Heavy, wet flakes of snow are dropping steadily from the sky today, weighing down branches, muffling sound. The girls are playing a CD of a singer whose mellow voice is new to me. I have brewed loose tea in my blue-and-white Spode teapot, poured it into a Christmas cup, stirred in a teaspoon of honey, and begun to sip it down smooth. I figure I can use these cups with their holly design until January 6, Epiphany, Three King’s Day—the end of the 12 days of Christmas.I’m sitting at my computer, enjoying my tea, remembering with a sigh that in a few days, school starts up again and I will return to grading papers and planning lessons. But right now, I’m sitting at my computer, sipping tea.And I pull out Rumors of Water: Thoughts on Creativity & Writing, by my friend and colleague L.L. Barkat, and open to Chapter One, “Rumors: How it Begins.” I think about beginnings and how the new year is rising like a full moon in just a few days, to begin again the cycle of seasons. I think about the One-Year Bible and how this morning I finished my 2011 plan early because I accidentally launched a one-year plan for 2012 on my phone app last night and don’t want to get behind. I think how silly it is to let a phone app decide when I should start my reading plan, but I start anyway and I am of course in Genesis, the book of beginnings, and I think about how some things begin again even when we are in the middle of other things.And it is with this thought that I begin L.L.’s book that I have already read. I am beginning again in the middle of things, to revisit her simple writing reminders.And in that one-page chapter, she writes my life in a few simple lines:
I have been trying to write while raising my girls. I have been struggling. There are days I feel wildly creative; there are weeks when I feel ground down and completely spent. I am trying to show my girls that creativity is theirs for the taking. (Barkat 15)
I, too, have been trying to write while raising my kids; I, too, have been struggling, feeling wildly creative some days and “ground down and completely spent” on others.I finish re-reading one page in L.L.’s book, and I stop. That’s as far as I get in her book today.Out the window, I see the fir tree’s arms sagging under the pile-up of snow, and witness great white wads sliding off and flopping to the ground below. Splat.Winter is generally not my season of creativity. I am sluggish from the heavy snow and sunless skies.But L.L. reminds me that creativity is ours for the taking.I know it is true, but I wonder if I can really come alive right now. I usually have to wait until spring thaw for ideas to flow, but I decide I should come up with a plan to make this winter different. Instead of it being a sluggish, heavy season of survival, perhaps by nurturing my work, this can turn out to be a season of creativity.My nephew received art supplies for Christmas, and I thought of years past when my younger self had asked for art supplies, and I was given a set of pencils and sketch pads and charcoal and conté crayons. I still have some in the basement, gathering dust on a shelf.My journal, tucked into my purse, is an artist’s sketch book that I bought earlier this year and have been slowly filling with illegible script—curious thoughts, random ideas, questions, journal entries and sermon notes—but few sketches. Only occasional doodles and scribbles.Last week on Twitter someone linked to “5 Sketching Secrets of Leonardo da Vinci,” and this morning I was thinking about the first suggestion: to sketch something multiple times, from multiple angles, trusting that quantity leads to quality. I thought about how this might be a simply way to experiment again with art.I decide to retrieve my pencils and charcoal and conté crayons. And I resolve to work on my photography, as well, and my writing, looking at things multiple times from multiple angles, experimenting.I decide that creativity is mine for the taking.And winter can come alive.The music is still playing, and I can picture the box of pencils on the shelf where I stuck them years ago. In just a minute, I’ll finish my tea and head to the basement, wondering how to begin again.
Note: this post contains Associates links.
Today I link up, belated, with L.L. Barkat’s On, In and Around Mondays, and Laura Boggess’s Playdates with God.
This is beautiful Ann – and so encouraging. I felt as though I was sitting across the table from you with my own cup of tea – feeling so many of the same things. You know – you think that once you reach this season of life, with an empty nest and hours to fill, you will do all those creative things you once dreamed about. But it isn’t so. There are always things pulling at your time – filling those hours in ways you hadn’t imagined. I think you have the right idea.
I need to pull out L.L’s book and reread it too. I’ve been pondering all of these things for days now. Thank you for helping me!
Linda, I do hope you, too, find that this can be a season of creativity in your life. You have so much flowing through you–ideas, words, and clearly the gift of encouragement. Your visual art, too, manifests itself in your handwork.
I already pulled out my pencils and charcoal and sketch pads and notebook. I sat at the table and sketched a pear from four angles. The pear was imperfect; the sketches are imperfect; but I had fun, letting myself begin again.
Oh, this makes me want to begin. Something.
And your words help me feel that creative pull. Winter is hard this way for me also, Ann, so I thank you for inspiring. When I get home from work tonight I might pull out the paints or some such artsy thing. It’s the little steps that usually are the stumbling blocks for me.
Oh, I hope you find some small inspiration. As I mentioned to Linda, today I sketched a pear. Humble. Simple. Imperfect.
Sandra Heska King says
I think we’re experiencing the same snow, now melting. And the same longing. I got my grandgirl some watercolors and one of those nifty brushes we used at LL and a Moleskine art book. I wish now I’d gotten one. But I’ve been thinking about my quilting supplies.
I’m hoping to blog through Laura’s book chapter by chapter this year. Love it.
Beautiful post, Ann.
Yes, melting already! I found that I have some watercolor paper, and even some oil paints. I think I might look for a 40% coupon at Michael’s and buy a small canvas. I’ve never painted in oil, but would like to try at least once in life.
I’ll have to keep track of your Rumors posts! You’ll be seeing her here at my place for a few weeks, as well.
Hugs to you!
Megan Willome says
I look forward to hearing more about what you create. As for me, it will be photography, starting with my iPhone. That’s what my 13 Days of Christmas is about–experimenting.
Experimenting, curiosity and creativity all go together, don’t you think? And maybe some risk-taking, too.
I’m going to take a risk and show you my first sketches tomorrow in my CJ. They’re bad. I hope their blah-ness encourage others to give it a try!
Charity Singleton says
Yes, beginnings are wonderful. I love beginnings, and do them often. The thing I struggle with is continuings! I may start the new year committed to continuing things I started last year, but chief among them are acts of creativity. Can’t wait to see those pears!
Continuings and FINISHINGs. I struggle with both of those, as well, my friend.
Hazel I. Moon says
Today I found you on Laura’s site, and wished for snow at my place. (Not really) I lived in snow for two winters when we were in Oklahoma and it was fun, except one day I slipped and fell and that was not fun. I think the snow had frozen over and icy – not good. Ann, you are so adept at finding something to create where other would less find it. I always enjoy your posts.
Thank you for the lovely and nourishing writing Ann.
When I lack any imagination in the seemingly mundane things (menu planning), it seems to create a landslide of feeling a complete shutdown of creativity…heavy sigh.
I smiled at your early reading plan. I choose a different translation each year and I jumped the gun and started reading it in November…I felt like I was cheating 🙂 I am sure that God considered it a win!
New Year’s blessings to you!
Diana Trautwein says
How I LOVE this post, Ann. And I look forward to further musings on LL’s good book. Maybe I’ll pull it out and think on it slowly and thoughtfully – and creatively. We’re on a 4 day break, in a little beachside town about 200 miles from home and our eldest daughter’s family is also here. We’ve not spent much time with just these five (one of them is brand new, as of last July’s wedding!), primarily due to her first husband’s long, lingering illness and then her struggling to survive after his death. So it’s been fun to just hang out with them a bit. They brought water color supplies and I brought a few, too. Haven’t ever done anything but what we did at the Lodge this summer – but maybe we’ll all try it a bit this week. Whatever you put in this space, I will read with eagerness – so I rejoice in this search for creativity during the fallowness of winter. Happy New Year, by the way!
Bradley J. Moore says
Wow, Ann. I relate to so much of what you said here, almost as if you tapped into a version of my subconscious. (right down to the art supplies collecting dust in the basement!) I have also been thinking about beginnings. And endings. And being in the middle sometimes.
I will be carrying this with me for a while.
Elysa Henegar says
Thank you for the beautiful, inspiring post, as well as the links/resources. As a mom to 3, writing while raising, I can completely relate to the feelings you’ve shared here and certainly needed the encouragement! I keep white lights twinkling well past the time when the other decorations are tucked away…to keep the creativity alive and remind me that His stunning presence always fills life with magic, even in Winter, when the sky is gray.
Matthew Kreider says
I sure like that last sentence, too: “In just a minute, I’ll finish my tea and head to the basement, wondering how to begin again.”
Sometimes our creative ventures begin only after something, even if small, comes to an empty end. But those aromas can help us get through our seasons and direct us deeper underground. Creativity will always find somewhere to take root. Now I wonder what’s waiting in my basement …
I can’t wait to read about your journey into creativity this winter season. I’ve always thought that winter is such a dormant time, but now you have me thinking about all of the wonderful things waiting to grow beneath the quiet soil. I’ve been thinking a great deal about art lately, and this was just the push I need to get started.
“new year is rising like a full moon” loved these poetic lines. I too had tried to write while my children were still at home. The internal struggle was very difficult. There’s a season for all things… God gives the time needed for what’s most important. Now I have more time to write, but am watching my Grand three days a week and He still gives me the time I need to do what’s important. A little writing, a little time to nurture, and time to spend with Him.