Monday, Aug. 5, 2019: Inspiration Starts at Home — #UpbeatAuthors

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image courtesy of Jill Wellington via Pixabay.com

Monday, August 5, 2019
Waxing Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde

 

We’re down from five retrogrades to only four, so some of the pressure’s easing off.

The month of August is about inspiration, which is one of my favorite topics. I’ll share some of the ways I find inspiration. I always find that I have far more stories to tell than I have time in which to tell them. I have to pick and choose.

Let’s get something straight right from the start: I don’t understand boredom or people who claim they’re bored. I have zero patience with them.

The world is a fascinating place. There’s always something interesting around, and there’s always something that needs doing.

My dad used to say, “Only boring people are bored. People who don’t have the capacity for critical thought or motivation or interest.”

The older I get, the more I realize he’s right.

When someone whines about boredom, it sends up a red flag, and I use one of the tools of gentle disengagement we discussed last month.

People who are bored suck the energy out of a room and the life out of inspired people. They feed off the energy, without reciprocating anything.

Inspiration is all around us. We have to look at things with fresh eyes. This is where the mindfulness techniques of yoga and meditation pay off. If you are in the moment, that means you are paying attention. Your powers of observation are fine-tuned.

As writers, we MUST be observant to the small, unusual detail in order to bring characters and stories to life.

As I discussed in our topics on kindness and tolerance, start finding inspiration at home.

Look at things in your space, the things you take for granted, differently. You probably have photos or small objects that give you pleasure. You put them out on a shelf on a desk because they have meaning. You’re so used to looking at them every day that you don’t SEE them anymore.

Change that.

There’s a visualization technique where you pick three objects and stare at them. You pretend you’re an ant crawling over them and look at every tiny detail. You pretend you’re a bird flying over it and look at details from that perspective. Then you close your eyes and recreate the objects in your mind’s eye.

Think of it as “Still Life for the Mind.”

Go online or get a book out of the library on still lifes, and see how those powers of observation inspired painters.

We are going to talk more about paintings next week, but still lifes in art tie in both to this week and next week’s discussion.

Being able to recreate the object in your mind’s eye might not happen the first time you try this, but if you do this every day for ten minutes or so, it gets easier and easier.

Look, really look at the objects in your home with fresh eyes. There might be things that are tired, and need to rest for awhile. Put them away. They will be new when you decide to take them out again. There might be things that you need to release — give away, throw away, remove from your life. We will talk more about this a couple of weeks down the road, how to use Feng Shui techniques to bump up your inspiration. But again, this entire month’s discussions are all of a piece. They build on each other.

Walk around your house. Pick one thing that you haven’t really, really looked at for awhile.

This week, spend time with it. Let it tell you a story. It might be “its” story. It might inspire a story about something or someone else.

In the comments, tell us which object you’ve picked. Next week, we will talk about this experience, while also trying something new.

 

Published in: on August 5, 2019 at 6:02 am  Comments (3)  
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Mon. April 8, 2019: Make the World a Better Place — At Home — #UpbeatAuthors

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Monday, April 8, 2019
Waxing Moon

There’s an old saying about “charity starts at home.”

Many things start at home, actually. That includes making the world a better place. Last week, we worked on ourselves. This week, we expand to our home.

It’s not selfish to have a lovely, calm sanctuary. When you have a refuge, it helps you recharge and take your best qualities out into the world, which, by extension, then makes the world a better place.

It also doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. It’s fun to buy something new for the house. Sometimes, you need it to be brand new, and not just brand new to you. But sometimes, it can be a great find at a thrift shop, or something you got off craigslist and restored or repainted and made uniquely yours. It’s not so fun when you have to buy something big to replace something broken.

A few months ago, I rearranged my writing room. It was originally the dining room of the house I’m renting, and has lovely molding on the walls, and a built-in. Most of the walls have floor-to-ceiling bookcases. I have a computer desk and a desk where I write longhand. I have a reading chair.

But it had gotten messy and I stopped working in there unless I had to.

I took everything out, and set down a new-to-me carpet with padding under it. It’s a light creamy yellow, a color I normally wouldn’t use (having a black cat and a tortoiseshell cat). But it brightened and warmed the room. I put things back, organizing. I culled or put in a different place things that had drifted into the office and melted into disorganized heaps. I set up a worktable, and set up a new-to-me Encyclopedia on it.

Now, I want to be there. I spend a few minutes in there first thing in the morning, with my coffee, before yoga and meditation. I think about what I will write first that day, my first 1K of the day. And figure out a loose structure for the rest of it.

After my yoga, meditation, and shower, I’m delighted to get to the desk and get down to work.

When I come back from client meetings, or errands, I spend some time there. I read more often there.

As it gets warmer, some of that will move out onto the deck. We have a great covered deck and yard, and when the weather is nice, I spend a lot of time there. (And I have a lot of work to do in the yard to get it ready this year).

But rearranging and tidying that one room made a huge difference.

I WANT to be there now, and I’m more productive when I’m there. It feels better.

It cost me time and effort. The carpet was given to me; the encyclopedia set was from craigslist. The different curtains are from the 1940’s, that an aunt of mine made. In May, when I switch out the winter curtains to the lace panels, I will put up different ones for even more light.

I’m more attuned to putting things away instead of letting piles accumulate.

I’m about to turn that attention to trouble spots in the rest of the house.

When I’m happy in my house, I leave it with a stronger sense of purpose, and I’m calmer, happier, and more effective when I go out into the world.

Theatre is transient, so I learned to carry home within me and create home wherever I was. Now that I’ve been in a more stable situation, I’m learning how to maintain that sense of home over time.

Which then gives me the foundation to make a positive difference in the world.

Published in: on April 8, 2019 at 6:13 am  Comments Off on Mon. April 8, 2019: Make the World a Better Place — At Home — #UpbeatAuthors  
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Mon. June 3, 2013: Intense Ending in NY and Coming Home

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The Hatshepsut Sphinx next to the Temple of Dendur

Monday, June 3, 2013
Waning Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Rainy and cool

Friday was yet another intense NY day. It started on a sad note — my hosts had to take their sick, elderly dog to the vet for the last time. I cancelled my morning appointments so I could be there when they got back, and make sure they were as okay as they could be under the circumstances before heading out.

I went up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I gorged myself on beauty — visited my favorite Hatshepsut in the Egyptian wing, wandered through the Sculpture Garden, the Greek and Roman galleries, European painting, Contemporary painting (saw some Hoppers — nothing compares to seeing the actual painting in person), some of the furniture and design, the Armory, a wonderful exhibit on musical instruments. It was wonderful. I didn’t realize how much I missed that museum — I went there regularly when I lived in the city.

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This is a musical instrument, a Javanese piece called a “slento”.

Walked down along Central Park. Stopped in at the Plaza Hotel and was horrified by their renovations. They’ve rearranged the lobby, stripped it of its classic elegance, and put in a food court downstairs, which looks like a tacky, overpriced New Jersey mall. Horrible. Tacky. Revolting. Not at all in keeping with the history of the place. Made me sick.

Didn’t have time to swatch in the garment district, which was disappointing. Went to the Algonquin — their drinks are now outrageously priced and they’ve come up with gimmick drinks instead of keeping the classics, like their amazing Sidecar, on the menu. Big disappointment. I met Teri Brown there, and her cousin, and a couple of blogging friends. We quickly ditched the place (so disappointing, it used to be THE place to go if you were a writer) and went to my favorite Scottish bar, The St. Andrew’s Pub, for some Belhaven lager and tasty appetizers. And, of course, great conversation, amongst all of us. Great fun.

Headed back to Brooklyn and my friends. We sat out in the garden, chatting and catching up. I went upstairs to pack and get things sorted for the trip home.

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Manhattan skyline from the rooftop garden at the Met

Saturday morning, up early. Packed the last few things, rearranged the luggage a few times. Said goodbye to all the animals and my friends. One of them, a caterer, packed me a lunch.

Getting to the bus wasn’t as bad as I anticipated. We were right across from the Javits, so I watched people stagger out with bags full of books — some people had four or five tote bags overflowing. Wow. What was great about this year’s BEA was that the publishers really made their AUTHORS feel appreciated, along with the readers. It’s so important to know one’s publisher gives a damn, and understands and appreciates the work that writers put in. It’s also important for publishers to do their part in promoting the list and the authors, something which a lot of publishers can’t be bothered with anymore — and then wonder, when EVERYTHING is put on the author, why the numbers aren’t high. When it’s a partnership, everyone benefits. When it becomes an attitude-laden pissing contest, everyone loses.

I’m really happy for my author pals who were celebrated by their publishers here at BEA. They’ve earned the right to feel special and treasured.

Got settled on the bus. Everyone was jealous of my lunch! Steak sandwich on toasted baguette, rice and beans, salad. I wished I had business cards with my friend’s info to give out.

Trip back up to Providence was fine, although traffic was heavy and I was too tired to read or do much of anything.

My mom picked me up and we drove home, stopping to do a few errands on the way. The cats were happy to see me.
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By 6:30, I had a load of laundry in the washer, was showered, barefoot, and out on the deck with the cats and a very dry martini. Heaven!

Sunday, I was exhausted. Couldn’t light much of a fire under myself. I have a respiratory irritation — too many bus fumes, probably, and had headache, muscle aches, overall ick feeling. Dug into the still room and have solved everything except the lingering effect of the respiratory irritation, which I hope to fix by the end of the day.

Three loads of laundry. Took down the winter drapes. Put up the lace panels for summer. Took off the fleece chair covers. Put on the cotton summer covers. Mowed the terraced back area. Tended the flowers. Played with the cats. Tried to read a bit. Worked on some notes from the meetings and runnings-around. Watched GAME OF THRONES.

Slow start this morning. I have to get back in the saddle today, do all the follow-up from last week, and get going on some fresh assignments. Lots of meetings this week, and I have to make sure I’m properly prepared.

I had a great time in NY. I’m so glad I went. It was a good business move. It was a good personal move. I could genuinely enjoy the city and my time spent there, while knowing I made the right decision to leave. The best of both worlds.

Devon

Fri. May 31, 2013: Second Intense Day in NY

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Freedom Tower at Ground Zero

Friday, May 31, 2013
Waning Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Sunny and hot

Yesterday was another intense day. I’d forgotten that those are the only kinds of days that exist in NY.

It was all about downtown, from Battery Park up to the Village. Didn’t get in everything I wanted. My feet were still very sore from the previous day. I opted for comfort over vanity and wore my Timberland sneakers instead of cute shoes. Thank goodness I did.

We see a lot of photos of the Freedom Tower, but it’s a completely different experience to be there. The power of the building, and the love, care, and pride that went into it can’t be expressed in a photograph. I’m one of the people who didn’t want it built — I believe the entire site should be non-commercial, and I loathe the guy who has the lease on the property. Not once did he ever express sadness or horror at the tragedy of 9/11 — he only squawked about his money. He should not have been allowed to retain the lease on the property.

But the tower itself — the construction crew working on it understand what they’re doing. It’s not just a job for them. They’re pouring a lot more into it, and it shows. It affects the physical building and the emotional geography of the place in a beautiful way that it couldn’t if I bunch of guys who didn’t give a damn had been hired.

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The Bell of Hope at St. Paul’s

I was happy to see St. Paul’s — I’d been afraid it was squished in the buildings’ fall, but it wasn’t. I used to sit in the second floor Borders Cafe in the Towers and look over the ancient graveyard. Now, it has tributes to the fallen, and the Hope Bell, consecrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury the year after the tragedy.

Took lots of photos at Trinity Church, where a big portion of the harpy trilogy’s major turning point take place. I’d forgotten the odd layout of the church and how difficult it is to circumvent it. So I took lots of photos to get the geography right for those sequences, picked the spot where Kirval is murdered.

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Graveyard at Trinity Church

Found an interested grave of a young Naval Captain who died at 32 in a skirmish in 1813, and his widow, who lived to be 77. I will do some more research on them.

On down to Battery Park. Castle Clinton, the fort, is under renovation and not open to the public, but I got some photos of the exterior.

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I forgot how beautiful that waterfront is, with the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and how the NJ waterfront is being revitalized.

Headed up through Battery Park, where Carey (again, from the Harpy Trilogy) lives, and the waterfront section where he runs and where he meets Sascha, the siren. So I’ve got that all photographed and mapped out for both physical and emotional geography.

Walked up through Tribeca and Soho, where I stopped for lunch at an Argentinean Bistro. Their wine list was fantastic, but with the heat and all, I stuck to simple iced tea and a turkey sandwich with mixed green salad. Who knew a turkey sandwich could be so good? Eavesdropped relentlessly on some of the other diners, and have a LOT of self-impressed individuals to skewer in future work.

I found some possibilities for Valerie’s building (again, the Harpy Trilogy). There’s one in particular, which used to house a thread company — if it’s now condos, hers will be on the top floor (even though the building doesn’t have a terrace and hers does). The other possibility is not to have her live in that area of Soho, but further west, on Greenwich St. Several of their buildings have terraces that look out towards the river. The thread company building– no way could you see the river.

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One of the paths Carey runs near Battery Park in the Harpy Trilogy

Walked up to the Village. Absolutely sickened by the way NYU has torn apart the neighborhood’s historical buildings to build boxy, ugly, soulless behemoths. There’s no reason that a creative architect couldn’t refashion the historically valuable buildings of the area to work for the school. But, no, instead, the design is similar to the South Bank of London’s ugly buildings of the 1960s, only they front it with brick to pretend they’re trying to keep it in the tone of the area. Disgusting.

My favorite cafe (where I wrote many papers, many stories, and had many assignations) is now a cheap, ugly Mexican restaurant (there are plenty of wonderful Mexican restaurants in the city — you can tell this isn’t one of them). Since I plan to keep using my favorite cafe in that location in my work, I will have to put an author’s note in those books.

Wanted to hit Strand Books, but couldn’t stand the thought of walking much more. It was in the 90’s and humid (good thing I remembered the sunscreen). Instead, I slipped into Grace Church to regroup. Except some dunderheads were doing construction. I’m sorry, but it’s NEVER appropriate to swear in a church, and use your INSIDE voice, dumbasses! If it’s open for contemplation during renovation, YOU must work around that. That’s what they’re doing at St. Patrick’s — there are renovations going on (with scaffolding, et al INSIDE), but the workers are being very sensitive to the fact that they’re working in a CHURCH. If it bothers me, who is not a churchgoer, it must truly hurt those who belong in there.

The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, one of my favorite places in the world, is always under construction (because we, as humans, are never “finished”), and their workers are always aware of what they’re doing and where they are.

Headed across to Knickerbocker’s, a nice place on University and 9th, where I had a wonderful catch-up session with the guy who was my college professor and advisor. We had a GREAT time. It also made me realize how much he and my other favorite professor helped me find the language to articulate my beliefs and values, and gave me the tools I needed to pursue my passion — even if I wasn’t always sure what that was.
Great time.

Headed back on the subway, picked up Chinese food, and was back at the brownstone in the early evening. Pretty much collapsed after dinner. Wrapped my feet in cool washcloths, and dozed off and on until Imp got home. The Puerto Rican Street Cat was worried about me, and checked on me every few minutes, taking up sentry duty at the door. Heat exhaustion, I overdid it.

During the bouts I was awake, I re-hydrated as best I could, and rested.

Slept well. My hosts have a sad situation here that has to be dealt with this morning, so I moved my appointments to later in the day in order to stay here and support them.

It will be another busy day and tomorrow — I get to go HOME. I’ve had a wonderful trip, but I want and need to be HOME.

PS — Thanks for all the shoe support! Or should I say, shoeless support!

Devon

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Saturday, August 27, 2011
Dark of the Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Cloudy, humid, prep for Hurricane Irene

I am HOME, briefly, thank goodness, and got the first good night’s sleep I’ve had in a week and a half. I was practically delirious from exhaustion, and I’m so run down I’m getting sick.

I was far too optimistic, thinking the conversation with the client resolved anything. I was woken up all night Thursday into Friday with texts and calls about things we had already discussed and resolved which weren’t even my job. I don’t want to hear “I don’t understand the time difference” when you have an iPhone and this time zone is your default setting. It is inappropriate to call me after 10 PM or before 7 AM unless it is an emergency. MY definition of emergency. Nothing is going to change in Crazytown, and I have to make sure that Sept. 2 is my last day there ever. I couldn’t turn off the phone because I needed the alarm. The client ignored “it’s inappropriate to call me now.” I made it very clear that, today and tomorrow, I’m working on something else, and my phone will be off. I am NOT to be used as the intermediary between the client and my relief. The client needs to deal directly with the relief. When I got home yesterday morning, I shut off my phone for a few hours. When I turned it back on, there were 4 phone calls and 17 text messages in 3 hours, until the client realized I was serious. The lack of boundaries, the lack of respect, the lack of honesty about what the job actually entails — unacceptable.

I was so happy to be home, and the cats were happy to see me. Even Violet was velcro kitty and purring all day. I had a LOT to do — since I wasn’t “allowed” to leave the site the previous four days and had to catch up. Library, take my mom for a blood test, Stop N Shop, Wine store, PetSmart, Verizon, Trader Joe’s, CVS. Everything got done, though, and before 2 PM. My relief told me that people were being vile in the grocery store, but everywhere I went, people were laughing and joking and helping each other get things off shelves, etc., etc.

Broadway has cancelled all shows for today and tomorrow. I can’t remember that ever happening, but, for once, the producers aren’t putting people in danger. The fact that all Mass Transit shuts down at noon today probably has something to do with it. I think NY will get worst of it, mostly due to the expected angle of the storm. I talked to Costume Imp — he’s hunkered down with his cats in his prewar apartment uptown. He should be fine. People on higher ground are taking in their theatre colleagues (and pets) from lower ground. Everyone on Twitter’s joking about stocking up enough wine and beer to ride it out. As usual, theatre folk are looking after their own.

As of right now, the Mermaid Ball is still on for tonight. I have mixed feeling about that. I think a lot of people won’t show. In about two hours, I’m headed over to help set up. I’ve got my dress and stuff packed up and along –we’ll see how the day goes. I don’t really want to be travelling anywhere at midnight tonight in the middle of the storm. They’re expecting to stop the ferries to and from the islands later tonight. People are being smart in preparations, but cheerful and no one’s panicking. So we’ll see what happens.

Devon

Published in: on August 27, 2011 at 7:07 am  Comments (5)  
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