The Artist’s Way ~ Week 6

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Week 6 ~ Recovering a Sense of Abundance

Abundance…the one subject I am always eager to explore and the one I dread. Like many of us (especially artists) I have a complicated relationship with money. One that I am working on.

  1. The counting reminded me of how I’ve been counting calories. It’s how I’ve lost 31 pounds since the end of September. And it makes sense. Money and food are both energy. When I lose track of either one (calories in or money spent) that’s when I get into trouble. I think I will keep counting what I spend. I keep track online and categorize each expenditure but writing it down in a little notebook as I spend it makes me feel more accountable.
  2. I’ve written my Morning Pages every day, just not every morning. I’ve noticed there’s a perfect window to write them and it is definitely in the morning. Wen I wait until the mid-afternoon my brain is foggy, my attention diffuse. When I wait until late at night I’m just too tired to focus.
  3. For my Artist’s Date I went to Earth Lore and treated myself to a few little luxuries that really nurture my creative and spiritual self: some teas,  a beautiful deck of cards, a book on creativity and yoga (two of my favorite things!) and some incense. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular but found exactly what  needed. 27972595_10212577978179185_7783535907238460880_n
  4. Noticed a couple of instances of synchronicity this week: my sister posted the poem, “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver and I had been reading it at the end of my yoga classes all week. A student brought in a stone with the word “trust” painted on it and I had already planned on using trust as one of our writing prompts for the class that night. While giving Reiki to a friend the title of my memoir came to me along with the structure. What a gift!

Onward!

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The Artist’s Way • Week 5

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Check-in

  1. I did my Morning Pages every day, not always in the morning but every day. Often I’d hit this wall of “what is the point of this?” It feels like a waste of time, a waste of paper, a waste of trees as I struggled to fill three pages. Today, as I was whining about that very thing again, it hit me that this is a process not a product. It matters less what I write but that I write. That I show up. That I honor the commitment I’ve made to myself, that I just fill the pages without expectations of having a breakthrough or insight or even as Julia Cameron calls it a “truth point.”
  2. Even though I took my BFF as my date I’m going to go ahead and count this as my Artist’ s Date and here’s why. I was tempted to turn down this Artist’s Date that was literally gifted to me for free. A student had tickets to Yamato-The Drummers of Japan and offered them to me when she was too sick to use them. My initial response was no. No, I don’t even know who they are. No, I don’t want to go out after having to teach two classes early in the morning. No, I don’t want to drive up there and back late at night. Then I remembered this process of honoring my artist, of playing, of saying yes whenever possible. So, I googled who they were and they looked amazing and I said yes. And it was amazing. The show was engaging on so many levels: visually stunning, I not only heard the music but literally felt it thrumming through my body. It’s made me wonder why my initial reaction to something new is usually no. I am trying to catch myself and saying yes more and more.
  3. Synchronicity: Looking back the one thing I noticed is how I got the tickets. When she realized she couldn’t use them the went on Facebook to find somebody to give them to and I was the first person she saw. I haven’t actually been keeping an eye out for synchronicity so that is something I need to start consciously holding as an intention.
  4. Other issues: This week it felt like I kept this whole process on the back burner. Even though I did my Morning Pages daily, and went on my AD, I feel like I dropped the thread of the theme, of the process this week. I did a couple of the in-chapter exercises early in the week then nothing. Today I did all of the tasks. So it felt like I bookended my week with this work rather than letting it flow through me and around me throughout the week. The good news is I don’t feel bad about it or about me. It’s just something I noticed and thought, “Huh, this isn’t working for me. Let’s change it.”

The Artist’s Way: Weeks 1-4

Vision Board 2018

My Vision Board, 2018

My plan had been to post at the end of each week about my current Artist’s Way journey. Then I got the flu. And had my wisdom teeth out. And an inner ear thing that made it difficult to stay upright for any length of time. But I have stayed connected to the process. Today I will post a recap of the last 4 weeks and from here on will post weekly. That’s my plan anyway… (fingers crossed!)

Week 1 • Recovering a Sense of Safety

I had an epiphany this week while doing one of the tasks: List three old enemies of your creative self-worth. I have done this task numerous times over the years. And have even explored this particular enemy before but this time I discovered something new.

If you grew up in Michigan, you might be familiar with a TV show featuring “Oopsy the Clown.” He did a segment where children could draw pictures, send them in and he would feature them on his show. Well, I did that. I drew my picture in crayons of Oopsy standing between tow big trees, mailed it in and it was featured on TV. I was practically famous! I remember kneeling on the floor in front of the TV eagerly waiting for him to show my drawing. He did. My family was all around me. Oopsy showed the picture, said my name and age and then described the picture this way: “Well, here’s a picture of Oopsy standing between…two big ice cream cones.” What? Not ice cream cones! Trees! You are standing between two big tees! I just wanted the floor to open up and swallow me whole. As I explored this experience I wrote, “I had followed through on something and I was humiliated.” Ding, ding, ding. One of my challenges is following through. Finishing stories, novels, sending them out, following up with agent queries, sending them out to more agents. So, it hit me. A part of me is afraid that if I follow through I will be humiliated. It doesn’t feel safe to follow through with my art.

Week 2 • Recovering a Sense of Identity

No big epiphanies this week. Just a steady showing up to myself, to my inner artist, to my writing. I struggle with Artist’s Dates. Not sure why. I’ve struggle with them every single time I have done The Artist’s Way. I have no problem being alone or doing things alone so I don’t know what is going on. I did a Zentangle while sitting in front of the fire for this week’s Artist’s Date. I didn’t end up liking it and felt really distracted as I did it which is the exact opposite of what is suppose to happen. Supposed? Hmmm…that’s always a red flag. Maybe I have too many expectations about what Artist’s Dates should be, how they should feel, what they should produce. Maybe it’s not about producing anything but just being.

Week 3 • Recovering a Sense of Power

I enjoyed the detective work this week. Excavating my childhood for who I was then, what I enjoyed doing, what kind of person I was then. I remembered that I wasn’t afraid to try new creative activities: pottery, making tissue paper flowers, collaging vases, weaving, creating an “aquarium” out of an old shoe box with paper fish dangling from strings. I read a lot. Every report card from elementary school mentions my love of reading, my love of books. Library day was my favorite day of the week and I was always exploring shelves that were years above my age.

A little bit of synchronicity I observed: In the detective work I wrote about loving to play with Spirograph. Then I was in my writing room and looking for something in the closet when I found a brand new Spirograph I had bought at a toy store several years ago but never opened! So that was my Artist’s Date. Unfortunately, the wheels didn’t work well, the teeth didn’t stay connected so the pen kept slipping making it a rather frustrating experience.

Week 4 • Recovering a Sense of Integrity

So, I didn’t get a chance to read this chapter on Sunday. I checked in with my TAW online group and saw all the commotion about Reading Deprivation week. Ugh…I knew it was coming,I just thought it was the seventh week. I was not prepared for it. And I rebelled. I outlined all the reasons why I couldn’t not read this week. I still had to finish the book for the book club I facilitate at our yoga studio thais weekend. And besides, I wasn’t reading a lot anyway these days, not as much as I usually did. And this book isn’t up to date. It should be a social media/iPhone/technology deprivation week. That’s what I really needed help with. So, I went ahead and read on Monday but it just felt off. Partly because I am a rule follower. Mostly because I heard how lame my excuses sounded. And they were definitely excuses. If I have learned anything these last six years of delving deep into my yoga practice, it is that I most need what I most resist. So, I gave in. Fine. No reading this week. I didn’t even finish the book for our book club. Instead of reading here are some of the things I did:

~  I stayed on top of writing handwritten welcome notes to students new to my yoga classes

~ Wrote a letter to my sweet 7-year-old niece who had sent me a postcard earlier this month

~ Created a vision board for this year (this was my Artist’s Date)

~ I have acquired a stack of a lovely magazine called “Flow” that always has several fun projects or activities throughout each issue that I never seem to do. Well, this week I started doing them

~ Instead of reading at night I found some yoga nidra meditations on Insight Timer and listened to them which helped me fall asleep faster and sleep more deeply

~ Instead of eating my breakfast this morning in front of the TV or at my desk watching Youtube, I sat at the dining room table and had a mindful meal: giving thanks for the food, no distractions, chewing food slowly, placing fork down between bites

As always, I benefitted from not reading. But I have to admit I was really cranky about it at first. I’m sure the weird energy of the full moon this week didn’t help. Not reading allowed me to stay a little more introspective, a little more connected to myself so I didn’t go to my usual easy buttons to check out like too much sugar and/or wine.

As we come to the end of the first third of the process I can feel a subtle inner shifting. I feel energized with tons of ideas for essays, my novel, themes for yoga classes, yoga sequences. I am just feeling more engaged on so many levels.

Another Circle Around TAW.

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I am doing “The Artist’s Way.” Again.

Probably my third or fourth time over the years. But this time it feels different.

Usually I turn to it when I am feeling stuck or exasperated with my lack of creative progress. But that is not the case at all this time around. I have written something everything single day since January 1, 2016. I wrote over eighty thousand words on my novel last year. I have about sixty thousand on a YA fantasy I have been revisiting this year. I am teaching eight yoga classes a week, feeling connected to my own practice as well to my students. I’ve been vegan since July of 2017 and I’ve lost about thirty pounds.

So, I am not stuck.

So why the lure of TAW now?

I think I want the playfulness of it. The nurturing aspect of the whole process. And that is even more available now that I am doing it with a group. I posted to my FaceBook page that I was going to do TAW in the new year to see if anyone was interested in doing it with me. Many people were. We now have a group of about 20 phenomenal woman from across the state and country moving through the tasks, Morning Pages and Artist’s Dates together. It’s a beautiful thing to witness and be part of.

Unfortunately, the week we started it I got the flu. 102.8 fever and just felt miserable. My husband had just left to go out of town so I was alone. I was just barely feeling human when I had to have my wisdom teeth out due to a cracked tooth. Then on the heels of that I was dealing with fluid in my inner ears which was making me dizzy and nauseous. Not an auspicious start to the process. But instead of throwing in the towel or berating myself, I did what I could. Some days my morning pages were only one page. My Artist’s Date that week consisted of binge-watching “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”

For once I was completely compassionate with myself.

Maybe it’s the fact that I am 52 instead of 22 and have learned how to be gentle with myself. Maybe it’s the yoga foundation I now stand on that permeates every aspect of my life and is allowing me to approach the TAW with compassion and curiosity rather than another way to bludgeon myself for not living up to my own impossible standards. Because my standards are no longer impossible.

All I know is that this time feels different.

I feel different.

I am different.

I am exploring the process of TAW with curiosity rather than as a way to whip myself into shape or to fix what I believe to be broken.

That’s the difference, right there. I no longer think of myself as broken.

And that difference has changed who I am.

List: 5 Obscure Words that Give Me All the Feels.

I love lists so each Saturday my plan is to share a list of some sort,                                  covering a range of topics.

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Image found via Pinterest.

  1. Helhjartat  ~ Everything I do, I do with my whole heart.
  2. Meraki ~ To do something with soul, creativity or love, leaving a piece of yourself into what you are doing.
  3. Metanoia ~ The journey of changing one’s mind, heart, self or way of life.
  4. Sonder ~ The realization that each passerby has a life as vivid and complex as your own.
  5. Vellichor ~ The strange wistfulness of used bookstores.

Five on Friday.

Each Friday I try to share five links that made me think, inspired me or I just found entertaining throughout the week.

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  1. Preparing for our first vegan Thanksgiving.
  2. I love having journal writing prompts at the ready.
  3. A peek into the writing mind of J.K. Rowling.
  4. “To put it another way, it took me two decades to become brave enough to be angry.” Read this piece by Lindy West.
  5. I’ve been exploring this link between voice and integrity and authenticity. Do my words come from integrity or do they add to the noise of the world? This speaks to that.

Habit, Routine + Ritual.

Routine and Ritual

“We are what we repeatedly do. Success is not an action but a habit.” ~ Aristotle

Whenever autumn rolls around, I find myself drawn back into that back-to-school mode. Since I am long out of school, it’s a time of year when I turn inward and really look at how I am spending my time. By then, I’m coming off a summer of loose routines, fun and spontaneous adventures and I’m ready to dive back into a structure that feeds my creativity.

This year I’ve been thinking about the differences between habit, routine and ritual. Habits—good and bad—are those things we do automatically without too much thought: brushing our teeth, taking a shower, a walk after dinner. Routines are a set of habits that lend structure to your day. So a set of habits such scraping your tongue, drinking a glass of warm water with lemon, gentle yoga and meditation become a morning routine. Nighttime routine might consist of a cup of tea, turning off all electronics, setting the alarm, reading a book before going to sleep. I think of routines as safety nets to our days.

“You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” ~ John Maxwell

I knew I had to change something about my morning routine. My habit was to eat breakfast while watching a show on Hulu that I had missed the night before. But that became a slippery slope and before I knew it a whole morning could be wasted in front of the TV and on my phone. So, my one change was to eat breakfast at my desk. I make some toast, fruit and tea, go into my writing room, close the door, light a candle, read an inspiring writing book while eating my toast then write my morning pages while sipping my tea. Then I set a timer for 30 minutes and work on my novel. I’ve started doing a freewrite based on a card drawn from “The Observation Deck” then I move onto my draft and start knitting together what I have, cutting what doesn’t work, asking myself question. I keep a writer’s notebook specifically for this project where I keep my freewrites, notes, questions, timelines. After the timer goes off I’ll go do some small household task like wash the dishes or put in or fold a load of laundry then set the timer again.

“If you want your day to be organized, develop a routine. If you want your day to be meaningful, create rituals.” 

This one small tweak of a habit—moving where I ate my breakfast—cracked open my morning routine and helped me create a ritual that sustains my creative process. Lighting the candle, reading an inspiring book, drawing a card from the “Soulful Woman Guidance Deck” all weave together to create a ritual to nurture my creativity. When I start my day immersed in the creative process, it sets the tone for my day, it adds meaning to my life.

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.

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I’ve always been wary of poetry. Never feeling quite smart enough to get it. I think high school dissections of poems did that to me. Since I went to art school, I wasn’t exposed to poetry as part of my education. So, as part of my self-education as a writer and a human, I explored poetry myself. Not poems that I was told I should read, but poems that spoke to me, that lured me in somehow.

I remember being drawn in by the title of this collection and back then I had been devouring all of her novels. I skimmed through it and came across this poem at the end called “Six underrated pleasures.” Six pieces on folding sheets, picking pole beans, taking a hot bath, sleeping with cats, planting bulbs, and canning.

You could write about folding sheets? That was poetry? My world cracked open. Poetry didn’t have to be dense and impenetrable. Poetry was simply paying deep attention to what was right in front on you.

“Whenever I fold a fitted sheet

making the moves that are like

closing doors, I feel my mother.

The smell of clean laundry is hers.”

Thank you, Dani Shapiro.

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Jealousy. Envy. Not pleasant emotions. Personally, I don’t believe the two are interchangeable. To me, jealousy is about what somebody has, something that you want for yourself. Envy feels more inward. When I feel envy it’s because I want to be like that person. I want to have their qualities, not their things.

So, the other morning I realized I envy Dani Shapiro. I admire the hell out of her. I read all of her books. I listen to interviews with her. Every blog she posts feels like she is writing directly into my heart. So when envy came up I knew enough to pause instead of my usual MO when something uncomfortable arises which is to get the hell away from it. (Thank you yoga practice for teaching me to stay.)

Envy is an especially efficient mirror back to yourself if you stay with it. What you learn can act as a compass to your own truth north. I asked myself what I envied exactly.

~ All the books she’s written from memoir to novels to writing about writing

~ the way her days seems to be intimately woven around her writing life

~ she teaches meditation, yoga and writing retreats

~ she teaches in exotic locales like Positano, Italy

Then I ask myself what is exactly that I want in my life.

~ I want to explore different kinds of writing

I am taking notes now on a nonfiction book based on the class I created called Poses, Pens + Inner Peace while I continue to work on my novel and essays and blog posts.

~ I want to spend more portions of my days immersed in writing.

So, after meditating and a brief yoga practice to get all the kinks out my mind and body, I’ve begun taking my breakfast and tea straight to my desk where my first treat of the day is to dip back into Shapiro’s wonderful book on the creative life, “Still Writing.” From there I set a timer for 30 minutes and work on my novel. Then I do some mundane household task then come back to the novel or a blog post or some other piece of writing.

~ I already teach a class that combines yoga, mediation and writing.

It’s something I knew I wanted to do the minute I stepped on my mat. I feel the same energy on my mat that I feel in my writing—an energy that connects to deeper parts of myself. Holding space for a group as they release stories through yoga and writing and share with the class is an honor to me each and every week.

~ I want to expand Poses, Pens + Inner Peace beyond that one Thursday night class.

I envision taking this class as a retreat to different parts of the country, even abroad, bringing groups of women together in a sacred circle to heal, to reclaim parts of themselves they have lost, to celebrate their magnificent light.

So, really this is a thank you to Dani Shapiro. Thank you for living an authentic, beautiful, messy creative life that tugged at something in me and allowed to envision what kind of creative life I want for myself. Thank you for the example of your work ethic that I can admire and emulate to then take the steps to make that vision a reality. Thank you for the honesty of your words that pierce my heart. Thank you for sharing those words with the world.

List: Top 5 Books that Illuminated my Writing Path.

I love lists so each Saturday my plan is to share a list of some sort,                                    covering a range of topics

five books

These are the top five books that started me on the writing path and that I turn to again and again.

  1. “Writing Down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg. This is the absolute first book that offered me a glimmer of recognition that perhaps I could write. Actually, that I must write.
  2. “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott She helped and continues to help me loosen the grip of perfectionism by taking it word by word, allowing myself to write shitty first drafts and writing what I can see through a 1-inch picture frame.
  3. “Ron Carlson Writes a Story” by Ron Carlson As he takes us meticulously through his process of writing one particular short story, Carlson reminds of the importance of doing the work, of staying in the room even when—especially when—I want leave.
  4. “The Writer’s Portable Mentor” by Priscilla Long This is a book about process and craft but it goes deep into all the layers of craft far beyond character, plot and setting. Never fails to get my pen moving again.
  5. “Still Writing” by Dani Shapiro I have read this gem at least three times, maybe four and am currently reading it each morning as I eat my breakfast and drink tea at my desk before plunging into my own writing. Her honest reflection of the writing life comforts me as I continue to show up to the page and to my own writing life.

What books illuminate the writer in you? Please share in the comments!