Take the Shot

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I ran a 5K last month. It was one of those gorgeous October Sundays that remind me why I love Arkansas.

In the romantic amber glow of the early morning, I kept my pace, watching the cows watch me. During the first mile I saw several perfect photo opps– trees, baled hay, broken down fences. In that light, everything is prettier. Slowly pushing forward, I understood why my dad likes to sneak off with his camera before dawn. He catches scenes like this just after sunrise, when the light is like magic, casting everything in hope.

I took in the moments, but I didn’t stop to capture them. I would do that on the back half, when I needed a break. No need to break my stride now, powered by a P!nk soundtrack and the enthusiasm fueled by rest, water, and the fact that I might actually finish this thing with an “okay” time, even though I hadn’t run since July.

Discipline ruled.

Those moments could wait. I was saving up, planning to cash in during mile 3.

This was a fine plan. I make a lot of those.

By the time I had run through “So What,” “Raise Your Glass,” and “Today’s the Day,” I was ready to start snapping some crazy-beautiful images.

Problem: the light had changed.

Twenty minutes into the run, the sky was totally different, another hue altogether. With the sun in a different place, the scenery had literally changed. Even the cows that watched us runners so intently before had returned to the field, bored by the puzzling humans and their strange customs.

We can’t recreate a moment. All we get to keep is our interpretation of it.

So when you have the opportunity, take the shot.

I’m not saying a moment not captured is a moment wasted. I believe the opposite, that we’re capturing far too many moments, and fully living far too few. But sometimes capturing the moment helps me to be more in the moment.

On this particular morning, capturing these particular images was my way to be grateful. They were a digital thank you note to God and whoever’s watching, to acknowledge that my life is pretty awesome. And the views are free.

But if you want to catch them, you have to act. You can’t delay, hoping they will wait for you.

I’m missing moments in my writing too.For the past 13 years, discipline has ruled my practice. I’ve heard the mantra repeated a thousand different ways:

Don’t wait for the muse. Just write.

I’ve heeded it. Writing on command is one of the principles behind writing to a prompt, with a timer, which is one of my favorite practices and a core component of Second Story workshops.

Over the years I’ve written to spec, on deadline, and to word count quotas day in and day out with a dedication that I credit with most of my success.

But amid all that hard work, sometimes things just flow. When I’m exceedingly lucky, or maybe I’ve been extra good, something just comes out. And it’s pretty good just the way it is. People who don’t write, and often new writers, sometimes think that’s how it works all the time, or that’s how it works all the time for good writers or real writers or talented writers.

I’m a real writer, somewhat talented, and thousands of strangers say I’m pretty good. I’m here to tell you, those free-flowing, feely-good, easy-word days are few and far between. That’s okay. That’s what I’ve signed up for.

What I’m determined to remember, though, is to make room for inspiration. Sometimes the muse is musey and it’s okay to break discipline– even if I’m in the first mile of a Very Important Athletic Event– to follow where I’m led. Because sometimes we have to pull the story out of it’s hiding place, through sheer will and effort. But sometimes a story is handed to us, like those gorgeous images, and if we’re too tied to our discipline, we might miss out on the gift.

We all need reminders, we all need a guide once in a while, we all need to be encouraged to follow our instincts, and our muses. Apparently my muse is a cow

I’ve been pushing my students to keep lists. Each of them have different lists to keep, because each has different goals and is a different place in writing and finding their stories.

One student is working on finding her voice, so I asked her to keep a log of things that affect her emotionally. By noticing what moves her, I’m hoping she’ll write more about those things and therefore figure out what she’s meant to share.

One student is making sense of and finding lessons in a period of extreme personal turmoil, so I asked her to keep a list of all the random memories that surface. There’s no need to put them in order right away. Putting them on paper is order enough for now.

One student is terrified of her own words, so I’ve asked her to make a list of all the things she cannot possibly write about. She can burn the list afterwards if she wants to, but giving her thoughts real estate on a page is a start. And that’s all she needs, a start.

Paying attention to the moments is paying attention to the muse.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. ~Margaret Meade

I’m convinced our little stories can change the world, that in fact, Story is the only thing that ever has.

Take the damn shot.


Lela DavidsonSecond Story Writer’s Workshop offers structured individual and group writing experiences for anyone who wants to write. You don’t need to be published or serious or talented. All you need is a notebook and a pen. You could use a pencil, but it’ll smudge.
Join us December 3rd for the first ever Jingle Jam! 


Photo Credit: scottmacpherson1 Flickr via Compfight cc

Case For the Christmas Letter

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My writing career began with the humble Christmas letter. Or, not so humble, as is the tradition. For years I chronicled the noteworthy events of our family at the holidays. I’m not handy with decorative netting, I can’t coordinate bulbs and baubles, and choosing gifts gives me hives. But writing the annual Christmas letter helped me feel the spirit of the season.

Writing those Christmas letters was my first writing practice. I was consistent, if not prolific. I wrote through marital bliss and amiss, through frightening fevers and countless diaper changes. I wrote through my new home, across the country from everything I knew, in a canyon. I lived in a canyon. I wrote through everything that just kept changing.

When I started, I had no idea writing would become a habit, an obsession, that I would go on to publish three books. You could say I was finding my voice.

Or you could say I was bragging.

They were Christmas letters, after all.

At least I made my annual updates entertaining. People RAVED about my Christmas letters. I’m not saying they were good, but we’ve all seen the resumes, the stale timelines, the over-sharing of fortunes, good and bad. The bar is pretty low for Christmas letters.

My first Christmas letter was from the point of view of my son, who was four months old his first Christmas. He had a good line about the car seat that year.

One year I wrote from the point of view of our Italian Greyhound, who was much more sophisticated than the rest of our family.

Last year, our beloved retriever mutt complained that we didn’t take her snorkeling. But that was just a line on the back of one of those photo cards. I let go of my Christmas letters. I’m not alone.

Something happened around ten years ago.

We all swarmed onto the social scene and upped our bragging frequency. We no longer needed the annual catch up. Most of us have forsaken the Christmas letter. Instead, we inflict and suffer the humble brag all day, every day.

But the Christmas letter is more than just a casual update. It’s a way to reflect on the year, spread joy to your friends and family, and just play with word and memories.

I miss the Christmas letter. So I’m bringing it back.

Maybe this year I’ll write from the POV of the tree.


Lela DavidsonSecond Story Writer’s Workshop offers structured individual and group writing experiences for anyone who wants to write. You don’t need to be published or serious or talented. All you need is a notebook and a pen. You could use a pencil, but it’ll smudge.
Join us December 3rd for the first ever Jingle Jam!

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Spiders and Blank Pages

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When I was four years old, we had chickens and I collected the eggs. One morning when I got to the coop, wet up to the knee from dew on the tall grass, I met the Most Terrifying Beast. There was no way the eggs would make it into my pretty Easter basket with that sparkly web and its horrifying inhabitant hanging around.

I ran back to the house, where my dad told me the spider was more afraid of me than I was of it.

“Now get back out there and knock it out of the way so we can have breakfast.”

An obedient child, I armed myself with a plastic bowling pin and returned to face my opponent. I would hear that line about spiders being afraid of me for years to come, and it would take decades for it to ring true.

This is not the story of a girl who conquers her fears at an early age and goes on to tackle life’s challenges with pluck and moxie, and the occasional toy sporting good. This is a story of a girl who grew up to be a woman who is still very much afraid of spiders.

And blank pages.

Still, when I hear or read about writers’ fear of a Blank Page, I’m like, DUDE, have you seen a spider?

Much as I’d like to deny it, I’m afraid of blank pages too. This kind of fear doesn’t play out in a shriek and a jump. It looks like cleaning the vacuum filters and combing Pinterest for recipes with parsnips. We can hide from blank pages, tuck them away in a drawer, avoid the digital documents that whisper their pleas to finish me already.

A spider will crawl right up to you, oblivious to this notion that it’s more scared of you than you are of it. If it’s so scared, why doesn’t it hide from me? Like I hide from all those blank pages. Just this morning I’ve done laundry, cleaned out my purse, Swiffered the dog hair off the floor, and colored my hair–all to avoid writing.

The summer between fourth and fifth grade, a spider built a web in my room.

Above my bed.

Where I slept.

The first night I didn’t want to deal with it, so I took my best pillow and slept in the extra bedroom. The next day I set out to face my fears. This time, with a can of hairspray. I doused the spider. It had to be dead, but there it hung, all stiff and spidery. I was still afraid of it. I didn’t ask for help because I thought I should be able to solve this myself.

The dead spider stayed for a month. Just before school started I finally asked for the help I needed to get it down. Because sleeping in the other room wasn’t going to be an option once the alarm started ringing and the school bus started rolling by. Turns out a broom works pretty well. Why hadn’t I thought of that?

Abject terror messes with your MIND.

During the work week, I like to get up early and fold into a few yoga poses before the day begins. Over the summer I got into the habit of practicing outside. One morning I rolled out my mat and cued up my favorite class to stream. It was still pretty dark, but something caught my eye near the top of my mat. I shone the light of my phone where I’d seen something move.

Spider.

There would be no nature yoga today.

Who can do corpse pose when there’s a vicious arachnid plotting to turn you into an actual corpse?

One might think I overcame my fear of spiders the time I killed a tarantula outside my front door. Drawing on my broom-wielding skills, and finishing the job with gallons of water, I emerged victorious that day.

One would be mistaken.

My fear stuck around. And complicating matters is the fact that as I’ve aged, I’ve developed compassion for the little shits. I now accept that these most fearsome of God’s creatures may, possibly, in some instances be afraid of me. Or they should be, considering the number of their kind I’ve callously murdered in my irrational fear. If I weren’t so cowardly, I’d scoop them up with a piece of paper and set them free outside. That’s what good people do.

Blank pages are just as scary as any spider, but unlike spiders, they don’t have eight hairy legs with which to stalk us. Blank pages are not afraid of us, either. They don’t care. They can take us or leave us. We have to seek them out and face our fears.

I’m better at asking for help with spiders now. My husband is especially handy, kindly offering the paper passport to spiders who catch me off guard. He ushers the spiders back to nature while I cower in the corner. It’s nice to have someone step in and rescue me.

Writing is different. No one can rescue you.

That doesn’t mean you have to solve everything yourself.

So what does help look like?

To me it’s the support of a plan. Of deadlines. Of people who will stare me down and call bullshit on my excuses, no matter how pristine the inside of my vacuum cleaner. It’s consistency, and learning craft from writers I admire. To me, help looks like a community of writers who get it.

That’s why I created Second Story Writer’s Workshop.

Most days I have no idea what the purpose of all this scribbling is, but I know there is one. It’s up to me to figure it out. The blank pages are always there. Always waiting.

Like that spider on my yoga mat.

 


Lela DavidsonNeed practice making space in your life? Writing can help. Second Story Writer’s Workshop offers structured individual and group writing experiences for anyone who wants to write. You don’t need to be published or serious or talented. All you need is a notebook and a pen. You could use a pencil, but it’ll smudge.

Photo Credit: theilr Flickr via Compfight cc

The Case for the Personal Sabbatical

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When I was 20 years old I traveled with my then-boyfriend to the U.S. Virgin Islands, where we planned to get jobs and settle for a while. In St. John, we found jobs within a week, and then promptly left those jobs within another week. That’s how long it took to figure out island life was not for us.

Satisfied that we had come, conquered, and rejected the tropical lifestyle, we decided to check out a remote campsite we’d heard was the least touristy spot on the islands. We traveled by ferry and Jeep to a strip of beach with basic campsites and a communal outdoor shower.

There we met a scraggly haired lawyer from Vancouver who had been camping with his family for two months.

“It takes a month just to relax.”

This guy, who’s been sleeping on the ground and showering in a tree for 60 days, was the image of relaxed, to be sure. But my boyfriend said to me later, “How stressed out do you have to be that it takes a month to relax? I never want to be that stressed out.”

Ah, youth.

Our sweet baby 20-year-old minds could not comprehend what adult life truly held. Never mind that this man was from Vancouver. As if Canada is stressful. And this was pre-Facebook, cell phones and email. What was there to unplug from?

I never forgot that guy.

My life is not very stressful. But I get it now. I’ve come to appreciate the value of a personal sabbatical.

For the past three weeks I’ve broken my routines, sometimes spending an entire day (never more than one, let’s not be ridiculous) with no plan or list. Unlike a traditional sabbatical, where one might accomplish something out of the ordinary like write a book or travel extensively, mine was an attempt to resist the urge to be productive at all.

Type A, meet Time Off. Deal with it.

Tomorrow I start a new job, with dozens of new people to know, a foreign vocabulary, and all the other challenges navigating something new. Somehow I managed a three-week break in between jobs. On the front end, the expanse of days seemed luxurious and decadent, but also a little frightening. What would I do without the tyranny of a Very Important To-Do List? Who would I be without the incessant influx of urgent emails? How did one spend “free time” anyway?

I saw my new boss last week. She asked if I had written much during the break.

OH MY GOD, I FORGOT TO WRITE.

No, actually, I didn’t write much. Because I didn’t feel like it.

Scandalous.

I didn’t travel, because I like to be at home.

I didn’t finish much of anything.

I piddled, I shopped, I snacked. I saw my friends, but didn’t over-schedule. I cleaned closets, planned, schemed, dreamed, listened to the birds, made a little progress on a couple of projects, read, walked, practiced yoga, weeded my garden. I ran so many errands. I did every bit of my son’s laundry and moved him into college. I painted my nails with my daughter. I made chicken soup for my husband while he limped around on fresh knee surgery.

I relaxed.

I swear it took a solid two and a half weeks to relax.

So not quite a month, and I’m not willing to live in the beachy wilderness anytime soon, but I get it now.

Apparently, traditional academic sabbaticals are taken every seven years. I’ve decided to make it an every-seven-year thing, too. So if I’ve got a solid 50 years left in me, and I do, then that’s 7 more sabbaticals to look forward to.

I’m starting a new adventure tomorrow, relaxed, refreshed, ready for anything. And I’m hoping I remember the state I’m in now, and I hope I can recreate the feeling during shorter blocks of time, like a long weekend, or a long evening. I hope I’ll remember to leave blank spaces on my calendar, time to do absolutely nothing at all.

Cheers to resting up and launching big.


Lela DavidsonNeed practice making space in your life? Writing can help. Second Story Writer’s Workshop offers structured individual and group writing experiences for anyone who wants to write. You don’t need to be published or serious or talented. All you need is a notebook and a pen. You could use a pencil, but it’ll smudge.
second story writers workshop

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Finding Your Voice, Really?

Second Story

I recently spent some time talking with a woman who wants to find her voice. She has stories. She has something to say. She’s not quite sure what those stories are or what she really wants to say.

I know exactly what she means, and I know how creative writing can help her. I know that she will feel fed and encouraged and challenged by a group writing experience. I know she will emerge more confident, more whole, changed for good.

I told this woman that my workshop would help her find her voice.

But that’s a little bullshit.

Fifteen years into this game, three books, hundreds of magazine clips, and I still can’t define voice.

I have very little understanding of whether or not something I’ve written is “in my voice” or not. I mean, I wrote it. So it’s my voice, right?

All I know is when I’m not too self-conscious, my writing elicits more of a response. When I’m less polished, I seem to connect better with people. When I don’t have an agenda, the point usually emerges better than when I know what I want to say.

Whatever my “voice” is, it’s not something I’m always in control of. The Voice comes through me. And lest you think I’m hearing some kind of divine call or suffering delusions of grandeur– it’s not like that.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

My voice is a mess of what I’m thinking, feeling, processing, filtered through the particular circumstances of a given day.

How could I possibly do that on purpose?

I’m not sure voice is something we can make happen. Finding your voice is really about letting go of everything that’s in the way.

Finding your voice is about letting yourself shine through all the filters you’ve built up for the purpose of being socially acceptable.

For the purpose of being a good girl.

For the purpose of being lovable.

Finding your voice is possibly the most radical act of modern, privileged, always-on, perpetually plugged-in society.

It’s a never-ending process, and it takes practice.

Lots and lots of practice. Plus feedback.

I don’t know if the woman I spoke with will feel like she’s found her voice after spending six weeks in a workshop. What I do know is that she will get to practice using her voice, trusting her voice, and learning how others respond to her voice.

That’s a very good start.


If you’d like to spend some time finding your voice, Startup Circle might be a good fit. If you prefer to practice using your voice, GSD: 6 Weeks to Submission could work for you. Let me know if you’d like more information about either one.
Lela Davidson

Second Story Writer’s Workshop offers structured individual and group writing experiences for anyone who wants to write. You don’t need to be published or serious or talented. All you need is a notebook and a pen. You could use a pencil, but it’ll smudge.

second story writers workshop

Photo Credit: theilr via Compfight cc

Personal Brand: What’s In a Name?

Faking Balance by Lela Davidson

A few years ago I attended a large social media conference. As is my habit at these things, I crammed in as many sessions as possible on any topic that might make me better/faster/stronger. I wanted to learn everything I could about SEO, affiliate monetization, and MOST IMPORTANT: personal branding.

Because who are you, really, in this millennium, without a personal brand?

At the time of the conference, the most successful lifestyle bloggers had brand names that related directly to their respective subject areas. You had Decor Diva to help you make your space beautiful, Sexy Suppers for meal plans to maintain your girlish pre-motherhood figure, and of course the Martini Midwife. Because childbirth without hard liquor is nothing short of barbaric.

Kidding.

I think. I mean I think I made these up, but they could be actual blogger brands because that’s how cutesy these brand names got during the peak of micro-publishing. (Do NOT call it mommy blogging, I beg you.)

Cartoon header, cute brand name? Not into it.

Plus, who wants to be the Decor Diva forever? FOREVER.

For the same reason I have no tattoos, I couldn’t settle on a brand name. I had tried with After the Bubbly, which I liked, but why build equity in a content brand if no one knew my name? Girl needs attention, after all. (Never trust a writer who denies this fundamental truth.)

The only brand I knew I’d have forever was the brand of Lela Davidson. And because at the time my primary business was writing, it made perfect sense to me that my NAME would be my brand. However, at that event in particular, and in social media circles in general, I was very much in the minority, and I wanted to know why.

The session on branding seemed like the ideal context to get some feedback on this pressing concern. So I asked for advice, in front of the whole class.

The speaker’s brand name was something along the lines of Mocha Meditation (intentional coffee drinking) or Carpool Crafter (express DIY projects). She crinkled up her face and worked in 42 references to her own annoyingly catchy brand name, while letting me know that using my own name was a disastrous idea.

She closed her little speech with: I already forgot your name.

Her tone so condescending. As if Sequins & Sippy Cups was destined for greatness.

I already forgot your name.

Fair enough, but I wanted to point out that I never had the opportunity to forget hers. Because she didn’t put it out there. Okay, that’s a lie. I thought of that later. In the moment I was just dumbstruck and a little hurt because:

I ALREADY FORGOT YOUR NAME.

But, then also… duh, that’s why I needed to use my name. Over and over and over again. I decided that day to keep using my name and never look back.

My name is my brand. It’s me. And it’s better than any made up cuteness. Sure, what you see is the publicly curated version, which I’ll argue all day is what you get from everyone you meet, not just those of us in the public attention game. Still me.

My brand will evolve and change, but what my name stands for sticks.

If you’re trying to figure out, like I was, whether to use your name or a constructed brand name, ask yourself these three questions:

  • What do you offer?
  • What stands out about what you offer?
  • What’s the compelling story behind your offering?

Take some time with those before deciding.

And never let anyone make you feel forgotten when you’ve barely just begun.

 

Would you like to write your way toward a stronger personal brand? Second Story Writer’s Workshop is guaranteed to get you writing. When your voice hits the page, your brand emerges with it.


Lela Davidson

Second Story Writer’s Workshop offers structured individual and group writing experiences for anyone who wants to write. You don’t need to be published or serious or talented. All you need is a notebook and a pen. You could use a pencil, but it’ll smudge.

second story writers workshop
Image Source: portrait by Jeremy Scottr.nial.bradshaw viaCompfight cc

Olympic Glory, Again?

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[I wrote this four years ago. Next week, my son moves into a dorm. Time. Flies.]

The five-circled emblem in the lower left corner of my television screen reminds me. The Olympics are coming. Again.

Seriously?

The Summer ones?

Again?

I’m not really into the Olympics. Never been good at sports. Never understood the appeal of watching people who are. The Olympic competition doesn’t excite me, but the camaraderie does. I like to sit next to my husband while he critiques the a high diver’s form. And I am captivated by the bookmarking effect of the Olympics, its ability to place time—which is relative—in context. When you’re young, the Olympics are few and far between. As you age, they seem to occur once or twice a year.

When you are a parent, it gets complicated.

Parental time is split. There is the small part that passes in our own lives, and then there is the significant part that passes in our children’s lives. This occurs simultaneously, the same period of time that is collapsed in our own lives is expanded in our children’s.

Although it feels like yesterday to me, four years have passed since we celebrated hot weather athletics, determination, and seriously cut abs. When I was a child and the interval between Olympics seemed a lifetime. Four years. That was the difference between eating paste and writing book reports. It was the difference between changing gears on a ten-speed and changing gears in my first stick shift. I can only imagine my own children are experiencing four years the way I did—as an eternity. And now, as we watch together, I see these past four years as the difference between their childhood and their coming young adulthood.

The last time we watched the summer Olympics, my children were eight and ten. Every sport was new and exciting, or at least an excuse to stay up late. This summer is one of our last chances to see the high divers, the gymnasts, and the incessant news coverage, with our children, while they are still children. It’s an excuse to come together. This year we will watch with purpose.

Track: because my son runs.

Soccer: because my daughter plays.

My husband and children will get caught up in the competition and glory of it all, while I will notice how Ocean Spray and Metamucil work the Olympics into their seasonal marketing.

With a hormone-fueled enthusiasm, my son will join my husband watching beach volleyball. And then in August I will explain to my daughter why she can’t wear short-shorts to school. We will watch stories about the oldest and youngest Olympians, and take in the sights of London, captured beautifully in HD at all the right angles.

Who knows, I may even catch a renewed enthusiasm to “pick up running” again.

When we come together to watch the Olympics this year, I hope time passes slowly. In another blink it will be time for the summer Olympics again. And next time my son will packing for college.

 

 


Lela DavidsonI’d love to visit your group!

Need a fun program for the coming year? Invite me to speak! I love to speak to groups of women and will leave your members feeling appreciated and inspired. I have several programs available or I can tailor one to fit your specific needs

Image Sources: portrait by Jeremy ScottWikipedia

What I Know For Sure About Writing

second story writer's workshop

I didn’t start to practice the craft of writing until I was thirty years old. But I’ve always been a writer.

Before I could call myself a writer, I wrote. Mostly lists, long letters, and plans. Some stories. I made up a cast of pretend friends, and I talked to myself. Still do. Thank you, bold new world in which I can believe that others believe I’m on some unseen device and not actually engaging with the imaginary characters in my head.

I’ve always been a writer, but I haven’t always known it because I didn’t know what it meant to be a writer. I didn’t know that being a writer had nothing to do with publishing, or getting paid to write. Being a writer means I’ve always figured things out by writing.

Writing doesn’t have to be for money and attention. Though, we are never sad when people send us cash and praise.

Even after I kind of thought I might maybe be a writer, it took me a while to claim it. I tell the story in Faking Balance about the day I confessed my big secret, in a Chuck E. Cheese in Wichita Falls, Texas. A mom in my circle was a writer and she told me it was okay to want to write, and to have no idea what that even meant. I have forever after referred to her as my writing angel.

That was 14 years ago. Since then I’ve logged many more than 10,000 hours. Here’s what I know for sure:

Writing clears mental clutter. 

I like the way Joan Didion said it: “I don’t know what I think until I write it down.”

It’s amazing how ridiculous some of our thoughts are, left to roam around freely inside our heads, they make themselves out to be quite important. And sometimes they are, but you may never discern the meaty from the mediocre until you get them out of your head and onto the page where they can be organized into something useful.

Writing frees your mind to work on things far more significant than your own random thoughts. Maybe your beautiful mind will figure out how to make Sauvignon Blanc calorie-free. If that happens, please call me.

Writing is the one place you can be the Realest Real. 

Let’s face it, we cannot always tell the whole honest, unsprinkled-with-kindness, truthy truth to all the people we know. But if you’re lucky, and you practice a lot, YOU can handle the truth of yourself.

There’s no better place to practice the art of getting real than by putting pen to paper. Or pencil to paper. In Second Story Writer’s Workshop we treat all writing as fiction, and we never make anyone share anything they don’t want to. Because we want writers to get comfortable being really real. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

Writing helps you figure out your next move. 

Life is moving fast, isn’t it? Just when you think it can’t get any weirder, it’s time to pick a President.

My husband and I took our son and daughter on an Epic East Coast Adventure this summer. At the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, we watched the world population counter tick up, and up, and up. Four, five, six humans at a time.

There are more than 7.2 billion people on Earth. That’s more than double the number of people living on our little rock just 50 years ago.

7.2 billion people. I had a hard time sharing a hotel room with three of them for ten days.

7.2 billion people today. More tomorrow. The world is going to keep getting weirder.

Where do you fit? What should you do? Should you make more humans? And with whom?

Writing helps you figure out all these things.

Writing helps you get shit done. 

Everybody’s selling something. Do you want to impress your boss? Woo your clients? Convince your community to pony up for the abandoned pony sanctuary?

Writing is the only way I know to transform your ideas into action by putting the right words into the right order that results in things happening outside your own brain. That’s where ALL the good stuff happens.

No matter how deep you think you think, thoughts stuck inside your mind are no good to anyone. Let them roam free!

Like the ponies.

Writing feels good. 

If you’re a scribbler, a talker to yourself-er, an obsessive list maker– I’m sorry (not sorry) to be the bearer of the news, but you’re a writer. You may as well accept it and put the sickness to good use.

If you’re a writer by nature, and I’m not suggesting we’re all J.K. Rowling in training, but if you’ve got the urge to write, nothing will make that go away. Nothing but writing.

If you’ve read this far, you’re already stricken.

The good news is, when you write you will feel better. Your mind will be clearer, you’ll have a place to let your loved ones know what the Really Real You REALLY thinks without having to sleep in the guest room. You’ll fill page after page with amazing ideas that you may or may not ever act on, but it doesn’t matter because writing them down is fun all by itself.

You’ll become your very own soul mate, know what to do next, make your plans, and take action.

Writing. It’s that good. I promise.

Would you like to write and you don’t know where to start? Do you think the accountability and camaraderie of a writing group sounds like fun? Check out Second Story Writer’s Workshop. Guaranteed to get you writing.  


Lela Davidson

Second Story Writer’s Workshop offers structured individual and group writing experiences for anyone who wants to write. You don’t need to be published or serious or talented. All you need is a notebook and a pen. You could use a pencil, but it’ll smudge.

We absolutely guarantee you that writers — new, old, lapsed, and those currently only dreaming of writing — will leave workshop sessions with ideas and drafts that are seeds for stories, poems, essays, articles, or entire books. Writers will also leave with concrete skills and tools they can use over and over again to keep the words moving onto the page.
second story writers workshop
Image Source: portrait by Jeremy Scottr.nial.bradshaw via Compfight cc

Are You a Writer or an Artist?

I got my first paid writing gig in 2007. For $5 a piece and a modest revenue share, I wrote about breast feeding, not breast feeding, diapers, binkies, playdates, teething, crib bumpers, carseats, carriers, and anything else that might attract ads in the crowded but coveted parenting space.

That writing wasn’t art, but the discipline of doing it taught me a lot about structuring online content, and SEO, and affiliate marketing, and HTML.

Along the way, I also learned about real writing. The arty stuff.

About a year in, a member of my writing group commented on a new new essay I’d submitted for critique– probably something about abject guilt over missing a piano recital.

He said, “All this Internet writing has made you a better [real] writer.”

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I tell the story to remind you, to remind myself: All writing counts.

Email, grocery lists, strongly worded notes to your children who don’t seem to know how the garbage disposal works.

Wordy and cliched journal entries.

Bulleted lists and doodles you make while you’re waiting for the conference call to just please end already I beg of you all.

All that is writing. Even when it’s not art.

It all counts.

But when you really want to communicate, whether an email to your boss or the first chapter in your personal act of literature, you need to practice getting your words and doodles and misbehaving thoughts pulled together.

That takes practice.

Elizabeth Ayers says that The Writer is the one who observes, records, scribbles snippets in a cheap spiral notebook (the only kind that’s worth a damn for writing by hand).

The Writer lives in right brain territory. No filters, just write.

But for material to become something that other people want or need to consume, The Artist has to get involved– to shape, translate, and transform.

The Artist imposes order. Hello, left brain.

This concept of The Writer and The Artist trashed my idea of right and left brain activity, of creative and logical work, of what is art and what is merely self-indulgence. (Not that there’s anything wrong with gazing at thy navel.)

When I learned the difference between The Writer and The Artist, writing finally made sense.

Some people get frustrated with writing because they expect The Artist to write their first drafts.

When these misguided writers’ thoughts hit the page, all out of sorts and messy as life, they tell The Writer she is stupid and she really should have saved her spiral notebook money for something more practical, like matches she can use to burn all those other stupid notebooks sitting in the drawer, holding all those other tangled ideas of hers.

That’s unfortunate.

Let The Writer write. And then let The Artist make art. Or silly stories, or well-crafted Facebook posts, or really badass emails.

The Writer gets to play.

The Artist needs to work.

But to get anything done, you’ve got to give both space, respect, and hold them accountable to DO something.

I’m not always an Artist. But I’m always a Writer.

 

Would you like to write and you don’t know where to start? Do you think the accountability and camaraderie of a writing group sounds like fun? Check out Second Story Writer’s Workshop. Guaranteed to get you writing.  


Lela Davidson

Second Story Writer’s Workshop offers structured individual and group writing experiences for anyone who wants to write. You don’t need to be published or serious or talented. All you need is a notebook and a pen. You could use a pencil, but it’ll smudge.

We absolutely guarantee you that writers — new, old, lapsed, and those currently only dreaming of writing — will leave workshop sessions with ideas and drafts that are seeds for stories, poems, essays, articles, or entire books. Writers will also leave with concrete skills and tools they can use over and over again to keep the words moving onto the page.
second story writers workshop
Image Source: portrait by Jeremy Scott

Photo Credit: dgrosso23 via Compfight cc

Lead a Charmed Life

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My daughter finds four leaf clovers. Anywhere she goes, she can walk up to a patch of clover and find a four leafed one. Sometimes she’ll find a fiver or a sixer, as she calls them.

It’s rare, this gift for finding the exceptional clover, but to my daughter, this is an ordinary act. She is baffled that other people cannot see the special specimens.

“It’s easy,” she tells me. “All the other clovers only have three leaves, so you just look for the ones with four leaves.”

Gaby found her first four leaf clover on the playground in elementary school.

She found her first four leaf clover before the world told her not to get her hopes up.

She expects to find four leaf clovers, and so she does.

I was reading an old interview with Ariana Huffington the other day, where she introduced me to this Rumi quote:

“Live life as if everything is rigged in your favor.”

My daughter’s four leaf clovers remind me that our fortunes are out there, just waiting for us to see them and pluck them up.

I hope they do the same for her.

 


Lela DavidsonI’d love to visit your group!

Need a fun program for the coming year? Invite me to speak! I love to speak to groups of women and will leave your members feeling appreciated and inspired. I have several programs available or I can tailor one to fit your specific needs

Image Sources: portrait by Jeremy Scottkaibara87 via Compfight cc