Friday, November 09, 2007

Creative Homework

First things First
Happy Birthday to my daughter. She is fourteen today. As I type this ten girls are down in the basement singing "Breakaway" on the Play Station version of American Idol. She made a nine layer, three tier cake- all by herself, covered in fondant. It's a work of art. One of her friends commented that it looks like it belongs in a Dr. Seuss book- it's fun and whimsical, just like Katie.

And here's the card I made her...

Something in the Air
There's this creative energy pulsing all around me today. Everywhere I turn there's something I see or read that sparks something in me. I read the latest issue of "Somerset Studio." I love getting a peek into the creative process of all artists, not just writers. Sometimes especially not writers since it gives me a glimpse into a way of seeing that I don't normally get. The featured artist taught herself to draw the human figure by taking life drawing classes. She now draws on her own everyday from a pile of magazines, giving herself 6o seconds each to draw all the figures in each issue. I loved doing those kinds of gesture drawings in art school. I loved the looseness. How you weren't expected to create a photo image likeness- just the gesture of the pose. I think of writing practice like that. I choose a topic and write on it for three pages. No wrong way to do it. Just a way to see how my mind works. See the gesture of my mind in a particular moment.

I'm so impressed by her dedication. She is anxious to get to her studio. She tries to carve out two 12 hour days a week. She is in love with the process. I think I have lost that feeling lately. I've been so focused on showing up to my story and writing something, anything, just to keep the thread of it going but is merely showing up enough? I thought it was. Maybe it was enough at some point but not any longer. Now I am longing for something more intimate than just putting in my time. I need to find some practices that make me yearn to get to my studio or desk. I need to make it fun again.

I am reading to the latest issue of "O" and found this website by Miranda July (I also rented her movie tonight before I found this website- it must be a Miranda July weekend- I can read her book of stories that I bought earlier in the summer too). It's filled with creative assignments like draw Raymond Carver's cathedral or photograph a scar and write about it or spend time with a dying person. I love the idea of creative assignments. I once created a calendar that was filled with them based on different themes for each month. I need to make a list of creative homework again- not just for writing. That will be a post for this month. Stay tuned...

When I heard Janet Fitch read in Ann Arbor a couple of weeks ago she told us of a rejection she received that said something like "good enough story but what's unique about your sentences?" This sent her into a fierce study of poetry and of loving language. I went through a period of reading a poem a day out loud and I think that is something I need to get back to. Here is one by Mary Oliver:

A Dream of Trees

There is a thing in me that dreamed of trees,
A quiet house, some green and modest acres
A little way from every troubling town,
A little way from factories, schools, laments.
I would have time, I thought, and time to spare,
With only streams and birds for company.
To build out of my life a few wild stanzas.
And then it came to me, that so was death,
A little way away from everywhere.

There is a thing in me still dreams of trees,
But let it go. Homesick for moderation,
Half the world’s artists shrink or fall away.
If any find solution, let him tell it.
Meanwhile I bend my heart toward lamentation
Where, as the times implore our true involvement,
The blades of every crisis point the way.

I would it were not so, but so it is.
Who ever made music of a mild day?

Mary Oliver

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