Today it was Next Right Thing episode 90 & Lazy Genius #120, and both were short and sweet and said what I needed to hear.
I’m finding others’ worlds to be places of inspiration. Namely, how I interact with their world.
My neighbor’s yard is becoming a faithful muse.
Let’s pretend for a minute that you’re going to take the course “Learning to See” with me at Coastal Pines, and through the class we are going to improve your journaling and creative practice.
- What’s one thing you want to hear from me?
- What’s that thought that makes your heart beat faster when you walk down the hall to the classroom?
- What’s something you hope to gain?
- What’s one creative/journaling problem you want to solve?
(Illustration is one of my favorites, a scene from my everyday world. It's included in Analogue Issue 2: Soul Food, where we talk about Longings)
We are ready for the Soul Seasons issue? We are learning how to handle the "where am I and what's happening in my soul?" questions. We'll hear from my spiritual director, Christine LaFerrara Hiester, and a few other surprises!
For those of us who sense there’s more:
No matter our age, we can grow. We can stretch and reach. We can grasp that pen or that paintbrush, that new hobby or that online class. We can grow, learn, change in small and safe ways. Isn’t that how all growth happens? If you want to expand your comfort zone, just stretch with one small experience after another. Just tiptoe across what is safe. Reach just beyond what you know. There is life on the other side, freedom, empowerment, YOU.
Because I believe we live our best lives with eyes wide open:
We can learn to see the truth of our days by drawing our days. Right now I’m learning to shake off that “am I doing enough?” feeling, which I’m pretty sure is just a dressed up version of the “am I enough?” fear. Drawing my days helps me see what I’ve done, helps me see who I am.
And at the end, I’ve got a beautiful day behind me and a little more satisfaction and gratitude at all that’s come my way. Because it really is about the beauty, isn’t it? It really is about seeing it all clearly, knowing who we area, where we are, and where we’re going.
(inspired by the artist and illustrator Samantha Dion Baker, sdionbaker for her IG and website)
Mari Andrew has been teaching me a bit about how to blend art and words and soul. She is a writer who started daily sketch-journaling to process some deep feelings (familiar) without any real drawing background and now encourages others through her art and words. In the past few years, I've come to love the soul-reaching blend of just enough words and just enough art. It hits a level that each, alone, may not.
See also: Morgan Harper Nichols and Brian Andreas
Also: I know August is 14 days old already, but I feel like I'm just now settling in.
Downtown this morning. I’m there to slide through the library and see what Octavia Butler is all about, but it’s a bribe to get me in the studio. It’s been two months since I picked up a brush, since I smeared paint on canvas, and I need to step back in the studio to remember where I left off. Just sneak a peek, see what’s next. No need to even wear studio clothes. No pressure or expectations on my inner artist; we must walk softly lest we scare her off. But after a summer away it feels like all momentum is lost, and I unlock the door wondering if I have another painting in me.
You may think I’m being dramatic but I know you know this voice—this familiar voice that says you don’t have what it takes anymore. What is “it” for you? Going back to school? Sending off that poem? Volunteering for that organization? When I walk into the studio that voice hushes: my eyes catch the two finished coastal scapes and they are better than I remember and without thinking I know I need to keep this going. I make notes of how the form works, see specific scenes in my head. I scan the room and spread out half-painted canvases, imagining how I can convert them in this process. Before I realize it, I’m standing in the middle of my studio wondering if I should just go ahead and pick up paint and ruin the clothes I’m wearing. I’m back and I want it, so I promise myself that I will return tomorrow.
And I want to promise you something: If you practice a creative habit long enough, it becomes like riding a bike, like picking up an instrument, like breathing. It becomes a part of who you are. And I promise you that if you repeat the right circumstances and you teach your inner Pavlovian artist to create every time these specific bells ring, that when you walk into that room or pick up that brush or open that journal you will be ready. I promise you that even if it’s been two months or two years, your artist-soul has not forgotten. And your soul will immediately start the conversation, will immediately ask the questions, will immediately know what’s next. I promise you, if you build the room and walk into it, the artist that you are—that has always been in you—will show up prepared and ready to paint.
When you begin to see your questions as arrows rather than dead ends, you will always find your way.
(Contemplative journaling tip: Keep note of all your questions; designate a page for them and add as needed. Then watch for answers. They will come.)
Even in journaling, sometimes the blank page can be intimidating. What do we fill it with?
2x2 sketches were my practice for a while—like this “pre-dawn mug” series. Anne Lamott, in Bird by Bird, says she keeps a a “one inch picture frame” to help her think about how to capture just the information that can be held there. This is how she keeps her writing to “short assignments” that are less intimidating and overwhelming as long writings. I guess these 2-inch squares are the art journal version of her “short assignments” concept.
It's the annoying "here I am again" feeling. The "why do I keep doing this?" questions... Some things will only surface through patience, awareness, and a safe space. This is why I journal. And in fifteen minutes we can move from unconscious to conscious, from confusion to clarity.
When in (self)doubt, fill in the blanks—and repeat as needed:
When's the last time you took a few minutes to watch the mini-adventures of nature in your front yard? Austin Kleon talks about how revealing it can be to sit in the same place for a week and record what you see, “describing the mundane surroundings” and catching the most interesting thing you see.
A few days ago, I caught the way the early fog descends from treetop to rooftop. Last week it was the way a squirrel just couldn’t quite reach far enough to grab the new bird feeder. A few weeks ago, we watched a wasp drag a spider across the yard for three nights in a row (chilling, honestly). Sometimes it’s the way the golden-hour makes the trunks shine before falling below the horizon, or that storm rolling in from the west. There’s so much life to see, if we only slow down to notice.
(Highly recommend Kleon's 30min talk about the Steal Like an Artist Journal. Inspiring shots of others' journals will be waiting.)
These little blocks of color have kept me creatively engaged for the past six weeks. And I’m happy to say this stay-at-home season has been more productive than I thought: Squeezed in enough studio time to finish a pair of custom paintings, collected and completed Analogue Issue 5, and landed a teaching gig at our regional technical college (!!!).
To keep my inner-artist inspired, I’ve spent hours with Lynda Barry (“You have to be willing to spend time making things for no known reason.”), Maira Kalman (“A photo is true, but a painting is truer.”), and Austin Kleon (“Notebooks are a good place to have bad ideas.”). And I’m so very grateful for those who whisked the girls away for a few hours. My journal (and my soul) are better for it—and so are the girls.
School starts in two days and I can hear the canvases calling my name from across town. Fall: I’m coming for ya.
The soundtrack of my "inspiration time" - Cate le Bon's whimsical, reaching music keeps my right brain dancing. Patient but not pushy. A sort of "it's okay to not be okay" sound that feels like painting. This is what my Friday with Maira Kalman sounded like.
It's good to train your brain to get into different mindsets. We all have an inner Pavlovian dog that just needs the right whistle to hop to it. Now when I hit play, my mind anticipates new discoveries and explorations.
The sketch pages are not filler—they are chosen for what they say without (many) words. Last fall’s books held me at calling and vocation, how we are made, why we are made. You won’t find that written out in Analogue’s pages, but it’s all here in the sketch. And Analogue readers have learned to “read” these sketches as much as our words.
What are you reading these days, and why?
Or, even better: What are you sketching, and why?
Patterns, stories, intellectual, spiritual. Rob Forbes is speaking my language. Observation is everything when it comes to gathering inspiration. And the same for collecting material and inspiration for our "Learning to See" course this fall at Coastal Pines. This is how Analogue is formed; this is how I journal; this is how I navigate my personal journey.
(book recommendation via Mandy Steward)