Facing the Dragon

Last year my writing group produced an e-zine. I wrote about it in this blog because it was a big leap for me to submit a piece and read it aloud to an audience of approximately 50 people.

I’m writing about this again because even after a year of writing with and learning from some of the amazing writers in this group, I still froze when asked to submit to the e-zine. I’d produced a large body of work during the year, but none of my drafts seemed remotely ready to be shown to anyone else. For an entire week I read through the pieces and eventually chose two and polished them. For another week I fussed over how unworthy they were and debated not sending. But then something happened and I submitted my prose poems, warts and all.

Ray Wylie Hubbard

I recently saw Ray Wylie Hubbard perform at the Palms in Winters, California. Early in his career, other artists made his mix of country, folk and blues songs famous. He said that at 42, out of fear he’d never performed alone until he read something that changed his life. A friend gave him a book of Rilke poems and this sentence turned his life around:

Our fears are like dragons guarding our most precious treasures. Rainer Maria Rilke (1875 – 1926) 

A scruffy old unshaven mop-haired overweight country singer from Texas spouting Rilke might just have changed my life too. It doesn’t matter whether my work is as good as anyone else’s. What matters is that I faced the dragon.

What precious treasures are your dragons guarding?

 

Anniversary

One year ago this month I stepped into a room to begin my first writing group experience. I’m taking a moment to reflect on some of the positive changes that have taken place in my writing and in my life since that first Friday evening.

More Confidence

As an introvert, my weekly Amherst Writers & Artists writing group has given me more confidence in my writing, and more confidence in speaking in front of a group. We read our work aloud and offer feedback and our group can be as small as six or twice that. Learning to be comfortable in a changing setting has been another benefit. Writers from other AWA groups frequently drop in and interested writers are encouraged to join.

More Curiosity

It renewed my interest in poetry, both reading and writing it and learning about new poets. My writing group has generated a willingness to experiment and put myself out there with new and different writing forms.

More Writing

I’d gotten into a rut with my writing after working solely on a mystery novel for an extended period of time. Now, my mind has opened to new writing experiences and my writing group work enhances all my efforts: short stories, mystery novel, postcard fiction, poetic fiction, flash fiction and this blog.

More Publishing

It’s opened my mind to submitting my short pieces even while working on a long project. I’d thought I needed to pay attention to one thing at a time until completion, when in fact, working on many projects has made me more prolific. I’ve recently submitted seven short pieces to an online fiction contest and received an honorable mention and one story was a finalist. I didn’t win but I felt like a winner every time I submitted.

More Giving

Best of all, through my writing group, I’ve been introduced to a wonderful group of writers who are giving back to the community in so many ways and that’s encouraged me to want to do the same. One example is 916 Ink. It helps Sacramento youth improve their literacy skills by providing free creative workshops that end in a beautiful publication. Check it out!

Even a small step like joining a group can feel like a big challenge to an introvert. I’m hoping my enthusiasm will encourage others, particularly introverts like me to take one small risk and find out how much more your life can hold.

Spirit First

I meet once a week with an Amherst Writers & Artists writing group. Our group leader plans a theme for the evening’s writing using poetry and prompts (pictures, phrases, props, etc.) to jump start our creativity. Of course, we always have the option to write about whatever we choose. The piece below was inspired by the poem, “The Poet Visits the Museum of Fine Arts” by Mary Oliver. I was drawn to the lines, “the answer was simply to rise in joyfulness, all their days.”

I believe in spirit first every day, and the ideas below are like daily prompts that help to restore spiritual balance to my life. 

Never get out of bed until you manage your motivation

Yes, count those blessings. Don’t stop until you have a hundred if that’s how many it takes.Bad dream, anxiety, illness, mean people? It doesn’t matter. Figure out how to transform it before starting your day. Your life depends on it. And remember, emotional pain is also a blessing. If something hurts that much, it means it’s time to change—yourself.

Make yourself a toolbox

Keep a poem in there. Read the poem. Write down everything and everyone you love. Put that in it. Add something new to your toolbox every day.

Use your eyes

Look at what’s right in your world. Look at what’s beautiful. Are daredevil hummingbirds zooming outside your window like miniature pilots? Watch as they fly straight up into the sky, then drop into loop de loops, their mighty motors going a million heartbeats a second. Clap for them. They love to entertain you.

Dream with your feet

Is your arthritic dog racing through golden fields, legs galloping from his horizontal position on the floor? Pretend you’re with him. It feels wonderful to be so free.

Photo by Artistry by Adele

This checklist makes my day and I hope you find it useful as well.

By the way, if you want to participate in a fun flash fiction contest or read the stories, check out Writer Unboxed. My last week’s entry is a finalist!