A Return To Work

After two months, I sat down to work on my novel (working title Butterfly Wings). 

Somewhere in mid-July, I gave up my Camp Nano goals. I was already struggling to meet my word count goals, and then my uncle died. The next week was a blur, between the funeral and recovering a bit. I did not recover enough to get out of my slump.

Then my elderly mother fell, got a concussion, gashed her brow that required nine stitches, and broke the fifth metacarpal bone in her right hand. The cast caused arthritis flare ups in her hand, and she spent most of August in and out of pain. I brought her to the hand specialist twice, and he gave her a cortisone shot in the hand. She yelled out in pain. I crumpled.

Then, just as her hand was starting to feel better, she got sciatica. After a couple of days where it only got worse, I got her into see her rheumatologist who had treated her arthritis. I wish I had put it all together sooner. She got steroids and an RX for physical therapy for her back to match her RX for PT for her hand.

In the meantime, a book I had wanted to read finally came into the library: The War of Art. Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles. by Steven Pressfield. As soon as the next paycheck is in our account, I am picking up this gem. The layout makes this topic eminently readable: three parts broken down by subjects that are no more than a couple of pages long. Many of the topics are one page. If you have a particular issue, just mark the page. Reread it when you need it.

The second section called Turning Pro enumerates the ways that amateurs differ from professionals. One important way is that the professional knows that a craft can be honed, does not things personally, and strives to keep improving. Nothing stops them. They write come rain or shine. Pros know that inspiration comes when you sit down to write. Anything. Just write.

After lunch today, I took my laptop to Starbucks, got a decaf, and sat down to read over my novel starting at the beginning. I reread the story summary, and began reading and editing what I had done. Since I no longer remember where I was, I need to start over. I worked a couple of hours on it before heading home to prep for yoga class.

On my way home, I realized that what I wrote wasn’t as bad as I thought. First off, it was never bad in the first place. If I get feedback from my writers group, I know I will get many suggestions. New eyes will bring new perspectives. Then I can return to the work again and improve it. But it’s never going to be anything but written once if I never return to look at it again.

What are your dreams? What are mine? They are what we decide they are. I have thought I wanted to be an artist since I was a child. I had no one tell me otherwise. So why not? Just move forward. No one really cares what you do. Really. They don’t. You might say that someone would be threatened by you pursuing your dreams. And you need their approval why? Unless your entire life depends on that one person, you have no excuse.

The truth of the matter is that no one owns us or can tell us what to do or hurt us or get in our way. We only think they can.

Currently Reading: Daybook by Ann Truitt

Ann Truitt (1921-2004) was a major American artist in the mid-20th century. Although I recently learned about her, I cannot remember how I came across this artist. When I discovered that she wrote Daybook as a journal of her own discovery process as an artist, I knew I had to read it.

Ann was a minimalist sculptor, writer, and mother. Her writings share her feelings about whatever she was going through at the time: her time at Yaddo, an artists colony in Saratoga Springs, NY; her financial struggles before and after her divorce; her childhood; and how she came to be who she was as an artist.

Instead of feeling a huge gap between me and this artist, I feel close to her. Her journey is my journey. Where she has gone, I can go but in my own direction. Where she was, I have passed there. Here is one quote where I know what she means (italics mine):

I begin seriously to contemplate taking a routine job of some sort but am loathe to do so. Not out of laziness but because I fear the kind of sickening failure implicit in betrayal of self, the spending of my energy drop by drop instead of into the waves that lift my work into existence.

For most of my life, I lived an existence of sickening self betrayal. I know that hard knot in the stomach put there by an internal screaming that tells you, both at once, that you cannot fail at this thing called life  and at the same time screams that you must cannot open yourself and follow your hearts desires. I know the shallow panic of a closing throat and the internal silent hysterics that are whipped up from the prohibition that no one can know how I really feel. I ate the pressures of self submission into conformity until touched by another’s stressful requests, which then exploded all over the two of us. I was left shaking in shame; they were left confused and afraid.

Ann Truitt’s Daybook is the journey of herself and the journey of artists everywhere. I am not sculptor, but I see and feel the life she crafted as she made her way forward through and into her art. I can craft that for myself, maybe not in color blocks, but in words, in story, and in the sharing of the self. I share my Self in the hopes that someone else can see their tracks in mine, their hopes in mine, and their dreams in mine.