Learning to Fly

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I used to think that I could fly. I also slept on the top level of a bunk bed, which–as you can no doubt imagine–was a risky and high-stakes combination. Fortunately, I emerged from this period of my life largely unscathed. In fact, I found that the best time to fly was when I was asleep and could soar anywhere I wanted in my dreams.

I was thinking today that perhaps, though I know that I am unlikely to successfully take to the skies without the assistance of an airplane, hot air balloon, or related contraption, I still yearn to fly. Wouldn’t it be amazing, I find myself musing, to swoop high and low alongside the eagles? To hover quietly beside the hardworking hummingbird, admiring the flowers? To skim over the surface of the ocean and dive in and out of waves, only to return–salty, refreshed, laughing–to the air, out of reach of the tossing water? read more

Walking the Talk

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I have discovered something about myself. I am extremely good at talking and thinking about writing. Resistance to writing for me too often comes in the form of analysis, which keeps me happily and busily dissecting just why exactly it is that I’m not writing.

God, I find myself saying. Creative work is so hard. If only I could get past this block and just feel free to write and create…think how wonderful that would be! I wonder what’s stopping me. Maybe I need to be more disciplined. Or maybe I need to start a yoga practice. Or maybe it has something to do with my childhood… read more

En route to Writing

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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

Monkey Mind and Merry Christmas

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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

Be Fierce and a Warrior

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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

Writer’s Block

Writing

I have been struggling with writer’s block. Only perhaps calling it “writer’s block” is insufficient. It’s more like “writer’s complete inability to stomach sitting down in the chair to face the notebook.”

There are times in my life when I have pushed and pushed and pushed so hard that my ability to convince myself to just buck up and power through simply dries up and disappears. At a certain point, it becomes too much, and I have to put the pen down for a while: maybe for the rest of the day; maybe for a week; maybe more. In The Artist’s WayJulia Cameron talks about cultivating practices that refill one’s creative well. She emphasizes how important it is to feed and nourish ourselves when we are doing creative work. She says it is not just important, but critical. read more

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