write. play. repeat.

from joy to joy to joy

If you could choose one word…

I started reading Christine Kane’s blog about a year ago.  Earlier this decade I took a songwriting workshop from her that was wonderful and since that time, she’s developed wildly successful coaching programs and retreats, in addition to keeping an excellent blog about creating the life you want to live.

One of the most enjoyable parts of the blog lately has been reading the guest posts of people who, instead of making long lists of New Year’s Resolutions, chose a single word to hold with them through the year.   One word to remind them of their intentions, to create new possibilities, and remind them of who they want to become.  I absolutely love this idea, and so I’ve chosen a word for myself for 2010.

Have you ever taken one of those questionnaires online that asks you things like, “If you were stranded on a desert island, which three records would you take with you?”    One of the questions is inevitably, “If you could choose one word to describe yourself, what would it be?”  Several years ago, I was convinced I had my word:   Hungry.

I was hungry for experience, for knowledge, for sounds, textures, words… and of course, food.  I felt like that one word covered it all.  (If you are familiar with the Enneagram, I am a classic 7.) Now I know that the word ‘hungry’ conveys not just a lust for life, but lack.   Hunger comes from a place of not having enough, of never being satisfied.   This year I am releasing that hunger.

My word for 2010 is…


I love this word because in many ways it is the opposite of ‘hungry’.  It’s also a verb, which implies and creates action.

Instead of hungering, I choose to use my present experiences to really give back to myself, to heal my body and grow my spirit.

Instead of looking for new experiences, I choose to be fully present and aware of how my current experience is feeding me.

This word applies to many aspects of my life, from my interactions with food and my body to the things I want to surround myself with to my relationships with friends and family.

In 2010, I choose to nourish my body.

I want to be more aware of the nutrients I’m putting into my body, of how to create healthy and satisfying meals.  I want to take more time to myself to go on walks, to do yoga, and to explore what my muscles are capable of.

In 2010, I choose to nourish my mind.

I want to spend more time reading things that interest me, and less time being overloaded with information online.  I want to create a home office that inspires me and allows me to write comfortably at home.  I want to take classes in subjects I haven’t been brave enough to study before.

In 2010, I choose to nourish my relationships.

I want to spend more quality time talking to my family, and less time defending myself.   I want to have more real, one-on-one interactions with my friends rather than only seeing them at parties.  I want to continue to learn what it is to be a partner to someone in every sense of the word.

In 2010, I choose to nourish my spirit.

I have spent a lot of time trying to find out what I love.  Now that I have a better idea, I want to explore those things in-depth and go out of my way to be in touch with the divine in everyday life.  I want to create more moments of real joy rather than instant gratification.  I want to become aware of the times I need to take care of myself so that I can be more available to others.

A well-nourished person looks, feels, and acts much differently from a hungry person.  By asking myself every day whether my choices and actions are nourishing me, I hope to reach the point where I can not only nourish myself, but extend that gift to everyone around me.

Do you think have discovered your word for 2010?  What is it?

Holiday Gifts for the Writers in Your Life

Writers can be tricky folks to shop for.  While the typical gift card to a bookstore or moleskine pocket notebook are usually welcome, there are some things that I think could serve our writer friends better this holiday season.   Here’s my list of great gifts for writers that you may not have thought of yet.

* The Gift of Time

This will always be at the top of my list, and it’s the least expensive gift.  Most of the writers I know long for some extra time to sit and just write.  No chores, no obligations, nothing to do except their work.  If you live with a writer, you might not realize how often you’re accidentally distracting them when they’re “on a roll” just to ask a question or have them do something around the house.  Perhaps you can make a coupon (or several!) for a couple of hours of uninterrupted alone-time for your scribbling sweetheart.

* WD My Passport external hard drive

I have one of these and I absolutely love it.  In addition to an online backup, an external hard drive is a great way to protect that novel or screenplay in digital format. If your computer crashes, you’ve still got this handy drive with your files saved.  The passport is very small and light, so it’s easy to carry around and transfer files to and from different computers.   They’re also very affordable and go up in price based on storage size.

* Archie Grand Notebooks

I know I implied that notebooks are a little overdone, but I think these are just adorable.  I especially like “Poets I Met and Liked” and “Chefs I Met And Liked.”  These are a great way to keep lists or doodles, too.

Archie Grand Artists Notebook

*Lunch With Richard

Richard Nash has just announced he’ll be offering private consulting services in the form of a lunch date! At My Lunch With Richard,  you have 90 minutes to pick his brain about your project, independent publishing, or anything else of your choosing.  $250 is a small price to pay to talk with someone who loves good books as much as Richard does.  A great Q&A with him and three other editors from Poets & Writers earlier this year can be found here.  If you don’t live in the New York area, you can also redeem your “lunch date” via Skype.

* Funky and Creative Bookshelves

A writer is almost always a voracious reader.  When I start running out of space for all my books, my first thought is not to get rid of the books, but to buy more bookshelves!

This article has some very attractive and fun bookshelf designs.  I especially love the idea of the Bibliochaise, a bookshelf AND reading chair in one:


* A Writer’s Soundtrack

Some writers need total silence in order to get anything done, but many others have “soundtracks” for their work.  Depending on the type of project, they may need some upbeat techno, some moody pop, or straight up classical to listen while they type.  iTunes gift cards, CDs, or homemade mixes would be a welcome gift to help expand their collection of “writing music.”

* The Gift of Retreat

This one is a splurge, but if you’ve got a writer in your life who just needs that last polish on a project, or some time dedicated to work that exceeds what your alone-time coupons can provide, a trip to a writers retreat might be just the thing.    Writers conferences, workshops and retreats happen all over the world in a variety of settings, from urban gatherings to solitary cabins to horse ranches.   There’s sure to be one out there that matches your writer’s style.  Shaw Guides has an extensive list online.

In closing, one of the absolute best things you can do for your writer friends this holiday season is

*Support Them.

If they have a book, album, or chapbook out, buy it.  If you already own it, get a copy for a friend or encourage someone else to buy it.  Nothing fills a writer with warm and gooey holiday spirit like knowing the rent will get paid and that someone out there is reading.

Got other great suggestions for gifts?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Bloom where you're slanted.

Several years ago I moved back home from college and lived with my parents for a little while.  It wasn’t my first choice, and it took me awhile to get over having to be there, but it’s what I needed to do at the time.

There is a small town square where they live that has some little boutique stores in it.  One day I was looking around the shops there, I came across a votive holder with a daisy on it.  Along the side the candle holder read, “Bloom where you’re planted.”  I immediately bought it and placed it on my nightstand at home.

I’m actually not a fan of the phrase “Bloom where you’re planted.”  Especially at that point in my life, that phrase implied that there was little I could do to change my circumstances and that the best I could do was deal with what I was given.  That was not acceptable to me.

The reason I bought the candle holder is because the phrase was engraved in a very curly script which, strangely,  made the ‘p’ in ‘planted’ look like an ‘S’.

Bloom where you’re Slanted!

Now this is a phrase I can dig.  I love the idea of focusing on the parts of myself that are a little off center.  Those ‘slanted’ parts are where the greatest opportunity lies.  You may have a skill or a way of seeing things that no-one else does.   Your obsession with candy, or action movies, or reading the dictionary could actually be a guidepost to a career or creative endeavor that would be perfect for you.

Where are you slanted?  Is there anything about you that people have found strange in the past but that you now use in your professional or creative life?

Thoughts on Claiming Power: Take A Compliment

“Wow, that was really great!”

A blush. A stammer.  “Oh, thanks but… it wasn’t really… I’m not… “
Does this reaction sound familiar to you? It does to me. I used to be unable to receive a compliment graciously.

When I started performing in front of other people, the reaction was immediately positive.  I got encouragement and support all over the place.  The problem was, I had no way to receive it.  I was blocking the support people were trying to provide.

Luckily, I had a great director, Sherri D. Sutton, who always held me to higher standards than I held myself.  Sherri did not take my self-defeating crap.   The very first time she saw me shuffle my feet and stare at the floor when someone was trying to compliment me, she pulled me aside.

“When you deny someone’s compliment, you are insulting them and doing yourself a disservice. Just smile and thank them. Let them have that.”

That blew my mind. I had never thought of it that way at all, but Sherri was right.  When someone enjoys something you have created, who are you to tell them they shouldn’t have enjoyed it?  Why would you deny them the pleasure of thanking you?

Some of us were raised to be humble.   Humility is fine in small amounts (folks who come across as arrogant tend to be ultimately insecure) but shrinking is completely different and robs us of our power.

When someone compliments your work, they are trying to give you back a little bit of what they feel you have given them.  A performance, piece of writing, office presentation, or any other type of project is an exchange of energy.   By putting it out into the world, you will get some sort of reaction back.   Why is it so easy for us to take criticism and so difficult to accept praise? Try not to block the positive energy someone is sending back to you.  Rather, allow the exchange to be complete and enjoy the affect your creativity has had on another person.  It’s better for both of you.

These days, when I perform, there are times that I feel a little shaky, or didn’t think I did my best on stage.  Still, if someone approaches me to pay me a compliment, I still that impulse to tell them that I could have done better — instead, I smile broadly, shake their hand, and say “Thank you so much.”

(please check out Sherri’s website while you’re at it.  She’s a hilarious and talented woman!)

Thoughts on Claiming Power: Playing Small

The last week has been interesting.  I am rediscovering books, snippets, and practices that all point to the same thing – exploration of personal power.  It’s one of those situations where, once you’ve seen something, you come across it everywhere.  I’ve decided to explore how this stuff is affecting me in a series of posts.

The first bit that popped back onto my radar is the famous paragraph by Marianne Williamson from her book A Return To Love:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

When I read those words, I feel empowered, but I also vividly remember several moments in my life where someone or something attempted to get me to “play small.”

  • When I was young, I used to talk all the time about things I was learning. I was eager to express myself and share my observations with anyone who would listen.   As I grew and started school, I was told that I talked too much.  I was told this by family and teachers often enough that I stopped speaking to strangers almost entirely. At family parties, my parents practically had to beg me to be social with the guests.   When I was a teenager, my parents would often complain that I “never talk[ed] to them about anything!”    Something in me that had so fervently wanted to reach out into the world had been silenced, and it was difficult to get that something back.
  • In middle school, I grew very quickly and was soon one of the tallest people in my class.  I took to leaning on my hip when I spoke to people shorter than I was, so that they wouldn’t feel intimidated and I would feel more normal.  Partially as a result of that, I have had lower back problems for the last ten years.   This is the most physical proof I have that “shrinking so other people won’t feel insecure around you” is bad for my personal well-being.
  • While working in a theatre program in college, I overheard some other girls in the department gossiping about me and complaining that I was cast in certain roles that they wanted.  They didn’t feel I deserved the roles, even though I had auditioned like everyone else.   I thought those girls were my friends and it hurt me deeply to overhear those things.   I questioned whether or not to ever do another show there.
  • One night at a bar I regularly frequented, I was talking and laughing with several other people for a couple of hours.  Some of us were friends, but we welcomed strangers into our conversations.   At some point, a young man I had just met that night informed me that if I ever wanted to get and keep a man, I should refrain from coming across as so well-read and experienced, because guys don’t like to be made insecure by their girlfriends.  (In case you are curious, yes, this guy was single.)

I did not begin to experience real happiness until I finally stopped listening to suggestions like the ones above.   I had given up my personal power to people who did not have my best interests at heart (even if they thought they did) and as a result, my inner light dimmed.   Why did it take me so long to take that power back?  Why did I feel as though someone else had the power or ability to grant me something that was always my own?

The last year has been an incredible journey for me and I know I am only on the very first leg of it.   I was glad to rediscover this message because it reminds me how far I have come and how much more authentically myself I can be now.

Scroll up and re-read Marianne’s paragraph.  Now ask yourself why you have ever felt you needed permission from someone else to shine.


Sometimes you just need to change your space in order to change perspective.

As many of you know, I recently moved to a new house.   This new place is going to have a nice little office space for me, that I’ve just barely started working on.  There’s also a great big yard and a nice sunroom and most importantly, lots of natural light.

The old place was…well… a cave.   It was dark, and muted, and felt very small even though it is technically bigger than the place I’m in now.    There are many writers for whom a small, dark nook is exactly the right place for them to bang out their work, but I am not one of them.  I need space. I crave light.  It’s almost as though my writing is directly fueled by photosynthesis.

While living at the old place, I struggled mightily to write anything, much less a song.  Most of the songs I’ve written in the past two years have been started while I was elsewhere, either in a hotel room, at a conference, or on vacation.   I was sometimes able to finish a rewrite at home, but for the most part had to work very hard against the environment to do so.

I’ve only been in the new house full-time for a little more than a week, but I feel a change already.  I started working on a song this week, and was able to work on it for a few minutes at home.   Sitting in the sunroom for a few minutes with the cats, I catch a few ideas as they float by.   Standing out in the yard as the dogs run around joyfully, a turn of phrase occurs to me that I make a note to use later.  I take deep breaths of the air and close my eyes to feel the sun on my eyelids, and I can almost feel them converting something inside into words.

Despite the piles of stuff and stacks of boxes, despite not knowing where everything belongs just yet, my creative self is opening up and letting in the light.  Hallelujah.

Liminal Phases

My friend Adam just asked me how I was doing.

I answered, “In a very strange, transitional, wacky place right now, actually. But it feels sort of like standing outside a really awesome Christmas party:

Shivering and bundled up and with a bottle of wine in my hand…. uncomfortable, but knowing that just on the other side of that door is a great time.”

Ladies and Gents, I think I’m in what psychologists call a Liminal Phase. Growing and stretching and creating new and further boundaries for myself.

It sounds grandiose and fabulous, and I’m sure at some point I will look back on it as a wonderful time in my life…but at the moment it mostly feels like I need to get into new skin, and possibly crawl into a large glass of wine.

What do you do during these phases? How do you try to make yourself more comfortable?

Writing Spider

I spent time on the weekend at the new house.  In the middle of moving, it’s easy to get stressed out and forget why you’re doing it, so it was really nice on Saturday morning to see lots of great wildlife around us.

First, there were two hummingbirds doing a dance in front of the garage while I pulled weeds.

Next, I saw a big Blue Jay fly off of our roof and toward the trees.

Then, on the way back into the house, we noticed a HUGE spider in its web off to the right (near the room that will be my home office.)    Instead of trying to get rid of it right away, we looked it up and found out that it is an Argiope aurantia, nicknamed a  “Writing Spider” because of the ‘scribble’ it weaves down its web!

I decided having a Writing Spider grace my home and garden must be a good omen that this move is going to be good for my writing.
A picture of our new guest, Eudora the Writing Spider, is below the cut for people who are squeamish about such things.


Red light, Green light.

Did you ever play the game “Red Light, Green Light” as a kid? One person plays the “stop light” and the other kids have to try to reach him or her.  Meanwhile, the “stop light” gets to shout out directions of when they can go or not go.

Let’s play a little game.  Pretend your finished piece of writing is the “stop light” you’re trying to reach.  The next time you are about to get to work, I want you to take a moment and ask yourself, “Why am I doing it?”

If the answer is anything like some of the following, stop.

  • I want to be published
  • I want to impress girls (or guys, or both)
  • I want to be famous
  • I want people to think I am a genius
  • I want to be validated by someone/something

These reasons all have sources outside of yourself.  If none of those above situations come to pass, you’ll feel disappointed and wonder why you wasted so much time on that book, screenplay, or song.

If, however, your reasons match up with any of the reasons below,  go, go, go!

  • I love the feeling of completion when I finish a piece
  • I enjoy playing with words
  • I like having this time to myself to sort out my thoughts
  • I love to create
  • It brings me joy

These are all reasons that originate from within, and therefore ultimately matter way more than any reason someone else could give you for writing.

* And, as is often the case, Adam P. Knave posted an excellent article today that’s completely related!  Go check it out here.