Category Archives: Writing

Writing about writing – or the feelings, frustrations, and fruit that come from it.

Creativity and Fear: Conjoined Twins

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While on maternity leave with Baby #2, I was listening to a Rob Bell podcast where he interviewed Elizabeth Gilbert, author of “Eat, Pray, Love.”  (If you have some time, I highly recommend listening to it here.)

During their conversation, Gilbert said several things that really struck a chord with me, but the loudest thing that rattled around in me was something she said about creativity and fear:

Don’t try to kill the fear because fear and creativity are conjoined twins.  If you want to live a creative life, then you’ll have to make a lot of space for fear.  One of the ways I see people kill their creativity is by trying to kill their fear. Because it’s so discomforting for them to experience it and they don’t want to have it, they don’t do the things that make them scared– and then they don’t get to have creative, curious, inventive, interesting, expanded lives.  It’s really worth it to have the fear so you can have the creativity. You just have to create a big enough internal, expansive space so that they can coexist.

This makes so much sense to me.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to write.  I still want to write.  But not just casually or flippantly.  Purposefully.  Compellingly.  Beautifully.  And with those ideals comes fear.  What does it mean if I write and the writing doesn’t have those qualities?  What if no one notices or cares?  What if what I think is compelling and beautiful is flat and boring to others?  Fear.  And then there is the part of the podcast where Gilbert talks about fear wearing lots of disguises.  One of mine is busyness.  I wrap myself up in a to-do list so that it saves me from my most fear-inducing (but life-giving) activities.  (Hence the loooooooong absence of activity on this blog.)  But here I am again, trying to create a space–  however cramped it may be in the beginning –for my conjoined twins.  Because I do not want to live my life without creativity.

I recently went through a leadership development program which emphasizes self-authorship and growth as a means to elevated leadership.  On the last day of the program, we were directed to write “our story.”  It was rather open ended, but was to be somewhat directed at the growth we had experienced during the time in the program.  At the end of the day, we read our stories out loud to the other participants.  As I attempt to sketch out mine, I didn’t like it.  I felt sure it hadn’t accurately communicate my “a-ha!” moments and emotions… the ideas and goals I was walking away with… the place I had come from.  But time ran out, and the moment of vulnerability arrived.  At approximately four sentences in, I started crying.  I was surprised even as it happened.  I thought, “Woah.  Turns out these were the words I meant after all.”  And in the spirit of creating that space, of living with both fear and creativity, I want to share again – this time with you.  Here’s what I had to say:

Hi, my name is Emily and I’ve spent life earning “it.”  You name it, I’ve striven for it.  The grade.  The position.  The praise.  The peace.  The relationship.  The love.  But what I’ve really wanted…  What I actually wanted from a very young age, is to be understood.  Understood, and then valued just in that space of knowledge without my effort.  I wanted to be myself– flaws and all –and be “gotten.”  And cherished.

But funny enough, all that earning I did but resented, I then put onto those around me.  “Earn it.  Do it right.  Pull it together.”  And so, I perpetuated a cycle.  A cycle I’m determined to break.

I experienced conditional love.  I was given the impression that my gifts were not as valuable as others’.  And my defense mechanism was to teach others the same.  But I want to own who I am while affirming others in who they are.  I am an intuitive feeler with strong instincts and an understanding of how things will effect people.  I am strategic to a fault.  And though The Right Path calls me a “Deep Thinker,” they could have tacked on “Deep Feeler” too.  I value genuineness, creativity, and growth.  I lose steam and interest without a purpose.  But I now know a wider purpose.  In the words of the Prayer of St. Francis of Assissi:

“Oh Lord, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console,

To be understood as to understand,

To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive,

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”

So, in creating space for others and providing to them what I most wanted and want, I will receive all that I need.  There is enough value, gifting, and love to go around.  I do not have to collect it for myself.

My Artist Life

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Sometimes I think about if I were me in a different life…

I’d be a free spirit.  Someone who loves yoga and being outside.  Somebody obsessed with good coffee and drinks it black.  I’d say random things that nobody understands, but then turn those thoughts into art that everyone relates to.  I’d prefer dancing to anything else, my iTunes account would have way more music on it, and I’d listen to it constantly.

If I lived my artist life, I would be heavy with “misunderstoodness” rather than busyness or stress.  I’d more freely blur the lines than rigidly follow them, and encourage others to do the same.

I would write every day.

And host people constantly.  I would experiment in the kitchen without calculating the number of dirty dishes in advance to see if I should even bother.  I would perform in community theatre.  I’d own a bike and ride it regularly.

I would twirl at least once a day.

I wouldn’t shy away from bright colors and they would fill my house.  Buying beautiful art wouldn’t feel like an impractical use of my money.  If I were my artist self, self-consciousness is a thing of the past.  I’d rejoice in people so very different from me.  And, they wouldn’t be put off by my slightly kooky ways… but endeared.

A few things would be exactly the same.  I am desperately and wholly in love with my husband.  My dog is the cutest thing in the world, according to me.  And I’m incredibly grateful for a Creator God infinitely more artistic than I am.

The question is: how do I start living my artist life in this one?

Ron Weasley and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named

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Have you ever noticed how intuitive mean people are?  Mean people shouldn’t be able to “get you” as easily as they do.  Somehow the meanest of meanies always know what barb to throw at you.

For those of you who are less fanatical than I am, Harry Potter 7, Part 2 came out a few weeks ago.  Due to a needed review of all the story-line details for my husband and because I just thought it was fun, we listened to ALL of the books on CD in the months leading up to this last and final movie.  One scene in the last book  particularly struck me.  (For those of you who aren’t Harry Potter fans, hang on…  I still think this is worth thinking about, even if you have no idea about House Elves, Horcruxes, or Hallows.)

A piece of Voldemort (a.k.a. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named) has been incapsulted in an object that Harry Potter has set out to destroy, aided by his best friends – Ron and Hermione.  At this particular moment in the book, Ron is in charge of destroying this one piece of wretched soul, but it acts out in an attempt to protect and preserve itself.  It speaks to Ron:

“I have seen your dreams, Ronald Weasley, and I have seen your fears.  All you desire is possible, but all that you dread is also possible…  Least loved, always, by the mother who craved a daughter… Least loved now, by the girl who prefers your friend…Second best, always, eternally overshadowed…”

This mean soul knew what areas to strike at, where Ron’s fears made him most vulnerable.  Intuitively, it/he know how to be meanest to his victim.

In elementary and middle school, I was home schooled.  At one point around 6th grade or so, I made a pretty fancy science project and presented it at the Austin home schooler science fair.  It was about fungus… it was gross, but at least mildly impressive, and I got a blue ribbon.  All of the blue ribbon winners advanced on to the city-wide science fair with the blue ribbon winners from all the public schools.  We all gathered in this huge conference center, all the parents were locked out in the lobby, and we all waited for a couple of hours while the judges visited people popcorn style, talking to us seemingly randomly about our projects.  I vividly remember that the small boy to my left had the most impressive looking science fair project ever known to man.  I felt out of my league immediately.  And the guy on my right was the cutest guy I had ever been within 5 feet of (or at least, it felt that way at the time).  Again, out of my league.

The cute guy, however, was pretty friendly and, and struck up a conversation during our (for me) agonizing wait to be judged.  I have no idea what we talked about.  I was just glad not to be the only one in the entire giant hall that no one talked to and no one knew.  One girl from the same school/class as the cute boy boldly stepped away from her project, made her way through the maze of tri-folds and folding tables, and visited said cute boy.  As soon as she appeared, I disappeared into the book I had brought with me, though I mildly admired her audacious flirting from my peripheral hearing and vision.  I was genuinely reading, however, when suddenly she turned to me and asked, “Have you ever thought of shaving your head?”  I hadn’t tracked their conversation and I figured she was trying to make some point to him, so I answered honestly:  “No.”  Her response stunned and stung me, “Well you should.  It would match your face.”

Whaaaaaaaaat!?!?  In the moment, I couldn’t even process the fact that this didn’t make sense.  All I could feel was that I was so insecure, so lonely, and this girl point blank turned to a complete stranger and hurled an insult at me.  (Trust me – it was not intended as a joke.  If you had seen the snarl on this girl’s lips, you would have known.  She meant it.)  Later, I rationalized that she probably had a crush on the cute boy and was angry to see me talking with him when she walked up.  But even so, what threat was I to her?  I feel like she intuitively knew that I was scared, unsure, and that I would do nothing in return while she “fatally wounded” me.

I turned back to my book and tried to hold back the tears.  A little while later… the judges walked up.

I talked about my apples and their fungus, the procession of it’s growth, the remarkable protection that the skin of an apple provides… yadah-yadah-yahdah.  I felt it went pretty well.   I sighed with relief when it was over.  Then the smart guy struck up a conversation.  We talked, he seemed nice, I was relieved not to have to look in the direction of the cute guy or his female body guard.  Then he commented on my presentation, “You broke the cardinal rule.”  (Yes, he was smart enough to either imitate knowing about or actually know about cardinal rules in 6th grade.)  “What? What did I do?” I asked confused.  What rule did my rule-following-self not know about and totally dishonor in my talk about fungi?  “You said, ‘I don’t know.'”  I must have stared blankly.  He continued, “You always find a way to only talk about what you do know.  Or say you could hypothesize about that, but what your project really proved was THIS.”  I thought back.  I had answered one of their questions with “I don’t know.”  Did this spell catastrophe?  Not that I had expected to place with this many kids… although the thought of being invited to the state-wide competition had definitely crossed my mind, it wasn’t in a “I think it’s possible” kind of way.

When my mom was finally let into the hall, I’m sure I seemed off.  I felt completely deflated.  But before I knew it, it was time to go into the auditorium for the announcement of the winners.  I won 5th place in the “Biology” group.  When I walked up to the stage to receive my medal, cute boy and his body guard were sitting on the front row.  Cute guy waved at me.  I’m sure she was livid, but I didn’t look at her.  It turned out that Never-Say-I-Don’t-Know guy got first place out of the entire competition and got an automatic ticket to nationals.  I didn’t feel quite so bad about feeling intimidated by him after that…

But still.  I’m now 26 years old, and what two random strangers said to me in grade school one random day has stuck with me.  Later that night, I was most concerned with the girl’s comments.  I cried to my mom.  I imagined witty, harsh quips back to her, I punched my pillow remembering my demure tears…  I was much more hurt by her than him at the time, but looking back, I think I was much more impacted long term by what Smart Guy said to me…  I have a fear of not knowing what I’m doing, of looking like a fool, of failing.  Not just because of him, but I do sometimes feel as if I can’t say, “I don’t know.”  (Just ask my husband…  much of the time I’ll fight to the bitter end before saying I don’t know, or I was wrong, or I’m sorry.)

I wonder why meanness comes so intuitively while kindness is such hard work.    I think that this is a mark against the “people are naturally good” theory.  Whether you’re fictional He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named or a real life 6th grade girl, why is it so easy to pick up on people’s soft spots and exploit them?  Why can’t we see each other’s wounds and work to heal them?  Why is the world constantly working its way towards chaos?  And is there anything we can do to fight it?

After Ron hesitates, but successfully kills the wretched piece of soul in the horcrux, Harry speaks:

“After you left,” he said in a low voice, grateful for the fact that Ron’s face was hidden, “she cried for a week.  Probably longer, only she didn’t want me to see.  There were loads of nights when we never even spoke to each other.  With you gone…”

He could not finish; it was only now that Ron was here again that Harry fully realized how much his absence had cost them.

“She’s like my sister,” he went on.  “I love her like a sister and I reckon she feels the same way about me.  It’s always been like that.  I thought you knew.

Affirmation, love, encouragement, knowledge and understanding of the unfoundedness another’s fear – if these things are left unsaid, others experience life as if they don’t exist.  We cannot make decisions or believe truth for other people.  But, if you don’t tell someone their fear is irrational and without basis and the truth that you see that proves it, their fear grows and seems to become more and more rational.  We are intuitive creatures.  We know when and how to exploit fear.  We need to learn when and how to dispell it.  Don’t be mean.

Wait, it’s December…?

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Why yes, it seems it is.  It is December.

And though I have begun about 5 different entries and haven’t finished any of them, and all of them should have been “published” before posting about Christmas, but I just can’t help myself.  It’s Christmas Carol Time.  And I love Christmas carols.

Now, I’m one of those people that absorbs song lyrics.  They are connected to my soul, and I love to know the stories behind songs, within songs.  I know several verses to the many-versed Christmas carols.  I breathe their meaning in and revel in their curious phrasing, but desperately joyous message.  (As a sidenote Sean, couldn’t tell you what came next after “Silent night, holy night…”  We’re two different creatures.  But anyway…)

Some songs, more than others, reverberate in my chest cavity, pound against my heart, and bring awe-inspired tears to my eyes.  For me, “Oh Holy Night” is one of those songs.  In the spirit of the season, I’m posting a video of it solely for the audio purposes.  I invite you to soak up these lyrics, read through with the music, and think about what they mean.  And if we have courage enough to believe this message… how do our lives look different?  Or maybe, how should they look different?

Happy Holidays to all.

Oh holy night, the stars are brightly shining, it is the night of our dear savior’s birth.  Long lay the world in sin and error pining, till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.  A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn’.  Fall on your knees, oh hear the angel voices, oh night divine, oh night, when Christ was born.  Oh night divine, oh night, oh night divine! Truly he told us to love one another, His law is love and his gospel is peace, chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother and in his name all oppressions shall cease.  Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we let all within us praise His holy name, Christ is the Lord, oh praise His name forever.  His power and glory ever more proclaim, His power and glory ever more proclaim! Fall on your knees, oh hear the angel voices, oh night divine, oh night, when Christ was born!  Oh night divine, oh night, oh night divine…

I wish I was funny.

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My strength lies in being sincere, and maybe a tad-bit overly serious.  Sometimes I really wish I was funny.

There are these really hilarious bloggers out there… many of them Sean’s friends from Wake Forest, who just absolutely crack me up with their witticisms and quirky observations.  (I have only shaken hands with Becca Albertson once in the midst of the Wake/Duke basketball game… but she’s awesome and makes me laugh regularly.) 

I tend toward the “dark side” and I want to work out serious knots within people’s inner lives…  and I’m realizing not everyone really wants to “go there” as often as I do (if at all).  I’ve started to wonder if my blog is depressing… if I spend too much time talking about wounded animals and childhood trauma.  What if eventually people want to yell, “GIVE IT A REST!” and wander away to other nooks and crannies in the world-wide-web in search of something lighter and fluffier?  I wish I was funny.

But then again, being funny is all about keen observation, right?  I mean, why was Seinfeld funny?  What is it about The Office that has everyone rolling on the floor?  It’s because Michael Scott IS our boss from that job once upon a time.  It’s because sometimes we all feel like we’re peddling paper for Dunder Mifflin.  So, I want to pursue the ART of HONESTY and I’m going to try and keep in mind that the “mirror” I hold up can be funny too.  I am not chained to “deep thoughts” and seriousness. 

Does anyone else love Hamlet like I do?  Act 3, Scene 2, Lines 16 – 24A:

Be not too tame neither, but let your own discretion 
be your tutor: suit the action to the word, the word
to the action; with this special observance, that you
o’erstep not the modesty of nature: for any thing so 
overdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end,
both at the first and now, was and is, to hold, as ’twere,
the mirror up to nature; to show virtue her own feature,
scorn her own image
, and the very age and body of
the time his form and pressure.

Hamlet wanted his actors not to overdo it or underdo it.  He wanted them to reflect the true nature of the world.  And I aspire to do the same thing.  In ways that may be heartbreaking or hilarious.  I want to be available to both.  So in addition to not editing myself, I will attempt to take myself a little less seriously every now and then – and laugh at what the mirror has to say about me, my world, and the Dwight Schrutes I come across.  (Let’s face it… the people who take Dwight Schrute personally and seriously are the ones who need the most sympathy.  I don’t want to be one of them.  I’d rather be putting their staplers in green jello.)

Subject Matter(s)

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What does one write when there is “nothing to write about”?  * sigh *  The self-imposed deadline has come around… and I need to think of something…

I could philosophize on golf (since I played this weekend).  I could complain about you Memorial-Day-Braves-game sunburn… but neither of those would really fit under the rather broad umbrella of “The Art of Honesty.”

So maybe instead I’ll write about my perpetual writer’s dilemma: absence of subject.  I think I have a voice – it’s just that many times I don’t know what to apply it to.  This happens on a larger scale life-wise also… I believe I have a purpose, a reason to be on this Earth.  But I have no clue what that looks like played out – job, relationships, free time, money.  Much of the time I glide along, skimming the surface.  What I really want is to dive headlong with reckless abandon.  But before I do it, I pause and wonder, “In which pool should I do it?”  Then the moment and momentum is gone.

And then of course there is the element of “earning” a  spot in the actual pool.  I mean, who told me (25-year-old girl that I am) that I could write about ____________?  I don’t know anything!  …right?  I struggle to find the balance between the ignorant, cocky youngin’ who treats the world like it’s boringly over-simple and not letting people “look down on me because I am young.”  I usually swing pendulum style – little-to-no balancing required.

What do I have to say and how can I communicate it uniquely?  Where would my community (even maybe online community?) lack if I never again touched my keyboard?  Is it hubris?  Or genuine purpose?  Egotistical entertainment?  Or an important journey that involves more than just the author?

I’d like think these efforts means something – even if all my writing mangles jumbled thoughts on purpose, golf, authorship, and the Atlanta Braves into a wet pile of spaghetti.  If it doesn’t carry inherent meaning now, then maybe it’ll earn it later.  But for this chapter, here I go churning out pieces like those ceramics students – hoping there’s a subject out there waiting… that if I hit on enough randomness, it’ll reveal itself and fit like the perfect pair of jeans (that also still elude me).

Happy belated Memorial Day Weekend!