Close the Gap

2018

I love a good beginning.

As far as I’m concerned, any reason is a great reason to start. Any time is a wonderful time.

Today is the first day of the year, the first day of the week and the first day of the month, but none of that really matters.

The important part is, today is the day I’m ready to begin.

It seems I spent most of 2017 dormant. I basically stopped blogging and limited my tweets to greetings and #templebuilding updates. But the truth is, I helped my cousin/big sister land our first federal contract. We also delivered two excellent projects for a corporate client (we’ll finish one last one this month).

The thing I’m most proud of is a creative victory. I took a short story I wrote years ago and transformed it into a chapter book manuscript. I love my book, AMANDA AND MISSY, and I’m looking to get it traditionally published.

I’ve gotten some encouraging passes (nos) from agents, so we’ll see if it finds a home in 2018. It won’t be my best book or my last, and it isn’t the book I wanted to write last year, but I needed to start somewhere to begin closing the gap.

Ira Glass refers to the gap between your taste and your creative ability when you’re first starting out. Some of your early pieces might anywhere from horrible to even good, but they may not live up to your own standards of excellence. Not due to self-disparagement, but because of an honest assessment of where you are vs. where you’d like to be.

The only way to bridge this gap is by doing the work. Learning, trying, producing. There’s no magic formula, there is only doing. And that’s what I’m about in 2018.

I’m actually about many things this year. I’m returning to some old tried and true productivity strategies and trying out a couple of new ones. I’ll tell you more about those, as well as my three mottoes for the winter quarter in future posts.

What are you about this year? What will you accomplish this year? What’s the work you have in store?

Steps and Strides

Personal Narrative, Sub 60 10k
The view during my first three miles.
The view during my first three miles.

Today was workout 21 of 61, and I ran 3 miles, 5 strides.

The three miles is old hat this point, but we’ve upped the strides this week. That last stride just about did me in! I wanted to give it my all, and I did, but rather than running through the tape, I pulled up at the final split second. I felt disappointed as I heard the last chime, but I gave all I felt capable of at that moment.

All day I assumed the last stride was slower than some of the others, but now I’ve checked – it was fastest! By far! Goes to show, perception is not always reality.

Still, I plan to work at  running through the tape. It’s easy for me to do when I’m somewhat tired, but when I’m truly fatigued, I stop short. If I ponder this long enough, I can probably think of many life circumstances where this was true as well.

Me on Snapchat, after mailing my manuscript.
Me on Snapchat, after mailing my manuscript.

In other news, I hit a writing milestone. Yesterday I polished a children’s book I wrote years ago, and today I sent it out into the world! Very exciting.

Knowing that it takes anywhere from 3 months to 6 months to hear from some publishers, today’s step motivated me to write more. Several things can happen at this point:

  1. No response
  2. Form letter rejection
  3. Personal rejection/ editor’s encouragement
  4. Rejection with request to revise and resubmit
  5. Acceptance

Obviously I’d prefer options 3-5, but I feel liberated. My only choices are to wait or write. Having this story circulating, no matter her fate, is freeing. I choose to write.

One task

Personal Narrative, Zaimu Challenge

Today I am thinking of fear. Feeling it. Working through it. Understanding it. Appreciating it as a teacher.

Fear, in certain degrees, can feel like a happy excitement. Stomach tingling, breath quickening. I felt that fear today. It comes when I have doubts about something I want to do, and I can see the beginning of paralysis. Self-sabotage. I haven’t given into Resistance yet, but I have the sudden urge to talk myself out of… progress.

But for now it’s just a tingle. It’s commentary about the relative location of me and my comfort zone.

A New Year’s Eve declaration.

Any time fear is my muse, I ponder the word fearless. I explored this a few years ago, and I have come to understand THAT being fearless is not really being without fear, but about lessening fear’s influence.

If giving into fear means remaining silent or standing still, then being fearless means speaking up or moving, despite the fear. The fear is still present, but it does not defeat you.

Fearlessness is about the steps you take when it feels safer, more comfortable, to stay put.

I’m working on a small project. For many reasons, it inspires fear. Will it be good enough? Will it come out as I expect? Will it have the impact I desire?

Will it…?

Will it…?

Will it…?

If fear wins, I’ll soon make up reasons to work on something else entirely.

If I am fearless, tomorrow I will complete one more task; bring it one step closer to completion.

Muscle memory

Zaimu Challenge

If you don’t use it, you lose it. People say this often about second language learning, and really, most everything except riding a bicycle.

sophrologie-au-quotidienIt’s true, too, about blogging. For years I had a regular blogging practice, changing format, tone and location whenever I was ready for a change. In the past couple of years, my blogging has gotten more sporadic after dramatic shifts in my daily routines. Sometimes I miss it, but I’m not quite sure what to say. So I think about blogging, but leave the page blank.

Beginning April 28, I started a blogging challenge. My goal is to blog something every day through early June. The early going has proven as challenging as I expected it might be. I do expect as time goes on, I’ll write more reflections and musings and commentaries. But for now, I may rely on stream of consciousness, curation, and graphics to get back in the groove.

It’s #NaNoWriMo Day…

Personal Narrative

Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 10.01.06 PMToday is the first day of National Novel Writing Month. The competition, commonly hashtagged as #NaNoWriMo, encourages creative writers to draft 50,000 new words (a “novel”) in the month of November.

I’ve decided to participate this year, and I’ve set my own goal as I did when I wrote in 2013. My goal then was 30,000 words. Though that bar will be more difficult to accomplish this year, that’s my goal for 2015 as well. Yes, I create my own rules!

I’ve done more pre-work this year. Well, more isn’t saying much as I did none at all in the past. I’m very excited about my ideas in progress. They are a culmination of seeds long ago planted, and I can’t wait to tend to them.

Deciding on my project was a tug-of-war. The truth is, I can’t see an outlet for it. But believe it or not, that’s what made me truly press ahead with this idea and not another one. There’s no pressure to perform! There’s just fun and exploration! It’s an idea with themes, characters and conventions that are important to me, so I’m going to honor that inspiration and just write.

This has been the root of my most consistent acts of self-sabotage: worrying about the audience and the next steps instead of being true to my own ideas. Who’s gonna read it? Where might it go?

It doesn’t matter. I’m gonna read it and it’s going on the page.

Getting free is goodness. What’s holding you back? What small thing can you do today to set yourself free?

To #NaNoWriMo or Not to #NaNoWriMo

Personal Narrative

It’s been a couple of years since my first and only participation in National Novel Writing Month. Despite my reticence of previous years, I found it a great experience and I was very glad I tried it.

Last year this time, I thought I’d try it again, but the beginning of #NaNoWriMo happened while I was on a honeymoon. Who knew two people could sleep so much when relaxing on a boat!? Suffice to say, I was focused on other things and could never really get my mind on starting or continuing work on anything major last fall.

So here we are.

I think I’m in, but I’m not positive. In a few short weeks, I’ll be undergoing a surgical procedure. I’ve never been under general anesthesia. I’ve never even had a broken bone. I simply have no idea what to expect (and I do know anything is possible). For sure I’ll be completely out of commission for a few days, and then managing pain for an undetermined length of time after that. What effect will this have on my writing momentum? What about the fog of painkillers? What about the energy required for healing? It’s all a guess.

But as I type this, I feel a sense of rebellion against the “play it safe” stance I’d normally take. I don’t want to be deterred from starting, just because the finish looks so uncertain.

So that’s that.

I’m in for #NaNoWriMo this year. My month might be more like two weeks, but no matter what, starting is the first victory.

Are you in?

Nic and Blue on an excursion during our honeymoon cruise.
Me and Blue on an excursion during our honeymoon cruise.

Getting Free

Personal Narrative

It’s such an amazing feeling – freedom. Freedom from my own thoughts of limitation. Freedom from an old path. Freedom from what no longer serves me.

I’ve felt this freedom in recent days, swelling in a joyful crescendo this evening. To celebrate and reaffirm my recent decisions, I started tossing and recycling items long outdated. Tomorrow I get to cart them away.

There’s new space in my garage where anchors used to be. There’s new energy and mental clarity where there was once clutter and dread. It’s wonderful.

Embracing my true self.
Embracing my true self.

Even an individual at cross purposes with himself is certain to end in failure. Yet a hundred or even a thousand people can definitely attain their goal, if they are of one mind. ~Nichiren

Although many quote this passage from Many in Body, One in Mind to highlight the second half, I reference it most often for the first. More than once, I’ve found myself wavering about a decision. I have clear thoughts about where I want to go, but take steps at cross purposes with my own desires. It’s like stepping on the gas and the brake the at same time. You don’t go anywhere, and if you do, it’s a jerky, unpleasant experience.

It’s liberating to choose life over fear. Now it’s time to be who I’ve always said I wanted to be… 

New Moon, New Start

Personal Narrative

It’s been a long time. I shouldn’t have left you…

Keep going if you know the words. Meanwhile, I’ll just bob my head and smile. It has been a while. And since I’ve last appeared in this space, I’ve been out and about in the world collecting experiences. My most recent one was a glorious trip to Sesimbra, Portugal with my cousins. I may write more about that later.

brown beauties in portugal
Brown beauties in Portugal.

Today I’m dusting off the blog to say hello. It’s fall in the western hemisphere and it’s a new moon. And y’all know I love a good reason any reason for a fresh start. After this hiatus, I’ve got a lot on my mind. Some of it I’ll share here, but other things I may share in two new spaces currently under development. Every few years I reimagine my online identities and now feels like a good time to allow some things to stand on their own.

We’ll see.

In the short term, I just wanted to tap the mic, say hello, and welcome you back to the studio. coco’s brewing…

On Mission

Productivity

You will not find your mission by standing still. The only way to find it is by challenging yourself in something – I would almost say it does not matter what. Then by making consistent effort, the direction you should take will open up before you quite naturally, just as wide, new horizons open up before someone walking up a hill. Little by little you will come to understand your mission. That is why it is so important to have the courage to ask yourself what it is that you should really be doing right now, at this very moment.

It is likewise important to set your sights high. The greater the tasks you chose to take on – one step at a time – the more rewarding and joyful your life will be. A person with a strong sense of mission is a source of light. For such a person, there is no darkness in the world.

– A Sense of Purpose in A Piece of Mirror by Daisaku Ikeda

Departing Aspen, the view from my airplane window.
Departing Aspen, the view from my airplane window.

Two days after my 41st birthday, I ventured to Aspen, Colorado. I had never visited the state, nor participated in a Socratic seminar. Most of the texts we digested in preparation for the week-long session were “classics,” yet foreign to me for one reason or another. In more ways than one, the experience was an education.

Although I wrote primarily of the texts and our conversations around them, I also made heartfelt connections. Several of the women stand out, and two of them left me with words of encouragement related to mission. I spoke with them separately and about very different things, yet their guidance was quite similar. Although I “know” what they shared, it was a warm nudge and a great reminder to take action. Do the work, don’t just think about it, or wonder about it. Don’t just dream it. Live it.

If you discover an idea in a moment of inspiration, that’s your story to tell. Tell it! ~Stevie Kallos

Hermana, we are in this world together to create the opportunities that matter. ~Lisette Nieves

In short we all have something to contribute – something to do. Not only that, we don’t have to walk that road alone. Allies are nearby if we are open to them.

So it’s Monday, which is a great day for beginnings. It’s time to get moving. What is your work? How will you be productive this month, this week, this day?


Here’s the round up from the series:

  • The Aspen Seminar. Things get underway this evening and I plan to document my experiences while I’m here.
  • Opening. We just concluded the opening session of the seminar. We’ll be here another six days so there’s a lot in store.
  • First Full Day. Today’s session was on human nature. Our readings included Aristotle, Hobbs and Darwin.
  • Toklat. Today’s readings investigated individual rights and liberty.
  • Three Poisons. In Nichiren Buddhism, the three poisons are greed, anger and foolishness.
  • Over the Hump. Our morning focus was equality and social welfare. Notably today also featured poetry, fiction and writings from women.
  • Antigone. Perhaps the highlight of the day was our late afternoon performance of Antigone.
  • Leading from Within. Today was the closing session of the Aspen Seminar.

6 to go

Personal Narrative

I’ve been 40 for six months! Yesterday was my half birthday.

We have to blame Sojo and Sam for this whole half birthday thing. They are the ones who introduced me to the concept, and it took a few years before I actually paid attention to the calendar and remembered my own. But this year, finally, I did, and so happy half birthday to me!

Some days it seems I haven’t accomplished much this year, but as I sit and reflect, I have to admit that’s impatience talking.

I’ve gotten new opportunities at work and landed some interesting freelance contracts. I’ve made strides in my creative projects and midway between my birthday and my half birthday…

Me and Blue in NYC at an impromptu engagement party.
Me and Blue in NYC at an impromptu engagement party.

I got engaged. *shimmies*

It’s been a fun year thus far. My only regret is not documenting more of it. I’ve been writing morning pages and journaling semi-regularly, but I can do more to record this chapter of my life. In anticipation of the next six months, I plan to write a letter to myself to arrive on my 41st birthday.

There’s always a balance to strike between living life and writing about it, but inspired by Pearl Cleage’s work, I want to maintain the one, increase the other, and enjoy the hell out of both.

Cheers to life and love and all that jazz. And happy (half) birthday to me!