Last Wednesday morning, high on chocolate-raspberry coffee and too many sugary macaroons, I made my way to the first fall session of Tinderbox — 8 weekly workshops facilitated by Kimberly Brock. Of course I’d entered the wrong address into my GPS and ended up a few miles away, but, as per my usual M.O., I didn't panic or freak the hell out. I quickly entered the correct address and reached Broadwell Cottage on time. When I walked into the sun-dappled meeting room, a sense of serenity and acceptance washed over me. I was home, and these were my people.
My journey to Broadwell Cottage for the spring session wasn’t so bright and breezy. You see, driving scares the bejesus out of me. My overactive brain thinks I’ll lose control of my car, which will cause it to flip, and I’ll die from the resulting injuries. Morbid, I know.
Four years ago, after my family and I moved from Ireland to Atlanta, I got my first ever driver’s license at the age of 37. Over the following months, I gained some confidence on the roads, but not nearly enough to drive outside of a two-mile radius. For three years, there was no reason why I needed to venture outside of my safety circle. I was a stay-at-home mom who wrote when time allowed. I had my family, my friends, a Kroger, a Super Target, and three Starbucks nearby. All of my needs were met, weren’t they?
Nope. In May 2014, I took the route into self-publishing. A thrilling ride if ever there was one. By Christmas, I was burnt out. Self-doubt wrapped its spindly hands around my creative cup and filled it with loathing. Idiot. You think you’re a writer? Loser. You had to self-publish because no one else wanted you. Phony. You’re so ashamed of your writing; you hide behind a pen name.
Was I really all of those things? My writing friends, who, at the time, were mostly online, would say no. But my increasing uncertainty urged me to find real-life people who also fought in the self-doubt trenches. People who would understand what it’s like to have a brain wired to create and who might know how to conquer crippling fear. But here’s the thing, I run from new people and unknown environments like Wile E. Coyote’s snapping at my tail with metal teeth.
Curious about writing workshops and groups in my zip code, I asked my all-knowing friend Google to find some. A few clicks later, I found Kimberly’s blog. Her post What We Wish For touched me deeply. Here was a lady who spoke my language. The Tinderbox workshops sounded like the safe, creative space I needed. Hallelujah, right? Not so fast. A map search showed me the workshops would take place twenty minutes away from my house. It might as well have been in New York. No way no how could I drive there. I’d need an oxygen tank just to drive past Kroger—a whole 1.7 miles away.
But every few days, I’d browse through the Tinderbox website and then do a virtual drive of the route. I even had my husband drive us there so I could see how busy the roads were. But no matter how easy it seemed, I just couldn’t do it. After a particularly frustrating day where writing words was akin to wrestling adult alligators, I got a rush of the “screw its” and booked the workshop. No matter what it took, I was going.
The night before, I didn’t sleep.
The morning of, I didn’t eat.
I programmed the GPS and set out an hour earlier than needed. Do you think I got lost? Yup. Forty minutes into my drive, I pulled into a gas station in God-knows-where Atlanta. My hands shook so much that a kind trucker, who in my memory looks like Santa Claus, had to pump my gas. Tears filled my eyes, and I wanted to go home. But I stopped myself. If I didn’t make it to Broadwell Cottage, I would never get over my fear of driving, and I would forever hide behind my laptop screen afraid to reveal my true creative self to others.
Eventually, after several more wrong turns and many crumpled tear-filled tissues, I made it. I sat in my car relieved I was there, but terrified about walking through the doors. Again, self-doubt delighted in whispering all of the things I couldn’t do. There was no point going in because I wasn’t a writer. I was a wannabe. The voice of doom and gloom was right. Giving in, I turned the ignition. But then anger kicked my backside and pretty much kicked me out of the car.
I shuffled into the meeting room and sat by the door in case I needed a quick escape. I didn’t. On a beautiful Wednesday morning at the beginning of spring, I met five ladies who welcomed me with open arms and listened to my special kind of cray-cray without judgment. Over the following eight weeks, we cried, we created, we celebrated each other’s work, and we chatted like old friends. Self-doubt and the fear of driving will always be there, it’s who I am, but because I took a chance and went way out of my comfort zone, I reclaimed my creative joy.
My first drive to Tinderbox is very much like the creative journey many of us take. Moving towards your goals will be scary, at times petrifying, and several wrong turns may take you out of the way, but if you persevere, you’ll get there and what’s waiting at the other end will be worth every bump in the road.
Today, I'm a contributor over on the wonderful writers site, Writers in the Storm. If you haven't already found this resource, go check them out!
I'm talking about being in the in-between spaces and how hard that can be for writers - for anyone! You might be surprised by my conclusions...
I'd love to hear your thoughts on writing from the Blue World! Leave me a comment.
Here's the link for the post. You, Storytellers of the Blue World
This week's Tinderbox meeting produced some really interesting pieces after a 25 minute free-write with members. We decided to delve into the idea of our first impressions of ourselves - and then we turned it all around and wrote about someone ELSE'S first impression of us. Some of us wrote from the point of view of relatives, friends, pets. Some of us wrote about our very young selves - even birth memories! Some of us wrote from the perspective of mothers filled with hopes for their children. Some wrote about the desires in their adult lives. Some wrote from the point of view of a secondary character of their current fiction project, seeing the main character through fresh eyes. It was FANTASTIC! And I want to share some of this revealing work because we all left feeling so revitalized! And...well...kinda naked.
Vulnerable is good in writing. (tweet that)
In that spirit, I've offered to publish my own, unedited piece here today to give courage to the others who will share their writing with you in the next few days.
This piece is written from the point of view of my maternal grandfather shortly after my premature birth and the loss of my twin sister. It's pretty stark. I cried when I read it for the group. It's amazing how our grief connects us. The experience of putting words to these emotions was powerful, emotions and thoughts I imagine coming from my grandfather that will absolutely make their way into my current fiction. But more than that, they reveal ME to MYSELF. That's the magic of a good prompt to strip us of our excuses and get us unblocked so the EXPRESSION flows and we discover the unique voice we have to bring to the world!
If your creativity is blocked, maybe take a chance on this writing prompt. I'd love to hear how it works for you. ...More things will be revealed!
So, enjoy. But grab a hankie, dude. xo
By Kimberly Brock
Children are supposed to be gifts, but they aren’t supposed to be angels. They aren’t supposed to be saviors. This little girl came into the world, barely a wisp of life, barely breathing, entirely the wrong color, the color of desperation. She is a gasp.
I watch her mother and grandmother wrestle over the death of dreams and they look at this child like she will be a magician. They expect her to open her eyes and see them as they wish they were, not as they are. The need her to suckle and grow on their love, dependent and full of tireless appreciation. They need her to make up for disappointment and death. Instead, she is sickly. She is limp. She is feverish and fitful and uncompromising in her misery. She will not be their joy and they want to shake her until she is compliant.
Instead, she sucks all the air from the room and still struggles to breathe. She gives them weeks with no sleep. She demands more than their grief can provide. She cries. She is weak. She is failing to thrive. They are failing. I watch them wrap her too tightly in soft blankets that overheat her skinny, strange body. They are trying to make her a fat, happy Gerber baby and angry that she can’t make the best of what they have to offer, all their best efforts and she hates them. They are not what she wants and they’re mortified.
She is a lonely thing. She is my own holy trial by fire and the great love of my life. I know because she quiets when I rock her through the night. I pat her bottom til she stops bleating and even as her sweet, warm breath makes my neck sweat, I think she will die, too. I think nothing we have to give will ever fill her up. She is grief. She is a black hole that asks everything and throws our incompetence and guilt back at us. She is greedy and terrible and beautiful in her selfishness.
I wish I could take her, bundle her, get her in my truck, tucked on the seat. We’d drive far from here. We would find the light some place that would warm our blood, away from graves and ice storms and cold women. We would fill our bellies with biscuits and butter and watch crows on wires, talking and cackling. Her first smile was with me. I want to hear her laugh at those crows. I want her to grow up wise as those birds, sharp and slick and black. I want her to fly away from here. I want her to take a deep, deep breath and grow in all directions until she is larger than all of us. Until she won’t fit in that impossibly small hole in the ground.
November brings lots of tradition, memory, and emotion with it. Some of us embrace autumn and the coming holiday season and some of us fear it. This guest post is from a blogger I've enjoyed reading and getting to know over the last few weeks on her blog, I MIGHT NEED A NAP, Mama said they make me nicer. When she posted this original poem, I really wanted to share it with you here and she graciously agreed to allow me to post it to the Tinderbox Society Blog. The language is beautiful and poignant. So here's a gift from Tara Joyner Haussler.
Tara would love to hear from you! Please share your thoughts on November in the comments.
And so November begins,
pushing the door open gently
and entering, smelling of cinnamon
and cloves and things roasted over the fire,
bringing all of her
stories and memories
and celebrations in with her
The birthdays and the changing leaves
drifting down to the earth that
no longer welcomes bare feet to
wander and scamper about
The magnificent sunsets and
the brisk breezes that bring
out the scarves and hats
and mittens and fires in the hearth
November plays across the days
like a haunting melody,
familiar and comforting,
always known and sometimes sad,
as the days grow darker and the memories
remind us of the Novembers of years gone by
and how different they have become
Comforted by the rhythm of the seasons
I welcome her in
and offer her a place to be
and while I love her and all her colors
some of her stories are hard
and don’t seem to get any easier with the passage of time
Love etched in my heart
our stories intertwined
names etched in stone,
the echo of laughter and
the silence of last breaths,
tears of welcome and tears
of letting go
the tears of remembering
The pages of the calendar will turn
and the days of November will pass
and she will take her leave as
demurely as she came in,
backing out and pulling the door to
And I will close her story
and whisper goodbye
until we meet again
Tara Joyner Haussler is a Georgia girl, a connoisseur of peaches, and a lover of long naps and hot buttered grits. A graduate of Wesleyan College, she is a Mama to the Zoo Crew--one in college and two whom she homeschools and learns from every day. Tara's best memories are of the places that built her--home, Granny's farm, and her Great Aunts' houses. She is a writer who shares the stories of her people--past and present. Her favorite things in life are books, her family, a good cup of coffee, crocheted and knitted blankets she rescues from thrift shops, books, comfy socks, a good pair of blue jeans and boots, listening to folks' stories--and books. Tara has a special place in her heart for those who have no roof over their heads, foster children aging out of the system, and those who need a safe place to grieve. Her dream is to become a superhero with the superpowers to right all of these wrongs. Until then, she continues to share her stories through written and spoken word--in the hopes that we can see how much we have in common, appreciate the beauty in our differences, and just love on each other. In addition to writing, Tara serves as chief cook, bottle washer, teacher, headmaster, artist, laundry folder, and porch sitter. When she grows up, Tara wants to be.....well, she's still working on that. In the mean time, the writing and porch sitting are suiting her just fine.
Find Tara's blog here: http://imightneedanap.com/
Connect with Tara on Facebook, here.
Today's guest post is one of my favorites so far and the author is one of my favorites as well. Paige Crutcher is taking a leap with her writing and this week - TOMORROW!! - her debut novel launches! You can read her fabulous series for Publisher's Weekly here!
And you can pre-order her novel, THE ODYSSEY OF FALLING, here!
I'm so grateful to know her as my friend and honored to share her work with you!
WELCOME, Paige and leave a comment to congratulate her on going for her dreams!!
I’m pretty sure writing, and being creative, have helped me maintain my (somewhat) relative sanity all my life. The thing I know for sure about life is this; it’s mother trucking hard. What the Mamas & the Papas sang – about there being a season for everything – is true, and also only the tip of the slippery/sloppery ice burg.
When you’re a creative being, I believe there are often seasons (like sadness, anxiety, ennui) tucked inside the bigger seasons (like joy, productivity, shiny happy newness), and like one trunked up ice cream cake, the layers can make life feel utterly delicious…or like someone threw together a whole lot of flavors and ended up with a sticky mess.
Sometimes “well-being” feels unattainable. Like it’s a mystical unicorn floating on an island of Skittle-eating ligers. You can dream it up, pour out a handful of Skittles to bribe the animals into submission, but you can’t actually get there. Because there doesn’t exist. Not today.
When I’m feeling broken in this “the world is made of suck and all the curse words imaginable” way, I always turn to story.
There has been research done on the de-stressing properties of reading (which I still don’t entirely get the need for because I’m pretty sure LeVar Burton made it clear decades ago that reading = magic, but whatever) and story is proven to be a relaxant. Less calories than vodka, better for the liver than Xanax, and it has the power to change the very fiber of the reader’s being. Story, man! It’s amazing.
I mean think about it – how often has reading a great book changed who you are? How you think, what you dream, and the limitations you set (or rather release) from yourself. Reading increases my general well-being. Some days it feels like it may well save my life.
Writing, on the other hand, feeds my soul.
It’s a way to linger over moments that are pressed into the fiber of my being like brightly colored patches on a beloved pair of faded blue jeans. Moments like falling in love, discovering hope, having adventure, and being free. Because when I write, the rules are gone. As a rebelliously minded person, being able to craft worlds within words is the most freeing thing I can do.
Creativity is a tool. It helps me dig out from the suffocating amount of anxiety that tries to trick me into doubting myself. It helps me blend the colors of my world from something overwhelming into something beautiful, like when I lift a paintbrush and bring color onto a blank canvas. In the kitchen it lends to harmony as I attempt (and let’s be real, often fail) at baking a new recipe, or throwing together a Mr. Wizard-esque casserole.
I’m a mess, but aren’t we all? As flawed human beings (or rather, spiritual beings attempting to live a human life) we’re so different from one another. We seek to matter, to connect. When I’m at my best, I’m committed to showing up to my yoga mat, to being in conversation with others, encouraging an old friend or hearing a new one’s story.
When I’m struggling the most, I’m in bed watching my twelfth hour of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Dawson’s Creek, wondering what addictive substance they put into Baked Cheetos that has me eating the entire large sized bag, while shaming myself over how I’m not eating organic Cheetos, because somehow the preservatives make me feel even more of a failure.
Life. It’s not a game to win at; it’s a journey to undertake.
I think part of being a creative person means feeling emotions strongly. I believe the other side of the coin should be giving yourself permission to experience what you’re going through and not shut it off. To sit in the emotion, and feel what you are going through so you can deal with whatever it is that has you stuck, and then heal as you move forward.
If it matters in a way you can’t shake, then you can go one step further and share your experience, write it into a tale, craft it into a song, paint it onto a canvas.
Because writers write, creatives create, and story is always waiting.
Paige writes, reads, rocks out her yoga mat, reports for Publishers Weekly, and writes YA. She plays well with words and others, and when she's not reporting, she's daydream excessively before putting words on the page. Sometimes they’re jibberish, sometimes they’re honest in a way that makes her feel a little awkweird, but they always come with a message of hope and love.
More often than not, she's got her nose in a book (occasionally while inside her book fort), because inside story is where she knows the magic waits.
But you don’t have to take her word for it.
Learn more about Paige at her website: http://paigecrutcher.com/ Or find her on Facebook here and Twitter here.
Today's Tinderbox Society guest post comes again from the wise and witty, Georgia Lee, who first posted this on her own blog, Georgia Lee Says, after an eventful weekend. She's sharing some very dry (and dead on!) insight about the ins and out of pursing publication as a writer!
At The Atlanta Writers Conference, strife, confusion and downright frustration were recurring themes that apply not only to writers, but also to human beings, even the seemingly normal ones.
“When do I get off this merry-go-round?” said one attendee at the weekend event, at the Airport Westin Hotel “I devote years and blood sweat and tears just writing the book. Then years finding, hiring and firing agents, then waiting, getting close, then going nowhere near publishing.”
“I may not live long enough to get anywhere with this,” said another. “Some days I don’t even remember why I wanted to write in the first place.”
Over the past decade, the publishing merry-go-round has added more pretty horses to ride – self-publishing, small presses, e-books, Amazon, et al. Yet the golden ring – landing a lucrative book contract with a big publishing house, unless you’re James Patterson, J.K. Rowling or Dan Brown, is more elusive than ever.
The Atlanta Writers Conference, sponsored by the Atlanta Writers Club, a century old organization, with over 700 members, breaks a few barriers – by bringing the New York publishing mountain to Mohamed.
Friday: Aspiring writers meet one-on-one with agents, who critique “query letters,” an elevator speech proposal that must be as polished, if not more so, than the book itself. Afterward, a writer may stay up all night agonizing over the pitch, based on the agent’s suggestions, or ditch it altogether. A few lucky souls are encouraged, by a “show me more,” response.
Day Two: Editors, the big-time gatekeepers, critique partial manuscripts, sent in advance by bullet-sweating writers, in 15-minute one-on-one sessions. Awards are bestowed on the best of each. Actual publication is never a guarantee.
And if this isn’t mind-blowing enough – all writers, artists, and business owners must become masters of social media.
“Writers Digest Books” freelance editor Chuck Sambuchino, @chucksambuchino, www.chucksambuchino.com and www.guidetoliteraryagents.com/blog an obvious expert on the topic, held a Friday workshop. The audience, aware of the online imperative, was also dazed and confused by its baffling complexity. And who among us isn’t?
But it’s simple, really. Sambuchino defines the obligatory platform as “Visibility, influence, reach, authority, network, amplification, discoverability, ability to self market, avenues to speak to a community of your choosing, channels that exist for you to immediately reach others.
A successful platform requires these building blocks:
* Website and/or blog of impressive size
* An e-newsletter/mailing list of impressive size
* Article/column writing (or correspondent involvement) for the media
* Guest contributions to successful websites, blogs and periodicals
* A track record of strong past book sales
* Individuals of influence you know who’ll help you market at no cost
* Public speaking appearances – the bigger the better
* An impressive social media presence (Twitter, Facebook, etc.)
* Membership in organizations that support the successes of their own
* Recurring media appearances and interviews – in print, radio, TV or online.
Now go write the Great American Novel. Find the perfect agent who’ll sell it to the perfect editor, who’ll sell the idea to the best publishing houses and get your million-dollar advance. Immediately begin your next project, while constantly updating your Website, Twitter, Facebook (author and book pages) Blog(s) and checking analytics for performance on all of the above.
It’s that easy.
Directs Writing Center – former Bureau Chief WWD, contributor to every publication in the known world, yoga guru, psychic, Beatlemaniac, milkshake addict.
Today's guest post for Tinderbox Society is from Rena Blain, a self-proclaimed newborn writer! She joined the 8 week Tinderbox Workshop fall series two weeks ago and...
THIS is her first blog post -- EVER!
I'm so happy to share it here. I hope you'll read and share this sweet story. And leave Rena a comment or two, to welcome her and her voice to the party!
THE COAT RACK
One day Blue Coat had a hole that needed to be patched. She came to Coat Rack and asked if she could hang on the rack’s hook. Coat Rack, being made of strong Oak, said, “Sure, I would love to help.”
As Blue started to hang, Coat Rack thought to herself, “Her hole wasn’t that big and I really want to help people.”
Then came Red Coat, who had a torn sleeve. She asked if Coat Rack knew how to mend it. Coat Rack stated, “Hmmm, I am sure we can figure it out. Hang here while we look at this.”
As Red started to hang, Coat Rack thought, “Whoa, now I can’t see on either side of me. But that’s okay, it’s only temporary.”
In the meanwhile, Yellow Coat, with a broken zipper, came and hung herself upon Coat Rack’s mighty oak arm all on its own.
“Ouch” yelled Coat Rack. “You just scratched and scuffed some of my wood.”
Yellow snapped, “I didn’t mean to.”
Coat Rack felt bad for Yellow so she dismissed the hurt and said, “It’s okay, Yellow. I will help you, anyway.”
Before Coat Rack knew it, Purple Coat arrived. Purple gasped, “Coat Rack, you look full, but I really could use a place to hang. I only need a small mend in my hood.”
Standing up tall like the mighty oak that Coat Rack was made from, she said, “Purple, you have been my dear friend the longest. I would never leave you in a time of need.” So Purple hung on Coat Rack.
As Blue, Red, Yellow, and Purple continued with their hanging, Coat Rack was scuffed, scratched, and could no longer see because each of her arms were full. Over time, the constant added weight made her tired and not feel well. Where she once stood tall, polished, and strong she was now scratched, dingy, and weak. Her legs wobbled a little. One of her posts was loose. But apparently she still looked to be strong and stable to others. Or maybe they just ignored her struggle, because no one offered to help her.
Then one day the Coat Rack said to herself, “I cannot do this anymore. I tried to mend the ones I could. I cried with the ones I couldn’t. But I can no longer support myself, much less these others, too.”
She dropped all the coats.
Coat Rack started to withdraw and stayed to herself. She spoke with others but never really invited them to hang. Then one day, she decided to grab the sander and slowly sanded the dull stain. It hurt at times but she knew it was for the greater good. Once all the dullness was gone and the scratches were mended, she tightened her legs and then her arms. All that was left to do was to apply some varnish to make her nice and shiny.
But then, Red and Blue coat became jealous. Yellow Coat thought she became cold-hearted. Purple Coat was the only one who understood and remained loyal. Coat Rack wished they could understand that she was only one coat rack and could not help everyone. She could help them find the tools necessary to mend their problem but only they could make the actual repair.
Coat Rack could no longer put everyone else above her needs. And so she decided. To remain strong, she would help when she could but would no longer carry the problems of others.
If someone became jealous, she did not let it bother her. They could sand their dullness just like she did. If someone thought she was cold-hearted, she did not let it bother her. They could tighten their legs and arms too. Most of all, Coat Rack assured the coats by her own example that they could apply new stain and varnish to their own parts. Because no one could repair themselves better than they.
Without all that extra weight, she could stand tall and see clearly. Coat Rack remembered the mighty oak at her core and felt renewed and stronger than ever.
Rena Blain is a newborn writer and a native Georgian living just north of Atlanta. Over the years she has expressed her creativity through cross stitch, crocheting, scrapbooking, and quilting. However, she considers her biggest creative accomplishment to be her work helping others through her own practice as a Licensed Massage Therapist. You can find her here: www.southerntranquilmassage.com
Since taking a high school elective in the 80’s called Enjoy Reading, Rena has embraced the creativity and thought process that came with reading and storytelling. Currently, she is practicing writing short stories while also enjoying being a wife and mother. One day she hopes you’ll see her name in print!
My life broke. That’s the best way I know to explain the past nine months. I’d been going ninety to nothing, publishing my first novel, loving my family hard, raising three kids, each in a different school, managing aging parents, aging pets, peanut allergies and a husband whose work kept him out of town for a good portion of every week. And I was managing. I was moving. I was shaking. I was paying attention. I was doing everything right. And then…I woke up one day and the people in my life started dropping like flies.
In truth, no one actually died, but every person who was significant went into their own personal crisis and I was the last (wo)man standing. I’d been a celebrated teacher, an award winning author, a beloved wife and mother and daughter – that didn’t stop the breaking. It was more than I could manage. And it was nothing I could mend. As the ones I loved struggled, I felt my foundations tremble. My hands were completely tied, my heart was broken, and I’d never been so alone. So here’s what I did: I went into my closet and shut the door.
The thing is, I love my closet. It is my nest. It is my metaphorical womb. It is my most favorite place. And because I have my closet, all my life I’ve been a person who persists. I’ve been a survivor. I’ve been the person who is grounded. I’ve been able to turn inward and find what I need because I lived a rich, creative, thoughtful, faith-filled life. I believe in miracles. I believe in magic. I like to act like I’m all rational and worldly, but truthfully I am a die-hard optimist in a pessimist’s clothing. But that day in January when I went into my closet and I shut my eyes and went to gather my strength and belief in good, good things, a terrible thing happened.
I was empty. Depleted. Exhausted. Where I’d always been able to come out of that closet refreshed, with a plan, ready to take on what came next, suddenly I couldn’t even bring myself to open the door. And I kept thinking the same things over and over. Mostly, I’d catch myself thinking one thing, an unfinished thought: I wish…I wish…I wish…
And when I turned to my work, the thing I thought would get me out of my mess – writing – I discovered every creative person’s nightmare. I was blocked to the bone.
What happened to me? Life broke. And the pieces created a great big dam.
For the past few months I’ve been floundering and questioning. I’ve been wandering around, blinking like a mole, picking up pieces and tucking them into my pockets. I’ve been doing a lot of sleeping because it’s hard to get out of bed. I’ve been eating lots of carbs and reading lots of books and taking care of my house and not answering the phone at all. I’ve been fighting cynicism. I’ve been afraid. Of so many things. Of having nothing special to offer the world. Of being ordinary. Of days passing and watching them go by without being inspired…or inspiring someone else.
Friends and family have watched me, uneasy. It’s scary for them, too, I think. They’ve never seen me…well…stop. I mean really, seriously STOP. But I did. And something new started to happen. I realized this: creativity – the source that has always been the soul-restoring energy available to me in that nest-closet of mine – is like any other thing on this earth that FLOWS. It needs a clear path.
If I wanted to continue to survive – and especially to come back from trauma – it was going to be up to me to learn how to take care of my creativity. And that started with taking care of myself. I started by taking care of myself in all the extravagant, thoughtful ways I wished to be cared for. (Which also gave me the renewed strength to care for those around me.) I worked in ways that felt good instead of exhausting, clearing a path for my creativity. (I learned to say no to a lot of things, too. I’ve never had a problem saying no. But I did have a problem saying yes to the wrong things.) And then I allowed myself to enjoy all the unexpected ways that recovering my creativity brought well-being and purpose and joy back into my life.
Sound like I’ve gone all Oprah? Well. Not really. Half the time I’m still guessing. I don’t live in Chicago or know everything. I know very little, actually. And I like it that way. I like that I’m learning from so many women who are also on this path. So when I started looking around at the women in my life, the girls I see at the grocery store or the school meetings, ladies who sit beside me at church or on airplanes, or book clubs, I started to notice so many of them are whispering things to me.
I’m lost. I’m burnt out. I don’t even have time. I don’t even remember myself. And…I wish. LOTS of I wish.
Tinderbox Writers Workshop came out of I WISH.
I’m calling it a writers workshop, but really it’s a creativity workshop. I believe stories are the surest path to our source – our hearts. Stories teach us how to speak our truth. Stories change everything. Stories teach us about our wishes. Stories are the home of every creative effort, no matter the form.
I’m a believer that if you want something in life, you should create it. And then you should share it. I wished I could create the life I wanted each day. I wished I could create a space for women who are blocked, who are stuck, who are silenced or depleted or just searching for a safe place to discover or recover or express their gifts. I wished for a space for women to share and explore and CREATE and celebrate their stories and voices. I wished to nurture my own soul and the souls of sisters and daughters. I wished for a sanctuary where women can learn to live fully, joyously, passionately – lives lived from our creative core.
I hope you’ll join me.
Discover your story. Recover your voice. What do you wish?
I met guest blogger and Tinderbox Society member, Jodi Burrus, a few years ago when a friend and I drove to Birmingham, Alabama to meet a mutual friend and fellow author, humorist Robin O'Bryant. We sat around a table for dinner and laughed ourselves silly, talking about our families, our writing and everything in between. I left that dinner wishing those women lived closer to me. I felt recharged. I felt my energy and confidence return. It might have been the wine or the artichoke dip, but I think there's something about sharing our stories that feeds our souls. I wanted Jodi to share her story here with you so maybe some of that magic could be recaptured and spread over your day today.
If you've ever struggled to make time for yourself, time to be still and quiet in a crazy busy life, time to listen for your own voice in all the hubbub...this one's for you!
Jodi's blog speaks to the power of friendship in our lives to nourish our creativity. Find her at thedrunch.com.
"When you meet a friend for Drunch, you know you’re going to kick back, unwind and say what you want to say. Whether it’s Marriage and Family or Nips and Tucks, no topic is off limits. Stop by The Drunch to catch up on what’s being said around the table today."
Jodi's doing a great giveaway, too, so leave a comment for her. Your going to really connect to this post and want to chat about it. Share your thoughts and yourself here and you'll win, either way!
by Jodi Burrus
Writing…until you’re a published author, people will refer to this as your “hobby,” not realizing It means so much more than the word “hobby” implies. It's not a pair of fuzzy slippers knitted at Christmas.
Still...I've not published a full-length novel, and my writing isn't a source of income. Not a "real" job. So where does writing fit in my crazy, mixed-up life? It doesn't...there's just no room.
I should explain...I'm a mom. Not just once, but four times over. Boys -- ages 9, 8, 8, and 8. That's as real as it gets.
I juggle the schedules of all six members of our family. I cook a healthy dinner (most of the time), and pack lunches, and do laundry, and remember karate outfits, and clean up dog hair, and mop the floors (sometimes). We go to school. We go to church. Sure, it looks like multi-tasking, but my focus is ALL on raising 4 boys and maintaining a somewhat sanitary/sane/livable home environment. All my eggs are in one basket. There is no TIME for writing.
But I do it anyway.
I can't help but think of my writing as the bloodletting treatments of old, where the tumultuous humors were drained away in order to leave their host healthy and sound. Sure it's junk science, but as a metaphor for writing -- it's good medicine.
Ernest Hemingway said, “There is nothing to writing. You just sit down at a typewriter and bleed." For me, the words build day after day, night after night, until the pressure demands an outlet. I struggle with allotting a set time every day to write. Sometimes it just doesn't work out. Kids get sick. I get exhausted. Life happens. So I've given myself permission to play hooky.
Sometimes, the laundry sours in the washer. Dinner becomes takeout, and guess what? You guys need to buy lunch at school tomorrow because I didn't make it to the grocery store today. And you know what? Life goes on. There may be some rumbles from the peanut gallery, but the earth continues to spin.
So the words flow...in fits and starts. Disjointed scenes, disrupted voices. Pages I want to burn, and phrases I wish the world could see. Is it a pointless exercise? I don't think so. I'm simply being who I'm supposed to be. Will I publish a full-length novel someday? I hope so. But if it never happens, I'll still be here...my pen dripping words onto the page.
Need a little encouragement to get your own creative juices flowing? How about a copy of the anthology “Winter Wonders” — a collection of short stories that includes Jodi's very first published YA Fiction, “The Fat Files.” Leave a comment here or on her blog at www.thedrunch.com Or send a tweet to @thedrunch saying, “Count me in!” for a chance to win.
What is this Tinderbox Society all about?
JOURNEYS + TIPS
It's a community blog featuring some of the women I've met along the way - and all of the women I am continuing to meet - who are JUST LIKE YOU!
They're moms, grandmothers, teachers, accountants, small business owners, artisans and...
women who've found themselves burnt out or shut up at some point in their lives and they're sharing their journeys and tips about
finding their voice
expressing their passions
and writing their way back to their creative core.
These are their stories. These are their voices. They're daring. Taking risks. Expressing everything inside and inspiring everyone around them.
They're gonna blow your hair back.
Tinderbox Society's FIRST GUEST BLOGGER is Susan Sands.
Susan writes romantic women's fiction and blogs at Sweet Home Alpharetta. I met Susan at an event for another author at Foxtale Book Shoppe (one of my favorite places on earth) and we hit it off talking about kids and writing and writing and kids and how are you finding time to write?? Her post today makes me take a deep breath and find gratitude for one of the toughest lessons for anyone with a plan...waiting. I'm not a very pleasant person when I'm waiting. I'm going to try to be more like Susan!
If Susan's story rings a bell for you, leave a comment for her. Welcome her. Cheer her on!
It's what Tinderbox is all about. Celebrating the truth inside each of us and creating something unique and perfectly flawed.
Tell it, Susan!
My name is Susan Sands, and I’m a failure. Well, not exactly a failure. I’m just not a published author of a full-length novel after seven long years of trying unsuccessfully the old-fashioned way. Seven years ago there wasn’t a new-fashioned way to speak of. So much has evolved in the industry since I began this journey that I’m not even certain what I want anymore from this dream of mine.
Having someone tell me I was good enough, I mean, someone who knew what he or she was talking about was my first goal. My name in print on the cover of a book, by a real publisher, was my true objective starting out. Money? Yeah, I thought I’d get some of that too.
How it all started:
I woke up at forty years old and decided that I wanted to write. Didn’t we all at some point? I bought my first laptop, craft books on fiction writing at my local Barnes and Noble, and then I figured I should attend a first novel writer’s conference way out in California, having no idea how much opportunity to learn I had so close to home. But as fate and luck would have it, there were real live agents in California and one of them wanted my book when it was finished!
She suggested I first join my local chapter of RWA, Georgia Romance Writers, and the national chapter as well. I think I’d gotten online and done that within the first fifteen minutes of meeting her.
I was fifteen thousand words in on my first Southern romantic women’s fiction novel. But having this agent fervently waiting for my book (ha!) spurred me to write like the wind. I finished the book and had it professionally edited. I printed out the three hundred plus pages and sent it to Cali. And waited. Don’t hate me, but that well-respected agent offered me representation on my first submission. I believed I had a gift, y’all!
After some revisions, she shopped my novel through New York City. I waited. No dice. Looking back, I realize now how truly unworthy of publication that first book was. Why did she offer representation? I believe she saw something in me that she thought would eventually bear fruit. But not yet.
I wasn’t mature enough as a writer; my work wasn’t ready, which was a terrible thing. Fact: Sending out unfit material hurts your good name. If you’ve tried to get an agent lately, you realize how hard that can be. I had a tough decision to make. Keeping an agent who wasn’t a good fit vs. taking time to grow and develop my craft, and when I was ready, try and find an agent who was a better fit. It was a tough breakup on my part.
When in the thick of it, we never think we’re not good enough. That bird in hand is very hard to let go. I wrote new books. I won a few contests. I found a new agent. That book didn’t sell either. Again.
Failure. The burning desire and confidence that I could succeed dimmed. The first goal was achieved. Someone did tell me I was good enough. They even offered representation, twice.
There are those who tell us that selling a book is a combination of good writing and storytelling, who you know, hitting the right editor at the right time with the right project, etc. I truly believe it’s mostly fitting a great story with an editor who falls in love with it and connects with the author’s style. If you can get them to read it initially. I still have a few no-responses, which baffles me.
I’ve continued to write, though not with quite the same thrilling anticipation of submitting the next project to my agent. Thankfully, she still represents me, bless her. I’m wiser now, knowing this time could also bring frustration and defeat, but I do remain hopeful. I don’t thing anyone continues writing with the belief that they will ultimately fail.
The true beauty of this journey has been the people I’ve met along the way, both at conferences and through both GRW and RWA. Only other writers understand the nature of rejection and the growth that we undergo, whether we are novices or multi-published best sellers. And there are always more highs and lows waiting around the next corner.
Best to everyone currently on submission with agents and editors. It’s a tough wait!
tinderbox society blog
Life lived from your Creative Core.