The Learning By Doing Writing School

joydiary05.page4and5.2018I am a person who learns best by doing. I can be told something, but I don’t fully understand until I get my hands right into it.

I am in the long process of learning to be a writer.  These days I alternate between writing, rewriting, and reading.

Reading other people’s words inspires me, whether it’s a how-to post or article, a nonfiction book, or a novel. Something in their work connects with and triggers the writer in me.

It seems I can no longer be only a reader when I read. There’s the writer-me in the background constantly taking notes. I have to read with a pencil and sketchbook close at hand to catch the flashes of insight into my project.

I know this happens to other writers. I thought it would interfere with my enjoyment of reading a novel by a favourite writer, would prevent me from relaxing into the story.

Surprise. It adds to my pleasure. As always, I move deep into the story I’m reading, but now I also move into the background process of the words and how they are building the flow of the story. I am not only learning by writing, I am learning by reading. Every book is a teacher for me.

In art school, I learned that the artwork I didn’t like taught me as much as the artwork I enjoyed. Both what I loved and didn’t love showed me who I was as an artist.

It’s exactly the same now, as I learn to be a writer. What I love and don’t love in other people’s words and stories helps me define what I wish to write and how I wish to write it.

I have as many teachers as there are books on shelves. How amazing to be a do-it-yourself student in the biggest learning-by-doing university in the world.

Thank you, all of you who write and share your words, and teach me by doing so.

Pleasures Of The Day

Coyote Calls to the Protectors-detailIt’s the Summer Solstice.  My husband calls this the lightest day.  (The Winter Solstice is, of course, the darkest day.)

We have sun and the bluest sky.  There’s a breeze running through the house, in and out the open windows, playing tag with itself.  It’s carrying the scents of cedars and maples, warm from the sun.  There is the dusty, sweet smell of arbutus leaves, and the perfect scent of wild roses blooming next to the studio window.

The house is quiet at the moment, only George Winston’s Forest album playing on my Ipod.

I am at my studio work table, writing.  Iced coffee at my side, in a decades-old McDonald’s “Good Morning” mug.  Another mug next to it, half full of cold water from our well.

This is Heaven.

My days are made of Heaven moments, when I remember to become present to my life and notice what is here.

These moments remind me of my Dad.  We began going for walks together when I was three and he was thirty-three.

Our walks were slow, not only because of my toddler legs.  We were slow because we were busy noticing beauty, pleasure, and joy, noticing the day we had around us.

Stop and notice the perfect, round, grey stone at our feet.  Notice the feel of the wind pushing against our bodies, and the sound it makes as it moves through the branches of the fir trees.  See the clouds scraping the tops of the hills, leaving tatters of white behind.  Notice the hot, earth smell of the dust clouds raised as we step, and the sound of crows we cannot see, squabbling over something they both desire.

This is beauty, pleasure, joy, receiving the gifts the day offers me.

Yesterday I didn’t do so well at noticing.  Now I am making up for it, deliberately moving slowly, feeling one by one the pleasures of today.

When I allow it to be, this is Heaven.

_______________________

In this post,

George Winston, music Forest.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Winston

Writing Like Breathing

rainbow.flowers 017There are times when I write, and it feels like breathing.  This is one of them.

Like breath.  Essential, easy, effortless.  A flow that is so simple and natural I have no conscious awareness of activity and my involvement in it.  No awareness of time or place passing.

In these moments, I am.  It is that simple.  Two words, I am.  I feel no boundary between me and all around me.  I am.  We are.

This is pure pleasure, when writing is like breathing.  Writing for the pleasure of hearing thoughts pass through, for the pleasure of feeling my hand roll and loop and form words on a page.  Writing because here in this moment all is perfect.

When writing is like breathing, all is whole.  Nowhere is anything broken or chipped away.  I feel settled, at peace in mind and body, content in heart and spirit.

When writing is like breathing, I am blessed.  Writing this way, when it happens, is pure gift.  I am my truest self.  A feeling through every cell in my body, I am.  I am love, I am joy, I am breath.

When writing is like breathing, I am my river voice, flow and music.  I am life writing life.

I am.

The Question Is The Answer

blogpost.mar1.2018

“She would not struggle to answer the questions but would let them do their work.

Truth walks toward us on the paths of our questions.”

Yesterday I began reading a book recommended by a friend who is artist and writer.  Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear, is the first novel of a detective series.  The quote is from the closing lines of Chapter Four.

There are no coincidences in life.  Each morning for the past three weeks I ask myself, “What gives me joy?”, and then let the question do its work.  I sit down at my studio work table.  I open my sketchbook to a blank page, and choose a pencil from the collection in the cup beside me.  I let my heart and mind become still.  And then I wait.

The reply is never long in coming.  Yesterday, joy is the piece of lapis lazuli that sits among other beloved stones on the table before me.  Today, joy is the bits of rainbow scattered around the studio walls, a gift of sunlight through the large raindrop-shaped crystal hanging in the window.

Joy is noticing joy, and learning over again how moments of joy are always scattered through my days like this morning’s rainbows, if only I stop and let myself notice.

Let myself see beauty.  Let myself feel joy.

There is a choice here of stopping, noticing, and allowing this to be in my life.  Noticing joy and beauty are vital to my writing and drawing.  I would be neither writer nor artist if I did not choose this every day.

Passion is my guide to creation.  Joy and beauty inspire me to see and feel, and then to ask, “What can I create from this?  How can I mirror this feeling in word and image?”

The questions are the answer.  They push me to seek, to feel my way into creating.  As I create, does this feel like joy?  Does this feel like beauty to me?  The answer is not in words.  The answer is in my feelings.

“Truth walks toward us on the paths of our questions.”

The truth of what I ask and feel shows up in what I create.  The questions are simple.

What gives me joy?

What do I love?

What is beautiful to my eyes?

What is inspiring me today?

The writing or drawing, while I follow the path of my question, may not be simple but it is always my truth.

What gives me joy today?  The rainbows on my studio walls.  What is inspiring me today?  Jacqueline Winspear’s words that sparked this understanding and this post in reply.

Thank you, Jacqueline.  And thanks, Kate, for the recommendation.

_______________________

In this post:

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear, Penguin Books, 2004.  A detective novel with heart.  The quote is from page 32.  http://jacquelinewinspear.com/

In the photo, above, is yesterday’s drawing for The Sketchbook Project 2018, Brooklyn Art Library.  https://www.sketchbookproject.com/libraries

Threads of Joy (Upsy-Daisy Part Two)

letmemendheart
Let Me Mend Your Broken Heart

I learned to sew in High School, Grade Eight.

The first thing I learned was the basting stitch, an easy up and down of needle and thread through two layers of sky blue gingham cloth that would eventually become an apron.

The basting stitch was simple.  All it required was attention to keeping the stitches balanced in length so the layers of cloth held firmly to each other.  The thread I used was a vivid red, deliberate contrast to the colour of the gingham.  It was easy to see what had already been stitched, and what now needed my needle, thread, and attentive eyes.

I am thinking of my Dad, and how he taught me to find threads of joy and use them to stitch my days together.

It was my heart and all my senses he taught me to use, rather than needle and thread.

Every day, as I grew up, I stitched firm the colours of morning clouds and wild sunsets.

Every summer I stitched the feel of my bare feet on wet sand as the tide went out.  I stitched the smell of thick earth under the trees when August afternoons were hottest and I found the deepest shade.

I stitched into my life the smooth, cold taste of chocolate ice cream for dessert after supper.  Two round scoops each for me and my sister, one scoop for our brother who was much younger than us and still sat in the high chair next to Mom.

Every night I stitched the quiet sounds of my Mom and Dad talking in the kitchen after we three were in bed, stories read, blankets and teddy bears tucked around us, kisses on our cheeks.

Here in my life now, I stitch each day together against the grey grief that threatens to pull me apart.  I stitch, with careful attention, the threads of joy my Dad taught me to find and choose.  Vivid colours, lengths of joy and love sewn to balance sadness, to hold me firm.

Prayer For The New Year

Cat Fink 'What Gives Me Joy Nov 16 2016 (celebration)'

Wide and still I hold my heart.

Let spirit write her path in me.

Let love breathe her breath in me.

Let need call forth to serve in me.

Let grace be every step for me.

Let joy become the song in me.

Let connection open space for me.

Let creation be all play in me.

Let action be the choice for me.

Still and wide

I hold my heart.

Let all life find its home in 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.

 

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