Knocking on Your Soul's Door :: Meet Laurie Wagner

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For my interview with the Lovely Laurie Wagner, I decided to try a different approach than a standard Q + A. You see, Laurie, to me, will always be "Laurie the Word Wrangler." When I first came across her work ~ many years ago ~ Word Wrangler was the name of her website, and it had a beautiful image of a dress hanging on a clothesline, a sparkly sun shining through the fabric. Sometimes I would go to her website just to look at that image and soak in the words "Word Wrangler" - they felt wild and free and purposeful, and she was someone I felt immediately inspired by.

So in true Word Wrangling spirit, I have pulled a few snippets from Laurie's recently refurbished website - www.27powers.org - and have asked her to wax poetic on them for us. Now that I've read the interview, it is so brilliant I just might have to approach every interview this way from now on. Get ready to be I-N-S-P-I-R-E-D.

* embrace your messy writing *

You know, I'm too smart for my own good some times. I over-think things, I try to make everything the BEST, say the WISEST things - even in this interview with you Christine. So for the last 20 years I've practiced just getting the words out there quickly - from the gut, intuitively.

All my writing starts messy because that's like inviting all the juju to the party; the dancing elves, the dirty varmits, the rotten scoundrels, the better-not-say-thats, the know-it-alls and the uppity school marms. All of the voices have something to offer.  For me that's a lot more interesting than sitting down and bringing only the smartest parts of me to the table - at least in the initial stages of making something. My smart, brainy parts want me to look good, so they'll try to protect me by making me too shiny. The wilder, messy parts actually carry the golden magical bits that come from my unconscious, stuff that my smarty pants self can't even conjure.

* humbled by what it takes to want something and see it through *

Taking on a creative project and seeing it through is like crossing some terribly rocky, utterly beautiful terrain filled with wooly mammoths and dancing cha cha girls. It is not a walk in the park, you can't do it alone, you will hear voices,

"YOU CAN DO IT!"

"NO I CAN'T"

"MY PROJECT IS ABOUT..."

"OH SHIT! WHAT'S MY PROJECT ABOUT? WHAT WAS I TRYING TO SAY?"

It can be like stumbling through your house in the dark, bashing your knees on the furniture until you get to the light switch and the big A HA!

It's not for the weak at heart, you have to be fearless in the face of your self doubt, and it's really helpful to make promises to people who will hold you accountable. Coaches rock!

What I think makes us the saddest is when we want to do something - like write or make art - and maybe we set out to try, but then we fall back because we get scared; we listen to the pesky voices, we don't trust ourselves. Then we put the work down and walk away - not just from the project, but from the beautiful part of ourselves that dreamed of making something. I see this over and over again with students - they disappear and I know they feel bad about themselves. I think they think that because it's hard means they're not good at it. Not true! It's hard for everyone!

And so to make it all the way through a project, confronting all the things that get in your way is a huge experience. It took me a year to create my eCourse, Telling True Stories, and when I was done I felt like Sylvester Stallone at the end of Rocky doing that dance with his mitts punching the sky and the music blasting, "Gonna fly now, flying high now!"  I was happy to have the product, but even more proud that I showed up for myself day after day, especially when I had no idea what I was doing. The humility in this is that I know the next project will bring me to my knees again, but because I've crossed the terrain once, I know I can make it through.

* stories that are knocking at your soul's door *

Everyone has them - here's one of mine.

My grandmother drove her baby blue jaguar into her swimming pool one rainy February day in 1988 and drowned. For years and years I went to a writing retreat that my mentor Deena Metzger held - that's where I met Maya Stein and Sherry Belul - and every summer I wrote the same stories over and over, but in different ways, always returning to the image of my grandmother's pool, always returning to her purse, which had landed at the bottom of her pool and which the cops had dumped into a sink in the house. I wrote about how I'd come to the house and rummaged through that purse looking for clues as to what had her blast through the azalea bushes that day and into the pool. I wrote about the one black orthopedic shoe that someone had dredged from the pool and left in the sink, how I turned it over to see the scuff marks on the sole, as if to gauge how my grandmother walked. I was ultimately trying to figure out how a beautiful Jewish girl from Salt Lake City had landed at the bottom of a swimming pool. That was 20 years ago, I'm still thinking about Mama Ginny, but I'm also thinking about my Mother and my sisters and my daughters and myself, all the women in my family. I'm imagining us all standing around the perimeter of that pool and looking in, reflecting on the power of our own choices. My grandmother chose to go into the pool. What will our choices look like? Picasso said he painted the same painting over and over all of his life.  I'm going to be writing this story forever, just trying to get to the bottom of it.

* truth inside of ourselves *

Layers and layers and layers of truth. I'm a person who cannot hide what I feel - it shows on my face, in the way I move. I'm a terrible liar. I love the line, "What I'm really trying to say," because it helps me get to the creamy center of what's important to me. People have called me the most honest person they know, but I know that's not entirely true - there are so many more layers for me, a lifetime of layers.

* yellow marshmallow chicks *

You found these words on my website? Fantastic! I slightly remember writing them - but have no idea where they are on my site. Clearly they came from messy writing. My smarty-pants self couldn't have come up with those darlings.

Be sure to check out Laurie's next eCourse - Telling True Stories. All the details are right here.

Christine Mason Miller

Santa Barbara, CA

Writer * Artist * Storyteller * Guide