The War of Art

Counting down the hours until Thanksgiving. The only part I still haven’t figured out is how long and at what temperature to roast an eighteen-pound unstuffed turkey. I’ve thrown the question onto my FB page, and hope someone will have good advice.

Meanwhile here is the latest excellent book I’ve read on how to get the heck out of my way and succeed.

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The author, Steven Pressfield, maintains most of us wrestle with resistance when tackling projects that require a long-term commitment.

In my case, there are two endeavors to which I am devoted.
This blog and my new Etsy shop.

So far I only have ten items listed in my store. I’m determined to fill it to the brim over time. This book gave me exactly the kick in the fanny I needed.

Pressfield included a favorite Goethe quotation of mine:

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”

I have a sterling silver pendant engraved with those words. It was a gift from Cynthia, the lovely woman I used to work for. She gave me a shot at product design when nothing in my set of skills would predict success.

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I have the necklace hanging on the light over my drawing table.  I read it just before I begin working each day.  I also say a prayer to my muse.  Another Pressfield suggestion.

Then I get to work.  Which I am off to do right now.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Other somewhat related blog posts:

I used to ask, “Why me?” Now I say, “Why NOT me!”

Travel to China

Guided Meditation and the Law of Attraction

I’ve been using youtube for my daily meditation. I find it’s easier to relax deeply when listening to a gentle voice, music, and instructions.  I take out one hearing aid and put the computer right next to my other ear.

Lying on our bed and breathing. It’s delicious the state of relaxation I tumble into.

Think positive, Live positive.

My blog posts will be more infrequent because I am busy creating images for my new Etsy shop.  So far I have a pig, kitten, and cow.  They are all decked out in ribbons and straw hats.

I spend my days’ coloring and smiling at the silly critters flowing out of my colored pencils.

My field of dreams.  Build it and they will come.  And when they come 50% of the money I make I plan to donate to causes important to me.  The other 50%?  Who knows.

 

It worked again today!

I’m becoming more and more convinced that all this positive thinking stuff works!

Here is today’s experience. I went to Yoga and for the last fifteen minutes, we lay on our mats, meditating. I breathe in white light and breathe out sparkles. The sparkles float into the air and tap into all the optimistic power of the Universe.

After yoga, I hauled my sweaty self home. (I never would have imagined yoga is a sweat-inducing business.) Bronson greeted me joyfully. After loving on him for a bit I went to the computer. Checked out Gmail. My only emails are from zulily, Chase Bank, and Capital One. When did people stop emailing? Then I snooped around CNN news and finally opened Facebook.

Lo and Behold my friend Judy sent me an FB link to best-selling author Judy Blume’s new Master Class. I adore Judy Blume.  One of my favorite books is The Pain and the Great One.

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All my positive thinking manifested a class offered by one of my favorite kids’ authors! See? There are no accidents.

I plunked down $90, gathered all my coloring equipment and planned to spend the afternoon coloring while at “school.”

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It turns out the class doesn’t begin until January. So I’ve put the pencils and coloring bookmark away.

Instead, I’ll sit on my broad backside and read Ken Follett’s A Column of Fire. Jimmy bought it at Costco, but he’s still picking his way through Gone with the Wind, so I pilfered it. Jim reads very slowly which gives me plenty of time to finish. Recently I asked him, “Do you read every word?”  He replied, “Of course. What do you do? Skip every other one?”  Possibly.

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It really works!

I’m becoming more and more convinced that all this positive thinking stuff works!

Here is today’s experience. I went to Yoga and for the last fifteen minutes, we lay on our mats, meditating. I breathe in white light and breathe out sparkles. The sparkles float into the air and tap into all the optimistic power of the Universe.

After yoga, I hauled my sweaty self home. (I never would have imagined yoga is a sweat-inducing business.) Bronson greeted me joyfully. After loving on him for a bit I went to the computer. Checked out Gmail. My only emails are from zulily, Chase Bank, and Capital One. When did people stop emailing? Then I snooped around CNN news and finally opened Facebook.

Lo and Behold my friend Judy sent me an FB link to best-selling author Judy Blume’s new Master Class. I adore Judy Blume.  One of my favorite books is The Pain and the Great One.

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All my positive thinking manifested a class offered by one of my favorite kids’ authors! See? There are no accidents.

I plunked down $90, gathered all my coloring equipment and planned to spend the afternoon coloring while at “school.”

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It turns out the class doesn’t begin until January. So I’ve put the pencils and coloring bookmark away.

Instead, I’ll sit on my broad backside and read Ken Follett’s A Column of Fire. Jimmy bought it at Costco, but he’s still picking his way through Gone with the Wind, so I pilfered it. Jim reads very slowly which gives me plenty of time to finish. Recently I asked him, “Do you read every word?”  He replied, “Of course. What do you do? Skip every other one?”  Possibly.

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Still Tapping Away. (with frustration.)

My goal is to learn to write. Not just postcards, journal entries, and “honey-do” lists for Jim. I want to write a book. Toward that end, I’ve been studying. Here’s what’s happening: I’m spending all my time studying and very little time writing.

I figured out why. I dunno’ what the heck to write. How does an author yank a work of fiction out of the ether? I seem only able to write about my personal experiences.

I’ve had oceans of experiences I’d relish sharing, but other participants in those adventures might end up suing me for libel. Anne Lamott of Bird by Bird tells me to turn the law-suit worthy stuff into fiction. She suggests changing enough details of the romps the actual players would be unlikely to recognize themselves. I suppose I could try that. However, those incidents are merely moments. I’d need to figure out what story strings those random snapshots together. That’s the hard part.

Stephen King’s On Writing suggests I play a “what if” game.

What if a short round middle-class housewife found herself in prison for a murder she didn’t commit? Or maybe she can’t remember committing.

What if a floorboard slid aside to reveal a never before seen staircase? Where does it lead and who follows it?

What if I fell asleep here, in the twenty-first century, but woke up three hundred years in the past. Or the future?

Stephen King also told me (yes, we are close) not to speak in a passive voice. And not to use adverbs. Those two things will reveal me as a beginner. They will also expose me as timid.

He suggests writing in a genre I enjoy reading. I like historical fiction and non-fiction. And pretty much everything else as long as the writing is good. I did not like Bridges of Madison County. Sappy. I steadfastly refuse to read Jacqueline Suzanne, or bodice ripping romance novels. I do confess I succumbed to reading the Fifty Shades of Gray series.  Embarrassing admission, but I wanted to know what the fuss was.

I’m obtuse when it comes to poetry. I think poetry is for people far smarter and deeper than I. Unless Dr. Seuss wrote the poem. I get him.
(FYI: At first I wrote, “Unless the poem was written by Dr. Seuss” then realized that’s passive. Fixed it. No rookie mistakes for this old girl.)

Yesterday I went to the library and picked up other books about learning to write. There is a shelf full of them. Dewey decimal system number 808. The librarian recommended a couple of DVDs along with the books. I brought those home too. The writer, Anne Perry, narrates them herself. She has a British accent. I’m deaf. Couldn’t understand a word she said. The DVDs go back to the library tomorrow. I’ll try to exercise self-discipline and not check out six more “how to write” books.

Natalie Goldberg says she often wool-gathers. She stares into the distance then goes for a snack. So far I’m best at following Natalie’s suggestions. I often I find myself staring into space or standing in front of the open refrigerator, unsure how I came to be there.

I just had a Natalie Goldberg moment. Wandered to the cabinet, pulled out our blue and white Graceland mug, sprayed it with Pam, beat an egg and microwaved it.
While eating, I read a bit more of Stephen King.

He told me to write what I see. Right now what I see is a sixty-five-year-old woman who is procrastinating. I’m supposed to write 1000 words a day, eventually working up to 2,000. Here I’m at maybe 600 words.

What else do I see? I see the egg crusted Graceland mug in the kitchen sink. To my left, I see an Oceania cruise brochure Jim says he will read, but I suspect not. The booklet has been gathering dust for a week. On top of the brochure is a scratch pad with a leopard print cardboard cover and on top of that is a solar-powered calculator.

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To my right is a black Pentel .07 Energel pen. I buy those from Amazon even though we have drawers full of ballpoint pens. Jim’s travel hobby is stealing pens wherever we go. However, they don’t write “fast.” Natalie Goldberg told me to use fast pens. Pentel .07 Energel’s are my favorite. They are speedy, yet here I sit tapping on the keyboard instead of scribbling with a Pentel in my composition book.

Behind me, sacked out on our area rug I see a drugged brown dog. Due to storms, I gave Bronson Xanax about an hour ago. Loud thunder turns him into drooling, trembling, tail tucked between his legs mess.

I see a big metal spoon and fork hanging to the left of the kitchen door. On another wall I see three mammoth cows, gazing at me, asking, “What are you wasting your time for?”

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On the floor below the cows, I see a green dog dish, a stainless steel water bowl, and one slightly deflated soccer ball.

Picking up dog toys is the story of my life. I gathered seven from the dining room this morning and dropped them into the sturdy brass bucket my parents got as a wedding gift in 1939. Since then Bronson has retrieved all seven as well as about four more and happily littered them around the house. That was before the Xanax. Now that he’s stoned it might be a good time to clean up again.

Okay, Stephen, I’m up to almost 1000 words, and I’m boring myself. Odds are my six regular readers nodded off 717 words ago.

So with that, I’ll sit my ample backside in my swivel chair, meditate and pray some brilliant book idea manifests itself into my weary gray matter.

What I should do is what Faulkner suggested: “*Murder your darlings.” But I won’t because with this very sentence I crossed the 1000 word finish line! Whoooo Hooooo.

* A Google search revealed Arthur Quiller-Couch was the first to use this phrase. 

Cherishing the evil within

Bird by Bird author Anne Lamott tells me to look within to create a character. Today, while meditating, I did that. And I stumbled across bitchy Alice.

Usually, I try to stuff Nasty Alice. I pretend she doesn’t exist. But today I embraced my wicked. I let that vile woman out of her box and said, “GO FORTH AND SPEW YOUR VENOM!”

Rotten Alice is a lot of villainous fun. She curses like a sailor. She is catty. Her claws are long and sharp. Here are some other embellishments I’m adding to Evil Alice.

Tattoos. Lots of them. Sleeves on both arms. And a mullet. Atrocious Alice has a pierced tongue. She spends afternoons in dark, empty bars, the only patron on a stool keeping the bartender busy pouring shots of tequila served with salt and lime.

She has a swagger. And possibly a dagger. And indeed a handgun in her fringed purse. She wears frayed too tight jeans with 1970s crocheted vests and Hendrix T-shirts.

She steals from friends. Goes through their medicine cabinets and lifts their Hydrocodone. She grows pot under black lights in her basement.

She drives a Harley way too fast, veering in and out of lanes, flipping the bird at cars as she cuts them off. And she spits great gobs of phlegm on grocery store parking lots.

However, even obnoxious people have a bit of decent buried deep within.

Evil Alice is kind to animals. Even at her most heinous Cruel Alice could never hurt a dog, cat, bird, horse, or rabbit. Although she can and does happily kill gnats and mosquitos. Further, she’s unfailingly gentle with children.

She bakes peanut butter cookies with Hershey kisses in the middle. She serves them with cold whole milk. Her kitchen table is from the 1960’s. White Formica with gold flecks. Her dishes are Franciscan Desert Rose.

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Do you want to know this person? Perhaps I need to give her a husband. Or lover. Or kids. Does she have a pit bull or poodle?
What is her home like? A double wide trailer backed up to a chain link fence? Or possibly a Cape Cod with white cafe curtains in the kitchen.

On her windowsill is a Magic Eightball. She shakes that black orb several times a day, looking to it for answers. Usually, it responds “Reply hazy, try again later.”

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She smokes Marlboros. Before opening a box of cigarettes, she tamps it on the kitchen counter, packing the fag tightly. Her ashtray is red plastic. Her gums are receding due to the smoking. Her home, possibly a mid-century split level, smells like smoke and fried fish.

I like her in spite of her nasty mouth and tobacco breath. I will explore her later. I need to know her friends, her job, her tics, and obsessions.

But for now back to Anne Lamott. After that perhaps I’ll color more of Where the Sidewalk ends for my grandson Tate.

Related Blog posts:

Positive thinking, Shel Silverstein, and my marvelous Book Club.

Attempting to reinvent myself at Sixty-Five. What am I doing?

Attempting to reinvent myself at Sixty-Five. What am I doing?

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I am reading Anne Lamott’s book, Bird by Bird. Some Instructions on Writing and Life.  She is a master with language and peppers her writing with terms both wise and witty.  Sometimes she grumbles and whines. I like that.  Today is a grumbling, whiny day for me.

She tells me I am to simply bang out my first draft, have fun, be crazy, play.  It will be shitty, she assures me of this.  But in the shit, I might find a sentence, one little line or maybe only one tiny word that will dredge up….Oh for phuck sake.  Today I can’t get there from here.

I meditated.  I’m kinda’ centered.  Blah Blah Blah.  Yet I find myself with nothing to say and who the hell am I saying it to anyhow?

(Alice, dear, you know you are supposed to be thinking only positive thoughts in order to attract positive energy into your world.  Pretend all the stuff you want already exists and it will magically manifest as your “new reality.”   Yes, Random-Whispering-Voice in my head, I know, but some days it’s easier than others, so just shut up about all the manifestation crapola for twenty minutes.)

What the heck am I doing this for?  At sixty-five I’ve decided to reinvent myself as an author?  On good days I think, “Hey lady!  You got this.  You invented yourself into a product designer at fifty.”  But on days like today taking my past-middle-aged self and turning into a writer seems a preposterous dream.  As if I could become a bagel just by breathing, believing and thinking, “I am a bagel. I became a bagel the day the local bakery spotted all my warm potential bagel deliciousness.”

Okay, Alice…think about Grandma Moses.  I just did a Google search.  Old Granny Moses didn’t get serious about painting until her seventies.  She lived to be 101.

I will channel Grandma Moses, replacing her brushes with a keyboard. I’ll keep slamming on the keys, making shitty first drafts. I made a boatload of shitty paintings when I first began working with watercolors.  I actually sold some of those dreadful pictures and gave several away.  One particularly embarrassing piece comes to mind.  A raccoon wandering a snowy field under a full white moon.  He casts long blue shadows as he roams in front of a weathered barn.  Herbie and Barb were my victims. I’ve pleaded with them to toss that painting out, but they’ve refused.  Your crap paintings live on to haunt you.  The good news is after a while, my watercolors improved.

As a fledgling product designer, I had no idea what I was doing.  I just doggedly kept at it, drawing lines on paper.  Boss Mary Beth said she gave me a box to grow into.  My first box was the size of a Sunkist raisin single serve container. When I outgrew that box she gave me a full-size Honey Nut Cheerios box.

Ultimately I outgrew all of her boxes and went on alone to design for a Chinese factory, walking the design wire without a net.  The earliest product I created, a classic fountain made of resin, got a roll-out at Costco.  It was carried in every Costco Warehouse from the here in the USA to Canada, United Kingdom, and Mexico.

Now, I will occupy writing boxes.  My current container is as small as a ring box.  I’ll keep pounding keys until this one becomes too snug.  Then I’ll crawl into a larger carton, dragging my laptop along with me.

For today, I’ll quit beating my head against the keyboard. I’m doing a drawing of peridot eyed, gray and white Smokey the cat.  He had to be put to sleep last week.  Perhaps the drawing will be a nice keepsake for Smokey’s owner.

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I painted Mike the pitbull for Mo.  I think I did it a bit too soon following Mike’s passing.  She opened the gift box and immediately burst into heartbroken tears.

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I won’t write today.  And that’s good because I will get to spend the day coloring and reading my book club book, Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child.  It’s a spellbinding story set against the icy backdrop of a 1920s Alaska winter.  A despairing childless couple, in an unusual moment of levity, builds a child out of snow.  In the morning the snow girl is gone, but they glimpse a young child running through the woods.  It reads like a frigid fairy tale.

 

 

Passion for Words

My positive thinking reading reveals that what we are most passionate about, is our true purpose.  When we are truly absorbed, unable to “put-it-down”, we are experiencing the life our higher power intended.

I’ve been absorbed by writing since childhood.  However, I wavered and therefore became an artist.  The reason I abandoned my dream can be found on this former blog post At sixty-five I’ve embraced the power of positive thinking.

Instead of writing, I created two-dimensional art.  I peddled my art for money.

My first art-for-money-peddling experience was when my son Matt was an infant.  I wished to buy my then husband a gift.  I wanted that gift not to be bought with “his” money.  My goal was to earn enough, on my own, to purchase something he might relish.

I drew black and white pencil and ink sketches of wildlife.  With my baby on my back, I headed out to hawk my drawings.  I found several places willing to buy my work.  Then I found one gallery owner willing to barter. I traded several drawings for a large print of two duck decoys.  My then husband loved duck paintings.

Later I was able to gift him a set of golf clubs by bartering with a Wilson representative. I traded a large watercolor painting of Lafayette’s Headquarters in Chadds Ford Pennsylvania for those irons, wedges, and woods.

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I painted on pretty much every possible surface simply to make money. I painted on glassware for my store Whimsical Rose.  I painted on walls, I painted a portrait (Ed O’Bradovich, Dan Hampton and a roll of Duct Tape).  But painting was never my passion.  Painting never sucked me in, inducing me to lose whole days enthralled by brushing color on canvas.

Long ago God lit a fire under me to write.  I’m unsure exactly what he wants me to say.  But I’ll just keep writing.  Posting my posts.  Dreaming my dreams and manifesting a life as a writer.

I just ordered Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones.  I read it years ago.  It was extremely inspiring.  Back then, however, I was a painter.  Not now.  Now I’m a writer.  And this writer intends to reread and be inspired once again.

Breathe and Believe

Every positive thinking tome I read assures me the New Reality I want, already exists.  My New Reality is to be a published author, making enough money to donate to a cause that has recently become dear to my heart.  I am to state my New Reality as if it is here, now, in the present tense.

I just finished meditating.  My recent mantra is, “Breathe and Believe.”  Upon opening my eyes I realized how many things in my life existed long before I realized they did.  The house I now live in, built in 1980’s, has been sitting here on its little patch of coarse Floridian grass since my children were in kindergarten.  My sweet husband existed, walking around on the planet, hurtling toward my life long before I was aware of him.

My New Reality, published author earning lots of cold hard cash, is out there–floating in my future, real, concrete, as solid as the walls of this house.  I simply have to breathe it, believe it, and take the steps necessary to attract it.

My current read, Laura Dey’s The Circle, includes a workbook.  Today’s exercise was to become aware of patterns in my life that do not serve me in my New Reality.  Each day I am to pick one pattern and replace it with a thought or action I consciously choose that supports my New Reality,  Everything I do is conscious and empowering.

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A habit I need to change:  I waste too much time looking at internet grack.  Checking if Kate Middleton is pregnant doesn’t support my New Reality.  Further, I don’t need to see Stephen Colbert’s monologue every morning or make myself nuts looking at the daily political bombshells.

In writing, I pledged not to play around on the internet until after 5 p.m.  I am, of course, allowed to write blog posts.  Those support my New Reality. As I wrote these things in my Circle workbook, I found myself on the edge of a panic attack.  I was mentally taken back to the day I finally quit smoking.

I was twenty-two years old.  I had been smoking since I was sixteen.  I smoked like I was being paid to do it.  Chain smoking, over three packs a day.  If I ran out of cigarettes I plundered the full ashtrays, finding butts that could be coaxed back to life for a moment or two.

I smoked while I put on my make-up.  I smoked while driving.  I smoked during meals.  I simply could not imagine how to function in the world without a burning stick of tobacco between my lips.

That’s the feeling I have at the prospect of limiting my internet addiction.  But this dependency doesn’t support my New Reality.   I vow to replace the internet habit with a new ritual.  Each time I’m tempted to click on Facebook, I will imagine a fresh idea for my blog.  Or say a gratitude prayer.  Or focus on the editor who is actually alive somewhere in this real world today. She is a living breathing reality.  Sitting at a desk, doing whatever editors do all day.  She is my friend.  (yes, I’m to state these things as if they are here and now.)

(Eeeek!  I just considered checking out youtube.  No Alice.  That is no longer your ritual. You can do this, Alice.  Just breathe and believe.)

The Circle

 

Circling the Sun

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I’ve just completed my Book Club read,  Paula McLain’s Circling the Sun.  The novel is based on Beryl Markham’s early years in Kenya.  Born in 1902, Beryl has become a feminist icon. Her mother abandoned the family when Beryl was quite small, her father was loving but distant.  Beryl grew up largely on her own.  She played and hunted with the natives, became a racehorse trainer and was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west.

Paula McLain is a gifted scribe.  Through her words, the reader endures the simmering African sun, experiences the fear of a cold dark night spent in the bush, feels the horror of being attacked by a lion.

I peruse with a yellow highlighter in hand, underlining the many imaginative phrases and rich metaphors.  Before beginning this blog I galloped through novels, eager to race to the finish line, sometimes even reading the last page first.  Now I find myself considering how an author crafts her sentences.  Which delicious adjectives are strung together to paint the crystal clear images in my mind?

McLain also wrote The Paris Wife, about Ernest Hemingway’s relationship with his first wife. I’ve read The Paris Wife.  I now plan to re-visit it, putting my yellow marker to work.  What better way to study the art of writing than to read excellent books?

Learning about Beryl Markham has sparked an interest to delve more deeply into her life.  She wrote memoir West with the Night, about which Hemingway stated, in a letter to his publisher,                                                                                                                               “Did you read Beryl Markham’s book, West With The Night? …She has written so well, and marvelously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer. I felt that I was simply a carpenter with words, picking up whatever was furnished on the job and nailing them together and sometimes making an okay pig pen. But this girl, who is to my knowledge very unpleasant and we might even say a high-grade bitch, can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves as writers … it really is a bloody wonderful book.”

I just ordered it on Amazon.  I will savor it slowly, highlighting the passages Markham uses to breathe life into her story.  Maybe, sentence by sentence, passage by passage, I too will outgrow pounding together “okay pig pens”.  ( I should be so lucky as to create a Heminwayesqe hog stall!)