Jamming

This past couple of months has been a very busy time for me. I traveled to Italy, sold my house, moved into an apartment, had visitors for 3 weeks, bought a new car and played 4 gigs. I’ve also been socializing a LOT. I am enjoying downtown apartment life, but it is a challenge for my creativity and for my waistline. I have been out for dinner or drinks nearly every night in the past 2 months.

What happened to my creativity? Maybe it is still packed from the move, in a box somewhere, on a shelf, in the back of the closet, in the dark. I find it so hard to be creative when I’m tied to my “To Do List”. Creating art and music for me come more from a dreamy, emotional state. It doesn’t come naturally for me to be “disciplined” and scheduled about creating, but I have been reading and researching that lately. The blogs and books I have been reading about creativity suggest that to make art I must actually make myself develop an art habit. Schedule time. Put it on the calendar. Plan the project. Get out supplies. Make a proper space in which to work. Not unlike my training for the Half Marathon (see earlier post.)

It is a lot like getting together to jam. You just bring your stuff, plug in and see what happens. Sometimes you have a song planned, sometimes you don’t. You just play. You make the appointment and just show up. Sometimes there are magical moments, sometimes it’s crap, but it’s nearly always useful or at least fun.

I suppose this is how it is as an adult living in our time. We have so many distractions. Work, family, love-life, friends, cooking, commuting, laundry, Netflix, iPads and iPhones, exercise, walking the dog, complaining about the news, investing our money, doctor appointments, Netflix, reading the car manual, pacing in the house shouting expletives (just me?), choosing the right insurance, Netflix, making a will, flipping through magazines and Netflix – it all competes for space and energy. Did I mention Netflix?

So, last night, after work, exercising, walking the dog and cooking dinner, I pulled out my easel. I wasn’t feeling terribly creative at first, so I decided to rework an old painting that I wasn’t happy with.

I got out my supplies. I painted.

So, I present to you, “Jamming”, 16×20” acrylic on gallery wrapped canvas. For sale $400.

“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”
 — Confucius

 

Accomplishment

Well, I ran a half marathon and I lived. Goal accomplished!

People have asked me over the past few months as I’ve been training (and talking about it incessantly,) if I have a goal. I suppose they are referring to a “time” goal. But every time this question comes up, I’m like, “duh! To LIVE?!” People have also been referring to it is a race. “When’s your race?”  My training partner and I laugh about this. For us, this isn’t so much a race as a “survival test.”

And survive, we did.  For us, this was a BIG deal. I am really proud of myself. I set a goal. I found a regimen to follow that promised it would prepare me to accomplish the goal. I found a partner to bring aboard my regimen and my goal for support.  I followed the plan. I booked appointments on my calendar for time to dedicate to the plan. I ate properly, I slept well, I used supplements wisely. Ok, that last sentence isn’t true. I ate mostly like crap (too much pizza, beer, chocolate), I slept sporadically (lots of late nights out at open mics), and supplements?  Well, I took a vitamin one day, but this is normal for me.

I accomplished this goal during a very stressful time in my life. Some may have thought I was nuts to train for a half marathon while going through major life changes such through the breakup of a 13 year relationship with the love of my life. But it was actually helpful. At a time when I was a little too raw to “create” anything but anger and sadness (and I was getting a bit fatigued of that), running gave me a real physical thing on which to focus. A neutral, happy-ish thing. It was a great distraction.

Things I learned:

Prepare properly.  It is important to do the work to build up and to know what to expect.

You do have to listen to your body, but there are times it can be a whiny bitch and you have to show it who’s boss. However, doctors, experienced friends and Google can help with questions about specific pain, blisters, nutrition, etc.

It helps to have support and cheerleaders. A lot. Talk to people and tell them this is a big deal for you. They rise up and cheer you on. Also, having a good training partner, someone to go through the process with is really amazing. We did not do all the training runs together, but we did run together generally once a week.  The rest of the time we shared competition and encouragement and misery.

So, now I will take these lessons and try to apply them to the rest of my life. I can set goals for my creative life, my job, my body, money, even relationships and work toward them. Not in a dreamy, wishing kind of way, but in a systematic, planned step by step kind of way. Choose the goal, find the plan, bring in some support. Run.

I (NOW!) Call Myself a Runner

Like everyone, I’ve had a lot of stress and life changes over the past few years that have taken a real toll on my fitness, self-confidence, sense of purpose, and motivation. After the holidays, I thought, “I need a GOAL to focus on.”  So, when I received an email advertising a local ½ Marathon, I jumped on it.  I counted the weeks I had until the Greenwich Cup ½ Marathon and Googled until I found the training program for me. My criteria: I had 17 weeks, I only wanted to run 3 days a week to give myself time to rest and cross-train, I was not an experienced distance runner, and I really wanted my week to start on Monday (I saw a lot of programs that had Monday as a rest day.) I chose my plan, put the whole thing on my calendar as “Running Appointments” and shared the schedule with a friend who committed to run the ½ Marathon with me.

The event is this Sunday, April 22, 2018. I’m a little anxious about it. I’m worried about blisters and pain in my feet and hips. I’m excited, too. I will write about my journey next week, but today I reflect on a piece I wrote 8 years ago. I had just come off surgery for breast cancer and I started running short, slow distances. Funny how I can still relate to these thoughts from 2010, but now I can celebrate how far I have come.

How does this relate to the rest of my blog and my “Creative Life” website? I will touch on this more in my next post, but for now I will say this: I learned a lot about discipline, setting small goals, trusting the process, and finding and accepting help. These are useful tools whether running a marathon (or a ½) or creating an art portfolio or recording an album. Or even making a great presentation at work.

Here is that post from March 2010

I Call Myself a Runner

I’d like to call myself a runner. But that’s probably a stretch. I frequently say things like, “I went for a great run last night,” when I really mean I shuffled around my neighborhood some until I got tired, then came home and tried not to look at the cookies in the cabinet. But I’m trying.

In high school, I was on the track team. I cheated. No, it wasn’t steroids. I cheated myself by not really running. When we were supposed to go out for distance road runs, I usually found a nice place to hide out for a while, and then I would catch up with the rest of the team when they came back for cool down. The truth is I hated running. It was just too hard. Needless to say, this lack of effort showed in my consistent last-place showings in track meets and my doughy thighs.

Now in my mid-40s, working long days at my bank job in Manhattan, commuting for over two hours a day on Metro-North, I have discovered something about myself. I need to run. I don’t do it to “be on the team.” I don’t do it to “look good” anymore, although, I must admit, it does help me battle the cookies. I do it because it gives back something that gets robbed away during the weekly grind.

Running is me. It is me breathing. It is me sweating. Shedding the stress of the week. Feeling the rhythm. Listening to the songs on my iPod. Working on my pace. Setting mini-goals like “Pick up the pace until you get to that stop sign” or giving myself reminders like “relax your shoulders, don’t bounce” and enjoying little successes with every step. It is me feeling the pounding of my feet in my running shoes on the uneven sidewalk in my neighborhood. As I run down Washington Boulevard, I breathe in the smells of the river, the trees, the exhaust from cars. I feel the heat of the sun on my face on a Saturday afternoon in March as I run past the Trump Tower. I notice the snow is still melting in some areas along Mill River Park. I jump over puddles and watch for buckled cracks in the path at Scalzi Park. I smile and wave at neighbors out walking or pushing their babies in strollers. I check out the houses and landscaping and cars of my town. I wonder if this sweatshirt is too heavy today.

I’m not going to win any races. I’m certainly not going to break any records or impress anyone out there. But I feel calmer, stronger, freer, and a little less doughy.

And, I can call myself a runner.

One Day At A Time

Hi. It has been awhile. I planned to blog regularly, but I just haven’t. I started to write some big explanation of why, but changed my mind. Anyone else beat themselves up for procrastinating or not doing things they said they would do?

Anyway, each day I do try to do something creative or something to further my creative skills or my creative endeavors. Sometimes it is practicing guitar or learning a new song. Sometimes it is reading a book or article on color theory or how to use Instagram for your art portfolio. The goal is to take one day at a time to develop my creative life. Just work a little each day.

Yesterday I finished a painting. It was a painting I started a few months ago and I wasn’t happy with it, so yesterday I painted over the whole thing and just played with color and rhythm. It felt really good to not restrict myself to copying a particular photo or model. I just painted what I felt and allowed myself to enjoy the vibrancy of the colors. I enjoy working with bright colors and I really like to paint people playing music. I like to leave the faces, sometimes even the gender, ambiguous and relatable so the viewer can create their own story in their mind. This one is loosely based on a friend I jam with.

I hope you can sense the rhythm and joy of music in this work and I hope you enjoy it. Let me know your thoughts.

Ps…it is available for sale. 😉

If you build it, they will come.

Or, at least you will have built it, have something to show for it, and a place to show it off.

Like a home builder pouring a foundation and setting up a frame, I spent the past 7 days putting together my website, setting up my social media accounts and organizing notes of goals, how-to, reminders, ideas.

This post will be of interest to you if you are someone trying to get set up for an organized creative business life. I will document some of the steps I have taken so I can help others who are overwhelmed with the beginning, like I was.  I have a great friend who had been through all this herself and has shared her experience with me.  I had no idea how to get started and I was spinning my wheels and procrastinating.  I would like to help others as my friend helped me.  Pay it forward.  Community, people!

Here is what I have done, so far:

  • I signed up with WordPress.com for a website. I drew out sort of an “org chart” of how I want to lay out my site. Next, I picked a template and started dropping in images of my artwork, music performance photos, videos of me playing music (I embedded these from YouTube.) I, then, added an “About” page, some of my original lyrics sheets, a list of cover songs I play and some events where people can come see me perform – either art or music -and show support.
  • I signed up for new Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter accounts, all called CarsonArtMusic, like my website. I still have some work to do on these to maximize their usefulness, like “tags”, “hashtags”, and links, but I will work on that next week.
  • I ordered business cards.
  • I got a DropBox account to make it easier to share photos, videos and other files with friends and between all my devices.
    • Note: be careful and diligent about how you name your files. Be consistent and descriptive.
  • I installed Chrome and Evernote on my computer and iPad to make it easy to capture notes and ideas. I have a file for “Third Party Providers” where I have stashed information like “how to bulk resize photos”, “how to transfer lots of big files to someone for free”, “where did I order my business cards”, etc.
    • These are:
        • bulkresizephotos.com
        • wetransfer.com
        • moo.com

In addition to all of this, I have now written 2 blog posts, and I have completed 2 paintings this week! It feels good to get this much done in one week. Many thanks to my friend, Kathy, at kathymuir.com for all the support and help.

“In a creative, life there is no difference between work and play.” -James Michener

Welcome to my first blog post EVER!

Hi there, I am a human named Susan Carson. Nice to meet you!

I am an ARTIST (paint, sketch, draw, acrylics, colored pencil, pen & ink)

I am a MUSICIAN (singer, songwriter, guitarist, originals, cover songs, rock, folk, pop, country, blues)

My art and music are the focus of my website and my social media accounts on Facebook and Instagram.

But, like you, there is so much more to me:

I am a human. I feel complex and complicated. I thrive on stream-of-consciousness writing and sometimes lose track of the point. (Now, where was I?). I have friends and family and coworkers. I have a day job.  I sit at a desk all day and work in a spreadsheet, listening to music on headphones in an open room full of people. Sometimes I feel too shy to talk to them.  I struggle with my health and fitness and aging.  I am a certified personal trainer. I have a black belt and have practiced martial arts for years, but I do not belong to any school or group and I do not want to fight anyone. I work out most days with a coworker/friend, at lunch.  I have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning, sometimes (so cozy!)  I read books – fiction and a lot of nonfiction.  I travel.  I ride a motorcycle.  I am embarrassed about my car sometimes, because it is old and banged up, yet it serves its purpose.  I have little to no fashion sense.  I love pizza and beer.  I love my iPad. I speak a little Spanish.  I practice meditation daily (or plan to.) I like to kayak. I play golf sometimes.  I am in a Corn Hole league at the park. I obsessively check my finances. I journal, on my computer because I hate my handwriting.  I write poetry, lyrics and haiku (little verses of 5-7-5 syllables.)  I start a lot of projects I don’t finish.  I am working on that.  I can be a bit needy for attention and affection.  I like to be alone, but I like to have my calendar jammed with social engagements and events to look forward to.  I have 2 cats and a dog.  I am married, but my relationship is complicated at this time.  Can you relate to any of that?  If so, we will get along nicely here.

So, what is my blog about? It is primarily about my Art and Music. This is where I will share and discuss my inspirations, process, goals, influences, frustrations, ideas for new paintings or songs. I will share works in progress, and how it evolves. I will share my progress with getting my music and art “out there” in the world.  But I hope to be able to share the rest of this stuff with you too…the human stuff.  The stuff that becomes fodder for the art, music and poetry.

I hope that in sharing these things, I may inspire you and reach something in you. Or maybe you will have some input or inspiration for me.  I hope that through these writings, we can connect and realize that through all the clutter and differences on the surface, we are all connected and okay on the inside. And we can help each other. 

“Our lives may be complicated on the outside, but we remain simple, easy, and open on the inside.” – Tsoknyi Ronpoche, “Allow for Space”, Tricycle Magazine