Changes of Direction for 2016

2016NewDirections

It has been almost a year since I posted to this blog. At that time, I was participating in Quest 2015 hosted by Jeffrey Davis at Tracking Wonder. Quest 2015 was a month-long period of contemplation and visioning for 2015.

Participating in the Quest was an important part of the life shifts that I have been working through this year, life shifts that have led to me wondering what to do with this blog.

I have very much enjoyed the conversations that have come out of my writing in this form and cherish the people I have met, but I have struggled to figure out what the purpose of this blog was and how to use it.

In particular, this year has led to me changing my name. My husband and I are divorcing and I have gone back to using my birth name, Kate Arms. I have not wanted to write under my married name anymore.

So, I am moving where I will be writing to several different locations.

The reflections of how to live an engaged, playful, and healthy life now appear in Firestarters, the newsletter I write for Signal Fire Coaching. If you want to read more about creativity, InterPlay, living authentically, and playing with the hard stuff, you can subscribe here.

My writings about writing will be found at Cracks in the World. That will be the place to read both announcements about my work and reflections about the writing process. Although the site is not fully live there yet, you can sign up to be notified as soon as it is.

This blog will stay live and I will be using it for the challenges I like to participate in. This month, for instance, I will be participating in Quest 2106 and will be posting my reflections from that process here. The Quest is a community of people digging into their visions for the following year through three prompts a week. If you are looking for a way to step into the new year with enthusiasm, creative energy, and vision, check it out. It might be just what you are looking for.

I want to thank you for reading this blog in the past and hope you will join me in the other venues that meet your interests.

Kate

 

Stop [The Twelve Days of #QUEST2015 Day 5]

Stop what doesn't work for you #quest2015

Jeffrey Davis at Tracking Wonder put together a program to help business artists plan for 2015 in an unusual way. Quest 2015 consists of a community of people and prompts that are sent out for people to respond to 12 times during the month of December. Part of the community building is through sharing blog posts, so I will be posting more frequently between now and the end of my reflections. After the 12 reflection posts, I’ll be back to my regular, irregular posting schedule.

Prompt Five

The fifth prompt for reflection in Quest 2015 comes from Charlie Gilkey.

We often think too much about adding new things, when the source of a lot of our growth is eliminating old things.
What do you need to STOP doing in 2015?
And what do you need to do to make that STOPPING more than an intention?

One of the benefits of starting this process late is that I have had a chance to see many other people’s responses to this prompt. I have seen people talk about actively stopping doing things and have seen people commit to stopping pussyfooting around or playing small.

It is time for me to stop getting in my own way.

I need to stop feeling confined to my desk. I need to stop letting the fact that I work from home become a force of distraction. I need to stop doing housework during work hours and work during home hours. I need to set alarms and reminders on my phone to keep me on track. I need to check in with my accountability buddy and practice what I preach.

And, I need to stop discounting my body wisdom which tells me that a 30-minute walk by Lake Ontario most days is an essential part of my creative productivity. The photo project I mentioned last week is part of claiming that truth for myself. I have started the photo selection process.

It is a beginning.

According to his bio, Charlie Gilkey is a champion of and catalyst for Creative Giants – talented Renaissance souls with a compassion-fueled bias towards action. He’s the brain and heart behind Productive Flourishing, best-selling author of The Small Business Life Cycle, Ph.D. candidate in philosophy, and a former Army Logistics Officer. He’s driven to figure out how to help Creative Giants be their best selves in the world. – See more at: http://trackingwonder.com/quest-2015/community/#toggle-id-2

 

 

Why I’m Leaving Facebook

Leaving Facebook

 

This morning, many of my friends were surprised to see me post on Facebook that I am taking an indefinite leave of absence from that social media site. I have been very active on Facebook over the past few years and I have fabulous conversations with dear friends, wonderful colleagues, and friends of friends who I would not have met any other way.

I Love Facebook

One of the things about being an outlier is that local communities tend to offer small numbers of people who understand you. But, Facebook allows me to keep in touch with most of the people I have really clicked with in real life. I had 3 close friends in elementary school, 1 best friend in middle school, 3 deep friends at drama camp, larger groups from the congregated gifted program at my high school, the colleges I went to, etc. Every major stage of my life yielded at least one friend I was sorry to part from when life developed in ways that meant moving. It is astonishing how many of those people I manage to have in-depth conversations with via Facebook despite thousands of miles between us.

My husband’s family is all in England and we rarely see them but stay connected through Facebook. I have nephews I have only seen on video chats and Facebook. Because the extended family posts pictures and silly stories on Facebook, I have a relationship with folks I would not make the time to write regular letters to. Each connection may not feel like much, but I have a sense of who these people are that I would never have if we only met at weddings and funerals. This is my family. For us, Facebook is a tool for cultivating love.

I participate in communities with very specific interests and issues. For example, Facebook is fabulous for parents of twice-exceptional kids to connect. By definition, we are stressed. Our kids need crazy amounts of attention. We burn out easily. We find ourselves awake at strange times, exhausted and only capable of communicating in controlled fashion. And, our kids are rare in the population. One of my sons was described by the principal of his K-8 elementary school of 500 kids as “the most challenging kid in this school”, and they couldn’t remember ever working with a student that bright with that many challenges. I can log on to Facebook and talk to 20 parents of similar children who are seen as unique by their schools. I discover that I am not alone and hear about other kids like mine.

And then there is the intellectual stimulation. My friends post all sorts of fascinating articles. And I follow all sorts of organizations that post intellectually interesting material. Between them, I have a never-ending supply of stimulation for my intellectual over-excitabilities.

So Why Am I Leaving?

 

Facebook is Interfering with My Writing, Especially This Blog

I get a lot of my best intellectual stimulation from Facebook. When I turn around and forward things to my timeline or one of the pages I run, I move that idea out into the world without giving it time to mix with other ideas in my brain or my daily, embodied experiences.

My brain thinks it has dealt with the material and files it in “done” or forgets it. And I have fewer ideas to write about, both in my fiction and in my blogging.

When I post less on Facebook, I have more motivation and more time to blog, and I am better at it.

The number of half-baked, under-cooked blog posts I have failed to complete since my Facebook time became out-of-control is frankly inexcusable.

I need to leave ideas in my head for longer before I act on them or move them out. Less Facebook will help me do that.

I Need to Be More Present in My Daily Life

My life is stressful. I have 4 crazy, wild, wonderful, creative, brilliant, stubborn kids. According to the school district, they all have special needs. (Let me tell you now how awesome it is to live in a school district where all gifted kids are seen as having individual special needs, not just my obviously twice-exceptional kids.) My husband’s job has been stressful for years and got worse for a bit this year. I started a business last year. Over the winter, I got pneumonia and my husband broke 3 ribs. It has been a rough 6-9 months.

Given the combination of stressors in real life and the awesomeness of Facebook, it is not surprising that I have used Facebook as a way of escaping from the difficult parts of my life. The connections with people not connected to my daily stress and the intellectual stimulation have been an amazing distraction.

But, my husband has started complaining that I am on Facebook when he wants to be with me. And I have found myself in the habit of being on my phone chatting with friends instead of being fully present for my kids. These habits are bad. My husband and kids need my attention. If I don’t pay full attention to them, not only do they get upset with me for good reason, but I enjoy my time with them less.

I need to get control of my smart phone habits. I need to be more present with my kids. How can I know who they are if I don’t take the time to see them. Are my own kids in the room with me less valuable to me than nephews I have never seen? They shouldn’t be.

To the extent Facebook is damaging my family, I need to stop.

Why Don’t I Just Cut Back?

I have tried and I can’t do it.

You see, there is always something happening on Facebook. My most recent post or the conversation I have been having since this morning may be generating comments at any time. I find myself with a compulsion to check. And I can check from my phone anywhere, at any time.

That is too easy.

One weak moment and I have failed.

Changing habits is hard. It is much easier to replace a behaviour entirely than to moderate it. I don’t need Facebook. By cutting myself off completely for some time, I will be forced to replace my Facebooking habits with other things.

Once I have filled my time with non-Facebook habits, then I can see if my life is enriched by adding Facebook back into my life. I suspect it will be. But I have to replace the habits first.

How Long Will it Take to Make The Changes I Need to Make?

I don’t know.

Gurus say it takes 21 or 28 days to change a habit, but it isn’t true. Long standing habits in adults can take much longer to change. 60 days is not uncommon for deeply ingrained habits.

Changing a habit requires making new connections in your brain that are stronger than the connections that already exist. My obsessive Facebook checking has been reinforced to an unknown level. I cannot predict how long it will take to replace the craving for an update with the instinct of going for a run, laughing with my kids, watching them play, writing a few sentences, drinking a glass of water, calling a friend, or folding the laundry.

How will I know that it might be safe to test the waters again? When I no longer feel the need to. When it feels like an option, not a compulsion. Until I can make that distinction, I am taking a break.

I can’t wait to see how I fill the time. And I am looking forward to reconnecting with my family at the level that nurtures us all deeply.

Introducing Kate Arms-Roberts

I am Kate Arms-Roberts and welcome to my new home on the internet.

Here, you will find me writing about the power of play, creativity, stories, and beauty to provide a basis for meaning-making in a troubled world. I have been blogging on these topics for several years now, and all my previous posts are available on this site.

From the links in the navigation bar above, you can find information about the classes I teach and the creativity coaching and writing services I offer.

If you like reading my work, please subscribe to the blog. I have a special gift for subscribers – an audio-recording of me leading the full InterPlay warm-up. Follow along with the guidance in the warm-up and enjoy a 15-minute self-care break and an opportunity to connect with the wisdom of your own body. Just sign up in the box on the left and you will be directed to a download link when you confirm your subscription.

Over on Facebook, I post inspirational quotes and links to articles about play, creativity, and story-telling. Please Like my page and enjoy those resources.

And now, for those who don’t know me or want to know a little more about me, here is an Introduction, 

If you met me at one of my InterPlay classes, you would see a tall woman in flowing black trousers and a black or jewel-couloured top. I would welcome you and provide a comfortable environment for you to connect with your own body-wisdom. You would find me compassionate and open, vulnerable and strong. You would hear a laugh in my voice. When I danced with you, you would see remnants of ballet and modern dance training abandoned decades ago but still present in my body.

If you met me as an actor in a play I was directing, you would see passion and drive. Always moving forward, I wouldn’t let you rest on your laurels. I would always be nudging you to find more truth in the moment, a deeper commitment to the emotional life of the story. And yet, when you struggled, you would find me encouraging – realistic about your limitations, but always striving to help you bring out your best performance, and always in service of the play.

If you met me only through my fiction, you would find regret, horror, magic, and transformation.

These are all part of me.

As a child, I suffered from existential depression and found meaning in my life through theatre and dance. My writing comes from the depths of my being, where I still wrestle with existential questions. My work as a director, coach, and InterPlay facilitator comes from the compassion for humanity I discovered through art, performance, stories, and my commitment to making my life meaningful despite the lack of external answers.

I am on a mission to bring beauty and meaning to the world, grounded in an Ethic of Play, with full acknowledgement of bodies and feelings as essential components of human experience, recognizing the immense variety of human beings in the world, and claiming the power of story-telling to bridge the gaps between individuals. I refuse to deny the horrors in the world, but I insist on seeing the wonders, too.

Kate

Giftedness, Creativity, and Storytelling – and Imposter Syndrome

It is the International Week of the Gifted 2012. Around the blogosphere, advocates for gifted adults and gifted children are writing about giftedness with a particular enthusiasm and energy. The World Council for Gifted and Talented Children is encouraging the use of International Week of the Gifted to pave the way for the International Year of Giftedness and Creativity 2013 with the theme “Stories and Story Sharing”.

Giftedness, creativity, and the power of sharing our stories are three of my passions. I feel compelled to do something, organize something, create something.

If I had my druthers, I would organize a series of workshops, offered to gifted children and their parents, using the storytelling tools of InterPlay to help them tell their own stories, hear each other’s stories, and share them through a public performance. I have the training to do this, but I am not sure I have the time, and I definitely worry about whether I have the gumption.

You see, I suffer from the great gifted woman’s disorder: Imposter Syndrome. Essentially, Imposter Syndrome involves constantly feeling like a fraud, like you are not as competent as people around you, and as they think you are. There is an accompanying fear of being “found out” and a lack of willingness to put oneself forth as a resource.

In my case, it manifests as a reluctance to set up workshops because I fear no one will come and that if they do come, they will feel like they have wasted their money. But, I know from past experience that I am a good teacher and a good director. When I lead InterPlay workshops, people enjoy them and many folks want to know how they can experience more.

Lisa Rivero’s article Who Do You Think You Are? Re-Thinking the Imposter Syndrome introduced me to the idea that the feelings of being an imposter may be a sign that one is heading in the right direction and that one should lean into the fear and work through it rather than letting it stop you. That idea resonates with me.

If you had asked me when I was 14, what work I wanted to do when I grew up, I would have said I wanted to run a theatre and associated theatre school. A few years later, I saw a performance by teenagers of monologues they had written about their own lives and was struck by the immense power of people telling their own stories in performance. I spent the next 15 years working in theatre, remembering the power of the autobiographical performances, yearning to be part of such things, and yet not doing any work in that area. Until I found InterPlay.

When I discovered InterPlay, I was teaching a class called Sacred Bodies, Sacred Play at Starr King School for the Ministry. I had developed a collection of tools for triggering spiritual experiences through physical play and creativity and was sharing them in the class I was teaching. The overlap between the forms I had discovered myself and was teaching in that class and the forms of InterPlay were uncanny.

But, I had not been formulating my system into a teachable tool for very long and Cynthia Winton-Henry and Phil Porter had been working on InterPlay for decades. InterPlay was in many ways simply further along the path than I was. More than that, InterPlay had developed the tools for combining the physical body, the spirit of play, and improvised performance into truth-telling performances sharing deep stories, thereby joining my play-based work with the power of performance autobiography that I had witnessed so many years before. It is no wonder that I started the InterPlay Teacher Training Program immediately after finishing my first class.

After completing the training, I didn’t dive right into teaching. For good reason. I was moving internationally while pregnant with triplets. I was otherwise occupied.

It is now time for me to start offering classes and workshops.

And, I feel the fear of the Imposter Syndrome surrounding me, telling me I am heading in an important direction, considering a meaningful path, and must take action.

I am not an Imposter. I am well trained for this work. But, sometimes, I have to remind myself of these facts.

  • I have been leading rehearsals and teaching performance as a director for 25 years.
  • I have been organizing rehearsals as a stage manager for longer.
  • I have organized events with substantial budgets.
  • I have produced theatrical productions and special performances for half-a-dozen theatre companies.
  • My InterPlay training was with the founders of InterPlay, including performance classes.
  • I have performed in several InterPlay performances as a dancer/storyteller.
  • When I participate in InterPlay Leaders Events, I am recognized as a peer by leaders with all levels of experience.
  • My understanding of the power of InterPlay as a storytelling tool has deepened through my writing about InterPlay.

I am hopeful that I will have time in 2013 to lead workshops for gifted children and their parents to share their stories. My family is going through some changes that will take some months to settle out, and until they do, I will not know what 2013 is going to look like.

But, I am committed to being a part of the world-wide community of people telling the stories of gifted people, sharing what our experience is. If the performance project looks too big, I will focus on telling more of my story through my writing.

Gifted people are identifiable because we are outside the norm. Sharing our stories helps us connect in a world where we too often feel isolated. I can be part of enriching that connection by sharing my own stories. One way or another, I will be creating work supporting the International Year of Giftedness and Creativity 2013 on the theme of Stories and Story-Sharing.

I hope you will join me in 2013 by either telling your own stories or finding other people’s stories to witness.

For a list of other posts related to International Week of the Gifted, click here

Rethinking My Blog Themes

I’m playing around with themes for the blog. I have been unhappy with the old layout for some time, but haven’t had any inspiration about what I wanted instead.

I expect things will change around here several times before I settle on something new.

The purple picture is a photograph of water I manipulated using techniques Samira Emelie taught me. Samira is one of the stars of my Mixel community. She makes rich, textured images by layering transparencies. Often, each transparency is a different series of manipulations of a single image. Layering the transparencies creates a sense of depth.

This theme is Mystique. I like a lot of the default elements, but not all of them. I’m still thinking. For now, here is this change.

The Danger in Blogging About Your Growth Processes

A recent Mixel thread involved presenting collages of what we do when we aren’t making Mixel art.

Hey, look! I’m back!

If you have been around for a while, you know that I take unscheduled breaks from time to time. Part of the reason for these breaks is the nature of my creative process. Part is the fact that my four children come before my writing, and children have irregular needs. And, part comes directly from what I have chosen to focus on in this blog.

The posts that seem to resonate most with my readers blend theories about writing and creativity with reflections on my personal journey. In writing these posts, there is an element of self-disclosure, and often related self-discovery, but also an element of analysis.

Sometimes, I am so busy living my inner transformations that I have no time to reflect upon my recent experience in a way that might be meaningful for my readers. And, when there is a lot of transformation going on, I can be so deep in trying to understand what I am going through that I find I cannot write meaningfully about anything other than my current experience.

During those periods, I often find myself struggling for cohesiveness in my writing and my blog goes dark for a time while I go through whatever life experience I am going through.

There is big stuff going on with me right now and I don’t have a handle on it.

Pushing myself deep into my emotions and imagination to improve my novel is awakening feelings and ambitions that have been suppressed for decades. I feel a need to honour these awakenings, but determining how to do that in the context of my current life (as opposed to the life I was living when I suppressed the dreams) is challenging.

At the same time, our new house is calling out to be transformed into a home that truly reflects who we are as a family. It is a unique house, perfect for a nonconformist family – and we are all nonconformists in this family. I speaks to me, “make me yours,” and I find myself wondering which aspects of me and of us should be reflected in the decor, furniture, use of rooms, etc.

I have been hiding in plain sight for years, acting like a pseudo-normal suburbanite, and delving deeper into my writing, choosing a house that reflects my unwillingness to look and act like my neighbours, and writing about giftedness for An Intense Life have all pushed me into an existential quandary.

Who am I?

Once upon a time, I knew I was in training to be an eccentric old lady. I think I am back in training.

But, I have been feeling adrift, without anchor, unable to encapsulate any of this experience in blog posts.

When I read Suzannah Windsor Freeman’s post Don’t Quit! Help for Burnt Out Bloggers on Write It Sideways today, I knew I had to write something about what I have been going through. I don’t want to disappear.

But, I can’t. Not clearly.

All of my past identities are vying for attention: artist, activist, intellectual, parent, wife, home-maker, preacher, existential philosopher, lawyer, biopsychology student, writer, actor, director. A desire to dream big and change the world has been awakened and is raging through me without direction.

My battles against petty fears have given me courage. My struggles with writing have given my sources of inspiration hope.

I feel like I’m on the verge of something, but I don’t want to jump too soon. I need to let these stirrings grow and coalesce without forcing them into an intellectually selected box.

There are passions rising within me. They need channeling and I have never yet succeeded in channeling them into productive projects that satisfy the big dreams.

I’m positively disintegrating.

I have been through periods of positive disintegration before. I am familiar with the feeling of not knowing who I am becoming – of my emotions and cognitive self-understanding trying to rearrange themselves in a more effective manner.

I know that my tendency is to force a solution that only accommodates some of the crucial elements of my personality. Being adrift in all one’s potential is scary. Making meaning from so much richness is not easy.

I will try to keep blogging as my inner life reorganizes itself, but I expect that all of my theories will be tentative and all of my understandings limited for some time.

I’m okay with that.

I hope you are, too.

If these words resonate with you in any way, I would love to hear about your experience or get any advice.

New Growth: Editing and Gardening

I want to thank Sharon Overend for republishing my post from April of last year4 Ways Gardening is Like Editingon her blog about writing. Sharon has published short stories and poetry and is currently working on her first novel.

When Sharon asked me to contribute a guest post to her blog, she wanted something sooner than I could get her something new, so we discussed republishing an older piece of mine. The piece comparing editing to gardening came to mind immediately as it had been on my mind a few days earlier.

My new house has a pool, and although the pool was kept up well by the previous owners, my guess is that it had not seen frequent use over the recent past. Nearby evergreen shrubs had spread, encroaching onto the pathway next to the pool.

My kids are young and I expect them to tear round the edges of the pool at high speed; shrubs in the path are dangerous. So, I spent a day hacking at the shrubs, trimming them back to behind the edge of the path.

To clear the path, I had to saw off limbs that must have first been allowed to break the confines of the flower bed years ago. If you look at the shrubs now, you will see exposed, raw edges of many small and medium-sized branches, and it is ugly.

Ugly with potential.

Once the plants grow to cover the wounds, they will look fine. Nature will take care of the growth.

I have to be the force of Nature with regard to my novel. I have spent the last year pruning and shaping the large scale edits of my novel. I now have some spaces in the book that need filling, places where I need a scene to complete the picture. The gaps are more obvious after the pruning; the novel has a more unfinished feel than it did a year ago. But,the gaps are intentional, spaces of potential, waiting for the new growth that will give the complete work a more pleasant shape.

In the meantime, I am enjoying seeing a past blog post have a new life on Sharon’s blog. If you missed what I had to say about location, dormancy, treatment, and facing reality, click here and have a look.

Say it Loud: I am a Writer

Jeff Goins is leading a 15-day challenge he calls “15 Habits of Great Writers.”

15 days is not long enough to form one habit, let alone 15, but I am curious to see what he thinks, so I have signed up to get the daily challenge e-mails.

Today is Day 1.

Today’s challenge: Declare Yourself a Writer.

His point: If you write, say you are a writer. Say it loud; say it big; say it often. If you say it big enough, you will believe it.

His challenge to his readers for today:

Declare you’re a writer.

Not just to your wall or computer or notebook, but to an actual person or institution. Someone or something you’re scared of — this could be a person who might reject or judge you, a family member who may misunderstand you, or a publisher who could discredit you. But tell them and tell them now.

I grew up believing I could neither draw nor be taught how to draw. I am learning I am teachable.

So, I figure that makes today as good a day as any to tell you about my new Facebook page. I have

been on Facebook as a private individual hanging out with my friends for years. Last week, a little latte mug with a link to Facebook appeared on this page. That link, my friends is to my public page; the page where I present to you Kate Arms-Roberts, Writer.

On that page, I expect to post about the things that make me the writer I am.

  • Books I read
  • Books I want to read
  • Things that inspire me
  • Creativity
  • The genres I write in: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult, Middle Grade
  • Things that make me think
  • Information about the craft and business of writing

Please come on over and Like my page.

On Silence: Or Why I Sometimes Stop Blogging Out of the Blue

There is a great post from Jen Merrill over at An Intense Life today about how she retreats into a very quiet space (so quiet she calls it Quiet) when her emotional intensities are over-stimulated.

I, too, retreat to a Quiet mental space from time to time to regroup, often after a big project has finished and the adrenaline that pushed me through the final stages of the project is no longer literally coursing through my veins.

I wrote a previous post about my irregular output, which applies to this blog as well as to my other writing projects. In that post, I wrote about my need to balance big projects with small projects and about how a big project can expand to take up all my available time, preventing me from engaging in more ongoing projects, like blogging.

And that is part of the truth, but like most truths, it is partial.

The other part of the truth is that big projects take an emotional investment and require a recover period afterwards, a recovery period much like that described by Jen in her post.

I have a few things running around my mind that will turn into blog posts soon. But probably not today.

But, not to worry.

I’ll be back to more regular ramblings soon. I still have plenty to say.

And for those of you paying attention, I got an email a couple of day ago letting me know that I correctly predicted which book would be sent to the big time editor.