Our First Haiku Contest: Tea and Creativity!

January 5, 2012

Tea and Creativity

Posted by Deborah Atherton

It often helps us, as we struggle to find time to do our creative projects, to have a little prompt, some gesture that tells us that it is now time to get serious, and sit down with our work.  We tell ourselves, “After I finish reading the paper, or cleaning up after dinner, or eating lunch, I will go ______ (you fill in the blank – paint, or sort out my photographs, or edit some video, or write).

For me, this is most often a cup of coffee or tea (you can see my earlier post on coffee and creativity here ). I wake up with coffee, and then switch to tea later in the day.  Coffee is my first burst of inspiration; tea sustains and comforts and helps me bring ideas to fruition.   

 Tea, like wine, has its devoted connoisseurs, the people who will tell you that if you do not drink the white tea made from buds that bloom only for a week and a half every other year in some obscure province of China, you have not really experienced tea.  Like Captain Jean Luc Picard, I enjoy a nice cup of Earl Grey, hot, when it is available, but honestly will settle for lesser brands, at any temperature, when it is not.  It is the making of the tea, the ritual of heating the water, pouring it over a tea bag (or sachet or leaves, if we are being elegant), that creates the moment of peace, the little separate space, that allows you to launch yourself into the next hour of your day, the hour when you will have a little peace to do your creative work.

As firm believers in the drinking of coffee and tea to support  creative endeavors, and to help inaugurate what we are sure will be a wonderfully creative New Year, The Intuitive Edge invites you to participate in our first annual haiku contest with seventeen syllables on the subject of coffee or tea and creativity.  Use your vivid imaginations – and we know enough of our readers to know that this is not in short supply.  The traditional Haiku form used in English is 17 syllables (5-7-5), but this is the Intuitive Edge: give yourself a little room for creativity.  

We offer this haiku from the great Japanese master Matsuo Bashō, who some say invented haiku, on starting your mornings with tea:

drinking morning tea
the monk is peaceful
the chrysanthemum blooms

The prizes for the winning entries will be, of course, be Starbucks cards (we are here to support your creativity in many ways!) to help you break new creative ground in the New Year.  All entries must be in by midnight, January 22nd, GMT (which seems to be the clock WordPress runs on.)

Please post your entries here in the comments section. You will retain all rights to all seventeen syllables after they have first been posted here.  Good luck, and we look forward to your entries!  

I leave you with these final words from Matsuo Bashō: “The haiku that reveals seventy to eighty percent of its subject is good. Those that reveal fifty to sixty percent, we never tire of.”

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Why Morning Pages Aren’t for Everyone

February 20, 2010

Posted by Deborah Atherton

Many books for writers, the best known of which may be Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, advocate that you wake up every morning and write. Attack your resistance before it takes hold.  Retrieve the residue of your dreams, and manage a feeling of virtue all day. Write anything, they say – it doesn’t have to be immediately meaningful. Just write.

All well and good, if you are a morning person. But some of us get out of bed with reluctance every day, and do not really become even mildly functional until as late as 4 PM. Some of us are averse by nature to “just writing,” and do not like to set pen to paper, or finger to keyboard, without a larger purpose.  And some of us lead such intensely busy lives that that half hour or hour just isn’t available every morning – be it a demanding boss, hungry children, or a troop of chimpanzees we are studying, we just cannot commit that time.

As Leslie mentioned last week in her post, this advice has generated a lot of guilt in a lot of writers and artists. Leslie and I are both strong believers in rituals for artists, but we also believe that you have to create your own.  There are lots of books that tell you to do other things first thing on rising, with advice ranging from getting on your exercycle to drinking a glass of hot water with lemon – and while I am sure these are all fine things to do, you don’t HAVE to.  Really. Lots of people go to the gym after work, not when they wake up, and they seem to be as healthy as anyone else, if not healthier than most. And you can do this with writing, too.  Write after work. Write before you go to bed.  Write while eating your tuna sandwich at lunch. Write while on hold with the cable company.  (I have done all these things, and can speak to their efficacy.) Or better, do make an appointment with yourself to write regularly. Maybe it will be every Sunday morning, while the rest of the household sleeps. Maybe it will be Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 5 to 6 after everyone else has left the office.

But don’t let anyone tell you that waking up at 6 AM and writing is essential to YOUR life as an artist, whatever kind of artist you may be.  Some do – most don’t.  Quite possibly all you want to do in the morning is drink your coffee and read the newspaper or a blog.

Enjoy your coffee.


Coffee and Creativity

September 15, 2009
Creative Fuel

Creative Fuel

Posted by Deborah Atherton

When Leslie and I meet to work on our creativity book (in progress, stay tuned) or our blog, the first thing we do is order coffee. We’ve never discussed this, but it has become our ritual, born in the days when we began meeting at (appropriately enough) the Art Café on Broadway. We usually order a meal or snack with it, but until the coffee is in our cups, we don’t start tossing ideas back and forth.

What is it about coffee? Or is it about coffee? Well, of course, it is in part about the coffee itself, which has the pleasing effect of sharpening our minds and waking us up, good preparation for creative work of any kind. But to tell you the truth, usually by the time we get together in early afternoon, we have both switched to decaf for the day, so the salutary effects of caffeine aren’t really part of the equation.

What it is really about, I think, is the ritual. Since coffeehouses came into vogue several hundred years ago, people have been meeting over cups of coffee to talk. And it seems to me, that over most of my writing career, whenever anyone had anything important to discuss with me or any new collaboration was beginning, it was always over a cup of coffee or tea. In the first writer’s workshop I ever joined, back in Connecticut somewhere in the Mesozoic era, we depended on several pots of coffee to get us through the night, and although the caffeine consumption may now have declined several workshops later, the ritual holds firm.

Rituals help us over that little hesitation most of us feel when beginning a new project or picking up the old ones after any kind of break. Many of us can’t sit down at our computers or at our easels without a cup of coffee or tea beside us; and you’d be hard put to find a day time rehearsal for any kind of ensemble that wasn’t fueled by Starbucks. We relax a little when we lift those cups to our lips; it’s the beginning of a chain of actions that we know (without having to think about it) will lead to us getting back into the flow of our work.

If you haven’t got a ritual, you might try inventing one that suits you. It doesn’t have to be coffee. It might be a walk around the block, or listening to some music that sets you in the right direction. I know a painter who swears by Diet Coke and a writer who likes to pop a chocolate truffle. The form of the ritual doesn’t matter; but the consistency does. If you repeat the same small action every time you sit down to work, you’re giving yourself a handy creative cue, and making what comes next just a little bit easier.