Interviewing Michael Nobbs, and other exciting news

There's so much to tell you about this morning, I hardly know where to begin. 

Let's start with Michael Nobbs, the creator of and the author of Drawing Your Life, whose work has been a comfort and inspiration to me over these last difficult months. I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael in the latest episode of Retrospective: The Podcast. If you're doing creative work inside of time or energy constraints, you won't want to miss this conversation. Jump over and give it a spin, or subscribe and listen in iTunes.

What's next? Well, at 8am PST, registration will open for the Story Excavation Retreat on the Oregon Coast with Liz Lamoreux and Kelly Barton, which is the only 5-day retreat I'm teaching at this year. This coast is a sacred landscape for me, where I've done much of my own healing and becoming. I can't imagine anything I'd love more than to cozy up on the sofa next to you.

Lodge at Gearhart (photo by Vivienne McMaster)

Lodge at Gearhart (photo by Vivienne McMaster)

Finally, a quick update about the Indie Kindred summer screening tour: we are totally doing this. I have our route and itinerary in place for July and I'm working on August dates and getting venues lined up. My girls and I are traveling from coast to coast to see you, and I can hardly wait. (Stay tuned--details to come.)

Thank you for all the enthusiasm and support for this work, in all of its manifestations. Now, back to the film cave . . .

Do you think we should, maybe, meet?

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So here's what I'm thinking.

Wouldn't it be so fun if I packed up the girls and some of our good things and came to see you this summer? Indie Kindred, my documentary about creative collaboration, will be ready and what seems most in the spirit of the film is to share it in person, with you and your kindreds, in living rooms and homes around the country.

You may remember I've been dreaming of a tour for awhile now, and I'm checking in and collecting information to see if conditions and timing are right to do that in July or August. Or both.

Here's how you can join me. If you're interested in partnering with me to create an intimate and inspiring gathering in your neck of the woods, drop me a quick email at Say something like this:

Dear Jen,

I am interested in attending a living room screening this summer.

(or) I am interested in hosting a living room screening this summer.

(and/or) I am interested in hosting you and your girls for an overnight stay during your adventure.

I live in (City, State). It's going to be great.

(your name here)

I'll read your notes, spend a little time with a map, and see what we can cook up. If it's not the right thing at the right time, that's fine, but it would be so lovely to see your faces, meet your friends, and spend some time together.

Now, who's in?

On Holy Terror, Fear and Trembling

Photo by Katrina Noble, temporary tattoo by Chickadee Road

Photo by Katrina Noble, temporary tattoo by Chickadee Road

Documentary film update: I've officially hit the holy terror part of this project.

I know this feeling intimately--it's the same feeling I get when I'm working on a new story to tell onstage. It starts sometime after I say yes, after the event is announced, after people expect me to show up and deliver. It waits until I have a table full of parts and like some mystery mechanic I try to assemble them together for the first time.

I step back and see that it is all wrong, that it either doesn't hold together or doesn't stay together, or at best it looks good but is completely not operational.

That's when I get very quiet and wish my body could fold inside itself like those tiny notes we passed around the schoolyard, folded into wads the size of thimbles.

Maybe this is the time I don't pull it off. The thought sticks to me like a bad dream that still feels real after waking. It makes my body feel heavy, my movements slow and my breath shallow.

I'm not just afraid of looking bad publicly. It's true--the thought doesn't warm me, but in my better moments I can leave that out of it.

The bottom line is, I work in service of the story. The idea of not doing a story justice, not distilling out its essence and delivering it in a way that can be received, not getting to that juice that doesn't just entertain or amuse but transforms us--both in the telling and in the receiving--that is my fear, my most holy dread.

It makes my nerves raw. My body looks calm but If you look in my eyes you can see this very primal animal-on-the-run business just leaking out like invisible tears.

I used to mistake this feeling for madness.

I even got myself checked out to be sure.

She said, Do you really think that courage always feels like a cape flapping in the wind on a mountaintop? No. Most of the time it feels like fear and trembling.

That was good news, because I LIVE in the land of fear and trembling.

Okay, Loves, it's Join the Club time. Do you have a holy terror part of your creative cycle? What do you work in service of, and what is it you most fear? Scroll down to join the conversation in the comments, if you're reading via email click here, or pipe in on Facebook.

And here's the part where I get quiet.

photo by Bella Cirovic,

photo by Bella Cirovic,

This is where I am, right now. At my desk, in front of my laptop. I've wrapped shooting for my short documentary project, Indie Kindred, and now the editing is full-on. In case you're wondering what this looks like, there are a whole lotta media files to catalog, file, convert, rename--all that jazz. A lot of getting all the parts and pieces in place so I don't spend more time looking for them than necessary when it comes time to assemble.

The metaphor I most often think of with wide projects like this one is quilt-making.  My mind loves this kind of puzzle--laying out all the squares and figuring out how they fit together: which ones go in, which ones have some other future, and in what order the ones that go in should be placed.

So I'm neck-deep in quilt-making. There's a physicality to the work, as I transcribe all the audio by hand in a journal with my right hand as my left hand is poised above the pause button. I've gotta have around half a journal of handwritten transcription by now, and if it's been awhile since you did that kind of thing in school (do kids even hand-write their class notes anymore?) I'll tell you--one's hand can be remarkably out of shape. I've woken with sore fingers, and one day the joints in my first finger were a little swollen so I had to take the day off from it.

But hand-writing every word helps really cement in my brain what the verbal squares are, and I can hear as I write what to pull out and I can picture in what part of the story arc it might best fit. (The same happens with the video clips and photos as I go through them one by one, taking notes and filing them.)

Next I'll put together a script (for lack of a better word) of the story, start to finish. This will help me make sure that it all makes sense--that all the smaller stories unfold in a clear manner and that there's an arc overall to the whole.

Then I'll use the script to pull the audio and video clips together and start trimming things, then dropping them in place.

On one hand, it is super tedious work and is taking lots of time and attention. But on the other hand, I have these moments where there's this swelling feeling in my chest and I think, What is this? Is this what it feels like to be the happiest you've ever been?

Maybe. Or maybe it's joy. I keep noticing it, popping up more and more in my body, and there's a way--in this season--I can feel joy remaking me. Like in some program running in the background, all my parts and pieces are being put back together in a new way.

So that's how things are going over here. In the meantime, I'll probably get a little quiet in this space. There will be a new Retrospective interview in February with Caren McLellan Gazley, the author of Ritual & Rhythm: A Guide to Creative Self Care. If you want to read her book before it airs, there's time to do that and you can order it here.


I'll also be residing, starting on Monday (2/4), in the virtual classroom with Phyllis and fellow soul travelers over at The Iconic Self Online Experience. There's still room for you to join us, and we would love to have your presence in the community and your voice in the conversation.

If you want to stay tuned to my shorter online updates, you can follow me on Twitter or on Instagram (@jenleedotnet). Hold me in your thoughts, and I'll be back with words, stories or news when I have them.