Getting Rid of Clutter in Writing and in Life

Getting rid of clutter….that’s what I’ve been doing for the past month. And it feels so good!  Selling stacks of books to the half-price bookstore, dropping off clothes at the consignment shop, recycling piles of sports trophies my boys accumulated over the you-get-a-trophy-for-breathing years. There was a lot of dust over all that stuff.  Hand holding trash bag

And all that filtering got me to thinking about my writing. And about my life. Where is the clutter?  What can I can rid of without regret?  Some things are easy to let go of—whatever is broken, what no longer fits, what isn’t sustainable. A cracked vase or an awkward sentence?  Gone. That was easy. Ten tweets a day or writing a novel every year? Not going to happen. Even if others can meet those goals, I know I can’t and I need to hush the judgmental voices in my head that sometimes presume that I can and should. Clutter.  All clutter. And it’s gotta go.

A difficult relationship or a writing project that has me spinning in circles?  Not so easy. I have to consider these a little longer. Are they salvageable? Are they worth investing more of my time and energy? As I’ve gotten older, this process of consideration has simplified. I ask myself this question: Is it contributing to the greater good (or goals) of my writing?  Of my life?  Without much angst, I generally know the answer. Even if my head is unsure, my heart is certain. The answer is clear. If I’m always on the frustrated side of the equation while giving it my best effort, then it’s time to let it go. There is inevitable grief for the release of something I wanted but couldn’t bring to fruition for a variety of reasons—poor timing, insurmountable obstacles, the clashing of lofty goals with harsh reality. Sometimes you just have to say, “So long.” Accept the lesson learned.  Sing over what was, rejoice in what is, and sail onward. Lighter. Less burdened.

When all the dust settles and the clutter is whisked away, what remains are the essentials. The absolutes. The true loves. And it feels so good.


Are You a Magic Genie?

“Are you a magic genie?” she asked.  “Yes!”  I replied.  “How did you know?”

I wish I were a magic genie.  How fun would that be?!

This fifth grade girl with the boisterous laugh and wide grin was a participant in one of my latest workshops called, “It’s All About You.”  A group of fifth and sixth grade girls met with me for eight weeks where we used writing and expressive arts to discuss and explore what it means to have self-esteem, how to set boundaries and what to do when those boundaries are crossed, how to recognize and listen to their intuition, plus an assortment of other topics for adolescent girls.

That particular week we were talking about goal setting.  I walked them through an exercise where they imagined how their lives would look in ten to fifteen years.  They visualize themselves in this future place and time with the help of a magic carpet.  (This is one of those moments when it’s great to be a kid since their imaginations are so vivid and easily retrievable no matter how fast their brains are swirling.  A lot of adults, with equally swirling brains, can no longer access the dreamy state of getting lost in that imaginative pocket.)  After visualizing where they are in their future and what they’re doing there, the girls write down everything they remember.  Then they choose one image of their future that they most want to come true.  They write down that image as a goal and then determine what steps they need to take to get there.

It was near the end of this exercise that one of the girls asked if I was a genie.  Then she said, “I’ve never thought of my future this way before and now I know exactly what I want to do with my life.”  Though not all the participants have this kind of light-bulb moment, the fact that one does is why I love facilitating these workshops.   girl flying on a magic carpet

The girls are really the genies.  But I get the awesome wonder of watching the magic as they start to fly.