The Conundrum of Creativity

I told myself the weekend would be for writing.  I told myself I’d find some time to actually put more than a couple hundred words on the page.  And, well, I certainly wish it was easy as declaring it so.  I wish this nurse knew what the heck a weekend is.  When you work nights, and get off of working three in a row, it can be a struggle to balance the free time…because I mostly just want to sleep, and my immediate waking hours are spent eating.

*sigh* anyway, my writing over the weekend was mostly in stolen moments.  But today I have a couple hours free for writing, and afterward I’ll do more research (meaning: reading and watching television, ha!).

If you Google “how to be a writer” (which, I must admit, I’ve done more times that I can count…), it comes up with lists and lists of tips.  Consistently, one such tip is to commit to writing each day.  Treat writing like a day job.  Set aside a space and time for writing.  That sounds easy enough!  And, that’s what I’ve based my writing rules for this project around (writing, a minimum, five minutes per day).

I do view writing as a day job in theory, but I also severely romanticize the idea of writing a novel.  This creates quite a conundrum in my head.  How am I supposed to sit down and dutifully write each day, inspired or not?  This very question is what has stopped me from expressing these characters on page, the characters that live and breathe and have a whole life in my mind.  The muse has come by, the idea has flourished, but the words are still inside.

The struggle that I’ve found in writing this novel in the past is that my momentum ebbs and flows.  That’s the conundrum of creativity, I keep telling myself.  Creativity is not always a present force.  It’s not always whispered plot points or the next line of dialogue.  And why should I expect it to be so?  Just as almost anything worth it’s salt requires commitment, so to does writing a novel.  A dull, time consuming, not very romantic commitment.

Another tip on such lists is that the beautiful writing comes in the revision process.  Some writers state that they’ve completely re-written a novel a number of times before it’s in it’s finalized state.  And I’m holding this tip close, because as I dutifully fulfill my commitment each day to this novel, I can’t help but groan in my heart about how shitty it is.  I feel like every other word is “said” and I can’t connect scene to scene in any inspiring way.

I felt the same way when I finished my NaNoWriMo novel in 2010.  Make no mistake, that novel was a piece of shit.  The idea was interesting, and I wrote 50,000+ words about it, but damn, when I re-read it that one time, I groaned the whole way through.  And I haven’t touched it since.  But, the encouraging point here is that, shitty or not, I wrote the whole damn thing.  And that’s really all I’m aiming for here.  Who knows what is going to happen when this story is finished.

Right now, it’s just getting the words on paper.  Right now, I need to continue to show up.  Later, it’ll be a pretty and nice story.

(I can already tell y’all I’ll be writing so much more on this idea as the writing progresses.  So stick with me!  And maybe groan along with me as this thing unfolds.)

What do you do when your creativity feels stagnant?  How do you talk yourself around, or into, the mundane side of creation?  Let me know in the comments.

exploringly yours,
Alaina x

Making Time to Write

Welcome to a most mundane post!  But, as I want to plot and track this whole writing a novel journey, there will be mundane posts regarding organization and scheduling and all that great stuff!  I’m just hoping to keep all my thoughts in one place, for myself and, you know, posterity…

And so last night was my first day back to work after my trip.  For those of you who don’t know, I work nights (7 pm to 7 am) as a labor and delivery nurse.  The shifts are typically emotionally and physically exhausting, but I only work three shifts in a seven day stretch.  My unit tends to schedule us all three 12-hour shifts back to back, which is fine because it means I get more days off afterward.  When I work three 12s in a row, it’s work-sleep-eat-repeat.  And when I’m off those three in a row, I’m livin on a weird combo of night shift hours, attempting to adjust back to real people hours, and having no clue what day it is.  And, well, I can already tell you it’s going to be hard to find writing time between my twelve hour shifts.

Today, I’m in between two twelves.  I worked last night, got home this morning, hung out with my partner for a bit (won’t see him much in the next 24 hours because our schedules are so opposite and busy!), then went to sleep by 10 AM.  I slept until about 3 PM because, naturally, they are doing some major construction outside my apartment.  Still, I try to wake up a little early before a shift so that I can feel like an actual human being.  I walked to the local coffee shop and got an iced coffee, meditated, ate some food, and here I am.  Instead of writing my novel, I’m writing this blog post….hmm.

I can already tell this is going to be tough because my “creative process” isn’t the kind to just get down to business and produce something.  I like to go out to a coffee shop, browse Instagram, doodle, pay bills, organize, and, umm, not write immediately.  I was talking with my partner, and he suggested just getting in five good minutes of writing each day.  I love that idea!, even if it goes against my “process.”  But it requires a bit of planning, too.  In order to get in five good minutes of writing, I need to have a pre-meditated idea of where I want the story to go.

So here’s the plan… ten minutes of good writing time each day, in which I actually write for five minutes, and then plan for tomorrow’s writing for five minutes.  Sound fair?  That’s the plan for now.  Today is day three of this whole process, so let’s see how it goes.  Also — shoutout to Jessi Huntenburg for today’s Instagram post, shared below, on this conundrum.

💗This one’s for the #girlbosses , for the badass mamas who bust out their hustle to a chorus of requests to meet others’ needs. This is for ladies who work a full day only to come home and pursue their dreams into the wee hours of the night. This is for moms who work part time to save money on childcare, who work full-time because they have to or want to or who work from home while cooking, cleaning, and child-minding in between. This is for women who don’t let a sexist job market stop them from going after their due and who choose to stay home and raise their kids regardless of what the world might say about them. This is for any woman who’s doing her best to be her best self in this world–I salute you💗

It’s time to go after what I’m due.

What are you working on?  How do you schedule in creative time for yourself?  Let me know in the comments!

exploringly yours,
Alaina xx

Fertilization of Inspiration

I spent this last weekend with my mom in Denver, Colorado, visiting my sister who has lived out there for a couple of years.  The weather is hot and dry, and in Denver proper there aren’t any mountains — it’s basically a desert.  It’s a trendy city, with lots of healthy mid-thirty year olds and lots of gentrification.  We ate a ton of great food, and explored the area, and went to Red Rocks to see The Avett Brothers under the full moon.  That night was so hot and so clear, perfect for outdoor music.  We had a couple freak accidents and pitfalls and arguments — but, hey, family vacations am I right?  Overall, a great weekend away.  And, I don’t know what it was, but the whole time I was there I felt electrified with inspiration…

So, there are these characters and this story that I’ve been fleshed out in my head for literal years.  Like, since 2011, when I was in Austria and had nothing better to do than write and read and drink all day…with some occasional English teaching, I guess.  The story is in part inspired by a dream I had (that part I don’t remember too much any more), and I outlined and made notes and tried to write the whole thing a couple times, but no manuscript ever got finished.  In part, I blame the outlining and the planning because in November 2010, I did complete a novel, by the seat of my pants, for National Novel Writing Month so we know this is possible.

These scenes from this story are so planned out that I have them in my mind like memories.  These characters become more nuanced as I grow and change myself.  If you’re a writer, or daydreamer, or creative of any kind, I think you will know what I mean.  They are aching for their story, their year that I have in my mind, to be told.

What’s a girl to do?  In my year ahead forecast that I got from Benebell back in December 2016, she encouraged me repeatedly to manifest a writing project.  Hmm, I thought.  I wasn’t sure if this would be an old idea come back around, a fresh idea, or my tarot reading business (which certainly requires tons of writing!).  For a long time, I tormented myself with the idea of a fresh idea (yikes, just the ideas of ideas freak me out…), and, again, if you’re a creative of any kind I think you’ll know what I mean.  Benebell’s July card for me is the Tower, while my own card for myself is Death (in August followed, respectively, by the King of Wands reversed and Emperor, a stalker lately).  And while I find that predictive month-by-month cards don’t do much for me, to be honest, I feel these all mesh together so well when surrendering to a creative project, which may have to be explored in a separate blog post…

Now I feel I know what my writing project is, and I feel I know that I can complete this.  I feel like I have the first fertilization of inspiration to actually complete this story.  I don’t want to plan too much, or make strict rules for myself, but I do know I want to write, at least a little, each day.  And I want to share my progress with you all, here.  Probably not everyday, but more often than I’m blogging now (which…it’s been a while since I’ve been regular).  I’m not sure how much of the actual story details I’ll share, but I’m going to need all the continuing inspiration and support and ideas that I can handle to get this story out.

Day One | I need to water this little sprout of inspiration; it’s here, it’s seeded, now I need to do my part.  So, today, I went to the coffee shop and wrote this post.  I’ve written a couple hundred words for my story and intend to write, at least, a couple hundred more before my ukulele lesson this evening.  I write on my computer, because that is fastest for me, and I like watching my word count go up (it’s the little things).  As it stands, I’m starting from the same point that I’ve always started this story, but who knows if that’s how it’ll stay.

Are you a writer, daydreamer, or some kind of creative?  Have you ever written fiction?  A short story?  A long story?  What about non-fiction?  Do you write with pen and paper or the computer?  Tell me allll about it in the comments!

exploringly yours,
Alaina xx

Some New Year’s Thoughts

Hello, friends!  A new, fresh year is upon us!  January is cold, crisp, and exciting.  January is the month that, generally, people make promises for the coming year and there is a lot of enthusiasm behind said promises.  However, if you live in a similar climate as me, it’s been extremely cold since 2017 started, and all I really want to do is curl up with my cat and a blanket, and I don’t feel very proactive…

But, let’s talk a little bit about resolutions.  I’m just as guilty as the next person about having grand ideas about who I want to be, what I want to look like, or what I want to do.  This year, however, I’ve moved away from making “resolutions” and instead have crafted some affirmations around my goals and my word of the year.

My word for 2017 is “practice.”  On my Instagram feed I wrote this about my word: “There are a lot of things in my life that I want to ramp up and build a practice around.  The word, to me, implies ritual and imperfection, it reminds me to work a little bit each day toward my goals.  Be those goals health related, to read a book, to go deeper spiritually, to use my cards, to play my ukulele, to write a bit each day…..it covers a little bit of everything…We’re not perfect, life isn’t perfect, and that’s why we practice — to get things a little better each time.”

With that in mind, and with the help with of my Many Moons workbook, I worked out some intentions and affirmations for the coming year.  I don’t want to call them resolutions exactly because while they aren’t specific goals, (as in “I want to lose 60 pounds”), they are (as said above) practices that I want to build up over this year.  I do have specific end goals in mind, but I want to focus on the intention and practices behind the goals.

The workbook explains affirmations and how they can help to alter thought patterns and habits.  I found the section helpful in crafting my own affirmations, as I didn’t have much experience writing them before.  The book calls affirmations mini-spells, which I really like.  As such, I went on to craft some affirmations to bolster my intentions for 2017.

My overall affirmation for 2017 is, “My goals are not a chore; they are so that I can be a better me.”  I wrote this affirmation keeping my 2017 word, practice, in mind.  I actually really like this affirmation because I tend to view my daily goals as something to be checked off a list.  But really my goals are not something mundane (a chore), they are dynamic, and are intended to help me improve myself.

The workbook then asks “what is waiting to be manifested” for the rest of 2017.  It breaks down goals into sections, and asks us to pick two goals for each section.  I went a step further and crafted an affirmation for each section to reinforce my intentions for the year.  Below, I list what I’ve come up with.

Prosperity/Abundance
1.  Spend my (free) time on activities that I enjoy/make me happy and could also potentially add revenue to my budget (i.e., writing and card reading).
2.  Work to pay off student loans, so that true saving can begin.
Affirmation:  “I spend my time and money in beneficial ways.”

Opportunities/Skill-sets
1.  Practice ukulele three times per week.
2.  Dedicate myself to spiritual development.
Affirmation:  “Practice is a part of ritual and learning.”

Physical body/Health
1.  Drink more smoothies (particularly at work) and more water.
2.  Work out more, particularly at home weights and yoga, three times per week.
Affirmation:  “I nourish and care for my body appropriately.”

Self-love
1.  Build up a meditative practice, three times per week.
2.  Take ritual baths one time per week.
Affirmation:  “I give myself space to relax and open up.”

My focus this year is going to be on the affirmations.  I really like the idea of keeping the affirmations central to my actions this year.  The goals that I have written are more guidelines; if I don’t accomplish the “three times per week,” I won’t beat myself up about it.  The affirmations are meant to keep my intentions on track.

Have you made any resolutions this year?  Do you like to use affirmations?  Let me know in the comments!  I hope you all have a great 2017!

exploringly yours,
Alaina xx

Autumnal Musings

There’s been a lot going on in my life – my inner and outer landscape – and I feel like I haven’t had adequate time to sit down and compost it all.  September and October speeded away from me.  The two months have been exciting and busy, and I’m grateful for all of the great memories.  But let me tell you: I’m looking forward to the hibernation season of winter, if only for some time to sit in space for myself.

In the beginning of September, I moved in with my honey.  The move itself went well, but there is still art to hang and little things around the apartment that I want to complete to make this place truly our home.  It is a big transition for both of us.  At 28, it’s both our first times living with a significant other.  He moved cities.  He started school full time.  I brought a cat (Gary!) in to our home.

Shortly after the move, I went on a weeklong trip to Germany and the Netherlands with a good friend from work.  I went from unpacking my life into this new apartment to packing a backpack for a whirlwind trip full of beer and nostalgia and sightseeing.

With that – September was nearly over.

October was a blur of celebration.  Over two long weekends, I traveled to two distance weddings with good friends.  One in Wisconsin, a 10-hour drive with my honey and best friend, and another in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  I flew up there, and drove back nearly 8 hours with my best friend.

I traveled to visit other friends, celebrated Halloween/Samhain, started reading tarot via email for others, and have worked overtime to earn some extra money before the holiday season.  There has been the tumult of this election season (that I wish would just end already) that brought out personal realizations, ukulele lessons, questioning of my personal beliefs and practices, and people from my past that I’ve seen over the last two months that have brought a lot of memories – wanted and unwanted – back to the forefront.  And in between all that, not much time for rest and reflection.

And now, it’s November.  Yesterday was my honey’s 29th birthday, and today is the party.  We are hosting nearly 15 people in our tiny apartment tonight for his annual Halloween themed birthday party.   My sister will be in town next week, and my family is visiting my grandparents’ grave, attending an Avett Brother’s concert, and hosting Thanksgiving a couple of weeks early.  Maybe after next weekend I’ll finally get some quiet time.  This little Hermit needs her alone time to recharge!

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I had a reading (above) recently from Julia over at Spiral Sea Tarot and the question was “What is my magical power?”  It was a fun Halloween themed reading, and I don’t really know what I was expecting as an answer, but what she turned up was actually quite interesting.  In summary, my magical power is how I can connect with others.  As stated above, I feel that I’m pretty Hermit-y.  But it made me think a lot about opening up more with others, being gracious, and fun.  She connected it to my ancestral line, and my maternal gramma was the most open and gracious and warm and welcoming person I’ve ever known.  I miss her dreadfully, and I know everyone who was in her life misses her, too.  She was just that kind of person.  She went through innumerable traumas of her own, but she was the mother that, when my own mother was young, would welcome any and all of my mother’s friends in to her home.  It’s nice to have that connection with her.  I know it’s a capability I have inside me, but it’s not one I tap in to often enough, maybe because of laziness or because of being jaded.  But it’s easy to go just a little more out of my way to connect with others, even if it’s a simple conversation at work or a text sent to a friend.

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This morning, I had an interesting card draw for myself (above).  I did a within-without-advice reading with The Wild Unknown, and let out a heavy “HUH” when I turned over the cards.  My honey, who was close by, asked, “Is that not good?”  Well, some heavy cards turned up, as you can see.  Basically, this is confirming that I have a lot to compost.  Lately, I’ve done a lot of internal questioning of where I am and what I’m doing – career-wise, life-wise, everything-wise.  What do I want and where do I want to be?

Within:  The Devil. I’ve been sitting with these questions, and returning negative self-talk answers, like a poison.  Instead of celebrating what I have accomplished, I’m questioning every turn and decision I’ve made.  And it’s all very self-centered bullshit.

Without:  Death.  Here, I feel closure is huge.  There is so much weird energy hanging around my head and my heart and it doesn’t know where to go.  I literally keep making up alternative story lines in my head, envisioning a different future of the path that I am on.  Death here is telling me that I need to put up my borders, close myself off from that energy.  It’s all fantasy.

Advice:  Two of Swords.  Stalemate.  Yes.  “There’s an answer that’s being blocked, maybe by choice?” says The Wild Unknown guidebook.  Exactly.

So, all that I’m trying to say here is I can’t wait for some quiet, some cold, some peace so that I can build the roads for myself.  Not fantasy, reality.  The infinite possibilities of life get me excited, but the possibilities must be grounded in some kind of reality.

That’s about what been going on for me this autumn.  I have a couple more blog posts to follow, inspired from posts that I’ve made on my Instagram, and are products of this crazy fall.

How have you been this season?  Leave a comment below!

exploringly yours,
Alaina