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!
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.
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.
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
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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.
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!
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!
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 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.”):
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.
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:
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!
Write a synopsis of your book or story.
Next week’s topic: Meet Other Artists. See you back here next Sunday night!
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