Tag Archives: creativity

anopisthographic


anopisthographic  adj. having writing or printing on one side only

desk

“The only thing that makes one an artist is making art. And that requires the precise opposite of hanging out; a deeply lonely and unglamorous task of tolerating oneself long enough to push something out.”
― David Rackoff, Half Empty

I have to admit that lately I haven’t been scouring the OED as much to find words. I cheat a bit here and there and look at sites on the web that list strange or rarely used words. Anopisthographic is one such word that was found in this manner.  When I found this word, it made me recall what it was like to physically write on paper with a pen…for pages and pages…and how I rarely, if ever, do that any longer. It is in the physical “pen in hand” practice of writing that I feel I am working the hardest at creating something. Typing just doesn’t match up. If you are writing with a pen and you make a mistake, you have to work to remove it. You really have to think about what you are going to put down on the paper as it isn’t very easy to remove or rearrange it. In a way, you physically live your story. If you want to move a paragraph, you have to cut the paper and move it. If you misspell a word, you have to scratch it out or erase it. It leaves a mark as a reminder of your mistake.  If your pencil breaks or your pen runs out you have to sharpen or find a new one. I often think about the fact that I rarely physically write and if I did that it might strengthen my words that same way exercise strengthens my muscles, gives me stamina.

The act of writing on paper is also quite therapeutic. About a year ago I started “The Artist’s Way” because I was suffering from a creative block and just general malaise caused by being a stay at home suburban mom. The first thing you do when you start the Artist’s Way is wake up and write. You basically rise from a dead sleep, open a notebook and just write whatever it is that comes to mind. They are called “morning pages.”  At first it starts out as gibberish and doesn’t make a lot of sense. If you keep thinking of the same word over and over again, then you just write it. You’re not supposed to judge it.  It’s supposed to be a sort of cleansing of your “artist soul.” Sometimes it felt like a continuation of my dream and I would start in one place and end up in another. Other times, it was a struggle and made me angry. Rarely, a phrase or sentence would happen and start the creative journey. I haven’t gone back to read what I wrote in some time and I probably should. I didn’t get through the entire process of the Artists Way. I never created a masterpiece.

When I wrote my morning pages I filled up both sides of the page. Not writing on the other side felt wasteful and this has always been my feeling about writing on paper in general. I suppose it comes from a desire to fill up a page or pages the same way I do so many things in my life – my fridge, my closet, my brain. Having all of the pages embossed with lines of penmanship makes me feel accomplished, like I reached my creative quota, tangible proof that I made something.  I love pressing hard enough on the page so that the lines create a relief map on the other side and crinkle the paper, making it look worked over.

This word also makes me think about the old wooden school desks we used to write on when I was in elementary school. Every student was assigned their own, permanent desk each year and they were quite old. Each was like a time capsule from all of the other students who had sat at that desk before. Despite the constant warnings from teachers not to vandalize them, we still did. We had to leave our own mark. Random carvings on the wooden tops, crusty dried up bubble gum caked along the underside that looked like little upside down mountain ranges when you stuck your head under and looked up. Secret messages and love notes scribbled in permanent marker, sometimes in hidden places. We’d always have to write on top of workbooks or stacks of loose leaf to avoid inadvertent impressions on our vocabulary exercises. The surface of the desk was almost like the other side of the page coming through the one we were writing on. Like secret messages the desk was sending us about its history, its life story.

It makes me sad to think that my son won’t know a desk in the same way. That a white screen with buttons will be his most familiar definition of a page. It is up to me to ensure he  experiences the physical act of writing on paper despite the fact that the world we live in is making it obsolete. I want him to know and understand the meaning of “page” outside of an LCD screen. I want him to know how to create them in his own hand and have his own style of handwriting the way I have mine. I want him to have both sides to write on.

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imbroglio


imbroglio n. an extremely confused, complicated, or embarrassing situation

Image

I am a champion eavesdropper and general observer of people. I do it often, especially on the morning train. It is a bit of a game for me, to overhear conversations, on the phone or actively between two people. If I was a novelist I think I might ride the train just to gather ideas for character sketches. It’s more than just a few moments of a conversation. It’s the way that particular person talks. Their speech pattern and intonation, the overall cadence of their speech, what they are talking about and the emotion they are audibly emitting. Piece it together with what they’re wearing, the bag they’re carrying, their ID badge hanging off of their zipper. It all creates an invented persona and I am a detective trying to solve who they are to place them in my own story. When I am lucky enough to catch someone lamenting on an imbroglio, it ties it all together – but I am rarely so lucky. Instead I watch and create my version of them in my head.

I picture myself as a hack impersonation of Ernest Hemingway in “A Moveable Feast:”

…A girl came into the cafe and sat by herself at a table near the window. She was very pretty with a face fresh as a newly minted coin if they minted coins in smooth flesh with rain-freshened skin, and her hair black as crow’s wing and cut sharply and diagonally across her cheek.

I looked at her and she disturbed me and made me very excited. I wished I could put her in the story, or anywhere, but she had placed herself so she could watch the street and the entry and I knew she was waiting for someone. So I went on writing.

The thought of Ernest Hemingway writing in a café, observing people and turning them into his characters inspires me. I don’t know if I’ll ever write a novel, or anything deemed publishable for that matter, but I can still create the story to pass the time. Here are some of my favorite, frequent characters.

The Fun, Fearless Female

She is one of my favorites and I hate when she sits in a car farther down the line and I don’t have the chance to observe her. She works for Cosmopolitan Magazine, or at least I think she does because she is always carrying tote bags that have bedazzled sayings like “Fun, Fearless Female” with fake kissy marks- the kind they give away at workplace events. She surely looks fun with her honey highlighted bob, a hint of cleavage showing through her light, acrylic Forever 21 sweater in the Spring and Summer. 100% fun. The most notable thing about her, though, is that she is always telling some long, drawn out, exquisitely animated imbroglio to at least 3 or 4 men – most of them bald and overweight, but nonetheless gathered around like a moth to a flame. She comes across as young, peppy and seductive in a very suburban way, but if you look close you see the tiny creases of crows feet, her foundation and powder caked there signaling a clue to her age. She must be mid 40’s going on 17. I wonder if she’s writes those sordidly famous Cosmo sexual advice columns. Or if she’s just a functionary, a cog in the wheel of the smut publishing universe.  

Kate Spade

The girl that all of the men stare at on the platform. The perfect hair, the clear complexion. She always carries a Kate Spade bag and has work friends that she sometimes talks to on the train. She has an immature taste in clothing…like this morning when she wore espadrilles and a tailored jean blazer on this rainy, 40 degree day. She smiles with her mouth closed because her teeth are crooked. It seems like a source of embarrassment for her. At first glance, you would think she has it all together, but if you look closer you see that the strap on one of her handbags is torn and taped discreetly back together. That her iPhone screen is so marred with cracks that I wonder how she uses it without slicing her fingertips. The day she sat next to me on the train she stabbed me with her bony elbow at least three times because of her feverish texting. She was whispering on the phone, gossiping about work and about her upcoming trip to LA. She is married, the standard large, flawed diamond solitaire and channel set wedding band combo. I wonder what her other half is like. If he’s like her, clean looking and popular or if he’s a nerd.  I always pair her with “Tom Brady”, the good looking tall guy who carries the Coach diaper bag as a man purse who always stands near her on the platform. They would go so well together – Kate Spade and Tom, walking side by side, she in suede ankle boots, he in grey loafers (no socks). But she is uninteresting, not because she has to be, though. I feel like she’s just looking the part, playing the role. Maybe she doesn’t have the courage to be anything else or maybe she just wants to be the pretty girl on the platform, and that is enough for her.

Bob

Sometimes I take the train from a different town, with different people crowding the platform. Sometimes I see Bob, and he doesn’t know it, but I listen to his music. Sometimes it’s Jay Z or Kanye. Other times it’s something I can’t place but wish I could. Usually when I hear a song I like, I try to remember a line or two to Google later and then download it. But I can’t hear the words through Bob’s ear buds, tucked behind his long dread locks. It makes me sad to catch a beat and not know what the song is. He drinks Dunkin Donuts coffee – not flavored, medium – and wears a suit under his overcoat.  Sometimes he stands next to me and we wait, I with my purple Beats, he with his white ear buds, and we share the platform in our own individual, music laced bubbles. I wonder what the probability is that we have ever listened to the same song at the same time, our headphones secretly communicating our comradely in static code.

The Twin Beaks

They both look amazing from behind. Him in a brown tweed overcoat, her in a smart red trench. They hold hands, they talk with their heads close together and you think to yourself – wow – what a great looking, loving couple. You expect them to turn around and blow you away, like in some cheesy rom com movie where the music queues up and the wind blows their hair just so. Instead you notice that they both have strangely large noses. Everything else about them is perfection – except for their twin beaks. I suppose it’s not very nice to say that perhaps it is their facial protuberance that brought them together, but I would bet it was, even if it was only subconsciously. I wonder if they ever think about how big their noses are, perhaps even laugh about it together over glasses of wine and pate. What would happen if one day one of them decided to fix their nose, or would they do it together? Would they argue about it? It’s funny how something so small like a nose can change your perception of an entire face that might otherwise be quite beautiful. If in focusing so much on a large nose can cause you to miss the perfect mouth and hazel blue eyes. Maybe that is why they belong together, because they share their noses and can see beyond it when a regular nosed person may not be able to. I suppose it might be rather liberating, to find a counterpart that doesn’t accentuate your flaw, but shares it and intimately understands it. In a way, I envy the twin beaks.

I am, indeed, no Hemingway, but he was possessed of many vices the same as I. I too have the girl in the café who looks away for another and is unaware of me, staring clandestinely, making up a story about her. There is always the temptation to want to break that line, to reach out across and meet these characters, these personas that I have invented. To know if what I am making up is in any way accurate. But that would ruin the magic of it all. I know that it is better to never know so that I can fill my mornings with these people and to pretend I am Hemingway, waiting for the train with my music and coffee.

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reverence


reverence n. a gesture indicative of respect

Reverence

At the end of a ballet class, the dancers pay respect to the pianist and teacher by performing a series of curtsies, bows and ports de bras known as reverence. It is a physical manifestation of deep respect and honor. Several weeks ago I came upon reverence when searching for a word that could capture my feelings and thoughts regarding a recent tragic event. I have been struggling back and forth about whether to write and what to write about it because I don’t have confidence that my writing here will create an appropriate reverence for those who have suffered and lost.  There are writers and artists far more eloquent and talented than I who have and will create tributes of much more profundity that I can express with my dictionary words. I’ve decided that instead of writing about how sad I feel about the whole thing, I would attempt something more reverent.

The world would be a better place if we were all ballet dancers and could perform reverence when needed. Imagine at the end of a business meeting everyone standing up and performing a 3 minute reverence as a gesture of respect for what was just discussed or planned – or just for the whiteboard on the wall, comfy chairs and overhead projector. Having attended quite a few meetings in my life, reverence would add some much needed civility.

As a reference, here is what reverence looks like:

Obviously this is not a realistic practice to propose, and unfortunately in our current world, the beauty and constraint of reverence would most likely be perverted into some sort of vulgar flash mob in Grand Central station – which would make it most irreverent.

In the here and now, the word reverence seems quite archaic. So few things in life are truly respected and honored these days. As a society we seem to want to flock to the center of attention and when the spotlight has moved we flee to another center elsewhere. In the perpetual chase to the “next big event” we become more and more numb, never taking the time to pay respect or to really absorb the gravitas of the thing that has just occurred; always searching for the next thing that will restore feeling or emotion. Perhaps it is because we don’t really understand “reverence” any longer or we feel the appropriate reaction would be to mimic what Hollywood tells us is sorrow or grief so that others will be sure to know we are suffering – like actors on a stage. In the case of Newtown, I feel this type of behavior is truly saddening and disrespectful.

The other day I was watching MSNBC and a talking head named Ashley Banfield was speaking about the tragedy. With a flip of her perfectly coiffed, shoulder length hair, mascara coated lashes clearly fluttering with feigned emotion, she said that “Newtown would probably never recover.” Her comment saddened and angered me and I wondered to myself if she ever listens to the words that come out of her mouth while she is on television. If she had any idea that her words were feeding a media fire, painting a picture of a town that deserves so much more respect. Or if she merely needs to boost the ratings for her paycheck.If Ms. Banfield had ever visited Newtown she surely would never have questioned whether it would “recover.”

26 people, some children, died in Newtown, Ct – undoubtedly one of the most horrific event that has occurred in in this country. But if we choose to dramatize the events and squeeze out all of the emotion and cinema, we are truly doing a dis service to those who were lost. The people that died in Newtown also lived in Newtown. There are far more happy memories shared at Sandy Hook Elementary than the one horrific event that occurred. For the parents that lost their children that day, it is in those memories that their children live. It is a place where teachers loved their students so much they ran in front of bullets to try and shield them as if they were their own children. Where neighbors took in children that fled the scene and people gathered to support each other in the aftermath.

It is a place where babies will be born, children will ride bikes in the streets, lovers will be married and families will celebrate memories. Newtown is a rare example of family and community, far too beautiful and strong to be destroyed by this terrible event. It is the type of town that Newtown is that makes what happened all the more tragic. A community strong enough to endure and pay reverence to the memories of the heroes and children that died that day.

A Psalm of Life

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Tell me not in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou are, to dust thou returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us farther than today.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act, – act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sand of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solenm main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us then be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

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5 Things to Do to Inspire Your Right Brain


5 Things to Do to Inspire Your Right Brain

I was recently featured on a fellow blog called 5 Things to Do Today. Check it out and be inspired!

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osculate


osculate verb kiss

My son just recently learned how to kiss on demand. He opens his mouth wide and suctions it to your cheek with a loud “mmm—ahhh” sound when you ask him for a kiss. It is my favorite thing in the world. When I was kid I used to dread family occasions or holidays when people were over and I was forced to kiss or hug people. I remember I would run and hide when I heard the doorbell ring just to avoid it. I come from an Italian family so the formality of kissing friends and family is important and one is considered rude if you do not do so. I suppose the main reason I clam up is due to being shy – an attribute I truly believe I was born with.

The world can be very cruel to people who are shy. It is not a trait that the majority of people find endearing. Shyness is often misunderstood and in our extroverted culture, not something that gets you very far. I have been shy since as far back as I can remember. You probably wouldn’t tag me for this trait these days as I most often disguise this aspect of my personality.  There are still clues to it but I fear that most people mistake it for weirdness, snobbery, or pretension – which is most unfair.

It seems most people stereotype shy people as being sweet and mouselike, hiding in corners, timid and shaking. But that is not the case at all. Shy people have opinions and passions just as strong as extroverts. Just ask someone who is shy and I am sure you will get an ear full – once they get to know you. I don’t know if all shy people are this way, but I just enjoy observing and not participating. I’d rather take in everything and make a story about it than participate. I don’t enjoy making the first move. I like to go slow and ease myself in when I think it’s safe and when I’m ready. There’s nothing wrong with this in my opinion. And shyness doesn’t mean that one has to be a wallflower either. Shy people are like little secret packages waiting to be opened.

I have always channeled my shyness through writing. The first time I did this was my senior year in high school where I wrote an article in the county paper about not going to the prom…and about how happy I was not to go. I received many cheers and jeers from it, but for once I had a voice and I didn’t have to speak to put it out there – and people listened. In college, I wrote for the newspaper for 4 years in the commentary section, no less. Unfortunately, upon graduating in a bad economy, I wasn’t able to work as a journalist as I had planned and gave up my voice for a long time…until most recently with this blog. My writing has become an extroversion where my everyday life is lacking.

My shyness makes me fear being the center of everyone’s attention, yet long for it with all of my being. I believe there are many people like me. Instead of overcoming or ridding our lives of this attribute, we find a different language – writing, dancing, singing – that releases our voice in a different way than just playing a role at a party and keeping up conversation.

Shyness is at the core of creativity, grace, humility…all of those traits that people find lacking in society and that most people strive for. Perhaps they are so rare because most people misunderstand them as negative attributes…the way the world mistakes shyness for so many other unsavory things.

 

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pastiche


pastiche n. an artistic work in a style that imitates that of another work, artist or period

I had always associated this word with a great little dessert restaurant in Providence on Federal Hill near Cafe Dolce Vita, which will always be one of my favorite places. I was surprised to learn what it actually meant. It seems very apropos as I have embarked on the “Artist’s Way” journey and am finding it to be very useful in unblocking my creative spirit. It has also caused me to think a lot about art, specifically the state of art at the present.

The old adage goes that “life imitates art,” but sometimes when I am working on something creative I feel like art imitates art. For example, I am currently cutting a lino block for a new project and I can’t help but think that my creation is starting to look like a Nikki McClure work. I love her work and have a bunch of children’s books that I purchased for Graham that we read a lot. I think I am subconsciously channeling her style…and it’s frustrating. In college, we used to have numerous exercises where one would have to write in the “voice” of a different, notable author. This helped to jump start creativity and develop style. One could say that this is what I am currently doing now with this particular piece. I think that all artists struggle with the overwhelming pressure to create a mark in this universe that is completely unique, unlike anything that has ever existed in the past and present. It is a tall order to fill and I think that most will probably never reach that goal. Perhaps being an artist is the endless pursuit towards just that.

The other day I was speaking to my husband about being creative and making prints. He said, “Just make something beautiful.” Sometimes when the brain gets full and I get too far ahead of myself, I need to remind myself of this simple advice. I don’t think there can ever be anything wrong, or useless or unworthy by adding a little bit more beauty to the world. It shouldn’t matter if it looks similar to something else that already exists or if it doesn’t have a voice that tells some complicated, convoluted story. Caravaggio, Michelangelo, Botticelli and Goya made beautiful art that didn’t always overtly express who they were or their view points. It was their style, their indelible mark on the world that expressed their personality. They embodied their artistic voice in their technique and style.

In our present age it seems artists struggle to make work that screams about who they are, their tragedy, their woe. Many times it is vulgar, ugly and meant to evoke emotion or reaction in the viewer…having nothing to do with technique, practice or ability. Art has become a kind of therapy for individuals where creating a tangible example of ones catharsis is the end result and goal. This is not the type of art I aspire to create.

I am “old school” about a good many things. Taking care of my son and cooking are two examples, especially meatballs. They can’t be too bready or too dry and meaty. They should have pignioli nuts, raisins optional. They should be pre browned in a pan and then finish cooking in a nice pot of homemade gravy. The first one you eat should be sprinkled with parmesan cheese and a little gravy. They get better every time I make them. I don’t want to reinvent the meatball. I just want to add something beautiful, simple and delicious to the world.

Now I just need to find my recipe for creativity…

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My Triumphant Return to Literacy


As I grow older it seems that my vocabulary and mastery of the English language grows younger. I increasingly find myself unable to speak intelligently or searching for words. Maybe this is due to too little reading and too much mindless television. Nonetheless, I came up with an idea to help me return to literacy.

The other day when I was walking past the library and listening to my iPod too loudly, I reminisced back to my college days as an English major and immediately remembered the OED. It was the gold standard of dictionaries for all references in college. Merriam Webster was just not up to snuff. Yet somehow I don’t own an OED…possibly because it is huge, possibly because the web has taken over the literary universe. So the idea for this blog was born. Today I am venturing out to the Barnes and Noble to purchase an OED of my own (OED stands for Oxford English Dictionary) and each day flip randomly with my eyes closed through the pages to pick out a word for the day. I have discovered that you cannot access the OED online without paying $30 a month for  and you can’t randomly find a word either. Buying the book is cheaper and I want my son to someday know what the original OED looked like.

Now here’s the big idea. Instead of just taking note of the word and memorizing it uselessly, or simply writing it down, I am going to force myself to use the word in a creative way on this blog. The idea is to create a short work of fiction with the word or perhaps even find a photo or video illustrating the word to help burn it into my memory. I am going to attempt to do this everyday for as long as I can…until I am less illiterate. Hence, OED a Day. Technically, it should be Word a Day or OED Word a Day. OED a day just had more pizzazz.

I don’t really care who reads the blog…it’s really for my own edification. However, if you want to read my posts and learn a word a day, by all means, join me. Even write your own examples or pieces that you come up with. Stay tuned for my first word!

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