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Creating Beauty: It Matters

Peonies from my garden

“Make your tiny corner of the world beautiful, even for one brief, anonymous moment. It matters.” – Nichole Nordeman

Creating Beauty: It Matters

A couple of weeks ago, I looked through photos on Instagram and saw a photo taken by Nichole Nordeman in the O’Hare Airport in Chicago. She had been stranded there on her way home to somewhere in the South, missed her kids, and simply wanted to get home. But because of Hurricane Ivan plowing its way up Florida and into Georgia, most flights in the US were grounded.

The video she took was quick and crooked, but the atmosphere was palpable. In the crowded airport, a young man with a backpack sat down at a piano and began playing music. And in the crowds, stranded, frustrated, for a brief moment, there was beauty.

Nichole says she realized then the value of beauty. Somehow, beauty can take a dire situation, cause us to pause and reevaluate, and adjust what had been soured. Beauty can soothe a wounded heart, bring respite to a weary soul, and alleviate the heaviest of burdens. Life is better with some form of beauty to lift us.

Why Beauty Matters

For some reason, the words Nichole wrote, above, struck a chord with me. I immediately wrote them down and now have the phrase hanging at my desk at work and in my kitchen at home. It is the absolute truth:

Make your tiny corner of the world beautiful, even for one brief, anonymous moment. It matters.

It does matter. And remembering that on a daily basis, moment by moment, resonates with me. It is, and always has been, my life purpose. To create, capture, and share beauty.

Some pieces I have been working on lately have been:

  • a new manuscript, one I am very excited about
  • several new canvases
  • and about a thousand new photographs of many settings and things

Creating fuels me. I can’t not create.

The times when my creative fuel runs a bit dry is when I listen to what the world is saying about the worth and value of created things — if no one takes notice, then it must not be worthwhile.

I wholeheartedly disagree. If it creates beauty in a tiny corner of the world, then it is worthwhile. It matters.

Because the act of creating has changed our own selves, and perhaps touched others in mysterious ways. We don’t know. We may never know. But that isn’t the point–to know how many followers click like, etc. The unknowing doesn’t make the impact of what we have created insignificant. The unknowing is part of the beauty.

Beauty matters.

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Big Magic and the Art of Creative Living

Girl in the Garden oil painting

“We all need something that helps us to forget ourselves for a while — to momentarily forget our age, our gender, our socioeconomic background, our duties, our failures, and all that we have lost and screwed up… Perhaps creativity’s greatest mercy is this: By completely absorbing our attention for a short and magical spell, it can relieve us temporarily from the dreadful burden of being who we are.” – Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic

If you were to ask me what my favorite thing to do in life is, I would say it is to create. It doesn’t matter if it’s the blank canvas I set up on my easel last night waiting for daubs of oil paint or the novel I’ve been working on for what seems like forever, it is the act of creating that I love the most.

I often ask myself why. Why? What is it about creating something new and fresh and different that I love so very much?

The Art of Creative Living

There is a pulse inside me that pushes ideas out. Not that the ideas come out as fully created things. No, creative living is much more roundabout than that. Almost always, creating something worthwhile takes time. An idea builds up and finally, when I do have (or steal) some time to work on it, it usually flows, because it’s been waiting. But it’s not always been this way.

Once upon a time–20 years ago or so–I didn’t know what I wanted to create. I didn’t have an SLR camera or oil paints, and had never written more than essays or kept a journal. But I was interested in all of those things, if I thought about it. It’s finding our creative interests that is the important thing. Gilbert, in Big Magic, describes finding our creative angle through curiosity.

Big Magic

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

“Curiosity only ever asks one simple question: “Is there anything you’re interested in?” Anything? Even a tiny bit? … Following that scavenger hunt of curiosity can lead you to amazing, unexpected places. … Or it may lead you nowhere. You may spend your whole life following your curiosity and have absolutely nothing to show for it at the end–except one thing. You will have the satisfaction of knowing you passed your entire existence in devotion to the noble human virtue of inquisitiveness.

And that should be more than enough for anyone to say they lived a rich and splendid life.” – p 238

I agree. What are the little things that whisper in your ear? Listen to them. Try them.

The Myth of Creative Living

I think the biggest barrier to creative living is the notion that we must be successful with our creativity. No. Not so.

Gilbert talks about the pressure of succeeding and how paralyzing it is. She recommends keeping your day job. I agree. There is no quicker creativity killer than to believe your art has to pay the bills, steadily.

What about creating for the sense of creating? Just for the fulfillment of it.

For me, I know I’m a better person when I make time to write and paint. I need the time to be. There is a tremendous amount of magic in the timelessness found in the act that is creating. Gilbert writes this in Big Magic:

“Because when it all comes together, it’s amazing. When it all comes together, the only thing you can do is bow down in gratitude, as if you have been granted an audience with the divine. Because you have.”

Yes.

It’s like the trees along the side of the road in Ohio, where the tree trimmers come in spring and lop back to a thick nub so they don’t grow into the power lines above. We’re cut back and whittled down to fit so many roles and places where we may not really fit. Life leaves us as little more than nubs, if we let it pare us back. But just as the trees under the power lines grow despite being cut back, probably even more than before, up, toward the light.

We can be pruned back hard by life. But creativity is our chance to refill the well and grow back up toward the light. The success we have is in the accomplishment of creation.

The Trick of Creating

If we’re not creating for the million-dollar payout, we’re creating for the fulfillment and meaning it brings us. That is enough of a reason. But if we love what we’re doing, greatness may happen from the work and diligence at doing what we love. Then, the trick is to be hard at work if it were to happen by. Gilbert says, “If greatness should ever accidentally stumble upon you, let it catch you hard at work.”

Take a chance. Create. Not for success in terms of becoming the next big artistic wonder, but for fulfillment and the chance to live an interesting life. I’ll never regret painting as much as I do — I have a home filled with color and meaning, and a heart filled and running over. My paintings haven’t–and probably won’t–ever become a sensation commercially. Yes, I have some photographs in museums and one on a book cover, and other prominent places, but it isn’t the reason why I take photographs. It’s to capture a moment forever. The act of creating that moment brings me deep joy.

Joy

When we dare to create, we gain joy. We’ve all been given the gift of being able to create, whether it’s baking a cake, drawing with pencil, writing a journal, creating a garden, or redoing an old car. Creativity is essential for a full life.

So this year, what is it you will be curious about? What will you begin to create? As Gilbert says so well,

“The work wants to be made, and it wants to be made through you.”

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4 Things I Love This February

The Goldfinch

“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.” – Edith Sitwell

Winter is an enchanted time for me. I love the cold, dark nights and days of frost and snow (though the snow in Boston sounds horrific right now). I love the pots of soup my husband cooks up on winter weekends. I love time beside the fire, snuggling down beneath heavy blankets, and the warm hand of the one I love in mine. I enjoy a bit of hibernation, as we call it around our house, but by February, I’m feeling the nudge toward light, and spring.

4 Things I Love This February

Books:Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner

  • This week at Great New Books, I’m recommending a book I enjoyed very much, Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner. It is the story of Emmeline and Julia, two sisters evacuated from London before the Blitz bombings in WWII. If you liked Christina Baker Kline’s Orphan Train, Kate Morton’s The Secret Keeper, or Jojo Moyes’s The Girl You Left Behind, you’ll love Secrets of a Charmed Life. Click here to read more (live on Wednesday, 2/11/15).

 

  • Also, I’ve recently finished reading the stunning novel The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. It’s the story of a Baptist preacher-turned-missionary who takes his wife and four daughters to the Belgian Congo in 1959. The voices of the females are captivating, and the story is oh, so powerful. I loved it.The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

“For women like me, it seems, it’s not ours to take charge of beginnings and endings. Not the marriage proposal, the summit conquered, the first shot fired, nor the last one either–the treaty at Appomattox, the knife in the heart. Let men write those stories. I can’t. I only know the middle ground where we live our lives. We whistle while Rome burns, or we scrub the floor, depending. Don’t dare presume there’s shame in the lot of a woman who carries on.” -page 383, The Poisonwood Bible

 

Chocolate:

chocolatesThis chocolate is fueling me through the winter. My favorite is the Venezuela Dark Chocolate with Brazilian Coast Sea Salt. It’s a mix of salty with rich. I hope Costco will sell them forever.

 

Painting:

There is nothing like a new canvas on the easel, the smell of oil paint as it dries for weeks as I write daily, and the accomplishment of a painting created entirely with my own head, hands, and heart, where once there had only been a blank white canvas. This is my latest, of Venice, Italy.

 

Oil painting of Venice along the Grand Canal, by me, Jennifer Lyn King
Oil painting of Venice along the Grand Canal, by me, Jennifer Lyn King

 

Backyard:

We’ve had frequent snow and ice here in Cincinnati this winter, and in an otherwise bleak, brown landscape, I love seeing (and feeding) the birds. The backyard birds become long term residents, and if I might say also, friends. Here, two favorite photos I’ve taken this winter.

Cheerful, twittering wren
Cheerful, twittering wren

 

The Goldfinch
The Goldfinch

 

What do you love this February? Have a wonderful Valentine’s week, showing that extra bit of love to your loved ones. xo

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What It Means to Be an Artist: 8 Truths on Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt from I ALWAYS LOVED YOU

Art is a mystery. From my first memories, I’ve always loved to draw, to write, to create. I still do, and write and paint regularly, daily. But as I’ve grown older, I wonder about art — the why and how behind it, and often, the meaning.

Creating is hard. Art is important. To be an artist is to dig deep to find what it is that must be created, and to do the hard work of creation. Often that is much more difficult than it sounds. It feels impossible.

It is from pushing through those times when I deeply appreciate learning about artists who have gone before. I Always Loved You by Robin Oliveira

I’ve recently finished reading a stunning novel called I ALWAYS LOVED YOU by Robin Oliveira. It is a historical novel about the relationship between American painter Mary Cassatt, her art, and her sometimes-inspiration, Parisian artist Edgar Degas. The story is meaningful, beautiful, and exquisite.

As I read, I began making notes with a pen, which by the end of the book had become notes on What It Means to Be an Artist. If the Masters felt and experienced the same feelings, doubts, criticisms as we do today, and yet persevered, then we have much to learn from their lives. Here, 8 notes I made on …

What It Means to Be an Artist:

On Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt, from I ALWAYS LOVED YOU by Robin Oliveira

1) Art takes work:

“It’s extraordinary. It looks effortless.”

“Effortless?” Degas’s placid expression twisted… “What do you think? That this is easy for me? That I could decide to paint something and then it magically appears from my hand? That I have some gift, that my work arrives finished, that this is not a struggle for me?” (page 102)

2) An Artist doubts, and then overcomes it:

“You must understand. Every day I awake and wonder how I’m going to get through the day. I have to draw and redraw endless lines upon endless lines … to establish the composition. And even then I get it wrong. I have nothing of talent. I have only desire and dogged work. I doubt myself every moment.” (page 104)

3) An Artist’s work never stops beckoning to him / her to rework it again:

“If I had to look at [my other previous works], I’d rework them all and never begin anything new. I see every mistake of composition, of brushstroke, of line. They are all flawed, every one of them.” (page 101)

4) The source of an Artist’s ability is found in a magical combination of gift and hard work:

“Gift? Rubbish. What have those idiots on the jury done to you? Art does not arise from a well of imaginary skill, obtained by dint of native ability. The sublime is a result of discipline. Art is earned by hard work, by the study of form, by obsessive revision. Only then are you set free. Only then can you see.” (page 41)

5) An Artist’s worth, is it found in money earned?

Mary’s father, Robert Cassatt: “I confess I don’t understand why she should continue working if she can’t sell what she paints. What is the purpose of any endeavor if not to make money? And how does an artist tell whether or not he is successful? For that matter, how does one know whether or not she is any good at all, or whether she is just daubing at canvases and deluding herself?” …

“Do you believe, Monsieur Cassatt, that Mary will only be a great artist if she makes a lot of money?” Degas said.

“In business, that is how we define success.” Robert turned to Mary. “You cannot pretend that you do not want to sell your paintings.”

“Of course I want to sell my paintings.” [Mary said]

“Then why is it so terrible that I asked?” her father said.

“Because you are talking about money.” (page 130)

6) Criticism happens to all great Artists:

Degas: “I want you to know that after tonight, everything will change for you, and not necessarily for the better. These last two years, you’ve been able to paint by yourself, for yourself, with no one caring or knowing what you were doing. But tonight is the eve of everything. In a few days, a dozen reviews will be published … Everyone will have an opinion of your work. They will say, on the whole, very stupid things. They will be extraordinarily mean and personal in their attacks. They will care not a jot for your hard work or your artistry. They will endeavor to make you suffer. They will claim that your style parts too much from standard taste, and in their ignorance will disparage you without reserve. Not every critic, but most. And these are people who cannot even mix a color, let alone render something as simple as an apple on a canvas. But they will believe themselves right and influence the public for the worse. They will be wrong, of course. What I want you to understand is that you should not allow their ignorance to destroy you.” (page 187)

7) The greatest achievements are made through the Artist who is not afraid to work:

“The struggle that had seemed so essential, the yearning for transcendence, the doubt that had plagued her, fell away in the face of success. Mary had become the artist she had wanted to be by dint of hard work and perseverance… She knew she would succeed eventually with a canvas. She knew that if she stayed with it long enough, through the blindness, she would finally see what it was meant to be. She knew that she would find its soul. Pain was the essential ingredient.” (page 319)

8) Balance with work and life is important, because in the end, love remains:

“Life, he now knew, was a fleet sprint from birth to death, revealed at twilight to be astonishingly brief. … He hoped, though, that his paintings might endure, but this no longer troubled him as it had troubled him in life. All of it was vanity. … he wished, upon crossing over, that he could voice his utter astonishment at the grandeur awaiting befuddled humanity, wished he could return and suffer all the folly again to whisper, It is love, my frightened ones. Love.” (page 313, 314)

 palette

Other books I’ve enjoyed on inspiration, art, and great artists:

Fiction:

Claude & Camille by Stephanie Cowell

on my to-read pile: Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland

Non-fiction:

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

Still Writing by Dani Shapiro

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

On Writing by Stephen King

A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle

 

Do you have thoughts on what it really means to be an artist? Please, share below. Thank you!

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10 Favorite Quotes by Madeleine L’Engle

“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” – Madeleine L’Engle

Walking on Water by Madeleine L'EngleThe writer, Madeleine L’Engle, wrote over 60 books in her lifetime, and is best known for her Newbery Award-winning book, A Wrinkle in Time. But I fell in love with L’Engle’s non-fiction, beginning with her profound Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art.

Over the years, I’ve dog-eared, underlined, and marked up each of the books I’ve read of L’Engle’s work. Her words speak to me deeply and help refine my perspective on life, faith, art, and purpose. I hope they connect with you, as well …

10 favorite quotes by Madeleine L’Engle:

  • “Story makes us more alive, more human, more courageous, more loving. Why does anybody tell a story? It does indeed have something to do with faith, faith that the universe has meaning, that our little human lives are not irrelevant, that what we choose or say or do matters, matter cosmically.” –The Rock That is Higher

 

  • “We tell stories because we can’t help it. We tell stories because they fill the silence death imposes. We tell stories because they save us.” –The Rock That is Higher

 

  • “My great-great-grandmother, great-grandmother, grandmother, mother are alive for me because they are part of my story. My children and grandchildren and I tell stories about Hugh, my husband. We laugh and we remember. .. I do not believe that these stories are their immortality–that is something quite different. But remembering their stories is the best way I know to have them remain part of my mortal life.” – The Rock That is Higher

 

  • “A great painting, or symphony, or play, doesn’t diminish us, but enlarges us, and we, too, want to make our own cry of affirmation to the power of creation behind the universe. … It is beauty crying out for more beauty.” –A Circle of Quiet

 

  • “I felt somewhat the same sense of irrationality in the world around me … Whenever this occurs I turn to the piano, to my typewriter, to a book. We turn to stories and pictures and music because they show us who and what and why we are, and what our relationship is to life and death, what is essential, and what … will not burn.” –A Circle of Quiet

 

  • “Art is not a mirror but an icon. It takes the chaos in which we live and shows us structure and pattern, not the structure of conformity which imprisons but the structure which liberates, sets us free to become growing, mature human beings.” –A Circle of Quiet

 

  • “Nobody can teach creative writing–run like mad from anybody who thinks he can. But one can teach practices, like finger exercises on the piano; one can share the tools of the trade, and what one has gleaned from the great writers: it is the great writers themselves who do the teaching.” –A Circle of Quiet

 

  • “I don’t know what I’m like. I get glimpses of myself in other people’s eyes. I try to be careful whom I use as a mirror,: my husband; my children; my mother… But we aren’t always careful of our mirrors. I’m not. I made the mistake of thinking that I “ought” not to write because I wasn’t making money, and therefore in the eyes of many people around me I had no business to spend hours every day at the typewriter.” –A Circle of Quiet

 

  • “The artist at work is in kairos. The child at play, totally thrown outside himself in the game, be it building a sandcastle or making a daisy chain, is in kairos. In kairos, we become what we are called to be as human beings, cocreators with God, touching on the wonder of creation.” –Walking on Water

 

  • “The degree of talent, the size of the gift, is immaterial. All artists must listen, but not all hear great symphonies, see wide canvasses, conceive complex, character-filled novels. No matter, the creative act is the same, and it is an act of faith.” –Walking on Water

 

Reading Madeleine L’Engle inspires me to read more, write more, paint and photograph and play music more; to create more. How about you: What creative works are you enjoying this summer?

Tomorrow, July 24 – July 26, at GreatNewBooks.org, we’re giving away 5 copies of one of my recent favorite books, The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton. Stop on over and leave any comment to enter to win … The Secret Keeper is a great summer read. I hope you’ll stop by!

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A Book, a Painting, a Garden, and Some Summer Reads

Some of my favorite books

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.” -Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

It’s that middle point of the summer I love, when the sun shines bright and the weather begs for us to pull up a beach chair, hammock, or a shady piece of grass and enjoy it with a book. I’ve been doing a lot of that lately. And I love having my sons around. They’re at such fun ages — I treasure having summers with them, and having some extra time to create. Here are 4 things I’ve been up to lately:

This week at GreatNewBooks.org, I’m recommending one of the best books I’ve read in a long time …

Villa Triste by Lucretia Grindle

When a friend hands me a book and insists I read it, I know it will be good. But sometimes a great book jumps at me when I least expect it. This is the case with VILLA TRISTE  by Lucretia Grindle. I knew nothing about it when I picked it up, but it is one of the best books I’ve read in many years, for its gripping storyline, lyrical writing, and historical setting.

Villa Triste is woven between past and present, through the eyes of a young woman in Florence, Italy in 1943, whose story is rediscovered by a police inspector in present times. The dual timeframe novel has become my favorite for its richness, for the depth of past struggles and the present need to understand them.

Villa Triste begins as young Caterina Cammaccio tries on her wedding dress at a bridal salon with her mother and sister, though it’s not an ordinary bridal fitting. Her fiancé is fighting in World War II, which they all believe will end soon. But instead of peace arriving as they hope, the German occupation of Florence and of Italy begins. The dress, lavish with seed pearls and silk, is hung to wait. … Read more by clicking here.

My Mid-Summer Reads Stack

And, I’m working my way through a stack of books.

my mid-summer reads pile
my mid-summer reads pile

The Garden

Our backyard in our new house was a blank slate when we moved in a few months ago (no trees, shrubs, or really any grass), so I’ve been busy planting a garden. For those of you who are successful with food gardens, I’ll share that my tomato plant produced some beautiful tomatoes, but has died. Gone. Kaput. But, everything else seems to be thriving — roses, phlox, daisies, poppies — my backyard is becoming a riot of color.

a garden Poppy
a garden Poppy

The Big Summer Painting

Finally, I’ve been painting. I have a studio now, for writing, painting, photography, etc., and it is my ultimate bliss place. It even has a small corner for my easel and a large canvas I’m painting of the view from the walls of Siena, Italy, across the surrounding Tuscan countryside.

Jennifer (me) painting
Jennifer (me) painting

Every season of the year is a time I enjoy creating, but there is something special about summer … How about you? Do you enjoy creating something in summer?

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Art is for Survival

My newest oil painting, Charles Bridge at Sunrise

All successful artists have disturbing stories in their lives and careers. They survive by coping consistently and creatively. Those difficulties keep us very creatively active, keep us aware with a deepening insight. -Harley Brown

In Prague, if you stand and listen on a quiet morning, you can hear the whisper of wings — many wings — in unison. It’s startling to see, really, these swooping and diving and sharp-turning flocks of doves as they fly in tight formation along their aerial roller coaster. It’s one of the things I love most about Prague, and where I live. On any given day, these flocks of doves, peppered with dark, gray, and snowy white birds, will swoop and play in and along the rooflines around my house for hours. It’s mesmerizing. And in many ways, I think it’s art.

Doves in their exquisite flight aerobatics, Prague
Doves in their exquisite flight aerobatics, Prague

Recently, I’ve been reading many books (as one of my favorite parts of summer!) in a chair outside below those often-swooping doves. One of those books instantly became one of my all-time favorite books: Ann Patchett’s STATE OF WONDER. In a story that pulls the reader along through a literary mystery so ripe with atmosphere in the Amazon, the main character Marina struggles to the point of death. And one paragraph struck me as being so absolutely true I knew I had to share it here. Continue reading Art is for Survival

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Author: A Video

Author: A Video by Jennifer Lyn King

au·thor/ˈôTHər/ : A. The writer of a book, article, or other text. b. One who practices writing as a profession.

Author: A Video by Jennifer Lyn King
Author: A Video by Jennifer Lyn King

One day about six years ago, I was deep in the process of writing my first book, and the UPS man pulled up at my house. He brought a package to the front door, from my publisher, Tyndale House. After holding my Boxer back from tackling her favorite Man from the Big Brown Truck, my three boys helped me tear into the package. I’ll never forget what waited for me inside the box.

I had recently received news that Tyndale had contracted with me for the book, and the package was a congratulations follow-up. Inside the box, I found a hefty white coffee mug and a textured white book. The word “Author” had been printed in simple black typewriter font on both the mug and the book. As soon as I saw them, my eyes misted over.

It made it real. I was an Author.

Since that day, I’ve kept my pencils and pens in the mug, at the corner of my desk. And, every so often, I flip through the wonderful book Tyndale sent, the book about being an author.

Author, a screen shot from the video: I Begin.
Author, a screen shot from the video: I Begin.

For those of you who are not writers, the process of writing a book may seem different or mysterious. And for those of us who are writers, we know the tremendous amount of life and love and effort that goes into creating a book or a novel. It’s all-consuming at times.

I’m steeped in research for my next novel, and have been thinking about what goes into writing a book. So, in the midst of this past cold and rainy Prague weekend, I worked with my oldest son to create a video that is inspired by the Author book. I’ve titled it Author: A Video. It’s five minutes long and is filled with color photographs and simple I-statements, about the life an author lives while writing a book.

I hope you enjoy it!

PS. A big thanks to the great 13-year-old at King’s Might Productions for his computer savvy! ***The purpose of this video is for personal and non-commercial use and sharing with author and writer and reader friends. Thanks to Microsoft Office Clipart for free use of its photos for this project.

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Van Gogh, Inspiration, and Art

Van Gogh, View of Arles with Irises, Wikimedia Commons

“I am working as one possessed … For the trees are in blossom and I would like to produce a Provencal orchard of incredible gaiety … In God’s name send me that paint at once. The season of blossoming orchards is just so short.” -Vincent Van Gogh, in a letter to his brother, Theo, at the time of his painting The Pink Peach Tree, 1888

 

Two weeks ago, I had the wonderful privilege to tour Amsterdam, the Netherlands, with a native Dutch friend. It was an incredible experience as a whole, as I blogged about here. But one of the biggest treats was to spend the day in the Van Gogh Museum with her.

Irises, Van Gogh, Wikimedia Commons
Irises, Van Gogh, Wikimedia Commons

Two things about my tour of the Van Gogh Museum:

1) It is always a pleasure to tour an art museum, especially one as large and well-done as the Van Gogh, with someone else who appreciates art and the artist. Big thanks to my friend!

2) If you have ever attempted to tour an art museum, grand or small, with children in tow, you know what a luxury it is to tour it at leisure, without being hurried.

Van Gogh's Seascape near Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, Wikimedia
Van Gogh's Seascape near Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, Wikimedia

Vincent Van Gogh wrote many letters, and from those letters, the Museum pieces together his life with the art he created. On a certain day, one letter said, Vincent wrote a letter, and this is what he said: emblazoned upon a wall at the beginning of the Museum, he wrote that he decided to become an artist. That statement has stuck with me:

Vincent Van Gogh decided to become an artist. Continue reading Van Gogh, Inspiration, and Art

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3 Tips for Wrangling Writing Time Out of a Kid-filled Summer

My Husband and our three boys -- Fun family time

“Like all creative endeavors, novel writing rewards practice. Many accomplished novelists sit down to write largely for the challenge of trying to write something bigger, better, more profound than before. For the dedicated novelist, there is no end of stories to tell.” -Donald Maass, The Career Novelist

My Husband and our three boys -- Fun family time
My Husband and our three boys -- Fun family time

About this time of year, at the end of the school year wrap-up, my three boys and I grab a few markers and sit down with a white board. Why? To make our “What do we want to do this summer? List.”

For me, I LOVE summer. I enjoy unscheduled days with the leisure of a quiet day with my guys. Tennis, bike rides through the forest, hours by the pool, working our way down the summer reading stack, time to veg out with good friends and good food … these are all things we love and look forward to doing in summer. But it always goes too fast. So that’s why we make a list. If we don’t set the things we want to do beforehand, they never get done.

It’s the same with writing, I find. I love to write … and I try to write every day, especially during the hours that my guys are in school. But now that summer is here, I have to make that writing time a priority for each day, even if it is a small allotment.

How do we, as writers and as moms, make a little time to do our work, to accomplish some writing, even during the busy fun of summer?

Here, three tips I try to follow to get a chunk of writing done each day:

1) Make a writing calendar, and write in a goal for the days, weeks, and for the summer (say, two months). Be reasonable, setting an hour or so aside for writing each day. Bite-sized chunks add up. The most important thing is consistency!

2) Determine a set place and a set time which will best work for your family and your schedule. Maybe the hour before everyone wakes up, or during a set hour of their favorite television show. After about two weeks, you will find that your mind is really ready to write at that time, because of the habit.

3) Spend the rest of your day enjoying time with your kids— going to the pool, getting together with friends, reading books, whatever you all enjoy! That way, summer can be fun and guilt-free. It’s been lived to the very fullest!

Just think– with one hour of writing each day, say 500 words, after 50 days or roughly two months of non-weekend writing, you’ll have 25,000 words. Stick with it each day and the accumulation of small chunks of work will be a great reward.

How do you get your writing in during the child-filled summer months? Any tips to share?