Inspiration, Motivation and Play

The Creative Insight


Sense and Sensibility: Finding A New Approach

“I will be mistress of myself.” –Elinor in Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen

I wrote my first novel twenty years ago. It was thin in concept, long in syllables, but filled with characters I loved. I picked it up ten years ago, realizing it was a perfectly good story that just needed revising. But it was tricky: now I was a different person. My early, fanciful ideas didn’t charm me anymore. I stopped revising out of sheer boredom.

Normally I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions, but this year the resolution found me: I will complete this book and make it amazing.

One the hardest things to find, as a creator, is balance between letting old things go, bringing on the new, and holding onto what truly matters.

This in mind, I fell in love with the Portland Center Stage production of Bedlam’s Sense and Sensibility I saw with my daughter on a recent rainy January evening. We settled in for a girls’ night, expecting all the frills and old-fashionedness of the 1889 novel – and to be honest, I was trying to get myself into the mood but feeling bored with the traditional story.

And then. We were knocked out of our seats by the outrageousness. Victorian girls’ night? My petticoat!

This play captivated me in a thousand ways. It was innovative, fresh, colorful, wacky, inspired and even obnoxious – yet it kept the core of the original story, without ever making fun of the ideals or timeless truth of what these characters were going through.

It was all about the way the story was framed for us. We were forced to see with new eyes, much to our delight and amazement. Imagine: a stage where everything is on wheels, and the action whisks and arrests you, accelerating your heartbeat with the motion and surprise of it all. Imagine: a character change that consists of a person flung across the floor, who rises as another, donning glasses. Laughter erupts from the audience at silly sound effects, and at the whirlwind of movement as doors become carriages, as characters become horses, as men and women are driven together by emotion or scattered far apart. Brilliant choreography brings to light the struggles of a bereaved family in a society far, far removed from our own. We feel it. It comes alive.

The world has changed, oh so incredibly much, since 1811. No doubt we’re a bit bored with the conventions of that time; we don’t speak or live that way anymore.

Ah, yes, back to my own changes. I can honor them, knowing I don’t want my novel to be what it once was, twenty years ago.

You and I move, we wheel about, we surprise the universe.

But the core of our story, the substance of our hearts, it remains timeless.

Photo credits:

Top: Quinlan Fitzgerald as Marianne Dashwood, Danea C. Osseni as Elinor Dashwood

Photos by: Patrick Weishampel/blankeye tv.

Why Every Brilliant Thing Is Brilliant

“Look with new eyes,” I tell the writers I coach. “See through the eyes of Dream Kid. Then write about what you see.”

Dream Kid is that hope-filled inner dreamer, blissfully engaged in any given moment. She is taken with wonder and notices the intricate, quirky details of everything.  As adults, however, we are rushed, challenged, stressed, and injured by the grown-up problems in our lives, and we seldom take time to hang out with these micro-joys. As responsible, critical-thinking people, we lose the tiny miracles that make up a life.

The play, Every Brilliant Thing, takes us by the hand and brings us back. We follow a charming, deep-feeling, curious, caring, seven-year-old who finds a way out of painful adult-induced problems—by concocting a list of all the brilliant things in life. He hopes to convince his suicidal mom that life is worth living. With each addition to the list, he cultivates this magical quality of seeing.

It’s a difficult quality to describe, this way of being absorbed in the minute and wondrous. And so it kind of boils down to things. A kitten, a newborn, a sunset . . .

Wait, this kid’s list is much better:

A ham and mayo sandwich without the ham

The word ‘plimpf’

Water fights

Gatefold sleeves

How long can this list get? What will it take to keep growing the list when the hopeful child becomes a troubled adult?

Isaac Lamb, who performs Every Brilliant Thing at Portland Center Stage, is warm, disarming, convincing as both a kid and the grown-up he becomes. I can’t imagine anyone else in this role; he invites audience participation in such a genuine way.

There’s a moment when he launches into a bongo-drum induced dance, so uninhibited and goofy that you can’t help grinning for joy. He runs offstage with a quick, “Talk amongst yourselves!” grabs a breather and swig of water, then rushes back without skipping a beat: “What’d you talk about?”

Spontaneity is present whenever we look with new eyes. It invites concrete, interesting noticings. It reminds us to live in the moment, which is the only way we get through the really hard stuff.

Hard stuff like family problems, suicide, depression.

“That the list could combat hardwired depression was incredibly naïve,” the performer tells us. And yet,  it offers a gateway to wonder. We can examine the most difficult things along with the most brilliant, seeing the wonder when we take them apart, moment by moment.

It’s what we do when we tell our stories.

It’s what writers do. And all of us who are keeping our Dream Kid alive.







“Astoria” and How to Be Death-Defying


“Astoria” tells of Herculean effort: the dual expedition to the Pacific coast in 1808 shortly after Lewis and Clark made their journey. When Artistic Director Chris Coleman first came across the book unveiling this history, he asked, “How have I never heard of this?” And in typical Chris Coleman-genius-fashion, he found a way to adapt it for Portland Center Stage.

It’s a sweeping tale. One expedition sets sail, seeking the Northwest Passage via South America, while the second expedition pushes across land by foot, horse, and canoe. The adventures are harrowing, and the miscalculations and misery and deaths along the way are ominous. The man behind this two-journey scheme is John Jacob Astor, an entrepreneur determined to cash in on the Northwest’s number one resource: fur. He’s in such a hurry to get on with things, he makes less than optimal choices of leadership, while ensconced in his stuffed armchair back east.

Astor appoints Jonathan Thorn as the ship captain whose staunch military training takes black-and-white thinking to a horrifying extreme. Ben Rosenblatt plays the role compellingly. As for the land expedition, Astor appoints Wilson Price Hunt, a greenhorn businessman barely qualified to lead a camping trip. His constant waffling makes every bad situation worse. Another great performance here, by Shawn Fagan.

I imagine Astor to say: But what can you do? Brilliant, courageous, survivalist, self-sacrificing, resourceful, ambitious, determined, daring, death-defying, hardscrabble, relentless, mountaineering-and-seaworthy leaders are hard to come by these days.

Near-misses, hard choices, selfishness and self-sacrifice all come into play. It’s a harrowing saga which recounts many near-deaths: being scalped, or gulping down moccasins to avoid starvation, or swallowing seawater in a storm-tossed rowboat.

Why would anyone sign up to go through that? I kept asking, witnessing the perils of each crew. How can greed be such a compelling force? But it wasn’t greed for everyone. It was survival. The hirelings who made up these crews were dirt-poor immigrants or persecuted natives or out-of-work sailors. So they made up their minds about what they had to do.

To not risk, meant dying.

As the play closed, I stood with the rest of the packed audience in a resounding ovation. I felt relieved that I didn’t have to fight fatigue, starvation, disease, hypothermia, attack by natives, treachery. How comfortable my life is.

I have nothing compelling me to take my life in hand and journey across an unknown world under brutal conditions.

Being a creator, my mind quickly goes to the landscape of my writing. I’m okay, so I don’t write as if my life depends on it. If I don’t get my stories or thoughts out: so what?

Creative discoveries may be awaiting as if on a jagged peak or along a swollen river, or in a meager encampment. These are things that deep down I believe I was meant to experience, but may not, without conviction.

Could I willingly sign myself up for emotional peril: pain or embarrassment or the mental anguish of writing my story?

In Letters to a Young Poet (translated by Stephen Mitchell), Rainer Maria Rilke wrote:

“Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write?”

I don’t want life-or-death choices, I want my hot bath and my lavender chamomile tea. I don’t want to reveal my stories if it means rejection, judgment, scoffing, or the worst: being ignored.

Those who move the world are these brave ones underneath it all, acting because they must, carving pathways, creating change, for better or for worse.

Time to rethink what I want, and to want risk.

What this reminds me is that it’s time to take the lead of my own creative journey. There’s only one choice of leader. And if she’s going to be a good one, it’s entirely up to me.


Photo credits: Kate Szrom













Teachers Who Help You Be You

Lee's art

Watercolor by Lee Baughman

Thinking today about my art teacher, Lee Baughman, who has made such a difference in my creative life. The best teachers are the ones who support you being you. They don’t insist that you become carbon copies of their work or that you echo their preferences.

Lee has helped me discover my own voice through watercolor, collage, and mixed media. Although Lee is specifically a watercolor teacher, his focus is on helping each student find the tools to develop her own unique voice. With this support, I’ve found immense freedom to grow and play and experiment, and I’ve recently discovered a new teacher who has infected me with the joy of pastels. Thrilled to be learning from Jane Aukshunas.

Teachers and mentors like Lee remind me how much I want to help writers become more themselves. Not to travel the path that I would like or expect, but to lean into their own storytelling vision and follow where it leads.

This is why I get excited when my writers “graduate” from working with me, and move on to other classes, teachers, writing styles, and schools. I don’t own their growth–I’m simply here to witness and boost as they build on their strengths.

No matter where the creative journey takes us, we always hold our first teachers in our hearts. They are our angels.

Similarly, when I run into a student from a class I taught years ago, I revel in our shared connection. It never ends.

Heroes like Lee Baughman have granted free reign to my artist soul, and I’m grateful to offer the same freedom to my students and clients, those beautiful writing souls in my world.

Thanks, Lee!








Outshine the Fear: A Writing Coach Climbs A Mountain


One week ago, I embarked on an adventure I never thought I could or would undertake: climbing a mountain.

It’s too much work.

I’ll freeze to death.

 I don’t have time to train.

I’m not strong enough.

 Ron did it, and Ron didn’t like it, and I probably won’t like it either. 

There’s nothing up there to see anyway.

 These are the thoughts I usually had at the mention of mountain climbing.

Then this spring, I received a personal invitation to climb Mount Adams in support of Mountain Owl, a new northwest nonprofit. I felt a sense of wonder, and a rising, “Yes!”

I said yes.

Deep down, it was something I’d always wanted to experience. My fears on the surface, however, had convinced me for a long time not to try.

As I prepared for the adventure, objections and fears returned. I noticed them. But I didn’t let them run the show. I had to continue to check in with that deeper part of me who is unlimited, who is unafraid.

13743370_1624998721146598_1416744886_nIn this way, climbing a mountain is meditation or prayer or dancing. Or public speaking or painting or singing. Intrusions and doubts swirl like mists obscuring a mountaintop. We learn they won’t last forever. We keep going.

And climbing a mountain is telling someone we love them. If we expect too much risk or effort, we let this override our deep-down desire to show up in the world.

And climbing a mountain is writing.

When we check in with what we truly want to say, we find a yes that outshines all the fear.

One week ago, I climbed a mountain. I didn’t think I could do it; but then I allowed a new thought. And my idea of what was possible lifted 12,000 feet into the clouds.

Mt Adams from the Tent













My Creative Journey: Gratitude for A New Guide

I feel beyond lucky to have a new teacher in my life: Jane Aukshunas. Her paintings are magical and vibrant and playful and nature-inspired and radiant. (Those of you who know my art will be able to see right away why her work resonates with me.)

Whenever you try something new, that old, badgering critic waits in the shadows, ready to pounce at the first mistake. Poised to tell you how unpoised you are. Crouching for the kill.

When a gentle, inspired, positive, passionate teacher guides your process, the critic doesn’t get a chance to criticize. What I loved about working with Jane was that she kept offering new materials, ideas, and perspectives. She showered her students with possibilities, so the creative sparks could fly.

So even though I felt awkward about working with pastels for the very first time, Jane ignited my confidence.

X Marks The SpotEvery hour or so, I was learning a new material, throwing down new lines, making a discovery. It was intoxicating.

Jane offered timeless artist quotes as well as her own wisdom. She can see what color is needed in a painting, just by stepping back and becoming aware. I love adapting her techniques and inspirations. They make me feel brilliant!

Also, having many beginnings meant that I could take them home and continue working, continue practicing.

The emerging creations make me happy.

A good teacher is one who colors your world.  Thank you, Jane!

Creative Storm by CJKrug

When No One Believes You: Reclaiming Your Authority

trees and moon

Out Went the Light

Ned and Karen went to dinner. The little brothers were in bed. Sly was out with his friends. Mina and I were allowed to read in our bedrooms, but lights had to be out at 8:30. I was tumbling through tunnels with Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH when I glanced at the clock radio, saw the white digits flipping into place, and turned out the light.

At 9:03 came the thuds of feet on the front porch, door locks, and my own door creaking open. “You didn’t fool anyone, Christy,” said Karen, poking in her head.


“Your light, we saw it go off as we drove up.”

“But I turned it off at 8:30.”

“No, you didn’t. I saw it in the window.”


I didn’t want to be in this moment.

Best friends, watermelons, Christmas trees and Barbie dolls. Calico bedspreads and Casey Casum’s Top 40, a boy that liked you, Abba songs and Little House on the Prairie. What good thought could I conjure up to change the night?

The entire family gathered in the dining room. Sly tried making a serious face under his thin blond mustache but smashed a grin. “Poor Christy. She’s having a hard time telling the truth.”

“Christy, do you have something to say?” asked Karen.

All those ears waited for my answer. Their eyes flat and staring, their bodies still. Sly’s fingers drummed the table. Stupid Sly. It was none of his business. And there was Mina in her apple-green sweater vest pulled taut over her stomach, her mouth slack and small, her face worried like a mother. Ned leaned away, sinewy forearms on his knees; shoulders thin against the chair back. Karen pushed up her round, pink tinted glasses and watched me. Ned and Karen, the foster parents I was trying to learn to call Mom and Dad.

“Here’s what happened,” I said. “Your headlights were shining in the upstairs window.” I was the queen of reason. “The reflection must have bounced back when you turned off the car.”

Ned shook his head.

“No,” said Karen.

“But I did not keep my light on.”


Because of who I was: someone not to be believed.

“I—I didn’t.”

Did I have a multiple personality, like Sybil? Did I leave the lights on, and not know? I wished I had the brains of Justin the Rat, capable of explaining everything scientifically to Mrs. Frisby, even though she was a mouse, and mouses had small brains.

“I don’t know why you’re making this so hard on yourself,” said Karen. “All you have to do is apologize.”

“But I turned my light off!”

“It’s just not possible,” said Ned.

“We know what we saw.”

“But it’s true!” The last syllable trailed long and loud through the kitchen, curling like a mouse-tail back to my own ears: “You.”



The above story is based on an event when my voice was invalidated. This was the first time such a thing had happened to me. It triggered nightmares and days of hysterics, as if my sense of self was too weak to handle being doubted.

In the year to come, I would move in with a new foster family who would always try to hear my point of view. But this night of not being believed was the first tremor, leading to the earth-shattering news that I was no longer wanted by Ned and Karen.

As traumatic as that was, we creators face this situation day in and out – with tiny ideas, or humongous projects. We believe something, affirm it, create it. Others don’t see it our way. Then . . . we often give up on what we know to be true.

Are you the authority in your own life? For your own creation?

Sunday, January 31, at Vancouver Community Library, I’ll be presenting, “You’re the Authority,” at 1 pm. A lineup of three accomplished and big-hearted writers will follow, making the afternoon complete.

I hope to see you, and look forward to the ways we can validate each other.


Here’s a handout for Sunday’s presentation: Eleven Ways to Develop Your Artist Author-ity.

Happy New Year: Starting Over Is An Illusion

2lotym15_009Happy New Year . . . two weeks late. And right on time.

My thoughts this new year are all about what isn’t. A new year isn’t.

It’s a figment of our collective imagination. A construct. We created calendars and new years to organize our time and activities, to help us identify and sort.

And sometimes, the idea of starting fresh is enticing and exciting. It’s like the pull of a blank page, inviting words.

Other times, starting over can be an enormous burden. This is the case when facing repeated mistakes. Or making New Year’s resolutions we can’t seem to keep. Or re-starting a novel or book or creative work that didn’t meet our expectations.

I used to be unable to keep a journal. I would tear out the pages in frustration, endlessly starting over. I had to scratch out the past, have a blank, clean start, find square one. (My video “Journaling as a Creative and Spiritual Practice” tells more.)

If you’ve made New Year’s resolutions and feel them crumbling already, know this: there is no such thing as a new start. And it is not needed.

Your life is one seamless, beautiful moment, from birth to last breath. Think about it: did you experience a blank screen between December 31, 2015 at 11:59 and midnight on January 1, 2016?

It’s simply your critical mind (“Dr. Codger,” I call it), that relies on tools, calendars, and timelines, in order to assist you. But you are not being assisted if that critical mind is hounding you, over and over, about what you haven’t done within a certain time frame.

Get this: you are right on time. Everything is happening just as it is supposed to. You can keep every page in your journal, even the ones with mistakes. You can accept, too, the imperfectly painted canvas and the broken resolution.

And so we learn from our mistakes, and tell stories about them. Next Saturday, January 23, I’ll be joined by three beautiful storytellers as well as the stunning art of Erin Leichty. “Fumbling Forward, Personal Stories of Awkward Grace,” happens 5 pm at Waterstone Gallery, with myself, Carisa Miller, Sage Cohen, Gypsy Martin, and Susan Domagalski Fleming.

Come and be reminded that you are exactly where you belong, here and now.

With Gypsy Martin, another storyteller for “Fumbling Forward.”

Photo credit: top photo by Johann Leiter.

Breaking Silence, Blogging Mindfully

b 5-instagram-collage

I have been deciding what to say about not saying anything.

Just over a week ago, I was immersed in silence. I didn’t post, text, email, or make a phone call for 11 days. For ten days I did not speak.

The silence was part of a 12-day meditation course, and the silence was not the hardest thing. Facing the self was the hardest thing. I witnessed, close up, the false worlds I have built around myself, for myself, through myself. Just noticing those worlds loosened them, threw them out of orbit. I am grateful to feel closer to reality, to spiritual reality, to what is real and true at my deepest level.

And I wrestled with sharing/not sharing. It was all so close to home.

What I learned over the course: I am okay if I am not heard. It won’t destroy me. I experienced a beauty and a release, letting life take over, humbly recognizing that my words do not propel the universe.

Returning home, no longer craving being heard, I considered whether I should quit blogging altogether.

I thought of Tad. When I first met this sweet, wise friend, I was astounded by Tad’s communication skills. I was surprised that English wasn’t Tad’s native language.

A year later, Tad’s speech changed. Where there had been the slightest hint of an accent, there were now round, rolling R’s and thick, festooned consonants. It took me several minutes to understand Tad clearly.

“You speak differently,” I said. “Why?”

“I was masking my accent,” said Tad. “I decided to speak without that layer of effort, and say the words as they wanted to come out. Basically, I quit worrying what others think.”

This beautiful, brave transformation inspired me. I, too, want to show up in the world without the concerted, continuous effort of masking my natural way of communicating.

And this is why I decided to go ahead and break my silence.

I realized, this is why I blog–and why I write, for that matter.

I am committed to being myself, to showing up, and offering the gifts I’ve received. What others do with those gifts isn’t up to me.

I’ll say it again: I don’t have to be heard. I may often be misunderstood. It’s okay.

I discovered a few tips for keeping my ego’s false realities at bay. Here are Five Ways to Blog Mindfully. They work for handling the online confusion of self . . . and I think they also work for putting yourself out there, in any form.

  1. Remember An Audience is Not Needed

An audience is lovely, but I am just as happy, connected, and validated in my creative experience if you, the reader, are not there.

2. Connect with the True Self, not the Online Persona

It’s that saying about not believing your own press. In some strange way, the ego hooks into the person online, or in a photo, or even in the mirror. The brain gets hung up on this appearance,  whether the images are positive or negative. And no matter how I try to be authentic in social media or in a blog, that person online is never who I am. Something is always missing.

typewriter at The Bookstore

3. Accept A Small Audience

I wrote in Burn Wild: A Writer’s Guide to Creative Breakthrough, “smallness can connect to happiness.” Allowing my audience to be as small as it needs to be, I can focus on those few people who need my message, the readers and creatives who find inspiration in the things I share. I’d rather deeply connect with one or two folks than “mask my accent” for the whole world, and have everyone fall in love with a me who isn’t me.

4. Relax and Let Down My Guard

So once I’ve gotten clear on who I really am, and what will and won’t make me happy (a mega-following appears to have this power, but in the end will leave me wanting more, always more), then I can cut loose. After all, some people won’t be paying attention, and others won’t get me anyway . . . so what the hell? I might as well say what I want to. And keep enjoying the words that spring forth, even when I seem to have no words.

5. Focus on the Giving

The writer Robert Benson taught me this. In the insightful little book, The Echo Within, he explains why he places twelve names on the wall in front of his desk. “That way while I am working, we can keep an eye on each other.” Instead of making cyberspace or the planet or a bookstore crowd his audience, he focuses on giving to these few humans. His trick is to “Keep writing sentences to them and for them. They are the ones to whom I have been given and who have been given to me for this particular bit of my work.”

feeding gray jay

And so, I freely re-enter the work of words. Knowing I can return to the silence whenever I need to. Remembering there is so much more to this business of being human.

Challenge, Ease, Yoga, and NaNoWriMo

Photo by Stacey Hedman

Photo by Stacey Hedman                                       

This morning, mixing up a smoothie of fig, banana, yogurt, and vanilla, I found myself thinking of all the ways I support myself. Today I spent time with my journal. I did my centering meditation. I attended a yoga class, my first since completing a month-long yoga teacher training, and I felt so grateful for the strength, flexibility, knowledge, and perspective that I gained.

Because the month was hard.

And it was easy.

Here’s the surprise. Ease and challenge don’t cancel each other out. They synergize. Dynamic tension becomes an alchemy of limitless possibilities.

Wherever I support myself, I find ease – even in the midst of challenge.

This is the beauty of any practice, whether writing a novel or holding a yoga pose, or growing in a relationship.

In yoga, we energize a posture, activating core muscles needed, giving it all we’ve got. At the same time, we can let go of any tension that isn’t serving – relaxing a tense mouth into a soft smile or releasing locked knees.

My life is fraught with numerous challenges at the moment, but my life is also incredibly easy. The ease comes from knowing I can head into the winds of change while saturated in joy, peacefulness, and a sense of security and comfort rather than stress or fear.

I used to have it wrong. I thought that life was hard, and so I didn’t take care of myself. I didn’t want to push too much. If life is frightfully hard, why invite challenge?

Now my view has flip-flopped. Life is easy. That is, when you are kind to yourself by breathing, trusting, listening, caring. And in this ease, we can reach for change and challenge and growth and move through things that are very difficult. They are going to happen anyway.

I’m thinking of a young writing client. At nine years old, she is accomplishing the NaNoWriMo challenge of writing a novel in 30 days. She has the support of her mom and dad, who each do their part to help. She is playful, yet propelled by vision. She understands that with her schedule, reaching her word count may not happen on time, but she supports herself by being positive and lighthearted. Oh – and let me not forget – she uses the support of a writing coach! I think we could all learn from this kid. I know I can.

Are you trying to make life easy by not trying? Oh, this is a hard path.

Are you reaching for creative challenges?

Are you making things hard, by failing to practice self-care?

I invite you to go for your biggest dreams, your hardest challenges. At the same time, relax, breathe, and discover all the ways you can be at ease.


Working with A Young Writer: Noticing Favorite Things & Play


“The puppy flew out of a cupcake. Her name is Candy.”  –Natalie, age 8

Natalie is the youngest writer I coach. When she walked in with a box of rainbow-colored modeling clay, I set aside my prompts for the afternoon and admired her tiny, intricate creations. As is always the case, what you love is the doorway to your creativity. Your passions are stronger fuel than the instructions of any teacher. Sure enough, when I asked questions and followed her lead, her story was incredibly imaginative and wonderful.

The next time you are hoping to motivate someone to write, yourself included, notice what is already being created but perhaps overlooked. When working with a young writer, pay attention to her play.

Build the writing world on a foundation of beloved things.

Courage is Simply the Willingness to Be Heard

The Willingness to Speak Your Poems -

A new writer thanked me today for showing her the way to courage, the courage to speak up, the courage to share work.

I don’t feel courageous.

As a featured poet for an event last week, I found myself standing at the mic thinking, “Why did I say yes to this?” Before I could say a single word, there was a blank moment when my poetry appeared in my mind as a Very Stupid Idea. This isn’t the first time I’ve had that thought, and it won’t be the last.

What I keep coming back to: the willingness to be real. The willingness to show my pain and my struggles, my outrage and terror, my creations, my experiments, my soul.

The willingness to speak and to be heard is more powerful than fear. That’s all I have, really. It is the willingness to be the person I am at my deepest core.   I know others won’t always get me; they definitely won’t all think I’m brilliant. My poetry may indeed appear to others as a Very Stupid Idea. Yet they’re not the ones I answer to.

That soul of mine: it’s where the accountability is.

And so I’m willing. I guess this adds up to courage, all on its own.

The Highly Sensitive Writer: Support for Empaths

As I play on the shores of social media, having a grand old time, I forget to watch my footing.

I’ll be breezing along, posting updates and sharing photos, when suddenly, I feel horrible. I will have spent too much time in this world of celebrations, complaints, cravings, and shout-outs. There’s a weird sense of lostness.

I’m drowning in the lives of others.

At first, I was embarrassed to acknowledge this problem. Social media mavens and writers I knew didn’t seem to struggle. I did a lot of pondering and exploring. This led to a  magical realization:

I’m an empath.

I have to be careful how I engage with the world. I must protect my communications, because I absorb the feelings and needs of others.

It might be weird, but it’s pretty special, too. It means I can find another’s heartbeat in an instant; listening is in my blood. I love hearing the ways that my work has brought healing and inspiration to others.

Many of my clients are empaths, too, exploring their intuitive gifts on the page.

Writing Prompts for Empaths is a simple free worksheet you can visit with your journal if you’d like to explore your own sensitivities.

I’d love to hear any thoughts that emerge for you.

And I look forward to being in touch . . . that is, if I’m not taking a social media time out!

    You can read more about highly sensitive, creative people and empaths here:

View my Flipboard Magazine.

Authentic Writing for Memoir and Fiction: Don’t Skim the Memory

I’m wearing my editor hat today. As often happens when I do developmental editing, I notice places where the story is skinny. I perceive areas of “skimmed memory.”

Skimmed memories on the page are a red flag that the author doesn’t want to return to this experience.

returns - library

It’s tempting to skim a difficult memory to avoid pain. It’s so much easier to pull out the black box recording of this life-crash moment. Why relive it? I’ll just say the thing I always say when people ask me about it.

But what would happen if we allowed ourselves to revisit the moment on the page?

I’ll tell you what would happen. We would experience a fresh stab of pain . . . but we’d also receive new insight. Life is complicated, whereas our skimmed and reported stories are not.

Today, Sam writes:

“My marriage with Sabrina was doomed from the start. After treating me like the man of her dreams, she announced on our honeymoon that she had made a mistake.” Sam goes on to write, in a single paragraph, all that was wrong with the marriage.

Clear-cut judgments are easy. We lose the complexity and ambiguity and interest that both life and story share.

Yet I understand. Who wants to return to these memories, add detail, reach for honesty, and find things were truly complicated?

IMG_1010All the same, I’ve worked with Sam for a while, and he is a strong, courageous writer. I know he will take the time to investigate this paragraph. Precious years and intricate wisdom are here to be excavated. Perhaps three or four new pages will emerge.

Sam could show us how they drove for hours after the wedding, when the hotel lost their reservation. He might show that honeymoon breakfast table where the waiter spilled a mimosa on Sabrina’s dress. He could show Sabrina, her hair straggling and her nerves frayed, saying words she didn’t mean. He could reveal his own short temper, and how he barked at the waiter.

Writing our stories demands honesty. This is true whether we build fiction or remain in the territory of memoir. When we revisit an experience, letting go of ready-made judgments, we encounter the stunning beauty of authentic storytelling.

NaNoWriMo and Places of the Imagination

I’m taken aback at my sudden directive to participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I’d planned to do some work on my novel, but in a last-minute gut decision I committed to fully enter the world of my imagination.

And I’m glad for it.

I put so many demands on myself that I don’t give free reign to projects that take my imagination full tilt. I’ll create, but I’m wary of my time. I’m wary of losing control. Working in bits and pieces helps me feel sane.

You can’t create art that astounds you if you’re trying to stay in control.

What I’m discovering is that digging into a world of my imagination is renewing my energy, not using it up. I’ve had it on my list, for weeks, to write this Fire By Night post, for example.

And I’ve also longed for more art. I’m doing that too.

IMG_0195You’ve got to let go, meld with the process, and move where the creating takes you.

And so I’ve rearranged my schedule temporarily in order to lose control.

How about you? Are you on a wild ride of creating, or are you trying to keep everything neat and tidy, and same as always, so you can maintain certainty?

If you’d like to chat in person when I come out of NaNoWriMo hiding, please join my visits as a guest author on Saturday, November 8 at 1:30 at Another Read Through Books in Portland; and as a guest poet on Saturday, November 29, at 7 pm at Mon Ami Coffee and Crepes in Vancouver.

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