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"Your life is not a problem to be solved but a gift to be opened." ~ Wayne Muller

Unpacking Your Creative Life: Find Your Lost Boxes

Painted box

After giving birth to my first child, I turned away from my creative life. A brand new mother with a screaming colicky baby, I had no time, or brain power, to write the way I once did. Time passed, and what began as a necessity turned into a habit.

It happens to all of us, doesn’t it? Life gets messy and we pack away the wild, vital pieces of ourselves in order to tend to the crisis at hand. But sometimes, after it passes, we forget to go back. The boxes remain sealed, gathering dust.

This month long series, Unpacking Your Creative Life, will get you back on the page in four simple steps:

  1. Find your lost boxes
  2. Open and organize
  3. Tap into your creativity
  4. Share and reach out

Maybe it’s been months or years since you wrote. Perhaps you never had a chance to begin, but you’re finally feeling brave enough to try. You’re in the right place.

I remember when my daughter was about a year old, I finally emerged from my baby fog, shaky and disoriented. After many false starts with stories and essays, I decided to try writing a young adult novel.

Don’t smack me, but for some reason I thought it would be easier than writing for grown ups. Turns out I was wrong. I sent a few chapters to an editor friend and she was kind, but honest. Overwhelmed by how much work my story needed, I gave up.

In retrospect, I think I was trying to sneak back in. I wanted to take a side door and pop through the other side a writer again. But writing is hard work. It takes persistence and dedication, no matter your audience or genre.

What I needed first was to reconnect to my love of writing. I needed to remember, in my body, in my bones, what that passion felt like.

A couple years and a new baby later, I signed up for a local writing conference on a whim. After two days of panels, editor Q&A’s, and agent meetings, I was electrified. Though I didn’t know anyone there, I felt a kinship with the hundreds of other writers, all of us coming together for the same reason. Something shifted inside me right then and there, and I returned home invigorated and ready to try again.

Attending a conference is just one option. Here are five other ways to dig into the roots of your writing life:

Go to author readings

Listening to writers you admire read their work and answer questions is inspiring. Also, since they’re often held in bookstores and libraries you’ll be in good company surrounded by fellow book lovers.

Home school yourself

Read a book about craft. There are plenty to choose from (see below for suggestions). Listen to writing podcasts or subscribe to blogs with positive and affirming messages, like this one!

Sign up for a writing class

Libraries and bookstores often offer classes for free or at reasonable prices. You can also check community colleges, or if you’d rather not leave the comfort of your home, look online. Stay tuned to this space for news of the upcoming TGOW Write your Story class, to be launched this fall.

Join a writing group

Make sure you find people who are at a similar level, or just a step above so you feel supported and not diminished. If you can’t find one, consider starting your own! It could be as simple as a Facebook group, or meeting up with a few writer friends at a café.

Go back to the beginning

Think about what books sparked your love of stories and reread them. Grab a highlighter and underline your favorite passages or jot them down in a notebook. Pull out your old journals and, with kindness, honor the person you once were.

No need to limit yourself to words. Music, art, and nature can also jumpstart inspiration and nurture creativity. Writing isn’t just about sitting at a desk with a computer; it’s about observing and exploring, both the internal and external world. Go for a hike in the woods or stroll along the ocean, see a concert or an art exhibit.

Open up your creative line. Listen for the hum. Tune in. Take notes.

Creativity is like a muscle that strengthens and expands with use. Take it slow at first and be gentle with yourself. It takes time to warm up, to find your way back.

 

What are some of the reasons you’ve put your writing aside, either currently or in your past? Share in the comments.

In Part 2, it’s time to open up those dusty boxes and get organized. Cast out what no longer serves you, and then get ready to create new routines and rituals to keep your creativity alight.

 

*A few of my favorite writing books: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott (wise and nurturing), Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes (dense but magical), The War of Art by Steven Pressfield (a writer’s boot camp), On Writing by Stephen King (anecdotal and practical).

Right Now We Need to Cling to Hope

flickr.comphotostakasuii14888790063

It was early morning when my mother called. I had just sat down at my desk with a freshly made cup of chai rooibos tea, already lethargic from the rising heat of the day.

She asked me if I’d heard about the shootings in Tunisia two days earlier.

My mind raced over the last few days, trying to remember if I had done my due diligence in keeping up with world events. There are so many to keep up with nowadays.

I felt bad for saying that I knew nothing. And she proceeded to tell me about the ISIS shooting on a beach in the popular North African vacation spot among Europeans.

38 people dead. Just as many critically injured.

One minute they were languishing in the sun, the next they were gone.

She told me about the 16-year-old boy who saw his parents and grandparents gunned down, and the man who was shot three times as he shielded his fiancée from a torrent of bullets. As I listened to her and clicked through sites that showed bloodied images of books and sandals buried in sand, I thought, how do we even begin to pray? How do we digest? What do we do?« Continue »

What to Do When Your Heart Doesn’t Know What it Wants

Sharron Angle quote

When I put my pen to paper and keep the pen moving, somehow or other, my heart shows up. What are you called to do with your life? This question keeps me up at night. For most of my grown-up life, I’ve tried to figure out what it is that I’m supposed to be. At 23, […]

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Why Men Benefit More from Journaling than Women

A young man is sitting on an old sofa and is writing in a notebook

“Often as writers, we are surprised by what we learn about ourselves. It runs counter to what we’ve thought about who we are. But it is closer to the truth.” ― Rob Bignell Calling all guys: do you journal? I’m guessing the majority answer is “no.” And for some it might even be accompanied by an “are you […]

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