Inspiration: As Far As You Can Carry It

Artists know that inspiration comes in waves; sometimes in the gentle, steady rhythm of a lake waking up to the sunrise, and other times overwhelming, crashing into you like the Pacific coast tide.

The thing about inspiration is it’s only as good as how far you can carry it. After all, we can only balance so much. The mundane tasks of everydayness often take up both hands.

In her book, Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert talked about inspiration as a living thing, that moved on if it wasn’t nurtured in our care.  What she had to say as a professional writer resonated with me, and made me feel a bit better. Careless with inspiration, but at least not the only one.

As a full-time working, single mom, my second novel kind of bit the dust. But I’m nothing if not resourcesful, and optimistic too. Instead of trying to twist it into some kind of tome, I’m going to use what I have and craft a short story. I’m also hoping that by doing this, the inspiration my be wooed back, and stick around for the long haul required of a novel. I know if that does happen, that the success or failure of the project will depend on me; on my dedication, devotion and prioritizing.

Either way it will be fine. The inspiration will be freed; to move on, or to take up residence in the pages of my creation.

Inspiration comes my darling friends, but how long it stays with us depends entirely upon how long we are able to carry it.

One in a while we have to reassess what’s weighing us down in favour of what lifts us up.

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Santa Strike: Stuff That Won’t Get Done This Christmas

"Within you there is a stillness and sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself." ~Hermann Hesse~

“Within you there is a stillness and sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself.”
~Hermann Hesse~

This is one of those Christmases. I’ve had very few of them, but this is going to be counted as one.

It’s 11:25 am, and I am still in my nightgown, staring out at a beautiful sunny sky, thinking of my to-do list, and giving myself permission to mentally rip it up and set it on the Christmas fire.

Having been an eager little elf in years past, people expect my bounding red, green and jingling-bell joy every year; the cards, sweets, treats, carols, and extra little gifties. They expect my home to be clean, neat, decorated and the door to be open. There is always wine and coffee and tea, and time to sit and visit in the midst of the lights on the tree and mantle.

This year, is not one of those years. Sure, the lights are up, there is definitely wine available, and tea or coffee if you prefer, but you’re likely to find me wandering around with a book of Rumi’s brilliance and braless until noon, and I’m ok with that.

You know what that means? That means you have to be ok with it too. Yep.

Instead of good old Bing and Ella belting out classic Christmas tunes, I’ve got Hozier on high, and Sam Smith. If you want treats, the ingredients are in the cupboard, and you can help yourself to my kitchen. While you’re at it, mama would like some Scottish shortbread and some macaroons. The floor could really use a scrub and the dishwasher needs unloading. Too much bother you say? I totally get it.

Sometimes you just have to take a break from being everyone else’s jolly elf. Sometimes you need to just forget about what you think you have to do, and do what your soul is telling you that you ought to do for your own well-being. I’m going to pioneer a new field of study; The Ethics of Self-Care.

Take it from the master of flipping-off-elf-class-101. I’m headed to the tub now for a long soak with my coffee, Patti Smith art book and Eminem. If you need me, you’ll have to drag my pudgy,wet, steamy body from the bathtub, and that won’t be pretty.

Poetry of Life

laughatoddsThere’s nothing like poetry to raise a mirror to the quality of your life.

I know when certain things are neglected in my life, that I’m prioritizing all wrong.

Sure I have to work hard, do my job, cook and be a mother, but I don’t have to give up the things that make my  life poetic.

My bath time has always been sacred. It sounds silly, but it’s a ritual before I write, make love, or prepare for any significant event.

There is ritual about this time for me. I light candles. I listen to music with lyrics by Leonard Cohen, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan and a plethora of other songwriters. I pour a glass of wine and have it within arms reach. I line up my soap, my razor, my cloth and loffah.

By candlelight I soak in the hot water, and let the music and lyrics penetrate the hard thoughts that have been pulsing through my  brain throughout the day.

Language is a  construct of logic. That’s why it’s often difficult to express emotion. Emotion defies logic.

Poetry  seeps into that space between our physical selves and our human spirit. Poetry, with its similes and metaphors is as close as we can possibly come to expressing everything about ourselves that is emotional.

Since it seems our ability to express our emotion is basically all that separates us from apes, our poetic ability is pretty important.

Whenever my life has lacked poetry, time for creativity, or the exquisite indulgence of friendship, wine and  blissfully rambling conversation, I have suffered.

…Now you can say that I’ve grown bitter, but of this you may be sure

The rich have got their channels in the bedrooms of the poor

And there’s a mighty judgment coming, but I may be wrong…

(Lyrics from Leonard Cohen’s Tower of Song)

When my ritual gets lost, so does the time I dedicate to my creativity. For me it is writing, for others it’s painting, cooking, music or any other creative act. Hell, if it’s good, lovemaking is a pretty intense creative endeavor.

If your ritual to make creative space has gone by the wayside, or if you’ve never had one of those rituals, consider this;

Imagine, bringing a fresh, soft-ripe peach to your lips, and having the juice drip between your fingers and over your lips. You can’t help but savour the sweetness and that taste of  fresh peach that you just can’t have any other time of year.

Now imagine biting that same peach, with the same juice covering your fingers, but you can’t taste anything. Your mouth is wet and full of the tender flesh, but there is no sweetness, there is no hint of that precious and rare flavour that you crave.

That my darlings is life without poetry.

Life with poetry becomes vibrant and joyful;

…And I’ll dance with you in Vienna
I’ll be wearing a river’s disguise
The hyacinth wild on my shoulder
My mouth on the dew of your thighs
And I’ll bury my soul in a scrapbook
With the photographs there, and the moss
And I’ll yield to the flood of your beauty
My cheap violin and my cross…

( Lyrics from Leonard Cohen’s Take This Waltz)

Life without poetry is like bringing home a dry, flavourless peach harvested green half-way around the world in February. It’s just not the same. It’s not juicy. it’s not sweet.  It leaves you feeling like there must be something more.

When life lacks poetry you find it incredibly tedious to prepare and dress for your lovers, until you’re finally left only with partners who satisfy a base desire and you’re relieved to see them leave.

When life lacks poetry there is no beacon of hope left to guide you toward your heart’s desire. You are trapped by habit and fear change.

When life lacks poetry you are not in the present moment. You are either living in the future, or dwelling in the past.

Whatever it is that ignites your spirit is your poetry.  Make time for it. Go after it. Remember what it means to live fully within your humanity.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

You can add up the parts, you won’t have the sum
You can strike up the march, there is no drum
Every heart, every heart to love will come
But like a refugee

(Lyrics by Leonard Cohen; Anthem)

A Writer’s Slow Torture

cohenIf you’re a writer, you’re likely reading this, thinking to yourself, “I’ll just finish this and then write.”

Writers are inevitably readers. To write well, one must read. A lot.

Unfortunately, one must also pay the bills. This often means, for those of us posting blogs, scratching out articles, and completing the novels our souls just can’t let us forget, that we must also work at something other than writing.

Fortunately, I happen to have a very full-time gig doing something that I’m good at, and that I feel called to do. Instead of being a cog in a corporate machine, I get to do meaningful work. But it’s not pounding out the stories, ideas or observations that constantly rap at my concentration and drive me to distraction.

Alas, it’s not writing, and writing is what I crave.  The more I do it, the more I want to do it. It’s a vicious cycle darlings.

Between the craving, the suppression of my creative observation of mundane life and fascinating people, and having to work for a living, well, let’s just say, it’s enough to drive a girl to wine, men and ballads sung by Aretha Franklin played at a startling high volume.  Le sigh….

If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, then nine-tenths of it is thanks to writers and artists who, like myself, must also work at something else for a living.

So, if you’re a writer like me, I hope that you make a promise to yourself to set aside some time to perfect your craft.  The real challenge is to set aside time when you feel rested,  and full of energy, not just the 10pm onward time when all you really want to be doing is snuggling in, or sound asleep.

Without writing time I feel like I’m being smothered. I feel like a part of me is dying a slow, painful death. It’s time to re-establish my routine, and to commit to what brings me joy and vitality.

 

 

 

Everything is Going Right – You Just Don’t Know it Yet

creative rehabIt’s true. Everything is going exactly how it should be. It’s going exactly how you think it should.

But that’s deceiving isn’t it?

It really is all about the way you perceive things to be. Really it is, I promise.

At least that’s what I tell myself.

Pull up a chair, and get yourself a nice warm cup of tea. Bourbon if you’re a bit of a philosopher, or perhaps a nice little snort of Irish whiskey to warm your insides up against the February outside.

When life collides with the inner machinations of my mind, it gives me cause to pause and let it all trickle in to wherever it’s supposed to settle.

Lately, my full-time gig has not been going as hoped. Don’t get me wrong, I continue to do something I absolutely feel called to do, and I work with the best in my profession.

I also, as it seems, am called to do this writing thing. That wild, unpredictable energy has formed part of my bones and blood since I was a little girl with pigtails and collecting buckets full of crickets.

My living expenses and need to help other people call me to work, my soul calls me to writing. Damn this dissonance of being human!

With my first bookie wookie in the hands of an editor, and my second, being more carefully plotted, I feel the pull to my writing desk much stronger than ever before.

My window opens to evergreens and dogwood. Not bad for a cityscape. A church-window-esque trellis, and the French obelisk  in my urban guerilla garden stand as testaments to milder temperatures, longer hours of sunshine, dishes with fresh basil, and cold drinks adorned by fresh mint.

On the desk to my right, is  a solar-powered windchime which helps bring me back when my creative brain wanders. A  porcelain snail commemorative of a healing sweat lodge keeps the chime company.   The left hand side – a full third of the desk – has been sequestered by my cat, Willie Nelson, who routinely stretches and switches off my wireless capability. With a desk like this, who wouldn’t be tempted to eek out a living by lounging here, lost in the intimacy of language and imagination?

Lately, more often than not, I’ve felt just plain lost. I Facebook, I YouTube, I stare at the squirrels jumping from limb to limb.  My little carnelian stones spin to strike the chimes, and I am reminded to be in the moment.

Impatience gets the better of me sometimes. For this, I recommend my method of  using the f-word and indulging in pleasure of the flesh. Maybe just a nip or two of something strong enough to remind me I’m not dead yet, even if it feels like it on the inside. In extreme cases I recommend bed wrestling with a naked partner.

I have lived long enough to know that despair is a menacing thing. It closes the door on the divine human spirit. So, although in my loneliness I get close to embracing despair, I know that there will always be a light on my path just when darkness is about to fully envelop my thoughts.

Today that light came in the form of an email message from my pal in Brazil. A mother-figure, healer, and spiritual mentor of mine for over 13 years, she sent off an email which started exactly the same way that my email to her was going to begin, “I don’t know why, but you have been on my mind the past few days”.

So often this happens with me, that I intuit my own need to connect with someone else’s. In this case, I had been so busy working that I hadn’t stopped to take time to email. You see, that’s the way it was meant to be. My reaching out yesterday would not have given me the gift of her email which needed to receive.

As I’ve been trudging through the themes and characters of my next book, it has become hysterically  clear that the protagonist’s character has been put upon with my own scheming philosophy of being. Poor darling. I think I shall give her at least one bad habit to take the edge off.

The email from my Canadian ex-pat friend in Brazil comes on the heels of last night’s writing, and weaves together perfectly with my own personal struggle to indulge my passion while paying the bills, as well as the main theme of my book.

The information in her email also happens to be the latch to the hook of my friend’s thesis.

The long and the short of it, my dear ones, is that life works its way out as you are willing to allow it.

Whether a day is good or full of potential and learning is totally up to you.

For now I’ll stick to my writing desk and my day job. I will resist the urge to pack  my bathing suit with the worn out ass  and my toothbrush into my ever-ready carry-on bag, and head to the airport for a one-way ticket to Anywhere Else.

It’s all coming together. I just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and surrounding myself with people who are the same vintage of crazy as I am.

Go ahead, pour yourself another tumbler-full. After all, philosophizing is best done in the company of writers, alcohol and a wailing guitar.