Why creatives need each other, or, another lesson from Papa Hemingway

Perhaps I need to open a Restaurant and Social Club for Writers and Artists

Being a writer/artist can be a lonely life. Many of us end up sitting for long hours in quiet rooms writing/painting/creating. (I am tucked away in my tiny studio neatly hidden in my backyard as I write this). Now don’t get me wrong, this is not a complaint, it is certainly something we choose to do. I write better when I am alone and I lose track of time. For some writers, the coffee shop becomes a refuge from the solitude. I know people who write all day in a coffee shop, blocking out the chatter and kicking out chapter after chapter. Then others work at home and end up hanging out in public with fellow writers when they have the chance.

I return to A Moveable Feast often, and I find that I do that when I’m feeling isolated or I start to get into a self-defeating mindset. Even Earnest Hemingway understood the importance of surrounding himself with creative people, including T.S. Eliot, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Picasso, etc. He liked to be alone and write, but he kept acquaintances and friendships with many creatives. I realize that this glamorous era in Paris when all of these creatives were drinking and socializing and sharing their work makes more sense every day. Yes, they had arguments and it wasn’t all rosy, but the bottom line was that they all encouraged each other. (OK, maybe Fitzgerald and Hemingway stopped encouraging and started bickering, but that’s later. Follow me here for a moment.)

Surrounding yourself with creative people fuels your creative juices. It has to. Being around that kind of energy and enthusiasm and angst can’t do anything else. We are all in the same boat, trying to create and share our work. We all understand the depression and elation that comes with being creative. Why do you think that writer meet-ups are so popular, or that writing groups meet all over the country in bookstores and cafes?

Who do you surround yourself with? Do you have a circle of people who knit with you, scrapbook, etc? If you’re a writer/artist, do you have a core group that “gets you?”

I realize that although I have a few friends who are writers, I don’t frequently hang out with other writers or artists. I had the chance to meet a lovely, encouraging writer recently and what a great feeling it was. Just hearing that someone else had doubts about her success or talent, or that someone else felt the need to create and didn’t know why. It’s a grand and fabulous feeling to talk about your work and be validated, and that’s what all those lucky people in Paris were doing. And that’s what all those lucky people in writing retreats do, and writing meet-ups in cafes. And yes, I know that the cyber world enables us to have relationships with other creatives from the comfort of the back studio, but there is nothing like being face to face with another writer and nodding your head as they express feelings you’ve had so many times.

So, my goal is now to add to my creative circle of people to share my journey. I know it can only be beneficial to me and to everyone else who has a chance to grow from it. Thanks to Shannon for adding me to your circle!

 

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Creating art, no matter who likes it

“The arts are not a way of making a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”

This quote by Kurt Vonnegut has been making the rounds on Facebook and it really spoke to me. I love the line, “Write a poem, even a lousy poem.” Writers/artists are always so worried about what others think about their work. But the reward should not be who likes it, but the amount of joy we got out of creating it. There will always be someone who does not like it, and there will always be someone who does (even if that’s just you). Do it anyway.

I sent out a short story to a contest yesterday and I was sweating while I did it. I imagined the judges reading it with scowls and grimaces. “She thinks she’s a writer?” “What the hell is this?” Nightmares. Then I tell myself I’m supposed to be positive and that brings good things, right? At least that’s what all those cute sayings and photos tell me on Facebook. So I picture them saying, “Wow, brilliant writing. Check this out,” as they hand it around the table. (Yes, they are all sitting around a big conference table sipping martinis and reading short stories. It’s my dream, shut up.)

I’ve created all kinds of crappy art while trying to copy Pinterest. Who the hell does all that stuff anyway? But I had fun doing it and it’s all over my office where I can see it, but  everyone else doesn’t have to look at it. It might be brilliant, but more than likely it’s mediocre at best.

We’ll see what happens with the story, but I felt great while writing it. I felt great editing it. I felt uneasy sending it, but once it was gone it was out of my hands. And if, by chance, they don’t like it, that doesn’t take away any of the joy I got while writing it.

 

The small differences between Stephen King and me

Living in Arizona means there are many more hot days than cold days, no big secret there. And it’s not so bad in the long run, but for someone who loves writing when it’s cold outside, that’s a bummer. I love it when there’s a fire in the hearth or even a heater running, warm tea by my side (or a glass of good single malt Scotch). The words seem to flow and the energy that comes in through the window with the chill air is electric.

Now, as I sit here my mind wanders to great writers, prolific writers and I come to the conclusion that there are only a few small differences between Stephen King and me. (Just a few, you say? Yes, follow along.) First, his fiction has been published. Yes, I know this is a big one. And although I have been published in plenty of nonfiction, I haven’t sent my fiction out there just yet, but I intend to remedy this difference very soon. Then there will be even less difference between me and Stephen, J.K., Ernest and more.

Third, and this is a bigger one…he lives in Maine. It’s cold there and it even snows, and he’s got the fire going, a glass of Scotch, pine trees outside the window, etc. Now, of course I’m only imagining this since Stephen hasn’t yet invited me to his place in Maine (Notice I said yet. I’m keeping the door open on that one). But in my head, that’s what it looks like. And in my head, that’s why he writes so much and so well. The energy of the cool air and the sound of the wind through the trees, even the crackling of the fire behind him in the hearth only add to his creativity. (OK, I know his history and he wrote at a desk between the washer and dryer in a small apartment, but I like to believe that’s all made up. I need a fantasy, so shut up!)

It’s a cool, breezy day here in Arizona, one of the last of the season and I’m taking full advantage of it. I have my tea (it’s still early), the windows are open and the breeze is chilly and crisp. There’s even a chance of rain, which makes me giddy with anticipation. So I close off this blog post in order to use the rest of this splendid weather and write. Hmm, I wonder if there’s room near the washer and dryer for my desk…

 

I slept late. I drank wine.

I went on vacation. I sat on a deck in the afternoon. I slept late and dreamed of my characters. I dreamed of their lives, their motivation.

I drank a lot of wine. I slept late. I dreamed about changes. I dreamed about new characters and new challenges.

I drank a lot of coffee. I came home. I began to rewrite.

I am recharged. I missed my desk. I missed my characters. I missed my obsession.