A New Artistic Paradigm

Once upon a time, when journalism was journalism, gossip was gossip, and propaganda was recognized for what it is, aspiring beat writers learned to begin their news stories by answering six basic questions: Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How? 

The useful mnemonic device has a history stretching back to Cicero, although early rhetoricians framed the questions differently, and the form evolved over time. Perhaps most famously, Rudyard Kipling, in his well-known Just So Stories (1902), included this bit of verse in a tale he called “The Elephant’s Child.”

I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew).
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.
I send them over land and sea,
I send them east and west;
But after they have worked for me, I give them all a rest.

Questions beginning with one of these six famous words are especially useful for information gathering, since none can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”.  Anyone hoping to write an informative news story, provide a good interview, understand historical context, or carry on enjoyable dinner conversation with a stranger soon will appreciate the importance of the five W’s and an H”.

More than a set of tools for professional journalists, Kipling’s honest serving-men pop up in surprising places.  Listening to conversations among aspiring artists — painters and writers, photographers, musicians and poets – I hear them put to use again and again.

 Who would be interested in what I have to say?

 What should I write about?

Where could I exhibit my work?

When would I find the time?

Why should I keep working when no one seems to care?

How can I become a more skilled photographer (writer, painter, musician, poet)?

In a world filled with questions about the creative process, professional photographer Chase Jarvis has a few answers. In an intriguing blog entry titled There are No Excuses,  Jarvis reveals his sensitivity to creative angst.

I’ve heard you say that there’s nothing to take a picture of. I’ve heard you say you don’t know what to make, when to make it, how to make it, what to do.
I’ve heard you say that you don’t know how to get your work “out there.” I’ve heard you say that you don’t know what to put on your blog. I’ve heard. I’ve heard. I’ve heard. And I promise you, I, too, have said all these things.

Then, he goes on to remind us that such questions are rooted in a time when artists required permission from others for their work to be seen. Permission came in the form of being hired to shoot a news story, to write a magazine feature, or produce a graphic layout for a business. As he says:

“They” sat up in fancy corner offices and if you were good  — no, scratch that, good AND lucky — “they” would say “yes” and then you’d be permitted to share your work with the world. 
Not any more. It’s the first time in the history of the world that you can share your work without anyone’s permission. What are you waiting for? Spend your own time and your own money. Then, hit post, publish, share, send, or whatever makes the software push it out into the world.

According to Jarvis, the emerging paradigm for artists of every sort can be summed up with elegant simplicity.

The first step is to create something. It could be a photo, a video, a poem or a painting. For that matter, it could be a blog, a business model or a bit of computer software. In a separate post titled, “Thirteen Things Crucial for Success (In Any Field)”, he expands by saying:

Over-thinking, pontificating, and wondering are tools for the slacker. People don’t care what almost happened, or what your problems are, or why something wasn’t. They care about what is, and what will be.
That requires actually making stuff happen. Pros do; make; ship; send; publish; post; and deliver.  Amateurs sit around and wonder, or worse, scratch their arse.

The next step is to share what’s been created.  Send it to an editor or submit it to a jury if you like, but don’t limit yourself to such traditional means. Post it on a website or blog. Tweet the link. Link on Facebook. Find editors and publishers who accept online submissions and email it.

Finally, sustain yourself. Keep a day job until you can quit your day job and devote yourself full time to your art, or keep your day job and continue creating and sharing for the pure pleasure of it all — especially the pleasure of not requiring “permission” from anyone.

A lifetime of productive beauty and personal satisfaction could emerge as a result of embracing Jarvis’s framework.

Begin by creating, sharing and sustaining something: anything.  Then, do it again, and again, and again, until the rhythm of production becomes as natural as breathing.  Cycles and repetition are as crucial for the creative life as they are for the physical. Just as breath enlivens our bodies, the ebb and flow of creative spirit enlivens a growing body of work that illustrates who we are, what we stand for, where we’re going, and why. 

When we will arrive, and precisely how we’ll travel is, of course, intensely personal,and part of the mystery of creativity.

Had I read Jarvis when I first began writing, I might or might not have recognized the truth of what he says. Today, there’s no question in my mind that what he says is true.  As the rhythms of creation develop, as the skills improve and the body of work begins to build, possibilities become reality. The picture-taker becomes the photographer. The doodler sells a first canvas. The software designer gets a contract. The writer is published.

Everyone forges their own way to creative satisfaction, of course, but I’ve found the path Jarvis describes to be recognizable, enjoyable to travel and amenable to constant revision. My hope is that all of us can be intrigued by his perspective, and encouraged to re-commit to our own journeys: creating, sharing, and sustaining ourselves — and others — in unimaginable ways.


Comments are welcome.  To leave a comment or respond, please click below.

116 thoughts on “A New Artistic Paradigm

  1. This is wonderful, Linda, and perfect for me right in this moment. I can’t thank you enough for this framework of encouragement and actual steps. Your writing is so fluid no matter the subject . You make it a joy to read about writing/ creating.

    1. Teresa, I’m not sure any of us can pull apart process and “product.” Beyond that, I’ve thought for years that the dynamic so useful in education generally — the reciprocal relationship of action and reflection — is important for creative endeavors, too.

      All of us need encouragement, and I’ve found a good bit in Jarvis’s work. If you find encourgement there too, I think it’s wonderful.

      And thanks for the kind words. I always feel a bit presumptuous, writing about writing, or any other art, for that matter. But I love to think about these things, so it’s bound to happen now and then.


  2. Many people seem to think creativity is what happens through spontaneous combustion. All of a sudden a spark is lit, a piece of work is created, and the world accepts the product. Instead I see it as a process, often a lot of WORK.

    As creators we need to identify a problem, figure out what resources are available to solve that problem, determine a range of possible solutions, choose and implement a solution, use feedback to refine the solution…

    This is true whether the creator is a software developer or a choreographer. What stage will you perform on? How many dancers will you have available, at what skill levels? Is there a budget for costumes and other design aspects? Who is the audience and how much time do we have to perform? … Given those resources, what are the possibilities for dance genre/style? And so on… And as Jarvis says, get things done. WHILE you are working (creating), moments of inspiration (NOT creativity) will occur. If you don’t do the work, it doesn’t matter how inspired you are.

    1. When I was reading your comment, Melanie, I was having flashbacks to many of your quilting posts. There’s no question that you practice what you preach, or that you get beautiful results because of your commitment.

      I approach my writing somewhat differently than what you suggest here, but I suspect that’s a function of personality and different genres.On the other hand, I know a couple of painters who clearly approach their canvas as problem-solvers as well as creators. It’s fascinating to see how different people meld various approaches..

      I will say there are times when no amount of work is going to help me out — when I have to let something lie, and move on, until inspiration hits. On the other hand, it’s surely true, what you say at the end: if we don’t do the work, nothing is going to happen, no matter how inspired we are. I think Neil Gaiman got it right when he said, “This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until its done.” I suppose that would be true for sitting down at the quilting frame and putting one stitch after another, too.


  3. That has got to be my favorite of all your blog posts (including your most recent trilogy w/ the apple), and you know how dear that one was to me. ;-) DM

    1. Thanks, DM! It doesn’t take much of a leap of imagination to see how all of this applies in other realms: the artistry of the garden, for example, or your community concerts. Hospitality is an art, too, and that’s something you certainly have shared with the world.

      I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that apple pie, too. You certainly made me want to create one, but I chose to make some applesauce, instead.


  4. The internet does indeed open opportunities to share work in many different ways. I think with gratitude of the miracle of connecting with people I’ve never met in the flesh, like you! It may well be that talent will remain unrewarded with money or fame. But maybe those posts will be discovered in the far future. Who knows?

    1. Rosemary, your comment about the possibility of our posts being discovered in the far future reminds me of the old saying: the question isn’t, “Is there life after death?” The question is, “Will there be life before death?” Of all the things I don’t worry about, what will happen to my writing post-death comes close to the top of the list.

      In this era of me, my Selfie and I, there are days when I feel as though I ought to care a little more about fortune, fame, and an enduring reputation. But there are other things more important to me just now. If the Brink’s truck showed up in my driveway, I wouldn’t shoo it away, of course. I’m not stupid. But I can be just as happy appreciating a cranberry shadow under an acorn squash. It’s funny how that works.


  5. Great post! Just so happens I just today recommitted myself to using my photos in blog posts and writing about wetlands tours as they happen once again. Although paralysis wasn’t my excuse–working at things that pay has been my hindrance — due to lack of spare time and being dog tired by 7 p.m. I took today to write a few posts and schedule their publication later in the week when I will be working and campaigning! Really enjoyed this post, Linda!

    1. BW, you’re juggling a lot right now. One thing I can tell you for sure — once the chaos of the campaign is over, we’ll all be right back there with you, whenever you’re ready to take up the blog again.

      This ought to make you smile. Look who landed in my back yard today. This is just a small portion. There must have been a hundred or so. They won’t all stay here. I think this is their staging area, before they move on to wherever they’re going to spend the winter. But I haven’t seen groups like this in several years. I hope you’re getting them in equal numbers. There aren’t any coots yet, but the osprey have been here for some time, and I’ve heard the teal are thick.

      I did stop by and read the Daily Comet report from Tuesday night’s meeting. What an experience for you. Stay rested, as best you can.

      And thanks for stopping by, in the midst of it all.


  6. Yes, the advice is good.

    There is just one small thought I have and that is that not all efforts are worth the oxygen of publication. For instance, I often see some excruciatingly bad ‘poetry’ on blogs; the poster may consider it worth doing and s/he probably derives a lot of satisfaction from it – which is good, I am not against personal gratification – but there is no one to give an honest opinion on the work and the poster will not learn to do better but continue to, dare I say it, lay him/herself open to ridicule. (If, indeed, anyone cares enough)

    With a publisher, an editor, a sponsor, an art critic involved there is some guarantee that really bad work is choked off at an early stage.

    Yes, I know about the artists who were not appreciated by critics and public alike and went on to become famous and highly praised and there are quite a few of them. Perhaps there will be bloggers too whom we now disregard, but you must admit that in ‘our’ circles nobody ever says anything unkind. The best we can hope for therefore is either silence or a meaningless kind of praise.

    But, to get back to your original point: yes, we must have a go, we must persevere, we must try and learn, hopefully by being honest to ourselves.

    1. Your points are well taken, Friko. I thought immediately of the well-known and entirely amusing quotation from Flannery O’Connor:
      “Everywhere I go I’m asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them. There’s many a best-seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.”

      Of course, that points to another reality of life. The shelves of bookstores aren’t necessarily filled with glorious fiction and emotionally-charged poetry. There’s just as much junk in the print world as there is online, which puts the onus back on us to pick and choose our way through the thicket of words.

      One thing I’ve found interesting is how the lack of an editor, teacher, or evaluator of any sort has made me far more self-aware and self-critical than I might have been otherwise. And I think that’s another part of Jarvis’s perspective that wasn’t emphasized here: we’re responsible for what we put out into the world, and we need to take that responsibility seriously. However “good” or “bad” my writing today, there’s no question it’s better than when I started out. That, of course, brings us back around to effort, and self-criticism.

      Another thing that plays a role in blogging is the comment section. Without feedback, I could sit at my dining table and write from now ’til doomsday, without a clue whether someone would find my work interesting, of value, intriguing, and so on. I purposely have nurtured conversations here for two reasons. The first is that I’m truly interested in others’ perspectives. But it’s also true that I can learn a lot about what “works” and what doesn’t by how people respond. In short: readers as editorial board isn’t such an out-there concept.

      There’s no question the excruciatingly bad is out there. But I have a little rule that has served me well. I try always to spend my reading time with people who are better writers than I am, or who know more about various subjects than I do. Mother taught me that when I was still a school girl: choose your companions carefully, because you’ll become who they are.


      1. Thank you for this reply.
        Yes, I agree with every word you say. It is up to each individual one of us to produce the best we can, be it on a blog or anywhere else.
        Finding oneself in slap-dash company can encourage one to fall into the same trap. Your mother was a wise lady.

        You are right to choose carefully whose blog you read and whose comments you welcome. I have failed miserably to do so because I still feel guilty if I don’t acknowledge all-comers, no matter how bored I may be.

        Perhaps I need to change my blogging vehicle.

          1. Well, thank you, Friko. And, yes: being born after the Creation was very good. Being born between Creation and Fall would have been even better. Now, wouldn’t that be a great book title? “The Happy Prelapsarian”!

        1. Only one caveat: I welcome all comments, except for those which quite obviously are spam, meant only to set up a link or spout jibberish. Some people love to discuss, back and forth. Others leave only a sentence, or even a few words. I treasure them all.

  7. Yes, it would have been good to read Jarvis before I started blogging. I remember being quite concerned with what to choose as a subject. Anymore, I feel less of that. There’s no schedule or day when it should happen. Something comes along to motivate me to want to teach and explain. I like to share some wondrous things. It comes easier all the time.

    1. When you started blogging you were using a different platform and you quickly became roped into a schedule. YES, you volunteered for it (as I did, too.) But there was a structure outside of ourselves. We were committed to writing for it. Now we don’t have the same constraints, and more then ever we can write to please ourselves. That may be quite selfish, but also no one is going to fire us…


    2. And you do a wonderful job of it, Jim. Of course there are times when your subject matter is beyond me. But increased familiarity brings increased comfort, and a higher comfort level makes incremental learning more likely. I’ve told the story before, but you may not have read it. When I began teaching sailing, I asked a student to throw some line on the dock. Her question? “What’s a dock?” That pretty much established where we needed to start!

      I do remember the starting-out period, and my first, firmly-held conviction. As I said to a friend, I’m going to write about what I find interesting. If someone else finds it interesting, that will be two of us.
      I do try to hold to a schedule, for a variety of reasons, and that’s become easier over time, too.


  8. Wow and wow.This post ought to put the fire under a good many bloggers but unfortunately it will not help me out. I simply don’t have the hudspa right now. Hudspa is my own made up word. :-) I know there is a correct spelling of that- I think! I have quite a number of “to be”posts in draft and I work on those when I feel up to the job.

    Seriously though Rudyard Kipling was quite a writer. Very wise for his time. I have one of his pet loss poems posted on my blog.

    Linda, your writing is superb as usual with wording that flows so effortlessly. Very enjoyable and oh so true.

    1. There are at least a couple of spellings of “your” word I know about, Yvonne, but here’s the grin: I knew immediately what you were talking about when you wrote about not having the hudspa just now to get your work into the world.

      One thing I did notice as I re-read Jarvis is that he doesn’t recommend any particular schedule. He just says we need to have the courage to create and share. When life gets in the way of the sustaining, in terms of work, health, or family issues — that also needs to be taken into account.

      I’ve been surprised by Kipling recently. For years I thought of him solely in terms of the Road to Mandalay — helped along by Frank Sinatra, no doubt.
      Now, I have another quotation from his poetry ready for another post – about gardens, for heaven’s sake!

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. The fact that you find it an easy read is a wonderful compliment.


  9. Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How?

    I like this! It seems I sometimes find myself in a loop that results in not getting as much done as I know I can do.

    So I need to add to your list of words … (like Nike) … Just do it!

    1. Daniel, Nike’s catch phrase reminds me of a wonderful little true story.

      One of my friends, a terrible procrastinator, decided to do something about it. She put post-it notes with “Just Do It!” all around her house. Not much changed. As she later said, she never could figure out what to do, or why she should do it, or how to do it. The only thing she was clear on was “Who” should do it, since she was the only one in the house.

      Between “I want to” and “I ought to”, I do a good bit of looping myself. Ah, well. Life being what it is, I suppose it’s inevitable!


  10. I really enjoyed this Linda. Your words jogged my memory, taking me back to a lecture I had almost fifty years ago when I first joined the teaching profession. I can ‘see’ in my mind’s eye a dowdy dressed, middle aged spinster quoting the Kipling poem you have used as an example. Her intention was to set us thinking about the ‘five W’s’ of HOW we would be educating children.
    Once qualified, I remember listing these six words on a ‘chalkboard’ …remember those?…and talking them through with class after class when I was teaching English Composition. (That’s something else that seems to have disappeared from the syllabus!)

    Finally, thank you for inspiring me, giving me a verbal push, to get off my ‘rear end’ and complete, then try to publish, my children’s story!

    1. Your remembrance is a reminder that even concepts have their histories. I read an interesting article about the five Ws that noted that, in the journalism schools of the late 1940s, they began to lose favor. Part of the problem was that so many journalists had begun to cram all of that information into a single lead sentence. One of the new ways suggested was to draw in the reader with a bit of detail or story, and then begin revealing the facts of the matter.

      It would be refreshing to have a return to those earlier times, when facts mattered. As the saying has it, “You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts.” (I’d always associated that with Daniel Patrick Moynihan, but even that saying has a bit of a history.)

      Don’t I remember that you’d picked up on the stories again, perhaps last January? No matter. Winter is coming, with long nights and nastier weather — it’s a perfect time to get back in writing form!


  11. Another beautiful exposition ( have I chosen the right mode of discourse?). The creation and sharing are the easy parts, as far as I am concerned, but the sustaining is much harder. However that is the part which concerns me the least. I love that we all have access to this new artistic paradigm.

    1. Thank you, Gallivanta. It’s clear that you love both the creativity and the sharing, and you do it wonderfully well. Sustaining effort over time does have its challenges. Learning to accept the natural rhythms of creation is important, too. Times of lying fallow are as important for the flowering of art as they are for the fields.

      As for access: it allows remarkable things to happen. Just today I came across this page in The Liberian Observer, where artists are reflecting on their role in the Ebola recovery process. I think you’ll find the second piece carries some echoes of things you might have experienced. And there’s no question that there are echoes of Jarvis’s points about discipline and determination.


      1. The posts in The Liberian Observer do indeed show discipline and determination and are an antidote to the fear-mongering about ebola that is grabbing the globe. These words are coming from people who are living the Ebola nightmare and they are determined to be spirited and affirm life through art, music and song. Bravo Liberian artists.

        1. I went back and found this poem, written by a Kpelle woman named Patrice Juah. She works in the fashion industry, and was a previous Miss Liberia. The poem’s called “The Ebola Ride,” and it uses the Liberian money-bus or taxi as a metaphor for the country’s experience. It’s a good poem, with much to ponder.

  12. Perhaps a timely recollection for your post. On 20 October 1948
    the great ” Pleasure Garden” art controversy begins, when a Frances Hodgkins painting (done in about 1933) is exhibited at “the Group” show. It ignites a fierce debate on art style by people throughout New Zealand. It raged for 3 years until the Christchurch City Council accepted the painting as a gift on September 3, 1951. You could say that this painting marked a shift to a new artistic paradigm in NZ http://christchurchartgallery.org.nz/collection/objects/69-08/

    1. What a delightful time I’ve just had, Gallivanta. I’ll say this – you New Zealanders certainly do know how to turn a phrase on the editorial pages of your newspapers.

      And I loved this, which I found — well, somewhere: “There was the 1951 battle of The Pleasure Garden, when Christchurch engaged in protracted trench warfare after a coterie of city fathers decided that contemporary art had gone far enough, thank you very much, and what today seems to be a completely inoffensive painting by Frances Hodgkins would never besmirch the pristine walls of the city’s public art gallery.”

      The entire tale reminds me of the year (maybe 1963) “Time” magazine did a retrospective of the 1913 Armory Show in New York. As I recall, Marcel Duchamps’ “Nude Descending a Staircase” got an entire page in the magazine. The bridge club ladies were not amused.

      It’s quite amazing that such an inoffensive painting could be described as bringing “The End of Colonial Art.” That’s quite a shift, indeed.


      1. Nude Descending a Staircase, that one critic described as looking like an explosion in a shingle factory! The slighty sad thing in all this is that, today, almost nothing allows us to express old fashioned indignation and outrage. :D Except maybe something like Tracey Emin’s My Bed…http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/jul/29/tracey-emin-my-bed-tate-loan That raises my eyebrows a bit. If only I were paid that much for every one unmade bed in the house.

        1. An explosion in a shingle factory is good: funny and creative. I’m not sure what I think about Ms. Emin’s bed, except that the end of her relationship must have been pretty explosive itself.

  13. You quote Jarvis; I could quote Neil Gaiman, “Make Good Art.” ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=plWexCID-kA well worth a viewing) or I could quote Rebok, “Just Do It.” There’s no better way to learn how to do something than to just jump into the middle of it and start doing it. It’s how the “not very good at” become “better at”. Each time you do it, you learn how to do it better next time. That said, the truly creative are creative not because of but in spite of being thwarted … They do what they do because they can’t not do it. The good news is, as you point out, doing it is not nearly as thankless as it used to be.

    1. WOL, that’s a wonderful video. I got only a few minutes into it tonight, just to the point where Gaiman says, “I learned how to write by writing.” I’ve believed for some time that’s how it’s done.. I’ve even written it in just those words on this blog. Hearing Gaiman say it out loud was quite something. I’ll finish watching the video later, but I do appreciate you linking it.

      Your remark about just jumping in set me thinking. When I was a kid, I never would jump off the high dive at the pool. I just couldn’t do it. I’d never jump off the end of a pier at the lake, either. It was a long, long time before I learned the pleasure of just jumping in, though by the time I first tried it, water wasn’t involved.

      (I just listened to another five minutes of Gaiman. I fear I’m going to have to set everything else aside and finish it out tonight. It’s too good, in too many ways, not to.)


      1. Bookmark it, and listen to it several times over the course of a week or so. His books are amazing if you haven’t read any of them. Doesn’t matter what age group they’re supposed to be for, his are the best kind of stories. There’s something happening on so many levels in all of them that one story fits all.

        1. Already bookmarked, and already listened to again. We’re moving toward my “reading season,” with longer nights and the end of daylight savings time. He’s been added to the rotation.

  14. Whether writing an evaluation of an argument or a first chapter of a book, one must not shy away from the blank page or piece of paper that stares back; rather, one must begin!

    As most who read your blog might experience, what the brain reveals in the process of putting words to paper or screen is often a big surprise!

    We were just telling our students last Friday that writing is a causal act, the effects of which are often surprising.

    1. What you say about the blank page is so true, Cheri. The blank page, the empty canvas, aren’t going to fill themselves. Besides, as Leonard Cohen so rightly says, “Before I can discard the verse, I have to write it.” Likewise for revision, expansion, more revision, and so on. I’ve often thought of the similarities between writers and sculptors. The trick lies in piling up the words, then carving away what doesn’t belong.

      You’re also right that the process itself can be rather surprising. There have been a few times that I’ve headed off in one direction with a piece, and by the time I finished, I not only had reached an unexpected conclusion, there wasn’t a trace of the original post left. I never know quite what to think about all that.


  15. I wish that a “journalistic code” existed requiring all reporters to routinely ask and answer those 6 questions when they write a story. I think that would advance civilization a century!

    I hadn’t thought of using them in other areas. Something to really think about!

    1. One thing’s for certain, montucky. If those six questions were asked and answered more often, it would be easier to distinguish between a newspaper’s front page and the editorial section.

      As for using them in other areas — of course. In fact, I can imagine something like this. You decide that you want to take a hike into an area you’ve never explored. Where should you go? Who, if anyone, would you want to go with you? What would be the purpose? Simple exploration? Mapping? Photography? When would be the best time to go? Why seek out a new place, when there’s still so much to explore in more familiar territory? How would you need to provision?

      Answer all those questions, and I think you’d be about ready to trek off!


  16. When I began writing, I had the same hesitation as many other writers. I wanted to put some of my artwork out there, but what to write with it?

    Through the years, one becomes comfortable with writing about the things of interest to themselves. That is one of the reasons I became attracted to your blog. The writing is superb, and there is always a delightful surprise in the subjects you choose. I can’t be locked into a box in my every day life, so why should that happen on paper? To do so would take the spontaneity out of the writing.

    1. When I began my blog, Kayti, I read a good bit of advice to “write what you know.” There’s nothing wrong with that, and that’s where I began. But it’s not where I stopped, and quite clearly it’s not where you’ve stopped, either.

      Your comment sent me back to a post I wrote so early in my blogging career I had precisely twenty-six posts to my credit. That ought to qualify me to give advice — right? Well, I did dish out some advice, To my amazement, much of it I still agree with. I especially like this:

      “So first of all: look. Open your eyes and your ears. Be receptive to what you see around you, and what you hear people saying. Look for the odd, the unexpected, the commonplace that isn’t even seen any longer because it is so common. There’s enough in the world to keep us all going for lifetimes.”

      Curiosity and open eyes are two of the best writing tools in the world, don’t you think?


  17. I’m of several minds about this. I’m wondering who the audience(s) are for Jarvis’s piece.

    It certainly is true that there is no longer any kind of bar to self-publishing, yet where that leaves aspiring writers and artists who wish to have some modicum of conventional “success,” I’m not really sure. And this statement particularly bothers me: “Amateurs sit around and wonder, or worse, scratch their arse.” It’s not amateurs who sit around and wonder, etc., but procrastinators. There are legions of people who pursue creative endeavors for their own pleasure and without desire, hope, or thought of a career. Wendy Lesser’s book, “The Amateur,” comes immediately to mind: http://www.nytimes.com/books/99/02/28/reviews/990228.28shapirt.html.

    I think your own words are far superior to Jarvis’s, no surprise. Like these: “Begin by creating, sharing and sustaining something: anything. Then, do it again, and again, and again, until the rhythm of production becomes as natural as breathing. Cycles and repetition are as crucial for the creative life as they are for the physical. Just as breath enlivens our bodies, the ebb and flow of creative spirit enlivens a growing body of work that illustrates who we are, what we stand for, where we’re going, and why.

    “When we will arrive, and precisely how we’ll travel is, of course, intensely personal,and part of the mystery of creativity.”

    Amen to that!

    1. While I take your objection regarding Jarvis’s reference to amateurs, I don’t find it objectionable. It’s not unlike Stephen King’s well-known observation from his memoir: “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

      It may be that in Jarvis’s world — that of commercial photography — the lines between amateur and pro are drawn a little more sharply than elsewhere. But when I first encountered him, I took his reference to “amateurs” in the same sense that I take King’s: not as a reference to those who do what they do for the love of their art, but as an acknowledgement that beginners in any discipline have some things to learn before they can become “professional” — in terms of the quality of their work, if not the size of their paychecks.

      I think, too, there’s a distinction to be made between procrastination and other, more subtle blocks to the creative process. I know procrastination! I can be as bad as anyone about setting aside, putting off, or ignoring. But with writing, especially at the beginning, it was more complex than that.

      I know so many people who say, “if only I could afford this Nikon or that set of lenses, I could be a great photographer.” There are would-be writers who spend more time and money than you might imagine on the right pen, the moleskin journal — tools they imagine will guarantee an easy flow of words.

      Behind most of that behavior lies fear of rejection, insecurities of every sort, an unwillingness to court disagreement or conflict, and ambivalence about putting oneself in the public eye. What I loved about Jarvis when I came across him was his willingness to say, “Yes. Those blocks to artistic production exist. Now, kick them out of the way and get started.”

      It doesn’t surprise me that you find my words are superior to Jarvis’s. After all, he’s not a writer. Compare my photos to his, and there’s no question who’s superior. But don’t forget — the words I write today would have been impossible five years ago. Jarvis was one who helped keep me motivated while my friends and family were saying, “Why are you wasting your time playing with that computer?”


      1. Linda: I appreciate what you’re saying, but you are someone who prizes the “right word,” and “amateur” is the wrong word to describe what both King or Jarvis are discussing. They each make “amateur” a pejorative. An “amateur” is not a beginner, but someone who has chosen not to make his or her creative endeavor a career. I’m glad Jarvis was a motivator for you, as you deserve it. But I can’t excuse either him or King for choosing the wrong word. Sorry.

        1. Well, we’ll just have to agree to have one of those respectful disagreements you mention on your blog. I don’t see them using it as a perjorative at all, and their usage certainly seems supported here, where amateur also can mean “One lacking the skill of a professional, as in an art.” I do prize using the right words, but I don’t see anything wrong in this case.

          1. I’ve been thinking further about the issue of the “right word” myself, and of course, as you note, there are different meanings and contexts for it, aren’t there? It was the harshness of Jarvis’s statement that struck the wrong chord with me. Of course his clear messages to create/share/sustain are words to cherish and to live by, particularly as it’s so very hard to do any of the three in a world that doesn’t place nearly enough value on the arts.

            Lesser’s embrace of the term “amateur” (a term more typically used in a pejorative sense, I think) to describe herself has been particularly meaningful for me. (I can’t find this, but around the same time, I believe someone who played in an “amateur” string quartet in his nonworking-for-pay time wrote a piece embracing the term, too.) Lesser clearly felt the sting of writing as a free-lance “woman of letters” without the expected academic credential that would give her a virtually automatic right to the term “professional” (even if, in either case, she made little or no money out of the deal). That rings even truer to me now than back when I first read the book. It’s a struggle, as an amateur (in music parlance, I do something similar when I embrace Babbitt’s unquestionably pejorative “lay listener” term) to be heard at all, even when one does create/share/sustain. Thank goodness, therefore, for the rich conversations we are all able to have via blogs and other such modes.

    2. I came back up to the top of our discussion, Susan, hoping to prevent two-word columns. We’ll see if it works. (ADD: It did!)

      I very much enjoyed the piece about Lesser’s work. Phrases like, “tease out meaning from the ordinary events of daily life,” and references to the role of serendipity in writing resonate. From what the reviewer says, it sounds as though her essays are precisely the sort of thing I enjoy reading, and attempt to write. So, I’m looking forward to getting my hands on the book.

      When I re-read my original comment to you, I wondered if it might have been a case of, “For want of a word, some meaning was lost.” When I wrote “I took his reference to amateurs in the same sense that I take King’s: not as a reference to those who do what they do for the love of their art…” it might have helped if I’d used the phrase, “not SOLELY as a reference to those who do what they do.” I wasn’t intending to deny Lesser’s meaning, only to focus differently.

      I thought today about my own status as amateur and professional, in terms of varnishing. When I began my business, I was a rank amateur. I didn’t know the first thing about varnishing. And yet, while I was working on my second or third boat, a fellow walking down the dock said, “Do you do this professionally?” Of course I said yes, but even though I was getting paychecks, that was the only thing “professional” about my work for some time. Yes, I was neat, and tidy, and did a fair enough job. But it wasn’t until a few years had passed that I felt as though I was producing professional-quality work.

      Now, here’s what intrigues me. Even though I was an amateur varnisher a quarter-century ago — a beginner, if you will — over the years I’ve come to love the work. Now and then, I refinish furniture: not for money, but for the sheer joy of bringing something to life. And yet, my work is professional. See how slippery this all is?

      Putting academia into the mix just makes things even more complicated, particularly since there are people who love nothing more than beating the great unwashed over the head with their degrees. But re-reading that review, I think I understand Lesser’s choice. One reason I’ve turned away from the suggestion that I “ought to write a book” is that I don’t want to lose what I so dearly love: the ability to follow whatever happens to catch my interest and curiosity. Will I ever “really” publish? Maybe. Maybe not. But I’m a great one for letting things unfold.

      Anyway, there is much here to think about: worthwhile, too. And thanks for putting me onto that book!

      1. I am really glad, first of all, that you figured out how to get out of the 2-word line comment (I could have used that on a recent post over my way). I love your account of boat varnishing/professionalism; it’s a perfect example of the conundrum. How do we characterize ourselves? And as someone who has joined the chorus of “do a book!”, I think your response is lovely and wise: “One reason I’ve turned away from the suggestion that I “ought to write a book” is that I don’t want to lose what I so dearly love: the ability to follow whatever happens to catch my interest and curiosity. Will I ever “really” publish? Maybe. Maybe not. But I’m a great one for letting things unfold.” This may be the best advice of all to those who wish to have a creative life.

    3. I woke up very early this morning thinking of the delicious irony: Lesser’s book, “The Amateur,” is published by Pantheon and is for sale on Amazon. This just tickles me. It seems another bit of proof that these categories we use aren’t as rigid as we assume.

      1. Yes, that irony wasn’t lost on me, either. I think Lesser is one who, over time, has bridged, and maybe crossed, the divide by her own perseverance, if nothing else. (She recently wrote, and had published, although she is a non-musician with no technical training, a book on Shostakovich’s string quartets. I only wish I’d liked it better than I did. But that she was able to beat off the folks with the degrees was a pretty amazing feat.)

  18. Linda, This was a self-empowering, thoughtfully written post – one that should help us all unlock the fire in our belly. The internet has provided so many possibilities for emerging creatives to discover a personal platform. There are no more excuses that could stop the creative flow. Just sit down, get it done, and get it out there.

    1. As one of my first blogging friends once said, “The best writing tool is a comfortable chair.”

      There are a multitude of variations, but some words attributed to Voltaire apply: “Don’t allow the great to become the enemy of the good.” Some versions point to “perfection” as the enemy, and there’s no quiestion that the desire for perfection can stop us in our tracks.

      On the other hand, I’d never post something I wasn’t happy with. I might not be entirely happy, but I always live by the rule, “Write, and Let Go.” Once I’m satisfied enough to publish a piece, I move on to the next, ready to “sit down, get it down, and get it out there.”


  19. If I can go off on one of my inevitable tangents, I’ll note that when I taught math I sometimes observed students just sitting and floundering over a problem. My standard advice to them was: Don’t just keep sitting there, try something! Even if what they tried initially was wrong, the act of putting things down on paper would get their minds moving and might lead them in the correct direction.

    1. I can’t tell you how amused I was to “see” a diagram of a tangent line in my mind when I read your first phrase. Not so long ago, I thought of a tangent solely as something unrelated to or divergent from the subject at hand. It’s been fun to discover that the tangential also can be close: at least, mathematically.

      As one who remembers sitting and floundering in math class, I can attest to the wisdom of your advice. I’ve had the same experience with my online math class a few (dozen) times, but there certainly is something about paper and pencil that seems to break the log jam of “I don’t know how’s” and “I can’t’s”. I suppose part of it is that it shifts focus away from the sense of desperation engendered by that blank sheet of paper and back to the problem at hand.

      One of the neat things about the Khan process is that it provides an option called, “I Haven’t Learned That Yet.” Then, a set of exercises comes up where you can learn it. The difference between “I don’t know how to do that” and “I haven’t learned that yet” may not be immediately obvious, but it’s real.


  20. Certainly today’s barriers to entry are so different from those of earlier times. It’s fascinating to see new ways people are expressing themselves and making their work known. Check out this 8×8 keyboard that can be programmed with samplings of other music and used to compose new music. It’s not music I’m fond of, but the concept is fascinating.

    1. Everything has a history! I still remember bumping into techno dance music for the first time, and being — well, astounded, I suppose. This isn’t going to be in my rotation, either, even for doing dishes. Still, I do remember the Moog synthesizers (“Switched-On Bach”, anyone?) and an even earlier invention, the theramin, was used by the Beach Boys in the introduction to their “Good Vibrations.”

      Really, it’s quite amazing what happens when the creative spirit meets new technology.


  21. “How can I become a more skilled photographer (writer, painter, musician, poet)?”

    After I retired with plenty of time, a lot more than I could manage. I decided to create a blog. It started without a compass. Anything was fair game. Over the years, I drifted toward photography, inspired by two bloggers who are still active. Both of them are retired and with a prolific mind.

    I still have the stamina and discipline to publish one daily post. I’ve done it for the last five years. Each passing day, the passion for images grow and I still have zillion of unanswered questions about the craft. That keeps me moving forward.

    Then I think about my readers out there who provide a comment or two about the things I do. That further rekindles the passion to continue exprssing my thoughts and images about this part of the world.

    How long will this process continue? I don’t know. I take it one day at a time and pray that the muses will not dry up the inspiration to create.

    I enjoyed your selected topic for this blog post. It keeps my thinking juices flowing.

    Best Wishes,


    1. As I recall, Omar, we met over a discussion of Chase Jarvis. It’s been some time ago, but I still find his insights stimulating, and he’s still as inspirational as he was for both of us then.

      What’s also true is that we’ve both developed a real body of work in past years. Your ability to post every day is amazing to me, especially since you don’t just “throw something up” to fill space. There’s always some context, or some information, or some interesting tidbit about Panama, and I enjoy that as much as the images themselves.

      It sounds as though your experience has been similar to mine in another way. When I began, one of my greatest worries was that I’d run out of things to write about. For better or for worse, that hasn’t happened, and won’t, for some time. One thing I have learned to do is vary my posts: sometimes a poem, sometimes a longer essay, sometimes just a little fun something. I think it helps to keep readers’ interest, and it keeps me from being bored. If someone came along and said, “You have to write about only this, or that,” I’d probably take up photography myself!

      It will be fun to see where we both are in five more years. I wouldn’t even begin to make a prediction.


  22. Where will we be five years from now? My crystal ball is blurred. Can’t see that far away. Meanwhile Carpe Diem and make every day count. That’s the best we can do.

    BTW, I just completed tomorrow’s blog post. I think you will find it optimistic and interesting.



    1. I’m looking forward to it, Omar, As for those five years down the road, I ponder a little, but never predict. Most of the turns my life’s taken, I never would have predicted. Unlike many of my friends, I had no five or ten-year plans — and I’ve been (mostly) happier for it.

    1. Two things are interesting about your mention of Wagamese, Ken. One is that I’ve not heard of him, even from my other friends up Calgary way.

      The other is that he’s Ojibway (or Ojibwe, or Ojibwa).Some of their tribal names are familiar from counties in Iowa, such as Pottawatamie. And it was a yearly ritual to head to Minnesota for wild rice hand-harvested from canoes on their lands. We didn’t eat it regularly, but at least a couple of times a year, during the holiday seasons, there would be Cornish hens with wild rice stuffing. It was nothing like what shows up in the stores, I’ll tell you that.

      Leech Lake, where we vacationed, may have been on tribal lands. I really can’t remember.

      As for “our stuff” enduring? Who knows. Maybe, maybe not. Probably not, actually. But wouldn’t it be ironic if the Great EMP or some such left us with only oral tradition. We might have a better chance of our stories lasting, then.


  23. Many thanks for this inspiration: it is a gift to be able to write, to have readers and to be in conversation.

    I think that what you have to say about the rhythm of writing is especially important. I try very hard to put out something each week, and sometimes wonder whether I would have been better to have taken a week off. This is especially true during those especially busy weeks. But I have come to see that writing frequently makes writing more natural, so I will forge ahead. And oddly enough, sometimes it is the texts written in a pressured time that turns out best.

    1. I don’t like writing under pressure myself, Allen. The sort of brain-lock that I call writer’s block often enough is a result of deadlines. I suppose that’s one reason I try to keep myself on a schedule. I may go six days, or as many as ten, but I try to hew to that weekly schedule. The pressure of a self-imposed deadline doesn’t feel any different than any other, and learning to deal with it’s a good thing.

      I also agree that pressure sometimes brings a better result. In my own case, it helps me avoid one of my worst habits: over-thinking. And there’s no question the pressure of time can squash perfectionist tendencies like a bug. That’s all to the good.

      But sometimes I wonder if we shouldn’t take a wider view of our work. It can be tempting to polish each post, or paper, like an individual gem. But in truth, each bit is only a part of a larger whole. Stepping back sometimes gives us a truer picture of what we’re about.


  24. This is just brilliant, Linda. What a find these words are, though we may instinctively know them already, be aware of them, maybe even doing them. And yet, it is easy to lose that persistence. But how do we know when we reach it? We just know. We know when we must become better, never stop learning, asking, questioning, doing — but we can tell. I can — and I’m not the only one.

    This is incredibly beautifully stated and I think it will be one that I bookmark so I can return again and again on those days when it doesn’t seem to work, those days when being a slug is good enough and one walks that dangerous tightrope, fearful of falling to the other side.

    1. Of course, I could argue that sometimes being a slug is a very good thing, Jeanie. Maybe we should make “Slug Power” bumper stickers. We could collaborate on “The Secret Life of Slugs,” and maybe even make it sell. And who knows? There are music fests, food fests and garden fests. Maybe there are slug fests, too!

      More seriously, Jarvis’s blog generally and these linked entries particularly are sources of inspiration I do return to. For one thing, the journey of creativity isn’t always onward and upward. Just when we think, “Phew. I’ve gotten rid of that block,” another shows up, and we have to learn to cope with new circumstances. It can be as difficult as it was in the beginning.

      I think one of the biggest challenges is to keep from doing the same thing, over and over, especially after we’ve had some success. What we know how to do comes easier, and the temptation toward repetition can be strong. After all, even Dixie and Lizzie like to change napping spots sometimes.


  25. Very inspiring! So much creativity in the world in so many forms. That’s what matters, doing what you do and refusing to allow lack of audience or revenue to repress the creativity!!

    1. Thank you, Cynthia. And of course you’re right about the abundnce of creativity in our worlds. Tending a garden, setting a table — even such mundane yet necessary things as living within a budget — can be done gracefully and creatively.

      I appreciate your comment greatly. You’re always welcome here.


  26. I am in total agreement, Linda. The Internet has opened up a whole new world of possibilities. We are free to create and regular blogging forces discipline. I feel as obligated to put up my two or three posts per week as I would if someone were paying me. And I put as much work into the process, as I know you do. We are our own ‘gate-keepers’ in this new world.

    I also remember the first thing they taught me in high school journalism: who, what, where, why, when and how. It was etched into our memory banks. Get it out up front; elaborate later.


    1. I like that way of saying it, Curt — that we become our own gatekeepers. That’s true metaphorically as well as actually. There are a lot of negative thoughts that need to be denied access if we’re going to make a go of this, not to mention all the other demands and desires clamoring for attention.

      Have you been doing much reading of “The Liberian Observer”? Their arts section has been especially good lately. Some of the poetry being published leaves me in awe. I remember what it was like to try and maintain some focus and discipline, and keep writing, after Hurricane Ike. That the various Liberian writers are doing so well is wonderful.

      By the way, that Peace Corps math teacher from Gbarnga whose blog I mentioned wasn’t having any of being sent back to the States.
      He signed up with Samaritan’s Purse and probably is back in country by now. He’s going to be doing statistical work for them: tracking cases, predicting new hot spots, looking for changes in transmission rates and so on.


  27. This is a tremendous article, Linda. Every potential artist in whatever field should read this (in a minute I will go and read the blog by Chase too). All artists are on an Artistic Journey of one sort or another (mine is primarily a visual one). That journey has no defined end point, it’s a journey of discovery that will only end when we cease to be artists.

    I spent a lifetime as a scientist wanting to be a writer as well as a photographer. Finally in retirement I have found an outlet for both those and it has been such a joy to use time (opportunity) to give full rein to them. There is no point creating art unless we share it. Ansel Adams once said: ‘There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer’. The same is true for literature, sculpture, painting and all the other crafts and visual arts.

    1. Andy, the impulse to share is one of the driving forces behind the growth of the internet. I still remember a first experience of sharing art. I’d taken my little set of watercolors and painted an assortment of rocks from the driveway. When I went tearing into the house to show them to my mother, I might as well have been Michaelangelo calling to a friend, “Hey! Come look at this ceiling!”

      Adams’ words are apt. And they imply another truth: every viewer stands in a different spot, shaping their vision differently. I’m also fond of this, variously ascribed to Anais Nin and the Talmud: “We don’t see things as they are. We see them as we are.” I suspect that’s the primary reason our taste in art changes over the years.Wwe’re changing, too.

      Serendipitously, today’s entry in the Writer’s Almanac features the only British medical professional to become Poet Laureate of England, Robert Bridges. The poem they selected for the day includes this lovely stanza about the joy of creation:

      “I too will something make
      And joy in the making;
      Although tomorrow it seem
      Like the empty words of a dream
      Remembered on waking.”


      1. There’s one superb quote that ties together the concepts of personal vision and personal artistic taste. And it’s this wonderfully succinct quote from Joseph Campbell: ‘The eyes are the scouts of the heart’. You may well know that quote. If we understand the deep truth in those eight short words we are well on the way to growing artistically.

  28. As one of the journalists schooled in those “5 W’s and an H,” I can appreciate the freedom we have today to hit Publish or Send and see something we’ve created become “live,” potentially reaching many many more readers than ever before. Still, the very ease with which we’re able to publish often results in a plethora of typos, words spoken in haste, misinformation, unclear thought progression, and the like. Maybe there’s a middle of the road, but I’m not sure we’ve found it yet.

    Linda, this is a fascinating look into the creative process. Typically, “writers” are introverts pursuing a solitary path, but today’s writer often is forced into extroversion, marketing and selling his work and hoping the masses will buy it. But you’re right — the first step is Creating something!

    1. Debbie, I don’t think I’d say it’s ease of publication that results in typos, half-formulated thought, misinformation and flat bad writing. Isn’t that on us, as writers? Of course there will be times when a typo or a wrong fact will get past us, but I know that you try to keep that from happening, just as I do.

      One of the most practical and entertaining books I’ve read of late (which I love, because it confirms some of my own hard-won convictions) is Charles Murray’s “Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead.” In his chapter titled “On Thinking and Writing Well,” he suggests one of the most important attributes we can nurture is a love of rigor. He defines rigor as “the quality of being extremely thorough, exhaustive, or accurate.”

      Without rigor, we might be marching right down the middle of the road. Another word for middle-of-the-road, of course, is mediocrity.

      Your comments about introversion and extroversion are interesting. My first reaction was to think that the best writers, although solitary by necessity when writing, often are quite the opposite once pushed back from the desk. And perhaps that’s as it should be. Thoreau seemed to suggest that when he said, ““How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.”


  29. You are so gifted and talented to write about the obvious so simply and clearly. We do live in an age when publishing is right at our finger tips. [Ohhhh…the responsibility of it.] I do not take for granted the number of hours or words it has taken you to write the above post, former posts and posts to come. Thank you again for such a clear message as only you can deliver it.

    One thing I’m tuned into reading on blogs or listening to people say is, “I wish I knew another language.” I remember thinking that in my own grandmother’s living room when I was about eight years old. Early on I resolved to practice, read, study, listen, travel and sing in the languages I studied to reach the proficiency level I aspired to reach. I’m in awe of inspiring proficiency levels whatever the field of expertise.

    Amazing conversation here derived from the stimulus of your superb writing.

    1. Georgette, as much as anyone you can evoke the “Aw, shucks” response in me. But I treasure your compliments, because I know they’re not lightly given.

      As for posts like this one, learning some simple lessons brings great benefit. I no longer say, “One might think…” when I mean, “I think…” I try for the active voice, rather than the passive. I was bad about using redundancies, but I’m getting better.

      And I had to find the courage to lose the “weasel words” like “possibly,” “may, and “perhaps” — unless they’re really called for. “Some people say” is among the worst, especially in an argument. But of course it’s also especially vulnerable to a few well-placed questions: Who said it? When did they say it? Where did they find their information? What exactly did they say? How can I find the quotation? Those five Ws and their friend the H can be very useful there, too.

      Your words about proficiency feel exactly right to me. You’re proficient in languages, I’m a proficient varnisher. Curious, I checked the etymology, and found something interesting. The word is rooted in the Latin which means “”accomplish, make progress; be useful, do good; have success, profit.” And “professional”? The meaning, “occupation one professes to be skilled in” is from the early 15th century. All of this puts a rather different slant on discussions about amateurs vs. professionals.

      One thing seems sure: proficiency and pleasure belong together. It’s one of the best reasons to develop and practice our skills — the reward is immediate.


  30. “Questions beginning with one of these six famous words are especially useful for information gathering, since none can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”.”

    I had to laugh when I read that. Anyone who’s had a conversation with an kid knows the truth of that. Kids (especially boys) will give you nothing more than a yes or no if you give them the opportunity. The trick is to ask questions that require a story, description or explanation. I spent time with my friend’s grandson last weekend. He’s famous for “yep” and “no” so I asked him, “Who is the most obnoxious kid in your class and why?” Well, let me tell you that I got quite a story that led up and down all kinds of alleyways. When he finally finished, he asked me if that’s the kind of conversation I had with H when I first met him. So silly. His grandma told me she’d never heard of that kid or that story before. And just think, that was only the “Who” and “Why” question.

    1. You’re so right about the kiddos, Bella Rum. I suspect you’ve used the same technique with your own grands a time or two, and probably have heard a few stories that would have surprised their parents.

      Of course, it doesn’t always work, especially as the kids gain experience in evasion. Remember the popular book from the 1950s and 1960s — Robert Paul Smith’s, “Where Did You Go? Out. What Did You Do? Nothing.” I can remember a few conversations like that with my own folks. Your time is coming.

      The other side of the coin, of course, are the interviews/debates/conversations taking place with candidates for elected office these days. Just try to get a yes or a no from those folks. They crave the Ws and an H, so they can start stringing words together — often, to no apparent end.


  31. A pertinent reminder to me, thanks Linda! And thank you for the link to Chase Jarvis – I like what he has to say.

    1. I’m not surprised you like him, eremophila. He’s a bit brash, quite direct, and not at all apologetic in his opinions. Beyond that, he has the ability to deliver the sort of kick in the seat of the pants that’s really helpful when we’re in the midst of an on-going creative project — of any sort!


  32. This reminds me, Linda, of how I had to tell my students to never use yes/no questions in the discussions following their seminar presentations, when I was teaching English.

    The rest of the post says to me, “Stick to it”! — although you’ve said it in a much more detailed and eloquent way than that.

    And as far as being successful is concerned, I’d say that having nearly a hundred comments here so far means you’re doing something right. And I must add that I’m not thinking in pure numbers for their own sake, but rather the interest your posts generate.


    1. You’ve reminded me of a word I haven’t heard in many years, Andrew: “stick-to-it-tiveness.” It was a quality my dad often talked about. I suppose the less homespun version of the word is persistence.

      In any event, there seems to be plenty of evidence that it’s always important. We need it when things are difficult, but perhaps it’s even more important when things are going easily. There’s a big difference between accepting imperfection because we understand that nothing is perfect, and not striving for perfection, because it seems like too much trouble!

      Thanks for the kind words – and I just noticed your new URL. You must have posted about your move somewhere, and I missed it. I’m anxious to see what your new “place” looks like!


  33. … and the blogger becomes the published writer. I’m looking forward to your first book, Linda, a compilation of essays from your blog posts. Thanks for the encouraging and informative advice here. ;)

            1. when i was last there about 8 years ago, ‘afrosippi’ was playing. i threated to move back ‘home’ and start swinging a big stick and remind those behind the bar what southern hospitality was all about. worst service i’d had in a very long time… i told my friend, ‘i’d like to talk to the owner..’ and she laughed and said, ‘it’s morgan freeman..

    1. Bless you, Arti. It’s been a long road, hasn’t it? Well, we’ll just have to see how the future unrolls. In the meantime, there’s lots of encouraging and advising to do, isn’t there? As you know, the “next step” has been taken, so one by one those “writer’s blocks” are being dispatched. Onward!


  34. And, isn’t that the truth?

    If I had listened to the naysayers who said, among other things, that I should abandon my idea of writing as it didn’t pay, or that there was nothing much to write about in Saint Lucia, I never would have self-published back in 2008.

    The fact is, the creative process road is, more often than not, paved with all kinds of obstacles imaginable. The slacker will find reason(s) to succumb to the pressures of those challenges while the true artist will find a way or ways to get on with things.

    Nobel Laureate for Literature (1992), Saint Lucian, Derek Walcott, once said in an interview that when he writes, he “bleeds.” All artists may not experience the same difficulties, but the challenges remain nonetheless. It’s up to us as artists to rise above those challenges, and take advantage of the many props (technological or otherwise) available to us to make the creative process a bit easier.

    Great post!

    1. From time to time, I’ve wondered if the root of some naysaying isn’t jealousy. Like the wonderful fable of the dog in the manger, who couldn’t eat the hay but wasn’t about to allow the cattle near it, there are folks who’d love nothing more than to keep others from doing what they can’t — or won’t.

      And you’re right about the variety of obstacles we face. Many people fuss about the lack of time (guilty here, myself), while others simply are fearful of having their work judged in adequate. And so on… I don’t need to catalog the blocks for you. The ones we need to pay most attention to are the ones unique to ourselves, the ones no one else may know about, or even have experienced. Once we’ve kicked them out of the way, we’re free to move on — as you so rightly say.

      I don’t find the experience of writing painful, but it is hard: hard to focus, hard to let the imagination run free, hard even just to put myself down in the chair. But, as Nathaniel Hawthorne said, and as I love to repeat: “Good reading is damned hard writing.” He should know!


  35. Brilliant, and always wonderful reminders here. I can’t wait to investigate your links — they’re new for me.

    *Thank you* for a creative review of this basic yet seemingly exceedingly complex process! :)

    1. FeyGirl, I think it’s always good to stop and ponder what we’re doing. It’s easy to slip into auto-pilot, and keep doing what has become easy for us. There’s always a new, fresh path to take, if only we open our eyes to see it!


  36. This post is an inspiring ‘how to’ really. Makes it sound so easy…

    Begin by creating, sharing and sustaining something: anything. Then, do it again, and again, and again, until the rhythm of production becomes as natural as breathing…

    Then, why do we make it so hard sometimes? I’d say that the artistic temperament comes with self-doubt, but I don’t really believe that. Some artists are very professional and confident and know how to produce effectively.

    Very effective advice and a needed topic.

    1. The creative process is one of my favorite things to think about, Judy. I’m not sure the difference is between those who make it hard and those who don’t. It may be the most significant difference is between those who wail, “But this is hard!” and those who say, “How can I make use of these difficulties?”

      The one thing I know for sure is that the pleasures of creating far outweigh the very real pains. It’s like varnishing. If I didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t still be doing it!

      1. I think perhaps the trick is to retain the joy and why you write, paint or take pictures in the first place in the face of trying to be commercial with it. Probably that is where one can spin wheels. When I first started I was perfectly happy until I printed one of my images and liked it. Then what do you do? That is where the rhythm of production sounds so perfect, you really have to up your game all the time and that only comes with doing it again and again. That is why I particularly like this post. It IS what you have to do.

  37. That is good advice. Sharing has become much easier and so has attracting friends with like interests and talents. Another good read is “Art and Fear”. Overcoming rejection is the biggest challenge, I think, to pursuing the wider acceptance of our chosen art. It has an effect that is often difficult to abate and doing so takes a lot of resolve and strength.

    1. I think today’s social media environment isn’t helpful, either. “Going viral” isn’t necessarily the same as “being successful.” I heard an interview with a music producer on NPR yesterday morning; the point being made was that, in time, it was relationships cultivated over years that brought success, not easy linking and liking on the web. Interesting. When I began my blog, I remember feeling I had nothing to offer, compared to people who had hundreds of likes on each post, and thousands of followers. Eventually, I figured out how easy and essentially meaningless ‘likes’ and ‘follows’ could be, and decided to forge ahead.

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