Tuesday, June 29, 2010

In other words. . .

Imagine: waking up one fine-printed morning to discover you can’t read.

What would you do if ever you lost the ability to decipher letters? The condition, most-likely to be stroke-induced, is called alexia and its history and characteristics are described in detail an article by Oliver Sacks in this week’s edition of The New Yorker.

Reading is a complex human gift, which works independently of our ability to communicate by spoken word, a capacity that is believed to have evolved through the process of evolution. In other words, the origin of reading - and writing - cannot be understood as an evolutionary adaptation. It is something more profound, “dependent on the plasticity of the brain, and on the fact, that even within the small span of a human lifetime, experience - experiential selection - is as powerful an agent of change as natural selection.”

As it turns out, the “brain’s letterbox,” even when dumped upside down like a jumble of foreign Scrabble tiles, doesn’t necessarily lose the remarkable capacity to write. Imagine that. The act of writing things down actually works to stabilize eratic memory. Imagine: writing not as an option, but an imperative, a palliative measure, literally repairing, feeding and stirring memory and creativity.

And so it would seem, the “artist’s way” is naturally the “brain’s way” of finding new pathways - even through injury - to recharge, renew and to create.

Building the case: for keeping a “memory book.”

To read more


Also: Howard Engel, The Memory Book (novel -published in 2005) and The Man Who Forgot to Read, a Memoir (2007).

Saturday, June 26, 2010


I hope nobody's in need of a tent pole or anything because the sherpa's been a little out to lunch this week.  Yes. I AM doing morning pages.  Because morning pages keep you sane.  But no.  I'm not counting or reading the chapter or going on artist's dates.  None of that.  Instead, I'm drifting.  And posting.  But not thinking about it too hard.  I'll be back full force, starting tomorrow.    

Last week's date was a trip to the Apple Store.  I heart the Apple Store.  Or maybe I Apple it.   That would be a good bumper sticker.  I (apple graphic goes here) my iPhone.   My iPad.  My iMac.  My my. 

My creativity gets very activated at the Apple Store. 

First artist date I went on in January, I walked out of the store and had this epiphany in which I saw that I have always thought in terms of good "artistic" creativity and bad "marketing-type" creativity.  (Interesting aside regarding my 25 years in advertising, huh?) 

What I saw that day at Legacy Village was that designers and thinkers and builders had created a very appealing world for me to walk around in and if I could get down off my creative high horse, I could celebrate their accomplishment. 

And, taking it further, I could say that the guy out there somewhere (hopefully not next door, but really what does it matter?) sticking a pink plastic flamingo in a circle of rocks in his front yard was answering that same flight of the imagination. 

Humans create.  That's what we do.  And although I can't exactly lobby for more flamingos, I can say, "You go, Flamingo Guy.  God bless you. God bless us every one."  See? An artist's date can change your life.  Go on one today.

Anyway.  Drifting.   I was last week.  I hurt my knee and tried very hard, Monday through Thursday to do nothing.  Nothing is kind of boring.  By Thursday I was feeling very, very bad about myself.  My morning pages were blaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.  Whining like crazy.  So I went back to work.  I sent out a query.  And I took a trip back through the first three chapter of my novel and made some tweaks.  Bingo.  Much, much better did I feel.

So, here's to you, wherever you are.  Drifting.  Scaling the heights.  Lost.  Taking risks.  Doing the same old same old. Remember that this moment.  This thing that's working for you or dragging you down.  This forever nemesis of yours.  This crisis.  This whatever.  It's your way in.  It's your way through.  

Right here, right now, is the access point to the truth.  This crisis is the access point for its assimilation into the reality of your world.   This drift is access point for everything we need to put us back on course. 

Don't step back.  Go through. 

I'll be right behind you.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Pure Colorado

Gotta a plane to catch in Denver this morning -- a two hour ride from Bachelor Gulch, where we're staying just west of Vail. Gorgeous summer days. . . hiking. Maroon Bells (in the area, near Aspen) . . .above. . . one of the pleasures of hiking. Biking? Just follow the river . . . down hill. More later.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


. . . there's a certain craziness in day-to-day sanity. As we get older and figure out how to live grown-up lives, a deeper weirdness slips away. It's a form of absurdity to master life, to edit miraculous oddness of human existence into a tidy routine. . .

These aren't my words: Chris Colin, author of What Really Happened to the lass of 93" wrote them in an essay for the end page, Lives, in the New York Time Magazine last week.

Thought I'd take them on my way this week -- taking a week off -- breaking free of tidiness and routine, heading to Colorado, with the camera and hiking shoes, sunblock, and yeh, biking shorts and gloves.

Incidentally, the jpeg image comes from a fab site for designers who use the color wheel and computer: check out kuler (pronounced cooler)... a site run by adobe, I believe.

For those, still checking for smoke signals on this path . . . cheers!

Will post from the road. . . perhaps.

Friday, June 18, 2010

What's on your desk?

Don't ask what it is or what it means. Just fill it.

On my desk this week, in small celebration of a birthday (age not to be disclosed) I've placed a whimsical purchase from the Detroit Institute of Arts. Don't ask what its real function or significance is. Had I visited the African gallery where similar work was featured, perhaps I'd know -- or find out the truth that it's a paperclip holder, or a small urn for ashes of a treasured family pet. No matter, it's mine for the present - a hand-built black clay pot with a decorative lid. It has significance now only to me. Yesterday, when I took it out of its box and placed it on my desk next to the keyboard, it struck me: I have given myself a "job jar" -- a place to keep ideas in passing, assignments-to-self, grand and trivial, whatever comes to mind at the time, like a genie in a bottle. . . to savor, to dream. . . to act upon. . . to put into words. And to "post" for later.

Cheers. For now & to later!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Facing the page

Artists of the Artist Wayfarer site. . . you know who you are. Whacha up to?

Save the blog!

The whales.  The spotted owl.  All entities in danger of extinction.

Oh, Wayfarers!  I do not feel your presence here.  I feel Viv's presence.  But although I do sense that people are definitely well-established on the path, and hear from you that things are going well, most of you are silent on the blog.  If you're reading, I can't tell.

So, here's the deal.  I am NOT retiring from my sherpa job or anything like that.  I am not sulking or taking my ball and going home, but assuming no posts from the non-Vivian y'all, I'm outta here.  Viv needs to be blogging to the wide world with her beautiful photos and her elegant ideas.  And I need to be querying agents and doing the do.

Let's be clear:  the Artist's Wayfarer's Blog shall be right here at its current address forever.  (Or until the Internet burns out, whichever comes first.)  If this is your first visit, you haven't missed anything. (I see that this is post 100.)  All the posts are here.  Read from the bottom up.  There's information about starting up.  About Reading Deprivation Week.  About all sorts of things.

And if you want to post, post!

Clap for Tinkerbell.  Miracles do happen.   But, for now, I'll be in touch by email.  And if you need something quick, email me.

Or post one for the owl.


Sunday, June 13, 2010


Life in the D. . . somethings don’t change.

You know what they say, how life imitates art. Or is it the other way around?

Detroit. A tough, hard working town. Always has been, always will be .

Couldn’t help but notice the similarity of two favorite spots: the Diego Rivera Court of the Detroit Institute of Arts seems to mirror the scenes still to be found on the streets, as evident in summer heat of the Detroit Eastern Market.

If you’ve never seen the frescos of Detroit Industry, a epic 27-panel work painted at the museum in the 1932 as a tribute to the city’s labor force, c’mon, it’s worth the trip . . .

Also worth a walk-about, the Detroit Eastern Market, with its 250 indepedent vendors spread out in an area of 43 acres, has the distinction of being the largest historic public market district in the U.S. Sublime on Flower Days.

Not a fan of ribs, but Bert’s barbeque is irresistible. Brought some home in styrofoam and more permanently in digital camera jpeg format. . . delish blogging and photogging on a Saturday afternoon.


This is for all you Farers who've fallen by The Way.  Well, me too.  Today is Bill's birthday and the run-up to the festival of celebrations, including a Lake Day for (count 'em -- I did) about 95 people has rendered me useless in almost every way.

I did morning pages last week, like, twice.  I did not EVER read last week's chapter.

Now, this confession is a generosity on my part.  By ratting myself out and making my scarlet letters -- G and O for Goof-Off -- completely visible right here in the public Marketplace of the Digital Age, I am demonstrating for you, my people, that even the sherpa falls off the mountain sometimes.  And now I'm sending forth the word that the way to proceed from the Marketplace of Shame is to climb back on the mountain.

1) Find your book & your morning pages notebook.  I'm pretty sure I know where mine are.  If you've lost yours, let this be a sign unto you that you should find them now.

2) Pick, oh, say TOMORROW as the day to get back on the horse.  Look into your heart and see if you're actually willing and able to pick tomorrow and if it doesn't work, don't for goodness sake, pick it just to be pleasant.  Just look.  Pick a date that works.  Honor that date.

3) Forgive yourself, utterly.  I forgive you (and me) utterly.  Guilt at this juncture is an ego trip you/I cannot afford.  

4) On the date you picked, do your morning pages and be LOVING to yourself.  I mean it. Read the Chapter number you have not yet read.  For me it would be FIVE.  Say unto yourself, "This is Week Five (or Three) or (possibly even, One.)"

This is redemption.  This is grace.  Enjoy.

5) And here at #5 is the Alternate Emergency Exit.

Look deeply into the same place in your heart into which you looked for a restarting date and make sure there is a true one there.  If you can see that the time is not now or even a foreseeable now, send me an email and say, "I'm out." "I'm out for now."  "I'm out forever."  Whatever is true for you.

However you're out, if you are out, let me know.  It's important to do this.  I want you to be able to walk away whole and complete.  You do not need to give me reasons.  If it makes sense to you, it makes sense to me.  My sherpa blessings are upon you always. 

And now a word from our sponsor:  The Artist's Way is a valuable tool for doing all sorts of things that you'll love doing.  It's worth the work.  It's worth the time.  It will pay you back a hundred fold.  I'm turning back to it, refreshed, enthusiastic, optimistic and guilt- free.  The door is so wide open it's hardly even a door.  So, if you just needed a little boost for now, consider yourself boosted.

For you, you know who you are, who have been upon the straight and narrow path this whole darned time, Congratulations!  Feel insanely smug.  You deserve it.  And all good things.



Monday, June 7, 2010

Posting Toasties

To break the fast after a week of “media deprivation,” (which I personally did not observe) I propose a post, a “Post Toasty,” so to speak. With raised glass, I say L’Chaim - to Life! Here’s to the vitality of the Great and Everlasting Internet, the new Word on the Street as we know it, and to those whom we’d sorely miss if ever they were cut from our daily dosage of incoming media. Is it an addiction? Perhaps. But cheers anyway.

Cheers to the bloggers, the writers, the journalists, the humorists. To the savvy web-sters, the code-writing “standardistas,” the designers and creators of infinitely variant domains. Here’s to the RSS feeders, the syndicators, the opinionators, the taste mongers. To the curious, the readers, the scanners, the browsers, the seekers, and the Googlers. Here’s to the inventors, the followers, the critics, the babblers, the Twitter-tweeters, the thumb twiddlers, the thumb drivers, the computer jocks, the Go Daddies, the Amazonians, the buyers, the Ebayers, the sellers, the Flickrs, the flockers, the foodies, the samplers, the gamers, the gardeners, the YouTubists, the artists, the explorers of brave new words. Here’s to the pilgrims, the wayfarers. . . all out there. You know who you are.


On writing through media deprivation: Like observing the laws of kashrut (keeping strictly kosher) in a world of infinite food choices, conscientiously shunning the media takes a level of commitment (dare I say fervor?) reserved for the aesthete or the devout.

Facebook it. We live in the Information Age, the Worldwide Web of life. Media assaults us from the break of day to the last blink of an eye before sleep. Even as we follow it, the media follows us. A relentless, voracious resource. News feeds. Alerts. Email. Text messaging. Podcasting. Like a power utility, like the air we breathe, media connects and sustains us. Left to our own personal electronic devices (PEDs?) as far as our attention span can reach, we hold a constant source of data, news, entertainment, inspiration, empowerment, distraction and chaos.

Even if you didn’t crack a book, glance at a magazine, or watch TV this past week, chances are that you’ve stayed current with the times. On your way to this blog site, surely you’ve seen the news from the Gulf Oil Leak, the photos of sludge-sickened gulls and pelicans. More than likely, you’ve formed an opinion of the Israeli commando raid on a Gaza flotilla. Whether you follow baseball or not, by osmosis, you somehow know that a Tiger pitcher tossed and lost what would have been a “perfect” game, but for the unfortunate call of the umpire. And so the media stream goes on, flooding us in torrents of words and pictures.

For those who have followed the precepts of The Artist’s Way, chapter and verse throughout Media/Reading Deprivation Week, my hat’s off to your pursuit of a self-imposed serenity I can’t seem to muster. Essentially, I agree with author Julia Cameron that “we have a daily quota of media chat that we swallow up . . . like greasy food.” As I page through Chapter Four once again, I’m reminded that the book was first published in 1992. Almost two decades ago, you might recall that cell phones looked like walkie talkies, that the Apple computer in demand was the Macintosh LC, and that the laptop was a Powerbook monster only an accountant could love. Internet cable access and email were confounding novelties.

Ever faster forward we go. With 1.8 billion of the world’s 6.8 billion people on the planet now using the internet, with 182 million pages indexed on the web (with the number growing literally every minute) with more cell phones in India than toilets, we have reached a level of technological complexity and mind-clutter we can’t begin to comprehend.

No one is in charge of the internet. Its babble and genius, its wonders and limitations are in our hands. These are our tools. We can use them for our betterment. Or abuse them. And literally, our brains are being rewired to the task. According to a recent study conducted at the University of California, Googling actually builds brain power. Neuroscientists have suggested that internet search activity stimulates the dorsolateral prefontal cortex - that area of the brain in charge of selective attention and analysis, the very gateway to our creative powers. Aha! The jury is out on this, of course. Even scientists know far too little.

As we live and breathe in a culture where the power and lure of media seem to grow unabated, there’s no tuning it out. Even for a week. So perhaps it’s a matter of filtering -- exercising media vigilance and imposing our own limits. Finding our own voice in the chatter.

So there’s my - oh my - 800 words! . . . of chatter. More than enough for one day.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Artist's Play

Submitted for your approval:  Laura Starnik, member of the January - March Way and, if I do say so myself, shining light of Humble Boy, a play that just wound up an extended run at the Dobama Theater in Cleveland Heights.

Now, Laura is the most collaborative of actors and she would never say she stole the show with the monologue pictured here.  But the critics did.  And I do, too. The scene in which Mercy Lott, offers up the most devastatingly honest blessing over a bowl of gazpacho (which only the audience knows contains a healthy sprinkling of the cremains of a dead beekeeper) elicited a spontaneous round of applause the night we were there.  And, I believe, every other night as well.

Kudos to Laura for a wonderful performance.  And kudos to her, as well, for pursuing her acting career with the most tenacious, most enthusiastic commitment.  I have to say, having seen most of Laura's shows (although not her landmark performance in Rumors where she met the fabulous Darrell) that she brought the same passion and devotion to her craft to Opal's Million Dollar Duck, which (No disrespect.  I DID laugh my butt off) was no Humble Boy.

So this is my tribute to Laura, an artist who keeps on keepin' on and is richly rewarded and richly rewarding for her efforts and her faith in her work.

Be inspired, all we artists.  Be very inspired.

Friday, June 4, 2010

So WHEN and WHERE are you not reading?

And what are you doing instead?

Heads up, class.  The Dreadly Deadly Week approaches its close.  TGIF!  How're you doing?  We now know what Viv is not reading?  She's not-reading at a very high level, I'd say.  I've never gotten past the cover of Ulysses.  Are there Cliff Notes?

Tuckie is attacking closets and sorting things. Lynn is not reading Elle. (More high-class not-reading, Lynn.  I've given up Scrooge McDuck comics.  Just kidding.  But close.)  I have assembled my new desk chair and noted to anyone who will listen that it ROCKS.  But not in a bad way, as in back & forth.  It's very comfortable and I'm, of course quite proud of my handy self.  It's an acknowledgment to myself that writing is my job and I deserve a comfortable writing chair that doesn't make my back and neck ache.  Well, that took three years. I am a slow realizer about some things.  I also went on an artist's date and bought myself a mock orange bush that smells like .... mmmmm ... home. 

But to my title question?  Have you noticed a place and a time where you'd habitually be reading (or watching TV or surfing the Net?) and you're not?  Are there times and places so powerful that you've found yourself reading, etc. etc. in spite of your best intentions?  Are there times and places so powerful that you declared them off limits and said "the heck with you, Julia Cameron and Annie Hogsett -- I'm reading this right here and now and you can't stop me?"

The things you can learn about your habitual self by awakening to those times and places are likely as valuable as what you might learn from being perfect in RDW.   Because the tough ones, the really fraught ones, those are the ones in which we read to hide.  When we don't want to be alone with ourselves, our thoughts, our doubts, our fears, our obsessions, our creative gifts, our ... you get the picture.

So where I'm not reading is the bathroom.  And when I'm not listening to books on tape or music with words is in my car.  (I learned last time that I can listen to the Spa Channel on Sirius radio and name tunes whatever I like.  I'm particularly proud of "Monotonous Bells"  and "Boring Repetitive Chant.") 

What I haven't entirely given up is late afternoon flop time and late night before sleep time.  I read a chapter of F is for Fugitive on Tuesday afternoon and last night the "Selling New York" finally snagged me in.  (Those people are impossibly spoiled and vain.  And way picky.)  Also, family dinner TV time one night, for two, count 'em two, "Dr. Who's."  I've gone unconscious online and found myself reading more emails than writing them, too. 

What I'm not doing is beating myself up.  It's the rule.  THERE SHALL BE NO CORPORAL PUNISHMENT IN THE ARTIST'S WAY.  Please do not beat the artist.  It's bad for her mental health.  Watch yourself with gentle curiosity. Say to yourself,  "Oh, look at myself. Am I not cute and sort of wistfully sweet?  Such a darling.  And I'll bite your hand off if you try to take my book away just now.  Feisty, too.  I love that about me."  Really.  Observe yourself with loving kindness.  It'll make you nicer in the world.  And you'll see, you'll let yourself see, where you get a little hung up in your pursuit of the NOW where your creativity is hiding.

Two more days!  (Except you, Viv.  We know you started on Tuesday.  Ha!) What have you learned by not reading?  What have you done with the time?  If you cheated, what did you learn from what's just plain irresistible?  Drop by and tell us what's up with you.

Forge on!    

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

So what are you not reading?

Confessions of an English major:

  • First off, I will tell you that I am not reading Ulysses. Ever again. Having abandoned the book somewhere in Nighttown at least three times over the years, I am content to leave “Stately, plump Buck Mulligan” in a lather standing on the stairhead of page one, and skip -yes skip joyfully - to the final yes in Molly’s soliloquy. So there. And so much for my rare first edition, 8th printing, (Shakespeare & Company, 1926)
  • In a similar vein, I am not reading the last 400 pages of Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon. The first 685 were quite enough, thank you.
  • I am not reading Stephen King, even though I admit to purchasing Under the Dome, the deluxe edition. With collector cards!
  • I am not reading best seller Wolf Hall, in spite of my delight at finding a mint copy for $4 at a used book sale.
  • I am not reading The Help, though everybody is.

On my list of books to read this summer, I am not reading

  • The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver, now on my nightstand "In the beginning there were the howlers."
  • Cutting for Stone, my book club selection for September
  • Matterhorn, in ebook format for the Nook
  • Tree of Smoke, a must-read leftover from last summer
  • Beatrice and Virgil, the new Yann Martel animal tale
  • Tinker, this year’s suprise Pulitzer winner

No, I am not reading,

but highly recommended that you read:

  • The Artist’s Way, Chapter Four
  • All fine print on pesticides purchased for your Secret Garden
  • Nutrition labels on favorite snack foods
  • Operating instructions for new power tools and digital equipment

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Synchronicity? Or the opposite?

Reading. No reading. Is this synchonicity or its opposite -- the Devil's work? (If creativity is from good orderly direction, is the devil the opposite? Detaining Environmental Vices I Like?) I have to admit that I haven't been much of a reader in recent years. Oh, Yahoo News and the paper, scanning Southern Living and email newsletters. But not really reading -- airport books (you know, the Baldacci and Patterson thrillers you pick up to fill the time on an airplane) and the chick lit that often pops up in my book club. I haven't been immersing myself in the salve of words that I know revives me. So...last week I was in San Francisco for my husband's birthday. On our way to dinner we walked past City Lights books -- where Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti hung out...read Howl OUT LOUD. Changed language (and maybe the world). We stopped in and looked around, and it didn't occur to me until the next day that I should have bought a volume of Beat poetry, little of which I've EVER read. Then, on the way to the airport, we ran across a little bookstore in Sausalito where I found a book by Roger Angell, fabulous sports writer (not THAT kind of sports writer. He writes about sports for The New Yorker.) And found out (how did I not know know this?) that he's the stepson of EB White, my favorite essayist of all time. I used to keep White's One Man's Meat at my bedside like a child's storybook. Angell's book, Let Me Finish, is about his growing up years, and he talks about life and White. So suddenly, I'm reading fabulous words, feeling inspired, and now AW cuts me off. God or devil?
Maybe that's what works about AW...you decide to go looking for God in circumstances, when either choice would have been an equally logical one. One of Angell's articles is about how EB White (Friends called him Andy. I love that.) suffered from dementia in his last few years. Wham...I was angry. That's what took my Mom. Damn God, damn a senseless universe that allows ends like this.
I also know that I need to be writing about my mom and dementia -- not because anybody needs to read it. Or, at least that's not what matters right now. I need to write about it to talk to myself about it -- because the books and talking to other people haven't done any good. Still angry, crazy angry. So maybe that's what I need to do this week -- write. Maybe it's just morning pages style writing...get it out. Maybe I can find some structure or balance. Maybe I can overcome the feeling that I have to write something that will help someone -- maybe I just have to write to help myself.
So I choose God, not Devil in the assignment Write...don't read. Write...don't read. Write...don't read.
Anything in anyone else's head like that? Paint...don't read (Elle Decor). Plan a trip...don't read (those dozen emails that have popped up while you were reading this). Finish that work project...don't read (so you'll have time to do what you want instead of procrastinating over a work that pays the bills). Say no...don't read (that email from someone who wants you take on a charity job that doesn't tug at your heart). I hope this week opens up a window for you. Ok, in all honesty, that would be nice. But all I REALLY hope is that it opens up a window for me. Now stop reading, huh?