A Little Bit of Everything

It is Sunday Fun Day, and I’ve been listening and watching this world, looking for wisdom all around me. Here are a few creative beauties that have kept me going lately:

My garden continues to be a source of inspiration. This has been our best year for hydrangeas so far.

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A few months ago, I asked for podcast recommendations, and my friend J— recommended Creative Living with Jamie. Jamie Ridler has created an online studio where she shares blog posts, art classes, and Behind the Scenes with Jamie (my absolute favorite!). There’s so much great artistic inspiration on this site. I hope you will check it out.

I’m also into Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin. My favorite interviews so far have been with Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman (so funny!), Carly Simon (fascinating!), and Sarah Jessica Parker (intriguing!).

Anne Lamott did a Ted Talk! Just Awesome.

…and the Tony Awards are on tonight! What more is there to say? Can’t wait.

 

Sleep, Creep, Leap!

When my husband and I moved into our house many years ago, the backyard didn’t have any landscaping. It took us some time to budget for a garden, and we decided to start with planting a flower garden on one side of the house.

Of course, on the day we designated for the project, I thought we’d dig the plot in the morning, plant in the afternoon, and then we’d sit back and watch our garden flourish in the sunny days that followed.

(There seems to be a theme on this blog, and perhaps my life, of grand plans followed by reality checks!)

Unfortunately, the Georgia earth did not share our vision. We spent the entire first day chiseling through rock and compacted clay, sweating and swearing, with our shovels clanging in protest.

We regrouped the next day and mixed planting soil into our small border plot. We planted some colorful flowers and a two-foot camellia.

My dad loves to garden, and during one of my visits home that spring, he gave me clippings from his perennials. He wrapped them in wet paper towels and plastic wrap. My mom gave me seeds from her morning glories, and we packed the seeds and clippings in a shoe box, snug in my suitcase, for my flight back to Atlanta.

(I’m happy to report I made it through airport security without being strip-searched or arrested for plant smuggling, but you might not want to try this yourself.)

We planted the clippings and seeds, and we watered our garden and tended it over the hot Georgia summer. Over the next few years, the garden evolved, and some of the original plants blossomed as we’d hoped. The sedum, euonymus, and morning glories from my parents’ garden adapted quickly.

The camellia grew steadily and surprised us with beautiful pink blooms every January and February—before spring even started!

After success with the first flower bed, we decided to plant a similar border on the other side of the house. While the first garden was very freeform, the second border was planned to be more structured with a line of shrubs.

We bought three azaleas, which are native to Georgia, so we thought they would thrive. However, the second garden was prone to flooding—and maybe we didn’t dig the holes deep enough, or maybe the soil was too acidic (or not acidic enough?). Either way, during the first spring to summer, we watched the azaleas fry and die.

We tried another set of azaleas the following year, and again we had the same result. The third year, we tried a new shrub type. I didn’t learn its name. I didn’t want to feel too attached.

We tended the shrubs…We watered them, but we didn’t over-water them.

We watched and waited.

They didn’t grow much, but they didn’t die…it looked like they were going to survive.

My friend commented that they were working beneath the surface.

“Have you heard the expression?” she asked, “The first year they sleep, the next year they creep, and then the next year they leap.”

Her gardening advice was on the mark, and our second garden grew from an orange mud puddle to a thriving and soothing green space. Like the first garden, we added clippings from our family’s and friends’ gardens, and we eventually learned what worked for that environment.

Nature has given us Sleep, Creep, Leap—and, if you’ll take a bit of a leap with me here (ha ha!), I believe we have the same stages in creativity too.

Sleep

Sleep is the vision stage of creativity, and it comes from sleeping, dreaming, or daydreaming. It is the time when a color, idea, or story appears in your thoughts, and you begin to think, “I wonder what would happen if…”

This is the stage of researching and gathering ideas and seeds from your community. It is the stage of drawing preliminary sketches in your journal.

You buy some supplies. They gather in the corner while you stare at them, and they stare back at you saying, “There’s never a perfect time to start.”

Creep

During the Creep stage, you’ve planted your idea, and you’re ready to give it some care. You spend dedicated time nurturing your vision.

It is the stage of writing and editing, painting and layering, molding and baking. Your vision moves slower than you expect, but it is still growing.

It is also during this stage that your idea may shoot in a different direction, or maybe your original idea reaches a stopping point. The shrubs get flooded or the leaves are fried in the sun. You might need to start over in a new direction with new information.

It might not feel like it, but your vision is growing beneath the surface, giving your art foundation and strength—gathering nutrients to feed the buds above ground. You are in the flow, your vision has a quiet momentum…

Leap

In the Leap stage, your project has been nourished. The roots that grew during the Creep stage give it strength. It has survived the seasons, cold, heat, flooding—and coming into the spring, it is stronger than ever. All the work you did during the Sleep and Creep stages has allowed your vision to leap ahead. Your art is blooming wild.

Time to Reflect

As we transition from the sleepy winter into the potential of spring, I invite you to reflect on the color and light that inspires you.

Do you have an idea that is ready to grow?

What seeds are waiting to take root in your art?

What can you do to nourish your creativity?

Here’s wishing you patience and peace with the Sleep and Creep stages. May your creativity continue to leap and bloom.

This is What We Do

Last Saturday, January 21st, I walked in the Women’s March on Washington. It was an amazing, peaceful gathering of people, united in protest. We were 500,000+ women and men packed shoulder to shoulder. At one point, I couldn’t lift my arms because we were sandwiched together so closely. As someone who is not comfortable with crowds, I still felt like I was in a safe space.

Our fellow marchers had travelled all night from all over the country. I met people from Oregon, Texas, New York, Indiana, D.C., and Pennsylvania.

In addition to the signature pink pussy hats, there were many signs.

A guy walking behind me commented, “Wow, there’s so much angry creativity here.”

The day wasn’t about creativity, but it’s what we do— right? As artists, and simply as human, creative beings, we channel our anger, loss, heartbreak, love, hope, and experiences onto the page or canvas.

If we want to understand a society, we study their art.

SNL political spoofs remind me of Shakespeare’s satires and tragedies.

The knitting of the pink pussy hats (…and gigantic uterus shown here!) reminds me of quilting bees and how women have historically sewn their stories and messages into quilts.

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Some of my favorite moments from the day are as follows:

The song Quiet became a flash mob, sung around the world.

One group handed my friend a folded note. They were distributing various quotes of inspiration and freedom.

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There was a group from Savannah, Georgia carrying signs painted by artist Panhandle Slim. Each sign had a quote from a writer, poet, singer, artist, character, or public figure. Read more about this incredible artist and his story here.

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Whatever you are feeling right now, take time to immerse yourself in your art— express and articulate, breathe and heal. Wishing you peace, my friends.

Finding an Answer

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a resolution is defined as follows:

“the act of finding an answer or solution to a conflict, problem, etc.”

and

“the act or process of resolving: as

  • the act of analyzing a complex notion into simpler ones
  • the act of answering : solving
  • the act of determining…”

I bolded the words I just love in this definition: finding an answer, simpler, and solving.

This definition seems so much friendlier to me than the self-torture goals most of us set in the New Year. Nowhere in the definition does it mention deprivation, starvation, or rigorous workouts.

Yes, this is a good time of year to review what is important to us. It is the time of year to reset and take better care of ourselves. It is the time for long walks, journaling, and meditation.

I hope you will give yourself a resolution for more joy the answer of creativity.

If you need scientists to tell you how good creativity is for your brain and your health, read Study Says Making Art Reduces Stress, Even If You Kind Of Suck At It.

If you’re waiting for permission and validation to create your art, listen to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons podcast #204. (And let’s just revel for a moment in her conversation about immersion with Mark Nepo. I think immersion is my favorite word for the year ahead. What will you immerse yourself in this year?)

If you feel that you’re too old to start, read/watch Hollywood Reporter’s Creative Until You Die. (language warning on these clips!).

Instead of “no pain, no gain,” give yourself a resolution that will bring you joy. If one hour a day is too much of a commitment, start small. Try one hour a week or one hour a month. …One hour just for you, to let your brain wander, dream, and solve problems.

Sign up for a class or workshop, write in your journal, set up a creative space just for you.

It’s time to play and create.

Happy New Year.

My Favorite Things

I made my annual trip to the mall yesterday. I’m not much of a shopper, and I avoid the mall as much as possible. If I can buy all my Christmas presents at local stores or online, I consider it a personal achievement. However, there are always a few gifts that force an excursion to the mall. (Cue: feeling of impending doom.)

We had been there for about two hours when I turned to my husband and said, “If I die and go to Hell— ”

“—which you know you are,” he said.

“Yes, well…Hell will be all this.” I nodded my head towards the crowds of people around us: the slow walkers, the slouching teenagers, the screaming children, the angry mom with the baby carriage steamrolling straight towards us, “It will be a mall just filled with humanity.”

Needless to say, I’m not big on crowds. And I was not feeling the holiday spirit in that moment, nor was I feeling very creative.

It is difficult to feel creative this time of year. There aren’t enough hours in the day. You’ve probably set aside your creative projects to take care of the cooking, baking, shopping, and wrapping.

If you’re feeling drained creatively, it is important to remember that an important phase of creativity is observation. It is watching and listening. It is remembering and reflecting.

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So, in my own effort to connect and breathe, please allow me to share my favorite observations and memories. Here are a few of my favorite things:

  • The sound of ice skates swooshing around an outdoor skating rink.
  • White lights wrapped around every tree in sight.
  • Tapping our toes to Christmas music.
  • The scent of pine, cinnamon, and vanilla.
  • Christmas carolers.
  • Mittens.
  • Hot chocolate.
  • A purple sky and the crisp smell of a pending snowfall.
  • A frozen tree shimmering in the moonlight.
  • A quiet night of snowfall. Is it is so quiet, I can hear snowflakes land.
  • Listening to Holy Night at a Christmas concert. Holding my husband’s hand.
  • Candles lit in church.
  • Sitting with my family around the fireplace. Sipping coffee, talking, sharing, and laughing.
  • Walking into my grandparents’ home and seeing them at the top of the stairs, ready with a warm hug.
  • Pans of lasagna.
  • Pizzelles.
  • Tea in treasured teacups.
  • Seeing my nieces and nephew discovering lifelong friendships in their cousins.
  • Walking with my family through the woods on the day after Christmas. Snow crunching under our boots. Our dog running ahead…happy trot. Exploring.

I hope you will take time to reflect on your own favorite moments.

Take a step back.

Take it all in.

Observe and breathe.

Secrets

There is a superstition surrounding “The Scottish Play.” It is believed that Shakespeare used real witches’ spells when he was writing the tragedy, and the play is cursed. Stories of violence and death surround its productions throughout history. If anyone speaks the play’s real title in the theatre, or quotes any of the lines, the curse will be unleashed.

If you don’t know which play I’m talking about, please look it up elsewhere. I will not take any chances here! I never say the play’s name aloud no matter where I am. 🙂

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Shakespeare isn’t the only artist to have secrets in his work. A painter might have a symbol he blends into all his paintings. An actor often has a secret on stage that he doesn’t reveal to the audience until the end of the play (if at all). When an author builds characters, there are often histories and subplots she never shares with her readers.

All these layers contribute to interesting, complex creations. On this day of mischief, I am wondering…do you have any secrets in your artwork?

 

Hamilton’s America

Who watched PBS’s Great Performances documentary Hamilton’s America on Friday? If you missed it, you can still stream it from the PBS.org website for a few more weeks. Thank you, PBS!

There was some great footage from the show and interviews too. It was interesting to see how it all started with one song— and how the musical built momentum. It became something Lin-Manuel Miranda had to write.

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I couldn’t get enough of the show clips. They also showed us Lin-Manuel in the composing stage of My Shot. As he was envisioning the scene, we were shown the intense creative process that goes into his work. I loved seeing how he pieced together his ideas, leaving himself open to inspiration, and then how it all came together on stage.

One of my favorite moments was the conversation between Lin-Manuel Miranda, Stephen Sondheim, and John Weidman about research, artistic expression, and collaboration. We also got a peak of Lin-Manuel working “Cabinet Meetings” with his composing team.

Just awesome.

What’s next besides playing this documentary and the sound track repeatedly? I must get tickets to this show!