Tuesday, September 06, 2005

What is the best way to get inspired again? It's not like I can do like I used to and sequester myself with my journals and my paints and my books to write and paint and read the inspiration up. Nope, I've got the Monkey Man sleeping on the couch next to me, and I wince everytime he whimpers in his sleep.

(no, kiddo, no, kiddo, no kiddo, do not wake up.)

When I was a teacher, half of my job consisted of getting kids inspired to work. It didn't always work, but sometimes it did. That was in a New York City public school, and a lot of the kids had major issues. Well, that's kind of amusing. Am I assuming that I am issue free? Obviously I have issues, if I didn't I would be done with my current novel, seeing it published, and working on a new one. What a lovely picture I paint. Me, issue free. Maybe I should treat me like I treated my students, my fragile, struggling, alternately brilliant and doltish students. They were lazy, just like I am. They had dreams and dreams, just like I do, ones neither of us are completely convinced we can achieve, and which we might be terrified of actually achieving.

But considering a person (me) had the desire to write, what are the tricks that I used to help get up the inspiration. And beyond the inspiration, the habit of working.

Daily journal entries. That's right. Whether you wanted to write or not. I had a quote or a question or a prompt, and the assignment was to write for ten minutes non stop-- without worrying about what you actually had to write.

Brainstorming. That was always fun, and it pulled on the knowledge you already had. Put the main idea on the board or on a piece of paper, and then just spider web all the associations that went with it. Then you look at what you've written and you can actually see the thinking, you can catch the flow, the story, the meaning. Great way to write poetry-- just choose one cluster of the web.

Art Projects. A collage or a drawing might help you get a different perspective on whatever it was you were trying to understand or create. That works particularly well to help you understand the bigger/deeper ideas behind a complicated story. Also helped to build a personal connection to the material.

Choice. Honestly, giving the kids a choice of material helped them want to do things. It gives you a sense of control over what you are doing. And yet, the choice is limited-- you don't get to choose any old thing in the universe, but one of a selection. This is important, because the world gets so big when there are no limitations. How can you make any choices? So limiting choices, but giving free will among those really helps to create a focus.

Personal accountability. Checking up on them. Giving deadlines. Having high expectations, leading to a performance or presentation.

What are the ways I can adapt these techniques to my own practice?

Eh, looking for magic pills to solve all my problems. What I really need to do is just write.

Friday, September 02, 2005

It Is

This has been the hardest entry to write.

I keep wanting to talk about how I've decided to pay attention to all the good things I have in my life, instead of the things I am lacking, but every time I start, my brain can do nothing but whir around all the absences and failures.

Why is it so hard to live your life in blessings?

We've all got them, right? Maybe they're not huge things, but everyone can at least have a good cup of coffee in the morning, right? Or a butterfly fluttering about? Or a dramatic sunset?

How often do we ignore the things that make us happy, or could make us happy if we paid attention to them and gave them the value they deserve?

How often do we pay attention to our lives as they are, right now, this instant?

I know I don't. I pay attention only to what is missing, and it's killing me. I'm so freaking worried that I won't ever be able to be a writer, that I don't have the stuff, that I don't have the will. I'm terrified that I'm losing my identity in being a mother. I'm afraid that the task of being who I want to be is going to get eaten up by the niggling worries of washing the dishes and feeding the cats and sweeping the floor-- or more precisely, how bad I am at doing all those things.

My life has turned into this negative. My life has turned into this aching jaw full of tension.

And I'm missing out on this life that I've kind of wanted since I was fifteen-- being a mother.

I'm there for my baby, and I give him attention and love and all those things I need and want to give him, but I'm not there in the moment. I'm always thinking about what is next to do.

This isn't happiness.

But it could be. The elements of happiness are all in place. All it will take is for me to pay attention to this that is my life. THIS is my life. Not all the things I want but don't have. And certainly not the television playing non stop, a drug that allows time to pass without any effort on my part. No. This right here.

Pay attention, Rowena, to the baby sleeping next to me on the couch, allowing me to sort through all this in writing. Pay attention to the sunset lighting the tree outside my window. Pay attention to Sean, and his joy in his son and his family. Pay attention to how creating, whether in words or in pictures, makes you happy.

Pay attention to your life, and pay attention to all that it is.
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