We are Wiser Together; Let Mariah & Jerónimo Show You Why

This month, when I think about what I have to say to you, all I can think about is other people.

I still wake incanting the names of the beloved young ones our community recently lost. I feel them in the air, in the glint of light off Lower Brown’s Creek, in the mist sliced by sunbeams this morning when I drove River to school.

And I still go to bed trying to reach into what’s beautiful, even if that also means holding what hurts.

Ok and let’s be real—I also go to bed sometimes annoyed, sometimes hopeless, sometimes content. Also, my toes are always cold. Always. (Proof: Brad has made up a “hit single” for his other life as lead singer of a punk rock band. The song is titled “My Wife the Icicle.”)

But more than anything, the reason I want to talk about other people is because it’s you … anyone reading this, and there are over 2,000 of you … who help me remember we are all breathing the same air, sharing the same waters, co-creating this thing we experience as life and death.

That air and water are ancient, given, tossed, turned, filtered, abused, reused, affirming. They have been in you and they have been in me. They connect us all, and connection makes us human.

Which is why you need to hear from Jerónimo Escalante, who I have never met in person but whom I open my heart to, and who gave me permission to share the epiphany he emailed me about last month: “I consider myself a writer, but recently life has gotten in the way. I was terribly frustrated at everything, and everything started to become a heavy task: my job, my writing, reading. I started feeling like life was running away from me and I couldn’t do anything to catch up. I was too focused on showing up perfectly for everything. Then, subconsciously and before getting to your ‘how to be C+’ newsletter, I started cutting myself some slack. Without realizing it, I began being C+ (sometimes C or even C-) and, to my complete surprise, the world didn’t fall apart. I kept on slaying it at my job, I rediscovered my passion for reading and stories, I was even able to flow past my writer’s block. Before, just the thought of writing this email seemed unsurmountable. So, thank you for your words of encouragement. They arrived just when I needed to read them, and I take them as validation to do just what we’re meant to in this chaotic world: be human.”

And why I want to you hear from Mariah Blackhorse, who I have not seen in person for over a decade, but who feels as close to me as the next typed word, because she sends me messages like this in response to my monthly “hit reply” provocations:

“What truths are you holding that seem impossible to hold at the same time?

  • Caring people who would give you the shirt off their back voted for Trump
  • Caring people who would give you the shirt off their back voted for Biden

If time isn’t a sturdy tool for you as you reflect on 2022, what is a meaningful tool you use to reflect?

  • Sunrise, that body I greet each morning from this body in motion that I stand upon, following the shifting direction through the seasons, moving and planning with the daylength.
  • The circling dance of the big dipper, and the position of Orion in the predawn and then night skies.
  • Cycles of connection.

If you could get rid of one barrier between you and your writing (or creative project) between now and the end of this year, what would that barrier be and why?

  • Time. I’m a Doer and writing falls into the Being category for me. I prioritize the Doing items over the Being items. This season has the fewest Doing tasks, so it is my best opportunity to spend time writing.

Tell me about the last time you laughed–a big loud laugh, a quiet private chuckle…anything. Just tell me about it. And I bet you can’t do so without smiling! 🙂

  • October 7th. Rehearsal night for Dakota and Bernie’s wedding. The groom’s parents gave speeches and Bernie’s brother did the intro. It was laugh-out-loud funny, the stories we each told.”

Do you feel any different in your body, your being, than you did before reading Jerónimo and Mariah’s words? Is there space? A more expansive breath? Write into it.

This month I was also so moved by the community of over 70 writers who gathered every day for two weeks to leap into Livewriting with me through my free program, EMERGE. We shared resources, attempted new novels, experimented with radio ads and ghostwriting, journaled sideways on large sheets of paper, shed some tears, shared some breakthroughs, and collected an EPIC resource list. If you missed EMERGE this time, please don’t miss it this coming April. It’s perhaps the friendliest, most productive, and authentic crew of writers around, if I do say so myself, and there’s no “right” or “wrong” way to participate.

Following are my hit reply questions for you:

  • What can you tell me about an experience you had in your life that took place in community, with no incentive other than human goodness, that changed your life? Those of you writing novel, memoir, essay, and short story→Have you considered what a peak experience might look like for your fictional character or your younger self, in community … in spontaneity … in ecstatic connection with others? Try a freewrite that leans heavily on descriptive and sensory detail and let me know how it goes.
  • When you think about 2023, what feels possible for you as a creative? Freewrite for five minutes. Then ask yourself: What else is possible? Freewrite for two minutes. Get up, walk around, do something else for a while. Return to the page. Ask again→What else is possible? Freewrite for five more minutes. [Repeat as needed, perhaps over several days.]
  • Do you detect any connections between what’s possible and experiences of human goodness in your life as a creative? Maybe something occurred to you in relation to how you participate in community. Maybe something occurred to you in relation to how you participate in (or long for) solitude. I’d love to hear what you discover.

I hope you will hit reply and contact me to share your answers, insights, or questions.

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