Your Artistic Mother

What is your first memory of your Art?
How old were you when you first found your medium?

Was it,
starting music lessons
dance class
playing with crayons
the school play
playdoh or paint by numbers?

What did your small hands do?

Do they still do this now?
If not, what stopped you?

What messages did you get early on about your Art?

 

I remember being six years old, and my mother stating I would take an instrument.  I could choose which one, but I would learn an instrument.  I chose violin, and also played in my mother’s handbell choirs.

Our home was filled with music, whether it was classical records playing during dinner, or my brother and I practicing early in the morning.

My mother was a musician. Her love for music was passed down to my brother and I. She instilled not only an education, but a respect for learning the craft, every key signature, theory, and incidental.

But music was not the only piece.  My real passion?  Story.  It came out in my dance, and then I I picked up a pencil.

Third grade Creative Writing was my happy place. In leaded cursive flow, I would pour my imagination into stories, relishing the scratch of my pencil onto the lined paper.

I remember writing one story about a teddy bear that came back to me with a huge “A++”.  I didn’t think it was possible to get a grade this high!  My teacher was elated and really encouraged me to keep writing.

I brought the story home to my mother and her tears welled, and then fell.  She said it was the best thing I had ever written…..

And she said to me,
Keep writing.

As I got older, I started getting more serious with singing, dancing and acting, and was really finding my voice and success there.  As a teen, I stopped taking violin, and started honing in that I wanted to have a career as a musical theater performer.

The writer?

She was fed by my high school English teacher who taught me how to write poetry.  A basketball coach, and well over 6’5″, he stood tall in the class room one day, with a white piece of chalk in his hand, drew a circle on the floor and proclaimed,
This is the Poet’s Circle!  Are you IN or OUT?

I remember exclaiming out loud,
I’m IN! I’m IN!

Yet, even in this proclamation, my energy was really going towards my performance, not my writing.  I got an A in English, and did every assignment, but my belief was built around a performance career.

Why?

I believed my father when he told me,
You can’t make a living with your writing.

So, my creativity was channeled into my performance, and my choreography.  My love of story was expressed in my dance, and the writing turned into yearly Christmas poems for my family, and poems as presents for close friends.

And as I grew in my performance, I heard my mother say,
You should write a book.

I was having success in my performance, why was she saying this to me?
Didn’t she see I wasn’t doing that?

So, my writing became less and less……
My journals had months between entries…and then years.

Has this every happened to you? Your Creative outlet starts to run dry because you don’t think it matters or has value?

How have you felt when you stopped giving time to this piece of you that thrived naturally as a child?

 

In 2013, my whole life burned to the ground.  In one year’s time I went through a devastating divorce, lost my home, was in two car accidents, robbed twice, and lost a dear friend to a heart attack.

I questioned who I was at the identity level. And I questioned if I was still an Artist.

But in this time of deep grief, I picked up a pen and began to write daily.  At first it was writing down daily victories.  Then it was starting a gratitude journal, then keeping a dream journal….poetry started to flow out in a way it hadn’t in years.

At a very healing and cathartic yoga retreat where I had a transformative experience with a Mayan Shaman, he looked me straight in the eye and said to me,
You will write a book on healing.

And in that moment, I knew he was right.
And I knew the title.

My mother’s words ringing in my ears, after all those years.
Perhaps she had seen something I wasn’t ready to own.

Not until now.

 

At the beginning of 2014, I began to work with a life coach, and one of the first things she had me do?
Launch a blog.

And that blog was called,
ZenRedNYC.

And this blog, my writing birthed into a business.
It birthed into a platform where I felt fulfilled as an artist, and doing work I love.
It birthed a relationship with you.

And when I created my new business cards, I added something new to my personal description,
Writer.

She was in there all along…..

Still sitting at the desk in third grade English, with stories to share; waiting patiently for me to wake up.

In America this weekend, we are celebrating Mother’s Day, and I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge my mother for always seeing this in me.  When I launched my blog, she couldn’t stop smiling.  Her encouragement that confused me as in my 20’s and 30’s was suddenly clear.

And today, I want to thank you mom.
You saw it, always.

And I also want to acknowledge that I got very conflicting messages as a child around the value of writing.  And I imagine we can all relate to this!  Whether it’s been a parent, friend, or teacher in our younger years, it’s so common to hear them recommending we put our intelligence to other “stable” pursuits. This can be super confusing to navigate, especially if we just want to please and be loved by these caregivers.

So, in the spirit of Mother’s Day, who encouraged you in the early days?
Who saw your raw talent, your authentic expression?

Who was your Artistic Mother?
Reach out to her or him today and thank them.  Acknowledge them for seeing you fully and encouraging you to develop and take the scary leap to be an Artist.

Many times we have to be told a million times our strengths, before we wake up to our own power.  It took me decades!

Now, ask yourself,
What came SO easily as a child?

And is this still alive today?
How can this be revived and integrated?

 

Come back to the third grade table.
Pick up your pencil.
Let that early Artist thrive again, and LISTEN to those early encouragements.

You were being seen and nourished.
You were being mothered and loved.

Now, let that child play again.

The Magic of the Pause

Do you ever feel like there are just NOT enough hours in the day to get everything done?

So much is involved in being an Artist today, and it can feel overwhelming keeping up with social media, promotions, your friends and family, and then there’s the actual CREATION part…

You have this finite amount of time to
write the chapter
paint the canvas
choreograph the dance
plan out the show
edit your footage

So, what happens when you go to sit and actually DO your Art, and nothing comes?

Your mind is racing a million miles a minute going through a laundry list of To Do’s. You find yourself literally listing out groceries instead of being able to create.
Inspiration has gone OUT the window…

It can be so frustrating, right?

This is the FUN part!  This is the part we live for as Artists….so why does it dry up?

And more importantly, what can we do in that moment so we can actually create our best work and actually deliver to our audience?

How can we connect back with our Muse and feel that glorious flow again when we are so stressed OUT?

 

Last weekend I went to one of the most delicious and affirming workshops.  Led by master writing teacher, Christian McEwen, she led us in a one day retreat titled,
Learning to Pause.

In front of us, she offered a thick pad of drawing paper surrounded by colored pencils, pastels, and wax crayons.  One by one, we each tore a crisp sheet from the wire binder and were instructed to fold it in half.

On the left side, she wanted us to draw what a Frenzied State looked like to us.  Then on the right side, she wanted us to draw our state of flow and ease.

I had picked many colored pencils for the right side, but when I thought of the Frenzy, there was only one pencil that made sense…..
black.

The left side of my paper was colorless, marked by strong black circular shapes forming a huge exhausted eye, the lack of sleep and wrinkles in hard lines. I found myself drawing arrows pointing down, and black tear drops.  This was frenzy to me.  Black, colorless, heavy……a giant dragon eye drooping under the pressure.

Then, I picked up the colors and drew my place of inspiration.  Waves of water, rays of sunlight and energy, pulsing over smiling lips, and spirals in vibrant blues and purples.  Nature in all her glory, opening me.

I was struck by the stark contrast, and then Christian spoke about what happens in between.

Because this is the REAL question, right?

We all experience the tired black dragon, the darkness and hard lines in our life.  How do go from the frenzy to the flow?

The answer lies in the fold of the sheet we were drawing on, the crease we had formed from one to the next….

The answer is in the Pause.

It’s when we can stop all the insanity, and just connect back with the world around us.

Take a moment right now, and connect to your five senses.
What is the environment around you? Take in the details around you.
What do you smell right now?
Whirl your tongue around your teeth. What do you taste in your mouth?
What do you feel on your skin?
Close your eyes, and open your ears.  What sounds are around you?

And what happens in that moment when you place your attention on your single sense?

You come present.
The whirlwind in your mind takes a break.

And it’s in this break, this magical pause, that you re-set.

And in the re-set, the Muse comes in.

“Art is the means we have of undoing the damage of haste.  It’s what everything else isn’t.”
-Theodore Roethke

 

We can so easily forget how important a moment of pause is to our livelihood as an Artist.  This class was a huge reminder for me. I literally walked in 10 minutes late, breathless from booking as fast as I could to the workshop doors.  I felt self conscious, embarrassed, and frustrated.  This workshop was about Learning to Pause, and I was in a frenzy to get here!

Clearly I needed this……

Christian gave us 30 minutes to go outside on the Brooklyn street and noticed up to 8 things, writing a free form poem or short writing.

This felt like a huge gift.  I walked out, and found myself falling in love with so much on the street….a plastic cup, a worn out Toyota, a house sparrow chirping noisily in the tree….I realized inspiration was ALL around me.

And 8 poems emerged….in only 30  minutes.

Why?

I was taking the pause.  I was coming present.  There was no rush, AND I was open to take in my environment. All the other To Do’s fell away, and the Muse came in.  In fact, she had never left.  Now I was actually open to see her, walking alongside me on the concrete of Brooklyn.

J.K. Rowling conceived Harry Potter on a stalled train.  She was forced into a pause, and one of the most popular characters of our time was born.

And the beauty is, we all possess this ability.

And I want to be clear, this is not about disconnection or distraction. I’m not talking about binge watching or playing candy crush.

The pause is coming back to your actual experience NOW. It’s bringing your senses back on line; getting out of the monkey mind of your past and future fears, and actually taking IN your reality.

So what is that for you?
What is your moment of pause?

When you think of a sheet of paper with Frenzy on the left and flow on the right, what nourishes you?

Take out a piece of paper, and write these down.  Place them somewhere you can see them, and re-visit.  Place them by your instrument, or in your studio, or on an inspiration wall.

And now, give yourself permission to take a pause, today, and for this next week.

We need to return to the basics.

 

The Muse enters in when we take a pause.

So look up.
Smell.
Taste.
Touch.
Feel.

Your life is a miracle.

Take in the wonder around you…..then express what is most alive in you.

 

 

Photography by: Caitlin Cannon