The Cumulative Power of Love

Lately I’ve been witness to an ungodly amount of suffering. People very close to me are suffering personal tragedies that just boggle the mind. Criminal cruelty of crazy people, cruelty of random cells morphing into disease. When you watch someone you love suffer, you can fall into a feeling of helplessness. You probably feel that way, too, if you read the news. You see people collapsing under the grief and it seems words can be so weak.

That is exactly the moment, I think, when you need to start channeling your strength and digging into the faith you have despite all odds. Whether it’s faith in God or the innate goodness of humankind, we need everyone of you to dig in. To believe in a miracle is an act of defiance. To demand justice is an act of defiance. To soldier on despite the crippling grief or blinding fear is an act of defiance. To accompany someone who suffers is an act of compassion AND an act of defiance. To stand up for them when they have no voice is a moral duty.

How you do it is not important. If sending up silent prayers is your gift, we need you on board. If doing research on justice and law is your gift, we need you. If writing letters or making phone calls to the powers that be is your gift, we need you. If marching is your gift, we need you. If being kind to everyone you meet is your gift, we need you. If putting some beauty out into a broken world is your gift, we need you. If we pool our gifts, we can turn things around.

Please lift each other up. Reach out to someone. Absorb someone’s tears and turn them into diamonds. Listen. Offer solace. Be present.

Shine a light on someone's dark street.

Shine a light. Join others. It works.

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Change Your Writing Space, See What Happens

Green oasis.

Green oasis.

Writers are creatures of habit. We have our favorite pen, brand of notebook, magic potion for sipping as we write. We like our ambiance…a crowded cafe or relative silence. Warm places or cool spaces, open windows or roaring fires. Sometimes we have to scribble wherever inspiration hits us, on napkins or the back of an envelope, in a business meeting or in the middle of a school play. Given a choice, though, we like to control the vibe.

But what if you tried a new space? If you’re in a slump, mix it up. It’s easy to try something new if you’re stuck or just can’t stop doing loads of laundry instead of working. If you find your mind wandering, take your body for a walk. A new view or a new soundtrack can do wonders. Background noises can trigger new sensory details or help you turn down the volume of your own mental chatter. Try a new spot and you might ask yourself, Why didn’t I try this before?

BECAUSE IT’S SCARY, your paranoid self might say. What if I get distracted? What if I find out I’m really lazy and a fraud and an immature 8 year old with a penchant for staring at bugs instead of doing my homework?

Well, any of that could happen. But what if something magical happens?

What if you work like crazy and everything is better than it has been for a long time? What if you find that a new atmosphere is not a distraction but an enhancement and you actually lighten the hell up and discover you can mix work with pleasure and feel pretty good about being a writer?

This practice is part of the Denver Writing Project‘s magic formula. The DWP is a chapter of the National Writing Project, an organization that combines the teaching of writing with the practice of writing. This month I participated in their one-week Advanced Institute. In 2015 I participated in their three-week Invitational Summer Institute. I cannot say enough about these great programs (shout out to Nicole Piasecki, who directed the DWP for several years and has inspired so many). If you want to catapult your teaching to the next level, and give yourself time and space to write to your heart’s content, find a NWP chapter near you.

Throughout the year, the DWP also hosts one-day “writing marathons” in various inspirational venues (museums, parks, etc.) and this summer we again visited the Denver Botanic Gardens. It was about 90 degrees by midday, but there’s plenty of shade and I found some sweet spots to hang out. I vaguely worried that I might be so excited to be there that I’d get nothing done. Not the case. I cranked out several pages, outlined several more scenes, and figured out bigger themes for a major project I’m working on. In between sprints I wandered a bit, took some photos, and praised the bees. Here  are some photos to inspire you to try something new. There’s a great big world out there waiting to knock some beauty loose in your head. Get out there and see what shakes loose!

Fabulous inspiration...writing about the flower pushcarts in Bordeaux, France.

Fabulous inspiration…writing about the flower pushcarts in Bordeaux, France.

I even saved a seat for you!

I even saved a seat for you!

Time for a break in Monet's Garden.

Time for a break in Monet’s Garden.

See the coleus. Be the coleus.

See the coleus. Be the coleus.

Pink poppy passion.

Pink poppy passion.

Chihuly, Denver Botanic Gardens

Chihuly sculpture, Denver Botanic Gardens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Where to Begin?

It’s been a Year of Overwhelm so far, n’est-ce pas? So many changes, most of the them horrifying, at the national and international level. Which of course trickles down to our personal levels. Relationships can suffer. Mental health? Definitely under attack. Humor? Hopefully resilient. But how do you write when there’s so much to take in, process (God forbid), and make sense of?

Answer: Find a quiet place. Turn off all media. Sit a spell. Sip something warm and soothing. If that doesn’t help, something cold and bracing. And then Breathe.

One. Exhale.

Two.  Exhale.

Three. Exhale.

Then, when you feel steady, pick up a pen and paper. Begin. No filters, no rules. Just start.

And see what happens.

Let me know how it goes.

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Looks like an obstacle…

...because no way down...

…because no way down…

...so form strong connections.

…so form strong connections.

You got this.

You got this.

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