"The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible." -Vladimir Nobokov

Sunday, June 19, 2016

London Patchwork: Walking

London Patchwork is a series of blog posts devoted to some of my favorite experiences in London.

This is an excerpt from an unfinished blog post:

"I've been in London for two whole weeks, however did I manage that? Seriously though, these two weeks have passed like lightning. Firstly, impressions:

I love London. I immediately felt at home here (shout out to the amazing cab driver who spent fifteen minutes off-the-clock helping me look for the door of the landlord's office where I was supposed to pick up the keys to our flat!). I was worried that London would feel overwhelming, but so far it feels amazingly manageable. I'll admit: rush hour is tough, and so is navigating when a tube line is down (which is always). Other than that, though, I find myself more curious than overwhelmed. Every tube ride is an opportunity to people-watch, and every journey into this huge city brings new discoveries. One of my favorite things is when I force myself to pay attention while my friends and I are rushing to get to a specific place at a specific time. Even though I don't have time to stop and explore, I can still notice, and noticing makes all the difference.

I spent my first full day in London in much the same way I spent my last day in Florence. Not wanting spend twelve pounds on a day pass for a subway system I had no idea how to navigate, I opted for good old-fashioned wandering. I wandered through Hyde Park and stumbled across, guess what, Buckingham Palace. After taking a stroll through St. James park, I glimpsed the top of Big Ben through a maze of buildings, so I decided to go see it for myself. Like so many of the monuments you see a million pictures of, Big Ben is so much more impressive and ornate in real life. Then I crossed the Thames, stumbled across a market, rested my feet in a Starbucks, and began the long, long walk home. I calculated it later, and it turns out my little jaunt was a total of 8 miles! There's something so much more tactile about exploring a new city on foot. You see things you wouldn't see if you spent most of your travel time underground, and you get an immediate sense of where things are. Win win!"

Because of its size, London isn't as walkable as Florence. A 30 minute walk could get you halfway across the city in Florence, while the equivalent in London might get you between neighborhoods. Still, I prefer seeing new places on foot, and so I spent my first full day in London walking. Since the above description is pretty self-explanatory, I'll leave you with some photos from my long walk.

St. James Park

My first glimpse of Big Ben

I love London's little side streets.

Neal's Yard

View of the Thames

Friday, June 17, 2016

On Creative Guilt

I have a lot of creative guilt. It sounds like this:

-Why haven't you written anything today?
-When was the last time you made something?
-How long has it been since your last blog post?
-You're adding another project to your list? What about all the unfinished ones?

And so on. Creative guilt doesn't just show up when I haven't made anything in a while. It rears its ugly head at the precise moment when I need it to shut up: when I'm about to start. That can be embarking on a new project or just trying to fit in thirty minutes of work. It's the voice in my head that says, "You haven't been able to keep this up in the past, so what makes this time any different?"

It's true that my track record for follow-through is pretty lousy. Even this summer, when I have the gift of free time, I haven't been able to consistently keep up a creative practice. And while, yes, I could really benefit from less daydreaming and more doing, the voice that makes me feel bad about myself and discourages me from getting back in the game is textbook creative guilt.

That first hint of failure - the first day you didn't write after a multi-day streak, the day your enthusiasm ran out, the day someone asked you a question you couldn't answer and it threw the whole project into question - is most often when creative guilt pounces. It's one thing to feel restless, to want to make something after a hiatus; it's another to feel like every setback is magnified because you can't seem to get your act together.

The guilt is a liar. I could agonize for days about how little I've accomplished, but would it help anything? Of course not. And what I have to remind myself, over and over again, is that past failures  have no bearing on my ability to do the work. It doesn't matter how many days it's been since I've written. What matters is that I write today. It doesn't matter how many projects I've left unfinished. What matters is that I finish this one.

My advice (that I'm still trying to follow) is this: Take a deep breath. Push the guilt monster out of your head. Begin.

**When you need a break, or an extra kick in the pants, check out the links below**
An Invocation for Beginnings
Chuck Close on Inspiration and Work Ethic (via Brainpickings)
Austin Kleon on Learning Creative Habits from his Son

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Coming Home

I've been back in the US for a month now. That's enough time to recover from jet lag, fall back into old routines, and forget about my time abroad (not!). Being home has been a bit of a roller coaster. I attended University of Houston's Boldface writing conference, went on a family trip to Joshua Tree National Park, and I've spent a lot of time figuring how to not waste what is conceivably my last summer to fall between two semesters.

This summer, my friends are scattered across the country. Most of them are busy with summer jobs or internships. Me? I'm taking this time to work on the projects that have been bumping around in my head for months. I'm writing. I'm brainstorming. I'm creating something out of nothing. It's a little chaotic and a little slow, but I'm discovering that I get bored working on just one project at a time. I like the challenge and variety of having several plates in the air. It's been working out, too, as long as I don't spend too much time deciding what to work on first ;) (Ah, indecision, the devilish cousin of procrastination).

Even with my new-found determination, and certainly enough projects to keep my hands busy and my mind in the present, I still find myself longing for the old-world charm of Florence and the vibrancy of London. The answer, I think, is appreciating the little things that make home, home. Things like iced coffee (the staple of every good summer). The way the light falls at golden hour. The warmth of my living room. My huge, beautiful, mess of a desk. So yeah, sometimes I wake up feeling homesick for my dream-scicle colored bedroom in Florence, and my too-warm flat in London, but these are the side affects of leaving my heart in too many places at once.

Coming home hasn't been easy, but a month later things are finally starting to fall into place. I'm happy to be here. I'm happy to have the incredible gift of time, support, and resources to do the things I love. I'm happy to have a head in two worlds, a heart in two or three or five places. Stay tuned for updates on what I'm working on, and a couple posts on my time in London!

Taken on my last day in beautiful London, at our home tube stop