The Idea I Am Looking For

Cat Fink 'What Gives Me Joy Nov 17 2016 (maps)'
What Gives Me Joy Nov 17 2016 (maps)

Last night I have a brilliant idea for today’s post.

It is the middle of the night when the idea shows up. I am cozy and warm in bed. I do not get up and write it down. (You know where this is going, right?)

This morning I look but—poof—the idea is nowhere to be found.

This is why I keep lists, a sketchbook, two cork boards, and pads of sticky notes. Life is a busy place and ideas show up any time. If I catch and write them down, I have them for later use. If I don’t, they vanish.

I have this theory the vanished ideas move on to another, more immediately receptive, creative heart.

Ideas want to share. They are, of course, looking for a home and a partner who will love them and help them grow into something interesting and maybe even beautiful.

When I write an idea down, take notes, sketch a picture or plan, the idea knows it has come to the right place. There is connection, curiosity, the energy of anticipation. There is a spark that, given time and attention, becomes full passionate creation.

I have loads of ideas in my sketchbook. More than that, I have entries about other creators’ books, songs, movies, and artwork. Quotes that interest me. Questions I am wondering about. All of which have me curious. Something in each is the seed of other ideas, a jumping-off place to something new.

Sketchbooks are the pathway of my creative heart. Turn the pages of my sketchbooks, and you see the pattern of my days. Here is my cabinet of curiosities, collected over years of drawing and writing.

I used to worry about ideas disappearing, my heart forgetting even though I’d made my notes.

No worries any more. I have discovered the ideas I’ve recorded, then left behind, show up again. Expressed differently perhaps, or linked to another idea. No matter. Here they are again, ready to play.

I am always delighted to see them. We greet each other as old friends. We have things to share, experiences and wisdom that did not exist in our connection the first time we met. I trust life, that now is the right time to move these ideas into creation. Now we are old enough to begin.

Last night’s brilliant idea will show up again. I know it. Sooner or later, there it will be. If not in my creative heart, then in the heart of another. There’s always lots of ideas to go around, and lots of hearts to share them. And that gives me joy.

_____________________________________

In this post:

I tried keeping a note pad and pen by the bed, to catch the middle-of-the-night inspirations. No use. Results of writing in the pitch black are illegible. And my husband protests a lamp turned on at two in the morning.

Any Excuse To Write

1.'Laid to Rest 80,000...Spirits (east)'--Cat Fink
Laid To Rest 80,000 Obstructing Spirits (east)

It is near 3:30 pm and I am finally writing my blog post.

The word ‘finally’ tells the story. My determination to write is hiding.

There are days when I back away from writing, and this is one of them. I could blame a so-so night’s sleep and the leading edge of a cold for weakening my determination.

These are only invented excuses, looking for something to blame.  I know this because this morning, instead of writing, I spend several hours doing other things, and not once do these excuses show up to stop me.

Eventually, I exhaust the list of ‘other things’. I go eat lunch. I read. I look at the kitchen clock a few times. I feel this creeping sense of disappointment that I have not spent the past hours writing, that I have not opened the way into something I love.

I feel a need to analyze why I did not write this morning as planned, but I know that kind of exercise should be filed under excuses to not write.  That’s not where I want to be right now.

Love invites me to invent any excuse for writing. Here’s one. Create a list titled ‘any excuse to write’.

My list starts with three words–I love writing. I love playing with words. I love taking an idea or a question, turning it around and upside down and inside out, feeling what it feels like, then turning feeling into words.

I love reading. I love being inspired by other writers’ words. I love finding words in reply to the inspiration they’ve offered me. I love being inspired by writers who never stop writing because they know writing is as necessary as breathing.

I have as many excuses to write as there are words in the dictionary. I have as many excuses as there are new words being invented and thrown into language just to see what happens.

I have a million million excuses to write. My excuse for writing today is to squash that creeping disappointment that I did not write.

Yes. Works for me.

The First Time I Started Art School

'Coyote's Apples'
Coyote’s Apples

Picture me.

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.

Picture me.

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.

 

Calling On Dorothy Alice Anne

Cat Fink 'What Gives Me Joy (Anne)'.small
‘What Gives Me Joy (Anne)’

I remember.

It is late afternoon, Saturday, the end of September. I am twelve years old. Starting Grade Seven.

I’m halfway across our property, deep in the woods, being Robin Hood.

Mom is calling us for supper. “Cathy Carrie Paul!” One long name, as though my sister, brother, and I are a single child.

Half the years of my growing up, I answer to Cathy Carrie Paul. Who I really, secretly, am (besides occasionally Robin Hood) is Dorothy Alice Anne. Dorothy of the Wizard of Oz. Alice of Wonderland and the Looking Glass. Anne of Green Gables. My heroes.

Dorothy Alice Anne have adventures. Things happen, not necessarily what they want. They do not sit around and wait to be rescued. Dorothy Alice Anne get up, find allies, create friends and solutions. If the first solution does not work, they figure out a second, or third, or fourth, and get where they need to get.

In the ongoing saga of writing my first book, I am channeling Dorothy Alice Anne and their get-allies-and-get-it-done attitude.

I am not sitting around waiting to be saved. I am off my butt (again, again, and again), and doing the work (again).

I have my allies and friends, artists and writers and readers like me. We are meeting weekly. We started yesterday. Each of us has a project, a big one, big enough to be both amazing and scary. Big enough to need allies.

We have done this before. We have walked each other through getting stories written and published, and solo art exhibits proposed, created, and shown. We are doing this again, starting now.

I am playing with the fourth solution to the structure of my book, and this one feels like a keeper. My allies, both fiction and real, helped me get here to something workable.

Yay, Team!

Here is the thank you, my friends and allies in creating, for opening your hearts and minds to my creation. For opening your courage to share your creations with me.

And thank you, Lucy Maud, Lewis, and Frank, for imaging Anne, Alice, and Dorothy. For sharing your words with kids like me and my friends. For inspiring us to create our own adventures, find solutions, and save ourselves.

_________________________

In this post:

Heroes, allies, and friends are everywhere. Here is where I first found Dorothy, Alice, and Anne.

Dorothy – The Wizard of Oz, the 1939 movie by Metro Goldwin Mayer, based on L. Frank Baum’s book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz which I finally read last year.

Alice – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 1865, and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There, 1871, both books by Lewis Carroll aka Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. The editions I read were a boxed set published in 1946 by Random House.

Anne – Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. The edition I repeatedly borrowed from the library was published in 1967 by Ryerson Press.

Full Frontal Creativity

notetomyself.enteringhope
Note To Myself: Entering Hope

I’m sitting outside on our new porch swing. One foot anchored on the ground, because as I write, the swing moves.

This swing is perfectly balanced, moves gently and easily. It is a joy.

It is a joy to sit here and write. There is a breeze pushing through the maple trees and the grove of cedars that I love. The shade these trees provide is essential here in August. I can tell this day will have heat. Best to sit here now while the side of the house is shady.

I’ve had a phrase running through my mind lately. Full frontal creativity.

It makes me laugh every time I think of it.

I’ve been deciding what it means.

‘Naked creating’ is what I keep hearing when I think on it.

I don’t mean physically naked, although you could do that too. It’s warm enough right now.

I mean naked emotionally, mentally, spiritually. Not hiding from what shows up in my life. Not hiding or skipping over what shows up in my writing and drawing. Letting it all fall into the work. Being brave. Being true and honest to who I am, where I am in life, and what I create. Holding courage.

That feels like a tall order.

It is.

Full frontal creativity is about balance. My creativity is exactly like the porch swing. Everything in life affects the balance of my creating. Pushing and pulling me, gently and not so gently.

If I keep at least one foot on the ground, I temper the effect life has on me, and on my writing and drawing. I keep my balance. I keep creating through the push and pull and contrast of experiences and emotions.

Keeping one foot, or both, on the ground means letting myself be naked and present to what is happening. When I do this, my heart is open. I am connected to life. My best creating shows up when I am present, open, and connected.

This is not always easy. I have to work at it, keep reminding myself. Catch myself when I try to hide from how I feel, or try to hide from or push away what is happening. Hiding from pain or fear or grief.

I have to remind myself. Hiding doesn’t push things away or stop them from happening. When I try to hide, I end up holding onto the thing I am afraid of rather than letting it move through me and away. I hold inside me the pain, the fear, the grief.

I am trying to not feel, but emotions and experiences are are meant to be sensed and felt. When I hold these things from moving through, they turn into anger. I hurt myself. I hurt others around me. I hurt my creativity and stop up my heart. I throw myself off balance.

These past few weeks, when I realize I am in anger, it is easy to know why. I am hiding from the grief I feel over the wildfires at my northern home, the illness of both my parents, the loss of our beloved family cat. Too much pain all at once. No wonder I am trying to hide, but hiding only stops things up and increases the hurt. I know this. I feel this.

So here I am, sitting in the shade on our new porch swing. Practicing full frontal creativity. Feeling both pain and joy. Writing with a naked, open heart. Keeping one foot on the ground. Keeping my balance while life flows through me.

 

Essential To My Joy

Cat's Magic - finishJune 22nd. I’m sitting in the dining room of my new home. Windows on three sides open to the ocean of trees around us. I can see the hills and mountains across the Salish Sea, shades of blue and purple, snow on the tops of some. Clear sky and late June sun. Perfectly perfect.

I have the fan running. Noon and the air is hot already. It was officially summer this week.

Again I am writing at the camp table I mentioned in my last post. This is the last days of using camping equipment in the house. The movers are coming Saturday with the furniture, boxes and bags that were packed away in storage for the past four weeks.

Here is what I have relearned since the previous post, exactly because I was not doing it.

There are things essential to my joy.

A table and chair and quiet space with a view. Paper. Pens preferably in colours more interesting than black or navy blue. Music, soft smooth jazz, sax or piano. Coffee (iced and cream) or tea (iced please, and a lemon slice) or cold clear water in a mug.

Add to these a good book to read, a crossword puzzle book, a soft blanket for nesting and resting, and time for myself alone.

Here is my creation space. It doesn’t take much.  It’s easy to build.

This is the heart of me.

Here is a truth. Not building this space and using it daily causes me pain. I cannot ignore my need to create, my need to play in the heart of me every day. Here in this space I can breathe. I can rest. Imagine. Daydream. Write. Draw. Create. I am myself here.

I go ragged and angry when I ignore my creative self. I pay the cost, and so do those around me. I become impatient, blind, deaf. Everything is in my way, including me.

Of course everything is in my way. Of course I am blind and deaf. I’ve not opened the path to my creative heart. I am not open to life.

Drawing or writing every day, I am open. Thirty minutes given to myself. That’s all it takes. I do this, and I become patient with my life.

I do this essential thing, and I become kind to the rest of my day and the people in it (including me). The ragged anger is gone. My breath is easy in my body. I am easy in my body.

I learned this in art school, and I relearn it constantly. If I give to myself what is essential to my joy, I have space for everything else.

_________________________________

On a similar note:

One of my graduating-year professors, Lisa Baldiserra, gave our class a piece of perfect advice. Make art every day, even if it’s only for five minutes. I have both used and ignored her words. This post is about using them.  Lisa is writer and artist and Senior Curator at the Contemporary Calgary gallery in Calgary, BC. Thank you, Lisa, for sharing your wisdom and experience! http://www.gallerieswest.ca/blogs-and-buzz/contemporary-calgary-announces-lisa-baldissera-senior-curato/  http://www.contemporarycalgary.com/

I finished this post today, June 27th, the result of taking my own advice and building a creation space. I am sitting at my dining room table in a dining room chair. Yes, I have furniture again! My new studio is half full of boxes and bags. My writing desk, artwork table, and easel sit in pieces against the wall. It will come together, now that I am making space for myself again.

 

Do the Long Work

 

Cat Fink 'What Gives Me Joy Nov 24 2016 (learning to be me)'
What Gives Me Joy Nov 24 2016 (learning to be me)

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.

Sleep doesn’t divide life into halves,

or action, or silence, or honour;

life is like a stone, a single motion,

a lonesome bonfire reflected on the leaves,

an arrow, only one, slow or swift, a metal

that climbs or descends burning in your bones.”

______________________________

In this post:

Natalie Goldberg, http://nataliegoldberg.com/

Julia Cameron, http://juliacameronlive.com/

Pablo Neruda, 1904 – 1973.  The quote is from Still Another Day XVIII.  I am not sure who did the translation or from which book of his poetry I copied this.  His words continue to inspire me.  https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/pablo-neruda

 

Packing and Unpacking

3crowsletter.600ppi
3 Crows a Letter, 4 Crows a Boy

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