Writing Matters

I’ve recently made significant revisions to my book The Uncluttered Mother and it is being review by two publishers. So fingers crossed, I will find its home soon.  In the interest of walking my talk, I finally did some long overdue digital housecleaning. This is the only decluttering chore that I have truly dreaded, and it felt great to get it done. 

Now that I am lighter and less distracted by digital clutter, and my first book is out of my hands (for now), I have turned my attention back to my memoir. I’ve grappled with the title for months (years?) and have settled on Alienated; of all the themes a reader could glean from this book, I think that alienation is the most significant. Personally, I was alienated from my mother after my parents’ divorce when I was four years old; perhaps only a small fraction of readers will relate to this particular trauma. But of a more universal motif is the alienation  from myself that I struggled to overcome after such a loss. So although it reads like a poignant memoir, it is my intention that it offers hope of wholeness and healing for anyone with a tough childhood, one that left them disconnected from their own power. 

How do I marry my two books, one narrative nonfiction and the other memoir? Where is the connection?  Well, if there is too much inner and outer extraneous matter, if we are too distracted,  we will avoid – or never find- the path back to Self.  On the contrary, it is hard to be uncluttered and remain alienated because in the open spaces, the way is revealed.

Where’d You Go, Creativity?

It is no accident that I am writing about the challenge of carving out a creative life when it’s been so long since I’ve written anything here.

Why is it so challenging to carve out a creative life that stays consistent?

Allow me to state the obvious:  Creative projects are often  solo pursuits in which we have to give ourselves permission, accountability, boundaries around our time and the will to keep going when it is just so easy to let it go among everything else competing for our time and attention.

And in addition to a creative life requiring time to create, it also requires time to just be. Writers and other creatives need alone time like they need air and water.  So if we need quiet time to prime the pump and quiet time to create, and we live in a time that practically insists – or at least expects – us to be hyper focused on the outside world, much more so than on our inner selves,  then of course it takes more than a little effort to protect a creative life.

Essentially though, I know I am capable of doing better, of doing more. Life is full of choices and I think I am running out of excuses.

Recently, I saw the movie Where’d You Go, Bernadette, based on the bestselling novel. Bernadette, so far removed from her former artistic career, has become anxious, destructive and unhappy.

It’s not so difficult to imagine a bout of writer’s block that goes on far too long resulting in my own demise. Perhaps that’s a bit dramatic, but the longer I leave a written book gathering dust, an essay unwritten, or new ideas to die on the vine, the more intimidating it feels to crack open the door to the work. It’s as though I cannot bear to face what I have neglected.

Good things, life affirming things, happen during a creative spell that are hard to replicate. When engaged in a creative pursuit, we are in the flow of a higher consciousness. In the act of creation we feel energized,  joyful, at peace, and expanded.

We don’t think and feel in the same way. Those neural networks our survival thinking had wired are turned off …we see new possibilities. We are now quantum observers of a new destiny. And that release heals the body and frees the mind”.

 ­- Dr. Joe Dispenza, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself.

In short, we are better when we are creating! We are happier, calmer and freer. Who doesn’t want that, for themselves and every creative person they love?

***

I could write about how to fight the good fight and maintain consistency in creativity, but clearly after such a dry spell, I am not the one to give such advice. Besides, it’s been spelled out already in some fabulous books such as The War of Art and Big Magic.

But speaking of magic, I occasionally get some good insights in my dreams and recently I awoke with these words in my head:  Just do a little bit each day.  The message was that simple and that clear.

So there you have it. This was my little bit for today.

 

Thinking Inside the Box

20180623_124724Long before I ever had a laptop, back in the day when I was tapping at keys on a typewriter, I kept various writing notes in a decorative box, the kind you find at a craft store for keeping photos or other treasures in.  While I was raising young children and my writing time was limited, it got my creative juices flowing just to take the box out and hold in.  I always knew I’d get back to my work-in-progress when I could steal time again and often that was enough to keep me satisfied.

My daughters have grown and moved out, and like Virginia Woolf, I now have A Room of My Own in which to muse and write and pile up essays and book chapters on my laptop. But despite the space and all the technology available to me today, I have not outgrown The Box.

My box has changed in size and type only, having now upgraded to one I found at Staples that fits my 4×6 index cards full of notes, quotes, and ideas. It comes with matching dividers and an adjustable follow block, keeping all cards upright and orderly. If one can fall in love with a box, I surely have.

I store essay and blog ideas, memorable quotes, notes from books I’ve read, and anything else that may inform my writing.  For jotting down notes away from home, I simply carry a little green index card holder, one that easily fits into a purse or a book bag. Notes from this can be transferred into the box later. 20180626_105010

Why not just store all these notes digitally? Because I often read in bed and want to be able to write on a 4×6 card rather than record info onto my laptop. But mostly because, whether working on an essay, blog or book, I want to be able to move the cards around, rearrange them while I am referring to them, build the piece I am working on.  Having so many tangible ‘moving pieces’ to work with gets me to the finished product, the whole thing, in a way that feels so satisfying to me. It’s all part of the creative process.

I see my oldest daughter, now a mother of two babies, struggle to find time to create.  I recently reminded her of her art journal, of the importance of getting her ideas down on paper, of not letting them fade away like a poignant dream that can no longer be recalled.  Whether in a box, a journal, or digitally, capturing our ideas in a way that we can easily refer to later, is half the fun and half the progress.20180626_145743

Place holders of inspiration. Nuggets of information. Parts of the whole, pieces of projects, even with small pockets of time, bit by bit will bring the dream into focus.

 

 

The Whole of Writing

It was a busy and fulfilling spring with opportunities to speak in New York City and Boston at the Erasing Family Documentary fundraisers. In addition, I was invited to attend and speak at a meeting at the Massachusetts State House, and got to meet Dr. Childress, a psychologist renowned for his work in the trenches of parental alienation.

Now that I am back in my writing cocoon for now, I have taken inventory of what needs to be done next. If I take that all in at once, I am completely overwhelmed and feel certain to fail at accomplishing anything further at all. So I prefer to break it down in clear, manageable chunks and write it out. Here it is, along with my accompanying thoughts.

  1. When I first began writing my memoir, I included italicized entries at the beginning of each chapter. This entries were my present day thoughts. Partway through, I doubted this format and stopped adding those. After taking some space and time from editing this memoir, and doing some deep thinking about how to approach what is left to do, I have gained some clarity. I am putting the present day entries back in to the memoir, but focusing them on healing from old wounds, choice by choice.  This feels right to me, so onward I go.  Also regarding this memoir, I need to add my latest speaking engagements into my proposal, and start sending this updated version out into the world of literary agents. Secretly, (or not so secretly anymore) I’ve hoped that an agent or publisher would come find me, and I think that any writer who is putting herself out there in the world has every right to hold onto that hope, but we mustn’t depend on it! So onward with the tedious task of proposal writing and “hooking an agent” with dazzling queries and all of that. No matter how I come to find mine, I know she (or he) will be the perfect match for me and my writing. I cannot wait to meet!
  2.  I am preparing to create podcasts for anyone dealing with parental alienation. I am approached a couple times a month, usually by email, by a parent who is desperate to know what to do to reconnect with their child.  And recently an alienated father has sought my help in urging a trusted family member to somehow  bridge the ever increasing separation from his children “before it’s too late”. What I typically offer these people (who always seem like the kindest, most loving people who are absolutely deserving of their children) are suggestions for resources such as the blog and You Tube videos of  Dr. Childress, along with hope and my own thoughts and feelings and experiences from the point of view of the alienated child. Occasionally, we speak on the phone and I’ve gotten to meet a small number in person at various meetings or events. And nothing will replace those coffee dates I’ve had with a couple of heartbroken but amazing alienated moms who I now consider friends. But I’ve decided that it might be helpful for many, and in some cases more efficient, for me to create podcasts addressing the issue. As much as I would like to whip these up quickly, because there is urgency in this, I am feeling a bit compulsive about saying the right and true and helpful things so that the podcasts stand the most chance of being effective.  I want the first one or two to address the bystanders- the family members and society at large- the people who cannot change the alienating parent, but who may be able to do seemingly small things that could ultimately help the child and the targeted parent. I will also have episodes specifically for the targeted parents, and beyond that, I am not sure..maybe adult alienated kids (though I know the challenge in getting them to listen- or even know that this is relevant to them!) For those of you waiting for these podcasts, thanks for your patience, and I am on it! I will post them here for anyone to listen to and share as they wish. To the parents suffering (and I’d add to the kids too, but I doubt they are reading), I love you. I care about you. Even when I write about lighter things, because it is for the greater good that I keep my own heart light enough to move forward, you are on my mind and in my heart. You are all amazing because you keep showing up to life and putting one foot in front of the other, and you are always trying.
  3. Lastly, my oldest daughter and I are coauthors of a new blog, Highly Sensitive Material.  Mother is the common thread that is woven through all of my writing. The early loss of my mother (a living death if you will), did not stop my desire of wanting to become a mother myself, not at all. Somehow I knew it was part of my destiny and in fact the universe seemed to offer up all the love and resources that I would need to stand a good chance at this endeavor and maybe even heal at the same time. I think that the alienation from my own mother planted the seed in my mind of : For God’s sake, whatever you do, be a good mother.  Sometimes, oftentimes, this worked well, but I think if I am being honest here, I’d have to admit that  this is at least partially a fear-based thought. I am calling bullshit on the old adage What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  What didn’t kill me made me doubt my self-worth with every mistake. What if the whole point is to choose love more and more, including for ourselves? Maybe even especially for ourselves so that we can give it away. In my perfect re-do, I would have done all of my healing in early adulthood, faced the fear and the demons, and kicked-ass with personal growth. If that had been true, I would be amazing by now, at age fifty! I would be nearly perfect! And I wouldn’t have just been a good and loving mother, I would have been a perfect mother! But alas, this fantasy of mine must be set aside for the truth in all its imperfections. That is what my memoir is and that is what this blog, Highly Sensitive Material is about: Truth. It’s an honest, creative project that includes my life as a mother.

So this is what I’ve come to ask myself, day by day, in my writing and my life.  Is this choice out of love? Out of fear? Am I being truthful with myself? With others?  Will I ever get over feeling responsible for the reactions of others? And the fear-will I just act in the face of fear or will the fear go away some day?

My writing is my humble gift to the world, that makes me whole. It’s like putting myself back together, page by page.  It’s an act of love. Love can be scary.