Fire & Ice : A Writer’s Muse

Mother Nature rules the roost on this island. She decides when Geyser will explode into the air, when the next volcanic eruption will transform the land, when the tectonic plates will shift and when the northern lights will dance. I felt small and insignificant, figuratively and literally next to the dramatic and fierce landscape, at the mercy of Her. A risk taker, enjoying a land that emitted a quiet, impending doom.

I couldn’t help but notice geometric patterns tagging the landscape; an ikat rug amidst the frozen lake, leopard print covering the mountain side. The bright colored roofs on a gloomy day made me giddy with childlike wonder and enamor.  The vibrant street-art filled the otherwise boring walls with a funky personality of opinion and depth. The volcano formed scenery reminded me of agro crag from Nickelodeon’s GUTS. Tales of mischievous elves and the hidden people ran through my mind as I gazed into the mountainside, feeling confident of their presence.

The dramatic landscape and the feeling of unpredictability in this country fosters raw, vulnerable art. A transformative aroma in the air, a feeling begging for fresh thought and nurtured ideas.

Iceland: the perfect setting for a writing retreat.

As I arrived home and unpacked my suitcase labeled ‘heavy’ by airport staff, the only thing I found left untouched was my little green book, Brave Enough, by Cheryl Strayed. She was scheduled to attend our writing retreat in Iceland, and of course, sign my book, but much to everyone’s disappointment, had the stomach flu and couldn’t make it.

The writers were reassured with an Icelandic saying, þetta reddast, meaning it will work out.

This little book represented a theme for my week at the retreat. What I thought would be my experience, was something quite different. Something more, defined not just by one person but an entire country, like-minded friends, authors and mouth-watering brown bread.

Self-discovery as a new writer was my heart-tugging purpose for attending the retreat. Looking back, a quite lofty goal. I have been seeking direction and clarity in my new full-time pursuit as a freelance copywriter/blogger/newsletterist/non-fiction short story teller, and this seemed like the perfect setting for exploration.

Wednesday to Sunday in the small, big city of Reykjavik were dedicated to writing, workshops, receptions and tours. I was intimidated by all of my accomplished co-writers, legitimized by their published work and extensive background. Were they nervous like me? Were they undercover introverts who love their alone time but also feel rejuvenated by fresh conversation and connection?

I knew I would have to explain myself as a writer and this made me a little anxious. As if someone was going to discover that I wasn’t actually a writer? In reality, being surrounded by so many honest and vulnerable people was a huge relief. These were my people

When I explained my current situation of career ambiguity (like some kind of a prognosis) to a man of 60-years, he just nodded his head in understanding and agreement.  He explained that he has done all types of writing in his career, and that was the best part about it. You don’t need to have just one formula.

One of the novelists, Adelle Waldman, recalled her humble beginnings saying, “I used to be just a girl with a word document.”

Maybe I’m in that phase.

I captured so many other important, tasty bits of knowledge throughout the retreat. Here is a small sampling:

  • If something disturbs you, write about it
  • Be humble in front of the world
  • You have an idea, now find the story
  • What is something you are too afraid to ever write about. Write about that.
  • Don’t mistake the good feeling of finishing something, with actually being finished
  • Emotional responses are not your friend
  • Writing is the only art form where you can inhabit the body and mind of another human, real or fake
  • Open yourself to condemnation and shame, and trust in everyone’s humanity
  • Know the difference between a confession (deep/dark) versus a revelation (how something changed you)
  • Ask yourself the question, “Who am I really?”
  • Be brave in your writing

I am brave. I am brave. I had to be brave traveling alone at 22 weeks pregnant. Brave to be vulnerable and true in sharing who I am. Brave to take the leap into a career of the heart.

Now, to take my real-life bravery and translate it into my writing, and my pursuit of new writing opportunities. My challenge and purpose is clear.

We were treated to a small Skype session with Cheryl Strayed at the end of the retreat. It all worked out. And I left with so much more than a signed book.

A soul brimming with creativity, motivation and bravery.

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Photo Credit: Lucy Rogers

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8 Ways to Embrace the Single Lady Life

I love that my family shares my passion for writing. I think we all learn from each other and each have our own stories to tell. Here is another humorous blog post from my littlest sister Michelle Lynn Loftus.

  1. Enjoy every day and do what YOU want. You have no one else’s agenda to abide by. While I am looking forward to the day that I can have someone else’s agenda intertwined with mine, now is the time to cherish whatever each day brings and to ‘do you’.
  2. Make people feel bad around Christmas. Before you judge me, I only mean make your mom feel bad, and by bad, I mean, milk out an extra gift if you can. Think about it, if you logically explain that you are saving her money by not having a boyfriend to buy a gift for (unlike your three sisters) she might come to the natural conclusion that you deserve a little somethin’ somethin’ extra. Double whammy.
  3. Be bold. Put yourself out there, chat with random people, do some eye flirting, have fun with all the fish in the sea. You spend a lot of time swimming around, so you might as well have fun while you’re at it.
  4. Don’t wear makeup if you don’t want to. While you may think you should always be prepared to meet The One, he’s gotta see you without that extra layer at some point, so enjoy the natural-ness. Disclaimer: I’ll probably wear makeup as infrequently when I do have a boyfriend, as when I don’t.
  5. Hangout with your friends, be the “yes” girl to new experiences, go travel, have slumber parties and go to happy hours that last all night. I am very excited for when I do get to spend the night next to my person, but in the mean time, share those nights with other people you love.
  6. Go on blind dates. If nothing else, you’ll leave with a great story to share.
  7. Enjoy your AM routine. Whether that’s waking up and working out, sleeping in, sitting on the pot for 10 minutes or calling your mom. Do your thang girl because you only have yourself to please.
  8. Be the best 3rd wheel, 5th wheel, 7th wheel that you possibly can! Seriously, I’ve been all of these (maybe even a 9th wheel) and now is the best time to focus on and enjoy the people who are actually, physically present in your life.

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