The Skjald

I found this quote I had pulled from a book I read and written out way back in 2010, and I wanted to share it.

“The skjald is,” he says, “the chosen lookout of life who must reveal from his mountain what he sees at life’s deep fountain. When gripped by his vision,” he says further, the skjald is “neither quiescent nor lifeless but, on the contrary, lifted up into an exceptional state of sensitiveness in which he sees and feels things with peculiar vividness and power. I know of nothing in this material world to which the skjald may more fittingly be likened than a tuned harp with the wind playing upon it.”  The hymnist Gruntvig quoted in Hymns and Hymnwriters of Denmark by JA Aaberg.

The skjald in Danish is a poet but moreso, one who speaks truth of the surrounding world even when others don’t want to hear it, or in ways that others can’t always understand.  It is a definition difficult to translate into English, but I love this metaphor of a tuned harp being played by the wind.  I feel very connected with this entire description.

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Getting Ready

Last night, while sitting in the dark with my laptop monitor screened turned low on my bed while my daughter lay next to me tossing and turning due to teething and getting over the cold we shared earlier in the week, I spent a solid chunk of time focusing myself for my next projects to be released here.

Writing – I’ve decided my next poetry collection will be one of love poems, and I’ve narrowed down my choices last night. I will narrow those down further and finalize my selection in the next week or so, and then start roughs for illustrations. I need to decide if I want to make the book more expensive and do colored pages or not. I know the illustrated poetry collection to come after this will definitely need to be in color and possibly hardcover if I make the illustrations nice enough, so it’s something for me to think about. But yes, the future poetry collection will be where some of my new work will be aiming to land in, and of the ones I’ve shared here, Little Boy Blue will find a home.

I have two bigger writing projects I want to work on in 2018, a novel and a theatrical piece, as well as finally maybe moving forward on my graphic novel, but I still need to decide what is going to be my priority and how best to balance my currently limited writing time. I would love to be able to release both the poetry collection and my first novel by the end of 2018 and get my theatrical piece produced and my third poetry collection and graphic novel out by 2019, but I am not holding myself to any set schedule as of yet because my life is my life, with no set routine in place, and my kids always come first. But those are my big audacious goals. It would be lovely to settle into a rhythm of publishing one novel and one collection of poems and/or short stories a year. I think it can be done eventually. But maybe not until my kids are way more self-sufficient!

Music – I spent a long time going through all the songs I have ever written, half-written, written lyrics for, made notes about, etc. I discarded some real stinkers! I probably kept some stinkers too because they are still a little “precious” to me, but what can you do? Of the songs I’ve kept, I’ve tentatively separated into two potential “albums”, and my focus for the immediate future musically is to really hone every song on the first album and get it all on paper, get honest feedback on them, then hone some more and decide what I want to do with them all.

Tomorrow I hope to spend some time really focusing on art planning. Aside from the illustrations for the next poetry collection, I’ve been holding off on delving into BIG pieces for years. I had in mind years ago a plan to do a series of Dangerous Women portraits, made of women of history and fiction and myth and religions who shook the status quo, but I’d also like to dip my toes back into fantasy paintings and illustrations, and I get a lot out of the abstracts I’ve done too. But too much debating in my mind about it will continue to make me not produce anything, so this weekend is my “make up my mind” time. Honestly, a big chunk of it will probably depend on what decent art supplies we have left after we chuck what has become unusable over the years! I think I’m going to ask for some new paint sets for the holidays and see what I get.

Anyway, I’m feeling very good. Tired, still, as only a parent of a teething baby can be, worried about the state of the world and humanity as always, but good. Despite the chaotic nature of our current reality, I can create. And I can share what I create as I want to do so. And that is very good.

A Dip Into My Past

This past week, while waiting for people and on mini breaks at work, I read through my blog from the very beginning, way back in 2012. It was an interesting trip back for me. Eye opening, and very helpful in finally honing in on the next direction of my life.

The first few years of doing this blog focused a lot on writing as that was what I was prepping for release into the world. I also kept talking about music and art projects that I wanted to tackle. And I really miss having projects that I am passionate about. I miss all parts of that process.

I also posted my dream schedule of balancing parenting with being a freelance creator, and I am so far from that dream at the moment, it is laughable. Working full time (plus) in theater left me with barely any other creative time, let alone quality parenting time, and while the job was fulfilling in different ways before the leadership shift and it gave me the stability to get a mortgage and health insurance to have my 2nd child, I was so much happier when I was only working part time for them. Then going back into a different full time position doing bridal alterations has been draining in a very different way, and because of the hours the shop is open, even though I am physically working less hours, I still feel like I never get to see my kids or create anything extra. Especially since I’m still self-healing from last year. I feel all this pent up creative force longing to burst forth though.

So, the goal for the past couple of months now has been to be freelancing by the end of the year and becoming the at-home parent. Once that happens, I will still do some alterations. I will do some costuming work too as it comes up and as I can find time to do it. But I want to focus the bulk of my energies on my kids and on creating my own work again. I need to feel that passion for creating that I get sucked out of me by scraping myself dry through overwork.

Internal Progress

I video recorded myself playing piano and singing two songs the other night and then watched it. And I was able to not be too overly critical of myself. Which is huge progress. My perfectionist streak which I’ve battled for years to channel into productive paths has gotten in my way a lot, as has stage fright that rose up sometime between undergrad and grad school, so the fact that I didn’t cringe or shy away from myself is a very big deal.

The songs were two I worked on with my voice teacher last year – a Joan Baez song and one from the musical The Scarlet Pimpernel, so I knew I had certain nuances down before I even started playing. The next step will be to record myself playing my own music, and at that point, I can let the perfectionist out a little for tweaking purposes.

Music is so important for healing. I’ve said it often that it is the one area I’ve felt a lack in my life since leaving undergrad. So I’m glad I can introduce it into my life again.

Cristofori’s Dream by David Lanz

I don’t pay for the Premium package here yet so you’ll have to  click the link to hear the song. Play it while you read. Last week I dug the song out from my messy sheet music binder, and I’ve played it a couple of times since.

My uncle had a decent-sized New Age piano book collection that he kept at my grandparents’ house with other piano music because they had a baby grand, and I loved going through and trying to play all his sheet music growing up. This song was one that I could actually play decently, which was great because it was one I fell in love with. So I photocopied it at the library (10 cents a page!) and played it over and over again at home on our ancient upright piano that was always flat, but flat consistently so the keys were fairly in tune together just almost a 1/2 step lower than it should be. Then in college, I actually arranged it into a flute duet and performed it with a friend of mine, letting her take the first part so I could come in with the harmonies that I loved so much. I haven’t touched it much in recent years, with my piano being at my mother’s house for so long, so it was really nice getting it out. Certain songs are like old friends.

I posted a long time ago about the creative process being able to stop time, and this song, for me, is one that immediately puts me in that space. It is meditative, contemplative, and it takes on the emotional undercurrent of whatever I’m feeling at the time easily and lets me process. So that even when I’m sad or angry, it soothes.

What are the creative processes that you have that put you into a calmer, more present state of being?

Gallery is Up and Some More Creative Progress

My gallery is up on my Art page here. Nothing fancy, just the freebie slideshow that comes with the page. But it’s cool to see all my work on one page! And I really like seeing my two abstracts together. It makes me want to do more. Now to start submitting to some local shows.

In other creative news, I’m working on another pencil sketch as a gift that I will post once it is received. I had wanted to finish it last week and it sits still barely started. But I hope to finish it all tonight, if I finish my work for the shop in time. Writing-wise, I’m still tinkering with a poem. Four more lines to go! I’m doing it in strict rhyming 8 syllable lines, and it is tackling some very serious societal issues, so it’s difficult. It is going to wind up feeling heavy and preachy, rather like an 19th century poem read out at a lecture series, but that was kind of what I am going for. I find it fascinating to consider that sometimes poems just pour out of me, like Little Boy Blue – I felt this huge weight on me after watching some atrocity online and the poem just popped out. And then there’s this one I’ve been working on for a very long time because I don’t want to force it. And musically, I’ve been playing and singing a little bit multiple times a week. Still haven’t gotten into a good practice with my flute yet but at least I’ve gotten it out a few times.

Since I’m easing into my new full-time position, I’m transitioning into an all new schedule again, which means being flexible about my time. My kids’ needs for me come first while we’re all adapting.

Beginning to Refill My Creative Well

I have begun the work on refilling my creative well, which is the last part of me that really needs healing. Physically and mentally, I’m back to my former self. So yay for that!

Earlier this week, I started a new abstract painting with no plan in mind, just letting myself play with the paint. It will be interesting to see what happens with it. I love doing that, but I also have a really difficult time knowing when I’m done with a painting when it’s not of a particular subject matter.

Musically, I’ve begun playing the piano and singing a lot more. My baby loves to either sit in her little toy chair next to me or right on my lap while I play, so that’s been a huge boon in the process. I found the box that held my personal songs that I’ve been working on and plan on cracking into that today. That same box also held all of my flute music, so I will be bringing that out for the first time since we moved hopefully this weekend. Baby steps. I’ve also begun listening to more music again, mostly jazz and classical around my daughter to foster brain development for her, and I’ve found having it on in the background is helping my brain too.

Writing-wise, I’m still primarily just posting here and little snippets on my personal page (mostly political and social stuff there mixed with personal) and getting back on track with morning pages. I haven’t been able to journal at night with the baby’s schedule, and I am having a difficult time writing fiction. I think playing music is helping me get back in touch with the writing, and I may focus on writing poems and songs and “pieces” for a while before delving back into fiction.

And before I can really develop a plan for where I want to focus my creative energies moving forward, I have to figure out the survival part of things. Which I have definite possibilities that will hopefully be firmed up soon.

In some ways, with everything going on in the world, it seems crazy to be focusing on this stuff, but at the end of everything, it’s the creative spark we all share that will let us evolve as a species.

Now Is The Time – a poem

Now is the time

To rise up and sing,

To raise your voice strong

And let the sound ring.

Feel the movement of your life,

And the rhythm of your heart,

The dance of your soul,

No better time to start.

 

Now is the time

To make yourself whole,

Listen to the music

Of your body and soul.

The melody you live,

Your heart keeping time

To the beat of the earth.

Nothing is more sublime.

 

Now is the time

To let out your song.

Join in the symphony

To which we each belong.

Let our harmonies blend

And ring out like a bell.

Let the chorus grow,

Let the sweet sounds swell.

 

Copyright 2016, Kat Micari

Sound of Silence

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zLfCnGVeL4

I’ve been opting for silence more and more lately, which is a departure from my usual habits. In the past, I almost always have background noise of some kind, either music or podcasts or, if I’m just doing busy work with my hands, TV/movies of some kind. What I chose to have on varied depending on my mood and what I was doing. But as my life is getting more and more hectic and as I find myself progressing in this pregnancy, I find myself seeking silence in my work or daily life when I have the chance, whether it’s my day job or doing chores or even working out.

It’s nice, in a way, that I’m comfortable enough with myself to truly be by myself on occasion. I don’t know if that was always the case when I was younger. My inner doubts and demons were easier to soothe with music than anything else, and it let me get the job done. And I guess I must be needing to snatch whatever moments I can to ground and center and listen to myself these days. I’m sure I’ll still continue listening to music and podcasts and watching things (especially since we’ve just unearthed our CD and DVD collections from storage), but I think seeking the silence is allowing me to tap even deeper parts of myself, which will help my creative work and personal growth immensely.

Almost in opposition to that, I have a piano tuner coming out Monday to tune my piano in our new house, and on Wednesday evening, I’ll finally have time to sit down and play. It’s been months, so I’ll have to take things slowly, and with my work schedule and trying to unpack taking up a big chunk of my next two months, I won’t have any option but to do things slowly. But I am so excited to make music a regular practice again. And maybe living more in silence with myself will allow my own music to come out more easily. It’s the one area in my creative life that I feel lacking in still, so it’s more than time for me to work on it.

Bad Creative Habits

Bad habits. We all have ’em. And they wreak havoc in different areas of our lives. But when it starts crossing over into our ability to create to the best of our ability, then it can severely hamper our growth as artists and individuals. I tend to notice when I get into a pattern of behavior. It may take a while for me to fully acknowledge it, and then to take action against it, but I keep bumping up against the bad habit until I do. So I wanted to make this post pointing out some traps I constantly fight against, and also to go through the various disciplines I have experience in both doing and helping others do so that maybe it will assist you on your journey. This post will deal with the general “life” bad habits, and I think I’ll get into more specific ones (writing, art, music) in later blogs

  • “Ooo, shiny syndrome” – I suffer from this greatly. This is where the new project or potential project always holds more allure than whatever project you are currently in the midst of. And yes, it’s important to be planning ahead while still accomplishing the current work or else you could find yourself with no creative work at all to be doing, but the risk of battling “ooo, shiny syndrome” is that you wind up with these really great half-thought out ideas that never go anywhere or become realized. And some people actually try to make a living selling just ideas, or garnering support to realize a dream (you’ve seen these ads on Craigslist, I’m sure – “I’ve got this amazing idea for a novel! I just need a writer to put in the hours to write it on spec!  And then we’ll turn it into a movie where film crew and actors donate their time for free now, and we’ll all be rich when we sell it later!”) Not the way I operate. So, the way I battle this bad habit of putting off the hard work I should be doing because the dreaming and scheming is more alluring is to negotiate with myself – I give  myself a little bit of time for the fun work AFTER I do the hard work as a reward.
  • Needing everything perfect – This is one that a lot of my friends fall into. Many of us creatives have rituals we set up for ourselves: always drinking coffee or tea out of one mug while we write, always playing certain music while we paint, always lighting a candle and laying out inspiration in a certain way, always going to the same coffee shop or sitting in the same spot in the park, etc. The problem is that eventually the mug or your music player breaks, you can’t find your matches or lighter, and your favorite coffee shop closes, leaving you feeling betrayed and unable to do any work. This is something I’ll get into a little later more deeply, but essentially, you’ve come to believe the magic of creation can only work in one certain way and you get stuck in that rut. The tools you thought were helping you are now a hindrance. So to get through this bad habit, mix up your routine. If you always write at home, try writing at a coffee shop. If you only listen to one type of music, force yourself to work in silence or to listen to a completely different genre. Make the magic work in the midst of both calm and chaos, because life is a mixture of both. It will allow you to work steadier.
  • The deliberate distraction – Another trap that I’ve noticed many of my creative friends get into is the deliberate distraction, which can be somewhat constructive (all the dishes HAVE to be done before I can sit down and create) or wasteful (I’ll just check all 8 of my social networking sites before I get cracking on this story). Or you sit down to write and decide instead to spend six hours creating the perfect playlist or inspiration board for your book but then that book languors for years and years unfinished, because you’re always tweaking the pre-writing. Essentially, it comes down to a fear of beginning. I’ve experienced this in my past but have worked beyond it because I’ve had to with looming deadlines and being a parent. If I have twenty precious minutes to write or paint, I have to jump right in rather than dipping my toe in. Again, giving a time limit here is a good thing. Tell yourself “I’ve carved out this hour to write. I will allow myself twenty minutes to make a playlist and then spend forty writing.” Or make yourself write with a pile of dirty dishes and leave that social networking unseen. It’s not the end of the world.
  • The addiction – This runs the gamut from hard chemical substances to substances we consider “ligher”, media consumption, sex, certain foods, even things we think of as “good” and healthy like meditation and outdoor activities. Anything done to excess can (and frequently is) an addiction, and, as creatives, I really believe we are at a higher risk of becoming addicted than those that are not. I think the reason for that is that we are constantly straddling the line between the outer world in which we operate with each other and our own rich inner worlds, which can be very difficult to balance. We have a lot more personal demons we wind up fighting because of the way we’re hardwired. I wrote about it a couple of years ago a bit when Philip Seymour Hoffman died. Also, many of us are living lives that are stressful beyond anything we’re meant to be coping with, and so we reach for tools to help us cope or to become more spiritual or to access our inner worlds easier and diminish the noise of the outer, and what frequently happens is that the tool that was meant to help us has trapped us and made it so we’re unable to do the creative work that we love to do. My general rule of thumb that I apply to my life is to think “can I imagine going a month with this? A week? Does the thought of going even 24 hours without <blank> fill me with a kind of dread?” And if I feel any kind of qualms about it, then I really examine my relationship with that particular thing and if I have a problem, I’ll work to get a better relationship with it. It might take me a couple of months to implement, but at least I’m being honest with myself about the problem. I really started thinking about this a couple of months ago when I was beginning a big creative project for work and I felt like I really needed a glass or two of wine or a generous pour of bourbon on hand to start the process. For some reason, when I first start sketching ideas out in the preliminary stage, I find it extremely helpful to loosen up with a moderate serving of alcohol as part of the process. Being pregnant, I couldn’t do that for my last two projects, and it surprised me how difficult I found it to begin. I obviously overcame that initial need and my projects have been their normal standard, but it was very difficult. I don’t want to get to the point where I rely on alcohol to create. I also noticed that I allowed myself to get hooked into a Facebook addiction when I was feeling lousy with my iron deficiency back in December, where I would hope to take advantage of my son being in the bath to get a little writing done and would instead just scroll and scroll down my feed. I noticed the addiction by the end of January, and I am only just implementing a “check Facebook once a day” rule on myself. I will be strict on this for the next month, just to get myself in the habit, and then see what happens from there. Because while social networking has become an important part of keeping up with my friends who live far from me as well as keeping myself in people’s eyes as far as my creative work goes, it becomes a massive time suck that could be better spent being creative.

Are there any general bad habits inhibiting your ability to create that you have that you can add to the this list? Do you find that you fit in to any of the categories here? Any tips for getting out of your own way to do the creative work you love to do?