Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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We meet what we are able to receive

You will write if you will write without thinking of the result in terms of a result,

but think of the writing in terms of discovery.

~ Gertrude Stein

I’m always searching for descriptions of what writing and creative process feel like in their essence, and haven’t found any that describe it better than Gertrude Stein does here.

She’s gone straight to the heart of what allows writing process to be a revelatory power, and a bestower.

The “price” for this is willing surrender into seeking and not knowing, rather than a holding to presumed knowledge of any kind. The fact that what she observes about the experience of writing also applies to that of living makes her simple truth seem even more sublime.

As she suggests, my experience of writing is of something to be approached on the only terms it truly allows – the terms of discovery. I know that I’m immersed back in that process when things begin to strike with notes my inner ear can hear, when my crown and scalp suddenly tingle.

Also, I simply feel good. If the pathway of shaping a novel taught me anything, it is that when I welcome a better-feeling inner emotional tone, it becomes a bridge to what inner life and intuition have to offer up to me. Before I reach that however, there’s the unavoidable surrender to that great blank that seems that it will never yield, no matter how I push on or try to break through it. And that is because I’m the one who’s meant to do the yielding.

This was reinforced for me one afternoon while I swam with a friend, and remembered that in order to even be able to do this, I must meet the water where it is. I don’t take hold of it or try to manage it, but rather I yield to and work with how it envelops and supports me.

Every aspect of the story in my novel, The Munich Girl, every theme, revelation, and scene, came to meet me in a similar way when I was ready to receive it, after I had immersed myself in its atmosphere and waited, listening, watching. Trusting.

Believing that I “know” anything about a story before it has fully shown itself is the only “writer’s block” I’ve ever placed in my own way.

Every story I’ve accompanied through to completion began with seeing or hearing something in the daily noise of life that stayed with me and took root inside, or was like a silent presence that followed me home. Just as with an animal for whom we would offer a home, it requires that a relationship of mutual trust be built.

Part of that trust for the soul who surrenders to creative process is that we will be met by what we are able to receive, and to integrate, on the deepest levels. A swimmer flailing in fear will not find herself very well supported by the water, even though its quality of buoyancy is always there. We learn to swim by learning to respect the qualities of the water, and shape our own ability to working with it. In a way, we become one with it.

Creative process, when met with regard and respect, brings a very similar kind of connection with our own wholeness, and that of the whole world.

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The Book’s the Thing is my kind hostess

munichgirl_card_backErika at The Book’s the Thing Blog has kindly included a Guest Post from me this week:

Coming Full-circle with The Munich Girl

I had the opportunity to spend time in Germany just as my novel, The Munich Girl, came full-circle to publication this year. DCRothen69673_10151484470081802_1069344063_n

In the previous weeks, as I’d reviewed the book’s galleys, the story’s scenes drew me back into settings I will carry with me always. Some of them have been a part of my inner geography from earliest childhood.

Others are actual locations in which the story takes place.

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Photo courtesy Penny Sansevieri / Author Marketing Experts – http://www.amarketingexpert.com/penny-sansevieri/

And many of these, from cobblestone alleys to Alpine vistas, tiny villages to city squares filled with symphonies of church bells, are ones in which I did the actual writing.

Much like the book’s protagonist, Anna, I repeatedly experience the many kinds of homecomings, spiritual and material, that life brings to us. Much like her, I often find myself in a kind of unbelieving daze as I sit in the same café I’ve known since childhood. Two years, ago, and maybe also five, I sat there capturing down pieces of a story that has always felt more like finding my way toward a puzzle’s finished image than any kind of strategic plotting.

If the remedy for feeling out-of-sync in life is to reside in the moment, then we are all here today as I type this: my child self, sitting alongside my parents; that story-struck one who aspired to go the distance with wherever the writing process led with this novel’s story (and wondering, at times, whether I truly would); and my self today, blessed to have reached a point of completion.

Read the rest at: http://booksthething.com/2015/12/10/guest-post-giveaway-phyllis-edgerly-ring-author-of-the-munich-girl/comment-page-1/#comment-1660


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Larger than we have imagined

It’s a big gift when readers respond to a story, its characters, and its world as if they have visited and are sad to leave. Even better is when a book lingers on in their own world afterward. 

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Photo: D. Kirkup Jewelry Designs

Someone told me recently that after reading Snow Fence Road, she had a dream set in its world, among its characters.

She may never know how deep an affirmation this is for me. The book came into being through my vivid dream about the trauma that shatters its hero’s life. Then, like an accompanying mark of closure the week after I finished writing it, I dreamed of the characters in the next stage of their life, after “The End”.

That experience the reader shared is also a reinforcement because in my newest work, The Munich Girl, a character’s dream life is as important a resource for her as every other kind of knowledge. Just as dreams have always been for me. I experienced some inner debate about this when I received feedback that questioned whether it’s of any value to include dreams and their contributions in the novel’s story. I had to remind myself that, for some, dreams have little or no validity in life.

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Image: Cary Enoch / EnochsVision.com

“Dreams are the threads that weave our unconscious wisdom, wishes, knowing and foreknowing into the tapestry of our waking lives,” says Paula Chaffee Scardamalia of The Divining Muse.They often call us to live larger, to be more than we have imagined for ourselves.”

If anything sums up the call pulling at my novel’s protagonist, it is that last sentence of Paula’s.

“Life consists of two journeys: the outward journey of the body through time and space, and an inner journey of the soul,” writes Dave Tomlinson. And stories are one of the most enduring ways that humans reflect and learn on each of those journeys.

“We are, as a species, addicted to story,” says Jonathan Gottschall in The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human. “Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.”

Isn’t it interesting that what we call those nocturnal stories is the same name we give to our most cherished hopes and visions: dreams.

Find more about The Munich Girl at:

http://www.amazon.com/Munich-Girl-Novel-Legacies-Outlast/dp/0996546987/


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The unknown’s hidden kinship

When I was young, I had to choose between the life of being and the life of doing. And I leapt at the latter like a trout to a fly.

But each deed you do, each act, binds you to itself and to its consequences, and makes you act again and yet again.

Then very seldom do you come upon a space, a time like this, between act and act, when you may stop and simply be.

Or wonder who, after all, you are.

~ Ursula K. Le Guin

Wise insight from experienced writers like Ursula K. LeGuin helps shift my inner compass toward that grace of the space and time between, so I can discover, yet again, what it holds. Without exception, the mystery of this unknown offers me, like the source of a stream, the place from which creative expression flows.

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Photo: David Campbell / GBC Tours

“I have been a storyteller since the beginning of my life, rearranging facts in order to make them more significant,” John Cheever said. My own earliest play involved arranging miniature objects on the floor of my childhood bedroom to create scenes, often like the ones I saw around me in Germany, then adding the characters and conversations I knew somewhere inside me. I’m told that some of these exchanges were occasionally audible when I was 3, 4, or 5. After that, I probably grew too self-conscious to allow that to happen.

For me, Cheever’s “more significant” would, initially, have meant interesting for me. Today, it has grown to mean significant for my heart, with evidence of a soul’s transcendence over the small side of human being. That’s the only way that story — either others’ or my own — can ever attract me, and is the treasure I’m always searching for. It’s what I believe story, in its highest purpose, has always been for.

This makes the bringing forth of story a sacred thing for me, as well as a search that requires the surrender Le Guin points to, one woven with a willing sense of wonder.

“Wonder makes the unknown interesting, attractive, and miraculous. A sense of wonder helps awaken the hidden affinity and kinship which the unknown has with us,” John O’Donohue describes in Eternal Echoes.

““What we write today slipped into our soul some other day when we were alone and doing nothing,” writer Brenda Ueland has reminded.

Ah, the sweetness of this truth, whose admission price is that space and time between — beyond the insistent, nonstop doing that life — and we — so often try to impose. The experience of writing requires that I seek refuge from that clamor and feel my inner life slow down to presence once more.

In an interview with Karen Bouris of Original Story, novelist Elizabeth Gilbert said:

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Image: EnochVision.com

“I think creativity is entirely a spiritual practice. It has defined my entire life to think of it that way. When I hear the way some people speak about their work, people who are in creative fields who either attack themselves, or attack their work, or treat it as a burden rather than a blessing, or treat it as something that needs to be fought and defeated and beaten. . . . There is a war that people go to with their creative path that is very unfamiliar to me. To me, it feels like a holy calling and one that I am grateful for.

… I was given a contract, and the contract is: ‘We are not going to tell you why, but we gave you this capacity. Your side of the contract is that you must devote yourself to this in the highest possible manner, you must approach it with the greatest respect, and you must give your whole self to this. And then we will work with you on making progress.’ That’s sort of what it feels like for me.”

What good companionship I find here, as she speaks for my own heart.

The entire interview can be seen at http://www.dailygood.org/view.php?sid=413