Facing the Blank Page

July 30, 2012

Writing is easy.  All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead. ~Gene Fowler

I have discovered two more favorite books on writing to add to my previous list: Writing From the Inside Out, by Dennis Palumbo and Writing Your Heart Out, by Rebecca McClanahan. The former encourages us to work with our own resistance rather than fighting against it. The latter helps us explore what matters to us. I used to think I read books about writing only when I was stuck and couldn’t write. But I’ve enjoyed these two titles in the midst of an ongoing practice.

At this point in my life, I am staring at a blank page, both literally in my daily writing practice, and figuratively, as I move from my library career toward an unknown future. And, as Fowler says, it can make you sweat blood! My facing the blank page each day, though, may ease me through this uncertain period. Just as writing begets writing, I believe courage begets courage.

What is your story about facing uncertainty?

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Politics of the Brokenhearted

May 14, 2011

I am looking forward to Parker J. Palmer’s forthcoming book, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit. I have just read the essay from which this book springs, “The Politics of the Brokenhearted: On Holding the Tensions of Democracy.” You can read it here.

Palmer speaks of breaking the heart open, not “into a thousand shards,” but into “largeness of life, into greater capacity to hold one’s own and the world’s pain and joy.” He speaks of the essential violence in majority-rule decision making, and urges us to consider the Taoist concept of wu-wei–“literally purposeless wandering, or creative nonaction, making space within and around ourselves so that conflict and confusion can settle and a deeper wisdom emerge.”

We are an impatient culture, desiring quick action to settle differences. Palmer offers that “only in contemplative states are we able to touch the truth.” He makes the case in this essay for holding the tension between reality and possibility in ways that open our hearts, that honor the soul rather than succumbing to cynicism or dreamy idealism.

Palmer asserts, “When the heart dares to be vulnerable in the presence of power, it can become a source of countervailing power, keeping our best hopes alive in the hardest of places and times.”


Movement

January 5, 2010

It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is…more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life and in change there is power. ~Alan Cohen

I have given notice at work, and will be leaving full-time employment at the end of March. I will work a couple of part-time months at a library system, then retire. This will give me more time to build and market my new consulting business, as well as attend to soul time.

If you’re interested in the growth and development of libraries and nonprofits, you can check out my Web site here and my business blog here. Go ahead–critique and comment!

During this period I will be vigilant about keeping my new business activity separate from salaried work time. Mindfulness will be especially important for me in the upcoming months, so that I am fully present in whichever sphere I am working. But I am starting to feel the energy and power of movement!

Will 2010 mean change in your life? What adventures await you?


Gourd Afternoon

December 5, 2009


Blessed is he who has found his work. Let him seek no other blessedness. ~Thomas Carlyle

When we have the courage to speak our minds and use our voice to send the desires of our hearts from our inner world to the world outside, we take a bold step in making them happen. ~from yesterday’s Daily OM, “Freeing Our Inner Desires: Using Our Outside Voice.”

I have spent a lovely hour or two at The Gourd Place this afternoon, the always-interesting shop of my friends Priscilla and Janice. They have indeed “found their work” and have persisted in sharing their artistic vision for many years. You can read their story in Priscilla’s wonderful book, Gourd Girls, source of the Carlyle quote above.

There is something inspiring and uplifting about visiting them and the shop, about contemplating their efforts to live authentically, to speak with their “outside voices.” Today, as usual, the shop was full of well-wishers and positive energy. Janice and Priscilla have drawn around them a community of people who admire and appreciate their integrity and their found work. May we all strive to live in such a way.


Meditation

August 9, 2009

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Prayer is the voice of longing; it reaches outwards and inwards to unearth our ancient belonging. ~John O’Donohue

I can’t say that I’ve done what most people call prayer in decades. But I actually showed up on my cushion today. (Hooray!) Meditating reminded me of the beautiful string of black and white meditation beads that my friend Elaine made and gave to me a few years ago. I adapted a sort of litany to use with them, and I suppose this qualifies as prayer, really.

Centering (large center bead)
Breathe in and out several times, quieting body and mind

Warm-up (four small beads)
Let me open my mind and heart
To the place of quiet,
To the silent prayer for the healing of pain,
And the soft, gentle coming of love.

Naming (first medium bead)
Count the miracles and blessings in your life.

Breath (five small beads)
Breathing in,
I calm body and mind.
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment,
I know this is the only moment.

Listening (second medium bead)
Feeling what comes
Self-appraisal
Places that call for reconciliation and atonement

Breath (five small beads)

Letting Go (third medium bead)
Empty the mind

Breath (five small beads)

Loving (fourth medium bead)
Lift up those in pain or need

Cool-down (four small beads)
May the courage of the early morning’s dawning,
And the strength of the eternal hills,
And the peace of the evening’s ending,
And the love of god, be in my heart.


Writers Group

April 4, 2009

Writing is a craft. You have to take your apprenticeship in it like in anything else. ~Katherine Anne Porter

Faith is the daring of the soul to go farther than it can see. ~William Newton Clark

This week I stepped out in faith to read my work and be critiqued in a writers group. I am thrilled to be part of a creative community, and I hope it will result in greater inspiration and courage to confront the blank page, as well as a honing of my craft.

This encounter suggested to me that my confidence often lags behind my skill, and I have to wonder if I sometimes come across as having false humility. It is not approval that I want so much as to embrace a realistic view of my writing, to see more clearly what I want to say and how well I am communicating it. (For more reflections on approval, see Judgment.) I believe participating in this group will lead to greater clarity.

Today, I am grateful for the Stonepile Writers, for the creative process, for this blog, for all artists everywhere!


Painting Myself

February 28, 2009

Painting myself for others, I have painted my inward self with colors clearer than my original ones. I have no more made my book than my book has made me. ~Montaigne

One of my friends often cautions me about maintaining more privacy. She is amazed that I bare my soul as much as I do in this blog, and I know she believes I will end up hurt as a result. But I am finding this experiment in personal revelation both clarifying and strengthening. I believe that vulnerability is, as David Whyte has said, “the door through which we walk into self-understanding and compassion for others.”

The quest is for personal truth. I have just read the introduction to Phillip Lopate’s anthology, The Art of the Personal Essay. He tells us the essayist is fascinated by the changeableness of human personality, understands that we all start from self-deception, and uses the additive strategy: “offering incomplete shards, one mask or persona after another…If we must ‘remove the mask,’ it is only to substitute another mask. The hope is that in the end…all these personae will add up to a genuine unmasking.”

And so this blog serves as a collection of fragments describing my journey–with movement, changing personae, and contradiction. Lopate writes, “The harvesting of self-contradiction is an intrinsic part of the personal essay form…the personal essayist is not necessarily out to win the audience’s unqualified love but to present the complex portrait of a human being.”

Writing this blog is making me, even as I am making it.