This past week I’ve been thinking about my hands a little more than I usually do. It all started on a morning run last Friday. It was a familiar stretch of sidewalk, one I usually run over at least twice a week. It’s well-lit and not strewn with fall leaves like so many parts of the city are right now. There are some funky, out-of-place bricks – but I know that. I had never so much as stumbled on them. Until Friday when I fell. Continue reading
I just spent a long weekend in Albuquerque, New Mexico for a writer’s retreat. I had never been to New Mexico. Or to a writer’s retreat. I had no idea what to expect from either. Both were amazing. Continue reading
This week in my writing class we talked about the importance of having a space dedicated to writing. It was certainly a concept I was familiar with, the idea of an office or a studio. However for me, creating space to write has always been more about carving out time and less about an actual physical location.
The concept of space or studio seems so much easier to apply to the visual arts. Clearly the painter needs a place for huge canvases and the photographer needs a darkroom. My canvas is a blank document on my laptop and my mind is the darkroom in which ideas develop; neither needs much tangible space.
However, there is another function of the artist’s studio that I had not really considered until recently. Above and beyond storage and pure functionality, there is the idea that entering the space causes a shift in consciousness. It signals to the brain, it is now time to shut out the other noise of life and focus on the painting, sculpture, photograph, story. It is time to create.
And when I began to think of it that way, I realized that I do have just such a space. That space is not the space pictured above. Instead it is this:
That’s right. I have a nice office, with a great desk and even a skylight; but my space is a small couch. I’m not really sure exactly how it happened, but that couch is where I started writing and it’s where I still write today. When I sit there each Sunday night my body, my brain, and my soul know it is time to write.
So in the end, I do have a studio. I still believe that the time I carve out is the most important part; but I can see now that having a space helps me make the most of that time. Maybe it’s a bit unconventional, but isn’t that the beauty of the writer’s craft? We can make our studios in coffee shops and libraries. Anywhere from closets to corners of spare rooms to couches.
The most important thing is just to make room for the story.
That stack of journals I brought home from my parent’s house included a sketchbook from the Drawing I class that I took my freshman year of college. Above are two fabulous examples of its contents. So that you can truly appreciate them, I will highlight two things: first, please notice the extremely sunken television screen in the first picture (showing Friends); second, please know that the rose in the second picture was not supposed to be an abstract (in my written reflection I lament how unrealistic it looks).
So drawing wasn’t really my thing. Also not really my thing – jewelry making, stained glass, pottery and crocheting. Oh, and also acting. And especially singing.
I don’t say that these things weren’t my thing because I didn’t like them or even really because I was totally devoid of skill in them. I enjoyed the art, craft and theatre classes I took in college and, in retrospect, was not terrible at any of these things (except the singing, the singing was/is really bad). The thing is, I lacked the passion for them to push myself to be better than average.
When I talk about my college career, I often say that I have a degree in Psychology with a side of Art, a splash of English Literature and a pinch of Theatre. I admit this proudly without an ounce of regret. Sure if I had figured out then that I wanted to be a writer I could have focused on that; maybe majored in journalism or gone on to get a MFA in creative writing. But here’s the thing, I’m not sure it would have worked.
Without that personal exploration in creativity that began in college and continued until I sat down to really focus on writing at age 29; I’m not sure I would be much of a writer. I’m not saying you can’t be a writer when you are young. You absolutely can. I’ve read and been inspired by some amazing young writers. I’m just not sure that I could have been a writer when I was younger and I am grateful for the life experience I have to draw on now.
Just like I’m grateful for sketchbooks full of average drawings and a crate full of lumpy pottery. They are the artifacts of my creative journey.