What’s In Your Pockabook?

the Kelly bag

This article originally appeared in Huffington Post.

“The bag is at once, the simplest, the most complicated and the most emotion laden of accessories… because in one of its key manifestations, the handbag, it can be deeply expressive of a woman’s life – serving as a companion, a receptacle of secrets, a status object and a means of self display.”

from Fifty Bags That Changed the World: Design Museum Fifty by Robert Anderson

Well, that certainly makes everything in my bag much more significant so I am only going to have things in mine that are the best representation of me, and so should you.

I discovered the mysteries of a woman’s handbag with my Jewish babysitter.  Standing on my tiptoes, I watched her clutch her bag, thrust her solid fingers into the deep silky recesses and emerge with a toffee or a shiny nickel for me.

More revealing than her medicine cabinet, which was a formidable cabinet of curiousities, her handbag was a rare peek into her everyday soul. One that was fed by a scramble of assorted candies, cough drops, tissues, a Helena Rubinstein lipstick – always a brilliant red, loose change and bakery string.

I waited for those moments.  The ones where she would peer through her glasses and sigh, “Kindeleh, gib mir mein pockabook.”  And I would stand on my toes to peek into the deep universe of her handbag.  Her pockabook.

Pockabook!

How I longed to have one of my own.

And what would I put in my pockabook?  What precious items, things I wanted near me, things I would feel incomplete leaving the house without?

I consider everything I carry in my bag as urban survival tools.  They are everything I need to navigate my way through my daily jungle.

Here’s what I have in my bag today and why:

  • keys – can’t drive without them
  • wallet – can’t buy coffee or get into buildings in the city without little pieces of plastic with my name and face on them
  • phone – can’t deal with the ridiculous anxiety I get when I don’t have my phone. I know, that’s hardly a good reason but I can’t help it.
  • pencil case – yes, i still carry No. 2 pencils.
  • sketchbook – I love to draw people. And trees and conversations and attitudes.
  • a story to work on – there are always those unexpected snatches of time – sometimes just a few minutes, sometimes a 25 minute train ride – where I can get some thinking and writing done.  It adds up.

That’s it.

These are things I carry through my day but they actually carry my artistic vision closer to reality everyday.

Some people carry earphones to listen to music.  I will carry earphones to block out any sounds that distract me from what I am doing.

Some people load up their phones with games and movies to entertain them.  I load up my drawing apps with sketches.

Some people read e books.  I write ebooks.

I carry only what I need to get through my day and to capture it at a moment’s notice.

I am not a carrier of stuff.  I am a gatherer of images.

I do not need toys.  I need tools.

I am not a consumer.  I am a creator.

What are you doing and what is in your pockabook?

 

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Hoong Yee

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About the Author: Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer helps artists & creative people grow their careers with great grant writing strategies & mindsets she has developed over 15 years as an veteran grant panelist, grant maker & grant writer. Get her FREE Master Grant Strategy Worksheet and a weekly dose of insights from a grant reviewer’s point of view.

If You’ve Lost Your Creative Mojo, Ask Yourself: What Would Stravinsky Do?

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Confession #1:  I love wearing yoga pants

Confession #2:  I love/hate doing yoga

Because of yoga, I can stand on my head.

Upside down, I feel closer to Igor Stravinsky (he was never able to compose unless he was sure no one could hear him and, when blocked, stood on his head to “clear the brain”).  This is a man who heard a new musical language and composed the groundbreaking ballet and orchestral work, Le Sacre du Printemps. Its premiere, at the Théâtre de Champs-Elysées on May 29, 1913, conducted by Pierre Monteux, had such a shattering impact on every musical tradition that, to many people, it was the sacrilegious work of a madman.

Stravinsky composed the work in a rented house in Clarens, Switzerland, in a tiny room with just enough space for an upright piano, a table and two chairs.  He had many of the same obstacles that you have: limited time, money, creative blockage, self doubt.

It is comforting to see that great artists wrestle with the same challenges we all have to do the work they are passionate about.  Everyone does it differently: some artists need a challenge before they start creating, some artists need to create something as a challenge.

“Time is short, my strength is limited, the office is a horror, the apartment is noisy, and if a pleasant, straightforward life is not possible then one must try to wriggle through by subtle maneuvers.”  Franz Kafka, in a letter to Felice Bauer in 1912.
  

Kafka is one of many novelists, poets, playwrights, painters, philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians, who have somehow discovered ways to overcome the many (self-inflicted) obstacles with (self-imposed) daily rituals to get done the work they love to do.  Some do it by waking early or staying up late; some meditate; some self medicate with doughnuts and drinking vast quantities of coffee, or taking long daily walks.

Time is one of my challenges.

“To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.”  Leonard Bernstein

In theory, that should work: I have a plan and never quite enough time.  I know adding commitment and self discipline will bring about the best results.

What has worked for me are the following:

Get up early

Write or draw for 90 minutes before work

End with an unfinished sentence or sketch

“The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day … you will never be stuck … That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start.”  Ernest Hemingway

Make a short list for tomorrow

Stand on my head if coffee is not close by

Thank myself

 

This becomes a habit after a while.  I find myself waking up without an alarm and getting sleepy earlier every night. The world is a magical place at 5:00 am between the moon fading and the sun rising.  You may be the only one awake in your home but can take comfort knowing you are in good company with other creative minds doing what they love to do.

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Hoong Yee

20140603_142704

About the Author: Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer helps artists & creative people grow their careers with great grant writing strategies & mindsets she has developed over 15 years as an veteran grant panelist, grant maker & grant writer. Get her FREE Master Grant Strategy Worksheet and a weekly dose of insights from a grant reviewer’s point of view.

How To Make Time To Be An Artist

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Wendell Berry’s studio

This article first appeared on Huffington Post

Tell me if this happens to you.

There is a new book out by a break through author and you think to yourself, “That could be me.  I wonder how she did it.”

You stand on line at a book signing and as you move closer to the author, you feel more and more frustrated holding that book in your hands while your book, the one you have always wanted to write, is still an unwritten dream.  As she autographs your copy, you make the same promise to yourself that you always make when you find yourself face to face with someone who is actually doing what you are longing to do, “OK, today I am going to write my book!”

The problem is that promise will have to fight its way through a laundry list of Other Important Reasons Why You Can’t to get you to sit down and do your work.  Here are the most common ones:

  • I’m too busy
  • I have no time
  • I have a big job
  • I have other priorities
  • I can’t get started

At this point, you know that you are the only one who can champion that promise through.

Without your help, that dream will remain what it is – just a dream. And you will always be on the line with the rest of the dreamers, another fan seeking an autograph, not the writer who has written the book.

Writers and artists have lives that are not that different from ours.  They have to live somewhere, put food on the table, and take care of themselves or their families.  They also have a passion to be creative, to make art and to get it out into the world to share with others.  How do they do this?

Artists actually have two passions.

The passion for their art which is the one that fuels their dreams and imagination.  This is what many people experience when they read a book or see a painting that touches them.  You see yourself in that work of art and you feel their creative spirit igniting your inner artist.

The other passion is their practice.  This is the part that is not so glamorous or exciting.  It is the alarm clock set for 4:45 am, it is the daily struggle to put a few good words on paper, to fight distractions, the will to create something faithfully, to acknowledge and thank yourself for the effort without judgement.

To show up.  Every single day.

The power of combining these two passions is formidable.  It will strengthen your creativity with focus and from this will come your book, your painting, your opera.

You will also be experiencing the benefits of an artistic life: creating joy and living an intentional, purposeful life.

Three simple steps to set up your practice

“You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen. “

Joseph Campbell on having a “bliss station,“ in The Power of Myth

Over time, you will find you are actually building a body of work.  You will also notice elevated levels of happiness in your life because you are doing something about that dream of yours and spending time working on what you are passionate about.

This practice requires commitment and perseverance.  By showing up every day, you will gain a strong sense of purpose. Sharing it with others will give you joy. This is the essence of a creative life.

These three steps that lay between you as the fan and you as the artist.

Set your alarm

Find one hour a day.

Think about your typical day and find one hour of time.  Set an alarm, a calendar reminder, an alert or anything that will remind you it is your time for your practice.  

This should be a time that you can come to everyday and do your work. For me, this is that magical hour from 5:00 – 6:00 am. I set two alarms for myself.  One is to wake me up and one is my internal clock to be mentally prepared to fight my desire to pull the covers over my head and go back to sleep.

Clean your desk

Keep your space clear.

This is your sacred space.

I believe the only things you need are your imagination and your tools.   For me, that means absolutely nothing on my desk, no sounds, no distractions.  No phones, Facebook, alerts.  No internal editor – myself.  I even turn all of my text white so I can just write without interruption.. Something I cannot do easily because I am so easily tempted to self edit as I write.

Sit in the chair.

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Show up.

I have a friend who has a hard time getting himself to practice the cello.  He will walk into the practice room and walk around circling the cello before sitting down to play. Once he is sitting in his chair and practicing, time will fly and he wonders why he wasn’t doing this earlier.  

Sometimes getting past “circling the cello” and just sitting your chair is the most difficult challenge.

Make something

What terrifies me is the blank page.  

For you it may the empty canvas, the silence in your head.

You may also have that other pesky fear: of not being perfect.

Your job is to put something down on paper.  Get the story, the dance, the symphony out of your head and into the world.  It will look like a mess.  

Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it.” Salvador Dali

If you are struggling with your work, here’s a piece of advice I find helpful:

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“Procrastinate.  If at first you don’t succeed, give up immediately, move on to some other task until that becomes unbearable. Then move on again circling back around to the first problem.  By now, your subconscious will have worked on it, sort of like sleep, only cheaper.”  from Ten Bullets by Tom Sachs

There are many dreamers in the world with a work of art one alarm clock away from becoming a wonderful reality.

Set yours now.