Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Nanowrimo, MakeArtEveryDay and the Existential Question(s) of the Week

clothesline in november

Yes, it's November and I'm participating in Nanowrimo. For those of you living in remote forests who may have never heard of it, Nano is a crazed activity in which participants vow to produce a novel in a month, chaining themselves to their computers late into the night while the rest of the world slurps pumpkin soup or jumps in piles of leaves or enjoys hot mulled cider while watching Ugly Betty on TV.

"Why?" you sane people from the forest might ask. Well, just for the fun of it. Or at least that's the theory--though I for one don't believe it.

For one thing, writing a novel might be satisfying. It might be the culmination of a life's goal. It can even be--oh my god--profitable. But fun? Who do these people think they're kidding?

So okay, I'm not in the heads of the 70,000 other participants. Maybe they are doing it because November tends to be a grey and brown month and they wanted to add some color to it...Or maybe they're doing it because their friends have all signed up, and peer pressure ate their last brain cell. Hey, maybe opening a vein and seeing what color the ink runs is even their idea of a party.

But like I say, I don't buy it. I think that the vast majority madly pounding out novels "for fun" in November are really trying to trick their subconscious into producing the real thing. A serious, someday publishable, amazing story trapped forever between covers. I know I am. Strangely enough, this is the first year when writing novels is what I do for a living. Pinch me, please.

Producing art on the other hand IS fun for me--probably because I know I'll never be a real artist like Laini or Swirly or Marja-leena or several of the other talented people on my blogroll. It's so much fun, in fact, that the first thought I had this morning when I woke up in my bed this morning was, "Today I'm going to glue stuff on paper! Today I'm going to color!"

And I did!


I searched the house until I found my art supplies: a glue stick, a few of the kids' old crayons and black marker. The rest of my inspiration came when I was sitting in a doctor's waiting room for my annual exam, and reading an old copy of Oprah.

When I saw the photo of Stanley Kunitz walking in the garden, and a I knew I had to have that page. I had to have his words inside my pocketbook, in my room, in the drawing I was going to make.

The poem seemed to sum up all the excitment I feel beginning this month of November. Since it blurred a little in the photo and I want you to have it, too, I'll reproduce it here:

"...I pick my notebook up
and I start to read aloud
the still wet words I scribbled
on the blotted page:
'Light splashed...'
I can scarcely wait for tomorrow
when a new life begins for me,
as it does each day,
as it does each day."

On the next page there was another quote from Joseph Campbell that captured my imagination. And well, the magazine was over a year old--and more significantly, no one was looking...which leads me to my existential question of the week, or actually my three questions.

Why three? Because existence is strange and complicated and sometimes can't be encompassed in one question. And besides, as Sara recently noted, I seem to have a thing for the number 3. Since this isn't an exam, you can answer one, or you can answer all, or you can just hang out and read what other people have to say.

1. The trivial: Have you ever stolen a page out of a magazine--and why?

2. The philosophical: What do you think of the Campbell quote about our responsibility toward the world? Agree? Disagree?
Depends what day you're asked?

3. The practical. This one is for you artists out there. If you were a joyful and perpetual beginner like me, whose only art supplies were five crayons and a glue stick, what's the one thing you would purchase? (The Artist's Handbook is already on the way.)


Anonymous said...

Enjoyed this post and your collage. In answer to the last question, I suggest some nice paper(s) and/or a sketchbook. If you think you might want to keep some of these, look for acid-free paper. And maybe some acrylic matte medium. The book will be a great resource. Oh, and thanks for the link!

Patry Francis said...

Thank you, marja-leena. I was wondering how important a sketchbook might be. (I was using my computer paper. Yikes.)

Anonymous said...

1. Yes, a picture of a log cabin
and an article about yoga
and a recipe for soup
not all at the same time...

2. Agree, strongly, which is why I am Here

3. glitter
and I have no idea why!

Anonymous said...

1. Yes, I have (hanging head in shame) - collage material (but I made sure there wasn't part of an article on the other side - does that make it any less heinous a crime?)
2. Yes - I agree. Which is why I'm trying to go straight and give up number one.
3. I agree with Marja-leena - LOTS of paper (I'm assuming you already have a pair of scissors)!

Maybe a little box of watercolors (though Twinkling H20's are my current obsession) or Cray-pas (water soluble crayons, that you can blend together with a brush and a little water) - since like you, I'm cramming every challenge under the sun into the month of November - I need things that will add lots of color fast.

I have to ask - why only 5 crayons? Splurge on the big 64 count box, Patry!

rdl said...

Nice poster, sister. Love the quotes. Had to pull the reading glasses out to try and read the weeding.
and you snuck another poll in didn't you?
1) of course(recipes and hairdo's?) - the whole thing sometimes - i actually asked the other day if i can "borrow" it.
2) Yes, it's a full time job and why I recycle.
3) fingerpaints? and yes glitter.
How bout tools for a new writer?

Zhoen said...

1. Yes, but rarely, only from old, office waiting room mags, and I cannot for the life of me remember exactly why. Certainly because it was information I couldn't write down, possibly a recipe.

2. Like it.

3. Clay, and I'll give you back your crayons and gluestick.

Nanowrimo is the challenge, and a way to pump out the words that are stuck. I figure I do five to ten good fast novels, maybe then I could write a real, publishable one. Even if it never actually gets published.

Kerstin said...

Why have I never been a great fan of collages? Perhaps because I often find them too 'messy', my mind craving more 'order', even in art. But art is all about our messy lives, right? I like YOUR collage. Now the questions:

1. No. Hmmm, this has never even occured to me, now there's an idea ...

2. I think our job is to accept that life is messy and move on with it.

3. I am not an artist but marja-leenas suggestion makes sense to me: good paper or sketchbook.

Anonymous said...

Yes--- it is my worst sin. sometimes I ask if I can have the page-- or, have the whole magazine-- but I HAVE (oh the shame) tucked a whole magazine under my arm before and left the scene of the crime (but I always justified it because it was an old mag, blah blah blah they have so many blah blah blah) but, the truth is, I am a thief of hair salon magazines (and dentists)


paris parfait said...

Good job with the art and play. As for your questions, yes I have stolen a page from a doctor's office waiting room because I wanted to either 1) copy that haircut 2) know where to buy an item or 3) remember a phrase from an article. I only do this in extreme circumstamces, mind you. I think Campbell's quote is right to an extent, but we also have a responsibility to help others and improve the world. And some good paper and coloured pencils would be an asset in the art dept. Good luck with the writing (not that you need it, since that's your job now). :)

Anonymous said...

I had to comment here since this post has a photo of one of my all-time favorite things...a clothesline. (sigh) 1. Yes, I've taken pages from mag's...more often than not, it's been an article I wanted. 2. I suppose Joseph Campbell was right...after all, we only have control over our own actions and reactions. (And I can't think of him without picturing him in that PBS video which, if I'm not mistaken, was shot at Skywalker Ranch...which really is a lovely place, the little bit of it I've seen). 3. Even crayons and glue stick intimidate this art-challenged gal, so I'm the wrong one to ask. But I used to love to make a big ol' stack of magazines (your own or STOLEN) would be my recommendation. :)

NoVA Dad said...

1. Yes -- I was really, really young, and it was a picture of an actress I had a crush on.

2. I do agree -- although some people need help from their family and friends straightening out whatever problems they may be having. I don't think we can ever truly go it alone.

3. Not the artistic type; I do have to agree with Tinker, though -- the box of 64 was always best (particularly with the cool little crayon sharpener on the back of the box).

- Matt

Leah said...

yay for your art! it made me happy to see.
1. I don't think so. I've definitely considered it.
2. Yes, definitely. Reminds me of one of my favorite phrases, "perfectly imperfect."
3. Hmm...cray-pas oil pastels were one of my first art supplies growing up (you can do this nifty trick where you lay down a lot of colors, color over all of them with black and then use your fingernail to scratch a design in the black which shows the colors underneath!) and that's actually what i used to make the art i did yesterday. one box lasts a long time and they're wonderfully messy and rich. i also did my art yesterday in an acid-free sketchbook that i found at a cvs, so yes, i'd recommend a sketchbook too....other ideas? magazines and random papers for collaging, and maybe a few colors of acrylic paint?

Left-handed Trees... said...

I love your collage--and I also love Stanley Kunitz (got to meet him once--gasp...)

1.) Lock up your magazines, folks...I have done it shamelessly and would do it again. Always of an image or an article I felt I absolutely needed and from a place like yours--a waiting room, etc. NOT a bookstore or newsstand (that would be stealing, ha!)
2.) Agree...but this isn't always easy...
3.) Not "an artist" but, I did recently buy myself a NICE artist pencil set for my random scribbling/sketches...(I swear, I BOUGHT it by the way...)

Kristin Ohlson said...

Patry, I love your book cover! Love it!

I have stolen pages from magazines in doctor's offices, usually when I was mad at the doctor for making me wait too long. No logic in this--only penalizes the other patients.

I'm not an artist but I love art supplies. Really creamy thick paper. Lots of colored pencils, the ones that come in those beautiful tins. And rapidographs (spelling?)-- for making alluring black lines and words among all the blotches of color.

My plan is to inject some music/art into my life-- I'm pining for a clarinet.

Really love your cover. If my novel ever gets published, I hope I like the cover this much.

MB said...

1. Yes, because it was beautiful.
2. In the sense he seems to be using the word "mess," I'd say that my life seems perpetually messy and so it's a Sisyphusian task to straighten, if that's the task. Personally, I think the task may be more to do with accepting mess with grace and working with/around/through it. That's a little different from straightening it out.
3. The kind of colored pencils that turn into watercolors when you wet them or brush the drawing with water are really cool and fun and give you a little more control than paint. If you want paints, gouache is a little thicker and easier to use than watercolor, I think.

Patry Francis said...

mouse: a log cabin, an article about yoga, and a recipe for soup...What more do we need in life?

tinker: My 5 crayons were the last survivors from a set of 64 that the kids once had. Now I'm wondering where the rest of them went...hmmm, could be next week's existential question. Watercolors sound very appealing.

r: The good thing about being a writer is that you really don't need any supplies. A 99 cent notebook and a pencil will do. Or how about that legendary product all writers seem to recommend: bum glue?

marilyn: That Joseph Campbell series on PBS was some of the most enjoyable TV I"ve ever seen.

matt: Agree with your number 2. No one can do it alone. Now I'm wondering who the actress was that you had a crush on...

zhoen: Clay, hmmm. Does play-doh count? Undoubtedly, you have the right spirit for nano.

kerstin: Interesting. I like collage precisely because it IS messy. Of course, if I could actually draw, I might feel differently.

bluepoppy: I've often wanted to take the whole magazine, but I didn't dare. I think you've just given me a personal challenge. This month, I will--just to prove I can. Then, just to keep my karma clean, I'll drop it off somewhere else when I'm done.

paris: I find the Campbell quote comforting--and probably true, but I'm with you. I think we have to go out and TRY to save the world even if we're destined to fail. Maybe that's how we save ourselves.

kat: Thanks for all the great suggestions, and for letting me know that I can find some of this stuff at CVS, and for opening or re-opening the world of art up to me!

left-handed: You met Stanley Kunitz??? I'm now extremely jealous. He is one of my all-time favorite poets. And your drawing is wonderful. You ARE an artist.

k-oh: A clarinet! Oh, yes. I've always wanted to play music, too, but writing consumed my life. If you do get one, I hope you post pictures! The rapidograph sounds perfect for me, because in my art there has to be words. p.s. Thanks for the nice comments about my cover. I do love it.

Patry Francis said...

mb: (x-post) "Accepting the mess with grace"--yes, that sounds more like it to me. Because let's face it, we're not going to straighten it out. From my experience, life only gets messier the deeper you walk into it.

Meanwhile, those colored pencils sound very interesting!

robin andrea said...

I love Stanley Kunitz, so it's a treat to see him walking his old body through the garden.

1) I may have taken a page of something, but I can't remember. The last time I wanted something from a magazine I asked the person at the desk to make a copy of it for me.

2) I am not moved by Joseph Campbell. His quote seems too glib and reduces all of the world to a preoccupation with self.

3) Get paper-- lots of different kinds of paper.

Anne Bauer said...

Yes, I stole a page from a magazine when I was old enough to know better. Recently, even. But only once. Talk about situational ethics.

I agree with Campbell. If we all straightened out our own lives, think of the energy we could then commit to cleaning up the messes we've created by not (ozone holes for starters).

Don't have any suggestions for art, sadly - but your post inspired me to finally do the wax paper and leaf craft with my kids.

Jordan E. Rosenfeld said...

I regularly steal pages from magazines. Great stories, ideas for places I can pitch freelance ideas, and the occasaional gorgeous photo.

yes, I think Campbell's right. He's my personal philosopher. When he talks I resonate with truth like some people do in church. By "clean up" our own lives, I don't think he means we ought to be perfect either, but attend to, as in meditate on, become aware of, our lives.

And I'm also doing Nano with just the reasons you outlined. For "fun"--which translates into the high I get when creating something new, and with hope of creating a publishable product.

P.S. Tomorrow's the book blog club, I'm so excited. Will you link to all who are participating? We should form our own blog page that has everyone's links!

Anonymous said...

1. Yes, when I was young and impressionable (one of those kids who might steal a pumpkin and leave an orange cone in its place.

2. I think it's our job to clean our own stuff up but not the world's. If we do that it ripples out like a contagion.

3. Scissors. Oh but you probably have those ... colored tissue paper.

Warning: making collages is habit forming.

Anonymous said...

1 - must have - probably some architecture I thought was cool

2 - I like the poem much better.

3 - if I had any artistic talent, I would have gotten in Cooper Union - Frank Lloyd Wright is my hero.

Strangely enough, this is the first year when writing novels is what I do for a living. Pinch me, please.

I'm jealous - but the dream still lives.

chuck said...

Once upon a time, there was a dedicated writer who LINKed with other writers and wrote a novel and became very famous...and entered literary circles more rarified than Bloomsbury...and met artists and philosophers and performers and academics...and fell ever so deeply in love...and came to live out the mythic... and bring Jungian archetypes to 'here and now' consciousness...and came to manifest the truth in beauty and the beauty in truth...and though there were competitors for the writer's heart, in the end the writer's faithful beloved won out...and they lived happily ever after, dining often with their friends who wrote for The New York Review Of Books and The Utne Reader...and their children were "free spirits" of the Putney and Stowe School sort...and they lived happily ever after in their farmhouse near Freeport, Maine.

That is the outline of my novel, which is as close to writing it as I will come. Still, it was fun to outline.

Maybe it needs more plot: a manuscript that is stolen and held for ransom, an unfaithful partner, an interfering parent, a lover's quarrel and subsequent make-up?

gerry rosser said...

Liked the post.

I don't know what to do to prepare to "blog" Half of a Yellow Sun. Any hints?

Anonymous said...

Yes I have stolen pags from magazines - and it's ALWAYS about art.

Wonderful post!

Anonymous said...

1. No. If I want to keep a page of a magazine, I buy the magazine. If it's not available for purchase, as when you find one in a doctor's office, I would rather steal the magazine. I find it infuriating to read an article while waiting for some disgusting medical test or procedure, only to discover that someone has cut out some salient portion of it in a seemingly random fashion. No. Just take the whole bloody thing.

2. We all need to start from a solid base where we clean our own houses and tend our own gardens. However, I do not think there is one truth about this. Some people cannot clean their own houses or tend their own gardens. Some people don't have houses or gardens, or want them. Some people regard the planet as their house and every living thing on it a family member. Who am I to say they're wrong? Who is Joseph Campbell, for that matter? And once I have my house and garden on some kind of sustainable system to keep it all at a level of disorder I can tolerate and even enjoy, why can't I also figure out what extra I have to give to other creatures outside my fence? And if my life is never "straightened out," what difference does it make if I'm happy and help other people be happy and well, even if it's only a little bit? And why isn't this a worthy thing to try to budget for?

3. For you in particular I would recommend a calligraphy set, but not the nibs and bottles kind because you are a beginner. Sheaffer makes a set with several size italic nibs you can screw into a cartridge pen with different colors of ink cartridge included and a little introductory book. Imagine what fun you could have with your quotes!

Also, I would beg you to consider that the photos you take are also art and themselves have the potential to teach you more about making other kinds of visual art. See my page of jigsaw puzzles for an example of how. (And you can make puzzles of your own photos at, too.) Pictures you clip out of other sources are other people's art, even when you arrange them artfully. I think you will say more even to yourself if the collages you create feature all your own original images.

But then, many people consider scrapbooking an art, and who am I to say they're wrong?

Anonymous said...
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Laini Taylor said...

Hi Patry! I'm doing NaNo too, but I'm not blogging about it because for some reason I don't want my editor to know! So far so good. You? As for your questions, 1) Not that I can remember, but not because of any moral qualms; 2) hmmm... in the best of all possible worlds, our responsibility would be only to take care of our own lives, but there are people out there like Republicans making huge toxic, murderous messes in the world, and I think we have responsibility over MORE than just our own lives. It's like saying the parents should be responsible for teaching their children morals, or manners, or whatever. That would be great! But lots of them aren't, so. . . what then? And 3) art supplies! Delicious! A good scrapbook store these days has amazing collage supplies. As for traditional art supplies, inexpensive craft paints from the craft store come in a million colors. Use with rubber and foam stamps on big canvasas.

DTclarinet said...

Good to see you flourishing here. Looking forward to your novel.

Stealing from a magazine is the best use of them.

I agree with Joseph C. We are all complacent in our responsibility toward the world.

I would find things around the house, never buy. That's more creative.