Archive for Seasons

A new school year is beginning. You walk into an office supply store and see School supplies all the specials on tablets, notebooks, backpacks, pens, pencils and other miscellaneous supplies for school.

If you have children, then you’ve been shopping for all those aforementioned supplies, and new clothes and shoes, etc. If you don’t have children or they are grown and gone, like mine, you probably still get that start-of-school buzz.

Remember the smell of the new pencils and crayons? And, of course, going to lunch and recess with friends you hadn’t seen in forever?

While you may not be actually returning to school this September, think about how you and your Muse can capture the fun and excitement of this time of year.

Time for new supplies. A new notebook, pen or crayons can stir up lost excitement about creative projects. So, take what Julia Cameron would call an Artist Date and I call Creative Play, and visit your favorite office supply store. Give yourself permission to stroll the aisles and see what catches your eye or stirs up an impulse to play–and buy. It might not be something you need now or ever, just something you want to play with. And no, you can’t do this online. Go have fun in the store. Look at colors and sizes. Catch the scent of pens and crayons and binders. You don’t have to spend a lot to re-capture that sense of new beginnings and creative possibilities.

Create a new routine or re-establish an old one. During the summer, it’s easy to slip out of the routines for doing your creative work. That is, after all, what summer is about—an escape from routine. But routines can be a creative’s best friend, helping you get more done in less time because you don’t have to make constant decisions along the way. And if time away from the old routine helped you realize it wasn’t working well, then design a new one or tweak the old one.

Remember to take time for lunch and recess. Seems silly to say, I know, but how often do you let the day slip away without taking a break? How often do you eat lunch while still working? What about recess? Yes, recess. Go for a walk, sit and look out the window while you enjoy a cup of tea or coffee, or take a quick nap (pretend you’re in kindergarten). Just because we get older doesn’t mean we don’t need time to rest and play.

So even if you aren’t entering the hallowed halls of education in the next week or two doesn’t mean you can’t anticipate and enjoy those new school year rituals.

Your Muse is tugging on your hand.

And the school bell is ringing.

Categories Creativity, Seasons

When I only begin to read, I forget I’m on this world. It lifts me on wings with high thoughts.
Anzia Yezierska

Summer is a time to kick back, stretch out in the hammock or on the beach, and escape.Young woman reading a book lying in a hammock

Escape through the pages of a good book.

An ability to escape, at least in the imagination, is important. Escape into a well-told story has helped many a person meet life’s challenges with a little more perspective, insight, encouragement and hope. And after the events of the last few weeks and months, I would bet that, like me, you are ready for an escape.

With a book, you don’t have to go far. But whether you are traveling by plane, car, train, or just by foot to the nearest seat, here are a few of my favorite escape artists, er, authors:

1. Eloisa James. This is the pen name for a tenured professor of English Literature at Fordham University, and the daughter of poet, Robert Bly, and short story author, Carol Bly. James, one of my favorite authors, writes intelligent, often thought-provoking Regency historical romances with well-crafted plots and engaging characters. One of my favorite series of hers is based on fairy tales and includes When Beauty Tamed the Beast, A Kiss at Midnight, The Duke is Mine, The Ugly Duchess, and Once Upon a Tower. If you love escaping to other times, then James promises you many happy hours.

2. Julia Quinn. A friend and colleague of James, Quinn also writes historical romances. I love her books for their crisp, witty dialogue and smile-inducing sense of humor. Her novels have been translated into 26 languages and she has appeared on the NY Times bestseller list 18 times. One of my favorite of her many delicious novels is Ten Things I Love about You. For those of you who love lists and romance…enjoy.

3. Janet Evanovich. If you haven’t read one of her books yet…what is wrong with you? If I really need to get out of my head, if I really need the good medicine of a belly laugh, then I read one of Evanovich’s books in the Stephanie Plum series. Plum works at catching criminals who have jumped bail. She has two hunky guys ready to jump her bones, one of whom might even consider marriage. Her friend, Lulu, inevitably does something to make you laugh. Then there’s Grandma Mazur. Find your escape in any Plum book from One for the Money to Turbo Twenty-Three.

4. Juliet Marillier. This award-winning, New Zealand author writes fantasy novels that are rich tapestries of character, time and place. And she isn’t afraid to mine the shadows for details and elements that add to the power of her stories. I discovered her work when I read Daughter of the Forest which was the first book in her Sevenwaters Trilogy. The series was inspired by one of my favorite fairy tales, “The Seven Swans”. Her stories often have a foundation in fairy tale, folktale and myth so you can see why I enjoy reading it.

5. Jayne Ann Krentz. Under this name, the author writes edge-of-the-seat romantic suspense. I just finished reading her most recent book, Trust No One. Under the name, Amanda Quick, she writes historical romance still with that edge of suspense, her newest one ‘Til Death Do Us Part. But if you like more of a futuristic bent to your reading then look for her work published under the name Jayne Castle. Under any name, in any of her books, summertime escape is on the way.

I am a voracious reader and obviously listing only five escape artists here is just skimming the very top of all the great reading available this summer. So whether you like the pleasure of turning pages or touching screens, these authors provide you the opportunity to escape back in time, forward in time, and everywhere in between.

Happy reading.

Categories Fairytales, Seasons, Writing

The process of weeding can be as beneficial to the gardener as to the garden. It gives scope to the aggressive instinct—what a satisfaction to pull an enemy by the roots and throw him into a heap! And yet, paradoxically, weeding is the most peaceful of any outdoor task.
Bertha Damon, A Sense of Humus

Rain is falling and everything outside my window is turning a verdant green.

Including the weeds.

I was away for only a few days but already the view from my window is screaming, “Come weed me!”

If you plant and tend flower or vegetable gardens then you know that in order to plant seeds or seedlings, you must first prepare by loosening the soil, pulling up weeds and adding the appropriate nourishment. You also have to trim old growth of perennials and shrubs and remove last years now wilted and browned leaves and shoots.

Space must be cleared for new growth to emerge–in the garden and in the studio.

In the tarot, this idea is expressed, especially for creatives, as the 9 of Wands. 9 of Wands Here, Fire, the element of Wands and the energy of creation reaches a stage of fulfillment and completion that comes as a result of hard work. After nine months, for instance, of incubation and gestation, you are finally ready to give birth.

As a mother whose second son was born almost two weeks after his due date, I can positively state that you do not want to be carrying that creative project longer than necessary.

I get it. You want to make it perfect, or you are waiting for the perfect time to launch it, or you clutch it tightly in your arms to protect it (or yourself) from “the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune.” But that’s not healthy—for you or for the work.

You need to pull it out of your creative time and space so that you have room in your life and your mind, in your creative garden for the new work that you want to plant and grow.

You know that new seeds need sunshine and rain. If you don’t weed out the old stuff, then it soaks up the available nutrients needed by the new growth, and can kill it.

So, look at the creative projects you still have hanging around your space. Which ones are ready to be born into the world? Which ones need to be let go of or thrown on the burn pile so that you have room in your mind and heart and creative garden to grow new work?

Make sure the soil of your creative garden is cleared and turned over and ready to receive the new seeds. Then give them plenty of sunlight and water.

What will you grow now that there is room?

Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact.
-Robert McKee

Now that we are formally into spring, I’ve enjoyed a full week of watching birds at the feeder just outside the window where I work at my computer. Birds at the feeder

The red-winged blackbirds, the true harbingers of spring, the grackles, and the cowbirds are all back and vying for seed. The woodpeckers, which have been here all along, are eating like mad. We have downy, hairy, red-bellied and, yes, pileated woodpeckers coming to dine. The pileated doesn’t bother with the feeder, of course, heading straight instead for one of the many trees in our woods. And yesterday, I watched a yellow-bellied flicker peck for his breakfast in our yard.

It’s hard to write and work sometimes because there is so much life I watch through this window. Something is always changing, happening. A myriad stories occurring within a short distance of my keyboard.

You are surrounded by stories in your environment, your family life, your work, in the news, and in nature.

One of the statements I hear from people who want to write but don’t is, “I don’t know what to write about.”

While every writer may have an occasional moment of that, most of the time, writers are so busy absorbing and soaking up everything, every story going on around them that the trouble is not one of not knowing what to write about, but rather one of picking one out of the wealth of stories bombarding them every day.

If you are ever stuck for a story idea, just look out your window. Then…

Pick a character, in a setting, with a conflict. Add a twist.

Oh sure, you say, it should be that easy. And how could I possibly write a story from birds at the bird feeder?

Oh geez, don’t get me started. For example:

One day, a young girl (character) sits at her bedroom window even though it is laced with frost (setting). She looks at pictures of her dead father (conflict) holding her and playing with her when she was a small child. Her father loved feeding the birds in the winter. She looks out her window and notices that the bird feeders are empty now. Her mother hasn’t bothered to fill them since… Then she notices what looks like a bird on the ground not moving.

Hurriedly, she pulls on her boots and coat and scurries outside with a container of seed, hoping that the poor bird isn’t dead. But when she sets the seed container on the ground and squats to check out the bird with red wings, she sees that the wings don’t belong to a bird at all but to a… (twist).

Where did your mind go? There are at least three or four other scenarios with characters and settings I could come up with just from looking at the bird feeders out my window.

Look out your window. The window of your office, car, bedroom, or train. Look, find a story, tell a story.

And if none of those windows inspire you then look through the window of your dreams or the tarot.

You have a story. The question is which one? And will you tell it?

And if you need help with that story or defining which one you want to write, schedule an hour with me for a Writer’s Breakthrough. I’ll help you identify what is holding you back, explore various story or development questions to trigger insights, and determine your next scenes, chapters, or actions. 60 minutes, $147. Email me to schedule your breakthrough.

You can’t study the darkness by flooding it with light.
~ Edward Abbey

Are you afraid of the dark? Young pretty businesswoman with lantern in darkness

I don’t mean the physical dark… I mean are you afraid of the creative dark? That place of the unknown, the unseen, and the unacknowledged?

People, including writers and creatives, seem to be of two mindsets: one is the life-is-just-a-bowl-of-cherries camp (Lew Brown); and the other is life-is-a-struggle camp (Lucretius).

I admit that I Read More→

Categories Creativity, Seasons, Writing

MONDAY’S TAROT MESSAGE FROM THE MUSE, 3/14/2016

Theme, 5 of Coins. Coins is the element of Earth in the realm of home, health, wealth. Anything physical. Five is a number of challenge and change. This week, look for when you are tempted to go it alone instead of asking for help. Remember to ask, and to ask from sources you might not have before whether it’s a ride to the train station for a meeting with a client, or help collating handouts, or even someone to run with so you are sure to get some exercise in the middle of all your work this week. Ask…in a place you haven’t considered before.

Focus, 8 of Swords. Swords is the element of Air in the realm of mind, thoughts, attitudes, beliefs and communications. Jupiter there in the background is the big benefic who makes the rewards bigger or makes our doubts and fears larger. Eight is a number of both stability and development. In this case, you don’t want to stick around, to be stable, so what fears and doubts are hanging you up because you’ve let them get bigger than your confidence in your work and in yourself? Are you ready to take the blindfold off and hack your way out of that mess?

Action, 6 of Coins. Again in the realm of Coins, the practical and physical. So your action this week is to bring some balance into your creative work and resources. Maybe you need to eat better, sleep more, or do some cleaning in your work space. Maybe, since tax time is drawing near, it is time to balance and reconcile your accounts. Get to it.

Gift, Death. Yes, this Major Arcana card is not a delightful gift on first appearances. But just like the spring daffodils emerging through the cold soil of winter, out of death and decay something new can emerge, something beautiful and fresh. The sign of Pluto on the dark knight is a reminder of the treasures that often lie beneath the surface, within the darkness of the soil. Look for the new idea, the new project to bloom from out of the release of the old and worn out.

One evening, Bob and I were on our way into town for a rare dinner out on a major two-lane state road. Spring driving here in the Northeast often means the asphalt version of corduroy, or a deteriorated and crumbled version of sinkholes.

Bob, ever the skilled driver, approached these rough patches in a variety of ways and I had to laugh because here was an obvious and active metaphor for dealing with the challenges, the rough roads and bumps, in our lives and our creative work.

You’ve experienced this. Blonde Girl Driving You are moving smoothly ahead, writing your book, building your portfolios or resume or business. The sun is out and it’s a beautiful day for a ride. Then, often without warning, you hit a pothole or a rough patch in the road. There should have been signs but often, there aren’t. And hitting those rough patches can result in a slowing or loss of progress, or even a breakdown.

Where is the road crew? Why don’t they get out here and patch these potholes, repave that stretch of road? Don’t they see how hazardous this is?

Unfortunately, if you want to get to the other side of those rough patches, if you want to continue on your creative journeys (unless you can pay to have someone airlift you over them!), you have to decide how you will get past those bumps, dips, and jagged edges.

Here are three ways to move through these rough patches:

1. Tighten the seat belt, grip the wheel, and put the pedal to the metal. Sometimes, if you can move forward over that rough road as quickly as possible you won’t feel the rattling and shaking in your bones as badly or as long. This is often not the best solution because, if the potholes are deep or the patches exceedingly rough, you’ll come out the other side with internal damage that isn’t discovered until later and can take more work and time to repair.

2. Check for oncoming traffic, and finesse your way around the rough road and bumps by moving into the other lane. This approach works on secondary roads but not so well on heavily trafficked roads where you’ll risk more pain and problems by moving out of your path to avoid the pain and problems in front of you. This technique requires a degree of risk and an ability to see farther down the road, otherwise you may never get where you want to go.

3. Slow down to move carefully through the bumps and rough patches. This is often the approach that most would rather not have to take, not with a fast-paced, get-me-there-yesterday agenda. Surely there must be a faster, easier way? Nope. And complaining about the unfairness of it all, of the government who won’t keep the roads maintained or the darned weather, just isn’t going to make the rough patches go away. The rough patches must be traversed slowly, with awareness, in order come out the other side, still whole if a little rattled.

I’m not wild about dealing with those rough patches either. But neither you nor I are going to get away with only smooth, open highways. Instead, you get to make choices about how you’ll respond and move through them, always keeping in mind where you want to go. And, believe it or not, sometimes there is something to be learned in traversing those potholes and that rough road.

So, as snows melt, and rains fall this spring, keep your mind on where you want to go, but your eyes on the road in front of you. Be prepared for the rough patches. Safe journeys!

I’m going out on my own bumpy road here to offer a customized coaching program based on your needs and budget. As with a consultant, after we talk about what you need and want, I will offer you a proposed program that will both serve you and meet your time and monetary budgets. Areas for mentoring might include getting that book written; learning the use of tools such as dream work, tarot, and rituals to enhance your creative or spiritual journey; and support and encouragement for a new venture or challenge. If you are interested in talking with me about your customized program, then email me and we’ll schedule a time to talk.

It is so bitterly cold that the wine as well as the water freezes in the glasses at the King’s table.
~ Charlotte-Elisabeth, Duchesse D’Orleans (1695)

If you live in the northern regions of the US, you’ve watched the effects of extreme cold on lakes and ponds and rivers this winter. IMG_0208 You may have watched sun-warmed snow melt and drip off roofs during the day, only to freeze into icicles once the sun goes down.

Liquid, flowing water becomes unmoving, solid ice. Your creativity can do the same.

And suddenly ideas and inspiration are dammed up like the water in frozen pipes. The faucet may me open but nothing is coming through.

So to get the water—and the ideas—flowing again, Read More→

Categories Creativity, Seasons, Writing

Love cannot survive if you just give it scraps of yourself, scraps of your time, scraps of your thoughts.
~ Mary O’Hara, author ~

Do you remember when you were a child making your own Valentine out of scraps of doilies, construction paper, glitter, and ribbons? Usually, those were for your mom and/or dad. Sometimes it was for that special friend.

Son Christopher's Kindergarten Valentine

Son Christopher’s Kindergarten Valentine

Scraps are great for making cards or collages or assemblages.

But they are not great for love and creative work.

Recently, I was interviewed for a book on love by love coach, Wendy Darling. One of her questions was, “What is the one piece of advice you would give someone who is preparing to welcome love into their life.”

My answer? Be prepared to make that new love a priority.

This was advice I offered to one of our sons many years ago when he expressed that he really wanted to have someone special in his life. I suggested that he enjoy where he was and what he was doing. That he soak up all he needed to in the way of experience and learning, and then, be prepared to make a relationship a priority.

Because love does not thrive on scraps.

And neither does your writing, your painting, your music, or whatever form your creative expression takes.

Yet, too often, what I hear from clients is that scraps are all that they offer their creativity. Scraps of their days and thoughts and energy.

But your creativity–hopefully one of the loves of your life–requires a serious chunk of your time and thoughts and energy.

Or it frays at the edges until there is nothing left.

If you have scraps, make a card.

But if you have a love, then make it a priority.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Categories Creativity, Seasons, Writing

One of my favorite goddesses is Brigid, from Celtic mythology. She is a three-fold goddess (meaning she embodies Maiden, Mother, Crone) and is often represented as Goddess of the Forge (fire) and Goddess of the Well (water). As Goddess of the Well, she is healer and poet and the part of the creative process that arises from intuition and dreams and love of the work. As Goddess of the Forge, she teaches the martial arts and is a patron of soldiers (brigands), but also is the part of the creative process that is passion, determination, and commitment to the work.

With both fire and water, Brigid is a perfect role model—and patron goddess—of Read More→