Sit down on the floor with a black/white composition book, crayons, your favorite bowl, 10 sheets of blank paper, a pen and scissors. Cut the sheets of blank paper into squares big enough for a sentence to be written on them. Then make lists with the crayons. You can even draw pictures of what you're thinking...even better....
Now write one thing down on each of those slips of paper from this list. Do this as fast as you can w/out thinking. First things that comes to mind, write.
20 things you love
10 of your favorite happiest songs.
20 things you're proud of
20 things you would do if you had all the money in the world and didn't have to work or fret about survival: What would you be doing right now.
10 of your most relaxing songs.
Fold each slip of paper and place them in the bowl or jar in your writing corner. Don't got one, make one. One place that is sacred in your house...someplace comfy, with space for your coffee and throw a Buddah statue or something over there to remind you to chill-lax...
Now, I want you to put those 20 songs on a playlist and add them to your phone. That's your Chillax (Chillout & Relax) list.
Great thinkers gave me the tools to get out of my way and write. Pema Chodron's Things Fall Apart and The Places That Scare Us are absolute musts for the writers rituals.
I speak of these two in particular because Pema speaks to the artist's foibles do directly. Artists quit on themselves faster and self-sabotage with "whatever" all the time. Complaining is defeat, Dreaming is power.
Pick up these two books and put them in your writing corner.
Elixir of the Goddesses: Proper Chai Tea
Every morning, the first thing you will do is breathe. From the moment you open your eyes, just sit there and pay attention to your breathing. When your body has enough breath to fuel getting out of bed, do so and put your coffee or green/white/black tea on.
Or you can make April's Elixir of the Goddesses (work w/me people, this is how I get out of bed in the morning)
Black pepper kernels
Loose Black Tea (I love PG Tips)
Pure Vanilla Flavoring
Raw Honey (i love weebee raw honey, but stevia works too)
Throw all that yumminess in a pot and let it boil the night before or that morning. Thich Nhat Hahn says that the rituals that we enjoy in our homes are a kind of meditation. My hot drink making and making my bed or my rituals that let me know the day is going to be good and I am alright with the world.
So once that brew is dark and chocolatey, bring it to a hard boil till is about to spill over, then turn down the flame. Repeat this 2 more times. Then allow the evil to begin: add evaporated condensed milk or half & half or my favorite Soy Creamer until the brew is the color of a good chai Tea. Taste as you go and add at will.
NOTE: The entire morning ritual happens in silence, so alert your family that they are not to disturb you until your done. It is silent ritual.
Stay, Just Stay
Now read a chapter of Pema, play your chillax soundtrack, sip your elixir and feel yourself becoming more and goddess-like and write 3 pages long-hand without stopping in your black/white composition book. The key is to stay, just stay. If you get sleepy, tired, frustrated, happy, just stay with it and with yourself for 3 pages.
If you run out of things to say, write "WTF" over and over again until something new comes up. The thrill, the challenge, the joy is to stay true to yourself. To commit to yourself...to wander without an agenda for 3 pages. To give yourself 3 pages of silent meditation, sweet song and the elixir of the Goddeses.
Try it everyday...then share with me what you learned in the comments below...
Love u, Mean it...Let's do you...Write...and sip...write...and sip....
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""""One of the most mortifying moments I experienced in my theatrical career was when I was asked to bring the entirely African-American cast of a new musical we were workshopping, a new piece by an African-American librettist and composer, across the street to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and up into the plush boardroom so they could perform a song or two for the board of directors. I wanted to say something, but I didn't. For one thing, it would take an invaluable 45 minutes to an hour out of the creative team's limited time together. But... every year we had to do the same old song and dance for the board to remind them that yes, we did do new plays and musicals, so yes, it was sometimes a good idea to expose the board to new voices, to the vibrancy of an exciting work in progress.
You all know where this is going, don't you? I led the team in. The talent in that team! The writer/composer himself and the cast, lauded veterans of the stage and the most promising members of the next generation of acting giants. And there was our board. White, as white as can be, white white white white. And very comfortable. They'd just been served lunch, I believe. My theater spared no expense in pleasing our board and catering to their demands (oh my god, I'm feeling such rage right now! I'm pretty sure we had a staff member who was mostly dedicated to help our richest board members get house seats to shows on Broadway and the West End. But I digress...)
The only black face in the audience seated at the conference table? The only person of color? The head of our education department, of course. My heart went out to her.
The cast sang a song from the show. They did it. And they brought it. Because they were and are professionals. And the very pillars of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion reverberated down to the parking lot. It was breathtaking.
And I had just been complicit in the remaking of a scene for the millionth time: black bodies and voices entertaining white audiences, an institution raising money on the backs and voices of black bodies.
I was too mortified to apologize to our writer and to our cast, none of whom, I should add, expressed even an iota of discomfort. They were professionals, and they shone. And come to think of it, they'd probably all become accustomed to this scene. "It's just how theater works," they might have thought with a shrug of their shoulders. Or maybe they seethed inside, for the millionth time, when all they were trying to do is workshop a new musical.
Well, I apologize sincerely now to our writer and those actors. I wish I had had the courage to put my foot down. It is not how theater should work.
I quit the American theater on Valentine's Day 2016, so I've been out more than four years now. And honestly I don't plan to return, which is why I can write with such candor.
The heart of the problem, my friends, is with the non-profit structure, which is capitalism on steroids. Who are the bosses ultimately in an American institutional theater? The board of directors. Who are the board of directors? For the most part, those members of the community not with the strongest attachment to the art form but those with the deepest pockets. Often they're really not members of the community. They often just drop in. They are sometimes mere tourists.
It's no wonder that that board meeting was held in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The theater, like most American theaters, had built its board of directors on the old opera model: You get the richest folks together, offer them galas and house seats and receptions and private recitals and showings (for which artists often don't get paid extra, mind you), you pamper them and make them feel more special and entitled than they already do, and then they'll write you big checks to support the kind of art they like, the kind of art they can bring their kids and grandkids to. AND they--not the artists, not the community--get to hire the institution's leadership.
It is a rotten model. Rotten to the core. How can any artistic institution claim to be working for and in the community with that model?
It's got to be torn down. It's got to be reinvented. And I have no idea what the next model will be. I really don't. And no, honestly I don't think government is the solution frankly. Some of the most bloated, self-satisfied, decadent theater I've ever seen was in Germany, where it was almost fully government-funded. Lots of bells and whistles and provocations and completely soul-dead.
I see amazing and galvanizing lists of demands recently being made and posted by theater artists of color. These are vital demands. But they don't address the central issue. As long as the ultimate bosses of an artistic institution remain the community's deepest pockets, nothing will change. Nothing. You'll be putting band-aids on a gaping wound. Sorry, but it's true.
So please figure something else out. Maybe for a few years you just avoid the institutions. You've already started. In the pandemic, so many of you are making amazing art without an institution. Find those who truly adore your work and ask them to fund it. Screw non-profit. Form a corporation and value your art art-making as a resource that profits you, your viewers/audience and your community. I have no idea.
But please don't return to a new version of the old. After the virus, after he's out of office, after police reform and nationwide conversations about race, after, after, after, begin something new. I can't wait to see what it is!”
Words: Pier Carlo Talenti
Video: Griffin Matthews
April Yvette Thompson