Tag Archives: creativity

The heat, the humidity, or how big can my hair get?


I’m at the end of my tether. It’s so humid here every bit of my furniture is soggy. The boxes I’ve already packed for my move are looking saggy. And the cat is three times his normal size.

I love the Maritimes. I love the smell of the sea, the ships going by, the feel of sand between my toes.

I do not love the 100% humidity.

Seems like this year it’s been hotter and stickier than in past years. Or maybe it’s the additional stress of the pandemic, the madman south of the border, the inability to do anything without gloom hanging over, the impending election season…

So maybe that’s all contributing to the ultimate hair disaster. All I know is that I am now unusually tall (for me) and am having trouble getting through doorways. There’s a wee struggle, and then a “pop” as I squeeze through. It would alarm the cat but he’s stuck behind me.

The thing is, there’s so little I can do anything about. Like the fog that brings the humidity, the news clouds over everything, putting me into a state of suspended animation, visibility reduced, with only the foghorns as guides.

So, fiction. It’s time to put my head into a world I create and play there, where I can control things, where the characters can get the punishment they deserve, where all is controllable.

Back to the computer I go, brain sparking, even if it agitates the head fluff even more…

Last night I went to Manderley again, or how excavating one’s old writing can be a godsend


Pandemic blues. That’s what I put it down to, the lethargy caused by being trapped in place, uncertain of the future, a bit frightened of it, eating way too many carbs all day and they waking at 3 AM vowing to do better, only to rewake at 7 and head directly to the carb cupboard.

Actual fog. Mental fog is harder to photograph.

Because carbs. Serotonin. That hormone that makes us feel like we are in love, happy, fulfilled.

Truth is, despite some pretty heavy medication (life on pharmaceuticals! Yay!), I haven’t been feeling the joy much. Even watching my lovely tugboats ease up the harbour doesn’t cheer me, nor the cooling sea breeze, nor much of anything, really.

I’ve spent untold hours playing meaningless video games, read a bunch of books without remembering a single one (well, except Philip Roth and his endless focus on the status of women’s nipples -ugh- leading me to toss his books out with extreme violence…), watched way too many series on various streaming services. I’ve mopped my apartment floors countless times, enjoying the physicality of swinging the mop, the swish of the water over the laminate, the shine afterwards- but woman does not live by cleaned floors alone. The cat avoids me as I lunge at him with a hairbrush for the fifth time that day – he’s too hot to play, and spends his time over-grooming which leads to hair balls which leads to the need to mop the floors…

Not my apartment. Or me. Though it is beginning to look like this around here…

So I’ve decided to use this time to unencumber myself and am sorting through papers and documents and get rid of furniture I don’t like etc etc. In short, preparing myself for a new adventure once the doors finally open and life approximates normal again.

If it ever does. (where are those carbs?)

And suddenly I find my joy, because halloo hallay! I find some of the writing I’ve done in the past and you know what? It isn’t half bad. It’s only half good, true, but it makes me smile as I read it, enjoying my occasional fun description, turn of phrase, dialogue.

Because writing, like art, is a gift from the gods. I love crafting things but there is a special magic in things that come out of my head…without a pattern, with a tilt all my own.

It’s been tantalizing, too, because I am finding bits of paper writings- I know I’ve saved things in the ether, but running across the bits and pieces that are handwritten or printed out makes them seem more real, more immersive. And none of them are complete…leaving me hunting for more chunks here and there and everywhere.

Today I found a bit of a story I was writing about Cuba, one that I was working on when I went to the Humber School of Writers. It made me smile. It heartened me.

Writing begets writing, I’ve always found. And, when I write, I find I see the world more clearly – I am looking for the right word to describe what I see, what I create, what I hear.

It’s time to pull out the writing serotonin again. After all, when writing, I don’t need a mask…

Evaluating…or those artists who self-isolate in the woods – did it work for them?


So here we are, heavily into the pandemic, learning how to talk to ourselves just so we can test our vocal muscles. I am following the advice for keeping a car running, and taking my voice out once a week for a trot around the verbal block. Cat remains unconvinced.

FH021312_003_CABREP_02For my part, I am noticing just now how every single one of my cupboard doors is slightly off-balance, with a wee dip to one side or the other, making all the spaces between the door fronts ever so slightly variable. Now that I’ve seen it, I can’t UNsee it. I know it will drive me crazy over time. It’s making me want to get out the screwdriver except that I know if I do, they will end up even more tilty. And they aren’t my cupboards. Ruining them is not an option.

Messy is the way things are happening lately. Make coffee – spill the coffee and the water, drop the container holding the coffee, sweep that all up, only to miss the garbage as I tip it in, spilling it again all over the place. Make dinner, creating a mess on the counter because – see coffee –  clean that all up, wash pots, put away dishes, only to drop one, shattering it amidst the food still scattered on the floor – see coffee – and trying to clear that up before the cat walks all over it, so rushing so I spill it as I dump the dustpan. Start over.a-messy-kitchen

I suspect this all has something to do with the lack of finger dexterity I conceal in my stitching through pure will, but which means I can’t tie a knot in the floss or pick up a needle without my handy dandy magnet stick. (repurposed from my canning set because  I can too readily imagine the mess that would ensue if I made jam, for example.) Last night I took a full five minutes trying to tie one bit of floss to another. I eventually did but there may have been some language involved.

I was just testing my voice. Honest.

I am surrounded by things I am seemingly too busy to put away, thinking longingly of packing boxes, so help me, and their soothing plain brown sides and healing shutness. I feel certain I would feel better if I could put everything away behind those plain brown wrappings and send it away – but of course, no one wants my things, especially in the pandemic shut down. I imagine charities will be completely overwhelmed once we are let out…

Meanwhile, stories of artists and writers and creatives of all sorts moving out to glorious isolation in the woods or wherever are all over my internet feeds. It all seems like a more glamourous version of the isolation we are all in now, focused isolation, creative isolation. Could this be the way to go to get creative juices flowing?

reflection of trees in lake

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I am becoming convinced that these folks really did this so they would never have to clean up. Or dress up, or brush their hair. I’m getting into this sweatshirt and pant existence. My hair is growing like a wayward shrub. If I was to never be seen again, except to tumble out into the sun some years hence with a brilliant novel in one hand, well, that seems like a viable idea.

So, my silenced-in-the-isolation brain tells me, ‘you could live in the woods! Never have anyone come by! Never have to account for your clutter or lack of progress or general moodiness! It could be done! Like Thoreau! You could write! Write! Write!”

“Hold on,” my brain says, “Thoreau had a maid and ate regularly in pubs and at friend’s houses. That’s not isolation, that’s just hiding clutter…” and “Internet, remember the internet.” and “But wait, you actually like talking to people, especially the kids whose toys you tidied back when you tidied things. And friends! You have some. You like seeing them.”

Truth is, I am getting out of the habit of communicating. I messenger people and try to connect as I can, but it is all getting more difficult to push myself to do so. Like the clutter around me, it all seems too much to take on. As time goes on, it becomes more comfortable to just not.

But am I writing? Creating?

Um. No.

I have to tidy up first.

 

On being seen…


There’s a lovely foolish Monty Python “military” training film on ‘How Not To Be Seen.’ big_1494432163_image

In the clip, people are hiding, NOT BEING SEEN, and then they are asked to stand up. Once they do so, they are either shot or blown to smithereens.

I feel viewing this in my formative teens MAY have had an effect on my behaviour through life. As a VSP (very short person), I am, in fact, rarely seen unless one is specifically looking for me. I’ve tried to make my personality large enough that people can hear me but I don’t think I’ve gone nearly far enough. And now, if I were to go wild and dye my hair magenta or wear army boots or whatever, people would now gently pat me on the head and arrange for a lengthy stop in a nearby nursing home.

But the fact remains that if I hold myself JUST SO, people don’t seem to see me. It’s been a good thing in terms of not being blown up. But perhaps not so good in other ways.

This occurs to me of late because a few opportunities for being seen have come my way,its-the-most-extraordinary-and-saddest-thing-the-amount-of-talent-out-there-not-being-seen-quote-1 and recently I’ve found myself unwilling to take them. It has to do with being on par with others, being able to be respected, etc, etc. And this hesitation is a terrible burden. It keeps me from sending out my stories for publication, or from finishing projects. “I’m a great initiator!” I cheerfully tell others. “I just hate the fusty end details.”

It’s silly though. All of life is ABOUT the details, about tying things up neatly, about presentation and finishing and just getting the damn things done. But I don’t. And so I reinforce my imposter syndrome and cringe and seethe inwardly when someone actually HAS. And I tell myself things like, “I really don’t care if people like what I’m doing – it’s all for fun anyway.”

b451940532
I wasn’t always this way. You don’t have time to dawdle as a nurse. You put your head down and do whatever nasty bit of work has to be done. Mind you, you don’t have a line-up of critical judges’ comments after every task, thank heavens. Especially from the semi-conscious patients…

I recently had a longish chat about art and craft and new experiences and such with two women who know about the importance of getting things right. They both have or had demanding jobs, where precision was fundamental, and both have recently let their artistic spirits loose.

One has returned to school and risks the dreaded being assessed, brave lass.

(PS: I met one of the teachers at her school today and migods she was terrifying. The sort who would draw black lines across what you were doing and smash it through with her fist. I really don’t want to be seen by anyone like that. I feel they may not have my best interests at heart.)

The other has done these sort of academic challenges many times before, as have I. We’re both a little tired of jumping through artificially created hoops and just want to play. But in our heart of hearts, we both also want to be validated as an artist, a creator, a creative mind.

But one can only be validated if one is seen, by people who aren’t your best friends and supporters. The first time I sold something to a complete stranger through an art gallery, I felt it, that little rush of “They really like me!”. (Of course, poor Sally is misquoted, she really said – “You like me, right now, you like me.”)

The same thing happened whenever I felt a skinny envelope holding the cheque for something I’d written and sold. Being valued for something you pulled out of your head is an unbelievable sensation. Being paid for things counts for more than one would think.

But all of that approval is an ephemeral thing – you are only as good as your last success, as it were, and as those slip away into the distance you run the risk of being patronised as a wannabe whatever. I hate that.

But what does one do? Risky risky, no matter where you turn.  And a lot of work, just to set yourself up to fail in front of everyone.

I’m lucky – I have some magnificently supportive friends and family (I have the other kind, too, but I digress). They continue to think of me as a creative force even when I’m not producing things, or getting that project done. I like that.

creative-writing-retreat-may-2011-060

And I live for that moment in a creative project where a secret smile starts in the corner of my mouth, when suddenly the task is no longer a hardship, when the joy shines through and I find myself racing to see how it all ends. I’ve been known to laugh out loud when something like that happens. It’s the magic. The twinkly bits.

Those projects I don’t mind showing people. I’ll even force myself to do the little details so I can.

But being seen when you are unsure of your project, when you are just plain putting it out there to be shot at or down or, worse still, patronized… well, that takes great courage. And revealing vulnerabilities you might not have known you had. Scary, that. Bravo to my friends and others who take the risk.

I’m planning to be that sort of gal again, soon.

images-34

 

Thats it, I’m done.


pallas-cat-manul-6__880I can’t do it anymore. I took a break, I tried again, I hated every minute. 

I’ve spent I don’t know how many dollars and hours taking writing courses over the years. I took them to learn the trade, to force the inspiration, to try to get closer to some real, for life publication. 

I’ve been published, for short things. I’ve won a prize or two. For short things. I’ve entered contests and placed. Again, for short things. I like the thrill of the dash, the lack of dreadful other stuff – the synopsis, the pleading cover letter, the explanation of WHY YOU ARE THE BEST PERSON to write this particular thing…all of that hangs over my head like a dead albatross, frozen, on a stick. I can’t face it. It is a powerful disincentive to write.

But that’s an excuse, really. The thing is, I’m missing the feeling in writing lately – that wonderful flow. You writers out there know what it’s like. It feels like walking with the gods, hand in hand with a muse. I laugh out loud when that happens, such is my joy.

I remember writing my first three day novel and laughing throughout. It was such FUN! My character took off and I raced behind her with my keyboard, trying to keep up.

There is such intense joy in such moments that it is impossible to continue when they aren’t there.

So I’ve talked with myself. I’ve bargained with myself. I know I can write, it’s not a self-confidence thing, I’m not depressed. I simply don’t want to. The world suddenly feels full of books to read and I think to myself there is no need to add mine to the pile – there are much more persistent sorts than me out there, people who will push, who need to push. 

I did all of that, in my work and in my parenting. I worked hard hard hard. I ended up disgracing myself with a breakdown caused by MS. I parented hard hard hard I played hard, too) – loved those three creatures with every cell in my being, and, well, they grow up. I exercised my way through bilateral knee replacements with MS to a recovery my own doctor finds amazing. I needle felted over 40 animals in the space of a month to raise money for MS.

So I know I can work hard. But I also know my time is more limited now. MS lurks in the shadows. To keep it at bay, I have to exercise every day. I have to rest, every day.

And in the remaining hours, I want to feel that joy, that flow. I find it when I am creating with my hands – building creatures, hooking rugs, constructing things, brewing beer, making bread, throwing pots, tactile things. Perhaps my MS brain has shifted me out of the word side, has pushed me into touch-based creations.

I remember going on a date with a fellow once – we went to Westport, ON, and as we walked along, I ran my hands along the stone buildings, feeling their texture. He wondered why. I couldn’t explain, but it was the same temptation that made me want to run my hands over his shoulders – he was a professional hammer thrower and his shoulders felt like warm granite, bulked with muscle I’d never before felt.

So I’m leaving the darkened corners of my head, that place where writing lurks and refuses to come out and play, and heading into the tactile light. 

Don’t be alarmed if I touch you.
child-hand-on-tree-bark

So, about that being a writer….


from:http://writerscircle.com/2013/09/writing-perspectives-so-you-want-to-be-a-writer.html

So You Want to Be a Writer
By Charles Bukowski

if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
typewriter
searching for words,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it for money or
fame,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don’t do it.
if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it,
don’t do it.
if you’re trying to write like somebody
else,
forget about it.
if you have to wait for it to roar out of
you,
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you’re not ready.

don’t be like so many writers,
don’t be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don’t be dull and boring and
pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-
love.
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
sleep
over your kind.
don’t add to that.
don’t do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don’t do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don’t do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.

On anger, depression, Robin Williams, Terry Pratchett, and writing


I read an article yesterday by Neil Gaiman about Terry Pratchett, author of the fantastic, funny, wise, and seriously wonderful Discworld series. Neil was asked about Terry, about how he must be such fun.

Neil told a story of Terry, about how he’d been furious one time and about how he’d told Neil that it was the fury that drove him to write. He was furious about his Alzheimer’s. I felt a surge of recognition.

Though I try to out a good face on it of acceptance and “enjoy each day”, I am completely furious that multiple sclerosis has robbed me of my life. Scrape the surface of my cheer and you’re likely to see tears or rage. I spent years, years, educating my mind. I was moving rapidly forward on my career, heading for a position where I could have significant impact on things. I wanted that, I tasted that, I respected people with a mission. And then MS came and struck my brain. Cognitive assessments tell me I should concentrate on things requiring no more than 20 minutes concentration.
This is very true for complicated tasks, and , alas, my writing. So I’m trying to shift my focus to less verbal/executive/numerical things, to more generalized creativity, but I feel the loss. I feel it every day I get up and am baffled by simple tasks. It breaks my heart, every day.

And so I rage. And like many, I turn that rage inwards, towards depression. Part of the depression is because of the MS brain damage – perhaps the depression associated with Parkinson’s damage was the final push for Robin Williams, poor and wonderful man. Part is because, like Terry and Robin, I share the telescope-turned-backwards view of a progressive, disabling disease that will not just kill me, but will make me a crippled, incompetent, incontinent, dependent thing first.

It’s all about generativity. About the ability to contribute in some meaningful way. For Terry and Robin, perhaps the thought of no longer being able to be brilliant is/was too much. I’m not burdened by assumptions of brilliance – I’m nowhere near these guys on the scale. They bring (still) joy to millions, I might do the same for a few, and I’m content with that, most of the time.

Other times I grieve what I might have been.

And then I give my head a shake and vow to make every minute count while I can still manage those twenty minutes. So I pick up my pen, my creative projects, my advocacy, my friendships, my joy, and surge onwards…

Because it’s the rage that fuels me, too.

http://www.theguardian.com/profile/neil-gaiman<<a

Oh, Mae West, how I wish I’d known you…


original“Whenever I have to choose between two evils, I always like to try the one I haven’t tried before”, she said.

She sounds like me, totally resistant to treading the same path, always looking for new experiences, unable to commit to a true path, even in evils.

I’m doing the 3rd chapter of The Artist’s Way and it is about recovering power and healing the childhood hurts that exist within us.  I find this, on page 68, talking about the fear of punishment:

“Many artists begin a piece of work, get well along in it, and then find, as they near completion, that the work seems mysteriously drained of merit. It’s no longer worth the trouble. To therapists, this sudden surge of disinterest (“It doesn’t matter”) is a routine coping device employed to deny pain and ward off vulnerability.”

Aha.

A wise friend of mine told me yesterday that both she and I are adjusting to being “visible” again, putting ourselves out there where we can be seen and judged. My son recently asked me why I never send writing to magazines and such, only enter contests and classes.  I know why I do. If I have to rush to a deadline, or submit to a crazy set of protocols or be a student, I can make the result not matter, still be part of my learning. I’m not ready to take the training wheels off, for some reason. So instead I leap from activity to activity, trying out the new activities…instead of focusing on one or two and seeing it to the end point. It’s like when I did pottery classes and pulled up cylinders, only to cut every single one in half to see how even I’d made it, never seeing the piece to its final stages.

All of this is a part of the recovery I am working on – the recovery of self-esteem after the loss of my job in horrible disarray after my diagnosis of MS and later breakdown, the recovery of my soul after a long time ignoring it and covering it over with iron and glass, the recovery of the ability to accept love, maybe even return it, after marital and familial wounds. Been hurt, yes, still smarting, yes. It’s gone far enough I do not allow myself a moment’s pride in what I have accomplished. I need to get past this.

I’d like to sit with Mae, have a cigar, talk about where she really was about this evils thing,intardaetà and whether her tough exterior covered a world of hurt and self-doubt, and how she pulled her spirit out of that and moved on.

#3Daynovel: day one


So yesterday I had come up with all the reasons why I wanted to spend yet another glorious Labour Day weekend hunched over a computer trying to wrench words out of my head.

Perhaps it will rain, I reasoned. Maybe it will be cold and grey and I won’t feel like I’m missing the last few hours of summer.

Nope. It’s spectacular out there today – sun shining, pooffy little white clouds making the sky look EVEN BLUER, cool breeze but still summery.

And here I sit, bum going numb, brain freezing, 5000+ words of drivel written so far.

It’s still at the give up point. I could stop anytime. And yet, it’s that freedom to stop that pushes me forward, makes me want to complete it once again. By this time tomorrow, I no doubt will have decided that it makes more sense to work on existing projects than waste time grinding out what may be utter junk. I always do around then. I ignore myself and plunge on.

Or I may hit that sweet spot, that bit where your characters take over and you are dying to see what happens to them as you throw obstacles in their way.

And that is why I do this, again and again. That feeling is the best one out there in writing, for me (well, except getting paid, or winning a prize or whatever). No, it’s even bigger than those, because at that mystical time, you know, you know for sure and certain, that you are blessed.

Like the musician playing or singing the perfect note, like the artist with that perfect paint stroke, you are in the creative zone. And there just ain’t any better place to be.

The warped door


images-5In every life, there seems to be a closet of unresolved feelings, undealt-with crises, unhealed wounds. I know I have one, and sometimes  it’s all I can do to shove things in there out of my everyday sight so that I can focus on what needs to be done to get myself around in a day.

Unfortunately, the door to my closet is, like so many old doors, slightly warped. It allows THINGS to creep out and catch me by surprise, grip me by the throat at the most improper times. Like when I hear the song, “Living Years” by Mike and the Mechanics on an oldies station while I’m driving and it brings back my dad’s death with an acuity that feels like it was yesterday, instead of 28 years ago, and I have to pull over the car until I can see again through my tears.

Or an old Rascals’s tune, which sends me back to my childhood. Initially I remembered my childhood as happy and was puzzled why, when I would write about it, trails of greenish-yellow pus would ooze out of my pen, colouring the page with infection and noxious smells. Now, sadly, I know better.

I should never have messed about in that closet.

But you know how it is with those closets filled with junk – suddenly you come over all efficient and say to yourself, “time to tidy THAT up. I can use the reorganized space for new memories, new thoughts.” And then you get mired in old photographs, your grade 2 report card (that said you had great potential, potential you haven’t used, even now). You come across throwaway comments that somehow imprinted on your brain, that experience with a boyfriend that cut you to the quick and showed you the folly of ever, ever falling in love again.

So eventually you tire of digging through, and you slam the door, vowing to never go there again. But it comes to you, through that warping of age.

When I left my ex, I didn’t want to wallow in bad feelings, I forcibly shoved them into the deepest darkest corner of that damn closet in a box with a lock. Somehow that box walks its way to the front of the closet now and again, telling me there are still things to deal with there, that trying to lock things away won’t work, alas. It’s annoying.

I did find a benefit to my leaky closet, in the end. Despite the anguish it sometimes costs me, stories lie there. The stories that lie closest to the bone, the ones that help me write truer, deeper.

Compassion is there, too, wrapped like a warm scarf around the most painful memories. I can take that compassion out and wrap it around others, warm them.

So maybe the warped door isn’t altogether a bad thing. A little escape at a time might be images-6okay. And I might tidy just that one shelf….