Tag Archives: writing

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

So Says The Widow

So–I found this in one of my many “Ongoing Projects” files that I’ve been going through, trying to clean house. I like it–a lot. So I’m sharing. Last time I shared fiction on my blog, a reader got very upset because she thought it was something from my life, a regular blogpost. So be aware that This. Is. Fiction.

This is the day he died. Ten years ago today. Right over there in his old chair. One minute alive, watching something stupid on the TV, drinking a beer, stuffing his face with peanuts, the next a goner, sure as I saw one. His face come over all purple like and he gave one grunt. “Urrff.” Like a dog mid dream what gives but half a bark. I knew from the sound that something weren’t right.

Called them kids but none were home. Out and about, doing whatever. Christmas shopping and such. Or so they said. So I sat here with his old dead body and watched him turn cold and wax-like.

Person takes a while to go, you know. Life kinda moves away from the body. Or maybe the body stays still and the person moves away. It’s an odd thing, I’ll tell you that.

Course I didn’t just stand there and watch it happen. Took a seat, for the show you might say. I’d waited a long time for that man to die. Once upon a time, I thought I’d enjoy the sight. But he waited too long to do it, I suppose. I got no pleasure, but then I got no pain neither.

Come morning I called again. Dickie came, along with Miss Priss, that old thing he married. They was fit to be tied that I’d sat all night with a corpse. “Why didn’t you call 9-1-1?” Miss Priss wanted to know. Couldn’t rightly tell her. But then, I wouldn’t have even if I could. None of her business, I’d say.

Cops came in a squad car, squealing up to the house like it weren’t a dead body they’d been called to see. Then that fat old lardbucket, Waylon Reardan, what got himself elected coroner, and a couple of helpers from Jury’s Funeral Home to do the work, since old Waylon wasn’t capable of moving a dead chicken, let alone the heft of a man the size of Lloyd.

Took the lot of them almost to pry him outta his chair. He’d stiffened up so they couldn’t get him straightened out nohow. Kinda fitting, I thought. He’d lived in that chair so damn long, ended up shaped like the damn thing. Ended up, they had to sort of lift him up, two on each side, like he was some football hero just won the game.

Lloyd’s chair, Got it for hisself the Christmas before he passed. One hundred fifty dollars, cost new. At the Fresno auction. Took hisself down there and bid on it without a word. Brought it home tied down in the back of his pickup. Come into the house with it, squared it up in front of the TV and sat down in it like he weren’t fixing to move for love nor money. Course he weren’t fixing to. What he figured was he’d get me to do all the moving for him.

He’d sit there watching that old black and white TV, and on one of them collapsible metal TV table, he’d collected his ashtray, his beer and that damn bowl of nuts. He’d stare at that TV and yell out to me “Hey, Myrtie, bring me another one of them brewskis.”

Didn’t matter where I was in the house, doing whatever more important, if I didn’t answer him right away, he’d be a bellowing again, “Myrtie? You hear me?”

“I hear you. The dead hear you,” I’d tell him. I’d hand him the beer, and damned if he’d take it without even a look my way.

“S’that all you’re gonna do from now on? Watch that damned thing? You know them rays are poisonous. They shine right out from that there pitcher tube and beam right into your body. Frizzle your organs, they will. I read it. Turn your guts into dried rope.

“Course what do you care since your liver’s already pickled. Lloyd? Lloyd, you listening to me?”

“Oh huh, “ he’d grunt.

“No you ain’t,” I be starting to yell, getting mad-like by now. “I hate it, Lloyd. I hate it when you treat me like I’m some dead wall.”

He’d hear the yell and know he better perk up some. “I hear you, Mama. You said the TV will turn my guts into fried rope and my liver’s pickled.”

“Dried rope.”

“Dried, fried. What’s the difference?”

“No difference. No difference at all. Dried, fried, whatever, dead is dead.”

And, of course, in the end I was right. Dead is dead and it didn’t rightly matter what killed him. Waylon claimed it were a stroke. Who cares. He was dead.

Free Money for Writers

The McDowell Colony

…sort of.

As part of my research for other things writing related, I came across the website, Funds for Writers, which offers, neatly alphabetized, a list of grants writers can apply for along with deadlines and other relevant informaton.

I don’t know about you, but I have long harbored a fantasy of being awarded a fellowship at the McDowell Colony or the like. There’s something about the idea of all of my needs being satisfied in the service of my writing that seems magical to me. As in, I would magically write the purest of prose, with no tendency to procrastinate.

Here’s me as a fellow at a said writer’s conference:

I wake up to the sound of bird song. Is it the fucking jays twittering outside my window or is it the sweet sparrows warbling away?

Ne’er mind–my eyes open and I stretch and yawn and think of the exciting day ahead. All mine, to write, to create, to fantasize whole worlds—to go back to that fucking draft I left in the middle last night because it was turgid and going nowhere, nowhere, nowhere.

I climb out of my nest of comforters and open the front door of my cottage. There, just at the stoop, is a steaming pot of coffee and a wicker basket of freshly baked rolls. Will there be the ones I truly cherish–the baking soda, brown sugar, pecan knots–or will someone else have gotten the only rolls that are talismanic for my daily productivity? I root through the basket, find one twisted pecan knot and feel relieved that the omens for my day seem on my side.

And thus my day at the writer’s colony continues apace, as filled with the dark and the light, the yin and the yang, the blithe reduction to utter absurdity as any a day at home.

For those of you who want the real story, however, I offer this blogpost, All About Writers Colonies. The author, Nova Ren Suma, has surveyed a number of her fellow writers who have actually spent time at some of the most prominent colonies. They offer their experience–and their advice.

My fantasy about being awarded a fellowship at a writer’s colony will always remain hovering, somewhere just beyond my ability to actually sit down and apply. If you are more proactive than I, check out the list of grants from Funds for Writers.

And let me know how it goes. Really. Feed my fantasy with your own experience!

Return to Blogging, Take 2

Here’s my problem: I want to start blogging again. And one would think, what better place to do it than here, in this corner of my website labelled “Blog”.

Except–the kind of blogging I want to start again has little to do with writing or editing or process or revision. Except, of course, when it does. Which is when that thing in front of me, the whatever must be expressed that day, just happens to concern the written word.

Am I making any sense?

Do I really care?

What I miss about blogging, about the kind of blogging we used to do before we got concerned about stats and monetization (have I said all this before? because it feels very familiar…)–. Sometimes we wrote about what we ate for lunch, and sometimes we wrote about the state of our union (if we had one) that day. When I say ‘we’, I mean ‘I’, of course. Sometimes we/I ranted and sometimes we/I moaned.

All of those posts existed at some point in the MidLifeBloggers archive. However, the MidLifeBloggers archive no longer exists. Therefore, my pearls, those gems of my mind for the years ’05-’15 are lost forever.

Do I care?

Not really. And that’s something I want to blog about, why I don’t care–or, to be specific, what it is I don’t care about.

Oh, wait! I just went back a mere six months and lookie what I found:  http://janegassner.com/2017/08/the-good-old-days/ . This is what I said before that feels very familiar–to quote myself back at the beginning of this post.  So read that, and add it to this–and then we’ll see if I’m any better at fulfilling my urge this time.

Writing Prompt & Free Offer: The Things I Carry

Have you ever read Tim O’Brien’s novel, The Things They Carried? It tells the story of a platoon of soldiers in the Viet Nam war through the things that they carried in the knapsacks. I used to assign it when I taught Comp & Lit at Lehigh. For one, I wanted my overindulged students to get their minds around something other than their latest hookup. Even more, though, I love the idea that we tell our own stories by the things that we feel we need to have with us every day.

  • Empty your purse, backpack, briefcase, or shopping bag and look at what you’ve taken out. Now choose the things that for whatever reason are always with you.
  • Describe them.
  • How are they related? How are they not? What does it say about you that these things are necessary to you?

This is an exercise in three things:

  1. Your powers of description.
  2. Your ability to analyze, to move from the concrete to the abstract, to see the patterns (or lack of same) in things that seem unrelated.
  3. Your willingness to come to a conclusion about what the things you carry say–or don’t say–about you.

 

Bonus offer: Want to know what it’s like to get an Intensive Critique from me? I’ll give a free Mini Intensive Critique to the first five people who send me their drafts. Just save and copy your draft to the Comment section on the form below.

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