Monday, October 31, 2011

November: A Month of Creativity and Possible Nervous Breakdown

NaNoWriMo begins tomorrow (see Sidebar), and I am feeling a mixture of excitement and apprehension. I’ve done it before, so I know that it’s possible, but it’s still hard.

It’s hard on my imagination. (Coming up with scene after scene is a lot to ask a brain, especially one as lazy as mine.)

It’s hard on my time. (Now, all free time will be spent on writing (which reminds me of homework) (which makes me sad.))

It’s hard on my sensitive creative heart. (Nothing challenges the vision of yourself as a creative person like writing 50,000 words and realizing you’re a talentless hack—at least according to your inner critic.)

But, I’m doing it anyway!

And I’ll keep you posted with a weekly word count, which you can see on my handy dandy sidebar. That way, you can help hold me accountable. (Especially during week two, when I’ll want to pretend like I never had the idea to participate, and have no idea what you’re talking about.)

The good thing is that I’m actually excited about my book idea.

I’ve done a lot (and I mean A LOT) on my character development and plot. So, I know where I want to end up and how I want my main protagonist to transform. I don’t have it all figured out (as in scene by scene), but I’ve done more prep-work for this than any other thing I have ever attempted to write.

I won’t be posting excerpts because that would just freak me out and probably paralyze me. But, I may write about specific aspects of my characters. I’m starting to like them, and hear them speak to me. (Not in a creepy “I hear voices” kind of way, but in a writer-ly “I’ve developed three-dimensional characters and they’re taking on a life of their own” kind of way.)

Please send me a creative well-wishing thought every now and again. I could use the support!

Now, as if NaNoWriMo wasn’t enough, you’ll also recall that I’m doing the ArtEveryDay challenge (See Sidebar).

This is also making me incredibly nervous. I don’t feel as prepared, (mostly because I don’t like to pre-plan my artwork), and I still have to find a few more supplies, but I diving in anyway.

For this challenge, I WILL be posting every night in November, so, you’ll be able to see what I created.

Because I’m also doing NaNo, I decided that I would make a small piece of art each day, and that it would be an ATC (Artist Trading Cards).

I’ve done them in the past and have had a blast. I think they’ll be the right size to provide me with a challenge, and yet, not overwhelm me like something on canvas would (especially since I’m still working on my Artist’s Way painting and another project).

If you’d like to make an ATC, and then trade it with me, let me know! They can be made on actual playing cards, or anything that is playing-card sized (like fabric, wood, metal, etc.).

So, for November, this blog may have a multiple posts a day (since I’m still posting on The Artist’s Way).

And then I expect that in December, (after my nervous breakdown), it might take a brief hiatus to pick myself up off the floor.

It’s going to be a wild ride!

I hope you’ll join me!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Artist's Way: Week Five, Post Four

First, let me do the weekly check-in…

1)   So, I only did Morning Pages 4 days this week.  I just didn’t have the energy to write for a half-hour.  I don’t really have an excuse, except to say “I didn’t wanna.”

2)   Yep, had an Artist’s Date.  You know the drill.  More down below…

3)   Synchronicity?  I don’t recall anything.  Well, now that I think about it, ever since I decided that my NaNoWriMo book was going to include zombies*, I have noticed a lot of zombie-related things popping up: articles, TV shows, comic books, etc.  It could be that I was surrounded by these things the whole time (most likely) and didn’t notice.  But, it’s interesting nonetheless.

4)   No issues that I can think of. Except, of course, my half-hearted attempt at Morning Pages.

Now, on to the Artist’s Date:

I decided to take a solo photographic tour of the architecture of my city.  I called it my “Backyard Beauty Bonanza,” because I wanted to see what beautiful things I could discover in my own familiar backyard, aka, city.

What I decided to do was get in my car, and drive around.  Simple enough, right? Anything that caught my eye, whether building, house, or street, I would investigate.  And every time I had to stop (law-abiding citizen that I am), I would look for something beautiful.

It was really quite enjoyable, and it opened up my city to me in a whole new way.  I would definitely recommend this to all of you!  But, I do have a few tips to make it more enjoyable (and less life-threatening):

1) It’s best to go in the early morning.  There’s less traffic, and therefore, you are less likely to be honked at when you swerve over to the curb to take a picture.

2) Know how to work your camera.  Driving is not the best time to figure out how to zoom, or how to add an old-timey patina to pictures.  Trust me.

3)   Don’t have something planned right after.  I thought giving myself an hour would be plenty of time, so I scheduled something directly following, and I was sad to have to leave an area of town that I would have liked to explore.  You never know what you’ll find that you’ll want to leave your car to investigate.  Give yourself the time to wander.

4)   Bring something to take notes with.  That way, you can jot down what street your dream home was on, or where was a little shop you wanted to visit at a later time.

5)   Have great music.  Something that invokes magic, mystery, adventure, and singing!  Nothing brings down your exploration mood like radio commercials. Bleh!

Okay, now, on to my “Backyard Beauty Bonanza”!

At my very first red light, I saw this scene out of the corner of my eye. Beautiful!

If you have one of these in your area, that's a great place to start!

Dream home, by chance?

"Liz, is that a horse and wagon?" Yep!

Old firehouse, anyone?

Don't you just love this old church!

"Liz, is that an Antebellum home from your trip to the South?"  Nope, a house right down the street from me!

Friends, I could go on and on, but you get the idea.  

So, here's a challenge for you, next Saturday morning, get your camera, notepad, and your favorite mix CD, and have a "Backyard Beauty Bonanza" of your own!

UP NEXT: Week Six!

And, here's a picture from the latest step on my painting!

*You might be wondering "Why, zombies?"  Good question.  The answer: I have no idea!  I've never read a book on zombies, seen a movie about zombies, or thought about zombies (except to avoid them).  But, I wanted to try something a little out of my comfort zone.  So, zombies it is!

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Artist’s Way: Week Five, Post Three

Most of the exercises for this week I found fun, while being very insightful.

For example: “If I had either faith or money I would try… List five desires.”

Why don’t you try out this one and see what you come up with? Some of my responses surprised me!

(Like buy a Harley Davidson—Really, it’s on my list.)
Or, how about this one: “If I were twenty and had money… List five adventures.”

(Drive across the U. S.)
Or, “If I were sixty-five and had money … List five postponed pleasures.”

(Own a cabin in the mountains)

But, there were a couple of exercises that stopped me in my tracks, like:

“The reason I can’t really believe in a supportive God is … List five grievances. (God can take it.)”

(I’m not good enough for His support.)
Or “Ten ways I am mean to myself are …”

(I doubt I have any useful talents.)
Or “My payoff for staying blocked is …”

(You can’t fail what you don’t start.)

However, the exercise that I’ve been thinking the most about is the “Wish List.” Here, you are supposed to list 20 wishes as fast as you can.

I could only come up with 8 before I was scrapping the barrel of lameness. I couldn’t think of anything! I actually wrote “I wish I had a balloon to ride.” Really, Liz? Your own personal balloon riding equipment? Since when?

I didn’t know that my imagination was so dismal that I couldn’t make a list of 20 things I’d wish for. Sad.

Can you do any better than eight?

I hope so!

UP NEXT: My Artist’s Date (pictorial review style)!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Artist’s Way: Week Five, Post Two

I used to think that I was a weirdo because I needed so much alone time. (I think my family thought I was a weirdo, too.)

Being in silence while puttering around is very relaxing to me. You will never find me cooking/painting/writing/reading/working/etc. with the TV on. I get noise assaulted very easily, and coming home to a house full of noise (even happy ones) makes my skin crawl.

I thought I was the only one who felt this way, and that it was a sign that I was anti-social (which I think I am to a certain extent—meeting new people is an AWKWARD experience for me). But, when I read this chapter, I realized that there are a bunch of us out there! Comrades!

“An artist must have downtime, time to do nothing… For an artist, withdrawal is necessary… An artist requires the upkeep of creative solitude. An artist requires the healing of time alone” (pgs. 96-97).
These sentences leaped off the page and hit me between the eyes. That’s me!

Creative solitude should be my middle name!

Now, this doesn’t give me the excuse to drop all my responsibilities, draw the blinds, and never speak to another soul. (I wouldn’t want to do that, anyway.) But, it does make me realize that I need solitude weekly, and to accept that about myself.

If I ignore this need, then I am ignoring who I am. (And that’s when I find myself miserable.)

Julia asks a question in this chapter that I’d like to pose to you: “Are you destructive of your true nature?”

Dismissing my need for creative solitude was a way I was destructive to my true nature. (And even when I had moments of solitude, I would be guilt-ridden and beat myself up about it. Not a fun way to live!)

So, can you think of any way you are destructive of your true nature?

UP NEXT: Week Five Exercises!

P. S. Here’s a creative exercise that wasn’t in the book, but that I’ve been playing with the last few days.

It’s a way to jump-start your creativity.

What you do is take your full name (I also included “miss” for some extra letters) and write each individual letter on a little square piece of paper (They should all be the same size.). Now, mix up all the letters, and spend 10 minutes coming up with as many words you can. (In 10 minutes, I came up with 76 words.) Then take the word(s) that interest(s) you and write about it (them).

I decided to use only the words I came up with to write a few poems. Here’s one of them:

I sit on

Sallow sill.

White air,


Between billow

Or boom,

I float


It’s a really fun way to break through a creative block. Give it a try!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Artist’s Way: Week Five, Post One

This week’s focus is on recovering a Sense of Possibility, and Julia talks about some very powerful concepts. I’d like to share the two opening paragraphs from this chapter to give you a feel for what she teaches us this week:

One of the chief barriers to accepting God’s generosity is our limited notion of what we are in fact able to accomplish. We may tune in to the voice of the creator within, hear a message—and then discount it as crazy or impossible. On the one hand, we take ourselves very seriously and don’t want to look like idiots pursuing some patently grandiose scheme. On the other hand, we don’t take ourselves –or God—seriously enough and so we define as grandiose many schemes that, with God’s help, may fall well within our grasp.

Remembering that God is [our] source, we are in the spiritual position of having an unlimited bank account. Most of us never consider how powerful the creator really is. Instead, we draw very limited amounts of power available to us. We decide how powerful God is for us. We unconsciously set a limit on how much God can give us or help us. We are stingy with ourselves. And if we receive a gift beyond our imagining, we often send it back. (p. 91, emphasis added.)

Wow, right?

I don’t know about you, but I totally see myself in these paragraphs. It’s quite easy for me to imagine a powerful God when it comes to things I consider “religious,” but not so much when I think about things that “I” want. And that makes me think back on times in my life that I might have refused (consciously or unconsciously) to walk through doors that God was holding open for me because I thought it was impossible.

Well no more!

God is abundant, and that abundance can also apply to my creativity! And with that in mind, you might take a look over at my sidebar and notice that not only am I planning on writing a novel for the month of November, but I’m also planning on creating a new piece of art each day that month as well!

I’m in the preparation stages for both activities right now. (Lots of plot, character, and setting ideas, and a lot of art-supply organizing and gesso-ing of backgrounds.)

It’s not going to be easy writing 1667 words a day, creating a (very small) mixed media piece a day, continuing The Artist’s Way, and holding a full-time job (and participating at church/book club/writing group/family/friends, etc).

But, I’m up for the challenge!

Care to join me for one or the other (or both!)?

UP NEXT: Something else that smacked me in the face this chapter!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Artist’s Way: Week Four, Post Five

"Two posts in one day, Liz?!" Yep!  I'm on a roll...

Okay, first, a quick weekly check-in:

1. I wrote 6 out of 7 days. And this was the first time that I didn’t want to write. I had stuff to say, I just didn’t want to take the time to say it. (It takes 25ish minutes to write three pages—at least for me.) But, I made myself anyway. (Including writing affirmations on colored paper and folding it into Origami lotus flowers. (I like having them around as a visual reminder, and plan on getting some sort of container to display them.))

2. My Artist’s Date was easy this week, but made me incredibly happy! I’ll talk more about that later.

3. I didn’t really notice any synchronicity this week. But, to be honest, I forgot to look for it.

4. Aside from the sadness I felt at not reading (and the realization that I need to get additional hobbies), no specific issues came up for me.

Now, on to my Artist’s Date:

Friends, as you know, this week I’ve not been able to read. It left a gapping whole in my life and I missed it terribly. But, you also know that it was very eye-opening for me. So, I’m grateful I did it!

That being said, I specifically waited to have my Artist’s Date until Sunday, when my reading moratorium was over. You can guess what I did for my date, right? I read!!!

And not just anything, but this…

So inspiring! You can order this magazine here.

And this…
One of my favorites! You can learn more here.

And this…
Fabulous! You can see more here.

It was an art and creativity explosion in my mind, and I LOVED IT!!!

I’m so glad that there are such amazing and talented people in the world (including yourself) to inspire me and push me to keep at it, and remind me that I’m not alone in this Creative Life Experiment!

Now, go find something to spark your creativity!

Wait! Before you leave, here's the next stage of my Artist's Way painting...

Polka Dots, anyone?

UP NEXT: Week Five

The Artist’s Way: Week Four, Post Four

I’ve put off posting about this week’s exercises because I had an odd experience with one, and I wasn’t sure how to word it so that people didn’t think I was losing it.

But, I wasn’t able to come up with anything, so I just wrote about it as I experienced it…

First, here’s an exercise that I loved and had fun with.

Exercise One—Describe your ideal environment (and then find a picture that matches)

This exercise was only supposed to be a paragraph, but I went on for a page. It was fun to imagine where I’d like to live, from the landscape to the weather, from the size of the town/city to the type of house. All in all, it was very enjoyable. And it was also fascinating to type into Google a few key words from my description and see what popped up.

[If you want to see what my ideal is, click here.]

Now, on to the exercise that I'm still thinking about…

Exercise Two—Imagine your 80 year-old self and have her write you a letter

To begin this one, I did a visualization technique that I semi-developed by morphing a number of techniques I’ve read in a few books and heard on tele-seminars. It was to help me get to a place (mentally/emotionally/spiritually) where I would be open to receiving information from my future self. [Don’t worry. I haven’t gone off the deep end into woo-woo-ville. It’s just a way to still the mind and really listen.] I wanted this experience to be from my heart, to flow naturally as if from another source. I didn’t want to stop and think “Now, what would I tell myself?” or “What would my real grandma say to me?” And in order for this type of divine writing to occur, you have to be in the proper mind-set.*

Anyway, once I got to that peaceful place and walked (in my mind) to the door that would open into 80 year-old Liz’s life (who by the way, lives in a quaint little cottage by a stream), I sat with her and asked her what she wanted to tell me. She handed me a letter, and I was surprised by what it said. Truly surprised (and a little bugged, to be honest).

What I wanted her to tell me was what I should do with my life. What path should I take? Should I switch careers? Move? Buy a Winnebago and hit the road collecting stories as I trade my paintings for sandwiches? Should I focus on my art? My writing? My 401k plan? What should I do?!?!?

Now, in an effort to be fully transparent and to have this journey documented for myself, I’m going to post the letter in its entirety. I also want to add that it was written without stopping my hand, without pausing to think, and without agreeing with all that it said. It took about 5 minutes and was a sort of surreal experience.

Dear Liz,

I know you are wondering what path to take. You’re interested in so many things that it can be overwhelming. Don’t let it paralyze you! Remember, you are already on your path. Right now you have to decide to go left, right, or straight. But guess what? Either way, it’s your path and God will provide for you exactly what you need.

We all have a calling. And that is to help others as we make our way back to God. If we focus on service, no matter what road we take, it will lead to the right place—a better you. I’m not saying that what you “do” as a job doesn’t matter. I’m only saying that it matters less than we think.

Do what you love, what brings love into the world, what makes others strive to be better and in turn, help more people. If you do what you love, (even if that changes over the years), and listen to God, you will be happy no matter where you are. And you will be guided to where you need to go next.

Use your resources wisely. Use your time wisely. You will never regret a skill you learn or a talent you develop. But you will regret the time you wasted on hollow things. Be gentle and kind to yourself, and those around you. You have much to give, so look for opportunities. There are more around you then you think.

Lastly, remember you will have a rewarding life, a fulfilling life, if you use what God has given you to help those around you. And you will be happy.


80-year-old Liz

Think of it what you will. I'm still figuring out what it means to me.

UP NEXT: My Artist's Date of Happiness!!!

*If you’re interested in this visualization technique, shoot me an email and I’ll give it to you. It’s been very helpful to me in various ways.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Artist’s Way: Week Four, Post Three

As you know, this week I have been on a reading moratorium or as Julia calls it Reading Deprivation week. And it’s been one of the hardest things I’ve done in my whole life (including the time I chose to get certified as a “Camping Expert ” (This had some technical title I can no longer remember.) and had to rough it for three days with limited supplies (which I remember as being my version of hell)).

It’s been hard, folks. Real hard.

I had to resort to keeping all the books I’m in the middle of reading (or wanting to read) in my car so I’m not tempted to crack one open just to read the acknowledgements page, of course, and maybe the introduction, but nothing else. Pinky swear promise!

Now, I’m not saying that it hasn’t been worth it, because it has. I know I've had flashes of inspiration.  But, still, it’s not been easy. And there have been a few evenings where I’ve sat on my bed in sadness, pining for my books. {Insert mournful sigh.}

What have I been doing instead of reading, you ask?

Well, here’s a list of 20:

1. Sat in sadness

2. Complained to my roomies, aka sisters

3. Sat down to write and stared at the blank screen instead

4. Searched for new music to put on my iPod

5. Listened to the new artists I put on my iPod

6. Listened to a free writing podcast that I put on my iPod (and all backlogged episodes)

7. Re-started a daily Zen garden at my work desk
I feel calm and relaxed already...

8. Sketched three new painting ideas

9. Started a new painting

10. Wrote a plot outline for my NaNoWriMo book

11. Learned how to tune my harp

12. Tuned my harp

13. Played my harp

14. Starting writing a harp version of Silent Night since I couldn’t find one for my 12-string

15. Learned origami

16. Started writing my daily affirmations on a sheet of colored paper that I fold into an origami lotus flower

These flowers say really nice things about me!
17. Made of list of books I want to read

18. Wrote a few haiku, such as:

Aching emptiness,
What are my books whispering?
Nothing. They are shut.

19. Watched a movie (which borders on breaking the rules)

20. Cut out things from magazines for future art use.

See, for the most part, I’ve been productive. So, yay! But, it can’t wait for Sunday when I can start reading again. Only three more days to go… and I have my list ready!

UP NEXT: Some of my favorite Week Four exercises!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Artist’s Way: Week Four, Post Two

If I were to ask you the question “How are you?,” what would be your response?

Ten to one, I bet you’d respond “Fine,” no matter what was going on in your life, right?

Ya, me too.

And if you asked me “How are you feeling today?” I’d probably respond “Okay,” no matter what was going on in my life.

Glossing-over our emotions and thoughts is easy to do in conversation. (We don’t think the other person really wants to know anyway, and is just being polite.) But, it is next to impossible to do this in the Morning Pages. In fact, they really don’t allow it (I’ve tried). They press you to answer the questions “How am I?” and “How do I feel?” with an honesty that bares you to the bone. They make you answer even if you don’t want to because you know that it’s going to be painful (and require you to take action).

This truthfulness is what Julia calls Recovering a Sense of Integrity and that’s the focus for this week. She really goes into detail about the value of the Morning Pages in regards to uncovering who we really are, what we really believe, and how we can hide these truths from ourselves.

Here are just a few quotes that I loved in this chapter:

“Over any considerable period of time, the morning pages perform spiritual chiropractic. They realign our values. If we are to the left or the right of our personal truth, the pages will point out the need for a course adjustment” (p. 80).

“The process of identifying a self inevitably involves loss as well as gain … As we clarify our perceptions, we lose our misconceptions. As we eliminate ambiguity, we lose illusion as well. We arrive at clarity, and clarity creates change” (p. 81).

“Each day’s morning pages take a swipe at the blur you have kept between you and your real self” (p. 84).

I’ve experienced this, this unknown part of myself that suddenly makes its appearance on the page.

And it can be startling.

One of the rules of Morning Pages is that you don’t go back to read them. So, you’d think that that would mean you don’t remember what you’ve written (and in some cases this is true), but what happens is a tethered unraveling, an experience of coming undone and yet remaining connected. Slowly, more and more of me is appearing on the page. And it makes me uncomfortable facing myself in such an intimate way (which sounds strange, I know).

Let me give you an example to help you understand. A few days ago as I was writing random thoughts in my Morning Pages, a line appeared that was so shattering I actually stopped and held my breath because I was going to cry (and I hate crying). It was a truth so tender that I wasn’t prepared for it, and the line has been haunting me ever since.

I wasn’t going to share it specifically because it’s such a personal revelation, but, since it’s just the two of us, I’ll offer it for you to ponder:

It’s terrible to long for something you know you won’t give yourself.

The Morning Pages have shown me that this is my truth, my integrity.

And it breaks my heart…

UP NEXT: Not Reading = Sad Liz