Self-Expression: 5 Creative Endeavors I could try

At this point, I’m wondering if there are any creative endeavors I haven’t tried. I’m also in a much-needed resting period so making myself think about this is a bit forced.

infant CEO hawks Karo!_4914464575_o

I am making up to myself for a childhood best summarized as, “Here, you’re doing this – forever. We really don’t care if it fits.” I’ve moved from resentment of my parents to a sort of objectivized pain for my childhood self over that. I have to remind myself that when I do these things, it’s not just to amuse myself. I’m doing them for her.

1. The zine. I still haven’t made a zine.

2. Taking a drawing class. Something super duper basic, from cross-hatch lines and perspective, etc. I have poked at some classes on Itunes but I think whatever passes for community ed might go a lot further.

3. I’m already working through a series of spoken spells based on numerological arrangement. It’s a poetry form, really. It’s just not one I can easily workshop to the poets I know.

4. Something is swirling in my mind related to Saint Francis, San Francisco, and a sort of spiritual-travel handbook for urban oriented Pagans.

5. That pictoral book of houses of worship I wanted to make. I feel the need for a good photography review first, though. I’m not loving what I’ve been seeing on my camera lately.

5 Examples of Respect

  1. “Please” “Thank you.” “I’m sorry.” All three phrases are very necessary in long-term relationships of any kind.
  2. When it is clear that someone doesn’t want to talk about something, or doesn’t want to interact with others/specific people, giving them their space instead of trying to force the issue. “What’s bothering you?” the first time is legitimate inquiry. Anytime after that, it’s just being invasive and rude. People talk when they’re ready – and they may not talk to you.
  3. Introductions. Proper introductions actually do matter. It helps break ice for people when they get more than “Name, name, have at!” It demonstrates that you have given thought to both people when you make said introduction. Even people with strong personalities can be a bit shy. I should know since I’m one of them.
  4. Checking in before making a request, and listening to what that person says rather than pushing your own agenda. I can’t count the number of times I’ve said very clearly “I am too busy right now,” and had people request manuscript feedback or some other non-profiting, non-reciprocated favor.
  5. Asking permission instead of demonstrating entitlement to forgiveness. I’m not obligated on that latter one, especially if you actually harm me or someone I love.

In smaller ways:

  1. Bothering to properly use a turn signal.
  2. At grocery stores, making sure the person behind you gets a divider bar.
  3. Some women are different about this, and their reasons are valid. But I don’t feel somehow less feminist or patronized when someone opens a door for me. I feel appreciated, acknowledged, and valued when someone does it.
  4. Making eye contact with wait staff. Exchanging pleasantries with them.
  5. Taking responsibility for your own spoiler exposure. This demonstrates respect and awareness that the Internet does not revolve around you. (Admittedly spoilers don’t bother me.)

The Creative Benefits of Decluttering

In a chapter of The Artist’s Way for Parents Julia Cameron talks about the benefits of decluttering. I wholeheartedly concur. A lot of people nowadays comment on how organized I am (and I do hear the silent amendment of “terrifyingly” on that, don’t think I don’t hear it.)

controlled color!_7194153538_o

That organized version of myself did not come about until my early twenties. There were traces of her when I was young, but since the people I lived with were very particular – in the no one is ever good enough way – I kind of drifted without much in the way of skills. Any attempts to clean or organize were things I was badgered into, only to watch all my work redone while listening to a litany of failures that that person had assigned to me, completely free of any actual observation of my behavior. Only fear – fear of being late, fear of missing classes – kept me all that together. When it came to my personal living space beyond things I immediately needed, well, kablooey.

fastidious anglo-saxons!_6259543419_o
During my first marriage, our apartment became more and more of a pit. It depressed me. I had to climb over things to check my email, to write, to sleep at night. Since I worked a full time job and my ex spent his time either in school or playing video games, little ever got done about the mess. He kept me in clean laundry (though my dry clean only clothing was destroyed) and we lived in an eternal standoff over the dishes. Everything else we owned sort of got strewn around in physical markings of our streams of consciousness. Then one day during grad school, I magically hit my clutter limit. I’m not sure why, and I swear it wasn’t because of one of my fires. I just suddenly looked at all the shit we’d accumulated and couldn’t take it anymore. It took me almost forty five days and a near walkout from my ex over throwing things away he hadn’t wanted me to (he had some serious packrat/abandonment problems) but after all the grit-teeth sorting through I discovered we still had a beautiful apartment underneath it all. As I finished, I also found a depression I’d had hovering over me since shortly after our marriage had lifted.

Nowadays my approach isn’t quite so extreme. I like Cameron’s 15 minute method – pick a task, focus on it for 15 minutes, see what clears up. I have also noticed a distinct link between my creative energy and clutter. If I feel too weighed down by stuff, I struggle to create. If I get rid of stuff – or at least get stuff on walls and off the floor – I have more creative energy for a longer period. (I have a running theory that while creative energy is infinite, it only actually flows through the brain for a set amount of time. You can increase that amount of time with daily work as you can increase muscle mass with regular exercise, but even so, you still only get a finite amount per session.) I don’t have any non-dramatic declutters of late; narrowing down the stuff in an apartment from a three story townhouse to a three bedroom flat is never easy.

I am happy to say that once free of the stuff – even the sentimental stuff – it’s easier to write. It’s easier to find things fast, which gets me on the road to writing faster. It’s just easier to be.

I know some people vaunt the clutter as a sign of their creativity. Me, I don’t need the status symbols, not even the stylish messes. I’d rather have the crap out of my way and get to work.

5 Talents I have

Talents have revealed themselves to me of late, though some are hardly a surprise.

  1. Writing (duh.)
  2. Perseverance. Yes, it’s a talent.
  3. Ability to visualize social constructs and identify missing pieces in an organizational structure.
  4. Dance – I’m pretty good, got a little rhythm.
  5. Singing. I’ve really loved singing lately.

About Structure

Julia Cameron’s comments about structure in The Artist’s Way for Parents rings a few dozen bells for me. I wholeheartedly concur that the key to creativity is not total freedom, but freedom within established limits. The freedom comes in determining those rules and limits for yourself before you begin your work.

In my case, I’ve found that I do my best work when I set up rules. In fiction that’s called world building. In poetry, form. In nonfiction, it’s an outline. In addition to the form/structure of the work itself, the form structure of my workday also makes a significant difference. A strict schedule including breaks to go for walks, meditate, or watch TV also all make a significant difference to me.

This is actually something I am struggling with at the moment, since I thrive on schedule. Clearly the move and my new environment is forcing at least to some degree an alteration of schedule. My health and the medications I  am on also factor in: I have a hard time rising before 10 am most days, and I get the most (if not always the best) work done between 6 am and 10 am. While the west coast – at least this part – seems to consist of late risers/second sleep folks in my neighborhood (get up, surf, go back to bed), and I do work from home, it still feels like I miss out. Getting up earlier would usually at least get me a better shot at a treadmill at the gym, for instance.

I was having trouble with schedule in Minnesota, too. There’s been a lot of disruptive influences so I’ve been working on settling that, and striking as needed. Here’s hoping that I get it worked out!

Gratitude List

hindu deityAdmittedly I find these lists a bit cheesy and annoying, but they seem to work for people. Also, I try to avoid bragging. Any expression of gratitude for good luck or kindness was generally met with vituperative punishment by those I lived with in childhood. That kind of treatment stays with you, and it’s a painful thing to be afraid to express gratitude outside of expressions of indebtedness because of that association.

Deep breath – saying what I’m grateful for, and hoping I won’t be punished or criticized for having good things to be grateful for.

I am grateful that…

  1. I have a strong relationship with my partner – and it’s been tested enough for us to know it’s strong.
  2. My best relationships are all mythology-free. There’s no illusion, no story, no narrative, and that helps it work and last.
  3. I can get fresh, local strawberries until December.
  4. The universe conspired to preserve me from this latest harsh winter.
  5. I live so close to the ocean.
  6. I have a fireplace, adding an element of safety to candle burning magic.
  7. I am just about to finish edits prior to publication of my third book.
  8. I think about the world far differently from every group I am involved with: Pagans, mainstreamers, and friends. I think my difference of perspective/absence of fear (xenophobia) truly helps people.
  9. I got to meet some of the people I did when I was young. Most are gone from my life and I mourn that, but I got to meet them and that by itself is so cool.
  10. I live close to a Green Apple books branch.
  11. We actually found an apartment in San Francisco.
  12. Our neighbors downstairs have good taste in the music that they play loudly.
  13. Both the musicians downstairs and the garage band next door (with a tuba) are actually pretty good.
  14. Usually, we can find parking.
  15.  I have met as many people as I have so far, long before I’m technically ready.
  16. The Golden Gate Park is right there.
  17. I found an honest-to-gods beach cave last weekend.
  18. The Polish deli is near my neighborhood.
  19. I have enough moxie to track people down who don’t answer emails when I want to volunteer for them.
  20. I have friends who will speak up when they see me treated cruelly.
  21. I have friends that are doing their damnedest to help me connect with this place somehow.

Wow, that’s a lot longer than I thought I’d have.

5 x 5 Interests: His, Mine

The exercise calls for me to list 5 interests, and then 5 interests of my child that are unfamiliar to me. In this case, I am instead going to list my partner’s interests since our “child” is a stuffed baby penguin named Theo.

5 of my interests:
1. The occult
2. Beat poetry
3. Dance, all types
4. Urban exploration
5. Jewelry making

5 interests of his that I am unfamiliar with:
1. AnimeNot Even Wrong_5347841629_l
2. Fancy pens, their engineering
3. Video gaming
4. Debian programming
5. Youtube in general. I am fascinated with its platform potential but I am not one of those people that can surf it for hours.

Thoughts on common criticisms of the artist’s way

Clearly, this comes from a known advocate of the artist’s way. This is my deal, and it works for me. I am a big advocate of doing what works, and I do know people that this system really, really doesn’t work for. Atheists find it problematic, with reason, since a lot of it is higher-power oriented consciously along the lines of AA. People with ADHD, weird work schedules, hand problems find limits in the Morning Pages. I get that – all of it.

There are, however, two criticisms that come from either not understanding or just not doing the work of the Artist’s Way:
1)It’s narcissistic
2)It uses “pop psychology.”

On Narcissism
People who associate taking time to take care of themselves with narcissism are mistaken about how narcissism works. Narcissists don’t take care of themselves. A narcissist would never make it through the Artist’s Way. Why? Because narcissists expect everyone else to take care of them. Self care is a different story. The Artist’s Way encourages you to work on yourself, to humble yourself, to make gentle changes until you actually do like yourself. For example, the self-sabotage chapter where you write down and then challenge your own excuses? No narcissist in the world would actually do that exercise. Narcissists as a rule don’t like themselves but like absolutely everyone else even less.

When you like yourself, your behavior towards other people changes. Narcissists don’t just have inflated egos – they are lost in them. The steps of the Artist’s Way untethers you from that ego.

Its Use of Pop Psychology
One person who admitted to reading the book through rather than working the steps complained of it using “pop psychology” (referencing Inner Child Work) but not really identifying how this was bad/didn’t work. The argument seemed to be that it was bad just *because* it smacked of “pop psychology.” That’s some pretty lazy, stereotype laden thinking. Also in this
read through” the critic in question did not actually read any of the foreword or end material. It says pretty clearly in both of those that the work at hand is not intended to replace therapy even though it is therapeutic in practice.

The concept of an inner child is a metaphor. Artists used metaphors long before therapy existed. It seems likely that the metaphor existed before it was co-opted in the 80s.

As to the criticism of “pop psychology” unfairly and inaccurately linked in to the Artist’s Way I have to say, as I say entirely too often of late, a little discernment, please.

The stigma on pop psychology is just a general distaste for all psychology that traces back to misinformed people that think getting counseling means “crazy.” Not only is this another example of lazy stereotype thinking, it displays an absolute unawareness of how good therapists work. In western culture, we leave emotional management skills to the wild, evidently assuming that whole people are born knowing them and genetically flawed people just don’t. Neither is true. Most emotional skills can be taught; without those skills life can get distressing for just about anyone. Most of the time a good psychotherapist is nothing more or less than a tutor in those skills, and often that person had to go seek training in those skills him or herself. Medication doesn’t – or shouldn’t – come in unless something is happening in the biochemistry that keeps you from mastering those skills.

The pop psychology market of books capitalizes on those skills many people just don’t get taught. Often they are actually helpful. Other times, they are exploitative and stereotype driven – just look at Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, anything Dr. Phil writes, the very existence of Laura Schlessinger. Undeniably bad stuff there.

But as with any subject, a little careful thought and discernment goes a long way. The “bad” examples above always encourage some status quo, whether it’s one where “morality” is substituted as a word for “inequality” or where guilt and shame are advocated in place of sorting out what is genuinely harmful and accepting the rest.

The Artist’s Way is about creative recovery – it absolutely operates as a program for artists alongside the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous. It operates on the understanding that humans resist big changes but can handle small ones. That may offend people that still believe they need to feel strained, burned out, and exhausted or they’re not “really working.” For those that work the steps, however, it’s nice to do the work while the ego – the source of all that stress – goes somewhere else for awile.

5 Places to be exposed to flora

Well, I live over in Sea Cliff in San Francisco Bay…likely the easiest place in the city to actually get some green.

So yes -

1)Golden Gate Park

…because it’s right there, literally across the street from my apartment. Manicured the outer part is not.

2)Ocean Beach

again, it’s right there, and yes, there are some sea plants around. My partner surprised me with an Audubon guide so now I can even determine what these plants are! (Something I failed to do in Minnesota. In Indiana, I knew the plants – the chicory, the Queen Anne’s Lace, the poison gooseberries…not so much elsewhere.)

3)The Presidio

For those unfamiliar, the Presidio is a former military outpost converted to residences. There is a very swanky, expensive apartment building it is famed for, and then there are several “affordable” (i.e. ridiculously expensive everywhere but NYC) apartments and houses for rent. We came very, very close to renting a townhouse there until we realized that even with a lease we had no rent protection from Uncle Sam. Also, it’s great as a self-contained community even now but it was very cut off from the rest of the city. Since I’m here to do city-spirit work, I need to be in the city itself. It has a beach and a lot of wild/woods to it.

4)Farmer’s Markets

but don’t bother with the Ferry Farmer’s market on Embarcadero if you live here. I went last weekend. While it’s OK for meat, cheese, and fish vegetables were decidedly tourist priced. Upon chatting with some of the dairy farmers, it seems that revealing you’re local will prompt them to redirect you to the other farmer’s markets in the area. Food is a LOT cheaper here  than in Minnesota, especially in the winter months (and yes, there’s winter, though it’s a different animal than what I have previously experienced.)

5) The Conservatory

while the Golden Gate conservatory does not hold a candle to Saint Paul’s Como Park Conservatory, it is flora. Since this city has a hell of a lot more cement to it than Minneapolis, it is easy to get a bit starved for it.