Sunday, December 20, 2009

London Calling

I've got to admit, I love to work through a self-development book.  Maybe it's the Virgo in me, but writers like Julia Cameron and Eric Maisel have been my creative friends, available at the flick of a page, ever since I realised that I wanted to write.  So, today, Eric Maisel says 'Craft One Ceremony'. A creative soul needs a moment's safety at the dawn and the close of the day; just reflecting, just being. So anyway I went to Neal's Yard in London's West End, in search of an exotic tea, Japanese perhaps, to drink for my tea ceremony each morning. My journey past the docks took me past the Port of London, once the busiest in the world for tea clippers. I thought of the hundreds of masts and spars that would have been there, barely less than a few generations past. 'Who needs anything different,' I thought. Back home as I pour my very British cuppa, I think of my hero and his struggle to make a living in the docks, like his ancestors and mine. I raise my mug to their tenacity, their laughter, their courage in times of war and peace. That's ceremony enough.

Jennifer Pittam is a winner of 'Coast to Coast' Writing Competition and is working on a historical novel. Read more!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sculpting a Life: Ice Lessons.

By Susan Gallacher-Turner

This week taking a walk in the park is freezing, literally. Early morning temperatures are in the teens and the ‘highs’ for the day are in the 20’s.

As I walk by the lake every morning, I see a new layer of ice. The ducks are crowded into smaller and smaller ponds where the ice isn’t frozen until finally, the top of the lake is completely covered in ice. While the ducks huddle as best they can, the heron stands in solitary splendor on the ice.

When I usually spot the blue heron, I find her camouflaged by tall grasses beside the lake or perched on a grey branch near the shoreline waiting to catch the fish swimming by. This week is different. The heron stands on the ice in the middle of the lake waiting and watching. I wonder, why would she even bother? She can’t catch the fish through the ice.

Perhaps there’s a lesson here on the ice for me.

When I look out onto the icy lake, I see a barrier, like a solid floor, closed door or glass wall. I see what’s on top, the ice. I don’t see what’s underneath hidden from my view.

But maybe the heron does. And that’s why she’s standing in the middle of the lake on the ice. She sees what’s underneath the ice. She sees fish, food, possibilities and life.

Suddenly, I see it too.

I see that although the top layer of the lake is frozen. Nothing is moving. Nothing is growing. The trees are bare and appear lifeless. That’s just the surface. Below the fish are swimming. The algae are growing. The trees are very much alive even without their leaves.

At this time of year, when the sun comes out only briefly and darkness covers more of our days, it’s easy to get stuck in an icy frame of mind. Feeling cold, gray and seeing the world around me as frozen and unmoving.

But the heron showed me that below the icy, grey surface, the world is teaming with life. The world is moving and thriving. Just because I don’t see it or hear it, doesn’t mean that the things aren’t happening all around me. Things that, like the heron knows, take time to come to the surface.

What do I do in the meantime? Take my cue from the heron, walk out into the world, then wait and be ready to catch those fish when the ice melts.

If you’d like to see my art, check out my website at or read my other blog, Susan’s Art & Words at

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

London Calling

'I'd like you to write a 2,500 word autobiography,' says Eric Maisel in 'The Creativity Book'. The wind howls outside and the rain lashes down. 'I can't,' I think. 'I won't,' my mind shouts. I can't penetrate that whirling bundle of protective noise - the one that every artist uses to hide the creative centre of the soul. Tentatively, I put down a note about my first creative experiences, with my wax crayons in the back garden at Woodford Green. I remember a picture on the wall of our little Victorian School, and my astonishment when I noticed it was mine. I remember a week in the Scottish Highlands, painting for dear life. I remember sadness, the years when my art seemed like a love lost forever. I remember when I caught a glimpse of it again, a brief flash in the graveyard. I stand in the graveyard. It's not so scary. People picnic here in the summer. They bring their babies, their weddings and their loved ones at the last.The rain has stopped, the wind pauses. I beckon to Lost Art. I have plenty of time.
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Saturday, December 12, 2009

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

Sunrise by Sandra Lee Schubert


We had a guest speaker at the Wild Angels group. David Johnston is a playwright that I have know for years. He is not tabloid famous, but, his plays have been produced internationally. He has a nice body of work that he could point to as he offered us his advice. One of his biggest tips came not as part of the presentation but in the Q and A. Someone asked how often he wrote and he said that he wrote at least two hours every morning. Two hours! He also mentioned inspiration and how we wait for inspiration when we should coax it out. 

David gave us something important. We have come to treasure inspiration.It becomes this thing we long for as if it will save us.Truly when inspiration strikes words flow from an underground aquifer.It is blissful to be in the flow.  Inspiration is lovely- treasure the moment it comes unheeded. But we can't wait for it. We must tap it ourselves. Like David we should go to the well each day. 

Sandra's e-course leads people to be their creative best through telling their stories and talking to interesting people on her online radio show-
Wild Woman Network: Radio for Creative Vagabonds, Thinkers and Innovators..
She is a creative vagabond, a poet, and a 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> Sandraleeschubert(at) or @writing4life via twitter. Read more!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Who Are My Clients?

You probably carry around a mental picture of a typical creativity coaching client or a typical meaning coaching client: maybe a mental picture of a forty-year-old writer, painter or musician stalled in his or her career. You might not picture someone like Ellen McGowan, one of the South’s best-known sculptors—and 85 years old.

As part of a promotion that one of my publishers ran, Ellen won some coaching sessions with me. We had a lovely and productive time together. Ellen was kind enough to recently write to me and say, “Those few hours helped me more than you know!!” She also told me a bit about her current creative life:

“At 85 years old I feel enormously fortunate to be in such good health and in such good spirits. I still work every day in my studio near Memphis. My work is in the collections of such notables as Bette Midler, Lee Trevino, and the late Alex Haley, author of Roots. Recently, Christian Brothers University in Memphis established the Ellen Fossey McGowan Collection, a permanent repository of my work. I am very much honored.

“My days are full. The studio is where I go to restore my acquaintance with self and to put into my figural clay work all of the infinitely variable features of the people, those close to me and total strangers as well, whom I observe living their lives in this fascinating and mysterious world. The artist's life is rewarding in unique ways, but it can also be fraught with bouts of self-doubt. That’s why your books—I believe I own all of them—have been so integral to my creative wellbeing. I turn to Affirmations for Artists almost every day for comfort and inspiration. I cherish my creative life and I look forward to many more years of work.”

If we start living to be 130, at the age of 129 we will still have to meet our meaning needs and our creative needs. We will still be obliged to face the challenges that thoughtful, mortal beings will always face. Those 129 years of living wisdom will not prevent us from having to deal with new creative challenges and new meaning crises as they arise.

Inhabitants of some parallel universe may achieve something like a permanent retirement from challenge, maybe by virtue of the lobotomy they receive as part of their retirement ceremony. In this universe, where we are obliged to think and to feel until we pass along, there can be no retirement from the demands of making meaning. I think I’d rather live here.


More about Ellen at her website:

And here’s a nice write-up of Ellen at one of the galleries representing her:


P.S. I am getting lots of nice feedback on my Overcoming Creative Anxiety class available at To refresh your memory, you can start it at any time and pay whatever you want. Take a look:

Here is the beginning of my post. And here is the rest of it. Read more!