Blogging for a Fuller Life

“Generally speaking, writing doesn’t improve from writers’ indefinitely putting off the moment when they set words to paper. On the contrary, it depends on writers’ being venturesome– like the vast plant and animal world, with its myriad false starts.”

“In my view, no one still up to the task of uttering a brand-new sentence is not also capable of growing more whole daily. May that livening experience– and true gladness for the chance of it, as well– be my reader’s fate.”

My brand-new sentences:

Here I have quoted Lawrence Weinstein from Grammar for a Full Life: How the Ways We Shape a Sentence Can Limit or Enlarge Us, and I will try to let it inspire me daily. Sitting down and doing the work is up to me, but not to the overloaded, stamina-wielding me. Rather, it’s up to a more spacious me who is learning to say No to overload without fruit or meaning.

It All Adds Up

Pot

 

Sunday Stay-at-Home mood + not liking basic orange-y plant pots so much + kind of done with that nail polish color + wishing I had a cat right now +  I could be grading paper instead =  Creativity!

Of a sort. Hang in there, be kind, be well!

 

A Little Bliss

bliss

I had some old notes for this piece but hesitated to write it now.  Joseph Campbell, quoted in Austin Kleon‘s book (I think it was Keep Going), advises us about moving away from the everyday into a space and/or time to open and create. Campbell wrote:

You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day…a place where you can simply experience and bring forth…the place of creative incubation…if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.

Well, there’s no more “everyday” now, and who knows what that will look like later, what each of us will in future label “everyday”. When people have been universally forced into “other” time and space, can I still write about its value? I can try.

Campbell called the place he described above one’s “bliss station”. I have one. There it is, one end of a futon couch, next to some shelves, where I keep writing materials, meditation objects, and about 1/3 of my plants. And may I introduce Claude, the little blue fellow on the upper shelf, a rounded fellow with a ball nose and a beret, whom I made in a school crafts class when I was about 7? He’s sort of my Buddha. We’ve always been tight.

My bliss station is also early, before coffee is finished for the morning and work begins for the day. If I’ve got myself together, it’s sometimes before sunrise.  Not always.

I hadn’t been there for a while, as this current wave of awfulness started to break. I was sick (not with That) and scattered from suddenly having three jobs to do online, the entire gig economy on my lap. The news. Nerves. I don’t have to tell you. But then I went back to the bliss station and drafted this and started showing up again.

I will say four things are true about my Bliss Station. It was right there when I looked for it. It changes absolutely nothing about the current situation, except that I’m doing what I can to make the most Positive possible. Since I live in an attractive but very small apartment, it has helped these weeks to have designated spaces of all kinds: a work area, a reading corner, the bliss station, and random places to stand to listen to the news or think. That’s 3. The 4th one is that going to back to regular time in the bliss station has felt like Something. There’s things you can do if you put whatever is your own Ground under your own feet.

Against the enormity of what is happening, what are a few words here wishing you some Ground, Something to Lean On, a little Bliss? They are some words I wrote in my Creative Space, wishing you these things. Be well.

 

 

Pondering Creative Minds

pen and ink

At a New Year’s Eve get-together, some creative friends were enjoying the early evening hanging-around-the-kitchen-with-wine hour. Our host shared some stories about her and my former workplace, and before you click away, let me assure you it was creative gossip about two famous, influential writers.  They had both revealed to my friend something about how their creative minds worked in the daily world, and since I’m pondering that, no identities. But go ahead and guess, O fiction fans.

The organization we worked for provided short courses for adults in everything from languages to cooking to rollerblading, and it also hosted writers for appearances and workshop weekends. My friend’s job description put much of the logistics of these events on her shoulders. Let’s call the two visiting artists Creative Mind 1 and Creative Mind 2.

Full disclosure for blog justice: CM1 broke their contract without warning halfway through the weekend, and I am aware of later events in our fair city where CM1 made large, gratuitous difficulties for those who invited them. CM1 seems to have been nestled into a rarefied life by academia, where they operate undisturbed on strict routines that others of us might find monastic or stifling. The daily life seems designed to serve the Art. As the saying goes, you do you; I’m sure many artists work this way for successful results, and CM1 sure has those. (I only judge CM1 for how miserable they made my friend that weekend, as if their needs were the only ones of value. I settle for using the silly nickname we have called CM1 since then.)

CM1 told my friend that, flight delayed, they stood a long time in a long airport line. So they pulled out writing supplies and began notes for a new work. In the full experience of CM1 that weekend, my friend found this choice insular, as if they wrapped a layer of writing around themselves like plastic wrap in that unfortunate situation. That limbo moment was a chance to disengage from the world. That is how some artists get it done.

Again, disclosure: CM2 was friendly and obliging, and that counts for a lot when you’re coordinating a big event and are surrounded by responsibilities and drooling groupies.

CM2 was waiting to speak to an audience where our organization was then housed, a Gilded Age mansion in Boston, donated in the early 20th for that purpose. (I mean, it had a ballroom.) CM2 was waiting in a small, beautifully paneled room that had been the Gentleman’s study. They looked around and eagerly called my friend’s attention to the old wires bordering the glass inside the window frames. Recognizing it as a Gilded Age burglar alarm, CM2 was excited and exclaimed that it must be one of the earliest alarm systems, and how utterly cool. They were fascinated, and in this limbo moment, wholly engaged with a new thing to offer their attention. That’s how some artists get it done.

I would prefer a creative mind like CM2’s. I can be easily, even too, curious in any given moment and easily, even too, enthusiastic about new things to explore. I like CM2’s relationship with the world, although it can present challenges. Overload and scattering of attention does not always serve the work you want to do.

I’m also aware that I was doing exactly what CM1 did at the airport when I was drafting this piece, in the middle of an unpleasant, stressful period of waiting limbo of my own. Was I upholding my practice or retreating into it? When is being driven either inward or outward healthy and when not? What is the balance? How does objective success in one’s art, and one’s behavior to others, affect how we judge creative habits and what it means to have a Creative Mind?

There’s no conclusion here. I still find CM2’s mode richer, more appealing, and more natural to me. But I’m asking myself many questions about different forms of discipline, practice, routine, openness to the world as it comes, balance, and how best to support my well-being and creativity. Conversation welcome!

 

Well

Well

Well, here’s a tip from this Creative person: Remember, the weeks in February where one job is going to require a lot of extra hours may not be when 60+ college papers should be due. If you remember, you won’t be exhausted and behind through most of March, and then just exhausted for the rest, and you won’t spend 1.5 months in Lucifer’s Living room.

But if you don’t remember, pat yourself on the head in a soothing manner, and try to go with the flow until you can get to shore. Then say, like any good geek-hero, “I think we all learned something today.”

I learned, as it happens, what drastically needs to change about my life. If you grind your nose against the wall you hit some time back, you learn that it will bleed. If you teach community college 11 months a year, with 60+ students most of the time, and have other jobs, perhaps you can make an educated (ha?) guess what I learned.

I’ve posted before about how various Artists manage(d) their time. And Mason Currey has a second book coming out on the topic. Huzzah! I thought I remembered something in an essay by novelist Jeannette Winterson in her book Art Objects. O, Yup, there it was:

“…the question ‘How shall I live?’ is fierce,” she declares. And the answer in my own head, “Not the way I have been,” is feeling pretty fierce, too, right now. She continues, “If my partner needed to live on the coast for her health’s sake, no-one would be surprised that I should go. Should there be any surprise that I am returning to a quieter existence for the sake of my work?…There are people who tell me that I am cut off but to what are they connected?…I do not write every day, I read every day, think every day, work in the garden every day, and recognize in nature the same slow complicity…A writer lives in a constant state of readiness.”

She also, of course, works hard at what she does, and has a whole flock of gaspingly good novels to show for it. I suspect she spends a lot of most days not worrying much about money, a state she has earned.  Because she once did her share of the job-hopping years. And because great novels.

I  understand she likes the way her life feels, and I don’t. I lack well-being, as well as the fireplace she lights every day, and her solitude, and her money. I’ve always supported Creative People doing the best they can, making  life choices that suit them, or dealing with the ones “thrust upon ‘em”, without apology. I still do, but I’m getting  more interested in how my situation doesn’t work for me. I work…for it. And I’ve done all my work well, with stamina and discipline, since my last long-ago writing, and it’s not tolerable anymore not to be Well.

I’m one week into having made some serious small changes and some steps towards bigger changes. Unfortunate habits of work, living, and mind are being uprooted, although they long looked like the ground I stood on. I’m becoming someone I don’t like in some of my work life, and I may stop doing something I thought I would always do. Giving up things I care about and am good at for things I care about more and may be better at? Actually, scary. But right action.

Luckily I ran into a book by artist, designer, and teacher James Victore called Feck Perfuction. How could you not pick that up? Creative People should read it, especially those of us who need, Really Need, to be lifted up and shaken up. Here’s the page I’m on:

“If you want more in your life, you may have to accept less…Less distraction, less servitude to work, less debt, less greed, and less craving. It means surrendering our attachment.

Your happiness shouldn’t teeter on a bank ledger or come from any source other than acceptance of who you are.

Never settle and never give in but accept less.”

If you don’t find that terrifying, you’re either admirably together Creatively, or more like me and also not reading carefully. The leaves of Victore’s book cover some deep, dark pit traps. There is hidden danger to the status quo in almost every phrase. But after one week of small changes, here I am again. And this time it feels as if Writing When I Can isn’t an option anymore. You may have never been here because you figured it out for yourself way back, or you may be right here, too. There are worse places.