The universe is always in flux, so waiting endlessly for perfection just means you’ll miss the boat.

Danny Gregory

Danny Gregory’s “Shut Your Monkey” hit at just the right moment for me. The combination of a very challenging year at work and a post-marathon movement slump had me feeling drained. I needed a good kick in the pants, or else my holiday break might devolve into a slovenly mess of bon-bons, sweat pants, and movie marathons.

Okay, maybe I can have a little of that, but…

Oh no! That’s me, possibly missing all of the boats. This book invited me to doodle directly in it. Not really, but I don’t think Danny would mind.

This morning as I finished up this book, I’m feeling fired up. I’ve been drawing ever day since his talk, and the book pushed me even further to reflect on my purpose and what drives me. If you need a pep talk, this is a good one.

Gregory invites challenging the “monkey” that holds you back. Those inner voices, the ones who needle with nay-saying and destructive doubts, can be quelled.

In short, the book says:

Don’t let meaningless distractions get in the way. Don’t expect perfection. Don’t over-analyze or critique your process or the creative output.

Just show up.
Just do.
Just be.

Thanks to High Alpha, who hosted Danny Gregory for a talk about creativity. Free registration to the event included a copy of his latest book, Shut Your Monkey.

The Embarcadero

Our San Francisco flight had been delayed, which meant we’d be hard pressed to make it for the start of the Giants game. It was a frenzied dash, from landing to hotel check-in, then we rushed to AT&T Park to catch the game in progress.

Look at that blue sky. Hello, California.
Look at that blue sky. Hello, California.

Louie kept score as usual. I kind of tuned out, soaked up the sunshine and tried to recover from the hustle of traveling.

This hot dog and garlic fries helped the recovery situation tremendously.
This hot dog and garlic fries helped the recovery situation tremendously.

The Embarcadero picks up near the park. We planned to walk off our ballpark lunch and get a feel for the city. Eventually, we’d end up at the Ferry Building to explore the market inside.

Direct hit.
Cupid’s Span by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen

After all of the sitting on the plane and at the ballpark, it felt good to get moving and listen to the water lapping up the shore.

San Francisco Bay from Sara McGuyer on Vimeo.

Obligatory bird shot.

One odd moment transported me from the place I’d just come – home. This sculpture along the waterfront so reminded me of our state flag, I couldn’t help but think of Indiana.

SOMA by Flaming Lotus Girls
SOMA by Flaming Lotus Girls

We made it to the Ferry Building ready for coffee. Good thing we found Blue Bottle inside, and a wonderful place to get a sweet treat too.

The Port of San Francisco.
The Port of San Francisco.
Macaroon from Miette in the Ferry Building.

Good job on the strolling situation, San Francisco.

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox

Prompt: “It’s All About the Journey. Where did you travel this year? Did it move or change you?”


Do you know what happens to all of the stuff of people who die without having anyone in their life? I didn’t, until I read the story about the lonely death of a man named George Bell (a long read, and well worth it).

Bell’s tendencies to over eat and to hoard pulled his world in close. He’d pushed many out of his life, and mostly kept to his 800 square feet. He died in his Queens apartment, surrounded by the clutter of a long life in one place – the “unedited anarchy” of his days. Without loved ones looking for items of sentimental or worldly value, his place was left to workers who are paid to pick through estates.

When I first moved to Indianapolis back in 2009, I didn’t realize I’d move three times in the span of a year. Each move was like pushing life through a sieve. I’d pared down, gotten lighter. It’s a lot easier to pack up when you have less.

When we bought our current house, we were consciously seeking a place we could stay in until the end of our days, should life work out that way. We’ve called it home for a year and a half, just long enough to see the beginnings of piles, things we may not use again tucked into the basement, a spare bedroom closet in disarray.

One of our 2015 art purchases. Boats by Phillip Campbell
One of our 2015 art purchases. Boats by Phillip Campbell

Despite the lightness I found by moving too much too quickly, I’m still seeking that balance of what to keep and what to purge – the dance of a collector who also like open spaces. Months after reading about George Bell, a pile of unread magazines in the kitchen triggers the thought: let this not be the start of unedited anarchy.

There’s a line there I don’t want to cross. It lies somewhere on a scale between curation and clutter. I’m not one to hoard, but I love the way I can see so much about a person by what records or books are on their shelves.

I’ve come to think of home as a place that should feel alive with stories. Aside from all of the utilitarian stuff of life, the things I keep should connect to a moment or memory, have some meaning, or bring joy. I want to be able to answer: What is the story of this thing?

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox

Prompt: “Habitat. What creates a sense of home for you? Explore space, artifacts or people who shape your habitat. When do you feel the most at home?”

Solicited Advice

Advice is kind of weird, right? When I think of most of the times I’ve asked for it, it’s been when there’s something wrong, or if I have a problem I can’t solve.

It hadn’t occurred to me to actively ask for advice when there’s nothing up, no issue or angle, until earlier this year. As part of a project, I had to ask my collaborators four questions from a script, with one of them being: “What advice do you have for me?”

That’s it. Simple. No other context or prompts. A wide open ask for advice.

I actually was telling Drew, Lydia and Jackie about this exchange earlier this evening. Here’s what they had to say:
“That’s so robotic!”
“It sounds unnatural!”

…and so on.

I agree. And it did feel strange to ask, but guess what? I got some of my favorite advice ever (thanks, Jeremy and Jenny!)

Doodle more.

This advice came at a time when I was in the thick of my creative withdrawal. It was advice I didn’t even know how much I needed. I’ve been picking up the pen more than ever because of it. Behold, two recent, random doodles:


Do you ever ask for advice just because?

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox
Today’s prompt: “2¢. Whether you asked for it – or not – what good advice did you get this year?”

Knowing and Not Knowing

Though I’d been searching for a painting for above the fireplace for years, I’d gotten used to that expanse of white. When we finally found the one, it took a while before I got used to its presence. I’d walk through our door and feel a bit startled by its beauty. In it I saw an incredible floating island, a place that, like a vivid dream, skirts the lines of something you know, but can not know.

Contracted by Susan Hodgin

I didn’t know the artist – not really. We exchanged a few words once in her studio on a First Friday. On hearing of her passing, I didn’t know what to do with my grief. I wouldn’t expect to feel this ache for someone I haven’t actually met.

It didn’t occur to me until today, but I suppose there’s a strange intimacy in owning art. The painter, having made this singular creation, chooses to let it go into the world. The collector, in accepting stewardship, builds on the story. Between them, an invisible thread.

Rest in peace, Susan Hodgin.


Once I choose my rock, I’m rooted there, fixed. I’ve been called a barnacle in the past.
Sticking it out, weathering it all. I am not one to give up.

There’s a flip side to this thing.

I can be stubborn. Barnacle-headed. Sometimes you take the bad with the good.


This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox
Today’s prompt: “Draw a self portrait. Get as abstract or as real as you like.”

Make List

In light of my mantra, Enough, black hole. Make! I decided I’d prep a short list of creative projects for 2014. My goal: at least one project per month, with smaller, daily creativity in between.

Potential projects:

  1. Make a video project that uses hand drawn elements. I’ve never done stop motion. This will be a huge stretch. Maybe disastrous. But I want to try!
  2. Write a song with Louie.
  3. Make something ceramic, which basically means signing up for a workshop or class at Indianapolis Art Center. I used to love making ceramics, but haven’t done it in years.
  4. Knit a collaborative yarn bomb. I made this one with friends in 2010. We’ve been planning to do another, but have had a hard time coming up with an idea that tops Burt. In 2014, it’s happening.
  5. Paint a watercolor.
  6. Attempt a sewing project. I am terrible at sewing. And my funky vintage sewing machine is broken, and I was told the part needed to fix it is unavailable. Maybe a class at Crimson Tate?
  7. Make some note cards (& write letters, of course).
  8. Paint a series of wee acrylic paintings. Louie got me a bunch of mini canvases a couple of years ago. I made mostly bad paintings on 2 of them, the rest have been collecting dust in my art supply closet.
  9. Write a short story.
  10. Make a scarf for Louie. The last scarf I made for him worked with his old coat, but he got a new one this winter that’s begging for a more classic style scarf. Maybe cables? They’re one of my favorite things to knit.
  11. Build a mobile.
  12. Make some word art, with hand drawn typography.

I reserve the right to change my mind about what I do, but not to skip a month. I may not share everything I do, but if you don’t hear any stories of making stuff, then I’ve probably faltered. Hold me accountable, internet!

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox
Today’s prompt: “Plan, outline, or mind-map a project you want to tackle in 2014.”

Enough, Black Hole. Make!


If I got a tattoo in 2013, it might have been of the word “enough.” This word motivated me at a time when I was ready to finally make changes I’d been thinking about for a long time. My major hit list was to not work into the wee hours of the night, skating by on little sleep, and to exercise regularly.

Enough! became an exclamation. This tiny rally cry helped keep me on track when I needed a gentle push back to the light.

Enough began to take on another meaning, as I realized my life had become overfull with goodness, and I struggled to make time for it all. Rather than beat myself up over not getting it all done and being all of the things, I took solace in enough. I do enough. I am enough.

While I found much peace in enough, one thing made itself known, shouted, “You are not done with Enough! yet.” It should have been carved out and set in stone – the space for creating, for making. Instead, a black hole of intention, deep and infinite, trapping my drive to make, unrealized ideas, unmade things.

I hope as 2014 draws to a close, I can look back on a year of drawings and doodles, pages of text, and know I’ve made enough, worked my fingers to the bone. So here goes nothing. Enough, black hole. Make!

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox
Today’s prompt: “Repeat After Me. Write a mantra for the year ahead – how you’ll approach it, what you wish it to be.”

When Things Fade


I’ve been watching the paint curl away from the walls for the past several years. Now and then I take a photo of the dog on a bicycle with the bugle, but I haven’t shared them before. He won’t be there forever, I know. It seems like I should have some grand tale to tell – why else should I care so much about an aging mural on a cinder block wall? But all I have is the sad story that sometimes things fade.

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox
Lifeline prompt: “Picture this. Post a photo(s) you took this year, but never shared with anyone. Tell the story behind the image.”