Monthly Archives: January 2010

Conscious Encounter

“Creativity is the encounter of the intensely conscious human being with his or her world.” Rollo May

“Art is the quality that makes the difference between merely witnessing or performing things and being touched by them, shaken by them, changed by the forces that are inherent in everything we give and receive.”

“The most characteristic trait of a genuine culture is the integration of concrete, everyday experiences with guiding philosophical ideas.” Rudolph Arnheim

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A New Yorker cartoon I keep at my desk: “If at first you don’t succeed, redefine success.”

On January 2nd, I resolved to write in this blog every day of 2010. But already I missed two days. So I re-resolve to make new entries almost every day and, on missed days, I’ll make up by copying entries from old or new journals, in which I still write and draw regularly.

Creativity is all about finding one’s rhythm. I’m not in sync yet with daily blogging, though I am now administering five blogs. I’m discovering that for me there can be “blog brain,” just as there is “painting brain,” “novel brain,” or was once upon a time “baby brain.” They are deep holes of concentration and joy into which I free fall or have free-fallen. I didn’t think blogging could be that way, but with Read to Write Books it is.

Blogging can also be about finding one’s voice. In this way, it is similar to other writing forms, published and unpublished. As a writer, I’m aware of who I think my audiences are: journal/sketchbook = me; letters = friends and family; writing for business and nonprofit clients = clients’ audiences; agent queries = my best guess based on web bios; novels = trusted readers, children’s books = children and adults who are delighted by illustrated stories. The blogsphere is different in that its universal accessibility leaves me less sure of who my readers are, though I’m sure there are few at this point. I hope that number grows over time as I find my rhythm for these posts On Creativity.


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Focus comes from internal prompts, not random external. Listen.

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I learned a new word today: Howdah. It’s a carriage or seat in which people ride on the back of an elephant. It’s not one I’ll use often, but wish I could! 

Not howdy. Howdah. I was at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco with my East Bay College Fund mentee, scholar Emely Srimoukda. There was an actual howdah exhibited, as well as howdahs pictured in art on the walls. You could yell howdy! from your howdah if you had one perched on top of your elephant as you swayed down the road.

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I keep a quote by Anonymous on my desk: “Art is the giving by each woman of her evidence to the world. Those who wish to give, love to give, discover the pleasure of giving. Those who give are tremendously strong.” Right next to it a fortune cookie keeper: “If you wish to, you will have an opportunity.”

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Creation and Destruction

Picasso said, “Every act of creation is an act of destruction.” I don’t think it works vice versa. A client I work with at OneCalifornia Bank in Oakland emailed me today to say that the bank had been vandalized and a front window broken. She wanted information about replacing the large decal of the logo that I had designed. I could easily direct her to that information, but I can’t easily understand the destructive action. The bank was founded by generous, good-hearted people to improve economic opportunity and benefit the Oakland community.

I like to round out these short entries, tie up loose ends, end with an “ah-ha,” but nothing rescues this one.

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Starting Small

A new acquaintance Dani Antman comes to visit my studio and take a walk. She’s wanting to set up a studio in her home and start painting again. I tell her about “starting small,” the way a teacher of mine at the Kansas City Art Institute, Michael Meyers, once suggested: “Do whatever you can finish in the amount of time you have, use whatever you have—your name in script, for instance.” In those days I was holding down several teaching jobs and came home tired every day. I began making one-inch square, colored pencil drawings from cursive shapes. They soon demanded more from me and I gave it; I drew, fueled by the work, while listening for hours to classical music every night. One-inch drawings became six-inch grids became two-feet layered plexiglas acrylic paintings that I exhibited in my first museum competition.  

This is what we can do for one another: inspire the starting small with the belief that deeper engagement will multiply our efforts many-fold.

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Mind Clutter: A Reason to Write

Lately, my mind has been as cluttered as my closet. I needed to sort it out. Keeping up a blog was just one more thing to think about and I was failing. I had too many ideas, too much to say, not enough time, not enough conviction. 

Often it helps to approach a problem directly, to sit with my journal and puzzle it out or take a walk and listen for answers to stumble forth from the rhythm. Sometimes it’s best to sleep on it.

This morning I woke with clarity: a way to use the blogsphere to focus thoughts. The point is not whether anyone is reading this right now or not; the point is the framing that published writing requires and the satisfaction that comes from shaping thought with words. I’d enjoyed making a few posts since opening this blog in August 2008, but I wasn’t compelled to write regularly.

Yesterday, I committed to write daily about creativity. That decision begged questions: What about fiction? What about painting? Gardening? Music? Design? Sustainability? Joy? I love the broad strokes of creative process, but I also love craft and technique, details and story. I didn’t want to give up those topics, but I couldn’t effectively contain them all in one space. So rather than write fewer blogs, I would write more, more often.

Read to Write Books focuses on writing craft and close reading.

A Painter’s Garden digs into painting and gardening.

Earth in Concert revolves around creative collaboration, music, design, sustainable practices.

Wooleycat scampers playfully into children’s media.

Dennis Hysom will also contribute to Earth in Concert and Wooleycat.

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There are 364 days left in 2010, counting this one, which is half gone. That tallies to 8724  hours. Think of what we can accomplish, if we decide to make it happen. Starting today, I will use this blog to do more than occasionally share my musings. I will explore daily with you tenets of creativity as they benefit us individually and together.

On New Year’s Day 2009, I wrote lists of regrets and aspirations and copied them onto slips of paper. My husband wrote his, too. We carried the scraps out to the garden, where we burned the old in a tin can and planted the new in the earth. Yesterday, reading journal entries to rally resolutions for the coming year, I decided that, with a few updates, the 2009 list would suffice for 2010. While I’ve made progress toward my goals, so much remains to do. Perhaps you feel the same. It was a rough year. Everyone at the New Year’s Eve party I attended cheered the end of 2009. Our felt pain was relative: losing a parent or losing a job, piling on debt or plundering savings, feeling that life as we know it isn’t what we thought it would be.

I believe in doing what you love so you can do more of what you love. If the money follows, all the better. But the real payoff comes from creating opportunity and ability to engage in fulfilling work, love and care for others, enjoy life, and make the world a better place. If I’d had my way in 2009, I would have accomplished more (books, paintings, income, home repair) and healed family ills. I would have contributed more to causes and been a more active citizen. I would have kissed joy more often as it flew.

The first resolution listed for 2009 that I’ll keep for the new year is “waiting for something to happen.” It’s easy to fall into despair and creative impotence while waiting—whether for the economy to turn, an agent to respond, a child to mature, a congress to legislate. January of 2009 held great promise—Obama’s election buoyed my spirits and hopes for a changed world. But in my personal life, I was barely keeping my head above water. I lost work in my design business, fielded agent rejections of manuscripts, worried about family issues—aging parents, young adult son, and couldn’t focus on a book project about joy because I was too depressed.

Several decisions changed the course of events. Each one required action, time, and a leap of faith. A few of the most significant were:

Attended a retreat with NextNow focused on Global Coherence

Committed to a 3-person art exhibition at Falkirk Cultural Center for summer 2010

Helped move my parents into retirement living

Joined Make Mine a Million, a feisty group of women entrepreneurs

Attended an economic summit in Sebastopol sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce

Proposed teaching “Read to Write,” a 9-month fiction craft course at Copperfield’s Books—in support of the independent book store, writers and readers

Repurposed our brand “Earth in Concert” to encompass the many creative projects and services that Dennis Hysom and I offer individually and in collaboration

All of these decisions and experiences have brought new friendships, expanded thinking, greater sense of purpose, and hope for improving the world through our individual and collective small, persistent efforts.

This year, I will examine in this blog space those daily efforts, along with the occasional large, coherent bursts of accomplishment. Please join me in a discussion of cultivating the creative life and using what we discover to create positive change in 2010 and beyond.

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