Saturday, August 29, 2009

I wanted to talk a little bit about music, but it's going to have to wait. Some things just crowd their way into my brain and insist on attention. I'll get to the music thing another time.

I’ve known since I was in elementary school that there was something different about how I perceived the world visually. The awareness was especially clear when it came to reading aloud in front of the class. My teacher would point out with growing impatience that I was adding words that were not there.

I was a diligent reader as a kid, pouring over books from the small town library. Each sentence would be slowly consumed, filtered (somewhat like a chicken’s gizzard’s job, I imagine) for altered perceptions, then digested. Words that jumped up from sentences below, or squeezed in ahead of their predecessor, would need to be put back in their original place. Letters that scrambled themselves about like a Chinese fire drill, had to be sorted out and reassembled. Reading was a process of discovery that required slow, patient attention and a tolerance for delayed gratification. It took me weeks longer to read my way through the Summer Reading List than my cousins who would replenish their stacks of books each week at our musty old public library.

In adulthood, I’ve gained an appreciation for the dyslexic quality of my brain as it takes in information from the environment in addition to words on a page. It brings me a smile, an eye roll, and even an occasional belly laugh at the absurdities in life revealed by a differently-wired brain.

For example, this morning as I listened to the traffic update on the news channel, I heard that traffic had slowed along Highway 37 earlier, due to six ghosts that were running along the highway. Hmmm. It never occurred to me that ghosts ran. An odd visual of ethereal beings moving in an exaggerated marathon-in-slow-motion played itself across my inner visual field. I had a good chuckle.

Then, in a matter of seconds, the little brain synapses, or whatever controls such things, realigned themselves, corrected my information processing wiring, and repeated the information: six goats were running along the highway. Oh, goats. Well, that wasn’t nearly as funny.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

People often ask if I am part of a writer’s group. Writing can be an isolating venture, well suited for introverted types like myself. Writing, unless you’re journaling, requires an audience. We introverts aren’t big on audiences. But a few kind-hearted, like-minded people willing to give your writing an honest productive critique is an unparalleled gift.

In 1992 seven acquaintances connected through my spiritual community came together by word of mouth and a posting in a newsletter to support and encourage each other in our efforts and dreams to write and publish. We were an odd assortment…one wrote poetry, another plays and operas, another political commentary. Several of us wrote fiction, and one wrote memoirs.

We struggled with formatting our group…how often will we meet, how much time would each person have, what sort of feedback would be given (overall impact or line by line editorial), and how would it be delivered (what if we just couldn’t relate)? Will this be an open or closed group (can people drop in), and will we limit it to a certain number? Would we spend time writing during our group as a warm-up or just get right to the reading of what we’d written previously? Who would be the time keeper (and how do you cut someone off mid-stream)? Would we have food and a few minutes of social sharing or check-in, and where would we meet in the future (member’s homes versus a neutral meeting room)? Oh my, how we struggled. The group finally divided into two in an attempt to meet as many individual needs as we could. People dropped out, others added on…it was rocky for a few years. But if nothing else, writers are a tenacious bunch. We survive change. And then we write about it.

For the last seven years I have met with six wonderful people who have become much more to me than fellow writers. We launched one of our members who moved to New Orleans to pursue a degree in writing; we suffer through the angst of another’s pending move out of state when her husband’s job got downsized; we show up in support when surgery or illness takes someone down for the count until we’re back up on our feet again; we celebrate our children’s milestones and successes; and prop each other up as relationships in our life morph into new forms.

Oh, yes, and we DO read to one another. We brainstorm stuck spots, catch redundancies, correct grammar, celebrate plot twists and turns, tear up at a beautiful line of poetry, enjoy character development, suggest and share thoughts and ideas to make the writing even more powerful. I lean on these people to prop me up when mental fatigue sets in and I can’t for the life of me imagine finishing a story, to cheer me on when I tackle something beyond the familiar and comfortable…sometimes to just smile and say, “we’re here for you, Jo.”

If your particular form of creativity expresses itself in writing and you’re struggling in the silence of your own writer’s world, consider starting a writer’s group. Just start talking to people about writing. We’re out there…everywhere. Soon you’ll have phone numbers or e-mails of a group of people who kind of like the idea of meeting in a group, but aren’t sure how to go about it. Pick a time, a place, and notify them. See who shows up. Set your agenda to cover the questions at the top along with any other concerns people bring.

And…let me know how that works for you. Write-on. Jo

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Okay, a week has gone by and it's time for some more thoughts. I heard a great talk this morning in my spiritual community about how we come into this world pre-wired to buy into group-think depending on our culture. What we're taught from the moment we land on the planet (and some would argue this happens even prior) forms our outlook and behaviors from that point forward. Of course we can un-learn and re-learn things (otherwise, I'd have to retire), but we have to at least know to question. I was hanging out doing my laundry at the coin-op a few weeks ago...I hate that just about more than anything else in my world...and looking around for some distraction so I wouldn't go into trance watching the dryer spin. I'd like to share this with you (remember, this blog is about creativity in its many forms...things often tumble out of me onto paper, or more accurately onto the computer screen. Sometimes they're fiction, sometimes they're fact. This one is fact):

I hate laundry day. I am a trapped audience to the cacophony of a football game from a TV strapped to the corner of the room. Two children careen down the narrow aisle, one pushing the other, just missing the toes of a baby crawling on the dirty floor leaving a trail of drool like a snail. A man in a tattered jacket stares transfixed at an empty dryer. A husband and wife bicker over bleach, of all things. She throws a towel at him.

As a diversion, I turn my attention to a family unloading three baskets of laundry. I notice first the toddler. She is two at the most, with soft brown ringlets circling a cherubic face, and large round eyes that both absorb and reflect the perplexing world of the Saturday morning coin op laundry.

She wears a furry brown jacket over her denim jumpsuit and sports magenta flip flops on her bare feet. Tiny gold post earrings twinkle as she tosses her spring of curls. There is a slightly bruised look about her mouth as if she has sucked one too many popsicles. An infectious smile lights up her whole countenance.

Her mother has faded copper colored hair--the kind that may have been strawberry blond as a child, and a round piglet face with an upturned nose. There's a large gap between her front teeth. Ashes fall from the corner of her mouth where a cigarette is wedged. She wears a white short-sleeved over-sized tee shirt with a sports emblem on the front and dark blue jeans that squeeze i njust under her butt. Her bottle glass lenses are housed in the silver frames popular in the sixties. In her Jersey-affected butch voice she's using to direct the sorting of clothes, I expect her to yell, "Yo, Chico, que pasa" across the street to the guy lounging against a signal light post, smoking a cigarette.

The child's father fades i and out of view with his mousy brown hair tied back in a scraggly ponytail as he stoops to unload the basket then stretches to empty the contents into a washer. His faded white tee shirt doesn't quite cover his pot belly and the skin before the jeans begin reminds me of a late summer melon. His teeth are crooked and he wears a perpetually stupid expression on his face as if his mind vacated his body earlier in the day.

Uncle John, as the mother refers to the biker dude with the slicked back hair, has a bristle of moustache, and a gold earring in one ear. Tatoos slither out from under the sleeve of his black body hugging tee shirt and crawl down his arm. They sneak up over his white ass and sneer at me as he bends to retrieve a sock from the floor. Uncle John ruffles the toddler's curly hair as he passes, gives her tiny shoulder a playful squeeze, and lifts her up at one point so she can throw a pair of boxer shorts into the washer.

From around her cigarette, the mother yells, "Sock Uncle John in the belly," apropos of no particular interaction, as if suggestion a new game.

The toddler looks hesitant, glances from mother to uncle. Her lips part slightly.

"Go on, sock him hard," mother encourages. Father snickers vacantly and leans against the washer. Uncle John squats to her level, bares his stomach, and encourages the toddler with a nod of his head.

The toddler makes a fist and hurls herself fist first into her uncle's stomach. The adults laugh. The toddler looks around for cues. It seems she's done well. A smile breaks around her puffy mouth.

"Now, hit him like you mean it," mother coaches.

The child blinks her lack of understanding. "Go on," father encourages and throws a fake punch into the air. Compliant, the toddler again runs her small fist into uncle's muscular mid-section. The adults whoop with laughter. The toddler's eyes are glassy and she grins so broadly saliva trickles from the side of her mouth.

What have you learned about the world today, sweet child, I wonder?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Brand new world

So, I sent my collection of short stories to an editor back in Ohio. She said she prefers writers who have a strong web presence... Web presence?? who have a website or a blog... Blog?
Thank god for the younger generation! My daughter, sister, and nephew are cyber-literate, supportive, informative, and actually took my questions seriously. Then again, you can't really see eye rolling on e-mail or over the phone.
I did some research on how to set up a blog. It was recommended that I choose a topic to focus on. One topic??? Out of all the possibilities that exist? The biggest, most all-encompassing topic I could come up with was creativity. My belief is that every single one of us, yes--even you, are made up of creative "stuff" that's just waiting to be expressed.
It took me until I was in my 40ies to stumble into this awareness, but I believe it to the very roots of my soul. My intention is to share my personal journey into creative expression as it shows up in writing, composing, acting, singing, and doing my life's work of psychotherapy. I'll be talking about the creative process in its many forms, and hope that you'll share your experiences as well. We're all in this world together and regardless of our culture or background, the one thing that crosses any appearance of separation is creative expression.
Please join me each week for an update. And, I look forward to hearing from you. Until then, best regards. Jo