Taking a daily early morning walk is a practice I’ve begun to do, and find I am relishing this time I spend; pre-dawn, just enough light to see where my foot falls and where the pot holes lie. Where I live we have gravel roads, and only a couple of street lights. There is no traffic, no sidewalks. Only sea, and trees, and sky.
Living on a small island has a multitude of benefits, one of which is the carefree ability to walk at any hour of day or night in relative safety. Here I am among an extended family of sorts. As I pass houses I know many of the people inside who are just beginning to stir, a light being turned on, a fire being stoked in the wood stove. Many of them I’ve known for over thirty years.
If I hear a shuffle behind me in the dark, it is a deer moving from its night resting place, or an owl swooping from its oak branch perch, or just the wind.
What I love about my morning walk is the solitary time. Because it’s dark outside I’m not distracted, my mind and imagination can work. I can move my body in a rhythmical stride and it becomes almost a walking meditation. I will encounter no one on the road either, not until seven perhaps, when people are on their way to the ferry or their boats, or bringing their dogs out for a walk, or joggers.
On my most recent walk, I had a clear insight into a perspective on the story I’m currently working on. By the time day breaks I have made my way to the South end of my island to watch the sun rise, and I find some inspiration in some photographic opportunities, feeding my creativity further. These walks are like an “Artist’s Date” for me.
And as the sun rises I feel all the opportunity and potential that a new day brings with it. I’m always lifted by this, optimistic for what I could do in a day, eager to start, even if I don’t start anything of note other than the laundry. And I’m grateful even so.
Ok, I have found that I am not keeping my promise in making weekly posts. It’s not as though I’ve been unable to. The weeks seem to float by, like ‘sweet little days,’ to clip a lyric from John Prine; so unassuming that I’m caught unaware. And the next thing I know is- I haven’t posted anything.
In my last post I mentioned that I will be involved in the Nanowrimo (National November Writing Month) and that is precicley what I have been up to. The goal is to write about 1700 words a day to a total of 50,000 by the end of November. I started the month with a story I had already in progress, with 25,000 words already written. My goal is to have a written draft completed by the end of the month. The challenge too that I’m trying to overcome is the need to edit as I write. Having a stiff timeline like the Nanowrimo to work under pushes me to power through and not over think. To “fix it later.”
I compare it to the cooking competition show Chopped. The chefs are given a black box containing crazy mismatched ingredients and must create a delicious plate of food, within a sharply limited time frame, that is then put before the judging panel. In this situation, the chef cannot spend moments thinking; it’s Go- NOW!
Except I have thirty days to put something together, the chefs have twenty minutes.
Anyway, I’ve been tapping away on a historical creative non fiction, rather ambitious for a first novel; go big or go home and all that, and I’m making good strides. I think I am. That’s the thing with writing a book. You sequester away for days, months, years, as nearly a hermit, with no guarantee anything will come of it.
I’ve begun a little practice of waking early, before dawn, and heading out on a walk. It’s early enough that no one is out, and I feel like I have the island to myself. As the sky lightens I find images to photograph on my walk, so it becomes an Artist date ( The Artist’s Way ) and exercise at the same time, win-win!
I’m loving starting my day like that. When I get back home, some yoga, then breakfast, then feel I can sit down to write for a few hours- sometimes more than a few hours.
I’ve recently gotten my pottery out of the kiln, a big bin of mugs, some vases, and a couple of bowls, and I’m happy with how they came out. Almost. Still having issues with the clear glaze I apply over the underglaze; coming out on the opaque side rather than crystal clear on some of the pots. And my mugs could be slightly bigger- I’m surprised how much shrinkage happens in the bisque fire.
So that about catches me up. I can’t accept that I haven’t played any music for two months, so that is an issue in need of rectifying.
I’ve been slow to understand that a belief in ones self and abilities is the foundation to everything worthwhile. And I mean slow- I’m sixty-two. It would’ve been great to figure this shit out when I was a nineteen year old art major, I might’ve gotten somewhere with it. But I saw myself falling into this debilitating pattern of believing that I didn’t have the “Real” talent or skill, or confidence. But others? Sure. They must be more, know more, smarter. I could not see myself as a professional artist. So I didn’t take my art seriously; including the art education I had received, sorry mom, dad, or any other talent I may have, like singing. I coulda gone places, I’m pretty sure now. This belief pattern has stifled years of the opportunity to build on a creative, artistic life. Drat. And thanks for nothing, hindsight.
In High school I was put into an art majors program. Upon my graduation my art teacher wrote on my transcript that I need to pursue this, that he didn’t want to see me become a Sunday Painter. I didn’t become a Sunday Painter. But maybe I should have, at least I would’ve painted once a week!
After graduation I went on to Banff School of Fine Art in Alberta for a summer session. When my parents asked would I like to enrol for a year, I said – no. I had a (fricken) boyfriend back home. I still get nauseous when I regurgitate this memory. Not the boyfriend, at the time he was great, but, me turning this opportunity down turns my stomach to this day.
An aside to that story: My boyfriend was also an art student and we went on to college together that September. In our second year he was accepted on a student exchange to Florida for the year. I wasn’t and stayed behind at our Vancover Island College. So, there ya go.
During my solo second year at college towards a degree in Fine Art, I became involved in theatre. I sang for the first time on stage, I joined a band that had a loyal following. When then it came time to continue on to University to complete my BFA, I bailed. Because I met a man. Oh to go back and slap my young self.
But I continued with sabotage. I was a champ. Every move I made where I had the potential to launch myself in a worthwhile endeavour, to finish my degree, to paint madly and mount a show, to sing, I’d never take the bait. I always felt I wasn’t enough, that I was an imposter, or that relationship was more important.
This has been my life’s pattern.
So, what troubles me is why we lack belief in ourselves. Part of us knows we are qualified or talented or skilled, but some other part of us says naw, you better step aside and let the other more qualified, talented, skilled do the thing. Even when the road before us is clear. I know I’m not alone in this, it’s a universal neurosis. How can we be our own worst enemy? If anyone should be rooting for us it should be – US! If you can’t find a supportive friend in yourself, then where? Who? Why do we self sabotage? It’s what I did throughout my entire youth, my twenties ….and thirties……and….ok, my entire life thus far.
That pattern stops here. Ok, it’s a process. I’m continuing to work through it, and I am making inroads into what has been blocking me.
I’m asking more questions than having answers for because I’m still searching for the answers. I had mentioned somewhere earlier in a blog post that I’ve been working through The Artists Way book with the goal to tease out some of these answers. It’s been instrumental for me. I still continue with writing my morning pages, a year now. I think by doing that work it has brought me to this point where I can see things a bit more accurately. It’s enabled me to stand stronger in my convictions to recover what I tossed mindlessly aside, who I am, in trade for not being abandoned. To please.
I’ve maybe disclosed more than anyone probably cares to hear, but it’s all about self reclamation here. Creative Recovery. I need to hear it. Am I exceptionally talented? Not at all. And that’s what’s important for me to understand. That it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if you think I am or not. But the work I do is important. It matters.
Am I too late? No, there is no time limit, there is no age limit. It’s about picking up where I left off, except this time I have intention. An awareness about myself. Finally. But I have it, so that’s a start. That’s a good start.
Just back from Salmon Arm visiting my daughter, her husband and my two granddaughters, one of which we celebrated her third birthday.
I managed to get the final glazing done on a batch of mugs and bowls before I left. Still working on getting the size of my mugs right, and to get that perfect “Lip” on the rim. I use underglazes to create my patterns and designs, the final glaze is a clear glaze on the bisque ware.
Here are the under-glazed pieces before I coated them in the final fire glaze:
Here is one of the mugs, bisque fired and ready for final fire glazing. The size is better, I’ve been more aware to make the mugs on the large size to compensate for shrinkage. Most of my past mugs have come out of the bisque fire rather teensy.
Then there is this bowl. I was attempting my first ever large bowl when it suddenly collapsed. I was about to pull it off when I noticed it fell into a pleasing way. It had a shape. It could still be something. I thought, meh, fruit bowl?
So I left it on the wheel for a day to set up, and then removed it to a board to dry further so I could clean up the bottom. Then I painted a poppy image on it, and hope for the best! Below is the bisque fired piece.
I hadn’t played my guitar or had done any writing over the week I was away in Salmon Arm, a house with two toddlers is a BUSY house. Now I’m home, that’s deathly quiet, and back to my creative practices. On this stormy, rainy October day it was spent in the kitchen making tomato jam and figuring out what treats to make for the ghosts and goblins that will be coming by my door in a few days.
Yes, incredible as it seems, seasons do come and go in a repeated annual cycle; we know this, why are we always so surprised? It’s fall y’all.
It means for me that I had let some lengthy time lapse over the summer since I visited my blog. The truth is, my summer hasn’t been all too productive in the way of pottery- a little bit, painting/drawing- nil, or music- months ago I wrote two songs, since then; well, I had to wipe the layer of dust off of my guitar yesterday. I can’t blame my slackness on the VID- 19. What, stay home, away from people and keep busy ? Those instructions are an artist’s/writers dream scenario.
But I did do some writing. A neighbour, new to the little island community I live in, had heard there were many artists living here and thought it would be fun to call upon those of us who are inclined to write, to contribute a short story, up to 2500 words of fiction or non, for a book to be titled Protection Island Writes. The finished book would then be sold to raise money for the continuing renovations on our community hall, which now needs a kitchen makeover. The caveat: the story must mention or relate to Protection Island in some way.
So I got busy putting some edits in one fiction piece I had previously written titled Seafarer, a story about a girl setting sail to New Zealand and the lover who has to let her go, and then I set to work on another creative non fiction piece about the Coal Mine that once worked here on Protection Island in 1918. The story takes place on the day the elevator cage cable snapped and sent 16 miners 550 feet to their death. A horrific accident for this little island. I built the story around a pocket watch; the only item that came from the wreckage intact, and the miner who owned it, Robert McArthur. The watch remains, frozen at the time of the accident of 7:10, in our local museum.
I submitted both stories for the deadline of July 19th and then waited to hear if they would be selected among the other eighteen stories submitted, and be included in the book. All the stories were given over for consideration and critique to a long running reading group in another city. Toronto in fact. The neighbour I mentioned earlier who is putting this all together had moved from there to here, and so was calling upon her reading group to help out and make the final selections.
During this time I managed in June and July to visit my daughter and her family in Salmon Arm and coveted time with my granddaughters. And another few days spent in Vancouver with my son and his family, and more grand baby love. British Columbia’s “Curve” had sufficiently flattened, and travel restrictions had relaxed allowing us to roam our home provinces, but for how long? We couldn’t know when or if another clamp down would come again in the coming months. So I got those visits in while I had the chance!
By August I was notified that both of my stories were chosen. Better still, although I am happy to have either story accepted at all let alone two, both stories made the top ten list, and “Pocket watch” won first place out of the top ten. Sweet!
A zoom meeting was then organized for all the top ten authors to read an excerpt from their story, and the rest of the island community was invited to listen. So I did that. Uncomfortable with Zoom meetings. With “presenting” in general. Anyway, the book is said to be ready by Christmas. I think I get one for free, as a prize, – not sure. Kind of excited.
I still have a bunch of pottery that has been bisque fired ( some of the greenware pictured here) and needs to be finished with clear glaze and fired again. I will get that done in the next couple of days before another trip to salmon Arm to celebrate my granddaughters third birthday next week, and will also be the last visit of the season before the snow flies and… can you believe it, it will be winter!
Man, I just have to say, grandkids are one of the coolest parts of being old….er.
And then with November brings the writing marathon NaNoWriMo. (National November Writing Month ) The attempt (some would say a laughable attempt) is to write a novel in one month. It means 50 thousand words in 30 days, it means roughly 1.666 words per day. I’ve attempted twice in the past. Three times the charm?
I’ll be busy. But, ( index finger raised ) I have realized that complacency has been settling in on me over these months, and has slyly stymied my intentions of doing the exercise of creative artistic work each day; whether it’s writing, painting, drawing, music and lyric writing, photography or pottery. Doing a creative exercise/project daily, much like doing yoga daily, should set the intention to ingrain these practices, to make them second nature and habitual through repetitious action. To become a LIFESTYLE, a way of being.
I’ve decided to set up my own deadline to push me along, and keep me motivated and focused until it does become habitual. To help with this, I’m enlisting my blog as a tool and vow to myself, from this day forward, to post on my creative work and practice on a weekly basis, rather than a whenever I get around to it.
My blog will act as a kind of personal Sergeant Major, staring me down, impelling me to get to work in the studio, NOW!…. and then write a report on it and post it.
Hey, whatever works to start and keep the juices flowing.
Songwriting, I have been doing a bit of that. I, along with most of humanity one could correctly assume, feel tossed and battered in a hurricane of emotional turmoil at this time. I don’t know about you but some days I feel on the cusp of tears. With not only the pandemic, but now the violence and hate that is dominating over people’s efforts to do the right things. Specifically south of the border. So, I try to distill all that into brief lyrics.
RIP, George Floyd, if peace can even be found anymore, and the too many others who innocently fell under a needlessly aggressive, violent end.
Oh mama, you picked a good time to go
You packed your things and floated out the door
We never saw this coming, what laid us down so low
Did I hear you say it’s the wicked seeds we sow
Oh mama seems the sky’s cracked open
Hearts are torn, there’s only darkness showing
The -light- has- left- our- eyes
Seems too late for redemption
But shouldn’t we try?
Can it ever be sweet again
Looking down from those high places
You’ve nothing left to defend
But I’ll take any love you send, down on me
Oh mama you don’t worry anymore
It’s not like this hasn’t happened before
Take the blows, bite back the pain
Mend the wounds, wipe the stain, do it all over again
Oh mama will you hold a place for me
When it comes the time my soul’s set free
By then I think I’ll have had enough
Of this crazy world that’s left me worn and scuffed
Have you seen the memes being circulated that show an artist before, during, and then after the Coronavirus self isolation period? In each phase the artist is doing exactly the same thing- creating. Another meme shows a gardener in each phase of isolation who also continues as usual in working in the garden.
The message is obvious. Creatives, and artists can isolate like champs. Happy in our own little world.
And I’m grateful to be living in a good place while this nasty pandemic is ruling our lives. Not seeing my kids and grandkids is my only heartache.
Of course in the beginning of our Sheltering in Place period, there was quite a bit of anxious focus and energy given to thinking how to retool our lives to fit our New Normal. Like, how are we shopping now? Is it okay to even go to town to shop for food? Do we set up sanitization stations at our front doors? Do we wear gloves? Masks ? Are we suppose to strip off all our clothes before entering our homes after being in town? Do we wash all our groceries and packaging before putting them away? What happened to all the toilet paper? The flour, the yeast?
Because I live in a tiny island community, one kilometre from the main big island of Vancouver, many here don’t have their own boat and rely on the private little passenger ferry to get to town. When the ferry had to implement a severely limited ferry schedule and cut the passenger count from 32 to 14 per run to adhere to health distancing protocol this brought a surge of near panic and mayhem amongst my neighbours.
I’m fortunate (logically practical?) to have always had my own boat. And right about now many of my neighbours are considering hard in buying their own boats too.
Those of us with boats were requested to be available for emergency rides if needed. Our community email feed each day became filled not only with discussions about the virus but also with; who needs a ride in, and is anyone going to town and could they pick up a grocery item, or asking if anyone is going to Costco, or to pick up a package at the post office, or a prescription at the pharmacy. Often times when a neighbour is in town they would post on our community fb page asking if anybody needs anything. We came together and we help where possible. Benefits of a small tight knit community.
There are the daily morning updates from our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and our community discussions over particular protocols to be followed, with the latest agreement that visitors would be disallowed coming to our island. In fact all of the gulf Islands have banned visitors form coming. Signs saying this were posted at dock heads, and at the ferry waiting area in town. Next was to close the kids playground area and our off leash dog park when the government mandated to close all recreation parks.
There was simply a lot to digest in those first few weeks. And it can take a bit of time to disseminate all of this new information.
Now we have seemingly settled into our respective routines. The community email feed has levelled out. Requests for town item pickups have lessened. We’re tentatively acquainted with how things are to be done. We put on a courteous face, although there is a hum of cautious nervousness just under the surface when in town and interacting with a cashier at the grocery store, or waiting in line outside the pharmacy. We can’t ignore the profound feeling that this is truly a surreal experience/existence.
Being an artist while living through this is a saving grace. Creatives enjoy their solitary time, given there is coffee and snacks within reach. We may not be in the company of others, but we don’t mind because we are in the constant, engaging company of our artist self. We can never feel bored, lonely, or at a loss in what to do. We are constantly inspired by even the quietest muse.
And, what I’m really enjoying right now is seeing the videos of the music, the dances, the skits, the art from all those out there who are embracing this forced opportunity to be creative too.
Give people enough space and time from the daily grind and see what good things can happen.
I hope you are finding your muse to help you get through this time and are staying well ~
Interesting times we are all sharing. We are all hunkered down for the long haul here on Vancouver Island. It truly feels real now that the BC ferries, our connection to the mainland, has been severely curtailed. They have cut 50% of runs at two Vancouver Island terminals – allowing only four runs a day for commercial traffic- our supply goods traffic, and four runs for regular passengers. The terminal in my downtown, Departure Bay to Horseshoe Bay, has been discontinued for the next two months.
I give a major shout out to FaceTime and Skype and Zoom. Our saving grace is our technology at this time. We can still keep in close enough contact with family and friends. Our kids can still easily keep up with their studies from school. Adults and kids alike can take up a new interest, do research on the internet, download books and reading material, and music. Along with all the virtual tours online of parks and art galleries.
People are getting acquainted, or reacquainting themselves, with actual cooking meals from scratch, and baking their own bread- how empowering is that!? Many are seriously considering starting a vegetable garden or at least growing some kind of food in pots on a patio or balcony.
People are digging deep into themselves through all this chaos; reawakening dormant, or once lost talents and skills. We are thinking and rethinking. We are reinventing ourselves.
This event may stretch in to the fall, some authorities are saying. How profoundly will we all be changed?
I think of all the brilliant innovation that is now being developed, the retooling, the radical new inventions being brainstormed. We will be changed by this, it’s inevitable. Travel will look different, our family connections too. Workplace environments will shift and re establish in a new way. Schools will definitely look and behave differently. Will there be an insurgence of home schooling? Smaller localized schools?
When this is over, we will all be a different humanity. I hold onto my trust of the 99.99 to infinity% of well intentioned, brilliant, humanitarian individuals in the world who have love and compassion for fellow inhabitants, and for those who are dedicated to working over the new ideas, the new thinking, and the new manner of living on the planet in our rebooted future.
I have been accused of possessing a “Polly Anna” attitude and outlook. And I have to agree. I’ve always been an optimist. But it doesn’t imply I am not aware of the underlying negativity that exists in the world. I acknowledge it, and voice it from time to time, but I don’t stay there with it. I see it, I understand what it is, and assess if there is some truth that needs to be retained from it, then I make the choice.
I turn the channel. I move on with new information with my innate optimism.
Interesting times. But fascinating too. Watch, observe; this is real time and we are all at the same time learning how to do this.
Our “Oneness” has never been so evident.
Stay well everyone and be a studious witness to all this unfolding. Be kind.
March is here and I’m happy about it! Time to start thinking about the veggie garden and other gardening activities, time for being out doors more than indoors, and soon time for swimming in the river and ocean.
Half of the month of February was taken up by a minor injury that required five stitches and two weeks to heal. I was pushing down on a large bag of my recycling bag to make room for yet a little more, and a can sliced into the fleshy part at the base of my right hand thumb. A nice fillet of palm.
I buy hardly any canned products, but that little can of evaporated milk got me. I clean all my recycling, because I’m an obedient citizen (insert sarcasm ), but it was still a can, and a deep slice. Off to the walk-in clinic and stitches, and a tetanus shot for good measure.
A note about the young resident doctor at the clinic. I chatted with him about where and how long he has trained, etc. He says UBC and eight years, then the residency. He put his rubber gloves on, got the tray of sewing gear ready, then he reached in his pocket and pulled out his cell phone- had a look, swiped it to read something, then slipped it back in his pocket. I said, “Would you mind changing your gloves.” (it wasn’t a question) which he promptly did; I think he realized his slip. I thought, Didn’t they teach you hygiene in med school? Cell phones are petri dishes!
The cut kept my right hand in limited use. I managed to get some more pottery under-glazed, but throwing on the wheel was out of the question, or hand building.
I got some writing done too, class work, but also concentrated on a non-fiction short story to submit for the CBC competition that ended yesterday, the 29th. I had changed my submission story three times. I started with a story from my childhood and a grade five bully. Wrote 2000 words on it, then thought who wants to read about an old woman’s little bullying episode from 1967?
So I started another story based on the life of a good friend of mine, someone I am close to and love like a brother, and who has overcome real hardship. 2000 words. Then thought- is this my story to tell? Then I started the third -and last story, because I was running out of time! I chose an event from a 1997 sailing trip from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas I was crew on. Some interesting things had happened on that voyage, so with one week left till deadline I wrote another 2000 word story and got it in last night.
Writing non-fiction is harder than writing fiction. More fun to create a world. Writing fiction is far more entertaining than trying to unearth anything interesting from my own mundane middle-aged life to write about!
I’ve submitted to this competition three other times in the past. Spoiler alert- I’ve never won, or was ever short listed. Never expected either, and still don’t. Right now I’m just working at getting comfortable with submitting! Of course my writing is garbage, that’s ok. Maybe it’ll improve, it’s why I’m taking a writing class. Each time I polish something for submission it’s good practice, working with a deadline, all that. I know I get better by increments. And that’s quite enough for the time being.
I’ve been a little preoccupied over the last few weeks. One, I’ve been getting some work done in my studio. It took me a while to get myself down in to the basement- my studio’s location-because I had to overcome a ridiculous hang up; where will I put the things I make? Where will I store them? True, there isn’t a lot of space down there, yet presumptuous of me to worry about stuff I haven’t even made yet.
So I gave myself a pep talk: just get in there,make stuff, then consider the logistics.
I can self sabotage like a champ.
And I know I’m not alone in this. Why do we self sabotage ? Especially when it’s something we love to do, or have always wanted to do? Self Sabotage is slithery, sometimes – many times- I don’t even realize I’m doing it. I don’t know about you but I can always come up with a justification for not doing something. I’m working on rectifying this, and recognizing when it’s happening is the first step.
There should be a Self Sabotage Anonymous Group.
“Hello, my name is Debra and I am a self sabotager.”
The other preoccupation; I’ve enrolled in a Fiction Writing university class! It was hit and miss for a bit because I was on the waiting list. This happened mid January and I’ve got three weeks assignments in. There are reading assignments, then questions to answer in paragraph form. We submit our own short story piece every other week and give constructive critiques to each other. The instructor then does his final critique privately to each student at the end of each week.
Writing is a passion for me. I’ve been writing, privately, for many years, and have kept journals since the age of fourteen. Badly written pieces aside, I want to do this. These first few weeks have been illuminating, and I’m loving the process!
And let’s just add that I need this class.
The bonus is the class is conducted online, which is ultra convenient. If you don’t know, I live on a tiny gulf island and commute by boat. So when it’s a snowin’, blowin’, sleetin’ or a rainin’, I. don’t. care. I’m snug at home.
Enrolling in the class was a positive step in taking something I imagine I can do to the next level. It is also a sly method to seek some outside validation. In other words I can write till my fingers fall off and think it’s pretty good. But, in fact, like Schrodinger’s cat, I’m a great writer- in my eyes – in my house.
Now I’ll see which state collapses when observed by a third party.
I continue doing Morning Pages. I believe they have been instrumental in guiding me to dig down and mine the good stuff I had buried over the years. Focused journalling, is what I call it. Three pages every single day for nearly five months now.
The elephant and the tether. That’s what reclaiming my “self” feels like after years of my self being claimed by work, duties and obligations.
The circus elephant, accustomed to a limited range of motion while their foot is tethered to the post for so long that when the tether is removed, the elephant still never ventures outside the range of the tether. Over time that range has been ingrained into their behaviour. They are trained to stay within a certain circumference.
Don’t we kind of do the same thing? We, the elephant; our daily grind to make a living, the circus.
And we stay tethered even if its no longer attached to us too. Is it because the tether can represent something familiar and predictable? That it circumscribes a safe area where we are comfortable, because we know what lies there in that length of rope between the post and our foot?
Never really noticed this until I no longer had to go to a job, but I am, slowly, learning how to reset the parameters, regain the lost horizon. I feel weightless, but in a disconcerting way. But I know it’s only temporary, that unsettled feeling. I can only think this must be what it’s like when, once bound, now boundless. Oooh, that sounds lovely. And terrifying.
Well, that was a bit of hiatus. We got through the hubbub that is the Christmas season, a happy time for me. I love the winter season, the get togethers, the food, the very atmosphere the season can bring with it. Also, I love the winter season for the quiet time, some delicious solitude time, the snug of a warm home on cold stormy days. Christmas time, being a secular celebration for me, doesn’t discount the beautiful spirit we share together in our human condition. Regardless of religion, I feel it brings us closer, and causes us to remember and connect with the people we love – or those strangers we want to reach out and help.
This year while out doing my gift shopping I noticed that everyone had a countenance of happiness about them. I saw no grumpy faces in other words. Everyone was courteous and polite, smiled at each other. I’m sure there are many out there that do dread the shopping forays.- Not me. The bustle in the shops makes me particularly happy. It’s a super conductive positive charge knowing everyone is shopping because they are looking for a gift to give to another. How can we grumpy when we are engaged in that kind of activity?
This year Bob and I bought only a few gifts for the three grand babies. Between us and our two grown kids and their spouses we had decided on no gifts, but then we all seemed to stumble upon hearing about this particular Swedish gift exchange of Jolabokaflod, or Yule Book Flood, and decided to adopt it for our own gift giving practice. It’s a full on WIN in our family. Tradition installed!
As a happy and luscious addition to ones’ new book, you are also required to have some good chocolate and some wine as you snuggle down on Christmas Eve to read. I can’t think of anything more delightful! Just so happens I made some chocolate truffles to send along with the books. The wine- well they had to look after that, but next year I may wrap that up with the truffles too. Ah, see how it can escalate? Hmmm, do they need a new duvet to cuddle down into with their new book, truffles and wine?
My daughter gave me a non-fiction written by Kate Harris; Lands of Lost Boarders, Out of Bounds on the Silk Road. What a spirit this woman has! Loving it, beautiful writer, and I’m nearly finished it. My son gave me The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. It’s a book that he had just read and loved, a book I had on my list to buy since October.
The War of Art runs along slightly the similar lines as The Artists Way, but isn’t a workbook per se. It’s not a big book, so got through it in a day, but found his insights very supportive and motivating for pushing through to, as its subtitle says, Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles.
Very helpful stuff in there. And since this blog concerns itself with the creative issues of unblocking and recovering our inner artist I want to share and touch on one of the sections in The War of Art that spoke loud and clear. On page 69 under the chapter “We’re All Pro’s Already” he lists Ten behaviours we all already do as employees when working that day job for other people or companies. The implication he makes is we can transfer these behaviours to our creative work. This, for me, was like an Oprah moment.
Of course! Why wouldn’t I apply the same discipline to my own creative aspirations as I did when an employee and held a day job? And I was a very good employee by the way. Here are the ten points he makes:
We show up everyday.
We show up no matter what
We stay on the job all day
We are committed over the long haul
The stakes for us are high and real
We accept renumeration for our labour
We do not over identify with our job
We master the technique of our jobs
We have a sense of humour about our jobs
We receive praise and blame in the real world
These ten points make sense; treat our creative aspirations with the same “professional” attitude we give our day job. Why would we offer ourselves any less attention? It became evident to me my own inner reason for never considering this has to do with me not believing my creative work is worthy of such a commitment. Hey, it’s not real work anyway, so I can take it or leave it whenever- not important.
In fact, I am cancelling an important date; turning my back on a loved one- ME!
Number 6 is a good one. Receiving monetary reward. Why do we have such a hard time putting a monetary figure to our creative work? Instead we look down at our beaten shoes, give a scuff, and mumble awe shucks when someone likes what we do and wants to buy. We can go to our day job and not even be 20% engaged in that job, but we still happily collect our pay.
I know, and I’m just thinking on the fly here; Art resides on a different plane. Because we have a near spiritual connection to our creative process. To “sully” it with money seems at odds. I don’t have an answer for that, because I’m guilty as charged in that instance. I find it difficult to attach a monetary figure to something I’ve made. I haven’t made much of anything to sell as it stands, but the few things I have had to put a price on was awkward for me.
I do recommend this book for a good kick in the pants.
In the meantime, The Artists Way has been a boon to my inner work, I’m on Week Eleven now and have noticed many definite positive inner shifts. I haven’t gotten down to painting yet, most of my creative work for the last while has been working to complete a writing project, so not privy to sharing that right now. I am still gearing up to push myself into the studio though! It’ll happen.
Delving into my personal hold backs, blocks and self-doubt around creative issues is deep solitary work, with not much to show at first. I’m a sponge right now, soaking all this information up, and I’m loving this whole process of exploring my creative blocks of why’s and why nots. It’s an enlightening, revealing journey!
But also, in keeping with my sponge metaphor, I’m going to have to squeeze out something eventually.
If you made it this far, thanks for reading. Hope your Christmas was glorious, and wishing you a creatively fulfilled New Year ~
The winter Solstice holds special significance to me personally. I gave birth to my only child, a daughter, on this day in 1980. She is the brightest light in the longest night, and I am ever grateful she chose me to be mom. To see her become the incredible woman she has grown into swells my heart to bursting.
The creation of life- all life- is the highest form of art for which we have no hand in.
I wish for anyone who is reading this warmth, light, laughter, with those you love.
Seems while digging up my buried artist self and needing pokes, and nudges to keep on digging till I see glitter my neighbour, a successful working musician for many years, happened to post this on his fb page today. It was a synchronistic moment when I read it. True, there are no secrets. It’s just obvious behaviour if an achievement wants to be attained!
But I felt I needed to preserve it here for constant reference.
10 Secrets to musical success: 1) never stop believing; 2) practice every day; 3)respect your gift; 4) practice every day; 5)love your listener; 6)practice every day; 7) stay straight til it’s over; 8)practice every day; 9) eat healthy on the road; 10) there are no secrets.
I love how Linda Ronstadt responds to the question of why people sing.
“For the same reasons birds do,” she says. “For a mate, to claim their territory or simply to give voice to being alive in the midst of a beautiful day. They sing so that coming generations won’t forget what the current generation endured, or dreamed, or delighted in.”
Part of what I noticed I let lapse over the years of not drawing on a regular basis is my weakened observation skills. I used to spend a lot of time looking at things. I would notice tiny details like the curve of someones lip, or the shape of a hand, the light as it fell across a room. I used to be able to remember scenes, notice certain details and later make a drawing based from that scene. Not implying I drew from a photographic memory of something I saw, but using elements and pertinent details that caught my attention and then make something out of it. Because I was paying attention, I was noticing things, images were saying something to me. Over time, I seemed to have not been so observant. Well, maybe my focus had simply moved.
I pursued a culinary career which requires hard work, working fast, and long hours, product driven, and rush-rush -rush; I recognize that I’ve been rushing around and overly occupied for so many years in contrast to how I once was when I was an art student. Of course there was only me to think about then. Job and family, there is no sitting and looking long at anything except the back of your eyelids after a long day.
The human figure has always been my favourite subject, challenging with its shape and line. As an exercise I did some quick pen sketches of some of the News guys the other night. Because their images flicked back and forth and their positions changed quickly I had to be quick. Good practice to train my eye hand coordination, and observation skills.
So, it’s been an awfully long time since I’ve bought artist paints. Too long to contemplate. I went to my universities Book Store to gather materials, they carry limited art supplies and I get 30% discount. Even still I was taken aback at the price of paints. Funny, I never gave it much thought when I was a devil-may-care art student at this very same university forty-two years ago. Forty–two years ago?! WTF.
Okay, I’m breathing again.
I’m starting small with a few tubes, picking up some new brushes too. But back to purchasing artist’s materials. The price. I realized, as I returned my visa card to my wallet after ringing it through, that I have difficulty reasoning the purchase. Even with a 30% discount. In the past I have done large graphite drawings for the real reason that I was seriously deficient in funds while a single mom. Graphite and paper is not cost prohibitive. A small tube of Cadmium Red can certainly be. Notice here I’ve bought Red, Yellow and Blue. The primary colours that will blend into a range of colours. My effort at cost effectiveness. Why?
Because my inner monkey- you know, the over critical monkey nattering in your brain that causes you to second guess your motives and efforts? Well, this monkey leans into my thoughts and whispers, ‘You’re spending money on something you haven’t practiced in eons’, those “paintings” better be really good to justify the spending’, and, ‘Are you sure about this? These will just sit in the basement never opened, you’re just kidding yourself and wasting money.’
This is part of creative recovery. I have to be patient with myself. I’ve been away too long, it takes time to reacquaint with that atrophied part of myself. I wish it was more like a long lost friend where we just pick up where we left off like no time had passed between us. But it isn’t.
I have an innate compulsion to be timid when what I need is to practice opening up and suspend inhibitions and get painting, paint anything, on paper, canvas or board. To dare to suck at it for a while without self-chastisement, without feeling the need to justify my doing this.
And what I need to be doing is practice pulling zero punches on the monkey. Boom, Boom. Hoping it stays down for the count.
What isthat anyway? I love to sing, and I actually can sing, but just don’t plunk me in front of anyone, thank you very much. I have been working on this annoying shortcoming, really I have. And I have “gigged” before. I was in a rock band in my twenties- believe me I wasn’t cut out for that lifestyle, and I’ve even done a smidge of musical theatre-way, way back in time- and I did enjoy it, but at the same time it was near torture. And this is where I get odd. I know I would really, really love it- I want to love it! In my mind I see myself loving it, I would love to be able to love performing. Others who do it look like they’re having a lot of fun!
And there have been many casual musical alliances I have been involved in over the years, but as soon as they say, ‘Hey we should get a gig’, mentally I start backing towards a door that I’m hoping is open behind me. I close down and leave my body when a roomful of eyes are looking at me. Including public speaking, but strangly not as fearful as singing. What?
I was asked just recently to sing with a local band here for our open mic. Nope.
It’s as if the universe keeps handing me opportunities to have the chance to get over myself, to take another stab at it, and I just keep on being awkward and dorky, turn spineless, and buckle under this misaligned anxiety.
How about breaking in gently by performing for friends and family? “Oh look so and so has a guitar right here- sing us a song!”
Nope. Worse. In fact, strangers are easier to approach in this case. But still, only slightly so.
Help, I’m trapped in a paradox. How can someone want to do something that is torture? It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.
Well, okay thank you for your time, if anyone is reading, I’ll keep trying. The universe, doing what it always does, will probably still keep tossing musical opportunities my way to see if I’ll bite. It’s a hurdle- more of a pole vault, I just need to find the right pole. Or something.
Do you ever notice when you may have thought about something ( or even someone) and then didn’t give that thought another thought, only to then, a short time later, have “that thought” appear in the physical form there waiting for you? The kind of occurrence the makes you say out loud to a perfect stranger, “Hey, what’d know, I was wanting/wishing/needing this ‘thing’ and there it is!”
That’s synchronistic action at work. I know, eye roll, law of attraction. Yeah, read that book and others of the same ilk, and while everyone did become a little over saturated with all of this business of believing: ‘if you think it, it will come to you’, like magic, I too was one of the over saturated ones. But honestly, I have always subscribed to that belief, even before the books came out.
I just so happen to have a recent example of this. I have set up an art studio downstairs in my basement. And while the space is pretty great, I had an issue. I was wondering where I would be able to keep all my canvases but, more importantly, where to store all my finished drawings and fresh sheets of drawing paper.
What I really needed was a cabinet with a set of drawers wide enough and deep enough to house the sheets of paper and finished drawings. I thought about where I could find something like that, or if I’d have to build it. They do make these types of cabinets for studios, but it would be cost prohibitive for me. Then I put the thought aside, being not sure what to do about it.
A short while later, Bob and I were taking a walk around the island neighbourhood. In front of one house sat a four foot long, four drawer antique dresser, in a little rough shape, and set out for any takers. I inspected it and said, this will work in the studio. I arranged with my next door neighbour Jay to have it picked up and brought to my house, soon he showed up with it and he and Bob carried into the basement, and I placed the new sheets of paper in the drawer. Perfect.
A little thing? Maybe. But the fact is clear; a need, an intention, a desire was met and handed to me. Size of the gift doesn’t matter. The act, the manifestation does. And so does the acknowledgment of gratitude.
“I have to measure my success by the fact that I did something I didn’t think I could do—I knew I could, but I didn’t know if I would. So just the fact that I made it, (the album) and gave myself permission to just fuck it up and do some stuff that’s maybe stupid and not cool, is pretty successful. Being a creative person, that’s the most successful thing.”
Brittany Howard- Singer, Songwriter, talking about her new solo venture and new album apart from her band Alabama Shakes
I love this. I love Brittany too, but that’s beside the point. I came across this interview on line by coincidence ( is there such a thing? ) just last week. Hmmm, just as I begin my creative recovery journey, how apropos. Yes, I think so.
I’ve made some changes to my Blog- it was time. I feel recovering the creative life, my creative life, is a primary focus now, and felt my blog should reflect that. Art, Photography, Music, Writing, anything and everything that feeds the creative process in living a more richly textured life.
I’ll see where it leads. Kind of excited about it.