Life Reflections

Does your writing spark joy?

Hello, dear readers!

Please grab a cup of tea, coffee, or cocoa and join me for a chat. It’s been a while since we’ve last met, so I’d like to give you an update. Please let me know how you’re doing in the comments as well.

This past New Year’s Eve, my favorite holiday of the year, I finished the rewrite of my contemporary women’s fiction manuscript. Afterward, I shared an unforgettable meal with my soulmate, then rang in the New Year in the kitchen amongst the cheers of other guests, the restaurant staff, and the chef and owner himself. It was my happiest New Year’s Eve as an adult. The happiest New Year’s Eve of my youth was 17 years ago, when I finished my YA novella at 17 years old, then danced salsa and merengue with my Cuban family members and best friend in the living room until it was time for our midnight twelve grapes and sidra.

Two manuscripts, two New Year’s Eve completions. As you may have guessed, I’m fond of patterns, whether intentional or serendipitous. One pattern that fell by the wayside, however, was writing a short story every Saturday morning.

This pattern began at eight years old, and it’s how I fell in love with writing. Somewhere along the writing journey in adulthood, the pure joy of childhood writing got overshadowed by the fear of criticism and rejection, not to mention the unrealistic goal of perfection.

I recently listened to the audiobook Stop Worrying, Stop Writing by Sarah Painter, which I highly recommend. My biggest takeaway from that book was that the joy is in the actual writing, not the destination.

Considering Sarah Painter’s wise words and Marie Kondo’s philosophy of only keeping items that spark joy, I ask myself…does my writing spark joy?

My answer is…it depends.

Now, before we all thank our laptops, notebooks, and pens for their service and hurl them out the window, let’s take a closer look. When does writing spark joy? When does it spark tears and frustration? When does it spark turning to TV or chocolate or hiding under the covers?

For me, the answer lies in the object of my focus. Is it on the actual joy of writing, as Sarah Painter so wisely recommends? Or is it on the destination? On publication, or the need to feel good enough for my parents or husband or friends or peers. Where does the drive to succeed come from? The drive to write?

As a child, I wrote for the joy of it. Every single time I sat down to write, it sparked nothing but the utmost joy. Everything else faded to the background. I didn’t write to prove myself or to get good reviews or to find an agent or publisher to validate my worth. I didn’t even write to get my parents’ approval. I wrote because it was fun.

So why do I write now? Is it still fun? Again, it depends. When I’m not worried what people will think, it’s fun. When I’m anticipating critique, judgment, or review, it’s stressful. As you may already know, I suffer with anxiety and depression. I have low self-esteem, as well as rejection-sensitive dysphoria (look it up–it’s a thing, and I even run a Facebook support group for it if you’re interested). Basically, I am my own worst critic. I can’t say when exactly I picked up this baggage…only that I miss the weightlessness of writing without it.

Sometimes writing is painful. It doesn’t always flow, and it isn’t always fun. When I worry what people will think, how I’ll be perceived, whether I’m good enough, whether I’m making amateur mistakes or letting somebody somewhere down, then it’s not so fun. More like…agonizing. I persist, because I want my voice to be heard, I want to share what I’ve gleaned from life, and I hope readers will love my characters as much as I do. I want the pain I turn into art to mean something. To help someone.

So how do I keep that spark of joy from burning out in the darkness of negativity?

In one EMDR session with my therapist, I traced my writer’s block to the shame of not feeling good enough. To my struggle with attention and reading comprehension all through school, caused by undiagnosed ADHD. To the business college professor who told me to find someone who “knew how to write,” because I had accidentally written “threw” when I meant “through” while struggling with untreated depression and ADHD. To the desire to please my parents by excelling like my brother, when I didn’t have his knack for mathematics. To the need for validation. To the fear of failure. To the fear of success. It became so intense that sometimes I would self-sabotage, procrastinate, and numb my mind with TV and social media instead. The buried shame and feelings of inadequacy were too intense to face every time I opened Scrivener to write. I tearfully recounted to my therapist that maybe it would be easier to give up the dream, because it hurt too much to pursue it.

In the second half of that EMDR session, after processing the roots of my shame and fear, I reframed my writing practice as a serene day at the beach, making sandcastles. Playing with words. Letting go of them as the water comes to wash them away. Writing the way I did as a child. Ebbing and flowing like waves on the sand.

That EMDR session broke down the stubborn foundation of my writer’s block. Though I am not fully cured, I have a newfound awareness. And I’ve changed my writing practice to rekindle the joy.

Instead of writing in a serious serif font, I now write in the font I used as a child…Century Gothic. It’s playful, it’s simple, and it reminds me of those childhood Saturday mornings. In Scrivener, the backdrop to my writing is now a sandy beach. My desktop wallpaper is a dreamy sandcastle. This small brain trick has worked wonders.

And now, I plan to implement another change, here on my blog. In honor of my childhood Saturday mornings, as well as my lifelong love of cats, I declare that Saturdays will now be Caturday Story Corner days on Shelter for Sensitive Souls.

My cat, Charlotte the Literary Cat, now has her own WordPress account, so she will make the occasional appearance as a guest blogger. I will start this Saturday with a story of the cats God has placed in my life along the journey when I’ve needed them the most.

I hope this post has blessed you in some way. I am so grateful to you for reading, and I hope you will stop by again soon.

So I will end with this question…does your writing spark joy? Why or why not?

Please share your thoughts in the comments. Thank you, and best wishes for your 2019.

Writing Prompts

Writing Prompt: Someone Else’s Shoes

Think of a loved one in your life who is going through a difficult time. Now close your eyes, and imagine that person’s favorite shoes. What do they look like? Feel like?

You put the shoes on, and as soon as you do, you transform into that person. You are now in their life, facing their struggles. You look in the mirror and see their face, not yours. You feel their aches and pains, think their thoughts, see the world through their lens. In what ways did your identity change? Your beliefs? Your passions? Your needs? Your past?

Now remove the shoes and write about your experience. What was it like? What did you learn about yourself and your loved one? How can you better empathize and support your loved one in their time of need?

Meditations

Meditation: Generations

Today I invite you to meditate on the past…not just your past, but that of previous generations. Are there any patterns you’ve noticed through the generations? Are they healthy, unhealthy, or a mixture of both? Are there any negative cycles you can break? Are there any positive patterns you would like to see continue in future generations? Now meditate on your own life journey. Spend a moment in gratitude for the positive behaviors you’ve learned from loved ones in your past, and reflect on any generational patterns you want to discontinue.

Life Reflections

Don’t Give Up

I’m writing this post as much for myself as for you. Lately, I’ve felt as though I’d rather just give up. Even the best intentions can lead to failure. Sometimes a day starts off stormy, and then a heavy storm cloud hangs over my head for the rest of the day. Sometimes a day starts off sunny and bright, and then a storm cloud builds over me slowly…maybe I put it there myself, or maybe there’s an external cause beyond my control.

Whether the day starts off right or wrong, once the storm hits, how do you push through it instead of giving up and letting it defeat you? In a torrential downpour, I know all I want to do is find shelter and curl up with a blanket. Hide. Wait it out. But what if the storm won’t go away unless you stay in it? What if the answer is to let it rain on you, soaking you to the bone, making you cold and uncomfortable, until you’re numb to its effects? What if staying in it will make the sun come out again to dry your sorrow and shame and to recharge you with energy?

I’m not sure I’m making sense. Perhaps this extended metaphor got away from me. It happens. All I know is that hiding when it storms does not make me any better, and it does not make the storm pass any faster. So today I’m going to make an attempt to be brave, and I challenge you to do the same. Stay in the storm. Let it rain on your face. Embrace it. Persevere, even while you’re afraid, cold, shaking, ashamed, and soaking wet. The sun will come out in God’s perfect time. It always does. And until it does, empower yourself to push through the storm. Don’t let the storm defeat you. Be your own umbrella.

Meditations

Meditation: What is Holding You Back?

Find a quiet, peaceful place, and spend a few moments reflecting on your life. Where are you now in relation to where you’d like to be? What’s holding you back from reaching your goals or finding true happiness? Can you identify any specific fears, worries, or negative self-talk?

Picture this negativity taking form as a burning flame in a forest, building in intensity with all the negativity you absorb in your life each day. The more negativity you identify, the higher the flame grows. This fire is uncomfortable and unwelcome. It must be extinguished.

Now identify positive sources in your life…God’s love, peaceful moments with your family and friends, encouraging words, joyful memories, and hope. Picture this positivity taking form as a sweet, gentle rain. Let this healing rain fall on the fire, slowly quenching the flames that used to burn you. Imagine this rain falling on your face, shoulders, and back, cooling and soothing the burn of negativity throughout your entire body. Feel it cleanse you and make you new. Notice the forest around you healing and springing back to life.

It is a new beginning. Let positivity guide your thoughts this week. If you feel negative thoughts coming back, close your eyes, and imagine the rain washing them away.

Writing Prompts

Writing Prompt: Inspiring Art

Reflect on art galleries or art festivals you’ve visited in your lifetime. Is there a particular piece of art that resonated deeply with you? Close your eyes and recall the experience. Then write about that work of art, describing the colors, the textures, the mood, and the subject matter, and how it inspired you. How does this piece of art make you feel? What does it inspire you to do?

Meditations

Meditation: Who Do You Want to Be?

Find a peaceful place and spend a few minutes meditating on your life. Let everyone’s opinions, expectations, and judgments fade away. Focus on your thoughts alone.

Who do you want to be? Picture that version of yourself.

What brings you joy? Envision yourself reaching your dreams.

What do you like about yourself as you are? Reflect on your positive qualities.

I invite you to finish with a prayer, thanking God for what you already have and what is to come, and asking God to guide your steps.