Newsletter #9 - I'm back, baby!
“E.L. Doctorow said once said that 'Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.' You don't have to see where you're going, you don't have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice on writing, or life, I have ever heard.”
- Ann Lamott, Bird by Bird
A lot has changed since my last newsletter some eight weeks ago. First and most predictably: my sabbatical ended, and once again my full-time job became the biggest time commitment of my day. My rosy optimism that I could squeeze creative work in the spaces between work, childcare, and managing a household was tested big time. It was, I admit, harder than I expected. But folks...I was doing it! For a couple of weeks, I was psychotically disciplined about waking up early to do morning pages and spending every evening after the kids went to bed doing creative work, no matter how tired I was. I was committed! It was not going to be easy but I had a system in place, and it was working!
But I threw a wrench in my own carefully laid plans when I decided to go all-in on the November general election. There simply came a moment where I felt like it was clear how I needed to spend my free time until November 3. So I stopped doing art--abandoning a few low-stakes commitments like #Inktober and postponing a self-led illustration class that I loved--and instead spent all my extra time writing postcards and phone banking. (Ask me about ballot curing in Nevada! I’m an expert!) And then because nothing is simple this year, the Senate election went into overtime. So I doubled down, and have since been working incessantly on the Georgia Senate runoff race. Essentially, since we last spoke, I haven’t been doing much creative work at all.
This was not what I had planned on, and you will never convince me, Captain Virgo, that creating and following A Plan is a bad idea. I felt so good about the preparation I did in advance of my sabbatical and I’m convinced it helped me make the most of my time. Not to be too intense about it but those eight weeks were better than I could have ever anticipated. Life-changing. Magical. So when it came to figuring out how to keep making art a part of my routine post-sabbatical, I fell back on what had worked for me before: A Plan. I hoped that by relying on a new system that worked with the reality of my full time job, I’d still be able to hold on to a little of that magic.
The choice to shift my focus from creative work to the November (and then January) elections was clear, but it was still fraught. And in fact, the longer I’ve waited between projects, the more daunting it felt when it came time to sit down to make something. I was worried that by abandoning creative work so soon after I’d started to recover it, I’d lose it forever!!! I ditched Art and pissed her off and now she was gone, and she took my mojo with her.
But I was wrong. Even though I have not been making art, my mojo remains. During my sabbatical I unearthed a feeling of expansive possibility, of excitement and inspiration. I’m happy to say I still feel that way (most of the time!). I’ve said yes to things that scare me; I’ve done things I’ve never done before; I’ve kept up with my morning pages, and used them to think about my life and my dreams and my place in the world, and in them I have had gentle but important revelations.
What I’ve learned from this is that I can step away from art and my routine in the service of an urgent priority, and all the lessons and inspiration I’ve unearthed will not dissipate into the wind, lost forever. It’s a lesson I hope I can take with me going forward: The understanding that I, a human person with a life and responsibilities, will not always and forevermore have a predictable routine that will serve as the only thing keeping me going. There will be times when I will need to step back, and these ebbs and flows will not be catastrophic. In fact, they can be great in their own way.
And another lesson from the past eight weeks, one I’ve learned many times in 2020 and will probably relearn again and again over the course of my life. Plans help; they can anchor us; they might make us feel safe. But for better or worse, nothing is guaranteed. All we can really see is the next few feet of asphalt ahead, illuminated by the headlights. The headlights are a gift, and so is the dark road. I might not be able to see it all, but I have to trust that there is so much more out there, more than I could ever anticipate. All I can do is pay attention and follow the way forward.
THE WEEK(S) IN WORK
Since my last newsletter, I did indeed complete the final four weeks of The Artist’s Way. I learned so much and am so grateful to have had it as a resource. In fact I felt like it was such a rich experience the first time around that, as soon as I completed it, I, the eternal student, began to reread it again immediately 🙃 Will I just read and re-read The Artist’s Way until the end of time? Your guess is as good as mine!
I signed up for a couple of classes with Case for Making friends. For all of November and most of December, this was the only time I was doing art. I had so much fun and I was so glad to have scheduled creative time. I love classes!
I’ve been working on Georgia! Do YOU have a little time or money to spare to ensure the next two years aren’t hellish gridlock during which Mitch McConnell will continue to occupy even a tiny portion of our brain? Of course you do! You make a donation to the Warnock and Ossoff campaigns or phonebank. And if you want to do more - reply to this email and I can hook you up.
The illustration class I briefly abandoned was led by Illustoria’s Elizabeth Haidle, and I’m currently wrapping up the last week of work. She’s offering the class again AND a Part II in January, which I plan to sign up for. Follow her on instagram for more info! I really loved all the assignments.
I wrote this newsletter! And I have an idea for at least one more this year! I am thinking about what I want for 2021 and how I can set creative goals that feel manageable and exciting. Perhaps one newsletter a month in 2021?
It’s been a while and frankly I’ve been doing a lot of retail therapy this year so let me pretend for a minute I’m Oprah and create a lil gift guide round up of a few of my favorite things. I recommend: this cross-back apron; this planner; these Japanese gardening shears; this heating pad; this five year diary; beaded hoop earrings from this gorgeous store; a fancy rice cooker; this beautiful and calming book. I’ll stop there for now but I COULD KEEP GOING.
Listening to Mariah Carey’s autobiography “The Meaning of Mariah Carey” on audiobook. Mariah’s self-titled debut album was one of my first ever cassette purchases, and she will always be my baby. The audiobook version is the way to go because she narrates it AND she sings!
Do you have any plans for a special holiday meal? I’m honestly thinking we might just go full on plate lunch for Christmas dinner and pull out favorites from this cookbook. A benefit of being The Mom is I have undue influence when it comes to family meals, even ones that are supposed to be traditional. Why are we eating ham on Christmas? Ham sucks! There’s my hot take - ham sucks. Eat some shoyu chicken instead. (I miss Maui so much 😭)
What are you into these days? If you were making your own gift guide, what would be on it? (This is not theoretical, I really want to know!) What are we eating besides ham?