Walking and Writing

This afternoon, I went for a walk through my town. The warm weather made my wool coat and scarf seem too thick. I found myself unzipping my jacket as I walked in the sun. I looped around a town garden and took a slight detour to get some money and buy soup for my mother and me before making my way home again. The hour long walk in the first warm spring weather of the season made me thrilled to be alive and to feel the sun’s rays on my skin.

As I walked, I thought a lot about the last six posts I did on how my medical experiences affected and how they affected my religious and spiritual beliefs. I realized that I was writing in my head. This is not new to me, nor is it new to artists. Walking stimulates the imagination and the brain.

I had come across a NYTimes.com blog article about how walking stimulates creativity. The trick for me is how to capture the thoughts that come while I’m out. Today, I sat down to write in my daily writing journal about all the thoughts that spilled out of my head as I walked. I can’t say that it was a perfect capture, but it worked really well.

I have considered recording what’s in my brain as I walk, but I feel that how I think about things and how I speak about them are not the same thing. What sounds intellectual and meaningful inside my head sounds different when I try to articulate it. It’s almost like the part of my brain that thinks language is not the same that tries to speak it. So I either take notes or I come home and write it all down.

I’m wondering if I should start taking walks before I sit down to do any writing. That might help me feel like I have something to write about and get into it more easily. I’m going to give it a try.

After writing the last six posts on my illnesses, I have decided to put them into a memoir about illness and how it has affected my life. I searched in my library’s system for memoirs written by those with illnesses. I came across an interesting memoir by Anita Moorjani called Dying to be Me: My Journey from Cancer, To Near Death, To Healing. I read her memoir through an online borrowing system in a matter of two days. It gave me a good idea of how to write and organize my memoir.

Based on reading Moorjani’s memoir, I can see that I have more to add, including my upbringing, my religious beliefs, and how they all formed and informed me through what I went through with illness. Even if I only write this memoir for myself, I think the writing will help me along my path to eventually getting publishes, which is a dream of mine.

For now, I take walks, think, and write.

Inspired Til I’m Tired

Have you ever had that great burst of inspiration where you had an idea so great that you spent time to write it all down only to find that you were exhausted when you were done?

Yep, that’s me. Almost every single time.

I get an idea that I would like to see happen, write it down, and, in the process, expend all the energy in that one step. Since I’m all fresh out of steam, I let it sit and promptly forget about it.

What brought this on? I saw a response to a Facebook status that spurred me to comment my real feelings on an issue. This resulted in me having an idea for a book, a very silly little book.

I have had many ideas over the years that I have written down. They sit there, and I get distracted by something. And forget it.

Completely.

While chatting with a friend tonight, I remembered that I had this silly book inspiration and told her about it. And I remembered that I forgot.

I do have terrible short-term memory, but something else is going on here.

I find the generation of ideas, especially creative ones, to be intensely stimulating. So stimulating, in fact, that my energy level goes through the roof as my mind races through a dozen permutations of how I could go about making this happen. I feel like I have a top for a brain, spinning at its fastest speed as it tries to get everything written down before the inertia sets in.

I literally exhaust myself from the excitement of the new idea generation. And these ideas that I love to think about, create, and develop end up going nowhere.

I am curious if anyone reading this has the same issue. What have you done to break this cycle of mental intensity of idea creation that burns itself out?

I am interested in your experiences, ideas, thoughts, and helpful suggestions!

Writing Progress + Practice

“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”
Thomas Mann

Got my butt (and the rest of myself, too!) to Starbucks for writing. Mark is working from home today. Intermittent, remote meetings means he can’t necessarily get out of the house. What do I want to do? Get out of the house, of course. So I went with my college-ruled notebook and my aging MacBook Air to Starbucks where I write.

Two days at Starbucks does not a writing habit make, but it’s a start. I have to start somewhere, don’t I? For some reason, I seem to keep going back to the start, to the beginning instead of holding steady and making progress. It’s so frustrating! I started out the year with writing at the forefront of my mind, and then I let it go and refused to pick it up again. That’s how I fail. At some point, I pick myself up and begin again.

I want to get back into writing, all sorts of writing. I can work on a novel, sure. But I have also written poetry and short stories. Working on different styles of writing can cross-pollinate your creative works. I heard about a writing contest for a 1,500 word short story. By Monday. Putting it out here so maybe you can give me a kick in the pants. It’s totally doable. I have a 6K+ word short story that I could totally adapt and make it work, or I could write a new one.

When I worked at the Berklee College of Music, I took some online creative writing courses. I still have the digital and physical materials. I was thinking about going through them again, doing some of the exercises, practicing. I did review some of the work that I did. And I thought: You know, the topic is a bit silly (I wrote about cats in more than one assignment) but the strength of the work itself stood. If you asked me then, I would have been like, Yeah. So? Now, I see that my writing skills were evident. But I need the practice.

Writing Practice is just like any other kind of practice. There is nothing in the world, no activity, that does not require practice. This means doing for the sake of doing. Sure, you’ll get better – over time. And you might be able to look back and point out a specific time where your work changes and you’ve improved.

What you cannot do is look at a single moment and declare it a failure of creativity. I mean, I guess you could. You could decide ahead of time what you wanted, measure your current effort against it, and judge it a failure. I understand that in one context – the car you designed won’t run or has a poor design that causes wind drag and increased gasoline costs.

But in terms of the fine arts, that’s a terrible approach to take. How can you immerse yourself in your work if you’re busy judging and knocking yourself down? I put that question out there as if I don’t do it myself, but I do. I am both perpetrator and victim of my creative failures. I am not calling any particular thing I do a failure. I call my inability to carry forward my dreams with the same commitment that I bring when I employed by someone else.

The great thing about this life is that the earth continues to rotate, the sun comes and goes across the sky, and that I can pick up a pen or open my computer and start putting down words that spring from my consciousness that want to escape into this world for us all to see.

Here’s to continued writing progress!

Creativity Conference Recap

On Friday night and all day Saturday, I attended the first New York City Publishing & Creativity Conference for Writers hosted by Tarcher LIVE, Tarcher Penguin, and True Directions.

Scheduled events included:

  • Panel: An Inside Look at Publishing, which included an agent, editor, publisher, publicity/marketing director, and author;
  • Talk by Tama Kieves on being and staying inspired;
  • Talk by Laurie Lamson. Top Tips from the Now Write! Experts;
  • Talk by Keith Ogorek: Four Words to Put Your Creativity to Work;
  • Panel: Building Your Platform/The Path to Publishing
  • Talk by Barbara Diane Barry: Painting Your Way Out of a Corner; and
  • Talk by Julia Cameron: Cultivating Your Creativity the Artist’s Way.

Both panels also included Mari Manusi, author of The Blood Coven series. She talked so fast, trying to give us as much information as possible. I appreciated her input on the panels. Not only did she give a lot of vital information, but she did it with enthusiasm.

We got plenty of breaks so we could buy books and get them signed. The swag bag included three books. I bought two books by Tama Kieves, The Artist’s Way Creativity Cards, and the Painting book by Barry.

During lunch break, I invited a fellow participant to lunch. She was meeting a friend but invited me along anyway. On our way outside, another participant met us on the way so we became a lunchtime foursome, which was great.

Interesting side note: One of the speakers said to me at my book signing: “I love your energy. I saw you sitting there at the back of the room.” This is not the first time strangers have said that to me when they meet me. I think part of it is that I smile and make eye contact. My unusual eyeglasses and jewelry, as well as my style, tend to set me apart and/or catch other people’s eye in a good way. I was thrilled to have my energy level validated like that.

By the time I took the subway to Penn Station, I was exhausted. I am not used to going all day, going through a lot of ups and downs, meeting new people, and putting myself out there in a professional way. Allergies were also a killer.

Today will be a take it easier day, although the beautiful, sunny, warm spring weather is calling me to get out of the house.

Wendyyyyyyyyy….. go to the beeeeeeeeach……

 

Artist Lesson Learned

No matter what path you choose, lessons present themselves to you all the time if only you take a moment to listen and reflect on what is happening. I learned something today that I have not understood before today, one that is vital to artistic development.

Yesterday, I felt ill. I did not do my morning pages, I did not write in my blog, and I did not progress in either of my two stories that I am working on. After I felt well enough, I decided to do the pages “later”. Later became not at all.

Also this week, I did not do a single writing exercise in The Artist’s Way for week 7. I almost failed at my artist date until I decided to spend my artist date making myself breakfast muffins and a hot pot of decaf coffee.

I thought about how much time each day that I spend on these activities. An hour or more. And I did nothing yesterday for writing work, which only showed me how important doing writing every day and spending a lot of time doing it is critical.

I finally understood how my childhood friend Antoinette could spend hours every day practicing the violin. I extended that to all musicians. Now I understand why they do practice constantly, why it becomes their life.

It becomes their life because they love it and want to do it and because the only way to get any good at it is to spend your time doing it. A lot of your time. I get it now. Call me a late bloomer, but I am glad I understand now. Now is not too late. Now is now.

Today I am getting ready to go into NYC to meet my husband for dinner and then I am going to a publishing seminar. Tomorrow I will spend most of the day at the creativity side of the seminar, get to meet Julia Cameron, and have her sign my book! Huzzah!

I have torn out a few pages in my morning pages book so I can do it tomorrow morning. I will write in my blog about it when I get home tomorrow night, even if it’s a short post. Now I know, I really know, what it is I must do and why.

 

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.

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.