Writing Home

1.'Laid to Rest 80,000...Spirits (east)'--Cat Fink
Laid To Rest 80,000 Obstructing Spirits (east)

I moved to my southern studio in late March.  It takes a couple weeks to find rhythm and routine when I shift from one studio and home to the other.  I’m always a bit off balance during those two weeks, but I notice this time it is seven weeks plus and I am still not settled.

I know that I haven’t been writing my morning pages.  When I count back, I see three days written out of the fifty-three days I have been here.  “Not very good,” my mind comments on the obvious.

It’s a direct route for me, from an absence of morning pages to an absence of writing and drawing as my daily priority.  Morning pages are the doorway.  They remind me how vital creating is to my life, and how I am not paying attention to something that is breath for me.

Not only am I not paying attention to what I need, I am not allowing myself to choose that creating comes first in my day.

Do I not love myself enough to let myself do the thing I love?

This is a new studio and home.  I am taking care of the new-home tasks, and not taking care of myself and my creative practice.

No one is pushing me to do the home tasks first.  There is only me pushing me, and  I need to quit pushing.  Better yet, I need to write my morning pages because always, solutions and the right choice show up in those pages.  Balance shows up.

Sigh.

Here I am, reaching for balance in my life again.

When I don’t write morning pages, I am no longer at home to myself.  I am not living in the centre of me, my life, and my creativity.  No surprise, then, that I am currently out of sorts and resenting the to-do list I wrote.

This is an old pattern, putting all else before my creative needs.  I struggled with it in art school, and made it the theme of my graduating body of work.  I’ve been through this so many times, I thought I had it solved.  I should be more like a friend’s mother, who frequently served burned dinners because she was at the other end of the house, painting in her studio.  She had her priorities right.  I should hang one of her paintings (I have five) on my studio wall, just to remind me.  Yes, put that on the to-do list.

This is all about choice and loving myself.  The choice is always mine to give myself permission and do something I love.  The choice is always mine to make creativity my first priority.  I choose, again.  Write my morning pages, find my centre, then write and draw myself home.

______________________

In this post:

Morning pages come from Julia Cameron and her book The Artist’s Way: 25th Anniversary Edition, Penguin Publishing Group, 2016.  I purchased my first copy in 1994, the year before I entered art school.  I have two more copies, 2002 editions, with my teaching notes scribbled all over the margins and end papers.  That first one saved me in 1994.  Thank you, Julia.  http://juliacameronlive.com/

The Way Through Is Love

ibuiltmycastles
I Build My Castles in the Sky

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/

When I Can’t Think Of Anything To Write

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

I’m stuck.

Usually when I write my morning pages, words show up for the blog post.  But not today.

Luckily, I know what to do.  Okay, I say to myself, start where I am.  This is advice taken to heart, from both Natalie Goldberg and Julia Cameron.  Wise words born of their years of creating, and generously shared with all.

Start where I am.

The last three days my creative energy has been focused on the sketchbook I’m doing (halfway through!) for the Brooklyn Art Library’s Sketchbook Project 2018.  I’ve been happily playing with ideas and art materials, choosing what speaks to me, and creating it in the sketchbook.

Today I need to change gears, from image to word, and I feel stuck.

I go through fallow periods, both long and short, when the artist and writer in me rests.  This used to terrify me.  Panic.  Maybe I’ve stopped being an artist, stopped being a writer.  Maybe I’ve used up all my ideas.  I’ll never draw, never write again.

I have to have patience.

Patience is not my strong suit.

To soothe myself, I pull favourite books from my studio library and read about other artists and writers.  I experience their work, drawings, paintings, essays, and musings.  I notice how this colour shocks the colour next to it, how this phrase stops me breathless in its beauty.  I borrow other people’s creativity, while I wait for mine to rise again.  Their creativity gives me joy, and shifts me from fear into appreciation and possibility.

Creativity thrives in possibility.  Ideas show up, triggered by images and words that shine beauty into my heart.  Sooner or later, I am creating again.

Today the fallow period lasts a whole thirty minutes.  Hardly a test to my patience.  Definitely not enough time to go into panicked drama queen mode, thank goodness.

Thank you, Natalie and Julia, for your advice.  Thank you, every artist and writer who have lent me your creativity through the power of your images and words.  Thank you for sharing.  I am blessed to know you.

_______________________

In this post:

When soothing my patience through a fallow period, I especially love:

The Sound of Paper: starting from scratch by Julia Cameron, Penguin Publishing Group, 2005.  http://juliacameronlive.com/

Living Color: painting, writing, and the bones of seeing by Natalie Goldberg, Abrams, 2014.  http://nataliegoldberg.com/

Find the Brooklyn Art Library and The Sketchbook Project at  https://www.brooklynartlibrary.com/

Resisting Resistance

Cat Fink--'Old Coyote Trick (sticks and stones)'
Old Coyote Trick (sticks and stones) — Cat Fink

I wake up in an I-don’t-want-to-do-anything mood this morning.

I push through my morning routine.  I do my set of shoulder and neck stretches.  There is a flash of “that feels good” when I finish my last stretch, but it’s not enough to crack my mood.

I feel, as I eat breakfast, the desire to remain here at the table, reading.  The book is good, Closer To The Heart by my favourite fantasy writer Mercedes Lackey.  I do not want to put the book down, but this is more than desire to read a good book.  I am resisting moving into my studio and beginning my creative day.

I love drawing and writing.  Yesterday I played in the small sketchbook I received from the Brooklyn Art Library’s Sketchbook Project 2018.  No resistance showed up.

Today, though, there is a brick wall, ten feet high with “I don’t want to” stamped all over it.  I’m on this side.  My drawing and writing are on the other.

I know the trick.  Find the door in the wall.  If no door, then a ladder.  Maybe a bulldozer (I like that).  Or maybe I need help.

Asking for help is never my first choice.  Sometimes it should be.  Okay, help it is.

I reluctantly drop my book mark at page 148 of Mercedes’ book, leave the kitchen table, and move to my studio. I take my morning pages book from the pile of papers just to the right of me.  I pull a Mickey Mouse pencil from the collection sitting in the Starbucks grande frappaccino cup.  Morning pages are my first and biggest help.  I’m ready.

I start where I am.  Kicking my toes against this brick wall of resistance.  Leaning my back against it and muttering, “This feels crappy.”  And then adding, “You’re in my way.”

I built this wall.  I’m in my own way.

I begin wondering what it is I don’t want to do, that has put me in this mood. Continue reading “Resisting Resistance”

What Happens When I Don’t Write My Morning Pages

whenitookitallapart-150ppi
‘When I Took It All Apart, There Was Nothing Left’

Here’s what happens when I don’t write morning pages for three and one-half months.

I get bitchy. Make that all caps. BITCHY.

I also get stuck. There’s a log jam of Mount Everest proportions inside my writing-drawing-artist-self.

It’s very uncomfortable.

Actually, it effing hurts.

I have a build-up of creative need. A need to connect with what I am feeling and thinking. A need to connect with my creative energy. Make stuff. Write. Draw. A need to connect with other creators.

I am fulfilling all of these needs exactly right now. First I write morning pages. Yay! And about bloody time too. And now I am writing this post.

Yesterday I decided I’d had enough of paying attention to every room in our new home except my studio. Enough of setting up all other spaces except the one space that is vital to me.

Vital only to me.  Note the ‘only’. I set up all the family-used spaces first. I do what is expected of me. I don’t do what I need for myself alone. I push me to last.

I am such a good girl.

I am sick of being such a good girl.

This morning I get angry enough to send my husband and son retreating (running) to the workshop and the downstairs suite. They get the hint. No more Mrs. Good Girl.

Amazing what not writing morning pages does to me. Here is the list.

Not writing morning pages throws me off balance. Instead of moving between my need to create and the needs of living a life shared with others, I attend only to others’ needs. I lose sight of, and feel for, what I need.

Not writing morning pages, I lose the truth of myself. I am an artist, a writer, a creator, and it is necessary I do this every day.

Not writing morning pages, my family forgets my daily movement into my creativity. They forget the habit of saying, “She’s creating. Don’t interrupt her. Leave her alone.”

Not writing morning pages, I stop standing my ground and claiming the time and space I need to write and draw and create. Not only physical time and space. Mental, emotional, and spiritual time and space as well.

Not writing morning pages for three and one-half months requires the dynamite of anger to clear the way and get everything flowing again.

Really, it is much easier to claim my space, write the morning pages, and make my stuff every day. No log jam. No need to shove and struggle until I finally blow up. No need to hurt myself (or others).

Apparently, I have to remind myself of what happens when I don’t write my morning pages.

Do yourself a kindness.

Write your pages.

__________________________

Mentioned in this post:

Julie Cameron’s morning pages, from The Artist’s Way, Tarcher-Putman, 1992, pages 9 -18.  http://juliacameronlive.com/

Morning pages do so many things for me and my creativity.

Morning pages move me past my internal critic.  https://catfinkknowtrustchoosecreate.com/2016/03/31/writing-past-the-internal-critic/critic

They are the secret agent who clears the way and connects my mind and heart, readying me to draw and write.  https://catfinkknowtrustchoosecreate.com/2016/04/30/morning-pages-to-write-or-not-to-write/

Here is the irony.  Last week I wrote about creating daily, then promptly did not do that for the next week.

I am serious when I say do yourself and kindness and write your pages.

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

 

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)”