There’s something my Dad would say to me when I was very young and I had fallen.
“Upsy-daisy.” And then he’d pick me up. Set me on my small feet, brush off my knees, make sure I was okay.
Dad, I’m not okay right now. I need to hear you say to me, “Upsy-daisy.” And pick me up and set me on my feet again.
My Dad died exactly two weeks ago.
I miss the sound of his voice the most.
I miss talking with him. I miss sitting together, saying nothing at all, watching the cedars move in the summer wind and the clouds chase each other across the sky. I miss finding the perfect, smooth, grey stone, and passing it to him as we walk.
There are no words for these feelings, though I make the attempt. Trying to capture and still the king tide as it pulls and pushes.
I hear my Dad saying impossible has never stopped me yet. So true.
On my studio work table is a stack of paper. One hundred and thirteen pages. It’s my Nanowrimo draft.
I finish writing on Monday, zipping past the 50,000 word goal by 469 words. Hooray! I have that magic purple bar that says WINNER shining on my Nanowrimo dashboard, and my winner certificate is taped to the studio wall.
I give myself Tuesday and Wednesday as reading days, since my reading time has been eaten by writing time all through November. I love reading as much as writing, and I am noticing a certain inner grumpiness every time I walk past the books that are waiting for me.
Today I am thinking about the last four weeks.
Something unusual happened during my mass quantity of writing.
I enjoyed the process. I rarely struggled. I am amazed at this. And I am wondering what I did differently this fourth time through Nanowrimo.
I’ve made it past the finish line all four times, so winning is not different.
Thing is, I feel like a different writer.
I am a different writer. I am not fussing over my first draft. I am not criticizing every word. If I don’t have the exact right word or phrase, I pause for a bit. If it does not come, I substitute something close to what I want and continue on. I know I will come back later with the right fix.
This is not how I used to write. I wrote slowly. I struggled. Things had to be perfect or near-perfect the first time through. I was not taking in the meaning of ‘draft’.
What a relief this is. I am no longer afraid of not getting my words right.
I have won something more than my Nanowrimo draft reaching 50,000 words.
I have won space for myself when I write. I have space to explore, try something out, not like it, and change it. I have space to get an idea down and find the right words later. I have space to relax and breathe and enjoy the process of a first draft. I have space to enjoy my imagination.
When I am being Artist rather than Writer, I work with the pastel in one hand and the eraser in the other. I am constantly moving between one and the other, using the eraser as one of my drawing tools. I have no difficulty editing my drawings.
I get it. Here is the core of why I am a different writer. I am finally comfortable using editing as one of my writing tools. I am finally trusting my writing process and myself as a writer. The words will come, if not on the first pass, then the second or third or fourth.
I’m doing my morning pages. I write ‘Thursday, blog day.’ Immediately I hear my mind comment, I feel tired. Then my body chimes in, yes, tired.
Uh huh. I’ve heard this before. I do not believe it. It’s a scam to stop me from writing.
I keep writing.
I write about Dr. Amit Goswami and his mantra. Do. Be. Do. Be.
And then I put together the I-feel-tired with the do-be-do-be, and I get it.
I am tired of Doing. I am tired of Should’s.
There are more than enough Should’s in my life. Something in me is trying to make my writing a Should. That’s a really bad idea.
Should’s are have-to’s. I should eat vegetables and not candy. I should exercise daily. I should cook dinner and wash the dishes. I should be kind and share what I have.
There is something in me that rebels at Should, that feels pushed into doing something and right away pushes back. Even when I know the Should helps me, makes my life easier, offers a kindness to another, lets me feel better, I sometimes have this instinct to shove back and say no, not doing it. My inner two-year-old in action.
Except, sometimes the urge to rebel is telling me to pay attention. The Should doesn’t fit my life, I need to choose differently. The Should doesn’t belong to me, it’s someone else’s expectation or need.
Today, I realize, I am pushing at all the Should’s in my life.
‘All’ is a big clue.
I’ve been doing a lot of doing. Too much. Time to stop doing.
It’s time to be.
Being means slowing down. Breathing deep and letting my shoulders drop to relaxation level. Feeling the chair underneath me. Feeling my feet resting on the wood floor. Hearing the clock humming, and the clicking of my solar-powered Japanese Lucky Cat as she waves her white plastic paw at me. Feeling the noon sun on my chest, my arms, my hands.
Breathing deep again.
I am here, present in my life at this moment. Open hearted. Words falling through to the page. Imagining. Creating.
Yes, here it is. My ultimate way to be. Daydreaming. Imagining. Curious. Following ideas like Alice after the white rabbit. Writing. Drawing. Creating.
This is play, pleasure, joy and love and sheer delight. This is me.
Doctor Goswami got it right. When I move my life between doing and being, I have balance. I feel settled. There is no push back at the Should’s because I spend equal time in the midst of being. The joy and play of being carries me through the Should’s of my day.
It’s Thursday, blog day. This gives me joy. And I already know the joy will continue to hum in the background of doing dinner, dishes, a grocery list for tomorrow’s shopping. Nothing in me is rebelling or pushing. I am too busy being.
In the post:
This is one of the ways I use Doctor Goswami’s do-be-do-be-do. You can read his discussion of alternating action and relaxed incubation on page 97 of his book Quantum Creativity, Hay House, 2014.
Here I am. Just barely eighteen. It’s Wednesday in the first week of September. I am walking into my first university art class. A first year Bachelor of Fine Arts student. Totally scared, and determined not to show it.
I know two things. I know I want to be an Artist. I know when I draw, time and the world go away. There is pencil, paper, my hand moving, marks on the paper, breath moving in and out of my body, and nothing else.
What I know is not enough to carry me. At the end of the year I transfer to Business Administration.
Here is what I did not know the first time I started Art School.
No one names me. I name myself. I claim Artist for me.
My professors don’t know everything. But if I am lucky, they are generous and share their experience in creating art.
I am not an empty vessel waiting to be filled. I have knowledge, experience, passion, inspiration, belief, heart, hands, and head.
I know what feels right to me, and what is right for me.
There are as many creative processes and paths as there are creators. What is right and true for me may not be right and true for another.
I create from my heart, from passion and love rather than fear (although fear is information I can use).
My feelings are information and sign posts. Use them.
Use everything, whatever shows up. My entire life is inspiration for creation, if I choose to see it that way.
I have choice. Everything is a choice. Not choosing is a choice. Stuck is a choice. Accepting, or not, anyone’s view of my art is a choice.
Here I am. Thirty-eight years old. It’s Wednesday in the first week of September. I am walking into Art School for the second time. Nervous, and it doesn’t matter who sees it. I know who I am. I know what I don’t know, and what I do know. I know what I need and want. I am Artist. Let the learning begin.
In this post:
What I believe: The list of what I needed to know and didn’t, touches everyone, whether we are Artists or not. The learning never stops. The wanting to know never stops. And we are all Creators.
I’m sitting in my dining room, on a camp chair, my laptop and papers and pens on our camp table. My iphone is tuned to Jazz24 for background music. The bedroom down the hall holds an air mattress and bedding, clock radio on an upturned box. My son’s bedroom downstairs has identical furnishings.
The dining room window is open to a warm breeze, sun, blue sky. I can hear the hummingbirds talking. They are nesting in the white lilac next to the house. Last year they were in the holly tree at the far corner of the yard. I won’t see the babies learning to fly this year. I won’t be here.
This home is pretty much empty. Everything was moved to storage this past weekend. I have a week of camping out in my house, and then on to the new house-home-studio. (Excited? Yes!!!)
I am finding it interesting how little I need to be comfortable. And interesting how the floors and walls have become a kind of furniture.
I am thinking, these past few days, about doing long work. The big projects that take time to come together and mature. This home project is a big one.
Becoming an artist and writer have been big projects. More than big. More like continual. Can’t help it. I keep discovering new things to play with.
In all the packing, junking out, giving away, I uncovered a box full of old morning pages journals. Pages written when I began this I-am-an-artist journey.
Most of these journals I fed to the woodstove. Letting go of old beliefs, angst (there was lots of that), limits I’d built around my creativity, limits I’d built around me.
I read a few pages here and there, as I fed them to the fire.
What I noticed—the Cat in these pages is no longer me. Someone else’s story. The incremental shifts really do add up to change in a good way.
As much as I love creating, it was a battle for me at first. I had to fight my way past massive fear and anxiety. Fear of making mistakes or a mess. Fear of making bad art. Whatever bad art is, I never did define it. Anxiety over wasting art supplies (read ‘money’) because I’d screwed up a drawing. Fear I was fooling myself; I wasn’t really an artist but no one had told me. All fear.
What saved me was love. When I fought past the fear, I loved creating. Loved the ideas that grew. Loved the surprises that arrived in my drawings. Loved the inspiration sharing with other artists of all disciplines. Loved what I discovered about myself through the creative process. All love.
My love of creating was bigger than my fear of screwing up and making bad art and being a fool.
Inside the front cover of a journal, ten months after graduating from art school, I wrote notes to myself:
“You have to give the drawing everything, all of it, and now.”
“There must be something rattling in the brain and trying to fall out of the pen.”
“Okay Cat, tell me what I’m keeping out of these pages?”
“Imagine what an artist I could be with a heart fully open and aware (this terrifies me).”
“Do the long work, and trust.”
I read these words here, today, and realize despite the daily fear and anxiety, there was wisdom coming through. I did the long work. I trusted. And now here I stand. Artist and Writer.
I held onto the love in my creating as a life line. Love gave me a path through the fear.
Love helped me trust there was a way through.
Sometimes, when my love even now is not big enough, I borrow love from other creators. I play recordings of Natalie Goldberg and Julia Cameron reading from their books. I randomly pull books from my studio library and leaf through other artists’ creativity. I leave books open by my easel and on my writing table. Courage and determination are contagious. Others’ images and words hold and inspire me while I walk through my fear and into creation.
During my final year of art school, I borrowed love from poet Pablo Neruda. His words fueled my graduating body of work. Imagine writing poems to a tomato, a pair of trousers, a watch. I borrowed his idea, drawing a pile of carefully folded laundry, a teacup and spoon, a pear and knife, my favourite fuchsia-coloured brocade vest.
On that same front inside cover of the journal, I’d copied some of his poetry.
“The days aren’t discarded or collected, they are bees
that burned with sweetness or maddened
the sting; the struggle continues,
the journeys go and come between honey and pain.
No, the net of the years doesn’t unweave: there is no net.
They don’t fall drop by drop from a river: there is no river.
I am writing this post in the midst of controlled chaos. Namely, I am packing. Everything.
Last time I wrote I had just decluttered and sold my home. I did not have a new home to go to yet. Now I do. I also have a moving date, so I am packing with a purpose. The perfect thing about having already decluttered? No decisions to make about what to keep and what to let go. No decisions complicated by memories or by dreams yet to be fulfilled. That bit is already done. Yay!
I have a new home with my perfect, amazing, big-with-awesome-light studio. This is the studio I have been imagining since I began art school. Twenty-one years of imagining have created me this wondrous place. There is room for my writing desk and reference books. Room for my art table and easel and supply shelves. For my library. An area with sink and tiled floor for mucky projects. Storage space.
I saw a studio like this, owned by a master artist, a few years into my art practice. Always I have remembered it. Now I have one like it.
A blessing. A gift of abundance.
I am dancing inside.
I’ve heard tales of artists and writers who freeze up when they finally have the creation space of their dreams. Like somehow the expectations of results have been upped beyond what they can easily deal with, and it scares them into silence.
I’m mentioning this because when I first walked into this space I said out loud, “Too big.” It scared me, this huge lovely space made for creating. This perfect space that could be mine, and I was rejecting it. This space I had imagined, and I was turning my back on it.
But something interesting happened as I turned my back. I caught myself in the middle of no. I felt the abundance being offered me here in this light-filled space. I stopped, and I began to laugh. I began to feel joy. I began to dance with the possibilities of creating image and word right here. Right here.
In that moment, something unpacked itself and I saw it clearly. Old beliefs limiting my worth, my abilities, what I do and don’t deserve, what I can offer through my creativity, how big or small I should be. For the first time, these old beliefs stood fully in the light, and I discovered they are not mine any more.
Oh, I know their ghosts may still show up once in a while, as I create in my new studio. That’s okay. They no longer have the same power over me. When I see my beliefs clearly, I know what to do with them and how to handle the feelings they carry. I have choice. They won’t stay long, and I’ll wave goodbye as they leave.
Then I’ll go right back to creating.
A note re unpacking limiting beliefs:
Jennifer McLean teaches a gentle and effective method of releasing old beliefs, emotions, experiences, and trauma. Spontaneous Transformation Technique (STT) is an easy and quick process to learn and to use. I know, from personal experience, how beautifully it works in clearing creativity blocks and glitches that slow us down and limit our creative lives. As a Certified Level 2 Spontaneous Transformation Technique Practitioner, I use STT’s powerful process in my creativity workshops and coaching. This link will take you to Jennifer’s information page. http://go.spontaneoustransformation.com/powerhealing
I have a home of thirty years cleared out and sold, all in the space of the last four weeks.
Whew and wow.
I’ve been thinking about doing this for a few years. And suddenly it is now. Let’s quit talking and do it. And we have. Done.
I feel lighter. Excited and exhausted both. There is a new horizon out there. Can’t quite see it yet, but I can feel it. It feels like home.
After thirteen years of seasonal moving between two places that didn’t truly feel like home, I am approaching something that does. How strange that I don’t know what it looks like or exactly where it is, yet the feeling is clear and certain. I feel my feet on the ground. I feel the path in front of me.
Some small part of me is trying to not trust this, saying ‘scary’. The biggest part of me is saying ‘This feels right, feels good. I trust this.’
Trust. A blessing gained from growing into my creative self, trusting the artist-me who knows who she is and what she wants. I am now all artist-me. Not only creating image and word. Creating my life.
I remember doing Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way tasks of clearing out and making room. I’m not sure she meant a whole house, but then again, she might have. I’m laughing, thinking how I’ve taken task number eight in week six to the extreme.
The task says, “Clearing: Any new changes in your home environment? Make some.”
Make some changes? Have I ever!
In this post:
Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way, 2002 Edition, Tarcher/Putnam. http://juliacameronlive.com/ The clearing tasks are on pages 90 and 114. Julia connects clearing out to creativity on pages 83, 197, and 198. “You’re either losing your mind—or gaining your soul. Life is meant to be an artist date. That’s why we were created.’’ Page 198.
I’d say the quote from my last post applies even more so.
I am in the midst of choosing, organizing, and packing this week. I’m making my seasonal move southwards three months early. Leaving tomorrow.
I am a nester, not a traveller. Yet, for the past thirteen years I have lived a transient life. Depending on the time of year, I am in one of two places. I keep studios at both. Most of my drawing and writing is done in my northern studio where life is quieter. In my southern studio I plan, gallery hop, visit, share inspiration with artist-writer friends. Filling my creative well to the brim and overflowing.
Somehow, despite these two places, I do not feel at home. It is the knowledge of another move to come in a few months that prevents me from feeling settled and grounded, even though both places are familiar to me.
I am talking about change.
Not all of this back-and-forth life is my choice, but much is. I find and create and cherish the good. I have beloved friends in each place, artists and writers and creators all. They are a blessing.
Change and change again. This was turning in my mind yesterday as I washed clothes, wrote lists, packed my studio, packed my life. I picked up my sketchbook and opened to a 17th century haiku, carefully copied down three years ago.
The haiku speaks of change, unanticipated and perhaps not welcome. It speaks of finding the blessing, something to cherish. It speaks to how I feel each time I choose, organize, pack up my transient life.
“My barn having burned down
I can now see the moon.”
Samurai and Poet Mizuta Masahide, 1657 – 1723
In this post:
I’ve found three translations of Masahides’ poem. This is my favourite.