Big Magic

Last week I finished reading Elizabeth Gilbert's (author of Eat, Pray, Love) new book Big Magic.  Already I want to read it again.  As Marie Forleo says, "every human being should read this book."  Agreed.  So, go get the book.  In the meanwhile, here's a few things that really stood out to me.  

If You're Alive You're a Creative Person.  One of my biggest pet peeves is when people tell me I'm creative, but they're not.  I call bullshit.  Elizabeth Gilbert does too.  If you're alive, you're a creative person.  Maybe you don't write music, or books, or paint, but that does not mean you are not creative.  I truly believe we were born to create, all of us.  Yes, I have cultivated creativity in my life and made a conscious choice to hone the craft that chose me, which happens to be writing.  Once you start digging in your own life, you might be surprised what you find.  

I Want to Live My Life Collaborating With the Forces of Inspiration.  I intend to spend the rest of my life following the trail of magic, and collaborating with these forces of Inspiration.  I love the word "collaborate", because it speaks of a partnership.  And I LOVE the idea of partnering with Inspiration on this journey.  I have found when I am working on my books, I am not writing the story, the story is writing me.  I sit down and ask what the story has to tell me today.  As I am faithful, so is Inspiration.  I have two novels in progress, and Inspiration has dumped a third one in my lap.  I don't need to understand Inspiration, or even prove it exists.  It simply is.  I think our world is dying for lack of inspiration and magic, so I intend to be one of those who lives on the fringes of imagination, welcoming Inspiration into my life and creating space for it in my world and the world at large.

You're Own Reasons to Make Art are Enough.  I don't need anyone's permission to make art, which for me, is writing.  And neither do you.  If you want to make it, do it!   It doesn't really matter what anyone thinks anyway.  Would I love to be a NY Times best-selling author?  Of course!  Am I going to quit writing if I'm not?  Never.  I hope I'm writing novels when I'm 90 years old.  Writing is work, but I believe it is the work I am meant to do, and that is good enough.  So, do it I will, regardless of the outcome.  I cannot control the outcome anyway.

If I'm Not Creating, I'm Probably Destroying Something.  I am inclined to think that all of the world's horribly addictive behaviors might be alleviated if people were creating more.  There are a million ways to be blacked out of life, asleep and unaware,  because one does not wish to be present in their current reality.  Not just drugs and alcohol, but food, sex, money, work....and I could go on.  I think these behaviors are a sign of acting out because we are not creating.  We reach for the bottle instead of the page, the pill instead of the piano.  Creating drama in our lives, instead of drama on the page, as Julia Cameron says.  I know this to be true in my own life.  If I don't write daily, I get angsty and antsy and then I start creating all kinds of ridiculous scenarios in my mind, including and not limited to the fact I might just end up homeless, and then I want to eat an entire box of donuts and binge-watch Netflix.  Once I put pen to the page, I settle right down and my mood does a 180.  Those things that seemed to be looming on the horizon are dissipated into mist once I start creating.  

If People Don't Like What You're Creating... This is probably my favorite.  And I am completely unapologetic about the profanity.  People love to criticize, love to tear down, love to do anything to keep you on their level so they don't have to be faced with the fact that Inspiration might be trying to get their attention too.  I wish everyone would go "make their own fucking art".  I think the world would be a much better place.  We get all serious about it, but the very fact that I can sit down with paper and a pen and create a world out of my own mind is amazing!  My brother puts on paper or canvas (or sometimes whatever he can find) the images in his mind with pens and inks and paints.  One of my very best friends records the melodies and words that come to her in song on the piano, the guitar or ukulele.  My Dad has self-published four books.  Four!  And he's got another story in the works.  What an incredible gift!!!  And the coolest part is, we've all got it!  I think Inspiration is just waiting for us to say yes.  

One last thing...if you are thinking about creating something, do it!  You know all the times you say, "Hey, I had that thought" ?  Start acting on it.  If you say no, or ignore the idea long enough, the idea will then move on and find someone else who can bring it to out into the world.  Ideas are waiting to be born, according to Miss Gilbert, and they will find someone else. Will it be easy?  Hell no.  Will it be the best time of your life?  Absolutely.  So go create something!  

Best Things: Saturday Edition


I intended to write this last night, but, well, I had a little too much wine so came home late and promptly went to bed.  I started this little exercise on Facebook as a daily reminder to me about all the great experiences we can have by making one choice.  This is all about gratitude, but it is less a list of what I am grateful for and more about "look what happened because I made this choice".  And, as a result of a choice, all the other wonderful things that happen after that.  I realized these lists were getting a little long for Facebook, and I wasn't getting them to my Twitter followers or anyone else, so I'm taking my "best things" list live and to the world.  Here's what happened Saturday:

I decided to go spend some time in the afternoon with one of my besties after work, instead of going home to take a nap.  As a result of that choice, I got to listen to the songs she is going to perform for her Voice audition.  We went and had margaritas and chips and salsa, once her husband got home, out on the patio at Cha Cha Cha in Sellwood in the warm, afternoon sun.  Then we wanted to check out the sales at this cool store called Bandita in Sellwood that is closing.  They were closed, so we ended up checking out Real Deals.  I got a clock for $2.90, and a cool, block wood sign that states "What You Love, You Are".  Exactly. And then, as we were checking out, the ladies told us we had one more surprise, and offered us lemon vanilla ice cream bars!  Who does that?  And it was awesome.

Fast forward to the evening.  It was around 6pm, no plans for Saturday night.  Out of the blue I received an unexpected message from an old friend and asked if I could join them for dinner and drinks and live music back at the Muddy Rudder in Sellwood.  We shared a pint, some dinner, got caught up and had a lovely time. We talked about them coming to open mic, and getting to know the community of musicians and writers there.  And, I forgot how awesome that place is! I stopped back over at my friends in Sellwood, watched the end of the Matrix and had a glass of really good red wine, which they had bought from Monks Gate Vineyards a few years ago when we were there together.  

What a rich day.  I could have decided to have a nap after work, because I was tired.  Or I could have decided to stay in Saturday night, and watch yet one more episode of Ripper Street.  But I said yes.  And out of those choices, came a myriad of wonderful experiences I would have missed if I would have said no.  I spent a lot of time saying no to people to define my own boundaries.  Now, I am all about saying yes.  I cannot wait to see what today brings! 

My Mom WAS the Shit.

I don't like this day.  There, I said it.  A constant reminder of what I don't have, and what everyone else seems to have, their mom.  Now, I know that is not true.  But, on days when pop culture wants to rub it in your face every chance they get, that is exactly what it feels like.  

Now, moving on.  My mom was the shit.  Period.  If I could have had 30 more years with a person half as awesome as she was, I would never trade her.  Not for anything.  She taught me about the most important thing in the world: LOVE.  Not only that, she taught me a lot of other important things too.  So, I'm going to share some with you.

1.  Say sorry.  Even if you have done nothing wrong, sometimes you need to say sorry anyway.  That apology builds a bridge towards the other person.  I experienced her doing that, and watched her do it.  And it worked. 

2.  Find out why someone is reacting the way they do.  A person's reactions are never what they seem to be about on the surface, look a little deeper to find out why.  She did that with us often.  She listened to understand. And again, I watched her do it with others.

3. You may never pass this way again.  One of my favorite things she used to tell me, when trying to figure out if I should do something or not.  And often this helped me make the choice.  If I never could do this thing again, would I regret it?  

4. Jump the fence.  Another gem.  Basically, get through the limits you might have set for yourself and don't be afraid.  Go for it!

5. Do what you have to do, do what you need to do, then you can do what you want to do.  I learned so much about how to prioritize my life this way. Some things we just have to do, so get those out of the way.  And do them well, no matter how small they seem.  Then do what you need to, like laundry or groceries.  And then do what you want.  

6.  Do something you love.  Whenever I was restless, upset, mom always encouraged taking a pause to do something I really enjoyed.  That might be reading, watching a movie, taking a walk.  She taught me the joy of simple pleasures.

7.  Practice your craft.  Every day.  I rarely remember a day going by that she did not play the piano and sing.  Music always filled our home.  She read and she wrote too.  TV was usually reserved for the evening, maybe a few shows.  

8.  Share.  I cannot tell you the amount of people who cycled through our home, and not just our relatives.  She always found a way to share what she had, whether it was food or the space of our home or herself.

9. Start fresh.  We can always start right where we are.  Even if yesterday or 2 minutes ago we messed up, right now, this present moment is new.  I cannot count the amount of times she told me this.

10. How to love.  She was love.  Mom was no regarder of persons.  She didn't care if you were the CEO, or a checker at the grocery store.  I watched her look at people, not through them.  If you met her, you knew she loved you instantly, there was no guile.  She was strong, and never afraid to say what she felt. She loved through difficulties, disagreements, even in spite of her own feelings, still she loved.  I watched her take meals to a homeless man in Grant Park day after day, take care of our neighbors, while never once making us feel neglected.  She gave the best hugs and had the warmest hands.  

Julia Cameron says art alchemizes our lives.  And that is exactly what happened today.  I never know how I am going to feel on Mother's Day.  It started a little rough, so I sat down to do morning pages.  And about half-way through, my attitude shifted, ever so slightly, about this day.  I still don't like it.  But, I choose to write about what mom taught me, and how much I love her.  I am sad that so many never got to be in her presence.  She truly was magic. My hope is that pieces of her live on in me, my brothers, my nephews.  This is how we share her with the world.