Tag Archives: Creativity

The Sunday Reader: Sakura Edition

The cherry trees in Yokohama and Tokyo have been slow to blossom this year. According to the people who know about such things, the trees may not blossom as fully as in other years because our winter was not cold enough and our spring has been very cold. I’m no scientist and I’m certainly not a cherry blossom expert but I feel enormous gratitude to these trees for whatever blossoms they offer us.

A friend and I were texting about the blossoms the other day (we take this stuff very seriously in Japan) and I wrote: “It’s okay if full bloom looks different this year. The trees don’t owe us anything.”

The truth is that I don’t always blossom fully.

In late March I started a writing course with Martha Beck and here is the poem I wrote In response to our Week #1 writing prompt:

Sakura

There was this time that I felt sad
but somewhere in that sadness
I suspected that my feelings
(my own precious feelings
that I’d spent a lifetime
learning to trust)
were lying.

How could that be?

With one eyebrow raised,
I turned towards my thoughts
which sometimes congregate
like a gang of thugs in the
darkest corner of my brain.
They looked embarrassed
as if they’d suddenly looked down
and found themselves naked
in Biology class.

Not so tough now.

I reached in and found
the sadness thought.
My inner wise-woman
held this thought up to the light,
pulled out her magnifying glass
and squinted, all truth-seeing.
That’s when the cracks showed up.
The fissures.
The fear
that caused the thought
that caused the sadness
in the first place.

For some time I carried
my Fearful Thought,
a small pitted seed,
in my pocket.
Several times a day
I sent it tiny love notes.
“Hello, dearest one.
I know why you’re afraid
and I know why you lied.
Patience, love.
Patience and peace.”

Walking home
from school one day
the Fearful Thought rustled
inside my pocket so I picked it up.
It was larger and had grown
a new green dress of moss.
The Fearful Thought whispered,
“I’m ready to be true.”

I planted the thought
at the base of a hill
where I could see it
every day and it grew
into a sapling and I sang
love songs as I went by.
“You’re doing such a good job growing.”
And the sapling drew
on all those good things,
the love and the sun and the rain,
and grew into a cherry tree.

At the end of March
each year, that tree
explodes with soft white truth.
The cherry blossoms dance
in the wind, each one connected
to the branch, each one surrounded
by joyful sibling-blossoms
that groove and sway
and call my name
as I walk home from school.

So I grew my truth like a sakura tree
and came to love my fear.

Of course, my hand was shaking as I hit “Post to Forum”. I wondered if anyone would read it or comment. I was seized with “not good enough” feelings which grew into regret which then morphed into something that felt a lot like panic.

Gently I called off my anxiety-induced take-off. I breathed deeply {inhale ~ exhale} and then followed my own damned advice.

“Hey, Monna. It’s not about how ‘good’ this poem is or how many people like it. This is you bravely and gently exploring your own inner life. This is about expressing what’s inside you. This is about making meaningful connections with other people through writing. As Brene Brown said, ‘The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle: me too.’ Your writing is about ME TOO. This is about you blossoming and there’s absolutely no way to do it wrong.”

There’s no way to do it wrong.

I spent a couple of hours reading and commenting on the gorgeous and astonishing writing of my fellow light-writers, more than 400 of them. It felt like dessert, like a hug, like sleeping in on a rainy Sunday morning.

There’s no way to do it wrong.

That’s also true about the Geography of Now.

Geography of Now begins Monday April 10th

Sunday is the last day to register for this online course and this will be the last time I offer the course in this way.

This course is for you if:
* You need an injection (or inoculation) of creativity in your life
* You’d like to pay more attention to the beauty all around you
* You want to take more photographs and go on some lovely photo-walks in your own neighbourhood
* You have a deep craving to write. (Please note that you can respond to the prompts with poetry OR prose.)
* You’d like to share your photos and writing in a super-supportive environment
* You want to practice gratitude

If you’re looking for a reawakening, here you go.

P.S.
This piece was first published as The Sunday Reader. If you’d like to receive these letters, sent every second Sunday, directly in your email inbox, you can subscribe here.
 

New Course: Poet Laureate of Your Own Life

PoetLaureateCourse.pdf

Two weeks ago I wrote a piece for the Sunday Reader entitled Be the Poet Laureate of your own life. This was not an idea I had been incubating for a long time; it came to me fresh and pink and new and I wrote it down and hit send.

That’s how it works sometimes.

In the days that followed, I was haunted by this big crazy idea of being the Poet Laureate of ones own life; the more I thought about it, the sparklier it became. The conviction that our lives are worthy of having a poet laureate, and that we are entitled to the position of esteemed story teller grew stronger and made me feel goofily happy and strangely free. I started writing a longer piece, like an extended job description of a Poet Laureate of ones own life. And the more I wrote, the clearer it became that I was writing a course.

Yup. A new online course.

Here’s how it will work.

Over 20 weekdays, participants will receive a daily email with:
* a poetic reflection of one aspect of the Poet Laureate job description
* an illustration drawn by a super-creative Grade 1 student
* a poetry prompt

There will be a private + {top} secret Facebook group for people who want to share their writing with other Poet Laureates. Feedback will be positive and celebratory in nature.

The course will run from Monday November 9th until Friday December 4th.

Poet Laureate will open up for registration on my site on Sunday 25th October.

The cost is 20 USD. {I know! It is a great deal.}

If this sounds like fun… if you have a poetry-shaped hole in your life {like I do}… if you’d like to play and experiment with words in a low risk way… if you’d like to spend some time thinking about your own story… if you’d like to make some joyful noise, I hope you’ll join me.

Registration is now open here.
 

On Starting and Stopping. {The End of Poetry}

Hiroo

On Tuesday 4th of August I stopped writing poetry.

It wants to be dramatic like that, doesn’t it?

In the middle of February 2015, I started a daily poetry project quite by accident. I had been writing poems almost every day, they came without effort or planning, and I began to wonder what it would be like to write a poem every day. Not just every day, but every day for year. “Why not?,” I thought. I had lots of ideas and lots to say. By writing every day, my writing would improve. And I love the form that poetry takes… the rhythmic pops and weaves, the hard kernels at the bottom of the paper bag of meaning, the small sparkling somethings from a regular day in a regular life in Yokohama, Japan or New York City or Ottawa, Canada. And so I began, poem by poem, to map out my world and the people and emotions I encountered there.

And it was good.

I shared these poems on my blog and on my Facebook page and people let me know, with their words, which poems they loved and, with their silence, which ones hadn’t worked so well for them. But I was not put off by the silence. Every poem found its readership even if that was just one. One Damien or Spike or Jessie or Aynne or Ashley or even myself. The world of a poem is not greedy. It does not demand more space than you can afford. It can be as small as one idea jotted on a Starbucks napkin and folded into small squares in your pocket. A marble of a poem. A one yen coin.

And even though I traveled, this summer, to Bangkok and then to New York and then to Ottawa and then to a cottage I had rented with my family, and even though I experienced a passport mishap (entirely my fault) and the subsequent high velocity issuing of a temporary passport, the poems still came, more or less every day, without stress or worry.

This was also a summer in which I’d decided to take a break from social media. Primarily Facebook and Twitter although, in truth, I have never understood how Twitter works. I feel like Twitter is social media’s great black hole and everything I put there just disappears. So taking a break from Twitter was no great loss but being away from Facebook took a lot of discipline on my part. And then not so much.

And I got to the part of my summer when I was surrounded by other writers, many of them truly lovely people (like kindred-spirit-lovely), and they were sharing their words and images freely, madly and something in me just shut off. Two somethings, actually. The creative something in me that writes the poems and takes the photos, and the courageous something in me that doesn’t overthink the sharing. That one that just jumps. She’s a sparkly bit, that one.

When you write a poem every single weekday, you get to a point where you are just going to tell the truth. Whatever the truth happens to be. This is both uncomfortable and inconvenient. Not nice. It felt not nice to have these true and distinctly unlovely things to be working through and to be faced with the task of producing a poem from those thoughts every day.

There are people who write about the darkness. Stephen King, God bless him. Stieg Larsson. People who have purchased their Writing Palace in a dark realm. That’s not the neighbourhood for me. I’m a real estate agent for the light ~ committed to helping people find the light and then live there.

So I stopped writing poems every day. I did feel a bit guilty at first. I considered writing eight more so that I could claim I had written six months’ worth of daily poems. (We’re such fragile, vain creatures, aren’t we?) But I did not write eight more. I began writing notes on scraps of paper and in my fuchsia pink moleskin and on my phone… notes about what I saw and felt and how all of those things fit together or do not.

With each poem-less day, I thought more about my novel The 37 Impossible Loves of Naoko Nishizawa. Six months ago I completed a shitty first draft. Two months ago, a friend gave me brilliant notes for some next steps. Now, in the absence of daily poems, I am working my way back to that world, to writing a second draft and then a third and as many as it takes to put that story into your hands.

And that makes me really, really happy.

This morning, in Tokyo, I started typing a poem into my phone. It’s about an old woman and a much younger man sitting on a bench in the rain and the art of sitting still and how beauty is God in the world. This is the poem I want to write.

Maybe I’ll share it.

What would you like to start if you could?

What would you like to stop?
 

Keeping it for Good: The Film

A month ago
I wrote a piece
about not saving
things up

not stashing them away
for special occasions

not dishes
or dresses
or words.

Something about those particular words
{words about spending your joy}
resonated.
Especially with women.

Then some dishes,
some very good dishes,
arrived from Paris
and planted
a delicious idea.

I recorded the sound
and Damien Pitter filmed
and edited.

This is our Christmas gift
to you.

You can read the poem here.

 

Art, vulnerability + purple flying cows

12

We’re having an art exhibit
at our school.

We display student art
all the time,
in classrooms
and in hallways,
but this show
is different.

The art in this exhibit
was made by adults.
Parents and staff.

DP printed three photos from Beijing.
Beautiful blurry-on-purpose photos
against the clay-red backdrop
of the Forbidden City.

I chose two shots
from a perfect Paris afternoon.
Seated outdoors at a Rue Cler cafe,
we saw the clouds roll in.
Waiters scurried to beat the rain.
Rolled down transparent plastic sheets
to protect the cafe-clan.
Pedestrians drifted by
in a rain-distorted
dream world.
Muted by droplets
and ripples of plastic.

Friday after school
our library
changed its bookish stripes.
The book worm spread
fragile
iridescent wings,
became an art gallery.
There was sparking juice
and crackers
and the vibe was buzzy.
“I didn’t know she was a painter.
Her work is gorgeous.”

Some of the artists were
very
shy
about their art.
Embarrassed.
Dismissive.
“It’s no big deal.”

I want to say that
ART
is
a
very
big
deal.

The younger kids
at our school
think of themselves
as artists.
(Also
Pirates.
Explorers.
Opera singers.)

The younger they are
the more fearlessly
Warhol
Picasso
O’Keefe.

Years pass.
Some lose our way
back
to Neverland.
Narnia.
Wonderland.
We relinquish our place
in those dreams of
imaginary gardens,
labyrinths and castles
floating on clouds.
We forget the names of fierce dragons
we fought as four-year-olds.
We grow too big for
art-dreams
of purple cows
flying through the air.

Years pass.
We become judgmental
about what makes good art.
We develop criteria
to discuss the ways
in which a piece
is flawed.

We grow fearful
that our own photos
and doodles
don’t meet those standards.

We quit.
Pack away our crayons
and paints
in faded shoe boxes
labelled
“Childish Things”.
Turn towards adult pursuits
that pay the rent.

On Friday afternoon
adults at our school
sent their inner critics
to detention
and let their artists out
to play.

Vulnerable,
we were,
with our purple flying cows
exposed
for all the school to see.

Shy
and also
happy
like little kids.

Isn’t this how school
should be…
where the
adults
also
take risks
and play
and grow?

Resources for Creative People

Happy Monday morning.

Normally I don’t publish posts that are primarily the work of others because I love to create new things.

29 Ways to Stay Amazing and Creative

Ira Glass on the Creative Process + Getting Good