Protests, Riots and Creativity

image by “Mighty” Mike McGee http://www.mikemcgee.net

I have been glued to Twitter all week, reading real-time updates from protesters all over the country. The killing of Eric Garner and the decision of the grand jury not to prosecute the officer who killed him has sparked a wildfire of rage and frustration. Most of that anger has been seen in the protests, and too many people calling themselves protesters have turned those actions into riots.

But many people have transformed their frustration into art. For example…

This song by Rising Sun All Stars  https://risingsunallstars.bandcamp.com

This spoken word poem by Tia Nache Yarbrough

This performance piece in New York’s Times Square

This image   http://heartacheandpaint.com/I-Can-t-Breathe

image by Damon Davis

image by Damon Davis

 

And this one  https://lockerdome.com/6272859261640513/6865575687363604

And this    https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7558/15331991803_36bc4215c1_b.jpg

artist unknown. please help me identify to give proper credit

Creativity is a force that can heal, scream, question, destroy and unite. Creativity can open minds and change the world.

Art has power. How will you use it?

Why I like social media

Wait a minute… didn’t I write the internet has trapped us in perpetual adolescence? 

Yes, but let me explain why I also like the internet and social media.

Social media is detrimental when it makes us feel insecure and left out. When we judge our worth by the number of “likes” we get, then we are stuck in perpetual adolescence. How can we grow and thrive when we compare ourselves to the girl with 10,000 Twitter followers? And how can we develop our own voice when we’re being bombarded by manipulative adds and so called “opinion makers”?

If you step back from the desire for popularity, social media becomes a powerful tool for self expression and ideas. Look at the Arab Spring. So much of that movement was fueled by tweets. Facebook is filled with artists and writers who have fascinating things to say. There are thousands of blogs that share stories of hope, inspiration, creativity, and information. When social media is used as a way to express ideas and a place to connect with other people, it becomes beautiful.

I live in a rural community far from many of my closest friends. My child is medically fragile and deals with disabilities, so we are cut off from the typical activities most families get to do. Because of social media, I feel closer to my friends and I have met wonderful families all over the world who deal with the same issues my child copes with. There have been terrible nights when fear and sadness overwhelm me and I have reached out through Facebook for support. Even at midnight, there is always someone there to help. Loneliness is lessoned. I’m grateful for that.

Also, I met the newest Medusa’s Muse author, Shannon Drury, through blogging. We published a book together and are now marketing that book together, even though we’ve never actually met in person. Without social media, The Radical Housewife wouldn’t have been published.

That’s the key. Making and sustaining relationships. When the internet is used to connect people and ideas it’s magic. When it is used only to sell things and gain popularity, it’s noise.

That being said, it is awful nice when someone buys my books. Thank you.

How does the internet help you? What can we do to make social media empowering and less popularity driven?

The internet has trapped us all in perpetual adolescence

Can anyone really explain the point of all this online chatter? I know we are here sharing our thoughts and ideas, but to what end? To sell books? Show off? Share wisdom? Or are we all just shouting “look at me, look at me” over and over like a desperate teenager?

Lately, I’ve been questioning the need for social media. There is so much competition for “follows” and “likes” it makes me feel like I’m back in high school. I’m the dweeb in the back of the room (which is what I was at 15) desperately wishing I had what the cool kids had. What was the secret? Clothes? Money? Beauty? Here I am, all grown up and wondering why more people on Twitter don’t think I’m clever.

The internet has trapped us all in perpetual adolescence.

What’s the answer? To sell books, I need social media. How else will anyone discover my authors or my own writing? Without a big marketing budget I rely on word of mouth, especially internet word of mouth. But now we’re back to a popularity contest. The more followers I have, the more people hear about the books I publish through Medusa’s Muse. The more I talk about my classes, the more people sign up for them. I’m back to age 16 hoping someone asks me to the Spring dance.

With so much constant chatter I wonder if anyone pays attention to social media anymore.   Advertisers have discovered people ignore their pop up adds now because we’ve become immune to them. There are too many people trying to sell too much shit all the time.

What’s the answer? Is there any way to win this popularity contest?

Disneyland is for Writers

My daughter is a Disney fanatic. We go every year, and tomorrow we’re going again. It is the one place on Earth my daughter is truly, 100%, over-the-top happy. It is also the perfect place for a person with disabilities. The staff are attentive and supportive and make her feel like she is part of the Disney World. I would take her every month if I could just so she could keep that wonderful smile on her face. And I would gather even more material for my books.

I am not a Disney fanatic. I enjoy it there, mostly because my daughter is so happy. But if she hadn’t fallen in love with Disney Princesses at age 6 I would never have gone. In fact, I was opposed to Disney and it’s money making machine of animation and theme parks. What kind of role model was Cinderella for my daughter? But Cinderella is who my child adored and so Cinderella we would find. At Disneyland.

We have been back every year.

I love the decorations, the characters, the scenery, and the shows. And I love people watching. If you need examples of every pure emotional state known to humans, go to Disneyland. You will see joy, romantic love, anger, frustration, fear and misery. Six year olds fall to the ground in utter despair while their overwhelmed parents plead, beg and finally yell. Adults squeal in delight when Mickey Mouse shakes their hand. Couples clutch each other in terror on the rides.

There is enough melodrama at Disneyland to fill five volumes of Bronte inspired literature.

When you pack for your trip to Disneyland, bring a note book and several pens. You’re going to need them to write down all the fantastic scenes a trip to Disneyland will inspire. Take note of how people physically behave when excited. How do adults behave when exhausted? What does a person look like when their expectations have been destroyed?

While your family is busy chasing Princess dreams, you can chase characters for your next book.

The Radical Housewife and Family Values

Tired of election season nonsense? Me too. That’s why I published this book.

Ebook cover 978-0-9797152-2-8

On and on the rhetoric goes. “Abortion…” “Family Values…” “The Sanctity of Marriage…”Feminism…”   The debate is one sided; white men define what the American family should be and condemn women for destroying it.

Enter Shannon Drury, feminist and stay-at-home mom. Wait a minute, how can she be both? Because feminism is about choice, and Shannon chooses to stay home with her kids. How she made that choice and why she continues to fight for women’s rights is what you’ll discover when you read The Radical Housewife: Redefining Family Values for the 21st Century.

One breath at a time? Of course, but first I need to study, clean, investigate and doubt myself.

Why is it so impossible for me to sit still? Is there such a thing as creative ADHD? I think I managed to focus on breathing for two days before my brain went back to habitual overthinking. So many questions to solve. Should I get a PHD? How can I help Medusa’s Muse grow? Do I keep publishing books, or stop? How can I find more editing clients? Do I need neck surgery? What is the name of the yellow moth in my front yard? On and on my brain goes, adding to a list of possibilities and defeats. If I’m not tackling a problem or creating something, I feel itchy.

That is why I forced myself to stop. For two weeks, I made myself climb out of my head and only do things that required moving my body. No writing. At first I felt guilty. Then, I felt relief.

Hyper-creative people forget the importance of rest. Driven by the need to express our inner selves, we burn bright and fast. And then we drop. Once we’ve used up all our energy, depression sets in because our thoughts are still rushing while our body is not. Or we try in vain to capture the right word to make the scene perfect, only to discover we don’t have the energy to type.

This is what I learned while forcing myself to stop: I will never run out of creative energy. In fact, if I rest my body, my creativity burns brighter.

Try it. Set down that pen, close the journal, shut down the lap top and go outside. Spend 7 full days doing nothing that requires you to be creatively productive. Instead of writing, make a collage. Work in your garden. Go for a long walk and absorb the sites, sounds and smells of your community. Cook. Read a book. But do not write. When you finish your seven days, you will discover your clarity and creativity has improved.

Right now is the perfect time to try it. NanoWrimo is next month.

Life is lived one breath at a time

For seventeen years, I have followed a Buddhist path. I meditate, study Zen, read books written by great masters like Pema Chodron and Thich Nhat Han, and practice Mindfulness throughout my day. It is because of my practice that I am able to manage the chaos that comes from raising a child with disabilities. But despite all my practice and study and research, I had hit a spiritual brick wall. It was time to find a teacher.

Rev Zenju Earthlin Manual is the woman I consider my teacher. Ever since I heard her speak via a Zen Center podcast, I knew I had to meet her. I read her books, followed her blog, listened to all the teachings I could find, and finally contacted her to ask for a meeting. A few days ago, we met at her Oakland “Still Breathing Meditation Center.”

Rev Zenju Earthlyn Manuel

The first thing that struck me about Rev Zenju was her calming voice and smiling eyes. She seemed tired, but eager to meet me and talk. As soon as we sat, she offered me Jasmine tea and then she asked what she could do for me. I told her about my child, my struggles with grief and worry, how hard I’ve been practicing and learning about Buddhism because I felt it helped me take better care of myself and my daughter, and how I felt that I’d gone as far as I could on my own and I really needed a teacher to tell me what to do next.

She smiled and urged me to stop practicing.

Huh? I thought practicing was the most important thing.

Shaking her head she smiled again and said, “You’re too much in your head. You need to be in your body.”

Then she reminded me that life is not a journey or a path. The eight fold path isn’t a roadmap and there are no steps to master in some kind of enlightened sequence. I have spent so much time studying and practicing I’ve forgotten that the point of all that study is to live. Just live.

“Life is lived one breath at a time,” she said. With those words, a great weight was lifted from my chest. We laughed about the ways we both fight so hard to figure things out and make plans. You’d think living would be easy, but it seems to be the hardest thing for everyone.

Studying Buddhism and practicing meditation has strengthened and sustained me. I have learned how to balance the chaos and have compassion for myself. The basics are there and I know the path. Now it’s time to live.

Breath in… breath out… breath in… breath out…

I hope to return to “Still Breathing Meditation Center” each month and meet her other students. And I hope Rev Zenju doesn’t mind if I call her my teacher.

Still Breathing Meditation Center