Who knew three minutes took so long?

Here is the man with the vision that gave birth to Effin Artist, Scot Bolsinger’s view on the day that three minutes took so effin long.

EFFinArtist

Several years ago, Effin Artist started with a little voice in my head that I’d say to myself time and again. I’d do something creative that would make me feel good.

I’d say to myself, “I’m an Effin Artist, man!”

Then it became a newsletter to family, which then grew into a lark of a website I built only to learn how to build websites. Then it became a blog and a real website that I called my writer’s platform.

It turns out the Great Divine had much more in mind. Effin Artist continues its evolution into something I couldn’t have dreamed up had I wanted to, which is saying something because I do some serious dreaming when I get on a roll.

What is it? That’s coming soon. But with that next evolutionary phase in mind, we gathered to capture the essence of Effin Artist in a three-minute video.

I…

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Litquake and Video Takes

IMG_0040San Francisco has long been known for its ability to draw and inspire writers, from Mark Twain and Jack London to the Beats like Ginsberg and Kerouac, to contemporary authors Isabelle Allende and Dave Eggers. I love this city – it’s beauty, its proximity to the ocean, but mostly because it’s effing vibrant, pregnant with possibility, overflowing with the kind of creative energy that always inspires me to write. Every time I come here it’s a shot in the arm with a creative juice potent enough to rival Red Bull. This past weekend was no exception.

It’s only natural that “The Literary City” should give birth to Litquake’s Litcrawl, the literary equivalent bastard spawn of Woodstock and a pub crawl held annually in the city’s Mission district. It’s 82 sessions crammed into three hours in venues as diverse as laundry mats, hair salons, galleries, restaurants, co-op work spaces, cafes, dark alleyways, and bars. It’s anything and everything that you can dream up related to writing.

My buddy and fellow writer Scot Bolsinger and his long time friend Paul, joined me this past Saturday night to check it out. We met at the Mission Laundromat where an older Latina woman struggled to maintain dominion over the counter where she folded clothes while a crowd amassed and women in pretty dresses read poetry, Twitter-based flash fiction, and non-fiction short stories as part of “Dirty Laundry: Loads of Prose presents Sex, Lies, and Lost Socks.” We headed next to a salon where a large crowd had gathered to witness a literary relay race sponsored by the Castro’s Literary Cooperative. What is a literary relay race? I cannot say for sure, but it appeared to involve the cooperative creation of an original story written by ten writers solely for and during the hour-long session. IMG_0028The vibe in Fellow Barber, where the event was held, was upbeat and filled with the buzz of excited chatter. The authors, each wearing a big number taped to the front of their shirts, had gathered at the center of the salon where they slapped one another on the back and bore faces filled with the kind of calm that comes after the storm of a live performance.

We checked in to hear kids reading their stories at 826 Valencia, Dave Egger’s non-profit organization dedicated to helping children and young adults develop writing skills and teachers inspire their students to write. At The Chapel we discovered a contest was about to begin. We high-tailed it outta there fast lest the other, far more qualified and willing participants discover we were literary trivia posers and beat us to death with their notebooks and pens. On our way out we were intrigued by this sign and stopped to check it out.

IMG_0042Turns out the sign advertised the Hook-Up Truck, a “modern dating solution for safe sexual adventuring” that can be dispatched immediately to any location in the city. Private, secure, and temperature controlled, rental of the room includes complimentary birth control and STD preventatives and optional use of the installed camera. Seeing as Scot is a happily married man and Paul’s a gay pastor, our discovery of the Hook-Up Truck signaled it was time for this lady to head on home. Scot and I had to be up early the next morning.IMG_0046

5AM Sunday morning came too soon. By the time I got my shit together and drove to the Embarcadero (getting lost along the way) it was almost 6:30 and the sky was growing bright with the impending dawn. Scot and a production crew of five were gathered on the roof of Scot’s apartment building when I arrived, Scot lit up like a billboard, balanced atop a bar stool with the Bay Bridge for a backdrop. He smiled with relief when I appeared. Focused and with his back to me, Dave Moutray of Crux Jinx Productions directed one of the crew to repoint the lights. I might have felt a wave of nervousness flood through my gut, but I was too damned tired.

Bruno, the sound man, wired me up, instructing me to run the mic wire he connected to my scarf down through my sweater, same as the actors playing anchormen and politicians I’d seen on TV. I took a seat and watched as they shot. Soon the sun rose, prompting the parrots of Telegraph Hill to leave their overnight perches to fly in wide circles chattering and generally making a lot of noise along the way. The parrots overwhelmed the sound every time they flew nearby slowing progress. I noticed Dave getting antsy and before long he announced the sun was too high. The crew relocated to the shaded deck off Scot’s apartment and I continued to wait my turn in the adjacent living room.

Scot Effin VideoI drank a couple of lattes, read a few emails in an attempt to distract myself from thinking about what was to come, and then it was my turn.

Dave turned the bright lights, two cameras, and his full attention on me where I sat on the soft black leather couch willing it to swallow me. Tired or not, I felt my head begin to buzz, my stomach clamp down on itself, and my blood pressure rise. In an attempt to channel that awful feeling, I rung my hands until my fingers hurt. I wondered if maybe I shouldn’t have skipped one or both of the lattes.

Dawn Effin VideoAs he had done with Scot before me, Dave began, “So Dawn, why don’t we start with you telling me, what is Effin Artist?”

I did my best to answer the “what” and “why” of Effin Artist so Dave and crew could pull together the necessary sound bites to create a three minute video that will reflect the vision that Scot first shared with me last June. But in describing what is now our shared vision, the challenge we are faced with is that the what of Effin Artist is still a moving target. It’s like trying to determine the sex of a one-month fetus – it’s just too early – the naughty bits have yet to emerge. And we’re a little like expectant parents, reticent to share too much before things have developed sufficiently and the idea demonstrates clearly it’s got ten fingers and ten toes.

I’ve never felt like such a complete and utter amateur. Trying to come up with the right words was intense and the sense that “this really matters so I have to get it right” threatened to overwhelm me. By the time we broke for lunch I felt weak and a little nauseous.

For the last shot, Dave sat Scot and I tight up next to one another on that same mushy couch and prompted us to deliver the our call to action – what people will need to do to help make Effin Artist a reality. Sitting on that couch alone under the bright lights was hot enough, now there was a big burly Italian American sitting and sweating alongside me. I felt my pits and the back of my legs getting damp with sweat and hoped that my deodorant was working.

“Sit up straight,” Dave reminded us every time the couch sucked us back down to slouching.

I was so tired I couldn’t get my lines right. I’d managed to pull off the “why” without too many takes, but this was demanding more from me. Finally I nailed it and sank back into the couch in relief.

Then Bruno the Sound Man, so quiet I’d almost forgotten he was there, spoke up, “Someone was tapping.”

Everyone followed his gaze, which rose from his sound monitor and landed on me, “I think you were tapping the couch or your leg with your hand.”

I felt beads of sweat break out on my forehead as my blood pressure rose to make my cheeks flush and my ears burn. I did not want to have to try to get those same words out again. I think I might have yelled at myself. I felt like an idiot. The crew had been shooting for over eight hours and my nervous tapping meant they had to keep working. Nevertheless their mood was surprisingly upbeat. They joked and encouraged, cajoled and did everything in their power to extract the right words with the right tone and feeling of purpose from our mouths.

I felt a little better when Scot blew his part on our next try.

Take Seven was the charm. It wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty effing good. Good enough for horseshoes, hand grenades, and a couple of writers doing their effing best to get their message across. I can’t wait to share the results, the what and the why of Effin Artist and my exciting role within it.

Failing My Way to Success

churchill failureSo I failed. That commitment I made to write 1000 words every day for 90 days? Yeah, I tripped and then I stumbled and fell flat on my face. It happened quickly, within a week I was flailing and not finding time to pen my 1000 words. My solution to missing one day was that I’d make myself write 2000 or more the next. Scot Bolsinger, my inspiration for this whole thing, said he saw my downfall coming when one day I wrote 3500 words.

When I told him what had happened, he nodded sagely and said, “Yeah, you can’t do it like that. That’s like going to three AA meetings in one day. It’s too much and you’re bound to burn out.”

It’s not the first time I’ve failed to keep a commitment to daily or even just regular writing. Not by a long shot. But this time was different. This time in that very short time of making the commitment to write every day, I felt the positive effects of doing regularly something I love. I was energized by the act in a way that I haven’t felt before. And I realized that putting words to paper makes me happy. It buoys me up with a sense of accomplishment and there is something oh so sweet about those moments when the right words come together in a unique way and I’m suddenly smiling because it’s good. I might not be great, but it’s good enough that in those moments I recognize this is one of the things I was put on this planet to do.

So what contributed to my failure? It was a combination, I think, of just what Scot warned me about, biting off too much at a time and life throwing one of those curve balls it’s known to throw at us when we make a commitment to something good. It’s the challenge that says, “Are you sure? Do you really want this? How badly? Let’s see just how badly you want this.” And whammo! Circumstances conspired and I found myself distracted and preoccupied and unable to focus on the writing. I was unable to make it a priority.

I admit I need to learn to prioritize and learn discipline where my writing and my life in general are concerned, but in my defense, the distraction wasn’t some penny ante thing. It wasn’t a sink full of dirty dishes or a floor that needed sweeping. No, it was that suddenly three different people who mean the world to me were in crisis. First my father called with bad news about the prognosis the lung specialist gave him regarding the pulmonary fibrosis he’s been battling for a few years. Hearing from my father that his time is almost up was a blow I didn’t see coming. It took a lot of time and energy to process it. I’m still processing it. Then suddenly the Huichol shamans who were on their way here to Los Cabos to perform healing ceremonies were arrested in Guadalajara for carrying peyote. Their arrest was a huge injustice as their right to carry the sacred peyote cactus is protected under a Mexican federal law governing the religious rights of Indigenous peoples. My fellow peyoteros and I spent the next week doing everything in our power to get them released, including hiring lawyers from Mexico City to come to their aide.

Spanish lesson #1: Peyoteros are people employing peyote as a means to spiritual enlightenment and/or cultivators of the peyote cactus.

To add insult to injury, Mercury, the planet governing both communication and my sign Gemini turned retrograde at the exact same time. I can see some of you rolling your eyes, but believe it or not, I felt the effects of that tiny planet appearing to move backwards in the sky.

The bottom line? In mid-May I experienced a one-two punch at the hands of circumstances and retrograde Mercury that knocked me out. Suddenly I was exhausted, depressed and intensely preoccupied.

Spanish lesson #2: the word for “worried” in Spanish is preocupado from the Latin praeoccupare ‘seize beforehand.’

I felt like someone had let all the air out of my balloon.

Or like my mother used to say, “My get-up-and-go got up and went.”

In the face of this failure to follow up on my commitment to daily writing, I started to question whether I am really meant to write more than a few lines in my journal at night. I started to question whether the project I’m working on is the right project and whether I’m taking the right approach. On top of everything else I was quickly consumed by doubt. Knocked down and chewed up

And then, in case I was thinking of getting up off the mat to give it another go, the Universe delivered a sucker punch in the form of a rather snarky response from a literary icon related to my work and the balloon exhaled its last puff of air and lay in an ugly rubbery inanimate mess on the floor. Or, in keeping with the double metaphors I’ve used here, said icon took my already deflated balloon, chewed it up, and spat in on the floor in a spit-soaked mess of shredded rubber.

I contemplated that rubbery spit-soaked mess, considered my options, and decided not to force it. By their very nature, depression and exhaustion are forces you can’t fight. At least I can’t fight them. Maybe you are made of sterner stuff. But me? I decided to give myself permission not to write and see what happened. Instead I put the energy I did have toward helping my two friends who were wrongly thrown in jail, but I did not write a single word that wasn’t a Facebook post entreating others to their aide. It was the right time not to write. But now over a month later I’m back at it.

So what got me out of the funk?

The fact that my shaman friends were released a week after their detention helped. But what really put the spring back in my writerly step was time spent with supportive and creative people who pressed me to consider my options. Once again the importance of having a creative community to support us in our artistic pursuits and dark nights of the soul was illustrated to me first hand.

En route from my trip to see family in Canada, I was fortunate to have to the chance to spend a couple of days in San Francisco with Mr. Inspiration himself, Scot Bolsinger; Scot and I spent an afternoon at Pier 3 eating, drinking coffee, and discussing my challenges with the dynamic and curious literary agent Michael Larsen; and yet more coffee was downed in North Beach in the company of a wise, artistic friend whom I have not seen in many years.

It was telling that when the subject of my ambivalence towards my writing arose, they all posed the same question.

Is it an option not to write this book? Or will you regret not having pursued it to completion for the rest of your life?

The resounding “Yes!” to the second question drowned out any doubt seeking expression in response to the first. That very simple question is what I must return to every time I falter. It must remain my mantra until this book is completed.

The reality that nags at me all too often is that it is an option to take the easy route and focus the majority of my energy on surfing (and selling real estate). As easy roads go, it’s a tempting, even “sexy” one. But is that who I am? Am I a surfer with a side of real estate agent? Or am I motivated by a desire to be creative in a way that will make a difference in the lives of others? It’s short this time we are given. I’m more aware of that now than ever (reference above loved-one in crisis). I want to make this precious life I’ve been gifted with count. When all is said and done I’m the only one who will remember that awesome wave on that extra-special glassy day. And I really don’t want my epitaph to read “She rode some good waves and kept a clean house.”

In the end, I know that if I don’t do this, I’ll regret it for the rest of my life. I’ll know that I ignored a calling so strong that despite turning my back on it repeatedly, like an understanding and loving friend, it returns to embrace me over and over again.

The Hardest Part of Writing a Memoir: The Truth

truthToday I’m posting a guest blog by none other than Scot Bolsinger, to whom I introduced you two posts ago when I committed to writing 1000 words a day for 90 days, an idea he inspired. Since joining his writers group, Scot and I have done a lot of back and forth by email. We share ideas and our philosophies of life, he metaphorically kicks my lazy writer ass, I get to kick his yoga butt, and we talk about surfing and how he needs to do it more and I less to concentrate more on writing. If you’ve checked out his website (if not, what’s stopping you!!), you will have noticed that Scot wears a lot of hats. And as I’ve mentioned before, it is in his role as editor, that he’s been invaluable to my writing process. The memoir I’m working on is challenging. It’s a lot like rolling over and showing my soft underbelly to a sharp-fanged, claw-swinging dragon. I’m scared shitless of what “you out there” might think of the approach I’ve decided to take. Yes, it’s about intimate relationships and yes, there’s a lot of S.E.X involved. While I’m still not ready to share a lot of details (in part because I haven’t even finished the first draft), I’m very interested in talking about the emotions and challenges one faces while writing a book of this nature. First off, I often wonder if I’m not being a total narcissist. But then I decide that the very fact that I worry about it probably means I’m not. And then I get anxious that I’ll be disowned by family and friends. Will they still love me if I hold up all my warts, psychological scabs, and zits to public scrutiny? But I have chosen to write this particular version of “my story” because I know I’m not alone in this world in having made the kinds of mistakes I’ve made and because it’s the most honest, most revealing (dare I say vulnerable?) version I can tell. In a recent email exchange the notion of where I reside along the monogamy – polyamory continuum came up. Yeah, we were actually trying to dissect “Who I am” where relationships are concerned. Heavy stuff. I was so impressed by one of the things Scot wrote, I printed it out and hung it in front of where I sit to write. I then asked him to write a guest blog for this site because of the profundity of what he wrote AND because everything I’ve ever read of his has made me laugh and think. That, my friends, in long because I know not the short, is how the following blog post was born.

℘℘℘℘℘

I met a bank robber once. Not the run-up-to-a-teller-and-demand-a-drawer-full-of-money robber, but a stake-the-place-out-and-pull-off-the-mission-impossible-vault-break-in-kind of robber. Dude had brass ones and obvious intellect to boot. For years and years he swore he was innocent of the crime that earned him two decades in prison. We got to know each other because he wanted me to write a book about how he was innocent. We talked at length. I heard all the arguments. It would be a great book, I told him. But I had a condition. “You have to tell the truth,” I said. “I won’t write fiction and pretend it’s real.” He stared at me. “I think the title should be Guilty Enough,” I said, which also told him I didn’t believe he was innocent. He then told the truth, perhaps for the very first time. The reason he held on to his fiction for so long is he knew the government stumbled across him but couldn’t prove it (several other dozen successful robberies, they never got close to catching him). They fabricated the case against them. They played a hunch. The Feds don’t like unsolved bank vault robberies. It threatens our belief in the power of our money. If a random guy can penetrate that and steal our money, he steals our power. We can’t have that. Tremendous pressure to convict grew. Someone. Anyone. My friend was a good bet. Turned out their fabrication worked. He was found guilty. It still pisses him off. His pride as a bank robber was shattered by being caught, because he knew they lucked out. They could have pinned it on anyone. It was wrong, he insisted. I agreed. “Fucked up,” I said. “Really fucked up. But still, I can’t write a book that isn’t the truth.” The so-called moment of truth. The book talk died down. Like oh, so, many potential authors, that face-to-face stare-down with truth caused him to blink first. The idea of the book ended up on the shelf of good intentions instead of a bookstore bookshelf. Many people are told, “You should write a book about your life.” Few do it. Of those who do, many still struggle with the fundamental task of truth. First: writing a memoir requires being honest with yourself. Rigorously honest. If you haven’t tried it, it’s hard to explain how wrenching the process can be. Of all the lies we tell in life, we lie to ourselves the most. We live the script we write for our character rather than live our authentic self. Have you ever read a memoir by a former pro athlete or political figure or most famous people? They read like the characters they portray. They are books about the brand, not the person and they aren’t that great. But the best memoirs, the truly memorable ones compel us by their authenticity. Second: writing a memoir requires us to write that truth in a compelling way. Many of us write about our lives in journals. The emotional depth in a journal can be dramatic. It can be healing. It can powerful. But it isn’t something others would want to read unless you’re historically significant or naturally hilarious. Our journals are only interesting to us. They are not the stuff of a bestseller. So then, this second step is a tough one. We have to take our sordid, confusing, dishonest lives and make them compelling, understandable, readable and honest. We have to turn our lives into a page-turner. An honest page-turner, no less. Writing a memoir is not easy. Those who do it (and finish) are pretty few in my experience. Those who do it well make up a club more exclusive then the Knights of the Templar. I truly enjoy the craft of writing fiction. But I came to a point in my life where I felt compelled to write a memoir. I avoided it for years until the point came where I felt God would not let up until I started. I described it as my Jonah in the Whale moment. I had a choice. Either agree and be vomited Jonah-like onto the beach of my new life or be consumed into whale shit. Tough choice, but I took the vomit and started writing the book I believe God wants me to write. I love writing fiction, but too often I lived fiction. I lived the story I told, not who I really was. I allowed myself to believe the narrative about me rather than be me, for better or worse. I ran from my life right smack into a prison cell. I ended up in rehab in prison. Rehab sucks. Prison sucks even worse. Both at the same time, well, that’s sort of like a Far Side cartoon drawing of hell, only without the laughs. But that is where I rediscovered that we are not what we do. All that stuff is part of becoming. Thank God’s loving Grace that She doesn’t keep score of our behaviors. Some get it easier than others. I get it only through red-faced moments that sear my brain. I’m slow. But in figuring it out, I discovered I am human and I’m a person who is doing my level best in this crazy, stupid, wonderful, spinning existence called My Life. In that dark turn of my life I found it. I became honest. In writing the truth, I discovered the empowerment of a truthful life. Instead of saying “I am fucked up,” I began to admit “I fucked up.” In so doing, I became less so. If we are honest we become our better selves. If we are honest, we find the spiritual stuff that in the end is most real. Whether we write a book about it or not is, in the end, far less important. But for those who feel compelled to like I do, like my writing buddy Dawn does, then be courageous because when you succeed you will offer the world a rare gem.

#SFWC2015 lives on in writing group

Here’s the link to an article that Scot Bolsinger wrote about the writers group he formed and that I am proud to be a part of.

#SFWC2015 lives on in writing group.

1000 Words a Day for 90 Days

Challenges

It’s shocking to realize I’ve only posted one full length blog here since the new year. Between committing to working harder in real estate, the work I’ve been doing with the Huichol Indians, and my outstanding ability to fritter away time in the great outdoors surfing, it’s been a busy year for sure, but there’s no excuse for how little writing I’ve accomplished so far this year. Now however, thanks almost exclusively to Andrew Scot Bolsinger, I’m taking steps to change that. All you need to know about Scot is that his website address effinartist.com kicks ass, he kicks ass, and thanks to him, I’m starting to kick some writerly ass. Okay that and that he’s a writer, editor, coach, activist, and felon. Go, read his bio now.

So how did Scot and I meet so that he could kick my writerly ass? We didn’t. At least not face to face. Scot and I both volunteered at the San Francisco Writers Conference in February (as I have every year since 2011), but when our paths crossed he didn’t have a moment to stop and chat because he was volunteering to be the conference organizer’s personal slave, er, I mean, assistant.

I should mention that I almost didn’t go to the conference this year because I didn’t want to have to look the same people in the eye whom I see every year and tell them I still didn’t have my book done, not even a first draft. I was deeply ashamed of my lack of progress and told myself I would not allow myself to feel like that again when SFWC 2016 rolled around. So like every year I attend the conference, I tried once again to hook up with someone (get your mind out of the gutter Mom!) to be accountability partners. I would offer to read their stuff and they’d read mine and we’d agree to keep after one another to produce regularly until we got our first draft done. But the end of the conference came and I still didn’t have my accountability partner. I was frustrated and my butt hurt from the ass-kickings received when I fessed up about my lack of progress to the people who’ve been my cheerleaders all these years.

So the day after the conference, as I took stock of my writing or minimum quantity thereof, I received an email from this mysterious Andrew Scot Bolsinger person, whom I’d never heard of. And low and behold, it was as if the Universe heard my prayers, he up and invited me to join a non-fiction writers group. I was so astounded by this manna from heaven I had to read the email twice. How on Earth did this guy even know who I was? And did he know he was answering my writerly prayers? The email was kind and encouraging and made me feel like I was being asked to join an exclusive and special group of writers organized by an exclusive and special editor, award-winning writer, coach/cheerleader (for now let’s just forget the felony part). And that is precisely what it was. To top it off, not only had Scot pulled together a group of eight motivated writers of varying backgrounds and experience, he also got Michael Larsen, experienced literary agent and founder of the SFWC, to join us and provide feedback. Wow! (The other “wow” is that Skype makes it possible for me to join a group that meets in San Francisco all the way from Baja, Mexico).

But the story doesn’t end there. Not only did my productivity increase as I pulled together material to submit to the group for critique in April, but Scot also offered his assistance as a regular butt kicker, a.k.a accountability partner and cheerleader. Only thing is, he doesn’t need anyone to make him accountable, except maybe where his yoga practice is concerned. But man, do I need someone to kick my ass regularly. And he’s been more than happy to do that. But it was what he did three days ago when I sent him an SOS email telling him my productivity was in the can again that made all the difference in the world. He suggested I just make time to write 1000 words, “today.”

It’s said that Jack London, one of the most prolific writers of all time, wrote 1000 words every day regardless of his location, health, or responsibilities. I’ve always rolled my eyes a little when I hear another writer referencing this fact. But the reality is that between 1900 and 1916 London finished over 50 fiction and non-fiction books, hundreds of short stories and numerous articles. Fifty books in sixteen years! And the only reason he stopped was because he died (OMG, do you think writing all those books killed him?!) To someone who’s been struggling for over six years to complete one work of non-fiction writing all those books sounds pretty freaking miraculous.

I’d played with the idea of committing to the 1000 words a day program, but I always came up with excuses why I couldn’t do it. Frankly I was pretty sure I’d fail. I didn’t think I could possibly find time to write that many words every day. A 1000-word blog post can take me the better part of a day to complete, several hours minimum. But at this point Scot wasn’t asking me to do it every day, he just asked me to do it that day. So I agreed. But then he did something really remarkable. He didn’t leave me an out. He told me I had to send him the 1000 words. To which I responded:

oh fuck…you really are going to hold me accountable…

Yup, that’s what accountability partners do.

So I wrote those 1000 words, dammit! And you know what? I wrote them in under an hour because there were waves and I wanted to go surf more of those waves because I’m a wave junkie and a wave junkies can never get enough waves. And even though I vomited those 1000 words onto the page, they weren’t, according to Scot, complete drivel. They were certainly far from being my best work, but they were comprehensible and they got me over the hump on a chapter I’ve been pulling my hair out on for months (um, yeah, that’s ‘cause it’s the chapter where I describe losing my virginity).

Then another miracle occurred. Getting those 1200 odd words down on the page in such short measure inspired me to write again the next day, but this time 3800 words were the result! Yeah, I know, holy chit batman! Almost four Jack-London-writing-days in one sitting. And now here I am on the 900th word of a 1000-word blog that will fulfill the third day in a row of the 1000-Words-a Day Challenge (924, 925, 926…yeah, I could finish this blog post just counting out the numbers, but I don’t want to! I have important stuff to say here man!!). Oh yeah, so Scot also introduced the writers group to the Alcoholics Anonymous idea of “90 in 90.” That is, repeating something 90 days in a row to establish new habits and discipline. He generously offered to be our cheerleader on that as well.

So the bottom line is this – I’m writing this blog post to share with you my pledge to myself. Here it is:

I commit to writing a minimum of 1000 words every day for the next 90 days. I will focus these words on my memoir principally, but allow for a maximum of one blog post per week. I will not allow the lure of good surf, good food, good wine or even good sex with a surfing wine-drinking gourmet chef to dissuade me from writing those words. I state it here for all to see: There is no excuse for not writing those 1000 words because it takes less than an hour to write them. I pledge to write more than 1000 words on the days when I am moved to do so and in order to make up for all the time I’ve lost not writing 1000 words a day until now. And furthermore, I pledge to do my darnedest, write as many words as I need to write to have the first draft of my memoir completed by July 31st, 2015.

That’s write, I mean, right. This is my pledge. [dramatic arm-flourishing bow]

I invite you to drop me an email any old random day to ask me if I’ve met my word commitment yet that day. I also hope that if I don’t meet that commitment to myself, you’ll come a kickin’ with your shit-kicking ass kickers to set me straight. And I hope you’ll celebrate with me, when I report that I have. My success is your success, my failure…well, that’s something I gotta own all on my own.

[Whew! 1487 words!! Jumps up and down arms held high in the air Rocky-Balboa-style]

Gophering

Gopher_CaddyshackI’m guessing you’ve heard the expression, “She’s suffering from verbal diarrhea.” I certainly have! That being situation normal where I am concerned, for the past two months I’ve been uncharacteristically down with a serious case of verbal constipation. Nevertheless, I thought I’d pop (yes, pop, still not pooping many words here) my head up to say hello and let you know that I’m alive and, for the most part, well, but struggling to write much of anything these days. The little bit I’ve been doing has focused on poetry, probably because of the typically succinct nature of the form. And I’m reticent to share my poetry here because it’s even more revealing than my most exhibitionist blog.

There are a multitude of reasons for the long hiatus. Life has been anything but stultifying. In fact, it’s been chaotic, hectic, full, wonderful, challenging, exciting, wild, turbulent, emotional, exhausting, titillating, and exuberant. And that just describes my surf sessions!

Recently however, some pressure was applied to the gaping wound that is my writing productivity by the talented and charming author Katrina Hodge Willis when she chose me as one of three bloggers to participate in the Writer’s Write bog hop. Yeah, I didn’t know what a blog hop was either, but just enter the key words “writers write” into a search and a multitude of blogs will appear that will answer your question. It’s basically a pyramid scam to get people to contribute content to a topic. That invitation came almost three weeks ago. Yes, the irony of my contributing to a blog series called “Writers Write” is not lost on me.

I’ve had plenty other things to write about here over the past two months, but for some reason, I stopped short of sharing. Some things, like being interviewed on a poetry and technology radio show, seemed too immodest. Other happenings were too personal and involved other people I’m pretty sure would rather remain anonymous. Same goes for a surf break I visited that I wish was still anonymous in the surf world – it’s already overrun with southern Californians and I don’t want something I write here to further contribute to the crowds. But the main reason I haven’t put anything down here, is because I have not felt inspired to do so. None of the aforementioned topics really got me excited enough. So maybe I’m a little off, a little down, a little unsure, and a whole lot human in my reticence to put it all out there for public consumption. I’m pretty sure, however, that it’s a passing phase and I’ll be over-sharing once again before you know it. But for the time being, I’m tucking back into my underground lair to return only if and when the muse chooses to speak to me.

Caged Creativity

The safety zone has moved. Conformity no longer leads to comfort. But the good news is that creativity is scarce and more valuable than ever. So is choosing to do something unpredictable and brave: Make art. Being an artist isn’t a genetic disposition or a specific talent. It’s an attitude we can all adopt. It’s a hunger to seize new ground, make connections, and work without a map. If you do those things you’re an artist, no matter what it says on your business card.

Seth Godin in The Icarus Deception

 I’m writing this on the island of Maui where it seems a different kind of conformity exists. I cannot help but notice, as we drive to the beach at Ho’okipa on the North Shore and especially in the little town of Paia that people here try oh-so-very-hard to be unique, to stand out from the crowd, to be non-conformist. Picturesque Paia is a magnet for surfers, bohemian-types that some might call neo-hippies, spiritual seekers, artists, and some folks who are a mix of all of these things. What I can’t help but notice is that the measure of non-conformity here appears to have shifted to something more extreme, that people apparently feel they must go further to stand out from the crowd. A visual illustration exists in the surprising number of people who sport tattoos over most of their bodies – not just their arms and legs, but entire chests, backs, and necks are covered thickly with images that have been scratched into the substratum of their skin. In some cases the ink has crept up onto their faces. It’s as though the one-upmanship of tattooing has reached its zenith. What will they do when they run out of blank canvas? [I also shudder at what all those dyes and inks are likely doing to their livers, but that’s besides the point.]

When I see these and the people trying so hard to be bohemian that they have eschewed the use of soaps, razors and hair brushes, I question whether they get any pleasure out of their quest for uniqueness or if all that inking and body odor is ultimately just unpleasant and depressing. Ultimately the question that arises in my mind every time I see someone who seems to be trying awfully hard to be different is whether this is an authentic form of self-expression or just another form of conformity within the ranks of the non-conformists. It just doesn’t look “real” to me. It smacks of an act.

Long before she wrote her famed memoir Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert wrote “The Last American Man,” a true story depicting Eustace Conway’s choice to live life in a back-to-nature, non-conformist, non-materialistic way that bucks the “norm” of modern American lifestyle. In one scene Gilbert describes the affect Conway had on a group of “loud, disrespectful, shoving, shrieking, laughing” teenaged boys:

Eustace was supposed to get these kids all excited about nature…[he] walked across the stage and toward the microphone. The shoving and shrieking and laughing continued.

Eustace stepped up to the microphone with his hands in his pockets. He stood there, thin and serious, for a long moment. Then he said, “I am a quiet-spoken man, so I am going to have to speak quietly to you tonight.”

The shoving and shrieking and laughing stopped. I swear to God. The jerky teenage kids stared at Eustace Conway, absolutely riveted.

When Gilbert inquired later, Eustace confirmed that this was not an uncommon occurrence. She asked him why he thought they responded to him the way they did and he replied:

“Because they recognized right away that I was a real person, and they’ve probably never met one before.”

Eustace Conway and the tattoo and dreadlock-festooned Paia hippies drove me to wonder, “How many “real” people do I actually meet in a day, a week, or will I meet in this lifetime?” Then the more pertinent question I needed to examine hit me square in the frontal lobe:

Am I living authentically?

When I question what people will think about what I write here or in my memoir and then allow it to influence the creative process, I’m not being authentic. When I allow external factors to alter how or what I create I am not being who I was put on this Earth to be. I’ll be the first to admit it’s not always easy to ignore the voice in my head that warns of potentially negative reactions to what I write. Similarly it’s hard to write just for the love of it without regard for the potential accolades.  Try as I might not to, I do give a shit how many people read and comment on my posts. I am guessing you have no idea how hard it was for me to post my previous entry or how astounded I was when it exceeded all the others in the number of hits it received (Really? Profanity was all that was necessary to get you to read? Well, I’ll be a goddamned, shitfaced and fucking astounded motherfucker!).

Speaking from my own experience, I have to conclude that over and above the social pressures we all feel to conform, authenticity has become endangered by the effects of unlimited access to mundane visual media and marketing that reinforce the tendency to conform and make fun of those who don’t. Add to that the systematic brainwashing of youth by systems of education that are outdated, conventional and dogmatic and authenticity gets a terminal diagnosis.

It takes guts to be authentic in a world where the pressure to conform and the desire for love and acceptance are powerful forces pushing us in the opposite direction. In the face of so much conformance to non-conformity here on Maui, I found myself asking, “How much time and energy do I spend worrying about and trying to live up to others’ expectations? And what would happen if I just stopped doing that and instead started using that energy to express my own most creative ideas?”

Like Godin’s quote at the beginning of this post states, being artistic requires nothing more and nothing less than acting on the “hunger to seize new ground, make connections, and work without a map.” I believe we all possess that hunger. Courage and strength are the ingredients that will allow us to escape the cage of conformity repressing the creative artistry inherent in each of our brains. Doing that will make the world a better place.

Alive and Writing

I know that from where you’re sitting it looks like I haven’t been writing, but I have, I tell you, I have! For now, anyway, you’ll have to take my word for it. Okay, I’ll be honest and admit that there’s been a lot of surfing and procrastination. Even some foot dragging and downright reticence. But since I last posted here and promised you a blog about the second half of my trip to California, what seems like such very long time ago, I have accomplished the following as far as writing is concerned:

I’ve dusted off my memoir, given its structure some serious thought, cut the several of the opening chapters (saving them of course in a file that I’ll probably never be able to find if I decide I need to exhume them) and taken another stab at writing parts of it. I’ll tell you in all honesty that reading 50 Shades of Grey inspired me to write some of the juicier bits, particularly one scene that involves a dive instructor.

I’ve written copious emails (one of my weaknesses and a way in which I waste bucket-loads of time, but I am here to contend that some of those emails are written in the manner of letter-writing that existed in the early 20th century, long before email and when consideration was given to the literariness (wow, that’s actually a word!) of personal communications. In the case of famous authors and poets anyway, it’s as though they knew that years later biographers and their readers would be judging their letters alongside their literary works).

I’ve journalized. [Yes, that is the correct verb for writing in a journal and according to my dictionary “journalled” is not a word, but I use it to describe this action all the time. Perhaps my dictionary needs updating?] I’ve done this to deal with the mounting anguish I’ve felt because I haven’t been posting to my blog, I’ve generally been misbehaving and none of it has involved a MAN. I’ve been writing the classic stuff of existential navel-gazing that any writer worth their mettle is practically required to do. And I’ve pined in my journal. I’ve pined for my lover. Any lover.

Most recently, I’ve been working on an essay I was asked to write for an online journal called Anthropologies. It describes, albeit in extreme shorthand, my experience working on community-based conservation when I first moved here to Mexico.

And lists…I’ve been writing lists – grocery lists and lists of all the things I should be doing, including chores, repairs and writing. After I make my lists, I promptly go surfing even though it’s not on the list.

I’ve also been mind writing, but hardly at all, because I’ve noticed mind writing mostly occurs a lot between actual writing sessions. So if I’m not doing one, I don’t do much of the other.

Aside from writing, I’ve begun conducting research related to an article I’m going to write examining a topic related to the history of surfing. I’ve even conducted two interviews related to said article and set about arranging several others. I don’t want to reveal too much just yet (don’t want to get scooped!), but I will tell you that this project has me more excited than I can say and I’m looking forward to the entire process, particularly the interviews, the people I will get to meet as a result and the knowledge, both specific to the article and about surfing in general, that they may impart to me.

I haven’t just been writing either – I’ve been doing one of the most important things a writer must do – I’ve been reading:

  • Deep in the Wave by Bear Woznick which I will review here at some point in the coming weeks;
  • Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen, which if you haven’t read and think it is anything like the movie, then I will save you the trouble and tell you it is a stretch to say it is even remotely like the movie. There is not even one mention of her romance with Denys Fitch-Haton (played by the lovely Robert Redford in the movie), which clearly was the raison d’être of the movie.
  • Some of the poems in Handwriting by Michael Ondaatje, always worth the time for their beauty and ability to inspire;
  • Several articles in the current and back issues of The Surfer’s Journal (the bible of surfers everywhere);
  • I’ve been picking up and putting down Man Without A Face: The Autobiography of Communism’s Greatest Spymaster by Markus Wolf, but I finally put it down in order to read:
  • Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay by Nancy Milford.

Millay was an early 20th century Pulitzer Prize winning poet to whom the expression “burning the candle at both ends” is attributed. So far my favorite part of the book (probably because it introduces some much needed levity to what is a depressing story) is when the author describes how Vincent (as she was called) helps her sister Norma, who’s just moved to bohemian Greenwich Village from conservative Camden, Maine, get used to life in the city.

One of the first things Vincent explained to Norma was that there was a
certain freedom of languarge in the Village that mustn’t shock her…”So
we sat darning socks…and practiced the use of profanity as we stitched.
Needle in, shit. Needle out, piss. Needle in, fuck. Needle out, cunt. Until
we were easy with the words.”

I am a third of the way through the book and so far I find Millay to be an unsympathetic character, selfish and manipulative, particularly where men are concerned. I’ll let you know if my opinion is altered by the time she dies.

There is so much I want to share with you! I do hope you’ll check back here in the coming days or better yet why don’t you subscribe and get my posts delivered direct to your email so it’s super easy for you to get the latest on my adventures over the last five or so odd weeks. I promise you won’t be disappointed. Double pinky finger promise!

Lost Connections

ImageA disturbing thing has happened. My internet connection isn’t working. As the only “phone” I have is Skype and there’s no cell signal in Vinorama, it’s not like I can just pick up the phone to call the local repair person. Not to mention I am that person.

Living down here has turned me into a “Jill of All Trades.” I manage properties, construction projects and vacation rentals, provide translation services and install and repair satellite internet systems. Oh and I’ve recently (blush) taken to working in real estate (more on that in some future post). I took a course on how to install internet systems, but learning to fix them when they go down has been more trial by fire. There’s a troubleshooting manual, but I’ve never seen the modem do what it’s doing and it’s the one thing not described in the manual.

As I watch the lights on the modem come on, one at a time, I feel the choking sensation of panic rise in my chest. As all four light there is a flash and they all disappear. All of them but the power light. Then the process begins again – two lights, pause, three lights, long pause…

It’s in moments like these that I become aware of how addicted I am to my connection with the outside world. The thought of not being able to check my email, pick up the Skype phone and call someone, or see what’s happening on Facebook or Twitter gets me surprisingly uptight. Okay, maybe I’m not that surprised. I know I have an addiction to being connected, but is that so unusual considering how physically isolated I am?

When the system threatens to fail like this I start thinking about all the work I could get done if I wasn’t reading and writing emails, checking on my homies on Facebook or sending typo-tweets to Alec Baldwin so he can belittle me to his hundreds of thousands of followers (true story). I’m writing right now aren’t I? If the internet was up I’d be on Skype. Instead I’ve edited one piece I wrote last week and written 335 words of this blog post. Make that 343…oh I can see this could become much like a dog chasing it’s tail (357 and counting).

I know I’m not the first, nor will I be the last, to ask the question, “Is the internet a boon or a bust to the quality of our lives?”  I know in no uncertain terms that it makes my life in the Middle of Nowhere manageable by keeping me connected to the rest of the world. I want to believe that people having cell phones has saved more lives than it’s ended (please let that be true or we are in trouble). But it’s also taking an inordinate amount of time away from things that are arguably more important. Our creativity can be sparked by the internet, but then the time it takes to follow through on the creation is often sucked up by social media.

There are only two lights lit on the modem now and it’s been over an hour since the problem began. What happened between 9:45am, when the system was working fine and 10:00am to make it go squirrelly?

Perhaps a pelican flew over the dish and deposited a poop so big it’s messing with the signal. That would be in line with how the rest my morning has gone. It’s literally been full of poop. And pee. I came downstairs to two large piles of the stuff in the guest bedroom and a throw rug soaked in pee. Then when I went into the garage to get the necessary cleaning tools, I found a dog bed soaked in so much pee I wonder if it’s salvageable and a pool of urine by the door. Then I found two more puddles of pee in the house. Living with five senior dogs means I’m going through white vinegar by the gallon. So the possibility of excrement being involved in my internet woes seems distinctly possible. Except that my training tells me that if all four lights manage to come on, even if they don’t stay on, the problem lies somewhere other than the dish.

If all else fails, I’ll have to drive down the road to the Crossroads Country Club, the local wi-fi enabled restaurant that is about as far from being a country club as could be, to send an email to someone at the internet company who might be able to help. And so I can post this long overdue blog post.

P.S. After writing this instead of going to the Crossroads and posting it, I read my current read “The Help” for a while and then remembering that someone once said, “No day is so bad it can’t be fixed with a nap,” I proceeded to nap for the next three hours. I don’t normally take naps because waking up is one of my least favorite things to do, but I’ve been missing out on a lot of sleep lately. Seems it was the right thing to do because when I woke up I was back on line. Phew! Crisis averted. For now.

San Francisco Writers Conference Delivers Inspiration

It can be tough to remain inspired to put word to page when you live at the end of the road, off-the-grid, with only six dogs and an illiterate Mexican caretaker to keep you company. Two years ago, I attended the San Francisco Writers Conference and was inspired beyond expectation. For the past two years, I’ve vowed to return for another injection.

Each time, however, as I gazed longingly at that year’s offerings, it became obvious I couldn’t afford it. After a couple of months during which my brain was fogged with fantasies of unexpected windfall, I recalled meeting someone at the 2010 conference who worked as a volunteer.  I didn’t know what was involved, but figured it was worth exploring the possibilities.  I quickly ascertained that I was eligible and filled out the application form. And that was it. I was in like Flynn.

And I was not disappointed. Organizers of the conference this year once again succeeded in putting on an event that managed to inspire, educate and excite me. The three days were jam-packed with keynote speeches and break-away sessions covering everything from refining your craft to the specifics of how to find an agent, an editor, to getting published, the ins and outs of self-publishing, self-editing, and much more. Additional workshops open to the public were offered by the San Francisco Writers University all day Monday. Outside of active conference hours and volunteer duties there were opportunities to mix it up with some of the country’s (if not the world’s) best writers, agents, editors and publishers.

For those who were ready, there was the opportunity to pitch projects to agents representing big name authors like Sara Gruen, Garth Stein, David Guterson and Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil. Despite not actively seeking them out, at social gatherings a few agents I stumbled across asked me what I was working on, giving me a chance to try out the pitch I’d hurriedly penned hours earlier in the back of my notebook on them. Their feedback, on both the pitch and the project itself, were invaluable.

I booked a session to have professional headshots made by Mark Bennington of Bennington Headshots. I approached Mark’s booth feeling timid and unsure of myself, but Mark quickly put me at ease. Furthermore, the quality of his work on display convinced me that I was in good hands. His enthusiasm and positivity during the actual shooting helped me relax and feel confident, all of which translated to the results, which I believe speak for themselves.

There were ample opportunities to make contacts and for one-on-one interaction with agents and publishers. Each night a no-host dinner was held at one of the excellent local restaurants within walking distance of the venue to which presenters and attendees were invited. On Saturday night an open mic session that was part poetry slam, part literary reading was held at the conference venue. Poets were accompanied by musicians on drums, guitar and saxophone giving the event a Beat/ Gingsbergesque aura. Published authors and neophytes alike were welcome to present. The quality of the offerings was, to understate it, awe-inspiring. By that I mean that every time someone got up and presented my mouth literally hung agape in amazement at the beauty of the work presented.

Inspired? [using my best John Wayne voice] You bet your sweet caboose I am. I’m already planning to volunteer again next year. Will you join me?

Guess Who’s the East Cape Blogger for Baja.com

I’m a little bit behind the eight ball these days. It seems that the pace of life has left me in its dust over the past month or so. Christmas and the travel that comes with it are partly to blame (must we go there?), but I too have to acknowledge my part in the lack of blogging evidenced here of late. But enough of that because there are some exciting things afoot.

Way back in September when I was still sweating 24 hours a day under the heat of a tropical sun, I got an email from a lovely lady representing a web site dedicated to promoting Baja as a tourist destination that was under construction.  She told me they were looking for bloggers, or as they termed it “Amigos” from each of 15 different regions of the peninsula, that they liked my blog and my writing style, would I be interested in becoming the East Cape blogging representative for their new web site? Well! Tickle me every shade of the rainbow! I was thrilled, honored and excited to be getting some serious validation of my writing skills.

BAJA.COM was launched over the holiday and I’m not sure why I didn’t run over here immediately to let you,the faithful readers of this blog, know, but I’ll blame the coma-inducing turkey chemicals and vats of my hometown Beau’s All Natural beer that was going down at the time. After getting to know the site a little better and reading the web site’s CEO and creator Jim Pickell’s blog launching the site, I am even prouder to be part of this endeavor. It quickly became apparent that they’ve earned their claim to being “the most comprehensive source of Baja travel information that has ever existed.”

So here it is folks! My very first official post on Baja.com as their East Cape Amiga. I hope you’ll stop by often, chime in with your comments, questions and observations of your own and perhaps start planning that trip to Baja you’ve been thinking of taking.

Potential Energy

I’ve lost my way. I’m like a little girl out in a misty forest full of strange sounds and prickly bushes. I came here looking for something, but when the fear grabbed hold of me, I got disoriented and turned around. I’ve been wandering around looking for my destination, but all I’ve found is muddy holes, impassable creeks and a big patch of poison ivy. My clothes are tattered and my legs and face are covered in scratches. I haven’t given up though, and I know there is a way out of this tangled mess.

Once a week I am joined here in the forest of my life by Andrea Mauer, my wonderful and talented life coach. She takes my hand and walks the twisting paths with me. I show her the paths I tried and she helps me see where I went wrong. She points out the similarity between these paths and the ones I’ve already taken that led to impasses. She saves me from going down paths she is already familiar with or that she points out are rife with obstacles before I get too far along. Every once in a while she invites another wise person to join us in our search for my destination.

Andrea introduced me to Amy Oscar’s blog several months ago. Amy describes herself as a Soul Caller, an intuitive, a life coach and a teacher. Amy is deeply spiritual and connected to the Spirit World in a way that few people I know are. Like me, she believes in angels. But Amy has a connection to angels like no one I’ve ever met. You can read more about her here.

Recently, Amy invited readers to join her in a month long Writing Circle. I’ve joined in the hopes that her connectedness to the Spirit World and a connection to the other writers participating will help me find my way out of this dark forest of self-doubt, fear and resistance, to reconnect to my purpose in life and bring me to that place where my writing is full of inspiration and passion.

Yesterday’s prompt spoke to me and the eloquence with which Amy writes was inspiring. She wrote:

There is a place between here and there, between mystery and science, between staying and leaving, between choice and becoming: a place where most of us do not want to stay very long. We want to name and explain everything. We want to understand, to know – so we can put things in their places.

And yet, sitting in this space of not yet, of “I don’t know,” can be the most powerful place of all. For it is here, having departed the familiar and not yet arrived at the ‘who knows where,’ that anything is possible.

Not knowing is something I’ve never been comfortable with. It’s the reason I went into the sciences where the security of a “right” answer gave me something to hang on to and I did so for dear life. As a child, my greatest rewards – praise, love and attention – came from “knowing.” Naturally, it took me almost forty years to get more comfortable in the grey areas of life. The one area I was still severely challenged in was the realm of relationships.

I’m a serial monogamist – my whole adult life I’ve been in and out of relationships, but have been in them more than out. I moved in with my boyfriend when I was 18. I’ve been in a committed relationship for 21 of the 25 years that followed. I was 32 the first time I lived on my own for any considerable amount of time. I’ve been so uncomfortable with those in-between times that they have typically been filled with anxiety, depression and serial obsessions with first one man and then the next and the next, until something sticks and I’m back in a long-term relationship.

Not this time.

I find myself in that in between place now, the place Inyala Vanzant calls “the meantime,” that time between staying and leaving, between the choice I made and becoming whatever it is I will become. This time there is a difference though. I am still not completely comfortable here, but I notice I am more at ease than ever before. Anxiety is an occasional visitor rather than taking up residence in my soul. Andrea’s coaching has been invaluable in helping me find this place of acceptance and calm. When we started working together, I was already walking a path that hugged a jagged cliff-face overlooking a bottomless pit. She talked me off the cliff step by vertigo-inducing step, gently helping me figure out I was once again on the path to self-destructive relationship behavior, and then helped me figure out where to put my feet.

This is my chance to change the pattern of making choices that are not in my best interest and to stop hitting my head on the relationship brick wall. This time I am going to get quiet, turn inward and listen to my soul more. This time I’m going to take care of me more and worry about who “he” might be less. This time I’m not going to let myself fall head over heels in lust with someone I barely know. This time I think some “dating” and getting to know the person before I move in with him sounds like a good idea.

Perhaps more importantly, this time I’m not going to sweat the alone time. I’m going to use this time to work on me and my writing. When so many of my friends are juggling full-time jobs and kids, I am in the envious position of having only myself to worry about (six dogs and Felipe the caretaker hardly rate in comparison to 9-5 and a family).

Like Amy says, it is from this place that anything is possible. There is an energy in these in between times that is palpable – the potential energy of possibility, like a seed on the forest floor waiting for an opening in the canopy so it can to burst forth and grow. And so, I will be here waiting for the sunlight while I connect and create – me, myself, my soul.

Starting a Revolution

There’s a bit of a revolution occurring here in Vinorama. It’s a tiny revolution involving only a couple of people, but it’s mind-blowing and potentially world-changing for at least one of us. 
Itturns out that last week’s post was a metaphor for what is going on in my lifein more ways than I realized. Usingthe “changing currents” metaphor, I alluded to the fact that I’ve made some bigchanges lately. Beyond that I hadn’t given any thought to the rest of the postbeing more than the story of how I could have drowned.
Turnsout that I have been drowning. My head was still above water, but I was floundering and caught in a powerful riptide of repeatingthe same mistakes I’ve made in relationships since time immemorial. And my behavior was wreakinghavoc on my self-esteem and ability to get any work done.
The“riptide” wasn’t any one thing – it was a combination of factors anddistractions that I was allowing to pull me away from giving this chaotic time in my life the attention and love it deserves so that I can keep movingforward in life in the most positive way possible. I was partying too much,surfing too much, flirting too much with unavailable men (yes, time forsome honesty here). I was so distracted by everything out there, that the stuffthat was going on in here, was going unexamined.
Thatis when Andrea Mauer, revolution starter and talented life coach, threw me a life ringto which I am clinging with a white-knuckle grip. Yeah, that’s another metaphor.  What she actually did was respond to anemail I sent her that was clearly a call for help. If you’re new here, I’veposted about her life coaching before. I tried doing my own version of her 90-Day Power Play program before, but I was doing it without her guidance (she was inthe middle of working it with 10 luckier women and couldn’t spread herself any thinner). Furthermore, my level ofmotivation was suspiciously low because I was oblivious to what was coming down the pike in less than six months’ time.
Sometimesyou gotta get hit by the train to hear its whistle.
Thistime my attitude is different because the train wreak has already happened and I’m standing next to the smoking pile of remains wondering how I ended up back here on the wrong side of the relationship tracks, all by myself once again. It’s also different because Andrea’s holding my hand, walking me through each stepand periodically pulling me back on the path that will lead me to where I ammeant to be – to that place where I’m fulfilling my purpose and livingcontentedly, instead of floundering and drowning in the sea of self-sabotageand decisions based on outdated beliefs that no longer serve me.
We’vealready accomplished a lot. She’s helped me change the energy I’ve beencarrying around related to men. She’s convinced me the best thing to do isput all that relationship stuff on the back burner for now. And it’s working. Ifeel more clear headed, grounded and “Look Ma!” I’m actually able toconcentrate enough to write (let’s reserve judgment on the quality for now…baby steps people, baby steps).
We’veestablished that the big challenge I face is changing afundamental belief that I’ve carried around like a two ton elephant on my back since I was achild. The belief that I am not worthy of deep, compassionate, unconditional love has colored my decision-making process concerning how and with whom I am willing to establish relationships. Yes, this is not unique, it’s one insecurity that a large segment of the populationshares. That’s why I’m going out on a limb here and sharing this. This is a belief that results from being raised by parents who didn’t know how to show us we are worthy of unconditional love. They didn’t know because theywere raised by similarly clueless parents who were raised by parents who had to focus onjust trying to stay alive. (Don’t get me wrong, I love my parents, and I am notblaming them for something they had little control over. They just grew up at atime – the Great Depression – when there wasn’t enough of anything, let aloneguidance on enlightened self-esteem-building child-rearing techniques.) Andrea says, “It’s an inside job Dawn. The solution to your relationship woes begins with you.” Ouch…but yeah, she’s right. To that end, I’m back on the meditation cushion, getting back in touch with that part of me that can heal anything and everything.
Andreaand I have also discussed the effect that spending so much time surfing has hadon my life. Lately, I’ve been using any and all available energy to surf. It’sbecome an obsession instead of just a passion that is overwhelming my abilityto get anything else done. If I’m not careful, surfing and men will be thedownfall of my desire to make writing my profession.I need more balance in my life so that I have more time and energy to write.  Andrea also wants me to try to figureout what it is that I get out of surfing that makes me want to spend so much time doing it. Why am I so obsessively passionate aboutit? I’ve tried telling her it’s because it’s outrageously fun, involves theocean and gives me my adrenaline injection for the day, but she thinks there’smore to it than that – something deeper, more darkly psychological about it. I maintain, “I just love it! Isn’t that enough?” But she’s not buying it.
Shemakes the point that by recognizing the source of the passion, I’ll be moresuccessful in tempering it, and can possibly apply the same principal towriting so I fall in love with it to the same degree. Now that would berevolutionary.
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Working Out

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There’s been a transformation and it’s got everything to do with my writing. For the first time in a long time, I’m excited about my writing. First and foremost I have the Stanford Online Creative Nonfiction Writing class to thank for this. It has kicked me in the butt and made me write write write! While it may be a tad trite, it is true that, “Writers write.” Yes, well, this writer hasn’t been doing enough of that, and this course has done wonders to turn that around.
Firstly, we had to commit to writing for five minutes first thing every morning.  I’ve said it here before and I’ll say it again, I’m not much into the discipline scene. But I decided to commit. It doesn’t matter that my decision to commit was probably born of some deep seated need for approval, the need I’ve always had to kiss the teacher’s ass. What matters is the results, right?
The course structure and content have also given me the direction I needed to get over the huge speed bump that had grown up in front of me because I felt lost, not knowing how to get to the next step, how to keep moving forward, get more words on the page. The instruction I’ve received on how to conduct research (What’s that? You say? Research? It’s a memoir isn’t it?) has been instrumental in getting me moving, making progress, driving me on to find the next detail that I’d all but forgotten about.
And like all good little Type A, codependent personalities, the encouragement I’ve received from our instructor and fellow students hasn’t hurt either.
Low and behold, I’ve discovered that if I make myself sit down and write for five minutes first thing in the morning that I am still there several hours and many hundreds of words later.  I know, what did I expect? But seriously I’m sitting here in wonder as I realize that I’ve written over 15,000 words in the past 13 days. [In the name of honesty, technically it’s not first, first thing. Writing happens after I pee, brush my teeth, wash my face, put on the obligatory facial sunscreen, get dressed, let the dogs out, give them pats and a get my huge mug of tea. I don’t think I’m splitting hairs here, am I?]
Some days I really do only write for five to ten minutes and then I get up and go do something that I would normally fill my morning with, like yoga or more often than not surfing. Strangely enough, I think that while following this regimen, I’ve actually surfed more in the past two weeks than I have over similar periods for the past two years. And yet, I’ve managed to write so much! The only thing that is probably suffering is my yoga (and by extension, my lower back).
Before I started the course, I wrote here about following Andrea Mauer’s advice and kept a time journal for about ten days. As soon as I started it, I saw how much time I wasted messing about on the internet, reading emails, checking Facebook updates, randomly conducting searches on anything that popped into my mind. I spent a ridiculous amount of time recording my caloric intake on the Livestrong.com website (it’s still a great web site, I just don’t have time to be going on there three or more times a day to try to find the ingredients to everything I eat). She helped me recognize how much time I was wasting and the writing course has made me prioritize. I guess I needed the combination punch to wake the #$@% up!
So, finally I feel like I’m over the hump. I’m 118 pages and 56216 words into my goal of having a first draft of my memoir written and it no longer feels like a weight attached to my backside and dragging along in the sand behind me. I’m excited about it, can’t wait to read the next journal entry or email that will prompt my memory so I can write the next section. I’m planning interviews to get others perspectives, reading the research and articles that first grabbed my attention and made me want to do the work. I’m finding where my outline is confused and confusing and have started to repair it. And I even think I feel the right side of my brain growing, blossoming, generating more neurons and synapses as I sit here plugging away at my computer. Someone once said, “The brain is a muscle. You’ve got to exercise it.”  It might not be the cerebral equivalent of Arnold Schwarzenegger, but my brain’s been bench-pressing 1000 words daily.
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