back to work

The odd reddish light of the morning has given way to dark clouds as the rain starts to pour down and I still search for my writing topic of the day. It’s the kind of rain that’s bringing down the first of autumn leaves, so not only am I slightly depressed about going back to work, but I’m also feeling as if it’s the end of summer.

I don’t have to go back to school, like many others next week (phew) but I do feel looming the difficulties of moving around hampered by snow and cold. During the last of these hot summer days, I actually enjoy thinking about winter, planning to knit new mittens and wondering about soup recipes. I greedily fill my eyes with the green of the backyard, remembering what it will look like snow-covered. I pay attention to the quality of light, knowing that not too far away it will be dark when I sit down to write.

There’s one bough of bright red leaves on the faded maple that looks like a fashionable swatch of colour in somone’s chic hairstyle. It’s going to be one of the hottest days we’ve had this summer, and although I am not good in heat (brings out the very best in hissy fits in me), my intention is to enjoy this day, albeit in a melancholy way.

Thunder rolls, house lights come on across the street, two cars splash past. Summer’s not done yet, but the world is turning, turning.

But hey, that means the Australian cricket season will be starting!

#summer’s end #rain #back to work

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time, time, time, see what’s become of me*

Okay, how did it get to be Friday already? It feels like it should be Wednesday.

I know as we age most people report feeling time whizzing by faster and faster, but this seems unusually speedy. I wonder if it’s because I’m doing more and more things that I enjoy. It used to be that I really didn’t like a lot of what I had to do. I remember absolutely abhorring Mondays, and wishing for Wednesday evenings, the regular night for my favourite orchestra rehearsal. From there, the slide into the weekend seemed reasonably nearby and I happily enjoyed myself until Monday again.

These days, not only do I enjoy my day job more, but I’ve cagily avoided Mondays, working Tuesday through Saturday. I have rid myself of doing many things I don’t particularly like, and pack my days with the things I do. And one of the unfortunate consequences seems to be seeing my life fly by.

Scientific American has some interesting ideas about time perception. One suggestion that I recognized in my own life was that the more attention you paid to schedules and deadlines, the more quickly time passes. So the more you focus on time, the more you try to grab and hold on, the more it slips through your fingers. I stopped wearing a watch, hoping that would ease my fearful grip on needing to know what time it is, but clocks are everywhere, including the Big Ben widget staring remorsely at me from this desktop computer.

It makes for an interesting paradox. How human, that time will drag on if one is bored and hasten away if one is engaged. So a good life is a short life? Naw, it can’t be. The mind revolts. There has to be a way out of this quandary – to enjoy oneself for a comfortable period.

Doesn’t there?

*Simon and Garfunkel, A Hazy Shade of Winter

#time #time flies #deadlines #stop the clock

here we go again

It’s so easy to be stuck.

I have all these great ideas about stories to write, projects to bead and music to create. I think of exciting things to try during the night, wake up reasonably motivated, charge into my studio, and screech to a halt in front of the computer. Too many choices. Too many directions. I feel I have to choose the one, best direction for my energy and efforts, the most rewarding or the most marketable. And there go my intentions, dribbling away into “what if” and “maybe I should” and “that probably won’t work”, and good god, look at the time!

The pressure to sell, to create what I imagine other people would pay for, robs me of me urge to communicate with and understand myself. But perhaps I’ve primed the pump by starting here, putting one word in front of the other. I’m lured on, knowing writing can often lead to a magical moment of “a-ha!”. I remember feeling triumphant, after I’ve corralled my thoughts into sentences I can reread and surprised myself into a “so that’s what’s going on!” Heady, addictive stuff, really.

So back to the blank page.

#blocked #getting unstuck #blank page

back to work

Re-entry is always awkward. It takes me a while to reorient myself from following nifty ideas and colour pathways to suddenly having chores and obligations that have very little resemblance to what I’d been dreaming about.

It usually takes me at least half a day to get back on top, to deal with things that have happened while I’ve been away, to remember my various deadlines and to pick up where I had left off. While I’m driving in to work, I’m still puzzling out my creative stuff and thinking about what to try next. I always think I’ll be able to think through some things at work during “in between” times, but it rarely happens. By lunchtime, I’ve completely forgotten what was important during the weekend. Often, by the end of the day, I feel I’ve just managed to catch up and I’m ready to start, and here it is, time to go home already. My creative preoccupations had hovered about the edges of my consciousness, but I didn’t really think about them..

Tomorrow will be easier. I’ve acclimatized already, remembered my work rhythms and have a handle on what I need to do when. My creative stuff, well, I hope I’ll find time to think about it.

Maybe, though, a totally different workplace is a good opportunity for the unconscious. Maybe, lacking my mind’s focused attention, some unusual stuff will have a chance to percolate and emerge, without my too-judgmental attention crippling it before it’s born.

Still, I’m already looking forward to my next weekend!

#back to work #juggling a day job

escaping the critical inner voices

A pattern is emerging. I was having a lovely weekend – got lots of writing done and even, goodness gracious me, some housework. So this morning, the last day of my long weekend, I want to have fun and I find I can’t settle down to anything, not to beading, or music or even my guilty pleasure of Shahrukh Khan in a Bollywood film. It’s not until Nick points out how much I accomplished yesterday that we realize I’m having a reaction. For every visible gain forward into a new, exciting and creative life, I seem to suffer a negative reaction, where everything I touch seems inadequate and boring and I feel extremely frustrated.

Luckily, once I’d figured out that my inner critics were stomping all over me because they’d been temporarily ignored, I was able to retrieve my good humour (the first casualty) and spend a great rainy day colouring and beading and thinking about my next piece of writing.

I wonder if I could send those voices on a long holiday cruise to Antarctica.

#one step forward #reaction #accomplishment

how not to have fun

For me, struggling with the creative process isn’t just sitting in front of a blank screen, head in hands, waiting for some inspiration to show me the way forward. That happens, for sure, but there’s another kind of struggle I find just as distressing.

It’s when I’m on my weekend, time off from my day job, and I appear to have loads of time I can devote to my art, whatever it is at the moment…writing, music, beading, drawing, photography, whatever I’m most interested in.

I start off luxuriating in the sense of hours unfettered by the need to rush to squeeze something in before I head off to work. Little by little, my energy dissipates as I browse the net, make elaborate lunches, tidy a few things, make another snack, watch a show and then head for bed.

I’ve told myself I deserve time off, that I’ve been working hard on all my creative projects, and my day job, and I deserve a break. But nothing seemed like fun, so I promise myself I’ll make sure I have fun tomorrow.

The next day of the weekend goes by like the first and by evening, I’m climbing the rafters. I haven’t felt like I’ve given myself a special treat, and I start complaining about my life – why don’t Nick and I go bowling, or out to concerts, or travelling like other people do. I criticize my life and my choices. I feel I’ve lost not so much control as perspective. I’m looking for fun and can’t find it.

And here is where, after an intense talk with Nick, I realize that I’m dealing with some creative block I’ve been unaware of. I know I’m most happy when I’m being creative, and this idea of needing time off from creativity is tricky. Sometimes a switch from one art form to another provides the break and inspiration. Sometimes burying myself in a book for a few hours does it. But when I move restlessly from one “treat” to another without feeling engaged, and when I feel cheated that I’m not going out bowling (which I don’t particularly enjoy) then I wish I could recognize sooner that I’m in the grip of a limitation, an old pattern of behaviour that I haven’t yet healed. Once I recognize what’s happening, the urge to go bowling is forgotten as I wrestle with my personal demon once more, usually in writing, and begin feeling more like myself.

So here’s hoping next weekend I’ll remain aware, I’ll be creative and I’ll have fun!

#creative block #weekends #fun

after they’re gone

It’s the day after Nick and I prepared a number of jewellery pieces to leave home and strike out on their own. They’re making an appearance at a weekend retreat for a number of women friends, and we’re hoping they sell.

All week, we’ve been sorting through the beaded necklaces, bracelets, anklets, earrings and rings we’d made over the past year, pricing, putting them into little bags and marvelling at how many pieces we had actually accumulated. We made business cards, arranged everything in a little case, completed an anklet as a gift for the hostess, and delivered it all yesterday.

Today, the glow of achievement has worn off, leaving me filled with lassitude. Reluctant to start anything knew, vaguely grumpy with the mess left in my studio after all that intense activity, and yes, a little disappointed that the world didn’t suddenly send flowers, money and a marching band to our door saying “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”.

It’s funny, I did a lot of that beading just to please myself. I love the feel of the tiny rounds, the sparkle and the colour. I love the motion of pulling thread at arm’s length, and the precision of lining up the beads and holes in graceful directions. Even the merry, bouncing chinkle (isn’t that a neat word!) when they escape my needle to drop on the floor sounds exciting. I still have lots of beads in front of me, patiently waiting for action. So why should I be so low?

Maybe this is part of why finishing anything – a piece of writing or music or a project – can be challenging. It’s a kind of death. There’s no possibility left of changing or improving the thing. It has to stand on its own feet, without me explaining what’s marvellous about it, or promising more to come. The piece exists, and I must find another focus for my energy.

Maybe I’m mourning the loss of one way of life before a new one begins. There was a mild disorientation when I looked at those completed pieces of beading. I felt they weren’t mine in the same way as when I worked on them. A few of the older pieces already looked unfamiliar, as if someone else had created them. And really, someone else had. I’m a different person today than I was last year, and I see that distance viscerally when I hold that bracelet, or anklet.

At the same time, new colour combinations are tempting me this morning, and there’s a new stitch I want to learn.

Maybe I’m feeling a wee bit better!

#beadweaving, #finishing, #separation anxiety