Tag Archives: 4Chicks

The Myth of the Solitary Artist

14 Mar

Though the image of many famous artists is that of the painter or writer slaving away by themselves in their lonely studio or hunched over their antique typewriter high up in a tower somewhere, I have learned the exact opposite about the art of creating art.

Smithsonian castle sepia

Smithsonian ‘castle’

Art is never created in a vacuum. At the very least, artists are inspired and informed by the world around them. For some it is cities, for others: mountains. Or flowers or waterfalls or people. They observe color, light, movement, sound and they translate it onto their canvas, whatever canvas that is. For me, it’s a page and my paint is made of words.

My fellow writers are a treasure trove of stories not only because of their vast imaginations but because they feed their imaginations. Many love to travel, some to the opposite side of the globe, learning about different cultures and traditions; others to the closest subway station, eavesdropping on the conversations around them. The world is their collaborator though it doesn’t always know it.

In my experience writing is a team sport. Beyond gleaning from their interaction with the world, writers actively partner with many, many people most of whom give of their time freely in order to help that writer’s vision come to life. Here’s a short list:

  • Critique partners who give honest and necessary feedback in the earliest stages (love ya OWLS!)
  • Fellow writers in the community and at conferences who give encouragement and support
  • Bloggers who provide information, resources, and sometimes exposure and connections
  • More experienced writers who serve as mentors (thank you Lisa Lewis Tyre!)
  • Beta readers who give even more feedback once the story is complete
  • Industry professionals who attend conferences and contests giving information and sometimes feedback
  • Agents who generously provide feedback even when they’ve decided your work is not a fit for them
  • Agents who say “YES” and agree to represent you who help you get your manuscript into shape to sell and then work their tails off to sell your book on only promise of payment IF they sell it
  • Editors who read your work and provide feedback even if they will not be acquiring it
  • The editor who does agree to acquire it (squee!!) who works with you to polish it into the final product

Okay, so the list isn’t that short. And it doesn’t even include the whole team at the publishing house who helps ensure your book actually hits shelves (physical or electronic) with cover art and a minimum of typos. Which proves my point. Writing is a team sport. Don’t go it alone.

Without my writing “team”, I would not have completed two novel-length manuscripts and I wouldn’t have been able to see my stories with fresh eyes and take them to new levels. Of course, I haven’t yet added an agent or editor to my team. But I hope to soon. I’ve got some fabulous agents reading my work. Keep your fingers crossed that one of them is the right match for me.

 

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DIVE! to Your Quiet Place

26 Jun

You’re standing at the deep end, waiting for a clearing, your toes palpating the smooth brick edgers. The pool is packed. Children squeal and splash, whine and wade. Parents chase and cajole. A toddler passes behind you screaming, “Nooo!”

You bend your knees and stretch your arms forward, bringing your hands to a point. You, too, are a parent. You, too, are a child. So you dive.

Gliding below the surface with a gentle break, you slope onward and downward. You open your hold and touch your splayed fingers to the bottom. When you look up through the rippled light, bodies run but their words are muted, distant. At last you can hear your own thoughts, your own words. You realize that you can stay here for as long as you want. You’ve always felt restless, but now you rest contently in your comforting, watery quietude.

You are a mermaid, one made for two worlds. For you, breathing the water below the surface is as natural and essential as the air above it. When you stay on land too long, you suffocate. To this peaceful place you long to return, muffling the noises and focusing on your private passion. Here is where you find your flow. Ideas pour out, and time passes unnoticed. Why did you wait so long, you wonder, so long to return to this place you love.

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Have you ever had a dream like this, too, that you could breathe underwater? For us mermaids, going down for creative air is essential. But contrary to common artistic guilt, getting there does not require planning a solo vacation. Instead, we each can slip into it unnoticed amid the chaos by claiming small moments with ourself and our laptop, piano, paints, sewing machine, whatever.

During this season of busy family fun, how do you get to your quiet place? What would you like to do next there?

Organize Like a Blogger

27 Nov

It’s after 3 a.m., and I should really be sleeping. Instead, I’m riding a wave of satisfaction at my latest effort to organize the roughly 75 years and 200 historical characters that are connected to my historical fiction novel. Oh, and the caffeine high from the hard-core Cokes my dad left from Thanksgiving might be playing a role.

At any rate, I’ve tried Word docs, Excel spreadsheets, even index cards in an attempt to harness the information overload. I even started using Scrivener’s writing software, which I do like. However, in the flurry of new information I’ve acquired in recent weeks, I’ve realized that I still haven’t found the ideal way to incorporate new facts and cross-reference effectively. Perhaps, that is, until now.

First let me backtrack just a bit to a few weeks ago. A client who just moved recommended me as a potential resource for an internal communications campaign for which external resources were being considered. I had a weekend to submit a proposal. Instead of cracking open PowerPoint, however, I decided to create a private blog, which was the intended delivery vehicle of the communications anyway.

As I told my fellow Chicks, I put all of my Chick training to good use. In just days, I was able to create a really fun, stylized proposal in just a matter of days. What’s more, I gained a deeper understanding of the organization between pages (not date of writing related) and posts (critical to date of writing). To me, the result felt very cool, very functional, and above all, very organized for future growth.

So tonight, I decided it might be fun-ctional to apply this concept of a private blog to my Goliath project–the “I-T” to which the antecedent is always understood by my Chicks and my patiently enduring husband to be “my never-ending historical fiction novel”. I spent hours just making a start, but at least I have a good general framework for building it out. And knowing that only I can access and view the blog makes it feel like an extension of my brain. But a LOT tidier.

This could be a turning point for me. Besides the potential of becoming vastly more organized with this project than I’ve been to-date, I’ve decided that even if I don’t live to see the fruition of this novel actually written to completion, I’m going to start enjoying the mystery clue-collecting process more. Who knows where this could lead next? And who cares, now that I’ve remembered why I started on this project? I really do love it and am determined to bring order to the historical chaos swirling around my major characters.

Truth be told, I work better when I at least FEEL organized. In fact, I don’t even like to sit at my computer at all unless and until my house is clean and organizing around me. This explains my lack of productivity over the past six months, when the process of moving out and moving in has me wanting to make everything perfect around me. The boxes are unpacked, but perfect–that’s gonna take some time (and money). Meanwhile, moving my equally intimidating pods of historical facts into my private blog-abase is giving me a serene sense of clutter conquest. At least on the screen, which is where I need to stay focused.

Fan Fiction Confession

13 Aug

It’s done.  I went through with it.  I posted my fan fiction on a fanfic site.   For a while, writing it was my dirty little secret because fan fiction doesn’t get the same respect that “serious” writing does.  But after a while, I decided that writing is writing and it’s all part of practicing the craft.  The next step was to post it, so I did. 

Now that I’ve posted it, you’d think I’d be excited, but like Eva talked about in one of our recent chats, the feeling after the event itself (in her case a triathalon) is one of let-down.   I feel a bit so-what.  I mean, there was some initial excitement – I think you get that feeling whenever you put yourself out there.  And I’ve gotten some nice feedback, which is certainly pleasant enough.  But I don’t have a feeling of excitement or fulfillment. 

Maybe because I was never all that focused on getting it in front of people.  I really just wanted to write it because I enjoyed mentally continuing the journey even after the book ended and because I wanted to prove to myself I could write something of length on my own.  Not that 15,000 words is that long.  But I found I was able to write it with ease, and felt that I could write double or triple that if I wanted to.  The experience itself was satisfying to me. 

The story overall hasn’t had a lot of traffic, as it is one of many, many out there, but then I haven’t done anything to drive traffic there, and I’ve decided not to.  Because it really isn’t about the feedback.  It was about the writing in the first place.  And now, it’s time to let it go.

So, where does that leave me?  Ready to take on a new project, and know that no matter how long or short it may be, I can do it.

the Muse

3 Mar

This blog may be about 4 Chicks and their ongoing quest to lead fully creative lives, but I’m the star here.  Who am I?

I am the Muse.  I am inspiration.  Behind every creative journey through the ages, there I am.

The wheel?  My humble suggestion.  The Mona Lisa?  That’s my work, too.  Why do you think she’s smiling?  Romeo and Juliet?  Ah, yes.  A Muse by any other name would smell as sweet.

So now these 4 Chicks want to find me.  They’re desperate to find me, it seems. They each have creative seedlings they want to see bloom.  Well the truth is, Eva, Peggy, Tracey and Vivi have as good a chance at finding me as William, Leonardo, and dear what’s-her-name.  Come to mention it, so do you, my curious reader.

Do you want to find me?   Have you already looked for me?  Well, despite rumors to the contrary, mine is not a game of hide-and-seek, but rather one of seek-and-find, and I do so love being found.

How can you find me, you ask?  You can find me in: writing, storytelling, filming, painting, running, singing, cooking, dancing, sewing, skydiving, rhyming, acting, drawing, decorating, parenting, researching, editing, cleaning, speaking, playing, learning, listening, hoping, planning, working, laughing, risking, traveling, trying, crying, working, waiting, believing, sharing, changing, celebrating, struggling, trusting, working, persevering.  In other words–by truly living.

Wherever you are in your creative journey, I am ready to meet you there.  Meanwhile, the 4 Chicks will be meeting here.  They say they feel my presence most powerfully when they’re together, and they want to share that experience with others.  Maybe you’ll feel me more, too.  Because although no eye has ever seen me, I am always near.

I am the Muse.  I am the inspiration you seek.  Come find me.

Eva

3 Mar

According to TRACEY…

Knowing Eva is truly an adventure.  It’s like one big party after another—literally.  Over the years of our friendship, I’ve enjoyed many fun and unique Eva-events, including my son’s baby shower—a Pirate Murder Mystery.  Yep.  Eva doesn’t do anything ordinary.

Besides being my favorite hostess with the mostest, Eva is a natural entrepreneur.  She and her husband operate a successful trade show supply business based here in Orlando.  They have a symbiotic relationship: Chris keeps the clients happy; Eva keeps the books black.  It’s sweet, really.

What else can I tell you about my dear friend?  She’s a great mom to her two girls, of course.  Oh, and one day Eva announced that she wanted to be healthier.  Six months later she was in a triathlon.  That summer she held a multi-generational fitness day in her hometown in Puerto Rico for three dozen or so of her closest family members.   And now she’s starting nutrition school.

English is Eva’s second language, but video is her third.  It’s the form of communication that feels most natural to her.  But Eva’s passion and enthusiasm come across in whatever medium she employs.  So while Eva herself will insist she is not a writer, the rest of us Chicks know better than to listen to her, and you should, too.  Besides, going through The Artist’s Way was Eva’s idea.  So it’s all her fault: us four regular moms trying to become fulfilled artists, this crazy blog, everything.

See, whatever Eva decides to do, she does with the force of her whole being.  Like a perky, Puerto-Rican bulldozer, she moves mountains–and people–as needed, through her sheer positive will.  Yet even more, Eva is also a natural coach. Without even being conscious of it, Eva is always encouraging others to reach their goals and helping empower them to do it.  Truth be told, this can be annoying.  I mean, it’s really hard to procrastinate properly with Eva and her prying questions.  I especially loathe her cheery, “So what’s your next step?” (My answer: off a cliff.)

That’s Eva, as I see her.  If you follow this blog, I think you’ll come to love this irrepressible trouble-maker as much as I do.

Peggy

3 Mar

Vivi says…

What can I say about Peggy? I believe it’s best to put it in the form of Haiku:

Friend and confidante

Her talent is outstanding

None can hold her back

Seventeen syllables don’t seem to do her credit, so I’ll try this:

<cue suspenseful music> A time long ago, in a land far away…there was a woman called Peggy

Nope, themed movie announcement doesn’t seem to work either, so I will elaborate in prose. Having worked in the field of human resources, Peggy may come across as professional, put-together, and poised. However, I know the truth – she’s a nut!  I have known Peggy since moving to Orlando and being introduced through our husbands, who were fraternity brothers. She can take the sarcasm I dish out and turn it right back around in a truly hilarious way. I realized immediately that working with Peggy on a young adult novel would be a perfect collaboration. She helped take a project that was going nowhere and give it direction.

She’s a busy lady, balancing a job as a consultant and providing executive coaching at a local college while managing her career development blog and shepherding her kids to soccer tournaments or spelling bees. No matter how much she has on her plate, she can always be counted on to enjoy life.

She is a fellow artist whom I feel honored to call a friend.

Tracey

3 Mar

What EVA Has to Say About Her Fellow Chick…

I believe that people come into your life for a reason: mainly, to teach you what you need to learn about about yourself.   Tracey is one of those people who has come into my life to inspire me, push me and make me realize how wonderful I am (hahaha).

Tracey is a fantastic mother to two amazing kids and a caring wife to a very supportive husband.   On top of these leading roles, Tracey is also a very creative artist who expresses herself through many different passions.   She is an actress, ballet dancer and singer.   She loves all things to do with pirates and history.  She quilts, composes songs, recycles fanatically and cleans her house obsessively.

But Tracey’s biggest talent is that she is truly a talented writer.  A children’s story she wrote is in the process of being published.  Meanwhile, she continues to follow a longer endeavor, one that she has been working on for over three years already—that is, to finish her first novel (as she handles her hectic life running after her toddler son, homeschooling her daughter, maintaining a house and keeping her husband happy!)

As women, we sometimes wonder, “Can I do it all?”  Well, Tracey shows me that all I need is motivation, commitment and perseverance to accomplish whatever I wish to do.  That’s why I have every confidence that Tracey will finish her book.  She has a way of putting words together so beautifully; I love to read what she writes, and I know the rest of the world will, too.

Now she might tell you that I don’t know what I’m talking about and that I’m going to write all mushy stuff about her because we are such good friends.  But the reality is we all have our strengths and weaknesses.  Can Tracey be emotional at times?  YES.  Does she listen, at times, to that little voice in her head that tells her that she can’t do it?  YES.  But we all do, and we all go through similar challenges trying to find balance in our lives as mothers, wives and artists.

So don’t just take it from me.   Follow along and see for yourself what an amazing and creative person Tracey is.

Vivi

3 Mar

According to Peggy…

Vivi and I met through our husbands and instantly clicked.  From the first day, it was as though we’d known each other forever.  I soon recognized it was because we both were lovers of words and, as such, shared a common language and sensibility.  Beyond that, she has that kind of sparkling personality that I’ve always admired.  She exudes happiness, laughs a lot and cares about people.  She likes to joke that her personality is her best feature, and you know what?  She’s right!  Everyone loves to be around her.  She brings out the funny side of life.  She appreciates all senses of humor, even dry, sarcastic ones like mine.

In her working life, Vivi has had the opportunity to produce business communications for a global company, which means she writes all day some days.  As a testament to her creative drive, she thrives on artistic endeavors in her personal life as well.  She has a keen talent for singing and playing the piano and, of course, writing.  She loves a good story and loves to tell a good story.  She can make up the most imaginative stories at the drop of a hat, and delights her children with them at bedtime.

It has been an adventure working with Vivi these last years (we won’t say exactly how many) to tell the story of a young girl finding her way through the modern drama that is high school.  We have found a place of true collaboration – where once it was her voice and my voice, now it is “our” voice that comes out in our writing.  And now, we are collaborating once more, along with two other great friends, to create 4 Chicks and a Muse – to continue inspiring and encouraging each other along our journey.

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