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.

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

 

Clearing Out, Letting Go, Creating New

3.'Laid to Rest 80,000 Obstructing Spirits (south)'--Cat Fink
‘Laid to Rest 80,000 Obstructing Spirits (south)’

I’m back.

I have a home of thirty years cleared out and sold, all in the space of the last four weeks.

Whew and wow.

I’ve been thinking about doing this for a few years.  And suddenly it is now.  Let’s quit talking and do it.  And we have.  Done.

I feel lighter.  Excited and exhausted both.  There is a new horizon out there.  Can’t quite see it yet, but I can feel it.  It feels like home.

After thirteen years of seasonal moving between two places that didn’t truly feel like home, I am approaching something that does.  How strange that I don’t know what it looks like or exactly where it is, yet the feeling is clear and certain.  I feel my feet on the ground.  I feel the path in front of me.

Some small part of me is trying to not trust this, saying ‘scary’.  The biggest part of me is saying ‘This feels right, feels good.  I trust this.’

Trust.  A blessing gained from growing into my creative self, trusting the artist-me who knows who she is and what she wants.  I am now all artist-me.  Not only creating image and word.  Creating my life.

I remember doing Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way tasks of clearing out and making room.  I’m not sure she meant a whole house, but then again, she might have.  I’m laughing, thinking how I’ve taken task number eight in week six to the extreme.

The task says, “Clearing: Any new changes in your home environment?  Make some.”

Make some changes?  Have I ever!

______________________________

In this post:

Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way, 2002 Edition, Tarcher/Putnam.  http://juliacameronlive.com/  The clearing tasks are on pages 90 and 114.  Julia connects clearing out to creativity on pages 83, 197, and 198.  “You’re either losing your mind—or gaining your soul.  Life is meant to be an artist date.  That’s why we were created.’’  Page 198.

I’d say the quote from my last post applies even more so.

“My barn having burned down

I can now see the moon.”

Poet-samurai Mizuta Masahide

 

What The Dream Said

 

birdsonwithbluefeathers.detail
‘Bird Son With Blue Feathers’-detail

I am asleep.

I’m dreaming.

I’m sitting in a rowboat.  The boat is all wood.  We, the boat and I, are floating on a deep pond.  A fir and cedar forest rises beyond.  The water is rimmed by a grey rock beach.  The boat and I are still.

I watch a small, black and white cat step from the forest, across the beach, and into the water.

The cat swims, and then dives deep.  ‘I didn’t know cats could do that,’ I say.

I can see her, as though I am under water too.  The cat catches a large fish in her mouth, swims back to the surface, and returns to the beach.

She eats the fish.  She looks very satisfied with herself.

I wake.

I write my morning pages after breakfast.  Purple ink today.  It is snowing again.  The thermometer says -10 degrees Celsius.  The forecast says expect the same through this coming weekend.  Hmmm.  My eyes are beginning to get hungry for green.

I write out my dream.  I hear my voice again.  ‘I didn’t know cats could do that.’  I again feel my astonishment at something unexpected and new.  Since when do cats not only swim, but swim underwater?

Tigers swim, I write in my pages.  So do jaguars.  Why not small, black and white cats?

Why not me?  I am Cat.  I love swimming, and my dad taught me to dive.  I know how to dive cleanly and well.

If I dive deep, I will catch the words.  I will catch my book.

I sit very still.  My pen has stopped moving.  Exactly what Natalie says not to do.

The dream is talking to me.  I start writing again, to catch the words.

This second draft I am creating—I need to dive deep.  The dream says I’ve only been paddling along the surface, even staying safely on the beach in some parts of the story.

If I want my book to be fully realized, and I do, I can’t stay on the surface.  The book isn’t here.  The words and feelings I want are down below.

The pond is deep and clear and full of flashing, silver words.  I love words.  There is nothing to fear.  I know how to swim and dive and imagine and write.  I am good at all these things.

The dream says, take a breath, and dive.

The dream says, cats can do this.

___________________________

Natalie Goldberg’s first rule of writing practice is ‘Keep your hand moving.’  She also says ‘Shut up and write’.  I’ve invented a new writing rule for myself, ‘Shut up and dive.’  All of Natalie’s books are my favourites.  You likely already know Writing Down The Bones.  So go read The True Secret of Writing: Connecting Life With Language, Atria Books, 2013.  Really, the true secret of writing is in there.  Natalie spills the beans.  Thank you, Natalie, for showing me a way of being a writer, and spilling the beans.  http://nataliegoldberg.com/

 

 

Public and Private Creativity

mug-blogsize

Last weekend I finished reading Kim Werker’s book ‘Make It Mighty Ugly’.

I love this book.  I love you, Kim, for writing this book.

There are a load of reasons why I love Kim’s book.  For me, the main reason–she is clearly a kindred spirit when it comes to creativity.

On page 116 she describes an aspect of her creative process.  This is the first time, since I began reading creativity books, someone has described a pattern that is dominant in my creative process.

As a writer and artist, I cycle between two creative states.  I work full on, taking everything in, being connected, being public with what I am doing thinking making—art shows, blog, social media, leading workshops.  Then I go dark.  I retreat to my studio, shut the door, and continue making but in private.  I do not want to see, talk, or interact with anyone.  Leave me alone.  In this creative state, I bite.

I have always created in this way, always shifted from one state to the other.

I used to think because I wasn’t entirely one state or the other, there was something wrong with me.  I thought I was being wishy-washy and inconsistent, possibly unreliable.  Isn’t that one of the myths, artists are unreliable?

It took me years to understand this is my creative process.

My creativity has and needs both my public and private states of making.  These states are not opposites.  They are partners.  Each feeds, supports, and inspires the other.

Maybe this is obvious to you, but for some reason I couldn’t see it.  I had to learn by doing, understand through experiencing, that this pattern of creating is my normal.  I learned there is not something wrong with me.  This is the way I operate.

The other thing I learned from accepting my pattern of creating is there is no single creative process.  There are as many processes as there are people.  Each of us has a unique way of making what we make.  The creative process is as wildly creative as creativity itself.

_____________________

In this post:

Kim Werker, book, ‘Make It Might Ugly:  Exercises and Advice for Getting Creative Even When It Ain’t Pretty’, Sasquatch Books, 2014.  http://www.kimwerker.com/  Thank you, Kim, for sharing your book and your creativity.

 

Embracing My Inner Teenager (Tantrum Part 2)

cat-fink-what-gives-me-joy-nov-17-2016-maps
What Gives Me Joy Nov 17 2016 (maps)

The wabi sabi human is here, and she is bored.

I’ve shifted from my inner two-year-old’s tantrum (last week), to my inner teenager’s boredom.

I am bored.  I know these words and this feeling.  I used to be here a lot when I was a teenager and figuring out my life.

I’ve not felt bored for a very long time.  I’ve been busy creating word and image and mostly happy about it.  I’ve had perfect successes and perfect failures.  I’ve learned and grown as a creator.

And then, Bang!  I’m in a week-long tantrum.  And then, Pop!  My two-year-old morphs into a teenager who keeps saying ‘I am bored.’

Boredom is interesting.  That sounds like an oxymoron (love that word), but it isn’t.  I am curious about this feeling of boredom.

What I am thinking:

  1. Boredom and my previous tantrum are really the same thing.
  2. What am I bored with?  And why?
  3. This boredom is an aspect of my creative process and a piece of my creativity.
  4. My morning pages show me I am tired of pushing myself.

I have four puzzle pieces to play with, and here is the picture they are making.  I’ve realized the pushing is towards intentions that are not completely aligned with what I love and how I create.  It’s taking me out of alignment with my heart (where my best work comes from) and my process (how my best work grows and completes itself).

This is Big.  If I had not gone into tantrum and boredom, I wouldn’t have slowed down enough to see this.

Continue reading “Embracing My Inner Teenager (Tantrum Part 2)”

Messy Creative Process

cat-fink-what-gives-me-joy-nov-4-2016-music
What Gives Me Joy Nov 4 2016 (music)

I’m on a break today after three days of drawing.  Sort of a break, because while I am doing laundry and other such household chores,  I am thinking about my creative process.

I had this idea, when I was an art student, that eventually creating art would be easy.  Once I was a well-experience master artist, there would be none of those messy emotional stages of anxiety, fear, and outright panic during my drawing process.

Yes, you who are are constant creators, go ahead and laugh.  I’m laughing right along with you.

That naive art-student-me had lots of hope.  Hope carried me through the hard scary emotions of creating.  I refused to let myself be blocked because I knew making art would get easier the more art I made.  Also, I am stubborn.

I was right, sort of.  Art making did get easier, the more art I made.  Even though the anxiety-fear-panic has not disappeared, as a stage in my creative process these emotions have become smaller, shorter, less intense.  I have become used to them.  I can keep creating right through them because I know they don’t last.

Anxiety-fear-panic have become signposts for me.  They are indicators of how important this drawing or piece of writing is to me, and how important being an actively-working artist and writer are is me.  They tell me how non-negotiable it is for me to create from my authentic heart.  No shortcuts.  No faking it.  What shows up in my creation has to be the real thing and nothing less.  Something I am proud of creating and sharing.  Something that speaks to my heart, and connects with the hearts of others.

To reach that kind of authentic creating, I am willing to move through the messy, hard stages of my creative process.  I will be moving through messy and hard again tomorrow, and coming out the other side with a new drawing.  I would not want to be doing anything else.  I was made for this.

_________________________

The Joy Diary interactive art show is happening at the Station House Gallery, #1 Mackenzie Avenue North, Williams Lake, BC.  The show runs to November 26th.  Gallery hours are Monday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm.  I am drawing in the gallery studio through to November 24th.  Come and join me!   https://www.facebook.com/stationhousegallery/

 

Second Draft, First Draft

Blackbird Dance (desire)'detail
Blackbird Dance (desire) – detail

I am thinking about the second draft of my book.  The one I put aside last September.

I am coming back to it.  I’ve made a pact with my friend who is also writing.  She’s close to the end of her first draft.  We both need someone to write with, partner, give us each that extra push to reach the finishing line by the end of the summer.  Tell us in a sure voice, yes, you are doing it, almost there.

Chocolate and iced mochas, cafes and beaches will help as well.  Bribery works.

I wonder, as I look at my half-done second draft, why I wrote the first draft.  What sent me to the page?  Who was I writing for when I sat all those days at my studio work table, moving words and pen across the paper?

I can give the usual answers.  I was writing for me.  Writing to understand what I experienced.  Writing to make sense of the path I walked.

These are all true.  Not specific enough, for me, right now.

What was it that sent me to the page with enough words to fill a whole book?

Here I have to pause.  Feel back to where I was when I began the writing.  Not think.  Feel.

Like all I create, it was the push of an idea.  You might say ideas are thoughts, and thoughts are not physical.  This may be true for you.  Not for me.

My ideas and thoughts carry weight.  I feel them in my body.  No two feel exactly the same.  This idea to put words to my experience was heavy and insistent.  It sat in my belly, all of my belly.  It was very sure of itself and its importance.  It would not leave.  The only choice was to birth it.  Sit at my work table and write.  Day and day and day.  Let the idea flow as words from belly through heart to hand to ink and paper.

The insistence and sureness and sheer weight of idea into words is what carried me through to the end of the first draft.  This, and joy.  Joy runs as a thread through all my creating.

These things sent me to the page.

I tell you what I know for sure.  Without that weight in my body where the idea sat, the writing would not have happened.  That weight was the connection between the idea and me.  That weight told me the idea was real, here and whole already, even though I had yet to write a word.

Now that the first draft is done, and the second draft half-done, paused and returned to, is the idea and its weight still here in my body?

It is.  I feel it now, sure and insistent and whole, waiting for me.  I am not going anywhere, it tells me, until we are done.

This feeling is a gift of knowing.  It has carried me, and continues to carry me, as I write.  This knowing is all I need to know.  This book will be.

Insistent.  Sure.  Whole.  And the thread of joy.