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Creative Living

Resolutions, Traps, & Letting the Horse Out of the Barn

When things get difficult, is your instinct to invest the effort to make it better, or to set a trap so it all gets worse?

Because if things get worse, well, then you won’t have to deal with them much longer.

-Seth Godin

Seth Godin is a favorite of mine. (The Icarus Deception is a particular favorite– it flushes out all the “stay small” propaganda of growing up in a small town).

Self-sabotage seems a very timely topic at the start of a new year, filled with potential, a clean slate, brimming with resolutions. It’s uncomfortable to NOT set a trap– to sit with uncertainty or with fear of failure. But it also feels like a good stretch– like muscles that hurt just a little but feel stronger each time.

In early 2019 I told a friend, “Shame is the horse to break.” (Her response was great– “Why is it a horse? Why not a cat?” She also pointed out that when you get a new, unfamiliar horse you ought to give it sugar cubes first.).

In 2020 I want to root, ground, expand– live sustainably by having daily practices (such as sharing writing here), rather than focusing on a project. I want projects to grow naturally out of practices. To stick with the horse metaphor, this means feeding the horse and taking it out of the barn at regular times. (My dog, Blue, is flexible until 10am, and then we MUST go walking or she’ll lose her mind and likely chew something up).

It’s obvious that you have a better relationship with the animal you ride (or walk) everyday, at approximately the same time. There’s trust, there’s anticipation, an easiness between you. I’d like that experience with writing books, scheduling gigs, practicing songs, making a podcast.

If I meet the horse, the muse, each day, it’s less likely to buck me off. Right? (Or, at least I’ll be less likely to be afraid of a fall, and be more graceful when I do).

The New Year Looks to Us

Oh, what does
the New Year
see in me?
I certainly see myself.
But from where
does it reckon
who I am?
I’ve always viewed resolutions not as decrees I will impose on the coming year (and my future self), but as the things that are already rising to the surface, the things I’m meant to serve, to follow, to join. This is similar to how I view naming someone, whether human or animal: it’s not a whim I get to indulge, it’s a perception I must hone, clues I must decipher, a puzzle to assemble so the whole is revealed.
But I’ve never thought of the New Year– or my future self– looking at me. Maybe it, too, is observing, deciphering, puzzling as we dance together.
Wishing you mystery, treasure, delight, reunion, and the ongoing joyful return to your home in yourself in 2020.

Art is: Making Images; Faith & Belief; Narnia & Heaven & Europe

“…it was really that they could not make their own images.” 🤯💛

This is so wonderfully clear– I love teaching writing/theatre/storytelling with kids best because each experience gives them a landmark and an anchor point of knowing they CAN make their own images, and what that feels like.
This also reminds me of how confused I was that you’re supposed to stage a house in order to sell it… Because people can’t picture what it could look like! And I always preferred an empty house because other people’s stuff cluttered up my images and visioning of how I could make the room look.
I don’t believe not every person has this ability– why? Just because the thought is too sad? I guess it’s something I can’t imagine!
But really, what child doesn’t play? What kid, with nothing more than a stick or a pinecone to entertain them doesn’t imagine– make images– of something else??
And what pairs so well with this is Tom Guald’s Edison quote:
“My so-called inventions already existed in the environment. I’ve created nothing. Nobody does.”

Like atoms, like matter not being able to be destroyed, only reused, ideas and images and inventions all exist around us. So being an artist, a poet, that is to say, a healthy and reverent human, is SEEING THE INVISIBLE THAT IS ALWAYS AND ALREADY PRESENT.

If you’re an artist or inventor, then you try to make the invisible visible. But everyone can see it, and they only stop seeing it through training or trauma.

What I want to do is make sure no one loses it entirely. I want every kid (and thus, person) to know where at least one secret doorway to Narnia is within themselves and always be able to find it again, even if they don’t go through daily or often at all. It’s like how Europe was for me in my podunk, I-don’t-quite-fit-here childhood: knowing it existed was a balm, a magic token. A bully could only hurt me superficially because I held within myself this whole other marvelous world, even when there were long years between trips.

I’ve always thought that it’d be nice to have Faith– Christian belief that I really believed. It’s interesting that this faith in Europe isn’t so different as believing that there is a Heaven, that someday we’ll all belong and live in beauty and peace.

Isn’t faith holding in one’s mind and heart the image (the living image) of something invisible yet tangible? And in both religion and art aren’t we charged with making “Heaven on Earth?”

You have to see it and keep believing in it.

Conflict & Dog Walking

Walking our new dog has brought lots of good moments:

Being up and outside in the morning (you can’t sleep in with a playful pup hopping all over the bed).

So many snuggles (she’s a spooner).

And a fresh inner conversation about conflict.

Because Blue is only 1 year old. She’s super smart and responsive, but she was an off-leash country dog in her previous life. And because I’m great at “training” (wooing) cats, which is a completely different process than teaching a dog not to jump, to walk beside you, to come when she’s called.

I’m grateful she’s such a quick learner (shake on day one?? Amazing), but there’s still a conflict of wills and interest: I want to walk, she is a hunting dog and wants to sprint.

I let her off-leash in the woods today and thouh she came closer when I called her back, I didn’t have any treats with me, and she didn’t come close enough for me to leash her until she was done sniffing.

It made me feel a little stressed and sad, a little anxious and dramatically pessimistic. Which is super interesting, because this is a DOG. A PUPPY. This is not personal.

And because I’ve been thinking about the conflict I’ve experienced regarding career stuff: it feels like conflict to have to ask for what I think is fair (my name on a poster, my book stocked in a gift shop, or just giving a price quote). In a lot of situations, no one has even said no; no one has limited me except myself. But having to ask and risking the No feels like conflict, sadness: sisyphean.

But lately I’ve been wondering if maybe asking is a huge part of my job as an independent artist. Though I want to go to conferences to “be with my people,” maybe in most cases I will instead be showing up as the Ambassador of Rose’s Realm of Delight: maybe no majority will automatically get me. Maybe, just like with Blue, my job is to teach, train, introduce, translate, reward.

Maybe every jarring tug of the leash is not a failure but part of creating connection.

Now, after an hour of walking and another of fetch in the backyard, Blue is prostrate on the grass while I sit and write. Tugging doesn’t last forever. Neither do I have to ask and ask and ask constantly in professional settings. It just feels like that in the moment.

Gardening Season

I used to think my grandma was a little crazy for having such an enormous garden. I helped her once, but even being paid to weed couldn’t make gardening appeal to me.

Everything changed when I bought my first home in St. Paul: suddenly I was making straight lines curved, dividing and transplanting, and salvaging old bricks for edging.

Here at the B&B we inherited a beautiful perennial garden. After four years I’ve learned that weeding really has to be done right away, before everything gets tall.

Oof! This one didn’t get any attention last summer.

An unexpectedly warm May-June  has meant I’ve made a lot of progress. I find I’m about as fanatical as my grandma…

 

Thanks, Dad, for putting up all the lattice!

Also, I can’t recommend the Yard Butler Twist Tiller enough!

How Marketing Can Be Fun

Seth Godin talks about ‘New Marketing’ in his book Meatball Sundae.

In  short, he says that Old Marketing (inundating an unsuspecting but captive mass audience with your product in hopes that some of them would buy it) only worked when people had no choice or control.

Now we can skip commercials via Tivo or online streaming, tailor our ads; we never have to watch a commercial.

Now the winning approach is based not on HOW MANY but WHO.

It’s about finding your tribe and sharing your story (and services) with them.

There’s no one to convince or Stun into submission– it’s all connection.

Instead of trying to make you believe you want what I’ve got, marketing is about finding the people who already want it.

And that’s more of an adventure, a treasure hunt.

That’s being an explorer.

That’s how marketing actually sounds fun.

Honesty and Trust, Patreon and Amanda Palmer

I think the idea of Patreon is fascinating: the freedom and space to make your art for free (for everyone), and the gift of your community providing for you.

Amanda Palmer inspires me.

She models a life of trust.

Trust is essential, the whole context in which art is created.

(I trust in the Source enough to write down this story, to step onstage, to paint the unseeable).

She takes it to a greater level of trusting as a way of LIFE– not just a way of ART.

And with Patreon there’s no ‘selling,’ no convincing anyone your art has value.

It’s all voluntary.

It’s all a gift.

This feels much more honest to me, how it already really is, this Abundance.

What To Do When You Want To Do it All

I want to do it all. Always.

This is the feeling that precedes doing none of it.

Going on social media and scrolling.

Eating ice cream (not that ice cream is inherently bad; it’s a beautiful thing).

Feeling bad about myself.

I have a new system, because they seem to last for about a season and then they begin to decompose. (I resist, try to outsmart death by Doing It Righter, panic, enter into denial, and eventually give in and shuffle around waiting for that tap on my shoulder that tells me it’s time to begin again.) In my new structure I’m texting my writing goals to Kelsi on Mondays, and checking in by phone on Fridays. Hallelujah for accountability and friendship!

One item on this week’s list is to research two small publishers based in Minnesota who primarily supply the school market. So I got on the internet this evening… and opened five tabs. I didn’t stop at site number one and start compiling the writing sample and resume they require– I went on a research binge.

This might work well for others, but not for me. When I do too much research I get overwhelmed. And then I start making Big Goals to Do Everything. Now.

It’s scary to do something (note the small ‘s’).

It’s scarier to take a small, real step than a huge imaginary step. (Brene Brown in Daring Greatly comments that she can’t go for a ten minute walk because she’s supposed to go for a four mile run; a run that never happens).

What do I really want?

I want to be a clear channel for art to come into the world.

I want to get out of the way and be filled with creative energy.

I want to connect, to share delight, to reflect the beauty of life.

Goals, systems, publishers are supports for that, not the compass point.

Take a breath.

Ask yourself, what am I here for?

Then do your best and revel in it.