Tag Archives: Elizabeth Gilbert

A dream of two lions, a tiger, and a visit from the muses

Image by Marcel Langthim from Pixabay

Last night, I dreamed that I was … well, I’m not sure where I was but it was a room in a house I didn’t recognize. There was a door from the back of the house into this room and a door in this room that went out the front of the house. There were people in the room, no one I can specifically recognize, but I seem to remember a maroon couch that I was either standing on or near.

And at one point in this otherwise nondescript dream, a tiger walked in through the back door, silently and in no particular hurry, and walked past me as he made his way through the room and out the front door.  I felt his fur gently brush my skin and felt warmth radiating from his body.

I stood frozen in place as he passed, and when he was gone I said out loud, “A TIGER just walked through the room. Did anyone else see that?” Some people nodded like it was nothing exciting. Some people hadn’t even seen it. For everyone else, it was a non-event.

A bit later – because it’s a dream and I don’t remember what else was happening or how long it took – two lions came into the room. Except they didn’t just walk through. The first one came right up to me, sniffing me the way a dog might sniff a visitor to your house, and then settled herself near my feet as the other lion padded over and also gave me a once over. And then he started licking me. My feet, my legs, my hands. He gnawed softly on my shin and gently, but with intention, butted my side with his enormous head.

As with the tiger, I could feel their fur, could feel the heat from both of the beasts and smell the faint odor of animal, and I was frozen in place by their sheer power as it pressed against the air in the room.

These lions were not necessarily friends. It was clear to me, if not to anyone else, that they were dangerous predators there to investigate me and, if I was found wanting, would have gladly devoured me in a heartbeat.

This time, everyone else in the room was as frozen as I was because, apparently, two lions hanging out are more interesting than one tiger just passing through.

After what felt like an eternity in dream time, the lions both stood, looked me in the eye, and then sauntered out through the front door like the royalty of the jungle that they are.

As they disappeared over the threshold, someone in the room whispered, “That was a fucking LION.”

“No,” I replied aloud. “That was TWO fucking lions.”

And then I woke up.

* * * * *

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Plucking words from the universe and dancing with my muse

radiolab muse elizabeth gilbert

Click the photo to go to Radiolab.org and listen to the podcast.

I just got back from the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in Dayton, OH. I attended in 2004, 2006, and 2008, and then last summer, while at St. David’s Writing Conference, I met three women and talked them into going with me this year.

I’ll write more about the actual conference later, when I’ve recovered from four days of cheesecake, teaching, and social interaction. It was, as expected, fabulous. But I wanted to share one thing with you now.

As I drove from Rochester to Dayton, I binged on past podcasts of RadioLab. One in particular stood out: “Me, Myself, and Muse.”

If you read my blog, I often lament about having great ideas that I don’t follow through with, or about book ideas that I don’t write and then see someone else has written them.  I get stuck, and overthink, and talk a lot about things I want to do but don’t, and it’s been going on for while. Too long. Like, if this whining was in a plastic container of leftovers in my fridge it would have not only gone moldy long ago, it would have sprouted a civilization that developed a cure for cancer.

I’m even on deadline, right now, right this minute, for a book I’m contracted to write that is just completely stalled, and I’m spinning my wheels creatively.

One of the reasons I was back at the Erma Bombeck Writing Workshop was to get my creative self back into alignment. Some time ago, I went from a very successful stint as a music blogger, with regular paying freelancing gigs, and lots of paid blogging and writing, to walking the dogs and binging on Netflix and bemoaning the fact that I offer nothing to the world. To be fair, things had changed in the music and publishing industry, and magazines and newspapers I’d been writing for were sold, which meant those paid writing gigs were gone. And I got jaded and lost my passion, for life and writing. (And there was also that stalker, too, who caused me no small amount of aggravation and was the last straw in the camel’s backpack that led to my taking a break from regular, serious writing for a while.)

The last few years have been a process of stopping, starting, reevaluating, doing well, crawling under a rock, taking stock, and emerging with wings that aren’t quite unfurled. Other parts of my creative life have emerged – improv and, most recently, stand up.  But the writing is now in a different climate, from a different perspective on life, and amidst a great deal of disorganization in my creative life. I spend a lot of time sitting at my desk wondering if I have any words left and, if I do, where I’d find them under this pile of folders and books and notes and dog toys.

So the message of this podcast has really stuck in my head and heart, particularly the part where Elizabeth Gilbert says:

“I kind of believe the world is being constantly circled as though by Gulf Stream forces, ideas and creativity, that want to be made manifest. And they’re looking for portals to come through in people. And if you don’t do it, they’ll go find someone else. And so you have to convince it that you’re serious and you have to show it respect and you have to talk to it and let it know you’re there.”

It haunted me the entire drive. And then the first workshop session I went to at Erma was with Alan Zweibel, who among many, many, many things, was an original writer for Saturday Night Live. He told us that the secret to writing is to write, and that we should focus on the process, not the product. There there are words out there, he said, and they just need to be plucked out and put down.

There it is again.

I’d never thought about my ideas or creative inspiration being something outside of myself. I always felt like creative inspiration was supposed to be inside of me, and if I wasn’t feeling it, it was because I didn’t have any.  But what if ideas and creativity are constantly swirling around me, like bits of the universe that I can reach out and catch, if only I open my hand? Well, that’s another story. Because then, what I’m lacking isn’t the creativity. What I’m lacking is the work. And I have total control over that.

So the takeaway, from the podcast and the sessions and the whole conference? It’s all there for the asking. All of it. ALL OF IT. The only thing that’s required of me is the work. The muse will join me in this dance of creativity once she sees me out on the ballroom floor and believes I’m going to stay there for the entire song.

Food for thought I wanted to share with you.

There’s so much to say about the conference, which is still digesting in my soul, and I’ll write about that in a separate post. But right now? I’ve got some work to do.