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Posts Tagged ‘project natalie’

Crooner Break: Elizabeth Gilbert and Big Magic

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Aloha gang!

It’s time for another Crooner Break!  This time I’m checking in from the street after watching the always lovely and eloquent Elizabeth Gilbert at a taping of the Dr. Oz Show. Liz was there to talk about her book Big Magic as well as share some of her tools for living a creative life.

After receiving an advance copy of the book a few months ago, I’ve read it several times and highlighted the heck outta my copy. I keep it within arm’s reach while working at my desk. I’ve even downloaded the Kindle version so that I can take it with me everywhere I go.

It’s probably one of the most inspiring books I’ve ever read.

My favorite part about the book? It’s a mix of magic and pragmatism, both of which you need (in abundance!) while pursuing a creative life.  She writes about ideas and how she believes them to be something that seeks out the individual who will help bring them into being. But then she writes about “working like a farmer” at whatever creative task/project is consuming you at the moment and sticking with the work until it’s done. (As Pops says, “We work until it’s pau. That’s how.”)

AND… she writes about how she went from being a “scaredy cat” kid to the person she is today, one who has a healthy respect for and relationship with fear–without letting it rule her life.

(I know, right?  Each time I’ve read it, I’ve asked myself, “Do you know me, Liz Gilbert? Did you write this book for me?”)

Because I’m always working on Project Natalie and new songs, I know I’ll keep this book close to me for a long, long time.

Please check out the video above.  And please check out her amazing book by clicking HERE! (You won’t regret it!)

Right on.

With warm Aloha


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Writer’s Sketchbook: Hula o Makee

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

jason poole, accidental hawaiian crooner, molokai, pilipo solatorio, anakala pilipo, halawa valley,


Writer’s Sketchbook – a peek inside my notebook of timed writings

10 minutes

August, 2008.  I am in Hālawa Valley with ‘Anakala Pillipo.  Here!  Me!  With him!  Amazing.  I want to learn music.  To really immerse myself in the sounds of Hawaiʻi.  No… more than that.  To immerse myself IN HAWAIʻI, herself.  The songs are wonderful—they calm me down when I listen to them.  And they’re fun to sing.  But I know I’ll never be able to REALLY sing them if I only parrot the sounds that I hear on the recordings.  I need to go deep.  It’s why I’m here.  And now we’re sitting on the front porch of his cabin in Hālawa Valley.

-Go get your ‘ukulele.  I think we should do some singing.

My heart almost jumps out of my mouth but gets stuck in my throat.  It’s time. It’s finally time to start.

-Do you know the song Hula O Makee?

I’m familiar with the song. I’ve heard it on the Hawaiian radio stations that I listen to at my desk.  I’ve heard it on some of the classic hula CDs in my collection.  I’m glad because I don’t have to say No.  I can at least strum along with him.

We play it in G—his key of choice for most songs.  I have a the “Blue Bible” of Hawaiian songs for us to use as a reference for lyrics.  He doesn’t look at the book.  My eyes dart from the page to his hands to his face.  I want to impress him more than anything. To show him I’m serious about this.  And to show him I can do it.  I can hold my own.

He sings his version of the song—not paying attention to the page.  He skips some of the printed verses.

-I sing it the way we always sang it.  Sometimes the book is different.  Different places sing the song in different ways.  (He says this after we make our way through the song 3 times)

I am grateful for the chance to sing with him, but I want to move on.  I don’t like this song.  It’s not a Molokai song and that’s what I was hoping for.  It’s not what I want to be doing for very long.

-Mahalo for this,  ‘Anakala.  Can we sing another song now?

-Why do you want to sing another song?  This is a good one.

-I was just thinking there are so many songs for us to look at.  How ‘bout a Molokai song?

-No.  This is a good one.  Hana hou.  Again.

We start the song again from the beginning.  I’m frustrated.  My arms are tight.  The valley suddenly seems noisy.  Too much sound.  Too many distractions.  Tunnel vision makes the white page seem dark, the words blur to a smudge.

We sing it again and again and again.  I’m going to lose my mind if I have to do it one more time.

-This will be your song to sing.  We’ll keep going with this one.

© 2014 Jason Poole, all rights reserved


Getting lost

Sunday, February 15, 2015

jason poole, accidental hawaiian crooner, molokai, project natalie, anakala pilipo, pilipo solatorio, halawa valley, writing, getting lost

When I first started working on The Big Project

I didn’t understand how

at times

I would get lost

in the mists of “I remember…”

Sitting at my desk or in a coffee shop,

I would lose track of days, hours, seasons.

It’s a good thing to go outside

even when the thermometer reads 12-degrees

to remember that I am here


that it’s winter in NYC

And after a brief walk around the block

it’s good to return to my desk

and nice hot cuppa coffee

a snoring cat

and a notebook, hungry for stories.

I remember…


neil gaiman, jason poole, accidental hawaiian crooner, molokai, panic attacks, halawa valley, writer's block

Last Friday, I read some of Neil Gaiman’s novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, while I was on the subway. I love his writing.  I love being able to “hear” his voice on the page.  (I’m familiar with his voice from interviews I’ve watched.  And on those rare occasions when I can’t “hear” it in my mind, I substitute the voice of British actor, Alan Rickman.)

Gaiman’s writing style is something I’ve been studying.  It’s slow, not rushed.  It’s like settling it with a good friend who wants to share a story with you, a friend who happens to be one of the world’s best storytellers.  You know you’re in good hands when you read one of his books.

For about thirty minutes, I was immersed in the world he created on the page. When I arrived at my stop on the train, I got up from my seat and realized that I was having a full-blown panic attack.  My muscles were tense, fight or flight mode; my breathing shallow and fast.  At first I couldn’t figure out what had triggered it and then it dawned on me–Gaiman’s narrator in the novel is a young boy who faces fantastic-and-yet-very-real monsters.  Something in the novel had touched a place deep inside me.  Something terrified me.

I recognized the panic attack and I reminded myself it would eventually pass. It did. Eventually.  I made it back to the apartment, sat on the couch and SHUT DOWN.  When I experience a panic attack, that’s all I can do, shut down.

The following day I sat in front of my notebook, poised to work on the BIG PROJECT but frozen.  It was an all-too-familiar scenario. For months I’ve found myself sitting at my desk, excited to write, and then after a few minutes of scratching at the page, I freeze.

Part of Project Natalie includes a massive writing component.  When this project began, I was excited to be working on this piece, something I’m passionate about!  But while the passion has remained intact, I’ve been extremely frustrated with my own lack of progress.  I started out strong and then hit a wall.

In therapy this week (“What? A New Yorker in therapy?”), I had one of those a-ha! moments that I’ve come to love: I was able to see that in my writing life, I’ve been experiencing panic attacks, complete with racing pulse and short, quick breaths.  And just like I saw it happen on Friday, when I’m faced with one of ‘em, I shut down.

So the pen has been frozen with Project Natalie.  For months.

I’ve still managed to squeeze out some writing, but not with Project Natalie.  Actually, I’ve been writing a lot lately.  Or maybe I should say that I’ve started a lot of new pieces lately, new songs, new poems, new essays.  More output than ever in all sorts of directions. And each of them show great promise. I’m the proud owner of a notebook full of strong starts, but no finished pieces except for the song I wrote as a Christmas gift for my parents.  (And that song was cobbled together at the last minute.  Thank goodness for unforgiving deadlines.)

I’m extremely grateful for my notebook full of starts.  It shows me that I’m not completely frozen.  It shows me that I’m able to continue a writing practice–especially when it comes to letting go of any outcome.  I write those mini-pieces. those hopeful beginnings, as a way to keep moving.  A practice of showing up to the page.  A practice that guides my day.  I’d feel lost without it, this anchor made of paper.

When it comes to Project Natalie, I am trying to be gentle with myself.  I recognize that something inside me panics.  There is a part of me that digs in his heels and doesn’t want to budge. A part of me senses danger ahead and freezes.  And I’m trying to be ok with that, trying to be compassionate. (Self-compassion is not one of my strongest suits.)  I

There’s also a part of me that recognizes there’s work to be done.  A story that needs to be written.  So I allow myself to stop for a moment.  And instead of pushing or pulling, I nudge.  Shorter writing assignments.  ”Just a few words.”  ”Just write for 15 minutes.” And I’m seeing that by turning on the heat gradually, the iceberg is beginning to melt.  V-e-r-y slowly.  (Slow and steady… Right, Neil?)

Panic attacks are not fun.  Being frozen is not fun.

But everything changes.

Sometimes, just being able to see what you’re dealing with helps.  The lights are on.  I can see the monsters. And yes, seeing them makes them a little less terrifying.

I mua.  Onward.

Right on.

How’s YOUR week going? 




Friday, October 10, 2014

jason poole, accidental hawaiian crooner, molokai, halawa valley, pilipo solatorio, mosquito, itch, itchy

“We made a deal with the mosquitoes,” Pops will often tell visitors to Hālawa Valley.  ”They promised to leave us alone and we promised to bring them new blood.” It usually makes everyone laugh and it makes the mosquitoes in the valley less of a threat, less of an inconvenience.  For the moment, anyway.

In the valley, I carry a long tī leaf with me and use it like a horse uses its tail, swatting at the pesky bugs that bite and sting my arms and legs and cause me to itch.  A leaf that starts out whole and ends us looking shredded and tired by the end of my walk.

I woke up this morning with an itch.  A nagging insistence.  A sensation that cries out SCRATCH ME.

I’m working on a huge writing project.  A project that I’ve lovingly referred to as Project Natalie here on the blog.  It’s been a lot of fun.  And a lot of work.

It’s overwhelming.

About this itch…  it’s the kind that’s hard to pinpoint.  Oh, how I wish it was like a mosquito bite that swelled up and left a red mark!  It would be easy to locate.  Easy to scratch.

But this itch is one that’s inside.  Deep inside.  It’s like an itch in my brain.

Thomas the Cat is an itchy little guy.  He’s a redhead, a ginger, and I’m told that redheaded cats are prone to skin conditions.  He’s a master when it comes to scratching.  He works furiously at first, clawing at skin with a vengeance.  Then he sits, leg still poised with claws at the ready, waiting to see if he’s been successful.  To see if he’s managed to scratch the itch.

I guess I’m kind of like him.  I scratch at the page with my pen, looking for the right stories to share, the perfect way to express what it is I’m trying to say. And then I sit and wait.  Have I found it?  Have I managed to quiet the voice that cries out, Scratch the itch!  Tell the story!

I don’t know.  I’m still scratching.  Still searching.  Still waiting.

Alice found a bottle that said DRINK ME, and she drank.  She found a cake that said EAT ME, and she ate.

I have a story that says WRITE ME.

And I’m still writing.

An itch that begs to be scratched.



A beating heart buried in the snow.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Jason Poole, Accidental Hawaiian Crooner, Molokai, NYC writer, writer's block, Inwood Hill, buried heart

We’ve seen a lot of snow here in NYC this winter. I took this photo this morning. Haunting. (NYC 2.18.14)

I woke up this morning with an image burned in my mind: A bright red human heart beating beneath the white snow.

(I know… I know… sounds kinda gross, right?)

Normally something like that would just pass though my mind and be forgotten by the time I’d finished brushing my teeth.  Interesting, yes, but fleeting.

But this image would not let go. Dang! It stayed with me all morning, even through two cups of coffee.

So I took out my notebook and decided that I needed to explore it.  I needed to see what was so important about it.  What did it mean?  My mind had created it and was demanding I pay attention.

Here are my “What-The-Heck-Does-This-Mean” notes:

The image of a heart beneath a blanket of snow and ice.  The heart continues to beat—faintly.  But as long as there is a heartbeat, there is the promise of warmth.  The promise of heat.

That’s how it’s felt to be working on these projects: the stories, the essays, the songs.  I’ve felt like I’m buried in an avalanche.  Like somehow I’d been snowed in a cabin deep in the woods, high on a mountain.  The snow continues to fall and accumulate.  More snow on top of snow.  And then it’s like WHAM!  I’m snowed in.  Stuck.  Buried.  Doomed. Done.

What does the ice represent in this image?  Fear.  Paralyzing fear.  (Fear of what? Need to explore this further.  Fear of failure as well as fear of success.)

What does the snow represent in this image? Doubt. Overwhelm.  Fatigue.

But wait… The heart continues to beat.  That’s my story.  A courageous little heart that won’t give up.  It can’t give up.  And from that little spot of warmth, the snow and ice begin to melt.  Slowly.  So slowly.

With each break in the ice, with every snowflake that melts, it grows—this little hot spot.  And then a clearing happens.  And it grows and grows until there is finally enough space for the story to breathe.

And then spring comes.  The warm golden sun replaces the garish, cold white light of winter.  Green replaces the snowy white.  And there, in the distance, is the story that everyone (that I?) thought had vanished and died.  It’s still alive!  Search parties had given up.  No one was looking for it anymore.  But there it is—walking down the mountainside!  It leans on a cane for assistance, but with each step, it grows stronger and stronger.  That’s how this feels.

Was the recent writing retreat a last ditch attempt at a search party?

No.  It was the heartbeat of the story still pulsing and sounding out a faint but consistent S.O.S. signal.  “I’m here!  I’m still here!”

And I’m so thankful that it is.

Right on.

Please stay tuned for more updates very soon.  The heart is still beating.