i feel abrasive.
a small sunny wreckage.
pooh if pooh wore leather and fenty eyeliner too heavy and desperately needed a haircut.
crowded by softness, and i bet my hands are too rough to hold it.
why is it always dark out? missing the sunlight.
wired but restrained and unmoored. like hot water, soft and light, but a bit of a scald. i wish i'd both hush and open.
my hair is too long. makes my face soften out.
i've finished a lot of poems lately, and i've needed a lot of poems lately.
i have a craving for tender poems, some words that could teach me to both soften and straighten my shoulders back to face whatever darkness seems to hover. here's what's keeping me tender lately.
from Waves by Virginia Woolf
you thought we'd stop with love lists? oh no, we're still channeling lola! we have yet another list of treats to jumpstart your new year (decade?!) right here, from albums, drinks, and many thoughts.... read on, and send us your list x
→ placeholder by hand habits
gray: one of my favorite musical discoveries of 2019 is hand habits and their album that came out earlier this year has been one of my faves all year. scratches my folksy-indie-rock itch like no other.
→ Bad Ideas by Tessa Violet
nadine: no, i cannot shut up about tessa violet (see: love lists from may, october and november, and i promise i tried to switch it up). i suggest taking a half-hour to yourself and listening to the whole thing. i just think that writing a quality pop album is such a fine art: it needs good, solid singles, and more catchy songs to glue it all together, and lyrics that mean something. tessa violet managed it brilliantly in bad ideas.
→ Blood Moon Underworld by Misogi
m: ah yes, we’re back to the grungey lofi depths of my spotify. this album is so impressive… atmospheric, with cohesive song just different enough to cater to a range of different music tastes (even hardcore.) close ties include ARIZONA BABY by Kevin Abstract and E by ecco2k.
→ Rowena Tsai
nadine: my favourite youtube channel this year.
m: same tho.
→ Refinery29’s State of Grace series
m: Refinery29 took the unexpected, yet incredibly important, route this year, with journalist and queer christian, Grace Baldridge, exploring issues within the American church, primarily gender and sexuality issues: “State Of Grace is a series that explores the intersection of human rights, sexuality, and faith. Host Grace Baldridge dives into controversial societal realities that Americans face everyday and how to navigate the modern world while remaining faithful.” This series has been a source of both hope and education for me as I have spent 2019 de/reconstructing beliefs.
→ Rhythm + Flow
m: a rap competition judged by Chance the Rapper, Cardi B, and TI. feels like a display of artistry, and i’m happy to have discovered new artists. genuinely had me wiping my eyes during the finale.
m: a docuseries about crowd sourcing mysterious chronic illnesses.
→ The OA, season two
m: total mind bender. perfectly creepy. beautiful.
→ Skate Kitchen
M: b e a u t i f u l. angsty.
→ On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
m: if you’re tired of hearing about this book, it is because you need to read it. Destined to be a classic you actually love.
→ Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin
m: my favorite trope, enemies forced into close proximity... enemies to lovers... addicting. funny. slow burn steamy. thoughtful. perfect.
→ Bright Dead Things by Ada Limon
m: i wish i had picked this up sooner. ada’s poetry is simply breathtaking, yet so ordinary and real. i’ve never read poetry like hers, or about topics like hers. a must read.
→ Things Are What You Make of Them: Life Advice for Creatives by Adam J. Kurtz
m: short, snappy, and so necessary, whether or not you consider yourself a creative.
→ Heartstopper comics series by Alice Oseman
m: simply lovely. read to decompress, read to believe in love.
→ gray: unflavored la criox was truly my drink of the year
→ m: coffee with a pump of vanilla and a dash of creamer. took me this long to realize simplicity
→ nadine: oat milk in tea! why did i never try this before?
→ nadine: for the lessons 2019 taught me, see this post; otherwise, i learned some cool facts this year…
(1) when i visited a friend last june, i saw a cute magnet on her fridge and she told me the story of a hunter-trapper who completely changed his career path in the 80s and opened a refuge for wild animals.
(2) the same friend taught me what “desire paths” are… it’s not what you think.
(3) 2019 was the year i learned about the danger (for the environment) of not only buying polyester (i haven’t bought polyester outside a thrift shop in too many years to count) but also owning — and especially washing — polyester. it’s worse for “fluffy” polyester fabrics. see this study (nature, 2019), this other study (2017) or this news article, among others. kudos to m for opening my eyes to this! basically, when washed, all fabrics (the fluffier, the worse) produce microparticles. the natural ones disintegrate, but the man-made ones don’t, and they threaten many crucial parts of our ecosystems.
(4) i went to the canadian museum of nature last fall, and i learned such mind-boggling things! in the section about the arctic, i found myself looking at a few panels open-mouthed for an embarrassingly long amount of time… did you know the arctic used to have bear-sized beavers, 3-metre-long sloths and giant camels? some people even think that the characteristics that help modern camels survive in the desert (nutrient reserves, large feet) also helped them survive in the snow! additionally, in another section of the museum, i learned that, though the same mineral can come in different colours, it will always make the same colour trait when you scratch ceramic with it. finally: a friendly reminder that we are all standing on a gigantic ball, the middle of which is made of melted iron (i don’t know about you, but i tend to forget). for all this, fun interactive exhibits (e.g. create your own volcano!) and lots of information on important topics like environment protection and diversity in science, i recommend that museum if you’re ever near ottawa, canada.
(5) skating on thin ice is an actual sport, at the meeting of art and science, and it makes the coolest sounds. see this national geographic video.
→ m: where do i begin!
o most corporations pay $0 in taxes.
o don’t donate to charity at the grocery store register or amazon check out. corporations profit from donations-- using your money. give your money directly.
o tarot! is mindblowing! so thankful to have begun this practice.
o submit. just do it. Submitting your work takes a certain amount of audacity i do not typically possess, but it doesn’t matter! let the work breathe. have courage. say thank you. keep making.
o it’s okay to feel anger. it’s part of healing. feel it all.
o when you feel stagnant, change it up. try a new medium. change your scenery.
o when you feel stagnant, check in with your routines— and your senses. do you even have a routine? do you plan to connect with your senses? you should.
o everywhere is a vacation destination, even if you live there. nadine’s post has really helped me through discontent with home, post oregon road trip.
o capitalism is not great, and our intersectional feminism needs to address that.
o people’s opinions of me are not the same as my own-- and usually better. just as i assume the best of others, people usually return the favor.
o reconnect with that friend you lost touch with. it’s worth it.
o mossery planners > any other. #nonspon but please sponser us :)
o now for my 2020 experiment to learn whether or not a desk is worth it :)
here's to a good year. enjoy.
every day is a new day, a new opportunity to begin again. though the new year's is a construct, it's a deeply helpful construct, one to celebrate and lean into. we have created this list to deepen your moments of reset, whether this weekend in anticipation of a new year (and decade!) or in six months, when life feels stagnant. you got this.
o muchelleb’s youtube channel
m: the ultimate get-your-life-together channel, including 20 small changes for a happier 2020, and resetting for a new year.
o Rowena Tsai’s youtube channel
m: rowena’s videos routinely come up in our love lists, and for good, good reasons. watch for honest, but motivating, videos on productivity, habit-making, routines, and health.
o a reflection practice
m: resolutions can be a bit clunky for me. in this post, i discussed why this is, and included a (long) list of prompts to reflect on 2019, in order to answer the following questions about the next year: what do i want to take with me, what do i want to leave behind, and what do i want to generate? the questions include concepts like, what did i embrace this year? what did i let go of? when did i practice bravery? click through for the full list of prompts.
o the year compass
nadine: a printable booklet with questions and exercises that are fun and easy to answer.
o we’re not really strangers’ questions to ask yourself
m: because you’re worth knowing.
o two new year tarot spreads
m: tarot asks you to articulate what you already know or feel.
o looking ahead: setting intentions in notebooks
m: the second half of my reflections post linked above includes a list of prompts to consider goal and intention setting for the next year. these are actionable, yet freeing questions, such as what topics do i want to explore, what do i hope to achieve professionally/academically, and more. here's the important part: completing the sentence: “here, where do you want to be physically, mentally, spiritually, this time in december 2020?” brainstorm, then map it again in a notebook
o 8 steps to guide your 2020 goals
nadine: scroll down to part two of this much-too-long post, looking forward to 2020: 4 cardinal points. don’t forget to check out the videos linked!
o emotional planning 2020 worksheet
m: creative independent's worksheet to ponder your 2020 mental state. one of my favorites.
o 10 ways to be more conscious in a new decade
m: ”One decade is about to take its final bow + another is on the horizon. Something I'd always like to be able to say is that the decade past was full of personal growth...and the one to come offers so much more to discover + embrace. Time has taught me that choosing to be a lifelong learner is life-affirming. One year...one day at a time...we keep moving forward, and it can be helpful to have some direction.”
it's december and i'm exhausted. my thinking is fuzzy and foggy most of the time. i'm pretty sure i'm in a "grip" and it's........ 🙃 very unpleasant.
i do have moments where i can think clearly. i've used them to work, reflect on 2019, write this post, and ruin my christmas-morning hollandaise sauce. that's pretty much it. anyway, here's what i have come up with! it's quite a long post, which is why i've split it in two. part one is more about looking back and part two is more about looking forward!
before i start: this whole post is a companion post to the collective resource list we (the sprout club team) are currently working on. stay tuned for that! it's bound to be a lot more helpful than what i'm writing in this post.
looking back on 2019: 3 lessons
my most-listened-to song of 2019 is border song. i listened to it all the time last summer. i could not get it out of my head. it was pretty much all i could think about. and the fact that i had no idea why i was so obsessed with it only made me more obsessed with it. obviously.
but now that i'm looking back, my reason for being so obsessed with that song seems clearer. here's what i think: it's partly the way i was introduced to it, partly how deeply the lyrics of the second verse resonated with me.
i never paid much attention to border song before i watched rocketman (which i talked about in the june love list and later in a post) last june. border song holds a special place in the narrative of rocketman because it's the first thing elton john and bernie taupin connect on. again, in the movie — i have no idea how it happened in real life — bernie is embrassed when he realizes that elton has seen the lyrics of border song; he never meant for anyone to see them; but elton assures him he loves them. at the risk of sounding thoroughly sappy... that's what friendship is to me. and friendship, in 2019, has been one of the most important things in my life.
lesson 1: friendship is a careful and generous exchange of love
friendship is seeing beauty in the same things. friendship is wanting to see the world through each other's eyes and loving what you see. friendship is a careful and generous exchange of love. friendship is sharing. friendship is reciprocal. friendship is a dance.
in 2019, i've learned to deepen the intimacy of my friendships. for this, i have my two closest friends to thank. they have been patient, generous, honest, open, understanding and so much more. they have made me feel safe to be real and vulnerable with them, and that's such a wonderful, precious gift.
lesson 2: if you need to quit, then quit
now, for the second verse of border song:
[...] i have been deceived
i love those lyrics (by bernie taupin) so much. they are brilliant because they are so simple, yet so effective. to me, they are about turning your back on something that honestly, simply doesn't work for your authentic self. and there's nothing wrong with that.
i used to think that quitting would hinder my self-trust because it would amount to me breaking a promise i made to myself (e.g. "i promise to myself i will work on this until it is objectively finished."). but i realized that i made a more important promise to myself, something i have to honour and prioritize above all else: i promise i will be true to myself and always have my best interests at heart. therefore, if quitting means being true to myself, it won't hinder my self-trust; on the contrary, it will strengthen it.
lesson 3: treating myself like a precious object will make me strong
on the topic of self-trust, here's my best practice: self-nurturing. in her book the artist's way, julia cameron recommends using this affirmation: "treating myself like a precious object will make me strong." the idea is that the more you care for and nurture yourself (like a child), the more "adult" you can behave.
an integral part of self-nurturing is the morning pages practice. morning pages have been inordinately helpful to me, and because of this and so much more, i cannot recommend the artist's way (by julia cameron) enough. it doesn't matter if you are an artist or not, if you would like to be an artist or not: deepening your connection to yourself is good for everyone.
looking forward to 2020: 4 cardinal points
i think it's worth reiterating that i haven't been able to think clearly lately, and, because of this, it's been so difficult for me to find direction for 2020. the feeling of aimlessness only worsened my mental fogginess. if you recall, my inner compass was already broken a long time ago; i dedicated november to some "experiments in compass restoration," which yielded precious few results. but i've been able to find my 4 top values and, because there are 4 of them and i already started using the compass metaphor, i'm calling them my 4 cardinal points.
so, i was lost and aimless. but then, rowena tsai came in and saved the day. i watched her video where she talks about her favourite habits out of those she implemented or tried implementing in 2019 and her video where she clarifies her purpose for 2020. these videos got me thinking. the last one i mentioned, especially, inspired the following process:
(1) i started by asking myself: what are the things i did "right" in 2019? what are my 2019 "wins"? i made a list of these, as complete as possible. i included achievements as small as "putting oat milk in my tea" and as big as "landing the jobs i applied for"; achievements as specific as "doing the dishes every day for nearly 3 months" and as general as "slowing down"; every single achievement i could think of.
(2) when i finished, i looked back on my list. i asked myself: of all my achievements, which do i feel the most proud of? which bring me the most satisfaction? which do i value the most?
(3) i put the chosen achievements in categories with overarching themes based on why i felt proud of what i had achieved. i realized that these themes could be further boiled down to values.
(4) once i had my list of most cherished values, i wrote my personal definition of each. this step is important because a value like "wisdom" is abstract and can mean vastly different things to different people.
(5) for each value, i asked myself: what do i need in my life to apply this core value successfully? this list was mostly general and abstract; i came up with things like mental health, loving relationships, time to think, closeness to nature, etc.
(6) i looked at my list of needs and asked myself: concretely, how do these needs manifest in my daily life? i translated them to habits and activities; i assigned each a finite daily amount of time. someone else with different needs or a different lifestyle may choose to focus on energy or money instead of time. i tried to be as realistic as possible considering health demands, financial obligations, etc.
(7) i looked at my ideal daily life and i compared it with the present. i tried to figure out: why is that not my life now? what are the hurdles in my way? more specifically, i tried to identify decisions and habits that encourage or discourage the attainment of my ideal. those that encourage me to live by my values are deemed "good"; those that discourage this are deemed "bad."
(8) finally, it was time to make a concrete plan for 2020! how can i promote making "good" decisions? how can i bring in and maintain "good" habits? how can i cut back on "bad" habits? muchelleb's youtube channel is full of advice to help answer these questions. this video is especially helpful and actionable; if you need more examples as a complement, i recommend watching this video as well.
i'll share the result of this reflection with you. this won't necessarily be helpful, but i want to share. the nerd in me was very pleased to see that the 4 core values i chose to call "cardinal points" actually corresponded to the 4 real cardinal points and their associated symbolism! so, for symbolism's sake, i am associating my values to the real cardinal points. just please let me have my fun, thank you.
east (air): wisdom
i think that the number one thing i seek in life (something i don't currently have, but wish to have in a few decades) is wisdom, or understanding myself, others, life and the world as fully, as kindly, and as honestly as possible. using my reflection time to seek this understanding comes naturally to me, but i need reflection time. this means i shouldn't be too busy, because if i am constantly rushing through life, i am less likely to stop to reflect.
i made a list of helpful habits that encourage me to seek wisdom. taking an hour to myself as soon as i awake in the morning (for my morning pages), and another hour right before sleep at night, is the best way to help me feel balanced enough to pursue the far, long-term goal of wisdom.
south (fire): joy
a lot of the achievements i felt proud of in 2019 didn't really "look" like achievements... "catching joy and delight when they fly by"? "savouring time spent with my loved ones"? "allowing myself to see how good life can be"? and yet they're some of the most fulfilling things i did all year. i brought them together under the umbrella value of joy, or savouring whatever beauty and loveliness the world has to offer.
i know that it is hard for me to feel joyful when i don't have a good mental health, or when i don't spend quality time with loved ones, or when i don't have time to connect with nature. what habits or decisions encourage this? helpful habits include keeping in touch with loved ones, cooking/eating healthy, taking walks (especially in nature), etc. to enable this, it is important to make decisions that promote my wellbeing (that make space for down time, for example).
west (water): creativity
i've always known that i valued creativity, both artistic and scientific. this value, or cardinal point, refers to artistic creativity, or expressing myself through writing, songwriting and playlist-curating. these are my favourite channels for self-expression.
for me, this is a very simple value, because as long as i make time for it, i'm good. i have quantified this time as at least 2 hours a day, and a helpful habit that enables this is getting up early (because i am most prolific in the mornings).
north (earth): excellence
this value is the missing link. i identified it as excellence, or completing meaningful, purposeful, positive projects that enlist my skills and work ethic, and that achieve results i feel proud of.
excellence is less about habits (i don't think i could drop my work ethic if i tried) and more about good decisions. am i saying yes to projects that i find meaningful, purposeful and positive? am i saying yes to projects that enlist my skills and work ethic? am i saying yes to projects that produce results i feel proud of?
and that's it!
i think this post is long enough. i now leave you to your own reflections. may your 2020 teach you the lessons you are ready to learn and bring you the joy and love you are ready to accept. and may it teach you that you deserve more.
are you keeping warm this winter? are you finding light? in one week it will begin to lighten. one week. we will have made it thru the longest night. we are getting there. so proud of you.
make sure you have a drink beside you (no really, go get water.) settle in. fall in love.
→ Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D Major, First Movement
nadine: for this month’s classical recommendation, i was going to go with a december favourite, Pas de deux from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker (the piece i like best from the nutcracker, which also features the holiday classic the dance of the sugar-plum fairy), but i honestly can’t stop listening to the first movement of the violin concerto. on break at work. in the morning. on public transport. as i make dinner. on walks. all the time. it’s so good.
→ Toute seule pour Noël by Klô Pelgag
nadine: i have been waiting impatiently for new material from this artist for so long!! this is a christmas song; the lyrics (translated from french by myself) at one point go: “i’m looking for the star like the others / we’re the new apostles / again [we’re] all alone for christmas / pulling the sleigh of the father.”
→ ocean eyes cover by Alicia Keys
nadine: this time last year, i was listening on repeat to a playlist i made that i called “urban conch shell” and that featured the original ocean eyes. i haven’t listened to it much since last december. but now this. i’m not sure what makes this cover so special. it’s something words can’t say. please listen to Alicia Keys make magic.
→ E by ecco2k
m: sad boi hours, but in a rainforest.
portrait by frida vega.
→ repairable by never,forever
m: this song, an unreleased nothing,nowhere track, has been a source of hope this season, with its honesty and calming guitar: “i’m not so broken, repairable / yeah i’ve got my flaws too, exposable.”
→ big business by levi the poet feat. j givens
m: been thinking a lot about church and deconstruction (and impeachment). levi the poet’s album cataracts is my soundtrack to this discussion, especially big business.
→ nadine: Abbie Emmons created this gold mine for anyone planning to write a novel.
→ m: i just finished brooklyn 99, and while it’s a bit like cop propaganda, i absolutely love this show.
→ nadine: travel guides from where i live, especially themed ones, for discovery ideas and new takes on old sights. “the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” (Proust)
→doubling down on love by brene brown
m: when anger is not enough to stay sustainable.
→ bunny by mona awad
gray: this book was just so weird and funny and got me out of a super long reading slump.
→ bright dead things by ada limon
m: i’ve never read a book like this. limon’s poetry had me gasping and taking pictures of poetry to send to a friend. one of many surprises included her poems about mourning singleness in a new relationship. i’m a very independent person, and rarely do i feel seen in this feeling. love her work.
→the crying book by heather christle
m: crying. too both ordinary and disturbing to pay too much attention to. one act that takes whole books and sculptures to make sense of. this tiny, complicated, ambiguous thing. heather wrote a book of- about- crying, in all its flavors and experiments and rooms and all the things. is it poetry? is it prose? is it an experimental essay? yes.
→ becoming rbg by debbie levy and whitney gardner
m: an easy to read comic book biography on our queen ruth bader ginsburg. this is aimed towards middle grade, but works so well for most age groups.
→ naked berry blast
m: i deeply resent the single use plastic bottle, and will probably never drink this again once i am off an elimination diet, but straight up, this drink is saving my life and happiness right now. good for dessert, good for a snack.
→ nadine: what are some causes and manifestations of overwhelm for me? how may i accept and manage them more successfully? (reading Was That Really Me? by Naomi Quenk helped a lot with this)
→ m: my perception of my self does not belong to others. In fact, i can not possibly say i know what is thought of me, unless i am told. and what i am told is generally the opposite of the narrative told by my ever so eloquent imposter syndrome. and this is good. how may i learn to believe the voices outside of my head?
what about you? what's making life worth living lately?
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GIF art by cheyenne barton
I'm an enneagram 4w5, wearing a 6 cape. An INFP. I am quite creative and philosophical and go with the flow, I love to learn and study, but I like structure. I like knowing perimeters, and resent boxes. Rules make me feel safe and capable... like I know how to work well and satisfy both myself and others.... if I agree with them.
The stereotypes go like this: one can be one or the other: The artist is a bohemian who is messy, irresponsible, eccentric, and defies all boxes society attempts to place around them. They're a rebel. And this is me. Those who like rules are probably tidy and strict and inflexible. This is not me, and I'd argue that if this is, you could use some therapy, as we all could. Stereotypes have grains of truth, but we know they aren't whole. I am actually both, a person who resents boxes but loves some perimeters. For example, I believe artists are some of the most rule following folks around, even if they feel free flowing. There's dedication, knowledge, and routine. You can be both. It's healthy.
Perhaps the most asked question of artists just starting out, after "Where do you get ideas" is simply, "How?" Lucky for us, everyone works slightly differently, enabling us to seek out those we most closely resonate with, and most like to talk about it. The result is a healthy stack of books and lists about "rules" folks follow, and how they allow for creative freedom.
Corita Kent's Art Department Rules
If you don't know about Corita Kent, you should. Kent was a nun who made brilliant, bright, thoughtful, poetic, bold art. She played with shape, color, and typeset in a way that in part reflects advertising, and in part embodies poetry. She's glorious.
Following is her ruleset for the Immaculate Heart College Art Department:
Jack Kerouac's 30 Beliefs and Techniques for Writing and Life
Of all people, Kerouac lived out his writing, thus it makes sense that his list applies to both writing and life. I love that. That is how I want to go about things.
1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy
2. Submissive to everything, open, listening
3. Try never get drunk outside yr own house
4. Be in love with yr life
5. Something that you feel will find its own form
6. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind
7. Blow as deep as you want to blow
8. Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind
9. The unspeakable visions of the individual
10. No time for poetry but exactly what is
11. Visionary tics shivering in the chest
12. In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you
13. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
14. Like Proust be an old teahead of time
15. Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog
16. The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
17. Write in recollection and amazement for yourself
18. Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea
19. Accept loss forever
20. Believe in the holy contour of life
21. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
22. Dont think of words when you stop but to see picture better
23. Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning
24. No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
25. Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it
26. Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form
27. In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness
28. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better
29. You’re a Genius all the time
30. Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven
Kanye's Studio Rules
Set aside whatever you think about Kanye to appreciate the signs he keeps taped up on his studio walls, as described by Rick Ross. I like the idea of creating a space separate from the rest of the world for creating, a place where I don't feel pressured to prove to anyone else that I am creating by speaking or posting about it.
NO HIPSTER HATS
ALL LAPTOPS ON MUTE
JUST SHUT THE FUCK UP SOMETIMES
NO TWEETING PLEASE THANK YOU
NO NEGATIVE BLOG VIEWING
DON’T TELL ANYONE ANYTHING ABOUT ANYTHING WE’RE DOING!
NO RACKING FOCUS WHILE MUSIC IS BEING PLAYED OR MUSIC IS BEING MADE
TOTAL FOCUS ON THIS PROJECT IN ALL STUDIOS
NO ACOUSTIC GUITAR IN THE STUDIO
Austin Kleon's Rules of the Studio
The first artist I turned to for this post was Austin Kleon, patron saint of creativity and creative working. He created this set of rules for himself and his sons, who love to visit the studio. I also recommend his book Keep Going.
Ten Bullets by Tom Sachs
I love visual artist Sachs' emphasis on space.
1. SACRED SPACE: KEEP TOOL KIT AT THE READY SO WHEN INSPIRATION STRIKES THERE IS NO DELAY, EXCUSE OR HINDERANCE BETWEEN YOU, YOUR THOUGHT, AND IT’S REALIZATION
8. RESET. AT THE END OF THE DAY: KNOLL YOUR WORKSPACE, SWEEP + EMPTY TRASH, PRE SET YOUR WORK STATION WITH SOMETHING PLEASURABLE TO COMPLETE. BEGIN YOUR DAY WITH A SENSE OF ACCOMPLISHMENT…
9. PROCRASTINATE. IF AT FIRST YOU DONT 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
How to Feel Miserable as an Artist by Keri Smith
Keri Smith's anti-rule list is practical as can be. We love Keri Smith in this house.
Seth Godin's Rules for Working in a Studio
Who better to turn to than a teacher and author? Gobin's list feels both simple and extensive.
Don’t hide your work
Ask for help
Tell the truth
Upgrade your tools
Don’t hide your mistakes
Add energy, don’t subtract it
If you’re not proud of it, don’t ship it
Know the rules of your craft
Break the rules of your craft with intention
Make big promises
Let others run, ever faster
Learn something new
Criticize the work, not the artist
Power isn’t as important as productivity
Honor the schedule
You are not your work, embrace criticism
Sign your work
Obsess about appropriate quality, ignore perfection
A studio isn’t a factory. It’s when peers come together to do creative work, to amplify each other and to make change happen. That can happen in any organization, but it takes commitment.
Two Books of Lists
I get hungry for The Secret, yanno? The one sentence that will change my whole life. I search for it, and following are two books about this exact subject that I highly suggest. You will be inspired. But you will also find that there are no secrets... there is just persistence and listening to yourself and how you work best. You got this. Just trust how you feel and what you've learned. Experiment.
Ways of Being: Advice for Artists by Artists, edited by James Cahill
How do you be an artist? Is art a 'career', or a vocation? Do you need a studio or a dealer, and how do you find one? Are artists too competitive? How do they come up with ideas, and what is the point of the private view? Does financial success—or the lack of it—change an artist? What are the advantages of getting older?
Based upon advice from a huge roster of artists, dealers and curators; and encompassing every stage of an artist's life—from early works, to debut shows and mid and late-career—this book answers all the key questions that every artist has at some point asked themselves.
Daily Rituals: How Artists Work edited by Mason Currey
161 inspired—and inspiring—minds,... novelists, poets, playwrights, painters, philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians, who describe how they subtly maneuver the many (self-inflicted) obstacles and (self-imposed) daily rituals to get done the work they love to do, whether by waking early or staying up late; whether by self-medicating with doughnuts or bathing, drinking vast quantities of coffee, or taking long daily walks.
Here's the thing...
Rules are made to change. Rules are made to develop. Rules are made to give you more freedom and ability. Study others' rules. Be open to the prospect that each project may require a new set of rules. Figure out how your body, mind, and soul work best under different conditions. Map them out. Make your own list of rules... or guidelines, if you will. We're always interested to hear what you think, so feel free to send your list our way.
Go in peace,
it's this time again
a moment i both love and resent at once. a moment i both sink into with ease and gratitude, and also scrabble hard against with refusal. november. it's a strange one, this month. i wrap my fingers around hot mugs and press my palms toward the warmth. i snuggle into my softest clothing, sweaters and leg warmers and socks, and top it off with blankets and pillows. it's so comfortable. safe. layered. and sometimes, thus smothering. the sky is a lid, capping off the sunny days much too early with clouds, and sighing into a night. sometimes, if we are lucky, the sunset is absolutely brilliant, a last hurrah at five pm. it's harder to get out of bed and shed the warmth long enough to wash the sheets, or clean the rooms. my brain feels like a hibernating bear, or a tree losing its leaves: it is here to survive, cutting off circulation to my creative, spiritual side.
and this is okay. like nature, we are built of cycles. often, they reflect the weather, because we too are nature, as are our feelings, chemical reactions and acclimating to light.
it's okay. really. it's okay if you are not your summer self. we will get there again.
and thus november is a practice:
how can i practice patience when i am frustrated with my assumed stagnation?
how can i notice and feel deeply the light and warmth, without feeling they are warning signs of a deeper, darker cold?
how can i motivate myself, when everything is dragging and slowing?
how can i lighten the way i feel? (for me this includes a hair cut and lots of healthy food)
an answer, one of many, is to simply love things again. to take stock of what you enjoy, and to meditate on your participation in them. and if you don't love? then find it. remember what used to make your soul feel okay, and pursue, even slowly. luckily for you, if you're out of ideas, we're here to bring you a new edition of our love lists. remember that we have many more! go find something you enjoy, and tell us about it!
with love and peace,
→ Léo Delibes’s The Flower Duet; original version or cello adaptation.
nadine: i picked this month’s classical recommendation because i think it’s pretty and floaty and like the first snowflake twirling in the air in a rose garden before it lands on a wilted flower. no other reason.
→ les failles by Pomme
nadine: this is my new favourite thing. the lyrics are gorgeous and poignant and the music sounds so effortless like it’s the lyrics’ natural form. some of my favourite lyrics (that i’m translating to english) include “i don’t want to go out / i don’t want to discover in me / the cracks, the cracks / and i don’t know how to dance / i don’t know how to forget myself” and “at my dreamed anchors / after the chaos / i come find you again / like the birds” and so many others. Pomme wrote a song in the first person from the perspective of anxiety and it’s so good. all of it is good.
→ Bad Ideas (the full album, finally) by Tessa Violet
nadine: i’ve been waiting for this impatiently since the release of the first single, Crush, a year and a half ago! i am not disappointed. the album holds itself together as a (terribly honest and vivid) story. besides, it’s so catchy and good.
→ this video of King Princess covering Lady Gaga’s Speechless for BBC Radio 1
nadine: i never found myself thinking “hey i wish someone would make one of Lady Gaga’s best songs gay” but here i am!!!!
→graveyard, stripped live from nashville by halsey
m: the lyrics to this song are some of the best released this year, i’m positive. the lyrics are full of double meanings, creating both a world and a feeling and a toxic relationship. this version is soft and heartfelt, and the set is simply divine.
→ cheyenne barton’s channel
m: when i want to feel calm, cozy, and creative, i turn to 20 something artist cheyenne’s channel. her vlogs are relaxed, beautifully edited, and speak to my 20 something thoughts… a longing for a beautiful, simple life, with a side of oh-no-how-does-one-human-tho.
→ elysium by bear’s den
m: this music video broke my heart.
→ The Seasonal Soul by Lauren Altetta
m: if my intro resonated at all with you, you must do yourself a favor and read this book. altetta views the soul as literally seasonal, theorizing that your soul’s spring, summer, fall, and winter all ask different things of you. i love it. it makes all the sense... reassuring and motivating.
→ Japan in Bloom by Hanya Yanagihara
gray: A beautiful and descriptive article about the history of the cherry blossom’s importance in Japan. “That idea--that everything in life is temporary; that all desire, whether altruistic or selfish in nature, is meaningless--helps explain the culture’s adoration of the sakura. If the cherry blossom can still be relied upon to bloom at a specific time, it can also be relied upon to die soon after: For 51 weeks, one waits, and within seven days at most, one is consigned to waiting once more. The pleasure of seeing a cherry tree in bloom is the sorrow of knowing that it will soon be over. To be in the presence of one is to be humbled before nature, and moreover, to be welcoming of that humiliation. A sakura is the human life condensed into the period of a week: a birth, a wild, brief glory, a death. It is to us what we are to the sweep of time--a millisecond of beauty, a memory before we are even through.”
→ Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
m: i reread this novel in verse this month and loved it more so than i have before. it’s been so intriguing to read this book at different points of both my spiritual and creative journeys, as i hear the main character Xiomara in different ways each time. Poet X follows a teenage Harlem girl as she navigates misogyny, religion, autonomy, and poetry. it’s beautifully written.
→ Becoming Dangerous: Witchy Femmes, Queer Conjurers, and Magical Rebels edited by Katie West
m: a badass, tender anthology covering a myraid of topics, from the gender politics of boxing, to fashion, to chronic illness and disability, to gardens, through intersectional feminism.
→ organic bone broth
m: i used to be a near vegan, until a recent prescription called for the aip diet. bone broth is a gift from this protocol. my tastes tend to lean savory as it is, so whether i’m sipping bone broth soup or just squeezing in some lime and sipping it straight, it’s a warm, savory, clean gift.
→ cappucinos with oat milk
gray: what can i say? mad yum
→ cinnamon apple spice tea by celestial
m: perfectly sweet, fruity, and spicy, good on its own or with vanilla almond milk creamer
→ m: what do i not do when i am not feeling well? this list may serve a couple purposes: to recognize and catch myself when i begin to slip, and to give me a concrete to do list of things i can do to make myself feel better.
what about you? what's making life worth living lately?
send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
gif art by Alexandra Dvornikova
it's squash season. i've never been a squash person (except as a baby?), but this year is different. my neighbour and i decided to start splitting a "basket" of fruit and vegetables: every week, we pick up a boxful (minus the box!) of produce that's either been rejected or considered surplus in some way. this usually includes whatever's in season. so, lately, we've been getting different varieties of winter squash.
in my fridge, there's a large jar of pumpkin butter — the result of what has turned out to be, by far, my most successful winter squash experiment.
in the non-squash category, i got fresh beets that i had no idea what to do with until i saw this video. i made beetroot milk! i used raw beets (plural because they were really small) and, though i would definitely have needed a strainer, the result was delicious, not to mention colourfully cute.
my kitchen experiments serve three purposes: they feed me, they ground me, and they give me space to play. i honestly had more fun destroying my jack o'lantern by cooking it and turning it into butter than i had when i carved my pumpkin. i'll admit my experiments don't always make for the most delectable meals (like when i thought it was a good idea to put grapefruit in my hot oats, or to eat my spaghetti squash with only nutritional yeast and a pinch of salt), but i am discovering the fun of doing something "just to see what happens."
joy hides in strange places. i want to be someone who sees it and enjoys it when it flies by. for example, i have this tin of pumpkin chai tea that smells so good that it makes me smile, automatically and uncontrollably, whenever i catch a whiff of it. it doesn't matter if i'm having a good day or not.
these little things anchor me. without them, i would feel like i am floating aimlessly, because these days, i don't have anything near the clear overview of Life i crave and seek. my compass is broken, and it took me a bit too long to realize it and take down my sails. i lowered my anchor and now, i'm trying to fix my compass.
"trying to fix my compass" means that i'm delaying important decision-making until the end of the month; in other words, i'm trying to use the month of november to "gather data" i will later analyze. kind of like in the scientific method. actually, who am i kidding? exactly like in the scientific method. you can take the nerd out of science, but you cannot take science out of the nerd.
and so, in parallel with my kitchen experiments, i conduct other experiments i take more seriously. i probably take them too seriously. the overarching goal of these more structured experiments is to find the constants: the components of the compass that never change. hopefully, with these constants, i'll be closer to having a compass that works.
i'll be honest: when i say "constants," i am for the most part referring to personality types. i am trying to have a more solid understanding of my enneagram and myers-briggs* personality types, because according to these theories, a person's personality type doesn't change; rather, it is a flexible model that manifests differently in different people, contexts and life stages.
i love the enneagram and myers-briggs systems. i know some people dislike personality typing in general, because they consider it rigid or limiting, but after studying different systems for some years, i have learned that a personality type, when the system is properly conceived, is designed to be fluid, adaptive and growth-orienting. in other words, to borrow ian morgan cron's image (which he applies to the enneagram), the point of knowing our personality type isn't to put ourselves in a box with a label on it; it's to find a way out of the box we've inadvertently stuck ourselves in. personality types aren't labels, they're maps. these maps — provided we've got the ones that truly fit us best — point us to our highest potential.
please note that what i'm referring to is the mbti system with its jungian basis (see it presented as the car model or on one of my favourites mbti blogs) and the enneagram in its many forms, including what i would call the classic enneagram, the instinctual subtypes (as best explained by beatrice chestnut, in my opinion) and, to a lesser extent, the tritypes (as developed by katherine fauvre).
i have been wrong about my personality types more often than i've been right. in fact, i don't even know if i'm currently right, and besides, the whole concept of "being right" hinges on the assumption that personality typing theory works. (to better understand what the concept of "theory" means, i recommend this ted-ed video or its blog post version. not that personality typing is particularly scientific, but i think it helps to remember that it's not a law.) obviously, that's the assumption i'm running with: the enneagram and mbti personality typing theories work, and if i find my correct type in each system and interpret it correctly, i will have valuable advice to guide my self-growth.
so, this is what i'm doing this november: experimenting. am i this myers-briggs type? am i this enneagram type? how will i enjoy doing nanowrimo? what in the world can i do with an acorn squash? why am i feeling aimless? how does this or that hypothesis fare in the real world?
and i will try my best to remember — and i apologize for the wildly random metaphor — that taking time to focus on improving the plough is the opposite of neglecting the field.
what about you? what's your november like? do you have any good acorn squash recipes to share?
*mbti and myers-briggs are reserved and in no way am i a certified practicioner. therefore, everything i write about the mbti should be taken as nothing more than an opinion.
the harshness of october has made me reflect on why we do love lists.
i have this image in my mind of stopping to use the bathroom at a tim hortons during a roadtrip (as i'm sure most canadians have done in their lifetime). i don't remember where i was going or whom i was with. it might have been around 2010. i do remember what song i listened to on repeat during the roadtrip — the cave by mumford & sons — and how happy i felt that i'd found a song i loved so much. i remember thinking: “i hope i never stop discovering songs that make me feel like this.”
it's been almost 10 years and i can safely say that i still regularly discover songs that make me feel the heady joy of oneness with music. it's a gladness of living and a burst of love. and i trust, i believe that i haven't listened to every good song currently in existence, that many good songs remain to be written and produced, that i will never run out of “new” good songs.
love lists, for me, are a celebration of the joy and love i feel for favourites new and old. they are a manifestation, a tiny proof that there is an abundance of things out there that i can love.
my wish for you is that you see love lists as such: as a reminder that the world is abundant in lovely things. maybe you don't feel it right now. that's ok. there are seasons for everything. resting is as much an act of love as sharing favourites or calling up a friend.
with love (and i mean it),
→ Bach’s Concerto in D Minor, II, Alexandra Stréliski’s interpretation (on spotify and youtube).
nadine: this month’s classical rec, a contemplative, melodic 5-minute piano-only piece (there is no orchestra accompaniment), fits well with the mood i perceive october to have so far. please check out Alexandra Stréliski’s other works (Pianoscope and INSCAPE) as well; they suit the increasing hours of nighttime beautifully.
→.i’m wide awake, it’s morning by bright eyes
gray: i’ve been feeling ummm..”sentimental for days gone by” (sorry, wrong bright eyes album), and in a result i’ve been trying to return to my high school faves. i’m always surprised at how well bright eyes holds up through the years and how i always feel like i can return to it. fave tracks: poison oak, road to joy
→ Le souper by Jean-Michel Blais, a short instrumental track from the Matthias et Maxime soundtrack (on spotify and youtube).
nadine: i recently saw Matthias et Maxime at the cinema; the soundtrack was my favourite part (and it won the Cannes Soundtrack Award). this is so delightful. sweet. gripping and soft at the same time. [note: the full soundtrack is available as of today! i haven't listened to it yet, though.]
→ all mirrors by angel olsen
Gray: angel olsen is always so so good and this new album really glitters. It’s a beautifully cathartic break up album with a dramatic string section that permeates the songs. fave tracks: lark, all mirrors
→ Initium (music video) by Keaton Henson
nadine: i think you may need to be “in the mood” to watch this (in the mood to watch the sea for nine minutes straight while listening to a slow orchestral piece, specifically), but what a mood that is. the music video is stunning. i gasped at some point. it’s like the sea was listening to the song too.
→ 30 rock
gray: the last great major network comedy
→ Games (lyric video) by Tessa Violet
nadine: Tessa Violet being amazing again, reminding us we deserve better.
→ radio silence by alice oseman
gray: a very sweet YA novel about school, expectations, and friendship. literally cannot recommend it enough; it made me smile, it made me cry, and it made me feel almost every emotion in between.
→ the moon asks a question, a comic made by purutsukid from dirgewithoutmusic’s short story.
nadine: a quick, easily-accessible must-read for anyone who’s ever wondered if what they felt “qualified” as “love.”
→ gray: london fog latte. why is psl the official autumn drink and not this? messed up!
→ nadine: lots of tea. my kettle broke, so i got a new one. it’s slower to boil. i think that’s a great thing.
→ gray: i am trying to consciously recognize how the things i do may affect others, especially when it comes to my job. just want to make sure i am not a major source of stress for anyone!
→ nadine: i’ve been thinking about so many things. what connects it all? there is always a connection. maybe it’s love.
what about you? what's making life worth living lately?
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i have a (relatively) new nightly ritual: i stand at the sink, facing the old glass block window, and i wash the day's dishes. it's a gift i make every night to my tomorrow-morning self. in return, i get to use that lavender dishsoap i like so much.
the other night, like many nights before, i had both hands plunged in warm soapy water. my fingers brushed cutlery and damp crumbs as the lavender-scented bubbles hugged my forearms. i cried. again. i've been crying a lot in the past month or so.
this, i thought to myself then, is an image of growth.
i've been crying so much because my life feels like a mess, like a shapeless heap of wooden sticks after i just removed one too many pieces of the Jenga tower. i removed the cruel-to-myself piece. i removed the unable-to-voice-my-expectations piece. i removed the unable-to-reach-for-support piece. i removed the skewed-priorities piece.
i've been getting to know myself better. i've been learning to express myself and connect with loved ones better. and i make mistakes and i slide backward and i do a lot of crying. it's all growth.
it's hard when you realize your life is not the right size for you anymore. it means you need to change a lot of your surroundings and activities. sometimes change is soft, gentle and heartwarming, like when i'm done doing the dishes at night and i mix warm oat milk, cacao powder and honey in a carefully-chosen cup, and i light candles in the living room. other times, though, change is loud, sudden and painful. the Jenga tower falls.
i quit school.
let's not talk about that.
instead, let's talk about how i have more energy to dedicate to reading. i've been reading J.D. Salinger's Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction for the first time. i picked that book to read because it was a gift from my sister, who bought it for me years ago because i'd read and liked The Catcher in the Rye years before that, and it spent a long time sitting on my bookshelf.
Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters, especially, felt rejuvenating to read. it made me laugh so much, and everything was so vivid, and by the time (very mild spoiler) the narrator started reading his older brother Seymour's diary, i couldn't close the book. in a poignant, painful way, i saw myself in Seymour (please note i hadn't read Seymour: An Introduction yet), but i couldn't understand how he could be so magnanimous and compassionate.
for example, Seymour's girlfriend's mother insists on trying to psychoanalyze Seymour. she goes so far as to invite her psychoanalyst to dinner with Seymour and her family. i don't know how that sort of thing went in 1942, but it would never fly in 2019 with me.
in his diary, Seymour discusses how he thinks his brother (the narrator of the story), would view his girlfriend Muriel's mother.
He would disapprove of Muriel's mother, too. She's an irritating, opinionated woman, a type [he] can't stand. I don't think he could see her for what she is. A person deprived, for life, of any understanding or taste for the main current of poetry that flows through things, all things. She might as well be dead, and yet she goes on living, [...] plotting for Muriel's health and prosperity. I love her. I find her unimaginably brave.
that quote hit me hard. i guess i read it at the right time in my life. it made me think. in a few notebooks, i wrote "i want to be so full of love that i see it in everything." it's a work in progress.
sometimes i feel more like the child i saw at the breakfast restaurant on canadian thanksgiving, last monday. a girl, maybe 7 or 8 years old, with quirky pink glasses, slid in the booth next to mine with her parents. i noticed her because she was pouting, frowning. soon i noticed her again because she angrily slammed aside the page she had been drawing on.
she grumbled: "it's not working." the page was glossy: i imagine it was some kind of durable plastified paper you can use markers on and later erase, but i might be wrong. i'm not exactly up-to-date on popular art supplies for kids these days.
i brought my attention back to the discussion at my booth, but again, i noticed the little girl. from her backpack, she slid out a notebook filled with drawings.
we — the dreamers — the ones who carry notebooks when only a phone would do — that little girl, me, maybe you too — we tend to feel disappointed when what we put on the pages of our notebook doesn't match what's in our head.
something that struck me in the 7-year-old artist i saw at the breakfast restaurant that day was that between tantrums, while she was drawing, there was a small content smile on her face. drawing made her happy — until it made her throw tantrums. but mostly, i think drawing made her happy. i saw it in the way she took her notebook out of her backpack, with love and care.
that's how i want to go on. because there will be tantrums. but if there's also contentment, love and care, maybe it won't be so bad.
the sprout club
a small collective dedicated to personal, creative, and communal growths.