Tag Archives: writing

“I Feel So Alone, I Need to be Alone,” Isolation and the Artist’s Journey

The primary distinction of the artist is that he must actively cultivate that state which most men, necessarily, must avoid: the state of being alone.

(James Baldwin)

It’s so difficult to get into–and out of your art. I’ve devised an elaborate list of avoidance tactics–and yet I resent the hell out of anyone to interrupts me once I’m in my zen-creating state. I can get downright nasty if you interrupt me in what feels like a mid-genius moment. This push-pull is the life of a writer, the norm for any artist. 

Creativity of any kind means spending a lot of time with yourself. In your head, in your work, in your office or studio. It’s quiet. It’s methodical at times. It’s alone. Most writers and artists I know crave that alone time. We vacillate between wanting to get together with other artists and friends and have a beer, hang out, unwind and just talk, and then all that gets on our last nerve and we ache to get back to “our work.” 

Artists and writers run the gambit from being introverts to extroverts. Some of us a gregarious, others are downright anti-social for the most part. We’re torn between our need to connect, to get out of our heads, to love and be loved–the the ever present drive and hunger to create. 

I’m a Gemini,and if you get into such stuff, it means I live in ambiguity. In some ways (for my art) I wish I were less social. I have a wide net of writer and artist friends as well as an amazing collection of family and friends. I’m glad I have them. They keep me from being too weird, and yet I think my art, my writing suffers at times. I need walls in order Imageto create. 

This photo is the garden at Hotel Dieu, in Arles, France–where Vincent Van Gogh was taken after his “ear incident.” 

I have a hard time jumping worlds. When I’m creating I want to stay there, in that bubble and not be interrupted–for weeks sometimes. When I’m enjoying a glass of wine, a round table of great conversation, laughter, good food, travel, it’s hard to step over that invisible line and go into the quiet. 

To our loved ones, it must feel like we have an invisible lover. The worst kind. You can’t go all crazy, pull a gun and threaten their life if they ever come near you and yours again. Art and the need to create crawls in the bed with you, settles in between the sheets, and draws on the minds and hearts of the creator in a dizzy, heady, sensual lure that few lovers could ever maintain. 

And yet there’s nothing like it. The buzz that comes with a new idea. The hum that sings as a story or a painting takes shape. Even the agony is ecstasy. I love it when I hate it. I long to get back to it more than I longed to take a break. 

For me, art equals meaning. It gives me a purpose, and that’s great but it can wear on me. It can leave me wondering who I am if I’m not writing. It’s hard to remember that rest and play and space between the words, between the stories is crucial–to me and to my work. 

I don’t know if others feel this torn, do you? 

What we do is a solitary endeavour – a distillation of our own mind, of our own talent, of our own feelings, and a ripping open of the gut to bear the fruit of our ‘art womb.’

(Treza Bordinat Ager)

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The Science of Play

Play is our brain’s favorite way of learning.

Diane Ackerman

If you mention you’re going to play people tend to think you’re going to sign up for softball, push a kid on a playground swing, or join in a shuffleboard match.  We’re so serious we exercise like it’s a board meeting–no smiles, no silliness allowed. Yet there is a science that backs play. Play is practice for dealing with the future or the unexpected and teaches us how to adapt  (like a kid playing house, or fake battles) Play allows us to explore possibilities without committing to just one.  Play frees our brain. You can’t be in full play mode and worry, plot, or analyze. Play absorbs the body and the mind.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, play is my word of the year. I’m studying play but more importantly, I’m playing. You can’t (0r shouldn’t) be too serious about play. It would defeat the purpose. I’m also collecting play items: balls, kaleidoscopes, bubble paraphernalia, kazoos, silly hats–figuring out what attracts me and how exactly I like to play. My plan is to then draw a correlation between the way I play and the way I create. I guess I’m my own lab rat. I want to see if I can increase my creativity, my joy, my health and outlook by play–but I don’t want it to be that linear. I don’t want demand play to perform for me like a trained elephant that has no choice but to join my circus.

All of us have a history of play. How we play, who we play with, what we consider the best kind of play, what play doesn’t interest us, whether we’re “team” players or would rather putz and play on our own. Some of us play by building, others by imagining/role play. How we played as a child greatly determines how we play as an adult. Our bodies hold memories of play.

Dr. Stuart Brown,  co-author of  Play — How it Shapes Our Brains, Opens the Imagination, and Shapes the Soul, is also the  founder of the National Institute for Play  explains the science behind play:

“The evidence is broad. It starts objectively by watching animals at play and seeing what it does for them — it improves their performance, immune system, their capacity to remember things. And if you follow that through to a human system, those same benefits appear to us — particularly in fertile imagination, in a sense of optimism, in capacity to persevere and to do things that you enjoy — are all by-products of play. And if you then hook someone up to a brain imaging machine you’ll find out that when they’re at play, the brain lights up more from that than virtually anything else they can do.”

When it comes to being (and staying) a creative person, whether your creativity is expressed in writing, visual art, the performing arts, inventions, or even in the sciences, society isn’t likely to encourage you to play at work. You have to know and believe how crucial play is for yourself. You have to carve out (and guard) your play time. You have to incorporate an element of play into your work. That means to stop analyzing and start exploring. That means to figure out how you get into the flow where you brain and body are on the same wave length (literally). That means imagining, saying “what if,” turning your idea inside out and upside down. That means going for a walk, or a skip, or turning on some music and dancing, even at the office. That means honoring that play is ironically, serious and necessary “work” and crucial to your process.

When I’m writing I often have to stop and go for a walk. I take my characters with me. I talk in their voice (out loud). I argue with them, ask them what they’d never do and then I make them do it (the human contradiction), I play with my basket of balls (some spiky, some gushy) while I’m bouncing on my exercise ball. There’s something about all that roundness that makes me think. And sometimes I take a nap. Play is exhausting and often asks for its complement: rest. Some problems can only be solved by the subconscious. by not forcing the solution.

How do you play?

Does play spark your creative process?


Think back at ages 4-6–what did you like to play? (include organized sports, what you played with your siblings or parents, what you played alone, classes and free play)

Ages 7-10?

Ages 11-14?

Ages 15-20?

How have you played as an adult? (Classes, workouts, free-time, etc.)

Name those who have been your best play buddies (throughout all the time periods).

Fill in this blanks:  If I had all the time and money in the world I’d play by _______________.

The most playful person I know today is ___________________.

I play the longest when I’m ___________.

I’ve never sculpted a bust before, so the only way I know how to enter new territory is play–commit to nothing. Explore, ditch, and start again.


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My Word of the Year: Play

You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.

I always  choose a word of the year. It’s much better than a bunch of broken resolutions, and I’ve found it’s a barometer of sorts, a way to gauge how true to course I am throughout the year. I had decided on “play” as my word for 2012 back in December. I’m studying several books on creativity (risking, playing, thus the title of the blog) and I’m finding that for our minds and our souls, play is vital.

Then, my brother died. Unexpected. Heartbreaking. I grieved. My family grieved. We reeled and wailed against the incomprehensible thought that my brother was gone. He’s not, but his physical presence is a void in our lives. It took (and is taking) some time to walk through the early side of loss and acceptance, and for a time, I felt as if the concept of play far away or somehow inappropriate. To play, you have to have a light heart, and that was something I just didn’t have.

But I had already named my word for the year. I had already begun to attract and create play. I had already signed up for the gym and for Zumba classes, and I started going. At first I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I was literally spinning in circles and almost knocking me and everybody else down. But I loved the music. I love the movements. Seventy percent of Zumba music has to be international, so there’s African music and Indian (from India) music, and lots and lots of Latin music. My hips were attempting things it didn’t know how to do…

Finally, it started making sense, and then the other day I’m grapevining across the floor and turning and booty shaking, and I’m smiling. I’m doing all this and I have the biggest goofiest grin on my face. I’m so happy I’m almost levitating. Sweat is pouring off me and I don’t look at the clock because I don’t want the hour to end. Some days I go twice. And on that day when I’m booty pumping and yelling a “whoo-whoo” I realize that what this feels like is kindergarten.

In kindergarten I learned to skip. We’d line up and take turns and I practiced and practiced until I was the best skipper in the room. I loved how it felt to be suspended in air. I loved the lilt and sway. I loved that I felt light and easy. It felt like play.

In that Zumba class it hit me–Zumba feels like skipping and skipping feels like play. Zumba feels like play. I’m playing.

And when I’m playing I’m not making lists. I’m not scheming. I’m not incessantly checking my email. I’m not people pleasing. I’m just playing.

In some ways, I think I’m getting out of my own way. Good things are happening. Things are in motion. It won’t do any good to fret about it or check on it 50 million times. .Whether it’s about writing, publishing, art, or family, I tend to obsess (who doesn’t?) Playing allows my brain to stop over-analyzing and places it in that zen-state where it can work out problems, create, and generally muck about without my telling it what to do.

I don’t know where this word, play, will take me this year. But it feels right.

The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.
Carl Jung

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Writer, Artist, What Will Success Do To You?

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”

Marianne Williamson

People worry that success/achievement (publishing a book, getting a record contract, landing a major art show) will change them. It will, but like all new adventures–there’s a learning curve.

My dog, Rupert has a new toy–a bright blue knobby ball. He loves it so much that he takes it everywhere–under the table when we eat, into the bathroom when I take a bath (something he’s done since he was a puppy–I cup my hands and he drinks water from the tub), and on his pillow when he sleeps. He’s not interested in going outside or playing with any other toy. He doesn’t even want to eat and he worries about Kizzy, his mom, taking it. He worries so much he’s miserable. He’s exhausted. His new ball is his world.

Sometimes success is like a knobby blue ball. It consumes us. We are so afraid it will be taken from us that we don’t enjoy anything else. We think we’ve gained so much and we don’t recognize what we’ve lost.

Does that mean it’s wrong to want success? Should we stay right where we are so we won’t risk hurting those we love, making blunders, getting a possible big head for a time, or facing what’s to come after the bright shining moment passes?

No. I don’t think we should hide from our art, our creativity, dare I say it–our greatness.

We are going to make mistakes–take it too far, become obsessed, protect it, hoard it, hide it, act like a buffoon, but like all new challenges, given enough time and experience and we’ll learn from these changes and we’ll adjust.

I experienced the blue-ball syndrome when my book, Mothering Mother first came out. I checked my Amazon ranking hourly, and yes, I even got up in the middle of the night to check it. I wouldn’t turn down a speaking engagement even if I had not been home to enjoy a quiet weekend with my family in ages (sorry guys).  I read reviews like they were a cancer diagnosis, zeroing in on any less than gushing remarks and arguing (muttering in the car, in my sleep) with this unknown critic.

I made lots of mistakes. Some were doozies. Success makes us vulnerable.

I also had a lot of fun. I celebrated. I sucked the marrow out of the bone.

I met hundreds if not thousands of new folks. I listened to their family issues and I really listened and cared about what they were going through. I poured myself into my book, its marketing, and sharing my message. Eventually, life returned to normal/quiet/easy and for a time I just wanted to do it all again. I was like a kid who had just gotten off the most amazing Ferris wheel and all I wanted to do more than anything was to go again.

They call it a high because it’s well, high.

Finally, I was able to see this first (hopefully) brush with publishing and success as part of a whole–from the seed of an idea, to the creating and writing, researching and revising, and then the rush of getting an agent, signing a contract, working with a publishing house, the marketing of the book, meeting my readers, sharing my message and being a part of theirs. This cycle, like the seasons must be allowed to run its course. Birth, life, death…that’s what we do, even in our art.

I now realize that there’s a sort of false pride that can come with refusing or denying our own potential. We wear it like a badge, but in reality we do ourselves and all those around us a great disservice. We live off each other’s dreams just as much as we live in our own. Every success offers the world a seed of hope.

I figure I’ve already learned how to fail, and I’m learning every day how to fail better–but I’m also growing less afraid of succeeding.Somebody’s gotta do it, so why not me–or you? There’s plenty of magic to go around. I figure I might as well accept all the lessons and all of the cycles of what it’s like to create, to achieve.

My new mantra: Arms wide open.

“We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” 
― Marianne WilliamsonA Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of a Course in Miracles

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Writers, Artists, Are You Creating Momentum?

So much about art and writing is a game of hurry up and wait.  There are lulls and pauses in the creative process and all this stopping and starting can be a challenge. So how do you create and sustain momentum? Why is momentum important?

The roots of momentum is (of course) Latin and means “moving power.”

It’s a  measure of the motion of a body equal to the product of its mass and velocity–thanks Webster.com.

Momentum is also a physics term:

A measure of the motion of a body equal to the product of its mass and velocity.

momentum = mass x velocity

How does all that correlate to creativity?

Quite easily. We come up with an idea (that’s what creating is–first in the mind)–and that’s mass. Then we have to do something with those thoughts–write, paint, sculpt–and that’s our velocity or power.

Or, you can look at it this way: we create (mass) and then we have to put it out in the world (aka market) and that’s where we need velocity.

(If I’m impressing you with my math/physics genius then trust me, it stops here).

I know as an artist when I have momentum and when I don’t.

That makes me think of another word–the doldrums–which is actually a place on a map. It’s the place where the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean come together–and it’s a place sailors dread because when there’s no wind  it’s completely dead. That’s the doldrums. I’ve been there, creatively and otherwise.

Usually, my creative doldrums are because I’m in a place of doubt, or I’m perplexed as to how to get to the next place my art needs to be. I feel stymied, paralyzed, and it’s not that I don’t want to “do the work,” I just don’t know how.

The whole publishing cycle can shut down a creative soul. You can get so wrapped up in waiting to hear about your last book that you don’t latch on to your next spark of an idea.

How do we create our own momentum?

Momentum in art comes in two main forms.

Momentum is birthed from discipline. 

Boring word, discipline, but it’s what separates the creative wimps from the creative iron men, so to speak. When you finally take the leap and claim that you are an artist then you have to stop playing around with only doing art whenever you feel like it. That muse excuse is old.

Creativity coach Eric Maisel and other artists attest to getting up and going to your art–first thing in the morning–and committing to a word count (Eric says 1000 words a day), or a time period where you show up for the art–and whether inspiration or momentum occurs or not, you’re there on a consistent basis.

I believe that momentum invites vulnerability and authenticity. Why? Because you don’t have time to fake it when you’re truly in the vortex of momentum. You aren’t posturing, thinking about how you’ll look or what others will think–you’re in a pure state that doesn’t need these pretenses.

Momentum, like opportunity, is a wave that builds–so be ready, grab your board and ride it all the way to the shore.

When momentum does grace your shores, then ride that baby. Get up early, stay up late, drink more coffee and keep working through the backaches and ignore the interruptions.

Why? Momentum is pure magic, and once you’ve got it don’t you dare let go.

Why? Not out of fear that it won’t come again, (who knows when it will), but because it’s a life force and an amazing high. Momentum is precious and can be rare and once you’ve experienced it, well damn, it’s right up there with crazy-wonderful sex and butter brickle ice cream. Sometimes you just have to go all the way.

Momentum isn’t an either-or, it’s an and. 

Invite momentum by showing up at the page or in front of the canvas every day. Show creativity you’re serious.

And then, when you feel a surge in your soul, dive deep, balance as best you can, and let out a “WOWEE! –cause you just caught the magic wave.

Enthusiasm is the energy and force that builds literal momentum of the human soul and mind.
Bryant H. McGill



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Writing, Rejection and Celebration: Why I’m Enjoying Champagne on a Monday Afternoon

I dropped by to visit a friend. She had received a rather stinging rejection last week and I thought she could use a writer bud to commiserate with. “I even bought champagne for when I get a contract,” she said, her fingers curled around the frig door handle. “Let’s drink it,” I suggested. “It’s time to stop waiting for the world to celebrate us!” I’ve learned that rejection comes with risk and risk comes with opportunity. I wish I knew another way but I don’t.

We sat in camp chairs in her driveway, our cell phones in one drink pocket, our mini  bottles of champagne in the other. Korbel Brut Blush. Cold and pink and oh so bubbly. I swear, champagne tastes like celebration–a synethesia of confetti and horns and new opportunities. And today, it was pared with rejection.

We didn’t talk about it. Didn’t need to. We’ve both received our fair share of “Sorry, but it’s not for us.” We watched migrating egrets and terns, rosette spoonbills and herons gather on the shore of a nearby lake. We sat and drank. Nothing like two women in camis and sweatpants sipping on the bubbly at two in the afternoon, but who cares? I’ve always been a front yard sitter–it’s the Southern way of life.

“I don’t know what to do next,” she said.

“Revise–submit, you’ll know, give it time.”

I hate that I sound like I know what the hell either of us should do.

“Sometimes I just want to give up, you know?”

‘I know.”

“But I really love this story–I really think it’s supposed to be–out there.”

“I know.”

We finished our champagne.

 I ate some peanuts and waited for the buzz to slide. They say the perfect complement to champagne is potato chips, but we didn’t have any. We hugged and as I drove home I thought about what it took for her to pop that cork. We drank that champagne in spite of or because of rejection–didn’t matter which.

We toasted to our own courage. To risk. Salute!

I’ve learned that I can’t control what the publisher wants to buy. I can’t always figure out what’s right–or not so right about my story. But I do know that I’m a storyteller, so it’s my job to figure it out.  I have to write and rewrite until something reverberates in my bones. My next job is to shove it through the diner window and yell, “Grub’s ready–come and get it!” Where it gets delivered, that’s not my job–I’m just the cook.

I brought my mini champagne bottle home today–and cut a rose from my garden. A Jacob’s Coat rose, all deep red at the center fading to yellow then orange then gold. graces my window ledge and remind me to celebrate.

Every chance I get.

Even the knowledge of my own fallibility cannot keep me from
making mistakes. Only when I fall do I get up again.

Vincent Van Gogh

~Carol O’Dell


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Art, Writing, Creativity and Scientific Validation of the Power of Intention

Every painting, every novel starts with an intention. Inspiration lights up our brain–an idea, a spark, a melody, a character…and we’re off. This power of intention now has scientific backing. Medical breakthroughs allow us to bypass paralyzed limbs and short-circuited spinal cords and help people communicate via computer or use bionic limbs that enables wheelchair bound folks to walk again–all through the power of what they intend.

How does it work?

Before we reach for that coffee cup or lift one foot to climb the stairs we make an intention. We decide–to flinch away from the candle flame, to extend our arms in a hug–our brain can do this in a nanosecond, almost as an involuntary response to pain or fear, or it can be very deliberate–as in drawing a line or conducting an orchestra. First comes the idea and the intention, then comes the movement.

The next step in bionics

Photo: CBS Sunday Morning Show: The Next Step in Bionics

It’s the same with our art. We get an idea for our next novel, we ask, “what if?” We get an inkling of the place, the crisis that is to come–all before we ever type one word.

Wayne Dyer should be smiling about now. He’s been talking about intention for years–and even wrote a book about it: The Power of Intention.  He’s not the only one–everyone wise one, shaman, guru, minister has their own language–ask and ye shall receive, name it and claim it, visualization, law of attraction, many of these messages all come from the same kernal of truth–that the mind and spirit has a powerful effect on the physical world. Turns out they were on to something and science is just catching up to speed.

And while all of this feels like something that should be in the sequel of Push (love that movie), it’s not outside our own grasp. Artists have long tried to explain where or how their inspiration comes. It often sounds quite woo-woo and magical, which I happen to love, but woo-woo rhymes with poo-poo, which is what we get when we start talking about our sparks of insight, dreams and visions, and tingly sensations we often get when creativity bursts into life.

Some people like JK Rowling knew Harry Potter’s fate from the moment she intended to write the first sentence–she “saw” (felt it might be more accuarate) it all at once. Other times, our visions roll in like a fog bank, lifting slowly, revealing more and more over time.

Intention, Dyer reminds us isn’t just about wanting something. It’s about allowing–making room for possibilities. Intention is in essence, about connection. I take this concept to my art–forcing it to deliver or pay up isn’t the way I want to approach my artistic journey. If I do that, my ego is driving the car.

I don’t always know the direction it will take, whether something has mega-buck potential, and I don’t want to know. Being inspired means being “in spirit,” and that’s pretty cool.

Exploration allows for all I don’t know.

Dyer further explores the concept of giving without expectations by quoting the great poet Hafiz: “Even after all this time, the sun never says to the earth ‘you owe me.’” Dyer finishes his thought, “Just think of what a love like that can do. It lights up the whole world.”

Sunrise and the Power of Intention

Science is just now tapping into what the brain can do–and I’m pretty jazzed about living long enough to witness this breakthrough. On the home front, I’m pretty jazzed at what I can might be able to accomplish and create with the time I have left on this earth, too.


How is the intention to create art different than the intention to complete art?

Which is harder for you–the early stages of creating (the first page, the first lines of a painting or song? Or is it harder to go that last minute, polish and submit?)

Carol O’Dell



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Creativity and Writing and The Art of Doing Nothing

Never clearing our schedules is like never emptying the sink trap–your life starts to stink after a while (based on a quote my Martha Beck). We tend to believe that busy equals important. Being authentic and being creative means not always being busy. Yet most of us (self-included, most days) act afriad to sit still–to be quiet.

Maybe it’s our upbringing–idle hands are the devil’s workshop kind of thing. Most parents think that if their kids are busy they won’t get into trouble (they’ll get ulcers instead). I like to ask in my writer’s groups what they did on a lazy Sunday afternoon when their parents were napping and they couldn’t leave their house or yard unless by foot–what were they drawn to?  (Before video games and cable with a thousand channels) Drawing? Writing sappy poetry? Building a tree fort or baking cookies?

Our true selves are somewhere beyond boredom.

I like to spend most Sunday afternoons doing nothing. Putzing. Napping. Wandering around the yard, watching the birds migrate. Watching the sun sink below the horizon.

This no-thing time wipes my “Beautiful Mind,” a million jumbled OCD thoughts and images clean. I stare. I lay on the couch and then lay on the hammock. I snap a photo of the birds. I trim back the rose bushes and abandon the shears and my half-finished job and take a mid-day bath.

Why not? It’s Sunday. No day.

I get frazzled if I don’t do this at least a couple of times a month. Does it better my art and writing? I think so, but I have no inclination to analyze it. Maybe the half a Mary Oliver poem I read in the hammock at sunset before dozing off sparked a memory that will turn into a prize winning short story, I’m not sure. I don’t care. If it feeds my creativity and writing, then I’m grateful, but doing nothing loses something if I pimp it out to force it to feed my art.

Blank is blank. Empty is empty. And that alone, is Divine.




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Commitment and Art: Do You Have What It Takes?

A few years back I attended a talk by the then editor of the lit journal River Styx who said (paraphrased) that publishing was more about being the last man standing than about being uber-talented. It’s inevitable that we’ll grow as an artist when we combine time with a committment to our own creative process–and (no guarantees, mind you) someone will eventually take notice. I took a satisfied breath. Pit bull determination, that’s me.

I’ve heard other writer friends say that is they don’t get their novel published in three years they’ve giving up. I want to blurt out, “Give up now–stop hogging the creative juices and go do something, anything else!” I guess I sound a tad volatile because I know just how hard it is to make it as a writer and an artist. I know about rejections  and when you don’t even get a rejection–you get ignored. I know about blocks and burn out, fear and doubt. I don’t have a famous author uncle who can introduce me to the big guys in New York. Hell, I don’t even have an MFA (yet, but who knows). But I do have grit.

I can thank my mother for teaching me committment. I took twelve years of (forced) piano lessons. I competed nationally as a classical pianist. I practiced the same piece again and again and again. I created my own regimen. Seven times in a row–seven times a day. If I flubbed I started over. I stared at the same art hanging over the piano the entire twelve years and what she didn’t know or notice was that the art took hold. This grueling schedule taught me to dig deep, be patient and refuse to give up.

Trust me, I have every desire and well laid plan to continue being published, but I decided somewhere along the line that creating wasn’t an option for me–not any more than breathing is. Writing and painting are now an intrinsic part of who I am. I didn’t have arms I’d write in my head. If I could bite a paint brush and draw on a wall, I’d do it. Obsessed, compelled, whatever you want to call it, I’m your crazy-cakes.

Why? Because when I’m writing, when I’m holding a brush, the world falls away. Time slows and then ceases, my cells realign, my heart rocks in my chest and every thing in me is emptied and filled all at the same time. Creating is the closest thing to the Sublime, to eternity. This I know.

I’m learning to eek out this joy by enjoying the creative process to the max. I read and travel with my art in mind. I photograph, cook, and rent movies on the subjects that intrigue me. It’s like my own Master’s program. I explore history and science, theology and philosophy–all from the perspective of my work. I’m building my own body of focused studies.

Look, I know that I have zero control over whether I’ll be published or eventually have my work displayed in a gallery. All I can do is create it and put it out there. That’s my job–to offer it to the world and to make sure it’s “what I mean to say.”

Past that, it’s part talent, part luck, big part crap shoot.

But when I leave this world I’ll have left a piece of me on this earth. Big or small audience, who knows, but I’ll have learned a few things, made a few friends, and had a helluva ride.

So I guess what I’m saying is that I choose to be the last (wo) man standing.



Where (or who) did you learn committment from?

What keeps you going when others want to bail?


Photo: Me working on a sculpture I’ve yet to bronze.

Anyone know a place I can send off my cast and they do the rest?



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When Art and Science Intersect–Van Gogh’s Starry Night Explored

Artists are often considered right-brained creatures with shriveled up, lopsided left hemispheres. We’re usually not accountants or physicists, and yet more and more we are discovering that our art is embedded with scientific and mathematical principles. Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Nights shows evidence of the science of turbulence  in the curls and whirls of his much-loved stars.

 A team of physicists, led by José Luis Aragón and Gerardo Naumis of the Autonomous University of Mexico, have discovered that this emotionally appealing painting adheres to  the same physical laws as turbulent fluids found in nature.

What is turbulence? You know it better than you think. It’s the curl of smoke, the way water eddies around a stone in a river, the stir of cream into your coffee, the building of a wave and the swirl of the Milky Way galaxy. This branch of mathematics was established by Andrey Nikolaevich Kolmogorov, a Russian mathematician in 1940 –50 years after Vincent’s death.

Creative types  intuitively incorporate sound scientific elements such as physics into our work–without even realizing it.

Why does this matter to us creative types? It validates our work. It helps us take ourselves seriously. It makes us part of a larger conversation. We don’t have to cower or avoid intellectual gatherings or act like what we do is fluff. It matters, therefore we matter.

For me, it boils down to respect. I’ve got to learn to  respect what I do and who I am. I’m no Van Gogh, but I recognize the patterns of nature in my writings and in my paintings.

I often wonder how the world would be if we hadn’t lost Vincent at the age of 37. If his art was validated. If he had lived long enough to see it sell, to hear it discussed, examined, and valued. What would Vincent accomplish if he had another 50 years on this earth?

Another reason the science of art is important is that it shows that artists have an  instinctive ability to tap into nature and scientific principles and then to reinterpret these structures in ways that are not only visually pleasing but speak to our higher selves and offer insights into who we are, what attracts us, and how we take the world around us and turn it into art.

“Art sometimes precedes scientific analysis,” says Naumis, one of the physicists on the project says. ” This isn’t the first connection noticed by scientists. Tilings and fractals are evident in Jackson Pollack’s work.

I can only speak for myself but I find that I fall into a type of trance when I’m deep into the creative process. I can’t quite explain what happens. Whether I’m painting or sculpting or writing–I look up–and hours have passed. When I come out of it I have to acclimate myself back into my surroundings. Bodily needs have been put into stasis. I haven’t had a blood pressure cuff strapped to my arm but I know that my heart rate has lowered and my breathing has changed. This level of deep concentration and observation isn’t something I could force myself to achieve. It just happens as I fall deeper and deeper in the world of my creation.

I can’t help but believe that that’s the zen space is where all you feel and sense and know about nature, about life and death and eternity, about sorrow and loss, sweetness and longing, it’s in this space when you tap into something beyond what you alone can contrive–and all the universe whispers its secrets.

“For my part I know nothing with any certainty but the sight of stars makes me dream.”

Vincent Van Gogh


What are the recurring themes in your art or writng?

What forms of nature are you naturally drawn to–and are they embedded in your art?

What artist/writer do you have an affinity with–and  have you recognized any connections between your work and this artist’s/writer’s work?


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