Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Success, Digital Stress and Answering Life's Questions: An Interveiw with Jennifer Louden

Contributed by: Susan Gallacher-Turner

I had a wonderful opportunity to interview Jennifer Louden when she visited Portland last month to teach a writing retreat, Walk into Fire, with Susan Piver and Patti Digh at the Kennedy School. Even after a long day inspiring writers, Jennifer still had energy to talk to me about her difficult start as a writer, her ultimate success and her newest challenge balancing the internet, her life, writing and a new venture.

Best selling author and Comfort Queen, Jennifer Louden, has written a series of self help books starting in 1992 with The Woman’s Comfort Book, The Couple’s Comfort Book, The Pregnant Women’s Comfort Book, and Comfort Secrets for Busy Women, followed by The Woman’s Retreat Book, The Life Organizer Book and companion CD. Even though she’d published successful books, Jennifer still has problems seeing herself as a real writer. That inner critic was saying to her, “Well yes, you wrote a book and it sold hundreds of thousands of copies, but it’s a ‘self help’ book. It’s not a ‘real’ book. It’s not literature.”

Every book was a ‘self-help’ book for Jennifer. By looking for the answers to questions in her own life; Jennifer helped herself and many other people, too.

“I think that’s why so many of us write anything or create anything because we have a question. And somehow we are directed or constructed, or both, in a way that we don’t just do it for ourselves, said Jennifer.” “There’s something about the conversation that is huge for me. That’s what I love about the internet, and my blog, creating products and doing teleconferences, retreat calls or both, there’s feedback back and forth. And that sparks more learning and questions for me and then I get interested in answering questions for other people, too. But it’s got to be that sweet spot between the two.”

Hear the entire interview with Jennifer Louden as she talks about how she answers the questions of balance, success, digital stress and saving the world in the podcast on Voices of Living Creatively website. Or you can read a text version on my blog at Sculpting A Life. Read more!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

London Calling: A Gift of Hope From Norway

Today, like many other Londoners, I gravitated towards Trafalgar Square, drawn by the annual magic of the Norway Spruce, a tree sent with love and gratitude from the people of Oslo to the people of London, every year. I first saw the the tree as a tot, with my Mother and Father. The consistency and persistence of this gift, sent every year since 1947, has a charm and magic I can't explain. It's the kind of persistency we need as writers. It says, 'We don't mind whether you're in fashion, or whether the world hates you. We don't mind that you're young, and beautiful, or that you grew old and your face is wrinkled, your hair hair silver. We just remember you because you're you. And if we're writers, we write it down.' Love You, Norway. Read more!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Student to artist to teacher to student again.

Contributed by Susan Gallacher-Turner

Learning is a life long process that circles from learning to doing to teaching and for me, back to learning again. In my last blog I wrote about taking a writing workshop. I'm also taking clay classes. And even though I've taken clay classes, produced clay sculptural work, written professionally and taught classes, I love being a student again.

First lesson learned: I throw clay left handed. I write right handed. Yep. That's why all those years ago in ceramics class, I could never throw a pot, bowl, cup or anything straight. In fact, I was so bad, even the teacher suggested I should stay away from the wheel. Ok, to be fair, my clay had the habit of spinning off my wheel at a high speeds and hitting the wall. But, really, I was trying to do it the right way. Now, I know what was wrong, thanks to Jan, my new teacher who watched me and asked me, "Are you left handed?" "Sometimes," I replied. So, she stopped the wheel, flipped the toggle switch up instead of down and finally it felt right.

Second lesson learned: Potter's wheels turn counter clockwise for right handed people and clockwise for left handed people. Amazing. I never knew there was a choice. And to be fair, I wasn't given a choice. I was to be right handed, period. I've found as an adult, that I do somethings well right handed and somethings well left handed and sometimes I can just use whatever hand is handy.

Third lesson learned: I can throw a bowl. And it isn't horrible, a little wonky maybe, and I needed instruction on some of the steps. But I was able to get it centered and pulled up and pushed out all on my own. Left handed, of course.

Biggest lesson learned: Knowledge is not only powerful but empowering. It's never too late to learn and turn a failure into a success.

Now, I can't wait to learn more about glazes, slips, raku and oxides...oooh what fun!

You can see more of my sculptural work at Susan Gallacher-Turner Sculptures and read more about my creative journey on my other blog Sculpting A Life. Read more!

Television Musings - Rants and Raves of a Romance Writer

Who will win the Mirror Ball trophy?

By Kathy Carpenter

Tonight was the finals on this seasons Dancing with the Stars. Who will win it all? Will it be Jennifer Grey and Derrick? Jennifer is the daughter of dancing legend Joel Grey and of course the dancing star from Dirty Dancing, the odds on favorite from the beginning.

. But she has had her trouble throughout the season. I personally think her turnaround came a couple weeks ago when she was in so much pain. I wanted to see her voted off because I thought it was too much for her physically. However, she was not voted out and her dancing took on a whole new demision.

The we have Britol Palen. I thought along with most people she should have gone out long ago. Then she turned it around. With the last two weeks really impressing me. So much so I actually wanted her to stay over Brandy. Tonight the judges were a little down on her. True she isn't the best technically that goes to Jennifer but i think she's America's sweetheart.

And then we have Kyle. He has been entertaining from the beginning. I have enjoyed some of his numbers the most. I say he is the Donny Osmond of the group. Of course Donny has a lot of fans, and I don't know if Kyle has that behind him. But his winning would not surprise me.

Usually I base who I personally want to win on the freestyle. And personally I think I liked Kyle's freestyle the best. But this has been the closest season yet and any of these celebrities could win.

Who did you vote for?
Read more!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Dribbles and Scribbles

By Susan Gallacher-Turner

Sometimes getting back into serious studio work requires serious play. Focus is great but all work and no play, not only makes me dull but my art as well. How do I know when that happens? Good question.

The biggest clue for me is SAS or Studio Avoidance Syndrome. Ok, silly, I know but I've noticed it's a pattern for me. When I push myself and my art to work harder and better and faster, I also find myself getting busy with too much busy work on the computer. That makes me very crabby.

Time for serious play. So, this week, after writing long hand with a pen in my journal, I decided to doodle. I got out this wonderful pastel paper that was given to me a year ago (it's very expensive, so, therefore, precious but I got it for free), and decide to make a mess of it.

I painted all over the paper with washes of acrylic paints in cerulean blue, cobalt blue, warm and cool reds. Then I added drips of pink ink.

After it dried, I got out my old pastels and scribbled. I haven't used any of these pastels in over a decade. I dabbed on light blue clouds. Then I scribbled all over that too. Smooshed over the scribbles and called it done. Fun.

Dribbling and scribbling, it's not great art. And that's the point, really. I finished with hands covered in pastel colors and a smile on my face. Just what I needed...not serious art but some serious fun!

To see more of my 'serious' art check out my website, Susan Gallacher-Turner Sculpture. To read more about my creative journey, go to my other blog, Sculpting A Life. I also do interview with other creative people and you can read those and listen to podcasts at Voices of Living Creatively. Read more!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Television Musings - Rants and Raves of a Romance Writer

By Kathy Carpenter

I could not believe it had been since June since I had posted a blog. It is so hard it this busy everyday life to be creative. To have a creative thought. Enough thoughts to write a blog. An interesting one someone actually wants and looks forward to reading.Finding something fresh on television is always easy if looked for. I've stated before how we now have one television season after another. One series will end one week a new series starts the following one. With each new season of a show comes changes.

These changes need to keep viewers tuning in so they come up with fresh ideas. Something new, innovative, creative. New things are always out there if looked for.

This week I spotted one on Chuck. He had a pair of gloves he put on and all he ha to do was touch someones face and they would be knocked out. Now wouldn't that be fun to have at our disposel?

Send me the creative ideas you find.

Until next time. Read more!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Art and Liberation

(photo courtesy of Lora R Fisher)
An interview with artist, Jan vonBergen

By Susan Gallacher-Turner

“You can feel really good everyday of your life when you do what you love, whether it’s read or do art or walk or dance or whatever you love to do. It makes you feel alive, that feeds you and gives you what you need everyday.”

In the last 3 years, Jan’s life and art has changed. Her life used to revolve around full-time teaching and family with her art making fitting in whatever space was left. It was a fulfilling puzzle with many pieces. Retirement was a mystery at first and a word Jan dislikes, “It sounds deadening. I would call it liberation.”

You can hear the rest of the interview with Jan where she talks more about art, life and liberation on the website Voices of Living Creatively. Read more!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Back to School - Pass the freshly sharpened pencils

By Susan Gallacher-Turner
It's that time of year again, back to school ads with teary-eyed moms and excited little kids clamoring onto bright yellow school buses. Ah, it does bring back many, many memories, doesn't it? As the song says, "I've been on both sides now."

As a school girl, I wore a uniform to school. I got a new white blouse, new navy socks and new shoes. The new shoes were a really big deal, especially the year I got black velveteen saddle shoes. I know sounds weird, now, but then, I loved those shoes and couldn't wait to wear them to school. My other big thrill was new school supplies. New notebook, binder paper, dividers(at least these had colored tags), ruler, classic yellow pencils and crayola crayons.

As a mom, my budget was tight for back to school clothes and supplies. I shopped sales well before the 'big day', so my daughter and son could have as much as they needed and wanted. I loved the fact that they could wear 'regular' clothes. No uniforms for them! I let them pick out their new clothes and shoes within reason and budget, of course. Buying school supplies was fun, too, because their supply list included extras like colorful markers and watercolors.

Now that both my 'kids' have graduated from college, there's no back to school shopping for me to do. Ok, I miss it. I love that quote from the movie, 'You've Got Mail', when Tom Hanks(Joe Fox) says, "Don't you love New York in the fall? It makes me wanna buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address."

So, now, I ask you blogger friends out there, what would you buy yourself for back to school? You trade your list, I'll trade mine.

Here's a start...

Back To School List (for not going back to school)
Freshly sharpened pencils in a rainbow of colors
New pens - Pilot G-2's and Micron 005 with .2 mm line width in black
Black or Natural sketch book unlined recycled paper.
Something colorful, like crayons but not crayons. (Maybe it's time to try encaustic?)

Outfit...Hmm, something comfy, cool, and creative...but what?

Do I have to buy only traditional school supplies? No. So, let's all think outside the traditional school pencil box. If you could buy yourself a new 'school supply' what would it be? What bus would you catch and where would it be going?

If you'd like to see some of my art work, my website is Susan Gallacher-Turner Sculpture. And you can read more about my creative life on my blog, Sculpting A Life. Read more!

Friday, September 03, 2010

In the last few days, the phrase "Be in the moment" has come up all around me.
I hear it from the beautiful, swaying birch tree in the woods. It whispers, "Be. Just live here, now."

I hear it from the internet, other blogs like Susan Tweit's Walking Nature Home. She even reviewed this wonderful new children's book, "What does it mean to be present?" by Rana Diorio and illustrated by Eliza Wheeler that's all about teaching children to be in the moment.

I hear it in the interview I did yesterday with artist friend, Jan VonBergen who talked to me about her art, new show and life changes. (By the way, I'll have more of Jan's wise words coming up next week in a new interview.) Her message that life is too short to miss those moments, she wants be here now, with her granddaughter, her family, her art and herself.

It's even in the new movie, Eat, Pray, Love based on Elisabeth Gilbert's wonderful true story about finding herself by being in the moment. Whether that meant pasta in Italy, meditation in India or opening her heart in Bali, her body, soul and heart were only to be found in the moment.

Here's a cute quote from the book, 'What Does It Mean To Be Present' by Rana Diorio, "Being present means living in the moment.
It means realizing that...
Tomorrow is a mystery
Yesterday is history
Today is a gift--that's why we call it the present!"

So maybe being in the moment isn't always easy, all that mucky mind stuff and busy, busy gets in the way. But I see the value and want to be in the moment, really I do or rather, be.

To see some of my art, you can visit my website Susan Gallacher-Turner Sculpture. And to read more about my life, visit my other blog, Sculpting A Life. Read more!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Rest and Resistance.

Visiting around other blogs, I'm reading a lot about loving kindness, self-care and the need for rest. Another blogger and well-known author, Jen Louden, has even gone on a month long, self-imposed internet sabbatical.

I want to sink into this idea like I sink my toes into soft, cool, sand.

All this internet input is wonderful, but can it become a burden, distraction, energy drain that saps away creativity? Can your head love the internet while your heart gets lost along the way? Is it procrastination to rest your mind, so your soul can speak and be heard? Why if rest, space, quiet is the way back to the heart of creation, do we resist it so strongly?

Many questions, here. I'd love to say I have the answers. I don't.

I do have glimmers, though. Those times when I do allow myself to rest in the valley of the unknown long enough to hear the whispers of longing and ideas. I see the faces in the clouds and trees. I feel the energy underfoot. I learn about stories that have yet to be told.

The clay calls to me. The metal shimmers with possibility and the shadows reveal scenes longing to be released.

Then, my mind resists the pull of my heart. Product gets pushed in front of process. Comparison and competition and fear shake me from my rest.

Don't you just hate that? I do.

Do you resist rest? How do you deal with it?

If you'd like to see my sculpture work, visit my website at Susan Gallacher-Turner Sculpture or check out my other blog, Sculpting a Life. Read more!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Child's Play: Creation or Destruction?

By Susan Gallacher-Turner

Yesterday, Jilly and I walked into our favorite part of the woods, the birch tree circle expecting to see the path, undisturbed as usual. What I saw stopped me on the spot.

There was a deep hole cut into the earth exposing tree roots and inside was trash. Candy wrappers and unopened taco sauce packages lay in a heap at the bottom of the hole. On the ground, next to it were tree branches and wood pieces stacked and held together with the dirt from the hole to create a make shift ramp. Obviously, some kids were at work, here, making a place to ride their bikes or skateboards in the woods.

I was mad at first at the destruction and littering. I was worried that some new birch tree had been uprooted for their ramp and trash bin. And I was tempted to take it all apart.

Instead, I stepped over it all and went to my place in the woods by the Birch Tree to do my morning exercises. After I’d cleared my head and stretched my body, I walked to the arch between the two birch trees. Feeling the energy, I reached out and asked the trees about the ramp, the hole and the destruction. Their answer was simple.

It’s child’s play. No one was hurt. In fact, the trees told me, it was important that I did not disturb it. The children needed to play there. How else would they get to know the trees and animals in the woods? Where else would they be able to create, to take the earth in their hands and form it, to collect sticks and stones and make something from it? Yes, there is some trash here, but not much more than there usually is, and it will get cleaned up in time.

What’s most important is that the children feel safe here. That feeling and the knowledge of the woods as their place will grow with them into a reverence for the trees and animals they share the world with. It's child’s play that will lead to adult understanding in a way no other experience can.

Then, I remembered. All those days biking through the woods on the edge of my suburban neighborhood, making little stick houses from fallen branches and mixing potions from the mud dug up by the creek. I watched my brothers and their friends climbing up the trunks, hauling up boards and making a tree house. One day, they hung a knotted rope from a large tree limb and swung across the creek. It was child’s play. Yes. But it taught me to love the woods, the trees and the birds. Sitting there by the creek digging in the gooey mud, I heard sounds I didn’t hear at home. I listened to the whisper of the leaves in the breeze, the chirp of the birds, crickets and squirrels. I watched with fascination as the tiny, swimming polliwogs turned into frogs. I learned to catch and hold snakes in all their smooth, slithering glory without fear.

I saw what the trees were trying to tell me. This was not destruction but creation. Not just creating a place for bikes to play, but a place for the children to be, to learn and grow under nature’s guidance. Here the woods nurtured the children's growing muscles, minds and imagination, teaching them skills that were new to this generation whose world now consisted of techno toys. It was child’s play. But here, the toys were real and the lessons learned would be carried into the real life and, hopefully, to yet another generation of children playing.

If you're interested, you can see my sculpture work at Susan Gallacher-Turner Sculpture or visit my blog Sculpting A Life. Read more!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Art + Yoga + Writing + Dog + Sunshine = A real challenge

By Susan Gallacher-Turner

Last week, I joined the 21 5 800 challenge. For 21 days, I do 5 days of yoga and write 800 words a day. Sounded wonderful to me at the time. But, where do I fit in sculpting, painting, delivering work, filling out show applications, facebook, email and walking my dog? See sad picture of her...on the rug...waiting.

Ok, so nobody said it would be easy. Right.

Last week's progress:
5 days of yoga - check.
800 words a day - check almost. Ok, some days it was only 600 words but are the others also working artists, too?
studio work - check.
wanting to go on a long, long holiday --double check.

So, today, this blog writing, writing artist emails, statements/forms for show applications and some personal journal writing make up my 800 words. I'm going to yoga class tonight. I'm done with the challenge for today, right?

Now, back into the studio to work on a lamp, more lilies and check my clay pieces.

But...but...but...it's sunny outside today! For the first time in weeks, months, years, there's sun shining on my garden, my clematis, lilies and poor rain soaked peonies. And my sweet Jilly dog wants to go outside and lay in the sunshine.

Ok, now guess what won...back into the studio or outside with Jilly?

Of course, you're right.

If you'd like to read more about my art journey or see my artwork, check out my blog Sculpting A Life and my website Susan Gallacher-Turner Sculpture. Read more!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Television Musings - Rants and Raves of a Romance Writer

By Kathy Carpenter

It’s so hard to be creative these days. You may not even think there is any creativity in my blog. But whatever it is, I can’t even think of what to write. I know a lot of people call this writer’s block, but I didn’t think there was such a thing,Anyway, when I was young like many writers I used to like to make up stories. These were mostly verbal. Although I did write a book of Fairy Tales when I was in elementary school. Those stories were all about make believe. In the stuff you write today or I should say most people write, sure you make up the basic story but you are staying within reality or basically what people can wrap their minds around. Is that really being creative.

With Television shows, even reality shows, the try to switch things up, put a fresh spin on the show to keep it fresh. One or two little things so it’s familiar but different. Sometimes theses are for the better and sometimes they kill a show. Is what it is.

Let me know what you think.

Read more!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

'Listless' week produces surprising results.

By Susan Gallacher-Turner

Last week, I gave myself a challenge: a week without 'To Do' lists. After a lifetime of making lists, I wondered if I'd get any studio or writing work done, forget to walk the dog, answer my email, and go to yoga class. Would I forget what I needed at the grocery store? Or would a week of 'listlessness' make me a happier camper?

Here's what I learned.

I still worked in the studio. I worked on three clay faces, painted mesh bird masks and bought needed supplies. I remembered to go to the enameling class I signed up for months ago. I experimented with additional paint glazes on the clay busts and the new cement bases I'd cast. I wrote on the blog just as I always do. I started writing a new series of essays. I remembered to check and answer my email, post on facebook and read other blogs, news and sites on the web. Yes, I walked the dog(I don't think she'd let me forget), went to yoga, made my appointments.

Somethings didn't change, but some things did.

I found myself spontaneously doing things and taking on projects that I really wanted done, but had put off. Shopping at Target, I picked up a new comforter set for my room that was over 1/2 off and a tablecloth purchased on impulse led to a whole range of home decor projects. I love to do home decor projects, but due to life changes and the economy, I haven't done anything in 3 years. I made new valances for the nook, took down curtains in the living room, put up different ones and sewed three new pillows for the couch from the rest of the Target tablecloth. The downstairs has needed painting for a few years. Suddenly, last week I was picking out paint colors, buying the paint and, yup, painting those dingy walls.

In the past, all projects had 'To Do' lists with all the details outlined. I always thought that making detailed outlines and supply lists was necessary to get the projects done. That I couldn't go shopping successfully without making a list.

What I learned this week: I don't need the lists to get the projects done. And, perhaps, being a little 'listless' actually helped me jump into projects with more energy and enthusiasm. I also found myself making good shopping decisions on the spot.

Will I go 'listless' forever? I don't know.

I do know, although it was scary at first, I felt lighter, more energetic and spontaneous. I even got my hair cut in a new short cut, on the spur of the moment. (In the past, I would have researched cuts and had a 'list' of looks to give my stylist.) Ok, I still made a list for grocery shopping, after forgetting the ketchup and shampoo. And I still love post-it notes, I think it's the colors.

But I'm thinking that a 'listlessness' might be a very good thing. What do you think would change for you if you tried a week of 'listlessness'? If you're game, try it and let me know how it works, or not, for you.

If you'd like to see some of my artwork, visit my website at Susan Gallacher-Turner Sculpture. And if you'd like to read more about my creative journey, visit my other blog Sculpting A Life. Read more!

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Creative Circle Recovery Minnesota USA

10,000 lakes, 12 steps, 2 worlds

The Art and Grace of Summer
by Pamela Yates

There are many challenges in the world, my head is spinning despite the photograph of my smiling face. What are we to do in the face of these challenges? I think we must do what we always do, try to keep reaching for our enduring "can do" attitude while we are ever so gentle and patient with those around us. Perhaps my husband, my friend, my sister or my neighbor is feeling deep emotional trauma at this moment because of the troubling events in our nation and in the world -- the gravity of the oil spill, nations in conflict and at war. So, what can we ordinary Jane's and Joe's do? Here's my naive simple plan. For a start, we can try to give everyone a break; we can try to be extraordinarily patient with each other. We can try to keep critical and judgmental ideas to ourselves for a change. We can simply pray for the health and happiness of all people. We can try to listen more and talk less. We can look for ways to shed some kindness on those around us. We can aim for a dozen small acts or words of kindness a day. This is a perfect time to "pay it forward."

There I go again, being naive. Let's do just that! Let's be naive in our forgiveness and patience. Let's be resilient warriors for peace. Recovery in any sense of the word requires an enduring sense of acceptance that change takes time. Time is organic (that's my sense and belief) and as such it is ever-renewing and -recovering. If we maintain our focus in a good way, time will compost that good energy into health and happiness for the people. In my lifetime I may not see the outcomes I pray for and dream of for all our children but my recovery and healing as a woman and as a human being ensure that I am more likely to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. I'm grateful for that role and, just for today, it's enough.

Nurture your dreams.



Pamela Yates is a transplanted Australian painter and personal coach in the areas of creativity and meaning-making. She writes about the adventures of a creative person in recovery living in Minnesota USA. Her insights about creativity and life in recovery come from indigenous and western perspectives on healing our creative spirits: recovery and creativity seamlessly nurtured by tribal values. Her journey of healing includes 20-plus years as a sober contemporary artist and recovery from alcoholism, PTSD, anxiety and sexual trauma. Her storytelling has roots in the 12-step program, the Red Road and teachings from the indigenous Circle process and the support of multi-cultural extended family, elders and friends. Her coaching clients and her paintings can be found in communities in the USA and abroad. To learn more about meaning-making, recovery and creativity visit Pamela's web site at http://www.circlepathways.com and her online portfolio at http://www.pamelayatesfineart.com or contact her via email at pamela@pamelayates.com.

Read more!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

'To Do' or 'Not to Do' - Answers

By Susan Gallacher-Turner

Last time, I wrote about my habit of list making and whether 'To Do' or 'Not to Do' helps or hinders my creativity. I wondered how other people manage their lives and creative projects. Did they have long lists, too? Or no lists at all?

I worried that a life without lists, might become too listless, that I would dabble here and there never getting anything done ever again. But was having so many lists about everything becoming a burden rather than giving me freedom from fear? I wondered if there was a better way to manage all the projects I need to get done without hyper-managing myself with lists.

So I asked for help. And thank you all for sharing your thoughts on lists and your own list making strategies. Here are your comments and ideas.

Kim Switzer said:
I do make lists, but they don't help me get everything done. I've stopped making highly detailed lists, though. I make a list for a period of 2-3 days rather than a daily list, and I only put on it the big things that need my time and attention. That way, I don't get caught up in the small busy-nesses of life and forget to focus on what really needs me. I've been doing this since the end of last year, and it seems to help me get things done without leaving me overwhelmed by a too huge "to do" list.

Stacy(aka goldenbird) comments:
I have slowly stopped making lists almost without realizing it. I used to make them on the weekends because I felt overwhelmed with stuff I needed to do, but then I would get bummed out because I didn't want to spend the weekend checking off a to-do list. At my day job I have a to do list of my big projects, but I don't make lists of the little tasks anymore. Everything somehow gets done.

Caelista said:
Like goldenbird, I used to start the weekend with a big list but it was depressing to have so many tasks ahead of me, and then the lists kept getting longer as I remembered more things I needed to do. I never seemed to get through them.

Lois J. de Vries writes:
I keep a Master List by category that I add to whenever something occurs to me. From that list, I choose three to four priorities (in various categories) for each month.
On Mondays, I make a weekly list of everything I would like to get done that week and have gotten over the idea that the list is way too long. That isn't its purpose.
Whatever doesn't get done on Monday is carried to Tuesday. What's left on Tuesday's list gets carried to Wednesday, etc. Yes, sometimes things come up that have to be added. On the weekends, the list may change completely, to address just weekend things. On Monday, I carry forward whatever is left over from the previous Friday and add more things.Over time, the irritation of seeing the same item on the list every day for two months or more acts as an incentive to finally get it off the list. I either decide not to do it, or do it. I view lists as organizational tools that free up brain cells that would otherwise be used for repetitive tasks of remembering. Past a certain age, it's the only way you can remember anything.
These days I try to focus on one main thing I need to get done each day, or at least no more than three main things. That seems to work a lot better because I can actually finish them!

Thanks to you all again!

I can see that there are many ways to look at lists and the more creative you are, the more creative you can be with your lists. Using them as an organizational tool and a memory jogger, a way to get big projects and goals done, or keeping them small and doable. Hearing that things can get done without lists made me curious. What would happen if I tried going listless for a week? Would I become a non-productive drone or would I still get work done?

I've decided to take your advice to heart this week and try a week without a list. So, I threw out my lists, took down my post-it notes and closed my notebook next to my computer. Will I get work done? Or will I wind up in front of the TV staring into space? I'll keep you posted...now I could make a list about that...but :)

If you want to see some of my sculpture, check out my website at Susan Gallacher-Turner Sculpture and you can read more about my creative journey on my blog Sculpting A Life
Read more!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Artful Life – A Holistic Approach

Creative Intensity or Madness
By Lisa A. Riley, LMFT

“If a man comes to the door of poetry untouched by the madness of the Muses, believing that technique alone will make him a good poet, he and his sane compositions never reach perfection, but are utterly eclipsed by the performances of the inspired madman.” – Socrates

Many creative individuals have experienced sudden surges, flooded with creative intensity as if an arrow laced with their muse struck them. The cycle accelerates productivity with their art lasting for days, even weeks at a time. Engrossed in the moment saturated with ideas, some will work viciously, with little sleep or food. It’s as if creative energy is what fuels them during this interlude producing a temporary state of immortality. Commonly following such a ride is a retreat back into their cave, often in seclusion, as if to recover and hibernate. However, during this down time the creative process is not completely dormant. Instead the artist is regrouping, reorganizing and ideas are incubating for the next eruption.

Artists have been notoriously criticized for their shifting bouts of creativity, often misinterpreted as erratic moods swings. Throughout history many artists, unable to manage the power of their own muse were sucked under by the undertow, hence why the words “madness” and “artist” went hand in hand.

In the mental health spectrum such cycles are diagnosis as Bipolar Disorder. Although, many creative individuals do suffer from Manic-Depression and require medication to manage the disorder, how about those who don’t fit the criteria? Those who are able to keep one foot anchored during the ebb and flow of their own creative intensity with little disruption to their lives.

Not all artists lose sense of reality, but are very aware of their own artistic temperament. They are able to prepare and brace themselves for the storm ahead. They ride it out while utilizing its energy to fuel their art. Artists look forward to such cycles, which gave birth to some of their most innovative ideas and embrace the journey.

When the artist is able to know him or her self well enough to accept these cycles without judgment and learn the skills to create a healthy environment that will tame what is tempestuous, it becomes an ally in the creative process. The artist transforms what was once perceived as madness and into a powerful force that can help them reach levels in their creativity they never predicted.

“Men have called me mad but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence–whether much that is glorious–whether all that is profound–does not spring from disease of thought–from moods of mind exalted at the expense of the general intellect.”— Edgar Allan Poe

Lisa is a psychotherapist, painter and writer. She has spent the last 25 years integrating various forms of self-expression as a way of life and an avenue towards healing. Because of her background in the arts she understands the unique challenges of the artistic personality and has spent the last 8 years working with artists, writers, actors and musicians in helping them gain self-awareness and a deeper understanding of themselves as artists.
Lisa has her own private practice in Southern California. For more information visit TheArtofMind.com

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

To Do or Not To Do - A Question

By Susan Gallacher-Turner

Do you make a 'to do' list? I do. But I've been wondering lately whether my 'to do' lists really help my work get done. Or whether it's just another thing 'to do'.

Thanks to Sister Mary Catherine, I've been making lists since the first grade. After many nights of bedtime panic because I'd forgotten to do my homework, Sister gave me a small notebook and told me to make a list of all my assignments. I took that book everywhere and wrote down every assignment from that day on. I didn't go to bed in a panic anymore as long as I had my notebook by my bed.

I am a very organized person. Lists have proved to be a very helpful tool. I'm not blaming Sister Mary Catherine, she was trying to help a struggling, fearful little girl. I've even taught my own children to use 'to do' lists.

But now, after many decades of using this tool, is this tool using me?

It started out as a way to be less fearful. But did it really make me less fearful? When I have project, a weekend off or vacation, I worry that I'm going to forget something so I make another list. Post a notes are everywhere in my house. Making a list has been the first thing I did every week and checking it off gave me a feeling of accomplishment.

Now, there's a part of me that wants to be free 'to do' whatever comes to mind. To create without an agenda, a schedule, a list of projects with sublists. After a few years filled with fear, loss and change, I want to be open to enjoying my life as it's happening with more ease and flow and grace.

So what did I do to help myself move into this new space?

Yup. I made a list. I didn't realize it at first. I just saw the post-its as colorful little flags, a way to make my intentions more concrete. But now I see that in an effort to get out from under my old fear-based behavior of making lists, I just made another series of lists.

Do you make lists? Does it help you get everything in your life done? Or is it a ball and chain that slows down your life and saps your creative energy? If you don't make lists, how do you remember to get everything done?

So the question...To Do or Not To Do? Can I live my life and get my work done without a list? What do you suggest? Let me know and I'll keep you all posted.
Send your comments to my other blog, Sculpting A Life. And if you'd like to see some of my sculpture stop by my website Susan Gallacher-Turner Sculpture.

By the way, you're on my list. :) Read more!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Lazy Gardening Leads to Success

Sometimes. With Papyrus. I keep my Papyrus in a plastic pot that I can bring indoors and snug into a copper cachepot to carry it over the winter (see http://loisdevries.blogspot.com/2007/12/papyrus-prolonged.html and http://loisdevries.blogspot.com/2008/07/papyrus-daydream.html). By the end of last year's unusually rainy summer, the roots extended six inches beyond the rim of the pot, so I had to cut them back a second time, in order to be able to bring the plant back into the house. Papyrus was not a happy camper and sulked all winter. The one remaining stalk died off in early January.

New growth usually starts in February, when the sun shines hot and fierce through the long narrow window where the Papyrus stands. This year, nothing. March. Nothing. April. Nothing. I knew my dead plant needed to go out on the compost heap, but fortunately for us both, the spring rush had overtaken me (http://loisdevries.blogspot.com/2010/04/spring-gardening-rush.html) and I just didn't get around to it.

One morning in early May, I was astonished to see a new, two-foot tall sprout. Since then, two more have appeared. With nighttime temperatures predicted to remain above 50ºF, I finally put it outdoors. It's not a horticultural practice I normally recommend, but sometimes neglect can be a good thing.

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. To discover how to express more of your personality and creativity through your garden, or how body/mind/spirit can play itself out in your gardening activities, visit: http://cultivatingtheinnergardener.blogspot.com or contact me at loisj7@gmail.com.
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Saturday, May 08, 2010

Garden Views: Gardening With Beginner's Mind

Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki popularized the term "Beginner's Mind" in America. He tells us: "In the beginner's mind, there are many possibilities, but in the expert's mind there are few." This is also true in gardening, as I learned just the other day. Dan had joined me in my evening garden rounds, during which I point out what has bloomed since last time (usually yesterday), and what difficult weed (this week it's curly dock) is beyond my capability to pull out and requires his attention.

This year, the Tiarella (Foam flower, left) are particularly robust and covered with magnificent blooms. As Dan admired these, he pointed toward Heuchera Venus (Coral Bells, right) and wondered why its flowers were so much taller and so much farther behind "those other ones."

I'm sure I must have rolled my eyes as I explained that they were two entirely different plants. "Look, the Tiarella leaves are all sharp and pointy – the Heuchera leaves are way more rounded," I said, wondering how he could overlook such dramatic differences in leaf shape and inflorescence. "Looks the same to me," he said. "They don't look anything alike," I thought.

Next day, this discussion was still smoldering in the back of my mind. All day. I was thinking about how I would make him look at the Saxifrage in the hanging basket above my desk so that I could permanently imprint on his mind what "rounded, lobed leaves" look like. Then all of a sudden the light went on – in my head. While these are all different plants at the Genus level of plant classification, they also all belong to the same Family, Saxifragaceae. So we were both right, but I got a lesson in humility.

Learn to garden with beginner's mind. You never know what new things you may discover.

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. To discover how to express more of your personality and creativity through your garden, or how body/mind/spirit can play itself out in your gardening activities, visit: http://cultivatingtheinnergardener.blogspot.com or contact me at loisj7@gmail.com.
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Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Wake Up Caw

By Susan Gallacher-Turner

I walk along today on autopilot. With Jilly at my side, we pass the trash cans on the sidewalks, the piles of pink petals fallen from the cherry trees in the street and the remains of tulips in the neighbors flower beds.

As we enter the park, I notice the creek as I always do, and let Jilly off heel to sniff her way along the grass. My feet may be on the path, but my mind is elsewhere. It's on its own path, the one that twists and turns and circles endlessly. There are the thoughts that come from behind me, from the past of many years ago to yesterday. All those 'shoulda's' sneak up behind me and bonk me on the head and sadden my heart. Then there are those thoughts that spiral ahead of me, into the future years from now and tomorrow. All those 'could be' problems rise up for me to solve and make me shiver in spite of the sun's warmth.

I keep walking and soon find myself leaning up against the big fir tree as I do everyday. I try to focus on the energy there, but my mind races on, until suddenly a loud 'caw' of a crow sounds from somewhere above me. In that moment, my mind shuts up. I sigh with relief. Then, before I know it, I'm lost in my mind maze again, when I hear the loud caw, caw again. I look up trying to spy the crow but don't see it anywhere.

As Jilly and I walk to the cedar grove where I stand with my hand on the 'mother' tree, my mind is back to its twisting and turning. Once again, the loud 'caw, caw, caw' comes and this time I hear the message...right now, be here, right now. Every time the crow caws, the words repeat in my mind. I sigh again, this time deeply and gratefully.

I have received a potent wake up call(caw) and I'm thankful for this beautiful, feathered spiritual teacher.

To see some of my sculpture inspired by nature, visit my website at Susan Gallacher-Turner Sculpture and visit my other blog, Sculpting A Life. Read more!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sculpting a life

By Susan Gallacher-Turner
Today, reading Jennifer Louden's blog about living a hand-crafted life got me thinking. What would that be? What would it look like and feel like? Would I have to move to the country and live without electricity and a toilet? Eat bugs and boil leaves for my veggies? Ok, I'm being a bit silly here, I know.

But Walt Whitman, I'm not. I like to be warm, eat my own home cooked meatballs and pasta, watch TV, crochet, read magazines and yes, sometimes, shop. Ok, that's out of the bag, then...but it occurs to me, that maybe I live a more hand-crafted life than I think.

I do grow some of my own veggies, tomatoes, zucchini, chard, lettuce, beets(if they actually grow this year) and peppers. I grow basil and make my own pesto which I freeze in little cubes so I can use it throughout the year. I even, yes by god I do, grow my own catnip and lemon verbena which I make into a soothing nighttime tea. Believe me, it's wonderful on restless nights.

And, since I am an artist working with my hands in clay and metal and paint, and a writer working with my hands on the keys, I guess I am living a hand-crafted life.

But I know that I forget that almost every day, as I answer emails and worry about class sign ups, marketing and gallery shows. What I see instead are the never ending post-a-notes and to-do lists.

Yesterday, I was in that mindset, again and feeling frustrated. I decided to close my computer and clean my house. Can cleaning a toilet with my own hands, be hand-crafting a life? Yes. Two hours later, not only did I have clean towels, I had a clean mind. It was then, I found my hands back to crafting in clay. Funny, it wasn’t on my to-do list, but yet, it got done.

Maybe that's the key to a hand-crafted life, doing what needs to be done-yes-but also doing what calls to be done. Doing it with care, with precision, with knowledge, with determination and with heart and soul. And taking the time you need to get it done, and at the same time, spend time being alive in the world. Smelling the lilacs. Admiring the tulips. Walking my dog. Leaning on my tree and soaking up the sun. And listening to the whispers of desire that call to me.

Jennifer asked this question: "How about you? What tulips will you stare at? What hunger, what hand-crafted stirring, is beckoning to you?"

This is my answer. What's yours? I'd love to hear your comments, visit my other blog, Sculpting A Life. And if you're interested in my other sculpture work, you can visit my website at Susan Gallacher-Turner Sculpture. Read more!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Gardeners Are Returning to Local Nurseries

A significant number of gardeners are returning to their local garden centers to purchase their plants after having deserted them in favor of the mass merchandise home stores, according to the Garden Writers of America early spring survey completed in March. Apparently the honeymoon is over. Garden centers’ and local retail stores’ market share rebounded from a low of 39% in 2006 to a predicted 54% in 2010. The statistics for home stores are a mirror image, dropping to 37% in 2010 from a high of 52% in 2006.

Unfortunately the temporary desertion, coupled with the national economic meltdown, was just too much for some of the best growers and retailers with the most intriguing selection of plants. To add insult to injury, last year many consumer gardens were infected by late blight, spread far and wide by a wholesaler who knowingly shipped affected tomato plants to the big box stores.

There is enough material here for decades of discussion on economic and market theories, survival of the fittest, etc., but it is we the gardeners who are the losers in the battle. When specialty growers bite the dust, the single remaining source of a particular plant can disappear overnight. I enjoy the new introductions as much as anyone and I appreciate the efforts that commercial growers make to increase color selection, disease resistance, etc. But I also enjoy being able to find the old-fashioned favorites from my childhood, as well as native plants.

Our local garden center is in a state of transition and, in the interim, I ran over to one of the home stores to try to find some white pansies. While I loitered in the garden area waiting for Dan to emerge from the hardware section, I did a little experiment. I stood around among the plants, not doing anything in particular. I soon had shoppers asking me for gardening advice, hardiness information, and the location of various plants.

Answers to your gardening questions are what you get at a local garden center that you don’t get in the big box store. Frankly, I think that’s worth a few pennies more.
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. To discover how to express more of your personality and creativity through your garden, or how body/mind/spirit can play itself out in your gardening activities, visit: http://cultivatingtheinnergardener.blogspot.com or contact me at loisj7@gmail.com.
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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Television Musings - Rants and Raves of a Romance Writer

Happy Hour Seasonette

By Kathy Carpenter

You’re probably asking yourself what the heck is a seasonette? I’m using this to mean an entire season that spans the whole season to complete a single story..
Last year they did Harper’s Island a take on Ten Little Indians. Where each week different characters were killed off and another part of the mystery unfolded. At the end of eight or ten weeks the story was finished.

I guess that worked out well because we are about to embark on a new seasonette. Happy Hour. Another mystery type story. If you enjoyed Harper’s Island you will probably enjoy Happy Hour.

I kind of like this new format. Let me know what you think. How do feel about seasonettes? Can you think of something better to call them?
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Monday, April 12, 2010

Sculpting A Life - Making Masks

By Susan Gallacher-Turner

I love to make masks. I don't know why, I just do. And in spite of some of my art teachers who told me that making masks was 'craft' and not 'fine art', I've followed my own heart in my art and I keep making them. I've made masks out of paper, clay, copper, plaster, and aluminum mesh. I've made masks for costumes, indoor art and garden art. I've even made a mask for a centerpiece in a copper oak leaf wreath. I’ve worked with adults, elementary, middle school students and teachers making masks for plays and as art pieces. I’ve seen the transformative power of masks for the maker and wearer alike.

Masks are magic. Making them, becomes a journey for me into the world of story and myth. I've researched the symbolism of animals in different cultures, mythical beasts, cultural folktales. I've learned that masks have been created and used by people from all over the world for almost as long as man has been on the earth. They've been used for healing, spiritual ceremonies, story telling, dramatic performances, entertainment and holidays.

The Latin word for ‘mask’ is ‘persona’. And, indeed, wearing a mask does change our person in many ways. It changes the shape of our face, concealing us. It changes our attitude or emotions. It changes our character or role. Wearing a mask, you can become a different ‘persona’. You can become a playful pup, fierce lioness, mythical dragon or powerful thunderbird. You can become anything you desire or detest. You can conquer your fears. Touch wonder. Feel your wisdom. And embrace your freedom.

To me masks are powerful and life changing pieces of art. And no matter what happens in my life, I am going to continue to follow my heart and make them. For the month of April, I get to share my love of mask making with other mask makers and mask art lovers atDoll Gardner Gallery. This group show features some of my favorite mask makers.

If you'd like to see more of my masks and sculpture, please visit my website at Susan Gallacher-Turner Sculpture and to read about my creative process you can visit my blog Sculpting a Life.

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