Thursday, July 28, 2011

Artist's Way Check-In: Week 3 - Chapter 2, Part 1

I've done my morning pages every day and every day in the morning!  Today was a close call where I almost thought about putting it off, but I just sucked it up and got up and did some writing.  I also had my first creative breakthrough today in a long while.  It wasn't while I was writing my morning pages, but on my way to work, a song I've listened to a million times before, got me thinking about this idea.  And a few minutes later I had a potential title and a main character and the first few sentences to a prologue. 

Artist's date - I did keep my artist's date this past Saturday.  I so wanted to not do it, coming up with several excuses for why I didn't have to do it, but I did.  I went to the dollar store and perused the arts & crafts section and picked up a few things without breaking the budget.  Then I went to the library and picked up a book on drawing for beginners and doodled in my new pad while drinking a Slushie (it was just so hot and it was yummy!).  This week, if not's excruciatingly hot, I'm going to the Fine Arts Festival at Cooper River Park.  It's free and could be interesting.

I've read chapter two and reviewed "Basic Priniciples" on page 3 a few times - I even typed them up and taped a copy in my notebook - but I haven't done any of the tasks yet.  I took some notes and highlighted my book and realized a few things, which I did write down.  Mostly, I realized why I've never made it through/past chapter two when I previously tried to do the Artist's Way. 

"Blocked creatives are easily manipulated by guilt." - Chapter 2, pg 43

This chapter deals a lot with crazymakers and poisonous playmates...and looking back, my life was overrun with both.  I've slowly managed to cull a lot of that out and I've been working in therapy in lessening the voice of my mother, the biggest crazymaker in my life, in my head.  I read over the list of the ways the crazymaker can keep us from becoming unblocked and I've fallen victim to all of those in the past and sometimes I still do.  It's so hard to not just realize logically but actually get to the place where I can put myself first without the guilt.  I'm trying though.  I don't think I was ready to face the journey the last time, but this time, I feel like I can do it.

For the remainder of the week I need to work on some of the tasks and Saturday, here's to another artist's date.  Maybe once I get the hang of Saturday morning dates by myself, I can add an extra date in the week, but right now I'm still out of my comfort zone with just the one and I don't want to set myself up for failure.

I'm really enjoying this journey with the Artist's Way group and taking our time with each chapter and not stressing about it. 

I've got the swimming pool blues...

After two weeks off, I took part in the Indie Ink Writing Challenge again.  For once, I didn't write fiction.   I read the prompt and, considering the heatwave that has overtaken New Jersey, I had an idea in my head.  This week the fabulous Runaway Sentence prompted me - swimming pool blues - and I provided a challenge to Melissa R.

"Don't wish it away
Don't look at it like it's forever
Between you and me I could honestly say
That things can only get better..." -
Elton John

It’s a sad day when you see a toddler playing in a small plastic pool and momentarily consider stealing it.  Sure, I’d look ridiculous running off with a plastic turtle pool in my arms.  And I probably wouldn’t get very far as I’m klutzy and would probably trip over my flip flops and fall head first into the pool and crack it in half.  Plus, I’m really not mean enough to steal from a toddler; a sixth grader maybe. 
Instead of stealing from small children and trying to manuever myself into a small plastic pool, I contemplate the days of old, when my dad would set up the sprinkler for me to run through, like that was the same thing as floating along a lazy river.  He would say, “Use your imagination” as though I could pretend away the heat and lack of water to properly swim.   After he died, my mom dug up the back yard and put in a pool.  Part give-the-kids-lots-of-things-to-make-up-for-no-dad theme that summed up a lot of my life and part  my-mom-really-wanted-one.   I won’t lie and say it wasn’t great.  I loved it.  So many more options and I couldn’t really invite friends over to swim in my sprinkler, now could I?
Grown up, with no pool of my own, I sometimes revisit the use of the sprinkler and my imagination.  I hear my father's voice in my head to "pretend."  It hasn't worked with a cold shower, but maybe a sprinkler would do the trick?  Maybe it's the act of running and hopping over a rainbow of water shooting out onto the grass.  How silly would I look if I set up a sprinkler on my front lawn and ran through it?  I think that I might need to borrow a kid for that to make it seem less like I escaped from the nuthouse and more fun in the heat.  Besides, it’s just not the same without the Wonder Woman bathing suit with the faded colors. 

And so begins the onset of the swimming pool blues.

It’s been so hot.  That’s the problem.  I don’t normally miss having a pool in my back yard.  I have access to an indoor salt water kind at my gym – though you can’t just lounge, but must exercise, bah – so I’m not completely without, and in those moments when the nostalgia for a pool runs thick in the air and in my mind, I can usually muster up images of cleaning filters and shocking the pool and didn’t I just removed those leaves?  Damn you trees, why do you torment me like this?  Yeah, I don’t miss maintaining a pool.   That thought can usually get me through most days, pushing away the stabs of pain from absence of a pool, and replacing it with the “why can’t I be a rich socialite” ones.  Dreams slowly move away from being able to randomly choose to jump into a pool in the scorching weather to wouldn’t it be nice to have the kind of throw-away money where I not only could afford an inground pool like I partially grew up with, but to employ people who handle the icky bugs and cleaning and bailing out after rain storms…and then I think about trips to islands with the bluest water and palm trees swaying in the wind and why get a stupid pool when I could move to an island?  Oh right, I live in fear of being eaten by a creature of the sea (I’ve seen enough Shark Week in my life, thankyouverymuch) and I’d probably lament that I didn’t have a pool even with beaches and waters that went on for miles.  That’s just how I roll.
But yeah, the heat is playing with me and I think I need some cold chlorinated water to swim through.  Maybe not even swim – it’s just so hot – but to float on my back and stare at the clouds pondering important questions like “What is the meaning of life?  Why is it so hot?  And is that really a lion-shaped cloud?”  On these days, I long for my days of yore when I jumped into a pool without worries about body image or UV rays or anything beyond goggles that actually kept the water out of my eyes.  I long for a lot of things from my childhood sometimes, especially when my mortgage is due and I think of all the things they just don’t prepare you for as a kid, but right now, in the middle of record high temperatures and rooms that just can’t seem to cool down, I really miss my swimming pool.  

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Artist's Way - check in (end of week 2)

I'm so behind on posting my check-ins, but the Artist's Way group finished with Chapter One and we're underway with chapter two.  I must get better with getting on my computer more in my non-working hours.  I think part of the reason, despite hating getting up extra early, that the morning pages are working for me is that I just need a notebook.  And I've been doing most of my writing and tasks in a notebook as well - I used to love getting on the computer after work no matter what, but lately, I'm just drained after using it all day at work.  I need to still set aside some time to check-in in a timely fashion.

So, I finished with Chapter One on Sunday and began Chapter two.  It was a hard start for me in some areas - I kept procrastinating and putting things off.  Even though I started with the group on July 3rd, aside from morning pages, the first week, I really didn't do much except read the intro and first chapter.

1) Have you been doing your pages?

I've done my morning pages every day.  Though, as I've mentioned before, some days they're called "Not Quite Morning Pages" if I'm running late in the morning before work.  rather than blowing them off completely or referring to myself as an abject failure, I've decided that if I miss them in the morning, while not ideal, it's still better to do the pages when I have a moment of time (usually my lunch break).  It has definitely been, as Julia Cameron mentions in the book, mostly a negative dumping ground for me at times.  Or thinking about all that I have to do.  Or recalling dreams.  No profound writing has come out of it yet, but I'm doing it. 

2) Have you been on an artist date? Share! Pics are cool, so we can see the world through your eyes.

I did not have any artist dates during the last two weeks.  I've been trying to figure it out and put aside the time for myself, but I'd get sidetracked with plans and life and excuses to avoid it.  It is on my calendar for this Saturday morning and I think I'm just going to do something simple like pick up a coloring book and doodle/color.  Since money is currently tight, I'm trying to think of simple things that are free.  At some point I might go over to Philly and visit the museum...and once it cools down a bit, I'll take a walk or two...but for now, I'm trying to work out some ideas for time alone where I can have fun and play.  I admit it still feels weird.  How sad is it that this will probably be one of the hardest parts for me?

3) Have you written a task? Yay for you! More than one?

I worked on the pick a job you'd like to have list, however, I didn't do any of the things based around if I had another job.  I wrote out about my three biggest critics on the creative journey and it was interesting and sad and I found myself crying when I wrote it.  I began to do the one about cheerleaders, but I stopped myself.  Just further proof that I tend to focus on the negative rather than the positive. 

I've also been doing the daily affirmations, which aside from the Artist's Date, is probably the hardest part for me.  I have been writing down the evil Censor voice with it.  But every time I write, "I, Marianne, am a talented person," I still wince and think, "Not really.  You suck."  Stupid censor. 

I will continue working daily affirmations into my morning pages, keep my Artist's Dates, and stop procrastinating on reading/completing tasks.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

And all I can do is try...

Happy Wishcasting Wednesday!  If you're not familiar with wishcasting, it's "...a safe haven for wishes, a fertile field in which to plant wish seeds and have them witnessed and tended lovingly. It’s a place where magic begins."  It's something I look forward to every week. It usually fits right in with what is going on in my universe and my fellow wishcasters are wonderful.

This week Jamie asks:

courtesy of we heart it

"I wish I hadn't seen all of the realness
And all the real people are really not real at all
The more I learn, the more I learn
The more I cry, the more I cry
As I say goodbye to the way of life
I thought I had designed for me"
 - Nelly Furtado's Try

I wish to try stopping the negative voices that rule my brain. It's so bad that I don't even catch myself when I'm doing it.  I've gotten better with at least noticing these moments - I can logically say, "Bah, that's not right" - but I'm not very good at the follow through and forcing myself to accept that logic as correct.  I want to try to see myself correctly - the good and the bad, not just the bad - and come up with solutions that don't involve me berating myself for an hour on why, why, why or self-sabotaging the steps I've already taken to improve. 

I wish to try and not give up, not be swayed when I hit an obstacle, as it will surely come.  My inner gremlin is a force to be reckoned with - I just need to realize that I am too.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Artist's way check in - week 2 (chapter 1)

Time to check-in on my current Artist's Way journey for the group.  Last week I said I had been really good about getting up early enough to do my morning pages before work.  I have managed to continue that for the most part, but there were a few days where the morning pages became "not quite morning pages."  I still did the three pages of writing in quiet, but one day it was during my lunch break and another it was once I got to work, but before the day started (I am habitually early for work as I live in fear of being late).

The morning pages still feel like work to me at this point.  It's something I'm doing because I should not because I want to.  As I've been reading the beginning of The Artist's Way I feel a little less annoyed with myself about this - it seems that there are a lot of us who initially do it without a great love for it.  Currently the writing tends to be a lot of my random, negative thoughts, things I don't want to do, things I have to do, and if I can remember, my dreams from the night before. 

I haven't done an artist's date yet.  I haven't set one into my schedule either.  I think I'll aim to do one on Saturday morning, but I have no idea what to do.  I'm not a one-with-nature sort of girl, especially when it's so hot out, and I'm pathetically broke at the moment.  A part of me just wants to set aside an hour to color and draw, but I'm not sure if that counts?

To others on this journey:  what are some of your favorite artist dates?

I signed my Artist's Way contract.  I've printed out a picture of Kreacher from Harry Potter, who I envision to look like my censor, and I reviewed the rules.  However, I haven't done any of the exercises yet. 

Is there an Artist's Way group for really bad procrastinators?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I wish I may, I wish I might...

Yesterday I was down-and-out thanks to a migraine, which brought about two of my least favorite things in the world - head pain and nausea.  I had planned to go into work a little late after taking meds, but the pain did not subside and I ended up with my face under my pillows and sleep the only thing that made it bearable.  I can't imagine how people who get migraines all the time deal.  It's awful.

In brighter news, I'm feeling better today and it's Wishcasting Wednesday.  Ever since I started this journey with my fellow wishcasters, I always enjoy Wednesdays, even when it coincides with therapy.  Especially when it coincides as I seem better capable of discovering better truths about myself.

Today Jamie asks:

courtesy of we heart it

My answer this week is simple and yet probably one of the hardest things for me to do.  I wish to be better at asking for help.  For some reason, I always feel like I have to take on everything by myself, but then I get indignant and frustrated when I feel like I'm drowning.  I irrationally expect people to just know that I need help rather than ask for it.

I'm trying to get better at it.  I'm learning that it's not some blight on my character to need assistance, but some times it's hard to remember that.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

an amazing blog entry by a hopefully never famous girl

After taking a break for a week, I once again am participating in the Indie Ink Writing Challenges. I decided to continue with the character I introduced in my last piece.  I wrote three different drafts with three different characters before coming back to Elaina.  This week I challenged the awesome xtinabosco (the response is here) and my challenge - it amazes me still - came from Beth Hegde.

Blog Entry One


I've decided this will be the theme for my first entry of this blog as it seemed to be the theme of my day.  Like I'm amazed that my teacher thinks his students have something of importance to say.   Like my best friend is amazed that I know how to walk.  Like I'm amazed by how growing up changes so many things in the slightest ways and I never know whether to hold on tight to the way it was or let go and see what happens.

Mostly, I'm amazed that I'm not waiting until three hours before this project is due to start my journal.  

Procrastination, thy name is Elaina.

Anyway, my English teacher has decided that the best way to get today's youth to embrace writing is by sharing with us the allure of social media.   Unfortunately, Twitter and Facebook won't cut it.  Same with email.  He wants us to take the art of journaling and bring it into the twenty-first century and maybe someday our journal will touch millions of people. Blah, blah, blah.  Call me crazy, but even if I become some important historical figure, I can't see why anyone would care that my German teacher smells like mothballs and grandmas or see the genius in my ode to pop music that I dashed out when I should've been studying Chemistry.  Honestly, I don't think I would want anyone to have access to those sorts of thoughts if I were famous.

Not that I plan on being some important historical figure.  That seems like a lot of work for an underachiever like myself.

Despite the best efforts of our class in opposition to a project like this, Mr. Griffin's mind could not be swayed, so here I sit.  Amazed by the whole notion of blogging as important.  I wonder if one day there will be a whole generation of people who have documented so many mundane moments that they see no beauty in anything extraordinary.   Mostly, I wonder how I can do the minimum work and still get an "A."

After class, I rushed off to my locker to meet Mike.  He needed help with a Spanish test and I needed some books on famous diarists and the library seemed like the perfect solution.  Continuing with the theme - I'm amazed that I didn't know better than to be wary of anything that seems perfect.   

Things had fallen back into a fairly innocuous routine between us over the past week.  I had decided to stop freaking out about the feelings I didn't understand and concentrate on what I did know.  Mike was my best friend, my partner in crime, and whatever other weird junk my mind was creating or acknowledging or whatever, didn't really matter if it cost me my friendship.  So I decided to do what I do best, outside of procrastination, and avoid the entire thing.

I knew it didn't solve anything, but it had allowed my some room to breathe in my own head.  Well, most of the time.

Like not when I was walking across the library parking lot and Mike's hand casually brushed against my side, causing my head to short circuit and me to fall on my butt.

For his part, Mike didn't laugh.  Too much.

"You okay?"

I groaned in response.


"Nothing bruised but my ego."

He extended his hand and said, "It amazes me still that you have managed to survive this long without being relegated to life in a plastic bubble."

I huffed and grunted and not-so-politely swatted his hand away.  I propped myself up on my AP Calculus book, finally seeing how it could positively affect my life in the future, and stood up on wobbly legs.  I wasn't hurt, just had the wind knocked out of me, but I went into total spaz mode and couldn't seem to function properly.  I could feel the eyes of patrons of the library watching me through the windows, their expressions changing quickly from worry for the poor girl in the parking lot to amusement at my expense.  With my luck, some random passerby caught it on his Iphone and uploaded it to YouTube.  I'll be the new Rebecca Black, except I won't even have a crappy song as my claim to fame.

"I need a new best friend," I muttered.  I brushed off the bits of gravel sticking to my palms and knees off against my skirt - my mother would kill me if she saw such unladylike displays - and stepped out of the parking lot, dropping onto the first bench I could reach.

"Seriously, how are you even still alive after all these years?  Shouldn't Darwin's Theory of Evolution kicked in at some point?  Are you made of Teflon?  It's an amazing feat, Elaina.  We should have you join the circus and let a clown throw knives at you."

I glared at him.  There were many profound things I could offer up, but instead, I chose simple.  "You suck."
He laughed as he sat down next to me and stared at me.  I had long ago learned and catalogued away most of Mike's facial expressions, but this was a new one he had been throwing my way recently.  It was part endearing and part what the hell because he was my best friend and should not be looking at me like that.  Not that I wasn't convinced it wasn't all in my head - some sort of psychotic manifestation that only I saw.  I mean the best-friends-to-more is something out of a romantic comedy.  Not real life.

Yeah, try telling that to my heart that started hammering in my chest because he was still staring at me like I was the only thing that mattered. 

I twirled a lock of my hair around my finger, focusing intently on the brown wisps, and said, "Three falls in one week.  I'm trying to break my own personal best since I learned to walk."

"I'm not really sure you've got it down pat yet."  He tilted his head to one side, trying to mentally gauge my reaction as he asked, "Are you sure that you're okay?"

"Define okay," I replied with a shrug.  I let go of the strand of hair and started with a new piece, twirling it around my pinky as I stared off in the distance.  The sun was in its final encore for the day, the sky lit up with hues of orange and red, and it was perfectly framed by the blue sky and verdant green trees of the park.   I wasn't a big nature person, but this was one of those bits of time where everything else but the beauty fell away.
Mike's arm draped across my shoulder and he pulled me against his chest.  He breathed into my hair and said, "I worry about you."

I closed my eyes and tried to stay locked in this moment for as long as possible. 

"Did you hear me?"

"Yeah," I said weakly.  I forced myself to meet his gaze, creating some distance between us, and asked, "I'm fine.  Really."

I wish I could say that I blurted out what I was really feeling, that I went Sandra Bullock on the situation and pulled him into a kiss, not worrying about the aftermath.  But that wasn't who I was, so I stood up, clutching my messenger bag tightly and walked into the library. 

Yeah, I know.  I, too, am amazed by what a big coward I am.  If you can't randomly tell your best friend that you might be in love with him, who could you tell?

Already reeling from emotions that I couldn't articulate, even to myself, I tried to slip in the door of my house and make a beeline for my room, but to no avail.  My father cornered me in the kitchen and I had to endure another talk about my future.  He was like a guidance counselor, except he had no guidance to provide except that if I didn't get into a good college and become a doctor or lawyer, my life would have no meaning, I would die impoverished and alone, and basically the world would end. 

No pressure.

So I decided to make Mr. Griffin happy and shock the world by starting a project on the day it was assigned.  I figured if I couldn't make sense of everything swirling around in my head, maybe writing it down would help.  So far, I have to say, I'm not impressed.  Mostly horrified at myself for not using fake names because I am not ready to have any Disney Movie talks with my best friend who stumbles upon my journal.  No thank you.
At least that part of the day can be rectified fairly easily.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

time to stop hiding from my writing...

So I've managed to do morning pages for the past three days!  I'm taking part in the Artist's Way journey and I have to admit I was worried about the morning pages.  Mostly because I'm not a morning person.  I like to do everything at night so I can sleep until the last possible second to leave for work.  Waking up a half hour earlier has been hard, but I'm hoping the pay off will be worthwhile in the end.  I just worry that I'll feel like this is some sort of punishment and stop doing it.  I know it's not logically, but sometimes logic is the furthest thing from my brain.

I do look forward to the moment when I feel unburdened in my morning pages and the words simply flow.  Right now it's a lot of "i dreamed about this" and "i'm feeling like this..."  I know there is no right or wrong way to do morning pages, but again with the whole logic thing.

I have not started the chapter work yet outside of the morning pages.  And I wonder if I'll be any good at making and keeping artist's dates for myself.


In other news it is Wishcasting Wednesday.  I wanted to get to this earlier than normal before work gets busy. 

Today Jamie asks:

courtesy of we heart it

I feel like I'm in the middle of so many things while in the middle of one long journey.  I learn, I fall back a little, I move forward, and sometimes I'm so tired, I make camp and stop for a bit.  It's time to stop resting though and conquer. 

I thought long and hard about this question and decided to go with my gut instinct and the first answer that popped into my head.  I wish to progress with my writing.  I've been putting in more time and taking part in writing challenges to take me out of my comfort zone and undertaking the Artist's Way to help increase my creativity.  But I need to also believe in the words that come out of my head and allow them room to breathe and grow.  I wish to be able to sit at the computer and not worry so much about just the right word or the blinking cursor and let my fingers do the talking...and go wherever it takes me.  I wish to finish pieces I start, understanding it might not be a masterpiece, might never be more than something I wrote, but that is enough.