Sharing Our Stories

The final installment of my series, Unpacking Your Creative Life, is up on The Gift of Writing. It was my favorite one to write, focusing on the importance of connecting with other writers and sharing your work.

gift of writing

Writing is crucial to success, of course, but if we don’t have company along the way, we are more likely to walk away.

“It is deadly to be without a confidante, without a guide, without even a tiny cheering section.”

Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés

I am so grateful for the community of writers I’ve met online, here and beyond, some who I’ve never met, but feel as dear to my heart as those I’ve known for decades.

Yes, it is vulnerable to put your work out there for others to read (and in this day and age, instantly respond), but that’s why having supportive friends is crucial. They will be there to lift you up when the world pushes you down. They will remind you of what’s important – your story, your truth – and to ignore the white noise of those who don’t understand or enjoy stirring up trouble.

In the spirit of sharing, and most certainly vulnerability, here I am at the 2015 Listen To Your Mother Lehigh Valley show.

Advertisements

Time to Unfurl

Though I haven’t yet spotted my first spring flower of the season, it’s coming, and fast.

pink flower

I’m ready for it now, but few weeks ago, I wasn’t. This is unusual for me. Normally I’m on high alert for the first signs of spring. But not this year. For some reason I was hanging onto winter – despite the freezing temperatures and towering drifts of snow – I didn’t want it to end. I wasn’t ready for the thaw, for the melt and the mud, for the sudden exposure and vulnerability.

There is a risk in being seen, and heard.

A couple months ago I wrote about discovering my love for winter, and how in a way, my writing life has been in an extended winter since the birth of my daughter almost seven years ago.

It’s not as if I stopped writing. I blogged and journaled, I even published another short story, but writing was something I squeezed into the edges of my life.

When I read this passage in my favorite creative book, Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, I recognized myself:

“Women trick themselves this way. They’ve thrown away the treasure, whatever it may be, but they’re sneaking bits and pieces any way they can.”

Writing wasn’t a priority. My life as a writer was in hibernation.

I’ve been hesitating into spring for some time.

My daughter's attempt to hurry the season.

My daughter’s attempt to hurry the season.

Now that I’m finally ready to claim it, there is – of course – fear. Not just fear of failure, which is a familiar companion, but fear of keeping up.

The clock of my life is ticking away. I will be forty years old in a few months. I’m itching to begin and yet paralyzed by the task ahead of me.

Against my better judgement, I’ve been playing the dangerous game of comparison. Social media is not helping. Though I enjoy it for reconnecting with old friends and making new ones, there is a danger in falling down that rabbit hole. When I spend too much time there scrolling, clicking, commenting, favoriting, I grow exceedingly anxious.

It takes effort, such effort, to drag myself away and remember this truth:

comparing

It helps to have friends. Ones who I’ve never met except online. Their words are like hands reaching out in the darkness, footholds in the cliff I scramble to climb.

There are many voices that I gravitate toward for guidance and grounding, but these two in particular rang out like bells this week, guiding me out of the shadows of winter into the green golden light of spring.

“Without the clutter, I feel the weight of my frailty, the extent of my lostness, and the possibility of newness. I put aside the striving of to-do lists and achievements, and the burst of energy comes.” studies in hope

YES. This is what I needed to hear. In a post inspired by Lent, which I know little about, the idea of making space, of clearing the path, and seeing what may filter in resonated with me.

Then there is this quote, from another wonderful site, Healing Your Grief:

“Our freedom is always in letting go, surrendering and allowing our life to unfold exactly as it is meant to be. This doesn’t mean we do not create and open or build doors towards our goals, it means we need to loosen our grip and stop holding on so tightly to our plans and dreams.”

This one I’m still untangling. What does it mean to loosen my grip, to let go of what I’ve been clutching for years? What might I accomplish if I let my gaze wander away from the prize?

I don’t know, but I’m ready to find out.

As I steady myself on this precipice of change, I know it’s imperative to turn down and tune out some of that noise. I must remember to focus, my word of 2015, and to trust myself.

focus rock

Are you ready for spring, or do you harbor some residual winter longing? (Clearly, this is not the case if you are a New Englander!) What season of your creative life are you in?

Keep Your Creative Flame Alive

This month on The Gift of Writing I’m exploring the challenges – and offering solutions – for keeping your creative flame lit, even when life, inevitably, gets in the way.

gift of writing

I was inspired by a quote from the classic book, Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés. This book cracked open my creative life when I discovered it last year, and I return to it often, thumbing through the many dog-eared and highlighted pages.

Here is an extended version of the passage I quoted in my essay:

“Most of us would do better if we became more adept at watching the fire under our work… Too often we turn away from the pot, from the oven. We forget to watch, forget to add fuel, forget to stir. We mistakenly think the fire and the cooking are like one of those feisty houseplants that can go without water for eight months before the poor thing keels over.

It is not so. The fire bears, requires, watching, for it is easy to let the flame go out…

Without the fire, our great ideas, our original thoughts, our yearnings and longings remain uncooked, and everyone is unfulfilled.”

I have this quote prominently displayed on my writing bulletin board as a reminder, a warning, because I’ve let my flame go out before, more than once.

Read about my loss of fire on The Gift of Writing and how, over the years, I’ve come up with several practical ways to keep the creative coals hot no matter what else is going on in your life.

Hope to see you there!

Recipe: Chocolate Mint Pretzel Bark and a Contest

*Congratulations to Yolanda, winner of Stephen King’s, “On Writing.” The last book I’m giving away is one of my favorites: “Women Who Run with the Wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D. The winner will be chosen at random from my entire email subscription list. Sign up now to be eligible. (Scroll down for details.) 

So, as you are probably aware, it’s holiday crunch time. My daughter’s class party is tomorrow, there are teacher cards to write, last minute gifts to buy, and chocolate bark to eat, um, I mean make. Well, both.

peppermint pretzel bark

This is one of the easiest and fastest homemade holiday treats and you probably have all the ingredients in your pantry already. If not, I’m betting you have to go back to the grocery store anyhow. I know I do.

I posted a version of this recipe way back when on my other blog, which I’ve modified slightly and added new pics. The great thing about it is you can use whatever kind of candy or chocolate you want. I use gluten free pretzels because that’s what my family eats, but obviously you don’t have to. Mix up the salty and the sweet, or stick with sweet. I won’t judge.

This time I added marshmallows just because. Mini would’ve been easier because cutting them with a knife was a rather sticky and frustrating experience, but the good news is, it is possible.

Chocolate Peppermint Pretzel Bark with Marshmallows

peppermint bark close up

Ingredients:

  • 2 bags of semi sweet chocolate chips, 24 ounces
  • little less than half a bag of broken up pretzels (I used Snyder’s gluten free)
  • 8 regular sized candy canes (Bob’s brand is GF, btw) crunched up (set aside a handful)
  • about a cup of mini marshmallows or a handful of big ones cut up (optional)
  • 2 gallon size zip lock bags for candy cane crunching

*You can easily halve this recipe, but I needed A LOT so I went for it. In the end it filled 7 small gift bags.

bark gift bag close up

Notice that the measurements are approximate. Play with what you have. As long as you can pour the lumpy chocolate mixture on a sheet and smooth it out a bit, you’re good to go.

Directions:

1. Line a cookie sheet with parchment (or wax) paper, set aside.

2. Put chips in a microwave safe bowl. Heat for 30 second intervals. Check and stir after each 30 second increment. Be careful not to overcook. The chocolate should be smooth and shiny. Let sit for a minute or two while you smash candy canes and pretzels.

3. Break up the pretzels into pieces, not crumbs. Put candy canes in a zip lock bag and then ANOTHER zip lock (that’s two zip locks) and then hit with the back of a spoon to crunch up. If you use one bag you’ll risk breaking it and candy cane particles will fly all over the place. Not fun.

4. Add all pretzel bits and MOST of the candy cane pieces and marshmallows to the melted chocolate. Stir it up so it’s completely coated.

5. Using a spatula or spoon, pour onto the parchment paper. Smooth out a bit. If you used the recipe above it will almost fill up the cookie sheet.

6. Sprinkle with the rest of the candy cane pieces and stick a few marshmallows on the top, if you’d like. This is mostly for looks since the bulk of the candy is mixed in.

This is last year's version sans marshmallows.

This is last year’s version sans marshmallows.

7. Put the cookie sheet in the fridge or freezer until hardened. Then break up into pieces and serve, or wrap up as gifts. Store in a cold place or risk meltage.

This recipe yields 7 small gift bags. Not bad.

bark gift bags

Hope you all have a wonderful holiday, whatever you celebrate. We do pretty much all of it.

dec kids 2014

 But don’t forget about the…

CONTEST! WIN A FREE BOOK!

This month’s final giveaway, Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D., is closest to my creative heart. I believe reading this book helped reignite me as a writer.

women who run with the wolves

I know that may sound dramatic, but there were times when I felt the author was speaking directly to me, as if the paragraph I read was exactly the one I needed at that moment. Eerie, but true. This is not a book about writing, per say, but about creating and self-discovery. I believe every woman, no matter her vocation or interest, would benefit from reading this book.

Keep in mind, it’s dense, gorgeously so, but it can be intimidating at first. My suggestion is don’t be afraid to skip around or even skim. I first tried reading this book in college and gave up. Perhaps I wasn’t ready. But last year a dear friend, a talented writer, artist, and mother, suggested I try again, and I was blown away by what I discovered. Thank you Anastasia!

All you have to do is sign up for my email newsletter and you’re eligible to win. The results of this random drawing will be posted here on Tuesday, December 30rd.