Order of the Good Write

That Magic Feeling When the Words Flow. A Blog by Debi Rotmil

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“What Will Your Verse Be?”

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O Me! O Life!

By Walt Whitman

Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.
Source: Leaves of Grass (1892)

I’ve been taking some down time lately. It’s been super busy at the day job, and a trip to New York to rejuvenate my creative flow has left me feeling wistful for home (NY) and slightly jet lagged; yet, I’m happy to have this moment, this early summer Friday where my little vacation continues in my apartment in Los Angeles as I plot the future, make goals, and wait for Mercury to stop being in retrograde. Apparently, it’s the cause of many creative people feeling stuck and drawn lately.
Hands up if that’s what you’re feeling.

Hands down if you think it’s just an excuse for resistance.
I don’t. I think if we know resistance, and play with it, we can live nicely with extraneous forces that pull our minds away from getting down to business.

This universe is made of mass and energy. We are part of the bang, the energy flow that comes and goes with the tide forced by the moon’s pull. What planets design our emotion allows us to only speculate, but it’s worth knowing that we are in the middle of a force, an open plane we cannot understand. So if a planet performing a retrograde dance is halting our feelings and work flow – who are we to question it?

I often wonder if we as humans use that story as an excuse to not do the work. Then, when I think this way, I send my thoughts back to what I’ve just written in the paragraph above and realize – we are all stars. And there’s nothing any pragmatic  scientist  can really do to change that feeling. We exist. We are here. Our lives are worth something, yet we are pieces of a grand universal puzzle we cannot control. So, let’s contribute our verse, our story, while we are here.

As I build my verse to the world, bit by bit in the background, I turn to the wondrous Mr. Robin, whose portrayal of John Keating in ‘Dead Poets Society’ rings forth the truth from Whitman, and continues the flow by asking his young students…

“What will your verse be?”


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Fear and the Dinosaur at your Cave Hole


“Hello! I’m your friendly dinosaur, and I’m here to eat you now.”

The amygdala is the portion of the brain in charge of fear. Its purpose is a left over from our caveman days when fear signaled to our bodies that danger was imminent. For instance, if a Tyrannosaurus rex was about to crush you under foot, your brain would flood with all kind of endorphins that would haul your ass out of its path. Fear and flight.

You’d think the human body would have evolved away from cave man days after thousands of years of civilization. We should be a fearless species in the technology age, and not be scared of life and the opportunities we can create.

Yet, in its own way, the ancient force of nature may play a factor in survival today.  Today’s fear allows us to step into a higher form of living. It allows us to break through adversity and survive at all costs. It’s just a question of how we chose to survive – by playing with fear or succumbing to it? If we succumb to it, we fail evolution and get crushed by the very thing that scares us.  If we dabble and laugh at fear, learning to play with it – we move into a higher level of consciousness and embrace the courage to go forth and do something we’ve never done before.

People who embrace fear are the thrill seekers. They are the ones who need the rush of climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, or shoot off in a space capsule with its lasers set for the surface of the moon. They love roller coaster rides, sky diving or bungee jumping. They free fall off mountains with parachutes on their back.

Although we don’t have to exercise the frightening pull of such hobbies (there is no way on god’s green earth I will EVER jump off anything higher than 2 feet), the concept of fear is alive and well in regular people whose only thrill is doing something they’ve never done before in order to gain an exhilarating result.

That result can be writing a book and having it published. It can be stepping through the fear of taking an improv class, or pulling through stage fright when speaking in public for the first time. It can be writing this blog about fear, or joining a team of like minded business owners to brainstorm ways you can each achieve your goals.

Here’s another form of free fall sky diving: Leaving your regular day job and going forth as a full time business owner.  Talk about bunjee jumping. We don’t need to get strapped to the end of a giant rubber band over a bridge to gain that thrill. Try letting go of a safe corporate job to embark on your dreams once you’ve built the foundation. Say goodbye to the safety net of a paycheck, after one starts to see earnings and gaining clients whose lives are positively changing thanks to the product you’ve brought to the world. The fear of venturing out to acquire this success is something that can stop you in your tracks. But you have to pull through.

Then, there is another fear built into the general resistance that holds you back: The fear of failure. Failure is always one step away. It’s on the other side of the hill. It awaits you the moment you wake up. The amygdala is working on overdrive, because it’s reaching back and feeling the stomping feet of a modern day Deno the Dino.

But here’s the deal. If you don’t even try – you’ve already failed. Scared to do something you really want to do, but you give up?  Then you’ve failed. Nobody will listen to me or read my book?  Okay. You’ve failed. Look – no one is really reading my book (“Hitting Water”) because I’ve been too busy working on the next thing to promote it. I don’t look at that as a failure. I look at that as the first step in learning to write a book and promote it. Maybe it will take off in the years to come, after I’ve built a website community for writers and coach people in getting their writing out.  But if I didn’t try – I would have failed.  Just getting the book out was a big step. And that’s success to me.  If I hadn’t done it – I’d risk being miserable. I’d risk being bitter.

Failure is a lesson. Failure is a step toward the next thing, the next idea. If we succumb to fear because FAILURE is the brick wall that stops us – then we’re living in the hungry mouths of a pre-historic creature.

We shouldn’t stop working on our goals because a giant reptile was eying us for breakfast 50 million years ago. Move it on upwards. Dino isn’t roaring at our cave hole now – unless WE put him there.

This is pep talk to everyone dealing with the fear of doing something you love. It’s also a pep talk to myself.

Thanks for reading!

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Going Deep

My father and my cousin Michele. The Cloisters, 1961.

My father and my cousin Michele. The Cloisters, 1961.

What memories are you carrying inside your mind that can’t be captured by a photograph?

The way you felt when you kissed someone for the first time.

The memory of the day you first experienced the death of a loved one.

Your first day of school and how the butterflies danced inside as you broke in your fresh new pair of back to school jeans.

The sweet ache of a fall day in the rain when you were in love with a boy or girl, and the romantic daydreams that held you.

The time you visited the Cloisters in upper Manhattan with your nieces and your youngest niece needed a hug because she was sad her parents were divorcing.

We live on this earth such a brief time. When we die, and when the ones who come behind us go – all those memories, feelings, images, love, and romance – or just the boring dripping time of everyday life that unfolded and passed – go with you.

The moments that grabbed your heart in a way that made you feel heaven – will all go away.

Hudson Hotel, NYC May 2014

Hudson Hotel, NYC May 2014

There will be pictures left behind, videos and albums. But will there be words? Will words express the coffee you had in that dreamy cafe in London? Will those pictures breathe true life into how you were feeling when you took that selfie on the EuroStar to Paris? Or what happened on that camp trip in Arizona? Your iPhone captured the hilarity of catching your partner behind a tree with his pants down to his ankles – but what happened afterwards? What was the laughter or anger like?

Do you want to remember? Yes? Of course! Don’t let the content of the mind’s memory bank fade away.

No? Why? Was the pain of a memory so bad, the intensity placed a wall, blocked it forever? Okay. Perhaps we should forget the bad memories and the sticky stuff of life. However,  painting a faint stroke of the bad makes us explore the good. It  makes us realize the person we’ve become today.

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Citifield. Memorial Day Weekend. May 2014.

Photos are beautiful. As a visual person by nature, I’ve marveled at the power of a photo as it delves into the spiritual aspect of a moment, the stillness in time,  the thrust of a muscle on hold, the grin and laughter frozen in a millionth of a second.

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Baxter and Batman, Los Angeles 2014.

A photo can express words and thought with just a click. The churning feelings behind the images we will leave behind in digital folders and clouds on the internet universe are there forever, and will remain so until after we are gone.

Indeed, a picture can tell a whole story, but the words a human being writes expressing the moments before and after the “click” can provide the screenplay to the entire film. The question will always remain: what happened after you took that picture? What memories are you carrying that can’t be captured by a photograph – memories that will disappear the day you leave this earth?

Tell your story. Write your words.

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Bob Dylan’s MusiCares Speech Speaks Volumes

Bob“The songs are there. They exist by themselves, just waiting for someone to write them down. If I didn’t do it, someone else would.”   ~Bob Dylan, 1962

If that ain’t a writer…

Whether you like him or not, it’s evident Dylan knew how to crystallize the human condition down to lyrics in a song. Every track hit the nerve of so many yearning for common ground. Whether it was about love, politics, history, romance, love, hate, anger, comedy, caddy bullshit, society coming down hard, or losers hanging around Dylan’s door – he amalgamated and borrowed aspects of life, people, old songs and inspired hymns to create an image. A by-product of that image is a body of spectacular work.

But Dylan isn’t God. He’s not the savior. He’s just a man who proved he wasn’t what he seemed by hiding behind the flour dust mask during his 1975 Rolling Thunder Tour. He’s a troubadour. He’s an historian. He’s a soothsayer. He’s an imposter. He’s the truth. He’s a man. A father.  He’s flesh and blood. He’s a writer.

The quote above is the personification of the writing process. Our creative process – this mysterious output of words and thought – is not something to be questioned or judged. It’s showing up and finding the song that already exists – that’s the stuff. The mystery is in finding the key.

No wonder why Dylan was so indignant when tiresome journalists asked the same questions about his songs.  Some accused him of everything. “Judas!” “Imposter!” “Savior!”  They tested his resolve, treated his songs like they were bars of gold that he stole from a vault. They demanded answers. How did he write this? What is this song about? Who are you do this? How dare you?

In last Friday’s speech, Dylan was finally able to ask them the same. Face to face. It didn’t take a rendition of “Idiot Wind” to do it. “How dare YOU?” he said to naysayers.

Even if he raged and rattled his stick against their cage – the answer was always there. He had nothing to do with the songs. Oh, yes he had a way with words, or he held a sensitive radar on the human condition.  But maybe he created something new from something old, in order to produce something unique on it’s own. Maybe just living, exploring and relishing the work of others sparked new thought and inspiration.

We all have this in us. We’re all Dylan in a way. Just showing up and and sticking to it helps. Kind of comforting to know it.

When MusiCares honored him last week, Dylan’s now famously long, angry, humble and transparently refreshing speech summed it all up for a writers and creative folk. You can take it as it is.

“All these songs are connected. Don’t be fooled. I just opened up a different door in a different kind of way. I didn’t think I was doing anything different. I thought I was just extending the line.”

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The World Inside Us

theworldbeforeusThe video I posted yesterday of Astronaut Ron Garan’s time lapse video taken from the International Space Station stays with me today. It not only packs a punch when you think of perspective and how we are tiny dots on the butt of the universe, it also produces this lofty profound feeling of peace. Looking at planet Earth from so high above the atmosphere where it’s a glowing magical ball of aurora borealis and green ionosphere colors, there’s tranquility – like the empty space in our minds and heart when one meditates.

The quiet nothingness of outer space is like that quiet corner of the mind. When we view the planet from on high, we see this serene sphere and know it is vibrating with life and colliding emotions. How silly do we feel knowing how small our problems are, how man made our issues, how destructive human ego can be when we are riding on a big glowing ball in the middle of a dark vast universe of stars?

Each of us has a bit of heaven or outer space in our hearts and minds. The outer space within us brings forth some good writing. Sit still and listen to thoughts that come from that space. Don’t block the daydreams that enter your head, (unless you have to attend to responsibilities, of course). When you have a chance, try turning off the chaos around you. Ideas will come. This also helps if you’re trying to tap into your intuition, to help you make a difficult decision.

As John Lennon once sang, “There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done.” Do you know why? Because there is a world inside us that provides a deep abundant well of good stuff.

Little by little you allow the open space – “The Big Wherever” to let it rush through. As my online guru Marie Forleo says “The world needs that special gift that only you have.” Bring it.

Each of us has something to offer. Earth looks so pretty when we see it from a space station orbiting above. Why not listen to our calling and try to make it better down below?

I love doing these pep talk blogs. I’m not just trying to help anyone out there reading this, I’m giving a pep talk to myself as well. We’re all in this together!

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Let’s Be Clear on Clarity

wisdom oneBe clear in you goals. Be clear. Set a plan. With each goal, see what you’re going to do today to help you reach that incredible destination. Spend 60-90 minutes everyday working on what you want. Take it from me. I never really claimed what I wanted – to myself – to the universe. It was all wishy washy. It was all –  I just want a job to pay the bills- kind of language. Let’s change this intention. If you give out vague, you’re going to get back vague. The universe is a energy field connected to our mindset. Our minds are powerful. Set sail for a specific horizon with your eyes focused on your goal. If you don’t, you’ll run aground on Gilligan’s Island, and sadly everyone on that island, with the exception of Ginger and Mary Anne are dead. What a drag.

goalsettingWhat do you want as a writer and as a person in this universe of life? Let’s all be clear about what we want. Let’s claim a stake on how we see our lives the way we want it to be. This includes loved ones, family life and purpose. Think – what is it that you want to do and write it down here. Go ahead. I have this comment box below and I want to put it to good use. Let’s start the talk so we can walk the walk. Let’s not be unhappy and lost anymore. Right here and now. What do you want, and what are the steps you will take to make it happen?

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The Big Wherever

Rene Magritte, "Le Beau Monde"

Rene Magritte, “Le Beau Monde”

We are put on this earth to create something. It is our duty to bring a bit of heaven down below and fortify others to do the same. Never stop. Never compare. I do this all too much and have realized lately that it’s a futile gesture. Comparing and doubting provides the negative juju. It implants unnecessary fear and stops that lovely flow that draws itself from The Big Wherever. The Big Wherever. That’s what I love to call it.  It’s something you can’t describe because it’s not our business to describe it. It’s somewhere in the ether or the heavens. You can call it God or Jesus. You can call it a portal to a fertile source. But we are here to create something wonderful. That could be a child, a building, a car, a dress, a yoga class and baseball game an article in a magazine – anything. Multiply it until you’ve filled the world with a line of new thoughts, visions, clothes, words, books, ideas. We need to bring it down from The Big Wherever because that’s our purpose in life. Don’t stop the flow. Just be. It will come.

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Just Write

three shot female authorThis is a disjointed post today. Writing is so weird. You come up with ideas, and then you articulate them into words and sentences to form thoughts and images, to extract meaning and crystallize human emotions with a witty phrase or retort.  You know what’s also weird? When other writers have to create a role for themselves. Examples: She’s the crazy goth girl who writes poetry about cutting and bleeding. He’s the damaged emotional emo nerd who uses comic book semantics while fighting off robots from outer space; She’s the fucked up girl with daddy issues whose anger alienates everyone, including her readers, so she pontificates about how society sucks.

Oh reader and fellow writer, there’s a little bit of that in all of us.  Especially if we’re young or mid-aged precious little snowflakes stuck in the snowstorm of life. Try plowing that snowdrift.

Tapping once again into Hannah Horvath, our flawed millennial heroine – through her, we see how artists and writers can paint ourselves into a persona. Hannah’s Iowa world is filled with writers who are self critical beings projecting their insecurities upon others to sustain their own frail confidence.  It’s a microcosmic version of what most writers face every day – not only in classes or workshops – but in the comment section of Gawker, Jezebel or any website where thoughts and reactions unleash a spillage of nitpicky, unnecessary, snarky, hard edged commentary written by someone hiding behind an anonymous screen name.  Today’s writing is not only a creative process explaining the world around us and  existential conundrums. Today’s writing can sometimes be a meeting of trolls with a platform to crap upon anyone who makes a typo. You have to have skin as thick as a brick to let these blogger foes get to you.

This is why I’m conflicted over Hannah’s drunken speech to her fellow workshop cohorts on last Sunday’s “Girls”. I loved it – because we all want to say it. Yet, in calling out everyone around her for being fake and pretentious, she herself has carved a little persona for herself – self righteous brat who thinks she’s being correct by being brutally honest and alienated herself in the process. Gotta give her credit – she’s trolling her workshop mates face to face and not behind a pseudonym or online handle. And in turn, Hannah said plenty of things one wishes to say to the snarks on Facebook or on Amazon or on Jezebel, but the point is – why bother? In doing it, you fall onto the same level as those you’re verbally pummeling. I get detached irony (I’m guilty of it), but when does it become too insulting – too….bullying?  I love Lena Dunham for making Hannah this way. We don’t have to adore our protagonist. People are flawed. Writers young and old can be tetchy.  It’s a growing process, and we’re all growing no matter what age.

Writers, dear fellow writers. Let’s just all be ourselves. Let the words flow. When inspiration hits, just go with it. Don’t block it out. If it doesn’t come, don’t beat yourself up.

There’s something unexplainable about the force of creativity. It seems to come from nowhere. Everyone from The Beatles to Bob Dylan to The Decemberists, Wilco, Sia, JayZ – they all create something that provides meaning for the universe. But they cannot explain the process. The process and the source doesn’t really belong to them.  So, there’s no reason to let the haters or the lovers get to us. Keep it even keel. Enjoy the creative source and write the good write. Tell the good tale. Express the bad if you can. Don’t question it. And unless you’re vying to become a public figure with a PR campaign to bring you over the edge to the conscious of a public audience – don’t get lost in a persona. Bob Dylan did that, and he had to explain to journalists and stalkers for the last fifty years that he is not what he seems. He’s just a human being who’s a conduit to a rich source.

And if you have to tell someone they are a pretentious dope, don’t say it to their face. Take that energy and write a story about it where your antagonist is a big asshole. That can be a very enjoyable read.  I wish Hannah would have done that instead of eating brownie mix, watching TV, chatting with Eliah, getting drunk and handing a verbal moral mirror to the faces of her fellow writers. Maybe she wouldn’t have her bike stolen all the time.

Peace and love, winter snow birds!

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Day Job Distractions

It happened again today. The celestial being we writers like to refer to as “The Muse” visited my brain while in an early morning meeting. It seems the earlier I wake up, the more clear my brain. This makes ideas, words and stories suddenly flow through the spigot that had been blocked for weeks.  Yet, it always seems to happen when there are people around me, in a conference room, talking about negotiations and output deals. In between looking at emails on my iPad and thinking of plans for the day, comes a whole new idea for a book!  And not only a book, but a writing project that actually has an audience I can define.

Feverishly, descreetly, I jot down titles for chapters that I feel will become the chapters of my book. It occurs to me that my entire life has been spent creating this possible novel. The disappointments, the varied jobs, each have contributed toward something that adorable little hobbit The Muse thoughtfully decided to whisper in my mind grapes (see: Tracy Jordan, 30 Rock). Now,  after playing coy and not showing up to the table each time I open a blank Word document. Now, after,  committing to writing each day, ready for the flow, only to be stood up like a cheap date. Now, the ideas flow. Now, while I need to pay attention to my day job. Okay. I’ll take it now. Bring it, muse. Bring it while my mind is open and relaxed, trance-like and have some down time before I need to do the job I’m being paid for. I have other responsibilities, you know.

Writing and planning a career in self publishing has been like tending to a winter garden. This past year has been spent toiling the earth, fortifying  the soil with words, stories, ideas, structure, plans – each element of the creative process tended to on a day by day process, until content is actually formed – usable, publishable content. Yet, the growth of the writing career I’m cultivating is slow. The dirt is looking healthy and moist for growth, but the seeds are still hatching down below. Today, while listening to the clicks and static of mobile phones on a Polycom, it seems that garden might see some buds come spring!

Funny how that works.