Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What I've Learned Pt. 2

"I have long considered the creative impulse to be a visit– a thing of grace, not commanded or owned so much as awaited, prepared for. A thing, also, of mystery" -Lorenna McKennitt

As my writing sabbatical winds to a close, I find myself reflecting once again on what it's provided in the way of learning. Time is an amazing concept, as is space; one month at home can come and go with seemingly little import. A month away, however, provides a treasure trove of insights. Not necessarily for what does or doesn't happen, but for the attention upon and increased receptiveness to the newness of surroundings and ourselves in them.

I'm particularly intrigued by what I've learned in this state of awareness about expectations. We all know of their power as well as their perils. For better or worse, eyes set on a prize often find it… a dream come true when it's what we really want, a nightmare when our unclear or unaware vision has set ill sights.

Yet even with the most incredible of goals, fixation can cause as much blindness as it can clarity. So focused, we often miss the different- and better- views and paths that a more objective and open mind might have seen, and taken…

I came to California with the fixed notion of doing nothing other than work on my second book. It was to be a glorious time dedicated exclusively to planning the structure and writing. No distractions, simply formulating ideas in my mind and placing them in a certain fashion onto the page.

It was a wonderful plan. A wonderful, disastrous plan.

Two weeks in, I found myself surrounded by drafts upon drafts of marked up and discarded tables of contents, pages upon pages of narrative ideas that didn't quite seem to work within their contexts. Story boards and post-it notes covered the walls, attesting to the productivity I was determined to achieve.

But not to the spirit and creativity.

I finally threw up my hands, telling the ocean on a walk that perhaps this wasn't such a great idea.

At that moment, the better path laid itself plain before me…

I'd planned a sabbatical based on a practicality that disregarded everything that works so well at home. There, inspiration comes when it comes, reflections in and of moments. Structure has always emerged later- proud and sure- as a gathering up of these ideas. By trying to intellectually pre-plan then command what to say and how to say it, I was preventing the very flow of in-the-moment inspiration necessary for me to create anything of value.

What's more, this inspiration comes largely from my work… my passion which this writing sabbatical necessarily put on hold. By stepping away from my surroundings, I was cutting off the camaraderie and conversations that fuel the very ideas I then long to write about. An incredible view and loving pup- while wonderful- couldn't make up for this important engagement and feedback.

Fortunately, less than optimal experiences can be highly beneficial if we're open to the lessons they're offering. The last three weeks of my time in California have found me honoring the wisdom from that walk along the beach. I threw out the tactical table of contents I'd settled upon and for. I put aside schedules and plans for structure, reopening the space for ideas to come how and when they wanted. I allowed myself to work with clients and on other projects.

It was then that ideas worth writing, and hopefully worth reading, began to emerge.

I'd read all the books and followed all the advice. But nothing worked until I followed my heart.

Establish your expectations. Set your intentions and make your plans. And then let them go. Expectations, like ideas, will fight to be heard and heeded if they're worthy. If not, they were never meant to be…

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

What I've Learned

Every day is filled with opportunities to learn, we're just more aware of the lessons when they're presented in a new place or context. That's certainly been the case for me, now approximately two weeks into a writing sabbatical in Southern California. In a house overlooking the sea, I've been waking and working each day, grateful for the faithful pup who is just as eager as I am for a break and a walk when I've hit the temporary bottom of the coffee and inspiration pots.

On those walks, I've been reflecting on my time here, and what this new context has so far revealed…

* The ocean is a wonderful lesson in perspective. We build structures of every kind right up to the very edge of her vast endlessness; we trash her waters and use and abuse her bounty as if it is our right, as if we are her equal… the liquid version of The Giving Tree. But when night falls and all that remains to the naked eye are the even more unfathomable and untouchable stars draping above her unimaginable depths, it becomes very clear how small we are, and what our place in the world really is.

* California and Coffee = Wonderful

* Time is an illusion that you really only become aware of after you've chosen to disregard it. Writing without a clock, save for the sun and the one in my stomach, I'm experiencing the rhythm of life, rather than our invented rhythm of the world. This is certainly true when it comes to sleep. I unplugged the alarm clock on my first day, and am amazed to reflect upon how my initial moments of consciousness have, for as long as I can remember, been devoted to trying to figure out how many hours I slept. With that conversation no longer relevant, or even possible, my waking moments are now filled with stretching toward ideas for how to fulfill rather than fill days, how to create, and what to experience…

* Dogs = Love

* Beyond learning, I'm feeling that balance is key. My mornings are spent writing, my afternoons napping and taking long walks along the beach, and my evenings talking and eating with friends. Each in their own way clears my mind and fills my soul. But it is the companionship, laughter and sharing with friends that's the fresh water for the well from which my morning writing draws.

* Friends = one of the greatest blessings in life

* You don't need a vacation or a sabbatical to have a vacation or a sabbatical. Now somewhat firmly set in a routine, I'm taken by how much of this lusciousness I'm living is about my mindset rather than where I am or what I'm doing. It's becoming clear that you don't need to leave home to find peace in your mind or calm in your heart; the notion and feel of sabbatical is always available. From here on, I'm determined and committed to considering my life a permanent vacation… a vacation from frustration, a sabbatical from over-thinking. A very good plan indeed.

Thanks to you all for your kind thoughts and wishes about my Aunt Nena. She is doing well... fading, but continuing to do so with grace, dignity, and her very much intact wicked sense of humor. She's still drinking coffee, too... the woman can't move, but enjoys about two cups per visit through a sippie straw. What a woman!

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