More change than I bargained for

More change than I bargained for

A couple of weeks ago, I sat curled up on a sofa in the 3rd floor lounge of the Garrison Institute, awaiting the start of a silent meditation retreat. Light glanced across the hardwood floor and splashed the Persian rug. Other retreatants, either coming off their own retreat or like me, killing time for the one about to begin, sprawled in the window seat or in the generous chairs, reading books plucked off the wide shelves.

The book I held was Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way: 25th Anniversary Edition. It had made the rounds of my romance writing circles some years ago, but I hadn’t picked it up. I couldn’t be bothered to explore the book’s concepts (too warm and fuzzy), just as I couldn’t be bothered with yoga (too slow and boring) or meditation (definitely too slow and boring). Instead I took up martial arts, hammered my way through draft after draft of my action-adventure stories, and kept my calendar filled to overflowing with work and volunteering of all kinds — quite a feat when I didn’t have a day job for nearly 4 years.

I never thought of myself as a Type A personality, but given the evidence, I have to say I think I might be. Maybe. Sort of.

But fast forward to today where, at 52 and with a cranky hip, I’ve been forced to slow down physically. I took up meditation almost a decade ago, and I suspect that daily practice, besides making me quite a bit saner and more emotionally even, has created space in my thinking and in my life for other practices and explorations. I’ve recently taken up yoga which, far from slow and boring, is a challenge when done mindfully. (And anyone who says yoga isn’t a workout isn’t paying attention, literally, while doing it.)

And so I landed on the Garrison couch, fresh off some yoga stretches post-cramped plane trip, with The Artist’s Way in my hot little hands.

Julia had me at “spiritual chiropractic” in the first chapter. That I get. I’ve had some experience working with writing exercises and other such work to “unblock” emotions, so when she mentioned “morning pages,” written longhand, I decided to go for it. The practice, in the three days of the retreat, ended up transforming my time there. Dumping all the usual thoughts that run wild in my mind each morning was like cleaning my eyeglasses or putting in a fresh pair of contacts.

I’m still at it, a couple of weeks later, and now I’m working with a sense that perhaps there’s more “coming up” for me than I bargained for… I have every intention of completing my Promise House quartet, but I also feel drawn to nonfiction work, specifically the personal essay form that I was trained in during graduate school.

I’m also sensing that it’s okay to set all of the writing aside for a time in order to deepen my practices and perhaps release some of these Type A tendencies. It’ll take a little while to get comfortable with that idea.

So for now, my hope is that working through some of the exercises in The Artist’s Way will make the final 25% of Evelyn go more smoothly, with less second-guessing and backtracking and general confusion about what the heck that story is really about.

Or perhaps I can find, as my yoga app puts it, “a balance between effort and relaxation.” Because for the past several years, that balance has escaped me, and I’m finally — finally — ready.

Sandra K. Moore

Sandra K. Moore has been writing one thing or another since she could scribble on a Big Chief tablet. A former Silhouette Bombshell author, Sandra has given up (temporarily) the kickass heroine and is now writing from her softer side for the self-published Promise House series. This novella quartet explores the journeys of four young women finding their way — and remaining true to themselves — through the social expectations and turmoil of 1950’s Houston.

5 thoughts on “More change than I bargained for

  1. Purposeful change is one thing. Unintended change is another. I’d sum up the different by this phrase: “Oh, shit. Didn’t see that one coming.” The point, as I see it, is that any kind of change can be good or bad. What I’ve found is that lots of self reflection is required, and then, as you pointed out in the end of your post, you have to ready to move beyond the theoretical into the realm of reality – or in other words, you need to be ready to move forward, either incorporating the change or discarding it. And it’s hard, but usually worth the effort. Good luck to you, and I hope to see THE END to the Evelyn story real soon.

    1. You aren’t the only one hoping to see the back end of Evelyn… It’s not so much that I want to get out of her life, but that I’m still trying to find my way into her life to begin with!

      It’s been interesting to watch these little changes around spiritual practices sort of spring organically out of each other: meditation begat yoga, yoga begat morning pages. It’s all good stuff, but not for sissies, especially when the overall direction is away from where I thought I was going!

  2. The scary idea for me here is heading towards something specific. The last thing I aimed for specifically was publishing, and I did that. Then just turned my back on all that effort and went limp, letting the currents of life roll me this way and that. Although looking back, my path to publication wasn’t terribly difficult. Wonder if I would’ve stuck with it if I’d had to really work for it?

    Sandra, I’ve always admired the way you move through life with such conscious effort. I’ve always thought of you an an aware person, even before the meditation and yoga years. I pray this new direction is good for you. And if it points you in a direction that no longer revolves around romance or fiction or regular critique sessions, we’ll miss you, but we’ll be cheering for you every step of the way!

    1. Thanks, lady. I don’t see myself abandoning Promise House, so you’ll have to put up with me for another year, at least. 🙂

      I’m not sure working harder to get published would have made any difference to me… My struggles started after the sales, when I was on deadline and writing to the publishing house’s spec (Athena Force). It stopped being an endeavor or a hope or a dream and started being real work. And I didn’t really have any tools to figure out how to stay focused and motivated.

      It’s kind of why I like the self-pubbing gig — I get to do as much or as little writing as makes sense for me and then publish when the story’s ready, not when the contract says I have to deliver.

  3. Writing to a contract is definitely a double-edged sword. You know your time and effort will result in a book someone could buy, but on the other hand, the time and work often become drudgery and no longer feed your creative streak.

    Did you see where Gerry Bartlett sold the remaining stories in her Texas Heat series to Kensington? I’m very curious about her thought process. Guess she benefits from trading being on someone else’s timeline in exchange for having professionals deal with the details. Of course, she supports herself as a writer, so I’m sure that’s a drastic perspective changer!

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