practice makes practice; life is only perfect in practice

guitar fingers

When I practice my guitar, to get a song down or a smooth finger-picking riff, I have to run through it about a thousand times. I wish I could say I’m exaggerating but I don’t think so. Maybe I’m slower than the average, maybe not. I wouldn’t know.

I do know that rehearsing can carry an air of boring at times. But then I remember that just like writing practice, it’s incubation. Staring at the ceiling/sky looks like laziness but that’s gestation, too. That’s where I pluck poems or unearth song snippets or capture phrases for rant-ology! Or where those things discover me because if I’m not focused and willing to just show up, they can’t find me.

Incubation can be tedious to the mind and given our cultural child training of dividing work from play and calling one a chore and the other fun, labeling one good and one bad can turn practice to doldrums. But practice is life; there’s no real division but in the head.

Ask my broody hens who sit 23.9/7 on their eggs for 21 days. Talk about devotion and sustained intention. If they weren’t willing, if they got “bored,” there’d be no chicks. What fabulous girls they are; I believe they meditate and deep think during this time.

If I don’t pick up my guitar two or three times a day, there’d be no music either. I don’t have to pick and strum for 4o minutes each time; I just have to play. Whenever.

Notice the word: play. Yes, the brain’s dictator mutates play into: nose to the grindstone, humdrum, monotony, tyrannical lists and iron-fisted one-step, two-step, three-step, don’t look out the window or take any breaks. And then there’s the dreaded music theory before music actuality.

Play the music and the theory will come. Trust me, you’ll want to know.

I also like to stop on a good note. Literally. When I’ve gotten the phrasing right, when the riff was played through without a mistake or I’ve written a fabulously structured sentence, I cease. I’m left with the music-worm/poem-worm traipsing “correctly” in my head as I weed & water & cook & sing & read. When I go back to it, I’m jazzed.

The Zen folks call their work practice; us yogis do as well. All of life is a practice. We’ll never get it perfect because life isn’t flawless. That’s a truly boring unrealistic patriarchal myth and misery comes from pursuing what doesn’t exist.

So, “practice” the hard stuff in life first—just for a little bit—then move to the more polished exercises and before you know it what was difficult gets easier. Keep adding on merry-making challenges (no matter how complex) to keep the river flowing. Close on a spirit-filled, soul-ful satisfied note. Cultivate fun in all its forms, be it “work” or “play.”

These endorphins are free; clock in and claim them.

wanting for want or how to find your lost self

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Sometimes I think of all the things I could’ve been, could’ve chosen but didn’t. Not with regretful longing but with a curiosity of what might have been if I hadn’t heard my own voice louder than society’s blitz.

Such as the night I was studying with a college mate while she bar-tended and I inadvertently met the father of my children. Or the time I nervously wrote an email to someone I’d met just once but intuitively felt compelled to know better; he’s now one of my best friends. What if I’d been too timid to email or been overly insular with that college mate?

Many adults don’t actually choose thingsat least not from the heart—because they can’t hear their Selves. They live by default, going with what’s nearest or easiest instead of from existing eagerness and, regrettably, they teach their kids the same strategy.

With my clients, the most common dilemma—besides loneliness/emptiness, which is directly tied to what I’m discussing—is that they don’t know what they really want.

It is difficult to differentiate since most aren’t raised to come from the inside out but from the outside in, becoming prey to recurrent worlds of advertising, movies, TV, etc. bombarding them with ‘wants.’ The real truth is that inauthentic wants—even if they’re great for others—will never fill that hole.

I also repeatedly encounter a cellular fear-memory of eschewing wants for dread of rejection, ridicule or even abuse; they’d learned it was safer to settle. Unfortunately, settling is like breathing through one congested nostril: you get enough air to survive but it’s not sufficient to live.

Many people ‘deep-six’ who they intrinsically are before the age of two. Later they squander large amounts of money and time traversing the world in search of the perfect place to live, the ideal mate, the extreme experience, the ‘right’ career, ad nauseum, or they suffocate their spirit with diverse addictions.

Until they can’t. That’s when they show up in my chair and devote lots of energy and years peeling off life’s opaque paint trying to uncloak their original Selves.

For this reason I routinely ask these clients to go back to childhood enthusiasms as that’s where genuine wants were abandoned for approval and/or survival. Those desires have usually changed form but the sincere yearning is ‘vibrating’ nearby.

For instance, my first encounter with art, beauty and philosophical Truth was in the catholic church and I was awed. From that, I wanted to know everything. So—at age three—I decided I wanted to be god. (I dream big) My older brothers scoffed and dismissed that idea outright and, sadly, I accepted their elder “wisdom” as impossible.

Well, they were wrong. I muffled that want for two decades, but when it resurrected—guess what? I found ‘god’ within, and she’s one voice-y little hellcat who surrounds herself with animals, flowers, art, books and music and takes big, deep non-catholic breaths.

the rant-ress to publishers: want some cheese with your whine? too late, you’re already cheesy.

The publishing industry is Rasputin. Somebody’s just not feeding it enough poison. Or maybe academia keeps providing the antidote. What will it take to kill it? The art, movie and music trades have all been rebirthing, why can’t we writers get some real relief?

I have poems, mini-essays, a poetry book and a cookbook hanging around my house waiting for me to figure out what to do with them without wounding my spirit. I stopped submitting three years ago when I kept feeling sick at the thought. I did put out an anthology of mushroom poems Decomposition in April 2010 with my quasi-spouse but that’s only because the project preceded this soul sickness.

Most bookstores only carry books from publishing distributors. Many magazines won’t let me–or anyone else–review a book if it’s self-published. And yet what do publishers really do for writers anymore that I didn’t have to do by myself with Decomposition? Besides the cover* choice and layout–which I would have rather done myself–what else was given? Niente. Do writers have to compromise and settle for a “deal” with a pathetic royalty rate and a measly advance? Or go it alone and be “black-listed” from distributors and bookstores?

If you’re a poet, good luck making any money, decent sales** or getting help in marketing. Short story writers, ditto. If you happen to work in a popular genre, like crime or historical fiction, it’s slightly better. Regardless the publishing house, many editors barely f@#king read your book let alone do their job. [many kind agents now do editing tasks] Or they take the teeth out of your work. They’re flooded with manuscripts, understaffed and way overworked. Traditional publishers don’t seem that interested in quality writing anymore but they’re sure interested in sales volume. They might refuse to publish your book because it’s too controversial, doesn’t fit a category or believe it won’t sell.

The whining that goes on by these “poor” publishing houses is eerily similar to the ultra-wealthy complaining about a tax increase they’ll barely feel. Substitute any other business who does so little yet demands so much from it’s clientele—would this be seen as a sound business model? And the academic houses are the biggest bawlers. Well, sorry. Ice boxes had to give way to refrigerators; it’s past time to junk this archaic arrangement.

With indie-publishing, the author has more control over contents, design, appearance and where the book is marketed and distributed. Yes, there’s a risk that with no editors the grammar and spelling will suck or there’ll be no story there. But jeez, lots of books suck now.

To speed up this process, we need some big-time writers to ditch this sinking system and legitimize self-publishing, like Radiohead and Wilco did the in music industry. And writers, stop being so insecure that you need big daddy to validate you as an “accomplished” writer. Let’s stop coddling publishing houses—all of them—and start a revolution: do it yourself.

* I love my cover!

**Decomposition may be my publisher’s best seller; I’m still not getting anything.