Sleepovers, Silliness, and the Terrors of Technology

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Light as a feather, stiff as a board. Light as a feather, stiff as a board. Light as a feather, stiff as a board. I remember lying on the floor in a friend’s bedroom, or perhaps living room. I might … Continue reading

Emptying My In Box

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I spent the morning deleting things from my four email accounts. While there are still a few emails left in each, there is something joyous about creating blank space that hasn’t yet been filled with obligations, rejections, duties, responsibilities, or … Continue reading

The Highs and Lows of a Creative Life

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It’s a constant in my life–an ever-moving constant. I reach creative highs, achieve manic amounts of projects, accomplish more than I can imagine. I get the show up, the story written, the classes graded. I cross thing off of my … Continue reading

More Thoughts on Arts, Self-Expression, and Education (a mini rant)

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One of my favorite assignments to give my students in almost any theatre class that allows for some explorations into performance is about Performance Art. Now, in general, in general I’m not the world’s biggest fan of performance art. I … Continue reading

Restless Stories

I am restless.
the-storyteller1 (1)

I wander through words and ideas aimlessly, meandering, hoping that someone’s voice will call out “Tell my story!”

“Tell my story!”

Today, the talented Andra Watkins shared her concerns about writing, and about the connections between writers and their characters.  She writes:

I mean, at this point, I think anyone who decides to write a book is insane, but I’m wondering specifically about my sanity. Especially since I had a panic attack and came close to (at a minimum) being seriously injured and (at a maximum) dying this past Friday, in a place that I’m sure my main character saw.

For the full post, please visit Andra’s blog, The Accidental Cootchie Mama.

I don’t think Andra is insane, or at least no more than anyone else who ventures into this strange world of sharing stories through the written word or any other arts. In fact, in some ways I envy her that connection she has with her characters.

Or maybe that makes me crazier than she is.

Let me try to explain.

Stories unite us. Stories connect us. Stories exist in everything around us. True, stories can also hurt, separate, confuse, and condemn–that is part of their power. But, stories do not exist in a vacuum or come from a void. We don’t pluck our stories out of nothing and form them from nothing, we create from the abundance of material that surrounds us–sometimes material that sneaks into our creative subconscious from unknown sources.

As writers, as artists, we are simply receptacle of the abundance of story, and we take all that input and give it form.

If you think of the universe as a vast electrical sea in which you are immersed and from which you are formed, opening to your creativity changes you from something bobbing in that sea to a more fully functioning, more conscious, more cooperative part of that ecosystem. (Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

The writers I most admire, Andra included, have a way of tapping into their subjects that helps their reader join them in a world almost more real than our own. Even in non-fiction, the best writers (in my opinion) bring to life the lives and stories of their subjects so that we can experience a time, a place, a situation that might be outside our own everyday reality.

That is the power of story.

Occasionally I am able to tap into that energy, and heed the voices of the stories waiting there, yearning to be told. I’ve taken walks and had long conversations with characters (in my head) one of which lead to manuscript that I am trying (fearfully) to get out into the world. I wrote about that “conversation” in a post called “Walking with Invisible Friends” on the original incarnation of this blog.

I love it when the words seem to come from a place both inside and outside of myself. I struggle when I can’t seem to find the connection, or hear the loudest voice–find the story that needs to be told. It’s not about writer’s block. I have plenty of ideas floating around my head for both fiction and non-fiction, for adults and kid, short and long. No, the problem lies when no voice is strong enough, no character or person stands up, when the swirl of creativity spins so quickly I cannot hold onto anything long enough to give it justice.

That is why I envy Andra. Perhaps she’s ready to let this character go, but he obviously has more to say, or maybe he is simply nudging her to get his story out there. I, for one, can’t wait to read it.

Where do you think stories come from? How do you connect with your characters so that you can share their stories.

Learning Self-Kindness in the Crazy, Lazy, Creative Daze of Summer

Ah, summertime!

A walk on a summer day.

A walk on a summer day.

Long days, short nights, an abundance of time to accomplish all kinds of projects and plans, or simply sit and do nothing . . .

Too bad the nothing so often overwhelms the something.

In many ways, I know that I’m a lucky person. While I work hard year round, I have this incredible opportunity each and every summer. I come to a place where I am surrounded by talented, creative people, in a destination town where the wealthy gather to visit their multi-million dollar summer homes and float around on their boats which probably cost more than I make in a year. While I technically have a job here, it doesn’t take up much time, and my main responsibility is parenting Sarah. However, because of where and how we live, Sarah has a lot of freedom to wander and explore on her own, which leaves me an abundance of time to do with as I will.

Looking for inspiration at the top of the ferris wheel.

Looking for inspiration at the top of the ferris wheel.

So you would think I would be producing a lot of creative work, wouldn’t you?  But here’s the funny thing–when you live a life of a creative person striving to kick start a career in being creative in numerous ways, and juggling all of the ideas bouncing around in your brain, you NEVER feel like you’re doing enough. You ALWAYS feel like you need to work bigger, harder, faster and achieve more so that maybe–just maybe–you will finally capture the prize whatever that may be.

Today the fabulous Andra Watkins asked, “How do you fill your creative tank?” and I didn’t know how to answer. We all need to fill it once in a while. If we want to continue to create and not become stuck in ruts dug by our own work, we need to stop for a moment in time, to drink in the beauty, the stories, the life that surrounds us.

A nearly full moon, some clouds, a barge on the lake . . . good place to find some creative inspiration.

A nearly full moon, some clouds, a barge on the lake . . . good place to find some creative inspiration.

But sometimes, when I am being the hardest on myself, I feel like those pauses are just excuses. I ask myself., How can I take time off to absorb and live when I haven’t yet accomplished my goals?

I really need to stop being such a hard task master.

Because here’s the reality. In the month that I have been here I have:

  • written, submitted, revised and resubmitted a short story for an anthology
  • revised a different short story which should be published in Theme-Thology: Invasion this September
  • almost completed another revision of THE POWER OF WORDS, after a complete rewrite last month
  • Written 11 blog posts (12 if you count this one). Of course, for someone who used to blog daily that seems weak, but . . .
  • almost finished the syllabi for three different classes, all which pose creative challenges. Almost completed all the assignment descriptions and accompanying material as well.
  • Read something like 10 books if not more(I lost count)
  • Worked with 5 different casts for the touring show I’m “coordinating”
  • seen 7 different plays
  • taken 100s of photos
  • met interesting new people
  • driven back and forth to Minneapolis (with another trip tomorrow)
  • driven back and forth to Sioux Falls
  • written a few letters and lots of e-mails
  • drew a few zentangles
  • started a new puppet play or story . . . we’ll see what happens
  • sang with The Spirit of Harmony chorus just for fun
  • listened to big band
  • danced to a jazz and blues singer as the sun set
  • The view as we listened to music and danced.

The view as we listened to music and danced.

I’d say that is a lot of creative juggling, wouldn’t you? Yet, as usual I beat myself up over the fact that I didn’t blog once last week, or that I still haven’t come up with a list of agents to submit to and find excuses why I can’t do that yet.

I need to stop doing that.

Because here’s the reality. Life is a creative act. Living each day to embrace possibilities also “fills our creative tanks.” Anyone who looks at the world for story–whether we tell those stories in art, on the stage, in song, or in the written word–must remember to live first and foremost, because without those moments of stillness, of beauty, of life, we will have no stories to tell.

So I guess my answer to Andra’s question is really very simple. I fill my creative tanks by living, loving, and watching the world as it happens.

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From there, I hope, creativity will be born.

Lesson learned.

What do you do when you feel like you aren’t doing enough?

Three Slices at a Time

DSCN0427Something has shifted in me this summer, for the better I hope.

I don’t know if its being surrounded by creative people who are here for one purpose, or the flexibility of my schedule without lots of added pressure, or simply something inside myself. I don’t want to question it, really.

Something has shifted and I feel like anything is possible. I feel creative and inspired, and dare I say it . . . hopeful. I feel like choosing to live life with energy and creativity is the path that I need to take now, worries be damned.

I don’t want to worry about the future, or money, or whether or not I will ever feel like a success. I just want to create, do, enjoy.

I want to order three slices of pie with my family and taste each one.

I want to work on all the projects that pop into my head, and not worry about whether or not they will be published or read or seen or whatever.

I want to write a puppet show to perform with my husband. I want to direct and create some fabulous pieces of theatre to inspire people of all ages. I want to write and write and write, whether or not I ever find a reader.

I want to live a life where creativity and kindness rule, and I am able to block out politics and negativity.

I know it’s not possible to live in a creative vacuum. I know that the concerns of survival must sneak in at times. Bills must be paid. Responsibilities must be met. Doctor’s appointments must be kept and health must be watched.

But that doesn’t mean we need to put all the negative stuff first. Life is simply too short to live without joy. Sometimes you have to kick back, splurge a little, get a pedicure, and dive into three different types of pie.

This morning's mother daughter splurge.

This morning’s mother daughter splurge.

One . . . two . . . three switch. Yum. Which pie do you like best?

I like the life that allows you more than one slice.

 

 

I Love it When . . .

I love it when . . .

. . . my words and ideas flow from me with a life of their own.

. . . I can revisit ideas that never quite came to fruition, and give them new life.

. . . I don’t let my fears and doubts stop me. I dive in, and say, “to hell with my inner critic, I’m doing this anyway.”

. . . I wake up in the morning feeling like anything is possible.

. . . I feel the connection with the creative pool that surround us, and with the energy that connects us.

. . . time passes and I don’t notice it, as I am caught in the creative flow.

I love it when that happens, but it doesn’t happen often enough. When it does, I almost believe that wishes can come true.

Wishing Upon a Star

Wishing Upon a Star

Juggling Time

I like writing in the morning
Ding dong, the words are gonna fly
Character’s speaking
Adventures peaking
It quickly makes the time go by!

[Sung to the tune of "I'm Getting Married in the Morning]

Enhanced Clock

I have recently realized that I am a morning person.

I prefer to do everything in the morning: exercise, run errands, teach classes, pay bills, and write, write, write.

If I don’t get things started in the morning, very little gets done.

Ah, but there’s a few problems with this system.

  • I’m a director of theatre . . . well, I still want to direct theatre productions. The theatre world is diametrically opposed to those who function better in the morning. So if and when I direct, I need to somehow become a morning person, an afternoon person (for any after school rehearsals) and a night owl. When do I get to nap?
  • Lately, the first thing I want to do in the morning is write. That’s great, you would think . . . until I become so focused on writing that everything else disappears. Like when Sarah forgot to set her alarm, and I didn’t realize she hadn’t gotten out of bed for an extra 15 minutes (which for a 10-year-old is the difference between a casual morning and complete panic). Since I’m currently single parenting, losing myself in early morning words isn’t the wisest choice.
  • Mornings simply aren’t long enough to achieve everything I want to do. When I’m in writing mode, everything else seems to slide into lower priority. Exercise? Bah! Cleaning up! Pshaw. Running errands? Later!  And of course . . . later is never a good time. If those things don’t happen before 1:30 or 2:00, they aren’t going to happen that day.

Ah, the joys and challenges of trying to live a creative lifestyle. What’s a girl to do? Right now, this girl is going to write.

When do you function best? How do you manage all the things you need to accomplish while your energy is high?