Finding Faith in a True Sentence

It’s been too many weeks since I last wrote a blog. I had hoped to get into a groove and post at least once a week. It’s not for want of ideas. Or photos. 

It’s for want of perfection. 

Today I told a friend how I keep looking at my photoshoot pics, trying to find the right words to tell the right story. We’ve been talking about how to establish a daily writing practice. Are there good apps for that? What does it really take to feel ready to write for public consumption?

He shared this Keeping (and Losing) the Faith about writing. I love this idea:

If there’s one key component in a writer’s toolbox, it’s faith. Faith is the invisible fuel that propels us forward in the face of critique and rejection.

I wrote back…

“I am sitting here looking back through my recent photoshoots and trying to find words. I don’t think it’s a confidence block as much as settling into my seat and putting fingers to the keyboard to see what comes up. I often do better if I just process the pics into stories right onto my blog the same day, off the top of my head.

My friend had a suggestion:

“Close your eyes, take some breaths and go back there. You were really excited about the pics you got.”

I left iCloud and traveled back a few days. Took a breath. Smelled the rain enhancing the stones on the beach, like varnish to bring out the grain of old oak. Heard the crash of the waves, such as they are. Felt the cold on my fingers, and how happy I was to have the beach to myself. Noticed how the tide was high when I got there, and how I got high by being there–the waves of creativity crashing into my heart. The inspiration and heart-rocks galore.

How would I write about that? Which photos would I put into a sequence and story? Why did it have to be so hard to decide?

“All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”

— Ernest Hemingway

Here is my one true sentence that’s been floating around in my head since Saturday:

Some days when I walk on this beach, I can’t help falling in love with every rock.

I bring so many home with me, full pockets, full hands. The first months in Seattle I tried having a rule that I’d leave whatever I found on the beach and only take photos. But I couldn’t help falling in love with the stones and the shells, and still can’t resist their companionship. Once a season or so I return a basketful back to their beach of belonging.  These days I’m wondering how many I need on my windowsills, bookshelves, or shoebox, like characters waiting for a story that has yet to be formed.

How do you tune your eyes to see treasures in the sand?

It takes courage to know what to keep as memento and what to release, what to hold in your hand and soak in the vibes, then leave on the driftwood for the next person to find. It takes courage because that means it takes HEART. Coeur, French for heart, root word for courage.

So many beauties to behold and wonder where they truly belong

What to do with a heart so full of awe for the indescribable, never-again findable treasures that show up on the sand? I’m taking a cue from the tide, faith in the sea that flows in and out three times a day, or at least twice depending on how tides tally over 24 hours.

Sometimes it’s better to just start writing and see what flows out. Or stacks up.

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What helps your words stack up into ideas?

“If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.” — Margaret Atwood

It’s okay to turn your back on this tiger

Yesterday morning I woke up at 4:51 a.m. to make a post on Facebook to celebrate The Courage Way‘s first birthday. I didn’t set an alarm. My body just woke up as if my inner-book publicist remembered that it’s already morning on the East Coast and it was time to be brave and go public.

After making the post, I went back to sleep a couple of hours to reclaim more rest. Facebook had a very odd video suggestion for me when I checked again. It was this video, titled “I learned why u don’t turn your back on a tiger.”

wait for it…

I have to argue, aren’t we actually safe to turn our back on this silly tiger? After all, he’s behind a glass wall that is engineered to keep zoo visitors safe. We even get to see his feet underwater. His stalking MO is transparent–there’s no hiding from the camera. But he doesn’t know that. Our fight-or-flight instinct, powered by our pesky amygdala, doesn’t know it either. It tells us that some killer monster is about to pounce.

When it comes to creative courage, how often does our fear of a Tiger cause us to freeze or flee? That’s where writer’s block comes from, right? Or the urge to run away and avoid the public eye? Fear of so many things.

That’s why this video felt like a gift message from the universe, albeit odd, being suggested on a day when I was needing courage to celebrate my book online after six months of prioritizing true self care instead of self- or book- promotion. (As it turns out, it wasn’t scary at all, but joyful.) The other synchronicity is that the video appeared the day after I took myself on an artist’s date where I snapped this photo of a tiger:

This Prismacolor Tiger, ironically, showed up the day after a friend shared advice from a feng shui expert. She said it might be good to wear a tiger charm this year to counter conflict with a snake. It’s hard to know how far to take what some see as superstition and others trust coming from ancient mystery traditions. I refuse to live in fear.

How do you discern whether to trust that fear has valid advice or to trust that fear is false? I like to reflect with some open honest questions. Then see what my inner teacher (or inner artist) says in response.

If your creative courage is being stalked by a tiger, perhaps there is a way to reframe that fear. Is the tiger is behind a glass wall, like the one at the zoo? Is the tiger is in fact your inner wild-voice, ready to pounce on you with amazing ideas to release?

If your creative fear is an animal, which one would it be? If your creative courage has a totem animal that will inspire and protect, maybe it’s time to extend an invitation for it to show up.

If we are going to reflect on — and call on — our creative courage, I propose we consider at the opposite condition: creative fear, anxiety, angst and shadows. I’m inspired by Daniel Kahneman, author of Thinking, Fast and Slow, in this article from The New Yorker:

How do you understand memory? You don’t study memory. You study forgetting.

Daniel Kahneman, in “The Two Friends Who Changed How We Think About How We Think” The New Yorker

P.S. That New Yorker article also prompts some thoughts about the power and pitfalls of creative collaboration. More on that another day!

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me! With this blog in 2019, I will be exploring the ideas I wrote about in the book I launched last year: The Courage Way: Leading and Living with Integrity. My life and career have a rhythm of about six years when change comes knocking. My response has been to process my life by writing and publishing. This time I felt like the book I’d spent years working on prepared me precisely to face and embrace those changes. How lucky am I?

I get to live into the ideas I wrote about in my book. As one person last June said to me, “How many people get to say that?”

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I will live like a river flows…carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.