Thursday, November 21, 2013

steal like an artist.


well, you may have noticed that the small girl in the big city is feeling very very small. so small in fact, you haven't been able to see me.

that is because I have been burrowed in a snowbank of papers. a paperbank, if you will, of work. freelance things and tea-making things and feature story things and one very big healthcare directory thing.

of course, this is all metaphorical, but I really have been away from my desk (in a manner of speaking) being a writer with a haphazard mash of papers, ink pens, sticky notes and english muffin crumbs trailing behind me. It's been good! it's been great!

but I am so happy to be back to my desk (figurative or literal, either way I can actually see it now) and this blog.

first things first: hop over to because today is a day of publication of the next installment in the Impact Series! I always feel more inspired reading Jessie's blog because I find myself being able to look at things I have in a fresh way. I'll be shortening a midi skirt to a pencil skirt later on this month with crossed fingers it can become a more permanent staple with the possibilities of fresh starts in the new year, all thanks to her sage and stylish advice! I am her resident feature girl! (my perfect job, and one of my favorites, I think.)

and now, a few thoughts on inspiration:

Last autumn I took a history of photography class with a professor named Matt Weedman. My Huntsville art friends know him well as he is a favorite in that part of campus, and his class quickly became one of my favorite classes I ever took at SHSU. I remember he wore a fedora and made us talk about ourselves on the first day of class (I think I talked about pie. apparently food is a great inspiration for me.) and he told us to call him Matt.

As an honors student, I was required to earn honors credit through a certain number of course hours, and since I didn't take math or science classes with honors (okay, I avoided them like the plague. Once, on the first day of the semester, there was a room number error on my schedule which found me in a upper level zoology class. with an impressive combination of panic and speed, I was out of there from the middle of the auditorium with the words "welcome to zoology" still hanging in the air. If I had been a cartoon, I think there may have been a 'poof' where I had been sitting.) I was wracking my brain for what creative projects I could do through course contracting. Essentially, course contracting means I come up with a self assigned project that I can earn honors credit for.

Matt and I started talking one morning after class about historical photography and Huntsville and we decided I should do some digging and see what connections I could come up with between that and photography as an art. I was feeling pretty lost on my project until he said a few weeks later, "listen, there is this special lecture series this afternoon that you NEED to go to. I think it will change your perspective on your project."

I went. Mostly because even though it was at dinner time, I LOVE lecture series. I got to meet ABC News Correspondent Ann Compton (and ask her "what are you reading right now?" at the press conference, which is my favorite question to ask people I admire.) and listen to Irish Times war reporter Mary Fitzgerald. I sat in on a speech given by Nobel Prize Laureate Lech Walesa (which I only heard part of because he only speaks Polish and have you ever tried to translate the ideas of an Eastern European scholar into English?) and I have heard all the awesome White House stories of Peter Roussel, former Press Secretary for President Ford, President Reagan and President Bush. (he has some great ones about Helen Thomas. He was also my professor for a semester.) I met the CEO of Bluebell Ice Cream (amazing! He's a total ham.) and chatted with Frank from TLC's Trading Spaces over dinner. (also a total hoot.) I also got to talk with the Chair of the Mass Communications department, Dr. Jean Bodon, who is also an internationally renowned French filmmaker and currently working on a Holocaust documentary about Laszlo Csatary (the most wanted Nazi war criminal alive today) from his own personal perspective and heritage. These experiences were all because of really amazing lecture series.

So, I went to the art auditorium and about ten minutes in I was scrambling for a piece of paper, because everything she was saying was giving me crazy good ideas and I almost couldn't keep up with them. The lecture series, given by Melinda Barlow of the University of Colorado in Boulder, was about collecting. She talked about the origination of ideas and inspiration and how we "collect" ideas just like we collect antiques, and how the antiques and trinkets we accumulate, even though they probably have no direct connection to our actual histories, are really just tangible representations of ideas, images, memories and inspiration of others that somehow speak to us.

This lecture began to form the basis of my semester long project, which involved digging through both the university library archives and the archives of my own family. More than that, it gave me an idea translated to words I could read on paper. I have come back to her ideas so many times as I started building my own collection of inspiration. For me, inspiration isn't always something fleeting. many times there are certain things that I hear or see or watch, and people I talk to, and I save that and come back to it. I write it down, I stick it in my notebook. It becomes part of my own creative persona as a writer and an artist.

Once, I wrote a letter to Southern Living - Texas Living editor and senior writer Gary Ford and he wrote me a letter back (which was from his typewriter!) He wrote me something about inspiration that I have never forgotten, and this is it: "never be afraid if you find yourself copying the style of someone you admire. your own voice will eventually form in the midst of your inspiration."

I think part of the reason I love lectures so much is because I am not just listening to other people's stories. I am crafting and chasing my own story. It is not finished yet, of course, but I find that writing brings more pieces of it into focus. Who am I? I am a writer. I was never quite sure how to describe that to people without it sounding overly dramatic or trite, until I latched on to the idea of collecting ideas. I'm not an author, but I'm also not just someone who just likes books and words. I am, however, a collector. I find that is a more accurate description than anything I have come up with so far. and it's because we all are collectors, and that's where our own stories come from - crafted from our experiences and our carefully curated collections of life, interweaved with thoughts that resonate with us.

and that is totally okay. in the words of Picasso, "good artists borrow. great artists steal."

goodnight and good luck,

                this is your girl-in-the-city,

                                           signing off.

No comments:

Post a Comment