What Happened In November

 

cat-fink-what-gives-me-joy-nov-9-2016-books
What Gives Me Joy Nov 9 2016 (books)

It is November thirtieth.

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.

________________________

In this post:

Nanowrimo  https://nanowrimo.org/

Catching The Words As They Fly By

practice.crop.lullabyblog
Practice (detail)

I woke this morning with an image from the first Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, in my mind.

It is near the end of the adventure and of course the stakes are deadly.  Harry is on a broom, roaring around high amidst a storm of flying keys.  Yes, these keys have wings.  He is trying to catch the exact right key to open a door.  Harry, Hermione, and Ron have to get through that door.

This is perfectly me right now.  I have less than 8,000 words left to capture for my Nanowrimo draft.  There are loads of words and ideas whirling around me at the moment, but I need to touch the exact right ones to continue my writing.

True I do not need the exact words.  Close to exact will do.  Helpful words.  Words that will point me in the right direction when I come to rewriting.

There is the saying you catch more bees with honey than with vinegar.  My plan is to catch my words with honey.  Attract them in.  Offer them a perfect place in which to land and nest, a place where they are happy, a place that is home.

Picture this.

I am in my studio at my work table.  Laptop on and warm and waiting.

Beside me, coffee with milk in one of my favourite mugs.  This one shaped as an over-sized teacup, purple with a pattern that might have been thought up by Dr. Seuss.  Next to the coffee, cold water in a Shrek the Third glass.

I have my Christmas playlist running.  Diana Krall is dreaming of a white Christmas.  I love the holidays, and I start up my Christmas music in the latter half of November. This music always puts me in a loving mood.  It opens my heart.

Words love open hearts.

Scattered around me on the table top are things that inspire me, make me laugh, hold memories that feel of home and play.

Here is the Pro Yo-Yo my son gave me for Mother’s Day.  A mini Etch A Sketch my sister found for me.  A mini Spirograph set from my husband.

Gumby and Pokey, Kermit the Frog, Asterix with his winged Viking helmet, two Minions (Stuart and Kevin), Tigger, Totoro, and Hermione.  They are my cheering squad, and they are very good at it.

Words love playing.  Words love nestling into the homes we offer them.

This is my honey.  Love.  An open heart.  Play.  Home.

It works every time.

The words are landing.  The next right idea and theme and word thread for my Nanowrimo draft flies in.

I am off to play.

_________________________________

In this post:

Nanowrimo  https://nanowrimo.org/

Truth And Dare And The Parallel Draft

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

I have a new name for my November Nanowrimo challenge.  I call it truth and dare.

It is not truth or dare.  That is the game I played with my friends at school and on weekends.  Seeing just how many secrets we could get out of each other when we were brave enough to choose truth, and how silly we could make each other look when we chose dare.

I recall that childhood game vividly.

There was freedom and fear and permission in letting go of a truth that was scalding my hands as I held it close and hidden.  And there was the same feeling in completing a dare that held potential for danger, embarrassment, and crossing an invisible line of rules I lived by.

The truth and dare of Nanowrimo gives me this same permission to let go.

Let go of all rules and limits I have placed on my creativity.

Let go of all rules and limits I have placed on the routine of my daily life.

Let my imagination and my words wander where they will, digging up old secrets and discovering new and embarrassing thoughts.

Let creativity happily disrupt my days.

I am writing something I have come to call my parallel draft.  I already have a second draft of my book.  That’s what I was working on prior to November one.  And I would be working on it now, except that the siren call of Nanowrimo got into my ears and my imagination and my heart and refused to leave.

The first day of November I find myself resurrecting my Nanowrimo account and signing up.

Yes, the gloriousness of being foolish, taking on truth and dare for a whole month.

The gloriousness and wisdom of writing a parallel draft of my book.  I did not know it was wisdom at first.  I thoroughly suspected that foolishness was primary in this decision.  Also, a need to run away from editing my second draft which had me feeling shaky and unsure.

It turns out the parallel draft holds everything that does not fit in my book.  I am following all the related threads of story that are not the thread of the second draft.

My Nanowrimo truth and dare draft is the story around the story.  By writing beyond the edges of my second draft, I dig deeper.  I see the story from other points of view, from other characters and environments and situations.

What is showing up here is the backstory and side story and future story.  All are informing the second draft.  Enriching it.  Placing it in a larger context.

When I go back to the second draft on December first, I know what lies beyond the frame of the story being written.

Except for the truth and dare of Nanowrimo, I would not have committed to a month of writing what lies beyond the primary story of the second draft.  I should say, I would not have wasted a month.  That was my attitude before the parallel story that showed up in the past fifteen days.

I have to remember this process of a parallel draft.  Something useful to add to my writer’s tool kit, when I need to see the story beyond the story.  When I need a wider vision.

My Writing Super Powers

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

I joined lovely, crazy, inspiring Nanowrimo last week. (See the end of this post if you don’t know what that is.)

On day two I discovered I have super powers. Two of them. Talk about excellent timing, when two super powers show up on the second day of a write-a-50,000-words-novel-in-thirty-days challenge.

These are not your usual super hero powers, like flying or invisibility or endless strength. No. My two super powers are common to regular human beings like me.

My first super power? ‘Don’t tell me I can’t do this.’

I’ve had this awesome super power since I was one year old. I know that ‘don’t tell me I can’t do this’ is a disguise for focus, clarity, and strong determination.

Most people I know have this super power. The thing is, they do not recognize it for what it is. They call it by other names, mostly not polite and mostly negative. Stubborn. Not listening. Argumentative. Bitchy. Throwing a tantrum. Crazy. Acting like a child.

I’ve heard those not-nice names thrown at my super power. Here is something else I know. I see a path to a goal. You are not seeing the same path. Your path is different than mine. That’s all. So do not tell me this thing, whatever it may be, is not possible. I know where I am going.

Then there is my second excellent super power—‘failure is not an option.’

Once my first super power has kicked in, my second moves into action.

Like the first, my second super power has other names. Success-oriented. Finding a way through. Using all possibilities. Never a quitter.

Of course, some people may look at me and say blind fool, stupid, willfully ignorant, wasting her time, can’t see the obvious, ignoring the sure outcome.

Again, they are not seeing what I see. That is okay. If we all saw the exact same thing and the exact same path, there would not be this rich world of possibilities around us.

Words have power. How I choose to name something is important. Names point me in a particular direction and a specific way of thinking about that something. And that points me to a specific way of using that something.

Now I am curious. What other super powers within me do I not recognize? What other powers am I calling by the wrong name, and wasting their possibilities?

________________________

In this post:

Nanowrimo is National Novel Writing Month.  Find the details at https://nanowrimo.org/  This year is my fifth time at Nanowrimo. The first time, my super powers did not kick in. I quit halfway through the second week at barely 7,000 words, feeling horribly overwhelmed. Every time since then, my powers have kicked in and I’ve completed my 50,000 words by the end of November. Yay me!

 

Ranting About Should’s

Angels In A Small Crowd detail top
‘Angels In A Small Crowd’ detail

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.

 

 

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.