Lodestones

Change/Transformation, Hard Stuff, It's Personal, Life, Obstacles/Challenges, Reflection, Uncategorized, Writing

I’ve been avoiding writing for the last several months.  There are many reasons for this.  I’ve been turning to artwork as an expressive outlet, a need to be out of my internal, intellectual world, a deep, pervasive feeling of exhaustion, and, related to that exhaustion, no desire or will.

The impacts of seven months of looking for work, a two month journey to losing it, and the last ten weeks of re-entering the world of unemployment and job searching again?  Those impacts aren’t clear yet and probably won’t be for some unknown time.  What is clear is that my desire to feel productive, to feel useful, has lost its lodestone.

My internal compass has been spinning wildly, seeking an orientation, a focus, a place to land.  I’ve volunteered, networked, job searched, made art, written, and simply sat on my couch doing nothing.  I’ve had countless ideas for products, novels, art pieces, and community organizations, and I’ve put effort into a business idea with some potential.  But nothing has snapped into that empty spot.  None of my own ideas have quite slipped in to fill that hole – they aren’t big enough yet, solid enough.

What I have noticed is that the pressure to be productive – to always be creating something, doing something, seeking success in some way – is enormous and intense.  Internal, external, implicit, explicit, the subtle and not-so-subtle influences are everywhere.  To say that I feel like a piece of coal being squeezed and compressed into a diamond is a bit dramatic, but maybe it’s the best metaphor.

I no longer have an external motivator or source of direction; there is no one to help me direct when, where, and how I spend my energy and resources.  While I have a strong sense of myself, values, and interests, I’ve never thought of myself as an entrepreneur.  This time of unemployment has changed my thoughts and feelings though, and I’m planning toward self-sufficiency, toward being my own boss.

Perhaps I’m becoming my own lodestone.

lodestone2

The Launch

Art/Images, It's Personal, Life, Uncategorized, Wins

I’ve finally done it, I’ve launched my Etsy store!  I have a small selection of drawings available, but am looking forward to adding more. Other than this blog, the Etsy store is my first time putting my creative talents out for public consumption.  For any of my two or three readers who are willing, I appreciate any reblogs or shares 🙂

Energy-WtrMrk

Muses

Art/Images, Change/Transformation, Creative, Dance, It's Personal, Life, Poetry, Reflection, Uncategorized, Writing

Earlier this year, for the first time in my life, I met someone who inspires me to create art.  Despite my introverted extrovert nature, I meet a lot of people from many different walks of life.  I tend to network in an  unusual variety of circles, and have a knack for remembering and connecting people – often making connections others don’t see.  I don’t actively nurture all these connections, but I keep them in my mental Rolodex.

I’m also a social dancer, and I’ve talked to and danced with thousands of people.  In all those thousands, I’ve met (at most) a dozen or so who truly inspire me to create movement with them.  None of them has ever inspired me to create anything beyond the three to four minutes we spend together in the music.  Those moments are magic, but they’re ephemeral.  The sense of what happened fades, and all my body remembers is the warmth and joy and connection.

This was different, this unexpected inspiration.  I’ve never experienced this type of connection, where all thoughts have the potential to spark the drive to create.  Positive or negative charge is irrelevant, what is relevant is that something emerges from that charge.  I started making art when I was young, wanted to be a musician for a while, and then stopped when I left home.  I dabbled in photography for years, drawing here and there.  When writing became more of a focus, other forms of creativity faded until I discovered dance.

My first experience with dance was with a woman named Fariba, a class named Spiritual Bellydance.  I was living in a conservative area that the time, but was exploring any number of non-traditional interests and hobbies.  For me, this class was a revelation, a revolution.  After years of martial arts training and equestrian activity, I found something that incorporated similar awareness and presence, but for reasons of pure sensuality and beauty.  I did it simply because it brought joy and pleasure into my being.  Fariba inspired me, and her memory continues to visit me when I’m dancing.

When I began to learn salsa, I had any number of teachers, but few true inspirations.  Over the years, that has changed as I discovered Magna Gopal, my good friends Sheena and Asia – the first women I saw lead swapping and dancing together in bachata, my instructor Sarah Riddle, and Stacey, one of my best friends.  All these women inspired me to try different types of movement, to experiment with connection and stillness, excitement and joy, technique and exploration.  I recently had the great good fortune to get social dances with Frankie Martinez and Franklin Diaz, dances I wouldn’t have been brave enough to ask for if I hadn’t been inspired to push myself over all these years.

So to find someone who inspires me to create art – images that convey a feeling, emotions, thoughts – is welcome and scary all at once.  Art has not been a way for me to communicate how I feel.  Until now, writing was that channel.  Now, art has become an outlet, in a way that words aren’t.  I’ve spoken with poets, and this feels like their descriptions of writing poetry – using words to shape a feeling, sensation, experience – an urge I’ve rarely encountered.  But now I feel compelled to release that desire to express…something…through drawing.

I’m not entirely certain how the whole “muse” thing works, but I suppose this is part of it.  They bring energy, alien patterns and dynamics, that demand a response, but the old responses aren’t strong enough, or subtle enough, or bold enough, so I look for alternatives.  How else can I interact with this experience?  How can I hold it, let it go, integrate or spit it out?  Do I hold myself in safety, or expose my vulnerability to risk?  All these questions – unanswerable, rhetorical maybe, but each a challenge to how I see, feel, and think about myself.

It amuses me to think that I’m just the latest in an infinite line of humans, of artists who have struggled to understand the nature and sense of inspiration.  Finding novelty in something as old and well-worn as the creative urge is both precious and fleeting.  I believe the work now is to make the effort to enjoy this time, and whatever it brings.

All-SM

Arrogance

Art/Images, Creative, Hard Stuff, It's Personal, Obstacles/Challenges, Reflection, Uncategorized, Writing

I looked up the word arrogance before writing this post, just to make sure I had selected the correct word.  I’m not convinced it’s the right word, but I can’t think of one better so here we are.  When I started believing I could write about my experience working in prison, I knew (intellectually) it would be a challenge.  Although I have extensive experience in technical and business writing, curriculum development, reflective and academic writing, I have ZERO experience in creative fiction, nonfiction, or memoir.  I knew I was venturing into unknown territory but I’m not the first to do so, nor will I be the last.

One of my reasons for venturing into this wilderness is my tendency to get distracted by intellect, and I often think about this in relationship to dancing. Years ago, I made a clear and specific decision that I wasn’t interested in pursuing the more technical aspects of dance.  I’m a social dancer, I like to experiment and explore, going far outside the choreography and “normal” movement and shapes.  In more recent conversations, I realize that this is a an advanced approach to dance, if not a truly “complete” approach.  The greatest dancers are those who challenge themselves technically, as well as artistically, and I’ve long since left the road to technique.

I made this decision because dance is one of the only places in my life where my brain is OFF.  The minute I start concerning myself with technique (Am I a fast enough spinner?  Are my arms straight?  Am I pointing my toe enough? Are my shine patterns symmetrical?), I am out of my heart and body and into my head.  I’ve got enough technique and body control that I can forget about it and simply enjoy the music, movement, and connection with my partner.  THAT is what I crave in dance – not greater technique or an extensive repertoire – even those things are wonderful.  This is what I thought I could transfer into my writing, this sense of being grounded enough in the technical that I could focus solely on the story.

Because I have a solid grounding in writing technique, even if it is largely informal, I thought I had a decent chance at putting together a story people would want to read.  I wasn’t naive enough to think it would be perfect, but I did feel I was competent.  As of today, that feeling has entirely evaporated.   I realize this is probably a normal part of the process for any writer, but I am keenly feeling my lack of formal training, experience in creative writing and storytelling, and in the craft itself.  I’ve realized that the “how” of storytelling – all the decisions about timeline, details, organization, setting (you know – all the things that make up a story) – is not some magic combination of luck and brilliance, it is grounded in technique and exposure and work work work.

I’m not sure I was arrogant when I began this project but I definitely didn’t know what I didn’t know.

Today, my lack of confidence is showing up as “what made you think you could do this?  you don’t know shit about writing anything other than program outlines and lesson plans?  how could you be so disrespectful of all those people who have spent years learning the craft by thinking you could just sit down and pound out something decent – with no experience or training?  who do you think you are?”

I realized recently that I have several well-known, well-respected authors and storytellers in my bigger circle of acquaintances and I cringe when I think about my arrogance.  They’ve spent *years* working and perfecting their crafts and I think I can come along in a few months and produce a top quality piece of work?  Even though I’m posting this online, I’m kind of hoping none of them read it (I’m pretty sure none will) – I don’t want them to know how clueless I really am.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this feeling, this terrible and crippling lack of confidence, is another obstacle to overcome, another block on the road to shipping.  It’s an unexpected and unfamiliar feeling – this lack of confidence with regard to writing, with regard to work.  I’ve been confident in my ability to complete, to execute, to ship, for years and years.  Even when I was unemployed and desperate, I was still able to scrabble together enough gigs to limp along – I was still able to make things happen.

But I can’t “make” this happen, and that is an unknown, uncomfortable feeling.  I can’t brain-muscle my way through, force the words I know are “right,” or build an outline and follow the bread crumbs backwards.  None of those things are working, and they’re the majority of my toolkit.  My unconscious competence isn’t unconscious anymore, and my skillset needs to change and grow.  I’m afraid that learning what I need to learn (or think I do) will take too long, that I’ll never get it done or the story will no longer be relevant.

As I typed that, my head realized that it’s nonsense but my heart still feels afraid and worried.  I drew this a week or two ago, on a really really bad day.  Today isn’t that bad and writing this post helped.

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Walls

Blergh, Novelicious, Obstacles/Challenges, Uncategorized, Writing

I’ve been absent from my blog for the last several weeks, but not from writing.  I started writing Morning Pages (essentially a journaling exercise), documenting and observing in my beautiful Moleskine notebook, creating unexpected art, and (of utmost importance) have been writing The Book.  It’s NaNoWriMo and I’ve been riding that energy, but yesterday was awful.  Although I have completed 1 section (there are 5 total) I was arrogant (read: stupid) enough to think I could get the whole book drafted this month.  I thought this until I’d sent the first section to some friends for review and sat down to start the second section.

The chirping of crickets filled my ears, my head, my soul, accompanied by the BWAHAHAHAHAHAH of the inner critic, and the absolute truth that what I was writing was total shit.

This is the first time I’ve ever hit this particular wall, and I am now fully aware of why it’s so cold and heartbreaking.  That self-doubt (I can’t say this well, my writing is crap, this story is stupid, I’m an idiot, other people will be hurt/mad/whatever) carried over into every aspect of my life.  My interactions with people were yuck, I bailed on an event I’d paid for, and tried to fall asleep at 7:30 in the evening to avoid having to think.

It was horrendous.

Today, I’m facing the reality that I will not complete all five sections by the end of November – I have no idea when I’ll complete them.  The sense of urgency to finish – to get the work into the world – has only increased, but I feel like my capacity is diminished.  I’m also taking the opportunity to thrash myself a bit for wasting all this precious time.  “You’ll never have another opportunity like this!” say the voices.  “How many people get the luxury of time between jobs to create?” say the voices. “This topic is so relevant, so timely, HOW ARE YOU NOT DONE YET?!” scream the voices. “What makes you think that what you’re saying is real?  What if you’re a delusional psycho?” whisper the voices.

I’ve had similar experiences in other areas of my life, and I have to believe the same axiom holds:

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That last bit isn’t traditional, but it’s honest.

Heart’s Fog

Reflection, Uncategorized, Writing

I haven’t been blogging much, I’ve been working on a manuscript about my experience working as a corrections educator.   I’ve started writing the narrative and it’s gone well when I’ve been able to sit down and write.  But I haven’t been writing as much as I need to, as much as I want to.  I can’t tell if I’m distracting myself, or if it’s just a phase – a flurry of activity from the world outside my writing.

I suppose this is part of why so many writers, artists, and musicians isolate themselves when they need to create.  Although I love my life and my friends and all the wonderful things around me, they intrude on my bandwidth, take away that precious focus I need to generate the good stuff.

This is an entirely new experience for me.

Most of my life the last several years has revolved around my friends, dancing, and my social life.  It is disconcerting to feel alone, to hear some small voice whispering “you could be writing,” even while I thoroughly enjoy my time with my friends.  I feel like I’m in some unknown place, surrounded by a mist that lives and breathes, parting to let me see through, but not for long.

Consumed

It's Personal, Reflection, Uncategorized, Writing

At the beginning of the year, I made the decision to get serious about writing.  I committed to pruning away activities and projects that didn’t support my goal of becoming a successful, published author.  Even though I have only myself to care for, this has still proven surprisingly difficult.  I have great capacity for work, and love taking on volunteer projects, networking, and generally spending time in my community.  The decision to step away is still working itself through, and I’m beginning to understand why intentional dedication to a craft can provoke intense loneliness.

It is hard, here in the beginning, to feel hope.  I feel alone, unskilled, overwhelmed by the process of capturing and creating experience, and uncertain about the outcome of anything.  I have no formal background in writing, haven’t read dozens of writers’ autobiographies or biographies, but I have the sense that this feeling – untethering from the familiar and retethering to the work – is something many have known.

What is surprising and sometimes frightening is that I can’t stop.  Even when I want to call someone and make plans, or get more involved in a project, or simply do something else, I find that I can’t.  I don’t want to be out late because I lose the mornings and that’s my best writing time.  I guard my time, making few commitments, and those with lots of padding so they won’t interfere with my creative space.  I keep my schedule clear so I can write when the urge hits me, I carry a notebook around everywhere, and use my phone to send notes and descriptions of dreams to myself at 2 in the morning.

This may sound familiar to some, but it is new territory for me.  I’m lucky, I suppose, my sense of urgency is manageable and I can maintain my life, even with some balance.  I’m lucky in that I’m not driven to self-destruction, or to hurt others, or to isolate myself from humanity and drink my own urine to survive.  But the iron hand does live inside the velvet glove and now I can’t go to sleep if I haven’t written.

Everyday loneliness

Creative, Uncategorized, Writing

One

The minutiae of the every day
overwhelms my being
I can’t
let
it
go.
it has no Exit
there are no signs to show it out
no words outlining its path to freedom

I am trapped by my own experience
thrashing, longing
for the simple kindness of someone
else

Two

I want to share myself with others
but there is no room
for my mistakes,
the common ugliness
anger, blame, bitterness
all part of who I am

hidden from disinterested eyes
bottled
tucked away
they get the good stuff

I live alone
with everything else

Three

There is room only for coffee shop conversations
fleeting and surface, full of humor and wit, or intensely moving stories
of suffering and beauty
no space for talk about the officemate I can’t stand,
my loneliness and self-imposed restrictions,
feeling unappreciated and overlooked, invisible

forced laughs when it gets too close to my everyday pettiness,
making sure my “attitude of gratitude” shows; that I know how good I got it.

I see the silver linings and own my feelings, not making them someone else’s responsibility
or burden

there is no place for my regularness to show itself; my not-reasonable human-ness is not-welcome.

I am caught in my own hall of mirrors, the sole reflection. My throat bulges, stretched with all the unacceptable, indigestible me

Four

“No one likes a complainer”
they say
but what they mean
is that no one wants to find out
why they complain.
the real reason
the bleakness that lies underneath

It’s too hard
to bear someone else’s daily grief
with our own so ever-present