creativity quote of the day

‘When I’m asked about my work, I try to explain that there is no mystery involved.
It is work. But things happen all the time that are unexpected, uncontrolled, unexplainable, even magical. The work prepares you for that moment. Suddenly the clouds roll in
and the soft light you longed for appears.’

— Photographer Annie Leibovitz

when private people go public

many of you are aware that i walked away from a 30-year career in journalism last summer in order to concentrate full-time on my own writing and painting. the latest step in this ongoing creative process is the construction — finally — of — a website devoted to my visual art.

it’s been a weird evolution for me. ask anyone in my family and they’ll tell you i was a painfully shy girl growing up. shy, and intensely private. i used to hide in my room when company — even relatives — came to our door because i didn’t want to have to talk to anybody. school assignments that involved public speaking almost paralyzed me. piano recitals (ugh) would have me sweating buckets weeks in advance.

it took the better part of three decades, but somewhere along the line i seem to have gotten over most of that. i now feel totally comfortable reading at open-mic stages and poetry festivals, and have almost gotten used to seeing my paintings on view in public spaces (although, oddly, hanging my art up on display, in relative anonymity, has proven to be much more gut-wrenchingly stressful than reading to a room full of strangers potentially armed with insults, tomatoes or, worse, indifference).

nashcan-blog1almost a year ago i started this blog, a step i felt would help me become more comfortable with the idea of exposing my writing and arty bits to a wider audience. the catch-22 there is that the wider audience (which all artists/writers desire, right?) leaves the artist more vulnerable. by inviting more people to pay attention to your work, you are opening the door to more criticism of your work. you may believe you can handle it, only to discover that criticism can be unwelcome, unpleasant, unfair, scary, destructive, demoralizing, and all of the above. obviously the more public you go, the thicker your skin needs to be. that’s a given; otherwise your tender artist’s psyche may collapse under the strain … forcing you to retreat back to the comfort of anonymity (not to mention poverty. thank you, stephen harper.)

i wasn’t sure whether i would stay with the blog after the honeymoon euphoria of the first few posts wore off. but i started getting a few regular readers, a few comments … and now i have had more than 5300 views on this little spatherdab entity. i realize that’s not a lot — there are celebrity bloggers out there who get thousands of hits per day. but for me, a little goes a long way. it is very satisfying to receive a comment from someone i don’t know and will probably never meet, from, say, texas or glasgow, telling me they love a poem they found on my blog, or that they really like a certain painting i’ve shown online. but it can also be disconcerting to get e-responses from people claiming to be fans of poetry who have clearly missed the point and really just want to argue with you; or overly enthusiastic strangers wanting to get a little too chummy; or unsavory entrepreneurs whose ulterior motive is to link your page to their international house of spam.

vulnerability factor aside, i think i’m going to enjoy having my very own dotcom page (thank you very much to the fine folks at MG creative).
do check it out if you have time. feedback is always welcome.
as long as you aren’t trying to sell me auto insurance.

the joy of not working

i’m quickly coming up on the one-year anniversary of quitting my job in order to write and paint full-time.
as expected, the bank account is not being fed nearly as frequently, but the soul is thriving.

crow and skya few years ago, inspired
by ernie zelinski, the edmonton-based
author of the joy of not working, i composed a list of things i wanted to do — some realistic, some pure whimsy — if and when i had, er, made the time. here are some of the things from that list:

learn the banjo
write letters to the editor
read books / poems / magazines
listen to alternative / public radio
listen to my own music

go to the movies
wander whyte avenue

dance / alone or take lessons
redecorate the house (streamline / simplify)
cull wardrobe
organize photo albums / negatives
write a song

have a garage sale
sing / alone or with others
star gaze / stare at the moon
study zen buddhism
start a writing group
throw a theme dinner party
ride the LRT from end to end
fight pollution
climb a tree
swing on a swing
keep a dream journal
try a new restaurant
recreate a favourite restaurant meal at home

attend live theatre / concerts
go on a retreat (writing / nature / spa)
enter writing contests
send out writing to publishing houses
write a book

make lists (!):

  • the soundtrack of my life
  • songs i want played at my funeral
  • the successes in my life

go birdwatching / hiking
take pictures / make photo cards

swim / cycle
do nothing
have fun

i’m surprised that travel wasn’t on that list, because it’s one of my favourite things. and i’ve definitely done a lot of that since hanging up the cleats. but this particular list was created in 2003. fast-forward five years and … despite having much more time on my paint-spattered hands, many of the things on that quirky wish list remain undone.

i haven’t taken up the banjo — yet — but i have arranged to learn bass guitar from a former beatnik who happens to be the illegitimate son of monk montgomery’s barber.

i’ve written a few letters to the editor, but none of them has appeared in print.
(too scathing? too left wing? too cryptic? can’t handle the truth? cowards!)
i’ve meditated — but not more than twice. which hasn’t gotten me very far.
i’ve been to the movies and wandered whyte avenue.
those ones are easy.
culling the wardrobe, on the other hand, is a constant challenge — even though i can now stay in my pyjamas all day if i choose. three decades’ worth of photo albums & negs are still in disarray. i haven’t exactly written a song, but i wrote one in a dream, does that count? (sadly, all that i can remember is the title … all the more reason to start keeping a dream journal.)

i did have a garage sale … and would prefer to never have one again. they’re bad for the soul. and the feet. and i rode the LRT to both ends of the line one day … man, is e-town’s north-east end spectacularly brutal in its sprawling ugliness.

i’ve tried several new restaurants, and did manage to create a pretty good version of matahari’s mee goreng in my own kitchen. my improv veggie version just keeps getting better, actually, whereas matahari took theirs off the menu. um, maybe they heard how good mine is and surrendered?

achilles tendon problems have prevented me from playing any tennis in the past two years. but the feet are healing, slowly, slowly. (and who knew so much depends on the glorious & notoriously unsung big toe?)
i’ve retreated to the banff centre three times in the past four years, and visited a vancouver spa for massage and a tiny bit of pampering.
haven’t written a book — well, i guess i actually have, the manuscript just hasn’t been published yet. it’s sitting in a tight sweater somewhere on the corner of jasper and 105th, waiting to be discovered.

nola\'s famous muffelata sandwich, veggie versioni’ve watched lots of birds — particularly love to gawk at west-coast eagles and the herons that nest on the fringes of stanley park. i have wandered the beaches near tofino. i sipped the local cider near erdeven on the north-east coast of france, and roamed the gower in south wales. i washed down a veggie muffelata with an abita beer on a humid sunday in new orleans, after being wowed by the tragically hip
at the house of blues the night before.

in the past year of working without a net I’ve sold a few more paintings, and will have two pieces on display in visual arts alberta’s annual diversity exhibit in conjunction with the works art & design festival. (june 19 through july 19, 2008, site # 21, harcourt house, 3rd floor, 10215 – 112 street, edmonton; opening reception thursday, june 19,
6 to 10 p.m.)

i also took a sculpture workshop. i made it to the regional finals of the annual cbc poetry faceoff competition. i helped some very good friends celebrate milestone birthdays and they helped me with one of my own. i kicked up my heels at a wedding or two, and actually saw mingus tourette do the bird dance. (having posted that, i may now have to enter a witness protection program.) in the last few months i’ve thought a lot about mortality as i watched two friends bury their mothers, and witnessed another friend’s amazing journey back — literally — from the brink of death.

i’ve accommodated several sets of house guests, ranging in age from 16 to 70.
i read: novels, poetry, some non-fiction. and i discovered there actually is a book called “the complete idiot’s guide to nascar.” (insert your own redundancy joke here.)

i slept. in fact, i have gained a whole new appreciation for sleep. when i was five i hated having to sleep. it’s taken me decades to realize that sleep is quite a lovely thing, especially if you can master the art of doing it well, and for seven or more hours at a time. (such restorative power. such bliss.)

bonus round:
on sunday night, i got goosebumps hearing k.d. lang sing hallelujah live at the jubilee auditorium.
on monday night, i was privileged to hear gloria sawai read one of her wonderful short stories to an intimate gathering at the faculty club.

life is good. i’m having fun.


hell, yeah.