Am writing this while watching the Olympic hopefuls sail along rainy London streets on their bikes. The women are so fast. I love sports where you go fast, like skiing and biking.
The other day I was riding my bike to work and there was a woman running faster than I was riding on my bike. That was one fast runner.
There’s used to be a myth that only men liked the adrenaline rush of the high-speed chase. But women (and kids) do too. It’s a human instinct to push our physical limits and thrill with the ride. We were born to run.
And now that I’ve admitted my own need for speed, let me post a couple of pictures from my long walk in the Adirondacks.
While I love to run and ride and go fast, it’s easier to snap a pic when you walk and amble and go slow. It’s easier to savor the moment when you slow it all down.
To catch a good photo, you have to pause to frame it. To enjoy a moment, you have to stop and savor it. And any sport that you do outdoors, reminds you to love nature.
The muse will come when you stop messing around on Facebook or goofing off on Twitter. Reading other people’s stuff sometimes inspires the muse, but the muse can be prickly, even jealous. Ignore your own creativity? The muse runs away. The muse doesn’t like when you spend too long working for other people and not long enough on your own. If you don’t care about your creativity, the muse won’t either.
The muse will show up when you let go of perfectionism. When you stop comparing yourself to all of the successful, rich people you get bombarded with every single day. Those beautiful people get to your muse. Those people are like vampires, making you run into your house and lock your front door.
The muse doesn’t like when you choose safety over the midnight walk in the woods. The muse loves to roam too and wants you to live on the edge of a cliff, not in the cocoon.
The muse will show up when you put fingers on the keyboard and wipe away the blank screen.
The muse will show up when you stop cleaning the kitchen.
When the muse shows up, it’s not work. It’s play. You just have to get out of your own way. Something, some brilliance — seriously! – will flow through you. You will sit back when you are done and go, “Wow! I did that!” But no, you didn’t do that. Not alone any way. You were the conduit. The creative spirit, the muse, flew through you and is now flying away because your ego — such a barking dog — chased it away.
And tried to take all the credit. But that’s okay; that’s the ego’s job.
The muse will be back tomorrow. Or later. But won’t/can’t stay forever, because you have to eat and go to the bathroom and chat with your kids and make dinner and throw a load of laundry in the washer and gossip about the neighbors and, don’t forget, you’ve got to pay the bills.
I know, as an artist and writer, I can visit the muse when I jot my ideas and images in a little notebook, even when I am away from my keyboard or canvas. I use Field Notes, a product. But I get no money (or respect) from Coudal Partners for this endorsement. Although occasionally, I swipe pack of Field Notes when I am at the Coudal household.
As Field Notes saying goes, “I’m not writing it down to remember it later, I’m writing it down to remember it now.”
I want to write more about my prickly, beautiful, sensitive, strong muse. But I have to go for a walk. I have to stretch my body. I have to take my time. I have to let my muse fly.
This post was inspired by the Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art, a book that made me to take my muse seriously.
My eyes were a little red. I felt sad. It felt odd to be alone on a five-hour train ride back to the city. I had been juggling fast and furious — with the kids, getting them to camp and Spanish language school; encouraging the chronically ill husband; maintaining my cool with difficult and sad issues around my husband’s family; starting my own small business; finishing a job I love and need to leave.
The peaks looked insurmountable. Seemed there was nothing but trudging uphill ahead of me.
Just keep it together, girl, I told myself. That’s all you can do. Although another side of me said, Go ahead, indulge in your self-pity. No one would blame you.
And so I asked for a cup to tea to join me in my quick sand of brewing self-doubt.
I felt, Oh screw the sadness. Because I’ve got my cup of tea, a laptop, and a smile on this train. I’ll make it just fine. And we chugged along.
Here’s another post on why I like trains better than planes.
I love riding my bike in New York City. I love when I forget my helmet and I feel the wind in my hair. I used to not wear a helmet at all but then I had kids and I valued my life (and my brains) more. I always make the kids wear a helmet now too.
I think I started riding a bike in the city when I was about 30 and had just broken up with my ex. At that time, if a girlfriend and I were going out for a drink, my friend’d take a cab and I’d ride my Schwinn. We’d set off at the same moment. And I’d always get there first.
Mostly now, I just ride my bike to work. The bus or subway takes about 30 minutes. I’ve pedaled the 45 blocks in less than 15 minutes.
Besides, staying healthy, saving money, I sail past trees and grass and flowers and happy people in the park. I have a lovely commute through Riverside Park.
Pulling in to my work garage, I used to think people were kind of laughing at me and my bike. Now? Am I imaging it? — coworkers seem slightly jealous. I have a sweet ride.
Ten thousand new bikes are about to be launched on New York City streets through a bike-sharing program. Cool. Every day, my fellow New Yorkers will discover my secret pleasure — commuting to work by bike.
I’m not worried about my route getting clogged with bikers, because most of the bike stations will be in midtown and downtown.
This blog post could easily have been written for another one of my blogs, My Beautiful New York blog. I love New York City.
I have loved my job for so many reasons for so many years. Just because you love someone or something doesn’t mean you shouldn’t let it go. Like parenting. My kids want to go to camp or on school trips. I love them but let them go.
Without going into all the deets, my workplace has offered a voluntary severance package to everyone. And I’m taking it (effective within the next couple of months).
Sometimes work grows around you like a vine in a tropical rain forest, hitting the top layer and you’re still on the forest floor. Or sometimes work’s part of the undergrowth. And you’re reaching for the sky.
According to the internet, (which we all know is NEVER wrong!) there are four layers to the rain forest (and these coincide with where we are on any given day):
I think the point of life is to grow wherever you are. Life is only about growth. Or maybe the pursuit of happiness. That’s all.
And I need to grow. And pursue my happiness. We all do.
To such an end I’m starting some projects such as offering a querying and getting published workshop in New York on August 16 in partnership with Kelly Wallace who’s offering the workshop in Portland on August 18. We’re working on the website. We’re onto something.
We’re on the forest floor or the emergent layer, continuing to grow, starting anew.
I stood at the bus stop. I waited for the Riverside Drive M5 bus around 6:30 pm. I was later than usual coming home from work. It was still a sunny, hot evening.
I heard a crash like thunder: a gut-wrenching, tearing sound.
I looked at the road. Nothing. The sky? Not a cloud. Then I looked at the park, there it was, 20 feet from me — a huge limb of an old tree crashed to the ground, leaves still shaking.
No one was down but the tree. Just today in the New York Times, Lisa Foderaro reported that the city is allocating more money for trees. This money for pruning cannot come soon enough. Like most New Yorkers, I live in the New York City parks. I don’t want to be scared of (or killed by) falling limbs.
I’m a tree hugger. And I don’t like the crash of a huge fallen branch.
(Just as I went to investigate, my bus pulled up so I snapped this pic as I rolled away.)
I love the creative process. I love the brilliant idea as bright as a candle flame. The revision process? Not so sexy.
I wish I could fall in love with rewriting. These tips for writers as they revise at Necessary Fiction really got me thinking. Here are a few useful ideas from the post:
I am in love with the short form. I love blogging. I sit down. Write for 20 minutes. Add a photo or two. Hit publish. Done! Go about life.
For me revising is endless. There’s no Done!
Thanks to NaNoWriMo, I now have two half-baked novels written during the months of November (2011 and 2009). Due to their unwieldy length, slightly more than 50,000 words, I can’t bear to open the first chapter. Just maybe if I set out the plot on colorful sticky notes or cut up my scenes with scissors, the story could emerge more like a work of art, a collage, than a mess of incomplete plot points.
I have been crazy making collages lately. I get into a Zen mode and throw paint and color and images down on paper or on discarded library books.
Done! I love the haphazard process and the chaotic result. Maybe I could see the process of revising my writing as a visual art project.
As the blogger Matthew Salesses says, “a lot of these thoughts are about seeing. Remember: re-vision.”
I, too, can repurpose, rewrite, rethink, rewind, rework, and revise. Re-vision.
One of my daughters asked, “Why did he have to take her?”
The kids’ Sunday School teacher, Joyce Mwanalushi Landu, died suddenly while visiting her family in Zambia a couple of weeks ago. We learned the news last week. And it hit us very hard. I think Joyce was probably near 50 and the cause of death was heart-related.
Joyce was a beautiful, creative, spiritual person.
In a tribute at church yesterday, Laura talked about how Joyce never raised her voice or was physically affectionate or demonstrative, yet the kids were drawn to her and knew they had her respect. And she had theirs.
I believe Joyce truly loved my kids. Losing someone who loves you and whom you love is always crazy. It calls to mind all those people you’ve loved and who’ve died. A death makes you wonder about your own death and what kind of legacy you will leave. I would like to be remembered as someone who loved unconditionally, as Joyce did.
Australian hospice nurse Bronnie Ware, in her book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, said that a top common regret from every dying man she tended was “I wish I didn’t work so hard.” I know I work very hard, sometimes too hard. But then, I play hard too. (This book was quoted in that Atlantic article Why Women Still Can’t Have It All)
I understand nothing of God’s plan. Why did Chris have to get Parkinson’s? I am tongue-tied when my kids ask “Why?”
All I know is that I have to love the people I’m traveling through life with. I have to make art and love my peeps.
I have to remember:
Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer. Perhaps you do carry within you the possibility of creating and forming, as an especially blessed and pure way of living; train yourself for that — but take whatever comes, with great trust, and as long as it comes out of your will, out of some need of your innermost self, then take it upon yourself. –Rainer Maria Rilke from Letters to a Young Poet (1903)