My Monday Evening Happiness

Some people need a lot of money. Others need a sports car, time shares in Hawaii, or $10,000 in monthly income to be happy.

Me? I need this:

Vanilla Ice Cream Soda

Hope your day ended as well as mine!

The Artist’s Way: Week 5 Retrospective

Today marks the beginning of Week 6 in The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, which I am following in order to encourage creativity in my life. Denial of my feelings and desires has been a way of life for me. I am using this book as a way to help me open up to creativity in a way that I have always desired.

For the first three weeks, I was excited, I had ideas, and I found it relatively easy to implement them. Starting in week 4 and through last week, I felt as if my mind were returning to the same dull state I experienced before I embarked on my writing journey through The Artist’s Way. 

This is always the spot where I seem to crash and burn in my dreams. Past the initial honeymoon period, I return to feeling less pumped and less inspired. Creating ideas becomes more difficult. I start to feel sad and then become depressed. I stop doing the things I enjoyed. I become bored and claim that I don’t know what to do.

This is the cycle I have struggled with my whole life and the one that I am trying to break. I think there is a natural settling down after initial enthusiasm, the low that results because of the high. My issue is that I let myself stay there in the lows.

In my morning writing, I realized that I need to raise my awareness when I am in a low period. The solution is to take steps to bring myself back to center like jumping jacks, dancing, a brisk walk – anything! I can read inspirational quotes, call a creative and supportive friend, or play with my cats. That way, I lift myself out of the seriousness of depression and back towards the lighthearted play of creativity and growth.

A sign that should have signaled to me that I need to shake things up was that I did not add anything new to my Pinspiration Board last week. I was so excited in week 4 to think of the board, put it up, add a couple of inspirational quotes to it and around the house, and then have a clear desk in front of me.

So what happened? It became the thing that you sit right in front of every day but yet fail to see. On my Pin Board, I copied two sets of reminders from The Artist’s Way – The Basic Principles and the Rules of the Road. As of week 3, I should be reading them twice a day. I decided to read only once a day, and then I forgot to read them at all this past week.

Raising awareness of things that have moved out of your conscious eye and back into your consciousness is one of the most difficult challenges we face as humans. Often, it is not until much too late that we look back and see that we stopped doing something meaningful, which lead us to stop doing other meaningful activities, until we are in a place of doing nothing.

My parents were born and raised in the Great Depression of the 1930’s. They worked hard on farms, at their jobs or in their home, and in the vegetable garden. The greatest thing that my parents ever aspired for me to do was the freedom to do nothing.

Until recently, I did not understand how their lifestyle has made it difficult for them to understand the physically easier, knowledge- and creativity-oriented lifestyles that they made possible for their own children.

Yesterday I signed up for a Publishing and Creativity Conference to be held in the Lower West Side of NYC on April 11-12. Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, is going to be there. When I told my mom about it, she said, “Well, it’s good to have something to keep you occupied.”

With this comment, I started to understand that what I see as an essential life activity, she sees as a hobby. The need for creativity or writing to be fluff to her. Her accomplishments were so much more concrete – raising family, growing vegetable, or cleaning.

But ideas and creativity could not be fluff to me anymore than being able to raise her family was to her. I guess that shows me I will have to be patient and continue to explain to her, as I have been doing lately, what I want to do with my life and why it is important. I am OK with that.

Writing about it in my morning pages and here on my blog seem to help me continue forward in personal growth. Please share how you get yourself back on track when you find yourself derailed.

I’d Rather Be Reading

Blogging too late in the day can be a health hazard in the same way that writing late at night pages is not as productive for my health as writing morning pages. I call blogging at 9:15pm too late in the day for me because my normal bedtime is in the 10:00-10:30pm range. Even though I use f.lux for my Mac, I find that I prefer to have reading as the last evening activity before I go to bed. 

Sometimes, cats get in the way of my reading. Every day, my husband and I give subcutaneous fluids to my 17.5 year old cat Hunter because his kidneys are failing. Giving subq’s means more water in their system, which helps their kidneys function better and the cats to feel better overall. After giving the fluids tonight, I sat down to read a book on writing a romance novel, which is the type of novel that I am in the middle of writing. 

That’s when I saw it: a bright, red splotch of blood bed sheet that covers couch slipcover and on a corner of a hand-knitted throw. The needle must have caused some bleeding at the site where we gave him his fluids tonight. After lifting up the bed sheet, I saw that the bloody spot had soaked into the slipcover underneath it.

Noooooo! Slipcovers are great, as long as you don’t get them dirty. They can be such a pain to clean. I dug out my cleaning instructions, which recommends either non-water cleaners, foamers, or mild soap. Then, it warns that tap water can cause rings and advises using distilled water instead. Who has distilled water handy to clean the slipcovers?

I removed the bed sheet and the throw, and I asked my husband to throw them into the washing machine while I tried to clean the bloody spot. I got a damp paper towel and a dry one. I patted the spot with the dry towel to remove any wet blood on the slipcover. I then alternated wetting the spot with the damp paper towel and carefully blotting it off with the dry one. Eventually, I got most of it until I did a little scrubbing to dry it off. It seems to be OK.

Here I am now, sitting in the corner of my couch, pillow behind my back for support, and Hunter napping on my left side while I write my blog post. I don’t mind the sitting, the pillow, or Hunter, but I’d rather be reading.

I Heart Letter Writing

Earlier today, I assisted a friend in writing a letter to a tenant who has been having some difficulty with cleanliness. I offered to start writing it, which I did. About 30 minutes later, I received a letter they wrote but did not send. Since it contained much good information, I offered to assist in paring it down.

I remembered how much I love letter writing. I especially love writing clear, concisely worded letters to tenants have an issue following some term of their lease. I think I missed my calling as a letter writer in a legal office. I am not sure I would run to do that now. I have to pick one damn path and follow that. Since I have already decided my path for this year, I will stay put instead of letting my ENFP/ADD/OOhshiny! disorder lead me astray once again. 

One aspect of this letter writing that I enjoyed so much was the ability to succinctly point to their lease terms and then, in a professional and non-accusatory manner, put them in their place. When I owned a three family, I was trained by a pseudo-legal real estate agent whose entire family, including extended famiily, had been in real estate, went to law school and/or were lawyers, and owned extensive property in the Greater Boston area.

My real estate/legal friend helped me pen many a “Let me break it down for you” letter and gave me extensive schooling on how to handle crazy, erratic tenants. I would have been worse off than the anxious mess I was at that time. The satisfaction and peace of mind I obtained from writing concise, well-documented letters that not even a lawyer could fault were essentially tools for me at the time. The last time I wrote such a letter was at least 13 years ago. 

Good talents never get old, especially if you continue using them in similar ways. There’s something about needing to document extensive, complicated computer problems to a user that gave me a similar experience when I worked in IT. Unfortunately, dealing with computers and the negative people I found that seemed to flock to IT departments sadly outweighed benefits I received from work well done.

Although I do love letter writing such as this, I have a hunch that working in a legal department might very well be worse for me than working in either Information Technology or Real Estate. I continue to be puzzled at the way I am drawn to some things which, in their best contexts, are actually the worst contexts for me to work in. I think it is a remnant from when I made decisions on what was logical and not what I desired to do. 

I am glad those days are over, but I still love letter writing. I wonder if I can work letter writing into my life in a creative way. Writing letter campaigns for causes I am interested in does not fill this bill. Now that I think further about it, I realize that my love with real estate/legal letter writing might be because it lets me take ample time to craft what I want to say in the most positive and/or professional way. 

Does that mean I love to craft an image of myself to the outside world? Does it allow me to impose a kind of order and control over a particular situation? I think it allows me to keep refining what I want to say until I have an impenetrable argument. Does that mean I am looking to be right? Am I looking for a method to prop my confidence up as a defense against another’s argumentative blow? 

As I wrote the above questions, I am getting a kind of inside look at my preferences. This is kind of like open blog therapy. I think that it allows me to do all those things, which is why I felt such a strong pull to edit my friends letter when I saw it. If I can’t do all those things for myself, then the least I can do is help my friend. At least, that’s the excuse my brain came up with. 

Unfortunately, I did it at the expense of my writing. I am writing way too late in the day for my preferences. That is because I failed to make room for writing my morning pages. Instead, they became my “writing at 10:09PM” pages and this became my 11:09PM blog post. I am trying to live and learn. What I cannot do is allow myself to get totally blown off my path, which is what almost happened when one tiny decision to put off my morning pages happened. 

Writing daily has been such a boon to my personal sense of happiness and peace. Not writing every day would have the same affect on me as having “just one hit” would have on a drug addict; it would throw me back into a negative hell-space of life wherein I have lost my way and my peace of mind. It’s simply not worth it. 

Virtual Unreality

On my ride home from the gym, I listened to a segment on NPR called The Takeaway. One part asked the question, Is Technology Dehumanizing the Workforce? The featured guest was Simon Head, author of Mindless: Why Smarter Machines are Making Dumber Humans. Mr. Head tells about the part of his book where he interviewed a former Amazon employee who worked in their fulfillment warehouse. 

In Amazon’s fulfillment center, employees wear machines that time them on exactly how long it should be taking them to perform tasks. If you are late, even by seconds, the machine beeps at you incessantly and records your lateness. Multiple latenesses can earn you demerits and termination.

I think I would rather hang myself with a sheet. Gave me pause about my Amazon Prime membership. 

During the same segment, they discussed the news that Facebook bought Oculus VR, a virtual reality gaming company, for $2 billion. The product draw was Oculus’ Rift, a virtual reality headset, that Zuckerberg sees as a communications platform. In discussing the application of the headset to gaming, cofounder Palmer Luckey (I think it was him) talked about the Rift allowing gamers to be in an immersive gaming experience. And I got to thinking about that.

Why do we keep calling it virtual reality? Isn’t the point of these devices is to allow us to see things that are not there and to have experiences that we could not otherwise create? There’s nothing real about virtual reality. If you ever saw Star Trek, the starships had rooms called Holodecks, which allowed someone to enter a completely fake world and experience it as if it where real. But these things are not virtual reality. For us, when we enter these spaces, it becomes our reality. 

I never really thought about it, before but I think that we should be calling it unreal reality because these experiences are simultaneously both unreal and real. 

Have you ever seen the anime Serial Experiments Lain? If you enjoy anime, I highly recommend it because it is related to this subject and handles it in a very interesting way. It’s not a true to life demonstration, as virtual reality itself is not, so don’t hold me to this. 




Three Thup’s Quick

Once in a while, progress moves ahead like the patter of paws quietly and rapidly thupping against the antique carpet.

Thup One: Story Summary Complete

After two attempts at outlining a 2008 NaNoWriMo story went nowhere, I purchased Scrivener so that I could break up the story in chunks, reorganize quickly, and see the whole more easily. After I did that, I was able to see exactly what I wanted to pull: about half the story.

After looking at the breakdown, I got the idea to write a story summary. The summary would put down the sequence of events that transpire from beginning to end. My purpose was so that I could flesh out the storyline, develop believable characters, add themes, etc. Also, I could write new scenes while knowing in advance what needed to be written.

After a few sessions lasting several hours each, I finished that up today with a 2,146 word story summary.

Thup Two: Professional Editors Contacted

At the end of January, I took a NaNoWriMo webinar with The Book Doctors on how to make editing and revising your story fun. Before that, the thought of looking at my story and yanking out the first half (about 25,000 words) made me sick. All I could see was the terrible waste and all the work I had to do.

At the end of the webinar, Arielle and David said they would give a 20 minute consult to anyone who bought their book and provided a receipt. Although I bought the book soon after the seminar, I waited to contact them until I had a solid idea of what I wanted done.

As I concluded the story summary, I realized what I needed was feedback on my story summary (plot, tension, characters, etc.) and pointers in the right direction where I needed it.

I emailed them today after I got back from the cafe and got a response within minutes. Because of the length of my story summary, Arielle suggested an additional half hour of paid consult time.

The next step is to pay them, send them my story, and then talk to them about it.

Thup Three: Card Making

With my reactivated need for creativity, I have refilled supplies for card making and bought a small cabinet to store my jewelry making and card making crafts.

I spent time tonight starting a project for a card for a friend’s anniversary, which will go out late. After this, I am making a card for my nephew’s 18th birthday. Although I had limited choices for making a card for a boy/young man, I found a few things that will work. I look forward to more card crafting later this week.

Pix to come only after cards have been received by the recipients as they are probably reading this.

[thup thup thup]

Short and Sweet

I have been battling a coffee addiction for years. As of this weekend, I am off again. I don’t always get headaches when I stop drinking coffee. This time, you would think I am depriving myself of food and water and all human happiness. The headaches are incredible, even with taking medication. 

Lately, I have been dealing with a pain on my left side that is out of control with pain. I could barely sit earlier. I have fibromyalgia, but even for that illness, this is too much. A pain level that usually flows between 2-4 is up to 7 today. I took two aspirin and had relief for two hours, did some yoga, but the pain returned.

I think it might have to do something with crooked seated at my L-shaped desk. The floor on one side of the room tilts into the corner, which throws my already misaligned hips into further misalignment. The result is misery.

Thankfully the pain level has receded down to a 5. For now. I am going to try and get my “morning” pages done. I could leave it, but I just don’t want to break a four-week writing streak, even if it doesn’t happen in the mornings. 

Be well! 

Week 4 Artist Date: Getting Outside

Julia Cameron’s instructions in The Artist’s Way for the week 4 artist date instructs you to plan for a weekend day for your artist date. Unfortunately, my weekend was already planned, so I decided to take a half a day on Thursday instead.

For a few weeks, I have been mulling buying a pair of light hiking shoes. Merrell’s has a store in Huntington, NY, about 45 minutes from my home. The salesman recommended their Moab light hiking shoes. I found them comfortable, but they did not have the color I wanted.

I had lunch at Starbucks, then drove up to Caumsett State Park north of Huntington in Lloyd’s Harbor. The State Park was a former estate. I drove in and parked, then walked over to the information building. The trails I wanted to hike where on the other side of the park.

Instead, I entered a wall garden near the parking lot. To my right, I saw emerging tulip leaves, which were the only green in the area. When I looked forward again, I saw the prize of the day: an abandoned building just behind the brick wall across from me.

Walled garden entrance to an abandoned greenhouse

Walled garden entrance to an abandoned greenhouse

Behind the brick wall was an abandoned greenhouse that had been allowed to fall into disrepair, weeds growing everywhere, and all the glass panels removed.

Glass no more

I especially liked the side door.

Stay out

After talking a few more photos, I went back to the car to drive around and see if I could find some sweet spots to take pictures of the water.

One great thing about taking pictures in the winter time is that the bare trees reveal landscape and houses in great detail.

House on Harbor

I love standing on windy shores and taking photos of choppy waves, lighthouses, moored boats, and wildlife.

I spent a maximum of 20 minutes outside taking photos on Thursday, but I left with such a wonderful feeling of happiness and peace that stayed with me for the rest of the day.

Eating Healthy(er)

Consistently eating well is a chronic challenge for me.

When I am stressed, rushed, and – especially – lazy, I tend to open my fridge and pick out the items I don’t have to prep to eat.

Salad sits in my fridge, wilting. Instead, I go for nuts and fruit. And more fruit. And then again.

A few weeks ago, I started up my coffee habit again. This, combined with my tendency to eat sugar, is a recipe for exhaustion.

In my unscientific opinion, sugar and caffeine provide the body with false means of energy.

Caffeine is a stimulant, much like adrenaline. It wires you up and keeps you going even when your body lacks the nutrients it needs.

Chronic sugar intake exhausts your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, tires out your pancreas, which produces insulin, and increases your intolerance to insulin (a condition often diagnosed as pre-diabetes). Sugar is also reported to be a major factor in cancer, as chronic sugar intake provides the cancer cells with a never ending source of growth energy.

I ate way too much sugar and caffeine yesterday, so much so that is a wonder I have not turned into a pile of sugar. The price I paid was exhaustion, both yesterday and today, from poor food choices and a too-hectic schedule.

I wondered why I have been unable to learn this lesson. When I have shared with my mother my desires to stop eating sugar, she provides a ready excuse: it’s the holidays, your birthday, a Sunday afternoon when it’s sunny, it’s just one cookie.

You would think my mother is built like a house. While she does have weight in her belly, she seems to carry it well. My struggles with energy and eating well have not been her struggles. I seem to be sensitive to sugar, unlike her.

I think I am a sugar junkie. In writing my evening pages today, I decided it might be helpful for me to post inspirational quotes regarding healthy eating in a couple important places.

The first quote I found that I printed, framed, and hung on my Pinspiration board is by Virginia Woolf:

The second quote I found, printed, framed, and put up on my refrigerator is by Hippocrates:

For myself, I find that positive reinforcement works much better as a motivation tool than dire warnings against what happens if I do not eat well.

Slowly but surely, my living area will contain images and photos of quotes, people, and place that remind me that love and loving choices are the way to make my way through any decision, especially ones with such a profound impact on all areas of my life.

Cats Calls

If you think cats communicate their wants to humans only by meowing, I am here to set you straight: their ways and means are as diverse as the whiskers on their little faces.

My eldest cat, Hunter, has discovered that my mother is a sucker when it comes to food. His piercing, unwavering stares cut straight to her heart. On the first day that Hunter stared at her for three seconds, my mother whined at me to let her give Hunter some food. I warned her that Hunter would hound (feline?) her if she gave him food, but left it up to her.

At 17 and a half years old, I feel Hunter has earned the right to treats in the form of cooked meats, like chicken or beef. Two cats who used to live with him, Jolie and Misha, both passed away around 15 and a half years old. Hunter has outlived them both and shows no signs of slowing down, even with some kidney issues. Hunter stalks Norman, rapid-fire whacks him across the head, and then chases after Norman at full speed.

Every day, Hunter yowls at the bottom of the stairs until I let him into my mom’s place. At meal times, he sits right next to my mom. She looks down into his big green eyes, and he knows he has her. He stands on his back legs, brings a paw gently forward, and taps her on the arm before he sits down again. Repeat until she gives him food. My mom asked me to pick up a bag of his favorite treats so she could give him those, too.

Today, Hunter added a new twist to his food begging routine. He rubbed his face one way against the arm of the chair that my mother was sitting in, then he rubbed his face on the chair’s arm on the other side of his face, and then opened and closed his mouth a few times while licking his chops.

Personally, I think Hunter is only a few steps away from figuring out how to pointing a paw at his mouth when he is hungry like Simon’s Cat.

I would love to see that.

Spring Flower & Garden Show!

This morning, I drove my mother and I to Hicks Nurseries on Jericho Turnpike in Westbury, NY to see their spring flower and garden show. The show is ongoing through the 23rd of March. In addition to flowers, gardening classes for adults and children are being held daily.

Walking through the front door felt like magic. So many colors! Plants! Foliage! If you were in a bad mood when you walked in the door, stepping through brought a sudden lift of spirits. The cold, punishing winter in New York this year is made harder by the leafless, dormant trees and plants.

In a back room, the scent of hyacinths hit you as you walked through the sliding glass doors.

Line of Hyacinths

To the left were tables filled with primroses.

2014-03-18 10.46.05

Also to the left, daffodils and tulips stretch far into the room.

Daffodils + Tulips

These are a small sample of the many flowers there – colorful cacti, orchids from white to pink to orange brown and combinations of colors, and others whose names I do not know.

Passing the time in rooms thronging with floral pleasure was a much needed physical, mental, and spiritual boost. We walked out of there with a small mixed hybrid ranuncula plot and a 2′ camillia April Kiss plant. Hail to the coming spring and summer!

Morning Pages as Therapy

As I enter my fourth week in following The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, writing for 30 minutes every day (morning pages) has helped me grow tremendously. I have been inspired to try new things, revived dormant interests, and explored what I am thinking, doing, feeling, and why. The wonderful thing about morning pages is that lessons you learn elsewhere get further explored and/or stimulated in the morning pages.

Recently, I borrowed Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers, PhD., from my local library. I read the first chapter, and wanted to immediately reread it again. Last night, I put the book by my bedside and reread chapter 1. Its essential message is that all our fears boil down to the fear that we can’t handle it. The solution is to use the tools in the book to help us retrain our thoughts into realizing that, yes, we can handle it, whatever it may be.

I noted several times yesterday that I seemed to be having a concentrated feeling of anxiety in my chest. The feelings were not as strong as a panic attack, but there they were. Whereas I used to have chronic anxiety, I have been feeling relatively confident and peaceful since I began following the The Artist’s Way and building a new routine around building my writing career.

During my morning meditation, my thoughts kept going towards thoughts and movie scenes that produced anxiety and anger in me. In the movie The Blindside, the adoptive mother goes to look for Michael in his old, gang-ridden neighborhood. In a confrontation with gang members, she tells the gang that she carries a Saturday Night Special and that it works every other day of the week, too.

That scene evokes an I’m-ready-to-fight and Go get ’em! feelings in my chest and stomach. I kept releasing the thoughts, but realized that the thoughts invading my meditation needed to be explored. Since Susan Jeffers book was on my mind, I decided to explore how the basis of my fears might be related to the I can’t handle it lesson that Jeffers says we all learned.

By asking Where have I felt this anxiety before?, I realized that the anxiety is one I have had all my life: that I won’t be good enough (at something) fast enough. Even when I worked harder, the anxiety kept me pushing me forward saying, That’s still not good enough. I remembered how the child Me used to look up to adults, especially my mother and father, to handle things. When they couldn’t or didn’t, I felt helpless. When I faced my own challenges, I was terrified and felt like I couldn’t handle it. Subconsciously, I think that I kept expecting adults to show me how. This is just the nature of being a child who is dependent upon others.

I woke up to the fact that I have been keeping to this pattern ever since. Whatever I observed that my family didn’t, wouldn’t, couldn’t, shouldn’t do, I didn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t, and shouldn’t do, either. I asked myself, “What other areas in my life have I modeled on my family instead of doing what I honestly should have been doing all along?” Relationships? Sex? Money? I will have to examine each area of my life to recover my own sense of what it is that I want and need to get done.

Every time I ask myself what I should be doing, I get the same answer: Look and listen for the answers inside myself. As Jeffers points out, the truth is that I can handle it. I can only accept what happens to me and what I choose to do because it is the way I want to live. Life is lovely because it is all I will ever really have as I experience my life in this body until my end. So many wonderful things are here, and I am ready to experience them all.

Pinspiration Board

pinspiration board

Pinspiration board

In creative wave #6 of yesterday’s post, I described wanting to put up a cork board with pictures of loved ones, inspirational quotes, poetry, and reminders, which I call my Pinspiration Board. I tried to control myself from tacking up paper because I wanted to start with images, but I just couldn’t help myself.

I tacked up a housewarming card from a beloved friend, a card from my dear husband, pictures of three cats (two of whom passed away), my list of life goals for 2014, a lists of Basic Principles and Rules of the Road from Chapters 2 and 3 from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, and a sticky memo of ideas. 

My Pinspiration Board replaces a bookshelf that I moved to a wall behind me and a large framed print that I moved to the wall to the left of my desk. The small collage framed above the board was made to me by another beloved friend and was displaced by the hanging of the large framed print to the left.

With the bookshelf gone, I have more space available at the back half of my desk surface. Not only does my desk feel roomier, but the room itself feels like it opened up. I was able to stack my jewelry supplies higher. To the right, I stacked only the books on the right that I am immediately reading or using. To the left, I have two framed print with words and pictures that keep me focused on my writing and my art. An electric candle adds a stained glass glow to my corner as I work in the evenings as it gives off a faint perfume.

No desk of mine would be complete without a full cup of steaming hot coffee. I’m mad about coffee! Unfortunately, I usually am so engrossed in my morning writing that my coffee goes cold before I have the opportunity to drink the full cup. The cup holding my morning java was given to me by a third beloved friend. We used to work at a college together, and she bought me this cup because I often talked of feeling tired or wanting to eat a dessert. Vive le café! Vive l’écriture!

Seven Waves of Cascading Creativity

Today marks my completion of Week 3 of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. When I first began the book, the end of twelve weeks seemed as distant as the top of Cannon Mountain from the base of the Flume Gorge.

Yet, with a hop, skip, and a slowly flowing pen, three weeks briskly washed over me and then buoyed me forward with multiple waves of creativity.

Wave 1

Sprang forth from my decision to blog every day so that I could get in the habit of writing daily. On most days, I discovered that I had at least one interesting story I wanted to share, typically about something I learned, or my writing goals.

Wave 2

Bubbled up  a renewed urge to create cards. I have made home-made greeting cards in the past, but not in a long time. I used Gimp to create images with photographs and phrases that I invented and then made the products available through Zazzle. I made a card and a mousepad. I ordered both and the production was excellent.

For my Artist Date this week, I visited a Paper Source store and bought card making supplies. I completed a birthday card for a friend’s birthday.

Wave 3

Sparkled a desire to make unique jewelry. Before we moved to NY, I purchased a lot of supplies from a bead store where I used to work part-time. After the move, I was low on energy and preoccupied with my father’s failing health.

Since January, I have made two pairs of threaded, beaded earrings, a pendant, a necklace with the pendant, and a matching pair of earrings.

Wave 4

Rapidly heaved up a memory of an old love: reading and writing poetry. I borrowed and read some poems by Audre Lorde that inspired me to write a poem that I shared on my blog. I returned the book, but I plan to read some of the poetry I have in my possession and to get more.

Wave 5

Floated up a desire to add the timed, sense-focused writing exercises from the Pat Pattison book called Songwriting Without Boundaries. A few days ago, I rescued the book from my bookcase and have included it in my writing warmups for the day immediately after my morning pages. The segue works well, and I am enjoyed the feel of mastering the artful pull of quickly recalling numerous descriptive, sense-bound qualities within a set period of time.

Wave 6

Cracked open a new idea rivulet: a Pinspiration board. Yesterday, I purchased a large cork board to replace the tempered glass shelf above the creativity area of my L-shaped desk. I plan to hang up my 2014 Life Goals list, a list of bodily senses to remind myself to stay focused when I am writing, pictures of family and friends, cards I have received, beloved poems, and uniquely outlined or framed (made by me) inspirational quotes.

Wave 7

Overcame by a wave of realization that, when I look back to all the ways creativity has sprang up in my life since January 5, 2014, I feel inspired and happy from the crest of my own accomplishments.

Having the perspective of (at least) three weeks helped me identify all the creative grooves that have been reawakened in me simply by going with the flow of what I desire, i.e. writing and making art, and a determination to make that happen.

Schedule Fits and Starts

Yesterday, I made lists of tasks I need to work on during the day and fun things I can do in the evenings. Today I got up, meditated, ate a light breakfast, wrote my morning pages, and did three timed writing exercises, all by 10am. Hurrah!

I learned about timed writing in my lyric and creative writing courses at Berklee Music Online. I am working through the book Songwriting Without Boundaries by Pat Pattison that I bought for a lyric writing course. Even if you do not write songs, you can still use most of this book to explore timed writing exercises. I highly recommend it.

I was so proud of myself. I got dressed to go to the gym, packed my bag, said good-bye to my mom, came back to my apartment to get something and saw a huge pile of kitty poop on the floor. Greaaaaat. After I cleaned up the mess, I drove to the gym, did my exercises, washed up quickly, and then came home. Lunch and a shower followed. More poop cleanup. Locked kitty in small room with litter box, water, and food that does not upset her digestive system. 2pm.

Enter panic attack. It’s 2 o’clock! I’m wasting time! I need to sit down and write! I need to job hunt! Luckily, my honey was working at home today so I talked to him about my feelings. I went from panic to sadness to wanting to cry. Panicking around deadlines has been a life-long challenge. At least, I am making the effort to break down the mental tape and take some deep breaths. Mark reminded me to think of my 6pm cut-off of work vs. play as guidelines, not strict deadlines. That cheered me up.

We ran errands and went to Starbucks. I searched online for part-time technical writing/editing jobs. The greater NYC market for technical writing is much different than the greater Boston area market for technical writing. New England has much better opportunities. Even Tarrytown, NY has a greater variety of technical writing jobs than NYC, which I find very strange. I had no idea Tarrytown, NY was such a technical writing haven.

Next week, I think I am going to schedule my gym time at the end of my work day on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Instead of stopping writing to go to the gym at 10am like I did today, I will write and job hunt straight through from 9am until 3:30pm. Then I will go to the gym, swim, come home, shower, and be ready for dinner by the time Mark gets home.

By going to the gym in the early evening, I will have at least 6 straight hours to write and/or job hunt. I find one larger working block to be much more satisfying than two smaller working blocks. I have enough activities to keep me busy and developing my writing for that whole time. I look forward to figuring out a solid schedule that works for me and my writing.

Drastic Steps Required

Changes to my writing schedule send me careening into my Lazy Zone, an old sock kind of smelly avoidance of writing and work. Morning pages become transformed into post-lunch hazy afternoon pages into quiet meditation early evening pages. With a reluctant groan, I constructed a two-column list: Daytime Activities (7:30a-6p) and Evening Activities.

Daytime Activities include printing out daily calendar & task list, writing (morning pages, timed writing, blog writing, novel draft writing), job hunting (sites, applying, finding networking, copywriting), web design, reading industry mags, meditation, eating, and the gym. Evening activities are the creative activities I will sweetly reward myself with after 6pm: making cards, jewelry, current events, Facebook, photos & photo editing, organizing, cleaning).

The longer during the day that I wait to write, the harder it becomes. I am an old man reaching the end of his physical ability to bear the coal dust of laziness in his mouth and soul. Laziness is my alcoholic’s battle, addicted to that feeling of doing nothing while simultaneously knowing that each drink of bourbon burns the throat, nose, and self spirit with its fumes. Blogging here is my AA meeting, baring my writing foibles to my comrades in the battle.

Cheers to the writing life, to adhering to schedules, and to working smarter not harder.

Morning Writing Brain Tangents

Three pages of daily morning writing is not difficult to fill. If I am not thinking of anything in particular, I start with where I am, what I am doing, talking out my schedule, or about my kitties who are trying to get my attention.

I went through two and a half pages of this type of writing when a series of things I have scheduled for tonight flashed through my mind, followed by a flash of my father and one word: Gagutz. Gagutz (ga-goots) are squash. The actual word for Italian squash is cucuzza, but my parent’s regional Italian accent turns the hard ‘c’ sound into a soft ‘g’ sound and drops the final ‘a’.

When my parents used the word gagutz, they were really talking about the squash flowers. A regional Italian dish of my father’s is deep fried gagutz (squash flowers), which my mother made. The squash flowers were obtained from our backyard garden that my mother grew each year. Fried gagutz was one of my father’s favorite dishes.

How my mind went from thinking about what I’m doing tonight to thinking of my Dad and one of his favorite food dishes is a mental mystery. I must have been thinking about my father subconsciously when I paused to consider what I wanted to write next. I would never have predicted that.

The chasm between the conscious and subconscious parts of the brain fascinates me. Supposedly, our brains process thoughts of which we are not aware when are sleeping and when we are thinking about something else. My conscious mind had its rapid-fire dump of tonight’s tasks when my subconscious pushed my father and gagutz loudly to the surface. This mental tangent illustrates an unexpected benefit to writing daily: I am able to better understand one way that writers get their ideas.

The next type of writing I want to add to my morning writing is a 15-minute slot for timed creative writing. In past creative courses, the goal of the timed writing exercises was to include as many sense-bound details as possible. These exercises helped flex my creative writing muscle, and I wrote richer, more interesting stories.

Step by step, I am learning to create a writing routine that will help me turn 2014 into my  year of writing and writing better. I feel good about the process of making one small change, letting myself see how it feels, and then seeing how well (or not) that it is contributing to my writing goals. In all that I have done, this is the only trick I have ever learned that has helped me not get overwhelmed and move forward. 

Small Rediscovery

I am beginning to understand that, to get anywhere in this life with any task, I must return to the task on a daily basis. For me, that means returning to write my morning pages, returning to The Artist’s Way chapter exercises, returning to write in this blog, and returning to write and develop my novel.

Each morning, I return to opening myself to change, opening myself to a new way of life, and opening myself to spiritual and professional fulfillment. For me, these are entwined in a way uniquely reflects my life. Although I no longer call myself Catholic, I find that a number of spiritual teachings stick with me and inform my values and behavior. After I gave myself permission to dive into a writing life, I found myself willing to embrace those teachings and find a way to incorporate them into my life in a way that makes room for my non-theistic beliefs. I sense that, in some future book of mine, I will find a way to express my spiritual beliefs in a way that, I hope, will help others.

For now, I return to my NaNoWriMo story in an attempt to finish what I started.  Today, I  returned to the story to develop the second draft. I wrote about the novel’s setting for the story (Boston, MA) and the attributes of the city that inform the characters and plot in the novel. I added notes about how to make her mother less overbearing and more loving. I wrote further about my main character’s personal history and the timeline of the relationship with her ex. 

In doing so, I realized something that I had long since forgotten: The struggles of the character to assert her independence in the face of the many strong forces trying to sway her are my struggles. The struggles of the main character were my struggles when I wrote the story in 2008, and they are my struggles now. The main difference between then and now is that a lot of good therapy and my renewed commitment writing, which have moved me through to the other side of the struggle.

I have managed some small successes. The move to writing is my biggest one. To write when sick, upset, or bored is another. I have watched as my thoughts and personal insights developed. In seeing changes in myself both big and small, I am beginning to understand that a daily commitment to doing what I love is the means through which I will experience growth of all kinds.

When my writing stopped in 2008, I did as well.  I am thrilled to be back on track. I look forward to how I will grow, who I will meet, and what I will learn.

3 Advantages to Daily Writing

My experiments with Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way (TAW) morning pages have been useful in three ways:

Writing as Brain Dump

Writing about the mundane can be useful as a brain dump. This morning, I started by morning pages by writing about daylight savings time, how far I have gotten in TAW, possible artist date plans for the week, and writing work goals. Writing down the mundane and everyday things that take up space in your mind leaves your mind some space for creative, freer thoughts instead of rehashing what you need to do. I know I can go and write it down elsewhere, but the writing in prose in form seems to have a beneficial effect on my ability to write creatively.

Writing as Meaningful Exploration

Whether or not you start off enumerating your to do lists, writing can be a method for meaningful exploration of your ideas, dreams, and desires.

After I wrote about my work goals, I was reminded of a traumatic experience in kindergarten that continues to affect me. During this writing, I had a flash of an image of a relationship I am in the middle of repairing. I explored how the feelings I experienced were similar, explored possible interpretations, and then ended with several positive affirmations to help me rethink about this experience.

Writing as Establishing a Routine

Finding the time to write every day can be daunting. After I get up, I meditate, followed by breakfast, and then my writing my morning pages for 30 minutes/3 pages front and back. I have a thin, Moleskin-style notebook that provides the perfect amount of spacing for me to meet my minimum writing. Because I do this every morning, I am establishing a writing routine, which is something I have neglected for many years.

For someone who is moving forward through her 43rd year, establishing a routine is much harder since I have been alive and not following this routine for quite a long time. If I want to establish a new routine, I will be required to show due diligence. I estimate that it will be years before I find writing in the morning will have a natural feel to it. Although I write in this blog almost daily, I find it much harder to return to meaningful writing when I have skipped a day. I love blogging, so missing a day feels like I am missing out on an important activity.