I’m giving up fear for Lent

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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.

 

 

An Introvert at Burning Man

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Dust storms. Non-stop music thumping inside my ears. Flashing, glowing, throbbing neon lights. So much light I can’t see the stars, even though we’re in the high desert where the skies should be black and clear. Hot sunlight bouncing off the white playa and slapping my eyes. The press of sweating, laughing, talking, dancing people all around me. Black Rock City: the city that beats Vegas in an insomnia contest.

What the hell am I doing here?

I came to Burning Man for the art and to see friends. The city is art, a temporary but living work of creative power. 70,000 people come together to build a city out of imagination and hard work. And then after a week, the city vanishes. There is nothing like it anywhere, and I wanted to walk the streets and experience all that raw creativity for myself. Maybe I’d take a little bit back with me.

But the constant press of noise and activity exhausted me. I longed for silence in a place where silence had been driven away. People come to Black Rock City to party and my desire for solitude was ridiculous. My camp mates were dear friends and I loved being with them, but I needed a little bit of calm. So I hunted for it.

On my first night, I found quiet at a saki bar. It was still filled with noisy partiers, but there’s something about warm saki on a chilly desert night that felt peaceful. The servers were cheerful and the other patrons relaxed. We were there to take a break from the chaos for a minute. A smiling Buddha statue above the bar gazed across the rollicking playa. It was the perfect stop to begin my plunge into the City.

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Throughout the city there are small, almost hidden, places of quiet. Not solitude, but quiet. I discovered tea houses where people could hide from the sun and wash the taste of dust from their mouths. A steam bath where you could  replenish your dried out skin. A wine bar in the back of a camp that served Pinot Noir under an awning covered in cooling tapestries. Small pieces of art scattered upon the playa that were just as beautiful as the larger installations, but attracted fewer people.

And then there was the Temple. It was always packed with people , but felt comforting. People spoke quietly, meditated, cried, and shared their grief. All along the walls and altars were tokens of love for people who had died. I stood with a crowd and silently cried, feeling the weight of a thousand broken hearts. But the weight didn’t crush me. Crying with everyone else felt less tragic than crying all alone in my room at home. We all grieve. We all struggle. The Temple is where we can give that grief away and find compassion.

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Of course I made a pilgrimage to Medusa. I kissed her metal lips and thanked her for her inspiration. I sprinkled her with a little water, more precious than perfume in the desert, and asked for her continued help as I rebuilt my struggling press. She shot fire from her snake hair. I wonder if that was a blessing or a curse?

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On the night “The Man Burned,” I chose to watch the spectacle from the third story of a camp a mile from the action. Standing on the platform surrounded by friends with the wind blowing dust across my face, I felt happy. Below us, the crush of 50,000 people pushed against the fires and filled the playa with beautiful chaos. I didn’t need to be down in it.

That’s the secret to surviving Burning Man as an introvert. Black Rock City is mainly built for and by extroverts. It stimulates every sense and pushes it to the extreme. Your skin will burn and crack, your eyes will sting, your ears will throb and your heart beat will triple. Your emotions will be manipulated and you’ll want to scream from joy and overexcitement all at once. Extroverts drop after a couple of days, completely exhausted. Introverts may want to drop after a few hours. My advice is to embrace your need for quiet and seek it. Stay out of the middle of the parties and crowds. The entire place is one giant party. Sipping tea in camp while watching a thousand bicycles race by is perfectly acceptable. When you’re ready, join the parade. Then jump out again.

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The city has a strange magic. I’ve found exactly what I needed when I needed it. On one night after walking miles with friends exploring art, I became bone weary. Introverts know the kind of tired I’m talking about. It’s not a physical exhaustion, it’s spiritual. I said goodnight to my friends who were planning to party til sunrise and hiked back to my camp. While dodging racing bicycles, I passed one camp and I heard the beginnings of “Dark  Side of the Moon.” The camp was quiet with a few people lounging or sleeping on couches. One couch was in a quiet corner and I sat down. I listened to the low music and looked out across the open playa where art cars cruised and people danced. Lights blinked and strobed against the blackness and I saw flames break the dark like lightning. I suspect the others in the camp were high while listening to Pink Floyd. I didn’t have to be. That’s a great thing about being an introvert: I don’t need drugs to get high. The beauty of the city and the soft music was all I needed.

 

 

In my own world, writing

Blogging? What’s that. Right now I am immersed in my own, silent writing. I’m hidden away in a world I’ve created through language and ink. It takes focus and dedication to create this world, so I don’t want to wander away for even a brief moment. If I do, I might lose my way. After months of false starts and ideas, I’ve found the path through my own little forest of creativity. Writing it down is like following a candle’s flame in the distance; keep the light in sight and you won’t get lost.

Occasionally I need to trust I’ll find my way again and leave my own world. The real world with all its problems and joys grabs my attention. It’s a tricky balance: imagination and practicality. I need to stay grounded and aware of life, while at the same time protect solitude so I can write. I don’t want to tune out reality so much that I lose touch with time. But I also don’t want to get bogged down in bills and politics so much my imagination suffers. My awareness is juggling intuition. I write, therefore I am.

Because time to write is such a struggle, I tend to hang on to that state of mind with all my might. Nooooooo… I don’t want to pick up my daughter from school or return a phone call or wash another towel. I want to lock myself in my room and write. I’m a mother and a wife and a dog owner and I have a garden. I love my family, but just like all moms, I tend to give them all too much. So I cling to writing as if it’s the only thing that’s really mine.

When I’m engrossed in writing my book, I don’t blog. I know we’re “supposed” to; gotta keep building that audience and platform, the experts say. But when writing time is fleeting, it’s hard to care. I just want to write; let my readers find me on their own.

My own writing world is calling. Time to chase that candle flame again.

Goodbye David Bowie. I will always love your music.

Christine and I were best friends our freshman year in high school, and one day she played a David Bowie record for me. Of course I knew who David Bowie was, who hadn’t heard his music in 1982? But I had never actually listened to his music until that day when I was 15, lying on the floor of my friend’s bedroom. Her room was decorated with Bowie posters and she explained why she loved him so much. After then, I did too.

Here is one song I fell in love with. His voice is brilliant.

Before then, I knew David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust, a bewitching gender-bending artist I listened to as a kid in the 1970’s.

David Bowie’s artistry, voice, creativity and innovation earned my respect. He stood by his work and continued to push the boundaries of art, gender, and music. Never one to just settle on his laurels and make cash, as some musicians do when they reach a certain level of “legend,” David Bowie continued to create art. He was one of the greatest artists of the 20th and early 21st Centuries.

Thank you Mr. Bowie for sharing your genius. And thank you Christine for sharing his music with me.

I wish you had more time, David Bowie. Imagine what you could have created.

I hate cancer.

New Orleans at Mardi Gras is a Southern Gothic Tale in Technicolor

from Krew of Muses gallery

Why is New Orleans so beautiful? Because the city is unique, fascinating, tragic, dramatic, eccentric, violent, happy, upbeat, decrepit and alive. There isn’t a street in that entire city that doesn’t tell a story. The people who live there take pride in those stories, and want to tell their own. Hell, they’ll go out of their way to make their own, the more fantastic the better. Music is a part of life and the food is all their own. The people of New Orleans know how to live while staring death in the face.

And oh my does that city know how to party! I spent my first Mardi Gras season in the French Quarter last week and came home hungover, dehydrated, exhausted and with a fat lip from getting hit in the face with a bag of beads thrown from a Bacchus float. Translation: I had one of the best times of my whole life.

Krew of Muses

The parades alone are worth the 2000 mile trip. The floats are decked out in brilliant colors and manned by Krew members who throw jewel colored beads into the crowd. My favorite was Muses, which is a more bohemian parade. The Krew of Muses is one of the newest Krew’s in town, but their gorgeous floats and fun marching bands have become a City favorite. Bacchus is an older, traditional Krew, and their floats are monstrous! Trailers pull gigantic floats depicting children’s literature, such as Harry Potter and Where the Wild Things Are. The music in the parades is performed by high school and college marching bands, and those kids can rock. Even at the end of the five mile parade route, the drums still pounded and the horns shook the ground we stood on.

The French Quarter is a mix of beauty and filth. Bourbon street is a mess, packed shoulder to shoulder with young, sex starved drunks hunting for beads. It made me think of Spring Break with an open bar. Not my scene at all, but the people watching was fantastic. I liked the side streets and neighborhoods off the Quarter where locals like to celebrate. Costumes and masks were the preferred attire, otherwise people liked to go mostly naked.

Bourbon Street

My husband is from New Orleans. We’ve planned to go for years, but circumstance and money kept stopping us. But this year we said “screw it” and bought our hotel room and flights. It’s one of those things you have to do, even if you think you can’t afford it. Adventure is important, and the beauty of New Orleans showing off her splendor is worth the price. She is proud of her Krews and music and food and happy to share it with you. She’ll also scam you out of your last dime so keep a hand on your wallet. New Orleans isn’t a polite princess waiting for you to dote on her; she is a Queen looking for a good time and someone to party with. Life and Death walk hand in hand, and if you say hello, one of them will buy you a drink.

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.