:: WHY WE BE ::

Boo to false, self-imposed limits, we say. These champion oracles want to live enthusiastically. Follow our trip through projects that challenge, frustrate, and/or scare us. In the end (which is really the middle) we want to live like big bright free and authentically awesome people.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

COFFEE Project Post Six: Just Breathe (Tawni)

Hooray! I didn’t wake up in the middle of the night, panic-stricken about my COFFEE blog deadline to write this one. It is nice to not be blearily guzzling caffeine and frantically typing out this post at the crack of sparrow fart before my kid wakes up. And I’m hoping the fact that I gave myself a whole day in advance to write this time will make my writing less rambling and more cohesive. (I can dream, can’t I?)

My son has been healthy, and he’s back in school 9:00-2:30 every weekday, so I have resumed writing quite often. I’ve been rotating the fun, no pressure, minimal editing blog I started (Literary Lampshade) with working on my novel idea in the less intimidating chapter-at-a-time format.

I have also been doing what I somewhat self-deprecatingly call "Dear Diary blogging" for my personal site (My Shiny Hell). That’s when I take an hour to sit down and write about my latest happenings or thoughts. Whatever’s been floating around in the old spine-flower. I have noticed that I will re-write my thoughts in a constant loop in my head until I get them out of there, so having the unprofessional personal blog is really helpful. I’m sure it serves the same function as journaling, except that it’s online and everyone can see it and judge me, which is a teensy weensy bit horrifying. But that writer insecurity is exactly what I’m trying to stop worrying about, so too bad for me. Suck it up, Freebird. Get over it. Stop being such a wimp.

Deep breaths.

As a former psychology/English major, I would love to explore the psychology of my neuroses here, but I don’t even know where to start. After college, I spent twelve years of my young adulthood singing and playing guitar onstage in bands, yet I am terrible at public speaking, and pit-sweat thinking about people reading my written creative output. Why don’t I care at all what people think about my songs, but care too much what they think about my writing? I don’t get it. Perplexing, yes?

It’s really frustrating, but I am a determined, ridiculously stubborn, steel-willed redhead, and this self-aggression will not stand, man. The point to this COFFEE Project exercise is to face fears, and I will continue to face this one until I no longer care what anyone thinks of my writing, or at least until I believe in it, which is what I think it really comes down to. And I know I just ended that sentence with “to,” but “is all to which I think it really comes down” sounds odd, like I’m having a stroke mid-sentence or something.

Deep breaths.


I also created a storyboard for the book I’m writing.

(An aside: Can I just say how very much I loathe saying out loud that I’m writing a book? Everyone and their grandma claims to be writing a book. I feel like such a dirty cliché. Maybe it’s just the insecurity talking? I don’t know. I always promised myself I wouldn’t say it out loud until the book was finished and ready to be shopped, and yet here I am. Talking about writing a book mid-book. Ugh.)

My husband, the former Hollywood boy, recommended the storyboard because his screenwriter pals would do this. It’s a cork board onto which note cards can be tacked with notes about the book, such as what will occur, or character descriptions. I can move them around to help myself remember the direction the story is headed. I have the storyboard color-coded so that the bright pink cards are storyline ideas and the yellow cards are character notes, because organization is a huge turn-on for me. I’ve broken the cards up into chapters, which I’m trying to approach as little blogs or short stories about the same person’s life, so I don’t spook the nervous wild mustang of my confidence that shies away from the pretentiously spooky word book.

My goal is to slowly write the chapters, and pretend that I’m just writing blogs, as I have always done. Once I have 80-90,000 words worth of writings, I will lasso them all together and throw a saddle on the back of what I hope will be a somewhat linear novel. Yes, I’m tricking myself, so, shhh… don’t tell me what’s really going on here. Just feed me cubes of sugar, and talk to me in quiet, soothing tones.

Deep breaths.

I realized that I completely wussed out in my last blog, because I mentioned starting the minimal-editing blog, but didn’t give a link to it. That was me letting the inner chicken-sloth win, so I’m going to give it a big kick in the ass today and post the link to that one here now.

Please enjoy the first things that come into my mind and are crapped out via keyboard when I see certain pictures:

Literary Lampshade: http://literarylampshade.blogspot.com/

So far, I'm mildly disturbed to notice that almost all of my off-the-top-of-my-head posts involve conflict and unhappiness within relationships, be they fictional or drawn from my actual experiences. I'm shit-house psychoanalyzing this as, "Guess what, Tawni? You have trust issues! Duh." But I'm hoping it will stop soon, so I can finally pursue my lifelong dream of writing about fluffy kittens, unicorns and rainbows.

I will also repent for the sin of letting my insecurities win by additionally posting my personal blog address.

Please enjoy the enthralling and glamorous minutiae of my daily existence:

My Shiny Hell: http://myshinyhell.blogspot.com/

It scares me a lot to do this. I usually have a link to my personal blog sitting unobtrusively on my Facebook page, but never advertise my latest-written things out of fear. Fear of being an attention-starved “Look at me!” person. Which is really dumb, considering my 8000 Facebook photos. Obviously, somebody needs attention. ("Do you love me NOW, Daddy? NOW? How about NOW?!”)

I blame the people in the world of music that I called the “Come see my band!” people. These were folks that constantly hounded me to come see their shows, guilt tripping and whining when I missed one, and just generally being shameless and obnoxious about promoting themselves. I never did this because I always felt like people would come see my band if they wanted to come see my band. If you have to beg for a compliment, is it really a compliment?

So I am terrified to be a “Come see my band!” person in regards to my writing. But the silly thing about this is that when I see the blogs of my friends advertised to me in an email, blog comment forum, or Facebook Feed, I am nothing but excited to read their thoughts. I never think they are being pushy, and only admire them for having the balls to put it out there. So I don’t know why I’m overly concerned with humility. I don’t want to bother people with my creativity, but I don’t feel bothered when other people share theirs with me. Not at all. Quite the opposite. I eat it up. Delicious, delicious creativity.

I think my goal in the next few weeks will be to try to remember that people aren’t judging me as harshly as I imagine. And I need to learn to turn the same gentle eyes through which I see others on myself. I am so hard on this girl. Seriously. I’m very mean to myself. I deserve better. I wish I knew how to quit me.

In college, I spent a few semesters thinking I wanted to teach English to high school kids, and was required to do a student teaching block. I asked to be placed with my favorite English teacher from high school, who kindly accepted me.

One of the most shocking things she shared with me was the realization that I had never given myself enough credit for being good at writing. She showed me papers written by the kids we were teaching, and while there were a few that stood out, many were atrocious. She said that before she taught English, when she was a student, she thought she was average. It wasn’t until she became a teacher that she realized she was above average. I told her I thought I was average as well. She said, “You never realized how good you were because you couldn’t see the others. You assumed you were average, but you were one of the best students I’ve ever had.”

That always stayed with me. I think the lesson there is not to arrogantly decide that everyone else is not as good as you; the lesson is to remember that you can be good at things. You don’t always have to humbly assume that you are average in every way; instead assume you are above average in many ways. Give yourself credit. Everybody has strengths and weaknesses, and it’s okay to acknowledge the things you do well.

I'm allowed to feel good about myself. I'm allowed. I'm enough.

Deep breaths.

Self hugs.

Recognition that the universe is not smiting me for trying to be more confident.


More deep breaths.

I hope you have a wonderful week full of faced-down fears, my friends.


patresa said...

thank you for writing "crack of sparrow fart" in the very first paragraph. i am beside-myself-grateful for this golden nugget.

and thank you for the links! i look forward to reading openly and without judgment!

i LOVE the storyboard idea! i want to steal that, but i'm not writing anything. maybe i'll use a storyboard to plan my day. i will replace my planner with a storyboard and draw pictures of myself going to meetings and eating lunch and participating in webinars. oh my lord, i love that so much i could die.

so crazy to me that you have ever believed yourself an average writer! you're so far above average, that i can't imagine your eyesight good enough to even see average.

and so very very very interesting to me that you don't care what people think of your music! that you can just hop up and play and think nothing of it. it's like you and i are photographic negatives of each other. tsk.

totally get what you're saying about being as kind and gentle to yourself as you are to others. yes.

way to go, freebird.

Wendy said...

T, I'm with P, I can't fathom you not recognizing your obvious talent for writing. Such colorful, effortless thoughts just rolling off your tongue all the time...

I think that we can often get dysmorphic ides of other people lodged in our brains, and that colors our view of ourselves. Sometimes our views are wildly generous and sometimes they are unmercifully condemning. I tend to swing like a pendulum from one side to the other, but it's almost always inaccurate either way, I'm learning.
It's especially hard learning to look at ourselves as wholly flawed, beautiful, unique, common, pigtailed, straightlaced... and every other contrasting detail that tends to fall by the wayside of personal judgment.

The great thing about you is that you have the capacity to do this. You are intelligent, creative and obviously have a thirst for being the best Freebird you can be. I have no doubt that your talent will shine thru the murkiest of days.

OH, and I totally get the... "I don't want to even admit I'm writing a book". I think that there are a lot of really awesome people who don't write for that same it-feels-too-cliche reason. When you feel that way, do yourself a favor. Go to a bookstore or the library and start leafing thru those published, widely distributed books. Now notice that a lot of them aren't very interesting. Some are mildly crappy. (there I go again with my condemning of people, I know...)
But seriously, think to yourself, if these people made it this far and had the gumption to become professional writers, then so can I! You KNOW you blow them away!

See! Who said self-empowerment has to be diplomatic and 'nice'. ;-)

Tanner May (Tanya) said...

"I will re-write my thoughts in a constant loop in my head until I get them out of there." Tawni, Free-Bird, I LOVE that. I love all of your posts, but I have to say, I totally appreciate this one. I have come to be a fan of yours, and it is always that human sigh of relief to know somebody with such remarkable depth, talent, raw energy, creativity, FUN-NESS, and frankly just way cool has some of these same doubts and hurdling to get through.
I vote you shout it out 10 times every morning "I am writing a book!" Add "SUCKERS" to the end of that sentence if you need to for extra flair. The thing is, not everyone IS writing a book, and the fact that you are writing "blogs" aka book is amazing. I will be one of the first to read your book (as your fan, of course so!!), and I will even finish this book!
Rock on Tawni, seriously, I think you are way neato. WAY NEAT-O!
So...... hollywood husband? The plot just keeps getting richer.... Now I need to know how you met. :)

amy said...

Tawni, you come up with the best descriptive phrases. The. Best! I demand you place "crack of a sparrow fart" somewhere in your book.

Also, we've never met in person, but I get the feeling you are just a super nice person to hang out with. Also, if you threw a dinner party it would be gorgeously decorated, and you would cook a really tasty dinner and make everyone a really cute, personalized Dollar Store hat to wear.

One of my favorite writers ever is Marianne Williamson, who said something like our deepest fear is actually not that we're inadequate, it's that we're hugely powerful, and we're more afraid of our light than our darkness. And that everyone is fabulous and talented in some way or another, and so we should all shine and show off for others like children do, because when we do show off, we give other people permission and freedom to show off themselves.

I think you're good at doing that, but in a sweet and quiet way that is not in the least bit "come see my band!" at all. So keep breathing and putting it out there, girlfriend!

Also, I love your storyboard idea AND your 8000 beautiful people facebook pictures.

Steph said...

CHURCH, sister... PREACH IT. I'll bet you I've read this post seven times, and it's taken me until this time to really frame some semblance of a worthy response.
You're the poo, frankly, and I'm humbled to talk about my writing knowing that you're reading the stuff I post on here. It feels a bit like I imagine it'd feel for me to try to serve Rachel Ray my version of the 30-minute meatloaf... Yeah.
To know you are timid about putting it out there is just so baffling and reassuring all at the same time. It really is. I just hope you're able at some point in time to really grasp how excellent your writing is and how it reaches people in such a meaningful way. I, too, can't wait to read your collection of blogs (aka THE BOOK)... And the storyboard idea is one I may very well swipe.
I offer you an enormous HIGH FIVE (or two or seven!!!) for posting the addresses to your writing. I canNOT wait to read what's there. I almost went there today, but I realized that I needed to respond here first. Did I mention that I can't wait to read your blogs??? I can't wait to read them!
Thanks for sharing. I dig you... and your writing!!!

T-Free said...

@Patresa: Thanks for saying nice stuff. In the same way you have trouble accepting musical compliments, I have trouble accepting writing compliments, but I'm trying so hard to stop that. You have one of my favorite female writer voices ever, so it means so much to me to hear you say such kind things.

And yes, photographic negatives... I wish we could somehow share musician/writer confidence with each other to balance ourselves out. Wouldn't that be cool? :)

@Wendy: Thank you so much for your kind comment. You make me smile and smile. And I agree about finding flaws and typos in widely published books. Those things just jump out as me and I think, "Didn't anyone *read* this before it got published?" I would make a great proofreader, if there were such a job out there for me. And yes, it *does* always make me feel a bit less intimidated to notice something very flawed, yet still published. It takes the pressure off, doesn't it? Haha. :)

@T-Bop: "I AM WRITING A BOOK, SUCKERS!!!" Oh my goodness. I had to stop reading and laugh out loud at that. I'm going to do it, too, because my friend Tanya told me to do it. Every day I will shout it into my empty house at the top of my lungs. Because you know what? I believe in the power of positive affirmations, and that most certainly counts as one. It can't hurt, right? Right! So, yes: I'M WRITING A BOOK, SUCKERS! YEAH. Haha.

The hubby and I met in Los Angeles while I was trying to be a musician and he was trying to be an actor. We were both working in a Trader Joe's grocery store to pay the bills. It was love at first sight. He will tell you how time stopped the first time he saw me smiling across the store when I transferred to his location from a different one, and all sorts of other gushy stuff that makes me uncomfortably happy and squirmy. He's adorable. :)

@Amy: You always make me laugh! I will make the very best Dollar Store dinner party hat for you, I promise. With fake flowers and sparkly things.

Oh, how I love everything you quoted from Marianne Williamson, I love it all so hard. I am going to have to look into reading some of her books. Wow.

Thanks for saying nice stuff. :)

@Steph: You are so sweet and I can't take a compliment worth a darn, but thank you, thank you so much. Your kind, encouraging words mean so much to me. And yes, you should use the storyboard idea. It is so good for keeping the writing ideas organized. My sister uses outlines when she writes, and I love the idea of that, but my brain is so scattered since having my son that I kind of need all of the information out in the open and staring me in the face in order to stay focused. I think the outline is too subtle to break through my exhausted, muddled brain at this point. :)

Thanks for all of the lovely, sweet, helpful, encouraging words, everybody. You all rock in too many ways to even begin to list. xoxoxoxoxo.

patresa said...

quick note to tell you i thoroughly enjoyed the literary lampshade postings. beautiful free writing! woooo! loved the use of the alien key chain in the first one. (i always think there is something so powerful about giving the character a small object to focus on. i don't know why. it just always pulls me in.) and i loved the first line of this post:

"He kept her trapped inside the winter of his life like a frozen flower."


Holly said...

Well, I'm coming a bit late to this here party. I read this the morning you posted, took notes, and then had to get in the car. So, basically, everyone stole my comments!! One of which was that I LOVE LOVE crack of a sparrow fart! Please use it in your book! I also loved "so I don't spook the nervous wild mustang of my confidence". Damn. I think I could have used that in my blog this morning!

I also wanted to comment on your observation that you re-write thoughts in a constant loop until they're out of your head. I think everyone should do this. It's much of what the morning pages are. I would be making zippity doo dah progress if I wasn't doing the morning pages. One advantage to my morning pages is that they're private. You have incredible wild mustang hootspa to do them in a blog! I admire!
Cliche to write a book? Everyone's doing it? You hang out with a different crowd than I do sista. Not everyone's doing it, and I guarnatee you, people will want and need to read your book. Keep writing!!!
I totally, totally appreciate the description of the story board. I imagined that it was something like that, but didn't know. Like someone else said, it makes me want to write a book now!
I haven't been to your other blogs yet but am in love with the names of them. Especially my shiny hell.

T-Free said...

P- I just saw the follow-up comment you made. Thank you so much! You know that you are one of my all-time favorite female literary voices, so your positive feedback means the world to me. Thanks for taking the time to check it out and let me know how I'm doing. Did you see that I linked the original no edit blog on the side (Under "Write Club")? There you are! Thanks again for the fabulous idea. :) xoxo.

T-Free said...

Holly- Thank you so much for reading and for your kind comment. I think the morning pages sound like such a good idea. Just clear all that stuff outta there right off the bat so you can get on with your day. What a great idea. And such a good way to keep you focused on what you'd like to accomplish. Love it!

And yes, I promise I will use "crack of sparrow fart." Hahaha.