The Art of Staying Sane

IMG_1579I hardly recognize the world we live in.  Even though I attempt to shield myself from too much news, I can’t avoid the tragedies of political chaos, mass shootings, human suffering, cataclysmic storms and forest fires from reaching my ears.  Then there’s climate change. It can cause one to live with low-level anxiety.writing-828911_1920

In order to give myself some level of relief, I have a few strategies.  Writing is my first go to.  The immediacy of pen to paper as a mode of expression is so satisfying.  I may write in my journal, work on a poem or continue to write on a longer essay that I’ve been working on.

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Studio Notes 11/5/2018

writing-828911_1920From my writing desk….

My second piece of prose “Bull’s Eye” was published recently by “Montana Mouthful” a literary magazine out of Missoula Montana.  This was in their latest“Haunted” issue on page 15.  They also were the publisher of my first prose piece “Looking for Abraham” back in their August Secrets issue on page 29.  Both were blind submissions so I guess got lucky!  In both cases, having a submission deadline got me focused and finished– even though my inner critic was whispering “not good enough.”  I’m so glad I followed Natalie Goldberg’s advice “Let others be the judge of your work”.

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In Praise of Autumn

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” 
― L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” 
― Albert Camus

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The Fall Equinox has passed and I am absolutely thrilled to be deep in the autumn colors.  This is the season where I am released from the obligations of tending to biomass.  Living on acreage in W. Oregon we have our share.  We have a big garden, an orchard, lawn and flower beds.  It’s a place where plants like to grow.

The rains have begun, the garden is torn out, the flower beds are mulched for the winter, and the firewood is in and stacked.  This frees up more time to concentrate on my artwork, writing, and music.  I sing in a women’s choir and we are getting ready for our 40401429_1888497791198499_407333225178857472_oholiday show.  Additionally, I play the bodhran, an Irish drum and am learning to play the tenor guitar.  Travels are finished for the year.  It’s good to be home.

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Being Your Own Artistic Cheerleader

animal-1353073“Be fearless and know that when you feel doubt it’s okay. It’s not bad to be scared. It’s not bad to question yourself. It’s just part of the process. You’re going to be fabulous. You are going to be great.”

Harper Watters  (black, gay, ballet dancer)

It’s taken weeks to get back into my creative practice after weeks of travel and other interruptions.  Unlike having the structure of a regular job, anyone who travels the creative path has to be their own boss.  You alone have to give yourself the goals and the deadlines.  Generally, not having a social structure for encouragement, you also have to be your own cheerleader.

My two dogs think I’m the absolute best as with my spousal equivalent.  Even though I am grateful for my live-in fan club, to get my muse excited I keep a steady stream of motivational media around.

Currently, I am enraptured by these two books:

It’s Never Too Late to Begin by Julia Cameron51gfo6g52pl

Julie Cameron is a pioneer in inspiring people to get over creative blocks and to discover and pursue their passions.  Her book, The Artist Way published 25 years ago became my bible. In this latest book, she focuses on people in their midlife and beyond.  Through memoir writing and exercises you can find clarification and motivation as an older adult.  I am finding such inspiration in this book!

51oqhsbebjlWild Mind, Living the Writers Life by Natalie Goldman

I’ve always stayed away from writing books because of all the rules, which by the way, at this point in my life I think should be challenged.  Natalie is a maverick in the writing world. She demystifies the act of the writing and will get you sitting down and writing your heart out.

 

Podcast of note…If you are going to listen to one podcast on creativity, listen to170x170bb  The Creativity Habit.  Podcast # 50 on Satsuki Shibuya was earthshaking: “ Getting sick, losing everything and finding real success as a full-time artist.” Amazing listen.

IMG_1554Finally, I am using my phone as a cheerleader.  Inspirational notes on sticky notes don’t work for me.  I find them becoming invisible shortly after I put them up.  Now I am setting alerts on my I-phone for times throughout the day.  When I get an alert, I check my phone and find an inspirational message just for me.  Try it out.  You might find it as effective as I do.

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Breaking Up With My Guitar

“Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.” ~ Marilyn Monroe

gibson-b-25-reissue-lsb2csnh2-3I thought we were soulmates.  A friend gifted me this pretty little Gibson B-25 guitar. “Here, you take it- I’m not ever going to play it.”  It had a sunburst finish and steel strings, far superior to the Sears Silvertone with nylon strings that I had been playing.  At 17 years old I could not believe my good fortune.  It was love at first sight.

I plunked and played that guitar trading songs and riffs with friends until I moved away to college.  There really was never another time where I was surrounded by people that played music.  My skills languished.  Now and again out of guilt I pulled out the Gibson, played for a bit and then put it back.  Playing alone wasn’t satisfying, but really, the instrument didn’t have enough base and tone for my ears anymore. Still, I refused to admit I had fallen out of love.

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The Art of Taking Risks

trail marker (1)Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. – Mark Twain

Don’t refuse to go on an occasional wild goose chase; that’s what wild geese are for. –Henry S. Haskins

I became a risk taker in late in my late teens.  A depression had settled over me and thoughts of suicide sometimes crossed my mind.  Then it occurred to me that rather than do something so unimaginative like throwing myself off a bridge, I might as well live my life with abandon if I was that disposable.

My inner compass did not consider this as a license to make stupid choices like getting addicted to drugs or criminal behavior.  Rather I decided to take risks and see what life could offer me in the realm of adventure.  My first step was to extract myself from my miserable high school experience. I graduated from high school early and started attending my local community college- a total liberating experience.

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Reclaiming Your Spark: Elizabeth Gilbert On What to Do When You’ve Lost Your Passion

After traveling for over half of September, I have returned home to find I’ve lost my creative mojo.  It’s there but it’s not ready to come out of hiding.   Writing? Art?  I am just not motivated at the moment and despite my best efforts- it’s not happening by forcing it. After reading this piece by Elizabeth Gilbert today I’m taking a different tack.  I’m off to clean out the shop building so the right side of my brain can sort itself out.

Reprinted off Oprah.Com

201004-omag-liz-gilbert-949x534“I’ve always considered myself lucky that I do not have many passions. There’s only one pursuit that I have ever truly loved, and that pursuit is writing. This means, conveniently enough, that I never had to search for my destiny; I only had to obey it. What am I here for? No problem! I’m here to be a writer, and only a writer, from my first cigarette to my last dying day! No doubt about it! 

Except that two years ago, I completely lost my life’s one true passion, and all my certainties collapsed with it. 

Here’s what happened: After the unexpected success of Eat, Pray, Love, I diligently sat down to work on my next project—another memoir. I worked hard, as always, conducting years of research and interviews. And when I was finished, I had produced a first draft that was…awful. 

I’m not being falsely modest here. Truly, the book was crap. Worse, I couldn’t figure out why it was crap. Moreover, it was due at the publisher. 

Demoralized, I wrote a letter to my editor, admitting that I had utterly failed. He was nice about it, considering. He said, “Don’t worry. You’ll figure it out.” But I did worry, because for the first time in my life, I had absolutely no passion for writing. I was charred and dry. This was terrifyingly disorienting. I couldn’t begin to know who I was without that old, familiar fire. I felt like a cardboard cutout of myself. 

My old friend Sarah, seeing me so troubled, came to the rescue with this sage advice: “Take a break! Don’t worry about following your passion for a while. Just follow your curiosity instead.” 

She was not suggesting that I ditch my passion forever, of course, but rather that I temporarily ease off the pressure by exploring something new, some completely unrelated creative endeavor—something that I could find interesting, but with much lower emotional stakes. When passion feels so out of reach, Sarah explained, curiosity can be a calming diversion. If passion is a tower of flame, then curiosity is a modest spark—and we can almost always summon up a modest spark of interest about something. 

So what was my modest spark? Gardening, as it turned out. Following my friend’s advice, I stepped away from my writing desk and spent six months absentmindedly digging in the dirt. I had some successes (fabulous tomatoes!); I had some failures (collapsed bean poles!). None of it really mattered, though, because gardening, after all, was just my curiosity—something to keep me modestly engaged through a difficult period. (At such moments, believe me, even modest engagement can feel like a victory.) 

Then the miracle happened. Autumn came. I was pulling up the spent tomato vines when—quite suddenly, out of nowhere—I realized exactly how to fix my book. I washed my hands, returned to my desk, and within three months I’d completed the final version of Committed—a book that I now love. 

Gardening, in other words, had turned me back into a writer. 

So here’s my weird bit of advice: If you’ve lost your life’s true passion (or if you’re struggling desperately to find passion in the first place), don’t sweat it. Back off for a while. But don’t go idle, either. Just try something different, something you don’t care about so much. Why not try following mere curiosity, with its humble, roundabout magic? At the very least, it will keep you pleasantly distracted while life sorts itself out. At the very most, your curiosity may surprise you. Before you even realize what’s happening, it may have led you safely all the way home.”

 

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