Stay calm, stay awake: all the good news of spring.

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 I’m back from my spring sabbatical, and I have so much to share. Here’s a quick round-up of some of the fun things that happened while I was away:

There are so many positive, life-affirming things happening this spring, I can’t even!

And yet. The socio-political state of the world is distressing me. I can’t pretend that I’m not worried.

At the end of the day, my usual unwinding ritual has been to prepare dinner while listening to a thoughtful podcast. Recently, all of my favourite podcasts have been covering scary (for me) stories: Radiolab and nuclear bombs, This American Life and the corruption in the Russian government, On Being and grief. And then there’s S-Town: I mean, I have no words. So I’ve stopped making food while listening to podcasts, because it’s too upsetting for my digestion.

At the same time, I don’t want to listen/watch/read any blank, uplifting, sugar-frosted denial love + light junk right now, either. You know, styled shots of pretty pastel macarons on a marble table with a vase of peonies and an open Moleskine? I can’t handle it. My gut warps to see it.

I don’t want to give in to my frantic anxiety. But I don’t want to numb out with petals and cream, either. You know what I mean?

I want to feel something else: a balance between alert and calm.

So I’ve been writing.

I finished my novel. I revised it for the third time, gave it a name, and formatted it for submission. I’ll let you know more about the book once I know where it’s going to land, I promise! For now, I’m hanging out here, feeling the culmination of five+ years of writing, and the miracle of writing something I actually want to read.

The truth is, even when I felt doubt, fear, confusion, and impatience — all of which I felt often — I loved writing this book. I feel like I’m breaking some kind of literary rule just saying that, but it’s true.

The love outweighed the suffering.

I loved writing without knowing. I loved puzzling all the story threads out. I loved revising, and making myself go deeper with the characters. I’ll just come out as a proper weirdo and confess: I loved writing this book.

Writing has been my sanctuary and my gym these past three months. Sanctuary: because writing makes me calm. Gym: because writing makes me strong.

When we’re writing, we can be awake and aware.

Our energy is more balanced. Even (especially) when we are truth-telling.

This spring, so many writers have been finding strength, peace and friendship in our programs. These are uncertain times, and I’m grateful to everyone who is a part of Story Is a State of Mind — our faculty, admin team, and students — for making our online community such a safe, sane place for people to practice being calm and awake together.

Every week this past March, I led a group of writers through live Writing Practice Sessions. At the end of each session, a beautiful, balanced feeling feeling rippled out from all of the writers who participated. It was just so good. I’m offering this class again in June. It’s for everyone. Please come: it’s an affordable and accessible writing class that can be your sanctuary and your gym.

There’s a world situation happening, here. We can’t pretend otherwise. But every situation is flexible: life is ever-changing.

If we’re too worried or anxious, we tend to think about the situation as fixed and hopeless. It is not.

If we put ourselves to sleep with wine, busyness, Kettle Chips or (insert your favourite numbing device here), we can’t be sharp enough to take action, to make changes to the situation.

We need each other to stay sharp!

Here is a poem by Rilke that has been bringing me courage.

Quiet friend who has come so far,
feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,

What batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.

In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery at the cross roads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.

And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent earth: I flow.
To the rushing water: I am.

— Rainer Maria Rilke


If you’re feeling anxiety these days when you listen to the news, or think about the ocean, or violence, or injustice, remember that there is something that you can do: remain awake and calm. Taking care of your writing is an important way for you to give the world your healthy, balanced attention.

Love,



Rosie is still one of my favourite characters.
How to connect to source.

3 comments

elephantine.studio@gmail.com

Huge congratulations on finishing your novel, Sarah! I can't wait to read it. I'm so excited for you – and feeling uplifted by all of this good news. x
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STEPHEN FORMAN

Wait a minute... are you writing a book? /j.k. //congratulations! : )
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Laura Gendall

Wonderful! Welcome back, Sarah.
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