Tag: writing

Welcome back!

I know, I know, it’s Tuesday, not Sunday. Before sharing my experiences at Cirenaica (sarah-neye-kah), I needed some thinking and recovery time. I’m awake now and exploding with thoughts and notes for you.

The intention behind this year-long weekly series, Greyhairs Rising, was to share with anyone – especially retirees – how I reconstituted my artistic career in both writing and painting. I’ve given you a lot of how to get started and stay in the game information. I’ve shared a load of resources to explore. I am now in a state of being with my work that goes beyond the nuts and bolts of how to.

I was ready to take a big leap forward and chose to apply to Cirenaica, knowing full well that I might be overwhelmed and overrun by REAL writers – educated, perceptive, smart, critical thinkers who know how to use their words in writing and speaking, offering up the very best of critique and support for their fellow artists. Truth be told, I didn’t know all of that going in. I wanted to have the experience of being in residency with other writers, in a teaching environment, without letup, but I was also worried.

My apprehensions were about:

  • Living among, young, energetic, creative types
  • Could I keep up?
  • Could I stay awake?
  • Would I have any “senior” issues that would get in the way? (You all know what I mean!)
  • What if I didn’t like the people, place, or any of it?
  • Would anyone care about what I had to say?
  • Would I have anything of value to contribute?

 

Photo credit: Geoff Carter

Photo credit: Geoff Carter

I can say to you happily, that not one of my concerns was an issue. When it came to keeping up with the lively younger folk, I didn’t have to. Eight or nine o’clock in the evenings, when I disappeared, they might ask, “Where’s Maggie?” but somebody would know and say so, “I think she went to bed.” And when I got up at 5:00 a.m., I had the quiet of the space to myself, got the coffee brewing, and went to work writing. It was glorious.

And everyone was good natured and unafraid to expose their work to critique. Each participant submitted 15 to 25 pages of writing for everyone else to read and critique before we met. Each day, about 11:00 a.m., we gathered with our notes and spent a good hour to hour and a half on one writer’s submission. The writer was not allowed to comment while we, one by one, responded to the work. Near the end, Nickolas Butler, our artist in residence at his own house down the road, made summary comments and then took the writer aside for a brief one-on-one. This process is referred to as workshopping.

Workshopping

 I admit to being confused for a day about the use of the word workshop in this context. I understood a workshop as an opportunity to work on a topic – like a class. I understood critique as a separate and more line-by-line approach to providing feedback. The workshopping we were doing was neither. This was whole-hog, educated reader, skilled writer, perspective on:

  1. Favorite sentence
  2. What’s working
  3. What’s not working
  4. Title – yes, no, middle-of-the-road
  5. What’s it about?
  6. Theme

I understand that this process will vary from artist to artist – everyone has their own way of doing things, right? I did find that limiting the comments to these points – especially the first three – and actively listening to what everyone had to say – gave me a deeper appreciation of every single story we were given to read.

Photo credit: Geoff Carter

Photo credit: Geoff Carter

Before the workshopping began, the writer chose a section of their own story to read aloud. I cannot stress enough, the value of reading aloud. Some stories I had no particular feel for, came alive for me when the writer read. The stories took on an entirely different dimension as I listened to others talk about the work. I realized, and I’m hanging my head in shame here, that I read too fast, with too critical and impatient an eye and mind. I need to change.

I could write about this experience for days, but I’ll stop now. Well, before I do, I have to give kudos to the chef, Brent. He went out of his way to accommodate my food allergies and served up some of the most delicious food ever to pass my lips. And BJ Hollars, the coordinator of the event, is a fabulous man.

I encourage you, one and all, to seek out a residency experience if you’re at all able. You’ll thank yourself after a day of recovery!

Photo credit: Justin Patchin

Photo credit: Justin Patchin

A note on Cirenaica

The Chippewa Valley Writers Guild is pleased to partner with Cirenaica for our second year of summer residencies!  Nestled on 43 acres of hills, farmland, and forest near the quaint village of Fall Creek, Wisconsin, our residencies promise participants of all levels and genres an intensive yet rejuvenating experience amidst an inspiring backdrop.

See you back here next Sunday (or some day during the week). Would you like to keep up with the Greyhairs Rising community? Sign up for the latest updates.

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Lesson learned today: Draw the sensual information out of the bullet points.

That’s the clearest understanding I have so far about the difference between showing and telling in literature. Back to writing. I have an entire novel to overhaul – an ongoing nightmare!

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Early on in this series we looked at our intention to create art and asked the question, “How serious am I?” The deeper I get into my own work, the more serious I am, the more driven, the more confused I am about the quality of my work. I’m talking about writing and how I’ve learned that there is a “best” way to tell a story. I’ve learned that I’m prone to leave out some important things – best ways to deliver characters and scenes – and I’m struggling to understand how to recognize and fix the problems.

I just heard myself saying to myself, “Maybe you’ve taken on too much with this book.” Maybe I have. Maybe I can’t learn the things I need to know to do this story justice. Maybe… and then I stopped. I reminded myself that I want to tell this story, this particular story because I believe it’s important. And I reminded myself that two years ago I didn’t know enough to know to ask the questions I’m asking now.

My intention has been clear from the beginning. I want this. I want this enough to work this hard at learning the craft. I’ve learned to ignore some input and some teachings and to embrace others. I’ve done virtually nothing but learn and practice and learn and practice. I tell myself, “This isn’t math. You can do it!”

So this week I’m going to take you back to the second week topic and ask you to review your intention to create. Are you any further along than you were six months ago? Does it matter to you?

How Serious Are You?

On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being I’m all in!, where are you as we start this week and is it where you want to be?  Where you imagined yourself to be?

Pick Your Battles.

Everything we do that we do well requires some time and effort. Time and energy can be the two strongest forces working against us as we age. Can we ignore our obstacles? By this time in life, I think we’ve all come to realize that the adage, pick your battles, has real meaning.

I’ve always been a nap taker. On the days that I did not allow myself the luxury of an afternoon snooze, I felt restless and less focused. Rather than fight my nature, I succumbed and am much happier and more productive for giving in.

My husband listens patiently to my babblings about what I’m writing or what I’m painting. He’s supportive but not engaged in my enthusiasm. I had to seek out other creatives who would share my excitement. Rather than fight with my husband over my disappointments, I accept what he offers and appreciate him for who he is.

I have friends who are challenged by mobility and other health-related issues. They’ve had to accept their physical limitations but that doesn’t mean restrictions on their creative dreams. Tools at hand, inspiring videos and a willingness to embrace the freedoms a creative spirit affords, keeps the artist alive and busy finding new ways to accommodate first the artist, then the limitations.

Finding the time to work.

I found that I accomplished the most writing in the early morning. Fresh from sleep and dreams, I hit the computer keyboard and pound out the words. After about an hour, I have to take a break and walk around a little, feed the dog, have some coffee or tea. So I learned to set alarms on my phone to reflect my way of working.

I officially start work at 9 o’clock in the morning. I may be up at 4 or 5 and been writing and musing and planning. But by 8 a.m., I need to be showered and dressed and prepared for work as if I had an office to get to. It took me six months of retirement to realize that I work best with a schedule. So I created one. By following a schedule I found my level of commitment to the work was rewarded with pages written and paintings painted and boundless satisfaction and self-appreciation!

I also realized that not every day is a work day. Somedays I found I could not focus or settle down into the routine. I knew I was missing the element of pressure to achieve so I began working with deadlines. I entered art shows and writing competitions that came with a finish-by date. That gave me the extra nudge I needed to keep me going.

Deadlines and schedules may not be what work for you. I seem to get the most joy out of accomplishment. Many people find their joy in the process. Watch yourself, see how you work, notice what makes you feel good about what you’re doing and how you do it. Then establish working rules that fit you and allow you to get the most creative enjoyment.

Tips for the week:

  • Pay attention to distractions. What pulls you away from your art?
  • Take note of your personal work style. When are you the most productive?
  • Consider your workspace. Does it fit with your working style?
  • Make notes about the obstacles and challenges you find. How can you put your artist self first, before accommodating limitations or restrictions?
  • Keep sketching
  • Try a timed writing off of one of your sticky note thoughts from last week. Get a pad of paper, position yourself in a comfy spot, set a timer for 5 minutes and write without lifting pen from paper.

Keep building your bank of sticky note ideas.

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I’ve heard a lot of frustration from writers and artists about time – how can a working, mom or dad, or anyone, find time for creative writing and art?  Having just taken a course in time management from Springboard for the Arts, offered at my local library, I can say that a time audit will help you find that time.

Participants were asked to keep track of what they did for 24 hours in each of seven days. After each activity, we were asked to note if the time was Alpha, Beta, or Art time. Alpha is any time spent on art related activities and Art itself. Beta is time not spent on art or art related activities. There can be overlaps.

At the end of the week, it’s easy to see how much time is actually spent producing art. That may be only 20% of your time in a week. The time audit will document how your intentions to work are interrupted and will be useful in creating a space in each week that is devoted to your creative work. Following is a repeat of steps you can take to make creative time a priority:

Focus.

Focus is the key to making time to do the work. You may need to focus first on all the reasons why you are dragged away from the work you start. Keep a sticky-note pad handy and make note of each time you’re interrupted.

  1. How many times were you interrupted by someone else?
  2. How many times were you interrupted by your phone?
  3. How many times were your thoughts interrupted by (fill in the blanks)
    1. ______________________________________
    2. ______________________________________
    3. ______________________________________
    4. What else?

By Wednesday, after taking notes on interruptions, it’s easy to see why we can never find a decent amount of time to grow as an artist or writer. Now it’s time to focus on solutions. Review your sticky-notes and write on each one a possible solution to the problem. Example: Phone interrupts. Turn off the phone during work time.

Set Limits.

If you were on the job, you would not be allowed to entertain all the distractions you do allow when you are on your own time. Understanding how to set limits will be key to making the time you need to deeply focus on your creative work.

You have your notes in hand that illustrate how many distractions you allow. You’ve made notes on possible solutions. Now is the time to implement the solutions by setting limits.

Limit your workspace – keep distractions outside of your workspace, even if that means closing the door or wearing noise-cancelling headphones. Your workspace must become sacred space – yours – where important work is done and others are not allowed to intrude during work hours.

Limit your time – allow yourself enough time to get into deep focus and produce work, but don’t take so much time that everything else goes to the wayside and becomes an excuse for not getting back to work the next day. Make a schedule.

The most compelling distraction is the one that opens the gate for all others to flood in and overwhelm your best intentions. What is that one thing that overwhelms your artistic practice? Faith in yourself to do this work.

 Have faith.

You’ve made the decision to explore your creative self. Don’t judge your successes and failures. Judge only these things:

  1. Adequate workspace
  2. Adequate work time without interruptions
  3. Whether or not you did anything with the workspace and time you created.

The lack of belief in the work and you as the creative spirit will undermine every effort you make or think you want to make.

This entire process is about YOU and no one else. Only you can make the time and make that time what you want.

Prompt for the week. 

  • Keep those sticky-notes handy so you can keep track of your interruptions and plan for solutions to distractions.
  • Create a cheat-sheet using your distractions/solutions notes and post it above your work area where you can see it for quick reference.
  • Make sure other members of your household who feel to interrupt, refer to the cheat-sheet before breaking your focus.
  • Post your work day schedule for them to see.

Next week’s topic: Steps to publishing a story.  

See you back here next Sunday night! Would you like to keep up with the Greyhairs Rising community? Sign up for the latest updates.

 

 

 

 

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ghr-cube

What are the differences between a crafter, a craftsman, a fine artist, and all the degrees in between?

Some will argue that a craft has a utilitarian purpose such as a crocheted afghan or a ceramic plate. Some will say that fine art has no utilitarian purpose and that is the sole rule they follow when drawing a distinction between the two. I say it’s really up to you!

Anyone who thinks that a tulip in a hand-thrown vase only represents usefulness as in the vase supporting the flowers and the water to refresh them has never taken a photo of or painted a still life. All possibilities lie in the imagination of the audience.

I will say that a crafter is more likely to produce products with a more homespun appeal. A craftsman may be considered one who is a master of the crafting of… a Maple table or a massive woodcut – both utilitarian and appealing to an artistic aesthetic. A fine artist may excel in traditional oil portraiture while a contemporary counterpart may make stunning street art.

Art is art. A song. A painting. A knit shawl. A fabric pitchfork. You decide.

Creative prompt.
See if you can make distinctions between craft and art – in writing or in painting or maybe in a quilt!

Next week’s topic:  The short story

See you back here next Sunday night! Would you like to keep up with the Greyhairs Rising community? Sign up for the latest updates.

#amwriting #writing #blogging #art #artist

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In March, my husband and I, with my two BFFs in tow, traveled to Northfield, MN to see a homespun production of a community theater play written by my editor, Peggy Sheldon. I wanted to see what writing for a local audience could look like in a production.

Best Friends Forever (and Martinis)

Best Friends Forever (and Martinis)

I highly recommend giving this a shot when you need a break from the intensity of writing your novels or pressures from deadlines for articles. Write a slapstick comedy or a silly murder mystery, take it to your community theater group, and produce!

The Case of the Tawdry Tabloid

Sheldon invited audience participation. She provided a script and cues for the willing. One of my friends who was reluctant to act a part was recruited as a flapper in the end. The play was presented as dinner theater with hors d’oeuvres and drinks beforehand and a tasty entree was consumed before the play began.

Get your writing group together to create a play, talk it up to community actors, and HAVE A BLAST!

The Case of the Tawdry Tabloid

The Case of the Tawdry Tabloid

Since we were traveling to Northfield, I took a look online to see what else may be going on in the town. We found that Perlman Teaching Museum at Carleton College was exhibiting Irish photographers’ images of the changing landscape of Ireland.

Post Picturesque-Photographing Ireland

Post Picturesque-Photographing Ireland

Post-Picturesque: Photographing Ireland presents nine accomplished artists, resident in the Republic and Northern Ireland, who respond to the famously picturesque Irish rural landscape with new aesthetic and critical approaches. This ambitious exhibition, curated by Perlman Teaching Museum Director Laurel Bradley, introduces the following lens-based practitioners to American audiences — many for the first time: Gary Coyle, Martin Cregg, David Farrell, Paul Gaffney, Anthony Haughey, Miriam O’Connor, Jill Quigley, Anna Rackard and Ruby Wallis.https://apps.carleton.edu/museum/ireland/

We were all awed by the portraits exhibited by Anna Rackard, “Farmers.” Here’s an example (see more on her page “Farmers.”):

Portrait of Betty Giltrap, Anna Rackard, Photographer

Portrait of Betty Giltrap, Anna Rackard, Photographer

My husband and I left my friends in St. Paul and traveled on to Green Bay, WI to attend an Irish Genealogy presentation by the Ulster Historical Foundation, at the Brown County Library. Having recently learned that the other half of me is completely Irish, I’ve been searching out the relatives.

Irish genealogy can be tricky to chase because of the fire of 1922 in the National Archives. The story of that is worth a read. ‘All Irish genealogical records were destroyed in the 1922 fire’: Myth or fact? Now that I know where my Boddy’s are buried, quite literally, I can’t seem to learn enough about their parish and townland. I hope to be able to report to you in a year or so, from the very soil my ancestors once hoed and trod upon.

So that was March. Maybe in May, I’ll get around to sharing our April adventures! They’re not over yet to be sure.

Happy Spring!

 

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Hello, Sunday.

It takes courage to put your work out into the world for others to ignore or read and reject or print and have critics pan. But if you have a message to share, and you’ve done your work, then out in the world it must go.

This week I began submitting my first novel to publishers and agents. I will not lie, I’m shaking in my boots. Shortly after the first two submissions, this is how I reflected on my work and imagined how it might be seen by others:

seejanerun

Review.

Last week I talked about writer support groups. I hope you’ve found some dedicated writers in your community to encourage you and critique your work. They bring so much good to the creative process. When you hit that send button, though, you’re in it all alone.

Be your own best cheering squad.

In those moments when you’re left alone to wonder, “What was I thinking,” remember that you must have believed in the work 15 seconds ago! Pat yourself on the back and celebrate the last mile of the marathon. That’s what this, just the last lap.

Practice what you preach, M E Fuller!

This morning I looked back at all the work I’d done on the book, and the long process involved to get to the moment where I felt 100% secure in the knowledge that I had done a good job. My message is important. I had a lot of help along the way. Send! is the natural next step.

Off it went and off it will go again, later today. Fingers crossed. Chin up. Deep breath!

Cover-SavingtheGhost

Creative prompt.

Write a synopsis of your book or story.

 

Next week’s topic: Meet Other Artists.  See you back here next Sunday night!

Would you like to keep up with the Greyhairs Rising community? Sign up for the latest updates.

Join our Greyhairs Rising Facebook group.

 

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It’s late! And there’s your prompt. What is late? Late for what? Or wait – is it latte?

Write it. Paint it. Scribble on a wall. #amwriting #ampainting http://mefuller.com

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The most beautiful word in your world.

Write it. Paint it. Scribble on a wall.

#amwriting #ampainting http://mefuller.com

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I’ve been complaining loudly for months about how hard it’s been to write my first novel. I’d worked on the story, off and on, for a few years. In June of 2015, I applied for a grant from my regional arts council – Five Wings – to help me finish the book. With those funds, I took a class on how to write a novel (I had no idea how to structure the story to fill 90,000 words) and hired an editor to help me polish the first draft.

On March 5, 2017, I finished the novel and sent it out to beta readers for comments. For the next few weeks, I can let this project go.

I hate the book now. I don’t even know what it says anymore. I don’t like its words. The beauty of the inspired words was destroyed for me in the endless edits.

I didn’t feel that way when I was creating. I felt that way when I was editing and re-writing. The passion for the work went out of me and it became drudgery. I understand now, why so many great writers were depressed drunks! To face the beast that’s coming after embracing the beauty of the inspiration – well, it’s too much. I had no desire left to write another book.

Maybe if I’d been an English language major in college and had a degree in literature, the work wouldn’t have been so tedious. I don’t know, but I suspect that even the most learned and capable author has moments of despair and grief as the inspired concept is reduced to the mechanics and fine points of the finished product.

But yesterday, I was reawakened to the beauty of words. I remembered why I wrote the book. I felt the story I meant to tell. The happiness of enthusiasm for telling a story stood up inside of me, then sat by my side, held my hand, and shared a listening ear, as a young man, a spoken word poet, performed.

Yes!

The young man, Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre, is smart, sensitive, and clear in his message. He wears his heart for the work on his sleeve. He tells stories of being human while the audience nods in agreement. Yes! We can relate. We feel united. We’ve been so divided. I hear an unexpressed collective sigh of relief.

But it’s all just in me, in my own mind, I suppose. I didn’t know how hungry I was to hear a poet release me, like a butterfly captured in a jar, release me back into a lush garden, back into the beauty of words.

http://www.guante.info/p/spoken-word-videos.html

Guante performed at the Brainerd Public Library with support from the Friends of the Brainerd Public Library Brown Bag Book Events.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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