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Entries in creativity (10)


The Point

Happy birthday, new friend!The topo map of my internal creative landscape lately looks a bit like I imagine Kansas - wide, meandering contours, vast empty space, point-less.  I am used to inhabiting a creative Colorado, ideas jutting up into my consciousness like the million points of the Rocky Mountains and flowing out here like snow melt.  Now I'm down here in the flat lands, trying to herd words uphill.  Gravity is not my ally in this effort, when it seems like every helium-filled wisp of idea is encased in concrete boots and ditched somewhere around Byers, Kansas.

I bought a fancy new camera, and suddenly all the simple things I usually train my eye on seemed too banal for this equipment, like driving a new Ferrari down West Colfax, waiting at endless stoplights and passing shuttered motels and used car lots.  This is neurotic, for sure, but if I have no pictures and if my ideas have all gotten lost somewhere in the central time zone then this space starts to look a little, er, past its prime. 

So in case you have been wondering where I've been lately, think Kansas.


I got lucky this week though, when a close friend pushed this little Buddha of a boy out and into our village. This? This was worth getting the Ferrari out of the garage and racing at top speeds out to the University to witness.  We human beings do this everyday, this birthing of new human beings.  But damn if this nine-and-a-half pounds of confusion and tiny clenched fists isn't a miracle anyway.  He is all fuzzy blond hair and fingernails and soon-to-be-blue eyes that are mostly shut hard because why do you have to keep it so bright out here, people?  He is 12 hours old when I meet him and he is full of qi and hungry and smells like the fountain of youth.

The gift of all this for me was that I got to have a point.  Milestones, rites of passage, these are obvious signposts that beg us to sit up and notice and freeze them in our hearts and minds.  This morning as I write this, the baby boy is five times as old as he was in this picture, so I bet when I see him later he'll have lots of teeth and be cranking The Pixies in his room while he writes algorithms.

This makes me want to take note of things - all kinds of things - before they escape to Kansas, never to be heard from again.


My old friend Larisa told me a few months ago that I should enter a piece of writing into BlogHer's annual Voices of the Year competition, and since I usually do what people I admire tell me to do I dropped this piece into the running in their Identity category.  And then because I am afraid to ask people to vote for things, I didn't tell anyone about it.  And then I forgot about it.

So you might imagine my surprise when I got an e-mail yesterday saying I had been selected as one of the honorees.  There is simply no way to adequately convey my delight at being included in this group of artists and truth-tellers, and more broadly, at having this space to air my joys and struggles and fumbling excursions through the wilderness of my internal creative Rocky Mountains.  May a million more points solidify here and in our virtual village at large.


New Friend

I didn't sleep very well the night before Meghan flew in for the mini photo-camp we'd dreamed up.  Will asked, are you nervous because you don't really know her?  That wasn't why I was nervous but he had a point.  We met and hit it off at Camp Shutter Sisters last fall, and since she lives one state over it seemed easy to plan our own little photography retreat weekend.

We are very different.  Our photographic styles are different, we get charged by different subject matter, and we have different approaches to shooting.  She is drawn to vintage looks and loves the evocative feeling of old film.  I am avowedly digital and can't stop myself from overexposing everything I shoot.  But we are both groping toward a deeper understanding of our creative paths and our life paths, if such things are separable.

Between us there was that flicker of instant recognition that arises with new true friends, familiar even though you know none of their backstory.  I don't even know how you met your husband, or what your mom is like, I told her before she arrived.  These are things you know about people you feel connected to.  But then she was here, and as each new piece was revealed something small clicked into place.  You find yourself surprised and completely unsurprised all at once at how perfectly things fit together. 

This weekend comfort and discovery mingled.  I see Meghan as accomplished and brave and grounded, and all those things are true, but with each new fragment of her life she shared I appreciated further the depth of her resilience and authenticity and the power of her dreams.

She thought I seem fearless because so many of my stories featured a Corinna that was unafraid to move boldly through the world.  Of course lately I feel pinned down by fear, but hearing my own stories for the first time again is a reminder that within me there are reservoirs of chutzpah that might yet be accessible.

It was a nourishing weekend on every level, but I wasn't sad when I dropped Meghan at the airport yesterday.  I know that this budding friendship that is shiny and new now will, over time, earn the familiar well-worn patina captured by her beloved Polaroid.


Destruction and Creation

Ezra's teacher told me about a lesson she's been working with him, where she has a collection of small blocks of painted wood.  She asks him to go across the room and get the one that matches in color and then watches as he encounters all the distractions along the way: other children trying to get his attention, other work that might look interesting.  Sometimes he forgets along the way, and she has to remind him what he is meant to be doing.  Sometimes when he arrives at the wooden blocks he can't remember which color he came for.  It's an exercise in concentration and memory.  Some days, she tells me, are better than others.


I forgot what to dream about.  I know I wrote it down, and I remember that it felt very present to me in the moment, but now it feels like fog.  This urge towards some sort of movement, shift, transformation lingers, but the vision is utterly obscured.  A Montessori teacher might be helpful now.


I look around my comfortable life and wonder: what will have to be destroyed as this seed takes root?  Or maybe I shouldn't even plant it, not knowing after all, what it is I'm trying to bring to fruition.

Jen Lemen gave me a mantra: Nothing is wasted.

Nothing is wasted. Nothing is wasted. Nothing is wasted. Nothing is wasted. Nothing is wasted. Nothing is wasted.

Will's compost pile comes to mind.  Scraps and remnants of once-useful nourishment, creating their own heat.  He turns it into the soil.  Plants the seeds.  And waits.

The seeds do their work in the dark.  We only know later, as green shoots emerge, that the process worked.


I can't even remember if I already planted the seed.  I should keep better records of these things.  I am waiting, wondering if the seed is going to crack open and sprout.

I hope it doesn't hurt.


Gardening by Moonlight

The Farmer's Almanac (and my favorite gardeners) say to plant seeds while the moon is waxing.  Planting them at night is optional.  The thinking is that just as the moon controls the tides, it shifts the way the water moves through the soil.  Seeds are thought to absorb more water as the moon grows full, and to grow into healthier plants.

My mom is one of those gardeners, the keeper of the greenest thumb I know and an expert in nurture.  It occurs to me that she has become highly attuned to fertile ground.  For Christmas, my mom gave me the audio book of Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way.  She knew I was feeling overwhelmed, so she assured me that it's a very affirmative listen even if you're not actually doing the 12-week program Cameron lays out in the book.  She also knows that I'm a sucker for a good idea, especially when it is presented at the right time.  So it probably came as no surprise to her when I called home saying I want to do those morning pages.  That's in the category of cultivate, for sure.

The practice is to write three pages of stream-of-consciousness each morning.  It can be dull, fragmented, repetitive, but the idea seems to be to get the gunk out of your system and onto paper first thing each day. You're not even really supposed to go back and read the writing, at least for the first couple of months.  (For those keeping count, this would bring my list of morning practices to morning pages, meditate, run.  I'm not clear on what order those things should happen or how early I would need to get up in order to make them happen before Ezra wakes.  I'm trying not to think about that, or to acknowledge how much the running part of the balance has fallen off the program.)

Funnily, my mom gave me The Artist's Way about 15 years ago, and I remember reading it and thinking You have to write THREE PAGES? EVERY SINGLE DAY?  There is NO WAY I would ever do that.  That's just crazy.  I was young and dumb enthusiastic and drunk free, and too busy creating a reasonable facsimile of adulthood to consider whether I had anything else to create.

So here is a seed I planted in the dark as the moon grew fuller last week: a notebook, a good pen, and all the petty and banal thoughts and feelings that live inside me but don't deserve to see the light of day.  I never thought that would feel like a luxury, but this week it does.  I don't know quite what I'm cultivating with this, but it feels a little bit like throwing down a handful of mixed wildflower seeds.  It'll be interesting, as the seasons change, to see just what takes root.  Maybe something will even bloom.


Internal Weather


When last weekend rolled around I made a list of all my intentions, which basically revolved around having a fun and relaxing time with Ezra and some other friends, and trying to find a sunny spot to curl up in for a little while. Seemed like a recipe for happy.

So I did everything on that list, and then I promptly fell into a deep, black hole on Sunday morning from which I am only now crawling out. The specific trigger was trivial and uninteresting, except to say that it put me in touch with a feeling of lack and a deep fear that this supposed lack would pin me in place, unable to move into this new space I've been dreaming up.

First of all, let me note here that I've been in a ridiculously good mood - a pinch-me kind of good mood - for at least two straight months now.  That may be a world record.  Who is happy for that long in a row?

But Sunday I felt kind of desperate, and completely unable to access the optimism or gratitude that has been fueling this happy little bubble where I've been living.  I really wanted to nap, but Ezra wouldn't play along. I took a hot bath while Ezra played with glitter glue on the bathroom floor.  Lots of deep breaths.  No relief.

Day 20: Struggling to access gratitude today. #needtoreboot #gratitudeprojectBut I've been trying to understand what this black hole can show me, and it loses its grip as I notice these two deep realizations:

1.  Nothing good or creative or abundant will come from being stuck in an emotional space ruled by obsession with scarcity.

2.  I used to be afraid to do something... Stopped by fear that I'm not good enough, or that I will fail, or, worse perhaps, that other people would see me fail. But now I'm noticing that what gets to me more is fear of not doing something, fear of being stuck in one place, fear of not being able to actualize some of the ideas in my head.

So while I'm busy measuring progress, I'll add these new learnings to the list.