No. 110 | By Christine Carron
This is the fourth post in the Goodjelly Moves series. Each of the five Moves represents a core quality or energy needed to ace the writing adventure. The Moves framework conveys the reality that productivity is, like the seasons, cyclical—requiring both activity and rest—and each Move is associated with one of the seasons: Possibility/Spring; Power/Summer; Process/Late Summer; Grace/Autumn; Patience/Winter.
For the full overview of the framework see: Possibility | Get Your Writing Moving, Part 1.
The fourth Goodjelly Move is Grace. When I first laid out the Goodjelly Moves and shopped them around for feedback, I was asked why I had broken the alliterative pattern with Grace. “Isn’t there a word that starts with “p” that you could use instead of Grace?”
Feedback allows us to clarify our thinking. In my case with this Move, I realized I wanted Grace to be different. Why? Because I find for myself and in my work with writers that Grace feels different. It is often harder to accept in its full range than the other Moves.
Let’s dive into it to see if you have that same, “uh, do we really have to go there?” feeling in relation to Grace.
Grace is Autumn energy and has two distinct aspects. First, it encompasses an intensive push that can be easily mistaken for the second Move: Power. But where Power is about lift-off and getting things moving, the activity in Grace is about closure, i.e., the final flourish of finishing.
This aspect of Grace is symbolized by the harvest. Bringing the crops in. It’s active but extremely focused activity. For that reason, Grace is the most concentrated energy of the Moves.
Once the harvest is in, we get to the second aspect of Grace: the celebration. Receiving the bounty of all our hard work. Revel time!
Harvest and revelry? This all sounds great, right? So what gives with the unease around Grace?
It usually starts with the “no going back” nature of where we are in the cycle. When we are still in the Power Move, there’s still time to switch gears, change course, power off in another direction. Not so with Grace. The harvest is the harvest: good or disappointing.
Interestingly, disappointing or good, there’s often a poignancy that arises at this point in the flow, as there is simply no denying that the active part of the cycle is over. Think autumn leaves curling in on themselves and falling. We’ve been so laser focused on getting to our goal, when our "efforting" part is done, even if the results are all good, we can feel a bit at sea. Now what?
Strike two against Grace.
The third strike is that there is a vulnerability to Grace energy. You’ve done all the work you could, put your best effort into it, and now whatever is going to be is going to be. It's out of our hands.
Grace invites us to allow that. Align with it. Receive. Surrender. Accept. Move into celebration, into honoring, no matter what.
Are you feeling it yet? Resistance to Grace? This is definitely where I get some groans when I teach the Moves live. Really? Surrender? Acceptance? Celebrate? Honor?!?!?! Even when the harvest is not good? When the rejections come in? When every writer—except me—is catching their break? Are you telling me to give up, or something?
The short answer to that run of thoughts, is “Yes.” With Grace energy, yes, that is exactly what the invitation is. But let’s frame that invitation, especially the bit about giving up, a little differently courtesy of Richard Rohr, to get a less abrupt, more hopeful perspective:
“Acceptance becomes the strangest and strongest kind of power. Surrender is not giving up, as we tend to think, nearly as much as giving to the moment, the event, the person, and the situation.” (p. 19, Breathing Under Water)
When we give to a situation, i.e., align with it, we are more easily able to maintain our center, our equilibrium, no matter the particulars of the situation. Last week, I taught a class called Take Charge of Your Creative Adventure. Grace energy is the ultimate “take charge” Move.
Grace is not soft. It is not weak. It is not for the faint of heart. There is a surprising steeliness involved in giving over to what is. Most likely at least once, probably often, the writing adventure will test your mettle. Grace energy will be the cornerstone of what sees you through those trying times.
Grace is also the energy that allows you to celebrate and receive all the good that happens on your writing adventure. That requires some inner steeliness, too.
We often yearn to celebrate the big harvest wins: agent, publishing deal, NYTimes bestseller list, awards and accolades, etc. Indeed, we might struggle to celebrate at all, if those don’t come on the timeline we expect them to. But how good are we at celebrating the smaller, quieter, less showy harvest wins: landing a well wrought sentence; enjoying a belly laugh with one of our writerly peeps; getting to the other side of a pesky block; sending out a query letter; or setting a boundary to protect our writing time.
It’s the day-in-day-out small wins that give us the regular boosts to keep moving toward our writing dreams—if we have the mettle, i.e., the Grace, to claim them.
All the Moves have a shadow side. Grace’s shadow is loss. It can rise up when all our hard work didn’t pay off in the way we hoped. The poignancy aspect of Grace noted earlier is also an aspect of its shadow. That sense, even when things go well, that we are now adrift—the focal point of all our energy now gone.
As I’ve mentioned with the other Moves, there is no fix for a Move’s shadow. That said, once you have more awareness of the shadow side, it feels a little less shadowy and makes it easier to accept, surrender to, give over to . . . . Sounding familiar? That’s because it’s actually Grace energy that helps you stay in equilibrium when the shadow side of any Move rises up, Grace’s included.
When we have balanced Grace energy, we take the final steps to bring in whatever harvest is up for the reaping (e.g., send out the query letter; review the galleys, do the marketing, etc.) and then celebrate and honor the outcome, even if it is not exactly what we desired or hoped for.
Grace in Balance is about finishing well—and honoring the finishing—no matter what.
Grace can be out of balance in one of two ways: deficiency or excess.
If you have a Grace deficiency you may not bring things to clean closure. You walk right up to the finish line but don’t cross it. For example, if a writer is stuck in revision mode, making pass after pass to try to get it perfect, then Process energy is likely in excess and Grace energy is likely in deficiency.
In regard to the celebratory aspect of Grace, let’s call it: Grace anemia is often expected (even lauded) in the writing world. Prime example: how it’s basically a requirement that writers must denigrate the amazing accomplishment of getting a first draft done by calling it “sh*tty.”
Here’s the deal, peeps. Grace anemia messes with your motivation and your momentum. One of the most surefire productivity boosts you can give yourself is to start claiming and celebrating every iota of progress you make.
(Will it feel weird and excessive at first to celebrate to that degree? Most likely, but that’s just because you’ve accepted celebration deficiency as “normal.” It’s not.)
Okay, on to Grace excess. In this case, a writer may not be able to let something go. For example, when my agent and I talked through next steps around an unsuccessful revision of a manuscript, she and I were both in accord that I would let that project go for the time being.
That was healthy Grace energy. I may return to that project in the future, but to hold on to it at that time would have been Grace excess.
How do you know if you’re holding on too long? You’ve got to trust yourself. I’m aware that is neither a precise nor prescriptive answer, but that is the nature of Grace.
Excess may also manifest in excessive celebration, i.e., where you wake-up with a celebration hangover from milking an accomplishment too long. Due to the aforementioned tendency for writers to be celebration anemic, I’m noting this point mostly for completion sake. For fun, however, I will add a silly non-writing example of the celebratory aspect of Grace energy run amok.
Once upon a time, many, many, many years ago I coded one field on one screen in one application, where my code . . . formatted the phone number field. Put the parentheses around the area code and added the dash in the right place. It was magical code. The most brilliant formatting code that was ever written in the history of formatting code. Hackers, watch out! Christine, Ace Coder, is at the keyboard!
(I sometimes pull this story out to entertain the actual ace coders who I get to work with in my corporate work. So far all of them have been polite enough not to roll their eyes.)
The invitation for this week is to align with Grace energy around your writing and your entire writing adventure. Explore where you can receive, surrender, give yourself over to whatever is unfolding, and trust that the steely quality of Grace will carry you through—clear skies or clouds.
In the end, Grace is the ultimate expression of, “I’ve got this!” And the truth is: you do.
Next week I’ll be back with Patience—the final Goodjelly Move—along with a few tips on how you can use the Moves dynamically to stay in flow. Until then, may you stay Grace full and . . . celebrate and honor your wins, grand or teensy, with abandon. You’ve got this!