Category: Writing

The Secrets the Earth Keeps

Happy New Year! A sneak peak at my first children’s book, coming soon…

 

Did you know the earth is alive?
As alive as you and I?

Did you know she speaks to us
each day and every night?

Through the canyons, the valleys,
the mountains, the streams?
The land we stand on
and the air we breathe?

img_7351

 

Connecting to the Truth in Art

img_6314
Ronda, Spain 2015

“Where do you get your ideas? Where does it all come from?”

That’s the question my father asked me when we were sitting outside on our balcony in Ronda, Spain during our month in Andalucía. Before I had time to think, I said, “It’s about connecting to the truth, and then writing about it. But we have to learn how to connect to the truth first.” That’s where writing begins. Long before sitting down at the computer or with pen and paper. It’s a practice of seeing past the mirage of distractions, straight to the essence, the core, of what’s in front of us. It’s a practice of listening beyond the noise to hear what exists in the vibrations and rhythms around us.

A writer’s practice is ongoing, we are continuously deepening our connection to the truth. It happens when we are conscious of it (taking a walk through the woods or giving thanks before a meal), and it happens when we are unconscious of it (dreaming at night or going about our busy lives). We learn to connect with the truth, so that by the time we sit down to write, we are miles ahead of where we think we are. We are ready to begin putting into words all that we have been practicing. The material is already there; it is already a part of us. Now we must give it form.

The Most Common Misconceptions About Inspiration

umww77lyeca-nik-macmillan

I don’t talk a lot about inspiration because I believe the word itself can be misleading. I believe we give it too much power over ourselves. More power than it deserves. If we are going to talk about inspiration, we have to start by dispelling some of the most common misconceptions:

  • It is something we have to wait for
  • It exists outside of ourselves
  • It is difficult to tap into
  • It is elusive, hard to catch hold of
  • It is fleeting, it comes and goes on its own accord
  • It comes to some of us and not to others

I don’t believe any of the above are true, because all of the above render us powerless over inspiration, over our own creativity. We are not powerless. We are capable beyond our wildest imaginings, ready at a moment’s notice, with unlimited potential as to what we can create. Inspiration is summoned the moment we step into our power, the moment our words meet the page, and it wants us to know:

  • It is always available to us
  • It is something we bring forth from within ourselves
  • It is something we invoke through action
  • It is only as elusive as sitting down to write or picking up a paintbrush or snapping a photograph
  • It is everywhere, in all things, at all times
  • It is something everyone is capable of tapping into

Summoning Inspiration

img_0221

The words I write almost always follow some sort of action on my part to summon them. Either sitting down at the computer or journaling in my notebook or quietly contemplating the world around me. It starts with a willingness to observe and listen. That’s when inspiration comes—when we are fully engaged in the present moment and making ourselves available to receive.

Here’s how the process unfolds for me:

  1. I plan in advance. I decide when I will write and I make it a priority. Sometimes that means going to bed by a certain time, waking up earlier than normal, rearranging my schedule. It starts with making a commitment to myself that I know I will keep.
  2. I make a cup of tea and I go to my writing spot. Sometimes on my back porch. Sometimes in front of my computer. Sometimes at the coffee shop around the corner. Wherever I feel compelled to start on that particular day is where I go (and where I start is rarely where I finish).
  3. I relax into where I am. I don’t expect anything. I’m not there for any reason, except to be present and observe what unfolds. I know that by quieting my mind and listening, I am opening myself up to receive. So that’s all I focus on.
  4. I start writing, without knowing where it will lead; without any idea of what I will write about. I just go. And as I write, ideas start to unfold, stories start to take form.
  5. I stay with it. I continue to write for as long as it feels good, until I’m ready to stop and move on from it.
  6. Then I start the process all over again.

Creativity = Small Acts of Faith

art

Creativity is a series of small acts of faith performed one after another without any knowledge whatsoever of where they will lead.

To draw a picture, we have to pick up a pencil and start moving it around on paper; we have to draw one small detail at a time without knowing what it will look like once all the details have been filled in.

To write a book, we have to sit down at the computer and start typing; we have to put one word blindly in front of the next without knowing what it will sound like when it’s read from beginning to end.

To capture a photograph, we have to pick up our camera and aim it at something beautiful; we have to sense when the moment is right to snap the picture without knowing how it will appear once we develop it.

We rarely approach the work with a vision of what it will become; to do so would take us away from the spontaneity of the moment. Art relies on intuition. Whether we are drawing a picture or writing a book or taking a photograph, we are guided by that subtle intuitive pull in one direction over another. Something within us moves us forward one small step at a time. We never know where it’s leading. One small act of faith after another in an unknown direction leads us to discover who we are and what we are capable of.

Embracing the Presence of Fear

1000509261001_1283185241001_bio-mini-bio-georgia-okeeffe-sf-411022
Georgia O’Keefe, Painter (even in the presence of fear)

What is it that you’re afraid of?

Failure? Taking a risk and not seeing it work out? Having regrets? Letting people down? Not living up to your full potential?

These are worthy fears, worthy of being felt and worthy of being channeled into your work. There is no rule that says we have to keep fear separate from our work. There is no rule that says art is for the fearless only. We know that isn’t true. Georgia O’Keeffe said it best when she said, “I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life—and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.” Her paintings would not be what they are today if she hadn’t experienced fear and painted anyway, alongside that fear. She didn’t try to deny fear or avoid it; she acknowledged it, and then worked alongside of it to create the work she came here to do. And so can I. And so can you.

Lighting a Fire to Your Wants

wofdw8uqx6i-freddie-marriage

If you really want to be an artist, you have to stop wanting to be an artist and start writing, painting, playing, creating, composing. Throw your wanting out the window. Hold a ceremony for it if you like. Write down your wants on a piece of paper and light fire to them… watch them disintegrate before your eyes. Cut them up into tiny pieces of paper and toss them into the wind… watch them float away. Buy a shovel and bury them… write them a eulogy and say your final good-byes. After that, don’t ever speak of them again. Speak instead about the work you are doing, the progress you have made, the lessons you are learning, and the growth that’s taking place. Ask yourself at the end of each day, each week, each month, have I done the work I wanted to do? That’s all that matters. You’ll see.

What If We Never Tried?

painter

“There are so many great authors in the world and I’ll never be as good as them, so what’s the point in even trying?”

This is a common response I hear from people who want to be writers, but are afraid. When I hear this it leads me to wonder, what if Plato had never had the courage or the curiosity to follow in the footsteps of his teacher, Socrates? And what if Aristotle had felt too inadequate to follow in the footsteps of Plato? What if Anne Morrow Lindbergh had never written Gift from the Sea, which appeared on the New York Times bestseller list for 80 weeks, because other female authors like Anais Nin or Maya Angelou were already writing about a woman’s role in the world? And what if Anne’s daughter, Reeve Lindbergh, had never written and published over 25 books, because her mother was already a bestselling author, beloved by millions of people? What if I had never written this book, because thousands of other books about writing already exist? And what if you never write the book that is inside of you?

I don’t believe that the number of great books that have been written or inventions that have been created or mysteries that have been solved should ever prevent us from searching deeper and exploring further in our own lives. There will always be more to write and more to create and more to discover. The purpose of art is not to reach a conclusion; the purpose of art is to keep us expanding. So it is our responsibility to expand upon what has come before us and it will be the responsibility of future generations to expand upon what we do, right now, in our time on earth.

The Burden of a Dream

img_6003

There are two ways of looking at a dream.

There are some people who look at a dream and they think about what that dream must amount to. It must amount to success. It must amount to money. It must amount to making a difference in the world. It must amount to becoming famous in that industry. It must amount to recognition and respect. For these people, the dream quickly becomes a burden, and they move through life carrying around this burden and feeling miserable because the weight is so great.

Then there are people who look at a dream and they see it for what it already is, without anything else attached to it. It is what they love to do. It is what brings them happiness and peace. It is a source of growth. It is a source of comfort. It is who they are and who they came to this world to be. For these people, the dream carries no weight at all. They are able to step easily into the path of their dream feeling light, feeling happy, feeling blessed, feeling free, because there is no burden they have to carry.

Tell me, how are you looking at your dream?