Learning to Work again

Perhaps other writers aren’t as broken as I am. These days, I need all the support I can get; and when it comes to self-improvement, I am always looking for tips. As I write this, I am reminded that on this day last year I was clearing out my two-story log home on 2.5 acres with its three-car shop, horse stall, small barn, and twenty-five fifty gallon drums that were part of a biodiesel production unit my former husband had left behind. I was terrified, not knowing with 100% certainty where I would live next or what my life would look like. My husband had left my son and I for Florida and to spite me, had forced the home into foreclosure. I stayed on, negotiating with the bank, showing it to potential buyers, renting it out on AirBnb, and letting a room to an industrious firefighter who stayed for a summer, but despite all my effort, I was unable to keep the house. Thankfully, due to the amazing people in my life (my sweetie David and my boss, Sue), when the new owners received the keys to the home on August 1, I was able to relocate to a beautiful place called Lake Wenatchee for two weeks before moving into a small home in a quiet neighborhood in Wenatchee that David purchased. The photos from that blistering day in July have recirculated on Facebook, providing an impetus for reflection. Today, I am working on my writing projects, mainly my blog called Feed Your Creative Elephant, where I share ideas and musings about my life as an INFJ writer, trauma survivor, mom, mother and human.

Thinking about work habits

The little things in life add up; life events seem to constantly interrupt the work I so desperately want to do. I want to share an article by Virginia Valian entitled, “Learning to Work,” because it applies to our lives as writers. It seems that when Valian had a project she needed to start, she would find ways to stall and procrastinate. A writer I follow, Theo Nestor, recommends the article in her awesome book [amazon_textlink asin=’B00HTJU9A6′ text=’Writing is My Drink’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’annlon-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=”]. Theo is a writer and writing teacher in Seattle, and a friend of Derek Sheffield, a writer/professor friend of mine, whose Creative Writing 135 class sparked my poetry writing and landed me at Marge Piercy’s Intensive Poetry Workshop in WellFleet, MA. If you follow the link, you will learn how Valian’s article impacted Theo and helped her to bust through blocks to her own writing, while also helping her to develop habits that have helped her in her writing career.  https://writingismydrink.com/learning-to-work/. I highly recommend Theo’s book, Writing is My Drink. In it, Theo discusses her journey towards becoming a writer, overcoming insecurities so that she could be authentic and confident enough to pursue writing as a career.

Learning From Other Writers

A link to Valian’s essay can be found on Theo’s website. Go to Virginia Valian’s essay “Learning to Work” from Working It Out: 23 Women Writers, Artists, Scientists, and Scholars Talk About Their Lives and Work. (Pantheon, 1977): 1977workingItOut. Theo says: “You can read the complete story of how Valian’s essay rocked my world and my writing life in the book Writing Is My Drink: A Writer’s Story of Finding Her Voice (And How You Can Too).

Two other books which also discuss work habits are [amazon_textlink asin=’0143129252′ text=’The Artists Way, by Julia Cameron’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’annlon-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=”]; and T[amazon_textlink asin=’1936891026′ text=’he War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, by Steven Pressfield’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’annlon-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=”]. I have worked through Cameron’s twelve-week assignments on several occasions, and keep a journal called Morning Pages, inspired by this book. It has always proven to be helpful to me. Currently, I am reading Pressfield’s book, which discusses in small bites, the many ways we as creative humans contrive all manner of methods to put off our creative pursuits. One thing he discusses is how “going pro,” can be “as epochal as the birth of (a) first child.” There is a difference in the way an amateur approaches her work, versus the professional, which reminds me of how I worked when I was a reporter for a daily newspaper.


Working Like A Pro

Perhaps it was because I worked alongside so many stellar writers and wanted to be like them, or because the editors would not tolerate late work, that I always started my day at 7 a.m., by turning on my computer, taking my seat, and hitting the keyboard to begin my weekly feature or the other tidbits I was responsible for writing.

So today I was thinking, why don’t I approach my own blog that way, start each day as if I were working for the editors, the newspaper, the folks who read the paper? I wrote out a job description for myself, listing the tasks I needed to accomplish. When I published a weekly newsletter for around five years, I just did the work. I didn’t stop to procrastinate; I didn’t have time. I had a business to run and the newsletter was a new venture and more of a labor of love.

Stepping Our of My Story

In [amazon_textlink asin=’1608682323′ text=’Step Out of Your Story’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’annlon-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=”], Kim Schneiderman provides exercises meant to help us “reframe and transform” our life. She asks us to “consider the choices we make about how to tell our story” and….to “choose a version that values life lessons and meaningful personal victories” so that we can reach our goals rather than stumbling due to our heartaches, frustrations, or failures. Jeff Goins discusses this subject in his book [amazon_textlink asin=’0718086260′ text=’Real Artists Don’t Starve’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’annlon-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=”], where he shares the habits of a host of artists and writers.

These writings give me courage and hope. I think it’s possible to revisit some of my old working methods in order to engineer my own rebirth. And so I have begun.

Works Cited

Cameron, Julia with Mark Bryan. The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons. 1992. Print.

Pressfield, Steven. The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles. New York: Black Irish Entertainment LLC, 2002. 62. Print.

Schneiderman, Kim. Step Out of Your Story: Writing Exercises to Reframe and Transform Your Life. California: New World Library, 2015. Print.


Leita was born in Colorado to Swedish-American parents. She is an award-winning writer and poet whose first short story won an award, judged by Northwest author Tom Robbins. In 2012, the poet Marge Piercy selected Leita to participate with eleven other poets at a juried poetry workshop in Wellfleet, Mass. She is the founder of the blog, FeedYourCreativeElephant, where she writes about resiliency and creativity. Leita has owned several businesses in Seattle and has worked as a reporter, a high-tech marketing director, and as a manager at Nordstrom before serving briefly in the US Air Force. She once got to fly in a P-51 Mustang, travelling at 300 mph over the Mohave Desert, where she asked the pilot to perform every aerobatic move on the list.

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