{sitting down to get to (creative) work}

I've been working on entries and realized I needed to get this burst of advice out, first, before I can go on in my narrative. Oh, I've been feeling so wonderful and happy and creative lately, and hope to pass these feelings along to you! 

me, sitting down to sketch for a new painting.

“There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t, and the secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write. 

What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance. “

Steven Pressfield, The War of Art


Sitting down to work is, for me, the hardest part. 

Once I sit down, things flow. I may hesitate a bit, or feel some resistance, but am working — paint on my fingers, sketches drawn, pieces created. 

(For more on resistance, I really do recommend Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. It is one of my top books on creativity.)

On some days, even getting up can be a challenge. When we’re not feeling well, or are blue, or may be sore, we snuggle down into a comfortable position, perhaps in blankets or on a couch, and don’t want to move an inch. Perhaps work has been extra frustrating, or that drive home has sucked up the last of our energy. And when we’re in these periods of low energy, whether physically or emotionally, the last thing we want to do is get up and make art. 

I know, for me, it’s a battle of wills — that is, me, the artist, and me, the woman with FMS. I want to do things. I want to get up and work in my journal. I want to throw paint on that big canvas I haven’t even taken out of the bag after three months. But the idea of getting up is difficult because it means moving and an outpouring of energy I’m afraid I don’t have. And when this happens a few days in a row, we’re apt to get angry at ourselves for not “doing more.” 

There’s the urge to rationalize; I can work over the weekend. I was tired and couldn’t get up. I had too many things to do. 

Then there’s the urge to blame someone else. Anyone close to us can become the reason we didn’t get to do all those creative things we were planning on doing — others impose on our plans and we jump at the opportunity to get out of working on something, only to regret it later. 

Then there’s the urge to simply be angry with ourselves once we take a moment to look back — either prompted by catching sight of our creative space in the corner of our eye or someone we see online. 

And suddenly, we wonder why we didn’t get up in the first place. 


“So you see the imagination needs moodling — long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering.”

 Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write


If You Want to Write is another of my favorite books on creativity, and on those days when I don’t seem to make it to my creative space, this quote calms me. It’s one of quiet reassurance, that maybe, just today, I did all my creative work in my head.  

Do you remember daydreaming as a child? Do you still find your mind wandering to color or image or far-away lands? What would our creative dreams be without those dreamed up while awake, prompted by a color or image or beautiful piece of fabric? 

When it comes down to it, if we were all action, all the time, we’d soon run out of things to craft and paint. Instead, we’d be moving, moving, but never really saying anything at all. 


“It’s vital to establish some rituals — automatic but decisive patterns of behavior — at the beginning of the creative process, when you are most at peril of turning back, chickening out, giving up, or going the wrong way.” 

Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit


I think Twyla Tharp says it best. Without a ritual, without that push against resistance, we’re more apt to let the days pass without paying any attention to our journals and paint brushes, markers and scraps of paper. If each time you make a cup of tea, you sit down to write, then soon, you’ll easily make tea and write. If you get up and walk across the room, you’ll be more apt to sit down and get to work. 

Or get to play. Whatever it is that brings you joy, you simply need to get up, walk to your creative space, and take a seat. 

{one united moment}


Ten years ago, I was a senior in high school sitting in first period consumer ed with a teacher who’s name I can’t remember — she was seven months pregnant, with shoulder-length brown hair and a soft pink sweater. She was sitting in the back of the classroom while another student gave a presentation when the door opened and a boy poked his head in. The boy with the poster board stopped, and we all turned toward the interruption. 

His news was of the first crash, in Washington, D.C.

It’s amazing that, of all my days in high school, or even that half year, this is one day I can remember with almost perfect clarity — sitting in the cafeteria to watch CNN, the way the classroom felt cooler because my history teacher had turned off the lights and left the TV on, our English teacher refusing to postpone a quiz because she didn’t want this to be a huge mark in our lives. At the time, we couldn’t understand her, but now, I can see how that little slice of normal helped ground all of us. 

We all watched CNN almost obsessively for weeks; I can remember it being on in the background at friend’s house. 

Last year, I was at Jun’s apartment. I’ve never been one to watch those programs about what happened, reflection upon reflection on an event burned permanently on my retinas, but Jun had been in Japan when it happened. It was almost as though it isn’t as real for her as it was for me, hearing my Japanese teacher talk about her son escaping by sliding down a stairwell, wall collapsed down making it easier. She watches the programs because that is as close as she’ll ever get. 

And even though I was miles and miles and lightyears away, tucked into my high school in Chicago, I felt like I, too, like the rest of us, was there, if only for one united moment. 


{dream-spinning into reality}


Edge of Reality; 10"x8" acrylic on canvas


“The poet’s pen/…gives to airy nothing/A local habitation and a name.”

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (act 5, scene 1, lines 15-17)

I’m reminded of dream-spinning, of the ability to create something from nothing. We are, as creative beings, conjurers of magic, giving that which exists only in our minds — loose ideas, emotions, memories — a name, a representation in the physical, through word and song and paint and pen. 

And how are we to define this “reality” we live in? Aren’t our dreams, while we’re in them, as real as daytime? What separates that fiction from the fact we live in? I’m drawn to the idea of  ‘cold, hard reality,’ that place we must return to when we dream too much, when people say our feet have left the ground. Why? What marks this reality as the one that matters, over the one we dream? And aren’t we allowed to escape into the thoughts in our heads? 

If I can take these thoughts, these bits I think, and give them voice, give them, as the quote suggests, a place — a physical place — and a name, then does that make them real? Or does me thinking them make them real?

What happens when we hit the edge of reality, where one fades into the other, the magic floating in that rift? Do we, like the early explorers believed, simply fall off the edge of the world in the dark, swirling abyss of — what?

I think that sitting down and showing up and crafting that magic with our hands is one of the most amazing things in the world. I feel it when I make journals — when I take paper and thread and board and create a book that someone can hold and explore in — when I do paintings — a white canvas transformed into a message — when I take a blinking cursor and craft words in an order that says something

Think on this today. Give an “airy nothing” a solid place in reality. It’s the first step in living your dreams. 


{the wind of passing footprints - journal inspiration}


Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved unicorns. They decorated my childhood bedroom in way of a border running the walls, in pictures and drawings and stuffed animals. Books bore them on the cover. And yet for all this, the image that sticks out most in my mind is that of the Lady Amalthea clinging to the cliffs just under Hagsgate castle, afraid of the sea; she has forgotten she is a unicorn at heart, a creature of rare beauty and grace and magic. 

I’ve always loved The Last Unicorn, but it wasn’t until a few months ago that I actually picked up the novel and read it. And oh, how beautiful a story it is! 

I found an illustration in a magazine to celebrate the novel, and knew it was for me. I clipped it and put it in my journal. And as I continued to work, to play and paint and doodle, I found a small image of a woman’s feet in water. 

I flashed to the Unicorn, backing up, ready to take her fate. 

The unicorn and the Red Bull stood facing each other at the arch of the bow, and the unicorn’s back was to the sea. The Bull moved in slowly, not charging, but pressing her almost gently toward the water, never touching her. She did not resist him. Her horn was dark, and her head was down, and the Bull was much her master as he had been on the plain of Hagsgate, before she became the Lady Amalthea. It might have been that same hopeless dawn, except for the sea. 

How many times in our lives have we faced our own Red Bulls? Those fears that grip our hearts and take over, squeeze until our chests hurt and can’t take in another breath? Let someone or something in our lives steal our strength and bravery until all that is left is a beauty with her head down and horn darkened by her own lack of belief in her magic?  

Oh, darlings, I’ve been there. The process is gradual. You don’t feel it happening until you wake up one morning and wonder who, exactly, you are, and how did this great beast get in here, trapping you between it and the wall? 

Yet she was not altogether beaten. She backed away until one hind foot actually stepped into the water. At that, she sprang through the sullen smolder of the Red Bull and ran away along the beach: so swift and light that the wind of her passing blew her footprints off the sand. The Bull went after her. 

It may have been only her hooves, but she was woken up. You see, even when we feel powerless, when we feel there’s no magic left within us, when we feel unworthy and can feel that sea swelling around our feet, the foam rising over the skin of our calves, we’re reminded that there’s nothing to be gained by going into the sea. Others have been trapped there, seen only in the crest of the waves, the foam of the sea, specters and warnings of what can happen. 

So the next time you feel beat, think of the Unicorn. She fights for love, for the fate of the rest of her kind, for prophecy, but mostly, she fights for herself. 

{comfortable, lived in, & well-worn}


Despite having my desktop set up in my room as a “work space,” I often find myself slacking off while sitting there, projects that would have taken an hour eating up more and more time as I chat, surf, and start going through the stacks of tea cups and Diet Coke bottles that litter the “empty” half. There are some interesting things down there, including Important Papers, and then I’m distracted by them and work kind of….flitters away. 

If you’ve been following me since my move in October, you’ve heard me talk about The Cafe That I Go To. As a former Starbucks barista, I’d been conditioned to go there, or any other chain coffee house, but then I found this one, and wow, does it feel comfortable. For one, none of the chairs really match. There are little pillows on them (and my feet are up on the table’s other chair, the pillow comfy under my bare, clean feet). 

This is where people come to read a book or work on schoolwork. Being so close to Arizona State University at Tempe, there are always students leaning over tables highlighting photocopies or discussing group projects. But you’ll also find the professors in here with heaping stacks of essays to grade (or perhaps that’s just the TA?). There will be moms and children or just friends chatting. Yes, there are more MacBooks than anything else (and I feel like I’ve just been given a seat at the Big Kid’s Table with my “new” one). 

The thing is, no one is really here for a quick cup of coffee. I don’t think most people even get coffee — tea is the norm. No, here, everyone is camped out, their tables littered with all they need, books to reference, empty cups from the last time they got a refill, newspapers, cell phones, notebooks. We’re here for the Long Haul, ensconced at our tables and connected to the very walls with power cords snaking to expanded outlets. There are board games and random old books you can borrow, decks of cards, even a dictionary.

Everything is lived in, comfortable and worn away at the edges, a place where you become a regular after your first visit. 

I know the baristas here, as well as the woman who owns the place. And her sons. And grandson. And husband. It is one of those places were we’re all here to get things done, to belong and enjoy. Fridays, a jazz band plays. Saturdays, it’s game night. 

And for some reason, whenever I come here and unload my bag, put my notebook and markers and tape on the table, open my laptop, get out my cell phone, plug in my headphones to listen to classic rock, I melt into the chair and everything becomes so open and easy, I may simply give up on living in my apartment and just stay here. 

It is so rare, these days, to find a place that just flows with zen. There aren’t many ads. There’s art everywhere. No corporation breathing down your neck, just a family and a bunch of kids who are smart and kind and good at their jobs.  

Makes me wonder why the rest of the world can’t be like this. 


A few post-entry notes: 

1. I have added a drop-down link up in the navigation bar to the entries posted to the newsletter. I figured it would be nice to have a little archive of the essays I write (mostly) weekly and send out, as I may soon expand it to being more often (an opt-in option, rest-assured). 

2. I am currently Re-Aligning my website and have decided to do this in real-time. Which means you get to experience the changes as I make them. It may be fun. It may be difficult. But it's something I knew I was ready for (more on this tomorrow). 

{losing our balance}


I think I’m in a much different mindspace than I was when I began working on a blog post this morning. There is nothing more re-aligning than getting out -- away from deadlines and issues and your comfort zone, whether it be a favorite chair or your cubicle at work. We may believe we need to work all the time in order to make more, accomplish more, be more, but that isn’t true. 

At all. 

What we need to do is cultivate the relationships around us. Take a day off to spend it wandering with a friend, eat dinner while telling stories and laughing, drink a cold one and watch crap telly under a shared blanket. For all the digital world has to offer, all those matters of prestige and popularity shown through Followers and Likes, it doesn’t mean a thing when you sign off the computer and get back to who you are

Maybe we’re all losing our balance, one hand on the wheel while our eyes are checking emails on our phones. Which isn’t to disparage phones -- I can go days without actually touching a computer for more than editing video or typing longer pieces (though I greatly prefer writing by hand in brightly-colored composition books with a fountain pen), yet feel no less disconnected than when I’d spend days upon days in front of a screen. What relationships are being formed, there? 

I do have a great many friends I know as letters on a screen. But I no longer need to be tied down to a computer in a room, sheltered from such amazing concepts as sunlight and grass and the sound of cars on a nearby road. I can be out there, hiking a mountain or listening to a radio program in the gym and be just as connected. 

Recently, when disparaged about enrollment numbers and bank account balances, I realized something: I can’t work a regular job. And I don’t think I really want to (I’ve had enough time in Cubicle Land, thank you!). Fibromyalgia may keep me from finding and keeping that soul-sucking “normal” job I need to pay all my bills and such, but here’s the thing:

What would I be doing differently if I weren’t filling my days with writing and art? Would I be making more money, it magically appearing from between the couch cushions? Or would I be exactly where I am now, except a bit less happy, less connected, and so bottled up inside myself, I wouldn’t have any idea how to connect. 

This week, I wrote damn near an essay on my life, now. On friendship and what it means to me. And I was surprised not only by the people who replied that I had no idea I’d touched in some way, but by those I thought I was friends with who said not a peep. I like being surprised. I like doing things that are so frightening, any response is a good one. I like sitting and chatting and connecting and being. I want to do more than play in a race against other, big-name artists and writers, and let things that happen on this screen get to me so much. 

So I’m going to make my job. I am going to do it to the best of my ability. And that is it. Nothing more, nothing less. I want to sit at the end of my life and know I’ve lived a good life, all the while standing up for myself against those who just don’t understand. 

{capturing a glimpse of the ideal you}


This all began with a photograph.

I have never truly considered myself beautiful. Pretty, maybe, but not beautiful. My face has scars from an acne-filled adolescence (and 20’s, to be honest, as I’ve never been completely blemish-free). My eyes slope a bit. I have glasses. My top lip curves my mouth into a frown, caused by my younger self playing under a table on vacation and hitting it on the naked metal edge when I came back up to the surface, severing the muscle that holds it down. I haven’t been hugely popular with the guys, and never really had any aspirations to be a beauty queen.

Aging happens gradually when we’re there every day. I still, at times, feel like a college student -- all those freedoms and growing responsibilities -- instead of a woman in her late 20’s.

(And oh, does it hurt to admit that!)

I’ve always felt like a kid pretending to be an adult. There are circumstances in my life that have kept me from some rights of passage, such as getting my own apartment (lasted a few months), having a steady job (part-time only, and only with poor health as a result), going out with friends my age (most of my friends are older than me!). And so, I’ve always felt like an impostor in an older body. I’m blessed with that sought-after You-Look-Younger-Than-You-Are appearance, and I don’t know if that’s genetics or an outward projection of internal feelings.

I spoke last week about striving to be an Ideal You, and when I saw this photograph, I had to stop and look. 


How can that woman possibly be me?

She has the beauty I’ve always wanted. The age and experience in hazel-green eyes. Her hair actually looks good. Brilliant, even. Make-up is just perfect -- not too much, but just enough.

Even a week after finding it, I still find myself looking at the photograph, trying to find some trace of myself in the image. In all honesty, it isn’t a photograph -- it is a still from a video I filmed a few weeks ago, just a random spot I paused on to run from the room for a reason I can no longer remember. But I remember walking back into the room, catching the preview window in the corner of my eye, and feeling my breath catch. 

Now, when I’m ‘faking it ‘till I make it,’ I know that I’ve already made it, and on those days when I feel silly-young or out of my depth, I can just glace over and know reaching my Ideal You isn’t a level you reach and maintain, but one you hit, on your amazing days, and strive for on your lowest ones. 

{digging to figure things out}


This is part one of a series of posts I’ll be sharing over the next two weeks or so on the ideas around who we are, what makes us ourselves, and truly digging to figure things out.

I think all of us have this idea of the Ideal You. This person you’re striving to become, an image you hold in your mind as you go about your day, trying to adjust things, shift a bit here and there, sliding through what comes naturally and what is forced, in order to align yourself with what you want to be.

We all do this. Think of the advice, “Fake it ‘till you make it.” It’s something I think on, often, when caught in circumstances outside my control, when I want to wail and complain instead of doing something about it.

(Which is important. I re-learned that recently, and will write about that in another blog post.)

So I pretend I know what I’m doing. Pretend there aren’t roadblocks in my way, that everything will work out, that there’s nothing to the fear griping my heart. It makes taking risks easier, but can also block out those trickier aspects of life that need honest, heartfelt attention.

Sometimes, it can be difficult to find a balance. And often, we lose ourselves completely while we think we’re making great strides in the right direction. It’s a gradual process, a shedding of skin as we walk forward in the sunshine, trying to reach for stars that only appear at night. But I think, as we do this, we lose much more than the negatives we’re trying to walk away from. That, in taking a self-inventory, we mistake strength or ability for something too abrasive for our new Ideal Self and thus, shed it with everything else.
It is amazing that in finding ourselves, we lose ourselves as well.

My friend said to me this week, “What happened to that girl I knew in high school? You were on the ball, and even intimidated me sometimes.”

Which is a good question, and one I didn’t have an answer to.

In high school, I was sharp, witty, and sarcastic. I didn’t take shit from anyone, and I was often the loudest voice in the room. When a teacher told me I’d never get higher than a C in English class, having been absent for a month to recover from a bad fall, I told her to shut it and finished the year with a B+. I laughed and took charge and stung people with my sarcasm. Yes, I had problems, was going through my own issues, but wow, was I a spitfire.

So who was this girl, sitting at the table, shy and quiet and just taking all the shit?

And I realized that, somewhere over the past two years, I’d folded. Threw in my cards and decided to not even play the game. I was willing to take insults and yelling; I was willing to give up my voice to avoid confrontation. To be honest, I’m sick of it. Tired. Done. And that is the mistake I made. 


In wanting to avoid confrontation, I’d silenced myself.