Minimal Monday

I am having a bit of trouble with deciding how to end my book and I think I know why. Life is fluid, always changing, and I believe it is good to allow ourselves to change too. Limiting a story- and in the case of a memoir, half a lifetime – to the finite, physical containment of a book feels a bit confining. Today’s ending may not be tomorrow’s ending; there is always more to come.

I have never been a particularly nostalgic person and I think it is because I want to believe the best is yet to come. I want to feel like I am growing, changing for the better, and open to what is ahead. I don’t ever want to feel stuck or like I am clinging too tightly to what is or what was.

My memoir will have its ending like all books do. My story, on the other hand, will never be bound to the pages. The true ending will always be unwritten.

Happy Monday evening!

Minimal Monday

I wanted a book cover that depicted the main challenge in my story and I think this does. The child (me) has the fading memories of a mom (You-Know-Who) who seems to have disappeared. I’ve been reluctant to share my cover because it represents the realness of having my story published, and out into the world. Although I am immensely grateful for this, and have high hopes for it to serve the greater good, it is more out of my comfort zone that anything I have ever done before.

My intention is that my story will help shed light on the pathology of attachment-based parental alienation, and give voice to the alienated children and parents going through this today. My words are meant to inform and heal.

I asked a memoir coach recently, Does the cover look too spooky?

Her response: No. Your story IS spooky. What happened is spooky. Own it.

So here it is. I am sharing it here first, and owning it.

*If anyone is interested in being a beta reader, reading an early copy and sharing your feedback with me, please use the contact form to let me know! (or simply email danalaq@gmail.com). I could send it to you on November 21st and would need it back two weeks later, on December 5th.

Happy Monday!

Minimal Monday

I must admit, in light of Elon Musk’s recent shenanigans, I was happy to have the perfect excuse to ditch Twitter. It’s not as though I really needed an excuse, but until the quit-twitter bandwagon, I had been letting inertia keep me there. I was an inactive user (wait, is that an oximoron?) I had created the account long ago, back when I thought I had to do All the Things, and then I felt inadequate because I was too overwhelmed and inconsistent to actually partake in any meaningful way. I do appreciate that many people will miss the old Twitter; I am just not one of them.

I don’t want to do All the Things. I want to do a couple things well. I want to be happy with how my memoir is turning out, and once it’s published I want to do my part to get it in the right readers’ hands, those who will benefit from my story. I want to do this mindfully.

At a time when writers and other artists and entrepreneurs are being told to be heard, play big, and be seen, be everywhere, all I want to do is the opposite of that. More and more, I just want to be quiet. I want to keep writing and sharing my writing, but beyond that I want to be still. I crave to be in nature, and cook creative and healthy meals, and, borrowing from James Taylor, to shower the people I love with love.

It must be the act of writing memoir, the calling forth of my memories, regrets, and truth that is causing me to feel, I don’t know, reverent? Humble? I am at peace with the process but I require a lot of reflection, presence, and solitude to nurture this process and to allow the right words to come through me. And I am beginning to trust that this is enough for now, and that things are going to unfold as they should. I believe that my story will shed light, educate, and offer hope. I believe it so much that I don’t want to shout it. I want to whisper with my whole heart.

Or maybe I’m just lazy. But I don’t think so.

Perhaps it is partly due to the stage of writing that I am in, or my age, but I think it’s more than that, and I am curious to find out where this feeling takes me.

I know I am not the only one tired of all that steals our attention when we just need to be still. We are all finding our way to our balance, our sweet spot, the outer reflection of our inner worlds. It looks different for each person and it is never a linear path, is it?

Minimal Monday

One of my favorite and most challenging areas to simplify is my writing life. My memoir coach, the talented and magnificent Marion Roach Smith, has told me that every scene should move the story forward. (You can find Marion here: https://marionroach.com/)

The writing advice that we should kill our darlings, a phrase coined by William Faulkner, is ever-present in my mind these days. It means that writers “must ruthlessly eliminate any words, characters, side plots or turns of phrase that we personally love but that do nothing for the story.” Memoir should not be a recounting of everything we remember. It needs a theme, and the particular scenes that support that theme. Everything else needs to go.

Rather than calling it killing my darlings though, I prefer to say clearing out my writing clutter. It suits me better. And a major part of my revision process has been to do just that. Chapter by chapter, I am applying my love for decluttering, clarity and simplicity, so that every scene is poignant and nearly every word is necessary. Who would’ve thought my passion for decluttering and organizing would serve me so well in writing? I think Marion will be proud.

Minimal Monday

β€œAt the moment of commitment the entire universe conspires to assist you.”

― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

I love that quote and I believe in it with my whole heart. Any worthwhile commitment made with sincerity and certainty, even if we haven’t spoken it aloud, will reveal all manner of support. But it seems that something much less fortunate can also be true:

The moment you commit to something big or new or scary, your reptile brain tries to keep you safe by sabotaging you.

How can both of these things be true? Aren’t they contradictory?

When I finally knew with absolute certainty that I would launch my memoir into the world, I found a publisher. And when I agreed to a deadline, all sorts of other “needs” cropped up; I suddenly needed to help others, to travel, to throw a party, enter a race, and cook nightly gourmet meals.

The best explanation that I can come up with is this: Every day, and perhaps even every moment, we are choosing between our higher and lower selves. Just because our higher selves set a valuable goal and we have the means to achieve it, doesn’t mean our lower brains won’t try to lure us back to safety, familiarity, or laziness. And it really gets tricky when the so-called distractions are good, noble pursuits.

How do we know when we are engaging in “shiny new object” syndrome (SOS), and when we are simply adding more fun, meaning, or creativity to our lives? When is it self-sabotage and when is it just living?

I think that is something we all have to answer for ourselves. I’d love to ponder this more, but you’ll have to excuse me; I’ve got a party to throw.

Minimal Monday

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how a minimalist philosophy is one of subtraction. If you missed that post, you can read it here: https://danalaquidara.com/2022/08/22/minimal-monday-27/ .

I am revisiting the topic because I keep bumping up against the truth of it in my every day life, and especially lately in my writing life. Being on deadline to complete my memoir, I cannot afford to waste time, indulge in distractions or vices, or be anywhere but here in the present moment, doing what needs to be done. The only “extras”, if you can even call them that, are staying connected to my loved ones and taking care of myself in ways that preserve my energy and my health; but I prefer to think of these as non-negotiables.

Even though writing typically makes me feel fulfilled and whole, sometimes it can leave me feeling raw, and vulnerable. The very act of working on my memoir can leave me with the desire to waste time, indulge in distractions, and escape to anywhere-but-here. After all, memoirs contain some tough topics and mine is no exception. But when I resist the urge to escape, I start to feel the most me I’ve ever felt. I feel liberated.

What is your craft, or your passion? What is the deepest you can go with it?

Is anything preventing you from going there? Is it fear?

I hope you let everything else fall away as you go into the wild places of your heart. I bet you’ll meet your Self there, and what a reunion it will be!

Minimal Monday

I was away last week, meeting my brand new grandson. My middle daughter had a beautiful baby boy and I am in love. After eight days spent with their family, it was difficult to leave. My arms ache to hold him again already; I miss our quiet morning snuggles when I would let his parents sleep a bit. I miss my daughter. I find myself longing for the simplicity of older times, when families almost always lived very close. But I encouraged all three of my daughters to follow their dreams, and this daughter’s dreams have taken her out of state for now, a nine hours drive away.

About halfway along our route to meet our new grandson, my husband and I stopped overnight in the Finger Lakes of New York. We stayed in a castle-like hotel, a quirky old place with giant doors and high ceilings and a spiral staircase leading down to the bathroom, a room with no door.

I was nearly asleep at 11p.m. when my cell phone rang. It was a call from a private number. Typically, I would ignore a call like this, but because my daughter was still in the hospital, I quickly decided it was best to take the call just in case…

An eerie, raspy voice on the other end said, “This is your mother”.

I hung up.

I would certainly chalk this up to a wrong number or a prank call. And normally, I would have at least responded with “You have the wrong number” before hanging up.

But I am in the process of having my memoir published – my memoir that is about my alienation from my now dead mother. So I was a little spooked.

Life is spooky sometimes. My childhood was spooky. When your loving mother disappears without a trace, it’s weird, confusing, scary. When something so enormous happens, so life-altering, you may even spend a good part of your life seeking answers, or writing about it.

And much of your life may still be beautiful, with love and purpose and work; perhaps with children and grandchildren of your own and getting to witness the unfolding of their own precious lives; with sunshine and boat rides and birthday cakes and long walks and long hugs; with meaningful conversation and special dinners and tears and stressors and pure joy. All of that and so much more.

But through all of it, something will keep calling you back to the seeking and the writing and the Truth. For me, that something is my mother.

“This is your mother”, said the voice on the phone.

And so it is.

Minimal Monday

Here are four things that having a deadline for finishing my book is teaching me:

#1 I should have stopped procrastinating long ago, and taken my creative work more seriously. Now that I have a guarantee of publication, I have to acknowledge all of the time that I could have been working on my book but didn’t. Then I have to let that go.

#2 Doing my craft consistently and for reasonably large blocks of time makes me present, fulfilled, and at peace. I am pretty sure no one promises this more completely than Steven Pressfield in his book The War of Art. I read his book at least twice, and I knew he got it right, but now I am living it.

#3 FOCUSING my ATTENTION is the most important factor in getting something done and it is also the action most likely to be sabotaged and stolen in modern times. Focused attention needs to be planned for and protected. Without it, I am rendered useless, at the whim of every distraction.

#4 I need breaks, and when I’ve written for a good chunk of time, the simplest things feel like the most satisfying indulgences: Basking in the sun for a few minutes, playing with my granddaughters, cooking a meal, taking a walk.

Happy Monday!

Minimal Monday

I have a deadline of October 31st this year for completing the final edits to my memoir. I’ve got a lot left to do and now Halloween is hovering over me like a taunting ghost, as if writing down my deepest thoughts and memories isn’t spooky enough.

Fortunately, I have fallen madly in love with Cal Newport’s Time-Block Planner, a productivity system like no other. Newport is the author of Deep Work and he has created this tool in order to help us focus deeply in a distracted world. This unique planner is helping me to be intentional with every block of time in my day. It does not replace my calendar, or my regular “to-do list”, but it makes it simple and clear what will happen and when. The objective of the planner is to get the most out of the time and attention that you have. It is the best way I have discovered to Get. It. Done.

I was gushing over this planner so much to one of my daughters that she suggested I give it a name. So naturally, I’m calling it Cal.

And since my memoir is the most meaningful and in- depth work I’ve done yet, I am embracing this method every day from now until October 31st. If all goes as planned with Cal, I will surely be celebrating Halloween this year, ghosts and all.

Minimal Monday

I’ve noticed for a long time now, that when I refuse to engage my ‘worry thoughts’ and simply and truly Let Go, the issue or outcome tends to work out. It has been such a strong and welcoming truth for me, in fact, that I have been consciously practicing the Art of Letting Go.

Write it down & let it go

Like most things that matter to me, I write down whatever it is I am letting go of. I’ve started using a small notebook that my daughter had given me as part of a gift. It is a thin, forty-page notebook but it now holds my biggest dreams and every concern that would otherwise weigh on me. Each page now holds a single desire or a problem. The act of writing them down is my ritual just before I let them go.

The trickiest part of letting go is not taking it back. But I have found that the more I practice this, the more evidence I gather that it works, and then the easier it is to repeat.

One of the “wants” in my little notebook was to find a publisher for my memoir. I could have easily continued procrastinating and fretting the rest of my life away; It’s too late, too overwhelming, too scary, to difficult, too unlikely…. But I had become so sick and tired of that soundtrack in my head, that I finally let go. I found myself sending my proposal out to a handful of publishers. Letting go doesn’t mean there won’t ever be actions to take; but when I’ve let go, those actions are taken with no stress, no attachment to outcome, no overthinking it. They just happen.

And guess what? On a beautiful sunny day when those proposal submissions were the furthest thing from my mind, I received a contract! My memoir will published in April. (*For updates, subscribe to this blog)

Not every outcome is as exciting as this, of course. But I have found that the letting go – for real letting go – of desires, attachments, worries and anxieties, brings a peace and a presence of mind that invites and allows a more natural and perfect outcome.

Oftentimes, we just have to get out of our own way.