Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pumpkin Patch, City Style

Grandpa Bill goes back to buy him a mini

So You Think You Can Write

She loves to sew, and is creative and whimsical and experimental and intentional and we never ask her, "So, are you a seamstress now?  Are you going to try out for Project Runway?"

Or if someone plays the piano, and he practices and gets better and maybe even writes a few songs himself, why do we never ask, "Are you trying to sell your own cd?"

She loves to cook.  She tries new recipes; she's getting better all the time, but no one thinks to ask her, "Oh, do you think you'll get selected for a cooking show one day?  Have you sold any cookbooks?  How about one recipe?  Have you at least sold one recipe?"

When someone tells me that they love to paint, I don't usually wonder if they have a degree that qualifies them to pursue that passion.  Do you?

All these creative pursuits are validated for their own sake.  All are allowed to tinker with them, and their value is easily seen whether or not the person pursuing them ever earns a cent as a result.

And then there's writing.

Writing as a creative pursuit comes with more strings attached:  Are you any good?  Do you have anything important to say?  Are you publishable?  Are you/have you/will you ever be published?

As if that is the only result that can justify your putting pen to paper, pixel to memory.

As if only people in the Nutcracker should dance.
As if only geisha should share tea.
As if only botanists should garden.
As if only angels should sing.
As if only two-year-olds should handle play-dough.

I think we all have creative passions to pursue.  Made in the image of God, the ultimate Creator, is it any surprise that the impulse to create something stirs in all of us?

No surprise, either, that we all want to be good at creating something.  We're not flinging mud around hoping it sticks to the wall of our cave in some kind of pattern.  No, we're bringing a piece of ourselves to the table and hoping that someone will be nourished...comforted, entertained, pleased, inspired, empowered, encouraged, expanded, outraged, activated, mobilized...something.  Creativity asks us to give something of ourselves, and we want the offering to count.
Titles and accomplishments aside, I believe when we tap into any creative part of ourselves, we are praising God.  The muse and maker of all.

I don't hear knitters expressing too much angst over whether they are any good, whether anyone will truly enjoy the blanket they made, will it be warm enough, pretty enough, will anyone ever want to buy it?  They like to knit.  So they do.  And they get better all the time, and every little baby wearing a hand-knit baby cap in the hospital nursery looks adorable.  And my feet are snuggly.  And that scarf is amazing.  And this--what is this little squarish knit thing? ...this potholder is, um, a charming conversation starter over dinner with friends.  Where did I even get it?!  I love it anyway.  I love that someone, somewhere, said yes.

Permission to write?  Yes.

What about you?  I hope you'll say yes, too.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Author, The Artist, and The Rambly-Word-Maker

I chose her because she was alone.  Because I was alone.  And I didn't want to be a party crasher amid all the other groups I saw settling in for an author visit at the library.  I was a groupie looking for a little of the kinship that seemed like it should go with the role.

It was going to be too long (and thus too awkward) of a wait if I sat there for twenty minutes without saying anything. 

So being such a rookie at small talk, I start with something obvious like, "Wow, there's a lot of really cool art hung up around the room."

There was an exhibit of paintings with horses in them.  Many of the paintings were quite large.  (That's why the comment was so obvious; we were surrounded by a lot of beautiful art.)

I plunge on, "Take that one over there.  It kind of reminds me of Mondrian."  Why do I say this?  I don't think I'm some kind of art aficionado.  I really don't.  It sort of just spills out.

"That's how I intended it."

um, what?

As it turns out, I have sat myself next to The Artist.  The one whose work is transforming this meeting space into a gallery.  I look around and realize too late that all the pieces feature her horse in reinventions of masterpieces.  Now my remark feels painfully obvious.  Like I was trying to show off, when really, I was just trying to be friendly.

The conversation went ok, though.  The Artist's larger passion was running a horse therapy clinic (for people).  It was interesting to hear about her life.  And she didn't seem offended at my less-than-sparkling comment about her beautiful art.

Got me thinking, though.  I can be tactless.  I have a list of regrettable things that I shoulda/coulda/woulda wish I didn't say.  Things that sort of just spilled out.

The conversation SO could have gone another way.  It could have gone so badly that I would be too mortified to even share it here.  I could have said something tactless and insensitive.  I could have, because sometimes, I do:

Recently, my sister gave my mom a gift.  Nice, right?  My comment? "Oh, someone gave me that once, and I didn't really like it.  I wish I knew you were going to get this for Mom, I would have let you regift mine."

Niiice.  Really classy.  Can't say we all had warm fuzzies after that one. 

I only include that little scenario so you know that when I say tactless I'm not being falsely humble and self-deprecating.  It's truth that has embarrassing evidence to confirm it.

Whether I narrowly avoid embarrassing myself, or say the wrong thing all wrong, I still take comfort in an old friend's little adage: "Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet."  Granted, this "old friend" is a character from a book.  But still.  I met her a long time ago.  And spent a great deal of time with her.  And she was a good-hearted soul who often said the wrong thing, too. 
At least I'm not the only one. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Trail Guide on the Writer's Path

I fell in love the other night.  Quite unexpectedly, quite decidedly.

With a writer named Anne.  It so figures, considering how much I have loved every other Anne I have ever read.

So when Anne Lamott busted on the scene, I was quite smitten.

She has a way with words so authentic, I feel like I have known her and been her friend for a long time.  How does she DO that?!  How does she draw me in and make it seem like she wrote the whole book just for me? It was quite remarkable.

So remarkable, in fact, I read her whole book in one sitting.  Knowing it would cost me.  And willing to pay the price. (A bleary-eyed following day to be endured with large doses of caffeine and lowered expectations of myself)

Her book,  bird by bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life is exactly as titled.  And while I have reservations about whether I would love her fiction or other prose as much as I loved this little guidebook, I have no doubt that it has left its mark.  Most notably, I want to reread it.  And maybe read it a third time.  And I'm simply not a re-reader.

"This is our goal as writers, I think; to help others have this sense of wonder, of seeing things anew, things that can catch us off guard, that break in on our small, bordered worlds.  When this happens, everything feels more spacious.  Try walking around with a child who's going, 'Wow, wow!  Look at that dirty dog!  Look at that burned-down house!  Look at that red sky!' And the child points and you look and you see, and you start going, 'Wow!  Look at that huge crazy hedge!  Look at that teeny little baby!  Look at that scary dark cloud!'  I think this is how we are supposed to be in the world--present and in awe."                                 ~ Anne Lamott