A Letter To My Fear

Minneapolis sunrise

This past June was a month of uncertainty for me. I had internally decided to leave my job and become an entrepreneur, but I hadn’t actually pulled the trigger. About 90% of the time I was excited for the possibilities. The other 10% of the time I felt like someone had wrapped a corset around my lungs and pulled the strings tight. I questioned the sanity of my decision to leave my safe, steady job and pursue a path that could lead to failure. After all, I hadn’t actually quit my job. I could still change my mind.

But in my heart I knew that I couldn’t change my mind. I was already on this path. I was moving ahead and fear was just going to be part of the journey.

I remembered reading a letter that Elizabeth Gilbert had written to her fear in Big Magic and I decided to do the same. I had no intention of sharing this publicly, but a colleague suggested that it might help others to manage their fear.

It’s taken me five months to get the courage to share the letter. I feel vulnerable just typing this introduction. But I also believe that vulnerability is the key to growth, so here it is:

Heather – You are becoming the person that you want to be. Stepping fully into yourself. Expressing what you have to offer to the world. You are taking the time to design life on your own terms and release the expectations you have created for yourself or others have impressed upon you over many years. Heather, you are creativity, and when you reach into that creativity and act from your heart without ego, your light is unstoppable.

 And, Heather, you know that stepping into the light can be scary. Light exposes flaws, makes it harder to hide when things go poorly, all eyes on you. But remember when this fear washes over you and you feel vulnerable to the eyes of the world – a life in the light is also warm. It is open, illuminating, and free. It embraces your beauty and also your imperfections knowing that’s what makes you real. You’ve known for a long time that perfection is unattainable – it’s now time to act on that knowledge.

But the most important thing to remember, Heather, is that a life in the light isn’t about you at all. It is the light you give to others that matters. And only by stepping into the light and bathing yourself in its radiance do you have light to give to others. Overflowing radiance. What might be possible with overflowing radiance?

So when the fear creeps in and sucks the breath from your lungs and the energy from your heart, take a deep breath and turn towards the light, towards the possibilities, inward to your creativity and outward in overflowing radiance.

I’ve read this letter countless times since I wrote it in June. Whenever I feel the fear edge in, this letter gives me the pep talk I need to move forward with confidence. The fear doesn’t disappear entirely – and I wouldn’t want it to. A little fear gives me a sense of urgency and pushes me forward – into the light, into my creativity, and outward in overflowing radiance.

Growth mindset and fixed mindset: Which do you choose?

Hiking in Slovenia

As I thought about the research for my book on maximizing learning during development experiences, I immediately knew that I wanted to include something on growth mindset. The term kept popping up in Ted Talks, webinars, and articles and it seemed like a key to ongoing learning and success.

What is growth mindset?

In her book, Mindset: The new psychology of success, Carol Dweck writes, “growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts, your strategies, and help from others.” In other words, if you believe you can get better, smarter, faster AND you put effort into it – then you will.

Fixed mindset, on the other hand, is a belief that your intelligence, gifts, character, creative ability, etc are fixed and cannot be improved. We are born with a certain amount of innate talent and we cannot develop past that point.

Why does growth mindset matter? 

Carol Dweck’s research repeatedly links growth mindset and continued growth and success throughout life. She provides examples of people that we now view as experts in their field, like Michael Jordan, Albert Einstein, and Jackson Pollack, that didn’t show promise early in their careers. It was practice, effort, and experimentation that led to success.

This concept doesn’t just apply to world-renowned individuals. Dweck shares stories of kids that are taught the growth mindset and suddenly say “You mean I don’t have to be dumb?” After this realization, test scores improved rapidly. Belief in their abilities created a new reality.

My story

I’ve always been a learner. I enjoyed going to school, read with a flashlight under my bedcovers, and collected pond water to examine under the microscope I got for Christmas. I started this book assuming that I had a growth mindset. But as I read I realized that while I do have a growth mindset in my intellectual ability, there are other areas of my life where a fixed mindset is alive and well.

There’s one area where I shifted from a growth mindset as child to a fixed mindset in middle school and then again to a growth mindset as an adult – creativity.

I’m guessing many of you will identify with my story. As a child I painted and drew to my heart’s content. I never thought about whether my art was “good”. That changed in middle school when art class suddenly had rules and grades. It was immediately clear that I was not good. Art went from being fun and playful to something I avoided for years.

As I grew older my fixed mindset around art broadened to general creativity. Despite the fact that I wrote poems and loved taking photographs, I did not view myself as creative. My mindset told me that I wasn’t good at drawing and painting and therefore I wasn’t a creative person.

My entire attitude towards creativity changed with one conversation nine years ago. I was working on a global leadership development program and I had just pitched an idea to my manager. She looked at me and said, “Heather, you’re always saying that you want to be creative. You just conceptualized an entirely new module for our program. That IS creativity.”

For years I had equated creativity with my perceived failure in seventh grade art class. Suddenly I realized that the root of the word creativity is CREATE – and I did that all the time. That shift opened a whole new world for me. New ideas came to me with more frequency and ease. I looked at my photography as art. I didn’t just write curriculum for our programs at work – I created them.

I also took this growth mindset with me when I started to write a few years ago. Instead of thinking that I was either naturally “good” or “bad” at writing, I adopted an attitude of learning and enjoyment. I took classes, was open to feedback, and didn’t take myself too seriously. Not only has the quality of my writing improved, I’ve also written in styles that I never considered. I even have two silly poems that I’d like to turn into children’s books! I never would have written them in my fixed mindset state.

Your story

Where do you have a fixed mindset in your life? It might show up as a hidden saboteur, the little voice in your head telling you that you’ll never be good at public speaking or math or running. It may emerge as fear of taking on a big project at work or applying for a promotion. It could even appear as a limiting belief around dating, parenting, or belonging.

“We’ve found that whatever mindset people have in a particular area will guide them in that area.” Yes, we are born with certain abilities. But, as Dweck writes, it is curiosity, challenge, and effort that feed our abilities and cause us to learn, grow, and eventually succeed.

What might be possible for you with that mindset?

Belonging to the World

There are times when I feel like I belong nowhere, like I’ll never fit in. And then there are times when I feel like I belong everywhere all at once. When I sense the pulsing thread of humanity connecting me to every person on Earth. Those moments when I know our commonality is more powerful than any difference between us.

An experience from my recent trip to Europe epitomizes this feeling.

While in Bled, Slovenia I went on a tour through the Julian Alps. Our group of 17 consisted of families from Australia and Malta, couples from Malaysia and Britain, female friends from Singapore, our Slovenian guides, and me. We piled into two vans for a full day of hiking, waterfalls, and white-water rafting.

In hour eleven of our twelve-hour tour we shared a round of beer and loaded the vans onto a car train to return to our starting point in Bled.

I was in a van with the family from Malta (two college-aged daughters and their parents) and the couple from Malaysia. While our van chugged along the railroad tracks through the mountains, I started to ask questions about Malta, a place I knew nothing about. Soon one of the daughters was singing an old Maltese folk song about a pastry. It was recommended that I eat this pastry if I visit Malta, but I was warned to be careful how I asked for it because the word for the pastry also meant a certain body part it resembled.

We had a few laughs over that one. And that’s when the riddles, jokes, and one-minute mysteries started.

A few didn’t quite cross the language barrier.

“What has ears, but can’t hear?” one of the girls from Malta asked.

I paused. Nothing came to mind. “I give up. What is it?”

“A pot!”

No hint of recognition from me or the Malaysian couple. “Huh?”

Lesson learned – the Maltese word for the handles on a pot also means “ears.”

But most of them translated impeccably well. I had even told some to my students in the US when I taught environmental education years ago.

“What goes around the world but stays in a corner?” – A postage stamp!

“What has a head and a tail, but no body?” – A coin!

“You’re lost in the woods and you come upon a cabin with a candle, dry wood for a fire, and a kerosene lamp. You only have one match. What do you light first?” – The match!

The Maltese family and I also shared “Johnny, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny, Whoops” with the Malaysian couple. Who knew this silly game was played the same way in two countries 5,000 miles apart that spoke different languages?

There was so much laughter. It was the laughter of children playing child’s games even though there were no kids in the van. It was the joy of people from different corners of the globe recognizing similarity in each other. The freedom of being fully present, enjoying the company of strangers that felt like friends for a moment.

Two nights later I was sitting in a café in the small capital city of Ljubljana chatting with a couple from Texas while my waiter brought me his favorite Slovenian craft beers. The family from Malta happened to walk by and stopped to say hello. I stood up and gave each of them a hug. In that moment I felt like I could belong anywhere.

And so, in those times when I feel like the odd person out, like I’m weird and different and don’t fit in, or when it feels like division has more power than unity, I remind myself of the riddles in the back of the van. Of the collective belonging felt through laughter shared equally across continents, the simplicity of human connection, and the strength in our commonality.

 

NOTE: This blog post was equally inspired by my experiences in Slovenia and Brené Brown’s new book on true belonging, Braving the Wilderness and, in particular, the Maya Angelou quote she shared: “You are only free when you realize you belong no place – you belong every place – no place at all.”

Keeping the Faith

Slovenia Coast

On my last day in Slovenia I decided to do what I enjoy most: walk. I had walked all over Slovenia during my 10-day trip – on mountain paths to waterfalls, down country lanes past herds of sheep and cows, on boardwalks through gorges. This last trek was along the coast from Piran, where I was staying. I planned to follow a designated walking route north, do a short loop at the end of the trail, and walk back to Piran.

I missed the turn back. I saw it. I paused to consider whether I should turn there, but the trail markers I had been following for two and a half hours kept going down the coast. So I also kept going.

After a while I realized my mistake. I wasn’t lost. I knew I could turn around, but at that point turning around would mean walking for at least six hours. I could do it, but it didn’t sound fun.

So I kept walking forward. I could soon see a town in the distance on the coast. I was pretty sure it was Izola. We had stopped in Izola on my bus from Ljubljana to Piran, which meant if I could get there, then I would eventually be able to find my way back to Piran without having to walk for hours on end.

Hiking in Slovenia

I continued to follow the path along the ridge over the sea. Eventually the trail ended at a road. I kept walking down and forward. The road led to a park (with a much needed bathroom!). From the park there was a promenade along the ocean to a marina. From the marina I walked to the first road I saw and followed the signs pointing to the center of town (it was now clear that I was actually in Izola – yeah!). I walked a few blocks along the road and ran directly into the bus stop. I checked the schedule and the next bus for Piran was coming in 10 minutes.

I’ve thought a lot about this walk. What amazes me most is that I felt no fear. Here I was, walking alone in a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language, not entirely sure where I was or where I was going and yet I had complete confidence that it would work out.

We could use a fancy corporate term, like managing ambiguity, to describe my attitude that day, but it really comes down to one thing: faith.

How many times do we need to be reminded of keeping the faith? When the final job interview yet again doesn’t lead to an offer. When you want to be in a relationship and put yourself out there only to be rejected. When the pregnancy test comes back negative. When you’re launching a business, but haven’t landed your first client.

And yet I am reminded of the walk to Izola. Not only did faith lead me to the end I wanted, but it was a beautiful journey. The Adriatic Sea sparkled into infinity. Soft pale green olive trees twisted their branches creating artistic shadows in the grass. The sun shone brilliantly above me. I felt like I was walking in a Van Gogh painting.

Olive grove in Slovenia

I know the journey doesn’t always feel beautiful. Sometimes it’s heart wrenching. It is vulnerable being out there on a ridge, knowing what you want, but unsure when and how it’s going to happen.

But keep the faith. One foot in front of the other. You (and I) will get there eventually.

The Leap to Entrepreneurship

Torres del Paine, Chile

This week marks the official start to a major change in my life – the move from full-time corporate employee to entrepreneur. I say official because I started the transition months ago when I began seriously considering striking out on my own. But now it is real. Thursday is my last day as a full-time employee. Friday I leave for a month in Europe. When I return I’ll work part-time until February when I’m really on my own.

If you had asked me a year ago if I would be starting my own business I would have shaken my head. Despite coming from a line of entrepreneurs on my mom’s side of the family, I never considered being a small business owner. It seemed too risky, too unstable.

Today what seems risky is leaving all the ideas bubbling inside of me undeveloped. Risky to keep my creativity constrained. Risky to never take the chance to know what my life might be.

What am I going to do? Write a book on getting the most out of development experiences and times of change and learning in our lives. Seek out contract work while writing the book and build a business running leadership development programs, coaching, and doing speaking engagements.

It sounds so clear when I put it down in words. The reality feels more like the photo at the top of the page. I can see the path right in front of me. The destination in the background is visible, but not exact. The path forward fades quickly, the twists and turns unknown.

In many ways I have no idea what I’m doing. But I’ve never felt more sure that I’m headed in the right direction. The path will become visible as I continue to walk.

There are days when I’m terrified. Moments when the fear of failure and embracing the unknown induces a mild panic attack (more on that in a future blog post!). But excitement about the possibilities overpowers the fear every time.

I will be documenting my journey from employee to entrepreneur through this blog – the joys and successes along with the frustration, fear, and setbacks. I’ll start with a post or two during my trip to Europe over the next month.

I recently re-read the children’s book A Wrinkle in Time. In it, Mrs. Whatsit compares our lives to a sonnet saying, “You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. What you say is completely up to you.” Yesterday, colleagues gave me a journal for my trip.  In it they had written, “Live your poetry.”

Here I go, ready to write the sonnet and live my poetry.

 

 

 

La Viajera (The Woman Traveler)

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Note: A few months ago I posted a story called The Traveler. The experiences in the article were mine, but I wrote the traveler as a man. A friend that has traveled with me around the world questioned this and challenged me to write a second piece as a woman traveler. What a fun challenge it has been! Here she is, La Viajera.

The sun emerges between passing clouds and transforms la viajera’s auburn hair into a fiery red. The wind carries her hair in nonsensical patterns of dancing flames. She does not try to contain it. She lifts her face to the sun and her heart to the sky. A smile rises from her chest and gently appears on her lips.

La viajera sees a clearing along the path where a large flat rock juts over the river, beckoning for her to rest. She sits and quickly tugs off her hiking boots, peels away her socks, and plunges her feet into the icy river. The pristine waters of Patagonia rush around the contours of her feet and between her toes. Cold penetrates her bones and provides relief against the miles of trails la viajera has covered today. A thundering roar catches her attention and she turns with just enough time to see a glacier calving upstream.

Her legs are depleted, but her soul is replenished. She feels the energy of the earth and the glory of being alive in the world. Here, thousands of miles south of her home and surrounded by unfamiliar landscapes, she is free.

She lays back on the rock. The warmth of the boulder seeps into her body while the icy water continues to barrel past her feet. She relaxes fully into the sunshine, breathing it in and radiating the light back out into the world around her.

This feeling of freedom and connection isn’t new for la viajera. It bubbled up when she explored a temple in Angkor Wat with a friend. A rickshaw driver waited somewhere on the other side of the temple, but he was patient and there was no hurry. They turned among ruins of sculptures and tumbling walls towards whatever captured their fancy. Curiosity drove their path forward.

And again when she cycled along one-lane farm roads through endless vineyards in Provence. La viajera got lost more times than she could count in that afternoon of biking, but it didn’t matter. The kindness of strangers and multifaceted communication of English, French, gestures and smiles reminded her of what is good in this world.

And the many times she packed up her Honda Civic and left for a week, a month, a year. The exhilaration of unknown destinations flooded every corner of her body as she drove away from home. Excitement, fear, and wonder merged to form an addictive elixir streaming through her veins. The open road temporarily satisfied this yearning, but it’s only a matter of time before the hunger for new lands flares up and demands attention.

But la viajera is not thinking about that today. Right now she is laying in the sun on a rock next to a river, eyes closed and heart beating in tune with the pulse of the earth beneath her.

The Traveler

Travel Photos

The traveler has a recognizable look. Hair in need of a trim, beard long enough that is doesn’t have to be shaved. The traveler wears a t-shirt, perhaps from a local brewery picked up in a small town along the way. Never one from Machu Picchu or the Eiffel Tower, although the traveler has certainly been to both of those places. His khaki’s hang on his hips, looking threadbare and comfortable; they could easily be slept in if needed. Well-worn but supportive sandals adorn the traveler’s feet; the type of shoes that would be equally comfortable hiking in Utah or meandering through Rome.

The backpack is a telltale sign of the traveler. But not just any pack. The traveler’s pack is frayed at the edge. The straps hang loosely from years of gravity pulling them towards the Earth. A carabineer dangles from one of those straps, ready to secure a water bottle, roll of duct tape, or a bag of snacks for the bus ride. The fabric, no matter the original color, is tinged with brown, the product of riding down dirt roads and through rainstorms on the roof of a bus.

When the traveler is faced with a delay in his travel plans, he calmly finds the quietest corner of the bus station, sets down his pack and uses it as a chair back, seat cushion, or pillow, depending on his preference that moment. He pulls out a worn paperback, maybe The Alchemist or Siddhartha, and reads in that corner, able to simultaneously blend in and ignore all of his surroundings. Hours may pass, but the traveler doesn’t get frustrated; it’s all part of the journey.

If the traveler finds himself in trouble, perhaps unexpectedly caught an airport in an unfamiliar city in the middle of the night, there’s no need for concern. He simply looks around for the other travelers and asks what they are planning to do. Together they ride in a $2 taxi to the only hostel in the city that still has available beds. The travelers share a room for the night, unconcerned with sleeping next to strangers. In the morning they may part ways or perhaps they will continue on together, for a day, a week, a month. No need to plan, the traveler take each day as it comes, making decisions along the way.

If you’re on the road and happen to see the traveler, buy him a beer and ask him for a story. You will hear about the teenage boy that appeared in the dunes while he was camel trekking in the Thar Desert in India or the woman in Honduras that invited him to eat with her family and taught him to make tortillas. It will be well worth the few dollars you spent on the beer. Maybe you will continue your vacation to the Holiday Inn and sit by the fenced-in pool. Or maybe his stories will inspire you to buy a backpack, grow a beard, and become a traveler yourself.

Life Lessons From a Taxi Driver

International portraits

I emerged from the airport terminal into brisk February air and accelerated my pace towards the open trunk of a minivan in the taxi queue. “Taxi?” the exceptionally tall driver asked rhetorically as I approached the van.

“Yes” I confirmed, lifting my suitcase into the trunk.

I climbed through the side door of the minivan and placed my backpack on the floor between the cargo seats. I sunk into the chair and took a deep breath to release the hurried pace of the airport. The soft scent of mint in the van seeped into my senses and triggered memories of a long-past trip to Morocco.

“Where to?”

“I live off 94 and Hennepin/Lyndale exit.” The door slid closed beside me and we pulled away from the airport. I instinctively reached for my phone. “How was your flight?” the driver asked as I texted my Mom to let her know I was back in Minnesota.

“Easy. We even landed early! There were 10 minutes of bad turbulence – one jolt was so bad that everyone gasped – but other than that everything was good.”

I opened Facebook and started to scroll. “Where did you go?” I looked up from the phone, fighting between the urge to be polite and the desire to stay in my own little world. Politeness won.  I turned off the screen and set the phone in my lap.

“I was in Florida visiting my parents. It was really nice – good weather, relaxing. It was great to get some sunshine and warm air! Although it feels pretty good here tonight. I’m hoping that the really cold weather is done for the winter.” My words echoed the common desire of every Minnesotan for an early spring.

I took a closer look at the man driving me home. Most of the taxi drivers I’d encountered in Minnesota were from Somalia or Ethiopia, but it was clear he wasn’t from eastern Africa. His perfect English was accented, so I knew he had started his life elsewhere. Intrigue over this man’s story quickly prevailed over the pull of my Facebook page. “Where are you from originally?

“Turkey.” His tone was warm and invited further conversation.

“I’ve never been, but I would love to visit Turkey! Where in Turkey are you from?” The country was near the top of my travel list.

“A small town near the coast 200 miles from Istanbul. We own a big house there and used to raise Arabian horses.” I had a vision of this broad man riding an equally broad horse in the Turkish countryside with a large white Mediterranean-style mansion in the background. My curiosity was piqued.

“What made you move to Minnesota?”

We veered right onto 35W and headed north towards downtown Minneapolis. “My brother is a doctor at the University of Minnesota and we came here 11 years ago for our kid’s education.”

Quite a selfless act to move to the other side of the world for your children’s education. I wondered what other sacrifices he had made.

“My oldest son is a professor at the University of Arizona,” he continued with pride in his voice. “My daughter is also in college and my youngest son studies soft computer engineering at the University of Minnesota.”

I noted his first mistake with English since starting the conversation. “Software engineering! That’s a great field.”

“Yes. My wife and I will be going back to Turkey when he is finished with school.” His resolution was clear.

“Do you like it here?” The Minneapolis skyline came into view through the windshield.

“Oh’ yes,” he assured me. “Minneapolis is a beautiful city. Clean and very friendly people.”

“Good. I’m glad that people have been nice to you.” I was relieved to hear his experience in my home state had been positive.

“Oh’ yes,” he repeated. “Beautiful people here.”

“Sometimes I think Minnesotans can be hard to get to know.”

“Well, all people are just people. They become your friends; your family.” His words lodged squarely in my heart. Goosebumps spread down my arms.

“I think you’re right. All people are just people. No matter where you are in the world.”

Our conversation turned mundane as we drove the last mile to my condo. I asked his favorite Turkish food. He responded that it was kebab and lamented the fact that there wasn’t anywhere in the Twin Cities to buy good kebab.

He stopped in front of my condo and took my suitcase from the trunk. We exchanged the suitcase for taxi payment. The tip I included didn’t come close to covering the worth of the ride.

The taxi driver and I were as different as you might imagine. Gender, age, nationality, profession, and probably a thousand other factors separated us. We may have been one Turk and one American, but, as he said, all people are just people. Connected by the simple state of being human.

Ginger

Redhead collage

One

Anne Shirley was the redheaded heroine of my childhood. She hated her titian hair and longed for the raven color of her bosom friend Diana, but I was envious of it. Her red hair was synonymous with accepting a dare to walk the ridgepole of a roof, tying for first place on the entrance exam to Queens College, and talking herself out of every possible awkward situation. She was outspoken, smart, ambitious, and she married the fictional man of my dreams, Gilbert Blythe. I wanted to be just like her, but, sadly, my natural hair color was plain brown – as far from fiery as you could get.

Have you ever heard a successful writer say she always knew she would grow up to write? Or a teacher who could look back and think of times she patiently helped kids her own age learn how to read? I had the same sentiments about being a redhead. On the outside I was your average brunette, but on the inside I was a raging ginger.

Two

I studied abroad in southern Spain for a semester in college. The mixed southern European and north African blood that inhabited Seville produced olive skin, brown eyes, and dark hair. I had a different look. People had to shield their eyes from the reflection of the sun off my gleaming white body if I dared to bare my arms on a warm winter day. Freckles spanned the bridge of my nose, covered my arms shoulder to fingertip, and multiplied in droves during a single afternoon at the beach. Anyone walking down the street in Seville immediately knew that I was an outsider.

During Easter break that semester I visited a friend studying in Ireland. I walked off the plane in Dublin, took one look around at the ruddy skin and auburn heads surrounding me, and thought I have found my people! I pictured myself wandering out on the moor, walking among the actual heather flowers that are my namesake, sheep grazing in the distance, hair blowing in the wind. My brown hair was magically transformed into a dark red, complementing the vibrant green hues of the countryside. Only with this slight alteration was the picturesque scene complete.

Three

I found my first gray hair in high school. By college friends commented on the surprisingly large number of silver strands woven within my still brown hair. At 27 my 80-plus year old grandfather commented that I should start dying my hair. That was all I needed to hear. The white streaks were dyed immediately to match the original average brown color.

Over the next few years I started asking the hairdresser to slowly add a little “warmth” to my hair. It evolved from a true brown to a mixture of hues, the perceived color dependent on the light. Then, three years ago, after seven long years of spending too much time and money to have my hair professionally dyed, I picked up a box of Garnier’s Medium Golden Brown Mahogany from the shelves at Target. I followed the instructions and 30 minutes later I was a true redhead for the first time in my life. The yearning that had been simmering inside of me all those years was finally expressed to the world!

Four

I’ve learned that red hair provokes regular commentary. A co-worker jokingly observed that I could be his granddaughter’s mother because of our matching locks. A doctor gave me a lecture about using sunscreen because my skin must burn easily “with all that red hair.” Strangers make references to my hair color at least once a week. They are positive comments casually slung into the conversation, but this never happened when I was a brunette. No doctor ever warned me to use sunscreen because of all the brown hair crowning my head.

Five

Two years ago I started working at a financial services company. One of the first compliance tasks was getting my fingerprints taken for the FBI. During the intake the administrator recorded my physical description. She looked me over. “Caucasian, blue eyes, red hair” she stated out loud as she entered the information into the computer.

“Wait.” I interjected. “I don’t really have red hair.”

“It doesn’t matter what it was originally, if it looks red now, that’s what we put into the computer.”

I smiled. If my red hair was on record with the FBI, then it must be real. My childhood dream had finally come true. I was officially a raging ginger.

Embracing Writer’s Block

Magnetic Poetry

“Often, in this poetry, we steal words, gather kindling, twist newspaper, circle rocks, and wait for the flame.” Sherman Alexie

I laid on my bed, journal open to a blank page, pen in my hand, ready to write. I waited for the words I knew were inside of me to come out. Nothing happened. Like Sherman Alexie in the quote above, I gathered kindling and twisted newspaper, but still, no flame. After several minutes of frustration staring at the empty page, I realized that this inability to find the words was the flame. The dizzying lexicon bouncing around in my mind was the sentiment to capture. I embraced the feeling and this little poem emerged.

Words fumbling,

Knocking against one another,

Never finding each other long enough,

To build a sentence.

The story is swirling,

Searching for structure,

In the dizzying lexicon.

Instead of fighting the frustration, I needed to embrace my thoughts and emotions with curiosity and create from what I felt inside. Expression came with little effort once my mindset shifted. The flame burned with ease. This is often the case. And if that doesn’t work, I close the journal, go to sleep, and try again tomorrow 🙂