Posts Tagged ‘community’

I’ve Got No Talent!

I MET PAULA JEFFERY SEVERAL YEARS AGO in an online art group. The other day, we had a chat about how investing time (consistently) and effort (persistently) in any art form will eventually bear fruit—and she pointed me to this post, which she wrote for her own blog, but is graciously allowing me to share in an edited-for-length version with you. (And, yes, it’s about drawing, but really it’s about anything to which you’d like to apply yourself!)

* * *

I’ve Got No Talent
Paula Jeffery

Not long ago, I read THE TALENT CODE by Daniel Coyle. In it, he tells about a group of children who were monitored before and during the time they took music lessons. After a couple of months, as you would expect, some were doing really well, some not so well, and most were in the middle of that bell curve. The researchers looked closely for common factors between those who were excelling. They looked at things like the amount of practice they did, home environment, anything they could think of that might influence the children’s musical ability. They could find nothing. None of the factors they anticipated had any effect at all.

Until … bingo! Before they started lessons, all the children were asked, “How long do you see yourself playing music?” Their answers ranged from “until the end of term” to “a couple of years” to “forever.”  The researchers were amazed to find those answers sat perfectly aligned on the bell curve! The kids who saw themselves as musicians playing forever were head and shoulders above the rest, sometimes by as much as 400 percent—even if they practiced less! The kids who decided their music career would only last until the end of term were the same kids who were falling behind. The only common factor was their attitude to learning music before they even picked up an instrument.

This is not some mysterious, ethereal thing: It’s attitude!

Every now and again, someone on social media will say, “You’re so talented,” which is kind and lovely, but sometimes what’s unspoken is: “You’re lucky. You can just do this stuff. You were born with this ‘gift,’ and I wasn’t.” But I wasn’t a talented kid! I took art at school because I was lazy and it seemed an easy option. I wasn’t even allowed to take the art exams because my work was so bad. My adult life was spent happily stating I couldn’t draw a straight line.

Fast forward to 2014. I was 59 years old. Going off-piste one day on a visit to YouTube Land, I discovered art journaling. It looked like fun. You didn’t have to actually draw or paint anything recognizable, you could splash paint about and glue pictures from magazines. From there, I did a couple of courses (shoutouts to Tamara Laporte and Effy Wild), and I painted figures and faces. Then I did ICAD (the index card a day challenge: shoutout to Daisy Yellow). One of the daily prompts was “eye.” I hunted on YouTube for How to draw an eye and found a step-by-step tutorial. I followed along and, OMG, I drew a recognizable, not-bad-looking eye.

This was an aha moment. These techniques could be learned! Next, I drew an elephant, again from instructions! I was so excited. I thought, “I could learn to draw,” and there was no stopping me. I joined groups. Someone recommended Danny Gregory, and I joined Sketchbook Skool, founded by Danny and Koojse, and amazing tutors from all over the world opened my eyes and freed up my pen. I joined drawing memes and drew 100 faces, one each day, to see if it improved my technique. And guess what? It did! Now, I’m taking part in Imagining, the latest Sketchbook Skool Kourse (where our last tutor was the amazing Stefan G. Bucher).

For the last three years, I’ve drawn nearly every day. I’ve worked at it and studied hard. I try not to compare myself to others, and I absolutely LOVE what I’m doing.

Here are three sketches of my husband, Graham. I did the first in 2014 as part of my 100 Faces project. It was a massive improvement on previous portraits. The second I did in 2017, and I really pleased with it. The final portrait I just completed.

2014

2017

2019

 

So, when someone tells me I’m talented, with an undertone that suggests they couldn’t do it, I am tempted to sit them down and gently tell them that “Yes, yes, really, you can.” Their next line is usually “I’m too busy.” So busy there is not time in the day to take five minutes to draw something, anything? I learnt a lot about “busy” when I studied for my Open University degree with women who had three kids under school age and wrote their essays at the kitchen table in the early hours of the morning. And got their degrees. If you really want to do something, you will find the time.

Then the argument can shift to this: “Well, I’m too busy doing other things I prefer.” That’s fine. That’s an “I don’t want to,” rather than an “I can’t.” (Occasionally, I hear an “I’m too busy” that really means “What I do is so much more important than your little scribblings.” But, hey, for those, I just nod and smile, nod and smile.)

Apart from my immediate (and very lovely) family and friends, social media has been the biggest catalyst for my artistic achievements. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have continued without the support of Facebook friends and groups. Inspirational, supportive, and non-judgmental art groups are amazing and always offer the message Yes, you can!

Now, I’m not afraid to say, “I’m an artist,” with no apologies (and no “amateur” in the mix).

Paula is an artist, writer, and self-publisher, who lives in the middle of England. Visit her site, PaulaJeffery.com or on her Amazon author page.

A Tarot Writing Prompt Without the Prompt (Sorry!)

I’M WRITING A BOOK that includes tarot writing prompts (out next year—stay tuned!). In the process, I’ve roped twenty-one writer friends into guinea-pigging some of the prompts. Which led me to BFF Jill’s kitchen table last night, where we each took a running leap at the Ace of Pentacles.

While I won’t spill the actual prompt, I am going to share my response. (Jill’s beautiful piece and the prompt that elicited it will both be in the book.) As you read what I wrote, though, see if you can reverse engineer it and find a prompt to play with yourself.

THE STORY

He told me this story 25 years ago, and maybe he’s past it now. But maybe not. Anyway, this is how I heard it …

He’d gone out for the evening, leaving his recovering-cocaine-addict ex-wife babysitting their eight-year-old son. When he returned, the kid was asleep and his ex was on the couch watching a movie.

He plopped down to join her. Suddenly, as the camera pulled in close on the lead actress, he found himself flushed, the sweat of attraction prickling. He was hooked, he said, the same way he’d been when he first met his ex—and the coke-head girlfriend before her.

When the credits finally rolled, his ex-wife gestured at the screen. “That woman,” she said, “had a raging coke habit when she made that movie.” Then she shrugged the whatcha gonna do? shrug of a former addict, gave him a hug, and let herself out the door.

That’s when he got it: No matter what, no matter how many meetings he attended, no matter how many hours he spent talking to his therapist, no matter how many years of sobriety he himself had, if there was an active cocaine user in any room, the beacon of her addiction would blind him to every other woman there. He would stumble towards her as if he were hypnotized. And there wasn’t a damned thing he could do about it.

Except this: From that moment on, he could remind himself that if he was suddenly and heart-poundingly desperate to accept what a woman was holding out to him, for sure, that offer would eventually prove too good to be true.

Tarot writing prompt

So, that was my response to the prompt Jill and I tackled. And it surprised me. The memory of being told that story was buried deep. But it surfaced as I began to write.

As you probably know, timed writing to a prompt—committing ten, twenty, even thirty minutes to just letting our pen or fingers fly, not stopping to censor or reread—allows us access to parts of our mind we may not usually get to when we write more deliberately.

It can produce raw, rough, open-ended results. But that’s sort of the point. Either we just enjoy the process and appreciate the unpredictable product, or maybe we take what we’ve created and use it as a starting point for something else—fodder for a fresh direction we might not have accessed otherwise.

For me, sitting at Jill’s table, rain beating down, cats sacked out nearby, the prompt I’d created for the Ace of Pentacles triggered a long-held memory. I was happy just to get it out of my brain and onto the page.

Is it deathless prose? Not at all! It’s not even an entire story (although I could make the case that it has a character arc). Still, I wrote. And sometimes that is more than half the battle.

Now, you!

While you’ll have to wait until the book comes out to see the exact prompt we used Saturday night, here are two clues: The main thrust of it is contained somewhere in the final sentence—and it’s metaphorically illustrated by a major element of the accompanying tarot card.

But whether you want to play detective and puzzle out that prompt, or you want to read the story I wrote and let that—or the image of the Ace, or the idea of a rainy Saturday night spent sitting at a kitchen table with a friend—trigger a memory or story of your own, have at it! Let your flying pen or fingers provide a chute for your imagination to slip through onto the page.

* * *

Thanks to U.S. Games Systems, Inc., for kind permission to use the image of the Ace of Pentacles from the RIDER-WAITE TAROT.

Posted in News, Notes & Quotes | Comments Off on A Tarot Writing Prompt Without the Prompt (Sorry!)

Tarot Writing Prompt: The Nine of Friends

TODAY, MY WEBSITE IS BROKEN. Well. Cracked. It’s a thing I just discovered. And I feel as helpless about it as the little guy in this card feels about his broken purple cup. Fortunately, like that little guy, I am not alone in my predicament. My website creator, the fabulous card reader Melissa Jo Hill, is ON IT!! Which, thank God. Because, I’m just not.

Nor am I on the SEO/marketing part of my business. But excellent-writer-in-many-genres (and also publisher) pal Tia Levings is. And brilliant, cat-loving, speculative-fiction-writing Mary K Swanson (no period after the “K”) has my techno-helpless butt covered when it comes to computer software and hardware. Thank GOD!!

And this list of good and helpful friendliness doesn’t even include Mr. After Fifty Adventureman, Hugh Holborn, who came down yesterday for a confab about his adventurous memoir-in-progress—and brought a can of WD 40, a metal brush, and a bucketful of tools to fix my garage door.

With friends and colleagues like these, my various broken cups and garage doors and computers don’t stay so for long. So I wasn’t all that surprised when I turned over the strange Nine of Cups (above) last night.

You see, the tarot Nine of Cups is usually associated with the sense of well-being that comes with having enough (as illustrated by this traditional—slightly smug—image from the Rider Waite Smith Tarot), not with the comfort of friendship.

But the card from the PHANTASMAGORIC THEATER TAROT (top) goes its own way, and depicts a community gathered in support of one of its members, rather than a single person self-satisfied with his cups.

That first image reminds me that neither my wealth nor my well-being lie in the material or technological or cyber-ish things I lean so heavily on, but in my friendships. As an old pal used to say, “Our most reliable ‘social security’ is actually our community, not what (we hope!) the government has tucked away on our behalf.”

Tarot writing prompt

Your character (or you!) has gotten into a jam (always good for story-telling, right?). Something’s broken. Irrevocably. Something in which she (you?) is very much invested. Is it a precious object? A part of her anatomy? A relationship? Decide … and then write the following:

1) A scene in which you show us exactly how deeply your character is invested in the object/anatomical part/relationship—and why! (What’s at stake?)

2) A scene in which we witness the object (or ???) breaking.

3) A final scene in which your character’s community rallies to help her (you?) mourn the irrevocable brokeness—and helps her take steps to move beyond the loss.

Novel-writing inspiration

Want some literary inspiration? Check out the novel THE BOWL IS ALREADY BROKEN, by Mary Kay Zuravleff.

Thank you to U.S. Games Systems, Inc. for their kind permission to use the images of the Nine of Cups from the PHANTASMAGORIC THEATER TAROT and THE RIDER WAITE SMITH TAROT. 

Tarot and Writing and Dragons: Deep Work

MY FRIEND TIA LEVINGS WAS JUST INTERVIEWED FOR A NOT NOSY PODCASTAmong wide-ranging topics, Tia talked about DEEP WORK: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, by Cal Newport (find your way to 47:21 to hear that part of the conversation) and how applying Newport’s principles to her writing process has helped her, well, get a lot of freakin’ writing done!

Listening to Tia, I took away a key message—and not a new one: To get the writing done, we have to prioritize the writing.

It may seem that prioritizing simply means allocating sufficient time. But I’ve found there’s another aspect of the getting-writing-done equation that is as important to me as the number of hours I devote: It’s the creative energy I bring to my writing, my magical inner fire. If I’ve burned all of my creative fuel for the day—used it up on intense conversations with friends or the focused critique of another writer’s work—by 7:00 p.m., although there are seemingly two or three usable hours left in the day, I’ll have no heat left to create within those hours.

And I’m in good company! Author Ann Beattie, having just published her short-story collection PARK CITY, told a writerly audience that she has to be very careful about talking deeply with someone else about their writing when she is working on a manuscript, herself. “The part of me that writes doesn’t care whose writing gets attended to,” she said. “Once someone’s writing has been addressed, my inner writer packs it in. It’s finished for the day.”

Tarot on writing

For me, the Two of Wands from the CRYSTAL VISIONS TAROT nicely illustrates the choice we writers have to make about where to place our creative energy, our fire, every day. In it, we find a young knight astride his dragon, holding a crystal-topped wand in either hand. These wands represent two options, the two places to which he could direct his fiery steed.

Like the knight, each day we get the chance (maybe several chances) to choose where we will commit the dragon of our energy. The more conscious we are of these moments of choice, the better able we are to choose to do the deep work.

Tonight, I was reminded—by Tia, by Ann Beattie, and by this young CRYSTAL VISION’s knight—that I had a choice. So, instead of tuning into THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW and devoting what was left of my energy to fueling my righteous indignation, I chose to invest my evening’s dragon in writing this post.

Thanks to U.S. Games Systems for permission to use this image from the CRYSTAL VISIONS TAROT by Jennifer Galasso.

Congratulations Station

CONGRATULATIONS TO Royal Palm Literary Award-winning author ANNE HAWKINSON on the publication of SCOTLAND’S KNIGHT: The Rose in the Glade. Now available on Amazon, The Rose in the Glade is the first in a new series that Anne is co-authoring with Scottish Book Trust author PAUL V. HUNTER. To Anne and Paul, may the Thistle bloom forever!

Hey, there, RYAN G. VAN CLEAVE! TWO new books out on Oxford UP? Nicely done, sir! Van Cleave fans (and creative types), check out Ryan’s co-authored VISUAL STORYTELLING and his CREATIVITY: A READER FOR WRITERS. See what you think! (Also, thanks, Ryan, for your shout-out to me in your recent THE WRITER magazine article on writing coaching. I’m thrilled to have been at your literary service!)

So happy to report that MARGARITA MCCARTHY’S poem “Cuba ’95” was a finalist in this year’s Royal Palm Literary Award contest, presented by the Florida Writers Association. May this be only the beginning, Margarita!

Finally! Syndicated political cartoonist DANA SUMMERS’ debut novel is available. Winner of the Florida Writers Association’s Royal Palm Award and Mystery Writers of America’s Freddie Award, DRAWN AND BURIED follows cartoonist Tim Ryder, who drew a cartoon series that earned him a Pulitzer, but drove a presidential candidate to put a bullet in his head. When we first meet Tim, local politicians begin turning up dead at murder scenes staged to resemble cartoons he has drawn. Uh-oh. Good luck, Tim!

Congrats, Dana! (And thanks so much for your appreciative note in your acknowledgements.)

Congratulations Station

CONGRATULATIONS TO ARTIST REBECCA SCHOENECKER on the publication of her stunningly beautiful, four-years-in-the-making CREATURES OF THE MOON: A Storytelling Oracle. This oracle deck’s 32 full-color cards, featuring both animal-totem guidance and moon-cycle guidance, is accompanied by a 308-page companion book, which includes original, fairy-tale-like stories for each image. I am so proud to have been project coach and first editor on this fascinating new oracle. May the Creatures be with you, Rebecca!

* * *

A big shout out, too, to CINDY KNOEBEL, whose (brilliant!) short humor piece “THE GREAT METAPHOR” was included in the spring 2017 issue of online literary magazine PHREN-Z. (Click HERE to read the entire piece.) Cindy is currently seeking representation for her first novel, a high-stakes, high-spirited Wall Street romp (complete with dismembered Barbie dolls and attempted murder).

* * *

Woo-hoo! Just one year old, South Florida magazine CYCLING QUARTERLY (which I am pleased as punch to edit!) is a finalist for two of FLORIDA MAGAZINE ASSOCIATION’S Charlie Awards—one for Best Advertisement: Self-Promotional (congrats, to CQ publisher MICHAEL GALE and to GARY DAVIDSON and BRUCE BORICH), and another for Best Writing: Column (yay, MARIAH REED!). If you’re a South Florida cyclist, grab the latest issue free from most SoFla bike shops.

 

Congratulations Station

VERY HEARTY CONGRATS TO TWO ARTIST PALS: PAULA JEFFERY on her recently published collection of dog portraits, DOG DAYS: The Art of the Dog, available on Amazon, and JADE HERRIMAN on being tapped to illustrate the upcoming personal style book DEAR CONFIDENCE, now funding on Kickstarter. (P.S. The bonus waiting for you at the bottom of Jade’s home page, her free journaling ebook, contains 25 fresh ways to get your thoughts and feelings on the page!)

* * *

Kudos, too, to SHARON SPANO, PHD, on the completion of her new book, THE PURSUIT OF TIME AND MONEY, which can now be pre-ordered on Amazon.

Congratulations Station

Congratulations to LORI NORMAN on the publication of BEYOND THE DRAWBRIDGE, winner of a Royal Palm Literary Award from the Florida Writers Association.

Norman had always believed it was her calling to become a nun, but bound by rules, expectations of church and family, and her vows, she felt trapped and unable to escape. This inspirational memoir traces Norman’s journey from her entry into the novitiate at the age of eighteen to the eventual reexamination of all she knew and trusted.

Tarot Writing Prompt: Better Than 1000 Days

BETTER THAN A THOUSAND DAYS OF DILIGENT STUDY is one day with a great teacher. So says an old Japanese proverb. But you won’t even need a whole day for this exercise! You might, however, want to set aside an hour or two … perhaps with a cup of tea at your side. You’ll also want to gather some supplies: paper, a pen, and something to bookmark passages—highlighter? sticky notes? We’re going old-school, here!

Tarot writing prompt

First, choose your “teacher.” This would be a writer whose style you really admire. Grab several examples of her work—articles, books, essays, stories, poems, depending on her genre—to have at hand. Next, take your time browsing through the pieces you’ve chosen. Be on the lookout for passages (lines? paragraphs? scenes?) that are particularly pleasing to you, and bookmark them in some way.

After you’ve made it through your stack, revisit the passages you’ve marked. Now, grab that pen and a piece of paper and, simply, but with Zen-like attention, copy one (or more) of the passages exactly. This will give you almost a literal feel for the way the author puts together a paragraph (or composes a stanza or delivers a punchline). As you write, notice which parts of the passage give you particular pleasure to copy.

Once you’ve completed your copy-catting, take a few moments to name (in writing—bullet list, anybody?) what you think the writer is doing particularly well in that passage. Then, imagine how you might benefit from (further) developing the skill(s) the author demonstrates there.

FOR EXAMPLE
I picked a passage from the first chapter of Julie Compton’s Rescuing Olivia (used with permission) which I particularly admire.

“Mr. Mayfield?”

[Olivia’s] father looked up over the top of the reading glasses as if he was surprised to see Anders still in the room.

“Did I do something to offend you, sir? Is there a reason you don’t want me to see her?”

The man leaned back into his chair and sighed. “Olivia’s mother and I think that you have done quite enough for her, Andy. I’m sure the two of you have had a hell of a time together—God knows I cringe to think of the details—but it’s time for her to come home and be with family. If she’s lucky, that is.”

For a moment, Anders stood speechless, staring at him and trying to process the meaning of what he’d just said. What he’d just accused him of. If Anders had been a different sort of man, more like Lenny, he would have considered taking a swing at the guy. But if he’d been more like Lenny, he would never have been standing there discussing Olivia with her father. Olivia would never have been in his life.

“Are you saying you think I caused the accident? That it was my fault?”

Her father had turned his attention back to his damn papers, and he answered this time without even looking up. “You were driving the motorcycle, weren’t you?”

As I was copying out this passage (long hand!), I noticed how much I enjoyed the “For a moment …” paragraph. As internal narration, it both adds depth and meaning to the immediacy of the back-and-forth of the dialogue and balances it well. Also, I love the way it takes me winging out of the present of the scene with Olivia’s father into consideration of Lenny, a character I’ve yet to meet, but now am eager to—implying backstory, as it does so.

Not only does Compton’s use of internal narration and back story not slow the forward motion of the scene, but, somehow, she uses them in a way that creates suspense and builds tension. I’d like learn from this piece how to make internal narration do triple-duty in my own work—and tuck it in as seamlessly as Compton does!

UM … AND THEN?
Once I’ve completed this exercise, I trust my inner writer to take what it likes and leave the rest. At times, I find that I assimilate something of an author’s technique into my own work with little further attention. Evidently, in the words of my pal Kathleen (quoting a Zen master!), “The work will teach you how to do it.”

This post was inspired by the Hierophant, the teacher of the tarot deck. The Hierophant, who knows what’s worked in the past, suggests you learn from those who have been successful. In this way, you stand on a sturdy foundation as you prepare to make your own creative mark. Or, as my friend Daily Tarot Girl Kate said about the Hierophant, recently, “There’s something to be said for learning from people who have walked the path before you and using their way of doing things to save yourself time and energy.”

Here, the Hierophant is represented by Hermione, as “The Scholar,” from nasubionna’s Harry Potter Tarot (used with permission). Hermione is a character who studies conventional ways and wisdom—before putting her own brilliant spin on what she’s learned.

Congratulations Station

ELIZABETH SIMS’ recently published CRIMES IN A SECOND LANGUAGE starts when protagonist Elnice Coker and her husband Arthur, retired schoolteachers, move from Indiana to the Hollywood Hills in a last-ditch attempt at novelty and happiness … and then the (fabulous!) wild ride begins! Mystery readers, get on board. You’ll be glad you did!

* * *

KRISTEN SCHEIDER, founder of Wellblends, has a new book out. YOUR LIFE IS MEDICINE: AYURVEDA FOR YOGIS, for which the late Dr. Wayne Dyer was consultant editor, is for anyone seeking a more balanced, healthful life. Check it out!

* * *

SHERRY TURNER’S long-awaited memoir about her time spent care-giving for her beloved mother-in-law, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s, titled, LIFE WITH MOLLIE, BUT REALLY IT’S ALL ABOUT ME, is now available.

* * *

LAURA BOLDIN FOURNIER’S first picture book was published late last year. Big congrats, Laura, on AN ORANGUTAN’S NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS and on your profile on Inky Girl!

* * *

Congratulations to DR. KATHLEEN RUDDY, founder and president of the Breast Health and Healing Foundation, on her new, fabulous YouTube channel. Dr. Ruddy is a renowned breast-cancer specialist as well as a budding novelist. (FYI, her channel concerns the former, not the latter!)

* * *

My good pal (and brilliant writer) MARY K SWANSON (nope, no period after the “K”) is in mid-portfolio-site creation. But OMG, even as a WIP, it’s GORGEOUS. Take a look at her Writing Dreamer site.

1 2 3 5

Subscribe for monthly writing prompts, resources & inspiration!
VoiceHeartVision.com ©2014-2019 Jamie Morris | Privacy | Terms & Conditions | Site design by Melissa Jo Hill