“When you plan a journey, it belongs to you. When you begin a journey, you belong to it.” After reading this African proverb in a friend’s Facebook post, I drew a quick breath and my heart opened up. Words that resonate carry such power.
So often, we engineer plans to orchestrate a project or life event according to our vision how things should go. Sometimes the universe has bigger ideas. Our creation expands beyond what we imagined, and unexpectedly carries us forward on its own energy. We cling, wide-eyed and uncertain, to its sweeping tail. The horizon is obscured by fog and around every corner is a new corner we can’t see around.
I began the journey of fiction writing over a decade ago at a professional development workshop. For the next few years, I dabbled with a novel. Everyone told me to jump on social media and start a blog—and so I did, wholeheartedly. I obsessed over preparing each post in between hours spent at work or with my family. This was my project and, I thought, the road to becoming an author.
It’s been some time since I last blogged and I am dedicating myself to a return. The fog has finally cleared and I can navigate the next corner. To be honest, there’ve been times when I’ve bullied myself over this absence. But in the end, everything happens in its own season, and this is my season to return.
In truth, I think I hid behind the busyness of researching nonfiction blog posts—instead of publishing my fiction. Safe to say, many people have a perpetrated some verison of self-sabotage. When we’re scared, it’s easier to compress our dreams than take a risk, but we must push through fear. It’s part of the artist’s journey. There’s a richness of experiences and relationships we’ll miss out on if we don’t stretch our boundaries.
I’d been conditioned by my personal history to limit my future, to remain small. It can be unnerving to call oneself a writer, to put your insides out there for scrutiny. There was a time when I likened it to walking naked through the centre of a shopping mall (under flourescent lighting). But that was then. As Joan Didion once said, “I have already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be.” Today, I welcome opportunities to serve up my heart in words.
In the early days, I wrote paragraphs for the novel whenever inspiration struck. But it turns out that finished novels are made daily perseverance. Once I accepted this notion, synchronicity connected me with a serious critique group that greatly advanced my writing craft. My dream expanded. I dubbed myself a writer and left my career. This was what I’d envisioned—being a writer, hanging out with writers, reading about writing craft. What more could there be? I cocooned myself in this tight little world. It was comfortable and familiar. Like so many writers, I quietly and persistently did the work until the novel was completed and the blog posts were written. Eventually, I drifted away from blogging on a current of productive distractions.
Two years ago, during morning yoga, an idea came to me. After brainstorming with a few creative friends, The Wild Nellies was born. I created a collective of women diverse in culture, age, and artistic discipline. In my original plan, we’d gather to perform, exhibit our work and speak about our sheroes (the women who inspire us). At The Wild Nellies Celebration of Women events, we’d raise funds and awareness for charities supporting women fleeing domestic violence.
I’d just embarked on my second novel. The plan was to run a few events, a short comfy journey, but the universe had other ideas. We’re moving into our third year. The Wild Nellies have been fully embraced by the artists, audiences, charities and the larger community. We spread the healing power of creative self-expression with our art and stories. Human connection is everything. I’m so incredibly grateful to be part of it all.
Through The Wild Nellies events, I began presenting memoir pieces about my own experience of domestic violence and how I came out the other side. My words resonated with audiences so I published one memoir essay, We Are Enough and others will follow. The Wild Nellies continues to draw interest. Adding two annual meet-ups featuring creativity panels, which I moderate, seemed like a logical next step.
The women shine with stories about womxn supporting womxn. They exemplify tenacity, the power to overcome, to navigate social constraints. I’m in awe of their paths to creativity—and made a better person and writer through hearing their philosophies.
Throughout the learning curve of event planning and all that it entails (plus writing related side projects I couldn’t resist). I maintained a disciplined novel writing schedule. My first novel, The Last Hoffman, launches May 2020. My second is nearing completion and a third is percolating in my mind.
I now belong to the journey that once belonged to me. My blog is no longer a curtain I’ll draw across the stage and stand behind. It’s a place to tap the mic gently and say “I am here. I write about human tenacity and people—real and imagined—navigating the social restrictions of their era. I write about overcoming and renewal.”