I started reading a new book yesterday. Actually it is an old book, a classic – and one I read in a creative writing class in college. It is called Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. This enthusiasm comes on the heals of my new poem ‘A case for Hope’ which I will post in a separate entry. It is the first poem I have been really fired up about in ages and it has got me excited about a more structured creative discipline in both my writing and my painting. That is why this book is so cool right now for me – it has fresh ideas, concise advice on how to open oneself up to writing but every point so far can also be applied to painting. I really recommend this book to both painters and writers.
The first thing from the book that I have started practicing is a timed writing practice. It is free writing but it is a commitment to write non-stop, keeping the pen moving until time is up. No censorship, no self-editing, just expression. This is part of finding and learning one’s voice. I have also applied this same discipline to my painting. Almost daily I paint for a few hours straight but rarely do I paint non stop with no self editing or goal thinking. Most frequently my painting sessions are aimed at moving forward on a work in progress and my work sessions have distinct goals.
For the purpose of this new activity I have started a couple of new canvases in yesterday’s session that are solely for immediate expression, non stop painting. My time is 30 minutes a day of this at least. The rule is that I can not work on these pieces unless I am in that immediate mode. If at any point I decide I like where the work is going I will stop the piece and start a new one. I can start a new piece at any time but for the most part I want to keep working on the same canvas expanding and playing off of the work from the day before.
I am excited about this. I have been in a real almost OCD rut with my paintings for a while now. I have gone from being very loose and improvisational to being a tight ‘stay within the lines’ kinda of painter. it does not feel natural to me. I do not know why but it seems I have even forgotten how I achieved previous effects. In part that is due to the acrylics I am using, but not completely because I have done loose work since I started the acrylics. So I do not know what is up, but I do know that these timed free-painting exercises will get me back in touch with my voice and most likely lead me into fresh places. I’ll take some pictures of the free-painting from time to time so you can see the progression of the direction-less pieces.
As for the writing, I am really happy to get back into the discipline of writing. In any art, the bulk of the learning is in the doing. In my writing I want to refine my voice and find more control over it and the ability to ‘go there’ more freely. I think these timed writing sessions will be one good way to begin that journey.
I’ve done things like this before but this feels timely and fresh. As it is said: You never step into the same river twice. All this and I am only four chapters into the book!