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.

A Muse On A Walkabout

blog pic1-1My muse shows up when he damn well pleases, and lately, he has been playing hide-n’ go seek with me. To tell you the truth, I think he’s hiding in my closet right now, under a pile of mismatched socks and an unfortunate pair of BCBG leather studded boots.

(For clarification purposes, I am referring to my muse as a “he” because he has a distinctive male energy about him. Don’t ask.)

If I took my muse’s absence personal, I would be deafened by ugly voices of doubt, the kind that given a chance, would take up residence on my metaphoric front porch and kick in the door. But I know better.

My muse is the yang to my yin, and he doesn’t like to punch a clock. Sometimes, I can entice him with licorce sticks and Captain Crunch. But he is fickle, and like most muses, appears on a whim.

But the joke is on him because my Capricorn rising sign means I’m disciplined and not afraid of hard work. I can wait him out. Sometimes I’ll get a head start on his arrival–like now–and begin playing with words to see if I can make him jealous. It doesn’t always work.

I once heard  Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert give a TED talk on creative muses. In her speech she spoke of how ancient Greeks readily believed that muses were entities that provided creative help to artists/writers.  Their concept of muses seemed somewhat matter-of-fact: successful artists owed their good work and glory to their talent–and to their muses. The opposite was also true. If the work was panned by critics, everyone knew the artist and muse were equally responsible.

It wasn’t personal.

Gilbert talked about her own work being inspired by her mule-like work ethic and the help of her muse. Her pride came from knowing that even if her muse didn’t show up, she was doing her part…showing up.

Sometimes, showing up is the best we can do. Whether it’s writing a blog, paying our bills, or finishing a less than inspired project at work. Because sometimes, we need to direct the energy, funnel the creative flow ourselves. No matter what the outcome.

During these times, it becomes more about stamina, grace, faith….all the things we fall back on when our energy is depleted of its creativity. These are the things that sustain us when our muse goes on a walkabout.

I’m fine with it; I’ve got a lot of mule in me, too. I work with and without a muse, as you can plainly see. After all of these years, I’m not afraid to airlift in a commando team of new recruits for the job, either. But I know I won’t have to….because as soon as I put the period at the end of the last sentence and hit the “Publish” button, he’ll come a ‘knock’in all sly and smooth, and with a sheepish grin announce, “I’m home.”

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 Importance Of Doing Nothing

Guest Blogger: Connie McLeod

Connie is my first ever guest blogger. She’s a new friend and creative impetus in my life, and I like her a lot. She’s jump-out-of-planes-fearless (literally) and her personal motto is: If it scares me, I’ve got to do it. Though we’ve run in the same professional circles for years, we only really “met” this year.  As fate would have it, we discovered we were both part of a great midlife bloggers group of women at Generation Fabulous.  We have been friends and supporters of each other ever since. This spring the Dalai Lama visited New Orleans and we both blogged about it from our different perspectives. I know you will enjoy my friend and guest blogger’s words as much as I do. 

I’ve been told that I do nothing better than anyone else. I usually have a very full schedule. My lunches and evenings are filled with need-to-do-this or need-to-meet-them. I’ve lots of interests outside of my day job and I’m admittedly, very social. I never turn down a meal or a glass of wine with friends. My brain is always whirling and my sweetie has come to dread the phrase…”I’ve been thinking” because it usually involves some task for him.

doing-nothing

But I also know that I need quiet time to counter that. The quiet meditative time, when I still the monkey mind chatter. I also know that my sweetie and I need quiet time together. As a couple, we need time to just be.

I’ve written about my friend’s camp before.  That special Zen oasis she calls the Flying Alligator, less than an hour from my home.  It’s perched on a quiet bluff overlooking a mighty river. The Atchafalaya River is one of the deepest rivers in the world and from her pier; I can sit and watch it’s fast moving current flow by for hours. It’s too fast for waterskiers or even fishermen, so only occasionally does a boat go by. You don’t see other homes or people from that pier. You can only see the mighty ancient trees that line it’s banks. It’s a real connection to the past as we quietly sit and listen to the sounds of nature surrounding us.

This is how this spot has looked for eons. We watch the eagles and the hawks and the rosy-headed spoonbills soaring high in the sky, as well as the tiny chickadee hopping on the branch that shades the pier. We’re in the middle of the Atchafalaya Basin  which is the largest swamp in the country and it still feels primal. I’ve seen migratory geese flying over so high in the sky they looked like hundreds of shimmering ribbons that undulated with wind currents; those ribbons appearing and disappearing depending on the wings catching the glow of the sun on their journey.

We watch the frogs and the lizards and the snakes and see the occasional fish jump out of the river.  We see a bird dive into the water to catch its dinner. I feel connected to the world as I watch how nature has been since the beginning of time.

I’m still connected to technology and it feels appropriate that I see the words of the Dalia Lama being posted by friends.  He’s only a short ways away—as the bird flies—in New Orleans, his first visit to my favorite city. (I hope he eats well while he’s there). I read a post about his Holiness, “the recipe for happiness is pretty simple, sleep well, eat well, meditate and connect with people who value your opinion.”

I know I’m where I’m meant to be in this moment of time. Feeling connected to the larger world. Sitting in happy silence with my love, occasionally touching hands and yes, a glass of wine in the other hand.

Part of my doing nothing is reading the book “My Stroke of Insight” from a powerful TED talk. This neuroscientist talks of recovering from a stroke and how important sleep and quiet and the kindness of others were to her healing and recovery. Her words and the Dalai Lama’s, being content and happy in the presence of love and being connected to nature, have all resonated with me this weekend.

I’ve come to believe that I’m meant to help people connect to their creativity. I’m still working on exactly how to get that message out. But maybe it’s by showing someone how to do nothing—something I’m very good at. It sure has connected me to the glorious, creative world today.

About Connie McLeod

Creativity Coach at Greenview Designs; foodie and wine lover; world traveler; blogger

I’ve been an Art Director for over 30 years and have won a bunch of awards over those years. During my career I’ve worked for ad agencies, higher education, nonprofits and done freelance design.  I’m an LSU grad with a degree in Advertising/Journalism. I took six months and backpacked across Europe in my 20’s and I was my daughter’s Girl Scout leader for 13 years and I jumped out of a plane on my 50th birthday. This year I launched Greenview Designs and am leading workshops on Creativity and Innovation along with other designy things.

I learned with Scouts, it’s not about earning the badge, it’s about the hike you take to earn it, what you learn and see and enjoy along the way. I embrace my joys, challenges and the bumps in the road with a sense of creativity. I hope you enjoy following me along my creative journey.

Connie’s blog is My Creative Journey http://conniemcleod.wordpress.com/