Posts Tagged ‘SARK’
Making all the Time You Need and Then Some: A Review of Marney Makridakis’s Creating Time: Using Creativity to Reinvent the Clock and Reclaim Your Life
Posted September 4, 2012on:
At every creativity workshop I have ever taught, I always get the question: How do I find time to do more of what I love? The metaphors about time that I encounter working with clients often include the language of battle, scarcity, worry, challenge and management. I think that’s true for most of us. Think about it. When’s the last time you heard someone say, “I’ve got all the time I need for x?” or, “I’m not crazy busy anymore. Time feels like molasses.” or, “Time–my little bundle of joy!” The fact that people struggle with time is not news. What is news is that author Marney Makridakis in her pioneering book, Creating Time: Using Creativity to Reinvent the Clock and Reclaim Your Life shows us that it is possible and even fun to learn how to shift, visualize, command, tickle, seduce, and measure time in completely new and revolutionary ways.
I am head-over-heels in love with this book and declare Marney, a genius. Marney is a well-known artist, entrepreneur, coach and founder of ArtellaLand.com, the ground-breaking online community for artists, writers, and creative individuals. She also promotes the ARTbundance philosophy, an innovative approach to self-improvement through creativity.
Her deep wisdom as a successful coach, artist and student of time is evident in this book. Creating Time is beautifully written, edited and incorporates insights and original art from a variety of folk, including professional artists but also many people from Marnie’s creative community. You’ll find how to ‘stretch and shrink’ time from creative guru Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy (aka SARK), view original artwork by entrepreneur Leonie Dawson and artist Brian Andreas.
Marney taps into the mundane and magical aspects of our psychological (nonlinear) and temporal (linear) experience of time. She advocates that we need an expansive view of time and that time is a “valuable resource far more infinite than we tend to think it is.” Her constant reminder to us is how to become better aware of the states in which we perceive time, so we’re less aware of the limiting factors of time “but more aware of the present moment.” She helps us discover “more tools to support this blissful state.”
In the first section, you begin by exploring your relationship to both linear and nonlinear forms of time. Once you’ve done some excavation work assessing your needs and desires that are time related, the next section introduces and helps you tap into unique methods for creating time through creativity. You go deep in these chapters as Marney presents a specific concept and interweaves anecdotes, personal stories, literary and pop culture references, and scientific theory (everyone gets a refresher course on the theory of relativity!). After reading chapters in this section that include, ‘Creating Time Though Stillness’, ‘Creating Time Through Metaphor’, and ‘Creating Time through Synchronicity’, you will not doubt that we can indeed create time outside of our usual and often narrow frame and “welcome a new way to experience time.” Each chapter concludes with an engaging ARTsignment, an art project that is designed to activate and expand self-awareness and transformation. You don’t have to possess any particular set of artistic skills to dive right in get started. In this book you learn by doing and will be inspired to try your hand at the ARTsignments as you see many examples of others’ interpretations.
The third section integrates all of the time concepts you’ve learned over the course of the book and offers diagnostic tips about what techniques might be best to apply right away. She provides a list of quotes that form a nice short hand for charting one’s self talk (i.e. like “I’m always worried about the past or the future, and I find it hard it hard to live in the moment.” or “I don’t have a realistic sense of time. I’m always procrastinating and am never sure of how long things take.”), and what techniques to try right away.
Creating Time stands alone as a book that seamlessly and deliciously combines creativity with science and offers adventure after adventure to completely expand our sense of time. If your relationship with time is tired, played out, frustrating, confusing and one that always seems to be defined by scarcity and lack, order this book today. It’s definitely time for a change!
Posted August 12, 2012on:
I don’t think I’ll stop smiling for a few days. I just received news that the anthology You Don’t Say: Stories in the Second Person by Ink Monkey Press is out and my story ‘Family Line’ is in it! The editor accepted the story a few months ago, but since I wasn’t sure when the anthology would appear, I kept my fabulous news mostly to myself. This is my first fiction publication and it ranks up there with other incredible life moments. To publish literally means ‘to make public’. To the aspiring writer, however, being published connotes acceptance and brings a sweet spot of satisfaction that someone else finds your work compelling.
Family Line’s history from beginning to end has been a testimony to the power of persistence, and the importance of asking for and receiving support. Here are a few things that happened along the way:
1) Last October, I noticed an announcement from our local library for writers of all ages to contribute to their first ever ‘Scary Shorts’ contest. Entries were 500 words or less. I knew nothing about writing ‘flash fiction’. I told other writers about the contest, but didn’t finish my story by the deadline. At the Scary Shorts event, I was happy watching my fellow writers read, but bummed that I didn’t finish my story on time while encouraging others to do so.
2) I saw a speculative fiction contest in March 2012 (by a contest that shall remain unnamed), and used that deadline as an opportunity to spiff up my story. The premise is that a fifteen year-old boy from the Bronx is off on a trip to visit his cousins in North Carolina who he considers backwards. They tell him about a book of spells that they claim an ancestor used to free the family from slavery. Of course, the boy is dubious and havoc ensues from there.
My original draft was 500 words and was told in the second person. I’d become obsessed with writing in the second person after reading Kevin Canty’s short stories.
This contest had a flash fiction category with a 500 word limit. Perfect! I took the story to my prompt writing group (with only a few days to spare to deadline) got feedback on it, but was still having trouble bringing all the elements together. Majorie Hudson, the teacher, stayed with me after class and offered insightful suggestions. She became the first ‘godmother’ for this story. I left, revised and submitted my story to the contest. Woo-hoo! I had a great feeling about the outcome.
3) My feeling evaporated when I received the following email from the contest administrator a few days later:
I am sorry to tell you that we inadvertently lost your entry, so that it was not included in the judging. This has never happened before (and we have taken steps to ensure that it does not happen again); part of the problem was that a different M. Berger also entered the contest, and we conflated your entries. Your story is very strong and well-written; it would certainly have been sent on to the final judge, which make this doubly unfortunate.
We will process a refund for you; again, I apologize for the error, and hope you will enter again next year.
What???? Crushed describes the state that I stayed in for a week after this notice. All that work, I thought, for nothing! I put the story aside worked on other things.
Thank goodness I’ve become obsessive in reviewing calls for stories for anthologies, contests, literary journals, etc. A few weeks after the contest debacle, I saw an anthology call for short second person stories. Perfect! Woo hoo! I sent my story off again with high hopes.
4) I received a note from Mandi Lynch, the editor that said, she and her staff liked the story very much, but felt that the story was too short and they weren’t including it in the anthology.
5) I sat there breathing very hard looking, at this email, for a long time. I believed in this story. I believed in its original premise, crisp dialogue and good characterization. So, I mustered up some courage and thought, I’m going to do something I’ve never done before—ask the editor for a second chance.
I wrote her a short and direct email:
Thanks for your email and interest in my story. Would you be willing to take another look at it, if I worked it up to about 1500 words or so? And, if so, when would you want to see it? I’m taking a bit of a gamble here, but thought I should ask. Thanks for your time!
6) I was able to email this editor because I’ve been taking good care of all those inner critics and writing gremlins. I could have lapsed into a fatal version of ‘This rejection proves that you know nothing about writing. No one is going to want this story. Give up, etc.”
Mandi, the editor, responded quickly and said yes she was willing to take a second look at it. She was in a time crunch, so I had a little over a week to get her something.
7) Then I panicked! I had to take a good story from 500 words and expand it into 1500 words and ideally something she would consider publishing. In a fever I began work on it and realized that because of the deadline I was going to have to do something else that I hadn’t done before…ask for help from different places. I asked my monthly writing group to look at a draft of the story. I felt uncomfortable asking for help on a story out of our regular cycle. But, I did it. I also posted my story on my online writing community with SARK (Write it Now with SARK), also a big risk given that I didn’t have a shared face to face writing history with them.
8) Support flooded in from all corners! Writers from the monthly group gave amazing feedback. They even appreciated being asked! Several folks from the WINS group also gave thoughtful feedback and encouragement. People were rooting for me to revise and submit this story.
Finally, I took the story to my evening writing class with Melissa Delbridge. I read it to the class, got feedback, but still struggled with the ending. After class, Melissa suggested we look at the story together. I protested as I didn’t want to take up more of her time. She said not to worry and then we sat there and she read my story out loud—line by line—and together we examined the areas that weren’t working. Can I tell you what it means when a writing teacher takes the time (after teaching a two hour class no less!) to sit with you and give you her undivided attention? All I could do was say thank you profusely and sail away into the night. Melissa was the second ‘godmother’ to ‘Family Line’.
9) I revised my heart out and made Mandi’s deadline. The next day I received an email from her. She loved the revision and I was in the anthology!
10) Lessons: Never give up on an idea that you believe in. Remember editors are people, too. They can be open to looking at revised work. Be willing to revise until the work sings. Ask for support, even when it make you uncomfortable. Ask for support from people that you haven’t asked from before. Receive all support graciously. Believe you are worthy of it. Celebrate your success with your creative tribe. Repeat!
Thanks to my creative tribe: Tim, Melissa, Marjorie, The First Thursday Writers’ Group, “The “Girls Monthly Writing Group, DJ, Cathy and Michele and others on WINS
You Don’t Say: Stories in the Second Person is available from Amazon
Posted July 27, 2012on:
Envy is a vocational hazard for most writers. It festers in one’s mind, distracting one from one’s own work, at its most virulent even capable of rousing the sufferer from sleep to brood over another’s triumph. Bonnie Friedman, ‘Envy, The Writer’s Disease’ in Writing Past Dark
What role does envy play in your creative life? While preparing for a creativity workshop, I found a list that I created several years ago, ‘Ways to help with the inner critic/judge’. One entry was ‘Write or collage your ‘Envy Hall of Fame’ and move on’. This made me reflect on my ongoing relationship with envy and jealousy.
For a long time I struggled with the sting of persistent feelings of envy and jealousy toward other writers and creative folk. I felt I was the only one. And, for many years I felt ashamed of my feelings and kept silent about them. As a culture, we rarely seem to acknowledge envy and jealousy in a healthy way.
When I came across the musings on jealousy by creativity author Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy (SARK) in her book, The Bodacious Book of Succulence, I felt seen and witnessed:
“I wish we would all have more clear, truthful, jealous outbursts. We all feel jealousy. I feel it often, about both odd and common things…Jealousy only points the way towards where we might like to go. It is a gift(an oddly wrapped gift)…Practice saying loudly and firmly I AM SO JEALOUS.”
She notes that most of us believe that we’re inferior if we feel jealous yet when “jealousy is shared consciously when felt, its power disappears”. She also says we try to protect others from being jealous of us by sometimes denying our own good fortune. And that our silence and a sense of scarcity is what “feeds” jealously. Agreed!
Bonnie Friedman reminds us in her excellent meditation on jealousy (‘Envy, The Writer’s Disease), that jealousy is about projecting the perfect and good onto others which is often illusory. She argues that with any projection we unconsciously give our power away to someone to judge our talent, or accept our work, or even accept our vital self. And, of course once you’ve given away a part of yourself, you resent the other person and then become metaphorically hungry, unable to find fulfillment except fleetingly. According to Friedman, we long to say ‘yes’ to ourselves.
This brings me to the ‘Envy Hall of Fame’. I came up with the idea in the midst of doing a liver cleanse and a 40-day Kundalini practice for anger, grudge holding and jealousy (many alternative health modalities believe that anger is stored in the liver). I came to realize that intense envy and jealousy are often our inner critics’ favorite weapons. So sitting down and writing or making a collage of folks that one is truly envious of can be therapeutic and can help redirect our inner critics. And, once you release that energy, you can move on. It’s not like you’re never going to feel those feelings ever again, you will, but your inner critics can’t beat you up in the same way.
Over the years I’ve found the best antidote for envy and jealousy is good self-care, a return to my own creative work and creative community. The work waits for us in all its possibilities and imperfections, to be settled into and explored.
Do you admit to your envy and jealousy? Do you write about it? Confide in friends? If you were going to create an Envy Hall of Fame, who would be in it?
(Photo credit-image blossoms)
Posted June 20, 2012on:
Dedicate v. 1. To set apart for a special use. 2. To commit (oneself) to a course of action. 3. To address or inscribe (e.g., a literary work) to someone. (Webster’s II New Riverside Dictionary, 2nd ed)
Spring possibilities are about to cede to summer pleasures. I’ve been ruminating on the importance of spring cleaning for your writing life and have covered the first two steps—reassessment and reorganization. The third step is the most powerful one—rededication. To rededicate ourselves to something we deem as special in our lives strengthens and amplifies our commitment.
Weeks ago, I posed a question to writer friends: What is one thing that you’re doing, giving away, rearranging, reassessing, reorganizing, etc., to support your writing life? Michelle Wotruba, is a ‘day dreaming mommy’, blogger and my online writing buddy. She offered this nugget:
I’m going thru my ‘Magical Maybe’ folder and seeing what is really in there.
The ideas that I’m no longer interested in I’m tossing.
The ideas that I like I’m setting “mini coffee dates” to start on them; if by the end of that date I haven’t done anything but drink my coffee, I’m going to toss those.
I’ve realized some ideas I like but now I’m looking at them in a fresh way. Those are the ideas I’m going to start with; we’re skipping the coffee and going on a “dinner and a movie date.”
I’m always looking for new ideas in my “Magical Maybe” folder; I usually save those for a dessert date but not always.
I just love Michelle’s ‘Magical Maybe’ folder (and wish I had one!). Michelle’s comment suggests that we periodically sort through ideas, concepts, and themes, rededicating ourselves to the ones with the most juice.
Rededicating ourselves to our writing life sends a joyful message to our creative self. Remember, our creative self loves to be wooed. Its language includes ritual, ceremony and demonstrative acts of appreciation.
Here are some areas of my writing life that I’m rededicating myself to this summer:
I rededicate myself to using the most routine occurrences as story generators.
I rededicate myself to cultivating delight in the writing process.
I rededicate myself to finding new ways to dialogue with inner resisters, critics, evaluators, judges and committee members and either work with them as allies or assign them to a different job.
I rededicate to asking ‘what if?’ and then daring myself to come up with an answer!
I rededicate myself to looking at revision as a way to honor my writing by keeping the right words and setting the rest free for another day.
I rededicate myself to asking daily, ‘What wants to come forth in my writing’?
I rededicate myself to becoming educated about the changing nature of publishing.
As you move into summer’s rhythms what areas of your writing life would you like to rededicate yourself to?
During the last decade fitness experts have touted the importance of developing a strong core. A well developed core (the muscles that run the length of the trunk and torso), stabilizes the spine and pelvis and contributes to balance and strength. The core helps us transfer powerful energy outward to the rest of the body. Looking back, I can see that in 2011, I metaphorically worked on my writer’s core. This included paying attention to the craft of writing and strengthening a self-care system to support my writing life. Shaping my writer’s core afforded me a new level of emotional fitness than I had ever experienced before.
In toning my writer’s core I committed to reviewing the scaffolding of writing (e.g. plot, dialogue, setting, scene building, etc), taking classes and workshops that explored the process of revision, the structure of successful memoirs and key components in writing for children. This allowed me to return to my writing with a generous attention to the shaping of each paragraph and scene in ways that I was unable to do before.
For years, I labored alone with my writing or joined writing groups that were dysfunctional. Despite these past experiences, I developed decent skills on giving feedback and support. Prior to last year, however, I didn’t know how to ask for support or even what kinds of writing support might be good for me. That has changed dramatically. 2011 was my year for developing layers and layers of yummy writing support. Some fell into my lap and others I actively sought out.
February: An acquaintance approached me to be a writing buddy; I accept and we meet monthly to share writing progress, fellowship and encouragement.
April: I’m asked to join two monthly critique groups. I accept. We share similar commitments to writing and neither group is dysfunctional.
May: I discover She Writes! Joining She Writes has been one of the most rewarding experiences of receiving writerly support.
July-December : I join creativity writer SARK’s online writing program WINS(Write It Now with SARK), and her online community AHA (A Haven and Accelerator for Writers). SARK offers profound knowledge about how to deal with pesky inner critics. I highly recommend this innovative program!
This unprecedented year of support has helped me transform several writing blocks (i.e. all or nothing bursts of writing, procrastination and perfectionism, fear, etc) that I have struggled with for as long as I can remember.
Communing with so many writers and participating in several writing communities also gently shifted my focus from an exclusive one set on individual publication to recognizing and celebrating the courage, camaraderie and confidence that comes from being part of a community of writers. I want to write not just for personal advancement, but also to be in conversation and build rapport with writing kin. I’ve gotten equally invested in other writers’ success as well as my own. I’m becoming a better writer, but also a more generous one, too.
Part of toning my core was also to openly explore and write about the difficult feelings that can stop us as writers including rejection, jealousy, envy, competition and anxiety. Blogging about new ways to cope with rejection and openly discussing this topic with other writers was a great strengthener.
A February workshop I took from my writing teacher, Marjorie Hudson, also shifted my perspective on submitting one’s work and coping with rejection. She declared that as part of claiming the mantle of a writer, one should have gathered at least 99 rejections. I sat in the workshop feeling pretty smug thinking that surely with all the years that I have been trying to get published I have reached that number, no problem. Later as I was reviewing my submission file, I was shocked to realize that I wasn’t even half way close to 99 rejections! This revelation spurred me on submit my work, all year, in a serious and organized way. By taking this challenge on, I ushered in plenty of rejections but also a second place prize for a poem in the Word and Sound International Writing Competition, and other writing successes. As SARK says, “If we’re not getting rejected, we’re not stretching far enough.”
In training the physical core, one has to undertake lots of demanding moves: plank, side plank, crunches and push-ups and do them consistently. In 2011, I also worked on the hard things that didn’t feel so good in the short term like developing a daily writing practice and embracing a new perspective on revising longer projects.
For 2012, my intention is continue to strengthen my writer’s core by…
–maintaining and sustaining layers of support ( being active in She Writes, meetings with my writing buddy, continue participating in my three writing groups, and finish round 3 of WINS)
–continuing to work on the craft of writing by taking additional classes
–striving to make it to 99 rejections this year!
–moving forward with a consistent writing practice
–practicing an attitude of revising longer works with delight instead of dread
I wish you a strong writer’s core for 2012!
*This post appeared appeared a few weeks ago on She Writes
There are times that I am convinced that I would do little to move my creative writing along without external deadlines. For many writers the inner perfectionist convinces us that our work is just not ready yet. Then we wait and agonize and wait some more. Working with writing buddies, teachers and groups are crucial to helping us move more of our writing out into the world. For the past four months, I have had the pleasure of being part of SARK’s online writing program WINS (Write It Now with SARK). She has created a delightful, nourishing online community. It has added another layer of support to my writing life.
A few weeks ago, I saw the ‘Your Life’ contest sponsored by Reader’s Digest. They requested 150 word stories about a lesson, funny moment or important vignette in one’s life. The prize is $25,000. I immediately thought, OK, I’d like to do that, but made no real plan for completion. I then saw SARK post the contest to our online forum encouraging us to apply. Some people immediately entered and posted their entries—my inner critic told me there was no point in entering—I was not going to produce as poetic a piece as others. I should have sent it on a most unpleasant task like cleaning all the toilets at the nearest airport, but I ignored it instead.
SARK also holds bimonthly calls for the WINS group and during the last call; she said she was having a hard time starting her Reader’s Digest entry. She said she had started a draft twelve times! It was so refreshing to hear a well published writer reveal a common struggle with writing. Everyone on the call, I think, registered a sigh of relief. Other people expressed that they too were having trouble starting and finishing their entries—mostly because it was not ‘perfect’. So, she asked us to make a pact with her…that we would not only finish our stories but we would post them for each other online. She asked us to press ’1′ on our phones if we were in. Without too much hesitation, I decided, yup, I’m in. We had exactly 5 days to meet the deadline. As a final word of encouragement for the contest and submitting writing to her in general (we can submit a 1500 word piece per month for her review), she told us to write “bad, uninformed, stupid, ragged, slapdash drafts!” We laughed but her message sank home and was a good reminder—to get sparking drafts, we must start somewhere in the thicket of words and not judge ourselves too harshly for it. As the days went on, SARK kept her word by posting her entry for all to see and several others followed suit. I cheered others on and even encouraged my partner to apply.Finally, I sat down to write, too. I knew I had made commitment to others to show up and follow through—an external deadline with accountability. Once I started, I realized I had given a talk years ago that held a vignette that I could rework. The piece was actually easier and more fun to write than I imagined. Creative folk need to be internally motivated to produce strong work. But we also can use contests, residency applications, calls for anthologies, and pacts made with friends as a way to burn through the twin energies of perfectionism and procrastination.
Please take a moment and check out my entry ‘The Queen of the Class Grows Up’ and vote for it if you like it. queen-cl-grows
I know…I’ve been away from my blog way too long. I have been “cheating” on this blog by writing occasional blogs at She Writes. She Writes is a great organization devoted to supporting and encouraging women writers. http://www.shewrites.com/profile/MicheleTracyBerger
Below, is a revised version of what I posted on She Writes about coping with rejection and creating rituals. Enjoy!
It’s happened again. I was minding my own business, thinking of myself as a writer, keeping to deadlines and then a rejection letter came in an email. I keep track of where I send pieces but sometimes I forget that something of mine is out floating around in the literary universe. When a rejection email arrives out of the blue it feels like my head has been plunged in cold water. I’ve been writing and submitting long enough to know that rejection is part of the writing process. A very big part of the process. It’s just that I realized that I don’t have a rejection ritual yet. Do you?
For me, rituals are part of my creating process. There’s the way that I sit down with tea or when I turn on the computer or the self-affirming words that I say when I start a piece. I tend to stock up on rituals, go to routines for different aspects of the creative life. But, I haven’t developed one for dealing with rejections. I think I should.
I started thumbing through my writing books-all of which talk about the inevitability of rejection-and was surprised to find that few gave concrete advice or guidance about how to take care of yourself when you get a rejection letter. Most just say that you should immediately write a new query letter and send the manuscript back out–very perfunctory.
If you don’t have Carolyn See’s Making a Literary Life: Advice for Writers and Other Dreamers, you should. It’s laugh out loud funny, poignant and she makes a lot of analogies about sex, relationships and the writing process. Her take on rejection is that one should write a handwritten thank you note, to the editor, immediately after receiving a rejection. She swears that writing is a type of “spiritual aikido” and helps one stay sane. She also tells a great story about landing a writing assignment after being rejected by an editor over many years. He knew her well through all those nice notes she had sent back to him and gave her work!
I’m in an online writing course with creativity guru SARK (author of many books including Juicy Pens, Thirsty Paper: Gifting the World with Your Words and Stories, and Creating the Time and Energy to Actually Do It). I asked her and the other participants about dealing with rejection. SARK suggested that after getting rejected you write an email *to yourself* from them (whoever has done the rejecting) that you would LIKE to receive. She also liked the idea of sending a nice thank you note—by email—to the editor or agent. She also reminded me of her quote: “If you’re not getting rejected, it means you’re not reaching far enough.”
I like both See’s and SARK’s encouragement to reroute what feels like negative energy back out to the literary universe for transmutation. I can see myself sending a nice email back to the editor thanking them for reading my piece and that I’ll submit again. I’m also intrigued by the idea of sending myself the email I would have really liked to receive.
My writing teacher, Marjorie Hudson (author of the new short story collection Accidental Birds), has encouraged her students to think about rejection as a process. She said that we should all strive for 100 rejections letters; 100 rejection letters is part of developing our chops as writers. When I first heard this, I frankly thought that she was a bit insane and also somewhat smugly thought that I was already up to a 100 rejection letters. As it turns out, I’m only about half way there! This sobered me up and got me back to work. Next time I see her, I’m going to ask what to do when I get to 100? Maybe throw a party?
So, I’m curious, do you have a rejection ritual that helps you? Is it fun and light or dark and melodramatic? Do you keep the rejection letters in a special file or immediately throw them away? How do you navigate the world of rejection?
The close of a decade offers a time for reflection and taking stock of what has nurtured us, especially in our creative lives. Ten years ago, I had yet to become a creativity coach. I was a few years out of graduate school and adjusting to the relentless demands of professorial life. I was secretly working on a novel while researching my academic books that I needed to write. I have made several intentional and transformative leaps this decade in claiming a life as a coach, writer, and academic. The books below have been traveling companions and witnesses to those changes. They are books that I return to often and encourage my clients and workshop participants to read. As a whole they offer a fountain of ideas, techniques and incentives for accessing and maintaining creative states. Well-written and highly engaging, they provide ladders up from the ditches of self-loathing that creative people sometimes fall into, insights on how to quell doubts about one’s ability to create(at least long enough to get the next thing done), and sport new roadmaps in how we might shape a creative life for ourselves, if we dare.
Creativity: Where the Divine and Human Meet, Matthew Fox: This is a jubilant philosophical discussion about the role of creativity in serving human evolution. Fox, a radical theologian argues for the necessity of creativity for the continued survival of the species. Fox makes a case for the spirituality of creativity, a commitment and practice that renews us and the culture as it fosters social justice, compassion and transformation.
Making Your Creative Dreams Real: A Plan for Procrastinators, Perfectionists, Busy People, and People Who Would Really Rather Sleep All Day?: SARK: How does one achieve a creative dream that feels impossible? SARK answers this question through her helping people tackle internal barriers (e.g. critics) and external realities (i.e. lack of time or money). I probably recommend this book more often than the others on this list. SARK has a gift for helping people overcome obstacles to creating. MYCR offers readers practical guidance about the stages of dream development (i.e. egg, hatched, infant or baby, toddler, child, adolescent, adult). Once you figure what stage your dream is in then you can find exercises to figure out what your dream needs in order to sustain itself. Bursting with color and confidence, this book is meant to awaken the dreamer (and doer) inside of us.
Coaching the Artist Within: Advices for Writers, Actors, Visual Artists & Musicians from America’s Foremost Creativity Coach, Eric Maisel: I’m convinced that by writing this superb book, Maisel wants to put himself and other creativity coaches out of business. He reveals useful techniques that teach us how to be aware of the habits of mind that we use not to create as well as to create. Maisel draws on vignettes from a diversity of clients to amplify the lessons presented. You learn how to be your own coach in a mindful and kind way.
The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use it For Life, A Practical Guide, Twyla Tharp: This understated but powerful book should have gotten much more notice. Twyla Tharp, world famous choreographer, doesn’t believe that creativity is a gift from the heavens bestowed only on a chosen few. Unlike many creativity books, The Creative Habit is intellectual, incisive and doesn’t coddle. There’s no mention of affirmations or positive self-talk in this book. What’s offered up are more than thirty unique exercises for jumpstarting one’s imaginative musings.
On Becoming an Artist: Reinventing Yourself through Mindful Creativity, Ellen J. Langer: I love books that blend neuroscience, mindfulness and creativity because they give us a new window for understanding how to break longstanding habits of mind. Langer presents psychological research that demonstrates how people typically undervalue their perceptions of themselves and the world around them–mindlessly. Mindless living affects our creative lives negatively. Mindlessness when creating might show up as tyrannical self criticism and evaluation, overreliance on social comparisons, and lack of interest in ambiguity. She argues for a mindful approach to creative endeavors that allows us to notice how our choices can arise from the context of our present moment(as opposed to following a mindless automatic script).
The Creating Brain: The Neuroscience of Genius, Nancy Andreasen. This book helps us understand how the brain exercises everyday creative acts (i.e. the ability to have a conversation) and what possibly contributes to off the chart creativity (e.g. the lives of Martha Graham, Thomas Edison, Toni Morrison etc). Andreasean’s writing makes neuroscience accessible for a lay audience.
The Twelve Secrets of Highly Creative Women: A Portable Mentor, Gail McMeekin: If an author puts the word secret in a title, it immediately makes me want to read it. This book doesn’t disappoint as it delivers up the life histories of women who have found ways to nurture and sustain their creativity. This book’s emphasis on finding role models, mentors and allies drives home the point that we need support to accomplish our creative dreams.
An Alchemy of Mind: The Marvel and Mystery of the Brain, Diane Ackerman: Although not a book solely about creativity, Ackerman’s chapter on creativity, “Creating Minds”, is worth several other fluffy books on the subject. She writes with a poet’s sensibility and a journalist’s precision about our amazing gray matter.
Eat Pray Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia, Elizabeth Gilbert: I have taught this book in my undergraduate course ‘Women and Creativity’ for the past few years. I schedule the book to be read during a section of the class I call ‘creativity as life process’ which focuses on creativity as life-making. This book offers many lessons about the power of creative problem-solving, the importance of curiosity and exploration and using the self as a resource for understanding life. Gilbert produces a product—which is the memoir, but it is how she makes a life that is real magic.
The Creativity Book: A Year’s Worth of Inspiration and Guidance, Eric Maisel: This is a go-to resource when you’re out of ideas and bored with your current project. It presents a doable, one year plan for waking up your creative muses.
A few weeks ago after seeing SARK, I decided to revisit one of my favorite concepts of hers—‘Grudge Island’. In her Bodacious Book of Succulence she talks about the place that many of us reside. You know the place in our consciousness where we replay, repeat, and sift through old hurts, grudges, resentments, and slights? She imagines this place as Grudge Island. All the folks on the island are stooped over from carrying the weight of their grudges.
In my workshops on creativity, I often ask people to verbalize what their Grudge Island looks like, the nature of the grudges and the length that they’ve hung on to them. After reflecting on this exercise, one woman exclaimed, “Goodness, I don’t just visit Grudge Island, I’ve built condos there!”
SARK: “The ego receives great satisfaction by keeping grudges. It allows you to be right and live in the past. … Grudges are companions of struggle and blame. Sometimes we feel it’s better to have their company than none at all, so we continue letting them live and grow.” p.87 (Bodacious Book of Succulence)
So, I decided to sit down and do a little exploring to see what shape my Grudge Island was in. I started out with a few modest pieces of paper and a pen. I thought, oh, this should only take a few minutes. As I got in touch with recent and old hurts and wounds, I found myself reaching for more paper. As I wrote, I began reliving and experiencing the anger, hurt and loss of the events that shaped my grudges. I reached for more paper and also some markers. I enjoyed using a big fat red marker, in particular, because it seemed to match the level of my intense feelings. When I started writing with my non-dominant hand (left), many childhood grudges surfaced.
Now, I pride myself on practicing the art of forgiveness, practicing yoga and meditating everyday. So, it came as a bit of unwelcome surprise that in fact, I was a long time resident on Grudge Island. I continued, however, to follow my feelings, and write every grudge, hurt and slight that came to my mind. My writing got bigger, more intense and even incoherent at times. By the end of the process I had filled 25 pages (front and back) of my grudges and ego wounds!
Here’s a sample:
Grudge against Thor (yes, his name was really that), a young man who told me while I was in grad school that pursing a PhD was meaningless and definitely not going to help my community (15 years ago)
Grudge against my mom who was too poor to send me care packages in college. I desperately wanted the validation and normalcy of a care package. Instead, I often sent care packages to her. (20 years ago)
Grudge against my six grade teacher who forgot to give me the information so that I could compete in the city wide spelling bee (I had won the spelling bee for the school and district). (30 years ago)
Grudge against a foundation for not choosing to fund my excellent proposal. (9 months ago)
You get the drift…
The utility of this exercise is that it allows one to see that we are more than what our egos declare that we should hold onto, pay attention to and enshrine in our memories. We are more than our grudges! I decided that these papers needed to be destroyed. In a mad frenzy, I ripped the papers into teeny tiny shreds which felt incredibly satisfying. I kept ripping and tearing at them for some time. Then, I began to knead them which for some reason also felt incredibly satisfying. I then promptly gathered them all up and dumped the pile in the garbage.
I remembered SARK said that when she purges grudges, she sometimes forgets the original hurts that caused the grudges. After I dumped the grudges, a very calm and peaceful sensation ran through my body. I felt a deep clarity about moving forward. And, I felt less like an ‘angry victim’ of circumstances. I made a plan of things that I wanted to do differently in relation to the people who were still in my life whom I had been holding grudges against. The other grudges of long ago felt gone, as if, they removed by a type of grace. Meaning, I could no longer remember the original incidents that led to my grudge holding. I’m sure that they are somewhere in my consciousness, but I think it would take a lot for me to remember them. I’m also OK if there is some pain associated with something that happened in the past that comes up occasionally. But, I’m not going to actively look for it.
I’ve taken the boat that occasionally visits Grudge Island for those who are ready to leave and begin exploring new vistas. I’m riding in a boat looking at the crystal blue water in the Channel of Present Possibilities.
If you spend way too much time on Grudge Island try writing the grudges down and afterwards purging them by either burning them, tearing them up (and dumping them) or even burying them in a garden.
The more we share about our very human capacity to hold grudges (and what we may get out of it for holding a grudge), the more support we can receive for releasing them and experiencing the joy and vitality that is available to us in every moment.
As I shared last week, I went to a SARK workshop. One of the best aspects of the workshop was her reminding us, the participants, to find joy and delight, in support of our creative projects and lives. The great thing about creative energy is that it tends to spill over into other parts of our lives. Indeed, if allowed, creative energy infuses our lives with new problem solving skills and new insights for mapping our everyday lives.
So, I left the workshop on Sunday, happy and inspired. I’m a college professor and this week classes have begun. As I sat down to finish up my syllabus and prepare for the week, it occurred to me that after a decade of teaching, I tend to do some of the same things on ‘the first day of class’. It also occurred to me that I always hand out my syllabi on white paper. Indeed, although I tend to think a great deal about ice-breakers for the class and creative ways to get to know students, I hadn’t ever really thought about how to make the physical appearance of the syllabus more interesting. I was astounded! Me, a writer and creativity coach–not ever thinking about any another color except white for syllabi. Where did I learn this? I’m almost positive that in my many years of schooling, I never received a syllabus on anything but white paper. I would have remembered! It is one of those things that I’m sure no professor even considers. Talk about doing something by rote!
One of my classes this semester is a research inquiry/research methods course. Having taught this class before, I know that students come in with many pre-conceived ideas about how hard it is going to be, or that they lack certain skills, or that it is going to be a painful experience. I always want to shift this perception immediately. Well, I realized that one way to do this was to copy my syllabus on ‘paper of color’. Nothing says fun and creativity than receiving an orange syllabus. So, I went about copying the syllabus on various shades of “paper of color”. I even took the liberty of using different types of color in one syllabus–so some syllabi were all purple, but others had sheets of orange, white and yellow.
I completely delighted myself in this task! I took the syllabi over to the class and handed it out. After introducing myself, I said, “There is good news. This is going to be a fun course. Research is about understanding one’s own passion, curiosity and creativity.” The students loved it and they loved the multicolored syllabi. They too, have never experienced receiving anything but white paper syllabi.
Thinking about why I had always copied my syllabus in a certain way was definitely a spill over from the creative investigating of the workshop. Most often we think that creativity is about particular big projects (finishing the novel, redecorating the house, starting a company). Sometimes it is, but just as often creativity is also about the small, daily ways that we delight ourselves by doing something differently. So, take a few moments and think about the taken-for-granted-tasks that you usually do. Is there a way to infuse more delight or surprise in them?
Do you always write your shopping list on old scrap paper? If so, what about using the inside of a gorgeous card? Or adding stickers? Or putting a favorite quote about food at the top of the list?
What about your answering machine and cellphone outgoing messages? When is the last time that you left a joke, a snippet of a song or a quote? For years, I loved changing my answering machine message. I used it as another creative outlet.
Let the next few days be an investigation in all the small ways that you can delight yourself through small everyday creative expression.