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.

 

Art, art journal

A Message and A Vision

Today, while journaling, I had a very clear vision come to me, and with it came a message. I then tried to recreate the vision in my art journal with an abbreviated part of the message. Though I don’t normally share what I write in my journal, this message feels like it was meant to be shared.

Have fun! Enjoy all these new discoveries I am bringing to you; new ways of thinking, of being. It is fun, isn’t it? This is not work or punishment, it is your Divine Right, your purpose. Make it fun. There is always enough time. There is always enough time. Your dreams are all coming true. You cannot see it now, but it is already happening. Step into it. Take my hand, walk through the dimensions with me. You are already there. There is nothing you need to do or be. It is already done. Soften, listen, open, receive graciously. We are bringing gifts directly to your door, open it up, leave the past behind. Open the door and let the light in. You do not have to live one more day in the darkness. Open the door, let us in. Soften, breath, receive graciously. Do not turn away. We stand at the threshold with abundant gifts for you. Soften, breathe, listen to the sound of our knocking. Your gifts, they are here. Receive them. You need not determine your worthiness, these gifts, they are your birthright. Open up the door, dear girl, let the light shine in. You need not spend one more moment in the darkness. It is an illusion. Remember, it is an illusion. Let the light shine in. Soften. Receive graciously that which is already yours. Enjoy. This, my love, is fun, is joy, is what it means to be alive. Smile. 

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Art, art journal

Planting A New Story

Today, I stepped into a creative flow that I haven’t experienced very often, but hope to experience much more often in the future. In my writing practice, I have been doing something different. I have been coming to the blank page and writing what comes to me, and it is working! I wrote 2000 words today, and a part of the puzzle was put into place.

I normally write in a chronological way, and I get stuck wondering…what happens next??? and my creative flow just stops. But when I come to the blank page, and just write a description of whatever image I see or words I hear in my head, scenes just start to branch out from there, and I spent most of the time trying to get it all down in a frenzied state. Another approach that has been working for me is starting out asking the question “What if…” at the top of the blank page and then creating a scene with whatever comes to my mind first.

Today, an image and words showed up. My protagonist emerged as an 8 year old in an orphanage and said to me, “I was angry all the time, even at a very young age. I could never figure out where the anger came from.” And the story just took off from there.

Stepping into the creative writing flow might have something to do with taking the weekend off from writing. I decided on a creative practice routine which includes writing Monday through Friday and then making art on Saturday and Sunday. My grandmother passed away on Saturday, August 25th, and that brought me into the space of grieving. Maybe moving into a different space, created space for my creative mind to slow down and breathe. As I sat on the couch last night, binge watching television, an idea I had had before for an art journal project I’m working on came back to me in a sudden flash. I have been creating an art journal using pages from Meera Lee Patel’s Start Where You Are and an art journal I made by hand. I ripped out the next page in the book which had to do with leaving behind old stories that no longer work for you. You can see the page from the book on the left side of the spread below with my flower embellishments. On the right, is the layered garden I created with my old stories/beliefs, black gesso, textured paintbrush ends, gel pens, my new stories/beliefs, watercolor paints, and Gelatos. Along with the pictures below, I discuss the process I used to create the garden.

The prompt from the book was “What do you wish you could leave behind?” So, I wrote my answers out all over the page as you can see below. They included old stories I have been living through the lens of and old, worn out beliefs that I have been living by.

Then I covered them all up with a homemade black gesso (I mixed black acrylic paint with white gesso) as a way to erase them, but also to create the soil to sow the seeds of new stories and new beliefs. Then I ran a textured paintbrush end all along the page to till the soil.

Then I added some embellishments with watercolors and with a gold gel pen wrote out my new stories and my new beliefs that I want to embody to serve as a kind of fertilizer for the garden, and then added golden dots throughout to serve as seeds.

Then on top of that layer, I added the blooms using watercolors and Gelatos to signify the blooming of these new stories and new beliefs in my life.

Art, ASLR 2018

A Day of Conflicts

Today began my journey back into the world of novel writing. It was no ordinary day, though. It was my son’s first day of eighth grade, which for so many reasons is such a huge milestone for him and for me. It was also a time to try to settle my nerves and return to writing the novel I’ve been working on for many, many, many years.

With my writing practice, I started out differently than I usually do, spending the first hour getting a scene in my head out on the page even though I have no idea where it might fit into the novel. I usually try to write chronologically, leading to a lot of stuckness. I then took a break for lunch (which is unusual for me), and decided to return to the beginning of the novel that had to be rewritten to fit the new direction I am taking the novel in. And the scenes…they just flowed, and all the fear I had felt while staring at the blank screen earlier had melted away. There were a few times where I had to redirect myself when I tried to go back to edit, or spent to much time trying to get the right word, telling myself gently that I could fix it later, to just get the idea itself down on the page. And it worked!

When I had completed my writing for the day, I received notice that my grandmother, who is experiencing late stage congestive heart failure had slipped into the world of non-responsiveness, the world between here and what is waiting for her. I am conflicted because I had a near death experience seven years ago, and I know the beauty that awaits her, but I also am grieving the loss of her in this physical world.

In the midst of a day with so many conflicting emotions, I turned to Karen Abend’s Journey of the HeArt session with the #spirituallivingretreat held by Elizabeth Foley. I’ve been slowing working my way through the sessions, and how fortuitous that Karen’s session was the next one on the schedule. Below is my #HeArt from the session that represents how I’m feeling today, and the words that remind me that letting go is the ultimate freedom.

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Art, ASLR 2018

Self Portrait

My son goes back to school on the 22nd, and at that time, I am going to begin work on my novel once again. My intention is to work on my novel during the week, and then continue my art development journey on the weekends. My intention is to have a polished draft completed by December 31, 2018. I’m posting that here as a way to keep myself accountable.

It’s interesting how quickly I have already gotten myself out of the habit of creating daily, and how much longer it takes me to complete an art project because my days are filled up with other things now. But, I’ve made a lot of progress on a personal level integrating meditation and journaling back into my daily routine. I’ve also incorporated some dancing into my daily routine. It has become quite clear as of late that I have not been including fun as a daily requirement. Even those things that were fun, I have hijacked and made into something serious. I’m working on changing that.

For the past couple of days, I’ve been working my way through Elizabeth Foley’s Art of Spiritual Living Online Retreat session with Tamara Laporte. The session was to create a self-portrait in a mindful and meditative way, and I loved it. I used a slightly altered quote from Anne Lamott’s book Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith which I just finished reading for a second time. It was even better the second time around!