Saturday, September 29, 2012

September Song

This year, I've been showing the photos I used in the calendar I create every year. You can find previous months and a link to the text they illustrate here.

As you can imagine, northwestern Ontario is lovely in September. I always have more photos to choose from than room to show them. This month, I used these.

Photos of places so familiar in summer, but now with signs of changing leaves and dying grasses, are extra special, rather like seeing someone you love with new eyes. I don't have kids, but I get the same feeling when I see photos of my parents when they were young -- far younger than I am now. "Oh,  the handsome fellow in his tux, the young girl in overalls posing hands-on-hips -- they are part of who you were, too!"

It's no accident that songs about September are often poignant. It's hard not to look at the sun and wish it would hang around on its summer schedule for a few more months -- and it's hard not to feel that sense of summer slipping away as a metaphor for life. 

But the other months of the year carry their own moments of beauty and inspiration, even if you do have to look for them a little more carefully. Or so I believe.
Wednesday, September 19, 2012

New Year

Fall is still a new year for a lot of us -- whether it's a religious holiday or just the tradition of starting school.

Notebooks, crayons (or colored pencils), sharpeners, erasers, glue (or glue sticks). New books, new ideas to write in them, new problems to puzzle over and (it is to be hoped) solve.

Along those lines, Quinn McDonald, a writer and creativity coach based in Arizona, recently wrote a post called Re-Packing Your Brain.

In it, she says, "Every time we start a new project, change our business, choose a new perception, we have to 're-pack our brain.'"

Wait...we choose our perceptions? And re-packing our brain around new perceptions can, in her words, give us a "new-found eagerness"?

How potent that is -- but yeah, isn't that what new starts are all about? 

In the past few weeks, I have adopted a new routine (still doing that 25 minutes of suffering!) and, wonder of wonders, I have been writing in the morning. I'm not (not, SO NOT) a morning person. Also, I imagine that I am too important, what with all those deadlines for others, to postpone to the afternoon the work and volunteer projects.

But when I changed my imagination to be my ally in getting new writing done, I could see that my, uh, importance was also largely imaginary. Most (99%) of the time, most issues (99%) can wait. My new perception lets my imagination now take me to my work in progress in the morning, and yes, with a newfound eagerness.

Quinn's blog, by the way, is well worth cruising through, especially if you're feeling the need for new ideas and perspectives around art. I also enjoy her book. Hope you do, too!
Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Just Because

I have written before about transcending my upbringing. I have also written about zentangles in the context of projects that don't go the way you think they will.

Recently, I've noticed another way in which zentangles help me (in the words of a former boyfriend, long ago) "get over my own bad self."

I draw zentangles for no reason. Just because. I do it to do it. I have no plans for them beyond the doing of them. It's PLAY.

Hear that? That noise you heard was transcendence, folks.

In my family of origin, we had activities and we took lessons. (We also had time for lazing around, dilly-dallying, reading, and dawdling, when we could escape our mother's watchful eye. Thank goodness for siblings.) As we got older, we were expected to become more serious about our activities. I swam competitively; I took music lessons. I was expected to practice these pursuits as regularly and conscientiously as I did homework (which was top priority in our home). Because if you're going to do something, you should do it as well as possible. Maybe get a scholarship. Maybe become a professional. Who knows where excellence can lead? So went the talk in my family.

All of which had some wonderful benefits. I swam competitively (with varying degrees of seriousness and success, but enough seriousness to do organized workouts several times a week) until I was 30, when I realized I was finished. As an adult, I played in some semi-professional groups -- even practicing voluntarily and enjoying it immensely.

But for all the benefits, pursuing creative activities seriously can also feel like pressure, not play. Although I enjoy writing, that's sure not why I do it. It's my life's work. Sometimes I don't enjoy the doing of it, but I always enjoy having done it. It's rewarding, not always fun. I welcome that -- it's the "un-fun" parts, the rejection, the revision, the "not-yet-ready-to-submit" versions that I learn from. I am serious about writing, in that I seek challenges to stretch my skills and I do it for a purpose.

And drawing is *not* my life's work. It's fun. It's play. It is, as my husband says, worth doing badly. The point is, in the doing of it, to do it. And I revel in it.
Wednesday, September 5, 2012

August Company

It is, of course, September, but I couldn't resist the title. 

In August, I learned that my essay "All I Can Say" will be included in The Best Canadian Essays 2012, published by Tightrope Books. The book will be available in stores in October.

This essay was also shortlisted for the 2009 CBC Literary Awards and appeared in Room 34.3

My thanks go out to Clélie Rich and the other editors at Room, and to Chris Doda and Ray Robertson of Tightrope Books.

I am also extremely grateful to Eric, an extraordinary teacher and human being, and to my friend, poet Veronica Patterson. One afternoon over coffee, I said, "I went to the funeral of a service dog last week." She leaned forward, eyes wide, and said, "And what was THAT like?" By way of answer, I started this essay.