Friday, October 30, 2009

If We Will Only RISK! And don't forget the diamonds in the dustheap...

"A lone syllable. A single word. Sometimes a noun. Always, in the heart of it, a verb. All creative expression depends on our willingness to take a risk, and yet just to say the word creates a feeling of excitement and fear in most people, a sense of danger rooted in the threat of change. Years ago I was told a story in which the painter Paul Klee said, 'When I paint what you know, I bore you. When I paint what I know, I bore me. So I paint what I don't know.' Isn't that wonderful? Paint or write what you don't know. Create what you have not even begun to suspect! This is risk. It is the freeing intent behind most original work. According to Klee, the means to help our deepest selves make their mark in the world is right here in the tip of our innocent pencil or brush -- the one we hold in our hand -- if we will only risk."

~ Peter Levitt ~
Fingerpainting on the MOON
"Writing And Creativity
As A Path To Freedom"

I have been sitting here with reading material all around me, all sorts of books, fiction, non-fiction, newspapers, magazines, not to mention sitting here thinking nothing with a pug on my head...

It's actually a very good way to keep your engine running, a shot of gas in your old slow running clunker, when a pug falls asleep on your head and starts snoring on your skull, shaking your brains all about, it wakes you up and makes your engine start to purr again. God knows, my engine is hard to crank with so much going on in my life right now I need someone to shoot me out of a canon to get me going. And it's a good think Sampson is snoring so loud on top of my head, because I am about to take a big RISK.

The day after tomorrow I start NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), with people all around the world who commit to writing a novel in one single month. You've got to write 50,000 words and end up with at least a small finished novel in that month. Now of course it will need polishing up and likely extending, but the very heat and momentum of the days of writing (Like sitting with your pen in a pressure cooker...) has actually resulted in a number of people selling their novels and even ending up on the New York Times Bestseller List.

I timidly took my calculator and divided 50,000 by 31 and came up with about 1613 words per day which equals something like 6 1/2 pages a day (But God Forbid, don't quote me on that.). My eyes widened in horror, and then I thought, "Heck, that's not so bad. Why, if I don't eat, sleep, answer phone calls, feed the birds, or take the 5 dogs out to the potty the 27 times a day they usually want to go, I think I might just make it." As the saying goes, "Denial is not just a river in Egypt."

As if that isn't scary enough I have to tell you that while I have sold non-fiction to newspapers, magazines and even had 3 small presses since my 20's (I'm now 55.), I wrote I think something like a dozen or so novels in the 80's and 90's and despite my best efforts, ALL of them were rejected. I told my husband it would be easier if the editors and agents that read them said, in a kindly and compassionate tone of voice, "Listen sweetheart, you just can't write. Go get a job at K-Mart and sell socks." So apparently my fiction sucked a rotten egg, and now here I am, wide-eyed and terrified, with a month of fiction writing staring me right in the face. (Shudder...) It's a risk, and a big one. But I think I've figured it out.

It's like Klee said. I can't write what I think you, the audience, might know and like. I can't write what I know (Lord God, after all the non-fiction I've written about my own life, and with 3 different non-fiction books in various stages in the works, I'm all non-fictioned up!). I will write what I don't know, and go like gangbusters. I already know the title and the main character, but I'm not telling you, and we're not allowed to start writing until we burst out of the gate, eyes wild and pen moving like a streak of lightning, November 1. (I will admit to having wanted to cheat and start a month ago, but for once in my life I'm going to play by the rules. Don't count on that ever happening again.)

So here's the thing -- all you have to do to make your unimaginable dream into a reality is risk, jump off the high dive or the Empire State Building if you have to, but RISK! JUMP! FLY!

Now, you don't have to be Superman or Wonder Woman to do this, and you don't have to be an artist or a painter, mainly you just have to get out of your own way. I think this is an AA saying, but wherever it came from I love it. Act As If... All I need to do is act like I'm the greatest novelist that ever walked the planet earth and I simply have to write something like 6 1/2 pages a day. Easy Peasy, or so I keep telling myself and Acting As If, and believing it.

There is a quote that I love, and it's Virginia Woolf, buried somewhere in her diaries. She wrote...

“I have just re-read my year’s diary and am much struck by the rapid haphazard gallop at which it swings along, sometimes indeed jerking almost intolerably over the cobbles. Still if it were not written faster than the fastest typewriting, if I stopped and took thought, it would never be written at all; and the advantage of the method is that it sweeps up accidentally several stray matters which I should exclude if I hesitated, but which are the diamonds of the dustheap.”

I firmly believe that the person who started NaNoWriMo based his or her idea on that quote by Woolf. I mean really, doesn't that just sum the whole thing up? And never mind writing a book. Isn't that just like coming up with an idea for anything? An architect, a mathematician, a rocket scientist, all had ideas, and they kept working them over and over and balling up pieces of paper (and likely throwing them across the room shouting obscenities...) and finally -- BING -- what they were looking for -- the answer -- came to them clear as day. It doesn't matter what you do, what your dream is, you just have to jump in somewhere and START! RISK! GET ON WITH IT!!!

I'm starting November 1.
What are you waiting for? The sands of the hourglass are running away like lightning and there won't be a grain left soon enough. Shouldn't you start now? Believe in yourself, act as if, grab a piece of paper and a pen or pencil and just start writing any old thing down. And write and write and write, ball up pieces of paper and throw them across the room, and then keep on writing, drawing, dreaming your dreams into a reality.

Put your Big Pants on and pretend that you've already achieved the dream. Then what? It's behind you, you've done it! Hooray! Lord knows I'm on The New York Times Bestseller List. I just have to get started. Act As If...

November 1. How about you start then too? BANG! We're out of the gate! Get a move on and don't stop for the whole month of November. It doesn't matter what you're doing, it just matters that you start and if you let your dream drift out in a sea of ambiguity it will end up so far away you'll never find it.

November 1 is the day after tomorrow. Shake a leg. There's no time to lose.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

You Do The Hokey Pokey And You Turn Yourself Around, That's What It's About....

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. What IS relative in relation to the way we approach achieving our dreams? We have been brainwashed into believing that there is only one right way to do anything, and if you put one toe outside of the box, a monster will grab you and carry you off to the darklands, where rule-breakers are taken, disposed of and never return or are seen or heard from again.



I mean, who came up with this...

"You put your right hand in...."

(What if you want to put your LEFT hand in?)

"You put your right hand out..."

(Now what if you are really getting somewhere with your left hand, coloring outside the lines, coming up with the theory of relativity, having tea with Einstein and coming away having learned that you too can have a bad hair day and break all the rules and and be given big awards and never forgotten because you dared to go against the grain?")

"You put your right hand in..."

(And there you were, just getting somewhere. Tsk, tsk. What a shame...)

"And you shake it all about."

(Now, I can get down with that!)

Now, the last verse is finally getting somewhere!

"You do the hokey pokey
and you turn yourself around
That's what it's all about."

Now turn yourself around and do everything backwards.

2. Left Hand
3. Right Foot
4. Left Foot
5. Head
6. Butt (I can't help giggle at that!)
7. Whole Self. (At this juncture run all around the room, scare the living daylights out of everyone, tell them they've been doing it WRONG the whole time, and in the end, you might just save some lives.)

At least that's my approach to things. Saving the world is never an easy job.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

The First Attempts... Vincent Van Gogh

"The thing has already taken form in my mind before I start it.

The first attempts are absolutely unbearable.

I say this because I want you to know that if you see something worthwhile in what I am doing, it is not by accident but because of real direction and purpose."

~ Vincent Van Gogh ~

No truer words have ever been spoken.... "The first attempts are absolutely unbearable." Truly. Think about anything of import that you have ever done in your life, and you will realize that this has been so. I have a great many of these things just ahead of me.

By now everyone knows what is going on in my life. The intense, heartbreaking, over the top grief that will befall me at any moment when my mother passes, and the numbness thereafter, and then the walking through a portal into my new life which includes many things I've long dreamed of and never knew I'd have, the excitement around that, and then the bowling ball that drops in my stomach and says, "And then what?"

I was sitting here the other day feeling the whole gamut of emotions surrounding everything above, and because I am trying my very best not to dwell on the choking sorrow that will overtake us all any time now, I tried to move into plans about my future and the dreams coming true, at least some of what I see as the foundation for making the bigger dreams come true, and all of a sudden I thought, "Oh my God, what I thought were the 'dreams come true' were only the beginning, the tip of the iceberg."

I think of having my own little home with a fenced yard for my dogs and room for a wonderful garden. I am already arranging the fiber studio in my mind, and my writing room/study, and having room to breathe, time to write more, and finally, at long last, getting back to my fiber work -- spinning, crocheting, weaving, doing free-form one-of-a-kind pieces and re-opening my etsy store as well as selling locally and putting my work in some galleries in town, and all of those things, all of my work and a life of my own, a kind of freedom that I've always wanted, suddenly terrified me.

Okay, so I get the house and move, I get a new (to me, newer than my 17 year old mini mini van that people look afraid of when I pull into a parking spot next to them at the grocery store. It is old, beat up, and the most unfortunate color of faded and now rusty green.) car, a kind of crossover something-or-other to hold all of my 11 and counting animals that I am always rescuing and taking in, a toothbrush and a clean pair of underwear (After the animals that's all that will fit.) if we have a hurricane here because we live in a place that has hurricanes just to keep us on our toes. Here, when you move to town and are looking at property, the cheery realtor will say to you, "Don't buy near the beach unless you don't mind losing everything." Welcome to town.

That of course is just after, or perhaps before, she tells you about all of the alligators that come up out of creeks and such and might be found in someone's yard or swimming pool, and have been known to eat dogs when people were out walking them too near the water. I was so terrified when we moved here after one trip out with the realtor -- I hadn't wanted to move here anyway, but we had to because of my husband's job -- that I was firm about never letting my children out in the yard to play, absolutely certain they'd be eaten by an alligator. We have lived here 18 years now and I have never seen an alligator, though I know they are in the water here and there where they belong, and yes, my children did play outside.

But the fear that rose in me, the utter terror, the "what comes after I..." suddenly hit me. The things I have thought of, because they are so big and overwhelming and something I never knew I'd have, have been taking up my mind, but it will be the work afterward that will really matter, and I actually have to do it. I've all of a sudden felt like my whole life was a dress rehearsal and I was about to take it onstage for the real performance. I wanted to hide under the rug with a pug on top.

No more saying... Someday I will, or, When I have time for _____ I will, or anything of the sort. You get the foundation, and then you have to "do the thing you think you cannot do," as Eleanor Roosevelt said. It is as simple as that. Yes, (I am telling myself...) it really is that simple. It is exactly as Van Gogh wrote... You already have the thing in mind before you start (You know this is true.) ... and your dream will take direction and purpose. Somehow I feel like Dorothy setting off for Oz as I begin to set my sails for the dream ahead, and then I wonder if I'll get there and feel like "There's no place like home." I think the key is balance. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater, as the saying goes, but don't be afraid to go for that long-held dream with all the gusto you can muster.

I have many more things in mind about the journey ahead, but I'll write about that next time. What I want to leave you with is a quote from Thoreau. It is one of my favorites and quite pertinent here...

If one advances confidently in the direction of one's dreams, and endeavors to live the life which one has imagined, one will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.

~ Henry David Thoreau ~

I am advancing confidently in the direction of my dreams. I always seem to live a life unexpected in common hours. I think I might just have a chance.

Now, to begin. How about you make the leap with me?

Let's jump!


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Savor The Journey...

For a very long time I have loved snails and I had postcards made up that said, "How Slow Can You Go?" with a snail's picture on it. I thought a lot about the fact that we go willy nilly through life at top speed so that tomorrow we have half forgotten what we did today, never mind last week. Oh sure, we remember the big stuff, like going to work, but can you tell me what you wore, what you ate for breakfast, what the weather was like? Inotherwords, we may reach our goals, and achieve our dreams, but not remember how we got there, and part of the joy of achieving our dreams are all of the many things that we experienced, learned, things that made us grow and change along the way. Remembering those things will make the dream made manifest all the richer and more satisfying. Let yourself savor the journey...

I am moving toward, coming closer and closer, to a dream I've had for decades, and the last decade has been almost brutal at times, but had I not gone through every single thing that I did, I would not appreciate what I am about to achieve, and when I walk through that door into my new life, I will be carrying a backpack filled with all of the memories, places, people, and little lessons I learned along the way that helped me get here. That's one of the reasons why keeping a journal is such a wonderful thing. It helps you remember, and it needn't be some weighty activity, full of deep soul searching, and wrought with angst. It can be fun.

As I've talked about here before you can write your thoughts down, those little steps and big ones too that you took along the way, as well as doodle, and paste in pictures of your dreams as they became clearer and took more definite shape. Often we think we know what we want but the closer we get to it we will find it morphing into something slightly different. It's a marvel to look back and see how you really did achieve your dream, and you will carry these tools with you on into the rest of your life, and they will serve you well, as another and another dream begins to take shape in your life. We never stop dreaming.

I have always loved the quote by writer Ursula LeGuin...

"It is a good thing to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters in the end."

Savor each moment. Take your time, breathe deeply and notice every little thing. The snail creeping along in the grass, the blue sky with the puffy white clouds and how one of them looked like a giraffe, the best breakfast you ever ate in a little diner when you were traveling some place to find just the right thing you needed that you were missing, and that day you found it, and you will never forget that breakfast that day in that diner. Remember when you were at your lowest and you ran across a quote that nearly knocked you over and got you going again. If you don't have one right now, go find one!

How slow can you go? Make a conscious effort to go slower and slower each day, and treasure every precious moment. Your dream will manifest much more quickly than you can imagine and you will never want to forget what got you there. What is time anyway? Remember how when you were little you couldn't wait to get older, and it seemed that time just wouldn't move fast enough to get you there? A year was an eternity. Now time flies so fast it can be frightening. You have it in your power to slow time down. Use that power, and never forget that you can. Remember the snail. Write those words on post-it notes everywhere as a reminder... How Slow Can You Go? Fall in love with snails. Fall in love with everything, and one day when you are sitting smack dab in the middle of your dream finally achieved, you will look back to the path that got you there, and smile, and your life will have deepened and become richer, and your dream will be more satisfying and thrilling than you ever imagined.

I'm going to go meditate on snails now. And the hill I have been climbing. And I never want to forget any of it. Go slow, slower, slowest, and you will be happier than you have ever been.


Saturday, October 3, 2009

If You Can Dream It, You Can Make It So...

I have been thinking about this for the last few weeks and I see it coming up for many of my friends around me, in different ways and varying degrees, some know that they will have to change their way of living and being to achieve their dreams, others need to adjust their attitude, some are just plain depressed, defeated and afraid, and want to crawl under the rug and hide. I seem to have experienced all of the above at different times, and have been pretty much stuck in the last one. I have been hiding under a rug, and really, it hasn't served me very well. I decided to come out from under the rug.

I have felt some of all of this as my world keeps shape-shifting and I know big change is coming and I know what it is and I know what will have to happen for the changes to occur, but I have no control whatsoever over the latter. I believe in my dreams, I know the things that will happen as I cross the threshold into this whole new world, and I know good things are coming, but those are immediate things and what comes afterward is the scariest part for me.

Once I get the new cottage and the new (to me, I'm looking at pre-owned certified cars for now) and get settled into the new space and my new and much larger studio is put together, I will once again move into my art, and the book that has been dangling and jangling about in me will need a little push to create forward motion, so that I can finish it and get on to other things. I have several books that I am making notes on but one I've been working on for some time, and it's time to finish it. On that front I've decided to do NaNoWriMo this year, writing everyday with this wonderful online group of writers to give myself that push. I seem to be the kind of person that doesn't do well with a feeling of great spaciousness, but I work like a demon when it gets close to deadline. I once wrote a novel in six weeks, but it had been percolating inside of me for two years as I made copious notes. I wrote nearly round the clock and was wild eyed for those six weeks, and everyone cleared a wide berth around me and let me be. I wasn't fit for human connection at that time.

These latter creative dreams, my fiber art and my writing, are the goal, it's how to get to the place that I know I will gain the momentum I need to move forward with everything, because it will be an especially hard time, even amidst the new changes. The changes cannot come until my mother passes, sometime very soon, and it will be a bittersweet time indeed, and I think that right now I'm afraid to even think of the work ahead, the new life, and finally finding my way into my dreams only after my mother has passed, and the time for grieving works it's way through. I thought I knew how I would achieve my dreams, but now I am just confused, and sad, and uncertain. Frozen, afraid, but then, as always happens, I seem led to a quote that is a great teaching for me, and helps illuminate the path ahead, and knowing this helps me to gain the courage and the strength to go on, and to know that there are many ways to achieve my dreams, perhaps, I think, I need to just find a different way of working toward them. So this quote set me right again...

“When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached,
don't adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.”

~ Confucius ~

We often get so set in the way we imagine that things need to be done, that when they don't quite go that way we feel as though we have run into a brick wall, and, since we can't see around the other side, we give up, turn around, shrug our shoulders, and, defeated, head back, with our dream lying dead in the road. What we need to remember is that even The Great Wall Of China has a beginning and an end. All we need to do is walk around the wall. Life is full of change and the best laid plans seem just meant to go KABLOOEY just as we are about to take steps to achieve them. In the dance of life there are many steps that we can take. Simply turn in a new direction and find new ways. The fact that you can't get from here to there in the way that you had imagined will probably be a very good thing. It will broaden the scope that we all need to see many more ways to move into our new life. I can be exciting. Dreams only shatter if we let them. We are not going to let them.

I always like to think of Grandma Moses. She didn't start painting until she was 75. She painted until she died at just over 100 years of age. I love the quote attributed to her, "Well, if I hadn't started painting I guess I would have raised chickens." Life was big to her, she could paint, she could raise chickens, she could do anything she wanted to. It never bothered her that she was 75 years old when she started. I don't think that gives any of us a good excuse to say it's too late. I know men and women in their 40's and 50's who have already given up on their dreams. Not what would Grandma Moses say about that?

When I was young I had a beautiful poster of a ballerina flying in mid-air in a beautiful dance move. The poster said, "If you can imagine it you can achieve it, if you can dream it you can become it." It's time for us to start imagining and dreaming, and walking around any walls that get in our way. Everything is possible. Let's begin...