#365StrongStories

15 Stories that Will Help You Find Your Way Through the Holidays

15 stories that will help you find your way through the holidays | short stories collected by writing and storytelling coach Marisa GoudyIt’s the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and the sun has some climbing to do before it reaches the horizon. The house quakes in the wind and I’m unaccountably sad that there are trucks collecting garbage in the freezing darkness of rural New York November. Somehow it seems tragic and strange that we live in a world that doesn’t have enough daylight hours to deal with its trash. Perhaps my cozy, privileged little bout of worry is forcing story into the hands of those hardened waste collection warriors.

It’s just a paycheck, lady, they might say. You keep to your words and those gigantic cups of tea, and we’ll work at the edges of the day to keep the world running smooth enough for the storytellers and the dreamers and mothers and all the rest who create pretty things for a living. After all, someone has to keep clearing away the scraps to reveal all that beauty you’re looking for.

Stories always find a way. Stories help us find the way.

That. That right there. That little paragraph is proof that there are stories waiting to be revealed in every conversation - real or imagined. Stories lurk in every moment of reflection. Stories even hide in the noisy blackness of a Hudson Valley back road at six AM.

Stories guide us toward the dawn. Stories anchor our worries and our blessings so they become real enough to be spoken aloud.

I didn’t wake up this early to fret over America’s waste problem or its labor practices, though both would be worthy preoccupations in their own time. I’m at my desk because I’m sleepless with stories and gratitude.

I’m here to offer 15 tiny gifts that are all more enduring than the latest soul shaking headline or the worries that race through your mind.

Each story you read, each story you write: it’s a gift.

Early in 2016, 15 writers answered a call.

Fifteen writers joined me for my frightfully ambitious #365StrongStories project. Each contributed a story - of birthing, of dying, of living in spite of all the pain that these simple events bring forth.

With their contributions, each writer lightened the burden of a daily writing project that ended up demanding too much from me. After well over one hundred posts, in May I abandoned my promise to tell a story each day. My life wasn’t designed to produce and publish a story 365 times in a row. I’m not sure that anyone who is dedicated to tending and protecting her creative source would want to force herself into such an arrangement.

But the writers who joined me were doing so much more than helping an overcommitted #365project sister out. Each story was a gift: for me, for the readers, and for the writer who gave herself permission to lavish attention on her own tale.

It’s not to be taken lightly, this work of shaping ideas into something that has a beginning, middle, and end. Turning twenty-six letters into a code we can all understand and then deftly splicing and slicing the words in their own divinely inspired order so that they make a story… that’s alchemy. And alchemy is transformational magic.

[tweetthis]This work of shaping ideas into something with a beginning, middle & end is not to be taken lightly[/tweetthis]

15 short story shaped gifts for you & yours this Thanksgiving

And so, now that the sky is brightening and it’s time to launch my girls into one more school day before the Thanksgiving break, I want to take a moment to thank each writer and to offer their stories to you as the gifts that they are.

Before the family arrives, before you’re up to your elbows in stuffing and sage, and before you have that next glass of wine, read a few of these stories.

May they offer comfort. May they offer inspiration. May they remind you of what you have lost and what you still might find.

Meet the #365StrongStories guest storytellers

Read Doubt and Annie D. by Suzi Banks Baum when you’re rumbling with creativity, self-doubt, and missing your babies.

Read Knowing Motherhood by Barb Buckner Suárez when you’re struggling to find your own voice while still honoring those who taught you to speak.

Read Echo Grandma by Evelyn Asher if you’re separated from your loved ones and are seeking creative ways to connect.

Read When Elder Becomes Child by Tania Pryputniewicz if you’re carrying a parent as you hold tight to stories of the way life used to be.

Read The Woman and Her Irishman by Brenna Layne if you have an ancestral mystery to solve.

Read Traveling Distances by Peggy Acott when you’re journeying to a meal you’re never going to forget.

Read Luis: A Study in Breath by Liz Hibala because we share this holiday with our animal companions too.

Read As I Remember It by Ginny Taylor because the past is often full of pain and survival and we need to honor those memories.

Read The Inconvenient Allure of Solitude by Maia Macek if you just want to slip away from the table to be blissfully alone.

Read Dance Camp by Sara Eisenberg because you need to experience your body through movement, not through overeating.

Read Walking Home by Dawn Montefusco because you need to root into your core beliefs… especially when certain members of the family start talking politics.

Read Stand Here by Stan Stewart if someone in your family is struggling with addiction.

Read The Martyrville Messenger by   Lois Kelly if a loved one’s illness keeps you close to home this year.

Read Up the Mountain by  Sharon Rosen to dive into the sensations of the body and savor the blissful and the brutal.

Read Never Evens by Kelsey Rakes to prepare yourself for the unexpected - especially if you’re expecting.

Are you ready to tell your own authentic, compelling stories? Learn how the Story Triangle can transform your writing and your practice.

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Your stories can heal and serve - but only if you're ready to tell them

Your stories can heal, protect, and serve – but only if you’re ready to tell them by Storytelling & Writing Coach Marisa Goudy
Your stories can heal, protect, and serve – but only if you’re ready to tell them by Storytelling & Writing Coach Marisa Goudy

These roads are like grooves in my unconscious mind. They’re direct routes into who I really am, but they exist just a few degrees beyond the coordinates of my everyday reality. My daughters and I are driving through my hometown, but I’m not sure they know where they are. They’re focused on seeing friends and the promised ice cream cones and eventually getting to “Neana’s bench.”

I don’t live here anymore. That’s nothing new, of course. I left Cape Cod when I was eighteen just like every other kid with the means and the desire knows to do. But my family doesn’t live in this town anymore either. Strangers dwell in the house where I grew up. All that’s left of our name in this town is etched into my mom’s memorial bench in the church garden.

When we cross into Barnstable, I stop worrying about the most direct path between point A and point B. I trust that I still know seven ways to get everywhere (essential knowledge when you grow up in a tourist town). Soon, I realize I am not choosing streets, I am navigating time.

The lane to my elementary school. Lindsay DiPesa’s old house. The soccer fields that used to be a farm. The rec center where I was a camp counselor. My ex-boyfriend’s parents’ historic home. (Curiously, I ended up passing that place twice, but then, I always ended up back in that relationship even when I tried to leave!)

Every residential area, every sand strewn road has a memory rolled into the pavement. There are hundreds of stories I could tell my girls. Instead, we listen to the radio station that served as the soundtrack to my childhood, and I say nothing.

I’m hoarding my stories. I don’t trust my voice and I don’t trust the tears that threaten every time I remember what the parents of thirty years ago looked like when they stood with their kids at the bus stop on fall mornings. I don’t have the energy to weave these reflections into something that matters to my kids.

If I point out the library, I would feel obligated to say how sad I am that the tree where my mom and I played Piglet and Pooh was cut down to make more parking. If I describe how we used to rent videos from that village store they’ll want to watch something on the iPad.

The good news: you get to choose what stories you tell. Choose the stories that nourish you and your audience.

My girls are still young. For now, I generally get to craft the container of their reality and control what influences their understanding of the world. The goal is to protect them, of course, but I also get to protect myself - especially when I’m lost in tender pockets of grief that are much too much for them to bear.

Telling them more about where mama played and worked and biked and learned might have added to their carseat experience, but it would have cost me too much.

Well-balanced stories heal, protect, and serve.

I talk a lot about the Story Triangle and how you need to balance the needs and interests of your audience with your own needs and interests all while keeping an eye on what makes a story meaningful and compelling.

The Story Triangle is your guide as you tell a story. It enables you to appeal to your audience and honor your authentic voice and make the narrative work. It can also help you decide whether you can tell the story at all.

In an attempt to be a “good” mom who gives the gift of my own history to my children, I could have seized the moment and played tour guide. After all, every kid loves to know what things were like for mom and dad so they can squeal at our primitive ways and also feel connected over all the things that feel just the same. The commentary about seaside suburban life in the 80s and 90s would have filled the whole drive.

But that would have pushed me further off balance than any mama should have to bear, however.

The Story Triangle would have been pushed off kilter and, because these things have real life consequences, when you’re a family in tight quarters, someone would have ended up in tears.

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The same is true when you’re a writer telling a story meant to build online community and attract ideal clients. Telling a story that’s too intimate and exposes raw wounds doesn’t serve you or your ideal clients. You get a massive TMI hangover and your readers aren’t so sure you’re the person to help them heal.

The good news: my family still gets to go to the Cape frequently to visit my Dad and my stepmom, though it’s to a different town I’ll probably never really get to know.

I trust that next chapter of my story will be a cheerful one, and one that I’m able to tell with a strong voice. There will be many more chances to take that trip down all the lanes of memory when the girls are older and when my wounds are more fully healed.

There's something to be said for seizing the moment and telling a story when it's timely and fresh. But remember: the story, the audience, and you, the storyteller, are best served when you wait for the right healing moment.

Discover Your Story Triangle

The 5 Traps that Silence Writers In Troubled Times (And How to Escape Them)

The 5 Traps that Silence Writers In Troubled Times (And How to Escape Them) by Storytelling and Writing Coach Marisa GoudyEvery time I see a well-considered, from-the-heart blog post that seems to further a writer’s personal and professional mission, I’m impressed. When I see such a piece during the summer of 2016, I’m in awe. There are so many forces that conspire to silence us and get us to put off this week’s blog post, video, or newsletter. Some are external forces that are rocking the nation and the world. Some of the troubles that silence you are more internal affairs.

All end up being deeply personal because these are the forces that influence the way you understand and craft your stories and how you share them with your readers and clients.

Yes, we need periods of silence and introspection to process difficult events and develop a truth-filled response rather than a knee jerk reaction. But we can’t stay in analysis paralysis.

As a professional in the transformation business, it’s part of your job to create content that speak to the worries and preoccupations of the day. It’s not about taking sides, It’s about considering what your ideal readers might be thinking and offering the healing and the insights that help them make sense of collective and personal struggles.

[tweetthis]In the transformation business? It’s your job to write content that speaks to the events of the day[/tweetthis]

And, your transformation work also includes staring your own demons in the face so you can show up to share your unique medicine with your ideal clients and readers.

So, what’s keeping you from sharing your stories and ideas?

The 5 Traps that Silence Writers

The passage from silence to speaking and sharing your truth begins with understanding. Let's take a moment to look within and figure out what’s causing the words to catch in your throat. Once you know the “why” behind your publishing slump you’ll be freed to take the steps toward healing, writing, and sharing.

Trap # 1: You’re concerned that there’s so much tragedy out there, and you have nothing to helpful to contribute

“There are no words” and “my heart is too heavy” are common statements in the summer of 2016 when we’ve watched violence erupt across America and across the world. These are perfectly human, worthy responses to Stanford, Orlando, Falcon Heights, Dallas, Baton Rouge, Nice, and other healdines.

Illegitimi non carborundum (don't let the bastards grind you down) | Marisa Goudy | Storytelling and Writing CoachWhen the shock has worn off, can you see it as part of your work to add light to the collective darkness? Whether it’s in alignment with your message to say “illegitimi non carborundum” or offer prayers or write an impassioned response to the injustices that you see before you, when you have a community built around your ideas and services, you do have something meaningful to say.

The people who trust you and your work will be grateful that you’re helping make sense of this senseless season of strife.

[tweetthis]Keep writing. Your readers will be grateful you’re making sense of this senseless season of strife[/tweetthis]

Trap #2: It feels wrong to do business as usual when so many people are suffering

In this spirit of full disclosure, this is the misconception that has silenced me for most of the summer. I couldn’t even write into the idea directly (hence this more broadly focused post!).

Thank goodness for my digital community of wise entrepreneurs and writers. With deep gratitude, I share Carrie Klassen of Pink Elephant’s brilliant response: How can we talk about our businesses when the world's on fire?

Yes, we can talk about business even when the news feeds are full of sorrow and anger and fear. In fact, as healers and world changers, we must.

Trap #3: You’re listening to the inner critic’s whispers of “not good enough”

Regardless of the state of the world, this is a perennial problem for so many of us. What can you do about that critical voice? Write more.

Yes, it’s for all the reasons you might expect. Practice will make you a more clear, efficient, effective, and engaging writer who knows herself and her readers.

But, there’s another reason.

When you commit to a regular writing practice (can you imagine writing two, three, or more times per week?) you become stronger than your inner critic. She’ll be huffing and puffing with her head between her knees while you’re conquering the next blog post with confidence and grace.

Trap #4: You’ve decided that it’s too noisy online and there are too many content creators competing to be seen

When you decide that the blogosphere or podcast ranks or Amazon top sellers lists are too saturated that doesn’t mean you’re being realistic. It means you’re letting fear take over.

Worrying over the audience that will not show up is just another manifestation of your doubt and not-good-enoughitis.

Maybe by telling you my story you can better tell yours which is the only way home, Mary Karr #365StrongStoriesSo, if you are the sort of writer who can drop into the flow of ideas but never gets the beyond the first draft journaling stage or if you’re someone who rarely writes at all because “no one is listening,” consider this:

The world - or, more specifically, your circle of ideal readers - they do need to hear from you! They need your insights, your solutions, and the magic and the medicine that only you can serve up.

Every big time author and internet famous thought leader started somewhere… they started with the belief that there are people who needed their help and their stories.

Trap # 5: There’s too much going on in your own life right now and the stories are all too in-process

Ok, so maybe there are two big reasons that I find it hard to get into the public writing flow.

Summertime is always complicated for a mother of young children, Add in those trips to the lawyer’s office and the endless charity deliveries that are part of selling my mother-in-law’s house and preparing for her to move in with us… I need to ask you, dear reader, to read between the lines and understand that many of my stories from the home front are pretty raw and unfit to print.

Be gentle with yourself when you’re living the story and trust that there will be time to write it… eventually.

If you’re in the messy middle of something and don’t dare to tell the stories you, check out these past posts:

For the “just get it done, lovie!” perspective, try this post.

If you’re in the sort of mood where a phrase like “If you stick around your professional online haunts even when you feel like an emotionally crippled zombie, you risk your sanity - and potentially your reputation” appeals to you, try this one.

The remedy is in the stories

When everything is beautiful, we need to tell and receive stories. When everything feels like it’s going to hell, we really need to share our stories.

[tweetthis]When everything is beautiful, we need stories. When life is hell, that's twice as true. #writing[/tweetthis]

Need help unlocking your stories? Wishing you had a concrete reason to quit planning to blog and actually start writing for the readers that need your unique message? Check out the You, Your Stories, and Your Audience course. There's a summer deal running between now and Labor Day and I would love you to save some money and get writing while the sun is still shining high in the sky!

You, your story, and your audience ecourse for therapists, healers, and coaches by writing coach Marisa Goudy

 

Writing Lessons From the Berry Patch

Lessons from the Berry Patch by Marisa Goudy #365StrongStories 144As is often the way with everyday magic, you don’t notice it even when it’s right under your nose. Or encircling your back yard. We lived in the house for a few years before we realized we lived in wild berry heaven. Our land bursts with joyful, succulent gifts every July, but we never noticed until we slowed down to a toddler’s pace and humbled ourselves to look at the world through the eyes of a child.

And now our second girl is a passionate berry picker too. She’s insatiable, really, but at least we know where to find her when we say “but I thought YOU were watching her!”

This need to chaperone a two year-old in a fruitful paradise that also features thorns, concealed ditches, ticks, snakes, and poison ivy brings life to a halt a few times each day.

When at my best, I'm a merry companion willing to tear my dress to reach that perfect cluster of sweetness. Then there are the moments when I’m itching to start dinner or do some writing or simply go find some shoes so I can satisfy the incessant requests for “Berries! Berries! Mama, ber-RIES!” without injuring myself.

We’re not just picking fruit in the berry patch. We're taking lessons in patience, creativity, and picking the perfect moment.

There are also the in-between times when it’s possible to be the present parent and take an expedition into my own creativity at the same time.

As I said, it took us a while to notice we even had something so wonderful to harvest. But now that we know what to look for and we’ve come to expect this annual burst of Mother Earth’s abundance, we have a chance to learn the berries’ stages of growth. And impatient pickers that we may be, we try to act accordingly.

We know the tight fists, tough beginnings, sparkling jewels, and shining stars. These are the prickly buds, the unripe fruits, the ultimate treat, and the beauty left behind when a berry has been picked.

You can develop and enjoy the harvests of a writing practice in the same way.

Now, think about that story you’ve been longing to tell, the idea that you long to pull out of your head and put on paper. Consider the post that you want to see take root in the hearts of your audience…

At what stage are you? What can you do and what can you expect?

Is it a prickly bud? Perhaps all of the energy still needs to be aimed inward. The idea still needs more time. Though things look quiet from the outside, there’s tremendous growth and organization happening within. The reward seems terribly far off, but the promise is huge.

You need to give yourself time to write some meandering first drafts and to let yourself spend time on the self-focused first draft. Allow. Explore. Practice patience.

Is it unripe fruit? Maybe the structure of the piece of writing has emerged and now you’re tempted to push it out into the world, even if it’s not fully ready. This is when you must remember that the surest way to a disappointment - and a sore stomach - is found when you force a still-in-process post or product in the world. Perfection isn’t the goal, but putting out something that you know is unready is a way of devaluing yourself, your story, and your audience.

Walk away from the piece for hours or days and return with fresh eyes. Call on a friend or think about hiring a writing and storytelling coach who can help you see the big picture and fit all of the vital pieces together.

Is it the ideal moment to harvest? With love, time, and attention - or water, time, and sunshine - that piece of writing is ready to emerge in all of its fullness. Oh, it tastes so sweet on your tongue and it will bring such pleasure and nourishment to those you share it with!

Hit publish and savor the sweetness.

Is it time to share the beauty? There’s a bit of sadness when you release a treasured idea into a world where it might be gobbled up or left to rot on the shelf. Trust that you nurtured your idea with attention and patience. Trust its inherent nurturing nature and promote yourself.

Let other people know about your little shining star. And what if you put it out there and no one seems to notice? Try again. We live in an age of media saturation and a lack of response isn’t a judgement of your work’s worthiness.

I wish I could have you over for a chat down in our berry patch. Let's try the next best thing: set up a free 15 minute consultation to discuss how I can help you get from first shoots to a brilliant harvest.

Storytelling Beyond Fear

Storytelling Beyond Fear. John Harrison's True Calling Project.What scares you most about telling your story?- you have nothing to say - you're afraid what people might say - you're afraid that people won't say anything at all

I had a chance to talk through all of these story-blocking fears with John Harrison for his True Calling Project.

In this conversation we covered how our stories are the foundation of everything we do - as individuals, as professionals, as marketers. And I dared to tell John's viewers the truth:

Storytelling can be scary and it can take a while.

When you face down those fears with a dedicated writing process, the magic happens.

#5 Telling Your Story with Marisa Goudy from John Harrison on Vimeo.

This is why your audience missed your best story

If they can sleep through fireworks #365StrongStoriesIn a third floor loft with giant skylights opening on the fading summer dusk, two small children closed their eyes and fell asleep. This isn’t much of a story until you understand that it’s Independence Day on Cape Cod at a condo just a few blocks from the beach.

The mother watches the glow of fireworks on her children’s slack cheeks before she slips into her own oblivion. There are families saying “ooooh!” and “ahhhh!” all across the neighborhood, but the booms and cracks are just a lullaby to everyone at 19 Grove Lane.

This two year-old and this six year-old have come to their grandparents' house to be stuffed with marshmallows and wrapped in red, white, and blue dresses. This is the week when bedtime is a fairytale and adults hurry kids to get to the beach to catch the tide, not to get out the door to catch the bus. We are a family who believes in much of the patriotic excess of July 4.

But just not this year.

That word might not mean what you think it means - at least not to everyone

Vacation only has 8 letters, but it has a billion different meanings. For some, it’s hammocks and lemonade. For others, it’s mouse ears and princesses. For some it's hanging off a cliff or shooting down the rapids.

Then there are those who use the word to describe packing up the kids and throwing them into a house with a bunch of people who share the same gene pool but enjoy vastly different daily lives. We then add in some sand, salt, sugar, and pour adult beverages on top of it all and V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N spells emotional and physical marathon full of the joys of victory and the agony of defeat.

Vacation looks a lot more like survival (another 8 letter word) than relaxation.

In our case, July Fourth fell on the fifth day of our holiday and we were too worn out to care about sparklers or bonfires or the rockets red glare.

It’s Not Your Fault Your Audience Couldn’t Tune Into Your Story

If my kids and I could drift off during a huge fireworks display set off a few thousand feet from our beds, your ideal readers could definitely miss your blog post. Heck, your audience may well miss the fact that you’re blogging or podcasting or newslettering at all!

We live in a world of distraction. We live in a world of too much stimulation and too little human stamina to take it in - even when it’s wonderful, even when we said we were coming to town just to experience it, even when it’s part of being happy enough 21st century Americans who hold out some hope that Washington will look like Jed Bartlet’s city some day.

Yes, it might occasionally be you, the storyteller, who needs to shift the story to meet the needs and interests of the audience.

But it’s likely that you’re telling a splendid tale and pitching it at just the right people but they’re just too full or too tired or too preoccupied to absorb it.

So what do you do?

You can always try again next year when everyone is a little older and wiser, but the good news is that you probably don’t have to wait 365 days to try to put on the show again.

If you’ve got a story that you believe in, keep nudging it into the world. Not with pyrotechnics that wake the neighbors. Not in some annoying, spammy “read my post, dear Facebook group I never participate in unless it’s for self-promo!” sort of way.

Share it in a way that feels like an invitation to learn or enjoy something really meaningful.

Remember that a lack of response isn’t necessarily a judgement on the quality of your story. It’s timing. It’s overstimulation. It’s proof that we’re all just fragile humans trying to balance FOMO (that's "fear of missing out") and a wee bit of self-care.

Do you have a story that you're really proud of that your ideal readers missed out on? Leave a link in the comments below and I'll do my best to share it with my community.

What do you stand for? Who do you write for?

I know why the cardinal in the woods around my house sings in the early morning: Because he has to. And so I write on… Dan McCulloughThe email subject was “read the last paragraph first.” When my dad sends me a snapshot of a newspaper article you can bet it'll be Cape Cod Times Sunday column by Dan McCullough.

Here’s that last paragraph:

But then I realize what all true writers understand: That we don’t write for our readers - we write for ourselves. We can’t not write. It’s a wonderful, beautiful, terrible, frightening, delicious, dangerous addiction. I know why the cardinal in the woods around my house sings in the early morning: Because he has to. And so I write on…

This isn’t a novel concept. As Dan says, all “true writers” get this. Most of know how Barbara Kingsolver invites you to close the door and write for yourself alone.

Yes, I am in Dan’s camp. I need to write and I would do it even if it wasn’t part of my self-created job description.

But what about you? Must you write?

I know some members of my community are dedicated, in-it-for-life writers.

Then there are those who love to write but who are trying to make something of that relationship.

There are probably a few of you who like the idea of falling in love with writing but you just haven’t met the right stories yet.

Wherever you are on that spectrum, what does the “I must write” declaration of a white-bearded college professor who looks like he comes from Central Casting’s “Yankee fisherman” department mean to you?

It means “1500.”

Put another way, it means 28.846 years.

Still confused? You had to read what came before that crucial final paragraph. In this piece, Dan was looking back on the experience of writing 1500 consecutive weekly columns for his local paper.

How does that make you feel? Inspired? Envious? Ready to write the guy a permission slip to take a well deserved vacation?

In my case, it has me thinking about how a writing practice illuminates the practice of living.

Dan writes about global events, the peace of the salt marsh, homelessness on Cape Cod, and the experience of watching his son grow. Think of all the observations and wonder and frustration that have been distilled into all those column inches.

Think of all the opportunities he had to ask himself “what do I really think?” and “what must I take a stand for?”

Do you need to commit yourself to producing 1.5 million words or promise to sit at the desk until Saturn takes another run around the sun to reap those sort of benefits?

No. One impassioned journaling session or one quick set of notes jotted down between clients that eventually becomes a blog post that matters to you and to your ideal readers is enough. For now. That’s the thing about writing meaningful content. You want to keep doing it.

Why are you writing?

Creating a body of work that you can be known for is a brilliant goal. Certainly Dan’s long public writing career has been a gift to the people on my beloved sandbar. (And it's a gift for Cape Codders alone. I'm not linking to his full post because I can't - there isn't a trace of Dan's piece on the Cape Cod Times site. Perhaps they seek to preserve a local treasure. Maybe they simply know that the guy sells papers.)

But I do agree with Dan. To keep up a consistent writing practice of any sort you must consider your needs and interests as a writer and a storyteller.

Take it from a man who has been writing since Reagan was in the White House - writing is ultimately a gift to oneself. It is part of the natural expression of who you are, as surely as the cardinal’s scarlet feathers are an expression of its power to fly.

We’ll soon be packing the car and heading to the Cape ourselves. I’ll have limited spots for new writing coaching clients over the summer, so I invite you to take the You, Your Stories, and Your Audience course and get inspired to write into the stories that you must tell.

Enroll now and save $50 when you use this special link.

The Truth About Fast and Easy Blogging

The Truth About Fast and Easy Blogging #365StrongStories by Marisa Goudy“You can ask me anything!” What a bold and crazy statement.

As it happens, in the right environment, it feels safe and smart to do just that.

This week, I am thrilled to be the featured expert over at Agnes Wainman’s Blissful Practice, a Facebook group for clinicians who want to change the conversation around what it means to have a private practice. The group hit 700 members, so if you’re a therapist looking to find a blissful, vibrant community, ask to join!

It started with “what is this whole storytelling thing, really?

I’m grateful for this chance to dive right into questions that include “what is this whole storytelling thing, really?” to how to honor professional boundaries while telling a personal story that tells clients “I get you.”

Then I got a question that kind of freaked me out

A therapist who coaches her colleagues on building their practices wanted some tips on how to streamline her blogging practice. She was writing a weekly post in an hour and wanted to shave some time off the process.

I needed to be sure that my response honored her approach and also stayed true to my message and my experience. After pounding the delete key 1,245 times I replied:

I'd say an hour from start to finish is pretty remarkable.

I must admit I'm not the best resource for "quick and easy blogging tips." I see blogging and writing as part of the bigger picture... developing your ideas on the screen is part of becoming the clinician, businessperson, and individual you want to be. There's no shortcut for that. The intention is that the process is every bit as rewarding as the outcome.

(Just one woman's opinion since years of "just create content!" blogging left me feeling depleted, invisible, and unsatisfied.)

Was I concerned that someone in the business of boosting business would laugh at my answer? “Ha! No writing shortcuts? That’s nice for some people, Miss Writer Girl” Oh, yes.

I was worried that my advice would seem lovely but simply impractical for busy professionals who are already trying to do so much.

Writing & blogging bliss is found in the midst of the process

But then this I got this response from this awesome therapist/coach/writer who happens to be short on time. Her name is Allison Puryear and she's the woman behind Abundance Practice Building 

THANK YOU! Seriously. I think I internalized the message that I should be churning them out. I can write some crap or "quick tips" pretty fast, I bet. I feel like more of a storyteller in my blogs than an advice giver. I decided last year that I'd rather write one valuable blog a week & take the SEO hit by not posting more frequently. I don't want to dilute my message with filler. Now I feel like I have "permission" to enjoy my process instead of feeling like I should be faster. Thanks!

YES! There is power in enjoying the writing process... even if it takes a little while. And our digital world will be a little richer now that Allison is giving her inner storyteller the chance to take over the keyboard.

What about you? Is it time to move away from churning out content and embrace storytelling that connects you with yourself, your stories, and your reader?

Start Here

 

Darkness and Light Upon a Summer Solstice Strawberry Moon

Darkness and light upon a summer solstice strawberry moon #365StrongStories by marisa goudyIt is more difficult than we imagine to hold space with the ultimate power of the sun and the full revelation of the moon. But here we are on June 20, 2016. I’m so grateful to summer and thankful for its lush splendor. My eyes fill with tears that dry instantly on my cheeks in the face of a solstice sun at noon.

Is this what abundance feels like?

This first day of summer decorated by a full moon feels like a full belly and a hunger to show gratitude. It feels like being anchored in the light-drenched earth and flying into the air all at once.

Tonight, I know I will not sleep. I’ll curse that bright-as-day orb even as I long to dance through the yard, bathed in her silver glow.

My toddler and I just spent a leisurely hour picking plants that promise to be drought resistant. (I am assuming I can translate that into “hearty enough to survive the care of a gardener who is better at describing the act of planting and tending than she is at finding the watering can.”)

It’s time to rescue the flowers from the car and find my widest brimmed hat and start preparing our rocky ground. But all I can do is squint from the shade of the porch, dizzied with the luster of this Summer Solstice Strawberry Moon June day.

Today, the sun reaches its zenith. Tonight, the moon shines with her fullest glory. To be alive is to know such brilliant illumination - almost more than you can stand. And it is to remember, somewhere in the overwhelming bliss, that there will be a darkness as bountiful as the light. That is how the heavens teach us about the cycles of living until we die. The loss, the dissolution, the shadows we must cast if we want to make a home in the light.

I still want to cry. With joy and thanks. With the ache for all the lost friends and departed family who will never walk east with me at sunrise, chasing our shadows into a new morning.

I still need to weep with all the potential I feel too full to hold. All the love to give, the stories to write, the healing spaces to create.

In this day of all possible illumination I see that I am afraid of becoming parched, sunburned, bleached. I am in love with the light, but I am wise enough to name and allow my fear.

What does it mean to be so visible, to have every laugh line and squinter’s crease and typo brought into such sharp relief?

Do you and your ideal reader speak the same language?

What do you mean you can't read my mind? Advice for lovers and writers #365StrongStories by Marisa GoudyThe fighting is over, but it’s not quite time for kiss and make up. It’s that tender, in-between time when neither is ready to dissolve into love but both are grateful that the crisis has passed. If you’re watching the sort of movie that allows the characters to take a breath between the plate throwing and the shot of the heap of clothes on the floor, there might be a song to move the action away from conflict and toward romance.

Any director worth her salt would say “we need a song that feels like ‘Let’s Stay Together.’ But obviously we need to pick to something less… obvious.”

Thing is, sometimes real life is just that cheesy and obvious.

What do you mean you don't know that song?

This weekend saw a disagreement in the Goudy kitchen. No plates were thrown, but someone may have been asked to quit putting the dishes away and make some g.d. eye contact so we could talk things through.

And just in that movie-perfect moment when we’d found our way back to common ground and the kids were playing quietly in the other room, "Let's Stay Together" came on the radio.

And then my husband opened the fridge to make a sandwich. He seemed to understand my hopeful, love song-inspired smile to mean “would you make me one too?”

After a moment or two, my soft look turns into the prelude to a snarl. “Um,” I say, “This is the part when you sweep me into your arms and we fall in love with the universe and with each other just a little bit more because this song played at this moment.”

“What song?”

I have married the only man in America who does not know “Let’s Stay Together.” Ok. I can breathe through this.

“How can you not…?” Right. I’m breathing. We’re in making up mode. I’m freaking breathing. “Ok, then how about you listen to the words?”

“You know I never listen to words.” Yep. I, the writer, am married to man who never listens to the lyrics.

This is actually relationship magic at work

In the end, this didn't cook up a new battle. It was a chance to remember that as much music as we’ve shared in the last twelve years, we’ve managed to stay together without Al Green’s help. It was a chance to see that we don’t always share a common language of songs, symbols, and words even though we’ve pledge to share our lives together.

As a partner in a marriage, this is an essential realization, and I know it will change how we communicate. I’ll leave the deeper discussion to the beloved and brilliant relationship therapists and coaches in my client circle like Rebecca Wong, Lily Zehner, and Robyn d’Angelo.

I know they can help us understand what’s really going on here and how to recognize and shape such moments into opportunities for connection.

This is actually storytelling and sharing magic at work

I'm analyzing this moment through my writer’s spectacles.

Even when you’re speaking a common tongue to a carefully chosen ideal client, you don’t necessarily share a complete set of reference points.

You, dear reader,  may not think that every person in America would know “Let’s Stay Together.” You may not be drawn into the story of a married couple’s spat because you haven’t met “the one” yet or because monogamy just isn’t for you.

A while back, someone left a reason for unsubscribing from my newsletter: “I don’t identify with the voice in these messages.” When I first read that it seemed a little bit like “I don’t like you as a person,” but now I can see that we just didn’t share enough common reference points to make the connection.

Three ways to stay connected to your readers

So what do you do, especially when you’re communicating in writing and you can’t clear up a misunderstanding with a smooch? How do you make sure you're working with a shared frame of reference?

1) Check with your assumptions that “everyone knows about this!”

You may be using your favorite TV show to help you illustrate your point, but if it’s a niche program with only a few million viewers, you can’t assume that everyone is in on the secret. (But really, you all would love Outlander and I wish we could all watch it together every Saturday as long as you promise not to talk during the episode!)

2) Seek feedback from people you trust

If you have a story to tell or want to build a blog post around a specific example check in with a trusted circle of early readers. Ask them if they get the references (“What do you mean you didn’t watch Inspector Gadget before school in the 80s?"). Revise or add context as necessary.

3) Value clarity over cleverness

Ingrid Bergman was so right with “Be yourself. The world worships an original.” When the world isn't worshipping the latest cookie cutter pop singer, it’s totally true.

Dare to give us your unique voice and perspective - please! Just remember that you’re blogging to build a practice or a business. If you alienate your readers by telling stories and using examples they can't relate to, you need to reevaluate your goals or your approach.

Another way to stay connected with your readers is to understand the Story Triangle. Take the free class that teaches you how to use storytelling to inspire and engage your ideal clients.

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Tell the story that’s true to you, not just easy for the crowd

Tell the story that’s true to you, not just easy for the crowd #365StrongStories by Marisa GoudyYesterday, I had a chance to share my Story Triangle webinar (you can watch the recording here). During my morning preparation I expected to spend time perfecting the way I presented my storytelling e-course (we all need to sharpen our sales skills, right?). Instead, I ended up lavishing my attention on what seemed like an innocuous little story about St. Patrick and his teaching tool, the shamrock.

To tell the truth, I’d always felt a little disingenuous about this part of my class. I chose the story because I wanted to talk about the power of three. Trotting out the tale of Ireland’s patron saint helped me do that while highlighting my personal story as a student of Irish literature. Plus, just about everyone has a kindly association with March 17 and the wearing of the green and all that, right?

Well, not everyone.

Just this week, someone responded to a video I’d posted earlier this spring about What to do when content you loved writing doesn't get read. I recorded this commentary because I was bummed because some St. Paddy’s Day related content I’d created hadn’t gotten much attention. As a former “professional Irish person” I guess I felt like the world needed to heed (and tweet) my green-tinted writing advice.

After offering some kind, supportive thoughts about how important it is to be seen for our creative contributions, someone who goes by “Wonderfeel” had this to say:

I can't help but mention that St Patrick is someone who would have made the Westborough Baptist Church look mild-mannered. He was a fanatic who violently trounced Earth-based faiths in Ireland. He 'chased out the snakes'. Like most violent individuals he had a backstory that made his cruelty more understandable, but still he was a person who deeply injured the soul of Ireland. Maybe we could wait till April 13 and celebrate Seamus Heaney's birthday?

That was a wake up call I didn't know I needed

I don’t know who Wonderfeel is or whether they’ve followed me enough to know that my interest in Ireland has a lot more to do with Heaney’s poetry and triple goddesses than it does with the Christian trinity. Maybe it was just a coincidence. Perhaps the universe picked this person to remind me to tell stories that are important and true to who I am, not just those that seem most likely to appeal to a crowd.

No matter what, I’m deeply grateful.

Like my mysterious friend Wonderfeel, I don’t have a particularly warm view St. Patrick. I know that “salvation” happened as the result of a lot of devastation. There are many other examples of the power of three that I could have used that wouldn’t have made me feel like a fraud for telling the easy story rather than the story that was true to me.

What’s so important about one tiny story?

Would revising one minor example in an hourlong presentation have made much of a difference to the overall outcome - teaching therapists, coaches, and others in the transformation business about the relationships that help them tell stronger stories? Probably not.

But I strive for integrity and it’s my mission to align every story I tell with who I am and the interests of those I hope to reach. Telling a story that pulls me off that course is a disservice to my community, myself, and the Story Triangle I hold so dear.

You can watch the Story Triangle presentation now. (Try to check it out before midnight on Friday, June 3 because that’s when the special early action bonus expires for new You, Your Stories, and Your Audience enrollees.)

Stories create your legacy. Stories connect you the now.

Stories help us... Understand the past Anchor in the now Shape the future We tell stories to understand the past. We tell stories to anchor you in the moment. We tell stories to transform the future. This is the story behind Because He Was a Writer: A Memorial Day Story.

It's also an invitation to tomorrow's Story Triangle webinar - the free online event that will help you understand the inner workings of story so you have insight into that superpower you already possess: storytelling.

Reserve your seat

Because He Was a Writer: A Memorial Day Story

Because he was a writer: A Memorial Day Story #365StrongStoriesAloysius Haden Mann served as a bombardier in the Royal Canadian Airforce. His name alone pulls you right in, doesn't? Add in that he was handsome as they come and had a tremendous laugh, and his is a story that you'd want to read. If someone could do it justice, a novel about a young man from the Maritimes who would fall in love with Blitz-era London and suffer through the blistering airstrips in North Africa could be unforgettable. My grandfather died in 1991 and he never told his grandchildren his war stories. He was, however, a writer. And thankfully, my grandmother was a typist since it would take a wife's devotion to decipher his handwriting.

This Memorial Day morning while the rains fell soft over upstate New York, my grandfather's home on the Miramichi River in New Brunswick seems just as far away as those targets he bombed in Germany and Italy. But still, I woke with him on my mind. I riffled through the boxes of papers that included my ballet recital programs, college papers, and a single folder of first drafts.

My grandfather was a writer, yes. He returned from overseas to get a degree in journalism at St. Mary's in Halifax. And then he moved to Boston with his new bride to work for a newspaper that would fold within months of their arrival. The next forty years would be spent trying to find work and raise a family in the States, not chasing bylines.

But he left behind just enough of his memoir-in-progress. He left enough to help us remember and make me cry and to inspire me to pick up his story in my own voice (someday).

It was in the '30s. A time when the world seemed troubled and uncertain. The world was still deep into the Great Depression. My friends and I sought refuge in what was to become known as "The Monkey Pasture." Actually, it was a cow pasture, where Kate Reid pastured her cow, and Kate drew many a summer bucket from the spring in the gully which adjoined it. Kate was the one who referred to us as "monkeys" because we disturbed her cow while playing a ball game.

It was here that we discussed life, love, sex, friendship, sports, etc. It was here we were slowly and naturally initiated into those troubled first years of puberty. I was here that my mother picked her May Flowers in her Sunday afternoon walks, filling every room in the house with the month of May.

An unavoidable fact about the childhoods of our time was our innocence. Our likeliest crime was a misdemeanor - on the order of soaping our neighbors' windows on Hallowe'en, raiding an apple orchard, or a farmer's garden to pick an ear of.

It all seemed so innocent. The world seemed to be marking time. World War II seemed ready to explode - around the corner, but not quite come into view.

One by one, the "monkeys" enlisted and left the pasture, some of them never to return.

The age of innocence was over.

Storytelling is part of my lineage. And I would love to share my knowledge with you. Please join me for the free online class on June 1 and discover how the Story Triangle will transform how you connect with readers.

Reserve your seat

Never Evens by Guest Storyteller Kelsey Rakes

Never Evens by Guest Storyteller Kelsey Rakes“Is the back door locked?” I ask my husband, and he nods. He doesn’t remind me that I’m the one who locked it. He doesn’t mention that I’ve already checked it three times because the rule is only odds, only odds, never evens. After two years together, he knows better than to question the invisible manufacturer’s warning seared into my flesh: may contain irrational fears and compulsions. I don’t know if there’s ever been a time when I didn’t have to count to prevent imagined disasters, didn’t have numbers running in the background of my mind like the radio static of a channel that won’t be ignored. Checking and counting and tapping and counting and checking are the only ways to keep the uneasy ghosts of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder at bay.

Now that I’m pregnant, I find myself reciting appointment dates over and over, and I seek out stillbirth statistics in an effort to quell the endless feelings of dread. Though the odds are in my favor, the numbers won’t leave. They won’t quiet.

“What if our baby’s first words are ‘Is the back door locked?’” I ask my husband.

“That,” he says, “is an awfully complicated sentence for a baby.”

“But what if he or she is anxious?”

He presses his cheek to my shoulder and kisses it five times. “It won’t matter. We’ll do everything we can to help them be happy and show them they’re loved.”

This isn’t enough, and we both know it. There are so many pieces to this, so many questions and fears and hopeful wishes that I can’t possibly begin count them all.

This thought soothes me.

When my husband falls asleep, I press my hand against the smooth, hard skin of my naked stomach and count the baby’s kicks. One, two, three, four. Four tiny, wordless promises.

Although the language is an alien morse code, I’m somehow fluent -- so, with the tips of my fingers, I gently reply.

One, two three, four.

Kelsey Rakes #365StrongStories Guest storytellerKelsey Rakes is a writer who enjoys poetry, picnics, and poetry about picnics. Her life is a constant work in progress.

What's your story? Please submit to the #365StrongStories project.

This Is the Worst Writing Advice I've Heard In a While

One of the 8 million risky things you do not need to do in order to become a better writer, #365StrongStories by Marisa GoudyWhat do you imagine your favorite novelist is doing right now? Is she being romanced by some gorgeous hero? Is he resolving a generations-long family feud? Perhaps the person who writes those best sellers you love to take to the beach is on a two week bender that will be resolved with a trip around the world to find herself. Nah. Most likely she’s updating her Facebook page and booking flights for her next appearance at Barnes and Noble somewhere outside of Chicago.

And what about your favorite blogger? Is he saving a kitten from a tree? Is she landing an agent to make that blog into a book? Maybe that writer you love to see in your newsfeed is water skiing in the Mediterranean while contemplating the next viral post.

Doubtful. She’s probably trying to scrub the mysterious sticky spots off the counter so she can put down her laptop and get 200 words down before the family comes home and everything goes from messy to noisy and messier.

As a writing coach, I get to give my share of writing advice. I also get the chance to hear what other writers and non-writers say about how to make the process easier and how to produce more engaging stuff.

Some of that advice is brilliant and I do my best to embody it so that I can offer my own version of it. And some of it makes my skin crawl.

Myth: Your content isn’t engaging your audience so you must be a boring person

Recently, a professional who keeps a blog to promote her business was brought to tears by a coach who declared that if your writing isn’t connecting with people it must mean you have a boring life. The advice was to go out and take some risks. And then, I guess, come back and "wow" people with how adventurous and special and fabulous you are.

This is lazy advice. Clearly it’s also damaging advice. And, in this writer’s opinion, going bungee jumping or visiting Tahiti or going on a blind date aren’t necessarily going to make you a better writer.

If you feel that your writing isn’t connecting with people you don't need more "material." Instead, you need to give yourself time and permission to do something with your human moments.

Readers don’t seek high drama and “amazing” tales when they're looking to heal a broken heart or connect with the guy sitting beside them on the couch. They need to see what's possible in their everyday lives. They need to see how life can be a little more beautiful or bearable before they’re going to care about how bold you are.

"Go be more interesting" is the kind of counsel offered by someone who is afraid of the process of meeting yourself in the silence of the page.

Trust the magic that happens in the little moments of life. To make a connection at the simple, truthful level of the human heart you have to remember that this beautiful organ almost always beats along in the most perfectly mundane way.

When you're writing your next blog post, meet your ideal clients where they are. Don’t drag yourself up a mountain just to find them.

Be who you are. Write about who you are in your everyday mess and everyday loveliness and everyday struggle. That's what will make readers care. That's what it means to connect.

Learn how to tell real stories that matter to you and to your ideal client in the You, Your Stories, and Your Audience ecourse. Doors are open now!

You, your story, and your audience ecourse for therapists, healers, and coaches by writing coach Marisa Goudy

 

Walking with my daughters, a boyfriend, and my earbuds

Biking with my daughters, a boyfriend, and my earbuds #365StrongStories by marisa goudyThis year, our snow days are being used to honor the beauty of May. We get to celebrate our freakishly warm winter with bike helmets and sunscreen since we didn’t need to use those days waiting for the plows to come around. My six year-old learned how to ride a two-wheeler this week, so we’re heeding the siren’s call of the rail trail. As I push the toddler in the stroller, my big girl stays close. She wobbles as she tries to match my walking pace because, unlike the evening before when she gleefully peddled ahead, she seems to need to be in my orbit right now.

There’s a sweet jolt when I realize “this is one of the perfect moments.” I sense I’m reliving a scene from thirty years ago. It’s a different setting and there are new characters in the starring roles, but here I am hoping one daughter will fall asleep and praying the other doesn’t fall off her bike, just as my mother would have done.

There’s a thread through time, braiding us together. Our connection will never snap, even if my mother and my daughters will never walk the same trail together. I feel my own first-grade memories entwine with this moment, and my pace slows with the weight of my gratitude.

Of course, there’s one vital element that separates this particular idyllic scene from what my mother might have experienced. It’s not 1986. It’s 2016. This mama has an earbud plugged into her head and occasionally has to say “wait, what did you say?” as she fumbles with the pause button.

I’m not even sure why I think I need the extra stimulation. My phone is on my hip (the better to count my steps) and it seemed like a good idea to multitask and keep up with the “you must listen to this!” recommendations from colleagues.

Of course, I am only able to open up to the grace of my children’s magic and my mother’s blessing when I stuff the wires in the stroller and decide to be present. I’m not surprised that being there with my girls is more fulfilling than one more grown up filling my mind with more stuff to do and consider and change.

If I’d still been walking in two worlds, in this perfect spring morning as well as someone’s basement recording studio, I can’t imagine I have exuded the welcoming, present energy that invited my daughter to say, “Mom? I have a boyfriend…”

I am sure I wouldn’t have been able to take a breath and respond with a few gentle, open-hearted questions if I were half listening to something else. I am sure I would have squawked “what!?!” and crushed the moment flat.

But this isn't a post by a saintly iPhone free mother

Thing is, this experience probably isn't going to change my behavior - at least not completely. There will be many more bike riding/ stroller pushing outings this year and I am sure I’ll take headphones with us most of the time.

I want to be honest with myself as much as I want to be present with my kids. That means I need to balance the feeding of my mind with the caring for my children. It means reflecting on my own needs and those of my family, making conscious choices, and practicing compassion through it all.

It also means getting the support where I can get it. If there isn't a loving grandmother or a village of other moms around to help us deal with the tough moments (ahem, MY FIRST GRADER SAYS SHE HAS A BOYFRIEND), the advice and comfort may need to come through that nice recorded voice from my iPhone.

An important note:  that podcast I was listening to was Laura Reagan’s Therapy Chat. Do check out this brilliant, vulnerable episode called Worthiness, Perfectionism, and Self Compassion when the moment is right for you.

Up the Mountain by Guest Storyteller Sharon Rosen

Up the mountain by guest storyteller Sharon Rosen #365StrongStories“Thank God for those twice weekly yoga classes” is all I can think. It is a nearly straight uphill hike to the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Madison Hut, where we’ll spend this first night in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. I’m mid-menstruation, at the end of a sinus infection, and have a 27-pound pack on my back. This wasn’t quite the image I had in mind during all of our excited months of planning. One step at a time. I call out to my friends, so far ahead I’ve lost sight of them, grateful yet chagrined when one stops, waits and shifts her pace to mine.

I am aware of every muscle in my legs, hips, and butt. I thought I knew them intimately from my study of anatomy, the hundreds of bodies I’ve massaged, my erotic explorations with adventurous partners. But this has an intimacy and immediacy all its own.

Lift leg. Find footing. Shift weight forward. Bring body up, feel pack shift, breathe. Notice the strength the standing postures have given me — hips empowered from all that rising on one leg into Warrior Three —as well as the thump of my heart, the throb in my head, the heaviness in my uterus.

Up and up, one step at a time, 3500 feet in about 3.5 miles. It is a lesson in humility (but I’m young, I’m strong, I’m limber!). It is a lesson in pure presence and awareness (one slip, one wrong turn of the ankle and yikes). It is a lesson in activating strengths I didn’t know I had.

Finally at the hut, relieved of backpacks, my friends lightly take the last few hundred feet to the summit. I hang back, boots off and feet up, basking in the warmth of my tea, the crisp crunch of an apple. I savor every sip, every bite, every sensation as I await their return. Tomorrow will bring its own unknowable challenges.

Sharon Rosen #365StrongStories guest storyteller Sharon Rosen is a spiritual healer, mindful living mentor and author who helps women learn to dance gracefully with the rhythms of their lives. www.heartofselfcare.com

Refame: Those who know better than to do every day, teach

Those who know better than to DO every day, TEACH. #365StrongStories by marisa goudyEveryone has heard that snarky line “those who can’t, teach.” The updated version is said with even more venom: “those who can’t, coach.” I have no use for the throwaway cruelty that lies at the heart of both phrases. Such statements either come from self-loathing or the petty judgement of those standing outside the arena. “Not good enough” never serves anyone and never gets anything done.

And think about it for a moment - this whole idea has a flip side: “those who can, must.”

Whether you’re teaching or doing, “can’t” and “must” are limiting and damaging

My 2016 project, #365StrongStories, has taught me a great deal about what it means to do something every day just because you can. It very quickly becomes a dangerous "should."

I’m a born writer. It’s what I do for work and for fun. But when writing becomes a massive obligation - I must because I can, I must because I committed, I must because I am not good enough if I don't… Then you run the risk of making every word a punishing, impossible chore.

In the process of all this doing, all this daily writing, I remembered why I took up teaching and coaching storytellers and writers. It wasn’t because I couldn’t do the writing myself but because it doesn’t make sense for me to do that full time. My creative resources won’t stretch that far. And I do not think they are supposed to.

Remember the value in teaching and coaching others

When Melvin Varghese of Selling the Couch interviewed me, I had a chance to share my insights into why storytelling is important to clinicians in private practice and how to use it to connect to clients. I also talk about making a sane, compassionate commitment to your writing practice.

As I listened back on our conversation, I was struck by the value that lies not just in doing but in supporting the process of those who are trying to find their own way. Humbly and gratefully, I fell just a little bit more in love with the work I get to do.

Save your resources for the stories that matter. Support your creative process by guiding others. When all else fails, support your creative process by pulling out the earbuds and going for a walk as you listen to someone else discuss her craft.

Marisa Goudy on Storytelling. Selling the Couch podcast

How to mistreat your creativity & drain your well of inspiration

How to mistrust your creativity and drain your inspiration #365StrongStoiries by Marisa GoudyHave you ever heard about the frogs placed in a pot of water? If the temperature rises slowly enough, it’s said they don’t noticed they’re being boiled into an early froggy grave. It’s not a pretty experiment.  Apparently the 19th century German researchers who did this - they were on a quest to locate the soul - didn’t think much of our amphibious friends' ability to feel pain. 

And it’s not a particularly flattering metaphor either. It has been applied to humans who don’t take action in the face of all sorts of worsening circumstances from the Cold War to climate change to civil rights abuses.

I have no desire to equate myself with our friends from the swamp, so let’s prettify and domesticate the image, shall we?

If you slowly drain the creative waters out of a bathtub and just keep turning up the heat in the steamy room, it seems that a writer won’t notice she’s no longer bathing in inspiration.

When I began #365StrongStories, I made a declaration: I would walk my talk and demonstrate that it’s possible to consistently turn little moments of life and brief flashes of inspiration into stories. Ruthlessly, I named the project, pointed to the calendar, and embarked upon my mission.

I certainly do not have the temperament to be a scientist, but I realize I would have been better served to call this an “experiment” and talking about my "hypothesis" instead. That way, skipping a day or two of writing and publishing wouldn't have felt like a failure. A day of silence would have been a data point on the living graph that tracks the ebb and flow of creative energy, time to devote to the page, and the patience it takes to select just the right font and image.

When the creative waters dry up

I didn’t plan to take a long weekend away from my stories. We weren’t occupied by a special occasion or some family trauma. The creative tub had simply run dry. Ordinarily, I would have put off sleep or couch time with my husband to pull something together for the blog. Over the last few days, however, I just poured a glass of wine and said “let’s watch one more Outlander.

I couldn't even muster the energy to feel guilty or fret over the promises I had made to my audience.

Three days away from writing and generally refusing to show up gave me the space to notice how emptied out I am. I’ve let my most vital resources - my creativity and my inspiration - dry up in the name of some personal mission that was conceived with all too little self-compassion.

What happens after "failure"?

The stories will continue to flow when there’s enough in my reserves to share.

At this point, I am using what creative juices I have left to look at “365” in a new way. I promised a year of stories. Well, who said they all have to appear in 2016?

Today is the 137th day of the year and I believe this is the 132nd story I have written or curated since January 1. That realization alone and seeing how much I have created and held? That begins to fill the cisterns immediately.

This experience is teaching me to become a student of compassionate creative limits. Let’s learn from one another! Please let me know how you manage to keep the tub of inspiration filled and how you might have let your resources run dry.

The Martyrville Messenger by Guest Storyteller Lois Kelly

The Martyrville Messenger by Guest Storyteller Lois Kelly #365StrongStoriesemnk@aol.com was listed on the top of “People You May Know” in my LinkedIn update this morning. Just the email address, no photo. I clicked the "invite" button, went for walk, and checked back after eating breakfast. emnk@aol.com was still at the top of the list and hadn’t accepted my invitation to connect. I ran across the kitchen to grab my phone to take a screenshot of the LinkedIn reminder. My sisters wouldn’t believe this. When I got back to my laptop, emnk@aol.com was gone.

I searched the email on LinkedIn. No record of any such person. I typed in the name of the person but she has no LinkedIn profile.

emnk@aol.com was my mother’s email. She died seven years ago this month.

“Do you think she was sending me a message?” I texted my sisters.

“Of course,” they each replied. One sister is about to become a grandmother any moment, another has breast cancer, and the third is kind of psychic and appreciates a random message like this.

But they don’t know the real reason my mother dropped in this morning.

I’ve been hanging around Martyrville too much, which is everything that Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville is not. Martyrville poisons you with self-pity and loneliness and sucks optimism and resiliency out of you. Worse of all, it robs you of your innate power to choose to see the good in life.

Summer vacation plans triggered my detour into this lousy little town. As couples extol their upcoming trips and ask us about ours, I say we’ll be enjoying our backyard. My husband has an incurable degenerative disease and can no longer go out to dinner, never mind on a trip. I hate these vacation conversations. (Oh-oh, cue the violins. The mayor of Martyrville is ready to play the self-pity theme song. )

This morning, emnk@aol.com was telling me to snap out of it. Life dishes out uncertainty, loss, and pain. It also gives us wondrous surprises if we remain open to possibilities -- and stay the hell out of Martyrville.

I will continue to obey my wise and loving mother and check my social media accounts for new signs. You never know...

Lois Kelly #365StrongStories gues storytellerLois Kelly is the author of Rebels at Work, Naked Hearted, and Beyond Buzz. Learn more about Lois's work at www.foghound.com