projects and writings of Tracy Burkholder
I struggle with what I want my writing life to be. Struggle isn’t the right word, though. It’s too active. Too involved. Me and my writing and my caring about my writing create a fairly passive, only slightly more than occasional dynamic. But it does come up. I’ve sworn off writing entirely more than once. The quitting hasn’t stuck. But neither has the commitment to it. I’m okay with that. It’s been kind of interesting to take a more removed, less passionate perspective on the whole thing.
Caring less means that when I find myself writing something other than these blog posts, it’s generally more enjoyable than it has been in the past. That’s probably because most of the other things I’ve been writing have been tapped out with my thumb on my phone. These have been mostly spontaneous, barely edited bits of poetry or prose or babble. I send them to an indulgent artist friend whose idea it was in the first place and he responds in kind. I may never go back and work on them. I may never let anyone else read them. They matter as a process but not as a product. And to that I say, fuck yeah.
This week, that same friend came up with a challenge for us to try. Yes indeed, something I’ve never done before. He suggested we pick a theme, create some work around it in the medium of our choice and then share it the next time we see each other. We picked the theme of restraint which turned out to be just the right place to start this experiment. By narrowing down and holding back the flood of options of what to write about, the task became relatively easy. Easy too, because I’m not trying to create a polished piece or impress an old writing friend or do anything but spend some time playing with words and ideas. That feels pretty damn good.
My partner in this endeavor is largely a visual artist, mostly sculpture so, in addition to this writing challenge, I decided to see what would happen if I tried creating for the sake of creating in a medium I had very little experience with. I bought a crappy little sketch pad and some charcoal and some soft pencils and headed out to Hipbone Studio for their drop-in figure drawing class. I used to dabble in drawing and painting and all that crap, but it’s been so incredibly long since I attempted anything of the sort that it all felt brand new.
The last (and maybe only) drawing class I took was in college. I got a C. I brought all that C-level talent to the two hours I spent in the studio. If you don’t give a damn, being bad at something can be incredibly fun. It was so great to look around at the creations of the people around me – a very talented and delightfully friendly group – and then bow my head to the squiggles on my page and just keep squiggling. I fell into the fascinating challenge of admiring the line of the model’s thigh or arm and then figuring out how to make the pencil in my hand interpret that admiration. My failures were as interesting as any of my minor successes.
And so, we come to this week’s lesson: Try a little more, but care a little less. I don’t know if I’d advocate that in general, but for now, I’m rolling with it.