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Kate Arms-Roberts is Moving!

It is official. My new site is now live. 

What you will find there is an expansion of what I have been doing here.

  • An ongoing blog about InterPlay, writing, play, story-telling, and finding meaning in the world – continuing what I began here
  • Information about classes I am leading. These include InterPlay-related classes, writing groups, and acting classes
  • Information about the Creativity Coaching I am offering
  • Information about writing and editing services I am offering

Please join me over at www.katearmsroberts.com

If you subscribe to get the blog by email from the new site, there is an audio-recording of an InterPlay warm-up as a thank you for moving with me to my new space. It is a 15-minute introduction to InterPlay, and I hope you will subscribe and listen to it.

Please come on over to www.katearmsroberts.com and check it out.

 

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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 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.

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

Does Your Muse Have a Groove?

For the past year, I have been struggling with the world of my novel. As it is currently structured, the story starts in a realistic world and a parallel fantastical reality is revealed to the reader and the protagonist as the work proceeds. In theory, it works. My intellect loves it. But my Muse is not impressed. The realistic sections of the book aren’t working and I hate writing them.

Looking at the pictures I have been creating using Mixel, I had what Holly Lisle calls a Muse-bomb – an explosion of insight from the creative source.

Is this an image created by a Muse who hangs out in realism?

What about this one?

Or this?

I think not.

When she critiqued it earlier this year, one of the comments Charlotte Rains Dixon made about the opening pages of the book was that she wanted to know why a character overreacted to a car accident; it was the kind of question that made her want to turn the pages beyond what I shared with her.

This, my friends, is exactly what the beginning of a story should do.

But, the reason I had given this character for such an extreme reaction was the sort of heavy, gritty, realistic, trauma-related reason that appeals to people who like issue-oriented YA. And it wasn’t working for me.

So, last night, I asked my Muse to justify the reaction to the accident in a way that fits with the fantastical elements of the book.

And she came through. Big time.

She gave me an accident witnessed by the character some years ago that involved the shape-shifting near-immortals that populate the world and created PTSD, fear of being crazy, self-doubt, self-censorship, and willingness to believe in an alternate magical reality in one moment.

I can work with that, all of it. It fits beautifully into subplots and plot twists that already exist. And I am excited about it.

I had been asking my Muse to work in my analytical world and she balked. Meeting her half-way is clearly a better approach.

Does your creative imagination have a strong suit, a world view, a groove? What happens when you work outside that range?

Mixing Things Up

I have been busy not writing.

Partly, this is end of school year stuff with the kids, but mostly, this is inviting my muse to be more daring before I head back into revisions. I had been feeling penned in by the synopsis I wrote of my novel for the class I took this spring. And I had lost the fun. So, I stepped back from requiring my muse to deliver material associated with the synopsis and asked her to play with the ideas that were what inspired me to write the book in the first place. She has been very obliging. Ideas are flowing again and I am looking forward to diving back into the writing.

Bubbles and Butterflies

I have been anticipating writing without getting my butt in the writing chair. This is delicious but needs to stop.

I had to take time away from writing recently because I am directing again.

Directing is my creative home: my decades of theatrical experience have taught me enough that I know what I am doing and how to do it. Each production is different and the challenges presented by working with this particular group of people on this specific play are unique enough to be interesting while rarely feeling unmanageable. Directing is never easy, but I can do it with relative ease. I am in the middle of auditions now. And then, there will be a few rehearsals scattered through the summer before the production process starts up at full speed after Labour Day.

My goal is to complete the next revision of the novel before Labour Day.

To meet this goal, I will have to avoid my latest creative distraction, an iPad app.

Mixel

Mixel is an image-mixing environment. The process is like taking digital musical samples and remixing them into a new musical piece, but with pictures. You can use provided images or upload your own.

Wonder

There is also a social-media option. You can create private or public images. Public images are available for comment and re-mixing. Entire threads of pictures created through remixing a set of images provide a glimpse of how several people have responded to the same images.

The interface is simple, though not completely intuitive.

I have not connected with people I actually know on Mixel. All of my interactions are based entirely on the images that appeal to me. It is an interactive, visual experience.

And my muse loves playing with it.

Check it out. Remix some pictures. I’d love to know what you think of the program.

The Power of Unrelated Ideas

My experience is that I have never done well writing a story from one idea or developing a character from one source. Only when I put together two previously unrelated ideas or characters do they come to life; it is in the process of connecting the unconnected that my stories grow.

Orson Scott Card, Characters & Viewpoint

This quote came to mind yesterday as I watched my children play. They were wildly and chaotically mixing-up inspirational sources.

When I first saw them, they had transformed the manipulatives that I use for teaching math (card-stock base-ten blocks, vase gems, dice, and coins) into medicine for our Roboraptor. I was somewhat put out to see they had destroyed many of my hand-made thousands cubes in the process, but I noted that by filling them with the smaller pieces, they had created a play version of hard-shelled pharmaceutical capsules.

The Pink Pirate

Later in the day, my daughter was playing “Pirates of the Caribbean,” which she knows only from a single movie trailer. She had donned a black vampire cape and her pirate bandana, hot-pink with a skull and crossbones. With a small, plastic dagger tucked into her waistband, she was commanding the motley crew of her Playmobil Egyptian ship to search for treasure according to the map she had drawn.

In both cases, the play was deep, engaging, unstructured, and inspired. The elements of craft that could be used to transform either of those games into a short story, for instance, would clean up the edges, and remove some of the unmatched elements to streamline the imagery.

I found myself wondering whether in the name of craft, I had lost some of the wild creative impulses that my daughter was demonstrating.

What do we sacrifice when we transform the wild, messy realm of life into art? Can we stay open to the mixing of seemingly unrelated ideas and still use craft to form cohesive work? The quote from Orson Scott Card not only says “yes we can,” but also “perhaps we must”.

What do you think?

Blogging for Self-Discovery

“The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.”
― Gustave Flaubert

After I finished writing yesterday’s post, inspired by the question of whether I wanted more commentors or more readers, this Gustave Flaubert quote crossed my path. Not for the first time, I realized that I blog to discover what I believe.

I used to think people who wrote journals must use them in some way to clarify for themselves what they believe. And maybe they do. I have never found that I know what to do with a private journal other than dump all my mental tape loops onto paper in the hope of finding a way out of circular thinking.

But blogging is different.

Why?

Because blogging is public.

The process of transforming an initial impulse to write about a topic into a blog post requires me to clarify my thoughts. My internal prompt is often a gut feeling or an emotional response to something. Emotions are not skilled with words. To translate a physical emotional response into a form an audience can read, I need to use words. Recruiting my internal editor as a collaborator, I can craft writing that came from my heart but is sensible to my mind. As I edit, I clarify the ideas for myself and my readers at the same time. Blogging about my questions allows me to bring theory and experience together, letting my heart and mind work together to show me what they have taught me.

Once I have published a post, comments often lead me to further reflection. Comments can point out flaws in my argument, exceptions I hadn’t considered, alternate approaches, or related ideas. I have been known to change my mind or refine my understanding in response to insightful comments.

I learn the most from the comments that make me defensive. Because the web is a permanent public forum, responding from the depths of negative emotion can be dangerous, leading to regrettable words on the page that can’t be disowned. Taking the time to formulate a response that gets past the initial emotion forces me to confront the source of the emotion, leading to greater self-awareness.

In order for blogging to be a deep tool for self-discovery, I write about the things that confuse me, the places I am growing, the things that matter to me. This blog has become focused on perennial interests of mine: art, creativity, play, and meaning-making. Of all the art and creative play I engage in, my writing is the media in which I feel I have the furthest to grow, so writing is the primary art I blog about. If I ever reach a point where I am satisfied with my writing, I am sure there will be a new creative endeavour that I struggle with, and I will probably write about that. But for now, writing is the sweet spot, the growing edge, the place of potential.

Do you write to find out what you believe? If so, do you find it more effective to write for your eyes only or publicly?

Making Space To Write

Our new house lacks space for me to dedicate as a creative space of my own. Each previous house I have lived in since returning to writing has had a room that we set aside as my office – and, in every house, I have failed to write in it.

We fell for this living room, so we bought the house.

It turns out I prefer writing on my laptop in a more comfortable space, away from the mental constrictions that arise when I place myself in an office environment.

We have desks, tables, filing cabinets, etc. for the business end of things. But I have no dedicated writing space.

What I do have is a writing routine that I am working to establish: rising early in the morning, making a single cup of coffee and taking it to the living room, soul writing, and then moving into my work.

This morning, writing as the sun rose, I realized the sofa I have chosen for my writing space literally provides a window into the natural cycles of the year.

The view from the sofa as I finished writing this morning.

I have long contemplated embracing an environmental spiritual practice described by Star Hawk in her book The Earth Path, a practice of developing a relationship with one specific natural element by spending time looking at it every day, but I have never managed to build that discipline into my day.

From my newly established writing spot, I can see the central tree in our garden. Daily writing where I can see one specific natural element as it changes through time will incorporate two spiritual practices in one ritual.

It is not the closed retreat space I always thought I wanted; it is the writing space I need.

How are you supporting your creative needs?

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