The God of Artists

Many of us equate difficulty with virtue — and art with fooling around.  Hard work is good.  A terrible job must be building our moral fiber. Something — a talent for painting, say — that comes to us easily and seems compatible with us must be some sort of cheap trick, not to be taken seriously.  On the one hand, we give lip service to the notion that God wants us to be happy, joyous and free.  On the other hand, we secretly think that God wants us to be broke if we are going to be so decadent as to want to be artists.  Do we have any proof at all for these ideas about God?

Julia Cameron

You may have noticed that this week’s post have a bit of a theme about what it means to take our life and our art seriously.

I read the Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron around the time it was published back in 1992.  It’s a book that changed my life by expanding my beliefs about work, art, spirituality and talent.  I return to the exercises in that book every so often, and have been writing in a journal daily since the early 1990’s mostly because of that book.

I didn’t become an acclaimed artist by reading Julia Cameron’s book, but my life started to become a work of art from that point forward.  I took her following words to heart from the Artist’s Way:

“Making art begins with making hay while the sun shines. It begins with getting into the now and enjoying your day. it begins with giving yourself some small treats and breaks.  “This is extravagant but so is God” is a good attitude to take when treating your artist to small bribes and beauties.  Remember you are the cheapskate, not God. As you expect God to be more generous, God will be able to be more generous to you.”

This approach changed my life for the better, so every so often I write about Julia Cameron’s ideas and books in case she they could help you too.  I recommend the Artist’s Way and her follow-on books to any of you who are trying to write your destiny!

Daily Contemplation:

Are you generous with your inner and outer artist?

Do you believe that God or the Universe is extravagant and wants to share some of that extravagance with you?

Does God love and cherish artists?

Harnessing the Transformative Power of a Writer’s Retreat

Deutsch: Retreat
Deutsch: Retreat (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you read or listen to many coaches for authors, you might notice them saying the same thing.

The first purpose of inspirational writing is to change yourself.

You may or may not agree with that idea, but you probably have noticed that often when we teach something to someone else, we are the ones who learn the most.  Personally, I have always found any kind of writing to be transformational.  Even writing computer user guides can teach you something about writing.

The process of organizing our thoughts or simply writing them, at the very least lets us know what our thoughts are.  Sometimes when we’re lucky, our writing creates beauty and wisdom and inspiration for others.

Most of all, writing is a form of self-expression.  What else could we be put upon this earth to do, if it is not to share our best self?  If writing calls to you, why not see where yours will take you this summer in an even more concentrated way and take part in a writer’s retreat?

You may already be planning on attending a writer’s retreat or creating your own.  Whether your retreat is 15 minutes or the whole summer, give yourself the chance to learn, grow and explore your unique self that you’re expressing.

In the next few posts, I’m going to offer some ideas on how to increase the expression of your self in a self-driven writer’s retreat. You deserve something that goes beyond your typical routine with writing and you can do that on your own.  However, if you want to include other writers, that’s great too!

Had you planned on giving yourself the gift of a writer’s retreat this season or this year?

Related articles

Where is Your Writing Taking You?

Shell Spiral
Shell Spiral (Photo credit: Theen …)

There are many places that our writing can take us:

  • New worlds (fantasy or real)
  • New work – assignments and projects we might not have been able to imagine
  • Discovering we have a tribe of followers of our ideas
  • Discovering no one resonates with our ideas
  • Deeper into our soul, whether anyone reads our writing or not
  • Into despair even though we have many readers
  • Closer to God
  • Farther away from God
  • Stuck in our mind
  • More deeply into the heart of our life
  • Into our own world that keeps us separated from others
  • Into a shared world that brings us closer together with others

And more . . .

Our writing destination is both a choice and an unplanned spiral journey expanding us and often bringing us back to a focal point defined by the greater part of our soul.

Where is your writing taking you now?

Where would you like your writing to take you?

Do you have a choice?

Celebrate where you are going, even if it’s not obvious to you in this moment.

Weekly Video Blog: Are You Repelling or Attracting Your Destiny?

A rather trippy and deep post flowed out of me today.  Before I started writing, I had a strong intuition to find a particular book for this post, and when I found it, randomly opened the book to exactly the idea that was seeking to be expressed through me.

For your own heart’s sake, I hope you will take a moment this weekend to contemplate the words in this post, because they could open your mind to some new yet old ideas that just might awaken a spark of remembrance in your soul as they did for me.

Do you believe that you have a destiny that can be repelled by the way in which you live?  Do you believe like many that there is a law of attraction that you can use to create whatever type of life you would want to live? Or must you submit to forces outside of yourself to be on your best path in life?

These are questions that have been on the minds of men and women since the dawn of human history.  For the next few days I’d like to share some different perspectives about how we repel and attract our “destiny” from great souls who have come before us.

Today, let’s begin an exploration with some radical ideas from a German Christian mystic, Meister Eckhart (1260-1328).  When I first read Meister Eckhart in the early 1990’s,  I was blown away that a medieval Christian priest would have ideas that were so profound and in some ways seemingly Eastern in their philosophy and scope.

In the passage that follows, Eckhart does not use the word destiny once, but talks about one of the common themes in many religions that the animal or creature part of us keeps us from fully living as God would desire, which is through us.  Many of the most holy people who I’ve met in my life talk about this same idea of getting out of the way of God, so that which is individual in them disappears to let God shine through.  There are problems with this approach, which we’ll discuss at another time.  For today, let’s look at the strengths of this idea.

I love this particular passage from one of Meister Eckhart’s sermons and hope it will cause you to think about your own ideas of destiny, free will, and the possibility that the divine spark of God within you actually needs you to allow it to live through you:

For if Life were questioned a thousand years and asked: “Why live?” and if there were an answer, it could be no more than this: “I live only to live!”  And that is because Life is its own reason for being, springs from its own Source, and goes on and on, without ever asking why — just because it is life.  Thus, if you ask a genuine person, that is, one who acts from his heart:  “Why are you doing that?”  — he will reply in the only possible way: “I do it because I do it!”

Where the creature ends, there God begins to be.  God only asks that you get out of his way, in so far as you are creature, and let him be God in you.  The least creaturely idea that ever entered your mind is as big as God.  Why?  Because it will keep God out of you entirely.  The moment you get one of your own ideas, God fades out and the Godhead too.  It is when the idea is gone that God gets in. 

God desires that you, the creature, get out of his way — as if his own blessedness depended on it.  Ah, beloved people, why don’t you let God be God in you?  What are you afraid of? You get completely out of his way and he will get out of yours  — you give up to him and he will give up to you.  When both have forsaken self, what remains is an indivisible union. It is in this unity that the Father begets his Son in the secret spring of your nature.  Then the Holy Spirit blooms and out of God there comes a will which belongs to the soul. As long as this will remains uncorrupted by creatures, it is free.  Christ says, No man riseth to heaven but he that came from heaven.”  All things were created out of nothingness and thus their true nature is the “Not”.  That is why the aristocratic will, to the extent that it condescends to created things, lapses at last with them to their nothingness.

It is sometimes asked whether this noble will may lapse so completely that it cannot recover.  The authorities usually teach that, if it has lapsed for some time, there is no recovery.  But I say, if will is directed back again, to its secret source, it will once again be as it was, formally free and really free, and at once all the time that was lost will be made up.

People often say to me: “Pray for me!”  At that I have to wonder: Why did you ever leave him?  And why not be your true self and reach into your own treasure? For the whole truth is just as much in you as in me!

That we all may similarly remain close to this treasure, that we may all may know the truth blessedly, without anything separating us from it, or standing in between, may God help! Amen.

Is this the type of sermon you would expect to read from a medieval Christian priest, talking about everything coming out of nothingness? If we circle back to some of my earlier blogs this year about the Zen concept of everything coming out of nothingness, and compare those ideas to those of Meister Eckhart’s, it is quite reassuring to see how mystics across the planet have been discovering the same truths from the context of different spiritual traditions.

So, with Eckhart’s wisdom as a tool for growth, we might say that part of attracting or repelling our destiny depends on how much we allow our own connection to divinity to live through us.  That’s what the energetic elixirs that I spoke of us earlier this week allow us to do — clear the space for more of our true self/heart to be expressed through us in our everyday life, so that we can say with all confidence and authenticity:

“I do it because I do it!”

When we reach that point of living from our heart, any concerns of repelling or attracting our destiny disappear because we are on the path towards living the most holy destiny or life that is ours to live.

More about this tomorrow . . .

Can you feel the truth and the freedom in Meister Eckhart’s understanding of Life?

Focus on Your Strengths as You Write

Every so often, it feels appropriate to talk about my experience as a consultant and how that might apply to writing.

Today, I’d like to share an idea that I first heard 6 years ago, when I was working for a non-profit that was part of the National Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP).  I was taking a class on executive coaching from a woman who had successfully coached hundreds of CEOs to become more innovative and profitable.

She surprised me by teaching us that manufacturing was suffering in America because its leaders focused too much on eliminating weaknesses and not enough on expanding strengths.  Focusing on weaknesses was leading manufacturers to become commodity creators and driving down costs.  A business that focused on expanding its unique strengths stood a much better chance at being innovative and more successful.  Think Apple and Steve Jobs!  Ever since that time, I’ve wondered about coaches who focus so much on weaknesses.

This same idea applies to any of us who wants to write for a living or as a passion.

This idea of knowing our strengths came up again in a recent Shero class where Jen Louden asked us to get 10 people to tell us our strengths.   I asked several people to do this for me, and got some unexpected answers like: you have a flair for fashion and you like shoes.  I hadn’t thought of my love of fun shoes as a strength! However, the best strength was this one by my ex-husband.  Yes, I asked him!  I’m one of those weird people who is better friends with my ex now that we’re not married.  Here’s what he shared:

Since they were young, I've taught my boys to enjoy trees too!

You also have the ability to see the bigger picture.  Some would call it “vision”.  Not all people have that gift.  I have some of that but I’m very task oriented.  I get the crap done, but you see what needs to be done – in a grand style.  This is also your downfall. You see the forest in spite of the trees because you climb atop of the trees to see the forest.  Every now and then you fall from the top of a tree.

Yet, the funny thing was that as I’ve been writing my novel, I have scenes scattered throughout my book where the main characters sit at the top of trees.  And of course, sometimes they fall from them!  Art does imitate life.

So, how does this apply to you?

This next week or so, find some people to tell you what is great about you and your writing.  Then, for the rest of your life focus on getting better at those things.  The weaknesses you’ll always have, and you’ll find a way around them.

To paraphrase ancient Greek wisdom, “Know Thy Strengths!”

Writing as a Form of Healing

A comment to one of my recent blogs inspired me to devote today’s blog about writing as a form of healing. If you’re reading this blog, I suspect you have a gift for writing words that heal. As you probably know, all the problems that healers regularly experience are also challenges for you as a writer, and a few more.

The nature of writing is different from many other forms of healing and requires some different ways of recharging our healing gifts.  One challenge that we have as writers is the inability to have our healing gifts flow through our words.  We generally give this challenge a name — writer’s block.

Most writers experience writing blocks at one time or another. You may experience a block every time you attempt to write.  I find that certain kinds of writing have their own timings and cycles as well, and that some blocks are really incubation times.  You may know of many ways of working through or with your writing blocks.

Writing blocks can also happen because we know that we have a powerful message or story that wants to come through us, and yet we approach our writing as if it were all about our talent to write a good sentence or compelling story. Or we worry about how our writing will be received or our ability to get published.  We treat our writing as if it were a task to be completed rather than a sacred gift that is ours to honor and share.

Ultimately, our writing and other healing work are both different expressions of our personal unique healing energy that flows through us every day. This week, I’d like to offer some ideas on how you might work with your personal energy to help your writing flow more easily so that you can be the total healer you are meant to be in the world.

To get started, here are a few questions for your contemplation.  What would happen if you allowed yourself to wholeheartedly believe that:

  1. Your writing is another aspect of your healing work in the world, and you have a gift for writing?
  2. Your writing eventually is meant to be a healer in its own right that can heal people when you are not physically present?
  3. Your writing is a reflection of your unique personal energy, and your energy heals people?

Do not underestimate your gifts for healing as a writer.

In the next few days, I’ll be offering some ideas on how to play with your writing in a way that not only uplifts others, but uplifts your own energy as well.   Be kind to yourself and your own healing energy today.

Look forward to connecting with you again, soon!

When You’re Bored, Embarassed and Uncomfortable – Write!

Spending  three days at a basketball tournament with a bunch of junior high boys and their parents is not my idea of a great time.  For some people this is a precious time to be treasured forever.  For me, being a sports mom is part of the marathon/sprint that is modern parenting that I probably would avoid if I could.  Yet, this weekend has been one of those occasions where I had unexpected opportunities to open my mind and improve my writing, that at first didn’t feel like moments to be celebrated.

By nature, we all tend to stay in our comfort zones unless we allow ourselves to try new situations.  Of course, as writers, there are times that we need to shake up our view of the world.  

This weekend I was reminded how boring, embarassing, and uncomfortable situations can strengthen our writing.  Here are some ideas that can transform these kinds of situations for you as a writer:

  1. Write down the details of some situation that you hate, and imagine if that situation would never end.  While I was listening to way too many kids running and screaming in a swimming pool that sounded like an echo chamber, I got the idea for adding a situation where people are tortured by never being able to turn off the noise.  I may or may not use this idea in my novel, but it made an annoying situation into a more amusing experience. 
  2. Talk to people you wouldn’t think to talk to and listen to their story.  Today, I met a young woman who is about to graduate college with a degree in Spanish and Political Science.  It turned out that she’s also a lifelong writer and poet.  We ended up sharing the stories of our novels and creative work. As I told her the story of my novel, she suggested that I listen to a Uriah Heep song – Tales.  It was one of those moments that I felt she was telling me something I was meant to hear.  You never know where you will meet a “wizard” who can give you a key to growing your creative work!
  3. Leave behind expectations of which people to connect with and those you can’t.  Sometimes we have to be patient so that we can gain the trust of those around us.  Just showing up counts.  This weekend, I heard stories of struggle and heartbreak that reinforced what I already know but sometimes forget that essentially we are all people just doing our best to live well.  

Sometimes, in today’s polarized world we have so much trouble seeing past politics and even lifestyle to see the common struggles we share.  Take the chance to be one of those writers who can’t be easily labeled. If you’re bored, embarassed or uncomfortable with a situation or experience in your life– congratulations, you have golden material for your writing.