Monthly Archives: August 2015

Making a mess

What is this? Don’t know, but it was awfully fun to make.

One of the interesting things about homeschooling my kids is watching them create. They tend to pull or dump everything out, then slowly piece parts together and create order. The creating is in the refining of the mess they have made into a tower, or a collage.  They can look at a mess of a pile and extract the bits they need to make something coherent.

This also seems to be how I make things. Everything gets dumped onto a page and sorted out.  With art that is often taking pictures, doing tests of colors and techniques, and then doodling several possibly unrelated things before I get to what I wanted to make. Sometimes, I just make a mess to see what I get out of it.  And then I go back and do more to it, pull out order in my mess.

  

Order from the mess.

With writing, I find the first draft easy.  It is a dump of thoughts and images and all the florid prose I love to write. I love descriptions. I love painting a picture with words. It is a vivid, and sometimes nonsensical mess – the equivalent to a box of blocks dumped on the floor.

I am not a planner. I don’t outline, I don’t write character sketches or compile files about every place mentioned. This sometimes bites me in the backside when I finally do research, and find out the best setting for my book is in a place I have never been and know nothing about. Or that the law is nothing like what I just wrote about, and it completely tanks the whole plot. Mostly, though, it lets me avoid the block of having to research something before I write about it. It lets me pick the right blocks out of the mess and build my tower.

Sometimes, it leaves me with a big, fat mess on the floor and no idea where to start cleaning it up.  Each part intersects with the whole in a way that it will create more mess if I pick up the one bit, and make more of a mess. One of my stories is proving to be like that.  It is a lovely, vivid puddle of paint, but if I move the paper or add anything else, it will turn to mud. With painting, you can sometimes just leave that bright pool of color and it works.  With writing, that is often not enough to make it enjoyable to read, or interesting.


My children currently have a pile of blocks, magnet tiles, and glass gems piled on the light box.  Every once in a while they will wander by, move or extract something, and walk away again.  Each move creates a new picture, effortlessly altering the mess to be something beautiful. I envy the ease and fluidity of their creation.

How do you create? Are you an outliner and planner?  Or are you a mess maker?

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On existing. 

  I have had the interesting feeling lately of vanishing. I first noticed the feeling of being invisible when I became a mother. But I was 31, so I was young enough to still be noticed by others, even when the fact that I had a child with me made their eyes slide past me. More recently, I have noticed I seem to be ceasing to exist outside of my own house.

Two kids and being over 40, and being one of the legion of moms in my age, race, and class in this town and I have become background noise.  Like the moon in the picture, hard to see for all the other closer, brighter lights.

It extends beyond just the feeling of invisibility when running errands. I have made changes twice in my life (going back to college, moving to PDX) that have seemingly left everything from before, behind.  Whole swaths of my life erased, ended, overwritten by what came next. And then, later, having a second child at a time when everyone else was finished having kids, and it was like turning around to find a formerly crowded street suddenly deserted.

It wasn’t anyone’s fault. I often seem to do things at times when no one else is doing them, becoming part of something either before it takes off, or as it is ending.  And even though I do things when I feel they need to be done, this out of step action has left me wondering where I am now.

In elementary school, I liked people.  I wanted to be their friend. I learned about them, emulated them, made overtures, and let them occupy a space in my brain and often my heart. Usually, in fact almost all of the time, this was one sided.  I felt a fondness and a connection that the other person often didn’t feel.  I would hazard a guess that most of the people in grade school – whose names I still know – would be hard pressed to identify me even by name, and my name is pretty unique.  I have been involved with groups of people I think of as friends, who have no idea who I was to them, or why I seem to know them.

How does one exist? By having a family? Or friends? By being in other people’s pictures, or perhaps sharing their own creations with the world? By making something permanent, no matter how small, so that someone decades down the line says, “Hey, this person, she existed, she did THIS.” And if you don’t do that? Do you cease to exist? If there are no pictures, or children, or paintings, or stories – what then? Are you just gone?

This is an awfully angst ridden post, I realize. These thoughts have been fueling my desire to write and create lately, and I have been trying to give them some sort of voice. My desire to write is as much about saying, “I am here, I did THIS,” as it is about sharing the stories my brain comes up with. Painting the flowers in my garden, or taking pictures of the moon while I am waiting at a stoplight is as much about documenting my life as it goes by as it is about making art. Maybe then, when someone finds the box of things I have created, decades down the line, they will say, “Look at what she made. Look at her life.”

August. 

 August, for me, is a lot like February. An oddly long month, with nothing to really set it apart. And then 3 years ago my youngest daughter arrived, on her due date halfway through the month, following close after the closing ceremonies of the Summer Olympics in London. (I do not recommend Spice Girls as labor music.)

Now, there is a marker mid-month. It punctuates the long stretch of late summer with preparation and visiting. And suddenly, it becomes September and then Autumn. I still get excited by Fall each year.  I also tend to get rather romantic and wordy about all the bits I love: the first smell of woodsmoke from fireplaces, the change of light in the afternoon, the crunch of leaves underfoot, the cool breezes that are just different than any other time of year.  If I were a poet, I would probably write about nothing else.  As it is, I tend to set most of my stories in the Fall.

Part of my love of Fall is the mystery.  Fog rolls in. Night comes earlier.  You can’t always tell whats going on with the weather, and storms pop up with no warning. The heat of the summer fades away, and being outside is comfortable again. It feels like a time for discovery and exploring.  And at the same time it is a time to regroup. Bring in the harvest, get ready for winter, evaluate your days. The Jewish New Year begins at the beginning of Fall.  This has always made more sense to me than beginning the new year in the middle of winter.

This summer is dragging on up here in the Pacific Northwest.  Hotter than usual, and I’m ready for it to be over. I’m working away on revising my novel, and getting hung up in all sorts of places.  Plot holes like moon craters over here. I saw some advice to write a summary of your novel to see where the problem bits are…and let’s just say I found them.  Writing a summary of something you came up with out of your own head seems like it would be easier. It’s really not.

I’m looking forward to the burst of creativity I get when we hit September! I always get a little more done that time of year. When is your most creative time? Or are you equally creative all year long? I will be participating in NaNoWriMo again this year.  Last year really gave me something to work with, and I like the focused month of work. Have you participated in NaNo? How did it work for you – was is harder or did you find it to be motivating?