Spring Creativity

 

In the dark, cold winter, I write hundreds of pages of bad prose. This is my time to take creative risks. Are any of these electronic pages worth printing, or do I hit “delete.” It doesn’t matter. The writing is important, not the outcome. I delete more than I share.

But now it’s Spring. Time to focus.

Each scene I wrote, character I created and the dialogue I made them say must be evaluated with clear eyes. I look at the pages I wrote for the memoir and wonder how much is self-indulgant. Will any of these words matter to anyone else? Who am I writing for, me or my imaginary reader? Who is that person? What do they need to hear?

Delete… delete… delete… keep…delete…

It is also time to submit work rather than burying it on my desk because I think it’s not ready. Bullshit. I never think my work is ready, but it’s certainly good enough to share. After reading submission guidelines I choose the best theaters looking for new plays and send. No more hibernating with my insecurity.

Spring sunshine warms my hands as I type. Birds gather in the trees to compete for the loudest singer. I imagine my characters laughing as they stretch and wait for direction from me. What shall I have them do? What will I delete? How much will I share, and how much will I buy?

In the Spring, it is time to refocus and let creativity flow as richly as the sap in the blossoming trees.

If you forget how to have fun, perform in drag.

I work. I take care of my daughter. I work. I clean the house. I get up in the middle of the night and take care of my daughter. I fill out forms and do paperwork and return phone calls to manage my daughter’s care. I work. I do laundry. I go to the grocery store and pay bills. I work. I take care of my daughter…

And in between all the demands of my life I try to write.

So when I went to the drag show at the Ukiah Brewing Company last October and Jef Valentine encouraged anyone who wanted to perform in the next show to contact her, I did.

Yes, I will dress up as a boy and lip-sync a song and try to be entertaining. I’ve forgotten how to have fun. I will dress up as a Drag King.

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photo by Rolina Fuentes

On Saturday, January 13th at the Ukiah Brewing Company, Edgar Ellen Hoe made his first public appearance to the song “Every Breath You Take” by The Police. Using a pair of black binoculars, I embraced the stalker in the song, eyeing women with pleading desperation and creepy longing. I think I succeeded; the entire crowd took a step back from the stage, and even though they laughed and cheered, no one really wanted to interact with me. Well done creepy Edgar!

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photo by Rolina Fuentes

I left the stage exhilarated, laughing at myself while also thinking of my mistakes. Next time I would focus on moving like a boy. Next time I would swing my hips less and keep my arms closer to my body. I’d practice walking like a boy; how do boys move anyway? And next time I’d do something reminiscent of Harry Potter, because everyone said I looked like an older Harry. That could be fun.

Next time?

Yes, I’ll do this again. Performing as a character completely different from myself forces me out of my comfort zone, out of my head, and into fun. I can’t think about my daughter’s illness or my relationship troubles or the bills that need to be paid or my job or that stupid pile of laundry that never disappears… Edgar Ellen Hoe doesn’t do laundry. Edgar Ellen Hoe doesn’t have a medically fragile kid. Edgar Ellen Hoe sleeps all night.

 

 

 

 

New Year, new permission to be creative

Well this is embarrassing; I haven’t written anything since November. Since that was the start of the holiday season it’s not too surprising, but it is a sign that when life gets hectic, writing stops. Does it stop for you as well? How do you keep the words flowing when you’re swamped by family and work and friends and activities that all seem so damn important.

Friends and family are important! But so is writing. Writing keeps me focused and centered, which makes me much easier to deal with. You’d think my loved ones would insist I write every day. “Here Terena, take this mocha and go to your room for an hour and write. You’re getting bitchy.”

I do it to myself; writing brings me happiness, but doesn’t benefit anyone else. I feel selfish when I take the time to create and rest. Most of the women I know feel the exact same way; our creativity doesn’t matter unless someone gives us permission to use it.

Bullshit! That’s my new mantra for the New Year: Bullshit!

Starting right now, I give myself permission to write. Permission to speak. Permission to have fun. Permission to take care of myself. Will you give yourself permission to be your most creative self?

Permission is just the start; you have to also follow through and do it. But if we wrap our brain around the idea that what we love to do is important, then we’ll take the time to do it. As long as we don’t think it matters, we’ll put everything and everyone above what we really want to do. I want… no, I need… to write. I can’t explain why and it doesn’t matter. I don’t need to justify my need. Justification ties in to permission. I don’t need to justify why and I don’t need anyone’s permission other my own.

No matter what you love to do, give yourself the time and energy to do it. Whether you love to garden, paint, sew, cook, sing, dance, take pictures, or knit baby booties, do it! Do it with all your heart. Even 30 minutes doing what you love will feed your creative soul.

But no guilt. Guilt kills creativity and happiness. If all you have is 15 minutes while hiding in the laundry room because your kids won’t stop bugging you, do it then. Don’t beat yourself up because you only had 15 minutes! Praise yourself for carving out a few minutes to be creative. No excuses and no guilt. We can do it!

Of course I have to follow my own advice. Who’s gonna help me?

 

 

I’m giving up fear for Lent

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image from Tin House

Hidden away in a large plastic bin are years of my writing; poems, plays, short stories, articles, essays… even a finished book-length manuscript. Why are they stored in a bin and buried in my bedroom?

Because I am terrified of rejection.

I used to send my work out, but after twenty-five rejection letters I quit. I couldn’t take the disappointment and depression any more. Every rejection felt like a rejection of me, not my writing. I was the loser who poured her soul into every word only to have all that work stomped on by a heartless editor. My writing was worthless, therefore I was worthless.

My ego became intertwined with my writing. How can it not? Writing comes from the heart; it makes you vulnerable. You have to open a vein into your inner core and let the creativity pour out. No wonder every rejection letter felt like a rejection of my soul. I was just another girl who thought she could write like the millions of others who think they can write. I’m not special. I don’t matter and neither does my writing.

Vulnerability turned to depression and depression became fear. Never wanting to feel that much misery again, I put my writing in a plastic bin and shoved it behind my bed.

The other day, someone asked me what I was giving up for Lent. Not being a Christian, I just shrugged and said, “candy.” But what actually is Lent? And why should you give something up to celebrate?

According to The Upper Room, Lent is the season of the Christian year when Christians focus on simple living, fasting and prayer to grow closer to God. For 40 days, the length of time Jesus wandered in the desert alone, Christians let go of material things and focus on their spirit. For this ritual to work you have to give up something you really love, or are really attached to.

I am absolutely attached to fear. Perhaps this is a blasphemous way of observing a holy tradition, but as I said, I’m not Christian. However, I do believe ritual and symbols are important and that reconnecting to our sense of spirit is vital. Making a commitment to something greater than ourselves makes us better humans. Some people find that in religion. I find it in creativity.

For the next forty days I will submit my writing. Every day, I will send one piece of my work out into the world and will not think about whether or not it is accepted. Acceptance isn’t the goal, getting over fear is. And I will do this in the spirit of Lent. I am letting go of ego and sharing my work with anyone who may find it beneficial. I am strengthening my creativity and weakening the inner critic who tells me I’m worthless. And if I get 40 rejections, so be it. I’ll decoupage them and make a gorgeous collage.

 

 

An Introvert at Burning Man

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Dust storms. Non-stop music thumping inside my ears. Flashing, glowing, throbbing neon lights. So much light I can’t see the stars, even though we’re in the high desert where the skies should be black and clear. Hot sunlight bouncing off the white playa and slapping my eyes. The press of sweating, laughing, talking, dancing people all around me. Black Rock City: the city that beats Vegas in an insomnia contest.

What the hell am I doing here?

I came to Burning Man for the art and to see friends. The city is art, a temporary but living work of creative power. 70,000 people come together to build a city out of imagination and hard work. And then after a week, the city vanishes. There is nothing like it anywhere, and I wanted to walk the streets and experience all that raw creativity for myself. Maybe I’d take a little bit back with me.

But the constant press of noise and activity exhausted me. I longed for silence in a place where silence had been driven away. People come to Black Rock City to party and my desire for solitude was ridiculous. My camp mates were dear friends and I loved being with them, but I needed a little bit of calm. So I hunted for it.

On my first night, I found quiet at a saki bar. It was still filled with noisy partiers, but there’s something about warm saki on a chilly desert night that felt peaceful. The servers were cheerful and the other patrons relaxed. We were there to take a break from the chaos for a minute. A smiling Buddha statue above the bar gazed across the rollicking playa. It was the perfect stop to begin my plunge into the City.

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Throughout the city there are small, almost hidden, places of quiet. Not solitude, but quiet. I discovered tea houses where people could hide from the sun and wash the taste of dust from their mouths. A steam bath where you could  replenish your dried out skin. A wine bar in the back of a camp that served Pinot Noir under an awning covered in cooling tapestries. Small pieces of art scattered upon the playa that were just as beautiful as the larger installations, but attracted fewer people.

And then there was the Temple. It was always packed with people , but felt comforting. People spoke quietly, meditated, cried, and shared their grief. All along the walls and altars were tokens of love for people who had died. I stood with a crowd and silently cried, feeling the weight of a thousand broken hearts. But the weight didn’t crush me. Crying with everyone else felt less tragic than crying all alone in my room at home. We all grieve. We all struggle. The Temple is where we can give that grief away and find compassion.

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Of course I made a pilgrimage to Medusa. I kissed her metal lips and thanked her for her inspiration. I sprinkled her with a little water, more precious than perfume in the desert, and asked for her continued help as I rebuilt my struggling press. She shot fire from her snake hair. I wonder if that was a blessing or a curse?

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On the night “The Man Burned,” I chose to watch the spectacle from the third story of a camp a mile from the action. Standing on the platform surrounded by friends with the wind blowing dust across my face, I felt happy. Below us, the crush of 50,000 people pushed against the fires and filled the playa with beautiful chaos. I didn’t need to be down in it.

That’s the secret to surviving Burning Man as an introvert. Black Rock City is mainly built for and by extroverts. It stimulates every sense and pushes it to the extreme. Your skin will burn and crack, your eyes will sting, your ears will throb and your heart beat will triple. Your emotions will be manipulated and you’ll want to scream from joy and overexcitement all at once. Extroverts drop after a couple of days, completely exhausted. Introverts may want to drop after a few hours. My advice is to embrace your need for quiet and seek it. Stay out of the middle of the parties and crowds. The entire place is one giant party. Sipping tea in camp while watching a thousand bicycles race by is perfectly acceptable. When you’re ready, join the parade. Then jump out again.

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The city has a strange magic. I’ve found exactly what I needed when I needed it. On one night after walking miles with friends exploring art, I became bone weary. Introverts know the kind of tired I’m talking about. It’s not a physical exhaustion, it’s spiritual. I said goodnight to my friends who were planning to party til sunrise and hiked back to my camp. While dodging racing bicycles, I passed one camp and I heard the beginnings of “Dark  Side of the Moon.” The camp was quiet with a few people lounging or sleeping on couches. One couch was in a quiet corner and I sat down. I listened to the low music and looked out across the open playa where art cars cruised and people danced. Lights blinked and strobed against the blackness and I saw flames break the dark like lightning. I suspect the others in the camp were high while listening to Pink Floyd. I didn’t have to be. That’s a great thing about being an introvert: I don’t need drugs to get high. The beauty of the city and the soft music was all I needed.

 

 

In my own world, writing

Blogging? What’s that. Right now I am immersed in my own, silent writing. I’m hidden away in a world I’ve created through language and ink. It takes focus and dedication to create this world, so I don’t want to wander away for even a brief moment. If I do, I might lose my way. After months of false starts and ideas, I’ve found the path through my own little forest of creativity. Writing it down is like following a candle’s flame in the distance; keep the light in sight and you won’t get lost.

Occasionally I need to trust I’ll find my way again and leave my own world. The real world with all its problems and joys grabs my attention. It’s a tricky balance: imagination and practicality. I need to stay grounded and aware of life, while at the same time protect solitude so I can write. I don’t want to tune out reality so much that I lose touch with time. But I also don’t want to get bogged down in bills and politics so much my imagination suffers. My awareness is juggling intuition. I write, therefore I am.

Because time to write is such a struggle, I tend to hang on to that state of mind with all my might. Nooooooo… I don’t want to pick up my daughter from school or return a phone call or wash another towel. I want to lock myself in my room and write. I’m a mother and a wife and a dog owner and I have a garden. I love my family, but just like all moms, I tend to give them all too much. So I cling to writing as if it’s the only thing that’s really mine.

When I’m engrossed in writing my book, I don’t blog. I know we’re “supposed” to; gotta keep building that audience and platform, the experts say. But when writing time is fleeting, it’s hard to care. I just want to write; let my readers find me on their own.

My own writing world is calling. Time to chase that candle flame again.

Goodbye David Bowie. I will always love your music.

Christine and I were best friends our freshman year in high school, and one day she played a David Bowie record for me. Of course I knew who David Bowie was, who hadn’t heard his music in 1982? But I had never actually listened to his music until that day when I was 15, lying on the floor of my friend’s bedroom. Her room was decorated with Bowie posters and she explained why she loved him so much. After then, I did too.

Here is one song I fell in love with. His voice is brilliant.

Before then, I knew David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust, a bewitching gender-bending artist I listened to as a kid in the 1970’s.

David Bowie’s artistry, voice, creativity and innovation earned my respect. He stood by his work and continued to push the boundaries of art, gender, and music. Never one to just settle on his laurels and make cash, as some musicians do when they reach a certain level of “legend,” David Bowie continued to create art. He was one of the greatest artists of the 20th and early 21st Centuries.

Thank you Mr. Bowie for sharing your genius. And thank you Christine for sharing his music with me.

I wish you had more time, David Bowie. Imagine what you could have created.

I hate cancer.