The Cure for Creative Block

Hey, fellow artists!

I’m happy to announce the May/June 2012 launch of No Cure Magazine brought to you by Brisbane-based designer Mark Zeidler. It’s an impressive online read of arts, design and music articles ideal for getting out of that “creative block” we all undergo at times.

I’ve contributed three articles in the magazine this month on:

  • New York-based artist David Lyle
  • Candy Black Studio in Dorset, UK
  • Boywolf, a new men’s design label

This magazine, as well as the artists, designers and musicians are very motivating examples of what can happen when you pursue your passion with full force. Check it out and be inspired:

No Cure Magazine

Happy Creating!

Beth

P.S. What other ways do you break down “creative block”? Please feel free to share your ideas here.

Candy Black Intro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

David Lyle Intro

David Lyle Intro

Boywolf Intro


Creativity and Black Coffee

You wouldn’t think I’d be such a whinge-queen on a cold, drizzly day in Melbourne, being a veteran of Minnesota winters. But the symptoms of an ash-colored sky and frigid rain come right through the panes of our poorly insulated windows and I shiver with discontent, distracted from inspiration of any form. So, I search desperately for little gift in the moment, as I strive to do each day. Surprisingly, today’s motivation comes out of a whole other complaint, which has nothing to do with this grey day.

These doggone coffee stains on my teeth.

“Guess that means you’ll have to stop drinking coffee,” says Brian, a non-coffee drinker himself. He barely finishes his sentence before I butt in,

“Well, that’s not going to happen.”

Perish the thought—I love coffee. I mean, love, worship, adore, consume it. And I’m not talking about a fancy Frappuccino or even one of those silky lattes Melbourne does so well. What I mean is, give it to me straight and black. No milk, no sugar. Just pure bean, in a big, round, full mug. (Emphasis on “full”—we need to keep it that way.) Why mess around with what’s already heaven? For me, coffee is no longer about the wakening effect that got me started on the cup in the first place. No, my long-term addiction has reduced the caffeine rush to that of a warm shower, to wake up. Ever so gently. Two and a half cups in one morning is now about taste. The coffee bean, to me, does what a malbec grape does to the red wine, and I am thankful for it: the distinct, earthly flavour organically coats me in calm.

But don’t get me wrong. I am awakened.

One of the things I love most about coffee is that it goes hand in hand with creativity. Let’s face it, many famous artists were connoisseurs of coffee. Take composer Johann Sebastian Bach, for example. He wrote a cantata about his love of coffee entitled The Coffee Cantata. The librettist for the piece, Christian Friedrich Henrici, wrote lyrics like (translated): If I can’t drink my bowl of coffee three times daily, then in my torment, I will shrivel up like a piece of roast goat.

My sentiments exactly, brother.

I think back to how coffee played a recurring role during my pursuit of a postgraduate degree in creative writing. Arriving to a night class after eight hours writing retail advertising meant the embrace of a tall, travel mug of coffee, to refresh my brain so that I could participate in a discussion about really good poetry. I remember consciously appreciating how that little perk-up actually opened an extra door in my mind, enabling me to truly see poetry beyond the metaphors.

I think back to my fourth ever night in Athens, Greece. I spent the evening sitting solo in an empty taverna, downing Greek coffees to the succulent sounds of a two-man mandolin band and writing furiously in my journal—in the moment, and about that moment. To this day, I’ll never forget how blessed I felt.

I think back to how my good friend Scott and I used to commit ourselves to three hours at a different coffee shop every Sunday, to “create” for the love of it. He was designing a new card game for kids and I was perfecting, you guessed it, my manuscript.

Last but not least, coffee is associated with love, which is a constant source of inspiration for me—and probably just about everyone. Take my mom, for example. Someone who’s always supported my lengthy stints in foreign countries “to write,” and my decision to write for the love of it, rather than for a paycheck. Someone who raised four kids, went back to school, achieved a master’s degree and a fulfilling career of giving, and is now retiring to do artful things, herself. Growing up, her own mother used to gather her and her four brothers and sisters around the dinner table to drink coffee and talk into the wee hours. Today, Mom, my siblings and I share this same, sweet memory-in-the-making every time I visit.

So you see, a lot of life can fill a cup.

And besides, I can always go to the dentist.


Thank You, My Dear Artists

I could not help but pause between posts to express a very heartfelt THANK YOU to all of you writers, readers and other artists out there. I am just now discovering how blogging not only provides us the platform to express our craft to a real audience, but also gives us a very special, human community of support for one another. And we need that – well at least this writer does – to keep working. It’s unbelievably refreshing to know you’re out there.

Thank you for being such an inspiration to me. All the best in your future creations – I look forward to them. Warmly, Beth


The Headdress Heroic

April Poem Post #11 – Which poem is in your pocket today for Poem in Your Pocket Day (April 26)?

Unfortunately I missed Poem in Your Pocket Day – such a great idea – so I will have to celebrate today. Here is a poem I wrote, that resonates with me in this very moment.

The Headdress Heroic
By Beth Greshwalk

She would rather let the shipwreck happen,
in her dreams, in a turtle shell,
where everything is safe and
she has become her own rock.

Or, she saddles herself to a tidal
wave, dons the headdress heroic,
and rocks with the moon to a
song she has written in sand.

Someone says,
I am so proud of you,
yet eels wrap tighter
around her at the voice.

Give in. But she won’t.
Let the ship be destroyed.
Let her song be lost.


Peppers in October

April Poem Post #10 – What aspect of nature feels the most poetic?
Seasons. Growing. Gardens. The cycle of life.

Peppers in October
By Beth Greshwalk

Our garden, where peppers are soft, hard, long, lasting,
green, red, hot, stuffed, yellow, stout, spice, cut, seeds washed out,
diced, boiled, blanched, multipurpose, looks new, feels
new, even though it’s not, sometimes at the mercy
of the jalapeno, but it’s worth it to us
to burn our tongues, compliment with warm black tea,
my burning eyes, running nose, but I want to feel
it in my chest, I’ve always wanted to taste it
in my mouth, but the recipe is calling for
less, still we add more, my eyes water, heated heart
burn, but it’s better than throwing them away, my
stomach couldn’t bear it, how many can I have,
how much of the recipe has to be followed?

***


Living Like a Haiku

For those just tuning in, I’m still trying to scribble my way through BlogHer.com’s NaBloPoMo blog prompts centered around Poetry Month. Now mid-way through April, I must say I highly recommend blog prompts as a fantastic source of inspiration for “after-work” writers like me, whose muses often gravitate more toward the La-E-Boy® variety. (Or, if you have any “juice” left at the end of the day, you often consider adding it to an alcoholic beverage, instead!)

April Poem Post #9 – Do you see your life as an epic poem or a haiku?

Both, actually.

The epic poem will have encompassed my full life, lived. By the end, I will hope my existence will have hit “epic” status—free of Iliad-esque battles and full of love, adventure, and—oh, a published book or two would be nice. If such a poem detailing my time on earth was to be left behind for my children, I can’t say I’d mind if it were at Iliad, length, however. My life, translated by me, through my art—would symbolize the legacy most true to who I am.

The haiku, in contrast, reflects my daily life. I see this poem as an encapsulation of the moment, or at the very least, the day. To me, it says how I am feeling, what I am doing, how I am living, without giving away too much. This is one of the aspects of poetry I love most—the intimacy, the thoughts and feelings we keep for ourselves, for whatever reason we see fit. Haikus in particular are like little works of art, open to interpretation, and thereby having the highest potential to connect us as humans. For instance, have you ever felt the way I did at 10:11 p.m. last night?

10:11 PM
Second wind gliding

pen, ballpoint in time

cursive signs the dream


My Colossus of Writing

I miss my books.

I didn’t carry all of them with me to Australia because I didn’t know whether or not things were going to work out. Now here I am, over two years later. Dang it. Unfortunately, I don’t have the funds to ship my books here at the moment , so I must now draw inspiration with the select few favorites I was able to fit in my suitcase without going over 50 pounds. As I scan my little bookshelf, I can clearly see the void where my treasured Maya Angelou, Robert Frank (photographer), Alice Walker and Mary Oliver used to be.

But I do spot Henry Miller. The Colossus of Maroussi.

It takes me no time at all to recall why I chose this book for my journey to Australia out of countless others, back home. First, his decision to move to Athens in 1939 fuelled my choice to do the same in 2005, when I desperately needed a new life to inspire new chapters on and off of the paper. I completed my first manuscript that year, giving me confidence for the very first time in my ability to be an author, published or not.
Transplanting myself from the US to Greece was also the implant of travel into my heart. For now, I cannot live without it. I experienced how immersion into a different culture—the gift of its people and landscape of a different planet entirely—unhinged nearly every door of my mind. And yet all of this difference made me realise more than ever that we’re all more alike than we are different. Pair all of this with the empowerment I gained through existing and moving about in a foreign country on my own, and tell me why I would ever want to be without travel:

“No man had could have chosen a more circumlocuitous voyage than mine. Over thirty years I had wandered, as if in a labyrinth. I had tasted every joy, every despair, but I had never known the meaning of peace. En route I had vanquished all my enemies one by one, but the greatest enemy of all I had not even recognised—myself.” Henry Miller, The Colossus of Maroussi

Secondly, Henry Miller is an absolutely magnificent, beautiful, brilliant writer. This book has more folded page corners, underlined passages and bitty Post-It notes than any story I own. For me, it is a miracle to see just how his words flow onto the pages. Particularly in The Colossus of Maroussi, Miller allows himself to become lost not only in the beauty that he witnesses but also in his own subconscious genius. And he shares this wisdom with us, not with arrogance, but humble humanity. We are with him, together, for first-time realisations

of the mind:

“At that moment, I rejoiced that I was free of possessions, free of all ties, free of fear and envy and malice. I could have passed quietly from one dream to another, owning nothing, regretting nothing, wishing nothing. I was never more certain that life and death are one and that neither can be enjoyed or embraced if the other be absent.” Henry Miller, The Colossus of Maroussi

of the experience:

“Everything here speaks now, as it did centuries ago, of illumination, of blinding, joyous illumination. Light acquires a transcendental quality; it is not light of the Mediterranean alone, it is something more, something unfathomable, something holy. Here the light penetrates directly to the soul, opens the doors and windows of the heart, makes one naked, exposed, isolated in a metaphysical bliss which makes everything clear without being known.” Henry Miller, The Colossus of Maroussi

Reading Henry Miller, I am inspired to write. I am inspired to live outwardly. And to my greatest delight, one cannot survive without the other. One of the best aspects of this book is that wherever you are in life, there is probably at least one sentence that will resonate with you. Whether you’re looking for that muse we sometimes need to write or to exist fully, you will find it in The Colossus of Maroussi.  Here is mine, on this quiet Sunday:

“For hours at a stretch I would lie in the sun doing nothing, thinking of nothing. To keep the mind empty is a feat, a very healthful feat too. To be silent the whole day long, see no newspaper, hear no radio, listen to no gossip, be thoroughly and completely lazy, thoroughly and completely indifferent to the fate of the world is the finest medicine a man can give himself…the body becomes a new and wonderful instrument; you look at plants or stones or fish with different eyes; you wonder what people are struggling to accomplish by their frenzied activities…When you’re right with yourself, it doesn’t matter what flag is flying over your head or who owns what or whether you speak English or Monongahela.”

Thank you, Henry Miller.

In memory of Henry Valentine Miller, writer and painter (1891–1980)