I am pleased to share three poem pieces.
I have no valid excuse not to write -- if I can't write my novel then I will write poems. I have every good writing app installed everywhere and I always have my journal and pen case. There is no excuse. My old typewriter is ready and waiting, willing to work even by candlelight. There is no excuse.
Lately I write in bed, after I wake up, my first action is to write something, with my hands and my head still dewy with dreams. When I am about to fall into a nap in the afternoon I carry my tablet, open to a blank page, ready to write a few lines while I settle my tired body into bed, before I slide completely into sleep.
I write my journal -- by pen or by keyboard. There is no excuse. I have more than enough paper, notebooks, nibs, inks, pens in all shades and shimmer. There is no excuse.
There is always time. I know it because I have done it before, claiming time in moody bursts and deadly determination. All I need to do now, really, is to be constant. To be true. To be committed.
Everything builds up, gathers, forms patterns, makes a whole. Then the whole evolves, transforms, transcends.
There is no excuse, especially if I say that I want it so badly.
Having started off on a good note this morning, I wanted to make myself proud today by practicing what I have claimed to learn.
Picked up a pointed pen again after more than a month and wrote.
Then I picked up a brush and painted.
And I kept close touch with the tribe, and made a show of my choice to create today across all social media.
It feels good, to slip back into the rhythm of making.
It is a different kind of sensation, to make and create out of something other than the inspiration of being in love. To find sufficient the soft attachments formed with dysfunctional geniuses and too-attractive villains.
A well put-together soundtrack is enough to trigger all the false memories -- imagined meetings and deliciously slow unfolding dramas. Enough to ignite the necessary fires to spice a poem or a painting or a chapter.
There is an avenue I want to explore further, beyond this bright happy eccentricities. A bit of venturing into the more shadowed paths. Feel the dead-end walls for secret doors. I could never fully let myself enter the labyrinth. Because I wasn't ready, or worthy, or maybe even because I was somewhat afraid.
But I am on a winning streak.
I want to try.
There is a long, quite demanding, dayjob project that begins on Friday. This week has been broken up with hours allotted for its preparation.
But since October I have been learning, finally, the better tricks to protect my creative practice. I slip and flounder from time to time but it helps a lot to know that there are invisible hands ready to pull me back.
One trick is to match project with project. It seems obvious but often I treat creative work as a formless, over-flexible, open-ended task compared to the structured, defined, purposive design of a dayjob project. No wonder the latter can easily run over and overwhelm the former with its sharp edges and hard bullet points of objectives.
In other words I need to give some "structure" as well to my creative work. Nothing formal or constricting to the natural flow and rhythm of creativity, but something that will direct and steer the practice towards tangible output, and then applying some level of target "quality" to that output. This is probably something that applies to someone who has been working on a creative practice for a bit of time, someone who has already gained a clear understanding and acceptance that a creative practice is essential to his or her daily life. Also someone who has a good inkling of the types of creative work he or she wants to pursue or explore.
I discovered that when I define my creative work into "projects", I am better able to finish something. I am able to make a concrete list of actions and tasks that I can tick off at the end of a day and feel satisfied about. It does not matter if it is a small task such as "prime the canvas" or "paint the background" or "refill the paint palette". When I look at my list I see my creative practice getting done side-by-side with dayjob duty. It is not pushed aside or postponed, or de-prioritised.
The overall goal in defining the creative project is to have clear pockets of action that I can jump into given the time available to me. I have more than one creative project defined so there is always something that I can do real work on. (The time when I come up with ideas and inspiration and refill my creative well is a separate activity in itself and I find that for me, it is not the best counterbalance to dayjob work -- I will write about this in another post.)
Creative Project #1:
I am going to make paintings on these small circles of canvas -- I used 5-inch diameter embroidery hoops as frames.
The idea is a word that inspires or triggers a positive action or thought, set against a brightly patterned background. I started with "believe".
Next I'm thinking "create", "love", "become"...
Each finished piece goes into the "exhibit line" -- this project contributes to a bigger project of building up the pieces for my creative exhibit which I plan to realise next year.
Creative Project #2:
To practice both my calligraphy and poem-writing, I picked up on this random practice of doing both on small square pieces of memo pad. Now from random I decided to turn it into a proper practice.
The finished pieces can then feed bigger projects: transforming them into bigger calligraphy painting pieces, or making them part of a poetry book collection --- oh wait, what about greeting or message cards, as certain lovely ladies have suggested?
Notice that these projects are generally small-scale -- with tasks broken down and doable in fifteen to twenty minutes (making the time is a basic assumption here -- when one commits to a creative life one commits to making time even if it is only fifteen minutes). Convenient enough to slip in during dayjob work breaks (like when I am writing reports). These are the creative projects I have currently defined to match against upcoming dayjob work. I will continue to design new ones so I can have options while maintaining forward movement.
These projects are supplemented by a daily-page practice which serves as an additional anchor into creativity. I will post my tricks for that next.
I am part of this soul-enriching Creativity Salon. For this weekend we have the task to think about and to share our big creative vision which we hope to realise for ourselves.
My first reaction was mental paralysis. But after a good dose of coffee I had more sense to work with. Of course I already know what my big creative vision is. I went back to my journals from this year and took the time to put the pieces of a puzzle that already answers this important question. This year is when a lot of things started falling into place for me, including the things in my head and my heart. That is why this year's journals are my most precious yet.
So these words capture some of my perspective on the creative work that I wish to do -- there is a quote I am trying to locate but it speaks of artists as being Agents of Hope (basically we create "products" for the uplifting and comfort of the spirit) and also, according to Joseph Campbell, artists are "shamans and myth-makers of the modern world", we help create the foundations that will anchor the beliefs and values of the future generations:
In the months leading up to the October Bootcamp (and later on the Creativity Salon), I have been feeling that sense of readiness to take my creative journey farther forward. There has been a constant simmering restlessness inside me that was soothed only when I sit down to paint or write. Ideas marched in my head, relentless and merciless, demanding to be given form. There has been a build-up of energy, propelling me into many small various actions that planted seeds everywhere.
I filled pages of my journals with images and words, trying to pin down the patterns and to trace the maps of where I am supposed to go and what I am supposed to do. I hesitated and and I dilly-dallied in fully embracing courses of action that either made me feel afraid or guilty (of selfishness). But in the end there is either the acceptance or the refusal of the call, and I have already gone far too deep into the forest to turn back.
All those explorations were pre-work for pinning down the steps I do need to make to become the person living the life I dream of. I want an artist's life, a true authentic way of creative living that is an expression of both my inner and outer worlds. I am perfectly aware of hard realities in my outer world that is why my inner world (values, imagination, faith, passion --- the clockwork of the soul) is something I hold almost sacred and non-negotiable. What is inside will fuel the outside (sometimes this is all I ever have to work with given frequent financial constraints).
So my big creative vision, expressed in specific actionable terms, begins with a proper "official" launch of myself as an artist. A common term would be an art exhibit. But I would rather call it a creative exhibit. Call me old-fashioned but an online coming-out or debut is not enough for me. I want a physical actual event. A real place where real people can go. And then the rest, I hope, will make for good history.
I had thought I would be able to make this happen this year but at the rate I am moving I doubt I will make it. There is next year, though, which also promises better dayjob arrangements so possibilities look good.
I don't want to rush the "launch" just for the sake of getting it done as soon as possible. I am not going to ignore lessons learned from sixteen years in marketing and advertising. The "launch" has to be true, and it has to be what I need it to be, not other people's design or idea of what it should be. So I will continue to be patient, and I will continue to practice and progress every day.
In fact, now that this is all out loud and clear in the open, I am suddenly cognisant of real actual tasks to be done. Such as taking inventory of finished works. Signing and making certificates of authenticity. Having pieces framed. Becoming more conscious of the themes and stories I wish to feature and highlight -- and creating pieces accordingly. Inquiring more diligently on potential suppliers such as printers, framers, venue managers, and the like. --- Heck, I think this even deserves a project notebook all its own just to make sure everything is in one place (and to pool all the energies towards its realisation).
So this is it. My big creative vision, target 2016. Wish me potfuls of good luck (preferably harvested from the end of rainbows).
Since Monday I have been painting and have somehow managed to complete these pieces. I am glad to have recovered my creative rhythm at some point although I am still not able to go as deep as I would wish and as I usually could because dayjob duties require me to be within summoning distance.
I've made some movements with my November novel but I haven't updated my word count in the NaNoWriMo site yet.
I feel an ache for holding myself in careful balance, keeping a part of me at the ready to get out of my true element in order to sacrifice time for that which makes this particular world go round -- money. I cannot escape from the need for money. I was not born into a family with property or secure livelihood that could help support or sustain my daily living. I spent every cent I made on my family, particularly my parents. I was driven by a sense of duty and guilt. And I spent on the things that marked me as successful according to the definitions of the society I lived in. I did not know any better and no one immediately close to me was in any position to halt my downhill snowball roll into the pit of false happiness.
I was hungry before and I fed myself with junk, spent my money on placebos and temporary tranquillisers to soothe the unnameable aches that surged from the shadows of my self.
I am hungry now, but I know what I need. But I no longer have the money I used to have because that was the price of knowing.
I survive on instinct and intuition now. My empty hands are learning to work with what is invisible. I become abundant in ways very few will understand or appreciate.
I am hungry everyday. But I am learning to grow my own food instead of trying to look for a convenient prettily packaged thing that promises instant miracles. Such things are always too good to be true. I should know. I used to work in the very places where those promises were crafted.
I am hungry, but I have never been so alive.
Getting back into the creative groove has been a tough process since Saturday. Most of the time my body just wanted to sleep while my mind boiled over with ideas and my hands itched to make.
Yesterday I pushed myself as hard as I would push myself for a dayjob duty. I got out of the house to run errands and to settle a few shrill naggings at the back of my head --
It is Monday and I woke up feeling well. I was in bed early last night because I still get tired easily from the week-long overtime work. But I got eight hours of sleep so I'm good.
Started off the very early morning (6-ish) with coffee and going through my idea book for what to draw and paint. Then I did emails, and monthly transactions for the accountant, and other small but necessary steps to get quite a number of things moving in one direction or another.
By 9:45AM I was leaving the house for a morning meeting (dayjob work), and it lasted until lunch. I had lunch in the same cafe where the meeting was and I stayed on for a couple more hours to sketch. I completed three new sketches for painting later on.
I also dug out older drawings that I never got the chance to paint when the dayjob projects started to move.
I am not entirely certain what I am rushing towards but I have that tiny core of ripe urgency inside me that is telling me to paint, paint, paint, and to have a body of work ready.
Ready for what? There is the Watercolour Fair on Saturday for which I have much less than I need to fully prepare for. There is the budding idea in my head of just setting up my own small art sale online and at a cafe one Saturday in early December. There is the magical chance that someone, somehow, shows up and asks to either buy all of my paintings (at a very good price) or feature them in an exhibit that will put them on demand (well, one can dream).
But the point is, none of those will happen if there are no paintings to show on hand. New ones. Bigger ones. Continuing to push the known borders of my imagined subjects and their worlds.
So I just listen to that inner song and paint. Show up in front of the canvas or paper. Show up. See. Create.
I have always had an on-and-off relationship with Twitter. I just could not figure it out. I found it boring and tiresome and even senseless to a point.
About a week ago I worked on a project interviewing some people and discovered how tweeting has evolved. So I revisited my dormant account and revived it. Tried out something along the lines of what I have learned from my informants, and then...
I finally found a real use for this social media --- which actually has nothing to do with being social at all.
It became a confidant and a true trail of my thoughts, feelings, and movements through a day. With the settings on private and the followers allowed by approval. I was not keen on an audience but I appreciated the outlet. Short snippets, at-the-moment, collated, and saved for easy reviewing later on.
It was something to "talk" to that was somehow "alive" without it being needy or intrusive. It was like a version of being in a cafe filled with people but with every one intent on his or her own business.
It got me through the worst of my last project during which I was nearly sleepless for four nights.
Then as I progressed, I realised it is also a perfect platform for gathering seeds. A quick dance of the fingers on the keyboard and it is there, saved, posted, waiting for later when it could be planted somewhere else.
How is it different or better than, say, a Field Notes notebook on-hand dedicated to tracking the trail of a day? For me, it works WITH the Field Notes. Since I am on the computer for most of the time, it is easier to shift windows or tabs than switching to long-hand. The shift could be jarring especially when I am in the middle of a dayjob report -- I cannot risk the loss of momentum. The Field Notes is there for when I do not have access to wifi or I am on an offline day.
I also have to repeat that aspect of expressing myself to something "alive". For my part I feel it as a way of speaking to the universe more than a specific audience of people. I think it is even a kind of ritual for me, of putting thoughts and inner prayers out there into the "cybervoid", for lack of access to grassy fields beneath star-studded skies to shout out to. Does it make sense? Do you get what I mean? In my head I see a galaxy of multiverses picking up my words and sending back replies in one synchronicity or another.
It is also very useful in working through a decision or a dilemma. I get to a solution one 140-letter thought at a time. I am forced to be clear. I am forced to be certain. I am forced to get to the heart of the matter sooner than I would if I had been given too much space to ramble and beat around the bushes.
It gives me a very good picture of where my day has gone. Whether I have indeed spent it wisely or wasted it. And when I scan the whole continuity of it, reading about the turns and twists, I also learn about my own patterns, my habits, the little tricks I play on myself. Definitely very useful for getting out of ruts and vicious cycles.
If you're curious to follow my trail : https://twitter.com/marichitsg