Pushing The Edge Of My Creativity

notetomyself.enteringhope.blog
“Note to Myself: entering hope”

Picture me standing knee deep in turquoise ocean waves.  Bare toes, all ten, digging into the sand to keep balance.  Leaning my body forward, a telescope to my eye, searching the horizon line.

I want to know what is out there, what’s beyond the range of my vision.

Writing a book has turned me into an explorer, and what I’m exploring is the edge of my creativity.  How far can I push this seeming edge?  How far can I expand my capabilities as writer and artist?

I’d always thought a project of several years’ length was beyond me.  I’d get bored and dump it.

I was wrong.  My curiosity for what is next in my book remains as bright as when I began.  Not only am I curious about the book, I am curious about my creativity.  It keeps changing, reaching and expanding.  Every time a new idea shows up, it is something beyond what I have already done.

Helen Frankenthaler, an artist whose work inspires me, talked about not wanting to do something she already knew she could do.  I feel the same way.

I don’t mean wildly leaping into complete unknown.  I mean standing on what I know, reaching toward what I don’t know, combining the two, known and unknown, and experimenting.

My book project is becoming an experiment.  As I complete the work in Lisa Cron’s Story Genius, my vision of the book is shifting.  I see something that sits between all text and all image.  Not a graphic novel, and not a standard word-only book.  I am marrying my capabilities as artist and writer, and challenging myself to go further than what I already know.

As yet, I have little idea where this expanding vision of my book and my capabilities is taking me.  My telescope shows me only the open space at the edge that is labelled “here there be dragons.”

I am curious about dragons.  I hear they can fly, and some can be ridden.  I hear they guard treasure and need to be coaxed to share.  I hear they are made of fire.  I hear they were invented by someone like me.

I want to write a dragon of a book.  A book made of fire and treasure.  A book that takes flight and I need to hang on and fly with it, the ride of my life.  Guessing I may need asbestos pants in order to stick my seat.  I’ll find some.

In the meantime, every day I learn something new about the edges of my book and my creativity.  Today it is realizing my interest in my book remains firm, and this makes me happy.  Today it is discovering my creativity is capable of handling both short and long term projects, and this makes me happy too.

Today I push out the far edge, and place my new knowledge there.  Step forward and stand on the new edge of my creativity, lean forward and balance.  Put the telescope to my eye, and see where my vision takes me next.  There is an amazing dragon of a book out there, and it’s mine.

_________________

In this post:

Story Genius by Lisa Cron, Ten Speed Press, 2016.  http://wiredforstory.com/story-genius-1/

Helen Frankenthaler, Artist, 1928 – 2011.  http://www.frankenthalerfoundation.org/artworks/paintings

 

Success, Vulnerability, And The Pocket Demon

1.'Laid to Rest 80,000...Spirits (east)'--halfsize
‘Laid To Rest 80,000 Obstructing Spirits (east)’

I’m playing with Lucy Bellwood’s book 100 Demon Dialogues.  I keep going back to cartoon number 83.  In the cartoon, Lucy says, “I think I’ve figured it out: you’re more afraid of success than you are of failure.”  Her demon, who is trying to hide in a box, says, “I’m afraid of EVERYTHING.”

I am afraid of success.  When I succeed in my art or my writing, I am not sure what to do.  What should happen next I can never figure out.

Here is one example.  When someone offers me praise, I don’t seem to hear it.  The words don’t go all the way in.  I feel happy, briefly.  I smile, say thank you, glad you enjoy it.  Then I feel uncomfortable and need to escape.

It makes me sad to realize I am unable to wholly accept a kind comment.  It makes me feel there’s something wrong with me, that I can’t celebrate something I have created when it touches and connects with someone else.

Weird thing is, this is one of the main reasons I write and draw, to create that heart-to-heart connection.

It’s easy, in my studio, to open my heart and be vulnerable as I create.  My studio is a safe place, I am alone with my work, and I trust myself to go as deep as the work requires.  If I don’t get there the first attempt, or second or third, I keep going until I reach the feeling I want.  I’ve done this long enough, I trust what shows up and trust I am able.

Put me in the situation of accepting praise face to face, and I am in fear.  Someone connects with my writing or drawing, it evokes something for them, they appreciate the experience, and they want me to know my work succeeded in touching them.

My deepest success, and yet I am afraid to open my heart to this person and feel what they are offering me.  Instead I feel naked and vulnerable because someone has seen the feelings I place in my work.  How ironic when someone really sees my work and connects heart to heart, I want to run the other way.

My deepest success and my deepest fear.  I got this wrong.  I’m not afraid of success.  I’m afraid of being seen and connecting at my truest self.

I am an artist and a writer who creates heart to heart.  I know no other way to create.  I refuse to allow any kind of fear to stop me.

Next time someone praises my work, I need to remember who I am in my studio.  Trusting, open-hearted, and reaching for connection as many times as it takes.

__________________

In this post:

Lucy Bellwood, book 100 Demon Dialogues, Toonhound Studios, 2017.    https://lucybellwood.com/

My Get-Up-And-Go Got Up And Went

'Building a Sky to Shelter Me'--Cat FinkMy Mom worked at home.  Three children, a husband on shift work, and a big house to care for.  I remember her sitting at the kitchen table in the late afternoon, resting before beginning dinner preparations.  Especially when my brother was a toddler roaring around the house, she looked worn through, and her day was still hours away from being finished.

She’d look at me and say, “My get-up-and-go got up and went.”

That’s exactly how I feel when I wake this morning.  I had an excellent sleep, yet I feel worn out.  I lie here, wondering what this is.

I don’t want to get up.  I don’t want to start the day, even though my days are my own.  I don’t feel like writing or drawing, unusual for me.

Wrapped and warm in my blankets, I let my mind wander, and then I understand.

I am emotionally exhausted.

I’ve been riding a roller coaster of grief and love, and it has worn me out.  Worn me to the point of affecting my creativity.

My current creative projects are long ones, writing a book (years), and filling a sketchbook with drawings (months).  Normally I love long projects.  I enjoy the feelings of where I have been and where I am going, seeing how an idea expands, shifts, and finally fulfills itself and me.

Today, long is more than I can handle.

An idea pops in.  How about shotgun creativity?  Get the idea, aim, fire, done.  Except, generally, firing a shotgun requires dealing with the resulting mess.  Clean up is necessary.  I live in a rural area.  I know this.

How about creativity that is like laughter?  Sudden.  Surprising.  A joyful explosion of fun and play.  Nothing afterwards but feeling good.

Yes, this is my kind of creativity.  Unexpected creativity that is joy.

I get out of bed and start my day.  Eventually I am here at my studio table with my Mickey Mouse pencils and stack of loose leaf paper, writing.

Interesting that my get-up-and-go is back, and I know why.

I started exactly where I was, recognized and allowed my feelings to be what they were.  I let my thoughts and imagination, and then my words, run where they would, no limits, no expectations.  Whatever showed up was fine with me.  With all this space to play, ideas showed up—shotgun creativity, and creativity like laughter.

I gave myself permission to be.

Writing The Wrong Stuff

archangel (raphael).small
Archangel (Raphael)

Yesterday afternoon was warm and sunny, and I did not resist.  I took myself, my writing, and an iced decaf latte, outside to the porch swing.  I spent most of the afternoon writing backstory for my book, working out why my main character wants what she wants, and laying out her defining misbelief that constantly throws her off track.

Halfway through the writing, I sensed something was off track and it wasn’t the character I was writing about.  It was me.  Somehow I lost the main point and sent myself chasing words down a side track.

I completed the piece anyways, and ended it with “Rats, rats, rats, this is wrong!”

It is not lost on me that I went off track writing about my character’s misbelief that sends her off track.

Today I will go back.

Again, I will write about my character wanting what she wants, and her tricky misbelief.  This time I will deliberately aim the writing in a different direction, and see where I end up.  But first, I’m going to reread what I wrote yesterday.  There may be a gem of an idea I overlooked, one that really does have a place in the story.  Even if I see no gem, I will keep the draft of what I think is wrong stuff.

I keep my drafts because of what I learned and use all the time as an artist.  Sometimes mistakes point me in a direction I had not considered, and sometimes it takes me a while to see it.

I keep my drafts, even the ones that seem wrong, because they tell me where I have been in the story, and they remind me of what wasn’t working and what I didn’t want.  Been there, don’t have to go there again.

I keep my drafts because of my Dad.  He told me once, when I was fourteen and suffering through a high school course I felt was useless, that everything I learn I will use at some point in my life.  I listened, and the words stuck.

So here I am, choosing to find a use for my wrong-stuff-writing, instead of judging it a wasted writing session and tossing the pages.  Even if I discover no gem in the words, it prompted my blog post for today, and that is gem enough.

_______________________

In this post:

I am using the book Story Genius by Lisa Cron, Ten Speed Press, 2016, to guide me through my main character’s backstory.  This book is definitely a gem.   http://wiredforstory.com

Tea With A Friend

iced tea at Disneyland.blogA good friend came by today, a fellow artist who I see weekly in the Fall and Winter when I am living in my northern home.  She’s on vacation at the moment, so we took our time.  We talked, caught ourselves up on each other’s families and lives.  We drank tea with lemon.

She told me of a painting she’s creating of the clouds of Jupiter, and a show coming up next month.  I read her some of the back story I am writing for my book draft.  Too quickly (isn’t it always) our visit was done.  We hugged and said goodbye, and she left for the ferry.

My friends who paint and write are blessings in my life.  More than a blessing, they are supports in my life.  We trade inspiration and plans, questions and comments, successes and struggles.  Our friendships are a safe space to play with our creative ideas, the ones only yet a glimmer or half-grown, as well as the ones ready for the world.

There is power in our relationships.  I know I am a better artist and writer because of these women.  I trust them to see what I have missed or hidden from myself, and ask me the questions that need asking.  My images and words are clearer and more focussed because of these friendships.  I am more courageous in what I create because I know they have my back and I have theirs.

Our visit today reminds me how essential and treasured time with friends is for me.  Everything we talk of, families and art and writing, strengthens us, makes us laugh, soothes us.  We help make each other whole.

Our visit today reminds me it is coming time to meet some new artist-writer friends here in my new home.  Yes, find more kindred spirits, as Anne of Green Gables would say.

Thank you, Lynn and Kate.  Thank you, Wren and Yvonka and Fran.  You help me be the artist and writer I am.

My New Year’s Un-Resolution

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

There is a scene in ‘Aladdin’, one of my favourite Disney movies, that frequently rises in my mind.

Genie, in the shape of a large bee, is buzzing in Aladdin’s ear, “Be-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e yourself!”  Aladdin is preparing to definitely not be himself as he talks with Princess Jasmine.  In his mind, being himself is not good enough.

I understand this.

Much of my life I have been sure I am not good enough.  I no longer believe this.  Thus, my New Year’s Un-Resolution.

Be Myself.

That’s it.  Two words.

This is not the usual New Year’s resolution.  I am not looking to improve myself.  What I am doing is uncovering my authentic self.

Be Myself.  All day long I ask, is this my choice or someone else’s?  Is this my belief, expectation, value, judgment, idea, or someone else’s?  What is true for me?

I use words to ask myself the question.  I look for the answer in how I feel.

My heart tells me yes, this is me, this is mine.  This feels right and true to me.  Or no, not mine.  This feels wrong and false to me.

I learn from everything and everyone around me.

Sometimes in the learning, I take on things that are not true for me.

Sometimes, it takes time for me to understand that a belief, expectation, value, judgment, or idea does not fit me.  That is okay.  Trying things out and experiencing what happens may be what I need.  Sometimes I must know what I don’t want in order to know what I do want.

So here I am, eleven days into 2018, paying attention to who I really am and discovering what feels true to me.  So far, mostly what I have discovered is that I have un-learning and un-choosing to do.

The ‘un’ in front of ‘resolution’ was a clue.  Yeah, missed that.

No worries.  Being Myself is a work in progress.  I have all year long.

____________________________

In this post:

Animated movie Aladdin, 1992, Disney.    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aladdin_(1992_Disney_film)

 

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/

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.