The Artist’s Way • Week 5



  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.


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.


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.


The Power of Art to Stay Awake.

I’ve been watching “The Handmaid’s Tale” on Hulu with equal parts fascination, fear and fury.

For those who don’t know the premise, it is based on the 1985 dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood. The former United States is now The Republic of Gilead. After extreme environmental devastation has left many women barren and men sterile, the new order steps in, sorting women into categories: young fertile women become Handmaids, some become Martha’s or maids, some are Aunts who are in charge of grooming the Handmaids for their new duties, while the rest are sent to work in the toxic camps where death is imminent. Cheery, so far, yes?

Handmaids are placed with a commander and his barren wife. Most of the commanders are sterile but that fact is no longer allowed in this society. (Dismissing of facts, sound familiar?) Only women are blamed for not being able to procreate. Their duty is to produce a child for the couple through The Ceremony which I find myself cringing through as I watch it.

One of the most disturbing aspects are the flashbacks which also greatly disturbed my 23-year-old daughter. In our current climate, setting the flashbacks in our time just makes the scenario seem not only possible but, at times, chillingly inevitable. Through the flashbacks we learn how women’s right were methodically stripped: firing them for their jobs, freezing their bank accounts so that only a husband or father could manage their money.

These are extreme actions that may, on the surface, feel completely unrealistic. We like to tell ourselves that would never happen here. But it already is. It comes down to how we value women and as a society we aren’t valued as much as men. We literally make less money for the same job just because are women. We are at the crux of a constant fight for control over our own bodies. We may be heading back to a time where our gender is considered a pre-existing condition and be charged more for our health insurance.

Beyond the issues of gender, another chilling scene was a brief flashback where men dressed in black with guns were throwing books and art into a fire. Why go after art? It is straight out of the dictator’s handbook. Go after the artists who use their voices to speak truth to power. Artists hold up a mirror to society—the good, the bad and the ugly. Once we see ourselves, we can’t unseen it. Therefore, it behooves a regime to not allow it to be seen or heard in the first place.

I’ve been watching as many artists struggle to find their voice in this new era of government where rights are threatened on an almost daily basis. Before the election, writer Julianna Baggott started a site inviting people to dedicate their no-Trump vote, sharing their stories about why they were not voting for him.

More than 600 American writers, including Stephen King, Dave Eggers, and Cheryl Strayed, penned an open letter against Trump.

Michael Moore reveals that he has been on a “creative tear” since last summer when he saw the inevitable train wreck coming at us. He encourages the use of satire and humor because it has been shown to get under the President’s extremely thin skin. What is a weakness in him becomes a strength for the resistance.

Many visual artists are turning to their work in this era of Trump to motivate action and educate the public on issues they are passionate about. As always, art is in the eyes of the beholder and there are consequences of expressing your views in such a public forum. For example, Ilma Gore’s painting of a nude Trump sporting a micropenis is currently on display at the Maddox gallery in London. She has been threatened not only by his lawyers but has received thousands of death and rape threats after posting the image online where it was shared over 260,000 times.

I find myself turning more to my writing than ever before. It soothes my anxiety, it helps me make sense of the chaos and it helps me discern what I think and how I feel within the chaos. Working on my novel five days week is often the one time of the day when I can block out the news and lose myself in another world. But I also find myself writing more political content in my journal, on social media and on my blog. I considered whether that would offend potential readers of my work and chose to use my voice. It is a gift I have and to not use it seems wrong. My audience is not huge but I have had people tell me over and over again how much they appreciate my words so I will keep sending them out into the world.

Ultimately, this election has been about waking up. Waking up to reality, to political action, to making myself heard whether through marches, town halls, calling and faxing my representatives or writing. Artists are awake to reality and they wake the rest of us up which is critical in these times.

I will leave you with the most chilling words from “The Handmaid’s Tale” so far:

Now I’m awake to the world. I was asleep before. That’s how we let it happen. When they slaughtered Congress, we didn’t wake up. When they blamed terrorists and suspended the Consitution, we didn’t wake up then, either. Nothing changes instantaneously. In a gradually heating bathtub, you’d be boiled to death before you knew it.

~ Offred

Let’s stay awake.



A Book I Love. #TBT

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


“Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life” by Anne Lamott became my writing bible for a while. Her simple advice, her passion, her authentic, messy real self appealed to me on a deep level. She wasn’t afraid to admit to the hard parts of writing. She didn’t pretend that she sat down easily everyday as the words just flowed from her fingertips from some muse on high. In fact, the only muse she endorsed was the work. Showing up was the muse. To this day, I still use her advice: one-inch picture frame to write the next scene, shitty first drafts to write the thing at all and taking it all one word at a time.




Today, I changed my profile picture on social media to a black square, symbolizing my grief.

Today, I went to yoga, allowing myself to be both grounded and lifted up by my practice and yoga community.

Today, I chose to not watch the inauguration.

Today, I wrote over 700 more words on my novel. Each day, I show up and add more words and they begin to add up to something substantial. They add up to scenes, to pages, to characters, to stories, eventually to a full novel.

In the days and years ahead of us, showing up each day to what is happening in our communities, states and country will be critical. Each action, no matter how small, adds up to something substantial.

Make that call to your representative voicing your concern about healthcare or education or the environment or whatever cause is dear to your heart.

Join a local political action group.

Write an Op-Ed.

Reach out to somebody in your community who feels afraid, disenfranchised.

Take radical care of yourself.

Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint.

Today, as I grieve at what we’ve lost and are afraid of losing I am also looking at what we have gained.

We have gained an awakening.

People are waking up from complacency.

Waking up to the sobering responsibilities of being a citizen of the great country.

I see people waking up to support each other.

To lift each other up.

To standing up to bullies, misogyny, racism, xenophobia.

Standing up for progress.

Tomorrow I will join many of you as I attend a local progressive rally in my very conservative town before heading to our state capitol for the Sister March.

There will be excitement.

There will be passion.

There will be pussyhats and signs and lots and lots of energy.

But that is only the very first step in a very long journey.

So, yes, today a black square is representing my mourning.

Tomorrow, it will be replaced by my original picture with the words, “When sleeping women wake, mountains move.”


Today, I mourn. Tomorrow I take the first of many, many steps to move mountains.

I hope you’ll join me.