Embracing Failure as a Necessary Step in Art

Embracing Failure as a Necessary Step in Art

Dancing near the edge

For over a month now I have been working on a poem called “Tango Near the Edge,” and in the end, it might not be any good.

I am writing it in response to a very complex prompt I found in a book of difficult writing prompts called Challenges for the Delusional. (Who can resist a title like that?)

To follow the prompt, I have to meet a series of difficult and bizarre creative hurdles all within one poem.

One of the hurdles is to use dance terminology in a poem that touches on death.

So, to make this poem I looked up terms used in tango. The terminology for tango is very rich and full of double entendres I hope to play on in my poem, which features a lover near the end of a troubling relationship.

I continue to be interested in this poem because it poses such a difficult creative challenge that it forces me to abandon most, if not all, of my usual strategies, to get out of ruts, and learn something new.

In fact, I have also chosen to impose a fixed form on the poem, in addition to the list of other challenges I have to meet. The form I have chosen is a poem of 24 lines made up of lines of six words each. I learned this form from Brenda Hillman, who in turn learned it from another poet.

This form forces a kind of economy and care on me that is helpful to corral my tendency to ramble. And something about the form has captured my imagination. I’ve used it for several poems already.

After all this time tinkering with the poem, rewriting lines, researching more tango terms and trying to weave them into the poem in a way that adds richness and doesn’t stop the reader because they don’t understand the meanings, I still don’t know if I have a poem that is good.

I have done so many revisions and still, probably the whole thing is too contrived to be successful as a piece of art.

In other words, I may have spent a good deal of my precious creative time on a dead end.

Be willing to go down dead ends

As artists, we have to be willing to go down dead ends for our art. Because in this way we grow, we stretch beyond our habits and safe zones. Art is not about playing safe and small.

Making art is a radical act that calls on all of who we are. Our art, our creativity, asks us to rise to the best we have to give, to who we are becoming, and to keep learning and honing our art.

To get there we often have to go back to being a beginner, over and over. We have to be willing to fall, to fail, to not look good or competent. Only in this way do we learn new skills, add new colors to our palette, discover voices within waiting to be sung.

“Preconceptions about what is and is not possible are as dangerous in the crafts as they are in other areas of human behavior. Meanwhile it is fun to play, and most discoveries are made by accident. Or an inspiration. But it is really an organic principle trying to find a soft spot to sprout in.

It takes a long time to learn that nothing is wasted. It takes a long time, and a lot of suffering usually, to understand that there is more to life and to poetry than our conscious purposes.”

– M.C. Richards, Centering

Be willing to be a beginner again

Years ago I attended a three-week-long residential workshop in Contact Improvisation, the dance form I have been engaging in for over thirty years.

In the workshop we had to break down core skills and try on exercises that felt awkward and hard. Even though at the time I was a fairly skilled Contact Improviser, I found myself suddenly unable to dance well at all. It was painful and embarrassing.

It wasn’t until I returned from the workshop and had some weeks to integrate the learning into my body that suddenly my dancing blossomed to a whole new level.

But I had to be willing to go through the awkwardness of new learning, to step out of my comfort zone, to go down what felt like dead ends and appear terrible as a dancer, in order to emerge from the chrysalis in a new form.

Embrace the awkwardness

Martin Keogh, a wonderful teacher of Contact Improvisation, once said in a workshop, “Embrace the awkward moments. Don’t try to rush through them in the dance.”

I encourage you not only to embrace the awkwardness and be a beginner again and again, but also to embrace challenge in your art, embrace your “failures,” your ruined canvasses, your awful poems, your embarrassing performances, your dead ends.

You never know where these might lead.

Know that you are doing this in service to your art. And celebrate yourself for being brave, for trying something new, and for making art at all.

If you’d like to read my poem “Tango Near the Edge” and see how I’ve met the challenges, join me on Patreon. I’ll share it this week with my patrons. (That’s where I share a lot of juicy insider stuff.)

Why We Need to Make Art Now (More Than Ever)

Why We Need to Make Art Now (More Than Ever)

When we make art, we aren’t destroying. We are uniting, rather than dividing.

When we create, we find and build connections between things, instead of separation. We knit pieces of the world together.

We hold up the beauty, magic and magnificence of the world, so that we all can awaken from the trance of not enough, of materialism and conflict, and remember what really matters.

When we make art, we forget consumption, lust for power, envy, pettiness, the feeling of not enough.

When we create, we play. We become lighter of heart. We remember joy, wonder, love. We don’t take ourselves so seriously. Or we may even lose our small selves completely in the act of creation.

We touch the numinous. We awaken our hearts, souls, spirits, our best selves. And we awaken this in others, just by being creative, and also by sharing our art.

We work out our troubles on the page, stage, canvas, clay, musical instrument. We release what is pent inside that is causing storms and dis-ease, waiting to explode if not given some healthy outlet.

Value-holders and Vision-keepers

The arts uphold values of love, connection, wisdom, wonder, beauty, truth. They validate, strengthen and remind us of our deep need for these things, our preference for these things which we too easily forget in the busyness and disconnection of our daily lives.

Your photographs and weavings, your collages and beadwork, your songs and dances help make a world of beauty, sweetness, deep heart, a world of revelation and vulnerability.

You give voice to something needing to be said, however hard it may be. And you do it artfully, so that something deep within can awaken in us.

Artists are the vision-keepers, the wayshowers, the conscience of a culture. That is why they have been oppressed, imprisoned, shut down and killed by oppressors throughout time.

Because we have tremendous power as artists.

The power to create. The power to love. To tell the truth, to care. And to be silly too, playful, irreverent.

To speak in sacred language. For, what else is symbol, color, music and metaphor but a kind of holy speech?

So make art. Make time for your art. Now. Make a little time if that is all you have. It will heal you. It will heal our world. One creative act at a time.

How to Deal With Creative Advice & Become a Better Artist

How to Deal With Creative Advice & Become a Better Artist

Creative advice for writers and artists abounds. Much of it is useful, helping us create stronger art. But it can also block our best work. In today’s post I discuss how to navigate that slippery terrain.

Write as if your words were a fire bringing warmth to a freezing cold room. Waste no words, just provide heat.

– Sir Tim Smit, writer and founder of the Eden Project

I don’t remember how it started.

Several editors told me that my poems had too much abstraction. I needed to focus more on concrete imagery.

This is a popular concept in writing circles: Avoid abstraction. Rely on physical images to communicate.

“Go in fear of abstractions,” The famous poet Ezra Pound wrote.

I teach my own students to bring their writing alive with concrete images, images we can see, hear, feel in our bodies, taste, smell. We experience life through the body first and foremost.

In order for writing to be vivid, evoke emotions and draw readers in, writers need strong, specific, sense images.

Not “I felt sad,” but “Tears streamed down my face.” OK, that’s a cliché, so you need to find a better way to describe sadness, but you get the idea.

I started to get very self-conscious about my lack of concrete imagery. (Don’t use “very”—that’s another common piece of writing advice. Ack! I just did.)

Here’s the thing about creative advice, like any advice:

It’s good up to a point. And then it can really mess you up.

The Benefits of Creative Advice

There is wisdom and helpfulness in the oft-repeated maxims for good writing. “Show, don’t tell” or “Avoid adverbs.”

It behooves an artist who is learning her craft to study the guidelines, learn the trade, the tools, before subverting them. To ignore centuries of practice in your art is arrogant foolishness. To snub new advances could be costly to your best art.

So, begin by applying the commonly-accepted rules. See where and how they strengthen your art.

In receiving that feedback about my writing, I started practicing describing things in concrete detail. I went for walks and looked around my room and practiced the art of description on the things I saw, heard, perceived with one of my five senses.

It is wise as an artist, who wishes to grow, to practice what might not come naturally, to strengthen where we are weak, to keep developing our craft.

I often give myself assignments to write outside of what’s easy or familiar, to stretch my capacities as a writer and expand my palette. If I always write poems in short lines, I’ll try writing in extended lines, discovering what it takes to create a strong, long-lined poem. Or I’ll write without using the word “I”.

But be attentive to how creative advice may be holding you back from creating your best work.

The Pitfalls of Creative Advice

There are exceptions to every rule.

Ezra Pound wrote: “To begin with, consider the three rules [of Imagist poetics], not as dogma—never consider anything as dogma—but as the result of long contemplation, which, even if it is some one else’s contemplation, may be worth consideration.”

Notice that Pound says never to consider anything as dogma, even his own rules. The rules won’t always apply.

There are places in a good story where you need to tell instead of show to move the pace along. There are places for abstraction. You’ll find it used powerfully in the poems of Emily Dickinson, for instance.

What I Discovered

What happened as I practiced describing things in concrete detail?

I got very (there’s that “very” again!) bored by the writing. It wasn’t me, wasn’t my style, wasn’t what fascinates and inspires me. It was tedious to do and tedious to read.

I also realized three things:

1) There are many beautiful sense images throughout my poems. I do know how to use concrete imagery.

Consider this poem of mine recently published in a wonderful literary journal called Sweet: https://sweetlit.wordpress.com/issue-10-3/poet-maxima-kahn/

If you receive critical feedback, check to see where it is true and accurate, but also where it is not.

2) My gifts and voice as a poet lie in a realm of complexity. The swirl of emotions, the abodes of Spirit and soul, the interplay between our physical world and the unseen, whether that be our feeling life or spiritual life or intellectual life—these things are in my “wheelhouse.”

My poems include ideas and so-called “abstractions,” intensely-lived questions and deeply-held values. This is who I am.

Consider what your unique strengths as an artist are, what makes you you. And don’t sacrifice these.

3) I will continue to be alert to the balance of the concrete and abstract in my writing. But without stymieing my flow.

Because the other thing that happened, when I listened to that feedback and got self-conscious about it, was I got writer’s block for two weeks, until I sorted out what had happened.

Keep what you have learned from the advice that strengthens your art. Be alert for your weaknesses. Jettison the rest.

And if you find yourself blocked, check to see if you received some piece of criticism that you took too much to heart or that is gumming up the works. And let it go. Get back to what you do well.

What Does This Mean for You?

You have to get to know which pieces of advice are for you and which are not. You need to develop discernment about when to use that advice and when to ignore it.

The best way to develop that discernment is to:

  • Try out the advice in your art.
  • See if the art is now stronger or less strong.

You may want to test out different versions (with and without the advice) on a handful of trusted readers/viewers/listeners.

Ultimately, you are seeking to develop your internal compass to the point that you know when your work is more powerful and more radiantly yours, and when it is weaker and/or no longer true to you. But we always have blind spots.

Guard your unique brilliance, but be open to seeing your blind spots and growing as an artist. Learn to hone your skills and strengthen where you are weak.

Most importantly, protect your ability to create, to stay inspired and share your singular vision with the world.


To read the 3 tenets if Imagism plus Pound’s list of “Don’ts” for writers, go here: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/articles/58900/a-few-donts-by-an-imagiste

To read some other sets of rules (read: advice) for writers, check out these:

From Stephen King: https://www.brainpickings.org/2013/03/13/stephen-king-on-adverbs/

From Amitava Kumar: https://lithub.com/ten-rules-of-writing/

And from a host of authors: https://www.buzzfeed.com/chelseypippin/33-essential-tips-for-aspiring-writers?utm_term=.bwXeAZ4Yz#.tnxAglRok


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How to Get Started Creating Again

How to Get Started Creating Again

How do you get back to creating after you have been away, whether due to illness, vacation, busyness or distraction?

Whether it has been a few days, weeks or years, the process is essentially the same. Knowing this process is a key skill for artists who want to live fulfilling creative lives.

At the end of May I went to Mexico on a spiritual retreat. It was soul-nourishing, wonderful and rich.

Coming home, I feel deeply reconnected to my Essence, in a place of deeper quiet, trust and ease. I feel mysterious transformations and gifts moving in me on a subterranean level. I feel truly blessed.

Almost immediately I came down with a bad cold, which turned into a fever, then a nasty cough. I’ve been astonishingly tired and had to move at a snail’s pace for the past week.

What with the busy time leading up to retreat, the week away and then being sick, it has been a while since I have been in my studio writing.

Now, when I attempt to begin again, nothing comes.

Do I panic over this? Not at all.

I know this is a totally normal phase, and I know how to move through it.

What You Should Know 

You will have resistance. Know that you need to move through the resistance, rather than buy into it. In this way, you’ll be able to get back to doing what you love.

You may be terrible at first. I call it “Grinding the Gears,” because that’s what it feels like when I’m trying to begin creating again. If you stick with it and are gentle with yourself, this will pass pretty soon, and those gears will be greased and moving smoothly again.

Rekindle a Creative Habit

creative friends making a pact

photo by rawpixel on unsplash

The first thing is to rekindle your regular creative time. Get back in your habits again, if you had them, or start some new ones.

Set aside some days and times that you will make your art. You may need to put those times in your calendar, or perhaps you decide that every weekday evening you’ll take ½ hour to play your guitar, or on Sunday you are going to play with paints. Smaller, regular bursts of time will help you get your groove back, even if it’s been years.

Make a commitment to yourself and keep it, even if in the moment you don’t feel like it. Remember, you have to move through resistance.

It can help enormously to have some companionship, either by taking a class, making a date to make art with a friend, or forming a group to share works-in-progress.

Start Small and Easy

When we return to our art after being away, we face resistance to creating. This is normal. Starting small and easy lowers your resistance, making the way more inviting and fun.

Begin in some easy way to get reconnected to your art, your creativity, your love of making things. Remember why you want to do it in the first place, what it can give you, others, our world.

person reading

photo by Lilly Rum on Unsplash

For me, that happens by reading. I read some poems by other poets. I read about the art and craft of poetry or writing. I may read a bit about the lives of artists or about the creative process.

This is reading for inspiration, not pleasure. I’m not sinking into the couch with a novel for hours. I’m trolling for inspiration, while I’m in my studio at my appointed time.

Then I read some of my own work. I may do some revising.

I’ll give myself a prompt and do a little freewriting.

I may keep the studio time shorter than usual at first.

I want the process to be as inviting, easeful and inspiring as possible.

When I’ve been away from my violin for a long time, I usually begin with a 10-minute session, perhaps 20 minutes. I will play some scales or scale patterns and then improvise for a few minutes. And then I put the violin away before I get discouraged or burnt out. I want to stop while I still feel hungry for more and still feel good about playing.

What are some small, easy, inviting ways for you to begin again? What is the least threatening, most enjoyable way back?

Permission is the Key that Unlocks the Door

As always, the most important aspect of getting started again is my attitude.

And the most important attitude is permission. Giving myself permission to play, experiment, make messes, and most of all, make “bad” art.

I know that often when I start again after being away there is a period I call “grinding the gears.” My words come slowly and awkwardly. The writing is often terrible.

I accept this time and don’t fret over it. I know it’s a necessary stage in the cycle of returning to my creativity. And it passes.

If I let myself be awful for a while, pretty soon the words and imagination start flowing again. I find what I am excited about now, what I want to say, how I want to say it. I find the joy of creating.

Breaks Can Produce Growth

I may discover the time away was a great blessing, allowing me to refresh my connection to my creativity, to learn things while away from it, and to come back with new gifts.

Back when I was playing my violin for hours a day, I was surprised to discover that a break of a few weeks or even a few months could lead to a strange quantum leap in my abilities. As if I had figured something out while away from it.

Longer breaks don’t usually produce this kind of growth. Instead, there will be a loss of ability that I have to make peace with and gently make my way back, rebuilding skills and facility over time.

performer with painted face holding herself tenderly

photo by svetlana pochatun on unsplash

However, at the same time I may have new life experiences and other kinds of growth that do feed my art in new ways. I want to be open to these, curious about who I am now and how I want to make art now, and not just fall into old ruts.

Be Kind and Encouraging to Yourself

Gentleness is very important. You want to think of yourself as a child that you are encouraging to be creative. How you treat yourself will have a big impact on your creativity and your art.

So, be the best parent you can be to your inner artist—incredibly loving and encouraging but firm too.

Now it’s time to get to it! Make a time, make some art! Let it be easy and fun.

Share with me in the comments below what you got from reading this and any questions you have. Let’s keep filling our world with beauty, truth, imagination, wonder, play.

The One Thing You Need for a Prolific Creative Life

The One Thing You Need for a Prolific Creative Life

Is there one thing that makes the difference between a happy, prolific creative life and a frustrating one filled with fits and starts? In this post, I answer this and how it can change your whole life, not just your creativity.

About a week ago, I went to a wonderful literary event in my town.

One of my goals for myself as a writer is to attend at least one literary event every month.

Writing is an introverted art form, so this goal helps to get me out of the house and involved in the literary community. It also provides inspiration.

Hint: Make a simple goal to support yourself in having creative community and regular doses of inspiration.

Every two months YubaLit hosts a reading that features a mix of local and non-local authors, reading from works that range from fiction to poetry to memoir. In addition, anyone who attends the reading may put their name in a hat for a chance to read a single page or poem. Five writers get this opportunity at each event.

The quality is exceptionally high, the format engaging, the evenings always lively. I have been to most of the readings since the series got its start a couple of years ago.

The event I recently attended was a book launch for Sands Hall’s remarkable memoir, Flunk. Start.: Reclaiming My Decade Lost to Scientology. Her book is absolutely riveting, warm, compassionate, both painful and uplifting. I am devouring it. You can get it at your local bookstore or at Powells.com (which is an independent bookstore and therefore way better than Amazon.)

Something happened at the reading that I had to share with you.

Is There Just One Thing?

At the event I met Don Rogers, the publisher of The Union, our local newspaper. As I told him about my work as a teacher and creativity coach, he asked me if there was one thing that it all boils down to in terms of fostering the creative process and reaching our creative aspirations.

I replied, “There isn’t just one thing, but if there were, it would be routines.”

There is nothing more central to a vibrant, fulfilling creative life than having a regular creative practice.

If you read about the lives of prolific artists in all disciplines, you will be amazed at how they almost all talk about their creative routines. Sometimes these involve elaborate and arcane rituals, sometimes simple and prosaic. But, all of these artists adhere to their routines with a combination of religious devotion and the ferocity of a mother bear protecting her cub.

I do the same.

Four days a week from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. I am in my studio, writing, reading, revising, researching, sending out work. When I have more time, I spend more time, but those hours are sacrosanct. I don’t schedule meetings, doctor’s appointments or phone calls during that time.

writer at work

photo by Matthew Lejune on Unsplash

If You Show Up, Your Muse Will Too

Artists who are consistently creative almost all adhere to a regular schedule of times during which they create. They don’t wait for inspiration to show up. They show up and inspiration comes. Not every time, but they learn to work when they are not feeling inspired also.

They don’t wait for their lives to settle down, or to have the perfect space, or for the to do list to be completed (it never will be), or even for the most urgent items on that list to be crossed off.

Prolific artists—artists who are actually making art—make their art their priority and show up unfailingly.

Most of all, they don’t wait until they feel like making art, because we will always put things in the way of making art. We will always want to stall and make excuses.

Our Art Brings Up Resistance

Art demands that we show up fully, that we are vulnerable and real, that we risk and challenge ourselves in ways that much of our daily lives don’t require. Making art is one of the hardest—as well as the most fun and rewarding—things we can do. Because it’s hard and it’s risky, we resist it.

If there is one thing that makes the difference in feeling fulfilled in your creativity, and therefore in your life, it is having a regular creative practice.

The students I work with who resist routines are also the ones that struggle with bursts of inspiration followed by dry spells and doubts. They are the ones who feel they can’t get control of their time or their lives. They can’t stay focused or bring things to completion.

The ones who have a regular creative practice generally come to our sessions excited, glowing, feeling on purpose in their lives. And they get to see things come to fruition.

When We Make Time for Art, Life Feels Better

The reason they are glowing is they are making time for what they love, what lights them up. Doing that radically changes how we feel about our whole lives. It changes how we move through our day.

You need to find a routine that works for you, your way of creating, your schedule, your energy.

If you are struggling with that, please know: There is nothing wrong with you! This is incredibly common among artists.

You may need some wise suggestions around how to find and stick to a creative habit that works for you. You probably need to learn tools to move through resistance, fears and blocks to creating. Both of these can require some skilled facilitation.

But most of all you need to commit with your whole heart to a plan of when you will create each week, not allowing anything to come in the way.

Then, the magic begins!

To your prolific creativity,

Maxima

P.S. If you would love to develop a creative habit that feels wonderfully exciting, if you would love to see your creative aspirations come to life, contact me for a free Discovery Session to explore how my Creativity Mentoring can change your life.

You may also want to read my posts on The Power of Creative Routines and The Power of Ritual.

How to Access the Power of Love to Realize Your Dreams

How to Access the Power of Love to Realize Your Dreams

In this post, I share with you how to access the deepest power in the universe, the power of love, so that you can draw upon this limitless power to help you realize your dreams.

This is the fourth post in a series on Enthusiasm vs. Willpower in reaching your heart’s dreams. If you missed the last post, you can read it here. In it, I offered you a radical invitation to help you connect to heart, passion, delight and fulfillment in your life. I also introduced you to the Inner Taskmaster and the Rebel, both of whom can sabotage your dreams.

In discussing the Taskmaster in my last post, I talked about the unhealthy kind of willpower and how it really doesn’t help us reach what we long for in our lives. Today, we begin with a healthy kind of inner power.

Accessing the Power of the Mother Bear

photo by matthias-goetzke on unsplash

The second kind of willpower is that of the mother saving her child. This will is unstoppable. We all know better than to get between a mother bear protecting her cubs, because no force is stronger than that love.

This is the kind of will we want to access on the path to living our heart’s dreams:  Our powerful, passionate, unstoppable love for what we long to be, do and have, our fierce commitment to it.

This is a force that can move mountains, including the mountains of our own fear, doubt and resistance.

Connect to Your Deep Why

So, how do you access that kind of will?

You dive down to the core of your love and longing for your dream, the heart of your passion for it. You become deeply connected to what that dream gives you, what it will give you, what you love and enjoy about it, what it can give to others, how it connects to values that you hold dear.

You get very clear on what I call the Deep Why of the dream. How does it serve you, others, our world?

Then, you keep reconnecting to that why, that love and vision, as long as they remain true for you. You keep recommitting to your dream from that place of love.

Call up your fierce, powerful love for your art, your dreams, for the power of art itself and what it gives our world, how it changes lives. Let that be the source of your willpower to act day after day in a manner congruent with your dreams.

A Little Will and a Lot of Love

photo by craig whitehead on unsplash

So, yes, a little will is involved. It can serve you well on the path of dreams, when used properly. You may have to draw on 30 seconds of willpower every single day to get yourself into your studio and begin creating.

But deeper than will for me is the love of creating, the passion for art. Being clear in knowing what creating gives to my life and knowing what is lacking without it. And having a strong, inspiring vision of where I am headed in my life.

Vision, love, joy—these are unbelievably powerful on the path of dreams.

If you are not feeling them for your dreams, you may have the wrong dream. Or you may need help clearing past hurts, fears and doubts that keep your passion and enthusiasm at bay. If you lack inspired vision for your life, you may need some expert help uncovering it and uncovering what keeps you from it. (Check out my creative life coaching here.)

Please cultivate a little will too, your core of inner strength, that mother bear love, and persistence.

Cultivate commitment, that shining bridge. (If you missed the post on the shining bridge of commitment, you can read it here.)

But, commit only to that which you truly love, desire and value, that which inspires you and lights you up. No shoulds here. When you waver or forget or lose your way, simply recommit if the dream is still alive for you.

Dream big, but set yourself small, reachable goals toward your heart’s big dreams. (See my post on The Power of Small Bites).

Commit to those goals. Succeed at them.

In this way, you can move mountains and realize your great dreams—for yourself and for our world.

The Deeper Power Behind Everything

Love is the deeper power behind both enthusiasm and willpower. Behind willpower is devotion, which is love. Behind enthusiasm is passion, which is love.

Notice how everything comes from Love. Love is the deepest power on earth. Nothing is stronger or greater than this.

Loving what you do, being passionate about it, being lit up by it, being engaged with and curious about it. Taking joy and delight in it. These are so essential. If they are persistently lacking, I would strongly suggest you choose a new dream.

Give Yourself to Love

photo by eye for ebony on unsplash

If you can consistently return to love and draw on love to power your art and your dreams, nothing can stop you.

The realization of your dreams may not look how you first imagined, but what you arrive at will amaze you.

Your life will be immeasurably enriched by walking the path of Love. And so will the lives of everyone you meet, as well as many others you never meet.

Far greater than will, greater than enthusiasm, greater than discipline, commitment or passion, greater than inspiration is love.

Love will carry the day. Love will see you through.

So, draw on it. Call on it. Connect with it. Express it.

Dare to love in all you do. Find what you most love and do it, be it, give it, live it.

To your powerful love,

Maxima

P.S. One act of love you can take now is to share this post with someone who might benefit. You can use the share buttons below.

How do I find my authentic voice?

How do I find my authentic voice?

How do I find my most authentic voice? Many writers and artists ask this question. Yet, perhaps there really isn’t just one voice.

Questions of voice trouble writers and artists throughout their creative lives, as each creative project may ask for a new voice, a new expression, and as we grow in our creative desires and pursuits.

In my own writing I am grappling with questions of voice these days. I thought I’d share what’s coming up for me.

The Questions That Won’t Let Me Be

How can I merge the voice of the poet, mystic, priestess, firekeeper in me, the daring, inventive artist who loves brilliance, dazzle and leaps of imagination, with the voice of the teacher, guide, muse, friend I have used so often in this Creative Sparks blog/e-news?

How can I speak from all of who I am here and all of what I have to share—my questions and my answers, my fear and my courage, my doubt and my faith?

How do I honor the mystery, the not knowing, that fertile darkness I love so much? Could I write from not knowing instead of from authority and would anyone want to hear? Can you be an “author” without “authority”?

Can I write from the mystery and be met there?

Where are the sisters and brothers of soul who long for poetry, magic, spell-casting and how do I find them?

What if I no longer tried to prove, persuade, convince, be liked, be acceptable? What if I no longer sought to please or to hide or be so darn useful? In my poems I don’t do any of this.

The Voice of My Poems vs. The Voice of Creative Sparks

In my poems (and poetic essays) I write from the deepest parts of myself and my connection with Life. I write the truest words I know. I write the most beautiful, eloquent, finely-crafted words I can find to meet what I am writing about. I work to make a piece of art. In my poems I am challenging, raw, metaphorical, mystical, imaginative, and most of all, lyrical. 

But something different happens when I sit down to impart some knowledge or experience that I believe to be helpful in these Creative Sparks essays. My focus is on clarity, helpfulness, brevity, a certain simplicity, inspiration, encouragement. My focus is on you.

Now I begin to question that voice as I seek to find a voice that is closer to my poet self, closer to home, and yet still in service to what I perceive the needs and desires of my readers here to be. Creative Sparks is a different endeavor than my poems, so the voices will never be identical. Even in my poems, there are different voices. Yet. . .

Can I share my poetry, artistry and self more and still be in service to the “how” and “why” and “what” of the creative life, the path of heart, the process of bringing our heart’s dreams to life?

The Sanctuary of a Notebook

writing in journal

by miller mountain man c 123rf

I sit in my studio on a rainy morning and write in my notebook, one of so many I have filled over the years. My notebooks are sanctuary, a place of wholeness and welcome where I can say and be anything.

In my notebooks I stand in the open space and try on my hats, my selves, my wounds and wholeness, my fear and rage and wisdom. And I don’t have to shelter or protect, hide or dumb down, any of it. I can scream and cry, rend my clothes, be crazy, wild, dance on the page. I can be messy, be brilliant, experiment, fail, succeed gloriously.

And when I’m done, I close the covers on a privacy absolute, unless I choose to share from it. This is profound sanity and blessing for me. In the sacred aloneness of my notebooks I find release, healing, self-knowing, wisdom, beauty, freedom, grace.

How can I share more of that with you? Honoring my privacy yet also willing to show up whole and multi-dimensional, shadow and light, complex and real.

My Questions For You

Would you want to read that?

This essay is an example of bringing my poet self more to the fore and I’ve been experimenting with that some lately here. It is written more from that place of heart, honesty, vulnerability, lyricism.

Is it welcome? Do you want more of this?

  • What is it you are longing for, most hungry for, most in need of as a reader?
  • What do you come to Creative Sparks for?
  • What do you desire more or less of?
  • What have you enjoyed most, found most valuable in my posts?

I’d really love to hear because this is all new for me and quite vulnerable. Would you post your responses here, or if you are too shy to do that, email me?

To your own true voice,

Maxima

My Deep Why

My Deep Why

Last week I sent you a beautiful, inspiring, 10-minute exercise to discover your “deep why,” what you are here on earth for, what you’re all about.

This process is a way to tap your deep heart-knowing of what lights you up, inspires and moves you, what matters deeply to your heart and soul.

One student asked me: Why bother asking these questions? Why bother doing these exercises?

Because this is your guidestar to creating a deeply fulfilling, soulful life. A life that matters to you and makes a difference to others. A life of joy.

Practices like this one tune you into listening to your deep heart wisdom, your heartsong, so you can steer your life by that song. To me, nothing could be more important.

If you missed that post, you can read it here and try the exercise yourself. It’s fun and easy. It takes only 10 minutes. And it just may astound you!

Last week I promised to share with you what I got when I did the practice myself. Here it is, off the cuff, unedited:  My deep why, what I’m here for.

I, Maxima, Am Here To. . .

I am here to write, to be creative, to celebrate and honor life, to care, to live from heart, to give and share.

I am here to have joy and spread joy, to love, to be playful and silly, to heal, to grow, to play, to be in wonder, to touch and be touched, to dwell in grace.

I am here to be an artist, to make beauty and magic, to dance, create, sing and make music, to imagine.

I am here to praise God, Goddess, Divine, One, and embody that, dance with that.

I am here to tend to the beauty of the world, to care for growing things, to walk the path of Heart, to walk in the footsteps of the Divine, to honor the Sacred in others and in all things and call it forth, to conduct ritual, ceremony, to be a leader, a healer, a magician, a teacher, a lover, a mystic, a muse.

I am here to give thanks for the creation and work to mend the tears and injustices. I am here to gather the divine sparks.

I am here with my love, my vulnerability, my heart, my spirit and spark and light and fire. I am here to not be ashamed, to love and be loved, to stand in the light and the darkness, to love it all.

I am here to listen to the wind and the ocean, the rocks, trees, birds, streams, animals, plants, to sing their songs.

I am here to elevate, to inspire, to make music, magic, art, song, to be one with the One, to come home, to belong, to help others belong. To believe, dream and reach for the stars.

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It’s empowering to know your Deep Why, to stand in it, to proclaim it and live it.

Share some of your Deep Why in the comments below. And/or share what comes up for you as you read this. Let’s inspire one another!

Welcome.

Brilliant Playground is a space of inclusion and honoring for people of all colors, races, paths, genders and sexual preferences. You are welcome here!

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Creative Sparks provides tools, guidance and soul inspiration about once a week to:

  • Ignite and sustain your creativity
  • Identify and realize your heart’s true dreams
  • Live a life of passion, purpose and deep play

We are soul-crafting here. Join us!

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