write. play. repeat.

from joy to joy to joy

The Accidental Pumpkin

This lush, green vine popped up out of the blue a couple of weeks ago, and has been unfurling new leaves every single day since then. At first, I was perplexed by the thick shoot that pushed itself up through the mulch near the front door. I hadn’t planted anything there…but it didn’t look like any of the other weeds I’d been fighting a losing battle with. Rather than pull it out, I waited to see what would develop.

I’m so glad I waited! After a few days, I recognized the plant as the beginning of a pumpkin vine. I made some room around it and have been watching it spread along the bed. It’s now about three feet long and a foot wide. I’ve taken to calling it “The Accidental Pumpkin.”

As I mentioned, I never planted any pumpkins intentionally. This pumpkin started its journey as part of a Halloween Jack-O-Lantern that I left out in too sunny a place (I know, ick.)  It got, well, a bit squishy, and I had to sweep the remains of poor Jack into the flower bed and cover it with some mulch so that it could compost without smelling up the doorway. I forgot all about that until this pumpkin showed up, seven months later!

This whole incident got me thinking about ideas. So many of my ideas for songs or poems have been “Accidental Pumpkins” – the seeds for them were planted long before the actual product appeared. I may have observed something, overheard something, or had an idea that didn’t work for a song that same day, but later emerged in a different work.    So, just because an idea doesn’t work the first time around, doesn’t mean it can’t ever work! Just sweep it off into a pile somewhere and it may surprise you one day.

Had any Accidental Pumpkins lately? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

 

P.S. Only two weeks until Camp Wannamakee starts!  Also, today is the last day to apply for my group coaching scholarship! Head on over here for details.

Camp Wannamakee – SCHOLARSHIP!

Here’s the deal.  If you read the description for my new group coaching program, Camp Wannamakee, and thought “Oh wow, I really need this! I really want to do this! I — am really broke,” don’t fret.

I hear ya. I have been there.  And I want to help you.

If you really want to be in this program, then I really want you to be in it, too.  That’s why I’m offering a scholarship program.

Just fill out the form below and I’ll send you the application. It’s just a few (easy!) questions so I can get to know you a bit, no algebra required. Fill out the application, then get it back to me by MAY 16th.

TWO winners will be announced on MAY 20th.

Again, if you really feel like you need this boost to your creative life and just can’t swing the cash right now, please apply. You never know – you might just win it!

Yes! Send me the Camp Wannamakee Scholarship Application!

Just fill out this teeny form and I'll send you the application questions. Good luck!

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Stop buying beautiful journals.

Does this sound familiar?

You go to the bookstore and browse the shelf, past the day planners and address books, around the corner from the photo albums, until you see them. The towering display of gorgeous leather-bound diaries and illustrated, glossy journals almost shines despite the bland retail lighting. They tempt you, these tomes. They seem to whisper, “Herein will lie your masterpiece.”

Don’t believe them.

Here’s what actually happens.  Once you arrive at home with your thirty dollar, four-hundred page blank book, its siren song changes into a more sinister tune.  The pages are so soft and lovely to the touch that you can’t imagine having anything worth adorning them with – no words of yours could possibly be good enough.  With a sigh, you place it gently on the shelf with all of the others that have come home with you before it.   As this pile of unused, empty books grows larger, so does the monolith sitting in the way of the stories you need to tell.

Free yourself from the pressure of writing your masterpiece.  The first step is simple — stop buying beautiful journals.  Buy the unassuming, thin notebooks on the other side of the store.  Go to an office supply store and get legal pads or school notebooks.  Write on napkins at restaurants, or paper bags from your kids’ lunch.  Choose the ugliest, most tacky journal you can find…one that almost offends you with its design.

Notice how much easier it is to write a first draft in something that doesn’t look like it should contain a precious manuscript (to be discovered after your untimely death.)

See how freely your pen will move over the pages when the pages themselves don’t try to direct the show.

A great piece of writing rarely starts out great, and it’s even more rare that it springs fully-formed from the head of the author.  Rather, the writing meanders and explores itself.  It goes off in strange directions and circles back around to the point.  It reveals its themes and character through the process of writing it.

Eventually, you’ll feel confident in your ability to write Shitty First Drafts in any and all notebooks, and you can start to whittle away at the pile of gorgeous books collecting dust on your shelf.  But until then, choose plainly and free your words.

Producing vs. Creating

There’s a lot of emphasis on producing these days.

You may have heard the recent buzzword, “shipping”, which refers to creating projects or products, launching them, getting them out the door, and then doing it all over again. There’s a wonderful air of excitement around this idea because it essentially bypasses resistance and helps you just do something instead of endlessly procrastinating on a project. For this, I’m grateful to this trend.

Unfortunately, the execution of this concept seems to be missing the mark in many cases. I fear that in our haste to produce, we’re not taking enough time to create.

What’s the difference?

Production focuses a lot on planning, strategy, and pushing something outward. You put things in the “right” order according to the information you’ve gathered, launch, and wait for a response. Often, the hoped-for response is monetary (people buy your product/service) but it can also come in the form of feedback (Comments, ReTweets, etc.)  I also often pick up on a sense of urgency around production.  It feels fast and gathers momentum.

Creation relies more on intuitive, internal processes and ways of knowing. Typically it progresses slowly (though sometimes there are those lightning bolts where it comes pretty quickly!) and there may be a gentle energy around it. The impetus around a creative project often comes from that stillsmall voice inside rather than from outside influence. Something that needs to be expressed is calling attention to itself and you have to feel around it to find the best way for that to happen.

While I am biased toward a creative way of doing things, I recognize that both approaches are necessary and valuable. I’ve just noticed many people jumping on the Production bandwagon without first creating something to go with it.  Though it takes more patience, it’s worth it to take the time up front and find out what those internal voices are trying to say before becoming desperate to put a product out into the world.  From what I’ve seen, the most meaningful products have deep roots in creativity and therefore an air of authenticity around them. There is a balance that can be reached.

 

As always, these are just my personal thoughts on the subject.  I’d love to hear what you think about the concepts of producing and creating!

 

Spring Forward with a Giveaway!

Yes, you read that subject line correctly – I’m actually doing a giveaway on this blog.This is a w.p.r. first, but it’s a great one!

In honor of the “Spring Forward” on our clocks this weekend, I wanted to offer one reader a chance to spring forward with a writing project.

My dear friend Sara Blackthorne (of A Forest of Stories) is leading a six-week intensive writing course called Blossom from the Heart, which is sure to be an incredibly rewarding experience for anyone with an idea that’s been germinating.

The course is “designed to help us connect with the kernel of truth in our hearts and blossom from that place of knowing and wisdom.” Doesn’t that sound delicious??

Here’s some info about Sara in her own words:

I’m a writer, editor, dreamer, and cheerleader for women who are interested in telling their story to the world. Sometimes this is women who have been writing for years, but more often it is women who have never dared to call themselves a writer. I love encouragement, excitement, and enthusiasm and share them all with the people I am lucky to work with. When I teach, I engage the whole person in the process: we look at our beliefs, our opinions, and our secrets to tap into the core of our amazing beings. I believe that we each can connect to our unique, authentic voices and find a place for them in the world. Blossom from the Heart is just one part of the journey to that authentic voice. Using writing exercises, creative adventures, and personal inquiry we can connect to our center and speak and write from that place of clarity and wisdom. I feel blessed to be sharing this work with the world, and I love the new people and ideas that my workshops introduce to me!
You can find me online at A Forest of Stories (http://www.forestofstories.com/) where I write about the journey and the process (and share some documentary photography), and Poached Kumquats for Dinner (http://poachedumquats.wordpress.com/), where I write about my own journey in a personal fashion. Drop me a note (http://www.forestofstories.com/contact/) or shoot me a mention @sarablackthorne, I would LOVE to hear from you!

 

Blossom from the Heart begins on March 21st and runs through May 1st.

If it sounds like just the thing you’ve been waiting for to get your project going, leave a comment on this entry and tell me a bit about what a course like Blossom from the Heart could do for you.

I will choose one commenter randomly on Thursday, March 17th to win full registration in the course!

(March 17th seemed like a good day for someone to feel lucky.)

Happy Commenting!

I can’t wait to send one of you on this little journey.

 

In the Deep

It’s been sort of quiet around here lately…and for once, it’s not due to procrastination, overwhelm, or just plain “not feeling like it.” It’s because I’m in that space where I’m building something. I’m creating and re-evaluating and nurturing little seedlings and seeing what will come of them.

I’m down in the deep of my creativity.

I’ve left my “day job” in order to pursue this creative life full-time.

Right now what that looks like is lots of researching, lots of training (I’m loving my training), lots of planning out and scribbling and assimilating information.

I’m in the deep.

I’m drinking lots of tea and writing a ton in my journals and being cared for by my pets.  I’m not overly social, choosing long baths and naps over martinis and chats on most days.

I’m in the deep.

It’s a dark place, but dark in a cozy way rather than an oppressive, scary way.

It may be awhile before I come up for air, but those first breaths are going to be delicious.

 

 

 

[photo by doug.deep]

A Little Bit In Love

I’m a little bit in love with you.

Yes, you, right now, reading this on a screen somewhere in the world.

Even with your complete terror about taking the next step.

Even with your utter conviction that you aren’t good enough.

Even with that weird little birthmark.

Why?

Because I know you have something inside that wants to be expressed, and you think about it every now and then, saying to yourself, “I wonder…”

Because I know that, if you’re reading this, you want to take that step, even though you are scared.  You know what acting in spite of fear is called? Courage.  You’re courageous. 

Because I can see that little spark of creation in you, even when you can’t.  And darling, it’s lovely.

Consider this an early Valentine, because I don’t like telling people I love them on a schedule.

I love you!

[photo: adorable love notes by Everything Little Miss]

Fearful Voices in Creativity, and The Kitchen In My Head

I’ve been thinking a lot today about the fears that come up almost immediately whenever many of us try to embark on a new creative project.

“Don’t do that!  You’ll look foolish!”

“Don’t do that! It’s just a copy of somebody better than you.”

“Don’t do that! They’re going to laugh at you.”

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photo by pierrotsomepeople

The voices in our heads that pounce on our desires with gnashing teeth are, they think, protecting us. Protecting us from ridicule, from competition, from not being accepted.They’re trying to keep us from being hurt, but the truth is we hurt much more in the long run from not expressing ourselves.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been trying something new to deal with those worrisome voices.When my fears get triggered and I start looking around at what everyone else is doing, and worrying about how they will react to me, I catch myself and take a few deep breaths. I go to a “safe space” I’ve created in my head.

In my case, my safe space looks like a warm, farmhouse kitchen with lots of good stuff cooking. I imagine each of those voices as belonging to a little rascally kid, who comes bounding into the kitchen from another room, making lots of noise and disturbing my activities. Before, I’d let these rascals get the better of me – ruin my whole dinner, get jam on the walls, throw pots around – but now I redirect the scene.

I’ve started making sure I always have a plate of biscuits ready on the counter for those little guys. When they come careening in unexpectedly, now they just grab a biscuit off the counter and rush headlong out through the screendoor to play. They might make noise for a few seconds, but then they head elsewhere.

Silly visualizations aside, what this really means is that I am giving just enough attention to the scared voices to soothe them, and make them feel like their warnings have been heard, but I’m not letting them run the show or keep me from my creative work.  I let them in briefly, and then usher them away so that I can get on with it.

Is there a similar way you might redirect your internal, fearful voices?  Can you acknowledge them, thank them for their concern, and then let them go?

The Muses Are In!

Last night I embarked on a new adventure – I started a training program so that I can lead workshops and be a guide for people (re)discovering their creative passions.

Even after the first lesson and call, I feel such kinship with my fellow students and with the material.  I’m so glad to have discovered Jill Badonsky and her methods.  All of it resonates with me so deeply, and in a way that a lot of other training courses and books on “creativity” haven’t done – partly because the materials themselves are works of creative art instead of dry “how-to” manuals.  There are fun illustrations, great quotes, silly phrases and exercises, and beautiful insights.

The call ended around 9:30pm my time, and even though under normal circumstances I’d be heading to bed around 10pm, I was so “buzzed” from excitement that I couldn’t sleep.  I read through the course materials online, checked out the message boards, re-read a chapter of the companion book… I have to say, it has been a long time since I’ve been eager to do homework!

I am already chomping at the bit to share this material with others because it’s done a lot for me in a very short time.  I’ll be sure to let you in on how the adventure is going.  🙂

An Empty Teacup

“I am an empty teacup, ready for a refill…”

This is one of the lines that came out during a quick writing exercise we did during a retreat a couple of weekends ago. We were making a list from the point of view of our creativity, starting each statement with “I am… ”

“I am an empty teacup, ready for a refill…”

It came without thought or editing, it didn’t make sense in the usual way, but it immediately struck me as true.

If I’m ready for a refill, that implies that I have been full before. I used to feel much more productive and connected to my writing, more driven to practice my creativity every day.  It used to be more of a priority.

And something about the image of a tea cup being refilled reminds me of sharing tea with someone and having good conversation, creative community.  I often used to sit for hours at a coffee shop with creative friends, letting the conversation spiral and drift and come back around again.  We’d all leave these visits with renewed spirits and excited minds. I’m ready to bring that back into my life.

I’m also ready for a refill in the sense that I’m ready for some rest and time to integrate all of my experiences so that I can later express and create new things.  I’ve had a shortage of being out in the world, observing and noticing… the things that always give me new fuel for my work.  Instead, I’ve gotten into a rut where I do the same things every day, and then somehow expect new and innovative stuff to come spilling out of me when I sit down to write.  Not exactly a working formula.  I want to take time for slow walks, ambling around little towns, reading the stories of other people. Being busy and being productive are not the same thing.

“I am an empty teacup, ready for a refill…”

This was the message my creative self sent me when I wasn’t censoring.

What is your creative self trying to tell you?

[photo: thegeorgieporgiepig]