Tuesday, November 15, 2011


A few posts back I wrote about creativity blocks, and today I'm writing to kvetch a bit about "techno-block", the reason I haven't written for a while.
I enthusiastically looked into the new design possibilities here in Blogger, and decided to take a leap. I switched the format of this blog to a spiffy and colorful format. But when I clicked the bookmark I usually use to write new posts, I saw that the blog, in the new format, was still opening to an old post featuring my photo with my dear friend Morrie Turner. Why is it still doing that, I wondered. Next I tried going to the Dashboard to make a new post, but I couldn't access the Dashboard.  So I went to the Blogger website, went through the questions forum, scrolled the pictures of Google Blogger employees having fun at a recent conference, and perused the sidebar of subjects that had nothing to do with my problem. What I hoped to find was a Help link. No luck.
Frankly, I'm not even sure how I got to this place where I was able to revert the format (I think) to the old pattern. So, not every block in creativity is in one's head, and the most important element of success in such cases is perseverance! Stay tuned, I am bound to be victorious, and hope to create some interesting new posts in the near future.
I had some very good feedback regarding the creativity block material, if you have a topic or question you'd like to see here, please let me know. I'd love to hear from readers.   Thanks!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Stop the Block

Sometimes  Creative Block expresses itself with a bunch of noise inside your head. Especially in this technologically oppressive age, the brain often finds itself overwhelmed with input. We lose sight of how many messages and flashing lights are constantly coming at us. The brain and the eyes are the organs that are constantly fielding that input (imagine a soccer or hockey goalie constantly bombarded by balls or pucks from the other team). Just in the course of an ordinary day the whole sensory system gets exhausted. So imagine what happens when you sit down with your sketch pad or your drafting table or your computer program and it's nine at night, and you decide you want to create something.
     What your sensory system needs is a break. It needs you to STOP. You feel that fatigue (I know you do), but you've finally got a little time. The house is quiet. The kids are asleep. But the body is not a machine, and your mind lives all over your body. You can stave off a wrestling match with The Creative Block, by knowing when not to work.
 Have you ever looked at a guitar at rest? Or a violin, or any musical instrument. They are beautiful. The shape, the wood, the detailing, all those aspects of a musical instrument make it a work of art even before it makes music. Well, you are just the same.        Your whole physical being is a work of art; it has beauty and value even when at rest. You don't have to do anything. And, in fact, to get the most beautiful 'music' from your instrument, you need to give it a rest.
Repose and recreation are ways to catch up with yourself. Time for the body to recover from neural bombardment and the stress of urban and suburban life. Take time to meditate, watch the sky, walk, or dance.
I have worked a good deal with teenagers. When they begin to paint or draw, I first see a reflection of the culture around them. Words, symbols, images from advertising or product designs, come right out of them and onto the clean white page. When I get to work with them in small groups I have a chance to ask questions like: What does this symbol or word have to do with your life? If I ask directly to see something that is not so commercial, something more personal, they don't know what to "come up with". Amazingly they access the personal by reflecting on poetry, which carries a lyric message across time, and lends itself to personal visual expression. Whether it's Rumi or Emily Dickinson, even young people who live in a hip hop world respond to the truth in poetry with their own truth.

So this gives you two more weapons against The Block: Know when to stop and rest (this means put away your creative tools and do something else). Then immerse yourself in the art of others. The two activities actually require the same thing: disconnect from your urges and drives. Lose yourself in the world around you for a while. When you go back to your "drawing board" begin by reflecting on someone else'swork. Let their work lead you to reflect authentically without reference to common symbols and slogans. In that reflection you will find yourself.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Busting the Block

In the last blog I started talking about out-smarting the dreaded Creativity Block. We all know that The Block is a tough customer, it takes more than one approach to get rid of the thing. So in this posting I'll pass along another technique that works for me.
The graphic to the left is a good example of playful improvisa- tion, something I use whenever I'm feeling like the creative flow is dammed up. This piece is a collage of paper and bark with pencil and tempera paint. There's a little incorporated message cut from a magazine at the bottom, it says "When one door closes they say another one opens."
I remember playing with all the pieces for quite a while, rearranging them, adding and subtracting things that I had cut and torn. It helps to have a lot of things to work with. I collect interesting images and quotations from old magazines and keep them in big manila envelopes. So when I feel the shadow of The Block cross my path, I pull out my saved clippings and open a sketch pad. This piece wound up looking really nice, but a lot of collages meander into being over a long time and are often over done. It takes patience and playfulness. This particular piece taught me the importance of space in compositions and in my attitude. The important thing is to become deeply involved in the process.  Keep breathing consciously and get rid of the idea of "making" something.  
I usually turn the page (or canvas) over, looking at it from every direction. Doing that stops me from making a commitment too soon. It also let's me catch myself being clever. You don't want to end up with something cute or cliché. The idea is to keep risking. Keep throwing out the easy answer. Instead of making a piece that "reads" easily, make a piece that presents a riddle or a Buddhist koan. You don't need to please anyone. Use the improvisation process to have fun and knead your creative energy into a pliable state.
How about dealing with a Life Block?
This blog is dedicated to having a creative life, so the obvious question that comes to mind is: How does dealing with a block in the artistic creative process help with the rest of life? Here's where I find journaling to be really important. The collage gives me the process of turning a chaotic jumble of images and words into something organized. It's hard to do that with life's elements unless we use some symbolic form to help us. That's where the journal can be a great ally. Sometimes I can make lists, or draw some shape that feels appropriate to what's going on in my life. I can draw a circle on the page and write down all the things that are going on inside the circle. Looking at it that way, I can then ask myself, "What do I need to take out of the circle to make things workable?" Then I can do that visually and see the situation changing.
My coach's training has taught me to develop many ways to help clients improvise seeing and understanding their life situation. But I recommend journaling as one of the best places to improvise solutions to creative blocks that happen in life. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Ubiquitous Creative Block

The whole world knows about the ogre that haunts creative people, the monster known as Creativity Block. Even people who have never written a story or a poem, even people who've never picked up a brush or a pencil know about the dreaded Block. You'll be glad to know that we don't need a super hero to pulverize this nemesis into Creativity Block Powder. We can defeat this enemy ourselves. Yes, we can. I know what I'm talking about because I did it, and once I developed a new way of thinking and working, I never saw The Block again. It didn't happen overnight, of course. It took a lot of self-examination to get rid of the pesky thing.
It's important to understand the ammo required to destroy the Block. What worked for me was a lot of self-examination. You see we each construct The Block in our own creative way. That's right, you may hear echos of other voices in The Block, but its power comes from your belief in it. For some people the block may be a wall of bricks (individual self-negating, judgmental messages neatly cemented together). For others it is a stone monolith of voices and experiences, fears, and self-doubt. No one builds The Block for you, and no one can take it down for you.
In the next few blogs I'd like to dissect The Block, and let others see what worked for me. I hope that through my teaching, writing, and coaching I have helped other people dismantle their blocks. This blog is one more place where I can hope to do some good.
Looking back on my own battle with The Block, I recognize that an important contributing factor was a paradox of expectations. In order for me to really value what I was creating I had to see that it was exceptional. I had absorbed that ridiculous myth about great artists being discovered like Lana Turner sipping a soda in Schrafts. Believe me, if you have that "star is born" I'm-gonna-be-discovered mythology in your head, wash it out now. The world recognizes Pablo Picasso was an artistic genius, the artistic giant of the twentieth century, but Pablo did not come out of the womb wielding a paint brush, instead he was taught from infancy about art by his father who was not only an artist but an art teacher. He surrounded little Pablo with the finest art and instruction from the time he could hold a crayon. In fact, the boy skipped normal child forms of expression and spent his lifetime trying to attain it. The same was true of Frank Lloyd Wright probably the greatest architect of his time. His parent's groomed him to be an architect, selecting the creative tools for that profession and surrounding their son with them.
Most of us were not so fortunate. Trying to value your work by comparisons to those giants is only going to add mortar to the Block's blocks. Wanting to be famous as an artist or in any field is not a serious creative goal, it is an ego trip. Living a creative life isn't about fame or recognition of any kind, it is an adventure of the spirit and the intellect engaged with the world, its creatures, animate and inanimate.
Someone once said of Picasso after observing him looking at a painting, "It's a wonder there was anything left on the canvas." His eyes were voracious consumers of the world around him. And that is first weapon in the destruction of The Block: a passionate hunger to see the world around you. Seeing becomes so important that drawings become authentic recordings of that seeing. Here is the key: the experience of seeing becomes more powerful and important than the product. This helps the artist disconnect from the opinions of unqualified critics. We can always learn from the guidance of teachers, but the easily-garnered opinions of others are meaningless.
The Creative Block feeds on ego insecurity. And those insecurities come from a morbid concern for the opinion of others regarding the final "product". Remove the "product" focus of your attitude and your Creative Block becomes an anemic and hungry pauper.
     The drawing about is a study I did of the pouch in which I carried pencils, erasers, sharpeners, and sand blocks, the tools of my drawing practice. Once the drawing was finished I wrote that piece that you see above it, which reads as follows: The metamorphic body of this post-white sac slumps and stands, folds and collapses according to its contents. Its sensual shapes and formations seem as infinitely transformative as the images that eventually emerge from its cargo of pencils and paints that, hidden away, play a clinking song like tinker toys from another age.
    The whole process of the drawing took me back, as the last line suggests, to my childhood, and it taught me that I'd been carrying around pouches of pencils all my life.
Whenever I come to a creative place that feels stuck, I interact with something at hand and make that thing the whole world. I challenge myself to make it my inspiration. It takes my mind off of the stuck place and keeps me working. The creative process from the distraction usually teaches me something to apply to my stuck place and before long I have kicked myself into gear again.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

What does it mean to live a creative life?

The title of the painting above is Echo Off Stone. When I look at it, I find myself inside a cave hearing the muffled noises of things that live in its dark recesses.
You know what an echo sounds like, but how does it feel? Continuing from the earlier post, I want to reflect on the power and richness available by expanding the conversation between the mind and the body. The body is the source of intuition, the most powerful untapped talent of every person. And intuition is an important element of creativity.
Modern medicine is finally accepting the body-mind-spirit connection, but public education is still largely in the dark ages on this important reality. Most of us were taught to read words, but not to read our body. Schools focus on everything outside of the body: history, mathematics, civics (do they still teach that?) and science. And everything we learn comes from reading texts and watching screens as if our only way to take in information is through a highway from the optic nerve to the brain. Only in special cases do students get three-dimensional approaches to learning.
In coaching, when understanding and clarity stall, I often ask what or how the client feels. The body is always ready with information. This is a method I use with myself. I use it when I realize I'm painting from pure intellect that the work has become forced or clever. Cleverness is death to art. When it happens it's time to take a break and come back with the authenticity of the body's experience.

I often ponder the question: What does it mean to live a creative life? Authenticity is a key element to a creative life. Intention is another. Most importantly a creative life comes from living with a curious awareness about the next moment, and an organic responsiveness to that moment. Get something new from something ordinary. Hear an echo and ask yourself, how would I paint that? It's not important that someone else look at your painting and know that it's an echo, it's only important that you followed your curiosity and created an original response to life.

Listening to Consonants

The above painting is titled Consonants. It's part of a small series I did about how language feels in my head.  I think a lot about how to help others incorporate creativity into their way of living and this painting (in fact that whole series) illustrates one of the tools of creativity that can be put into practice.
That tool is going into the body for information.
The marks on the canvas are not in themselves consonants. You can't see a p or a k or a w, but you see what consonants feel like to me. The marks are also elements of the written consonants without being the consonants themselves. So the painting grew from an intuitive sense, from a feeling inside me. Artists are credited with mysterious talents, often envied by museum and gallery visitors, but mostly the talent artists have is an expanded sensory awareness and the courage to value and follow that awareness into action.
Everyone gets information from the body. Your stomach growls, you know you're hungry. You yawn, it's time to get some sleep. Now imagine that you start listening more closely to the responses of your body to the world around it. There lies a seed of creativity: curiosity.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Revisiting The Sixties?

The piece I've selected to accompany this post is a work on paper titled "Reflection".
It seems that I am increasingly involved in conversations about aging these days, and it started me thinking about offering some coaching to help get us prepped and in gear for the future. Let's face it, a lot of us are turning 60 and above, and we never imagined ourselves to fit the definition of (excuse the term) "old". Now, when we look at our reflection it's impossible not to notice a change in our jaw line, the elaboration of lines around our eyes, and if we haven't fought like an Olympian to stay in shape, there's a little paunch around the waistline!
Whether we are ready for it or not the future is going to make us older! There will be a future, you know. What will your future look like? And what kind of person will you be in the future?
                                       It may be time for a little, uh, Reflection.

I love being a coach because it allows me to companion clients in their reflection and move them forward through our joint process. A coach is trained to ask the best questions to take you from where you are to where you want to be. Now, just for the sake of transparency, I'm going to guess that you might be thinking, 'oh she's trying to sell me on coaching.' Well, if that means that I'm trying to sell you a happy future, then you're right. If it means I'm trying to sell you a good night's sleep, right again.
 Coaching doesn't sell you anything but your best life. And when it comes to this issue of aging, well, some days may make us question whether the best part of life didn't already happen. But we don't have to be afraid to look at that, when we are set to make the future the best part of our life.
What is true is this: your life, at any age, is determined by the choices you made or make in each life situation. You can reflect on your youth, or any period of your life and think about the choices you made. Some of them led you to some of the best things in your life, and some of them led you to things that were less than optimal.
So think about tomorrow. Think about next week. What choices will you make? And what future will they lead you to? Honestly, I'm always amazed how much coaching helps me (yes, coaches have coaches). It's like laying your thoughts out on the table and perusing them with a smart friend. No advice. Just good questions and meaningful discussion all about you.
Unlike therapy, coaching doesn't last for years, but its effects are lasting. If you want to know more, or want to try a sample session, write me at adriana@yourcreativelifecoach.com. Let's make the second sixties as great as our first!

Friday, June 24, 2011

The painting in this posting is actually a close-up of a larger painting. The materials converged in this painting through strokes, and shoves, pressure points, pourings and scrapings. And when they'd all gathered together at just the right time, they seemed to unite and accelerate themselves into something I had to call "Launch". What you see in the close up, could be construed, I suppose as the launching pad.
People often ask me about the process by which the paintings take shape. And while there are some common aspects of the creative process, not every work follows the same pattern of creation.
I am greatly inspired by those accumulated materials in the studio. I 'take a shine' to something and think, "Maybe I'll start out with this." Objects usually need to be supported in some way. I can't just stick it onto the canvas and expect the canvas to embrace it like a stranger at a family picnic. So I begin building my surface in relationship to the object or materials I start with.
This is where I stop to notice how art teaches us about life. The basic preparation of events, meetings, meals, games, or social gatherings all need the same approach. We just don't realize that we are in the creative process, when we're planning our Fourth of July barbecue. In that case, we set up the patio table(s), trim the garden, pull out the big platters that live normally on that shelf that's too high to reach. We pull out our biggest and best flag and hang it proudly from our house, and maybe even buy red, white, and blue cups and napkins. We prepare the "place". Set the scene.
Recently I gave a webinar presentation regarding creativity in life and career building. One of my first points was to remind our participants that creativity is not something bequeathed to artists. Human beings have a creative instinct that is as keen as the fight or flight instinct. We are creating all the time. Every time you fix something that's broken instead of throwing it out, you are using your creative instinct. Start to pay attention. Check yourself. How many times in a day are you called on to solve a problem, find another way to do something, or figure out how to use a gadget, or substitute something for the usual tool.
Where artists have the advantage is this: we surrender more easily to not knowing. In fact, we love not knowing, because it means we can go on a creative hunting party. "I'll try this." "No, I'll try it this way." "Well, now I know two approaches that don't work, so I'll try this!" And the more we shove the elements around, the happier we get. We scowl. We bite our lower lip. We wipe our sweaty brow. We may even swear. But, damn, we're having a great time!
Many people think artists are the ones who know what to do with art materials, but the fact is, we're happiest when we don't know what we're doing. That's when every brush stroke yields a surprise. We watch the materials drip, holding our breath, involved in the suspenseful drama of art. And LIFE IS JUST LIKE THAT. If your life doesn't feel like that, either you're living a life of tedium, or you're not paying attention.
Here's a suggestion: why don't you go out and paint or sculpt, build or write your own launching pad!
Good luck!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Open Studios 2011

Once a year East Bay artists come out from behind their easels and drawing boards to accompany their work in exhibition. This event is known as Open Studios. It is choreographed and presented by Pro Arts, a non-profit art advocacy program and gallery in downtown Oakland. This is my fifth year participating in the event, and it is always and exciting season.
The coming weekend: June 11 and 12 is the second and final weekend of Open Studios 2011. I will be at 401 26th St., Oakland (between Broadway and Telegraph) from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. with 19 of my colleagues. We have a beautiful venue: Uptown Body and Fender. Believe me, you've never seen a body shop like this. Check out their website and get the 411 on all the events and fundraisers held there. It's a very special place (and a great place to get your car repaired).
So enough for the promotion. My regular readers know that painting is a deeply spiritual and personal practice for me, and you might wonder how it feels to put myself 'out there' hoping to sell the work. In reality, there's a lot more connecting and schmoozing with people than selling which is good and not so good. The fact is, an artist cannot continue to produce without selling. For one thing, unsold work takes up space in the studio. My studio is not terribly big, so I hope to sell my work to good people, so that it can fulfill its life as art. No matter what our art form is, we cannot horde it. Hording is against the flow of creativity. We only horde things that we're eventually going to use in our art (which means that along with unsold paintings my studio stores wire, small sections of fencing, jars of insects that died of natural causes, jars of broken colored glass, shells, old canceled stamps, spools of thread, discarded snake skins, old costume jewelry, etc.)
Selling a work brings a beautiful feeling of completion to the artist. Artists are like fruit trees, the crops that come through us, are meant to be out nourishing our community and society at large. As trees need water and sunlight, we need funds to maintain our lives. Though there is no true equity in our financial realities, artists deserve to be recompensed for their craft, their time, their originality, their intellect, their skills, and their unique abilities to reflect the human condition in a symbolic or abstract way. Only a very small minority earn on a par with other professionals of equivalent talent or years at their craft.
Unlike the 19th Century image of the artist as Bohemian ne'er-do-wells, contemporary artists mostly work at other jobs while maintaining a serious creative practice. Many have families and meet all the responsibilities of parents, and/or children of aging parents. This is a reality check for people who still think artists live on the margins of society. Not many of us are wealthy, but we work hard to maintain our commitment to our calling along with our commitments to our other professions and loved ones. You can see why we cannot afford to sentimentalize our connection to the pieces we create. And even though original art seems expensive to many people, believe me, the prices asked don't even cover the overhead of studio costs.
So come to Open Studios and support a unique "tribe" of people who love their craft so much that they sacrifice summer vacations for it. They go without new shoes for it. They drive old cars, go without health care, and after a 40 hour work week, they spend weekends in the studio. Artists are people who don't put their money where their mouth is, they put their money where their heart is.
I'd love to meet some of my blog readers. Hope you will come by a say hi.
*The painting with this posting is entitled River Psalm, and it is on exhibit this weekend at 401 26th St., Oakland, (unless someone buys it before you get there).

Friday, April 29, 2011

Culturally Aware Coaching

Since establishing my personal website, I've had the good fortune to come together with a small cohort of coaches to focus on an aspect of coaching that, in our opinion, gets too little attention in the coaching profession. That important issue is Cultural Awareness.
We are all coaches of color and began to get together in an informal monthly lunch to talk about how cultural awareness came up in our coaching practices, and in our personal lives. After a year of such meetings, we realized our commitment to the topic, and learned that we enjoyed an affinity and a manner of working together that encouraged us to go further. So we established ourselves as Prism Coaching.
Each Prism coach maintains their own practice, while working on shared goals and activities of Prism Coaching as well.
I have not yet added a Prism link to my website, so I want to add it here. For more information about the individual coaches, and the work of Prism Coaching, please go to www.prismcoaching.org. There you can learn more about Culturally Aware Coaching and about the gifts that each coach brings.
The one thing I will say, in this limited space is this: Cultural awareness is not another name for "diversity training". We can see, though, just with this comparison of terms, that our language has been evolving, toward recognition and respect of all people. We've come a long way from "the melting pot" terminology and ideology of the 1950's. We now talk about the culture of a business environment, for example. If a person moves from one company to another, he or she must adjust and learn the cultural norms of the new place. When we stop to realize the number of American businesses that now hire employees from foreign countries, and from distinct American ethnic communities, we begin to guess at the complex cultural landscapes of the American business world. When women began to move into managerial and executive positions, that too caused a cultural shift. That's just a glimpse at cultural awareness in business, and it doesn't begin to touch on the components of gender and lifestyle.
I have to admit that when I got my Masters degree in Culture and Spirituality, I had no idea that it would lead me to this work, but I guess it just proves that when you stay on your own path, you are guided, inevitably, to where you are supposed to be.
I just want to add that I'm grateful for the friends and colleagues I discovered through what has become Prism Coaching: (I've listed them in alphabetical order by last names) Jennifer Chien, Kim Fowler, Donald Gerard, Belma Gonzalez, Wendy Horikoshi, Johnny Manzon-Santos, Ernest Mark, Alfredo Vergara-Lobo, and Fresh! White. Go to www.prismcoaching.org to learn more about each of us, and more about Culturally Aware Coaching.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Don't Look Down

There is a new movie out called Soul Surfer. It's about Bethany Hamilton, the courageous young surfer who returned to her sport after the loss of an arm to a shark attack. I haven't seen the movie, but I did see an interview with AnnaSophia Robb, the actress who plays Bethany in the film, and she was asked about her own fears in learning to surf. She said that in teaching her, Bethany told her not to look down, and she found that to be the key to keeping her mind focused. In fact, when I heard Bethany interviewed, it was the key to keeping her head and surviving the attack. She said she realized that she was bleeding badly, and instead of trying to see how bad the damage was, she focused her mind on getting back to shore.
When I heard her say that, "Don't look down" suddenly it struck me as a piece of universal wisdom. I say it frequently when teaching people to dance, and I've heard it said about wire-walking and rock climbing. You've probably heard it about other things you've learned (from riding a bicycle to roller skating).
There are two reasons why "Don't look down" is good advice. First, the human head weighs approximately 10 pounds. As soon as the head goes forward, even slightly facing down, the whole body is pulled off balance. Anyone who has tried yoga knows that the alignment of the head with the rest of the body is very important in reaching and maintaining an asana (a Yoga pose).
The second reason "Don't look down" is good advice is: Looking down means letting focus and determination wane, and opening a window to let fear in. Looking down reinforces one's sense of danger. So "Don't look down" is good advice whenever you're taking on a new endeavor that takes courage.
When I heard AnnaSophia Robb say that in her interview, I realized that it was a message to me. For the last two years I've been involved with writing my first novel. I originally set out, about six years ago to write a non-fiction book, but I couldn't find the right voice. Eventually, I had the idea to incorporate the subject I wanted to write about into a story. So I started studying writing fiction, and by the time I heard the Robb interview, I had the novel completed, to such an extent that it was time to start "shopping it around" to agents. Suddenly, I looked down in the sense that I thought "Oh God, what have I done?" I have devoted months to this project, and now I am out here at a point of no return.
What could I do at that point to regain my focus? I had to accept the possibility of worst-case scenarios. I realized that there was no way the project could fail, because I had carried it to it's creative completion. The only way to "fall off my board" would be to stuff it in a drawer.
The drawing posted with this blog post is about the creative process. It's about those moments of fear when we balk or stop ourselves because we have 'looked down'. The blank page can be both the best catalyst and the worst bully. It can look like a deep canyon beneath you, or a space laid out just waiting for your self-expression. So, I hope when you have the next moment of hesitation, you too will remember Bethany Hamilton's life saving advice.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Power of Poetry

Thanks to Rap music, poetry and spoken word have surfaced in the life of American Pop culture.
But the role of poetry in the U.S. has largely been relegated to the intelligentsia, and with the crumbling state of our educational structures, it's not too likely that the mass majority of young people will know much about poetry beyond Rap and Hip Hop. This, in great part, is because of the democratic, if contentious, nature of our lifestyle.
Sadly, most Americans think poetry is about rhyme, or used in greeting cards to send well wishes to distant friends and relations.
But if we look at the role poetry has played in other parts of the world throughout history, we see that poetry is politically powerful. And in realizing that, each of us, can be empowered to read more poetry, and even write it for ourselves.
The painting published with this posting is called Antiquity. The markings coming out of the center are the foundational impulses of language expressed by the human hand. They are sophisticated in their symbolism, though ancient and primal. That's how I see the instinct of human beings to make poetry. It grows from the most independent and honorable impulse to be heard, to speak one's truth about life, and, in doing so, effect change.
Mary Pipher is a wonderful writer, and certainly very successful. She's the author of at least seven books, including the N.Y. Times bestseller, Reviving Ophelia. She also wrote a thought-provoking book about writing called Writing to Change the World. In her chapter about poetry, she talks about the power of poetry in the history of the Soviet Union, where samizdat, or underground poetry was an important subversive means of maintaining morale, communication, and strategies against a profoundly oppressive government. Even Doctor Zhivago, which most Americans treasure as a powerful love story, was smuggled out of the country in segments. Boris Pasternak, its author, barely escaped execution.
Russian poets became creative and skillful in ways of sharing their work. A good deal of it was memorized and recited in little clubs or gatherings. They made recordings on ex-ray film that could be played like phonograph records. There were also recordings of music and literature made on magnetic tape.
We have have never had to fight for the free expression of our poetry. Not that there hasn't been censorship in our country, but for the most part, poetry is not thought of as a political act in this country. That's where learning more about the subject, and the lives of American poets can set you straight.
I write this to raise consciousness about the freedom of creativity we enjoy. One has to wonder if a limitation isn't a catalyst. When someone tells you not to do something, don't you want to do it more? Stay away from those brownies. Don't drive so fast. You're not going to wear that are you? Think about it.
Now, don't go start writing poetry to tell the truth about the life you're living. I dare you.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

In Remembrance

Last November a dear friend of mine lost her life in a light plane crash. Even as I write, four months later, after memorials and hymns and prayers, I cannot believe she's really not dancing on this earth.
Peg Noonan was a graceful spirit. She was a spiritual daughter of the muse Terpsichore in her love of dance. She was a teacher of NIA, and Zumba. At sixty-four she was in great shape, and seemed to love working out almost as much as she loved dancing.
But the thing that stayed with everyone who met Peg, was her vivacious love of life. She made friends with everyone she spoke to. And those of us who were fortunate enough to be her friend, knew that she was always with us in spirit whether she lived on the east coast or the west.
There was one small consolation to her death: she died with the sweetheart she'd finally found after more than twenty years of being divorced. They'd met only months before, and planned to marry this year. I did not know him, but I pray for him with my dear friend, that they may have, after all, a sweet life together.
Attempting to come to terms with Peg's death, I wrote the following poem which I leave here, in memorial.

For Peg
copyright 2011, Adriana Díaz

In my grief
I think of you
suspended in
an interminable
of being.
There's not a word
not an adjective,
or verb,
not an expletive,
nor a bleep.
There's no phone call,
or cyberspace correspondence.
No questions.
No answers.

This silence is a coffin
we share.

You are no longer breath,
nor graceful step.
Yet chassé you shall
on the memories
of dance floors we knew.

Our last lunch together,
sitting on the hem of the ocean,
the Pacific sun eavesdropping
on our buoyant words;
I see you there
as if I could touch the red curl
of your hair, or
hold your gentle hand.

If I had known you were
to fall from the sky
like Icarus from the sun,
I'd have prepared a field
of wool, dense as clouds,
and a bed of flowers,
fragrant and supple.
I'd have summoned birds
to give you wings and
bring you to rest
in slow, descending reverie.

But you enjoy now
the spacious affection
of stars.
You, aglow in
the cosmic landscape
beyond our understanding,
will visit Earth in
the echo of your laughter,
the remembrance of your
kind words, and the
persevering joy of your
vivacious spirit.

We, still planet-bound souls,
celebrate the grace of your
diaphanous presence,
sorrow's gravity dissolved by
the transcendent warmth of your
radiant smile.

Too late to say goodbye,
dear friend,
I lay my voice across the page
to say, at least, adieu.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Observing Lent for Fun and Profit

First, let me thank you for your perseverance. If you are reading this, it means you check in from time to time, because you believe in me and my desire to maintain a blog. I'm not remiss in this venture out of laziness. No, no. I really am involved in a very creative life. In a while I will reveal the project that has been absorbing so much of my time, but for now, I want to let you in on my Lenten promise.
As you may or may not know, Lent began last Wednesday. If you have trouble remembering it, the Catholic Church came up with a great reminder: Mardi Gras! (what, you think that's not a Catholic invention?) So last Wednesday, still revved up by the Zydeco party the night before, I decided I wanted to do something for Lent. In the old days I gave up things, but I have enough restrictions in my life, I thought, so what can I take on that could be a healthy practice that I might continue beyond Easter Sunday?
I already exercise and eat healthy food. I don't smoke or carouse or pick up men in bars, so it needed to be something I really needed. If you've followed this blog, you'll be proud of me for choosing a self-promotional Lenten habit. I promised myself that I'd do something every week to promote my work: Coaching practice, my work as a painter, writer, or teacher.
Yesterday I realized that it was Friday, and the first week was slipping through my fingers! Yikes! I still hadn't done anything self-promotional! So, here it is Saturday, and in the eleventh hour I am updating my blog.
The question is: does this blog really qualify as a self-promotional tool? That's where you come in! All it would take is one referral from you, and the answer is yes! So, get on that Twitter, email, or telephone and send someone my Coaching webpage (www.yourcreativelifecoach.com), or send them to see a few paintings (www.adrianadiaz.com). Of course you can send them straight to me: (adriana@yourcreativelifecoach.com). Honestly, I am a great coach. Your friend is welcome to a free sample session.
I'm also a fabulous teacher. With forty years of experience working with students of all ages (5-95), I can plan and execute classes for small groups or large (up to 25). No one teaches Creativity Empowerment like I do. My approach is ecclectic, non-threatening, enlightening, and FUN! I can focus on writing, painting, drawing, or a combination. I love to get the whole brain working together. A little workshop format party could be an exciting experience for your club or organization.
I'd love to hear more ideas for my Lenten self-promotion. Please mail them to me through this blog or send them to adriana@yourcreativelifecoach.com.
By the way, the painting on this posting is titled "Dark Tracing" It is 36"x36", mixed media on canvas. It is, like most of the work that accompanies this blog, For Sale.
Thanks for your help in keeping up my Lenten commitment. Keep watching here, I hope to be back soon.