Eleanor Cowan


A Cactus, A Pen, and Dolloped Offerings (Encouragement for Writers!)

Last Sunday, a lovely spring walk through Prince’s Island Park led me to the John Dutton Theatre at the fabulous Calgary Public Library. Time to hear Wordfest’s Zsuzsi Gartner interview American author George Saunders.

Unlike Colonel Saunders’ famous three words ‘location, location, location,’ (the reason KFC did so well), George Saunders’ situates his success with a different trio: ‘Revise, revise, revise’!

As Saunders inspired his audience, I happily recalled a wonderful CBC interview of Polish classical pianist Arthur Rubinstein; (1887-1982), who shared that his best creativity occurred not in the writing of his music, but in the editing of it.

Rubenstein likened the painful excisions, erasures, deletions and additions to the wielding of a sculptor’s knife, a sharp blade that shapes and re-shapes the ‘clay’ dolloped onto a page by the writer until finally, yes, - personal success.

Recently, my sister celebrated her 70th birthday and along with her gift, I decided to call her seven times with seven valuable quotes about creativity - to embolden her sizzling seventies! Here’s but one:

In Shadow and Evil in Fairy Tales, Jungian scholar Marie-Louise von Franz advocates sticking with it!

“If we can stay with the tension of opposites long enough —sustain it, be true to it – we can sometimes become vessels within which the divine opposites come together and give birth to a new reality.”

Psychologist John Monbourquette created an amazing activity that amplifies her idea. Try it!

Close your eyes and extend your two hands far out in front of you, palms up and wide apart. In one hand, imagine a symbol that represents all your angst, your suffering, and your grief. Next, in the other hand, hold a single symbol for your creativity. Finally, your eyes still closed, slowly bring your two arms closer together until your two cupped hands almost touch. Imagine now, how these two symbols might interact.

As for me, in one open hand sat a small, needle cactus. In the other, an costly fountain pen that, when close enough, dipped into the prickly fruit for milky ink!  I’d be delighted to hear your outcome!

Every night at bedtime, I ask my dreamer self to inspire my writing. Journal and pen at the ready, I rouse myself to jot my own offerings. In the morning, I smile at my sleepy scrawl. I celebrate my dolloped page! 


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