Make your escape plan

Each of us, from time to time, looks around the workaday work and thinks, “I should not be doing this. I was meant more something more or at least something else. I feel the call of the wild, the call of the pure, the art, if you will.”

That’s the muse whispering in your ear or bopping you upside the head. Ignore her alarm at your soul’s peril.

It is foolish to skip out on your obligations to the workaday, so don’t run out the door just yet. But figure out your escape plan, or at least heed the call and listen to the muse during your lunch breaks.

Jot down the skeleton of your art to flesh out later – heed the call – listen with all your heart as if it were life and death, because it is.

It’s going to be all right

(originally posted Feb. 6, 2017)

It’s going to be all right.

Everyone seems to be so agitated. Every day in the news and social media and everywhere we turn, someone is barking out another reason to be alarmed or horrified or, at least, offended. We live in ridiculous times.

But it’s going to be all right.

I believe most of us live by an unconscious rule: We don’t initiate force against other people. We don’t intentionally hurt other people who haven’t hurt us. Most people use force only in self-defense or in reaction to force that has been initiated against them. Otherwise, it’s live and let live.

At some point it becomes clear that there’s no reason to be so agitated – the person or people we’re urged to hate is just folks like us who want to live and let live. And rather than stay agitated, we turn our attention back to the things that matter – caring for family, giving neighbors a hand, living and letting live.

There will still be professional agitators out there yelling, “Look at this outrage! Be offended!”

But most people will live in peace.

And it will be all right.

Intentional words

Intention in a poem or story is when your heart skips a beat or your breath is taken away or tears flow, and when the author is able to say, “Good. I meant to do that.”

That’s intentional, that’s wonderful, that’s the author using words in a certain way.

Intentional – wonderful – certain – all words that have the power to mean so such more than they mean in everyday life.

A certain way: A particular method but also a method used with intention and certainty.

Wonderful: Full of wonder.

Intentional: Done with clear intent.

When the art is crafted intentionally, the result is certain wonder.

Use all your time

Wow, that was something you just created — meme worthy at least, maybe something timeless.

What else you got?

It’s easy to look at what you’ve just written and say, “There! Done! Mission accomplished!” and go back to life. But there are still hours in the day, or at least minutes in the creative time you carved out.

What else you got?

The Beatles had a few minutes left in the studio time they’d purchased to record an album. So they did a couple of takes of “Twist and Shout,” which is a legendary recording. Or am I mixing that story up with the story of Barry McGuire and “Eve of Destruction”?

The point is, if you strike genius midway through and still have time left, keep going. You still have gas in the tank, so keep burning it. Don’t let the knowledge of one bit of wonderfulness sit fat and sassy in your ego while another bit goes sailing past undiscovered.

If you said, “I have a half-hour to create something cool” and you have something cool in eight minutes, don’t rest on your laurels for 22 more minutes. Maybe you’re on a roll and something cooler is about to emerge. Maybe your story will be “that day I created three of my most beloved pieces in a half-hour.”

You already know you’ve got “that day I created something amazing in eight minutes,” so why not? Finish the session. Spend your allotted time. Give all you’ve got in the time that’s left. You might change the world again, and there’s your story.

But is it done

“Don’t add a line,” he said. “It’s perfect.”

“But …”

“Nope. Minimal, mysterious, I’m compelled.”

“Shouldn’t I —?”

“Nope. You said your piece. Now move on.”

“But what did I say?”

“That’s for your audience to decide.”

“You think this will have an audience?”

“Don’t worry about that yet.”

“When should I worry?”

“Actually? Never. Did you say what you came to say?”

“I don’t know. Kind of. Maybe.”

“Then you’re done here. Don’t overstay your welcome.”

“You think I’m welcome?”

“There you go, worrying again.”

Schedule a time to listen

The schedule is showing up every day. Ain’t that the truth?

Show up willing to be a receptacle for the words calling you from out there, and you will hear them, sure as the breeze is bouncing those wind chimes around outside my window just now.

The chimes are a constant metaphor for me, musical chaos singing nature’s song, or is it God, who created nature and is nature, sending me a melodic reward for showing up today to listen and take notes?

Watch and listen for the metaphor; watch and listen and take notes. Next thing you know, you’ve transcribed a book or books.

‘Steal Like An Artist’*

Honesty consists not in never stealing but in knowing where to stop in stealing, and how to make good use of what one does steal. It is only great proprietors who can steal well and wisely. A good stealer, a good user of what he takes, is ipso facto a good inventor. Two men can invent after a fashion to one who knows how to make the best use of what has been done already.

— from The Note-Books of Samuel Butler

* with thanks to Austin Kleon

Eagles fly like, well, eagles

I remember the first time I saw an eagle flying overhead at our retreat not far from the shores of Green Bay, a few years ago now. It was heart-stoppingly beautiful, that majestic bird fighting back against extinction and soaring along.

Friday afternoon I sat down on the bench in Willow’s Field and looked up to see nine of them. I think they were all eagles; I only spotted one white head among them, but it takes quite a bit of time for a young bald eagle to attain that distinctive look.

They were dancing in the wind, sometimes flying near each other, sometimes spreading out, always following the breeze or using it to soar higher or slide lower.

“Huh,” I said, “that’s a lot of eagles.”

I realized then that they have become commonplace in our neck of the woods, so commonplace that I don’t stop to watch unless there are a whole bunch of them playing together in the sky.

How wonderful it is that I have misplaced my sense of wonder over the miracle of these majestic beasts.

The pelicans have not returned yet from wherever they go during the very cold weather. I look forward to seeing them again. It wasn’t so very long ago that you didn’t see pelicans around here at all.

No doubt some political-minded someone will claim credit for bringing eagles and pelicans to the Green Bay area with some rule or another. I’m just glad to see eagles and pelicans cavorting overhead.

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