Can We Master Anything?

We write and we believe through the act of writing we are being honest.

The paper, to the pen, to the hand, the arm, the head, the brain.

A straight line. Connected. Mind to output.

But there are no straight lines in this floating space of existence.

No full clarity, no open view of ourself. Not through anything, and not through writing.

Still, with whatever concept of mind we do have, we do our best to create, and that’s the best we can do.

I want to tell you that we can only write and write and in the practice of writing hope to distract ourselves from ourselves and therein discover some form of truth. The salamander caught lounging under a rock.

The repetition of writing brings us to ourselves. It is not the connection of pen, paper, mind, but the meditation, the recurrence of the act which takes us out of our mind to a place not quite within our own boundaries.

Why do we write? Because in the habit of doing so, the writingitself an entity unearthed—begins to take over.

When we learn something new—horseback riding, let’s say—all thoughts must be about technique, procedure, maintaining one’s fears, ensuring the safety of both one’s self and the horse…

With enough practice and repetition comes an intuitive ability to ride that transcends any outline of the idea of what learning horseback riding once meant to you.

Then, it was you on a horse. Two disparate beings learning to cooperate enough that an enjoyable experience could be had.

horseback riding saddle art

One might even say that your focus was centered on control. Control + discipline = mastery.

Yet somehow it happens that the idea of control mixes with the art of riding and begins morphing into an occurrence of symbiosis.

A point is reached (with the right kind of practice) where the horse understands your desires not with reins or clicks or one-word-utterances, but with seeming intuition. It senses your gaze or feels the vague pressure of your inner thigh against its broadly ribbed stomach.

Now you’ve reached a place far beyond the idea of mastering the art of horseback riding; instead you’ve arrived to the place where the art of horseback riding has mastered you.

Think of an art or skill you’ve mastered.

Is it you who really feels so powerful over it, or have you relinquished yourself to a holistic understanding, one that enables you—not itto be overcome?

A professional basketballer is not thinking consciously during the game; he is in a state of flow. 

In the flow state, mental chatter, sense of time, doubts, distractions, and anything outside the utterly-present moment all fall to the wayside. The created spirit of years of effort takes control, and conscious thinking becomes unnecessary.

A chessmaster, though years have been spent practicing moves and variations, does not win a set of 40 simultaneously-played games by meticulously analyzing each move to be made; instead, he lets his long-earned knowledge overtake him, dunking him into a state of flow.  

Though effort was made to nurture the knowledge, the work, in truth, was only to turn oneself into fertile grounds from which the skill itself could grow strong enough to stand on two feet.

We write not to master writing, but to feed the fledgling art within us. Only when strong enough can it allow us to relinquish, if only briefly, the misplaced duty we’ve placed upon ourselves to remain conscious and in-control.

We cannot master an art, we can only hope that it is able to master us.

 


Want to know more about this flow business? Watch Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Ted talk on the state of flow, and maybe even find out the answer to “What makes a life worth living?”

 

 

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Are You Listening to What You Should Say?

There is the paralysis of not knowing what to say. What should be said. What should be heard.

There is the freedom of simply saying.

Of sitting down while your brain recedes to the background and your fingers move to the foreground so the things that come out are those which themselves wish to be said, which have been waiting, paused, held floating within your ribcage, hoping for you to unbar the gates.

There is the reaction, and there is the release.

We base often the release on the anticipated reaction even though reaction, by definition, is a thing that follows.

The focus, if we can commit to honesty (and can’t we?), should be on the release.

wisp of smoke being released

Let the reaction be what it is; let the people see and think and respond how they wish. Our responsibility is to ourselves, to letting out what is in while listening, watching, and hopefully—if barely—understanding better what and who we are.

How can we offer a thing if we have not given ourselves the space to possess it?

There are times when I dance around the computer, glancing down and around and doing everything but taking a seat to tip tap the keys because fear and doubt tell me that nothing I have to say will be worthwhile.

I want to impress you, I want to connect with you, I want to make you feel something. I want you to share a feeling with me and I want to create within a space nonexistent a thing that exists despite and defiant.

The only way for me to do so is to let pass the things that leak out my fingers, without thought and without predilection.

Sometimes I forget, and I’m sorry about that.

But thank you for helping me by talking to me. Thank you for being here.

 


 

I should point out, I suppose, that the type of writing I’m (vaguely) addressing is not the factual, journalistic, or even story-telling type. It’s something else, it’s this thing I’m trying to do on a path toward finding…something.

What is it?

At any rate, if you think something now (or even later….or even before), please leave a comment!

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“Act As If” The World is Your Oyster…and Maybe?

“Act as if.”

Back in October, I set up a trip to a mountain-nestled town in Tuscany where I could housesit in beautiful isolation for a bit over three weeks.  

Having decided in August that I wished to transfer my focus over to writing and completion of the book I’d shelved a couple years earlier, I felt a strong need to press the “reset” button on life and start off with a clean slate.

An old stone home in Italy where nobody knew me, where I’d have no local transportation, and where a temperamental autumn would keep me homebound was just the ticket.

Reminders of a past life—one in which I lived in Los Angeles spending days at the whim of an agent’s unfeeling directives and nights going to friends’ comedy shows—were scarce.

The distracted and disconnected life was abandoned, and a new one—life as a writer—began.

It worked.

Exactly as planned, it worked.

I woke up early, journaled, fed the alpacas, dogs, and cat, spent time creating this very blog each morning, edited the book each afternoon, then spent the rest of the day devouring books.

Halcyon. Those were halcyon, perfect days.

In that mere month, I finished the book’s first draft.

alpaca kissing meggan

i also received kisses from eyeless alpacas.

Then I returned to America. November and December were hectic, filled with travel and general movement.

January brought me back to solitude, but I grew frazzled in the two months it took to get there. Not just frazzled, but I suppose also some of the adrenaline had begun to wear off.

I think often of that time in Tuscany…why did everything work then, and why can’t I recapture that everything now?

But that woman then and me now are, in fact, one and the same. Of course I can recapture it now.

Twelve Step programs have a saying (actually, they have a few sayings):

“Act as if.”

 

You can probably figure out what it means, but I’ll offer a little furtherance: Act as if means to play pretend with hope that your feelings and life follow the intent.

You might also say “Fake it ’til you make it.

It’s so simple—it’s playing pretend—yet so much resistance arises (for me, at least) in implementing certain healthy behaviors.

Take note:

This is not support group mumbo jumbo, these are scientifically-backed mottos.

You’ve probably heard how smiling actually makes people happier or people with botox literally become less angry overall because they are less able to make angry faces.

These are just a few ways researchers have proven that we are much more able to influence our feelings with our actions than we think.

I’ve been working on inhabiting this space, this life, as a writer for about eight months now.

My mom likes to tell people I’m “in transition.”

Whenever I overhear this I try silently to catch the eye of whomever she’s telling and watch them wonder whether I used to be a man.

In working alone, boss-less, I’ve realized something:

I’m a real tough cookie to work with.

Okay, I actually knew that before going solo, but I thought maybe I’d be easier if I was only working with myself.

Turns out I’m a brat either way.

I tried the laissez faire approach with myself, ascribing to vague daily or weekly schedules and letting the project du heure be dictated by the day’s feelings, but just like hips, progress doesn’t lie:

Things just aren’t getting done.

I’ve been letting action follow feeling versus trusting that feeling follows action.

To fix it, I’m going to have to let the completion of my book (which is my priority) be guided by action, not feeling.

My latest strategy is something I used to enact in college: treating the schedule I create for myself like an actual work schedule.

When gainfully employed, I show up. I stay til the end. I allocate tasks appropriately. Why I allow that to go out the window when working for myself I cannot explain, but it’s time to change that.

happy employee in office at desk

this is the person I’m going to become in my new self-employed life. Look at how happy he is. Becoming this man will complete the “transition” my mom talks about.

It’s time to act as if I’m working for someone else because (unfortunately) I’m subpar when only working for me.

Poor employee and poor boss, Jesus.

The plan is to schedule out my week like I have an “actual” job for which absence can get me fired and fake it ‘til I make it.

Right now, for example, I want to begin proofreading this post and try to get it published today, but I’m acting as if this book author thing is my real job and blog time is up—time to go work on the book for the next couple of hours.

Let’s hope this works.

 


 

If you’ve been riding along the Roadwritten path you know I try lots of things to boost productivity—meditation, dog-training yourself, music training, being robotic, the list goes on.

They all work to an extent, but it seems like I’m still trying to find some magic potion.

What works for you?!

Leave a comment!

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Forget Writer’s Block, Let’s Talk About Life Block

In my last post I kind of danced around this idea of having what I’ve come to realize is Life Block.

Oh, wait, you haven’t heard of Life Block?

Well look, you know what writer’s block is…

Life Block is writer’s block…but with life.

It’s the feeling of mild paralysis, of being stuck. Not stuck in a specific arena, necessarily, but simply stuck within life’s general parameters—maybe because you don’t feel like moving forward, and maybe because you don’t know where to go.

Allow me to explain…

Sometimes we “creatives” get a little overwhelmed with ideas.

Fanciful is an adjective that I considered inserting before ideas just now.

I didn’t, though, because while there are often fanciful ideas in the mix, it’s often the fanciful ones that bring the most glory, so it doesn’t make sense to disparage the process.

(Anybody remember that time we put a man on the moon?)

stop sign on empty road in desert

I’m going to write this post because I’m hoping I’m not alone out here in Life Block world. Perhaps you can relate and make me feel like not so much of a…big baby?

We’re nearing a year that I decided to leave acting in Los Angeles and (more-or-less) devote myself to writing.

In that year, I’ve visited over ten cities hoping to find one that beckoned me to stay, I’ve launched (and often abandoned) a couple handfuls of projects, I’ve very nearly finished my book, I’ve felt supremely ecstatic and supremely terrified, and I have, for the most part, been pretty happy about it all.

Still, embarking on a career path where each brick is laid only when (and if) I take the next step, I’ve often felt as though the future is very, very opaque.

I’m not going to say “dark,” because indeed I don’t feel like it is dark (yet?), but the simple fact of not being able to see the future at all is mosquito buzz annoying at best and car crash discouraging at worst.

I don’t know how I’ll make money, where I’ll be living, or if any of the past year’s efforts will result in any sort of reward.

There is a lot of faith going into all this stuff and it’s coming from a girl who has nearly always been agnostic.

When I left Los Angeles, I thought the path would become much more clear as I moved along.

It hasn’t.

Which is fine, really. Even if I thought I knew what the future held, that too could go completely pear-shaped.

But sometimes it’s like choosing to move forward is the equivalent of choosing to stick my hand into a mangy, mossy black hole beckoning from the side of a tree.

What am I going to find?? A chomping slimy rat thing or the key to Narnia?

(I know, I know, the entrance to Narnia had nothing to do with keys in trees.)

I could blame lots of things for the slowness of my actions lately, but really, the only thing to blame here is Life Block.

To explain, I’ll talk about writing.

When we have writer’s block, it’s usually either because

  1. We are not informed enough on the subject at-hand
  2. We’re fearful of the finished product (often subconsciously)
  3. We’re simply too disinterested to put in the work.

My own brand of Life Block is some blend of the three, but suffice it to say that there is only one way to deal with each:

Start moving.

girls typing on computer on bed

I have lived in a state of hesitation now for too many days.

If it is that I am not informed enough on how I would actually like to live, I must begin exploring options by going to a place and getting my feet planted.

In the writer’s world, this is research.

If it is a matter of being fearful toward the possibility of failure, I must remind myself that I can’t control outcomes, I can only do my best with every present moment.

In the writers world, we do this by holding true to that which flows from desk-bound fingers and ignoring the dread of judgment.

If it is a matter of not being willing to sit my butt down and finish projects, I must simply make the decision to just do things.

In the writer’s world, this is showing up to the desk—no matter what— and sitting there for as long as it takes for the fingers to begin moving.

 

“Don’t wait for the muse…he’s a hardheaded guy who’s not susceptible to a lot of creative fluttering. This isn’t the Ouija board or the spirit-world we’re talking about here, but just another job like laying pipe or driving long-haul trucks. Your job is to make sure the muse knows where you’re going to be every day from nine ’til noon or seven ’til three.”

-Stephen King

 

Life Block captures us.

We are all, at times, frozen in inaction when the prospect of moving forward is simply too incomprehensible, too bleak, or too perilous.

All I can say is this:

 

When lost in a maze, there is only one thing I advise against: 

Remaining still.

 

So here I am, once blocked, now moving.

Let’s hope it sticks.

 


 

What are your Life Blocks? Does that concept even make sense?

I know that in the “normal” world, most people are able to fluidly move from education, to job, to family, etc. without getting all blocked-up. But as you may have gathered, I’m living a less-clear route.

Can you relate? Can you tell me about it?

Leave a comment below or subscribe to the mailing list!

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Mental Fog and Lost Desires

The great thing about real fog—the misty, creeping stuff—is that you tend to know it’s there.

You look out the window in the morning or descend a road into some rolling country valley and you know that you must treat the world, the outside, with care.

Safety becomes a concern—It’s automatic.

Turns out mental fog doesn’t work that way.

Instead, it’s in you as much as you’re in it.

It’s snaking through your ears, resting upon the crevices of your brain, wafting out your mouth as you smile and chat with a friend…

Without realizing it, you’ve simply become enveloped.

hazy country road with fog

It’s only when the haze clears that you realize it had been happening at all.

There are hints. Yes…Sometimes there are hints. You notice, perhaps, that a project has fallen to the wayside. Or you haven’t been eating with your spouse at night. Maybe the exercise regime has disappeared.

Always, always, we have excuses for these waning events.

One cannot ignore objective evidence of a shirked behavior, but how one chooses to interpret the evidence may be fully subject to the brain fog’s fancy.

You tell yourself it’s boredom, it’s business, it’s simply a little break.

Sometimes it really is that simple; nothing’s the matter and you are just cycling out of a phase before cycling back in.

And sometimes it’s the fog.

I don’t know when it began creeping in on me, but if I compare my work ethic over the past month (or so…?) to that of, say, last October, the difference is startling.

Monstrous even, if I’m feeling dramatic.

Back then, I worked on my book every. day. Lately it’s shrunk to one or two days per week, and now is when it needs the most attention.

Let me point out that the book was much, much more fresh back in autumn. I was in the phase of initial edits versus the five-ish I’ve processed by now.

Now it’s that banana that somehow made its way to the top of the fridge and was forgotten there, ever-ripening, for weeks.

overripe bananas in the kitchen

this would make an excellent banana bread. That’s optimism, folks.

I am going to finish this book sooner rather than later.

Sometimes coming out of the brain fog just takes hitting rock bottom…

Something jarring to cast you to the ground, snap you to your feet, and permit you from that base vantage to look up and see the overhang of haze in which you’ve been residing.

I’ve allowed people to seep into my goals so much that they somehow morphed into the goals themselves (I talk about this more in my last post).

This isn’t such a bad thing, on its own. Relationships are important.

But me? It seems like I can’t balance my social/love life and work life very well. In a given day I can do one, but probably not both.

It’s not that my mind gets overwhelmed, per se; it just seems that it gets filled by one or the other…something like that.

Add to this that I am a people-pleasing perfectionist and it turns out that the idea of disappointing a friend or lover by not spending time with them versus working is practically painful.

Relationships with people get me caught up in a net; tangled there, floating, I can’t seem to reach my other priorities.

fishing net

i’m all up in this and it stinks…like fish

This is embarrassing to write about.

It’s probably different things for different people, at least if you’re one of uswe who are easily distracted—who find ourselves, at times, coming out of the haze.

My distraction drug of choice seems to be people (especially non-female people), but maybe yours is alcohol, partying, exercise, video games, your job, volunteer work, etc.

All of those things, when done in reasonable amounts, are fine.

But I’m referring to them as drugs because for some of us, that’s exactly how they behave: We use them (sometimes subconsciously) as an escape from the thing we actually believe we should be doing.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a post where I have some sort of solution.

What I can say is that it seems I’ve recently come out of one of these brain fogs.

It’s always strange, this process. I find myself saying:

“But wait…where did I go?”

Yet here I am, with the fire slowly rekindling and the realization that much work awaits, and this time I’m ready to take it on.

Rather than completely sequester myself off from humans like I did over the winter, I’m going to try to bring a bit more social balance into my life with hopes that I won’t be so easily thrown off next time.

One idea I’ve toyed with for months now is that of no dating.

It’s not an idea I love…I mean, I’m in my prime over here.

Still, I’m going to attempt it. I’m going to do it because every time dating happens it’s a huuuge distraction and it ends up being…not so much?

And I have to finish this book.

Your prayers…I need them.

 


 

So what is your distraction drug of choice?

Or are you one of those people who can just get stuff done when it needs to get done?

I mean, I get it…if you have a family or other dependents, accomplishing goals (I think?) becomes a whole lot easier. You have to get that paycheck.

Oh boohoo, I’m a victim of my own leisure.

But really—maybe there’s something else you’d like to do on a creative-level or just personal passion-project type deal. How do you do it? How do you not?

Leave a comment! (oh, and subscribe by clicking here.)

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Love Stuff and Creative Failings (Flailings?)

Here’s the thing:

I am 100% reluctant to write this post.

I’m not blogging about love and stuff. I’m not a teenager anymore. You don’t want to see the things I was writing then.

But the subject matter? Ohhh, I’m still dealing with that.

Fine. It’s love stuff. And I’m writing about it.

But why not? Is there a creative person out there—a person out there—who doesn’t get thrown off by love or some bastardization therein?

Yes then, FINE, the opposite sex affects my creative process. It affects everything.

There. There! I’ve confessed.

I am not as strong as I like to tell myself. I am not as dedicated to my creativity and my output as I promise to be. It just does not seem to be who I fully am (for now and time precedent, at least).

 painting of guy with black eye

My hope is that I will change, that I will grow stronger. That like with any good affair, some shiny object won’t be able to step onto the scene and distract me from the healthy romance of creative pursuit.

But there is supposed to be a balance between human connection and professional pursuits, is there not?

Is it easy for those who already find themselves in established relationships? Once the tree is stable and growing, can they tend better to the rest of the land?

I ask because in the throes of new romance, how can one have any hope of preventing substantial distraction?

Am I weaker than others?

Can others do a once-weekly date and let love grow long and slowly over time? Am I the only one who suddenly sees a huge chunk of my life—my time—overtaken?

There is an importance that our society places on love and romance, and for better or worse, I have let a part of my brain be overcome.

I get addicted to the love drugs. And as with any drug, the high fades and the comedown begins.

There are times when I’m ready to write human love off completely and cloister myself while I pursue the other love—writing. That was part of the reason behind the Santa Fe isolation.

A town of retirees, perfect! 

But always, always, in the back of my mind is the question:

 

“But…will someone come along?”

 

And of course, someone comes along. They always do.

This happens, and there I go. The romantic in me takes over.

The same emotions that fill these words begin to fill the thoughts I project toward another. It’s the double-edged sword of a heart too verbose in romance.

What happens is that I seem to morph the new person into my creative project. The muse and the medium, all in one.

As you might guess, my actual creative projects begin to fall to the wayside.

So when new love eventually fails, I tend to count the hours I “wasted.” The phone calls, shared meals, daydreaming, etc. spent on the now-lost prospect.

Do you want to know how it makes me feel?

Pretty dumb.

Part of this whole process, I realize, is natural. If you want love, you have to invest time, so time will be taken away from other things.

But the question is this:

Do I want to fall in love?

Or do I simply enjoy being distracted? Having a seemingly good excuse to push aside true prospects of personal fulfillment and remuneration created by my own independent efforts?

Because if I have someone by my side, the burden isn’t so much on my shoulders.

man sitting next to his backpack

does sitting next to your burden make it a companion?

As someone who doesn’t wish to be employed by another or go through the typical career hierarchies, “love” seems a way to create my independent life as writer but not exactly have to do it all alone.

“Being in love—falling in love”—now I understand it—now I know what it means — what happens to me when I am writing: I am in love with the work, the subject, the characters, and while it goes on & a while after, the opus itself.—I function only by falling in love … What it is I suppose is the creative condition as expressed in human emotion and mood—So it comes out curiously the same whether sexual or spiritual or aesthetic or intellectual.

-Ursula K. Le Guin

Is the prospect of making it on my own simply too daunting?

Ahhh, if only society endorsed independence more than marriage. Perhaps then I could forgive and accept my blacksheep-ism.

What I’m hoping here by sitting down and exposing these messy views on love is that I can simply find the strength to turn my back on it when I know it’s not right.

That seems to be my main weakness: jumping in for the escape or the excitement or the distraction…but not necessarily the connection.

It is normal, I suppose, to feel afraid when one doesn’t follow the status quo.

Yet I’ve been kidding myself about how afraid I actually am. As my book nears completion and I stand in view of the finish line for numerous other projects, I find that my feet are stuck in the mud.

sliding rocks going for desert finish line

if i’m both the rock and the desert, where does that make the finish?

Crossing the finish line means judgment.

It means exposure.

The risk has been taken, and if I step over to the end it will be into a life where the belief behind the risk proves validated or dashed.

Of course, I don’t actually believe all this…more or less. Success will come with work and talent. That  I believe. 

I can get there.

What gets in my way is the confidence-lacking little girl inside my heart that tries so valiantly to pull on the reins to keep me from getting rejected.

On Bravery: An Interlude 

A little bird in the newspaper postbox has made herself a nest within.

It’s a great home: sturdy green plastic siding, a single entry point, too small for birds of prey.

picture of a mailbox with mountains in background

True story: this is the mailbox, and this is the home.

Still, there are the humans who come for the mail.

As I reach out the car window to the mailbox beside her future family’s home, she bounces up to the edge of her land and begins angrily tweeting not only at me, but at the gargantuan machine in which I sit.

Taking wing, she lunges at me. This bird no larger than a eight-year-old’s fist is ready to take on a human in a car.

And I’m afraid to finish my book.

 


 

So where do you stand? What’s your weakness?

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