Art · writing

dear childhood home

I am participating in Isabel Abbott’s With Love + Defiance: a letter writing sanctuary course. It is so powerful, and has helped me reconnect to my nonfiction roots. There is something about writing a letter that allows me to say things I wouldn’t otherwise be able to say. Below is one of the letters that I wrote along with a piece of art I created that was inspired by the letter.

dear childhood home,

i believed your thin, paper walls held all the secrets. believed that your fist-sized holes were where all the secrets would go to hide. i thought i could come back some day, hold up a black light and the narrative of my childhood would glow – like invisible ink – page after page scrolled out on those paper thin walls. what atrocities you held. what dirty, sticky secrets that remained long after the memories had dissolved. you were supposed to tell me what happened. you were supposed to save me. i cannot remember anything but the pain and the darkness.

i dream about you, sometimes, your tiny structure transformed into layer upon layer of maze that i cannot find my way out of. i am stuck and at some point, i always give up, resolved that you hold all the power. i think it is then that you will spill out your secrets, pour them out of your cracks and crevices, your deep, black holes, that you will fill me up, drown me in all that I cannot remember. but, instead, you offer up your cryptic flashes, and i cannot orient myself to them, trapped in their vertigo, merry-go-round, flashing disorientation. you beg me to remember, but i am already sick with the lies. won’t the truth kill me? i turn away, return to the dark stillness of unremembering. but my body, she weeps and stabs and screams with her memories because she cannot forget.

i drove past you several years ago trying to find some kind of closure, but you were gone. there was nothing but an empty lot, and i wondered if you had ever even existed, if i had ever even existed. if you are gone, am i gone, too? where did all the secrets go? where did you put them? how can i ever find them now? i dig in the soil down into the sewer – did you store them there? i wander through its maze trying to find its secret places, its cracks and crevices. i wander and wander, uprooted, untethered, my body unable to cough up the truth in her spatters of blood, and i cannot find a way out of this darkened maze, and you are no longer here to show me, to tell me, go this way, on this wall, in this room, the eyes, they saw it all, they stored every second, you were seen, it was witnessed, you were never, ever alone.

i eat the dirt in hopes you will come back to me somehow, show me the way out of the black hole i’ve found myself in, give my body permission to expel her visionless pain and suffering so they will stop walking around aimlessly through her searching for the matching truth, searching for the proper way to escape.

writing

Round Two is Done!

Writing a novel is hard. It is one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. Through this process, I have learned that it is so much easier to talk and dream about writing a novel than it is to actually write one. I’ve also got a newfound respect for those who have written a novel.

I just finished the second draft of the novel I wrote at the end of last year. I wrote the first draft in six weeks and it was 88,825 words. The second draft has taken me nearly four months to complete. It is 80,242 words, but I cut out 44,312 words from the first draft. So, in this second revision, I rewrote half the novel. And it has been really, really difficult. The writing itself has been hard, but the coming up against myself again and again has been especially harsh.

There was a moment earlier this week, when I thought I was just going to quit. I only had one chapter left, and I just could not write anymore. There is something deeply emotional happening in me. This novel is more than just a novel. I don’t quite know how to language it yet, but I have come up against some very persistent internal demons throughout this process. They are loud, obnoxious, and yell horrible things at me constantly even in my sleep. The past two days, instead of writing, I made art to try to shut them up, but they persisted. Today, I woke up, I made art, and they finally were quiet enough for me to finish the last chapter.

I know round three is coming, but for this moment, I am celebrating making it through round two and surviving. This writing, it is hard, it is brutal, but I have made it through yet another round, and I am still standing.

Image by ktphotography from Pixabay

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.

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.

art journal · Daily Art Devotion

Daily Art Devotions: Day 40

I did it! I completed the 40-day #DailyArtDevotions Art Journal Journey with Elizabeth Foley. I have enjoyed expanding my creativity with the daily prompts. I really enjoy flipping through the journal and looking at everything I’ve created. I do still have to paste into the journal some of the entries that I created on separate paper. Along with those I’m going to add some other pieces I’ve created these last forty days, and I believe those together will fill up the entire book. Yay!

So, what’s next? Well, I’ve made a commitment to once again return to finishing my novel. I’ve joined a six-week writing program that offers support, structure, accountability, and fear busting so that I can fulfill my one main goal this year: having a polished first draft of my novel completed by 12/31/18. This novel continues to call to me no matter what I’ve done over the last seven years to avoid writing it. It’s clearly a story that must be told.

I don’t know how much art I will be doing over the next six weeks, but I am considering doing a short blog post each day to share my favorite line from that days writing. I realized today, as I was speaking with Elizabeth Foley, that I love art so much because of the connections I’ve made. Writing is a lonely process and there isn’t a beautiful piece of art to share at the end of each day. Connections get lost, and since I’m already fairly isolated, losing those connections is difficult for me. So, I will have to come up with a creative way to connect even while dedicating myself to completing my novel.

For the final day of this art journal journey, my page represents the gift of gratitude. I put gesso on the page first. Then I filled the entire page with what I’m grateful for in turquoise ink. I then added more gesso and some gold acrylic paint and used a brayer to spread them both across the page. I then added some Brusho Crystals in red and violet and sprayed them with water. Once the background was complete, I added my present made with cardstock with an embossed mandala (which is the first time I’ve embossed anything! Woohoo!). I then added a bow on the top with gold ribbon. And my gift of gratitude is complete as is this special journey ❤️

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.