Tag Archives: creative process

on creativity, intuition and making time

FullSizeRender.jpg

“You should make books and sell them at the Farmer’s market!” said a co-commuter, as we were waiting for the train this morning.

I was bringing in a large unused canvas I had stashed in our shed to give to a coworker, and my commuter friend asked me, “Oh, do you paint?”

I explained what I was doing with the canvas, and how it had been some time since I’d devoted any time to painting on a canvas of this size. I asked her whether she did.

“I used to… in high school. I’d like to get back into it but I just don’t have the time to devote to it.”

This has got to be one of two of the most common phrases I hear in relation to art making. The other is something along the lines of “Oh, I’m not artistic.”

I told her that there were courses she could take online, and sent her a link to Flora Bowley’s website, even offered to lend her Flora’s “Brave Intuitive Painting” book.

Then, when she asked me (the inevitable question) whether I’d sold my work, I told her “Mostly, no.” I told her that I for the most part worked in a book these days, journal-style, so I showed her some photos, which elicited “Oh, you’re really good!” followed by the sentence I started this blog post with.

I am good. I know this. I can always get better, and practice does improve one’s skills. I know this too.

Here’s the thing. Not that many years ago I made a choice. I chose not to make a living through visual art.

I struggled with this for a long, long time. When I was at the top of my young life, it was something that I felt I was meant to do, but after I left art school without completing my degree, I began working in offices. It didn’t take me long to get mired down by debt. Then I married and a whole different lifestyle took center court.

A few years into motherhood, I decided to try to revisit the art-as-a-living thing and struggled for a while longer trying to figure out how to manifest this desire that sat in the pit of my stomach into something more tangible – something that would provide enough income to replace the one I was earning through other means.

I never did figure it out. I flailed – wildly – and in the end those aspirations were left behind, along with the rubble of a failed marriage.

Not the art, though.

When people claim “art saves lives” I can really get behind that phrase. It’s saved mine innumerable times, has been along with me on my life journey and has always provided refuge.

It’s provided a way for me to express the things roiling inside of me that I could not – did not even know how to – bring out in any other way.

The book I’m reading at the moment, A General Theory of Love by Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini and Richard Lannon, (all M.D.’s), had some interesting passages about the complex functioning of the limbic brain, and how human intuition works.

“As we move through the world we tend to presume that success comes from understanding. The brightness of rationality’s narrow beam makes this supposition nearly inescapable. “Reason is the substance of the universe,” Hegel crowed in an age when science still expected to explicate everything. But these memory studies have intuition leading comprehension by a country mile; they reveal our lives lit by the diffuse glow of a second sun we never see. When confronted with repetitive experiences, the brain unconsciously extracts the rules that underlie them. We experience the perceptible portion of this facility as a gathering pressure in the solar plexus, ready for use but defying description. Such knowledge develops with languorous ease and inevitability, stubbornly inexpressible, never destined for translation into words.”

On the following page they speak to how children learn language, but I find this very summative of the creative process as well:

“Every language is intricate, but is not chaotic; the underlying uniformities reveal themselves to the neural systems poised to pluck recurring patterns out of a sea of experience. […] Behind the familiar bright, analytic engine of consciousness is a shadow of silent strength, spinning dazzlingly complicated life into automatic actions, convictions without intellect, and hunches whose reasons follow later or not at all. It is this darker system that guides our choices in love.”

I believe that it is this same system, that when tapped into, provides me with the essence of my creativity. I’m pretty sure that’s where it comes from for all of us.

While I’ve moved from one art form (visual art) to another (writing), I notice that the way in which it comes into being is different, but not the place from which it derives. For me, the drive to create is innate and autonomic… something I must do.

I’ll close this meandering post with this: create (if you want to) if there’s something that crouches in your solar plexus that wants to be outwardly expressed.

If it feels right, sit with your body for a while and make room for the process to unfold in your life.

I have found that it is profoundly enriching, and even at times life-saving. A birthright.

Advertisements

where do you draw inspiration from?

20140620-090435-32675431.jpg

Necessity is the mother of invention.

This morning I’m pondering on creating a necklace. A friend, whose birthday it recently was, is coming over for dinner this weekend and I would like to present her with a gift. My budget is tight and so I’d already determined that I would make something for her, yet I have only a vague notion of what that will be: beaded jewelry pieces, most likely a necklace and earrings.

I have a colour scheme in mind but haven’t pulled the beads out yet, though having recently rifled through my stash, I know which ones I will pull from to begin. Before I start in on it, I plan on taking to the internet to see what sort of patterns I’m inspired by in prompting me towards my own creation. I think I’ll be working with copper wire but I haven’t decided yet. I love combining glass beads with metal wire, and adding stone beads to the mix – semi-precious or otherwise.

More than ever, what with Pintrest, Tumblr, Flickr and other such boards, it is clear that we inspire each other throughout the creative process. We don’t create in a vacuum. Witnessing others’ work fires our own neurons and has us connect with our creativity in ways we would not have accessed had we not been prompted by the visual stimulus; it sends us off on our own creative journey towards innovation.

I understand this, and yet while I am working on writing fictional pieces I tend not to read other fictional work because I feel too influenced by another author’s writing voice. I’ve read many times that writers read, copiously, even while they are writing on their own projects. They read stuff they love so that they can write stuff that they’d like to read. I’m working on balancing that out. And focus. And discipline. (That’s a whole ‘nother blog post. Can you say “bullet journal”?)

I love reading nonfiction, mostly, but love creating fiction, though much of what I write pulls greatly from personal experience and the line between fiction and reality equally blurs. Welcome to my fictionalized reality.

So see you all later… I’m off to make some coffee, pull some beads and ogle the internet, and commence on the baking of this cake.

Adriane xo

morning pages

Back on the wagon again this morning. After a very long hiatus, I am calling in this morning for some Parallel-Universe time with Jill. Since it’s a long distance cell phone call for me, I can’t afford to stay on the call for the whole hour but I’ve checked in now and will call back just before the top of the hour to check back in at the end.

So I wanted to limber up a little bit here (in these morning pages) before I head over to my short story. I’ve just barely rolled out of bed this morning and made myself a coffee in time for the call. I haven’t been getting up in time most of the mornings that the sessions have been held so I consider this morning a triumph in starting to turn around my very weird body clock back to its usual routines.

My body’s been feeling better. It will be four weeks this Friday since the surgery and I’m finally moving and sleeping a little less gingerly, though some tender spots remain on my belly and right side. After rereading the post-operative instruction pamphlet a couple of days ago, I realized that I could have removed the steri-strips a while ago, but I have to admit that they intimidated me. Much like my reaction to the appendix surgery incision I got in 1971, looking beneath the bandage to see what is under there is always a bit alarming when you realize how many layers of tissue they had to cut through to get inside to where they needed to go. My inside part is always a weird concept for me, because I feel like I *am* inside, inside looking out at the world, and that when sharp objects are poked through my outer layers into my viscera, it is clear that those insides and the ones I think I am inhabiting are not the same. It’s an odd dichotomy.

Yesterday I watched yet another video of Danielle Laporte with a guest speaker, this time Linda Siverstein, discussing their new offering of the Big Beautiful Book Plan. I’m convinced that the reasons that people like Danielle are so successful is multi-fold –clearly without talent and compelling content you will go no where– but the primary aspect of the dissemination of her work is due, I think, to the fact that she enjoys the business end of her work. Downright relishes it, even. ‘Business’ brings up all kinds of stuff for me, notably the fact that while Danielle claims to be able to sell ice to the Inuit, I on the other hand couldn’t sell them a furnace even if I was one of few furnace retailers during a particularly vicious cold snap.

Selling makes me feel uncomfortable in the same way that self-assessment during the annual review process does. My idea is that: I serve a purpose, I fulfill that purpose to the best of my ability by doing the work expected of the role I serve. Whether others like the purpose I serve or not is not up for discussion nor for me to justify. I was invited to show up and served that purpose, in whatever concrete or organic way that purpose chose to manifest itself. I don’t keep track of every little thing that I do on the journey of serving. I simply don’t have the attention span for that – I’m not built that way. I’ve tried to keep track, though, because these details and calculations are apparently key to getting a good review and the bonus that invariably goes with one. Writing down the big projects – the end results – isn’t enough to make people understand all of the steps and the value of your contribution – the amazing accomplishment of getting to the end of the line. They need the details, the minutia, in excruciating (and self-aggrandizing) detail.

While I can mechanize some processes that I undertake to get from A to B, oftentimes they end up being a rather flexible (and innate) process. I might take a different route one day just for the sake of variety and I might even discover that instead of B, a new route to C is an even better outcome. I will change and adapt, and the discovery process is an infinite one. Rigid constraints stifle me in a way that I can’t even begin to properly describe without using words like “suffocate” and “airless” and “drowning”. I feel these physically, in my body, when I think of constraints. Apparently more exploration is needed in that area. ::head desk::

So I’m off to my short story now, but I leave you with these thoughts of constraint and restriction and expansion and freedom. In some respects I think constraints are good – having a base structure to work off of is essential to not totally getting lost meandering – but at what point does it stop serving you (and your purpose)? What do they mean to you? How do you work within their parameters? Do constraints feed you or do they pull the air out of your sails?

coaching the creative

Years ago, when I signed up for Jill Badonsky’s Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coaching program, it was largely a form of self-service : I needed to gather together and implement a set of tools in my creativity arsenal so that I could continue tapping into the parts of myself that I knew I was here to not only exercise but express to the world.

Earlier this week I commented in my little co-admined (with Kim and Lisa) Facebook art group, Salon des Muses, that getting artists to collectively do anything is a little bit like herding goldfish. You can say your piece and suggest… and the rest is pretty much up to the universe and each individual artist to take note of and follow… or not.

The same can be said of the artist’s creativity, too. Ever try herding goldfish? Me neither, but the only way that they seem to be remotely interested in being led to a specific area of the pond is if they are enticed by something yummy that they simply can’t resist partaking in.

Herding the Artist
Creative types are notoriously resistant to being told what to do. In fact, the more you insist on telling them what they should be doing, the more they will blow you off. Well-intentioned advice will oftentimes fall on deaf ears and achieve the opposite result. So how does one get around that?

1. Engage innate intelligence.
The mind loves a good puzzle. Ask it enough questions and it will come up with answers (and all answers are good answers). Better yet, ask it just before lights out and you may well have some answers upon waking up the next day. We all have an inner-sphynx that asks oblique questions and demands the right answers in order for us to move on to the next phase. So if something is vexing you, start by asking:

  • What has worked in the past?
  • What drew you to the project in question?
  • What made you fall in love enough with a creative idea so much that you felt compelled to court it?
  • Can you remember or tap into that initial excitement; how?

2. Keep things light.
Play is the single most overlooked aspect of the creative process. As children, creative output was always a by-product of something else – engaging in play or immersion into our imaginations. How to lighten up? Try…

  • engaging in the absurd. Nonsensical mental jogs keep us from getting too entrenched in our work – just ask Dr. Seuss.
  • approaching whatever you are doing with curiosity, just to see what happens next.
  • pretending you are creating from the point of view of one of the subjects of your art work, or story characters.
  • letting your medium express itself as though you were conducting an interview – ask it some Q&A’s. What does it have to tell you?

3. Create a space-time container.
There is nothing that encourages greater procrastination than not allowing for adequate time in which to create. To stay engaged in a creative project one must actually, well, interact with it. The only way I know to do that is to actually schedule time for it, just like one would for any other item on our vast to-do list. Setting up specific times in which to create, or to interact with a coach, helps keep things moving along. Jill hosts Parallel-Universe time weekly – it’s a great opportunity, if you don’t otherwise, to engage in your creative process in a “held” space.

4. Change the vibe from obligation to opportunity.
One of my biggest takeaways from Jill’s work is the phrase “I get to…” inserted in front of just about anything I am in some way resistant to. As a general rule, life becomes so much more filled with gratitude and grace when you realize just how lucky you are to “get to” do all of the things you do, all the time. When applied directly to a creative process, which is way cool to be able to engage in anyway when you think about it, it turns an “I have to” into something far more appealing. How lucky is that?!

5. Own the progress.
Many creative types are also high-achieving perfectionists. Chances are they out-perform the vast majority of people production-wise, when comparisons are made, and they STILL think they are falling short and aren’t doing “enough”. Keeping score of what you DO do helps put things into better perspective and continues to fuel the enthusiasm you have for the things you are building toward. I recommend investing in some gold stars and using them copiously and conspicuously in your scheduler.

6. Learn to love the tortoise vibe.
Slow and steady does indeed win the race. Item 5. helps keep the progress in focus but breaking things down into tiny little steps will inhibit the feeling of overwhelm that invariably makes many of us short-circuit into inaction. How small? So small that you can do whatever “it” is in ten minutes or less. If you become lost in a time-space fold and end up working for longer, you can always claim it was quantum mechanics at work.

7. Pull straws.
If your creative mind is anything like mine, there is never a shortage of ideas flowing through your consciousness stream. Thing is, you can’t do it all, all at once, so you are going to have to pull straws on which ones get to be in the spot light and which ones are just gonna have to wait. The particularly appealing ones I scoop up for future reference (I jot down the ideas in my iNotes) while others will just have to be left to swim on by and be caught in someone else’s net. The matter of which projects to work on is always a question of how many to adequately juggle before you end up with a trout slapping you on the head and the rest of the fish flailing around on the ground. So put the ones you aren’t working on into a holding tank where they are easily accessible and focus on the one sitting on your head. It will all go swimmingly that way.

8. Comparison kills creativity.
Have you ever seen little Billy unabashedly, unapologetically paint his trees blue? Damned right you have. And he could give a rat’s ass that trees are generally not that colour, and that fish don’t customarily float through the atmosphere like clouds. Kids will generally look at each other’s drawings and yell “coooooool!!!” when they see some amazing stuff their own imaginations hadn’t yet thought to conjure up but they will not generally feel ashamed of sharing what they’ve made. Kids proudly and regularly brandish their creations. Take it from them. They know better than us stuffy ole grown ups. And you know what else? There’s room on the classroom wall for all of it.

So, that’s about it for today. Know that the world is ready to witness your genius. Know that you create because you were meant to express yourself exactly in the way that you do.

Adriane xo

hip-hip-hippity-hop – a blog tour

20140608-132355-48235904.jpg

I haven’t done one of these Q&A’s in a while, so when I was invited to join in on the tour by Kim of MuseCraft, it was hard to resist. This blog tour has been going on for a while, and everyone who participates gets to invite others, so there are lots of links to follow back through the tour… to which I say : EYECANDY!!! Go check it out!

So without further ado, the four questions about myself:

What am I working on?

I’ve always got a bunch of things going on, both in relation to my writing as well as my art stuffs.

I’m working on two main writing projects at the moment. I’m working on a story called The Incredible Virtues of Cauliflower. Initially I was going to write it as a screenplay but I’m just going to get the sucker out and then figure out what to do with it – at the moment it looks to be novella length. It’s like birthing a child, this. The story is about a guy who falls in love with a woman after he sees her through a telescope.

The other writing project is my little mostly visual story of Darika. This poor li’l story has been in production for ages – far too long to not be embarrassed by the languidness of its unfolding, but it’s my story (“Darika” is an anagram of my own nickname as a child) and it’s sort of a mythologized autobiography of how I discovered art as a child and how it continues to support me throughout every step of my life.

I am also developing a 52-week program (which I intend to freely disseminate under the inspiration tab of my website – though tips are welcome, if people are moved to contribute) which will approach creating as a form of meditative practice. It’s meant to be used as a way to reach personal and individual inner wisdom rather than a “do this to get that” thing. You become your own facilitator by finding your own way to your creative process.

I’ve been doing this on and off for a long while (it’s my set-point when I am in flow) and when ever I’ve fallen out of this groove I find I also lose my centre. I feel compelled to share this with the world, and it may not be anything new, per se, especially since so much of this is an integration of different processes that I’ve learnt over the years, but perhaps the combination is unique to me.

I recently made a tiny book called How to Navigate Loss. Inspired by Maya Stein’s prompt (of the title) I made the first one for her tiny book library and then decided that I ought to make a more refined version and offer it up as a limited edition. The books are tiny little works of art with a beautiful, healing message, hand made as they are ordered and only a limited number will be available.

I also just built a new Wix website and now that I have a quasi-shop space, I feel compelled to develop things to put up in there. Aside from the Tiny Book, as well as some other handmade items (some jewelry pieces, small original paintings, etc.), I’m in the process of conceptualizing some patterns for fingerless mitts/cuffs, and I plan to sell both the patterns and the actual wearables so that people can either make it themselves or buy the ready-made stuff if they are not DIY-inclined. I’m also working on putting together some images for greeting cards or little art prints. I will use a third-party for the production/shipping of the paper goods because I’m just not set up at the moment to do it myself, but at least I’ll start getting my stuff out there.

And finally, inspired by Squam Art Workshops (which I can’t currently and may never be able to afford to attend), I’m plotting “The Amazing PJ Getaway in the Great Wet North” for next spring (April). I have a couple of friends already on board… more are welcome (though no more than eight, because then it’s just going to be outta control space-wise). But plotting course/share offerings, goodie/trade bags, local walkabouts, radical quasi-rituals, and menu massaging… because food must be good/healthy/indulgent…! The event will be free except for pitching in for materials and food and whatever related airfare will cost to get here, if travelling from afar. And pyjamas and an open spirit are a requisite.

Aside from that I’m always thinking things up and making stuff. I can’t help it.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I’m not really sure. I tend to take in what others are doing kind of like enjoying a nice piece of fruit and I don’t often compare my own work to what everyone else is doing, so I’m not really sure how it differs or is similar. I do make an effort to be original in content and execution, but I’ve been creating for so long now that I imagine my stuff must look unique to some extent.

I just do and make and create and hope that it offers my own perspective and that the flavour of my essence comes through in my art and words.

Why do I write/create what I do?

So for me the point of all of this is to express… paint the picture of yourself, continuously. It’s through that act of self-expression that we come to know our ever-changing selves. And the expression is the beauty – the beautiful thing to behold. It’s a shifting masterpiece, a performance piece.

Creation encompasses everything, not just the arts but… how we roll out of bed is a dance, the angle we fill the kettle with water at the sink is a sculptural study, the movement of our feet against the pavement a moving syncopated sound composition, how bodies of people acknowledge each other while crossing from opposite sides of the intersection a choreography of movement.

It’s all so fascinating at that level.

Yeah, sometimes the mundane shit wears us down because we stop being present and want to be elsewhere, but as soon as you pull the focus back to the doing, it becomes this amazing dance again, a co-creative symphony of movement and creation.

How does your writing/creating process work?

It depends on which part we are talking about, and which form. I could drive myself mad with all of the ideas always flowing through, especially if I tried pursuing them simultaneously.

Just.Too.Much.

So when I get an idea I jot it down in my iNotes (how cool is Cloud computing?!). The notes transfer to all my devices so I have access to all of my little ideas where ever I am. I add to them as things occur to me. When there’s enough there, or I feel moved to push the concept further, I start working on it in earnest.

Poetry flows of its own volition. Very rarely do I sit down to specifically compose poems. They come like a sirocco wind and blow through me. I remember hearing about how Ruth Stone explained her experience and thought “yes, exactly!”. Grab that sucker by its’ tail.

My other, lengthier, writing starts with idea kernels that I let incubate until they are ready to come to life on the page and develop into bigger stories. I’ve tried over the years to be more disciplined in my writing (i.e., create an outline, make character sketches, etc.) but I’m just not there yet. Maybe I’ll never be. I know who the characters are because I carry them inside me and they become “real” to me as the story incubates. I have an idea of where I want to take the story and then let it write itself. I “see” my stories in my head unfolding like a movie, reel-by-reel, scene by scene. I just capture what comes through.

What I have done, though, in the way of being more disciplined, is to deliberately create a space container to allow for the words to manifest. If you don’t make the time and merely wait until the words are ready to come spilling out, you will be waiting a long time. The French have this saying… l’appétit vient en mangeant – your hunger will grow once you start eating the meal.

The visual stuff is similar, but again, it depends on what I’m creating. Because I make so many different things I operate differently for each. Making a beaded necklace will be approached differently than working in a visual journal. However, what is the same in all of these is that I allow myself to tap into the stillness inside and let it speak in the creative process. I sort of step out of the way and let this non-rational part pick colours and beads and paints and collage materials and techniques and create. It truly feels like a sort of out-of-body experience and a dance with the divine. When I’m in that space it’s exhilarating and I often look at what I’ve created in the end and think “wow… I did that?!”.

So that’s me, in a nutshell.  Now on to the next part – I get to introduce you to some other creatives who agreed to join in on this journey.  Go visit their websites/blogs/FB pages and see what they’re up to, and make sure to check in next Monday (June 16) for their blog tour posts.

Anastasia Olson

Anastasia is a jewellery designer and metal alchemist extraordinaire, creating artisan jewellery that is unique and organic – but with a polished sophistication – meticulously handcrafted in sterling silver, copper, brass and gemstones.

You can find Ana online on Facebook and at her website.

Belle Wong

Belle Wong is a writer and blogger. She writes about books, writing and creativity at MsBookish.com, and is currently hard at work on a mystery novel and a children’s fantasy. She loves reading and anything to do with creativity, is a closet foodie, and has been known to dabble messily in various artsy endeavours.

Belle can be found on Twitter at @msbookish and on Google+.

Lisa Gornicki Bolender

Lisa is a self-proclaimed creative wanderer living in Southern California, making art and coaching creative souls.

You can find Lisa online her website.

morning pages… thoughts on sharing…

InnerWindow
(collage-in-progress)

Bam! Bam! Bam!

The sound of metal hitting metal permeates the house. It is relentless. They are driving steel rods into the earth for the Skytrain station being built across the street, and the construction noise is nerve-wracking.

When the banging stops the silence in the wake of the noise is so loud that it almost hurts. I’ve been drowning it out with music but I want to write and I can’t focus as well on the writing when I am listening to music, so the unsilent silence is what I will have to live with.

Somewhere in there is a metaphor for my present moment, I’m sure.

I awoke late this morning, at a few minutes short of ten, and by the time I’d gotten the coffee making, breakfast eating sorted out, personal hygiene and other things done, it is now twenty-five after eleven. I want to work on my Cauliflower story. I have a group coaching call with Jill at noon and so there isn’t much time to get into the momentum of writing – it will have to wait until afterwards. I’ve written my dream log (first thing, upon waking) and I’ve checked my email, flicked and unsubscribed from the endless sea of spam messages as they came in, and went to the Esso station to pick up a half litre of half & half so I can have my coffee. I’ve eaten some yogurt and granola and I’ve showered. I’ve cleaned out the cat’s litter box and swept the entryway.

The days are flowing by more quickly than I’d like them to, although I am also anxiously awaiting the arrival of some money which will not be for another couple of weeks yet. It’s been difficult, but I am learning to sink into ease despite the discomfort. I’ve been creatively productive, though, if I have to dig around for a silver lining.

*oh! the mail… through the mail slot… always makes me jump…*

Well, the mail brought a bill for our health coverage services and I am unable to pay it, so I called them and they’ve put a temporary hold on collection services and I can also apply for the waiving of the fees during my unemployment. Which is a relief because I don’t want to have to choose between food and healthcare coverage, or rather be forced to pay for the coverage at the expense of having food.

Well. So here I am again in this really uncomfortable place of not having. And it sucks. And I’m tired of being here over and over and over again.

And I’m also trying to not feel sorry for myself. I’m trying to be optimistic while sharing my story.

And I’m noting that I am in constant struggle with my inner critic who says things like “I have not been doing anything constructive”, which is something that is mirrored by others around me. “WHAT have you been doing with your time?” they ask. “WHY haven’t you found work yet?” “You need a job – stop being so picky.”

All sort of true things. True in that it is obvious that I must work again (or generate an income in some way), but also not true in that I must be hasty in my selection of the work I choose. Yes, there is a sense of urgency but I have to trust that the steps I am taking, in concert, will yield the results that I wish to gain. And I’m figuring it out as I am going along. New territory is always tough to breach. I don’t have a map, really. Just some landmarks to follow as I stumble across the terrain, trying to get to the other side, to where I really want to be. Today that would be a nice sunny soft sand oceanside beach, with a good book and a picnic basket. With wine. LOTS of wine.

I know there are other people that are way worse off than I am or are having some insane life challenges that are way beyond my little woes (like a woman from one of our online art groups who had to go in to surgery yesterday to have her tongue removed because of the big “C” … or … after looking at the photo essay by Lisa Kristine on Modern Day Slavery, my life looks like a cake walk in comparison). So much courage out there and I feel laughably ridiculous with my little woes. First World Problems. But problems nonetheless.

They are my woes, and I still have to deal with them, and it still feels … hard. By honouring that I am allowed to find things difficult validates me in a way that I have not been able to find validation from any other source: it gives me courage to dig deeper and go just a little beyond myself.

Being vulnerable is often considered a character flaw. I don’t mean vulnerable in the sense of being at risk of injury but the kind that is to authentically share what it feels like being you, including the nasty bits that make you (and possibly other people) uncomfortable. Scary.

I have very little idea who reads this blog or how it is received. I don’t want to further burden an already over-burdened world. I do want to share, though, my unadulterated journey because I’m sure that there are others who feel exactly the same way I do about something but they feel isolated and marginalized in some way, and UNHEARD.

So this is what I want to create, I suppose … a vehicle to hear and to be heard.

I choose to do it by writing my own story. I open up a window for others to peer in to – sometimes that simple act allows others to create their own opening and show just a little more of themselves.

I consider the showing and the witnessing a sacred act.
And I consider that unfolding to be a victory.

Peace. xo

contemplating commitment

RuneTree

Silver glints in my hair, finely threaded through my bedhead. I wash the gesso off of the foam brush so I can use it again, later, while observing my reflection in the bathroom mirror. It’s all about economy now. Of movement. Of expression. Of resources.

The sun is filtering through the low lying mist this morning, it’s presence an unaccustomed sight. Winter here in the upper northwest is weighted down with short days and even less light, the sun socked behind a haze of overcast that every once in a while miraculously dissipates – like now. It was cold overnight, frost etching the surface of all things with a crystalline sheen.

I contemplate my 30-day journal quote from a few days ago (because I am behind and instead of picking and choosing through the days that I’ve not done, I feel compelled to make up for all of it – yet another thing to explore when I have a moment).

The quote for Day 2 was :
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.”

(words by W. H. Murray from his book, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition)

Commitment isn’t an easy word for me. I’ve struggled with it for a long time. Initially, I commit to things doggedly, so when I finally make the decision to do so, I want it to be the right one. Which leads to very little happening, and very little commitment. I think that by dabbling and avoiding the commitment I’ll actually get to a place where there is enough to pull together and make something from, and then I’ll commit to making it better. There never is. Enough. It’s all just a huge collection of structureless discombobulated bits.

And I realize, on retrospection, that I am much the same with relationships. I observe. I wait. I gauge. And invariably walk away. The cost for all of this, is several fold. Much of the good in life happens when one commits wholeheartedly. It is also something that I’ve never seemed to master. I chose partners who are commitment-phobic (much like me). I chose projects that either require little commitments or end up abandoning them when I feel the pinch of constraint – when things get too hard and require me to move past my comfort zone. I’m sure this must have to do with something from my childhood, a learned behaviour, but I have neither the time, money or inclination to invest in dissection, so I’m left with trying to figure out what it is that edges me past the discomfort and into that place of … danger … of uncertainty … and feeling okay with it.

So here I am, making yet another attempt at operating within the container of time in which to make something. This opens a space for the other things too, I think. Before the onslaught of life happens, and I am employed and become distracted with making a living and the usual grind of life (which wears on me and erodes my self-discipline in ways I can’t even explain), I want to establish structure. I want to figure out what works for me in order to make things. To finish things. So my word for the year, focus, comes into play. I can’t commit if I can’t figure out a way to selectively focus on things, successively, or remember why I committed to something in the first place. And it doesn’t all have to be perfectly executed upon the first attempt.

So… I’m off to make my second perfectly brewed cup of Starbucks Christmas Blend. Enjoy. Everything. xo

Art… where art thou…

I’ve felt a rant coming on for days now.

It’s really interesting to see what’s going on out there in the crafty worlds… I stepped away from it all a while ago, mostly because there really wasn’t a huge community of folks around in the new land I now call home, and also because, well, frankly, I got tired of everything looking homogenous. Pretty, certainly… aesthetically pleasing, definitely… but… homogenous.

Since being laid off last month I have had some extra time to kill, looking to revitalize my visual art practice and so have been poking around again to see what was out there. I’ve long since given up on the publications that cater to the craft industry (for the reasons above), not only because things they showcase are repetitive in nature but because the publications themselves over time become cost prohibitive. Truly there is little in each issue that I find stimulating, and hardly worth the price of admission for a few relevant pages of eye candy. I fare better with books, but that too becomes costly after a time, and there aren’t that many worthwhile ones published (insofar as this category).

With that said, living in a creative vacuum can be limiting sometimes, and being involved in a community of creative people is empowering and enriching… so off I went to the interwebs to see what I could find.

There is some cool stuff going on out there, for sure, but on many levels it’s still the same ole thing… there is a bandwagon to be jumped on (can you say stencils? modelling paste? gelatos?) and people are churning out the same ole “stuff”, and in order to find innovation and originality I once again find that I have to go outside of and away from the usual suspects. I must turn to the illustrators, designers, graphic and typographical artists, etc., in order to find things that will spark inspiration and engender within me the urge to innovate.

Now I realize that we all do this “art” stuff for different reasons, and for some (myself included) it serves multiple purposes, but why is there always such a frenetic buzz around the “it” things while there is also an immense void in the internalization of the processes underlying the material techniques – why is there no incubation of sorts, and then a proliferation of novel ideas and visions with said materials? (Maybe I’m just not looking in the right places?)

The product “designers” all churn out the same old stuff, the products proliferate in the market place and so more of the same stuff gets created and there is a literal flood of sameness. And I’ve gotta tell ya, it’s not all great stuff. A lot of it isn’t even good stuff. It’s akin to the dreaded gad-awful knitted jumper Aunt Flo gives you for Christmas every year.

But I get it… that is the nature of craft and the industry. It’s all about the consumption of materials to create prolifically. Capitalism at its finest in the guise of self-satisfied “artistic” entitlement.

I’ve always associated “craft” with workmanship and also, in a sense, innovation. In order for it to remain relevant I believe it has to evolve and change and gain meaning and yearn for a sense of longevity.

I also get the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” adage… clearly there are benefits to sticking with tried and true methods and processes and creative births. A formula that is working is a good thing, to some extent. I do the same thing with my stuff (oftentimes)… I create in the same way, using the same materials, and with similar subject matter… but my work has changed and evolved over the years, and it is diversified – I will try just about anything just to see what the medium is like and whether I like to work in it and especially to determine if it is the one best suited to the expression of the “thing” that I am trying to express.

So I guess that’s where it starts. Creation isn’t a random process. Something niggles and quickens and wants to be borne into the world in some form or another. You get to deliver it through some semblance of mastery of the materials you work with/in, honing your skills so they are able to translate those ephemeral visions from within to without, becoming knowledgeable enough in the mediums to determine which will be the best suited for its fullest expression and daring to try to deviate from that which you’ve done before (or is the norm) in order to breach your imagined limitations.

Skill. Happy mistakes. Explorations. Personal aesthetic. Curiosity. Drive. Purpose. Vision.

These constitute a pretty good formula for creative expansion, but there is no template to follow. In fact if you don’t break free from a template almost as soon as you work with it once, you aren’t digging deep enough.

Let me clarify…. there is a difference between developing and working repetitively in your own style versus regurgitating another’s work and calling it art.

There… I feel much better now. Rant over.

an unfinished human

I’ve been on a bit of a downward spiral lately, and though there are some specific reasons for it, I don’t really feel that I should address them here. I will, however, talk about what I am (and have, for many, many years been) doing to get through to the other side.

Caveat: this works for me; I am an individual and we all have different ways of processing things. Take what resonates with you, and leave the rest; offer insight if you think it might be helpful, to me or anyone else.

Double-edged sword: I’ve been feeling creative lately, and writing more. What that means is that I am having to go into vulnerable places in order to access the meaty stuff that makes for good writing. On the flip side of that, things have been happening in my exterior world that are directly affecting my interior one. Things like news of possible lay-offs and general unrest at the workplace; financial issues with potential court room drama that come at a time when I am still in a tenuous financial situation; increased expenses without an increase in salary (for instance my rent went from $1100 a month to $1665 a month with utilities; that’s a slightly more than a 50% increase in rental costs alone); an old relationship resurfacing when the healing process had still not yet been completed. I could go on.

This is a small sampling, but there is an added amount of stress, real or imagined, that is pushing me into a kind of frantic state that I have a hard time dealing with, especially on my own. If you ask me about a support system (the kind that we normally look to: family, friends, etc.), I can say that I can’t really rely on any since I don’t have one in place, not really. This is, however, something I’m quite used to, so I have learnt that I have to reach out and find solutions because, contrary to popular believe, “going it alone” doesn’t ever work very well, and “sucking it up” doesn’t resolve the issues nor does it provide any relief for the anxiety. I’ve tried both, even recently, and it only ends up manifesting in physical ailment. Hint: it’s not a good course of action.

So enter the “self-help queen” – I must have one of the most extensive motivational, inspirational and self-help libraries around, but there are always new books (i.e., tools) that come out that I am (until the moment when I’m having a quasi-meltdown) unaware of. So I purchase more, because over the long haul, even a handful of books costs less than sitting through weeks and months of therapy. I’m not saying that therapy isn’t helpful, with the right counsellor, but the costs are quite prohibitive and it would behoove me to become proactive in my own getting out of my mire process. If all else fails and I’m still not able to find some mending, I would of course get some external assistance.

At the moment I’ve begun reading a couple of books:

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown; and
The Muse Is In: An Owner’s Manual to Your Creativity by Jill Badonsky

I was already reading:

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain; and
Women Who Run With The Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estés

So… I read slowly, bits of whichever of these happen to resonate at any given moment, over a period of time.

Well, that’s not quite true. I am reading Women Who Run With The Wolves with an online group and we are reading through a chapter every couple weeks, which, since the content is really dense and the exercises we are working through quite deep, it’s a bit of a crawling along (though rewarding) process.

The Gifts of Imperfection will be needed for an online workshop I signed up for with Brené, and similarly, I signed up for an online month-long teleconference/remote coaching group session with Jill Badonsky to help deal with some of my creativity issues, which essentially just boil down to the more basic issues that are the foundation of many of the other things that keep me from living as someone who is (as Brené calls it) Wholehearted.

I have moments of being in this state, so I know what I’m missing out on when I’m not. And I can tell you that it is wonderful. But like anything that’s worth working for, it takes some effort to maintain, and (clearly) I have many times that I downright fall right off the wagon.

So I’ve come to the meat of this post; the reason I wanted to write about this in the first place.

I know I am not alone.

YOU are not alone.

If there is ever a moment of inquiry that you pause in and wonder how you could be doing ‘this’ better, not because you are inadequate at doing whatever it is that you are doing, but because there is perhaps another way that might yield better results, you are drawing on your courage, and that is remarkable.

It is often said that happiness is a state of mind; I believe this to be true – it *is* a state of mind, and not dependent upon many of the things that we associate with happiness – money, success, love, sex, material acquisitions – because I have seen so many people with so much and yet they are not happy.

Truthfully, we all long for connection, and how we individually interpret that differs tremendously, but the more we can come to understand ourselves and what connection really means to us, the further along the path we can move to becoming a slightly less unfinished human.