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CHECK!

I DID IT!!! I MADE IT ALL THE WAY THROUGH THE ARTIST’S WAY! I get to check that off my Bucket List now. 🙂  What a great feeling.

  • Week 12 Theme: “Recovering a Sense of Faith.”  In this chapter, we learn to trust and protect our creativity and recognize signs of slippage.
  • Morning Pages: I forgot to bring my journal to Breckenridge this weekend (AGAIN), so I missed two days.  Right back into it though.
  • Artist Date: No.  No excuses this time.  Answer is just no.

Any “Aha” Moments? 

  • This chapter asks us to write down any resistance or fears about going forward from here.  I already know my big resistance is in the Artist Dates.  I realize that, aside from a few of the weeks, I pretty much blew them off.  It always seems to be impossible to find the time.  I am good with the “grand gestures,” which are artist dates in the form of BIG events like conferences or travel, but not very good at all in the daily care and feeding of my artist.  I need to spend some time with that knowledge and figure out how to make changes.
  • I will have no problem continuing the morning pages.  They are life blood to me now.  I’ve even noticed that on days when I forget to write them, I feel off-kilter.
  • Even though I’ve “finished” the program, I realize I’ve only just begun.  I’ve barely scratched the surface.  For that reason, each week I intend to randomly choose exercises throughout the book that I didn’t get to and work on them.  So let the artistic miracles continue!

A few favorite quotes from the Week 12 chapter:

“It is a paradox of our creative recovery that we must get serious about taking ourselves lightly.  We must work at learning to play.” (This, by the way, ties in quite nicely with George Shannon’s post on this blog earlier in the month).

“Life is meant to be an artist date. That’s why we were created.

“The truth is that this is how to raise the best ideas. Let them grow in dark and mystery. Let them form on the roof of our consciousness. Let them hit the page in droplets. Trusting this slow and seemingly random drip, we will be startled one day by the flash of, ‘Oh! That’s it!

So, what did you think of this series?  Did it inspire you in any way? Do you think you might try The Artist’s Way?

Week 11 Check-In

Week 10 Check-In

Weeks 8 & 9 Check-In

Week 7 Check-In

Week 6 Check-In

Week 5 Check-In

Week 4 Check-In

Week 3 Check-In

Week 2 Check-In

Week 1 Check-In

The Artist’s Way

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Exercise as artistic and spiritual practice. Hiking Cinque Terre

Could it possibly be right that I have just one week left to go? I might finally make it all the way through this time! 🙂

  • Week 11 Theme: “Recovering a Sense of Autonomy.”  This chapter teaches us ways to nurture and accept ourselves as artists by exploring behaviors that strengthen that artist.
  • Morning Pages: I forgot to bring my journal to Breckenridge this weekend, so I missed two days.  I’m back in the saddle now though.
  • Artist Date: No.  My planned artist date (and Valentine to myself) was to go to yoga class on the 14th.  But my son came down with the croup overnight, so I couldn’t go.  I guess that’s what I get for saving it for the last minute.

Any “Aha” Moments? 

  • Learning to focus on and honor the process rather than the product is VERY difficult to do, especially if you hope to one day make money from your art.  This chapter made me realize that our best chance at both being the best artist we can be AND to make money is to do work that is authentic and true.  There is a LOT of process involved, and let’s face it, who ever feels like a piece of work is “done?”  Just keep moving, keep working.
  • Likewise, I totally agree with Cameron on the importance and benefits of exercise to the artist.  I often get my best “writing” done while I’m running.  I need to treat the time to exercise as just as vital to my writing as the writing is itself.  Because it is.

A few favorite quotes from the Week 11 chapter:

“As an artist, I must be very careful to surround myself with people who nurture my artist–not people who try to overly domesticate it for my own good.. I may be a good cook, a rotten housekeeper, and a strong artist (caveat: I have NO idea how Julia Cameron snuck into my house to figure that out :-)).”

“The stringent requirement of a sustained creative life is the humility to start again, to begin anew.

“We learn by going where we have to go. Exercise is often the going that moves us from stagnation to inspiration, from problem to solution, from self-pity to self-respect.”

In what way do you nurture your artist?

Week 10 Check-In

Weeks 8 & 9 Check-In

Week 7 Check-In

Week 6 Check-In

Week 5 Check-In

Week 4 Check-In

Week 3 Check-In

Week 2 Check-In

Week 1 Check-In

The Artist’s Way

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For the record, I did NOT put that much cheese on mine. 🙂

This week I offer one quote from Charles Dickens in honor of his 200th birthday and because it tied so nicely into August McLaughlin’s Beauty of a Woman Blogfest which I participated in.

Quotes on Gratitude

“Cheerfulness and contentment are great beautifiers and are famous preservers of youthful looks.” -Charles Dickens

“The source of love is deep in us and we can help others realize a lot of happiness. One word, one action, one thought can reduce another person’s suffering and bring that person joy.”Thich Nhat Hanh

“Be like the sun for grace and mercy. Be like the night to cover others’ faults. Be like running water for generosity. Be like death for rage and anger. Be like the Earth for modesty. Appear as you are. Be as you appear.” — Rumi

Gratitude List for the week ending February 11

  1. My application to the Highlights Foundation Poetry for All Workshop was accepted! So I’ll be heading to Honesdale in May.
  2. In the light of less than a half moon, the stars in Breckenridge are brilliant.
  3. Fresh snow for skiing!
  4. Homemade 3-way Cincinnati chili – YUM!
  5. Another Margareaders meeting, and everyone enjoyed the book I chose – One Thousand White Women.
  6. Julie B.  She knows why.
  7. Meeting with my in-person critique group. Go Boulder Picture Book Writers!
  8. Rocky laying at my feet under the desk while I work
  9. Watching Em have fun selling Girl Scout cookies – AND the fact that the sale is over! (We still have three boxes of Thin Mints left if anyone is interested)
  10. Reading easy readers with Jay. He never tires of it and is getting better and better.  Soon he will read on his own!

What are you grateful for this week? 

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Books about self-calming, loving-kindness, meditation and gratitude are still relatively few.  This beautiful book is based on the teachings of Thich Nhat Hahn, and in the simplest of terms, introduces children to the use of their own breath as a way to slow down, calm down and appreciate the beauty in the world.

Written by Sister Susan, Illustrated by Nguyen Thi Hop and Nguyen Dong
Plum Blossom Books, February, 2002
Suitable for:  Ages 3 and up
Themes/Topics:  Mindfulness, Meditation, Breathing, Zen Buddhism, Multi-cultural
Opening and brief synopsis: Opening Lines: “Dear little ones, let us sit very quietly.  Listen… Listen to the wind.  Listen to the birds.  Listen to the crickets and the frogs.  Listen very quietly to your breathing.”
Activities: In my opinion, the best activity based on this book is to do a little meditation with kids having them pay attention to their breath.  When we do this at home, I ask my kids to pay attention to what they hear as they breathe.  It’s amazing how perceptive they become.  Once my son even said, “I heard my own heart beat.”
Why I Like This Book: Every time we read this, especially at bedtime, the kids emerge more peaceful and calm.  I think it also helps them to understand that listening to their breath can be calming at any time.  It also increases their awareness of their environment and their own feelings.  The language is also so lovely.  Here are a few more lines: “Breathing in, I see myself as a mountain.  Breathing out, I feel solid.  Breathing in, I see myself as space.  Breathing out, I feel free.  Space, free.”

For more books with resources please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog and find the tab for Perfect Picture Books!

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My first FULL morning pages journal

Per my post last week, I’m combining Weeks 8 and 9 into one check-in. It is way later than usual because, well, the vagaries of life got in the way this week – grocery shopping, cooking dinner, transporting kids all over hell’s half-acre.  BUT, this one is a doozy so hold onto your seats! 🙂

  • Week 8 Theme: “Recovering a Sense of Strength.”  This chapter focuses on surviving artistic losses by turning them into gains.  It also works on freeing us from using time as an avoidance strategy and creative block.
  • Week 9 Theme: “Recovering a Sense of Compassion.”  This chapter deals with our biggest creative blocks – the internal ones.  We learn that creative blocks are born from fear and only fear, and that it is artist-abuse to call it anything else – laziness, untalented, unworthy, etc.
  • Morning Pages: I missed a couple of days over the past two weeks, even though I didn’t intend to.  Here’s what I’ve learned about morning pages.  If I say to myself, “I’ll do them later,” I won’t.  They have to get done first thing after I wake up or they just don’t get done.
  • Artist Date: I didn’t go anywhere, but I did indulge myself in a couple of different activities.  First, I have been participating in a free online business boot camp called Women on Purpose.  The calls are an hour a day a few days a week.  Normally I would not allow myself the luxury of a whole hour to do something that is seemingly not directly related to my work.  What I’ve found, however, is that the topics addressed on these calls ARE directly related to how I want to run my business.  They are fun, encouraging and inspiring to listen to.  Second, when I found myself feeling run down this week, I allowed myself a couple of long naps in the late morning.  Very restorative.

Any “Aha” Moments? 

  • Chapter 8: One of the tasks for the week was a “memory mining” exercise.  I discovered that I had done several things in my youth to sabotage my budding writer.  Out of nowhere, I remembered that in my freshman year, my creative writing professor wanted to submit a couple of my papers (which were really personal essays) for publication.  I said no.  He encouraged me to take more creative writing courses.  I didn’t.  I know exactly why I didn’t, which I’m not going to say here, but what’s amazing is that I had forgotten ALL about it.  From there, I was able to remember other things I did over the years to squash myself before anybody else could.  Must. Stop. Doing That.
  • Chapter 9: The big assignment this week was to read the morning pages so far.  Wow.  In a way, that was extremely painful, and in another way, both enlightening and encouraging.  All along I’ve been pleased with my progress.  Just making it to Week 10 is an achievement.  Yet, I hadn’t yet felt that I’d experienced any major transformation.  Well, I was wrong.  My early pages contain lots of name-calling (of myself), feelings of lack – of accomplishment, creativity, discipline, etc.  Somewhere in the middle of my journal (because I have now filled an entire book!), more often than not the name-calling and feelings of inadequacy gave way to insights, ideas and excitement.  After I finished reading, I started thinking about all I have done and everything that has happened since I began November 9, 2011.  A few examples:
Things I’ve done since I began The Artist’s Way
  • Was a PiBoIdMo Winner
  • Set up the 12 x 12 in 2012 challenge.  This idea was just a twinkle in my eye at the beginning of November.  Now we are one full month into the challenge with 400+ members!
  • Completed revisions on my primary WIP from the second half of 2012 and sent it off for final comments
  • Continued work on a plan for a soon-to-be-announced side business, including networking and setting up meetings
  • Was a guest on Katie Davis’ Brain Burps About Books podcast!
  • Got three assignments (so far) to write articles for the Tools of Change conference in Bologna and the Bologna Children’s Book Fair.
  • Got a press pass for ToC Bologna
  • Established four-year goals for all aspects of my business, working backwards into each month for 2012
  • Outlined rough ideas for two potential e-books
  • Wrote a picture book draft in January of a story I’ve wanted to write for more than a year
  • Had my very first school visit and got invited for three more as a result
  • Set my networking and continuing education schedule for 2012 – conferences, seminars, etc.
Not too shabby, right?  And I still have three weeks left to go!  The best outcome so far, however, is all of the friends I’ve made along the way, especially from PiBoIdMo and 12 x 12!

A few favorite quotes from the Week 8 chapter:

“Creativity cannot be comfortably quantified in intellectual terms… (T)he entire thrust of intellectualism runs counter to the creative impulse. For an artist, to become overly cerebral is to become crippled.”

“Pain that is not used profitably quickly solidifies into a leaden heart, which makes any action difficult. When faced with a loss, immediately take one small action to support your artist.

“At the heart of the anorexia of artistic avoidance is the denial of process. We like to focus on having learned a skill or having made an artwork. This attention to final form ignores the fact that creativity lies not in the done but in the doing.”

A few favorite quotes from the Week 9 chapter:

“Fear is the true name for what ails the blocked artist. It may be fear of failure or fear of success. Most frequently, it is the fear of abandonment.”

“(B)eing an artist requires enthusiasm more than discipline… Enthusiasm (from the Greek, “filled with God”) is an ongoing energy supply tapped into the flow of life itself. Enthusiasm is grounded in play, not work.”

“Remember that art is process. The process is supposed to be fun.”

How have you overcome avoidance (fear) and/or internal blocks to your art?

Week 7 Check-In

Week 6 Check-In

Week 5 Check-In

Week 4 Check-In

Week 3 Check-In

Week 2 Check-In

Week 1 Check-In

The Artist’s Way

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The flowers I bought myself this week

I am now officially halfway through The Artist’s Way and twice as far as I’ve ever made it before.  That in and of itself is an accomplishment, but it’s beginning to feel likely that I will complete it this time.

  • Week 6 Theme: “Recovering a Sense of Abundance.”  This chapter asks us to tackle our beliefs about money and its connection (or lack thereof) to art.  Artists of all stripes tend to convince themselves that it is not possible to make money by making art, or even worse, that money corrupts art.  Clinging to these beliefs limits the ability for all kinds of abundance to enter our lives because we somehow feel unworthy, or that the art is not worthy.
  • Morning Pages: I did the morning pages every day except the day Katie Davis and I recorded the Brain Burps podcast.  I got out of bed that day charged up and ready to go.  What’s interesting now is that I’ll realize I missed later in the day and then everything feels “off” somehow.  I guess that’s what happens when a practice becomes a habit.
  • Artist Date:  I had two full days at our Breckenridge ski rental to myself.  I spent most of the time dreaming about and planning not only 2012 but the years beyond.  Then I made a tactical plan to support the goals and dreams.  The time I wasn’t working was spent walking the dog with the views of mountains all around or soaking in the tub with a book.  So yes, I’d say it was one heck of an Artist Date!

Any “Aha” Moments? 

  • Because money and abundance is such a charged topic, I actually thought this chapter gave it short shrift.  It dealt mostly with the ways in which we can be miserly with ourselves, suggesting we allow more luxuries, however small, into our lives.  One thing I did was buy myself fresh flowers.  I love the sight and smell of flowers in the house, but I almost never buy them because it seems like such a frivolous use of funds.  I’ve decided that I’ll buy them once a month from now on.  I didn’t notice any additional flow of prosperity into my life as a result of allowing myself that luxury, but maybe over time… 😉
  • One thing I realized is that I have to confront my overall fear of numbers. I’ve been living in avoidance of them for so long because I consistently tell myself I’m no good with them.  Can’t do that if you want to run a business and make money.  My most common recurring nightmare is that I have a math exam of some sort coming up and I haven’t attended any of the classes so I know nothing and have no way to pass.  Maybe if I believe I can learn to manage numbers (and actually take steps to learn), I will one day have a dream where I pass that exam!
  • Overall, I do believe that doing what you love leads to abundance of all kinds, that there is enough money to go around and that creating art is a worthy livelihood.  I don’t feel deprived in any way.  I’ve always had everything I needed and most the time what I’ve wanted.  I want money to support my family, yes, but I view luxury as experiences – travel, classes, dining, recreation, etc., rather than things.  I view money as the means to have those experiences and the freedom to choose how to live my life.  If there is one word I associate most with money, it is freedom.

A few favorite quotes from the Week 6 chapter:

“Most of us harbor a secret belief that work has to be work and not play, and that anything we really want to do–like write, act, dance–must be considered frivolous and be placed a distant second.”

“When we do what we are meant to do, money comes to us, doors open for us, we feel useful, and the work we do feels like play to us.”

“Because art is born in expansion, in a belief in sufficient supply, it is critical that we pamper ourselves for the sense of abundance it brings to us.”

What are your beliefs about money, art, and doing what you love to do?

Week 5 Check-In

Week 4 Check-In

Week 3 Check-In

Week 2 Check-In

Week 1 Check-In

The Artist’s Way

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After giving myself a buy week to focus on promoting a story I entered in a contest, I went back into The Artist’s Way with gusto.  I continued the morning pages during my week “off,” and that helped maintain continuity for me.

  • Week 5 Theme: “Recovering a Sense of Possibility.”  This chapter forces us to examine our limiting thoughts and all the ways in which we sabotage ourselves and our art.  We often want to stay within the safety of appearing good to the outside world as opposed to being our authentic selves.  The ways we sabotage ourselves include never taking time alone, sacrificing creative time to meet the needs of others, scarcity thinking (i.e. if so and so gets a book deal, that’s one less chance for me), discounting possibilities and undermining success.
  • Morning Pages: I did the morning pages every day except Christmas.  When the kids wake you up at the crack of dawn bursting with excitement, just try asking them to wait while you write!  And no, I don’t consider that an example of self-sabotage. 🙂
  • Artist Date:  Given that the whole family is home for to the holidays, there isn’t much solitude.  However, on Monday I did have a few hours to myself.  I used those to write, read and exercise.  Normally I would have convinced myself to work, clean, cook or plan.  Instead I allowed myself to do only enjoyable things.  I supplemented that by waking up early on Tuesday morning to write through some of the questions and tasks from Chapter 5.

Any “Aha” Moments? 

  • There is a section in Chapter 5 called “The Virtue Trap” that nearly brought me to tears because I recognized so much of myself there.  Solitude, it says, is mandatory for creatives.  We need it as we need air to breathe.  I have blogged about the importance of solitude before – here and here.  When this chapter asked the question, “Are you self-destructive?” I figured I could say no because I do take time for myself to “fill the well” so to speak.  But what I realize now is that the question is much more nuanced, and my answer is not simple.
  • I am good about carving out blocks of time for solitude at least once or twice a year, but I must admit that I have always felt at best strange and at worst terribly selfish about asking for and taking alone time.  The need to be alone doesn’t fit the world’s perception of a good person.  Giving to others always comes before giving to self.  As such, I kept waiting for Cameron to come forward with the section about balance.  That section never came.  This lady does not pull any punches.  She tells you like it is.  If you want to produce art, you need to nurture your creativity.  To nurture your creativity you need time alone.  Every time you sacrifice that need on the altar of other people’s expectations, you die a little inside.  Period.  The End.
  • I struggled with this question all week. On the one hand, I felt such relief at seeing another person admit to sharing a need that is so strong within myself.  On the other hand, I still have serious questions about how to take the necessary time while still sharing myself with others.  I know Cameron is not suggesting that all artists go out, be hermits and cut all ties to outside world. I think she is saying is that when we don’t meet our artistic needs, we sabotage ourselves and become more puppet-person than real person.  In so doing, nobody benefits.  I think she is also saying that if we stop sabotaging our true selves, we become closer to others and experience the world more fully.  We might find that the world bends around our need to be alone so that it is not an either/or choice.
  • THAT has always been my problem – viewing it as either/or.  My aha moment was realizing that I feel divided most of the time into the “real world” person who functions as everyone expects her to and the “inside” person who rages with creative desire so potent that it tugs at me almost continuously.  I don’t know how to bring these two together, so I’m hoping more answers will emerge as I continue the program.  Obviously my family and friends are just as important to me as my creativity, so I do need to find a way to merge these beings, or at least get them to live in harmony with one another.  For the moment, when I take time for creativity, I feel bad for my family and/or friends.  When I take time for family, friends, or other activities, I feel I am neglecting my artist-writer.  So I need to move from “no-win” to “all-win” situations.  Somehow.

A few favorite quotes from the Week 5 chapter:

“An artist must have downtime, time to do nothing.  Defending our right to such time takes courage, conviction, and resiliency… For an artist, withdrawal is necessary.  Without it, the artist in us feels vexed, angry, out of sorts.  If such deprivation continues, our artist becomes sullen, depressed, hostile..”

“We strive to be good, to be nice, to be helpful, to be un-selfish.  We want to be generous, of service, of the world.  But what we really want is to be left alone.  When we can’t get others to leave us alone, we eventually abandon ourselves.  To others, we may look like we’re there.  We may act like we’re there.  But our true self has gone to ground… Afraid to appear selfish, we lose our self.”

“Many people, caught in the virtue trap, do not appear to be self-destructive to the casual eye.  Bent on being good husbands, fathers, mothers, wives, teachers, whatevers, they have constructed a false self that looks good to the world and meets with a lot of worldly approval…  The true self is a disturbing character, healthy and occasionally anarchistic, who knows how to play, how to say no to others and “yes” to itself.”

Are YOU self-destructive?  Do you sacrifice your creative desire in order to tend to the needs of others?

Week 4 Check-In

Week 3 Check-In

Week 2 Check-In

Week 1 Check-In

The Artist’s Way

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Even Wile E. Coyote gets to read!!!

Sorry I am a day late with the check-in this week.  A bomb went off in my day yesterday and I just couldn’t get it finished, but here goes…

I don’t even know where to start with this week’s check-in.  If you read my earlier post, you know that one of the assignments for this week was a reading fast – no reading at all for a whole week.  The rationale is to get out of other people’s thoughts and creations and into your own.  What I can say for certain is that while it was pretty miserable, I learned a LOT about myself.

  • Week 4 Theme: “Recovering a Sense of Identity.”  This week is all about dealing with your real self and your realfeelings, as opposed to the ones that are on public display.  Mission accomplished.  Painfully so.Morning Pages: Yup.  I even powered through a couple of times when I wanted to stop after two pages.  Sure enough, something significant would come out in that third page.Artist Date:  Tuesday night, at 9:00, I found myself too tired to do any more work and DYING to read.  I was so angry that I couldn’t and found myself thinking, “FINE!  You want self-exploration, inner peace, silence, solitude?  I’ll give it to you!!”  So I did a 30-minute meditation with no music, no guidance from a recording – nothing.  I almost always use some sort of music or mantra when I meditate, and I have never sat for that long of a time in one block.  I’d love to say it changed my life, but it didn’t.  It did, however, calm me down and get me through the evening. I slept better that night than I had all week.

Any “Aha” Moments? Uh, yeah. Brace yourselves.

  • First, I knew I loved reading, but despite the fact that my house is loaded to the rafters with books (which should have been a clue), I didn’t realize how integral reading is to my life and well-being.  At different times during this exercise I felt anguish, longing, anger… Not dissimilar to the range of emotions you feel when after a break-up, actually.  Sometimes, not being able to pick up a book felt physically unbearable.  I’m not even kidding.
  • Second, I learned that I DO use reading as a way to escape from unpleasant feelings and self-examination.  Not all the time, but definitely sometimes.  Over this past week, whenever I felt upset, my hands just itched to pick up a book.  Not being able to forced me to confront what was bothering me.
  • Third, I learned that I DO use reading as a way to avoid creating.  I amazed myself with my productivity this week.  I even finished a brand new story!  I’ve been promoting the MeeGenius children’s author contest, writing on my own blog and still, I didn’t feel totally out-of-control like I sometimes do.  Although I missed reading my favorite blogs and hanging out on Facebook and Twitter (I did a teensy bit, but FAR less than usual), it was a blessing to have an excuse to skip all that reading.  I will, however, be glad to get back to them.  Kind of like greeting a friend after an absence.  🙂

So, what did I do while I wasn’t reading?  Well, I decorated my house for Christmas.  I cooked several meals on Sunday so as to be prepared for the week ahead.  I listened to Christmas music.  I took the dog for long walks.  I watched a movie and The Grinch with my kids.  I reflected (even when I didn’t want to).  And I wrote.  I learned that you really do need the silence spaces in order to let creativity bubble up to the surface.

What will I do with these lessons?  One thing is for sure, and that is I will NOT do a reading fast EVER. AGAIN.  HOWEVER, I do commit to bringing more awareness to my reading – just checking in mentally to see if I am reading for pleasure, for purpose, or to escape myself or my writing.  If it’s the latter, I will attempt to explore those feelings further before running away with a book (or Google Reader).

I also realize that I need to put more structure around my social media time.  I’ve known this for a long while, actually, but it took this week for me to admit that it’s getting in the way of my writing.  I LOVE blogging, reading blogs, Tweeting, Facebooking.  I’ve made some amazing friends this way!  *Here’s me looking at YOU.*  I will keep doing these things, but I am going to have to prioritize and set time limits.  For example, reading the blogs of my regular followers will always come first.  Next will be the ones that provide professional benefit to me.  If I have time left after that, I can read the ones that are just for fun.  And no matter what, I have to actually STOP when the time is up.

For one thing, I’ll never take reading for granted again!  While I certainly do not think that reading is an enemy to creativity or self-exploration, I do think bringing awareness to when, how, and why I choose to read when I do will be a good practice going forward.  I don’t think I’ll have any choice but to be honest with myself if I’m picking up a book, a magazine or scrolling through my Google reader as a way to escape difficult feelings or to shove my creative self away under the guise of “other work” I need to do.

A few favorite quotes from the Week 4 chapter:

“People frequently believe the creative life is grounded in fantasy.  The more difficult truth is that creativity is grounded in reality, in the particular, the focused, the well observed or specifically imagined.”

“Until we experience the freedom of solitude, we cannot connect authentically.  We may be enmeshed, but we are not encountered.”

“Reading deprivation is a very powerful tool–and a very frightening one.  Even thinking about it can bring up enormous rage (Uh, yeah!)  For most blocked creatives, reading is an addiction.  We gobble the words of others rather than digest our own thoughts and feelings, rather than cook up something of our own.”

The only other thing I have to say is — THANK GOD THAT’S OVER!

Have you ever examined hobbies or habits to see if you use them to escape?  Not only reading, but watching T.V., listening to music, surfing the Internet, etc.?

Week 3 Check-In

Week 2 Check-In

Week 1 Check-In

The Artist’s Way

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What's on YOUR list?

ETA: As soon as I published this post, I immediately thought of more things I want to do and places I want to see. Rather than keeping track of them elsewhere, I will add them to the lists here.  I will also cross them off when I’ve completed them (except for the last list, because most of those things are ongoing rather than one-time).

For my 300th post, I decided to write a Bucket List – things I want to do before I die.  I divided the list into three (loose) categories of 100 each:  1) Places I Want to Visit, 2) Things I Want to Do (many of which include specific places), and 3) Ways I Want to Make a Difference in the World.

Making the first list was a snap.  I did not allow myself to include places I’ve already visited but want to see again, and even so, I had no trouble choosing 100 places.  I could never travel enough or see enough of the world.  I would go to every last corner of the earth of I could.  So I guess it’s good that I now have priorities!

The second list was more difficult.  I really had to stretch myself and give myself permission to dream big without allowing the censor to whisper, “Oh that’s not possible!”

The third list was by far the most difficult.  I always think in the nebulous terms of, “I want to make a difference,” but I never specify HOW exactly.  Now that I’ve reached 40, I realize it’s time I start not only thinking about it but doing some things.  For that reason, this was a very good exercise for me.  I think we should all think about not just what we want to do for ourselves but what mark we want to leave on the world.

One final comment: I did not include things that would require others to make specific choices.  For instance, I could easily have put, ‘See my kids get married’ or ‘Watch Michigan win a National Championship Game live’, but that would require outcomes I have no control over.  So I kept the list tightly focused on things that I would be capable (theoretically) of doing without being dependent on the decisions or actions of others.

Places to Visit

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

  1. Kenya – Masai Mara
  2. Egypt – Cairo, Pyramids, Red Sea, Nile
  3. Morocco – Marrakech, Fez, Tangier, Sahara
  4. South Africa
  5. Tanzania/Mt. Kilamanjaro
  6. Mauritius
  7. Namibia – Etosha National Park, Skeleton Coast
  8. Zimbabwe
  9. Bwindi National Park, Uganda
  10. Seychelles
  11. Australia

    Sydney Harbor

  12. New Zealand
  13. Madagascar
  14. Japan – Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara
  15. Thailand
  16. Vietnam
  17. Indonesia/Bali
  18. China – Shanghai, Beijing, Great Wall
  19. Tibet
  20. Nepal
  21. Bhutan
  22. The Taj Mahal, India
  23. Mumbai, India
  24. The ghats of Varanasi, India
  25. Malaysia – Kuala Lumpur
  26. Windsor Castle, England
  27. Cornwall, England
  28. The Lake District, England
  29. Scottish Highlands
  30. Ireland
  31. Crete, Greece
  32. Santorini, Greece
  33. Zakinthos, Greece

    Zakynthos, Greece

  34. Rhodes, Greece
  35. Symi, Greece
  36. Barcelona, Spain
  37. Sevilla, Spain
  38. Valencia, Spain
  39. Cordoba & Granada, Spain
  40. Provence, France
  41. Carcassone, France
  42. Normandy, France
  43. Amalfi Coast, Italy
  44. Bologna, Italy, March 2012
  45. Siena, Italy
  46. Tuscan countryside, Italy
  47. Sicily, Italy
  48. Lake Garda, Italy
  49. Salzburg, Austria
  50. Vienna, Austria
  51. Berlin, Germany
  52. Black Forest, Germany
  53. Swiss Alps
  54. Lucerne, Switzerland
  55. Amsterdam, Netherlands
  56. Croatia
  57. Budapest, Hungary
  58. St. Petersburg, Russia
  59. Sweden
  60. Norway

    Norway Fjord

  61. Iceland
  62. Hebrides Islands
  63. Rio de Janeiro
  64. Amazon Rainforest
  65. Argentina – Buenos Aires
  66. Chile
  67. Peru
  68. Macchu Picchu
  69. Patagonia – Argentina and Chile
  70. Alaska
  71. Many Glacier Lodge – Glacier National Park
  72. Charleston, South Carolina
  73. Savannah, Georgia
  74. Cape Cod, Massachussets
  75. New Hampshire in the autumn
  76. Moab, Utah
  77. Monument Valley, Utah
  78. Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
  79. Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado
  80. Florida Everglades
  81. Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
  82. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan
  83. Hawaii – Big Island, Maui, Kauai
  84. Santa Fe, New Mexico
  85. Albuquerque, New Mexico
  86. Finger Lakes Region, New York
  87. Badlands, South Dakota

    South Dakota Badlands

  88. Yosemite National Park, California
  89. Santa Barbara, California
  90. Quebec City, Canada
  91. Niagara Falls, Canada
  92. Banff National Park, Canada
  93. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
  94. Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
  95. Baja California, Mexico
  96. Chiapas, Mexico
  97. Nicaragua
  98. Belize
  99. St. Lucia
  100. St. Vincent & the Grenadines
  101. Basque Region of Spain
  102. Cuba

Things I Want to Do

“Life is either a great adventure or nothing.” — Helen Keller

  1. Publish many books for children
  2. Write and publish travel articles
  3. Write and publish personal essays
  4. Make The New York Times Bestseller list
  5. Write a novel (at least one). I almost don’t even care if I ever publish one.  I just want to write one.
  6. Write down my father’s “Greatest Hits” (i.e. his best stories)
  7. Dive the Great Barrier Reef, Australia
  8. Dive in the Red Sea, Egypt
  9. Dive in Palau, Micronesia
  10. Camel-trek in the Sinai desert
  11. Go cage diving to see Great White Sharks
  12. Dive in a kelp forest
  13. Hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu during a full moon
  14. Ride in a hot air balloon
  15. Take my kids to Disney World
  16. See a wolf in the wild
  17. Go to the Rose Bowl when Michigan is playing
  18. Ski Jackson Hole
  19. Ski at every resort in Colorado
  20. Ski the Dolomites in Italy
  21. Ski the Alps
  22. Learn to ski moguls like an expert
  23. Learn to ski in powder like an expert
  24. Go heli-skiing
  25. Take a photography course
  26. Stand on the field at The Big House
  27. Perfect Adho Mukha Vrksasana (handstand) pose in yoga
  28. Take an Italian language immersion class in Italy
  29. Take a flamenco dancing class in Spain
  30. Learn to speak fluent Italian
  31. Read The Divine Comedy in Italian
  32. Take surfing lessons
  33. Touch an elephant

    Photo from my brother

  34. Swim with dolphins
  35. Attend an Eckhart Tolle retreat
  36. Meet the Dalai Lama
  37. Attend an Olympic Games
  38. Spend Hogmanay in Edinburgh
  39. Spend a few nights on The Royal Scotsman
  40. Compete in a “mini” triathlon
  41. Run another half marathon
  42. Oktoberfest in Munich
  43. Take cooking classes in Italy and France
  44. Do wine-tasting tours in Italy and France
  45. Wine-tasting tour in South Africa
  46. See the Northern Lights
  47. Successfully grow broccoli in my garden
  48. Learn how to build an Excel spreadsheet
  49. Perform in a play
  50. Become a writing coach/teacher
  51. Attend at least one World Cup game
  52. Earn a living from writing and writing-related work
  53. See a whale in the wild
  54. Take my daughter to Rancho la Puerta
  55. Attend the Yoga Journal conference in Estes Park
  56. Do yoga in India
  57. Make meditation a regular practice in my life
  58. Write and e-publish a travel memoir
  59. Finally read David Copperfield to the end
  60. Learn Colorado history
  61. Polar Bear safari in Cape Churchill, Canada
  62. Bake a cake at altitude that doesn’t sink in the middle
  63. Go Deep Sea fishing
  64. See an opera at La Scala in Milan
  65. Carnavale in Venice
  66. Carnival in Rio de Janeiro
  67. Stand on the North Pole

    Absolut bar at the Ice Hotel

  68. Stay at the Ice Hotel in Sweden
  69. Take my kids to see Les Mis
  70. Sleep under the stars in the Sahara desert
  71. Take a helicopter ride to see a live volcano
  72. Walk on the Great Wall of China
  73. Bush-walking in Seven Spirit Bay, Australia
  74. Hike in Tasmania, Australia
  75. Hike The Grand Traverse and Fiordland National Park, New Zealand
  76. Stay in an overwater bungalow in Bora Bora
  77. See the Iditarod – Anchorage, Alaska
  78. Kayak in The Inside Passage and Glacier Bay, Alaska
  79. Ride the Durango and Silverton steam train
  80. Swim with Manatees in Florida
  81. Attend the Highlights Foundation Writer’s Workshop at Chautauqua
  82. Go to New Orleans for Mardi Gras
  83. Go to the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, NM
  84. Go back to Camogli, Italy for the Sagra del Pesce
  85. Cruise the Antarctic Peninsula
  86. Learn to play poker
  87. Ride a zipline in the jungle
  88. Put all of our home movies together so we can watch them on TV
  89. Digitize all of my “paper” photos
  90. Organize all photos into digital albums
  91. Complete all twelve weeks of The Artist’s Way
  92. Go on a yoga/meditation retreat
  93. Bag one of Colorado’s “Fourteeners.” Preferably Long’s Peak, which I can see from my front window
  94. Write poetry more often – not for publication, just for myself
  95. Climb a 50 ft. indoor rock wall (which my daughter can do!)

    la Tomatina - Bunol Spain

  96. Ride the Trans-Siberian Railway
  97. See a meteor shower
  98. See every Michelangelo sculpture
  99. Participate in la Tomatina – Tomato fight!
  100. Learn more about my family history/geneology
  101. Attend a local “festa” in rural Italy
  102. See a Harp Seal in the wild

Ways I Want to Make a Difference

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” – Mother Teresa

  1. Raise responsible, independent, compassionate children. If I fail at this, nothing else will matter.
  2. Ensure my children receive a good education so they can contribute to the world.
  3. Love my children boundlessly
  4. Teach my kids to be appreciative
  5. Encourage the kids in their natural sense of wonder
  6. Expose my kids to as many experiences in the natural world as possible
  7. Expose my kids to as many cultures as possible
  8. Read as many books to my kids as possible
  9. Look my kids in the eyes when I speak with them
  10. Be as good of a mother to my kids as my mother was to me
  11. Donate a portion of my personal proceeds from the sales of my (future) books to benefit related charities
  12. Make an annual donation of food and blankets to the Humane Society
  13. Adopt another dog or two (eventually – Rocky is enough for now!)
  14. Continue teaching critical thinking skills via the Junior Great Books program
  15. Help bring healthy, whole food to all school cafeterias by supporting the School Food Project and Food, Family, Farming foundation
  16. Donate annually to National Public Radio and PBS
  17. Donate annually to National Resources Defense Council and Defenders of Wildlife
  18. Donate annually to The Sierra Club
  19. Shop for gifts through organizations such as Unicef and National Wildlife Federation
  20. Advocate sexual and reproductive health education and rights for women around the world – through donations and Kiva lending
  21. Continue making micro-loans through Kiva
  22. Vote in every election
  23. Take Volunteer Vacations
  24. Teach creative writing to children
  25. Teach writing workshops for adults
  26. Mentor new writers
  27. Lead writing retreats that inspire women to give time to their creativity
  28. Create a scholarship for these retreats
  29. Help others live creative lives with passion
  30. Support small, family-run businesses as much as possible
  31. Grow vegetables in my garden every year
  32. Plant trees in my yard and in the community
  33. Each time I shop, buy one item for donation and put it in a box.  When the box is full, take it in to the food bank.
  34. Buy organic food as much as possible
  35. Shop at farmer’s markets more often
  36. Continue serving on the PTO at my kids’ school
  37. Support fellow writers by buying their books
  38. Be “responsible for the energy I bring” – from Jill Bolte Taylor – more info here
  39. Be a better listener
  40. Practice patience
  41. Do a better job of keeping in touch with people who are important to me
  42. Volunteer to spend time with an elderly person
  43. Practice living in the present moment so I can bring my full attention to the people I am with/what I am doing.
  44. Participate in a Polar Bear Plunge for charity
  45. Complete A Course in Miracles
  46. Continue my Gratitude Sunday posts
  47. Consistently donate clothing, toys and other items that we no longer use
  48. Sponsor families in need at Thanksgiving and Christmas every year
  49. Find ways to volunteer with my kids
  50. Write letters to authorities advocating my views on issues that are important to me
  51. Help Em sell Girl Scout cookies
  52. Pick up litter at every opportunity
  53. Participate in 5K, 10K and other runs that benefit charity
  54. Donate my talents (writing critiques, editing, etc.) to online auctions to benefit charity
  55. Make eye contact with people and smile
  56. Whenever possible, say people’s names out loud to them
  57. Remember to say “thank you” for each and every kindness and courtesy
  58. Use my blog to create awareness of important issues
  59. Read banned books and make sure my kids read banned books
  60. Support the arts by providing funding for Kickstarter projects
  61. Use my public speaking skills to motivate people
  62. Recycle and compost as much as we can
  63. Solar power our home
  64. Use only non-toxic cleaning products
  65. Always take re-usable bags when I go shopping
  66. Tip well for good service
  67. Give compliments often
  68. Do nice things for strangers for no reason
  69. Promote the good work of others
  70. Don’t ignore people who are suffering – instead reach out to them
  71. Conserve energy – turn off unused lights, unplug appliances, etc.
  72. Write more Thank You notes
  73. Get my Christmas cards out every year
  74. Participate in Crayons to Calculators each year
  75. Participate in Turn Off the T.V. Week each year
  76. Start collecting Box Tops for education
  77. Write notes to authors of books I love letting them know
  78. Volunteer in a disaster recovery effort
  79. Keep the computer turned off from the time my kids come home from school until they go to bed
  80. Once a month, have a family game night
  81. Read out loud to the kids as a family activity more often
  82. Treat my family with respect
  83. Do not buy meat from factory farms
  84. Give without expecting anything in return
  85. Observe the beauty in the world aloud to others
  86. Practice forgiveness – work on forgiving those who have hurt me
  87. Invite a neighbor over for a cocktail
  88. Talk to my aunts and uncle so I can record stories of their childhood
  89. Cook meals for friends more often
  90. Teach the kids how to cook traditional family recipes
  91. Volunteer in a women’s shelter
  92. Volunteer, at least once, among the very poor
  93. Volunteer to promote literacy among both children and adults
  94. Read, with an open mind, articles and books written by people whose views are very different from my own
  95. Value experiences over stuff and teach my kids to do the same
  96. Help educate others about the importance of wild predators in the food chain
  97. Write more book reviews to support books (and authors) I love
  98. Learn about Feng Shui so I can apply some of it to my house
  99. Do a better job of remembering the birthdays of friends and family members and to actually send cards
  100. Advocate for art and physical education in public schools

Do you have a Bucket List?  If not, do you want to make one?  Here are some additional resources to get you started:

43 Things

Barefoot List

Creating a Bucket List

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Twice I have attempted to make it through Julia Cameron’s now-famous 12-week creativity course, The Artist’s Way.  The purpose is to lead people to a creative recovery (or discovery), to accept ourselves as the creative people we are, and to create pathways for creativity to flow freely.  Both times I tried, I abandoned the course in week three.

At the core of the course are two basic tools: Morning Pages and Artist Dates.  Morning pages are three pages of longhand (with pen and paper) stream-of-consciousness writing you do first thing in the morning – before anything else.  Morning pages are meant to show us that we don’t need to be in the mood to create, to stop judging, to release ourselves from outcome, and to remove all the “junk” that clutters our minds and keeps us frozen creatively. The Artist Date is a block of time, to be taken alone, to nurture your creativity.  See a movie, visit a flea market, take a hike — but do it ALONE.

In addition, every week has a chapter dedicated to a specific theme or issue to work on, along with exercises (optional) that take you further with the theme.  And of course, each week concludes with a check-in.  Did you write the pages, take the artist date, uncover any truths?

I have always had great excuses for not finishing the course.  I had a full-time job, I was too tired from taking care of young kids, I had an infant at home so I couldn’t go on the artist dates, etc.  I am not a morning person, so getting up to write those pages every day gets old.  Fast.

But a fellow blogger, C.B. Wentworth, has inspired me to try again.  On her blog, she has been posting about her experience with Wreck This Journal and sharing her insights.  By sharing her journey, she’s probably learning even more than if she were working on it solo.

So today, I started The Artist’s Way again.  I wrote my morning pages and signed the “Contract” for the third time.  Each Wednesday, I will use the blog as a check-in, both to keep myself accountable and to share whatever revelations I may have that week. With the blog at my back, so to speak, I think I can make it through this time.

Just one morning in, and I’ve already noticed that I am carrying around a lot of fear.  It seems appropriate then, that the theme for Week 1 is Security.  Now after today, I will not share specifics from my morning pages because they won’t be stream-of-consciousness if I feel I’m writing for an audience.  They are meant to be entirely private.  But today I will share.  This morning when I emerged from my morning pages, I was surprised to discover that: 1) I am very afraid of this limbo phase I am in right now where I’m transitioning to a writing career but not yet earning much income, and 2) how much better I felt just by acknowledging that fear.

I am SURE this fear is creating barriers to my creative growth and hampering my process.  I hope that taking this course will break those barriers down (at least a little) and alleviate some of the trepidation I am carrying around with me.

Have you ever done The Artist’s Way or a similar program?  Have you made it through the entire course?  Any advice?

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