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)”

Taking Down My Fence (Believing Mirror Part 2)

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

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/

https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability?language=en

‘Believing Mirror’, page 47 in It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again, Julia Cameron, TarcherPerigree, 2016.  http://juliacameronlive.com/

 

Believing Mirror

'7 Crows, A Secret Never To Be Told' detail--Cat Fink
7 Crows, A Secret Never to be Told (detail) — Cat Fink

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.

Enter Linda.

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.

Thank you, Linda, Master Coach, Believing Mirror.

_______________________

In this post:

‘Believing Mirror’, page 47 in It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again, Julia Cameron, TarcherPerigree, 2016, http://juliacameronlive.com/

Linda Caducoy,  Executive Coach,  https://www.linkedin.com/in/lindacaducoy

Morning Pages–to write or not to write

books.600ppi

I have a secret agent who helps me create.  ‘’Call me Pages, Morning Pages,’’ she says, and smiles.  She holds sharpened pencils in one hand, sheets of paper in the other.

Yes, I am talking about Julia Cameron’s invention, morning pages.  Three handwritten pages, whatever comes to mind, each day before I move to the writing or drawing, coaching or blogging.  Letting my mind wander.  Letting thoughts surface and have their say.  Letting emotions move through me, easily or not.  Letting beliefs and memories show up to say ‘notice me’.  Planning to do this, then this, and this.

I’ve been writing morning pages for years, since October 1994 to be precise.  Not constantly, but mostly, daily.  They show me who I am in this moment, where I have been, where I am going, where I’d like to go and what I’d like to do.

These daily pages are my place to gripe loudly and to discover inspiration.  Yes, both, sometimes the first leading to the second.  Funny that, and true.  Reassuring that I can be off balance, feel it, then move on and into my creative self, the clouds having cleared.

This, for me, is why morning pages are my secret agent.  They clear my way to walk into my creative self, whatever I am doing this day.  Pages open me to a clear mind and a clear heart, pair my mind and heart so they partner each other in whatever I am creating.

This is when my writing, drawing, coaching, and blogging are their best.  This is when my mind and heart speak as one voice.  Try this, they say, and I do.

What comes of this mind-heart partnership are choices, actions, and creations that connect me to other people, heart and mind to heart and mind.  Connection, communication, understanding.  Realizations that are clear, heart-felt, accepting, inspired, wise.

I have my days of resisting my morning pages, even now after twenty-two years.  I don’t feel like it.  I’m too tired.  I’m too lazy.  I want to go direct to my creating and not waste any time.  I need to get other things done.

I have lots of excuses.

None are valid.

I know better, yet I will use the excuse of the day and not write my pages.  I move straight to my creating, bringing with me a mind hazy with complaints and cluttered with random thoughts, a heart holding unexpressed emotions that should have been felt and acknowledged.

For me, this is not the way in which to create.  What I do this day will likely need to be undone tomorrow.  I know this from long experience.  Yet still, once in a while, I have to test it again and choose to ignore writing my morning pages.

What is this resistance, this obstinate choice I occasionally make?

I think I do this to remind myself of why I write my pages.  I re-experience how I feel and think and the not-quality creating that results from a hazy, cluttered, random mind and heart that are not working together.

Today, before I wrote this post, I wrote my morning pages.  True, they were more like noon pages.  That is alright.  The pages got written.  The blog post got created.  And all is right in my world because my secret agent was on the job today.

‘‘Call me Pages, Morning Pages.’’

Thanks, 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 also move me past my internal critic.  https://catfinkknowtrustchoosecreate.com/2016/03/31/writing-past-the-internal-critic

 

A Non-Crisis of Confidence (Internal Critic Part 2)

 

2.'Meat For The Cheshire'--Cat Fink
Meat for the Cheshire

Guess what? My internal critic is back. Yes, she’s back, rather like the Terminator but not half so interesting.

I should say, she is trying to come back. I am not letting her. There is choice involved here, and I am using it. The word to my internal critic is NO.

The thing about my internal critic is she tries to make me feel I have no power and no choice. She tells me how badly I am doing, how I don’t possess the skills or experience I need. How what I am creating is all wrong. It is ugly, or stupid, or been done before or better by others. It’s not worth anyone’s time and I’m not worth anyone’s time. I’ll embarrass myself, family, friends.

Putting it plainly, my internal critic is a bitch.  No sugar-coating it.  A bitch who is attempting to keep me safe by stopping me from creating and from creating publicly. She is all fear. There is no love in anything she says. Safety is not the same as love.

What I have recently discovered is that my internal critic actually serves a purpose for me. When she shows up, I know I am not standing in my authentic self as artist, writer, creativity coach, blogger. She tells me when I am not claiming and using my power as the creator I am.

She tells me when I am working and creating from my head and not my heart. My best, strongest, most expansive creations come from my heart and love. Passion. My head is brilliant at organizing, planning, structure, logic, and detail. I need and treasure what it does, but what it does must be partnered by my heart and love.

I know why my internal critic has been especially active the last two weeks. I am moving into a big creation right now, taking a major dream and making it real and public. Something this important and integral to me feels both amazing and scary. My internal critic has noticed and turned up her volume in order to protect me from getting hurt.

She is trying to stop me.

Stopping? Not going to happen.

Not creating this dream would hurt me most.

So, my internal critic, I thank you for voicing your noisy, negative concern. Believe it or not, I love you for helping me see.

Here is how it will go. The creator in me feels and knows where I am going and what dream I am making real. The creator in me feels and knows the possibilities that are here shining before me. The creator in me knows my power and how to use it.

This is what I choose. My power is love. I make my dream real.

________________________

 

You will know from my posts that Julia Cameron, Natalie Goldberg, and Lynda Barry are my creativity heroes. In their books, they talk about the internal critic, how it affects them, struggling with it and what they do about it, how they move past her or him (or it) to get to their creating. Their stories have taught me how to work with my internal critic, and how to get past to where the creating is. If you are curious, my ‘Resources I Use’ page, https://catfinkknowtrustchoosecreate.com/resources-i-use/ ,  has more information about these awesome creators and their books.

Writing Past the Internal Critic

tigger 006

My studio window is open. It is a gorgeous day. Sun. Blue sky. Sweet warm air. My bamboo chimes are moving with the wind, sounding between the calls of robins and chickadees and songbirds I can’t identify but whose voices I love.

Perfect weather. Or maybe not. My internal writing weather, up until this moment, was all ice, frozen way below zero.

In other words, for the last two hours I have not been practising the art of creativity. I have been practising the art of procrastination, and doing it well.

As a direct result, I have renewed a studio rule for myself. First write the blog post.  Then, and only then, turn on the laptop and play in the email and the internet.

I already knew this. If I turn on my laptop before I write, I am lost. My email inbox and the internet in general are a wonderful and devious distraction. Even as I play in them, I know what I am doing—putting off the writing.

Why? I love writing. Totally true. I am not a writer who prefers having written. I am a writer who prefers being in the action of writing, being in the energy and process of creating. Having written is fun and satisfying, but being in writing is where the whole of me sings. I am in love when I am writing. Joyful. Playing. It is work, yes, my work, and it fills me when I am in the midst of it. Work that is play.

So why the two hours of mucking around on my laptop and putting off the writing?

Most of what I have been doing the last four weeks has been needed and necessary, but most of it has not been writing. I am out of practice is the simplest way of saying it. When I get out of practice, my internal critic attempts a coup to stop me ever writing (or creating) again.

She is sneaky, my internal critic. This morning she got me to turn on my laptop to do some essential research. Ha ha. There should be quotation marks around the word essential.

She is a know-it-all, opinionated and bossy. She used to be able to stop me in my tracks, keep me away from the page and from the easel. Now she only manages to occasionally slow me down for a couple of hours. My love of creating is stronger than any fears she can throw in my way.

Over the years of creating, I have found ways to distract and weaken my internal critic. Here are two that work well for me.

Continue reading “Writing Past the Internal Critic”