I suspect that every now and then my blog looks a bit like Reading Rainbow for grownups. hehe. But I kind of can’t help it, since this is one of my life’s constants: I read all the time. I LOVE books. This is a great place to distill and remember and shape the impressions that great books (and even mediocre books) leave on me. I’d love to know what books are in your life right now.
I have been kind of simultaneously reading two over the weekend, which converged unexpectedly at a single, emphasized point - exactly what I really needed to hear to help me out of this kind of slump I’ve been feeling.
The Writing Life
I finished one last night, Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life. This memoir/guidebook about writing caught my eye on one of the tables at Borders a couple weeks ago, and I thumbed through it for a couple of minutes before deciding to get it.
Annie Dillard’s prose is so measured, so metrical, so visual. Her subject is her own life as a writer, but her extended metaphors apply to any artistic pursuit. And then there are the lines I had to get out of bed and get a red pen for. Like this:
“I, always want to paint, too, after I see the Rembrantds. ”
(Incidentally, she makes me want to write things. So this comparison applies as much to me reading her work, as her looking at masterworks of art). She makes me want to write better journaling on my scrapbook pages. Journaling that is well-thought and real, that is honest. She says:
“Write as if you were dying. At the same time, assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patience. That is, after all, the case. What would you begin writing if you knew you would die soon? What could you say to a dying person that would not enrage by its triviality?”
I would write about what matters to me. And lastly, so powerful:
“One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better.
Art & Fear
The other, Art & Fear, by David Bayles and Ted Orland, is one I discovered by following links around Amazon. This one tends to get read at the beginning of university design degree programs. It’s directed toward all artists, kind of a motivational and inspirational book.
Check out this passage, so strikingly similar to the one above:
“Look back at your work and it tells you how it is when you hold back or when you embrace. When you are lazy, your art is lazy; when you hold back, it holds back; when you hesitate, it stands there staring, hands in its pockets. But when you commit, it comes on like blazes.”
So the message of the weekend is something I’ve needed. Commit. Don’t worry. Don’t hold back. Don’t be motivated by fear, but by love - not only a love of the craft, but a love of my subjects and the stories I have to tell. So needed this.
One final quote (Annie Dillard again), which pretty much sums up my philosophy regarding teaching and sharing scrapbooking and Photoshop:
“The impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.”
When you give away the best that you have (whether that’s scrapbooking, knowledge, love, time, or energy), something more will arise for later to fill that need. This has a bit to do with faith, I think - trusting that there WILL be something left over, or that something will arise for later if you spend this now.
Of all these, energy is the hardest one for me. It’s the one I’m the most fearful of running out of, and the one I tend to hold back in giving.
So let’s talk about books (and maybe not even books) that made you want to write. Or paint. Or fix cars. What have you read, or listened to, or seen that left you amazingly inspired, and running for your scrap table, or camera, or paintbrush, etc?