Don’t Let Anyone Call You Stupid

‘I Rode A River Of Words And Heard Wisdom (Bryan)’   https://www.walkingowlstudio.ca/gallery/dancing_the_ghosts/

Last night I watched one of my favourite Christmas shows, Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer.

This morning I woke thinking how, as kids in school, we labelled each other.  Those labels did a lot of damage.  Unlike Rudolph, some of us were never able to rise above the words we were called.

I love words.  I love playing with words, putting them together and taking them apart.  I love crossword puzzles, word games, and Scrabble.  I love reading other people’s words and writing my own.

When I was thirteen years’ old and entering high school, my parents gave me a thesaurus.  I never dreamed such a treasure existed.  I read it cover to cover, like a novel.

My husband didn’t have a love affair with words.  For him, it was much the opposite.

He struggled with words. He couldn’t make the connections between sounding out a word and spelling it.  Spelling was a disaster for him.  He had to consciously, repeatedly memorize the sequence of letters for each word. Otherwise ‘celery’ came out ‘clegery’, and ‘chimney’ was ‘chibmny’.

He was told he was stupid, and he felt stupid.

I know the English language has weird and wonderful word spellings, but his struggle was beyond that.

By the time my husband reached high school, he’d struck a deal with a friend who was an ace speller. His friend struggled to come up with ideas for writing assignments.  My husband always had loads of ideas.  So he provided his friends with ideas, and his friend spell checked my husband’s essays. Win win.

My husband is not stupid.

His brain came equipped with a different pathway to understanding words, sounds, and spelling. He had to find his own way, and did, into learning how to spell.

It’s so easy to stick a label on someone, easier than taking the time to consider the whole of the person standing in front of you and finding an understanding.

No one is stupid.

I have twenty years of experience as an artist, but ask me to sculpt something and the result would have you seriously doubting I have any artistic ability at all.  I am a disaster at sculpture.

My brain doesn’t see and understand the way a sculptor needs to.  What my brain naturally sees and understands is drawing.  Give me paper and drawing materials, and I am a wizard.

I’ll say it once more.

No one is stupid.

This life is rich because of the uncountable paths we have for seeing and understanding.

I have a very old dictionary from Great Britain, a school discard dated 1954.  It contains a definition for ‘stupid’ I find interesting. The dictionary defines it as ‘wanting in understanding’.

This definition surely describes me trying to sculpt and my husband trying to spell.  We want to understand and are unable to.

There are other layers in this definition.  We all want and deserve help and understanding from others when we are struggling.  And for those who label others then walk away, describing the label-ers as having a ‘wanting of understanding’ works for me.

_________________

In this post:

Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, animated stop-motion Christmas cartoon, first aired in December 1964, produced by Videocraft International Ltd. (later known as Rankin/Bass Productions).  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudolph_the_Red-Nosed_Reindeer_(TV_special)

Creating Love In A Year Of Grief

‘Everything I Know About The Human Heart Part 2’     https://www.walkingowlstudio.ca/

I am searching for comfort today. Sitting in my sun-filled studio. Cuddled in my softest, warmest socks and shirt. Favourite Christmas music playing. Milky chai tea at my side. Mickey Mouse pencils and loose leaf paper on my studio work table.

Do something I love. Do something that helps me find my way. Write.

Three deaths in my family this past year, and now a fourth coming sometime in the next few days. An uncle, my Dad, and two cousins I grew up with. And then there are the continuous small deaths of my mother deep in Alzheimer’s.

I feel like someone has taken a knife and cut away my childhood.

These people were a loving presence all through my life. There are cherished experiences I shared with them. Now I am the only one who remembers.

Where do memories go when there is no one left to feel the story run through them?

I know I am far from the first or last to feel such grief, I know my entire family is suffering, but this knowing does little to ease how I hurt.

The only way out is through.

Today I will sit in the sun and drink tea, listen to music, and let the memories run through me. A way of loving my cousin and myself and the stories we created together in this life.

Giving, Receiving, Thanking

joydiary17.page28and29.2018It’s Thanksgiving today in the United States.  Family and friends, plus food.  My favourite kind of holiday.  My cup is filled and overflowing, and so is my heart.

The holiday has me thinking about my relationship with giving, receiving, and thanking.  These actions should be simple and easy.  Give.  Receive.  Thank.  Happy.  Done.

Yes, it’s simple and easy when I do it with my open heart.  And no, it’s not easy or simple when I do it from my head instead.

My head is amazing at logic and details, learning and organizing, but for me, too much thinking complicates things.  In thinking are beliefs and patterns of reaction, many running under my radar, creating expectations and judgments around myself, others, and the situation.  My head likes to be in control, ensuring I get what I want and don’t get what I don’t want.

This thinking is all about my personal comfort and little about the comfort of the person standing here in front of me.  My head worries only for me.  It doesn’t understand other people’s emotions, and truly it can’t understand.  It’s not made for that.  Emotions, mine and others’, are the job of my heart.

My heart has a different kind of wisdom.  It knows love, and it is only and wholly made of love.

My heart knows intimately how I feel, and when it reaches out, it feels how others feel as well.  Although the knowing-feeling is sometimes painful, I know this ability to connect is a miraculous gift.

Our hearts know love is a diamond.  Each facet holds emotions whose roots are love.  Kindness, care, compassion.  Generosity, forgiveness, understanding.  Appreciation, gratitude.  Sharing, giving, receiving, thanking.  Peace.  In every language, every word we have created which falls into love for self and other shines bright on this diamond.

Here today we celebrate three faces of love.  Let me give my heart to you, let me receive your heart, and let me say thank you with heart full and brimming over.

Happy Thanksgiving!  May your day be loving, joyful, and fulfilling.

____________________

I dreamed.

I was water

Cupped in your hands

Running down your arms

Pooled in your heart

Flooded

Overwhelmed

Tears washing your feet

Returned to the earth

Fulfilled.

Being A Writer Who Is Writing

joydiary08.page10and11.2018In my second year of art school, I had a painting teacher who taught attitude along with technique.  He talked about how we needed to love making art more than love being an artist.

At first I didn’t understand the difference.

Something happened, though, after I graduated.  His words stuck with me, and the longer I made art, the more I experienced how my love of making carried me through the hard spots.  If I had loved being an artist more than making art, I would have quit.

When I began writing, I carried this experience and understanding with me.  Problem was, it didn’t transfer completely.  I still had to learn to love writing the same way I had learned to love drawing, by doing it.

At first I mainly loved Being A Writer, reveling in how I felt when I said to myself, “I am a Writer.”  The feeling was not so enjoyable when actually writing.  I loved the concept, but sometimes the doing was capital-H Hard.  I became frustrated and depressed at how slow it was, and editing was oh-my-ugly.

What saved me was the fact I loved reading books, and every amazing read made me want to really, truly be a writer who was writing.

I found ways to keep writing.  I read creativity books and let them inspire me.  I listened to writers talk about their work and process.  I freely bribed myself.  When none of those worked, I used guilt.  Guilt always worked, sooner or later.

Slowly, what I had experienced with making art happened with writing.  The more I did it, the more I loved doing it.  The more I wrote, the more I trusted I could write, even the hard bits.

On Monday this week, I took myself to my favourite café and spent the whole day writing.

During the afternoon, a woman came in and sat two chairs over from me.  She pulled out a stack of paper like mine, a pen, and Halloween candy.  Got her coffee and settled, I thought, to write.

I was wrong.

She rearranged her papers.  Clicked her pen a bunch.  Looked out the window.  Looked around the café.  Kicked her chair leg for a while.  Chatted and laughed with people who walked past her.  Looked over at me like she wanted to start a conversation.

In the meantime, I was writing and becoming increasingly irritated by this person.  She was distracting me from what I wanted to be doing, which was writing.

I noticed I was judging her, big time.  She had her tools in front of her, yet she was doing everything except writing.  I decided she was one of those who loved the idea of being a writer but didn’t love doing the writing.  A pretender, while I was the real thing.

Wow.  Me being snarky.  Very.

I felt bad, judging myself for judging her.  I should know better.  I’ve been where she is, done exactly what she’s doing.  Maybe she needed a change of scenery after writing all morning at home.  Maybe she needed distraction as part of her process.  Maybe she gained ideas from talking with random strangers.

I kept writing while this flashed through my mind and feelings.

I wondered why I was irritated by her activity.  She was doing me no harm.  I was distracting myself by allowing my focus to wander over to her.

I knew I was in a hard place in my draft.  I was struggling, feeling overwhelmed, not sure I could bring this all together.  Doubting myself as a writer.

I understood.  I wanted distraction.  More than that, she looked like she was enjoying herself, and I wasn’t.  She looked relaxed.  I wasn’t.

I was feeling jealous, too.

I kept writing.

There is the important thing—I kept writing.  I let myself be distracted enough to move out of the writing, realized what was happening inside me and how I was feeling.  Realized I was working my way through a hard spot in my writing, it was getting to me, and I needed to release pressure by putting my frustration on someone or something else.

I understood.  I forgave myself.

I silently appreciated the woman near to me who was enjoying the feeling of being a writer.  I knew how good that felt, and I let myself enjoy her enjoyment.

And I kept writing.

Why I’m Not Doing Nanowrimo This Year

Cat Fink 'What Gives Me Joy Nov 9 2016 (books)'November first.  The clouds are dark grey outside my studio window.  It’s been raining, snowing, and sleeting since midnight.  The temperature sits at zero Celsius.  Perfect weather for being inside, papers scattered across my work table, music playing counterpoint to the drip of water off the roof, writing this blog post.

It’s a perfect day for beginning Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month), except this year I am not.

This is a deliberate choice.

I love doing Nanowrimo.  I love writing furiously, aiming for at least 2,000 words each day.  Love the focused creating.  Love the feeling of a single driving purpose in a life normally split half a dozen directions.  Love the community spirit, the support and mutual cheer leading.  Love the feeling of entering the word count that pushes me over the 50,000 word goal.  Oh yeah.

There is a good reason why I am not already in the depths of all this writing awesomeness.  It’s something else I love–more writing awesomeness.  It’s my book draft.

I am working through the final three chapters of Lisa Cron’s Story Genius.  I have my momentum and I want to keep it.  My book draft needs me.

If I shift to Nanowrimo, my creative focus completely shifts as well.  I know the energy required to complete 50,000 plus words in a month, and it would leave none for my book.  Nanowrimo is a demanding love.

I did Nanowrimo last year.  I wrote a parallel draft for my book.  I explored all the directions I didn’t take in the main draft.

It was worth spending a month discovering the words beyond the path already laid.  I found writing that belonged in the main draft, filling in gaps I hadn’t noticed.  I explored side paths I knew diverted the story so had ignored in the main draft.  I reveled in back story that helped me understand motivations and situations.

Pausing my main draft and doing Nanowrimo last year was totally worth it.  I gave myself month-long permission to experience places outside of the story.  My main draft is richer as a result of the parallel draft.

Saying yes to Nanowrimo this year would take me away from where I am right now, and where I need to go next in my book draft.  I need slower, more considered writing at the moment.

A ‘yes’ this year is an excuse to not work out the hard stuff on my book.  It’s very appealing, and  I know better.  I’ve done enough excuses this year.

I do have to say, this ‘no’ feels sad.  I feel like I’m missing the party.

At the same time, I feel how right my choice is.  I love where I am in my draft process.  I love what I have discovered and learned as I’ve worked my way.  I am so very curious about what else is going to show up, as though I am reading the already published book and wondering what happens next in the story.

I feel rich in my writing life; I have more than one thing to love.

Bon voyage, all you Nanowrimo crew!  May you have fair winds, full sails, and an ocean of ideas and words to play in.  May you have life rafts aplenty should you need them, and a welcoming harbour when your writing reaches home at the end of the month.  Save me a berth for next year.

___________________

In this post:

Nanowrimo aka National Novel Writing Month.  https://nanowrimo.org/  I feel like Dr. Seuss and Willy Wonka had a hand or ten in inventing this.

Book Story Genius by Lisa Cron, Ten Speed Press, 2016.  http://wiredforstory.com/story-genius-1/

 

Failure and Success

Archangel (Raguel) - Cat Fink (blog)
‘Archangel (Raguel)’

I have a pattern of not celebrating my successes.  Mostly I ignore them, occasionally I allow myself to briefly enjoy them.  Never do I allow myself full appreciation of what I have successfully completed, be it writing or drawing or anything else in my life.  Always, I immediately move on to the next thing.

I’ve been wondering why I do this.  Two days ago, I discovered a big reason.

In school, I was one of those brainy kids.  The A’s on my report card came easily to me.  Because of this, my teachers gave me extra enriched work, mostly math and science.

I loved, and continue to love, learning new things for the sheer enjoyment of it, but this was not something I chose for myself.  I loved school, but this extra work felt like work, and I wanted to be with my friends playing and having fun.  I rarely completed the assignments.  The teachers eventually gave up, which was a relief for me.

In my child-mind, this experience created a belief that stuck in my subconscious.

I believed I was a failure.

I did not do the enriched work and become someone who changed the world through discovering amazing scientific things.  I did not meet expectations.  I did not fulfill my potential.  It did not matter that the expectations and ideas regarding my potential belonged to someone else.  As a child, I knew I was smart and I trusted my teachers, so I took this on as something reasonable.

When I look at my life now, I love where and who I am.  I love love love drawing and writing.  I love the learning I do, moving toward life with an open, creative heart.  I love the family and friends I have around me.  My life is good and I know I created this, which means yes I am successful at what I do.

I do not owe my school teachers or the world, or even myself, anything.  I owe neither success nor failure.

I walked the path I needed to walk, so I could be exactly where I needed to be.  As a child, love and joy were the most important choices I made for myself every day.  I didn’t consciously realize what I was choosing, and I couldn’t articulate it.  I didn’t realize love and joy could be choices, yet there I was choosing time with my friends as the most important thing.

That time with my friends shaped me.  We read, traded books, made up stories, and played pretend.  We drew and made things with whatever was at hand.  We were creators who played, loved, and enjoyed what we created.

As I grew up, every choice I made, everything I was, everything I created led me here.

I appreciate what my school teachers did.  Unknowingly, they pushed me into making my own choices, helped me find and experience the things that were right for me.

I know and feel how the words and images I create, the love and joy I share, the life I live changes the world around me.  That is success.

I did not waste my potential.  I have been fulfilling it all along.

Between Writing and Trying to Write

laid-to-rest-east-detail-small
Laid to Rest 80,000 Obstructing Spirits, East (detail)

It’s fun to write.  It’s not fun trying to write.

Earlier today I tried to write a blog post.  Progress was slow, painful, and frustrating.  Finally, I gave up.

This is not like me to give up.

Writing is not a smooth process for me, despite the enjoyment it gives.  Most days I procrastinate, but eventually push my way into writing.  I begin slowly, fishing around for those slippery starting words.  I jump all over my ideas as I write my draft, and have to rearrange sentences and paragraphs until I find an easy flow.  This is my process, and I always get there to the finished piece.

Today I feel like my creativity is offline.  My thoughts are jumpy and disconnected.  Every idea is brief, lacking a depth to play in, nothing to dig into and develop.  I know I am not the first nor the last writer to experience this, but knowing it doesn’t make the experience less frustrating.

What I do know from long experience as an artist–my creativity remains intact despite today’s evidence to the contrary.

Here’s what I am going to do once this short writing-disaster post is done.  I am going to read.  My own words aren’t cooperating, but at least I can revel in another writer’s world.

Pushing The Edge Of My Creativity

notetomyself.enteringhope.blog
“Note to Myself: entering hope”

Picture me standing knee deep in turquoise ocean waves.  Bare toes, all ten, digging into the sand to keep balance.  Leaning my body forward, a telescope to my eye, searching the horizon line.

I want to know what is out there, what’s beyond the range of my vision.

Writing a book has turned me into an explorer, and what I’m exploring is the edge of my creativity.  How far can I push this seeming edge?  How far can I expand my capabilities as writer and artist?

I’d always thought a project of several years’ length was beyond me.  I’d get bored and dump it.

I was wrong.  My curiosity for what is next in my book remains as bright as when I began.  Not only am I curious about the book, I am curious about my creativity.  It keeps changing, reaching and expanding.  Every time a new idea shows up, it is something beyond what I have already done.

Helen Frankenthaler, an artist whose work inspires me, talked about not wanting to do something she already knew she could do.  I feel the same way.

I don’t mean wildly leaping into complete unknown.  I mean standing on what I know, reaching toward what I don’t know, combining the two, known and unknown, and experimenting.

My book project is becoming an experiment.  As I complete the work in Lisa Cron’s Story Genius, my vision of the book is shifting.  I see something that sits between all text and all image.  Not a graphic novel, and not a standard word-only book.  I am marrying my capabilities as artist and writer, and challenging myself to go further than what I already know.

As yet, I have little idea where this expanding vision of my book and my capabilities is taking me.  My telescope shows me only the open space at the edge that is labelled “here there be dragons.”

I am curious about dragons.  I hear they can fly, and some can be ridden.  I hear they guard treasure and need to be coaxed to share.  I hear they are made of fire.  I hear they were invented by someone like me.

I want to write a dragon of a book.  A book made of fire and treasure.  A book that takes flight and I need to hang on and fly with it, the ride of my life.  Guessing I may need asbestos pants in order to stick my seat.  I’ll find some.

In the meantime, every day I learn something new about the edges of my book and my creativity.  Today it is realizing my interest in my book remains firm, and this makes me happy.  Today it is discovering my creativity is capable of handling both short and long term projects, and this makes me happy too.

Today I push out the far edge, and place my new knowledge there.  Step forward and stand on the new edge of my creativity, lean forward and balance.  Put the telescope to my eye, and see where my vision takes me next.  There is an amazing dragon of a book out there, and it’s mine.

_________________

In this post:

Story Genius by Lisa Cron, Ten Speed Press, 2016.  http://wiredforstory.com/story-genius-1/

Helen Frankenthaler, Artist, 1928 – 2011.  http://www.frankenthalerfoundation.org/artworks/paintings