An artist’s date, a.k.a. playing with paint

Playing!In my late teens/early twenties, I decided that was it. I was done writing. I would never pen again. I quit. (I could bore you with stories of my insecurity, of neuroses and perfectionism, of worries about what people might—gasp—think of me and the horrors that come from my brain, but as I now think all those “blocks” are common stuff that all artists struggle to work through—that might even be a necessary part of the process—I will spare you. Or I’ll spare you for now. I may write about young Ev someday!)

For many reasons I couldn’t, I wouldn’t, listen to the deep inner-whisper that never let up, Write, write, write, write, you need to write, it’s you to write, you love to write, write, write . . .

Then one day I was at a friend’s cabin on Lakelse Lake (Mark Anson—I am forever grateful to you!), and I came across The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.

I asked Mark about it, and he raved about how good it was, then added, “Actually, I pulled it out because I was thinking you need to read it.”

It sounds cheesy to say the book revolutionized my life. But that’s what happened. I “did” the book. (It’s laid out as a 12-week artist recovery program. But don’t laugh. That’s exactly what I needed.) I answered all the prying questions. Took the assignments seriously. Adopted a habit of morning pages. Started taking artist dates . . .

And by the end, though I realized I’d no doubt be plagued by insecurity again off and on (and that’s definitely been the case!), I had the tools to overcome the negative voices that would see me stifled and sure I couldn’t create—and more importantly: I was infused with joy and excitement and a huge AHA! I was a writer. A storyteller. Maybe even a poet. Not crazy. (Or at least, not all the time.) Not depressed. (Ha—again, at least not all the time!) Just angst-ridden because I wasn’t doing what I was meant to do. What was essential to making me me.

Does it all sound more than a little self-helpey? I guess so. But did it help me? Absolutely.

To this day, whenever I feel my courage regarding my writing start to wane, whenever I begin to second guess the time and effort I put into something so “selfish,” whenever I doubt that I’m working in the direction I need to be, I return to the steps in The Artist’s Way. I take up morning pages again. (I probably should never stop them to begin with, but that’s another topic.) I strive to “fill the well,” which basically just means intentionally doing things that nourish your soul, like going on artist dates (a.k.a. visiting inspiring places), taking classes or workshops directly related (or not!) to fostering/developing creativity, treating yourself to a little craft-related splurge, etc.

This month I found myself needing a little encouragement, a little more play in my work (and a lot less obligation), so I decided to bring back artist’s dates. Yay! (What’s not to love about taking time out to do things that you know will inspire or refresh you?)

Running With BrushesMy first “official” date was a workshop called Running With Brushes, led by Noreen Spence and Dianne Postman. It was incredibly fun. And what we “put out” was . . . Well, I actually have to say, it was art. :) Judge for yourself.

The two-hour paint fest was pure fun, but it also had practical carryover for my writing life—a reminder (with exuberant “practice”) to not over think, plan to death, obsess about each detail . . . just CREATE. Worry about craft and polish at some far off date when the created work is out there in full, where you can see its whole shape, wackiness, potential, nightmare spots, etc. At least that’s what I took from the workshop anyway. :)

I don’t know if you’re feeling a bit slumpish, or burned out, or burdened with lofty goals in whatever creative pursuit you hold dear . . . And don’t get me wrong. Goals are good. Plans are great. But artistic dreams shouldn’t feel like drudgery or chores. There will be agony and sweat and work, yes—but there should also be joy and euphoria—fun!If you’re experiencing lots of the former, not so much of the latter . . . Maybe you, like me, need to give your inner artist a play date or two. I highly recommend paint! ☺

Now I leave you with a quote Noreen gave us at the beginning of the workshop. It was exactly what I needed to hear, to remember, and to celebrate. :)

“Nothing is a mistake. There is no win and no fail. There’s only make.” ~ Corita Kent

Running With Brushes!

Writing Is Like Cooking

It’s been too long since I celebrated Déjà vu Thursday; consider this post me bringing the tradition back. I love to cook (and to eat) and today, while it’s cold and blowy out, the urge to fill the house with comforting smells and heat is stronger than ever. Enjoy!
- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -

. . . writing is like cooking is like painting is like sculpture is like music is like gardening is like tying flies is like carving is like making bread is like making wine is like singing is like dancing is like cooking is like writing . . .

I’ve been thinking a lot about creative endeavours as a whole lately—thoughts sparked, I’m sure, by two gallery openings I got to attend (Noreen Spence’s took my breath away), but kindled into full flame by Laura Best’s great post on the same topic, my summer gallivants to the local farmer’s market and all the cooking I’ve been doing lately.

I love writing more than almost anything, playing with words, fighting with words, praying with words, crying and bleeding in words, loving through words, and yet—

When I cook, particularly when I’ve using fresh good ingredients, a feeling kindred to what I experience when I write wells up in me.

In concocting the perfect meal, there’s the same search for just the right bits and just the right balance of those bits—too much spice overpowers, diminishing/desensitizing the tastes buds, and flavour is actually lost, not enhanced. Too little seasoning and there’s no interest, no pizzazz.

And to cook well, you have to be brave, willing to experiment, not afraid to fail . . .

But you also have to build on prior knowledge—yours and others. Cooking is a pleasure and an art. It is also darn hard (and hot!) work sometimes. And there will always be those who don’t appreciate what you have to offer.

What you put into your work always counts. You can wreck quality ingredients, but it is hard to totally ruin them. On the other hand, however, if you start with crap—processed, chemically enhanced, super sugary, high fat junk—well, people might ingest it, might even think they like it, but for how long? That kind of meal does nothing for a person over the long term, has no lasting satisfaction and makes you feel empty sooner than later.

Good meals take time to prepare and they can be labour intensive, but the subtle flavours, complex layers and textures, the sensuous details—they give something to you that lasts far after you’ve finished the last bite. They become a part of your overall health and well-being. They create a feeling of abundance and community, and even if the taste was bittersweet, you’re better off for having experienced it.

Cooking and writing. I’ve yet to find better forms of nourishment. How about you? Is there something else that you do in life that echoes the joy and satisfaction that writing gives you?

p.s. My extended metaphor may have been a little over top for some of you (especially if cooking is your nemesis), but if you enjoyed it—or want a different analogy altogether—check out Jen Brubacher’s rather brilliant comparison between writing and building a house. It’s fun and very apt!

p.p.s. I’ve talked about cooking here before, if you’re interested in souping it up . . . :)

Is the universe trying to tell me something?

Photo by bibliothekarin on flickr. Click picture to see more of his/her art.

Photo by bibliothekarin on flickr. Click picture to see more of his/her art.

So I’ve been sitting at my computer for over an hour this lovely Saturday morning, and are new words pouring forth? Or am I churning out pages of tightly edited prose?

Uh . . . In a word, no.

In more words: not even close, though I have played enough Tetris Battle on Facebook that I’m out of energy and can’t play anymore (which is a relief, because if I was waiting for willpower to get me off the stupid game, I’d be there ’til tonight). I keep getting stuck between Level 20 and 21–but I digress. Where was I? Oh, right . . . Out of energy.

So I opened my planner because rather than actually get started, I figured why end a perfectly good stretch of procrastination when I can continue it by industriously planning to to start . . .

And what’s the first thing I see? The inspirational quote for this weekend:

“Romance and procrastination do not go hand in hand.” ~ Chris Howden.

I have no idea what Chris meant by those words exactly, but seeing as my current WIP is a romance and I’ve been stalling most of week, writing only in fits and spurts, it felt like pretty pointed commentary. Disliking being pointed at, not feeling inspired, I decided to turn the planner’s page. Surely better, sager, less mean advice would be there to motivate me.

What meets me?

“I’m a huge fan of my iPad, but the question remains: is it an incredibly useful piece of technology or the ultimate portal for distraction?” Noel Hudson.

Okay, fine. I can take hints wielded as subtly as a baseball bat. I’m getting to work now.

(As soon as I refill my coffee!)

When words fail me

How’s that for a grabbing blog post title?

It’s a bit of misnomer, however, as words rarely fail me (more like I occasionally fail them!). I do, however, like to dabble in other forms of artistic expression and while I would never call myself an artist, more and more often these days, I find myself taking a black Sharpie (TM) to paper or playing with paint.

And seeing as I think this is going to be a regular part of my life, I decided to dedicate a page on my website to sharing some of my creations. There are only two pieces up right now (“Family Portrait” and “I am your mother!”), but I’ll add more as they come into being (and when I take digital images of existing ones).

How about you? Are you strictly a writer or do you create in other modes and mediums as well? If the latter, do you feel it adds to or detracts from your writing? How so? Inquiring minds want to know. ;)

Thanksgiving 2011

In just a little while I’ll be heading out to a second day of Thanksgiving feasting and I’m hoping I can do the spread justice, as I’m still full from yesterday’s imbibing and merrymaking at my house.

My stomach isn’t the only thing that’s bursting, however. As corny as it is, my heart and mind are too.

My dad, though unfortunately not—and maybe not ever—out of the woods, is, however, home again after many months away. Having him back and looking well and feeling energetic and a bit angst-ridden because he’s chomping at the bit, wanting to do stuff is amazing. He has a great appetite and is more than up to visiting.

And one of my oldest and dearest friends is up visiting from The House in Spruce Grove, Alberta—and another of my most kindred spirits is arriving from across the pond later this week.

My little kids (actually not so little) are healthy and thriving. My husband and I are enjoying autumn and the crisp air, vivid colours, and food prep (Mmmmm, blackberry jam, smoked salmon, pickles and huge batches of homemade soups for the freezer) that come with it.

Writing inspiration has been more plentiful than ever lately (two new novel ideas, and schemes about a putting together a poetry chapbook), I’m almost finished the second draft of my latest work-in-progress, and I’m preparing to head off to SiWC 2012 in ten days—yay and yay!

There are always hard things in life and some seasons that are tougher than others. After a few particularly gruelling months, coming together with people I love and consciously focussing on and celebrating the good things—the blessed things—that co-exist with the hard ones is wonderful.

Whether it’s your Thanksgiving month or not, I hope little things happen this week that remind you of all the good in your life—particularly if you have some not-so-good stuff you’re dealing, too.

Happy reading, writing, thinking—eating.

:) Ev

Art lessons with Noreen Spence!

Radelet's Cherry Tree. Copyright Noreen Spence. Digital Image used with permission.

I was ecstatic to receive an e-mail the other day from one of my favourite artists (her trees, her trees!), Noreen Spence, announcing that she has her “fabulous new studio set up” and is back to painting large (as in huge canvases!).

AND she’s offering painting lessons–at said new, fabulous studio where you’ll be “ surrounded by the nurturing forest, where the generous light pours in through five enormous windows, and where there is room to move.”

In addition to be wildly talented, Noreen is a really caring, thoughtful, affirming person and whether your goals are just to try something new, to have fun, or even to yes, give yourself permssion to be or become an artist, I know her lessons will enhance your life and your craft.

She offers three different fee structures:

Individual 1 hr lessons, $30 per hour
Group lessons, 1.5 hrs, 3 people, $15 per session
Individual 2 hr lessons, $50 per session

To find out more or to register, give Noreen a call at (250) 635-6938.

Back on the horse

I found it pretty amusing (actually giggled) when I popped in to my little cobweb-growing blog today and realized that the last thing I posted before disappearing into the offline hinterlands for over a month was basically an ode to the online writing world. I really wasn’t trying to be a big hypocrite, I promise.

The online world is everything to me that “Can a writer (or should a writer) ever go it alone” claimed it was—but sometimes the physical world seduces me away (especially in the summer) and/or less romantic aspects of “real life” demand my attention.

And while I didn’t fall off my writing and editing pony, a bit of sacrifice was needed and that sacrifice was called Internet Time.

Now though, my holidays are but good memories of sunshine, sand, salt water, and visits with dear friends and family. The sky has opened up (yet again) and there are (still more) record rainfalls. My kids and husband have returned to school and regular work hours. The end of September is herding me, as it usually does, back here and to various other online haunts. Yep, I’m back on the horse again (even if I still feel slightly headless).

I like the renewed discipline and passion that always seems to strike at this time of year, along with a fresh sense of possibility and promise. I love that September beckons to October—who will come quickly and bring SiWC along with. I revel in a return to warm drinks perched close by and the soothing click-click of keyboard keys.

In the summer, I work hard to fit my writing in. In the fall and winter, the long evenings and nights remind me that I’ve been silly. What could there ever be to do that’s more important or more fun than getting my thoughts down and letting stories run from my brain to the page?

How about you, dear readers? Are you back, comfy in the saddle of your desk chair, or do you need to go off on a few more end-of-summer gallops before reining yourself in?

Either way, happy reading, writing and dreaming this autumn! I’ll say good night now, before I stretch my already thin metaphor to breaking point.  :)

~Ev