Today is the second installment in my monthly interview series. A series in which I hope to introduce you to some very special people…individuals who work equally hard at their craft and at living an intentional life. Someone new each month, sharing thoughts on creativity and discussing current work dear to his/her heart. Each individual who joins us will also generously offer some sort of giveaway. It could be a handmade item, a spot in a workshop, a collection of stones or crystals…anything that’s connected to the feature artist’s work and life. Their gift to you is of their choosing. This series will, I hope, create space to explore what creativity looks like to different people; I hope it will also create space to spread a little love through the gifts of our guests.
Today, Christine Mason Miller joins us. She’s someone I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in person, someone I’ve gotten to know better over the years through thoughtful email conversations and through this class. She is down-to-earth and kind. She is wise and intuitive and has a terrific sense of humor. Christine is someone who creates endlessly with her own hands and heart; she is someone who shows up for herself and, time and again, for others. She’s more than a little awesome. Are you ready? Here she is…
Can you tell us about your creative work?
At the moment, my creative work centers around writing—I just published a memoir—and a new podcast inspired by the experience of writing the book. It is also about giving myself the time to explore a lot of questions that writing this book has inspired, which I will ultimately want to write about. I have a tendency to dive into new creative projects without a big cushion of time in between because I am such a do-er. But right now I’m aware that an integral part of my current creative work requires a lot more of that in-between time—time to sit with the questions and let myself follow a lot of different threads before trying to formally articulate anything.
What does creativity mean to you?
It means making things—objects, connections, compositions. It means having a certain kind of order even if things look messy on the surface. It is about creating beauty. It means looking at a situation or a problem or a question from every possible angle. It means trying and reaching and expressing.
An underlying theme of your new book, Moving Water, is family. Can you share a bit about how you honor your creative passions while also tending to those you love?
I have come to appreciate all the tiny ways I can express myself creatively while also, simultaneously, taking care of those I love. We have a pretty active household—lots of guests and entertaining and providing—and I always strive to make these experiences as beautiful and thoughtful as possible. So on a day when we have a big family dinner, I won’t likely have time to sequester myself in my studio to write or paint or whatever, but I will get to spend time putting together a beautiful table for dinner. In either situation, in the end, I have created something beautiful, and both experiences are gratifying. Channeling my creative passions in the realm of writing or artwork is usually more long-term and project-oriented; doing this within the context of caring for my family and loved ones has to do with smaller things. Mother Teresa says, “Do small things with great love,” and that is one of my favorite quotes.
When you write (for books, for magazines) are you a pen and paper kind of girl, or do you head straight for the keyboard?
Keyboard all the way. My hands, with a pen, can’t keep up with my thoughts. Although I love the act of putting pen to paper, and there are absolutely times when I need that slower process. When it comes to editing, I am decidedly old-school. I’ll print out the pages and go to work with a pencil, scissors and tape. With Moving Water, I literally cut pages apart and re-assembled them, arranging multiple pages in a long line across our floor. If I’m trying to re-arrange things, it is really difficult on the computer because I literally can’t see the overall structure.
In the process of writing Moving Water, can you share something you learned about the writing process? And can you share something you learned about yourself?
I learned that I know very little about the writing process—that even though I’ve done a fair amount of writing, there is still so much to learn, and always will be. So the process made me very humble. I think the most important thing I got—really got—is that the first draft really is, as Anne Lamott is famous for saying, a crappy first draft. That is has to be crappy because it has to involve dumping all my thoughts and ideas and possibilities on the page. Then the real work of crafting a story or book comes after that. I found the writing process to be very similar to sculpting. I only took one sculpture class in college, but the experience stayed with me. I’ll never forget working on a clay figure, thinking it looked pretty good, but then turning it to the side and seeing a complete disaster! Writing is kind of like that—it requires turning and turning and seeing things from every possible angle, and it requires removing and adding and revising the material.
What I learned about myself? This is a big question for me right now, as the experience of writing Moving Water has radically altered my view of all the stories (and others) I shared in the book. The short version of my answer is that I’ve learned how dynamic my life story is; nothing is rigid or static or permanent. At any moment, I can alter my view of things, I can let go, I can shift my focus, and within those choices the landscape of my past can change dramatically.
Your new book is brave and tender. Can you share what inspired you to write this memoir?
The inspiration initially came from looking at the blended family I married into and seeing how easily it could have crashed and burned. In other words, if you got a glimpse of the baggage each of us—me, my husband, his daughter, his son—brought to the table, your prediction would have been disaster. Yet we’ve not only survived, but thrived. Once this fascination took hold, the idea of writing about it took hold.
And now, some lighter questions…
Do you have a favorite food(s)?
One of my favorite things is from a cookbook called Olives, Anchovies and Capers. It is this:
- Olive bread
- Lemon juice
When my husband and I tell people about this, the typical reaction is, “Anchovies? EW,” but then we make it for them, and they love it.
When was the last time you laughed?
First thing this morning, when my chocolate lab Tilda crawled on top of me this morning to wake me up. She’s sixty pounds, so this was no gentle wake up.
I think, like me, you’re a lover of quotes. Is there one you’d like to share with us today?
I usually go immediately to Hafiz or Rumi, so today I’ll share something a little different, but also one of my favorites:
“Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.” -Jean-Paul Sartre
What colors do you like to wear?
I am totally boring—90% of my closet is gray, white or black. Navy blue is walking on the wild side for me.
If you close your eyes right now, what word comes to mind?
And now for the giveaway!!!
Christine is generously giving away one signed copy of Moving Water.
(For this giveaway, shipping will be domestic only.)
To enter the giveaway, here’s what you need to do:
Leave a comment below. Maybe share what family means to you. Or maybe just say hello. Whatever you like.
Wanna enter more than once? Share a link to this interview on Facebook or Instagram. For each share, you’ll be entered an additional time! Comments will close at midnight PST on Monday, February 20 , 2017. The randomly-selected winner will be announced here in this post on Tuesday, February 21.
I hope you enjoyed this chat with Christine as much as I did.
Thank you, Christine, for being here with us.
Sending a little love your way, m
Christine Mason Miller is an author and artist who has been guiding others toward a meaningful life for more than twenty years. Her experience with writing, publishing, licensing and teaching has established her as an experienced, compassionate authority on how to bring dreams to life, particularly those related to writing and publishing a book. Her latest book, Moving Water: A Memoir, is now available in her shop, and will be offered on Amazon.com in February 2017.