Monday, March 26, 2007

Finding Water Check in, Week 5

This was a difficult chapter for me to get through—I could feel J.C.'s fear and frustration, and it took me back to that dark place I inhabited almost all winter—just feeling hopeless and trapped. But it was reassuring to see her struggle to keep faith with her tools—her pages and her artist date and her walks.

I had to laugh at her moving back to a typewriter after using a computer, because for a long time, I would bemoan my lack of productivity while writing on the computer. The internet was always singing her siren song to me, and usually I could find a way to tie myself to the mast of my writing and continue. Then, last week, I realized I could just…write longhand. I know, duh! But it felt like a small way to take care of myself, after spending literally years berating myself for not caring enough about my writing and being so distractible, etc. Instead of that, I could just, oh, change the way that I thought about the problem.

That is a theme that is coming to me from many different sources now—I just finished reading a book (highly recommended) called One small step can change your life—suggesting that the way to make changes in your life is to take small actions, think small thoughts, solve small problems, ask small questions. He mentions how the ego LOVES big, splashy projects like “I am going to finish an entire first draft of a novel in…a WEEK!” but how resistance soon kills that little plan. So the way to move past your resistance is to take very. Little. Movements. In that direction. Now, I’ve heard this before, from Barbara Sher and SARK and Julia Cameron herself. Maybe I was finally desperate enough to try it?

And the “small questions” also applied to my manuscript. I’ve been feeling very resistant when I start writing, almost nervous, and nothing I could tell myself or change seemed to have any effect. Until I realized that I was trying to FORCE my story into a very specific form, and practically drowning my natural instincts under a strong desire to put EVERYTHING in my novel. Ten Greek myths! A whole psychological history of all of my characters! A sweeping revelatory look at the state of Motherhood in the 21st Century!

I am sure it’s no surprise that I was resisting the idea of turning my baby exploratory draft into the Great American Novel—on the first try!

So, I started asking myself very very small questions, about the way the characters looked, about the way they moved, about what they said. And I started, very, very, gently, asking myself if maybe I should focus on the two or three myths that REALLY spoke to me, instead of using so many? Tada! Back to being excited about the story.

Surprisingly enough, this all happened after I wrote my letter to God, just being small and humble and specific, not trying to force a Big Epiphany or Rush of Divine Reconnection. I’ve been having God issues, for sure, but this method of finding time to reach out, in however small a way (there’s that word again) really helped me. As did the exercises of finding a little tastes of pleasure and gratitude and working to savor them. Yesterday, while walking with the Madam in a blaze of sunshine, I took the time to stop and give thanks for the upswelling of joy that seemed to working its way through my chakras.

One small (hee) question though, if NYC makes J.C. so miserable, can’t she just…move? Or was her depression about something else?

Walks-yes, always with the Madam, which keeps the brain empty, but the body (and the Toddler) happy.

Pages—7 out of 7. I would be lost without them.

Artists Date—Does my gluttony at the local used bookstore count? I LOVE $1 used books!

See you all next week! Now go make (or write, or sing, or dance) stuff!

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12 Comments:

Anonymous tammy vitale said...

I had to give up on reading these last chapters. I didn't need any such desperation in my life (I have way huge god problems - the word and its concepts don't work for me). So I'm reading blogs instead.

The small steps thing - I really like that idea a lot. Am glad it got you back into your creative work - some days *whatever* works is like a gift from the Universe. Hang in there!

6:26 AM, March 27, 2007  
Anonymous krista said...

That God exercise is interesting. When I read it I thought to myself- hmmm, maybe I should do this- then I thought about how LONG it would take and I didn't bother. But maybe in the name of small things, I could write one small page to God, and one small page of response from God. Sometimes I think even JC makes her exercises too big. Like- List a million accomplishments you did that you are proud of or whatever. Ummm... how about listing three. That I can stomach.

It is encouraging though, to hear that your letter to God exercise proved fruitful..

7:29 AM, March 27, 2007  
Blogger Sunday Scribblings said...

Maybe I'll check this book out next time I'm at the store -- I've never really read her, but heard so much. So glad you've found a way to get re-excited about your book! I recently had to ask myself all those little questions too and shift things around enough to find a way to get re-excited and I DID and now the story is really unfolding and it's so much fun! And about your last post, I'm so glad to hear SunScrib has done for you what it has done for me -- these little fictions have really opened something up! And I've so enjoyed reading yours this year! Can't wait to read a 'big' fiction of yours!
-Laini

10:12 AM, March 27, 2007  
Blogger Left-handed Trees... said...

At first, her frustration was frustrating me...I tried not to be judgemental and think of how she's a best-selling author in a posh NYC apartment by Central Park whose child is grown and not underfoot in ANY way. "Try trading with me and see what you get done, Julia!" was my initial response. But, the small steps are working for me too. I appreciated reading this check-in and wish you LUCK with the manuscript work!
--D.--

11:56 AM, March 27, 2007  
Blogger Ally Bean said...

Small steps seems so obvious, but I can't say that I ever thought of that before. I always look at the big picture and start planning/driving myself crazy from the git go. I think that you stumbled over a good idea with that one.

4:57 PM, March 27, 2007  
Blogger Jessie said...

oh i had to let out a big chuckle of understanding while readin this! especially this part:
"Ten Greek myths! A whole psychological history of all of my characters! A sweeping revelatory look at the state of Motherhood in the 21st Century!"

ha! oh, i am so guilty of that!

as for good ol' julia c....yeah, i've been wondering if she's going to make it. i mean, her book is starting to remind me of many of the travails of bloggers...all those ups and downs. frankly, i'm beginning to worry about her. it sounds like you've been wondering some of the same things that i have. well, i can only hope that we all survive our creative minds. ha! it is a dangerous place! and an exciting one too. :)

i'm glad to hear that you're back on track with your manuscript. let's get together soon! oh glory...the snow has melted and i can BIKE!!! :)

10:05 PM, March 27, 2007  
Blogger deirdre said...

Does your writing take on a different tone when you write longhand? I'm more inclined to fiction longhand than at the computer, maybe the muse is more likely to have her way with me without technology.

I grow more sure each day about breaking things into small bites. Fear doesn't wash over me in waves so often and that overwhelming sense of being behind eases into tasks I can handle.

It sounds like your manuscript is refining itself into a rich and satisfying tale. You know I want more soon.

12:19 AM, March 28, 2007  
Blogger melba said...

There are so many books I want to read now I easily get frustrated with concentrating on Finding Water and time does not really allow for me to read more. It is all about the choices.
~I just LOVE the community of reading Finding Water, of understanding what everyone is talking about. I don't do many of the exercises but I remember them for a later day (that is what I did with The Artist Way too)
I love reading about your process...

8:57 AM, March 28, 2007  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

Thanks for this very timely and interesting blog. I've been doing a bit of writing - expanding that character as you suggested - and I am having major resistance to it. "I'm NOT A WRITER" I keep screaming, "I'M A PAINTER", and stop. But when I do write it comes out easily, but I'm scared. So after reading this post, when I write I shall try to think 'small'. WHAT A RELIEF... I've been writing it out longhand too, and thought I was being archaic. Thank you!!!!!!

I also wondered - with all her money (surely?) why can't she just go back and live in the desert if she wants to? What's stopping her?

Well done for doing your pages, and everything else! Sounds like you are doing well. :-) E

4:58 PM, March 28, 2007  
Blogger Bohemian Mom said...

I love this post!
I am always biting off more than I can chew and then getting discouraged.
Cheers to baby steps!!!
Sounds like a book I may have to check out.

8:35 AM, March 29, 2007  
Blogger Susan Abraham said...

How wonderfully romantic to write in longhand, Mardou.
I admire you for it.
I was trained as a journalist to do all my thinking and writing straightaway at frantic speed on the computer...this to meet urgent deadlines!
Now, I'm like a fish underwater with my laptop.
The thought of shifting fromcomputer to typewriter???? A nightmare, surely! :-)

8:58 AM, March 29, 2007  
Blogger cherry girl said...

I have been turning my grand plans into smaller steps too, and I am trying to live in the present - it seems to be making more things happen in my life rather than procrastinating about it as I ususally do.

12:25 PM, March 29, 2007  

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