on creativity, part 2: wordsmithing

As promised, here’s the next part of my “creative journey” story. Turns out I have quite a bit to say, so today’s post will focus on my writing, followed tomorrow by photography, and then, who knows?

Growing up, I never felt like I had any creativity. I can’t sing (trust me when I say this: although I love it, it’s a pleasure I try to limit to my time alone in the car. I’m nothing if not kind). I play no musical instruments. I can’t draw/paint/etc. Regardless of my mom’s time and patience in teaching me, I still can’t crochet or knit. Unlike most kids in grade school, I dreaded the weekly arts and crafts day because my attempts were obviously inferior to my fellow classmate. I’d have much rather written a 10-page report or tackled long division, my nemesis.

Even as an adult, after asking me to draw them a deer or a doggie, my children would wander away sadly. “Never mind, mommy. I’ll ask Daddy instead…” was a common refrain at our house. In high school I was enrolled in Pottery B (although, in my defense, I’d never taken Pottery A). After a month or so, the teacher, who was also the yearbook advisor, instead let me work my administrative magic on the yearbook during class, earning me that all-important “arts” credit by typing up the index and endlessly organizing and typing the copy for the book.

Needless to say, the words “creative” and “me” never seemed to belong together, at least not in the traditional form.

However, I had always loved to write, and loved even more the feeling I got when a teacher would share my story with the class. Rather than fiction, my genre of choice, even then, was what I now know as creative nonfiction. My fourth grade essay about the death of my cat, Snowball, was a tear-jerker and garnered me a hug from Mrs. Strahm, a favorite teacher. Aside from intermittent periods of journal writing, though, I quit doing even that. Marriage, motherhood, and work can do that to a person…

Back in 2008 I started my first blog, From the Top of the Stairs, the name loosely tied to lyrics from one of my favorite James Taylor songs. I don’t know how long blogs had been around at that point, but I’d toyed with the idea for at least a year before finally starting. I had all these great stories about the kids tumbling around inside me, and they demanded an outlet. The writing I did was almost entirely for myself as a way to remember the small stories I knew from experience that I was likely to forget.

How grateful I am that I took that step! Somehow, even though life was crazy and chaotic, I managed to carve out the time, forgoing precious sleep so that I could get the story down, the words formed, tweaked, and reformed again. Reading over them now I am amazed at just how many of those stories I wouldn’t remember had I not done this.

Oftentimes I’m amazed that the words came from me.

All my life friends, family, and teachers have told me that I’m a good writer, but my relentless inner critic ( a real sour-faced prune I’ve nicknamed Gertrude) always reminds me that it’s part of their job requirement. They have to say that, don’t they?! She whispers that there’s always someone wittier, someone smarter, someone better…

Earlier this year, though, I stepped out on a limb and revised and submitted an essay to the university-wide writing contest that I had written for a class. I honestly didn’t think I’d win, but figured I had nothing to lose. A little over a month later, I opened an email from a name I didn’t know to read the following words:

“Congratulations! Your essay has won 1st Place (Undergraduate Nonfiction Division) in Utah State University’s 2015 Creative Writing Contest and will be featured in Scribendi magazine.”

Say what?! After a brief moment of disbelief, and a few joyous tears (definitely found my smile that day), I finally felt that maybe – just maybe – I could really go somewhere with my writing. In addition to being published in the annual magazine, winners were invited to give a public reading of their work, almost leading to tears of a different sort…   ;)

At long last, at least for the moment, Gertrude was speechless…

Almost over!  Can I open my eyes, yet?!

Almost over… Can I open my eyes, yet?!

Public Service Announcement: Never use the words “cerulean” and “swirl” in the same sentence if there’s ever a chance you’ll have to read them in front of hundreds of eyes!

on creativity – part 1

Baby Robin

Like this young robin who so kindly posed for me, I need to quit sitting around and get myself moving…

At the beginning of summer a year ago, I signed up for a few Kim Klassen photography classes with weekly lessons that focus on finding our stillness and creativity (something I was in desperate need of then, and apparently continue to need now…). I had the whole summer ahead of me and grand visions of the beautiful photography I would create. Thoughts of gorgeous props like fresh-cut flowers and pretty little teacups with saucers that I’d find in out-of-the-way antique stores, quaint or rustic backdrops, experimenting with different lenses, and gorgeous morning light streaming through my one-and-only east-facing window ran temptingly through my head…

However, last summer, like this one, all my plans for spending even an hour or two a week on something meaningful to me washed away with the daily grind. Work, house cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, and running a then-drivers-licenseless teenager hither and yon sucked my energy dry, leaving me an empty husk. Oh, I managed to read and watch a few of the lessons and even posted a few pictures on the blog, but once school started back up again in the fall, I was off to the races and rarely bothered to open the weekly lesson plans, promising I’d catch up on the next break from classes at Christmas or Spring.

This summer my plan was again to catch up, but here it is, almost the first of August, and once more I’ve been extremely sluggish about following through with my plan. I’ve thought about it more than once, but I’ve been feeling completely uninspired and more than a little… I don’t even know. I’ve never been one to get depressed, but for whatever reason I just feel… blah. I’m not sad, really, but I’m not happy either. I’m just existing and watching time pass while I try to figure out where the joy has gone. In my free time, rather than doing things I know I love like photography, writing, reading, or connecting with friends, I find myself wanting to become a hobbit, living quietly in my personal little Shire hole.

The reality that summer’s almost over and I haven’t done anything really self-fulfilling had me running to print out the lesson plans of all 52-weeks  before they go away forever. Looking through them, I can tell I missed out on a lot!

So here I am again, making promises to myself to start working through the lessons and adding a little joy and “me-time” to my life. The first lesson is to write about our “creativity journey,” which is where I’ll start tomorrow…

I know I’ve neglected this blog of mine dreadfully, but if there are any readers still out there… Stay tuned!

And if not, I really just need to reconnect with my love of writing, even if it’s only for myself.

Until tomorrow… <3

a brief escape

FencePost_quote

Click on the photo to see a larger version.

This semester has been a killer, with a 5-credit Statistics course (let’s just say math is not my forte!), and an upper-level History of Women & Gender in America course that is giving me, a voracious reader with a love for history, a run for my money in keeping up with the reading. I truly didn’t ever think I could read too much, but I think I’ve hit the wall… Continue reading

my first gargleblaster

Midnight—all’s silent except my pounding heart, A Rose for Her Grave discarded on the nightstand; never read true crime when home alone…

Suddenly, unmistakable sound of nails screeching, slicing through my window-screen.

What the hell?!

Sassy cat sails through the breach…

Too late to be entered in the contest grid, but I couldn’t resist this one.  Entries must be exactly 42 words, and must answer each week’s question. Can you guess what it is?

(Answer: What came through the window?)

http://yeahwrite.me/gargleblaster-voting-177/

learning to breathe…

Breathe_bestillweek2

So my plan to post several times a week seems to have stalled right out of the gate, but I promise to try and rectify that.

After such a long spell of neglecting the creative side of me, I seem to have lost my words, and I’m having a hard time relocating them. More than a lack of words, I seem to have lost my confidence, and I don’t know why…

Continue reading