Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Another Book Topic


Last night’s meditation led me on another interesting journey … as happens often. I was left feeling I need to put these meditation-inspired ramblings into a book and call it “Conversations within Myself.” (The writing muse has me by the throat. All I want to do is write!)

These meditations offer insight into life. I’m shown different sides of situations while allowing my mind to develop, transform, solidify, question preconceived beliefs, or assimilate some form of teaching. I think about what I think about and how I think about it. (OK, I’ll admit to overthinking ... or maybe I’m just not afraid to admit.)

Words and thoughts constantly run through my mind. I’m always thinking, from the moment I wake in the morning until I fall asleep at night. (Sometimes when I wake in the night, too.) Often, it’s just daydreaming drivel, but other times, a topic grabs hold of me and I’m taken on an interesting journey; at times controversial and other times enlightening.

A comment gets made or I read something that sends my mind spinning off on a winding path. There’s no one true answer as the trail leads down, in, around, among, up, out. Thoughts jump one to another; sometimes not in a logical sense of order. Words gush from above, while others stir up out of my soul and heart. I never know when it will stop. Suddenly, the flow shuts off, and I feel breathless, emotionally flattened, unfinished, like there’s more, but my brain won’t take any more at this moment.

Nothing is conclusive. I’m left in wonder. But I also feel the topics that come to me need to be brought to the light. It’s not that I expect everyone to believe what I say. They don’t have to. Sometimes what I write is what others think but can’t put into words. Sometimes it’s just my ramblings.

Whatever it is, I’ve gained a little more understanding of life, and even if I’m left with more questions, there’s still a feeling of accomplishment.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Shorter Sentences in Writing and Talking


“You can’t write like you talk,” is something I often say. Talking doesn’t have punctuation, grammar, or spelling. Talking isn’t always in full sentences. Talking and mind chatter can ramble and babble, sometimes seeming to go on and on. Writing is more formal. It follows rules.

Yes, I’ve talked about this before, but today I’m writing in a different context. Today I am thinking about what else an already-filled brain can take in.

My thoughts went to those who talk and talk until your eyes glaze over. Yes, I wonder how often I do that, too. Sometimes I can go off on an idea or story and don’t stop. It’s like I have so much on my mind, when I finally get a chance to talk to someone, the flood gates open. My mind certainly seems to talk non-stop. I have to often tell myself, “Stop!”

But when it comes to writing, we can’t just ramble on. It makes me realize how we see differently than we hear. Seeing words written can put them in a different context than hearing someone speak them. The spoken word gives us signals from the speaker. In reading, we only have our own thoughts, feelings, and knowledge to interpret the meaning or intent of the words.

What this has made me realize is that the brain needs pauses. If I ramble on and on in my speaking and the listener’s eyes is glazing over or he’s trying to get away, that’s a clue his brain needs a rest. It’s similar in writing if sentences are long and rambling. By the time the reader gets to the end of the sentence, he has forgotten the beginning or has lost the intent of the words.

As much as I love words, I’ll get bored and skip sections if: 1. A description goes on and on in one, long sentence. 2. If an entire paragraph is one long sentence. 3. I have to read a sentence more than once to understand what’s going on. (Yes, there are exceptions.)

This is giving me a greater appreciation of periods; ending one sentence to give the brain a brief rest before diving into the next sentence. It’s like stopping to take a breath when talking (and give the listener a chance to take in what you said). The period between sentences allows the reader a brief second to catch his mental breath, in a way. It’s a pause to let the brain assimilate the information it just took in.

It doesn’t matter what kind of reading we’re doing. Most of us aren’t writing college theses and we’re not out to prove to the world how smart we are. As a matter of fact, if we want people to understand our point of view, we have to make our writing easier for them to understand.

This is not saying people aren’t intelligent or can’t handle it. Part of it is because we all have so much on our minds nowadays, it’s hard to take in any new information. Plus, if we want people to enjoy the reading, we, the writers, have to make the reading enjoyable! That means writing to make the reading easier.

Maybe fiction writers are better at this. The fiction genre isn’t necessarily out to convince readers to the writer’s point of view. It’s those of us who write in nonfiction where we might be trying to prove a point or defend ourselves somehow. Those, too, trying to educate readers. In the telling of my stories, I’m always hoping that my words could possibly help someone else. Not that I’m telling anyone what to do or how to live their life. Just that, perhaps, something in my life I write about could trigger something in them to help them deal with a similar situation. (I sometimes take things I read from someone else and turn it around to make it a positive for me.)

And, maybe, here’s something to consider if you’re trying to get a point across: Think about how we learn. “See Spot run.” “Dick and Jane went to school.” We remembered this. No, we are no longer just learning to read, but if, as writers, we’re trying to teach or lead or help or provide valuable information, will someone learn from a long-winded dissertation or from sentences that seem to twist around until you don’t know whether or coming or going?

Did I just prove my point? Ha-ha. It’s something to think about. At least this is how my brain works nowadays. Information in short spurts.



Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Writing Roadblocks: Unanswered Questions





One of the issues I run into in writing a travel memoir is letting unanswered questions become roadblocks (pun intended) to my progress. Today’s topic was how to write about uncomfortable instances without sounding whiney.

I write on a personal level, giving a real-life point of view. I don’t sugar coat. I don’t make it seem like every day is full of glorious adventure. There are problems. There are mistakes. And yes, sometimes there is downright miserableness.

So, how can I be true to the real-life aspect and not sound whiney sometimes?

The goal is to show readers that it’s OK to acknowledge the less-happier situations. When you think about it, most travel books are written about wonderful sites, fabulous scenery, interesting places, etc. Yes, there is adventure and sometimes hardships, but most of the time, it seems like it’s all a fantastic time.

And, for the most part, it is. But, not everything goes as expected. Multiple issues may arise. There are disappointments. Sometimes, when in unfamiliar situations, fear and other aspects may cause emotional upheavals which can affect the enjoyment of the journey.

I want to show what it’s really like to travel; the good with the not-so-good. Not all parts of a trip are full of wonderful sights and positiveness. So, how do you get through that? Because, after all, the trip really is an amazing adventure and the good does outweigh the bad.

How do I deal with it? By writing about how I come to terms with scary situations and how to handle the unexpected. Yes, I’ll admit sometimes I totally fall apart in the moment, but I also use it as a learning experience. I ask myself how can I do better next time?

Each moment is an opportunity to learn, oftentimes minor, hardly noticeable. Other times, a situation can affect your mental outlook for a while until you deal with it …

Like that time within the first two hours of a trip when I almost got into an accident on a round-about. For the next half hour, I was paranoid about the thought. My mind spun ‘round of what could have happened and how my trip would have been ruined, until I got on a nice, quiet, windy, mountain road and was able to calm myself down.
The lesson here: Yes, I almost caused an accident, but I didn’t. At that point, I could have simply acknowledged thankfulness and put it behind me, instead of dwelling on it the rest of the day and being fearful every time I was in heavier traffic.

There are always going to be issues to deal with while traveling. We shouldn’t hide them. I want to talk about my full experiences and hopefully, if and when you get a chance to travel, something I may have dealt with will help you get through your situation.



Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Where Did I Leave Off?

View of Charleston, S.C., from the hotel

After way too long, I’m finally getting back to my book of 2015. The first draft was done, but then with moving, renovating, other life issues, and a trip to attend a wedding in Wichita, Kansas, the book was put aside. Now, with two books with first drafts, I feel compelled to finish them before going on to any other writing.

For a while, I debated about which book to finish first, the 2015 trip or the 2016. There are options for going either way. I feel incomplete because I haven’t finished either one. And although I’ve also written the main body of the first draft to the Kansas trip (which I just finished last month), I can’t do more on that one until I finish the previous one (not that it really matters which one I do first). Finishing weighs heavy on me.

Sometimes, I get stuck on questions for which there are various answers. I have to stop letting issues like this put off re-starting. One big question is the use of names. This is an issue with many writers. When to use a name, what kind of permission to get (do you need a legal form?), to be formal or informal. One of the last suggestions I read was to just use a first name or change the name.

I never use someone’s name without permission. I ask, and if yes, will just make a note of it. But after all this time, are those permissions still valid. Then, too, I feel I owe these people who gave me permission to mention them in my book. It is my way of honoring them for taking time to talk to me.

Yes, I could probably let it go and move on, but I don’t want to. I put too much work into both manuscripts to just give up. I took hundreds of pictures on those trips and there are stories to tell. I fall asleep thinking about it and wake up with it on my mind.

Yesterday, I woke mulling over the 2015 trip. Decision made, I’m ready to get on with it. I have to do this, even though it’s been over three years now. The time-frame doesn’t really matter. The story matters along with the life-lessons learned.

The start, or re-start, is made. The excitement returns. I can’t wait to tell my story.





Saturday, September 29, 2018

Sizes, the Comfort of Painting, and Another Lesson


I spent a little more time in the studio yesterday morning making a bit more progress on “Grassy Marshlands.” I also did some work on “Path through the Dunes.”

Both scenes have their own challenges, especially as they are totally different. The first is lots of grass with a meandering stream leading towards the mountains. Lots of various shades of greens (and other grassy colors) and trees. The second is a sand dune with a path over the dune to the river. Different landscape and terrain.

What dawned on me this morning, and maybe one of the causes of my struggles, is that the four paintings in process on the easels are all bigger than I usually do. Yes, I’ve done a couple of bigger paintings before, but generally like to stay around the 11 x 14-inch size. The current ones are different sizes between 12 ½ to 21 ½ inches.

Since I started working in charcoal, then pastel, I randomly “tore” the 21 x 31 sheets into smaller pieces, sometimes getting as many as four paintings out of one sheet. The randomness of the tear made them various sizes which I used as one of my quirks. The last portions I did was closely tearing the big sheet in half.

I’ve talked before about how each painting is its own journey, and that there’s always something to learn. I realized that once I started these last four paintings, I’m not comfortable working on this bigger size. (I’ve always been amazed by these artists who do painting in sizes of feet! That’s not for me.) And now I’ve figured out that even the sizes on the easels are too big for my style.

Here is what I’m discovering for myself in working on a larger scale. (I write this and laugh because it’s not really that much bigger than what I prefer, but just those few inches make a difference in my comfort.)

I’m not a total impressionist, so there’s the balance between “blur” and sharp lines which seems to be more difficult on a bigger canvas. A bigger painting means standing back farther to see the whole painting (and in a small studio means bumping into other things.) What I see as mistakes stand out more. Also, the bigger the pictures, the more cost of matting and framing. And, I suppose I should admit, there’s often a lot of self-doubt during the process.

So, to I keep pushing out of my comfort zone and go big?

The other option on my mind is to choose a consistent size, keeping all my paintings the same size. If I choose a conventional size, matting and framing would be cheaper. My technique would hone to that size.

I’ve never been much for convention. I strive to do things my way, finding out what works for me. I don’t want to be like everyone else or do it like other artists. I want my own twist, my unique quirk. Working alone means a lot of trial, error and making discoveries. Sometimes I stumble. But, for the most part, I am always amazed and pleased at the finished painting!









Thursday, September 27, 2018

Determining If It’s Positive Progress




Today I spent a little more time in the studio. I want to get this painting finished. It’s been on the easel too long.

In one aspect, I like it. I like the scene, the colors, and the vibrancy. On the other hand, I’m finding it hard to really like it. I don’t want to give up, though. I’ve spent too much time on it. Then again, I’m feeling quite discouraged. The texture of the paper still gives me a hard time.

Usually by this point, I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m normally past the “hate it” stage -- and while I don’t hate it, I don’t like it. And, living alone, I don’t have anyone to “run it by” unless I post to FB or someone should happen to stop in. Ah, what a dilemma.

So, do I let my determination to finish win out or should I throw in the towel and move on? I have other scenes I want to paint, and it wouldn’t be the first one I’ve put aside to (maybe) finish someday. I could add this to my stack in the back room, ha-ha.


It’s funny, in the posting of a photo, I see things I want to change. There's still a lot of work to do. Sometimes the photo doesn’t lend to a good painting composition and I adjust a line of two. Do I go back or give it up and move on? 

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Each Painting Is Its Own Journey



I worked on “Grassy Marshlands” yesterday. I do not like that textured paper, even using the backside which isn’t quite so textured. And that’s OK. At first, I felt “unworthy” because so many other artists love working on texture. But, as artists, we don’t have to be the same, and we don’t have to like working with the same tools and supplies. That doesn’t make one person wrong and the next right. That doesn’t mean I’m not an artist because I don’t do it the way most others do it.

It’s funny how I always choose a view thinking, “This is going to be quick and easy.” It never turns out to be quick and easy. Every painting presents its own challenges even though I always do similar types of scenes: sky, water, mountains, trees, vegetation, rocks, et. al. Every time I think, “I get it now” when working a particular type of scenery, it doesn’t go any easier on the next painting ... or even on another part in the same painting.

Part of my mind believes if I do one set of trees, the next bunch of trees should be easier. However, each scene presents a new challenge. Maybe it’s in the leaves or the way the branches bend. Maybe it’s in the bark, type of tree, or how the light shines on it. Or perhaps it has to do with how that area works as part of the whole of the entire scene.

I like doing grass and trees, so why do I feel so challenged with this painting? Can I blame the texture of the paper? No, not totally, although that non-smoothness does not make blending look as I prefer and the colors seem to muddy quicker.

Perhaps my answer is simple enough: Each scene is its own. This is not the last scene! The curve of the landscape is different. The lighting is different. The types of grasses are different and how the blades rise along and above the water. The clouds are different, and the reflections are not the same as in the last painting. So, why should I feel that, just because there are similar items in the scene, it should paint the same?

Change the way I think! Look at each painting as its own journey and go at it as if I’m on a travel adventure. In a way, it’s exactly like one of my trips. I learn something new each time and have a totally unique experience even if visiting a place I’ve been before or painting a similar landscape. The in-the-moment exploration opens new doors to discovery.