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The Frustration of Focus & The Benefit of Flow

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This is the first time in my life that I’m focussed on doing what I love. Being my healthiest self, and focussed on focus.

I’ve never been a believer in having it all, at least not at the same time. Now more than ever I’m sure of that.

Life has stabilized after a handful of years getting settled as a nearly-empty nester, a coupled up singleton, and one of the more experienced of a great group of colleagues.  Life has finally opened up into a chapter of more breathing room to focus on what brings me joy.

I’m not talking about my child or my lovely partner, or the beautiful friendships that I’ve nurtured throughout the years. I’m talking about what brings ME joy; nurturing a healthier, more active body, and carving out time and space (have you seen my awesome little writing space?!), to focus on writing.

I’m SO focussed. I spent an entire afternoon plotting 12 months of writing submissions. I dug out all of my old writing and put it in one of the drawers in the two desks I need to keep all of my scribbling organized. I consulted with a life coach. I became accountable to myself. I took a project on my winter beach vacation. I give a shit about letting my precious, wild, creative ideas get away from me without nurturing them.

“I believe that our planet is inhabited not only by animals and plants and bacteria and viruses, but also by ideas. Ideas are a disembodied, energetic life-form. They are completely separate from us, but capable of interacting with us—albeit strangely. Ideas have no material body, but they do have consciousness, and they most certainly have will. Ideas are driven by a single impulse: to be made manifest. And the only way an idea can be made manifest in our world is through collaboration with a human partner. It is only through a human’s efforts that an idea can be escorted out of the ether and into the realm of the actual.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

It’s spring, so I had to take a break away to plan and plant my garden, welcome my baby boy home from uni, and spend more time at the yoga studio. All this joyful living has made me jolly. Trying to focus on family, health and the garden has made my writing suffer. So frustrating!

How fortunate am I to be frustrated that I don’t have enough time between my good job, spoiling my adult son, being a loving partner, and keeping up with the people who have buoyed me up all of those tough years, to write all day, every day? Very. I’m very fortunate.

Focus is wonderful, but so is a blessed life. And I don’t want to forget that as I scroll through my insta-feed of minimalist works spaces and uber-achievers.  My big, messy, patchwork life of love and vitality is more than a lot of people ever dream of having. And I intend to go with it. To flow. To savour every second. Nothing lasts forever.

Focus is something I can come back to again and again. So here I am, in a window seat at the coffee shop, keyboard and second draft of my novel ready for a serious workout.

If you haven’t quite made it to this place in life where you can see your blessing manifest and you feel like a suffocated artist, buy yourself  Big Magic . It saved my creative spirit, and kept me plodding away when I had too many bills and not enough time or space to feel justified in spending the extra time to create.  Just keep going. Just keep telling the universe what you need, and somehow you will pass from survival to thriving. I promise.

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Making Room in My Jeans for Enchantment

distractionBecause of my inability to focus, my jeans are getting snug.

As in, I’ve gone beyond muffin-top to mid-section-souffle. I’ve been home a lot lately, and although I’m busy as stink caregiving, I have lots of time on my hands while I stay up way too late and overthink everything.

Today, while having a meltdown (likely a bloodsugar low), I ate another of my beautifully decorated sugar cookies, gave myself a tummy-ache and got to thinking while I laid down to sweat it out. Perhaps I should just really focus on what makes me feel good.

And what is that?

Well, it’s my writing, my inspiration, or ‘enchantment’ as Elizabeth Gilbert refers to it in her book, Big Magic, (a book every creative soul needs).  Given that my nervous baking habit has made me pack on pounds and feel like crap since I’ve been at home for the past number of weeks, I couldn’t help but listen when my nauseous tummy and tight waistband went from a whisper to a scream; “QUIT BAKING THIS SHIT!!!”…and in a much more kind, caring voice, “Do what you love sweetheart.”

One idea from Big Magic that stuck with me the first time I read the book is,

However, I’ve always had the sense that the muse of the tormented artist – while the artist himself is throwing temper tantrums – is sitting quietly in a corner of the studio, buffing its fingernails, patiently waiting for the guy to calm down and sober up so everyone can get back to work.”

I have a lot of interests; baking, cooking, reading, writing, yoga, gardening, being an enthusiastic sports mom…and the list goes on. These are the equivalent of my temper tantrums. Convincing myself that I don’t have enough time to write is akin to a temper tantrum.

I’m so funny.

I have time to do most of my hobbies, except write.  Why??? the only explanation I can come up with is that my upbringing as a hard-working-protestant-country-girl saves the best for last. “I’ll write after I…..” And then the day is finished. I have no energy left for the good stuff.

It’s hard to think of a tortured artist baking and decorating cookies, but it’s my very civilized-flirting-with-diabetes form of torment. But it is no more. No more half-hearted attempts at making slippers, meringues, paintings, blankets or any other whim I get snagged on while cruising Pinterest.  No more tummy aches and sugar lows. No more cursing myself for my jeans getting even smaller.

In Big Magic, Ms. Gilbert talks about enchantment, and whether you meet it with the resistance of the stereotypical tortured artist or like gracious host who makes room for it.

I’m going to try and be the gracious host. And that includes not wearing pants that are way too tight.

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The Hottest Date

writingdateLike sand through my fingers, it just seemed to slip away. Almost like that’s how it was always meant to be. Withered up alongside all of the tidy, check-marked boxes of my responsible, adult life.

It was part of my life that I cherished dearly. It was something that belonged to me and only me. It was the reason I stayed sane and productive and didn’t just get in my car one day and never come back. Don’t get me wrong, I would have taken my kid with me, and I’m sure we would have had an awesome playlist, but you get where I’m going with this.

That little scrap of sanity was my weekly writing date. More often than not, I would find myself at the AGO, or at one of my favourite Starbucks in Mississauga. At the museum it was poetic verse in a small Moleskine, with a glass of wine and lunch. At Starbucks I usually had my laptop and a latte, maybe a scone if I felt indulgent.

It sounds very simple, and not like much of an oasis of luxury, but it was luxurious solitude during a busy time of my life.

Now I have a beautiful writing room with windows and an altar, and enough of my precious book collection lining the walls that I feel justified in my efforts to write something of significance.

But my writing dates have stopped. I’ve stopped taking myself out, and being inspired by other people’s art, or even the regulars at my local Starbucks. And I miss it.

One of my resolutions (I hate resolutions) leading up to (so as not to be an official new year’s resolution) the new year is to take myself out on weekly writing dates again.

I can already picture myself at the McMichael gallery, swallowed up by the beauty of the gallery and the grounds, completely blissful in my solitude. I’m excited to slowly become a regular at my local cafe, where they wonder what I’m writing, but they know exactly how I like my coffee…steaming hot. The hottest of dates are always the ones that kept me creative, interested & engaged. I hope to see you out there fanning the flames of your own creative fire.

 

 

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You Are a Goddess Born for the Act of Creation

danu
DANU  – This multi-faceted aspect of the Divine Feminine is experienced as the air we breathe, as the river that nourishes all of life, as the bounty and abundance of earth and as the cosmic energy of universal wisdom.
A Triple Goddess, which means she is able to take the form of the Maiden, the Mother or the Crone, and a Divine Lady who is the essence of the earth, the air and the essence of water, Danu is able to embody the form/energy suited the situation.  Here she brings the power of versatility and teaches us to honor and respect diversity within ourselves and within others and reminds us to honor each stage of our physical life.

Collage therapy, Goddess meditation, writing prompts, textile arts, embroidery, pottery…

All of it. I want to get my hands mucky and dirty and calloused and spend my time doing aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalllllllllll of it.

Or at least pulling myself out of a career of death and dying. Not completely of course. I mean, I’m in my forties for goodness-sake! I’d be foolish to leave the stability of a pension and good benefits (not to mention an awesome team of colleagues). this I know to be true, and we (you know who you are ladies) need something else.  Something  that we can find joy in which allows us to sip from the spiritual fountain of youth, or make a few extra bucks to fund what we would all like to become our annual Central-American-Beach-Rehab. Ok, that’s my dream, but I’m sure you have your own.

Being creative is generally frowned upon in our culture. Go out of the house with wild hair? Wear something unique? Sing your way through the work day? Yah, not so cool, and possibly a good way to have yourself committed.

I think most women at my stage go through this. Whether you live in a hovel or a palace, life becomes routine. There is comfort in routine, but there is also stagnation. We become sexless, and our femininity is starved. Being spiritually and emotionally vibrant goes a long way toward health.

My daily challenge is to let-it-go.

Letting go of all of the time-gobblers that suck the life out of me.

The time we’re  not at work too often becomes perfecting the comforting space of domesticity. Food prep, folding  laundry,  tidying up; It’s become the hole in my spiritual bucket.  Yours may be binge-watching, trashy novels or napping.

Let me be clear. Our need  to create is not a whimsy, or modern construct. There is evidence of creativity dating as far back as our human history.  It is part of our essence.

My need to create is always there though, simmering under the surface, sometimes boiling over and making the kind of mess that anything repressed tends to do. Goodness knows I don’t need any more messes to tidy up.

I will continue my daily struggle to find balance between being a responsible adult and a wild-at-heart free-spirit, why don’t you join me?

Let yourself transform into the creative goddess that you are; let your hair grow, buy the funky jacket, relax into comfortable flip flops, and damn it, spend time in the comfortable, wild space of creativity.

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Writing Prompts: What I Go To

pickyFor a quick insight into my own process when the fire has died, I offer you this;

  1. The newspaper. Yes. Paper. Go buy a print copy and flip to the editorials and opinion sections. Browse the arts and see what other fearless creatives are doing. Write about your thoughts.
  2. Daily meditation. I used Goddess 365. Sometimes I’m faithful, and other times she waits a week or two before I give her any attention. Ah, but she is faithful and patient. Read, give some kind of offering even if it’s a silent tribute of gratitude or visualization. If you need altar supplies, I suggest Wonderworks.
  3. An oldie, but a goodie, especially for sensual writer-types; Fruit Flesh

Don’t forget to carry a notebook. Take yourself for a walk without being plugged in to a playlist or a podcast. Let your mind relax and wander all on its own. But most importantly, put pen to paper. Doodle at first if you must, but don’t give up.

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Taking The Plunge: Are You Ready

I’m poised at the top of the high-diving board, toes gripping the edge, face forward, not looking down, but focused straight ahead. I steady my breathing, push down with the weight of my body and leap into nothingness making what could be a tragedy, look elegant and beautiful.

jumping-off-cliffsMost significant accomplishments take commitment. Making them a priority means letting some other things slide. Like writing a book, building, maintaining or repairing relationships, or even washing the floor.

Time is precious, and if you’re doing one thing, it means you’r not doing another.

So, the last time I wrote a book, I waived an excited bon voyage to you my darlings, took a blogging sabbatical, and wrote like a fiend.

I think it may be time again. Time to quit procrastinating, worrying about the time I take from other parts of my life, and put skin-to-the-keys as it were.

The only problem is, that the last time I was excited. I was confident, and I had a head full of ideas.

This time I’m not a novel-writing-virgin. I know the blood, sweat and tears frustration that comes with tearing myself away from re-reading and over-editing. Not to mention my editor did die during the editing of my last book .

I will let you know when I get ready to jump. Any encouragement before then is welcome.

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Sunday Meditation: Every Day Ritual

takecomfortI wake up this morning of my own accord. There is no alarm clock, just time to be me.

But there is ritual in this nothingness, this casual waking and being.

I pad to the kitchen, stumble over my own feet, turn the patio blinds, come back to the enveloping embrace of my still-warm, duvet mountain of a bed and send up a prayer that I’ve come to realize I’ve been saying, in my own way, at my own speed, for many years. It is a prayer of gratitude.

And then my mind turns to wonder…this morning it’s about a lunch date with a an old flame, the pros and cons of moving, how much I’m looking forward to sprucing up my little corner of the world….

Wonder, the butler to her majesty; Curiosity.

Eventually I pour  coffee, a lot of coffee,  into one of my  oversized mugs that was gifted from friends, open the window over my writing desk, and sit down at the keyboard. My feline mentor scrambles onto the desk,past the plant that I barely manage to keep alive, and paws at the lace curtain until I lift it up, and place it over his head like a wedding veil. We both look out to the painting mother nature has created over night and breathe in the cool, fresh, morning air. .

This is my ritual. Every writer has one, and this is mine.

This morning, as I clock-watch and know that my time in front of the keyboard at my little window is short, I am grateful for my simple ritual. It grounds me just enough for inspiration to take root.

It grounds me just enough to turn anxiety into excitement, fear into courage, and sadness into a fading memory.