Rogers, but I find myself returning to and adhering to the advice of “The Gambler” again and again. The chorus is as follows:

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run

All this just to say ‘intuition’ in a quirky, entertaining manner. Intuition isn’t some mystical otherworldly place you can only touch with meditation and burning sage (but our kumbaya circle does meet on Tuesdays to do this). Sometimes it takes practice, like anything else, to listen for its voice and know when to follow it. This little seed of a novel isn’t done germinating, so I do not yet know the shape of this very emotional, personal project. Therefore, I will continue slowly curating my playlist and Pinterest board–which has been overrun with wolves somehow–and cheering you all from the sidelines, whether you’re endeavoring to write 50,000 words this month or saying no to NaNoWriMo.

1Not including 2015, when my twins were 2 months old, but I wasn’t even human then, let alone a writer, so it doesn’t count.

2After reading through this for coherency, aforementioned writing partner/best friend wanted me to mention that I also gave her the idea for her main character and his goal, so as not to downplay my part in her NaNoWriMo project. *smirk*

If you want to write, write

I doubt myself as a writer a lot. Despite knowing this is part of the fear-before-leaping process after finishing a project, I doubt myself anew each and every time. After all, who do I think I am to write a novel? To create lives and conversations and homes and tragedies? These questions do not go away; no book gets easier. How could it be easier to splatter yourself on the page for not only others to see but yourself? Even if your work is not about you or your life or anyone in it, your work is still you. Every time you create, you are confronted with the shape of your soul and brain. Whether you’ve done it once, or seven times, or twenty-five times, it does not get easier.

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So last night, when I was keenly feeling this doubt, I did what I always do. I turned to books. I opened the door on my bookshelf and knelt before my little writer self-help section (see above). The first book I opened was Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. I have been reading this on and off for a couple of years, and every time I pick it up, whatever section I open is exactly what I am going through. I opened it to “Doubt is Torture”, and read:

“If you want to write, write…have a tenderness and determination toward your writing, a sense of humor and a deep patience that you are doing the right thing.”

I immediately got a pen and sat back down. As I read, looking for guidance on how to keep pushing through this, on how to write when I absolutely did not want to plot but when I knew I needed a road map, my doubt was soothed. Inspiration would come in time. And it did.

Here is something I’ve learned: I found that I am inspired by nonfiction more than fiction. I have read a ton recently and while my best friend always wants to write after reading beautiful language, I remain a fat, happy voyeur–a reader. To be inspired to write, I need the left side of my brain stimulated. Another writing buddy told me that she loves the way I write about writing, and I think this is because dissecting writing gives me my life-force. During my drought after my last completed novel, I’ve been turning to other means of creativity to try and loosen that muscle, like attempting guitar and piano (ha) and drawing, which I don’t really do anymore, because it’s less of a struggle for me. I can look at something I’ve drawn and see the flaws and how to fix them. With drawing, I can tangibly see that practice makes (an approximation) of perfect. Writing is harder, and unfortunately, more gratifying for that exact reason. I learned last night that while some people like writing because they know they are good at it, I like it because it’s harder for me than most other things. Here is something else I’ve learned: my writing process is not linear or in any way organized. Here is something else I’ve learned: Everyone does this differently. Here is something else I’ve learned: The act of writing itself will not get easier.

What does get easier is understanding your process, which allows you more compassion with yourself. Goldberg assures the writer that “each [book] will get better because you have all the more practice behind you.” But I affirm that the more you write, the more you understand how you work and how you’ve grown with each terrifying leap into a new book.

Reaffirmation

With the newest publication of a beloved author on the horizon, she’s been live-tweeting as she reads one of my favorite works of hers. Naturally, I am comparing myself to her and finding myself lacking. Yes, folks, you can make negative, unhealthy comparisons to someone for which you hold pure admiration.

As I sit here making my mental comparisons, I  wonder why I even bother. What do I even have to say that’s worthy of anyone’s time? Does my work have any Meaning? (I promise the tone of this post turns around).  But as I cuddle my sick toddler, I open one of my poems on a whim, Nest.

That poem still makes me so proud. My epiphany, however, was noticing the poetic devices I employed, some intentionally like the image of home, but more importantly, some unintentional, like my partial rhymes. And then the end of it, how everything just came together and…happened. How I had written no less than 10 poems before this poem, trying to capture my emotions about being a new mother and having lost my father, and that final stanza expressed everything I felt more clearly than all of those attempts combined.

I think that, that final marriage of meaning, form, feeling, and rightness is a key to this whole “what do I even have to offer anyone” question. That poem almost created itself, using me as a vessel; I didn’t have the option to not create it. Is that enough to give work meaning? To say, I HAVE to write, therefore it has meaning. I don’t think so. What I have to offer is how much I enjoyed creating it, and THAT gives it meaning, because if you did it right, others can feel that coming through.