Beginning again, again: Revisiting Visible and Real

mindmapI’ve been thinking about this space a lot recently (I’m seem to say that a lot). I’ve been thinking about what to do, whether to stop writing here, or what’s keeping me from that process.

One evening, while I was driving, I wondered what my connection to “visible and real” is, and why I couldn’t either jump in or let go. Thoughts and ideas poured through my head. Once I was parked, I started mind-mapping it out, with my journal draped across the steering wheel.

Clearly… there is connection and thoughts.

And then, a friend on Instagram asked about using visibleandreal as a hashtag, but knowing that I have a connection to that (it’s also my user name over there)… I again got to thinking about what it is this space means to me, and how the connection she has to the phrase is in the same spirit as why I started this blog and this adventure.

There have been a lot of reasons I’ve held back. Lots of wondering what others would think if I changed things (yet again) on the blog; what does it mean that I had such a hard time rallying people in the very beginning (so much so I couldn’t give away spots); why should I even try?

And yet… I’ve been participating with Saundra Goldman in her #continuouspractice invitation the past 26 days (only missing one day so far), and being able to get a little bit of space in my head to really sit with all of this (and everything else that comes up) has been really helpful. I’m able to acknowledge the brain weasels, as one of my friends calls them, without getting as wrapped up in them.

I have to remember I don’t have to do everything, all at once. This transition – this newness – can come as it feels appropriate. That I don’t have to restructure everything, or post every day, or or or. Those are ideas, they aren’t required. They are simply ideas.

I have a choice in how to proceed. I can do it on my own terms, at my own pace. There is freedom in knowing (and practicing) that.

* Also, Saundra has done a follow up on four reasons #continuouspractice is helpful and you can start now.

And this is why they’re the “guinea pig sessions”

English: Guinea pig

If I haven’t told you already, I’m learning as I go with the writing classes. I’m throwing it all in and finding there are still lots of things to learn.

I’m rolling with it.

Just like, this morning, I learned that the PayPal link isn’t working on the original blog post; it won’t let you sign up for a free class. *pout*  And, since I’m at work, checking items off my To Do list like a mad woman before my last day tomorrow, I don’t have the chance to take a look until I get home tonight.

That said… don’t let it stop you from signing up for the chance to try out these writing classes! I promise, they don’t bite! They’re a place to explore, write, and simply show up. Just like sweet faced guinea pigs :)

To sign up just CLICK HERE!

Edited at 9:30 PM EST: There is a link to sign up for the first session. I’ve you’ve emailed me already, I have you registered.

Just be sure to be one of the next six five people!

Sneaking up on practice

My name is Stephanie, and I have problem.

It’s not that I don’t like commitment. It’s not that I don’t find it important. I value it and know that it’s as much a part of this process of writing and sitting and everything I do. And yet, I find it problematic.

Jamie Ridler is hosting a one month “Develop a practice.” This month is Meditation. (Last month was morning pages.) And, as I’ve grown more lax with my meditation practice as of late, I decided to sign up. Since then, I have promptly failed to meditate at home for the entire month of August so far. After making the commitment.

This seems problematic to me.

A few years ago, I was thinking about commitment, practice, and that kind of great stuff, and two friends of mine made interesting comments. One said that she didn’t think too much about it, because then it wouldn’t happen. Another has said that she sometimes has to sneak up on it, because if she is overt about it, it doesn’t happen. And so… I do take a bit of comfort in the fact that these outright “challenges” of sorts create an actual something against which I can rebel. Even though I know it makes me cranky and unhappy to not follow through.

And yet, these challenges and community “let’s do this thing!” is very enticing for me. (Says she of six years of National Novel Writing Month.) Is there a balance? In joining with community and yet, sneaking up on the “commitment” aspect? Because both are really important.

Curiosity
Curious cat is curious.

Here I am, sitting with this. Part of me really wants to change change change it. I also know a lot is changing in my life right now, and that part of those changes will be incorporating my practices into my day in a very real, concrete way. So, perhaps, in the here and now, it’s noticing that this is happening and to be curious about it.

What happens when we apply curiosity, rather than 2x4s? What happens when we look at something and allow it to be what it is, rather than try to change it, immediately forever?

What opens up?

Shouting the adventure … from Facebook to elevator

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

In light of these newest adventures, I am taking the reins and really trying to put myself out there. I’m now on Facebook and I’m linking it to this website! Oh, technology, you baffle the mind sometimes!

I had a friend visiting me this past weekend. She and I have kept up via blogs and so, she knows of this newest adventure in much the same way most people do – as this ambiguous something that I’m really excited about, but am not really sure how to talk about. So, when we were sitting in the living room chatting and she asked, “Tell me about this new writing adventure,” I felt like a deer in headlights.

It felt like a lot of fumbling, words like little raindrops down the window, going their own which way. My arms flailing, my mouth going. Having this reaction in safe space, with someone who does understand how I feel about writing, storytelling, and the passion I feel about this whole ambiguous endeavor. It was during that conversation I realized that shouting the adventure is where I need to be heading, but that I’m not quite there yet. I don’t necessarily have my elevator pitch down yet. I’m getting there. The more I write, the longer I think about it, the chattier I get about it?

It crystallizes. It gets stronger and I start to know what I want to say, what I truly believe and where I see this all going. I become excited and, while a great big WOOHOO launch on August 1 would be great, I also recognize that slowly putting things out there will help me continue to build confidence in this endeavor.

Where am I at with my elevator pitch? I’m glad you asked!

I see us all – yes, even you – as storytellers. We tell ourselves stories about our world, ourselves, and others all the time. What this blog allows for – and what I will be offering in online writing classes (!!!) – is space to breathe, to see the space around our storytelling, and the support to be curious about it. What happens when we allow for this? Can we see our stories? Can we declare ourselves the storyteller of our own life? Can we allow ourselves to be visible and real with the stories we see and the lives we want to create?

What would happen?

What would happen if…?

A while back ago, I used the term “other people are watching,” or OPAW, to describe the fact that there are things I do (or don’t do) if I fear that other people are watching me. Often, it’s the idea of other people that create the most anxiety… which is to say, the most resistance to doing things that aren’t by The Book. (Which book by which author, I couldn’t tell you.)

At the same time, there are some changes coming that have me on edge and that I’m having to work with. That it’s not about other people, or what happens when other people are watching. That the moving target of reasons needs to stop, because the work needs to be done. It’s not an option.

It’s a moral imperative. If this is the work I am on this planet to do, then what the hell am I doing not doing it? That’s simply irresponsible.

The question What would happen if…? is the one that stops me in my tracks. It’s my own brain’s way of asking, “Who do you think you are?”

The answer to that last question is often brutal. I can hear myself telling people close to me No Negative Self-Talk, but the same seems not to apply to myself. Instead, fear, anxiety, and lots of neurosis that crop up.

So, for just this moment, let’s dream together. Let’s dream our ways into the answers not to what would happen if, or who do we think we are. Instead, what if we asked:

What happens when I chose to be brilliant and brave and step out into unknown space?

Who am I if I chose to not be scared about the unknown?

What would happen if I simply tried? If I showed up and tried, what would be the outcome?

Sitting with ambiguity in writing

I have been thinking quite a bit about persistence and the process of writing. Part of it is from ongoing conversations with other writers, but the other part of it is this character/story I’ve been working on since 2010. What topped it all off was a donor-only email that went out from the Office of Letters and Light, the awesome non-profit who hosts NaNoWriMo [National Novel Writing Month] every November. The title of that email was, “When You Love It Too Much To Let It Go.” I’ll be honest and say I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but just the first part of it reminds me of this story, which we’ll call SAH for now. (SAH stands for Safe as Houses, the first iteration of this story.)

This history of this story began during NaNoWriMo 2010, when an idea hit me and I followed it through to an ending. My computer promptly crashed five days later. I thought I had a backed up copy – but did not. Last year, during NaNoWriMo, I took pieces of the story and explored a character who had been knocking around my brain. It took ideas from the 2010 story and was a different way to end the story. I didn’t finish but was intrigued and have been writing pieces from this character’s story on and off since November.

I’ve been pinning a lot of hope on this story. And, with hope, ultimately comes fear. Fear that I won’t be able to do justice to the story (or character). Fear that it won’t “be right.” And so, I allow fear to hold me back. (Recall the previous post about practice?) It means there’s this cycle that keeps going on – fear of not writing right, then I don’t write. Because I don’t write, I fear I can’t get it right (and, as it happens, I don’t even get it written!). So, the cycle continues.

Now, I’m not saying I don’t want to care about this story, or character. I’ve had to find different ways to get into her head, and recently, have been writing from another character’s point of view. It’s the only way I’ve been able to see some of the flaws and some of the places where I kept getting stuck. There’s been good in that I’ve been able to find various ways into this story.

November
November (Photo credit: kurafire)

The problem? I still don’t know where I’m going with it! I find myself struggling with that ambiguity. And I think about my meditation training, and how there is ambiguity in our lives – every moment of every day. That my time on the cushion gives me the tools to come back to my breath (or, as I do in writing, come back to the page), and explore what’s there. I can’t know everything. Sometimes, you keep doing something simply because you want to see how it is going to turn out. And, for writing, is there more joy than that discovery process?

As a reader, I trust that the writer will draw me in enough and keep me going enough that I can follow. As a writer, I need to come to terms with the fact that the process of writing also takes trust. I won’t have the answers in front of me, right away. I need to let go of clutching to the story, so I might let it fly and see what is brought back. Because there, my friends, is often magic to be found.

What might you find by leaning into ambiguity?

“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
― E.L. Doctorow