Mountain Day: How about a few “mountain moments”?

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Perhaps, like me, your email and facebook lit up this morning with the exciting news: it is Mountain Day at Mt. Holyoke! Do you remember the bells ringing, the happy buzz in the hallways of your dorm that yes, indeed, classes were cancelled? I had a message follow soon after the announcement from an MHC alum to two of us asking, “Why does this seem to mean more to me now than it did then?” And, I had to agree. When I was a student, the excitement was about no classes, hanging out and I hadn’t yet achieved the maturity to understand that unplanned time, particularly spent in nature or at some “useless” activity would be refreshing for body and spirit.

“Summit achieved by at least 100 students in first wave. Pres. Pasquerella greets climbers.” (From Alumnae Assoc. page on Facebook)

So, if you are living in the United States and possibly suffering from the drive to do, do, do constantly, can you carve a few Mountain Day minutes for yourself? If you don’t have time for a walk — or if the demands of work and children make that impossible — can you take a few minutes and reflect? Maybe write a paragraph about a Mountain Day memory, or if you could do a Mountain Day over again, what would you do differently? Sometimes, it is in moments of relaxation that we creative types receive insights — a solution to a block, a new idea, a change of direction for a character, etc.

May you breathe deeply and be good to yourself today. I think Mary Lyon would approve. Let us all know if you have success with giving yourself a mini-Mountain Day. 🙂

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Creativity Bloodsuckers – “Die Vampire, Die!”

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It’s a white Halloween here in Westhampton, MA where I’m visiting my family….not that far from the Mt. Holyoke campus. Fifteen inches of snow fell overnight on Saturday – power’s out all around us, but somehow, we got lucky up here on my sister’s side of the mountain. Here’s the view, so if it’s warm and snow-free where you are, go ahead, enjoy the schadenfreude.

For many of us in the U.S. though, Halloween doesn’t usually bring to mind snow — we think of pumpkins, cider, doughnuts, candy, and of course, costumes. The scary ghouls and goblins fill the streets (not sure how that’s working tonight out here with no power in much of the area, but hey, we’ll figure it out) and for me, I’ve been thinking about vampires. Not your traditional Dracula, or Anne Rice version, or any of those Twilight deals — no, no, there are far more dangerous vampires to a creative soul’s existence.

In September, I attended title of show at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. A terrific show with a terrific cast, featuring a terrific kid I’ve known since he was around twelve and shared the stage often with one of my sons. There’s a number in that show called “Die Vampire, Die,” which talks about the bloodsuckers that can kill creative impulses, if we let them. First, a clip from a different production of the show. Be advised, the language in the clip will not be appealing to all. Below the clip, I’ll paste in some of the lyrics that are helpful to remember – to banish those vampires that swarm and swirl and suck the life out of our ability to create, but again, only IF WE LET THEM.

There are so many vampires, inside, outside, and nationwide,
it helps to recognize them with this vampire hunting guide!
Listen closely,
a vampire is any person or thought or feeling
that stands between you and your creative self expression,
but they can assume many seductive forms.
Here’s a few of them!
…..First up are your pigmy vampires.
They’ll swarm around you head like gnats and say things like:
Your teeth need whitening
You went to state school?
You sound weird
Shakespeare, Sondheim, Sedaris
Did it before you and better than you,……

Brothers and sisters, next up is the air freshener vampire,
she might look like your mama, or your old fat-ass, fat aunt Fanny.
She smells something unpleasant in what you’re creating…..

The air freshener vampire doesn’t want you to write about
bad language, blood, or blow jobs
She wants you to clean it up and clean it out.
Which will leave your work toothless, gutless, and crotchless
but, you’ll be left with two tight paragraphs,
All kittens that your grandma would be so proud of…..

The last vampire is the mother of all vampires and that is the vampire of despair.
It’ll wake you up at 4am to say things like:
Who do you think you’re kidding?
You look like a fool.
No matter how hard you try, you’ll never be good enough

from Title of Show, music and lyrics by Jeff Bowen

Happy #writing all. What are the vampires you have to banish to keep the work going???

The Dreaded Writer’s Block

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I’m not a big believer in writer’s block. I think we play all kinds of games with ourselves and one of those games is to use the idea of “writer’s block” as an excuse not to write when the writing gets tough. What I do believe in is showing up, shutting up and writing – even when, especially when, the writing gets tough. But, that being said, I do appreciate that for some writers, this bugaboo we call “writer’s block” can become a serious problem. Kathleen Cassen Mickelson posted a terrific entry on ways to leave your writer’s block behind, so if you’re looking for tips, check it out.

What I do believe in, much more than writer’s block, is something known as creativity block. Lisa Rivero posted a marvelous entry recently about creativity block. Here is the beginning of her post. See if anything resonates for you:

photo of dead leavesIs your writing stuck? Mine has been recently. Oh, I’m still writing, thank goodness, and on a daily basis, but much of what I write feels as lifeless as last fall’s leaves that have been uncovered recently by the melting snow. The words just lie there, soggy, crushed, faded, leftover from another season.

When this happens, I know that the words are not the real problem. The “block” is occurring on a level far deeper than the surface of a sheet of paper. It’s a creativity block, which is, at its core, a meaning block. We can’t write with passion and power about life’s moments, especially the small, most important moments, unless we feel those moments are meaningful, unless we live them fully.

So, fellow writers, let’s share what you do if/when you’ve experienced writer’s block or creativity block. What has worked for you to get the pen moving?