The Social Media Fast

This past week, I chose to spend 7 days off Twitter as part of a “reading deprivation” exercise.

Sounds a little silly and self-indulgent, does it not? Would avoiding social media and reading be difficult? CUE TINY VIOLINS OF PRIVILEGE

The reason: I’ve been parsing through Julie Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, which is ostensibly a 12-week course in spiritual creativity. I’ve essentially spent an average of three weeks per week in the course. Whatever my initial skepticism, Cameron’s approach has been incredibly helpful to my personal development (without really intending to, I have made 2014 my Year of Healing, between CBT and hard life changes, following fast upon 2013′s Year of Living Dangerously, quelle surprise). During week 4, Cameron suggests reading and media consumption fill one’s head with distracting noise serving as “tranquilizer” to the creative impulse and a “shield” against the outside world. “For most blocked creatives,” Cameron says, “reading is an addiction.” Cameron pushes her students to avoid the words of others for just one week.

I felt resistant to this idea, as you can imagine. I thrive on words for inspiration. Ideas of others inspire me, their triumphs and sorrows and artful expressions fill my creative well. But I tried anyway, and mostly stuck to it. Although I’m an avid reader, avoiding books was easier; the fact that Jeff VanderMeer’s Acceptance waits by my bedside is comforting. The rolling timeline of Twitter is a different story.

(TL;DR) What I learned from the Social Media Fast of 2014:

1. I sat in silence more. As a neo-Quaker, this part was disconcerting but appealing. I noticed how frequently I turned to my phone to fill space. This didn’t translate into more productivity or heaps of found time. I just noticed and sat with a sensation of emptiness, eating in silence or when waiting for appointments. I did more people-watching and felt more self-aware.

2. I dearly missed connection with people. I’m fortunate to be acquainted with creative folks all over the world, and since I’m not on Facebook, Twitter is the main way I keep up with what is important to those folks. Plus, they make me laugh. Missing their voices for an entire week felt lonely. I filled that need by writing letters to a few of my favorite people, and now I have a new creative way to connect and a list of people I plan to write to next.

3. I fell out of the loop on world events. I get most of my news from Twitter. I know this may sound ridiculous to some, but it’s completely true.

4. I realized how much I value Twitter as a tool of self-expression and creativity. I share, I give and receive support, I contextualize my life experiences. Even though I refrain from broadcasting the most private details, my online presence is, weirdly, a part of me. Tweets have replaced my more frequent blogging of the past as the journal of my life story.

I can’t say I recommend this strategy, but I’m glad I tried it.

Thanks for reading, and feel free to let me know your thoughts, here or on Twitter.

 

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What Cognitive Behaviorial Therapy looks like (1 of 3)

I’ve been meaning to post this for a while.

“Everyone Here is in Therapy”

Early this year, I embarked on a deliberate campaign to reassert myself into my own lived experience, the flow of life, to be intentional about how I spend my moments and how creative, connection-oriented or self-reflective I want those moments to be.

In other words, I started seeing a therapist. It didn’t last long, but it wasn’t supposed to. I chose cognitive behavioral therapy, which is designed to be short-term and diagnostic: find the problem (usually self-damaging thought patterns) and pursue specific solutions. I chose CBT because struggles with depression and regular panic attacks were impacting my quality of life, and I’m a solution-oriented person who resists being medicated for almost everything. I wanted to write about it because mental healthcare has a stigma attached to it, in spite of clear evidence that self-care and mental health are vital to overall wellness. This stigma seems especially prevalent in the south, where I’m originally from, perceived as a sign of weakness or only for very serious problems. I remember jokingly telling my father (who thinks California must be a strange place) that “everyone here is in therapy.” I couldn’t bring myself to tell him that I was.

What Cognitive Behavioral Therapy was like, in brief

I picked Dr. G off of a list, prepared to go through a long search to find a good fit. It’s like finding the right hairstylist! Or so I told myself. I enlisted a “therapy buddy,” a friend who was also nervously pursuing therapy options, to motivate me with texts and encouraging emails, and I returned the favor. I drove to Dr. G’s office once a week and perched on the edge of a leather sofa while Dr. G sat across from me in a chair. I talked while she took notes. During some sessions, I just rambled and for others I had specific goals; occasionally Dr. G interjected or asked me to further explore a particular thread of thought. But sometimes it felt like talking to myself (which I’ve always done quite a bit but had virtually zero alone time to do in those months that I was attending therapy). A couple of times, I cried, and that was alright. Tears came when I spoke of a hurtful thing that felt particularly true upon articulation. Crying felt safe, though it took me by surprise when it first happened. I didn’t sob, no catharsis occurred.

What I gained, Part 1

Through talking with Dr. G, I learned some things about myself, and not necessarily because she did anything special. Dr. G gave me someone to talk to. I talked out my frustrations, my grief and anxiety. I spoke a little about my birth family (like you do), the people I was living with, and about my son. I talked about the grief I felt concerning the loss of meaningful relationships in my transition from Florida to California, and about the sadness I felt about difficulties in current ones. I talked about the cumulative toll of providing counseling of my own to distressed students at my job. It was helpful to look carefully at the complexness of my life, to realize that it made sense that I might be feeling overwhelmed.

Dr. G gave me tools and suggestions to try between sessions, kind of like homework. I offered to journal about the process, and she encouraged that. Mostly, she gave me tips sheets to review and try out. This seemed so ridiculously simple that initially I doubted her effectiveness as a therapist. But then I reflected on my choice of this kind of therapy, which puts the responsibility for change squarely on the patient.

Some of the tips pertained to realigning the stories we tell ourselves, the thought patterns that form the basis of our thinking and coping. Some of them were metaphors, like (for anxiety and fear) The Sentry, who stands on your shoulder and whispers constant warnings in your ear about perceived threats that keep your adrenal response in overdrive.

I’ll write more about the tips and techniques in the next post.

For now, here’s a resource link about CBT.

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Write-a-thon Update

keep calmIt’s week 3 of the Write-a-thon, and I’m making slow but steady progress.

I’ve met my first goal, which was to revise and resubmit a story my writing group loved (two prior rejections), even though the story scares the hell out of me. I’m waiting to hear back about that. I also felt motivated to put some other, older work out there, and I’m pleased to say that Lakeside Circus has accepted “Jaguar Woman,” a free-verse speculative poem that I wrote at Clarion West during week 1!

I met my second goal this past weekend (while hanging out with members of my amazing writing group at our retreat), which was to complete a particular story I started a few months ago at my son’s request. He routinely gives me “writing challenges, ” including the idea behind my recent publication in Interzone. If you’ve read “A Doll is Not a Dumpling,” it may amuse you to know that the challenge for that story was ” a robot that makes dumplings, featuring a talking dog, an owl and a ninja who steals the dumplings.” The new challenge: “a story about an alien that has to eat and drink at the same time.” I’m not sure what he’ll think about where the draft ended up, but I completed the rough draft on Saturday at the retreat.

Now, I’ve got three weeks left to meet my last Write-a-thon goal, to write one complete story from start-to-finish set in the world of my current novel-in-progress, in time for my writing group meeting at the end of July. I’ve promised to tuckerize my first sponsor, and so I’m happy to say that I’ve begun work on an outline and don’t even have think too hard about what to name the protagonist.

I’m feeling a bit more like a working writer lately, a change for me from the spare-time-eke-out approach I’d taken in the past. I think these goals have helped with that, along with the encouragement and professionalism of my writing peers.

So, if you’ve thought about donating to the Write-a-thon, there’s still time! Plus, I still have a prize for my next sponsor.

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Write-a-thon Time!

It’s that time of year again! I’m hoping folks will consider supporting the Clarion West Writers Workshop on my behalf.

You can sponsor me here. Every bit helps!

My goals for this write-a-thon are:

1) to revise and resubmit a story my writing group loved, even though the story scares me
2) to complete a story I started at my son’s request (he gives me the best ideas!)
3) to write one complete story from start-to-finish set in the world of my current novel-in-progress, in time for my writing group meeting in July

The first person to sponsor me will be Tuckerized in my new story (see #3 goal) and receive a digital copy of the story itself. The second person will receive a free copy of The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer. Any sponsors after that, well, I will think of something! But you’ll certainly have my gratitude.

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Poetry is a Hedgehog

from Hélène Cixous, Messiah (1996):

“One day I heard a very fine scholar respond to the enigma What-is-Poetry: Poetry is a hedgehog; and then I had a marvelous vision, I saw the hedgehog big as life with a soft skin like tiger silks and the hedgehog brought forth a high meadow that made for the earth red- and yellow-spotted corollas, and the meadow brought forth an admirable dead woman whose stories and tales are the cities and lights of my inner existence, and the hedgehog was in the center of the springtime like the spirit of resistance at the heart of great leaps of growth. As if on an elevator, the dead woman had gone straight up to that which lives again and she spoke to the hedgehog in the voice of a beloved. She spoke to it as “Ceres,” in a voice whose gentleness was stronger than any authority. Seeing that, I understood for myself the mystery… to say: “Poetry is a hedgehog” is a bit short. One phrase does not a lecture make. But hold out your hands, and into them I’ll put the word hedgehog and the word Ceres. Keep them safe, each of them will bring forth harvests.”

*the “very fine scholar” Cixous refers to is, of course, Derrida.

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What I’m thinking now

The Thinker and Death, by Bel17b (Deviant Artist). Image used under Creative Commons.

The Thinker and Death by Bel17b (Deviant Artist). Image used under Creative Commons.

Drawing, which I’m not doing.

Writing, which I AM doing, no matter how gross or stolen (or sometimes perfect) those moments feel.

Heteropatriarchy and the damage it does every day.

Women Destroy Science -Fiction, which is practically the best thing ever.

My third, most recent Interzone sale, which I will say more about later.

 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Ursula K. Le Guin and the hermeneutics of love.

Clarion West, which is four years ago for me and right around the corner for others.

The desert, Trickster mythology and motorcycles.

Changing my name.

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#Draw365 January 9, 2013 Shoe

I skipped yesterday, Le Sigh. I’d thought I might do two sketches today to make up for it, but opted not to.

I may be building up for the Janelle concert next Tuesday…

shoes are hard

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#Draw365 January 7, 2013 Kansas City Selfie number 1

photo(29)A work in progress.

For myself, of course.

 

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#Draw365 January 6, 2013 Happy hiker

happy hiker

happy hiker

I wish I could capture the natural beauty of the ridge I’m trying to depict here, and the happy smile of my favorite person.

I have to think that practice can only help!

This one is for Remy, in case you can’t tell who it’s supposed to be.

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#Draw365 January 5, 2013 Saguaro

Saguaro on Tumamoc Hill

Saguaro on Tumamoc Hill

On day two of my #Draw365 efforts, of course I should attempt perspective!

I adore saguaro cactus plants and their human-like figures. Road-tripping through the desert last week, I admired these slow giants standing watch on hillsides, slumping by the road, reaching to touch the enchanted sky over Arizona or even to embrace one another.

This unschooled effort is for the artist Galen Dara, who I am exceptionally blessed to call friend. Thank you for showing me Tumamoc Hill and its lovely silent occupants, clinging to life and thriving.

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