Saturday, November 30, 2019

Elusive

I live with an elusive creature. She is wise and ancient, beautiful like a panda or pallas cat. You probably wouldn’t see her if you came to my house. She waits. When everyone else is asleep, she comes looking for me. I give her whatever she demands. I’m happy to, for the honor of being her person. She is tiny. Frail, but round. She may have flowed from the brush of Chinese calligrapher. I am not sure. She speaks to me in a language I do not fully understand, but she is patient, and repeats herself until I comply.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Scrap book

I think anyone can expand their creativity and abilities by practicing. If you practice something, you will get better at it. Before the action, comes the desire or intent. It’s easy to say “I’m not creative” or “I can’t do that” and those become self fulfilling prophecies. A sense of urgency can fuel your creative practice. For me, the urgency comes from the limited time I have in this body, and the passion I have for capturing something in images or words... something that will express, in a unique way, what this experience... what this life means to me. Having said that, obviously my work reflects my personality or events in my life.

This can seem narcissistic, but I also have to remember that I am creating things to share in public. I try to find the balance between self expression and considering my audience.

30 years ago, I did a lot of self portraits. I tried to be deep and dark. Now I do very few pictures of myself, yet I see how everything I do is autobiographical.

No matter what I am doing in the course of my daily life, I try to keep my physical and spiritual eyes open. I can be inspired by the most unassuming things. I try to notice things. We’re bombarded with detail. My mind clips the pages of collected material when I am quiet, and sometimes I am able to connect and distill something that resonates with me.

There are many creative people that I am inspired by. Musician and friend Cheralee Dillon, short story writer Ben Loory, podcaster Ian Chillag, my father and my grandfather. I’m inspired by children, and their willingness to try things.

That’s the advice I’d give anyone wanting to be more creative. Get in touch with your inner child. Don’t wait for a degree or a license. Don’t wait for anything. Just do the thing, and see what you discover.

You are enough already.


Peel off the layers of rules and expectations. You don’t need them anymore. The orange peel has done its job, and must be removed before you can enjoy the fruit inside.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Risk

I suppose there is some risk involved with creativity. I mean, people might not like what you produce. I should say people won’t like what you do. Some people will like it.

The thing that makes it a risk is your expectation.

Everybody has an opinion. To put your product out for public view, or public consumption, is to invite whatever opinion anyone has toward it.

If you cook food, there will be people who don’t like it. If you paint, there will be people who don’t like it. Maybe they don’t understand it. Maybe it doesn’t match their couch.

I don’t have a problem with that.

If you paint happy little trees and waterfalls, a lot of people will like it. Not everyone. If you paint something with a deeper message... something less happy... less tidy... fewer people will buy it.

If your goal is to sell as many as possible, there is a risk.

If your goal is to express something that you find deep inside, something that is important or therapeutic to you, then there is little risk.

While you are a unique person, your feelings are probably not that unique. Someone will have felt the same. Someone will understand.

Do I take risks? Only when I doubt myself.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Real life

My biggest inspiration comes from artists who aren’t afraid to express some of the darkness that life holds. Each one of us faces difficult, painful and sad experiences. These are the times that show us what the light looks like. You can’t know the difference if you don’t know both.

What I find beautiful, many see as shocking. The things I love are often offensive to my friends.

When someone expresses something raw... something honest, I find it refreshing and liberating. It frees me to do it, too.

You don’t need to cover your face with makeup, or to sit real still, smiling on cue for a portrait. You definitely do not need a filter to make your eyes bigger and smooth all the character out of your face.

The most beautiful photos show real life.


I was photographing a beautiful friend one day. I placed decomposing leaves over her eyes. They were so sheer and fragile, they were nearly invisible. She lay on autumn grass in a cemetery surrounded by maple trees.

She is an artist, and many people had photographed her before. She told me that day that most photographers looked to her for direction.

She let me wrap her in bedsheets and put leaves over her eyes.

She is one of my biggest inspirations.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

The seed of creativity

I think we are all born with the seed of creativity. The potential. Just as with seeds, creative expression must be cultivated... tended, if it is to grow. Great songwriters probably didn’t start out by writing great songs. They wrote songs that they learned from.

So I believe creativity is both born into us, and also developed.

I knew at an early age that I liked drawing. Because I enjoyed doing it, I gained a certain facility with a pen. I saw other kids whose drawings I liked more than my own, and so I doubted my ability. There are many, many artists whose work I admire today. I’m inspired by them, and I learn from them. Their amazing gift does not detract from mine.

Growing up, I wanted to be an artist. I practiced shaping lines into forms. It was entertaining for others and myself, but it really meant very little to me. I didn’t keep any of the pictures.

It wasn’t until much later that I realized I could tell very personal stories through my art. These drawings and paintings got hidden under the bed or behind the couch. I was afraid they would reveal too much. Something vulnerable. And so they did. But rather than judge the real me, people gasped, not in disapproval, but because they were pleasantly surprised, even moved by what I had done.

That response was what I had wished for all the years I tried to please and surprise people.

It was not difficult to do. It was difficult to allow myself to do it.


I think that’s when I realized I had creative talent, and what a discovery that was!

Around that same time, I started mentoring high school students, and teaching art to kids who were homeschooled.

If a person has a proclivity for art, I hope they can realize its power earlier in life than I did.

I have often mused about how my life might have been different had I found my artistic voice before or while I attended art school.

My experiences in life have influenced my style and ability, without doubt. Everything I know has been absorbed through my senses. It is that storehouse of sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures that give me anything to say at all... that, and the amalgamation of those memories into the story of me.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Does our education system encourage creativity?

I am a full time educator in a school setting, and there are certainly a lot of different opinions about our educational system.

I happen to believe that our education system encourages creativity. Last year, I observed high school science students designing and creating projects inspired by Rube Goldberg drawings.

I see students from preschool on up creating art projects that tell stories about their lives and the world around them.

We have an active theater program in our school. Kids are hearing and reading stories. They are cooking. They are learning to capture events and narrate their school experience through photography. They are learning to work in wood and metals, and to think creatively on the athletic field or in the gym. They are using their imaginations on the playground.

I don’t believe that our school is unique, although we are in a town that is known for its artists, craft people and musicians.

I watch YouTube videos from PS22’s chorus, and I know that there are passionate educators all over our country who encourage and celebrate creativity.

There was a meme going around Facebook recently that used one of my favorite quotes by Alfred Einstein to disparage our educational system.

Yes, there are kids who fall through the cracks. There are those who are not fulfilled or supported creatively.

There are kids who aren’t comfortable with the rigors of academic achievement. There are other kids who bristle at the thought of having to be creative.

I believe that we are all creative.


Creativity doesn’t always mean making a piece of art. For some kids, it takes creativity to navigate the bullies and stresses of daily life.

While I believe we are all born with these strategies and the ability to compensate, there are certain kids who discover that art is more than learning the rules and techniques used in two and three dimensional design or the language of music. Those guidelines passed down through generations of artists and scholars before us can be used to tell our story, wherever we are and whatever we face in life.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Rear View Mirror

If I could tell my younger writing self anything, it would be to not try so hard. Don’t try to impress anyone, but just write from your heart. It’s true that I learned something from all the years I spent trying so hard. I don’t think it works to tell someone to be confident, but that is what I would wish for my younger self. We grow into our voice, and I think we need to live through things so that we will have something to say.

I’m hard on myself now, and I’m even harder on my younger self. Maybe it was that my prefrontal cortex was not yet developed. I don’t understand the person I see in my rear view mirror.

The rear view mirror shows us where we were, not where we are going.


If readers know what they want, then they don’t need a writer to deliver it. If I can’t be original, then I don’t think there’s any point. Whenever I’ve approached any creative endeavor with the thought of delivering people what they want, it has been unsuccessful. Creativity is full of surprises.

I don’t know what I’m going to reel in, but whatever it is, it’s been lurking somewhere inside of me. The neural pathways are well worn paths, but if we’re still and open, we can take a less traveled route and find something we didn’t know we remembered. The light of time and experience may give us a kinder outlook on something we attempted to discard. It may give us insight into something that was actually important.

I can’t give you what you want unless it’s something that I find inside of me.

I believe all creative urges are spiritually driven, including writing. I’ve often described writing and painting as meditation.

I open my mind and follow the clues, not knowing what I will find.

Exit Ramp

The danger in opening your heart to forgive, is that you start to care again. It can be a challenge, but a challenge worth taking on.

I could be wrong about that. Trying to forgive didn’t seem to help me forgive. I didn’t work at forgiving. One day I just sort of realized that it had happened.

When you break up with a partner, the person who was your greatest ally becomes your sworn enemy.

They haven’t changed much, and you haven’t changed much, but your roles have changed. Your expectations of each other have changed.

We get fooled into thinking that our feelings are right, and that they are the most important thing.

They’re not.

It’s just a part of your journey. One person takes an exit ramp because... well they just do. They’re going somewhere else.

Our feelings get hurt because someone said or did something the other one didn’t like. I’m not saying it didn’t hurt.

It hurts sometimes.


Maybe somewhere down the road, your paths will merge again. You never know.

There was something that made you fall in love, or at least choose that person for a time. You’re still those people.

Forgiveness might allow you to share your stories. You might be happy for the person. You might just be happy for the exit.

Either way, the path of your life is the path of your life. It’s a big part of what makes you you.

Saturday, November 09, 2019

Where Dreams Come True

When I was a little kid, my favorite night of the week was Friday. School was over for the week, and The Brady Bunch was on.

Like a lot of other people, I loved that show. I still do.

As a kid, I dreamed about it. I had an especially powerful dream where I was in the teeter totter episode.

This year, HGTV renovated the Brady Bunch house on Dilling Street, and I’ve been watching the videos on YouTube.

Last week, I dreamed that I was in that house.

It might sound silly to you, but it was very meaningful for me. I’m not sure why I feel so connected to it. Maybe because I miss the house I lived in back when I watched the show. I think it has a lot to do with family.

I can’t connect with our old house in Romeo, and I can’t go and explore the house on Dilling Street.

Just a few minutes ago, after watching some more renovation videos, I walked through my own house, thinking about the sit-com of my life. What is life but a string of situations? And it’s been pretty funny.

There’s the episode where the basement flooded... The one where the drunk guy drove through the fence... or the one where they put dentist chairs in the living room to create a spaceship...

The Brady girls reminisced about time spent in their bedroom on the set, and it occurred to me that I can reconnect with THIS house in that way.

Summer’s room was Madeline’s room, and before that, it was Heather’s room. Raymond’s room used to be my room.

For almost 30 years, I’ve been recording episodes in my brain, and I am still here in this house!

I don’t need to see (as much as I would love to) the renovated Brady Bunch house. Maybe I am just longing for where I am!

I don’t have to add a second story, or compare it to the original set. This is the place! This is the actual space.

It’s hard. I don’t have time to clean. I fought with a Christmas tree today until I finally took it outside. I thought today would be a day for cleaning and making it festive. The regular laundry and dishes pile up, and I have to deal with those before I can tackle anything else. But they tire me out and I give up. I watch YouTube videos or find a quiet place to think and write.

I read online today that resting up is more important than catching up.


The Brady kids participated in the renovation of that house, along with a crew of about 200. I’m just me. I don’t have help. No babysitter. No cleaners. No crew.

This is exactly what I wanted. It’s what I wished for... and I am happy! I get overwhelmed and frustrated, and so I’m coming up with ways to take care of myself.

I draw a hot bath and realize that the messy kitchen, the cluttered closet and lived-in bedrooms are sacred spaces where my dreams come true.