birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Taking Wing

Twice a year I create a manifesto for myself...once in January to start the year and a second time on my birthday, which falls in July so it's a near-perfect time for a mid-year review. I do this instead of making "resolutions," which never seem to come to fruition the way I think they should. But the manifesto approach works beautifully for me. Plus, there's nothing like writing something down to make it happen, and there's nothing like having a system (and a practice) to stay on track.

I adopted this technique more than 20 years ago after completing Julia Cameron's 12-step "The Artist's Way" program, a guide to recovering creativity that is the best form of self-help therapy I've ever found. That program taught me the importance of making lists and defining both my desires and the "monsters" that sometimes guide, or get in the way of, my desires. It taught me to be intentional and to listen to--and honor--the voices in my head and heart.

I must admit that in the years since I first completed "The Artist's Way" I have not kept up the daily practice of writing morning pages (one of Cameron's primary tools for self discovery and examination), but I restart them frequently when I need to sort things out or need a nudge of inspiration and focus. And even without a daily practice, it gave me the tool of using a manifesto to name my dreams and taught me the value of personal commitment to those dreams.

The lists that are my manifestos are all over the place. They include everything from the vague goals of "Be a better friend" and "Be more mindful" to more specific goals such as "Write an essay" or "Plant wildflowers." Those lists are unfocused in many ways, but also sharply focused on the disparate realities of my life that make it so richly chaotic. And when I revisit those lists to see what things I can check off and what things still need more work, the manifestos help me stay focused and attentive.

For me, Birds in a Barrel has been equal to "The Artist's Way" as a form of personal growth, but more importantly as a source of inspiration--and sometimes of disquiet--in my personal and writing life. These past 40 days have reminded me of the importance of having a practice and of showing up on the page and in the moment even when I don't like what I find at either place. It has given me permission to be less than perfect each day but to to spend my time capturing the things I might someday want to perfect.

Birds in a Barrel has also provided me with new things to add to my manifesto list come July. Perhaps most important of all, it has shown me that resolutions and even manifestos are less important than having resolve and being resolute and it has helped me take joyful wing toward something higher rather than taking wing away from something I fear. For that I am deeply grateful.

To the Gods--After Waking Paralyzed

Thank You for Your Service