Sunday, January 31, 2010

An Artist Date for the Birds

According to the book, The Artist Way at Work, Riding the Dragon, Chapter 2, this is the week devoted to listening for The Roar of Awakening.

Can't say I heard it, but in synchronicity (love that word) with Annie's pigeon vision the other day, I heard some chirping. I believe there was some fire-breathing involved, as well.

One of the creature comforts of my kitchen is its two-way fireplace, where I sometimes like to perch first thing in the morning with a cup of coffee and a book until the clock says I'll be late for work. This past Friday I took the day off. With the luxury of time on my hands after breakfast and the prospect of a three day weekend spread out before me like a buffet, I sat literally with feet to the fire reading a book to the finish. To the finish. Seventy uninterrupted pages. The tranquility of my household is something I trade for the assaults of working daily in a cubicle, shut away in an exhibit warehouse off of 8 Mile in inner Detroit. Imagine my delight in sitting by the hearth and suddenly hearing the chirping of birds. First just one, then the collective. Flocking right overhead, drawn by the warmth of the chimney, the chatter of birds, a welcome harbinger of Spring. And there it was: my Cinderella moment. No need for bibbity-bobbity further "time-out" for the ball - having experienced a morning so sublime... with the birds.

As for the prescribed Inner Dragon Holiday this week, suffice it to say it involved a short trip into Ann Arbor, with all its usual pleasures and curiosities.

Best "Artist Date" to date: last Friday I took myself to the movies (a first!) where I put on 3D glasses and a stupid grin on my face and delighted in every last luscious frame of AVATAR. Okay, wordwise, plotwise, it's like an all-day sucker, every flavor: Dances with Wolves meets Alien Smurfs on the Titanic. But for the eyes and ears, it's drop- dead gorgeous cinema-making. Go. See it. Soar.

Artist Date 2.1 -- Annie & Cujo

Progress report on the Ribboned Memo Board Project.

1) I bought the wrong puffy stuff. Or bought the Too Puffy Stuff. When I opened the bag, instead of unrolling circumspectly, it came poofing out. You could stuff a pillow or a bear with it, but that's not my project. So I put it in a large trash bag and stored it away to share with the pillow or bear makers. And now I need to go back to JoAnn. But it is a gorgeous day so, so what.

2) I found the stapler and used it to snap a staple right into my finger. This was not on plan.

3) Cujo has found my decorative furniture nails. (Securely packaged is the only positive note.) I think he just shoved them under the couch in the boathouse. In any case, they are far, far away.

Not a smooth start. But a lovely Sunday. Read Chapter 3. It has some very cool stuff. Not puffy stuffing, but still quite cool.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Artist Date II - Annie

What the heck is that?

My first thought, as I drove up the ramp toward it, was that there was Arabic lettering on the Jo-Ann Fabrics ETC storefront. And although that certainly would have been creative, it didn't seem too likely. I looked closer. Pigeons! How fun is that??? I took their picture and rejoiced to be out in the world seeing strange and wonderful things.

My Artist Date for Week II is in two parts.

Part The First: Shopping at Target & Jo-Ann.

Part The Second: Making myself a Ribbon Memo Board.

Julia wants us to put up messages to ourselves. Like, "Stop playing 'Zuma and write something, you slacker!" Just kidding. Julia wouldn't want us to call ourselves slackers. That's not her Way. These would be inspirational messages. "Such as, 'I'll provide the quantity and let Holy Tree provide the quality."

Plus, I have photos and little mementos I don't want to poke holes in with pushpins. Thus, my desire for a padded memo board with crisscrossed ribbons you can just tuck things into. I am so all about this project.

I'm planning to do it tomorrow and post a photo of it in all of what will certainly be its glory. But first I have to find my stapler.

What I'd like to point out here is this: Jo-Ann Fabrics ETC. at University Square is a gigantic space. Just massive. And as far as I can tell, with the exception of a handful of mundane objects like straight pins, it is fully, irrevocably, profligately devoted to the pursuit of creativity. Wow. Ribbons, buttons, notebooks, scrapbooks, yarn and knitty items, macrame, decoupage. Lord Almighty! Even some of the straight pins are fancy. Actually, there are pins in every possible color. Racks of them. Pins! I LOVE this. The sheer, over-the-top exuberance of it all. It speaks Creativity to everyone who walks in the door. I was gaa-gaa over stuff I didn't even know what it WAS.

That's it for now.

In closing: A good time was had by me.
It worked! Oh, how fun! S
I am trying to see if I can post on my own. fingers crossed, Susan


Hi everyone, it's Maura... former colleague and eternal friend of Annie's... and several others among us, you know who you are! Not the mysterious Saudade, my Blog-joining secret identity, she's very beautiful and mysterious. She piles on the Fracas, asthmatics be damned.

Here's a real picture, of me, "hard at work". LOL. I have already fallen off the Morning Pages wagon, or off the Bus, as it were. Annie said I could soldier on though, and so...

I wanted an Artist's date with myself, gave myself my number, but I never called. I guess I'm Just Not That Into Me. ha-ha- we all know THAT's not true.

Planned to see Crazy Heart, maybe this weekend. I have a morning page, well maybe a page and a half. I have done AW once before, and look forward to easing back in- I don't do anything very abruptly these days. Joint pain.

My Artist credentials are: Art School dropout, "published" poet (at age 13 in a Literary Magazine), school literary pursuits and editorial positions, and the inexorable yearning. Saudade. Leave a beautiful scrap behind of the beautiful world as I see it. Make something. Though I did make commercials for a long time, and several of them were quite beautiful. For a commercial.

Happy Artist's Weekend!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Time-out. And action!

How not to get A-Way from work:

Answer email. Call colleagues. Check email. Snorkle the web. Poke through the news. J.D. Salinger died today, who knew he was still alive? Check out the new iPad. Steven Jobs is definitely still alive. Clean desk. Hold fast to the delusion that you’re busy, racing against the clock, catching up and making up for lost time. . .at work.

Reporting in on “time-out,” I observe that work deprivation can be a form of torture for the workaholic.

Tough times, tough town. January in Detroit. However sunny and clear the day, it is bone chilling cold. Here in what feels like the epicenter of the Great Recession, “time out” for all too many friends and close colleagues means time out of work. I have not been cut from the workforce, but the blade feels ever so close.

Home today, I couldn’t be busier at work, my desk piled with books to read, proposals to write, new projects in development - all engaging and challenging enough to keep me occupied. Gainfully employed. And yet, becalmed in this sea of work, my time is my own today, on a “Furlough Day,” an imposed day off without pay.

Furlough. Isn’t that the word for temporary leave of absence from the army or from a prison term? Furlough. In Detroit that’s shorthand for lay low, wait and see how the next quarter will go. Furlough. Let’s share the wealth in reverse. Better news than Lay Off, if everyone sacrifices just a day off, we’ll all get through. Isn’t that the spirit of non-profit?

Ok, boohoo, so I feel like a polar bear swimming in open water. With a day off of my choosing every pay period, I have all kinds of time for Time-Outs to plan. Or not. The day awaits, the wind blows fresh and clear, there’s still a good hour and a half before the sun dwindles, and my resolve fades. Still time for a Starbuck’s and a curl-up with a good book. ( reading The Maytrees, Annie Dillard).

Up in the Air. Oh yeah, I’ve seen it.

I'm here!

I'm Mariln Chase and I'm here , finally -- better late than never. When Annie invited me to join "The Way" again, it was the answer to this year's New Year's Resolutions -- write more and reconnect with old friends. A perfect combination of both. Hi, Ann. Hi, Laura. Hi, Viv. Hi, Susan. Hi, everyone else!

I am still at Liggett Stashower -- where I met all of those "Hi's.' Work, obviously, consumes a lot of my time but I'm getting more focused on what I'm going to do post-Liggett. Traveling, writing, rescuing dogs, writing, watching my son Wes evolve into a nice young man, writing, spending time with friends, writing, learning to cook (late-starter), writing. The latter should give me enough to write about for the rest of my life. (Just ask my son.)

I think the long term plan is to travel and visit friends, who will teach me how to cook one of their favorite dishes, which I will then share with Wes and my dogs -- and I'll share al of it in a blog!

Who wants to be my first cooking instructor?


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Self-Defined You. (And Welcome, Kathy!)

I'm going to be brief. Amazing, that. Week Two is an exploration of "a self-defined you." I've been exploring what it would mean to be a self-defined me. I've been using the morning pages for that, not in a deep thoughtful way, but in a musing, rambling, curious keep-your-hand-moving Morning Pages way. Just now, I'm listening to "Who Are You" by The Who,for inspiration. It's in my novel, too. It's Allie's Unidentified Caller ringtone. It's going to be mine as soon as I can figure out Garage Band.

Sorry, the rambling stops here: Ask yourself, "Who am I, self-defined?" So far, I've decided I'm a person who doesn't pee in the swimming pool. But who are you? Delineate yourself. Where do you draw the line? In a good way? And don't answer the question once and for all. Let it ride all week. Don't count your money while you're sittin' at the table. As we gamblers like to say.

And say Hello! to Kathy our newest team member. Bill & Vicky's cousin, so therefore, my cousin, too. Flower girl at our wedding. (I have pictures, Kathy. I could share...) Creative person and world traveler extraordinaire. She gives new meaning to the words "Halloween Costume."

Oh, and P.S. THAT'S not Kathy in the photo. Kathy is blond and beautiful. That's Holy Tree. Goddess or possibly God of Creativity.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Have we been properly introduced?

For a person who usually lets the rules rule, I realize that I started posting without telling you all one dang thing about me. Ann asked us to do that and I promptly ignored her. I'm Laura Starnik. Ann Hogsett is my great friend and former colleague at Liggett Stashower. Vivian and I used to work together there, too. Hi, Viv. And I was one of the LS reader volunteers at Susan's school. Hi, Susan.

During my life at Liggett, I was a "suit". After my unfortunate defenestration from the agency I worked at National City. Long story short I became the copywriter for their creative services group. Go figure. Go Artist's Way! Now I'm "freelancing" (thank you PNC), which means I spend a lot of time on the elliptical machines at the YMCA. I am also an actor, busy on the local theatre scene. I actually feel empowered to say that now. Maybe The Artist's Way had something to do with that. Anyway, I know I'm not making it up.

This is my third stint with The Artist's Way. Wait until you get to the part about synchronicity.

One of the things I attribute to the exploration is my appreciation for all the artists in my life: my fireman husband who creates beauty all around our home, my brilliant writer friends, and photographers and the many musicians - lyricists, pianists, singers, guitarists, and a trumpeter, an oboist and a couple of producers. And of course the many wonderful actors and directors I'm constantly learning from. They're all around. Possibly stealing your parking space. Plus all the other characters that I encounter every day making their way in the world. Why just the other day I was talking to this guy from Ireland who ran an Irish import store...

An Essay: How The Squirrel Ate My Homework

Hi All,

I will try my hand at pig drawing tonight...but I figure I better introduce myself soon or I‘ll have to wait for the next group to form.

My name is Susan Stechschulte. Annie’s email about The Artist’s Way sounded like just the thing to help me get started on that New Year’s resolution that had already been put on a shelf or drawer to be taken out next January and reexamined once again only to think...maybe 2012.

I’m an Annie groupie! We are in the same book group and I always wait for Annie’s email, sometimes her emails are as entertaining as our book discussions. Then she always finds the perfect quotes to add in soft gray tones at the bottom of her emails. When Annie was at Liggett, she helped me bring tutors to my school and the Liggett ladies were an enthusiastic and well-loved group.

I know Annie said we can post or not post ...but as a good little Catholic school girl I need to be a part of the exchange. So first bear with me. I must tell the tale of why I’m a week behind the group. As befits a teacher, I’m going to begin with a “Dog Ate My Homework!” story. Actually, if my dog Bailey hadn’t gone to the world beyond, I wouldn’t be in this fix. But that’s Part 2.

First, let me preface my tale with why I’m behind in the first place. Blame that on Obama, everybody else does. Last year after the election my group of Eastside Obama ladies needed a new project. We had the sweet (but brief) taste of victory and lots of energy. So on MLK Day last year, we collected food as a service project called “Food for Change.” We provided meals for over 600 families. This year we decided to collect “Books for Change.” Last Monday, instead of finding the book, The Artist’s Way and doing “Morning Pages,” I was collecting books for Cleveland school kids. I figured Tuesday would be a good day to begin and only one day late!

This is where the pathetic homework story comes in. It’s Tuesday morn and I have my day all planned out with a trip to the local bookstore. Another book group friend who also happens to be named Anne called. While talking on the phone, I looked out the window and watched as 4 squirrels besieged my bird feeders. I knocked furiously on the window--their beady little eyes barely flinched. If only my faithful friend, Bailey was still alive, he would have eagerly done my bidding. Well, I use to be a fairly fast runner, that is, prior to double knee replacements but I was ready to give chase. Can you see where this is headed?

Phone in hand and mouth running, I rushed out the door ---one step, two st...

Black ice! I fly into the air, the squirrels momentarily disperse to regroup. I do some very impressive aerial maneuvers that I can guarantee were not designed for fake knees, for that matter, any knees. I let out a small scream on impact and several “OH MY GODS!” Interspersed with several invectives.

Meanwhile, I hear Anne’s voice on the phone inquiring as to my current state of health. As I lie on my back on the pavement, I assure her I’m fine and tell her I’ll call once I’m back in the house. The squirrels are now perched safely in the locust tree enjoying the spectacle of this middle aged women flat on her back. They actually had the audacity to scold me.

Now to the problem at hand: how to get up? I scoot on my bottom to the door and try to pull myself up. What is my problem? I use to be a downhill skier. My brothers and I regularly jumped off the garage roof and now I keep slipping and sliding back to the ground like a Charlie Chaplin figure.

I’m finally able to grab the door handle and push myself up one step into the house. Luckily, the back steps provided a way for me to be “homo erectus” again. I grabbed the cane from the closet and ice from the freezer. I hobbled to the couch. As I passed the kitchen window, I glanced squirrely friends were back happily eating their morning meal.

I no longer cared about the damn squirrels and the birds would just have to fend for themselves. I assessed my injuries. Hmm, better wait and see. I assured Anne that I was fine. I lied. My knee was throbbing and 3 times its normal size and there was this slight ache in my leg...

After a trip to the docs--yup, a broken fibula! The fake knee was my real concern. God bless the prosthesis---the cement and metal held, I have a little added s-t-r-e-t-c-h to my ligaments.

Not bad, it provided a reason for my “Why I Haven’t Posted Tale.”

Yes, this story will finally come to an end---all good and bad stories eventually do. A friend dropped The Artist’s Way off to me over the weekend. I actually had time to read and I printed all of your postings. You all have me inspired and energized to begin! I promise not to blather on and on again, but it was an acceptable excuse, wasn’t it?

With nowhere to go, I should be able to read and write...the Artist date that will require some thinking.

Squirrelly Susan

Monday, January 25, 2010

Redwing's Artist Date Report

Redwing aka "Tuckie" aka Mary Lucille reports on her Artist Date during the First Week of Our Journey.

I'm a retiree in Morgantown, West Virginia whose passion is writing non-rhyming contemporary poetry. This is my third trip through Julia's twelve week "course" and the value of the Morning Pages alone is astounding. The best way I know to put it is that when I’m writing them, "I'm grounded in my daily life."

My decision regarding The Artist's Date last Saturday, January 23, was to go to a really interesting consignment shop set up by a nurse or former nurse perhaps since she has this growing by leaps-and-bounds business. Usually there are interesting objects galore. On Saturday, everything looked old and much was reduced in price (happens after being there so many months) and I was grumpy when I left.

Unsatisfied, I went Lowe's and Michael’s thinking that at one of those places some creative idea would overpower me but nada....

So grumpy and crabby, I went home unsatisfied -- and then the most amazing thing happened. For months I've known that I needed to go through my closets "yet once again." So I pulled out the great guiding book, Scaling Down, which has a more effective rule for me than "If you haven't worn it for a year..." and read the tabbed paragraph saying "If it doesn't fit; it isn't attractive; if it isn't appropriate for the (name it) occasion, get it out! And, in a happy flurry, I tackled this project which is always difficult for me.

I count the ousted items as a way of monitoring my progress and 29 items were laid out for probably Goodwill. That sounds like a lot but when you are retired, you realize that not only the "big dresses" Oprah says eliminate but others that you really like a) no longer fit; b) are no longer attractive or are hugely out of style and c) suits are actually no longer appropriate to your more casual way of living.

My logical mind says there is a direct connection between a downsized non-cluttered environment and creativity but I had no idea there would be a direct link from the Artist's date to my incredible need to launch spring cleaning and to make space for more creativity. But the link was there and that's the amazing result of my first week's Artist Date.

Monday is Fun Day!

Laura, who is relentless in her demand for cool amusements has brought us this wonderful artist exercise for Monday of Week 2.

Draw A Pig. Tah Dah!

You have NO IDEA how hard I had to work and how many unexpected things I needed to figure out about my computer in order to provide you with the illustration.

It was a bear getting this pig.

Anyway. Draw a pig. Take the personality test.

You deserve some Pig Fun today.

Thank you Laura. [Applause!]

P.S. One thing I have not figured out his how to put a live link into a post. So you'll have to cut and paste. Go ahead. It's worth it.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Going my way. Got a map?

Sleeping like a blog. . .waking way early these days. Any normal person might ask why. Why get out of bed long before daylight on a perfectly good Saturday morning to scribble in a notebook that no one will read? Why indeed . . . noting that I actually turned up the lights at 4 am on Saturday morning and 5:00 am on Sunday. Unintentionally. It just happened that way, as my mind started wandering out of sleep and spinning dayward to work. Nothing unusual in that, even on a weekend. Work is always on my mind on one level or another.

As a scribbler of words, ever on “assignment” in advertising for nearly 25 years in Cleveland, then in the stretch to PR and fundraising for the Jewish Federation of Metro Detroit, and now as an exhibit designer/content developer for the Detroit Science Center, my work has always been a form of creativity, a source of energy and discovery. And so, I’m well accustomed to wakeful rest and restful awakening.

I suppose if I were better organized, I’d keep a notebook at bedside, near the shower, while driving, walking, exercising. . .but what a bother and what a menace on the road, hunting for a pen. And so I have come to trust those ideas that knock gently, let themselves in, and stay where I choose to keep them, content to be “on the back burner” or ready to jump into the stew up font.

Do I have a “book” of my own simmering somewhere? Not really. Not that I know, and not that I will ever find by standing on the sidelines of writing for others.

Why here, why now? A brief introduction: For those on this road who don’t already know -- Annie is a former colleague of mine. Actually, more than that. Ann and I met one another first as “Shaker moms” -- family friends, some time before she joined Liggett-Stashower. Our sons have been close friends since junior high. We have shared big chunks of our lives together. It may have been Ann who introduced Morning Pages to me, I don’t recall, but I do remember the giddy venture we started at Liggett-Stashower with Lynn Lilly and Rip Ruhlman and others more than a decade ago, embarking on “The Artist Way at Work,” just before I moved from Cleveland to Detroit.

Why now? Why again? Because my dear friend Ann has generously asked me to join her. Because I’ve discovered it’s more fun to say yes than no to most ventures in life. Because for the time being, the time being right now, I have given myself the assignment of opening up to “The Way” again, this time at the instigation of Ann (the only real and serious writer I know) and in the company of good friends from Liggett-- Maura, Laura and Marilyn -- and others whom I hope to meet soon. I hope to take this journey with you as seriously as Ann does, and to do the work as conscientiously as I would any other “paid” assignment.

That in a nutshell is my reason for being here -- rolling out of bed, shaking off sleep, awakening to Morning Pages . . . and blogging (of all things)finding my way again . . . reading, writing, noodling. . .who knows where it will go. See ya'll on the path. -V

Artist's Date: Annie

Well, first of all, I need to get out more. I probably had a way better time than circumstances even warranted, due to real world deprivation, but that's not important now.

First of all, my session with Amelia at the Apple Store was [insert superlative here in a bigger font than is available. Add three -- no five -- exclamation points. Thanks. You didn't quite capture it, but nice try.] I had the BEST time. Amelia, my guide, knows all about the Mac and she told me the greatest stuff. And I remembered that I had questions which I'd forgotten. She answered them all. I walked out in love with Apple, in love with my Mac, in love with technology. Kind of in love with Steve Jobs. Or maybe just with his brain. And his money....

THEN I went to Starbucks. As many of you know, my opinion is that the only way Collinwood falls short of Shaker Heights is the lack of a Starbucks. (That sharp, piercing sound you just heard was the mayor of Shaker Heights just screaming and screaming. Hah.) And there I was IN one. Having a Venti Non-Fat Latte and listening to people place their orders in a foreign language that ends in phrases like "no whip." I believe -- and I bet others have also suggested -- that "Venti, Venti, Venti" translates to "I came, I saw, I got so caffeinated I can't stop shopping."

SO THEN I went to Crate and Barrel. In my ecstatic state of mind and caffeination, that's the equivalent, of drinking a fifth of Jack Daniels Black Label and driving onto the off-ramp of 271. Or singing Karaoke. I was lucky I didn't wake up behind a dumpster with a new couch and ten sets of dishes. As it was, I bought some bowls and staggered out.

Anyway, it was a great date. It had everything. Ideas. Sights. Smells. Caffeine. I may have exaggerated slightly but, truly, it refreshed my self in the way a vacation can. New stuff. A change of pace. A change of venue. And a sense of quest. "What will I find that will change me? What might awaken that was asleep?"

And look: If you went on your date and were bored, nervous and unhappy, and came home sad, don't feel it wasn't good or real. That's a creative experience, too, and I promise to have at least one of those before we're done.

Hey! This here is the launch point of Week 2. We made it this far. Read Chapter Two this evening. During the football. That's the best time.

Have fun!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Hi and Happy Saturday to everyone. It is now Saturday a glorious weekend day and the real Vicky has come out. No, not the creative Vicky, but the Vicky who likes to sleep in (this is aided by getting calls from work after 10pm and hot flashes during the night). I got up at 8am. That's a little late even for me. Now the dogs are upset and they are still going to have to wait for their walk because I need to do my Daily 3 and then a short run before they get there walk.
i hope all of you have a great day.

Friday, January 22, 2010

So happy!

Great new posts. I'm hearing great plans for The Date. I'm signed up for a digital photography at the Apple Store tomorrow morning. Excited. And a little intimidated. How fun!

Artist Date - note to self

Here's my first post.... by way of short introduction . . . former musician, former Telarc producer/editor, former employed person, current wife and mother of 2, current embarkation on new reality, currently happy.

Just wanted to tell you all that I had hoped to take myself on my first artist date to Spaces Gallery. I get emails from them and had never been, so here was my chance! They were between exhibits and preparing for the next so they were closed - doh! Note to self: make sure the destination of my artist date is open! So I went to Old Stone Church instead. Improvisation has its merit!

I am not a native Clevelander (although I've lived here for 25 years...) and am going to discover Cleveland on my artist dates. I'm really excited to go places I've never been. I've been wanting to do this for a while now, and TAW (and Annie!) have given me the perfect excuse. So I welcome any "best kept secrets". . . .

I'm dating myself

Hi, it's me, Laura, posting my first post. That's a lie. It's really my second post, but the first one didn't go through for whatever reason. It was a stupid post anyway. Gotcha! Just kidding. No self-deprecation/flagellation here. It was a brilliant post.

My first date will be tomorrow. I'm planning to take myself to breakfast at the Borderline in Lakewood. Just me and a really decadent meal. Maybe I'll meet some new people.

Future dates will include seeing a movie that I know NOTHING about and possibly of a genre that I don't usually seek. This will force me to stop reading movie reviews so I'm not preconditioned to bring some else's opinion along. I've always wanted to do that.

Past dates have included picture-taking of funny/ironic road signs. My favorite was a sign at a trailer park, at the end of a drive. It said "dead end street." I thought to myself "no shit."

Oh! The Places You’ll Go!

Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away! ~ Dr. Seuss

If you read the Basic Tools in your Artist's Way book, you have Julia Cameron's advice about your weekly artist date:
Go alone. Don't not go because it seems frivolous or somehow weird and scary. Go some place that feels like fun to you -- or to you when you were 10 or so.

Although I've invited you to share your plan here, don't let that be an obstacle. I'm just looking for ideas for myself. It's your date and you don't have to tell anyone a darn thing about it.

That's Rule #1. (Well, if you're going to try to swim the Channel or climb El Capitan, it might be a good idea to file a flight plan, but basically, this one is between you & you. If it makes you embarrassed to talk about it to your significant other, don't.)

Here are places I've gone or know that other people have tried:

  • The Cleveland Museum of Art (No brainer, but don't feel uncreative if you choose something obvious.)
  • The movies. I saw Finding Nemo all by myself, no child in tow. Excellent fun. And I put my feet up on the seat in front of me, too.
  • There's a labyrinth at Ursuline College and I went and walked it. You essentially follow a path that weaves around a very small space. When you get to the middle, you're supposed to "offer up" a worry, a hope, a plan. Sometimes it's very useful to do something that feels both momentous and silly.
  • Big Fun on Coventry. It's freaky toy store. So fun. Big fun.
  • A paper store. Don't remember where it was but I got all kinds of cool paper for very little cash.
  • Botanical Garden. Would be excellent at this particular season for you Clevelanders. Tallahassee, sit in your fridge and pour ice water on your head and then go to the Botannical Gardens.

Right now, I'm looking at paying a visit to Arts Collinwood up on Waterloo. Waterloo is a funky, cool street right in my neighborhood and I've never wandered around there. There's a big mural that says KABOOM! in honor of Danny Greene and the first time he got blown up, while he was a denizen of Waterloo. The last time, was more permanent.... My other option is to go to The Apple Store for a how-to Mac class.

Maybe Julia hits the nail on the head when she talks about refilling your store of images, of sights and sounds, smells and tastes, ideas and dreams with new stuff. Stock up!

If you want to read the Dr. Seuss poem -- which he obviously wrote with our artist date in mind -- in its entirety, go to

But anyway, I'll give him the last word. Of warning. Don't go here:

The Waiting Place…for people just waiting.

Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or waiting around for a Yes or No or waiting for their hair to grow. Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite or waiting around for Friday night or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil, or a Better Break or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants or a wig with curls, or Another Chance. Everyone is just waiting.

No! That’s not for you!
Somehow you’ll escape all that waiting and staying. You’ll find the bright places where Boom Bands are playing. With banner flip-flapping, once more you’ll ride high! Ready for anything under the sky. Ready because you’re that kind of a guy!

Where the Boom Bands are playing, folks. That's sounds very fine.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

It's a date!

Your assignment is to "take your artist on a date." It needs to be just you and er ... It.

There are very few rules. Do not try to hold your artist's hand, especially if you happen to be driving. But do start thinking about what you're going to do. Be on guard against multi-tasking. If you can get in an artist date AND get your grocery shopping done at the same time, it probably doesn't qualify. If you think admiring your kitchen floor while you're mopping would be it? No.

How about sometime between now and Saturday morning you post us a message about where you and your artist are going?

I'll have more to say about this tomorrow.

Where am I going? No clue at the moment. You'll be the first to hear.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Kiss to the Toads on the Road

Drafting on the wheels of Ann’s metaphor, yes, I can relate to Toad Head mornings, bleary-eyed, cold-blooded, and amphibian-brained, fighting to get up for the task at hand.

Longhand? On three pages? Every morning. 84 mornings in a row? You must be kidding.

Surprise, surprise: if you don't allow the Toad to wake up, it never shows up. What follows is a suggestion, not a prescription - a framework that seems to work for me - or so I think.

1. Each night: leave your pen parked on the empty page of your notebook, poised and waiting for your return in the morning. Turn off the lights. Get some sleep.

2. Before daybreak, 5:30 am - long before the alarm in your head goes off, beat the Toad Clock, roll out of bed. Follow your feet to your desktop, your workspace, your blank page. (Okay, you can stop to pee, but that’s it. No splash of water on your face, no taste of toothpaste, no jolt of caffeine.) Blast the light on, sit down and pick up your pen. Don’t think as you apply ink to paper.

3. The first line. Just throw it out there. Eyes don’t need to be focused, and t’s don’t need be crossed. You’ll see. In pre-conscious dawn, the fog will lift.

4. At the first glint of day, keep the pen moving, a steady, even hand on the page. You'll notice: how the wheels start spinning when you let your WriteBrain think for you. Don’t stop, don’t read, don’t edit, don’t make curlicue sentences. Do nothing but get down to the groundwork on paper, filling the page, moving forward, word for word, line for line, until you reach the finish. And there it is, 25 minutes – 30 minutes max. Done. Close your notebook. Are you awake? You bet you are. Focused, alert, energized, you are braced against the day, and open to its possibilities.

Like stretching tight muscles, like breathing in the practice of yoga, like reps in weight training, like building up a sweat on a bike, longhand freehand writing doesn’t just work the brain, it works the body. And just like any exercise, it only gets better with . . . exercise.

Thank you, thank you Ann. For opening the road and inviting us to come along. For the exercise. All good things will come of it.


Of morning pages & toads

Morning pages are good for Toad Head. I'm not much of a morning person. In fact, I'm a morning toad. The first hour or so is usually a daze of waiting for the coffee to take effect. But if I can just sit up in my nice warm bed and write for a half hour before I have to interface with Tuesday, I'm much more alert when I finally am up "for real." So, I'm liking it.

Now, let's be honest. I don't go to the office anymore and I don't have to accomplish a whole lot first thing, so all this is a kind of luxury for me. Vicky gets up at the hour when our paper is delivered (dogs bark, so I know) and Viv is a much, much earlier riser than me. I used to set the alarm for 5:30 to do the pages. But even then it was a more gentle transition that rolling out at 6 and having to, like, dress myself.

Also, the view from our bedroom deserves a lot more admiration than I've ever lavished on it since we busted out the wall and let the lake and sky all the way in. I find that although I love that view, I tend to distract myself from it with fifteen minutes of TODAY or a quick escape to the kitchen for -- yeah, yeah -- coffee. So, now I'm a prisoner of the view for a longish stretch. I'm writing, but I'm looking too. And I'm arriving at the day, the last couple of days, more energized than recently. If not noticeably more artistic.

You can remind me of this in a couple of weeks when I start complaining. I'm including a photo of one of our toads. (Besides the Morning Toad, I already owned up to being.) Our contractor B.J.'s daughter loves our toads which live (loudly) in the window wells in the summer. The boys up the street love them, too. They adopt them and take them away in jars. Hopefully to good homes. I at least limit them to one toad per boy. Anyway, the photo. It's got two great things. A handsome toad. And awesome nail polish.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Oh, forgot to say why I'm embarking on this journey. When Ann asked if I wanted to be part I said yes because I have lost my creative self. It's been gone for quite a few years and I really would like to fine it. I have inter st other than nursing some could be creative and since I hope to retire in the next year or so I want to be ready and get back in the swing before that great day arrives.


I'm Vicky (cashorts@verizon on the list) also know as Ann's sister-in-law. the guy in the picture is my husband Chet. We live in Hummelstown, PA located in central PA right outside of Harrisburg which is the capitol. I am a Nurse Manger in Labor & Delivery. It's just Chet and I no kids unless you count the four legged and fined type as kids. We have dogs, cats, koi and slat water fish.
I'm one of the get up early ones (not because I like to get up 4:45 am). I like to get to work around 6:30am so I can see the night shift staff so that mean getting up early. I dream of retiring and getting to sleep as late as I want!
I was really concerned about doing the three "Daily Pages" in the morning. I had trouble knowing how to fit it in at home. But, it worked out fine this morning. I always spend several minutes sitting in the car sipping coffee collecting myself and getting ready for my day. So, i got up just a little early and made it out of the house at 5:52 and found I had plenty of time to do my three pages. I hope it continues to work as well!
I did not recognize of you on the e-mail list' well that's not quite true I know Ann so it will be good to hear a little about each of you. I think this is going to be a very interesting trip and I look forward to the journey with all of you.



Well of course I am still looking for my book. Did this prevent me from starting my morning pages? Of course! If I could find my book, then I could find a pen and a notebook too. Chaos reigns. Happy Monday! - Maura

How. To. Write. Morning. Pages.

Joe came here looking for advice on Morning Pages and didn't find any. So, I emailed him this excerpt from my first batch this morning. Hang on to your hats, kids. This is hot stuff.

"Wow. Has it been six years since I did this the last time? Is that right? Well, let's see. We moved here in June of 2005 so it's been almost five years here. Was it spring of 2004? Yes. Yes it was."

I'm not kidding and Julia is not kidding. Stream. Of. Consciousness. Dump. Your. Brain. Make lists of things to do. Say what you're mad about. What you're worried about. Tell the page your dream about trying to make a phone call and always messing up the last number. What you're looking forward to. What you dread. And so on. And so on. Even your future biographers in grad schools across the country should be bored spitless by what you wrote in your Morning Pages.

Will you find things that surprise you? Yes. For example, that phone dream ... I never thought about it, but it's definitely a metaphor for one of my big fears. I swear I never noticed it until now. But if you look for substance as you're writing the pages, you will write terrible, stilted crap. Which is lovely, of course. And maybe what you need to write for awhile.

Here's a tip from my experience. I need to feel that my pages are private. Not like Bill is going to sneak around and peep at my boring stuff, but it's just a feeling. I feel better about writing drivel if I'm sure no one is going to see it. So, I always find a big, heavy-duty rubber band and put it around my notebook. That way someone looking for a piece of paper to write down a phone number (Ack! Phone numbers. Again.) won't open my book and find out it's been six years since I did the Artist's Way.....

Are we having fun yet? I am.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


I don't have my book yet! I've never "gone to class" without all my materials. I'm exploring new territory already.

What am I DOING here?

Nothing's changed since this photo was taken. That's still me. I can't ditch that kid. For one thing, I love her. She's made me who I am. A woman who, for one thing, still hates to wear shoes.

I've done the Artist's Way about five times. Every time, I learned something new. Every time I made breakthroughs, had insights, reached new goals. For me, Morning Pages, made the biggest difference. I finally got past my big "I feel so silly when I sit down to write something 'creative" roadblock.

The Artist's Way did not make me a writer. But it let me finally admit that's who I am and not be afraid to say so. Not such a big deal, huh? But it is. Look at how bad that little kid doesn't want to look stupid in front of her friends or be left out.

So, I'm back to see what Morning Pages can do for me this time around. And yeah, yeah, the Artist's Dates and exercises. All that. You never know where the boost you're looking for will come from.

I'm a little stuck. Things are going a little slow. It's January. It's dark. I can't remember summer. I'm ready to try something to get my creativity back on track. So, I'm going to try something I already know will work. This works.

I just have to get off the porch.

That's me. You?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

48 Hours

Assuming you're considering beginning The Artist's Way with me on Monday morning, and assuming my math isn't wrong -- which, people, it so often is -- you have about 48 hours to decide and get ready. Here's my suggestion: Just do it.

If you haven't done it before, you have questions. Fine. Don't assume you need to have all the answers before you start. I will be thrilled to answer what I can. Email me. Call me. Comment here. I'll be around.

Don't negotiate with yourself up front. Don't say, "I'll do this, but not that." Make those decisions one at a time, when you're actually standing on The Cliff of Do or Not Do.

Jump. Or don't jump. I read somewhere that the word "decision" comes from the same place as "scizzors" -- the moment of decision is a quick cut. You choose. You change. You move on.

Don't dither. (I know whereof I speak on this one, I, the Dither Queen.)

Don't worry about "doing it right" either. If there's someone out there doing the Artist's Way absolutely perfectly, well, good for them. Their glove compartment is probably organized alphabetically, too. The rest of us are going to give it our best and love ourselves for it.

Get the book. It's everywhere. It may well be on you own bookshelf. Sign the the commitment thing. I HATE that. I feel like such a GEEK. Do it anyway. It's good for you. Artists are the geeks of the world sometimes. And that's cool.

If I hear from you that you're in, you'll receive an invitation from me and Blogger to post on this blog. Plan to post. Otherwise, it'll just be me blathering. I get tired of listening to myself. In any case, feel free to comment. I believe I've opened up comments so you can do it easily without signing up. You'll have to copy one of those stupid 32WRll number/letter things so Blogger knows you're not a spambot or whatever. If I don't hear from you that you're in, I'll be off your case and we'll get together on a Lake Day or whatever.

Let's go, team. We have 47 hours. And counting

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Rambling Preamble

Re: Spirits & Muses

A thought before we start Week One -- and a test to see if I still know how to post.

Somewhere in the no-man's/no-woman's land between that razor-sharp mind of yours and the nutcase who wanders through your dreams every night, there's your creative self. It needs a brain to be articulate, no doubt. (Your brain is also useful for operating your arms and legs. And for helping you decide whether this $^$%#$ period goes inside or outside of the parentheses.). But your creative self has got to have access to your unconscious, barely conscious, cool, crazy idea factory.

Keep the doors to that mysterious corridor open on both ends. Plant something pretty in the breezeway. What I've learned is that nothing kills creativity like frowning, getting all tensed up and trying really, really hard. And nothing unleashes it like letting your eyes get a little unfocused and remembering what wet earth smells like on the first thaw day of spring. Or doing the exercises in your Artist's Way book.

This is not my personal insight. I think it's what Julia is speaking of when she talks about the spirituality of the gift. People often get freaked out about this spiritual path thing. And with good reason. Some folks out there have turned the domain of the spirit into a minefield. But those folks aren't here right now.

You can trust your idea of God or Spirit or Tree Power or Whatever to guide you along the Artist's Way, and nobody will tell you you're wrong. Especially not me. And Big Holy Tree. We just want you to have a great time.


(Since any of us can post or comment, be sure you identify yourself. So we can rag on you if that seems appropriate. I'm kidding. Just so we know who's talking.)