Friday, July 30, 2010

Acts of Surrender 2: Radical Rebirth

Amazing the things a soul will sign up for just so it can become a writer and have a good story to tell.
~ Mark David Gerson

There's a scene in my novel The MoonQuest where a character who's been living for many years in the safe solitude of a desert oasis hears a voice on the wind that urges him to leave, despite the blinding sandstorm raging beyond the palm trees that ring his insular retreat.
“You must go," the wind insisted.

“Go where?" Kyri asked. "There is nowhere to go. I will die out there."

“Stay, and you are already dead," the wind replied.
I thought about that scene in the days after I returned from my last visit to Los Angeles. I thought about it because of something that happened during the trip and because of something that happened when I got back to Albuquerque.

The L.A. piece of the story occurred as I was walking from my hotel to a Hollywood Starbucks. The phone rang. It was my friend Joan.

"So how do you feel in L.A.?" she asked. "Do you feel joyful? Abundant? Do you feel prosperous?"

I didn't feel any one of those things.

But a single word kept popping into my head as she asked: "Alive."

"I feel alive," I replied.

I've described my planned move to Los Angeles in many ways over the months -- as a call to be answered, as a certainty that this was my right next place, as a surrender to an inner imperative. And while all these have been accurate and remain true, this was the first time I could link L.A. to my life itself.

When I was there, I felt alive.

The Albuquerque piece was equally dramatic. A day after my return, my life here stopped working. No book sales. No new clients. No money coming in to meet even the smallest expenses. It was as though the well of miracles that had sustained me in Albuquerque had suddenly dried up.

I panicked. I grasped for solutions. I felt paralyzed, impotent, angry and scared.

After nearly a week of this, I realized that I felt dead. Not because the money had dried up. No, the money had dried up because I was dead.

Like Kyri in his oasis, my desert sanctuary had ceased to work for me. I knew I had to leave Albuquerque. But how?

"You have to give notice on your condo," my friend Sander insisted in his tough-love way when he called one Friday morning in the midst of my self-pitying despair.

I knew he was right, yet I couldn't see how I could take that particular leap of faith. How could I give up my rental when there was no money to move and no money to land? Hell, there wasn't even money to pay my Albuquerque bills.

Yet even as I argued and resisted, I knew deep inside that my resistance was futile. I knew in my heart that the only way to live was to leave. And the only way to leave was to leap off the highest cliff I'd ever encountered and trust that, as I always had been, I'd be supported.

Nearly 20 years ago, in the earliest months of my conscious spiritual awakening, I woke from a nightmare in which I'd been clinging to the roof ledge of an old-style office tower as an inner voice urged me to jump. I'd refused in the dream.

But in the days that followed, I took that dream image into meditation. In each of three sessions, I tried to let go of that old structure and failed. By the fourth, I was so uncomfortable and so annoyed with the process that I just did it. I unhooked my fingers from the stonework and fully expected to plummet down to the pavement in a messy splat.

Instead, I found myself floating gently, feather-like, until I landed in what I can only describe as the arms of God.

I wish I could say that I remembered that dream on the morning Sander called. I wish I could say that I surrendered joyfully and gracefully. Instead, I was childish, petulant and argumentative...paralyzed by fear.

When, in the moments after I hung up the phone, I recognized this as the pattern that had ruled too much of my early life, I knew I had no choice but to give my notice and step trustingly into the void -- as I'd done so often in the past, as the Fool does in just about every Tarot deck.

The moment I made the decision, even before I wrote and mailed the letter to my landlord, miracles started showing up. The most dramatic was a phone call from an online friend who knew about my L.A. plans but knew nothing of my current situation.

"I was driving to the gym," Adam said, "and I knew I had to call you. I don't know why."

During the course of our hour-long chat, we updated each other on our respective journeys. I said nothing about my perceived crisis, sharing only that I was moving to L.A. on faith -- with no sense of how I would either get there or live there.

"I've got plenty of space," he said. "Stay with me." He lives south of L.A. in Orange County. His street name? Spirit.

The next letting-go was my decision to treat L.A. as a radical rebirth, to sell or get rid of pretty much everything I own (for the sixth time in 16 years) and to step into my new life open, naked and ready for whatever new beginnings awaited me. As I had determined on my very first journey like this -- from Toronto to Nova Scotia in 1994 -- what couldn't fit in my vehicle would not make the journey. And as happened 16 years ago, someone has offered to store the few things I won't be able to fit in my car but that I need to keep (tax records) or choose to keep (journals, boxes of MoonQuests and Voice of the Muse books and CDs).

Two days after Adam's call, I had a visit from another online friend, this one clearly an ambassador from the City of Angels (his online sobriquet is Angel). The 24 hours of his angelic pampering took my mind off the move and its anxieties and, with no action on my part, sent me the most response to any of my Craig's List ads. Another set of miracles.

And the miracles have continued: unexpected gifts of cash, support and love; unexpected contacts and connections; unexpected validations and confirmations; and assorted serendipities, synchronicities and surprises.

I still can't tell you with absolute certainty why I'm moving to L.A. I could offer up myriad reasons to do with writing, coaching and teaching, or with the film business. I could talk about climbing down from the solitude of my mountain aerie to rejoin the world. I could say I miss the ocean, or that my daughter's mom is probably also moving there, which would give me easier access to a daughter I don't see nearly enough. I could say any of these things and they're all likely accurate.

But the deeper truth is that I'm moving to Los Angeles because I have no choice. I'm moving to L.A. because that's where I feel alive.

Even as fears and stresses continue to show up, I know with the deepest of certainties that this move heralds that radical rebirth I mentioned earlier, a rebirth into a wondrous life too amazing to imagine. All I can do in each moment is trust in that rebirth as I listen to the same spirit-wind Kyri heard and step into the unknown.
Barely aware of his actions, Kyri ... shouldered his way through the sand-filled air to the edge of the oasis, to an arch formed by two adjacent palms. Here, long before memory, he had passed into the oasis.

Spitting out the coarse grains that blew into his mouth, he stood uncertainly before this threshold. He turned back but saw nothing. Ahead, the palm arch grew fainter.

“Now," the palms moaned.

“Now," the sand rasped.

“Now," Kyri whispered, and stepped through the arch.”

1 • What can you do to feel more alive in your life?

2 • Where in your life is fear paralyzing you?

3 • Where in your writing or your life can you trust more fully? Where can you more fully allow faith to guide you?

4 • What challenging situations have you experienced that others could benefit from hearing about? Allow yourself to write about them from a place of openness, non-judgment and vulnerability. Allow yourself to write without censoring.

Adapted from Acts of Surrender: A Writer's Journey of Faith, my memoir-in-progress.

• Hollywood photos by Mark David Gerson: Palm Reflections; Hollywood Sign; Hollywood Blvd Billboard; Old-Style Office Tower; Kermit welcomes me to L.A., Jim Henson Studios.

• Excerpts from The MoonQuest: A True Fantasy (LightLines Media)
(c) 2007 Mark David Gerson

• Image of The Fool card from Joseph Ernest Martin's Quest Tarot

Monday, July 12, 2010

Write What’s Right...for Right Now

Feeling blocked on a creative project? Before you call it writer's block, consider whether what you’re writing is the right idea for you right now.

Maybe it’s the right idea for someone else but not for you. Maybe it will be the right idea for you at some point in the future. Or maybe this project was right for you when you began it, but isn't right for you anymore.

It’s possible that you’ve outgrown it. It’s also possible that you haven’t fully grown into it.

I was 100 pages into the first draft of The MoonQuest when I set it aside for what turned into a five-month hiatus.

The day I returned to the book, I was afraid to reread those 100 pages. I was afraid the manuscript wasn’t any good, and I was afraid I had outgrown it and would have to abandon it.

What I realized, once I began reading, was that I hadn’t been ready to continue with The MoonQuest and that’s why my Muse cut me off when it did.

As it turned out, a five month absence from the manuscript gave me the life experience I needed in order to be able to catch up with the story and carry on. I began writing that same day, and three months and 300 additional pages later, the first draft was done.

Sometimes, what seems a block is a matter of timing. Sometimes, it’s just not the right idea. When we drop a project or leave it incomplete, we don’t always know into which of those two categories it falls.

If your discernment tells you to let the project go, don’t mourn the perceived waste of time and energy. Trust that you will either return to it when the time is right or that you’ve gained all you needed from the experience and can now move on to other writing.

Remember, no words you write are ever wasted. They're simply stepping stones on the journey to better words, a better draft or a better project.

A wrong idea isn’t necessarily wrong for all time. But if it’s wrong for right now, let it go and free yourself to write what’s right. For you. Now.

• Are you writing what's right for you right now?

• Are you forcing a project to completion when, perhaps, it's time to let go....for now or for good?

• How can you be more discerning...about your work, about your passion, about your timing?

Adapted from The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write.

For excerpts from The Voice of the Muse book and CD, click here.

Need help with any aspect of your writing process or projects? One-on-one coaching/mentoring can help you unleash the power of your creative potential