write. play. repeat.

from joy to joy to joy

On Little Feet With No Socks

…that’s how my “Word For the Year” crept up on me.

No fireworks, no grand visions of expansion and explosive wealth.  At first, I didn’t want to admit that this small little thing was actually my word.  It wasn’t fancy.  It didn’t imply that I would be rolling in money by the end of the year.  It didn’t instantly propel me toward massive overhaul of the Self. Also, it did not make me want to do jumping jacks or yoga.  What good was it, anyway?

So I tried, for a couple of weeks, to make other words “the word.”  I wrote about them in my journal, I thought Big Thoughts about them, tried to make them fit.  None of that worked, because this other one just kept padding around the kitchen in the middle of the night, making itself tea and generally getting comfortable despite my protests.

I should know better, by now, than to try to choose my word for the year.  Instead, I finally released control over it and allowed this sweet, soft thing to claim me:

Bare, it whispered.

Be bare, open yourself up and be vulnerable.

Let people know you more.

Let your work reflect who you are and not who you feel you “should” be.

Let your relationships reflect a willingness to be hurt, and thus a willingness to really be loved.

Take risks, especially the kind that will let you shed layers and masks.

So this shoeless spirit of a word has taken up residence for 2011.

Bare.

Quiet, and scary, and interesting.  I’m committing myself to it for the next 12 months and look forward to where it takes me.

Smoke

I fully intended to wake up for the eclipse last night.  When the alarm went off, I tried to keep my eyes open, but instead I kept falling right back to sleep.   So, rather than spending the longest, darkest night of the year huddled against the cold and staring up at the sky in awe, I spent it curled warmly in bed.  I’ve had worse nights.

Some of my friends tell me it was too cloudy here to see much, anyway.  Still, I would have preferred to experience a little bit of it.

The day so far is rainy.  We’ve lived through the incredible darkness but the sun is too shy yet to show itself.  This morning I marked the Winter Solstice with a small ritual… I made a fire out of twigs, little sticks of pine, and vines from our arbor.  First I burned some sage & cedar, and then wrote down my goals and intentions for the coming year.  I also wrote down the words I have chosen as my guiding words for the year, though really they have chosen me (and I was surprised to end up with two.)

One by one, I dropped the slips of paper into the fire and watched the smoke rise.  Some cultures believe that smoke is the visual form of prayers traveling out to God.  I hoped that was true as I watched my hopes and wishes catch, curl black, and billow up to join the clouds.

I stood in the faint drizzle in my sweatpants and boots until the fire went out, then went inside to warm up with some tea and get dressed for the day.

Every few minutes, whenever I turn my head a certain way, I catch the scent of smoke in my hair.

Bones

Trees by Bindu

Riding in the car, I watched the tree line along the highway.  I looked at the stiff, tall trunks of pine and the gnarly bare tops of all the other trees.   It was freezing, the first day I’d actually needed a heavier coat and scarf this year.  The sky hung soft like cotton and gave a vague suggestion of snow.  That’s when I started to notice a familiar feeling sliding over me, the long and comfortable blanket of melancholy that will sit with me until Spring.

I love this time of year.

I’m not saying that I love being sad – it’s not really sadness, anyway, just quiet, reflection, rest.  Perhaps in another life I was a hibernating mammal, and this is when I look forward to slowing down and finding a cave to bed down in for a few months.  What I love is the vulnerability of the landscape.  Most trees have lost their leaves, the grasses have turned brown, the fruit and color of the natural world are gone.  The same species that only weeks ago were practically shouting “Notice me!” have gone suddenly silent.  All that’s visible now are the most basic elements, the bone structure of the world.  No flair, no pomp, only the most basic parts of themselves show.  If I thought a tree could feel exposed, I would admire its bravery.   How can I be like that?

So the melancholy I feel each Winter is welcomed.  I want to deconstruct myself and remember my bones.  I want to release the parts that are showy and proud, and allow myself to be vulnerable – to love, to risk, to change.   I want to know and love the parts of me that get covered up, so that they might be known by others.   If I have been a bear in a cave, and now I am a woman in a car, perhaps one day I can be a tree in Winter.

*lovely photo courtesy of Bindu Wiles

A Nourished Year

Those of you who have been with me a while here at w.p.r. may remember that at the start of 2010, I chose a word to carry me through the year.  My word for 2010 was nourish, and overall I think it has served me well.  Now that it’s December, I want to look back at my intentions and see how things turned out.

My intentions last December were:

to nourish my body.

I have developed a more loving relationship with my body and started paying better attention to what it needs.  I was already eating pretty healthy food, but I’ve taken it to a different level with eating more intuitively and eating more frequent, smaller meals.  I no longer feel hungry all the time or develop strong cravings very often.  A couple of weeks ago, I did have some strong cravings – for salad!  I didn’t used to enjoy salads at all and now they are a treat.  That’s a huge step for me.

I get much more sleep than I used to, and more regular sleep.  It’s easier for me to get up before dawn that it was before.   I take walks at lunchtime by myself and enjoy the solitude and the feel of my legs moving me along.  I enjoy accomplishing physical tasks.

to nourish my mind.

I created a beautiful home office in which I feel safe, comfortable, and inspired.  All of the tools I need are there  – my instruments, notebooks, computer, and art supplies.  I have art and gifts from friends on display and lots of natural light.  I have read more books in 2010 than I did the year before, and spend less time with Google Reader (as much as I enjoy it!).  I’ve taken two “technology detox” weeks which I realize now are absolutely necessary to my mental and creative well-being.  I have taken some interesting seminars and classes and delved deeper into subjects that interest me.  I canceled my television service.  I’ve made a conscious effort to ingest more information of quality rather than quantity. 

to nourish my relationships.

This year definitely brought more rewarding experiences with my family than any before.  I relate to them on a totally different level now and have enjoyed a lot of quality time with my immediate and extended families.  I became an aunt! I went to fewer big parties, but spent more time in small groups or one-on-one outings with friends, which allowed for deeper conversation and less reliance on alcohol to create “fun”. I felt I got to know my friends better.   I deepened my own capacity for love on many levels.   I’m learning what it is to grow in a deeply committed relationship and that has changed me for the better.

to nourish my spirit.

I took up the practice of morning pages again this year and it has been such a gift.  On days when I miss it, I definitely feel less centered and in tune with myself. I have also started meditating, though I’m not very “good at it” yet (I tend to nod off, even when I’m sitting instead of lying down!)  My daily walks are also a time for contemplation and “me-time”, and they’ve been great for my spirit as well as my body.  I’ve made some peace with the religion of my upbringing and gotten clearer about my own spiritual path.  I feel more spiritually healthy than I have in the past.

Overall, 2010 was a year of tremendous growth for me and I definitely feel that I chose the “right” word to hold close these past months.   Did you have a word this year?   If so, how has it served you?

Now is the time to start thinking about your word for next year!  I’m still contemplating mine, and just like last year, I’m sure mine will choose me rather than me choosing it.

[update: I just joined up with Reverb10 and am happy to see that this topic was the first day’s prompt! I don’t feel quite so behind now…]

PSA

In case you couldn’t tell from my abrupt stop with the daily posts, I’ve been suffering from a little bit of burnout lately.

Emotional, physical, and intellectual fizzles.

I’m taking some time to regroup and check back in with myself, and make sure I’m not getting back into old patterns of doing too much all at once.

Hope to see you again soon.

 

XO

Day 17 – Keep Your Eye On The Prize

30 Days of Encouragement for NaNoWriMo (and other writers, too!)

 

I’m sure you’re tired.  I’m sure you’ve had moments of wanting to delete, shred, burn the whole damn thing.  Don’t.  You are more than halfway through and you are doing it!  Think about the amount you would typically write in a day three weeks ago.  Think about how much you have done in only seventeen days. Did you think you’d get this far?

NaNoWriMo is more about overcoming personal blocks and perfectionism than it is about actually producing a publishable novel.  This is at best a first draft.  It doesn’t have to be – it shouldn’t be – perfect.  If you can keep going, knowing that it won’t be perfect, you will have overcome a huge hurdle that most creative people face.   With that in mind, remind yourself why you signed on for this crazy ride.  You can do it, and you will be so proud of yourself on December 1st.  I’m already proud of you!

 

 

Day 16 – I Like to Move It, Move It

30 Days of Encouragement for NaNoWriMo (and other writers, too!)

One of the best ways to get “un-stuck” is to get moving.   Make sure you take occasional breaks to get up and stretch your muscles.  Going on a 20 minute walk is a great way to stretch your brain, too.  Try not to focus on thinking about your story while you’re walking.  Just let your mind wander where it likes and see what happens.  Also try to be aware of your surrounding environment.  Observing the world around you can inspire new ideas and solutions to problems you might be facing with your plot.  You can find inspiration in unexpected places!

As the weather gets colder, it’s easy to stay inside, huddled at the desk.  Try to take some time this week to bundle up and get outside.  If the weather’s bad, a treadmill or indoor workout will do, but I prefer being outdoors, as the natural world tends to inspire me.

Day 15 – In Medias Res

30 Days of Encouragement for NaNoWriMo (and other writers, too!)

You’re halfway there.  It’s all downhill from here.  There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Insert your favorite cliche about perseverance here.

Triteness aside, congratulations!  You really are half way through a crazy, fun feat of imagination and dedication and though I’m sure it’s been hard work, I hope you’re having a good time, too.

In honor of today marking the halfway point, I thought I’d pass along a little tip that my writing coach, Bindu Wiles, recently reminded me of… in medias res.

If you aren’t sure how to begin, begin in the middle.
In medias res is Latin for “into the middle of things” and it is a wonderful idea to keep in mind if you’re stuck. Try to resist becoming a slave to chronology.  There’s a very good reason that most of our elementary school essays about “What We Did On Our Summer Vacation” (First we did this, then we went here, then so-and-so said this, then there was another person there…) didn’t turn into wildly successful literature:  It’s not  the most exciting way to tell a story.

Throwing your reader directly into the action is almost always preferable to leading gently with pages of exposition.  Create a situation where the reader cannot help but be engaged.  It’s OK if they feel they have some catching up to do right off the bat – they’ll want to stick around to find out what’s going on!

Today, I challenge and encourage you to start your next scene or chapter in the middle of a situation. I’d love to hear how it turns out!

Day 11 – A No-Guilt Zone

30 Days of Encouragement for NaNoWriMo (and other writers, too!)

Have you had a really bad day yet?  One where you didn’t come anywhere close to your word count, or worse yet, didn’t manage to write anything at all?   It’s OK.  Take some deep breaths and let it go.  This day is a new day, and you can start from where you are.

Yes, it’s important to try to keep up with your daily goals so you aren’t pulling all-nighters at the end of the month, but beating yourself up about missing the mark won’t help you catch up.  In fact, guilt and panic over being behind could just trigger a downward spiral and get you even further behind.

So, if you’ve screwed up here and there, it’s going to be fine.  Instead of feeling ashamed and berating yourself, just take this moment to re-commit to the project.   I don’t know any successful people who will say they have never failed at anything – only that they decided to continue even after failing.

Day 10 – Who's On the Other Side?

30 Days of Encouragement for NaNoWriMo (and other writers, too!)

It’s Day 10 and you’re halfway through your second week. Can you believe you’ve made it this far?  You’re 30% of the way there!

Today I’d like you to think about the person you ultimately imagine reading your novel.  This person can be someone you really know or know of, or it can be a totally imaginary dude or dudette. We’re going to refer to this person as your very own Dear Reader.

What do they look like? How old are they?  What sorts of things are they interested in?

Get a really good picture in your mind of your Dear Reader.  Once you can practically reach out and (gently) poke them in the nose, get to work.  Write the next few chapters specifically with this Dear Reader in mind.  Create some references just for them, like little inside jokes between the two of you.  Write a scene in a place you think they’d like.  Elaborate on that character you know they love to hate.

The more you get to know your Dear Reader, the more effortless your voice will be.  You know who you’re writing for, so you know how to communicate with them.  Don’t be afraid to be specific – this isn’t really about demographics.  Some of the things I’ve written that seem almost too particular to me end up being the ones that get the most universal response from audiences and readers.  Make clear choices, be specific, and talk to that Dear Reader as though they’re in the room.  Eventually, your real readers will thank you for it.