creativity

Artist’s Way, Week 7-Almost tossing in the towel

There have so far been two times I almost tossed in the towel during the Artist’s Way. The first time was the second week in, because I simply didn’t have the energy to wake up early enough to both workout and write morning pages. I had only just started my workout routine and resented being thrown off that path so soon and replace it with morning pages. I prioritized writing over exercise as usual though, and now I’m glad I made that decision. It is insane how after two months, my entire lifestyle has now changed, and I’ve been able to work both these things in addition to sleeping meditation.

A little more than halfway, I wanted to give up again, this time because it was the second week in a row where things felt so rushed that I wasn’t able to enoy the fruits of reflection that the exercises had to offer.

Believe it or not, I did not get much out of the collage, which from what I’ve been seeing on the Facebook, is several people’s favorite part. I managed to scrounge together a little under ten magazines, and she only gave us twenty minutes to flip through quickly and pick images that fir our life or interests. The thing is, she also wanted us to have twenty images, and in order to get that many, I had to stretch my time into thirty minutes. It struck me how appropriate one of my magazines was for this collage, and how one of them I didn’t cut a single thing. And of course being a perfectionist, even though I don’t really refer to the magazines anymore, I hate the idea of devaluing them by cutting into them, or what a person would think if I lent it to them, or if I accidentally cut out a part of an article that mattered to me. In any case, I ended up with a mostly cliched collage-love, working out, travel, excitement…the one thing I was very surprised by was how many phrases I found that matched the idea of growth (a quarter of the images surrounded just that). I was also pleasantly surprised I found things surrounding natural healing and healthy eating habits–something I’ve been working at for years.

Thanks to the exercises, I also wound up in a Buddhist temple, got to light incense in honor of what the Buddha represented, and got invited to join in a class. I was out of town on Sunday, otherwise I would have attended their Sunday service just to see what it was like. I still intend to this upcoming weekend. It’s funny because I was sad that I missed the Chicago Architectural Tour where they opened all these amazing buildings to the public for the weekend–and this temple was one of them. It’s funny because I’ve considered myself spiritual but not religious. For a while in college I was looking for a religion that fit me, and although Buddhism appealed to me (Both because I had friends who followed it and I liked that it dealt with enlightenment more than an omnipotent power. Additionally they seemed non-judgmental of other religions and more accepting overall). However when I tried to follow it in college I just felt pretentious, mainly because most of the people at my school seemed to use it as an intellectual/spiritual superiority over us uninformed non-Biddhists. I really didn’t want to join in on this or “fake it ’til I made it.” How ironic that after three years of practicing nonreligious spirituality, that circumstances would lead me back to Buddhism. It’s funny because everyone has been recommending meditation and rhis would be a supportive network to start doing that.

Crammed into a Tight Space (Artist’s Way, Week Six)

I am now officially halfway through the Artist’s Way. I am technically on the third day of week seven, but I’d like to  recap week six here. The theme was recovering a sense of abundance. This week was actually the most challenging to complete all the activities by far. Everything felt so rushed and doing it for the sake of doing it that the activities had lost their magic. For example, I had to collect five leaves and five pretty rocks. Had I been in the suburbs in my house growing up, it would have been an exploratory process of my front and backyard much like my childhood years,and I would have been able to choose. Instead, I ended up picking five leaves during my morning jog of five different shapes, some that were a bit dirty and wet. It felt more like rushing to complete homework for science. Since I am in the city, nowhere around me seemed to have rocks. I finally found five tiny grey rocks that were about as romantic as the pavement. Again, this felt like just taking the only rocks I saw, for homework.

Clearing went a little better. Surprisingly, I was able to get rid of three articles of clothing (okay, underwear, but still). I felt a little thrilled and rebellious to throw out something that was once my favorite, even though there were no holes in them. I don’t know why Julia Cameron keeps specifying articles of clothing. Living in a studio, I have minimized a lot of my wardrobe already. I did set aside a few articles of clothing to give away, but I won’t be able to until I see my friend or go to a donation center. I also cleared out some of my kitchen pantry and give away some teas I never used.

Creation-I’ve been making sweet potatoes pretty regularly for the last two weeks, so I didn’t feel like this would count as my baking activity. I decided to finally bake some spaghetti squash that I had received as a birthday present from my team lead last month (woops! I swear it was still good). However, even this felt more like a part of my regular life and responsibilities than a fun creative dessert like the kind I would make in my childhood, where I would pick a recipe from my grandmother’s cookbook and discover all the spices and ingredients my mom already had in the house.

Communication-I was actually already intending to send postcards to my friends (last month I bought them off Etsy), but I am glad the Artist’s Way prompted me to actually go through with it. Maybe next time I’ll do five different people. I did this on the airplane on my way to Minnesota, and gave myself the most time to do this activity, so I will say that this one activity felt special to me.

Of course I forgot to do the Artist’s Prayer and read page three every day. Week two was the only week I was on point with doing daily affirmations and reading page three. All other weeks where I was supposed to do daily activities, I just did on the days I managed to remember. I did manage to track all my expenses for the week however.The tracking made me behave better unintentionally, even though we’re not supposed to police.

Making changes to my home environment-I ended up double dipping this activity with my homework for the “Source Course” I have now just enrolled in. I added onto my preexisting altar, and started a new one specifically for the Source Course. I challenged myself to pick things that had never been on an altar. I picked the eucalyptus Nan-a friend I made on the train-had given me, which is especially appropriate as a symbol of healing. Next I chose a Gustav Klimt postcard of a woman in red holding a snake wrapped around her arm–symbolic of the Magician in my Gustav Klimt tarot deck. Finally, I chose the butterfly shadow box that said “Let the Miracle Happen.” I remember when I saw it in Minnesota, I was torn up about whether to get it or not, and my best friend Fatima convinced me to indulge a little. Ironically, it ended up being on sale any ways. I didn’t get to add posters to my walls like I wanted, and there wasn’t much else to change since my studio is pretty much all set.

Week seven is off to a much better start-I’ll tune you in once that’s done!

 

 

 

 

Night at the Green Mill

Last Sunday evening, I was rushing to find an artist’s date for the week. Luckily I remembered while looking for ideas the weekend before, that the Green Mill had a slam poetry night that Sunday. I checked to see if it was a regular thing, and sure enough, it was! I’d always meant to go since I moved to Uptown, and it was only a ten minute walk for me.

When I first walked in, I didn’t know what to expect. My focus was initially on the dim lighting, the hum of conversations from the booths, the people seated at the bar. I circled the bar and became frantic as I realized all the seats were taken. I gave a sigh of relief as I found folding chairs leaning against one of the tables, and sat myself at the end of the bar. Now, I was able to focus on the nostalgic feel of a bar from another era, the walls in faded golds like an old movie theater. I could truly see myself in the 1940’s. A waitress interrupted me to let me know I was blocking the waitress area, and seated me at the end of the front row tables. I got a clear view of the front stage, where a jazz band was playing beneath a “Green Mill” sign in green light up cursive letters. My heart skipped at the thought that maybe I had come at the wrong night, that the website had been outdated and this was actually jazz night. As a precaution, I asked the woman next to me if this was in fact slam poetry night. I’m glad I did, because not only did she reassure me, but she also introduced me to the scene. It turns out Julia was one of the organizers, and that this week’s theme was the “French Connection.” People from France actually flew in to participate in poetry night! I was in awe. It was nice to make a friend to talk to and laugh with, and who welcomed me to the community. Julia is a woman in her forties, with short layered hair and a smile that lights up her whole face. Her laugh is infectious, and she reaches out to touch your shoulder when she gets excited and wants to tell you something.

It was interesting because I was sitting so close to the guy next to me that I couldn’t reach into my pocket without bumping into him. I apologized and got embarrassed, and after that I could tell that he kept wanting to talk to me throughout the show. I overheard him speak french, and thought he might be a part of the French Connection. It wasn’t until the second intermission that he did. He sat down next to me and segued smoothly into conversation, which was good because I felt awkward. I found out he was a French Brazilian who had lived here in Chicago for four years, and saw him in a different light. He had side-swept hair, glasses, and a trace of a mustache on his upper lip. He also had a bit of an accent. He wants to move to a different country, and since he has a lot of friends in Africa, he thinks he will go to Tanzania and some other places. I wish I could so easily say that I was moving to a different country. After finding out I came here alone, he also added me on Facebook to let me know if he and his friends were going to any more shows, as he used to go alone too. He mentioned being nervous about his poem about the CTA, and hoping the judges were from Chicago or it might not make sense. I was confused before I realized that he was participating in a slam poetry contest.

People here were friendly in general, as during the first intermission, when the seats cleared between us, one of the girls from the open mic slid over next to me and introduced herself. She had short poofy sand colored hair, a red infinity scarf, and a lovely smile. She said she was born in France and “moved over here when I was just a tadpole.” I remember her poem was something about pink flamingos rising from the grass with their consumer farts. It was fascinating to me how many new people I was drawing in simply for existing, not ever for doing a reading. It did seem like this was a community where old timers knew all the words to the intro songs and the ending songs, and newcomers were welcomed alike.

The night was broken up into three parts: open mic poetry, French and English translation performance groups, and slam poetry contest.

Open mic opened with a “virgin” reader named Samantha. She opted to use the band, which plays along to the beat of the poem, and told them to play something spooky Halloween-y to match her poem that says Trick or Treat a lot in it. Next, a more seasoned older man with a white beard wanted to read about Chicago violence and blood on the streets. “We’re off to a great start,” the host joked. Next was a woman named Emily, also a long timer, who made a poem based on a conversation she had with a French painter who had survived the Holocaust. Among the first timers was also a girl who lived in Seattle, who quit her job and moved to Chicago because she had a dream that told her to come here. There was an African American who read about the current political state and a relationship with girl. There was an old timer Hispanic who was allowed to read two poems, both seeming to revolve around bilingual speech, love and music. There was also a funny Polish guy who asked for gypsy Fleetwood Mac polka music, as his first memory revolved around listening to Fleetwood Mac with his dad. He read about the first memory of his father, who he thought was going to heaven, hell or prison. He was worried about his boy’s first memory, but decided that either way it wouldn’t matter, because they would remember singing to Pantera, the way he had listened to Fleetwood Mac with his father.

Part Two was an overlapping performance of English laced with French, where they spoke lines between and over one another in order to do both language versions of the poem.

Part Three involved the slam poetry contest. The first guy was Zee. His words went very well with the music, as though they had rehearsed, and he spoke about his blue jeans and how “I’m leaving” the girl. Next was Bruno, who read about “Just another day in the CTA.” The third was the winner, an older man with glasses who request French cabaret music in honor of the French guests. His was very comical, about birds love making going “COO COO” and at one point he scared us all when he said he’d shoot them and go “BANG BANG  BANG.” “COO COO.” The next was called the laptop poet, speaking of meditation with an ambient music background, before he got snapped off stage. The last was a stout blonde girl who wanted French war music, as her poem concerned this time period.

In all, I’d say it was a very successful artist’s date!

 

 

Things I did during reading deprivation

While I couldn’t completely keep myself off of social media and online articles, I did refrain from reading any books or watching my typical movies.

Here’s what I did:

  • On day two my stomach hurt, so I simply cradled by pillow and stayed under the covers, doing nothing at all. It was actually quite lovely.
  • I cooked a bunch of potatoes. I haven’t cooked since March!
  • I went to a birthday party, went to a gay bar, and ended up having a meaningful conversation with my friend from Afghanistan.
  • I cleaned house by swapping all my summer wear for my fall wear. Got rid of a ton of clutter from the cupboard under the sink. The change is invisible, and yet the studio feels so much cleaner and breathier because of it!
  • I talked on the phone with my mom–per usual.
  • I jogged twice on the weekend. The weeks before I might have jogged once and went for a couple walks.
  • Made my studio nice and clean–of course I do this any ways but it’s still an accomplishment!
  • I did my Louise Hay meditations, as usual
  • I “buried” my fantasy life (what should have or could have happened in my life), so that I could let go and work with the present. I have yet to burn it, but I expect I’ll do this on the full moon.
  • I lit incense did a new moon ritual and wrote down everything I want to let in to my life.
  • I made a friend on the train, who gave me a stem of tuberoses and of eucalyptus.

This, I suspect, was the point of reading deprivation–we were meant to explore what activities or creations we could make outside of just consuming entertainment. It’s actually kind of nice!

 

Strange Catalysts (the Artist’s Way)

In “The Artist’s Way,” Julia Cameron mentions that synchronicities might begin to appear in one’s life, things might begin to change, and creativity might become unstuck. I came into this with the sole intent to revive my writing inspiration. Instead, I’ve achieved a different kind of transformation. I did receive small manifestations–from a free chai latte, to a one dollar meal (my childhood favorite of arroz con platatanos/rice with bananas), getting the opportunity to collage over my ugly notebook cover, and receiving a stem of tuberoses and eucalyptus. When I went on a spontaneous lunch adventure, I found Elizabeth Gilbert’s book on creativity, which mentioned all my fears, the need to let go of our worries so that we can be open to ideas when they come. Also at the time of trying to let go of a negative situation, I ended up accidentally getting into long conversations with the Afghanistan doormen at my apartment building, specifically on letting go of the past and just living in the moment and enjoying the present.

Even though I have not found a speck of inspiration more than when I started, I have opened myself up to mini adventures, having spontaneous conversations and making new friends. Last week I had a major revelation that the reason I was being so hard on myself was because I wasn’t perfect. Instead of recognizing that logically, I felt it deeply. It seemed so ridiculous, because no one is perfect! How could I expect that from myself? How could that be a prerequisite to being worthy of my own love? Two days later, a friend showed me a book she was reading by Brene Brown, and I knew I had hit the hammer on the head. This revelation shook me up, because my defense mechanisms of self hate were fighting back harder, to keep myself protected. I had created the defense mechanism to protect myself from the scrutiny of others, and to motivate myself to work harder to achieve. But at some point, it became detrimental because I became paralyzed. Nothing was happening.

At this time I became ravenous for the next few days, with nothing satiating my hunger. I wasn’t sure if this was another defense mechanism, or a backlash from my medication which had previously been suppressing my appetite. In my desperation, I was thinking of a way I could add more starch in my diet, to keep myself satiated. This led me to several YouTube channels and articles on being able to eat in abundance on a vegan high-carb starchy diet. So I figured–why not, I have nothing to lose. Apparently I am now going to become a vegan. This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while (I was vegetarian for 7 years and pescatarian for 1), but never really knew how to achieve that without severely limiting my options and making sure all my needs were met. Now I think I’ve found a way, and I’m going to try it. This is completely insane! Again–not a speck of writing inspiration has come into my life–but, I’m making both minor and major shifts. I’m wondering if anything else will happen, or what my life will look like at the end of the 12 weeks. While it concerns me that I’m not making any progress as a writer, I’m looking at the things I’m beginning to do- draw, play the guitar, cook again for the first time since March! Not planning a thing for my weekend and yet having long spontaneous and meaningful conversations with new friends. It might not be a lot, but something is happening.

Artist’s Way Week 4-Slip ups begin

I am the kind of person who likes to do all the exercises and activities within the required week. Sure, I’ve forgotten to do daily affirmations sometimes or had an artist’s date that wasn’t exactly pre-planned, but these were minor. This week’s mission was reading deprivation. While I was able to stay away from books and movies (movies being the hardest part for me), I was unable to stay off social media. By day 2 I already accidentally skimmed a couple online articles.  By day 3, I was looking at several online articles and watching a couple Youtube videos.Day 4 I worked late so I managed not to read by default. On Saturday, I was doing the exercise of getting rid of/donating an outfit, but since I live in a studio my wardrobe is already more limited, so instead I started going through zines. I accidentally read a couple of the entries to see if I still wanted them, and had looked at some articles earlier in the day too. On the plus side, I finally cleared out a gazillion bags from the cupboard under the sink, which was long overdue.

My plan for the weekend was to do all my chores on Saturday so that I could have my full day outing for my artist’s date. Here I had failed as well. I did a closet overhaul of switching summer clothes to fall clothes, cleared out the cupboard, did laundry and made the bed. Normally I only have energy to go grocery shopping, so I was proud of myself. However, I spontaneously went to a birthday party I’d been invited to, and didn’t sleep until 3 am. I of course didn’t wake up properly until ten, which pushed back all my plans. It took me an hour to cook (something I hadn’t done ever since I moved into the studio), went for a run, and by the time I got around to errands, it felt like I hadn’t made any progress yesterday at all. I still had to do everything that I normally would put off until Sunday. Which leads me basically to this point in time where I am writing this blog. I feel I desperately need some me time, which I haven’t really done between cleaning house and socializing. I still haven’t done my artist’s date, which I plan to do tonight.

I think this taught me a valuable lesson. My prerogative is to “get it right” each week so that I can get the maximum out of the experience. I didn’t want to miss any of the exercises or take longer than a week to do them. But honestly, from being on the Facebook group and watching Youtubers detail what they do; I learned it’s more important to just do your best. Some people skip the exercises, or take a few weeks to complete the chapters. Some people don’t even do artist’s date, and do lunch pages instead. We all have busy lifestyles. Even though the goal is to get us to put time aside for creativity, which is very much needed, we can’t always “get it right.” The experience is really for you. I may still try to “make up” for my artist’s day outing next week, but honestly, I have no desire to redo the chapter or backtrack. I’m just going to keep moving forward.

 

Artist’s Way Week Three-Childhood Memories and Girl,Interrupted

This week’s theme was the childhood creativity. As I recalled my childhood room, so many memories came back to me as I filled out the details. These were memories at the deeper recesses of my mind–not lost to me, but certainly not recalled since my teenage years. When we had to write about our five childhood treats–I suddenly remembered something I didn’t even know about myself since I was a child! Apparently I used to eat arroz con platano (rice with bananas), something which I even forgot existed. We were challenged to eat some, so on Friday I ended up going down the cafe, bought a banana for a dollar and was told to take another one. I went to a small Asian restaurant and grabbed a bowl of rice. I reached for my wallet and the lady kept saying it was okay, “Listen to me. You don’t have to pay.” So I got my lunch for a dollar! They probably thought I was low on cash for food or something, but I’m still happy about it! I also manifested a free chai latte earlier that day.

I’ve also been looking at lists of novels with important themes, in this case mental health. One of the titles I looked at was “Girl, Interrupted.” Then yesterday for some reason I was looking at a “shipping” video of Harley Quinn and the Joker, which then led me to looking at a flashback of Jared Leto’s roles over the years–one of which was Girl, Interrupted. At this point I decided I had to watch it. So, after discovering a mini nature trail next to a high school in Andersonville, hearing someone play a ritual drum, going to a Mediterranean bakery, and heading home, I found some short clips on Youtube and then found the movie itself. I was completely mesmerized by Lisa’s performance and then shocked once I realized that was Angelina Jolie. It amazed me how all the big names were in that movie–Winona Ryder, Whoopi Goldberg, Jared Leto, Angelina Jolie. I don’t even know if they were household names yet. Although honestly having seen a couple of Jolie’s later films I was actually disappointed seeing just how amazing she was as Lisa (her best performance I think), and then playing flatter characters like Lara Croft or Mrs. Smith. Either way, I thoroughly enjoyed the film. As I expected, the story humanized the girls–however I was pleasantly surprised by their bonds and friendship, and the way they helped and hurt each other. I will definitely have to read the book. After that, I talked to an Afghanistan door man below for a few hours. It was amazing to learn about his life, the country he came from, and his life values. In a way he kind of addressed my inner critic- reminding me to let go of the past, and enjoy life. While I accept that, I am also strangely resistant to that–because if I have no standards, what if I just accept mediocre work and never strive to make it better? But that critic does at some point become detrimental instead of motivational, and I think that’s why some of us get blocked.

Until next week!