creative work, Process, unfinished, Writing

Words by Mail

As a part of our Two Create project, Kelly and I send each other postcards. We collage one side and write a few words about collaboration, creativity, or process on the other side. The postcards are a slow motion version of our phone calls and text messages. We’re always talking about these themes but the postcard asks us to slow down, to imagine our thoughts in both images and words, and to be concise.

When I get a postcard from Kelly her words live in the back of my mind. I collect examples of what she’s talking about, relate it to what I’m reading, and imagine what it means for our work together. Then, when I’m ready, I sit down with old books and magazines and arrange images in a way that continues the conversation. I read her postcard again and respond, giving our work this small, silent, sacred space.

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December 2016

Kelly, you’re right. Making is part of the way forward. I like to think of a lineage of creators, that we are part of a tradition of exploring, understanding, and re-making the world in words and images. Sometimes I forget my artist-self, forget to see. But when I remember her, everything is better and I’m powerful again. Love, H

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January 2017

Heidi! Maybe that’s why we get so excited about understanding other people’s processes, too—it’s motivating and inspiring to see what’s possible, to see how something works, and to know we’re not alone. Even if none of us knows what we’re doing, it’s comforting to have that conversation. I think making something is an act of being vulnerable—one payoff of that is richer, deeper relationships. Love, Kelly

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unfinished

Unfinished

I have a folder on my computer titled “Clues.” It’s filled with pieces of writing that might lead somewhere, but are far from finished. In my notebooks, desk drawer, planner, and in the margins of novels I have a similar collection of sentences: ideas, inspirations, a string of words that made sense at the time but are cryptic in retrospect. These clues are full of possibility.

But then there are the other unfinished projects, skeletons abandoned for months or years, pages and pages of half-baked paragraphs and outlines and notes. There’s possibility there too, but also shame and frustration and fear of finishing. Knowing that I have an incomplete story that needs to be written can keep me away from a writing routine for months on end. The bridge between beginning and ending can be a terrifying one.

I’m always interested in projects that allow for a voyeuristic look at a creator’s unfinished work: sketchbooks, unrecorded songs, or manuscripts. This work is inspiring in its possibility and comforting in its very human themes (procrastination, confusion, even death). I’m thinking about all of this because I plan to interview creators about their unfinished projects. I’ll ask just five questions, hoping to discover more about why we struggle to finish work that we’ve begun.

  1. What is your unfinished project?
  2. Why do you think it remains unfinished?
  3. When you think about your unfinished project, how do you feel? What do you think?
  4. Where do you keep it (the physical work and/or the idea)?
  5. If you could look through the unfinished work of another creator, who would it be? Why?

I start a lot of projects and abandon many of them but I never abandon my love for asking people questions. I’m always inspired when I get to talk to people about their lives and creative work and I’m always grateful that people want to share their answers with me. More to come! 

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Craft, Process, Sketchbook

Lessons from 100 Moons

I’m participating in The 100 Day Project organized by Elle Luna and The Great Discontent. The idea is simple: do something every day for 100 days and document the process. The inspiration for the assignment comes from designer and teacher Michael Bierut.

I love this project because it is about routines, collective creation, and revealing the tiny steps behind finished pieces of work. I love this project but I’m not good at following the rules. There’s something about a routine that magnifies my learning. Participating in The 100 Day Project, however badly, is teaching me. Here’s some of what I’m learning:

Perfection Kills Creation

I went to AC Moore and bought a tiny sketchbook to use for the project. It seemed meaningful that the notebook I wanted had exactly 100 sheets of paper. I had this vision of filling the notebook with a moon on every page. On day 2, day 4, and day 5 I made moons I didn’t like. Since I had only 100 pages and wanted to make 100 moons I had to save the “mistakes” and keep going.

Compliment Strangers

When I click on #the100dayproject my screen lights up with beautiful work. Liking other people’s pictures and commenting on their process inspires me to keep going with mine. It makes me feel like I am part of a network of people who are thinking, making, and sharing.

Just Start

I’m behind on this project and I never know what day I’m supposed to be on. My day 100 will probably be everyone else’s day 152. Sometimes, I feel like I’m too busy, too tired, or too uninspired to sit down for 10 minutes and draw a moon (which is truly just a circle!) The trick, that I have to learn over and over again, is to put the little notebook down on the table and pull out some supplies. If I can get that far I’ll get to work.

Take a Daily Dose of Magic

I wanted to make moons for this project because it’s a mysterious planet that inspires so much poetry. On the days when I sit down and look at the moon’s phase, leaf through my books for words that I love, and play with pen and paint, I get a daily dose of magic.

I’m on Instagram as @heidisistare.

 

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Process

Little Light

2014-11-23_1416750470I decided to plant herb seeds in November. There was a sunny, warm afternoon and I prepped the pots out on my porch. I planted parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. I carried the pots inside and lined them up in my bedroom, right in front of the glass sliding door, where I hoped they would capture enough light.

I received a mix CD a few days before Christmas. It was from one of my very best friends, Lesley, who was also my 2014-12-29_1419869817college roommate. We were both transfer students, placed together at random by the housing office. On the day we moved in we marveled at the way my blankets complemented her art, her teacups mingled with my books, and our CD cases were long lost soul mates. Soon after we moved in together we realized that we also shared the terribly annoying habit of playing a new favorite song over and over again.

I always think of Lesley when I’m in a one-track loop. The winter CD that she sent to me had a few songs that I played over and over again, but none so much as “A Little Light Within” by Sturgill Simpson.

2014-12-06_1417893825I was at a group meditation in December. It was right around the holidays and the conversation was about winter, darkness, and how hard this time of year can be. We talked about the false light: sparkling white lights, plug-in candles in the window, Christmas music, forced cheeriness. I left thinking that even the Buddhists get sad in the winter.

I’ve become very attached to these seedlings. I rotate the pots so that the stems bend from side to side, yearning for the sun. Recently, with temperatures below freezing, I move the pots away from the window so that they don’t get too cold. I worry that they’re not getting enough sun but they’re growing slowly–with even just a little light.

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drop me in the water“Every single day, I get emails from aspiring writers asking my advice about how to become a writer, and here is the only advice I can give: Don’t make stuff because you want to make money — it will never make you enough money. And don’t make stuff because you want to get famous — because you will never feel famous enough. Make gifts for people — and work hard on making those gifts in the hope that those people will notice and like the gifts.

Maybe they will notice how hard you worked, and maybe they won’t — and if they don’t notice, I know it’s frustrating. But, ultimately, that doesn’t change anything — because your responsibility is not to the people you’re making the gift for, but to the gift itself.” – John Green

Craft, Process

Make Gifts

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