Category Archives: Fear

The Only Way Around is Through

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It has been almost a year since my epic California road trip with one of my best friends. I got the opportunity to visit San Francisco for the first time, explore Big Sur and visit the Red Wood forest, which is something I had been looking forward to since I was a child. Every aspect of our journey was magic, but there were some struggles to overcome. Our rental car was a dud and we had to postpone the second leg of our journey by a half a day as we limped back to the airport to exchange it. Jamie struggles to sleep comfortably the first night in a new place and we changed hotels/locations almost every night. My snoring didn’t help either. Having my wallet stolen at Red Rocks the day before our trip was a huge inconvenience as well. All of that aside, we were able to work everything out and had one of the best trips I have ever been on. 

I have been thinking about this trip a lot lately and wishing I could go back in time and do it again. A full week with one of my favorite people in some of the most beautiful places I could ever imagine. I’m so grateful I got to see and stay in Big Sur when I did. 

Last week I found myself at a coffee shop after class. I had been planning on meeting a friend. I told her where I was in the coffee shop and said I had arrived a little early since traffic had been kind. She messaged back quickly that the day had gotten away from her and she wouldn’t be able to make it. I was faced with the decision to pack up and head home, or enjoy a coffee and work on some writing. I decided to do the latter, and pulled up my working outline. 

I have been working on this novel for a while. I realized about year ago that much of what I had already written was merely backstory. I had to scap a lot of it. And I have been really struggling with the plot points in the second act. Really struggling. Everything I outlined seemed cliche and boring. Yet, as I sat there sipping my Americano, I had a second act break through. I was able to tie in some of the old ideas in a way that felt fresh and rang true for the the characters and how I wanted them to grow through the story. I outlined the whole second act and felt at ease with these new plot points. Now, I have to write it, but I’m excited to tackle this new leg of the journey. Now I have a map. 


Brene Brown speaks about this same struggle in her magnificent book, Rising Strong. She writes of working with Pixar Animation Studios President and staff. The Pixar team explained that the middle of the creative process is the hardest part, in the writing and story telling, but also for the character. I would have to agree. I used to loathe editing, but now it is the part I love the most. The shaping of the story is fun. The slugging along through the middle has had me stuck in creative quicksand for a long time. As Brene states, “You can’t skip the second act.”

This is true in so many parts of life, not just the creative practice. The second act is difficult and trying. There are times it feels as if you will be walking uphill forever. I have been feeling this in my personal life as well. There are great things, don’t get me wrong, but there are deep struggles too. Brene also tells us, ” If we are brave enough, often enough, we’re going to fall. Rising Strong is about what it takes to get back up and keep being courageous with our lives.” 

Holding space and continuing to work and move through the hard stuff can be daunting, but it is worth it. That is one of the reasons I am drawn to storytelling in the first place. It is the shared experience of the human condition that intrigues and excites me. The good stuff wouldn’t feel so grand without the hard stuff to compare it to. There is also grace in accomplishing something seemingly impossible. You always get to keep that prize, you made it through whatever daunting thing had been placed in your path. And when the next hardship rears its ugly head, you aren’t hopeless, because of all the dragons you have slayed before. As Brene so brilliantly reminds us, ” The middle is messy, but it is also where the magic happens.”

For What it’s Worth

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If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you would have noticed that I have had trouble getting back into a writing groove since The Christmas Child was published. I have had some false starts and some deep dry periods. I don’t know if it’s fair to say I’ve been blocked because I think about writing all the time – I just haven’t gotten many words on the page. 

Things are changing. I have some major writing momentum right now and it feels great. I am flooded with ideas and edits and images. Over spring break, I took some quiet time to go inside and practice some necessary self-care. I worked most of the week on an application for a content writer position for an online magazine I really respect and believe in. It felt like a long shot, but I thought it might be good for my inner writer to work through this and write the two samples they requested for the application. It felt good to find my writer voice again. It felt great to edit and fine tune every paragraph and sentence. It was difficult to write with such extreme honesty and vulnerability, but it shook something loose.

Surprisingly, it opened the floodgates for my fiction as well. I started to work through the details of a short story project I’ve been sitting on for a couple years. I felt renewed enthusiasm for my wip and have a plan for finishing this draft. In this environment of self-care, I’ve been able to drown out a lot of noise. I think some of these ideas just needed a safe space available so they could show up. 

This last week I learned I made it to the second round and they published one of my submissions. I was so proud to see my article on their website, next to articles that inspire and move and challenge me. My excitement only grew when I was met with such support and love from the people in my life. On Saturday, I learned that I got the position and will be signing on for six months, with an option to extend my contract after that. It still doesn’t really feel real as I write that. I have been published before, but never on this scale. I am beyond honored and grateful to join them and add to their work. 

When I let people know, I was overwhelmed by their excitement, joy, encouragement and validation of the worth of my writing and my worth as a writer. I was worried that my work might not be up to par, but these people never doubted it. I even received a handful of comments about how they were happy to see this organization was seeing what they already knew. 

It occurred to me that a lot of the “stuck” energy I have been feeling over the last couple of years has been about not feeling worthy or good enough. I wrote this one thing I was proud of, but could I write something else that was good? I clearly had other stories to tell, but could I get out of my own way to tell them? The answer was no for a long time. That answer has started to change. 

I’m still an equal mix of excitement and nerves. I am empowered and feeling very humbled all at once.  Hearing kind words and support of my worth is helpful, but I am starting to feel my own worth as a writer again as well. I am looking forward to seeing what this next chapter has in store. 

Fertile Soil

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Black and White Garden 2015

Black and White Garden 2015

It’s hard to believe that I have to go back to school in less than a month. This summer has been filled with storms (literal and metaphysical), rest, reflection and growth. I planted an epic patio garden that has flourished from all the rain, I suspect. I have been reorganizing my house all summer. It has been waiting for me for quite some time. It feels wonderful to get things in order.

I know why it’s taken me so long to actually tackle this project. Most of this “stuff” has a great deal of emotional weight and shame attached to it. It also helped that I could shove all of it up in the loft of my apartment, and conveniently forget it was there. I have planned to deal with it for the past two summers, and couldn’t. My procrastination reached rock star level.

I think the possibility of moving in the fall shook me into action. I will not take all this with me somewhere else. I think enough time has passed and I have changed enough, that it is finally possible for me to edit and organize with more distance, less sentimentality and actually move on.

It hasn’t been much fun, but growth rarely is. I will say that I feel lighter when I complete a task and that feeling is leading me to continue and finish – finally. It reminds me of a WIP I have been avoiding as well. I discovered recently that most of what I’ve already written needs to be thrown out. I haven’t been able to get momentum and start back up again with it, but I think that getting my physical world in order is helping my creative world as well. I’ve been brainstorming and plotting. Mulling over changes and character motivation. My imagination is free to roam, now that there isn’t so much clutter.

It seems ridiculous to be sad that I only have 27 more days left of freedom this summer, but I plan to get this organization done and then spend some time among my plants, blossoming.

To Everything There is a Season

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mbm2011IMG_2254wtmkThis has been the most beautiful Autumn I ever remember in Colorado. The interesting thing is that it has happened in waves. Most of the trees in Denver are just starting to change, but last weekend, the collegiate peaks were in full color. I was lucky to get out of town, with one of my best friends. We had a wonderful weekend and was amazed by the ridiculous level of beauty at every turn.

Fall is my favorite time of year and I’ve written about it here on many occasions. It holds so much meaning for me, but it is also bittersweet. It is the end of a cycle. One final burst of color, before a new white canvas. There are many blessings in my life right now: I have a job, a home, people who love me, a weekend of uninterrupted quality time with one of my best friends. However, there is horrendous upheaval all around and the stress and sadness is hard to manage. Many systems in my life and the lives of those I love are being torn down. I trust and have faith that these systems will be built again, stronger and better, yet these times of chaos are unsettling.

How do we keep a tight ship in a stormy sea. How do we move forward when our path seems cluttered with destruction, so much so that it’s difficult to even make the next right step? I don’t have the answer, I’m afraid. I think that is one of the reasons why autumn is so breathtaking. I think it’s the universe’s way of soothing our souls and easing us into the dormancy of winter.

I trust that this time of upset will resolve. I can only control or change so much. Much of this is out of my hands and above my pay grade, as a good friend likes to say. Yet, there is still beauty. There is still deep, unending friendship. There is still comfort from my dad, even if I have to visualize a bear hug as he listens and calms me over the phone. There is a time for every season and a time for every purpose, whether I see the reason or not.

That Which is Hidden

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It’s liberating to dig deep to find what is hidden. Scary, because you don’t know what you’re going to uncover, but exciting at the same time. I am learning this in my personal life, creative life and especially in my writing. I think I have been frightened to dig deep in my writing because I was afraid of what darkness I would uncover. How could I share such things? What would my parents think?

Over the last two years, I’ve worked really hard with the help of an amazing therapist to process my feelings in the present and work through the past. I’ve learned how to not tuck these dark emotions away and just feel them. It was very hard, it still is honestly, but it also has gotten easier to let myself go there. Anger and shame have been especially hard to process because they were emotions that I had become especially good at hiding away.

I know I am a healthier human now that I’ve learned how to be present with all my emotions. I know I will be a better writer as well. I can still worry about what other people might think of these new stories, but I am willing to deal with those feelings as they arise. I believe in these stories and the human beauty I might find when I pull back the layers and start to really dig.

What are you afraid of uncovering in your own work?

Don’t Be Afraid…

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Up until recently the only prose I’ve ever really written and shared was intended for younger audiences. A couple of years ago, a handful of my works in progress started to take a darker turn and I was afraid to follow my characters into the proverbial forest. I was frightened by what my imagination was capable of. This was the same reason I have avoided horror films and books for most of my life…my imagination made them much scarier once I was at home, alone, in the dark.

Knowing this, one of my best friends sent me an incredible article from Poet’s and Writer’s about earning your violence in art. It gave me a new perspective but I was still too frightened to try. Last summer I devoured Gillian Flynn books. I couldn’t get enough. They were brilliant, dark and violent. I love the Hunger Games series which is also very violent. The violence was not gratuitous. It helped move the story forward and as hard as it was to read, it belonged on the page. I started to understand what the article was really saying, but was I ready to go to that place?

The answer was no, since it has been another year of procrastination. However, I have recently been inundated with a dozen of new short story ideas that feature darker and more subversive subject matter. I’m still a little hesitant, but the stories are winning out. I am more interested these days in the dynamics of family, sexual identity and the vast spectrum of good vs. bad in characters and human beings in general. I am also writing again. I wrote three scenes for a short story I have been revising for a couple of years and I wrote 500 words for a new short today.

I’m learning in my personal and creative life to be more brave. The imagined outcome is riddled with anxiety, fear and doubt yet, if I get out of my own way and try…it’s typically not bad at all.

I know I will come to a scene that will push my limits again, but I’m encouraged that now I won’t be afraid to follow those characters where they lead me, no matter how dark or dire. I’m excited to grow in this way.

You Are Enough

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I like to use my own photography in blog posts, but this was the perfect picture for the sentiment.

I am a perfectionist. I am my biggest critic. I am a taskmaster, who has a tendency to work until I can’t tell whether I’m coming or going…that is, until this summer.

After school ended, I slept. I stayed up late because my inner essence is happiest as a night owl, but I slept at least nine hours a night and took naps those first weeks after the end of school. I took a class in June so I had to get up by 10:30 am and get going, however, my bedtime continued to hover in the wee hours of the night and I continued to want (need) to relax and be still and quiet.

Once the class was over and I continued to sloth my days away, I started to beat myself up for not accomplishing more with my time. How can you just sit there? My inner critic, The Voice was getting louder and louder in my head. You have this whole summer to write and you’ve already wasted so much time. Get busy!

In fact, my last post was about being more productive. I was discussing this with a trusted confidant and she said, “Your writing and accolades are wonderful, but they are not the reason you are valuable…could you just be this summer and allow yourself to rest?”

Preposterous! Right? Crazy talk…or exactly what I need.

The next day as I sat in shame on the couch and watched a repeat of Grey’s Anatomy instead of writing, I recognized myself in the skeleton of the storyline. Christina Yang hadn’t been able to operate since the shooting at the hospital and she didn’t think she ever wanted to again. Her co-workers and friends chastised her. They thought her value came from being a surgeon too. What would she be without it?

Derek recognized that she needed to be left alone. She needed to do anything, but operate. She needed to be. Just be without the pressure of keeping the pace like she had before. Once she was allowed to be, she eventually found her way back to medicine.

Another friend reminded me that I once told her that I am compelled to write, I can’t stop it. It is a part of me. I am valuable as I am. Just because I am taking time to rest now doesn’t mean that I am wasting or losing my essence. I am a writer.

Even through the din of The Voice berating me, I have continued to be quiet and rest. I have been eating good healthy food and finding balance again. Interestingly enough, I am now starting to yearn to write again. Not because I feel obligated to, but because I want to.

In allowing myself to be, I may have unhinged the block I’ve been experiencing for this past year. Maybe allowing myself to be still and realize that I am valuable exactly as I am right now is opening the door to deeper self-acceptance and faith in myself. This trust and acceptance may open me up to being an even better writer.

Right now I can embrace the excitement of writing again without the pressure or expectation of the final outcome. I can make writing a part of my daily practice of self-care, but not beat myself up if I don’t get words on the page. I can listen to myself  and make healthy decisions daily.

I can be.