(Do not)open until . . .

Last May, I packed all my writing in a tall moving box.  It is taped up and buried behind all our luggage in the closet in my office/guest room.

The closet is stuffed with plastic-packed toilet paper rolls, outdated over the counter drugs,  random Band Aids, all the family towels (even all the beach ones shoved in a giant blue Ikea bag), a clothes steamer I’ve never used, which my mother gave me, the ironing board, a scale we bought for our German exchange student last year to weigh his luggage.  There is every manual to every appliance we own (except for the washer and drier, which I searched for last week, without any luck).  On the shelf, there is an unrolled sleeping bag and Katie’s old comforter, Mike’s hard hat and bright-blue safety suit for when he strolling through refineries. The closet also has (temporarily) all the Christmas presents I’ve bought, and have yet to wrap, stacked up against the luggage and the toilet paper packages.

This is no place for my best work.


In response to the second prompt for Week 4 of Quest 2016

Theme:  Doing your best work, Not Someone Else’s
Visionary:  Charlie Gilkey
Prompt:  “Which element of your best work do you most want to amplify this year?”

On January 1, 2016, I reveal The Story Box.

I rescue my writing.  I set out short imperfect, fragmented pieces, one by one, in no particular order, for readers who are guided to them.

(At least in the light,  there is some chance of growing.)

In doing so (in my being brave):

  • I risk opening my own Pandora’s Box
  • I risk being truly seen
  • I let go of the Story that’s haunted me for more than a decade
  • I protect my family from the horrifying task of “what should we do with your mother’s writing?” should I delay any further

This writing is my best work (not someone else’s), and it is my responsibility alone to release it, amplifying its rise out into the open, into the light . . .

“p.s.  You can’t stand out and fit in at the same time.”

[Thank you, for that PS, Charlie Gilkey.]


Charlie is a champion of and catalyst for Creative Giants – talented Renaissance souls with a compassion-fueled bias towards action. He’s the brain and heart behindProductive Flourishing, best-selling author of The Small Business Life Cycle (JETLAUNCH 2014), Ph.D. candidate in philosophy, and a former Army Logistics Officer. He’s driven to figure out how to help Creative Giants be their best selves in the world.


What if?

What if you  could draw a circle around your whole life, as though you were some giant dragging your walking stick behind you, pulling it through gravelly dirt, just to see if you could?  How wide would your circle be?  Would it even be a circle?  Could you then, do you think, make yourself stop and put down the stick and instead just walk that one cleared line, slowly, deliberately, as though in some sacred meditation, tracing its uneven curves, stopping, turning, peering every so often to look far into its center, trying to take it all in – all this you’ve known, all this life you’ve lived – suddenly right there in front of you – held within this fragile line of your own creation?

One beautiful life

And then, oh!  How your senses deceive you! And what at first seemed fixed and touchable, is miles away and fathoms deep and still changing  – yes, always-and- ever-still-changing!

A vista so vast – leaving you breathless, in awe – yet still wondering, always wondering at the beauty that is one’s life . . .

Why write?

I’m angry.

I’m not happy about my work sitting in a closet.

It feels crappy.

I wasn’t going to share this video diary with you

because to me,

this little girl’s face

says it all.

It really does.

But then I remembered how

I’d promised myself,


this year,

I would be brave.

I am here on an ordinary day

Day 1 - I am here Day 1 I am Here 2

So here’s the thing:  there are no ordinary days, just as there are no ordinary people, no ordinary lives.

I am sitting here in a light pink terry bathrobe with my second cup of coffee.  I am typing (not hand writing, which is how I was taught to approach creative writing).  I have not written my Julia Cameron’s morning pages (3 pages of hand-written stream of consciousness). I am not wearing a writing hat.  I have not lit a candle to mark my time at the page.  I am not in the “writing cottage” (our garden shed).

Instead I am here as myself, not yet showered, at my work desk, typing to no one really, unless you happen to be reading this.

I started this project yesterday, on Mother’s Day.  My ex-husband (whom I never referred to as my “ex-husband” before now, but those were his words to me two days ago, when we spoke and he offered this out-of-the-blue suggestion to me: “Pack away those old stories. Put them in a big box, tape it up, put it in a closet, and write a sign ‘Do Not Open Until 2016′”

“When you write, Colleen, it’s like you have this 50-pound pack on your back.  It’s Mount Holyoke, its Nicholas, its “The House on Almond Street”, it’s “Gingertime”. Let them all go, for now. You don’t need them.”

He went on: “You needed all those stories to get where you are right now. But you don’t need them anymore.  Let them go.  See what happens”

I wonder at this. I am not 100% convinced.  My ex-husband has not talked to me like this in so many years, I cannot count them.  Can I trust his advice?   Is he offering me this great procrastination device, like sitting on the couch, shoving tortilla chips in my mouth, watching TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress? Hmm.

I don’t know.  And I haven’t packed any boxes yet (and yes, there will be more than 1 box, dear god).  But I did start the blog he suggested to me (this one), a place to show up everyday, and write imperfect prose or poetry or whatever, instead of morning pages, instead of something with my name printed on it, on a pretty book jacket in Anderson’s Bookstore where we met 26 years ago.  Weirder than that, I took a video of myself immediately after, crazy and I look well, like a 48-year old mom with no make up and my Nana’s English nose.

So that’s that.  That’s the dare.  That’s the New Blank Page project. What do you think?

I hope you dare too, and risk letting me know.  I’d appreciate the guidance.