Writing Is My Protest

As a highly-sensitive, introverted writer, I've been working on finding the best ways for me to engage with what's happening here in the United States and rippling across the world. I've not historically been much of a political activist, but I'm finding that I want to be more active and informed than I have in the past. 

And while I am taking action and staying informed (and refining how I take in information so I don't feel overwhelmed, depressed, or overly distracted), what's coming to me most clearly right now is that writing is my protest.

Here's why.

  1. Artists are activists by being catalysts for change. One of my favorite artist archetypes (from a sci-fi story, of course) is Khendron, the jester from The City and the Stars by Arthur C. Clarke. Khendron's very reason for being, as designed by the city's creators, is to provoke and inspire thought, desire, and action in the minds of the periodically born "uniques" -- people also purposefully designed by the creators to bring about change in an otherwise stagnant world-system. Like Khendron, we catalyze others into action with our observations of the world, expressed through our art and writing. We are critical players in our culture -- influencers -- bringing forth the truths we see in the world, and inspiring others to think and take action for positive change.
  2. Stories heal. We write, read, watch, and experience writing in all its forms for so many reasons. One key reason is recovery and healing: Stories help us escape and rejuvenate so we can do the work we were put here to do. And beyond pure escapism (highly valuable in stressful times), both stories and non-fiction books also help us heal misconceptions about ourselves and our world and change how we interact with everyone around us as a result. By way of a small example, I loved watching the movie About Time, for a new perspective on making the most of every moment we have. In a sense, this kind of healing and nurturing is a form of protest, because it strengthens us to carry on doing our work as artists, gives us energy to take action and stand up for what we believe in, and provides sanctuaries and safe havens for our readers to retreat to. We take care of the people on the front lines -- and ourselves -- when we write.
  3. Stories teach us who we are and what we're capable of. In stories we can "try on" scenarios and find out what we might do in similar situations. Some fictional stories are allegorical, and show us ways we might navigate morally questionable situations. One of my favorite movies of all time is District 9, an incredible allegory for apartheid that offers an up-close and personal perspective on what it would feel like, from the inside-out, to be part of a racially shunned and segregated group. When we write fictionally and metaphorically about what's happening in the world, we help each other understand what's going on from other viewpoints. This allows to us to examine what actions we want to take in the real world as we mentally and emotionally journey through a story world, and feel empathy for people in situations we might not have firsthand experience with. One of the reasons for my passion for sci-fi is the incredible ability it offers to show us our own world through a more objective and yet also more personal lens. As writers, therefore, we protest when we write stories to show each other what's really going on. We can do that figuratively, or literally (see #4, next). 
  4. Writing educates. Beyond storytelling, writers have power to factually educate us about the world. We've seen writing and news that has been ill-used for the purpose of garnering higher ratings. We also see incredible levels of bias that are misleading and confusing. But we're also seeing journalists striving to operate at higher levels of integrity and consciousness, who will help us collectively understand what's happening right now in our world, possibly changing minds and hearts. Education is one of the most powerful ways to influence people to make new choices.
  5. "Joy can be a form of rebellion," as Chuck Wendig wrote in a post recently called "Why Persist As a Writer In Times of Such Heinous F*ckery?" (Note that he labels his site as NSFW -- "not safe for work" -- he swears a lot so if that bothers you, avoid it.) That particular phrase, "Joy can be a form of rebellion," stood out to me. Because when we refuse to be brought down by fear and persist in loving our lives, that is a form of protest. This notion helps me be strong in my resolve to stay connected to what matters most to me in my life -- my writing and my family -- no matter what's happening around me.
  6. Writing helps us find meaning, even in the presence of suffering, fear, or doubt. I'm reminded of Viktor Frankl, author of Man's Search for Meaning, who was able to find meaning in his life experience, even while held in Holocaust concentration camps where he lost his parents, wife, and brother. "The meaning of life is found in every moment of living; life never ceases to have meaning, even in suffering and death." As a writer, the act of writing is an integral part of how I find and create meaning in my life. Although I have at times despaired over the many potential disasters that appear to be in the making and struggled to find the energy to write, I feel a sense of determination not to allow the discord, pain, and distraction in the world to take something so meaningful away from me. I won't be stopped as a writer.
  7. Writing helps us remember who we are. When we lose our sense of selves, we become powerless. If we are writers, we must write, if only to preserve our sense of selfhood and identity. Writing becomes an act of self-preservation, which in turns becomes an act of protest, because it helps us stay in touch with our power. And when we are powerful, we can act, write, and inspire.

I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

 

How I rebooted my blogging habit after baby #2

Pre-baby #2 last May, I was blogging on a weekly basis. I had a precision system in place. Every week during one of the 60-minute writing sprints we run for my Writer’s Circle, I would knock out about 1000 words in 40 minutes, edit, proof, and polish it in the remaining 20, then grab an image and publish the whole shebang within maybe another 10 minutes or so. Then a few final tweaks to the copy in my mailing system and I was all set with my weekly post and newsletter (I have my blog set up to be pulled straight in to Aweber once it’s published on my site, then I broadcast it to my mailing list).

I had a SYSTEM. (And if you know me very well, you know how much I love a good system!)

It was fun, easy, and I was in a good rhythm with it for quite a few years. 

Then cue baby, stage right

But once baby #2 came, I knew all bets would be off. And they were.

In those early post-partum days, I was wandering around in a deep haze of physical exhaustion from the birth, breastfeeding and skin-to-skin induced oxytocin highs, and massive sleep deprivation and fragmentation – I was sleeping around the clock with the baby. In other words, all was as it should be. :)

But in the midst of it all, I still had (and have) a business to run. Since I knew it was going to be tough, I had planned to run a series of guest posts over the summer to keep the flow of content going. It was a great plan, and I had I realized what it would take I would have made it a higher priority to set up all the posts BEFORE the baby was born.

(Who am I kidding? The last 6 months of this pregnancy were tough and it was a minor miracle I did such a thorough job of prepping my team to keep things running in my absence! Still, in an ideal world, perhaps…)

In any case, it turns out that guest blog post editing and publishing takes me just as long if not longer than writing my own posts. Live and learn. Still, it was delightful to have a hiatus from being the solo content generator and it kept me in touch with writing and all of you. So once the baby shifted out of the long luxurious naps of The Early Days and into those short 40-minute jobs where there was no point in me trying to sleep anyway, I would get to work on guest posts and screenwriting assignments (and writing the occasional post myself, I think.)

But then the guest post series dried up and I found myself struggling to write the way I had before. Each post took me three times as long as it had in the past. I don’t know if it was the oxytocin/milk brain thing or the chronically tired mom thing or both, but blogging stopped coming so easily.

Then factor in the screenwriting I’m trying to keep up with for my master certificate program and blogging really started slipping through the cracks.

And something just wasn't feeling right

In the bigger picture somewhere along the way I also stopped feeling satisfied with the WAY I was blogging. I wanted to SAY SOMETHING DIFFERENT or at least say it differently, but I wasn’t sure how or even what I exactly wanted to change.

Which led me to some soul searching.

Did I still want to blog?

Was there a different way I could see out there that I might want to try?

What struck me, eventually, was wanting to have more of a mix of posts. Some personal stories interspersed with the writing habit insights. Maybe even an opinion piece or two. Some longer pieces. And even a few occasional guest posts. Once that clarity emerged things got better. But it still wasn't happening.

Creativity required

So my desire was clearer but my action plan was lacking.

One of the things about being an entrepreneur with a baby at home is that you have to be flexible, creative, and resourceful at all times.

Now he's older and is sleeping for longer naps again I have two small windows of time to work in each day, assuming all goes according to plan and there are no random dogs barking during nap time! (Ahem.) (His name is Colton, by the way, and he’s a cute as a kitten playing with a dust bunny.)

So that means I have approximately two to three baby-free hours each day to apportion between screenwriting, blogging, and keeping my Writer’s Circle in motion. Not a lot of time. Sure. I could hire a babysitter and I do have some temporary help right now, but I WANT to be with my son while he is little like this.

Which is exactly the point. As a writer, and a mom, I have to be super creative about when, where, and how I write. I also have to make sure I get enough down time and sleep or I cross the line into crazy mama land pretty quickly. And since the old pattern wasn't working, I had to come up with a new one.

Finding new times to write

My new favorite time of day to blog is that small window of time before I go to sleep and after the kids are in bed. I’ve learned that I can write in Markdown text on my iPhone in an app with a nice dark mode (Byword) while snuggled in bed. It’s the perfect time to empty my brain of the blog posts I’ve been mentally composing all day (turns out that part of my issue lately has been having too much to say – it gets overwhelming and gums up the works without an outlet for expression).

The key is just making sure I get into bed early enough to write without messing up my sleep. On the other hand, sometimes sleep is hard to come by and having the flexibility to read or write in the middle of the night can be a mental relief rather than lying in the dark working out sentences and trying to keep them in my head until I have time to write them down. Plus it leaves my daytime work slots free for screenwriting and running my business.

Then in the morning I can sync up my files with Scrivener or export them straight into my blog in perfectly formatted HTML.

And it led to finding a new voice and new creative expression

Somehow having a new system has unleashed my creativity again. (See? What did I tell you about me and systems?) I just needed a system that worked with my current lifestyle.

It’s such a good reminder that when your writing pattern stops working, it’s time to redesign your writing life to match.

And the most fascinating outcome for me has been a shift in my writing voice that feels even more like me. 

I love it. :)

It’s All Been Said Before — Or Has It?

You Think You Have Nothing New to Say?

A big obstacle I hear my clients talk about is fearing that they’ll have nothing new to say on their subject.

“Julia Cameron already wrote The Artist’s Way, what could I possibly have to say about creative recovery that is new or different?” (Except that Steven Pressfield and so many others have too.)

“Anne McCaffrey already wrote the best books about dragons, I can’t possibly approach it from a fresh perspective.” (Except that Patrick Rothfuss, Christopher Paolini, and Naomi Novik have kicked some serious dragon ass lately.)

This is what I say to my clients:

“You have a specific audience that will only hear this message from you. They may have heard it 100 times before, but they will not hear it in exactly this way until YOU are the one that says it to them.

“Plus, you have your own unique perspective and take on what it is that you are sharing. Your work is a magical amalgamation of everything you have learned, with a twist that is just your own, pulled together in a way that only you can do. That makes your voice worth hearing.”

“And besides,” I add, “if you don’t say it (or write it or share it), your audience will never receive it. They are waiting to hear it from you.”

The Missing Piece

Today I found the perfect add-on antidote to this fear from French Romantic artist Eugène Delacroix (noted in the sidebar of the Artist’s Way no less):

“What moves men of genius, or rather what inspires their work, is not new ideas, but their obsession with the idea that what has already been said is still not enough.”

My heart said, “YES! That’s it!”

There IS a missing piece here, and this touches it.

Somehow you know there is more to say on your subject, and that is why you are drawn to it. So rather than doubting that you have important words to add to the conversation, just do it.

Lend your voice to the conversation.

Speak your mind.

Share your thoughts.

Good grief, I’m writing an ebook about creative blocks. Aren’t there enough of those already?

Apparently not, or I would not be drawn to write one.

Choosing A Niche

We know that choosing a specific niche is a more powerful way to position yourself in a market and therefore attract more clients and be more successful.

And yet choosing a niche is often triggers this very obstacle: “So-and-so is already ‘The’ Coach/Consultant/Expert/Writer/? on this topic, how can I possibly add more?” etc. etc.

The solution?

Pants.

And trains.

Read on…

The Wonderful World of Pants

In my Artist’s Way Accountability and Support Group today Mary shared a funny perspective on pants:

Just because one person once-upon-a-time made pants, that didn’t deter the second person from coming along and having a go at making their own kind of pants. She added, “I’m just the second pants maker.”

There are so many different kinds of pants, why would we ever think we couldn’t make our own contribution to the marketplace? In the case of pants, we could aim to fit other body types, to try another style, to specialize in particular kind of pants (dress, maternity, casual, work, jeans, dress jeans), etc.

Taken a step farther, one could have thought that Levi’s had cornered the market on jeans back-when, and for a while they did. But then pretty soon someone thought they could take another crack at it.

It goes to show you that there is always room to innovate, to do better, and to ‘say’ more.

The Ultra Specific British Train Niche

Similarly, I’ve been recently exposed to a new perspective on niche in the ultra specific case of British train series for kids.

My 3-1/2 year old loves the trains, shows, and characters from Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends. Through the course of exploring around, we somehow happened upon another British train series, Chuggington, that is also great fun.

How audacious for someone to take a stab at a new British train franchise with the huge success of Thomas already! Who knew the world would need (or want) two British train series for kids?

So Why Not You, Too?

So when you think about your specific expertise and lending your voice to the topic you’re most passionate about, can you find the courage to be innovative and step out with your fresh perspective and voice, trusting that you’ll have something new to say, no matter who else might “already” be doing it?

I’d love to hear from you about:

  • How this resonates for you?
  • Other examples you might have of innovations that inspire you to speak up or write about your topic.
  • Anything else this sparks for you.
  • Post your comments on my blog.

 

Coming Attractions

~> May 17th and 24th, 2011. My Artist’s Way Accountability & Support Group continues. Details.

~>May 26th to May 28th, 2011. Attending Andrea J. Lee’s Wealthy Thought Leader event via simulcast.

~>May 28th, 2011. Next broadcast of my Dreamification Radio show on Radio Lightworker. Details. Listen from anywhere in the world to this Internet radio show.

~>June 9th, 16th, and 23rd, 2011. My brand new Life Purpose Breakthrough Group event series. Details.

 

On Being a Mass of Contradictions & Shrugging Off the Constraints

I am a mass of contrasts and contradictions – a big shot and a sensitive soul, a hermit in the spotlight, a medieval sorceress in kick-ass sci fi garb, a tech geek and lover of the metaphysical and spiritual realms, and a big picture thinker who knows how to Get Things Done.

I love being “in” at home, and then there are times when I feel so limited and constrained that I just want to rip down the walls of my house to get out.

One of the constraints I’ve been wrestling with lately is being “too nice.” I’ve been “nice” for a long time.

It’s pretty boring.

I’ve been nice because I was told I should be.

I’ve been nice because I thought that’s what it meant to be spiritual. And a coach. And a coach for sensitive souls.

But I’ve also watered myself down in the process.

MYSELF.

Oops.

I’m less full of my selfness than I mean to be. I’m holding back and playing it safe.

I haven’t MEANT to hide or play it safe, exactly, but I have.

I’ve been hiding my critic’s eye, for fear of offending people.

I’ve been hiding expressing my real feelings about things publicly, like the times when I want to give up or the times I lose my way, or the times when I just plain old don’t agree with something someone I admire is doing.

The side effect of all this is that not only am I not sharing things I know will help you and me both, I’m also hold back the part of me that wants to kick ass, take names, tell the TRUTH, and get people into ACTION. Intuitive action — action based in deep inner wisdom and inner guidance — but action nonetheless.

So, I know you’ve seen me doing this already, but I wanted to tell you a little bit more about WHY I’m aiming to embrace my messy, delicious, complicated self so publicly, and how I’m hoping to inspire YOU to do the same. The more real we each are, the more full of our selfness, the more truthful and real and whole the world can become.

What part of yourself are you ready to express more fully?

~~~~~

Related Posts: Band of Misfits, or Voices of Reason? Guest Post by Kristine Carey

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What’s Jenna Up To?

~> March 15th, 2011. My Artist’s Way Accountability & Support Group continues. Details.

~> March 26th, 2011. First broadcast of my brand new Radio Lightworker radio show on “Dreamification.” Find out more and submit your questions.

~> April 29th & 30th, 2011. My next Voice Your Vision retreat will be held in Berkeley, California. Early registration is now available. Special savings if you’ve already had your hands analyzed.