Art, Writing Life

Drawing a Joyful Noise

I got out my colored pencils today and made a holy mess! It is an illustration (sort of) for a short essay I wrote earlier entitled, “In All Fairness, Salmon Is Disgusting.” You see it now, right?

Drawing/painting is one of my absolute favorite things in life and the one thing at which I am righteously bad and totally at peace with that fact. I am legally blind and supremely ungifted at visual art, so, for me, art-making is the equivalent of a tone deaf person “making a joyful noise.”

Hopefully you’ll be seeing more of my (sort of) illustrations on this blog. Making bad art joyfully is one of the most freeing things any artist who hopes to joyfully make good art can do. I need this in my life. I need the freedom. Perfectionism has had me so pent up for so long, I need to remind myself it’s OK not to be gold all the time and it’s OK not to be gold right out in public where everyone can see it.

So here I am… Not gold… but just about every other color of the rainbow.

-M.

Writing Advice, Writing On Writing

Affirmative Writing

I started a major creative nonfiction writing project today. While I am excited, I am mostly terrified. I am telling myself not to let it grow too big before it is even born. I am telling myself not to tell people any specifics. I am telling myself not to plot the end before I have begun the beginning.

Slow slow slow. Steady steady steady. I am telling myself this too.

Write your time then forget about the writing until it’s time to write tomorrow.

I wrote the following affirmation and copied it at the top of what may or may not be page one. I will copy and paste it every day at the top of what may or may not be, that day, also page one.

The affirmation:

I allow myself to be a beginner. I allow myself to write the most miserable shit that has ever been written. I let go of the outcome. I consciously let go of the outcome. I release. I accept.

I accept. I accept. I accept.

-M.

Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, Personal Essay, Prose, Writing Life, Writing On Writing

Perhaps I Should Stick to Writing

What have I carried and gnawed over?

I was going to be a film composer. I had a stack of Film Score Monthly tall and leaning as Pisa’s tower. I looked forward to that mag coming each month the way you look forward to unexpected money in the mail. I carried it with me wherever I went until it was read from one end to the other and back again. I knew all the current composers. If they had trading cards, I would have owned them all and memorized all their stats.

I bought a Korg electric piano for my first apartment. It was the first thing I ever bought on credit. It was $1,200. The credit card company called me to make sure I meant the purchase. Oh yes. Yes I meant it. I was $1,200 and more worth of serious.

I took piano, violin, and theory lessons from a Hungarian who escaped Communism and had almost more stories about that than he had musical wisdom. I didn’t mind. I was in it for the long haul. I did composition exercises from his Hungarian music university textbooks. I couldn’t read the explanations, but I could do the musical math.

I wrote songs for each of my family members. I wrote songs for each of my friends. I wrote a song for Clementi from whose sonatinas I learned keyboard basics.

I made a giant packet of all my composition exercises and all my songs and put it in the box of the head of the composition department at Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music. I swaggered back to my apartment and my credited piano and awaited his call. When he did call and invite me to see him, I strutted confidently into his office, ready for my new career to begin in a bright flash of praise and appreciation.

The professor brought out my composition exercises first. He showed me every mistake I made. He said I didn’t know anything about something called “voice leading.” He pointed out every crooked stem on every not perfectly round note.

He went for my singing next. He had me sing a major scale and I came out with it easily. He asked me to sing a minor scale and I faltered, reverting to the major on three different attempts. He said he would have to tell me someday why that happens.

Finally, he brought out my Clementi. He said he didn’t understand why I started it on what was clearly not the downbeat. He said it sounded nothing like Clementi. He said he had composition students who could do Clementi in their sleep.

He said, “You obviously have a love for tonal music, but a complete lack of the talent necessary to create it.”

He broke my world.

I wrote him a letter the next day. I told him in two pages how I was going to prove him wrong. I wrote something about the shining prize on the top of the hill that I would do anything to attain. I said a lot of inspirational things. I was on fire.

He wrote back that I had a great talent for writing. He wrote that I should, perhaps, stick to writing.

Every time I sit down to write, I gnaw on that.

-M.

66 Day Poetry Habit, Announcements

Day 11 of my 66 Day Poetry Habit

I wrote a poem today but you’re not going to see it. I feel like hell and today’s poem shows it. But I wanted to be accountable, so here’s me being accountable and running a haggard eleventh lap with one seriously shitty poem tucked under my shirt. Nothing to see here. Nothing at all to see.

-M.

(Day 11 of my 66 Day Poetry Habit)

Writing Life, Writing On Writing

Context! Context! I Hear It in My Sleep

My poetry often tends toward context-less sketches.

Today’s, for example, is just about wings—red, crepe paper wings. There is no big meaning. There is no money line. It’s just…. here’s this picture. Is there beauty there?

Does poetry need a money line, or is the image enough? Is it enough to sketch and offer the sketch without offering an interpretation of the sketch?

I feel like it is but just about everyone I’ve ever encountered either teaching a workshop or participating in a workshop with me thinks differently.

I painted red, crepe-paper wings today standing up to a hurricane. That’s it. No context. No background to give you an idea of where the “wearer of the wings” is, where she came from, or who she is. I think the picture is pretty enough on its own. If a visual artist had to go into a long expository about what the pearl meant and why it was significant and what that girl was doing there and why her head was turned that way and the deeper meaning you should get out of it, it would be an unsuccessful painting. I feel the same can be true of some poems.

Here. Here’s the picture. Sometimes that’s enough.

Sometimes money lines get tiresome.

This could be me simply justifying bad poetic behavior—a naughty habit like the creative equivalent of hanging up the phone without saying “good-bye” or “I love you.” I’m not above rationalization. I may be above context, but not rationalization. Never rationalization.

How important is context really? How much can I get away with, or, more to the point, how little?

Am I a minimalist, or am I lazy?

Anthony Hopkins looks into the camera and asks, “Am I a good man, or a bad man?”

-M.

Writing Life

While procrastinating folding the laundry, I found a book about how to overcome procrastination. I was looking for a writing course to have something to do instead of folding the laundry. I found the book on procrastination. Now I’m posting about the book on procrastination instead of folding the laundry.

-M.