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#ROW80 check-ins, creativity, magic

A Creative Life is a Magical One.

 

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Creative Commons Stock Photos | Dreamstime.com

A clear February night. I gaze up at the stars. I don’t know many constellations, but I can pick out Orion and his belt, bright pinpricks of light staring down at me.

A summer afternoon. I sit out on my patio, curled up in a chair, a notebook in my lap. The dog sits in the grass, perhaps gnawing on a stick. Birds chirp in the trees. I bring out my Tarot deck, whisper questions to the goddess and god, seek answers in the form of the beautifully illustrated cards.

An autumn day. A leaf breaks free of a branch, caught in the wind, spirals down toward the earth. I’m reminded of a childhood superstition–that if you could catch a freshly falling leaf before it touches the ground, your wish would be granted. I still believe. In faeries. In wishes. In the power of belief.

A creative life is a magical one. Stories whisper from the ether. Brushstrokes reveal hidden worlds. Songs draw emotions out of us. Plays and films and TV shows and books transport us to other worlds.

I am learning that one of the most important things we can do with our lives is to embrace and celebrate the magic. We don’t even have to call it magic. Call it any other name. Beauty. Wonder. Joy. Spirit.

Let’s make space for it to speak.

Magic Exists Nora Roberts Quote

TENDING THE CREATIVE FLAME

This week was a hodgepodge of writing tasks. I made some changes to my author website, finished revisions on chapter two of Spellfire’s Kiss, and wrote 1,375 words in Spun Gold. I also got a revise and resubmit for a short story, so I switched gears and dug deeper into the story. I feel like it’s much stronger, but I need to do a read-through and polish it before I send it back to the editor.

TENDING THE HEARTH FLAME

In hearth and home, I’m redecorating our living room with some unique art I found on Etsy. We’re really wanting to revamp this space, so we’re taking it one element at a time until it’s where we want it to be.

TENDING THE SACRED FLAME

I want to find a way to incorporate my magical practice into my everyday life. So far, lots of walks in nature and pausing to enjoy the beauty around me. Sunset walks with Leo have yielded some majestic views, and the cardinals have been flitting merrily through the yet bare trees. I’d like to bring some daily meditations into my life, along with getting back to work on my book of shadows.

What about you? How do you celebrate the magic of the everyday?

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#ROW80 check-ins, creativity, fantasy, personal journeys, simple living, the writer's journey, travel

Embracing Our Inner Hobbit: Life lessons from Tolkien

Tolkien quotes, Denise D. Young, fantasy, simple living, author

I love hobbits, and I love the Shire. There’s something very hobbit-like about my version of the writer’s life. I curl up with a cup of tea, maybe something yummy to eat (croissants from the bakery down the street are a favorite), and I set to writing. I sip Earl Grey while I get lost in a book I’m reading. My husband and I laugh and share stories about our days. I walk the dog in the park, enjoying the beauty of nature right outside my door. Friends visit. No wizards, yet, but I’m still hoping.

Of course, I have, on occasion, gone on strange and wonderful adventures. The world’s oddest tea room in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the proprietor, upon seeing us eyeing the menu, asked, “You want food?” A stay in a little red cabin in Germany, where chickens awoke us and friends awaited with food and conversation.

I stumbled across this quote from Tolkien, and I wanted to share it because too often we get caught up in destinations. I do this all the time. I think, “Someday we’ll buy our house in the country”—forgetting that our little townhouse, with all its quirks, is a perfectly delightful home. I forget the rose bush I planted last year, with its brilliant magenta blooms, or the little amethyst room where I can curl up and write, or the vibrant blue walls in our living room, or the dining room table, not even second-hand, but probably third-hand, which has seen so many wonderful conversations had and meals served. Yes, the kitchen faucet leaks, but it works. Yes, the bathroom tile is hideous pink, but the space still functions.

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Creative Commons Stock Photos | Dreamstime.com

Food. Cheer. Song.

And stories, of course.

We need stories—the ones we write, if we’re writers, and, all of us, the stories of our lives, the little, everyday ones. Like my memory of the night we brought puppy Leo home, and how everything in the house startled him. Like the memory of curling up on a cold night in an unheated cabin in Germany, my husband’s warm body pressed against mine. And waking in the morning and sipping French-pressed coffee with a beloved friend. Like the time we bought solar eclipse glasses and glimpsed the event from our front yard, and how we shared them with our neighbors so everyone could take a peek, and got to know people just a little better.

This is life. These small moments. A dinner with friends. A croissant and a cup of coffee while an author takes us down a wending path of adventure and magic.

We talk about the process. We talk about the goal.

Let’s not forget the journey. Let’s not forget the small, sweet moments that unfurl every day.

Let’s not forget to turn our eyes to the wheeling stars, gaze at the watercolor panorama of the sunset, watch the dog play with one of his canine friends, listen to our children or significant other tell us a story about their day, sing in the kitchen while we do the dishes.

In the midst of doing, let’s not forget to be.

In the midst of making a living, let’s not forget to live.

So far this week, I’ve focused on revamping the website and taking a blogging workshop over at WANA International. I also revised chapter two of Spellfire’s Kiss. No work on my novelette Spun Gold yet this week. I’m also in the process of redecorating the living room. I found a couple of gorgeous art prints on Etsy to add some color, and bought a new lamp and mirrors from Target to improve the lighting. Not much else to report!

Are you a Tolkien fan? What life lessons have you taken from his work?

Blessed be.

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#ROW80 check-ins, simple living

Authenticity: The Right Blend of Imagination and Action

_Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you've imagined._

Thoreau goes on to say, “As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.”

I’ve talked a lot about simple living on this blog. I’ve talked about my decluttering efforts, my desire to live with less, and also the practices of slowness and stillness and being present.

But I still don’t think I’ve dug deep into the “why” of my simple living journey.

When I began, I was—and, to some extent, still am—simply overwhelmed with stuff. I’d just moved, and I couldn’t believe how much stuff my husband and I had accumulated during our eight years in our apartment. All of that stuff felt like it was weighing on me. And still, every time we take a few things to Goodwill or drop off a box of books at the library, I feel lighter, as though a weight has been lifted.

We have a long way to go. This is very much a journey, a process.

But today, I want to talk about another why. Why do I want to live more simply? I could talk about the extravagances of consumerism or the burden of stuff, but I want to talk about something less philosophical.

I want to talk about the fact that I’m simplifying my life so I can focus more on the things I really want out of it. And that, the unique way each of us lives our lives—how we spend our time, what we think about and how we think about it—is authenticity.

If we’re present, we’re authentic. One cannot exist without the other. If we’re leading a truly simple life, we’re authentic. We can’t help but be, because we’ve (mostly, usually) let go of the trappings of a life that isn’t the one we want to be living—the time-sucks, the aspirational ownership (you know, the stuff we own because we think we should, not because we use or love it). The way I kept my art easel long after I’d realized I wasn’t going to pursue painting (and, also, I’m fairly awful at it). The books we keep because, hey, they remind us of the person we were/want to be/want people to think we are. The French cookbook we’ve never cracked because we prefer making enchiladas over beef bourguignon (nothing against either, by the way). The exercise equipment from failed New Year’s resolutions. All the things we said yes to when our hearts were saying no.

When we simplify, we create both space and time in our lives. We free up time for true passions. We free up space—physical, mental, emotional—for joyful, purposeful, creative lives.

And this is the connection between simplicity and authenticity. Simplicity can guide us to a place where we are authentic, if we truly simplify, if we truly listen.

I realized that I had gotten so caught up in freeing up space and time that I had lost sight of a bigger why. So, this week, I sat down with my yellow legal pad and a pencil (I do my best brainstorming with these tools—always have and I don’t know why), and I tried to identify what I truly wanted out of my simple living journey. Here’s what I jotted down:

  • simple house in the country
  • publish three books/stories per year
  • travel/adventure/fun/romance

Simple living has given me space to think about and pursue these things. My husband and I have talked about going to stay at a lodge a couple hours from here once the weather warms up a little. It’s a place on a lake surrounded by beautiful hiking trails. We’ve talked about going camping and attending a couple faerie festivals this year. I want to get back into a regular writing routine this year, which seems to be coming more naturally now that my life isn’t cluttered up with other people’s “shoulds.” We’re trying to own less and save more, so if/when we do decide to move to the country, we can live in a smaller home. And I’m actively submitting my stories to publishers and other outlets.

I have a clear vision of the life I want, and my husband and I have talked about the common goals we share for our life together, creating a shared vision. Having finished his master’s, my husband is dedicating his spare time to game development, a passion of his. We’re creating side by side—my stories, his code. (Who knows? Maybe one day, a joint venture where the two meet?)

Thoreau’s quote is one of my all-time favorites. At one point, it was written on a white board on my fridge. I think of it often. Envision the life you want and then move toward it.

Imagination. And then, action. These are the ingredients in Thoreau’s famous quote, and they, together, make up authenticity. Moving toward the life we envision for ourselves.

Simplicity is just one tool we can use as we strive for an authentic, meaningful life.

So, what action steps did I take this week?

CREATIVE LIVING

Wrote 3,501 words in Spun Gold, a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin. Revised the first chapter and part of the second chapter of Spellfire’s Kiss. Submitted a short story to an e-zine. I’d like to keep moving forward with writing 3,000 words per week in Spun Gold and revising two chapters per week in Spellfire’s Kiss. I’ve never worked on two projects at once like this before, but it’s an experiment.

SIMPLE LIVING

Not much progress on this. I’m largely waiting on hubby to recover from the flu so we can start taking boxes/furniture to Goodwill, and for spring to arrive so I can start more projects.

HEALTHY LIVING

Not as much exercise as I’d like, but I’ve cut way back on sugar. Still skipping meals, though, and want to improve in that department.

What about you? How do you embrace authenticity? How are you combining imagination and action in your day-to-day life?

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Insecure Writers Support Group, magic, the writer's journey

#IWSG: Magic Most Wild…

Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeFunny thing. I never stopped believing in magic. That desire to taste mystery never left me. It lived inside me when, as a young child, I reenacted Little Red Riding Hood over and over in front of the fireplace in our living room, before a captive audience of parents who must’ve been very tired of the tale. It lived inside of me when, as a tween, I wandered the forests of home, dreaming up stories and sowing soul-seeds that would one day grow into the stories I write today. And when, as a teenager, most throw such things away, I found myself beginning the pages of novels I would never finish, tales that blended fantasy and happily-ever-afters.

In college, I wrote poetry, because genre fiction was forbidden, and I couldn’t stop penning lines about magic. But as a poet, they let me write about magic, because in poetry everything is imagery and metaphor and so I could once again taste the way those sweet words burst again my tongue—like wild strawberries fresh from the vine, those words.

And then came decision time. I chose graduate school. And not just any graduate school. I chose the children’s literature M.F.A. program at Hollins University. And there, I spread my wings and wrote the fantasy stories I’d longed to write.

After graduate school, I found myself strongly drawn to adult and new-adult paranormal and fantasy romance and have since shifted toward those genres, combining my two great loves:  fantasy and romance. I fell hard for the magic and the swoony kisses. I’m fascinated by faeries and beings who are larger than life—dark elves, fierce warriors, witches who worship the wild earth.

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I write what I love, and what I love is a blend of fantasy and romance. Sometimes I lean more into the romance. Sometimes I lean into the fantasy side of things, and the romance is a golden thread woven into that tapestry of magic. I explore the magic of the earth, of gemstones, of plants, of the moon, of the forests, of the cottage garden, but most of all, I explore the magic that sleeps inside each of us, waiting to be reawakened.

Many of us have forgotten that magic. But I have clung to mine. Through the ups and downs of my life, it has sustained me. It has called me out of the darkness, a candle burning in the window of an inn on a long and winding road on a night when the rain falls in sheets and the wind howls like a banshee.

Magic is the heart of each of my stories because magic is my heart.

What about you? What genre do you write in, and why?

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(Click here to learn more about the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.)

#ROW80 check-ins, personal journeys, simple living, spirituality

The Practice of Stillness

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Creative Commons Photos | Dreamstime.com

“The Page of Cups is sentimental. She is a true romantic at heart, and in a world that is filled with so much noise and bustle, she longs for the time and space to simply breathe and to truly take in the pleasures that abound. She listens to the still voice from deep inside that speaks with understanding and intuition, and she longs to believe in the impossible.”—Stephanie Pui-Man Law and Barbara Moore, Shadowscapes Companion

The other night I was reading Tarot with my beloved Shadowscapes deck, and I stumbled across this beautifully written description of the Page of Cups. It resonated with me on so many levels, but most importantly because it’s a great description of the life I am striving to cultivate. A life in which stillness is appreciated, revered, and celebrated. A life where intuition is listened to as a trusted guide, its voice never silenced. A life where creativity emerges naturally because it is given the space to do so. A life where beauty is celebrated for its own sake.

I think the first step to a journey toward a simpler, more purposeful, more creative life is to cultivate stillness. It doesn’t have to be a monthlong vow of silence, or an hour-long practice per day. Even five minutes of stillness can go a long way toward creating a space for a new way of life to emerge.

This week was a perfect example. Tuesday night, I honored the super blue blood moon (you heard that right—lots of power wrapped up in that name) by drumming and meditating. It was a space to connect with spirit; a space to honor the earth, moon, and stars; a space for reflection, pause, magic, and connection.

Stillness, in the right quantities, doesn’t create disconnect or foster loneliness. The right amount of stillness, especially for introverts and highly sensitive persons, cultivates warmth, compassion, gratitude, and creativity.

When we are still, we are open to ideas that will take our creative practice to new heights. When we practice stillness, we create a small space inside of us that is filled with calm and connected to our intuition. We can then call on that calm and intuition during the more frantic, busy, chaotic moments of our day.

This week, in a quiet house, since my husband was away on business for most of the week, I connected to stillness. I worked magic. I listened—to my heart, to spirit, to my intuition, which are all perhaps one and the same.

I find myself recharged, reenergized, ready to get back to the business of making art, ready and energized in a way that I haven’t been for a while.

It doesn’t have to be a lot. It doesn’t even have to be every day. Look up. At the full moon, the stars, the patterns of the clouds, a flock of geese, a hawk soaring high above.

Once we’re still, and we’re looking, we can then begin to listen.

I’d like to end with a brief ROW80 check-in. Again, I’ve divided my goals into three categories: creative living, simple living, and healthy living.

CREATIVE LIVING

The big news for the week is that Oak-Bound is finished and out on submission!

I also wrote a new opening scene for my novel Spellfire’s Kiss, the first in a series. I did a ton of brainstorming for that series. I realized one of the key ingredients that was missing was a strong sense of setting. My theory is that if you could pick up the characters and plot and plop them down in another place, if they lift right out of the setting, there’s something off. And I wanted a town where magic, while not necessarily openly acknowledged, could coexist with our world. Enter Gladewood, Virginia, bordered by Emerald Creek. Thus, the new series name is Emerald Creek Magic, and a new fictional place is born. Now that Oak-Bound is submitted, I’d like to revise a chapter a day, but that might be pushing it with all the changes I want to make. Some chapters might take two days.

SIMPLE LIVING

Some meditation, and making a point to be present, to savor the moment, and to practice slowness and stillness this week. As I do so, I feel my creativity opening up like a flower to the sun, and I’m reminded of how closely linked simplicity and creativity are.

On the decluttering front, I used to have a tote bag crammed full of stuff sitting beside the sofa—in addition to a small, round storage ottoman full of stuff. I dumped everything out on the floor and sorted through it. Now, the tote bag is empty and tucked away upstairs to be used for trips to the beach, and the storage ottoman is organized, with a few essential items neatly tucked inside.

Saturday, I took a few things up to the attic for temporary storage. I have developed a system where I label the box with the date I packed it, and if I don’t need anything in that box within six months, I’ll take it to the thrift store. This is mostly to appease my husband, who has more trouble parting with things than I do. I boxed up another box of stuff from the kitchen and that is heading to the attic as well.

HEALTHY LIVING

I did a lot of walking with Leo this week, so I definitely got some good exercise. I didn’t eat a lot of sugar or fatty foods, but I need to get better about making sure I don’t skip meals during the day. Often, I get so caught up in tasks that I forget to stop and eat something healthy, and then by the time I’m hungry, I just grab the first thing I see, which isn’t always the healthiest thing to eat.

(A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge for ordinary folks who want to set their own manageable goals and find a supportive community to cheer them on in their journey. Click here to join us.)

What about you? How do you make room for stillness in your life? How did you practice living simply, creatively, and healthfully this week?

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#ROW80 check-ins, dose of inspiration, personal journeys, simple living

Digging Deeper, in Life and Art

Mountains and Clouds in January

One of the most magical years of my life was spent living on a farm in rural Southwest Virginia. I’d rise in the morning and, before it was too hot, work in the large garden I tended. Afterward I’d sit on the porch, read poetry, work on my master’s thesis, write poetry—I even tried my hand at making jewelry.

It was a creative time in my life, one full of possibilities. Surrounded by mountains and forest, with the New River just down the hill, I was connected to nature and spirit in a way I hadn’t been in a very long time.

Though life has since moved me into town, I still strive to remain close to nature. The photo above is from Monday’s afternoon walk with my dog Leo. Though I live in a townhouse, I’m blessed to have a park filled with walking trails just steps from my backdoor, and we walk there daily.

During Monday’s walk, Leo and I were walking the hills. I paused to admire the way the clouds hung close to the brow of the mountains. I breathed in cool air, aware that cold air was soon to follow, perhaps bringing with it a dusting of snow.

This is digging deep. It’s savoring these precious everyday moments. It’s listening to the flow of things and being present. It is only when we’re connected to the flow that we can live both simply and creatively.

I returned home, where I curled up with a cup of tea and my laptop and put the finishing touches on my novella. It is officially query-ready. I’m still waiting for some feedback on my synopsis, and once that’s revised, I will be sending Oak-Bound off to editors, in hopes of finding a home for a story that began whispering to me five years ago. I wasn’t ready to tell it then, but last summer, I realized it was time.

I’ve done several drafts, each time listening intently to my characters and their reactions. Each time letting my world unfold on the page, helping the story to shine.

This is the creative process. This is why revision is so vital. Too often I’ve dreaded revision, but when I think of it not as the dreaded chore of revising but instead as the magic of digging deeper, it becomes less of a chore and more of an adventure.

With any luck, 2018 will be a year of digging deeper into my life and my art. On the home front, I’m paring away the excess, parting with objects that no longer serve me to create the sort of home I’ve always wanted: cozy, soothing, tidy—with a touch whimsy and a hint of magic. On the writing front, I’m listening intently to my stories, allowing them to unfold in their own way, not forcing them into prescribed criteria but instead letting them happen organically.

I’m a firm believer that we must envision the life we want and then find ways, slowly but surely, to bring that vision into being. What’s that saying? That goals are dreams with deadlines? Sure, maybe sometimes. But I think, perhaps, that goals are dreams made tangible. It’s not so much that we need a deadline (although sometimes, for us writers, that helps) as it is that we need a way to help dreams take root and find form.

Digging deeper allows us to pare away the excess to find the authenticity that lies beneath. Too often, our lives are buried under the stuff we own, the trappings we carry that no longer serve us. To dig deeper in our lives, we must work toward a vision of what we truly want to make of our “one wild and precious life.” To dig deeper in our storytelling, we must listen to our characters, make them and their worlds come to life.

I’ll leave you with an excerpt from my newly completed novella, Oak-Bound.

He landed hard against cold, damp earth. The smells of rich, fertile soil mixed with moss and mushrooms tickled his nose.

The light was diffused gray here—wherever here was. Tendrils of silvery-white mist snaked along the ground as though they were living, sentient things. One began to crawl up his leg, wrapping him like a boa constrictor. Nick took a few quick steps back.

What are you? The mist seemed to whisper in a thick, raspy voice.

He is not from here, another, higher voice hissed.

Human? The first voice.

“Yes,” Nick answered, the single word laced with uncertainty.

Ah. Welcome to The Crossroads.

“The Crossroads?” He furrowed his brow. “The place between life and death?”

High-pitched laughter met his ear.

This place is so much more. Here the roots of every tree, every plant, the energy of every living thing weave together to create a tapestry of life. The dead pass through here on occasion, but this place is not death, young one. Not at all.

Something inside Nick relaxed, a coil of fear inside his belly easing slightly. Not for himself, but for Cassie. He still had time.

What about you? How are you digging deeper into life and creativity? I’d love to hear from you!

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#ROW80 check-ins, creativity, simple living

Celebrating “Slow”

 

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Creative Commons Stock Photos | Dreamstime.com

2018 is off to a bumpy start, with various ailments keeping me under the weather off and on for the past few weeks.

But what I’m learning is not just that slow is okay. Okay implies mediocre, acceptable, just getting by.

I’m learning that, perhaps, instead of just accepting slow, we should celebrate it.

Slow isn’t lazy. Slow isn’t a waste of time.

Slow is savoring.

Slow is honoring.

Slow is being present.

Slow is thoughtful, grateful, compassionate, and kind.

Without periods of slowness, I don’t know how we live creative, purposeful lives. We need periods of stillness, reflection, and introspection.

In our society, we’re taught to multitask, work efficiently, save time, do more, more, more. We’re obsessed with more. If I only had more stuff. If I only wrote more words today. If only I accomplished more. And this builds to the destructive phrase, “If only I were more.”

But the thing about slow is that it teaches us that we are enough, exactly as we are.

The obsession with more is the opposite of gratitude. We live in a fast culture of instant gratification, but slowness teaches us to savor a homecooked meal with family or friends. Slowness is sitting with your morning cup of coffee and, instead of browsing the web or checking email, taking time to be with your thoughts. Taking time to reflect.

Slowness is not laziness, but rather a way of adding depth and meaning to our lives.

There will always be deadlines and to-do lists, days where we’re in a frenzied hurry. But there must also be periods of slowness.

So, set goals. Make them SMART. Create deadlines and to-do lists.

But also make space for that which cannot be measured, for joy and delight. For a slow dinner with your significant other or children. For a long walk in the park listening to the birds sing. For stargazing on a clear night. For gazing up at the moon with wonder. For stopping to enjoy the view. For savoring a cup of coffee and daydreaming.

These moments are precious. These moments are magic. Cherish them, and know that much of what matters in life cannot be quantified.

Most of all, celebrate slow. Treasure the times you’re able to just slow down and savor the moment. Stop trying to cram the mystery of your one precious life into some random metric. Simply live. Slow is not lazy. It’s just choosing to focus on the journey instead of the destination. It’s merely shifting our metric from quantity to quality. It’s diving deep rather than skimming the surface.

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For ease of reading, I’m dividing my #ROW80 goals into three categories: creative living, healthy living, and simple living. Understand that there is a lot of overlap between these, and the three are interconnected and, in many ways, inseparable. But I’m going to try it.

CREATIVE LIVING

This week, as my body healed from whatever mysterious ailment I suffered from, I shook off the exhaustion and aches and continued my steady writing journey.

I began to work through my husband’s comments on Oak-Bound, a fantasy romance novella. The story is close and I hope to submit it by the end of the month. I’m also about a third of the way through the synopsis for this story.

I also responded to blog comments and made sure to visit other people’s blogs as well. I apologize if I missed anyone. I’m trying to get back into a regular habit of responding to comments and visiting others’ blogs.

HEALTHY LIVING

My goal is to ride the exercise bike daily, but this week was more about resting and healing than about exercise. I did succeed in cutting out a lot of the sugar in my diet, so I’m doing better on that front. Keeping less junk food in the house seems to be key.

SIMPLE LIVING

I took another pass at the guest room closet, tossing old crafting supplies and duplicate office supplies. I ended up with a large trash bag full of items I can now part with, and two boxes of stuff intended for Goodwill. I also organized the bookshelves—we’ve gone from five bookshelves at one point down to two, and I packed up two more boxes of books to go to the library. I organized my jewelry and am attempting an experiment with my clothing, outerwear, and shoes in which I try to only own 100 items of clothing. (I might write a post about that experiment later, if anyone is interested.)

I am not rushing, but taking slow, steady steps, letting my life unfold at its own pace. Leaning into simplicity. Gradually decluttering and tidying my home. Listening to my characters and their stories and drawing them into this world, out of the ether from which stories are born.

Sometimes we speed along toward a destination, but I’m trying to embrace the journey, to find beauty in each word, each scene, each moment. If I am to lead a life that blends simplicity and creativity, I cannot neglect the beauty of the present.

What about you? Do you find yourself racing through life and checking off an endless to-do list? How have you embraced slowness in your life—or how would you like to?

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#ROW80 check-ins, creativity, decorating and organization, simple living

Can you live a creative life without clutter?

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This is the question I’ve been forced to ask as I drastically scale back my possessions. My most recent project has been decluttering the room that has been, in the two and a half years we’ve lived in our townhouse, a study, a library, and now, a guest room. It has housed, at various points, a desk, a chair and ottoman, and four bookshelves. Today it now contains a simple shelf that houses my collection of gemstones, now stored in a beautiful purple jewelry box my mother-in-law gave me for Christmas, images of the goddess and god, and a few treasured mementos. In addition, we’ve moved in the futon from my husband’s office. I pared my book collection down from four bookcases to two, and those are now in theoffice.

The room feels simple, light, and airy, with warm amethyst walls and lots of natural light. It has a feeling of magic, and my creativity shines through in the thoughtfully decorated shelf and artwork hanging on the wall. A box containing my tarot cards sits in one corner, and two small drums wait to be played in meditation.

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The room has been transformed from a crammed storage space for stuff, a room rarely used, to a space for relaxation and contemplation.

I used to think being creative meant always having a messy desk. Today, I no longer own a desk, preferring to curl up on the sofa, in a comfy chair, or on the patio with my laptop and a cup of coffee while I work. I used to be afraid to let go of a single scrap of paper with a story idea or line written on it. Today I thank these ideas for coming into my life, and release them. I used to save binders full of articles and story critiques; today I keep only what’s necessary and gratefully release the rest.

I’ve let go of crafting supplies for false starts and failed hobbies—the jewelry-making kits from fifteen years ago, the art easel from a decade ago. And what I’ve gained is space—not just physical space, but, more importantly, mental space. The shelf I mentioned earlier also contains two scrapbooks that I’m working on, a book of shadows and a wedding scrapbook. Scrapbooking is my latest creative endeavor (aside from writing, of course), and by letting go of the false starts and the old ideas, I’ve made all this space to focus on the beauty and bounty of the present and the creative potential of the future.

We now have a room for our guests to rest their heads, and a place away from distraction to sit, write, journal, meditate, read, create, contemplate. And I’ve found that clutter and creativity don’t have to go hand in hand.

I’m finding that by making space, I’m creating room for creativity to blossom, bloom, and flourish.

And that’s priceless.

I’d like to end with giving you a writing update, but this was a week of rest, as some health woes kept me from really digging in to revisions of Oak-Bound. Hopefully next week is more favorable. The decluttering process will also continue in the weeks ahead.

Looking forward to the week ahead, I’d like to dig in to those revisions and continue the process of simplifying, decluttering, and cozying up our home. And as I move forward, realize that by doing so, I’m freeing up space and time for the creative projects that are closest to my heart.

What about you? How do you grapple with creative clutter?

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simple living

Simple living is…

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Simple living is…

…a cup of tea with honey

…watching the sunrise

…a homecooked meal shared with loved ones

…a trip to the farmer’s market

…hiking to the top of a mountain

…(and pausing to enjoy the view)

…stargazing

…giggling with friends

…snuggling with my husband while watching a movie

…toast with almond butter

…goat’s milk soap with lavender

…homemade shea butter lotion

…the smell of cinnamon

…burning a soy candle

…coffee and good conversation

…curling up with a good book

…s’mores and stories by the campfire

…a walk in the park with my dog on a warm day

…listening to a thunderstorm

…autumn leaves

…growing something, even if it’s just some basil in a small container

…a small, tidy, organized home

…having just enough

…time to love, time to learn, time to grow.

What is simple living to you?

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#ROW80 check-ins, creativity, dose of inspiration, simple living, the writer's journey

Seeking Magic and Whimsy in 2018

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Creative Commons Stock Photo | Dreamstime.com

By now the glitz and glitter of the holiday season are behind us, a time of brightly colored packages tied up with ribbons—but also a time of harried running around for many of us.

Perhaps, now, we can pause. We can catch our breath.

And we can look forward to another year on the calendar. We’re still deep in the belly of winter. For Pagans, we’ll mark Imbolc on February 1, a celebration of the slightest quickening of the earth, of impending spring. And it’s still a long march forward to Ostara, the spring equinox, when daffodils trumpet the season and robins sing their merry tunes.

No, those of us in the northern, colder climes can look forward to trudging through snowdrifts and returning home to curl up under a blanket with a cup of steaming tea and a good book.

But there is a gift in these colder months. Winter is a time of stillness, of reflection, of rest. We can renew ourselves and look forward to the year ahead. We can plan our goals for the year just as we would plan our gardens.

Too many times, we sally forth without a clear vision. I am called, again and again lately, to Mary Oliver’s lovely phrase in her poem “The Summer Day”:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

I spent much of 2017 scattered, and through that scattered energy, I found a renewed call to my purpose: to live a life that blends simplicity with whimsy, the everyday with the magical, creativity with calling. Above all, I am a storyteller. I took on too many things in 2017, trying to be and do too much, trying to make everyone happy, trying to live a life that satisfied other people’s definitions. I was exhausted. On the day before Yule, I woke up feeling awful, burnt out and stressed. It was a wake-up call to focus on what mattered, to return to my creative center. Out of that scattered chaos I found renewed purpose. To eat healthier. To care for my body, my mind, and my soul. To focus on my creative gifts. To simply be. To create from my center, my heart.

My goals for 2018 are to revise and polish several of my manuscripts and send them off on submission. As far as the first quarter–or “round”–of the year goes, I have several upcoming, self-imposed deadlines. My deadline for submitting Oak-Bound is January 8. My deadline for submitting Spellfire’s Kiss is March 3.

I’d also like to finish a draft of another story finished by the end of March–possibly Riverspell, the sequel to Spellfire’s Kiss, or one of my unfinished novellas, such as Fates Entangled or Silver’s Stray. Both of these have drafts finished but aren’t ready to be submitted yet. I’d like to get a draft of either finished, but Riverspell somehow feels more pressing.

On the home front, I’d like to continue various projects in our townhouse and continue my massive decluttering project. If I can tackle one project per month related to this goal, I’ll be satisfied with that.

I’ll also continue teaching English as a Second Language and, perhaps, branch out to animal rescue and take in a foster dog or two.

Magic. Simplicity. Creativity. Whimsy. These are what I strive for as I move forward.

The winter solstice has passed. The days are growing longer.

Perhaps, the signs of quickening are here. Even in the cold, short days of winter, the promise of spring remains. One need only look to the evergreens to remind us of the sleeping promise of the earth.

What about you? What are your plans for 2018? What are some of the words you’d use to define your “purpose?”

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