"Art is the only way to run away without leaving home."

~ Twyla Tharp

Writing Adventure #8

Okay, not long ago I suggested using all your senses in your writing, to not just describe how things look. So, let's practice that a little, shall we? For this exercise I want you to leave your desk (yes!) and go somewhere familiar. It's good to go to a place that you know well because you're going to experience it in a new way. When you arrive at your destination (your park, museum, beach, forest, shopping mall, coffee shop, wherever) write down what it looks like. I know, I know, this is what I told you not to do, but I want you to get all the visual stuff out of your system. So spend a few minutes jotting down how the place looks. When you've finished that, describe how it smells. Then write about the sounds you hear. Now it gets harder - how does this place feel? Can you feel a breeze on your skin? Sunlight on your face? Is it a bustling place, crackling with energy? Or is it calm? Finally how does it taste? Now I don't want you to go lick the bark on a tree or anything. I am still on the safe side of sanity (barely, but holding on). But is the air fresh? Or gritty? You can get as poetic as you like here. Maybe this place reminds you of the first time you tasted pistachio ice cream and loved it. It doesn't have to be literal, or make sense to anyone but you. Don't spend a lot of time thinking about your answers - just quickly get your impressions down.

Does your familiar place feel new now? Did you discover things about it you hadn't noticed before? Everywhere is like that - rich, multi-layered. Now try to keep that in mind when you are back at your desk.

Suggestions Anyone?

I have recently become a wee bit obsessed with the painter, Agnes Martin and am very interested in reading the book she wrote entitled, "Writings". But there is a problem. It is out of print, and the cheapest copy I can find on Abebooks is $135.00 US (gasp!). Anyone have any idea where I can find a more affordable copy?

Book Review: Art & Fear

I've been reading some interesting books lately that I want to tell you about. Let's start with Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland. Now the title alone was enough to make me want to read this one, but the description on the back sealed the deal. It reads, in part: "This is a book about what it feels like to sit in your studio or classroom, at your wheel or keyboard, easel or camera, trying to do the work you need to do. It is about committing your future to your own hands, placing Free Will above predestination, choice above chance. It is about finding your own work."

So, you can see this isn't a book specifically about writing, but it is about doing your work as a writer. It is about those things common to all artists: finding inspiration, figuring out what to do with it, doubting yourself, feeling jealous of peers. There is an interesting chapter on the academic world and the artist's role there. But the question that intrigues the authors most is why do so many people who start off making art, stop.

I liked this one because it was written for working artists. And some of the things I read here I have only come across in conversations with other artists (but in book format you can avoid the nasty disagreements and messy affairs - just kidding). Other things written about in Art & Fear I've only had conversations with myself about. (Don't pretend I am the only one here who converses with themselves - what else is there to do when you're brushing your teeth?)

Anyway, I really enjoyed Art & Fear. If it sounds like something you might enjoy I recommend getting your hands on a copy. Mine has found a permanent home on my bookshelf.

Week 81

As the engines began to roar and the plane readied itself for takeoff, Julia wondered for the hundreth time why she was making this journey.

Writing Tip

One way to make your writing stronger is to keep in mind that you have five senses. It is easy to let your work become overly visual. Remember that your characters can hear, smell, taste and touch, as well as see.

Secret Journal Exercise #10

For this exercise I want you to pretend to be a homeless person. You decide the sex of the person, age and why they are homeless. But on the day this journal entry is written this homeless person walks by a newspaper box and realizes it is his/her mother's birthday. Write about their thoughts, feelings, and the things they would most like to say to their mother.

Week 80

None of it would have happened if the August heat hadn't gotten to Chaz and made him forget that not only the air-conditioning in his car was broken, but the parking brake too, when he eased the Buick tight to the curb under the deep shade of that glorious maple tree in front of number fourteen Winchester Drive, which just happened to be on the steepest part of the slight incline of that long, straight street.


"Our task is to say a holy yes to the real things of our life."
~ Natalie Goldberg

(What are the real things of your life?  This is worth thinking about from time to time.  Figure out what they are and then say a holy yes to them.)

Writing Adventure # 7

You're going to need nice weather for this writing adventure so I hope Mother Nature cooperates.  Remember when you were a kid and you used to lie in the grass and find shapes in the clouds?  Well, that's what I want you to do.  Study those clouds until you've got three inspiring things (I found a fire truck, a dachshund and an ice cream cone) and then write a short story with each of the items in it. 

(If you are the kind of person who never stopped lying in the grass and looking for shapes in the clouds even though you, supposedly, grew up long ago then we are kindred spirits.)

Week 79

It was one of those slow summer days when it was better to do anything outdoors rather than be inside separated from the sun, so when Jeff saw the crowd of people lined up so orderly on the sidewalk, he impulsively joined the queue.


"A story is a way to say something that can't be said any other way, and it takes every word in the story to say what the meaning is.  You tell a story because a statement would be inadequate."

~ Flannery O'Connor