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My Rules for Writing

Kira Elliott Writing

Life is short but it is wide. —Spanish proverb

I wrote my rules for writing out for myself a few years ago after the death of my son’s father. Witnessing the death of someone who was not only my son’s father, but also my best friend, pass at such an early age, he was 48 years old, gave me marching orders to get up off my butt and finally concentrate on developing my writing.

I remember reading the quote above in a book dealing with grief a few months after D died as I sat in a busy bookstore cafe with my son. We often found ourselves there trying to find solace from the gaping hole left in our lives. I read it, I reread it. I felt hot tears start to trickle down my face. The ache of how short life is permeated my bones and took my breath away. I didn’t feel like I knew how to live anymore. All I knew was the breath sucking, life crushing, grief that was with me 24/7.

The tears fell that day because of the second part of the quote, “…but it is wide.” I read this and I felt small twinges of hope—maybe there still was a point to living. Those four little words told me my life mattered, there was still lots of living left, even if D. was dead. This was one of the first of many drops of hope I needed to fall into the many small cracks, sometimes only the size of a hairline fracture, on my heart.  I have to live life wide. I am here only for a while and I have to do what I can to fill it up.

At the time living my life wide, meant finally owning my dreams of being a writer and sharing my words with others. It meant starting this blog, it meant getting a teacher and gathering courage to keep trying when doubt and fear rose up from my belly. It meant I had to stop telling myself tomorrow, or when my son graduates from college, or when work calms down. It meant open my heart through writing now.

So life can be short but at least I am filling the width of it with what I love.

My Rules for Writing

  1.     Take up space on the page
  2.     Be messy
  3.     Be specific
  4.     Be demanding of my time
  5.     Be awkward
  6.     Be vulnerable
  7.     Let the images flow
  8.     Don’t make sense
  9.     Throw out doubt
  10. Go for a walk
  11. Listen to my dreams
  12. Trust the next thought
  13. Tell people who doubt to go away
  14. Stop being nice
  15. Know I matter
  16. Know my voice matters
  17. Read, read and read some more
  18. Trust my vision and feeling
  19. Try anyways
  20. Sit still and let it flow

I admit these rules, or really gentle reminders as I like to think of them, are hard to implement all the time. I fall short often, tell myself I suck, let doubt get the better of me. Somedays I just give up and go to bed early. But then I get up the next day and I try again, because after all, I am only here for a short bit and I want to fill in the wide space of my life.

Yes writing is hard, scary and stirs up all kinds monsters and demons. It also grounds me, connects me to others, to helps me sort out the monsters and understand them. Writing, when I share it, connects me to others. Writing opens my heart so I can live the width of my life.

I share these “rules” with the hope they will help you to live your life wide too.

Join me for Writing to Open Your Heart: an online creative writing workshop. Registration closes soon for the next session starting January 31, 2015.

Inspiration To Open Your Heart

Kira Elliott, Winter Sky

How beautiful it is to do nothing, and then rest afterward.
- Spanish Proverb

My favorite part of Sunday morning’s is sharing my weekly inspiration to open your heart.

Science Show Something Surprising About People Who Write by Rachel Grate- So I guess this means I am one healthy person? Writing is the cornerstone of my life, and yes my well-being. Not only expressive writing but even writing for publication, is a map of myself unfolding before me on the page or on the screen. I need to write to know myself, to know how I feel about the ever-changing world. I write so I can connect with others, sharing my inner world. Yes, it is awesome writing makes me healthier and heal faster but for me it is simply how I stay alive.

On Sleep Debt via Explore- Here is some food for thought about the value of sleep. I am a sleep advocate. The older I get the more precious sleep becomes and the more I make it a priority. Most nights I am crawling into bed at 8 pm to start to calming my nervous system down. After a two weeks of 8 to 9 hours of sleep each night, I am a different person. The constant anxiety rolling around in my belly day after day—gone. And yes, my problem solving skills and creative work is brighter and more acute. I love sleep.

I Was An Amazon Chew Toy by Corina Zappia- Loved, loved this personal essay. Don’t get me wrong I like dogs and I understand for some folks, having dogs around is not so cool. My son was bit in the face by our family dog when he was 8 years old. He had to have over 60 stitches to sew the hole in his right cheek. To this day he still freaks out when a big dog is around and he is 21 years old. People tell him to get over it. I think that is super insensitive. I am not sure how the needs of dogs sometimes get prioritized over the needs of humans. Just my opinion.

The Pleasure and Magic of Shared Silence by Courtney Martin- Even the writing of this blog post is quiet. It rocks and lulls the reader into those magical spaces of silence. I find the intimacy of sitting in silence, together yet apart, one of the richest and most connecting experiences. In a world that rushes, surges and is in constant motion, to sit in silence is a treasure.

Kindness Includes Everything by George Saunders- We all know kindness matters so why do we find it so hard to cultivate at times? Why do we have high periods of kindness and low periods?  What do you do to cultivate kindness in your life?

For me, as mentioned above, sleep, enough of it, creates kindness. Writing and other creative work for sure. I would say also, daily meditation practice. I can tell immediately when I have been slacking on my sitting practice, I slide into a low kindness period in my life. Moving my body—going for a walk, practicing yoga, riding my bike— gets the engine of kindness moving within me too.

May your coming week be filled with kindness, lots of sleep and moments of silence with loved ones. ~Kira

Want to learn to write deeper and from the heart? I have a few spots left in Writing to Open Your Heart. Starts January 31, 2015. Click here for more information and to register.



Celebrate Accomplishment of the Mundane

Kira Elliott Winter road

Extreme arctic cold is permeating every facet of life here in the Detroit area. Literally this cold snap, which I doubt is a snap but rather is just regular winter, is sucking the life out of the trees, plants and even inorganic objects, like my car. Two times this past week my car needed a jump to start despite a new battery last winter. My neighbors tree that towers over my house is snapping, cracking and popping so loud I can hear it in my house when sitting on my meditation cushion in the early morning darkness. It sounds like gunshots and sometimes even like someone is hammering on wood down the street.

The cold air is so thin it is hard to breathe. When I go out in the morning to start my car, my throat and lungs clamp shut on the first intake of this thin brittle air. Someone told me this week the cold makes you more tired. It takes more energy to keep your body warm. I am not sure if this is true or if it was because I was back to work after two weeks off but exhaustion seems to have taken over.

Not the way I wanted to start the new year. I had plans to shoot out from the break refreshed, energized, brimming with enthusiasm to come home each night to write. I wanted to get the final emails and weekly prompts for my next creative writing workshop completed. Instead, I come home, eat dinner and go to bed. Maybe read a bit but that is it. Once again, the fantasy of what I can do and reality did not align.

I often dismiss the fact I am taking care of myself by going to bed early. I am on my meditation cushion every morning. I go to work every day. I spend time with my partner Jay. I make dinner most nights. I work out a most days. I do the dishes, (most of the time). I did some laundry (still have to fold it). I took care of a few tasks for my workshops and held two workshops last weekend. I published a couple blog post. I read some great essays.

As I wrote about last week, I continue to set an impossible bar of perfection for myself, forgetting all that I do accomplish. I need to remember the everyday tasks matter.

This week, I want to celebrate all I show up for and get done and let the never ending list of what I should do go.

I want to celebrate all of the mundane tasks I take for granted. These tasks matter, they are the core of taking care of myself. These are what makes my life hum and give me a foundation in to have the privilege to sit down at the page and write what is in my heart.

So let me celebrate accomplishment of the mundane.



Inspiration to Open Your Heart

Kira Elliott On the path

Happy Sunday!

I ran another beta creative writing workshop yesterday. It feels so awesome and somewhat strange to be doing something I have dreamed of doing for so long. I am always amazed at how the workshop process opens hearts. I am in awe of writing the participants produce. Not to mention the depth of connection the workshop offers. I still have spots open for the next session of Writing to Open Your Heart. You can more information HERE.

I am going to start changing things around a bit for Sunday’s Inspiration to Open Your Heart by focusing more on what I what I want to share with you this week.

Here are links for this week’s Inspiration to Open Your Heart:

Trapped in His Body for 12 Years, A Man Breaks Free- I heard this amazing story on my way home from work Friday. It was so good I had to keep driving around so I could finish listening to it. It is part of NPR’s new podcast, Invisibilia. If you can listen to the story instead of reading it, it will be worth your effort.

Modern Love- To Fall In Love With Anyone, Do This by Mandy Len Catron- Not sound cliched, but I love, love this essay. The flow, the craft, the vulnerability, the subject. The notion that love is an action, something we work at and is not something that falls from the sky if you are lucky rings true for me.

Alain de Botton: A kinder, gentler philosophy of success- I loved this thought-provoking TED talk. Who’s idea of success are you chasing? Lot’s of yummy ideas packed in here.

On Not Remembering by Deborah A. Lott- Memoir is a funny thing. Over the last year I have been working with Jenna on memoir vignettes and essays and it is not easy. Writing about the past is hard, but harder is writing about how I feel about it. I often get frustrated that stories, images and memories from my past is what arises in my writing. The line “… sometimes I think all memoir is an act of following the shame.” resonates deeply with me. I am chasing the shame, wanting to speak it out loud so it loses it’s power.

And finally, Share the Love Interview on The Word Cellar- Jenna McGuiggan interviewed me about my experience working with her as a writing coach. Over the last two years Jenna has gently guided and taught me about the craft of writing, about memoir, about myself and exposed me to wide range work I wouldn’t normally read. She is a great teacher, or a sharer as she prefers to be called. One of the best investments I have ever made.

May your coming week be filled moments of wonder and gentle kindness. ~Kira





Impossible Bar of Perfection

Kira Elliott Winter Day

I am back at work this week and after two weeks of sleeping 8 plus hours a night and I am struggling to adjust. I came home every night this past week and went to bed early. Exhaustion invaded every single cell of my body and mind. All of my intentions to write or do other work going to bed with me. Each night I felt so hopelessly undisciplined and yet I couldn’t keep my eyes open.

Making the choice between self-care and showing up for my creative work is a never-ending struggle. It is one I balance day by day. I try to find a formula or the perfect plan so I can perfectly care for myself and get everything I want done, but a plan like that doesn’t exist, I am unrealistic in what I want to accomplish with my current limitations.

The hardest part of choosing self-care is I have to let go of expectations I set up for myself. The do more and be more expectations that whisper promises of good enough if only I can meet them. The ones that dangle in front of me and keep me chasing empty air. The ones that don’t care I have a full-time plus day job and a body that is no longer 20 years old. Not to mention a family, and a home to take care of.

So this week, I have chosen to listen to my body and go to bed early every night. I forgot about a writing assignment due to Jenna, I didn’t write this blog post until the end of the week. I didn’t read the many articles and books piling up next to my bed or on my desk. I did the minimum to keep a float as I adjusted to being back to work full-time. I forgot how much energy my job takes out of me.

As I sit here in the cold darkness of Friday morning, I am letting myself be OK with these efforts. I am ok with not being perfect. I am ok with putting down my impossible bar of perfection hanging out in my mind. This morning, bundled up in layers of pajamas and a thick robe, drinking a cup of strong black coffee, I feel rested and not pulled so taunt, like I am going to snap like one of the those poor trees out in the bitter arctic cold.



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