Deleted Scene from The Space Between Time

April Morning Rose

April Morning Rose

“For where all love is, the speaking is unnecessary.” ~ Diana Gabaldon, Outlander

“When I look at my life and the lives of my female friends these days – with our dizzying number of opportunities and talents – I sometimes feel as though we are all mice in a giant experimental maze, scurrying around frantically, trying to find our way through.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

In celebration of the fact that I have now finished another round of revisions of The Space Between Time, I thought I’d post a small section that I liked but had to remove because it no longer fit. I got this idea from Diana Gabaldon, the author of the Outlander books. I follow her on Facebook and every once in a while she will post a small segment of the book she’s working on, or maybe from one of her previously published books. I think it’s fun to read the snippets and try to figure out the rest of the plot from that one little section.

To set this up, Jenna Holden has recently suffered several losses. Her fiancé, Sam, broke off their engagement on the same day that her mother died. She lost her job and suffers other threats to her happiness, but one ray of hope is Miles Jackson (Jack) Spade, a detective in her hometown. He comes along just as Jenna is beginning to put her life back together. So here goes. I hope you enjoy this little section.

 

Seeing the distress on Jenna’s face, Jack hugged her and said, “I can tell you they’ve had a hard time finding anybody who believes you are guilty and I’m not sure the evidence jives either. Then the incident with your car threw them for a loop. They’re tight lipped but they were very interested in our suspect. The captain offered to help them. They, of course, gave the usual, we’ll-call-you-if-we-need-you response. One good thing, the captain doesn’t see anything wrong with my continuing to see you. That is if you want to.” The look on his face was one of boyish hope.

Jenna smiled, “Sure, if you don’t mind dating a suspect. I’m getting to like you Detective Spade.”

A big smile spread across Jack’s face, “And I you, Miss Holden.”

“Now let me finish getting ready. Have a seat. I’ll hurry.” Her hair was still wet from her shower and she was only dressed in her robe.

“Oh just throw on some jeans. We can have dinner at my place, if that’s okay. I’d like to cook and have an intimate dinner with you.”

“I’d love that.” She gave him a peck on his mouth and ran upstairs. When she came down in her old jeans and a T-shirt that read, “Save the Spotted Owl,” she put her hand on her hip as if she were walking the runway at a fashion show.

Jack laughed, “You look great. Love the T-shirt. Do you like Mexican?”

“Love it,” she said.

“Good. I make great chicken enchiladas.”

Jack and Sam were complete opposites. With Sam she had to look like a fashion plate at all times. Jack cared more about who she was inside rather than her outward appearance. It felt good to know she didn’t have to play a part to be with Jack.

“You’re beautiful.” he said, reaching out to brush her face with a finger, sending shivers down her spine.

 

Who can resist a man who cooks? I hope you enjoyed that little teaser.

Thanks for reading. Have a meaningful Memorial Day weekend remembering the loved ones who have passed. Their love lives on.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

How Writing Is Like Life

April Morning Rose

April Morning Rose

“That’s why I write, because life never works except in retrospect. You can’t control life, at least you can control your version.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk, Stranger than Fiction

“I have spent a good many years since – too many, I think – being ashamed about what I write. I think I was forty before I realized that almost every writer of fiction or poetry who has ever published a line has been accused by someone of wasting his or her God-given talent. If you write (or paint or dance or sculpt or sing, I suppose), someone will try to make you feel lousy about it, that’s all.” ~ Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

“If something inside of you is real, we will probably find it interesting, and it will probably be universal. So you must risk placing real emotion at the center of your work. Write straight into the emotional center of things. Write toward vulnerability. Risk being unliked. Tell the truth as you understand it. If you’re a writer you have a moral obligation to do this. And it is a revolutionary act – truth is always subversive.” ~ Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Today I’m feeling reflective. I finished yet another round of revisions to my novel, The Space Between Time. I’ve been working on it for six years this summer, more if you count the months I spent on it in 1999 when I first began writing it.

Eight years ago when I quit teaching to write full-time, the first thing I did was take a writing course. I wanted to be a writer, but I lacked experience. My degrees are in religious studies and theatre not creative writing. But I felt drawn to writing so I took the course to help get me started. I nearly quit after that course.The instructor said that my writing was guarded. She suspected there was deep feeling behind what I had written but I needed to strip away the layers and get down to the raw emotions that I was trying to express. After I recovered from my hurt feelings, I made that my goal. I reminded myself what I told my students, that it takes time to learn a new skill. After all they didn’t learn to walk the first time they got up on their feet. So, I did as I had told them, I began writing every day. That was the only way I was going to be able to peel away the layers.

Over the years I’ve come to discover that my writing was guarded, because I had spent a lifetime hiding my true feelings. It wasn’t that I didn’t have deep emotions, quite the contrary. It was that for the most part, I didn’t express them. However during a particularly painful time in my life, I used journaling as a way to heal. Three years ago when I began this blog it was another attempt to become more vulnerable in both my writing and in my personal life.

Many years ago, Mary Manin Morrissey, said something in one of her sermons that has been of great comfort to me. Life is like a spiral. When something happens to us we do the most healing we can in the time period right after the incident. Then at some point, the issue will circle back around and we get a chance to do more healing work. The problem, or wound, will continue to circle around until we’ve completed the work. We get many chances to improve our lives when whatever it is we’re working on comes back around. Writing is like that. We write the first draft, but the work is not finished. We must allow the characters and story to circle back through our consciousness so we can see new facets, deeper emotions and nuances of motivations. That’s why revising is so important.

During this latest round of revisions, I have finally allowing my characters to make mistakes, be vulnerable, to feel pain, be confused, and to not know how to find their way. I think I still have a way to go before they are well rounded and more like real human beings, but it feels good to be digging deeper into how they cope with their pain and their mistakes.

The thing I’m most grateful for about being a writer is that I’ve become more vulnerable. It’s helped me dismantle the walls I hid behind thinking that they would both protect me and keep me from making mistakes. Writing has helped me accept myself as a flawed human being who is just trying to figure out how to live and connect with those around me. It’s allowed me to learn through my characters and thus discover my own personal truth.

Like what Stephen King expresses in the above quote, sometimes I feel apologetic that it is taking so long to finish this book. However, I don’t feel like I’m wasting my God-given talent. And as the Anne Lamott quote states, I’m using my talent as God intended to write toward vulnerability and to tell the truth as I understand it. The way I, and all artists do that, is to plumb the depths of their humanity to bring some reflection of themselves to light. I think we need more people to do that and that’s why I’m proud and excited to be able to do this work.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to share with a friend or leave a comment.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

*Go Set A Watchman* – A Review

Go Set A Watchman Cover Art

Go Set A Watchman Cover Art

“One of the most powerful tools for transformation is the willingness to ask ourselves, ‘Could I be mistaken?’ “ ~ Marianne Williamson

“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; As I have loved you, That ye also love one another.” ~ John 13:34 The Bible

“Go and love someone exactly as they are. And then watch how quickly they transform into the greatest, truest version of themselves. When one feels seen and appreciated in their own essence, one is instantly empowered.” ~ Wes Angelozzi

This week’s post was going to be about a completely different subject. Well, not so different I suppose. I was going to comment on my feelings about politics, and not just the elections. Then last Friday morning I finished reading Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman and my plans changed.

When I began reading the book, even though I had tried not to, I was comparing it to To Kill A Mockingbird. Somehow I got through 12 years of school, college, and graduate school without ever having read the book. I’d seen the movie numerous times, but I didn’t read the book until about two or three years ago. When I read To Kill A Mockingbird it affected me on a very deep level. Few books have affected me that way. Go Set A Watchman is one I will be thinking about for many years to come.

When the book first came out, I’d read reviews about it. Some people condemned it for ruining their love of the character of Atticus Finch. I loved him too, because the way Gregory Peck portrayed him in the movie was very much like my own father. I wasn’t sure I wanted that image destroyed. Yet, other review comments intrigued me, so I bought the book. I’m glad I did.

One of the main themes is that often we worship one or both of our parents. We think they are perfect. It’s part of growing up to understand that human beings are complicated. Often we have to learn to love and accept our family and friends as they truly are, not as we wish them to be.

Jean Louise Finch finds out some things about her father that make her sick because they convince her that who she thought her father was is a lie. But as the events of the book move along, she learns that the new information she discovered is not quite right either. The point of view about everyone being equal that she learned from him was partly her own interpretation of who he was. Every human being is a mass of contradictions. Jean Louise and her father Atticus are no different.

Near the end of the book, Hank, a life long friend of Jean Louise’s says that he’s trying to get her to see past her father’s actions to his motivations. I was so struck by that statement, because that’s what my father used to try to get us to do. We can’t always know what is in another person’s heart, and sometimes appearances can be deceiving.

By the time I finished the last page, I was grateful for the courage Harper Lee demonstrated in writing the book. Through the events and characters I came to understand the nature of the extremely complicated relationships and long held beliefs many Southerns hold on to. Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, I had no idea how tangled the layers of not only race relations, but the staunch belief in states rights, the class system, and even the proper roles of the sexes are in the South. Then, of course, I realized that’s the truth for the entire country. The issues of race relations aren’t going to be healed until we are willing to take a new look at our long held attitudes about people who happen to be of a different race or social class than we are.

In my opinion, To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set A Watchman, are companion books and should be studied together. The first describes race relations and how Jean Louise’s father fits into that picture from a child’s point of view. In the second, she is shaken awake and must confront herself, her town and finally her father. When we grow up and realize our perceptions about our loved ones is incorrect, that’s the day we can learn to accept the flaws in ourselves and everyone else. In my opinion, we all need to do that on a personal and national level.

Relations among the races in this country is an unhealed wound. As my father used to say, you can’t legislate morality. Well you can’t pass laws that say all men are created equal and make people honor it either. It’s distressing to me because it seems whites have expanded racial hatred to include anyone who isn’t white. It seems that way only if you listen to the corporate media. There are rays of hope, but you have to be dedicated to finding them.

I’ve written this before, and I’ll emphasize it again, we’re at a crucial point in our country’s development. It’s time for us to grow up and acknowledge our mistakes and find ways to untangle the many threads that got us to where we are today so we can weave them into a beautiful pattern. That to me, is the theme of Go Set A Watchman. Those of us who are courageous enough must be the watchmen and stand up for caring for ALL people wherever and whenever we can in our day to day lives. If enough people do that, then we can truly become the melting pot we’ve been purported to be.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share any of my posts with friends.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

What If … Mary Wasn’t A Virgin?

Working Mom

Working Mom

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” ~ Albert Einstein

“Curiosity is one of the forms of feminine bravery.” ~ Victor Hugo

“So curiosity, I think, is a really important aspect of staying young or youthful.” ~ Goldie Hawn

Do you ever wonder what if thus and so were true about situations, belief systems, or circumstances? I do all the time. I wonder about all kinds of things from what we’re taught about history to religion to politics. Some of the things I wonder about are rather trivial, others can be controversial or upsetting. They are just my musings but my goal for asking such questions is to make myself, and hopefully you, take a fresh look at our belief systems.

One of my earliest what ifs I had as a child, was why was it so important for Mary to have been a virgin when she became pregnant with Jesus? I was raised in the church that Joseph Smith Jr. founded in 1830. A side note, in the late 1800’s the Supreme Court ruled that the church I grew up in was the original church and the Mormon church was an off-shoot.

Anyway, having written that, the doctrine of the church I grew up in was very much like Protestant Christian doctrine. The virgin birth was one of the tenants in our belief system. I have no idea why I questioned the whole virgin birth idea. It just didn’t make sense to me, even though as a child I didn’t have a full understanding about sex. I didn’t understand why Mary had to be a virgin to be the mother of Jesus. Why did that make a difference in who Jesus was? I didn’t come to a conclusion about that until many years later.

When I was a religious studies student, I learned that the word that was translated as “virgin” in the Bible, really should have been translated as “maiden”, which meant an unmarried woman. As far as I remember from my Old Testament class, the custom of the Jewish culture was for a couple to become betrothed, and have a kind of trial marriage. Sex in that culture was looked at very differently than in ours. It was possible for a betrothed couple to have sexual relations and not have any stigma attached to them. So, it could have been entirely possible that Mary and Joseph had made love and Jesus was the result. For some reason, I liked that idea.

If God is all powerful couldn’t he have brought the two people together who would produce the amazing miracle of Jesus? In my way of thinking, that’s just as much a miracle as if Mary were a “pure” virgin and God was Jesus only father. From there my thinking goes to my belief that each new life is a miracle and we are all created in the image of God. It’s just that we each have different “contracts”, as Caroline Myss calls them, for our time here on this earth. Just like puzzle pieces, we each have our part to play in the great pattern that is this life we’re living. And as humans we can’t possibly fathom what the big picture will be when the puzzle is finished, if it ever is.

From those ideas, my thoughts branch off to a theme that irritated the heck out of me while studying various religious doctrines, and still does to this day. Most doctrines were created by religious leaders to control their congregants. The male leaders wanted to keep their thumb on women in particular for reasons we could speculate about from now until dooms day. In any case, that was most likely the true origin of the story of the virgin birth. Sex makes women impure, or diminishes their spirituality in some way, even within the sanctity of marriage. (I’d like to slap the person who came up with that idea.) While within most religions, men, aren’t diminished in any way by sex, even if they participate in it before marriage, or any other act that would condemn a woman. How unfair is that!?

I could write volumes more, but I like to keep my posts short. My purpose for this essay was to express my belief that Jesus was a miracle no matter whether Mary was impregnated by God, or by Joseph. And I could go on to argue that he is a much more interesting figure to me as an historical person who became enlightened rather than a divine being that is too far above me to be able to emulate. I like the idea that he showed us how to become enlightened ourselves if we so choose to do so. But that’s a post for another time.

I had fun expressing ideas that have been rattling around in my head for many years. I don’t get to have many deep discussions on religious topics anymore. Sometimes I miss the flurry of ideas expressed passionately and the new patterns of thinking I develop as a result. So, from time to time I’ll be writing more “What If” posts and hoping that you will participate in the discussion.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share any of my posts with friends. I’m going back to revisions of my novel The Space Between Time now. Until next week …

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

Trust the Process

Butterfly Close up“Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.” ~ Golda Meir

“None of us knows what might happen even the next minute, yet still we go forward. Because we trust. Because we have Faith.” ~ Paulo Coelho, Brida

“We sail within a vast sphere, ever drifting in uncertainty, driven from end to end.” ~ Blaise Pascal

“… sometimes when we are beating ourselves up, we need to stop and say to that harassing voice inside, ‘Man, I’m doing the very best I can right now.’ “ ~ Brené Brown, Rising Strong

For several months I’ve felt the ground quaking underneath me. Sometimes change is a slight breeze and sometimes it’s like an 8.5 earthquake. It feels to me like we’re living through one of those seminal times in history when enormous changes take place. My personal life is also going through massive changes. On the one hand, I’m rejoicing. It feels like many good things are going to happen. On the other hand, I’m scared to death. What are these changes going to require of me? Like Iyanla Vanzant says, “When you’re about to try something new, a little trickle of pee should be running down your leg.” Well, I feel like peeing. Yet a comforting voice inside is also saying, “Trust the process.”

That’s kind of hard to do when my modus operandi is also changing. Up until recently, I was the peacemaker in my family. I was the one in the middle who tried to help all the sides come together to work out their differences. But about a year and a half ago, a family row pushed me to set my boundaries and declare the new me. I learned a great deal from that event. First off, it was difficult to be vulnerable enough to state my true feelings and declare that I wasn’t going to be caught in the middle any longer. I risked making some of my family members mad at me, which in fact did happen. But hiding my true feelings away to protect someone else isn’t really living up to my true potential. The second thing I knew already but had to reaffirm to myself was the fact that everyone is always doing the very best that they can at all times. Even though that is true, relationships are still a rough road to navigate because we get caught up in our emotions and our particular point of view.

That family fracas was, in my opinion, a kind of coming out event. I felt apprehensive being bold and declaring my real self, but I gained a large portion of self-love and respect during the process. Ever since that day, I’ve been taking a good look at my old life and throwing out attitudes which no longer fit the new me. I’m learning to be comfortable with the uncertainty of where I will end up since coming out of my cocoon. A side effect of my declaration is that my life is becoming a fun new adventure.

I believe if we’re open to it, our lives go through a reset every once in a while. Or maybe it’s a period of throwing out our trash, or a kind of molting into a new skin. If we’ve chosen to continue to grow and learn, we can’t help but shed the old and expand into the new.

One thing that this transformational period has done for me is to thrust me into an explosively creative period. I’ve got ideas for new projects and ways to make my novel better coming at me fast and furiously. It’s kind of like a spigot has been turned on and I can’t get the new ideas into the computer fast enough.

One of the latest ideas I’ve had is a book titled What If. From a young age sitting in church, or listening to the news, reading a book, watching a movie, or having conversations with my friends, I’ve asked what if that’s not how thus and such happened? What if people could interact with each other differently? What if religious doctrine got it wrong? This is fair warning, I’m going to start writing essays about these questions into this blog from time to time so that at a future date I can put them into a book.

This post is kind of all over the place. Writing is my way of trying to navigate my own thoughts and feelings about the extraordinary things I’m experiencing. I do have to say that I find this birth, death, rebirth process exciting. Where and who will I be in ten or fifteen years? What will the world look like, and what will we all have created only Divine Oneness knows. Curiosity is bubbling up inside me. I want to see what the changes will bring.

Thanks for reading. Share this post with your friends if you’ve a mind to, or leave a comment.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

Journal and candle

Journal and candle

“I now see how owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.” ~ Brené Brown

People are like stained-glass windows, they sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in; their true beauty is revealed only if their light is from within.” ~ Elizabeth Kübler Ross

“The irony is that we attempt to disown our difficult stories to appear more whole or more acceptable, but our wholeness – even our wholeheartedness – actually depends on the integration of all of our experiences, including the falls.” ~ Brené Brown

I hope this post makes sense. This has been a stressful and tiring few days putting the finishing touches on our student written plays. There are always so many little problems to find solutions for to prepare for performances. All that work means I haven’t had time to continue reading Brené Brown’s latest book Rising Strong.

Last week before the last minute frenzy began, I was struck by a section in the book about how when we fail at something, or some negative event, big or small, happens to us, we make up a story about why it happened, how everyone else is to blame, and that we are the victims. In fact, she says that we’re wired to tell stories. She cites Neuroeconomist Paul Zak who “has found that hearing a story–a narrative with a beginning middle, and end–causes our brains to release cortisol and oxytocin. These chemicals trigger the uniquely human abilities to connect, empathize, and make meaning. Story is literally in our DNA.” (pg. 6 Rising Strong.)

So when we have an argument with a loved one, or someone at work, we tell ourselves their side of the story so we can get that rush of chemicals and feel better. The thing is, we’re probably lying to ourselves. We can’t possibly know how the other person was feeling, or what they were thinking during the argument. We tell ourselves stories about all kinds of encounters. Yet, if we want to grow, we have to deconstruct our own emotions over the encounter.

One of the things I love about Brené is that she tells stories about her own life struggles. She just puts her own process out there for her readers. She’s vulnerable. That’s something I’m struggling to be, open, honest, and transparent.

So, here goes. I sometimes encounter people who want to tell me how to do my writing process. That irritates the heck out of me, especially if they aren’t writing themselves. Going back to another Brené Brown book, Daring Greatly, if you’re not in the arena, then I don’t want to listen to your criticism, or helpful hints about how to do my job! In my opinion every artist has their own unique process, which should not be interfered with. As a teacher, I seek to guide students to find their own creativity not make them cookie cutter extensions of me.

So, when someone, who is not a writer, gives me advice, I make up all kinds of stories in my head about why they do that! I want to blame them for being controlling, or superior when I have no idea why they feel the need to “help” me. But what I’m really doing when I blame them, is avoiding something inside myself, or failing to set my boundaries.

These are the things that are going on in my head, “I’m new to writing. I’m not an expert. I flying by the seat of my pants and following some invisible creativity muse that only I can hear. Or maybe I’m just crazy.” I mean, I make up all kinds of stories about me, and the other person when they try to HELP me. When I should just calmly set a boundary and say that if you’re not an artist of some kind, then I would appreciate it if you didn’t tell me how to do my job. No blame, no shame. I won’t tell you how to live your life. I’ll be there for you if you need me and I may ask for your advice from time to time, and within those guidelines, we can still be friends.

The interesting thing is, I don’t tell myself stories when my writer friends make comments on my work. They are in the arena with me, struggling just like I am, so any help they can give me along the way is welcome.

Brené suggests you get a journal and investigate your negative feelings when they arise. They are sign posts pointing you to something vital that you need to deal with. I’ve been keeping a journal for almost forty years and I can say without a doubt, it is one of the most valuable personal growth tools I’ve got in my self-help tool box. I use my journal to examine the stories I make up in my head for big devastating events, and small irritating ones as well. Lately, I’ve been writing about my issues with people who are trying to help me. I understand you want to help. But sometimes creativity is a solitary process and the best way you can help an artist is to allow them to do their process and just support them with silence and good thoughts sent their way.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

Miscellaneous Thoughts on Creativity

Daffodils serenading the sun.

Daffodils serenading the sun.

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” ~ Michael Jordan

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence.” ~ Albert Einstein

“The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.” ~ Joseph Campbell

I’ve been reading some nonfiction books for a change and as they always do, they make me think about my life. I wrote about reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert last week. This week, I’m reading Rising Strong by Brené Brown. Both books have stirred the pot of my well of creativity. All of a sudden I’ve got ideas about new projects coming at me. In one way, that’s fantastic. In another, I don’t feel like I’ve got enough time to write them all down. I guess the ideas that are meant for me will stick around. The others will float off and land in another writer’s lap.

One idea I got about a week ago has taken hold. It’s a story about a young girl in an as yet unnamed kingdom who is secretly taught to be a warrior by her father. The young women of the villages in her kingdom must submit to a lottery during their sixteenth year to be sacrificed to a dragon who terrorizes the countryside. Or at least that’s the rumor. No one has seen the dragon for many years. However, the girls who are sacrificed never return, so everyone believes the rumor. The girl’s father teaches her to fight, which is forbidden, in an attempt to save her life. His reasoning is that if she can fight and strategize she might be able to slay the dragon and save the kingdom. I have some ideas about what really happens to the girls, and the discoveries the main character makes because, of course, she is chosen to be the sacrifice. But I have to let those ideas sit on the back burner for awhile before I write them down. The cool thing is that every day I get new ideas about the world in which the girl lives and what might happen to her after she meets the dragon.

It’s fun to have a new project in the works, however, I’m on another round of revisions on my novel, The Space Between Time and I want to get through it a couple more times before sending it off to my writer friends for more comments and possible corrections. Sometimes ideas flow too readily, yet, I’m grateful that they are flowing at all. I want to take a shot at writing them down and to see if the stories take shape.

Something else rumbling around in my head is that it’s almost eight years since I quit teaching full-time to become a writer, and at this juncture, I feel like it’s time to take some classes, or submit some work, do some research for my sequel novel, or do something different with all these ideas.

The bottom line is I’m restless, and yet I crave solitude. Kind of a strange combination of emotions. I think what this all means is that a big change is on its way to me, and that is exciting. I’ve got the summer off. Maybe the changes will happen then. In any case, no teaching for me this summer for the first time in seven or eight years. My mouth almost waters at the thought of eleven or twelve weeks to concentrate on my work with fewer distractions. So, if you ask me to meet for lunch or go for a walk, or some other outing during the day. I may refuse not because I don’t like you, but because I’m focusing on finishing my manuscript, and putting all the new ideas floating around in my head into the computer. How about dinner?

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

The Creative Life

Calla Lilies

Calla Lilies

“Creativity itself doesn’t care at all about results – the only thing it craves is the process. Learn to love the process and let whatever happens next happen, without fussing too much about it. Work like a monk, or a mule, or some other representative metaphor for diligence. Love the work. Destiny will do what it wants with you, regardless.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

“There is no innovation and creativity without failure. Period.” ~ Brené Brown

“Curiosity is what keeps you working steadily, while hotter emotions may come and go.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

A few days ago I began reading, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. It’s about living a creative life without fear. Some books blow your mind, others help you work through trauma, others are just plain fun. Then there are the books that confirm your feelings, your point of view. Those books can give you courage to continue on the road you’ve chosen. Big Magic is that kind of book for me.

Though I’ve only been writing for eight years and consider myself a new writer, I do have years of experience in the world of theatre. And to echo something from Elizabeth’s book, when you commit yourself to the creative life, you have to stick with it through thick and thin. I’ve been cast as characters that were very different from me and consequently very difficult to play because I had a hard time relating to them. On the other hand I’ve played characters that were so much like me that it was difficult to know where the character ended and I began.

Writing is like that too. Some days I sit down to write my weekly blog post or work on my novel and the words flow out my fingers with little need of revision. Other times I struggle with the concepts I’m trying to convey. I write, then dump whole sections or sometimes begin over. Since I’m under a deadline for my blog, I have to publish it even though what I’ve written may not adequately express the idea that’s been running around in my head looking for an outlet.

At the beginning of this year, I decided that I’d like to try my hand at writing essays and stories to send to publications with open submissions. One particular opportunity struck my fancy. The magazine, Story has called for submissions on the theme of identity. When I saw that, I thought, “I have lots to say on that topic,” and I began writing. That was over two months ago and I’m still struggling with the piece. The deadline for submission is fast approaching and I have too much to say about identity. I can’t narrow my thoughts down into a coherent whole. It’s like when I get close to a vital idea for the piece it floats away from me. As a result I may not get it together in time to submit it for publication.

I was feeling discouraged about that, but after reading Big Magic, my viewpoint has changed. Maybe I’m not supposed to write about identity. On the other hand a story idea flitted toward me the other day, and it’s demanding attention. This story wants to be written, and written by me. Elizabeth’s theory is that creative ideas float around until they find the person who is supposed to bring the idea to life. That’s how this new story idea feels to me, unlike the essay on identity. I’ll continue to work on the essay until it tells me to quit. That’s all a creative person can do, follow the breadcrumbs and see where they lead you.

You also have to put your work out into the world anyway you can. Last night in the section I was reading, Elizabeth related a story of the first piece she had published. The title of the story was “Pilgrims”, and the editor of Esquire magazine wanted to publish it. She was ecstatic. Finally after years of trying, her work would be published in a major magazine. Then she got a call. A large advertising sponsor had backed out of placing their ads and the editor would have to reduce the number of pages for the edition that was to include her story. They wanted to know if she would be willing to cut her ten page story by thirty percent. She could wait for a future publication, but the magazine business was changeable, her contact warned, and her story might never be published. She chose to rewrite the story and it turned out to be a good thing she did, because two months later, the editor left for a new position and her story would have gone into oblivion.

Choosing the creative life sends the practitioner off into a mysterious world. There are peaks and valleys. One day everything is going well with your project and the next, the idea well is dry, or tastes funny, or has gone underground and is flowing toward another artist. All we can do is commit to the work. I find that the deeper my commitment, the more I’m supported by the creativity fairies who sometimes lead me in directions I had no intention of going. Yet, I’ve committed myself to them, so I must follow. The point is, I look forward every morning to sitting down at my computer and following the breadcrumbs left for me that day.

Well, this is one of those blog posts that is kind of all over the place. My ideas are still not completely formed. The ideas from Big Magic are still drifting around in my head, and out in the ethers waiting to crystalize. That doesn’t matter. I’ll publish this post anyway.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

My Father part 4 – Leading by Example

Dad's Birthday

Dad’s Birthday

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” ~ John C. Maxwell

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” ~ Lao Tzu

“Example is leadership.” ~ Albert Schweitzer

“I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

This past weekend I had a Facebook conversation, if you can call it that, with one of my friends. His politics are conservative judging by his posts and there have been times when he’s posted photos and memes that are, in my opinion, hateful toward Muslims. Sometimes when I see those, I hide them, because the photo or sentiment promotes violence and hatred, and I don’t want them on my feed. I have not unfriended him, because one thing I learned from my father is that the only way to change someone’s mind is to try to understand them and then lead by example.

Now, this person and I only have contact on Facebook. However, I believe social media can be a powerful tool. With it you can spread any message you choose. I choose to try to spread compassion, understanding, kindness and love. I’m not perfect and sometimes I post questions that are nagging at me about our current national dialogue on so many issues. And sometimes I post memes that express something that I hope people will think about.

Thursday, I found this meme on my newsfeed, which I reposted: “There are well over a billion Muslims on this planet. If Islam was really about violence you’d all be dead by now. Stop letting your TV and Newspaper tell you who to hate.” Most of my friends liked the post, however, it set off a firestorm of nasty comments from the above mentioned Facebook friend. I admit it is rather confrontational and unlike me to repost such a thing, but sometimes we do need to state clearly our point of view which this meme did for me.

However, as I was reminded by the debate I set in motion, you can’t change anyone’s mind once they’ve become entrenched in that point of view. My dad used to say that and he was right as I relearned last week. Fortunately for me, this man did not unfriend me. I stopped trying to convince him of my point of view and he did the same. Maybe if I continue to post my viewpoint about treating others with compassion and empathy, eventually he and I will change our feelings toward each other.

I know it seems like there is so much hatred in the world but if you look you can find messages of hope. Saturday I reposted this meme from “Parliament of the World’s Religions,” after the attacks on Brussels. It reads: “If you are not Muslim, say to someone who is: ‘I’m glad you’re here.’ If you do not know a Muslim, meet a Muslim, then say to them: ‘I’m glad you’re here.’” Whoever created this meme is trying to get us to think in new more loving ways instead of continuing to perpetuate retaliation which only exacerbates a situation. Insert any word that describes a group different that you into the meme and be kind not confrontational with them. That’s easier said than done for me when it comes to politics especially since the extreme conservatives have entrenched themselves and are, figuratively speaking, arming themselves for political battle. It’s been like this for almost eight years and the situation seems hopeless. Yet, we can change the situation by taking a new tack. I’ve read two articles recently that give me hope that the tide is changing away from attack to empathy.

The first is from Popular Resistance titled: “History Teaches That We have the Power to Transform the Nation, Here’s How.” The authors, Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers published this on June 12, 2013, but it seems even more relevant today and points out all the times in history when regular everyday people banded together to effect huge changes in their societies. Most of their examples are based on non-violent movements, but our country was formed by people banding together and saying, “We want to govern ourselves.” It seems we’re having to do that again. I hope we accomplish it using empathy this time.

Another article I read recently on the same theme of non-violent change, was a much more personal piece published on March 18, 2016 by George Lakey on the Waging Nonviolence website It’s about his experience protesting outside a Trump rally. The title of the article is “How empathy, not protest, can defeat Trump and right-wing extremism.” In the article he asks these questions: where does the violence of the Ku Klux Klan, and by extension other hate groups, come from? And where is empathy honored in our culture? He believes empathy is the vital tool to bridging the gap in the wide divide between political groups. I think he makes some important points in his article. Each side has been attacking the other. That hasn’t worked to solve our problems. Maybe using empathy will.

These are just two examples of people who are advocating that instead of continuing to confront our “enemies”, we should lead by example and use compassion and understanding to create a bridge. I’m all for that and will continue to plant seeds and show compassion and use empathy wherever I can. My first act of compassion is to keep as friends people who don’t agree with me and show as much empathy toward them as I can. Remember, “Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.” ~ Lao Tzu. My father was soft when dealing with people. I want to be that too.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share this post with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

My Father part 3 – Honoring Others

Getting a hug from Dad

Getting a hug from Dad

“Find the sweetness in your own heart, then you may find the sweetness in every heart.” ~ Rumi

“Some cause happiness wherever they go.” ~ Oscar Wilde

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ~ Maya Angelou

There are some people who light up a room when they come into it, who make everyone feel good, and when you’re with them they make you feel like you are the most important person in the world. My father was one of those people. That was remarkable because he wasn’t the loud extrovert who makes a noisy entrance. He was a humble introvert, but when he spoke people listened, and when people spoke he listened with eloquence. He honored everyone he encountered. What this taught me was that if you are interested in people, you can make a big difference in their lives, and in your own life too.

From my father I learned to be empathetic, to listen and try to see past the outer behaviors and attitudes we all protect ourselves with; the faces we present to the world. These tools helped me as I went out into the world. I encountered people at school, college and work who didn’t know how to use empathy as a tool. Having to associate with them was extremely uncomfortable and confusing. I was surprised that not everyone had learned those skills from their parents. However, as I thought about how different I was from others, eventually, a kernel of an idea began to grow. Maybe everyone comes into this world with a hidden purpose that contributes to whatever it is that is driving all of humanity toward some eventual bright future.

It was at this point that I read the book, Conversations With God by Neale Donald Walsch. In the book Neale asks God why we had to have a person like Hitler? What was the purpose of having a person who was so filled with fear and hatred that millions of people were killed as a result of his drive for power? Why hadn’t He stepped in to protect us? God’s answer made so much sense to me. Humans have free will. People like Hitler show us the contrast between love and hatred. And when we’re confronted with those people, we have an opportunity to choose whether to follow them, or follow the path of love as set out by people like Jesus, or Buddha or other great teachers. When a Hitler comes into so much power, the only solution, if we choose love, is to stand up to them. In other words, God said World War II was necessary to affirm that we, as a human collective wanted to live by love rather than hatred. That made so much sense to me. Situations like that force us to come together to use our free will and choose what kind of society we want to live in. It is, of course, a slow process. More opportunities to choose, like the seminal moment in which we find ourselves right now, will present themselves. Each individual who chooses to honor others, rather than to grab for power, pushes us toward growth. The process isn’t easy. It’s messy and uncomfortable, but necessary.

We like to think that our lives don’t matter but they do. My dad was a humble man who didn’t aspire to be a world leader, but I felt good when I was around him. He made the people he associated with feel good about themselves. He helped us all discover talents we didn’t know we had, he honored us in ways not many other people did. I’m so grateful that he was my father because as I’ve tried to emulate him, I know that others who knew him are doing the same. The ripples of his influence continue out into the world. He wouldn’t want any more of a tribute than that. And I’m grateful for what I learned from him so I can make my own contributions for love. Thanks, Dad.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment, or share the link for this post with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016