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.

 

The Sound of Writing

Many years ago, when I had fully transitioned out of theatre and into the corporate world, I would listen to my old rehearsal tapes on my commute to work. I loved the sound of learning a piece of music: the music director counting off the beat, breaking down a phrase into sections of soprano, alto, tenor, and bass—discussing the interpretation of the music, bad notes, fixed notes, laughter, and then putting it all back together.

Bit by bit, putting it together.

-Stephen Sondheim, Sunday in the Park with George

(Oh yes, Mr. Sondheim, we will talk about you someday soon, my friend…)

These days, I am drawn to the sound of authors discussing their writing and creative process.

Do they write early in the morning or late into the night?

Where do they find their ideas?

What do they find most challenging about writing?

Seth Meyers recently interviewed Paul Beatty regarding his book The Sellout. There is some interesting conversation here about Beatty’s writing philosophy, including the question- Are you a Completionist or a Perfectionist? Hm…

 

 

 

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.

The Spark of Childhood Memories

As a snowstorm worked its way across the country this weekend, I was taken back to my favorite memories from childhood. We only got a dusting here in Atlanta, but early Saturday morning, I could hear kids in the neighborhood laughing and screaming as they played outside.

For me, a snow day began with the strategic layering of clothing: long underwear, jeans, turtleneck, sweatshirt, and then ski pants and a puffy jacket. Each foot wore two pairs of socks, a plastic baggie, and boots lined with fleece. Of course I wore mittens, a hat, and a scarf too.

My brother and I would step outside to play, moving at the warp speed of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

With our backs in the snow, we’d sweep our arms and legs to make angels. We’d roll onto our stomachs and crunch the snow in our mittened hands, testing it for density and stick. The best snow would stick together for the perfect snowball, which could be rolled across the yard to make the ultimate snowman.

We’d build forts out of the huge mounds of snow lining the freshly-shoveled driveway. I liked to carve shelves and buckets out of the pile. Then, we’d pack snowballs, stockpiling them in our forts for a snowball fight with friends.

Those were the best days. Playing hard. Sweating in my snowsuit even though it was minus-something degrees out.

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It is fun to tap into those childhood memories. Even though they were many years ago, time-traveling through them is a vivid experience.

And maybe that is why, Anne Lamott, in her book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, recommends childhood memories as an inspiration point for writing.

“Start with your childhood, I tell them. Plug your nose and jump in, and write down all your memories as truthfully as you can.”

She goes on to describe how to branch out from there. Beyond, “just sit and write,” as some authors advise, Lamott provides tangible exercises for writing. She also shares anecdotes from her life. Reading Bird by Bird is like taking a writing semester with Lamott as the professor (Oh, to dream!).

There is a reason why Bird by Bird is one of the most recommended books for writers. If you’ve already read it, it may be time to read it again. And if you’ve lost your will to sit and write, start with the spark of a childhood memory.

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.

Ann Patchett

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My friend K— is always a reliable source for book recommendations, and about seven years ago, she suggested that I read Bel Canto. I checked the paperback out of the library. It was my first Ann Patchett book. Not only was I instantly captured by her writing, but I remember the setting and the plot were different from anything I had ever read.

Whenever I find a new author (new to me anyways), I research their list of publications and start to work my way through each book. After Bel Canto, I read The Patron Saint of Liars and then State of Wonder. State of Wonder haunts me and stays with me still.

Patchett writes about the human experience and connections in traditional and non-traditional settings. I think I find her books so powerful because she creates such vivid characters with real struggles, mistakes, and pain.

I continued to read my way through her work, and then I tried to figure out how she does it— how she creates those stories that hold my heart and sit in my chest as I turn to the last page. Continue reading

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!