Creative Blocks + Connection

It's funny just how much I can get done in the mornings now that I no longer drink.  I wake up eager to get out of bed, usually between 5:30 - 6:00 a.m.  My body wakes up on its own now and I rarely need an alarm clock.  This is one of the most significant changes in my life since I gave up drinking alcohol just over sixteen months ago.  Two important things to note here - (1) mornings are my kryptonite and (2) people can change.

My desk in the corner of the living room + nature's art of a rainbow outside

My desk in the corner of the living room + nature's art of a rainbow outside

I'm always grateful to meet the day in the quiet of my home, while my guys are still holding onto to their last bits of peaceful slumber, nestled under warm down comforters and softly snoring in their own beds.  My brain kicks into immediate overdrive while I'm brushing my teeth and by the time I go to turn on the water kettle, I already have a short list of things floating around in my head that need to be tended to.  I settle into my desk chair, check my phone for texts, turn on my computer and take a sip from my cup of hot herbal tea.  I watch the sunrise come up over the honey-colored hills and spread a golden glow all over the green valley basin just outside my window. It never gets old.

Lately, my desires to create have been half-hearted.  I have dozens of ideas jockeying for space in my brain, but the desire to execute them hasn't materialized in the real world.  I read Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic earlier this year and agree with her observation that when inspiration thundered through her, she should collect it and grab it on the page.

Like, immediately grab it.  

Stop everything. 

Make something with it.  Anything.  Just do it.

Or, as she later shared, that inspiration will leave you.

My daily gratitude list.  I've made a daily list every single day since last December (2015).  This practice is everything to me and helps me start my day off centered and focused.

My daily gratitude list.  I've made a daily list every single day since last December (2015).  This practice is everything to me and helps me start my day off centered and focused.

I find myself putting my creative ideas off right now.  It's like I'm waiting for the perfect time to make art when I know damn-well that there is never going to be a perfect time to make art.  When I was taking Intro to Design last semester, I made art almost every single day.  A creative fire was lit, new tools were acquired, as well as a new skill set.  I couldn't make enough art during that time and I was filled up to the brim creatively.

Right now, I'm taking an Art History class and let me tell you, it is NOT filling me up.  While I enjoy learning about art history, it is not fueling me creatively to make or produce anything new.  It has, however, informed me about why humans create art and what constitutes humanness and that's of interest to me.  

My new standing desk (that I like to sit at) in my little pink studio

My new standing desk (that I like to sit at) in my little pink studio

I'm learning that the idea is that humanness was born out of adaptation and the ability to communicate and inscribe memories through art, music, video and writing.  Reading those words was like an bell going off for me - ding-ding!  I know that I make art and write and take pictures to serve as a way for me to demonstrate proof of life, my own life.  I have always had an overwhelming desire to document my life - for myself, my son, my family.  I'm only now learning that this is an innate cognitive quality that only homo sapiens sapiens possess.  I've also learned that we are homo sapiens sapiens (yes, two sapiens) and I feel like an idiot that I didn't even know that.  College is most definitely teaching me a thing or two.

As I sit here this morning and look at my hot mess of a desk, I can see all sorts of avenues for making art today.  I'll finish up the artwork for my daily gratitude list and email my 7-person  gratitude circle.  I'll finish booking my hotel and airfare accommodations for a November trip to Austin and work on the art of making new (in real life) friendships.  I'll handwrite a few letters and mail some art to friends I've never met before, but count as social media comrades.  I'll read more about ancient art of the near east and dig into my art history research project.

The common thread for all of the above interactions and creations is CONNECTION.  When I wake up in the morning, I'm not only connecting with others via text, email or snail mail, I'm connecting with myself.  What makes me tick.  What drives me and pulls me in a certain direction.  In sobriety, I'm paying attention to my surroundings, what I need to quell my anxieties and what fills me up and keeps me centered.

When I was drinking, I was in total victim-mode.  I wouldn't have admitted to that at the time, but it's the truth.  I thought I had no choices and that life was just out to get me.  I felt under-the-gun on everything, even filling up my car with gas seemed like a punishment.  I juggled many things and usually felt like I was only doing them somewhat successfully.  I overcommitted and then complained about the commitments I took on.  I blamed others, gossiped a ton and wallowed in a lot of self-pity.

I feel sorry for that girl that used to think that way.

I'm not her anymore.

Artwork image by my favorite artist, Lisa Congdon.

Artwork image by my favorite artist, Lisa Congdon.

The mornings I experience now, without the fogginess of a raging hangover, afford me the opportunity to make choices, conquer some of my fears and make something beautiful from what I have to work with.  Life is far from perfect over here, but it's pretty damned good now that I've removed alcohol from it.  The connections I've made with sober women, the people in my AA fellowship and the rekindled relationships with my family and friends from my old life have become invaluable to me in my new sober life.

First Collage Attempt:  Vintage map, confetti, photo + acrylic paint

First Collage Attempt:  Vintage map, confetti, photo + acrylic paint

Over the weekend I played around with collage, a medium that I've long admired, but is new to me.  I've been wanting to dig into my art supply stash and just make a mess, well, sort of.  Making a mess is hard for this former legal-secretary-virgo-control-freak.  It just is.  But like everything else I'm doing lately, I know I need to just jump in and see what I can learn from the experience and know that growth will happen, without a doubt.

I think creative blocks are an important part of making art.  They seem to serve as a re-set button and, for me, can only be broken when I acknowledge the block, engage in my own life through new experiences, new relationships, new ideas, acceptance of where I'm at in the process and making connections that inform me and expose me to another way.

I can see that navigating creative blocks is very much like navigating my sobriety.  The steps I take to guarantee that my sober existence stays in tact has been along these same lines - acknowledgment, surrender, new life experiences, new and/or restructured relationships, new ideas, acceptance, connections and finding another way.

I love when art and life intersect and show themselves to me in a way that feels fresh and, almost, like a surprise.

Creative blocks and connection are fueling my sobriety these days and for that I'm grateful.