The View From the Cheap Seats

Cat’s Instructions for a Creative Life

I am reading Neil Gaiman’s book The View From the Cheap Seats, a collection of his nonfiction writing.  Magazine pieces, book introductions, speeches, musings, more.  I am being inspired, delighted, learning, and made curious.

The making-me-curious bit is fun.  I have a Curiosity List going as I read this book.  Writers, books, comics, artists, articles, web stuff.  All new to me, and I have to check them out, now that Neil has made me curious.  I am nearly two-thirds of the way through his book, and my list is getting long.  This is a good thing.

One of the things I love about those of us working in the arts is how so many of us share what we are discovering, what is delighting us, what we are learning and doing.  Neil’s book is delighting me, not only because of his writing, but because of his sharing who and what inspires him.  Sharing one of the paths through his universe.

Thank you, Neil.


In this post, and other thoughts:

Neil Gaiman, book The View From the Cheap Seats, 2016, WM Morrow.

The image at the top of this post is what I have been creating the last two days.  It is going onto a postcard I’ll be handing out at my interactive art show ‘The Joy Diary’ in November.  (I was going to add the link here for the Station House Gallery in Williams Lake, BC, but according to Google just now, their site may be hacked.  Yes, the weird and wonderful world of the internet.)

The Continuing Story of My Second Draft

‘Jack Built My House’ by Bryan Fink

I’ve posted several times about doing the second draft of my book.  This is the latest installment in the eighteen-month story of my efforts.

One word describes things at the moment.  Confused.

I’m adding others.  Messy.  I am okay with messy.  Messy happens in all my creating at some point.  It gives me possibilities.  Having been a neat and tidy child, as an adult I enjoy messy.  Also, I know how to go from messy to focused, a useful talent.

Another word.  Procrastinating.  Somehow, and I have said this before, other jobs and delights keep taking precedence over my second draft.  Strange how that happens.

Yesterday I am telling one of my fellow artist-writer friends about this.  We come to the conclusion I need to clear a chunk of time for only the draft.  Yes.  I do this.  Now marked off in my diary is February through May.  My friend will meet with me throughout this time to help me keep accountable to myself in getting the draft done.  Cool.

A third word.  Blind.  This draft feels like I’m doing a jigsaw puzzle without the picture from the box top to tell me how things should look.

I tell this to another artist-writer friend.  She talks about finding the arc of the story, a kind of outline.  Oh.

I know about outlines.  I tried one out at the start and it drove me crazy.  I learned I am a writer who feels her way through the story.  As Nanowrimo fans say, I’m a pantser, not a plotter.

I am very visual in my thinking.  My friend says ‘arc of the story’.  In response, I see the image of an arc drawn on a big sheet of paper, with me writing sticky notes all along it.  This makes sense.  A way of creating an outline that works for me.  Here is my picture of how things will look when I am done.  Yay!  The picture will likely shift as I go.  That’s okay.  I still have a picture to play with.

Continue reading “The Continuing Story of My Second Draft”

What I Read on My Summer Holiday

1.'Containers for the Soul'--Cat Fink
Containers For The Soul

I love books.  I love reading, and I am always curious about what other people are reading.  So, of course, I enjoy reading people’s book lists, especially those from writers and artists.

Here is what I read during July and August while I was on holiday.

The Owl Mage Trilogy by Mercedes Lackey – Mercedes is one of my favourite writers.  She dives deep and at length into what her characters are thinking and I find this inner monologue fascinating.  Some might read this and say ‘get on with the story’.  Not me.  These inner monologues are part of the story, developing the character, connecting with me-the-reader and my personal inner talk experience.

End of Watch by Stephen King – As a teenager, my introduction to Stephen’s writing was ‘Carrie’.  The story totally creeped me out, and I loved it.  Later I left off reading horror.  I came back to him with ‘Lisey’s Story’, and I’ve kept up with his writing ever since.

A Banquet of Consequences by Elizabeth George – A friend introduced me to Elizabeth and her intricate, very human mysteries.  I read the one lent to me, then promptly hit the used bookstore for all Elizabeth had written up to that point.  Now I wait with anticipation when I hear a new book is coming, and get my order in at my local bookstore.  If you are a writer, check out her book on writing fiction ‘Write Away’.  I borrowed it from the public library three times and then ordered my own copy.

Return of the Padawan by Jeffrey Brown – Pure fun.

The King’s Man Trilogy by Pauline Gedge – Pauline makes me feel I am right there in ancient Egypt.  Heat.  The smell of dust.  Cool water poured over my bare feet.  Linen brushing against my skin.  I read her books in the summer to heighten the feeling of being there.

Raiders of the Nile by Steven Saylor – Steven’s writing has the same effect on me as Pauline’s.  In his books, I am in ancient Rome.  This one happens in the Nile delta, not his usual setting.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J. K. Rowling – I admit it.  I am a Harry Potter/J. K. Rowling fan.  I read this slowly, right after a week of watching all the Harry Potter movies in sequence.  I let my inner vision create the movie for me as I read.  Fun!  Then I discovered the website Pottermore, got myself sorted for Hogwarts by the Sorting Hat, and claimed my wand.  (For my fellow Potter fans, I am a Hufflepuff–totally suits me– and my wand is sycamore with dragon heartstring core.  Cool.) Continue reading “What I Read on My Summer Holiday”

Summer Mode

I Dreamed I Was Water (Emma) – Cat Fink

I’m on summer vacation time this past week.  My internal clock finally adjusted itself.  It looked around, said ‘oh it’s July’, switched into slower, and then into slowwwww.  I am now in summer mode.  Hooray!

Summer mode means my time stretches.  Becomes casual and bendy.  I start tacking ‘ish’ onto my times for meeting friends and family.  Six-ish.  Noon-ish.  Eleven-ish.

I like ish-time.

I worked with a fellow who taught me about summer mode and ish-time.  Every year he would take his vacation, six weeks of it, as one piece.  On the morning of his first day off, he would pick up his watch, put it at the back of a drawer, and leave it there.  He moved through his vacation to the feel of each day in his body, to the rhythm of the sun rising and setting, to long conversations with friends, to the stars appearing at night.  Eating, moving, resting as the mood took him.

On the evening of the last day of his vacation he would go back to the drawer, pull out his watch, and return to the world of time and appointments set without ish on the end.

This summer it took me until mid-July to remember to take off my watch and put it away.  After an intense twelve months, it is time to play, to re-balance and recharge.  To wander through summer.  Let my days stretch.  Let my body and the sun tell me what time it is.  Let ish-time lead me where it will.

Thank you, David, wherever you are, for showing me this so many years ago.  Thank you for the gift.

Creating Stuff With Friends

Making Stuff With Friends

The past two weeks I’ve been experiencing one of the things on my list for living a creative life—Find friends who love to create too, and inspire each other.

Drawing and writing give me great joy.  I mostly create alone, and this works for me.  I hear my heart, mind, and Source clearly.  There is peace in this, and an awareness that holds both energy and ease.

Lately I have been visiting with my artist and writer friends.  Meeting for lunch.  Going for walks.  Sharing what we are each creating.  Asking for and giving advice and points of view.  Laughing a lot.  Appreciating.  Being inspired.  Making notes of books to read and websites to view.  New resources to play with.

We talk about creativity and life.  For us, these are threads that wind round each other.  Impossible to separate.  I know I wouldn’t want to.

Thursday I sat across from a friend, at her round wooden table.  The table was high, and I am short.  I put an extra pillow on the seat of my chair.  We had pens and paper.  We wrote.

There was peace in this space, and the quiet act of creating in the presence of another.  My friend and I know intimately the feel of writing alone.  This day we chose to write together.  There was joy in this.  I feel it again as I tell you.

There is power, too, in creating with a friend.  Familiarity, love, and acceptance of the creative process.  Friendship, love, and acceptance of the person across the table.  This power is ease, and it let my words flow.  I looked up and saw my friend moving her pen across the paper, her words taking the shape of a new story.

Grace was given both of us in this time and place.  Grace, joy, friendship, and writing.  A perfect afternoon.


In this post:

July 10th post, List For Living My Creative Life,

List for Living My Creative Life

Old Coyote Trick (standing out)pinkdetail2
Old Coyote Trick-standing out (detail)

Begin where I am.

Open my heart and feel all my feelings.  They tell me where I am and where I need to go.


Be a child and do what I love.  Imagine.  Play.  No rules, no expectations, no schedule.

Be curious.  Experiment.  Explore.

Ask questions.  Be okay with not knowing.  It gives me a big space in which to be.

Be okay with the new and different.  Be okay with change and transformation.  That’s what creativity is all about.

Let go of control.  Let go of judging.  Let go of using other’s truths, and find my own.

Be okay with not being perfect.

Use everything, including mistakes (they lead somewhere different).  Allow and accept.  Trust what shows up.

Be in my body.  Notice what my senses notice, right here, right now.

Move between creation and rest.  Do.  Be.  Do.  Be.

Laugh.  Enjoy.  Let happy happen.  Even better, choose happy.

Be with those I love who love me back.

Find friends who love to create too, and inspire each other.

Love my creativity.  Let creativity love me back.

Love my life.  Let life love me back.

Let my life be a playground, a petting zoo, a test kitchen.

What I am saying here in every line—Choose Love.


In this post:

‘Do.  Be.  Do.  Be.  Do.’  This comes from Amit Goswami, in his book Quantum Creativity.

The Things I Carry

Angels In A Small Crowd detail.300ppi
Angels in a Small Crowd (detail) by Cat Fink

There is a book by Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried, about soldiers in Vietnam during the war.

I only know this book through another book, Thunder and Lightning: Cracking Open the Writer’s Craft by Natalie Goldberg.  On page 127 of my hardcover copy, there is an excerpt from Tim’s book.  And then Natalie’s words, talking about this and the truth of a life, and saving yourself through writing.  I’ve marked this passage with pencil,  and folded over the top corner of the page.  What Tim wrote sticks with me.

So now I am wondering, what do I carry?

This is a huge question.  My answer could go any direction.  I decide to frame the question.  As writer and artist, what do I carry?

There is the obvious reply.  Paper, pens, pencils.  But I want to go underneath this question.  What do I carry that no one sees, until and unless I choose to show them?

I am thinking of things that are invisible, intangible.  I cannot say weightless because these things carry great weight.

The biggest thing I carry.  Awareness.  Looking outward into what surrounds me, my moment-to-moment environment touched through my senses.  Looking inward.  Feelings.  Thoughts.  Memories.  Recording what has been received.  Then being aware yet again, in a different way, as I marry outer and inner awareness, and create word and image.

Curiosity.  Curiosity is forever with me, perched on one shoulder or the other.  Permanently five years old and interested in everything.  Her favourite questions.  ‘What is that?’  ‘Why?’  ‘What can I do with it?’  Curiosity lets me experience as the child I am inside.  Lets me come to my life with heart and mind open, allowing, and fascinated.  Lets me experience differently.

Imagination.  Inward play sparked by outward seeing and by Curiosity.  Sparked by the questions Curiosity asks, especially ‘what can I do with it’.  This question is a playground for my imagination.

Creativity.  My ever-present need to make stuff and share it.  Imagination is the playground.  Creativity is the laboratory, petting zoo, and test kitchen.  Experiments happen here.  The ‘what can I do with it’ becomes ‘what if I try this, then this, or this’, continued ad infinitum.  Think pi with its never ending, never repeating play of numbers beyond the decimal point.  That is my creativity in action.

I carry something Natalie Goldberg says is her great talent.  Strong determination.  Twenty years ago, the Director at the Victoria College of Art looked at my student admission portfolio, then at me, and said, ‘Stubborn.’  I said to him, ‘Determined.’  He said, ‘You start in September.’

Finally, I carry love.  For myself, for others, for my world, for what I create.  Love is at the base of everything I am and everything I do.  Without love, passion, none of this would exist.

Tim O’Brien’s characters carried things that kept them alive, more than just physically.  Things that gave a small degree of joy, kept heart, spirit, and mind alive in a place of overwhelming chaos and sudden oblivion.

What do I carry?

I carry things that ensure the writer and artist in me survive.  The things I carry keep away chaos and oblivion.  They ensure joy lives in the whole of me.

Paper.  Pens.  Pencils.  Awareness.  Curiosity.  Imagination.  Creativity.  Strong determination.  Love.  And that is enough.


In this post:

Tim O’Brien, book The Things They Carried, Houghton Mifflin, 1990.

Natalie Goldberg, book Thunder and Lightning: Cracking Open the Writer’s Craft, Bantam Books, 2000.