Creative Process

Yes & yes by Christina Rosalie

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California Wilds
California Wilds
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Photo: Erika Senft Miller
Photo: Erika Senft Miller

There aren't words really, not yet. Except that I went, and found myself a part of a tribe of the most creative people among the familiar landscape of my childhood for a handful of days. I can back brimming. I came back on the 100th day of my circle project. I came back filled. Heart-felt. Held. Discovered. Seen. Inspired.

Since then I've been nonstop making. A notebook already full. The next book taking shape now fast, and certainly. Big canvases edging into sight... and I'm taking every moment I can to create.


The hours become like a dream, the days like liquid one swelling towards the next by Christina Rosalie

The hours become like a dream, the days like liquid one swelling towards the next. The entire summer a standing wave of hours rushing past, riding the blue arc of sun-filled skies from morning until dusk.
Most days, the minute I lie down to sleep the words come. Only then, after I've shut my computer, put my notebook aside, folded sheets, picked up countless legos, library books, paper scraps. Only then, after I've waited for the heat to leave the house and the cool air to find us through the screens and the flung-wide door that opens to the street night passing by. Only then, the stories flutter up like moths.


Only yesterday walking among the roses on my lunch break at work, I realized I completely forgot the anniversary of my father's death this year--remembering only that it was my half birthday, and welcoming the waxy petaled rust colored roses, lush and full of sweetness that T brought.
Still, I've been feeling his presence here in this Pacific Northwest landscape: at the shore where the gulls lilt and lift; among the tall Doug Firs in the woods.
Stories come to mind driving down unfamiliar roads: the way sitting casually in the bucket seat of his old white Ford, sipping coffee from a thermos, he was always compelled to turn down side roads. Or that one time we found the relics and remnants of squatters living in an old mining shaft along some creek in Colorado. Or the time at the beach where the wind pulled at our parkas and we sat, nearly solitary on the wide, wide shore.
We came to Oregon as kids in the summer, and my memory of that time is sun-dappled and inaccurate. I don't remember where we caught the smelt with our bare hands, seals nearly eye to eye with us--only that we did. Nor can I recall the name of the place where the ferns filled the canyon, where moisture hung in the air, only that we stood around in grossed-out awe at the sheer size of the banana slugs. That we ate cheese sandwiches. That we camped--my parents in their camper, and us kids in an adjacent tent--along the coast.
Most days happen now in a rush of hours, and the stories only happen after: between sleep and waking. They happen in that slender gap between now and unconscious; in that groove where memory opens up wide, and the past hurries out dancing as it does.
I haven't found the rhythm yet, for writing these stories, and for so many others.
The first time I was hypothermic. The first time I kissed a red head rodeo rider. The first time I never went to Coney Island, but almost did with a man who worked for Spike Lee. The first time I held my newborn son's head in my palms. The first time I drank mulled wine in Germany, on the street, in the middle of a raw February day in celebration. The first time I had sex, which came long after the first time I felt a certain animal attraction to the opposite sex. The first time I had blisters on my hand from paddling a canoe for ten days in the wild. The first time I left home. The last time I returned.
These are the stories that ride in on the edges of the hours, like leaves caught in the forever whirl and flume of the river we spent time on this weekend.


I'm working full time at a place I love, and the work I do is deeply fulfilling but also entirely consuming. I come home spent, sometimes riding my bike up the hills from where I work to here; other times driving as the sun hits the windows along Hawthorne Street and every single human is lit up with gold.
I come home spent and sink into the present of simply fixing dinner and hearing stories about the day from our summer nanny and the boys. I'm grateful for her in ways I can't even begin to explain. Grateful for the apple bread I find on the counter and the cardboard robot constructions. The trips to the playground and the zoo and the woods. She's leaving soon for Spain, and like everything else, I cannot reconcile the way the time has passed.
The way the summer's ending.
The way the stories fill the edges.
That I'll have a fourth grader. And a kindergartener.
How days the hours rush past filled with an intensity and gratitude. Filled with late summer plums falling to the ground. Filled with bees. Filled with the last of summer's fading roses. Filled with August sunsets, chocolate melting, rose wine chilled and sipped with dinner at the table out back. Filled with sticky-fingered boys who have grown tan from days I didn't ever see them swim in the pool, and hikes I never went on. Filled with the endless library books they both consume, the tantrums, the arguments, the fierce brotherly love, the neighbor's inviting Sprout over to play.
And now, suddenly school's starting next week. The shopping for school supplies. The trying on of clothes, new sneakers, rain gear for autumn, fleece for winter.
Now, here, this.


Summer's over. Summer with it's adventures to a cabin, to waterfalls, to the ocean, to the woods.
This first summer here has been good to us. Filled our bones with sunshine. Kissed our heads. Granted our wishes. All except for more golden hours. More days like these. More time, more time, always more time. For the stories. For the late summer kisses. For hammock time. For work projects. For drinks with friends. For bike rides. For all of this.
This, then was August.
The bird paintings are unfinished--put off in favor of chasing the kids barefoot across the lawn, or reading novels, or obsessing, rather endlessly, though in a good way about about work.
Maybe the rhythm will return with September. Cooler days. Earlier mornings. The inevitable routine of things. Homework. Backpacks. Lunch boxes. But oh, I've loved this rambling, rushing summer.


Tell me about yours friends. Where have you been? What are you reading? What have you loved? W

A few things I've been up to lately by Christina Rosalie

Giraffe - Christina RosalieHello friends! I've been so busy lately I haven't had nearly as much time as I would like to stop in here and share stories.

Here are a few things I've been up to lately:

:: Writing on Medium
:: Creating a new series of art pieces (this giraffe is one, in progress)
:: Planning a studio sale for the end of March (sign up if you'd like to get first dibs.)
:: Working on a few very cool client projects. I especially loved helping to launch this shop into the world.
:: Reading the Little House series out loud to Bean (and feeling very glad I'm not that kind of pioneer.)
:: Watching Sprout become an amazing artist.
:: Reading this book, and this one.
:: Listening to new music on Beats.
:: Writing every morning in a notebook (I've loved responding to these prompts though I haven't had time to share much here.)
:: Doing a 20 minute vinyasa routine every morning
:: Drinking tea (instead of coffee), skipping alcohol, going to bed earlier, and taking a zillion supplements... and feeling like my adrenals are saying thank you. {Hello energy! How I've missed you}
:: Walking out onto the icy lake with the boys (it still feels bizarre and precarious, but I love all the wide expanses.)
:: Making big plans.
:: Really hankering for spring (and we have many inches of snow in the forecast this week!)
What you've been up to this March? Crazy how time is whirling by these days.

Learning things about self care by Christina Rosalie

Wholeness-ChristinaRosalie In these weeks between the 1st of the New Year and my birthday on the 26th, I always strive to clarify my intentions, and imagine what I want to manifest in my next year’s journey around the sun. This year that's looked like going back through all the notebooks I kept: five moleskins in all, and several smaller ones too.
I feel a bit like an archeologist, sifting through the artifacts of my 2013 self; tracing the plot lines and inner narratives that in the moment never appeared connected, but from the vantage point of a year out, there are evident constellations.
I've found notes that, like the most distant stars, indicate the faintest outline of my new book. Each set of randomly scrawled sentences appear now in obvious relation to the others, like the shimmering Pleiades for me to pursue across my imaginations’ uncharted dark the way Orion does after the Seven Sisters each night.
And There are other notes, often repeated, where I tell myself to slow down, to rest, to listen to my core.
Yet I never listened, and followed instead the uncompromising rule of “should.” Pushing far past my limits because it was my default; the only way of being I'd ever known. But oh, there is so much to that fine phrase:

Less doing, more being.

And with the diagnosis of adrenal fatigue and a gluten sensitivity finally answering just exactly why I’ve been waking up as exhausted as I went to sleep for the past year, I found myself faced with a new urgency to take a different course of action:
Saying no at least as often as I say yes. Protecting downtime like the sacred thing it is. Clearly mapping the expectations for projects, and only doing as much as necessary, even if more could be done. Going to bed early, when I first feel tiredness come on instead of letting myself slip into the loop of aimless Internet wanderings, or pushing to finish a project. Coming face to face with "good enough," and letting that really be enough. And then sustaining my body by eating gluten free, without coffee, and instead of running hard daily as I once did, doing yoga first thing every day after writing morning pages.
It feels unfamiliar and strange and terribly vulnerable to be attempting these daily acts of kindness towards myself. And it takes everything to quiet my monkey brain that tells me it is weakness to need this kindness, this self care. Yet I do.
I taped this David Allen quote to the bathroom mirror as a reminder:

You can do anything. Just not everything.

And still. I’ve had the hardest time trying to write about this journey here. Somehow it feels both tender and silly and yes, weak; as though I am in some way admitting defeat. I’ve begun a hundred posts, only to delete everything and start again. Yet I also feel like sharing this work of reclaiming balance and learning to live less forcefully will be useful. I learn from the process of reflection, and also from what you share in return here at the page.


Tell me about self care. Teach me what you know.

Stuff I've learned while starting out, carrying on, or attempting something great: by Christina Rosalie

               photo (59){Not Really A Paragraph 17/30} :: Repeat this mantra: There is enough. Enough resources. Enough people. Enough audience share. Enough.
:: Ask: how can I help?
:: Join forces. Take people to coffee. Listen.
:: Listen some more.
:: You'll make mistakes. Many of them. Admit them, apologize and then move on.
:: Move on for real. Don't let emotional stuff become an energy drain.
:: Know what it is you're actually offering, or doing. Why does it matter?
:: Know who cares about what you're offering. Who does it matter to?
:: Treat people like people, not like numbers or features that increase klout.
:: Spend some time considering what it's like to be inside your audience' head. What motivates them?
:: Reward loyalty and awesomeness in kind, with real things like handwritten notes, surprise discounts, chocolate.
:: Get over this fact right now: there will be competitors, haters, and jealous fools. Consider them a sign that you've arrived.
:: Be humble. Ask for help. Admit that you don't know.
:: Be generous. Share what you do know. Share your process. Share your best tips, tricks, insights and understanding. It will make you richer, not poorer.

The hitch of course is kids {More than one Paragraph 16/30} by Christina Rosalie

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I was so intrigued by the comments in yesterday's post about shifting towards a morning habit. About writing then, and soaking up the world as the new day unfurls.
But here's the thing that I can't seem to get around--even though I want very much to go to bed earlier for all the reasons I mentioned in several recent posts... But the hitch is kids. Their existence in my world makes morning finite. There is no pushing on, if I'm in the groove. No additional hours that can be spent, past midnight if necessary if a project demands more time, or a story is taking me places.
When the kids wake up, they arrive: giggling, yelling, whining, squealing. They want things: snuggles, underpants, clean socks, cereal. They need things: undivided attention, clean laundry, reminders, mediation, affection. The hours hurtle on. Even if I awoke at 3am, I'd only have 3 hours until 6 when they typically wake, and 3am doesn't look nearly as interesting from the vantage point of waking up, as it does from the perspective of going to sleep, if you know what I mean. Nearly every parent I've talked to has said something about the "freedom" that night affords: the opportunity to exist with one's thoughts uninterrupted. And that is entirely what I love about the night: that it affords carrying on. Uninterrupted.
Earlier today Austin Kleon tweeted that this poem should be featured prominently on every creative's refrigerator. I think he's right. And I wonder, is my problem simply that I'm aiming for all three?
Is the plight of the modern creative that because we have such boundless abundance, we believe we are boundless? Our modern world offers so many choices, opportunities, options, mediums, encounters, tools, that in turn we tell ourselves we can do anything, be anything, all at once. I for one, fall for this story time and again. But time isn't fooled. And morning, wise and new, knows better too.
So, how to shift night to morning with kids. How then? Is there some middle ground, some secret strategy? Tell me, tell me.

Still paying homage to the night {Just One Paragraph 15/30} by Christina Rosalie

WingIt felt like fall today, even though we're at the height of summer. Crisp air, and the most beautiful bright bowl of blue up above. The weather has been anything but ordinary, and for that, I am glad I guess, though there is a part of me that longs for the familiarity of seasons; for the year broken into parts, for snow then rain, then sun then wind. At lunch, I walked the long way around the block just to catch a glimpse of it up above: blue, between hours working at my desk. It was a long day, all in all, though short on hours (how is this always so?) And now I'm heading off to sleep, while the night swims up to the edges of the house that sits like a raft at the edge of the valley, moored among the grasses wild and sweet. I love the way the air smells, not just here, but all over New England in the summer time after dark, as though the earth is exhaling sweetness. Rest rustling in the tall branches of the oak and fins out along the even, splayed leaves of the sumac whose leaves will soon be red. Owls calling in their secret owl language, silent wings stirring the air into spirals as they swoop. "The thing about getting up earlier, is going to bed earlier," I tell my friend. "Getting up isn't the hard part really, it's going to bed earlier that is."
I still haven't figured this out--how to flip flop the day and night. Start at the beginning rather than at the end. Write forwards instead of back. Explain this to me, morning worshipers, how does this work?

Just one paragraph by Christina Rosalie

We haven't seen each other in months, even though for the past six month's my friend M. has lived here. Time passes like that. A blur. And then she texts, "let's make sure to meet up before we leave. We're leaving on Friday." And so I put aside other pressing work, and walk out into the warm air to find her.
Soon we're sitting on a bench on Church Street sipping cold drinks. Condensation forms on our glasses, our fingertips wet as we gesture and laugh. The air is humid, heavy, bright with sun. The thermometer climbs past 90.
She tells me she's planning on traveling for a while: camping wherever she and her husband land for the night across the West, and so I say, "blog about it! Keep a record."
I can see the way she flinches just a little, and also smiles--like I've dared her to do something, even though mostly I said it because I want to go along, vicariously, across the West, campsite to campsite. But I get her reaction. It's so hard to start after you haven't for a while. Hard to get past the inner critic that says, "It should be better, more clever, more crafted, more intriguing." Hard to just show up and write, keeping a record as the moments unfold. But that, truly, is the wonder of what a blog can be at its best. Unvarnished, real-time evidence of a life as it's being lived.
So many of of my clients have the same challenge in one way or another: they imagine the bigness of starting, instead of the smallness of it and so taking the first step becomes tremendous, daunting, bigger than life. They imagine the end result: a thriving blog, a booming business, product flying out the door, and the path from here to there is inconceivable. But the truth is, nothing begins with grandness. Instead, it begins with small act of showing up. With something small. With a single step. And so I say, "Just write one paragraph a day."
She grins like sunshine, because that's how she is. She gets out her phone and writes herself a note. Just one paragraph.
Starting is the hardest part. Even with the small micro-goal of a single paragraph. But the challenge is all in your head. The minute you start, things happen. Your fingers moving there on the keyboard will lead the way. Your mind will slip into a groove, or find a pattern or answer or riff.

But to begin, just a paragraph. Just that.
Driving home in the evening I think of our conversation again, and feel the weight of the dare: Just one paragraph blogged every day.
I know I haven't been showing up here regularly either to record the moments, my process, the glimpses into my life as it happens, and it's something that I want very much to do this summer. Yet like everyone, I have excuses. Many of them very apropos: I'm writing elsewhere online; I'm working on a fiction piece; I'm drafting the outline of a book; the heatwave makes it hard to concentrate for very long; the kids are under foot; my work days are filled to saturation. Non really hold water.
So I'm putting myself up to the challenge (and you too!) to blog a paragraph every day for 30 days. For me, it will be the last 30 days in this house. Next month on the 20th we move. Then school will start soon after, and new routines will emerge. But until then, 30 days. 30 posts. 1 paragraph.

Are you in?


I've had a few people ask for badges for this little project, and so here you are. I'm thrilled that so many of you want to join me! It will be worth it. Promise. (Also I can't wait to see what you share every day!)


Just One Paragraph
Just One Paragraph

Eventually you will make a decision (or reminders to myself) by Christina Rosalie

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Eventually you will make a decision to stay indoors or to venture out, not letting the rain stop you. Pull on a rain. Rain pants for the kids. Boots. And go out into the smudged world, with its falling sky and imperfect roads torn loose with too much rain.
Eventually you will make a decision to give in to the sudden way the PMS creeps up and everything comes toward you like a thinly veiled jab, and the entire world seems to be making it personal; or you shake it off, pull on running clothes reluctantly, make a new running mix, and hit the treadmill hard. It will takes a while for the tempo to change you, but eventually it will. Your grateful pulse will remind you what it means to be alive, lungs raw with breath, feet pounding.
Eventually you will make a decision keep pushing yourself past your limits, or take care of yourself by asking for help. By drawing boundaries. By saying no even after you said yes, because in the moment that was easier and now you're faced with letting yourself down or letting someone else down. Because the truth is other people's disappointment isn't your problem, even though you've programmed yourself very insidiously to think that it is.
Eventually you will make a decision to forget your craft, or to zero in what you love most about it, truing to it fiercely above the urgent, the insistent, the loud demands that are yelling like a bully in your ear. Eventually it will be up to you to decide to turn a blind eye on the other things, and just pick this one thing. This one thing that feels important to you. That feels like the work you love, and just do it for an hour. Imperfectly. Even if it means you'll be up a creek later. Even if it means there will be hell to pay. Even if it means the sky will fall.
Because eventually it will. It will pour, and eventually roads will wash away. Eventually moods and hormones will catch up with you, or sleep deprivation will bring you to your knees. People will invariably be needy needy and self serving and impatient, and eventually to-do lists and deadlines and must-dos and should-dos will pile up like a angry, thumping, insistent mob inside your head.
Eventually you will make the decision: to let circumstance define you, or to define your circumstance.
And the thing is?
It's up to you to give in, or head out.


What will you decide?

5 things to fuel your creative soul this weekend: by Christina Rosalie

 Creative Process -- Christina Rosalie 1. Review all the notes you've jotted down throughout the week. I often take notes on my phone, but if I don't make it a ritual on the weekend, I forget the thing's I've noted there.

  2. Start a Spark File. Steven Johnson first coined this phrase, but it's something I've been using for years. Pam Houston calls it her "Glimmers" file. I keep mine as a single document in Evernote, so that I can access it from everywhere, and I put all my ideas there for for everything I want to write or dream into reality.

  3. Eavesdrop. On everyone. Your kids. The people standing next to you in line. The couple at the restaurant, leaning in. The two old ladies with cool hats walking to church. Listen to the cadence of their dialogue. To what they're saying and how they're saying it. Take notes. Good dialogue in stories is born of eavesdropped moments.

  4. Get moving. We're made to move, not to be still. Even though it's raw and muddy in Vermont in April, with my favorite turquoise Hunter boots on, and camera in hand, the meadows beg to be explored. What's around you? Get out and see.

  5. Underline in magazines. There's something about the temporariness of magazines that makes us read them more quickly. We tend to skim, reading subtitles and captions and pull quotes. But I've found that when I read with a pen in hand, underlining as I go, it gives me a reason to read more deeply, and to begin to parse together new thoughts stirred in my mind by the underlined fragments.

  What are some ways you love to fuel your creative soul on the weekend, when there's a little more time to sink into the moments, sip coffee, and soak up the world? I'd love to hear!

Let the choices you make today be the ones that make you glad by Christina Rosalie

The-Universe---Christina-Rosalie  It’s before the dawn and I’m up. The choice is mine. Hello writing practice. Hello day. I lie in bed for a minute or maybe five, feeling the way my mind slips like a gymnast between one state and another: one second I’m here, the next I’m somewhere else entirely, with people I’ve never met whose faces are as vivid as the day is new.
“Are you getting up?” T asks. He’s rubbing my feet, a ritual he started sometime this summer when he realized, maybe for the first time, how I settle into myself in the morning. Head first, then body slowly.
I’m always surprised that I can talk at all then, with my eyes closed, and my body still enmeshed in the silken cobwebs of drowse and dream.
“Maybe,” I say. The choice like a soft purring animal in bed with me.
But the truth is, I’ve already committed.


Yesterday I spent some time with my priorities for this year, looking at how each breaks down into hours and minute spent daily toward achieving them. And writing, as always, was at the top. It’s the most important thing to me, above all the urgent things, to show up and put to the page as the world turns to blue. Before there is rush, and fragment. Before the trees take on the pale color of day, and then are painted gold and blue as the sun climbs up through the tangled ladder of their branches. Before other things chime in, to make arguments of urgency that cannot be avoided.
And so even as I’m lying in the soft warm dark with this purring animal kneading the rumpled edges of my dreams, I know I’ll get up, press a hot wash cloth to my puffy eyes, pull on sweatpants and pour tea (never coffee first thing) and wait with the cursor at the page.
It takes another minute of struggle to do it. To get up, really. But then I’m here.


Last week my sister sent me a link to the Huffington Post essay, “Leaning In: Similarly Yet Differently” by Carissa K, about two friends whose lives had since high school, run on parallel tracks, careers, companies, promotions, each of them making one choice and then another; each of them progressing, or sometimes outpacing or catching up until the author went and had a baby, and the other friend did not.
Then, inevitably like tracks in a switching yard, their courses changed.
Isn’t that the way it goes?
I found myself nodding as I read, aware of my own narratives about how, and who, and why, things have turned out the way they have for me. The stories I’ve told myself about the life I’ve chosen. Now, at 35, I have enough of a past to look back on roads not taken, and the outcome of those choices not made will always be fiction, played out by the actors and actions of other peoples lives.
What I’m trying to say, I think, is that we all have our own version of Kate. An alter ego. A parallel universe. A real-life or imagined embodiment of what if, or if only. The way we didn’t go.
And truth is: at every turn, we choose, and with our choosing, the inevitable slice; the bifurcation; the way thing sheer off from our lives: opportunities, outcomes, options. The inevitable nature of choice is that there is always another. The what if? The passed-up chance. There will always be something we leave behind in order to make the choice we do.
This is another way of saying: the choices we make matter immensely.The ways we wake up or stay asleep to our lives. The ways we choose urgent over important, or the times we decide instead to do the most important thing, even when other things and other stories thunder in our ears with their urgency.
This is also a way of saying: those things you didn’t choose? Don’t let them define you. The lives you passed up in order to live this bold, glorious life? It’s all fiction. It’s all a story you’re telling yourself in your head. I'm reminding myself of this today, and also, hopefully reminding you:
The parallel path is not your path. Put your time into here, into this now, into this bright new day. Let the choices you make today be the ones that define who you are.

How to find your true velocity: do less to achieve more by Christina Rosalie

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I meant to write here all week, but then I did other things. Namely, slowing down until I was just doing one thing at a time. I've been exploring this since I began to muse about productivity last week, and part of my work right now is about finding my true velocity, between rest and motion, between production and inspiration, between input and output.
I'm taking the time to notice the impulse behind my actions, and am finding that though there is a tremendous difference between action and reaction, I think the lines become blurred. Isn't this true for for most of us? We’re so caught up in the doing of every day, that stress, exhaustion, and the standards of productivity we hold ourselves become the incessant refrain in our heads, do more! Do more! All we can do then, is react.
Yet we also know somewhere in our heart of hearts, that doing more isn’t the answer. Doing less is. Animals know this. They only exert energy when necessary. They run hard, climb wildly, mate with gusto, devour voraciously, chase, sprint, dart. And in between they come to a full stop. They rest unambiguously. The secret to our power is leverage. What lights us ablaze is a wholehearted alignment of soul with action. It's the right conditions and then the striking of a single match.
Animals have no trouble at all with doing one thing at a time. But we perpetually trying to do more. We say maybe when we mean no. We take on more because we’re afraid that whatever we’re doing isn’t enough. We scatter our attention because the heat of single-minded purpose threatens to consume us. And also, we’re terribly undisciplined. We're hedonists at heart, the lot of us, perpetually falling in love with whatever’s yet to be done.
This isn’t a new conundrum, though certainly it's more of a Western predicament. And it's certainly become more complicated since the world has gone digital and we have at our fingertips a perpetual black hole of distraction and possibility. In cleaning my studio I found a page I’d printed out with Henry Miller’s Commandments for writing. The first one? Work on one thing at a time until finished.
One thing. One thing. One thing.
But really, what I'm learning is that if I don't react, if I'm not always at the ready to respond, if I'm less accessible, it doesn't mean they end up getting less of me. Instead, the opposite is true. I'm able to show up with greater concentration and energy, bearing pineapples and little boys to make a messy meal, or to sit over sandwiches and catch up face to face instead of exchanging a flurry of partialities by text.
What about you? When do you spread yourself too thin? And conversely, when do you make time to focus wholly on just one thing?

Why productivity is not enough by Christina Rosalie

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The roads are muddy now; one day ice, the next day thaw. The sun can’t make up it’s mind. It shows up in the morning all glowy and bright, and then the day turns fierce and raw, with flurries in our faces. The beginning of March is the time when things appear to be standing still at the surface, but underneath the mud is thawing and sap running, and it seems right on time, this shift.
I’m reeling still, coming off of what has more or less been a four year sprint: a baby, a book, graduate school, a job, and now this, whatever this is.
I’ve been thinking a lot about standing still. About really giving pause.
I’m not sure when the last time was that I really did that. Stopped entirely for long enough to feel only the rhythm of my own pulse stirring. Can you put your finger on a time like that? When you weren’t actively producing anything. When was the last time that you came to a full stop?
The houses along the back roads here show a rawness and wear this time of year. The optimistic red paint from brighter time is worn thin. Barns that were once full with the sweet breath of dairy cows stand empty or are repurposed, housing tools or tractors or other less important things. Houses gird against the thinning and seemingly endless cold of New England's forever-long winters.
I think that what we’re afraid of, our Industrial Complex in over drive, is that like the barns, we’ll become obsolete the minute we stop producing. Pause one second, and the next we’ll be a wash-up, cardboard over the windows for extra insulation.
I think that’s what has surprised me most about being adult: that it never stops. That if you let it, the world keeps right on demanding. That if you buy it, everything is about production, about resources, about consumption. As if we are made of infinite stuff; time unlimited, our hearts as geared to function like some precise and whirring machine. The days fill up. The years too. Do you feel the way that happens? The way output gets weighted over input; matter over spirit, job over calling.
When was the last time exactly that you came a full stop, or let the hours or days fill with emptiness?
I am feeling my way along the edges of this truth, and finding myths at every turn. Productivity is our inheritance, borne of our our Western Industrial Complex. We produce, to produce more in kind. Our productivity simply yields more. More hours spent producing. More minutes, multi-tasked.
But the fields know a different secret under snow. They lie there, unafraid, bearing the sudden weight of snow, the prolonged rest of white on white, where only voles and field mice and foxes hunger in the gathering dusk, leave a smudge of vermillion at the periphery of what we know; tracks crossing here and there to unknown places that lead back underground. The fields, fallow, gather promise. Metabolize potential. Prepare for the wild frenzied greening of May and June when suddenly the grass is waist high, and we blink and there are red winged black birds making nests and milkweed growing tall and purpling with blooms.
When was the last time you let the field of your heart lie fallow? Not in ruin, like the barns in disrepair, signifiers of industry no longer relevant. Not by accident, or by neglect, or because of giving up. But on purpose and with intention. To rest, to recuperate.
Full stop.
And then to gather energy anew.
I have no idea what that looks like really. I’m just feeling my way around the edges of it, wondering, and also knowing that my body, animal first, is begging me to listen, attuned first to it's wild truth, more than to the endless precise production of machines. How to listen. How to slow in these moments now entirely?
Tell me things. Tell me about full stops, and fallow times, and hibernation. What comes then?

Inspiration, starting in, achievement, and resistance {Creative Cycles Part 1} by Christina Rosalie

It will begin like this: with the sudden irreverent bark of a dog on a cold snowy night; or with the lilting flight of a hundred starlings among the naked poplar branches, or in line somewhere, waiting for a cappuccino, when you pause to take note of what you’re actually thinking, and there it will be. An inkling. An image maybe, a string of notes, or perhaps a phrase.

I have a phrase in my head now, for example, that I’ve for a couple of months, rattling around like a magnet in a bucket, attracting fragments of things: filaments, filings, scraps.

That inkling will persist if you listen; until it becomes unavoidable and you have to stop wherever you are and take and admit: I have an idea! Then you will begin to wonder and ponder, record, and reflect as bits of the idea drift about in your subconscious like gorgeous saffron and vermillion coy fish moving slowly under the ice on a winter pond; moving just enough so that you know they still have a pulse, a vibration of life all of their own volition down there.

The days will gather upon themselves, until you feel the idea stirring with certainty, with urgency : a private equinox right there in the midst of your soul. And if you’re brave and passionate you’ll listen, and you’ll begin in earnest whatever work you must do.

You’ll ask for help. You’ll ask for answers. You’ll ask for time, and more time, and extra cups of coffee. You’ll clear your calendar as much as possible without the normal reluctance that you feel when pushing aside the “shoulds” and “musts” you are accustomed to always putting first.

And then there will be days, or months even, when all you want to do is dive into your work with passion and zeal and focus. This is the apex of the creative cycle.

This is when you are inclined to burn the candle at both ends; working one day of work, and another on your project; when you have perpetual paint on your fingers maybe, or a pencil behind your ear, or you feel naked without your laptop keyboard under your palms, and you don’t remember the last time you washed your sheets, and all you eat is whatever leftovers are in the fridge.

This is when the work that you’re doing becomes a force of it’s own. When even though the specter of failure rears its ugly head, and procrastination stalks you, you can shake it off with a certain courage and urgency, and get to the heart of what you intend. This is the time when all you want to do is the work you are in the midst of.

And then, as you near completion and the deadline looms, it’s possible that you’ll feel like the whole thing was a mistake. A terrible misjudgment of your abilities; a laughable mess of smithereens. It’s possible that you’ll wonder Who the hell do I think I am, anyway? And you’ll consider escape routes and worst case scenarios, and it will feel utterly impossible to finish. But you can, and you will...

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This is part 1 in a series of posts I’ve been wanting to write for a while about creative cycles and how they affect me. My feeling is that these are very universal experiences, hence the second person voice which I fall back on naturally when I feel like it applies to you too!

I’d really love to hear your experiences about starting in on a cycle of creativity, and what happens throughout that process.

Next up in the cycle: Reaching the completion, celebration, loss and regeneration.

7 things I'm doing to rest + recalibrate this weekend: by Christina Rosalie

1. Slipping offline for the weekend

2. Layering pretty dresses + winter cords, painting my finger nails, and putting henna in my hair

3. Taking walks alone to stalk the Piliated woodpecker in the far meadow, and follow coyote tracks

4. Emptying my inbox entirely

5. Clearing the number of feeds in my RSS reader

6. Reading Mary Oliver's Evidence. Again.

7. Getting a dog.

Productivity and self reflection: a vital ratio for happiness by Christina Rosalie

It occurred to me last night that I have no fewer than NINE very significant projects that I'm working on right now (not including my boys, or laundry, or a strangely irrational obsession with finding a family dog.) It also occurred to me last night that I've been feeling a little like a windmill, diving into things in an unfocused blur of reaction. To-do lists are converging, deadlines are colliding, and incredible connections and potential projects are practically bursting out of me... and I haven't created the space to reflect. I could say I'm overwhelmed, but the truth is, I havent been making enough space for synthesis and consideration.

It's a ratio that is vital to being successfully creative and fulfilled for me. Action and self reflection need to happen in tandem in order to be able to slip into the grove between intuition and purpose; between effort and ease.

And if that ratio is off I can feel the way my intentions become blurred and and my actions reactive.

So this morning I began the ritual that always reclaims me: Writing first thing for a half hour. My handwriting is a mess then, as I sit up among pillows in the lavender dark of my bedroom at dawn. My sentences unreasonably long, my focus fickle. But what I get from writing then, is the ability to slip in at the back door of my mind and listen for what I'm feeling, for the way my heart responds to certain ideas, questions, fears, projects.

That half hour with the cat at my hip purring, while the mountains become blue and dense with daylight, is is a way of closing the loop on worry; tying up the loose ends of fears; and finding the pulse of my intention.

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What rituals do you rely on to bring you back into balance?

The morning begins like this: by Christina Rosalie

The morning begins when I am less awake than dreaming, and with shut eyes I shift my body, truing towards the warmth of my husband beside me; pressing my nose against the warmth of his bare shoulder. I pat the edge of the bed when I hear my littlest come in, carrying his bear, a pacifier in his mouth. He climbs up and burrows in next to me like a puppy, finding the curve between my neck and shoulder where little head fits just exactly so. Then we all doze, until his brother starts to call from their room down the hall; ever the bright eyed one in the morning, Bean wakes up curious, eager, effervescent, loud. Sprout props himself up on an arm, then sits off, shoving the warm covers back. “I’m coming,” he calls, then trundles off. The morning begins like this: I am between sleep and waking, sitting at the edge of a mossy dock. Below me the water is warm, and when I slip into it I discover amethysts sparkling below the surface. Then I am here, with the cat purring at my hip, and I roll over so that I can run my hand along her apricot fur, her purr vibrating up through my finger tips, into my palm, my pulse. In the kitchen below me, the boys sound like herd animals. They make the wood floor thunder. They shriek and laugh and yell. The house smells like woodsmoke and bacon (two of my favorite things) and soon I push back the covers and stumble toward the shower, my vision blurring suddenly to stars. Head rush. I hold the door frame and pause.

The morning begins with all four of us around the butcher block island in the kitchen on stools. There are white bowls of oatmeal with butter and maple syrup, seedy toasted baguettes with butter and raspberry preserves, fried eggs, bacon, flat whites. There are greasy little boy fingers. There is a scuffle over the last slice of bacon. Both boys ask for milk, then water. T and I look at each other over the table and smile.

The morning begins with this: I am sitting beside the wood stove, this mix is playing and the sun is out. It makes shadows fall in bright contrast across the un-vacuumed floor. I sit with my new notebook (I’ve filled the last one up) and a pencil with soft lead, and find my pulse. I watch wild turkeys run across the far meadow, and settle into the steadiness of my hand moving across the page, scrawling careless, messy script. “What chu doin mama?” Sprout asks within minutes, his face right at table height, his cheeks rosy, his bangs in his eyes.

The morning begins like this.

A creative loophole: by Christina Rosalie

That perfect letter. The wishbone, fork in the road, empty wineglass. The question we ask over and over. Why? Me with my arms outstretched, feet in first position. The chromosome half of us don’t have. Second to last in the alphabet: almost there. Coupled with an L, let’s make an adverb. A modest X, legs closed. Y or N? Yes, of course. Peas sign reversed. Mercedes Benz without the O.

Y, a Greek letter, joined the Latin alphabet after the Romans conquered Greece in the first century—a double agent: consonant and vowel. No one used adverbs before then, and no one was happy.


~ From Y, by Marjorie Celona, originally from the Indiana Review, republished in Best American Non-Required Reading 2008.

How can you not be inspired, like I was, reading this, to pose and consider everything remarkable about a letter? Maybe your first initial, or your last. I'm on the lookout every day for opportunities like this: to slip through an open doorway, an imaginative loophole, a slight tear in the fabric of all that right now insists. Because everything is happening at once, as it always is. Everything converging. Projects, deadlines, discoveries, presentations. It’s easy for me to just put my head down and run hard without stopping, without looking, without pausing for a handful of moments to practice doing what I love the most. And I found this to be the perfect thing to do today, mid week, now, on the seventeenth of November, with the world blue and brown and quiet with the promise of snow, amid everything else.


At the back door there are leaves that the wind’s tossed up in heaps, brown and crackling under our feet as we make a bonfire with friends, roast marshmallows and press them between crumbly graham crackers with chocolate; drink cappuccinos, and watch the children play. They take rakes with bamboo tines and heap the leaves until one or all of them are buried, laughter rising up with the sparks toward the night sky that is full of ink and diamonds; such a mess of grandeur, are the heavens above us.


The children turn on the porch lights; four boys in hats, leaves eddying up in the dark. Their shadows are eerie and huge across the grass, and then up in the sky, the waning gibbous moon, a pregnant C up there with the spilled milk of the universe, the faintest shadow of its darker side also there, barely illuminated: a C in reverse.


C: The letter that is at once the contents and the container, the balance of negative and positive space, the curve of palms, cupped, holding a bowl, and also the shape of the bowl. It is curiosity, and the top bit of a question mark in reverse. The final slight line in a pair of parenthesis, the pause of a comma, the arc of a story, a a smile turned on it’s side. It is the consonant that invokes creativity, the third letter of the alphabet, the symbol for chemical concentration, the speed of light in a vacuum, the abbreviation for carat, century, constant, cubic. It is the first note in C major, and the way my name begins.

It's your turn!

***

Take 5 minutes. See what you can write about a letter. Or share a link an image or post and I’ll be sure to take a peak.

An inventory of things found on my studio floor: by Christina Rosalie

Things found on the floor of my studio: A blue letter O; two puzzle pieces; a small rocket ship; a cardboard tile with the word COMETS on it; a very small sticker stuck to the floorboards that says "Road Closed" in black against orange; another sticker, artfully pressed into a knot in the floorboards that says "YES" in all caps; a small black wheel; a spool of turquoise thread; a solitary striped sock; a red matchbox car; 1 pacifiers; 7 hair ties; countless snippets. I can only trace the origins of the final two from that inventory. This is what happens when I work in my studio with children underfoot.

It's such good practice though, to slow down enough to take an inventory of the details around you. Try it: Can you notice five unusual things within an arms reach? What are they?

This is true: by Christina Rosalie

Listen. What you hold with your hands is everything.

Possibility.

Opportunity.

Joy.

What you hold are hold the fragile wings of something that arrives in the night and then slips away, leaving only its slight carbon footprint on your sill; or the small body of a sparrow that’s just hit the window. Or maybe you hold the runaway tug of your dog’s leash; or the runaway tug of your heart.

You might hold the hand of the one you love; or your face in your hands; the heft of your child’s body, his head thrown back with laughter; or the weight of emptiness in your palms pressed together in prayer.

What you need to know is that what you hold can be a anything. What counts is intention. What counts is reaching out. Taking hold. Accepting. Offering.

DO THIS:

Spend today taking note of your hands: of the artful way they pick up a pencil, wipe tears from a cheek, flip eggs, type, caress, create. Of how they translate the world for you; the way they’re the bridge between what’s inside your heart, and what you make of it. Of the way they feel held in another’s hand, or pressed into dough, or submerged in water. Imagine the joy you can hold; the possibility you can ask for and accept, like a boomerang tossed and received.

Start with this.

Today I hold the last of autumn’s leaves; papery now, and wind tossed; my coffee frothy and warm; scissors for cutting Sprout’s long bangs; the excitement of new possibilities; a brush dripping with aqua ink; the soft cotton of shirts, ready for folding.

What do your hands hold today?

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