Monday, October 31, 2011

The Writing Well

My writing workshop at the library ended last Monday, and although I didn't want to see it end, I wanted to excavate more of what started when in class.  

What has really resonated with me over the last six weeks is how our stories, our writing, needs to be cajoled, nurtured, found  and brought to the light of the page. It's as though we must drop our writer's bucket far enough and often enough into our creative well in order to bring about what is nudging for expression.

What comes out of the well isn't always fresh, clear water.  Heck, may times the writing bucket is dry.  This means take what you find and sift through it, returning the next time and lower the bucket again.

It may not seem like you're getting anywhere, but soon your bucket will overflow.  Many times as I settle to sleep, I play out scenes in my mind and meditate on how my characters might react to a certain situation. It's lowering the bucket and discovering what's lurking, waiting, hoping to take form.

So keep dipping into your creative well even when you don't feel like it or only a few drops come back.  

How do you keep persevering?  I do by writing even when some days I don't know why or feel like it.  Happy Halloween ... 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Where for Art Thou Writing Confidence?

For the last five weeks, I’ve been a participant in a writer’s workshop at a local library.  I’ve taken these workshops before on different aspects of writing with the same instructor.  These workshops always give me plenty to explore, and I get to meet other writers and hear what they’re working on and what their writing lives are like.   

These last two workshops, I’ve been struck by what some of my fellow writers say before reading homework or exercises we do in class.  Mind you, I have been apt to do this myself.  Some pass on sharing their work or say things like, “This is awful,” “I don’t think I did this correctly,” or “This isn’t very good.”

It’s almost as though they feel the need to apologize in a way or prepare others for their writing before sharing it.  I have held back several times, wishing to encourage them not to feel this way or not to keep comparing themselves to others in the class or to the instructor.  That they are writers and have it in them, to trust their writer-ly instincts.

Oops, look who’s talking now!  Me, who only this week did the very same thing by panicking that I’m not as far as I’d like to be or as far as those in my inner circle of writers.  I then realized I’ve been comparing myself a lot lately to other writers, not feeling ‘good enough’ or ‘fast enough.”

I brought this up to some writers in an online group and one piece of advice that hit home most clearly was that maybe I’m using this as an excuse not to write.  “Who me?”  “Yes, You.”  So I realized I must trust my own writer-ly instincts and discover ways to aid myself in feeling more confident and productive in my writing.  Not just panic and  accept that “I’m not as successful.”

When we say things like, “Well, this is a lost cause” before reading part of our writing, we’re really tapping into our belief that we aren’t good enough in comparison to the other writers. At least this is how it can be for me. 

I’ve made a plan to help with my confidence as a writer, take action.  I’m going to do the NaNoWriMo National Novel Writing Month)next month to delve myself into my novel-in-progress (almost 10 chapters) and get out of this mindset.  In other words, dismissing the gray clouds over my writing as an excuse not to write!  Tell me how you overcame your struggles with confidence as a writer. 

Time to write …

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fleshing out your characters

This is what I've been really delving into the last six months.  I've found the more I dive into my main character and the other prominent ones, the more the story moves forward.  I start to say, "Yeah, that's what I'm talking about."

My protagonist's father was just a rough sketch until I did an exercise or two to get to know him.  He plays an important part in who and what my main character does in the novel.  It breathed more vibrance into my story.

What I did was wrote a scene that would bring out the conflict between the father and the daughter.  It gave me insights into the father, and I used it as a jumping off point to who this controlling man was and what secrets he'd be hiding from all his loved ones.

Characters are fertile soil for keeping secrets.  We wouldn't have anything to write about if it weren't for truths kept locked up, hidden, ready to sprout when given daylight.  It makes a strong character based on how he or she reacts to the hidden truth.

So many layers and colors to characterization.  How do you flesh out your characters?  It could mean reaction to another character, a reaction to an obstacle, problem-solving skills, and some in the details of how they live.

Have a great writing week.

Friday, September 2, 2011

May Your Writing Be Filled With Sunflowers

It is now a year since I started this blog and felt it time to shape it up, chip away as the sculptors do with their lump of clay, to fine-tune their artwork.

I found out this week about the different varieties of sunflowers and was amazed at the one pictured in this bouquet, from a local farmer in Pennsylvania.  This is a double-sunflower and I went ga-ga over it. Never saw one before!

I have a rubber stamp with the saying, "May Your Day Be Filled With Sunflowers" and every time I stamp it on a card it brings all kinds of good feelings, as the sunflowers themselves do.  So I thought it would apply to writing as well.

How? The sunflower reminds people of a bright wonderful sun, cheery and bringing warmth and inspiration.  So wishing this, is wishing writers allow their stories/novels/poetry to take hold and connect with the situations, feelings, and lives from our heart! Making each writing venture a double-sunflower ...

How to accomplish this?  We are so much editors anymore as we write, it is hard to let go when writing.  I keep telling myself, it doesn't matter, just get it going, full-steam ahead.  I believe we have to trick ourselves by having a mindset, as we try to get the words flowing, of "I'm only playing around with words and characters and plot." Or "Brainstorming," where no one else will ever read this at this stage.

Place items/photos in your writing space that make you feel like you are the middle of a sunflower field.  Whatever may make you cut loose those strings of the past--negative English teachers, rejection slips, etc. 

So may your day be filled with sunflowers and wonderful writing-time!  Let me know what helps you to 'just write.'

Sunday, July 31, 2011

She asked, "Why aren't you writing?"

I ask myself this all the time.  The headline refers to a comment made in 1979 by a college classmate about my writing life.  At the time, I struggled with another question, "Am I a writer or not?" Writers write, and I hesitated way too much.

What makes us hesitate?  During that period of time, I could never answer my classmate. I basically had no answer. There was only hesitation and no real writing. 

Left abandoned, my writer within didn't get to flex its muscles and move forward to improve. I was stalled. I had a potential vehicle to drive, but never would put gas to take it anywhere.

Finally after college, I decided I wasn't a writer because I wasn't writing.  Which in part was true.  Some part of me never gave up though, and eventually I shed a lot of the doubt and allowed myself to write.

I spotted this retail sign deteriorated, hidden behind overgrowth, rusty and broken.  But I found it appealing to photograph and find the beauty in something upon first glance didn't have much to offer.  If I would have not paid attention or hesitated, I may have missed a wonderful chance to connect with my creativity and share my vision with others.

Same too with writing.  Wherever I end up, I am enjoying the process and not staring at my writing from a distance.  So after many years, my classmate wouldn't have to ask me this question anymore. She'd be asking me, "What are you writing now?"

So ask yourself, "Why aren't you writing?"  

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Art Journaling Project

It has been way too long! I can give many excuses but that's all they'd be, excuses. I'm here now and working toward a better blog schedule.

I've been wanting to start an ART JOURNAL for months now and have gathered items to get started. I'm using a 2010 hardbound Victorian calendar book. I liked the Victorian-style and decided that was appropriate for me.
This is the inside page of the cover. As you can see I'm a "Wizard of Oz" fan. I especially liked the line Glenda, the good witch, said to Dorothy "Are you a good witch or a bad witch?" I found myself often asking myself this very question, "Am I a good artist/writer or a bad artist/writer?" Sometimes it can be a hindrance to question ourselves too much about how good or bad we are as artists, photographers, etc. It may even stop us for a time. Self-doubt can be the bad witch chasing us for our sparkling "ruby slippers" or creativity. 

I used to keep a regular journal, mostly testing the creative waters like poetry, but mostly allowing myself to vent. The above is a drawing my son did at an young age and I've always loved the simplicity of it and the huge scale of the wings on his angel. This is on the first page inside, a positive child-like image of an angel with her arms open. It is to remind me that I must be open and spread my wings when it comes to my creative spirit and whatever project, whether it be writing or photography or mixed media.

We all remember the scene of the Wicked Witch, and there was no question she was not a 'good witch', when Dorothy threw a bucket of water to stop the fire from burning the Scarecrow. I loved that part, a victory for Dorothy and the others. Don't we all feel like we're melting when someone throws us a negative statement or comment about our artistry or we feel like our creativity/muse might melt at any moment and fizzle out completely?  

Another thought is that sometimes we have to let ourselves 'melt' in order to regroup or refresh and find our creative path.

I'll have more on my progress with my ART JOURNAL in my next blog.  If you have done Art Journaling already, any comments about your experience would be appreciated. 

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Point of View Continued ...

To continue from Tuesday, here is yet another point of view or angle, totally different and focused on the water and stems.  These photographs could be compared to the different points of view you might use in a story.

I have a story I've been trying to write for several years now. My sister's accident when she was three. One draft is a poem, one is more a fictional account, and then another is totally fictional.

At some point, a writing instructor said to me to change it up and write in another POV other than my own to see where it wants to go.  There were more choices than I thought: my mother's, father's, sister who was hit, witness to accident, my point of view, or even the young man that caused the accident.  So which one would best tell my story or communicate what I want it to? 

A question all of us as artists in whatever medium have to answer at some point or another. Which rose picture perspective catches your eye the most? Or is the most asethetically pleasing and really highlights the essence of the rose?  A lot to think about.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Matter of Perspective/Point of View

There are so many similarities between the arts--from sculptors who start with an undefined mass of clay so they can chip away at it and shape a form; to writers who start with a blank page and use words as their tool to shape a character. The same for photographers who use their perspective/angle in a picture to convey a message, personality, story; writers also use point of view/perspective to communicate.  I did a little study with my camera and a vase of yellow roses to demonstrate the different perspectives.

A look from above the vase, you see more of the stems and the water and in my view adds more interest.  You can also readily see which buds never opened at all.

Here I singled out one unopened yellow rose.  Your eye focuses for the most part on this solo rose. Since it is not attempting to even open up, that gives it interest also.

Here I'm really choosing what I want the viewer to see/experience.

I will continue later as I have a meeting to attend. 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

"Art is Coming Face to Face with Yourself" --Jackson Pollock

Good Morning! I found this quote while browsing rubber stamp sayings and immediately marked it down. I want to ask fellow artists how does this hit home for you? For a long time I actually feared my photography and writing abilities. Not fully delving into them. 

I felt as though my creativity was bottled up, encased for many years.  Fear freezing it up, so it was hard to get to. Until I was willing to come face to face with myself, hence face to face with what was holding me back to allow myself to be the creative person I know I am deep down. 

I am talking about being afraid to hear what my heart was whispering about doing different creative endeavors. Not trusting my own creative voice and not facing who I really was underneath. You probably know exactly what I'm talking about. 

I do believe it has been by the grace of God that this creative dam was broken inside me, and now my ideas for creative projects seems to flow steadily where I am often challenged to decide what to focus on first. 

For instance, in the last decade, when I spot something that interests me photographically, I find my camera and just snap away and then see if I have anything. Instead of mulling it over and over, is this a good picture or not?  It's best just to follow an instinct to where it wants to go.

I'm more willing to risk, try new things, face myself more! Another gauge is opening up your writing to critique. It is opening yourself up to others seeing who you are and thus you are vulnerable.  That's why it feels so scary. 

You ultimately see what has been hidden inside you and what you've allowed to come forth ... and allowing the story to unfold.  This could mean facing many things that you may not want to see.    

But from the gray, cold, dismal, eventually comes spring and summer ... Stay warm and fearless!!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

What Dreams Are Made Of

At the onset of the 1990s, I had one of the most profound dreams I can remember. The setting was inside my childhood house on Mohn Street, pronounced moon. I could feel myself being drawn to the living room from upstairs, surrounded in darkness for the most part. The only thing illuminated was an easel with a canvas on it. 

I have the dream written down and the creative writing it inspired since then. The painting on the easel was supposed to be my father's. My father wanted to get training as an artist when he was in high school but wasn't able due to lack of finances. 

It wasn't until I acknowledged my own artist within as an adult did I realize how frustrating life must have been for my father. Although he did have one creative outlet, his music. He learned to play the accordion without lessons, but by ear.  

I have gotten so much from this one-scene dream, like a movie clip. Nothing was said and not really vivid. It's message was revealing. I should say its messages were many--Like pay attention to the silent whispers, the hidden canvas you've forgotten, or find that something waiting to be uncovered. Whether in writing and allowing a character to emerge from the depths of your psyche, or taking that first step to pick up a paint brush.  

It's about having the nerve to be creative, artistic. Listening to the revelation and picking up that camera or chisel and not be afraid of the surrounding darkness that sometimes presses in. Go forth this New Year, soon a month old, and dream up a storm!!!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


A New Year is underway. I don't know about you, but my holidays felt very rushed and like I was on a high speed train watching the scenes go by quickly as I gazed out a window. Our world today is on a fast track and often we don't take time to listen. I'm speaking for myself. I find at times I'm thinking of other things while someone is trying to communicate a story or slice of their life to me.

Just like these old, rusty chairs I spotted along a walk through my neighborhood, if I hadn't seen something aesthetically pleasing about them and hurried past them, I would have missed something to photograph. Same goes for when I'm fretting and feel like I don't have time to really listen, I may miss an opportunity to share an important part of someone and possibly enrich my writing.

Not only did I find these worn chairs appealing, there is potential for a story here. Today I found myself entranced by an encounter I had with someone older than me and with a totally different life experience.  

I listened and really heard things he didn't say. That's what listening is all about, hearing what isn't spoken. He also knew how to weave a story and I immediately was drawn in to his world.

Doesn't look like much in this next picture, yet taking a closer look you may be able to see more than what is there.  Like I can ask, why were these chairs left to rust? How old are the chairs? Was this shed once an out-house? What makes some old deteriorated metal chairs sitting outside abandoned make me take my camera on a walk just to capture them?

The rustier the better in my view.  So for this second week of 2011, may all us creatives take more time to listen and see. And for myself, take more time to meet my writing and other creative goals this year.  Also to grow my blog here ...