The Writing Struggle is Real

writing

In high school, where I first started studying the Chinese language, I was introduced to Chinese poetry by my teacher Youming Che. I think it was my senior year that Mr. Che and my English teacher brought in the poet Sam Hamill for a workshop. One of the books I read to prepare for that was The Art of Writing by Lu Chi, translated by Sam Hamill.

I still have that book. It reminds me that the writing struggle is real. No writer is alone in it, because Lu Chi was writing about the struggle 2,000 years ago:

On starting out:

Eyes closed, we listen
to inner music,
lost in thought and question:

our spirits ride
to the eight corners of the universe,
mind soaring a thousand miles away;

Re: the eight corners of the universe: I have really vivid dreams. Mostly they are about my teeth falling out or forgetting to wear pants out in public but sometimes my mind comes up with brilliant material while I am fast asleep. The only problem is I can’t remember it after I wake up.

On choosing words:

It is like following a branch to find the trembling leaf,
like following a stream to find the spring. 

Sometimes the words come freely;
sometimes we sit in silence, gnawing on a brush. 

I often feel like I’m just sitting in silence, feeling the minutes tick by.

On revising work:

Even with the right reason, the words
will sometimes clang; sometimes the language flows,
though the ideas themselves remain trivial. 

This reminded me that really there is nothing new under the sun. Sometimes someone else just says it better, or worse.

masters

On fear:

I worry that my ink well
may run dry,
that right words
cannot be found. 

This reminded me of a workshop I was in last year with the poet Ellen Bass. She told a story of how in one of her poems she struggled for so long for the right word that she went out to friends for help. I like that idea. Maybe sometimes the right word will never be found on our own. Maybe it’s resting within community waiting to be handed over. I would love for these posts on writing to become some kind of resource for that in a way using the comment section.

On inspiration:

The truth of the thing lies inside us, 
but no power on earth can force it. 

At first this had a “hopeless” ring to it but really it means as Lu Chi says in his own writing that we have to: search the depths of the soul for a spirit, beg, if need be, for a sign of life. Anne Lamott writes in Bird by Bird: If something inside of you is real, we will probably find it interesting, and it will probably be universal. So you must risk placing real emotion at the center of your work. Write straight into the emotional center of things. Write toward vulnerability. Don’t worry about appearing sentimental. Worry about being unavailable; worry about being absent or fraudulent. Risk being unlikes. Tell the truth as you understand it. 

And encouragement:

Through letters, there is no road too difficult to travel,
no idea too confusing
to be ordered.
It comes like rain from clouds;
it renews the vital spirit.

The whole reason I decided to start the writing prompts was to keep me accountable. If I write on a schedule each day it becomes easier and easier, like the machine is being maintained and oiled. It is a practice, and it takes practice, and not a whenever-I-feel-like-it practice. Here’s some advice from Stephen King in his book On Writing:

You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness or even despair – the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, read to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page. 

On oiling the machine:

Learn to recite the classics;
sing in the clear virtue of ancient masters;
explore the treasures of the classics
where form and content are born. 

I read everything I can get my hands on.  I take classes and attend readings. Always learning. Learning from the masters. Taking notes. Using the voice memo function on my phone to record observations while I’m driving.

bookshelf

So, today I started posting the daily writing prompts on Facebook. It starts at #6 because the first five were in the post on Friday. You can start today or write a week delayed using last week’s prompts. All you have to commit to is 10 minutes of writing a day. And I’ll tell you a very, very big secret I’ve learned to good writing: Turn off the TV.

The Lil Journal Project | Day 21

Sometimes just one word can cause our mind to venture way back into it’s archives and bring out a memory or a feeling from the past. As you read each of the words in today’s prompt, what comes to mind? For example if I read or hear the word Mustang….you might think of a car, or a horse or a football team……the word association you have is unique to your memories and experience:

Mustang:
Dad used to take me to Joe’s Mustang to buy crickets for fishing. The gas station had a huge rust colored horse that looked as if it were rearing up and out of the sign. I looked forward to the can of Country Time Lemonade Dad would buy me as a special treat.  I remember the smell of gasoline and motor oil mixed with the pungent smell of catfish bait.

The Lil Journal Project Day 21 via lilblueboo.com #theliljournalproject

[Read more…]

The Lil Journal Project | Day 16

My dad was always adamant about me working…..so I always had the most random of summer jobs: I worked at a law firm, I was a caddy at a golf course, I packed beer, I was a cocktail waitress, I worked at county vital records for company research, I valeted cars…..and I even worked for free at times just to learn things…..like the business of picture framing.  I sure do have a lot of great stories to remember…..and I just wish I remembered more.The Lil Journal Project Day 16 (Mapping out where you've worked) via liblueboo.comToday….start a timeline in your journal where you can start logging the jobs you’ve held throughout your life.  [Read more…]

Turn a Book into An Art Journal (A Tutorial)

How to turn an old book into an art journal. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com

I love making art journals using composition books but old books are another great way to make a journal….and it’s a great way to recycle old books!

How to turn an old book into an art journal. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com

Since I add layers of paint and collage, the first thing I do is thin out the book.  If the pages are sewn in I just pull out a few pages from each section….if the pages are glued to the binding I use a razor blade to cut them out.

How to turn an old book into an art journal. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com

This is the thinned out book:

How to turn an old book into an art journal. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com

To make the pages I start anywhere in the book and put pieces of wax paper under each page I’ll be working with:

How to turn an old book into an art journal. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com

I coat the pages with gesso (a primer you can purchase in the paint section of the craft or art supply store):

How to turn an old book into an art journal. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com

Once both pages have been coated with one of two coats I let them dry:

How to turn an old book into an art journal. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com

Then I add some color using craft paints:

How to turn an old book into an art journal. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com

When I am doing a lot of coats I will pull out the hair dryer to speed along the process:

How to turn an old book into an art journal. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com

I usually add another coat of gesso…..

How to turn an old book into an art journal. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com

….and before it dries I’ll blot it with a paper towel so that the color will show through:

How to turn an old book into an art journal. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com

 

How to turn an old book into an art journal. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com

I add bits of old paper to the page using clean medium or mod podge:

How to turn an old book into an art journal. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com

To make sure my collage pieces are flat I use a brayer with some was paper sandwiched in between:

How to turn an old book into an art journal. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com

Here’s what the pages look like before I’ve added any text:

How to turn an old book into an art journal. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com

I like to use large font stamps to add some decoration:

How to turn an old book into an art journal. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com

The bicycle stamp was one I found in the dollar bin at Micheal’s:

How to turn an old book into an art journal. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com

Sometimes I just leave the pages as is….or add journal text later!

How to turn an old book into an art journal. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com

Now a few random pages from my journal…..

How to turn an old book into an art journal. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com

How to turn an old book into an art journal. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com

How to turn an old book into an art journal. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com

Read more journaling posts here!

 

 

 

Yummy Tie Dye Colors

I’m working on Sienna’s fall clothes and finishing up a new fall pattern so I am running through a ton of t-shirts. My husband gave me a huge stack of dingy white t-shirts and I used oxyclean to brighten them and then I used fushcia and purple RIT dyes to tie dye them before I cut them all up into a million pieces.

Yummy Tie Dye Colors via lilblueboo.com

I soaked the shirts in soda ash for 30 minutes before dying……then twirled them into spirals and secured with rubber bands.
Yummy Tie Dye Colors 2 via lilblueboo.com
I drain them on the side lawn…..since we live in the desert the ground doesn’t hold water so the grass makes a great “strainer.”
Yummy Tie Dye Colors 3 via lilblueboo.com