It’s been a tremendous year. As an old version of yourself is dying, falling away to be replaced by a newer iteration, it’s time to check in.
I was born as the sweet corn was coming on and the first harvest wheat was making its way to silo. Many summer birthdays were spent first in the Rocky Mountains regions of roadside farm stands, fresh produce and corn shucking contests. One birthday I even spent with the fire department in Hyrum, Utah as they fought to extinguish my sister’s house fire despite the exploding ammo storage. (The firefighters kindly shared my birthday pizza and cake after the house was saved. Well, mostly saved.)
Then in later years in Alaska, my birthdays were spent standing hip-deep in Prince William Sound, catching my salmon limit in six casts followed by hikes into the wild where I pondered never returning to civilization.
It wasn’t until my late twenties that I ventured into alcohol and thus spent the next decade of birthdays swigging fine Scotches, sampling new whiskies, and making the exotic dessert birthday rounds. Some of those desserts were even food, or at the least they were usually wearing something edible….
Nowadays, it seems birthdays slip right on by. I’m only reminded by whichever social media platform I actually used my real birthdate to register, that I am in fact getting older. As if my drooping jawline and plumper corners, even the anti-gravity super lift on my over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder were not reminder enough.
I don’t mind the crows’ feet. Truly. I wouldn’t trade my smile lines in for all the money in the world. I don’t even mind the strip of white hair that’s filling my right temple when I’m too busy to dye. I do however, take deep offense to the random long black chin hair that wasn’t there the night before but upon waking realize it has sprouted like a fucking Gorgon scalp and overtaken my face. I guess I should be grateful, it’s trying to hide my growing double-chin.
Time gets us all, right? So, when the reminder pops up on Facebook, or my Google account, it gives me a chance to ask myself if I’m happy where I am or if I need to make changes.
Did I improve upon myself this year?
Did I improve upon my world?
It’s a simple test, really. Two questions to gauge my annual metric.
I still crave August shooting stars, fresh corn in salty garlic butter, handmade ice cream and the county fair. I still look for new imports to tempt my palate; whiskey, that is—not men…mostly. I still hunger for fresh salmon baked on alder planks and Alaskan summer evenings of the midnight sun. All these are the joys of being a late summer birthday baby. When the lavender is cropped, and the communities gather for festivals and harvest. There is a sense that we are united, that bounty is plentiful and connections are rich—all before the winter drives us inside to our deeper thoughts and silent insecurities. Nine dark months of winter ruminations.
Did I improve myself?
Did I improve my world?
My metric has never been about justifying my right to be, or validating a sense of purpose. It’s never been about whether I am deserving of space or love. To be fair, when I was younger, I often confused the exercise with worthiness before I learned what worthiness really meant.
Therefore, the two questions were always about—movement.
Movement forward, sideways, up or down, round about or zigzag… but always shifting point of view, location (both inner and outer) relative to what I think I know or understand. Movement is growth.
My mentor once said, “A stagnant character is a dead character.”
I’ve always wanted to be a dynamic character. Not because I’m afraid of dying—but because I’ve always feared not living all the life I could get my hands, mouth, mind, and spirit upon. Hells bells, I want a life I can throw my body at that swoons my brainpan with all the infinite potential of creative delights. Hedonist. Sybarite. Explorer. Chaser of kites and kittens, fairytale lore and frenetic squirrels. Builder. Creator. Grand duchess of the what-if.
All the makings of movement, creativity, and discovery.
But movement, progress, shift in perspective and point of view… the ever-reaching stretch for vision, understanding, and scope comes with a cost. That cost is only now becoming something I can consciously, in my 43rd Note to Self, quantify and thusly - willingly choose.
Before the cost seemed happenstance. It felt like a lateral, outside my periphery, odd confluence of bad luck. The cost, because I didn’t know what it was at the time, seemed arbitrary, and as though I were a casual victim of the price of something I didn’t quite recognize as a product of my will. I chalked it up to Universal commerce, the unseen feather on Maat’s balancing scale.
Did I improve myself?
Did I improve my world?
The price is the willingness to die, to let death, to invite ending. The cost of movement, transition… of living a fully enriched experience, is the consensual unbecoming of one state in order to embody the richness and comprehension of another.
This is not a suicide pact. It’s not a bargain to do violence or harm—it’s an understanding that polarities are poles…and that life happens between. We die a thousand deaths a day; shedding cells, rebuilding muscle and tissue… ideas and concepts, habits and paradigms, and relationships (inner and outer). We la petite mort three times a night, if we’re lucky….
I could wax on all inebriated and poetical, but I think you get the point, Athena.
You’re finally understanding how to calculate the price of walking away, leaving, starting over, speaking truth, hearing truth, making a stand, owning your space, valuing yourself, your voice, your process. You understand the power of naming your own price, and holding out for it. The fee for changing your mind, your will, your ownership of self from day to day may very well be the loss of relationships, trust, face, money, respect, image, and imagined power or purpose.
The choice of one thing, of the new point of view, risk, adventure, personal growth is the END of what was in its place before.
Athena, you get it now. Sometimes the toll of improving yourself is the agreement to accept the end of all you were, even all that you thought you’d become. It’s the return on personal investment tax.
A remaking fine. You’ve had a dozen of these transitions already, but never with the ability to consciously sit and sort the probable fallouts in relation to the goal. You’ve never put it in mercenary calculations before or counted your match sticks and measured the distance to the horizon line so thoroughly. You were always a gut-creature. You moved by instinct and a hungry bid for breath of life. There was so much world to fit on one tiny plate. I don’t know what’s more terrifying from the outside; she who breathes feral-like into the fire of personal transformation—or she who strategizes, and organizes. She who holds the scalpel to her life with determined focus.
In survival mode it’s nearly impossible to think in terms of:
Did I improve myself?
Did I improve my world?
For sure, there were birthdays when you asked the questions and were met with the dissatisfying realization that all you managed to do for a whole year was keep your head above the waterline, treading as fast and hard as you could and you still couldn’t do more than just break even on your own scale.
Other birthday years as you stood in line at the county fair or dined with friends, you were overjoyed knowing that you had passed the bar for the year, and that a new bar had been set for your own internal challenge twelve months hence. How fun!
But every time you already knew, you could not remain the same woman from one year to the next. You could not repeat cycles that weren’t working, maintain relationships that held you back, or accept habits within yourself once you’d identified them as detriments.
Sure, you had to identify them first… then be willing to murder them gently and put to rest an old version of yourself—there to zigzag, remake, remold and become new. Sure, you’ll look indecisive, transitory, scattered, and overwhelmed—but that will pass as the trimming begins and the dead parts of your old self fall away for fresh growth to emerge.
So here you are at 43 and the questions have to be asked.
Did you improve yourself? Yes. Yes, you did—and you will continue to do your best to improve upon the bar every yearly return.
Did you improve your world? Some, but not as much as I would have liked. Still, you’ll continue to do more every yearly return.
That’s it. You do what you can. You improve when you can. Your bar is yours alone. Your judgment of that scale is between us. The tally of costs, the prices accumulated for loss of old will never compare to the tremendous value you will add to your life and to the world by investing in the renovation to let go, free up… to welcome change.
You created movement in your life. You walked away when it was needed. You held your ground when you had to. You used your voice without regret, and made your positions known; not just once or even twice, but on many fronts and for many ventures. You spoke truth. You accepted the truths that were spoken to you. And you put the scalpel to everything that is no longer supporting your growth and movement forward. Mercilessly, I might add, and without hesitation. I am proud to say… I didn’t recognize you in those moments, which goes to show how far you’ve come from the dithering wobbler waiting for permission to command her own journey. Like, who the fuck are you? I dig it, sister!
This meant the transition of your dream, the transition of your writing career, the transformation of creativity, the shifting of your physical shape, the rethinking of your property and even your finances. Closing down shop, shuttering boxes of books and preparing to find alternative paths to answer the questions next year with even better results.
Just in time for your annual birthday return, when the sweet corn comes on, and the grain harvests are prepped for silo. This year as you broke Lammas bread you gave thanks to the newfound determination you’ve discovered to dance with more personal integrity, to show more grace of spirit, and claim the things you truly want —even if that means sacrificing some comforts, or letting some treasures go. The results will be worth it, Athena. I promise.
Happy 43rd birthday!! Many happy returns.
P.S. Just be prepared that when you wake up on the morning of the 6th, that fucking chin hair will need to be plucked again. WTF? Oh, the indignities.
The creativity projects have been put on temporary hold as I adjust to new changes in real-world timing and fluctuation. There are so many moving parts that I can’t even adequately update as it’s happening, but will certainly report out when the dust settles. To that end, I may not be on the Oregon Coast when all is said and done, though I intend to keep my property and come home as able. Like I said, lots of moving parts, and no real solid ability to lay down exact plans or even properly prepare. It’s a full-tilt seasonal shift on an inner and outer level.
I suspect there are many folx in these same situations as time and energy have shifted over the last year of quarantine. With changes in jobs, business, and relationships it would have been silly to think I would be unaffected even out in the wilderness.
It’s all good. Change is good. Life is interesting and I will adapt. It just is what it is for the time being.
As long as I can keep writing my books, and sharing creativity plans…all will be well. I will most certainly be available online, and via this website as changes occur.
Thank you for your patience and continued support!
Spring is coming early with sugar ants and eager daffodils. It’s pushing my winter creative thoughts into preparing the property for the work that needs to be done. Will I be adding bees again this year? More chickens and ducks, or fish? I don’t know. To be honest, this feels like the first time in four years since settling in, that there’s a change needing to happen. My inner season has shifted.
My garden starts popped up in a hurry, so my window sills are overrun with plants hungry for more light than the season has to offer. I feel it, too; the thirst for light, the hunger to be in a larger pot. I don’t know if it’s cabin fever from a year of all years, or if it’s a legitimate need to move my roots. Good questions to consider.
In the meantime here’s a little update: The Creativity Workbooks are nearly mapped.
After four years of research and rabbit hole diving, I’ve finally finished the premise, process, and arc of the workbooks; and rather than one as I imagined it at the start, there are now four, and likely more to come.
So, before I finish prototyping, I’ve decided to implement them in my life to see how much they impact a creative in motion. While I understand the biasness of the experiment, I’m still somewhat blown away by the ferocity of the creative surge. It has, to put it mildly, fucking overrun my life.
Here’s the interesting part though, it hasn’t overrun my creative works or projects, it has, quite literally rearranged my actual life. Implementing “holistic creative choices” in facets of my daily life which support my creative works and focus, has essentially hijacked my day-to-day brain and has re-structured my commitments, relationships, desires, and even my financial situation.
My creativity has never been in question. I’ve been a high-functioning creative for decades in one medium or another. What HAS been in question is the quality and consistency of my other life toggles, levers, habits, and energies that have been spotty and gummed up. When that flow gets sticky up it certainly impacts my creative productivity.
I had a breakthrough in September 2020 when the application of “active creative and holistic choices” in the workbook suddenly applied to literally every part of my day, not just the four hour window I have blocked out for my craft. When that clicked into place—the workbooks split into brackets, and the process evolved into something much more useful, much deeper and essentially much more spiritual and revolutionary.
So, the life reboot may have something to do with that sense of an internal seasonal shift. It’s been refreshing and much needed. My creative works barrel on, and my energy reserves are easier to refill and keep topped off with the changes made from the exercises in the workbooks. Huzzah!
That said, I’ll be working on the drafting the workbooks into print and getting them up for the public in the near future.
I hope this updated finds you all healthy, safe, and keeping on keeping on.
These last eight months have put nearly everyone in some kind of pinch point. The psychological pressures, strains, shifts in rhythms and patterns and the interruptions in resources—along with polarizing politics and the heightened push for awareness of human rights has left even the most logical and reasonable people at a loss for what to do.
Six months ago, I started a social experiment mostly out of curiosity, but also out of the desire to know the origins of what was coming across my feeds and why people were behaving so ridiculously on both sides. I wanted to know about the tricky algorithms on Facebook that were hijacking my news intake. Interestingly, the documentary “The Social Dilemma” released on Netflix a few months into my own experiment, which informed a shift in my engagements and helped me map the methods a little better.
I already knew I’d be dumping my Facebook account probably by the end of the year, but I wanted to know how the algorithms worked so I could use them later if I chose to market for one of my labels. Engagement was really the key.
Let me back up a bit to my first paid writing job. I was twenty years old when I was hired to write “rant/rave” columns. It was 1998, and I was so stoked to have a $30 check once a month for content that I didn’t ask any questions. (It turns out it was for an online porn magazine—which I discovered when I asked for a copy to put in my brag book) Anyway, I was hired to write (poorly) a column each month that would make people angry, argumentative, irritable, or reactive. “I piss people off every day! You mean I can get paid for it?”
I was paid to be a troll. I didn’t realize that’s what it was at the time. Mind you, we were still in the days of dialup and if I could make people angry enough to write in and stay online (seeing advertisements from the e-zine) long enough to spout replies—I was winning. True fact=I never once, not once, read the comments. Why? Why in god’s name would I stick around for that?
My job was to find trigger points, form an opinion, then drop the bomb and leave the room. That was it. Then I took my 30$ check and blew it on candy and movie rentals, since I wasn’t even old enough to drink yet.
I did it for about a year before the negativity really wore me down. It was exhausting trying to come up with a topic every month to piss people off—angry people, and being in a headspace to taunt them is tiring. I wanted to use my craft for more than trigger trolling. I wrote that we needed to legalize weed, tax the hell out of it and pay for education upgrades. I wrote that churches collecting tithing should also have to pay taxes. (And so on and so forth) All of it was aimed to polarize.
A year later I moved on to my first set of novels and the rest is history.
The point is this: word craft and storytelling are, by function, a form of connecting with the primal reactive points of the human experience. Whether that’s to educate, or control, manipulate or enlighten is really up to two factors; Intent and engagement.
Think of it this way. The dominant reactions will always boil down to FEAR and LOVE. It seems overly simplistic but there’s a plethora of fiber and energy in each one, right?
Love= trust, compassion, willingness, generosity, kindness, joy, fulfillment, openness, forgiveness and so on. Love embodies BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT. Love also embodies the ability to empathize, see alternate viewpoints, and find compromise. Love attempts to understand, not control outcome.
Fear= distrust, withholding, stagnation, cruelty, unkindness, us vs. them, pulling back, anger, retaliation, being closed off, bitterness, stubbornness, anxiety, depression, rage. Fear embodies ASSUMED IGNORANCE and a baseline for battle readiness. Fear attempts to control outcome, not understand.
It’s simple, and yet not. Because we all have both within us at any given time on a number of topics; relationships, business, government, home, health, finances, and so on and so forth. PLUS, we bring to each argument the unhealed/unrecognized baggage of the topic from our previous experiences.
Remember the two factors that imbue communication—Intent and engagement?
Intent can be either love or fear and the resulting engagement will respond with either love or fear? Some of that is in response to the intent, and the rest is nearly 100% based a preconditioned emotional set-point.
As a paid trigger troll, my job was to find the language and set off that preconditioned set-point in order to keep people online longer, to keep them engaged. It didn’t matter if I made up facts. It didn’t matter if I pulled data out of my butt. The guy was paying me to write content that would keep people emotional. Dial-up = $$. Well, it did anyway. Now that $$ is in time spent scrolling, data mining and so on.
In 1998 it didn’t matter to me at all, at the tender age of twenty, that people were getting worked up, emotional or starting fights online over my content. It mattered that I had a paid writing credit, and that I could wander down to the market for candy and the lasted VHS new release. My thoughts were, “If they’re dumb enough to sit there and fight about it, that’s on them. I’ve got things to do.”
That experience was pivotal in later years as I learned yet more about emotional anchorage, and writing novels that pulled readers in. Toggling the love/fear switch in the human experience is what makes storytelling so gripping. If we don’t connect with the story, believe in the protagonists, get hooked into their adventure—it’s not a book worth reading, right? It’s not an idea worth championing. You put it down and walk away.
So what was the point of all this?
If I played the engagement part of the algorithms on Facebook correctly, my posts should now be showing up on 75% of my Facebook friends’ feeds. That was a lot of clicking, sharing, pushing, and triggering.
IF you are one of the friends who normally never comments on politics, or otherwise but somehow felt compelled to weigh in on my feed at some point in the last 6 months—chances are you’ve been stuck with my feed since. Gotchya! Not gloating…but maybe a little gloating.
If you’re one of the people who don’t believe intent/engagement are the primary factors of communication or that the love/fear part of the underlying motivations, or that it’s too oversimplified—keep in mind I’m now showing up on your feed because you responded to something I posted…good/bad/otherwise. You are part of that 75% matrix by design.
I will fully admit this was a shitty play. Not the way to use the Kung Fu magic of storyteller energy. However, in my paltry defense I’ll say this:
The surface appearance of cultural division in America is not quite as drastic as it may seem. In fact, this experiment has renewed much of my faith in my community and in humanity. I’ll get into all that in other posts, but for now I just wanted to let folks know, there was a reason to the madness.
Thank you all who trusted me to explain the strangeness. Thank you to all the private messages, notes, and emails expressing frustration and concern over things people were saying on my feed. I really appreciated the feeling of knowing I wasn’t an island. Thank you to all who took bait, weighed in, commented, chewed their own fingernails, bit back retorts, and generally held on for the ride. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for your patience.
I sincerely hope the following posts expressing what I learned about our wider community and political divisions will be worth the strain and high blood pressure for you all.
As an aside: if you want OUT of the feeds and to block any further posts from my now that you know what I was up to there are two ways to shift your algorithm.
However, if you’re curious what I discovered or want to go a little deeper, just like, share, subscribe. It’s silly. I know—I’m using the same engagement principles to keep you reading as I did to get bumped into your news feed.
I never worried about the people who really know me wondering about what I feel, think, or believe. They already know me. They already know my general and consistent intentions. They already know my life’s work to this point.
But a few months of digging, triggering, pushing, and sitting in some pretty uncomfortable positions has led me to believe—as a whole, humanity is still pretty fucking awesome. I know it doesn’t seem like that when you’re burning through the scroll—but bear with me. Hang in a little longer, and if you’re able, grant me the benefit of the doubt.
My intent from this point forward is to show the love—if you can trust in my intent, let me show you what I’ve discovered.
To be continued….
This is also an excellent time to plug Gideon For-mukwai's book 'The SCIENCE of STORY SELLING".
Creativity Challenge Week of September 23, 2020
Your creativity mission, should you choose to accept it is: Alter just one pattern in your life for two days.
What does this mean? If means if you brush your teeth with your right hand, use your left hand for two days. If you wear the same jacket every day, wear a different article of clothing for two days. If you usually drink your coffee out of a special mug—use a different mug for two days.
Pattern interruption creates innovation gaps where new processes and energies can breathe into a new space.
What does altering one habit for two days do to you? Is it a major inconvenience? A breath of fresh air? A complicated challenge? Discovering how baked in your patterns are will reveal whether or not you feel locked out of new creative energy and mobility.
Respond by Monday the 29th at Noon PST with a written explanation of your attempt at shift and the result, if any, and receive 5 tickets to the giveaway cauldron!
It’s been a hairy month already, so I don’t have much to coherently update. Right about the time I put words together and makes sense of one thing, something else knocks me off balance. That said, I am okay. My home in the Elder Glade in Oregon is okay. The fires are a safe distance away, although the air is thick with smoke and it is sometimes a challenge to breathe or blink. (My eyes are raw from the air quality.) The power is back on, and air filters are running full time in the house.
I have been very lucky. So very lucky.
Dakota, Buttercup, and Furiosa are all okay. Unfortunately, my other cat, Pandora has gone missing, and I suspect the coyotes that have been coming into the yard. The wildlife has been confused, embolden and shifted in range by the fires.
This update is short and I’ll add more when I can. Please be safe out there, folks.
The morning chill means the autumn equinox is not far away. The change in light and the shift in bird song also means my creative season is here. It’s been a difficult year, and I’m not alone in the struggle. So, I’m hungry for the creative window, the time in studio and the healing that comes from building with my hands.
I suspect the challenges of this year will greatly influence my art and outputs, and I’m more than a little curious about what that will look like.
I’m also eager to get back to Aria and re-open Plague of Gargoyles and Tangle of Mermaids. I left my characters in such predicaments as to keep my brain hooked on processing their arcs even when I’m not writing. After months of hiatus and COVID19 worries, my brain is back onto the cliff hangers where I left some of my dearest in a state of impending doom—now I can’t wait to get back in there and in true storyteller fashion…make their situations even worse.
There is defiantly a case to be made that writers are really the villains of any story, since we must think of all the awful ways in which to torture our best characters for the entertainment of the masses (and ourselves).
Still, as Plague of Gargoyles and Tangle of Mermaids finally opens the throttle on The Pillars of Dawn series the volume and speed, the sheer force of the story is making it difficult to shape into narratives one book at a time. This has required me to open several works in progress simultaneously. It’s been a great, thrilling pleasure to open a new document titled: Chord of Leviathans. This will be the WIP (work in progress) I tackle this year for Nanowrimo 2020.
I once went horseback riding when the prancy energetic steed I was gingerly perched on (I am not a seasoned rider and the horse definitely knew it) decided to break away from the group and go for a blazing gallop toward the woods. I should have jumped—it would have been the wise thing to do. I panicked, dropped the reins and clung desperately to the pommel. Luckily, the lead rider of the group came to my rescue and raced to catch my horse.
After being whipped by branches, and saddle bruised and my heart thundering to the point of nausea—I was saved. By the time I slipped out of the saddle and sat heavily on the ground, legs shaking, I decided…that was a shit ton of fun! I didn’t walk right for days, and haven’t ridden since, but the rush of adrenaline and the feeling of flying makes me think fondly on that moment when I dropped the reins and just held on for dear life. That glorious moment when the future was out of my hands, but I was still along for the adventure.
That is how I feel when I’m writing The Pillars of Dawn. As these next two books pick up the arc and make a bolt for freedom, I sit at my desk, drop the reins and the story just---flies.
I’ll be saddle sore and breathless, maybe even shaky when it’s all over, but goddamn…what a fucking ride! I dearly hope readers will feel the same when they finish my books.
Anywhoo, I hope this update finds you all safe, well, and healthy.
Let the 2020 creative season begin.
Finally! The Patron-style memberships are open and live again HERE.
I tried to schedule a tier for every budget and need. Please feel free to leave feedback or suggestions. I'm excited to get back to collaborating with you all!
P.S. The Cauldron Giveaway for September is this adorable little driftwood and clay sculpture from my studio. If you sign up for a membership before September, I'll double your tickets in the cauldron for the giveaway.