I wanted to come up with some wonderful title about the interesection of writing and art in my life so I could write more posts using the same wonderful title about the interesection of writing and art in my life but, you see where this is going right? I spent fifteen minutes brainstorming titles and got nothing. I seriously, I mean SERIOUSLY, considering not writing the post until I came up with the perfect title which would have meant, of course, that the post would never get written.
Luckily I caught myself in the middle of that vicious cycle and I stopped. I told myself it was just a blog post. Just get the darn thing written. (Ah, if only that worked on me for novels.)
I spent some time this weekend printing out some photographs to use in some art journals for my poetry. I printed out all the inspiration photos from any of the 15 Words or Less photopoetry exercises I’ve done over the years on ’s blog. I printed out all the in inspiration photos to go with the Native Plant haiku I wrote for National Poetry Month a few years ago. This meant a lot of fighting with the color printer, some good prints made and some so-so prints made. And eventually I pulled out some matte photos of the same stuff I had printed at the drug store thinking I’d use some of them too. My idea was to collage the photos into some of the lovely blank journals I have painted recently and then print the short poems in the journal along with the inspiration photo. I had lots of journals prepped because my go-to thing when doing art is to do a color-wash on a page of a blank journal.
In my head I had this picture of a journal full of watercolor pages with these pictures and my poems and then I’d do some collage with my beautiful papers and then some of the doodling I love. I didn’t want a scrapbook. I wanted art. And in my head, it was a masterpiece.
In reality, at the moment, none of the project is making me happy. The thin paper has photos that don’t look very sharp and the drugstore photos look like, well, modern photographs which don’t match up with the watercolor backgrounds. I’m two steps away from tossing it all in a box and putting in the laundry room so I can forget about it for a while. I’d much rather just grab a blank journal and start covering the pages with color. It’s easy. It’s fun. And I already know how to do it.
And I realized that’s what happens with my writing too. When the going gets tough, I go write something else. Beginnings? No problem. I’m great at first chapters, first pages. Poems that will never be published? Sure thing, I’ll get right on that. Novels that are broken or unwritten or finished but need to be tossed and started over? Stories that exist as a perfect vision in my head that never make it onto the page? Got lots of those too.
Now I’m not beating myself up (much) about my habits of starting and my failures in the follow-through department. I’m just noticing the pattern. And I’m thinking that maybe what I have been worrying about so much of the time, the not finishing, the starting way too many things and then discarding them, maybe it’s not always a bad thing. Maybe it’s just “my” thing. My process. Like working a puzzle. Some people might put the outside edges together and then look for matching colors and work within that group of colors, putting things together. Other people might just start in one corner and pick up piece after piece after piece to try against the same spot. They’ll eventually make the connection, it’s just going to take them longer.
I don’t always work that way but when I do I have allowed myself to feel “less than.” And by that I mean even while I’m doing it, I know I’m taking the longest, hardest way possible and I know other people would do it differently and get there faster and the fact that I’m not doing it the same way as other people has often made me feel less than them. Less than right. Less than the creative person I know I am.
And that’s wrong.
Now I can see that my long meandering way is just that, my long meandering way to the same end, just with a different view as I journey.
This morning I took another look at the photographs printed on paper and printed like photographs. And I looked at the colored journal pages. I gazed at the blank white pages of another journal, still tempted to just grab my watercolor crayons and do something easy.
But I thought about Max, the dog in one of my novels-in-progress. I thought about how I found that newspaper clipping last week that confirmed the crazy painful plot idea I had was valid. I knew from the start that Max was going to be a hard book to write but that it was also going to teach me a lot about writing. And I got that tingle. That little tingle we get when we know we’re on the right path even if it looks like we’re going to fall off the edge of the cliff with just one more step. I love that feeling. It confirms that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, even if I’m marching to an off-beat drummer.
I took another look at my piles of poems and photographs. I torn some photos into pieces. I grabbed some paint and glue. And I started to think about how I could create a different sort of art, a different masterpiece than the original vision. I don’t know how long it will take. I’ll only know that when I am done, I will have told another story my way, the only way I know how to do it.