Sharing My Writing Process

Here I am in my home office. But truth is, much of my work is written on a laptop in my bedroom.

Here I am in my home office. But truth is, much of my work is written on a laptop in my bedroom.

I was invited to a party I couldn’t resist: a blog roll entitled, “My Writing Process.”

A new online friend Walker Thornton, extended the invite. My first instinct was to say no because I made the mistake of reading the bios of other writers who had participated in the blog roll. But then I said, “Shoot,” because that’s what we Southerners say. “Shoot, why not?” Because if there is one thing that’s supposed to be good about midlife, it is the ability to care a little less what people think about you.

But, I do care sometimes. Just not as much as I used to. But I appreciate the opportunity to participate in this blog roll, and the chance to reflect on why I write what I write. If you’re curious, read on. Thanks, Walker.

 1. Why do I write what I do?

From the time I was a child, I wanted to be a writer. I grew up with cane fields in my backyard and I would hide there sometimes with a book or a diary to escape a noisy household. Later, I wrote poetry and read lots of Nancy Drew books and eventually buried my diary to keep it safe from prying eyes because my musings were sacred to me. (I never found that diary again, by the way.) I have always loved the written word.

I won’t take you through my entire creative history. Or tell you about the poems I submitted to Scholastic magazine that got rejected (it’s tough getting rejection letters when you’re 10). But I will tell you that one day I gained clarity about my writing interest and it helped to direct my future endeavors. I was in the seventh grade watching the television show Bewitched, when I became intrigued by what Samantha’s husband, Darryl, did for a living. If you were a fan, you’d remember he worked for an advertising agency. So I majored in Journalism and Advertising in college and over the years worked myself into jobs where I could use the written word to: Inform. Educate. Create. Motivate. Sell.

I currently work in a Corporate Communications department where I sometimes lend my words to our CEO and to our brand.

But now, at midlife, my real passion is writing to inspire women to feel good, peaceful, happy, loved, encouraged, supported. After a midlife transition, or unearthing, as I like to call it, I wrote a book,Tao Flashes, to share with other women some of what I had learned. I took the wisdom of the ancient Chinese classic, the Tao Te Ching, and interpreted it through the lens of a midlife woman to offer inspiration on navigating the midlife journey with integrity, harmony and grace.

I started my blog of the same name, Tao Flashes, to write regularly about themes related to peacefulness, integrity, harmony and grace.

I have finally come to the realization that a big part of my purpose/passion now at midlife is to hold up the mirror to what is good and true. I want people to see beauty around them, in the everyday, in the small things, in the ordinary. I want people to see the beauty of who they are in their authentic skin.

So I write for the one or two or ten people who are familiar with my work and trust that those are the people who appreciate encouragement or need to hear some words of inspiration.

I write what I do for them…those handful of people, and for myself. I write what I do because sometimes, frankly, I need encouragement. And when I take the time to write about someone who is exhibiting grace, I am reminded of the importance of grace. When I write about doing our inner work, cleaning out the past, that’s a message to myself as much as it is to anyone who it resonates with. When I write about the importance of prayer or mediation, I am reminding myself of their value.

I write because I want to inspire and be inspired. I write because that’s the way I figure out how I really feel. Or as the writer Flannery O’Connor once said, “I write to discover what I know.”

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I read a lot of inspirational or motivational work; it’s become so much more mainstream. I don’t necessarily think my work is different; the originality comes from my own experiences or how I string together a thought or a sentence. But, I‘d like to think my work is heart-centered, passionate and infused with my own brand of love.

 3.How does your writing process work?

Have you seen the TED Talk Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray and Love, gave years ago? In it, she talked about her muse being a mix of inspiration and mulishness. I’d have to go with that, too.

When I wrote Tao Flashes, A Woman’s Way to Navigating the Midlife Journey with Integrity, Harmony and Grace, I did a lot of meditation. I would read chapters of the Tao Te Ching, close my eyes and feel into the message. The text in the Tao is complex and paradoxical; it’s like a mind f_ck, and I loved it. So after meditating and trying to feel into the chapters, I’d take a message from it and then write about a line or theme from the perspective of a midlife woman.

When I work on my blog (or work in the corporate environment), I sometimes get a little nudge, a whisper of inspiration from my muse. A poet at heart, I see symbols and metaphors in everything, so there’s usually a little grist for my muse to muck about in–if he shows up at all.

But most of the time, I sit on my bed with my laptop, sans muse, and my mule and I trudge along until the fields are plowed.

4. What am I working on now?

I continue to work on my blog and random requests for other work. Working full-time in the corporate world is a priority, so I don’t always have time to devote to my more heart-centered writing. I do feel there’s something germinating, trying to make its way to the surface, but right now, it’s still a seed. I’m not sure what it will grow into yet. I’m hoping, when the time is right, my muse will help me nourish it. If not, I predict my mule and I will be getting down and dirty, like two field hands ready for harvest, before too much longer.

I’ve tagged a writer friend, Connie McLeod, who lives in my city and whose life has run parallel to mine until finally intersecting last year through the blogging groups Gen Fab and  Midlife Boulevard. She’ll continue this conversation next week and share her writing and creative processes. In the meantime, here’s her background:

Connie McLeod is an art director, writer, creativity coach, world traveler, and a food and wine lover. During her professional career she has worked for advertising agencies, non-profits and healthcare companies, to name a few. She is currently creating marketing videos at Greenview Designs, leading workshops, facilitating small groups and giving speaking engagements on creativity and innovation, and branding. Her writing has been published in Huffington Post, Midlife Boulevard, and Better After 50. You can follow her blog at My Creative Journey.

If you’re interested in more thoughts on integrity, compassion and grace, particularly at midlife, read my book Tao Flashes.  Or visit me at www.facebook.com/taoflashes or on twitter @taoflashes.

Birthdays Matter

Today is my birthday. I am enjoying a completely self-indulgent day honoring my secret –or not so secret–introvert.

It is past noon as I write this, and I am struck by the thought that my birthday is already half over. It reminds me that years fly on a tailwind and I can only hang on wide-eyed and wishful.

I am sitting here in the quiet of my inner world, having given myself permission to take the day off from work, noise, outside distractions. It is me and my beloved wind chimes. And I listen to their sweet, clumsy noise and imagine them singing happy birthday to me in a language foreign to my ears, but native to my heart.

It is me. I am in awe of the magic healing power of my wind chimes, of sound, and I listen to them serenade me. They are accompanied by the flowing sounds of my fountain, the ancient healing sound of water pouring like grace from the angel that stands guard over my courtyard. And the inhabitants of this house.

It is me. I feel blessed to enjoy this solitude for a few hours. I need time to remember who I am, what I’ve gained and lost over the days and the decades that have marked my life. I am older now, yet more child-like. I am fearful, yet braver. I am uncertain, yet wise. Oh, so wise.

It is me. And I look back at the years that stretch for miles behind me, years that were littered with trash –wrong choices, wrong words, wrong timing, and a general feeling of wrongness–and with treasure–authentic relationships, creativity, mindfulness and an expanded consciousness.  I am equally grateful for the polarity that both have created within me.  And I remember every hug, every kiss, every ass-kicking, every kindness and every mistake– except for the fact that there are really no mistakes. I am old enough to know this now. Every thing has a purpose, a reason, a rhyme scheme, and I am here to serve it all. And to let it all serve me.

So this coming birthday year I promise to make mistakes.  I promise to kick ass. And I promise to dust myself off when my ass gets kicked. I promise to love harder. I promise to prioritize my relationships–including the one I have with myself. And I promise to find ways to righten what has gone so terribly askew in this world. I will do it with love, and grace and meditation and roll-up-my-sleeve activism.

Because birthdays matter. Time matters.

If you’re interested in more thoughts on integrity, compassion and grace, particularly at midlife, read my book Tao Flashes.  Or visit me at www.facebook.com/taoflashes or on twitter @taoflashes.

The Expansiveness Of Love

Excerpt from Tao Flashes

taoflashessoftcover

OUR WORLD IS LIMITLESS, as eternal as our own spirit. We set our own boundaries.

As we open up ourselves at midlife to experience our divinity, we must honor our spirit and the lessons life is teaching us. This allows us the wisdom to throw away what no longer serves us, while still respecting the shape it has formed in us.

The universe is all-loving and impartial. It will allow us to create our best life with practice and study–the study of stillness. Introspection is needed.

But know that love creates more space; it expands and is as limitless as the distance between heaven and earth. If you were to paint this limitless space, the distance between  heaven and earth, between good and evil, between yin and yang, it would be gray. It is within this space that everything is created and resides, including love.

When we meet all–friends, strangers, lovers, family, co-workers with loving energy, we too expand and enrich ourselves, and in turn, produce more love. This creates a pathway to a good life.

If you’re interested in more thoughts on integrity, compassion and grace, particularly at midlife, read my book Tao Flashes.  Or visit me at www.facebook.com/taoflashes or on twitter @taoflashes.

Be Your Own Beau This Valentine’s Day

valentines-day-candyj

I’ve always secretly loved Valentine’s Day. From the time I was a little kid, I loved everything about it. I loved the exchange of silly, sweet cards with action heroes, magical princesses and funny-faced animals; and I loved the little boxes of Sweet Tarts and the juicy heart-shaped suckers with messages like “Love Me” etched across them in sugar. Remember?

As youngsters we were so open and pure in our expression… so generous in our sharing of goodwill, that  the ritual of card  and candy giving was almost like a sacred exchange between the giver and the receiver. We shared our cards and our dime store candy wildly and with abandon, and we did it for the sheer joy of sharing joy, of expressing love.

But as we grew older, it all got more complicated. And Valentine’s Day became serious, commercial, maybe even a little manipulative. But I still loved it; I loved it even when I was no longer married and without a steady relationship. I still went to work with grade school valentines and candy hearts and handed them out to coworkers feeling the same silly surge I felt as a kid.

I know Valentine’s Day can be hard on some people who are not in romantic relationships. And I am fortunate myself now to have a man in my life who regularly brings me a fresh-cut flower from our courtyard with my morning coffee, who understands that romance and expressions of love are necessary to keep the fires of my heart stoked. And he also understands Valentine Day, as commercial as it is, is a good day to bring me dark chocolate, or bird of paradise flowers–not because it is expected–but because it is appreciated.

For those of you who feel lonely or sad or in need of attention on Valentine’s Day, I offer you these thoughts. Love yourself. Love yourself with the steadfast commitment and respect you desire from others. Self-love is the precursor to all healthy relationships and the relationship we have with ourselves sets the tone for our relationship with others. So be your own beau.

We women are such natural care-givers. We give at the office, we give to friends, we give to family members. We give, give, give until we are often depleted of our power and of our will to care for ourselves. Now, especially at midlife, is a good time to get in the habit of giving to ourselves. In my book Tao Flashes, I talk about the need to fill ourselves up first, to snatch the juicy pieces of life we have been denying for ourselves, and to live a rich and inspired life.

So, whether you’re in a relationship or not, how about practicing the art of self-love this Valentine’s Day? Indulge in a piece of Godiva dark chocolate, take yourself out to a matinee, treat yourself to a spa day. And when you’re feeling really good, share the joy that is you…buy a valentine card for a perfect stranger or a co-worker.

Share the love. Share it like a kid, joyously, openly and with abandon. And watch as it boomerangs back to you, multiplied again and again in its loving power.