Professional writer, journalist, and a blogger with a focus on creativity in a chaotic world and recovery & life in Christ. Blog: Carolyn's Words at http://carolynswords.com.
Posted in Learning on April 12, 2013
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Don’t ever stop creating joyfully!
Posted in Transfer on April 4, 2013
I love reading and writing about the creative process because it’s amazing chaotic contradiction of emotions, experiences, skills, and risk. It fascinates me that humans, born to create, struggle to do so. The root cause, of course, has to be that we cannot, like our Maker, create perfection but only a reasonable facsimile of what we can dream up. God speaks it and there is a universe of infinite stars, a platypus, a whale, a person – what could be more satisfying than producing exactly what you imagine? We crave creation.
A young woman who attends our local writers group expressed the dilemma perfectly, “I can see it in my head; I just can’t get it down on paper the way it looks in my mind.” Mind you, this is from a writer whose prose I experience as so vividly descriptive that if it were more so, it would be too much for my brain to absorb. But I can relate because I remember saying the same thing to myself when trying illustrate – I can see the image perfectly in my mind – why can’t I recreate it to my satisfaction?
Are we doomed to lifelong dissatisfaction with our creations? That’s possible. As a young student I had an unreasonable expectation of what my style should be and when I didn’t succeed at portraying that style my confidence plummeted. I was less than. As a professional in my 20s, I began to realize that the true style I excelled at was acceptable and my comfort level grew with who I was as an artist, but I stopped painting and drawing in my 30s because I too busy with babies. Lie. I was perpetually unhappy with my output and decided I’d had enough. I wasn’t good at illustration. My ideas were awesome; my execution was less than.
Creating in a community has altered my perspective. As an art teacher I saw that young children create with joy. They don’t care what others are doing or compare their work. They say ‘wow, that’s awesome’ instead of ‘I wish I’d have created that.’ That joy is dampened sometime during elementary school when they begin to believe that some people are creative and some are not.
As adults, we express, verbally or not, ‘I wish I was a good as…’ or ‘I’ll never be that good…’ With writers, I hear them say they aren’t as good someone else at description or dialogue, but since I’ve been writing the most poignant thing that I’ve learned is that no one writes like anyone else and comparative words like good or better are useless. If your words bring your fictional world or your ideas (like a blog or article) to life, then they are just right for the piece that you’ve done.
Community should produce inspiration, not comparison, but the level of inspiration is determined by how we choose to internalize the experience. I find inspiration from my writing group, the Sussex Bards, by seeing how each individual expresses themselves differently and appreciating them. No comparisons. I cannot be Stephen King or Joyce Carol Oates but I can find joy in others’ creations. This inspiration compels me to pour more of myself into the work – which is imperfect and perfectly me.
I may not be able to recreate perfectly what’s in my imagination but I don’t evaluate my work anymore on the basis of good or bad, right or wrong anymore. I ask – does it say when I want it to say effectively and genuinely in my voice? (or, if fiction, in the voice of my characters.) Judging the success of a piece is primarily based on whether or not, it has evoked a response (positive or negative) from the intended audience. Satisfaction quotient for the process now? Very high.
Each day is like a sketch for the final draft. Picasso didn’t paint a masterpiece every day. Joyce Carol Oates doesn’t write a novel every day. Every word we write, every brushstroke or chord played is part of a larger more authentic expression of the journey of joyful creation.
Create joyfully today!
© 2013 Carolyn Moore
Posted in Transfer on April 1, 2013
Many years ago, armed with a toddler and newborn, I stepped through the doorway of my mother’s new post-divorce home. Coated with drool, Cheerios® falling from my shirt; I was paralyzed. EVERTHING was white. White walls, countertops, chairs, cabinets, bedspreads. For my mother, this was a fresh, clean start; for a new mother, who longed to hide stains and crumbs among patterns and dark colors, a nightmare. The house mocked me – “Go ahead, try and live here. You can’t hide the real you here.” The inability to contain my messy life, to defend it, and control it would be exposed.
White is intimidating. White overpowers the desire to create; challenges the logic and emotions that compel us to communicate. It is a creative stop sign. Conversely, who doesn’t enjoy the freshness of a new notebook, sketchbook, or white walls? There’s excitement in white; but also danger.
At the mercy of white, I am vulnerable. The blank page stares me down each time I start a new project and figuratively during a project. Every new day feels like a blank page taunting me to ‘try’ and be a writer. Fill that page with something of value. My brain processes the experience as necessary risk; my emotions dread the scariness of the unknown.
How to work with this dissonance daily and actually create?
1) Affirm daily that your work has worth. I’m a firm believer in ‘created in His image,’ meaning that we have an innate desire to create. Our stories through writing, painting, architecture, healing arts – whatever media we choose – have eternal value in ministering the world and one’s own soul. Creation unshared is meaningless – God could have kept all the beauty of His creation to Himself, but the world is an entirely different experience because we are here to share in it.
2) Just do it. I say it constantly. You’re not a writer unless you write or painter or musician, etc… So BE a writer, a painter, or whatever your pursuit is! Consider this: a half day’s worth of mediocre is worth more than a blank page. The crappy prose (or sketches or practices) will lead to success eventually. Not creating leads to nothing, but dead dreams, low self-esteem, and lack of confidence.
3) Turn off the distractions. As a former Queen of Procrastination (closely related to her Royal Majesty Denial,) I can put off writing (or anything I fear success at) better than anyone. Social media and phones are the obvious attention thieves. The not-so-obvious is your inner editor. She’s a bitch. Disinvite her to the party! Pacify her by acknowledging that she’ll get her chance to reign in the future but her know-it-all perfectionism is not welcome during your creative flow.
4) Be aware of your emotional climate. As a woman in recovery, not knowing where I am emotionally is a road map to relapse and quite frankly, though my experiences do fuel my creativity, I don’t want to spend creative time with my stories being distracted by an underlying issue. I frequently journal prior to tackling a story or subject for the blog. I find working through the HALT steps a quick way to get an accurate emotional barometer. Am I Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired? Yes or no answers do not work here. Honesty and vulnerability does. (Please feel free to refer to Living Gracefully post for some program suggestions if you’d like to do some inner growth work.)
5) Do the next right thing. Pen to paper, brush to canvas – is the fear gone? Absolutely not, but I have prepared myself to work despite the emotions (anxiety, fear, etc.) – to produce growth. I will spare myself the torment of wasted time, regrets, dreams postponed – which will only produce negativity, complacency, apathy, and feelings of worthlessness.
The white page signifies different things for everyone. It could be a challenge, a threat, or both. It encompasses our ideas of success and failure, proves our worth, displays our expertise or incompetence, exposures our vulnerabilities. These are powerful ideas in our culture. Challenge that white page right back because the work that we produce affirms that we exist and that our stories have value and validity through common experiences and emotions. Our creative expressions matter.
Create joyfully today!
Does a white page or blank canvas stop you from creating? How do you deal with it?
© 2013 Carolyn Moore
Graceful is not a word I’d ever use to describe myself – as a teen, a young woman or someone in the throes of midlife. Never had much style, coordination, or panache – things I once associated with grace. Am I aging gracefully? Am I embracing getting older with any decorum or style? I’m certainly embracing midlife with more authenticity than my early years. Why? I think my definition of grace has changed.
Grace is the space where I’m comfortable in my skin. The past no longer defines me. My mistakes are now experiments expanding my comfort zone. The recovery process (which I’ve mentioned in previous posts was from food addiction, perfectionism, codependency, relationship addiction, & abandonment issues) had released a grand scale of introspection and hindsight – two key elements to living in the grace that allows me to be transparent with those I work with, counsel, and in my writing. Grace is an attitude that allows others to be who they are in my life without impacting my joy and peace and allows forgiveness to be active in my relationships.
Thoughts living gracefully:
1) Know thyself. Work a program that will allow you to discover your motivation, desires, dreams and emotions.
2) Allow yourself to feel. Denying or postponing your emotions is a pathway to poor coping habits that will only hinder you on the path to creating and living a life that you enjoy.
3) Take control of distorted thinking. Understand that your negative or positive self-image is something everyone else sees no matter how hard you try to project another persona. Your self-talk influences all you do.
4) Recognize your values. Trade compromises, people pleasing actions, should haves and have to’s for actions that truly represent your cores values.
5) Take advantage of hindsight. The past remains with us for a reason. It can hold you back or take you past your comfort zone into creative pursuits you may have never imagined.
6) Be unstoppable. Realize that your opinions, your art, your work, your experiences – your voice matters and using that voice will strengthen not only yourself but others exposed to your vulnerability.
7) Be selfish. Don’t compromise on the time you take to discover you. After all, that time will result in the best version of you and everyone benefits – kids, spouses, partners, friends, the workplace.
8) Boycott ‘busy’ and ‘multi-tasking.’ Both behaviors interfere with how present you are for your life which is happening right now. You’ll experience a different quality of life when you engage fully in the person or experience in front of you.
9) Declare yourself. If you’re a writer, say so, a artist, speak it. There’s no more time for “Well, I like to _____’ or ‘I’m sort of good at _____.” At this point you either are or are not so tell the world and pursue it.
10) Risk love. Yup, I know. Take a leap for love and there could be (will be) hurt. There comes a time when you realize that there is no permanent downside to loving others when you’re living gracefully – aware of who you are and what you want in your life.
How are you living gracefully? Your sharing blesses us all!
Create joyfully today!
© 2013 Carolyn Moore
“Creativity is contagious pass it on” ~ Albert Einstein
Today is the first day of my new life. Life without a steady job – intentionally pursuing a lifestyle that I find joy in – writing & encouraging other creative people to take risks and share their stories and their art with this chaotic world – a world that is desperately seeking connection and meaning.
Risky? Yes, because as most people have, there are bills to pay, mouths to feed, and cars to keep running. Worth it? Absolutely. At this point in my life I’m more aware of how precious time is and I won’t waste a moment more on unfulfilling pursuits. I’m ready to expose myself to the world to make a difference. Fear of failure? Absolutely present, but I rely on the accounts of other artists and innovators (ie. Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison) who have illustrated that what we term as failures are truly the learning process that leads to successes. I also firmly believe in my calling to encourage other women and my need to pursue this full-time.
So let the fun begin! I’m looking forward to the stretching, the growing pains, and the learning – and hope to stir up others along the way.
What are YOU creating today? What motivates you to create?
Create joyfully today!
© 2013 Carolyn Moore
Favorite post of the day: If you’re a writer, read and share fellow Burlington College alum Kristi Petersen Schoonover’s post – Writers: 7 hardly-mentioned tips for submitting to zines. Kristi is an amazing fiction writer whose horror prose is jaw dropping. I highly recommend reading her book Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole: Tales from Haunted Disney World.
It’s obvious I’m a Northerner. I crave the sun. The shutters are wide open, inviting the uplifting light to warm the house as well as my soul. My mind envisions sunbathing and my body longs to go running. I don’t want to miss a second of gorgeous daylight. It’s about 20 degrees too cold for the casual walker to be out. For me, anything above thirty at this point in winter is welcome respite. I’m a Jersey girl at heart though, through and through, enduring the winters, loving the spring-summer-fall transitions, needing the city-country connection. Florida humidity just isn’t my cup of tea. Yet.
I’m so happy to experience this much sun and warmth in March! I don’t mind that bursting outdoors will have to wait till I am fully spent creatively. My butt is firmly planted. Mornings are my creative time but I do have to discipline myself daily not to succumb to distraction. I struggle with maintaining a steady output of words because I love research, brainstorming, reading, and encouraging others. I could spend all day just discovering and posting encouraging quotes and articles from others to stir up my friends.
But that wouldn’t serve the words I want to share and after a several decades of life, I do realize what I have to share matters and is worth something. We all do. Our stories are important; evidence that as humans we have so much more in common than we ever could imagine. Each unique personality paints a compelling masterpiece illustrating that we are not alone in our fears, our successes and failures, and our tragedies and triumphs. People connect through story. They heal; they grow bolder; they reach out to others who need stirring up.
All we have to do is show up. Be vulnerable. Try transparency. Risk everything. Serve your calling to create. Look past the possibilities of embarrassment, failure, ridicule. Sure, all that will probably happen occasionally, but those experiences serve the greater purpose – for growth and to serve others. If you’re not committed to a set creative time each day, make a decision to do it without self-imposing restrictions that hinder – just do it (oh, so Nike, but so true!) Creativity is not about being perfect – make a leap!
What stops you from a daily creative practice? Stir up others and share!
For a little extra inspiration, try a dose of Eric Maisel, creativity expert and author of Creative Recovery. An excellent online course at en*theos Academy – Your Best Life in the Arts course, also by Maisel.
Create joyfully today!
© 2013 Carolyn Moore
My mother’s life was violently interrupted this month by bacterial meningitis. Of all things that might befall this hardy 71 year-old woman, I suspected a landscaping debacle involving a palm tree, hedge clippers, and a ladder would bring her down. Great genes, great bone density, good BMI, physically activity – health concerns shadowed the recesses of my brain with a taunt of ‘someday when she’s old.’ She had a brief episode of cancer 20 years ago and has never been seriously ill since. But a handful of days and a chance encounter with a carrier landed her in the ICU intubated, sedated, and experiencing renal failure.
A splenectomy, 18 years ago, left her more vulnerable to meningitis than the rest of the population. The fight of her life began after being discovered on the floor of her bedroom by the police. I wept when the police officer described the entry and rescue, but I had no clue of the emotional nightmare to come. As I was pelted by phone calls states away with urgent decisions and approvals, my brother raced to the hospital through seven hours of rain. We quickly began to see how tenuous life the hold on life is and how heartbreaking it can be to make life-saving decisions for a loved one. Sixteen days later all I can recall clearly are the plethora of times my brother and I have said to each other ‘What do we do now?’
I have to admit I barely listened when my mother spoke of her ‘arrangements.’ My brother knew all those details for when she passed and I thought it inconsequential to think so far ahead with her so healthy. I didn’t know what I didn’t know until I was in the moment. I couldn’t ask my mother if she was allergic to penicillin, her blood type, the name of her primary doctor, or tell the police which neighbor was okay to leave her purse and keys with since they’d broken a window and left the house vulnerable. I didn’t know the difference between being on a vent for life support and being intubated or if either of those procedures violate the DNR. I had to learn the difference between EEGs, EKGs, and MRIs quickly so I could keep up. Initially the prognosis appeared optimistic at the weeks start; it became a ping-pong game of stabilize one symptom, create another problem, over and over again.
The situation vacillates between overwhelming and humbling with chaotic days plus an uncertain future created by the meningitis, the hospital-supplied MRSA, and erratic levels of care. But I’m not the one laying there fighting for her life. I pray she’s truly not in much pain and that she hears our voices. I pray for peace for her mind and body.
Life is on hold and out-of-state until then.
Some Facebook friends were reminiscing recently about the pre-personal computer era with some fondness. Most baby boomers are well acquainted with typewriters, mimeos, fax machines – old tech. Frankly, I do not share the nostalgic feeling these relics evoke. I adore cut & paste, spell check, HTML. PHP, research on-line – and the absence of rubber cement, white-out, waxers, rubylith and all the mess design used to entail.
I love my computer and the instant gratification it provides – my designs, in color and live on the web; my writing, in print not just ‘typewritten,’ as well as the benefit of near-instant communication with anyone anywhere. Am I a social media junkie? Not exactly. As a designer, I spend a lot of time with Adobe products. I write, so, therefore, I am an information junkie. Distraction by tweets and posts happen occasionally, but not obsessively.
If I miss anything about the low-tech era, it would be the physical separation from these tools. I rarely have a day that I do not turn on my computer. Whether working or not, email, Facebook, and Twitter feeds at worse, are glanced at. A note is sent, a show watched, a post commented on, a game played perhaps. Not too long ago, technology was left at work or in the home office for ‘work hours.’ My extracurricular tools were pencil and paper or a camera – nothing that connected me to an entirely different realm. Time with technology was scheduled into life, not something my life revolved around.
Having opportunities to be unplugged has shown me how important scheduling computer time into my life is rather than just having that tool available 24/7. Being disconnected – on a trip to Haiti; during Super Storm Sandy; on a sudden trip to visit a hospitalized relative in another state, for example – showed me another state of being present which I’d lost somewhere along the way. The urgency to read, to post, to connect, slipped away, slowly, but the freedom was refreshing. I was more eager to connect with (real) people. I did not have to share, Google stuff, or keep up with training videos. And best thing – I could still write and draw with some lovely low tech tools.
Now, I have one computer-free day a week. I don’t even have the urge to check my email. If I want to share, I make a phone call, instead of tweeting. Now, I schedule personal social media time, during my work day, time instead of always just being on-line and available. The noise of the web is minimized, controlled, and not as important as it once seemed. My head is clearer and I feel more focused. I’ve even begun to leave my phone at home – much to the amazement of the (much younger) people with whom I work.
It’s true that technology has made life a lot easier, but I lost sight of how important it had become. My tech-free day helps me keep life and relationships in perspective and that’s a good thing for someone who works at home. On a computer. All day.
As I was getting ready click the publish button on this note, I noticed that Lois Alter Mark of StyleSubstanceSoul.com posted a video that expresses the joy of a tech-free life. And I get it, I really do. Could the marketer and writer in me let go this much? Very tempting, as Lois commented. Very tempting.
Posted in Happiness on March 18, 2012
How often have you asked someone “How ya feeling?” and gotten a reply like. “Well, it’s being going good for me. Work is…” or “Fine. It’s all good!” After nine months in recovery, I cringe every time someone uses phrases like this or any time I’m tempted to reply in a similar manner.
Why are we so afraid of feelings? Is it the exposure or the fleetingness of their existence that stops us from naming the emotion we’re actually feeling the moment we’re asked or perhaps the anticipated reaction? I tend to think it a combo of all three. Say my friend, Josh, another writer who is probably little more than a good acquaintance at this point, phones and says, “Hi, how are ya?” Standard greeting, right? But what if I answered, “Well, I’m feeling pretty depressed this morning about blah, blah, blah.” TMI for poor Josh yet truthful. So maybe for superficial friends, it might be more honest and less traumatic to say, “Eh, so-so today, but working toward awesome.” Less awkward, more truth, peeks at vulnerability, but doesn’t shut down the entire conversation.
I think we tend to substitute politeness for honesty especially with different levels of friends and depending on gender. It is never okay to say, “Hey, I’ll give you a call” or “Yeah, we’ll make a plan” if that’s not what you intend to do. Think about it. Who are you saying it for? Not for the person you never intend to see again. It’s all about your ego and how you feel about yourself, but it’s a lie. Denial for you, lie for her/him.
What does this have to do with feelings? Acknowledging our feelings on a level appropriate to the encounter enables us to engage more authentically with that person. I also suspect that we get into a habit of denial with everyone, not just someone we may not care to see again, but even with those we hold dear. Dealing with emotions can be messy.
Scenario #2 – Tom calls. Close friend of many years asks the same question as Josh. Same honest answer. Tom, who was focused on the reason he actually called, recovers quickly and asks a few questions about what I expressed. The point here is not that it’s a good idea to dump on everyone we meet because we’re having a particular ‘feeling’ but to authentically exist in the moment in order to make a connection with that person. It turns out that Tom had been having some similar issues and after a brief discussion, we made the transition back to discussing an upcoming hiking trip. I gave Tom an opportunity to meet me where I was or choose not to be there (like Josh, who had every right to disengage if he was uncomfortable.)
I could have chosen to side-step the entire question of “How are ya?” with a simple “Good” or “Fine, how are you?” but I’m no longer invested in pretending that life is a calm even journey that only affects emotions in me during a crisis. I’ll risk the exposure of my feelings, the embarrassment of feeling something other than ‘fine,’ (which by the way is NOT a feeling) and I’ll take the risk that a ‘Josh’ may say “Ah, ok, gotta run, but I’ll give ya a call sometime.”
I’m also giving up the claim that life is a series of little dramas that toss me around on an emotional roller coaster. Life is an endless bevy of opportunities to connect. Sometimes we will; sometimes we won’t. So if you call, and ask how I am, I will be appropriately truthful, effectively leaving the door open for a deeper conversation, or not, depending on what you’re feeling at the moment. I will be as fearless as I can for the sake of connection.
So how are you feeling today?
©2012 Carolyn Moore
It dismays me every time I see that I’ve let so much time pass since my last post. No, it doesn’t bother me to admit that because just like everyone else, my forehead is emblazoned with the words “work in progress.” Here’s what has been on my mind (and plate) lately. I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the idea of uncertainty and creativity for dual reasons – I’m giving my first seminar on creativity at the end of the month and I’ve been rereading Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance by Jonathan Fields.
I do a lot of encouraging or coaching (as is might be termed by some) and I’ve noticed that handling uncertainty is an ability that a lot of artists do not possess. When faced with doubts or fears, I’ve seen artists push themselves forward to success, or self-sabotage, or choose a path that will ensure them the least amount of pain during the process of creation. In recovery, I’ve learned that this is training we should have had as children – to deal with the uncertainty of outcomes in a healthy manner. Not that I’m suggesting that all artists or writers are recovering from some ‘ism,’ but that’s always a healthy avenue to investigate if you find yourself constantly short-changing your creative process to stop the pain.
What’s this pain; this uncertainty about? Fields asserts (and I agree) that the double nature of uncertainty is the fear of what the outcome will be and how the outcome will be perceived (judged.) Like most artists, I realize the fear signals the foothold of what could be a fantastic idea – an idea worth exploring or an opportunity that shouldn’t be passed up because the experience will be invaluable. It’s what we choose to do as the pain creeps into our psyche that will determine the depth of the creative process.
Fields details an experiment where subjects were asked to choose a ball from one of two urns. Urn #1 is filled with 100 balls – 50 black and 50 white. Urn #2 also contains 100 balls but the percentage of which is black or white is unknown. The subjects had to bet $100 on a color of their choice. Then they had to choose which urn to pick from. Can you guess which most people chose? Even though neither configuration had a mathematical or logical advantage, the majority of the subjects choose the first urn.
Because pain is uncomfortable and our fight or flight instinct usually prompts us to flight, most people will choose the path of ‘constraint.’ They stop exploring, close off options and create rules, look for systems and processes to justify their choices because of their aversion to the unknown and to being judged. At that point the adapting, testing, and experimenting and evolving is over. Continuing in the uncertainty, on the other hand, can lead to heightened creativity and a level of creative options that would otherwise not have been seen.
Sounds logical, right? But as I constantly ask my therapist – what do I do with all these feelings? (now that I’m not stuffing them, eating them, and denying them.) He says – just feel them. As crappy as uncertainty, fear, and anxiety feels – feel them and keep on creating. It’s okay not to know or be able to predict exactly how things will turn out. It’s very uncomfortable at first but it’s a worthwhile pursuit because what we live out in our creative processes, we also live out in our personal lives. What benefits one will benefit the other. Push through, work through the pain, and be amazed at what you produce.
How have you dealt with uncertainty in your life and your creative process lately?
©2012 Carolyn Moore