What to Write About

Lily in the back of the CRV

I will haunt you if you don’t write about me.

I used to characterize my bored and sad brain with a line from T. S. Eliot:

Thoughts of a dry brain in a dry season

Lately my brain metaphor has switched and I see all the randomness (or seeming randomness) as flotsam and jetsam. Is the brain a sea? Or maybe all our brains together are one big sea, a little bit like Jung’s collective unconscious, but wetter.

So the mind drifts here or there, and when I meditate I see how it goes from thing to thing to thing, but winds up so often at the same place: there is something wrong with me, or I did something wrong, or my feelings are wrong. I should be happier, sadder, more at ease, less judgmental. The list goes on. When I’m not busy castigating myself or trying to make myself get up and clean the house, I notice how certain ideas and things tend to show up again and again. These are the things my mind is stuck on. Here’s a partial list, in no particular order: Continue reading

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10,000 Reasons to Keep Writing

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Recently I’ve been making an effort to exercise more. I set a goal of averaging 10,000 steps a day, and I track my steps with my phone. According to a random article on the internet, the 10,000 steps per day goal comes from a marketing campaign to sell pedometers in Japan. So, there’s no magic number of steps that will make anybody fit and healthy. But something about that number is alluring anyway.

I started thinking about the number ten thousand and how it surfaces in various contexts: Continue reading

Art Journal? But I’m Not an Artist

Perhaps you’ve been clicking around on flickr or Pinterest and you’ve seen amazing art journal spreads like this one:

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Photo of art journal 8.28 by Lenna Young Andrews via flickr and licensed under CC 2.0

Maybe you’d like to liven up your journal with paint and pictures but you say, “I’m not an artist.” Good news! You don’t have to be. It’s your journal, you can do what you want.

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What’s a Muse? And Why Do I Need One?

Photo of Marble statue of Isis by Carole Raddato via flickr and licensed under CC 2.0

Photo of Marble statue of Isis by Carole Raddato via flickr and licensed under CC 2.0

You may have heard Elizabeth Gilbert’s 2009 TED talk about about creativity and inspiration, in which she discussed the idea that writers and other creative people are visited by a Muse while they work. This extraordinary being (angel? daemon? goddess? blithe spirit?) drops by to guide the writer’s hand and leads the writer to produce something beyond what her normal abilities would allow her to produce. This is a very old idea– so old, in fact, that the Muses as we know them date back to the classical period in Greece. If you look around on the web, you can find lists of their names and information about their appearances in classical literature.

It’s an interesting idea, for sure. But Gilbert suggests that this is more than idea. It is the way that you make peace with your creativity. You understand that your part of the deal as an artist is to show up and work hard. The rest is up to the Muse. It’s not up to you, the writer, to be an amazing creative genius. Therefore you don’t need to feel badly if the writing isn’t going as well as you’d like. You just keep going. Sooner or later the Muse will show up.

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3 Things That Inspire Me

Full disclosure: sometimes quotations that are supposed to inspire me instead make me gnash my teeth and wish I never, ever, had to hear them again. This is especially true when the words come on a poster with flowers or a sunset or a beach or a little innocent child. I’m talking about stuff like this:

When you come to a roadblock, take a detour.

Bonus grumpy points if the quotation is attributed to someone who never, ever, said or wrote it: Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Mother Theresa, or Mark Twain. These people had better things to do than to sit around thinking up pithy quotes about “fall down 9 times, get up 10.”

Now that I’m done ranting, I want to share a few things that inspire me. I hope they don’t make you want to kick a puppy* or start drinking at noon.

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3 Strategies for Dealing With Criticism of Your Creative Projects

dog chewing a book

This book is insufficiently tasty. Photo credit: “animal critic #2” by dylan Snow via flickr, licensed under CC 2.0

Sometimes you will put out a blog post or a video or a poem or whatever and someone will stop by to read (view/listen/etc) what you’ve done and then offer an opinion. Here are 3 ways to deal with (and not get derailed by) criticism.

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The War of Art – A Review

“Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what Resistance is.”

– Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

photo by   via Flickr cc

photo by See-ming Lee via flickr cc

I’ve read a lot of books about creativity, making art, and becoming a better writer. In many of these books, there are one or two great ideas, and then some ideas that I find are not useful, or not original, or both.

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