I have been busy lately trying to figure out how to schedule my time--how many hours for revising manuscripts, working on new manuscripts, brainstorming story ideas, contacting publishers, gardening, and so on, and so on, and becoming more and more frustrated. Then it occurred to me that I have been trying to force my new life into the pattern of my old life of office hours and deadlines. The point of my life now, it occurred to me, is to explore and to grow. (NB: To any prospective clients who may read this, I'm still very good at deadlines when I need to be.)
At a workshop I attended, we cut out words and images from magazines for two collages, one titled"Rut," and one titled "River." On my "rut" collage, there are words like "control freak," "comfort zone," "boundaries," "problems," "worried," and "the system." The images include a robot, a traffic jam, a crowd of pedestrians, a stop sign, a watch, and Queen Elizabeth. For "river," I chose "courage," "celebrate, "yes," "explore," "curiosity," "wonders,"--you get the idea. There's a picture of the earth from space, a mountain hiker, a meandering stream, a kayaker, a shaman in a technicolor blanket, and a large bear. As inviting as the river is, a rut is where I usually find my mind.
We are creatures of habit. In her book Radical Acceptance, Tara Brach tells about a tiger at the Washington Zoo. For years the tiger was kept in a 12' by 12' cage. At last a spacious new habitat was constructed for the tiger, with hills and trees and plenty of room to roam. But to the end of her days, the tiger stayed in a corner of the habitat, pacing a bare patch of ground 12' by 12'. Whenever I think of this story, it reminds me to question all my self-imposed boundaries.
I asked some writing friends how they stay creative. Do something nonverbal, they said. Play. Take walks. Work with your hands. Empty your mind. "I can't work unless I'm happy," one said. She makes herself happy by creating wonderful little cloth dolls.
So I do these things with a new appreciation of how they feed my life and keep me flowing with the river and out of the rut.
The Digital Photography School invites its members to enter a contest with a new theme each week. You can see a list of themes here. I don't aspire to enter the contests, but I love looking at the creative ways the winners have interpreted the themes. This morning, I took my camera along on my walk and used one of the themes, "Lines," as a way to focus my attention. Looking at the world through a camera, I notice details I would otherwise miss. And looking for "lines" was a surprising way to interact with scenery I see every day. I brought home several ideas for poems that I'll work on.