Writing the Perfect MONKEY

Originally published on Artist Soapbox on 30 July 2018

Greetings, Soapboxers!

Earlier this month, several friends and collaborators gathered to read and hear the latest draft of my upcoming play, YEAR OF THE MONKEY. If you’ve ever put your work-in-progress up for critique, you know it is a singularly excruciating, insecurity-stoking and necessary experience. I clawed my way to that draft and now, armed with lots of helpful notes and personal revelations, it’s time to revise.

Great. I can’t stand this part.

I knew this was coming, but I’m annoyed anyway. Why am I making such a big deal out of this? I’ve got a lot of great feedback to plow into this thing but I feel angry and scared and, honestly, I have been so frustrated over this project that I have contemplated quitting several times.

Ah, perfectionism. My old friend.

At several points along the way, this project has felt like I’m using a tweezers to build a sandcastle. Thomases, by birthright, are unapologetically verbose yet I have no access to this endless supply of words. When I sit down at the keyboard, out come the tweezers. Why? Because I want it to be “right.” Because I want it to be “good.” Because I want to turn it in and never have to do it again because it took so much out of me the first time. Because perfectionism is my beast. Perfectionism would rather stop me before I start. Perfectionism would rather I edited my work and myself into non-existence rather than pick up that bucket and fill it with sloppy, wet sand.

Cue the irony.

After the script read-thru, two different people remarked that a few of the scenes felt unnecessarily short and they could tell I was editing myself. I had been so focused on cutting away anything I deemed extraneous (exposition, talkiness – bad!) that I didn’t leave enough substance to establish some of the objectives and relationships. Their advice? Haul ass and go for it. Fill up those buckets. Save the tweezers for later.

Sloppiness and precision both have their place in the process. Doesn’t sloppy sound more fun? I’m into it! At least in theory. This might be a “both/and” right now.

I know I will get to a space where I’m having more fun, feeling loose and making a joyous mess. But I also know there’s old pain at the root of the perfectionism and I want to make space for that. Pathologizing my stuckness isn’t helping me. Berating myself for not having more fun seems a tad counter-intuitive.

Maybe I’m not exactly where I’d like to be, but I am showing up. Every day. Maybe the words aren’t flowing like wine (note to self: BUY MORE WINE), but they’re coming. As I’ve told myself a thousand times, “Show up for the work and the work will show up for you.” Ugh, that sounds so smug I want to punch myself in the face.

This is eerily familiar. Perfectionism. Resistance. Finding ways to nourish yourself. Time to walk this talk.

‘Til next time, Soapboxers.
MT

The Importance of a Physical Practice

Originally posted on Artist Soapbox on 26 March 2018.

Greetings, Soapboxers!

I have really been enjoying talking to you about clearing space and bringing in nourishment to our lives. I like to think of it as the things we *get* to do for ourselves, rather than the things we *have* to do.

Today, let’s dive into another important resource for us creative types (psst: that’s all of us). In podcast episode 016, actor, singer, and director Dana Marks answered this question: “What’s something every artist should learn or practice regularly?” Her answer? “A physical practice.” Amen, Dana. I’m right there with you. Let’s get out of our heads and into our bodies.

A physical practice can take so many forms. We all enjoy different things, so find something that speaks to you, something you’ll enjoy that is realistic for you to keep up with. Personally, I fell bass-ackwards into a love of running about four years ago and it changed my life. That along with swimming and daily walks with my dogs are the cornerstones of my physical practice.

A physical practice can also encompass more than what we traditionally think of as “exercise.” About two years ago, I started practicing what I call “The Self-Care Power Half-Hour.” This routine consists of:

Meditation: 20 minutes

Yoga: 5 minutes

Breathing: 5 minutes

This practice has absolutely made a difference for me — me, the person whose picture appears next to “Monkey Mind” in the dictionary. If I can do it, so can you. The yoga series and the breathing technique I use are both said to “build internal fire” and, man, that’s what I’m looking for. After 10 minutes, I am ready to kick ass. But, like, in a zen way.

“But Mara,” you’re saying. “I hate running and 30 minutes of anything is more than I can do right now.” I hear you! Any amount of time — seriously, one minute — is a great place to start. Every morning while my bread toasts I use that 3 minutes to do some push-ups. Let me tell you why I do that specific exercise.

“Boundaries” is a new concept for me. Most of my life until very recently has been centered on other people’s needs, often to the detriment of my physical and emotional health. My therapist specifically recommended I do push-ups to have the physical, felt sensation of pushing back against something. My body needs to absorb this physicality so that it can advise my people-pleasing brain when it needs to push back.

Similarly, my other physical practices have helped me remember my body’s inherent wisdom. I spent many years disconnected from it and reconnecting has been a process. Running has helped me gain perspective on the Making Pots philosophy — it’s about practice and the process,  not the outcome. Not every run is going to be my fastest, just like not every piece of art I create is going to be a masterpiece. But I keep going and I keep learning and that’s what matters.

Soapboxers, we want to hear from you! What physical practices keep you buoyed despite creative or emotional or literal storms? Leave a comment or drop us a line at artistsoapbox@gmail.com and tell us how it’s going.

‘Til next time,

MT

Nourish Your Creative Self

Originally posted on Artist Soapbox on 26 February 2018

Howdy, Soapboxers!

When we last chatted, I talked about cleaning and tidying as being a first step toward making space for your creativity. I even challenged you to make a change in your space. How did that go?

If we think of our spaces as being a reflection of ourselves, it’s only to our benefit to stay on the tidy train as often as we can. We are going to do big work in these spaces. Work that requires a lot from us, demands that we push past our fears, wrestle with our insecurities and ultimately produce something that previously never existed. I’m reaching for the vacuum just thinking about it!

However, to thrive, our creative selves need other things too. We need inspiration. We need to be cared for. Sometimes we need beauty for the sake of beauty. Pleasure for the sake of pleasure. That’s why I started having fresh flowers in my home at all times. They make me smile on a daily basis. And if chores are a life-long given, why not add some pleasure to the experience if we can? I’ll say it: I go all-out on the $3.99 good-smelling dish soap. You wanna come at me? You’re gonna have to fight your way through this glorious honeysuckle halo that surrounds me. Sorry not sorry.

“But Mara,” I hear you saying, “when did you become a lifestyle blogger? I thought this was a series about creativity.” I’m getting there, I promise. The flowers, the dish soap — these small gestures of self-care nourish me. And when I feel nourished, I am in a better space to create, to allow myself to take risks and to be less judgmental toward myself. It’s important to me to be in that better space as often as possible, and thus I am always seeking out little ways to add more nourishment to my home and my life.

This week, bring something beautiful into your space to give your creative selves a lift.Drop us a line at artistsoapbox@gmail.com. I want to hear all about it!

Special Note: Our first ASBX Creative Accountability Group is nearly full, and the deadline is approaching. If you are considering joining us, register now!

‘Til next time,

MT