Things have been busy in my household! – keeping me away from publishing. It’s nice to know I can come back and publish again, picking up where I left off. Today we have Day 6 of my 7-day black-and-white image project. For fun I wrote a little piece that’s a bit of a ways out there. For my drawing I experimented with a simple image but complicated the shading a bit for fun. Happy midweek, everyone!
DAY 6. Baseball. [FICTION]It was a round moon with stitches. She was not qualified to judge, but the shadows brought it into eclipse and back out again, and the more times her father tossed the baseball back and forth to her, the orb thudding solidly into the sweet palm of her Little League mitt, the more she felt herself growing lighter, becoming free of gravity, floating high above the small grassy field where they stood some meters apart, she in her twelve-year-old body, and her father at forty-something, and this was years before the final illness that took him away into another place. She hung above the grassy space like the hovering gull in a strong wind, then without notice she slowly wafted back into the girl-body she had back then and went on with her life.
The gas pump sits like a tombstone in the grass by the blacktop. A bare tree behind it testifies to winter. Why do bare trees make us feel sad? The red barn is, perhaps, jealous of the gaiety of the gas pump’s red shell, and it may try to amp up the color of its faded walls to compete. The barn’s envy is misplaced, for the gas pump has never harbored the livestock and fodder that the barn has. Instead, the pump stands unused, a relic of early technology that filled the gas tanks of the Model A and the like, back when the car was a novelty. The gas pump will lose its shell of steel to oxidized rust, one molecule at a time, while the barn nearby will fall into disrepair, one splinter of wood at a time. Are they competitors or companions, after all?
Have you ever gotten up in the morning and thought, “I can’t write today.” That, despite all your methods and ways of writing, nothing seems appealing about writing. No intriguing story ideas, no wandering characters in search of a plot, no tantalizing settings that yearn to spawn a new tale. No poetry tickling the back of the mind.
In the past couple of weeks I’ve been unaccountably feeling “in a slump.” Everything I think of seems trite, already-done. No pomodoros, no scheduled daily writings. I couldn’t even bring myself to look at the two chapbook manuscripts that I was hoping to polish and submit this fall, or when I did look at them, I could only wonder, what had made me think they were nearly ready to go?
Deep breaths. This isn’t forever. Something is keeping me from writing, but what?
Not sure. But there is something I learned in research, from working on my Ph.D., that popped into mind. When you’re stuck, when you’re not sure where you are – maybe you have gathered a bunch of research data and you’re not sure what the analysis of the data is telling you, there is a concept that you can draw on. First Principles.
First Principles might be defined as “the fundamental concepts or assumptions on which a theory, system, or method is based.” Every field has a set of First Principles, the basic set of beliefs or truths that govern that field. The concept is that, by going back to the fundamental bases of your discipline, you can “connect the dots” to the place that you’re at in your research. For instance, in mathematics, First Principles might include the facts of arithmetic, or the methods of logical reasoning. First Principles gives you a grounding, and it helps you find your way through the knowledge that you may have uncovered in your research, so that you can organize that knowledge into a new finding.
When this idea popped into my head, I thought (sluggishly) – “I’ll go back to First Principles.” What are the First Principles of writing? For me, there is the notion of writing, just writing, anything that is expressive of my art. Pick a writing prompt, choose a line of poetry, find an image, and write. Write whatever comes out, even if it’s not great, even if it’s not a story, even if it’s not anything. Just practice the piecing together of words into a sentence, sentences into a piece of prose or poetry, just follow the methods of my field. Go back to the basics of writing on anything, a turn of phrase or a photograph, and while it may not be good, eventually something will strike a spark and I’ll be able to go on. I’ll find a thing that does push my imagination into creating something new – whatever that is. Meantime, I’ll just accept whatever does come out.
This is hard – the accepting part. But that’s what I’ve been doing for the past several days. Last night I wrote with my friend Kyra, and we both confessed that we were feeling uninspired by anything we’d done recently. So we made what I called “The Emily Dickinson Pact.” As you may know, Emily Dickinson only published a handful of poems (less than a dozen) before her death. Yet today her work is highly revered, and she is considered one of the finest poets that has lived. I told Kyra, “Let’s just write. Let’s not worry about whether it’s a story, or it’s even ‘publishable,’ let’s make a pact to write, and to keep going, and to not criticize ourselves for whatever comes out.” So we agreed!
And we wrote. She had a lovely start-to-a-story about a little thief apprentice who steals from the wrong magician – and then becomes the magician’s apprentice for it. It was wonderful! My writing was more of a monologue of a larger-than-life personality who outgrows the women he loves and realizes he is no longer loveable himself. Not a story, nothing remotely publishable … but the point was to write and to accept what I wrote. In that light, I was successful.
DAY 2. This week Miriam Hurdle of The Shower of Blessings blog inspired me to post seven black-and-white images as part of a challenge she was doing. I thought, why not? – and so this is a series of posts with a new pen-and-ink drawing in each post.
About my sketching: When I decided to experiment with learning to sketch, I never expected to share my sketches publicly. That would be too scary, it would look amateurish, and readers would think it was “goofy” to put up my (potentially terrible) drawings (I thought). But … wait! Fellow bloggers have been unfailingly supportive of my efforts to try something new. Some even said they liked my drawings. Wow!
Inspired by another fellow blogger, Amy Maranto of Photography Journal Blog, today I wanted to share with you a “before” and “after” sketch, of a fence across a snowy field. The sketch on the right was my first attempt. I enjoyed how the fence posts came out across the snow, along with the shadows to the left of the posts. But the shading (in pencil) didn’t stand up to the inked-in fence posts in the scanned version – too light. Since the shading was in pencil, that allowed me to erase it and try version two (on the right).
Fences and Snow (v. 1), sketch by Theresa Barker.
Fences and Snow (v. 2), sketch by Theresa Barker.
Taking a cue from blogger yellowfuzzyduck (Joy) at TurtleDesk, I decided to go bold with my shading in the second version. Abstract-like squiggles and patterns replaced the subtle thin-pencil lines in the first version. Even though the “squiggles” were not technically representative of the actual image I was sketching, I think it worked out pretty well. Thanks for visiting!
p.s. Here is the photo I used for my sketch … very dramatic, isn’t it?