Defying Gravity in the Name of Creativity

Defying Gravity in the Name of Creativity

Two weeks ago, I decided to take a short break from my habit of daily blogging. And, as is the case when falling off most wagons, gravity’s pull was a bitch.

It was only a two-week pause, and I was convinced this time would give me the opportunity to relax and regroup after a strenuous schedule since the first of the year. But instead, my head feels foggier than before and slower to make the important connections necessary for translating reality so it can be understood within the realm of the blogosphere.

My writer brain is as useless as my quad muscles (which have atrophied over a winter without decent snow or suitable trail conditions for biking). The task of planning, researching, writing, and editing a daily post for the remainder of this year feels even more insurmountable than it did on January 1st.

While in this fog, I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes a habit a habit. And while there have been several useful books written and Ted Talks given about the link between habituality and creativity, I’ve made a few of my own observations.

  • There is a fine line between a habit and a drudgery.
  • The “It takes 21 days to form a habit” rule is a myth, both from my own experience as a writer and as confirmed by Psychology Today, the Huffington Post, and this Forbes article.
  • The creative process doesn’t follow arbitrary rules on habit formation.
  • The creative process doesn’t follow any rules.
  • The creative process doesn’t usually follow a 9 to 5 timeline.
  • The creative process is rarely linear.
  • Making time for creativity is a noble pursuit — though not one that comes easy.
  • Making creativity a daily habit is often more challenging than less ambiguous pursuits (like healthy eating, running, and abstaining from alcohol).
  • The idea that expressions of creativity are the result of unanticipated inspiration is a farce. These expressions are preceded by work, and lots of it.
  • There’s no way around it: doing the work is the fastest way to form a habit.

While reflecting on the days ahead and my commitment to writing, I am asking myself, “Can a habit really be healthy and/or productive if you feel the need to take a two-week break from it?” And I think, at least in month three of this grand adventure, the answer to that is yes.

The act of writing regularly, whether for the self or for the public, is perhaps the most personally enriching habit I’ve learned to develop — even if it’s the most difficult to sustain, and one I subsequently fail at from time to time.

But I suppose just like anything else, whether it’s running every day, eating more greens, or drinking less whiskey, sustaining the habit of creativity means climbing back on the proverbial wagon. And it means defying gravity — every damn day.

 

Advertisements

The Gift of Story: A Goodbye and a Book Giveaway

The Gift of Story: A Goodbye and a Book Giveaway

“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”
― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Today was National Read Across America Day, and, despite being an avid reader in youth, I didn’t open a single book today. This flies in the face of my New Year’s resolution to read more in 2018 — specifically, a book a week. But I haven’t even finished a single book this year.

In general, I don’t feel people read nearly enough. Further, I think the world would be a better place if we all committed to reading more. For many, however, the convenience of digital devices makes a strong case against the storage and expense associated with building and maintaining a home library. But at what cost? What happens when we become so reliant upon the digital world for our information that bookstores like these cease to exist?

March is National Reading Month, and yet, numerous lovely bookstores in my community — neighborhood mainstays that have drawn me in time and again — have recently closed and are closing. The owners have their reasons, sure, but when there are more tanning salons and vape shops in a vicinity than there are bookstores, this is a travesty.

So, in my small, stubborn way, I’ve decided to push back on behalf of the little guy. Through the end of this month (which is when my beloved Trip Taylor Booksellers of Boise, Idaho is slated to close), I’ll be frequenting the place in search of treasures to send to some of you, my readers. (I’ll also make sure to visit the Yesteryear Shoppe in nearby Nampa, as they haven’t yet set an official closing date.)

All you have to do is share your name and preferred genre in the comments below (a personal anecdote wouldn’t hurt, either). Each week, I will draw a few random names — and if your name is drawn, I will reach out to you and mail a physical copy of a book in your chosen genre, along with a friendly note and a quote. (Again, this little adventure is free to you; all you have to do is share a comment and your love of books.)

Let’s celebrate National Reading Month in style, and help out a couple of longtime booksellers and forces for inspiration in my community as they begin the next chapter.

When There’s No “Feel-Good,” We Grieve Together

When There’s No “Feel-Good,” We Grieve Together

If you live in America, and if you haven’t been living under a rock, any type of “feel-good” has been difficult — if not out of the question — this week.

Our country has been wracked by yet another school shooting, and many feel perplexed and helpless due to the stubborn, selfish rhetoric perpetuated by a corrupt and greedy industry. (Go on, ask me what I really think about the NRA.)

So, in light of this week’s horrific act of violence and its aftermath, I’m pausing this Friday’s regularly scheduled program of heartwarming news stories. In lieu of these updates, I’m choosing instead to pay my respect to the victims and survivors of the attack in Parkland, Florida.

Yes, there’s still good in the world. Yes, there are still helpers. Yes, these stories deserve to be told. But the joyous miracles of everyday life simply can’t eclipse the life-altering heartbreak experienced by those who have had to endure the unnecessary tragedy of a mass shooting.

Today, tomorrow, the next day, the next, and the next, and so on will be haunted by the souls we have lost due to our own neglect and our own cowardice. Our generation is and will continue to be punished by the guilt that results from our complicity. And the younger generation is standing up to put us in our place, to show us how we have wronged them and to demonstrate how we can make things right. We do not deserve the children who are rising up to change our world, but we can certainly join them.

There is no feel-good this week. Instead, we grieve together, we shake our fists together, and we will demand change — together.

15 Days of Tea-Inspired Wisdom

15 Days of Tea-Inspired Wisdom

“There is something in the nature of tea that leads us into a world of quiet contemplation of life.”
― Lin Yutang, The Importance of Living

Yesterday, on February 14th, I discovered with delight that my most religiously observed ritual — my morning tea — had bestowed exactly 14 bits of wisdom (via those tiny little tea tags) since I opened a brand new box. (Thank you, Yogi Tea, for both the 14 days of Echinacea Immune Support and the 14 affirmations I have so diligently set aside.)

Today, with affirmation number 15, I felt it was time to share some of this wisdom with the blogosphere, along with a few images that moved me these past couple weeks. I hope you can find some inspiration here, as I have.

15. When you act with compassion you will never be wrong.

Dog-compassion-Daley-Muse.jpg

14. Life is a flow of love; your participation is requested.

Elephant-sky-Daley-Muse.jpg

13. If we give happiness to others we will end up happy.

Happy-Daley-Muse.jpg

12. Kindness is the light of life.

Children-Daley-Muse.jpg

11. Appreciate yourself and honor your soul.

Rose-Daley-Muse

10. Be giving, forgiving, compassionate, and loving.

Compassion-Daley-Muse.jpg

9. Use your head to live with heart.

Head-Heart-Daley-Muse.jpeg

8. Steadiness comes from character and commitment.

Salt-Vietnam-Daley-Muse.jpg

7. Live by your inner knowledge and strength.

Tiger-strength-Daley-Muse.jpg

6. Let things come to you.

Museum-art-Daley-Muse.jpg

5. Grace is kindness, compassion, and caring.

Boy-lamb-Daley-Muse.jpg

4. The beauty of the soul is constant, continuous, and endless.

sunflower-opening-Daley-Muse.jpg

3. Lift people up to their potential and higher self.

Embrace-Daley-Muse.jpg

2. Live light, travel light, spread the light, be the light.

Light-Daley-Muse.jpeg

1. You are unlimited.

Unlimited-galaxy-Daley-Muse.jpg

Reclaiming Love in the Face of Tragedy

Reclaiming Love in the Face of Tragedy

Today is Valentine’s Day. And yet, talking about love feels trite right now.

It’s been just hours since the U.S.’s 29th mass shooting and the 12th school shooting of 2018. All while I get to look into the blooms of a dozen roses and wonder what I did to deserve the drawing of the metaphoric card this morning that said, “You get to live another day.”

Earlier this week, I wrote about filmmaker and activist Valarie Kaur’s TED Talk: 3 Lessons of Revolutionary Love in a Time of Rage. (If you’re not familiar with it, I invite you to watch Ms. Kaur’s speech — it may be one of the most powerful talks you’ll ever see.)

She spoke of her innocent family friend who was gunned down in a hateful act of violence, shot outside his business by a white man with a vendetta against brown people. This was a racist act of rage, but an act of rage nonetheless, not unlike today’s tragedy.

Reclaim-Love-RevolutionaryLove.jpg

Today, however, the lessons of which she spoke — lessons of revolutionary love — are especially difficult for me to grasp, let alone practice. In the aftermath of tragedy, the definition of love seems more complex somehow, particularly when in the midst of its stepbrothers: loss, grief, and, yes, rage. Any act of reclaiming love feels impossible.

But in my most feeble act of resistance against rage, I’m going to try.

Today, this is what reclaiming love looks like to me.

It looks less like obligatory gifts and more like heartfelt expressions of commitment and affection. It’s arguing less over trivialities and instead appreciating the people who have stuck around (so you can argue with them in the first place). It’s less expectation, more intent. It’s holding our loved ones close and being thankful for yet another day. And it looks like forgiveness and grace in the face of rage.

There are many practical, big-picture ways to give and receive love — which don’t involve buying guilt-induced presents, feeding the corporate machine, or denying the hatred and rage that exist in this world. Here are a few acts of love to consider.

Send a girl to school for a year.

For $58, the International Rescue Committee is able to send a young woman to school for a year — providing her with tuition, books, supplies, and a chance for a better life. Learn more about the program here.

Leave a message of love for a survivor of abuse.

Notes: Messages of Love and Hope is an opportunity to share words of support with abuse survivors via either an online submission form or at one of the typewriters the program will place at locations around the U.S.

Speak up. Get involved.

Using our voices to speak out against injustice is one of the most impactful expressions of our love for humanity. Learn about sham legislation that corrupt politicians are trying to pass — while they assume hapless community members will look the other way. Write letters to your legislators, or better yet, call their offices — show them they will be held accountable for decisions they make while in public office. Learn more about the incredible work Moms Demand Action is doing in our communities to protect all of us from gun violence. And, for the love of our children, stop saying it’s not the right time to have difficult conversations.

Join the #LoveArmy.

For Valentine’s Day, Valarie Kaur (mentioned at the outset) put out a call to action on behalf of the Revolutionary Love Project: share stories via social media about how each of us plans to #ReclaimLove as a force for social justice. You’re invited to use the hashtag and post your pictures, videos, music, stories, and art — anything that reinforces the message to “deepen our practice of the ethic of love — love for others, our opponents, and ourselves.”

As Kaur mentioned in her TED Talk, the act of revolutionary love is a choice. But it’s the most worthwhile choice we can make during times of darkness.

Happy Valentine’s Day, friends. And may you reclaim love while holding your own loved ones close.

Travel Tuesday: Discovering Bookstores at Home and Abroad

Travel Tuesday: Discovering Bookstores at Home and Abroad

“These days, we’ve got booksellers in cities, in deserts, and in the middle of a rain forest; we’ve got travelling bookshops, and bookshops underground. We’ve got bookshops in barns, in caravans and in converted Victorian railway stations. We’ve even got booksellers selling books in the middle of a war. Are bookshops still relevant? They certainly are. All bookshops are full of stories, and stories want to be heard.”
― Jen Campbell, The Bookshop Book

A love of books — and the shops where they are stored — has been a not-so-secret love of mine since childhood. When I travel somewhere new, I always feel like I can experience the soul of a place when I visit one of its bookstores.

One of my most memorable experiences as a bibliophile was my first visit to Powell’s City of Books, specifically its Rare Book Room. Powell’s is the world’s largest independent bookstore, with nine color-coded rooms and over 3,500 different sections — they even provide a map to help you find your way around.

And while I haven’t yet been here, The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles quickly went on my bookstore bucket list when I stumbled upon this video.

But at home and abroad, I’ve found even the most unassuming bookstores to be worth a visit.

Like McNally Jackson Booksellers, an independent bookstore in SoHo that prints indie books on its own printing press.

McNally-Jackson-NYC-Daley-Muse.jpg

Or Dudley’s Bookshop Cafe in Bend, Oregon, that offers comfy reading nooks (which remind me of my own hometown’s quaint and cozy haunt, Trip Taylor Booksellers).

Dudleys-Bend-Daley-Muse.JPG

In countries outside the U.S., there are bookstores that have garnered worldwide acclaim — and plenty of others in spaces as much a treat for the eyes as the treasures that lie within.

Take the dark, elegant, and dazzling MENDO, for example. It’s a bookshop run by designers, a self-proclaimed “candy store for book aficionados” with its flagship location in Amsterdam. And while small, its aesthetic is nothing short of extraordinary, and a place I could spend a few hours perusing its collection — especially the oversized, color-rich eye-candy at the back of the store.

MENDO-Amsterdam-Daley-Muse.JPG

While I’ve yet to visit other historic bookstores like Strand, Paris’s Shakespeare and Company, or the stunning Libreria Acqua Alta (located on a centuries-old canal in Venice), lesser-known booksellers still have my heart.

Especially if they have cats.

Did you know there’s a bookshop in Hong Kong that takes in homeless felines? And even if one of my greatest regrets was not seeing the ol’ Shakespeare while visiting the city of lights, I did spy this very happy cat chillin’ on a pile of books in a store window near Canal Street.

paris-bookstore-cat-daley-muse.jpg
This bookish kitty in Paris is living the good life.

 

March is National Reading Month, so as this several-week-long celebration approaches, why not visit your small, local bookstore and find something special on its shelves? You might even spy a collection of the feline variety.

 

The Power of [Revolutionary] Love

The Power of [Revolutionary] Love

“What if this darkness is not the darkness of the tomb but the darkness of the womb?”

In December 2016, activist, lawyer, and Sikh American Valarie Kaur asked the above question during a powerful speech that has since gone viral. Then, at TEDWomen 2017, she brought the audience to their feet with one of the most emotionally stirring talks I’ve ever seen: 3 Lessons of Revolutionary Love in a Time of Rage. You can watch it here:

She opens with an account of her son’s birth, when her mother whispers a Sikh prayer that means, “The hot winds cannot touch you. You are brave. You are brave.”

In the years leading up to that moment, Kaur became “part of a generation of advocates” — working with communities of color to fight hate in America after September 11th.

She recalls the first person killed in a hate crime post 9/11 was her family friend, a Sikh man named Balbir Singh Sodhi, a man she called uncle. When Kaur grieved with his widow, she asked, “What would you like to tell the people of America?” She expected blame, but her friend replied, “Tell them, ‘Thank you.’ Three thousand Americans came to my husband’s memorial. They did not know me, but they wept with me. Tell them, ‘Thank you.'”

Today, with hate crimes the highest they’ve been since 9/11, right-wing nationalist movements on the rise across the globe, and white supremacists marching in the streets, there seems to be no better time for activism, but love? Kaur insists yes — she has now come to see love as a force for social justice, and founded the Revolutionary Love Project.

Here are several moving excerpts from her speech:

I am an American civil rights activist who has labored with communities of color since September 11th, fighting unjust policies by the state and acts of hate in the street. And in our most painful moments, in the face of the fires of injustice, I have seen labors of love deliver us.

In this era of enormous rage, when the fires are burning all around us, I believe that revolutionary love is the call of our times.

Stories can create the wonder that turns strangers into sisters and brothers. This was my first lesson in revolutionary love — that stories can help us see no stranger.

When we are free from hate, we see the ones who hurt us, not as monsters, but as people who themselves are wounded, who themselves feel threatened, who don’t know what else to do with their insecurity but to hurt us, to pull the trigger, or cast the vote, or pass the policy aimed at us. But if some of us begin to wonder about them, listen to even their stories, we learn that participation in oppression comes at a cost. It cuts them off from their own capacity to love.

I have to reckon with the fact that my son is growing up in a country more dangerous for him than the one I was given. And there will be moments when I cannot protect him when he is seen as a terrorist… just as black people in America are still seen as criminal. Brown people, illegal. Queer and trans people, immoral. Indigenous people, savage. Women and girls as property. And when they fail to see our bodies as some mother’s child, it becomes easier to ban us, detain us, deport us, imprison us, sacrifice us for the illusion of security.

We love our opponents when we tend the wound in them. Tending to the wound is not healing them — only they can do that. Just tending to it allows us to see our opponents: the terrorist, the fanatic, the demagogue. They’ve been radicalized by cultures and policies that we together can change.

For too long have women and women of color been told to suppress their rage, suppress their grief in the name of love and forgiveness. But when we suppress our rage, that’s when it hardens into hate directed outward, but usually directed inward.

Our joy is an act of moral resistance. How are you protecting your joy each day? Because in joy we see even darkness with new eyes.

Revolutionary love is the choice to enter into labor — for others who do not look like us, for our opponents who hurt us, and for ourselves.

According to Kaur, love must be practiced in these last three directions in order to be revolutionary: love for others (training our eyes to look upon strangers and see them as an aunt, uncle, sister, or brother), love for our opponents (seeing the wound in the ones who hurt you), and love for ourselves (this happens when we breathe through the fire of pain and refuse to let it harden into hate.

That’s all easier said than done for most of us, but Kaur reminds us why we strive for revolutionary love.

“Love is more than a rush of feeling that happens to us if we’re lucky,” she says. “Love is sweet labor. Fierce. Bloody. Imperfect. Life-giving. A choice we make over and over again.”