Two sets of gems from Anne Bogart's A Director Prepares:
First: Key words from each chapter on these seven aspects of art: (memory, violence, eroticism, terror, stereotype, embarrassment and resistance).
Then, ten fabulous reminders.
I was grateful to rediscover these entrances into creating new work when going through notes from a Creative Inquiry, Interdisciplinary Arts class in 2015, my second trip through Bogart's fabulous book of Seven Essays on Art and Theatre. I hope they offer something to you as well.
First, Seven Aspects of Art:
remember deepening history/her-story
ancestors accessing perceiving
go back contextualizing improvisation make alive again
commitment keep it restrictions
risk resurrect the dead articulate cruel decisiveness
construct exactness freedom
act choose death repetition allow failure
invite off-balance disorient adventure desire
tension restraint moving sensation
awe attention curiosity experience interest
fear vs. safety awake penetration into life
disorient uncontrollable chaos not knowing
fire under cliche inherited shapes repetition
push through solidarity limits
transformation embodiment container
get out of own way obstruction
letting go of authority vulnerability listening as teacher
half shame/half glory personal
assumption = sleep revelation intimate
lie tells truth
overcome always there struggle
obstacle => challenge => wow expression --> expression
Now for 10 Fabulous Reminders:
1. You cannot hide; your growth as an artist is not separate from your growth as a human being: it is all visible.
2. Every creative act includes a leap.
3. You cannot create results; you can only create the conditions in which something might happen.
4. To enter paradise you usually have to go through the back door.
5. Allow yourself to go off balance.
6. Insecurity is O.K.
7. Use accidents.
8. Walk the tightrope between control and chaos.
9. Do your homework and know when to stop doing your homework.
10. Concentrate on detail.
And a few questions: (those in blue found in my notes, others from me right now)
How do Bogart's seven aspects of art pertain to your art form?
What is driving your creative practice right now?
What questions are you asking right now in your work?
On whose shoulders do you stand?
What are you trying to control? What is the chaos teaching you?
What is the paradise you're trying to enter? Is there a different door?
How are you falling? What are you catching?
What do you see when you go off-balance? How do you see differently?
I've spent much of April lying down. That's not how I tend to operate anymore, especially in spring. Springtime is my favorite season, with autumn tying close behind.
Spring contains my favorite months for adventuring about on foot and bicycle, working on plays, finishing up teaching residencies, appearing at every creative event I can to show support and receive inspiration. I love the rain, the warming earth's indecisive temperatures, the foliage lighting up scents of every hue. Easily my most energetic season.
And April! When I come to life most, my birth month, when every arts company seems to show at least one event, usually several. This month started at the end of a relaxing and productive spring break, where limited teaching responsibilities allowed for much independent, industrious work. I planned to spend the rest of my spring charging forth in this way, as one class after another found its final day, and one workshop after another came and went. This would be the time for projects! Projects! Projects!
So far, it's been the time for healing. The first days of April found my first virus in over a year, some kind of cold, some kind of raging something that knocked me flat a couple days. I allowed for glorious rest, knowing that if I listened to my body at that moment, it would thank me later. The following week, as I thought I'd healed marvelously, my body disagreed and answered my return to a full teaching week with a beautiful case of laryngitis. Cringing hoarse sounds and exhaustion clammed me up for days in silence, rest, healing, with canceled appointments, workshop opportunities and teaching engagements falling like casualties to the side.
But then, after much quiet and sleep, my body started to find its exuberant energy and uplift again. Teaching felt easier, possible at least, with speaking no longer giving my voice a gruesome alien monster's growls. I found the spirit to get back on my bicycle, and to a yoga class or two. Also, I could celebrate with calm joy my pre-birthday weekend. And what a sweet time that was: a small gathering to watch bad movies and eat homemade curry, teaching a radiant storytelling workshop, dinner out, watching a play I love in full production, enjoying a bright Sunday at a nearby hot springs with my partner and spending the night out-of-town. That is a good-loving April time.
After our return and allowing myself one more easy day before returning to a full-time full-on fully productive schedule, for crying out loud, I taught one Monday afternoon theater class. Riding my bicycle home and admiring the warm tulip and white/pink blossom atmosphere, looking forward to some final birthday breeziness, I got hit by a car two blocks from my house. Smash -- on the pavement, spinning, stunned. Change of plans.
I was mostly okay -- the whole event turned out about as well as it could given the circumstances -- but I spent the rest of my birthday night in the E.R., and much of this following week in bed, very slowly healing, very slowly doing everything. I'm still in a lot of pain, but I mostly feel lucky and grateful. It could have been much, much worse.
Spending lots of time in bed this month reminds me of when I was 12, 13, 14 and spent several months sick with sinus infections, bronchitis, pneumonia and sprains. As an adult, this experience opens up many memories, wild spaces and a wandering mind within this waiting. Rest is a strangely creative, cultivating time for a writer. Photo by Bekah Russom.
Every part of this month has made me feel lucky and grateful that way, really. Getting sick makes me think of the people I know (and don't know) who can't escape illness, who fight it every day. Losing my voice makes me think of those people who are daily afraid to speak, or can't physically at all, who find every communication attempt excruciating. A bike-vs-car accident made me value my body and its every act of care, and think of the people I know and love who persist through chronic pain. My surviving a wreck with minor injuries helps me appreciate every life moment, especially when I hear about a younger friend's too-soon death the day before.
Oh what we have. Oh how short. Oh how fragile. And so I may not be as out-and-about as I'd like right now, I may not be as active or productive either as my body recovers and I do my best to listen with firm attention, but there is a lot for a writer in stillness. There is a lot for me in waiting, in rest, in listening to the underside of my consciousness, whether I can't speak or leaving the house is a difficult adventure. I've been feeling, reading, grieving, thinking, expressing, listening, strumming chords, reaching out, holding space, loving, recording experiences into words in raw and ripping ways. I've been asking for help. I've been forgiving myself. And considering again -- for what seems the billionth time of a quadrillion more to come -- how I want my life to be. And allowing that question to raise up more questions still.
So, thank you body, for being here and speaking to me, thank you dear ones near and far for your kindness and care, thank you life for sticking with me and all the harmonies of the universe for holding me up with your song, thank you writing, art and love for always being there, whether I am on the other side answering your call or not, and thank you bed for existing underneath me -- many humans don't have one of you to catch them when they need rest and recovery.
There is much in life to cry and sing about. Thank you, small listening moments, for revealing the enormity of everything in each minuscule breath.
Be well. Be safe out there. Be whatever you want to be, as long as it is kind.
This month: Exploring Like Weasels
This week at The Cabin's FREE Monthly Drop-In Writing Workshop, we located our urgencies, listened to our bodies, noticed our surroundings, and used our writing, reading, discussion and actions to come up with instructions on how to live.
I’d like us to start today by writing, in list form, in free form, however works best for you, about what you’re urgent for. Warming up the mind/heart/body/spirit in this way, writing without stopping, and without a lot of talk or explanation, about what, right now, you’re urgent for, you’re lunging after, what gets you up in the morning, what is driving you right now. Essentially, what is your lifeblood made up of right now, how is it filling you and what is it charging you after?
What are you urgent for?
What are you lunging after?
What gets you up in the morning?
What drives you toward action right now?
Write for five minutes, keep your hand moving, don’t think, don’t edit, lose control.
How did that go? Let’s keep those urgencies and articulations swimming through our consciousness as we read Annie Dillard’s "Living Like Weasels". Any one read this before? See if you can read it with new eyes, a fresh mind. Pay attention to what you notice, what words or phrases stand out, what questions it brings up in you.
Full text of Annie Dillard's essay "Living Like Weasels" HERE.
What do you notice? What words and phrases stand out?
What questions does this piece bring up in you?
What does it make you see? Hear? Feel? Smell? Taste?
Where does it take you in your body?
What is it saying for you? What is urgent here?
Let’s get out of our cognitive/language brains a bit. I’d like you to explore, using your senses, as a weasel might explore. First, close your eyes. Deep breath in, out. In, out. Listen to your body, check into what it’s telling you.
After you open your eyes, now, in this room you're in, outside this room, outside this building – take 10, 15 minutes allowing yourself to wander, in a specific way. Be and observe. Notice your surroundings with animal fervency. As though your life depends on it, capture everything you can see, hear, feel, taste, smell. There is no hurry. I’ll call you back when it’s time. Go after what calls you, what compels you, what drives you, take everything in.
Now write down everything you noticed. Leave nothing out. Every detail. When you come upon a particularly juicy detail, go into deep specificity using all the senses.
Write for 10 minutes. Go.
Now, using everything we’ve written, read, discussed and observed today, write starting with the title: Instructions on How to Live.
This can take any form – poem, story, nonfiction, song, dramatic writing, text/image. In honor of national poetry month, maybe you want to take that form. In honor of cultivating creativity, you might choose to write something outside your comfort zone discipline.
Pull from the writing you did on what is urgent for you right now. Use your sensory observation writing. Take inspiration from Annie Dillard. Be wild. Break boundaries. Push past your comfort zone. Write your lifeblood on a page.
Go for about 15 minutes.
Find an outlet to share anything you’ve written today.
Or even how the experience went for you.
Consider when you look back over your writing from today, what do you hear in this? What is meaningful? What resonates?
Thank you for taking time out of your day to write with me.
My gratitude goes to all of you. Happy Friday!
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Process notes on a work in progress (me). This mostly contains raw rough content pulled out of practice notebooks. Occasional posts also invite you into the way I work, with intermittent notes on the hows and whys on the whats I make. Less often you may also find prompts and processes I've brought to workshops, as well as surveys that help me gather material for projects. Similar earlier posts from years ago can be found on: