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voices amplified: dominique gant

thumb_OriginalPhoto-486928152.862835_1024 (the following post is from the series Voices Amplified, featuring the stories and voices of everyday people in our community).

I was the girl who…

I was the girl who loved to read, draw, science, modeling, and acting. When I was a girl, my grandmother “Essie” was my biggest cheerleader. My mother and my grandmother were both supportive of anything I showed interest in, whether it was acting or modeling school, they kept me busy.

My mother had me at a young age, but worked hard to provide for my brother and I.

I was the girl who loved to laugh, sing, and dance. I was a silly child with quite the imagination who enjoyed playing and making friends. October 24th, 1997 at 5:30pm, I lost my grandmother to complications of lupus. I was 13-years-old. My whole world changed that day. Even though that was my grandmother, I felt like I lost my mom.

1997 was one of the worst years of my life. I felt so alone. My family was very close and my grandmother held everyone together.

I was the girl who longed for her grandmother because I didn’t understand.

Now I’m a woman with children of my own who will show my daughters the love and encouragement my mothers (Grandmother and mother ) showed me when I was younger.

We forget what it’s like to be a kid again and often take moments for granted. I just want to take the time out to remember the little girl I was because she is who made me who I am today! I just want to be happy, I just want to be free!

I just want Peace.

Domonique Gant is a writer and mother. She was born March 19th, 1984 in Chicago, Illinois. She lives in Bloomington with her two daughters, Diamond and Gia.

  1. Janna Krawczyk is a fiscal year 2016 recipient of an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This publication and the class during which it was created is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.

 

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i was the girl…

me atop a mountain along the Routeburn Track on the South Island of New Zealand, December 1996

me atop a mountain along the Routeburn Track on the South Island of New Zealand, December 1996

I was the girl with grass-stained jeans and a bad perm that smelled like her parents’ Camel cigarettes; the girl who wandered along Minnehaha Creek pretending she was an orphaned explorer in the wilderness.

I was the girl who sat next to the girl with the tan that she got during her trip to Florida over spring break with her family.

I was the girl who drank Snappy Toms with maraschino cherries on her first plane trip when she was ten, the only girl at Venice Beach that December day, leaping in the waves of the salty water she met for the first time.

I was the girl who dreamed big dreams, who wondered what it was like in faraway places.

I was the girl who got into Madison by the skin of her teeth where she overheard a conversation in a locker room one day about a post-college work-abroad program.

I was the girl who then sat down and wrote, I want to travel… and later, I want to travel to the other side of the world… and later, I want to travel to Australia and learn to surf…

I was the girl who listened to people say, “How are you going to do that?” and “What are you going to do when you get back?”

I was the girl who didn’t know the answer to any of these questions.  But.

I was the girl who fed dreams to my journals where they grew real.

I was the girl who worked double-shifts at Rock Bottom, rode her bike home late in the evening, and stashed her cash in the top drawer.

I was the girl who found herself sitting on a Qantas flight headed for Melbourne, Australia at the end of December, 1995 in an old pair of Levi’s with $500 cash in her back pocket and no plans upon arrival,

the girl who meant to stay for three months but stayed a year,

the girl who picked flowers in the Dandenong Mountains and mandarin oranges in sweet-smelling groves next to a Dutch girl named Free.

I was the girl who hitchhiked and ran out of money and worked in a tomato-packing shed, the girl who got yelled at by a short, toothless Aussie woman because she put a #2 tomato in the #1 box.

I was the girl who traveled across the world, to Australia, and then New Zealand, to learn how to surf.

I was the girl who lived a dream impossible,

the girl who planted the seed of that dream, where it grew in the pages of her journal,

and spilled out, into her life.

 

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writing to stoke the creative fire within

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In my work, I surround myself with images, color, books, beauty, magazines, and music–anything to energize my creative spirit.

“Why should we all use our creative power…?  Because there is nothing that makes people so generous, joyful, lively, bold and compassionate, so indifferent to fighting and the accumulation of objects and money.” 

-Brenda Ueland

I have just recently recovered from an acute bout of what I call Dry Well Syndrome.  It is pretty awful for us writers and artists who make our living through the use of our creative power.  While it never surprises me, it always unnerves me because I rely on this thing called creativity, not just for work, but for life.  As Julia Cameron of the classic book, The Artist’s Way, points out, “as we are creative beings, our lives become our work of art.

Works of art are often thought to be material things, finite projects.  But the truth is, the greatest work of art each and every one of us has the potential to create is our life.  The problem is, most of us don’t realize our immense creative power.  We are too busy reacting to our lives now to give ourselves the space and time to create visions of what we want.  We enter an auto-pilot way of living, busy tying loose ends and checking off to-do lists, and neglect planting new seeds for our future.  Eventually, we blink, hit middle age, and realize our lives feel uninspired and stale.  Then all emotional hell breaks loose, we have a mid-life crisis, and buy an expensive sports car that doesn’t have the horsepower to lift us out of our stagnation.

But the truth of life is, it’s not over until it’s over. We are meant to continually evolve.  We are meant to create anew. While uncomfortable at times, we are wired for change.  It’s inevitable.  So it really becomes a choice of either entering the flow of life and stepping fully into the adventure, facing fear and embracing courage, or enduring a slow, spiritual suffocation.

We owe it to ourselves to empower our thoughts and infuse our lives with creativity and vision.

In the midst of my last bout of Dry Well Syndrome, knowing the futility of pulling water from an empty well, I surrendered.  I sat down, blank page in front of me, and surrounded myself with inspiring words, images, color, music, thoughts and ideas, letting my mind and pen wander, until I tapped into my next wellspring. What I decided during this period of creative exploration is to pull myself out of bed before sunrise, before anyone in my house is awake, and as the steam rises into the dark morning air from my coffee cup, to feed my creative life.  I used to do this when my kids were babies, and during that period, I wrote my first novel in the mornings between 6:00 am. to 8:00 am. When they entered school, however, I stopped, thinking that I didn’t need those early hours since I had the whole day.

I have since realized that I need a morning writing practice–it inspires and energizes me, allowing me space and time to stoke my creative fire before I’m blown around by the day’s work and activities.

*

Are you feeling stuck?  Uninspired?  Creatively malnourished?  Writing is a powerful, inspiring, and mysterious practice for creativity in living.  Below is a writing exercise that will help awaken your spirit and breathe life and vitality into your day:

Turn to the next blank page in your journal.  Notice the wide-open space and possibility on the page in front of you and in your life.  Write the date and where you are at the top and begin with the words, “I am inspired by…”  Give yourself the gift of ten minutes to dwell in this landscape.  Be aware of the energy that arises when you give voice, and thus power, to the things in your life that bring inspiration and love.  If this is difficult–if you are stumped by what inspires you, then this is the perfect exercise for you.  By digging and listening deeply to your spirit, you will eventually unearth the simple treasures that make your heart beat stronger.  Once unearthed, go there.  Go to that place in your heart and honor the creative and life-giving voice of your soul.  There begins the work of creating anew.  There begins the work of creating your life.

 

 

 

 

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this writer’s life

This morning my therapist made me say out loud, “I am an author.”

This is a hard thing to claim when my book is yet unpublished.  In the writers’ world, publication equals success.

I struggle with this writing life.  I am a perfectionist.  An academic junkie.  A book devourer.  A prolific and passionate writer.  And a clueless and shy promoter of my own work.

I like to work hard, and then I like to sniff the pretty blooms that grow from my efforts–a difficult thing to do when this novel-writing tree has yet to bear fruit.

I have written one novel and am in the thick of writing my second.  Though I will write to the end of my days and feel blessed to have this inclination, for some reason, it’s heart-wrenching to think that I can put thousands of hours into something that will collect dust in a drawer until I die.

However.  If I am to say “yes” to the adventure and bliss of a writing life, then I must say “yes” to its uncertainty and loneliness.  The whole package.

I’ve come to realize we have two choices in life: to follow our dreams/hearts, or to turn down their volume and wonder what that nagging feeling is that won’t leave us alone.

At this point, I have erased any other option than to relentlessly follow my dream of being a (published) author.  The time is now, and I plan to wring the nectar out of this one life I have.

Welcome to my world, to my work space in the Treehouse, a window into this writer’s life:

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this writer’s work space in a treehouse

the behind-the-scenes process of this writer.

the behind-the-scenes process of this writer.

mentors and sources of inspiration

mentors and sources of inspiration

notes to self

notes to self

this writer's filing system

this writer’s filing system

 

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holy communion

communion

It seems that every Monday morning after the kids are dropped off at school, I enter my work space reeling and discombobulated, trying to find my footing as I move my focus from the full weekend back into my work.  All of the stuff I want and need to do–a thousand different thoughts competing for attention– stand jumbled and crowded at the front of my brain.  And for those first few moments back at my desk, I am stunned.

“If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad.” -Lord Byron

I want to get right back into my work, right back into the flow of my book and classes and proposals and queries and all of the other stuff that I left at my desk on Friday before I entered the weekend.  I want to hit the ground running, not waste any time, because the six hours the kids are in school go by in a flash.

But it’s impossible for me.  I must take the first ten or so minutes of my day, before I open my computer, before I check email, before I read the news–before everything–and connect with myself, organize the thoughts careening through my brain and clean out the clutter so I can enter my flow unhindered.  Writing is the way I commune with myself.  It’s my chill pill.  And it’s the compass I use to help navigate the rest of my week.

I bet it can do the same for you.  Because when we each take time to commune with ourselves, to hold a simple, small space of time sacred and listen to our thoughts, we enter our days with more space within, more zen.

Try it.  Write the date and where you are at the top of your page, and enter your space with the word, “Today…”  You do not need to know what you are going to write about.  Just write the word, “Today…” and let what needs to come out come out.  The most demanding thoughts will surely come first.  They are usually the clutter that shroud the quieter thoughts, the deeper thoughts.  So get the clutter out first–give it the attention it seeks, and let it move on out of your way.  Then you will make room for the quieter thoughts to speak, the thoughts that hang out a little deeper, away from the surface.  Get to these thoughts and listen to them.  They will lead you to the voice of your soul.  And get there as often as possible so you can touch that place within.

Then, hold your heart open.  There you will receive your holy communion.

 

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adventure into the unknown

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It’s funny.  I used to think that someday, if I payed attention and played all of my cards right, if I worked earnestly and diligently enough, after I had grown older and wiser and smarter and better, I would transcend the discomfort of stepping into the Unknown.  I used to think that someday I would know what I was doing, leaving all of my self-doubt swirling in a trail of dust behind me.  I have spent much of my adult life following big dreams with no path showing me how to get from Here to There.

The entire time I wrote my masters thesis, I had no idea how to write a thesis.

The entire time I wrote my novel, I had no idea how to write a novel.

Throughout my journey teaching journaling as a therapeutic art, I had no idea how to teach journaling as a therapeutic art.

I began speaking to rooms stuffed with therapists, social workers, and psychologists, and I stood there, feeling like a fraud, because I had no idea how I got there, in front of that room full of people.

Every single thing I have endeavored to create has been fraught with the anxiety of not knowing how to do the things I wanted to do.

But the Truth has been sneaking up on me, humored by my naivete, that none of us know what we are doing.  Each day we wake up, we stretch our arms in the air and begin walking into yet another Unknown.

I have come to believe that in order to live up to our dreams, to realize all of the bounty and beauty that is within us, we must be willing to bravely step into the Unknown time and time and time again.  If we are to say “yes” to growth, then we are also saying “yes” to the growing pains that accompany being lost for a time being.  Without these pains, we do not grow.  We stay comfortably where we are, and slowly, build a rut around ourselves.

“The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.”  -Joseph Campbell

I have come to believe that if we choose to say “yes” to this adventure of life, to the adventure of naming and following our heart’s desires, if we choose to walk through our fear of failure and anxieties about not knowing instead of around them, we will get to the other side.

And there we will plant ourselves in the sun of our souls.  And there we will grow.

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