En route to Writing

CreativityUncategorizedWriting

Boy, it takes a lot to get me to the page. I am often struck by this fact. I hem and I haw; I do the dishes and I clean my room and I take naps. I do my laundry. I rearrange the furniture. Some days, I would probably redecorate an entire house if given the chance rather than pick up my pen. My aversion to starting my writing is just that strong.

However, sometimes I find that if I rush into writing, I am so tense that what I write is stilted and forced. So I guess what I’m saying is that there is something to be said for taking a bit of time to prepare myself mentally for the task for writing, for allowing myself a certain amount of happy puttering around the house before I sit down to write. It feels more gentle than the other approach, in which I force myself into the chair at the same time every day or else reprimand myself for wasting time on other tasks. It’s not as kind, this approach. It leads to desperate, unhappy and resentful writing. read more

It’s Enough to Show Up with An Open Heart

AttitudeCourageWork

It seems not quite right to write a blog post on New Year’s Eve and not at least mention New Year’s resolutions. So I’ll get to that. But first, an anecdote.

Last year, I entered an art poster contest through an organization called Health Through Art in Berkeley–a fabulous organization–and I ended up being selected as one of the winning artists. (Pause for applause.)

Now, my poster, done in vibrant colors, stated that “The world is better when YOU are in it,” and then, in bold letters along the bottom, the poster read: “Empower Yourself.” read more

Monkey Mind and Merry Christmas

AttitudeFearWriting

In Zen Buddhism, there is a concept known as ‘monkey mind’, which describes the constant background chatter in our minds as our consciousness swings from thought to thought just as a monkey would swing from tree to tree. I have been struck recently by the capricious nature of my own monkey mind, particularly when it comes to my writing.

In short, I’ve been thinking. And this is not always a good thing. I tend to think a lot, and sometimes it ends up getting me into a rut of sorts. I overanalyze, and this turns into worry, which in turn becomes fear about the future. I write one piece that doesn’t meet my exacting standards, and pretty soon, I have decided that I am no good at anything at all and might as well despair because I’ll never amount to anything anyway. read more

Showing Up

AnxietyCourageCreativityFearUncategorizedWorkWriting

I have been writing pretty much every morning, and I feel like a mess. It’s never good enough. But I want to give myself credit for showing up to the page, because, frankly, my writing will never be good enough in my eyes. I have started to realize that trying to prove myself to myself is a losing battle.

The page always stares me down. The blankness of it. And you know what’s funny? Not having anything to write about often makes me feel like I’m going to die. It’s one of the worst feelings in the world. I think I’m a failure and a mess and I am going to die. I start to panic and then I resort to blaming myself. (Really productive, I know.) Why is it always so hard? And why do the stakes seem so, incredibly high? read more

Feminism: A Reflection

AttitudeCourageFeminismUncategorizedWork

Today, I want to write about feminism. Feminism can be a controversial topic. I bet you someone will read that opening line, and will say: “Enough already. Stop harping.” Or they will have stopped reading after the title because they don’t want to hear any more man-hating drivel. In which case they will miss the fabulous joke about pandas in the next few lines.

A man in a movie theater noticed what looked like a panda sitting next to him.

“Are you a panda?” asked the man, surprised. read more

A More Perfect Union

LifeMorality and EthicsPolitics

For the past couple of years, I have not kept up too much with American politics. I read the paper some. And I vote. (Duh.) But I haven’t been too tuned in to current events beyond that.

Since the election, I have been thinking about my country a fair amount, and this past weekend I came across a new series of Penguin “Civic Classics” in a wonderful bookstore in Mendocino, CA. (If you’re ever in Mendocino, it’s called The Gallery Bookshop, and it’s right on Main Street. It’s great.) The series includes The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution in a single volume; Thomas Paine’s famous Common Sense; a compilation of a selection of The Federalist Papers; a collection of Lincoln’s speeches; a collection of assorted American political speeches; and a series of landmark Supreme Court Decisions. read more

Narnia and NaNoWriMo

CourageHappinessLife

I went to a NaNoWriMo catch-up session yesterday here in San Francisco. For those of you who are not familiar, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, which takes place annually in November. Participants take on the challenge of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. I have taken on this challenge.

Following this NaNoWriMo catch-up session, I am back on track to finish by November 30th, (I had gotten a little behind in the preceding days). I’m glad that I’m caught up; but I’m even more glad that I went to a group writing session. It was so much more fun than writing 3,000 words by myself. We wrote for 1.5 hour-long segments and took breaks in between to chat and talk about writing. It was great! read more

Work It

CourageLifeMorality and EthicsPoliticsWork

Today, I want to talk about work. Now, I’m not just talking about jobs. I’m talking about work in the sense of our life’s work, our vocation, or our calling. I find the concept of work to be complex, because I often equate it with anything that’s hard or that I don’t want to do. This came up for me because of the election. Now that President Obama has been reelected, I think that most people recognize that we have work to do as a country. A lot of it. And I think that most of us envision long and grueling hours of toil en route to a better world, or at least a more stable world. And it’s like: “Aw man. I really just wanted to watch TV.” Work becomes something that is the opposite of fun. read more

My Brain is Plastic

AnxietyCourageFearHappinessLife

In general, I think of myself as a pretty confident person. But every once and a while, anxiety strikes and I freeze up. It usually happens when I’m trying to do something that I consider very important, and when I am trying to do it well. And the anxiety makes it so that I am either paralyzed or I flub up on whatever it is that I am trying to accomplish. So basically, anxiety is a real drag.

I recently had a realization, however. It sprang in part from having watched Shawn Achor’s TED talk on positive psychology, and also from a conversation I had with a friend about the neuroplasticity of the human brain. Neuroplasticity refers to the fact that our brains are constantly changing throughout our lives due to factors in our environment, and (most importantly for my purposes) due to our choices and actions. The way we choose to act, and the way we choose to react, to our circumstances affects the synaptic connections in our brain. In other words, we are capable of contributing to major rewiring of our very own brains. And that, my friends, is nothing short of revolutionary. read more

Be Fierce and a Warrior

AttitudeCourageCreativityLifeWriting

The trouble is that I want to write great stories. This is a problem. If I just wanted to write stories, or words, or maybe a few sentences strung together into a paragraph or two or three, then it would not be a problem. Do you see what I mean? The pressure is paralyzing. I sit myself down in the morning with my cup of coffee to do my writing, and I think to myself:

“Okay, then. Time to write a great American short story. You have one hour. GO!”

It doesn’t work. Time and time again, I find that I write: read more

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