Monthly Archives: May 2010

creature

Something has occurred to me about my creativity as I spend the summer in my meadow in Taos. I’ve been attempting to stuff all of it into some kind of routine, but there are times where a project is burning, and it consumes. Out goes meditation, exercise, regular meals, seeing friends. You’re in it––for me the story––in it deep, and you just want to get through it. And I’ve decided, that’s ok.

So, as I’m working right now, on a last set of revisions, I’m deep, deep inside the story, and all I want to do is work. I make myself eat. I make myself take walks when mental exhaustion sets in. I meditate, but skip it, too.  I take a day off sometimes. But I dive back in hard. Nothing else really exists for me. The time is 1661, not 2010.

However, when I’m creating the story from its first little seeds, I need routine to hold me fast. Otherwise, the task before me seems too huge. I’ll fly away like a bird and never come back. So having a routine where I get out of the house (office) and am among people feels good. I need to have lunch with friends. I need to see my grandchildren. I need to go to my exercise class. I need to meditate to keep myself from being too afraid, to stay in trust that the project will have its form. I’m in the new creativity, but it’s too undiscerned yet for me to know where I am or that it will find itself. In that case, a simple showing up and working, but then leaving before I tire myself too much, seems to do the trick. I outlast the fear and have the routine of my days to make my life feel real. The routine rocks the baby of fear to sleep. So I can press on.

So my creativity has two phases: a building phase and a constructing-like-hell phase, and each requires different rythums.

Can you add anything to that? Any insight? Any way you work? A disagreement? An affirmation, though creativity is like a thumbprint, different for each person. What an interesting creature it is and how long it takes to know it.

For writing whines, visit karleenkoen.net.

a thinner veil

I’m in Taos on a writer’s residency. I’m called a “fellow.” Somehow that impressed me. But what really impresses me is what surrounds me….such physical beauty. Toas is very different from Paris, but when I was in Paris, in its old heart, I was enchanted with the architecture, with a sense of history everywhere, with the verve every shop exhibited. How can someone not be creative here? I thought during a visit to the corner townhouse of Victor Hugo in an old square in the Marais district. Well, Taos is in the mountains of New Mexico. It has one major street. Population is about 5,000 without tourists and skiers. But its natural beauty is astounding. It sits at the bottom of a mountain owned by the Taos Pueblo. They own a lot of land, and it’s likely a good thing. Because the Anglo way would be to develop it right out of beauty. So there are meadow vistas that lead to the great mountain and its chain of sisters. My little house is set in a meadow a rich woman bought a long time ago. So I see dandelions and hummingbirds and mountain lilac and fairy primrose.…the names are poetry. Yesterday at sunset, I swear I saw some kind of hawk or falcon, not one, but about 20, skimming the wind currents. How can one not be creative here? When I sit and gaze at my meadow, a silence fills me that is so rare and so restful. Taosenos say the mountain picks who’ll stay. They say the veil between the two worlds is thinner here………………

Note: I have a whining blog about being a writer at www.karleenkoen.net. Sort of the daily grind of it when even Taos’s beauty can’t help. Just in case you wanted to know…….

magpies

I’ve been given the ultimate artist’s date. I’m on a three month writing residency in Taos, New Mexico.  All around me is meadow, and yet town is just four or five blocks away. Clover and dandelions march right up to my small front porch. Some kind of wild berry is advancing toward the side window. Towering over me are cottonwoods and Dutch elms. Apple and wild plums are everywhere, and they’re blooming. Soft petals float through the air. Birds dart here and there like they own the place. Today I watched magpies (I think) build a nest. No loose sticks on the ground for them, but a deliberate pulling of twigs from trees all around. I just peeked at the nest. It’s magnificent. The road to my house is dirt. If I look west I see mountains, some peaks still covered with snow. If I go into town, I see gallery after gallery, shop after shop offering the best and finest of crafted things. The first day I arrived I sat outside in a chair and let the crystal clear air fill me up. It felt like cells were filling, too. I have to bring the outside world in. There is no television. No internet. Some of this is frightening. It’s so much easier to distract than it is to feel. An artist’s date is an hour a week you give yourself to fill back up, to feed that within you which creates. Already it’s occurred to me that I don’t take what I do…the writing….seriously enough. By that I don’t mean ego pounding on the chest. I mean more a nurturing and feeding of it. A respecting it. An asking what it needs. There are challenges in this all, the solitude, the inner critic, the making of a day when I am the day…..

Questions I ask….How do you nurture and feed yourself? Or better yet, a question I once read that stopped me in my tracks: what feeds your soul and makes you glad to be alive?

Earlier today as I sat in a chair, deep into the revisions of the novel, a hummingbird came to the window, making that special tweet they do, and hung suspended just long enough for me to look up and see…..that fed my soul…

wild & precious life

well….a deep subject that…..I sit in my office. This will be the last day I do so. Tonight I’ll dismantle computer and printer and external drive, pack them away, set them back up mid-week in another spot. It’s very hard for me to leave this office. It’s messy. There’s art everywhere. There’s collage and too many stacks of things I mean to get to and cards from friends and photos of family and so many files to file. I feel safe in here, nested. The clutter comforts me, makes me think I might actually be authenic. I’ve had to really restrain myself not to just pack up everything in here and put it in place in Taos. What will I miss most? The wonderful prayer flags and Tao metal hand and cranes that hang down from the ceiling, my own personal mobile blessings.

There’s an exercise I often give my writing students. It’s about personal space. It’s about what surrounds one’s writing space. It’s about whether you have a writing space. Are you worth it is the essential question. We’re all worth it. It just takes some of us longer to get there.

What about your creativity space? Have you one? What does it look like?  If you don’t, why not? And wish me luck in Taos….wish me fortitude with my writing residency…….To quote Mary Oliver, who is resonating with me these days….Tell me, what is it you plan to do/with your one wild and precious life?

I feel almost a little too wild….as I leave all I know to go off and create.

getting ready

I leave soon. I leave Houston’s flat, coastal plain, the humidity that will open out for certain this week and make every breath heavy, make shirts and blouses soggy with perspiration. I leave a marvelous greening  that will be jungle by July if the summer has its usual rain. I leave routines: picking up grandchildren, going to exercise, sitting at my desk to work, lunching with friends, going to visit Mother. I leave friends who are like flowers in my life and circles of women that meet monthly or weekly to aid and comfort and listen to one another. I leave a husband who takes me for walks and makes me take my vitamins. And where do I go? West, to a writing residency in the town of Taos, which sits in a valley of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. I will be all by myself, in my casita. Near will be other writers, artists, and composers, but we are to respect each other’s solitude, the literature tells me. We are here in create.

I feel amazed that this hovers on my horizon, I who live at sea level and don’t have a grand horizon. What will I create in a solitude I’ve never known? What will I see in my one small life that normal distractions keep me from seeing? What thoughts will visit me? What dreams? What work will I do? I know something inside will be shifting, moving the chairs and tables. I’m reminded of lines of the poet Mary Oliver that I looked at tonight: And have you finally figured out what beauty is for?/And have you changed your life?

Have you? Will I?