Time: Making Every Second Count While Chasing Your Dream

caffeinating, calculating, computerating by ryantron

caffeinating, calculating, computerating by ryantron

Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine
how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.” – Carl Sandburg

Believe it or not, I barely had enough time to get this post done. And I’ve been working on it for the past three weeks. But I digress. Sort of.

This is a post about chasing dreams. And about time. And about multi-tasking, in a manner of speaking.

I have long accepted the fact that I have a jiffy-pop brain. My thoughts, though linear at times, tend to pop all over the place about seemingly unrelated or random things. Of course, they pop even more frequently about related things – as in things related to my dream of being a full-time professional writer.

As a result, I have several projects going on all the time. Like this very moment, I’ve got a new Reading Series that launches tomorrow at Ravines Wine Cellars, I leave a week from today for Historic New Harmony to co-host a week-long retreat for writers and other creatives (which means I’m still fine tuning workshop ideas and materials). I’m tutoring my niece for all sorts of 10th Grade Regents Examination Craziness, and working my job. Oh, and trying to keep up with this blog and work on new poetry for the YA novel-in-verse, and there’s the very cool collaboration project I’m working on with the artist who helped create this website and . . .

You could call it multitasking, I suppose, though recent studies suggest that term to be a misnomer – as we are really only able to truly focus on one thing at a time, we’re just able to move from one thing to the next thing and back again almost instantaneously.

The human brain is wired in such a way that allows for that ultra-fast processing (a.k.a. what we call multitasking), but because we have that capability we often fall into the habit of non-stop multitasking. And that can be a problem (on so many levels).

Our brains are designed to scan, to search for potential dangers, to be on alert. It’s a survival mechanism.

I could go into the potential physiological problems that arise from the growing trend to have our brains in the fight-or-flight state most of the time, but I’ll leave that to those more qualified. Instead, I’ll allude to the quality of work such rapid-fire focus produces. Or, in particular, working on multiple projects simultaneously has worked for me.

One of the interesting paradoxes of creativity is that we need to focus on the task at hand in order to turn inward and to mine the gems deep inside. We also need to be open to whatever comes our way, to be receptive.

Sometimes we force ourselves to focus so hard on what we believe we’re supposed to be focused on that we actually prevent ourselves from receiving creative impulses and ideas rushing toward us. Of course, sometimes we get so caught up in starting every idea that comes our way, that we never complete anything.

Such is the juggling act of the writer, the artist, the creative.

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Laughter, My Favorite Exercise

Laughter by Symphony of Love

Laughter by Symphony of Love

“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” – Victor Borge

So many times, laughter has saved me.

And some of my best friendships have been forged over laughter, some of the best moments in my life. Including times I’ve ended up laughing at myself.

I hadn’t thought about that until the other night during one of the NCAA basketball games. A commercial came on and my mom laughed. And I saw her dad in her then, the way he would break open in a soft smile and the way that smile would quietly sparkle with laughter.

And I thought, at that moment, laughter might just be one of the best things ever.

I recall being a boy (no, it’s true, despite the common theory that I just showed up with a receding hairline and a silvering chin) and watching this amazing pianist on one of the shows my parents liked to watch and his fingers were like Olympic hurdlers racing across the keys. And, yes, that was impressive.

Only I was like six and as appealing as it would have been to have fingers that were fast as gazelles (I could imagine their usefulness for hiding peas at dinner or tangling my sister’s hair), but what I wanted most at that time were legs that were cheetahs, so I could run all over the neighborhood (which I did anyway) faster than anyone (which I so didn’t do).

But then the piano guy stops playing and makes a sound or a face or he does some crazy thing or he makes some tangential comment and I laughed. We all laughed. It was unexpected and a bit absurd, given the seriousness of the music, and absolutely wonderful. And it was also something my family and I shared.

Those moments laughing.
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New Harmony Writer’s Retreat

Creativity is a type of learning process where the teacher and pupil reside in the same individual. ~ Arthur Koestler by bitesizeinspiration

Creativity is a type of learning process where the teacher and pupil
reside in the same individual. ~ Arthur Koestler by bitesizeinspiration

“Creativity is contagious, pass it on” – Albert Einstein

What a great thing to pass on!

While I was in grad school I met (and made) a wonderful friend in fiction writer Terry Price. He’s the epitome of a Southern Gentleman: polite, kind, compassionate, and always ready to help others. I think I saw much of my favorite parts of myself in him (at least the parts I hope I possess), accept the dude has one awesome accent and so much southern charm all he needs to do is smile and he’ll sweeten your afternoon tea.

His nickname is Sunshine for a reason.

One of the first things Terry and I did, without any actual coordinated plan to do so, was interact with writers from all the genres at Spalding (poets, fiction writers, non-fiction scribes, playwrights and screenwriters) and try to bring them all together. It just seemed a natural extension of who were were (and are).

Even today, we both agree, some of the best parts of our time at Spalding were those hours spent mingling with such a mix of creatives.

At Ucross, I was able to experience something similar, only this time I was able to engage with artists who worked in other media (visual artists, musicians, as well as writers). It’s difficult to convey how electric and invigorating that is.

In addition, at Ucross, I got a taste of just how succulent this thing writing is when given uniterrupted time and space to devote to it. I can’t even express how wonderful that is, but imagine being given a chance to just immerse yourself fully into that one part of yourself that calls to you the most (often the part you tend to ignore or put off or not listen to as much as you’d like).

Terry and I started the Round Table on Facebook in an attempt to encourage other creatives to pursue their dreams. We had been throwing down our own gauntlet back and forth and we decided why not include others.

Our intention is to spark others into being true to themselves and into giving themselves permission to follow their calling (if not full-time, at least some of the time).

Shavasana During Morning Yoga

Shavasana During Morning Yoga

Three years ago we decided to create a retreat that offered time and space for writing (and for other creative endeavors), while also sharing some of the techniques and tools that have helped us make our creative life part of our everyday life.

They really are the same, after all, we just tend to learn by the time we reach adulthood to block out that call to create.

And that can lead to a sense that something’s missing, feelings of frustration and of being unfulfilled, as we unintentionally ignore an essential part of who we are.

As Picasso put it, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”

That’s what the West of the Moon Retreat is all about. Providing fellow creatives the opportunity to remain (or to return to being) an artist as a grownup.

There’s time and space to write, morning yoga to get you into a flow, an abundance of creativity energy, and a wonderful spirit of community.

Check out the new website here. And if you have any questions, contact Terry or me through the contact page. Regardless of whether or not you can attend a retreat or create one for yourself at home, give yourself a little time to listen to that deep down part of yourself. And keep after it!

Creativity is a type of learning process where the teacher and pupil reside in the same individual. ~ Arthur Koestler by bitesizeinspiration is used via the Create Commons License on Flickr

A Different Point Of View

A Different Point of View

A Different Point of View by Simon Daniel Photography

“It’s not denial. I’m just selective about the reality I accept.” ~ Calvin and Hobbes

I guess you could say this is a post about truth, whatever that might be, which makes it about fact and reality (double ditto whatevers), which makes it a post about perception, really, a post about point of view.

And what does that even mean?

Sure, point of view is a way of considering a thing, not limited merely to our sensing the thing, but involving an attitude as well (about the thing being sensed, yes, and often about ourselves).

Cold Hard Fact: sometimes the words we least want to hear are the words we need to hear most. Sometimes they provide us (or force us to take) a different point of view.

I suppose a resistance to the words we don’t want to hear might be a form of self-preservation (of the ego, at least, and maybe of one’s dreams). I mean, giving up on our dreams seems to be more common than chasing them once we reach a certain age (that sort of cynicism seems to be taking hold in adolescence these days which is such a terrible shame).

If you’ve somehow found a way to hold onto those dreams, to chase them, your dream-preservation response is probably heightened.

Given the myriad pressures on us from so many directions to put aside the dream (you know, to let go of the “fanciful”), for the pursuit of the practical, I get the inherent need to defend our pursuit, but not at the sacrifice of reason. After all, sometimes the perceived criticism, sometimes the feedback, the insight, the advice, the idea being shared with us (wanted or not) has merit.

Sometimes it bears, at the very least, a seed of truth.
Which is often also a seed for growth.
If we recognize it, that is. If we allow ourselves to perceive it, to consider it, to weigh it, to examine it from various points of view.

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Practice Time At The Page Working on Xero Treu

Practice Time At The Page Working on Xero Treu

Dorianne Laux and Kim Addonizio write in the opening pages of their wonderful book, The Poet’s Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry, that 90% of what we do as writers is “practice.”

Rather than contradict myself and spend several hours on a new blog post this week, I’m going to dedicate the next few days to practice. After all, I’m attending an important conference next weekend (Rutgers Council on Children’s Literature One-on-One Plus Conference) and my goal is to have my revision of Xero completed by then so I can share it with the editors and agents I meet.

Of course, that means I need to spend all my free time right now reworking the manuscript.

I need to practice!
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New Harmony's Roofless Church

New Harmony’s Roofless Church


I’m writing from Historic New Harmony, Indiana (I’m here taking part in the 2nd Annual Extraordinary Time Writer’s Retreat)!

Look, any chance I get to be in New Harmony with my computer (and, especially, with a notebook and pen), is one I welcome with unbridled exuberance. I’ve been to very few places that emanate the creative energy and the sense of equanimity of New Harmony and both of those things are invaluable to a writer.

Add to that a tranquil setting with an interesting history (and some pretty cool historic buildings and parks), as well as that rare combination of quiet time and a separate space to write, removed from the many obstacles of the daily grind, and you have a writer’s dream.

Of course, one of the best things about the retreat is getting to spend a few days with one of my favorite people (and a talented writer), Terry Price, as well as some other warm, wonderful, creative writers.
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