Sunday, August 26, 2012

take a bow

Are you in the process of writing a poem or story or novel? Is there an unfinished canvas on your easel? Have you come up with a tune you just can't get of your head? Do you dance or sculpt or doodle just for the pleasure of it? Then you deserve some recognition.

If you were among those who raised their hands while reading last week's post--and even if you weren't--this week is your chance to stand up and take a bow.


--Take a bow if you manage to carve out time in your busy day to indulge your inner artist.

--Take a bow if you hold down a job that pays and you still make time to write, or paint, or compose, or practice.

--If you gave up your day job on the advice of your muse, bow to her.

--If you keep house or have a family or do the yard work, and you still insist on making time to write, or draw, or sing, or dance...take an even deeper bow.

--If people you know regard you as selfish, or lazy, or irresponsible because you decided to follow your dream, smile at them...and take your bow.

--If you have been known to set a manuscript, or a sketch, or a song aside because you thought it wasn't "good enough" (even though it was the best you could do) and then, sometime later on, you went back to it and made it deserve to take a bow.

--If you have ever sworn you were quitting...that you were a failure...that there was no hope for you...but found yourself back at your laptop, or canvas, or keyboard the very next is the time for you to take a bow.

--Even if you haven't been published, or been featured by a gallery, or found your way onto the stage, as long as you keep should take a bow.

--If you encourage others to follow their dream...if you support their efforts...if you attend a book signing, or you're in the audience on opening night, or you join their gallery walk...take a well-earned bow...

...because you deserve a round of applause!

If you love what you're doing and wouldn't have it any other way, you deserve a standing ovation...

...because you are an inspiration to all of us!
"Always wish that you may find
patience enough in yourself to endure,
and simplicity enough to believe;
that you may acquire more and more confidence
in that which is difficult
in your solitude among others.
--Rainer Maria Rilke--

Who inspires you? Who encourages you? Who supports your artistic dream?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

raise your hand if...

This week I thought I'd take an informal survey of your thoughts about the creative process, whether you write, paint, sculpt, compose, sing, dance, or act--whatever it is you do to indulge your creative spirit. So...please raise your hand: 

--if you sometimes feel like you're the slowest writer (or artist, composer, choreographer, photographer...) on the face of the planet

--if you sometimes feel physically drained after writing an emotionally charged scene (or struggling with a complicated melody, or agonizing over just the right color...)

--if you ever burned a meal while trying to put the finishing touches on a chapter (or a sketch or a tune or a scene...)

--if you have been known to curse at the dog (like I just did!) because the poor thing needed to go out and you were in the middle of an imaginery conversation with your character that couldn't wait


--if you sometimes make up excuses (oh, all right...if you sometimes lie) to avoiding engaging with family or friends who don't seem to understand how important your work is
--if, at all times, you carry at least five pens (or the eqivalent--camera cards or canvases). Six to ten is even better. Go ahead. Check your purse or briefcase now.

--if you have enough pens with you but sometimes you forget to carry paper. Therefore, sizable chunks of your manuscript (or sketches or melodies) are recorded on napkins, on the back of receipts, on cancelled envelopes…and when that fails—on the back of your hand.

--if you have perfected the ability to record plot points, dialog, and gorgeous prose (or lyrics or landscapes) whenever and wherever the muse is kind enough to share them with you…and you can do it without taking your eyes off the road.

--if Soduko makes you cringe

--if you are reluctant but willing to concede that your laptop/word processor is a convenience, but you will defend the merits of pen and paper to the end. Remember the likes of Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John?

--if, when you’re writing or drawing or composing you sometimes make yourself cry

--if you sometimes make yourself laugh

--if you look over what you’ve created later on…and it happens again

--if "I wasted the whole day,” is not part of your vocabulary

Raise your hand if any of this sounds like you...because next week you get to take a bow!
"If you cannot tell the truth about yourself,
you cannot tell it about other people."
--Virginia Woolf--
After you raise your hand, take a bow.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

setting priorities

Here's how I know I'm getting better at writing. (Note: I didn't say getting better at writing well, or writing successfully, or writing correctly--just writing.)

Dirty dishes languish in the sink. Dust bunnies--more like dust gorillas--have sought refuge in the corners of my house and under the furniture.

The unmistakable aroma of old onions and moldering coffee grounds fills the kitchen. The hamper is overflowing with dirty laundry. And I've been eating leftover leftovers for days.

I'm sitting on my new patio, in front of my laptop, on a heartachingly beautiful late summer afternoon, gazing off into the clear blue sky as if inspiration will rain down upon me with the next passing cloud.

And I'm writing about it.

So...I think I finally have my priorities right!


The last time I counted them, there were over seventy-five books about writing on my shelves.

How to write, why to write, when to write, where to write--all lined up to help me write better, which is a good thing, because I didn't have an MFA or a degree in journalism when I started writing and I don't have one now. I had to learn it all myself:

--Dirty dishes and laundry can wait; writing cannot.
--Anyone can haul the garbage out, but not everyone can write.
--Dust gorillas are exceptionally tame and they love it when you read to them.
--Properly refrigerated, food stays good for days.
--Life is too short (you fill in the blanks--to stay inside on a heartachingly beautiful day, to live with regret, to keep your story to yourself...).

What are your priorities in life? Where on your list does writing fit?
"We are traditionally rather proud of ourselves
for having slipped creative work in there
between the domestic chores and obligations.
I'm not so sure we deserve such big A-pluses for that."
--Toni Morrison--
By next week, I hope to be at the midpoint of my WIP, now that I have my priorities in order.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

plug into the power

Imagine that you have just installed an entertainment center in your home. Not just a few hi-tech add-ons, but an entire room devoted to the latest devices and innovations in home entertainment--a wall full of HD flat screen TVs, each individually programmed, stereo surround-sound, deep, reclining leather seats each with its own beverage holder, adjustable lighting--whatever is the latest and greatest in comfort and convenience. It is the envy of the neighborhood. People stop by just to see it, just to sit in one of those soft recliners.

But there's one problem. It isn't connected with a power source. Even though everything is there, nothing works. It can't perform any of the functions it was meant for.

It needs to be connected with a source of power.

This was the thought that led me to take a few days off last week to help out with a spiritual retreat

Even though my meditation and prayer life are both solidly in place, they didn't seem to be working for me. I needed to "plug into the power." Long story short: due to a number of serendipitous happenings, I ended up leading the retreat...and I didn't know it until the day before we started.

Now, having spent three days among women of enthusiastic and unwavering faith, having been led by highly respected spiritual leaders, having laughed together and cried together in song and in prayer...I feel renewed. The "Power" has been turned back on.

Similarly, as writers, we need to recharge our batteries from time to time--when our creative energy diminishes. When our motivation runs out. When the words won't come. We may have all the finest tools in place--grammar, punctuation, storyline, characters and scenes--when the power goes off. We find ourselves sitting in front of a blank screen and nothing seems to work.

This may be a good time to attend a workshop or conference, read something by a favorite author, surround ourselves with people who support us--whatever it takes to plug back in to the power...

...because when we make the effort to recharge our own batteries, we become a source of power for others.

How do you plug into the power?

What is it that drains your battery?

"Fulfilling our creativity
is a sacred trust."
--Julia Cameron--

In my next post, I'll share some thoughts about pursuing dreams later in life.