writing life

On writing: The song of my music box heart by Christina Rosalie

The snow is wet, but it's falling. The first snow, really, of this entire season. Flakes like goose down drifting from the torn featherbed of the quiet nigh time sky, yet I've already seen the robins with their fat vermillion breasts, and even though it's a leap year, February is almost spent.

I have until April. Until the twentieth, to be exact, to pull off something bright, provocative and well-researched for my thesis, and I have dozens of articles in a printed stack beside me; sheaves of evidence; proof of where my focus should be in every spare minute; in every fragment of time left at the end of the day.

And yet the only thing I want to do at the end of the day is write.

Like this.

I can feel myself, in the weeks when writing is scarce, become like a Bread and Puppet specter; a disjointed creature with long limbs and dark circles under her eyes.

Then, everything in me resists the pre-determined course I've vowed to take at 8pm: research, interviews, and organizing paragraphs to defend a logical conclusion. I become like a vintage music box too tightly wound: impatient, stuck, off key. It is the practice of writing; the meter of showing up; the tempo of reflection here, at the page, after twilight has been tucked into the soft dark pocket of the night, that unwinds the thin filament of my soul, and aligns the brass pins of my music box heart so that it can play again its winding calliope of song.

Inspiration, starting in, achievement, and resistance {Creative Cycles Part 1} by Christina Rosalie

It will begin like this: with the sudden irreverent bark of a dog on a cold snowy night; or with the lilting flight of a hundred starlings among the naked poplar branches, or in line somewhere, waiting for a cappuccino, when you pause to take note of what you’re actually thinking, and there it will be. An inkling. An image maybe, a string of notes, or perhaps a phrase.

I have a phrase in my head now, for example, that I’ve for a couple of months, rattling around like a magnet in a bucket, attracting fragments of things: filaments, filings, scraps.

That inkling will persist if you listen; until it becomes unavoidable and you have to stop wherever you are and take and admit: I have an idea! Then you will begin to wonder and ponder, record, and reflect as bits of the idea drift about in your subconscious like gorgeous saffron and vermillion coy fish moving slowly under the ice on a winter pond; moving just enough so that you know they still have a pulse, a vibration of life all of their own volition down there.

The days will gather upon themselves, until you feel the idea stirring with certainty, with urgency : a private equinox right there in the midst of your soul. And if you’re brave and passionate you’ll listen, and you’ll begin in earnest whatever work you must do.

You’ll ask for help. You’ll ask for answers. You’ll ask for time, and more time, and extra cups of coffee. You’ll clear your calendar as much as possible without the normal reluctance that you feel when pushing aside the “shoulds” and “musts” you are accustomed to always putting first.

And then there will be days, or months even, when all you want to do is dive into your work with passion and zeal and focus. This is the apex of the creative cycle.

This is when you are inclined to burn the candle at both ends; working one day of work, and another on your project; when you have perpetual paint on your fingers maybe, or a pencil behind your ear, or you feel naked without your laptop keyboard under your palms, and you don’t remember the last time you washed your sheets, and all you eat is whatever leftovers are in the fridge.

This is when the work that you’re doing becomes a force of it’s own. When even though the specter of failure rears its ugly head, and procrastination stalks you, you can shake it off with a certain courage and urgency, and get to the heart of what you intend. This is the time when all you want to do is the work you are in the midst of.

And then, as you near completion and the deadline looms, it’s possible that you’ll feel like the whole thing was a mistake. A terrible misjudgment of your abilities; a laughable mess of smithereens. It’s possible that you’ll wonder Who the hell do I think I am, anyway? And you’ll consider escape routes and worst case scenarios, and it will feel utterly impossible to finish. But you can, and you will...


This is part 1 in a series of posts I’ve been wanting to write for a while about creative cycles and how they affect me. My feeling is that these are very universal experiences, hence the second person voice which I fall back on naturally when I feel like it applies to you too!

I’d really love to hear your experiences about starting in on a cycle of creativity, and what happens throughout that process.

Next up in the cycle: Reaching the completion, celebration, loss and regeneration.

What is real right now by Christina Rosalie

I'm so quiet here, because everything is brimming now. The book, almost done. The illustrations too, are getting close. But also, a dozen other things, everything converging into this brief month: other deadlines, contests, and the new routine of school. It would be a lie to say that things feel easy.

Things, in fact, feel terribly fragile. My bedroom is a mess of unfolded clothes. There are cobwebs in the hallway. The garden has run wild. Bean lost a tooth. Sprout is a wild child, full of laughter and stubbornness, and hot headed Italian blood. The chicken coop needs cleaning. There are holes in my jeans. And still, still, I wouldn't change a thing.

Except to get more sleep.

I am in labor by Christina Rosalie

It feels like I am in labor, to be this close with the manuscript.

So close. But still, not there. Not where it needs to be. The final chapters dogging me, not quite right, not quite what they need to be yet. It's like some part of my mind is sabotaging me into this stasis: Like if I never finish, I won't have just risked everything, given everything I have.

Today the air is still heavy with humidity even after dark, and I keep circling, circling, trying to find another angle, another entry point to the words, to what I am trying to say, to what remains to be said.

The hardest part is that the whole thing is so many words. I get lost. I have to print the whole thing out and spread it about in fluttering sheaves across the floor. My studio is strewn, in shambles, with drafts. Some cut apart, taped together in new directions. It's like conducting an orchestra, this final compiling: Making each chapter vibrate in tempo with the next.

I'm experiencing some serious mental kickback. Exhaustion. Frustration. I second guess. I doubt myself. I read, re-read. Give up. Feel euphoric. Feel terrified. I'm at the same point just before transition in labor, where during the birth of both boys I yelled, "I can't do it. I can't."

That kind of close.

Today this was my distraction: Looking for awe in simple things. In the color green. In the gulls on the wind swept air. Now, back at the page.

When doing the work you love gets hard, what gets you through?

On making space for the work I am doing: by Christina Rosalie

Hello friends!

My semester ended today, and fall is in the air even though it's August still. You can feel it in the way the breeze is cool coming through the open windows in the morning, and the light is golden and slanted as it angles across the mountains after dinner. Twilight is already coming earlier. The corn, even though it was planted late because of the rains, has grown and grown through the hot July days, and is shoulder high now: fat ears with silken tassels waving on every stalk.

Between now and the beginning of next semester I have just exactly ten days of time that have nothing in them save for my book. Ten brief late summer days to finish the chapters that still refuse to be finished, and to revise and revise until the whole manuscript sings; then I'll send it off to my most trusted readers for one last look through, with a week or two on the other side for revisions.

And somewhere in that time, all the illustrations that have been slowly gathering, piece by piece on the wires I have hanging above my studio desk, need to come together too.

And all this feels momentous and utterly amazing. I sometimes still need to pinch myself to confirm: this is my life. I'm doing what I always dreamed of doing.

Still, it also feels completely overwhelming and daunting... Because, oh my, I am finishing the essays and illustrations for my first book! And there's more than a wee bit of pressure around it all.

And now I have ten days of time now that are just for this glorious daunting work and I've decided that I must use that time as wisely as I possibly can. I have been feeling spread awfully thin, and especially so in the digital space where I spend so much of my time learning and creating and absorbing. And I know how distracted I become under the urgency of deadlines, to slip down one rabbit hole after the next here: filling my mind with the snippets of news and headlines and information and inspiration.

So I've decided to take the next ten days off from the internet.

I've never done anything like this. The last time I didn't have a consistent internet connection was in 2004 when blogs were things people only talked about in whispered conversations or not at all, and people had no capacity to imagine the iPhone and the way it would transform us into a culture of being "always on."

I'm actually afraid of doing this.

I'm afraid of disconnecting. There are already a host of voices clattering in my mind: What if you miss something important? What if you miss out on some opportunity? What if you're forgotten? What if your readers stop reading? What if your twitter followers stop following you? What if your friends stop emailing, commenting, caring? What if you're not missed at all? These are the voices in the head of a girl who is always on, always connected, always engaged in the field of digital media. This is where I do my work, share my stories, and connect to my tribe.

And because I have so many fears, I know it is exactly the right thing to do. I need to trust that you'll still be here. That the story I am telling matters not only when I'm here telling it, but in the quiet times too when I'm creating new work with every fiber of my being.

I need to trust that opportunities will still find me; that inspiration will come knocking on other doors; that connections will happen in other ways.

Because the work that I am doing to bring this book to fruition is really really important work.

So I'm asking you this: Will you hold this space gently for me while I'm gone for the next ten days?

I'll be back then, with stories to share and magic to tell.

All the love in the world, Christina

Breakfast + Boys by Christina Rosalie

This is the last week of my semester. Then a little more than a week to work on my book flat out before projects for the next semester already resume. Cannot believe summer is almost over. Bean has a loos tooth. Sprout has started talking in complex and lengthy sentences all of a sudden. My book is almost done. Time = flying.

What have you been up to?


Two Necessary Reminders: by Christina Rosalie

Brilliant advice from Brian Buirge + Jason Bacher

And this:

When we trust ourselves, we become both more humble and more daring. When we trust ourselves, we move surely. There is no unnecessary strain in our grasp as we reach out to meet life. There is no snatching at people and events, trying to force them to give us what we think we want. We become what we are meant to be. It is that simple. We become what we are, and we do it by being who we are, not who we strive to be. ~ From The Sound of Paper by Julia Cameron

{in progress} by Christina Rosalie

The summer's half over, and I'm swimming in a sea of chapters. Held down by river stones, the pages of various drafts flutter on the floor as the fan oscillates. Meanwhile I vacillate back and forth believing this manuscript will be complete by deadline and the book will be good; and that I'll never make the deadline, and it's all a pile of crap. Mostly I try just keep my eye on the page, my heart in my words, and my fingers flying.

// Things I want to remember by Christina Rosalie

So busy this week, back to school, back to being in a hundred places at once. Still, it's summer and I'm trying to be in it. At the dinner table watching our boys run out across the grass holding hands to look for sticks for roasting marshmallows, T says: "Oh love, I want this to last forever."

I nod, knowing exactly what he means. Them, as they are with shaggy summer hair, scraped knees, berry stains on their fingers. And us. Our lives full to the brim right now, but in good way.

Things I want to remember:

// Dinner tonight: flatbread baked on a stone on the grill along with summer peaches + a hint of vanilla, chicken with olive oil + thyme, and a salad of summer's brightest: new plump blueberries, arugula from the garden, baby lettuces in a mustard maple balsamic vinaigrette.

// The way morning gallops in, with my boy's on it's back. They're wearing capes and wielding swords. It's before 7am. They are whirring with elbows and energy and laughter.

// The laundry whirring in a quiet house while the babysitter takes the boys on a bug-catching walk. They bring back crickets in a plastic egg box with holes poked in the top. It stays on my counter over night: some wells filled with water, others with grass. In the morning the insects are all alive still, and I make a plea for their release.

// Impending angst about my book deadline. So much to make a book. So many words. Picking the right ones seems feels daunting some days.

// Returning from an afternoon run just as thunder breaks the sky open. Then sitting in a circle of pages, blue post it notes scattered about like the petals of some sacred offering to the writing gods while the thunder rolls about like a bowling ball above me in the sky. Rain falls through the open windows onto the sills bringing the scent of earth and green.

The end of a really good week by Christina Rosalie

We made chocolate chip cookie dough just for eating after dinner tonight; then wandered along the paths T just cut through the meadows. So many flowers. Grass up higher than the boys' heads. Bats swooping low above us. Sundown making everything golden and lavender.

This week was good. It was beyond needed: to have some time with my three boys. To write. To rest. To run. To recalibrate a little.


Sprout is suddenly, finally, talking in sentences. "My hands are filfy, Daddy!" he said tonight, holding up flour covered palms after rolling dough out for chapattis with me. Unlike bean who talked in sentences at about 18 months, sweet Sprout has taken his time. But now, in just the last week or two is words are tumbling out nonstop. He makes all of us happy. From the day he was born he's had this buddha presence: he is calm and centered and joy-filled and it rubs off on everyone around him. Bean adores him, even though they fight endlessly over ownership of insignificant objects: long sticks, particular crayons, certain books, matchbox cars.

Bean is all elbows and long legs. He rides a his new bike with gears and hand breaks like a pro, and gets up with aplomb and bravery when he takes a spill on uneven terrain, blood often running down a knee. He's decided wants to grow his hair long. For now we're kind of rolling with it. We lovingly call him mop-head. He wakes up with a tangled shock of semi-curls, and lures Sprout out of bed, and then the two of them come find us. It's still one of my favorite times of day, then, in those first moments of morning when we're all there together, still sleep and warm and trailing dreams.


The manuscript is now a complete draft. There are some rough chapters, but everything is there now, in place, in sequence, and my mind can hold it all at once. That's been so hard: I can't really explain it. There is something about the linear medium of the computer that makes it really challenging for me to see all the parts as a part of the whole. I went to UPS today and printed the whole thing at 1.5 spacing with wide margins for marking up. It's about an inch thick, and made things feel real in a way that they haven't until now:I'm writing a book. Really. Truly.

Now, if only I can stay in the groove when I get back into the swing of things at school + work.


PS: I'm craving some new summer tunes. Do you have any suggestions?