diving deep (and working)

Good morning good morning – it’s rainy here in Oakland, looks like real spring out there. The puppy is watching her corner of the world, her head propped up on the couch arm, and I’ve got tea and just-baked banana cornbread.

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Spring workshops begin in April; you can join us in person or online!

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The first quarter of Dive Deep closes tonight — we’ll have a potluck, talk about the successes and struggles of the last quarter. It’s been a hard three months for many of the writers I’ve been working with: real life has been getting in the way of the creative work we want to bring into the world. And yet folks are still doing the work.

Housing, health, personal relationships, professional demands — the first three months of this year were flush, for many of my writers, with trouble, tripwire, worry. They got sick and then they got scared and then they got depressed. Not everyone. Not all the time. But most of us at least once. In one of my Dive Deep groups, the entire group was only together once — otherwise, folks were kept away by sickness or travel or work.

Granted, that’s why we get together: we want to figure out how to create in the middle of everything, since none of us has the luxury of just writing full time with no other expectations and demands.

And, in spite of all the struggle, the writers got a ton of work done — they developed new pages, they edited previously written work, they submitted stories and poems, they performed their work, they moved forward into and with the intentions that they set at the beginning of the year. And three times a month they got to get together and got to write together and support one another; we got to celebrate the gorgeous fact that each one of these writers is tenacious enough to tease out writing time from all the demands of modern American life and a real human body.

We hold each other to a tender account — no one in Dive Deep is guilting anyone (except maybe themselves) about what did or didn’t get accomplished in these three months. No one says, “You said you’d get a draft completed by the end of the quarter. What happened?” We say, “You wrote forty pages — congratulations!” We say, “You submitted the story!” We say, “you wrote three times last week!” We brainstorm about where writing time might emerge, we hold one another in tears and laughter, we mourn rejections and lost writing hours and exhaustion. And we gently, organically, inspire one another to keep going.

Each of these writers finds their way into their work differently; there are no universal solutions –except, maybe, tenacity and radical self love and community. Still, each writer must find develop the structure and strategies required to bring forth their creative project. These strategies include, for some, daily writing every night before bed; setting aside one day every week for the creative work; meetings with creative friends and mentors; online and offline writing dates; morning pages; writing for just ten minutes before work; writing/editing during the commute to and from work; and more. Sometimes a particular strategy will work for years; sometimes, a strategy will be effective for a few months and then a shift is required — then, talking with other creative folks can be a saving grace: “wait, how do you do it again?” We need all the ideas and inspiration we can get.

They inspire me at each meeting — none of the writers say to me, “Um, didn’t you have, like, four book projects you were supposedly working on? What’s up with them?” Instead, they hold me just the same as anyone else in the workshop, and I am invited to create the regular space in my life during which writing can emerge. Each writer’s submission to an anthology or journal reminds me that I want to get my work out in the world, too. Positive reinforcement. After each group meeting, I want to get back to the writing — that’s the best result. We support one another in the work and reality of being writers. What a gift to get to give, and to get to receive.

Inspired by Divers Deep, I have shifted my work schedule such that I spend mornings fully in words — the novel, this blog, the collection for a small press, the writing book (lots of projects means I can shift to another when one gets dry or needs a break). It means I spend less time in email, much less time on Facebook and other social media. The morning is when the writing part of my job happens. It’s not free time. It’s work time.

The Deep Divers are writing powerful and necessary books and other creative projects; I can’t wait to see them out in the world, be able to attend performances or hold the final product in my hand. Writing a book, creating a one-person performance, initiating a daily writing practice — much of it can feel like we’re out in the middle of the ocean, in a rickety rowboat, with no land in sight and lots of reasons to fear the fall of night. I’m grateful to be able to sit with the writers three times a month (sometimes for several quarters in a row, sometimes just for three months) and be one of the voices helping them to hold onto the oars of this boat, encouraging them to keep rowing, calling out from shore.

Thank you…



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