Fear

#MyArtistDate 001: Watercolors

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Forest of the Lonely River

I used to want to be a painter more than I wanted to be a writer. As high school graduation approached, my art teacher encouraged me to look at art schools moved me up to portfolio classes, but I gave up before I got started. I didn’t see a future in it. How likely was I to make a living off of painting? I dropped art in my senior year so I could join a program that allowed me to leave school after lunch to go to work. I became an artist all right – a sandwich artist at the Subway. Glamorous, I know.

Now, my main character in The Sculptor of New Hope, Ona Price, has taken on my struggle as the aspiring painter. Me? I haven’t painted in years, but I was inspired by my friend. Her name is Fay Kambos and she is always on some creative endeavor. I decided to make painting this week’s artist date because giving up art is a source of regret for me. I had some potential back then. If only I had believed in myself, I might have done well.

Here is my first humble attempt at watercolors. I didn’t plan on what to paint. I didn’t use anything for reference either. I forced myself to trust my artistic intuition. I forgot the simplest of drawing techniques, but I kept going, curling my nose at it the whole time, trying to relax into some measure of enjoyment. I tried not to dwell on the fifth-graderishness of it. Do you know how difficult that was? You’d be amazed at what your inner voice says when you start taking dictation. Some of the thoughts that went through my head were:

  • Ha! You don’t know what you’re doing. This sucks
  • It’s watercolor. You’re supposed to leave white space. Duh!
  • You should just crumble this up and throw it away.

I don’t even register them most of the time, but they are definitely sneering and sniggering whenever I create something. Now I know the culprit of my creative blockages.

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I turned on music to distract me from the annoying voices. Soon, I began to stop thinking. I reached the place where I wanted to be. Not thinking, just doing. In the end, I’m pleased with my little scene. It’s no Van Gogh, but I made something out of nothing.

I did it. I painted.

But I wondered why the scene was so bleak. What did that say about my neglected inner artist?

I decided this forest would not be desolate, but fertile ground for the creative future. At the very last, I painted in the first few leaves as a sign of the new growth to come.

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It goes to show you how self-doubt can kill you before you get started, but if you persevere through those negative feelings, you will create something – anything, and it’s yours. No one else could’ve created anything quite the same.

(And it just so happens that I had a breakthrough while writing the last of my SICK series. The artist dates already seem to be working!)

Keep writing, keep painting, keep dancing, keep the creative fires burning. Take your inner artist out on a date and hashtag it on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as #myartistdate so we can all share in the positive creative vibes.

Learn more about my The Artist’s Way challenge and get a chance to win my copy of the book by Julia Cameron!

Get SICK and SICKER – Free book and new release

SICK and SICKER

Celebrating the Release of SICKER

I’m giving away SICK for the next two days. Here are the latest reviews:

“Disturbing yet gripping at the same time!”

“SICK is a story that you can’t shrug off easily.”

“Dark and clever.”

Get free copy of SICK

SICK A novella by Christa Wojo on Kindle

FREE 4/13-14/2016

Everyone has a breaking point.

Part I. Is this marriage based on unconditional love or a unhealthy obsession?

Susan Branch’s life revolves around the care of her charming and inscrutable husband John, a man born into wealth and prestige who lost his family’s fortune when his mysterious chronic illnesses left him bedridden. Together they live a decrepit existence beholden to the current owners of his family’s former estate.

After years of devoting herself to John’s care, Susan is worn out and frustrated. Yet she is determined to scrape together whatever resources she can to keep John comfortable and happy. This includes stealing Demerol from the doctor’s office where she works to feed John’s ever-increasing need for pain medication.

As John’s condition continues to puzzle doctors, Susan begins to notice strange objects appearing around her house. Ever wary of creepy Old Pete, the groundskeeper, Susan decides to confront the elderly man and put an end to his snooping for good.

John suffers a critical emergency, but he is saved and is soon released from the hospital. His health begins to improve, and Susan dreams of a normal life, but her hope for a miracle transforms into a nightmare one fateful afternoon when she discovers
the true cause of John’s sickness.

Get free book.


Get SICKER

SICKER EBOOK COVER Horizontal 3 sm

Release 4/13/2016

How did John Branch get so sick?

Part II. The gruesome psychological suspense series continues.

John Branch’s sickness has dominated the lives of all those around him, consuming all it can from well-intentioned doctors, compassionate strangers, and trusting loved ones. His chronic illness also bonds him intimately to his wife Susan, trapping them in relationship of unhealthy psychological attachment.

But John’s disease isn’t the only blight in the Branch family.

Injured and loaded with Demerol, John Branch tells his life story from his filthy sickbed. He confesses the horrific secrets of the past. Most disturbing of all, he reveals the philosophy he’s constructed around his condition and tries to indoctrinate Susan. Will she stay with him now that she finally nows the truth, or will she put and end to the madness?

Buy the book.

 

 

Book III coming soon…

 

Writing Advice from The Hands of God

Artist quotes

Sculptor, Antoni Azarov

I love to nag people for interviews, and annoying as I may be, some very famous people occasionally indulge me.

This was the case with world renowned sculptor, Antoni Azarov. Even though the press dub him, and I quote, an “asshole,” I’ve discovered once you get used to his intensity, he’s kind of funny in his own dry way.

Let me first tell you, I admire Azarov’s work with the gushing of a sixteen-year-old at a boyband concert. This man’s hands can make clay into a sculpture so striking that you feel uncomfortable being in the same room with it; as if it were a vessel that held a ghost, one that might want to escape its ceramic shell to jump into your living skin.

Not to say Azarov’s a realist. His sculptures are minutely distorted, just slightly exaggerated–preventing them from being exact human replicas. But the distortion is what gives the sculptures souls, their naked bodies adorned by the invisible cloth of their psyches.

Azarov arrived on his Ducati, a big, black machine whose vibrating engine shook my porte cochere, flooding my house with its throbbing sound. He wore dark, indigo jeans and a black racing jacket. His dark hair was overgrown, past his jaw, and blew in tangles around his face after he removed his helmet.

(more…)

Your Dreams Are Bigger Than Everything

Dream Quote W Somerset Maugham

Another gem I found while excavating Of Human Bondage.

 

More on Maugham…

Of Human Bondage

A Writer’s Greatest Fear

A Writer’s Greatest Fear

A Writer's Greatest Fear

I’m still studying Of Human Bondage by William Somerset Maugham. As I said in my first article about the book, great writers are those who write stories that are relevant throughout time. They expose universal truths that apply to our lives no matter what century we live in. Of Human Bondage is full of such enduring revelations.

In the first part of the book, we witness the main character, Phillip, and his crisis of faith in God. At the next crossroad in the story, we see Phillip battling self-doubt.

After being fed up with a dreary accounting job, Phillip goes to Paris to become a painter. He does well, but never creates anything extraordinary. After the suicide of a classmate, who for all her passion for art was a lousy painter, Phillip reevaluates his reasons for becoming an artist. He wonders what his future will look like if he continues to pursue his dream.

Phillip finally works up the nerve to end the subject once and for all by asking one of his painting masters to give an honest opinion of his work. The teacher is perplexed by his request.

Monsieur Foinet: “I don’t understand.”

Phillip: “I’m very poor. If I have no talent I would sooner do something else.”

Monsieur Foinet: “Don’t you know if you have talent?”

Phillip: “All my friends know they have talent, but I am aware some of them are mistaken.”

In this world of indie publishing, anyone and everyone is writing a book, but should they be? I might be a jerk for bringing this up, but I’ll say it.

I see a lot of crappy books out there.

(more…)

Existential Nihilism and the Dead Dog Blues

RIP Roscoe Wojciechowski

I’ve been avoiding this article for a long time, which is a sure sign that it must be written. As individuals, we often hide from the truth, especially about ourselves. Our souls’ innocence and hope slowly deteriorate inside our soft bodies while we occupy our short time on Earth with vapid entertainment, aggression and judgment, and the pursuit of accumulating “stuff.” We swallow the fear we feel down deep inside with the help of a pill or bottle.

Some people are not so easily distracted. It has always taken me enormous effort to avoid thinking about the Great Unknowingness. I tried Christianity and chaos. I constantly sought diversions and substances to avoid the questions that I had always feared the most, the questions that left me in a quiet desperation that could never be buried or drowned.

More recently I tried to focus on life’s small milestones and achievements. I began writing as a less direct way to figure out what is going on, and it has brought me purpose and peace, but how easily the fragile veil of happiness is torn.

My dog died last November. His name was Roscoe, and he was my best friend. We had grown up a lot together. We watched each other go through growing pains as we both tried to learn how to behave like adults. Roscoe tolerated my loser boyfriends as they came and went. I endured his chewing stage and his great escapes from the yard. Finally, I met my Prince Charming, and we left the United States. After we got settled, Roscoe took a very brave flight to live with us in Panama.

Moving to a foreign country with no family or friends was very hard for me. Roscoe was the only part of my old life that I was able to take with me. I don’t have any children, so he became my son. Roscoe was my shadow every waking moment and my guardian during every hour I dreamed. I came when he called. I cooked for him. I doted on him day and night. He grew older and grayer, sweeter and wiser. I honestly liked Old Rossy better than the young one.

Then came the time that I knew he would die, and I hoped for it as much as dreaded it. We were both having a difficult time dealing with his failing body. He was suffering with a diseased heart and arthritis. He knew what was coming, and he’d look at me as if asking if he was dying correctly. Of course, he was doing a noble job.

Before Halloween, the Hubs and I had to go to Nicaragua for a week. Roscoe protested by lying across my closet floor so that it was almost impossible for me to pack my suitcase, but I had to be tough because whenever I got upset it always made it worse for him.

I knew he was afraid he was going to die while I was gone. He told me in very clear, sad-doggie-eye language that he couldn’t hold on much longer, but I said, “Just stay here till I get back,” and like a good dog, he did.

The night we returned home, Roscoe looked great. I thought the break from me helped him. We had a great night together with his two little brother dogs, Le-Le and Teri. I was relieved. Everything was going to be okay.

Roscoe and Christa Wojo's dogs.

…with his brothers, Teri (the spotted mutt) and Le-Le (the Rottie) during Christmas time.

The next day Roscoe wouldn’t eat. I was concerned, but thought it would pass until that night he laid his head in my hand. I knew this meant something because Roscoe was not a cuddly dog. For some reason he wanted to be held, and I cradled his head so long my arm went numb. We were watching a movie, Pacific Rim, which it seemed so stupid and absurd because I knew my doggie was slipping away. What are we doing watching a movie? We’re dying. We’re all dying.

When we woke up the following morning, Ros was in an unnatural position on the floor. His tongue hung out, and his eyes were wide and unseeing. I came to his side and straightened out his body. His consciousness returned for a moment, and he and I were able to look at each other one last time, but within the hour I felt the last trembling of his heart, and he was gone.

(Time to get the tissues! I knew I wouldn’t get through this without crying).

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Roscoe–always a deep thinker.

I had no idea how bad the grief would be. He was a dog, right? This was nature. And he had the best golden years any animal could have. He went from a tiny apartment in Florida to spending the last half of his life in the wild mountains of Chiriquí. Lucky dog! Now it was his time to go, and it couldn’t have gone any better as far as dying goes. He waited till we got home from our trip. He passed peacefully in my arms. We were so fortunate to be with him when he took his last breath.

These thoughts should’ve consoled me, but they didn’t. I was a mess and cried erratically for months. I thought I would just need some time to adjust, but I haven’t really. I wasn’t sure how to live without my companion, and his death reopened the sucking black void of the Great Unknowingness. I couldn’t figure out why we humans evolved to love so much that we are crippled when someone we love dies. It’s mentally and physically debilitating. It’s miserable for your clan and every creature around you. It makes you weak and vulnerable. How did that improve our ancestors’ chances of survival?

Loss is like a morbid disease.

Although I never felt it so keenly before, this anguish was not surprising to me. Since I was a girl, I’ve cried myself to sleep at night knowing one day my parents would be dead. I’ve spent my entire life with this fear of loss and thought maybe there was something wrong with me. Later, I found out that this condition is often referred to as existential depression, and though I’m not an unhappy person by any means, there is an undercurrent of anguish that never leaves me.

Nothing has brought me relief so far. From experimenting with psychedelics and drinking myself into a stupor to huffing through kundalini kriyas and training my brain with binaural beats—no matter what I do, nothing truly and permanently exterminates that nagging black thought that fingers my mind.

Why are we here?

Where do we go?

What does it all mean?

At least with this manner of thinking there are questions to ask. This assumes there is a reason for us being here, that we do go somewhere after our bodies rot, and that our lives do mean something. One simply must endure the mystery, but then there’s the more terrifying possibility to contemplate. What if we just die and that’s it? There is no why, where, or what. What if we are as important to the Universe as a flea’s fart is to us?

What if it all means nothing?

Everything we see and feel is a perception or illusion and is limited by what our human body can sense. What we see is not the truth of existence. And I want to know The Truth. The only problem is billions of people have died without ever knowing the truth, and my greatest fear is that I will suffer the same fate.

I do have an inner soul; some might say it’s my higher self. I try to summon her as much as I can with yoga and meditation. When she shows up, she speaks to me as if I’m a simpering toddler. With endless patience she tells me, and I’m quoting her on this, that she “knows everything” and it “will all be revealed” and “it’s all good.”

This placates me for a few hours if I’m in a receptive mood, but my anal, logical brain can’t accept the mystery and wants a concrete explanation for everything. Anal, logical brain knows there is reason and symmetry in nature, and it won’t let me sleep until we make sense of it all, damn it.

In another dark corner of gray matter shivers my ever-terrified subconscious, which clutches to attachments and goes into fits if ever anything threatens to change.

We fight all the time, and it’s exhausting.

The good news is that I’m not afraid of my death. I’ve been unconscious a number of times for varied reasons, and I didn’t feel a thing. I didn’t remember a thing. Of course this notion when dwelled on too long will make one volunteer for a lobotomy. Not feeling a thing. Not remembering a thing.

Black,

silent

vacuum.

Ah, the meaning of life. Enough to drive any reasonable person batshit crazy. This is really the point of My Sweet Delirium. We can’t figure it all out, but we can have fun trying.

At least The Universe was kind enough to provide a suitable environment for the evolution of puppies and the advent of wine. These kindnesses do allow me to keep the faith. . . a little.

Miss you, Roscoe. . .

Christa Wojo's dog

RIP 11/4/2013

Do you have trouble coping with the Great Unknowingness?

How does it inform your day to day living?

Who’s helped you most with understanding the meaning of life? Death? 

Please leave your comments.

Edited by Candace Johnson at Change It Up Editing

Facing an Ocean of Fear

I’ve been blogging for my clients for several years, but now that it is time for me to start my own blog, I’m experiencing the writer’s equivalent to pants-wetting stage fright. I have no brand to hide behind. It’s just me. Hello!

But I decided I can’t wait any longer.  It’s time to write right now.  My husband, Marco, and I have just finished moving from a house on the Pacific Ocean at Playa la Barqueta, Chiriquí, Panama. The boxes and clothing are piled around me, the house is a wreck. It’s as good of a time as any. Today I will begin to document my life of Sweet Delirium. Here it goes.

What do you do when facing an ocean of fear?

If there is a beach within hearing distance, I am called to it, so when circumstances gave us the opportunity to live on the Pacific for a few months, I was thrilled.

My fellow expats and Panamanians will know that Playa la Barqueta is not a safe. More than a few careless locals and transplants have met their ends in its violent currents, and coming from the tame Gulf Coast of Florida, I was awestruck by the power and size of the waves. It didn’t stop me from going out in them, though. Anything that would bring me closer to the ocean, I would try.

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Uh, something just touched my foot.

So I grabbed the kiddie boogie board left in my landlord’s laundry room. Marco came with me and served as my lifeguard. As we walked in, we felt the ocean tugging at us. The waves towered and pounded, as if trying to say, Umm, aren’t you a little ill equipped?

I thought it might be a careless idea. Barqueta is isolated. There is rarely another soul in sight and the closest hospital is a bumpy forty-minute drive away.

But I was determined to be one with the ocean and so I paddled out to beyond the stampedes of bucking white foam.

I discovered that most of the waves petered out before I got going, and more than enough battered me around like an old sneaker in a washing machine.

To capture a decent wave, I had to paddle out to the deep where I felt vulnerable and small. Where, like my husband so usefully pointed out to me, the sharks were waiting to catch the fish that came in with the tide.

After skidding onto the shore, I stood up and turned around to find Marco. He was bracing himself against the surf. A large wave curled up behind him. The sunlight shone behind it, illuminating it like a giant wall of aquamarine glass. Inside it was the menacing black silhouette of a large fish.

I chose to believe it was a big corvina, but my uneasiness was getting harder to ignore as I floated on my little board, my legs dangling like shark bait.

I often waited in the trough of a giant wave with tons of water swelling in front of me, thinking, This is nuts! I don’t belong here. I am a little human at the mercy of Nature.

But the life’s rewards are never found where it is safe. It’s in that murky area where mystery and fear dwell that one catches the biggest wave.

Body surfing in Playa la Barqueta was not always pleasant recreation. I swallowed gallons of sour seawater. A constant stream of salty snot dripped over my lips. Black sand collected in my bathing suit and the boogie board left a stinging rash where it grated at my stomach. Whenever I surfaced for air, the waves would plaster my drenched hair over my face, suffocating me with a lovely panic-inducing, waterboarding effect.

But once in awhile, all was aligned and I was in the right place at the right moment. The wave was ready and the magic happened. The water would catch the board, lifting it and kicking it with a burst of force. I was propelled to the shore screaming, Wooooooo-ooooh!

I became obsessed with that feeling.

At night, as I slept to their thunderous clapping, I would dream about those waves. They would loom like threatening tsunami gods, ready to slam me down to the sea floor. But the awe and thrill always trumped the terror. I was always more exhilarated than scared.

Work and travel prevented us from enjoying the beach as much as we would have liked. It was time to move back to the mountains.

On the last day I was determined to catch a few last waves. Marco was exhausted and fell asleep on the couch. I was tired and had a million things to do, but it was low tide. I couldn’t miss it. I would have to go alone. I smeared on some sunblock, pulled on my speedo, and headed for the shore.

Tucked under my arm was the new board I had bought, essentially a large piece of Styrofoam. I slapped on the Velcro wristband, leapt onto the board, and stroked out to the breakers. I saw a stingray leap out of the dark blue water and I was reminded that I was not alone. It was me, the crashing water, and the predators stalking below its reflective skein.

Still I went into the waves, and the longer I rode them, the more benevolent the ocean and all its creatures, even the sharks, seemed. I made my goodbyes to Barqueta, catching a few good speeding surfs, woo-hooing like a lunatic all the way to the desolate shore. I left that beach with a sense of triumph and a wicked sunburn, which as I write this has me shedding dead skin like a molting iguana.

Now I know why surfers will spend the whole day floating beyond the breakers, and in life we must do the same.

We must swim out to where we feel uneasy, to where we fear a shark might chomp off our foot, or where the current might whisk us away to the Galapagos. We must be brave and courageous.

Only where the big waves break is where we get our chances.

We might have spent time and energy on an idea that got us nowhere, or we may be pummeled by going into a situation that is over our heads, but one day, if we keep swimming out and waiting long enough, we catch the perfect wave that coasts us effortlessly to the warm and welcome sands of the shore.

I keep paddling out into the ocean of life on my little board, waiting for the perfect wave to meld with me into one charging force.

In the meantime, I will continue to get beat-up when I wipe out. I will be discouraged when I waste time chasing a lost cause. But I will still trudge out against the tide. I will push back out to the depths.

So here is my first blog. I’m a little scared about exposing myself, but the thrill of harnessing the power of a dream is more enticing than my fear of drowning (or making an ass of myself).

My wave is coming, and believe me, yours is too.

Please share your thoughts!

How do you face your fears?

What was one of your scariest experiences?

What great reward have you received from conquering your fear?

Don’t forget to share with your friends.