Monday, April 24, 2017

Minding My Muse 08: Domains of Creativity

A year ago I responded to the writing prompts in Priscilla Long's Minding the Muse. That process helped me explore and re-enter my current memoir project as well as to diversify my creative activities. I share these unedited journal entries as inspiration for your own creative explorations.

“Have you put into place or could you begin a daily practice of observation – even if for five minutes – of writing or sketching what you perceive with your senses, whatever is directly in front of you?” (Priscilla Long, Minding the Muse, p. 54)

I like this idea – observation, even if only five minutes – of what my senses perceive, then write or draw it. I don’t know how to draw but the attempt, even to think about an attempt causes me to see differently, see parts and angles and expressions and colors. I bought a new sketch pad and watercolor pencils yesterday at UW Bookstore. I have not yet opened the box or marked the first page. I lack to knowledge, the skill. I do not know how to make art.

But perhaps it’s about observation rather than art. No one need see my rudimentary attempts to see and sketch. I simply need to be brave enough to try.

“Do you tend to work in the same way all the time? Could you shake it up a bit, add a random element? What would a lateral move mean in terms of a piece you are working on right now?
(Priscilla Long, Minding the Muse, p. 54)

I have not been working much at all this summer. The memoir sits idle. So how would I re-enter and how would I move sideways to generate new ideas or lost memories? Color, art, music would help. Daily writing would definitely make a difference. If I get stuck, perhaps writing in other POVs – mom’s, Arturo’s, Maureen’s, Judi’s.

And then there’s the abecedarian that might generate ideas/memories, and the idea to copy Rivera’s paintings if only I could develop the skill. All these things could put my back in Mexico – place and time.

But was I even living consciously, or merely floating through, making the movements, saying the words, but somehow not fully present, not in the present, not creating real conscious memories when I lived in Mexico? I remember the French class, the ballet class. I was alone. My brain was active. So was my body. But I do not remember any of my teaching pedagogy classes, only French. So odd.

“What alternate domains (spheres of activity or knowledge) might you investigate in order to get novel ideas, structures, directions?” (Priscilla Long, Minding the Muse, p. 54)

I remember ballet and French. I remember piano and drawing in Santa Cruz. Of the four only dance gave me a sense of confidence, that feeling that I could achieve. But I remember all and they gave me something, though I’d be hard pressed to identify what it was that causes me to remember. Clearly I need to try art again – with or without classes.

Other domains to again explore that will be elements of the memoir: letters and journal. Shall I write letters again? Save the lost art in some small way? To whom? My mother's sisters? The letters would be much appreciated, I’m sure.

And the diary or journal. Perhaps my morning pages, these pages of thoughts and exercises, these are journal pages. But I also need to write about my life, about the wedding, about being the mother of the now-married daughter, the sister of a woman fighting of cancer, on the edge, not knowing what to do, how to help.

So: art, letters, journal – revisited domains of creativity to explore

Prior posts in this series:

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Memoir & Why I Do It

Are you in the Seattle area? Are you interested in memoir writing? Do you like good coffee (or maybe wine or beer)?

Please join me at C&P Coffee Company in West Seattle on Wednesday, April 26th. I'll be reading new work about memoir and why I write it.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Minding My Muse 07: Sharing Scribbles

I don't often reread journal posts, but in sharing these responses to Priscilla Long’s Minding the Muse A Handbook for Painters, Composers, Writers, and Other Creators I'm doing just that. And frankly, it's a little unnerving, both the reading eight-month-old notebook scribbles and sharing them.

Priscilla Long, Minding the Muse, p. 45
“Whose work are you looking it? Do you go outside your own genre to look and to learn? What are you reading? What new directions are igniting your imagination? What craft moves or new approaches are you dipping into? Have you done anything new lately?”

At the moment I am looking at nothing more than P. Long’s Minding the Muse and I’m reading Pam’s first draft of Marcella. New approaches, craft moves? I’m dipping into the idea of interlacing original journal entries and letters into the memoir text. I’m toying with time – Mexico 1980s, England 2010. I have no idea how this memoir (or true-life fiction) will end up coming together. So yes, I need to be reading memoirs from the greats, works that are novel and play with sources and time. What do I have in my bookcase and what can I find? Only three memoirs plus Maya Angelou’s Letter to My Daughter which I’ve already read but will take another look.

Priscilla Long, Minding the Muse, p. 45
“Do you have a hobby or interest – perhaps playing a musical instrument or cooking or dancing -  that refreshes and feeds your creative work? Or do you in fact work in more than one genre?

I would call reading a hobby. And cycling. Reading shows me what others are creating – both weak and strong. Cycling clears my mind. I’d still like to dabble in sketching and color, but when and how? Alone with this small book on perspective is only annoying. Maybe I should just go out and look and watch and draw. Or maybe I should find a class – time and money – that can work into my schedule. But first and foremost, I need to write!

Priscilla Long, Minding the Muse, p. 45
“How do you go about systematically deepening your craft skills? Could you do more? Is that a class you might take, whether in your own area of work or in a completely different area, that might stimulate and inform your own working process?”

I have done nothing for a long time to improve my skills, not since 2002-2003 UW Extension,  the one and only course I’ve ever taken. This is not because I think there’s nothing for me to learn, but rather sort of twofold.

First, I strongly believe that writing, like many things, is something one learns by doing. I have written a lot in the past fourteen years and in doing so, I have improved my skills. That’s not to say that a class would be a bad thing, only that I don’t want, haven’t wanted, to be distracted from my current project, whatever it was. I see too many writers who would benefit from more seat time and less class time, in my opinion. But I could just be making excuses.

Because second, I find it hard to select and pay for a class. Scheduling is a challenge, homework that would distract me or pull me out of the memoir would be annoying. And then there’s the money. And honestly, I’m not sure I want anyone telling me what to do. Yet, I admit there’s much I could learn and explore. I could, should take a class for fun, for play. In which case, I’d probably prefer a visual art class! So where? And when? And why haven’t I done it?

Prior posts in this series: