Just a quick howdy-do from the little amphibian who visited me in the garden the other day. Sometimes it really does take very little to brighten the dullest, most common chores or the least exotic occasion. A little hopper leaps into view, and my heart leaps to follow.
“Why?” is a beautiful question, even though it terrifies most of us. A wise soul once said that the opposite of faith is not doubt but certitude. When we grow too attached to a belief and its perfect correctness, we disallow not only our own reexamination of that belief, which if it’s so perfectly correct should pose no threat to us and if it’s not, should allow us to become wiser and more faithful to our convictions; we also fail to show respect for the belief itself, if we are so fearful of its being exposed as wrong.
Standing fixed in a position of faith is only impressive if that belief can be defended in a calm, intelligent, reasonable conversation with someone who doesn’t yet share the same convictions. A shouting match or the refusal to discuss respectfully is as likely to convince and convert an unbeliever as punching someone in the nose is to prove that you’re smarter than she is if anyone’s questioned it. It’s more useful to ask, whenever any disagreement arises, whether one is genuinely defending one’s belief or just feels personally threatened. Egos so often get in the way of rational, logical conversation when we reflexively mistake the call for proof or persuasion of our beliefs for personal insults. It might be useful to remember that when someone asks for evidence of something we cherish as fact, we could give them the benefit of believing that they really want to know why we accept it as truth. A genuine discussion might actually lead to common ground.
It might also, if we let it, lead to greater insight on our own part. The dispassionate process of a logician is aimed not at debunking everything in sight but stripping away falsehoods and irrelevancies and fallacies to expose the facts in the matter. Truth can withstand all questioning. It trumps politics, rants, bullying, diversionary tactics, disinformation and pure human foolishness, if we dare to examine all of the input carefully and patiently and with respect for those who may have so far missed the mark. A reasoned and quietly stated truth will finally have more power than all of the smoke and mirrors that deniers propagate and cling to, or we will have to admit we’ve lost more than our own convictions.
Like many of my compatriots here in Bloglandia, I chose to close my awards-acceptance shop after having been gifted with a generous helping of them. We all learn very quickly that this is an incredibly open-hearted and open-handed community, and the reassurance of being recognized in this way is a grand encouragement to keep working. It can also demand a fair amount of work and dedication just to go through the proper procedures each award requires for acceptance and the passing of the torch to other deserving souls, this on top of the way that the regular work of producing the blog not only continues but tends to increase if one wants to ‘grow’ the blog in any significant ways regarding its style, content, purpose, and so on ad infinitum. On top of that, there is the increase of comment correspondence that, in turn, inspires other changes and improvements along the way but also means one is devoting larger and larger amounts of time to the correspondence itself.
That is all good and great stuff. Really. Even if I were to quit blogging cold turkey this very moment I would say unabashedly that it has been wildly enriching, educational and happy work for the last nearly three years in ways that I couldn’t have imagined or replicated with any other kind of activity. I’m still almost entirely income-free in every way, though I’ll admit I’m starting for the first time to consider advertising here onsite for commercial partners in addition to the previous, occasional tiny plugs for my ArtSparks store at Zazzle.com or my book on Amazon or my Pinterest accounts, all of which combined make me an amount of money that I assume would send any self-respecting modern teenager into tizzies of fiery revolution if offered as their allowance. Again, not a complaint, as I am a happily kept woman whose partner willingly arranges his life to do the income earning while I blog, tend the household’s needs, and accompany him when I’m able. A surprising twist (to me) is that leaving a full-time job teaching at university and becoming a homemaker in a one-car family didn’t turn me into a hermit and a fearful little creature who hides in the hedgerows, but rather brought me out of my shell in developing and sharing what skills and arts I like to cultivate and in corresponding with and befriending a slew of people doing similar things all around the world.
Whether this work of mine benefits anyone outside my household is a matter for all visitors to decide for themselves, but I know that I derive both pleasure and growth from working here, in one way and another. I think I lead a far more colorful and expressive life internally, and that has external ramifications that effect useful change and direction in what I do—and how and when and why and with whom.
So I was happy to be tagged in a recent round-robin writing meme that requires little labor I wouldn’t already be doing and offers in return an opportunity for thinking about what does happen hereabouts and for learning how that is similar to, and different from, what happens in others’ blogging territories. I thank the marvelous Rosemary, whose blog is full of constant delightful, piquant artworks, brain-stretching turns of phrase and ideas that get my gears turning each time I have a chance to stop by there, for inviting me to be another participant in these collective ruminations.
Part of the meme process is to publish on the Monday after being tapped, and ask your nominees to do the same. I failed to get even close to the right timing, being on my own weird schedule as always. It didn’t, however, prevent my thinking further on the topic, so I’ll just pretend I was timely and wax philosophical when I’m good and ready, and if you need to, you can pretend it’s Monday the 28th of April all over again.
The rules of the process that I can follow merely require that I answer four questions about how I write and nominate three others. My nominees may well be no-award bloggers, too, (always or by now) but might find the questions worth asking themselves yet again, for these are questions we all ask or are asked often enough, those of us who write regularly whether for self alone or with wider purposes. Have fun with it, or if it doesn’t in fact offer that possibility to you, just ignore it while digging through the big basketful of thanks I’m sending your way for what your writing means to me.
What am I working on at the moment?
I’m working on blog posts, books, art commissions, planning for other posts-books-artworks, and doing what reading and research I need to inform and guide all of those things. The book of art and poetry I published in January used about a tenth of the content I’ve been creating and amassing over the last decade or so, leaving bunches of other books to be refined from the collection. I’m currently compiling sets of related, somewhat thematic poetry with which I intend to combine my visual art and texts as in the other books, but in these particular instances will collaborate with composers to set the texts to music. The art projects include a piece for a friend and former university colleague’s change of job celebration and a companion artwork for one of my graphite drawings that was bought at a fundraising auction. The latter won’t engage my writing skills, but the former is going to be a mixed-media piece that will allow me to play with textual content, another element I greatly enjoy incorporating quite often in my visual work. One feeds the other, always, just as my reading and correspondence inform what I do here.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I have no idea what genre my work actually fits. Seriously. This has been a problem as long as I can remember: it seems no one else knows how to classify me, either, and if I can’t be conveniently and recognizably enough pigeonholed, apparently no one can figure out any ways to market my work. I’ve posted about it before.
I roam down so many strange little byways every time I stop to write that if “genre” applies, I suppose I must move from one to another regularly. I consider myself an essayist, artist and short fiction enthusiast in what I typically do here; my self-selected projects, like book number one, virtually always have substantial overlap somewhere between those. Adding to the oddity is the spill-over from my personal blend of contented immaturity, constant rambling from piquancy to pathos and beauty to the bizarre. If I can figure out how to make a one-page piece that combines visual art with text and ranges from terrifying to hilarious, tenderly thought-provoking to ridiculously unexpected, then I am likely to be truly happy. And oh, so un-sellable. Blogging at least allows me to practice, enjoy, and air out whatever variety of my inclinations and artistic urges I choose, so it doesn’t merely stay bottled up, endlessly mouldering.
Why do I write what I do?
It may well be that I’m driven by forces far beyond my conscious choices. I’ve never embraced nonfiction much when choosing my reading; maybe that made it seem too much like work, like required reading, and you already know of my deep aversion to Effort. So no, I wouldn’t have chosen to write nonfiction any more than to read it. But of course, it could be argued that blog autobiography of the sort I practice, barring my being obviously delusional, is a generally factual forum in itself. Very much on the other hand, I have always loved goofing around with wild and outrageously unlikely fictional and fantastic ideas, subjects and stories. It’s so much fun to invent and flesh out my fantasies with all sorts of odd details and unexpected turns of phrase and plot and character development, the best of those in my practice being the ones that can develop in extremely short and shallow tales that fit into a single blog post or book page. I have a short attention span, so I prefer to treat even pretty sophisticated topics with this kiddies’-picture-book approach, quite often, knowing that it’s what will appeal to me first, and any somewhat like-minded reader after. If there are any such readers.
How does my writing process work?
I am, and have long been, a scribbler. Everywhere I’ve lived I’ve kept notebooks, scratch paper, and notepads stashed everywhere I’m likely to come to rest for even the shortest time: bedside, by my reading chair, on the kitchen counter nearest the table; next to the toilet, in the glove compartment of the car, on my desk. When the tiniest idea pops into my head, I’m likely to grab one of these and whatever pen or pencil I’ve put with it and scrawl as fast as I can. Story, drawing, list, note, sketch or poem? Maybe a combination of them. I might have my laptop or iPad handy and go directly to digital, but the medium matters less than grabbing hold of the idea while it lasts. I can always transcribe, scan, photograph or otherwise capture my paper scribbles, and those stashes of mine are much easier to access in most of the places where my day and night find me, so part of me is still very old school in this regard.
PS—I know there’s a long and honorable tradition of early morning writing—really early morning writing, by my standards—being a great and grand way to produce fabulous stuff and have a lasting career and all of that. I am not in that tradition. When I write in the early morning hours, it’s because I’ve been writing late and am still at it at 3 a.m. I would rather sleep ten or eleven hours a night, every night, than be a great writer. If that’s what it takes. Until I have confirmation that early morning writing is the only path to artistic excellence and writerly happiness, I’ll keep writing in snatches and patches of day and night that leave me free to sleep when and as much as I want and need. That’s my process, for good or ill. So far, it keeps me mighty happy. And happy to be here.
And now, I nominate these three writers to participate in a Writing Process Blog Meme:
Christine @ http://journeyintopoetry.wordpress.com
If you accept my nomination, you will write an article prompted by the following four questions and post it on your blog on Monday, April 28, 2014. Just like I did! Wink-wink. The four questions (just to jog your memory from the above bits):
What am I working on at the moment?
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Why do I write what I do?
How does my writing process work?
I completely understand if this ‘isn’t your thing’. No obligation. Just having fun!
Let us pause for a moment of thought on who we are and what we’re not,
On living life as best we can, no matter whether beast or man,
And think of beauty, wisdom, skill, kind spirits, charm, and strength of will,
And not forget, not for one blink, we’re not as dandy as we think,
But all the same, let’s take the tack of cutting, each, ourselves some slack—
Our imperfections won’t be solved until we’re all far more evolved,
But what we are at present, still, has bits of charm, kind spirits, skill,
Has strength and wisdom; beauty too—and that gives us enough to do—
I’m not a soldier or a bee, but when I’m passing through
You might mistakenly think me a drone, for what I do,
More than a bagpipe ever did, is blow and bloviate
And buzz so much–I do not kid–you’ll wish the kinder fate
Of early death, deafness at least, enveloping with fog
Your tender soul, until it’s ceased–my tedious monologue.
I prowl the alley on dark nights, looking for trouble spots and fights
And hissing, spitting, yowling, loud, my claws and fangs splitting the crowd,
So don’t be fooled if I look fine: wildfire is in my feline line–
My zoot suit is as cool as ice; my blood, though? Hot, not cool; not nice–
I’m fast, I’m fine, the cat that has searchlights for eyes, wild stripes for jazz,
A heart of iron, soul of steel, and toughness that’s dead deep, for real–
I’m fuzzy, but I warn you that I ain’t no prissy pussycat;
I’m lean and mean; I’m slick and sleek. But sweet? I’ll kick you to next week!
Get me riled up, it won’t be pretty–Bad Cat, yeah, but never Kitty–
All the same, at home a tub of cream is nice; a belly rub;
I’m tiger tough, to say the least, but hey! I ain’t no senseless beast–
Oops! I outfoxed myself. I was so distracted by the odd weather we’ve been having here lately and all of the ways it’s unexpectedly altered our calendar and our plans (though my birthday came today right on schedule, wink-wink) that I completely forgot last night to put up the day’s post. So I did it today. A two-fer. Just to remind all of you how much I love you. Thank you for your patience. I may be getting a little absent-minded in my old age, but I still think the world of y’all. Happy two-post day!
The vixen, when she deigns to leave her den,
May have designs on other vixens’ men,
For, little as I know the ways of foxes,
I know they don’t like being kept in boxes
But rather like the freedom just to roam
To any den, if it should look like home,
And any male they’d like to have as mate–
No fan of squirrels am I. In the abstract, I can enjoy their wild gymnastic athleticism and pranks and admire their elegant plumy tails and all of that, yes I can. But when I hear that familiar thud on the roof when they’re jumping from the red oak to the shingles and holding their miniature NASCAR events up there, what I’m thinking is not ‘how cute’ but ‘rats’.
They are, after all, rodents. The little scarpers have nice sharp claws that scrape bits off of our roofing (see: roof confetti in gutters) and nice sharp teeth that chew chunks off of our siding (see: bare wood fringe appearing on siding near where only birds or squirrels could possibly reach) and not-so-nice habits of eating every bit of bird seed that I put out if they can reach it (see: squirrel hanging upside down by ankles from gutter like trapeze artist while he stares longingly and calculatingly at nearby-but-not-near-enough bird feeder, then dashing back down to the patio below to scarf up every seed, nut, pod and shell left below said feeder before dashing back up again for another recon) and of ‘recycling’ said bird feed onto patio, porch, garage perimeter and paths for me to sweep up after them (see: squirrel excrement scattered decoratively hither and yon).
But there are as many fans of squirrel-dom as there are less sympathetic critics like me, and there are certainly many, whether among squirrel friends or not, who think many other creatures more dirty, pesky, or persistent than I do. Take pigeons, for one. I’ve heard them called ‘flying rats’ more than once, and know that they are at least as frequently cited as disease carriers and civic troublemakers as are squirrels. Other than the remarkably tiny headed (and I confess to thinking them remarkably tiny brained in equal proportion) mourning doves that visit our place occasionally, there are rarely pigeons around there, so it’s probably simple arithmetical odds that make me like them perfectly fine when I’m so prejudiced against squirrels. As long as you don’t swing by for the seemingly sole purpose of eating my food and then expelling it back out upon me and mine when you’ve had your fun with it, I guess I’ll give you a free pass.
I should very likely just cut the poor squirrels some slack, too, in exchange for the hijinks they provide as compensatory amusement. After all, they, along with all of the other critters that call our garden, yard, ravine, neighborhood and planet home, must surely look on me as a dirty, self-centered, gluttonous and destructive interloper on their home turf, and they would not be wrong. And I sure don’t expect to be able to repay the affront by amusingly hanging by my ankles from the gutter anytime soon.
I wonder if you flinch at all
At cows upon the bedroom wall
That have great horns and twitching tails—
The massive cow that seldom fails
To win a ribbon at the fair—
And like them watching over me
To fend off any sleepless nights
That little old four-letter word Work has challenged the finest among us to test the limits of endurance, wisdom, hope and courage for as long as there’s been such a thing as a job on this planet. We agonize and weep over our work as though doing unspeakable heroics every single minute, even when we know perfectly well that every living thing has faced challenges of his, her or its own since the first moment there were, well, living things. It didn’t take employers and employees to bring this tension to full expression. If I think I’m sitting on a powder-keg just because I’ve tackled something that pushes me to my limits (or, to be more precise, because it has tackled me), it’s time to step back, take a deep breath, and remember my compatriots of every sort striving and struggling and facing greater odds than I have ever faced, accepting them as the inevitable price of existence.Not that any of this contemplation has the remotest chance of making me stop thinking myself both the greatest martyr and the finest superhero at work on the planet. I only get the smallest momentary glimpses of sanity through the veneer of my regular distorted self-image as the silly person I am, after all. Even though I know that in my own version of ‘cat and mouse’ the tiniest mouse could best me in the flick of a whisker.