The Shuttering of Summer

We’re over a week into September and it feels as though everyone has officially called the end to summer. We’ve effectively shuttered summer; we’ve put away the picnic gear, rolled up the beach towels, and traded flip-flops for boots. (Even though, I’d like to point out that fall doesn’t start until the 22nd with the equinox, mainly because I love summer and hate to see it end.) So today, it seems more than appropriate, it seems necessary to have this quote from Emily Dickinson:

How softly summer shuts without the creaking of a door. Emily Dickinson

Summer is going away, as it has to each year so we can move on with the other seasons. But I hope, if you like summer, you keep a bit of it in your heart even as the weather begins to cool and the leaves begin to change. That you hold onto the whimsy, the fun, the calm, and the energy of summer. Because it is far too easy to get swept along like the falling leaves in all the busyness of the start of school and of the upcoming holiday season. (I just saw Thanksgiving decorations and cards in the store today; I’m not ready.)

I hope you keep the spirit of summer in your work and your art, even as the door to that season is closing. That we all are able to continuing creating even as the days shorten and it seems like a very nice time to hibernate. At least we have NaNoWriMo to keep our writing going, right?

I hope you have a lovely day with time to do what you love with whomever you love. As Neil Gaiman said, “Make good art.” 🙂

Smiles and Welcome

As I get older, there seem to be fewer and fewer ideas, beliefs, and truths that are universal. There seem to be more areas in life that are in the grey, that change depending on how one looks at them. For the most part, I suppose, this is seen to be a good thing. That it is a natural and decent progression from black and white ideas to understanding context and nuance. For the most part, I agree. But I am happy that there are somethings that are universal:

A smile is the universal welcome. Max Eastman

Smiling is one of those expressions that appears to be universal. It meant welcome when I was five and will mean welcome when I’m scores older than five. I think about smiling a lot, probably because I’m a librarian (in addition to many other things), and we think about how we can be welcoming a lot. A smile is one of the easiest ways to be welcoming.

Also, I find it fascinating that your body doesn’t discern the difference between what we think of as a true smile and a fake smile. If you move your muscles to smile, your body will produce the same chemicals either way to make you feel better. And I think that is a universally wonderful thing. That we can make ourselves feel just a bit better, just by smiling.

So I hope that this week you find welcome where you go. That you find someone who smiles so it reaches their eyes and their hearts when they see you. And that you find reasons to smile not because anyone tells you, too, but because your cheeks will just burst if you don’t from happiness. That’s my smiling wish for you. 🙂

Loud Actions

Do you favor words or actions? It seems like a trick question, doesn’t it? Like it is really a binary or a clean split between the two. And, as with most things in life, there really is a grey area, but if you had to pick, would you pick words or actions? Or, perhaps the better, more appropriate question is: what do you trust more, someone’s words or actions? I’m with Emerson on this one:

What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Anyone’s actions speak much louder than their words, no matter how pretty or eloquent or “on message” or hip their words are. Actions always win out. I’m reminded of this especially when people’s actions don’t match their words. What a person does tells me more than what they say. Because, although it is cliche, it is true: actions really do speak louder than words.

So what does this have to do with anything about writing or creating or reading or calligraphy that this blog usually talks about? Pretty much everything. I work everyday to ensure that my actions match my words. It is important to me that I don’t just say something, but I back it up with action. If I say that I’m a writer, then I better actually put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. If I say that I care about making the world a better place, then I better put my time and my talents and my money to causes that match what I say.

So my hope for all of us is that we don’t just think about what our actions say and we don’t just say the “right” things, but we actually do the work that is in alignment with our values and our words–even when it is a lot of work, even if we’re tired, and even if others don’t get it and might even say nasty things about us. Our actions are loud, so let’s make what they say worth something.

I hope you are having a lovely week full of creating and sharing and doing things that make you and the world a better place. 🙂

Order and Creativity

Do you ever feel that your life is boring? That you don’t have anything to add to the conversation when people are talking about the latest uber-cool thing they did this weekend or how they are taking up yet another extreme hobby? No? That’s just me. Well, that’s okay. I’ll be the first to admit that to outside eyes my life looks quite boring and regular and orderly. I do the same routine everyday. I cook mostly the same meals every month and get my work done. But you know what? I’m on the same page as Gustave Flaubert:

Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work. Gustave Flaubert

Being orderly and a bit boring shouldn’t be seen as the antithesis of being creative and creating great art. You can be both and having stability in one area of your life can help give you space to be incredibly bold and daring in other areas. For me, my orderly existence helps make a place for my writing and art. If others think I’m dull, I’m okay with that because they aren’t the ones creating my art–I am.

It really doesn’t matter what others think of your life. It’s about what you think about it and what you do with it. It is between you and yourself, not them. So here’s to being regular and flying under the radar and the secret smile you have inside when someone says your life seems dull because they just became a part of a character in your book or fodder for your next art piece. There’s something wonderful about being a butterfly on the inside while everyone else sees a dull moth on the outside. It gives you the secret space to create what you want away from prying eyes.

So I hope you revel in your week and your work. Go create something wonderful and, when you’re ready, I hope you share it with the world. 🙂

Listening and Respect

When was the last time you truly listened to someone? I mean, really listened–you put down whatever you were doing, stopped your internal dialogue in your head, and gave a person your full attention. Hopefully you’ve done that today. If not, I hope you do. We hear a lot of people each day, but I’m not sure if we do enough listening. So that’s why we have today’s quote:

When you listen to someone, it's the most profound act of human respect. William Ury

It might sound a bit cheesy, but I do believe that listening to someone is an act of respect. Listening can be a profound experience for both the person talking–because they are truly being heard–and for the listener–because you have the opportunity to truly connect with another person. And that’s what we’re here for, right? Connection. That’s what life and art and creating and listening are about.

This was brought home to me last week when I was in a meeting that was long (I’m not a fan of meetings in the first place), didn’t have a set agenda (always a bad sign), and had people talking over each other and not truly listening (disheartening, but unfortunately not surprising in this context). At one point in the meeting, I tried unsuccessfully for five minutes to try to interject into the conversation but people kept talking over each other and when finally the group took a collective breath and I was going to say something I was caught off by the facilitator to let someone else who had been talking previously.

This story isn’t being told to elicit sympathy, and while it also shows the need to facilitate meetings better and to be courteous, it is being told because it is  about listening and respect. Because listening is a whole body activity. You have to pay full attention to whomever is talking and if you are in a group, you have to pay attention to who is waiting to talk, to share, and to add to the conversation. You need to help create space for others to share. It is hard work, but it is so important in the cultivation of respect. And respect will lead to good things, good connections, and good outcomes–no matter what you’re talking about or working on.

So today, as you converse with others, listen to them and show them respect. You never know what you may learn when you listen deeply and how it may impact your life and your art. I hope you are listened to and listen today and take the opportunity to connect. Who knows, it may even give you inspiration to make some good art. 🙂


Stepping Up Even if You Don’t Know the Way

It’s August 1st. We’re at the start of a new month, already. The summer is flying by and the start of the new month fills me with both excitement and sadness. Excitement for a whole new month to do new things and finish up projects. Sadness because summer will be ending soon and even with another month it seems like there is never enough time to do everything. And, sometimes we don’t even know which path to take while we’re working, which is why I think the words of Frodo Baggins are important today:

"I will take the Ring," he said, "though I do not know the way." Frodo Baggins

Luckily the fate of Middle Earth isn’t in my hands (talk about way too much pressure), but we’re all responsible for various things in our life–big and small. We all have the opportunity, if not daily, at least weekly–in my experience–to step up even if we don’t know the way. Sometimes we step up, and sometimes we don’t. But if it is true that we regret more the things we don’t do than those that we do, then I think we should probably step up more often than not. Even when we’re scared, even when we can’t even dream of knowing the way.

And, if we are lucky, we’ll figure out the way and even get good people to help us along the way. We’ll get bruised and fall and have to get back up even when we don’t want to. But looking back at our month, we won’t feel the hurt of regret. We’ll feel some pride and maybe have figured out a bit more of our way.

I hope you have a lovely week and month. I’m sorry there was no Saturday Short last week, but I’d caught the icky summer cold/flu that’s been going around. This week, the Saturday Short will be back as usual. Until then, keep creating your way and taking risks with your art. 🙂

Small Stars

People keep saying how crazy a week it has been and we are only halfway through it. It seems like 2016 is trying to outdo every other year with screaming headlines about incident after incident of horrible things. It is enough to make anyone question if there is anything good left in the world and if there is any way to make a difference, which is why I think this quote is appropriate to share today.

Even a small star shines in the darkness, Finnish proverb

Talking with a colleague about the events that have been unfolding showing us brutally how much hate and anger are bubbling under the surface of our society, we both agreed how exhausting it can be to continue to care and to try to make any difference. While we might not be able to change the world, we can change ourselves and how we interact in our small spheres of influence.

We can be small stars that might not illuminate an entire planet, but we can shine brightly in our own neighborhoods, in our communities. We can decide to not let hopelessness and hate and violence win. We can be good neighbors to each other and, if you think about it, everyone is someone’s neighbor. And, if we all took care of our neighbors, the world might just have a chance of sorting itself out. Probably too much to ask, but it’s possible.

So as you go about your work and your play, don’t let the haters and the hatred win. Don’t add to the darkness and the drama. Be a small star, in whatever way you can–through your art, your baking, your listening, your helping, your doing, your action–and remember that with enough small stars you can light up a galaxy.

Technology and Constraints

It’s midweek again, the time when energy starts flagging and the weekend seems at once both so far away and so close that we can almost feel the breeze through an open door. And, if you are reading this post, you are looking at the screen of some device (and probably have been for several hours, especially if you are reading this while taking a break from Pokémon GO.) It is appropriate then to share this quote by R. Buckminster Fuller.

"Humanity is acquiring all the right technology for all he wrong reasons" R. Buckminster Fuller

As we spend more time in front of increasingly small screens, it is imperative that sometimes we step back and reflect on what technology (in this case, mainly thinking about computer and related technology instead of such technology as the pen or indoor heating) means for us and for our communities. No one can hold back the tsunami that is technological change, but that doesn’t mean we have to mindlessly use it or not consider what the right reasons for using it would be.

So let’s agree to be thoughtful about how we use technology and how we acquire technology. Let’s decide together what we should be using different technologies for instead of blindly following whatever marketing tells us. Let’s put down the smartphone and actually have a conversation or a bit of quiet so we can create whatever art we want to create. Because we can decide what constraints we want to put around technology and its use so that technology truly benefits us.

Let’s use technology to move towards utopias that science fiction has promised rather than the horrible dystopias that it warned us about. We have that power; we just need to use it.

I hope you have a wonderful day and create something beautiful (maybe even something with your hands that doesn’t rely on a computer or mobile device). 🙂 I’m looking forward to seeing friends after work and plotting out another story in my journal with a fountain pen. How about you?

How to be Human

How has your first week of July gone? Can you believe that we are already a week into July? So much has happened in this first week, so much good and so much bad. It is hard to even read the news with all that is happening in the world. So, without having anything really to add that hasn’t been written before, I’ll simply give you this week’s quote:

Anyone can be an idealist. Anyone can be a cynic. The hard part lies somewhere in the middle-that is, being human. Hugh MacLeod

With all the horrible things being said and done in the world, it is easy to fall into the trap of being a cynic. It is harder to fall into the trap of being an idealist, but one can and it doesn’t really help either. The middle, where there is dialogue and hard work and understanding, is where we should strive to be–where we can be human. It can be difficult and tiring, but it really is the only way that life gets better.

It’s the same with creating anything, if you really think about it. You can be an idealist or a cynic, but either one will probably mean you won’t create much no matter what your medium. Or you can be human, flawed and all. You can keep creating art and love and dialogue. And, maybe, one day, you just might create something that surprises you by how well it captures your ideas, your art.

We can’t be more than humans, but we can decide how we are humans and what it means to be human. We can decide how to use our art and our words. We have that power and I hope we decide to use it well.

P.S. If you aren’t familiar with Hugh MacLeod’s work, you should check it out. Also, his book, Ignore Everybody, is a funny, insightful read for anyone who needs a pep talk about being creative.

Solitude and Imagination

Has summer sunk into your bones yet? (Apologies to those who are living in the Southern Hemisphere and are in winter. I hope you have having a lovely, cozy season.) I can’t believe that we’re going over the hump of the year into the downward slope. It has been a busy, crazy year. But now it is summer and it’s time to slow down a bit, which is great for creativity and so I’m sharing today’s quote:

Solitude is where we learn to trust our imaginations Sherry Turkle

Summer can be a lovely time to get together more with family and friends. There’s always so much to do, but it is also a wonderful time for solitude. There is something delicious and wonderful about taking a walk by yourself in summer when the days are long, the birds are out, and the flowers are in bloom. Summer, with its heat and long days and starry nights, invites us to linger outside or half-doze in the afternoon. It is a great time to clear our head’s and make space for our imaginations to flow.

In summer, solitude is as important as time together if we want to recharge our imaginations (especially for those getting ready for NaNoWriMo, which will be here in a few short months).

So savor your summer. Make time with friends and family, but make time for yourself, too. Let the whisper of your imagination guide you and don’t forget to write (or draw) your ideas down.

I hope you have a lovely end of the month and beginning of July.

p.s. I also highly recommend reading Sherry Turkle’s entire book, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age.  Well-written research with suggestions you can actually use to connect (and to unplug) today.