Monday, May 8, 2017

Minding My Muse 09: Space & Time

How do you use your space and time to nurture your creativity? Here I share my notebook scribbles on that topic from eight months ago. How would you respond to Priscilla Long's prompts?

Monday September 19, 2016
Last night I finished Priscilla Long’s Minding the Muse. Though I have not yet completed my own musings on her “Questions to Contemplate as You Continue Your Practice,” I am certain to do so. It’s a book that reminds me I am a writer despite my distance from new work, a book full of reminders and suggestions to new and experienced writers and other artists whose practice has, for one reason or another, gone sideways. Long encourages readers to think and write deeply about their practice and ways to improve it.

“How well does your workspace serve the creative work that you do?” (Priscilla Long, Minding the Muse, p. 61)
I could not function at this desk. Could you?
I love to write, type, read, edit at our large dining room table, at times alone, other times with my writing partner at my side. I love the openness of the space, the living room to the right, windows to left, front, right. I love the wide view of front yard before me, leafy green trees, red table umbrella, jasmine-laden picket fence, street and neighboring houses almost hidden behind our green curtain. Even in gray rain, even in leafless winter, still I love to work at this table.
But is this my “workspace”? If asked, I’d identify the small office at the back of the house as my workspace, the room that holds my desk and files, my laptop, notebooks, notes, pencils, pens, tape dispenser, stapler. My drawing pad, still unused, and watercolor pencils, the box still wrapped in cellophane, taunting me, challenging me, to try, just try to draw what I see from this dining room table – trunks and canopies, umbrella and table, fence and jasmine, lights strung overhead.

Still, on workdays, on what should, could be every day, my desk in my office serves me well to drink my coffee and scribble my morning pages and wake to each new day in private, no interruption, door closed, if necessary.

So I have two workspaces in this small house, and I have Louisa’s and the Uptown and Pam’s house, and C&P Coffee Company, and West Seattle Uptown, and the Italian deli/restaurant. So many places to plant myself with pad and pen.

“How do you sequester time to do your own work, particularly during the busiest times when other demands impinge?” (Priscilla Long, Minding the Muse, p. 61)

This is my greatest challenge. Is it lack of dedication? When I am teaching I claim to have insufficient time and struggle to force myself out of bed thirty minutes earlier for morning pages or a timed write. But then the three-day weekend rolls around (no Friday classes) and I do not stick to the routine. I sleep in, I dawdle, do chores, look at email, FB, before morning pages. And so it goes all summer long. Without the imposed structure of a teaching schedule, I seem to lose all routine.

I suppose I can see and address this in various ways. I can force myself to adhere to a strict work schedule whether working or not. Or, I could create and adhere to a list of daily must-dos and not worry about when or how they are accomplished, as long as they are indeed done before I go to bed. The problem, as I have seen it, is that they do not always get done, and yet I still go to bed each night.

So much to consider as I prepare to return to work next week. I don’t want to return, don’t want to lose this freedom of summer, of time to use as I please. Yet I have no choice. Fall quarter begins, my 30th fall quarter, and a salary must be earned. And honestly, it isn’t so bad, not once I’m there, settled into the routine once again.

“If you teach, how can you better shape your teaching so it serves your own creative work as well as that of your students?” (Priscilla Long, Minding the Muse, p. 61)

I return to the classroom a week from tomorrow, to the campus the day after tomorrow. I do not teach students with language skills advanced enough to do much writing at all, but I do require in-class journaling. I could, should provide a topic or an optional topic when we write in class, and I must write and share as well. I should not use this time for attendance, grading or anything else.

“Consider the painter Joan MirĂ³’s phrase ‘vocabulary of forms.’ A vocabulary consists of separate elements that can be put together in various ways to make a whole …  How could the idea of a ‘vocabulary of forms’ be useful to you as you go forward?” (Priscilla Long, Minding the Muse, p. 61)

Separate elements: journal, entries, letters, photographs, music, memories. These elements are the vocabulary of forms I can use, will use, to create The Ex-Mexican Wives Club. I will stop worrying about what I do and don’t remember and instead write from these forms or elements to piece together a story.

Prior posts in this series:

No comments: