Sunday, April 24, 2011

Making It Manageable: Stepping Back from the Whole and Savoring the Parts

Plain and simple. My father used that phrase all the time. And yet, it's only now that I begin to wonder what he meant. Oh...I knew back then, seriously. It was a stringer placed on the end of every command. "Go and do your homework (then the look of course). Plain and simple." In other words, get your motor moving and sit down at the table, and get started right now.

I am, however, a little more complicated than that. I need to know how and why and how long and where to start. Analysis. It kills me. My other favorite game is canvasing the whole world to figure out what they think about what I've done. When I have enough interpretations of the same piece of writing, then I'm set to begin to revise. Confusing, right? Well, of course.

Complicated people crave complications. Creatives complicate, embellish and enrich. But sometimes we complicate in order to hide. If I create enough of a smokescreen, I'll never have to get the job done. My dad had a word for that too...procrastination, sloth in five syllables,
he said. On that, he was wrong. I can spin my wheels (and have) for what seems like a lifetime. But when I'm spinning, I'm also imagining.

Today? I went out into my yard and perused all the buds and blossoms out there. My magnolia was calling me again. And it's then I realized the sum total of that tree is not nearly as sweet as its parts. I studied the buds...with their velvety smooth encasements, the bit of dew on its petals. And it's then that I thought about my dad...about plain and simple, about the when and how. The time is now...the how was right there in those devilish details. 'As plain as the nose on my face!' (Yup, another Jack Murphyism.) When I write, I tend to get the sum total of the idea down on the page. Now that I'm revising, the small details, just like those velvety leaves will emerge to make the work real.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Living a Creative Life: Taking Stock

Chicago! A city, a neighborhood, a living and breathing sports city. My kind of town, really. Streams of people parade up and down the streets of Wriggleyville in the hours that lead up to game time. This visit, we were welcomed with snow! Baseball was a definite no-go. With wind chills, and rain, I'll bet it was below thirty degrees at night. But I didn't go to Chicago for the baseball; I came to visit my girl. And in that, I'm never disappointed. There were countless meals with long conversations, afternoon pastries with a half-caf. latte or two, and on Saturday, in the pouring rain, we went off to take care of toes and nails.

Two days during my stay, though, I was left to fend for myself. Unfortunately my daughter had to work. I contacted a friend, Mary Jo, whom I'd met at Chautauqua last summer, and we met for lunch to catch up. Mary Jo writes picture book and is currently about ready to send her latest work out. Since Chautauqua, she's published a non-fiction piece in Rethinking Magazine and has a few other pieces in the works. Mary Jo is a life coach, a writer, a real estate entrepreneur. She, like her mom before her, has many, many pots on the fire. So I was honored, really, that she leaped at the chance for lunch.

We pulled up along a quiet street in Roscoe Village and settled upon a beautiful Italian place, Pizza Bella. The restaurant, of course, was half empty...a grandmother with her seven year old granddaughter were celebrating a birthday, a trio of working people seated themselves at the table behind us, and a pair of new parents came in with their little one, and that was just about it. Mary Jo had a number of questions for me, which of course, is exactly how I remembered her to be. "How's the work...what are you working on...", all the usual stuff. But somehow, she tapped into a chink inside my walls. She got me thinking about my work, my crowded life and all the extra angst I've welcomed into my life. She spoke of priorities, and made me think about all the clutter in my life. Committees...and more committees, living in the political grindstone, it's a wonder I can even think at all! the wake of our visit, I'm still thinking about this conversation, and how counterproductive the life I'm living is to the creative part of myself. No wonder I've had so many periods of being stuck. Now I'm listing, prioritizing and trying to get it all straight. Extra-curricular for me...means counterproductive to the craft. Instead of being able to generate more...I'm diminishing my ideas, renting out space in my brain to things most people don't care about at all! In the upcoming blog, I'll share some of my thoughts on creativity...and my plans for nurturing those tiny seeds in my life. Work needs to be that means to an end, because in the end, if that's all I've done...I've left nothing of personal creative meaning for me.

After two very long cups of coffee, the waiters started rattling around. Mary Jo had set a plan in motion, and she had inspired me to do the same. So, of course...I get home, and on my counter is a copy of Whole Living...with an article, called Second Act: How to Reinvent Yourself!