Being Able to Write Again

I am finally recovering from my Creative Writing & Mental Constipation course I took this summer in Missoula. Last year, the general consensus is that Bolton’s course from 2004 was not as good as the one this year by young Grad Student writer guy. Maybe from some perspectives, but the first one was much better for me – I gained tiny bit of confidence to give myself permission to jump in and put the words out there.

This year I found myself back in the tied-up-in-knots-can’t-write-a-word state I experienced at the end of my Honors Creative Writing course I took my final semester in college. Whatever “they” real writers do, doesn’t work with my process at all. I have processed my denial-anger-grief-acceptance cycle to know that I will never be a “real writer” by whatever standards they use at CutBank and other journals. However, I am regaining that sense I had at the beginning of the summer that I have a lot to say, and have begun to find my own voice in how to say it. This year’s Creative Confusion Seminar was just a little detour, but you can put all the “real writers” on their little island together, and hey. I won’t even try to attend your party, so you won’t be troubled by having to vote me off the island.

Day 27 – and counting

One day I will get around to actually posting my journal here. The final personal performance is always that problem – whatever you may be figuring on in week 2 or 3 by the time week 5 rolls around, you may be in such a different place that it doesn’t seem right anymore.

I have had a very hard few days since last Wed. when I actually had to put on the stars (Place personal performance) . It has had repercussions that are not surprising but still, I would rather I could have had the last two weeks of my on campus time to be much less troubled. COST – that is what I am going to write on my nice white hospital admissions bracelet, where you have to go to see an MD if you are thousands of miles from home and Pulsing all day everyday.

Risk – is there if one chooses to embrace it; even when you lose or fail I believe life is more fully informed and enriched by the experience gained

Rigor – is there whether or not you choose to embrace it; may as well make something of it as life is going to dish it out anyway

Cost = Living

Irrevocability – Nyo ze ho. Until our last breath there is always the chance to alter our causes, and therefore our destiny.

Day 11 – Here It Is, Finally the Rigor

I was just musing with Jeanne Hopkins yesterday about how the second year didn’t seem to be so hard, and what was her experience, and why that might be so, and if I might be missing something.

The proverbial calm before the storm. In the Creative Movement class, I was getting in touch with some moody, gray emotional weather, which every day seemed that I could manage. Until this morning. We were doing some responses to our classmates verbal directions and then we got a sheet to consider the types of moves there were and our little vignette centered around our collage, and to consider expanding the vocabulary of moves in the vignette. I had started getting deeply emotional before then, as no matter what I tried to do , there was some part of me that was hurting and stopped me. The sheet of paper was the last straw – and I couldnt’ take the irony – consider expanding my vocabulary of moves when all I have been living for 30 + yrs is an ever shrinking one. The tears started in a stream, and I either was going to have to leave or just be emotional in public. I wanted to shrink into a little hole and disappear. Even the little dance I had sort of made around my vignette was kaput – there was no way I could do it with the pains in the neck, back, feet. I could barely stand up or get to floor much less move between the two. I was left with the option of “dancing” with what was left of me. I picked a group that wasn’t using music because there was no music to describe my dance space. I opened from my little curled ball and writhed on floor, tried to get a way up, slowly working my way on to my feet. It seems so much more fluid to write than it was. It wasn’t a movement about fluidity. Often I started a move and had to freeze due to shooting pains somewhere. It was a halt-move-halt compas of contortion.

Afterward there was some time for discussion, which I didn’t have much intention of participating in as I was sitting off the floor half under a table, holding myself together = sort of . The water works had been going non-stop now for about 40 minutes. I was on the periphery until XXXX mentioned that we all were doing moves so much better than we ever dreamed of – to which I had to just pipe up and keep it honest and clarify that in my case that just was NOT SO. Karen K. asked me if I wanted to talk about it. I did and I didn’t. It was one truly authentic moment in my life when I was just as I really am. It was all out there – even when I let myself voice the scream of my primal self when asked if I was mourning …. duh.

I feel a big “so what” now. Nothing has changed – a few more people know a bit more about who I once was. It is such ancient history, except to my soul. It was just a moment ago in the timespace of my heart. Living as half a person for three days or thirty years seems irrelevant. All of the wisdoms I have earned the hard way are no less true. I am thankful for my life, in and of itself. But the memories of Before are not dimmed. The soul still speaks of the magic of tasting flight for more than a few fleeting moments. When you’ve supped ambrosia at the table with the gods, wine and water will slake the thirst – and no vintage no matter how exquisite will ever compare. I connected my experience on the level of mythology of being thrown off Mount Olympus – interesting where that line of comparison might go.

Day 9 – In Rhythm

The entire U Mont Missoula campus does not have one jacuzzi for students. I guess with an average age under 25 in the student population, they are not crying out for relief. Tomorrow is going to be HELL. However, Diane told me about gym on Broadway that will let you in with a daily pass for ten or so bucks – which is 40 or so bucks cheaper than a masseuse. My poor ankles.

I found the Body Olympics exhilarating and fascinating. Why shouldn’t I – we have entered into the Queendom of ME. What was most telling was in the Tools category when both the left and right hand had to work simultaneously using socket wrench in turning bolt – it took all my mental concentration to direct the fine motor work of left hand to make those circles, that there was no brain motive force left over for the right hand – it slowed down and almost stopped altogether. I am still on a two-year old level with fine motor stuff of the left hand that is “new”. Picture the toddler where all their concentration is required to put the square block in the square hole. Learning hip hop was a blast – and great exercise. I really should get that zuma tape – and I would be a hell of a lot more motivated to use that then the Pilates. Which like Steph MacL has been sitting unopened.

And words cannot describe how excited I am about Brain Buttons etc. I am going to write to Lisabeth and tell her that I am learning Second Grade Secrets that I will share when I get home.

Day 8 – Endings and Beginnings

Began Creative Movement. Journaling is requireed. I expect a good lot of that to show up or originate here.
Ended Critical/Creative Thinking. It was one course I had hard time connecting to – but I think I finally figured out why. {post what will write tonight on revised process}

I am as tired as expected – need to pamper myself via diet to make it through all moving and physical stuff.
Bought a bathing suit that actually looks nice on my chubulous sagging tummy and butt. Want to find the jacuszzi if it exists. I forgot to take prophylactic Aleve last night and boy am I sorry.

It is not so important to describe the creative process to others, or students, but to put them in situations where they will experience it and then ask them to reflect upon it themselves. I have to rememeber to use more or in more ways the questions I ask of Design Studio projects at reviews:
1) What went the best and why do you think that happened?
2) What did not work out at all as planned, and what might you do differently next time?
3) What did you discover that was totally unexpected?

more later – time to go in search of fish.

The comment function is turned off to unburden the site manager from moderating comments. However, you can send me personal remarks if you like.

Day 6 – The One Step Back

There is an old Asian proverb – “Three steps forward, one step back”. It refers to the tiger when it hunts, it will creaep forward three steps, and then take one step back to solidify its center – just before it springs to pounce on its prey. It is often referenced as the metaphor for the necessary time taken between periods of intense activity – to reflect, rest, rejuvenate – before springing off again to next phase of project or journey.

I keep trying to put to rest the nagging insecurity I feel in relationship to the ease at which I slid back into the rhythm of the Pulse. In many aspects, it was as if I had only stepped out for a moment. I worry that I am not working hard enough – where will the rigor be if it all is coming so fluidly. I have asked myself what is different. Some of the answers I get are that I need to concentrate on what I need to be giving – putting on the table – not just digesting what I take away. I want to challenge myself to connect with others – and not just those I am comfortable with. This is not easy for me – I so like to scurry around in my own little crazy world.
What is my purpose here this time ’round?

The comment function is turned off to unburden the site manager from moderating comments. However, you can send me personal remarks if you like.

Day 5 – End of Week One

It is end of the day on Friday. I am calm and clear but still a little sad. I know it is from all that is going on “out there” that I have stepped away from for awhile.

I was glancing back over some of my notes from the beginning last year. The questions I asked myself on Day 1 2004 are as valid now as when I first wrote them.

What is it that I am to GAIN from the Creative Pulse experience?
What is it that I am to TAKE FORTH when I leave?

I remarked to Randy Bolton that the obstacle (subtle as it may be) for the second year is to think that you have it under control – I know the program now. And then you coast. And by not putting forth the rigor that was demanded in the difficulties of adjusting in the first year, you miss out on the advancement you might have gained otherwise. I was so hypervigilant last year in just confronting all of the strangeness that I had to be engaged every moment. I notice that now I am a little more comfortable, that when I feel a bit overwhelmed I can start shutting off. I am not counting falling asleep in Kriley’s lecture yesterday … that was pure fatigue.

As a matter of fact, I drove out to Finnigan’s to finish my Survivor Story homework, and when I parked my car, I sort of sighed from relief. I clicked the seat back a few notches, told myself I was going to take a minute to relax and think about the premise for my story. I fell asleep in my car until 6:00 am. I was cold, and I woke up. I ran the heater and in the early morning threshed out the remaining requirements for my survivors, although I totally forgot about making a plan to get the damn thing printed out in time for class. Silly me.

I was thinking about what it was I was to do this year. I spoke in opening circle about the Pulse being a buffet that I came – and I ATE. It was quite a challenge enough last year for me to take care of me. This year I want to concentrate on connecting with others. There are lessons for me to learn here I am sure. I suddenly realized it was all right to be more selective about sampling the dishes from the Pulse buffet – I did have personal passions that I did want to explore and there was nothing wrong with narrowing of the focus. However, I am still easy to be open to uncritically accept whatever tidbits the faculty might present as requirements.

For example ….
Today in Critical/Creative Thinking, haiku was the medium of individual exploration. Now to be honest, haiku is one sampling from the smorgasbord of creative options that I have encountered before. It is a crudité that is a bit too sweet and sour for me to swallow. However it is on the menu of choice at the moment, and as it is said: “Take and eat.” Our groups agreed upon a site and object to focus on for the haiku, and were to sit individually for awhile and write 5 haiku. Then we were to agree upon 5 as a group presentation for Monday. I am a little giddy from fatigue and linear and symbolic thinking in this frame of mind for me can be quite a chore. I was sitting there and truly NUTHIN was working. So I started strategizing …. What if I wrote a haiku with my eyes closed? What if I wrote from the perspective of the lily plant? Then I saw a really shiny new green leaf growing up between a bench and the planter. I was so shiny and new and looked very perky, hopeful and a bit insouciant in its attempt to grow in such an odd place. Just a sort of haiku moment I thought. This gave me my only good haiku:

Persistent new curl
Shining veined leaf, new promise
Growing out of place

We also had to write a haiku about either of our profs today. I wrote:

Lumbering deep bear
Demands granite encounter
Wields gentle scalpel

Okay – time to figure out dinner and type up a few more things.

Tired Already – Day 3 –

Obstacles too numerous to enumerate keep arising until tomorrow at 9:40 am I can put this year to rest.

The PowerPoint & Technology. What a nightmare that has been.

It is easier and harder this year. I am not so overwhelmed trying to accommodate the novelty of the experience as in the first year, SO I have mental space to grapple with self-doubt. I wonder how that fits on a scale of experience …. FEAR is first level – then once you master fear, you can progress to SELF-DOUBT.

Last year’s group is so laid back it brought out another totally different side of me. Boy, this year we have a group of people who can really remain “on task”. Miss my fellow zannes from last year a bit – we never stayed on task, but got the job done anyway with hilarity to boot.

Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.

Morning: Day -1

Sunday AM or more precisely PM as it is one minute past noon. I awake from much needed sleep. I am feeling light and breezy and excited. I walk through campus to forage for coffee. I feel as personally connected to UM-Missoula campus as I did to UVa-Charlottesville . Yes there is the geographic similarity of being nestled between kind, lovely mountains. It is remarkable. It took me 4 weeks to acclimate last summer to where I was in place and culture, and within a day of return, I am happy. I am home.

Last year I struggled as the Chameleon Girl strived to fit. But she could not. No matter what I sought – the essence of myself was wrought of Manhattan and the South, there were strands of my soul that would always be of those places that could not be covered over or denied. The First Year of the Creative Pulse on campus was the first time, I had to adapt to being Me – and not some chameleon chimera of myself. I was “out of the closet”.

Ergo – University of Montana is now associated with being free. I know the lightness I felt when I woke up this morning was the absence of not being burdened with dread of assuming Chameleon Girl’s role of the day. It was not necessary. I have for so long been playing roles to fit in that do not commend themselves well to my temperament or my dreams. The challenge to come is to give myself the permission to abandon the Chameleon Mask anywhere, especially in my ordinary life. To feel as free to be Me anywhere as I now feel here in Montana.

How to actively mantain myself without slipping back into the carbonite. Where does it come from?


Neither rain, delays, or snooty people can delay me from my appointed goal. Plane was late – Pantzer hall was locked by time I got in. Huge pieces of luggage – much rain. Shared cab from airport with sophisticates with well honed sense of entitlement. Give thanks I have evolved further from that life condition. Nice Pakistani ESL student lets me in. I finally consent to pay cabbie – after door is opened of course.

Lock myself out of my room within first hour, but thankfully it is only 10:45 pm and attendant is still on duty. Only $1.00 to get back in. I am so tired I could sleep on concrete, so bed in room without linen or blankets seems cosy.