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November 25, 2019
Recently, I read an article about what workers from the future will look like. To be honest, I didn’t read the closely. I was too horrified by the life-sized model—sallow skin, wide hips, neck curved like a drooped flower—demonstrating how the human body will devolve if we look to screens rather than the sun for our sustenance.
I immediately sat up straighter, but that wasn’t enough, so I stood and did something physical for the rest of the day. But of course I returned to my computer. I had a book to write, a book that’d been giving me terrible trouble. My editor sent the first version back. It was a blow to my ego, my calendar (I had other projects I needed to get started on), and my body (more time in that computer chair). Plus—despite it being my 19th novel—I’d made up my mind I couldn’t figure out the rewrites, and maybe couldn’t finish the book.
Because of that article, and a hundred imaginary neck pains I’d felt since I read it, after weeks of struggling against self-doubt and getting little editing done, I decided to pull out my laptop and move to another room in my house to write. It was less convenient. (I couldn’t bring all my notes with me.) It was less comfortable. (I moved between a couch and a chair.)
And it was my breakthrough. Literally the second I moved, new ideas started flowing, and I saw the path, finally, that book was meant to take. The only thing that changed was my literal perspective when writing. I know having rooms to choose from and a laptop to bring is a luxury not everyone has, but I don’t think either is necessary. A notebook and a new view could do the trick.
When creating, we must remember to move ourselves.
Not just in body. In soul and spirit, too. My18th book, UNSPEAKABLE THINGS, releases very soon, and it’s my breakout novel. Finally. It’s the rawest and best thing I’ve ever written, as close to memoir as fiction can come, and I’ve got very exciting news to announce about it on December 1.
But here’s what’s important right now: the book is good because it moved me. I wrote toward what scared me, and when your writing is that honest, it moves things in your life, too. Old, constrictive relationships fracture, other ones heal or strengthen, new ones are born. That’s the power of writing, if it comes from an authentic place. It’s both exhilarating and terrifying, and I think only possible in community with other creatives. I certainly couldn’t have gone that deep alone.
I hope you’ll join one of my writing retreats (I'm holding two writing retreats in a spectacular, Hogwarts-esque residential library in Wales UK; a luxury writing retreat on historic Summit Avenue in St. Paul; and a serene writing retreat near Garden of the Gods in soulful Colorado), where we create community, where we nurture our minds and bodies, and where we write, write, and write. But whether you’re on a glorious writing retreat or working on your project in stolen hours, don’t forget that your primary goal is to move yourself, body and soul.
September 19, 2019
Ooof. It's been a while since I blogged, yeah? I've had a fantastic summer. I took a bike trip with my bestie, traveled to France to co-lead a writing retreat, took my kids and nieces to Luxembourg (EU not MN :)) to connect with our ancestral land, led another retreat in Lake Tahoe, and now...now I'm on sabbatical. I'm looking at eight months of writing and reading. It's thrilling and terrifying, having all this time.
I'm not complaining, mind you. It's just that as the Queen of Busy, my self-care skills have dwindled over the years. I've always stayed in motion as a reaction to childhood trauma. It's a common response. Those of us who felt unsafe as kids often grow up to be adults who appear super-successful on the outside. It looks like ambition, and some of it is, but some of it's also the fear that the wolves will catch us if we slow down.
Well, the wolves are here as I type, sleeping at my feet, and I'm fine. Better than fine. I get a do-over, in a house where I am safe, with family and friends I can trust. I attribute finding this peace to finally writing through a chunk of the darkness of my childhood in Unspeakable Things, out January 1. I cover this healing process in Rewrite Your Life, but I've gone even deeper with it in my upcoming novel, getting more personal, tackling the really scary stuff.
I'm not going to whitewash it: going deep was emotionally expensive. It cost me a relationship with my mom, dad, and sister, and I've been in a state of grief for the last two years as a result. I wouldn't have chosen that route except that living on the surface--pretending all was fine--was costing me more than I could pay. It's been two long years, but I'm finally waking up from the grief and finding joy in the most unexpected places. I'm also, for the first time in my life, really getting to know myself. Yikes and whee.
Now that my faculties are returning, I want to pay it forward as a thanks to all those who've supported me through this crazy couple years. The start is developing a new workshop. Here's the official description:
Crack the Sea
Turn Your Secrets into Fiction and Set Yourself Free
"Many of us carry family secrets and personal shame, believing either that we’re the only ones or that the cost of telling our story is too high. We become locked in this frozen sea, trapped by the truths we don’t speak. Fiction provides an out. It allows us to release our secrets without anyone knowing.
Not only is the process healing and the source of powerful fiction, it improves the world: once we break free of the frozen sea, cracks start feathering out, making it easier for others to do the same. Join bestselling author, teacher, and TEDx presenter Jess Lourey to learn how to turn your own experiences into healing fiction. This is a hands-on workshop, so come with something to write with and on."
I'll be leading this workshop at Modernwell in Minneapolis on Thursday, January 9, at 7:00 pm. Then, on January 10, I'll be launching Unspeakable Things at Once Upon a Crime at 7:00 pm. There will be cake, wine, and '80s-themed prizes because we all need more play. I hope you'll join me at one or both! More information to come.
p.s. If you ever want signed copies of any of my books, shoot an email to Once Upon a Crime at firstname.lastname@example.org and let them know which books. I'll sign them, and they'll ship them to you.