Wishing for a Dip in the Creative Pool

“If you think of the universe as a vast electrical sea in which you are immersed and from which you are  formed, opening to your creativity changes you from something bobbing in that sea to a more  fully functioning, more conscious, more cooperative part of that ecosystem.

[. . .]

The heart of creativity is an experience of the mystical union; the heart of the mystical union is an experience of creativity.” (Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way)

Today my wish may seem personal, because of my own dreams of becoming  a published author along with other creative aspirations. However, this wish goes beyond the personal because of some things I believe. I believe that there is energy that joins all life. I believe in a common pool of thoughts, experiences, and ideas–creative sparks–that some are able to access better than others. That pool contains the essence of creation. I believe that everyone has access to that creative pool, but some have cut themselves off and denied their own creative souls. I believe everyone is creative, although creativity takes different forms and is expressed in different ways.

I believe that living a creative life makes life worth living.

This doesn’t mean  that every person needs to be an artist or a writer in a traditional sense. It means that I wish for everyone to be able to access the power from that creative pool in order to enrich their lives. I wish  for everyone to be able to touch their inner child–for children are much closer to this creative energy–or dip into their hidden dreams to embrace their bliss beyond the day-to-day exercise of living.

I wish that everyone had the opportunity to swim in that creative pool, because I also believe that if we can recognize the things that connect us, we can find new answers to the problems that plague us. We will be less afraid of things that are different from us, because we will see  difference is another form of creativity, another expression of meaning drawn from this pool of energy that joins us.

“Why should we all use our creative power . . . ? Because there is nothing that makes people so generous, joyful, lively, bold and compassionate, so indifferent to fighting and the accumulation of objects and money.” (Brenda Ueland)

Sometimes I ask myself why I keep writing everyday. Why, when it seems like I will never break through to sell an actual book or to have my words read by more than a handful of people, do I keep trying? Why do I have pages and pages of creative writing, of short stories, of novel starts, of poetry, of journal entries, of essays that will never see the light of day?

The answer is  simple, writing is my way of accessing the energy within the pool, energy that connects me with all life.

There have been rare occasions when I so completely lose myself into the pool that I hardly know  the words that come out. Someone, something, some form of energy pours through me to write something that is beyond me,  even though it contains my words and my style. I love when that happens. I love when I lose myself to the flow of energy, of creativity and of words, and never notice the passage of time.

Some of my best work comes out of those moments. Some of my best blog posts have come out of those moments. For example, this piece of fiction entitled The Moon Calls.

Sometimes my dip into the creative pool leads me away from words and into directions I never expect.

The Storyteller

Today I wish that everyone would be able to experience the power of this creative pool and recognize what it really means . . . simply that we are all connected by the power of creation.

Who is ready to jump into the pool and go for a swim?



A Modicum of Wordplay

I love sunset, and so do crepuscular creatures great and small. Photo taken by Sarah KramerLee

Yesterday, Kathy over at Lake Superior Spirit celebrated the word “fallow” among other things. (Congratulations Kathy, on the wise words of a blind man and your popularity at the magazine).

Isn’t fallow a lovely world?

Today, as I seem to be intent on accomplishing nothing, and busy getting in my own way I began to think about words, and how wonderful words really are.  I’ve written about words in past posts in this blog, and of course I use lots of words in order to write, but today I feel like celebrating words that scintillate or titillate the tongue. Words that you feel good saying, or words that inspire images and emotions. Of course, as soon as I decided to do this, words slipped from my mind leaving me unable to express a single idea.

So I turned to friends on Facebook and asked them what their favorite words were. Several responses are not suitable for this post (but hilarious anyway). Others reminded me of the wonder of language of all types.

Here are some of people’s favorites, with definitions from Wordnik.com (The definitions themselves provide some lovely words. I bold all the words that make me happy):

  • Ort:
    1. n. A small scrap or leaving of food after a meal is completed. Often used in the plural.
    2. n. A scrap; a bit.
  • Popinjay:  A vain, talkative person. (Also a parrot)
  • Bosh: nonsense
  • tosh: foolish nonsense; twaddle, balderdash
  • Curmudgeon: An ill-tempered person full of resentment and stubborn notions. [I need to use this more often]
  • Crepuscular:  [This one seems very popular, it’s fun to say so several people selected it]
    1. adj. Of or like twilight; dim: “the period’s crepuscular charm and a waning of the intense francophilia that used to shape the art market” Wall Street Journal).
    2. adj. Zoology Becoming active at twilight or before sunrise, as do bats and certain insects and bird
  • Bastante: (Spanish): enough, plenty, quite
  • Plethora: [This happens to be one of my favorites as well]
    1. . A superabundance; an excess.
    2. n. An excess of blood in the circulatory system or in one organ or area.
  • Yesterday, Sarah had an assignment to find synonyms and antonyms for the word vivacious and one of the words she came up with was bubbly which makes me feel bubbly all over.

What are some of your favorite words, in any language? 

Statler and Waldorf from the Muppets, two of the greatest curmudgeons I know.

Writing, Writing, and More Writing

November 1st.

Intrepid dreamers all around the world begin their journeys into NaNoWriMo–the attempt to write a 50,000 page novel by November 30th.

I’m not one of them. I wrote last year about why I don’t think National Novel Writing Month is for me. I still don’t think it would work for me, however I am determined to finish my current novel project by the end of November. Over the past week I’ve written over 10,000 words in what will be a novel running somewhere between 60 and 80,000 words. I know, that’s a big difference, but I won’t know until I get to the end that I have reached the end. The story is creating itself. As of now I am over 30,000 words in. (The official count is on my personal computer. I’m writing during my office hours since nobody has come to see me).

While I work well under the pressure of a deadline, I don’t work well under the pressure of pressure. Words, or any creative act, seem to have a cycle with me. They flow like a tidal wave, then turn into a drought, only to return again with the speed of Sandy. As frustrating as those periods of drought can be, I know that I need the fallow time to replenish and let ideas rest for a while until they are ready to burst forth.

Once I break through and the deluge of words begins, it seems to feed on itself. (I know, I’m using a lot of mixed metaphors right now. I struggled with insomnia last night and so my words insist on following their own random path. This too is a symptom of the flood). Since the words started flowing on my novel I’ve written more blog posts than I have for a long time. I’ve also applied for jobs, answered e-mails, graded papers and made comments–words pouring out of my system.

By putting words out there, the universe is answering. Yesterday I was asked to contribute a feature article for the spring edition of a popular magazine about Theatre for Young Audiences. Although the deadline for me to accomplish this task is short (I think they asked me late) I’m really excited about this opportunity. I’ve been asked to “talk about sex”; as in look at how romance and sex is discussed or portrayed in theatre for young audiences. Sexy topic, don’t you think?

[Any TYA folks who might read this, if you have something to say or know of someone who would be a good resource please let me know.]

In addition to that, we’ve finally gotten some funding to do a project promoting literacy to Latino elementary school students using drama, so I need to write up some planning material for that.

The whole point is that I’ve finally found my rhythm when it comes to writing and/or other creative projects. I can’t force it. I can’t create imaginary deadlines like NaNoWriMo. I have to follow my natural (although perhaps slightly psychotic) rhythms of manic production followed by passive reflection. If I fight it, I struggle.

At the moment, I’m not fighting. I’m simply writing, writing, and writing.

What works best for you?

Good luck to all you NaNoWriMo participants. I’ll see you on the other side!

Two Years

Two years ago today I started this blog.

Since that first pathetic post I have:

  • written 585 posts
  • approved 7629 comments
  • been protected from 5738 spam comments
  • had (supposedly) 39,054 views
  • written hundreds and hundreds of comments on other people’s blogs
  • gained and lost subscribers (right now I have 155 blog followers).

But these numbers really don’t mean anything to me. Since I started this blog, I have also:

  • lived in four states (Colorado, Iowa for summer theatre work, Kansas, and Massachusetts).
  • taught several hundred students of all ages in theatre, writing, English lit, puppetry and other areas.
  • driven thousands of miles (including across country three times)
  • read approximately 118 books
  • walked miles and miles in beautiful locations
  • taken hundreds of pictures
  • created a couple of pieces of “art”
  • directed shows
  • taught camps
  • written hundreds of morning pages
  • met amazing people
  • traveled out of the country
  • played too many computer games
  • been angry, scared, sad, happy, excited, lonely, content, frustrated, confident, doubtful and any other emotion you can think of
  • gained and lost weight
  • shared ideas with wonderful women
  • eaten chocolate, laughed and celebrated life
  • cried millions of tears

In other words I’ve lived my life. I’ve tried to share honestly on these pages. I’ve written words from the heart. I have been honored to interact with many incredible people. I admit that I still envy bloggers who seem to ease into successful blogs: the ones who get Freshly Pressed repeatedly while I limp forward slowly, the ones with hundreds and hundreds of followers and hundreds of thousand of hits. I admit that there are days that I feel frustrated and wonder why I bother. What do I hope to achieve with this blog?

That question looms large as I celebrate this, my second blogiversary. What do I hope to achieve with this blog? Where do I go from here? Do I continue as I’ve been doing, posting about whatever inspires me at any given moment, including rants and rambles along the way? Do I start something new, coming up with a more focused vision? Or do I simply give up, saying, “it was a good try but now move on to something realistic” ?

I am in the middle of reinventing myself, of discovering who I want to be and what marks I want to leave in this world. Saturday I spent the day with theatre educators and others who are passionate about the importance and value of arts education in the schools, and arts as part of life. I discovered people who are doing incredible work, on both a large and a small-scale. I was reminded that I do belong in that world in many ways, I just have yet to figure out how I contribute.

I live in a world of creative energy, and am slowly finding a foothold in that world. Blogging has helped me in many ways. I have learned so much from fellow bloggers, that I’m not sure where to even begin. But, I will try.

  • I’ve learned how to see the world a little differently from people like Piglet in Portugal and Terry at The Incredible Lightness of Seeing. Because of them I carry my camera with me wherever I go, and began incorporating my own images into my posts more often.
  • I’ve learned about courage from many sources, but particularly: Kathy at Reinventing the Event Horizon who is delving into her past with beauty, compassion and courage; Mark at The Idiot Speaketh who faces the challenges of his disability with humor and honesty, while still offering compassion and support wherever needed,  Ré at Sparks in the Shadows who is heart-breakingly honest with her struggles in life, but works daily to improve herself as a writer and challenge her world; and Dory at If I Were Brave who challenges herself daily to bring joy and face her fears. She’s now embarking on a fiction writing course and I know she will shine in that.
  • I’ve learned about love from Christine (who has also helped me see the power of photography). Ahab and Tori. I’ve learned about the craft of writing from Broadside and Wordsxo. I’ve learned about pursuing passion from Julia’s hundred word challenge and Stuart’s commitment to the arts.

My list could go on and on, but I honestly don’t have time to link to all the fabulous blogs I’ve read. Because, one of the downsides of blogging is that I have blogged away all the time I need to do other things. I am just starting on a book project with actual deadlines. I need to focus my energy on that to some extent today, or I will not make my deadline. But, this blogging world is now a home, that I am afraid to leave. I am more comfortable writing here then I ever thought I would be in the early days of my blog. I have found a community. I have met a few bloggers, and hope to meet more. I have discovered amazing people who I connect to on many different levels.

In many ways my blog has become my home. But, I wonder, is it time for this little bird to leave her nest?

“Write it ‘Right'” and Other Reasons to Write

“From the front of the classroom, the transformation that Morning Pages causes is almost startling. Even after two and a half decades as a teacher, I am still struck with wonder as people seem to change right before my eyes. I call the process ‘spiritual chiropractic’ as changes are made in exactly the direction that they are needed. Overeaters curb their binges. Undereaters begin to eat more regularly. From the front of the room, the increased health is readily evident. And ‘all’ they are doing is writing.” (Julia Cameron, The Writing Diet: Write Yourself  Right-Size”

I am changing my life. One word at a time, one creative project at a time, one moment at a time–I am manifesting a life that fills me with joy. That is difficult and sometimes scary, but it feels right.

However, in order to really live the life I envision I have to get control of several (inevitably linked) things, my weight, my health and my self-confidence. I don’t need to be a size two or anything, I just want to be a healthy weight so that I can hike comfortably with my daughter (at my own short-legged pace, of course) or travel to other countries without worrying that somehow I hold others back or might end up in the hospital. I don’t want to worry about my heart stopping at a strange moment, or future manifestations of diseases that I could prevent by simply taking better care of myself.

I know how to eat healthy, and I have had some successes without actually dieting. If I use the word diet, even in my mind, I am doomed to failure so it has been banned from my consciousness. However, in typical fashion something always happens to reverse my success. No, not something! The only thing that gets in my way is:

Me, Myself, and I

I come up with excuse for not exercising, or for eating one more cookie, or for choosing something unhealthy rather than healthy.

In the same way, I am an expert at making excuses for why I am not progressing in whatever creative project has caught my attention.

I can’t do this to myself anymore!

So I am taking on a challenge, inspired by Julia Cameron, author of The Writer’s Way  and The Writing Diet. I am going to write myself right.

But not just my weight, and not just through writing.

I am going to:

  • write myself right
  • create myself calm
  • dance myself delighted
  • walk myself wonderful
  • sing myself sensuous
  • paint myself pretty
  • journal myself joyous

I am going to do all these things and more. I know it won’t be easy and sometimes it will feel impossible. I know that life will have its ups and downs. I know I can’t do it alone.

But I believe in myself and my ability to “write myself right.”

Anyone need or want to join me?

What a Difference a Day Makes

Yesterday, as I typed my post, I literally yelled at the computer screen. I vented. I ranted. I emphasized my thoughts with words and hand gestures. I nearly cried. I played a dramatic scene worthy of an Oscar nomination . . . well at least in my own mind.

I expressed myself in words and actions, and then I felt better.

I had trouble going to sleep last night, and when I did I had bizarre dreams, including one where I had the magic of Santa Claus and decided everyone needed a little Christmas in their life. I went from room to room in a hotel (?) decorating with the snap of a finger and the flick of a wrist.

Somehow the magic made me feel right. Perhaps because magic and creativity intertwine, at least in my world. My dream reached inside to find my crative source.

This morning, I did not have time to listen to the silence. This morning I did not have time to question, doubt, to stress, or even to write.

This morning, I got up and checked my e-mail. Then I drove myself to the University and taught my class for 2 hours and 40 minutes. From there I headed to Sarah’s school to help her class as they explored the people from the American Revolution through drama, aided and abetted by me. They researched the people and wrote monologues which they shared.

Not brilliant performances, but they learned and enjoyed. Many of them even thanked me.

I came home, to deal with more e-mails, including an announcement for a mini-conference on Theater and Education. I did not think, I signed up. There was also a message from one of the good friends I made on the Slovakia trip, who has asked me to come speak to her Art and Culture in Public Service Class at Rutgers. I said yes.

It looks like I will be heading to NYC three times in the next three months. Once to share at a Travelogue about my trip to Slovakia. Once to meet with Christen’s class. And finally, in May, to hopefully meet up with some blogging friends.

That’s kind of exciting.

Nothing has changed and yet everything seems different.

Yesterday I was 100% honest with myself and with you. Today I know that everything is going to work out and I will find my way. I’m no closer to clarity. I’m no closer to a plan. I’m no closer to setting goals or understanding where I am headed.

But it simply doesn’t matter. By writing my post yesterday I moved forward with a new sense that I can and will find my way and have fabulous journey.

I guess today I have a sense of hope.

"Hope" by Steve Kramer (aka Taochild aka my brother)

Words heal, time heals, and days pass.

Finding My Voice Through Travel

Descent into Vienna

Questions and Answers

“How was your trip?”

“Was it everything you hope for?”

“Did you achieve what you were looking for?”

These questions, in infinite variety, have come to me since I returned. Of course, they are difficult to answer.

Did I connect with a company I admire and establish the possibility of working with them again in the future? I think so, but only time will tell.

Did I suddenly discover the plot of a novel or the specific book that I will write and publish in a brilliant path to success? I had some ideas, but . . .

Did I rediscover something that has been missing in my life, my career, my dreams? Hell, ya!

Did I reconnect with myself? I think I did.

Did I rediscover my voice? You tell me.

Little Creative Moments

During the trip we participated in several workshops meant to inspire and help us all on our personal creative journeys. We also had plenty of time to pursue our own interests; to write, to sleep, to explore, to dream, or simply just to think.

Isn't drinking a part of the creative process? Especially on a train. 😉

Dramatic Adventure Theatre’s Resident Playwright, Jason Williamson, led two writing workshops: “Facing the Blank Page” and  “Writing Stories.” He is an incredible workshop leader.

In the first he took us through exercises exploring character, place and then character and place together. Here  is my final exercise from that day:

Just nesting, each room holds shiny new gifts barely broken in. The bedroom, full of large bed and luxurious pillows with crisp new sheets and romantic flowers on the bedside table. A little clash of belongings throughout the apartment; his old ratty chair confronting her frilly floral fabrics. Slow indications of changes yet to come, as the floral fabrics get exchanged for a cozy couch.

Not the most brilliant piece of writing, I admit, but it helped me start writing again, and that’s what counts. Also, considering the chair that was finally delivered to our house the other day, I now see the wry humor in what I wrote.

Our New Chair

The second workshop expanded on the first, to try to bring story to character. Jason asked us to write (in timed writing) a description of someone we had met on the trip, and then to write a monologue where the person was speaking to someone specific and wanting something.   Here is what I wrote for both:

1) The little girl with dark hair was around 7 or 8 years old, I think. She had a wide smile that reached her eyes and ears. She had a red mark by her nose which marred the beauty of her face. She smiled and waved, looking like she wanted to approach, but backed away when I beckoned to her. This game continued, one step forward, smile, two steps back.

2) Papa, please. I am sorry that I did not please you. Marco pushed me and I fell down. I was angry. I was hurt. I did not mean to shame you in front of the white woman. She looked kind. She smiled. But I could not approach. Then Marco pushed me, and I fell. She got up and scolded him. I did not understand her words. She smiled at me. Papa, please forgive me if I did wrong. I wanted to smile with her. I wanted to play with her. Why did Marco have to push me? I was doing nothing. Why are you not angry with him? Papa, please.  Later the white woman did not seem mad. She held my hand. We walked through the settlement together.

Finding My Own Power

The third workshop, called “Archetype Journeys”  was led by Dramatic Adventure Theatre’s Artistic Director, Jesse Baxter out of a book called Acting and Singing  with Archetypes by Janet Rodgers & Frankie Armstrong.

Jesse observing the world in his usual thoughtful pose.

This was a powerful and challenging “acting” or “movement” based workshop where we explored three archetypes at once, The Wise Woman, The Honest Traveler, and The Dishonest Traveler.

I cannot put into words how this workshop impacted me, except to say that I found my center and I felt grounded afterwords.  The final part of the workshop was, of course, to write something, and this is what I wrote:

When you listen you hear
When you connect you share
but hearing only comes to those who listen
and sharing only comes to those who connect

I have the wisdom
I have the song
but I can only share with those who are true travelers,
who leave their egos behind and listen to the song behind the song.

When we connect,
power builds
When we share, love grows.
But power only comes with true connections
And love only comes with honest sharing.

I have the wisdom
I have the song
but somewhere I began to lose my voice
only to rediscover it with those who truly wish to hear.

When you listen you hear
When you connect you share
When you  give you get
When you love you live.

I am the wise-woman
and I have a song to share.

 Answers and Questions

So the only way to answer the questions is to say, “Yes and No”. The only way to understand where this journey has led is to wait and see where it leads me now.

The journey to Slovakia was the beginning, all I can do now is continue moving and see where it takes me.

Creativity vs. Expertise

I’ve  had a few epiphanies since my meeting about Slovakia. Perhaps because I made the decision to just be open to whatever happens, I’ve realized some important things about myself, my life and what it all means.

To begin, I am a creative person.

I know, some of you are shocked at that statement. 😉 Wait until you read the next one.

I am a very self-critical person.

(I can hear some of you saying “No S%*#, Sherlock!” or some less vulgar variation like, “Duh!”)

At the same time, I am the first person to encourage others to embrace their creative sides. I recognize the power of creativity as a learning tool, as a method of healing, as a way of communicating, and so on.

If I can do that, why am I so hard on myself?

Saturday, the KramerLee family aided by Uncle Steve and one of Nathan’s students, all headed to Chelsea, MA (1 hour away) to help Nathan paint some of the set he is designing for an upcoming production of Uncle Vanya. I admit, this was not completely an act of selfless volunteerism, I wanted to do it in the hopes that I might be able to see my husband a little before I disappear into Slovakia for 11 days, and the show opens on December 29th.

I also had the urge to paint something fun.

While there were several things that needed painting, I wanted to do the backdrop of the outdoor scene, which was meant to look kind of like an impressionistic forest of trees. The student and I started working on that while Sarah and Uncle Steve scraped furniture (Sarah wanted to do whatever Steve was doing) and Nathan got other projects ready.

You can tell who dove in and who hesitated more.

I dove in, just enjoying the moment, not worrying about the end result. The student, however, spent a lot of time stressing on if he was doing it “right”. Now, since none of us are expert painters, and certainly not in impressionist styles, I kept pointing out to him that it didn’t matter if it was right or wrong. In the end, the result would be great.

Even without stage lighting, this looks cool.

I explained, as he worried, that one of the great things about theater is that we don’t always know what we are doing, we just find creative ways to get the job done. In this instance, all of us joined the challenge to achieve the goal.

We all got into the action.

It makes sense to make the shortest person get the highest stuff, or at least it does to Sarah who insisted on painting on the ladder.

So, where does the epiphany come in? It comes from me finally recognizing that there is a difference between living a creative life and being an expert at something. My personal struggle has always been with wanting to be recognized for what I do, whether it is through pay or awards or acknowledgement or thank you’s or  a title or whatever.  In my mind, I equate those things with being an “expert” with “value.”

But, in reality, an expert is a person who “has special skills at a task or knowledge in a subject.” It has nothing to do with pay or a title. I have a lot of expertise in a lot of different areas, but that doesn’t matter. What really matters to me is that I live my life as creatively as possible.

Nathan and I were talking the other day about what the word “career” means. “Could living be your career?” he asked.

Could living be my career? Does a career require a salary or a certain level of achievement? Or could my career be simply living a creative life, and encouraging other people to do the same?

Now my personal goal is to embrace the idea that living creatively is my career. It may never make me money or give me fame, but I believe I will look back on that life and say “I REALLY lived!”

What do you think?

Donut Delights, A poem by Lisa and Sarah

Donut Art by Sarah KramerLee

Eating Dunkin’ Donuts saying silly stuff.
Chugging minty chocolate, living life with love.

Gooey chocolate goodness, gives us great big grins.
A chicken salad sandwich fills us up within.

Dreaming of snowflakes makes us sigh,
for magic little pieces from the sky.

Cocoa warms us up, steaming in the cup.

Hearing Christmas carols rhyme,
makes us have a real  good time.

Mommy/daughter silliness sits upon the page,
maybe we should take our act and share it on the stage.

Losing My Mojo, But Dancing and Singing Honestly Anyway

The title of today’s post comes from several conversations swirling around the blogosphere over the past couple of days, so I will explain with links to each.

Today, Christine asked “Why do you write blogs?” prompting my, admittedly morose response:

“My 100% honest (with myself) answer to this question is that I blog because, right now, I feel like I have nothing else in my life. :(

Now, I’m not quoting myself in a plea for sympathy. Seriously, I copied the quote because I always try to write from an honest place. Honesty isn’t always pretty.

My response prompted a response from Julia and led me to her post from yesterday called “If You Give a Blogger a Pie . . . “  which caused me to recognize that I am currently feeling a complete loss of mojo.

In an attempt to reclaim that lost mojo, I am joining a movement that I unknowingly inspired with my guest post the other day. The conversation following that post caused  Stuart to create a new movement he is calling the “National ‘Sing Everywhere” Movement”  which he describes in the linked post. That led, of course, to the creation by Zencherry (whose comment really started the movement) of the fabulous “Sing Out Loud, Naughty Badge” which I have proudly displayed on my sidebar and include here as well.

What does this badge stand for? It stands for the people who create simply for  the joy of creation. People who blog simply because they love to create. People who sing even if their voices are weak. People who dance with two left feet. It is a badge for people who have lost their mojo, to remind them that the only way to regain your mojo is to sing, to dance, to write, to create, to dream.

Maybe my Mojo isn’t lost for good.

The view as I looked for my lost mojo.

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