The Artist’s Way ~ Week 12

Week 12 ~ Recovering a Sense of Faith

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As we come to the end of this 12-week journey, it feels like just the beginning. While I have dipped in an out of this process many times over the years, this is the first time I feel like I fully committed to it and fully reaped the benefits.

Just a few of the changes I’ve noticed:

~ I am more compassionate with myself. Expecting less perfection and more just showing up in whatever way I am able at the moment.

~ I am having more fun. Laughing more, playing instead of producing.

~ I am taking more risks. Sending our stories that feel dangerous to me, diving into the darkness on the page, sitting there instead of running away from what I find.

~ I feel more in flow with life. Even when I feel off or stuck, I am confident it is just part of the process and don’t immediately jump to the conclusion that I need to force myself to do something rather than just be or that I am lazy.

~ I am more aware of the synchronicity in my life, all the ways, big and small, that the Universe supports me.

~ I feel like I am living my life like an Artist’s Date rather than just relegating it to one hour a week. Bringing more fun, spontaneity, beauty and play into my life.

~ I am able to ask for help.

~ I feel lighter.

~ I feel more vibrant.

~ I feel more connected.

So, yes, this 12 weeks is over but this whole process of living my life from a place of faith is just beginning. I commit to continuing to do Morning Pages because they connect me to myself and what I want, need, think on any given day, at any given moment. They clear my mind and my energy.

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I commit to continuing the Artist’s Dates. I recently bought this book described as “the merit badge handbook for every grown-up girl who’s said, “I wish I could…” Jam-packed with practical advice, here is step-by-step instruction and kick-in-the-pants encouragement for achieving 60 exciting badge activities.”

I commit to staying active within the Facebook group I created that supported us through this journey.

I commit to revisit and complete the tasks I avoided or didn’t take/make time to do.

I commit to continue living a creative life and shining my light out into the world.

 

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A Book I Love. ~ #TBT

Each Thursday in honor of #TBT, I am going to feature a book that I truly love, that helped shape me as a writer, as a woman, as a human.

Writing and Being

“Writing and Being- Taking Back Our Lives Through the Power of Language” by G. Lynn Nelson

I discovered this little gem at my favorite bookstore, Changing Hands, in Tempe, Arizona. And it was at the original location on Mill Ave. If I remember correctly, Nelson gave a writing workshop there that I took.

I was just embarking on this writing path and hungry for any guides along the way whether they were in the form of novels that I loved, books on writing that got me to actually write or teachers that opened their minds and hearts to their students. Nelson did just that in person and in his book.

As I glance through the book now, a couple of decades later, I find myself still drawn to his voice, to his compassionate guidance along the writing path. I see check marks along the exercises that I did, his soft but steady presence encouraging me to explore, shed, remember, collect small joys.

I haven’t picked this book up in years, yet it has survived many, many bookshelf purges. There’s a reason. I will be diving back into this one, exploring it now from a new vantage point, no longer a beginner desperate for guidance but a writer confident in her devotion to the craft and ready to open her beginner’s mind to deeply explore the interior life and speak from her heart.

Sadly, I just learned that Nelson died in 2014. He shined a light out into the world and encouraged us all to sit with our darkness so that we could share our light as well. 

The Artist’s Way ~ Week 11

Week 11 ~ Recovering your Sense of Autonomy

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  1. I did my Morning Pages every morning. Or, at least, every day. And I have recommended them to many people over the years if they feel stuck in their lives or stuck on a particular issue. Morning Pages allow things to flow again, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. While much of the writing for me is whiny petty stuff (better out than in) there are times I connect with that inner wisdom, and I am grateful for what it has to say and grateful that it is always there if I just make space for it. And Morning Pages create that space.
  2. I painted this week for my Artist’s Date. I had way too many expectations around it and it is not finished yet. All I wanted was to get lost in the process of painting. Of feeling the texture of the paint gliding onto the paper. The joy of exploring colors, mixing them to create my own new colors. But I got caught up in my head. What am I painting? What should I paint? It needs to look like something so I can take a picture and share it on Instagram or here on my blog. I’ll try it again maybe with the express intention of NOT sharing it at all.
  3. I can’t recall any instances of synchronicity this week though I am sure they happened. I really need keep a little synchronicity notebook to capture them and invite them more freely into my life. I did find recalling instances of personal synchronicity in my life interesting: 1) A book  finds me at the perfect time that I need to read it even if it’s been lounging on my shelves for years 2) Hearing or reading something  that fits like a missing puzzle piece into my current WIP. 3) Thinking about somebody then having them call or text 4) At the studio we often echo each other’s themes or poses without ever talking about it 5) Not getting into Antonya Nelson’s writing class years ago and instead took a class with a local writer and teacher, Maureen Dunphy who has ended up having such a huge, positive impact on my writing life: learned so much for her class, became part of a writing group with her, she is my ideal reader and sees things in my writing that I wasn’t even aware of, connected me with my current writing group.
  4. I ended up having a dialogue one day in my Morning pages between me and my writing. I was struggling with giving, what I consider, the scraps of my energy and attention to my writing.

Writing: Why do I get the scraps of your attention, energy and focus?

Me: I know. I’m sorry. But honestly, yoga makes me money, you don’t.

W: Not yet. And not ever if I get the bare minimum and besides, is money the main criteria on how you spend your energy?

Me: No, I guess not. I guess I’m embarrassed. And a little ashamed at how little effort I put into you. Even though I show up daily, the effort feels shallow. The work feels shallow.

W: I know it feels that way to you, but to me, every word, every moment of energy you direct in my direction adds up. These layers add up Layers of years, pages, words, layers of your devotion, your perseverance—it all adds up to deep work.

Me: Really? I didn’t think of it that way.

W: I know. You often see yourself in the weakest, harshest light possible.

Me: I know I do…

W: I just wish…

Me: What?

W: I just wish you had more faith in me. In us.

Me: Faith? Not a better work ethic?

W: Fuck no. More faith in the process of showing up, of keeping the creative momentum going. That’s priceless. Faith in your stories, your words. Faith in the impact your writing has. Faith in the process. Faith that the right readers will find you and you will find them. But—

Me: I have to send my work out.

W: Yes. You do. And not just once. But over and over again. As long as it takes.

Me: Okay. Faith it is.

 

The Artist’s Way ~ Week 10

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Week10 ~ Recovering a Sense of Self-Protection

  1. I did my Morning Pages daily. Still have not taken the time to read (decipher) them. Resistance? Probably. I’m surprised at how much I still resist the process of writing them. Doubts and boredom and irritation crop up regularly and I have been writing them on and off for over 20 years. So the lesson? Show up anyway. Show up to the doubt. Show up to the boredom. Show up to the irritation. The energy almost always shifts after the mere act of writing them.616p9BDEPbL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_
  2. My Artist’s Date was going to be painting. I found this book hidden under my bed,”Life, Paint and Passion- Reclaiming the Magic of Spontaneous Expression” by Michelle Cassou and Stewart Cubley. I’ve had it for years but never actually painted as part of my exploring and reading of it. So, this week I went to the store and stocked up on supplies; paints, brushes, paper, tape. I covered a door in our basement, taped up a piece of vellum and there it hung, all week, still white and pristine. Instead, I ended up getting a massage for my Artist’s Date. Not as creative as I wanted to be, but thoroughly nourishing since I hadn’t had one since before the holidays.
  3. Synchronicity: I found a podcast on my phone that had an interview with the writer of the book I chose for the Book Club I facilitate at the yoga studio where I teach. And it turns out, he is from our area, which I had no idea when I chose the book, “Big Love” by Scott Stabile.
  4. This week pretty much slipped past me. I didn’t even finish reading the entire chapter. I did some of the tasks. But my efforts all felt very half-hearted. I was so tired and then it was pointed out to me that we all have cycles of energy and that I was subbing a lot of classes which I honestly hadn’t even considered. I put a lot of myself into teaching yoga and one thing I have uncovered through this process is that I want to put just as much energy into my writing. Right now, it feels about 80/20. It needs to be at least 50/50.

The Artist’s Way ~ Weeks 8-9.

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Week 8 ~ Recovering a Sense of Strength

  1. I did the Morning Pages every day. I vacillate between loving them and feeling like they are a complete waste of time. But the process of showing up for them, no matter what my current state of mind is, is empowering. It helps me to show up to my yoga mat, my meditation cushion, the blank page, regardless of my mood.
  2. I created a page in my art journal for my Artist’s Date this weethumbnail-2k. At first, I was tempted to dismiss this as a cop out since I’ve already done this but getting back to creating, to playing with collage and  aint and words was part of my intention so if I do an art journal page for every Artist’s Date, that’s a win. I’m done with criticizing how I show up to this process when showing up is the point. 
  3. I didn’t notice any synchronicity this week or I don’t remember what they were. And that’s okay.
  4. I just noticed that each chapter uses the word “recovering” which means that we already have whatever quality is the theme for the week. We have just buried it/them under a bunch of stories that no longer fit with who we are. I had a hard time coming up with things I am not allowed to do so that needs to be revisited. I’ll use it as a writing prompt. I know that when nothing comes up it’s almost always because I am not willing to look at it or I haven’t allowed myself to dig deep enough. I noticed that my ideal day within the life I have now, is all about showing up to my self: to my work, creativity, body, relationships without the distractions that separate my from these things like TV or social media. I plan on taking one day and living it exactly as I imagine my ideal day to be.

Week 9 ~ Recovering a Sense of Compassion

  1. I did my Morning Pages every day. Even if it ended up being very late in the day, they still got written. I did not read them yet. Mostly because my writing is generally atrocious and so hard to read and partly because I was busy with my girls who were both home for spring break for the last time together so I was enjoying every minute I had with them.
  2. I managed to slip in aArtist date week 9n Artist’s Date while my daughter was getting her hair cut. I went to a local coffee shop that also sells alcohol and had a glass of wine while writing my Morning Pages and doing some of the tasks.
  3. Snychronicty: I was browsing a bookstore at the outlet mall and thought I was done then happened to stroll past the YA section and there was a book that’s been on my radar for a while: “Barbara the Slut and Other People” stories by Lauren Holmes.
  4. I absolutely love this from chapter 9: “Over any extended period of time, being an artist requires enthusiasm more than discipline. Enthusiasm is not an emotional state. It is a spiritual commitment, a loving surrender to our creative process, a loving recognition of all the creativity around us. Enthusiasm (from the Greek, “filled with God”) is an ongoing energy supply tapped into the flow of life itself.” I have battered myself over the years with the word “discipline” and I never ever live up to my own exhausting standards of what that means at any given  moment. So I love this idea of focusing my energy on enthusiasm instead. It’s a gentler, more accessible, more compassionate, more sustainable space from which to live and create.

Books Read in January + February.

Jan. Feb. books

“The Year of Less- How I stopped shopping, gave away my belongings, and discovered life is worth more than anything you can buy in a store” by Cait Flanders

The idea was born on a trail, as many of mine seem to be.

I’m a sucker for writers that take on a challenge and write about it. It inspires me to take on my own challenges of adding things into my life or taking them away. It’s always a lesson in mindfulness.

After pulling herself out of $30K in credit card debt, Flanders found herself slipping back into old patterns. To break the pattern, she decided to set herself a new challenge: she wouldn’t shop for an entire year.

She made rules as to what was allowed on the shopping ban and what definitely was not. She found she had to adjust the rules along the way but they provided a necessary structure. While I was inspired by how much she was able to save and the changes she made in her life, it fascinated me how it impacted her relationships. Just as when somebody is on a diet or choosing to be sober, choosing to not spend money triggered interesting reactions. Like offering a sober person beer, some people tempted her with shopping. Or she found that a lot of her social life revolved around buying things just as much of our social life revolves around food and drink. What happens when you step out of the normal activities that bond people? And she was dealing with both: a shopping ban and continuing her sobriety.

A sentence that really resonated with me:

“But there were really only two categories I could see: the stuff I used, and the stuff I wanted the ideal version of myself to use…There were books I thought smart Cait should read, clothes I thought professional Cait would wear, projects I thought creative Cait could tackle…I would do it all one day, and become a better person one day.”

“Behold the Dreamers” a novel by Imbolo Mbue

He’d never been asked to wear a suit to a job interview.

This timely novel takes us deep into the lives a family desperate to stay in America, to live the life they have always dreamed of, a life not possible in their home country.

Jende Jonga lands a dream job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Jende is making money, he carries a briefcase, wears a suit. He drives Clark and his wife Cindy and son Mighty wherever they need to go on any given day. His wife, Neni, is able to go to school to pursue her dream of becoming a pharmacist. Then the financial crisis hits and things begin to fall apart quickly. Cracks within the Edwards’ marriage begin to show as do cracks within the marriage of Jenge and Neni, everyone desperate for things to stay as they have been even as it all is shifting beneath their feet. It’s a beautiful, compassionate glimpse into lives of immigrants dreaming of a better life, the obstacles to realizing that dream and what they are willing to do to achieve it.

A line I love:

“They would lose the opportunity to grow up in a magnificent land of uninhibited dreamers. They would lose the chance to be awed and inspired by amazing things happening in the country, incredible inventions and accomplishments by men an women who look like them.”

“My Friend Fear- Finding Magic in the Unknown” by Meera Lee Patel

Like everyone, I came into this world without fear.

That first sentence just grabbed me. We aren’t born with fear, we learn fear. So that must mean that we can unlearn it. This beautiful book is filled with Patel’s personal exploration of how fear has manifested in her life alongside her lovely watercolor drawings and questions that demand reflection. It provided an insightful conversation at the yoga studio book club I facilitate and it is a book I will return to again and again as I learn how to unlearn fear and make it my friend.

A line I love:

“I thought about bodies another imperfections and why we carry them around as unforgivable symbols of who we really are.”

“Bluets” by Maggie Nelson

  1. Suppose I were to begin by saying that I had fallen love with a color.

Describing this slender yet powerful volume as a lyrical essay or prose poetry does not do it justice. Nelson uses the color blue as a prism though which to reflect on everything from philosophy to saints, desire to religion, physical pain to soul pain with the thread of lost love woven throughout connecting and illuminating the whole. Beautifully explored, beautifully written.

A sentence I love:

“I am writing all this down in blue ink, so as to remember that all words, not just some, are written in water.”

“A Selfie as Big as the Ritz” stories by Lara Williams

And so it begins. You graduate university.

The women that populate these stories are searching for something: love, desire, companionship and ultimately, to be seen. Several stories use the second person POV reminding me of Ann Beattie but Williams’ voice and perspective are fresh and unique, as are each of these quirky yet deeply moving stories.

A sentence I love that made me laugh out loud:

“He sniffs the bell and turns from you, slowly, hopping onto the bed and sitting down, with a calculation you cannily describe as sociopathic.”