I’ve posted several times about doing the second draft of my book. This is the latest installment in the eighteen-month story of my efforts.
One word describes things at the moment. Confused.
I’m adding others. Messy. I am okay with messy. Messy happens in all my creating at some point. It gives me possibilities. Having been a neat and tidy child, as an adult I enjoy messy. Also, I know how to go from messy to focused, a useful talent.
Another word. Procrastinating. Somehow, and I have said this before, other jobs and delights keep taking precedence over my second draft. Strange how that happens.
Yesterday I am telling one of my fellow artist-writer friends about this. We come to the conclusion I need to clear a chunk of time for only the draft. Yes. I do this. Now marked off in my diary is February through May. My friend will meet with me throughout this time to help me keep accountable to myself in getting the draft done. Cool.
A third word. Blind. This draft feels like I’m doing a jigsaw puzzle without the picture from the box top to tell me how things should look.
I tell this to another artist-writer friend. She talks about finding the arc of the story, a kind of outline. Oh.
I know about outlines. I tried one out at the start and it drove me crazy. I learned I am a writer who feels her way through the story. As Nanowrimo fans say, I’m a pantser, not a plotter.
I am very visual in my thinking. My friend says ‘arc of the story’. In response, I see the image of an arc drawn on a big sheet of paper, with me writing sticky notes all along it. This makes sense. A way of creating an outline that works for me. Here is my picture of how things will look when I am done. Yay! The picture will likely shift as I go. That’s okay. I still have a picture to play with.
I’m on summer vacation time this past week. My internal clock finally adjusted itself. It looked around, said ‘oh it’s July’, switched into slower, and then into slowwwww. I am now in summer mode. Hooray!
Summer mode means my time stretches. Becomes casual and bendy. I start tacking ‘ish’ onto my times for meeting friends and family. Six-ish. Noon-ish. Eleven-ish.
I like ish-time.
I worked with a fellow who taught me about summer mode and ish-time. Every year he would take his vacation, six weeks of it, as one piece. On the morning of his first day off, he would pick up his watch, put it at the back of a drawer, and leave it there. He moved through his vacation to the feel of each day in his body, to the rhythm of the sun rising and setting, to long conversations with friends, to the stars appearing at night. Eating, moving, resting as the mood took him.
On the evening of the last day of his vacation he would go back to the drawer, pull out his watch, and return to the world of time and appointments set without ish on the end.
This summer it took me until mid-July to remember to take off my watch and put it away. After an intense twelve months, it is time to play, to re-balance and recharge. To wander through summer. Let my days stretch. Let my body and the sun tell me what time it is. Let ish-time lead me where it will.
Thank you, David, wherever you are, for showing me this so many years ago. Thank you for the gift.
The past two weeks I’ve been experiencing one of the things on my list for living a creative life—Find friends who love to create too, and inspire each other.
Drawing and writing give me great joy. I mostly create alone, and this works for me. I hear my heart, mind, and Source clearly. There is peace in this, and an awareness that holds both energy and ease.
Lately I have been visiting with my artist and writer friends. Meeting for lunch. Going for walks. Sharing what we are each creating. Asking for and giving advice and points of view. Laughing a lot. Appreciating. Being inspired. Making notes of books to read and websites to view. New resources to play with.
We talk about creativity and life. For us, these are threads that wind round each other. Impossible to separate. I know I wouldn’t want to.
Thursday I sat across from a friend, at her round wooden table. The table was high, and I am short. I put an extra pillow on the seat of my chair. We had pens and paper. We wrote.
There was peace in this space, and the quiet act of creating in the presence of another. My friend and I know intimately the feel of writing alone. This day we chose to write together. There was joy in this. I feel it again as I tell you.
There is power, too, in creating with a friend. Familiarity, love, and acceptance of the creative process. Friendship, love, and acceptance of the person across the table. This power is ease, and it let my words flow. I looked up and saw my friend moving her pen across the paper, her words taking the shape of a new story.
Grace was given both of us in this time and place. Grace, joy, friendship, and writing. A perfect afternoon.
I’ve been reading about vulnerability in Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly. Her words have me feeling and remembering.
Growing up, no one told me that strength included vulnerability. If they did, I didn’t hear them. Maybe the people around me did not know this either.
Growing up, I was taught that being strong meant holding back my feelings from public view. Show a calm, controlled front. Always pretend everything is okay. I became so good at this, even I didn’t know what I was feeling sometimes.
I kept pushing my feelings away. I thought I was getting rid of them. Truth is I was storing them behind a fence of ‘okay’.
This is not the way to live. I knew it, but did not know how to be different.
Things changed when I was twenty-one. I began the relationship with my future husband. He saw my heart behind the fence, and he loved it, and he wouldn’t let go.
Something in me knew it was time to build a gate. A skinny gate at first, but enough to let me say out loud for the first time in my life, to someone, I love you.
I was terrified saying it. This was laying myself open, a direct path to hurt me and reject what I offered. Despite all of the loving actions and words Lyle had given me, I did not trust I was truly worthy of love. I didn’t much love myself, so how could someone else love me?
I could not say ‘I love you’ to Lyle as a statement. I said it like a question needing the right answer.
He said it. He said I love you. He answered. To me.
Love made the gate in my fence. Love and the courage to love. I don’t know where the courage came from, and the ability to hear the voice that whispered inside me, ‘do this’.
I knew this was a choice, to stay with fear or to step forward to love. I knew Lyle saw me differently than I saw myself. He saw a world that did not require fear, and he saw me in this world braver than I saw myself. Maybe this is how my courage appeared. His vision sparked my belief, and my belief sparked courage to arise, be seen, and claim out loud my ability to love.
Lyle showed up for me when I needed someone to help open a way through the fence I had built around myself.
Lyle told me how he felt and what he saw in me. But louder than the words were his actions. He treated me as a person of great value, who had gifts to be seen and shared.
He believed in me.
This is what we do for each other. We see the best in the person standing before us, even and especially when they can’t see it themselves. We believe in them. We say ‘let’s do this together’.
We all have the gift and possibility of being a Believing Mirror for the person standing before us. We just have to choose to see that in ourselves, and be vulnerable enough to offer it to someone else.
‘I believe in you.’ Words as precious and important and life-changing as ‘I love you’.
Lyle and I have been together thirty-seven years. We have a son to be proud of. My fence? It shows up sometimes as a ghost of itself. Old habits, old patterns of thinking and reacting, reminding me where I was, and showing me where I am now. I pat it kindly, and thank it for keeping me safe at a time when I thought I needed protection. Then I walk around it.
Lyle, I love you. Happy Father’s Day.
In this post:
Brene Brown, book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Avery, 2012. http://brenebrown.com/
Thursday I had my last session with my coach. Yes, I am a creativity coach-artist-writer-blogger who has a coach. I should say, had a coach.
For this past year we have been talking, every two weeks. Sometimes emailing in between the talking.
I’ll tell you how I feel right now. Sad. I am going to miss our biweekly conversations. I am also elated, excited, pleased with myself. I keep hearing ‘I did it!’ popping into my thoughts. I am grounded and balanced within myself and my life. I feel like I just graduated from a Master’s Degree program. I feel like I just ran a whole marathon.
So what did I do that has me celebrating?
Last April I got very honest with myself. I looked at my nineteen years as a professional artist. Looked at my writing and my blogging. At my book with the half-completed second draft. At the creativity workshops and coaching I was doing.
I loved all I was doing and creating, loved the connections and community I was building. But I had no focus. It all felt very random, with no clear path ahead. My usual way of working was feeling chaotic rather than organic.
This is where I am, I said to myself. Where do I want to go? How do these pieces of my creativity fit together?
I am the kid who always says ‘I can do it myself’, and does. Not this time. I need help, I said to myself, and Source heard my request.
Linda is a Master Coach. Yes, the capital letters are deliberate and appropriate. She coaches CEO’s and entrepreneurs.
Linda listened to me with her heart and her head.
I have a bad attitude around business, I said. Business and art don’t belong in the same sentence.
We can do this, she said.
Over twelve months we shifted me, my life, and my creativity into focus. We talked about the nuts and bolts of what I was doing, the energy and feel of what I was creating. About where I was and where I wanted to be. We used our heads and our hearts. Feeling and knowing what was right for me, and what was not.
Two (of the thousand) things I learned from Linda:
Feel and think. My heart carries my dreams and inspiration and path. My head carries the organizing and details, the process, the nuts and bolts of building. When I connect all of this, the whole of me, I see clearly the next step in front of me. I feel the energy of the people I am connecting with, and what they are asking for. I see how this matches my inspiration, the workshops and coaching, the words and drawings I will create in response.
Use everything. Instead of pushing away what I don’t like, I get curious about it. What does this feel like? What is it telling me? Why is it showing up? How can I use it? I am fascinated at how there is always a way to turn something around and let it inspire me.
Linda has been my Believing Mirror. She met me exactly where I was, and saw the future me as I wanted to be. Step by step she walked with me into that place. Transformation.
What is best? I am now my own Believing Mirror. I see where I am, and I see where I am going to be. That vision of where I will be pulls me forward. It creates the space for me to walk into, and the steps to get there.
Today’s polka-dotted weather. Sun. Cloud. Hail. Rain. Sun. Thunder. Wind. Repeat. A smorgasbord. I am leaving my studio lights on, even when it is the sun’s turn, because in five minutes the clouds will be sailing in and taking over.
Jazz, piano and violin playing off each other, a conversation, harmony and counterpoint.
Raisin bran and milk and demerara sugar for breakfast in my Blue Willow cereal bowl. Raisins sweet and chewy. Milk cold. Flakes getting progressively soggier as I go. I eat them, when they are soggy, only to get to the raisins.
My pen with its sky blue ink.
Water from our well, poured into my Shrek the Third glass. Hard water with a lot of minerals and iron in it. I think of the cartoon I watched as a child. Popeye the Sailor who ate his spinach to get strong. All I do is drink my water.
Reading a new novel. Death in Florence by Marco Vichi. Chief Inspector Bordelli who drives a noisy Volkswagen Beetle and smokes too much.
Discovering a new-to-me author who’s writing I love. Thank you, Marco Vichi, for offering me a new treasure chest of words and ideas and story. All translated from Italian.
Yes, a satisfying list. Perfect things that happen every day for me. That give me happiness and joy.
A few months ago I watched a documentary about happiness. Someone had come up with a Happiness Formula. My happiness equals my brain’s happiness set point (didn’t know I had one), plus my life conditions, plus my choices. According to this formula, my life conditions only make up 7 to 12 percent of my happiness. My choices make up 40 to 50 percent.
There is the key. What am I choosing? And what am I choosing to notice? Where am I placing my attention?
Well, today my attention is on writing, weather, music, the raisins in my cereal, sky blue ink, cold water, the novel I started reading at breakfast, and appreciating the author I have discovered.
My life contains so much every-day happiness. All I need do is be here, right now, present to the gifts I am being offered. Choosing to notice. Choosing to let the cereal in my bowl catch my attention, the taste of water from my well, the colour of the ink on this piece of paper. Things on today’s happiness list. This is my Happiness Formula.
It is Thursday and I am here in my studio, writing. Through my windows I see pine and fir and aspen forest, all around me. From my front door, I see rows of round hills moving into the distance. Greens and smoky blues. The wood thrush has returned for the summer’s nesting. I heard him calling yesterday, a song that sings like water over stone.
Beauty is here. Yet today, it is not enough. My heart is longing for the ocean.
What is it in me that can move away from peace so easily?
I love my studio here in the trees at the top of the round hill. I open my window and the air breathes me. The songbirds and the ravens companion me. Their calls inspire me to imagine and write and play. Peace and creation live here with me. Fall, winter, spring.
When summer comes, I move my studio to Victoria on Vancouver Island. There, I have ocean close to me. On three sides of me, when I look on the city map. I can leave my summer studio, drive four minutes in my car, and I am there with my beloved ocean.
I love my studio there, where the ocean lives close by. I open my window and the beach rushes in. I hear the seagulls yelling from their heights in the sky, hear the baby crows demanding their place in the world. When I sit at the beach and write, the waves move in time with my words. Peace and creation live there with me.
What is it that moves me so easily into longing? Time. I have been away from my ocean for nine months. The forest and hills have filled me, and now I come close to the time for change, to become washed by my ocean.
Oh, my heart, love here where I am now. Love here where I am creating these words to the sound of the wind in the trees and the wood thrush song. Know that I am blessed to move from peace to peace. From forest and hill to ocean and beach. From beauty to beauty.
Love what is here before me today, and love what I know will come soon enough. Love the longing I feel today, that created the words on this page. Cradle my longing. Whisper ‘Thank you.’ And whisper ‘Soon, I promise, soon.’