As I started up my freelance writing business this summer, I also wrote two creative non-fiction pieces: an essay called "My Grandmother's Kitchen" for submission to Room Magazine (I was aiming for their upcoming food issue, but it might be selected for publication in a different issue - here's hoping it's selected, period), and an essay called "The Tsunami," which is Fitz's birth story. This year I also wrote two essays about breastfeeding - Feeding Fitz, Part 1: Breastfeeding and Feeding Fitz, Part 2: The Milk Supply Scare - but aside from those personal forays, the majority of my writing has been business stories for Yellow Pages Canada or food content for The Salty Almond. When I wrote and published my first intensely personal essay about breastfeeding I was utterly terrified about how it would be received. It wasn't my typical foodie fare and it made me feel insanely vulnerable. However, I received more feedback on that post, more comments and dialogue about it, than anything else I had written which inspired me to continue delving into the realm of creative non-fiction.
When my mentor, Prof. Bill Thompson sent me a call for submissions for Room Magazine's food issue, I was almost immediately struck with this idea to write about my grandma's kitchen. You see, Craig and I live in my grandparents' house. In 2013, a year after my grandpa passed away, my grandma was accepted into a seniors' dormitory and was going to sell the house. Having spent countless days, nights, and weekends at this house, in the pool, in my grandmother's kitchen, I couldn't bear the thought of someone else living here. Thinking that with our student debt load there was no way we'd be approved for a mortgage, we tried anyway, and much to our surprise we were able to buy the house.
When I considered writing an essay for Room (a feminist, literary, women's magazine), my idea materialized in my mind effortlessly. While not completely fleshed out, I knew I wanted to write about my memories, juxtaposed with my present life, but I was so afraid to get started. I put it off continually to the point that I thought I missed the submission deadline. Serendipitously, I checked and learned it wasn't until July 31st. And again, I procrastinated writing this piece. Instead, I focused my efforts on paid and blog writing, telling myself that I didn't have time to do it (when really, I was just afraid to make the time). Finally, the deadline came. It was July 31st and I sat down to write at about 2:00pm.
To my credit, at my website photo session with Lorraine Marie, I wanted to actually be writing something, so I jotted down a beautiful paragraph that ended up forming the beginning of my essay. But from there, writing on my computer, my words spiralled into a nonsensical narrative about my grandmother's life. A complete detour from me and the kitchen, I found myself trying to write a biography without any material other than a spotty outline of my grandma's life story - a story she's only told vaguely, forever saying that she can't remember. Instead of writing the story that was in me, I was poorly writing the story I thought Room would want to hear.
Too focused on what I decided was certain rejection, I let my fear take over and I was floundering. In agony and frustration, I reached out to my online writing community, the Wild Words Collective, asking for advice. Nicole asked what draft I was on, and I was incredulous, "Draft? What draft? I only write in one draft (that is continually edited as I go)?" Even though Nicole was just trying to get a handle on how bad my situation was, I began questioning my process, doubting myself more. But as we chatted through it, I realized that my barrier was fear, and fear alone. I powered through it, re-centred myself, and through discussion with Nicole and my fellow writers, I was able to write the piece I'd originally imagined. And I wrote something I am fiercely proud of (please publish it, Room).
In a later conversation about writing and creativity with my new friend, author Chelsey Krause, she asked me if I'd ever read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert or listened to her podcast, "Magic Lessons."
I'd heard of Elizabeth Gilbert's book Eat Pray Love and I'd actually seen the movie, but that was as far as my knowledge of her went. Chelsey raved about her and the work she does with creativity, so I immediately downloaded the podcast and began listening to it the next day on my drive out to the lake. I am utterly infatuated with this podcast. What Liz Gilbert is doing for and giving to creatives is unbelievably valuable. In the first episode, she speaks to a writer (who is also a mother) about her desire to write a memoir and her fears that she is not giving enough to her children, that she should be available for them 100% of the time, and her fears about the responses of others to her work. Between Liz Gilbert's sage advice, and Cheryl Strayed's wisdom (that no one should give 100% to their families), this woman overcame her fear and started writing. I quickly binged on the entire first season of "Magic Lessons" and have been eagerly devouring each new episode of season two as they are released. Every episode, whether about writers, photographers, musicians, poets, painters, or comedians, resonates with me. I particularly enjoyed the season one finale with Brene Brown, in which they discuss creative scars and how despite what people think, it's human to be creative; we are all creative in different ways, it just manifests differently and is often discouraged or shamed. Since the podcast is so brilliant and so inspiring, I've also got the book, though it's third on my list of books to read (must finish H is for Hawk by Saturday for book club, and then I am onto The Whole Brained Child before Big Magic is even on my radar).
Finishing "Magic Lessons" so quickly (I listen while I drive), I found myself bereft, in a vehicular void, I was quickly and frantically missing a creative, inspirational podcast, so I, again, reached out to the Wild Words Collective for recommendations. After trying out a couple that didn't do it for me ("The Portfolio Life" and "Beautiful Writers Podcast"), I found "On Being with Krista Tippet." This podcast, while incredibly different from Liz Gilbert's has blown my mind wide open: "On Being opens up the animating questions at the center of human life: What does it mean to be human, and how do we want to live? We explore these questions in their richness and complexity in 21st-century lives and endeavors. We pursue wisdom and moral imagination as much as knowledge; we esteem nuance and poetry as much as fact." Plus, she interviewed Liz Gilbert for one of the recent episodes (and it was feminist perfection).
Krista's voice and manner of speaking is pleasant, soothing, and inquisitive. She asks interesting questions and engages in conversations that have me pondering a side of myself that is all too often unexplored; every episode has me finding not only inspiration, but deeply appreciating the life I am lucky enough to live and how I can be better. I even quoted Joe Henry in my anniversary card to Craig. It's a beautiful show that is sure to enlighten, if not to inspire, I can't get enough.
I am so grateful to Chelsey for recommending Liz Gilbert's book and podcast, it's already changed my perspective in so many ways and, in combination with the Write Where You Are course that I did this summer, has me actually pursing creative writing alongside my paid professional writing. Once Fitz is in daycare and I'm free to work full time, 90% of my work week will be invested in paid writing, and 10% on personal projects like Inspired magazine, a memoir, and another collaboration I'm starting up with Kelly at Fiddle Leaf Photography. I've never felt more in tune with my creative side, more successful creatively, and more true to myself than I do right now. And damn, if it doesn't feel good.