Posts Tagged ‘Creativity’

so-called authenticity

February 3rd, 2011    -    17 Comments

My teacher Maezumi Roshi used the word so-called a lot. He used it before every word that really wasn’t what it stood for. (That’s every word.) It’s such an efficient way to point out the source of our confusion: confusing the way things really are with the mental artifice of words and concepts.

That’s why I’m majorly peeved by the word authenticity. As soon as I say it, I’m not. Just the notion that there is a way to be more real than you already are is a lie. People who trade in authenticity trade in deception, and it’s a deception that they reinforce by their own salesmanship. So I was happy to expound on the word “authenticity” for the extraordinarily authentic Irène Nam and her recent Simple Soulful photography workshop. Here’s what I said:

What I like to remind people is that authenticity is just a word. It is a word for what you already are. Never let anyone lecture you about what authenticity means, or how to have more of it. You have it in abundant supply. You just don’t believe it.

And then I said a lot more. Oops. Listen only if you have the heart for what is real.

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the living brush

January 28th, 2011    -    3 Comments

It was in February, a week before Maezumi Roshi’s birthday, only his 64th.  I’d thought that I would leave him a little something behind before I raced back home, a poem or a line inscribed when inspiration arrived.  Nothing arrived, and I hurriedly copied a story from a book I carried with me, a book of stories by William Maxwell called All the Days and Nights. The book was a treasure trove, and I’d read and recommended it frequently in the weeks since I’d beelined for the bookstore, upon hearing the delicate, eighty something voice of the author on the car radio one night.  I was at a stoplight on the way home from work and I heard him say, “I’m astonished that there always is a story, but first it has to come out of the absolutely emptied mind, the mysterious.”

The story I copied was called “The Man Who Lost His Father.”

People ask me how I write. I can’t really say, and I really can’t teach it. I’m not sure that anyone can teach you how to write. But this, I can teach.

Please read about The Living Brush, my first creativity retreat for writers and artists, by scrolling down to the depths of my Retreats page. Then let me hear from you.

Illustration (c) 2010 Andrew Buckle

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The first of everything

December 21st, 2009    -    6 Comments

“If you don’t see the Way you don’t see it even as you walk on it.” – The Identity of Relative and Absolute

In this week of returns and revelations, I’m leaving sand on your doorstep with a few repeat posts. Enjoy your time!

The sandwiches are packed; the watermelon sliced. Today I take the kids to the beach. It is the one day every summer every year that we do this: at season’s end, the four of us, giddy to go, spit-roasted on return. With me: the two teenagers who were once my babysitter’s babies, plus the baby who was once my own.

I believe in cycles like this, in anniversaries and observed traditions. But then, what’s to believe? They come on their own, the returns and repetitions, as reliable as seasons because they are seasons. All of life is a season. We dance in a circle the whole way! The rhythm insistent and true – our part is but to hear the music and move.

Next week we end these short summer months with a true family vacation. Venturing up north, where the ocean is darker, the air misty, the forests thick. Yesterday I remembered that Big Sur was the last vacation destination my husband and I took before Georgia was born. Hardly a vacation, it was the place that the full catastrophe of my sickness was felt, and the shock of its sudden conclusion would bear down. We spent three days roaming and moaning the northern coast, and on return, I was hospitalized. Georgia was born too soon after. This Sunday is the anniversary of her coming home.

So I’m riding the waves and wind these days, again, and next week I’ll find myself back at the first of everything. All over again. Completely new.

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How to unwrap your life

December 8th, 2009    -    22 Comments

I speed-read a short story collection last week, Ishiguro’s Nocturnes, which I cannot recommend. Despite that, one story in the book stuck. It was about the relationship between a cellist and his musical mentor, a woman who described herself as a virtuoso. The woman gives her protégé weeks of technical and inspirational corrections before revealing that she cannot play a cello herself. “We are both virtuosos,” she explained in pitch-perfect logic, “but my virtuosity has not been unwrapped.”

A wrapped-shut virtuoso. Does that resonate?

We dare not yet pick up our own instrument for fear of, well, everything. We are cautious, guarded, unprepared. Getting closer, we tell ourselves. Getting ready. Awaiting the moment of fulfillment, when our mastery will be revealed. In the meantime, our virtuosity is unchallenged, shielded beneath layers of tissue, inert, immobile, a precious empty ideal. Held in reserve for one day.

How to Unwrap Your Life

1. Do something you’ve been avoiding, without thinking twice.
2. This might mean that you need to mail the letter or send the proposal. It will put things in motion.
3. This might mean you need to make the call or send the resume. Go for broke.
4. This might mean that you need to tackle the hand wash cold.
5. This might mean you need to make a meal from whatever you have on hand in the kitchen, without restraint or apology.
6. This might mean a dog walk or a litter box cleaning.
7. This might mean forgetting what he said, she said, you said and everything that has been said before now.
8. No one can tell you a thing. There is no “how to do.”
9. There is only do.
10. Play as if your life depends on it. Without you, there’s no music.

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Unbearable likeness of being

July 17th, 2009    -    9 Comments

I feel brave when I’m performing
It is the color of confidence

And it feels like magic

This is a page in Georgia’s art journal she made as part of the Mini-Mermaid art e-camp this summer. She made it right before she auditioned for a part in a play last week when she was beaming pure gold and glitter like the color of confidence.

She didn’t get the part she tried for. She didn’t get any part she tried for. They gave her the part of a boy. This seems to be a recurring tragedy in her life drama. She cried for a day, and for two nights she wore sponge curlers to bed so she could convince the director, too late, that she is a girl like the girls they cast.

But she feels brave when she’s performing. She’s decided she likes her part. She’s having fun, surrounded by friends, intoxicated by the 190-proof enthusiasm that is the stage life. Watching her dive, and dip and swim to the surface again, I’ve decided that I like her part too. It’s called Georgia, and like magic, she can be anything.

Note to self: nevermind

July 16th, 2009    -    2 Comments

There must be something in the connotation of the word “being” that makes it seem like the opposite of “doing.” I say that because I’m sometimes asked how, as an avowed meditator, I ever get things done. Perhaps they picture me curled up in a corner.

A regular meditation practice is the last thing that prevents me from totally engaging in activity. It helps me do more even as I think about it less. Hidden in the question is how preoccupied we are with to-doing rather than doing. To-doing or should-be-doing takes up quite a bit of time. It could well be the principal occupation of our lives: imagining scenarios, planning strategies, fretting outcomes, second-guessing choices and then sticking the whole rigamarole back into the familiar rut that’s so hard to get out of.

Emptying the mind of that kind of doing opens it up to a spontaneous and creative undoing that is quite marvelous and, I dare say, breathtaking.

Read the rest and leave a comment on “The Laundry Line”
my blog at Shambhala SunSpace

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Actual testimonial and giveaway by a mini-mermaid

June 11th, 2009    -    17 Comments

I think this camp looks fun because I love art and drawing. In this camp a video is given once a week to give you the theme of an artbook page. We then make a whole artbook by ourselves. Flickr photos of your drawings will be posted for those who want to share. I want to do it because I love art and because I want to have other friends all over the world I can share it with. During the summer my mom usually says “Get off the computer right now!” or “Don’t even think about turning on the TV!” but this way I can do my art and connect with my new art friends. I’m gonna do it this summer. How about you?

Yours,
Georgia G. Miller

little girls changing the world from mccabe russell on Vimeo.

Georgia is signed up as a mini-mermaid art e-camper this summer with the one and only dancing mermaid and we have an even bigger mess in store with one full camp tuition to give away to another girl age 8-13 (or younger, or older!) The camp runs all summer so you can start anytime and count Georgia G. Miller among your best art friends in the whole world. I’m tellin’ ya, she’s devoted to her worldwide web of friends. Leave a comment here, with a way to reach you, and give your girl a chance to show her stuff this summer. Winner to be drawn and announced sincerely by Georgia G. Miller next Wednesday, June 17 on her last day of school. Look out world!

Winner: Georgia picked Shanna. Congratulations!

From a tipi to a tribe

May 27th, 2009    -    2 Comments


Perhaps if this woman had ever been here, she would have had the fearless forethought to stay there. Maybe if more girls could find their own expression, they wouldn’t be lost in translation. It’s not farfetched to imagine the day we’ll have one of our own braves as chief. That would indeed be tribal justice.

My friend Wendy Cook has taken an impossible dream out of her laptop and into her lap with the launch of the Mighty Girl Art empowerment camp starting this summer. It’s for our tweens riding the raging waters between slippery rocks and hard places. (And those aren’t just the frontiers where calls get dropped.) I have a tween, and I hope in the months and years ahead she will learn to trust the voice of her native intelligence above the mindless cacophony of the crowd. But she needs wise mentors and guides beyond her mother’s fleet fingertips. All of our girls do.

What I really want is for Wendy to bring her tipi to my front lawn for a West Coast outpost. Saving that, I want you to look around the camp see how you can add your muscle to the magic. How can we grow this? Spiral it outward? I liken it to my own recent kids’ writing project, which has ricocheted to 70 places all over the world in just the last week. There’s no underestimating the power of getting ink all over your hands, and no one has to make a case for it.

It’s about time, girls, to put our faith in the tipi instead of the WiFi, connect to the sacred circle and not just a cell network, and flex something other than our thumbs.

We have a whole world to rescue and seven generations to serve, starting now.

Whoop!


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After the ecstasy, the ecstasy

May 20th, 2009    -    10 Comments


For the before, click here.

Dear Karen,
Thank you for helping us doing our book. You are a very good author. Yesterday at the book tour I was kind of shy to read it but then I was very excited to do it. The kids asked us how many months did it take to do the book. We said it took us about 2 months. We kind of got like every kid’s question. They loved us and they loved our books a lot. One of the kids said I want to be an author too!

You are the best author ever in the whole wide world!

Love,
Wendy

The last 19 books I didn’t write

May 17th, 2009    -    76 Comments

stock-footage-colorful-books-stack-loop-colorful-books-piled-seamless-loop-with-copy-spaceAbout mid-way through this school year, my daughter started griping, I’m bored. I thought, whatever. She nagged me to volunteer in her class. I thought, no way.

When a four- or five-year-old uses the word, bored, it’s a safe bet they are playing with the word. But when they are eight or nine, it might be time to pay attention. When I did, it changed my life.

I like Georgia’s historic, charming, well-staffed, well-intentioned public school. She does too. This post is not about the shortcomings of her school. It is about the shortcomings of my attention.

My daughter and her classmates are being taught superlatively well how to write to rules and rubrics. But to write freely, for fun and without judgment? That’s a different story.

Stuck in my own nowhere of creative momentum, I plunged instead into a new adventure. I proposed to Georgia’s teacher that I lead a classroom project in something I’d never done, but that amounted to the only thing I could contribute. The magnificent teacher did her part: she said yes. Then, over a four-month period, she and I worked together with 19 third-graders to write their own creative nonfiction (and a bit of fiction) stories.

We tell our children stories. We read books aloud, and prod our kids to read for themselves. So they read about famous people, folk tales and legends, biographies, historical fiction and fantasies. But do they realize that their own lives are stories? That they have the experience and imagination to create and share stories that come entirely from themselves? Based on their own remarkable lives and the future they envision?

Well, of course, they can. Give them tools and attention and you will be amazed. I was amazed. I was encouraged. I was uplifted and transported. I was repaid a million times over, with the only payment that counts or lasts.

I want you to know that wherever your child goes to school, or doesn’t, whatever their age or grade level, they are brilliant. They are geniuses. They are authors. I am convinced already. I am their first fan.

I word-processed and printed out each three-chapter-long book on my computer. They drew illustrations and a cover design that we laminated. They wrote author bios and I snapped their photos and we put that together on the last page. We spiral bound everything together and then they went on book tour reading their stories aloud in classrooms of younger ages. We’re having a book festival next week where the kids will read their stories to their fellow authors and everyone gets a literary prize. An eraser. Oh how I prize my own, because the most important thing about writing is not that you finish. It’s that you start, and then start all over again.

What did they write? To keep it short, I assembled 19 lines from their work into this abridged life story. It gives you an idea of the treasure they handed to me.

My story is unlike any other.
I was born early because I wanted to go places.

My first smile wasn’t a real smile, it was my “about to cry” smile.

It was like being sad and happy at the same time.
When I was little I liked excitement. I put Cheetos in the microwave.

When people asked how many friends I had, I said, “It would take a long time to count them.”
It seems like I have friends all over the world.
Friends are magic, movies are magic and spelling is magic because people can read your writing.
Making people feel happy and safe is the most important thing there is.

Everywhere we went, we went fast.

I thought a lot about growing up, but my parents thought about when I was little.

That’s what parents do.

Sometimes you have to lose something to find something better.

What you love never really goes away.

I used to want to work in an ice cream store, but something tells me life will be more interesting than that.

The day you read this I may be 9 or 90.

Now my energy goes up in the daytime and down in the nighttime.
The funeral lasted three hours.

Somewhere I’ll be watching, and I’ll be happy if you are good citizens.

I could go on forever, but my heart is bursting, and I find I have some writing to do.

***

If you are a parent or teacher and you would like a copy of the lesson plan I created for this project, “My Life Story: A Creative Nonfiction Project for 3rd Graders,” just leave a comment with a way to contact you, or email me and I’ll gladly share.

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What to make of it

May 10th, 2009    -    11 Comments


Last night at a neighborhood party, my daughter and her nine-year-old friends put on a show that was shocking and lewd.

I was embarrassed and alarmed.

Frank Rich’s column in the Times includes this fact “more than 60 percent of Twitter users abandon it after a single month.”

I’m still afraid the future will sail without me.

On speakerphone so we could wish her a happy mother’s day, my mother-in-law asks, “What will your mommy do today?” My daughter says, “Exercise and write by herself.” My mother-in-law replies, “Doesn’t she do that everyday?”

I never know where she’s coming from.

Wish Studio posted this essay describing my creative process, which seems like a misnomer. My output is painstaking and small but I get a big kick out of looking the part.

Break the bottle, make a space and let it be.

The next bubble to burst

January 5th, 2009    -    12 Comments


“Although we can expect small-business failure rates to increase over the coming months, the entrepreneurial spirit is still alive and well.”

– Dr. Jeff Cornwall
The Entrepreneurial Mind


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Opening/Closing day customer count: One, her own dog, who doesn’t count.

“Mommy, no one ever comes to these things, no one ever wants to come to these things, and they don’t even care how hard we try!”

–Georgia Miller, age 9, The Entrepreneurial Mine

By any other name

October 22nd, 2008    -    6 Comments


Children’s books that forever changed my life.

Of course, you say, of course she’d like that book. She chose the name.

My daughter is named Georgia, but not for the artist O’Keeffe. My daughter is named for two great-grandfathers on both sides of her family. One an architect; one a farmer.

So this book, once again, is rather for me. Georgia O’Keeffe is my namesake, my mentor, as an artist and an independent being. As a heart and an eye and a hand that saw the big truth in small things.

My Name is Georgia
A Portrait by Jeanette Winter

Her entire life story is told in these 48 pages of spare text and evocative illustrations. Her own girl, with her own way and her own way of seeing. Drawn by the urge to meet the faraway up close, to render mysteries plain and true so people would see.

I went to the New Mexico desert.
So far away that no one ever comes.
I was satisfied to be all by myself.
I did things other people don’t do.

I painted my sky BIG,
so people would see the sky the way I did.

Find the fearless footprint, hear the song of truth and echo it back over the mountains. Paint your life BIG so people will see.

My earlier favorites are shelved here, here and here.

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