Saturday, January 31, 2009

Wild Woman of Queens: Notes on Urban Creativity from across the East River.

Election night-DL Hughley interviews. 11-08 Sandra Lee Schubert

Sandra Lee Schubert

Finding a Voice

At our last Wild Angels class we presented our homework. The assignment had been to create a 1-3 minute monologue choosing one of a series of topics. The idea was to get hear our own voices. Our conversation in the previous class had been on the importance of hearing. Most of the class did not read their work out loud to themselves or in a group,while, others went so far as to tape their personal readings so they could hear what they sounded like.What does the sound of our voice tell us?

When I quietly read my work there is an intimacy I share with the paper. It is just me and the words. When I read my work out loud my world immediately expands. I am no longer the "I' who is reading I now have an audience. The audience may not physically be there but its there nonetheless. Words take on another life when read aloud, taking shape into form and character.

Our voice heard for the first time can be startling.Who is that person? The voice can be strikingly different from the one in our heads.The voice you hear almost becomes a new person to you. Take the time to meet yourself.

In our class a novelist asked why he should read out loud as if only poets owned the right to speak on stage. I discover whole new persona's when my voice comes into play.There is a character I discover each time I read. In a way I become a fuller person just by using my voice.

The first person to present in class was the novelist, reciting from memory a story of his grandmother. in his telling we could connect to her by his voice. Immediately she became something more then ink on paper- her voice now had a resonance in her grandson. Others in the group presented versions of their monologues, some memorized, or not. I used a cheat sheet to help in my memorizing and reciting.

The act of looking people in the eye while reciting, connecting to them visually, is a powerful experience. The intimacy of the written word is now shared broadly.

Use your voice. Listen to yourself and see who you discover.

MP3 File

A Body of Work by Sandra Lee Schubert 4-06

I am here – lined like an ancient river that once flowed east into the great sea.

I am here – a body forlorn and bound to its remembrances.

See me – from above, the shadow sister next to the river that now flows west.

If you were to explore me – rock and bone now ground into pale sand along the urban highway – I would show you the path of water that once raged against my ample shores.

This river is bound to the earth,

waiting for the end of the world and the final rain and the one great wave that will wash me once again into the sea.

Sandra's e-course leads people to write their life stories. She is a creative vagabond, a poet, writer who co-facilitates the Wild Angels Poets and Writers Group at the historic Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine.Writing for Life: Creating a Story of Your Own. Visit her blog: Email her or @writing4life via twitter.

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Friday, January 30, 2009

Garden Views: The Magic of Success

Isn’t it amazing how an RFP (Request For Proposal) can make the writing blues disappear? Just like that? Like magic. All of those self-doubts gone in an instant! What’s wrong with this picture?

What’s wrong is that we have given over our power to create our own meaning, or to decide what is worthy or valuable work, to someone (editor or editorial assistant) or some event (e-mail or phone call from same) outside of ourselves.

If we were able to generate those same feelings of belief and optimism while we’re writing, developing our proposals, researching literary agents and editors, and sending out query letters, we’d be happy most of the time, wouldn’t we? Or, at least, happier?

Alas, most of us lack the tools to sustain these feelings unless we attain some success. And even after those small successes, eventually it’s back to the slough of despond. I’d sure like to learn from my peers. Whether writer or other artist, what tools do you use to keep up the optimism?

Lois de Vries' thoughts on gardening and environmental issues run the gamut from gardening in her own back yard to promoting land management practices that reconnect people to the Earth. Lois is seeking a publisher for her book, The Transformational Power of Gardening. Visit her blog at
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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Don't Quit Your Day Job

Creating and Going It Alone

A new year comes with new writing resolutions. I never get done as much as I would like, so I’m trying to convince myself that I made great strides in 2008. I actually did. Right now, I have two pieces out in the world. Even if they get rejected, it means I’m “in the game.” I took a couple of useful classes and joined a writing group. These all helped me to write more and to slowly visualize myself as, what I consider to be, a real writer. Of course my goals for the new year are to step up my game even more. Early changes to my game plan will definitely make this year different from 2008.
Like all Americans, I had to reassess my finances and taking classes of any kind might need to go on the back burner. I decided that my money would be better spent purchasing a computer notebook. These are much smaller than laptops and basically half the price. I can save time by no longer writing in long hand only to transcribe it later. Also, sometimes my high school aged daughter could use the laptop. This helps justify my purchase. I still feel guilty about buying it, but I hope to parlay the guilt in the way of forced writing. Every time I use it, I lend credence to its necessity in my life. Hey, whatever keeps me writing!

I also received an e-mail that my writing group officially has disbanded. I’m not surprised. I worry, though, about losing their feedback and support. A couple of years ago, I would’ve cringed at the thought of reading my works in progress to strangers. I was surprised to learn how much being in a group taught me about giving and receiving feedback. Unfortunately, I got quite used to bouncing ideas around and finding out if something I wrote “read well”.

Looking for a new group is of course the most likely option, yet I feel like maybe I’ve acquired enough new skills and experiences to maybe just “go it alone” this year. Maybe I could use 2009 to get it all out, go totally gangbusters and let all the stories in my head spill out. Sometimes the meetings and classes can actually get in the way of creating. The inspiration and tips can be great, but there’s no substitute for “butt in the chair”.

I have to believe that I finally have enough information to go it alone for awhile. I have made some great friends and contacts that if I really needed some support or an exchange of ideas, I could conjure up someone.

It’s time to retreat to the cave. Taking all that I’ve learned over the last couple of years and seeing what I can turn it into should be an exciting challenge. My hope is to emerge with a body of work that I feel finally shows my voice as a writer. To keep pushing myself to write when I’m not meeting my group, or finish an essay when I don’t need to turn it in for a class, is definitely a challenge for me. I need to keep producing solely for my personal benefit. This year, no one is looking over my shoulder. Wish me luck.
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Monday, January 26, 2009

Television Musings - Rants and Raves of a Romance Writer

By Kathy Carpenter

The Bachelor 13

This season we have Bachelor Jason Mesnick. Every season of the Bachelor or Bachelorette is a little different. Last season on the Bacholorette we had DeAnna. Jason being one of her 25 men. Everyone fell in love with Jason, the father with the three year old boy, including Deanna. He was one of the two Bachelors left at the end.

However, for some reason Deanna went was sweet Jessie. Another great guy but not Jason who was her perfect match. So, this season they brought Jason back to find his perfect wife and mother for his son Ty. Jason is still one of America’s favorite and all are hearts go out him wanting him to get the right girl this time around.

My favorite is Stephanie. A mother of a four year old girl. Her husband was killed in a plane crash when her daughter was ten weeks old. She may be a little too serious, but I think they would make a good family. In a way they are in the same place.

Some of the others, well they think they want to settle down, but are young and may not know exactly what they would be taking on. They don’t even know how to handle themselves are they really ready for a husband and child?
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Sunday, January 25, 2009


Hello, everyone:

As I mentioned at the beginning of year, among the issues I want to focus on in 2009 is meaning: on making 2009 our “year of meaning.” Toward that end I am commencing a “meaning coach” training in June, inviting readers to share their “existential difficulty” stories, preparing a book on meaning-making, and so on. In today’s newsletter, I’m sharing one reader’s story. Catherine’s story begins after a few announcements. If you would like to share your “existential difficulty” story, drop me an email (to and I’ll send you along some prompts and guidelines.

The next round of creativity coaching trainings begins the week of February 9th. For information on the next Introduction to Creativity Coaching Training and the next Advanced Creativity Coaching Training, and for information on becoming a free client in the next Introduction to Creativity Coaching Training and receiving free email-based creativity coaching, please visit:

A few spots remain in the March Deep Writing Workshop in London. For more information:

If you’re interested in the subject of making meaning, please take a look at The Atheist’s Way, which is now available from Amazon:

Last but not least, if you are thinking about taking the Meaning Coach Training that will begin in June (it will be the first of its kind), come on board soon. It is filling up. For more information:

Now, on to the main event. Here is Catherine’s “existential difficulty” story:

“Do you realize how disconcerting it is to feel like a teenager again - in your 60s?? And I’m not talking about the carefree, ‘Gee, it’s fun to be alive!’ kind of feeling that comes with discovering yourself and hanging out with best friends. No, I’m talking about the leaden, ‘Who am I, really?’, unfocused and unbalanced kind of feeling that so many teens experience as they’re discovering their identities, that feeling of just not belonging anywhere, of being unable to ‘land’ on recognizable soil.

“That’s the feeling I’ve been dealing with lately, and it has come to the forefront of my life within this last year. I’ve been retired now since 1999. I went into my retirement from nursing/office work with plans to have my own small practice of healing touch and doula work. I had high hopes for establishing my very own practice. However, in my neck of the woods, the Middle West, alternative and ‘new age’ practices are not much sought-after or trusted. So although I trained and met others in the fields I was interested in, I could not establish a community to work within - no one else wanted to meet with me for support or communication, and I found myself essentially alone.

“Well, that’s not how I operate best - I’m a ‘people person’ and I need the energy of others to keep me on my toes. I knew that from previous experience, so I really worked at contacting folks interested in alternative health. However, I had no success at building a community of alternative practitioners and after a short time, I had no clients of my own either. I lost interest in what was supposed to be my retirement job.

“Fast-forward through a move to a new home 15 minutes out of town, new grandchildren arriving on a regular basis, and some health issues, and here I am, entering 2009 and I still don’t know ‘what I want to be when I grow up.’ Life has become just a series of days to be gotten through, with no real focus and no real energy being directed at anything of importance. I wake up in the morning and often cannot think of why I should even get out of bed. If there’s nothing on my calendar, such as a lunch date or a babysitting stint, I have no reason to even get up.

“Or, if I do manage to get up and going, there’s nothing ‘calling to me’ that I really want to spend my time and limited energy on. One thing I have done is taken up writing … and that has probably saved my sanity. I have managed to join some writing groups that offer me some goals to work toward on a monthly basis. But writing, for me at least, is easy and doesn’t require a lot of effort. And it’s also lonely … I spend lots of time all by myself at the computer preparing for those infrequent times of sharing my writing with others in my groups.

“I have no illusions that what I write will make it into the ‘outside’ world and make me famous or even give me a sense of having contributed to the betterment of my world. It’s just a way for me to pass some time, and maybe something I write will from time to time evoke a positive response from someone in my group. But overall, I sense that there is something missing here … something being wasted, and that time is running out for me to discover and use that talent or gift before I die.

“That sense of limited time, of needing to hurry or else lose what I have been given, is what differentiates me from the teenager - I don’t have the luxury of a lifetime ahead of me to ‘work on myself.’ The feeling of emptiness, of waste, is exacerbated by the sense of fleeting time passing me by at a rate that astonishes me and leaves me frustrated. I have devoted most of my life to being a wife and mother and to the needs and schedules of others. Now that I am here, by myself, everyday, with no one to work ‘for,’ I am lost. And there seems to be little hope of finding myself before time runs out … but I continue to work on it.”

As the year proceeds, we will look not only at these stories of existential difficulty but also at how to effectively meet these challenges. If you would like to read along and to think along as we examine these matters, I recommend two of my books, The Van Gogh Blues and The Atheist’s Way. Let’s make 2009 our “year of meaning”!
Have an excellent Sunday.

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Wild Woman of Queens: Notes on Urban Creativity from across the East River.

Times Square, Inauguration 1-20-09 Sandra Lee Schubert

Sandra Lee Schubert

Week in Review

The end of the week brings out all the review shows. Since this was such important week with the inauguration of our first African American president there has been much to talk about. But do you spend time reviewing your week?
When I spend time looking over my day it helps me sort out the time wasters from what is useful. When I acknowledge spending more time watching "week in review" then creating adjustments can be made for the next week.

The most productive use of your time is reviewing how you spend it. Done regularly you begin to identify time wasters and your most productive time of day. Are you brighter in the morning or do you hit your stride in the evening? Do you watch too much TV or Internet surfing?

Schedule your time, stick to it and watch your productivity soar.

Sandra's e-course leads people to write their life stories. She is a creative vagabond, a poet, writer who co-facilitates the Wild Angels Poets and Writers Group at the historic Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine.Writing for Life: Creating a Story of Your Own. Visit her blog: Email her or @writing4life via twitter.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Career Inklings from Columbia

The Sound of Your Own Thoughts

Janet M. Ruck

There is a din that is deafening and it proclaims desperation and despair. The news is dire and depression is on the rise. If you heed the warnings, you may find it difficult to lift your head off the pillow, let alone get out of bed. But, reality takes on a varied cast, depending on the receiver. What is your reality? Can you discern it with all the uproar and distractions?

Sometimes I find it helpful to sit with my pen and pad and begin the process of writing. I don’t usually begin with a thought about what I’m going to write. The mere act of writing energizes me enough to keep me going until I have uncovered that “kernel” of truth and self. It can calm and soothe away the sharp edges of a day filled with bad news and predictions of more bad news.

Many of my clients have found themselves unemployed for the first time. They are understandably angry and anxious. Yet, they need to gather themselves and their thoughts so that they can begin or continue their job search. An exercise that I have found to be very helpful as a career counselor is the one which I use for myself. I encourage my clients to start with a blank page (or computer screen). Tabula rasa can be exactly what they need right now. Their minds are still filled with the past, and they will be better prepared for the future by listening to their own thoughts. The deep thoughts. The ones that will clear the way to truth and self.

Ask yourself this one question: “If I could be the best self possible, what would it be?” Set a timer, and write for an uninterrupted five minutes. You’ll be amazed at what your thoughts tell you. They’re still there, waiting to be called from the racket. Give them a chance to be heard.
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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Television Musings-Rants and Raves of a Romance Writer

By Kathy Carpenter


This week’s blog is on the new reality show Fear, I love scary movies. Halloween, Friday the 13th, Chucky, that type. But the never really scare me.

I find when I watch them, at least at the theater and go to most alone because no one I know likes them, I find sort of a calm or peacefulness settles in around me. My guess is that I feel it’s happening to someone else. I don’t know.
You know I love reality shows. So it was only natural for me to watch Fear. But I found myself scared on this. I don’t know if it’s because it’s on Television ot because the people seem more real but it’s scary.

They started out with 13 people who are killed off one by one. They are out in the middle of a swamp somewhere, in a cabin, and most stuff like the challenges and executions takes place at night.

In the first episode the execution was two girls buried alive in coffins. The first one to get out stayed in the game.

Last episode the took the teams blindfolded them put them in boats and sent them to the middle of a lake, in the swamp filled with all kids of stuff. A Saw-like voice comes on to tell them what to do (scary in itself). They put holes in the boat and a box of snakes. One of each team had to hold up a snake in each hand while the other one bailed water. The first team to ask for help went to execution.

In the execution they were locked in cages with rats trying to get at their faces.

The show does an excellent job of playing on the contestants fears along with the audience at home. Creepy stuff. Wednesday @ 8pm on Fox.
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The Art of Creating Divine Compost in Our Lives

Andrea Avari Stevens, Ph.D.

In the wake of welcoming ourselves into the New Year of 2009 we cannot help but notice that a decaying process is taking place. Under normal circumstances this process would seem in ecological balance to the rest of our lives. Death and rebirth are but sides of the same coin. Each is contained within the other. But to those of us willing to pay attention to both our inner process and the outer reflected world, the energy seems to be flowing towards the disintegration of those patterns and structures in a way that challenges us not to grip our minds and hearts in fear.

Normally we try to keep the compost pile out of sight over in a corner. A beautiful process that is sometimes stinky and not pretty in its slimy disintegration is not something we place at center stage. We appreciate the good work of the bacteria and fungi in breaking down the organic materials we supply to our pile, but we give them wide stance to do their important work.

And now the decay is in our faces. If we turn one way, there it is. Twisting our head another way, there it is in another form. Some days it seems as though it is coming from every direction. We can feel overwhelmed by the rate and depth of decay. Or we can embrace it. Just as a compost pile needs to be turned over for aeration in order to encourage the process, so we need to aerate our compost pile of fear with love and gratitude.

Perhaps we have lost money in the stock market, our home mortgage and/or our job is at risk, or we lost money moving into other currencies. Financial institutions are failing and we don’t know where to put our money. Ways of managing money in the past no longer make sense now. Then we turn on the news and see and hear about people from all corners of the world suffering in some way. A subtle kind of anxiety begins to surround us as we realize that the labor pains of this decay are deepening in preparation for rebirth.

What can we do? Remember who we really are. Know that we are Source. It is not that we deserve abundance and creativity; we are that. In our compost pile is the key to a new way of Being for us. If we calm down and appreciate that what is not needed anymore is falling away from us, our strengths for new ways of creating become obvious. When you hold the flower you also hold the compost or there would be no flower.

Be gentle with yourself and others. We are all the same energy of love at the core. Have gratitude. Give what it is that you want to get. Move your energy by giving whether it be a smile or a dollar. Recycle your own energy rather than constrict around the decay. Be that which you would want to see evolve from the decay. Be it now….Do not wait for other signs of love and peace to begin….this moment is waiting for you to choose. Check in with yourself often. Release any self-judgment by drawing it into your heart.

Move your energy by breathing your composted energy in for transformation and exhale compassion and rebirth for yourself and all beings. Step inward in meditation and extend your light of love to yourself and all others. Step out physically and connect with others of like mind for support. Love your compost. Your unique flower is seeded within.

Copyright 2009. Andrea Avari Stevens is the author of “A Hit of Heaven: a soul’s journey through illusion.” She is currently finishing her new book entitled “A Lunatic in Love: creating soulful relationships.” Andrea will be offering Coaching for the Awakening Spirit using the practice of mindfulness awareness through teleclasses on her almost newly designed website (due in February). She can be reached at
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Monday, January 19, 2009

Sculpting a Life:
Susan Gallacher-Turner’s turn in the Pacific Northwest
(Moon-Susan Gallacher-Turner)

I used to have a secret about something I did in the studio everyday that nobody knew about. I did it everyday, the same way. I felt a little guilty about it because it felt so good to do it. So I kept it to myself, my little studio secret. What I didn’t know then was this; this secret was important to my success as an artist, my health, sanity, relationships as well as my productivity.

What is it? It’s hard to put a label on it. So I’ll just go ahead and describe it step by step.

First, I’d make coffee. While that was brewing, I’d light a candle or two and put on a CD, usually instrumental. When the coffee was ready, I’d pour myself a nice, big, mug full and head to my studio. I’d sit down in the wicker chair with my dog at my feet and begin. I closed my eyes, sniffed and sipped my coffee and concentrated on nothing. I did nothing but sit, sip, listen and breathe. Thoughts would rush through my head. Feelings would bubble up from within, sometimes I’d sigh, sometimes I’d cry. But through it all, I’d keep sitting.

I treasured that time and called it my Creative Meditation. I got brave after awhile and put it on my schedule as C.M. I was able to do it after everyone else had left for school or work and I was alone. It felt so luxurious to have that time, alone, all for me – everyday.

Where did it go? Life changed. It’s hard to find the space and time to do it. My kids are college-age, live at home and are here most mornings, so I’m no longer alone. My beloved dog, Heather died and, although, a wonderful new lab has come into my life, she doesn’t always sleep at my feet. I’m also feeling the economic pinch, the need to push myself harder, to make more money, to be more productive. That means more to do and less time to be.

I remember when I started on my road as an artist and I began my creative meditation, I was afraid if I stopped and sat down, I might never get anything done. Of course, that didn’t happen. I’ve gotten a lot done over the years and have the portfolio to prove it.

There’s a lot to do. Right now in the studio, there’s a copper leaf piece on the table, three clay busts on the rolling stand, and a screening sculpture on the easel waiting for another layer of paint. There are new classes to plan and organize. Writing projects for blogs, freelance, interviews, book reviews that all need to be finished. Then there’s the work that goes with living; dishes, laundry floors, cat boxes, garbage, cooking, walking the dog. It seems an endless list that once done needs to be redone. Everyday.

I love what I do. And whether I’m sculpting, teaching, writing or connecting with new people I’m focused right there. So why can’t I focus on taking this space each day? Why is it so easy to-do and so hard to-be?

Fear. Now I’m afraid that if I stop doing, I’ll be swallowed up by fear. My fear of the unknown and my feelings of powerlessness will bring me to a grinding halt.

But running away from my fears doesn’t make me less afraid, all it does is keep me away from me. And after all, in this world of unknowns if you don’t know yourself, what do you know? I think that one way to get through the unknowns is to get back to what I do know. Me. Everyday.

Today, my to-do is to-be. For 1 cup of coffee, I resolve to let myself have a space everyday to be, to sit, to breathe in and out, to listen whatever pops into my head or heart.
Visit Susan's blog at and website at
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Don't Quit Your Day Job

Creating and Hope

Hope is a word we’ve been hearing a lot lately. Our incoming President based his campaign on hope. We all hope the economy will get better, we hope we won’t lose our homes and we hope to keep our jobs.

I began to wonder how hope motivates creating. Is it a good thing or does it stifle us? Like most things in our life, if we don’t overindulge, hope can drive us to create. It’s okay to fantasize about writing the next “Harry Potter” or “Twilight” if that puts your butt in the chair and motivates you to write. Even something as simple as, “If one person sees my words and is touched by them, I’ve done my job as a writer” can be used to get you writing.

Where hope can hold us back is when we fall into the trap of, “I hope I can find time to write.” “I hope I have the best case scenario to get some work done.” When you see statements like this in print they look ridiculous. We know this is not common sense, yet we easily allow ourselves to fall into these traps over and over again.
As I write this piece, I’m waiting for my husband to finish the yard work before we run errands. It’s not a large chunk of time, but learning to seize these tiny moments is one step forward in my writing goals.

It’s important to remember that hope is only a beginning. I hope someday to reach all of my writing goals, to write everyday and confidently define myself as a writer. However, what I know is that it takes work and dedication. I can’t give up when I’ve had a busy week and I’ve once again fallen victim to the hope traps. Having two school-aged children, a full time job and then, the holidays, has been overwhelming. Like most creative people, I know these are excuses. Maybe I need to get up earlier, or commit myself less. Yet, it’s easy to short-change myself instead of letting others down.

Sometimes, though, it is more serious. I have to help my kids with their homework first. I am also busier at my job these days and I come home exhausted. I’m very fortunate to have my job and I need to give it all I can muster. I have seen tiny windows where can fit in my writing, but I have honestly felt too damm tired lately.

By no means have I experienced “writers block”, as the ideas are still flowing. What I do feel is a creative depression. If I can’t find the time to get it all out and if I never reach the goals I set for myself, maybe I shouldn’t try at all. I had a goal to post to this blog once a week. I feel really guilty when I don’t. I should be able to do it no matter how chaotic my week has been. These kinds of feelings are limiting. I have to let go and move on. I can’t go back to a week where I don’t post an entry. All I can do is reaffirm my commitment and go forward. See, I have logic and I am practical. Like most creative people, I know what I need to do. The constant challenge is doing what’s good for your muse and not wallowing in destructive feelings or behaviors.

So, deep breath…this entry is done. Move forward. I guess I can enjoy the fact that I am more creative than I give myself credit for. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t be so screwed up! As I walk boldly into 2009, I hope for many things. Hoping for more time and perfect scenarios should be shed for the hope of maturing as a writer. You could say that I hope I learn a more productive way to hope!

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Monday Morning Motivator - Refusal Skills

Sometimes the seemingly strongest-willed people find themselves trapped in a conversation that ends in a volunteer commitment. Aack! They may have initially declined, but by the time the conversation ended, their NO had morphed into a reluctant YES.

Here are REFUSAL SKILLS STRATEGIES to help NO responses remain firm NO’s.

1. Monitor and moderate your BODY LANGUAGE. Look them in the eye, make your voice strong, smile, and say NO. Show your conviction.

2. SUGGEST AN ALTERNATIVE. Another volunteer? Another option?

3. CHANGE THE TOPIC. This is imperative. It may seem abrupt – and that’s okay. Just do it. Slip into your acting role and earn an Oscar. Become passionate, intrigued, immersed in another subject. Use your body language.

4. If the topic change doesn’t fly, or you can’t think of one, EXIT. Tap into your creativity and get out of there.

CONGRATULATIONS! You have successfully executed a NO response.

Beware: If you give multiple excuses why you can’t do something, the other person may wear you down. They may say other people have deadlines, have company, have a broken arm too. Then, you’re trapped.

If you do give a reason, be sure it’s a gem. You’ll be out of town, so you cannot do X on a certain date. That’s a viable reason. You know you’re safe.

One option is to give a BROKEN RECORD RESPONSE. Keep giving the same
reason, over and over and over again. Same wording. Say it with a smile. I promise, they’ll quit asking.

I am a big believer in volunteering, in giving back to organizations and communities. And – I also believe we often over-commit and sabotage ourselves. Give yourself permission to say NO, use these refusal skill strategies and you will be successful.

This tip came from my Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors course. It’s offered in January. Check my web site for more information:

As a pediatric ER doctor, CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge suspense novels. Her debut, LIFELINES (Berkley, March 2008), became a national bestseller and Publishers Weekly proclaimed it a "breathtakingly fast-paced medical thriller." The second in the series, WARNING SIGNS, is due out January, 2009. Contact her at

Margie Lawson -- presenter, psychotherapist, writer -- lives at the top of a Colorado mountain west of Denver. Margie merged her two worlds, psychology and writing, to develop psychologically anchored editing systems and techniques that teach writers how to write page turners. A former college professor, Margie works as a psychotherapist, writes fiction and nonfiction, and presents full day master classes for writers internationally. Go to for more information.

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Wild Woman of Queens: Notes on Urban Creativity from across the East River.

Turkish coffee by Sandra Lee Schubert 2009

Wild Woman of Queens
: Notes on Urban Creativity from across the East River.

Sandra Lee Schubert

Dreaming Weird

I had this dream the other night. My skull snapped open like a wallet w. the skull open down the middle and swinging right and left. I was exposed, my brain (mind) opened to the world. It was a weird dream. Sticking with me like some dreams do. Oddly I have taken to wearing my cap around the apartment feeling my head every now in then just in case. You never know when things will be exposed. I wish I had a friend who could interpret the entire dream for me. I posted it on dream site but nothing.

Creativity becomes this thing that exposes me. I reveal something inadvertently. In my Monday night writing group things have been pointed out that I didn't mean to reveal. But there it is some secret of my psyche laid out on paper for all to see.

I think being a creative being takes courage. You have to be willing to step out into the world fully exposed. I know this exposure keeps people from fulfilling their creative dreams. It can hurt.

Then you have the completed work and it thrills you and it inspires others. Sometimes that is all it takes- this one moment when you become absolutely willing to expose all because the end result is so grand.

Sandra's e-course leads people to finally write their life stories. She is a creative vagabond, a poet, writer She co-facilitates the Wild Angels Poets and Writers Group at the historic Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine.Writing for Life: Creating a Story of Your Own. Visit her blog: Email her or @writing4life via twitter.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

SOUTHWEST RAMBLINGS - Thoughts on Making and Living Art

The Inauguration

Tuesday is a special day for this country. Change is coming, hope is in the air. Many of us have lived through a lot of inaugurations: Carter, thankful that Watergate was finally behind us; Bill Clinton strolling down Pennsylvania Avenue, and John Kennedy and his famous words. For me there was also Nixon, Johnson, Ford, Reagan, Bush 1 and 2, with a slight memory of Eisenhower.

I particularly remember Kennedy in 1961. I had just finished with major eye surgery and was limited to 1 hour of TV watching a day. I saw Robert Frost on a cold January morning, breath in the air, and listened to JFK intone "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country."

That's the spirit I feel now. I was young enough to be impressionable with the new fashion, Jackie's tour of the White House, JFK's delight in the arts, and children in the White House.

I have been lucky enough to attend conferences at the Kennedy Center for the Arts. I even stood in the Presidential Box (when no one was looking) with several other arts educators who graduated from the same college as I did. I gaped as I toured the beautiful building, and I could have sat for hours watching video of previous honorees. So I decided to go looking for some of the wonderful quotes by Kennedy concerning the arts.

State of the Union Message, January 14, 1963

At Amherst College, October 26, 1963

And probably my favorite, which has the tone of Dr. King's famous speech:

At Amherst College, October 26, 1963

I will be watching recorded video on Tuesday, as I will be in school, giving tests, and our district internet infrastructure cannot support 100 schools trying to access video streaming. But my heart will be waiting to take wing, as hope takes hold.

Linda Moran is a fiber artist and high school math teacher in Tucson, Arizona. You can follow her marbling adventures at her blog, or visit her website. Read more!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Monday Morning Motivators to Slay Your Creative Dragons

By CJ Lyons and Margie Lawson


The science world this week has been filled with great reasons for you to keep moving!!

Did you know that exercise stimulates the growth of new brain cells? Yep, especially the brain cells found in the hippocampus which is the part of the brain that translates memory and experience. A vital area for us writers!!

And, exercise has been shown to stimulate the production of the chemicals needed to fight depression, block pain, and prevent inflammation. That twenty minute walk around the block to clear your head is better than a fistful of Prozac, Codeine or aspirin!!

Furthermore, regular exercise helps to prevent stress not only in your mind but also on your face. Yep, no more botox, healthy eating and regular exercise can do more to erase those wrinkles!

So, what are you waiting for? Get moving!

As a pediatric ER doctor, CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge suspense novels. Her debut, LIFELINES (Berkley, March 2008), became a national bestseller and Publishers Weekly proclaimed it a "breathtakingly fast-paced medical thriller." The second in the series, WARNING SIGNS, is due out January, 2009. Contact her at

Margie Lawson -- presenter, psychotherapist, writer -- lives at the top of a Colorado mountain west of Denver. Margie merged her two worlds, psychology and writing, to develop psychologically anchored editing systems and techniques that teach writers how to write page turners. A former college professor, Margie works as a psychotherapist, writes fiction and nonfiction, and presents full day master classes for writers internationally. Go to for more information.

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Don't Quit Your Day Job

Creating and Waiting

It’s exactly noon and I’m waiting for family to come over for a visit. They are due to arrive at any moment, but I’m done with all my preparations. I put out some chips and salsa, loaded the dishwasher, vacuumed, cleaned the bathroom and hid some ironing that that I didn’t get to. Really, there’s nothing left to do. I could keep putzting around, sift through a magazine or start channel surfing, but I’m not going to do that. A new thing I promised myself this year is to seize writing opportunities. Sure the doorbell could ring any second or it could be twenty minutes, or maybe even an hour. People leave late, or get stuck in traffic. Regardless, I’m constantly trying to find perfect moments in which to write and those don’t come around often. So many times I find myself feeling antsy because I’m ready and no one else is. Or, like today, I feel like I’m wasting time when I’m just sitting around and people arrive later than expected. Lateness doesn’t bother me. It’s always pretty laid back at my house and there are so many times when you have to be somewhere at a specific time. When it’s just a gathering, I want people to come when they can and not rush. However, I do kick myself when it ends up being a half an hour or an hour and I did nothing with it. I guess it may even be a New Year’s resolution to make the most of these opportunities.

Sometimes, it’s difficult to turn on your creative juices at a moment’s notice. Often, I’m tired or anxious with whatever I’m waiting around for. I like to tell myself that I’ll write for an hour today or hey it’s the weekend and I have no plans, so I can write for two hours. Last year, I found that approach works for some, but I often end up not writing at all and then feel guilty about it. It’s more important for me to just say, “I’m going to write today.” This way I can be happy with whatever makes it on to the page.

I’m at a place in my life right now where I can make time for writing, just not as much as I would like. My kids are older and can fend for themselves, but the younger one still needs help with his homework and the older one still needs to be dropped off and picked up from everywhere, I still have a full time job and a million other things on my plate. I admire the writers who are able to work all day and write till the wee hours, sacrificing sleep and sanity. I know myself though; my day job would suffer and would feel like I was neglecting my kids. I have to do what works for me even if it means I don’t accomplish as much as I would like. Something is better than nothing.

In 2008, I wrote more than I ever have in my life. I finally seriously turned out some stuff I’m proud of. The last couple of days, I’ve been thinking about my writing goals for 2009. Should I make a schedule? Should I chart out time for research, website maintenance, workshops and classes? You know what? I need to say my goal for 2009 is to write more than I did in 2008. That’s a great goal. It’s much better than promising to finish the rough draft of my novel (that was last year’s goal and I’m only now embarking on chapter three).

Hopefully, last year taught me that I can do this and I’m finally on a path of discovering myself as a writer and what that definition means for me. Comparisons usually set us up for failure, and those that succeed do it on their own terms and often in unconventional ways. Maybe I’ll become the famous writer who only creates when she’s waiting. Look, I wrote this whole piece and still the doorbell hasn’t rung. Good for me!
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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Southwest Ramblings: Thoughts on Making and Living Art

Lessons in Strange Places

A good many of us are self-taught artists, whether we be in fiber, in painting, in words - whatever. We become immersed in our learning and experimenting, and when we are done we pack up and go back to the rest of our lives.

What about looking into our "regular lives" for the inspiration to learn to increase our artistic abilities? I'm not sure I can really explain what I mean, but I'm going to give it a shot.

Those of you who are regular readers of my blog know that I am in the midst of studying for a major math test to "prove" (according to the Bush administration) that I really can teach algebra. Now some of you might be thinking, math, art, learning how to do math from art? This seems to be a stretch.

But it isn't. I sat for three hours in a internet cafe with a friend doing math problems and understanding some new things about trig, and functions, and matrices, and inverses....all the time thinking "Oh my, I really can do this and understand it!" Years ago I would have laughed if you had told me I could do upper levels of math.

Now to get to this point - being self-taught in pre-calculus and calculus, I told myself I could do it, and I WOULD do it. On the way home from our session (people around us no doubt thought we were nuts, as we were laughing about forgetting to rationalize a denominator), I realized that the strategies I had been using were much like my self-teaching with my fiber and marbling. Dean and I worked to learn how to marble, trying, making mistakes, and learning from them. We weren't afraid to try.

I started doing weavings with my fabric, trial and error, some successful, some not. I kept trying, and I wouldn't let myself be negative about what I was doing. My "regular life" as a teacher constantly trying to improve what happened in the classroom served me well as I tried to take those lessons into my new world of art. Since I learned I could work successfully with marbled fabric, I told myself I could learn math. It was only today that the epiphany of taking from one to learn the other struck me.

Usually we think about learning our art, based on our real life. I discovered I could learn about math through my experiences in art.

Linda Moran is a high school teacher and fiber artist who lives in Tucson, AZ. She is really interested in comments and thoughts on this particular post. You can read her blog Marbled Musings and visit her website, The Art of Fabric. Read more!

Career Inklings from Columbia

Take a Bird’s Eye View of Your Career
By Janet M. Ruck

As jobs become less certain and unemployment numbers rise, it can be difficult to see any positive outcomes or possibilities. Some mental health professionals have advised that we limit our time watching the news, because of the stress resulting from the helplessness we feel as we see the daily turmoil unfold. Yet, there are some who are using this tumultuous time to take the opportunity to view their careers differently, and maybe even take action. Faced with the reality of furlough or termination, some individuals look upon this as a time to re-evaluate choices they’ve made, the direction they’ve taken and perhaps totally change their job or career. Perhaps you’ve thought that the career path you have followed no longer aligns with your interests. Maybe you’re bored with your work, or it doesn’t make the best use of your talents. Are you gliding along, free as a bird, achieving your goals? Or is every day a chore, drudgery to be tolerated, happy just to have a job? This might be a fine time for you to step back and get a “bird’s eye view” of your career.

Sometimes a job’s sole purpose is financial and providing for family is the goal. This is certainly a vital component of going to work every day. But if you’ve been looking for more from your job, and you are ready to find work that gives your life new meaning, then this might be a good time to ask yourself a few questions. Without editing your responses or thinking too much about them as you write, quickly answer the following:

1. What have I always dreamed of doing?
2. Is my current reality aligned with my long-held dreams?
3. Do I see the outcome of my efforts in a meaningful and positive way?
4. Have my achievements been analogous with my goals?
5. Am I able to use my strengths to my and my employer’s advantage?

If your responses make you feel uneasy, this could be the time for you to take steps to infuse new meaning into your work or to view your work differently or maybe even to set your sights on a different career path. If you are working, some suggestions are:

• assist in projects that align with your interests
• change the way you function to better utilize your strengths
• take on different work assignments
• volunteer in your community
• mentor, teach, train others

If you are not working, reflect on your answers to questions 1-5 as you consider your next steps. Professional advice and guidance from a career counselor is also an option. For a list of professional career counselors, visit the website of the National Career Development Association (

For many people, crisis equals opportunity. During these turbulent times, when it comes to your career, this may be the time for you to take a risk, spread your wings, and soar!
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Wild Woman of Queens: Notes on Urban Creativity from across the East River.

Wild Woman of Queens: Notes on Urban Creativity from across the East River.

Sandra Lee Schubert

Writing World Domination

Writing is a funny thing. It makes you doubt yourself. There is no instantaneous pat on the back when you've turned a brilliant phrase. You could blog yourself blue and no one responds. A dancing performs a dance and there is applause or a hiss from the audience. If your book doesn't see it stands to reason your writing may suck. Or, not. Who knows? When no one lets you know.
World domination is something I aspire to achieving. No not the whole globe type of domination but my own world. We all inhabit a bit of space. What do we do with it?

I propose you dominate at least one part of it. How about writing? Create a Writing World Domination plan for 2009. It could look something like this.

In 2009 I will earn 50% of my income from my writing. I will achieve this through crafting wonderful articles, blogs posts, and ebooks that will inspire people to hire me to write wonderful articles, blogs posts and ebooks for them.


In 2009 I will dominate my piece of the world by completing the novel that has sat in my desk drawer for ten years collecting dust and putting a drag on my psyche all these years. I will free myself of useless and unispiring dreams and pursue ones that rock my world.

Take a chance on world domination.

Sandra Lee Schubert- Her e-course leads people to write their life stories. She is a creative vagabond, a poet, writer and co-facilitates the Wild Angels Poets and Writers Group at the historic Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine. Her e-course,is available online Writing for Life: Creating a Story of Your Own. Visit her blog: Email her or @writing4life via twitter.
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Recent Photo of the Maisel Family

From left to right, Ann, Kira, Eric and Natalya.

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A young composer, who was also a violin virtuoso, had an idea for a violin concerto. The themes flowed out of him and struck him as beautiful. He recognized that it would be a devilishly difficult piece to play but its difficulty was not gratuitous: you had to play fast and dexterously, to be sure, but if you did you produced something gorgeous.

He played the concerto for his mentor. His mentor hated it, exclaiming that it sounded as if the violin was being tortured. He played it in concert. The audience booed it and reviewers called it “music foul to ear” and “music for masochists.” No other violinists would touch. Every so often he would play his violin concerto in concert, always with the same disastrous results.

He never stopped believing in its beauty. He died young; and ten years after his death a great violinist ventured a performance, which was hailed as brilliant. Suddenly everyone called the concerto a masterpiece. It became an integral part of the violin literature; and now every up-and-coming violinist must master it.

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Friday, January 09, 2009

Garden Views: Editing

Over time, we change, our taste changes, the publishing world changes, the amount of time we want to spend writing changes and our capabilities to manage our writing and ourselves changes. What this means to garden writers is that their careers should be periodically edited.
When? When that career no longer functions as intended, when gardens don’t provide a source of mental or emotional stimulation, when the writing has grown too dull, when the two magazines that were the primary income source have folded and sadly, when garden writing no longer provides the pleasure it once did.

As with everything in life, career happiness is directly proportional to the difference between our expectations and our ability to achieve them. If you can only earn $2,000 per year writing gardening articles, it’s unrealistic to hope that you’ll have earned $100,000 at the end of your five- year plan. You must either change your expectations, or your ability to sell your writing ($100,000 is not a realistic income expectation for a garden writer).

Editing usually means taking something out, but it can also mean moving things around, so that the writing, or your career, flows more smoothly. This can apply to the list of publishers you approach, your work environment, your schedule, your work mix, etc. Apply the 80/20 rule: 80% of your income will come from 20% of your clients. Concentrate 80% of your efforts on those publishers!

Think about the best use of your garden writing time and talent right now. Then start editing to bring that vision closer to reality.

Lois de Vries' thoughts on gardening and environmental issues run the gamut from gardening in her own back yard to promoting land management practices that reconnect people to the Earth. Lois is seeking a publisher for her book, The Transformational Power of Gardening. Visit her blog at
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A screenwriter with good credentials was able to show his new script to several Hollywood studio heads. Each said, “We don’t understand the ending. It is too ambiguous. Will she have the affair or won’t she? The ending is terrible!” The screenwriter took his script to Europe, where he convinced a consortium of three film companies to make it. It did beautifully in Europe, winning several awards, and then arrived in the United States.

Audiences hated it, complaining that the ending was horribly ambiguous. Did she have the affair or didn’t she? The movie won several more awards. Reviewers loved it. Audiences hated it. It made very little money; and found itself on all of the “best of the new century” film lists. The screenwriter could only smile; and in his acceptance speech for the biggest prize of all he devoted all of his time to praising ambiguity.

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Thursday, January 08, 2009

Iowa Writing Coach: Talking Yourself into Creating

What do you do when an idea for a novel (or painting or other creative work) drops out of the sky, but after the first few flushes of loving the work, you stop believing that the work is valuable? What you do is you talk yourself into creating.

Here’s how my own talk-on-paper went this morning:

Why am I stalled after the fourth chapter of this novel? Well, first, there’s the nagging doubt that it will amount to anything. Then there’s the feeling that working on the novel is just a big excuse not to be doing the long list of things I should be doing, like prospecting for “real” writing work that pays the bills (like marketing publications).

And yet at the same time, when I think about my real desire in life, isn’t it to write books? And aren’t I lucky to have this idea for a book, the writing of which could mean joy and respite from a long cold winter – not to mention a tax deduction for dancing lessons AND a few trips to California, since both are needed for research?

At the very least, couldn’t this novel be a practice ground for future novels to come? I have one bad novel under my belt; why not two? Isn’t this idea for the novel actually a total gift?

As I talked to myself on paper, it became increasingly clear that with my drive to write the novel, I was being gifted with a classic “meaning adventure,” a phrase coined by Eric Maisel in The Van Gogh Blues: The Creative Person’s Path through Depression (New World Library, 2002). In this book, Maisel argues that creators tend to deal more often with existential questions about meaning because we are individualists who doubt traditional wisdom and insist on providing our own answers to questions of meaning. This quality, of course, leaves us vulnerable to meaning crises – even depression. However, because we are creative, we also have amazing opportunities for meaning adventures – such as I am experiencing as I continue to work on the novel.

Sometimes you just have to remind yourself how lucky you are to be driven to create, and to have something in mind to create. Indeed, ideas for new projects are both a gift and an adventure.
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An audience of scientists and lay people came to hear a cutting edge lecture on fractal geometry. The lecture was eye-opening and intriguing and the slide show included fantastic images of Mandelbrot sets, the British coastline, fractal EKGs, and other evidence for the idea that nature made great use of the “roughness” created by self-repeating formulae. More than that: the design of nature might be rooted in these formulae and fractal geometry might explain life. Many in the audience went away amazed; but one man did not move when the lecture ended. He was more than amazed: he sat there thinking. His field was the mind, that trickiest of all entities. How, he wondered, did fractal geometry relate to the workings of the mind? Suddenly a phase popped into his head: “the fractal geometry of consciousness.” Just like that, and with absolute certainty, he knew where he would be spending his remaining time and energy while residing on this earth.

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009



Several assistants to the executive director of a nonprofit organization listened to the executive director’s plea. “We need to create a beautiful presentation,” she said, “that underscores the importance of the work we do and that makes use of all the latest multi-media technology. But we can’t afford to hire outside consultants. What can we do?” The assistants scratched their heads and, at a complete loss, fell silent. Just then a woman arrived, the youngest of the assistants, who had felt her current work too important to interrupt for yet another staff meeting. She apologized for arriving late and asked why the group looked so glum and perplexed. They explained the situation. The young woman thought for a moment, considered the tasks for which she was already responsible, and said, “I’d love to do it.” “But do you know how to use multi-media technology?" the executive director asked. “Heavens no!” the young woman exclaimed. “But I relish the challenge!” Everyone stared at her. “So, I’m off!” she cried. She hurried off; and the group, much calmer now, spent the next hour finding many pleasant things to chat about until lunchtime rolled around.

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Tuesday, January 06, 2009



An artist was sitting in his usual spot in the café, at a certain window table with a view of the street and, today, some wild autumn weather. A gaggle of wet scholars arrived and sat down at the table next to him. The philosopher among them intoned about the platonic form of rain and how the music of the spheres must sometimes sound like thunder. The anthropologist among them told several stories about the weather mythology of primitive peoples. The astronomer among them, who was also an amateur meteorologist, explained the niceties of barometric pressure and the logic of weather prediction. The art historian among them remarked on the uses of wild weather in the paintings of the Turner and how Van Gogh employed the Japanese device of slanted lines to depict rain. So bored and restless did this discussion make the artist that he packed up his things, strode out of the café, and embraced the wind-blown rain that struck and greeted him.

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Monday, January 05, 2009

Television Musings - Rants and Raves from a Romance Writer

By Kathy Carpenter

Superstars of Dance

This is the latest dance show. Although this is a competition we don’t vote or have a say. So it’s more for the entertainment of the dance.

Eight countries, US, China, Argentina, Ireland, Russia, South Africa, India and Australia, are competing in group, duo’s, and solo categories. There is one judge from each country and the judge from the country performing doesn’t vote. Each judge gives a score form 1-10. So, far six is the lowest. Mostly sevens, eights, nines, and tens,
There is no rhyme or reason to which dance the country performs in what order. Each country goes through and performs one of the three. Then they repeat in the same order.

It’s wonderful to see dances from around the world. To invest in some culture.

Looks like the show will be about three or four weeks. Do not know if it has what it takes to be a repeating show.

Another new show which will debut this week is Howie Do It. It stars Howie Mandel doing practical jokes. I love Howie on Deal or No Deal. This one I may or may not like. I could probably take it or leave it. But I hate the name.

One more comment this week. Lipstick Jungle I said it was cancelled but there may be new life and I hope so. After watching last Friday I saw previews for this week advertising as the season finale.
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Sculpting a Life:

Susan Gallacher-Turner's turn in the Pacific Northwest
('Winter/Imbolc' Sculpture by

Out with the old
And into a new year, thank god.

I’ve been putting off writing my blogs for the New Year. Procrastination is not one of my faults, honest, you can ask my friends, family, fellow artists. I make my deadlines.

So why am I dragging my feet, here? I’m not sure, really. But let’s face it, the last year was definitely difficult. I started the year with my wrist in a cast. I couldn’t work in the studio, drive or tie my own shoes. I went through physical therapy which meant more pain as I worked my way through all the exercises. Then there were the job changes. Lay-offs. Fill-in work. Part-time. It meant saying good bye to familiar routines, friends, medical benefits and money.

It was scary. Even though, I know we’re not alone, there was gloom and doom everywhere I looked, it was still hard. What was hardest was not losing faith, in the face of fear.

I tend to be a “Polly Positive’, you know, the person that sees the silver lining in the clouds, the lemonade among the lemons, the openings when doors close. This year, I found myself mired in the pit more than I’d like to admit with tears streaming down my face as I mopped the floor or painted in the studio. I can’t believe I’m writing about this, because at the time, I was so ashamed of myself.

Now, I know that there is no shame in feelings. And that feelings, felt, don’t get in the way of progress. Because although, there were losses last year, there were also gains, too. That was the biggest surprise of all.

In spite of the difficulties and fear throughout the year, I completed more pieces, participated in more shows, sold more work, taught in more places to adults as well as children, did a series of artist interviews, wrote podcasts, artist profiles and book reviews, and met many wonderful new people. And I didn’t realize it all until I sat down to write in my journal on New Year’s Eve.

The year that had started out to look like complete failure was, actually, successful. And not just for me, either. My husband got out of a job that he felt stifled by and into a new place where his talents are valued, used, and being expanded. My daughter has tripled the students she had last year. My son quit one job, found another and has learned a whole set of new skills. Even the dog made progress. Now, she can heel off leash for me, as long as there’s no snow, of course.

We started last year with loss and sadness and ended it with gains and happiness we could never have imagined.

So what do I want to throw out with the old year, then? Dead-end jobs. Duck and cover tactics to try to insure security. Keeping my light low to avoid being seen. Routine and boredom. Fear. Sadness.

Ok, maybe I can’t throw out fear and sadness. They’re feelings that are part of living. What I can keep is the knowledge that feelings of sadness don’t prevent happiness. That fear doesn’t prevent action, in fact, it can inspire it.

Here’s what I’d like to ring in the New Year with – hope in the face of the unknown. Excitement about meeting new challenges leading to growth. Opening up to new people, places and opportunities to be even more thankful for than I could ever imagine.

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A young man who was having great trouble finishing tasks and meeting any of his creative goals lamented, “I am so disorganized! I have papers everywhere. I can’t keep anything straight. I write a sentence and then it vanishes among all the other fragments and litter that surround me. What can I do to get better organized!” A very successful writer overheard the young man and said, “Come with me.” He took him to his place and showed him his study. It was an astoundingly disorganized- looking space, with piles of books on the floor, stacks of paper everywhere, and a desk so littered that it was hard to spot the phone, the computer, and even the lamp.

The successful writer said, “See?” “What am I seeing?” the young man groaned. “I only see a mess worse than my own mess! What is the lesson?” “The lesson is that organization has nothing to do with externals,” the writer replied. “Your room can look exactly like this and still you be perfectly organized. What can’t look like this is your mind! If you want organization, get a grip on your mind and not on the externals of organization. Many tidy spaces mask chaotic minds!—and many disorderly spaces like this one reflect a man busily creating.” The young man hung his head. After a long moment he said, “But I still think that organizing my space is essential.” “And you will be saying that until the end of time, and never getting any results,” the successful writer replied. “Tidy your mind first!—and then see whether your desk really needs organizing.”

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Sunday, January 04, 2009



Just about every day for a year after coming home from her teaching job at the local elementary school, Mary worked on her screenplay. Her story concerned itself with a handful of cold characters, made colder by their wintry Iowa landscape, characters that couldn’t tell the truth about anything. Having written it, she then spent a year trying to sell it. Every door seemed closed to her. Not knowing what to do next, she began a second screenplay, this time about a conflict between neighbors deep in the Brazilian jungle. For eighteen months she wrote it; for another eighteen months she tried to sell it. She went to Los Angeles and took “sell your script!” classes; she networked as best she could; she tried to follow the rules. She knew that her screenplays were not commercial but, not wanting to write cartoons for teenage boys, she continued on her path—her third screenplay took as its setting Paris and a series of strange conversations among lovers. That screenplay also did not sell. She taught, she married, she had children, she continued to write, and she watched twenty years pass and nine screenplays accumulate. Her tenth screenplay was purchased and became the movie you all know about. When asked by interviewers how she could continue writing for so long with so little success, she replied, “I must have great patience.” What she really meant was, “What choice did I have?” But she left that thought unsaid.

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Saturday, January 03, 2009

SOUTHWEST RAMBLINGS: Thoughts on Making and Living Art

Ya Never Know...

....when and where you will find inspiration. I would venture a guess that most times it really is in our own backyard. I am a classic case in point: I've lived in Arizona nearly 25 years, 10 in Phoenix, and nearly 15 in Tucson. It has only been in the last six months that I have made a serious effort to get to know my city and surroundings.

While there are things about Tucson I really dislike, I have found some gems that I keep coming back and visiting. A new visit, after 10 years, to Agua Caliente Park gives me my desert water fix - plus a renovation of a 50's ranch house, complete with a gallery that exhibits local work. Met a great artist and got on the list for a solo gallery show.

Each Friday we check the Calendar listings in the newspaper (on line, of course) and see what's available. Discovered the Sonoran Glass Academy and their Pumpkin Harvest open house - seriously want to blow some glass! We've attended some great holiday art fairs we never knew about, discovered hidden galleries - and some interesting people, like the woman who spins her dog hair into wool for sweaters and wonders why no one buys them (it's too warm here!).

There are walking trails where you can see bobcat and their babies, national parks a few miles away (Saguaro National Park,) and the Tucson Botanical Gardens, where you can see an amazing variety of cacti. All we need to do is look more closely at what we pass daily.

Oh...and bring a camera - today I missed a to-die-for shot of the moon in a blue sky with great branches framing it. I'm going to try and return tomorrow just slightly later and see if I can still get it - never occurred to me to delete a couple of photos from my phone and use that!

Linda Moran is a fiber artist and high school math teacher living in Tucson, Arizona. Visit her main blog to follow her adventures in marbling fabrics and musings on life. Read more!

Wild Woman of Queens: Notes on Urban Creativity from across the East River.

All tied up Sandra Lee Schubert 2009

Wild Woman of Queens
: Notes on Urban Creativity from across the East River.

Sandra Lee Schubert

What Resolution?

I have been resolving to create some resolutions for the new year. Yep. Each day I look at my workbook and my colored pens (to make my resolutions stand out) and do anything else but write out a resolution, a goal, a wish or a desire of any kind. Pfft. I'd rather watch TV. It is so much easier to see some one else creating something then for me to even begin to try and resolve to do anything.

I think I may be resolution deficient-completely lacking in the essential vitamins to create or to resolve to create.

I am feeling a little fuzzy around the cranium. The spark or energy that ignites into something spectacular is not there. I hate that. There is nothing worse then being a creator without a creation. It sucks. I've been reading Twyla Tharp's book, The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life. I have made a habit of reading it. I hope to absorb its contents into my being. I hope for inspiration and I get this,

"You know you're in a rut when you annoy other people, bore your collaborators and supporters, fail to challenge yourself, and get the feeling that the world is moving on while you're standing still."
I have been tossing down breadcrumbs for me to follow back to myself. I know I am in a rut. I sit down at my computer and waste time. There are moments of inspiration followed by nothing-no action. This has been a long standing issue.

Wow. I am boring myself.

How about you? Bored? Tired? Don't have the same old vim and vigor? I recommend trying a new product. This product will revolutionize your life. You will make millions, have more energy and be the kind of person everyone wants to hang around. I swear.

Twyla recommends this three step process: First, you have to see the rut. Second, admit you're in a rut. The third step is getting out of the rut.

Do these three things and all the riches of the world will be yours. Or, you will have created something. I officially proclaim 2009 as the year I am rutless. I resolve each day to take at least one small action to climb, jump,create out of my rut. Really I don't want to bore you or me. What do you say? Are you with me? OK here we go... one, two, three....jump!

Sandra Lee Schubert- Her e-course leads people to write their life stories. She is a creative vagabond, a poet, writer and co-facilitates the Wild Angels Poets and Writers Group at the historic Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine. Her e-course,is available online Writing for Life: Creating a Story of Your Own. Visit her blog: Email her or @writing4life via twitter.

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A man known for his creativity came upon a group of people who appeared to be dancing. As he got closer, he saw that they were swatting at a swarm of gnats tormenting them. “Help us!” they cried. The man approached but kept sufficient distance that the gnats ignored him. “We’ve tried everything!” they cried. “But we can’t keep these gnats off us!” The man studied their situation and noticed that in the midst of the suffering assembly was a pile of dried cow dung, dried out from the recent hot weather. The man knew that in other cultures people used the smoke from smoldering dung to keep away flies, mosquitoes, and gnats. “Light that dried cow dung!” the man shouted. “Its smoke will repel the gnats!” “Ugh” the crowd cried as one. “We would never touch dried dung! Ugh! What would people think of us if they saw us picking up poop!” The man repeated his message. Again the crowd refused, citing how others would view them. Finally the man shook his head. “Then the gnats win,” he said, turning away and wandering off to attend to his creative work.

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Friday, January 02, 2009



A writer came to Ari, a creativity coach. The writer said, “I want to write a novel about two chess players who live out an intense rivalry over a game of chess. Every move is a twist and turn in their rivalry.” “What will black play if white opens pawn to queen four?” Ari replied. “Excuse me?” the writer said. “What will black play if white opens pawn to queen four?” Ari repeated. “I don’t understand you,” the writer said. “I am asking about your knowledge of chess and whether you understand the language of chess,” Ari continued. “Do you?” “No,” the writer replied, “I’m not really interested in chess, I’m only interested in the rivalry between these two chess players.” Ari nodded. “I understand. You don’t think your odds would be longer if you actually understood chess, and in a deep way?” “No,” the writer said, shaking his head. “I think that is totally irrelevant.” “Fine,” Ari agreed. “Then we will work to get your novel written exactly as you envision it.” “Thank you!” the writer cried. “Now I can really begin!” So they began; and it was about two weeks later that the writer found himself losing all enthusiasm for his project.

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