Brainpickings.org is one of my favorite websites. Here is a small collection of their posts regarding Oscar Wilde, my favorite writer.
Click here to read Oscar Wilde's definitions of art.
Click here to read a sampling of Oscar Wilde's love letters to Bosie Douglas, the boy who "ruined his life."
Click here to learn what made Oscar Wilde the 20th century's first "pop celebrity."
Prepare to be fascinated.
Fact #1: I am a HUGE Michael Jackson fan.
Fact #2: I love when people pay tribute to the King of Pop using their own incredible talents.
Fact #3: These videos blew me away. I just had to share!
Video #1: "Smooth Criminal," cello-style. Insanely awesome and accurate!
Video #2: Let's just say that I wish Sungha Jung could be my little brother. 'Cause this . . . this is just incredible. I-N-C-R-E-D-I-B-L-E. Wow.
Oscar Wilde is my favorite writer. Hands down. No questions asked. I discovered Oscar's writing when I was in college and ever since, it's been love at every read.
I have spent a majority of my summer 2013 reading and studying Oscar's entire anthology of work. This includes his first and only brilliant novel, "The Picture of Dorian Gray," his moral-filled fairy tales, his wonderfully written plays, his honest poetry and his incredibly insightful essays. I've immensely enjoyed this effort that I've put forth to learn more about what makes Oscar Wilde a literary standout, a motivator to my own written works. What makes my studies even more exhilarating is watching the movies that have been produced throughout the years, many of which are adaptations of his plays.
But seeing one of his plays live . . . seeing Oscar's work come to life as he used to see it come to life . . . that is a real blessing for me. It turns out that the Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre, located right next to the gorgeous Cathedral of Learning in Oakland, is currently showing "Lady Windermere's Fan." Directed by fellow Oscar Wilde enthusiast Alan Stanford, this amiable director transports the play from the Victorian era to 1947 and convinces audiences that the show is worth every single penny they paid to see it (that's around 4,800 pennies, to be precise).
So there I was, in the audience next to my favorite person in the whole world, watching the work of my favorite writer in the whole world. It was a good night. Can you imagine how happy I was during intermission? If for some reason you can't, here's a photo to help you:
My first Oscar Wilde play. Right in the middle of summer on a beautiful night in Pittsburgh. Not only did the show reaffirm my love for Oscar Wilde's work, but also put into perspective just how many other people appreciate what Oscar Wilde had to say, and how his words still resonate with us all today.
If you happen to live in or near Pittsburgh and you're interested in seeing this play, I highly recommend it. It plays at PICT through July 27. A great opportunity to see a true work of art and to also support a lovely theatre. For more information or to purchase tickets (go you!), visit PICT's website here: http://www.picttheatre.org/.
And now, a quote from "Lady Windermere's Fan" that many have probably heard of but few have stopped to re-read and repeat: "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars."
After reading this gorgeous article (link up here: http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/11/20/daily-routines-writers/), I contemplated what I would say if someone inquired about my writing routine.
My "routine" is rather simple, I would say. I can write pretty much anywhere, but I prefer to be on a couch, in a hammock, or at a cute little coffee shop with cheap chai or hot chocolate. I write best when I am alone and accompanied by music. I prefer to write on my laptop rather than on a piece of paper. Sometimes I wish it was the other way around. Sometimes I wish I owned a feather and a little well of ink.
My days usually start around 9 a.m. My Microsoft Word document is up and running within an hour, and then I sit and I write. Normally for the rest of the day. Most of my works are completed in one sitting. I'm still not sure how much I love the editing process. I always want to get it right the first time.
My writing is often fueled by chai tea and inspiration from friends, family members, strangers, and people and places that do not exist. My brain is always working. Every day I mourn the ideas that I have lost because I was too lazy to write them down. I am still learning.
I do not scribble down ideas on a bulletin board or compose rough drafts. When I used to run track in high school, we got in that crouching position on our starting blocks and we waited . . . as soon as that gun went off, we all took off as fast as we could. I guess that's how I write. My practice comes in the form of reading, and then when I find myself in position at the starting blocks, per say, I go from there and I give it my all. I really feel like that's all I can do. I let it come naturally. Sometimes it's too hard for me to plan. Too intimidating.
Sometimes ideas for plays, poems, and short stories sit in my phone's Notepad app for months. Sometimes I get worried that I won't do the ideas justice--that I won't turn them into masterpieces. That is why, when I finally work up the courage to take that seedling of an idea and run with it, I can't bring myself to read it again for about six months. When I do open up that document again, I either surprise myself (I really wrote that? I'm brilliant!) or I disappoint myself (I really wrote that? What does that even mean?). Mostly, I try to surprise myself.
As a writer, I have good days and bad days. On my good days, the writing comes easily to me and I can produce a sizeable piece of work within a few hours. On bad days, you can usually find me writing, then playing on my iPhone, writing, then stuffing my face with sugar. At least I can say that I write everyday. I consider that to be hugely important. Enjoyable, too. As Terry Pratchett once said: "Writing is the most fun anyone can have on their own."
Perhaps I need a more rigorous writing routine, one that will allow me to stay on track throughout these next few months as I work hard to complete a manuscript and write my first musical. Or maybe what I'm doing is working. All I know is that writing is not easy--it may come naturally, but it's not easy. Writing is a courageous thing to do. With it comes sharing and honesty and many long hours spent stringing words together with the hope that people will appreciate how you chose to construct your sentences, how you chose to make words work.
I enjoyed reading Ben Franklin's evening question: What good have I done today? I don't think that question is off limits for anybody, especially writers.
We are a wonderful breed.
Lucky duck that I am, I got to spend Memorial Day weekend at Touchstone Center for Crafts in Farmington, PA. I enrolled in the “Creating Pottery for Everyday Use” extended weekend workshop with Amanda Wolf (view her work at http://wolfsdenpottery.com/) and arrived to campus Friday evening.
I was assigned to Cabin #1. This cabin became my humble abode for the next three nights and four days:
The first thing I noticed about my cabin’s interior was the smell. To my delight, it smelled exactly like the clubhouse in my parents’ backyard that my dad built for my sister and me when we were little! It was practically an adult-sized, squarer version of our triangular clubhouse; for that reason alone, I felt quite comfortable . . .
. . . but maybe not so comfortable at night. The first night was the worst. I slept cocoon-like in a sleeping bag. And when I say cocoon-like, I mean it. I was wrapped up as tight as possible in that thing, trying my best to retain all my body heat so I could get some sleep. Night number two was probably the warmest, and night number three was slightly colder than I had anticipated. Alas, staying in the cabin made me appreciate my own warm bed at home. And even though I had the option to upgrade to a dorm, I’m glad I didn’t. It was a true summer camp-esque experience (I even decided to forego the meal plan so I could eat canned foods and packaged snacks!).
When I walked to the pottery studio (conveniently located about 30 steps away from my cabin) on Friday evening, I was introduced to Amanda and my two fellow students, Cindy and her daughter, Taylor. We spent the evening making clay stamps and sprigs for our pottery. Then back to my little cabin I retreated. The next morning would be my first full day at the wheel.
Our day started at 9 a.m. We learned how to wedge the porcelain clay with which we were working. The next step was to center it on the wheel. I experienced problems with centering when I took my first pottery class at my workplace back in March. Fortunately, centering came quite easy to me at Touchstone. “Pulling,” however, didn’t.
Pulling the clay basically involves lifting it up and allowing it to take shape. Silly me didn’t think to cut her crazy-long fingernails, so I couldn’t grab the clay the way I needed to in order to master the technique.
“Your nails are beautiful, but they gotta go,” Amanda said.
A few minutes later, she emerged from the glaze room with a pair of scissors. I refused. I mean, I can “go grunge,” but not that grunge. Haha. So I learned to deal with my long fingernails getting in the way (I did cut them as soon as I got home, though!) and stayed focused on the wet clay circling around in my hands.
Pottery, my friends, isn’t easy. You have to wedge the clay, center it, pull it, shape it, trim it, bisque it, decorate it, glaze it, and fire it again. It takes dedication, patience, and skill. The process itself is a long one, and it’s risky, too. You can’t get attached to a piece because it might not survive one of the many stages (I lost three mugs during the trimming stage . . . sigh). When I encountered a hiccup in the process (there were many, many times when I pulled too hard and completely ruined the piece), I wedged a new piece of clay and started over again. Despite being the kind of person who gets frustrated and discouraged quite easily, I was determined to master the pottery wheel. Luckily, our awesome studio assistant (shout out to Eric!) and two talented potters (hey, Lee and Bridget!) were kind enough to let me continue to work after our allotted open studio hours. On Saturday evening, I stayed in the studio until about 10:30 p.m., throwing and throwing and throwing until I emerged with a little jar that, I decided, I would give to my boyfriend. Amanda was also kind enough to stay with me for awhile, offering me advice and telling me what I was doing right and what I was doing wrong.
Cursive, by the way, got it right: "Art is Hard."
It was dark by the time I left the studio, and I was happy to know that the next morning I would wake up and get to do it all over again.
Here’s a photo of me late Saturday night--sticky clay hands and all!
I admired our schedule: working for a few hours, taking a small lunch break, working a few more hours, taking a supper break, and then working again until almost dark. I imagined myself hanging out with Henry David Thoreau (okay, so I should also admit that my cabin made me think of “Walden”), enjoying that type of technology-less, connected-to-nature, working-hard-all-day way of life.
Aside from making some bowls from molds that Amanda provided for us, I spent a majority of my Sunday on the wheel. I was comfortable there. Eager to learn more. Appreciative of the opportunity to have a teacher who kindly pointed out the progress I was making. So, by Sunday afternoon, I finally understood how to pull the clay. To get my clay to take shape. Gracefully.
Sunday was also the perfect day for a walk on Meditation Trail. With my notebook in hand, I walked into the woods, crossed over the creek, and sat on a rock and wrote. Here’s a photo of me enjoying that alone time:
The entire Touchstone campus is gorgeous. It’s nestled in the boondocks, where cell phone service is limited and artists gather to create art with like-minded artists. Even though I was only there for four days, it felt as if I became part of an artist’s colony. The people there talked art, made art, celebrated art. I loved it.
We spent Monday morning and afternoon decorating our pottery, adding handles to our mugs, and letting our work dry so that we could take it home. By the time check-out time rolled around, I didn't want to leave. I made some new friends. I wanted to jump back on the pottery wheel. I discovered that not only could I use my hands to write, but also to bring a lump of clay to life.
I ended up leaving Touchstone with 12 finished pieces (all of which have yet to be bisque fired, glazed, and then fired again). I created mostly mugs, as you can see:
I have a long way to go when it comes to reaching Amanda’s skill level . . . a longggggggggg way . . . but I’m grateful that she was gracious enough to teach us what she knows. She offered me the perfect mix of constructive criticism and praise; now I have the confidence to keep learning, to keep creating. This means I need to get my own pottery wheel!
From my cabin to Meditation Trail to the clay studio, my first experience at Touchstone certainly won’t be my last!
For more info: http://touchstonecrafts.org/
As much as I want to use this space to compose something beautiful and poetic, I feel the need to just move you right along. I encourage you to push "play" on each of the following videos, and I kindly ask you to take a few minutes out of your day to not only watch, but also listen. I don't think we do enough listening nowadays. I also think that poetry sometimes goes unrecognized, but these three poets are doing something special that is helping to keep the genre alive . . . they're lighting their words on fire, balancing them on the tips of their tongues, and demonstrating that they are brave enough to share them with us.
When actress and artist Mari-Claire Charba agreed to answer a few questions for one of my upcoming newspaper articles via email last week, I was thrilled. When I received her answers less than 24 hours later, I was speechless.
Here's why: one of Mari-Claire's answers to my questions resonated with me. I stared at it. I chewed it. I swallowed it. I digested it. I appreciated it.
Now, by sharing it, I'm giving other artists an opportunity to do the same:
"As an artist, one definitely needs to be able to feel comfortable with the aloneness of artistic development . . . it is as important to be nurtured and inspired by like-minded creative colleagues."
Like Mari-Claire, I understand the desire to be supported by like-minded individuals who understand the process of creating art. Who understand that putting yourself out there is always a risk. Who understand that inspiration is like food and water, and support just as crucial. Who understand that sometimes creating art isn't easy, but when it comes naturally, it is one of the best feelings in the world.
And her use of the word "aloneness" . . . how striking. I've experienced that aloneness. I experience it every day. Whether it is in a local coffee shop or at home on my couch or on a train, being a writer means composing alone, letting the words pour out of my little teapot fingertips. Letting the steam rise.
To all of my fellow artists out there--no matter what medium in which you work--take this quote, fold it up, and carry it with you in your back pocket. And to Mari-Claire--thank you.
Fiction, poetry, and all that good stuff . . .