Pondering on Four Big Questions; And A Showcase of Four Amazing Friends


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 A dear writer-thinker-lady-friend kindly invited me to join in a blog hop and to ponder a few questions in where I am at in my journey of writing, creating, breathing and just being human. Well, of course, without a hesitation, I said yes ~ not to promote myself, but to make myself create some space to actually reflect on where I am right now, and where I might be headed. AND, I wanted to have the chance to shout out to the world some of the most amazing friends I’ve made out there in the writing, creating, heart and soul seeking world.

Jeff Goins, a writing teacher I’ve learned so much from, writes that “content is not king ~ it’s all about relationships.”  Well, we know we need to have something worth saying for someone to spend time reading it, BUT, if we don’t have others to share with, it’s only helping ourselves.

 So, here are the Four Big Questions ~

 1.  What am I working on?

 I love how Laura Risser Moss, in her blog, gratefulamazement,  writes that at this time in her life “the curtain on her Second Act is rising”.  I could not find more perfect words to say this is where I am as well.  My children are emptying the nest.  I’m having more time to discover who I really am – other than, wife, mother and teacher of children.

 I’m learning to listen to my body, heart and soul more, as my mind is being ordered to take more time to sit on the bench, or riding the pine, as my husband used to say during basketball season. It’s pretty hard to quiet a voice that’s been leading the parade for so many years, but my heart and soul are pretty pleased.

I’m in my bliss when I’m writing, teaching, creating, learning, helping or guiding others in finding their own true self, but also in helping others to speak and to trust their own voices.  I am working on a hodge-podge of projects right now to live out this bliss.

My bravest step begins August 1st, as a 28-Day Living the Writerly Life E-course.  I began writing this several years ago when I took an online course, called Flying Lessons, by Kelly Rae Roberts, but fear kept showing her scary face and I’d tuck it away.  Well, one day, when the scary monster was out barking at someone else, I hit publish and out to the world the course flew!  There was no turning back.  I can not contain the excitement I have bubbling up inside me to begin this journey guiding others in living like a writer and into hopefully believing that they truly are writers as well.

 In 2012, I vowed to listen to my soul and instill more creativity in my life.  Jeff Goins, was offering a free writing e-course at the time called, You Are A Writer, and this course became the door I entered that opened up an entire world of possibility.  I began two blogs, islandsofmysoul.com and theliteratemind.blogspot, joined a few writing groups, one called Tribe Writers,  and am now working on a book about listening in education.  It’s a timely book due to the increasing use of technology and lack of face to face communication.  This book was born two years ago, so I need to do a giddy-up on it before something more attractive diverts my attention.  It usually does.

I also have two other E-courses marinating in my brain right now as well.  One revolving around writing through our brokenness and the other, a course designed to heal ourselves while taking a journey through our mind, body, heart and soul.  I’m hoping to invite some other fabulous women into this e-course.  These courses came to me during my own writing and through a need.  Our world is going through a huge shift right now.  I’m feeling so much pain and brokenness “collectively”, as my friend Bridgette says, and my soul is crying to help do some healing in any way I can.  Perhaps this healing will take place through writing.

Julie Cameron writes that we need other creative sources besides writing, so that when writing feels stagnant, we can switch gears to another medium and that restocks the writing well.  Art journaling is this other passion.  While painting and using mixed media, messages of encouragement, inspiration and guidance fill my pages.  To keep my art journal girl happy, I participate in the Life Book 2014 online community of art journalists.  Each week is filled with a new lesson by an amazing artist and energetically filled connectedness with others.  Almost by magic, my art journal images often fit perfectly with my blog post writing.  Funny how that works.

 More recently, I’ve been nudged towards making Spirit Dolls. These are dolls created by a its maker to hold energy or an intention, lead one to a dream or to guide one in their path.

I’m not sure where these creative parts of my being will lead me, but for now, I’m just feeling the flow and enjoying the journey.

In August, I go back to my full-time job of being a literacy coach at a K-5 elementary school, so I fear writing and creating will slow down.  I am vowing not to let that happen this year as my artist self begs me to integrate creativity into my work wherever it’s possible.  Working with teachers and children, there’s plenty of room for this if I just pay attention.

2.  How does my work differ from others of it’s genre?

 Well, I’m not 100% positive as to what my “genre” is yet.

What I do know, is that my writing flows from my heart and soul.  It’s not always me putting those words on the page.  It might be poetry one day.  Another day, it could be a short narrative or reflective essay.  I’m still searching for my voice and theme, yet, I like to believe my words are healing and filled with an energy that radiates light, love, and hope.  Sharing my vulnerabilities and my own brokenness has connected me to others that feel pain, too.  If I can help others, even if only a few, to heal through the use of tools that have worked for me, then I am grateful.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I write what I do in order to live.  If I neglect writing, the rest of my life begins to get muddy. Foggy. Unclear.  Depression seeps in.  Writing gives me clarity and direction.  It clears the cobwebs and allows my soul to speak.

Most of my writing remains in notebooks.  I am faithful to Morning Pages each and every day – at least a full 3 pages of whatever comes out of my flowing pen.  Sometimes, words from these notebooks find their way into my blogs, but often, they remain in my notebook as answers to my wonders or lessons learned.

I write what I do on my blogs as a way to reach out to others who may be wrestling with what I wrestle with.  Perhaps they have tools they can share with me, as well.  But, mostly, it’s to share what has helped heal myself in hopes to help others.  It’s a way to build community and affirm to us all we are not alone and that we all share the same humanness.  I’ve learned that writing is one tool I can use to share my gifts of teaching and helping others heal ~ through words.

4. How does my writing process work?

Not very well.

Like I said, I am faithful to my Morning Pages every day, but beyond that, it’s a circus.  Writing for my eyes only are like breathing.  Once I desire to put something out there for the world, my hands hover over the keyboards for a lengthy period of time.  My fingers often weep at what comes out.  It can take me all day to do a blog post as I am also a bit of a researcher and feel obligated to have some valid words from others to support my own opinions.  I am critical of my words and attempt to weave in craft, trying out different leads and structures.

Once a blog post is written, I leave it sit for a period of time and come back to look at it with new eyes.  Of course, I won’t like it.  And, chances are, I’ll change the whole piece or choose just to chuck it.  If it doesn’t feel like it came from my heart, I can’t send it to the world.

One of the biggest roadblocks that hinders my process is the fear of ever sounding expert-ish, know-it-all-ish, self-promoting, judgmental, critical or laced with ego.  I scour my words for any evidence of these demons.  Often times, even when I know my words are written with love and compassion, my fear will tell me otherwise and the words will sit in my draft box indefinately.

My writing process truly is a love/hate relationship for me.

Wow. . . those were some pretty thought provoking questions.  The answers are true for me today, however tomorrow they might be totally different.  These four questions might be path unfolding for anyone to ponder on.

Now ~ here are some amazing writer-artist-healer-people, that I call my friends~

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Laura Moss is beyond grateful to be able to say she has survived being Mom to 4 spirited girls, a battle with aggressive breast cancer, and some difficult seasons in her almost-25-year marriage. She calls herself a Creative, is drawn to beauty in all its forms, and loves loving on people. You can find more of her musings at gratefulamazement.wordpress.com.

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 Leslie Molen is a doll and textile artist.

I have been a full time artist for over twenty years, specializing in dollmaking and textile arts. I have had discussions with friends about what keeps me going, the drive to continue onward.

 Many comment on how I nice it is that I have found my passion…

pas·sion

noun \ˈpa-shən\ : a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something.

I tell them it is my calling, I must do this- create in cloth.

call·ing

noun \ˈkȯ-liŋ\

: a strong desire to spend your life doing a certain kind of work or impulse toward a particular course of action especially when accompanied by conviction of divine influence.

And so my journey to create in cloth continues…this past year I have taken a step back from teaching so that I may start to work towards focusing on my personal art. It is a slow endeavor that will take time to nurture into existence! Stay tuned!”

You can visit Leslie’s page at Rootie Studio and her blog at from these Hands.  Prepare to get lost in her studio!

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James Prescott is  a writer and author from Sutton, near London in the UK.  He loves writing, encouraging people, and seeing people discover their true identity.

“My life journey keeps on teaching me lessons about discovering hope in an imperfect world, and how we can discover our own unique stories in the the midst of this. I share those lessons here in all their brutal honesty.

I’m believe deeply in the power of encouragement. When I was only 12 years old my Dad gave me the opportunity to help him write a major newsletter – which set me on a writing journey. That journey has led me to create this blog and author three books.

If you’re interested in discovering your true identity, if you have a passion to make a difference in the world, if you know you’re broken but are looking for hope, you’re welcome here.

If you want open and honest discussion about issues which matter, or like facing up to the important but difficult questions of life, or you’re a human being, this blog is for you too.”

Early in 2015 James will be releasing his first full-length book, ‘Mosaic of Grace: God’s Beautiful Reshaping of Our Broken Lives’.

To read James’ written words, visit him at jamesprescott.co.uk, or read his bi-monthly posts over at digi-disciple, run by the Big Bible Project, and he also guest posts for prominent authors and bloggers Sarah Bessey, Jeff Goins & Mary DeMuth, amongst others.

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Bridgette Doer connects others to their inspired intuitive life.  I’ve worked with Bridgette and she is the real deal.

“I am overflowing with creative, empowering energy with so much anticipation for what is possible for all of us. There is so much untapped potential, so much capacity. We are much more than we believe we are at this moment.

When I accepted the invitation to be a channel for empowering women by inspiring intuition, the fun energy of the Fairy Grasshopper was created. It is my mission to activate hope, inspiration, and POWER  to help to you grow and glow!  I am in love with my Inspiring Psychic and Soulful Women Empowerment work! It’s not just my job- it is who I AM. I look forward to connecting with you, to cheering you on!”

Bridgette’s website and blog is at fairygrasshopper.com.  She is one amazing woman.

Reflection: Why Should I Blog?

Blogging Messy House

The other day, it took me 3 hours to write/revise/edit/publish a blog post on my Literate Mind blog.  It was only a book review, for Pete’s Sake.   I DID have some internet issues and my typical distraction problems.  Seriously, though.  I’m spending way too much time trying to create some words and put them out there for the world.  I have dishes to wash. Laundry.  Rooms to declutter.

So, I got out my notebook and did some serious reflecting.  I asked myself the question that I have began to ask myself with every blog post.

“Why am I doing this?  Why should I blog? What are the benefits of this?  Am I nuts?”

Boy, did my pen have something to say.  Words began to flood onto the page.

Here are 5 reasons (of the many) of why I blog:

1.  I am a teacher.

Not only do I teach kids how to write, but I work with teachers in guiding them to be teachers of writing.  The first must of a writing teacher is that the writing teacher must be a writer.  A pilot instructor would have to know how to fly planes, right?

I’ve always scribbled words in notebooks, diaries, and journals.  I’ve written in front of kids to model writing workshop lessons.  I wrote.  But, still, I did not call myself a writer.  Only real authors could declare themselves a writer and wear that title. Here I was, a teacher for 20+ years and a literacy coach and still, I could not call myself a writer.  Was I worried this was vain?  Did I fear others would think I was lying?  They would surely ask me what I had written if I said I was a writer. And then, judge it, of course.  Ugh.  All of this was just too risky.

What a hypocrite, I was.

Then, in 2012, I signed up for a free e-course by Jeff Goins, called  YOU ARE A WRITER.  Jeff taught me how to say these words:

 

“You are a writer.”

 

“Say them out loud,” he said.

“Write them down.”

” Tell someone.”

So I did.

And, so I was.

The blog was born as a result of claiming I was a writer.  Jeff said that if you are a writer, you have to start acting like one. This meant sharing your writing and building a community.

I guess I had to follow through if I was going to say I was a writer.

 

2.  More valuable that any writing program, I have curriculum to draw from within my own experiences.

I’m in the trenches with the kids and other teachers of writing when I blog.

Mem Fox, in her book, Radical Reflections, writes:

“Teachers of writing who have been soldiers themselves, engaged in a writing battle, are able to empathize more closely with the comrades in their classrooms than teachers who are merely war correspondents at the hotel bar, as it were, watching the battle from a safe distance, declining to get in there themselves and write.”

I didn’t want to be a teacher who sat at the bar, too afraid to practice what I was preaching.

I now know what kids and teachers go through when they try to write.  The fear.  The frustration.  The battle.  This battle can not come when we keep our writing hidden from others, in a notebook.  Notebook writing is easy, as this is first draft writing or jotting down ideas.  It becomes real when we know we are writing for someone other than ourselves.  Then, we have roll up our sleeves, get dirty and then,  clean it up.

I can teach how I find ideas to write by sharing what I do:   noticing what’s happening around me, the words others’ say, topics I deeply care about.  I can teach how to write that perfect lead, because I wrestle with it and have a few tools for this along with some favorite leads from mentor texts.   I can draw from my toolbox, a lesson that teaches others how to edit for themselves and I can model my methods for this, because I’ve done it myself.

I stand on the shoulders of writing teachers; Donald Murray, Donald Graves, Lucy Calkins and Katie Wood Ray.  They are my guides. Basically, nothing I teach is my own idea – these methods came from someone before me.

I’ve used their methods, tried them out and have internalized them as my own methods now.  Will they work for every writer?  No.  I read, listen to other writers and to the kids of how they write and their methods get thrown in my toolbox, as well.

My own toolbox is more valuable that any writing curriculum.  No writing curriculum is perfect as it leaves out the most important factor:  the kids.  If it’s all you have to follow in the teaching of writing, you will be frustrated.   And, I can draw from my own toolbox at anytime, anywhere.  If one tool doesn’t work, I try another.  I’ve tried them all, so they are etched in who I am as a writer.

3.  I’m starting to live my life differently because of my blog.

I notice things with meaning and get it down.  I take time to reflect on, not only events, but on my response to them.  I nudge myself to reflect deeper, to get to the other side, to allow new learning to bubble up, something of significance and to make it clear for me to understand.  I do this for me, but more so, for my audience (even if it is only my mother – thanks, Mom).

A car trip, a walk in the woods, shopping at the grocery store, sitting at the lake, and visiting with people are all free fodder for writing. I find myself thinking not only, “I’ve got to write this down,” but also, “Oh my, I need to write this for ______.”

If I need to write clearly for an audience to understand my thinking, I’d better be pretty clear of it myself.

I could not have done this without a blog.

4.  Blogging has been an avenue in which to use the tool of writing to serve my higher purpose.

I don’t think that writing is a  purpose or a calling.  It’s just a tool to use.  If you are called to teach?  Write.  Called to heal?  Write.  Called to inspire?  Write.  Called to serve, help others, beautify the world, create, coach, energize, collaborate?  Then, write, write, write.  There is no better tool that can reach more people than writing.  But, only if you put it out there for the world.

5.  It just feels good.

There is a sense of accomplishment and surge of satisfaction I feel every time I hit publish.  I am jolted with a little shot of dopamine upon seeing those words,   “Your post has been published.”

And, then, I do a little happy dance.

Getting it down is the easy part.  Revision and editing is hard work.  Never, would I revise and edit in my notebooks.  Blogging makes you do this.

I’ve had to learn to choose timely topics and ones that matter.  I’ve had to figure out how to stick to a topic and focus.  I tend to stray in my notebooks, but I can’t do that on a blog.

I strive to find ways to improve in my craft by reading books about writing, joining some writing groups online and taking classes about writing.  I know what I struggle with in my writing and have learned to appreciate criticism.  Always, I can get better at this.

When we know more, we do better and we gain confidence.

And, this just feels good.

 

Okay ~ I guess the rewards are worth the battle.  Whew.

The only drawbacks are that my house is a mess.  But, it was a mess before I started blogging, so I guess I can’t use that as an excuse.

Maybe I should blog about that.

What are the reasons you blog?  Please, let me know.

 

Shari 🙂

 

 

 

 

She Loves to Run. . . That Sandy

A weird thing happened today.  After reading Jeff Goins post on writing about topics that we fear to deeply touch readers enough to shatter their frozen seas, I spent most of my morning looking for the perfect frozen sea breaking topic.  I’ve got gazillions of topics of what I’d like to write about, but I’m bent on finding this perfect one.

I decided to take a  break and go throw some balls for Sandy to fetch.

Our lab, Sandy, is insanely  fast.  I’m not bragging either.  Seriously, why would I brag about something like this?  When you throw her a stick, or a ball or a frisbee, she actually leaves “dog divots”  when she takes off to fetch it.  Yup, divots of grass and dirt right up into your lap.

When Sandy treks over to the neighbors (when we aren’t around and she hears voices over there because she’s such a people dog), our neighbor, Linda, likes to throw things for her and their two labs to race to.  Linda confesses that she often has to fake Sandy out first and give the other dogs a head start to give them a chance.

Sandy still wins.

She is unbeatable in dog running.

“We should enter her in races!” my kids say.

She has this gift, this uncanny freakish speed talent. . . and nothing to do with it but chase balls and hunt in the fall.

Here’s the crazy thing.  I really don’t think she gives a rip if she’s fast or not.  She just loves to run.  She doesn’t care if she’s winning contests or competing with any other dog.  She is just so dang happy to be running.

And then. . . my message sang to me.

Like writing should be, Shari.

I was the frozen sea today.  Stuck in finding perfect writing instead of just writing.

Julia Cameron writes,

“I love when good writing comes out – but mostly, I just love writing.”

And we shouldn’t do it for fame or be “be published” or to get lots of followers or likes. We should do it because it’s like breathing.  It’s being true to our essence and it’s who we are.

Like Sandy has to run.

Shari 🙂

Finding a Focus

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I’m following Jeff Goins in his Intentional Blogging Series.  We are on Lesson 2, which is finding a focus for your writing.

This has always been my problem.  I love too many things and I don’t want to leave anything out!  Even looking at my heading that I have for this blog is daunting.  I wanted this blog to be everything in my life that does not include teaching (that’s on my other blog).

So, hmmmm. . . he advises us to first, choose a subject, second, a theme within this subject and finally, an objective for our writing.  What will our purpose be?

After much pondering, I’ve narrowed my subject down to. . . creativity.  That encompasses a lot.

Now themes.  These are the categories of creativity.  Let’s see, there’s art journaling, painting, cooking, writing, fear, intuition, presence, soul work, photography, books.  How can I choose just one?  Maybe I need to use the process of elimination here.  Or maybe I focus on how creativity feeds your soul.  Could that be a theme? Ughh.  It could be like a creativity manifestation.  Somehow, I need to incorporate intuitiveness in there.  And, being fearless!  Since that’s my biggest issue!!!! I’ll cross off photography, too, since all I have is my iphone and I don’t know how to use my expensive camera very well.  I could take a class.   But, if I became good at that, I’d need another blog.

Okay, so my theme is going to be fearless creativity.

Now, what is my objective?

My objective is to share my creative words and art (along with my thoughts and feelings about it all) with others in hopes to connect to like souls and inspire them to write and share their creative gifts.

Ta-da!  Will that work?

I’ll email it to Jeff Goins and see what he says.  Maybe I’m just beating around the bush.

What do you think?

Shari

Our Art in Public

We attended my husband’s grandmother’s funeral on Wednesday.  Grandma Fuller lived a full and rich life to the age of 101.  It was not until her last few years that she needed to live in a nursing home.  She golfed, hunted, fished. . . and painted.  She was an artist.

My sister-in-law, Julie, gave the ulegy.  Julie spoke of Grandma’s ability to create. She voiced how Grandma taught her to “see”.  Grandma was always looking for the beauty in things and then she would paint them.  Julie talked about some of her paintings and how she would collect odd bits of nature and display them in the house.  Conversations revolved around all of her art.  Paintings adorn the walls of most of her children and grandchildren’s homes.  She had this gift.

I listened and pondered about this and I became fearful.

As a young girl, I drew and made books.  As a young mother, I made quilts, sewed clothes for my children, hand-stitched stitcheries for wall art, created hand-stitched and painted dolls, and even built bird houses and decorative shelves. These items were mostly given to friends and family as gifts or I sold them in craft shows or gift shops.  I shared my art this way.

When I started teaching full time, and especially, when I trained and became a literacy coach, all my creative juices came to a halt.  Except for some writings in my writers’ notebooks, of which I mostly used in my trainings and kept private.  For the most part, my art was occasional and certainly not made public.  Even the art journals that I create in, I rarely share.

So, why am I fearful?

All of a sudden, I realized that if I don’t begin to go public with my art somehow, I will eventually die with my art inside me.  Even more frightening would be the thought of having no one know who I really was.  How sad for them to discover all my work in boxes and boxes of notebooks after I die.  Even all this writing I do on Penzu.  No one would ever find it.  You need my password to get in.  It’s lost forever.

Jeff Goins had an entry last week about making our art public.  He voiced how important it is to share our art.  Our art connects us with others.  Our art can help others that feel the same things as we do.

So, why was it so easy for me to share my quilts, dolls and stitcheries and it’s so difficult for me to share my writing and my painting/art journal work?  I think there are several reasons of which I need to analyze.

1.  My quilts, stitcheries and dolls were creative, but, not up for criticism as much as perhaps writing or painting.  Quilts and stitcheries have shapes, patterns and letters that are pretty standard.  Kinda difficult to screw them up.  Writing and painting is more personal.  Mostly, I write and create art for me.  I, myself, am critical of much of it.  So, I fear critism.

2.  I don’t like attention.  I don’t want others to think I do this for attention.  I HAVE to do this for my soul.  It feeds me.  It’s like breathing.   I have a hard time even accepting a compliment  when my hair turns out right, let alone praise or any kind of attention over my art.  I get all tense and anxious when someone even comes into my studio because I know they are looking around and my work.  Ughh. . . I just don’t feel ready to show.

3.   My Childhood.  I love my parents more than you can know, however, praise was not handed out for every little thing we did.  This is not a bad thing.  We worked hard, not for outside rewards or verbal praise, but just because we knew we were supposed to work hard.  My mother had a way of allowing us to develop internal gratification for our accomplishments.  I know she did not want us kids to be ones that walked around thinking about how wonderful we were.  She feared too much praise would create arrogant, overconfident children that can’t do anything without outside motivation.  I still believe this.

So, showing my work feels wrong because in my heart, it feels like I am looking for praise.

Geez, I have issues.

How am I going to deal with this?  I don’t want to die a “secret artist”.

1.  Maybe I need to print all my Penzu posts from now on and just put them in my notebook.  That’s a start.

2.  Get the book proposal done for my book on listening. That’s sharing.

3.  Make more of an online presence.  Share my work with other artists and groups.  Not all over facebook.  Maybe have a separate facebook page just for my writing and art?  Hmm. . .

4.  Give some of my work as gifts.

This is a big start for me.  I’m going to have anxiety about it. . . like walking into a room full of people you don’t know.  It will be scary.

But, I’m way more scared of dying with my art inside me.

Shari