News + Muse

Retreat Makes You Putrid

I went on a diet the end of last summer and learned two things:

1). Consistency, if we practice the discipline of keeping it up, accumulates to real, tangible progress.

Day after day, as I plodded along, there was change over time.  I did start lean out.  I did begin to feel cleaner and brighter, more optimistic and energetic.  Really! I was surprised to receive fruit for my labor.  That was exciting and satisfying! 

What I needed was to trust the process.  I needed to be patient.  I needed to keep believing that if I kept showing up it would translate into change over time.  Do you hear what I’m saying?  I was not motivated by what I saw. I was not motivated by what the scale told me that morning, or the tape measure, or the mirror.  If I was looking at those things, I would have felt defeated so many times. 

Instead, I was motivated to continue by what I believed – that if I placed good choice after good choice, step after step, if I linked them all up — that it would, it absolutely would, it HAD to, convert into progress.  And it did. 

As I’m getting up and trying again at this illustration thing it can look like such an Everest.  It’s so large and looming; the climb feels impossible.  There is so much to learn and re-learn, so much risk, so much to face that is uncomfortable, so much hard work ahead.  And man, if I look at my feet, if I try to be motivated by the failed drawings in front of me (there are so many of those) I will certainly be discouraged.  Instead, I want to apply what I’ve learned: to trust the process.  Believe that if I continue to show up day after day to work the gift, to train the gift, to spend the gift, to apply myself instead of avoid – that it will, it absolutely MUST grow in effectiveness over time. 

Fight for consistency.  Trust the process.  Be patient for the fruit.

2).  The ability to sustain that consistency comes from fostering a positive mind.

The nutritional team I was working with was full of encouraging words.  There were exclamation marks, motivational quotes, and verbal hi-fives everywhere.  And I mean everywhere!  I was saturated and swimming in the stuff.  Immersed in that context, I noticed for the first time how full my mind was of negative voices and how I consistently gave those voices audience.  I considered their negative counsel to me.  I let them convince me to leave things undone.  I used words like “work” and “hard” and “fail” instead of “adventure” and “challenge” and “grow”. 

But you know, it wasn’t hard when I realized that to flip my mind’s patterns.  That was surprising – how easy it was to change my attitude.  I decided to call my diet a game and an adventure.  I decided the challenge was fun.  I decided to enjoy what the moment required of me as a wonder, and not get all cramped up about results.  And you know, when I was looking at it from this angle the diet quickly became infused with energy instead of drudgery.  My insides were going “Hoot, hoot!  Yip-yip!  Let’s do this!” With that mindset I was totally game on.  It made it much easier (and can I say fun?) to choose the right thing.

It’s not hard to change our perspective to a positive one.  Decide it is so, and wow, how quickly those negative voices flee.

So, as I’m looking up at my illustration Everest, I say to you mountain “Challenge!  Adventure!”  and I literally feel in me this flush of excitement and adrenaline.  Deciding to be brave gives ruddiness to your cheeks and heartiness to your laughter.  That’s so much better then retreat and regret which just makes you putrid.

News + Muse


A work in progress quickly becomes feral … You must visit it every day and reassert your mastery over it.  If you skip a day, you are, quite rightly, afraid to open the door to its room.

-Annie Dillard, The Writing Life, pg. 52

I’ve been away from my writing for two weeks.  No, three weeks.  Has it been four?  Maybe two and a half.

I tried to get back at it yesterday and found myself in a tense state of panic.  Every good thought I ever had seemed as-good-as-snatched away.  Spiders have taken up residence among the toppled chairs and dusty table of my inner work room.  Weeds have completely overtaken the garden.

I’ve read writers’ warnings of this kind of neglect; the horrors that ensue even after one day’s absence.  But my case — two weeks!  No, three (I mean four).  Is there any hope?  Is it all a loss?  I suppose one cannot know unless he tries.

So, I spent part of yesterday banging my head against the wall thinking maybe something would start to rattle.  When that didn’t work, I closed my eyes and danced oh so freely to music thinking maybe I could feel it back.  When that didn’t work I went childlike, belly to the floor, doodling on paper, hoping some line would come forward to meet me.  No success.  So I closed up shop, headed home to a late dinner, and read Dillard’s The Writing Life until bed.

And then, in the wee hours of this morning, a thought made a slight twitch in the corner of my mind.  I was on the hunt yesterday, wrongly, for some new, fresh trail.  But what this poor lost girl needs is not some whole new beginning, but to retrace her steps.  To see if I can’t find the path I was already on, where I was already working.  To catch a whiff of it, and proceed from there.

“O Blessed Notes!!”  I remembered all of my 3×5 cards squirreled away, holding clues.  There, there will be a good place start.  I popped out of bed in a dreamy delight and perked a chipper cup of coffee, eager to reacquaint myself with the ol’ scribbles.