Art & Fear: The River of Ideas is Dry . . .

When things go haywire, your best opening strategy might be to return--very carefully and consciously--to the habits and practices in play at the last time you felt good about your work. --pg 57, Bayles and Orland *

All artist reach a point in their project (often every project) in which the free-flow of ideas comes to a slow or screeching stop. Often times, this change in momentum gives way to such thoughts as: "Oh, this must not be a good idea," or "I used up all my good ideas already," or "Maybe I shouldn't be writing/painting/singing/_____ (fill in the blank) afterall." These thoughts are lies. BIG. LIES.

So what is the truth?

Well, more than likely, at some point you changed a technique, approach, or behavior that was serving you well. For example, I set writerly goals for myself and when I reach them, I have a celebratory cupcake. Some people can only create art at night, while others must create as the day begins. Some people need an outline or sketch. Others must begin with nothing more than an image or idea in their mind's eye. The point, there is something that you and I do that makes creating flow smoothly. Often times learning new rules or techniques or changes in our daily schedule or events in our daily life, throw us off. Add to this, we often don't realize we have a "thing" that is unique and linked to our creative process. I ask you to mentally process what you do before, during and after you create. What helps? What hinders?

If you're feeling stuck, take a moment to put the brakes on the Doomsday-thinking and get back to the basics.   

*Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking

Friday Five

My goodness! So many great things are going on that I almost forgot I needed to post.

Last night I went out with a group of friends. We had spirited beverages and a conversation for adult ears only. It was great fun laughing and chatting in the summer heat with mysters making it all seem a bit surreal.

Tonight I get to spend time with a friend I have not seen in months. We always have a great time getting caught up. Plus, we're eating Italian food. You can't go wrong with that.

Tomorrow night is book club. We read Long Way Down by Nick Hornby. I shouldn't say anything about my thoughts or feelings, because I know some of the ladies read my blog...but I'm gonna say something anyway. (Yep, I'm living on the edge.) I really liked it! Actually listened to it and the narrators were great.

So You Think You Can Dance was on. I have a favorite dance...but don't have the time to find the video on YouTube.( Maybe later this weekend.) I think it is going to be a great season.

No news on the writing front. Don't fret. I remain excited about getting back to Whispers. But with all this socializing, who has time to write. Next week will be a bit more calm.

Until then...

Hugs & Encouragement  & (DFTBA*)

*DFTBA: Don't Forget to Be Awesome (A phrase coined by YA writer John Green.)

Art & Fear: Wide-eyed Passion . . .

Naïve passion, which promotes work done in ignorance of obstacles, becomes—with courage—informed passion, which promotes work done in full acceptance of those obstacles. – pg 50, Bayles & Orland*

I am soooo stuck in this . . . place, this land between ignorance and acceptance. Now, I want to be clear, when I completed my first book, I knew a first draft was just that, a draft. However, I didn’t really understand just how bad, flawed, seemingly hopeless, and embarrassing a first draft can be. I thought I understood around . . . oh, draft nine’ish. But when I wrote another story, completely unique in every way, that’s when got it: there’s knowing/ignorance . . . and there’s knowing/accepting. Think of it like this, you know when you put on jeans after the holidays, and you’re expecting them to be snug . . . but you’re not expecting to flop down on the bed . . . a white-knuckle grip on a pair of pliers . . . holding your breath . . . and wrestling the zipper up? But then you experience this situation and you can no longer deny that your holiday experience . . . changed you. See? Knowing/ignorance . . . Knowing/Accepting.

Well, unknowingly, all of my cutting away words and reshaping sentences and plots during revisions led me from ignorance to the precipice of acceptance, which allowed me to see my mistakes and have some ideas about how to fix them. Good, right? Yes. No. It’s complicated. I mean, knowing how to fix errors is great! (YAY!) BUT, wanting to fix them the second I saw them . . . (Booo!!!) AND in my mind, there should be no errors, if I’m really learning. (Dang ‘should’) My days of feverishly typing great ideas in draft one, became days of feverishly typing ideas in draft one. And knowing that, experiencing that while it happened . . . was hard and painful, to accept.

For many, (I’m in this group) the rift between ignorance and knowledge/acceptance appears mammoth, gargantuan, colossal . . . any word that means real freaking big. For many, the space appears so vast that when they attempt to traverse it, they lose site of their destination. They become lost. They drift away. Those who make it across are not special or superhuman. Yet, those who make it do possess something. Something rather basic. Look at the quote again. See it? The word is used twice. Passion. Without that, you got . . . well, probably not a long writing career. Passion makes the seemingly insurmountable suckitude of the first draft merely an obstacle designed to challenge and push you beyond your comfort zone. As I stare at my draft of my latest work in progress, I cling to my passion, see the obstacles . . . and now, I merely need to accept the challenge . . .


*Art of Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking


Friday Five

Don't fret . . . I did not drop off LJ again. Wednesday was Independence Day for us Americans and I . . . well forgot to prepare my post. Well . . . it's more like I was doing something during the time I set aside to write my Wednesday post. This brings me to one of the items on my Friday Five . . .

I watched a prep-performance for an Organ Concert. Huh? One of my dear friends is friends with a VERY talented, Yale educated, Ph.D. having, organ player who is now (as of Thursday morning) in Germany. He is slowly making his way from cathedral to cathedral wowing the locals with his skill.

I only worked four days this week. That is always a lovely thing. And I was told by an offender, "If I saw you walking down the street, I would talk to you. You're cool." You heard it hear folks. I am cool. It's official. (Yes, I recognize this as flattery likely aimed at getting me to do something against prison policy for him later. Unfortunately for him...flattery will get him no where.)

I got to spend time with Red and Alli.

I can wear Banana Republic clothes again. Yay for weight loss.

I'm a bit behind on the MS critique...which means I am not starting Whispers like I had planned. But I will get there. No worries.

Hugs & Encouragement (& DFTBA)

Friday Five

For those curious folk: Yes, I really liked Brave. (If you remember, I was eager to see it last weekend.) And I really like this review of the movie by author Kiersten White. (She always makes me smile and laugh.) This review is a response to critics. I'll admit, I was surprised by the plot . . . how in the world did Pixar keep it secret? Or maybe I was just living under a rock. My suprise did NOT dampen my enjoyment one bit.

I have nothing planned this weekend!

The Top Twenty have been chosen on So You Think You Can Dance! Here is their first dance: (I LOVE Mia Michaels...she is brilliant!!)

Still losing weight. Technically, I only have 12 more pounds to get to my initial goal. BUT...I think I will be the overachiever that I am and lose15-20 more.

Still mentally working on Whispers.

Hugs & Encouragement (& DFTBA)

Art and Fear: They Love Me, They Love Me Not . . .

Acceptance means having your work counted as the real thing; approval means having people like it. --pg 45, Bayles & Orland*

Acceptance—feeling understood—is a hot commodity. Approval—being liked—is just as hot. The two words are often interchanged. But they are soooo not the same. It is easy to have one without the other. Think of the pop music one-hit wonders. The artists got approval, but no one really tried to dig deeper . . . or maybe the artist didn’t want to dig deeper. Either way, acceptance never happened. The publishing world has its fare share of one-hit wonders and authors who have a large following, but critics question the author’s literary talent. And, there are the authors who have undeniable literary acumen, but remain relatively unknown.

As a writer, I (and you) have to make peace with the possibility that acceptance and approval are not besties or traveling companions. I think this is definitely the case for beginning artist. It takes time and effort to truly understand someone, and even more time and effort to understand their art. Some artists achieve acceptance after a few pieces, some achieve it after death. Approval may be easier to come by because it often rests upon art work resonating with people on an emotional level. But, but there are no guarantees.

So what does this mean for me as I journey down the writing path? Well, it means I have to stay true to me. If I write what resonates with me, I allow others to see pieces of me. With time, some will understand what I am showing them, they will understand my worldview. Some will like it. Some will not. And that is okay. At the end of the day, my stories are what I create, they are what I do, they are one of the many ways I communicate with others . . . they are NOT me. Their acceptance or approval (or lack there of) does not define me, validate me, or take away from me.  

*Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards of Artmaking)


Friday Five

I get to babysit this weekend. It's all about Alli and Red for a couple of hours. I'm predicting a tea party with Micky Mouse as a guest.

I am at training on Friday. It's a bit of a break from the prison. And after my Thursday of juggling three crisis at one time...a little break is welcomed.

I've chatted with a few friends I've not emailed or talked to in a while.

I really want to see Brave this weekend. Fingers Crossed I can make it happen.

Still on a break from Whispers, but I'm itching to get back to it. I've got some good ideas for it. July 1st is the Start Draft Three date.


Art & Fear: Great Expectations

You need only look at the work clearly—without judgment, without need or fear, without wishes or hopes. Without emotional expectations. Ask your work what it needs, not what you need. Then set aside your fears and listen, the way a good parent listens to a child. —pg 36, Bayles & Orland*

I’m going to be honest . . . the above quote is hard to keep in a tight hold. The fact that I agree with it, doesn’t help my grip. The fact that I believe it intellectually, doesn’t help either. (I’ve said it countless times, “What a person knows intellectually and emotionally, can be separated by a universe.”) It seems that expectations always wedge themselves in between me and my work. And I’m not talking about the expectations that tangle around a lot of beginning writers--“This will be a best seller,” “I will get a big book and movie deal.” I think those expectations are easy to silence with a healthy dose of reality. Just walk into a bookstore. How many books are there? How many of those books are bestsellers? And how many of those bestsellers become movies? Ah, reality . . . ice cold water in the face. Now, this does not mean that I won’t experience such things. After all, no one can predict which story will grab people’s attention (Fifty Shades of Gray, anyone?) But I don’t expect to be a bestseller. What I do expect is to learn and improve. I expect to write a story that moves me on a number of levels. I expect to begin and end a novel within a year. All those expectations seem reasonable . . . until I hear Markus Zusak say he spent three years writing The Book Thief. Or listen to Maggie Stiefvater share her writing journey with The Scorpio Races, a book she had been trying to write for a decade. After she published five, yes, FIVE, books, several of which are best sellers, she finally felt she had the writing skill needed to tackle a story about water horses. (In my humble opinion, it is her best story.)

Expectations--seemingly reasonable or glaringly delusional--blur an artist’s judgment. And before you comment below, I’m not saying throw expectations out with the bathwater. You know me better than that if you’re on my flist. Expectations galvanize and motivate. Expectations keep me sitting in front of my computer. Expectations keep me pushing through each draft. What I am saying; however, is we (meaning you and me) must keep expectations and reality balanced. It is my imagination that generates the story. It is my expectations that help me realize the story. The common denominator is the story. The story is the guide.

*Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking


Friday Five

What a week. Oklahoma Thunder is playing well. (I know the finals are tied . . . my optimism still says the Thunder will win.)

Work has gone well this week.

I get to see my dad for Father's Day. I also get to see my mom and some friends.

I continue to loose weight.

Still on break from Whispers, while I read a friend's MS. But I am thinking about the story. The story still doesn't feel like me. It just feels like a story. I want it to be more than a story, a ghost story...I want it to be powerful. One day at a time.

Hugs and Encouragement! (And DFTBA!)

Art & Fear: On Being Perfect . . .

“The seed of your next art work lies embedded in the imperfections of your current piece. Such imperfections (or mistakes, if you’re feeling particularly depressed about them today) are your guides—valuable, reliable, objective, non-judgmental guides—to matters you need to reconsider or develop further.”

--Bayles and Orland pg 31*

In 2000, I moved to Atlanta, Georgia. Armed only with the meager possessions of a graduate student, a tri-fold map of Atlanta, and a travel guide for the state of Georgia, I settled into my apartment. Curious about the town, I hopped into my car, ready to explore and to discover. I had mapped out a route on the map, but decided to venture off the path and follow a road…that led to an on ramp…that led to a toll road…that had no exit for several miles. I panicked. I had no money for a toll road. I had no idea where I was. I had no idea how to get found. It was clear I had made a BIG mistake. HUGE! Or so I thought. Eventually, I came to an exit—never passing a tollbooth--and managed to weave and meander my way to a street I had seen earlier. Now, the funny thing about that detour is that I had been about two miles away from home. (Go ahead and laugh . . . I did when I figure it out.) And that turn, that mistake, introduced me to the restaurants and shops I visited regularly while I lived in Atlanta. It also introduced me to a glorious, wonderful alternate route into downtown Atlanta.

I’m sure if I had stayed on my highlighted route, eventually, I would have found the shops and restaurants. I mean, I did have a map. I needed some of those stores, so I would have looked them up. But, who knows if I would have found the alternate route? I do know that I told many people about the route over the years. That mistake, introduced me to what I needed sooner. It introduced me things I would need. And most importantly, it showed me that feeling lost and being lost is not the same thing. (I was, after all, only two miles away from my apartment.)

When I am writing and I find myself searching for the perfect word, playing it safe, and fearing mistakes--in short, feeling paralyzed--I try to think about that day, that detour. That day I strayed away from the highlighted route, strayed away from the “perfect” route. And I was rewarded. **

*Art and Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, 2011.

**As I watched the NBA Finals on 6/12/2012, one of the commentators shared this quote from Scott Brooks, the Head Coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder. This is in response to questions about the team’s poor performance their first year in the NBA. (They’re only four years old.): “We weren’t loosing, we were learning how to win.”