Writer’s Block if There’s Nothing at Stake?

There are seasons for all things in life. I think someone wrote a song about that.

Moments to work like a hound, moments to rest. Times for sugar, times for health.

There’s falling in love, there’s solitude.

Lately I’ve been waking up, grabbing my journal, and finding I don’t have much to say. Classic writer’s block seems a doubtful culprit since there are no deadlines or responsibilities with my casual morning writing.

What I fear, then, is emotional block. If I can’t dump my straying accumulated thoughts on to page each morning, are they even there?

Since I believe that emotions—repressed or not—are a human fuel, I can only assume that indeed I have something to write about, somewhere. So why can’t I hear it?

My irritating tendency is to paint things in black and white: If I’m not journaling well, it must be because I’m losing touch with my emotions. If I’m not in touch with my emotions, how will I be a good writer? 

Next? Panic.

messy easel with paint

So, I try to work on my color palette, to reframe the situation.

Perhaps I don’t have to slap an analysis on this season of less journaling. Stop worrying now and trust that the season will change in its time.

If morning journaling is the subconscious “dump,” maybe my subconscious is occupied with something else, something more important than daily thought drifts. Perhaps it’s busy hatching a plan that will change my life completely.

There.

I’ve assumed the best instead of the worst (i.e. that I’ve become cut off from my emotions so my writing career is over).

There’s also this: when I began journaling last September I was living alone in a foreign country. I remained solitary and essentially without social life until May, albeit stateside.

But since May, I’ve been getting more involved with my partner. Talking to someone for hours a day may be an outlet for all those thoughts that would have gone to paper.

Also, reflecting on his mind takes the place of the thoughts I was spending on myself, and that’s probably a good thing.

There was an unhealthiness in the amount of de facto self-reflection time I had before Derek. I should have been volunteering more or fostering dogs—something to take my mind away from the pressures I put upon it.

So while I’m nervous about less journaling, I’m trying to give space to the idea that I don’t have to define what’s happening. Maybe it’s simply adjusting to sharing life with someone. It’s certainly been a while.

Or maybe it’s something else entirely.

I guess we’ll see.

 


 

I barely know what I’m saying with all this, but I think it has something to do with not trying to be so controlling and critical toward myself. If you have any thoughts, I’d love to hear them below.

Another thing I’d love? You subscribing 😉

photocred: photopin.com

What Are You When You Grow Up?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Don’t answer that.

You can spend a lifetime chasing after that question. Landing on something, asking if it’s right…wondering if you’ve made a mistake. Deciding to wait, stay, or try something else.

The five-year-old son of a friend came home the other day distressed.

My friend said, “What’s wrong?”

The crestfallen child admitted, “I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.”

As kids and teenagers, we hear things like:

You’re so great at that—you should be a [salesman, pilot, singer, investor, etc.] when you grow up!

The implicit message is that we should strive to make a living off what we’re good at. But we humans can be good at a lot of things. And there are a lot of things to be good at.

It’s easy to be good, less easy to be fulfilled.

kid hiding behind a gate

When we commit to certain paths, we are committing to eschew infinite others.

Most of us don’t get a good idea of who we are until we’re at least into our twenties. But beliefs we have about ourselves often take shape before then. The decisions we’ve made based on those early-formed beliefs should be inspected often to see if they still hold true.

“Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.”

Mary Schmich, Chicago Tribune, sung by Baz Luhrmann in Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)

In my youth, I was told I should pursue singing because I was a good singer. This advice lodged itself in my mind as truth, probably because adults were saying it. For years I half-heartedly pursued music thinking I was “supposed” to make use of the gift.

Since I’d been told I was great on stage, I also gave acting a try. I’m great at talking about food, so I was a foodie for a few years.

I finally accepted I just didn’t love those things enough. I liked them, but not enough. I would still be doing one of them if so.

Nobody ever told me I should be a writer and I never thought it was possible. Eventually, I reconsidered–I was lucky. Most people think it’s too late to pivot when they’re 30. Many people think it’s too late when they’re 20.

It’s never too late.

man in middle of four diverging paths

Angela Duckworth advises not to ask “What do I want to be when I grow up?” but instead, “In what way do I wish the world were different? What problem can I help solve?”

Essentially: “How can I be of service?” But that’s missing something. The question should be:

How can I be of service while enjoying myself?

Life is too short not to enjoy the way you spend time. More importantly, if you don’t enjoy yourself, you’re probably not being very useful.

I’m not being kumbaya, it’s true: being of service will make you feel good. It makes us feel valuable, powerful, and useful. It gives meaning to our actions; we all know how empty it feels to spend hours (or lifetimes) on something where the end goal is profit.

Think of life as a bank that deals in good and bad feelings. You are the investor and the currency. When you contribute to good, you are part of the resulting growth, and you feel bigger. When you take away from good, you are part of the loss, and you feel smaller.

Or maybe you sit in limbo adding and taking nothing. Maybe that’s worse.

Aim to be a net-addition. You don’t have to save the earth. You don’t have to rescue orphans. I’ve never felt so valuable as when someone says “thank you for writing that.”

There is no when you grow up. You are what you are right now.

Is it worth it?

two paths in a forest pivot to take one

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. What did you want to be when you grew up? Did it change? Did you stick with it? How do you feel now?

Leave a comment!

photocred:photopin.com

All Those Natural Colors Between Black and White

One of my favorite minds is that of Derek Sivers.

He has a way of cutting to the heart-center of things, making a point in the most concise manner imaginable.

If you’ve been following this blog, you may realize this is not my style. I’d love it if it were (at least more so), but wonder if the way we write is simply one of those things like handwriting; it is changeable, but is the changed thing really ours?

Derek’s writing inspires me—I’ve never seen someone with such a knack for both creating and distilling brilliant ideas and philosophy.

In my most recent post, I didn’t feel like I hit the mark in expressing what I was trying to say. I reached out to him for advice on how he would have done it.

The Sivers rework, of course, is amazing. I wish someone would write a computer program for an automatic Derek-Distillation-izer.

I’m going to refrain from saying it’s “better,” because what is better or worse when it comes to expressing thoughts? What it is, though, is a way of reframing the words so many more readers can connect with them.

Derek has a huge following primarily due to the inspiring way he thinks, but also because he is able to relate his thoughts to nearly anybody. My writing, with its flowery words and drifting thoughts, is probably more suited to a smaller audience (which I love very dearly).

I write for me, at any rate, and I can’t explain the delight I feel when you tell me you relate.

So, without further ado and with Derek’s permission, I am posting below his rework of Continuum: What Do We Say When Things Are Okay?

All Those Natural Colors Between Black and White

by Derek Sivers

 

We tend to think in black-or-white: putting all actions, things, or thoughts into a binary good-or-bad category.

It simplifies. It helps make quick decisions, though not good decisions.  It over-simplifies.

It starts in school, when we’re praised for doing good or bad, passing or failing, praise or condemnation.

It continues in the working world, where the only time we hear feedback on our work is when we do extremely well or badly.

But what about all those times when we’re just chugging along, doing our work, doing okay?

And forget work, what about relationships?  Are we often over-simplifying our friendships and romances into “it’s going great” or “it’s not going great, therefore it’s going bad”!

But life is a continuum.  All of the wonderful colors of the world exist in that spectrum between black and white.

If you notice your natural thoughts, they’re all over the place, nuanced, conflicting and co-existing, without needing to be pushed into a good or bad box.

When we leave the school and corporate world and become self-directed, we need to deliberately stop the black-or-white tendency.

If our work is making progress, but not finished yet, we don’t need to kick ourselves.  If our relationships are normal and healthy, we we don’t need to create drama that pushes it into good or bad.

We need to be okay with things being okay, and enjoy all those natural colors between black and white.

ripples on water continuum


I’d love to hear your thoughts, so leave a comment!

And if you don’t know who Derek is, do yourself a favor and check out more of his writing.

photocred:photopin.com

 

Continuum: What Do We Say When Things Are Okay?

Often I forget that life exists on a continuum.

 

Black and white—that’s the world I inhabit.

 

There, things are clear-cut, simple, easy to understand.

 

I am either good or bad. I am acting crazy or sane. I am productive or unproductive.

 

But that isn’t life, is it? Things aren’t so cut-and-dry.

 

Life is a continuum. We are continuums in miniature.

 

Let’s take a single moment: right now. Sit back, close your eyes, think about your life, and allow your mind to let the thoughts come in naturally, without targeting anything specific…

 

Ready? Go!

 

How many various and/or competing thoughts come rushing in? If you’re like me, a lot.

 

For many of us, the background hum of our brain functions like that—a billion thoughts at once—TV fuzz on a faulty channel.

 

Not so cut and dry, right?

 

(Maybe you’re a one-thought-at-a-timer. Maybe you’re zen. Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones. Go light a candle. Kudos.)

 

Another example:

 

When you’re interested in someone romantically, thoughts are all over the place, right? We go to bed thinking “Yes, I like them,” when really we’re just simplifying things in order keep ourselves sane.

 

Or what about a day when you eat healthy during every meal, but you have a cookie before bed? Does that mean the day was a wash? You did a “bad” thing, now none of the good counts?

sookies on a cookie sheet in the oven

This black-and-white-washing begins early with parents and school.

 

We get heaps of praise for saying a new word or behaving well at the dinner party. Because we get an A+ on the test or run the race fastest.

In the same way, condemnation.

“You have to clean your room!” “You need to get your grades up.” “You’re not trying hard enough.”

We grow, we get jobs, and this continues. You’re acknowledged for achievement or lack thereof, but not so much for chugging along nicely under the radar.

We don’t hear things like:

“Hey, I just wanted to point out you’re going about things in a completely prosaic and acceptable manner. That is all.”

Instead, we receive feedback on the good or bad.

I’m not pointing this out to condemn it or even say it should change—it’s culture. It is what it is.

There comes a time, though, as we leave the worlds of external judgment (in my case, striking out on my own to be a writer), that we have to develop our own feedback systems and replace the pattern of good vs. bad with something more reasonable and realistic.

As my own boss, I get caught up in constant self-judgment, holding myself to a standard higher than the most demanding boss.

When my book’s progress is simply moving along and there’s no other writing news to report, I immediately want to plunge myself into a world of “not-good-enoughs” where a lack of gold stars sends me to minor panic and berating self-talk.

Even in relationships, if things seem normal and healthy I begin to wonder…what’s wrong? What horror awaits an almost certainly-doomed happiness?

Sidenote:

Have you ever asked for an update on your friend’s relationship with their significant other and they say, “Yeah, things are great!”?

Isn’t that boring?

What do we talk about when things are okay?

What do we think about and tell ourselves when there’s nothing to worry about?

When everything’s okay—just okay—are we okay to say so?

I’m not advocating underachievement here. Not advocating anything, really. Just trying to write and remind myself (and maybe remind you if you’re still reading) that life isn’t one thing or the other.

Life is a continuum, a guitar string plucked, vibrating every which way.

I’m trying to be okay with that.

 

guitar fender plucked string


 

What do YOU think? I’m not sure if this all made sense, so I’d love to hear your thoughts…leave a comment below!

 

And subscribe to the Roadwritten mailing list if you’re feeling fancy.

 

Blogger Confessions

Confession:

When I began writing this blog in October, it was for the premeditated purpose of gaining an audience for when my book launched months down the road.

All the authors whom I’d listened to in interviews said that this was the main thing they would’ve done differently if they were starting over fresh because their email audience turned out to be their top supporters.

Being the go-getter that I am, I rode the coattails of their mistakes all the way to town.

Well, I mean…it’s a small town; I don’t have many subscribers.

(oh, you’re interested in receiving my posts in your inbox? How kind. Click here.)

However, it turns out I wasn’t doing the blog thing just to gain an audience for my book.

I was blogging…oy vey…I was blogging for a lot of reasons that I had yet to realize.

At first, it was pretty embarrassing to tell people I had a blog. To a few select friends I might mention I’d begun one, and I’d always say “a blog” with my head shrinking downwards as my shoulders rose, as if to shrug and say:

 

“What can I say? I guess I’m a self-indulgent blab artist now.”

 

It took me about four months to embrace the idea of exposing my brainspace to the interwebs, and at that point something strange had begun to happen:

The value of the blog—as measured by me and only me—began to significantly outweigh the doubts I had toward it.

What is this value of which I speak?

For one? Connection.

two wooden figurines holding hands

even wood people need to connect sometimes

Never ever in my life before Roadwritten hadI written something and known whether or not it connected with anybody on a more-than-surface level.

Getting comments from friends, family, and (perhaps best of all), complete strangers about how they related to a certain sentence or post is quite possibly the most wonderful feeling in the world.

It makes me feel like maybe what I’m doing matters (sometimes).

For two? Ownership.

Before I began writing consistently, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what that thing is that they call the writer’s “voice.” I figured I had my own because why not, right?

A lot of times we don’t realize we’ve been missing something until it comes into our lives.

A sort of change has been occurring over the past few months…I can only assume that each night after I fall asleep, my brain quietly clicks on and proceeds with a covert project of pulling up a long-buried treasure chest from the sandy pits of my being.

Only mere millimeters of progress are made each night, but as the chest is pulled, little bits of its contents leak out and upward toward my waking mind.

This chest contains me, unabashedly, and wrapped all up in it is that little thing we call the voice.

It is not at all the same thing I started off with.

I’m not there yet, but I know the cheesily elusive thing that is voice is beginning to come out simply because I can feel the decrease in conscious thought and judgement I put into writing.

Voice is personal truth, I suppose, and though I know the road will continue in fits and starts, it feels amazing to have stumbled upon this thing of mine that I didn’t realize was there.

For three? Discipline.

There will be no lies: I am not an especially disciplined person. I try to be, really, but there is—ahem—room for growth.

Still, I’ve attempted two posts per week. I’ve made myself accountable to anybody who cares to read.

And while frequently I’m sub-par at following through for myself, the odds of me following through for you—if even a stranger—are far, far greater.

girls sitting at school desk in 30s

time to get to work various versions of self competing in my brain!

Probably there is something mixed up in my psyche going on there, but for now, I am grateful that whatever it is, it has caused me to sit down and work on this thing with a commitment that has spanned nearly eight months.

Y’all, that is a long time for me.

So, thank you.

Thank you for giving me connection, ownership, and discipline.

I sat down intending to write a post imploring you to visit my book’s indiegogo page, but it turns out I needed to tell you what you’ve meant to me and why my book launch turns out to be quite irrelevant in the realm of why I am, at present, writing a blog.

So if you’ll have me, I’d like to stay whether or not I launch a book.

 


 

Okay, but I am launching How to Travel for Free: The Vagabond’s Bible, and I would love for you to go check out the page. If nothing more, your mere traffic to the site helps!

Further, there’s a wonderfully-produced video on it (thanks, Fanciful Fox), and if we’ve never met, we can consider it like…an e-meet.

Apart from that, I just want to say:

Hey, thanks.

photocred: photopin.com

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?

Leave a comment below and subscribe to follow in e-mail!

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