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|