Weekend Edition – The Magic of Clarity Plus Good Reads and Writing Tips

The Magic of Clarity

lightning treeWriting is an alchemical process that transforms modest words into entire worlds. We begin with an amorphous idea and the ability to string words together in a way that taps into our senses and emotions. We weave a spell that evokes a sense of time and place and experience. Using only these humble tools, we build an alternate reality. We give life to the players on our stage and send them off into adventures of our own devising. If that is not magic, I don’t know what is.

Imagination and creativity are oft-cited ingredients in the story-crafting elixir, but there is another, less frequently cited ingredient that is at least (if not more) important: clarity.

Clarity is both your inspiration and your North Star.

Though you may not know it, it is often the spark that ignites your imagination. It is that bolt of lightning that strikes you – a compelling character, thought-provoking question, or deep belief – that will eventually pierce the earth of your creative mind to become the roots of a story. And, once those roots have taken hold, clarity is the guiding force that shapes your story.

Clarity brings focus and purpose to your writing. It illuminates the ultimate reason you’re driven to write a thing and it helps you make critical decisions about what to include and what to leave out. Clarity is like a pair of enchanted glasses that filters out everything extraneous so you can hone in on exactly the things you need to tell your story. When you have clarity about your writing, you know what you want to say and you know how you want to say it. Writer’s Block becomes a thing of the past.

So, for your craft, clarity is a boon, a near-magical tool that gives you the power to sharpen your storytelling skills and put the weight of purpose and intention behind your writing work. But what about in your writing life?

Last Saturday’s weekend edition asked whether you are a plotter or a panster in your writing life. Are you intentional about where you want to go as a writer and how you get there, or are you kind of winging it and following the path of least resistance? About a month ago, I asked, once again, why we write and included links to some earlier posts on the topic.  This is clearly a question that fascinates me. What drives us to write at all? What drives us to write particular kinds of things?

I’m not here to say that one path or one purpose is better than any other. Each of us is on a unique journey.

I’m just curious about what might happen if in addition to applying clarity to our craft, we also sought clarity about the driving force behind our craft … the “why” of our writing. I wonder how digging down to the roots of our creative urges and desires might change or enhance our work.

What do you think? Have you already discovered the why that fuels your creativity, or are you unsure about where it all comes from? Do you think understanding your personal source would be good for your work, or somehow rob it of some power?

What I’m Learning About Writing:

zeus pippaSometimes the Universe has a funny way of getting our attention and clarity comes to us unexpectedly in a palm-to-forehead moment.

My daughter has a dog-walking business, and sometimes (when dogs need to be walked before school gets out, for instance) yours truly has the pleasure of taking one set of pooches or another out for an afternoon stroll. Yesterday afternoon it was the fine pair of Zeus, a handsome standard poodle, and Miss Pippa, a feisty little corgi.

As the three of us made our somewhat mincing way along the slushy roadside, I let myself get a little lost in thoughts about the value of clarity and intention and purpose in my writing. It was no small accomplishment to keep my train of thought while simultaneously managing Zeus in my right hand, Pippa in my left, and my own two feet. My exploratory reverie was interrupted only when Miss Pippa managed to get us tangled up in her leash. Unfortunately, this was a fairly frequent occurrence.

No matter how many times I tried to convince her to stay on my left side, little Pippa kept somehow kept winding up on my right. The trouble was that she got there by crossing behind me, a maneuver that meant I had to either twirl around (raising both leashes over my head as though I were some kind of human May Pole) or manage to nimbly jump (backwards, mind you) over Miss P’s leash. Obviously, neither of these were easy to accomplish, especially with Zeus tugging ahead and ice underfoot.

My moment of oh-my-gods-of-course epiphany came when I realized that all I had to do to avoid this knotted situation was to hold Zeus’ leash in my left hand and Pippa’s in my right. Problem solved.

You’re probably shaking your head at my inability to figure this solution out faster. I don’t blame you. But, the thing is, I was so set on doing things a certain way, that I never even considered how such a simple change could eliminate the issue. The same thing can apply to our creative endeavors. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in a certain approach or process that we become blind to all the alternatives. We get, almost literally, stuck in our ways.

But, a quick shift in your perspective or practice might be all it takes to unravel a knot or remove an obstacle.

How might you change things up to better facilitate flow in your creative work? Is there something you’re doing (probably without even realizing it) to hinder your progress?

What I’m Reading:

book pilgimage desireI don’t typically read memoirs, but last spring my friend Alison Gresik published her travel memoir, Pilgrimage of Desire. Frankly, I’m a little embarrassed that it took me this long to get around to reading it. I’m also very glad that I finally made the time to travel alongside Alison on her journey.

In the afterword, Alison beautifully sums up the purpose behind her labors on this book ~

I wrote Pilgrimage of Desire for all those who feel trapped in a life that doesn’t let them practice their creativity in a way that feeds their soul, for those who have so much to express but have boxed themselves in with rules and responsibilities.

The book is an account of several milestone events in Alison’s life including the adoption of her two children, and the reinvention of her domestic life when she and her husband embarked on an open-ended trip around the world when their kids were only five and three, and her battle with walking depression. Interwoven with these stories, Alison shares her experience of walking the “desire lines” writing passion.

Alison’s is a story full of simple yet poignant discoveries. As she says of why her modest story matters, “Because it’s not exotic and sensational. I’m not unusual or extraordinary. I’m just a woman who decided to stop trying to be a good girl and go after what she wanted. A woman who realized that she could do more for the world by being herself.”

One of my favorite passages in Pilgrimage tells of Alison’s experience of rediscovering her own god, Amma, while walking a labyrinth at a women’s retreat. I also loved the honest thoughts she shared about the fears and desires each of us has about her creative work such as, “I needed to reframe work as something I did for myself as much as others – a way of caring for myself, a source of meaning and joy, not just of money and approval.”

And this moment, when she addressed her work-in-progress, made me want to stand up and cheer,

Pilgrimage, let’s have some angels join us in the writing. The Angel of Flow, who wears watered silk in shades of blue. The Angel of Love in pink spandex. The Angel of Poetry, black and white words dripping off her fingers. The Angel of Getting Your Shit Together, in tight jeans and a rock-and-roll T-shirt. The Angel of Truth and Beauty, who combines the grace of Venus with the mouth of a trucker. Together we’re going to rock this manuscript.

At the end of each chapter, Alison includes exercises that you, as a fellow seeker of creative fulfillment, can use to help uncover your own patterns, motivations, and triggers. She draws on her experience as a student and creative coach, generously sharing words of wisdom and resources she has found on her journey.

If you are an artist and a seeker, if you are someone who is trying to find your way on a creative journey and might benefit from following the faintly luminescent trail of someone who has walked the labyrinth before you, Alison Gresik’s memoir, Pilgrimage of Desire might be the perfect traveling companion.

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin what it is

Here’s to gaining clarity and finding purpose, but always following your desire lines and being open to the obvious solutions that are right in front of you. xo
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
Lightning Photo Credit: zachstern via Compfight cc

26 thoughts on “Weekend Edition – The Magic of Clarity Plus Good Reads and Writing Tips

  1. Thank you for the recommendation. I, too, find myself lacking clarity at this point in my life, likely because I’ve boxed myself into this world of financial worries and never-ending winter (I mean, all I want to do is wear a sundress, is that really so much to ask?). I look forward to reading Pilgrimage of Desire to see Gresik’s journey and how she handled it.

    • A sundress … I think I remember what that is. 😉

      I think clarity comes and goes for most of us. I have some days where my direction and path seem crystal clear, and then Real Life butts in and I am momentarily distracted. I am trying to learn not to resent such interruptions. After all, life is life and often those things that seem to be interruptions actually end up being inspirations.

      I hope you enjoy Alison’s book! Thanks for coming by.

  2. Clarity is one reason why my current project is going well – I’ve got a clear goal and message I am trying to convey. Makes the writing easier.

    For my writing to flow I find that I do need to spend time away from the keyboard doing things that inspire my creativity – reading, hiking, trip to the beach, visiting a museum and for the first time I attended an open mic poetry reading this month. To be inspired you have to put yourself in places that fill your soul.

    • I so agree that clarity makes the writing easier!
      And, I also agree that it’s important to get out into the world and experience things that fill your soul and expand your imagination. I am trying to make more time for those kinds of outings in my life. My daughter is often a good influence on me when it comes to that. 😉

      Happy adventuring & writing!

  3. My inspiration is life itself. The power that fuel my writing is my experience, who I am, what I am and how I see the world. People fascinates me. I love to listen to their stories, what they got to say,their emotions, their feelings. Places I’ve been to are equally endless source of information and inspiration.

  4. Ooh! That book looks amazing 🙂 Another one on my to read list 😉 For me, clarity is very important in everything I do. I’m one of those slightly annoying people that has to understand everything, and asks questions until I do. So it makes sense that I require clarity in my writing as well – clarity of purpose especially. Why am I doing this? Because I like it, firstly. The very act of writing creates clarity inside of me. I understand myself and what happens to me better when I write about it. This kind of clarity is good for my mental health and makes me feel inspired and creative. It’s kind of a big ole circle 😉

    • Yes, yes, YES!
      I often find that I have to write my way to clarity. Whether I’m trying to figure out a storyline or my own feelings, putting words down is an almost magical way to untangle things enough that I can find the thread of meaning I should follow.

      Also – btw – I’m also one of those annoying people. I LOVE to dig into questions and ask why and see how everything comes together to create a particular outcome. All of life seems a puzzle to me, but one that is endlessly fascinating and ultimately so fulfilling … even when some of the pieces are missing.

      Thanks for sharing your perspective. You always flip things just enough that I see another whole side. 🙂

      • It does not surprise me one little bit that you are a fellow questioner, Jamie ;). Interestingly, I used to think that everyone is curious and questioning (when I was young and narcissistic), but I have since found out that we are in the minority…

  5. This post was just what I needed today. Thank you! Only yesterday I was trying to understand why I find it so difficult to write even though it’s one of the things that provide me with absolute joy. I’m still on the journey for clarity. This post has helped me realize how necessary it is to be mindful of oneself, one’s environment, and the unique situations we find ourselves in everyday. Distilling experiences into emotion does transfer to writing effectively!

    • You’re so welcome.
      I love that you’ve brought up being mindful. In today’s pell-mell world that’s all hustle and bustle and rushing to keep up, the idea that we should step back and really take a moment to “distill” our experiences is so refreshing.

      Thanks for coming by and sharing that. 🙂

  6. Aaah…in all honesty, I have still not discovered my WHY, and was reminded to do the same by a very dear friend who was advising me about branding and blogging! Her two pieces of advice were: a. Know your why; b. Know what makes you different

    I have no idea why I want to write – and, frankly, I am in a creative slump right now – but I am spending more time trying to achieve this clarity!

    Another fabulous post, Jamie! #HUGSS And I recently bought “Pilgrimage of Desire” too – your review was the nudge I needed to read it.

    Thank you ❤


    PS: I ENJOYED your mini-story about those two adorable dogs 😉

    • Your friend and I share the same philosophy about branding and blogging. 😉 Great advice!

      Though it may seem a sidestep to take a break and spend some time figuring out your why, ultimately I think you’ll find that it provides you with extra energy and inspiration … both of which will help boot you right out of that creative slump you mentioned! Yay!

      Hope you enjoy Alison’s book. Love to hear your thoughts.
      And thanks for the kind words re: my puppy story. They are too adorable!

  7. FYI, I do believe that being clear about your motivation to write is often MORE important than being clear about HOW to write.

    Because, really, writing is a subjective craft and each person’s attitude, aspirations and personality influences his style of prose.

    But becoming clear about your WHY adds that much-needed ZING or X-factor without which your posts will drown in a see of other ‘me toos’

    Bottom line, I think I am in trouble! LOL

    LOVE ya

  8. I had not thought to discover the Why behind my writing. But as I have decided to make my A – Z Blogging about my writing, I just might. And now I have an entry for W. Thanks. 😉

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