Category Archives: 21 Weeks to Your Most Creative Self

APRIL READING – CLASSICS, MYSTERIES, AND A LITTLE HUMOR

 

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THE MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES by Arthur Conan Doyle: The game is afoot!  I’m a big fan of Sherlock! I love the BBC show, I love the CBS show. This is 11 “adventures”, ending with the The Final Problem – as Sherlock Holmes and the evil Dr. Moriarity fight at Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland. Doyle wanted to kill off Holmes, but public outcry was very loud. Written in 1894,  It is a free download on Kindle – click here.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SIGNS by Maya Angelou: This is part of my quest – which is reading a book by an author in each state of the union, and this is my Arkansas selection. Read about my quest here.  This is the first of seven books about Angelou’s life. I will write it’s own blog soon! By the way, excellent book!

THE FAT RULES by Misti Mosteller: A free download, a quick and easy read. The story of Maddy, overweight since childhood and now in college trying to be invisible. It is interesting to see the pain through her eyes. Because of an event involving a family meal, Maddy decides to take control of her own life. Remember, this is in literary land, so she loses the weight in a year and exacts payback where needed. Even so, it is both funny and touching.

PLAY DIRTY by Sandra Brown: I picked this up in a thrift store. A pretty good mystery, but not very realistic. It follows Griff, a disgraced football player recently released from prison. A paraplegic billionaire approaches Griff for a job, which involves the billionaire’s wife and the dream of having a child.  This is job is further complicated when an older murder resurfaces that Griff is suspected of committing. I couldn’t put it down, but that doesn’t mean it is a great book, but it is a page turner.

PINK BALLOONS AND OTHER DEADLY THINGS by Nancy Tesler: Carrie’s husband leaves her for a much younger women, and when she is found dead, of course Carrie is a suspect.  A cute page turner, but I found Carrie, who is a bio-feedback therapist, unsympathetic.

THE GODFORSAKEN DAUGHTER by Christina McKenna: Having read a previous book by this author, The Misremembered Man, I quickly picked this up (okay, I downloaded it!). It is the third book in a trilogy, set in a small town in rural Ireland.  It is the story of Ruby, who was happy working the farm with her father. When he dies, she she is forced inside and cares for her critical mother, who coddles her younger twin sisters. When she finds her grandmother’s suitcase in the attic containing a mysterious but empowering book her mother believes Ruby is going crazy. Enter a kindly priest, a psychiatrist who has his own secret, and the local bachelor farmer (who appeared in the previous book). It is an interesting book, dealing with loneliness, friendship, empowerment and also people going into hiding because of The Troubles involving the IRA. I enjoyed this book, but I enjoy reading about life in Ireland.

 

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EVERY DAY IS A HOLIDAY by George Mahood: This book is funny!! And, in it’s own weird way, education all!  George decides he is going to celebrate a different holiday everyday. Every chapter is devoted to a different holiday – as he goes out of his way to celebrate them all in his own way. Along the way, he eats ham every day for a month, he punches holes for an entire day to have hanging chads (for Dimpled Chad day on January 4). There are so many “official” silly holidays out there, and George finds one for each day (this book covers six months). By the way – as I write this on May 2, which is the first Saturday in May. Lo and behold, the first Saturday of May is  World Naked Gardening Day – how do you plan on celebrating it?

TRUE STORY, MURDER, MEMOIR, MEA CULPA by Michael Finkel: In watching a news story about the recently released movie True Story, I was intrigued, so I immediately downloaded the book and devoured it. Crazy crazy story. Christian Longo kills his wife and three kids and is found in Mexico impersonating a recently fired New York Times reporter, who wrote this book. This is the book about their relationship. I couldn’t put it down, damn those instant downloads sometimes!

MAISIE DOBBS by Jacqueline Winspear: Thank you all! Several of you pointed me in the direction of this wonderful character and now I will read more of this series! Maisie was a maid in an upscale London home at 13. Her employer, a suffragette, becomes her benefactor, after recognizing Maisie’s intelligence and intuition. Using these skills. Maisie hangs out a shingle as a private detective. Her first case seem innocuous at first, a husband wondering if his wife is having an affair. When she finds graves with only the first names of men that were shattered in WWI, she learns more is going on! It was good, dealing with a decent mystery, as well as social reform needed for those returning from war with disfiguring wounds and suffering from depression.

And, in ending, I read another book, dutifully wrote down the title. When I googled it to link it,  I found several books with the same title. I couldn’t remember which one I read! That must have been  rainy Saturday afternoon read – maybe I should have taken a nap instead!  Lately my dreams have been more interesting than this unnamed book – – –  like the dream with the elevator – – and a plane that took you to all the floors above the 40th floor – – – – 

 

 

 

 

 

DAILY RITUALS AND ROUTINES FOR CREATIVITY

21 STEPS TO CREATIVITY –

9TH INSTALLMENT

“Be regular and orderly in your life so that you may be violent and original in your work.” Gustave Flaubert

“Amateurs look for inspiration; the rest of us just get up and go to work.” Chuck Close

What is a routine? It is defined as that which is performed as part of a regular procedure rather than for a special reason. It has been said it is something we do automatically. I believe some of the most creative minds in history have had predictable routines day in and day out. Routines serve to free the mind, making the mind open for more inspiration.

When you wake up – do you get your coffee? Check you emails? Do you do the same thing every morning?  You may meditate, you may journal daily.

This is a fascinating subject to me – and if it is to you – I suggest you look into the book Daily Rituals, How Artists Work by Mason Currey.

“There are certain things I do if I sit down to write. I have a glass of water or a cup of tea. There’s a certain time I sit down, from 8 to 8:30 somewhere within that half hour every morning. I have my vitamin pill and my music, sit in the same seat, and the papers are all arranged in the same places. The cumulative purpose of doing these things the same way every day seems to be a way of saying to the mind, you’re going to be dreaming soon,” Stephen King

“Routine in an intelligent man is a sign of ambition.” w.h. auden.

Beethoven made his own coffee every morning, counting out 60 individual beans for every cup. He then worked until 2-3p and then took abreak with his famous long walk (carrying music paper)

 

Beethoven walking

Beethoven walking

The composer Mahler also walked every day.  He would work until mid-day and walk to the lake for a swim. After lunch, he would take a 3-4 hour walk with his wife Alma.

 

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The composer Igor Stravinsky always closed his window before he began composing – he wanted to make sure no one could hear him. If he felt blocked, he’d stand on his head -of  which he said “.. it rests the head and clears the brain.”

N.C. Wyeth woke at 5A and chopped wood until 6:30A. He would eat a large breakfast and then go to his studio. Before painting, he would write a letter, often driving to the post office immediately. Then he began painting.  If a painting wasn’t going well, he would tape cardboard to the side of his glasses to block the view from the window to help his concentration (why didn’t he get a curtain I wonder).

Joan Miro’ didn’t want to be distracted from his work and maintained a totally inflexible daily schedule (he was afraid of depression that that he suffered from prior to finding an outlet in painting). This included vigorous exercise, boxing, jumping rope, running. At 1P he had a simple lunch, with coffee and then had three cigarettes. ‘

In a 1782 letter to his sister, Mozart wrote:

“My hair is always done by 6 o’clock in the morning and by seven I am fully dressed. I then compose until 9. From 9 to 1 i give lessons….I can never work before five or six o’clock in the evening, and even then I am often prevented by a concert. If I am not prevented, I compose until nine. I then go to my dear Constanza…at half past ten I come home….”

Matisse kept a pretty rigid schedule

“Do you understand now why I am never bored? For over fifty years I have not stopped working for an instant. From nine o’clock to noon, first sitting. I have lunch. Then I have a little nap and take up my brushes again at two in the afternoon until the evening. “

Truman Capote wrote four hours a day, making revisions it in the evening or the next mornings. He wouldn’t allow more than three cigarette butts in the same ashtray at once. Also, he never began or ended anything  on a Friday (I think this is more superstition than ritual)

“I am a completely horizontal author. I can’t think unless I’m lying down, either in bed or stretched out on a couch and with a cigarette and coffee handy. I’ve got to be puffing and sipping. As the afternoon wears on, I shift from coffee to tea to sherry and martinis.”

Now – I think it is interesting to change up your routines and rituals occasionally. But, I’ve found out when I do – I always go back to the tried and true morning routine.  What do I do? I run a bath every morning and read! Some mornings it is 10 minutes, sometimes I have time to read 30+ minutes.  Yes, EVERY MORNING!  If I didn’t have access to a bathtub, I’d still read every morning. I try to journal and meditate in the mornings too, but it hasn’t become a routine yet! Someday hopefully.

One writer once said writing is

“connecting the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair”

 

What do you do?   Do you believe when you work regularly, inspiration strikes more regularly?

 

MOVIES AS VISUAL CANDY

21 WEEKS TO YOUR MOST CREATIVE SELF

This is the 6th Installment in this series

Some of us may be sick of candy by now, now that we have just gotten through Hallowen. So, let’s look at another kind of candy. Kick back, but your feet up, and feast your eyes on some of the most visually stunning movies ever made.

Now, this list is somewhat subjective. I included only movies I have seen, so I know there are many that are missing.  Feel free to add your own movie!

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THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL – 2014.  directed by Wes Anderson.  There are many reasons I included this movie.  For one thing, you could watch it several times and still not see everything! For instance, currency was specifically designed for this movie, based on old French Francs. Each bill was handmade and hand-colored. The luggage you see was actually designed by Prada. The building is stunning, which was actually an empty department store in Germany. Much of the movie is based on two paintings, Boy with Apple and Two Lesbians Masturbating. Both paintings are fictional and were commissioned for the movie (Michael Taylor and Rich Pelligrino respectively). However, if you look closely, you will see several paintings on the wall. I counted 3 Klimts and one Egon Schiele  – I am sure I missed more!!!!

Actually, most anything Wes Anderson has directed could be included on this list. Among them Moonrise Kingdom and The Royal Tenenbaums. Oh, in case you were wondering, Rosemary’s Baby and A Clockwork Orange are favorite movies of Wes Anderson’s.

 

BIG FISH – 2003 directed by Tim Burton:  Surprisingly, Steven Spielburg was originally attached to this movie and he considered Jack Nicholson for the role of Edward Bloom. The movie was shot in Alabama in the Southern gothic style.  Tim Burton wanted to keep the digital effects to a minimum, so the Siamese Twins, Ping and Jing, were played by identifical twins that had specially designed dresses to make them appear conjoined. Mathew McGrory who played Karl the Giant was actually 7′ 6″ tall, not the 12 feet he appears in the movie.

Billy Redden plays the banjo on a porch – you first saw him at age 16 playing the banjo in Deliverance.

 

if you look real hard, you will see a childhood friend of Edward Blooms, Ruthie.  She is played by Destiny Cyrus, who later changed her name to Miley (this was her first role at age 8).

HUGO  (2011) directed by Martin Scorcese.  Interestingly, the opening shot of Paris that ends at the train station was the first shot designed and it took a year to complete – requiring 1000 computers to capture each frame! This was the first film Scorcese directed in 12 years without Leonardo DiCaprio – and it was his first PG rated film in 18 years.

Other movies I include are:

Amarcord (1973) by Federico Fellini

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) directed by Michel Gondry

Fantasia (1940) directed by Walt Disney

Brazil (1985) directed by Terry Gilliam

Days of Heaven (1978) directed by Terrence Malick

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) directed by Ang Lee

Barry Lyndon (1975)  directed by Stanley Kubrick (tough choice between this and 2001:  A Space Odyssey

Lord of the Rings series (2001-2003) directed by Peter Jackson

Lawrence of Arabia (1962) directed by  David Lean

The Story of Pi (2012) directed by Ang Lee

The Three Colors Trilogy by Krzysztof Kieslowski

and of course, Citizen Kane (1941) directed by Orson Welles.

There are so many many more, and so many I haven’t seen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BUTTON UP YOUR OVERCOAT

As the song says

“Button up your overcoat when the wind is free, Take good care of yourself!”

Yes, take care of yourself!  This is the 5th installment in my 21 Weeks to Your Most Creative Self series.

Research shows there is a link between physical health and creativity.  In fact, health and creativity seem to feed off each other.  When you take care of your body, you are reducing stress, anxiety, and more than likely depression. And positive emotions generally increase.

Sounds like a winner to me! In 2010, The American Journal of Public Health issued a study called The Connection between Art, Healing and Public Health.  In the study, five visual arts were used with patients who had chronic illnesses.  The arts including painting, drawing, photography, pottery and textiles. Here are some of the findings describing the impact the art activities had on the patients:

  • Reduced depression
  • Improved well-being
  • Reduced thought of distress and negative emotions
  • Reduced stress and anxiety

Conversely, if you take better care of yourself, you have more energy, more focus, and therefore, are more creative.  What are some simple things you can do to live healthier?

  • SLEEP get enough! Research shows that REM Sleep helps the brain make new and unusual connections.  It is often called the wonder drug. A power nap has been shown to stimulate right brain activity.

 

“To dream the impossible dream, try going to sleep.” Joan Klempner

  • EAT WELL – enjoy your food, take your time.  Eat more plants, eat more whole foods
  • LAUGH – often
  • SMILE – a lot.
  • DRINK YOUR WATER – as much as you can manage
  • CUT BACK ON CAFFEINE
  • CUT BACK ON ALCOHOL

Create more by living well!  What would you do to live a healthier life?

“Artistic, creative people are solvent, they’re happy; just start working on your creativity and watch what it does for you.” Julia Cameron

 

Here are the some of the lyrics to the song quoted in the title ( yrics by B.G. DeSylva and Lew Brown)

Button up your overcoat
When the wind is free
Take good care of yourself
You belong to me

Eat an apple every day
Get to bed by three
Oh, take good care of yourself
You belong to me

Be careful crossing streets, ooh, ooh
Cut out sweets, ooh, ooh
Lay off meat, ooh, ooh
You’ll get a pain and ruin your tum-tum

Wear your flannel underwear
When you climb a tree
Oh, take good care of yourself
You belong to me

Button up your overcoat
When the wind is free
Oh, take good care of yourself
You belong to me

 

 

 

THINK LIKE THE MINIMALISTS

Minimalism refers to the art movement that thrived on simpllicity. Less is more. This is the 4th installment in my 21 Weeks To Your Most Creative Self.

I’m not advocating changing the way you do your art to be more creative. Just apply the minimalist approach to art to your life. It will lighten your load, it will free your spirit.

“Simplicity, clarity, singleness: These are the attributes that give our lives power and vividness and joy as they are also the marks of great art.” Richard Holloway

Live your life like a blank canvas. Clean out, declutter. Make the time and make the space to create.  Clutter can make your mind live in the land of old ideas, habits and possessions.

Now, clutter doesn’t happen overnight. It is like a silent stalker, growing stronger and stronger the longer it is ignored. People often keep “THINGS” that were once useful or meaningful. But, as time marches on, your things often don’t.

 

 

I began reading about the minimalist approach to living a few months back.  I started cleaning out.  I got rid of a set of glasses and a set of dishes my husband didn’t even know we had. I took seven  bags of clothes to a thrift shop that raises money for animal rescue. I packed up five boxes of books (I really didn’t need a film encyclopedia dated 1996).

I adopted the one in – two out – philosophy. Every time I buy something new, I get rid of two things. (I had 7 pairs of boots – and I live in Atlanta – why????)

I went through picture albums.  Gone were photographs from vacations over 15 years ago with someone that is no longer in my life, pictures of people I don’t know.  I kept only the photographs that really meant something to me.

Slowly, things started finding a home.

Has this helped my creativity? You bet!  There is less stuff to sort through, less stuff to pick up.

People often think that  in order to create there needs to be chaos. But, often the opposite can be true. Try it! Get rid of things that are hovering in the back of your closets.

If you are feeling creatively stifled, now might be a good time to tackle an area in your home.

How can you declutter?

Start with things you honestly didn’t know you had (like the set of dishes we had)

Clothes – clean out your closet and get it in order. Put the hangers in backwards. Check in six months – you will know immediately what you haven’t been wearing.

Computer – clean out your emails.  Clean off your desktop.

Kitchen – do you have glasses you haven’t used in ages (I did). Do you have multiple cleaning products?

Just remember, physical clutter gathers dust. Simplify! And, if you have things you don’t use but can’t give up – box them up and put them away!

Find a place and a use for everything. I believe it empties your mind,  it opens it up to be more receptive to creative ideas.

Get rid of the visual noise around you!

Three rules of work: out of clutter find simplicity, from discord find harmony, in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity” Albert Einstein

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak” Hans Hoffman

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Leonardo da Vinci

“The more you have, the more you are occupied. The less you have, the more free you are.” Mother Theresa

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What could you live without? Do you believe it will open up your mind to accept more “things” of a different nature?

CHAOS: Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome

 

 

 

 

WEEK ONE – 21 STEPS TO YOUR MOST CREATIVE SELF

FIND YOUR TRIBE

Call it whatever you like: your clan, network, posse, gang, pack,  your family. But take the time to find them!!!!  These are the people that accept you as you are and want the very best for you!

The right group will help you:

STAY MOTIVATED

GIVE YOU THE COURAGE TO TAKE RISKS

INSPIRE YOU

ENCOURAGE YOU

GIVE SUPPORT WHEN NEEDED

Finding a community will empower you and give meaning to your work.  Your creative work is more than a hobby and they know it!

Your tribe will add momentum to what you are doing. Think of geese that travel in packs.  It is said the geese travel 75% faster in a group than when they are alone. So, doesn’t it make sense your creative goals and dreams will come to fruition faster if you find your tribe?

Your tribe should be people you trust, people that genuinely care about you and your work, that will cheer you on. But, remember, reciprocity is key. You also have to encourage, inspire and cheer too,   And you must do it honestly (just keep your ego in check and don’t be judgemental).

Being around others opens up the floodgate of more possibilities, ideas and opportunities.

Find a mentor. Pavarotti had mentors throughout his career. Jonathan Williams mentored Robin Williams. Nicholas Cage mentored Johnny Depp. Thomas Edison mentored Henry Ford. Thomas Jefferson mentored Lewis & Clark. Paul Robeson mentored Obama.

Where are you going to find them? First of all, get out of your house, go out into the world.

Case in point – recently the Women’s Caucus For Art in Georgia hosted DrawFourDays. A group of almost 20 women got together for four days and drew . I was unable to take part, but I did visit. What did I find? I saw friendships being forged, respect among the participants and creativity beyond anything I imagined.

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Maggie Bethel at the artist talk along with other wonderful work done that week. photo by Ruth Schowalter

maxine hess talking about her work

Maxine Hess talking about her work on her right

in front of Helen De Ramus and Kate Colpitts drawings

In front of drawings by Kate Colpitts, left, and Helen De Ramus, right

Be curious! Be Brave! Get out there and mingle! Who knows what could happen!

Next week Week TWO of 21 Weeks to your Most Creative Self:  Believe