Saturday, November 7, 2015

On hitting a wall

I hit a wall in my wildly creative endeavor. Creativity/Business/Personal Gain. They smashed against each other, and then me. Putting my heart into a creative endeavor is a great thing.  Putting heart and creativity before the business aspect is how my writing life worked. When I wrote it was with my heart on the keyboard. If a completed essay was placed in a publication, that was great. If not, I went on to the next. Not to say I wasn't disappointed. But I knew, first and foremost, I wrote to write (to right?). I wrote for myself.

But in my fundraising effort, personal before business was not a great thing. My enormous--and thrilling--drive to do something good, to step way out of my comfort zone, propelled me. I loved tapping people for handmade items and then posting them to my FB page. It was such a lovely page to gaze upon. Paintings, jewelry, knitted goods, books (so many books!). Every item symbolized the hearts of others, people who also wanted to do something good. And that was a great thing!

But then the business charged in, as it had to. Finding a venue, a place to hold a fabulous sale. And with that so many other business issues. None of them applied to my writing credo--create first and then worry. I needed to do the hard core business work first. Venue in place, details figured out, and a partner--I needed to have less ego (much less ego) and ask someone to partner with me.

I hit a wall, and it hurt. So much in fact, I had to stop and disband to recharge and rethink my methodology and my goal. I return to basics. What got me fired up? What was my intention? (Yes, I know, a buzz word, but somehow it works here) What did I really want to do? Help others? (Check) Have fun? (Check) Make a dent in the world? (Double check) And the one I don't want to check but must...Take most of the credit? (Check)

I hope I"ll try this again, with lessons learned leading the way. Believing I could make an impact, in the tiniest of ways, was thrilling.

For now, I'm at home base, back to where my creative life took hold--a seven year-old who learned to knit (not to forget, also loved science projects!). Today, I'm knitting a scarf for my friend Elyse who Loves all things purple. And I just finished this little boucle child's sweater.

And too, I'm in that seven-year old place of uncertainty. How far can I go? I'm deeply fond of my comfort zone, but something had awakened me to leave it, and in a big way. I will have to venture out again. Put aside the knitting needles and move back out into the world.unknown.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

On focus

There's an article in today's New York Times, "Can We End the Meditation Madness?"  In a way, the article is a soothing balm for this on-again off-again meditator, a pat on the back, that it's ok to skip a few mornings of focussed breathing. The article also reminds me of a fact I heard about thirty years ago, that when a person knits his or her brain waves are the same as for those who meditate. In my experience, knitting is the ultimate comfort zone. Worldy and personal concerns fall away. Following a pattern or making one up, as I usually do, is 50% focus and 50% soothing sensory pleasures: color, texture, weave and of course, too, the hum of the TV or radio or conversation bytes.

The same, too, can be said for my relationship to writing. I'm at the laptop and sitting on a small balcony at my cousin's home in North Carolina. A soft wind dusts my shoulders, cleans my face. A nearby fountain trickles a pleasant patter, like rain. Clouds float by in multicolored hues of grayish blue. Who knew there were so many shades of gray? (Aish...besides the infamous author.)

In meditative stance, clouds would go unseen. In writer mode, I'm inside and outside, slowing both places, seeing specs at a time, just enough to stay in the present, not too much to toss me around in all that is life.

Today, I feel like a fish swimming in murky or friendly waters, depending on my perspective. And so I post a watercolor I painted at Omega last summer. I title it: "Open to Interpretation."

Saturday, October 3, 2015

On the rule of one

I've hit a wall in my creative undertakings--do I return to the writing I started in the summer, the work that filled my lazy days, pre-fall semester frenzy? Or do I continue to play with my luscious ideas for my fundraiser, which can eat up quite a bit of time?

It seems I've come full circle. Just before I picked up my pen and became a full-fledged writer, I was a knitter and accessories maker. I loved working with color and fabric, feathers and rhinestones. Then one day a need to write overtook me. With each word, I knew I had hit my creative blood and bone. I had come to the proverbial fork in the road. I asked myself, which path do I want to walk successfully? I couldn't have both, not full-throttle. I chose writing. I called it the Rule of One.I never looked back.

This morning I awoke thinking of yarn companies to contact for possible donations. I pictured myself at the yarn store I'll go to later, rummaging through bins, seeking a bulky yarn, something with pop. I need to get busy on my own contribution to my made-by-hand project. I'm into it! And too, in the not-too-back of my mind, a voice calls--get back to your writing.

I'm living in a luxury of choice. I know how fortunate I am to hold gifts in my fingers that make my world come alive. I wouldn't have known of them if I hadn't first tried. Picked up needles and made a terrible first sweater, written a few essays that were mercilessly rejected, and then the one that made it--after at least ten revisions. So, too, with the sweater--ripped out, started over.

Right here, right now, I give myself a goal: just write 300 words There's a scene I'm kicking against that I haven't been able to get a clear picture of. It's so easy to digress, divert, dive into the fluffy yarns.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

On beginning

i-confess. I have not been present (see post below).I have the tools and know-how with which to settle down, stay centered. Follow my breath. Paint and pay attention. Write and pay attention. Walk...and you guessed it...notice what is outside, not the internal chatter.  And yet, my mind whirrs, buzzes, kicks up Trouble (cap T).

The migrant/refugee situation in Europe is very sad; it is all I read about in the newspapers. The thought of people without a home, food, a shred of personal property, breaks me. It leads me to stories my mother told me, her early days in America. On the day she gave birth to my brother in a Brooklyn hospital, one month after her arrival, she wore a red bow in her hair, placed there by a nurse. That story became legend, along with many other acts of kindness. (Above left: bows I made.)

And so I've dug out my knitting needles and crochet hooks. My yarn stash needs replenishing. I've started THE MADE-BY-HAND PROJECT. Creative types get busy on making things to be sold at a fundraiser (specifics to come). Or, at least, Dear Self, focus and knit a sweater or three. Dear Self, stop worrying if others will join in, if there will be enough contributions, if buyers will shows up, etc etc Etc.

Dear Self, Slow down. Go the yarn store. But a few skeins. Pick up a needle. Begin.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

On being present

My teaching life is in full bloom. I'm teaching four English classes divided among three schools. While it might sound daunting, thus far, my work life is a pleasure. I added a new school this semester to my agenda, and it's the refresher I needed. It's shone a light on all my classes; I realize it was me (I?) who needed to renew, not my students. (photo at right: school books fit into life.)

And so, creativity abounds in my day-to-day of planning and showing up. I've made fewer trips to my favorite cafe for writing, fewer dabs in the painting well; I haven't closed down said activities, just moved them slightly aside. I'd like to do it all at once. But I remind myself, bliss exists in the moments of concentration and focus.

I'm older (a recent birthday has made this obvious fact a revelation). My inner world has made a radical shift. Everything is shinier, more delicious. The garbage trucks outside my window, with their horns and heaves and screeches are keys on a piano. Life in motion. A day beginning. What joys will it hold? And a little voice inside responds, all the ones I notice.

The world is in chaos--the outer world that is. I hold this within my landscape, too. I wonder how I can make things better. I send Letters to the Editor that don't get printed. Insignificant detail. I can't get bogged down in results.

I tell my students, be here. Make these seventy-five minutes count. My students are young. They don't yet know what I didn't know at eighteen or twenty. When I listen close, garbage trucks sing. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

On going back to work

On Thursday, my lazy days of summer will come to an end. Note the packed-up and much-too-neat space at right.

My teacher self will return: a.m. meeting on the East side, then across town for two classes. Afterward, prep for Sunday class at a third school, and Monday a.m. back on the East side. Alas, the dizzying work life of an adjunct begins. As summer ends I muse on the fact that as much as I complain (off the I-grid), I didn't look for another line of work. Alas #2, my watercolors, my laptop, will I have time for them?  

This is a luxury worry. To live a life that is aligned with creative arts is my dream come true. I treasure my painting tools in the way my mother swooned over the contents of her pantry. Each shelf filled with unbelievable goodies--jams, honey, dozens of cans of tuna, 7-up, nuts, and the list went on. An impoverished childhood and a war set my mother up to appreciate every morsel of food, till the end of her life.

My childhood wasn't a mirror of my mother's life. I had stuff: crayons and coloring books and sheets of oak tag which I loved turning into posters. Somewhere along the way though I stopped all those wonderful tactile activities. High school, adulthood, and many years of uncertainty of the kind of work that would fulfill me.

Today, my disparate selves are connected and alive. I place a plastic cloth over my supplies, but won't put them away. On the left, flowers I prepped earlier with masking, and right, my fifth miserable try at an impressionistic technique.

Epilogue: I awoke with an epiphany. Keep a sheet of clean paper taped and in the center of my table, water cups filled, brushes and paints nearby.  This is similar to writing advice: write the first sentence of the new chapter before shutting down for the day.

Friday, August 7, 2015

On returning to the page

I'm sitting at a cafe in Chelsea, looking out upon Gristedes, McDonalds, Duane Reade. Nothing cute and summery here--no Cape Cod or Tanglewood or similarly lovely August place. And yet, I don't long to be anywhere else. That could be because I'm in serious writing mode. The only place that counts is where I set my story, the one that is developing out of a remark by a friend; she mentioned a rundown restaurant in the Catskills. I needed to know more about it. I made something up and emailed it to her. She wrote back: tell me more! And, so here I am, finding out more the only way I know--by getting writing.

This has been my MO every morning this week, and it strikes me as oddly natural and somewhat significant. Oddly and significant because I haven't done much creative writing for the past year and a half, in fact, have not called myself a writer when people ask what I do. I believed my writing days had ended. I didn't feel upset about it, for I'd had a fantastically rich 20-year writing life. But I was very surprised. I mean, why end a fantastically rich thing?

Monday a.m. began with a Letter to the Editor of the NYTimes--a form of writing I love--and I almost missed an aerobics class that I also love. I was impassioned, fired up, so grateful for the ability to shoot off a coherent letter. Then I returned to the rundown restaurant and it's owner, a man whose family (it turned out!) hailed from the Tuscany countryside. I won't put a jinx on myself by revealing more. We'll see how it goes.

And so I fret that for this post there is no colorful artwork, no sharing about my joy in sticking with an art form that I am very bad at. But what I do share is understanding that time out from something I did all the time, while not taken purposefully, was good. I lolled about in another creative form; I opened up my doors and windows, off the page. I return a writer and a student of painting. I wait to see if the two will inform one another.