I’m giving up fear for Lent

theparisreview1

image from Tin House

Hidden away in a large plastic bin are years of my writing; poems, plays, short stories, articles, essays… even a finished book-length manuscript. Why are they stored in a bin and buried in my bedroom?

Because I am terrified of rejection.

I used to send my work out, but after twenty-five rejection letters I quit. I couldn’t take the disappointment and depression any more. Every rejection felt like a rejection of me, not my writing. I was the loser who poured her soul into every word only to have all that work stomped on by a heartless editor. My writing was worthless, therefore I was worthless.

My ego became intertwined with my writing. How can it not? Writing comes from the heart; it makes you vulnerable. You have to open a vein into your inner core and let the creativity pour out. No wonder every rejection letter felt like a rejection of my soul. I was just another girl who thought she could write like the millions of others who think they can write. I’m not special. I don’t matter and neither does my writing.

Vulnerability turned to depression and depression became fear. Never wanting to feel that much misery again, I put my writing in a plastic bin and shoved it behind my bed.

The other day, someone asked me what I was giving up for Lent. Not being a Christian, I just shrugged and said, “candy.” But what actually is Lent? And why should you give something up to celebrate?

According to The Upper Room, Lent is the season of the Christian year when Christians focus on simple living, fasting and prayer to grow closer to God. For 40 days, the length of time Jesus wandered in the desert alone, Christians let go of material things and focus on their spirit. For this ritual to work you have to give up something you really love, or are really attached to.

I am absolutely attached to fear. Perhaps this is a blasphemous way of observing a holy tradition, but as I said, I’m not Christian. However, I do believe ritual and symbols are important and that reconnecting to our sense of spirit is vital. Making a commitment to something greater than ourselves makes us better humans. Some people find that in religion. I find it in creativity.

For the next forty days I will submit my writing. Every day, I will send one piece of my work out into the world and will not think about whether or not it is accepted. Acceptance isn’t the goal, getting over fear is. And I will do this in the spirit of Lent. I am letting go of ego and sharing my work with anyone who may find it beneficial. I am strengthening my creativity and weakening the inner critic who tells me I’m worthless. And if I get 40 rejections, so be it. I’ll decoupage them and make a gorgeous collage.

 

 

A Pornographic Elastic Heart?

First, watch this video

Then tell me, what is it about?

Is it truly pornographic?

There are so many stories portrayed in this one dance piece, which is why I love dance so much. The movement of an arm and the twirl of a head can shout a hundred words in an instant. In this video, I see a father and daughter trapped by expectation and patriarchy, fighting each other for understanding. The father is hoping to tame his daughter so she stays with him and does what he needs her to. The daughter is trying to break him down, destroy him if need be, so they can both be free. That’s just one story.

Another story is a man fighting his inner demon. If he can only tame it, he’ll have peace. But at the end, even when demon is calmed, the man is still trapped. The grief on his face is heartbreaking.

It’s sad that the only thing so many people can see is a man in skin colored trunks trying to seduce a little girl. Is it the color of his trunks, or her tunic, or that he’s a grown man in a cage with a child? I agree, all of those things could make you uncomfortable, but is it impossible to see beyond the visual and give the art a chance?

The Elastic Heart video is brilliant because it is complex, daring, and controversial. It tells a story we can all feel, while challenging us to feel more.

Art requires fearlessness, not just from the artist, but also from the person experiencing the art. Break out of your comfort zone a little bit and you’ll be amazed by what you’ll discover.

If you want to achieve greatness, stop asking for permission

This is an image and quote from Eddie Colla. For more information, go to his webiste

Eddie Colla’s image is on my laptop as a reminder. I spend so much time doubting myself. Making excuses. If only I had the time, resources, money… What do I know? I don’t even have an MFA.

Enough.

Time to accept the truth that I am hiding behind poor self esteem and the only way to gain confidence is to try. I have a lot of knowledge and experience in publishing, editing and writing and it is time to trust myself. And so, I am actively seeking more editing clients as well as people who need a book shepherd. Plus, I’m collaborating with two other writing professionals to create something exciting that should help struggling writers. I’m looking for more teaching and speaking engagements. And I’m finally publishing my book on creating a publishing company. How ridiculous to write a book on self-publishing and then not publish it!

I’m never going to get over my insecurities and shyness, so I might as well accept that fact and go for it. I feel… no… I know I have the ability to help others.

So, what’s stopping you? What are you afraid of? Why are you hiding your own, unique and wonderful voice? Like I said, the fear doesn’t go away, but it gets easier to ignore.

Protests, Riots and Creativity

image by “Mighty” Mike McGee http://www.mikemcgee.net

I have been glued to Twitter all week, reading real-time updates from protesters all over the country. The killing of Eric Garner and the decision of the grand jury not to prosecute the officer who killed him has sparked a wildfire of rage and frustration. Most of that anger has been seen in the protests, and too many people calling themselves protesters have turned those actions into riots.

But many people have transformed their frustration into art. For example…

This song by Rising Sun All Stars  https://risingsunallstars.bandcamp.com

This spoken word poem by Tia Nache Yarbrough

This performance piece in New York’s Times Square

This image   http://heartacheandpaint.com/I-Can-t-Breathe

image by Damon Davis

image by Damon Davis

 

And this one  https://lockerdome.com/6272859261640513/6865575687363604

And this    https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7558/15331991803_36bc4215c1_b.jpg

artist unknown. please help me identify to give proper credit

Creativity is a force that can heal, scream, question, destroy and unite. Creativity can open minds and change the world.

Art has power. How will you use it?

“Dancing with the Stars” is the greatest dance porn since “Dirty Dancing.”

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It’s a new season on Dancing With The Stars, which means I am once again obsessing over Cheryl Burke, Valentin Chmerkovsky, Mark Ballas and Karina Smirnoff. I’m watching fierce dance routines and booing the judges as if ballroom dance was a football game. The “stars” don’t matter to me (how many “reality stars” are there on TV?). I love the Pros, the dancers who train, teach, choreograph, plot and scheme their way to the mirror ball. Why do I love this world of spray tan, fake eyelashes and glitter so much? Because Dancing With The Stars is the greatest dance porn since Dirty Dancing, and I love dance porn.

I admit I’m a little embarrassed by my obsession. I’m an intellectual feminist with a Master’s Degree and a publishing company. But here I am, every tuesday morning (I don’t have cable, so I have to watch it online,) applauding Emma Slater’s creative choreography. In the middle of the night, I’m scouring Twitter for #DWTS comments. I become frustrated that I can’t vote because I’m watching it the day after, and I know exactly how it feels to have to TiVO a basketball game because you couldn’t watch it live, and then have someone tell you who won.

Dancing with the Stars is my escape from the chaotic, stressful, overly-serious world I live in. It feeds my inner child who longs to be a ballerina. When I was little, I was obsessed with ballet and longed to be a dancer more than anything in the world, but we lived in Lake County, California, far away from any dance classes. So I practiced plies’ in my room while studying a book on basic ballet positions, eventually screwing up my knees. The love of dance never left me and I was finally able to take my first class in college at the age of 19. I danced in a troupe for five years and loved every minute of it, even choreographing three productions. Later, I choreographed two shows for children. Yet again, I live in a town with limited dance opportunities, and being a mom keeps me home. I channel my longing to dance into my writing and publishing, but the desire has never left. I’m too old to be a ballerina, but I know I would be awesome at Tango. All I need is a teacher.

Every day at 4:30, I dance to electronic music on Pandora. Dancing is how I de-stress. At the end of my work day, right before I switch into my mommy day, I shake my ass as fast as I can in my kitchen. My daughter thinks I’m crazy, but sometimes she’ll join in. Occasionally, a Tango rhythm will come on and I’ll pretend that I’m dancing with Maksim Chmerkovsky (and that man can dance a tango!).

We forget to play when we grow up, and before we know it the burdens of life drag us down like quicksand. It seems we only remember to be silly when we’re on vacation, or drunk. Why not do something ridiculous every day, like Tweeting about #DWTS or dancing for 30 minutes in your kitchen? Ridiculous is good for you. Silly lightens the load. Just ask any 10 year old practicing ballet moves all alone in her room. What is better than dance to make you feel alive?

Permission to Rest

When was the last time you gave yourself permission to rest? I mean lie on the couch with a good book kind of rest. Or take a leisurely walk with no particular destination in mind, without the dog, kind of rest. If you’re a parent, the “slow days of summer” is a myth, one you wish you had the time and money to live in. But now the kids are back in school, the days are still hot, the sun still bright, and the garden is bursting with produce. Before you roll up your sleeves to vacuum the last of the sand out of the mini-van, think about what rest means to you.

For me, rest is stopping all outgoing energy, including creative energy. Trying to care for my daughter while writing two books and editing another, running Medusa’s Muse, and marketing books, all while injured, was crazy making. I resented my daughter at home all the time, resented the heat that kept us in the house most of the time, resented the hours spent trying to manage the everyday chaos of home and family. My lap top sat idle, my stress load increased, and my sense of claustrophobia got so bad I started throwing out every book and knick-knack in my bedroom (throwing out books? unheard of!).

While grabbing one precious hour of writing time at the cafe, I opened my lap top and heard a loud “crack”. The hinge on my computer had snapped. Carefully I tried propping the screen up, but it kept slipping backwards. I wanted to cry. My husband, a computer tech, examined it and pronounced it unfixable. My most important tool and toy had just died.

Without money to buy a new laptop, I was forced to stop working. No more editing or blogging or revisions for me. But a funny thing happened while I was being depressed, I also felt a surprising sense of relief. Writing was impossible for several weeks, so during that time I found art projects to do with my daughter, read one of the books I’d been longing to start but had “no time,” and nurtured my pumpkin patch. My heart rate slowed and the tension in my neck relaxed. All of my self-imposed deadlines fell away.

Once I had the cash, I bought a new laptop. My daughter started the 12th grade. My days were still busy, but I had the ability to concentrate on writing again. Claustrophobia was replaced with an opened mind filled with fresh ideas.

We artists spend all of our energy on our art; even when we’re taking care of our children or working at our jobs, more than half of our brain power is spent imagining new ways to create. Rest for me is not simply about relaxing my body, I also need to relax my mind and let go of the need to keep writing. The world will not end if I’m unable to write a new play by Christmas. At least I hope not.

And I gotta say, I am madly in love with my new MacBook Air.