I live on a tiny island on the Canadian west coast with about 300 of my neighbours. I am a Red Seal chef and certified baker (retired), an artist, an amateur photographer. I write, (unpublished so hesitate to call myself A Writer) sing, and can bang out some reasonable sounding chords on a guitar. And I grow a veggie garden.
Older, wiser, and armed with insights and experience, I am on a conscience pursuit of reclaiming my creative life. I see it as a career change. Next level.
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 to time! I chose an event from a 1997 sailing trip I went 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 didn’t win, or get short listed. Never expected to, 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.
I have an amendment to my previous post. I, in fact, have been very good at getting up each morning and doing a work out, (and changing my clothes twice in the morning) and, more importantly, another thing I have added to the start of my day is Morning Pages. I picked up Julia Camerons book The Artist’s Way, the book that introduced Morning Pages as a daily practice, and having recently searched it out at my local used book store, I have begun working through it.
I’ve been familiar with Morning Pages for some time; The Artist’s Way workbook has been out since 1992, but I never took a look at it-for whatever reason. Too busy with the mechanics of married life, working, etc. It’s now I felt I could benefit from this book in helping with not only my writing, but to facilitate an overall reconnection to my creative yearnings after suppressing them so long.
Beginning with the first week of Tasks in the workbook, I discovered it is exactly what I needed at the right time. I much prefer starting my day with this, rather than a work-out. Doing the Pages and working through the workbook provides an avenue for beginning my day in a creative flow, sets the right tone that creativity comes first, ideas come first, insights come first. Mind before body.
I have always “journaled,” since the age of fourteen, but doing it as a Morning Pages practice feels different. There is a type of intention in it. So each morning I rise early , 6 am or so, and the first thing I do- pour a cup of coffee and set down to write three 8″x11″ pages of stream of consciousness writing. Then my work-out, shower, then breakfast at 9:30 or 10.
I think this is what I’ve been struggling with. Reading over what I’ve written in that previous post, I now realize that the “domestic” work needn’t dominate the day- those tasks will always be there to do, never changing in their nature. So do them when time allows, but the creative work is the priority because it has the of risk slipping away from us if not well nurtured and attended to. It has something of a “shelf Life.”
I’ve only just now begun Week Two of the twelve-week workbook, so it’s all still a new endeavour. So far I look forward to the Pages each morning and have even noticed some humble synchronicities and serendipitous effects since beginning the workbook. Of course these serendipitous episodes may have always been happening, perhaps I wasn’t “tuned in” enough before to notice. I think probably.
I’m curious to experience any shifts in insight over these next weeks, and so far, with Week One down, it’s feeling beneficial in general.
Scheduling my time is still in process, but I think instead of the word Scheduling I will use Committing. Things are falling into place ~
I’m not a great candidate for strict routine or habits. Which could be a character deficit when faced with the many things I want to accomplish each week. I prefer to follow “leanings.” Left to my own devices and left alone in general, I usually allow an activity or project to find me. Like, when I had accidentally discovered a fascinating effect on my laptop Photo Booth app one night. (while alone, so left to my own devices as I said). I had stumbled upon an exciting photography tool that could be so creatively employed for artistic expression, was so excited by it and engaged this app so rigorously I wore it out. It no longer does what it was doing before. I may have to buy a new laptop. I did gather a sizeable portfolio to work with though, but that app is toast.
I have much that bids for my attention. Painting, drawing, making something in clay, writing, practicing music, editing photographs, practicing Spanish, yoga, reading, or making/baking food to contribute to my sorely neglected food blog. And I’m married. And he is also retired, and now home, all. the. time. I need to acknowledge my spouse every so often, and feed him. (this isn’t a feminist issue, I’m a better cook, although he makes a fantastic curry chicken.) I can’t just bury myself away in my rainbow room of creative projects and ignore him hours and hours at a time.
Then there’s the house. This morning I was making a batch of apple chutney, and looking up into the stove’s hood vent, and noticing the thin layer of grease inside the hood, thus discovered where all the fruit flies that came in with my backyard grapes disappeared to. None fell into the chutney in case you’re wondering.
There is work to do in the yard like rebuilding that dilapidated back garden gate, and gathering material for making raised vegetable beds, cleaning and organizing the shed, taking stuff to the recycling centre. All the domestic stuff that, you know, those without hired housekeepers or hired gardeners have to attend. There are the sojourns by boat to town to shop for groceries.
By rights any clear thinking organized person would in fact set up a type of schedule; to ensure especially that time is devoted to creative work. To prioritize. And I have tried that, starting with the mundane: a morning work out. I get as far as every morning I will rise and do my 25 minute weight work out before breakfast. And I will, for a couple of weeks. I acknowledge to myself how good I feel doing this, how energized my body feels and prepares me for the day. Then, one morning I’ll get up and think that I don’t particularly like changing my clothes twice in the morning.
Because, of course, I wear “work out” clothes to work out in, then after a shower, I have to dress all over again. Some mornings I wake up and think, I just want to get dressed in the clothes I’m going to wear for the day and go downstairs and start my day with a project, right off. No sweating first thing in the morning. But the fact remains that I need the work-out and I do feel so much better physically in doing it. Starting my day with the work-out I feel helps me begin my day with some vigour at least. I know, the stupid preoccupations of a retired person. And it’s not like I don’t have time to change my clothes twice in the morning.
Then I’m stymied by wondering if I should work outside first, while there is daylight, then spend afternoons and evenings with inside projects. But, by the afternoon and working outside I am too physically tired to think in creative terms-like ok, now I’ll go downstairs to my studio and work up a painting, or get on the wheel and throw a mug. Before having to prep and cook dinner. Ugh, I know this is such self indulgent mental pre-school!
I think now that I have that freedom to do the work I want to do, rather than the stuff I have to do that once required a schedule, ie: going to my job in town each morning, gives the illusion I no longer need to follow a schedule. But it’s increasingly apparent I do still need to have something, the very least a quasi-firm guideline, some form of time management.
I had been away all summer, so when I checked my starter in the fridge when I got home, and poked into the gooey mass, I could see there were still some bubbles in there. Then I gave it a feeding. And hooray it’s vigorous ! The elastic band indicates how much it inflated with its first refresh. Amazes me still, this “critter” that lives and breathes. Like a pet. A gooey pet.
Not big news, I know, but it made me happy. Anyone else have a sourdough to maintain?
To be honest, Fall is one of my favourite seasons. I was born and lived in California till I was 14 years old before moving to Vancouver Island with my folks, epochs ago. In California the days were, and I venture to assume are still, warm with regularly clear skies for most of the year. If you wanted to see snow you went to Big Bear or Lake Tahoe. I lived in Huntington Beach.
The trees on our streets never dropped a leaf. If it did the tree was probably dying. And flowers seem to continually bloom. The rare occurrence when rain fell in southern California, and after the skies cleared, I would only then notice clean, clear air. The smog would be rinsed from the skyline for a short while. I could see the details on Saddleback, the highest mountain peaks in the Santa Ana Mountain range. Better still, sometimes I could even see the crown of Mount Shasta poking up on the horizon from Northern California.
When I moved to Vancouver Island in the summer of 1973 I was completely blissed out when my first autumn came and the leaves changed colour and let loose on the wind, carpeting the roads and yards. The smell of autumn was a new thing for me. Rich and voluptuous, and layered. Cool fresh mornings and burnished evenings, blustery days with gusting winds. Love it.
And as autumn deepens in to November and December I’m loving it still. If there is a snowfall in the mix, then I’m excited and invigorated by it. Even when I had to commute to work by boat, then car. Snow fall here is a novel happening. It might only last a week or two, so even a die hard from Ontario has no grounds for complaint. But sometimes they still do. I’m naming no one. Bob.
January is another story.
Although I just got home not long ago from a busy summer, in another week I will be making one more drive back to Salmon Arm to get together with family for Thanksgiving and to celebrate my granddaughter Saylor’s second birthday. Then life will come down to a simmer when I get back. Well, I would say rather, life will turn inward. For me, I have writing I want to – need to do, and also get to work on some painting in the studio I have yet to fully engage in. It sits downstairs waiting.
Autumn is the perfect time for these kinds of things.