writing so hard

writing comes easily to me in that i write daily, and have since i learned the alphabet. i don’t really feel things fully, or understand things, until i have written them down.

writing is still the hardest work i do – physically, emotionally, spiritually, politically. figuring out what needs to be written, what needs to be uplifted, how to write it, who to write to, how much i am willing to share and to change…and, always, when to write – it’s hard work.

words are spells and invitations. they all exist, and we rearrange them over and over to say the truth.

the ancestors i love left me a river of words, and i am conscious of being a small stream flowing into it, sometimes guiding others, bringing myself to an ocean.

so. i just wrote for three weeks straight.

on the surface of it, i finished two books.

one nonfiction, on pleasure activism.

one visionary fiction, a novel on grief and transformation in detroit.

just under the surface, i edited an anthology that i’d been gathering for a year, with a lot of original writing on pleasure to weave it together. as i was completing it, i could see all these additional needs, and every day i was reaching out to people who would add the exact note to the chorus that would make it complete. it was exciting work. and i had to ask myself daily: am i being brave enough? am i telling the truth about my pleasures and vision and healing journey? do i need all these words? does it read like a conversation? am i enjoying this?

i turned it in to my publisher a day before it was due. it will come out this fall, it has a cover, it’s real!

and just like with emergent strategy, i wrote a book that i was longing for.

by the end my whole body hurt. there’s no way to write for 12-13 hours a day that doesn’t tax the body. i took baths and swam every day, celebrated each chapter upon completion, went for walks, sought pleasure.

still, it hurt my hands, my neck, my back, my ass.

my goal is to create a life in which i write 4-5 hours a day most days, an amount that doesn’t hurt. writing brings me unparalleled satisfaction. for now these marathons are what i have and i’m grateful.

so then it was time for the novel. the novel has been showing itself to me for five years in short stories, through a nanowrimo, and a month long writing residency january 2017.

it’s an emotional lift. it’s all about grief, so of course it’s full of ghosts, and i have to step into my own grief to write any of it.

for two days of the work i wrote for 17 hours, no breaks, no swim, nothing but the work. and my pulsing sense of scarcity, that i only had six days left. then five. i moved like a dying snail through three small chapters. my eyes were trembling when i laid down to sleep.

then, the third morning, i released my outcome orientation. i accepted that i most likely wouldn’t finish in the time i had. that i may never finish, that i can’t approach this book that way. i scolded myself for being out of alignment with everything i believe in about creating.

i course corrected.

i let myself deepen into the story, lose myself in the content, feel it and weep, take risks. i went swimming daily, took more epsom salt baths and let myself feel as excellent as possible. i connected with others, friends fighting cancer and heartache and nightmares. i watched planet earth ii.

and, to my surprise…i finished something i’m excited to read, to share. i feel satisfied.

and i remembered, then, how i wanted, needed, to finish the novel before i turn 40. i am aware of time passing. i love aging, and i live in a perilous world.

i noticed how people, people who love my writing, don’t quite understand that writing is hard.

i set relatively soft boundaries around the writing – i won’t answer emails, i won’t be on facebook as much, i won’t do other work. just for three weeks. people used the private space of every social media platform i’m on, my text messages, and friends in common, to still send me requests.

“i know you are writing but…”
“i hope your writing retreat is fun, can you just…”
“congratulations on writing, what about…”

i initially resented this. then i realized it’s the ongoing lesson of boundaries. i am responsible for my life. i can’t have slippery boundaries and expect others not to slide into my sacred writing space.

there are so many societal reasons why boundaries are hard for me. for all of us. and for me.

and, every day, i see how the work of creating and holding boundaries allows my life to be lived in a way that satisfies me. not in reaction or resentment, not protecting my projections of other people’s feelings, but in reveling, in the miracle of being a creative, curious person.

i keep telling the truth these days: no. no and here’s why. no, i’m writing a book. no. i’m writing two.

no makes way for yes. and i’m 39, i want all the yes i can get in this life.

time is both nonlinear and magical. AND finite in the sense of a life. actual years. death is always with me. the week i finished the novel was the 50th anniversary of martin luther king’s assassination.

when i turned 39 i felt very aware that it was my mlk year. 33 was when i compared my life to the brief miraculous life of jesus at the age of his assassination. it’s ridiculous to do this. so what.

39 is the year when i am noticing what i have (and mostly haven’t) done in relationship to mlk. (there are other such years, if you’re into such things.)

i have felt a lot of admiration for mlk as i have aged. he was a human, a direct action hero, and a writer. we remember him as an orator, but that’s because the words he wrote to speak were such radical love poetry.

now i am a 39 year old writer deeply disappointed by the nation of my birth, losing faith in the species at a large scale, but gaining faith in the planet, in the intimacy of communities, in what love can do, and…in what i can envision beyond the mountains of struggle and pain before us.

i see free people.

writing in the context of white supremacy and militarized capitalism and patriarchy ranges from annoying to devastating. writing about concepts that were articulated clearly 50 years ago, and thousands of years before that, is humbling.

will the conversation ever change? it’s changing all the time, of course, but will it ever really change?

i think about how hard it was to write the words “i may not get there with you.” to have a wife and children, a flock, a following, security and a god…and to still know no safety. they are true words that shouldn’t be true. this far into the human journey, speaking truth shouldn’t be fatal. but he didn’t stop writing, speaking. mlk was generous.

i get inspired by this when i dabble with hopelessness and rage. i don’t stop writing, even though i rarely claim originality. i am in the chorus i believe in: i sing of justice, i sing of liberation. i write what i need to read, to hear, to say. i feel when it’s true. i celebrate when i feel truth from others – it’s so easy to perform, to promote. but all i want is truth.

junot diaz just wrote something i needed to read, to hear. it’s in the new yorker, and it’s a #metoo story.

i am a survivor of many kinds of sexual harm. among these is harm that came at the hands of a male survivor of rape. i didn’t know that until later, it was all a mystery in the moment. i experienced harm inside of a sort-of-relationship where i believe we truly loved each other as much as we could at the time. we both carried so much unspeakable baggage in the door that we could not see or hear each other. and i experienced the physical harm of his trauma, coming through his body into how he interacted with my body. he didn’t mean to hurt me. he did hurt me. writing about it hurts me.

i could feel in junot’s words a pain that has always been under the surface of his books. the yawning chasm. the unspeakable baggage. the truth. i know it hurt to write this piece. everyone needs to read it.

writing shapes and reshapes the world, even if the words are simply rearranged dreams, visions, confessions, truths. matter doesn’t disappear, it transforms. we are of it, we shape it. writing so hard that the truth comes forth changes the world, and it changes the writer.

in all of this, in small and undeniable ways, i feel different than i did last month. this is internal. i told the truth. i am 39, and i am slowly seeing who i am.

my hands

i just turned in the pleasure activism manuscript. my hands hurt. and the book is exciting.

!!

the moon is full above thick clouds. i feel her. i completed this work in a moon cycle. that feels right. full moon is when you name what you are releasing. i detach from outcome for this work. i’ve given it everything.

and i got two days of fiction writing in this week. now i get to revel in the fictional realm of my novel. well…struggle more than revel. joyful struggle.

with nonfiction i have a sense of how to do it, it’s my voice, my opinions, my stories. but the novel is a weaving together of voices i can hear, ghosts and complex characters who want me to get their stories right. and this first novel is full of ghosts, grief, songs and magic, all in Detroit. i love the story, and i am eager to know where it will take me.

grateful for everyone honoring my boundaries, and reminding me to hold them tight. grateful for the wide range of pleasure activism contributors. grateful to have a life that centers pleasure. grateful to have a life that has gifted me so much to grieve that i must write about it. every day, as i’m here, comes more sorrow, more joy.

all is full of love. wish me luck, and hand love.

a moon kind of night

tonight the moon is bright
not full but so full
telling me she can see the sun
even when I can’t
she can see the light of all our lives
she can share it with me

a creature moves through the woods
and I think, it’s bedtime
but that little hungry one
guided by senses I can never know
says there is life in the dark
and beauty…don’t be so scared

and I am scared
to feel so much about
the so far away people and places
the so mysterious future
I can’t save anything
only love it all so much

and love moves through the fear
reaching and touching me
showing me I am more than I know
and we are, all, doing our best
to be wild, still
to be free

and the moon moves over me, moves through
unapologetic in her power
reminding me I am hers
reminding me I am tides
reminding me I am full
even here, even now, in the shadows

two sweet things

one – the podcast i am doing with my sister, How to Survive the End of the World, is going and growing, with 80K listens and over 100 patrons. This week we released an episode on class that is vulnerable, beginning a larger conversation on Future Economics. Check it out.

two – i got to have an awesome conversation with Zenobia Jeffries from Yes! magazine, The World is a Miraculous Mess, and It’s Going to Be All Right – here’s an excerpt of the interview:

“We currently live in a reality of scarce justice, scarce attention, scarce liberation. It makes us believe that we must pit ourselves against each other with our harm, with the worst things that have happened with our lives. Where we’re like, my worst thing is worse than your worst thing. We’re like, “How come your worst thing gets attention and my worst thing didn’t?”

That scarcity is the lie. Actually the society we want to build, the society we want to structure and move toward is one in which there’s abundant justice, abundant attention, abundant liberation, where there is enough for all of us to feel attended to.”

ps. i am basically complete with the Pleasure Activism book!! diving into the novel now. keep sending love and supporting my boundaries <3 <3 <3

annihilation: an emergence horror

whew y’all i just saw annihilation and i am SHOOK.

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i want to review it without any spoilers in such a way that you go see it in theaters. i am not sure that’s possible, so just go see it.

seriously not the best choice to watch while alone on a wooded island. but i do feel extremely alive and alert now. the wind is blowing and there are a million sounds in a forest. the moon is bright but not enough to show everything.

the entire movie rests upon the most basic aspect of life, cells split, the dream of the cell is to become two. the movie is beautiful and weird and science-y and dramatic and brilliant.

several times while watching i was like oh hell no and then two seconds later gasping in awe and feeling renewed curiosity.

nature nature nature. y’all! someone go see this movie so we can freak out about it.

one week down, two to go

i love this. this being: writing nonstop.

i have been writing and editing the pleasure activism book for a week. here’s a bit of a report back:

it has been an intensive reminder on how to boundary my life. here are a couple of lessons so far:

– no one means to cross the boundaries. some people apologize as they do it or try to diminish the request. there’s a lot of love and longing out there, intentions are usually good.
– it’s actually not up to others to uphold my boundaries. if i can’t hold the line, it won’t be held. so i am shoring up with as much love as possible.
– i can’t dabble with Facebook if i want to finish anything else in my life. i tried a few half boundaries and kept finding myself scrolling away precious writing time. so i am stepping back further, removing the app from everything.
– boundaries work best when rooted in abundance. i am not keeping myself from fun or connection, i am gifting myself the delight of total creative time. all the good things will be there on the other side.

i love the routines of this process. my routines here include tarot, yoga, swimming, eating in a uniform way (when i write i graze, so popcorn, sunflower seeds, those puffs that are like flavored air, those are go tos), and dance breaks.

i am especially committed to being in a state of pleasure while creating this work, so there are baths with fir salts and there’s an excellent soundtrack and i am only wearing super comfortable clothes.

extreme solitude feels good in a way that let’s me know how far my healing work has moved.

i am befriending trees!

spring equinox

i have been in the woods for five days now. i started this writing retreat with the new moon, and now, tonight, it’s the spring equinox.

and i love the moon. i love that my body moves in cycle with the moon, and how it’s one of the ways i know that nothing lasts forever and everything repeats…that knowing gives me peace.

i have several people in my life who are touching failure. i am with them, eating ice cream even though, even though, even though…oh but i love the lessons that come from failure. they take time, they expose to me where i, where we, still get the gift of learning.

writing a book is such a beautiful and daunting endeavor. they simmer, they touch everything, and they change the writer. to be less vague i am here writing this book on pleasure and it is changing me. i am in the phase where every day i’m like “i can’t do this i know nothing.” and i love the humility that comes from doubt.

i love holding on long after it makes sense. the best people in my life, i have held onto them in spite of logic, socialization and distance. composted, seeded, and something new is possible again.

i love the way i go mermaid dolphin whalerider creature in the water. how do i ever forget that i love this feeling? how can i never forget this again? how can i stay open to this just being good right now without feeling future regret?

i am happiest when i am writing. it’s the truth.

i love having living values – even if it’s small moves, they matter to me. i landed on this island and figured out how to recycle, compost, swim, talk with my nibblings and find local produce.

i love that i can feel pleasure in my bones. and that my pleasure comes directly from feeling connected – to my own body, to my life, to my lover, to my woes, to my nibblings, to this miraculous world.

and now, in spite of everything that hurts and that makes us want to freeze it all…it is spring.

in spite of the snow and rain, it is spring.

in spite of the bombs and assassinations and corruption and disappointment and lies…it is spring.

we grieve. even in spring the predators eat and the greedy reach for our lives.

and yet there is beauty here, and beauty coming. new life is beginning to seek the sun from deep down in the darkness. it is a devastating world loves, but we are miraculous, we are plants and pounding hearts, we are wired for pleasure and we, you and i, we are shapers in the springtime.

i am a writer writing in the woods

i haven’t brushed my hair since i arrived. i have taken epsom salt baths and two-headed showers. i have to remind myself to brush my teeth, and something about this pleases me, the hermit-nature of it. i am a virgo, this is extra. i have left the house twice, both times to walk to the nearest body of water and listen to it, the waves lapping song against the shore. looking among the ducks for the giant swans that i see bobbing there each morning. today i saw one in the late afternoon light – it looked like it was my size, so i said ‘hey thick ass swan, looking good’!

i have written for about 24 hours now, with daily dance breaks. am i delirious? only with pleasure. pun intended, but i only expect those in the know to get my drift.

please don’t ask me where i am, i appreciate feeling like there is some mystery about all of this. when i want people to know where i am, i geotag myself and scream it from the mountaintops. but right now i appreciate the solitude, even if it is mythological, or generated only from my boundaries. boundaries are life’s work! i love boundaries. this whole paragraph is a boundary, do you feel my joy?

i have been practicing not looking at incoming requests, and deflecting folks when work comes through personal channels. it’s hard and i am doing it.

the things that come through are only things that do not wait – things that make me cry instantly, an assassination, the death of someone fabulous, a new cancer, an older one, a heartbreak or two, a grief cycle.

in the face of the massive and melancholy, i appreciate how clear and small the editing process feels, how instinctive and nourishing the weaving of these pleasure tales feels. writing, total writing, is an erotic experience for me. i feel so alive.

i removed social media from my mobile devices (instagram is not social media, it’s like hbo) and yet the web of superconnection is like moana’s sea, it calls me! so i am being patient in the withdrawal, noticing each time i go out of my way to plug in, and what i actually need.

at least it is still a choice. (suspicion voice tho)

the soundtrack so far is Joi, Lizzo, DRAM, and Prince. the number one snack is homemade kale chips, tied with a homemade honey peanut butter.

happy new moon. hope to sleep soon. <3

Detroit is/as/beyond Wakanda(?/!)

the other day i got be part of a circle of Detroit thinkers, makers and artists considering the relationship between Detroit and Wakanda. in what ways is Detroit a Wakanda? in what ways might we go beyond our in a different direction than Wakanda?

we met at the FabLab, hosted by the brilliant Blair Evans, who gave us a tour of all the equipment that is changing the realm of production. the other invited speakers were myself, Ingrid Lafleur if Afrotopia, and black comic artist Arvell Malcom Jones. the other attendees were comic book creators, technologists, organizers, entrepreneurs, artists, parents, educators, children and more.

i took notes cause it was a great conversation across a lot of walks of life.

Blair shared the democratizing potential of spaces like the FabLab – what if anyone in any community can make whatever they need? how could that shift our economy? and since the technology is basically here, what human systems are needed to make the most of that potential?

i made some connections between Detroit and Wakanda – we are a city that people can’t truly see from outside, that people have written off. but so much innovation is galen here – it’s part of why i moved to Detroit on purpose. i spoke of our practice of small scale innovation and intentional experimentation in projects like the FabLab, Peace Zones for Life, Detroit Summer, and the very idea that we transform ourselves to transform the world. i also spoke of the resource richness of our location, with 25% of the world’s fresh water around us. i asked how we hold boundaries in a way that isn’t isolating.

Arvell spoke on the work of creating comics and stories of our own, and doing this in community. he asked, “if you are taking care of the people and they take care of you, what do you need?” he also noted that the role of monarchy in Wakanda is about managing needs and resources, versus just holding power over others.

Ingrid asked if Mayor Young could be read as a Killmonger – an anti hero working to create Detroit as a safe space for black bodies to prosper. she reminded us that Detroit is built on salt, a crystal city, on incredibly rich soil. she asked, “what kind of orientation do visitors to Detroit really need?”

here are some thoughts from the conversation – i tried to catch everyone’s names*. enjoy!

zoo, the barber, spoke about where conversations really happen – in the barbershop. he said the old, ancient ways were better.

we noted than one strength of Wakanda is that the ancient and future coexist and grow together.

Blair added that if we don’t have a framework, then we will use bigger, better tools to replicate pathological behavior.

Halima and Talon spoke about how WE are vibranium, and our hearts are the purple flower.

Numi, in full Wakanda regalia, shared the Afrofuturist Youth Project, which is teaching youth healing modalities, political education and arts.

Lou pointed out that scale made Wakanda successful – everyone had relationships with each other.

Elandria, visiting us on a tour to learn what different communities think about ‘the Commons’, shared that in her work it’s important to have things you don’t use machines for, so you don’t lose the person who knows that job or skill. and noted that great ideas don’t really matter to folks who can’t pay their bills. she asked how do we meld the
theoretical with the practical?

she also pointed out that the movie, and Wakanda, are still based on extraction. and that actually we need things that are within, that we can all access. she left is with the question, how do we show our shadow side for the sake of being whole in community?

coke spoke on how Wakandans did don’t want to share vibranium if it could be used for harm, and said this reminded him if cell phones in schools, which kids use to access porn, or text people to come fight. he asked how do we change how our children think and act? how do we use technology to do that? so they start creating futures? the children are our vibranium (this point was shared by so many in the room)!

mama lila spoke on how technology interferes with face to face connection. she thrilled us with the reminder that with children we’re building a pathway forward, vs adults, who are unlearning. she said we need to view lived experience as a gift, a source of political education. and reminded us about the importance of our water, that the whole emergency management move was about taking control of our water. wage love.

mohan told us technology is important to empower and augment, not replace. he says we have a tremendous cognitive surplus in this region – how do we bring the tools to ask the people here? he reminded us not to be afraid of failure – an idea isn’t important, but a series of ideas we learn from is very important. he said open source has made so much technology accessible, but we must learn through failing like in a video game. you get good through iteration. (!!)

lauren noted that one of the biggest blocks to actualizing Wakanda is how we think of ourselves. how do we activate that liberator mindset while still in a colonizer-adjacent space?

ingrid asserted that joy is a rebellion. she said “i am active in joy and pleasure to decolonize black bodies.”

upcoming ways to continue conversation:

check out an emergent strategy immersion or facilitation training – www.alliedmedia.org/esii

Ingrid is hosting a conversation on cryptocurrency/black chain on Mar 22 at Norwest Gallery.

Arvell offers ongoing comics classes.

Blair is generating FabLab cities with a vision of Detroit being independent by 2054. he reminded us to generate more than we use, to not be extractive but generate for future generations. to remember we are machines running on DNA coding (swoon). practice makes it real. also community hours at fablab 3-6 daily!

* if i missed yours let me know and i’ll update!

excerpt from Sublevel: Report

i was asked to write a piece for Sublevel magazine and it aligned with what felt like a transmission, possibly written in the pace of a Battlestar Galactica cylon hybrid. here’s an excerpt and a link to the full piece!

Task: We must become scholars of belonging.

Need: Separation weakens. It is the main way we are kept (and keep each other) in conditions of oppression.

Truth: Belonging doesn’t begin with other people accepting us. It begins with our acceptance of ourselves. Of the particular life and skin each of us was born into, and the work that that particular birth entails.

Mantra: Where we are born into privilege, we are charged with dismantling any myth of supremacy. Where we are born into struggle, we are charged with claiming our dignity, joy and liberation.

Possibility: From that deep place of belonging to ourselves, we can understand that we are inherently worthy of each other. Even when we make mistakes, harm each other, lose our way, we are worthy.

Practice: Learn to apologize. A proper apology is rooted in this worthiness – “I was at my worst. Even at my worst, I am worthy, so I will grow.”

Practice: Move towards spaces that value us, let ourselves belong to those communities that know they want us, know they need us, know we have worth, know we deserve more than transactional care.”

read more HERE!