I am reading Neil Gaiman’s book The View From the Cheap Seats, a collection of his nonfiction writing. Magazine pieces, book introductions, speeches, musings, more. I am being inspired, delighted, learning, and made curious.
The making-me-curious bit is fun. I have a Curiosity List going as I read this book. Writers, books, comics, artists, articles, web stuff. All new to me, and I have to check them out, now that Neil has made me curious. I am nearly two-thirds of the way through his book, and my list is getting long. This is a good thing.
One of the things I love about those of us working in the arts is how so many of us share what we are discovering, what is delighting us, what we are learning and doing. Neil’s book is delighting me, not only because of his writing, but because of his sharing who and what inspires him. Sharing one of the paths through his universe.
The image at the top of this post is what I have been creating the last two days. It is going onto a postcard I’ll be handing out at my interactive art show ‘The Joy Diary’ in November. (I was going to add the link here for the Station House Gallery in Williams Lake, BC, but according to Google just now, their site may be hacked. Yes, the weird and wonderful world of the internet.)
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 love books. I love reading, and I am always curious about what other people are reading. So, of course, I enjoy reading people’s book lists, especially those from writers and artists.
Here is what I read during July and August while I was on holiday.
The Owl Mage Trilogy by Mercedes Lackey – Mercedes is one of my favourite writers. She dives deep and at length into what her characters are thinking and I find this inner monologue fascinating. Some might read this and say ‘get on with the story’. Not me. These inner monologues are part of the story, developing the character, connecting with me-the-reader and my personal inner talk experience.
End of Watch by Stephen King – As a teenager, my introduction to Stephen’s writing was ‘Carrie’. The story totally creeped me out, and I loved it. Later I left off reading horror. I came back to him with ‘Lisey’s Story’, and I’ve kept up with his writing ever since.
A Banquet of Consequences by Elizabeth George – A friend introduced me to Elizabeth and her intricate, very human mysteries. I read the one lent to me, then promptly hit the used bookstore for all Elizabeth had written up to that point. Now I wait with anticipation when I hear a new book is coming, and get my order in at my local bookstore. If you are a writer, check out her book on writing fiction ‘Write Away’. I borrowed it from the public library three times and then ordered my own copy.
Return of the Padawan by Jeffrey Brown – Pure fun.
The King’s Man Trilogy by Pauline Gedge – Pauline makes me feel I am right there in ancient Egypt. Heat. The smell of dust. Cool water poured over my bare feet. Linen brushing against my skin. I read her books in the summer to heighten the feeling of being there.
Raiders of the Nile by Steven Saylor – Steven’s writing has the same effect on me as Pauline’s. In his books, I am in ancient Rome. This one happens in the Nile delta, not his usual setting.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J. K. Rowling – I admit it. I am a Harry Potter/J. K. Rowling fan. I read this slowly, right after a week of watching all the Harry Potter movies in sequence. I let my inner vision create the movie for me as I read. Fun! Then I discovered the website Pottermore, got myself sorted for Hogwarts by the Sorting Hat, and claimed my wand. (For my fellow Potter fans, I am a Hufflepuff–totally suits me– and my wand is sycamore with dragon heartstring core. Cool.) Continue reading “What I Read on My Summer Holiday”→
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.
There is a book by Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried, about soldiers in Vietnam during the war.
I only know this book through another book, Thunder and Lightning: Cracking Open the Writer’s Craft by Natalie Goldberg. On page 127 of my hardcover copy, there is an excerpt from Tim’s book. And then Natalie’s words, talking about this and the truth of a life, and saving yourself through writing. I’ve marked this passage with pencil, and folded over the top corner of the page. What Tim wrote sticks with me.
So now I am wondering, what do I carry?
This is a huge question. My answer could go any direction. I decide to frame the question. As writer and artist, what do I carry?
There is the obvious reply. Paper, pens, pencils. But I want to go underneath this question. What do I carry that no one sees, until and unless I choose to show them?
I am thinking of things that are invisible, intangible. I cannot say weightless because these things carry great weight.
The biggest thing I carry. Awareness. Looking outward into what surrounds me, my moment-to-moment environment touched through my senses. Looking inward. Feelings. Thoughts. Memories. Recording what has been received. Then being aware yet again, in a different way, as I marry outer and inner awareness, and create word and image.
Curiosity. Curiosity is forever with me, perched on one shoulder or the other. Permanently five years old and interested in everything. Her favourite questions. ‘What is that?’ ‘Why?’ ‘What can I do with it?’ Curiosity lets me experience as the child I am inside. Lets me come to my life with heart and mind open, allowing, and fascinated. Lets me experience differently.
Imagination. Inward play sparked by outward seeing and by Curiosity. Sparked by the questions Curiosity asks, especially ‘what can I do with it’. This question is a playground for my imagination.
Creativity. My ever-present need to make stuff and share it. Imagination is the playground. Creativity is the laboratory, petting zoo, and test kitchen. Experiments happen here. The ‘what can I do with it’ becomes ‘what if I try this, then this, or this’, continued ad infinitum. Think pi with its never ending, never repeating play of numbers beyond the decimal point. That is my creativity in action.
I carry something Natalie Goldberg says is her great talent. Strong determination. Twenty years ago, the Director at the Victoria College of Art looked at my student admission portfolio, then at me, and said, ‘Stubborn.’ I said to him, ‘Determined.’ He said, ‘You start in September.’
Finally, I carry love. For myself, for others, for my world, for what I create. Love is at the base of everything I am and everything I do. Without love, passion, none of this would exist.
Tim O’Brien’s characters carried things that kept them alive, more than just physically. Things that gave a small degree of joy, kept heart, spirit, and mind alive in a place of overwhelming chaos and sudden oblivion.
What do I carry?
I carry things that ensure the writer and artist in me survive. The things I carry keep away chaos and oblivion. They ensure joy lives in the whole of me.
Paper. Pens. Pencils. Awareness. Curiosity. Imagination. Creativity. Strong determination. Love. And that is enough.
In this post:
Tim O’Brien, book The Things They Carried, Houghton Mifflin, 1990.
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.
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.