“We can only ask questions that we have imagination for.” ~Toby Spribille, Lichenologist
This quote makes my heart grow three sizes. Grow your imagination. Ask bigger questions. It’s the only way we’ll evolve.
When people ask me if I have a writing partner, I say yes. And its name is sleep. They laugh even though I’m very serious.
When writing books, you must plant seeds early in the story that won’t take root until much later. Like a thoroughly knotted necklace chain, these seeds and how they come to life can be incredibly gnarly problems to untangle. Some seem completely impossible.
Whenever I hit a snag, I try to write my way through it or I make lists of solutions. Most of the time neither of these two actions work.
Then I’ll try research. That doesn’t usually provide a solution to my plot challenge at-hand either though it often leads me to interesting discoveries that I use elsewhere in the book.
You know what really helps? Going to sleep and not thinking about the problem. I go to sleep imagining myself in one of three scenarios: diving off a cliff in the Grand Canyon and flying instead of falling, swimming up to a whale in the deep sea (for years this whale has shown up in my dreams whenever I’m feeling particularly in need of comfort), or scuba diving through a kelp forest meeting all kinds of friendly sea creatures.
This happened to me last night (and it was the kelp forest for the win!) I’ve had a looming problem in my second Emerson Page book that I just couldn’t solve. It’s actually THE looming problem: the explanation of the key action that drives Emerson’s entire journey in the second book which leads to the basis for the third, and final, book in the series. It’s been a frustrating problem to solve because none of the resolutions I wrote felt right nor good enough because honestly, they were all terrible.
I woke up much too early this morning. Looking at the ceiling, there was the answer seated comfortably in my mind as if it had been there the whole time just waiting for me to see it. It was so much simpler than I realized. I wrote it down in three short paragraphs in the early light of morning just now.
The relief I feel this morning is immense, like dropping a heavy weight that’s been on my shoulders for years. It’s like solving a terrible problem in a relationship that’s prevented the relationship from moving forward. Finally lifted when I least expected it, I can just get back to the joy of living in this world I made and writing my way through it.
If you want to really know me, listen to this interview. The big question for me in this lifetime is, “Does everything matter or does nothing matter?” A few months ago, I gave the most personal interview I’ve ever done. My friend, mentor, and storytelling hero, John Bucher, introduced me to Josh Chambers and Leiv Parton, hosts and producer of the podcast, How Humans Change. My interview is now live. our wide-ranging conversation includes career, science, sustainability, the health of the planet, biomimicry, dinosaurs, product development, therapy, curiosity, change, the economy and capitalism, time, technology, work, culture, implicit bias, life-changing moments, storytelling, writing, poverty, trauma, writing, my book, mental health, strength, resilience, therapy, fear, courage, my apartment building fire, how my plane got struck by lightning, and so much more. Despite these dark topics, there is a lot of light, fun, laughter, and healing in this interview. It’s the most personal interview I’ve ever given, and some of the details I reveal about my personal path and past I have never discussed publicly before now. I hope you enjoy the podcast episode and that it inspires you to live the best life you can imagine.
Excited to share this podcast episode where I talk about everything I love in my career: product development, science, biomimicry, the arts, writing, my book, storytelling, technology, and the power of our imagination coupled with curiosity. Thank you to host N.B., and to Carolyn Kiel for recommending me! You can listen at this link (www.crosspollination.co) and wherever you get your podcast feeds!
The very best part of being a writer is that your daily work takes you anywhere you want to go. Today alone, I’ve been to the depths of the ocean with a whale & a squid army, New York City in 1920, New York City in 2300, the Dark Hedges of Ireland, & an Amazonian jungle searching for buried treasure. The imagination is a swift vehicle.
I spent this weekend in complete creative mode: building the bones of a new live show that I’m creating and co-producing, working on my first writing fellowship application, completing my application to be in a storytelling festival this summer, submitting a podcast idea to Squarespace and Gimlet Creative, finalizing the lineup my storytelling show NYC’s Secrets & Lies at Caveat on Monday, June 18th at 7pm, and some writing work on my second novel.
It was good for my heart to see all of this coming together. It was just what I needed.
For a few weeks, I’ve been turning over ideas in my mind for a new live show I’m creating and co-producing. I did a lot of research just to feel like I was moving forward even though I was spinning. Not a single original idea was coming to mind.
So I finally did the hard work that I do any time I feel stuck in my writing. I wrote. I wrote down a load of really horrible, boring ideas. And I knew they were horrible and boring but I just kept going anyway. And finally, slowly, bit by bit, the ideas started to get a little better. And then a lot better. And then I had a whole plan cooked up for this live show. And this was a very good lesson.
As artists, the only way to make art is to just make it. Even if it’s awful, it’s part of the journey. Thinking about art doesn’t create it. Roll up your sleeves, put aside your inner judge and jury, and dive in. Make something. The only way to take a journey is with one foot in front of the other.
Working on my presentation about writing for the 7 Charlottesville-area schools I’ll be presenting to as an author for Virginia Festival of the Book in less than 2 weeks. I’ll be talking about the writing, revision, and editing process, the power of the imagination in world building, and curiosity as the best tool to generate and craft ideas. Drawing wisdom from these sages whose work has inspired mine over the years.
“Live out of your imagination, not your history.” ~Stephen Covey
What if today you decided, just for a day, to live the life you imagine rather than the life that’s dictated by your past? What if you could drop the boxes you’ve put yourself in, the labels you’ve adopted (willingly or unwillingly), and all of the can’ts, don’ts, and shouldn’ts that have been impressed upon you? What would you? How would your life change?
“The world is full of magic things patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” ~W.B. Yeats
We are hungry for magic and wonder. It’s around us everyday. In the weather, in nature, plants and animals, in our own biochemistry, in every time period of history. We don’t need to look far for magic, for Kismet, for inspiration. We only need to look and listen more deeply. Finding magic can sometimes take work but it is always worth the effort. It’s the best use of time we could make. Once found, wonder’s gifts last a lifetime and usually don’t cost anything except the use of our own curiosity.