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

Meeting Elizabeth

Do you ever just wish someone would just tell you what you need to do to receive the acclaim you desire?

Do you fantasize of your own personal fairy godmother or godfather just appearing with a magic wand and waving all the frustration and overwhelm away?

They would say,
Voila!

Even better, what if that fairy godmother was a celebrity, some artist you have looked up to for so long, someone you LOVE everything they do, and would just DIE to have a conversation with them? Imagine having your burning questions answered!

Wouldn’t that be incredible??

Who is that for you?

For me, it’s best-selling author Elizabeth Gilbert, and last week, my dream did come true.  Not only did I get to meet her face to face, but she answered a very profound question for me.

One I imagine you have too…

One I think ALL artists struggle with.

 

One of my first friends that opened her apartment to me in the face of my divorce was a Broadway dancer named Nova. She was going out of town and offered me the keys to her place for two weeks.

It was January of 2013, and my whole world was falling apart.  I was trying to catch up with the fact that my 15 year marriage was over, that I had been lied to for months, and my dreams of being a mother were disappearing fast.  I was trying to wrap my head around mediation, selling my apartment, and extracting myself from a life that took 19 years to build.

When I arrived at Nova’s apartment, after she handed me the keys, she handed me something else, a book:
Eat, Pray, Love.

I looked down at the paperback cover, and all my former judgements came rising to the surface.  When the book was first released, I was a married woman, and remembered thinking,
I don’t need to read this!
I’m a happily married woman.
This has nothing to do with me.

The irony hit me square across the jaw.

Now…this book had EVERYTHING to do with me.

Tears in my eyes, I took the book, thanking Nova.
I read it cover to cover within days.

The part that went through me was Elizabeth’s 10 Steps to Letting Go.

I remember reading them, and thinking,
I’m not there yet….but someday I will be.

I got out a small yellow writing pad, and wrote them all down.  When I moved into my own place six months later, I placed this yellow pad on my desk, and would re-visit it every couple of months.

As I began to heal, I would slowly go through these steps…one by one…..until they were done.

I let go.

I let go of the deep heartache.
I let go of the self hatred.
I let go of the judgement towards myself and my ex.
I let go of my old life, that old wife.

I said goodbye…..and began to open my heart, ready to call in my life partner.  A far different man.

A man who would take me to meet Elizabeth Gilbert in person.

And then ask me to marry him.

 

My man gave me tickets to see her speak for Christmas, but it was only a few weeks ago, he shared there was a bigger surprise….the tickets were VIP and we would be able to meet her in person!

I was over the moon, and lined up with dozens of other women to have a few minutes with her before the general admission was allowed in for her talk.

The first thing she did was open her arms, and embrace me.  The hug was deep and genuine, and then I was able to pull back and say the words I have been waiting to say for five years,

Thank you.

I thanked her for Eat, Pray, Love.  I told her what a profound effect her writing had on my healing from my divorce, and then my man came forward, and I shared that she helped me call the love of my life in.

Her energy was so open, and loving.  She was fully present. We were able to get fantastic pictures with her, and then we exited the theatre, and BIG MAGIC occurred…..my man got down on one knee and proposed…..

And I said YES:)

 

Elizabeth gave one of the most powerful talks that night, and then opened up the floor for questions.  Directly to my left was the mic, and I saw my chance, to ASK Elizabeth my burning question.

Stepping to the mic, I first thanked her for the night, and then asked what was on my heart, what I imagine so many other writers and creators would LOVE to know,

Elizabeth, what have you found to be the most important part of your process that you would offer as a piece of advice to another writer?

Elizabeth took a moment, bowed her head, and then raised it with three words,
Do it Anyway.

She shared how important it is to release your inner critic, and just do it anyway.  Write the story, write what is coming out.  Who cares what anyone thinks?! Who you are when you begin the writing is not who you will be when you complete it.

Do It Anyway.

Create.

Put it Out There.

Let others say what they will…..do it anyway.

You will be changed by your expression…trust THIS.  Trust the process. Whether you are scared, terrified, or doubting yourself….do it anyway.

What have you held yourself back from creating?
What have you allowed the critics to keep you from doing in your Art?
What have you let Fear take over?

What is that story that is burning in you?

Elizabeth may be one of the most inspiring examples of absolute honesty.  What I found so incredible was how her writing and speaking were the same.  She really was very genuine, and her writing reflects that, as does her audience.

It’s no surprise the night was sold out, and the line to meet her in person wrapped around the theatre.

If she had not told her story, think of all those women who’s lives would not have been touched….
Mine would not have been touched.

We don’t know the future, so stop trying so hard to control it.

Get out your paper.
Get out your canvas.
Get our your camera.
Get our your instrument…..

Do it anyway.

 

Take a moment, and center back to WHY you became an Artist in the first place.  Release the craziness in your mind. You are not your fears.

Take YOUR 10 steps to let go,

And do it anyway.

And watch the BIG Magic occur.