There 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 led a writing workshop last Saturday. In the conversations and the writing, two life experiences showed up common to everyone.
Early in our lives, we discovered we loved creating with words, images, music, or movement. Then later, someone told us with great certainty that we would never be a writer, an artist, a musician, a dancer, an actor, a you-name-it creative person. Invariably, the someone making this pronouncement was in a position of authority or trust. We were told by parents, teachers, and peers.
When this happened to me, the someone was a university art professor.
I heard “You will never be an artist.” and I stopped drawing for seventeen years. Mine was not the longest gap. One person in Saturday’s writing workshop was coming back to her love of creating after fifty years. I have met people who never recovered from the experience.
This happens not only to those in the arts. This happens to all of us. We love doing something. We have a dream. And then someone says to us, “You will never be. This will never be.”
Why does someone tell another person, “You will never be. This will never be.”?
What makes someone so sure they know another person’s future?
I don’t know the answers to the questions I ask. What I do know is that the way through hearing “you will never be” is love.
I left the visual arts degree program after hearing “you will never be.” I still grieve the loss. I wonder what I would be doing now, what kind of life I would have if I had stayed. And at the same time, I know the life I did have prepared me to return to the art I loved and claim the title of Artist as mine.
During the years of not drawing, I kept my love of making things with my hands. I found other ways to create. I crocheted and embroidered and sewed. I learned to weave, loved it, acquired a floor loom, and took over the extra bedroom in the house as my loom room. I learned to spin and dye yarn. My family and friends were the recipients of all this making.
I began calling myself a fibre artist, and loved how I felt when I used those words. They felt like me.
Then I discovered a new love, weaving tapestry.
I saw complex images in my mind, the tapestries I wanted to weave. But I discovered I was not able to recreate the images on paper, in preparation for planning the woven piece.
The Universe stepped in to support my love of making, and offered me two things. My sister introduced me to the book The Artist’s Way, and I discovered there was an art school ten blocks from my home. I said yes to both.
Love brought me full circle, back to drawing.
My love of creating with my hands would not let me go, and I listened to that love. It helped me find ways of making that carried me through and healed me of you-will-never-be.
If someone says to you, “You will never be”, let yourself feel the hurt. Then find a way to walk back into what you know you love, and walk through. Love is your power. I believe in you.
In this post:
Book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, 25th Anniversary Edition published by Penguin, 2016. Originally published by Tarcher Putnam in 1992, and republished by Tarcher Putnam in 2002. Julia’s website is at http://juliacameronlive.com/
Today the sun is out. Fresh air and a change of view feel terribly appealing. I have a book on hold at the public library. I’ll go pick it up.
I walk into the library and head for the circulation desk. As I walk, I hear in my mind the words ‘creation space’.
Oho. I get it. There is library magic arising. Picking up the book on hold was only an excuse to get me here. The real reason I am here—to write a blog post about libraries and creation space. I borrow my book, join the librarian in praising the sunny day, then look for one of my favourite reading-writing-imagining spots.
And now here I am, writing. I have a round table all to myself. Books, Ipod, my canvas pencil case with the words ‘I like big books’ stencilled on it, pencils, and paper are scattered around me. Total happiness.
I love libraries. Libraries are home to me. My favourite place in school and university was always the library. The public library saw me, my sister, and my brother every Saturday, trading our piles of borrowed books for new piles of borrowed books. Even through summer holidays, I never missed my weekly exchange of old words for new.
I love reading and writing and daydreaming in the library, but a library is more than a physical creation space. A library gives me heart and mind space. For me, a library is an entire universe of thought and imagination. Every book on the shelves is a star, a planet, a solar system all its own where I can live if I choose. I and my imagination have joyous permission and example from every writer whose books live on these shelves. Their ideas and words whisper to me, “Come and play.”
I never say no to this invitation. I know magic arises every time I say yes.
Sometimes I need a creation space wider than my studio and my single imagination. Sometimes I need to connect with other imaginations. A library is a space of all possibility. Wandering along the shelves in the public library, I introduce myself to new-to-me writers and new-to-me ideas. We connect, and my world expands. What I thought was possible becomes infinite.
Yes, libraries, I love you. Thank you for your gifts of infinite creation space and magic.
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.
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.
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.
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.