When I reflect on wins, losses, missed opportunities and new connections this past year, I notice that losses and missed opportunities I could name almost outnumbered the wins, which I don't remember happening before. Though surprising, this feels affirming. That word choice might sound odd, but this was something I felt in my skin, so seeing the numbers in black and white validated the low-grade hum playing between of my ears.
Though markedly less cataclysmic for a privileged person like me than 2020 and 2021, I felt creative difficulties tripping me up in 2022. This was a slower year for writing progress and projects, I got nos where I thought I had yeses in the bank, timelines pushed back, collaborations stymied, I didn't quite make my submission goals and I spent long term residency in the limbo waiting room familiar to most writers and playwrights. I seemed to have better luck getting play productions and readings during the upheaving 2020-2021 pandemic years. Yet within that, as the redwoods I communed with this summer forever experience (reading The Overstory by Richard Powers has been knocking me through the gut this winter -- anyone else?), I feel a steady growth setting the stage for something larger.
I worked a lot of this year on letting go -- both in physical ways, starting Marie Kondo's famous tidying process, in emotional and neurological ways through EMDR and in calendar ways, carving out more space in my schedule. I said no to online summer classes and took on only two fall semester classes at Boise State University, instead of the maximum three for adjuncts I've maintained for years. I got better at stopping work after 6, checking email just once a day (at least my personal email, if not the university one), didn't work on Sundays at all besides my daily writing/movement/meditation practice (unless I had a reading or similar event) and tried to focus my Saturdays on arts work, rather than teaching and related administrative tasks. I'm getting more familiar with the sound of "no" coming out of my mouth, even if I try to retract my boundaries right afterward (or spend an afternoon breathing through anxiety attacks when I don't). Overall, I'm beginning to break lifelong habits caused by maladaptive beliefs.
This moment, I feel monumental change simmering in me, which could be years or decades in the making. Having less major news to broadcast feels right. I've made a lot of tiny steps toward big projects in multiple disciplines. Thoughtful groundwork is being laid, rather than panicky DOING and addictive FORWARD MOVING all the time. That feels meaningful, even if that makes for a humbler list of bullet-point successes.
At the same time, awesome stuff did happen last year. I'm not discounting any of those events, some of which were life-changing. I'm grateful and have no complaints -- but a "this year was better than ever" post seems untrue. Some years are great, some are the opposite and some feel suspended in alien liquid like Wolverine in the Augmentation Room's water tank after the Weapon X team drafted adamantium into his bones--.
Before I get more carried away with X-Men analagies, here are some highlights from 2022.
I did make some progress on my 2022/2023 goals, but I noticed the objectives I wrote down for the last few years depended more on other people (and organizations) than on me. As Andrew Simonet encourages, it's important to plan goals that I have (relative) control over, more than ones that rely on outside parties. Some of those earlier intentions (related to silent meditation retreats, international travel and financial stability) may still be on the back burner, but I'm adjusting my focus as I look ahead.
3 Big Goals for the Next Two Years:
This year, I want to keep letting go of what I don't need and to step into, reclaim, live inside and even enjoy my own power (read: get out of my own way). It's time to unbind my inner goddess, connect with my artist child, listen to my madwoman in the attic, learn from my witch in the woods and altogether let my wild woman run free. And if/when I scare myself in the process, breathe, ingest some compassion and cut myself some slack.
Thanks everyone for reading, inspiring me with your own year-end/beginning reflections and for doing what you can to support the artists you love (including yourselves).
Guiding words for my 2023:
(or Self Care)
These beings appeared to me last week in my Exploding Your Creativity workshop.
They introduced themselves in a scene I wrote using my non-dominant hand.
(We were practicing a Use Your Creative Limits exercise I love.)
Then space kid and canine made their inky way onto construction paper.
Now I'm a little obsessed with them.
What I want to know is, who do you think they are?
What's their story? Their background?
Where do they come from? Where are they?
What are they doing? What do they want?
I have a few ideas, but I want to hear yours.
Share in the comments if you like, or wherever I post on social media.
I think something larger may happen with them but I don't know what yet...
Whatever my recent Cabin workshops Refilling Your Creative Well and Exploding Your Creativity (in progress) have been doing for participants, they've been doing a lot to shake up my creative perspective, open up new mental windows and shine light on doorways to unlock in spirit, heart, body, soul. I haven't been doing as much of the homework that I assign as the artists who signed up, but I've enjoyed taking part in our quick bursts of different kinds of making within the two-hour weekly sessions.
Below are a few first-starts I made in our Week One and Two sessions of Exploding Your Creative Well and a couple of the collages from the Refilling Your Creative Well workshops (in February/March and August/September/October 2022) that serve as compasses for the direction I want my life to be pointing at this moment.
Looking at these assembled in a row, I can see some of my tendencies and habits that could invite me to break out of those boxes (which will be the focus of Exploding Your Well, Week 4). There are words I'd like to cut, phrases I could revise and images I'd develop if I wanted to refine them further, but that's not the point. They're not meant to be finished products -- or products at all. Throwing together colorful messes helps me get out of my head and notice what I'm noticing, which helps when I'm gathering material for big new projects as I am now.
Whether or not you identify as an artist, may you find time, energy and materials this late fall and winter to scramble up text, images and colors (and then some). May that help you look at your world in different ways and surprise yourself.
In February, for the first Refilling Your Creative Well workshop at The Cabin, we created medals for ourselves, wrote the ceremony speeches and presented ourselves with our awards, as inspired by Andrew Simonet. Below is my medal and speech.
This medal is for Heidi, for enduring the little things.
For sustaining at her everyday job when she wasn't always sure she wanted to be there on campus, rules changing moment to moment, frozen bike rides, students absent more often than present, in two worlds at once: Zoom and in person, coworkers going maskless, policing students on safety, getting Covid and working from home while sick, exhausted, depleted.
For learning a new class, a new system, a new platform and modality every semester since spring 2020.
For showing up. To the email inbox. Oh that dreadful box of doom. What will today bring? A mini-heart attack with every open. And the eye twitches! Good gawd. After six months of online classes, she didn't think either eye would stay still again.
This medal is for Heidi getting students to laugh, cry, spend time with each other, offering every flexibility possible. And whenever she could, she gave herself time. To write. To be. And one Sunday every few months to do nothing at all but be human. She learned not to work or take meetings on Sundays. Learned from her panic attacks, from days she felt as much aversion going into the classroom as she did on her worst years in high school. She stopped checking email after 6pm. Started checking once a day, even -- at least the personal email.
So this medal is for Heidi. For learning to love herself a little more. Learning that she needs travel, creative well being and a supportive community to sustain her. And declaring that she's gonna make smaller steps to get to those bigger goals, dammit, because
a little something is possible
of forward movement can be made
toward giant impossible dreams.
So this medal is for Heidi. For going after joy.
This is Walter.
My partner/husband/love and I found Walter the Walnut bear in our recent trip to Oakland.
Walter wanted to join us on our return home through the Redwood Forest.
Here (above) is Walter enjoying the Sue-Meg Park campground.
Here (above) is Walter on the shorelines of Crescent City.
And in the Redwoods National and State Parks.
I/we look forward to future travels with Walter!
Experiencing new/favorite destinations through his eyes helps me look more closely.
Bye for now!
I found the reminders below from summer 2016, written before the world changed and changed and changed again. Are these still my commitments as a writer? What is different, new? What can I lean into more? What can I reexamine?
(This is self-inquiry -- you can answer in the comments but the questions are really for me.)
What are your commitments? (This you can definitely answer.)
In my writing,
I'm committed to aiming for big global topics and intimate, human connection.
To cultivating empathy and discovering how to open up my own vulnerable truth in order to allow that from others. My audience, my collaborators.
I'm committed to creating in a way that speaks to the silent and opens up a platform to allow the disenfranchised to speak. That offers opportunity for the empowered to listen.
I'm committed to using my points of privilege and my experience as ways to advocate for others, for the outsiders, minorities, for targeted groups.
I'm committed to listening more/deeper to the stories I intend to represent or leave space for others to represent.
I'm committed to reaching higher every time,
paying specific attention to the needs of each project.
In my process, I'm committed to write every day, whatever that means.
I'm committed to spending good time on one thing at a time, one pursuit, one project. When my focus isn't split, I feel better, the work goes better.
I'm committed to taking my time.
I'm committed to making the change I want to see in the world through what I write and how.
I'm committed to self care, to kindness.
To moving/loving my body. To taking walks and baths. And naps.
To waiting. Not-doing. Un-doing. Wandering. Meditation.
I'm committed to being a playwright first but continuing my exploration of
poetry, fiction, nonfiction, memoir, screenwriting, writing for radio, even television.
I'm committed to free falling.
I am a person who can go deeply into a thing.
I don't scan the surface, though I have a broad range of interests and abilities.
I know where I want to focus, where I intend my attention with intention.
I'm committed to being committed to my art. To going big. Turning pro.
To learning and teaching and doing.
To speaking truth and each time trying to get truer, more specific, more scary.
I'm committed to learning how to say the hard thing well, to working with difficult material and making each story more global, more intimate.
I'm committed to getting really exact and personal in my work
so that I can speak what happened to me
and what I deal with in my brain,
so I can reckon with it by sharing,
and so that others may be more willing to open, share and be human together.
I've written and made art for survival.
And look here now I've survived I'm surviving.
How do I take that privilege and turn it into change?
What do I do in my art to respond, to quake, to bellow?
How do I stay strong, vigilant, healthy, mentally and physically--
and be a lookout, a safe keeper, be kind with big heart
and help care for the oppressed and the silenced?
Been in the midst of a big rabbit hole project this year I never anticipated with this cycle of centuries. What is a century? Most basically, a list.
This collection of lists is becoming a novella of a book, a shadow box, a podcast. Learn more about the process through the MFA at CIIS Artifact Podcast where this month they devoted an episode to my process completing this series and trying to represent that visually with a shadow box.
This weekend on Sunday (May 1) at MING Studios in Boise, I'll be reading from this series for the first time. If you're in Boise and want to hear, I will begin at 7pm through MING Studio's 7o'clock series. Sometimes they lock the doors right at 7, so get there on time :) It's $7 if you're not a member (and if you're an artist, you can be a member for $13 a year!). A lot of the stuff will be raw and vulnerable, freshly typed, so friendly faces please, for this work-in-progress reading. Thank you!
Maybe I'll see you there. If not, you can check out some of my process below and the podcast to learn more.
Alone time: scale rocks, run impossible sprints.
Write with all my senses, limbs.
With my own pace, clock, rhythm. Trust that.
Spend weeks, months, years lying in wait, envisioning my next feast from my cave.
Then it's time to act, to launch rocket in belly.
The taste of my craving. Locking sight on her there.
Embrace, attach, drag my target up cliff face to a spot safe from vultures, jackals.
Dream my next fierce outcome.
In silence, listen to the orchestra around us in this mountain land.
Tiptoe, keep clean, everything arranged as I like. Or I get ruffled.
Always watching, preparing the next big leap.
Waiting with whole-bodied attention.
Inside I growl and bellow -- and sometimes outside. Mostly I seem calm.
Hiding in splendor home, creating bizarre fantasies about all of you.
Examining differences between the world and me, measuring the limits.
Happy. New. Year. (The more we say it, the more it's true?)
As challenging times continue for many/all(?) of us, I'm finding it even more important to reflect on wins, losses, missed opportunities and new connections. There are a lot more highlights than I expected from 2021 -- maybe if you look back, you'll find the same? I hope so. Here are some from my end:
I did make progress on my 2021/2022 goals, but I notice my goals for the next two years do look similar to last year's (and the year before). As Andrew Simonet encourages, I'm trying to think more in terms of decades now, rather than years or days, so that's okay. Progress is progress. These are big goals for me. These days still aren't usual. I'm grateful to be healthy, have work, have a home to live in, be able to afford groceries, rent, bills and small luxuries, and be *relatively* mentally stable.
3 Big Goals for the Next Two Years:
As I've found it challenging to make bold steps in these days of continued uncertainty, finding myself occasionally paralyzed by the unknowns aided by past trauma festering in my ribs, I want to make this a year of more bravery, more stepping forward into what I know I need, letting go of what no longer serves me, more courageous joy, more openhearted rejuvenation, more grounding reflection. May 2022 be my year of claiming space for what I know I need.
Thanks to those of you who shared your thoughts about my 500-word artist statement in process. Below is the 250-word version. They'll both live in the "About" section of my website shortly. Feel free to again share observations, what feels like the strongest pieces of language, how it makes you see/invites you into my work and questions, if you like. Regardless, thanks for taking an early glimpse.
As a playwright and writer across disciplines, I study the distance between us, seeking connection across differences.
Writing teaches me to trust my brain and get present in my body, two things I once thought impossible. I mine monsters that plagued me through child-and-early-adulthood (and still chase me down), amplifying them to mythic metaphors in locations loaded with personal history, so I can grapple with my mind as a human who lives in an absurd world, just like you. By revealing my most vulnerable secrets, I hope we can see each other more clearly.
In my work, tactile language, playful contradictions, kinetic imagery and haunted landscapes bridge spaces between words, between universes, between you and me. I uncover how my disorders, scars, terrors, regrets, curiosities, heartbeats, delights and wonders link with yours, the earth’s and the cosmos’. I cook our rawest parts together in hot lava stew.
By physicalizing my most difficult moments and mashing them with yours, along with surprising bursts of dazzling beauty and mystical forces, I hope laughter and meet-cute swoons can bubble alongside the brutality of reality. I want us to take more time to pay attention with intention, to see that the shadows inside us we can’t bear to acknowledge also overwhelm the stranger next to us, those too far away to comprehend, nonhuman persons and unrecognizable entities – and that we share intoxicating joys, dreams, desires, too.
Without shame, we can unveil, heal and embrace our weightiest, wildest places for love of interdependence between everything.
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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: