50-for-50 interview: Havi Brooks, destuckifier

havi brooks and schmoppet

Havi Brooks knows an awful lot for such a young lady. She knows, for instance, how to muster epiphanies on command, and how to teach you to do it, too. She knows how to talk to monsters and how to learn the language of yourself. At an age when I was still fluffing around with pipe dreams of Hollywood, Havi has built a small empire populated by worshipful alt-entrepreneurs whom she has taught to unstick and embiggen themselves beyond their wildest dreams. And yes, if something does not exist, she knows how to create it: a vocabulary that reframes experiences so people can process them; an online community of jolly pirate buccaneers; a felt-and-glitter-festooned playground where books get written between bouts of Old Turkish Lady Yoga and delicious snacks. She also knows the best places in Portland for breakfast, long walks with maximum rose smells, and bourbon, neat. And of course, she knows that having a little roller derby and Timbers in your life is at least as important as doing your Important Reading. And of course she knows why I love her so. Then again, by now, so do you.

When did you decide to become a writer? 

Ha! I probably decide that pretty much every day.

Though now I’m feeling a little unsure about whether DECIDE is my verb of choice. It might be that the verb I have in my heart does not even exist (yet) in words.

Do I decide? Confirm? Reaffirm? Claim, reclaim, choose, find, uncover, discover, come back to, come home to being a writer. Yes. Maybe.

Whatever it is, I am pretty sure I have always been friends with words.

Here is what I remember:

In kindergarten: bored with learning but fascinated by the curves of the letter Q.

In first grade: hiding behind piles of books.

In second grade I got in trouble for arguing with a teacher — she said I’d misspelled ‘colour’ by giving it a ‘u’, while I was positive this was how Jane Austen had written it. Second-grade me still feels a little indignant!

In third grade there was this short story that I wrote. The POWER in that experience was so intense. A story! Mine! There it is! Bam! 

And so on. Words. I like them and so I live with them, and we play together.

Who was your favorite teacher?

Julie Sparling taught me about being brash and unapologetically present. Paul Grilley taught me that people vary. To astonishing degrees. Andrey Lappa taught me to trust my internal sense of knowing, to have a conscious relationship with my life, and to create safety for myself.

That’s one acting teacher and two yoga teachers, if you’re wondering.

What do you love to write about?

About playing and adventuring and exploring internal worlds.

About Shiva Nata — which is about patterns and depatterning and repatterning.

About what needs to happen in my kingdom and where the treasure is and all the many, many things about which — as it turns out — I happen to be just ridiculously mistaken in my assumptions!

About the extremely unusual things that happen when you begin to interact with pain, fear, grief and loss. Not interacting in a direct, forcing-it sort of way. But creating experiences of safety that allow you to be near it in a loving, curious, what-does-this-need sort of way.

About creating an entirely new kind of culture of writing and projectizing and being. I know there is a way — probably a squidzillion ways — of writing that are about conscious, loving, curious, playful Finding Out, instead of the prescriptive, get-your-ass-in-the-chair-and-force-it method.

What has writing taught you?

There are so many ways to (gently, lovingly, steadily, outrageously) challenge and subvert the muggle culture.

There are so many ways to connect to hidden aspects of yourself.

There are so many ways to heal pain and to meet it with love.

How has writing made you stronger?

Writing has been my companion in the hardest and scariest times.

It has been my voice when I was too terrified to say anything out loud.

If you could go back in time and tell 10-year-old you anything, what would it be?

You, my dear, have some pretty great superpowers. Finding out what they are and how they work is going to be seriously challenging. But worth it.

Do what you’re already doing. Pay attention to the things that pull you. Smell all the good smells. Dance in the dark.

Create safe places in your internal and external space.

Anyone who thinks you’re too crazy, too zany, too quiet, too loud — too anything — is wrong. There is no way to be too much you.

Fill up on your you-ness and everything you do will be better.

Other people’s perceptions of you are not actually who you are. Give them back their projections.

Swing on the tire swing as much as you want! Later on it will make you dizzy. So swing now!

Also, you think you don’t like pickles but it turns out that you love pickles, and then you’re sad about missing out on all that quality pickle time. So maybe try a pickle. Just in case.

What are your five favorite books, blogs or things to read?

The two books I find myself reading over and over again are Nobody’s Fool by Richard Russo, and Excellent Women by Barbara Pym.

I was just given The Book of Qualities by J. Ruth Gendler, and am absolutely loving it.

And here are two books that really truly make the world a better place every time someone reads them: The Last Word on the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense, and How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk (not just for dealing with kids!). [Editor’s note: I second both of these recommendations most heartily!]

Yay, books!

Havi Brooks helps good people get better at growing their business through working on the internal stuff that gunks up the process, teaching useful things like destuckification and how to apply what you learn with her to everything else in your life. She does this all from a kooky pirate zen studio in Portland called “The Playground” where she goes about this biggifying in a way that’s mindful, fun, playful and light-hearted, and that sometimes involves costumes. Her chief compatriots in this work include her duck, Selma, a hedgehog named Scootch and an extremely extroverted purple thing called The Schmoppet. But principally, it’s her and Selma.

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