Note: The links to Project Unbreakable contain emotionally disturbing material. Please consider this before clicking on those links.
Yesterday, Carly wrote a post about artists as activists—those of us, like poet Martin Espada, who feel called to make the invisible visible.
Another artist doing this same thing is photographer Grace Brown, founder of Project Unbreakable. Two years ago, Grace began photographing survivors of sexual assault holding up posters on which they quoted the words of their attackers. Since it began, the project has highlighted more than 2,000 survivors’ stories. Brown uses her art to give survivors the opportunity to heal and increase awareness of sexual assault.
Write something truly awful to find the good stuff. That’s what poet Brendan Constantine promotes in his post “Idle Hands are the Poet’s Playground: Brendan Constantine on Taking a Chance.”
“Furthermore, it will always be true that our poorest work lies ahead of us. We’re going to write something truly awful in the future. We have to. Why do we have to? It’s often the only way to uncover the good writing. Like going through a kitchen drawer, sometimes we have to take out things we don’t need in order to get at the things we do.” Read more
Writing is a solitary, sometimes lonely process—we tuck ourselves away physically and mentally in the name of our art. Because we’re used to spending time alone with white space and words, writers tend to be a bit introverted.
As an artist, I think it’s important to also seek community—not only with other writers but with different types of artists. Going outside our comfort zone can inspire us in new ways. Recently, I was so inspired.
I traveled to Seattle to see poet, author, graphic novelist, and lovely [British version (inside joke)] singer Neil Gaiman and singer, songwriter, piano and ukulele slayer Amanda Palmer (who just happen to be married to each other) in an astounding multidimensional performance. Gaiman read his poems and short stories. Palmer sang and played her own music.
Not only were the duo incredibly entertaining but watching them perform was like watching art being born in front of me. Something visceral and human and transcendent took place on stage. It was the kind of performance that leaves you trembling with aftershocks that you know you’ll be processing for months or, even, years.
At some basic level the experience transformed me as an artist. I feel more connected to my center and to my art. And maybe that’s what great art is meant to do, no matter what the medium—connect us to that which we’ve been missing and to that which we didn’t know we were missing.
To learn more about Amanda Palmer and hear samples of her songs click here.
For access to Neil Gaiman’s wonderful world of skullduggery click here.
What has inspired you recently?
As a freshman in college, I wrote one of my first poems in response to a painting that hung on the wall of an art gallery where I worked. It was an abstract painting of a woman’s body and I wrote my poem in an abstract style—mimicking the curves and nuances of the painting. I even titled the poem “Abstract Painting #6” after the name of the painting. I remember this because it was the first poem I ever published. Firsts tend to make an impression on me.
As a writer, I’ve trained myself to be observant of my surroundings. But I don’t always succeed—there are days when I’m so involved with my “other worlds” that I literally don’t notice what’s happening around me. Once, when I worked at a law firm, I went for an entire day before noticing that my colleagues had rearranged my office. (Something they thought was hysterically funny for some reason).
When I enter a new environment now, I try to notice my surroundings—I look for what’s unusual or unique. I look for those “firsts.” If I find something intriguing, I store it away for later use in a poem or story. Read more
Let’s face it, we are insanely busy these days. It seems as if the more technology we have to make our lives easier, the less time we actually have for rest and relaxation or even vacations. (And when we do go on vacation, we often take our work with us).
We live in a culture where the myth of a superman and a superwoman is perpetuated daily and we begin to believe we can and should become these super beings.
I know. I’ve been there and still am to some extent. And I’ve paid for it with my health, my happiness, and my quality of life. It’s called burnout. And the really insane part is I’ve done it more than once. Think I’d learn, right? Read more
I am queen of the list. Hear me roar. I make lists for everything. Maybe it’s my feeble attempt to make some kind of order out of my chaotic mind.
Lists are important—without my work lists, I’d never get anything done: shipping, phone calls, emails, appointments, ordering.
I also make lists for writing projects. Since I’m one of those neurotic artists who needs a variety of stimulation, I list action items under certain categories: Fantasy Novel, Memoir, Poetry, Blog Posts, and Continuing Education. I’ve even made a weekly writing log to check off action items as completed.
There’s something magical about checking off a completed task. I feel satisfied, successful, slightly euphoric. My friends threaten an intervention, but I tell them there are worse addictions. One success begets another and before long, I’m on an upward spiral.
But lists don’t have to be just for organization and keeping your goals on track.
List making can be an art form. Read more