Emerging Like a Cicada (But After Fewer Years)
If we fearlessly cling to what we have, we will never be able to discover who we truly are. -Sir Chinmoy
You have to strive every minute to get rid of the life you have planned in order to have the life that is waiting to be yours. -Joseph Campbell
Keeping up with blogging and social media has always been a struggle for me. I understood the usefulness of "creating content" years before the words "social," "media," and "influencer" were ever put together; though I have to admit, I never seemed to get the formula right. Hundreds of blog posts, dozens of videos, two seasons of a podcast (before podcasts were so cool that all the celebrities had to have a couple of their own), and thousands of social media posts did not open the floodgates for folks who wanted to collaborate, or hire me, or buy my books.
I learned that almost all my "engagement" came from meeting people, in real life, so that became my main focus. I taught classes, lead retreats, spoke to community groups, and talked about creativity and legacy writing to anyone who was interested.
Blogging and tweeting and producing podcasts fell to the wayside. I maintained only a cursory social media presence while I focused on "real life." What all of those different ways of reaching out did offer, though, was a consistent opportunity for me to wrestle with my internal thoughts about literature, writing, working for and with others, and some amorphous "philosophy of life" I'll never quite be able to pin down. And after the last two years of social and artistic isolation, I realize that "side benefit" is really THE THING.
Working out my thoughts and finding context for my experience of this life has almost always come from writing: journaling, writing a short story or novel, spontaneous poems scribbled on Starbucks napkins, letters and emails, and yes, even blogging.
Change is The Only Constant. Impermanence the only Permanence.
When the Covid panic began its relentless march to swallow (so far) more than two years of our so-called-normal lives, I had been contemplating how to expand my in-person teaching, coaching, and editing business. I'd been making plans for a couple of months, trying to assess things that had worked in the past, and things that had failed but been good ideas, and things I needed to just let go of when it came to Words Matter Creative Writing. I still had a desire to teach classes in person and work one-on-one with writers or would-be writers. I wanted to help people tell their personal stories, through their own pen, or by serving as their conduit to conveying their personal legacy by being their ghost writer. I looked forward to working with a struggling or fledgling writer or two, helping them find the right path toward realizing their artistic or creative dreams.
And then, the world was turned upside down. So I attempted to recalibrate. I scrapped my business plans and turned to publishing my long overdue novel (In Loco Parentis) and a career-so-far retrospective book collecting all of my published fiction along with some unseen essays and long-lost short stories (The Butterfly Effect, exclusively available through my website).
The novel was well-received and it led to some great opportunities—including reconnecting with my Kindergarten teacher, and her women's book club—but the offers from Hollywood to make it into a movie have yet to come. And, I've known for some time that while my creative endeavors are important to me, artistically, where my real-world impact comes is through my teaching, coaching, and mentoring efforts. Helping others with their creative ideas or assisting clients with writing their life stories as a legacy project is where most of my energy (and income) is generated.
I contemplated Zoom-meetings and distance classes, but found little traction among so many others who were finding it hard to contemplate their own "new normal." My faithful fiction writing group could no longer meet, and big changes shook the personal lives of my writing buddies. Sources of income were no longer available, and life changes prompted a move back to the ancestral homeland. (Kentucky, for those unfamiliar with my foot-hills pedigree.) Inspiration for creative work waned and "let's get through this month and reassess" became a mantra, rather than a call to action. There was a lot happening beneath the surface, but I wasn't sure how to take action. Every time I seemed to think I had things figured out, the world changed again. New rules were in place. I felt like life had turned into a game of Calvin Ball, from the old Calvin and Hobbes comics, where a precocious little boy and his stuff tiger play a game with so many vague and ever-changing rules that there are effectively no rules.
Reminders Come in All Sizes, Shapes, and...Sounds?
Returning to the Ohio River Valley just in time for the emergence of the Great Eastern Brood of cicada started the re-emergence of my own creative and entrepreneurial spirit.
The cicadas had been dormant for seventeen years, growing and waiting, just like good ideas often do. Then, on cue, the pushed their way through the soil—wearing their hard shells—and climbed trees, and poles, and buildings, and deck posts, eventually shedding their shells to free the wings that would lift them into the frantic mating dance that would ensure the survival of the species.
Cicadas are loud, and the super-swarm of Brood X was constantly compared to a rock concert or lawn mower by the local news anchors; their buzzing came in unrelenting waves throughout the day. You can't live in this area and not take notice. I was compelled to take in this marvelous sight. I stood on the back porch, dodging the kamikaze bombing runs, covering the mouth of my coffee cup, watching with wonder as this natural event played out before me.
Something stirred in me, then. And I've been contemplating the "life meant to be mine" for almost a year sinc
. There are plans in the works. I know that what ever I do, I want the efforts I make in my creative and business life to have meaning and purpose. After two years of artistic lethargy, I've been reminded how much energy I have when I identify the reasons for my work. Working with clients to help them write their life story or realize their artistic dreams is invigorating.
I'm not quite sure, yet, what all of these changes and dreaming might bring. What I do know is this simple fact: All of the planning and contemplating in the world will not produce a single good and valuable thing if there is no action. Pondering and imagining is a critical part of the creative process, but there is nothing created without acting on the ideas generated.
So, here is one little step forward: A blog post, after two years of neglect.
There is more to come. I've done a lot of reading and thinking, and I'm excited to integrate the information I've learned into the work I do with writers and other creatives. I've noticed a significant shift in my own work, and I'm confident that I have more to say, and give.
Hopefully, this renewed vigor will be longer lasting than our cicada friends. After a few weeks, they were gone, the reward for their efforts not to be seen for another 17 years. I'm hoping for a bit more longevity and less time in between projects.
If you're interested in what's coming from me and Words Matter (and a new initiative I'm tentatively calling the Self-Reclamation Project) be sure to "follow" and "like" and all the good things we are supposed to encourage each other to do with social media.
And if you don't see/hear more from me in the coming weeks, you can reach out and poke me. Remind me what I'm saying with this post: Dreaming of the change you want to make, or the projects you want to pursue is great; now DO SOMETHING!