Why Write? Because You Should Always 'Listen to Your Mother'
I once participated in a yoga session in which we learned to balance our chakras. My hands took their turn on each of my eight chakra points, as guided by our instructor’s soothing voice. I felt calm and at peace, and at the end I noticed that one of my hands was very warm and one of my hands was cold. I asked the woman whether this meant something, and whether it was normal.
She nodded, knowing, her whole being smiling at me. “You felt it. One of your hands was giving and one of your hands was receiving.”
Once I hit publish on a post, I wait. Sometimes I get a comment or two or maybe several after a few days. Sometimes I hear crickets. I’m writing for myself, to process my own life experiences, yet I hope to help a few people who need my particular brand of reflection or awareness along the way. Sometimes when I hear crickets, it’s a little disappointing. Even so, I’ll still write, whether or not I get feedback that tells me I’m making a difference in the lives of others. I’m happier, more balanced, more fulfilled, more forgiving and more loving to those around me. Writing makes a difference in my own life, and therefore it’s worth doing, because I’m worth it.
Because of writing and blogging, I had the privilege last Thursday of being part of one of the most meaningful things I’ve ever done professionally. Listen to Your Mother hit 32 cities across the US over the last two weeks in celebration of mothers and Mother’s Day. I joined thirteen other women from the Chicago area, northwest Indiana and southwest Michigan to give some pretty remarkable Midwestern mothers a microphone.
Why was being a part of this show so remarkable? Because it stretched me, it challenged me, and it validated me as a mom and as a writer in ways I could only dream of before. I played Anna in The King & I my senior year in high school, and began singing solos when I was five years old--I LOVED doing those things.
Listen to Your Mother was vastly different and so very much more than either performing or writing/blogging—it was a powerful, magical and mystical intersection of both. And I had no idea of its incredible power until I stepped on that stage.
I had to audition. That was similar to singing solos and having the lead in a musical. I had to perform. That was similar, too. My words and my story are things I’ve been sharing online for over two years now, with beautiful, heart-warming response via comments, shares and emails from many who have followed and been touched by my journey.
Performing my own writing was risky. It was gut wrenching. It was exhilarating. And yet it was like being enveloped in a warm, protective blanket of love and acceptance, much like my recent trip to a Laura Munson Haven retreat in Montana (by TRAIN, which I wrote about here).
Our first reader, Donya, had never done anything like it in her life—talk about a stretch! Despite never having spoken into a microphone before, she knocked her three-ring circus intro out of the park! Our second reader, Carrie, shared a story of infertility and victory through adoption that touched and enthralled us all. I was third to read. I stepped on that stage, completely naïve to what the two women before me had just experienced. I’ll try to explain, but I won’t do it justice:
My two predecessors set me up for only success, and every one of us that performed after made for a flawless show. I felt allied with my fellow cast members and with the audience like a golden shimmer of aspens—connected and breathing and responding as one organism. We were joined by a shared root system of struggle and joy and existence, warm and rich, clinging tight to the nourishing loam of our stories. It filled the room and pulsed back and forth like the warm blush of sunset. I received the audience and they received me. Our connected energy rose with laughter, fell with heartache, and bloomed with understanding. I didn’t want it to end in seven minutes. I wanted to do it again, and again, and again. I close my eyes and I can feel the energy still. The unexpected and unprecedented gifts we gave and received in a ninety-minute show on a warm evening in May, will stay with me for a lifetime.
From national producer, Ann Imig’s, humble beginnings with one show in Madison, Wisconsin in 2010, to 32 cities across the US in 2014—if you don’t know what Listen to Your Mother is about, didn’t get enough, and/or you can’t wait for the release of this season’s videos, you’ll find all those who have come before, giving in exactly the ways you need to receive them on the Listen to Your Mother YouTube channel. Go watch, follow their blogs, and leave a comment now and again to let someone know how much their words matter. And check out our national sponsors, BlogHer (from where I received a Voices of the Year honor in 2013), and Chevy.
Northwest Indiana producer/director, Lovelyn Palm, selected my story as part of Listen to Your Mother this year. I am grateful for her faith in me and in my story, and I feel so lucky to have met this remarkable mother of NINE, as well as our entire cast. With Lovelyn’s support and blessing, I want to do this for my community. I will complete the application process later this year in the hopes of producing and directing Listen to Your Mother in southwest Michigan in 2015.
If this sounds like something you’d like to be a part of, either as a sponsor, as a reader, or as a necessary and vital member of the audience, please subscribe to my email list. You do not have to be a mother or a working writer to audition and participate. Stories come from sons, daughters, husbands, moms themselves, motherless children, and childless mothers. Listen to Your Mother is a beautiful celebration of motherhood and story in all its forms. And it’s a giving franchise, as well. A portion of ticket sales for our sold-out Valparaiso show supported the northwest Indiana Food Bank. Given the chance, I will choose to support the Boys & Girls Club of Benton Harbor, where I’ll return this week to speak to young girls about their future.
Whether or not I’m successful at bringing the show to my hometown, I look forward to next year and the years to come. I will be a part of this remarkable, uplifting, entertaining celebration again and again.
I'd like to thank Laura Munson for being an invaluable source of support and encouragement in my writing journey and for inviting me along on this Blog Hop. Laura has pursued writing as a career for years, and is New York Times best selling author of This Is Not The Story You Think It Is. She doesn't believe you can be successful without doing the work. Her disciplined methods are far more helpful (check out her post here) than my haphazard ones, but here are my answers to the questions about our writing we were tasked with as part of this Blog Hop:
1) What am I working on/writing?
I have a LOT going on! I expect to release my first GANE Possible Publication, Beating the Statistics: A Mother's Quest to Heal Infertility and Halt Autism, late this spring. I'm always working on my memoir, My Grandfather's Table, for which I hope to secure a publisher who will go along with my plans to release it by my 50th birthday. That gives me just over two years. Hey! It's important to have goals! And of course, there's co-editing on the #JudyBlumeProject, which is ongoing and hopes to one day become an anthology in honor of her iconic and prolific contribution to libraries and homes across the world. In addition, I work as a part-time communications and media consultant (and future spokesperson) for UprightFarms.org, which is a small vertical farming startup which melds beautifully with my #MOREin2014 -- VARIETY & Veggies, GANE Empowered Wellness philosophy. We're currently doing all the behind the scenes work on getting our website and social media up and running in the very near future, but you can view our testimonials reel online now. As a freelance ghostwriter I've been published in a design industry magazine, and I've encouraged and advised numerous people on how to own the title of writer and pursue writing themselves. As such, if you feel called to writing, but need support in sharing your writing or finishing any writing goal you choose, I’m introducing a local, face-to-face writing workshop with writer and editor friend, Ami Hendrickson (see her bio below, she's among the next participants in the BlogHop). *Every* writer dreams of spending a summer writing the Great American Novel--or maybe you want to write a screenplay, dust off a manuscript that's been sitting in a drawer, write a query letter, and actually SUBMIT it, or write a short story or memoir... well, here's your chance! #Write2TheEnd is an eight-week program that will begin in mid-June. It’s something you don’t want to miss, and it’s another really good reason to sign up for my email list.
2) How does my work/writing differ from others in its genre?
Genre? That's one of those scary words that can frighten off those of us who aren't too confident about our writing. All this writing and blogging nonsense began for me back in San Diego when I was so miserable I couldn't stand myself. After wallowing the first year we were there, I decided it was time to build a life for myself. It all centered around my novel-in-progress, Bluebirds, which I've been working on intermittently for six years or more. I haven't abandoned Bluebirds, and I still work on it from time-to-time. But it was proving really hard to write because I found myself trying to fit in too much memoir. Thus, My Grandfather's Table was born--a story of contrasts that flows between the nurturing, love, and nourishment that was freely given me as a child, against the shame and sadness of untold secrets that I believe led to my struggle as a young single mother. It's my quest to forgive and to love myself through food instead of punish myself with food. I need to exorcise the memoir bits in order to just tell the beautiful story that I believe Bluebirds is meant to be someday--because my Gramps continues posthumously to tell me so through birds.
3) Why do I write what I do?
I've covered that specifically with question two, but overall, it's honestly to keep myselfsane. As women, as mothers, we often judge one another. Through sharing my writing, I feel so blessed to have experienced the fellowship and support of other writers, which has led to so very much more than I’d ever dreamed possible. Between my trip to meet and learn from Laura Munson at Haven, and being a part of Listen to Your Mother, this is shaping up as an incredible year. I don’t believe I would have tried without Haven. And I don’t believe I would have tried without the support of my wonderful midlife women blogger friends of Midlife Boulevard. This is what they mean by tribe: I had fought the compulsion to write my whole life, pushed it aside as something frivolous and silly because I lacked a college degree. I had to seek out coaches and like-minded individuals andsurround myself with their support, energy, and encouragement in order to feel justified in pursuing writing as a career. Because of my history, because of shame, because of allowing myself to be defined by perceived failure, before I wasn't enough. The sky truly is our only limit, anything else is only what we hold over ourselves.
You are enough and you and your story matter: you have the ability to impact yourself and others in ways you can’t yet imagine. GANE Possible: make your life what you’ve alwayswanted it to be…and bring someone else along for the ride. Why do I feel compelled to share my story? To be better for myself, for my family, to follow in my grandfather's footsteps and fully embrace and engage in this life I'm so blessed to have (especially if, like my grandfather, I live to 100!), and to help others do the same.
4) How does my writing process work?
Ugh! My writing "process" isn't one I can highly recommend if production (organization? what’s that?) and completion is your goal--and yet I've built three websites and produced a TON of writing over the last three years. I need to give myself credit for that! I probablywrite more in the Evernote app on my phone, standing naked and dripping wet in the bathroom, than I do actually sitting at my keyboard. I pray it’s the water that inspires my cancer spirit and not the cracked pink tiles that line all. four. walls. of the loo in the rental we currently occupy. I have many projects of my own in process, as well as volunteering, consulting, and freelance work. Taking time to focus on my own writing is always a challenge. The good news is, when I do, I have a ready list of notes from which to copy and paste. I can then take off with fingers flying and often produce thousands of words at a sitting. Like I said, I can’t recommend it. It’s definitely the "pantser" method, whereas I would likely benefit greatly and produce more from adopting at least pieces of the plotter method. That's Ami's very large and essential piece of #Write2TheEnd, thankfully!***Knowing our own weaknesses and joining forces with those who fill our gaps is a brilliant strategy I highly recommend! It's worked for my husband and me over almost twenty years of marriage, even though my creative "process" exasperates him!*** I’m trying to get my new office completed in the next two weeks so I can move in and be better organized. *sigh* Yet another project on my very long list. It’s difficult working from home when there’s no separation of work hours and family or (barely existent) leisure hours. I look forward to having designated work time and space. I will have to figure out where and when my writing time is most productive. Perhaps I will devise a hanger for the doorknob to my office that says, “Gone Writing.”
Please visit my original post where I introduce Ami Hendrickson, Sabrina Lovejoy, and Joan Stommen. They are the next batch of writers on this transformational and inspiring Blog Hop all about writing. You can look forward to their posts next Monday, May 19th.