Category Archives: creativity interviews

Creativity Interview with Salena Godden – Poet, Performer & Writer

SalenaSatya writes: For years I’d heard Salena’s name around and about the poetry scene, and then somehow we met online and made friends… We’ve yet to meet in real life but I have a feeling we’d get on just fine. I’m very happy to welcome Salena to our series of creativity interviews today.

Welcome, Salena. What drives your creative work?

Like many poets and artists my work comes from observations of human nature, of noticing the small things, of seeking the humour and the tenderness in the world.

Also like many I’m driven by a need to share and to be heard, to be read, but above all a drive to finish what I feel was started a long time ago, back when I wrote my first ever ABC.

What would you say to yourself if you could go back in time and meet yourself at the beginning of your creative career?

Never, never give up.

How do you keep creating when things get difficult?

There are many rules to writing and keeping the creative dough rising, the most efficient way to stay creative is to switch off electronic goods, unplug all phones, go into your cave, grow a beard, eat dry cereals from the box for dinner,

you are the last person on earth that can do THIS the way you do it, so do it, act like you will have nothing to do with another human being, ever again, before you know it, you are speaking fluent house fly

and the flies will tell you to quit but you keep going, the mice will laugh at you, but you still keep going, in spite of the sense of futility and the fear of failure and the fear of success and all those obstacles,

the obstacles are good, they are like the side of a swimming pool, something to kick, push from, its important to remember we never climb a well from the middle, its even more important to make a routine and stick to it, get up when

the moon is setting and go to bed when the sun is setting, write in the moonstone coloured silence of watching the first light of every day and do nothing but work at it and do it and do it and get it wrong and get it right and get that bit

wrong too, but don’t go baking bread or defrosting your freezer, don’t clean your teeth or look in any mirrors, not until it is done and finished, then slam the door on it, walk out into the pouring rain, barefoot, in your underwear, stand in

the middle of the road, tip your head back, with black rain falling into your eyes, scream up at the stars, whhhhhy, and with that glorious scream the answer will be because you told yourself you could.

How does your creative work affect the rest of your life?

I am afraid there isn’t much ‘rest of life’ – writing, hustling, performing, larking about with microphones and music – kinda always was my life, which became my work, which is my job, which has a large element of play.

What is it like to send your work out into the world?

Exciting sometimes and scary sometimes – We are not ever what we intend to do or say, we are what we already did or said intentionally.

What was the best advice anyone gave to you?

I love this “Smell the roses on the way along, hold on tightly when you are strong, and when you have to let go gently.”

The best advice people give me is to be myself and be true to that voice

What helps you to pay attention to the world?

Colour. Light. Laughter. Warmth. Music. Change.

Somedays i want the word for everything, the right word, the best word.

Other times i enjoy colour, noticing exact tones or shades of colours, of sunsets and distant fields, oceans and peoples eyes…

Lately its been my ears, i have been listening keenly, recording and experimenting with music and sounds.

*

Bio: I write and perform poetry, short-stories, memoir, radio drama and lyrics. My most recent book of poems, Under the Pier, was published by Nasty Little Press in 2011. I have written a literary memoir titled ‘Springfield Road’ it is signed to Unbound crowd funded books. I’m known as The General of The Book Club Boutique, host and producer of London’s louchest literary salon. I’ve appeared on radio as a guest on Woman’s Hour, The Verb and Saturday Live and most recently wrote and presented a documentary, Stir it Up! – 50 Years of Writing Jamaica for BBC Radio 4. I have been variously described as ‘The doyenne of the spoken word scene’ (Ian McMillan, BBC Radio 3’s The Verb); ‘The Mae West madam of the salon’ (The Sunday Times) and as ‘everything the Daily Mail is terrified of’ (Kerrang! Magazine)

“Honest, grippingly readable, funny and uplifting, (Springfield Road) is the pilgrims progress of a brave young woman into adulthood, poetry and music.” Maggie Gee OBE

‘Springfield Road’ by Salena Godden is here.
Please help us publish this book and pledge your support at Unbound – crowd funded publishing.

Creativity Interview with Roger Housden, writer.

Soundstrue coverKaspa writes: It’s my great pleasure to welcome Roger Housden to our Creativity Interview series. I’m sure that I don’t need to introduce Roger very much, as I imagine his work is very well known to you. However for those few of you that don’t know him, Roger has published twenty books, including the six volumes of the best-selling Ten Poems series, which began with Ten Poems to Change Your Life in 2001.

All his books, whatever the subject – poetry, art, or travel – aim to inspire himself and others toward the examined life. Maria Sharapova, the tennis star, has called his book, Seven Sins for a Life Worth Living (2007, Harmony) “one of the most inspirational books I have ever read.”

He runs small weekly writing classes in his home on writing as a spiritual practice, with an emphasis on memoir. He will be running online writing courses with a spiritual perspective later in 2013. Join his mailing list for details: www.rogerhousden.com or visit him on facebook.

What drives your creative work?

Irrepressible curiosity coupled with the need to clarify and articulate my own responses to the world around me.

What would you say to yourself if you could go back in time and meet yourself at the beginning of your creative career?

You have no idea where you are going, and that is exactly as it should be.

How do you keep creating when things get difficult?

If you mean when life gets difficult, then that can often be grist for this writer’s mill. If you mean when the writing gets difficult, I very rarely experience that, and when I do I take a walk in the woods.

How does your creative work affect the rest of your life?

It helps me to be more alive to the sense world in which I live and also to the inner world of thought, feeling and reflection. It encourages me to see possibility in seemingly intractable situations.

What is it like to send your work out into the world?

When I have finished a book it disappears pretty quickly from my inner view, and reappears almost as a surprise when I first receive a finished copy. Then I feel anticipation and interest in how others are going to respond to it – because I really have no idea what impact it will make on anyone else.
What was the best advice anyone gave to you?In writing, be personal and self revealing ( Philip Roth said a writer must be shameless.) In life, Rumi, when he says that

This longing you express
is the return message.

What helps you to pay attention to the world?

The willingness to be without an agenda, to do nothing, especially nothing useful. Then, walking helps me return to the pace of the animal world, which encourages my senses to come alive.

Thank you Roger.

Creativity Interview with Jamie Catto – genius music-maker

FakeKaspa writes: I’m really pleased to bring you these answers from Jamie Catto as part of our Creativity Interview series.

Jamie Catto is the creative catalyst, co-producer and director of the double Grammy nominated film ‘1 Giant Leap’ which sold over 300,000 albums, and won numerous awards globally. He’s also a founder member, singer, art director and video director of the Dance Music super-group Faithless.

Jamie and his partner Raisa Breslava run workshops throughout Europe on: ‘What About You?’, ‘Transforming Shadows’ and ‘What About Intimacy’.

Hi Jamie, what drives your creative work?

the mission to create a mirror for the audience – to dissolve limiting beliefs and definitions which keep us enslaved

What would you say to yourself if you could go back in time and meet yourself at the beginning of your creative career?

stop worrying, it’s wasting energy, hurting, and going nowhere good

How do you keep creating when things get difficult?

ha! I create BECAUSE things are difficult 🙂

How does your creative work affect the rest of your life?

it allows me to communicate what’s in my heart to millions of people

What is it like to send your work out into the world?

exciting – like a message in a bottle – you never know where it will go

What was the best advice anyone gave to you?

keep going, you will get a break

What helps you to pay attention to the world?

my breath

Thanks Jamie! You can follow Jamie on Twitter here @JamieCatto and find out more about his 1 Giant Leap project, workshops and other work at http://www.jamiecatto.com/

Creativity Interview with Benjamin Ranyard: Gardener and writer

BenjaminKaspa writes: Satya and I like to grow things. At the moment we have tomato, courgette, aubergine and goodness knows what else sprouting on our windowsills and in our propagators. We also like to grow flowers. This year we’re growing a cutting garden from seeds provided by the wonderful Higgledy Garden.

Higgledy Garden is the horticultural child of Benjamin Ranyard. Benjamin provides beautiful eco-friendly flowers & seeds in the UK, and I am a big fan of the writing he does about growing things.

It’s a real pleasure to invite him to share his creative processes as part of our Creativity Interview Series.

Welcome Benjamin. Tell us, what drives your creative work?

I won’t pretend I am not motivated by money. Not a desire to be rich…but a desire not to have my landlord shouting at me. I have lived a great many years of my life in financial hardship…those days are happily over…sometimes I even by branded baked beans. Money is like whisky…it isn’t everything but a little is good for the nerves. I have a small business…I grow flowers and sell flowers and I also sell flower seeds…there is a direct correlation with my creative work and sales…if I write an article for my website I will make more sales…it is that simple. Though I must add I am also driven creatively by the fact I love every waking second of doing it…with these two strong motivators I never find it hard to get down to ‘work’.

higgledyWhat would you say to yourself if you could go back in time and meet yourself at the beginning of your creative career?

It wouldn’t be the beginning of my creative career I’d go back to…at that particular junction/spark everything fell into place…I made some mistakes, yes…but that is all part of the process. I would instead climb into my time machine and take myself a decade further back…to a time when I was a lost young man and my creativity had no direction. I would tell myself how nasty the next decade would be if I didn’t sharpen up and utilise any talents I might have…though naturally I wouldn’t listen to future ‘me’, firstly, because I was in my twenties and ‘knew it all’ and secondly because if a bloke comes up to you and says he’s from the future it’s generally best to call social services.

How do you keep creating when things get difficult?

Contrary to popular opinion I believe you can force creativity…to a point at least. If I think I haven’t got the drive to work I simply sit down and start writing…ANYTHING…I just don’t stop writing….random words…scenes I remember…shopping lists, whatever…after five minutes I usually get into the rhythm. I am not creating great works of literature…simply educational and hopefully entertaining pieces to encourage folk to grow flowers…I can’t play the artist with writers block who has to take time away from his desk and pretend to be a tree for an hour before the creative sap rises. I just get on with it and count my blessings that I don’t work in the baked bean factory.

Calendula-offinalisHow does your creative work affect the rest of your life?

I am generally much more attentive to the world around me…you tend to absorb much more data I think when you’re involved with a creative process…I tend to look out for things that make me laugh…or find things to laugh about that perhaps otherwise shouldn’t or wouldn’t make me laugh…the abstract makes me giggle…I have just moved to the north Cornish coast for instance…seagulls make me chuckle…they seem to me to the ornithological equivalent of ‘chavs’. If I’m laughing lots in the time away from my desk, I am usually a more entertaining writer when I return to it.

 What is it like to send your work out into the world?

Great. I have 1/4 of a million people visiting the site on an annual basis now. I get a good deal of positive feedback. I feel very proud of what I have achieved. I no longer feel nervous about self publishing my work…I know it may not be up to a standard that a horticultural publishing company would demand…but that doesn’t matter to me…my readers keep coming back, that’s all I need to know.

 What was the best advice anyone gave to you?

“Do or do not, there is no try.” ~ Yoda…

and…

‘Do what you love’…well…that and ‘don’t put your socks in the toaster’.

What helps you to pay attention to the world?

I am extraordinarily grateful for how my life is panning out. With true gratitude comes an attention to the world around you…I lap it up…I am surrounded by beauty…my job is to watch flowers grow and shout about that magic to anybody who will listen.

I watch the skies to see if they are going to offer up rain for my field or for gales that could threaten my crop…I am constantly aware of temperature fluctuations…especially in Spring…waiting for the soil to warm up enough to be able to germinate seeds. If I don’t pay attention to the world around me my flowers will fail to grow properly.

I also spend a good deal of time just sitting in my flower field…just hanging out…listening to the bees and watching what is going on in Flowerville…my Dad says this is laziness…he may be right…but I like doing it…I find a good policy with regards to things you like doing is to repeat them on a regular basis.

Thanks Benjamin. Do check out Benjamin’s articles and writing at Higgledy Garden.

Creativity Interview with Alastair Cook – artist

AlastairCook ImageKaspa writes: Alastair has been a long-time friend of WOWH, and I’m delighted to be able to interrogate him with our questions about creativity. This is part of our Creativity Interview series.

Alastair is an artist who works primarily with lens-based media as an analogue photographer concentrating on antique photographic technologies to create amazing images, some of which you can see here. He also works as a filmmaker using 8mm and 16mm film, combining these with digital technology to great effect.

Alastair’s work explores the issues surrounding the effect of our landscape on our perception of history, of how we perceive a place, a haven, of what imbues the very spirit of place. His award winning film and photography is driven by his knowledge, skill and experience as a conservation architect.

Hi Alastair, what drives your creative work?

I work in photography and film, although I trained as an conservation architect, specialising in the conserving of our world rather than the building of a new world: my instinct therefore is to record, to note, to piece together a narrative or to illustrate the traces we leave, our subtle imprint. I’ve always wanted to write, but it does not come. I hide instead behind a camera, analogue or digital, 35mm or Bolex, Leica or iPhone, wet plate or dry.

Sheree MackWhat would you say to yourself if you could go back in time and meet yourself at the beginning of your creative career?

Choose your battles.

How do you keep creating when things get difficult?

Life is by its very nature difficult; this is what makes it blissful too. Like many intensive creative folks, I work like a lunatic for a while then come up for air. The difficult bit is steadying my ship after taking in the sails. I find it hard to stay on an even keel until the next project sits on the horizon, like that black suggestion of a shadow of a ship in Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa.  

How does your creative work affect the rest of your life?

I work where I live. I have a wife and two small children. My work wraps around them, they wrap around me, we envelope each other.

DonaldWhat is it like to send your work out into the world?

The good bits come after people have stood in front of your work and reports come through third parties, mutterings. A fisherman who I have never met brought me to tears when his wife told me that after they’d left the private view that I’d captured the sea, what it was like to be at sea, perfectly. That makes it all worthwhile, for me.

What was the best advice anyone gave to you?

I turned with a portfolio of hastily scribbled self-portraits for my interview at the Glasgow School of Art, many years ago. I apologised for not having studied any buildings, the interview slipping away. The interviewer leaned over the table and told me not to be quite so silly, I was here to be taught. He held out his hand and shook mine, telling me I was successful and welcoming me into a fold from which I viewed the rest of the world with desire.

The best advice: listen, and give yourself over to those who will impart their wisdom.

What helps you to pay attention to the world?

What grounds me, helps me – the early morning shuffle as my son creeps into the room in search of the warmth of his parent’s bed.

Thanks Alastair.

Alastair’s most recent solo show of wet plate collodion portraits, McArthur’s Store, was at Dunbar Town House, from 30th November 2012 until 21st February 2013; he is north light artist in residence for 2013 and will be making wet plate collodion images through the summer in McArthur’s Store, Dunbar. His work can be seen at http://alastaircook.com and http://filmpoem.com.

Creativity Interview with Peter Levitt, poet and Buddhist teacher

PeterKaspa writes: I’m delighted to introduce Peter Levitt to readers of Writing Our Way Home.

Peter is a brilliant poet and Buddhist teacher. His nine poetry books include Within Within, One Hundred Butterflies and Bright Root, Dark Root, and in 1989 he received the prestigious Lannan Foundation Award in Poetry.

He is the founder and guiding teacher of the Salt Spring Zen Circle on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia where he resides with his family

This interview is part of our much missed (by me) series of Creativity Interviews. Look out for another one this time next week. There are some really great answers from Peter here, and of course he picked up on the false dichotomy between creative life and the rest of life in one of our questions… on with the interview:

What drives your creative work?

A very dear friend of mine, now gone, was US poet Robert Creeley. At some point he wrote this lovely phrase ie “I’m given to writing poems.” It’s the same for me. Either I was born without the ambition gene, or very much of it, or my nature comes with a more primary disposition to spend a lot of time just wandering around, taking place with the world in a sort of mutual and intimate engagement. It’s this ‘taking place’ that brings the work forward, and it’s always been that way. Hopefully, since no engagement is planned, nor could be with all the particulars intact, something of the spontaneous nature of the experience makes its way into the poems.

How does your Buddhist practice affect your writing and the rest of your life? (If you were a writer before you were a Buddhist, did you notice your writing change?)

Zen practice helps to keep me more available, receptive, alive in the engagement I just mentioned, and the same is true during what might be called ‘the act of composition’ when I’m actually writing a poem or piece of prose. I did write before my practice began in the late sixties, and the disposition toward the world I began with was nourished by Zen practice, with the ability to be even more intimate with what was right before me a noticeable side benefit of practice. Practice also tends to soften and inform the heart, so to speak, so clearly this has had a great effect in every aspect of my life.

withinHave you ever found a conflict between your Buddhist practice and your creativity?

Quite the reverse. It’s a marriage of the most profound kind.

What would you say to yourself if you could go back in time and meet yourself at the beginning of your creative career?

Continue to know nothing. Keep the edge. Don’t lose this beginner’s mind.

How do you keep creating when things get difficult?

As I see it, there’s no conflict between life’s difficulty and the ability to create. In some way, the worse it is, up to a point, the better, because of what it takes from a person in order for them to get through life’s rigour. I don’t subscribe to the idea that great art needs suffering in order to be wrung from the artist, so I don’t suggest that if people find themselves just too happy they go on a suffering hunt, but given that we’re talking about writing and Buddhist practice in the same conversation, I’m reminded of what Suzuki Roshi said: A big block of ice makes a lot of water.  And then, of course, there’s the convenient imagery and fact that the lotus itself cannot grow unless its roots are planted in mud. Practice can be found right here, too. When things get tough, if we just take care of what is right in front of us, we find the creative means jump forward.

How does your creative work affect the rest of your life?

For better or worse, as I experience it, there is no ‘creative work’ vs. ‘the rest of [my] life.’  This sort of division is not really a accurate statement of my situation or, if I may be allowed to say so, anyone else’s. We’re just not divided up in this way, though if we think we are, we create an almost unbridgeable gap where none exists.

Once we realize that we are whole, and always have been from the beginning, we can start to find ways for this wholeness to function and be expressed, which tends to heal the unnecessary cutting up of this one life into what seem to be irreconcilable parts. I’m sure you’ve seen it yourself ie we don’t have one heart and mind, being and life, when we write, and another when we do something else. If we think we do, we might do well to look again, or more deeply, at what we are. We are an enormous resource of energy and creativity, and it is just waiting to be used in every way it can. So, finding how self flows through self to self in all its various expressions becomes an important part of living as a whole person, no matter the nature of the activity. Practice helps with this. Writing helps with this. Making love and even making breakfast help with this as well.

What was the best advice anyone gave to you?

Well, and I mean this: the Buddhist eightfold path is a good start. It certainly points the way for a wonderful, useful life that helps the wholeness of life I just spoke of to emerge. It also helps to nourish this wholeness in life wherever we meet it. Often, people think of precepts or discipline or vows in a somewhat negative light, but really these are just ways to love the world as it deserves.

What is your favourite part of your Buddhist Practice? 

Zazen. And, during our more formal retreats, the Zen form of eating called oyroki, which is often translated as ‘just the right amount.’ That phrase, and the practice to which it refers, really says it beautifully for writing and for practice. I like to think of it as Buddha in a bowl.

Thanks Peter – deep bow to you _/\_ You can find more of Peter at www.peterlevitt.com

Interview with Staci Boden: Author

It’s a great pleasure to be interviewing Staci for our series of conversations with creative people. 


Welcome, Staci! What drives your creative work?

Love and relationship drives my creative work. For me, there’s no separation between my creative work as a writer or healing practitioner and my life. In fact, my life is a creative work that’s rooted in conscious relationship with myself, people I love and a commitment to something bigger than myself. Consciously navigating life is my creative practice unto itself. Creativity is a dear friend (often a life saver!) and an essential force that moves through my life in a myriad of ways to nourish and guide me.


What would you say to yourself if you could go back in time and meet yourself at the beginning of your creative career?

I’d advise me be more compassionate with myself. I’d tell my young self not to worry about doing something perfectly, just keep showing up because true relationship takes time to grow. Trust and follow, follow and trust. I’d encourage me to follow my young urge to cultivate personal healing because generating anything involves becoming whole enough to get out of the way. I’d invite me to have faith, that even if my choices look like zigzags of distraction to other people, developing these seemingly disjointed aspects of myself is the very thing that will facilitate my wholeness. I’d tell me to trust my intuition and remember my sense of humor. When all else fails, I’d encourage me to not to hold onto anything too tightly by surrendering, asking for help and then starting over, again and again and again.  


How do you keep creating when things get difficult?
I keep creating because things are difficult. Connecting with creativity sustains me during hard times. If you’re asking how I keep creating if I’m feeling blocked, I draw upon personal healing tools to engage with what’s getting in the way. Often that helps me shift AND provides some great material as wellJ. Then it’s a matter of just showing up and writing my way through the resistance. If that doesn’t work, I take a break, draw upon more healing tools to let go more, and start over again. 


How does your creative work affect the rest of your life?
In every way. Regardless of product, connecting with creativity is deeply healing. I don’t sing or dance professionally but these creative relationships infuse my life with joy and meaning. I co-facilitate something called Sacred Dance that explores body movement as a spiritual practice. After ten years, I’ve noticed that as participants connect with their own creative life force energy through dance, their lives transform in amazing ways. For me, the heart of creativity is how it grows people on the inside. 

What is it like to send your work out into the world?

This is my first book and it’s just come out in September but so far the experience has been a gift. Someone once told me that writing a book is like generating a conversation with society about something that’s meaningful to you. Instead of perceiving healing solely as a positive outcome physically, financially or emotionally, I’m excited to discuss healing as a unique creative relationship we can access (and practice!) every day.

And because my book contains stories about sessions with clients and personal moments from my daily life, becoming more public also feels vulnerable. When my kids were younger and about to do something new, I’d say, “So how scared are you? Show me.” Their little arms would open wide demonstrating how they felt. Then I’d say, “Now show me how excited you are.” Their arms would (almost!) always be wider with excitement than fear. But that’s okay because embracing all aspects of ourselves supports wholeness. I was definitely more scared at the beginning of writing the book, and now my arms feel pretty wide open with joy.


What was the best advice anyone gave to you?

This is difficult as I have many wise people in my life! If I had to choose one central teaching, it arises from the Center for Sacred Studies where I studied for many years. There, teachers consistently advised us “to follow the energy”. By definition, following energy means staying behind it. These may seem like simple words but we’ve been taught to get ahead of things in our lives to avoid fear by relying on control. You can follow the energy of anything from a project, cause, intention, group or relationship. Learning how to let go and follow energy is a big commitment that’s gifted me in a thousand faith restoring ways from arriving at a book contract to supporting my daughter’s healing. Certainly, following energy relates to developing creativity. In fact, following energy is a creative practice that shows me how to move through life.

What helps you to pay attention to the world?
My intention to live consciously as a way to develop meaning keeps me on my feet. I specifically stay awake by connecting with eight universal teachers: fear, awareness, choice, body, intuition, energy, intention and surrender. Relating with these guides–sometimes so I can learn how to negotiate around them (hello, fear!)—helps focus my attention so I can navigate everyday living in a balanced way. Learning how to navigate life in conversation with the unknown is an individual process that naturally fosters creativity. We all develop meaning differently, and that’s part of the magic of being alive. 

Staci Boden is a San Francisco-based author, healing practitioner, and energy worker. Her book, Turning Dead Ends into Doorways: How to Grow Through Whatever Life Throws Your Way (Conari Press, 2012), introduces eight teachers for moving beyond control to navigate daily life unknowns: fear, awareness, choice, body, intuition, energy, intention and surrender. Through her company, Dancing-Tree Consulting, Staci sees private clients as well as leads personal and spiritual development workshops in energy work, sacred dance, breathwork, and guided visualization. To learn more, visit Staci’s website, meet on facebook or connect via twitter.

Interview with Lisa Baldwin: Curious monkey. Prolific ponderer. Kindness enthusiast. Writer of short things.

Fiona writes: I developed a girl-crush on Lisa through her word-art. Her writing is short & juicy & punchy. And clever. And cool. I wish I wrote like her. Do pop over to her lovely space, Zen at Play & you’ll see what I mean.

And so it feels very good to be welcoming her to our little space here today. Without further ado…

Welcome! What drives your creative work?
I’m driven by curiosity and delight, love and wonder, and a deep pull towards kindness. Much of my work begins as notes to self – the things I write about are things I’d forgotten, and then remembered again. When I remember, I share those rememberings, because I imagine that other people might have forgotten as well.

What would you say to yourself if you could go back in time and meet yourself at the beginning of your creative career?
Try stuff! Begin! Play! There have been many things that never made it out into the world because there’s always a little something more they could be. And there are many more things that took much longer than they needed to because my grip on them was too tight. If I were starting over, I’d invite failure sooner. Fortunately, we get to start over all the time, and as often as we need to.

How do you keep creating when things get difficult?
I think we’re always creating, even when it seems like we’re not. Maybe we haven’t published lately, or produced anything grand, but there are always little hints of our creativity if we look for them. Noting the small creative acts – the pleasing arrangement of peas on your plate, or a sweet turn of phrase popping up in a phone chat – takes the pressure off. It means that we’re never starting from a standstill, and that creating more just means gathering momentum.

How does your creative work affect the rest of your life?
The less space I imagine between my creative work and everything else, the better. My life feeds my work, my work feeds my life. My best days are the ones in which I consciously craft an artist’s day, not in the sense of “an artist should do this”, but in a way that invites curious experiences or nourishing input. On those days, whether I make anything or not, I’m filling the creative well.

What is it like to send your work out into the world?
I used to be an expert at something, and I wrote accordingly – I did my best to fit into the shapes I saw other people making. When I worked that way, it never felt risky or challenging – I knew I could do what was needed, and I didn’t wonder how people would respond to it. My work was safe.

As I slowly let go of being an expert, I started writing in new ways. There was no shape to copy, and nothing to measure against. What if people don’t get it? What if they think it’s too short, too wiggly, too odd?

Sending out that kind of work is fun and exhilarating. If there’s no gasp of uh-oh when I publish something, I’ve probably chickened out somewhere in the making.

What was the best advice anyone gave to you?
“Try stuff! Begin! Play!” — me, in this interview. It’s quite possible that other people have said that too. Like kindergarten teachers, for example, or maybe Goethe.

What helps you to pay attention to the world?
Spaciousness helps. Simplicity, too. If I cram my days, I stop noticing – I go into pinball mode, and ricochet through my days without noticing a thing. I aim to keep plenty of open space around whatever it is I need to do, and keep the things I need to do to a minimum. Sometimes I do well at that, many times not so much. It’s an ongoing adventure.

Bio: Lisa Baldwin. Wandering ponderer, kindness enthusiast, writer of short things. Likes train rides and orangutans. Sends love notes of encouragement to artists and other tender beings via Zen at Play

Interview with Marney Makridakis: Author of Creating Time: Using Creativity to Reinvent the Clock and Reclaim Your Life (& bonus article)

Fiona writes: One of the things I love about my work is that I’m occasionally asked if I’d like to see review copies of gorgeous books.

One of these was “Creating Time: Using Creativity to Reinvent the Clock and Reclaim Your Life” by Marney (here it is on Amazon UK paperback or Kindle & Amazon US paperback or Kindle).

Marney has had huge & deserved success with her book, which will help you “control your experience of time and use it in a way that consistently supports you and the highest vision of your life.” In other words, get your creative work done! It’s full-colour, fun, and packed with creative wisdom.

As well as our interview, I’ve also included an article which Marney has generously shared. You’re spoilt…

A very warm welcome to Writing Our Way Home, Marney. What drives your creative work?
Everything comes from an idea. Creative ideas are the bright shining lights of our souls. My very favorite part of my work is helping people connect the dots of their own idea-lights, unveiling new constellations that bring more light into the world.

What would you say to yourself if you could go back in time and meet yourself at the beginning of your creative career?
“Taking care of yourself is taking care of your business.”

How do you keep creating when things get difficult?
Of course there are challenges in creative work, but when you’re aligned with your passion, the wind is at your back. I keep looking for ways to tap back into the passion, the joy, the fun, the creativity, and, especially, connecting back to the essence of why I started this path in the first place.

How does your creative work affect the rest of your life?
I have often aimed for strict boundaries between work and life, but find I’m happiest when I allow a gentle blending between the two, embracing my art as my life, and my life as my art. Whether I’m writing, teaching, dreaming, parenting my 4-year old son, or simply relaxing, creativity is the core that runs through it all.

What is it like to send your work out into the world?
Creative ideas are like little children to me. I feel a maternal instinct to prepare for them, birth them, take care of them, nurture them to growth, and send them out into the world. There is great satisfaction in working myself out of a job, like good parents and teachers do; having faith to put an idea out into the world so it can take on a life of its own, no longer needing me.

What was the best advice anyone gave to you?
When my father, who passed away several years ago, told me that I reminded him of the Thoreau quote, “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.“ – it was like I found a hidden superpower to get things done. Thoreau’s words are the best template I know for stepping into creative motion. When it comes to creative goals, it really does help momentum to put a so-called “sequence of steps” out of order and do the things we really want to do before the things that “have to get done”. Then we can get caught up in the joy and fulfillment, and that gives us the momentum to make it all happen.

What helps you to pay attention to the world?
This is a beautiful question, because it is often something that gets forgotten in the midst of following our creative dreams. We often need to remember that the goal isn’t to have a great career or a successful project or venture, the goal is to have a great life that includes our work and projects. Paying attention to the world, to the whole world outside our work, is key. For me, a gratitude practice is the best “shortcut” to paying attention. Developing fun ways to “collect” gratitude helps us find more and more things to be grateful for. It’s a very healthy obsession. In Creating Time, I introduce an alternative timekeeper to slow down time; it’s called a Stop. Watch. Simply stopping and watching the world around you, taking it all in, stretches time to the dimensions we need and brings depth to any experience.

Thanks for sharing, Marney. Your Stop. watch. sounds like it has some things in common with our small stones… Good luck with the book’s ongoing success!

Marney K. Makridakis is the author of Creating TimeShe founded the Artella online community for creators of all kinds and the print magazine Artella. A popular speaker and workshop leader, she created the ARTbundance approach of self-discovery through art. She lives in DallasTexas. Visit her online at http://www.artellaland.com.

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Bonus Article – Creating Time


Pay attention to the conversations of people around you, and notice how often the subject of time comes up:

“I’m fine, just crazy busy. . .”

“I just don’t know when I can find the time. . .”

“I can’t really talk now, I’m running late. . .”

People used to be tied to things like families, communities, rituals, worship, curiosity, and beauty. Now we are tied to schedules, watches, datebooks, computers, and keeping up with the latest gadgets that start with i.  It seems like time is going by faster than ever these days, and we’re all exhaustively trying to find, chase, save, and manage time.

Time-management techniques, as well as the latest time-tracking and productivity aids, can certainly be of help to us on the practical level, but they are limited in their long-term effectiveness, since the true nature of time extends beyond the chronological hours displayed in our calendars, wristwatches and smart phones. Time management can improve what we accomplish but often at the peril of what we experience. Ironically, the more we desperately try to manage our time, the more fragmented we often feel.

Instead of exhaustively striving for time management, I propose a new solution of time metaphorphosis. Rather than simply managing our time, we can re-imagine time itself and completely reshape our relationship to it. When we don’t have time, we have to create it, and the incredible news is that we can do so with one of the greatest resources ever to exist on our planet: human creativity.

The concept of “creating time” is not just about adding more hours in our day, but creating a new relationship with time itself. We expand our sense of time by when we change the ways we think about, measure, and experience time.

Here are some good places to start:


1.      Change the Way You Think About Time

For most of us, being stressed or worried about time has become second-nature. The most immediate way to change these deeply-ingrained patterns is to become more aware of the words that you use when you think about and talk about time. Time reacts as if we’re yelling in a canyon; whatever we are saying about time comes back to us in our experience.  If we are saying, “There’s never enough time,” then our experience echoes back, “Yes! There’s never enough time!” If, however, we are saying, “I have all the time in the world. More and more, I see that I have all the time I need,” then our experience is reflected back with a more expansive, flowing sense of time.  

Another simple way to shift awareness is simply to check the clock in a different way. The phrase, “What time is it?” inherently indicates that we do not have control of our time. By replacing this phrase with “What time does the clock say?” we take control of our time through the words we speak. The new phrase indicates that we respect the clock, but we are the ones in charge of our time.

2.      Change the Way You Measure Time

We measure time in linear fashion, with numbers on a clock and squares on a calendar to represent the movement of time. But what if we could interpret time as a qualitative entity instead of something just measured by quantity?  Instead of measuring how long something takes, why not measure it by how much we learn by doing it, or how much love we are feeling?

Think about the moments in your life that have meant the most to you. Those moments are not viewed linearly at all, but through a plethora of other measurements, such as intensity of experience, emotional depth, and even quality of color or the particular scent of the moment. We can learn from these experiences by applying a similar free-form perception in our everyday moments. So, in your day-to-day life, instead of measuring how long something takes, explore new measurements, such as how much joy you feel, how connected you are to other people, how grateful you are, how engaged you are in the topic at hand.

Incorporating these new “measurements” doesn’t mean that we are forgoing the linear methods entirely. Rather, we remain aware of both kinds of time (quantitative and qualitative), but it is the qualitative measurements that are, in the long run, more important. Our sleeping hours are a great example of this duality. Most of us would prefer to get six hours of deep, restful sleep rather than nine hours of tossing and turning. While we can be aware of the number of hours we sleep and even plan our schedule to ensure that we sleep a certain number of hours, we are far more focused on the quality of the sleep that we have achieved. Similarly, when evaluating our time, we can be aware of the hours and minutes passed, but the quality of those moments is what really matters.

3.      Change the Way You Experience Time

Instead of seeing time as something separate from us, true freedom happens when we become one with time, partnering with it in a new way. We can invite it into a relationship, a dance, so that we can fall into oneness. When we are truly at one with time, we reach a blissful state of being less aware of time itself but more aware of the present moment.

We can become more present through simple, easy actions. Expand the breadth of time literally, through deep breaths. Observe what each of your senses is taking in. Feel your feet on the earth’s floor. Express gratitude for all the “little things” that are easily taken for granted. Each of these is an example of a simple way to connect with the fullness of time.

Each moment you fully insert yourself in the present, you change your experience of time, shifting your focus away from how you spend time to instead reveling in what you receive from it.

Based on the book Creating Time: Using Creativity to Reinvent the Clock and Reclaim Your Life ©2012 by Marney Makridakis.  Published with permission of New World Library http://www.newworldlibrary.com

Interview with John Fox: Poetry Therapist

We knew John Fox’s wonderful writing before we knew the man, and we use his book ‘Finding What You Didn’t Lose‘ on our mindful writing ecoursesHe works in a similar field to us – where the written word and healing overlap, and where the magic happens. We feel very privileged to welcome him to our series of creativity interviews today.

Welcome, John. What drives your creative work?

It feeds me with meaning and that gives me the ballast and joy of adventure and an even keel to journey further.
There is a calling as a service and to fulfill that calling is satisfying and expansive. There is a lot of fun involved, a lot of beauty. It is also driven or impacted greatly by broken-heartedness – but with the poetry, I carry an awareness that creativity allows for the possibility to break open rather than only fall apart. 

What would you say to yourself if you could go back in time and meet yourself at the beginning of your creative career?

I’m in slight wondering with myself about this question — because I am not convinced that I know, would know, what to say to myself that would be useful!  I am not sure I would want to clear up my challenges or even doubts with any “sage” advice.  I want to learn to trust my own steps most of the way. 
However… As far as my creative career I might go back to visit myself in Miss Watkins 2nd grade class and say “Don’t listen to that art teacher, Miss K. tell you “You will never be an artist.” I would further say, “She has no right to say such a thing to a 7 year old boy. I want you to have fun with art.” I suppose it’s Miss K. whom I would really like to talk with…tell her it was damaging to get that message so young.

I’d like to be a witness to my self, I’d like to learn from my self back then and love my self.
   

How do you keep creating when things get difficult?
I keep creating because difficulty is a catalyst for writing.
It is also okay to rest and breathe for a while. There is a spirit of creativity — rather than the direct action of creativity — by allowing oneself to rest and breathe I allow myself to compost what has changed, has fallen away, and in the process, recharge.

How does your creative work affect the rest of your life?

It seems to be all of a piece.
But if I understand “rest of my life” to mean friendships, leading a non profit I founded, other enjoyments like baseball, political interests, social justice interests, environmental interests, spiritual commitment, making my way through chores and all the particulars of my “to do lists” and daily errands — then I experience that creative work as something essential that helps me be interested in people, in how they are — in this planet as a healthy just place, and in that, I find that the purpose of living, when rooted in that creative/healing work, is well-worth the challenges that I and that we as a community face.

What is it like to send your work out into the world?

There is a joy in it, naturally, and a surprise.
The joy is to know that it makes a difference in people’s lives and the surprise comes from learning how. Surprise also in the fact that it happens at all!

And on another level it reminds me not to take anything for granted…especially knowing that it makes a difference, how it does that, knowing I had the courage to take one step and then the next in the creative process, for all of that, I am grateful.

What was the best advice anyone gave to you?

With regards to writing, in 11th grade I was applying to attend Boston University to study English/Creative Writing. That was 1973 before MFA programs. I sent some poems at that time to the Director of Creative Writing, George Starbuck. Mr. Starbuck had been director at University of Iowa which was renowned as a place for writers.
So I sent these poems, it seems almost ridiculously at that age. However, I got a letter back from George Starbuck on Boston University stationery and he wrote: “It takes a long time of getting to know someone before you can make helpful comments about their writing.”

That stuck with me!

Another poetry teacher at Bard College – I transferred there after two years at Boston University. I changed schools because the largeness of B. U. was overwhelming and also because the other premiere poetry teacher, Anne Sexton, committed suicide at the beginning of my sophomore year at B.U.
At Bard, Robert Kelly would say that people don’t write for two reasons: 1.) They do not want to write or 2.) Because they do not trust themselves.

I have appreciated these respectful and empowering statements. I suppose that I have spent a career focusing on the enhancement and nurturing of trust.

Then there is some life “advice” I want to mention.  In the midst of a emotional and spiritual shattering over the amputation of my leg at eighteen, I was being helped by the spiritual teacher, Ram Dass.

Ram Dass and I were standing on the street corner at Beacon Street and Commonwealth Avenue at Kenmore Square in Boston. I was in a real state of meltdown, quite frightened, absolutely torn away from God, whatever I thought that meant.

Ram Dass looked at me directly and said with a deep fierceness, “You couldn’t get away if you tried.”

I didn’t know it at the time but in retrospect I understand him to mean, I had to live through my life.  I couldn’t escape my life. 

What helps you to pay attention to the world?

What helps me is not wanting to miss anything.
What helps me is loving it.

BIOGRAPHY:

John Fox is a poet and certified poetry therapist. He is author of Poetic Medicine: The Healing Art of Poem-making and Finding What You Didn’t Lose: Expressing Your Truth and Creativity Through Poem-Making and numerous essays. His work is featured in the PBS documentary, Healing Words: Poetry and Medicine. John has brought poetry as healer to medical schools and hospitals through the United States. He has taught in Ireland, England, Israel, Kuwait, South Korea and Canada. John lives in Mountain View, California. You can find out more about his work at www.poeticmedicine.org.