Monday was my birthday. It’s funny how they keep rolling around. I’m 41. I didn’t plan anything, because 41 is one of those kind of nothing birthdays, but as it turned out, my mom was in town this weekend to teach a sculpture seminar at the American Museum of Ceramic Art in Pomona.
She works in clay (check out her online gallery) and she often travels to teach courses, but I’ve never taken one. Not until this weekend. I’m not sure what moved me to join her this time, when so many times before I’ve hugged her and sent her off to teach without me. Maybe it was the fact that it was my birthday. Or maybe it was that I’m in a strange place with my writing.
If you follow along at all, you know my debut novel is in the hands of my agent, being shopped around to editors in New York. While that is a really fun sentence to write, it’s also a surprisingly difficult period of waiting.
So I’ve been writing on novel number two. After some (okay, much) focused work I hit 80,000 words. It is officially a respectable length for a first draft, but the project is a bit of a mess. I needed to put it in a drawer for a month and let it simmer. I needed a bit of distance from it.
While I have ideas for novel three, I’m not ready to jump into it yet, so I’ve been passing the time doing research, but it’s just making me anxious. I’m so freaking tied in knots about all things work related lately, and I’m finding it hard to manage.
As it turns out, taking a day to be creative in a way that is completely unrelated to my writing was the perfect remedy for my anxiety. I was about ten minutes into the eight-hour class when I had the thought: I need to buy some clay to keep at home. This is awesome. I had no concern for the finished product and it was liberating.
We threw the clay against the table to create long slabs, then wrapped and layered the pieces. We explored texture and form, and just got messy. Then we got down to work creating a piece.
It was also fun to see my mom in teacher mode. She’s such a pro. She does figurative sculpture, which is really hard, but she walked us all through the steps, showing us how to build the base, work up from there, shape a convincing face, and build hands that are proportionate. The time flew by.
This is what I ended up with. My very first figurative sculpture.
It’s imperfect, but you know what, when I was half way through it I knew what I wanted it to look like and a little voice in my head said: that’ll never work, but I kept going and I got there. I’m really proud of this piece, even though no one will ever see it but you guys.
The experience reminded me that we are, as writers, creative people. And that creativity can come in many forms if we let it.
If you’re feeling anxious, or stuck with your writing, I highly recommend taking an art class. Just a one day thing, or maybe more if you’re feeling it. (If you’re near Healdsburg, CA or Sedona, AZ check out my mom’s upcoming workshops.)
It’s really remarkable how removing any concern for finished product really allowed me to play around. It was nourishing and just plain fun.