Writing in Times of Sorrow

Elenora

I’ll tell you a story. It’s not a long story, and it is mostly not my story. It’s story about my kid sister Elenora who left this plane of existence this week. Above is a sketch I made of her. She was an eighteen-year-old beauty at the time. Her life has been rough and kind as are all our lives.

Elenora loved to come to the big city on day long shopping recursions with her big sister. It was a long day for me, I’d drive for most of an hour to an outlying town, pick her up, drive back into the city, spend the day shopping and lunching and then drive her home again before making my own way home.

On one long driving day we talked sporadically while we listened to the radio.

“Oh cool! Michael Jackson! I love him, don’t you?”

Maybe it was Thriller or Billy Jean, I don’t remember. I made some noises about not liking him all that much.

“Why?” she said.

I stumbled, not really knowing why. “Well, he had all that plastic surgery to change his face,” I said in an off-hand manner. It was a very foolish thing to say and if I didn’t know it then, I did a few minutes later.

Elenora was very quiet for a moment, then she turned to me, her eyebrows drawn together like they sometimes were when she had something important to say and she wasn’t sure how it would be taken.

“Didn’t you ever want to change something about yourself?”

“Ah, erm…I suppose so.” I was still floundering and I already knew how wrong I was, because of course I wished I could change things. Maybe a stronger chin, a less strong nose, maybe some get rid of some quirk that harmed more than it helped.

She picked at the hem of her coat for a moment, and then she said, “If I could change anything about me, I’d change it so I didn’t have Down Syndrome.”

We were both quiet for a long time then. I wanted to say, “you’re fine just the way you are,” but this wasn’t that kind of moment. This was a moment where the big sister had a lot to learn, and just maybe she did.

It is extra hard to write or paint when there is sorrow in your life. To all those struggling, hang in there. Know that you make a difference, and one day soon, you’ll create again. And Michael Jackson? I was wrong. Plain wrong about the music and the man who was trying to live in this world.

Calming the Storm

Sax Player

I am slowly going crazy, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 Switch.

 

When I was in art school we were taught almost nothing about the business of/around producing art. This was university. This was art. Business didn’t come into it. You created and if you were any good someone would notice.

Wrong.

But that’s a topic for another week.

When I began to write I went to a class, then I joined a writers group and checked out all the blogs on writing I could find. Correction. You cannot possibly go through all the writing blogs on the internet in one lifetime. Writers write and they love to write about writing. And writers write about the business of writing. In fact, they are very vocal about this topic, and the number one go-to seems to be social media. You must build a platform on social media.

Dutifully, I joined all the social media sites. Facebook, Twitter, LinkdIn, Pinterest and later, Instagram.

At first, I liked Facebook. My children and their families, who I adore, live far away from me and this was a way to keep in touch with them. It was wonderful to see how the grandchildren were growing and the things they were doing.

Something unfortunate began to happen.

Let me say that I tend toward the naive, and I’m sure others would have caught what was happening much sooner than I did. I noticed it first during the last American election. The screaming and calling out, the unfriending. The writer community really got caught up in it. And I did too.

Then bit by bit I realized that everything had become a POLARIZING issue. I also realized that often in the slavering rants the facts had gone missing.

I find this beyond stressful and have had to step away.

So, what do you do when the world becomes too much? Too miserable? Too Awful?

Writer Chuck Wendig writes about it on his blog Terribleminds. He has his way and I have mine. I research. I make as sure as I can to have the facts. I do my best to be thoughtful and moderate, I listen to alternate points of view and I look for reason, and most of all I step away from the screen. I draw, I paint, I write, I read, and I listen to music. (right now, Endless Boogie, Vibe Killer. I know, stupid lyrics but I like the rhythm.)

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of interviews and reviews of Steven Pinker’s new book Enlightenment Now. It might not be your thing, but something positive is nice for a change.

Happy Holiday Right?

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Okay, you think I’m going to get into a conversation on what is the politically correct way to wish friends and relatives well during this holiday season.

Nope. I don’t care. I wish every one of you well. It’s a wonderful time to celebrate with family. To take time to enjoy. To socialize. Yes, even you, my dear introvert friends. I’m one of you and I’m sure I’ll find a little corner somewhere, sometime, to think of ways to make that chapter sing, or how I to use a resist with watercolour, to…

That’s allowed. It’s also allowed to think about how lucky you are to have what you have, and how wonderful the people around you are. And it might also be a good time, at night before you fall asleep, with your belly too full and your mind still buzzing, to think about the things you did this year.

Take an Inventory

Don’t spend time on shouldas. This is not an exercise in making you feel like crap. But if you are like most creatives, you expected an awful lot of yourself and you’ve noticed all the things you didn’t do, and have forgotten how much you did accomplish. I bet if you take an objective look–do an inventory–you’ll be surprised at how far you’ve come. There are the real things, like the number of drawings and paintings you’ve made, or the number of stories you wrote, the revisions you’ve completed, the rejections you accepted, the acceptances that thrilled you, and then there are the things that matter even more. What did you learn? What new wisdom have you attained? When you worked, how did it make you feel? Did it calm you? Did it give you respite from the craziness of the political world? Did it bring you peace, even for a moment?

I bet this is year was a win for you in more ways than one.