Grieve Deeply, Laugh Loudly

pic2We’ve heard this, right?  In order to feel the joy, you have to feel the sorrow.  If you shut off one part of yourself, you are shutting off being fully alive.  How you relate to your emotional life is going to affect your writing and creativity.

Poetry has been the greatest facilitator of the big emotions for me.  Journal writing and painting are close seconds.  I’ve learned that as I’m able to be present with an emotion, I then pass through that territory.  I come out the other side intact and a bit more integrated.

To be an effective writer, finding a way to say “I feel sad” without explicitly stating “I feel sad,” comes with practice.

Below is an excerpt from a piece I wrote in 2011.  My parents had died six months apart following several years of their decline and concurrent family disruption.

“I stopped at Burger Express.  It seemed like a burger was called for.  Single patty with cheese, no special sauce, no onions.  Yes to catsup.  Yes to small fries.  No book to read.  Waiting for my order.  Staring out at the falling snowflakes.  Staring out at nothing.  Squinting and staring at signs across the street.  Staring.  The wait person calls my number.  I take the red tray and head towards a little tucked-away table.  A man sitting at the counter asks “Are you going to share half of that with me?”  I recognize an acquaintance’s warm voice.  I stop to say hello and tell him that my Mom died last week.  I am telling everyone it seems.  Now, the cook, cashier and waitperson at Burger Express know too.  He is sorry.  His Dad died a year ago.  His Mom, 84, lives an hour south of here.  Everything is so tentative.  He gives me a big hug in his bear arms.  “If there is anything I can do, let me know.” He adds “Seriously.”  I thank him.  How I’d like to be held in strong arms for half a day.  I think that would really help.  It gets old, this wrapping my own arms around myself all the time.”

In this short excerpt, do you get a sense of my grief?  Did writing about this help me?  In some odd way, yes.  I wasn’t in denial of these feelings and I found refuge through writing these words.

How do you write about the feeling of sadness?  Typically, this type of writing is only for you.  Do you allow yourself to fully express your sadness in writing, poetry or painting or any other creative outlet?



In Service…

While I believe everyone is an artist (sometimes hidden), writing and creating art are also callings.  As a writer who has journaled for many years, I have conducted a self-exploration that perhaps few people conduct over the course of their lives.

Does there come a time when this type of self-exploration becomes wearisome?  And then what?  Is there a point when the inward journey shifts to outward service? Or, perhaps it is a simultaneous venture–personal discovery and then expanding that into “How can I serve?”

Writing Prompt:
Do you translate your creative pursuit into service?  What does that look like?

The Story of Pandora’s Box

I’m guessing you’ve read this Greek myth.

For the writer, writing has a quality of opening Pandora’s Box. When I write, I’m opening up more than my journal or notebook, I’m opening the unknown.  In the unknown, everything, all possibilities, exist.  What is going to be roused in me or you remains to be seen.  That which has remained hidden to yourself is given an opportunity to emerge. This can feel scary. Feelings can be tweaked, excavated trauma (I’ve referred to this in an earlier blog).  You decide if it’s worth bringing up again in this unearthing.

With writing (especially fiction and poetry) and art-making, there is nothing straightforward.  You don’t just sit down and write and remain unruffled.  You are taken places.  You volunteer for this journey a bit unwittingly.  “Yes, I’m a writer therefore, I write!” What you soon come to realize is that you have gone down a rabbit hole and you are being compelled as much as you have chosen the journey.

Who or what are you going to meet along the way?  White rabbits, card soldiers, tin men,  fairy queens, purple people eaters.  You don’t know.  It’s yet to be discovered.  Which Pandora’s lid is going to be opened in you?  What is going to leap out from your own inner underworlds and scare the heck out of you?  How did that get in there?  You can turn tail and run; slap your journal shut and find another interest.

Or you can continue the venture of discovery and inner sorting through the writing process.

Writing Prompt:
Consider how you manage your own writing journey.  If you are writing Non-fiction, are you less likely to encounter the unknown?  Or, in your research, do you uncover something that sends you there–into the unknown–regardless?  If you are writing fiction, do you get thrown off course when you are diverted down the rabbit hole?  What does getting back on track look like for you?  Or is the diversion where your writing really wants to go?  Is there a best way to sort the chaff from the gold and carry on?  Scan_0004






Opening my journal…
opening to the unknown.

Writing About Yourself in Third Person

Over the years, she had a variety of interests. bakeoffcookbook1965
Baking and cooking “from scratch” lead her to
gourmet cooking for her family and friends.
She enjoyed preparing a few ethnic dishes
–enchiladas with red chile sauce,
chicken tamales; Asian soups and stir-fry;
her mother’s Spaghetti and Meatballs.  One year,
facing into another cold and snowy winter
in the mountains, she tried her hand at
Eastern Indian fare.


Writing about yourself in third person, as if you were your own fictional character, is an exercise we’ve looked at in an earlier blog.  You know your history, quirks, qualities, likes and dislikes.  With all of that background information, you can readily fictionalize yourself…put yourself in a circumstance and consider your reactions based on what you know of yourself.

You can apply this same type of exploration when it comes to your fictional characters, the ones that your imagination has conjured.

Giving your character a DOSSIER enables you to write a character with believability. Before you put your character in a situation, don’t you think that you, as the writer, should have that omniscient author’s privilege of knowing them fully? In order to effectively write this character(s) it is necessary to understand where they’ve come from, what their motivations are, what they are distressed by, how they dress, who and what they love, etc.  There are fictional character dossier templates online.  Enjoy the process.

Earth’s Advocate

Through my writing and painting, I feel a call to service.
My blog is a virtual soapbox where I get to express what’s on my mind.  I try not to be overtly political.  That said, the personal is truly political, so my views are woven through what I write about or might be reflected in what I paint.  This can’t be helped if we are authentic in our expression.  What we write, paint or draw is in the context of the times and circumstances in which we live…is that true?


#5 in the hexalogy of poems

Earth does not need us to advocate for her.
She has ambitions that outshine our own.
Though it could help us if we hear her roar
she does communicate if we would hone…

to practice connection daily is wise
to stop and listen and learn her true ways
it’s in the wind where she speaks and sighs
“My children, you are numbering your days.”

“Is waking a painful process” you ask
rubbing the sleep from your lightblind eyes
surfacing from slumber a painful task?
Though not to awake could be your demise.

She rocks the cradle and out you will fall
let it be because you hear her sweet call. (to life!)

Writing Prompt:
Do you have a favorite fictional or nonfictional character (in books or films) who exemplifies a “call to service” by the way he or she lives her life?  (It could be Wonder Woman.)  What qualities in this character do you most admire?  Why?

Revealing and Concealing

What I’ve noticed through writing and with painting, is that while I reveal some things, I  conceal others.  I’ve also noticed how as a reader or as a viewer of art, my mind seems to supply what is “missing.”

This is interesting to me.  Especially noticeable when I complete a painting, I see how my mind’s eye supplies what it assumes is there.  Like say I don’t get the ear just right, my mind adjusts what I see to fit with what I have seen or seem to know of how an ear should look.  Does that make sense?

With writing, while you give plenty of details in describing person, place, circumstance, you also don’t want to have to spoonfeed your reader.  You want to trust that you’ve lead them far enough down the path that they can then fill in that which you, as the writer, haven’t directly stated.

Does this holding back make for more interesting writing and art?  The secrets that underlie our protagonist’s behavior–the intrigue–do they ever have to be fully revealed and disclosed to your reader or viewer?  Maybe yes, maybe no.

Think of some films that you’ve seen or books that you’ve read. In the film, Cast Away, what is the significance of Tom Hanks meeting the woman at the crossroads?  Are we supposed to just get it?  Are we going to be left with the question?  Don’t filmmakers who are planning future sequels leave us with unanswered questions?  In writing a novel, doesn’t the writer end each chapter with an intrigue of some sort, thereby building suspense and forward impetus?

I’m thinking that we can supply enough to satisfy our readers or viewers and then leave something to the imagination. We then maintain an aura of enough mystery to let our reader conjecture.

The critique has been that with films especially, we take away the imagination of the viewer.  We want to encourage that imagination, don’t we?  How many Hollywood films do you recall that tie up all the loose ends by the conclusion of the film?  I frequently appreciate a foreign film that leaves me with something to ponder.


In contradiction of…



In the last blog, I proposed that you get your “rant” out of the way and then do the writing that you feel called to do.  I also suggested that you write your rant on a piece of scratch paper and then discard it.  That’s fine…

However, today as I was clearing out some papers, I came across something that I wrote in 2011.  I titled it two hours a day because I vowed that, as a writer, I would write for two hours daily.  What I wrote could be considered a rant, all 23 pages of it.  Then, sitting down to read what I had written about, I realized that it was not a rant…it was a woman expressing grief at loss.  Both of my parents had recently died six months apart after a very rocky last couple of years.  The family had been seriously divided around this process with our parents.  There was so much to grieve.

How could I possibly get that out of my system in five or ten minutes?  I wrote about my navigation through the crevassed land of grief.  This wasn’t separate from what I desired to write about.  My experience of grief related to the course my writing was taking as affected by life in the “real world”.

You don’t function effectively as a “fragmented being.”  To be authentic in your writing, you can’t divorce it from your life experiences. Your “real” life is part and parcel of what you can effectively write about.  Even when you are writing fiction.  The emotions (and even some of your edited experiences) may find their way into your fictional writing.

Consider that behind the rant or expression of an emotion is usually a value.  Forget the scratch paper idea…write it in your journal…it’s the context in which you are evolving as both a human being and a writer.

Realistically, ANYTHING THAT WE EXPERIENCE is going to influence our writing, painting and other art forms.

Writing Prompt:
Are you inclusive with yourself?  That is, do you recognize the places where your writing, painting  and life overlap?