Archive for the 'The Artist’s Way' Category

More Problems with the Space Time Continuum

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Last week, back before the election I wrote a post about the need to find a place for my mind, a “space that is free and uncluttered during the day” and said that I had come round to the renewed conviction that I really do have a need for a writing routine… a schedule.

The problem is, I never seem to be able to keep it, once I start it. So what good would it do to set up yet another schedule to follow, knowing I would fail yet again? And what about all those promises from God that He was going to do things? How do I factor that in? Is it me or is it Him? And how can I know the difference?

So I went to Him with these questions and He’s been answering me, though perhaps not in the way I expected.

My first realization was that I’m trying to do too much. In addition to walking the dog, daily Bible class, and the routine basic chores of housekeeping and personal hygiene, there have been all these other things that have come to my attention that I’ve been thinking I’d like to do.

Things like read the Bible through in a year by doing daily chapters; like doing a sketch a day, spending 15 minutes a day decluttering, practicing the piano every day. This in addition to taking care of the small garden I’ve inherited from my mother. It’s not enough to simply care for the two potted roses… I have to fantasize about finishing the brick patio, and doing many other things to improve the look of the yard.

Then there are the projects… the sewing things… if I could just schedule in half an hour a week. And there are the cards. And some paper-crafting scrapbook type projects I’ve been wanting to do with the Psalms. I’ll need to set aside some time to attend to those.

And don’t forget reading. I have a stack of books I’ve slowly accumulated through my readings of the various blogs… all of them waiting for my attention. If I just devoted fifteen minutes a day to them, I could get through them.

Then there are the long-term tasks about the house that need a place on the schedule — shampooing the carpet, washing windows, cleaning out closets…

And of course all the things that need to be done relative to the holidays.

Oh and baking! That’s fun. I love scones and coffee cake and cookies… I can always squeeze some of that in.

Finally, there’s all the TV I’ve started watching — six shows now, six hours a week. At minimum. But this is time with my hubby… so I can’t eliminate that.

Um…

I’m beginning to see some space-time continuum violations here as I’ve laid all this down (well, I saw them when I laid all this out last week, as well). Clearly I cannot do all that stuff. Even if I didn’t have to sleep, I wouldn’t be able to do all that. It’s… lunacy.

Plus trying to break up your day (more like shatter it) into fifteen minute increments provides NO time for any kind of substantive thinking. And I think it’d just be frazzling, having to change gears every half hour.

I think all this may be an artifact left over from my reading of The Artist’s Way  a couple of years ago with its encouragement to think of all these things you’d like to do and then go do them. That is probably not exactly what was advised but that’s the way I took it, and it’s not been good for me.

Furthermore, with all these “projects” or endeavors that I’m intending on constantly doing, I was leaving most of the materials needed to do them out around the house where I could see them and be “reminded.” Well, I was reminded all right and it wasn’t pretty: Oh yeah, I gotta do that wedding card; oh yeah, I want to scrapbook all those pictures; oh, right, I want to do a sketch today. And there’s those books I want to read. And the patio that I want to fix and the closet that needs to be cleaned, and the piano — I need to call the tuner, before it gets too out of tune again and if I’m going to do that, I’d better start playing it, too.

Before long I’m feeling anxious and condemned, wanting to do all the things on my mental list, in some way thinking I should be able to, not really accepting the fact that

THERE IS NO WAY I CAN

and just muddling my way through each day trying to do the impossible. And when I inevitably fail, I heap on the guilt.

So. I decided to make some changes.

First, I acknowledged and accepted that I cannot do all the things I want to do to.

(Yes, I know:  DUH!!!)

Second, I put away all those half-done projects, so I’m not continually reminded that I want to do them. If there’s time, I might do a card. If not. Oh well. I have a book to write. I can do cards later.

It turns out that “Out of sight, out of mind” really does work!

That alone made a significant difference.

Third, make daily writing a priority. That means, “No, you can’t check the email before you start. And no, you can’t take just a minute to check Drudge. You know it won’t end there. And just forget about the blogs ’til later. Really, what do you think you’ll find there? The powers that be will spend all year sorting through Benghazi and the Petraeus thing and you’ll likely still never find out what really happened anyway!”

I haven’t yet decided on what kind of schedule to follow with the writing itself.  I’m afraid if I don’t get in and write immediately upon getting up, I won’t do it. But my hands don’t always work right when I immediately get up. (the CREST syndrome makes them go to sleep if I try to type for long; later in the day there’s no problem)  So I’m still working on that. I think I’m going to go day to day and let the Lord lead me into the one that works best.

Four, cut back on the TV!  Tonight is my first cut: Hawaii 5-0.  Much as I like Alex O’Loughlin in the role of McGarrett, I’m finding this season’s changes annoying. I don’t like McGarrett’s relationship with Catherine (which seemed to come out of the blue), I can’t stand his mother, and Danny’s been driving me increasingly up the wall. Plus staying up for a show that in Arizona ends at 10pm results in me not getting to bed until around 11 and that leads to either a later rising time, or me be awakened by Hubby when he leaves for work and then I get shorted on sleep. Getting shorted on sleep has a direct impact in my ability to withstand the impulses of my flesh to go do whatever tickles my fancy at any given moment.

Finally, I’m going to follow Flylady’s method for establishing a new habit (work every day on the book) and according to her that takes a month of consistent practice. So I get a star for each day I go into the office and get some work on Sky done.

Today was my first day of full implementation. I got into the office at 8am, and actually did get some work done on sky. Maybe about 3 to 4 hours worth (I forgot to note the times). I did not finish my weekly household chores, but I’m hoping to do so tomorrow.

And once I publish this post I can do my stretching and then head straight to bed. And it’s not even 10 o’clock yet!

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Fun Morning at the Zoo

This morning I took my first “Artist’s Date” in a long time. I didn’t really plan to do it… kind of fell into it. Our local zoo, which is not far from our house, recently received a herd of 5 African Elephants from the San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park. There’s one large male, Mabu, two females, Samba and Lungile and the sons of Samba — Punga and Sundzu. The zoo has transformed what was once a picnic area and soccer field into a large elephant habitat with a mud wallow, termite hills, swimming pool and wading stream. We’ve been watching the construction now for a couple of years as our daily walking path goes right by it. Finally, now, it’s finished.

The grand opening is to be tomorrow, but starting last Sunday, they have been holding a members-only preview. This morning I had a doctor’s appointment near the zoo, so decided that afterward I would go to Starbucks (also on the way to and from home) for a mocha and a scone and then head over to the zoo with my new camera.

It was awesome. The lion was out, and in the perfect position and lighting (see above). And the new Expedition Tanzania enclosure is wonderful and all the elephants were out.

Here’s Samba and Sundzu, the latter having breakfast.

Here’s Punga, Sundzu’s older brother. See his little tusks growing in? He seemed to like to throw hay on his back…

And finally Mabu, the giant male, who likes to eat branches and sticks and has already pushed over one of the trees and then broke it apart. That’s one of the “perks” of having an area with elephants in it if you’re some other kind of animal. They clear out paths and make the forests less congested…

Altogether I took 95 picture, just haven’t had time to go through and pick out the ones to keep and do the necessary editing and resizing. But what a fun morning, it’s been!

Let’s Try This Again

Well, what can I say? Even once a week seems to have become an impossible goal for me to meet with regard to blogging lately. It didn’t help that I was sick again.

Last time (before Thanksgiving)  it was some sort of digestive flu thing. This time (after Thanksgiving) it was a Perfect Storm of a cold. I still have the last dregs of its symptoms even now at day 12. 

The timing was perfect though. The first two days, when I was still not sure it was a cold, I had to drive my mother to the doctor for a white blood cell stimulating shot. I did that wearing a mask. Saturday, when I usually take her to the store, it turned out she didn’t need to go, which was a good thing because symptoms had begun by then and I don’t think the mask would’ve been up to containing them. Sunday was unbelievable. I could barely function for the sneezing and nose running. My hubby has it now. I hope and pray I won’t get it again. I don’t think I can unless the virus mutates…

Anyway, between that, and trying to catch up on the catching up I was doing when the cold hit, my time and energy for blogging have been more at a premium than ever. And the last time I worked on Sky was last Tuesday. I am at least continuing to move along with The Artist’s Way. I’m starting Week 10 today.  Though I have yet to complete today’s Morning Pages, nor did I do an artist’s date last week (unless wandering around Bookman’s Used Books for an hour looking at books counts) (I guess I can say it does). I did none of last week’s tasks — we were to read our morning pages for the first time since starting them, highlighting insights and actions. I only got the first week’s worth read and never got back to it.

And believe it or not, I’m still fighting about writing the pages. I don’t think I like having to write 3 pages whether I have anything to say or not (although I do always seem to come up with something). And then later, when I do have things to say, there’s no space in the journal that I’m using (specifically designed for morning pages, with three page increments marked out and quotes from the topics of each week’s reading used to embellish the pages) so I have to add overflow pages…  On the other hand, I’m kind of thinking that just the process of writing three pages of stream of consciousness might well be beneficial, just not in the way one would think.

God seems to do be doing a lot with me  along that theme lately… That the purpose in things done or things that occur is not what people see, or what I see but something else entirely. That God’s way of molding us into the image of His son is not anything like man’s way would be (not that man could even do it, but we seem to think he — we — can). That the sufferings we endure change us in ways we can’t really perceive and maybe can’t even imagine, and certainly are not changes we would be able to work in ourselves no matter how much we might want to.

That’s partly come out of the things I’ve been learning from The Artist’s Way.  I think I’ve mentioned that I’ve been highlighting, underlining and writing in the wide margins of the book’s pages as I’ve read and Week 9: Recovering a Sense of Compassion was heavily marked in.

Dare I save further comment on that for tomorrow? Well, one of the “guidelines” I’ve been following lately is “Try it and see.” So I will.

And hopefully I’ll be back to write some more tomorrow. Here’s a teaser, the first paragraph from that chapter:

“One of the most important tasks in artistic recovery is learning to call things — and ourselves — by the right names. Most of us have spent years using the wrong names for our behaviors. We have wanted to create and we have been unable to create and we have called that inability laziness. This is not merely inaccurate. It is cruel. Accuracy and compassion serve us far better.”

 Those who know me or have read this blog for any length of time will recognize not “laziness” but “indisciplined” as my term of choice for why I have been unable to create.  Which is perhaps just another word for the same thing, and just as wrong…

I’m Baa-ack

At least for today. And look! The falling snow is back, too!

Thanksgiving was a whirlwind of activity for me. Our son and daughter-in-law came to visit, we had a fine time. We got a new bed for them, which was delivered the very day they arrived. Next morning they and my husband ran in the annual Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot cross country race while  I cooked turkey. We ate, cleaned up, played a board game, walked the dog, visited, worked on cars, on scrapbooking, ate more, walked the dog some more… all over the course of the three days they were here.

Anyway, I haven’t done anything with The Other Side of the Sky now for almost a week, though I was really starting to get on a roll before the holiday. Instead of 1 hour a day, I decided to do two hours a day where I just made myself go into the office and if nothing else, sit there listening to music.

Then I put on my bulletin board above my desks my Rules of the Road, gleaned and amended/adapted from The Artist’s Way (I’m currently on Week 8 and haven’t missed a day of morning pages, though some of them were not the full three pages; I’ve even managed a couple more artist dates):

RULES OF THE ROAD

 In order to be an artist, I must:

  1. REBOUND!
  2. Show up at the page. Use the page to rest, to dream, to try.
  3. Fill the well by caring for my artist.
  4. Set small and gentle goals and meet them.
  5. Pray for guidance, courage and humility.
  6. Remember that it is far harder and more painful to be a blocked artist than it is to do the work
  7. Be alert, always for the presence of God leading and helping my artist.
  8. Never abuse my artist by judging harshly my initial creative forays into a work. It is insane to measure the baby I’m giving birth to against a full-grown adult.
  9. Remember that my Father loves me and has promised to provide everything I need to do the work HE has called me to do.
  10. Remember that it is my job to DO the work, not judge the work!

Father, I will take care of the quantity and I will trust You to take care of the quality.

 These have been very helpful. Especially the “Set small and gentle goals” rule. If my goal is “read through yesterday’s pages” that works. But occasionally I forget and give myself a goal of “finish working through the plotline for chapters 1-4”.  Then I wonder why I don’t want to go in to the office, and why when I do go in, I can’t get anywhere… because I did not set a small and gentle goal I knew I could meet.

Anyway, I’ve also added a sort of progress bar to my side bar. It’s just a note, really, because my blog template apparently doesn’t support progress bar types of widgets (well, it accepted the thing, but showed me already done. A wonderful image, which perhaps I should keep. We could call it “My Progress in God’s eyes”:  already complete!

However, ahem, that wasn’t really what I had in mind here. Anyway, it’s up there right under the search box. I’m hoping to update it on the days that I work.

TAW – Artist Dates

TAW is short for The Artist’s Way, and the picture here is one I took on my artist date to Reid Park. I’ve been moving along through the course, and have now done four official artists dates with another mini date thrown in. I was planning on going to the zoo last week, but got derailed when I got sick.

The other dates? The first involved going to Target for stickers, crayons and other fun stuff in the arts and crafts area… Julia Cameron’s contention is the our artist is a child and we should attempt to do things that the child in us would like. She suggested the sticker outing. I also found some cool scallop edged chipboard books that I’m going to use for a project recording my different dates — for 99 cents!  What was fun was going to the store for silly things, not really knowing what I was after, just going and looking for fun stuff and then buying it.

That element of frivolity and no direct goals seems to be what’s most fun for me at this point. My second date was the one I already wrote about to Reid Park. The third was making shell cookies.  That one turned out to be a disaster.

Awhile back I came across a blog post of Lisa Spangler, one of the Hero Artists, about these cloud cookies she’d received from a friend — butter cookies cut in the shape of clouds with their bottom edges drizzled with chocolate.  She did a fun little video of eating them. I thought they were really cool and immediately wanted to make some. The cloud cookie cutters were sold at a website called Herriott Grace, where the man uses salvaged wood to make various objects for cooking, like spoons, bowls, plates, cake flags, etc. And also the handle for the cloud cookie cutter, the tin portion of which was made for him by a tinsmith. Anyway, they were all out of cloud cookie cutters when I looked, so I put in my email to be notified. The cutters were, ahem, $15 each. Pricey, but they were so fun and I was lusting.

A few months later I got the alert that they had some cookie cutters so I hurried to the website, clicking on the “buy it now” button only to discover that for some reason I couldn’t. After awhile I noticed a message that the cookie cutter had been purchased by someone else and there weren’t any more. Bummer! 

Then I went back to the original page and the cutter was still for sale. So I clicked on “buy it” again and this time… I could. Hmm. So I went on through the process and finally we got to the point where they added the shipping and handling. $15!  So the cookie cutter cost $15 and the shipping and handling cost $15 (the store was in Canada) and that made something like $32 for a cookie cutter the size of one’s hand. Well, the cookies were cool, but not THAT cool. So I backed out… and suddenly realized that’s probably what happened to the person who’d come before me.

I decided to see if I could find some cloud cookie cutters locally and went to Ace Hardware where they have lots of tin cookie cutters. No cloud cutters. But they did have a shell. And really, I love clouds but shells are cool, too. So… I bought a shell cookie cutter. For 69 cents.  LOL

Anyway, after all that I decided that it would be fun to make an artist date out of making those cookies. Well, things happened that day and instead of being able to use the afternoon — as I’d expected when I took out the butter in the morning to soften it — I had to quickly mix the dough around 4pm. Then it didn’t work right — way too dry and crumbly, impossible to “pat into a disk” — and I discovered that I’d misread the recipe and instead of 3/4 cup I was supposed to have used 3/4 pound. So I took more butter out, softened it in the microwave, mixed it into the dough, but it was still weird. Hoping the next step of chilling it would do the trick, I patted (with the help of plastic wrap to keep it together)  it into a disk and went to walk Quigley and then do Bible class.

So it was sometime after seven when I got back to it. I couldn’t put it off because the next day I was going to have to get up at 5:30 to take my mother to the hospital to get her portacath.  So I just had to get it done. Well, chilling the dough did not help. When I tried rolling it out, it just crumbled, so I had to break it up and add milk, flour was everywhere, Quigley kept trying to eat the dough bits that had fallen on the floor. I was NOT having fun!  😦  But I got them baked, and then it was time to do the chocolate. That went no better than the other part. I finished them at 10 pm, completely wiped out, so tired I wasn’t even interested in trying one of the cookies. They did turn out to be pretty good. 

So that date was a disaster. In retrospect I realized I should have just abandoned the whole idea of trying to get them baked that day when things first went off from my plan and instead, should’ve put The Scarlet Pimpernell into the DVD player and done the movie date instead.  It was a great learning experience, though, as to how one can make something that is supposed to be fun into not-fun. The time pressure I think, is the biggest thing. When you have to get it done, even though you’re tired and no longer want to do it, it is no longer fun. Funny because the whole point of the dates is NOT to be in that kind of situation.

Thus my next date, a week later, was to go to Starbucks with my journal, eat a pumpkin scone, drink a latte and write in my journal. Afterward I wandered over to Office Depot to use my rewards card, no special anything in mind, and yet I found all sorts of things I needed, or just wanted and used the whole amount on the card.  It was like discovering treasure while you’re out for a walk. That one was like the Reid Park date where I came home light hearted and happy. Excited that I’d used the reward for things I needed, and had such fun doing it. I even bought a pad of post it notes, which I do not need, with a picture of a yellow lab puppy sitting on a chair. I have tons of plain post-its in my office. I bought the puppy because he was cute and made me smile and felt like a “kind thing” to do for myself. Which is what The Artist’s Way encourages. Do you your morning pages and one kind thing for yourself a day.

 He still makes me smile.

Under the Weather

Why do they call it feeling “under the weather” when someone is feeling sick? Well, let’s see. I can google that… hmm. Turns out the phrase originated in the 1870s and is believed to have been a seaman’s reference to the weather deck on a ship, the topmost deck most exposed to the weather. When they were sick they would rest below the weather deck in their quarters. So says idiomSite. I would add that in bad weather they might also rest there, and in really bad weather most of them would not be feeling well at all.

So. Glad I got that straightened out. It’s a good term then for my latest foible. Last Thursday at 2am I awoke suddenly feeling awful. Hurried to the bathroom, stayed there an hour, but nothing happened except I continued to feel sick. The next morning I still felt bad and figured I should take it easy, using the BRAT diet, but even that was difficult to eat more than a few bites of. At first I thought it might be a result of exposure to my son, who, as I mentioned in a previous post, had come down with a viral infection about ten days before.  Later, I recalled that the side effects of the new prescription for megadose Vitamin D I’d just started taking included nausea, sleepiness and headache. So which was it? Why would I care? Because tomorrow (Monday) I needed to be taking my mother to her second chemo treatment. If I’m sick, I can’t be around her. Well, I called the Nurseline today, and the nurse said that we have to assume I’m sick and someone else would have to take her. But not my husband, who might also be contagious,  just not showing any symptoms.

I called the Pharmacist about the side effects, and the weekend shift person was aghast to think I would be taking so many units and surely that would have more intense side effects. On the other hand, the pharmacist who went over it with me knew all about the recently changed Vitamin D levels and the new treatment for deficiency involving megadoses, and said the old 400IUs was obsolete.

So. Confusion reigns again. The only one who knows anything is the Lord. So after trying to figure out what to do with far too little information for more time than I should have, I finally gave it up and turned it all over to the Lord. My mother would have to find another ride and it turns out she has: the neighbor has agreed to take her. Hopefully she will arrange for the neighbor to bring her back as well, as I urged her to.

So that’s been the Distraction of the Week. But yesterday I decided to stop letting circumstances derail me as they have. In some of the Artist’s Way stuff I read about the notion of having a “studio hour”, wherein the person would go into her studio for an hour every day if only to dust and organize. So I decided to have an office hour. I just have to go in and be there. If only to dust and organize. I cannot however, read blogs.

Actually the blog reading has dropped way off thanks to the tool introduced by The Artist’s Way last week (Week 4): Reading/media deprivation. We were to attempt to refrain from reading for the entire week. I failed miserably — it was during the election after all and we had close races locally. But the exercise has shown me not only how much time it takes but how addictive and really waste-of-time it’s been. So for now I’m cutting back.

And, instead of telling myself I have nothing of interest or importance to write about in a blog post, I told myself to just do it and let it be whatever it is rather than trying to judge it’s worth. That’s Rules of the Road number 9:  “Remember that is it my job to DO the work, not judge the work!”

Thus you have a post to read today!

TAW – Basic Principles

I continue to be amazed and excited by the way God is using the material in The Artist’s Way to stimulate thinking and encourage me in operating more freely in the creative part of my soul. The way He’s leading me through this, drawing my attention to parallels between what’s in the book and what’s in the Christian life, then providing confirmation, sometimes almost word for word in Bible class is really exciting.

Today (Sunday) I begin Week 2, which is called Recovering a Sense of Identity.   (Week 1 was Recovering a Sense of Safety).  Week 2 focuses on the things which will come in to attack and hinder the concepts taught and gains made in Week 1. One of the tasks for this week is to read through daily the “Basic Principles” that were listed on page 3.

One of the things I’ve been doing as I move through the course is to make it mine. When I first got the book, brand new from Amazon, I was reading it at the dining room table and drinking iced coffee. Barely had I started when I set the glass down wrong and it fell over, the entire contents flooding the book. After picking off the ice cubes, I mopped up the mess and spent a good amount of time sliding pieces of paper towel between all the pages. Yes. ALL the pages. There is not a single page untouched by coffee and some have a delightful, distressed look about them. At first I was dismayed and asked the Lord if this was some kind of sign. Was I not to read it after all? Instead, I got a laughing sort of thought: “Now it’s no longer ‘precious’ and you can feel free to write in it.”

Ahhh!  Very true. So I have done exactly that — underlined, highlighted, circled, starred, commented in the margins, crossed stuff out and replaced it with other stuff. Thus, I have amended the Basic Principles to my own liking, (You can find the original HERE) and I share them with you now:

Basic Principles

1. Creativity is a God-given part of the soul, bestowed for our blessing and benefit.

2. The Bible is full of songs, poetry, imagery. The book of Job was originally performed as a play. Jesus told stories in his teachings – the parables. Both David and Moses composed melodies and songs. David danced in the street as he worshiped the Lord. We are commanded to sing praises to the Lord, to “make” melodies. Angels sang for joy when God made the universe. God is the one who made flowers, birds, sunsets, the sea, clouds, mountains, lakes, trees.

3. God is the only one who creates out of nothing, but we echo His creative aspect in creating new things out of the materials He’s placed around and in us.

4. He has made each of us unique, with unique and specific creative gifts that come with the desire to use them. Sin, lies and distortions stop us.

5. He has a specific will and destiny for every person – for the unbeliever to be saved, for the believer, a specific journey or calling in which to glorify Him, a calling which no one else can fulfill.

6. He has given me creative gifts to be used for His glory and my blessing.

7. Part of using those gifts involves nurturing and encouraging them through filling the well with imagery and experience, and giving them time to be practiced.

8. Refusal to encourage my creativity and provide material for it to play with is a refusal to walk through the open door of operating in the gifts He’s given me.

9. When I open myself to exploring the creative part of my soul, I open myself to discovering and living in the full person God has made me to be, and to learning more about Him. He is the Great Creator and He is in me.

10. Functioning in and nurturing the creative side of my nature is as important as functioning in the logical, orderly side.

11. Why wouldn’t I want to open myself to His leading me into increasing creativity?

12. We must love ourselves before we can love others and in loving ourselves we must know who we are. As part of tending our own vineyard we nurture our creativity, for it is a vehicle by which we glorify Christ, as much through the process of living in it and enjoying it, as through whatever it produces.

13. Special word from Bible Class today (the day I typed this up for the first time): Some people who would never walk into a church or listen to a message will read one of my books. Or read my blog. And I am able to continue to witness to others through the art of card making.


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