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

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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