Words have always been an important part of my life – from learning them with my mom and grandmom as wee one at bedtime, to playing with them in creative writing nearly every day, to teaching the power (and fun!) of them for 20+ years – so imagine my dismay when words became unreachable to me. From forgetting them to just not hearing any in my head, words escaped me.
A year ago at this time, I was struggling professionally and needing desperately to make a change. Waiting for a new position within my organization felt endless. Normally, writing would have been my therapy, but in a cruel twist of events, my writing voice suddenly fell silent, forcing me to find a new way to cope.
In my desperation to find my writing voice again, two things happened:
1. I remembered a writing form I learned a few years ago with my high school students, then shared and created with them: blackout poetry (or ‘found poetry’) …. and realized I could ‘write’ again, but this time, finding the stories within the words. A blank page (or screen) gave way to pages of words, waiting to be plucked in my search of a story, no matter how big or small. I went through many black pens and old books, magazines, and newspapers the first few months of 2015! As
we (my husband) watched TV, I skimmed, scanned, tore, cut, marked, and gathered. I’m pretty sure my husband thought I’d lost my mind (and hoped I’d get back to writing soon and stop leaving bits of paper under my recliner). 😉
2. I decided to finally find and purchase a vintage typewriter… it would be my birthday present, homage to my writing life, and (hopefully) the kickstart I needed to find my writing voice again. I admit – it’s a beautiful instrument dating back to the early 1900’s, and its cousin I bought a few months later, circa 1940’s, is equally stunning, but sadly, neither led to rediscovering my writing voice. Exactly.
Instead, searching for the typewriters led me to vintage things to collect and art supplies, and one thing led to another; I began using words in a way I had longed to do for many years – creating one-of-a-kind greeting cards. Somehow, the mix of paints, inks, and vintage textiles – along with found words in others’ writing – helped plant words in my head that I could share with others. Creating art on those little pieces of real estate became my salvation – and a different kind of kickstart, it turns out.
For someone who’s curious about nearly everything, playing with acrylic and watercolor paints led to learning about other mediums and forms of art. *Medium: the materials an artist uses to create. Enter mixed media, a form of art that allows an artist to tell stories through multiple mediums (aka multiple media) in a single project…. words or not.
Enter the magic of writing and art. Definitely.
Fast-forward to the last day of 2015, and as I sit here typing, my keyboard is both surprised and happy… for the first time in a long time, to not be playing second fiddle to my art table. Trusty companion it’s been the past year, my keyboard has acted as DJ, as Pandora gave life to the dozens of art projects scattered in my (new) art studio, now sharing space with my (old) writing studio. lovely!
With only a few hours to go in 2015, I can look back fondly and say it’s been a wonderful year – with so many positive things happening. As we look ahead, I’m excited to be starting a new year, with many opportunities and a few specific goals. I’m excited to be writing again, and plan to put it, along with my art, together for a special project in 2016, one I hope will be the first of many. I’m also looking forward to expanding my art business (which officially became a small business last summer, at the urging of a family member, “You gotta decide, Robin. Is it a hobby or is it a business?”
So there it its… when writing leads to art, leads to writing, leads to art … and writing! I feel like I’ve come full circle in 2015 and am excited about 2016. Hope you are, too!
Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy year ahead! 🙂
Curious where my art journey has gone in 2015 and what I’m currently working on? I’m most likely to be found these days, over on Instagram and sometimes on Facebook: @RobinLKStudios Hope you’ll stop by!
It’s funny what we can learn from seemingly difficult situations if we just take the time and trust the process, isn’t it?
Lately, I’ve struggled with what to do when those voices inside our head take a break.
Find the words and nurture the voices, of course!
For as long as I can remember, words have been an important part of who I am. I’ve loved to write. Lately though, the quietude has perplexed me.
What can I do to find the words and nurture the voices? I wondered.
After struggling with the quiet for while, I began exploring other creative outlets, each a bit different from the other, each igniting my sense of wonder and curiosity at what I could create, what I’m capable of….
I’m generally a glass half-full sorta’ gal. 😉
1. Card Design – something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but never took the time to actually create…. ’til now. I revamped my writing space to make it part writing retreat/part art studio. Now, my long-lost art supplies are front-and-center next to my new supplies. LOVE it!! The colors, textures, and materials constantly call out to me, making me incredibly happy… and content. Valentine’s Day was my first attempt, with Easter, babies, ‘Just Because,’ and Mother’s Day in the works now. Fortunately, we live in an area where local shops feature local artists. Between our local merchants and Etsy, I’m super-excited to develop this creative side of myself. Best part is, my husband is my biggest cheerleader. Love that man!
2. Mixed Media Art – a fascinating (and improvisational) way to use found objects, words, textures, text, typography, stamps, ink, and stitching to share a story. The possibilities are limited only by one’s imagination…. (which leaves me wide open for ideas!) While I’m not ready to share my own work (several pieces in progress), I’d be remiss if I didn’t show you others’ eye candy….
3. Blackout Poetry – a lovely form of words that I discovered last year, thanks to one of my favorite artists/authors, Austin Kleon. In his book Newspaper Blackout, we learn how to find poetry in others’ words. I introduced it to my high school students last school year and we had a blast creating our own works. Now that I’m struggling to produce my own words, I’ve rediscovered this useful writing style… finding stories inside other’s words. In recent weeks, I’ve created 100+ poems, some to stand alone, many to become a piece in larger, mixed-media art projects.
Here’s a peek at some recent thoughts ~
It’s weird how fast poems, ideas, stories create themselves in my head as I scan random pieces of text. Removing words to create stories is incredibly cathartic for me, with as many as 5 – 10 poems in an evening. Hubs watches TV; I sit beside him, my pen scratching across the surface, stories unfolding…..
Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a whole lot of happy calling my name….
Being a high school teacher affords me many opportunities to help teens handle life. And loss. It is at once: enlightening, encouraging, painful, and honest. Emotions are raw, understanding often limited, and nearly all experiences are ‘firsts.’ Sadly, some, like birth and death, become second- and third-time experiences for a few. Being there, with a shoulder, a safe place to cry, or a place to celebrate, makes my job a special one.
This year, like many, has seen our share of experiences, but this year, we’ve lost more classmates than a typical year – to car accidents, cancer, and other tragedies. Each is felt deeply. Each teaches lessons. Each helps our teens grow into the people they become.
Peyton, an old soul in her own right and typically outspoken and colorful, was dealing with our most recent loss, Brandie, a beautiful young lady killed tragically on her way home from Spring Break, just a week ago.
In Peytons’s words….
Earlier this weekend, I read Tara’s weekly Week in Review over at The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say Shhh! and got to thinking about ways to share some of the events that make up my own ‘life process’ in a week’s time. There are always so many things happening in our lives that influence everything else, and sometimes – at least for me – slowing down to reflect on how they’re related, takes a backseat to the effects they cause. When I asked if she minded if I borrow her format, I’m sure it seemed like a newbie question to Tara, but it was more to say, “Hey, I like the style you’ve created.” She was not only gracious in her response, “Borrow away!” but also suggested I link to other bloggers as well – to show off more styles. This lady is a true connector and I’ve got some blog homework to do. It’s been a few years since I participated in a weekly link-up, but looking forward to joining the Caffeinated Book Reviewer’s here very soon! Tara’s weekly feature got me thinking about what I might want to share. Last week I did a Friday Five post, but realized I don’t want to get locked into five every week. What if I only have one event to share? Or ten things? I’m kind of stuck with a Five in my title, right? So as I was commenting on Tara’s Week in Review post this week, two things struck me: I take a lot of pictures, and, in my life as a high school teacher, there’s always something going on! Thankfully, the rest of my life is fairly quiet. After that intro, you’re ready, right? Last week had a lot going on – some good, some not so much.
I finished the resignation process from my adjunct position. This felt really good to be done with! While I enjoy teaching, especially online, I desperately wanted to recapture the hours I was losing each week and get back to my writing projects. Done! Last week, I logged 20+ writing hours, the most in a week since last summer. Finally!
I also found and interacted with many fellow writers on Twitter – some published, some not – all #writing. It’s a great way to help me focus my time and goals while learning from others, and hopefully, offering something of value in return.
In addition to productivity, I also found tragedy impacting my week. A student, just a few weeks shy of her 18th birthday, was killed a week ago today, as she returned home from a day at the beach. Clipped by another car on a local highway, the car Brandie was riding in flipped numerous times, I’m told. I’m also told she was not wearing a seat belt. In the twenty years I’ve been teaching, there have been countless students in whichever school I was teaching, to die. This time it was one of my own, current students. I took the news very hard and we collectively struggled through the week. This came just a month after we lost two other students. It’s been a tough year at our high school.
As March gave way to April this past week, we began National Poetry Month and the final days ’til my students sit for FCAT, the mandated state test here in Florida. Poetry lends itself to lots of language learning, particularly the figurative and descriptive kinds. Remember these from high school: similes, metaphors, allusions, alliteration, hyperbole, onomatopoeia, and idioms? To get my kiddos’ creative thinking cooking and to do final test preparation, I introduced Newspaper Blackout Poetry to my juniors and seniors, via Mr. Austin Kleon, one of my favorite writers. He doesn’t know it yet, but his books have inspired my own, in progress: compact size, large, cool font, and immediately-applicable ideas – love it all!
After sharing some of our first attempts at blackout poetry on Edmodo and getting lots of replies from fellow ELA teachers – of all grade levels – who said their students love it, too, I discovered more ideas from the National Writing Project, through their tweet:
Overall, it was a week filled with new things to learn, new questions to ask, and tragedy to keep us grounded. I hope that I offered a few things in return… Looking forward to the week ahead!
P.S. ~ Plenty of web design (learning) happening, too. You might have noticed some design changes to the blog already… Saving that for another post. 😉