Finding peace in a frantic world

West Fork Trail, Oak Creek, Sedona, Arizona

West Fork Vista, Oak Creek, Sedona, Arizona

“I want to be able to live without a crowded calendar. I want to be able to read a book without feeling guilty, or go to a concert when I like.”
Golda Meir

Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel for ten years and active in public service all of her life was described as strong-willed, straight-talking, gray-bunned grandmother of the Jewish people.

She used to say it was a blessing to be born plain; that the pretty girl had a handicap to overcome, because people saw the beauty first, not the person. She also mentioned the lament of all working mothers: when you are at work, you feel guilty about your children at home; when you are home, you feel guilty about the work left behind.

Time, then, is precious. But time to do what? For Golda, it was time to read a book whenever she wanted, or to attend a concert. I like to think a walk in nature may be the very best use of time ever, but reading a good book comes in a close second!

When we are doing what we want to do, whether it is spending time with our children or pursuing a hobby with passion, time slows down to accommodate us. It obligingly stretches and conforms to the task at hand, giving our creativity not only time, but space as well, so that true joy can be expressed.

How would YOU spend your time, if you had enough to do exactly
what you wanted?

 

 

Finding Water: The Fine Art of Persistance

Finding Water Art of Persistence Julia Cameron

 

My sister’s book club is reading one of Julia Cameron’s books, It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again: Discovering Creativity and Meaning at Midlife and Beyond. I promised her I’d take a look at it. I did, and it is delightful. I recommend it highly!

In the process, though, I came across another book by Ms. Cameron, entitled Finding Water: The Art of PerseveranceI was delighted, because I’d read the first two of this trilogy when I was in art school: Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain and the Artist’s Way. Also highly recommended, by the way.

Julia is no novice to the challenging world of being creative. She’s been at it for 30 years and during that time has written–and had published–over 30 books! Would that I were that successful.

In many of this author’s books, she recommends a practice of three simple acts: 1) morning pages, a type of handwritten journaling, undertaken first thing in the morning; 2) making an “artist’s date” with yourself to explore some new facet of your environment; and 3) a long walk, at least once a week, to connect with nature. I’ve found all three to be richly rewarding.

In Finding Water, Julia encounters writer’s block, rejection, and discouragement as she readies a play for the New York stage. She speaks of the paralyzing effects of perfection. I can relate.

Julia’s inner critic is named Nigel, and Nigel has rules. “A critic such as Nigel has doubts, second thoughts, third thoughts. The critic analyzes everything to the point of extinction. Everything must always be groomed and manicured. Everything must measure up.”

“…an original thought may be disturbing, even dangerous. It wants to see what it has seen before. It has seen a cow, but it has never seen a zebra. Don’t try to tell it that a zebra might be interesting. Those stripes don’t look like such a good idea. Get those zebras out of here!”

I gave Julia a high five for that one. My critic and Nigel are old war buddies. Brothers-in-arms, soldiering on, unappreciated, firmly declaring that black is black, white is white, and forget about all those colors in between.

Right now I am struggling through the simultaneous editing of two works. In my writing critique group we are examining, for the umpteenth time, the first chapter of my next book in the Pegasus Quincy Mystery Series, Fire in Broken Water. 

I’ve read the last chapter of this same book so many times it is almost memorized, and yet my critic–let’s call him Clarkson–is still finding egregious errors any sixth-grader could correct in their sleep.

And when we take a break from that one, the two of us, Clarkson and I, are weaving together a new, very rough draft of the fourth novel in the series called Peril in Silver Nightshade.

Clarkson is having a field day. “You wrote what?” “Don’t you know you can never mix first and third person narratives?” “Info dump. Info dump. Info dump,” he chants.

I want to shout Shut up! in his overly large, cauliflower-shaped ears (the better to hear you with, my dear) and consign him to the upstairs, unheated garret. It is near winter here in Michigan, and that would be a fitting place for him. Although he has this loud screeching voice that would undoubtedly echo through the register.

But to be honest, I need his help. The fairy child has created these lovely works of art, and now it is time for her evil cousin to have his way. And perhaps he isn’t so evil, after all. He is persistent and perfectionistic. I must learn to accept that he is also a part of me, and appreciate what he brings to the table.

I am not sure if I believe in the left brain/right brain dichotomy. It seems much too simple an explanation of the complex workings of our mind. Yet there is a push/pull, an internal dialogue always at work. And that, too, is part of the creative process. I need both the fairy child and Clarkson, just not at the same time, in the same room, talking over each other.

What about you? What do you call your inner critic?
How does it muck about in your creative life?

 

What’s on my bookshelf right now

As we move into fall, weather is getting cooler and days shorter. A great time to read! Here are five that make my list for a good seasonal read:

Cooking like a Master Chef by Graham Elliot

 

Cooking like a master chef by Graham Ellliot. Although I do most of my reading on a Kindle, get this one in hardcopy: the photographs are marvelous. Elliot delights in tweaking American recipes.

For example, his version of the banana split features caramelized bananas foster, hazelnut crunch instead of peanuts, and coffee-chocolate sauce. Yum!

 

 

Plainsong by Kent Haruf 

Plainsong by Kent Haruf. Kent is a master wordsmith, creating in the small town of Holt, Colorado, a place so real you can taste the snowflakes on your tongue.

He tells the story of two young boys trying to make their way in a farming community with small adventures and challenges that lead to lives fully lived.

To be savored, like fine wine.

 

 

Fast Falls the Night by Julia Keller

 

Fast Falls the Night by Julia Keller. This is the sixth in a series of mysteries about Bell Elkins, who Michael Connelly has called “one of the most fully realized characters in fiction today.”

In this mystery, Bell deals with a harrowing 24-hour opioid crisis in the small West Virginia town where she lives.

Not to be missed!

 

The life we Bury by Allen EskensThe Life We Bury by Allen Eskens. In this intriguing who-done-it, Allen gives us a harried English major with a term paper due, meets a killer recently released from prison.

Well crafted, humorous in places and suspenseful throughout, this mystery was an Edgar finalist, an Anthony Award finalist, and won the Left Coast Crime Rosebud award for Best Debut Novel.

You won’t be disappointed.

 

 

A Wilder Rose Susan Wittig Albert

A Wilder Rose by Susan Wittig Albert –Because I grew up in South Dakota, the novels by Laura Ingalls Wilder were required reading!

Little did I know that the books were actually co-authored by Laura’s daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, who was a world-traveler and published author in her own right.

Although a fictionalized biography, this novel is based on the diaries and letters of both women and deals with the American depression and the conflicted relationship of two strong-willed women.

 

What are you reading right now? What is your absolute favorite book?