Cleanliness and Creativity: Nourishing Your Future Creative Flame

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This is a concrete tube that I sit in during my lunch break. I love it. It’s the perfect shape to let my feet and back rest while I listen to music and eat my lunch.

At my new job, one of the things I’m learning to do is to keep the register area meticulously clean. At first it was almost impossible to be paying attention to the customers and merchandise, while also hand-writing receipts and using the confusing cash register and credit card machine and also keeping that area neat.

Now, even with a half a moment between customers, the stapler is in the right spot and the wrapping paper is tucked away. As it turns out, this has some pretty cool implications for enjoying life and creativity.

It began with my kitchen. Anyone with a kitchen knows that it is a haven for projection and sublimation. It is a place full of tools and sustenance and bliss. Or chaos, confusion, and chores. Often times, all of the above. It has bravely stepped up to be the object of arguments between lovers, and has selfishly taken up more than half of many communal house meetings.

I began to be diligent in my kitchen. I noticed that to be able to clean dishes right away, I had to have space on the dish rack. Every time I noticed dry dishes, I put them away. It seems simple enough; but if you are like me and do not yet have a solid grasp on this one slice of adulthood, you understand that I was basically achieving superhero rank.

But there’s more. I noticed that I began to naturally apply this to other areas of the house. I put clothes directly in the hamper instead of letting some collect behind the closet door first. I removed anything from the coffee table that didn’t live there, promptly and effectively. I called people right when I thought about doing it, and checked my email and bank balance without putting it off for ten minutes to check Facebook.

Life is pretty cool this way, I gotta say. And I think that it’s more than just having a clean house and effective systems.

Cleanliness and Creativity

I read a quote recently about how when you feel the fire and the urge to write, you should do it while the flame is hot. A lot of us know that to be true. The problem is, you never quite see it coming.

Maybe you have a week of uninspired days, and then you suddenly are filled to the brim with ideas. You want to write them, draw them, sing them, whatever them. But there are dishes to be done before you can make a pot of almighty coffee and the area in which you want to work is not workable, you have to clean it. That gets in the way. By the time the space is possible to work in, the flame might be out.

But by being diligent with the day to day, you are taking care of that future self, that future chance. Unless you have your environment made into a welcoming atmosphere for whatever arises, you are basically leaving today’s trash for tomorrow’s self. That’s not generally useful, and it’s also not respectful. If you have a guest coming over, you clean. But you are going to be a person tomorrow that you don’t even know yet today, perhaps a person with a huge creative burst. Don’t you want to have things wonderfully ideal for that version of you?

Living Now Instead of Playing Catch Up

I’m wondering if one way for me to enjoy life more is to stop playing as much catch up. To be fully able to be present where I am without having to take care of yesterday’s issues beforehand. Being able to just exist in a home is a blessing, being able to cook effectively and sit and enjoy the space is a great gift. In the past, some of us were given that gift by guardians who payed rent or a mortgage, or older siblings who cleaned up the kitchen. But now it’s not going to happen without our own awareness and attentiveness to our space and what makes us thrive.

Maybe your ideal art studio is a full blown mess. But it’s a certain type of mess, I would imagine. A mess of art supplies that can be worked with. A mess that lets you be your creative self, rather than a mess that gets in the way of that.

Just imagine that your favorite musician, artist, writer, or researcher called and told you they were coming over tomorrow and really hoped they could get some work done at your place. How would you set up your space for them? Don’t you deserve at least that?

Preciousness of Time

Another factor in this for me is the preciousness of time. Suddenly, free time to enjoy my space is much smaller than it used to be. It makes me extra motivated to keep it as wonderful as I can so that when I wake up on my day off, after a quick vacuum and a pot of coffee, I am ready to enjoy myself and the day without having to spend an hour cleaning up what I mindlessly left behind.

Plus, if I do feel creative or an urge to just relax, I can do so. I don’t have to let those gosh darn dishes get in the way of that.

How about you, do you set up your space so that your creativity has a space to thrive when it arises?

Do you think there are things you could do that would make your space more welcoming to your creative bursts?

Do you think keeping a clean kitchen is super easy? What are your methods for doing so?

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Going on a Date with the Unplanned

Last night I was supposed to play music at a lovely lounge with a friend. I was going to play for a half hour during his set break and was quite excited. As it turned out, the bar was closed for cleaning and they hadn’t told him.

I was caught off guard, sitting on sixth street with my guitar and a pretty dress in rather sweltering heat. My friend told me there would be an open mic in a few hours at a bar around the corner, so I decided to set up shop there while I figured out what to do.

If you’re ever in Austin and see a girl sipping a beer and furiously writing in a notebook instead of talking to people, probably with a guitar propped on her bar stool, please, do come say hi.

One of the things I began pondering was how sometimes, you just can’t force an unplanned evening. It wouldn’t be the same. Many potential plans started to arise- there was an open mic near my house, an open mic across town, a birthday party. I had to pick. I realized this particular flavor of groundlessness was something to cherish because I never would have been able to fabricate it. Deciding on going to that bar would have been in my consciousness at least an hour in advance so that I could get the right bus.

I began to think about the universe as if it was a person, or at least, a thing with a personality. I was noticing that perhaps part of this personality included a tendency to put me and maybe others in situations where they were groundless. What the incentive would be is beyond me, but perhaps it has something to do with getting us to actually be able to listen. It’s easier to listen and feel for me when I’m not in the middle of a plan.

I decided to stay at the open mic I was already at. It didn’t feel right to do

My songs are for sale at http://jenniferstuart.bandcamp.com/

My songs are for sale at http://jenniferstuart.bandcamp.com/

anything else, almost like there was a current to follow. I would get to the birthday party afterwards, since that was the most sentimentally important thing on the list. It turned out that the showcase act who would have played from 7-8pm did not show up. The gentleman running the event let me play early and ended up giving me about five extra songs, partially because most people hadn’t shown up yet for the open mic and partially (at least I imagine) because the folks at the bar were actually enjoying it. Plus I was wearing a pretty dress.

Many times I have thought that the fabric of our connected reality really does have a personality, and a sense of humor. I have seen it most in the times when I had fewer plans. Last night was a fresh reminder that there are so many options to tap into that unplanned state, and we never get to pick when they happen. We just get to pick how to relate to them and how much appreciation to give them and ourselves during those times.

Sometimes those times are linked with trauma. I don’t think the same appreciation would be possible in those cases. Instead, I think it could be directed at ourselves and our space and our ability to be open to what we need when we need it in those times.

On another note, I opened my Etsy shop. It is called Jenerprise Jems. The world right now to me feels groundless still. I’m following up on job leads and hoping to find something soon, especially if it leaves me time to keep creating necklaces and improving my ability to play music.

I wanted this to be my cover photo for etsy but it's too big.

I wanted this to be my cover photo for etsy but it’s too big.

Have you had any dates with the universe lately where plans didn’t go your way and ended up leading to new connections or inspiration?

Have you thought that the universe has a personality of sorts, and if so, what’s your favorite aspect of it?

If you do think it works that way, how do you account for all of the many terrible things that also happen? Is everything just random, is there a higher power controlling it, is that power simply unable to prevent us from doing horrible things to each other but there to guide us when we are open to it?

Maybe it’s my joblessness catching up and turning me existential..but for now this is what I can think of to write about.

Also, please do look at the sky. Especially if the sun is setting, rising, or absent.

New Year’s Resolutions: Are You On the Bus or Off the Bus?

Following the patterns of flowers, we can see that blooming happens during all times of year, depending on the surrounding circumstances.

Following the patterns of flowers, we can see that blooming happens during all times of year, depending on the surrounding circumstances.

A lot of us make New Years Resolutions. There’s something lovely about them. A fresh start with no real conflicting feelings.

Other holidays have a different charge.

Thanksgiving can make my stomach turn thinking about the grace of this continent before strip malls and highways, Easter just feels odd and lost, Christmas can be a slayer. But the eve of New Years is pretty neutral, even though the whole year thing has something to do with Jesus.

The holiday is at least not a direct celebration of that, for those who are of different faith. It’s fun for lots of people. A fresh beginning.

People want to lose weight, to quit smoking. They want to learn French, or to send more query letters out. They want to save more money, spend more time with family, get a new floor finally. Whatever it is, they want to do it, and the first of the year is a good start because last year is shed like an old skin easily and effortlessly with the drop of a glowing ball in New York City.

This, my friends, is some magic worth harnessing.

Feelings are like Touring Bands

When your favorite band goes on tour, you probably make an effort to see them. Maybe when you are at the show, you feel painful sadness ripping the insides of your ribcage as they play the songs that tore you apart when you were younger. Maybe you dance and have fun, or just film the whole performance with your i-thing. Whatever you do, you show up, and you let yourself feel things because you paid good money to be entertained and emotionally affected.

Normal everyday feelings are like that too, except they don’t sell tickets and they don’t really give you a choice. They show up and do what they want with your ribcage or your endorphins, and sometimes you film it with your i-thing. You’re along for the ride.

One thing I sometimes do with some feelings is memorize them. It’s generally so that I can better write about it later in a book where the main character happens to be feeling the same thing. How does the floor feel under my bare feet when I’m sad, how do the walls look? How is this different when I’m happy, or during that moment when sadness fades into objectivity? Can I find that moment if I pay attention to the sadness carefully enough to catch it?

It’s fun to do this for various reasons. For one thing, you might end up writing better characters if you like doing that. For another thing, you aren’t fused with the feeling quite as intensely. You are noticing how the feeling feels, which means you are bigger than it, and that’s great when it comes to trying to live your life with more awareness.

New Year’s Eve: The Power of Letting Go

Even though New Year’s Resolutions are mostly about new beginnings, built into that goal by default is the feeling of letting go. Letting go of patterns that we want to stop, letting go of addictions we want to drop. It’s as if there’s a magic bus that pulls away from our stop every December 31st at 11:59pm, and offers us the chance to succeed with ease this time if we just jump on.

But I’ve got news, folks. That bus is always running, every half hour on the dot right on your street corner. You just have to get on.  But you can’t do that if you can’t see it, can you?

Harnessing the New Year’s Passion of Letting Go & Seeing the Bus

I can’t tell you how many rejection letters I’ve gotten from fiction magazines. But the thing is, as soon as I started putting out queries to magazines about psychology and consumer issues, I got more of a response. That’s because I have far more experience with those things. Now I’m focusing on them a bit more and realizing that I was rather short-sighted while being obsessed with fiction.

Letting go of trying to become some fiction expert relieved me of a heavy burden. The rejection letters that come trickling in don’t affect me like they used to because I’m not letting them impact my self-esteem. They used to, though, to some extent. I let go of that. Which is a surprise, because I generally find it awful hard to let go of anything.

But letting go is great. Letting go is natural. Letting go gets us places because we get better gas mileage. Celebration

So that’s my New Year’s inspiration post for you guys. Remember the letting go, remember to harness the feeling of “New Years” and allow yourself to indulge in that magic bus ride to easy-change during the rest of the year as well, because just as a passion flower blooms during November in Austin and in the summer in Connecticut, year-long cycles are always beginning.

How about you?

Do you guys have any great New Year’s resolutions that you want to publicly declare in this space?

Do you think the whole business of resolutions is rather silly?

Am I wrong about this holiday being a neutral one, is there something that should really be pissing me off about New Years Eve? I’m ready for it!

And last but not least, happy New Year!

Will it Ever Feel Like Christmas Again?

This is the extent of our decorations..and it's still 80 degrees..

This is the extent of our decorations..and it’s still 80 degrees..

The older I get, there are more sad associations build up around holidays. Especially this year because it’s 80 degrees, my nuclear family is a few thousand miles away, and hearts are broken all over my home state of Connecticut. The holidays just don’t feel as good and innocent as they did when I was little.

I remember being young and asking about Santa. I asked if he could get us anything, and my parents nodded, knowing that the huge box of markers I had in mind was already a done deal. I asked if he came to everyone’s house, they said he did. I asked why people who need money don’t just ask for it then, instead of presents. They didn’t have a good answer. Maybe they said the elves couldn’t make money in the North Pole, I’m not sure. I just remember that it seemed awfully unfair, but I didn’t stop believing just yet.

That’s the thing. The unfairness was harder to handle than disbelief, in some ways. It was awful, and yet there was nothing I could do. The elves can’t make money and toys don’t pay bills, so suffering would happen and my fleeting notion that I had solved the world’s poverty problem was thrown out the window.

The Difficulty of Grasping “It’s Just Unfair”

When it came to learning Santa was fake, it was far more simple. Okay, there is no Santa. Not a huge deal, I sorta saw it coming anyway. Being a big fan of magic, I was just happy that they taught my brain to believe in magic at all (Yes, that’s the kind of stuff I’d think about as a kid). It was harder to feel and hold the sadness and anger that I could get presents, but not get money to give to everyone that needed it.

Let’s go to the Connecticut tragedy for a second, because that feeds into this too. In the midst of conspiracy theories and extreme religious people saying that God planned it or something like that, I can’t help but feel like these mentalities are held by those trying to run from that feeling of how horrible it is that someone could do such a thing without being brainwashed or part of God’s master plan. Murder of innocent people is happening in so many places, so much of the time, and yet we can’t always picture it or feel sorrow. For me, it’s easy to picture a suburban Connecticut town in December right before Christmas; that was where I came from. Maybe if it happened in the high plains it would seem farther. But having the ability to visualize it and relate with the situation makes it feel more powerful to me, and I’m not going to feel guilty for that. I can use the high impact of the tragedy in my consciousness to lead to more empathy when I hear of the many deaths of children around the world, but the ones that are “close to home” are going to hit harder, I would imagine.  It’s just how it is.

Back to the holidays, though.

Sure Doesn’t Feel Like Christmas Time

It doesn’t feel like Christmas and I don’t know if it ever will. Even if I was with my family on the East Coast, there is less of that feeling. Perhaps the holiday joy gets deeper and less sparkly as we age. Maybe it gets grainy and raw, a holiday feeling that has Sam Elliot’s voice and the grumble of a diesel engine. Maybe it isn’t light and fluffy like movie snow, but resistant and firm like a wrought iron crowbar from hundreds of years ago, being dug up from the dust.

Who knows.

But it’s okay. It’s fine. It doesn’t need to be any certain way, it just has never quite dawned on me that perhaps it isn’t just “this year” that feels off. Maybe the holiday spirit has taken on a permanent new form for me. The amount of friends I have who have lost parents or people close to them is growing, my heart goes to them as the holidays roll around, and there is sadness. It’s not just about trying to wish hard enough for new markers or crochet a dozen last-minute scarves. It’s about realizing that the holidays are as much a trigger for pain for some  people I love as a reason to celebrate for others.

The Roots of the Magic Becoming Transparent

Part of it is the decorations and consumer-based nature of this beast.

Cute plush stockings are our only decoration this year, but I know that the places where they were made would probably make me a bit sick. There are so many illusions, all trying to support the idea of love, but distracting from it, too. Cut down trees, buy gifts, buy insane amounts of decorations. I imagine being in some faraway factory, bracing for the time when Americans go nuts for cheap treasures.

What am I saying here? I’m not quite sure. I am having a hard time thinking normal thoughts since the Connecticut shooting, and anything else seems rather trite. I wonder if other people are feeling the difference in holidays as they get older, and if this holiday season will feel like other holiday seasons to anyone who felt a connection to Connecticut and the other recent tragedies.

Are you having a good holiday season, whatever holidays it is that you celebrate?

Are you finding the joy in these times, even with the pain happening?

Do you feel like the holiday spirit changes as we get older, or does it change as a product of the times, with technology and blow-up decorations taking the place of hand-made presents and simple ornaments?

Any thoughts you have related to the above are completely welcome.

I hope you are all well!

Our Un-Psychic Audience: Reclaiming the Weight We Put On Magic’s Shoulders

So often we are saying this in different words.

Do you think about the way you communicate with the people that you expect to receive your art?

If we want to publicize ourselves, we need to think about what it is we are putting out there, especially if we want more attention than we are getting. We could also stand to have less of an expectation of psychic ability on the part of our audience. Let me explain.

There are times where we are expecting Magic to fill the gaps we leave. Once we see these places, we can start to fill them ourselves, leaving Magic to do bigger and better things. Maybe we can even admit that the less-than-desirable attention we are getting is actually related to the quality and energy of what we are offering.

Once we notice these things, we have more power to stop engaging in them unconsciously.

Indirect Communication & The Expectation of Magic

People can communicate indirectly. If you have been friends with or dated people who do it often, you know how frustrating it can be. “Don’t you hate when it’s chilly outside” can mean “Please turn the heat on, I’m cold.”  There are endless variations.

A friend who was studying linguistics told me that women are more likely to engage in indirect communication than men, and I don’t doubt it.

Within indirect communication, there is a kernel of an expectation of Magic. We expect that the proclamation of how we dislike cold is going to magically send our real meaning into the brain of the other person. It’s not always conscious, of course, but it is there. And it comes up in other ways.

Expectation of Magic With Writing

This pattern of expectation can affect our writing and other art.

With writing, if we assume that the background of a scene is laid out sufficiently when it is not, the reader can get confused. If we don’t think about a character’s underlying motives and personality, their drive is unclear and the story is not compelling.

This is why my first stories were crappy. I expected people to understand how interesting my ideas were because they appeared so in my head; like a child thinking you can’t see him because he is covering his own eyes.

Giving The Magic a Place to Stand: The Value of Effort

If you wanted to do NaNo, you could talk about it all you want from January to October. If November 1st rolls around and you still have to get yourself a computer, a desk, time off of work, typing lessons and a story idea, then you are not prepared.

If, on the other hand, you cleaned your desk, defragged your computer, stocked up on your favorite foods, had plenty of tea, took a few extra days off of work, saved money to cover that loss, and told your family and friends to expect less communication during the month of November, all by the middle of October, then your scene is set rather differently. You put in the work to give yourself the maximum amount of time to empathize with your characters and let the writing happen without extra hindrance.

I am willing to make an assumption that those who put in the effort before NaNo are more likely to write something that others would enjoy reading. And the same goes for other types of art and projects.

The Difference Between Frantic Advertising & Popularity

No matter how much we advertise ourselves to the world, we are not going to get real attention if our product sucks and if we aren’t really putting ourselves out there to the extent of our ability. That’s just how it goes, in my eyes.

Brene Brown‘s work on Vulnerability comes to mind. Despite the excited freshness with which she presents herself, she did many years of research before her famed TED talk. She was not just throwing some ideas together and hoping for the best like some people do with their blog posts (ahem). She did studies, she read books, she went to therapy; and only after building all of that solid ground did she share the results and touch an audience.

Music is similar. Someone who does a live guitar solo after years of practice is going to impress the crowd even if they make mistakes much more than the person who does a solo after playing for a month or two. The past effort shows, it informs the skill of the present, and it touches us when they can show us the extent of this skill in a vulnerable and fresh way. If the second person were to sing words that they’d been thinking about and reflecting on for years with a sensitive awareness, then that may be more touching than the guitar part; it all depends on what they share and when and to whom.

It basically seems like people recognize hard work and skill when they see it; not when they are told to.

How Do We Use This Information?

Maybe we can do a more honest acknowledgment of what we are putting out there, what we put into it, and how much that shows. Then we can reduce the tendency to think others psychically know that we deserve love and attention, and actually start showing them what we do and what we offer so that they can make their own choice.

Trust the things that you know, the things that you have been studying formally and informally. Trust them and share them, but perhaps be aware of where an assumption of a psychic audience  is creeping in. If people aren’t responding, figure out why it is the case. How would you see you if you were objective and had no idea of what was in your head? What is getting held back and does it add into the whole picture?  Maybe you will notice where you may not be reaching them with the greatness that you feel you have to share.

Aside from my closest friends and my mom, nobody would like the things I began writing at first.  I wasn’t deserving of praise and attention from an objective audience, and now it is obvious. But at the time, I was confused as to why my first blog posts weren’t catching on like wildfire. But now I get it, at least partially. I hardly knew what the hell I was doing, and still don’t, but I’m closer. Even if all of my friends share my posts, the people that come back and read them are those that are touched by what they see because they found it on their own; rarely if ever is it the people who I messaged and personally asked to come by. And I know that I have more sharing to do, more vulnerability to meet, and more techniques to employ in terms of applying the knowledge I’ve worked for many years to understand.

Maybe we need to understand our non-responsive audience more effectively. They aren’t psychic, we aren’t sharing something of value to them, and when we do, they will be touched and will come back for more. If we are sharing honestly and vulnerably and nobody cares, then perhaps we need to re-evaluate what we are doing if their attention is something that we require (such as anyone who wants to write or make art for a living).

This is a new way of thinking for me and I’m trying it on to see what new actions it may lead to. The last time I explored a mindset (paying more attention to vulnerability, from Brene Brown’s TED talk) I ended up cutting off five years’ worth of dreadlocks because I realized that the comfort I was gaining from them was not necessarily something I wanted to keep indulging in.

I  realize that my old writing was full of assumptions and expectations, laying a whole lot on the shoulders of Magic, and I’m only now starting to find my voice and hold that weight myself, letting Magic do what it wants and letting the psychic abilities of my readers be used for better things than figuring out what I’m trying to say. I’m supposed to be a writer, so it’s kind of my freaking job. I may as well step up to it.

What About You?

Do you think that you are getting the attention you think you deserve for your art, writing, or other type of work? If not, do you know what you want to do better? Do you want support in that regard?

Do you think that this is crazy and I’m totally off track, and that things can get organically famous and popular without the person having spent time on the skill or figuring out how to best share it with the world? Do those of us that are beginners have any hope of reaching people? Have you ever done something as a beginner and had it have a great impact on others?

Do you use indirect communication, or do you know someone who does? Is it less annoying to you than to me?

I always love your guys’ thoughts; they have helped me learn about my writing more than anything in the past.  Thank you so very much for sharing them, publicly and privately.