No Ordinary Moments & The Keeping of Sketchbooks

a pile of Lisa Sonora Beam's sketchbooks

For the past few days I’ve been surrounded by piles of sketchbooks that contain all of the source material for my work.

For most of my life, I didn’t know why I kept sketchbooks, only that when I documented life as it was happening around me, I found a sense of equilibrium and solidity of being that I found in no other way.

So I kept doing it. Keeping sketchbooks. Sometimes I thought that it didn’t matter, that I had nothing to say, that it seemed to serve no purpose except to create a lot of heavy boxes of sketchbooks that accumulate over the years, decades, lifetime. When I didn’t create this way, I lost my equilibrium and my sense of direction.

Gradually, I begin to see that my sketchbooks, and all that they contained, were my work.

The artifacts themselves; as well as a lot of the content; and most importantly: the process for working. It’s all in the sketchbooks.

Right now I’m slowly scanning and photographing them so that I can publish more of the content. I had originally planned to delegate this to an assistant, and it would make more sense from a time management perspective. But the raw pages of the sketchbooks feel too personal to show someone I’m not emotionally close to.

We’ll see. With so many more to go and so much still on my to do list before I move abroad on Friday, I may break down and ask trusted friends if they want to help me with the scanning.

Thomas Moore, in his books Care of the Soul and Soul Mates, talks about how to nurture a more soulful connection to life. This isn’t, paradoxically, found in the peaks of spiritual experiences, alone on the mountaintop, but in the particulars of wrestling with everyday details.

Moore writes, “the soul loves the vernacular—the particular place, family, friends and neighborhood that are part of our daily lives.”

In my workshops, I love to share quotes and poems to spark the imagination, to illustrate a point much better than I can by way of explanation. A sturdy quote can illuminate hard-to-reach places in our minds, where logic rules.

A great use of quotes is to turn them into writing prompts.

The following quote arose from the pile of sketchbook flotsam on my work tables, at the same time I received an email from a student in Creative + Practice about her main take away.

The quote:

“In life, there are no ordinary moments. Most of us never really recognize the most significant moments of our lives when they’re happening.”  

– Kathleen Magee (quoted in Be by Kobi Yamada)

The email:

“Thank you, thank you for Creative + Practice! 

My very favorite take-away is your statement that, I don’t believe there’s anything like so-called mundane life. I think everything is interesting.” 

BAM! Suddenly, even bookkeeping – making a cool containing space in my journal for receipts, and figuring out what will be the most exciting way to keep track of income & expenses this brand new year – becomes a fabulous creative endeavor. WHO FREAKIN’ KNEW?!?!”

 – Tamara Holland

It’s a three-way synchronicity between what I’m learning + something that surfaced “randomly” + student feedback. I love it when this happens, don’t you?

//

Update: A bunch of the content from my sketchbooks is now available in my new new book: Sketchbooks: My Personal Creative Practice. Available for instant download here.

Creative + Practice is an online course I created to help people develop creative habits.

Creative habits are what we need to sustain projects from start to finish, and manage the ups, downs and detours along the way.

It’s my own creative practice that got me here.

I share everything I know to help you fear less, and create more.

6 Responses to No Ordinary Moments & The Keeping of Sketchbooks

  1. suzana April 21, 2014 at 8:26 pm #

    What resonates for me most strongly: “It’s my own creative practice that got me here.”

    I know how important my creative practice is to my physical, emotional, psychological, creative & spiritual wellbeing. But it’s usually the last thing on my ‘to do’ list; ‘once I’ve done everything else I have to do/ taken care of everyone else, I’ll get to myself’… even when my Beloved continually says ‘you need to go do some art for yourself now’. Sometimes, he actually has to push me (gently) toward my workspace… even the Starchild has started saying it! 😉

    It doesn’t matter how much we ‘know’ that commitment to our own self-care is vital to everyone else’s wellbeing too. We have to practice it! She says, as she wonders how on earth she’s going to find the time/ energy to work in her sketchbook today….

    That’s my challenge: to practice my creative practice.

    (Which is why I’d love to win a scholarship to your course. And my Beloved and our Starchild would love it if I did too.)

  2. Suzi Banks Baum April 16, 2014 at 9:43 am #

    Lisa,

    I am reposting my comment here, where I should have yesterday. I missed that fine detail at the end of your 100th Episode post. Congratulations on that.
    Here is my comment again.
    xo S

    “Thomas Moore, in his books Care of the Soul and Soul Mates, talks about how to nurture a more soulful connection to life. This isn’t, paradoxically, found in the peaks of spiritual experiences, alone on the mountaintop, but in the particulars of wrestling with everyday details.

    Moore writes, “the soul loves the vernacular—the particular place, family, friends and neighborhood that are part of our daily lives.”

    In my workshops, I love to share quotes and poems to spark the imagination, to illustrate a point much better than I can by way of explanation. A sturdy quote can illuminate hard-to-reach places in our minds, where logic rules.

    A great use of quotes is to turn them into writing prompts.”

    This quoted passage from your No Ordinary Moments post will be written directly into my Sketchbook. I write and make art which celebrates the sacred in every day living. And this means I have a lot of material!

    Here is my challenge Lisa. I, like you, am multi-passionate. I have a huge flow of ideas burbling around me most of the time. I need an assistant to do the scanning and administrative stuff…though there is comfort in these mundane tasks too. I write and make art and raise kids and keep a blog and a blog series and teach writing and also social media for authors and artists and have several other large projects running.

    I have poured over the Creative Entrepeneur. And I end up, almost every day, having tackled and enjoyed about one third of what I wanted to accomplish along with kid-pickup and dinner- which my husband really enjoys preparing. Which is to say, I am well supported and loved. Just not sure I am being effective enough and want to have a ton of fun while doing it.

    Is this possible?

    How to I tend all these fires and keep the important ones well fed?
    I’d love your insight here.
    xo S

    • Lisa Sonora Beam April 16, 2014 at 11:33 pm #

      so glad you shared and asked, Suzi – I’m going to go sleep on this, literally. It deserves some dwell time.

      At first flush though, I would say you’re already doing it – and perhaps the expectations are out of alignment? Looking at your list…and especially being a mom, that a huge workload.

      Something that helps me is to use my calendar (a paper one, filled with writing and color coding) like I would a spreadsheet – a visual, reality-checking tool. I plan things out for now, by the quarter, year, and the next few years on the horizon. With fudge factors built in.

      Some wise woman – also a mom – said that you can have it all – more or less – just not all at the same time.

      I too have about 75% more I want to be doing (or have done) on any given day… so this is something that I haven’t figured out, but continue to live…

      mundane tasks – yes. my soothing thing is cleaning and cooking… as if it’s 1899 – hand washing, scrubbing, ironing, canning veggies (when I had a garden). if the house is clean…you can be sure I’m either procrastinating or solving some kind of creative puzzle.

      • Suzi Banks Baum April 18, 2014 at 8:08 am #

        Thank you Lisa. There is such sweetness in those daily tasks that keep and comfort our needs and those around us. It is easing to me to know you too have that percent left undone. In so many ways, I am simply grateful to have a full flowing life. I painted yesterday afternoon while on a phone call, then quietly…just some journal pages prepared, but looking at them this morning makes me joyful. Let me know if you have more thoughts. xo S

        • Lisa Sonora Beam April 23, 2014 at 1:45 pm #

          Suzi – Ultimately, I think the whole point of anything is to amplify our joy.

          If we feel far from joy, to look for ways to get closer to it.

          There are two practices I do to find joy AND amplify it: appreciate everything, and extend and express love – to myself or someone else.

          When we are en-JOY-ing, we have so much more access to our own gifts, and so much more to give others.

          And that’s a pretty cool circle, or feedback loop, to be in.

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