Sunday, November 30, 2014

Hitting the Wall

Well, I’ve been working on this National Novel Writing Month project. I have been working on characterization of both the protagonist and antagonist. I’ve been using the book, The 90 Day Novel: Unlock the Story Within. It has been a wonderful. I love the writing prompts and the process of working on protagonist and antagonist through evaluating their motivations and needs. I’ve been writing and writing. Sometimes the words just flow and I’ve even had flashes of the ending of the story. I’ve seen the end in my mind. I know where it’s going.

I got to the 30 day prompt in this lovely book and I hit the wall. The prompt for that day was “Write the Story”. What!? You were telling me to hold the story loosely. I don’t have a plan. I’m stuck. I came to a screeching halt. My mind went totally blank. I didn’t expect such a response from my internal fear button. I hit that wall and stopped writing. I had the disease-writer’s block.

What’s the story?  What’s the plot line? How do I get here? How do I even start?

So I closed my word processor. I walked away. I was uncomfortable and I was ready to give up. I didn’t know where to go or how to begin. I felt like a failure. I can’t write a story. I don’t have the skill. Wait-what did you just say? Skill- well, a skill can be learned. I opened some books and began to read. The appendix of the The 90 Day Novel: Unlock the Story Within was very helpful in alleviating the fear. I am very grateful to the author for showing his process and bearing those first drafts for the world to see. The first drafts from the author were just like I write. He had a ton of telling instead of showing. I beat myself up for that, but hey maybe everyone does it that way. The rewrite was amazing. It showed the first vs. the published version of his story. There was an amazing transformation. I took that lesson to heart and felt the truth of first drafts are rubbish, but don’t stop. You don’t know what you have until you are done.

Now, I needed a plan for how to begin. I went to The Story Template: Conquer Writer’s Block Using the Universal Structure of Story. Yes, I can do this! Each part of the story is listed and brief descriptions are given. I have a plan. I can get a terrible first draft out. Then fix all the problems in the rewrite. Or maybe fix them in the second and third rewrite. Don’t stop. Never give up and never surrender. Look for a path through the darkness.

I’ll keep you posted. Word count: 20,141.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Progress of Sorts

I have been writing fairly religiously on my National Novel Writing Month project. I find that I rarely hit the average word count needed each day to finish on time. (The program shows when I'll finish which will be sometime early next year if I keep to my current rate.) Shut up and write on the novel. Procrastinating here. Yes, yes, I am.

So what am I to do? Baby steps! Keep showing up to the page-of course. If I need baby steps, I will take baby steps. I am feeling the whole internal critic thing happening. That critic, Mrs. Olson, keeps saying that I don't have a story. I have nothing to say. I feel the crush of the negative and fight to keep returning to the page. The only way to tell if there is a story is to actually finish. Don't give up. When you go through hell keep on going...You can make it through to the other side. You really don't know what you have until you put it away for awhile and then return to it.

In looking back over my previous year's work, I see that some of them are actually going somewhere. I could finish them and they might actually be worth editing. If I actually finish a novel or two, that might silence the critic for a day or two before she thinks of another way to attack me...oh I can hear her now. (So what you finished 50,000 words-no one's going to read it) My response will be: How do you know? I can put the work out there for people to see and then I'll know.

Here's to showing up to the page and continuing to believe in my own creativity. See you on the page.

Love and Light!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

National Novel Writing Month

November is the month to write a novel. Now, I have signed up and started many times. My login tells me I have participated for 5 years...oh my. And not one is finished.

So I'm going public. I am writing a novel. This month-November. I will keep the faith and keep plugging away. I will do this. It's only day 6. I can get to 50,000 words. Do these words count?

Hopefully, the fear of shame will keep me writing...see you in December.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Fire has the Last Word:

Mary Paliescheskey-2014

Working in clay requires a few steps and two firings in the kiln. The process isn’t complete until the piece comes out of the final firing. You never know what will happen in the fire of the kiln. The fire does what it wants -Magic or disaster.
The process begins with the building of the piece in clay. I use Long Beach White which can be high fired and is basic clay. Prior to the first firing, the piece needs to dry completely. At this point the clay is very fragile and can be easily broken. If you pick it up by the edge-that edge may just snap off. This is such a sad thing to happen to something that you spent time creating. It is considered greenware.
Drying clay looks
the same as bisque
This first point is where many things can go wrong. First, if the piece isn’t completely dry, you may open the kiln to find a broken piece. The water left in the piece will expand to water vapor from the high heat in the kiln. This rapid rise in temperature causes an expansion of liquid to gas-resulting in the water now taken up a much larger amount of space. The expansion breaks the piece. Another problem could be that you left an air bubble when you joined two pieces of clay. You’d think that wouldn’t matter. A gas is a gas, but as Boyle’s Law tells us; the volume of a gas is dependent upon its temperature. The higher the temperature the larger the volume that is needed. Again the piece can be broken. Open the kiln and see what you have…
 Once it is bisque fired (survived the first firing), you are ready to glaze the object. Choices and choices-there are many. What color glaze do you want? Are you using just one glaze or several? If you over lay glazes, you end up with three colors. The first color, the second color, and the third where the two mix. And guess what! The order that you put the glazes on matters. Color A then Color B gives Color C, BUT Color B then color A gives and entirely different color. There are really unlimited choices. I hope you can make a decision. Now here comes the surprise. Even when you think you know what will happen with the glazes. It’s only a guess. The fire in the kiln decides how things turn out.
You don’t believe me. Well, look at these two goblets. I glazed them in exactly the same glazes in exactly the same order, on the same day. Fired in the kiln and out they came a bit different. I have actually never seen the brown color with Carbon Trap Shino before this. Surprise!
The fire really has the last word.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Kill your Critic

We all start out so powerful. As children, we have to be taught to be ashamed or that we are bad at something. A toddler has unbounded courage and belief in themselves. If they didn’t have it, how would they ever learn to walk? Can you imagine if they had that internal critic voice? Oh no, I can’t do this. I’m going to fail. I’ll never get any better at walking. I should just give up right now and sit back down. – Never. They fall down and get right back up until they are running. Imagine what we could accomplish if we never internalized the critic.

How does this happen to us? When does it all go wrong? We aren’t born this way.

I don’t remember how it all started for me. I’m sure that you can’t remember that first instance of the voice either, but I do remember one person in particular. She had a strong effect on my self-image. She was a teacher after all. From her I learned that I was not an artist. Wow. Right. For decades I believed her.

From Julia Cameron and The Artist’s Way, I learned that she was my critic and I must kill her-metaphorically speaking. A part of that recovery was making a picture of her-crazy scary looking huh. But that is how I see her with that fake orange dyed hair and always frowning. Telling everyone what they are doing wrong without acknowledging the effort or idea. I do have some compassion for her as time goes past. Maybe she was criticized. Maybe she was a failed artist and couldn’t see the worth of others as being valuable. Okay maybe she was just an evil ‘B’. Who knows what she is…. I followed the path and don’t allow her to shape my self-image. She played into my fear (False evidence appearing real).

Still be on the lookout for these critics. They are all around you. They show up in your life to pour their negativity over your joy in being creative. Have you heard them? They say things like why are you writing a novel? You’ll never sell it. You’ll never make money at that. No one would ever pay you for that sculpture. They place it into the framework of being concerned about you. They worry for you. No, for personal reasons that you may never know, they want to dump a wet blanket over your dreams.

Kill them. Remove them from your circle of trust. If they do it once, maybe try them again. If they do it twice, STOP sharing with them. They are not worthy. Share with people who support you. People who will tell all their friends how wonderful and brave you are. Creativity and art do not require that others pay for it. All that is required is that it feeds your soul. Feed yourself and watch your skill and creativity grow.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Eclectic Artist

I’m easily bored. Therefore, I work in a variety of media. I just can’t stay with the same thing. Part of it is that in order to create in ceramics, I have to go to the studio at the Irvine Fine Arts Center. I don’t own a kiln-nor do I have the space for one in my apartment patio. (I’m sure the landlord would just love it if I put in a non-standard electrical outlet to accommodate the kiln-Not!) Sooo I knit, draw, paint, write. I’m random that way.

Tree Spirit
Ceramics is where my heart is. When I work in the clay, everything else vanishes. I am truly living in the moment. It’s like a meditation. There is nothing, but the creative process. All the noise in the studio fades away. Most days I only notice that it’s closing time because the noise level has changed so I look up and return to reality. Oh my-is that the time? It is the best feeling ever.
Self Portrait: Pen and Ink

Drawing and painting can also get me to the place of stillness. It’s just harder because I usually work from a photograph or physical object. I am creating, but there is a real reference point. At this point in my journey, I don’t get to the vanishing point with my drawing. I have on foot in this world and haven’t vanished into the creativity. Still it is wonderful and freeing. I feel the beauty of the creative process. A blank page suddenly becomes an impression of what I see. Beauty comes from the void.

Books for Kindle
Writing is creation from nothing as well. I work on my novel-slow, slowly goes the draft. In the blank places, I work on my annotated classics. I feel that many students are missing out on reading. I hope to provide annotated books so that they can understand them within the same book. No need to get cliff notes or spark notes. Just read and enjoy. All the stories are the same-time and vocabulary changes and makes it harder to understand.

Knitting I do that because I just can’t keep still. Watching TV is a time waster. I have to be doing something productive so I knit. My hands are busy creating something from nothing. I’m not being lazy which is very important to me. Family values instilled at my father’s knee. Make something with your hands.
Favorite Sweater

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Knitting: St John's Wort Scarf

I have been working a full time job teaching high school. I’ve been away from my artistic self for too long. The long hours at work don’t leave much energy for creative thoughts. I’ve been slowly loosing myself. I spend a few hours a week working on a scarf or two, but it’s such a small amount of time. I am grateful for the time I get, but I’ve been feeling frustrated.

Small blessings happen all the time. I injured my foot and got put on medical leave. Now I have time for knitting.

I started this scarf some time ago, but here I am watching TV with my foot elevated per doctor’s orders. Keep off the foot. I may see a scarf finished by the end of the two weeks. I love this pattern. It was part of a sweater that I made years ago. It was the pattern on the collar and sleeves.

I must remember this lesson and make time for my art each week. I will remember that I need to feed my soul by creating art out of nothing. The ball of yarn becomes a thing of beauty. The simple string becomes something warm and cozy. Clothing is necessary, but the creation of beauty is for the soul.

Find what feeds you and remember to make time for yourself. You need to recharge. You cannot get water from a dry well.