Lately I’ve been chasing after the bliss that comes from unfettered art making. That, I’ve learned, is where the “good stuff” lives.
For me, the start of a new project means writing page after page of thoughts, ideas, scenes, dialogue etc., just so I can get to something good. I circle around the tale — searching, looking for one shining sentence that will grab hold of my imagination and cause me to say, “this is where the story begins.”
The process reminds me a lot of being a voice student in university. One teacher I studied with, the amazing Dr. Peggy Balensuela, knew just how to help me find my way to my best voice. One of the most helpful (and wonderful) things she used to do during my lessons was to ask, “how did that feel?” What she wanted me to do, especially when everything was working well, was to take note of what was happening in the moment. “Remember what that feels like,” she’d say with a smile.
Singing with the whole of your voice/self feels different from anything else you’ll ever do. Like the waves that a chickadee cuts through the air as it flies, each voice has its own sweet spots, its own lilt. Writing just to see where words will take you can conjure that same sense of grace.
#3. Process is more important than outcome. When the outcome drives the process we will only ever go to where we’ve already been. If process drives outcome we may not know where we’re going, but we will know we want to be there.
#32. Break it, stretch it, bend it, crush it, crack it, fold it.
– From Bruce Mau’s Incomplete Manifesto for Growth
I think most of us could benefit from spending less time beating up on ourselves and more time fostering our creative selves. There are few things we do on a daily basis where we abandon our self- awareness and “let ‘er rip.” Maybe we’d get to the bottom of our troubles, find solutions to our problems faster, better easier, more often, if we took a little time each day to dance, sing, paint, write, laugh, love, with honesty and bliss…and like we didn’t give a $h&t who was watching.
8. Write a song a day.
15. Learn people better.
33. Wake up and fight.
– from Woodie Guthrie’s New Year’s Resolutions 1942
The image at the top of this post is one my husband made for me and my students (The Creeklings) while I was teaching the Teen Writing Academy at the Ross Creek Centre for the Arts. It’s a riff on the Blitz-era’s “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster that’s been making the rounds again the last few years, as well as a variation on Matt Jones’ motto,”Get Excited and Make Things.” I keep a copy of it on the wall in my writing studio and another on my desktop. It reminds me how it feels to “write like nobody’s watching.” It reminds me that for all the judgement I heap on myself for not writing well enough or fast enough or whatever enough, that the words I write, pen to page, are, at least in the moment, wild and shining and mine.
I used to think that writing was an escape. Now I find that honesty with self = strength on the page. – from my writing journal February 20, 2012.
By the way, I’ll be hanging out at the Ross Creek Centre for the Arts during March break (Wednesday, March 14th, 2012) teaching a creative writing workshop for students ages 11-16. I’ll also be heading up the Teen Writing Academy again this summer. For details, please visit The Ross Creek Centre for the Arts.
Other people and places mentioned in this post: