Weekend Edition – Creating More Than Just Art plus Writing Tips and Good Reads

On Being the Kind of Artist Who Creates More Than Just Art

Dad in my sister's childhood room - tearing it down to build it back up

Dad renovating my sister’s childhood room

Untangling the influences on our reading and writing lives is like a kind of personal archaeology of the literary persuasion.  For most of us, bookish things and writerly urges have become such an integral part of our existence that we have ceased to even question their origins. We simply take them at face value, accepting their existence as “the way it has always been.” It isn’t until we begin to dig, carefully shifting layers of time and memory, that we start to uncover bits and pieces of the Story of Why that is embedded in our personal history.

On Mother’s Day, I wrote about the very direct and deep influence my mom has had on my writing (and reading) life.  Now, all of a sudden, it’s Father’s Day (where did that time go?!?) which has me thinking about how my Dad has influenced my writing life. The irony is that my dad is neither a writer nor a reader. In fact, it’s a family joke that Dad won’t read a book unless it has pictures. A lot of pictures.

Though the written word is not his cup of tea, my dad is a born creative. When it comes to his own art, Dad works in the visual realm. He is a photographer, an illustrator, a cartoonist, a painter, and a graphic designer. He is also a sculptor, builder, and light designer. In short, the man has many (many) talents. But he also has something more than mere mechanical ability. He understands the importance of creating an experience.

When I was in the seventh grade, my history teacher assigned one of those projects that requires students to make a presentation or build something. My project was a scale model of a post and beam home from a first period settlement. I had no idea what I was doing, but Dad was ready to help me figure it out. We commandeered the dining room table and, with my mom and sister lending a hand as well, spent hours and hours building the most accurate and detailed model I could imagine. It had authentically joined beams, a thatched roof, a slate hearth, and a wattle and daub chimney. One side of the house was sided with rough boards, but the other was open so that viewers could look inside and see the miniature furniture and accessories we had built – a trestle table and chairs, cooking pot, tiny utensils, sacks of ground flour, a broom, a ladder, tools for hammering and cutting. By the time we were finished, the model was almost too large and too heavy to fit in the car, but it was a beauty.

Looking back, I realize that building that model was just the first of many lessons my dad has taught me about paying attention to the details and creating an experience. He wasn’t just building a model of a house. He was transporting people back in time. Dad approaches every creative project, no matter the medium, with the intent to create atmosphere and evoke memory and imagination. Like his idol, Walt Disney, Dad is an artist who knows that the true creation doesn’t happen on the canvas or the film; it happens in the heart of the viewer.

Mom, Dad, Bear

Mom, Dad, Bear

This passion for creating and appreciating experiences permeates every facet of my dad’s creative life. We can talk for hours about how a movie or a TV series either excelled or failed at drawing us into another reality. We pick apart the story, the acting, the locations, sets, and props. Birthdays and holidays give Dad another opportunity to stage miniature extravaganzas that make each and every event special. Ghost stories by a campfire, hay rides in the dark, sing-a-longs with animatronic characters, treasure hunts from Santa, fireworks on the back porch … family get togethers are never dull when my dad is working his magic behind the scenes.

My dad may not be a writer, or even a reader, but he is a storyteller, a world builder, and an artist. He is a dreamer with an eye for detail and a passion for creating art and experiences that not only tell stories, but also inspire them. Watching and listening to Dad, I have learned that real art does much more than just hang on a wall or sit on a bookcase. Real art creates an alternate reality that has the power to change this reality. Real art invites us in and then changes how we see the world and what we think about our place in the world. I don’t know if there’s a more important lesson for any writer to learn, so … thanks, Dad.

 

What I’m Writing:

anniversary poemI feel a bit like a broken record, but once again I find that the week has gone by and I have not managed to make the time to work on my fiction of creative nonfiction projects. Once again, my days (and sometimes nights) have been filled to the brim with marcom writing projects – the kind that (happily) pay the bills, but do not necessarily nourish the soul.

Still, my mind is always churning away on my “real” writing projects. There isn’t a day goes by that I’m not thinking about characters, techniques, etc. I’m always learning and always capturing new ideas. I also do find small ways to play. This week, for instance, I wrote a sort of a poem for my beau. I call it a “sort of” poem because I know just about less than nothing about poetry. A few terms have stuck in my head from my high school English classes – iambic pentameter, sonnet, etc. – but I honestly couldn’t define them if my life depended on it. Regardless of my ignorance, I decided to craft a sort of a poem to celebrate our seven year anniversary.

I’m sure I broke all kinds of rules, and I can already see things I would like to change, but – you know what? – none of that matters because he loved it. It may have been clumsy and a structural train wreck, but he understood what I was trying to say and it made him smile. And that’s really all I was hoping for.

What I’m Reading:

book year for plumsAfter my lustful affair with The Art of Floating last week, I must admit that I felt rather at a loss for what to read next. I tried to go back to the fantasy novel I’d begun before The Art of Floating swept me off my feet, but I found I’d lost interest. (I have a feeling, in fact, that I have lost my taste for fantasy of that kind all together, but that’s a thought for another post.)

I let my eyes wander my bookcases for a bit and they finally settled on a small hardcover copy of Quite a Year for Plums, the first novel by author Bailey White. Those of you who have been reading these weekend editions for a while may recall that I first read White’s collection of short stories, Mama Makes Up Her Mind, almost a year ago. My first experience with White’s writing was something of an epiphany for me. Her simple but beautifully crafted stories made me realize how much I enjoy reading about and would like to write about small town life.

Quite a Year for Plums is, like the stories in Mama Makes Up Her Mind, a quiet book. Not much happens. There is no great quest or heist. There is no big mystery to solve. No one undergoes a major emotional, spiritual, or physical change. In fact, there doesn’t seem to be much story arc at all.

Still, I was always eager to return to the pages of this unassuming and yet intimate book. Though there was no great tension to keep me turning the pages, I still turned them. Reading this book felt like visiting old friends. It was a comfort. Though there was no sweeping adventure or exotic setting, I still felt completely taken out of my day each time I sat down to read a few pages.

As a writer, I know that I will be returning again and again to White’s books as examples of not only wonderful storytelling, but elegant writing. White is a master of “show don’t tell.” With very few words and hardly any descriptions, she paints a vivid picture in the reader’s mind. In fact, the world she created for Quite a Year for Plums felt to real to me that I still don’t quite believe that I’ve finished reading the book. I keep reaching for it to continue reading, as though it contains a story that never ends.

In short, this one’s a keeper and I’m looking forward to exploring some of her other titles.

I also read another lovely essay at Full Grown People, The Little House by @KarenEDempsey  captured the bittersweet reality of a lost home and the ghosts that inhabit it even after it’s gone.

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin dahl dfft place
 
So, that’s all I have for this week. I wish you the pleasure of reading stories that sweep you away and the magic of a good day putting the words down. Until next week! 
 
 
Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

26 thoughts on “Weekend Edition – Creating More Than Just Art plus Writing Tips and Good Reads

  1. Good luck with everything! I don’t know where this week went. I am working on finishing scripts for my short video segments for my upcoming blog series (then will work on writing all the actual posts to be ready before launching it!) and had to deal with computer issues. I hope you have a good weekend!

    • Ugh – computer issues. Those are the worst. I hope you got all your technical snafus resolved. Nothing more frustrating than being hung up because of software or hardware.
      Have a great weekend!

      • I was lucky to still have a working desktop as my laptop died and I can’t replace it before at least a few months. So I could shuffle everything to the other computer. I’m more or less up to speed with it now! 🙂

      • Thank goodness you had a backup plan. Glad to hear things are getting back to normal operational standards. 🙂

  2. I really loved how you wrote about the way your dad’s visual vision of the world influenced and influence your writing. It made me think if the realm of the words and the realm of images are two separate worlds or if they actually intertwine somewhere along the road… I’m a visual type myself, 90% of the time at least, and in that I very much resemble your dad 🙂 However, I was born with a gift (or perhaps a curse) of having multiple semi-talents, which means that I’m a bit talented for many things, but not enough to truly excel in any of them. Nor I am able to give up on some of them to have more time to focus on just one thing. I’ve read quite a lot of books in my lifetime, but after reading your text I can’t help thinking that the covers and images played significant parts in this process. I started my blog intending to give my thoughts some new shape and share them with the world, but ended up rediscovering my passion for photography. 🙂 Still it’s hard to just publish a photo without explaining the meaning behind it’s existence or on the other hand plainly write without connecting words with some image. I guess I’m still in between and perhaps that’s how it was meant to be. I just think that those who have found themselves in one field are truly blessed, as realizing where your true potential lies takes you half way down the road to success.

  3. I really like the idea of looking at how our parents influence our writing/creative selves. It makes me realize I need to do some exploring in that area. I also need to include my maternal grandmother and one of her sisters. Thanks for the inspiration! 🙂

    • I love your idea of going back multiple generations, Deborah.
      That reminded me that my maternal grandfather (and namesake) had writing aspirations. He wanted to be a journalist. Perhaps there is something genetic about this writing proclivity …

  4. Great post for Father’s Day, or any day! My dad was also an artist and cartooninst, builder of models and overall creator of experiences. His one effort at writing a poem when I was 8 years old, inspired me to write one too. I’ve been writing ever since. Tho he passed away 10 years ago, I am always grateful for the creative experience he passed on to me.
    Interesting quote — I have spent the last week writing fro two hours every morning. It is so pleasantly draining!

    • “Pleasantly draining” … I like that. I love that “good tired” that comes from having spent yourself on a worthwhile endeavor – be it physical or intellectual. Those days that I fall into bed feeling “pleasantly drained” are the best. 🙂

      Thanks for coming by and sharing the story about your dad’s poem. That’s very special.

  5. A very enjoyable post that makes me think of my father, also a creative man–a Welsh storyteller with a great, booming singing voice.

    • Your father sounds so interesting – like someone who;d be great fun around the hearth on a chill winter’s evening. 🙂
      Thanks for sharing a bit of him here.

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