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Art, writing

Lessons Art Taught Me About Writing

I’ve always had a warped sense of how things should be. It is the thing that most often brings me down. I had this dream of writing the perfect first draft of a novel, no revision necessary. Yes, you can laugh, it is quite funny. But, I had developed a bad habit in college of sitting down at the last minute and writing papers (even if it took all night), and it had worked really well for me. I trained myself to self edit as I wrote, and after many, many, many years in college, it became a natural way for me to write. It wasn’t that I didn’t do revisions, but I wrote/edited/revised all at the same time, and all in one sitting. This did not carry over well to novel writing. It was impossible for me to sit down and write a novel in one sitting, and so I got stuck, and then I quit writing altogether.

Enter art.

Unfortunately, my bad habit of trying to create in one sitting has carried over to my art practice. I sometimes spend upwards of eight hours working on a piece. I forget to eat. I forget to drink. I forget everything but creating. I am working on changing that, but it seems to be something that is hardwired in my brain. Even when I try to walk away, my mind is buzzing with ideas about it, and I end up going back to it. Despite this bad-habit carryover, I have learned a very important lesson from the process of creating art. What art taught me, what creating art has helped me to see, is that my art can look like total shit, and I can think there is no hope for it, but then I add another layer, and maybe another layer, and maybe just one more layer, and then something beautiful emerges. I cannot tell you how many times I have looked at a piece of art when I am done and wonder how in the hell, me, who started out with zero artistic talent, could create something so beautiful out of nothing.

It took me a while to believe this could be applied to my writing, too. With my writing, I had always believed I needed to have everything perfectly planned out first. But with my art, I have learned that it is okay to jump right in, throw a bunch of shit at the page, and see what comes out. This has helped me to let go of “perfect first draft” syndrome. And now that I am nearing the end of the second draft of my first novel, I am getting excited about starting on the third draft. This kind of thinking would never have been possible without my experience creating art.

Image by Alexandr Ivanov from Pixabay

Art, writing

Good News, Art, and Updates

It has been a while since I’ve posted, but it’s because I have been really busy writing and revising. Yay! I had initially created this site to chronicle my journey into visual art hoping it would eventually bring me back to my first love: creative writing. I am happy to report that spending eight months focusing on visual art led me right back to the novel I had been dreaming of writing since 2011.

In October of last year, an artist I follow mentioned a live FB event with author coach Sage Adderley-Knox. While sitting in my car waiting for my son to get out of school, I watched Sage discuss her six-week program for writing a first draft. I decided to take the leap, and I’m so glad I did. For the first two weeks of the program, I was still completely blocked and just could not write. Then during one of our live meetups on FB, she said, “You are not writing this book for other people, you are writing this book for yourself. You must write something you are proud of. You cannot do that if you are writing for someone else.” Something about that clicked for me. I had been trying to figure out how to write the novel based on what I thought other people might want to read with a thousand different opinions screaming in my head. When I started to focus on the story I wanted to tell and how I wanted to tell it, the novel just poured out of me and onto the page. Six weeks later, on December 24, 2018, I had completed an 88,825 word first draft. I decided to continue working with Sage one-one-one, and I am nearly finished with the first revision of the novel I had dreamed of writing for seven years! And…I finally came up with a title that I love! What a miracle!

So, what else have I been up to? I’ve been making lots of art, too. I’ve been participating in Effy Wild‘s amazing art classes. In addition, I’ve been using an incredibly healing technique in my art journal called Cosmic Smash Booking created by Catt Z, and have been learning so much about some very freeing abstract painting techniques from Ady Almanza’s Abstract Dreams course. If you head over to my Instagram page, you can see more photos of what I’ve been creating over the past four months.

I am learning that I cannot just write or just make visual art. If I try to do too much of one without the other, I get really cranky. So, I am working on finding a balance between writing and making art. I hope that you will stay with me for the next part of my journey as I chronicle the art-making and novel-revising, and figure out what is next for me on this wild and wacky adventure.

Art, Books

Book Recommendation: Day Six and Some Art

I took a few days off from my book recommendations and from writing my novel so that I could make some art that was swirling around in my head and needed to come out.

 

The Sun and Her FlowersNow that I’ve fed the starving artist part of myself, I am back to writing my novel, and I am back with another book recommendation: The Sun and Her Flowers by rupi kaur. I had previously read her book of poems, Milk and Honey, and loved it, but the The Sun and Her Flowers reached me at my core. The poetry is as beautiful as it is brutal. It is about love, loss, and sexual assault. It is about the aftermath of sexual assault and how it affects every aspect of the self. It is about all the things we do because we believe we are not enough as we are. I related to so much of this book, and it worked like a salve for my soul.

 

Books

Book Recommendation: Day Five

My fifth book recommendation is one I read when I was going through a difficult breakup: A Hundred Names for Love by Diane Ackerman. This book had sat on my shelf, unread, for many years, but for some reason, during this particularly difficult time in my life, it called out to me. I was hooked the moment I began reading it. The book takes a tender, but honest look at the inner workings of the author’s relationship with her husband, and what happened when the relationship and life routine they had settled into was abruptly and permanently altered by her husband’s stroke. This book really challenged my ideas about what a relationship should look like. I realized that I had held an idealized version of what I thought a relationship should look like in my mind, and that I had held all of my relationships up to that unattainable standard. The book shows in a beautiful and sometimes heartbreaking way, what most of us already know, that relationships are not easy, and just how far they can be pushed beyond tolerable limits and still survive. It shows how our relationships can be reshaped, redefined, remolded, sometimes without our wanting them to and still remain.
Books

Book Recommendation: Day Four

Yesterday, I woke up with a very sore throat and an earache. It was a very familiar feeling, and I was sure that I had strep throat again. Instead of getting upset as I usually do, I made the decision first thing that I would take it easy despite everything I believed I had to get done. I went through the list in my mind of the things that truly had to be done, and let the rest go. And that’s what brings me to my next book recommendation: The Magic by Rhonda Byrne.

The MagicOn November 1st, Allyson Bright, the founder of Determined to Shine, started a free thirty-day program based on The Magic. I had partially read the book before and had great success with it, but for some reason, I never finished it. I thought this was the perfect time to start it again, and this time, actually get through the entire book. The book has brief chapters that focus on a different gratitude practice that you perform each day while also keeping up some other gratitude practices every day. I have to say that, once again, this practice has drastically changed my life. Yesterday, when I woke up feeling like I had strep, that day’s practice had to do with saying thank you for every single thing you touched during your morning routine. Even though I wasn’t feeling well, I went ahead and started to express my gratitude for everything – my warm blanket, heat on a cold day, my feet touching the soft carpet, the honey ginseng green tea, my coffee cup, a comfortable reclining couch, my cuddly cats, and so on. I sat on the couch, sipped some green tea, and wrote out the other daily practice of writing down ten things I was grateful for and why.

By mid-afternoon, I felt 100% better. My sore throat was gone, my earache completely gone, and I was able to get more done yesterday than I had thought possible when I woke up feeling so unwell. This morning I woke up still feeling 100% healed. This is the first time I have experienced something so miraculous. In a typical year, I’ve experienced strep throat 9-10 times, so I am very familiar with what it feels like. This is the first time that my body has healed itself. I believe turning my focus away from not feeling well and putting it on gratitude gave my body the space to heal.

Something I often forget, and I’m not sure why, is that gratitude works…every single time. It shifts my mood quickly whenever I am feeling hopeless, alone, anxious, or that I don’t have everything I need. The trick is to really look at things I take for granted such as running water, internet service, food to eat, a comfy couch, a laptop to type this blog post on, a washer and dryer, and so on, and to keep building on those things. Writing a detailed gratitude list every day, including why I am grateful, has helped me to dig deeper and identify exactly those things I take for granted. I am often astounded by all the things I have that I take for granted, and it totally shifts my perception. I hope that you will try it and see if it works for you.

Books

Book Recommendation: Day Three

Many, many years ago, on New’s Years Eve, I had written down all the things I had wanted to accomplish in the next year. I wrote the list on one of the pages in the front of my Day-Timer, and promptly forgot all about it. A year later, when I went to put the next year’s calendar refill into my Day-Timer, I found it again. When I read it, I was floored because I had accomplished every single thing on the list, and these weren’t small things, these were really big dreams that I had, dreams I had no idea how to “make” happen, things like “become a firefighter.”

downloadAfter that experience, I wanted to know more about why that had worked so well. That is when I came across my next book recommendation: Write it Down, Make it Happen by Henriette Anne Klauser. This is another of my permanent collection books. It is a book I turn to when I need a sense of hope. Klauser discusses her own experiences with writing things down and how miraculous the practice was at created what she wanted in her life. I am always looking for ways to believe in some kind of magic while still having a sense of control about it. This practice of writing things down is something that has worked well for me since.

In my experience, it seems the act of writing things down, and then letting them go (out of my mind), works best. I have a very large glass jar that it’s very difficult to get things out of and is dark blue so I can’t see into it. I write things I am most anxious about, things I wish I could have, and big dreams I hope to accomplish onto little strips of paper and then drop them into the jar. Every new year, I shake out the papers from the jar, and I am astounded by how many things 1) I forgot I had written down and 2) were miraculously taken care of. So many of them were HUGE worries that I was incredibly anxious about, and I was amazed at how they seemed so small in hindsight (once they were magically resolved of course). However, if there are things that I pull out of the jar that have not been resolved or achieved, then I re-evaluate whether they are sill important to me, and if they are, I drop them back into the jar for the next year. It is a practice that is very similar to that first New Year’s resolution list I wrote in my Day-Timer and then forgot about, and it is, to date, the most successful practice I’ve had that has allowed me to be able to look back on the things that I’ve wanted, written down, and dare I say, made happen.

Books, Uncategorized

Book Recommendation: Day Two

When my son was hospitalized in a residential facility several years ago, I was devastated. When even the staff of the residential facility didn’t know what to do to help him, I started to try to figure things out on my own. One of the practices that helped us both was something I learned from today’s book recommendation: Devotion: A Memoir by Dani Shapiro.

DevotionI learned a lot from this book, mostly to just accept where I was at, and that there wasn’t just ONE way to be spiritual. It was okay to collect what worked for me from many different practices, and develop my own spiritual practice. But, what I learned from this book that had the most profound impact on my son and me was the Metta meditation which Shapiro discusses on page 36.

At the time that I found this book, my son had a hard time processing conversations. At the age of 18 months, he had lost his ability to walk, talk, and most other basic functions. He eventually gained back speech, but it had begun as echolalia, and then progressed from there. However, even though he had gained back his speech fully by the time he went into the residential facility (oftentimes being described as the “little professor” because of his adult-like speech), he still had difficulty processing and understanding what others were saying. In addition, he had an acute need for repetition which had presented itself as a severe form of OCD.

I believe it was these aspects of him, as well as my wholehearted belief that even though I couldn’t change nature, I could certainly pour on as much positive nurture as possible, that made the Metta mediation process stand out to me. So, I created a personalized Metta prayer from several different sources and read it to him every night on the telephone when he was in the hospital and every night before he went to bed when he was home for visits. By the time he was released, we had both memorized it, and repeated it often when we felt any kind of anxiety or sense of being out of control. I still have one of the handwritten copies I had made and keep it in my purse where it can easily be accessed.

Our Metta Prayer

May I be safe.

May I be happy.

May I be strong.

May I be filled with love.

May I live with ease.

May I slow down and be more present.

May my heart be open to all that is.

May I have clarity of thought.

May I have clarity of speech.

May I have clarity of action.

Namaste.

This made a huge difference in our lives, and shortly after, my son began to write his own positive affirmations on post-it notes and post them all over the house to help him remember to be positive even though everything in his mind was telling him to be otherwise. I believe this practice is part of why he has not been hospitalized in the past six years.

A quick note: At the time I first read Devotion, I wrote a review on my other blog. If you’d like to know more about the book, you can read my thoughts here.