Category Archives: The Blog

Purpose vs Intention & Creativity

The other day I was having an Issue with the project I was working on from last time, so I emailed a jpeg to my Clayville California Polymer Clay Artists Guild and asked for advice. The first part of the response that I got startled me:  “What is the purpose of your project; it makes a difference.” 

I was stuck at that word purpose. What purpose did I have when I sat down to work with the clay? I rarely set out with a purpose. And why should it make a difference? 

Anyone who has sat in my writing classes or been coached by me knows that I am forever haranguing them that Purpose is the underpinning of all that goes into making a piece of writing successful. So why hadn’t that occurred to me as necessarily transferable to a piece of art? The answer to that is, I realize, why my students and clients so often had trouble with the concept of Purpose. It’s the wrong word. 

Purpose implies product. Product implies a plan and the expectation of succeeding at that plan. But that mindset can often be antithetical to both writing and the making of art as it sometimes works to eliminate discovery, happenstance, sheer creativity.  No, the right word is not Purpose; it’s Intention. Intention is an aim, a direction, a willingness to explore.

Pursuing a Purpose often leads to an entreprenurial urge, and I’ve seen the entrepreneurial urge suck the life out of writers. That’s exactly what happened to me in my early days of my taking up polymer clay as a medium. I was all about Product. I was Creating Jewelry To Sell. How else could I justify the time and expense I was putting into the stuff? Like an assembly line worker, I needed to know that my efforts validated the cost. Except–it didn’t take long before I was face to face with the harsh reality that no one wanted to buy my work. Without that Purpose, what was the point?

That turned me deeper into exploration. So maybe it wasn’t Purpose I was missing so much as Intention. I moved away from the How To’s for creating jewelry and into just looking at, seeing, and wondering about the work of those who are artists first and craftspeople second. Why were they doing what they did? Where did their creative impulse come from?

That has led me to question my response to art and the way it may or may not impact on the work I do. Basically, then, I’m trying to get a bead on myself as a receiver and producer. What do I like? Why? What turns me off? Why? I’m looking at everything visual through those lenses, and trying to understand myself. So the answer to the Guild’s question “what was the purpose of the project” is, my intention is experimentation. 

Specifically, I’m drawn to birdseye views of nature, and the way they manifest as geometric patterning. When I saw that the piece I was working on last week seemed to be turning into some sort of nature scene, I decided I would try to create the foliage using mini-circles of clay. Sort of a pointillist technique. I experimented with using old canes and veneers and tried some of the new texture techniques I’ve learned, most recently from Sage Bray’s Virtual Art Box.

I had fun; I increased my understanding and ability to do more with polymer clay. I did not create a work worthy of anything but my own admiration. Okay, and maybe yours. There are flaws galore in the piece, but I did achieve my intention. Even if I didn’t know it until after I had to think about it long and hard. 

Learning From Failures–or Not

Looking through my photos, choosing one to headline a particular post, I’m drawn to my disasters. Could it be because there are so many more of them than of anything else (notice how I won’t class an object a success).

I am, if nothing else, on this journey I’m taking, humble. Working with polymer clay after a lifetime as a successful writer is, exactly that, humbling. I’m forced to see how much I don’t know and how inadequate my efforts are in polymer clay.

In the beginning, I was annoyed at my failures, pissed off that things hadn’t gone as I intended. If something didn’t work, I moved on to the next thing. To repeat a project until it did work–that was outside the scope of my imagination.

Until I joined a local polymer clay guild and met women who were in every sense of the word artists. I saw very clearly then the difference between what I was turning out and their projects. They have years ahead of me in working as artists, but they’re gracious and encouraging and never laugh.

So I’ve gone from being someone at the top of her field to an inadequate practitioner of an art form that for some reason has me in its thrall. Now when things don’t work out, I first follow my usual thinking–what can I do to make this look reasonable? I have a collection of objects for whom the answer to that was, nothing.

Just lately, today actually for the first time, I heard one of the polymer clay artists in one of the many Groups on Facebook say something about treating the first object as a trial. Making a second in which you put all you’d learned in the first. Oh. What a novel idea.

That photo at the top is an experiment in a new-to-me technique called–

–and there I left this post. I intended to redo this little dish, with more specific intention and practiced techniques. Instead I did nothing, then started mixing some clay, then started fiddling with the mixed clay, and…

It’s not the little dish. I don’t know what it is, but it’s a turning point for me in this process…

Corona Virus 19 – six weeks in

Nothing has changed and yet a lot has changed. I still spend almost all of my time at home. I finished an editing project, so my time is my own now. My daily To Do list usually includes: Cook, Clean, Organize, Clay. I usually do the first and the last of these; the middle two are, well, ignored–as always.

What has changed is something internal. I’m operating in a different, unknown frequency. I have less patience for some things, and yet, I’m more understanding of other things.

This is the first time I’ve purposefully written anything. I’ve not written for Medium since the shutdown began. I’m reconsidering whether I’m still a writer. Are you a writer if you don’t write?

So maybe I’m not a writer anymore. What am I?

I’m exploring my self in the fine arts. That sounds pedantic, pretentious, and oh-give-me-a-word-that-begins-with-pre-but-isn’t-preposterous.

I’ve always had a studio art side. Having professional fine artists on both sides of my family, my parents heartily encouraged whatever interest I showed for drawing, etc. So I was a prepubescent 10 year old taking life drawing classes at the Carnegie museum (the male model did wear a g-string). I was an art minor at Pitt. Since then, I have eagerly collected a multi-media stockpile fit for the likes of Dick Blick. Name the medium, and I have dabbled.

Most recently–the past several years, actually, I have taken up polymer clay as a medium. And that has led me more and more down Alice’s hole. It has raised for me questions concerning my specific response to creativity that fascinate–and sort of scare me.

My intention is to explore them here on this blog. I may end up talking to myself, but what else is new.

1 Week Left of Coaching Package Special

Just one more week left on the August sale offer on my Intensive Critique coaching package.   This professional manuscript editing normally goes for $100. Right now, it is 1/4 of that–a mere $25. Outside word count is 5000 words.

Want to know more? Read last week’s post. And if you’re interested, contact me before August 12! Leave a comment here, or email me at byjane73@gmail.com

 

 

Summer Offer: Professional Manuscript Editing

Writing is always an act of communication. Whether you, the writer, acknowledge it or not, the words you write have no meaning until there is a reader wanting to understand them. 

However, when we writers, in the exuberance of self-expression, blithely ignore the needs of the reader, our writing often comes a cropper. Organization, word choice, plot, characterization, meaning–all can so easily be lost.

This happens no matter our age, experience, or familiarity with the subject. It is why editors exist and why you should always have an editor look at your manuscript before you write “The End.”

During the Intensive Critique I offer, I am the Reader. While metaphorically sitting on my hands, I read the text as an act of communication. What is it saying? What am I feeling and thinking as I read it? What questions do I have? When do I become confused? Lose interest? Feel the urgency of ‘what next’? I am looking for what works, but I am also looking for what needs work.

As I go through the manuscript, I use the Comments capability of Drive to make specific notes on the piece–asking questions, suggesting, offering my “at the moment” response to the work. 

This creates a file which offers a record of my reading alongside the original manuscript. The writer can print this to have a map of sorts as to exactly where the act of communication either succeeds or breaks down.

Normally I charge $100 for the Intensive Critique. However, during the first weeks of August, I’m offering an abbreviated version for 1/4 of the cost. All genres; all levels of experience.

Want to learn more? Let me know in the Comments or email me at byjane73@gmail.com

#TOS60, why????

One of the reasons I got the idea to do this podcast is because I want to be able to talk others about these things that are happening to me or occurring to me or floating through my mind in these years as I’ve gotten past 60. And they change…boy, do they ever. My 60s were one thing; my 70s are something totally different. Stuff I was so sure about–well, now I’m not so sure I’m sure. And stuff that I thought was really really important–eh, meh, some is and some isn’t.

One thing I’m sure about is that I’m not the last word on any of this. I have several friends, BFFs from over the decades, who are exactly my age. Yet we’re at different stages in our lives, and different things matter to us, or not. So not only is Aging not a determined category; the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s aren’t either.

And yet when commentators or bloggers or experts with the best of intentions set an age limit for some truth or way of being, there are whole crowds of us who are left out. Because we’re outside that age limit. Or we aren’t experiencing that truth or way of being.

My goal with MidLifeBloggers was and with #TOS60 now is to provide a place, a platform where each of us can use their voice for talking about/sharing their vision or their experience or their truth of whatever the moment at hand was.

I’ve been planning this podcast since the fall. I’ve set several do-able deadlines for when I would go “live.” My big girl earphones and mic combo have been in place for about six weeks. Unused.

Why? Because I’m a poster child for all of Brene Brown’s books. Vulnerability–not for me, thank you very much. Oh, but I see and understand that without vulnerability, I’ll achieve nothing. Okay then, I’ll be vulnerable on those days and those times when I am feeling so solidly sure of me that I’m ready for the slings and arrows that I always expect will come.

Obviously, I’ve conquered a lot of that in my writing. But speaking? To some unknown audience (of maybe three BFFs)–nope. I’ll just sit here in the dark….

Except I really do believe that there are secret sharers out there who would like-enjoy-benefit-from-need having a place to air the good and the bad and the meh of life on the other side of sixty.

So I’ll work on screwing up my courage…and continue writing this blog. Until my big girl earphones fit my head.

#TOS60 Programming Ideas

Creating a podcast when you’re the other side of 60 is challenging…and fun…and, yes, scary (I’m always sure my party will be the one no one attends).

Here’s what I’ve come up with. It will be a once a week podcast. It will run for 45 minutes, divided into 10-15 minute segments, featuring interviews, conversations, readings and whatever else, on a variety of topics. Such as

  • How Old Are You?
  • Grandparenting in a non-binary world
  • Today’s Job Market: if only it was 1968
  • HaIr: long v short, grey v dyed, curly v straight, personal preference v cultural mores–and why do we care?
  • Sex after sixty…and seventy….and eighty: a variety of viewpoints
  • Retirement: Pro, Con, Can’t afford it
  • Care-taking & Widowhood
  • Travel on the other side of 60
  • Finances – when you didn’t plan for the future; faking it in the middle class
  • Family – when relationships change
  • Friendships on the Other Side of 60
  • Love & Relationships
  • Skin: – Expert opinion and venting about warts, growths, age blotches, wrinkles, changes in skin tone, superfluous hair, senile acne, toenails, fingernails, dry skin, fragile skin
  • Clothing, Fashion, Comfort

Those are just my ideas at one sitting on one particular day. What are yours? What conversations are you having–or wish you could have–with similarly aged people? Any ideas, additions, thoughts, are more than welcome. And if you’re interested in joining in, let me know.

The Other Side of 60 – 2019

January 1st, 2019…Say it out loud and it sounds ridiculous. But maybe that’s because I was born in 1945. So 2019 was too far away for me to even consider for much of my life.

My Facebook feed is full of posts welcoming the New Year…or not…or claiming immunity from negativity…or not. I am not inclined to make grand gestures. So this will do for me:

In 2019, I am starting a podcast, called The Other Side of 60. It is known informally among the few in the know as #TOS60.

As soon as I finished those sentences, I sat. Well, actually, I peed, cleaned out the bathtub drain, and walked back to my desk to admit that the writing of them had me  almost paralyzed with fear.

How dare I even think that I could do a podcast? Yes, I’m the founder of MidLifeBloggers.com and that had a pretty good run back in the day. But in today’s media world? Who would listen? Why would they listen? And what would I say?

The answers to those hark back to MidLifeBloggers. I started that, the first on-line website magazine for and by people in midlife. I put no age restrictions on it because my overriding goal was inclusivity. This was the time when mommybloggers took all the time and attention given women on the internet. This was also the time when monetization first became a thing. Put those things together, and those of us who were no longer in the first decades of childrearing, those of us who had never had a child to raise, were pretty much off the radar of any of the new wonders offered by Web 2.0. We had been, pretty much, erased.

That drove me crazy. So one day, in a fit of pique, I bought the MidLifeBloggers.com url and invited other people, women and men, bloggers or not, to join me in creating a place where the multiplicity of our voices would be heard. The rest, as they say, is history.

So this, then, is what I’m at again with The Other Side of 60. We are, those of us, 60+, 70+, 80+ and beyond, a mixed lot. There is no essential older woman, no matter how often savvy marketing ploys tell you the single road to fulfillment as an older woman is ……..fill in the blank…….  

As part of this foray into podcasting, I had to answer some questions. Like, who is my ideal listener and what problem am I solving with my podcast. To this, I said:

My ideal listener is anywhere from 60 to 100+ because what characterizes them is not their specific age but their attitude to life. They are very much still engaged in living as fully as they can. They want to experience, explore, learn, enjoy, create, and find satisfaction in the big and small things of life. TOS60 offers them a place to share, learn from others, get expert opinion

I am solving the problem all of us face as we move from middle age to the years 60, 70, 80 and beyond: how do I find relevance in the world I live in? What gives meaning to my life? What takes away from it? What can I do, how can I be proactive in creating the life on the other side of 60 that makes me feel…..

Tomorrow I’ll share some of the nuts and bolts of #TOS60, as well as some of my programming ideas. In the meantime, as with MidLifeBloggers, I’m throwing this venture open to whoever wants to join in. Let me know if that’s you.

An ADHD Fairy Tale

Once upon a time…there lived a little girl who grew into a big girl who grew into a mature woman and the whole time there was one thing that defined her: SHE COULD NOT DO THINGS THE EASY WAY.

In school she found it impossible to follow the teacher’s instructions–“but why do I have to use my blue crayon when I like the green one much better!” She found it impossible to fulfill the tasks her bosses set her–“no, I haven’t finished the twenty pages of dictation you gave me. I’ve been in the ladies room with stomach flu.” And even when she was her own boss, she found it impossible to stick to her agenda–“How about if I just twist this to the right and turn that to the left…won’t that be neat?”

Long long after her trial-filled school years, she finally learned that there was actually a reason for her contrary nature: Doctors gave it a diagnosis and other doctors prescribed medication…but

but

but….the rest of the world, her friends and family–they didn’t really get the message. They may have heard it intellectually, but in their heart of hearts they knew that the heroine of this fairy tale was really just not trying hard enough. And in many ways, despite all evidence to the contrary, she believed them.

The End.

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