Day 32: Snow in January

Art buds in baby roses

on the limits of my hands

reaching out for elements

until I clutch them in prayer to my lips

to save them from the crush

of closing doors.

The road ahead wavers,

horizon in the desert,

and on either side businessmen

and professionals call

the name they think is mine

with promises of things

I’m not sure I need.

And all the while

through my ribs

I hear the whisper of poetry,

sultry as red silk,

come back to bed

As the clothes fall threadbare

around my knees

and the houses get smaller,

the city streets know

the tread of my bare feet till dark.

And only then I return to four sweet walls,

remind them they are

a place to lay my head

so the words can slip into my ears

and form simple dreams.

This gentle ambition

soaked in through my pores

is growing louder than the voice

of the coward who lives in me.

And I’m beginning to trust

the questions to these answers

are already on their way,

sure as snow in January.

 

 

 

P.S. If you like, check out my Etsy store and support The Humane League!

https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/SoftSpotAccessories?ref=l2-shopheader-name

Day 10: The Work I Love

I’m writing so much these days. I absolutely adore it. After such a long personal fallow season of writing only diaries and prayers, to be making poems, overflowing with ideas – it’s such a rich time.

I’m watching the first season of Smash, a show I watched religiously when it first came out a few years ago. Seeing people working towards their dreams, following their hearts; it’s such a timeless, sweet theme. Well, most of the time.

When I saw Zootopia last year, despite thoroughly enjoying it, I couldn’t help but think: “Ugh, Disney, another wide-eyed ingenue pursuing her dream. Really?”

It can definitely be overdone and oversimplified, especially in family movies – the endless exhortation to “Follow Your Heart” can be dry and flat, and even frustrating when your passion or interests are particularly elusive. So what is it about now, about this show that makes my sentimental heart flutter against my ribs when last year I might have turned up my nose in disgust? Continue reading “Day 10: The Work I Love”

Day 1: Committing to Myself

Now, I’ve never been married, but I imagine the cocktail of excitement, passion, doubt and fear I woke up with this morning could be similar to that of the first day of a honeymoon, after the frantic bustle of a wedding has faded and the ageing relatives have been gently nudged back into their hotel rooms.

Wow, we really did this.

This is going to be so amazing!

Can I do this?

Shit this is gonna be hard sometimes.

Don’t get me wrong, I adore poetry, there’s nothing else I would have made this kind of a commitment to. And it’s going to be so great. It really is. A year from now I will have 365 poems which do not exist now. I’m going to be a better writer, and changed in ways I can’t imagine.

But still. This is a big commitment. One hour, maybe two, every day for a year. My casual, on-again off-again relationship with poetry just got real serious. It’s too overwhelming to look at the year as a whole. So for today, what do I need to do? Continue reading “Day 1: Committing to Myself”

Gathering Supplies and Making Space

I’ve set myself a challenge for the coming year: 365 poems in as many days, most of which I aim to post here with a little commentary about how it’s going.

If I’m really doing this I need to make sure all is in readiness before the sun sets on the 31st. I don’t want any obstacles to stand between me and this goal. So what do I need for this?

Supplies

  • Pens and paper
  • Inspiration
  • Time
  • Squad

Pens and Paper – my first thought when I came up with this challenge  was “Yikes, I need to go notebook shopping.” I thought I needed a book with pages tipped in gold, a ribbon bookmark, an embossed jewel-toned cover – ooh! Maybe one of those mock-pewter clasps as well. Then I took a quick recce of my room and found an almost empty school exercise book, two packs of lined paper still in the plastic, a sketchbook I’ve barely touched, and a tiny notebook I’d deemed too small to be of much use. I had to ask myself – are the fancy notebooks I always insist on necessary? Do they influence the work I produce? Or is it just to satisfy an aesthetic urge? Worse, is it another way to put off facing that empty page, where I potentially won’t have any ideas, or I’ll write something unworthy of reading?

Now there is an irreplaceable joy in purchasing a truly gorgeous notebook, bringing it home, running my fingers over the cover and then bending it open with that delicate crackling sound to the sight of that first blank page. But when I’m considering potential obstacles to my achieving this year-long challenge, I have to make sure I’m not going to be a poetry diva here. I have to confront this desire for flawless presentation for what it is: at least in part, a way of postponing creativity out of fear. I have a thousand poems in my head aching to be written, am I going to keep them at bay with a slew of lame excuses? Keep them waiting till I can make everything impossibly perfect? If what I’ve got is a piece of charcoal from the fireplace and someone else’s receipt from The Love Boutique, then that’s perfect. Just write. Get it out.

Inspiration – How am I going to make sure I don’t spend two hours a day tapping my pen against the page and slowly pulling out my hair? There have been times when I’ve had an idea for a poem come to me, felt my whole body quiver with it and had it pour out of me with very little need for editing. But let’s face it, it’s rare.

So once again, I have to sacrifice my inner diva, who is really just a coward. I can’t just lay on my chaise lounge and wait for inspiration to come a-calling. I have to put my work boots on and go find it.

Don’t know what to write? It’s snowing, write about that. My sweater’s itchy, write about that. Something distressing on the news? Write about that. I don’t get to decide when brilliance strikes. I just have to start working. And like the Sufi poets, I have to learn to see the Beloved in everything.

Time – I’m good at wasting hours. Or perhaps wasting is a harsh word. Let’s say: spending in unproductive ways. Of course it can be completely lovely sometimes to drift into carefree oblivion in front of Friends reruns or to suck on chocolates and biscuits from Christmas while contemplating what I’ll eat for lunch (when I’ve just eaten breakfast), but I also want to make something. To have something to show of my own for the day. And I get to make what I make time for. That’s why I like the goal of one poem a day. A concrete, tangible amount of work and a clear deadline. Easy to keep myself accountable.

Squad – Because I know how easily I can slip into doubt, self-criticism, and other fear-based modes of thinking, I need to make sure I have a wide and solid support system to remind me why I’m doing this. Mine includes:

  • Rumi
  • Hafiz
  • Billy Collins
  • Don McKay
  • Wendy Rose
  • rupi kaur
  • Ashley LaFramboise
  • Sarah Kay

These guys are fabulous resources for me when I start having thoughts like:

“Nobody likes poetry.”

“I don’t feel motivated.”

“What’s the point?”

They remind me of the beauty that can arise from putting your heart and soul into your creative work. They get me moving again.

Distractions

  • Fear
  • Reading
  • Fishing
  • Clutter

Fear – Call it out. Push it into the light of day. If it’s holding me back, it’s fear and it can’t survive being looked in the eye.

Reading – I’ve always been a voracious reader and it’s one of the things I love to do most. If I’m not careful I can lose days to it. It’s enjoying words and thoughts without the pressure of producing something “right.” But for a while reading has to take the back seat to writing. With fear out of the shadows, writing can be just as enjoyable as reading.

Fishing – Alright, not really fishing but you never know when family might stumble onto this. When I was at an ashram a couple of months ago, it was said that perhaps one of the reasons everyone there was so creative was because we weren’t allowed to…go fishing. This might be a little out there for some, but it was said that all that energy stayed potential inside us until we found an outlet for it, resulting in a community of writers, artists and performers. Of course, fishing is healthy and enjoyable, as well as good exercise. But at least at the outset of this challenge maybe I can’t afford to lose any creative energy. And while I don’t have a partner to go fishing with, the temptation is always there to whip out a rod and go alone which not only borrows energy but also time from my poetry. So maybe at the beginning I should stay away from fishing altogether, perhaps even for January, so I can focus my efforts more fully on other forms of self-expression. Fishing stands as a symbol here for a number of pursuits that require creative energy. Now that I’ve made a commitment to poetry for 2017, I need to take note of where that energy goes, so I can pull it away and redirect it towards poems when I feel my resolve weakening.

Clutter – I’m also planning to start an Etsy store, which will hopefully be my “main job” for the next few months, making jewelry and donating money to charity. I’ll have charge of my own schedule so I need to get very clear with goals for the day, pare down non-essentials, make my work and my creativity a priority. I’m incredibly grateful for the acres of freedom  in my days right now, and I want to put a great deal of them to delightful, creative use.

 

There. I think I’ve gathered my tools and confronted the most likely setbacks and obstacles to achieving my goal here. Fear comes in many clever disguises and it’s reassuring to prepare for its arrival. My writing has become too important to me not to take out some insurance against the thieves of fear and doubt, who threaten to come into my mind in the dead of night and steal my confidence and joy in poetry. Even the act of writing down my fears takes the steam out of them, stops them being amorphous stormy ideas and turns them into small manageable words. And writing down my supplies reminds me how much I have on my side. Tomorrow I’ve remind myself all the reasons I should take on this challenge in the first place.

Rumi’s Apprentice

So my mum got me a copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic for Christmas, for which I’m extremely grateful. And as she has before, that woman is changing my life. Liz Gilbert that is. Well, my mum too. They’re both very special people.

Anyway. From the first page her story of the poet Jack Gilbert (no relation) and his life started a familiar stirring in me, as if a small animal was pawing and fidgeting in the pit of my stomach: you should be writing poetry.

It was a familiar sensation, usually brought on by reading poetry, talking to a friend who is writing poetry, sometimes even just hearing the word. Although I adore all writing, verse is always the medium that has appealed to me as the most pure, ethereal, beautiful, with no purpose other than to give voice to something inside the human spirit.

I felt the itch and rushed to my room to seize a notebook, where I wrote:

What makes my heart sing?

What would I do if I could do anything in the world?

What do I love more than myself?

The answer came back clear, unapologetic, almost a command:

Spiritual poetry

I’ve loved writing poetry since I was about eight or nine. I’ve been fascinated by spirituality since I was fourteen. It’s fairly recently that I’ve allowed myself to get to know their ruddy-faced, twinkly-eyed love child – spiritual poetry.

I wrote some devotional poems while I was staying at an ashram a couple of months ago and completely loved doing it. It was such a fantastic marriage of my love of creativity and my love of Spirit. When I started this blog my original title for it was Rumi’s Apprentice. But Liz’s book reminded me that despite my passion and my intention, I’ve written…maybe two poems in the last month. Two drafts of poems, that is . And with this rare opportunity I have right now of so much time on my hands, if I claim to love this art, then I need to dedicate some time, work, and devotion to it. I need to prove my love. I added a line to my notebook:

Challenge for 2017 – Write a poem every day for a year. Blog about it.

This is my new intention. One of several new projects I’m dedicating my self towards. I will write one poem (probably spiritual in nature) every day, most likely post them here and comment on my progress. Maybe it seems reckless to declare this goal considering I just had this idea a few hours ago, but it feels right. Making time for poetry always feels right to me so despite the doubts I still feel this a doable, good idea for me. It’s of course possible I won’t last a full year, but I’m excited about trying. I’m excited to see what happens and I don’t want to get too caught up in the ideas of success or failure.

So when the New Year begins so will my personal challenge. I will spend the next few days gearing up for it. I can hardly wait.

When Doubt Threatens Creativity

Ever doubt yourself? Ever had an idea you were so excited for, so confident about, that overtook your thoughts to the point that you had to put all else aside to work on it right then and there. THIS has to happen. I NEED to bring this into the world. 

If so, I’m sure you know that feeling a few days or a few weeks or a few months later, when the doubt creeps in:

“Maybe this idea isn’t so hot.”

“I’ll never follow it through.”

“No one will like it.”

“I’ve always failed in the past; why should this work?”

Your beloved idea, that you tell yourself you’ll come back to tomorrow when you feel more motivated, ends up tucked away in a corner or a file on your laptop, gathering dust, before it even had a chance to try its sea legs.

I’m in the stage of creeping doubt right now. An idea seemed to walk straight into my head the other day. I wanted to make things, maybe knit or bead, and sell them online, donating half of the profits to an animal charity. I love crafting, and I’m passionate about animals. It seemed the perfect way to do some service, have some fun and make a few bucks during this transitional period. I was going to call it “Pigs in Blankets” and saw visions of an Etsy store filled with legwarmers, gloves, blankets, scarves, you name it. I was texting my friends about my new business, making my poor mum drag out all her knitting gear, and looking up when Michaels’ might have a sale on yarn.

Over the next day or so I’d calmed down a little, realized blankets and legwarmers would take far too long to make, and keeping only half the profits wouldn’t nearly cover my time and materials. Jewellery was more like it, and donating a third of the profits was doable if I managed it right. So I tried out several patterns for knitted bracelets till I found one I could make easily and quickly, and that I liked the look of.

Once I found it, I was off, and I’ve spent the last two days knitting and sewing together bands, looking up charities, and trying out different beads and buttons I can finish them with.

Then came the doubt, disguised as that realistic friend who claims they’re just doing what’s best for me, but always seems to stop me moving forward and keeps me small.

“These are dorky.”

“You’re literally the only person on the planet who would wear these.”

“You’re not even good at it.”

“Look at this woman. She donates 100% of her profits to charity.”

“Who are you to do this?”

I scrambled to find something else I could make, a cooler bracelet, a stuffed animal, anything. I started wondering what had possessed me to think any of this was a good idea, who would support me in it, what I’d do when it failed?

That stopped me. Fortunately I had that split second of mindfulness to say: when it failed? I haven’t even started. What have I let get so far under my skin that it’s got me ready to quit something I enjoy, a product I like, for a cause I really believe in? And not just quit, abandon before it ever gets under way.

If you’re familiar with the work of Brené Brown, I was standing at the door of the arena when the whispers tried to pull me back and stop me from showing up.

Because at the root of all those reasons I should stop is the same thing: fear. Fear of judgement, of failure, of not having the skills, of being compared to others. Fear of not doing or being enough that is ready to swallow me whole and prevent me from doing anything at all. Thank God I recognized it long enough to step away and immediately write this post.

I don’t want fear to prevent me from showing up, especially for something I feel so strongly about. Even if it’s dorky, even if everyone hates it, even if it’s an epic failure and I end up back at square one. At least I’ll have tried. At least I’ll have brought something into the world that wasn’t here before.

At least I’ll have dared to show up.