Happy 50, Jamie!

IMG_0001Today I turn 50, and while I’m certainly taller now, some things don’t change. I still love kids, dogs, and blankies. I still actually have this afghan that my grandma crocheted about 90 years ago in that awesome 60s color combo.

I recognize that it’s quasi-culturally unacceptable to celebrate your own birth publically in a blog, but it wouldn’t be the first time I turned my head on the norm. That happens more and more the closer I get to 100.

I love birthdays–other people’s and my own–because they mark the day we decided to show up to this amazing adventure. I feel like it’s only right to celebrate each physical moment we have here on earth, be utterly grateful for the day it started…to grow, to stretch, to soak up each sunrise and sunset, to serve others and by so doing, serve ourselves most fully. So between the happy birthday phone calls, I will shamelessly hum the birthday song to myself all day long, not in an egoic kind of way, but in a grateful to have dropped by kind of way.

On the writing front, I had a great conversation with my friend Lois last week. We met at my first SCBWI meeting in a classroom inside Pacific Palisades’ Lutheran church where Lin Oliver did a workshop on humor. I liked her right away, better than anybody in the room, and we’ve been friends ever since– through moves, kids, through writing triumphs and challenges. Lois has many talents, but one I’ve always admired is her allegiance to daily writing schedule during first draft stage on novels. I can drag it out, distracted by life and a myriad of legitimate excuses. My first novel took me a year for a first draft, and 3 for one million (exactly–I counted) revisions.

But with the way the stars are lined up right now, and the shift I feel in my own patterning, we set a goal: I will do something on my current novel every day, even if that’s simply to open the document. It’s just time to establish a good first draft habit. (I will be on blog break next week while my hubby and I celebrate, but I will take my laptop and I will AT LEAST OPEN my document every day!)

The first night I started my new habit I went up to my desk (since it was not my carpool turn) and opened the document. I heard the kids get in the car and take off, knowing I had a solid 2.5 hours before they’d be back and hungry for 10pm after-practice tacos. In what seemed like 5 minutes, I heard something outside the office window. They were back. I seriously thought they’d forgotten something. I looked down at the time. It was 9:40! I’d lost all track of time. I remembered–that’s why I love writing. I lose myself there, like in the garden when I’m playing in the dirt and time stands still.

So far, 100% success for the week! Thank you, Lois, for always being there for me, letting me be there for you, and sharing this writer’s journey which is full of so many twists and turns. It’s friends like you that make it so much more fun to live on this planet and travel this journey.

With this goal, even today–between my Cyntergy class, massage appointment, humming the birthday song, and family dinner–I WILL open Intuition. The end.

The Speaking Part of Writing

cabinUsed to be writers could sit in a cabin Thoreau-style and just write. Not so much anymore.

After the long hours in the cave, where often the writer’s best friends are the characters in her novel, it’s time to emerge and share those characters with the world. That involves the real people.

When I first started attending Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators events about eight years ago, I marveled at the skill of the authors who got up to speak in the keynotes or in workshops. Public speaking seemed counterintuitive to a writer’s sensibilities for some reason. Did Hemingway get up and speak on stage? Or wasn’t he usually in a pub or coffee shop somewhere chatting with other writer friends? In my mind, it was always the latter.

I knew I would have to work on that part of writing–the speaking part. I knew it was important to learn how to tell stories on stage just like I had shared Mr. Greenskin stories with my second graders on the carpet in a circle after lunch. I wondered how I could transport that joy my 8 year olds felt, and the comfort level I had making up those stories on the fly, to the stage. I wondered if I could.

But like much rest of the population, I’d rather be burnt alive by fire then get on a stage and speak. I joined Toastmasters several years ago to get over that. At a speaking conference several weeks ago, the guy putting it on said he still gets nervous every time he starts even though he has spoken on thousands of occasions at this point. Some do, some don’t. Some writers I know write their acceptance speeches for their Pulitzer Prize winners before they ever write the books and can’t wait to have the stage.

For me, it was a challenge I would face. I set a goal to let go of the resistance because I knew what I had to say was important. I knew I was put on this earth to share stories that would help others along their path, and that sharing would inevitably involve speaking in front of large groups of people.

For the past week, in my dreams I have been speaking at conferences, in classrooms, in corporations. When this happens while I sleep, I know what’s coming.

And it’s not the cave.