Coffee

My pal Cole sends me lots of cool stuff.

…like this poem, which makes me feel warm and fuzzy and demented – just what is needed for getting through another Chicago winter:

…and this, which makes me want to fly:

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Why

My writers group recently attempted an exercise on writing about why you write. It took me a long time, a lot of varied thoughts, and overcoming some serious writer’s block to finish mine, but I finally did it.

Here it is

In 2001 I wrote this:
I want to create,
to give birth,
to offer my child to the world
and nurse her
until she can walk on her own.

I don’t know when I began writing or even when writing became an important part of my existence.  I can’t remember not writing, and I have journals and diaries dating back to middle school.
I was always a big reader, tearing through books so fast as a child, my dad had to take me to the bookstore multiple times a week to get something new to read. Voracious.

As I grew, I began to steal novels off my parents’ bookshelves, shelves that were in every room of the house – literature in the den, books about music in the living room, cookbooks in the kitchen, maps in the attic, sports books in my dad’s office, textbooks in my mom’s study.  There was always something to read, and very often I was inspired.

I took a creative writing class in high school, where I began to discover poetry.  I fell in love with the idea of capturing a moment, being efficient with words so that in a minimal number of phrases, the reader is taken somewhere, revealed something, changed.

I also loved studying writing, dissecting it and learning the tools it takes to be a good writer.  I love that there are rules to make communicating easier, so that we’re all on the same page and know, for example, with a comma, we can translate pauses.  Writing to me felt scary because I had to be vulnerable, but grammar, punctuation, and structure made me feel safe.


I played violin as a child, starting with a small1/4 size instrument when I was 4 years old.  I don’t remember learning; all I remember is fragments of memories of lessons.  I hated practicing, but the structure of lessons shaped who I became as a person, and as I learned without the effort of an adult, I began to hear notes and place my fingers where they needed to be to produce sound.

Later in elementary school, I began taking dance classes, and by middle school, I was so inspired by movement that I decided to pursue dance fully, invest myself wholly in the art form.  I had been performing in the school orchestra along with the dance ensemble, and both directors guided me to make a choice so that I could develop the skill that comes with immersing yourself in something.  It was like I needed to be monogamous in my relationship with the arts.  I had to marry something if I wanted to fully realize my potential as an artist.  And I chose dance.

I danced through high school and college and even pursued it professionally for a couple of years after I graduated.  I didn’t miss playing the violin until after I stopped dancing, when I realized that playing music informed my decisions and talent as a dancer.  Musicology was so ingrained in me since before I could even form memories and I was surprised that I wanted to revisit playing after so many years.

I picked the violin back up when I was 23.

Wanting to play music again made me realize what was really going on.  I just wanted to (needed to?) be creative.  I felt unsatisfied and unfulfilled in my life if I wasn’t participating in some kind of artistic endeavor.  It didn’t really matter what form it took – movement, writing, music – I was just compelled to create.  I remember my mom telling me one time about how artists have an intrinsic nature, that artists are born with special talent and a drive to create, but it doesn’t always matter what form their talent takes, that skills can be learned and used to express the same vision in different ways.  So, a musician, for example, can also be trained to write or dance, and talent doesn’t always manifest itself in one type of art.  Many artists, you will find, explore many mediums.  But you need to choose one in order to really learn and hone the skills it takes to effectively communicate the vision.  So, that musician, while able to be trained in different areas, can really only realize the dream of their artistic vision if they reach a high level of skill.  This was at the root of my decision to pursue dance over music when I was in middle school.

In all my years of playing music and dancing, writing was always a back-burner activity.  It was intriguing to me and I respected it.  I took classes in high school and college that allowed me to learn a little bit more about the writer’s process.  I kept up the voracious level of reading I had when I was a child.  Reading helped me understand humanity and myself better, and I developed a severe reverence for words.  Words are so powerful yet so limiting.  Just like notes, words are one tool of an artist, a tool that takes time to master.

In my life, I’ve experienced the destruction that words can cause.  This only made me respect their power even more and interested in figuring out how I could use them to communicate my dreams.


I like the lifestyle of the writer.  I like the idea of solitude and practice.  Although not a morning person, I admire the writer who gets up before dawn to write.  I love coffee and cigarettes and booze, all historically accompaniments to writing.  I like sitting with my thoughts and trying to spill them out onto paper.  Writing feels like a way to get all the swirling thoughts out of my head and into a tangible, clear, understandable form.  When my brain gets cluttered with ideas, thoughts, emotions, psychoses, I can write and feel clarity.

I was a Psychology major in college.  My senior thesis dealt with a type of movement therapy called Authentic Movement.  It is based on a Jungian idea of active imagination, a “meditation technique wherein the contents of one’s unconscious are translated into images, narrative or personified as separate entities”.  Authentic Movement allows a patient to express their unconscious through spontaneous movement.  My studies of Jung and dance therapy brought me to the idea of “flow”, a mental state in which a person is completely immersed in an activity.  Flow state “represents perhaps the ultimate in harnessing the emotions in the service of performing and learning. In flow, the emotions are not just contained and channeled, but positive, energized, and aligned with the task at hand. To be caught in the ennui of depression or the agitation of anxiety is to be barred from flow. The hallmark of flow is a feeling of spontaneous joy, even rapture, while performing a task”.  I realized that I achieve flow through art, and that’s what keeps me healthy and happy.

If what makes me happy can eventually inspire or help someone else, that would be the full realization of my life’s dream. So I continue, for myself, and hopefully someday, somehow, I will reach beyond.

Rumpus

Thanks to my writing buddies at Hostel Tuesdays, I discovered The Rumpus.

And I love it.  Especially Stephen Elliot’s Daily Rumpus emails, excerpt below.

So yes, I was looking at stills and wondering how long could this continue. Like, once I was in love with a woman who was a professional dominatrix at the same time I was dating someone who wanted to be a dominatrix. The woman I was dating was very well-off and she suggested I see a dominatrix. She would pay for it and be there to watch. I said, I know just the person. You see, the woman I was dating paid $600 for me to be with the woman I loved. Though “loved” is probably the wrong word. I liked her a lot; I was absurdly attracted to her. This paragraph is filled with wrong words. It’s complicated. What I’m getting at is that after that the three of us would hang out together and all I could think was that I needed to keep this going as long as possible, which turned out to be about two or three weeks.
That’s how I felt looking at the stills. I just want to keep this going as long as possible. This is as good as it gets. I felt that looking at the actress, her hair strangely perfect, the blue wall behind her like the ocean on its side.

Oh yeah, and I also love their mugs.

Support them by buying one here

Alphabet

Writing exercise from Hostel Tuesdays.  Every sentence starts with the next letter of the alphabet. K and Z were hard.

A pigeon flies by my window. Between me and the bird, glass. Constant, clear, like a canary, an informer, a glimpse into the other side. Dry, cold air over here. Everything is stiff from the cold. Frost on that side, fog on this one. Growing hazier every hour. Have pity on me, dear bird. I can’t remember what’s important. Just that I need to get out of here. Kindly fly into the glass. Let me out. Murder your beak trying to break through. No one will miss your voice. Once you’re gone, I will honor you. Prop up your ashes on my mantle. Quote you. Recite poems in your name. Still, no one will remember. Those who can’t speak are forgotten. Use that power wisely, my savior. Very few do. We do. X marks the spot. You can do it. Zip back this way.

Chromatic

*UPDATE* They did it! Cheers!

–leep211 Tue Apr 05 2011

 

 

Great – not just good – cause.  A new book by Alarm Press.  Help fund it!

Chromatic: The Crossroads of Color and Music

And check out the trailer here

Birth

A friend of mine, Heather Basl of Grace Angels, recently shared some words via email.  If this notion moves you, you can see more of her stuff at graceangels.com.
I just think this is a great metaphor:

My friend came over and visited me a few weeks ago and she talked about her baby boy that was delivered by a c-section and that when they pulled him out he had to go to intensive care because he couldn’t breathe in the air here.  Because he didn’t go through the birth canal the natural process, which would of pushed all the fluid out of his lungs, working his muscles to make them strong, he could not take in any air yet. He almost died because of this and what we think was helping speed up a process for someone was really slowing it down for someone.  Everyone has to go through the aches and pains, we have to go into the darkness so that we are prepared to enter into the new world that awaits us here.  If we think we can jump and skip over the hard parts we will not be able to have the capacity to breathe in heaven. We think that someone is suppose to do it for us… well they can assist us, but we must walk it.

Thanks Heather.

Khvylynku

I can’t write in the winter
The ink is thick, like my blood, cold and slow from the chill in the air.
There’s been no sun,
literally,
for days.
I don’t remember what fresh air feels like on my thighs.
The only place that’s warm is under covers
or in the shower
or anywhere, when I’ve been drinking.
You sent me that CD last week,
and that helped,
got my blood moving.
Then I fell asleep and woke up and it was snowing.