Monthly Archives: July 2015

The Intersection of Art and Craft, and the Whys of Inspiration 

Do art and craft intersect?  Or are they parallel paths?

Craft is technical proficiency: the knowing how to do something and using skills to achieve a desired result.  Art, well, everyone has their own definition, but doesn’t art have to have some inspiration behind it? Can art be possible if there is only craft involved in the making?

And what is inspiration? Half of my painting and drawing is because I want to see if I can do something, not because I am trying to communicate something or I have some ethereal vision.  I want to see if I can make something that looks like the flower growing in my garden.

Does that make it not art? Is it just an exercise at that point? If someone seeing it is inspired by it, or it moves them – regardless of my intention when creating it – does that make it art? (There’s another post in here about artist intention versus audience reception….)

And does the desire to recreate something I see count as inspiration? Does wanting to tell a story I find interesting qualify? Does it need a higher message to be art?

The question of “Why should anyone care?” seems to be driving a lot of my creation lately. I look at things I’ve done and think, well, that is technically proficient, but ultimately…boring.  My creation ability seems to be well suited to knitting socks and sweaters and less well matched to painting and writing.

Perhaps I have an antiquated view of art in my head. Art as the fine and rarefied thing you see hanging in a museum (which, realistically, I won’t ever be featured in), craft is the thing that everyone can do. Is there art in craft? Certainly. That passion, that inspiration that crosses the divide between the two, though, what is that made of? Where does that come from? Does it start with wondering if you can do something? Does it start with seeing God in a sunset? Does it start with practice or talent?

There’s a loaded word. Talent. I’ve grown to hate it. So much stuffed into one little word. Expectations, limitations, fantasy.  Being told I’m talented feels like a dismissal, as if I’m not working at what I do, it just happens magically with no effort.  This is hogwash. Being told I’m talented also ranks up there with people saying they don’t know where I find the time to do art, or that they could never do what I do.  It feels like a way of telling me it’s frivolous.  That doing something I’m already talented at (if I even am) is a waste of time I could be using to do…what? Accounting? Dishes? Whatever it is that other people use their free time to do? Something that is qualified as work. Something that isn’t useless.

Clearly, I don’t have any grand answers. I paint and draw because I find things beautiful or fascinating, and I want to create something that is beautiful or fascinating.  I also paint because I like finding out if I can do it.  I write because I have stories in my head that I like to put down on paper, and also because I want to see if I can do it. I knit because I like socks that fit and warm sweaters, and also to see if I can do it.  (Seeing a theme here?) Is that enough? For me, for right now, yes it is. For other people? I don’t know.  I don’t know if people will ever find my writing captivating, or my art inspiring.  There is no objective measure though, so I will keep creating as I can and see where it takes me. At the very least I will have made something pretty at the end of the day. And my socks will fit.

What inspires you to create? Do you consider yourself an artist or a crafter? Does the word talent make you grind your teeth?



What I did last week while The Husband met Joss Whedon
What I did last week while The Husband met Joss Whedon

The dust is settling from The Husband going to San Diego Comic Con, and I finally have some time to blog.  The week he is gone seems longer than it is, but as it is his only business trip each year, we manage.  It’s a pretty cool business trip all told. I mean, hanging out at Comic Con is a pretty good work day.

Before he left I spent some time polishing up the short story I had been working on and I pulled the trigger and submitted it to two magazines.  That was the most nerve wracking thing I have done (aside from making dentist appointments) in a very long time. You wouldn’t think sending bits of text out into the wi-fi ether would be cause for nerves, but it was.

And then there’s the waiting.

One magazine says they will get back to you in 8-10 weeks.  The other didn’t say at all.

I submitted 10 days ago, so I have a while to wait.  I might have clicked on my Submittable account a few times….and the junk folder in my email is the cleanest it has ever been.

Finding places to submit my work is a challenge.  I don’t have the money to subscribe to all the literary magazines, and I rarely have the time to browse the magazines at Powell’s for longer than it takes for one of my kids to holler, “MOOOM!” at me. Someone pointed me toward Duotrope, and it looks amazing.  I have only begun to poke around it to see what it can find, though I haven’t signed up for an account yet, as it is a pay service.

Revisions on the book are going slowly. One of the problems I have faced since having children is that sometimes, they use up all the focus and creativity I have for the day. By the time we get to bedtime, there’s nothing left to offer. I think this is a common problem for parents, mother types especially.  Sometimes I read a couple of paragraphs and make a couple notes, and other times, I watch X Files on Netflix.

I need to pick a time where I can block off writing time and protect it. I can squeeze in a bit here and there, but not in the amount of time it needs to have dedicated to it. While the sliver of time after bedtime is good for doing small bits, it is also the time when I am most likely to fall asleep myself.  I also have found that drawing or painting comes easier to me when I am trying to clear my mind for sleep as well.

Do you have a creative pursuit and kids? What time of day do you find most conducive to working on it? How do you guard that time?

Daunting Editing

 There it is.  120-ish pages of writing, printed out and waiting to be edited. It was both cool to see it printed out, and alarmingly daunting. If I’m totally honest, it’s still sitting in the folder.  I have peeked at it a couple of times, but nothing beyond that. It is intimidating.

Writing is a daunting endeavor.  It is surprisingly easy to get the initial flood of words out. I’ve never had a problem writing thousands of words a day, racking up long stories was easy, even in high school, when my fiction assignments came in well over twenty pages, while my classmates were complaining at page five.

After that initial rush, however, it is a very different *ahem* story.  Rereading and editing is…uncomfortable.  I can see the bits that are lacking.  I can see the writing that is boring. The story in my head doesn’t match what is on the page, and I’m at a loss to fix it.

This 120 pages – very loosely based on some family history – is adding an extra level of difficulty.  What to keep? What to change? What to make up? What to use from actual history?

Not too long ago I finished reading Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin, and it was such a beautiful book.  And it was boring as all get out. Beautifully written, but the tension and stakes were so low that ultimately, I didn’t care. It is 768 pages of gorgeous writing, that I had to struggle to get through because the descriptions were so fantastic that I lost the thread of what was going on. It reminded me of my writing a lot. Beautiful descriptions, not much movement.

That’s what you call an “Oh, crap.” moment.

What I am working on right now is all movement, few descriptions. It’s hard. Hard to keep the tension up, hard to make it exciting, hard to not lapse into a description of something beautiful. Something beautiful, and ultimately boring that takes the story nowhere, or worse – derails it entirely.

That’s not to say that all beautiful description is boring, but when that is the bulk of the story, it becomes tedious.  Like too much salt in the dinner, a little bit enhances the flavor.  Too much, and it becomes inedible.

I’m not sure what to salt, as it were.

I’m rambling here on the blog because I’m putting off facing the stack of paper.  Fortunately, rambling often provides me with a solution when I am unsure where to go. Fix the technical first – the commas, quotation marks, spelling and run-on sentences.  Things that are not attached to the story, and will let me reread without being critical of plot and setting.

I know this is only of marginal interest for most folks reading, so if you stuck with it this far, Thank You.  I’d love to know what fiction books you are reading right now, and what you think of the writing. And if you have a dissenting opinion of Winter’s Tale, I’d love to hear it. What books really get your brain going, make you eager to finish the story?