Writing Under the Weight of Sadness

Harnessing the energy to seek and expel words from my mind and onto paper seems like more than I can bear. It seems almost impossible. In the moment I don’t know how I feel or how to focus on finding the right words to work through it.

I think about how you can pursue a life in which you constantly look for the good, especially when times are rough, but sometimes the world around you looks gray and dull no matter what you do. You’re caught in the middle between of a state of glass-half-empty and glass-half-full and you struggle against both sides. The idea of sinking into the dark feels cozy, but you know you are supposed to climb out and away from its pull on you.

I find myself wondering why I spend time on any of these things that I do and why I care. Meaning is suspended and I suddenly don’t have energy for anything. Under the weight of anxiety and sadness and worry, I feel less like talking. I want to keep my vulnerability under wraps and close to my chest for safekeeping.

But the thoughts in my head are there regardless, so if nothing else seems to make sense, why not use them? I try to embrace them and accept them and let myself go to feel whatever it is I need to feel. Snippets of phrases form in my mind and I consider writing them down. I know that the stagnancy will eventually turn to movement. It’s easier to write when I feel moved rather than weighed down, though perhaps under the weight of sadness is when I need to do it the most.

Suddenly the emotions manifest into full sentences and things begin to make sense again. The sensation of writing is like a warm blanket made just for me. It covers me completely so that I can sit in the dark and hide while staying safe from the darkness itself. It’s a shield that allows me to let the light back in slowly at my own pace and in my own time.

The world continues to turn regardless of who is in it and how I feel about it. There is purpose and meaning, but sometimes it’s harder to see. The possibility of losing someone is hard to face. The reality of losing someone, of life disappearing from existence is hard to accept. One person fights to survive while another leaves this world too soon, but I am still alive. I still have a choice to breathe, and so I do. And I write. And I feel a little lighter.

The Dream of Being a Writer

“Everyone thinks they’re a photographer just like everyone thinks they’re a writer.” My coworker said this to me casually as we exited the conference room at the conclusion of our project meeting.  I nodded to her with a knowing smile of agreement on my face. As soon as we parted ways, however, my face fell as I acknowledged the sinking feeling in my stomach. Her statement bothered me. I felt disappointed for some reason. Why?

What defines people as writers (or photographers or any other label for that matter)? Do they have to be published? What about the people who spend countless hours laboring over writing projects only to never publish anything?  Are they officially considered to be writers, and who decides? These are just a few questions that manifested in my mind as I returned to my desk at work.

I do not think of myself as an “official” writer. I do not refer to myself as much to others or in my own mind. To me a writer is someone who pursues the art relentlessly and formally as a profession or as a means of livelihood. A writer to me is someone who feels compelled by an unseen force to put pen to paper and release the perfect words like a waterfall. I write as a hobby. I write because I enjoy it. I have been doing so since I was a little kid just learning to write her letters and mix them together to form words and meaning.

So why did my coworker’s statement bother me?

At a small company holiday party some years ago, we kicked off the festivities with an ice-breaker question: What is your dream job? There were some fantastic and surprising answers, such as a ship captain and a concert pianist. My answer was a writer, historical fiction to be exact, although the genre is mostly irrelevant when it comes to this dream.

I have thought about being a writer in accordance with my own definition of such for years, for as long as I can remember. I have never given it a real shot. I have not tried to write about the hard things but only focus on what comes easy to me. When I go to the bookstore and wander the endless rows of books, half of me feels inspired to know that so many people have become true writers because it makes me think maybe I’d stand a chance if I gave it a real shot. The other half of me is disheartened by how many writers there already are. There isn’t enough room for everyone.

Dreaming of being something reinforces the belief that I’m not that thing already. Sometimes a dream becomes a crutch. We dream of something for so long that we become the dreamer and accept the identity rather than attempting to become the thing in the dream. We find comfort in the certainty of the dream and grow too afraid to confront it and to try to make it reality. What if we try and fail? Then we have no dream to fall back on but instead have to face a harsh and brutal truth. In our dream we imagine whatever we want.

My coworker’s statement bothered me because it reminded me of my dream. It reminded me of the thing that I’m not. I cannot even feign blissful ignorance and be one of those people who identifies as a writer simply because I have a blog or because I write copy for corporate communications. My definition of what it means to be a writer prevents that. I’m too honest with myself to be one of the people to whom my coworker referred.

I do not think I am a writer. I know I am not. But perhaps I could be.

This Is Not About Kittens (Okay, Maybe A Little)

I may not always know what to say, but I continue to daydream and trust that words will come. Writing makes me look closer at things. It leads me to ponder things more deeply and to consider them from different perspectives.

Sometimes when I’m stuck on what to write, I tell the person closest to me about it. Giving voice to the obstacle sometimes helps me to work through it. My husband K in an effort to be supportive offers ideas, which usually consist of recent experiences that he and I had together. His latest suggestion involved kittens.

We recently went to look at a house going up for sale. It was a major fixer-upper but had great character. As we explored the big backyard, a strange noise floated up above the wind in the trees and rung in my ears. I froze, listening hard, and there the sound came again. Kittens!

I followed the high-pitched mewing to a stone fountain broken into pieces and IMG_0566overturned in a bed of monkey grass. There I found him – a tiny gray kitten, the giver-away of the hiding spot. I picked him up and snuggled him close to me as K scooped up his three siblings. They were so small and sweet yet fierce with their sharp claws in permanent protrusion from their soft padded kitten feet.

When we first ventured into the backyard, K and I saw a couple of adult cats watching us cautiously before jumping the fence and taking off. One of those was likely the mama of these kittens. Their place of refuge was a good one, complete with multiple hiding spots and cover from sun and rain. They ran to each other and huddled together as we placed them back where we found them, confident that their mom would return.

I thought about the kittens all that night and the next day. I tried not to worry, trusting that the mama cat would do her best because that’s the nature of things. Still, K and I brought over some kitten food. We quietly crept into the yard, anticipating listening for the sounds of mewing, but the stone fountain and monkey grass were empty. We searched the yard and called for the kittens but to no avail. Mama cat did her job and moved them to a new place, a safer place. We set out the food anyway just in case and silently wished the kittens well.

I appreciated K’s suggestion to write about this experience, but I decided against it. What was the moral of the story? What was the point? Yet I continued to think about it, to replay the events in my head, and as I did, the seeds of those thoughts began to grow and spark questions in my mind.

Those questions sparked conversations between K and I – philosophical conversations, and from there I have continued to ponder and question a plethora of beliefs and ideas, reconsidering my perspective on certain things I have thought to be true, all because I found some stray kittens and thought about the experience more deeply than usual.

I realized that finding those kittens and reflecting on the story gave me insight. I did not know it at the time, but it was an experience that for a few minutes caused me to be present and thankful.  From that experience I was able to appreciate the small moments that make me see and feel something outside my normal realm and routine. It distracted me from myself and presented something new and wonderful. From there I could reflect on writing, on what I wanted to say.

This is why I don’t simply give up when I don’t know what to say when I write.  Writing has made me more conscientious of my world. I realized that I don’t write so much as to make an impact as to influence. I write because the act influences me. It makes me a better person, and it has given me a better and happier life.

Finding Creative Inspiration

The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them. -Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic

Many great writers have said plainly that writing is hard work. From Ernest Hemmingway to Stephen King, they emphasize the importance of commitment and toiling over your work, even when you don’t feel like it. I imagine this truth is the same for other art forms – painting, composing, design, and all the rest. I understand the importance of work and putting in the time, but where do you start when your treasure chest of inspiration is empty?

Tomorrow is my birthday, my own personal new year and a time I traditionally make a resolution. In the year ahead I want to focus more on writing. To my frustration I have lacked the inspiration and motivation to write much in the past few months. It is a struggle we all face from time to time.

Here are a few methods (some I have tried and others I plan to try) for finding creative inspiration:

Change your environment. We are creatures of habit and tend to work in the same spaces. One option is to change an aspect of those spaces. Hang some new artwork. Light table lamps or candles instead of overhead lights. Rearrange your furniture to face a different direction. Sit on the floor instead of the couch. Do whatever makes sense for your workspace and art form.

A second option is to work someplace else. When I was in high school, two of my favorite places to write when I needed more focus were the roof and my closet. Change to a different room in your house. Sit on your front porch or work in your back yard. Go to a café, library, a park, anyplace that gives you a different view and a different ambience than your usual space.

Meditate. Sometimes the more you focus on a creative project, the more clarity and inspiration seem to slip away from you. Then your frustration makes it even worse. Meditation can help clear your mind of all the noise and bring you back to your point of focus. I recently downloaded the Headspace app per a recommendation. It has a mediation series for many things, including creativity.

Listen to music. Music stirs up emotions and memories. Indulge in your favorites or check out something new. When I was in elementary school, one day a week I attended an alternative program for gifted kids. After recess, we would all lie on the floor with the lights off, listen to a piece of instrumental music, and let our imaginations take over. Afterwards we wrote about the thoughts, images, and stories that emerged in our minds. It was my favorite part of the day.

Seek out visual stimulation. We are very visual creatures. On a recent episode of Gretchen Rubin’s podcast “Happier,” she suggested finding inspiration by reading three magazines you would not normally read. You can gain exposure to new subject matter and ideas by reading the articles or by simply flipping through the pages since magazine are image heavy. There are also many great books of photography and art prints with striking imagery. Buy them, check them out from the library, or browse at a local bookstore.

Read poetry. Poetry, like music, is concentrated emotion and ideas. It is lyrical, beautiful, and often ambiguous. It leaves room for interpretation and imagination. It is also short and often easy to read. I recommend Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, and Rumi, just to name a few.

Go for a walk. Sometimes a breath of fresh air can work wonders on your creative aspirations. With each step and brush of the wind, you feel more a part of the world around you. You can listen to the sounds of daily life happening around you and focus for a bit on simply living in that moment and observing all of that life. It is refreshing and inspiring.

Take yourself on an artist date. I got this idea from the book The Artist’s Way, which I highly recommend reading and practicing. Take your self some place new or to one of your favorite places that has inspired you in the past. Artist dates of my own include visiting a local museum and hiking through the nature reserve. Taking time out from your daily routine to spend some quality time with just yourself in a creative space helps bring clarity to your thoughts and is a great way to find creative inspiration.

Free write/paint/draw/knit/etc.   Sometimes we over think things, and the best way to pave the way for creativity is to stop the chaotic thought process. Set a timer for 10 minutes and just do your thing! Do what feels right and trust your creative outpour. What you create though simple instinct may surprise you and inspire you to keep going.

Regardless of the pathway to creative inspiration that works best for you, the key is to let go of your frustration. Negativity will inevitably block the flow of ideas. Relax, open your mind, and trust that inspiration will come to you.

Happy creating!

2011 Northern Spark

Photo credit: Northern Spark via VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Blogging Recognition

I never anticipated a readership of any kind when I starting blogging.  There are so many talented writers in the blogosphere, so many voices. I am truly grateful that anyone glances at the words I put out there.  A huge THANK YOU to Brooke at The Utopia Universe for nominating me for the Blogging Recognition Award.

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I have been writing since I was able, writing stories when I was a little kid and journaling since I was 12. I became interested in other things and lost my motivation to write for a while, but now I’m back at it and it’s a powerful thing. When I write, I can get the chaos of thoughts out of my head and make more sense of the world around me. I started my blog to recapture that. I think harder and deeper about life since I started blogging, and it is making me a more mindful person.

In my short time as a blogger (3 months), I have learned a couple of things:

1) Trust that inspiration will come to you. When you struggle to find the words, to say what you really want to say, go easy on yourself. Don’t force yourself to spit out words. I find that they come more easily and honestly when I give myself love and space.

2) Be open to new ideas, about yourself and your messages. Do not worry so much about falling into a certain subject-matter category and achieving a certain readership, but instead write what feels true to you.

I admit that I have not been exploring as many new blogs lately like I should. I am dedicated to my craft and envy those who show an almost daily commitment that I have yet to achieve. Here are the blogs/bloggers that I enjoy reading regularly and that I believe deserve recognition for their dedication, positive messaging, and/or their ability to write from the heart:

Spiritual Journey
Music Teacher Lifestyle
Writing the Girl
Tippy Tales
Making It Up As I Go
Greater Than Gravity
The Seeds 4 Life
Behind the White Coat
Books, Music, Photography, & Movies
Happy Days of Life

Thank you again! I am truly honored.
Love and Hugs

 

An Open Door

Call it the Universe. Call it the Ether or the Energy. Call it a Higher Power.  When I open a door to it in my mind and in my spirit, sometimes amazing things flow in to my life.

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I sit on the couch cross-legged with my computer in my lap while my husband sits across from me entranced in an episode of House. I sigh loudly. I tap on the keys. More drama emanates from the TV. I sigh loudly again. My husband looks over at me questioningly.

“I can’t figure out what to write!” I say. We both know he can’t help me with this. I sit a while longer staring at the screen and finally shut my laptop. This is getting me nowhere. I need to relax and just let my mind wander. Just let it be.

The next morning I’m daydreaming about nothing in particular, and suddenly an idea pops into my head and I know what I want to write. This has happened before, and it truly is an amazing thing. I have been more focused on writing in the past few months than I have the past few years. It’s like I have tapped into an infinite well of thought and ideas and inspiration just by thinking about it and trusting that it’s there. I feel so much more aware.

Perhaps being open and more mindful of the world allows the energy of the universe to flow through you. Perhaps it even brings you something that you thought was lost forever…

Quite a few years ago, I experienced a series of emotional events while spending a weekend in San Francisco. When I got on the plane to fly back to L.A., I was struck with an overwhelming need to get my experience down on paper. I wrote furiously, the words pouring out of me and into my notebook, not stopping until I reached the very end, my hand tired and cramping. I stirred a curiosity in the man sitting next to me who politely waited until I was finished and then felt compelled to ask me about my writing given my intense focus for the duration of the flight.

When I got home, I transcribed everything I wrote onto my computer and saved it. A couple years later, my laptop crashed and I lost everything on it. It was crushing to know my writings were trapped forever in a place I could not reach, including the story of that weekend in San Francisco. I knew I could not recapture it.

Last week I was looking for something random and unimportant, going through closets and drawers. I opened a drawer and laid eyes on a brown folder I had not seen for quite some time. I opened it, began flipping through its contents, and stopped, in shock at what I saw. Tucked into the folder were the small half-pages on which I’d written about my experience so desperately on that flight home.

I still cannot believe I have it back. I thought it was lost forever. It feels like a gift from the universe. It feels like a sign.

I think this works for things other than writing and creativity. Perhaps if we are open to the energy around us, focus on the good and go with the flow, we will have more inspiring experiences. Or maybe we simply become more mindful and notice more of the coincidences. But I think it’s something bigger than that. Maybe it’s actually nothing. But maybe it’s something.

 

Photo credit: Thorbard via VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-SA