Anyone who says they have only one life to live must not know how to read a book.
The traditional walkabout is a rite of passage to manhood for indigenous Australians, where a boy would walk into the wild for a period. It is a spiritual journey of self-discovery and faith, taken in solitude in the harsh but magnificent environment of the Outback.
Without walking boots and a period of time dedicated to this one achievement with the rest of my life on hold, I am taking a creative walkabout.
My starting point was my everyday humdrum life. My life at that point wasn’t without joy nor happiness, but I was frustrated and left with a sense of emptiness every evening when I went to bed. Pretty much everything was a chore, even reminding myself of 3 things I was grateful for before going to sleep.
1. Roof over my head.
2. Food on the table, chocolate in my belly.
3. My son, my son above everything else.
I was in a bad place, not do to some devastating blow or traumatic event, but I had lulled myself into the dual cities of Inertia and Passivity.
Now, I should warn you. The starting point to my creative walkabout isn’t hopeful; it is more like staring into an abyss. You cannot chart a path and you have no idea where you are going. The first step over the edge is pure faith.
I didn’t go willingly over the edge. I came back to work after New Year’s and almost fainted as I stepped into the office. I was in a very emotional state, I couldn’t control or explain, but I told my boss. That was my step over the edge.
The last couple of months, I’ve read a lot about change and motivation, where the general consensus is, that the first step is your first achievement. And I agree – in hindsight, using binoculars.
That first step of mine was literally over the edge and into the abyss. What followed were a couple of months of pure chaos. The fragile framework of Inertia and Passivity crumbled around me. The positive elements in my life were up in the air, whirling around with all negative elements. It felt like I was stuck in a violent tornado. I had no idea, if I had solid ground beneath my feet, but the only thing I could do, was ride the storm. By riding the storm, I do mean holding on for dear life, not standing at the helm of a ship weathering the storm heroically.
During this chaotic storm, I kept asking myself big questions, none of which I knew the answers to. What is your passion? What do you want to do with your life? Who do you want to be as a person? Every time I answered with “I don’t know!” my frustration and anger became even more pronounced. I was by no means a kind person at this point. I was angry, afraid, exhausted, restless, and a pain for many around me.
I was giving myself an impossible task. You don’t know which direction you are going, when you are thrown around by a tornado. Now, that’s self-evident, but at the time, I expected myself to provide clear answers.
You may think, this next part begins with the second step, but I was a lot further along. I had grappled for my footing a long time. The first time I felt solid ground beneath my feet was throwing clay. I had made a bowl as a young teenager and loved working with clay, but I had never done it since. Now, I signed up for a ceramics class.
This is where the creative walkabout begins in earnest. I followed my curiosity to Creativity. I didn’t know, if I could make another bowl, but in truth that didn’t matter. The first time, I left the class, I was overjoyed. I daydreamed of becoming a potter with my own shop, selling artisan goods. I was inspired and enthusiastic. I love the organic soft feel of the clay in my hands.
I probably don’t need to tell you; I’m not a clay-throwing-genius. My chunky vessels are crude and crooked, but hidden inside was the realization that I love to be creative.
Creativity sustains me. I began to see all the creative endeavors I didn’t have time for or I pushed back because they were only hobbies or for fun. Reading. Writing. Journaling. Decorating. Baking. Cooking. Gardening. Fantasizing. Spending time based on what is fun or what spikes my curiosity instead of regarding everything as a chore.
I began courting myself. I went on dates with myself, doing things I loved. For the first time in years, I went to a café to drink coffee and write. I fantasized and told myself stories, without rationalizing or telling myself that it was a waste of time. I made tablescapes without vacuuming first. And with these dates, I felt inspired and enthusiastic again.
I am writing a little series about my recent creative walkabout. Be sure to stay tuned – or follow my blog, if you want to read the next installment.
I’ve always known that I loved to write. From the moment, I could spell a few words, I wrote and drew stories. I loved it – and I still do. Writing makes my heart sing. I have recently worked with Julia Cameron and The Artist’s Way, which – if you don’t already know it – is a 12-week course in living with a greater sense of creativity. There is a short chapter to each week with a given focus and a number of exercises. Some of them, I have loved like delicate poetry and others, I slung cusswords at like a drunken sailor. However, I have learned a little something – or remembered a little something from each of them. The Artist’s Way is exhilarating in a way which defies description. It is like meeting the love of your life for the second time – you know, after you let him slip away the first time. The Artist’s Way is by no means an easy path. I have laughed, cried, and raged on my path so far, but the love of my life – creativity – is here in my life now.
Creativity for me is writing. Yes, I have been writing a little and I’m getting new sparkling ideas and thinking up new stories. Creativity is reading as well. I have spent a couple of years reading easy romances and mysteries, which are the literary equivalent of milk chocolate that evaporates from the bowl before you even notice it. I’ve read a lot of wonderful and quirky stories, but I am about ready to read stories that require more of me, that make me ponder the characters or themes or life in general.
Creativity is more than reading and writing; it is about seeing the opportunities around you and noticing what makes your heart flutter. I’ve ended up in some pretty ridiculous situations in the past weeks. I cried in front of my colleagues when the atmosphere at work made my bones shudder. I’ve jumped in puddles and had pancakes for dinner. I’ve planted spring blossoms and walked for miles, all the while I’ve felt closer to the Louise I want to be. The Louise I know is hiding within.
I think Louise’s Home Library may change a little – again, as I have changed. I hope you will join me on this path.
“I do not over-intellectualize the production process. I try to keep it simple: Tell the damned story.”
“You do not have to explain every single drop of water contained in a rain barrel. You have to explain one drop—H2O. The reader will get it.”
“Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.”
Are you doing it this year? NaNoWriMo, I mean? If there is anyone among us who doesn’t know by now, I’m talking of National Novel Writing Month. It’s November by the way and almost at our doorstep.
First of all, let’s hear it for the People at NaNoWriMo.org. They deserve the capitalization. They are smart, witty, and inspiring while coordinating thousands and thousands of volunteers and participants around the world. You’ll love the NaNoWriMo community. I have participated in other writing fora, but none of them reach NaNoWriMo’s ankles. There are actually pep talks worth reading and they actually leave you feel pepped. The statistics and motivational badges are addicting as is the acceptance that as long as you are putting pen to paper (or fingers to the keyboard), you are doing something right.
Then there’s the writing part. Yup, you still need to sit down and pound the keyboard, croaking out word after word. The result may or may not be a finished story – or the much coveted novel – but simply working with the program, writing every day, and seeing your words on the screen is a huge, exhilarating accomplishment.
I need NaNoWriMo. It is an inspiring sanctuary, and it’s only one month, where you shush everyone in the room with you by the mere utterance: ”NaNoWriMo”. I mean even telemarketers understand what that means. So what more do you need? I hope to see you there.
There’s nothing wrong with reading a book you love over and over.
–Gail Carson Levine
In some books, the story and the words merge to become a greater whole – and in those instances, a book is truly a wonderful reading experience.