Thank you to my friend Donna, who posted this video a few weeks ago on her birthday.
It’s one of my favorite SNL sketches, and here I am! I’m fifty years old!
With my birthday approaching (and now here) I've been trying to think of something for my writer friend David Ebenbach's Facebook tradition where he posts things from creative people that he knows on their birthdays, who talk about things such as creative goals, wishes, and advice for the reading/writing/ creative community.
I have to be honest, it has been difficult for me to even think about my own writing lately (although, I do continue to work on it) let alone give advice. Some fellow writers have expressed having a difficult time starting something new or just writing in general, given the current state of affairs in our country. This is the same feeling I get this semester before walking into a class of literature and writing students before me. Once I see their faces and hear them talk, I feel okay again. I've found that the same thing happens when I dive into something creative, like my own writing. Recently I've been working on my second novel and it has felt good to go back in and revise, re-write, and edit it. It feels fresh and new in so many ways.
In addition, was finally able to pick myself up by the bootstraps to write something for David on my birthday, all from MPBN after a gloomy news-filled weekend and Monday of feeling a black fog of despair. So, I was watching two episodes of ‘Antiques Roadshow’ back-to-back on this horrible Monday evening, forcing myself to stay away from the news and social media. Two items in particular intrigued me, and got me thinking about how art has played a major role through many oppressive situations throughout history.
One, was art by Franz Peter Kien Paintings of Terezin, which he painted in his concentration camp on potato sack bags, there’s quite a story behind this, and left me in awe.
The Second item that stood out for me was a 17th Century Chinese Transitional Wine Pot
The appraiser talks about art during a political change which is what struck me most about it. I thought of all the times art has been made throughout history during a great political change:
APPRAISER: Which was around 1644, was when it ended, where there wasn't a lot of control over the kiln sites, so the potters got to experiment and really be expressive and do all kinds of unusual things, and that's what this is evidence of. And that continued past that date, the fall of the Ming, into the Qing dynasty, where they did not really fully exert control over the kiln sites. That wasn't a big concern. They weren't worried about pottery and porcelain.
APPRAISER: They were worried about getting control of the government. So for a certain period of time in the 17th century, there was this really expressive, unusual kind of artistic flowering that took place, and that's where this dates from.
As far as giving writing advice, no matter where someone is in their writing life, they’ve most likely already heard a wealth of pointers. Be open to unsolicited advice. Read advice from writers who have or who inspire you. Talk with you fellow writer friends when you can about writing. Sift through what is going to work for you The advice that’s right for you and your own writing process will stick.
In addition to creating new art, learn to love editing, revising and re-writing. Trust your process, and enjoy it.
Some advice that I’ve heard over the years that works for me:
However you write, sit down or stand up (if you’re fortunate to have one of those treadmill desks for instance), and dive in. Make contact with your writing/art in some manner, every day. Maybe it's a good time to get back into writing you started a while ago, or something you've been working on, or perhaps this is a prime time for some to start something new. Some things that help me, listening to music, I read every night before I go to sleep, and I make time to work on a piece of writing each day. Dive into your art.
"It is the function of art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it."