Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Anything for Art

Sharon Wildwind

Last week, I wrote about cleaning out my stash of old writing and art supplies, which is why this week I’m contemplating painting watercolors while sitting in my bath tub au natural.

One of the things I discovered in my stash were some very old paints. I read up on watercolors, which led me to experiment; experimentation led me to three conclusions:
a. Watercolors can be messy, even in experienced hands.
b. Mine are not experienced hands.
c. I’m willing to do anything in order to achieve great art.

Except—truth to tell—I’m not willing to do anything for art. At least, not any more.

Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within was one of the first books, and one of the most influential, I read about being a writer. She wrote about writing in cafes, flotation tanks, and laundromats. I thought, if she could do that, I could write absolutely anywhere.

I’m not talking about writing in the requisite doctor’s offices, malls, and airports. Sooner or later, all writers write in those places. I’m talking about writing in places that were exotic, strange, or just plain idiotic.

Such as six feet underground, in a survival snow trench the exact dimensions of a grave, in January, in the Yukon.

Such as in abandoned tunnels running like catacombs underneath a university campus.

Such as in the parking lot of a police station, fifteen minutes after a beat cop had been killed two blocks away from that same station. The killer still roamed the neighborhood and policemen, dressed in bullet-proof vests and carrying high-powered weapons were pouring out the door.

Such as wandering through any open corridor I could find in a legislature building—the jurisdiction shall remain nameless—taking photographs and making notes in my journal about potential ways to enter or leave the building undetected. Just in case this blog is being monitored, I later destroyed every one of those photographs and notes.

Right: the author, embarking on a non-writing flight.

I admit that I did not write while flying in the open cockpit of a Stearman Kadet, but that was only because the pilot wouldn’t let me take anything with me on the flight. Even my button-down pockets had to be emptied out.

The world has changed in so many ways that having the audacity to write in truly strange places has either become either life-threatening, or is guaranteed to lead to long interviews with people who have absolutely no sense of the absurd. All that’s left in those surrealistic situations we all find ourselves in occasionally is to observe carefully, take mental notes, and write it out once I’m back behind the safety of a locked door.

It just isn’t the same, somehow.

Writing quotes for the week:

There are only two rules for keeping a journal: 1. Write everything. 2. Erase nothing. ~Natalie Goldberg, writer and teacher

Writing begets writing. Keep the hand moving. ~Natalie Goldberg, writer and teacher


Lonnie Cruse said...

Love it, Sharon! I recently came across some drawings I did several years ago and decided I need to be drawing again. So the drawing book and pencil are sitting near the crochetting stuff I bought a couple of years ago and didn't start, but at least two rooms away from the candle making bag. Sigh. I do adore journaling and I'm teaching a workshop on it this week at a local library. Hmmm, maybe I should write a workshop on starting and not finishing???

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

I have done that "freewrite" à la Natalie Goldberg many times, and it sure shakes up the creative unconscious. My favorite experience was in a songwriting workshop about ten years ago. The workshop leader had us write whatever came for ten minutes without lifting the pen from the paper as a warm-up for going out into the beautiful country surroundings for an hour and writing a song in our heads--no pen and paper, no laptop, no tape recorder, no musical instruments. I spent the whole ten minutes writing about how I'd try to talk her into letting me off the assignment. She remained firm: out I went--and came back in an hour with a complete song, a pretty darn good one, in my head. :)