"Keep working on a plan. Make no little plans. Make the biggest you can think of, and spend the rest of your life carrying it out." Harry S. Truman

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Being an artist : Joy or Pain ?

A post written by Disco Mermaid's Robin reminded me of another post I had started writing and saved - it was that mad time in July when I was being a mom 24/7 - and sure enough, here it is, in my draft box :

I'm reading books on the process of writing, at the moment. About three at the same time. That way, I can follow the kids moving around the house - and they move fast - and not have to worry about where I left the book. One in the bedroom, one in my office, one on the table in the dining/living room, always readily available. I thought I'd quote some of the thoughts I found interesting.

Art and Fear, Observations on The Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, by David Bayles and Ted Orland

"Often the work we have not done seems more real in our minds that the pieces we have completed."

That phrase certainly hit home. How easy it is to forget the thousands and thousands of words and phrases that we crafted, the drafts, the stories unfinished, to only remember the few pieces that are deemed good enough for submission, and to despair, to think it's not enough. But every single word written, whether it belongs to a completed story or not, participates in our process as writers.

The second chapter's title is the same as the book, and begins with a quote by Stephen DeStaebler.

"Artists don't get down to work until the pain of working is exceeded by the pain of NOT working."

Jane Yolen would probably disagree (Take Joy) and yet, I think both approaches are true. My biggest challenge is to start ! To actually sit down at the computer to work on my writing, rather than finding every possible excuse to procrastinate - like this blog ? That's the painful part for me. Once I actually start working, I forget the time, I forget the world, I can even forget my family - well, not quite, but almost. And even though it's work, that work does give me joy. What's painful is the guilt I feel, the unease, the judgemental voice I hear in my mind, telling me that I ought to make time, I ought to organize myself better, I ought to write. I think that what Stephen DeStaebler means is that when the voice becomes strident, forceful, unbearable, the artist has no choice but to get down to work.

What I can add, after having been almost totally disconnected from the writing world for a few weeks, is that it's easy for everyday life to take over - especially when there are little children around, but not only - and muffle the voice of the writer. Which is probably why all books and quotes I've read about the creative process seem to agree on at least two things : the famous butt on chair rule - write everyday, no matter what, even if it's only for ten minutes - and find time to "being" as opposed to "doing" in order to reflect, to meditate if you are into that, or just do nothing, walk and look at the world, at the trees, the sky, whatever, the goal being to connect with our inner self, where creativity - our whimsical muse - is seating, waiting, or coquettishly playing hard to get.

Well, now that I know what to do, guess I just have to do it, right ?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

I'm back...

... and don't ask me where these past weeks disappeared to, because I have no idea. I was sitting at the computer, posting pictures of India and fantasizing about peaches and saucisson, and next thing I know, I'm back at the computer, suffering from jet lag - I usually sleep, at 5 am - and even though I recall eating peaches, saucisson and so much more, I can't believe it's all in the past already.

Highlights of the summer ?

I went horse riding and I was actually riding the horse on my own, as opposed to sitting stiffly on some enormous polo beast and requesting that the young man holding him remains with me at all times, which is what happened the few times I tried, here in Hyderabad. Of course, I didn't have the proper gear, so I made quite an impression, riding with my bright pink Converse...

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I painted one of the bedrooms of our house from top to bottom in a lovely trio of shades - white, green bamboo and chestnut brown - and got so manic about it - we had guests coming and I wanted it ready AND perfect - that I was still at it at 9 PM, trying to see, on the ceiling, the spots that I had not yet covered with fresh white paint, and I still have pains in my hands, more than two weeks later. But the room looks really nice, doesn't it ?

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Look at the Palais des Papes, in Avignon, in the pinkish twilight : pure magic.

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I went back to Paris, the city where I was born and lived until I was 16, for the first time in more than ten years. I had forgotten how beautiful it is.

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We discovered the new project just launched by the city of Paris - after Lyon where it's been a smashing success : Rows of bicycles await customers, who pay a fee to rent them, and later leave them at another of the many parking spaces created around town. With the kids and the stroller, it wasn't an option, but I can't wait to try.

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Something else that definitely wasn't there last time I was in Paris: a Starbucks coffee ! Est-ce bien raisonnable?

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Lows ?

I was so busy redecorating, entertaining guests and eating peaches that I had to withdraw from the Enneagram online class I was taking. But there will be another class in November, and this time, I'll be there from start to finish.

I had to imagine my friends having an absolute ball at the SCBWI conference in LA, and then read all about it in their blogs, but that's OK. Next year...

I had to give Amadi a stern lecture about not using people's blogs - not even mine - without asking first.

I did not have a minute to write a single line. Bad, bad, bad girl. I have to get back to work. NOW !

Friday, August 10, 2007

What on earth is wrong with my given name ?

Hello everyone, I'm Ifeanyi, the main character in the soon-to-be-published picture book that's been mentioned, here, a few times. I'm being sneaky and surely, my authorly mother - that's Katia, the owner of this blog - will not be happy when she finds this post. She will go all stern and reasonable on me and lecture me about everyone at the publishing house doing their very best to make sure the book reaches the widest audience possible and doesn't turn anyone off for some silly reason. And maybe she's right. Still, my feeling is that the situation is serious enough to warrant a coup d'eclat.

What situation? Well, I hear that they are changing my name. Can you believe it ? I know that I'm a fictional character, but that doesn't mean I don't have feelings. The general opinion seems to be that my given name, the name that my authorly mother chose for me, is too difficult to pronounce and therefore unacceptable. What is so difficult about Ifeanyi, I ask? Ee-feh-ahh-nyi. See? Easy. Well, some people think it is impossible.

Imagine. Mother, who's supposed to be on holidays, and instead, has been busily painting walls and ceilings, got an email from the publishing house telling her that the decision had been made to change my name. She was given two options ; both options unacceptable in her opinion, and mine. She spent the day angry and upset, and was still feeling that way when she went to bed, and of course, she couldn't sleep. So she got up and spent the night trying to find me a new name that she liked, a new name which would be deemed acceptable... hear easy to pronounce. Jack, Jill, Tom, Jo, Dan, Bob, Bill, Tim... That kind. She found a new one. It seems that I now go by the name of Amadi.

Amadi means "free born" in my native language. I wonder if she's making some kind of a statement, here. As far as given names go, I'd say Amadi is just fine. And definitely Igbo. It does sound like home and when I say it, I can almost hear my ancestors' voices travelling on the wings of the Harmattan as it blows its dusty way from the desert. Still, it's going to take some getting used to. It's been a few years since I came out of my authorly mother's mind. I'm used to my given name. I LIKE it. It's a beautiful name ! It means : with God, nothing is impossible.

Mother - the authorly one, because I now have another mother, an artist busy painting me - has been telling herself that it was maybe an omen that she chose it for me in the first place : it will now help us prove that indeed, nothing is impossible, even getting used to a different name. Amadi is OK, really. She does come up with nice names.

I'm going to do just like her and repeat, again and again : I have two beautiful names. The first one is a name that only a handful of people know and use, people like my authorly mother, her close friends, and myself: Ifeanyi. And the second one is the name that will be used by all, the name that will come out in print in a book that will tell my very own story: Amadi. And later, when people know and like me as Amadi, maybe I can tell them that I have another name, my first given name, Ifeanyi, and maybe they'll like it and not think it's so impossible. Because nowhere in the world should there be such a thing as an impossible name. On the contrary. People all over should be curious and open to hearing new sounds, to learning new words and names. Nowhere should anyone be afraid to leave their comfort zone and try new things, to let their tongue taste new sounds, see how they roll off of it. Nowhere should anyone worry about sounding funny, about struggling with different combinations of letters and syllables.

My authorly mother is also using another trick to help her deal with this name issue. In her husband's country, Haiti, newborns are often given several names in order to honor family members. In the end, the name that everyone uses is often the very last one, and not at all the first one. And so it will be for me. Only, the giving of my second name kind of got delayed.

Signed : Ifeanyi Amadi