Miss Pelican's Perch

Looking at my World from a Different Place

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Standing Strong on my Own Two Feet: AW Check-in Week 8 (AKA Giving It Up)

underwood typewriterThis is my last check-in. I JUST CANNOT STAND THIS PROGRAM.

Not surprisingly, once again we have a chapter where the author entitles it as one way, makes a goal statement out of line with that title and then offers a discussion unrelated to either the title or the stated goals:  restoring Strength, managing time, surviving criticism?  Which is it?  Beats the heck out of me.

That being said, the bulk of the chapter has to do with the criticisms creatives receive that block the creative process.   I agree that one cruel, thoughtless statement about a creative work can absolutely destroy the confidence of a creative, but it is unrealistic to think that we will never have that happen to us so we best get used to pulling on our big-girl panties and dealing with it.

As much as I love getting positive affirmations of my work (please keep them coming), I don’t mind receiving criticism if it is warranted and kindly offered.   Such criticism usually makes me dig in my heels and do an “I’ll-show-you” re-write.  As a result I will usually end up producing a better work.   It doesn’t matter if the criticism comes from another creative friend or from a college instructor.  I’ll take the criticism, if it is fair, and do something with it.

In this chapter, the author shows quite a bit of disdain for academia in general and academic criticism in particular.  She writes that the “Ivory Power” has done more to cripple creatives than anything else.   I cannot hold with that view.  Yes, I had a few college professors who I thought were not being fair, but for the most part, I respected their knowledge and opinions.  For example, my usual process for writing college papers was to take a general idea, develop a tentative thesis, and research it.  If the research supported the statement, I would continue with it and write the paper; however, if the research proved my thesis wrong, then I would change it to fit the research.   However, one semester in my undergraduate program, a professor insisted that we turn in an outline first and it was against this outline that the paper was graded.   In other words, I could not change my thesis midstream; I had to stick with the outline.   As much as I wailed and moaned about him “quenching my creative process”,  I did thorough and proper research FIRST and then CAREFULLY crafted my thesis statement.   Not only did this make me a better researcher, I ended up with a superior paper that allowed me to get an A in the course.  Furthermore, this paper became the seed for my master’s level research paper I wrote a few years later.

So what does this have to do with my weekly AW check-in?   Not much.   Because of the incongruities of the chapter’s stated purpose and the author’s disdain for the environment that ultimately made me a better writer, I closed down and did not work the program much this week.   I only did a couple unenthusiastic sets of morning pages and at the time of this writing, no artist date.

The good news is that towards the end of the week, I had an unexpected second wind sweep in, and I came up with an idea for a series of blog posts to be written and posted in April.  Maybe the key for recovering MY sense of strength is to throw off advice that doesn’t work for me and make my own strong artistic stand.

My intention two months ago when I started this program was to overcome a block.  I think I have.   Could it have been from doing the required morning pages? Going on the artists dates?  Maybe.  I’ll give the program some credit for that. But I think it had more to do with my own resolve and  commitment to the process

And I can’t give any book or self-help maven any credit for that.


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Finally, A Useful Insight: AW Check-In Week 7

imageI admit I was harsh last week — and most of the previous weeks — in my check-in(s).   This week, though,  I must congratulate the author for providing some material that has given me a useful insight.  In fact, I have to admit that she may have changed the course of my creative endeavors.

The theme of chapter 7 is “recovering a sense of connection,”  with the goal of “excavating areas of genuine creative interest as you connect with your personal dreams.”   The way  one connects with the inner creative self is doing the morning pages and going on artist’s dates.  This gets one past the obstacles that so treacherously cause one to trip.

I do find that writing the morning pages the first thing after waking helps me to tap into some sources of unconscious inspiration.  One of the tasks in this chapter was to create an “autobiographical collage”.  I did a collage of found images early in the week shortly after reading the chapter.  It depicts a hand rising from a cave reaching towards the sky.   This illustrates my unconscious material coming to light.

The author also discusses two obstacles in connecting to inspiration and making subsequent creative output:  perfectionism and jealousy.   Although I feel compelled to apply my best efforts to any undertaking, there is a freedom in knowing I can never be perfect.  There is no perfect writing or art piece I can create so I might as well just relax and enjoy the process.  Similarly, trying to outshine another creative is a manifestation of jealousy.   I may strive to create in a particular genre or medium I don’t really enjoy or excel because I want to be like some other writer or artist.

So what is the useful insight for me?  I don’t really enjoy the novel writing process; I’m just jealous of the celebrity, great or small, that being a novelist may garner for fifteen minutes.  I would much rather continue doing what I’ve always done: blogging, writing poems, essays and the occasional short story, and maybe arting about things that interest me.  Coming into this awareness, I am released from the tyranny of perfecting a genre I don’t enjoy.  But who knows?  Maybe that release will end up allowing me to create something truly spectacular.

In other words, I am learning to enjoy the ride towards an unknown destination.

ljg 2017



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On a Date with a Bunch of Poets

About twenty years ago, Bill Moyers had a series on PBS called Language of Life.  The series showcased poets from a wide and diverse range of backgrounds.  When I first viewed this series so many years ago, I discovered that poetry was meant to be heard — and even watched– not merely read.   I was able to find this series recently on DVD.  My artist’s date this week was to binge-watch this series again while home recovering from a bad cold.  Unfortunately, there are not many clips on YouTube from this series.  Fortunately, though, one clip I did find is of the late poet Sekou Sundiata performing his lyrical and powerful poem “Blink Your Eyes”.    I want to share this poem with you.  Hopefully you can hear what I hear and enjoy it:


The Cosmic Santa Claus: AW Check-In, Week 6

For me, to live abundantly has more to do with enjoying the non-tangibles that provide a quality of life than it does money or things. Not so for the author. In chapter 6 she devotes several pages on how to enjoy luxurious living and acquiring money. She even draws God into the equation. Just ask the universe for whatever you want and you will get it. Want that all-expense paid trip to Europe? Done. Want to blow off the day job so you can go and pursue your art form? God’s got you covered.

Here is what I believe about abundant living: yes, God cares. He provides all my needs. He even delights in giving me my desires. But he will not give me anything that is not ultimately for my good, or conflict with what I truly need. God is not some sort of cosmic Santa Claus. He is more interested in providing me with peace, love, and wisdom than things. The day job IS his means of providing for my needs. Abundant living is being content in whatever state I find myself and being thankful for it — not whether I should buy myself fresh raspberries in the winter just because I deserve the self-pampering.

For me this chapter was a waste of time. I don’t know how I’m going to get through the next six if they all are like this one.

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Playtime and Possibilities: AW Check-in Week 5

playtime I’ve been playing around all week rather than working on any serious writing.

Please understand:  I did write every day, mostly my morning pages or entries in other dedicated journals.  And I have continued chipping away on the review of the novella I wrote five years ago.   Oh, yes, and I did several blog posts this week.  However, I have spent a good portion my time outside of the day-job fooling around on social media or playing with my drums and other noisy toys.  My artist’s date this week was an hour on Tuesday night doing a strum stick tutorial.

The theme of this week’s AW chapter is ‘recovering a sense of possibility.”   It is an exploration of what is possible for our lives.   Well, anything is possible, says the author, if we are just open to it.  We just need to get “unstuck” and out of the way.  And maybe for me “getting out of the way” is just taking a little vacation from the work of serious writing and having a bit of playtime.   Most of my creative interests this week centered on rhythm, melody, therapeutic music-making —  all requiring a certain amount of banging around on things.  (Did you know that my car’s steering wheel is about the same size as my frame drum?).  I was like a kid ditching my homework for the playground.

Ah, but here’s how that pays off:  In playing, one engages the imagination, and imagination is essential for one is to envision possibilities.  And where we have vision, we have eventual reality.

In other words, a playful spirit brings possibilities to life.

A task described in this week’s chapter, a task to assist us in envisioning possibilities, is to make a list of things we would do if we had unlimited resources.    Here’s what I imagined:

  • Hire a personal trainer to get myself into shape.
  • Buy a great, big honkin’ djembe and learn to play it.
  • Go back to school and become proficient in a foreign language
  • Become boutique farmer growing organic veggies and fruits
  • Turn that wretched novella into a novel.

One or two of these actually might be do-able under the present circumstances.

I will keep playing and see what happens.

ljg (c) 2017





Chopping Onions, Integrity, and the Importance of Practice: AW Check-in Week 4

Whoosh!!  That sound you hear is me blowing away my original plan to write another check-in based on all the ways I fulfilled (or not) the directives of the A.W. author.  Instead, I offer this short and hopefully painless post.

The most basic summary possible of Chapter 4 is this: Deliberate reading deprivation leads to facing a “changing self-definition” which leads to “reclaiming a sense of integrity” which breaks up the creative block.  Good advice.  I get it. Thanks, J.C.

On the contrary, I did read this week.  I read a lot.  I read the work I started five years ago and began developing edits and expansions to it.  I wrote blog posts exploring integrity and the importance of being honest.  I forced myself to write even though some days I didn’t feel like it.  Sometimes my morning pages were less than a page long.  I showed my integrity as a writer by engaging in the practice of writing.  I cannot stress enough the importance of practice.

I’ll let this film clip demonstrate:

You must practice even if it makes you cry.

ljg (c) 2017

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Miss Pelican’s Day Off

imageBetween my day job, personal obligations, and daily chores and administrivia, I do not often get a “day off,” a totally unstructured day where I just  go with the flow and do whatever I want, whenever I want.    I was able to have such a day.

    • I turned off my alarm and woke up naturally this morning.
    • I  enjoyed a slow cup of coffee and did some journal writing.
    • I then spent some time in the library just goofing around the way I used to do as a kid.
    • I  then spent some time in a bookstore just golfing around the way I used to do as a teenager.
    • Not far from the bookstore is an old fashioned stationary store, surprisingly tucked inside a Japanese supermarket.   I played around with their pen selection and bought one specifically for journaling.
    • I stopped  at an Indian takeout restaurant for a couple of samosas. Oh my.
  • imageI decided I needed a bit of exercise so I went to the mall, of all places, and walked from one end to the other and back. Of course I had to stop and  try on hats. No I did not buy any this time.

All of this was just a prelude to what I really wanted to do today: I wanted to join a drum circle. I have been thinking about it for a while but I was a little intimidated. Did I play well enough? How friendly with the members be?   I worried for nothing. I had a blast!

Ljg 2017


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Power and Anger: AW Check-In #3

penI can’t say that my experience with chapter 3 was any better than my experience with chapter 2. This week dealt with reclaiming power, whatever that means. There is a lot of discussion in this chapter about anger, guilt, shame, and other emotions. The author says that this week I should be feeling these strong emotions. She is correct. I’ve been in a pretty bad mood this week; however, I don’t think it has anything to do with writing. It has everything to do with dealing with life and reality this week.

The author writes that anger is the fuel for action and thus to regaining my sense of personal power. She writes that instead of using anger in destructive ways, I should channel it into action. I assume she means anger fuels the action that empowers my creativity. (It is hard to follow her train of thought here). Since I do not want my writing to be laden with a lot of anger and negativity, I’m going to just pitch that whole notion away. A wise person told me, just last night, that true power comes from not trying to control people and situations, but instead from controlling our reactions to them. This takes anger right out of the equation regarding my creativity.

In answer to the weekly questions, I wrote morning pages every day except a couple of times they were not quite three pages. My artist date was going hat shopping, but I also engaged in some little mini dates with myself involving music-making and dance.

Of course, I completely ignored her task list and engaged in my own. I continued organizing both my computer and physical writing notebooks and reviewed some old writing projects that I had abandoned. I zeroed in on what I have labeled a “pre-draft” of a novel I wrote five years ago for NanoWrimo. I asked a couple of writing buddies to read the first chapter and let me know if the opening grabbed them. I created a bullet list of tasks in my notebook which includes re-reading the entire pre-draft and making notes of both substantial and minor changes. I may keep working with this piece, rewriting it completely, or I may only need a few minor changes and a little more fleshing out, or I may abandon it once again. The main thing is that I am writing and moving forward.

You might be wondering by now that if I so dislike this program then why am I continuing to engage in it. That is because I committed to it and I’m going to see it through.  I doubt that I will ever do The Artist’s Way again, but at least I can say that I did it once.

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The Mad Hatter Goes on a Date

This weekend, partly because it was cold and partly because I was having a bad hair day, I wore a hat to a tea and then to church. I donned a black wide-brimmed hat I had purchased on a whim last year but never had the nerve to wear. To my surprise I received a number of compliments. Curiously, many were from people at church who had hardly ever spoken to me in the past. I have to admit that my steps gained some confidence and I stood a bit straighter as a result.

The next day as I was working in my journal on the theme of regaining a sense of personal power (chapter three in the Artist’s Way) my writing sequed to a stream-of-consciousness discussion of hats.

What?  Well, it did not take long for me to see the symbolic connection between hats and power. I wear a hat like a queen wears a crown, perhaps?  Hmm.

So, I took my inner artist, who is need of a little confidence-boosting, on a date yesterday and we went hat shopping. No, I’m was not the Dowager Countess shopping for a tiara — just an ordinary creative looking for a really cool red fedora.


Ljg (c). 2017


The Artist’s Way Week 2 Check-In: Just Do It


I have reached the point in reading the book where, in my past attempts at it, I was tempted to slam shut the cover or pitch it across the room. It is not because of what the author writes, it is how she writes. Chapter 2 is titled “Recovering a Sense of Identity,” and opens with this: “This week addresses self-definition as a major component of creative recovery. You may find yourself drawing new boundaries and staking out new territories as your personal needs, desires, and interests announce themselves. The essays and tools are aimed at moving you into your personal identity, a self-defined you.” (Cameron, 41)

The problem is that it doesn’t– or at least I’m not seeing this in the text. Oh, there is useful, insightful material on writers’ block, “poison playmates, ” “crazymakers,” and other hindrances to the creative process, but if these issues serve to help us self-identify as creatives, then the author did not do a good job in bringing her arguments back to support her thesis. If I were my high school English teacher, this chapter would have gone back to the author with red comments and a request to rewrite it.

But this post is not a book review. It is a review of my progress in developing a healthy identity as a creative person. So to that end, this past week I created my own task list. This week I simply did what writers do. I engaged in activities that made me write, prepare to write or edit what I did write.

I dug back into my files and pulled out storylines and character profiles I had started and then abandoned. I set up both computer and physical project notebooks for my research and development. I also wrote several short blog posts this week.

Yes, I did stick to the program inasmuch as I did my morning pages every day, went on an artist date (see the post on setting up my creative corner) and by reviewing and writing out creative affirmations.

I can give the author some credit: since I started the program a couple of weeks ago I have seen some movement and breakup of creative blockages,. However, I wonder if this has as much to do with my own work and commitment to my creative recovery. We’ll see.  In the meantime, I’m just going to do it!