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!
The dippy feeling my stomach makes on a Tilt-a-Whirl
My National Geographic digital subscription
A well-organized closet
Roses. I adore roses.
So how would I share these loves?
1. Take someone on a tilt-a-whirl with me. In lieu of a tilt-a-whirl, find a safe place to spin in circles until we both fall down. For those of us that don’t get nauseated, it is very much like going on a ride. So fun.
2. Take someone with me. Traveling is one of those things you love or you don’t, though. I suppose travelogues can build appreciation. Kiwanis travelogues gave me the bug as a child.
3. My National Geographic subscription – gift it. Maybe just go analog, and encourage any new reader to use the images for all kinds of craft projects after enjoying the fabulous reads.
4. Well-organized closets are the kind of thing you have to live to really appreciate. It also takes some tailoring. Aside from showing endless episodes of Clean House there’s not really a way to get that one across.
5. Roses – show pictures, take someone to a rose garden, volunteer to work in a rose garden…
The question to ask is “What can I do?” rather than “What’s going to happen?”
I’ve created an entire workshop around the whole “what’s going to happen?” issue. You remind yourself you can’t predict the future. The artist’s career is not ruled by the law of thermodynamics. That failure in creative acts doesn’t matter – in creativity, all failure is is something that doesn’t change.
I like the “what can I do” question. It puts it all right back in my own hot little hands.
The book I’ve so often written about writing is finally available for pre-order in the US and in the UK. Alas, the ebook has yet to be made available. If you are a book reviewer, all I have available are pre-edit galleys which will not do you much good in the whole final conclusions situation.
Mike is big on budgeting. Since my hardest to shake worry, even now, is money, his means helps us to have some means. It was what kept us from sinking under debt and worse when we took off three weeks from work after my father went to hospice. By having a plan – one built in tiny increments – everything feels easier.
It also works for every project, ever. In the book the Artist’s Way, Cameron mentions the philosophy of one small thing. Whenever I can break any project down into smaller steps, small enough that I no longer feel stress at the sight of a single to-do, it cures the worry. I have control of it. Sometimes I might confront problems on a single steps. Often I can just go back a step and then move forward if needed in those situations. So to me, this sounds like a great system. So far it’s my best remedy.
Other treatments can include exercise – endorphins can chase out worry – sex and coloring or fingerpainting.
No, really, distraction applied wisely is an antidote.
Don’t get me wrong… my husband is a good man. Since this is critical of him, I asked permission to write about this behavior of his. He consented, saying “Yeah, I do do that.”
He is also an “expert” at near everything. This is due to his extraordinary talent as a computer programmer and technician. Somehow this often translates into him knowing everything… and he doen’t. The example that comes to mind is the DMV incident when we first got together.
Minnesota is strange and has DMVs distributed in all sorts of places. They are generally not anywhere near other government buildings. I had already learned this the hard way when I wandered into the Hennepin County government building downtown to find out that all I could do there was pay for tickets. All other business required a drive to the nearest DMV.
Aggravating. The kind of aggravating I remembered.
So when my partner moved and had to update his license I told him about my experience.
He actually overruled me. So I got dragged with him to the government center and had to waste time going through EXACTLY what I knew was going to happen.
I was pretty mad about that one.
These things still happen with him, although I’ve learned to be more forceful. The latest was Christmas Eve. We live in the Midwest. Everything except Chinese restaurants close in Christmas Eve in the Midwest. While we are visiting his family in a town he has visited since birth, he stubbornly refused to believe that nearly every business and service would be closed.
We also often argue about how close he gets to other cars. Last year, we tested cars after a traffic accident ruined our Yaris. He often says something dismissive when I complain about his tailgating at stoplights. When we tested a Chevy Volt, it started dinging a warning and told him it was too close at exactly the same time I did. If the car’s interior design weren’t so lousy I’d have bought it for that reason alone.
Thankfully for Christmas Eve I was willing to glare and make tart comments illustrating past experience so he humored me and did a Target run before we went on the road. But oh, he loves the expertise of “no it’s not” and can be quite dismissive of my direct experience. It is probably the one thing he does in our relationship that I find disrespectful – and it really pissed me off.
Note: I only resort to passive aggression when direct comment has failed. Direct comment had failed.
Problem minitiuarizers are usually one-uppers. They always have a bigger problem than you, their pain is more important than yours, no one has ever gone through what they have gone through. In my experience, these are usually women – and their intent is more directly non-benign. In men’s case, they are completely unaware of how horrible they are: the unsupportive crap they say to me usually comes from centuries of looking at women as a set of ovaries with boobs rather than considering each woman might have unique talents. While men can see a short guy as equal to a tall guy on a philosophical level, their incapacity to use this same train of thought for women is due to their own ability to break their social programming.
Women, on the other hand, are forced to be universally subversive. This is why so many women are problem-minituarizers.
As long as we’re locked in patriarchy – a land where men persuade themselves that a)women are all the same and b)women all have universal personality traits that we most certainly do not, we women are are all stuck operating as subversives. On some level we do all see each other as equals, but power – i.e. having choices – is still in genuinely short supply for women of all walks. Women often do see each other equally – and all too often that means “equally a threat.” From there they either try to make their own system of social violence where women are as unequal as possible or they try to build each other up. The latter is the rougher path with fewer visible immediate compensations – so less women, in my experience, take this road. Sometimes it’s a conscious choice to play dirty with other women. Usually it’s one side of a constant panic state.
When you ask, “Well what about feminism and the equal rights amendment?” I have to say this:
1)to the women my age and the young women coming after me: it’s our own goddamn fault we’re still in this mess. A lot of women my age decided to declare feminism “done” since Patrick Henry’s “the price of liberty is eternal vigilance” went flying over their heads. Now we get cutesie pseudo-intellectual bullshit like “post-feminism” and gradations of feminism that are really just new layers of philosophy in the machinations of female social violence. The women my age that said they weren’t feminist because it “wasn’t sexy” are forcing us all to pay a price for their lazy thinking and constant attempts to bring one another down. We are watching the rights that women have fought for since the 1700s erode before our eyes. Men don’t need to be pleased or coddled; the delicate male ego is simply men avoiding taking responsibility. A good man is one who is equal to you – and who gets why your being equal to him is good for both of you and for your family.
2)Women need to stop fucking assholes. Actually, EVERYONE needs to stop fucking assholes. I don’t know why this concept is difficult. It’s like we’re adopting the patriarchal male sensibility that we are not in control of or responsible for sensations in our parts. We are. Hookup culture may be fun but some personality screening can go a long way in preventing more evil in the world. That’s what old school, no sex makeout sessions in semi-public locations were for – this way you knew who you were dealing with before you ever got naked in private.
Getting the tingles is not an obligation to pursue it. Find out who you’re dealing with before you take your pants – or his – off.
So, these two problems contribute heavily to the morass of female-female relations today. Sadly, we’re actually doing far, far better than previous generations. Most women my age and younger don’t feel obligated to stay friendly with that petty bitch that makes you grit your teeth every time you hear her speak…or in my case, the petty bitch who kept harassing me at my father’s funeral because she wanted gossip.
Even so, we still pick bad friends and we are still surrounded by the generations we learned our culture from – including the culture of women that competed/belittled the problems of others. My mother was a minimizer – the worst of the worst. No problem I had was ever serious enough for her to listen to. In junior high school, despite constant bullying, I just “had to learn to deal with it” and “honey attracted more flies than vinegar.” (The problem being that these were flies. Who wants to attract flies???) In college, when it became steadily clear that administration at my first college really was out to get me, my mother actually said, “Oh, college hasn’t changed since I was there. Same old problems.”
Yes. My mother, who graduated from college in the 1960s, actually tried telling me my college experience in 1995 was EXACTLY THE SAME AS HERS. Right. Her father paid $500 a YEAR for her including tuition, room and board. I had to pay $6000 a year minimum from my own funds – while dealing with parents that did NOT want to pay for school, did NOT support me working to earn money for school and who would NOT even help me get a car so I could work, chanting “Your first job is school,” while obviously trying to sabotage me right out of my fought-for college education; this while I had spent the previous four years watching them supply my sister room, board, a car, car insurance and book money – all while my sister heartily resented paying tuition.
That up there, “exactly the same” – that one is minimizing.
There’s always some woman on some forum doing it. A few years ago, I went on a social outing with one woman who talked about herself nonstop from the moment she saw me. I finally stopped her when she said something presumptuous about me and I said, “Well, actually, I’ve been dealing with some depression.”
Her response? “Well, you seem fine.”
Minimizing. And really, unbelievably, female social violent and shitty.
This woman often says things that show signs of strong patriarchal brainwashing and things my mother used to say. I am not fond of her. She shows signs of malignant narcissism.
Another minimizer came about my freshman/sophomore year of college. What was interesting is that it was very, very targeted minimizing. When the school tried to have a residence hall council and I expressed interest in running, this girl immediately spoke up: “Well, we should leave the freshman out. They just don’t have the experience.”
Yet the next year, when the council started its candidacy rounds again, new freshman ran – and she had absolutely no problem with it. She just hadn’t wanted me to run. To her mind, I was a threat that the new freshman were not.
Later, in a political brouhaha that I was dragged in on because the people on that residence hall council were for the most part abusive little shits and were allowed to be, she actually tried to undermine any statement I made with “Well, you [and the friend that dragged me into the mess] are only sophomores.” Yet she had had no problem with the freshman running in the very election I was sitting in that boardroom for – freshman that had less experience with campus life than myself or my friend.
That time I actually stood up in the middle of her carrying on, said “You have no authority over me,” and walked out as everyone stared after me open-mouthed.
My friend found me later – he was laughing at what I had done, shocked that I had done it.
But c’mon – that was some minimizing bullshit we were being subjected to.
My current, best lug bolt is blog writing. It does satisfy me by giving me a place where I can publish my writings/work with immediacy. I used to keep diaries with the fantasy that they would be read after my death – so I always made sure I named names when I felt someone was truly guilty of wrongdoing. It was my little, paper packed crusade. Blogging helps me indulge that desire while I’m alive – although obviously naming names of people that have actually done wrong is much more likely to have negative consequences now. Quite simply because those that do wrong prefer to shout such things down rather than investigate setting things to rights. The falsely accused tend to follow a trail of “how did this happen?”
Even so, it feels good to write blog posts – it sends my voice out into the world, a world where, before blogs and the Internet, I was routinely silenced or willfully misunderstood. I am a 52% introvert with bitchy resting face – or really, I just haven’t cultivated the “vapid and on constant verge of orgasm” expression women are encouraged to in this culture. I’m just too rude to fake it, ever.
The blog lets my real voice go out into the world – and yes, I really do talk like I write. There’s more than one social event I’ve attended where someone has stared at me wide-eyed and said, “…you really just said that!” I am accused of making these outrageous things up ahead of time and then using them as conversational bon mots.
Actually, the majority of the things I say here and in real life are spontaneous. I really do say things like “…and their Christmas letters mention how the last white picket fence raising went …” or “when the karma fairy comes to visit it tends to become orgiastic and gets glitter everywhere.”
I have a very specific podcast project in mind. I have gone on a grand total of one podcast, ever.
I LOVE zines. LOVE them. I have yet to work up the nerve to make one.
3. Coding html and CSS
this is more of a should than a want-to
I’ve made great progress over the years. This year I have started an actual themed project: bulletin boards. I am snapping pictures of bulletin boards and taking artist’s dates at places that have lots of bulletin boards.
This is a weird/surprise one for me. I joined a poetry group expecting to be as bored as I usually am by poets. Instead I really loved it – I genuinely enjoy the people in my poetry group. But I struggle to fill in my poetry/lit background. I never was able to get interested in contemporary poetry. I like the rhymes of Tennyson and Yeats.
6. Blues Music
I have made a few attempts via Google Play but so far I am not doing well at finding the stuff that really grabs me.
7. Strength Training
I’ve been following Health at Every SIze since 2010. I am down around 50 pounds (give/take – it’s been SLOW, with a slight yo yo last year because of surgery.) Now that I have mindful eating down and a strong exercise routine established I need to start doing more weight-bearing exercise. I am blessed in the absence of arthritis or other joint pain.
8 Yoga/a stretch routine
Pinched nerve last year.
9. A fresh approach to meditation.
I may take a class. I’m losing progress because I’ve been bored with what I’m doing.
10. Rosicrucianism/other Ceremonial Magick.
It’s been a logical next step for a very long while.