The Sacred Details of Every Day Life

I kept a journal pretty diligently this year.  The only month that I didn’t finish a journal was February, the month my mother died.  I kept a small moleskine journal while I was in Memphis for the funeral but I couldn’t write or draw much for the rest of the month.  Projects I started — illustrating a children’s story I had written, working on a novel about a girl with epilepsy — fell by the wayside.  I started out the year with a big plan to get work finished:  things that could be hung on walls and printed in books.  Instead, I mostly worked in my journals.  I wrote and drew in the way that was most natural to me:  vignettes and paragraphs, poems and impulsive drawings. 

In July, I got a smaller journal — a Stillman Birn watercolor journal that had great paper.  Before I had a big journal for working on at  home and a little Moleskine notebook for carrying everywhere for notes and dashed-off drawings.  With the smaller journal, I didn’t need two and I liked that.  I went back to cheaper spiral bound books, but I tried a hard bound one with sketching paper and I liked it, liked working across the spreads and I really liked being able to put the month and year on the spine.  I’m using the Daler Rowney Classic for the next month.  So far it’s good.  The paper buckles with a watecolor wash, but the pages flatten back out and it’s less expensive than the Stillman & Birn.

This autumn I applied for a grant to help me get an illustrated book printed of stories I’ve written while riding the bus.  I didn’t get the grant, but I’m going ahead with the book.  When I applied for the grant, I figured if I got it, or even a portion of what I asked for, it would be the universe giving the message to go forward with the project.

I had a moment when I got my rejection letter that I felt the universe was telling me to give it up.  I got a lot of rejection this year.  I sent children’s stories to 6 different agents and was rejected by them all.  But as I processed the grant rejection, I felt a great weight lifted off of me.  I don’t have to follow the guidelines I set up in the grant proposal.  I can let the work evolve however it wants.  I made a budget.  I can re-submit the grant to other organizations.  Or I can work in my low-cost, highly personal way until I get the book exactly as it should be.

And the other rejections were the result of  working on stories for children that I’d been telling and turning them into manuscripts.  So I guess I did more than journal entries after all.

If I go back into the journals, I find that my year has been full of stories, great interactions, color, insight, sorrow, sentimentality and dreams.

I once believed I’d be a published writer by the time I reached the age of 40 and that by the time I was as old as I am now — 53 — I’d have a small shelf of printed work to my name.  On the other hand, when I was 16 and having seizures and my muscles were mysteriously atrophying, I was told I might not live until I was thirty.

Now I have a small bookshelf filled with journals that record the confusion, elation and sacred details of everyday life.

A few years ago, I was part of an art co-op where I showed my fabric work.  A young artist asked me if you could make a good living at art.  I had to say no, because chances are, you won’t.  But, I said, you can make a good life.

Writing, drawing, self-expression, recording, illuminating, creating — it’s all such a gift.  And it’s one I give to myself each time I put a pen to paper — I am honoring and embracing life so that I never forget the sweetness of it all — the sad, the bad, the indescribably profound.

Have a great new year!

Self portrait in Walnut Ink, December, 2013

25 thoughts on “The Sacred Details of Every Day Life

  1. Good luck on your book. Rejections are hard to take, especially when you have poured heart and soul into something. Your spunk and determination will get you where you want to be. Happy New Year!

  2. Joy, many years ago I called a newspaper called The Sun and asked the editor if I could contribute weekly stories about the things going on in my neighborhood. I asked him if I could submit a few pieces on the past few weeks and he surprised me by saying yes, to go ahead and mail the pieces to him and he would consider it. I mailed the writings to him, neatly typed and corrected and really didn't think much about it. A week later he called me and said that yes he liked my writings and my interactions with the peoples I had interviewed. He went on to say that since it was a community newspaper they couldn't pay much. I wasn't concerned about the pay since I worked full time. Writing for a newspaper was what I wanted, I could always work my way somehow. I was a columnist for a few years and loved it. Don't give up. Perhaps you can try submitting your work as a weekly story, part one, part two…etc. Just a thought.
    Joy, I popped in to say Happy New Year to you and that I hope this year brings you all you want and more. I hope your health improves and that you are happy. Thank you for stopping by my blog this past year. I have enjoyed all your posts and drawings/paintings. Take care and have a good year.

  3. Thanks for sharing your story, it is similiar to mine. I did get a publisher accepting one of my children's stories and illustrations in February this year, but they wanted me to make so many changes that it changed and it became so depressing. I opted out and the relief was owerpowering! I find that the creative effort is more important to me than seeeing my name in print. Although I am considering selfpublishing with Blurb as you have complete control. I wish you a creative and happy New Year.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing your story, your creative spirit shines through! Yes Art and creativity can give you a 'good' life. wishing you a new year full of creative promise.

  5. Thanks for being so honest…. You have such a beautiful way with words, so please don't ever give up on that. I just read somewhere that Dr. Seuss' first children's book was rejected by 23 publishers ….. Sharon's idea about self-publishing is what I was thinking also. At least you have a lot of freedom then. It's worth considering. Hope you'll continue your writing and self-expression in the new year, and wishing you lots of joy doing it ♥

  6. I think self-publishing is a great idea and it's definitely how I want to go. I'm glad you have chosen the authenticity of your story over what the publisher wants. In interacting with agents and publishers, you realize the “market” has very weird limits and ideas about what makes a good story. Good luck!

  7. Being rejected is part of the game. Almost every story or book is rejected at first. I'm glad there are more options these days for publishing than going through publishers. Thanks for you kind words and encouragement.

  8. I wish that you find a way.. your words are so fab!
    I will visit more often in 2014 – happy that I found your wonderful blog !
    Thank you for your nice words for me !
    I was published in a couple of children crafting books years ago .. I was very proud of this but it was so much work… wouldn't do that once more.

    I cross my fingers for you – never give up – if you really want to do it than don't give up!
    You will have success!

    My mom also died this year .. and my journals helped me through this bad months after my lost.

    xxx from Austria

    Happy New Year for you !


  9. Thanks for sharing 🙂 I absolutely admire your tenacity and hope you keep going. I've self-published a couple of books (lulu) and had some success selling them without trying hard. If you put your mind to it with a good marketing plan, it's possible to do well for yourself I think. Best wishes for 2014!

  10. Never give up, I've heard on average there are at least 20 rejections before an acceptance for writing..Tenacity is what it takes…keeping emotions out of it too! Sort of the like movie he just not that into you….a piece of writing has a timing element to it…depending on what a publisher is looking for!! .Like Sharon I think self publishing is the way to keep it real. I did a requested piece for a friend and regretted the pressure so much. I won't do that again!! You go girl this is a great post!! I believe in you!!

    Hugs Giggles

  11. I enjoyed reading your post so much – and the comments all our joint blogging friends left, all with good advice. I wrote (educational books) for a number of major publishers over the years, and it is hard work and has it's problems. A number of ideas for books I suggested to editors were turned down because they said they 'wouldn't sell enough'. So when I took early retirement I started my own publishing company – and proved them wrong. So self-publishing can work, though the internet has revolutionised it these days and made it easier in a way with a tremendously wide audience. Just have faith in yourself and believe, present as professionally as your can, and you will get there. I'll help if I can in any way.
    On a bit of an amusing note – when I look at your profile photo, I see myself (25 years ago, of course) and it's a strange feeling. And I like the ink self-portrait too.

  12. Your words punched me in the eye. I would like to be as brave as you are.I too like writing but I have never submitted what I write to any publisher. Maybe I am afraid of being turned out.I have already started to write a book of poetry in my language. It is my first step. Thanks so much for visiting my blog. Happy New Year and much love from Brazil!

  13. Thank you for visiting my blog Joy. Such beautiful collection of notebooks you have. My sister has also written a story that I am illustrating. Finding a Publisher can be very difficult so we might end up publishing ourselves. First I have to finish the illustrations as good as I can. I wish you good luck with 2014:) -Niina

  14. You are an inspiration I am sure to other writers- to never ever give up. Wishing you a new year filled with lots of happiness and published books. BTW I love your header art.

  15. Wonderful self portrait and very inspiring thoughts. Having the strength and belief in what one is doing to push on in the face of rejection is a beautiful thing. I'm sorry to hear about your mother. You have accomplished so much this year in your works. I hope the new year brings great things.

  16. Dear Joy, I hope and wish for you that you will be able to take the path you have chosen for your self. Enjoying art and writing and keeping at reaching your goal. I have the hope to move forward with my art, something I have dreamt of since I was very young, but never really attempted. Now I take small steps forward, mostly working on my skills 🙂
    I wish you the best of luck and all the best for the year 2014!

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