Monday Motivation

“Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.”

-Ray Bradbury

I think this is one of my favourite quotes, and what I struggle with constantly. Being self- conscious, over-thinking, when I really want abandon. Abandon at the canvas, abandon at the page, abandon in singing. I recognize when I’m hesitating, when self consciousness tightens its strangle hold. And I recognize the antidote: To act! No matter the outcome! Have the courage to suck, and suck some more! Dare to be lousy!

But then I get self conscious. Sigh.

Monday Motivation

“Great things are not done by impulse, but a series of small things brought together.” Vincent Van Gogh

Those lightening bolts of inspiration, the creative energy that can burst out like a broken water main to land on a page, or a canvas, or an instrument has had its long formation from a series of tiny elements of thoughts, and experience and observations collected; steeped and layered over a time.

The Heart of the Matter

Last week I had a long conversation call with someone who is very close to me. She is a mother of two, an accomplished designer, an entrepreneur, and not yet forty. She shared with me that she was experiencing a powerful push to express creatively, but didn’t know what to do or how to start. This surprised me a bit, knowing her background and her work. I knew her as a creative person. The question she asked me was; what do you do when you feel blocked? In general my response was to say that there is no “one way” to open up creative channels. I said sometimes we need to do something else, step away and do some other activity that’s even unassociated with what ever work we are feeling blocked on. To be stimulated by outside observations; a market, a walk somewhere new, taking some photographs. Another way, I said, is to just plunge head first into the work. If it’s a blank canvas staring you down, make a mark- any mark. If it’s an intimidating blank page, write something- anything. Just mark the surface, if it’s music, make a noise-any noise. Break the spell, disarm the preciousness.

She said she had a guitar and a piano in the house and she felt a strong compulsion to learn at least one of the instruments. She asked me which I thought would be the best to start with. I said either, although the piano has all the notes laid out, perhaps easier to pick out melodies, and to learn to read musical notations. The guitar can be a challenge at first, the physical act of contorting your hand to make the different chord structures, and getting blisters on your fingertips. She said she was leaning more towards guitar.

She asked if she should sign up and take classes or go to YouTube? I said, either one. If she scheduled lessons for the guitar she may find it could set up a discipline to practice regularly because someone will be expecting to hear what she had practiced. On the other hand, she is a busy mom and business woman, and covid restrictions, using YouTube might be more accessible to get things moving.

Then our conversation got deeper, and to the heart of her question. And because I’ve known her from childhood I had sensed she was grappling with a bigger issue in her intense desire to learn the guitar. Her father was a musician, and he played guitar. She was very close to him but lost him to cancer when she was thirteen. Over the years, and perhaps especially now watching her own little girl go to piano lessons each week, I believed she was feeling another layer of grief. She is not only still in mourning for her dad, as expected, but there is the regret of a missed opportunity to have had bonded with her dad through music. That is what is stirring her now. She said, with emotion in her voice, I never asked him to teach me to play, why didn’t I? If she had expressed a desire to play the guitar then, she felt there could have been something more shared between them, something that would link them on a profound level. But when we are so young, we don’t think of these things, there is always time. Until there isn’t.

Then she said something that I found so bittersweet and beautiful; “I’m afraid of what will come out of me if I do learn to express through music.” She has so much love; and sadness, and regret, and gratitude, and grief, and longing- all so big and deep, that there was a kind of fear that she could be overwhelmed and unprepared for how that would manifest for her. And so rather than move towards picking up the instrument and begin to learn how to play, and risk opening a seam in the tender garment that holds her grief, she holds still. She feels blocked. But she understands where it’s coming from.

I had also suggested The Artists Way book and by doing morning pages the clarity I was able to derive from doing the exercises.

This is how important a creative practice is to us. It has a place, serving us through spontaneously frivolous and joyful abandon, but also serves as the vehicle for what is abstract to us; those big, nebulous emotions and subconscious whispers, an outlet for our questions that cannot or will ever have a definitive answer; questions that will never fit into any category, but that must somehow be reckoned. It facilitates our journey. It can clarify our understanding. It can link us together through our constant search for ourselves and who we are. That’s what Creative Expression Outlets do for us.

Believe Me

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.

Artist in the time of Corona

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  ~

My New Morning Practice to Nurture Creativity

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 ~