Category Archives: Vision Boards

Knitting as Meditation and a Vision Board Surprise

Winter craft meditationI can’t believe it’s close to a month since I last wrote to you. What negligence and with each day that has passed since the end of December, my embarrassment has grown, throwing me into communication-paralysis.

After meeting all of the new end-of-semester obligations as a first-time adjunct, there was Christmas to make happen at home, and immediately on the heels of Boxing Day (I love the relaxed freedom of the day and have adopted the holiday as my own), final semester grades were due. True sighs of relief could then be heard and I had energy for not much more than frogging this project and starting another with the rescued yarn. And it’s been knit-knit-knit as much as possible, ever since. While knitting, my mind is a-swirl with a myriad of thoughts, and this being the calendar crossover from one year to the next, I couldn’t help but think about ideas for going forward.

Looking towards the new year

There’s a new yoga-and-more center nearby, and last week they hosted a vision board workshop. Such fun to go and find the poster board, scissors, glue sticks, and mountains of pretty magazines just waiting for us. To get us going, the instructor first handed out index cards and had us write down 3-5 goals for the coming months. On the reverse side we were to each make a brief list of our gratitudes. Although I kept my index card nearby for frequent reference, there is absolutely no similarity in content between my written list and the images and phrases you see in the picture here of my finished board. I decided that there must be deeper messages coming forward (right brain?) when I felt an immediate connection to one image or another, rather than adhering to the strict narrative of my index card (left brain?). I am certain that my hours and hours of knitting (and reflecting) are at the root.

Classes start up again next week. There are lessons to be planned. Literature to be read. My Knitting Break is over. But the hours of hand work and meandering thinking has delivered me onto the doorstep of the next semester feeling creatively refreshed.

My biggest ambition for 2011? Be attentive to the balance between the demands of the outside world and my creative needs. Essential.

Happy New Year and thanks for stopping by! I hope to be a better (that is, more regular) blogger this year, too.


About that vision board … an update

Wide awake and it’s 3:00 a.m. So I pull my fancy night light out of the drawer in my bedside table and read magazine articles that might otherwise never see the light of day. I always enjoy Martha Beck’s perspective; she jogs my imagination. Her column in the May issue of “O” magazine on vision boards pokes at my curiosity, although I admit to a twinge of resistance, too. Do I still have confidence in such things? It’s been a while since exuberantly assembling images in pleasing arrangements on poster board, all while focusing positive energy on life changes and big dreams.

One phrase in her vision board how-to tickles my curiosity. “Forget about it,” Martha advises the reader. Success seems to include setting aside the collage, not hyperfocused vigilance. Interesting. This starts me thinking about my “get published” vision board from 2008, a collage that has been stashed away for months. At the time that I made it, I had committed to telling everyone — and I mean everyone — that I was looking for a literary agent for my historical young adult manuscript, “Safe Harbor.” No matter how out-of-context such a declaration might be.

This soon led to a fortuitous introduction to Diane Les Becquets, author of young adult fiction and recipient of a PEN American Fellowship. Looking back now, the events that followed seem so natural. But I am convinced that none of them would have come about had I not been willing to step out of my comfort zone. The person who introduced me to Diane is the husband of a woman I met at a craft fair. Yes, that’s right. I told a virtual stranger that I was looking for a literary agent! Just so happens, her husband is an English professor and colleague of Diane’s. He agreed to read my manuscript (talk about risk!) and if he liked it, he would speak to Diane about /for me.

Now here’s the part where you have to have faith. Diane wasn’t gaga over my manuscript. She thinks the voice is too antique for today’s young reader. But she did think my writing showed talent and promise. She offered to write a letter of recommendation to the MFA program at SNHU. The English prof wrote another. Two months later I was officially accepted into the program and arrived on campus for the summer residency. A year later I was awarded the Graduate Assistant position. And today I have in hand a strong manuscript draft of a teen-age memoir. Not bad for a high school drop-out.

But getting back to the vision board … I don’t have a literary agent and as of yet, there’s no publisher for my historical manuscript on the horizon. However, the MFA program comes with an advisory board of publishing professionals who are genuinely interested in helping fledgling writers. So I am closer than ever before, within conversational proximity. Now that I have spent the past two years honing my writing skills, perhaps it’s time to return to the manuscript that led to the MFA. Who knows what revisions and improvements are now possible. But first, I’m going to take my chances and test the waters with a submission to the Salem Literary Festival writing contest.

What do I know for sure? The story is not yet finished. My story, that is. The one told in images and phrases and captured on the poster board. The good news? Vision boards don’t come with an expiration date. I sure can’t wait to see what the next chapter brings!

Do you have a story about a vision board? I’d love to hear about it.

Do Lessons from Kindergarten Still Apply?

Barbara Winter’s recent blog post about “tools” touched on one of my favorite topics. To paraphrase briefly, there are wonderful self-discoveries to be had by paying attention to the tools that we enjoy using. So what does this have to do with kindergarten, you may be wondering? Pictures, paper, pens & pencils, glue and scissors still make my world go round, my heart sing. And let’s add ‘words’ to the equation, too.

Using the concept of “bliss,” I took a blank notebook (a mock-up from the printer for Eating Clean) and went to town with images from magazines, a Victorian-themed calendar, stickers, and scrapbook papers. Talk about fun! Welcome to the covers of my 2010 art journal.

Thank You for 2009

I used to think I could manufacture time out of thin air. Why shouldn’t I be able to indulge every single one of my creative interests and curiosities — all at the same time? If the Memoir Project has taught me one thing, it’s that when bringing a new endeavor on board, it is best for both my sanity and the quality of my work, that I put at least one other interest on hold (at least!). So this year, with the MFA‘s monthly deadlines, it was blogging time that slid down a few notches on my priority list. I want to say a warm thank you for sticking with me — in spite of the irregularity of my posts– and sending encouraging emails and posting comments. Each one has been a heart-warmer.

Wishing you a Happy New Year in 2010!

Me, at 14. Portrait by my father, self-taught black-and-white photographer and Ansel Adams aficionado.

Comfort Drawers and Loose-leaf Tea

My friend Trudie is running a monthly series of Simple Abundance themed events at Londonderry’s AntiquiTeas Tea Room. Inspiration, unlimited cups of tea, and thought-provoking conversation. Like an artist’s date in a group setting.

Give me a magazine, a pair of scissors, a glue stick and a blank sheet of paper and I will entertain myself for hours. Call it making a vision board — this evening it was for my personal interpretation of a “comfort drawer” — or collaging. Whatever. I just love cutting and pasting pretty, inspiring and/or motivating images and phrases.

I’m kind of embarassed to admit it, but I am often the last to leave a party. Trudie’s Living Six Graces events are no exception! If you live in the southern New Hampshire area and would like to join us for the next event (first Friday evening of every month), we’d love to see you.

Dreaming of Paris

I’m dreaming of returning to Paris. To help me achieve my vision, scooting me further along and closer to the real thing, I purchased a set of vintage-like ‘bonjour‘ tags from a lovely blogosphere pal. She surprised me and included the key to my dream apartment as a special little bonus! Like images for a vision board, Parisian-themed objects have been landing in my lap since I first wrote in November the words “I am going to France!” So far there’s been: a greeting card complete with young woman sipping cafe au lait in front of the Eiffel Tower; a tote for jewelry or craft supplies; a business card case; and a CD of Parisian music.

The table I’ve used for this photo is one that I painted, inspired by a photo taken by Frances Mayes, author of “Under the Tuscan Sun.” It was in a calendar with the same title several years ago and is of a garden statue.

I don’t know how. I don’t know when. I just know that I’m going. … Stay tuned for travel updates!

Props can feed the creativity furnace

My writers’ group just left and I’m freshly infused with unbridled enthusiasm. So typical! Double rounds of tea served with the healthiest type of brownie possible (that would include protein and fiber and minimal fat), followed by red pear and cheddar cheese, all accompanied our usual round robin of anecdotes and the reading of our newest works.

Several years ago, while trying to reconnect with a project that had been set aside, I decided that story props strategically placed near my computer would be helpful in the writing process. That summer, I came across an antique doll, all of 5″ tall, at an antiques fair, and thought she would make the perfect “Lydia” to sit atop my computer monitor. The $95 price tag was a deterrent and so I left the sellers’ tent without her. But I’ve never found a better replacement. I mentioned my search to a friend one day. Her eyes lit up, she scurried out to her side porch and came back beaming, presenting me with two mini Madame Alexander dolls that had been in a MacDonald’s Happy Meal promotion. She’d collected piles of them and was happy to share her loot! But neither Rain Girl nor Lady Bug Girl really fit my character and both felt too modern. Sometime later their doll-sister, Dorothy, joined them on my shelf and here they are. Every time I look at them I am reminded of Lydia and her tale, although they are not quite the right inspiration to perch on the monitor and speak for my character.

Lisa Allen Three sisters

I was able to finish the manuscript without my Lydia doll. Antique images of shop keepers on Main Street, printed from the archives at the Nantucket Historical Association, copies of 1830s editions of the island’s newspaper, and my own memories of my first paid job in Nantucket’s historical house museums (my friend and I lemon-oiled the furniture, earning $2 an hour), got me through.

So now the manuscript is on to the next stage of its life: the search for an agent and publisher. To help it along, as much to buoy my belief that it will become more than my own private endeavor, umpteen-thousand words in a word file on the computer, as in the spirit of the Law of Attraction, I made a vision board for it. The good thing is that the process of collaging image-and-words really made me think about what it is I want next. And I have to tell you, leads to the people who can help bring this story into print are popping up in the most unexpected situations!

Lisa Allen vision board safe harbor
One of my friends makes a vision board for her characters and then records a CD of the music that they would listen to, so that she is completely immersed in their world while she writes. I think I’ll try that for my current project, a novel set in two cultures and continents.
But tell me, what do you do to keep the writer in you writing? I’d love to know. …