inspiration

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!

 

 

 

 

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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 Two

This week was actually far more challenging. I was exhausted after a week of waking up at 5:15 am every day, and I quickly dropped my exercise, instead adding on Louise Hay’s morning meditation.

I used my morning pages much more heavily for dream work, and was having better dreams, possibly because of Louise Hay’s evening meditations. It was both impressive and frustrating that I started to need four or five pages to record my dreams in their entirety. For my second week, I was much more proactive about reading all the activities from the get go, and reading the whole chapter within the first two days. I did as many activities in a row as possible, and set my artist’s date for Thursday at the Art Institute of Chicago to see the Thorne mini rooms.

Though I was proactive on paper, I was feeling very vulnerable underneath. I was going every work lunch to Barnes and Noble since the previous week for “idea shopping,” and thus far had only managed to write a few short paragraphs based on Hozier’s “Like Real People Do.” This of course was better than nothing, but I was becoming frustrated at my lack of inspiration. I thought about Kiki’s Delivery Service and how Kiki had lost the ability to fly a broom but recovered it. This sent me down a nostalgic path of listening to the soundtrack and some of Miyazaki’s other musical pieces. My heart was filled with longing for the initial thrill I had a thirteen year old, to go on the same kind of adventure and coming of age ritual as Kiki had. The only time I really ever felt like that was when I studied abroad in Spain in college. I was inspired to look up the dialogue Kiki had with Ursula, her college artist friend who lived in the forest. It struck me how relevant the passage was. Ursula said that she used to create things without even thinking, until suddenly she couldn’t any more. Then she said she had to find her inspiration, or her reason to create again. It struck me that this was exactly what I needed. Up through high school I just had a spring of ever flooding ideas, was always inspired and stayed up nights and woke up early mornings just to write. College made me doubt my abilities, and from there my inspiration and my passion dwindled. Today, I struggle to think of anything new at all.

The combination of the Artist’s Way and meditations brought small micro-changes to my world. Some of my tweets from 2014-2015 had been rediscovered, liked and shared out of nowhere, with 9 different interactions within nine minutes on a random Wednesday morning. I was getting spots on the train and time opened up for me to draw. We got to play a board game during yesterday’s meeting and get off half an hour early. On Friday, I took on a more proactive approach and decided to go to a stationary store instead of Barnes and Noble. It was the wrong stationary store than the one I had in mind–but it was across the street from a bookstore. And in the bookstore was Elizabeth Gilbert’s book “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.” She addressed all my fears. That I was not descriptive enough, that I had wasted all my time writing and would continue to do so, that my ideas were not important enough, that my best writing and ideas were behind me, that it was too late, that no one would ever want to read my work, so what was the point? She talked about letting go of daily fears and anxieties of the past and the future, to become receptive to the ideas around us. I did not get any new ideas after reading this, but I got a new excitement about the possibility of having them. Maybe a good idea would find me after all.

I have now drawn for the first time in about a year, and done all my exercises but one: play the guitar. I’m guessing I will do that tonight or tomorrow, and get started on reading Chapter Three!

NINJA GIG WITH AMANDA PALMER!!

This time I had three more days of work. My second day back we had a two and a half hour collective meeting off site, and were due for a happy hour after. The only thing was, at 11 am, when I checked my Twitter Feed, my eye caught on Amanda Palmer’s post.

AmandaPalmer

Immediately I wanted to drop and rearrange all my plans. I couldn’t go to this work happy hour, I HAD TO SEE Amanda Palmer! For context, I’d like to backtrack to when I was fifteen. At the time I was a bit of a loner in high school who clung to what little social activity I could with the art and theater kids. At gym I hung around two alternative theater girls who seemed plugged into the music scene beyond the mainstream and American Idol exposure I was used to. They liked bands and albums like “Elevator” by Hot Hot Heat, “Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge” by My Chemical Romance, and the self-titled album Dresden Dolls. I had my mom take me to Target and bought them all. Upon hearing these albums, especially the Dresden Dolls, I finally felt like someone understood and catered to my “out there” personality. Someone finally produced art for the sake of art and created something truly unique that spoke to all the afflicted parts of my soul. There was only one problem. I was fifteen. And even though in retrospect, I realize thirty dollars is not a lot of money, at the time, I couldn’t even afford to get a ticket. Since I wasn’t that familiar with the city (I lived in the burbs), I’d have to get a ride from my mom or my friend. One time, Lindsay and I finally tried to coordinate to see the Dresden Dolls, but it was already sold out.

“Don’t worry,” Lindsay told me. “We can see them another time.”

It was too late. By the time I turned eighteen and truly thought I could afford it, the Dresden Dolls had broken up. I had missed my chance because I believed those words, I felt. I was truly mad at myself.

So you can imagine my glee and surprise when I finally saw Amanda’s tweet.

Since the band had broken up, I had only kept up with “Who Killed Amanda Palmer,” and certain aspects of Amanda’s life from time to time. I was thrilled when I heard that she married my favorite author Neil Gaiman, and they officially became my favorite celebrity couple. What were the odds that my two favorite people met and got married? I saw on Buzzfeed that she’d become pregnant, and that was amazing too. I had not really followed her later albums aside from a couple of singles. Lindsay linked me an article that said the Dresden Dolls had reunited briefly for a ninja gig in Boston, and I felt a quick flame of envy. What was wrong with me? Why didn’t I live in Boston?

“Don’t worry,” Lindsay said. “They’ll come to Chicago. It’s a big city. They can’t miss it.”

Where had I heard that one before? I wondered. I had become pessimistic too soon. But from that moment I kept an eye out. An even stranger coincidence occurred that same week when I rode up to Evansville to meet a friend for a reunion in Heartland Cafe. I hadn’t been since February. Since I got there half an hour before she did, I scoped the shop. My eye was immediately drawn to Origin Magazine, with who but Amanda Fucking Palmer on the cover. I flipped the pages hunting for the article, and started reading it. I deliberated. Should I just read the article and put the magazine back? I felt Amanda judging me. She would want me to support the magazine. But more importantly than that, I knew that I wanted to take the time to read the article and take notes on it. I knew what she had to say would be valuable to me. I scanned some of the other interviews, and found that in general the magazine had a very uplifting feel. When I looked back at the price of six dollars, I knew I was sold. I sat in the cafe, read and took notes while I was waiting for my friend. I finished reading it on the ride back. For eons I had been waiting to have something “worthy” to say to Amanda Palmer. As much as I wanted to tweet fanatically at her every day, I really wanted to save that @amandapalmer tweet for something special. I knew this was it. Her interview meant so much to me–that even someone as amazing as her could face negative attention, even she had hard days, but she chose to focus her energy on the light and the people that loved her. That women who were big in their industry were attacked at all angles, because a powerful woman is threatening. I realized more than ever that if I wanted to be an artist, I would have to be willing to endure that. And I was. Aside from grade school bullying, I don’t actually know what it’s like of course, but I am not afraid of the idea of it. If my art truly matters to be, I can’t be afraid of what anyone says about it, no matter what. I just have to have the confidence to keep creating, and focus on the people who love what I do. I couldn’t say all that in 140 characters, but I did my best. I told her it meant a lot to me, hearing her perspective as a woman getting into the arts. She “RT”ed @ me and I felt like my life was made! It was for that reason that I ended up reading her feed more avidly. It was for that reason that I saw her tweet, dropped everything, and invited Lindsay and everyone I could to go. It was for that reason that after our meeting ran late, I went to the happy hour for a half hour before Lindsay called me and yelled at me to GO NOW to stand in line for Amanda’s concert. She didn’t have to tell me twice.

“I’m giving our zine to Amanda Palmer. Do you hear me? I’m giving her our zine.”

My heart pounded. I wanted to scream. Lindsay had been preparing for the Chicago zine fest and just finished printing them out the day before the fest, on Thursday. She “stole” Mike’s car and high hitched over to Chicago. I bailed in the meanwhile and rode up to Lincoln. When I got in line I was shaking. I kept talking to people ahead of me to reassure myself, since I found out after the reserved tickets sold out. One guy gave me the address to the after party as consolation. I had to get in–right? I had been waiting for this moment my whole life. If I got turned away now, I would cry. Lindsay reminded me it wasn’t likely we would get another chance, at least for a while, given that Amanda was pregnant. So I was rubbing my hands and crossing my fingers and talking to the guy ahead of me the whole time. We were both anxiously awaiting our friends who were running late. We talked about art and essays and “real careers” and everything in between. When the lady came down the line and handed out wristbands, I wanted to cry in sheer joy. Josh (the guy in front of me) and I celebrated. We even got filmed by Amanda’s crew, asked about what it was like to get in finally. Not ten minutes before the line started moving and the doors would close, Lindsay finally arrived. We were worried she was too late, but she did end up getting one. The film crew was asking everyone if they got tickets, saying Amanda was really worried everyone wouldn’t be able to get in. I was touched by that statement. In the end, everyone did get in, even Josh’s friend who came in at the last minute.

The show was at “The Old School of Town Folk,” a nonprofit to teach kids and people music. It was a very nice venue with theater seats circled around the center stage. We landed good seats in the third row up center. Lindsay and I chatted excitedly, took photos, and kept hugging another. When Amanda finally reached the stage, it was surreal. She came in singing a charming ukulele song I had never heard before off the “Australia” album called “In my Mind.” She was very personable, asking for our requests, talking to us about how her perspective on her music changed when she became pregnant and how very strange it was to sing about abortion when she was pregnant. She told us stories about her time in Australia. She even took an hour poetry break reading with Maria Popova from Wislawa Szymborska’s “Map: Collected and Last Poems.” Maria and Amanda’s favorite line, as well as mine, was: “Ill-prepared for the privilege of living.” Beautiful. Amanda read a poem of her own during her struggles with the pregnancy, and comparing her struggle to those lost in the Germanwings plane crash in March 2015. What struck me most was the women’s friendship and close interaction. They were like two powerhouses on stage. I later found out Maria had interviewed Amanda on “The Art of Asking.” It wasn’t until this concert that I even found out Amanda had been on Ted Talk, even though I knew she’d come out with the book. We had time for a few more songs at the end before wrapping things up. Lindsay and I of course were revved to go to the after party.

We brought the two friends we’d made, Josh and Orion, to the after party. It was out of the way, and in a questionable area. But as soon as we got in to the Catalyst Studios,  we were amazed. The setting was once again surreal, with an art sculpture set up in the living room, a minibar, a buffalo head and couch, and a string of people lining the halls along the way. But no Amanda Palmer. We wandered into what looked like a ballerina studio where we anticipated the after party would be. When Amanda did finally arrive, she sat at the piano and we all crowded around her. What proceeded was an intimate, very casual setting. Amanda seemed relaxed and unwinded, as though she’d kicked off her shoes finally at the end of the day. She opened up to us, taking requests again and taking Q & A sessions in between, calling on different people with their hands raised. Someone blew bubbles, while some of the girls harmonized and sang along with Amanda. A girl played ukulele alongside her. A cat even interrupted and took the limelight away for a while. I was in awe. This was what I had always wanted. I read that Amanda created settings like this, but I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would be one of the people who got to enjoy her company. After reading her interview in Origin magazine though, it finally clicked for me. Why not me? Why not us? Lindsay and I waited in line to see her at the end. I had to hug Amanda of course, though I realized a little late that she had no prior context of me, so it must have been a little strange for her. Still, I appreciated the gesture and told her I was the one who had read the interview and commented. Her camera man, who had asked me earlier what it felt like to get into the concert chimed in and said “she must have seen you on the help line.” Lindsay handed Amanda our zine as well as her own zine on “Elsewhere.” Amanda said she would read them that night! I am not sure if she did, but even that was enough to thrill me. I could not believe she could ever possibly read something of mine unless I’d made it big and was published. Yet here I was, 25 years old at an after party with little to my name but a college publication and a paragraph on Matador Network, and there was my friend handing Amanda Palmer our zine. It was amazing to me, and I couldn’t have been happier that she was willing to give it a chance simply because we were her fans.