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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Elizabeth Gilbert on Writing and the Creative Life

elizabeth-gilbert2I’m a huge fan of Elizabeth Gilbert.  She became instantly famous with her novel, Eat, Pray, Love but many readers don’t realize that she was a writer way before that and has published other noteworthy books.  She writes a lot about creativity.  If you haven’t read her book “Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear” it’s a great read on the subject.  Also, she has a riveting TED Talk that is well worth a watch.

A friend forwarded this essay of hers on writing.  I enjoyed this so much and thought I’d share.  You could substitute the words creative, artist, or musician for the word writer and it would still apply.

Thoughts on Writing

(https://www.elizabethgilbert.com/thoughts-on-writing/)

Sometimes people ask me for help or suggestions about how to write, or how to get published. Keeping in mind that this is all very ephemeral and personal, I will try to explain here everything that I believe about writing. I hope it is useful. It’s all I know.

I believe that – if you are serious about a life of writing, or indeed about any creative form of expression – that you should take on this work like a holy calling. I became a writer the way other people become monks or nuns. I made a vow to writing, very young. I became Bride-of-Writing. I was writing’s most devotional handmaiden. I built my entire life around writing. I didn’t know how else to do this. I didn’t know anyone who had ever become a writer. I had no, as they say, connections. I had no clues. I just began.

Continue reading “Elizabeth Gilbert on Writing and the Creative Life”

Persist

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“Face to face With the Second Step” by Richard Stein

I have these two well-worn images tacked up on the way to my studio to remind myself not to get discouraged. Walk away, regroup, keep going one step at a time. They are also applicable to life in general……

 

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Image courtesy Austin Kleon

Just Show Up

wrecker-2061697_1920No matter what rut you’re in, creative or otherwise, the only way to escape is by momentum.  Whether it be a running start with or without an external assist (think tow truck) as in a class.  Here is a free tow truck- watch the Mel Robbins’ Ted Talk.  She is a good motivator.

IMG_1551After a bit of a dry spell this summer (literally and figuratively), I decided to take the sage wisdom of other creatives and just SHOW-UP.  Anything is better than being miserable. So I have been just showing up to my studio with no great inspiration, choosing to do whatever caught my fancy.  “Junk collage” started me off, then I joined an informal mosaic group on Monday mornings that a friend of mine started.  ThenIMG_1549 there is nothing like SIGNING UP.  I have a couple of holiday shows now I need to create for.  Deadlines are a great motivator.  I bought a new bag of clay and I’m ready to go.

IMG_1547Creative dry spells are no fun.  There is a certain desperation and despair about these times.  But just like being physically out of shape, the only way to get in creative shape is to start moving.  It’s uncomfortable at first and discouraging to begin again.  Creative muscles get sore too.   That means baby steps.  Show up 10 minutes a day if that’s all you have in you and work up to more.

I’m not making masterpieces here, but I am making, and making is when I’m happiest.

 

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Why I Meditate

606-to-507-028For many, the word meditation conjures up images of Buddha- like figures sitting in lotus position, hands in prayer, dressed in monkish robes or yoga gear & chanting Om in long breaths. Find me in meditation & you would see a disheveled middle-aged woman propped up in bed first thing in the morning, legs stretched out under the covers, hands upturned in her lap, eyes closed & silently breathing.  It’s an unglamorous but serene picture.  This is how I prefer to start my day.

Meditation has been a part of my life off & on for over 20 years. I turned to it, as many do, during a period of great upheaval in my life. The liberal minded church I was attending at the time offered a free class.  It was a simple procedure.  Close your eyes, scan your body for tension, & then breathe observing your thoughts without judgement.  The teacher suggested picking a 2 syllable word, known to some as a mantra, to focus on while breathing.  This could be something like “om-sa”, “breathe in-breathe out”, “I am” or something that holds meaning to you.  You can visulaize a peaceful scene. That was it.  No need for a guru, a specially assigned mantra, or shelling out lots of money.  The deal breaker for me was the suggested 20 minutes twice a day.

I did start on that schedule & then could not stick with it.  Rather than throw out the entire practice this is what my practice looks like now- 12 minutes before I start my day.  It really helps for me to throw in a late afternoon practice before dinner but that is usually the exception than the rule.  Sometimes all I can muster is observing my breath 5 to 10 times during my day.  It all helps.

This is what I’ve gained from meditation- focus, grounding, & insight.  Previously I had the mistaken notion that meditation was about controlling my thoughts. I was wrong. It’s about observing the mind & body without judgement. If you find your mind wandering, just come back to the breath & note what you were thinking about.  This will happen over & over.  Eventually you will gain an awareness of your thought patterns throughout your day & a habit of self- correction.

One of my first realizations was that my default body position is with my shoulders scrunched up to my ears.  That may not sound like much, but relaxing my shoulders has helped relieved me of back & shoulder pain. Then, being a creative soul, my thoughts tend to be all over the map often wrapping themselves in a tight knot than constructive recognizable paths.  Now I am more able to develop ideas in a more constructive way. I can think in a more positive manner. It’s a defragging for the brain, a reboot for the thoughts.

Meditation is the ultimate reality check.  Slow down, stop, and go inward.  If you think you don’t have the time, all the more reason to start.  You will not regret it.

Why I started to Write

Odd things can happen in your 60s. I feel like that kind of yucca pant that blooms once a century or a prehistoric seed given the right environment germinates and starts to growwhy-i-started-to-write. All of a sudden this last year I felt like I had to write. It started out with an occasional poem, then frequent poems to some short essays to now a blog. Probably what has contributed to this perfect set of conditions is now seeing more time behind me than before me- the need to document my experience on this planet. Then there’s the fact that this winter in Oregon has been so cold I cannot seem to motivated to work out in a ceramics studio that is heated only by space heaters. I needed a creative outlet. Whatever the reason, here I am, a writer.

In the past, I have written for classes & have kept a journal. But write for the sake of writing at 4 AM? Years ago I would have shut my eyes, pulled up the covers and waited for the impulse to pass. Experience has told me though, that unless I heed my heart, its whispering will become shouting and that ultimately leads to unrest and irritability.

This is the start of my writing journey. It’s surprisingly one of the most grounding things I have ever undertaken. I have benefited greatly from the writings of others. Now I have opened myself up to critical eyes but also to those that will benefit as well. It’s worth the risk.

You Just Start

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You just start.

There is no perfect time.

You are weary of an idea pursuing you & tugging on your soul, so rather than run harder you stop in your tracks, turn around, shake your idea’s hand & say, OK.  I will give you 15 minutes of my day NOW.  No running out & buying a new pen, notebook, paintbrush, canvas, computer or whatever distraction you may deem necessary.  Just sit down & give you & your idea a chance to know each other better.

Lao Tzu,  an ancient Chinese mystic once said: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”So true, but what he neglected to say was that first step is the hardest of the entire journey.  On the flip side, it is the most liberating.  Your 15-minute appointment with your idea will probably extend to an hour.  Then you can hardly wait for the next one.  Congratulations- you are on your way.

This scenario is exactly how this blog started on a beat-up legal pad  I scrounged from a drawer in my desk.  I was ultimately tackled with the idea that I needed to share my stories of life on my creative path, often a lonely one.  Hopefully, it can help you, dear reader, on yours.  In the process, I had to thumb my nose at my greatest nemesis, perfection, and just start.  This is my first step.