Category Archives: Art

The Forest of Imagination

There were three lost children. Each child thought she knew the correct way forward and that the other two were hopelessly lost. But, truthfully, they all three were lost, each in a forest of their own making. Each forest was unique with its own terrible and fearsome trees, and each forest was borne into reality from the imagination of each child.

This story is about the middle child and her forest. Running and hiding and clawing her way amongst the dense trees of her forest, she couldn’t see that she already was where she desperately wanted to be. The trees looked frightening and threatening. If she had been able to see with clear eyes, eyes not distorted by fear and loneliness, she would have seen that the forest was indeed her forest, welcoming and magical. She had brought all the fear and anger and helplessness with her and had painted it over the top of the trees like a canvas covering a rainbow.

“How do I let go of the fear and hopelessness?” she asked the trees with desperation coloring her words.

“You simply believe that it’s true — it’s all true. Believe in your power and our power and the power of all creation. Let go of the fear, and trust in magic and hope and love.” The trees swayed in the wind and spoke to her softly. Their words were songs of comfort that soothed the fire burning in her brain and heart.

“Trust,” they repeated. “Let the magic happen. Quiet your brain and calm your heart and allow the magic to happen. It’s been inside of you the whole time, waiting for your sunshine. So quit running and searching, and shine.”



Leap of Faith

Today I looked on Google Analytics to see how many people visit Benign Chaos.

None. Not even one.

Twice before I have built up a website audience of about 200 – once with manga translation links back in the 90s when I was in college and more recently with planner printables – so I know it can be done. But it still felt like a hard slap across the face and a punch to the gut (yes, it felt like both of those things at once). And I thought in despair, “How am I going to do this? I don’t exist. I spend every day working, but my talent and light are hidden in the vast noise of the internet.”

And of course, the only answer is “Have faith.” It’s always the answer given to every artist as they slam up against the inevitable question, “Why the fuck am I doing this? My voice is swallowed by the expanse of our population, by the magnitude of our existence.”

Why the fuck am I doing this?

Because it’s who I am and I actually have no choice in the matter.



Yesterday, I sent my manuscript off to yet another publisher. It took me four hours to do one hour’s worth of work as I wrote my cover letter and prepared the pdf of my manuscript. The emotions were crushing me and slowing down my work.

And when it was done, I cried. I cried, on and off, for two hours. Art is not a birthing process; it is the careful packaging of a part of your soul and setting it free into the world for others to experience. An artist and her art are not separate; each is the living, breathing counterpart to the other.

I had emailed a part of my soul to yet another publisher knowing full well that it will most likely be rejected. I had taken part, as I pressed the Send button, in the demise of my childhood and lifelong dream of being a published author.

And as I cried with the depths of a barren woman, feeling my dream burn into nothing around me, I realized something: I am only a writer. When you strip away the dream and ask, “Well, if you can’t write, what will you do?” there is nothing there. I have other things that I enjoy such as music, but I am only a writer. There is no fall back. If I can’t write — if I don’t write — then I am genuinely not fully alive.

So standing there, holding the husk of my dream and my cheeks still wet with my tears, I made a decision. I will write. I will write until I die. I will write until all my words have blown away into the winds of time and I’m not even a memory in the minds of my great grandchildren. I will write because that is all I am, and if no one can hear me and the universe swallows my voice, then so be it.

And when the time comes for me to draw my last breath, I will die happy because I will have lived.


You see liquid; I see a path.


“C’mon,” he said, his voice low and rough, steeped in unfulfilled desire. “Let’s get a drink.”  Her eyes were cloudy with her own unsatisfied hunger. He took her hand and led her out of the shadows of their own private silent world back into the world of the living and the sleeping. “We both need a stiff drink,” he repeated.

Through the side door and into the noisy lounge, he led her straight to the bar, waving for the barman. “Two whiskeys,” he said, “your best scotch.” As the barman left, he turned to look at her for the first time since the world had shuddered for both of them. Her silence was solemn and her blue eyes spoke of history and unanswered questions. Neither spoke until the barman delivered the whiskey glasses. As he took the glasses from the barman, he seemed relieved. This would be the end.

She took her glass; the golden liquid was subtle and beautiful. It moved around the glass following the laws of physics and poetry. “You see liquid,” she said as she watched the light refract through the whiskey, bringing its color to life. “I see a path. A choice.” She looked back at him. Her heart was heavy and her whole body felt her sadness. “Goodbye,” she said, and she drank the whiskey.

He felt her sadness as it matched resonance with his own. “We sometimes see ourselves very clearly through the lens of another,” he said. “Her unyielding desire to possess him destroyed her. I have to let you go. I’ll keep the love, but the desire must go.”

She could feel the moment fading away as the whiskey settled into her system. “I know.” She stood and held out her hand, “Shake my hand and say goodbye.” As he took her hand, they both felt the familiar magnetic pull towards each other through their skin.

“Goodbye,” he said, and then she turned and walked out of the bar.


It’s okay to be naked

Painting by Kandrashov Sergey

I’m afraid of being exposed. I’m afraid of revealing myself. It’s one thing to write anonymously on a little blog, my tiny words drifting in the digital black nether. But in real life? Where people can actually see me?

I have a million masks, one for every occasion. They fill my soul and clutter my identity. I hide behind their wooden colorful lifelike displays. Hiding, always hiding. Hiding everywhere except in words.

Words are my sanctuary. Words are my truth.

But I have to put the masks away now because there is something I want to do with my life that requires naked honesty. And some of my masks are beautiful and some of my masks are ugly, but none of them are me.

Now, to step naked onto the stage…



Photo by Tabetha Harrison

Every one of us has a chance to be heroic. Every one of us has been given the divine providence of an epic journey and a heroic life. And hidden within each soul there lay a map, given as a birthright and waiting to be discovered. This map is the color of golden light and all of the symbols on it are written in the esoteric language of the angels. Most of the map is shrouded in a veil of unanswered questions and unlived experience. It is at the same time both indecipherable and entrancing.

The map lays out our hero’s journey. The enigmatic symbols equate to actions and events, slowly taking place, one by one, as our life progresses and we come to understand their meaning only through experience. But there is a crossroads on the map, a question which absolutely no one else on the face of this planet can answer but you.

“Do I follow my calling?”

This calling is different for every person, but we all hear the distant voice in the wind, floating through our waking dreams. It calls us, incessantly, never giving us peace. Some folks, the lucky ones, follow this inner voice and find a peaceful and meaningful life. Others of us fight it, ignore it, run from it.

But then we dream, the haunting dream of dormant passion. Dreams are worthy of pursuit. To set a plan into place to achieve your dream is a worthy pursuit. Our dreams, when realized, enrich the world for everyone. Everyone benefits. Living your passion is to truly be alive, to be present and to be accountable.

I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true.
I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound
to live up to what light I have.

Abraham Lincoln


The First Step


I’ve wanted to own my own business for years. It’s been a constant dream of mine, as constant as my dream of true love (which I did eventually find in my husband).

So I step on the path, saying to myself, “This time I’m going to do it. This time I’m going to work and create my own business. I have an idea. I have a capable competent business partner. I can do it!”

And then I sit at my desk, and I crumble. I crumble into tiny bits of defeated dust that blow away in the wind. My own negativity destroys me.

The old wisdom is to not listen to the naysayers. Surround yourself by people who support your creativity and dreams, and ignore those who would clip your wings with their words. But what if the most relentless and negative of all the naysayers is actually your own voice in your own head? What if you are your own enemy? How do you quiet the voice of fear, doubt and disbelief… especially when it’s so loud that its soundless screams drown out any positive thought?

I don’t know the answer to this riddle. Right now, I choose to continue to work towards my dreams with the cacophony of fearful and doubtful words as my companion. The work is slow as I am regularly derailed by the fear, but then I pull myself off the floor, dust myself off, and get back to work.

To believe in the worth of your work – to believe in the worth of yourself – is a constant battle for many people. And that’s why I write these blog entries. It is in finding our worth and sharing ourselves that this world will blossom. The battle is worth fighting for when you win, your victory will touch everyone around you, bringing light and hope to others still deep in the journey.


The Source of Art

(Crossposted to: Life with Science)

Twelve years ago today on May 15, 2000 is when I first laid eyes on my future husband, Matt. We worked in the same company, but I worked in the Austin office and he worked in the London office. He had flown into Austin to train us on the company’s proprietary software. Other than Matt, I was the first one into the office that morning. We worked in a large, open-plan room with low-rise cubicles and the room was always dark because the programmers preferred for the lights to be off. He was sitting at a desk off in the corner working at a computer, his face lit up by the computer monitor in the dark room.

Two days later, I had a massive crush on him and two months later we were dating. And one year later we were married.

So May 15 is an auspicious day for me. It’s a day of love and beginnings. So, today is the official day that I begin writing as a career — truly begin. No more waltzing with fear and hiding from fate. I start work today.

And I’ve been conducting a postmortem in my head of all my past failed attempts. I can create brilliant small vignettes — little snippets of a story that read like poetry and carry deep meaning. But whenever I try to write an entire book, it reads, at best, like an 8th-grader’s attempt at fiction. The kernel of the story holds promise, but the surrounding prose drags it down into the realm of the novice, lacking clever timing and meaningful metaphor.

And why is this? My conclusion is that the failed attempts at an entire book have never come from my soul. Now, we can sit here and debate whether we even have souls or not, but the truth of the matter is, every artist creates from a personal and sacred spot deep inside of them. And when someone creates from this place of true emotion and lived experience, the resulting art has a life and an impact. Its beauty resonates outside of and separate from the artist.

And I think, when I’m forcing myself to just write through a story, that I’m not writing from that sacred spot. And the resulting story leaves the reader without an experience.

So, I’ll try to write from that sacred place. The story may be jumbled and it may meander untethered, but at least it will be true. And it certainly can’t be any worse than my past attempts.



Valiantly Suck

I want to be a published author. I want to be a writer as a paid job and a lifelong career. I love to write. I love to play with words and grammar and sound.

But I’m terrified. I’m terrified of being so awful as to bring ridicule to myself and any who bear the name Woodings. My literary crapness will echo through time like a death knell to all of my dignity and self-respect.

And, as you can imagine, this intense and magnified fear stops me dead in my tracks. I have eaten a heroic amount of sugar and I have played an epic amount of Warcraft. All in a completely successful attempt to avoid writing.

But the problem is, under the sugar and Warcraft, is an intense desire to have a career as a writer. So I have decided to Valiantly Suck. Maybe I’ll suck, maybe I won’t. But, even carrying the fear and possibility of being a horrible writer, I have decided to proceed anyway. Because the only other choice is to not write at all, and that choice is filled with sadness and regret.

Now to just not let the fear destroy the fun….


Another vignette from another book in my head

“That one is special,” said Grandfather Elder with a strong voice as he pointed to Klarissa sitting meekly in the back.

He came forward and pulled Klarissa out of the shadows and into the light so he could look her over. Klarissa was terrified at becoming the center of attention. “I’m… I’m not special,” she stammered as she stood trembling under his piercing gaze and avoiding his eyes.

His voice and his gaze softened as he replied, “We are all special in the dance and unfolding of the universe.”

“Beats is special,” she continued. “She is beautiful and brave.” Grandfather Elder looked at Beats who returned his steady gaze with her own piercing steady gaze.

“Yes,” said Grandfather, “Beats is special. But,” and here he looked back at Klarissa, “you are the one who carries the buried light.”

“Kam!” Grandfather Elder called for his grandson who stepped forward into the light. “You are to accompany them, and you are to train this one. She is asleep.”

“Yes, Grandfather,” Kam replied with a nod.

As Kam and Klarissa walked out of the tent, Kam asked, “You long to be Beats?”

“Who wouldn’t long to be Beats? She’s beautiful and strong.”

“She carries a lot of pain.”

“We all carry pain. At least she’s pretty and in pain.”

This made Kam laugh, but even with a smile on his face, he replied seriously, “While you do not accept yourself — while you do not feel and understand your own importance, beauty and poetry — your training will move slowly. You are swimming against the current, against the natural flow of energy. You are exhausting all of your resources on fantasies based on lack and inadequacy.”

This last statement stung. She could feel tears stinging her eyes but didn’t want him to see her cry.

“I’m sorry,” he said as he cupped her hands in his, “but as Grandfather said, you are asleep… in so many ways. You long for beauty when you have beauty. You long for strength when you have strength.”

“What do you know?!” Suddenly she was angry. She snatched her hand out of his. “What do you know of my pain?! Beautiful, am I? Tell that to all the boys who passed me over for a prettier face!”

He was quiet for a moment, weighing her anger against his words, before continuing. “You cannot move forward while you carry this burden. It weighs you down in the waters. Trust that you are exactly what you are supposed to be, that you are crafted with precision and poetry.

“There are many physical joys of life,” he continued, “and this is the only beauty that you, and many others, see.”
And, shitzilla, that’s the end of the excerpt that I wrote in my notebook. What was Kam going to say! I really must write this book. 🙂