Monday, April 30, 2012

z is for zazen

ZAZEN means “sitting meditation”…which is what I like to think I do on days when I am parked in front of my laptop, writing…lost in thought for hours and hours, sometimes with nothing much to show for it. Which more or less looks and feels like meditation except that, rather than achieving enlightenment, I’m likely to be muddling over a plot point, wrestling with a character, or puzzling over a scene.

In truth, meditation is a practice we turn to for inner peace…to reclaim the wisdom, love, and compassion that may have been sucked out of us by the sheer rush of life. In Zen Buddhism, meditation is a means to awakening…to releasing attachments and to staying alert, aware and open both in heart and mind.

ZAZEN is an indispensable tool when life skids out of control and we need to slam on the brakes if we hope to survive. When we are swept along by our culture, kicking and screaming against the current because we know that there is nothing of value waiting for us downstream.

Meditation is a gift to writers, artists, and composers…people who need to dream in order to do their most creative and imaginative work because inspiration comes so quietly and slowly.

Can you make time for meditation? Can you afford not to?

“We can live without religion and meditation,
but we cannot survive without human affection.”
--Dalai Lama--
So there you have it…from A to Z and back again…back to human affection which is what I feel for each and every one of you—along with respect an d admiration for the effort you put into this challenge. It’s great to be a part of this writing community…to be connected with so many creative, talented souls. I am forever grateful for your words of encouragement and support. It’s great to have met you and I hope we can stay in touch…because now that the Challenge is finished, what are we going to do for fun?
be still--

Saturday, April 28, 2012

y is for yo-yo

As a child I never quite mastered the rhythm and tempo of the YO-YO. Getting the ups and downs of it defeated me every time. After a couple of clumsy passes, the poor thing invariably ended up dangling in mid-air or swinging listlessly back and forth.
To say that my writing life has had its ups and downs would be the understatement of the year. You probably know what I mean. You have a great idea for a story but it falls flat halfway through. You spend all week polishing a piece for your critique group only to be met with, "I like it BUT..." Or an agent requests a partial and your hopes soar...until the rejection letter arrives.

Up. Down. Up. Down.

There are several ways of approaching this problem. You can put your YO-YO away and forget about it. Quit this nonsense. Get yourself a pogo stick instead.

Or you can make excuses for it. The string is too long or too short. Your fingers are too long or too short. The Earth just wobbled on its axis. Whatever...

Or you can make up your mind to stick with it until you get it right. Work at it. Focus. Concentrate. Study. Practice. Before long you may find that your plot has taken an unexpected turn. A character starts acting up. A scene unfolds...and you're on your way again...

...until the next time you find yourself dangling helplessly over your keyboard.

Other than resorting to violence and substance do you handle your ups and downs?
"Writer's block:
when the voices in your head
stop talking to you."
Hopefully you cope with the ups and downs through ZEN meditation, the subject of my next and final 2012 A to Z post.

Friday, April 27, 2012

x is for x-factor

THE X-FACTOR defined:
  1. a circumstance, quality, or person that exerts a strong but unpredictable influence
  2. a variable in a situation that could have the most significant impact on the outcome
  3. a hard to describe talent or quality

In other words, serendipity on steroids. A mysterious energy that can make it or break it for us. An ineffable quality that brings success to some...defeat to others. You just can't wrap your head around it or put it into words...which is frustrating to a writer. I want to know what makes a story sell. I want to know what it is that launches one person's career and thwarts another's. Where does talent originate? Can it be forged? How? Through hard work? By pure luck?

The X-factor is as capricious as a butterfly, as elusive as smoke, and as fickle as the wind. It can't be captured and it can't be confined. Some of us will search forever just to catch a glimpse of it. Some of us will never try.

For a successful writer it might be an intricate plot, a breathtaking scene, an engaging character.

For an artist it might be the interplay of color and light.

For a composer, a haunting melody or heart-aching lyrics.

Do you possess the X-factor? How will you know?
"When inspired by some great purpose,
some extraordinary project,
all your thoughts break their bounds:
your mind transcends limitations,
your consciousness expands in every direction and
 you find yourself in a new great and wonderful world.
 Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive,
 and you discover yourself to be a greater person
 than you ever dreamed to be."
In tomorrow's post we'll learn why the writing life is like a YO-YO.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Instead of making New Year’s resolutions last January 1st, I decided to engage in wishful thinking.

This effectively places the responsibility for success or failure in someone else’s hands. Above all, I WISH my novel would publish to rave reviews. I WISH that one of my essays or stories would win recognition. I WISH that the structure for my next book would fall into place for me.
This has a more optimistic ring to it than forging resolutions which smacks of self-discipline, grim determination, and then bitter self-reproach when you mess up. For example, I could have promised to journal first thing every day this year…but what if I have to wander outside because the sunrise is too heart-achingly beautiful to miss? What then?

I could have resolved to write one thousand words every day…but what if my dog wants to take a walk at the lake? How can I say no to her?

Resolutions are sometimes simply destined to fail.

Optimism, on the other hand, is an empowering force and hope is a saving grace. There is no limit to what you can WISH for. Just a couple of days ago parts of Pennsylvania received over a foot of April! So I WISHED for sunshine and warmer weather...and yesterday the thermometer hit 70 under a clear blue sky. See? It works!

And (ta-da!) my short story, "On a Different Note" was published this month in The Storyteller Magazine--my first publishing credit.

Try it. It might just work for you, too.

What are you WISHFULLY thinking about?
“Anything is possible if you WISH hard enough.”
--Peter Pan--
c/o Sir James Matthew Barrie
In my next post we'll try to figure out what exactly the X-FACTOR is.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

v is for voices

Beware of VOICES you hear in the night. The ones that insist you're wasting your time. The ones that contend you're only kidding yourself. That you have no future. The ones that demand to know what it is that makes you think you have anything of value--anything of interest--to say or to draw or to sing about. The VOICES that claim you will never publish, never make it into a gallery, never find your way onto a stage. The one that predicts you will never be a success.

It may be the VOICE of a parent...something about earning a decent living or keeping up appearances or connecting with the right people. It may be the VOICE of a teacher or boss or classmate or co-worker...all of them with "your best interests at heart" as they scatter corrections and cautions and conventions along your path as if your journey weren't difficult enough without them.

What's worse is that it may be your own VOICE that you hear. When you tell yourself that you aren't good enough. Or that you are foolish or selfish or conceited for wanting to write or paint or sing or dance when there is so much else that needs to be done--the hungry to feed, the homeless to shelter, the grieving to comfort. It may be your own VOICE that makes you feel guilty because you are caring for yourself for a change, doing something that you enjoy, something that is fulfilling when others are so empty. And because it's your own VOICE that you hear, you can't walk away from it. You rant and rave against it when someone encourages you or supports you or congratulates or thanks you. Should you experience a moment of inspiration, a surge of confidence, a glimmer of optimism, you tell yourself not to trust it. Not to believe it. Not to act upon it.

I've been hearing VOICES for years...the VOICES of restraint, of uncertainty, of shame, of guilt. If this happens to you, you must politely excuse yourself and hurry to your nearest friend...someone who encourages you and supports your dream. Someone who understands how hard this is and respects your courage. Someone whose friendship isn't invested in your success or wealth or fame. Like Lynda Barry, a friend will tell you, "It's good...Good!"...not necessarily your writing or painting or performance, but it's good that you had the courage to begin...good that you were willing to try...good that you are determined to persevere.

If you hear VOICES in the night, call up a friend. But whatever you do, don't alter a word of your story, a stroke of your brush, a step of your dance, or a note of your melody in deference to the critic within who is, after all, a liar and a fake.

What have the VOICES been telling you?
"So long as you write what you wish to write,
That is all that matters;
And whether it matters for ages or only for hours,
Nobody can say.
But to sacrifice a hair of the head of your vision,
A shade of its colour,
In deference to some headmaster with a silver pot
In his hand
Or to some professor with a measuring rod
Up his sleeve,
Is the most abject treachery."
--A Room of One's Own--
Virginia Woolf
In my next post, I'll extol the virtues of WISHFUL THINKING.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

u is for uncertainty

As I look back on the retirement years I have devoted to writing, I realize I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I started…no idea how to begin, no clue where I was going, not an inkling how to get there. I sometimes wonder why I took it on when I could simply have passed the time puttering around the house or lunching with friends.

UNCERTAINTY has been my constant companion for almost four years now.

This is true whenever we climb out of a comfortable rut and take off on some unfamiliar path... 

...especially when we choose to follow something as capricious as a creative urge or as fleeting as a dream. If you have an irrepressible yearning to write or paint or compose you, too, may struggle with UNCERTAINTY. How will I make time for it? What will people think? Am I any good at it? Is it worth the effort?

I believe that writers and artists and performers are as courageous and hardworking and as driven as are the finest physicians...and I should know. Artists and writers put in long, lonely hours without compensation. We learn to coexist with UNCERTAINTY, insecurity, and fear of failure. We are constantly learning and applying what we learn to our craft. Still, we sometimes fail…when we have done all we can for our manuscript and in the end, it is rejected. When we fail to hit the high note. When a painting doesn't sell. When, like a physician who has done all he can for his patient, but still, his patient dies.

Why go on? Perhaps it is an inner voice that urges us on--the conviction that if we just keep at it…or try something new…or take a different approach…we can do better. Perhaps the next time, the patient will survive. Perhaps the next book will sell.

How do you cope with UNCERTAINTY?
"Advice is what we ask for
when we already know the answer
but wish we didn't."
--Erica Jong--
Be sure to check my next post if you sometimes hear strange VOICES in your head.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

t is for tips

In my last post I mentioned that I would try to send along a few writing TIPS today. Imagine such arrogance coming from someone whose debut novel has been moldering in a drawer for over a year! What I meant was that I’d offer my take on how to cope with all the advice out there that comes from highly successful writers and publishers. Not to guarantee success but to make the process yours.

The endless barrage of writing advice is enough to make anyone run for cover. Books, magazines, web sites, and blogs…full of suggestions and corrections and admonitions. There is so much information out there it can be hard to focus…hard to pick and choose which sites to follow, whose method to adopt, which recommendations to accept. So, to simplify the process my suggestions are:
1. Run a couple of cold beers down to the “boys in the basement” every so often.
After all, they’re the ones who are likely to be there for you in a pinch. My guys will sometimes send up just the right piece of dialogue when I need it or a catchy metaphor that hasn’t been used before or a strong action verb instead of an adverb. And they do it when I least expect it. They deserve a little refreshment for their efforts.

2. Ask your muse what kind of music she likes. My muse likes anything MoTown, sacred choral works, Paul Winters, and Drum Sex by Brent Lewis…depending on her mood. Especially when she’s stuck.

3. Use what works for you. I’m sad to say that “Writing Begins with the Breath” with Larraine Herring didn’t work for me although it might be just what you need. (Maybe it was all that tapping on my head…). I adored Lynda Barry’s workshop, “Do You Wish You Could Write?” but the endless spiraling didn’t work for me either. Julia Cameron’s retreat, “The Artist’s Way” was empowering but didn’t improve my style or punctuation. My breakthrough came with “Story Engineering” by Larry Brooks (

 Voila! Now we’re talking! Use what works for you. You'll know when you find it.

4. Start the day with a good work-out or a long walk…or take a break after a couple of hours of writing before you feel your hips start to spread. It’ll do your heart good…literally.

5. Encourage other writers. Root for them. Cheer them on. Applaud them just for trying. It’s good karma.

These are my five TIPS for the day. With them I managed to get a short story published. In fact, "On a Different Note" will be coming out this month in The Storyteller Magazine ( )

Let me know how these TIPS work for you!

“Pure logic is the ruin of the spirit."
--Antoine De Saint-Exupery--
In tomorrow's post I'll offer some words about uncertainty.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

s is for stories

One of my critique partners posted a question this week and I’m happy to say that I knew the answer instantly. No beating around the bush for me. No hemming and hawing. There was nothing wishy-washy about it at all.
The question was this:
If you could be any fictional character, who would you be?

My answer:
Peter Pan, of course.
Hands down. No doubt about it.
This is my final answer…and I’m sticking with it!

My choice is based on more than just the fact that Peter Pan could fly although that fact alone is sufficient to justify my decision. There’s more to it than the fact that Peter dreamt of remaining a child forever although that’s a big part of it for me, too.

What captured my imagination when I saw the theater production for the first time was the fact that the role of Peter Pan was played by a girl—Mary Martin. I ached to be just like her…to be Peter Pan. I spent a good portion of my childhood hanging out in the highest branches of the tallest tree I could find. I explored the woods and streams that surrounded my childhood home for hours on end…alone. I celebrated every thunder storm and every snowstorm and had no fear of venturing outside during the worst of them. I knew how to read the sky. I was adventurous, brave, curious, free, and imaginative when I was Peter’s age…whatever age he was. I wanted to be just like him…except for one problem.

The saddest thing in Peter’s life was the fact that he didn’t know any STORIES. No one read to him:

“She (Wendy) was just slightly disappointed when he (Peter) admitted that he came to the nursery window not to see her but to listen to their STORIES.
                        ‘You see I don’t know any STORIES. None of the lost boys knows any STORIES.’
                        ‘How perfectly awful,’ Wendy said.
                        ‘Do you know,’ Peter asked, ‘why swallows build in the eaves of houses? It is to listen to the STORIES.’ …
                         ... "Oh, the STORIES I could tell to the boys!' she cried, and then Peter gripped her began to draw her towards the window. 
                         ‘Let me go!’ she ordered him.
                         ‘Wendy, do come with me and tell the other boys.’
                         Of course she was very pleased to be asked but she said, ‘Oh dear, I can’t. I can’t fly.’
                         ‘I’ll teach you. I’ll teach you how to jump on the wind’s back, and then away we go.’”

In a way I think we all learn to fly in our hearts and souls through the STORIES we hear, thro,ugh the STORIES we write, the songs we sing, and the pictures we draw. We owe it to Peter, to all the lost children of the world, and to the adults who still don’t know any STORIES, to keep on writing, singing, dancing, and drawing.

I owe it to my friend for posing this question today. So I’d like to pass it on to you:

If you could be any fictional character, who would you be?
Are you anything like him/her as a person today?
“And, even if you can no longer remember how to fly to Neverland,
Peter will always come to rescue you if you want him to.
All you have to do is believe.”
--Tony DiTerlizzi--
In my next post I'll share a few TIPS with you.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

q is for quiz

Don't ask me how I missed my "Q" post today. Let's just chalk it up to stress, or confusion, or stupidity which is just one reason why...

...I hated QUIZZES when I was a kid—especially "pop" QUIZZES. Nevertheless, today I have a short QUIZ for you:

What is it that makes you happiest?
What are you doing that makes you proudest?
For what or whom are you most grateful?
What is your one overriding regret?
What can you do to fix it?
When will you start?
Why not today?

On this QUIZ you can earn a
just for trying!

Wouldn’t it be great if the creative arts were just that easy…if we could publish our poem, or hang our painting, or star in the drama, or get the solo based on our good intentions? If we received credit for all the times we tried...all the times we started but never finished...for all the stories and poems and songs we imagined and then skimmed over or neglected altogether.

Sadly, life is not that kind to us. We may not have all the answers to this QUIZ and we may not know where to find them. Some people will cheat on it. Others would rather give up than ask for help. But then, what will become of them on graduation day?

What will become of you?
“The difference between school and life is this:
In school, you're taught a lesson and then given a test.
In life, you're given a test that teaches you a lesson.”
--Tom Bodett--
In my next post, we'll talk about the joys of REVISION.

r is for revision

Just about this time last year I handed my husband a short (half page or so) list of home repairs that needed attention, most of them having to do with leaks and drafts and worn out parts. He said, "Call the contractor...and while you're at it, tell him we need the house re-insulated, we need new siding, and the septic system needs to be up-graded." Not that I know anything at all about insulation, siding, or septic systems but, long story short, the list of necessary repairs and touch-ups ended up three pages longer and it cost tens-of-thousands of dollars more than what we had expected.

The problem with the house is that it wasn't built well to begin with so that in addition to a few cosmetic touch-ups, the entire infrastructure needed REVISION. Wait--REVISION? Where have I heard that word before?

This year I learned alot about siding and shingling and tiling, about insulation and wiring and pipes. About termites and carpenter ants.

I've learned that remodeling a house has alot in common with REVISING a WIP:

--If you don't take the time and make the effort to do it right the first time around, you may have to begin all over again when you go back to fix it up.
--The closer you look at it, the more you'll find that needs correcting.
--One problem always leads to another.
--You may have to dismantle everything before you can begin to rebuild.
--You may have to put the rest of your life on hold for awhile.
--The finished product will be worth it!

I estimate it will be a couple of weeks until the repairs on the house will be finished. Then I need to get to work on my novel.


Trust me...I'll be very thankful when this REVISION is finished!
"Discontent and disorder are
signs of energy and hope, not of despair."
--Dame Cicely Veronica Wedgwood--
In my next post, I'll tell you about my favorite STORY of all time.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

p is for persistence

Beginning over again isn't easy, whatever we choose to undertake. Luckily, encouragement is everywhere. We are surrounded by rewards for our PERSISTENCE, resilience, and unquenchable desire.

You can see it in the impish delight of a baby who is determined to crawl away from his mother.

She will chase him down, scoop him up, and deposit him safely at her feet again. This only serves to elicit a squeal of delight as he takes off again…and again. Fearless. Tireless. Undaunted. His mother could get angry with him. She could put a stop to it altogether. She could simply give up and let him go! But if she is wise, she will make a game of it and he will come back for more every time.…something we all should learn to do.

You can see it at the beach, too—in the sand pipers, racing to and fro…chasing after the waves in pursuit of food and then pivoting and racing away again and again to avoid being swept up by the surf.

And, of course, there is the endless ebb and flow of the waves and the steady rise and fall of the tide day in and day out…again and again.
This is what life calls us to be—fearless, energetic, playful, steadfast, PERSISTENT, and relentless no matter what we attempt—a story or a sketch, a song or a dance, a new class or a new job or a new relationship.

I believe that if your day…or the task ahead of you…or your attempt at it…is shrouded in dread or fear or confusion or shame, you should find a baby to watch. You should be a shore bird at the water’s edge. You should be the surf...the tide itself.

What else can you begin to be?

The Diver’s Clothes Lying Empty

You’re sitting here with us,
but you’re also out walking in a field at dawn.
You are yourself the animal we hunt
when you come with us on the hunt.
You’re in your body like a plant is solid in the ground,
yet you’re the wind.
You’re the diver’s clothes lying empty on the beach…
The lute strings that make ocean music,
not the sad edge of the surf, but the sound of no shore.
In my next post, I'll give you a little QUIZ.

Monday, April 16, 2012

n is for naked

One evening, a couple of years ago, I wandered into our local B&N stark NAKED. I sat down under the unforgiving white lights where every flaw, every imperfection, every blemish begged for attention…humiliation, disparagement, mockery. Not quite like this guy, but you get the picture:

A nightmare? Not at all. It was the night I ventured, unannounced, into my first critique group, prompted by nothing but a brief listing on the store’s monthly calendar of events: “Pennwriters—Join us for a read-and-critique workshop with members of Pennwriters (which, I learned, is a statewide writers’ organization, but who knew?). Bring ten copies of five pages from your work-in-progress to share with the group.”
Such audacity! Me…an unpublished wannabe-writer sitting down among tested and proven authors who would scrutinize every “is, was, and would be”, every adverb and adjective...every typo, for that matter…in my poor buff manuscript. Talk about feeling exposed!

If this sounds like torture to you, let me assure you, it is not! Well, sometimes it can be a little rocky…when someone urges you to kill one of your “babies.” When they tell you, “The story doesn’t really begin until page 134—get rid of the rest.” When they point out that you used the word “was” eighteen times in just three paragraphs and you hadn’t picked up on it! But then everyone laughs because they’ve done the same thing, too.

I’ve commented on this before and I’ll say it again…I love my critique partners! That’s not to say that I always welcome their corrections and suggestions but it’s so much better coming from them than a cold, dismissive agent or editor…because by then, it’s too late. You know the line, “Sorry but this is not for me…”. In our group we make it point to balance criticism with encouragement, correction with support. And, oh my, does it feel good when what you’ve written is well-received!

If you don’t have a critique partner or group…or if you’ve been avoiding the whole concept out of fear or timidity..but are willing to give it a try, here are some tips:
If you prefer the idea of sitting NAKED in the privacy of your home, you can connect with an on-line writing group. Let “Google” do the walking. You will find groups listed by genre and by locale. Check out for a listing of writers’ groups.
One of the advantages of an on-line group, especially for those of you who are shy, is the degree of relative anonymity it provides. No one will recognize you. No one will know that you’re the local kindergarten teacher writing sadomasochistic thrillers, or a dead-beat dad penning Christian inspiration. In an on-line format, you have a flexible schedule, you can connect with writers in the same genre, and you can work wherever you can carry your laptop.
On the other hand, there will be an inevitable delay as you wait for feedback on your submission. And you may miss the personal connection with your partners.
A local writers’ group allows you to meet local authors and to network with other writers in your area. You are held to a deadline as you hurry to polish your submission in time for the monthly meeting. And you get immediate feedback. You can almost tell what’s coming as you watch your partners read your work. There may be an impromptu chuckle or collective “ooh!” or “ahhh.” A reassuring nod or smile.
On the other hand, you will be acutely aware of the scribbling going on in the margins of your WIP, of people fidgeting and glancing ahead to see how more of this crap they still have to read. That’s when it can get a little nerve-wracking.
Groups operate differently. Some send out submissions by e-mail ahead of time and simply exchange comments when they meet. Some prefer to read and respond on the spot. Whatever format you choose, the group should observe certain ground rules and basic etiquette.
First, shirts and shoes are required!

Our group restricts submissions to five double-spaced pages, allowing approximately five minutes for reading and ten minutes for comments. Rude, demeaning remarks are not allowed nor is ridicule. We consider strengths and weaknesses equally. To save time, we do not encourage the writer to defend or clarify his work or to argue against particular comments. Take them or leave them, deserved or not. In other words, put your big boy boxers on and deal with it.
Still not convinced that a writing group is for you? Interested but not sure how to proceed? Check this out:

So, don’t be shy. A good critique group will be your BFF. If you hope to get published, this is a good place to start.
“We do not mind our not arriving anywhere
nearly so much as our not having any company
on the way.”
--Frank Moore Colby--
In my next post I'll give you a well-deserved OVATION!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

matters of great importance

Because today is Sunday, a day off from A to Z blogging, I thought I would catch up on a few matters of great importance.

First, a note of thanks to my new followers.

I'm almost up to one hundred, nothing to brag about by most standards, but it's a start and your support is greatly appreciated.

Second, my laptop is in for repairs (at least I hope it can be repaired).

This has to do with a mug of tea and a well-timed elbow nudge from guess who. Somebody really should figure out how to water-proof these new-fangled contraptions as much as they cost! I just saw a trip to Dallas for a writing conference go up in sparks :( .

Anyway, I am now working from my netbook which is just too S-L-O-W for words...
 ...making my frustration level S-O-A-R...and it looks like it will be this way for the next couple of weeks. UGH!

On a brighter note, several times this week I was stopped on the street by people who are simply casual acquaintances of mine. I mean, we're not even facebook I was pleasantly surprised when they commented on my blog. I never would have guessed that they knew about it, much less read it regularly...much less enjoyed it, if they hadn't said something. Which brings me to this:

I would love to hear from you if you are reading "begin...begin again" or "Cherished Illusions" at , the blog I have dedicated to my recent trip to Africa. You can follow me and receive email updates just by clicking on the appropriate icons when you sign-in the next time.

And...I have to tell you that as a blogger, I love to get feedback on what I've written.

That's what the comment field is for. I'd love to hear from you...especially if you have corrections or suggestions to make, if there is a topic you'd like to hear about, or if you think I could be doing better job of it. I'm all about doing a better job...

The point is that writing, for the most part, is a solitary pastime so being part of the on-line community is a tremendous advantage to writers. The potential for connections is limitless. So never hesitate to add a comment when it occurs to you. I'll do my best to get back to you in response.

Tomorrow on "begin...begin again" I'll tell you what it feels like to go around "Naked". Today, I plan to work on a summary post for "Cherished Illusions"...

...distilling my thoughts and feelings about the experience including some of the misconceptions I lugged all the way to Tanzania with me, and where they went from there.

Again, thanks for stopping by. Your feedback is welcome.
"If we were meant to talk more than listen,
we would have two mouths and one ear."
--Mark Twain--
Have a great day!

Friday, April 13, 2012

l is for leash

Forgive me if I digress for a moment but...I've been having some issues with my dog recently.

Famke and me

This has to do with deer in the back yard, her hunting instinct, and the fact that she weighs more than I do. So, a couple of weeks ago I engaged the assistance of an Alpha Dog Obedience Trainer. I felt good about the training but she didn't buy into it right away because for her, it meant that she was not allowed off her LEASH until she got things right. Somehow commands to "sit", "stay", and "come" did not measure up to her drive to explore her surroundings, to sniff at every blade of grass, every fallen acorn, and every stray twig outdoors…and to test every sofa, every bed, and every pillow indoors for softness and warmth.

But  the day I finally let her run off-LEASH for the first time since training started, I could see her spirits soar! The freedom literally “unLEASHed” her “puppiness”…her energy, joy, playfulness, and curiosity...

…which made me wonder what it is that LEASHES the creative spirit in us, when we get the urge to run and jump, to roll in the grass, to spin in circles and wags our tails…when we yearn to write or compose or act, to sing or dance…and instead we trot along obediently because something has us by the neck.

Is it fear of failure, criticism, or ridicule that holds us back? Is it lack of time, the absence of support, or self-doubt that reins us in? There comes a time when we have to look these masters in the eye and say, “Look, it’s time for you to set me free. There’s more to life than mindless obedience and following the same cautious path day after day.”

I took Famke off her LEASH but as writers, it’s up to us to take our own LEASHES off…no one can do it for us. The creative spirit sometimes needs to explore a different path, to wander off for a while, to scratch the places that itch, to chase an elusive dream. And then, at the end of the day to come home to a good meal and a soft, warm bed.

What is it that has you on a LEASH?

“When we put our artist on too tight a LEASH,
 it fights us like a spirited animal.
When we allow it a little freedom,
it often cooperates with us nicely.”
--Finding Water by Julia Cameron--
In my next post, I'll talk about tapping into the MAGIC.