Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Not so Wordless Wednesday ~ Pond Pleasures

Water Lily Bloom

Our new little pond has been a delightful adventure this summer.

From hearing the mating calls of our neighborhood toads....

To the tadpoles that appeared after seeing the eggs....

And finally, small toads. This guy could sit on a dime.

The water lilies made us very happy...

Our four goldfish are thriving. I have a lot to learn about water plants, but all in all, this has been a lovely success.

Now...I want a bigger pond.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Creative Workout

Starting an exercise program after a prolonged time of couch potatoness isn't pretty.

Every step is torture. The muscles ache and the joints groan. You find a million other important things to do at workout time. (Hey, 'The Next Food Network Star' is about to come on.)

However, if you keep regular appointments with your body, eventually the muscles wake up, the endorphins flow, and you find yourself stronger, faster, and even lighter. What was once a chore and a struggle becomes, if not easy, at least do-able.

After a long hiatus from writing fiction, I tackled a couple of projects this week.

Whew! I'm out of shape.

In an effort to get back into the flow, I'm committing a set amount of time every day to write fiction. Not a huge chunk, but significant. Just like I set apart a time daily to workout, shower, dress, and eat, this time will be sacred. It will take effort on my part to sit down and shut out the rest of the world. To fall into the world I'm creating. When I'm tempted to do something else, I'll ask the questions I ask when I don't want to put on my walking shoes. "Is the goal you've set important to you?' 'Do you feel great when you've completed your workout?'


If I work my creative life like my physical one, then a thousand words written a day will be fifteen hundred, then two thousand. Just like walking a torturous twenty minutes has become an easy forty-five.

Wanna feel my muscles?

When I was a teenager, we had a neighbor family whose daughter was into ballet big time. She eventually went on to dance for the New York Ballet. One of the things I remember most was her incredible flexibility. She could bend in half backwards. She told me that she did exercises every morning to teach her body how to be impossibly flexible. To turn at unnatural angles. To be strong enough to make it all look graceful. Without her barre every day, she would not be able to perform when the time was right.

What are your creative workouts? Your barre exercises? What keeps you fresh and helps you learn new techniques?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Creative Flow

A few days ago in an over-the-fence talk, my neighbor and I were discussing our water wells. Each home in our once country sub-division has a private well. Drought plagues our area these days as it has in years past. One of my worries in the extended and severe drought of two years ago was our well going dry. Through out the dry summer that year, I happily watered my gardens. Until, in late August, we began hearing about wells in nearby communities or bordering counties going dry. That gave me pause and caused me fear. Without a well, our house would be worthless, since all of our watering needs, from drinking water to car wash water, comes from underground.

My neighbor assured me that our wells were deep enough. Not only are they in the aquifer, but they are deep enough to actually be in the Trinity flowing beneath us. Where the Trinity breaks out above land, it is a mighty beast, especially by Texas standards, where we are tempted to name and honor the trickle from a garden hose. The banks of the wide, deep Trinity were the first settlements in this area.

As I went about the rest of my gardening tasks that morning, I loved thinking about the abundance of water under my feet. It was like having money in the bank, a rich and endless savings account.

My creativity is often like that. Buried beneath the surface, waiting only for me to tap into it. But like the Trinity beneath my feet, my creativity can be difficult to get to. In this part of Texas, there’s a thick layer of hard, white limestone just a few feet below the black clay. Recently when our neighbors to the west put in a pool, a back hoe spent two days pounded that layer of stone in order to break it up so it could be scooped up. The pounding noise was incredible. The hunks of stone lifted from the pit, immense. In the end, my neighbors have a sparkling pool for their entertainment.

My own doubts layer over my creative flow hindering my access. Add to that layers of ‘scar tissue’ from past hurts and disappointments, or even layers of fears and the well of creativity can be very inaccessible.

How to access the fresh sweetness within?

Well, my neighbors with the new pool will tell you it takes hard work. In either my writing or photography or gardening, it takes showing up, thinking, and doing. Sitting down at the computer is the first step to sinking a well so the flow of words can be pumped to the surface.

Stephen King says in his book, ‘On Writing’ to show up in the same place at the same time every single day. Pretty soon, he says, your muse will learn the schedule and show up, too. The words and images will flow then.

Early in my writing career, I compared writing to water. Some days, the words gush out of you onto the page like water flowing, clear and sweet, from a pitcher. Other days, before the words can pour from the pitcher, the writer has to go out and dig the well. With a spoon.

What’s challenging in your creative life these days? Are you working through a hard layer? Is your creative well producing a strong sweet flow?

This is my 100th post in my year long blogging adventure. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Writing Quotes

Can anyone indentify this plant?

Thanks to each of you for your kind and encouraging words. Pottermom, I appreciated your perspective on change and clay. Becky (bless her) sent me this inspiring quote as a comment to my last blog post. The comments on seasons and patience were cool water to my parched roots.

"The creation of genuine art demands conscious struggle, formal inventiveness, and reckless courage.We make out of quarrel with others, rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry. The creative artist must be open to an unknown power that fills him. S/he must be able to draw strength from a source s/he doesn't understand or know." W. B. Yeats. Interesting that the sermon this morning at church was on how the power--the unlimited far-reaching power of God fills believers.

Yeats encouraged me to dig out a few of my own favorite writing and creative quotes. The Jack London quote always makes me smile.

"You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club." Jack London

"A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit." Richard Bach. Substitute the word artist, potter, designer, jewelry-maker, gardener for writer if you wish. The thought holds.

"Imagination grows by exercise, and contrary to popular belief, is more powerful in the mature than in the young." William Somerset Maugham

"Talent is helpful in writing, but guts are absolutely essential." Jessamyn West

If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud. Emile Zola

It's tougher than Himalayan yak jerky in January. But, as any creative person will tell you, there are days when there's absolutely nothing sweeter than creating something from nothing. Richard Krzemien

Writing is not a genteel profession. It's quite nasty and tough and kind of dirty. Rosemary Mahoney

A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people. Thomas Mann

A final and great favorite...Imagination is more important than knowledge. Albert Einstein

Just when I wondered if I would ever write or create anything at all again, (I'm not kidding, creative depression can be quite dramatic.) I woke up yesterday morning with a haunting, poignant short story in my head. Or at least sketchy glimpses of it. I'm going on a creative retreat in a few days. It is glorious to know I'll be diving into a project from the start.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008



I'm a little lost creatively.

I have ideas. Good ones. Ones that make me excited. I just can't seem to focus on them long enough to get anything down.

I started this blog almost a year ago to help hold me accountable in my writing. When I blog, I think writing. I think images. I think creativity. I think--period.

Besides my own version of writer's block, what's kept me from my writing? We've gardened. We've done a short road trip to a family gathering. We've indulged in a 'stay'cation while N was counselling at camp.

It is summer and I won't beat myself up. After all, enjoying sun, water, and fresh produce is part of what summer is all about.

It is just that I like being productive. I like making a difference. I like thinking I could have a future as a well paid author. And I know school and all its responsiblilities is lurking just around the corner. There is still much to prepare for our last year as homeschoolers.

I am a creative soul. There is just not much evidence of it lately.

Until I focus, my ideas are going to sit like a lump of Pottermom's unworked clay. Waiting for a shaping hand and creative mind to form them into something worthwhile.

I wonder, does clay go stale?

Monday, July 7, 2008

More Tomato Treats

Still have tomatoes in your garden?

Here is my all time favorite way to use tomatoes. I first sampled this treat in a little trattoria in Rome.
Bruschetta-serves two.

Chop two medium tomatoes, discarding core and stem end. It is worth it to find the best flavored tomatoes you can.
Tear three or four leaves of basil and mix with tomatoes.
Salt and Pepper to taste.
Allow to sit while you complete the rest of the recipe.

Slice a loaf of European style bread into thin slices. (Eight slices will do for two people, depending on the size of the loaf.)
Dip one side of each slice in oil olive and lay oil side down on a hot griddle until golden brown.
Rub a raw garlic clove across the toasted face of each slice and lay bread on a baking sheet.
Preheat broiler.
Top bread with shredded mozzarella cheese, slivered onions, pepperoncini slices, mushrooms, or pepperoni. Your choice. I usually just have cheese, onions, and peppers because I always have those on hand.
Grill under a hot broiler until cheese is melted and beginning to brown.

To eat, spoon a little of the tomato mix on the bread and enjoy. The flavors of the toasted bread, olive oil, garlic, with the tomato and basil will burst in your mouth.

Bruschetta makes a lovely appetizer to share with someone special at the beginning of a delightful meal. Or, we often have it for a summer lunch. Light and filling.

To make a party type appetizer, toast bite-sized bread slices, but do not top. Guests can spoon a little tomato mix over them and pop into their mouths.