Thoughts I'm thinking as I give myself a year end review, noting all the creative and professional successes, failures, achievements and misses from 2015.
Perhaps you'll enjoy thinking on these questions, too. I'd love to hear your answers.
Perhaps you have your own questions. Feel free to post them in the comments.
How do you identify what you do with your life? Who are you?
What is the thing you care about most in this life, to do, to be, to pursue?
In what are you most interested?
What is at your life's center right now?
How do all those things work together?
That thing you love most, that big pursuit of yours, that most important creative endeavor--
If you were to name the thing you love most about it,
Or sum up all the things you love about it in one word or phrase or sentence,
The thing that keeps you coming back to it no matter what,
What would that be?
In other words, why do you keep doing what you do and loving what you love?
That reason can change, you know.
What keeps your drive, your passion, your engine running?
How do you fall back in love with something you've done for a long time,
After you might otherwise grow weary?
Or if you are in love with that thing, how can you name that quality or give it an image,
That helps you return to it when you feel disconnected or worn out?
What is 2016 your year of?
Happy year end. Happy new new.
I found this in a notebook I'm reading that I filled in early 2014:
"I want to be a person who follows through. To do well and completely on everything,
Then be realistic in your promises. Act to fulfill them. I need to narrow down my everything. There will always be something that drops.
I want to make art that matters. The truthful, the personal. I have to remember why I do this. Keep my eyes pinned to the long term distance.
Telling stories matters, listening matters, sharing stories matters.
Do good work as practice, the practice is imperative, and think how I want to see my work looking back. Even when I'm dead.
Did I take enough risks? Did I write the hard stuff? Did I wrap it in honey? Is it a continuing drum?
All the playwrights out in the world now, all the writers. Facebook and social media, the internet makes it clear how swarmy and agonizing is the competition.
The success of other artists is good for me. We have so much to learn from each other right now."
I still agree with some of this. With all of the words, really. But the tone...
After spending my CIIS semester reading heavy and academic material on Alzheimer's Disease, community engaged arts practice, site-specific art-making and arts professionalism, I spent the last few days reading the satisfying and delightful literary fruit that is Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (the first book I've read by her, I admit). I recommend it to everyone.
The last section, on the needed ingredient of Trust in making a creative life, spoke to me the most. I wrote down a page of nuggets from those pages this morning. Like this one:
"What you produce is not always sacred, I realized, just because you think it's sacred. What IS sacred is the time you spend working on the project, and what that time does to expand your imagination, and what that expanded imagination does to transform your life." (Elizabeth Gilbert)
This is so important for me. I tend to take things very seriously. Everything. I can see that in this bit of writing I found in my 2014 notebook. I can see the unspoken judgment and the desire to suffer for my art.
Now, I haven't intended to suffer for my art since 2010 - my drive since then has been to make art in order to live better, especially because at that time in my life I really needed to figure out how to live better. But even with that new focus, my life became all about the work, the heavy effort of it, loving the struggle, the intensity, and living to make everything harder. Out of undeclared self-punishment.
"I do not deny the reality of suffering--not yours, not mine, not humanity's in general. It is simply that I refuse to fetishize it. I certainly refuse to deliberately seek out suffering in the name of artistic authenticity." (Elizabeth Gilbert)
I'm tired of making art in this bleeding, aching way. It results in some good productive behavior, but also a lot of panic, which is not the way for me to live better while making art.
Since this summer, I've been breaking up with panic. I do this through practicing Alexander Technique and nothingness and spaciousness and by going after less. In doing so, I am getting much more interested in finding the joy in each moment as I work. In doing that, I am liking what I create a lot more.
I am asking, "How can this be easier?" "How can this be more fun?" "What can I let go of?"
In my last Artist in the World Class this semester at CIIS, the writer Anisse Gross visited our class. At one point she said that she made one year of her life all about networking. To myself I wondered, "What will 2016 be my year of?"
I'm still deciding, but I think it will be my year of joy and ease. This may sound like a cop out but for me it is a challenge. I may need to find ways to make this more specific, but I might even let that go.
There will always be hard things about art and about living, but I don't have to chase after them. Doing everything the hard way and making everything so important doesn't make me a better artist or a better person.
"It matters./It doesn't matter." (Elizabeth Gilbert)
I've been lucky in my art and am privileged in my life. I have been ashamed of this since I was a young teen learning with big attention about the ugliness in the world. It got me chasing sickness and pain to make up for the good things I have. That got me nowhere but down.
"I can either live a drama or I can invent a drama--but I do not have the capacity to do both at the same time." (Elizabeth Gilbert)
Neither do I, though I sure tried. Now I'm ready to let that go. I can go with the river, live in the way I want to live, and make things for the joy of it. For the love of it.
Yes, much of my work will still be heavy, complex and brutal, because that often interests me, aesthetically speaking. But the way I work and live can be much lighter, simpler and softer. I'm allowed to let my work love me.
"Love over suffering, always." (Elizabeth Gilbert)
Right now, I am obsessed with self-care, sustainability and balance. Vulnerability. Connection — with memory, space, time, you. I am cultivating ways of becoming more present and aware - by taking more time in action, being without doing, simplifying, letting go.
I’m obsessed with being more myself, unapologetically. My internal critic keeps trying to tell me that I am not important and that nobody cares. It can be hard to shut up that voice but I know the louder it gets as I continue, the more on track I’m getting.
I’m inspired by the givers. People who take time to listen and connect even though they are busy and have a lot going on with their own lives. People who do a lot of good work and then make time to bring in food to class or a meeting, who know the importance of joyful conversations. I’m inspired by the connecters, the be-ers, the learners who don’t try to achieve or pursue ladder-climbing but are interested in making a difference in the world at large.
These attitudes tune me into my observations. They slow me down. They make me look at my work from the outside, with more kindness and grace. I see more value in my own weaknesses and humanity. I see more value in sitting, in waiting. I’m an obsessive, intense person, yes, but I’m learning the value of calm presence.
As a maker, I want to work on finishing. On solidifying the final 5% of something I’ve made. I want to work on speaking a simple story easily, looking people in the eye, listening with full attention and being with people without trying to do anything extra. On speaking with clarity. I want to bring a sense of authority into each moment. I want to trust myself enough that I can make big statements without apologizing and backpedaling.
I’m making strides into these goals, into these soft skills. These are the hardest things for me—how I enter the work, the way I approach it and with what energy and capability. I enjoy that difficulty.
Right now my biggest obstacle is still my own fear and nervousness, but I am coming through it. I am breaking up with panic. I want to let myself go big, to articulate with exactitude what I am really thinking and feeling. Guilt, shame and self-doubt get in the way. My habit feeling is that I do not deserve to speak. So now I go deeply into daily affirmations. I take more time. I sit with these habit feelings, I observe them, I notice them. I don’t romanticize them, I let them go. I learn get out of my own way.
I will continue bringing stillness into my days. I’ll hold onto the things I’m doing and weigh them, one by one. Does this bring me joy? Does this? What is its purpose? I will strip down the things that get me in my way. I’ll keep honing and listening to what I want to do. I will go deeply down those few paths. I will take more time. With more patience.
This past year, after my father’s death, and these past five years, after returning from the shell of myself who went off to live homeless with a sociopath con-artist, after regaining health after a decade of breaking, trying not to identify as a sick person but as an artist, I have been so cognizant of my limited time on earth. I've been aware that any moment everything I’ve rebuilt could go away again.
Yet instead of embracing what I have, I’ve treated this limited time as a need to feverishly work forward, pummeling, racing to prove myself. My intention is to make art in order to heal and live better, and to learn to trust my mind that was called broken, but my obsession with constant making can keep me from accepting myself and all that I have here and now.
I am learning that the limited time I have on earth can be better spent when approached with a full sense of whole appreciation. It doesn’t do me much good to make art expressing the importance of being in the moment when, through overworking, I am not present. It doesn’t do me much good to make art that values connection, empathy and vulnerability when my frantic over-doing takes me away from being here with you right now.
By slowing down, by letting go, by taking more time in between each task, I am starting to value why I do what I do again, as though for the first time. Through my studies at CIIS, I have been gently pushed to spend time doing nothing. This is a difficult and rich challenge for me. I see this invitation to wait, stop and do less is the beginning of a long journey.
At the beginning of this semester, my professor Anne Bluethenthal directed me to spend 30 minutes twice a day lying down with no action. For 40+ years she has studied and practiced Alexander Technique (which she defines as the art of not doing). For this assignment however, she asked me to do this no-thing without even the idea of practicing Alexander in mind, and without using the few tools and steps I know from that art.
The first time I let myself lie down with this nothingness, I remember big struggle, mental and physical, raw tears, and a sense of self meeting self. How ragged and ugly that felt. How opening that was. I saw clearly in that moment how much I do in my arts practice, work and life in order to prove that I deserve to exist. Then, after that giant seeing, I saw ahead to all the time I would have to spend in that state, at 30 minutes twice a day. My body buckled looking ahead at that spaciousness.
I have since continued this practice of nothingness. I don't always get it twice a day. I usually spend 15 minutes instead of 30. But I keep doing it, knowing I need to build up again. It is slowly getting easier, but is still hard. But the benefits and discoveries I see from it throughout my days are enormous.
ONE BIG THING:
It is hard for me to see that I am enough. I have to keep telling myself that.
I am becoming calmer. I am beginning to break up with panic, for real.
I have to keep taking time with nothingness, daily, returning to it, building that spaciousness. I can see that my life depends on it, if it is to be a life well-lived. This will help show me the art I want to make and the way I want to make it.
I. Love. Process. Finished products are nice and great, but for me, the getting there is as important as the there.
This platform is a dedicated space for posts about my ongoing process as a playwright, writer and theater maker. Things I'm making. Ways I'm making. Ideas, curiosities and discoveries I find interesting as I make new things and continue remaking old things.
As opposed to my 50 Shades of Kraay platform, which posts raw material I find in old notebooks, and my 100 Love Memories Play Project site, which focuses on updates on that specific project, consider this a place to look at what I'm doing (and how/why/where and with whom), from my point of view, in this here/now continuum.
And in short posts - and a little less frequent (more like once a week, rather than once every day or so). That way, I can go back to the making process.
Have I told you I love process?
Thanks, dears. I look forward to sharing with you.
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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: