Order of the Good Write

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

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Resistance Rules The Day: Call in Your Superhero


In Steven Pressfield’s famous book “War of Art”, resistance is the common enemy of the artist and writer.  It makes you sleepy. It tells you to skip the work for today or not go to the gym (Yes, resistance is the enemy to your body.)  If you ever feel it, here’s what you do. Call in your personal superhero.

If you need to sit down and write that essay, the chapter of your book, or a blog post – like this – resistance will tell you to sit on your butt and surf the net. It will tell you to daydream or focus on what you’re going to do tonight. It will beat you up every time you succumb, leaving you unproductive and making you feel like you just ate a bucket of fried chicken – sluggish and ready to hate yourself.  Don’t let this happen. Teleport your own inner Captain America.

Today is one of those days for me. All week, and earlier today, I was revved up, getting my words into gear, studying and researching while keeping my eyes on the prize. Yet, now I’m burned to the core. Ready for a nap, drinking coffee in the late afternoon so I can go to the gym and at least use the elliptical. (No spin for me – not until I get my bike shoes.)

I’ve done a little work. For instance, I’ve researched the writer’s market. I’ve added more names to an email list I’m devising – so I can connect with like minded writers who can give me the low down on how they conduct their business so I can gather wisdom from the wise.

Meanwhile, I have actual office work to do – expense reports, travel plans for my bosses. It will get done. It always does.

But I’m run down today, folks. The writing was sparse. It happens. Best not beat myself up about it (nor you – if you’re going through the same struggle).

Nevertheless, here is an example of showing up.  My inside Wonder Woman just got really pissed off at being held in a closet with duct tape and a scarf around her mouth.  She just took the hard end of her boot and kicked down the door. I decided it felt better to get online and blog something – anything – then to dwell in the darkness and not do it at all.

You over there. Conjure up your Spiderman and scale the walls toward your Word document and write the thoughts drifting in your head. You’re wrapping old man “resistance” in your web, flinging the middle finger at his face. Tell that sucker – okay – I may not get the most done today, but I’m showing up. I’m writing the blog post. I’m adding a paragraph to a chapter in that book.

And you know what, old man resistance? I’m coming back for you tomorrow. Watch out for my tapping fingers and my productive brain. Look out for my bon mots or lousy first draft thoughts, soon to be honed into a usable piece of work. Screw you. You may rule today, but you won’t get the holy grail of my dead mind.

I’ve got my Terminator eye on you. You are in my crosshairs, dusty devil.

I will be back.

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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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Re-Arranging Furniture


This is not my home, but this boho living room is glorious.

I spent the better part of Saturday re-arranging the furniture in my living room. I had to. I’ve lived in my apartment for 2 1/2 years, and kept the layout the same as the day I moved in.  I shoved the armoire over there and that table and wall hanging over here. They all sat in their designated spots, each in the wrong place, with lack of foresight or understanding of how major items of furniture should be centralized instead of hidden against back walls and corners. There’s a reason why accent tables were given their name. They accentuate areas relegated as after thoughts. That corner near the door – that back wall near the kitchen.

In re-creating my space, it allowed me to re-arrange the energy around me. I’ve always held a connection between visuals and spiritual well being. Maybe it’s the Sagittarius in me. I love aesthetics. Vibrant colors, patterns and textures provide a sense of calmness. Areas allotted for open space allow the air to circulate. I breathe easier. The flow works better. The mind becomes uncluttered and stimulated. The climate within my walls has changed for the better. Ideas for writing and business are cleared for take off. But this is only a recent change. It wasn’t always this way.

For the past two years, there was a particularly challenging neighbor who lived next door. We shared the main living room wall. A few days after I moved in, my welcome from her was a knock on the door to tell me my dog cried all day while I was at work. It wasn’t exactly a nice house warming, but I didn’t expect much. I felt terrible about it and tried my best to bring in dog walkers and friends who would hang out and calm him down until he got used to the new place. But that didn’t last since she ambushed them at my door, complaining that she told the lady (me) about how my dog cries all day.

One of my friends felt backed into a corner by her, and called her a bitch. If you knew my kind hearted friend, you’d realize that she really had to be badly spoken to for that word to come out. I’ve been on the receiving end of this neighbor’s wrath, and it was easy to be placed in a defensive mode. That was the neighbor’s energy. My friend loves my dog, and sadly said she could no longer come by to hang out with him. The vibes next door were too negative.

I spent the next two years trying to keep the peace by spending thousands of dollars on doggy day care. Money I could have spent building my business. Money I could have spent going back home to New York. Money I could have spent buying new clothes and a desk to write on. I let her do this to me. I own that. But her energy was a darkness.

You might ask, well – what did you do to provoke her? Nothing. Really. She kind of scared me. I wanted nothing of her, and feared her knock on my back door.  I stayed to myself, went to work, kept my dog out of the house, or took him with me for night time excursions to the supermarket. I lived my life and minded my own business.

If we encountered each other, I’d be grateful if she was nice to me. She gave me her phone number in case I needed help while recuperating from surgery.  She tried to be friendly when the dust up of our last argument settled, confrontations started by her. Yet, I was always uncomfortable – always felt awkward which must have made her feel the same.

There was something going on beyond that wall.  Maybe her stay at home business was going under? Maybe she was emotionally damaged?  Maybe she thought I was the negative force? Just the idea bothers me intensely. I contributed nothing to the emotional state she chose to live by, and I resented being pulled into her drama.

One night, I noticed a flash of light beyond my kitchen door. (We shared a back landing – our kitchen doors faced each other about 10 feet away.)  I looked through my door window to find her hovered over a pot, burning sage or paper, practicing what I could only guess was the art of smudging, because the next day, I found a piece of paper under her door with smudged markings on it. It stayed there for weeks.

I’m not sure if this was because of me, or if she was warding off other negative forces happening in her life.  It seemed that on any given day, she would also burn sage outside her back door in broad daylight. As a devotee of burning incense myself, I truly respect the practice of burning sage. However, knowing the person behind the smoke, the intent was questionable. The smoke would enter my kitchen smelling like bad weed.

Sadly, the sage couldn’t save her from the man who kept ringing her doorbell and knocking on the back door the she refused to answer. It couldn’t dissipate her dispute with the building management.  It couldn’t prevent her from presumably having to leave her apartment for not paying rent. The current new tenant said he accidentally opened mail he thought was addressed to him from our management firm. It was really for her, stating she owed several thousands of dollars in rent. (Funny, she told me the landlord owed her.)

I can’t be mad at her. She was likely an angry soul fighting for her right to live on her own terms, even if it forced others with sensitive natures to live under her darkness. Depending on one’s past and psychological make up, when a person feels powerless, they try to control others to compensate. I was her prey. And I allowed it – just to keep the peace. I didn’t want to hear that angry knock on my door.

Now, that she’s gone, and my  new neighbor is a dog loving sweetheart of a guy – the air has cleared. My lessons have been learned. I’ve moved my armoire to the main wall, my pretty furniture to the forefront, my sofa sideways, my big photo over there and my pretty mirror over the faux fireplace mantel. I even set up a dropcam so I can see my dog at home while I’m at work, and can monitor his, what turns out to be, infrequent crying. (He’s a hound. He gets lonely.)

It’s clearing. The webs and the darkness. Open spaces, light and fresh new air.

As for the former neighbor – I hope she finds peace. I really do. There are millions of people in this world who are as angry and as tormented as she. Let’s hope they all find the open space and the fresh air.

Meanwhile – things are shifting nicely.

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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.

Screenshot 2015-02-28 11.04.45

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.

Screenshot 2015-02-28 11.01.47

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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Foggy LA Morning

foggy la2

“There’s a fog upon LA,

And my friends have lost their way…”

‘Blue Jay Way’ – Words and music by George Harrison

We had a foggy morning in Los Angeles today. Not smog. Fog. Real dewy, low laying clouds.  LA gets a bad rap for its air quality, but things have improved in the last thirty years. Now when you can’t see beyond several yards, it’s a force of nature until the winds change and the sun burns through the mist.

If you’re a writer, you’re constantly dealing with the fog when you’re in the midst of writing a book, article, or blog. Nothing makes you want to bang your head against the desk more than handling the mist of nothingness clouding your once crystal clear vision.

bluejaywaygeorgeBut the problem with our own personal fog, is that we tend to create it ourselves.  I’m super guilty of blaming my brain for the brick wall of futility holding back those pearls of awesome dripping from my imagination onto the keyboard on a particular day (or a succession of days – even weeks). That blame game can be the root of one’s futility.  We put it there by saying, “I can’t write because I’m not a good writer,” or “Why bother when nobody is going to read or publish it anyway,” or “I have nothing to write about.”  Nothing can be further from the truth. Really. Drop kick those beliefs down the street into manhole.

It’s alright to go easy on ourselves and take a break from the daily grind of writing to fill up our shoe with some living. Sometimes we do run aground in creating those pearls of story from our brains. We’ve used up our well of ideas, and now it’s time to fill up our empty imagination with books, museums, movies, music, or just hanging with your friends and chill. Yet, when we have done all this, and blank brain prevails, you have to push through by ignoring the fog and letting your fingers do the work. Just say, screw it and blah blah blah your monitor screen until you get a thought.

I do it all the time. I’m not perfect. There’s self doubt, laziness, too many projects at work that sap my brain energy from focusing on the thing I love the most – writing and working on the foundation of my consulting business where I want to help others writers write. Nevertheless, I cannot succumb. I can take a break, but I have to keep my eyes on that glorious goal.

Don’t fall for the “nope, not feeling it” thing for too long. Remember, not feeling it is just part of the process. There will be days when you don’t really have the flow to produce useable work.  There are productive days and crap days. On the crap days, show up anyway. Screw the resistance that tries to put you in a place of frustration. Put down about 500 words of nothing until you start writing about the cup of coffee you had this morning, or how the chatty coffee clan who sit in front of the Coffee Bean everyday were noisy, or how they ignored your dog. Then suddenly, you’ve taken “a nothing day, and suddenly made it all seem worthwhile.” (I’ve been watching a lot of Mary Tyler Moore reruns). It will not only open up the fog, allowing you to see the light on where you need to go on your book, but it might be the germ of story you can write months from now, when the sky in your head is clear and bright.

But like the weather. Understand the clouds. Be the wind and the barometric pressure. Don’t be hard on yourself. Just try to allow positive thoughts to flow like cool, clear high pressure fronts. Even if you can’t do this, try to rise above negative or heavy thoughts and sit down to write. Write anything. Sometimes putting down 500 words of crappy thoughts will flourish into something awesome.

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The One Thousand Yard Stare of a Writer

Robin Williams as T.S. Garp in "The World According to Garp" (Warner Bros)

Robin Williams as T.S. Garp in “The World According to Garp” (Warner Bros)

Perhaps the screenshot above is another obsessive motion on my love for Robin Williams. But as my previous post states, I re-watched the film “The World According to Garp” over the weekend, and was reminded of the strange wonderment of this unique story.

The photo above is a moment in the film when Garp is staring into the Long Island Sound. He has just said goodbye to his mother for what turns out to be the last time.  Although he didn’t know she would be shot dead by a crazed assassin, he knew something was going to go wrong. Yet, intermixed with this far away thought, is the far away stare of a writer, who longs to capture the emotions and veracity of the moment.

Much like the anger and frustration T.S. Garp felt when his books didn’t match cultural phenomenon proportions like his mother’s publication, “Sexual Suspect”, the futility of writing pervades the mind of an author, especially one who is about to debut their first book – their first self published book. Yikes!

Today, we writers look at J.K. Rowling, or E.L James who started off as unknowns with a great idea for a book that somehow hits the imagination of a populace.  And we hope, as we write our dreamy little dreamy stories, we’ll find the same success. Yet, our rational brains tend to tell us to calm the “f” down. Be detached from the results of your work. Start the next project wishing and blessing the soon-to-be-published work the best. Onward, upward.  And you know what? I think that works well.

So, today, as rain hits southern California, I have the long stare of Garp, looking into the abyss, sensing that something could go wrong, but knowing that everything will be alright.