Category Archives: Creativity

Oh, The Places You’ll Write!

This is entirely unlike the chair in my dentist’s office. I prefer this one.

Writers work in all sorts of odd places.

The actual putting of pen to paper or finger to keyboard happens in obvious places like homes, offices, libraries, airplanes, and coffee shops, but also in cars, waiting rooms, and grocery store queues, on park benches, beside pools, on outdoor trails, and beside campfires.

In addition, the part of writing that involves cogitating, planning, incubating, dreaming, and inventing can happen anywhere and often does.

Writers are encouraged to keep notebooks, or at least paper and pencil, nearby at all times to capture the thinking that happens in odd times and places.

Many writers, and I know this well because I fall prey to it too often, believe the planning needs to happen before the writing. Often, they go better hand in hand; many writers sort out their ideas through writing – it is because they need to write in order to understand that many became writers in the first place.

But, wherever it happens, the key to the incubating phase of writing is letting the subconscious work and simply keeping the conscious mind around to capture the thoughts.

As an example, this morning I had a routine dental appointment. My conscious mind needed nothing more than to keep my mouth open the right amount for the dentist to do his work. As I lay back in the chair, looking through the yellow plastic glasses I had been given to protect my eyes from the light shining into my mouth, feeling the dentist scraping and poking around, my mind wandered to the revision needs of The Red Oak.

I am composing a response to being tagged in a blog chain, The Next Big Thing, which involves a series of questions about an author’s current work in progress, and the answers to those questions collided with a conversation I had last weekend with M-E Girard and Tobin Elliott during the Writers’ Community of Durham Region Training for Writing Circle Facilitators (which is being led by the amazing team of Ruth Walker and Sue Reynolds and I highly recommend future offerings of it for folks in the Toronto/Durham region who want to lead writing circles).

M-E, Tobin, and I were talking about the way YA fantasies featuring a protagonist discovering that s/he is a paranormal being act as a metaphor for coming to terms with any number of ways that a teenager can be atypical.

Sitting in the dentist’s chair, my visual world bathed in yellow light, my brain hopped along a series of mental stepping stones: metaphor, source of inspiration for the novel, one sentence synopsis, coming out as atypical. When my thoughts landed on the far shore, I realized I had new possibilities for three major elements of the novel that have been blocking me on this revision. I need to write into them to see how they really fit, but for the first time in ages, I have a direction to go with these three issues.

So, there you have it – Writing in The Dentist’s Chair.

If you open your mind to your creative impulses, you can’t predict when or where they’ll show up.

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New Year, New Everything, Almost

Just a heads up. I am in the throes of transferring this blog to my own domain and away from wordpress.com. I hope that you, my readers, will follow me there. I promise that I will have a little something for you if you do. But none of it is quite ready yet. Until it is, I won’t be posting here very much. I had hoped to have the transfer done this week, but it is taking longer than I planned and I’m not sure I’m going to make it.

In the meantime, I am getting ready for my new drop-in InterPlay classes starting on Friday. If you live near Oshawa, Ontario, please come by and check us out.

And, if you know anybody who is looking to have some more fun in life or reconnect with lost creativity, I am taking on clients in my new Creative Living Coaching Programs. Details will be on the web soon, but in the meantime, direct any inquiries to kate@improvliving.com.

I hope 2013 is treating you well so far and I look forward to fabulous creating as we go through the year.

Cheers,

Kate

Dancing with Courage: Embracing Fear as a Guide

Mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty

Courage, from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary

We all feel fear.

Fear can be a powerful guide, but we need to interpret it properly.

Sometimes fear is a sign we have identified something dangerous and we need to proceed cautiously.

Sometimes fear arises simply because we are stretching into the unknown. What lies beyond our knowing is frightening simply because it is mysterious. There is the possibility of danger.

Reaching out of our comfort zone is uncomfortable.

I am building a new business. This is pushing me out of my comfort zone in almost every action that I take. I must face the fears that arise and work into and despite them.

For 2013, I have committed to deepening my writing, pushing myself to speak from the depths of myself, in both fiction and non-fiction. Writing fearward.

To keep moving forward, I will need courage.

Courage implies firmness of mind and will in the face of danger or extreme difficulty”

Merriam-Webster Dictionary distinguishing courage from related words.

Knowing that I am pushing into the unknown, I know that I am inviting fear. I can expect fear and resistance. To succeed, I will need to remain connected to the goal and firm in my commitments to keep moving forward. I must dance with my fears, become friends with them. I must work through or around my resistances.

My fears around my work must be my guide. If I am not feeling fear, I will know that I am allowing myself to stay in my comfort zone.

My business mentor says that fear is a sign that you are going in the right direction. I believe that is an over-generalization, but given how many ways I want to stretch myself in 2013, my fears will often arise when I am moving towards my goals.

I will need Courage.

Are you pushing yourself into new areas? How do you handle the fear that comes with moving into the unknown?

InterPlay is Coming to Oshawa

Want less stress in your life and more ease?

Want to excavate your buried creativity?

All while having fun in an affirming community?

 Try InterPlay!

Starting in January, I am offering two InterPlay classes a month. These are drop-in classes. No need to preregister. Newcomers and experienced players welcome.

InterPlay is a practice and philosophy rooted in the power of play. It’s an easy to learn, creative process that uses movement, storytelling, and voice —but does it in ways that don’t require particular skill or even nerve. The forms of InterPlay help create a life of greater ease, connection, and health. InterPlay celebrates and creates connection and community. Through this simple form of play, we learn more about ourselves and each other. It is incremental, affirming, and anyone can do it!

The Details

TGIF InterPlay: 2nd Fridays 7:15pm – 9:00pm

Friday Morning InterPlay: 4th Fridays 10:15am – 12:00pm

Location: Both Playgroups will meet at Durham Improv’s Oshawa location: 1115 Wentworth Street West, Oshawa. The space is on the 2nd Floor (above “Medigas”) and is unfortunately not wheelchair accessible

Cost: $15 per class or $50 for a 4 class pass (save $10)

For more information, contact Kate Arms-Roberts at 647-408-6133.

Holding it Together When Things Get Busy, Part III

This is Part III in a series of tools for dealing with the busy times in life. Read the first post in the series here.

Create a Form or Game

One of InterPlay’s greatest strengths is the simplicity of the physical practices. In InterPlay, we call them “forms” because they are guidelines that shape the practice and give it structure. In practice, these forms are similar to what improvisers in the tradition of Second CityTheatreSportsWhose Line Is It Anyway?, and other comedy improv groups call “games.” The forms offer a structure that allows freedom within limits. In InterPlay, the forms range from what can be accomplished with one hand or one breath to forms that require groups of people using their full bodies and voices in operatic storytelling. In comedy improv, the games often have rules like each player can only say three words at a time. From simple to complex and sometimes off into the bizarre, these rules provide a structure.

I rebel against structure all the time, but the truth is, I need it. And I never need it more than when many projects are demanding attention. But, it doesn’t have to be rigid or forced. Today, for instance is a writing day. I am only working on writing. I have several projects that require writing, so I may bounce back and forth among them or put in a few hours on each project or devote all day to one project. But, I am not working on website design, room scheduling, arranging insurance, or making phone calls. Yesterday was a day for my creativity coaching projects. Tomorrow I will focus on making Christmas gifts. It’s not a lot of structure, but it works for me. Within the day, I improvise exactly how the day will go, but within the container I have set for the day.

There is a resource that I keep meaning to investigate about form and schedule. Jeffrey Davis over at Tracking Wonder describes his new eHandbook, The Mind Rooms Guide as a method for shaping time. He asked me to review the book as part of its launch, but it arrived on my desk at a very bad time and I have done nothing more than glance at – sorry, Jeffrey.  But, I know Jeffrey’s work on helping creatives from his blog and I am looking forward to digging into it eventually. If you have already read it, please let me know what you thought of it in the comments.

Holding it Together When Things Get Busy, Part II

 This is Part II in a series of tools for dealing with the busy times in life. Read the first post in the series here.

Move Unnecessary Stuff Out of Your Body

We all get information constantly.

Unless we have a way of releasing it, we carry it around in our physical bodies. We truly carry the world on our shoulders if we aren’t careful. A physical practice for getting rid of the stuff you don’t need to carry is very useful. Teachers of young children who have embraced the song “Shake My Sillies” out as a tool for getting kids to focus in class know this. Getting the breath moving with a deep inhale followed by a sigh and shaking muscle tension out is a very simple form of Exformation. Repetitive physical activities that you can do without mental wrangling can all be exformational: washing dishes, house-cleaning, knitting, exercising, walking, running. It is a physical form of meditation – letting what you don’t need pass through you.

When we have lots of projects going on, knowing what we need can be challenging, so we tend to hold on to everything and then we burn out, suffering information overload. Using a physical practice to release, we can trust that our bodies know at some subconscious level what we can release.

One of my favourite release techniques is one I learned in acting classes. Hold your upper arms parallel to the floor. Raise your hands and clasp your hands in front of you. Take a deep breath. As you exhale, let out a big, open vowel sound while shaking your arms. The goal is to relax your jaw enough that your lower jaw shakes with your arms. It is hard. Most of us carry huge amounts of tension in our jaws. It is impossible to do this exercise without looking and sounding ridiculous, and if you do it right, your whole body vibrates and all your muscles relax.

Do you have an active practice that helps you release tension or let go of unnecessary concerns?

Holding it Together When Things Get Busy, Part I

When Things Get Busy

Have you ever found that all the projects you have on the back burner came to a boil at the same time?

It is exciting when projects move from potential to production. But, the transition can require some adjustments. When more than one project makes the switch, your routines may need more than a little tweaking. Changing habits is hard, and especially so with the pressure of imminent deadlines. How do you do manage the transition without tearing your hair out?

Everything in my life has been in overdrive in November except this blog. I have been working behind the scenes to set up several projects.

Coming in 2013, in addition to my writing and theatrical activities, I will be:

  • Training as a writing circle facilitator and setting up a new circle
  • Teaching InterPlay workshops at a new facility
  • Setting up a new business as a creativity coach

All of this started coming together at once. And although it has been an adrenaline-filled rush, it has had me drawing on all of my tools for managing a multivalent life.

If you have been reading this blog for long, you know that my favourite life-management tools come from InterPlay, improv, and theatre.

Coming up over the next few posts, I will share some of the tools I have been relying on heavily over the last month. But first, a quick look at getting started.

Show Up and Start Anywhere

It doesn’t really matter where you start, but you must start. When there are too many things that need doing, just pick something and do it. Activity builds activity. And it doesn’t matter if you could have made a better choice. Getting started will often reveal what needs to be done better than any list-making preparation.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, pick one small task you know will move a project in the right direction. Now go and do it.

Notice the Good Stuff

I have a new post on working with Emotional Intensity over at An Intense Life. Although I never say so in the post, it draws heavily on an InterPlay technique. Like all InterPlay techniques, it seems simple but has profound effects.

Notice the Good Stuff and Choose More of It

Notice the Good Stuff. It sound so simple, but for many of us it requires a huge shift of focus. Notice the good stuff. Not the peeling wallpaper, the nasty thing someone said in passing, the cleaning that didn’t happen, the new wrinkle around your eyes. Not those.

Pay attention to the beauty of a dew drop on a leaf, the smile from a stranger, getting up from the sofa without the twinge in your back you have come to expect. Pay attention to the part of your writing that works, the warmth of a cosy sweater, the email from your spouse asking if they can pick you up something as they stop at the store after work, the relaxation that follows a deep exhalation.

In almost any moment, you can find something to smile about and something to frown about. Choosing to focus on the smile doesn’t make the frown go away, but it does make the frown easier to take.

Creatives are creative because we notice lack, lack of beauty, lack of meaning, lack of clarity, lack of external things that expresses our lived reality. Our creativity springs from an impulse to improve – even when we create playfully, we are making something from nothing, which means some part of us noticed the nothing.

That part of us will always be there: the critic, the worrywart, the internal editor.

But, we can choose to see also the beauty, the love, the joy, the peace. Even if it is only for a moment.

We need those moments.

Noticing the good stuff gives us the ground from which we can create more good stuff – more stuff to fill the void we cannot help but see.

What is the good stuff you see around you right now?

Me, I hear children at the nearby school laughing as they play at recess and the soft purr of the warm cat curled up next to me. I hear my breath as I exhale through my nose – still somewhat stuffy, but clearer than this morning when I had to breathe through my mouth due to the congestion caused by my fall cold.

It is a rough day in a rough week for me. I have too much to do and I am sick and saddened by bad news in my family. But, even in my illness and my emotional pain, when I look, I can see the good stuff too.

How about you? Can you notice any good things about this moment?

When Tribes Fall Apart

Saying Goodbye

Mixel by Ankica Dragicevic

What Happens When A Community Crumbles?

In June, I wrote about how I was using the digital collage app Mixel for iPad. Unfortunately, Mixel stopped being available for download in early August. The service has remained available to current users until now, but as of this weekend, Mixel for iPad will be gone. Lascaux has released a new app, Mixel for iPhone, but that app has no appeal to me.

One of the last collages I made using Mixel.

The original Mixel featured simple community building tools. Any user could Like, Love, comment on, or remix another user’s Mixel. Because there were no limits on how many pictures one could like, users handed out Likes generously, which helped the users build a supportive community. Each user could only give out 5 Loves per week, which gave each Love increased value. Some users pushed themselves to improve, tempted by the reward of precious Love hearts under their collages; threads of collages made by different people using the same images demonstrated the unique, creative vision in each user; and many folks pulled apart collages to figure out how the creator had put them together. It was a vibrant, creative world for the people who chose to hang out there.

For many people who have been using this software, the community of Mixellers has been their tribe. Some of the most loyal users have not used their creativity in years and had found a community that celebrated their creative recovery. Several people claimed “artist” as part of their identity because they were treated as artists by the community.

The imminent disappearance of the program has prompted a range of responses.

  • Making art that expresses their sense of loss and the need to let go of this community, like the collage above by Ankica Dragicevic.
  • Celebrating the world of Mixel that was, like this video, Farewell to Mixel, by Timothy Paul Brown.
  • Attempting to recreate the community aspect in other venues: Facebook, a web-based Fan page; deviantART, etc.
  • Taking resources available within Mixel and saving them in other locations.
  • Exploring other iPad apps to discover what other tools allow similar creative processes.
  • Obsessive use of Mixel to eek the most out of it before it is gone.
  • Stopping using the software before it shut down, not looking for alternatives, grieving and moving on.

None of these options will replace the complete package of community and tools that were available through Mixel for iPad. Each former user is finding their own path away from this community. Some will stay in touch in other venues. For how long, though? Time will tell.

Communities collapse for many reasons.

Have you been part of a community that collapsed? How have you moved forward?

Giftedness, Creativity, and Storytelling – and Imposter Syndrome

It is the International Week of the Gifted 2012. Around the blogosphere, advocates for gifted adults and gifted children are writing about giftedness with a particular enthusiasm and energy. The World Council for Gifted and Talented Children is encouraging the use of International Week of the Gifted to pave the way for the International Year of Giftedness and Creativity 2013 with the theme “Stories and Story Sharing”.

Giftedness, creativity, and the power of sharing our stories are three of my passions. I feel compelled to do something, organize something, create something.

If I had my druthers, I would organize a series of workshops, offered to gifted children and their parents, using the storytelling tools of InterPlay to help them tell their own stories, hear each other’s stories, and share them through a public performance. I have the training to do this, but I am not sure I have the time, and I definitely worry about whether I have the gumption.

You see, I suffer from the great gifted woman’s disorder: Imposter Syndrome. Essentially, Imposter Syndrome involves constantly feeling like a fraud, like you are not as competent as people around you, and as they think you are. There is an accompanying fear of being “found out” and a lack of willingness to put oneself forth as a resource.

In my case, it manifests as a reluctance to set up workshops because I fear no one will come and that if they do come, they will feel like they have wasted their money. But, I know from past experience that I am a good teacher and a good director. When I lead InterPlay workshops, people enjoy them and many folks want to know how they can experience more.

Lisa Rivero’s article Who Do You Think You Are? Re-Thinking the Imposter Syndrome introduced me to the idea that the feelings of being an imposter may be a sign that one is heading in the right direction and that one should lean into the fear and work through it rather than letting it stop you. That idea resonates with me.

If you had asked me when I was 14, what work I wanted to do when I grew up, I would have said I wanted to run a theatre and associated theatre school. A few years later, I saw a performance by teenagers of monologues they had written about their own lives and was struck by the immense power of people telling their own stories in performance. I spent the next 15 years working in theatre, remembering the power of the autobiographical performances, yearning to be part of such things, and yet not doing any work in that area. Until I found InterPlay.

When I discovered InterPlay, I was teaching a class called Sacred Bodies, Sacred Play at Starr King School for the Ministry. I had developed a collection of tools for triggering spiritual experiences through physical play and creativity and was sharing them in the class I was teaching. The overlap between the forms I had discovered myself and was teaching in that class and the forms of InterPlay were uncanny.

But, I had not been formulating my system into a teachable tool for very long and Cynthia Winton-Henry and Phil Porter had been working on InterPlay for decades. InterPlay was in many ways simply further along the path than I was. More than that, InterPlay had developed the tools for combining the physical body, the spirit of play, and improvised performance into truth-telling performances sharing deep stories, thereby joining my play-based work with the power of performance autobiography that I had witnessed so many years before. It is no wonder that I started the InterPlay Teacher Training Program immediately after finishing my first class.

After completing the training, I didn’t dive right into teaching. For good reason. I was moving internationally while pregnant with triplets. I was otherwise occupied.

It is now time for me to start offering classes and workshops.

And, I feel the fear of the Imposter Syndrome surrounding me, telling me I am heading in an important direction, considering a meaningful path, and must take action.

I am not an Imposter. I am well trained for this work. But, sometimes, I have to remind myself of these facts.

  • I have been leading rehearsals and teaching performance as a director for 25 years.
  • I have been organizing rehearsals as a stage manager for longer.
  • I have organized events with substantial budgets.
  • I have produced theatrical productions and special performances for half-a-dozen theatre companies.
  • My InterPlay training was with the founders of InterPlay, including performance classes.
  • I have performed in several InterPlay performances as a dancer/storyteller.
  • When I participate in InterPlay Leaders Events, I am recognized as a peer by leaders with all levels of experience.
  • My understanding of the power of InterPlay as a storytelling tool has deepened through my writing about InterPlay.

I am hopeful that I will have time in 2013 to lead workshops for gifted children and their parents to share their stories. My family is going through some changes that will take some months to settle out, and until they do, I will not know what 2013 is going to look like.

But, I am committed to being a part of the world-wide community of people telling the stories of gifted people, sharing what our experience is. If the performance project looks too big, I will focus on telling more of my story through my writing.

Gifted people are identifiable because we are outside the norm. Sharing our stories helps us connect in a world where we too often feel isolated. I can be part of enriching that connection by sharing my own stories. One way or another, I will be creating work supporting the International Year of Giftedness and Creativity 2013 on the theme of Stories and Story-Sharing.

I hope you will join me in 2013 by either telling your own stories or finding other people’s stories to witness.

For a list of other posts related to International Week of the Gifted, click here

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