When was the last time you learned something new on purpose?
Now, I don’t mean like learning how to do pivot tables on Excel or how to perfectly hard-boil an egg so it doesn’t get that weird green ring around the yolk. I mean, when was the last time you learned how to do something new just for the hell of it? Not for work or because you were asked to make deviled eggs for your Aunt Melba’s 66th birthday party.
When did you last learn to do something because it sounded like fun and because you just wanted to?
It’s an easy thing to do when you’re young, because you are in the habit of learning new things. But once you get past a certain age (I’m looking at you, 40), there seems to be less of an emphasis on doing new things for fun. I mean, oh my god, there’s already so much to do that we don’t have time to do, who has time to do something entirely new just for shits and giggles?
But, really, shouldn’t we be learning new things? Life can be a straight-up drag sometimes (OK, a lot of the time) so I think it’s more important than ever to purposely do new fun things as we get older. It keeps your brain young, it connects you to your inner child and it can make you smile, dammit! They’re good for you!
The best part of learning fun new things at a certain age is that you’re probably not going to get graded on it. No career is hinging on it. Your livelihood isn’t on the line. It’s for fun! So it’s okay to fuck up! In fact, fucking up can be kind of fun in and of itself!
Here I am demonstrating a fun new thing that I’m learning how to do – play the ukulele! I’m singing “Drops of Jupiter” and fucking up while I’m doing it. But you know what? It’s fun! I’m doing it just for me (and OK, for my cats, too) and it makes me smile and it helps me relax and it makes me feel good that I can do something I’ve never done before.
You don’t have to learn French or how to fly a plane (well, you can if you want to). It doesn’t have to be hard. The only requirement is that it sounds like fun.
So what new fun thing are you going to learn how to do?
Like most folks around the New Year, I get a little introspective. I’m one who enjoys rituals and ceremonies and the symbolic significance they can hold. There’s power in ceremony, in the deliberate focus that it requires. If nothing else, it gets your thoughts in order.
I also believe in the power of thought. A lesson that keeps coming at me is “What you think about, you create.” Wallow in thinking that you don’t have enough, and you never will. Reframing it into gratitude for what you have and visualizing what you want to make space for seems to be an important ingredient of success.
This New Year is about letting go of what doesn’t serve me and inviting – in a specific way – what I want in my life. So I figured I’d create a little ceremony around that idea, give it some space to rattle around in my head and my heart for a bit, to help it resonate a little louder. Beckon it into being.
Hubs is endlessly supportive of these whims of mine, so he was on board for the little outing I devised for us to welcome 2016.
We headed about an hour north of Los Angeles to the seaside village of Carpinteria. I’ve never been before, but passed it on the highway at least a dozen times over the years, on the road to flashier destinations. I wanted to go somewhere we’d never been, to symbolize new horizons, new adventures for the New Year.
Carpinteria did not disappoint. I’m surprised more people don’t take day trips up here (or maybe they do and I just don’t know it). There’s a swatch of coastline that the locals have rallied to protect, known as the Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Preserve. From January to May, a portion of the beach is closed so that harbor seals have a place to birth and raise their pups. A knowledgeable volunteer was positioned at the overlook and gave us some background on the seals. Several other folks were out having a look, enjoying what was a warm January afternoon.
After watching the seals sunbathe for a few minutes, we hiked down to the portion of the beach that was still open. It’s a bit rough-and-tumble down here, the beach is rocky, so it was blissfully quiet, save for a few people walking their dogs and jogging on the beach (which seemed treacherous to me, but to each his own).
Hubs and I scrounged a few smooth rocks from the beach – there were more than enough, of course – and we each took a Sharpie and wrote on the rocks what we want to let go of and what we want to invite in. (Okay, I feel a tiny bit guilty about defacing the rocks, but I also think it will be fun for someone to later find a rock that says “love” or “$$$$$” – I know I would).
I had already been thinking about what I wanted to write, and it felt good to turn into the coastal wind, waves washing up around my Wellies, and hurl those rocks into the ocean. I was afraid my arm would hurt the next day. Hubs – ever simple in his ways – tossed two rocks into the ocean. I threw in about a dozen in all.
Like most people, I’ve pinned a lot of hopes for 2016. I feel that urge to hit the reset button on January 1st. I’d very much like to ditch some of my negative ways of thinking and being, and a adopt a healthier, more positive outlook. I’ve come a long way already, but there is always, always farther to go. But that’s part of the fun, is it not? To keep practicing gratitude an acknowledgement of what we have, how far we’ve come, but to keep reaching for more, to be better.
While I do make a serious attempt to publish at least one post per week here on ZeitClites, occasionally life dictates otherwise. These last couple of weeks have distracted me greatly from that purpose, but it’s all good. What it means is that November is shaping up to be an intensely creative month.
Just what does that entail? Well, for those of you who have been following my progress on my first novel, you’ll be happy to know I’m about halfway finished with the 3rd draft. I’ve given myself a deadline of October 31st to finish. Truth be told, I don’t know that I’ll make that deadline, but I do want to finish soon. Can I just say – rewrites are hard! Holy crap. My brain gets tired out easily trying to unweave and re-weave this story, but I shall persevere. My goal is to start sending out queries at the first of the year.
Secondly, I’m throwing caution, planning and an outline to the wind to begin my second novel on November 1st. That’s when NaNoWriMo 2015 begins, and I know that hitching my wagon to that steam train helps me to be uber-productive and pump out 50,000 words in 30 days. I have the idea and the world in my head, but there are many details to work out. I’ve decided to use the month of November to just write, write and write some more, so that I can get this world and these characters on paper. Here’s to shitty first drafts! (And if you’re planning to participate, let’s be writing buddies! You can find me on the NaNo site as addiechance).
And if that wasn’t enough, I’ve been asked to co-write a screenplay for an indie feature with some long-time collaborators whose work I greatly admire. Though I’m not at liberty to discuss any details as of yet, I can tell you – I’m excited! I was on a conference call at 8 a.m. this morning and it was an energizing way to kick off the week. I can’t wait to get started!
Meanwhile, Halloween is this weekend, and being that it’s my favorite holiday I will be devoting the day to getting my spook on, dressing in scary costumes with my husband, and terrifying the local children while handing out candy. I’ve got my fog machine, my strobe light, and my soundtrack of terror all lined up. It’s one of the best days of the year, in my book!
I think about this idea from time to time, when I’m reflecting on whether or not I am living as authentically as I could be. If I’m listening to my intuition and bravely setting off in my own direction. There are times when I feel like I am dancing in sync with that divine melody, and other times when I am clearly out of step.
I had a glimpse at a life lived in naked truth this weekend. I happened upon a documentary on Netflix called “Bill Cunningham New York.” I don’t know why, but at the moment it looked like EXACTLY the thing I wanted to watch (and I happily found it after only a few minutes of searching, as opposed to the hour+ it normally takes me to decide on a film).
Holy cow, what an interesting man! I’m certainly not a fashion maven, though I do have passing interest in how people dress, myself included. But I don’t follow the fashion world and I avoid fashion magazines like I do old boyfriends.
Well, apparently, I’ve been missing something pretty great.
Bill Cunningham photographs people on the street in Manhattan for the New York Times, focusing on how they express their individual style through what they wear. He’s been doing this every day since 1978.
To be clear – he is not paparazzi. He is a bona fide documentarian, not interested in celebrity or money. He is invited to all the best society parties and functions, but he doesn’t attend them to have a good time or to avail himself of all the free food and booze. He often doesn’t accept money for the work he does. He lives simply in an apartment stuffed with file cabinets and sleeps on a cot. He wears the same blue workman’s smock that he has been wearing for decades. He uses old school film. He rides his bike everywhere. He is 86.
He is absolutely amazing.
I find it fascinating to think about all the different ways one can live a life. Those that make unusual choices and take direction solely from their inner compass are the most intriguing. Bill Cunningham embodies this idea in the most simple and joyful way. I smiled the entire time I was watching the film.
If you have a little free time, do check out this documentary, even if fashion is not your thing. Because it’s not about fashion. It is about joy and truth and culture and honesty. It has inspired me to tune into that inner voice and listen to it more carefully, and to seek out beauty.
Back in May, I had the pleasure of escaping for a week to Colorado where I met up with Michelle, an old friend from college whom I had not seen in 20 years.
My 40th birthday was looming on the horizon, and I had expressed many times that I’d like to welcome in this new chapter of my life with some quiet time for reflection and meditation. Michelle generously invited me to spend some time with her at her cabin in the mountains and then join her sister for a yoga/meditation retreat with SoulSpark Journeys in Steamboat Springs.
I was game. Who could turn down such a thoughtful invitation? It was one of those more obvious examples of synchronicity in my life, for which I’m always on the lookout. I had put it out there into the universe that I wanted this experience, and the opportunity presented itself.
Over the two days of the retreat, we were pampered with plenty of quiet time (holy cow do I love Yoga Nidra) and unbelievably tasty vegan and raw food (who knew?). But perhaps the most enlightening moments for me were spent in a workshop aptly named “Slow Down and Tune In.” I mean, that’s exactly why I was there.
I was expecting two hours of mindful meditation, or something else equally as quiet. When we began the workshop, however, I was surprised to be greeted with a tall stack of magazines.
“Have you ever made a vision board?” our instructor, Alex, asked us.
“Have I ever made a vision board?” I thought to myself. “My office walls are covered with them!”
Although I’ve made plenty of vision boards in the past, I would never turn down the chance to make another. I LOVE ripping up magazines and gluing the pieces to poster board. It engages with my ever-hungry-for-more-messy-situations inner child.
Plus – I think visions change over time. What we want right now might not be what we want tomorrow, or in a month, or in ten years. It’s worth taking the time to explore how our desires change.
If you don’t know what a vision board is, it’s pretty simple. Take a stack of magazines and give yourself about 30 minutes. Look through the magazines and pull out any images or words that speak to you. Don’t overthink it. If it sparks something inside of you, rip it out. (The more ripping the better – ripping is fun and therapeutic!)
After you’ve looked through all your magazines and chosen your images, arrange and glue them on a poster board in a manner that is pleasing to your eye. Here’s what mine looked like that day:
Heavy on the words, which is not insignificant given that many of my goals and aspirations have to do with being a successful writer.
But wait – there’s more!
But it was the next step that threw me for a loop. Every time I’ve made a vision board, once the images are glued together, I stop. I admire my creation, hang it up in my office, and wait for the visions to arrive.
But Alex asked us to take it a step further. Once we completed our vision board, she asked us to take 10 minutes to write about what we saw in it.
It never occurred to me to do that before. And I’m a writer!
I took a good look at my board, and this is what I wrote:
Afterwards, those who wanted to showed us their vision boards and shared what they wrote. I think all of us were awed by the power and depth of feeling captured in each collage, and the poetry that resulted. That’s really the only thing you could call the words that the other women were sharing. It was all so spontaneous, yet all so deeply felt and richly recounted. I know I’m not the only one who got goose bumps that day.
What is your vision?
I challenge you to set aside an hour this week to make your own vision board and write about what you see. And I’d love for you to share it here with me, if you are so inclined.
We need to give voice and space to these desires and visions of ours. It is the first step toward creating the life we have imagined. Go for it!
Oh, and check this out!
My amazing friend Michelle owns a fantastic shop named Oak and Hawthorn. She specializes in plant magic and herb lore and makes gifts inspired by yoga, Ayurveda, Celtic mythology and the natural world. I highly recommend you check out her Etsy shop, Facebook page or blog. I’ve got a few of her medicine bags and chakra jars. It’s magical stuff. And if you live in Denver, she does house parties!
Lately I’ve been telling hubs that I feel like the walls are starting to close in around me. That if I happen to be in one of our sheds in the backyard when a big earthquake hits, that I will be killed under the avalanche of stuff haphazardly stacked and stuffed in them. That I desperately want to get rid of some of our stuff.
I really didn’t think that I had much stuff. I thought most of our stuff belonged to my husband. He has a poor visual memory so likes to hang on to stuff for the memories they elicit. In the last few years we’ve also inherited parts of collections once belonging to his now deceased parents.
It’s a lot of stuff to deal with.
But it wasn’t until I started to take a look at all my own personal stuff that I realized that I, too, have amassed quite a lot of stuff I don’t really need. And it was time to go through it and let some of it go.
I’ve been talking about creating space in my life for the things I really want. And this seemed like a concrete way to put that idea into motion. I could create physical space that would, in turn, create mental space that would then invite in some of those things I’ve been longing for. Less things to care for and think about means more time for writing and other creative pursuits.
I purchased the book on Amazon for a mere $10 and change, and on the day it came I read the entire thing in one sitting. All 200 pages. I have a tendency to go whole ass on things once my mind has clamped on to them.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Konmari Method, basically it boils down to this: go through all of your possessions quickly and intensely by category, taking in your hands each and every object. Decide what to keep based entirely on what sparks joy. Discard everything else.
Wow. Simple, but effective.
She recommends starting with clothes, since we have the least emotional attachment to them. I did all my clothes in one day, and easily discarded at least half of my wardrobe. Kondo then recommends taking everything that you are keeping and storing them vertically in your drawers, like this.
The process is a little more challenging with cats.
At first I didn’t think I’d like folding my clothes this way, but now I LOVE IT. I take more care with every item, and I can see everything at the same time. I love fun socks and have quite a collection, and now this sock drawer practically shouts joy at me every time I open it.
Some categories are harder than others.
Books were easy. I’ve moved around a lot and books are heavy and take up a lot of space. I was able to cull my collection so that it all fits easily in one bookcase. I’m discarding this entire tub. I mean, how many Spanish dictionaries does one need?
Papers were hard. Really, really hard and tedious. Kondo recommends discarding all papers. Obviously, there are things you need to keep, like insurance papers. But everything else should go. I spent 12 solid hours on my living room floor going through every piece of paper I owned. It doesn’t look like much, but it is once you take out every. Single. Piece.
By the end of the day, I had filled an entire blue recycle bin with shredded bank statements, credit card statements, and pretty much everything that was not essential to my daily life or that you have to keep for tax purposes.
It was a rough day, but I feel so much better for it. All my papers now easily fit in this small file cabinet.
Photos and keepsakes are also hard because they are emotionally charged and tedious. My old letters have been stored at my parents’ house until two years ago when I drove from Los Angeles to Indiana for Christmas and could thus transport them back in my car. My mom had actually organized all my old letters by sender and tied them each up into tidy little bundles – cards and letters from family through the years, old letters from my childhood penpal, all the letters my ex-husband sent me when I studied abroad in college. That is not easy stuff to go through, but I did and I lessened the weight of it considerably. Be prepared to feel all the feels when you do this.
Other keepsakes were hard, too, because my mom had so lovingly organized them into scrapbooks – things like old report cards or awards from elementary school, old playbills and drawings and who knows what else. I couldn’t really cull the collection without completely dismantling each book, so most of those stayed intact for the time being.
In the end, I ended up discarding about half of my possessions, easily enough to set up an entire new household. It’s a stunning visual to see it all piled up on my back patio.
I’m going to have a garage sale once the weather cools, because it seems a shame not to after doing all this work. I’ve even seemed to inspire hubs, who willingly went through all our kitchen gadgets with me and is parting with several (like that food dehydrator right there), and is planning to go through other things of his before our big sale.
I’m excited about the space this has created in my life, both physically and mentally, and how chaos has been tamed. I’m spending the month of September with a clearer mind so that I can complete the second rewrite of novel #1. I’m ready to start the outline for novel #2, which I want to begin writing in November, so there’s much work to be done.
Have you tried the Konmari Method? What do you think about it?
What is it about August? The heat index here in Southern California rises to absurd – nay, offensive – levels and all I want to do – all I CAN do – is hole up inside. On the east coast this happens to me in February, when it’s just too damn cold and nasty outside. But on the west coast, August is the winter of my discontent.
It’s a time of creative darkness. Ennui sets in. I see things I’d like to do but can’t do because the time isn’t right. No planting, no pruning, no enjoying my back patio. Being inside feels like torture and I can’t focus long enough to get anything meaningful accomplished (hello, novel revisions, I see you there waiting for me).
Last year I had the brilliant idea to pick up “The Artist’s Way” in August. It was easily the best decision I made all year. Those dark hours of August suddenly lightened. I had a renewed sense of purpose, a sense of hope, and a sudden and welcome investment in the now.
I’m definitely feeling those August blahs right now. I have many creative projects on several burners here, but they are all just simmering at the moment. I obsessively think about them, but have yet to take action to bring them to fruition. The task seems monumental, and finding the baby steps to reach those lofty goals out of my reach.
What’s a girl to do?
I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. Julia Cameron, bless her creative little heart, made not one but TWO sequels to “The Artist’s Way.” (Seriously, BLESS HER HEART). I’ve picked up the second in the series, called “Walking in This World” and am enthusiastically jumping into Week One of another 12-week creative odyssey.
I’m a little nervous. I have extremely high expectations. My rational brain is telling me I couldn’t possibly experience the euphoria I felt at this time last year, discovering all those creative treasures that were buried inside me.
But fuck it, I’m giving it a try. I’ve reached a plateau, and I’m ready to take it to the next level. It can be challenging as a solitary creative person, to find the structure and the motivation to keep going, to reach higher levels. I am exceptionally grateful for books such as these that help me break down my process, overcome my barriers, ignite my passion and help me find my way forward.
So I’ll be Walking in This World over the next few months. I hope you’ll come with me. I’m sure I’ll be sharing insights and setbacks, triumphs and failures with you in the coming weeks.
How do you overcome creative hurdles in your life?
I’ve been back from my Epic Adventure for about six weeks now. I gotta tell you, it’s taken that long to get back into the swing of things. Which is something, considering the trip itself was only three weeks. But we did a hell of alot of living in those three weeks, so it has taken some time to process.
I felt creatively disconnected during my travels this time around. I thought I would feel the opposite, but somehow that didn’t pan out. A friend recently asked me if I enjoyed my trip. I said that yes, I did enjoy it, but I’m actually enjoying it more now that we are back. Isn’t that funny? The memory of the trip is providing more joy and fueling the creative fire more than than the actual experience of it. Weird. But cool. I’m cool with that.
I have that creative itch again. That little voice inside that says, “Write! Draw! Paint! Make stuff! Do it now!” I like that voice. That voice feels good. That voice is so happy at 7am with a cup of coffee, a notebook and a pen, sitting on my front porch in the stillness of the suburban morning. That voice is sometimes a whisper, but it’s gaining momentum. It’ll be a roar soon.
But I’m not quite there yet. I’ve actually got a little more traveling to do. Crazy. It’s been an absolute embarrassment of travel over here since May. First Colorado, then Orlando, then Chicago, then Frankfurt, then Rome, the Istanbul, then Bulgaria, then Greece, then back home, now off to the beach for a couple of days (poor me) and then camping in Sequoia next week. Then home for a good spell.
I’m really looking forward to settling in. It’s getting to be that time of year. Summer will turn to fall, and I’ll be incubating and coaxing ideas into life. I can’t wait.
“If you don’t have a dream, how can you have a dream come true?” –Jiminy Cricket
It hit me the other day – I’m 40. Okay, it’s been hitting me every day, but you know what I mean.
It’s time to go big or go home.
No more small time dreams for me, friends. No more tailoring my visions of the future into something that seems attainable. No more living life on a small scale.
It’s go time.
I’m dreaming big, now. I got big dreams, and I am putting plans into motion and working towards those dreams, day by day. It’s baby steps, but enough baby steps eventually equal the distance of one giant leap.
I decided to create tangible evidence of my big dream pursuits. Something that says, “Hey! Big Dream! Over here!” So I made a gigantic dreamcatcher, one big enough to capture some of the biggest dreams out there, and I put it on my front door.
(I have a very tolerant and supportive husband.)
I cannot tell you how much fun I had making this. I have a tendency to hoard crafting supplies or bits of this and that to be upcycled at a later date. This project (with some additional treasures found at the Long Beach Center For Creative Reuse) was made with all that artful detritus.
I think it fairly screams, “Big dreams welcome here!”
Want to make your own dreamcatcher? Here’s a great tutorial from The Journey Junkie.
Go ahead, I dare. I dare you to dream big. Because what greater joy is there in life besides having that big dream come true?
I’ve been hit with the doldrums lately, feeling a bit tired and used up. I know enough about myself to know that sometimes the best possible cure for my malaise is to dive into a new creative project. The universe aligned to make that happen rather suddenly, and the very night that I was searching for my next thing, a friend of mine on Facebook posted about The 100 Day Project. And it was starting the very next day – April 6.
The concept is simple – what can you do with 100 days?
There’s a TON of things I’d like to do with 100 days, which would include everything from writing a new short story every day to learning how to watercolor. The catch for me is that I’m going to be traveling for about six weeks during those 100 days, so whatever I do has to be portable. I decided not to focus on writing, since I already do a large amount of writing every day. I wanted to do something with my hands, and something that could help me through my current existential crisis.
I took to Pinterest, as one does when one is seeking creative inspiration. I did a search for DIY projects, small art projects and the like. I thought about sketching hands for 100 days, but that sounded tedious. I thought about taking self portraits for 100 days, but that’s just really selfies these days and I already probably post a selfie a day.
Then I ran across some information about mind maps.
I’d considered delving into mind maps a few months ago, as a way to brainstorm blog post ideas. I saw some fantastically creative mind maps on Pinterest and created a board if you care to check them out.
The next morning I went to Continental Art Supply here in Reseda (a fantastic art store if you happen to live in the San Fernando Valley) and picked up a sketch book. I figured I’d tote some colored pencils with me on our travels, which I already have. I also, on a whim, picked up some oil pastels, which I have never worked with and had me intrigued. Why not try a new medium while I’m at it?
I’m two days in, and this is what I’ve created thus far:
You can follow along on Instagram with the hashtag #The100DayProject. Or better yet, you can join in! It is not too late to jump into this boat with the rest of us.
What could you do with 100 days?
The spirit of the time as experienced by me, Amy Clites