By Martha Reed
I have these fabulous vintage metal kitchen cabinets and the only excuse for keeping them is that I can use magnets to stick pictures and articles up all over them and make a sort of living inspirational collage.
Most of the pictures and articles are about artists and writers who say something particularly pertinent during an interview; something that strikes a chord with my current work in progress. Once a month I pour a big cup of coffee and I go through the collection and winnow them down and throw the old ones out but there are a couple that have been displayed so long the type has faded to gray and the highlighter has turned tan. The collage has even attracted certain notoriety among my friends who make a beeline for the cabinets whenever they come to visit to see what’s new.
I believe my cabinets have mutated into an exterior bulletin board for my ongoing internal dialogue.
Last weekend I added an article about Nantucket artist Joanna Kane. Joanna has the kind of striking face that makes you swear you knew her in college, but I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure. She has just switched from painting decorative furniture to abstract canvas and I think what she says about painting can also apply to creative writing:
“To get to that surprise I need to walk in the dark for a while. I don’t know where the painting is going, and I have to be fine with that.”
That was one of the hardest initial writerly tools to learn, to trust yourself and your writing enough to follow it blindly. Remember that marvelous feeling? The A-ha! moment when your first draft finally knits together and the complete story is revealed?
“In art school they told us that we wouldn’t mature as an artist until we were 50, and I think they said that to weed out those of us who weren’t serious.” … “But I happen to believe it’s the truth. When you’re young you wait for the surge of energy to create something, but at my age you just work. You don’t wait for inspiration.”
I think you have to be middle-aged to truly appreciate this statement. Youth is too exuberant to appreciate the stamina of grinding the work out. And yet there is a beauty, a satisfaction in reaching the grind it out stage; I’ve eliminated the peaks and valleys of useless enthusiasm and just get down to work, every day. There’s no more nonsense, no more distraction, no wasted idle time. My desire to write and my energy level are in harmony to just get ‘er done. Nowadays, if I stay up all night or put in ten hours on a good day I get a text hangover; but if I stay with writing a little bit every day, strong and steady, it’s pretty amazing what can get accomplished over the course of a year.