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It was 1992.  I was back in school getting a post-grad teaching certification and taking my first steps from being a storyteller and occasional poet to being a writer.  I started taking some workshops.  And I bought some books.  And one of those books is still with me.  It's right here next to me as I type because I think it's time for a re-read.

Basics 1
Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

Re-reading this (and probably Wild Mind after) seems like the perfect accompaniment to this round of ROW80.  Taking my goals back to the basics, simplifying, just focusing on the process of writing practice is what these books are all about. These books are where I first learned this stuff!  It feels really good to be returning to this starting point.

I've been doing some very short journaling, mostly on the back of my collage cards, and it feels good to be connecting to my world with my words again.  I know I'm on the right track for me, and I think that's a pretty good check-in for right now.

Wishcasting

This week, Jamie asks, "What do you wish to believe in?"  Here's a little bit of freewriting to answer that:

Fairy 4

I wish to believe in magic.  In fairies and miracles and bright, shining amazement floating in glittery bubbles of fairy dust.  I wish to believe that there are secrets to the Universe, things I can catch glimpses of if I open myself up and look in the right directions.  I wish to believe that I have magic inside me that I can bring out and share with the world if I keep trying.  I wish to believe that there are ghosts and aliens and Bigfoot and wild, unknown things out there and that maybe I can see some of it while I'm here.  I'm like Fox Mulder on the X-Files--I want to believe.

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On Friday, I wrote a blog post about the small changes I've started making in my environment, working to make welcoming, creative spaces for myself.  Over the weekend, I actually completed one of those spaces!

I took my very cluttered, dirty, disorganized bedside cubes and turned them into a space for my books on creativity, other inspirational books, my journal, and a pretty vase full of flowers.  I also completey forgot to take a before picture, and the difference is incredible so I actually regret not having one.  But this is my new, bedside creative space:

Bedside

I'll probably swap out the print above it at some point, but I'm always inspired by Amy Brown's art so this seemed like a good piece to have there for the moment.  I'm going to be adding in some art journaling materials, at least my cute container full of colorful markers and a glue stick.  I've left myself some space to add things I find that I want nearby.

I tried having all of my creative supplies upstairs in my actual studio, but I can't resist the pull of working in my bed (much to my boyfriend's dismay, especially if he's away for a weekend, because I tend to pile things up on his side!).  I have done most of my reading, writing, homework, everything while sitting on my bed since I was a little girl.  I finally realized that this is how I do things.  Putting everything up in my studio with no place for it to live next to my bed just means that I'll bring down what I want to work on and then pile it up around the bed because I don't have a good spot for it.  It makes more sense to make space for the things I want to have near me.

A view of some of the books and things in the cubbies.
A view of some of the books and things in the cubbies.

I'm feeling very accomplished and satisfied by the weekend's work.  And it was a lot more work than I imagined clearing out a relatively small space would be.  There are books, papers, and journals stacked along the wall halfway up the staircase.  I have no idea how all of that stuff fit in those cubbies!

And, as you can see, I celebrated my accomplishment with some fresh flowers.

Spring Celebration FlowersMy next move is some journaling and contemplation to see what part of this ongoing project calls to me next.  I'll keep you posted.  And I'll try to remember those before pictures next time.

Is anyone else working on their creative spaces and clearing the clutter?  I'd love to hear your stories!

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Over the past couple of years, both here and in the newsletter, I've touched on the idea that your physical space and your mental space reflect one another.  And about how you need proper space that feels good to you to do your creative work.  I've briefly brushed up against ideas about clearing clutter, organizing, creating welcoming creative space.  But I've approached this at a distance.  I haven't really been living it at all.  I know it's important, but I haven't been able to really devote myself to it before now.

This week, though, I knew it was time to step into this and make it real.  I've been thinking about it, planning about it, even doing a little work, but for the most part it was all abstract.  This week, I have been bombarded with mentions of decluttering, organizing, etc.  And several of them were in relation to creativity.  If that's not a message from the universe, I don't know what is!  And I know that my emotions and creativity and thought processes all work better when I have even a slightly cleaner, clearer, nicer space to be in.  Imagine what my brain could do if I gave myself a really great space to be in!

I want clean and orderly things around me to open the way to the bright, shiny freedom I see here.
I want clean and orderly things around me to open the way to the bright, shiny freedom I see here.

I declare that I am reclaiming my spaces and making welcoming creative places for myself and my work to flourish!

There.  That's what this is all about.  I'm not going to promise a particular schedule for these blog posts (check under the category "creative space" or the tag "reclaiming" if you want to see more of them when they're done).  But I am going to actually do the work and write about it here.

I'm a little (a lot) nervous about this.  I don't know for sure that this is something I can do, this cleaning and organizing and creating a beautiful space for myself.  There are two of us in our house, and we both make incredible messes.  We are creatives, we are makers, we are busy, and we are naturally slobbish.  You don't want to know what this does to the hard-to-reach nooks and crannies of our house.  Or even the not-really-hard-to-reach nooks and crannies. So I don't know exactly how to do all of this.

I do know this: I am not following any particular plan or organizational/cleaning system or anything like that.  For the longest time (years I'm embarrassed to admit) I would make plans about where to start and what order to clean things in, etc.  And it never happened.  A little cleaning would happen, but it's barely been enough to make a dent.  Now I am following my gut.  And that seems like it might work out, actually.

Last week I felt a pull to clear out the bottom of the linen cabinet, so I did that.  The week before that I cleaned out a massive pile of clothes and magazines and papers that was piled behind the bedroom door making it impossible to completely open it.  Yesterday, after a week or so of having an idea of how I wanted my bedside table to function, I started clearing it out (it's actually two of those stackable cube thingies, so it's four cubes with space under each unit for more storage of stuff that sits on the floor).  In the space of two weeks now, I have made visible changes in my environment.  This is better than I've done in a long time, so I think this "follow my intuition" plan might be the thing.

Anyone else looking to clean and organize and create the space they want to live in?  I'd love company and conversation about it!

Photos:  I know everyone loves before and after pics.  I will post pictures of areas when they are done.  I can't bring myself to post the before pictures.  I promise I will take some so that someday, if I'm feeling feisty and braver, maybe you'll get to see them.  But not right away.

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Do you ever find yourself longing for you're-not-sure-what?  Wishing you were somewhere else?  Yearning for something special, out of the ordinary, different?

I used to have that happen fairly often, especially if life was hectic and stressful--something that can happen this time of year a little too much.  (Like last week on Thanksgiving when I got so tied up in the holiday I forgot to pop over here and do a 10 Minute Muse post!)

This week, our question is: Do we really need to be somewhere else?  What can we do right now, right where we are to see the beautiful, special things we want in our lives?  There's your 10 Minute Muse challenge for this week--right where you are now, look around and find something a little bit special, magical, something that makes you smile (it's perfectly acceptable to go outside and walk around for this--you don't have to stay glued to your chair, you just have to be in your normal places and spaces).

A silly, cute little dancing flower that makes me smile every time I look at it and makes me take note of when the sun is shining and sparkling through my window.

You can get the details on 10 Minute Muse here. There really are no rules. Just let the prompt settle into your mind, see what pops up, create something from what the prompt stirs in you. It doesn’t have to “make sense” to anyone, not even to you. If the prompt is about daffodils and it makes you think of polar bears, go with it! Have fun, relax, play.

Enjoy your creating, and when you’re done share it with us below or in the comments. (Note: the link tool will remain open until Monday 12 p.m. PST.)

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Note:  This post appeared previously on Where the Spirited Women Gather which is sadly now defunct.

 

Halloween, also known as Samhain, is a time when the veil between our world and the spirit world thins. It is a time when the spirits can visit us or we can speak to them more easily than at any other time during the year. In modern times we associate the holiday with all things creepy and spooky, but in the past it was more about the spirit world, remembering our ancestors, and the quieting of the seasons as winter approached.

This Halloween, why not hearken back to the olden days and use the energy of the season to get in touch with your inner, creative spirit? Here are a few ideas to help get you started:

  • Tarot meditation: Tarot cards have long been considered a way to contact the other side, getting messages about your life and maybe even your future. For this exercise, pull out a deck of tarot cards or another oracle deck and pick a card. Spend some time gazing at the image . Note any people or creatures, any items that stand out for you, the colors and tones used in the image. Let yourself imagine sinking or stepping into the card, noting any feelings and sensations you may have. You can also look up card meanings—there are several online places you can find to get meanings for tarot cards. Use what you gather from your gazing and any research to inspire a piece of creative work. (An alternate version of this would be to pull out one of the cards associated with Halloween—the Death card, King of Cups, or 5 of Cups, and follow the same guidelines.)

  • Pumpkin gazing: Carving pumpkins into Jack-o-lanterns goes back hundreds of years to the ancient Celts. They believed that the spirits wandered the earth on Halloween night because the veil was so thin. They carved pumpkins and placed them outside with candles lit inside them toe help guide lost spirits home, making the carved faces scary in the belief that the frightening faces would help scare away any evil spirits. Carve a pumpkin and place a lighted candle inside. Put the pumpkin on a table, turn off the lights, and sit down in front of the jack-o-lantern. Breathe deeply a few times, letting yourself relax. Spend as long as you like gazing at the flames, letting your mind find images in the dancing fire and shadows. When you are finished, write down your impressions, any thoughts and images and ideas that came to you. Use these ideas to create something. (An alternate to this would be to gaze into a candle—pumpkin or jack-o-lantern shaped adds to the holiday spirit but isn't strictly necessary.)

  • Celebrate Dia de los Muertos: The Day of the Dead (typically celebrated on November 1-2) is a Mexican holiday remembering and celebrating our loved ones who have gone before us during this time of the thinning veil. Sit quietly and remember those important to you, people and pets, who have left us now. Make a list of names, and next to each one write a few words or phrases about that person. Use that list to make a piece of art—a painting, collage, art journal page, poem, song, whatever comes to you—celebrating your loved ones.

  • Leaf printing: One of the strongest symbols of Autumn is vibrant, colorful foliage changing from green to a parti-colored display of pre-winter glory. Take advantage of the crisp Autumn days and bright leaves and go outside to gather the most beautiful leaves you can find. Take them home and use them in place of rubber stamps—dip them in ink or paint and print onto paper or fabric with them. You could also include the leaves themselves in collages or art journal pages or make an Autumn leaf bouquet to put in a little bud vase.

  • Connect with the classics: Autumn and Halloween are associated with ghost stories and other scary tales, too, and it's a perfect time to get cozy and read yourself to sleep. Pull out a classic Halloween story (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and “The Raven” are my two favorites) and re-read it—maybe in a mostly darkened room with a few candles lit and a cup of hot cider at your side. Let yourself absorb the imagery and feelings of the piece. When you reach the end, make some notes on the images and emotions that stood out for you and use those to create something.

Samhain also marks the ending of the year in the Celtic calendar, so after your Halloween celebrations, take a few more minutes to ring in the new year. Light a candle and make a new year wish before you head to bed. Happy Halloween!

About me:

I'm a writer, professional muse, certified Kaizen-Muse ™ Creativity Coach, and all-around practitioner and lover of whimsy. I dabble in every sort of creative pursuit that looks interesting, spend too many nights staying up too late reading, and have dreams of building up an incredible stash of yarn for all the knitting patterns I keep saving.  In November, almost all of these things go on the back burner while I participate in the particular madness that is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

You can find me on my website, MuseCraft ™, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

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I'm in the last throes of preparing for a trip to Santa Monica. I'm very excited--I haven't been on an actual vacation since 1998!  I've been on short, weekend trips, but most of my traveling since I moved to Portland in 1999 has been back home to the Chicago suburbs to visit my family.

To me, part of the enjoyment of a trip is figuring out just the right things to take with me.  I've been gathering my clothes, buying a few new things, making lists (oh, I love lists!).  But the most fun for this trip has been making an art journal for it.

I decided to use a map to create my journal pages.  I got a very large Rand McNally map of California--so large that it wouldn't fit on my work board when I laid it out to gesso it.  So, I cut it into pages first then gessoed it.  If you decide to make a map journal and need to cut before gessoing, I recommend cutting it into a few larger sheets.  It took forever to get all the pages gessoed the way I did it!  Still, I love the way it came out.  I love the raggedy edges, the way the pages are slightly different sizes (which happened because when I took them apart to gesso them, I didn't get them back in the original order I had them in when I first stacked and folded them).  And I really love how the maps show through the thin coat of gesso I used.

I was going to make a cover out of painted watercolor paper or a paper bag.  But I kept seeing this shopping bag I brought home from a trip to get some summer clothes for the trip.  It's one of those bags made from that weird paper-cloth hybrid, the kind you can buy at the grocery store to carry your food home in.  But this one had a vinyl coating on the outside in bright, summery colors and a leafy, flowery pattern.  It seemed perfect for a beach vacation journal, so I cut it up and used part of it for my cover.  I'm planning to put a post card on the front so it won't be quite so garish, but I'm loving how it looks as is.

Finally, with the book all sewn together, it was time to prep the pages.  The plain white was a bit dull, even with the maps showing through, so I decided to add some color.  But I wanted the pages to be easy to write on, and paint is not always easy to write over.  So, instead of using acrylics, I used a variety of inks and some watercolor crayons to color my pages.

You can see bits of the decorated pages along with the awesome, raggedy edges

I went through and added some decorative details, including a couple of folded in sheets of decorative paper and one really cool advertisement that just screams to me of beaches and vacations.  I have a list of things I want to write about and a whole pouch full of pens.  I think I'm ready!  Bon voyage!

 

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I finally got last week's 52 Stories piece finished.  It took me a very long time for a rough draft of a four page story.  Not because it was a hard story to write but because I kept running up against my ego like a truck slamming into a brick wall.

I was getting hung up on the story being "good" again.  I was worried because there are parts of it where I didn't really know what I wanted to have happen.  I was anxious because my descriptions felt bland and flat.

I kept having to remind myself that it's a rough draft, it's not meant to be good, it just meant for getting the basic ideas down.  This is a hard lesson for me.  I will probably run up against this brick wall again.  But meanwhile, I have a story up.  I also have a quick sketch of a flash fiction piece that I will write up and get posted sometime between now and Sunday, and then I'll be back on track.  And headed for that next collision with my ego, I'm sure.

Week 8: The Heart of a Home

Copyright © Kim Switzer 2012

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Today on the MuseCraft (tm) Facebook Page, I asked a Muse Question:

If you could do or be anything, what would it be? What's one tiny, little thing you can do today (or in the next day or two) to connect you to that dream?

I said I would be a surfer.  I'd also be a dancer, a photographer, an interior decorator, and a rocket scientist.  And probably some other things I'm forgetting...

For now, here's my little, tiny connection to my surfing dream for the day:

You can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf. ~Jon Kabat-Zinn

So what would you be?

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Today's prompt was "simply divine."  I see the divine, the beautiful grace of the universe, in many places.  But there  are two things that always make me feel closer to the divine--the ocean and the sky.  I wasn't able to get to the ocean today, so I took some sunset photos.  I was hoping to get a sky full of stars tonight, but clouds have rolled in.  Still, the sunset photos from my studio seem right because I often sit looking out the window at the sky and the clouds in the west, and I always feel that expansion in my heart that comes from communing with the divine.  I still haven't decided which of these I'm using for the project, so they appear here in the order I shot them.

 

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To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.  ~e.e. cummings, 1955

Today's Picture the Holidays prompt was "express yourself."  The post mentioned self-portraits.   The whole thing made me a little twitchy.  My hair is awful today--I'm weeks beyond needing a cut.  It needs coloring, too.  I'm feeling tired and have dark circles under my eyes.  I don't photograph that well on a good day.  Today?  No way was I taking a picture of myself.  So I worked on writing some things about what being me means to me.  Who am I?  What am I?  What is important to me?  What makes me me?  I thought maybe I would do a quick collage or art journal page.  That's self-expression, right?  And then I could just take a photograph of that.  But this didn't feel right.  So I let the thoughts simmer all day.  And then I knew.

I'm a writer.  I'm a lot of other things, too, but it always comes back to words for me.  Books and writing and pens and journals...those are the things that are nearest and dearest to me, at least in the inanimate categories.  And then I knew.  A self-portrait was exactly the right thing.  Here it is:

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