Breathing Still

Back from vacation, with my brain as slow as a lime in an oceanside cerveza.  Only now can I see how much my mind works overtime.  Like the 405 freeway every brain lane is full, with thoughts honking and swerving to pass each other, overloading themselves to get into that carpool lane and move.

But now, clear air.  Wide open country lanes are few but free, ideas fueling the engine to get things in motion.

The freedom comes not from multi-multi-multi-tasking, getting it all done so that it would be all done and rest would follow.

Instead: Continue reading “Breathing Still”

The Writer’s Hammer

Some days I want to stay inside the house, inside myself, like Emily Dickinson.  It’s all too fuzzy to bring out into the light.

How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To Tell one’s name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog!

But somehow tucked away inside that 1860’s Massachusetts home she dared the gap between herself and her paper.

Sparking from the paper to the world, was for her, too wide a gap, and I can quite see why – Continue reading “The Writer’s Hammer”

The Hovering

It’s been a stretch of formlessness creatively, waiting for change to spark.  More creative input than output.   After writing about and for change, it’s been good to drop the agenda and just breathe.

It could seem empty unless I close my eyes and see the change already at work, hovering over the waters.

Inhale, exhale.

Every creative year has a winter season to draw inside of, stretching out on the hearth of weekends at home.

But meanwhile I’ve been storing up, recharging, reading, refilling.  I went downtown to the women’s rally to listen and register my presence. I set aside MLK day, dressed, and drove, but the march was cancelled, and I was called away last minute anyway.  I served penance by reading Bryan Stevenson’s disturbingly truthful book, Just Mercy.  I devoured Susan Cottrell’s Radically Included, showing the weight of scripture on the side of love and inclusion.  I heard Rob Bell and his better half Peter Rollins give a talk downtown on their Holy Shift tour.  I read the 50 chapters of Genesis in large chunks, jotting questions and criticism in the margins.  I saw Jose Gonzalez in nearly total darkness singing his classical guitar to life with songs from his Vestiges and Claws album.

Reconnecting with friends and nature and taking life in – it’s been a time to breathe and be free from the self-imposed pressure of producing.   It’s not just recharging the batteries, it’s rubbing an eraser on the copper contacts and checking their flexibility to connect to new things.

During this time, I also attended a church service on racial reconciliation that shocked me when its repentant tone revealed a new posture of listening.  Straying from previous formulas, a new approach was taken with new voices being heard.  Change.  A part of my heart was healed when I saw leaders listening to young female and male voices of color, asking about their experience, reading up on Civil Rights history, and finishing with the confession, “How could I have not known this before?”  It’s a question I have had to ask my straight white male self a lot.

The service gave me hope that change is possible, but also that we are not always in control of it.  In Judeo-Christian terms this changing work is often ascribed to the “Spirit” – and this word has well-filled the gap between what I can explain and what I cannot.  We do our work, but sometimes it requires more than our work.

When I have changed through moments of tears or seasons of healing, I close my eyes and see the Spirit hovering over the waters, patiently shining light into the darkness of the deep, waiting for the moment of change.  And there are many:  a loss being grieved, rich times of community over a meal at our home table, the freshness of life sucking in first breaths, taking the bread and wine together in worship, summer light across the ocean – all form something from emptiness, in a way that does not add up given only the visible ingredients: 

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

Change has been a persistent theme.  I was writing about change but also in orderto change, to understand what I needed to leave behind. Perhaps I also fancied that by putting the right words together in the right order, I could trigger change in others.  But while there is a lot I can do to change myself, I cannot much force change in others.  I only have power over visible ingredients, but true transformations seem to require something more.

For those of you wanting, waiting, and working for change, remember this.  Your vision of community may not have arrived, but the Spirit is hovering.  And as you work, She is working in you, just as in me.  It’s normal to feel alone because the hovering is often invisible, working in the darkness.

I have to admit something:  While I was overjoyed to see the transformation in that reconciliation service, I later lamented that I had not done more to bring it about.  For a cause so rooted in my heart, I had not spoken up enough about it.  But wasn’t I supposed to care more that the change came, than whether I was a part of it?

Pride: I’m too scared to speak up first, but too competitive to accept being second.

Mercifully, a friend pointed me beyond myself: the change that triggered both joy and lament in me – that change was evidence of something more hovering over the surface, not something I could have accomplished with any amount of speaking out.

We can feel alone because our transformation timelines do not always line up.  Artists are people who generously communicate their transformation so we would know that we are not alone.  These have meant the world to me.  Very often Artists do feel alone but find the guts to share it anyway (think Van Gogh’s colorful, emotion-filled work).

We need to be Artists to each other, taking the risk to tell others about our depths.  Yet this story of Genesis-beginnings, hauntingly portrays something more:  We are not alone in our efforts to change. 

Read it again:  even in the depth of our darkness, there is a hovering over us, waiting for the time to be right for change:

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

(wait for it)

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

♦ weekendswell ♦

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Letting Go

What I learned in a watercolor class that was so good, I knew immediately that I had to drop the class and not go back:


There are four keys to being a good artist, he told us, swooshing his brush across the cotton paper.  He painted much faster than he spoke.

Learn to use your medium: how to mix, how it meets the paper – this would be the first step.

Standing at his camera tripod-turned-easel, working left to right, he painted the sky in less than a minute.  It looked scattered and messy, like a child’s first attempt at Chinese characters.

Step 2: Continue reading “Letting Go”

Creating Competitively?

By putting something onto the page I can see it more clearly and ask: Do I really think that?  Am I ready to put a period at the end of that sentence?

In my campaign for creativity, I’m lobbying myself to move the creative processing outside my head and into the world.  I wrote about shedding a fear of failure, and capturing the creative energy as ideas rush in and out like the tides.  Now I’m championing writing specifically, but there are complicating factors.

Get out of your head

Pen and paper are a gift because ideas can be more freely evaluated outside of my brain.  Inside the introvert’s brain, ‘thoughts’ are like an old circus tent – wanting to fly away, but tied down by ropes staked into the mind’s fear-grounds:  being wrong or unprepared or misunderstood.  To speak it out loud feels like a commitment, so too often I keep it inside just to be sure.  And it’s hard to separate the idea from the ropes.

But if I can put it out onto paper, it’s easier to see which ropes need cutting.

Flip the coin

Sometimes the rope is a gift of course – you might call it restraint – preventing an offensive comment or forcing me to listen further. But every strength coin has a flipside, heads or tails, with the weakness waiting underneath.   When an introvert’s coin is tossed, hesitancy often wins.

(Or maybe that coin is upside down. If someone’s first impulses were printed onto an ever-published ticker tape – we might call these tweets – then perhaps restraint would be the strength and the weakness speaking out?)

You probably know which side of your coin shows naturally, and if it’s hesitancy I’m here to encourage you to flip it.

Timely Writing

Wanting to “get it right” and be insightful presents a challenge when responding to issues of the day.

Numerous are the voices spouting timely information.  Later come the insights, for those who bother.

Admired is the creator who can offer something timely and insightful.

For instance, this week I’ve been unsettled by the open display of racism in Charlottesville, but it may be awhile until I have something in-depth to share on it. So far the timely writing I’ve seen has focused mainly on the protest event, but the insights are in the disturbing racism.

I’ll be writing quietly, to make sense of it all, but when to put it out there?  It takes time to form perspective, but I fear that waiting too long allows the tweeters to shape the world.

Change the world

Every creation is not going to change the world – contrary to my younger ideals, which only raised my standards to the point of non-publishing.

But creating and sharing something, while in and of itself is enough, also clears the way for the next creation.  Sometimes I think creativity resides in a pipe that gets blocked and must be unclogged in sequential order, first in, first out.  If you want to get to that brilliant thing you always imagined, you need to pump out the below-your-standards coal.

Even if you insist your masterpieces will change the world, perhaps that lofty staircase is built with uneventful creations that look to you like small blocks of plain concrete.

Creating Competitively?

I’ve half-written songs that stayed in my living room for years, only to later hear echoes of those same lyrics in another artists’ work.  I was frustrated when yet again I waited too long to share, and want to learn from this.

I carry the misconception that only one person gets to give the world an idea and my hesitancy meant it wasn’t me. Something seems wrong with this conclusion, but I wonder if “competitive creativity” could be useful to move things outside the studio sooner.  Is that crazy?

I have found writing to be the gift of a friend to try out ideas with.  I’m working through the above complications to champion creativity.  Do any of these affect you?  Please add a comment. BTW you don’t have to use your real name, you shy people, I’m not!)

Featured artwork this week and last by Heather Ridenour.  The art is transporting, and I am appreciating her “in process” presentation :  see for yourself