Giving Your Creative Best

…this is the way I give praise.  It isn’t to be the best…it is to be my best.

Sometimes, I get into a fret wondering what is my purpose?  What is the body of work that I have to contribute either in writing or painting?  What is mine and  mine alone to share?  How am I making the world a better place for my being here?

Do you ever ask these questions?  Or wonder about your purpose?  Of course, if we get into comparison, we see people out there who seem to be driven with purpose from the beginning.  Those who make a positive impact.

Like Jane Goodall…

Watching this documentary over the past few nights, I’m struck by Jane Goodall’s sense of purpose.  Her early childhood knowing that she had a calling.  And, although she didn’t know how she was going to achieve that calling, she trusted in it and perhaps put herself in places of opportunity.  She had a supportive mother who let her believe that her dreams were possible (as outlandish as they might have appeared to others).  Jane didn’t know how it was going to unfold, but unfold it did.

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Most of the people in my circles don’t seem to have such a follow the breadcrumbs course to their purpose.   For me, it’s been more of an obstacle course.  And then an effort to decipher what was that all about?  I find myself looking for meaning in a life that has been turned upside down several times.

Is there a purpose to be derived from a life riddled with complexities–my own intricacies influenced by others?

Does my purpose center around what am I learning from this life of challenges?  Is this what I can share?  The hard won life lessons?  Is my “purpose” woven into these?

In our culture, do we make way too much of having a purpose?  Does even the option to consider your purpose depend on your economic status?  If you are in survival mode, your purpose is to survive.  The self-actualization hovering at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs…if the other needs on the ladder are met, then we might have time to consider purpose.  Then again, we’ve all heard the rags to riches stories.

What is that one magical thread that you seek to give meaning to your life?  Some people never ponder this…they live their lives.  Some with a greater degree of consciousness than others.  Is their life of any less value for not pondering these questions?

Is it as I said at the start of this blog?–
this is the way I give praise.  It isn’t to be the best…it is to be my best.  

Then There Are Hooks…

In writing, how is a hook different than a portal?  Or is it different.

If a portal is an opening, an entrance, isn’t a hook also that?  Not exactly.

A hook is that particular line written with the purpose of snagging a reader…to convince the reader that they want to read further.  When a book cover is designed, it is designed with this in mind–to invite the reader to open the book and read more; and then to buy the book.  Preferably, the writer places the hook in the opening paragraph, typically it’s the opening line.  That’s a big responsibility for one line!

How do you browse when you’re looking to buy a book?  You want something new to read.  You choose the genre–fiction or nonfiction–that whittles it down.  Let’s say you choose fiction.  Of course, within fiction there are many categories.  If you choose sci fi fantasy, you’ve narrowed your choice further.  Then you might choose a favorite author in this field.  Or you might randomly pick up books, read the cover (has it won any awards), you might read the endorsements or testimonials on the first few pages.

Or, you might open to the middle of the book, randomly reading whatever is on page 103…  Then again, you might read the first sentence of the first paragraph that begins the story.

What hooks you when you are looking for a book?  Those same things are hooks for others.

Let’s play…

A fun thing to do with fellow writers (or solo) is to write sentences that could act as hooks…

Here are a few of mine:

  1.  The money had run out.
  2.  Her voice became white sound to him.
  3. His hands clenched the picket sign, “Stop experimentation on animals.”
  4. Staring at her, he overflowed his coffee cup.
  5. He came out of the restroom, gave a nod and fell to his knees.
  6. The snow report warned of avalanche danger.

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Any one of these could be a hook for a reader.  And, it is also a portal for the writer to begin to tell more of the story.

 

 

Cycles of Creation

“The cycle of creation, of rising and falling energy, is as it should be. In this sense there is no such thing as creative block, or writers block. There is a time when creative energy flows like a river underground and disappears for a time, in the meantime making something, creating a new body, and then emerging again.”

— Clarissa Pinkola Estes

I have known this to be true from my own experience.  When people talk of writer’s block or tell me that they are not inspired, I remind them of this.  That what we perceive as a block or a lack of inspiration only means that we have entered what I term the fertile void.  In this place, the material of the deep psyche is mingling with your life experiences and your soul quest.  It is in this place that something new is brewing.

Within the fertile void, there is a sort of amnesia.  Even the very things that I’ve been passionate about don’t arouse the energy to bring them to fruition.  And, I lose direction of where to go next with these passionate ideas.  Desolate and aimlessly wandering, I face frustration and lack impetus.  In those times, if I can remember that this too is part of the creative cycle, I might find some relief.  Learning to recognize and trust the creative process at such times, is helpful and hopeful.

This point of seeming stuckness in the creative cycle is not something that needs to be solved.  We see it mirrored in  the wiles and cycles of nature.  If we live in a place with four seasons, we are especially privy to these cycles.  Within her blossoming spring, simmering summer and picturesque autumn, we see momentum and purpose.  Then, that immobilizing frigid winter comes and there is limitation, slowing, hunkering down, waiting it out and inward searching.  When I remember to welcome the winter, I am privy to her gifts.  This fallow time of rest, going inside literally and figuratively,  allowing the integration, rather than resisting it helps.  Winter, this seemingly inert time, is vital to the creative process.  It is not only restorative, it harbors the potential of spring.

This does not mean that I am unproductive during the time of inwardness.  Instead, I can work on creative projects that I’ve stashed away…things like knitting or sewing or cooking a gourmet meal to share.  I might clear out some old files that really do feel stagnant.  I might study something new or even learn Spanish–a promise I’ve made to myself.

How do you experience the fallow time?  What resources do you call on to see you through?

 

A portal

…is an entry point, a place you might not usually notice…for a moment, it is visible.  And then it seems to dissolve into the ethers, defined as “the essence of the universe.”  You enter rather spontaneously or you might miss it entirely.  A lost opportunity.  Hesitation, over-consideration, distractions camouflage the opening.  If you enter, you are in new territory.  You can be certain of disorientation.  Remember Alice in Wonderland and the rabbit hole?

blacandwhite1

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I remember a time when I was hiking at Southgate Meadows on Mount Shasta.  It was my birthday.  A friend had tied a scarf, a birthday gift from her, around my curls and I had set out alone.  After hiking a couple of hours, I came across a bubbling spring.  The sound of it was like a herald.  A man, also hiking, stopped and told me that this spot was  a portal.  He said that if I sat and listened for awhile, I might be able to hear the quality of musical notes that the water running over the rocks was creating.  That a certain combination of sounds produced an opening, a portal.  He wandered on.  I sat and listened.  There was definitely a music of sorts.  However, I can’t say that I found the entry point.

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In writing or painting, the writer or painter looks for a portal…an entry point to the story that wants to unfold or the painting that wants to evolve.  I think that there might be two portals–one for the writer to begin writing and then one for the reader to be drawn into the story.  One for the artist to enter the painting and one for the viewer to bear witness.  Each entrance requires a surrender…which is the consent to be changed by something external to us.

Have you discovered such portals in your life, in your creative pursuit?

mining the journals

so it has been said that… “90% of the iceberg sits below the water.”

I do think that a good portion of who we are is sitting below the surface, unexamined.  A journal is an opportunity to put your toe into the deep water…a place to explore yourself and to write freely, so long as you feel safe…that no one is going to discover your journal and share it with “the world.”

Do I intend that my journal be shared?  Sometimes?  Or never?  Within its pages, I show my humanness and vulnerability.  It is in these vulnerables places that I connect with myself on a deeper level.  And if I choose, with another.

As I browse through a few of my earlier journals, I rediscover parts of myself–experiences, curiosities, confusions, illusions, poetry, painful places, the sci fi novel I started, unfinished short stories or complete essays waiting to be published.  I can revisit  whole periods of my life–what I felt, the choices that I made.  What about you?  Do you keep a journal?  Reviewing it, are you ever surprised by what you’ve written?

For me, a journal has been many things…
–a place to express and clear an immediate feeling, catharsis.
–a way to find a path through a difficult experience or time.
–a place to describe something memorable.
–salvation in the written word.
–a place to practice writing.
–for wordplay.
–to write poetry.
–to process
–for describing something in detail, as in word paintings.
–a place to explore ideas.
–to write out dialogue.
–for laundry list writing.
–for an actual laundry or shopping list.
–exploring areas where growth is desired.
–designing the next step, visioning.
–writing a letter I won’t send
–a place for prayer
–or to offer a blessing
–a place for gratitude

What is your journal to you?

A journal can provide that safe space to write freely.  If I considered that someone, someday might be reading my journals, would I express so freely?  If my journals are written with an audience in mind, that’s different.

I wonder if most writers keep a journal…has there ever been a survey on this?

While, it is true that some of what I write about in my journals is fodder for writing that I choose to make public, most of it is for my eyes only.  I ask myself if I would want my daughters to read my journals.  I consider assigning a friend the task of disposing of my journals when I meet my demise?

Do you mine your journals, shelve them, box them, keep them under lock and key, burn them, share them?

 

 

 

 

“Brief and Fragile”

Today, a few close friends of Richard’s plan to hike in on an obscure mountain trail lined with wildflowers and pine trees to a canyon where we will commemorate Richard and scatter his ashes.

I remembered this little poem from the book, Earth Prayers…
by Maria Eugenia Baz Ferreira

To all that is brief and fragile
superficial, unstable,
To all that lacks foundation
argument or principles,
To all that is light,
fleeting, changing, finite
To smoke spirals,
wand roses,
To sea foam
and mists of oblivion
To all that is light in weight
for itinerants
on this transient earth
Somber, raving
with transitory words
and vaporous bubbly wines
I toast
in breakable glasses….

 

poetry today

Sometimes the remedy is poetry

your written poem or the read poem

can supply the medicine for what ails you

Poetry won’t be contrived

it rises from a depth

of feeling–frustration, sorrow, happiness

sometimes ecstasy

In these times, The Greatest Generation, The Silent Generation,
Baby Boomers, Baby Bust, Xennials, Millennials,
Gen Z, Gen Alpha

stroll (mostly upright) side-by-side

on this rocking, rolling, heating up planet

Is poetry the antidote

for what ails you, society, the world

–the man-made manifestations

of a humanity

that struggles too much

Poetry,  like a cement

that fills a crack in the sidewalk

though more flexible

like putty perhaps,

it has the power to

shift a demeanor

Many think of poetry as lofty

beyond their ken

but poetry is gritty

a navigational tool

through life on earth

Poetry is a language

of the wayfaring soul