Pinching the flow of creativity

In Julia Cameron’s book: The Artist’s Way, I find a compelling chapter that covers the importance of recovering a sense of self-protection when it comes to one’s creative potential.   This protection is against the blocks that each artist employs to pinch the flow of creativity.   It’s as if once we have really gotten going, it’s the natural order of things to try to squelch it. To sabotage the wide range of possibilities that exists within each of us.

 

The various methods of blocking we employ range from food abuse, sex abuse, liquor or drug abuse, distracting ourselves with busyness – and other addictions in general.

Why is it that we do this pinching off of creative flow on purpose?

 

Fear.

 

It’s plain and simple fear.

 

It’s as if the hunger for the high that comes from the wave we ride is too much to handle.

 

Or, perhaps it’s that the small snapshot of hope that this life is extraordinary is dampened by the reality that life is hard.   We reach dramatically for the high only knowing that the high is really just outside our grasp and even if we push ourselves to reach even higher, we will never truly grasp the golden egg.   Not really. It’s there within reach, but something always forces us back down to earth and we must start over again.

 

And that is exhausting.

 

So, after time, perhaps we reach less fervently.

 

We barely extend the arm and we still climb, but we don’t climb as high.   For then, the drop is less painful.

 

And then one day, we look up and once again we wish and hope that we were wrong.

 

And, we try again. And we push ourselves to go to heights we never reached before and then, we fall. Again.   And, we’re not sure why we tried again in the first place.

 

Did we forgot what the fall would feel like? The disappointment. The disgust. The fear of failure. All over again.   The cycle. Again.

 

Perhaps it is a matter of reaching this time for some help.

 

To not climb on our own.   To rely on a circle of like minding individuals who can cheer us on and remind us of our full potential. To not isolate ourselves in our art. But to reach for other artists, in whatever discipline that art form yields.   And to listen to their stories, their motivations, their hopes.

 

Where are these people?     They can be found at (perhaps) an Artist’s Way Group near you. Search for it on the internet- you’d be surprised. I found one and I am headed there later today.   I have only attended one session back on a cold February night at a local library when a storm was brewing. Many  made it that night, despite the horrible ice and snow crusted road conditions. And we spoke, each one of us, about what our creativity outlets were and how are creativity flowed.   And, it was a marvelous evening.  The memory of it dances around my mind as one of the most delightful times I have spent with other human company.     Tonight, we will discuss what makes for Authentic Creativity- and the focus is on Julia Cameron’s book- week 10 (chapter 10).

 

Cameron shares in in this chapter:

“The choice to block is a creative U-Turn. We turn back on ourselves. Like water forced to a standstill, we turn stagnant. The self-honesty lurking in us all always knows when we choose against our greater good. It marks a little jot on our spiritual blackboard: “Did it again.”.   And then: “It takes grace and courage to admit and surrender our blocking devices.”   And also: “As we become aware of our blocking devices – food, busyness, alcohol, sex, other drugs- we can feel our U-turn as we make them. The blocks no longer work effectively. Over time, we will try – perhaps slowly at first and erratically – to ride out the anxiety and see where we emerge. Anxiety is fuel. We can use it to write with, paint with and worth with.”

 

 

As I consider the years and years of wasted time. Finding distractions. Not following through. Reaching but not grasping. Shutting off the flow.   Dulling the ache with food and binge TV watching. Putting off creativity.   I realize how much truth lies in Cameron’s words.   And how marvelous it is that she wrote this book to reach the many who would pick up the book in an effort to reach deep inside and find the creative well that exists within each one of us, and tap it.

 

So grateful for these moments of discovery and awareness – and hope.

A Room to Write.

 

 

There are so many potential distractions as I make my way to a place of writing.   My mind is all over the place.   I pick up my iPad to check on the WordPress stats. I browse through other people’s posts. I like this one, comment on another. Consider other social media. And then there are web searches for ideas on what to write about.   There is a time and a place for all of this activity. But when the time comes when I am to sit and just write, I need to pull myself away from those distractions and focus my attention completely on the vital task at hand. Daily pages. Morning pages.

 

 

In an Advice series of posts on WordPress, author Amanda McCormick offers up encouragement to other writers. One of Amanda’s most recent posts offers that one must make time to write and she shares a quote from J.K Rowling which suggests: “I must therefore guard the time allotted to writing as a Hungarian Horntail guards her firstborn egg”- I like that image. It’s vivid and feels active. Guard your time to write. With this focus, and Amanda’s urgings, I find her to be a generous soul. How kind to create a place other writers can go to get helpful information and resources on improving and reaching for their own goals. She shares in her profile that she has been writing since she was eleven years old. How magnificent for her that she knew so early on what her passion was. And how lovely that part of her writing make-up is to care about offering advice to others. She helps to propel others in a community of writers to forge their own way.

Amanda sets a goal of 1K words for herself a day.   And I consider that this is a manageable goal for me as well. I know it is physically possible because I pushed out around 1600 words a day during NaNoWriMo; of course, in that instance, I had a specific focus: a novel and a set of characters. And in that novel, I had investment – even from the very beginning. The core of the idea of the novel was bubbling up inside of me and pressing to get out.   And it was such fun. And, now I have this collection of 54000+ words to work through.   And even that stage is filled with excitement and enjoyment mixed in with some frustration and wonder. How will it end? I have the beginning and parts of the middle and need to finish it, re-arrange it and nurture it into its full potential.

 

During this next period of daily pages, I could lean into that project as well, when other things don’t pop up for me. Or, can I? Are daily pages meant to take me onto a completely different tack?   A way to talk to my inner self, to consult my wise soul and find new threads to explore?

 

On Thursday, I am going to a community Artist’s Way meeting.   On that day, I am encouraged to bring a sample representation of authentic creativity. It could be one of my former posts.  Am I ready to share my authentic self with a group of others? The whole point of my blog at the beginning was anonymity. It was safe. No one that I knew would push me down.   No one to invalidate my passion. I don’t know why I thought anyone would invalidate me. Maybe because I didn’t feel valid in the first place?   I didn’t feel I could honestly call myself a writer.   I mean, who did I think I was?

 

And now?   Who do I think I am?

 

Am I a writer?   Do I have the right to call myself a writer?

 

Isn’t it interesting how we can disqualify ourselves so easily?  Is it because we have a higher ideal of what we consider a valid writer?   Do I have a high standard and am I not sure that I measure up to it? What would it take? Is it because I never took formal training in writing?   My degree is in something else.   Had I spent four to eight years in formal schooling on writing, would that have done it for me?   Would I have felt more legitimate as a writer?   Would I have felt I could justifiably render and submit a quality product to an audience via a professional editor and publisher?   Am I not legitimate today because of this lack of formal training?

 

Still, I write. And when I write, I feel better.   It refreshes me and invigorates me.   When I am writing, I have an energy that feels positive and hopeful.   So, I will keep writing. And, if it turns into something of a professional quality and if someone feels it is good enough, then that’s a bonus.   The goal for me cannot be publication on its own.   I don’t want to just publish. I want to express, create, unfurl and extend what is inside of me onto the page. To see it before me so that I can better understand life, mine and the universe.   Connections. Mysteries. All of it.   One word at a time.

 

A year ago, I sought out the idea of organizing my life and creating a space to cradle my passion for writing.   I picked up books on organizing, including The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.   Up until then, my room was a disorganized mess. I did not have a place to write. The room had to contain all of my earthly belongings when I decided to move back into my parent’s home to help in their senior years. I got rid of so much when I moved in.   Sent things on to other homes that I felt could use the items. Offered up furnishings to people who had a need, kitchen supplies to others. The rest to Goodwill. Still, so much remained that had to be contained within one bedroom and a walk in closet.   The room was wall to wall stuff… a place of chaos and certainly not a place of peace and encouragement for creativity.   When I needed to write, I would go instead to coffee houses and plop down for a few hours to write.  It was a solution. But somehow required special planning. It was not as spontaneous as I would have liked. I really needed a safe and quiet place to go and write. A Room of My Own- to write.

 

Over the course of the last six months, I have employed other strategies to minimize my stuff. I took a class on Vision Mapping and came away with some good ideas. More bags exited the home containing clothes, household items, shoes and books. With this activity, I have made room.   And this morning is my first morning of writing in my new space, on a new desk. A corner of my room has now been officially  converted to my writing space.   The place I can go to write. A real desk. The window is open to my right, facing the woods. I hear the rustle of leaves as the wind ebbs and flows.   From my TV, I hear the gentle sounds of pan flutes and steel drums from the Soundscapes Channel that I turned on when I got myself ready to write.   The volume is quite low, barely audible. Truly background music. And, now that song ends and it morphs into a new piece by Matthew Labarge called “First Light”, a soft piano tune that quietly frames my writing space. I look over at the TV momentarily and I see that the Soundscape Channel screen offers quotes.   The one facing me now is:

 

“Resolve to know thyself; and know that he who finds himself loses his misery” – Matthew Arnold.

 

Well then!   Isn’t that part of finding an Authentic Self- and guiding that self into Authentic Creativity.   Tuning into our true self and sharing that in some way with others or even, with oneself. Is art not art unless it is shared? And, can the sharing be with oneself?   Must one have an immediate audience for the art to be enjoyed.   Can that audience not be the self? At least for the moment.   And there you go; 1K+ done!

 

I have more to write today, and more time to do it.   I now turn to the novel.   How does Nina get involved in the underground movement? Who draws her in? When exactly does it happen and what are the stages of it?   What are her fears and does she find purpose in it? What are her risks and what does she accomplish? So many threads.

 

Ah, yes. Indeed. It Is Time to Write.

To submit or to live- must it be a choice?

Another thread from my novel in progress.  .

Love this writing thing!

 

It was all too much to consider and answer here, sitting on a blanket with Frederika.   Still, Oslo wasn’t that far from Hvitsten.  How could she make sure that if she took the leap, she would still have at least a few visits permitted her in order to see her family each year?  Like Fred had from Halvor, allowing her permission to take off now and then to see Nina.  The truth is she was afraid of losing herself to someone else, like Frederika had lost herself to Halvor.   She was afraid of putting herself on the shelf for someone else, of having to ask for permission for things.  It seemed odd as an adult that she would not have authority over her own life.  Her thoughts shifted to her Tante Liv whose marriage, she was told, had begun as the romance of the decade only to end up in an abusive power hungry struggle filled with misery.

 

 

As a young girl, Nina had witnessed Tante Liv and Oncle Bjarte’s strained marriage, the sharpness of tongue that Bjarte threw upon Liv when he was displeased with her.  She never got any story right.  He would correct her and interrupt her at every turn.  Nina watched as Liv lost her voice over the years and ended up rarely vocalizing any opinion.  The playfulness that she remembered of Liv as a young woman when Nina was just a little girl, had all but vanished.  In its place was a pale woman that mostly obeyed her husband’s every whim and wish.   She knew Liv was this way in order to keep the peace at home.  Liv detested conflict.  It made Nina sad to watch Liv transform from this vibrant young woman with the most amazing smile and laugh, into a silent soul in the background of their lives.   It was a rare moment to hear her laugh anymore or to see her eyes twinkle as they had when they played and rode the horses together when she was a young girl.  Bjarte and Liv never had children and Nina wondered if maybe this was a part of the displeasure and irritation that accompanied Oncle Bjarte everywhere he went.

 

 

She wondered what life might have been like if Liv had been blessed with a child or two.  At least she would have a vessel into which she could direct her love.  As it was, she knew that Liv primarily focused on raising the pigs and making a clean home for Bjarte.  Their house was always immaculate and she wasn’t sure whether this was driven by Bjarte’s stern demeanor and demands or if this had been a natural inclination for Liv, perhaps a way for her to simply push forward and make life bearable.  Bjarte walked around as if the world was against him and that his fate was to endure it rather than enjoy the many instances of beauty one finds when each dawn breaks.

 

 

Nina did not understand people who couldn’t see how amazing nature was and all that was within it.  One only had to stop moving, look around and listen.  Become aware of  one’s surroundings.   These experiences placed a struggle within Nina whenever she considered a life shared with another soul.  If she committed herself to someone else, would that someone drain her of her own soul and energy?

 

 

At her age, she should be thinking mostly of the excitement of romance and the thrill of love.   But unlike some of her contemporaries, she had an observant tendency and when she expressed those observations out loud, particularly at school, she would be chastised.   She kept most of it to herself but was keenly aware of the downfalls of being partnered with a mismatched suitor.  So she wanted to pace herself when it came to marriage and hoped that she would see signs of danger before it was too late for her.  Until she found someone who seemed to share in her passions, she knew deep down that a partnership with the wrong person would be a life sentence of loneliness.

 

 

 

 

A Conflict of Interest?

How do you feel today, Miss Katherine?
It’s a question I feel compelled to ask myself. Taking my pulse. Checking on my vitals.

I ask the question because I know that right now, I need an honest answer to it.

My answer:
I feel water logged. I feel shell shocked. I am dizzy from being blasted with too many canned marketing strategies and threats to my future if I don’t comply with the dictum. Yes. Overwhelmed and unsure.
I just attended a mandatory Certified Sandals Specialist Workshop. The pony show comes around each year and travel agencies that want to remain in good standing send off their agents to the training to ensure promotional benefits for the coming year.

It’s a power packed half day intensive product training that gets us up to speed on all of their resorts throughout the Caribbean. By itself, that sounds fine, right? After all, it’s important to know that whether this resort just had a full renovation of several lodging buildings and that this other resort now come with the plunge pools within the suites and that they have added privacy curtains so that other guests walking by the unit do not get a full frontal of the couple enjoying themselves on their balcony sans clothing. Sandals is not a nudist resort and not much in the Hedonism category so while it’s all about the romance, it is also all about elegance and decorum.
The reason I am vibrating at full decibel from the training is that the intensity of the message and how to grow our business, how to be successful, how to not fall behind, how to ensure optimum sales, is to dial into the Millennium Market. They are tech savvy and are not slowing down. The video they showed to illustrate who the Millennial Generation is- had me wanting to run for the hills. Why? Because all of this contradicts with a brand new door that I am considering opening which could lead me to a more peaceful existence – quite possibly  for the rest of my life. Simplicity. Minimalists. Leading a more meaningful life with less.

I ask myself:  Is this a big conflict of interest?
Last week, I had the great pleasure of being invited to see The Minimalists Movie by a cherished friend.  A kindred spirit.  We watched this documentary which was produced by two gentlemen and their team: Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. They have been promoting their Minimalist lifestyle for several years now- they have written a few books, gone on some tour. It all started with one of them uncovering this lifestyle and finding happiness might very well be attainable within its principles. It talks about the fact that the recipe for Minimalists can vary by person- not everyone lives by the same recipe. Different strategies work best for different people. But, it’s about finding the right ingredients for oneself. And, ditching the rat race in time (because, even if you win the rat race, in the end you are still just a rat) and in its place, seeking to find a much simpler way to make ends meet. Instead of chasing the American Dream (which boils down to chasing ways to acquire more stuff and with stuff, more status), they have opted to live a life of passions. And, knowing that each person has many passions. Not just one.   We are not born an accountant.  We are not born a sales person.   We are not born a lawyer.   These are things that comprise a more complex being that within him or herself contains many valuable attributes.  Our society does not seem to get that as it pushes each one of us into a box of one thing.  So we must fight this bent and instead, we must find a focus- for a time, focus on one of our passions.  And,  give everything we have to that one passion – all of it, all your energy.  Nurture it.  Developed it.  And, then, maybe- just maybe.. the passion will grow and flourish and one day, you mightfind an opportunity to make a living with the success of that passion.
In response to the oft asked question: “What Do You Do?” these guys offer that we all individually do lots of things: we brush our teeth, we take showers, we enjoy walks, we engage in hobbies perhaps- the “Do” in the question does not need to be answered in a way that seeks to fulfill the questioners real goal which is to figure out where you fit in within the construct of society: “How do you measure up against where I am- what do you do? How much do you make? What kind of car do you drive? What is your zip code? And thus, what is your value to society?” The goal behind the question feels a bit disgusting when it is spelled out. After all, we are worth more than what we make, right? We are worth more than the physical stuff we acquire, or how our homes look, or what kind of wheels take us from point A to point B, right?

For the past week, most waking moments that are not occupied with my work tasks, have been spent thinking about the concepts of The Minimalists. This past weekend, I gathered up two big trash bags of clothes from my closet and I donated them. It’s a start. I am intrigued by the idea of reducing my stuff, of reducing my debt, or reducing the required resources that only serve to rob me of my time and energy and focus on the things that I wish I had more time to focus on the most. Things like: Writing, Knitting, Reading, Walking my Dog, Sitting on a bench by the lake and feeling the wind on my face, enjoying my aging parents while they are still around.

I spend so much time commuting and working, as do most people. And I do this because it is expected and because I have to because I have filled my life with stuff that costs money and I am chasing that American Dream. Because after all, the American Dream is meant to make me happy. Right? I mean, right????
I took a class about two years that is called: Financial Peace University. It’s offered through churches, and the goal is to put side-by-side the concepts of money, of understanding that it’s not my money but that I am meant to be the keeper and manager of that money for God. It’s about values and understanding how an off-kilter value system creates chaos. The class was meant to whip me into financial shape and instill upon me some good values and reminders so that moving forward I would not make the same mistakes as previous years. Well, I still churn the debt merry-go-round. I have not really gotten off yet. Oh sure, I pay cash more than before. I have paid off some plastic. But occasionally, I pull out the plastic once again – even though I know it is insane behavior and I contribute once again to a necessary rat race craziness to pay that off once again.

It needs to stop. I need to stop.

At fifty, I feel as though I have little time before the ride is over. It’s an overstatement, but feels real. And then, I recall finding a picture of Dad at his fiftieth birthday party thrown by Mom in our Barrington, IL lower level. A big group gathered around tables with a larger than life picture of Dad behind him – a black and white that someone snapped at a previous party when he had just a few too many. He looked bloated and drunk in that picture. It was meant to be funny. I digress. It’s looking at his face on that October in 1979 that I realize that this party was 37 years ago!! He has had life for 37 more years from that time. And he has experienced so much. I can too. It’s not over. I may not be blessed to live the same 37+ years that Dad has, but hopefully, at least ten or twenty more. I hope. Barring disease and other catastrophic fates. And so, today is the day to start living those years well.
This afternoon, I am taking time for me after the morning blast of marketing campaigns aimed at getting me to energize and sell beach resort all inclusive vacations. Ringing in my ears are the words from our Business Development Manager at Sandals, urging me to give him 5 room bookings in the coming 30 days – if I do so, he will reward me with a $100 booking bonus and more! I look back over my shoulder at that memory from about four hours ago and I nod to it and say, ok- I will see what I can do. But not now.

 

I found myself two hours ago in a section of Barnes and Noble, browsing through the Arts & Crafts section of books. Within that shelf, I found a journal concept with a whole series of books designed to prompt the diary keeper. A journal that has headers at the top of each page that prods the writer to fill the page with ideas. I don’t need that kind of journal, I think to myself. No. I pass those up. And, then- I find a different kind of journal written by Keri Smith, author of Wreck This Journal. In this book that I found, the title jumps out at me: The Wander Society. I open to the introduction. And there, I find her reference to Walt Whitman and how his book: Leaves of Grass “the Deathbed Edition” moved and shook her. And I am curious. Why? What was it about Walt Whitman’s book that created such a stir? I continue through the introduction to learn that the Wandering Society is basically fueled by WW (Walt Whitman) – Wanderer Extraordinaire. Now that is something I can sink my teeth into. I am pulled into the fray. I must learn more. Keri shares that only a few times in her lifetime has she been so moved by a book than the afternoon she spent with Leaves of Grass. Her description of her reaction to his words are encapsulated with expressions like: “my chest ached, my breath quickened, and my face flushed”. Sounds like a passionate problem of sorts. And I admit, I want some of that. So, I grab Keri’s book because as I thumb through it, I see it is not a journal after all but a book filled with ideas on wandering. And I oh so want to wander. I want to find my path down uncharted weed growing brambles where my foot finds purchase on a rock as it moves from the woods to the shore and helps me make my way so that I can sit on a large boulder overlooking the ocean and watch the gulls plunge into the wild foam and spray.   This perch helps me to hear the shrieks of other distant gulls as they move inland to find rest. Oh my – where did that even come from? I press on.
The first few pages of Keri’s book has now fully grabbed my attention, I dare to surmise that Keri and I will likely get along very well together, and I somewhere down in the midst of this moment – thank her for writing this volume. I make my way to the Poetry Wall within Barnes and Noble, for now I must find Walt Whitman and his Leaves of Grass. And I find several versions. The first edition version, a small pocket book. And then, larger versions that contain the many editions. And then, the version that contains the first and deathbed version. I pull that one. And I sit to read the introduction. And once again, I am drawn into the mystery of poetry and of the voices of old that somehow captured a time that in many ways has been reimagined today. The same quandaries and burdens. It reminds of the timelessness of the Bible. Many discard the Bible – push it aside. It is not relevant. But how wrong they are. Principles for humanity do not change. We are basically the same as when man first began. We carry the same desperate wants and needs and passions and fears.
I decide I am satisfied with my selections and decide to add Walt to my pile. I consider one final idea, and that is to move to the writing wall. The “how to write” section, I call it. The reference wall. I want something that will give me knowledge on the basics of poetry writing. Unsuccessful in that quest.    I proceed to the check-out counter and I figure that I can look up Poetry Writing and theory … on-line. For now, I have plenty to keep me busy. And I feel satisfied,  truly satisfied.   I am investing time in my passion. I plan to sit and write and read and revel in the words of old. And dream big  dreams …of a new reality and a new plan. One step at a time. One poem at a time. One word at a time. I find my rest in this.