We have a new author with us: Jewel Allen!! We are so happy to have her on board to post her wisdom and tell us what her life has been like.
Check out her website www.JewelAllen.com
and wonderful writings: http://www.treasuredstories.net/
by Jewel Allen
Say whaaat? You are probably asking as you stare, bleary-eyed at your computer screen, thinking of that to-do list that perpetually hangs over your head. In this day of minimizing, downsizing, and simplifying, this advice runs contrary.
You see, I’m trying to save us all from turning into dry husks of coconut. I’m pushing us all to live real. Because unless you are experiencing life, your creative efforts will most likely remain flat, lacking that spark.
But what about Jane Austen, you ask? She lived, by all accounts, in a quiet household in a quiet town. Thing is, behind her demure façade, she people-watched. She noted drama, loves won and loves lost, and lucky for us, added her observations to her fiction.
It is very tempting as a writer to say no to everything that draws us away from our writing. I don’t know how many times I’ve sat at my computer instead of joining my family upstairs to watch a movie. When my family’s out riding horses, I’m revising a manuscript for the zillionth time. Sometimes, saying no is essential when you’ve spent the day on laundry, carpooling, milk runs and errands to the post office – everything but writing.
Oftentimes, however, we go too far.
Faced with opportunities to live, really live, we choose to opt out. We tell ourselves, “I cannot (fill in the blank) because I need to be writing.” As we retreat to ourselves, we end up stagnant. We may be a more productive writer, but as a human, we are under-developed.
I’ve been guilty of this, stripping my life to the bare essentials. Running my kids to school and doing the minimum possible before hiding out in my house to write the great American novel. What I lacked in excitement, I contrived on the written page. It was safe, shallow, and I’ll have to admit, boring.
To deepen and enrich our writer lives, we must be willing to get out and knock on doors.
On my wall in my home office, I have six framed photos of colorful doors. I’d taken these photos in Dublin, Ireland, two years ago visiting my sister. The doors fascinated me. They represented a paradox - safety (a closed door) and boldness (vivid colors). I took a lot of photos, not knowing what I’d do with them, but now I’m glad. I finally put them up this past month on my wall, as a photo gallery, intending to pair it with the quote, “Doors will open to those bold enough to knock.”
We can only say yes to things if we knock on that door. Invited to proceed, we must actually turn the knob and go inside.
It has taken me the past twenty years to realize this. During that time, I worked as a journalist. I loved that I could file stories electronically and still be a stay-at-home mom. I loved that I could be privy to my subjects’ most intimate thoughts and aspirations. But I also suffered from envy. My subjects led interesting lives whereas I was simply observing.
Faced with the choice to remain a journalist or jump full-on into activism and politics, I knocked on the political door and opened it. This past year, I ran for city council and won. It was a hard decision. How could I write and be in politics? It seemed not only a time drain but four years of subject restrictions.
And yet I am finding it has given me a new lease on my creativity. I meet interesting individuals, learn my community’s back story, and can write with authority about politics. Whether or not I use this material someday, I am learning a lot about life and people.
Not everyone has the constitution nor the interest to run for office. Or something equally time-consuming. Because I won’t lie; it takes time and energy.
So start simple. Even volunteering in a child’s classroom can teach you something. When my daughter was in sixth grade, I volunteered to help in hers. My job was to pull aside a student out in the hall and practice math flash cards. I was supposed to teach them, in a fashion, and yet in reality they taught me. Week after week, I got to know these children, older beyond their years. They faced challenges in their home life which they candidly shared with me. They taught me that some things are more important and consequential than the correct answer to “eight times eight.”
As my kids have grown, I’ve said yes to being a journalist, opinion columnist, lead singer of a rock band, ghostwriter, author, activist, and now, politician. Some days, I feel like I am about as wrung out as I can be and have nothing more to give. I have stepped out of my comfort zone, taken risks, failed resoundingly in very public ways, eaten humble pie, and second guessed myself at every turn.
But there have also been other days when I meet people or end up in situations that lead to interesting opportunities. Like colorful doors, they beckon for me to knock, open and discover. I might not have all the time in the world to devote to writing, but I will have lived a life worth writing about.
And isn’t that worth saying yes to, today?
Jewel Allen is an award-winning journalist, author, ghostwriter, mom and politician. Read about her adventures on www.jewelallen.com.