Saturday, February 07, 2004

Drive, Baby, Drive

I stepped out of time, a little. Took a day off and just read. There's nothing like getting caught up in a good book, and music on the stereo, and a nice cozy, warm couch. Mental health day?

Or maybe just a break.

I had a dream that I was driving, the other day. So what? you might think. Everyone drives, right? But no. I don't know how to drive. A true New Yorker, I was raised on the subways, not the highways, and so, I never really had the opportunity, nor the need to learn how to drive.

But the dream... See, now, I used to dream of riding in buses, and boats, and trains and cars. I was the passenger. But when I started to dream of being the one to guide the motion, I realized that it meant I was guiding my own life, not at someone else's mercy.

In this dream, I was driving the car, and I knew how to get where I needed to go, but I didn't really know how to work the car. I had trouble figuring out which was the brakes and which was the gas. I had trouble figuring out the appropriate speed and how to get into the right lane.

Definitely where my life is right now. I feel the changes, I know where I am going, I think, but what do I do in the act of getting there? What is the best move to make? Where is the necessary pedal. Am I going too fast? Not fast enough at all?

I see all the possibilities ahead of me, right now. I'm meeting people who are interested in what I am doing and can help me, but somehow I feel as if I might be missing the chances that are given me. I might be waiting, holding on to safety, braking, rather than stepping on the gas.

But then, maybe I'm not doing anything wrong. Maybe this is the way it works. Maybe I'm just gonna keep going and expect that I will get where I need to go. Accept that I will get where I need to go.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Seeing in Colors

Today was a good day. A good day for not being a teacher (not that there's anything wrong with being a teacher,) a good day for waking up extra late, and lounging with my cats purring against me, a good day for taking my laundry out to be done, for getting a strong cup of coffee for the subway ride to the city. It was a good day to sit in Barnes and Noble, reading magazines and buying that book that I've been waiting for. It was a good day for shopping (actual shopping, not just the window type, where money was spent,) and for having veggie chili at one of my old favorite restaurants that I haven't been to since I was a teacher.

Today was a day where I saw in color.

A day when the greens and golds popped out of the subway station. Who knew that the subway platform, bastion of dust and mice, was filled with rich earth colors.

Today was a day where I looked and noticed how many different shades of white there are. Some parts of New York are built all of white marble, and with the clouds milky the way they were today, it was almost as if that white color spilled onto everything else around-- the bare branches of the trees, the asphalt underneath the wheels of the cars. Even the red brick buildings, and all the black winter coats, and the iron grates and fences, even they were washed with a pale white.

And when twilight fell-- everything turned blue. The buildings, angling off into the distance down 5th avenue reflected back the cobalt of the sky, but not all in one piece, but so that you could see how deep the streets were, how tall the building.

And then later, when it was true dark, all the blue went away, gone. Everything was deep shadows, brown and gray, and then light-- brilliant and sharp, in yellow, and red, and lemonade colors.

What does it mean that today I saw in colors?

No deep significance, just that there I was, living, and in that living, I was really present.

Today I saw in color.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Runaway Train

This creativity thing's a bitch.

No, that's not true. Again I'm being a bit dramatic.

Creativity, creating, is a mystery. A wonder. Yes, it does take a lot of energy-- when you are standing on the outside, it seems to take a prohibitive lot of energy.

It's just too much! But when you're inside, it's like you're caught up in the whirlwind of creative energy and you just can't help yourself. The ideas, the thoughts, the output, all keep coming.

Now, hold on there a minute, Rowena. If I make that my story, then I think I may end up makiing it harder on myself. If creating is something that I am powerless against, almost at the mercy of with no energy expended on my own, then whenever I was not just being swept away by the winds of art (rhymes with fart), I would feel cheated, feel it was too hard, feel like a failure.

Truth is, sometimes when creating is going full steam ahead, and I am caught up in it and hurtling forward so fast it feels like I will never stop, it feels like I am just cauht up in it, carried away-- but to only look at that runaway train is to not see all the effort that has gone before it.

There would never be a runaway train without the grinding start up-- Chug-a. Chug-a. Chug-a. The train wouldn't go without the slow build up and the constant stoking of the fire. Then there's the laboring up the hills, (I think I can, I think I can.)

The long stretch of unchecked momentum is just one part.

You know, you could take that metaphor a lot farther. Because that train wouldn't be going without those who laid the tracks across country. Or the industrial revolution that caused the trains to be. Or the immense age and pressure that created the fuel inside the earth. Or the big bang and resultiing gathering of the mineral matter needed to create a planet with bones of iron, that could hold and nurture all that we know of life.

Creativity is a mystery and a wonder. I don't know specifically where it comes from or how it can happen, but I have a sneakiing suspicion that it comes from everywhere, and everywhen. And it takes no more energy than it does to live.


Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Choose an Adventure

So what happens when we run into snags in our lives? When your computer goes off line for no known reason? When you don't make enough money to survive at your job bartending? When that guy who said he liked you never ever calls back?

It's really easy to get discouraged. To take the hurdle as a sign I am doing it all wrong.

I suppose this is when I have to roll with the punches, learn how to pick up and keep going. Get back on the damn horse.

Why do those ideas all seem so trite?

I suppose they are trite, it's just a sad truth that a lot of those trite ideas are so trite because they are often the reality of the situation. Finding an original solution to your problems, or a unique way of dealing with human difficulties is kind of stupid. I mean, if we've been having the same sort of problems since we began being conscious of having problems, then doesn't it follow that the answers to the basic human problems would be heard again and again and again????

Suck it up.

Get back on the horse.

Fine, but at the same time, we are creative, we humans, and we can take the trite solutions, try to get back on that horse, llike the old saying says, but still be open to the opportunities we get when we do what our momma, and her momma, and her momma before her said that we should do.

Long sentence? Yeah, but basically, here I am doing a blog entry, even though I have no internet at home. So I have to go out and buy time at a computer center. And yet, it's kinda nice. Here I am in the mini mall in Williamsburg, sitting infront of the window, watching all these interesting, artsy, wierdos (with all due respect to the wierdos) walk by. I am not curled in my pajamas on the couch, with John Edwards (the psychic, not the politico) on tv, my cats meowing to get fed, and a cooling cup of coffee on the table. What that means is that I am literally out there in the world, instead of isolating myself behind a computer screen. And ever time I put myself out into the world, I open myself up to opportunities.

And I am looking for opportunities of all types. Monetary, artistic, romantic, culinary, professional-- you name it.

I wonder, if I drew a flow chart of my life, what it would look like. How many times would a life snag have started me going in a new direction. I suppose it doesn't do any good to wonder what the other life paths would have looked like.

Wouldn't it be cool if our lives were like those stupid "choose an adventure" books from the eighties? They generally very boring books, but it was cool to explore the various ways the adventure could play out.

Oh, well. Too bad. I guess I'll just have to follow along to the end of this one.

technical difficulties

please stand by while I figure out what the hell is wrong with my computer. I will try to keep up with my postings.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Get Rid of the Dust

I run around all day long trying to do things. A lot of the time, if I do
"things", I feel good, and if I don't, I feel bad. Go Go Go. I fill my hours with activities, and if I can't, I fill them with distractions. Do Do Do. I ride up and down on this rollercoaster, sprinting from what I have to have done to what I have to do. Run Run Run. Lately, I've taken to writing down lists of what I do AFTER I do them, so I can feel better.

Good Bad Better Worse.

Sometimes being creative is really, really hard work. Sometimes, I think it's my thinking it's really hard work that makes it hard work.

Odiouswoman reminded me that sometimes what we need, or sometimes what is happening, is a fallow period-- a moment where we rest, and allow nature, allow our subconscious to digest all the running and doing and going.

There's something to be said for trusting the subconscious, those parts of us that we don't listen to as often as we should. There's something to be said for learning to breathe deep, to sit still, and to live consciously-- allowing what is trying to be born to grow in its own time.

A kid came into my bar today. Young, only 21, the other bartender commented on how sweet he was. "Like fresh grass," she said and that he'd probably get dirtied up as he got older. "But you don't have to get jaded," I said. I don't want to be jaded anymore-- although the dirt keeps settling on me, the dirt of everything I have to do to live.

"Get rid of the dust," the kid said, "that's what we need to do."

I suppose that's what I'm working on.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

The Will To Be an Artist

What is it that makes an artist?

I believe that anyone can be an artist, that it is in human nature to be creative. I've put a lot of energy into the concept-- study, teaching, writing, workshops-- all exploring how creativity can help us and open us up to our own lives.

Recently, though, I came upon a man who wrote that NOT everyone can be an artist. It got me thinking about some of the problems I've had in teaching some of my classes and workshops. Sometimes, people just get stuck, and they don't seem to be able to let go. In my mind, it is so easy to be creative-- but my friends and my students, I watch them just get-- flumoxed. Stopped, blocked. Blocked. Hmm. Creative block. (But I don't believe in that.)

Are these people the non artists that the guy was talking about?

I mean, maybe not everyone can be a painter, or a violinist, or a ballet dancer-- maybe we don't all have the physical capabilities for some art forms. Maybe our synapses don't snap that way, but we all have creative capabilities. Whether it is our visual sense, or grace, or great pitch, or a mind that thinks in music, or a way with herbs and spices, or the ability to put two pieces of wood together so it stays. I don't know. Maybe we're good with getting a group of people to work together happily. Doesn't it depend on what your definition of art is?

But the truth is, not everyone is an artist. And maybe society wouldn't work if everyone were ARTISTS. We do need doctors and sanitation workers and store clerks and presidents and such. Everyone has a role to play... but still, I have the question.

What IS an artist?

It's not about having some great skill or talent. Really, I don't think so. I've known lots of really talented people who aren't artists. I myself can sing pretty well, but I don't consider myself a singer.

I think being an ARTIST, really, is about committing to art. It's about being dedicated to your artform-- whether it's painting or baking or acting or blogging. It means you live your life with your art in the forefront. When you go about your daily business, there is always the active possibility that you could create something, or have a discussion about art, or witness something that gets you going into a new possibility for your art. Maybe you don't live and breathe painting or dancing, but when you go back to your art (which you always will, because you are dedicated) the life that you lived comes back and informs what you create.

I don't think being an artist means you have to model yourself after Picasso, or Pollock, or Van Gogh, or anyone out there. There are so many ways to BE an artist, and you don't have to be starving, or crazy, or addicted or a selfish bastard. Maybe you don't even have to show your stuff to anyone else.

But it does mean that you have to put in the thought, the time, the practice, the emotions, the experience, the experiments, the energy, the words.

Maybe it IS true that not everyone can be an artist, but I don't think it's anything that we're born with that says we are or aren't an artist. Honestly, I think being an artist takes a desire-- and not just a desire-- a will to be an artist.

It's the will to be an artist that makes an artist. Even if you are the most talented painter or singer or dancer in the world, if you lack the will and only paint or dance or sing when the notion strikes you, you might as well be chewing bubble gum. It's nice and fun and has a great flavor, but really, how far does it go beyond the moment?

On the other hand, if you aren't spectacularly "talented"-- aren't born with that perfect hand-eye coordination or the luck to be raised by people who want you to be an artist-- and you really have the WILL to be an artist, to explore life, to go deeper and challenge yourself, and learn your medium and practice techniques and face your fears of being not good enough or not an artist, or just too much of a damn human-- then, you know what? I think that you really are an artist.