Reflections on Risk-Taking and Creativity

March madness is upon us in the form of the best snowstorm I’ve seen in ages. Last night we sent the kids to their nearby grandparents house, and they kept our mini-van complete with snow tires. We’ve got the Honda Civic with nearly bald tires, and so we are marooned. Not a single snow plow in sight, and it’s still coming down. Our home isn’t such a terrible place to be stuck. The fire is crackling. We took a break from work to start Season Two of The Expanse. The kettle is on and homemade, dairy-free strawberry ice cream is waiting for dessert. Then I have to get back to work, but in the meanwhile, I’m thinking about risk-taking and creativity.

I’m in a weird space this week. Everything feels like a dream I’m floating through, like a vacation. Free of the long to-do lists (because I didn’t make any) and without the feeling that there isn’t enough time in the day. We aren’t going anywhere special, but March Break and the total lack of morning crazy to get the school bus seems like just enough of a holiday.

On Monday I started sending out the almost-final draft of my manuscript for beta reading. This is a crazy time in my writerly life. I have some pretty awesome betas, a good representation of the type of reader I hope to attract. There’s something both exciting and terrifying about knowing that people, especially strangers, are reading your words and giving feedback. It’s the risk you have to take as a creator; you make something for the world to consume, and then you sit back and see how well they digest it.

I took another risk when I launched my crowdfunding campaign. It was a wise move, deciding to ignore that voice that told me I was self-indulgent. My campaign goal was met, thanks to many lovely contributors. I’ve booked a little getaway for the second week of April to complete the last draft of my novel and research publishing options. Do I self-publish and invest in a proper marketing campaign? Do I query agents and see if the traditional publishing world wants me? Are there indie publishers who might take a chance on my book and help me with marketing? The questions are endless.

The scariest part of creative work is letting other people see what you’ve sunk your soul into. My first book was immensely fun to write. It was non-fiction, and in many ways, easier. This one, this novel was different. It was scary, and thrilling and I went to that deep place in my imagination where I used to live as a little girl. There’s way more of me in this book than the other. I’ve experienced more self-doubt and self-loathing with this project than with any creative experience thus far. What if it’s no good? What if I’m too old? What if nobody ever reads it? I have to wade through that self-deprecating static almost every day, because I know once I’ve cut my teeth on this novel business, I can move on to write the thousands of other stories in my head. And most importantly, I can say that I did it.

Don’t be so precious about it. I keep telling myself this. It’s only the first one, and it’s bound to teach you so many things. If you don’t do it, you’ll regret it.

I think of all the writers I’ve beta-read for. Writers who feel the exact same way I do about their books, and some who are beyond this newbie writer anxiety. Sometimes these books are wonderful. Sometimes I’m not even sure how to wrap my feedback in a positive spin. If the thing you created was rubbish, would you want to know? I would. I’d like to think my skin is tough enough that I could just move on to the next story.

So for the next couple of weeks I’ll wait. I’ll work on other things, like my businesses that I’ve neglected trying to prepare this next draft. There’s plenty to keep busy with while the betas work on their feedback. I’ll probably never hear from some of them at all, because that’s another risk you have to take.

It’s torture, but I love it.

 

The Value of My Work

I took a big leap this week, and it feels weird. For months now, I’ve been meeting regularly with my writing group, an amazing bunch of women writers who are all exceptionally talented. Though they aren’t all published, they all have the chops to be, and we support each other by giving critical feedback on each other’s work, sharing resources, and encouragement. They have helped me feel more committed to my writing and they’ve helped me understand the value of my work.

Not one, but two of my writing colleagues recently took a week to themselves to head to their cottages and spend the time writing. They were able to accomplish so much without the distractions of every day life. I’ve been fantasizing about this for a long while now, and my writing friends nudged me to take action.

Yesterday I launched an IndieGoGo campaign to help fund a self-directed writing retreat. My hope is to take a week in April and work through the end of my novel revisions, so that the manuscript is ready for an editor. It’s a great plan, so why does it feel strange? It feels strange because there’s so much going on in the world right now. I look at Facebook and my news feed is filled with real struggles and sorrows all over the world. It feels a bit shallow asking people to donate to help me publish a novel when so many other people need help.

Yet my work, my writing, is the way I make the world better. It has been since I started blogging over a decade ago about my life, about my struggles. I write to give people hope, to help them feel like they aren’t so alone in a difficult and confusing world. With my novel, my first foray into fiction, I write to help them escape for a little while, to imagine other possibilities. I write to make people feel joy and laughter, and when I’m writing, I feel like I’m helping the world in the best way I can.

And so, humbly and vulnerably I’m asking you to have a look at this video, and the campaign below (you can also click right here) and consider making a contribution to help me publish this novel. If my writing has ever touched you, made you smile, helped you feel connected, or lifted your spirits, I know you’ll enjoy my novel. Even $5 will help me reach my goals.

Grown Up Play Dates

“When’s Nate coming over?” 

I heard this about fifty times in the span of an hour this morning, my four-year-old Noodle too excited about the pending arrival of his bestie to even manage a proper breakfast.

His weekend uniform is always the same; it’s pajamas or bust. I’ve stopped trying to convince him that it’s proper to get dressed to run errands. For him, clothes are for school, and begrudgingly, for special occasions. Even then he insists on pjs underneath, and there’s always a Clark Kent style quick change if the outing runs too late for his sensitive tastes.

I don’t fight him on this, because I’d wear my pjs everywhere if I wasn’t constantly trying to hide myself in fashion.

He’s taught me a lot, my little Noodle. Today, I realized that I want more play dates too. Little Nate arrived in his closest proximity to pjs, because he knows that’s how we roll on the weekends. I met his grandparents, all the way from Germany, with my hair smelling like the meatballs I’d fried last night and a pair of track pants tugged on under my sleep shirt. Gotta keep it real.

So, now I’m booking play dates. Come in your pjs, or the next best thing. Bring a sugar free, gluten free treat if you have time. If not, maybe we’ll bake something together. We can knit, watch Netflix, play YouTube show and tell, eat snacks, drink tea or wine or whatever. Just come hang out. 

Or invite me over. I don’t care if your house is a mess, or if your cupboards are dirty. I’m a terrible housekeeper, and I’m tired of avoiding people because I’m ashamed of this. I won’t judge you, I’ll just be happy for the company.

Let’s connect with the unbridled joy of children. As adults, we have the advantage of calling it a day before someone gets smashed in the head with a truck.

Inauguration Day

in·au·gu·ra·tion
iˌnôɡ(y)əˈrāSH(ə)n/
noun
    1. the beginning or introduction of a system, policy, or period.
      “the inauguration of an independent prosecution service”
      2. the formal admission of someone to office.
      “Truman’s second presidential inauguration”
      3. a ceremony to mark the beginning of something.
      “the inauguration of the Modern Art Museum”

Today is the end of an era.

I can no longer sit up here in this little corner of my quiet room, distracting myself with a million things that aren’t my own voice.  Work things, helping things, playful things, domestic things. They are important, of course, but they can’t replace my voice. Not anymore.

Today I stop saying ‘I’m too tired’ or ‘It’s too cozy here’. I will accept invitations, make new alliances, pledge allegiance to my sisters who are loud and proud. They not hiding under the assumption that everyone is too busy to make plans, or too uncomfortable with my lifestyle choices.

Today I honor my own constitution and recognize that to feel well, I have to treat my body well. This, on occasion, will mean laying on the couch for an entire afternoon reading books. Mostly, it will mean challenging myself to be more fluid, stronger, more vibrant. It will mean choosing something sweet every once in a while, and choosing to be very conscious about what food means to my body and soul all of the time.

Today I salute the commander-in-chief of my journey through this life. My writer, my story teller, who has patiently waited for the opportunity to rule the country of my heart. Small victories, and a career full of setbacks have led to this victorious moment, when we stand united in our love for this great land of my imagination.

Today I vow to dedicate my office to the voices of the little people. Those tiny hands and hearts who demand better play time, less distraction, more connection to our changing climate and the fertile lands of this country. They have fought long and hard for my attention, often kicking and screaming to be heard. I will answer their cry by getting off my high horse and spending more time in their tattered sneaker shoes.

On this inauguration day, (no caps, please) I will place women’s reproductive rights at the top of matters of congress. Sexual congress, that is. I will recognize my right to complete freedom and power over my body by exploring and encouraging multi-level orgasmic funding, investigating new systems of pleasure, and implementing a charter of self-love that is supported in both the private and public sectors. I don’t even know what that last line means, but it sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

It is with great humility and awe that I step into this role as president of my own tiny universe. I take this venerated position very seriously, despite my outrageous hair and shocking media persona. You, the people of my consciousness have elected me, and I will unite this land of opportunity and privilege and make this woman great again.

Because if history has taught us anything, it’s that nobody else will.

A To-Do List For A Difficult Day

Anyone who knows me knows about my love/hate relationship with November. This year, I seem to have gone darker and deeper into the grey than ever before. I need vitamin B, or iron. I need a week off. There’s never enough sleep, never enough time. The leaves are hanging on longer because even they seem to know that I need the added brightness of their outrageous colours. The good news is, it’s nearly over.

Here’s a to-do list for today. It will likely be extended to tomorrow as well. These are big days for me, these two. Big enough that without such a list, I might just sit here and stare out the window and not get anything done at all. Feel free to borrow this list, any time you need to. You’re guaranteed to feel at least 3% better if you use it.

Today I will…

  1. Eat an entire bar of chocolate. Well, almost. But, it’s fair trade and sugar free. Plus it’s dark, 70% even, so I’m okay with this.
  2. Cry over nothing.
  3. Cry over some really big things.
  4. Write.
  5. Try to work. Mostly suck at this.
  6. Make an entire thermos of tea and sip it slowly all afternoon.
  7. Listen to Leonard Cohen.
  8. Miss my kids.
  9. Colour.
  10. Read for pleasure.
  11. Eat soup for dinner.
  12. Wear my slippers at work because I need the extra cozy.
  13. Wear lipstick, or something else that makes me feel better.
  14. Finish all my work so I can do whatever I want all weekend.
  15. Send lovey emojis to my cousin-sister.
  16. Call my mom.
  17. Hug my kids after school.
  18. Go for a walk.
  19. Try not to cry in front of people who barely know me.
  20. Avoid the news, because sometimes I have to.
  21. Sing.
  22. Have a glass of wine, but only one.
  23. Make a fire in the fireplace.
  24. Add some frankincense to the diffuser.
  25. Watch a funny Christmas movie.
  26. Eat popcorn.
  27. Light a candle.
  28. Remember the spectacular depth and breadth of love.