I went to a Meet & Greet last week with some writers who are in residency at the Banff Centre. It was casual, a roomful of people standing around, wine cupped in tiny glasses, anxiously making small talk with strangers. Writers are an interesting bunch, and this group in particular seems pretty eclectic, both in age and topic. Many have published numerous times before, and I have to check myself as not to gush openly to them about their profession. Not so much who they are, or their books specifically, but I had to stop myself from asking if they wake up every single day, do a fist pump of joy and think “YES! I get paid to WRITE BOOKS!” It seems like a pretty awesome career. In my mind this constant reminder seems reasonable, but in practice I’m sure it would be annoying. “Oh, hello grocer-who-sells-me-bananas, did you know I WRITE BOOKS FOR A LIVING?”. This is why I could never be a writer. No restraint.
I got into an interesting conversation with a girl from New York, and we were talking about technology and our inability to keep up with it. I confessed that if given a choice, I would much prefer to write everything down, old-school style with a good pen and a crisp sheet of paper. She looked at my incredulously, like I had suggested chiseling text on stone or cave painting. I tried to explain myself; I felt like handwriting says so much about a person, and how likely in 5 years, with our ever-increasing dependence on email and text messaging—that no one will have unique penmanship anymore. It’s a sad thought. We will all be reduced to a handful of typefaces, the sentiment lost in the generic uniformity that comes with perfectly typeset notes.
This idea came to me a few weeks ago. As a compulsive list-maker, I’m alarmed by my own budding reliance on the ‘Notes’ feature on my Ipod, whereas I used to jot everything down in a moleskin journal. I find ridiculous amounts of pleasure in flipping though those books now, trying to figure out a) my poor handwriting, b) my horrendous lack of spelling and proper grammar, and c) half defined thoughts, ended midway—with no context whatsoever. It makes for a bit of a game. As artists and designers, so much of the creative process can begin through the act of bringing pen to paper. One doesn’t often go to the trouble of starting Word to jot down a quick note to themselves, or opening Illustrator to do a small sketch. Or, at least I don’t. I rely on memory, which fails me every.single.time. I think technology hinders experience in those instances; I believe a certain amount of art and idea may be lost to this, in future generations. I suppose we are the lucky ones, sitting comfortably on the cusp of both methods. We can operate computers, but we still had to labor over cursive in 5th grade (although few of us still use it). I can’t imagine how many projects would have never been realized, if not begun as a whim, jotted down onto paper.
I was feeling a bit stifled in my apartment yesterday, having not left the house the entire day previously. So I bundled up, braved the -29 cold and headed up to the Centre to have breakfast. Saturday it turns out, is the perfect day to go, because the campus is almost completely empty. I was able to camp out on a cushy overstuffed chair by the wall of mountain-view windows, bust out my Wonder Woman sketchbook and write. Write and write until my hand was cramping and the words were almost indecipherable.
I feel like I’m on the verge of having a breakthrough with my project—with the theme of my book, and the direction I would like to take it in. Much like my life, I’m trying to break it into babysteps. Manageable chunks, so I don’t choke on the enormity of it all. Creating a book from scratch is an undertaking, but if I look at it page by page, section by section, chapter by chapter, it’s not quite so daunting. Besides, it won’t be a proper book—requiring formula, sense and continuity (thank god). It is a book about details, with small written blurbs, photographs, sketches, maps, recipes, ephemera… and white space.
I realized this week that essentially, if you are not getting the project you want within the context of your job, you must make that project yourself. For the longest time I’ve waited to find a position that I could be fully creative in, which is difficult because I consider myself equal parts designer, photographer, writer, maker. I don’t imagine myself as an expert in any of them, but I find if I neglect one for any length of time, I feel unfulfilled. I suppose that makes me a bit high maintenance, creatively speaking? So until I find my niche in the world, I will try to build my dream project in the meantime, on my own terms. Find my own direction.
Unrelated awesome sidenote: I finally hit the houseplant JACKPOT. So far it’s the only thing that makes this place feel like home.