Inspiration Mindset Part 2. Tuning the Receiver: New, Vivid Experiences

new vivid experiences

I often write a few lines of poetry at bedtime.  My mind is less able to maintain its strict linear-ness and all of life seems just a bit dreamier, as if part of me is already making that long descent into sleep.

But eventually my well of impressions starts to dry out if all I’ve been doing during my days is the same old routines, day after day. Even days on end of creating can begin to feel dull in their sameness.

So, yes, write poetry; also, give yourself new vivid experiences. Here’s an excerpt from Love Yourself Forward, which is coming out in my lifetime, as soon as it stops morphing, thank you, on the subject of “I have nothing to write about.”

Write Poetry

It’s not as hard you might think. Write snippets, descriptions, incomplete sentences, incomplete thoughts, tones, and observations. Write feelings, drop hints. Describe, luxuriate in, and adore your subject. Eavesdrop. Chop up the lines any way that pleases you.

Write a poem about your day today. Write it just for you. Make yourself happy with your poem.

Your first objection: But nothing happened today! It’s boring. What did I do? 

I’ll give you that. And I have two answers: One, write it anyway.

And two, give yourself some new, vivid experiences.

Here’s a story of how I did that, from about 2 winters ago.

Last night at 10:30 my partner happened to see a Facebook message from a friend, saying she was out of kerosene for her heater. My partner began pacing. This means she is thinking of doing something. She knew there was a gas station open all night that sells kerosene.

“But it means going all the way out to her place, picking up her containers, driving all the way over to get the kerosene, then back out to her place.”

“I’ll go with you!” I said.

“Really?”

Yes. I needed to. I’d been on my butt all day writing and doing web stuff. My head felt like little electrodes and cotton balls stuffed into a tired pumpkin needing sleep. But I wasn’t sleepy.

We bundled up and drove out into the night together in her pick-up. Our friend’s three little dogs came barking and twirling out her front door to greet us. The full moon shone in her yard like a hazy, white spotlight. She asked us to buy her some water, too. We picked up her containers and drove back to town, thinking and talking about no heat, no running water.

At the gas station a car pulled in blaring rap music. The guys who got out weren’t wearing coats. It was 17 degrees out. They had New York plates. After them came two local guys on a cigarette run. We got out a screwdriver and pliers and pulled the safety rings off the kerosene jugs, so our friend could open them with her crazy, zigzagged arthritic fingers. We filled them and strapped them into the back of the truck with a bungee.

We stopped back home and filled four gallon jugs with water. The cats had already settled in for the night. We drove back out to our friend’s place, checking out the new business in town, wondering about the five-car “traffic” on Route 11 going the other way, marveling at the moon. Our truck was warmer than our friend’s little house.

We got home an hour and a half later, ready for bed.

The dark streets and night life on our foray live inside me, feeding me images, feelings and moods I can add to my palette.

I’ll say it again. Feed yourself new, vivid experiences. This may seem like a trick. How will you know if it’s going to be vivid? You won’t, until you do it. And it won’t be, unless you are paying attention. Any experience can be new and vivid, but it we tend to pay attention more when it is a novel one.

This is one of the reasons we take vacations. Our minds and bodies love a change of pace. This strategy is about changing things up regularly, way before you’re flattened with monotony and definitely more than once a year. Similarly, if you normally flit and have tons of new experiences on a regular basis, give yourself some time to sift through those experiences.

Just writing a list of impressions and random memories can be a great way to see everything you’ve taken in, in a new way.

Inspiration Mindset is really a set of behaviors and attitudes that sharpen you as a receiver, appreciater and lover of this one, amazing life. You may not think of your art as your love letter to life, but at least make your living that.

You may not think of your art as your love letter to life, but at least make your living that. Click To Tweet

How To Develop a Daily Writing Practice

Hi, it’s Phyllis with the next video in the series on How to Develop a Daily Writing Practice. The third in the series is 5 Priceless Benefits of Daily writing. This is aimed at my mastermind group, but if you’re not in it, enjoy!

So, a daily writing practice is pretty simple: You just have to do it everyday! The first video was about 5 Essentials for Getting Started, and this video is about how to make it a daily thing.

My big secret to success for pretty much any new habit, is to start it first thing in the morning. That way, nothing else gets in the way. What I do is, I make a big, strong cup of coffee, and I go back upstairs, to this room and I sit in this chair, and I write. I write three pages, and that’s what works for me. Sometimes I write more than three pages if I’m really on a roll when I get to the bottom of the third page, but the minimum is three pages.

When I worked full time, I trained myself to get up a half an hour early, so that I’d have time to do this, because I really wanted to incorporate this into my day. Also, starting first thing in the morning is a great of telling yourself that you’re prioritizing this time for you, prioritizing yourself, prioritizing your time with yourself that will help ground you and help ground your project idea. And I cover that in the next video, “Why to develop a daily writing practice (5 benefits to developing a daily writing practice.)

If you miss in the morning, if you just don’t have time, if you have one of those mornings, you can write after work or write at night time, or – here’s an alternative – bring a notebook and a pen with you, and find five minute chunks throughout the day. so you might be able to grab 5 minutes in the morning while you’re waiting for your coffee or your toast, but that might not be a possibility. But consider doing that instead of checking your email, if it isn’t absolutely necessary to do so. Or grab some time at lunch time: Go to your car, the rest room, a park. Find five minutes and use your phone as a timer, and sit down and write.

And then write again in the evening. You might only get 10 or 15 minutes in this way, but definitely write before you go to bed. Try to go for 15 minutes or a half an hour, whatever it is that you’re shooting for, but try to do it before bed. Here’s why: You’re going to end up downloading and dumping your whole day onto the page, and that’s great, because when you get up tomorrow morning, you’re not going to have that backlog. You will have gone through that once. It will come out again, if it’s still rolling around in your head, but at least you get a chance to start fresh in the morning.

Just keep trying to write first thing in the morning. Do as much as you can without throwing your life into turmoil, and then do a little more at another time during the day, lunchtime or before bed. Actually, this is a slightly different topic, but I have found that writing before bed is a great way to get a good night’s sleep. What I do with that is, I ask myself, “What’s likely to worry me? What’s likely to keep me up? Or what’s likely to wake me up with worry or anxiety?” and I write that down. And that’s a great way of handling overdrive mind and worrisome situations that could keep you awake.

Here are some other tips and pointers: It’s very important to not worry about what you’re writing. I wrote for years and years and years, I’m not exaggerating, decades without worrying about what I was writing. It was simply the act of taking that time for myself and dumping that stuff on the page. It was the best way that I could demonstrate my commitment to taking this time for myself and to discovering who I was. And it just so happened that who I was was a writer. But the same would be true if you were a scientist, an  illustrator, a mother, a chef, whatever you are. This is a great way to demonstrate your commitment to that, and to find out what that is. But do not worry about what you’re writing. It’s not about producing finished product.

Some common experiences to have – These are – Many things can happen, including dumping your entire cup of coffee on the floor, which happens to me periodically, and that’s because I’m sound asleep. And what I do is, I go back and make another strong cup of coffee, because I really, really love that first cup of coffee! Every one after that just doesn’t measure up, so I don’t bother with it, but that first cup – I never have gotten tired of it, so I just keep doing it.  And it’s really the same with the writing in the morning. I actually never get tired of it, it’s not a chore, it’s not something – People say, oh you’re so disciplined – I actually enjoy it. I really love doing it. At first it was really rough and ragged to get up a half hour early to allow that time, but it actually showed me that there’s lots of time outside of the work day to do what you want to do, if you prioritize it.

The trick is prioritizing it. One of things that can happen is that suddenly everything in the world becomes more interesting than writing. Suddenly it seems absolutely essential that you…fill in the blank: polish the silver, mow the lawn, get in touch with your long lost cousin who happens to be turning 60 today. There’s almost nothing like making a commitment for having everything else suddenly come crowding in. Use that as an opportunity to look at that commitment. And make the commitment.

Every commitment comes with the upside, which is the benefit of the commitment, and that’s what we talk about. The downside is what you are choosing to let go, at least for that moment. You’re actually choosing to let the email go, to not catch up on Facebook, to let the dishes sit in the sink, to call your cousin later and risk actually forgetting. You’re going to miss out on something, or you’re going to feel like you’re missing out on something, and you’re actually choosing to do this anyway.

So just be realistic that when you’re choosing something, you’re not choosing something else. And just acknowledge that, and see what that is. And I would say, if you’re really interested in making a commitment, the best way to strengthen that resolve and to strengthen your will, is to exercise it, to do it anyway. And do what you think is possible, not what you think will be impossible. So if you think five minutes will be difficult but possible, do five minutes. If you think 15 minutes is your thing, is the best you can go for, go for that. You might have to work up to it. You will have to work up to it. Just give yourself the gift to know from experience whether this is the right commitment for you to make, whether you really want this daily writing practice by doing it, rather than deciding in advance that it’s not the right thing. Because if you do that, you may decide it’s not the right thing for you, but you’ll be sure. You’ll have certainty. You won’t be wondering, am I just avoiding that? Was I just afraid of what I might find? Just face it, and do it. And then if you don’t like it, you can stop doing it.

Another likely thing to happen is that big, strong feelings will come up. And this is a lot of times why people don’t want to write. They’re afraid that big, strong feelings are going to come up, and they are. And the thing to do is to write them down, to write right through them and not let them throw you off. Yes, you can grab a tissue, but just keep crying and keep writing. You only need one hand to write with. You don’t need any hands to cry with. Just allow yourself to have your feelings and write them down honestly, and then you can look at them. And this again is what I’ll cover in the next video about why you should write regularly, but I’ll just tell you now, and I’m sure you can imagine, that when you write it down you get a chance to look at it, and it starts to change. It goes out of here and it down onto the paper, and it starts to change for you. And you have some agency over what happens with those feelings and that situation.

Don’t forget that the word emotion has the word “motion” in it. They’re meant to move, and a lot times I just write right through feelings, and then they’re gone. Then I’m free from them. And when I read it back later, I get that I was upset, but the emotion has lost its charge.

So just write anyway. There are no wrong feelings. There are no wrong words. This is about allowing yourself to be.

Another common thing to have happen is out-of-no-where brainstorms and inspirations. And the thing to do, of course, is to write them down. And what I do is, I write stuff like that down, and I underline it, and I put a little star in the margin, so I can find it later.  And then at some point during the day or the following day, I go back and I look for those stars and underlines, and I see if there’s an action that I need to take. But just write those things down. Write them all down.

Some of my blog posts come right out in my morning writing. The whole thing is right there. Ideas for the name of a book, the idea for a project, the idea for this mastermind group, it all came through my writing. This is my avenue. I’ve created a field, an energetic field. By sitting down every day and doing it, I’ve created a pathway. I’ve created a pathway for communicating with my self, with my higher power, with whatever it is that’s directing all of this, and so: Write it down. It’s a gift.

Another likely thing to happen is big, dry, empty, silent spaces where it seems like you have nothing to say. And the thing to do there is to write that down, and describe what it feels like to be in that place: “It feels like I have nothing to say.” And how does it feel to feel that way? How does it feel to have nothing to say? “It reminds me of the time I….” “I wish I felt….” Just keep writing. Write through that experience. Repeat: “I have nothing to say. I’m empty. I’m tired. I’m blank, I’m blank, I just want to go back to sleep.” Just let yourself keep expressing from that place, wherever you are.

It’s very important – and this is another pointer for succeeding at this – It’s very important to be a safe person to write for. It’s inevitable that your judging mind is going to come in and say, “Whoa, girl, that’s off limits!’ Or, “You sure you want to write that down?” Or, “Whoa, you really feel that way? That’s kind of – something – isn’t it?” Some judgment about it. Guilt. I really shouldn’t feel that way. Well, guess what. Write that down. Write it down: “I’m a jerk for feeling this way.” “Part of me feels like I should just give up.” “Part of me feels like the biggest imposter on Earth.” “I am such an asshole.” Just write it down. Write it down and write right through it. Don’t let it throw you off. It’s just thoughts. It’s not the truth. There’s many truths. It’s not the only truth. Just write it down.

Something else about strong feelings: Here’s a link to a prior blog post I did on this subject. I’d like to read something from that post here:

“When I started free writing, I thought I would never come to the end of self deprecation.” (That is true. I went on and on and on with self deprecation.) “I had tapped a lifetime of pent up feelings that had never been acknowledged or named. I had never had the means to know them. I had to allow them to come out. It was like pulling a shard of glass out of my finger. And then, it was over. I was conversational with myself. I started to discover a voice in there, a sensibility, preferences, a world view, a particular and unique person, neither perfect now defective, but human. I discovered my humanity by writing down everything that was inside me. Those reams of negativity, while I wouldn’t go back and read them today, are precious to me. They represent the painful birthing of a person. They record the process of becoming real to myself.”

Another common thing to happen is, expect your life to change. In the process of becoming real to yourself, of listening to yourself, of expressing yourself, you will realize that you need to do some things. You may need to change some things. You may simple carry yourself differently. You may respond to situations differently out of this newfound connection with the real you. So, you don’t have to tell other people that you can’t stand X, Y and Z, but now you know it, and it’s not a secret from you anymore, so the next time X, Y and Z comes up, you know what to do. You know how to distance yourself, you know that it’s not good for you, and you steer clear.

If you feel you’re in a rut, and this can happen after years or weeks or months or whatever it is for you, of writing, give yourself a new challenge. Learn how to write poetry. Explore a particular topic that is a little bit edgy for you, like addiction or sexuality, or death, or relationships, love, intimacy, something that’s a little bit harder to deal with. Give yourself a writing challenge. Write autobiographically, make up characters, write fiction. Read more widely and imitate what you’re reading.  Put yourself in an uncomfortable place with your writing, now that you have navigated that first uncomfortable hurdle of developing a daily writing practice, of sitting down and facing yourself every day and facing your life and facing your reality every day, you might be more comfortable with that process. So now you can put yourself in a little bit more uncomfortable place with your writing.

Right now I’m taking a writing class for the first time since college. I don’t like it at all. Honestly, I don’t like being a class, I don’t like having assignments. And it’s putting me face to face with some insecurities that it’s high time I dealt with. And I’m challenging myself to write fiction as part of my daily routine, which is really uncomfortable. And it puts me right back in that beginner place, which is uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable to be a beginner. It really is, so start by acknowledging that. And happy discovering to you!

I hope this helps. And I hope that if you have any questions, maybe you’ve tried daily writing before and it hasn’t worked out for you. I hope that you’ll put that in the comments. Ask your questions in the comments. Answer me this: What would it take for you to be twice as satisfied as you are right now with your writing? What would it take? What have you encountered? What are your obstacles? We can have an ongoing discussion about this. I’d love to know what’s on your mind about this, and if you decide to do a daily writing practice, let me know how it’s going. What are you hoping for, what are you getting out of it?

Okay, that’s this video. Stayed tuned for the next one, 5 Priceless Benefits of a Daily Writing Practice. Okay, get writing : Get your fast pen, your notebook, get your timer, find your place, make your commitment and start today!

Creativity Divinely Directed

5 Essentials for Getting Started with Writing

Daily writing is the cornerstone tool that I use in my creative life and my personal life. It’s my #1 recommendation to clients and friends. It’s my best friend and my surest connection to the highest wisdom (and the loudest whines!)

The blank page is my confidante, my workshop, my solace and my laboratory as I use writing to understand myself and my place in the Universe.

In this first of a three-part series on the wonders of daily writing, I give you the 5 essentials for getting started, something that each of my workshop participants has been asked to bring to every workshop:

A fast pen, a blank notebook, an open heart and a sense of adventure. Just add a timer and 5 minutes, and you’re good to go.

Hope you enjoy it!

Hi everybody, it’s Phyllis here with the Five Essentials for Getting Started with Writing.

When I talk to people about writing, people seem to have some common misconceptions. The first one is that it’s a mysterious, sacred sort of process that people are granted because they have some special gifts. And part of the purpose of this video is to show you that that’s only true for people who develop a writing habit. Everybody has to be a beginner sometime, and this is for you, the beginner.

The biggest obstacles that people talk about are lack of time and not knowing what to write about. I’m going to help you overcome both of those obstacles in five easy steps.

The first thing you need is a timer and five minutes. There are lots of theories out there about writing three pages in the morning – that’s what I do – but I didn’t start that way. I started small and doable. I find that a timer is the absolute magic wand for getting your mind off of the timing and how much time you have and what you’re taking away from something else. The timer is like the guardian at the boundary of this beautiful, sacred space that you’ve given yourself. You’ve given yourself permission that you’re going to take five minutes. You can accomplish a lot in five minutes, and you can accomplish a lot more when all you’re doing is that one thing. So let the timer be your guardian. Get a timer, and set it for five minutes.

I start all my writing classes with a five minute writing exercise and the only instruction is, don’t stop writing. Just keep writing. I give a prompt, which is an incomplete thought, usually one word or two words, that gets you started. In the notes, there is a link to a list of some of my favorite writing prompts. And as you develop your writing habit, then you can start to adopt some of your own favorite writing prompts. I use these over and over again. They’re very open ended and non-directive. The whole point is to simply gain access to what is inside.

So that’s the first thing, a timer and five minutes. And of course you can your smart phone, a kitchen timer, but use a physical timer. Don’t just keep your eye on the clock. Set a timer for five minutes, and five minutes is all you need.

The second thing you need is a fast pen. [“Where’s my fast pen?”] This is a not fast pen. It has a lot of drag on the page. It has other wonderful qualities that I love, but if you are going to write and keep up with what’s going on in your head, you need a fast pen. You need something that doesn’t drag on the page, something that feels really good in your hand. If you have trouble holding onto a pen, get a larger pen or get a rubber grippy to hold around the pen. I gave myself tendonitis one year by taking notes in 3-hour long classes with a pencil! Pencils have a lot of drag on the page, a lot of friction. There’s wonderful things about that, just like with a Flair pen. But what I want you to do is find a pen that glides so that there’s no barrier between what’s coming out of your head, down your arm and onto the page. Find that pen. It’s an exercise all of it’s own, just to find your favorite pen. Some people like gel pens, some people like fountain pens. Find your favorite pen. It’s such a good thing to do for you. And if you’re serious about developing a  developing into a writer and starting to write, start with a great pen. Start with something you really love. You want to want to pick it up.

And while we’re on the topic, number three is a notebook. There are no rules for the notebook except that you’ve got to want to go to it. You’ve have to want to pick it up. It has to be exciting to you. It has to be welcoming. It has to make you go, “Ooh, Ooh, I want to write in that!” So when you shopping for a notebook – and I definitely recommend that you do not go to the notebooks on your shelf that already have little scribbles in them or take someone else’s and make do, don’t use individual little scraps of paper – buy yourself a spiral bound notebook, something where all the pages are together, you won’t lose them, and if you absolutely have to, you can tear out a page and throw it away, but something that – Look in the kid’s section, look in the section where they have Disney characters or My little Pony, or Wonder Woman, or whatever it is, little stars and planets, whatever floats your boat – and get a notebook that you absolutely love.

I’m looking over here, because I have a whole bookcase full of spiral bound notebooks. I love them so much. And I’ve not ever gotten tired of them in all these years. I buy different colors, shapes and sizes. Buy a notebook that you really love. And here’s the thing. Your pen and your notebook are your special, magic tools ( and your timer), and when you open the notebook, it’s like entering into a safe place, a place just for you to write in. So make them inviting, make them happy things for you. Don’t settle for leftovers. Buy yourself a new pen and a new notebook.

The next ingredient, the next step in getting started writing, is an open heart. And this isn’t something that you can buy. But it’s something that you already have. It doesn’t mean that you always have to feel good. That’s not the point. You want to write whatever’s going on in there, whether it’s tight and crampy, or upset, or excited, or confused, whether you just hit a giant fog bank in there, whatever. The open heart is about allowing yourself, giving yourself permission, to write whatever is true for you. When I write I have only rule and the rule is, “Anything goes.” That’s the rule. It’s the one place where I’m allowed to tell it like it is. I don’t have to be polite, I don’t have to be politically correct, I don’t to be diplomatic. I don’t have to hold back on the things that I would normally not say to my loved ones. I say them in the notebook. So, if you’re going along writing, and you’re in your five minute oasis, and your pen is whipping along, and in your heart is something you need to say, and it’s like OMG, just write it down! The point of having a notebook is you can close it. You don’t have to read it. You can put it away, you can hide it. You can come back to it the next day. Just come back to it. You don’t have to reread what you wrote. The open heart is about allowing yourself.

And this is a good time to mention the Inner Critic. Because it’s going to come up. It’s inevitable. You’re going to hit that voice that says, “What the heck are you doing? You can’t write. You don’t know what you’re doing. You don’t know what you’re talking about. You have no right to write. Who are you to think that you want to be a writer?” And the best thing to do is not to avoid it, not to pretend  it’s not happening, but to write it down. Just write it down. And right after you write it down, keep going. Just keep going. You’re going to not finish your sentences, you’re going to just give permission to write whatever’s there. And if what’s there is a bunch of self-deprecating stuff, just write it down. And then if you want to, refute it! Talk back to it. Tell it, “Thank you very much, but go away. Go help somebody else who really needs your help.” Or something. We can talk about inner critic stuff. It’s bound to come up when you open your heart and let yourself write.

Number five is a sense of adventure, because what’s also going to happen is, stuff is going to come up that you’re, like, “This isn’t me. I don’t know who’s speaking here. I don’t know where this idea came from. You’re going to blurt things out. I call them blurts. You’re going to just plop something down on the page: “I hate asparagus. I should get a new job. What the heck am I doing in this town. ” Whatever it is. And, boom, you’re in an adventure. You’re on a new adventure. And your opening up something in yourself. Even if it’s just for five minutes. You’re saying, you know what? Whatever it is that’s in there, that’s coming down, I’m going to just download it onto the page. And I don’t know where it’s going to take me! But I guarantee you, you’re going to be in a different place after five minutes than you were when you started.

But that doesn’t really matter. This is about getting started. So what I want you do: I want you to find a timer, I want you to find a pen and a notebook, and I want you to look at your calendar for tomorrow or today if it’s early in the day, and I want you to decide what five minutes you’re going to take. And I want you to turn your phone off and get unplugged, off line, get off of Facebook, close down the computer – Oh, I don’t want you to write on the computer, not for this. Because this is a physical process. This is yoga for writers. I just made that up!

So here’s what I want you to do: I want you to plan it for yourself. Go to my page of writing prompts and write some of them down, or print it out, and get ready. Set the timer, start writing the prompt and then keep going for five minutes without stopping. Don’t worry about making sense, complete sentences, grammar, punctuation, spelling, propriety. Don’t worry about staying in the lines. There’s only one thing you have to do, and that’s keep your hand moving for five minutes. That’s it.

And then– I’m a one day at a time kind of person – but try it again the next day. And the next day. You could even make a commitment to do five minutes a day for seven days. One week. And see where you are at the end of that seven days. And see if you feel that you have begun writing.

Let me know how it goes for you. You can comment below, on Youtube, or on the blog, send me an email, find me on Facebook, fill out a contact form. If you run into a glitch or something I didn’t think of, point it out to me, and we can take it from there.

Five Essentials for getting started writing: Five minutes and a timer, a fast pen, a blank notebook, an open heart and a sense of adventure.

Have fun!

If you want to get a jump start on #2 in the series, just navigate over to the sidebar, where it says How To Develop a Daily Writing Practice. Click on the picture, give your name and email, and you’ll be directed to the download.)

Or just use this link.

All of my videos can be found on my Youtube channel.

Thanks for stopping by. If you know of someone who might like this, please share. Also, come over to Facebook and say hi!

With gratitude,

Phyllis

by Phyllis Capanna © 2016 joyreport

All content is the sole property of Phyllis Capanna. If you are reading this content on another site, it has been reposted without the author’s permission and is in violation of the DMCA.  © 2016 Phyllis Capanna

Time to Fill the Well: Brief Whine, New Book Tiny Preview

photo: Laura Musikanski

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 3.14.19 PM

This is pretty much what it comes down to some days. Start with a new document, a new blank document (They had to put that in there) and hit Choose (and that.)

Shit. All I want to do is eat and then go to the movies. Maybe I’ve been pushing myself too hard. This blog post a week plus videos on weekends, plus launching a mastermind, plus, plus, plus is hard work, day after day. Basically, I don’t have a life. All the things I tell other people to do and what I purport to write about? The tide’s gone out on all that, and all I’m doing is working.

It must be time to fill the creative well.

It is a full moon, after all, and an eclipse. Whoa. Okay, now it’s starting to make sense. Well, I’ll tell you what, my go-to astrologer says eclipses have the effect of pulling back the veil on something and revealing something else. So, in that spirit, I give you an excerpt from the new book, which remains un-named. Like the name of G_d, except for a less awesome reason.

The book is a collection of things to do and ways to be, with writing activities and other soulful assignments that I found helped me uncover joy, right there in my very own life, without changing any of the circumstances.

This is from a chapter called Write Poetry.

“Your first objection: But nothing happened today! It’s boring. What did I do?

I’ll give you that. Two answers: One, write it anyway. And two, give yourself some new, vivid experiences.

Last night at 10:30 my partner happened to see a Facebook message from a friend, saying she was out of kerosene for her heater. My partner began pacing. This means she is thinking of doing something. She knew there was a gas station open all night that sells kerosene.

“But it means going all the way out to her place, picking up her containers, driving all the way over to get the kerosene, then back out to her place.”

“I’ll go with you!” I said.

“Really?”

Yes. I needed to. I’d been on my butt all day writing and doing web stuff. My head felt like little electrodes and cotton balls stuffed into a tired pumpkin needing sleep. But I wasn’t sleepy.

We bundled up and drove out into the night together in the pick-up. Our friend’s three little dogs came barking and twirling out her front door to greet us. The full moon shone in her yard like a hazy, white spotlight. She asked us to buy her some water, too. We picked up her containers and drove back to town, thinking and talking about no heat, no running water.

At the gas station a car pulled in blaring rap music. The guys who got out weren’t wearing coats. It was 17 degrees out. They had New York plates. After them came two locals on a cigarette run. We got out a screwdriver and pliers and pulled the safety rings off the kerosene jugs, so our friend could open them with her crazy, zigzagged arthritic fingers. We filled them and strapped them into the back of the truck with a bungee.

We stopped back home and filled four gallon jugs with water. The cats had already settled in for the night. We drove back out to our friend’s place, checking out the new business in town, wondering about the five-car “traffic” on Route 11 going the other way, marveling at the moon. Our truck was warmer than our friend’s little house.

We got home an hour and a half later, ready for bed. Today the sun is shining, but the dark streets and night life on our foray live inside me, keeping me grounded in my place in all of it, feeding me images, feelings and moods I can add to my palette.

I’ll say it again: Feed yourself new, vivid experiences. This is a trick one. How will you know if it’s going to be vivid? You won’t, until you do it. And it won’t be, unless you’re paying attention. Any experience can be new and vivid, but it really helps us pay attention when it’s a novel one.

This is one of the reasons we take vacations. Our minds and bodies love a change of pace. This strategy is about changing things up regularly, way before you’re flattened with monotony and definitely more than once a year. Similarly, if you normally flit and have tons of new experiences on a regular basis, give yourself some time to sift through those experiences.

Just writing a list of impressions and random memories can be a great way to see everything you’ve taken in in a new way.”

So there you have it. Go fill your creative well. Give yourself some new, vivid experiences. Doesn’t that sound yummy right about now? Oh, and Happy Spring, Happy Full Moon, Happy Eclipse, and Happy creating!

photo: Laura Musikanski

With Love,

PhyllisSig

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Quick Update on Book In Progress

photo by JohMau
photo by JohMau

AKA BIP.

Well it has to be called something. And right now, it has no name. Or, more accurately, a hundred of them.

It started out as my Thirty Days of Joy blog post challenge to myself that I completed the summer of 2012. I learned some things that I was naturally doing that helped me feel more joy, enjoyment, peace, love, and appreciation for my life, exactly as it was. I think they’re valuable things to do, a good attitude toward life to cultivate.

I’m excited to share them with you. Release date is scheduled for May 1, 2016.

The working title was Juicy Joyful: How to Squeeze More Joy from Your Already Messy Life.

Several iterations later, it is becoming less of a how-to and more of a soulful memoir. Heck, if 20-year-olds can write memoirs, so can I!

But I still like Juicy Joyful just because of the jubilation of J’s in the title.

What do you think? Dumb or jubilant?

What would you call your memoir?

As always, I’d love to have you join me on this crazy journey called life. Sign up to receive a monthly email plus a monthly digest of blog posts. Or, subscribe to receive an inbox notice whenever I post, to the right. View my silly videos on Youtube. (Coming soon.) Or, just write me a note and let me know what you’re thinking, reading, writing about, wondering, or in love with. I care!

With love and gratitude,

PhyllisSig

The Quickening

photo by digitaldrawn
photo by digitaldrawn

Yesterday I found myself yearning for a wordless place, a beautiful place where I could just be. I was tired of defining, concluding, reaching, yearning, improving, examining and, yes, growing. I fell into a deep sleep after I came home from work, and when I woke up, my head was empty. I couldn’t remember anything. I went upstairs to my work space and plopped and dozed some more with my feet up and my hair squished and matted on the high back of the leather chair where I do my writing. I looked at piles of papers, and I swear every squiggle I’ve ever made with ink on a page was screaming at me. But silently. Because I no longer understood language.

I closed my eyes against the din and breathed. Who am I, anyway? And why can’t who I am be orderly, defined, presentable, and outline-able? Quantifiable? I am nearly sixty years old, for goodness sake. When am I done chewing through the chyrsalis?

photo by D.M. Turner
photo by D.M. Turner

One word floated up. Metamorphosis. The butterfly. I usually use the word transformation to talk about what happens to the tomato seed on the way to becoming the tomato. But what about what happens to the caterpillar? It has a body all along. It has eyes and a direction. The tomato seed moves by the wind, by hands, or it doesn’t. The caterpillar moves by destiny, and if nobody interferes with a better idea or a faster route, it becomes a butterfly.

What does all this mean? It means that I don’t know who I am and how I’m helping. It means I really needed a nap. It means people my age are dying or getting shitty diagnoses, and why don’t they just take me, who hasn’t really done anything with life?

It’s Imbolc, halfway between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox. The seeds that are already in the ground are now ready to begin a mysterious process called the quickening. The moment when life begins.

I don’t know what’s quickening in my life, because I don’t remember all the seeds I’ve planted. I may have senselessly spread many of my seeds, and they may or may not have landed on fertile ground. This may not be their season. I wish I knew how to contact the Quickener and just ask one question:

Who am I becoming?

Last night when I went to bed, I cried in the dark while my partner held my hand. I’m having a crisis of identity. Everything I thought I knew has flown away. Everything I’m doing, I’m doing for the wrong reasons. All I can do is cry out the fear of never getting there, hoping that I am also wringing out all the wrong reasons and misguided attempts to make up for what I’m afraid I lack.

I awaken. I empty and fill the places that need emptying and filling, which will later need more emptying and more filling. My breakdown seems to be giving way to breakthrough, but only in that I haven’t broken up.

We saw the movie Groundhog Day last night. I noted the stages the main character went through as the same day unfolded over and over again. First, panic. Then, reaching out for help. Then, throwing out concern for consequences, indulging every last fantasy, systematically getting into bed with whomever, just because he could. Then, beginning to notice and respond differently to the B&B hostess, the insurance salesman, the homeless beggar. Then, launching a mission to seduce his director and failing over and over and over again. Finally, becoming a better person: mastering ice sculpting, piano, saving lives, giving a shit, until that last day when everybody in town feels they have a personal connection to Phil Connors, the weatherman from Pittsburgh. He’s given up trying to seduce her. He’s become himself. In doing so, he’s become attractive, and she is now intrigued and buys him at the bachelor auction. They sleep together, clothes on, just sleep. The next morning, it’s a new day.

It’s a wonderful, funny story of how a self-centered, arrogant, small time TV personality becomes a real person with a real community of connections forged by loving acts.

All my fussing about who I am – It hasn’t gone away. But as I stand at the kitchen sink washing the breakfast dishes, watching large clumps of snow falling at a 45 degree angle from the north to my back yard, I hear words begin to play in my ear like a prayer being said for me by the Divine:

Dear one, you have a purpose, a destiny, and an identity, even if you don’t know what they are. You are whole, even while you are desperately searching for things to make you whole.

Dear one, there are answers, even if you don’t know them. Can you be okay with not knowing? There is a time, which isn’t now, and that’s why you feel unready. Can you be okay with not being ready for anything than what you’re ready for? Can you be okay with getting up and washing the breakfast dishes? With your head being empty and silent?

Dear one, can you live from here? Not for a purpose, but because it’s a way to understand the world, to open to Good Orderly Direction, to find peace and flow, by living from who you are right now?

The seed that is quickening, you becoming who you are becoming, can only be nurtured by doing the thing at hand as you, not because it’s the right thing to do but because it the thing to do. Even though you don’t know why.

The most important thing is to be who you are right now, and none other, to get up in the morning, to meet life with life, to care if possible, but most of all to be here, bringing everything that’s in your heart to this moment. That is how to be true to yourself. That is a living prayer that reverberates, is heard, comes back and nourishes you. Even if who you are is hurting, desperate, afraid and breaking down.

Can you trust the impulse, even if you don’t know why? Can you love your loved ones even though it may not take away their burdens? Can you connect with what’s in your heart, even though it may not be what you hoped for? Can you listen, even though it reveals your soft and vulnerable, failing, faltering places?

Dear one, you will get up the next day and do the dishes. The snow will fall. Words will appear on paper through your hand and attention. A seed is quickening, because that’s what seeds do. You are doubting and breathing and crying and becoming, because that’s what people do.

Blessed be. No matter what you do today, you are becoming. Something is quickening.

I listen and transcribe as best I can. I have a scheduled post to put up, because I said so, not because it saves or changes or helps or improves anything, but because it is the thing to do today. Even though it’s uncomfortable and inconclusive, this is what I have to say. So this is what I share.

The sky, a fathomless monotony of close, grey cloud cover, tells me nothing, no matter how deeply I peer.  The snow has stopped. I check in with my heart. It’s softer and quieter in there. Still no answers. Can I be okay with that? For just the moment of now, yes, I can. Especially just this tiny moment of now. Over and over again.

What Are You Willing To Receive?

KevinConnorsBlueGreenHorizon

What are you willing to receive?

That’s a shift in consciousness from what we’re used to. I always talk about manifesting this, manifesting that, creating this, creating that. But recently I’ve come to realize that shifting to receiving is a way of shifting from doing to being.

Who am I willing to be, and what am I willing to receive? If I want to be in the “flow,” what flow do I want to be in?

I wrote about this in my Morning Pages, and I must say it was challenging. I started out rather primly and sparsely, because I’m not used to thinking like that. But then I hit the money thing, and I started to put a dollar amount on it. What am I willing to receive money-wise?

AlvimannDollars

Ten dollars, twenty dollars, fifty dollars, 100 dollars? And each time I pictured receiving it. Not doing anything, just receiving it. It’s pretty revolutionary. I stopped at $300,000. Not a year, not in exchange for something, not in my career, not in my business, just receiving. And $300,000 was where I stopped.

Not good or bad, right or wrong, just that’s where I stopped.

What else was I willing to receive this morning? A lifetime supply of Sweet Love Blend coffee, clean water for the rest of my life, locally grown oats, cranberries, blueberries, almonds, walnuts, milk, lamb, beef, bread, butter, juice, yogurt, muffins. Good, happy dental care that’s close by and reasonably priced. Hugs, kisses, rides, compliments, birthday cards, cake, candles, frosting. A great designer to help us remodel our home and make it better. A wardrobe update. Ease and flow with my business, Shamanic journeys with healing and teachings. Readership that forms a community where readers and writers come together and share and support and feel part-of. A new website that does cool stuff like plays my music, creates a mood and a wonderful place to visit. A professional identity that is right for me, that is easy and fun to talk about, that bridges traditional and mainstream and is in demand and that makes a difference. More stories from people I have touched in some way and helped that I have not been aware of. A musical existence that has me composing, playing, learning and sharing music publicly in a groove that is wonderful and, well, groovy….

godidwircoffeeheart

And interestingly, the biggest thing that I am willing to receive now is…space. Space in my physical world, space in my calendar, space in my being, space in my heart, space in my creative life. I am willing to receive less of what is overwhelming, so that I can stretch into my life and exhale. The space to feed my soul well.

What happened last night was a fitting prelude to this morning’s musings about receiving.

AnitaPattersonrosepetalheart

I was minding my own business, taking some downtown, coloring. And while I was coloring I had this thing going on in my head, this niggling thing, this discontent, and eventually I was able to name it: I was judging. I was sitting there judging my partner, this other person, this situation, that remark. In my head, ticking them off: Yep. Nope. OK. Not OK.

PippaloudogfrisbeeOnce I named it, I let it go, and then I colored. Totally, whole-heartedly and contentedly. The way I see it now is I fully received my judgments, then I was able to fully let them go, which released me from the unending polarity my mind is great at, and that opened up the space within where I could consciously choose. I chose coloring. With a quiet mind, I could do that. Then this morning, I chose to consciously consider other choices, like ways I would like to be.

MaenaStrawberryoohlalaYou can say that I’m a touchy-feely, ungrounded, magical thinking kind of person. What this is about is a shift in consciousness, and that is admittedly not concrete. But if it’s a true shift, it will show up in the concrete 3-D world somehow, perhaps with greater ease, perhaps with greater enjoyment, satisfaction, fun. Perhaps with more connection and meaning. Maybe even with dollar signs attached. Ooh-la-la!

I invite you to just try it on. I invite you to just ask yourself one question:  What are you willing to receive?  I’m curious to know what you come up with.

AlvimannSatelliteDish

Dowsing With My Butt (On Writing a Novel by the Seat of My Pants)

An amazing photograph from the estate of A. H. Wheeler, Oakland, Maine

(2 minute read)

My mind is quietly being blown. I am about 11,500 words into the novel I am writing for National Novel Writing Month. I kind of fooled myself into doing this. I waited until the last minute, didn’t tell anyone, and didn’t think about the commitment I was making, pulling a sort of “don’t ask, don’t tell” on myself. I make decisions like that sometimes when I’m driving and can’t decide whether to make that stop or take that road. When I get to the intersection I just let the vehicle make the turn, or not. That’s how I did WriMo. Call it dowsing with your butt. If you find yourself sitting and writing, well, I guess you’re doing WriMo.

Here is a brief, incomplete list of my other amazements:

I’m amazed that I am writing everyday, to a word count, when just a couple of weeks ago I was actively not writing, every single day.

I’m amazed that I have that much to say about something that didn’t exist 8 days ago. Truthfully, it’s even weirder than that. I actually don’t have something to say, ever, when I sit down every day. The ideas, these little inklings of notions, are just kind of waggling a few fingers and saying, oh, hey, over here, and I am writing them down. Some are cool and fun; some are stupid. I have no idea if they are stringing together cohesively. I can’t worry about that right now. Isn’t that freeing?

I’m amazed that every day I encounter the idea that I can’t write it down unless it’s perfect, thought out, water-tight and well-crafted. And I’m amazed that when I just write down the thing I am thinking and rejecting, thinking and rejecting, thinking and rejecting, everything flows much better and I get to a place that is decidedly Zone-ish. And when I re-read, that thing I wrote is okay.

I’m amazed at how much there is to know about how novels are put together, how plot works, what details add to the reader’s experience, what to leave in, what to leave out (tip o’the hat to Bob Seger). Julia Cameron, in The Right To Write, suggests that, if we didn’t have such mystique around the idea of being a writer, anyone could make a novel much like amateur carpenters make bookcases and for the same reason: It’s fun. I’m amazed that when I come up for air, glassy-eyed and stiff, even though I don’t know much about how to do it well, I am having fun. I am making a bookcase. It doesn’t have to be a work of art.

Last in my list of amazements: How is it that in one moment I can know exactly what to say about something I’ve never experienced, and in the next I am stopped cold by not knowing a key fact about something equally unfamiliar? I can’t help but draw parallels between that and how I live my life, where I feel I must be perfect and quietly walk away because I can’t be, and where I feel free to just make something up because I like it, and it’s fun.

But I’m not getting into that now. I have 1700 words to write.

Bigger, Bolder Plans Than Mine

HortonPendant
Horton is my patron saint of listening. The pendant was made by Lisa Bess, a talisman maker extraordinaire. Click on the pic to visit her website and find yours.

It seems clear from this vantage point that the falling apart of things planned for this fall created the space for what needed to happen to happen. Another way of saying this is, “Thank God I am not teaching umpteen writing classes!” It also seems clear that my plans for myself are often the paler, safer version of what good ol ‘Saint Higher Power has in mind for me. To wit, my week:

I started a new job. I haven’t worked in a year. I survived an 8 hour orientation. Sort of.  At least, I came back the next day. As Loretta LaRoche points out, if you really want to amuse your coworkers, waltz in, twirl, and announce, “I’m back!” I didn’t do that. I, like everyone else, was on my best behavior, went where I was supposed to go, learned a whole lot of stuff, was welcomed and welcomed, and when I came home I was happy to be there, but not exhausted, I noted, not exhausted. I look forward to doing my actual job which is going to be much easier than orientation.

My song, Singer’s Prayer, (written in 1998-ish) was taught at a conference of 88 hospice singers representing hospice choirs from around New England. It was sung again at a memorial service honoring those who have died in the past year and their families. This wonderful turn of events forced me to finish the publishing process, which means that the sheet music is now available on this very website, as is the mp3 of my old band, Purple Martin, singing it with me, on our album, Don’t Tell James. Listen, download! It’s yummy. Thanks to Brian Middleton and Brice Buchanan for the scrumptious harmonies and for the arrangement.

After a long drought, I spent the day Saturday drumming with my frame drum buds. I really can’t describe what it’s like to keep time with your body, speak the rhythms with your mouth and play them with your hands in a group of people, with two lovely teachers leading. I strongly recommend you experience this for yourself. Drum some, it’s good for you.

Yesterday, I received my new hearing aids. These are bright blue, little high tech nubbins that sit behind my ear and pick up absolutely everything. I am astonished beyond belief that I have been given these by the state Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. I take it as a statement of belief in me, and I intend to use them in my work— all of the different kinds of work that I do— with the utmost respect and gratitude for the people who made this possible. My voc rehab counselor is an amazing woman who rivals me in the inspiration department. She validated everything I am doing, encouraged me to use all the resources available to me, and told me that everyone deserves to work, because work is our connection to the world and how we share our gifts. I have no idea if my Tea Party governor agrees or approves of this use of taxpayer funds, but to even him, I am grateful.

Lastly, and oh so nonchalantly, I’ve decided to go for it, and am doing the NaNoWriMo challenge. So, yeah, I (and thousands of others) am writing a novel in the month of November. I am averaging about 1000 words a day, which means I have to ramp it up if I’m to reach 50,000 by the end of the month. So if you are reading this and you too are doing NaNo, congratulations on throwing your hat over the wall! Keep it up! And don’t worry about the novel itself. If I let myself worry about what the hell I am writing I would never, ever do it. I am just writing, without plan. These characters are showing up and doing things, and I have no more idea who they are than you do. But stay tuned! That could change at any time.

The over-arching feeling I have been having, through all of this cavalcade of experience, accomplishment, challenge and changes has been one of being exactly where I am supposed to be. Not only that, but I may be getting the hang of actually trusting that Whatever is doing all this is Good.

And, not for nothing, but why does it suddenly seem not only possible but likely that I will be working and writing each and every day, and there is time for it all?

Okay, that’s me. Until next week, believe in Good and listen for the bigger, bolder plan.

PhyllisSig

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