Reframing: Your Vision

“Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be…accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.”     —Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Some moments catch you by surprise. And sometimes, you expect a particular outcome or response to an event and end up with something wildly different instead.

I’ll be honest: I’m in a weird spot in my life right now. I’ve been calling it my “Arrested Development” phase, and no, I’m not referencing the once-dead-now-resurrected-on-Netflix television show (though I do enjoy that show). No, my arrested development comes in the form of being frozen in carbonite in a number of ways, both in writing and my personal life.

Until just now (literally, just now—I had an actual revelation while drafting this piece), I believed my frozenness was largely environmental and circumstantial: if I could just switch A for B and learn how to do C, I’d finally be able to move forward in my life. But, ugh, all these things keep getting in my way! How dare they. Can’t you see, THINGS, that I’m trying to do stuff here? Obviously not. The things are known for being super inconsiderate of peoples’ feelings.

But here’s the truth I’ve just discovered: It’s not the things’ fault. It’s mine. I’m getting in my own way. I’m letting my fears dictate what happens (or doesn’t). And that’s not okay. That is not what we are called to in this life.

Mick Silva of Higher Purpose Writers hosted a fantastic retreat the first weekend of October called Story Vision, which involved 15 writers gathering in a gorgeous 1930s beach house on Puget Sound to spend three days working through our things so we could get back to the core of our writing. And I was fortunate enough to be one of those fifteen.

Reframing Your Vision

If you’ve known me for any length of time, you’d know I’m a pretty emotionally intuitive person. Now I don’t say that to brag—would you like to be the person who feels things so deeply that they cry at the drop of a hat? It’s not the most socially acceptable ‘gift’ to have.

Over the years though, I’ve come to accept and appreciate it for the gift it actually is. I can tap into a well of feelings that not everyone can. For a writer, that’s kind of golden. I don’t always have to just imagine what something feels like. I can actually feel it, and then translate it into the experiences of my characters, whether I’ve physically been through a situation myself or not.

As a result of this strange ability, the tears often come when they’re not welcome. But for some unknown reason, I really didn’t cry much that weekend, even in the midst of deep heart-sharing and working through the healing process to get to our stories. It was almost a magical relief to be able to sit back and absorb everything that was going on without being hindered by the interruption of tears.

I also found myself without too much to say (out loud). I like to talk to people, but sometimes it’s even more useful for me to just listen. The biggest benefits I got from the gathering are threefold:

1. I simply received. I got to take in this collection of inspiration and practical applications from Mick and the other writer-warriors, and just wrap them around me like a blanket that I got to take home with me.

2. A renewed sense of purpose. This is the quote that grabbed me on Saturday and hasn’t let me go yet:

Your story is your greatest weapon against fear and evil,

Your greatest comfort to enjoy,

And the treasure people need.” —Mick Silva

Read that a few times over. Let it sink in. I love that it encompasses both acknowledging our call to write and the importance of recognizing how our own lives are a key component in being able to fight the darkness and share those insights with others. That, to me, is what this writing business is all about.

3. The courage to persist. Mick says, “The secret to all great fiction is persistence.” Tweet I’m not allowed to give up. And in the not giving up, maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to accept the help I need to get myself out of the carbonite and actually do something with these stories burning inside me.

So, while I gather these things to ponder, I’m left with the golden glow of the weekend behind me. It’s pushing me forward and into that space where I have to sit in the anxiety for a bit, and that’s okay. I’m in suspense and incomplete, and I’m giving over control to see what God has in mind. But I’m not giving up. You shouldn’t, either.

September Moments

“Don’t you love New York in the Fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies.”  – Joe Fox, You’ve Got Mail

You’ve Got Mail has to be one of my all-time favorite movies. Yes, I am a sap. But I’m a woman who loves a compelling story, and Nora Ephron certainly knew her way around an enchanting story.

Now, I’ve never been to New York in the Fall, but I still love the season, and I love school supplies. “Bouquets of freshly sharpened pencils” and sticky notes and empty notebooks waiting to be filled with words. As a writer, these things are gold.

The other thing I love about the autumn season is the feeling of newness and fresh starts. While we’re nearing the end of the calendar year, September has marked the new year in my mind for most of my life, what with the start of another school year. My years begin in September.

Even though I have lost the tradition of the new school year (thank you, college degree!), I still see the season as a jumping-off point – a time for adventure and explorations. Last year, I had the opportunity to have my “September moment” in the magical woods of New Hampshire, attending the fall session of Squam Art Workshops. (If you want to read more about that trip you can visit my Squam posts: Part 1 and Part 2.)

September 2012: New Hampshire

September 2012: New Hampshire

My “September moment” this year also involved a solo trip across the country, and it couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the annual American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Conference in Indianapolis a couple of weeks ago (has it been that long already?). I somehow convinced my semi-introverted self to get on a plane (again) and go join hundreds of people I didn’t know at a conference for authors and publishing industry professionals. And what a wonderful decision it turned out to be!

Indianapolis in September

September 2013: Indianapolis

I met the most amazing people who love words as much as I do (including my lovely roommates who I would have gone insane without!), learned so much from multi-published authors and other industry professionals, had mentoring sessions with authors I truly admire (including Jenny B. Jones!), heard fantastic keynotes from and spent some quality time in conversation with Robin Jones Gunn (a woman who is near and dear to my heart!), and even got to talk to editors and agents that I hope to have the chance to work with one day in the not-too-far-off future.

I am honestly still processing the goodness of my time in Indy, and I wish I had better words for the experience, but if you have the opportunity to spend time in community with people who are passionate about the same things you are and are working hard to live our their calling through their passion, please: GO. Meet those people, learn everything you can from them, and stay connected in whatever way you can. If you are a writer, you know – it can get very lonely sitting at a desk in front of a screen with no one but your characters to talk to. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Take the opportunities when you get them. You won’t regret it.

From one reforming non-risktaker’s heart to yours: step outside of your comfort zone and into your own “September moment” – whatever form that takes for you.

xo, me

What “September moment” have you had recently? What kind would you like to have, but might be afraid to venture off to discover?

Squam Musings: Part Deux

One of my favorite moments that came out of attending the Squam Art Workshops last week in New Hampshire actually occurred while I was on my way home. On the plane from Boston back to Portland, Oregon, I sat by to two young men who were on their way home after running a half-marathon in Boston. The one sitting next to me asked (while I was reading the article on Squam in Taproot, ironically) if I had been on vacation or visiting friends in Boston, and I told him that, no, I had actually been attending an art workshop in New Hampshire. He looked surprised (or maybe intrigued?) and asked, “Oh, so are you an artist then?” And for the first time in my own recollection, I replied with a smile, “Yes, I am an artist.” And it felt really great to say it out loud, to a total stranger, and feel validated in that realization.

I am an artist.

The following is a little poem I wrote on the last morning while sitting in our screened-in porch and watching the sunlight sparkle on the lake. Below are some more photos from my journey. Enjoy!

Squam is…

this quirky little kingdom that is nothing like the real world,

                                                     yet how we wish the real world were more often.

perfect in its imperfection

a place of rest and acceptance

the lost hoping to be found

the found wanting to get lost

a lake filled with hope and untapped potential

the discovery of self

the start of a journey

the end of wishing you could…

                                 …and finally doing.

16 September 2012

My hope is that you will all one day find a place like this, where you can settle in and feel free to be yourself – as you were created, in all the ways that make you unique.

xo, me