Worth taking the time

Last Friday I finished reading Louise DeSalvo’s The Art of Slow Writing. I highly recommend the book for any artist. It offers wonderful advice on the creative process explaining the benefits of investing your time to fully achieve your authentic voice. As DeSalvo explains in the opening introduction:

The Art of Slow Writing cover

Slow writing is a meditative act. It acknowledges that we are all beginners and insists we cultivate empathy for ourselves because being a writer isn’t easy. Slow writing is a way to resist the dehumanization inherent in a world that values speed. It’s one way to find – or return to – our authentic selves.

DeSalvo’s book reminds us to step back and allow time for ideas to grow. My favorite quote from one of the early chapters that helped shift my perspective on my craft:

By viewing writing as practice rather than accomplishment can be a valuable shift in perspective. Instead of thinking, “I want to become a writer as quickly as I can,” we can try this: “I will dedicate as much time as I must to learn my craft.”

Also peppered throughout the book are examples from other well-established writers on the “role of waiting in the creative act.”

Many of us try to rush the creative process. But, as [Ian] McEwan’s process illustrates, and as [Victoria] Nelson asserts, it often takes time “for an imaginative idea to grow to full term in the unconscious …” If we proceed “entirely by ego command,” we’re likely to subvert “this mostly invisible gestation period.” As writers, we need to cultivate the twin traits of “[s]urrendering and listening” but this will be impossible unless we give up our struggle to control our artistic process, unless we cease engaging in what Nelson calls a “solipsistic master-slave struggle for control over yourself.

While I was reading TAoSW, I also happened to read about the artist Agnes Denes in Lives and Works Vol 2. Agnes Denes’ process coincides with DeSalvo’s advice because Denes takes a lot of time to research and experiment before she completes most of her projects, which can take up to several years like her artist book, the Book of Dust.

The running theme in both books is that anything worthwhile takes time and, sometimes, waiting is necessary in order to gain a deeper understanding into your work. Another aspect of the process is allowing yourself to experiment and fail so that one’s creative growth can develop further. It’s okay to make mistakes! Make lots of them! It’s all part of the learning process.

What has helped you in your creative journey?

Worth taking the time

SDBA Annual Meeting in La Jolla

San Diego Book Art’s annual meeting was held in La Jolla’s Riford Library on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, which gave me ample time to enjoy a delicious brunch at Pannikin with my husband and check out the wonderful D.G. Wills Books next door before the meeting. I’m always ready for any excuse to browse a bookstore, but I didn’t find any used books to buy within my budget after browsing for about an hour. It was almost time for the meeting and I wanted to support the bookstore. Interspersed within its shelves are new copies of reading material so I bought a shiny paperback of Jung’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections, which I’ve always wanted to own and finish reading.

Some samples of Genie Shenk's books
Some samples of Genie Shenk’s books. The colors and textures were sublime to see firsthand.

After settling into my seat up front at the library and listening to announcements and accomplishments of the organization, it was time for SDBA’s special guest artist Genie Shenk’s presentation. She’s one of the founders and long time member of SDBA. The artist is known for her book arts series involving her dreams, which she’s recorded since 1982. Her works are owned by private collectors and part of university library collections.

I enjoyed Genie Shenk talk about the various themes in her art using mica, rust, or the use of space. The most poignant moment was when she mentioned her work expressing grief. I was very touched by her description about the loss of a loved one and how she expressed her personal grief through book arts.

As I listened to the presentation and committee/board members speak I felt very lucky to be in a place with such a vibrant books arts community with wonderful people willing to share their time and expertise to keep SDBA growing and thriving. It was wonderful to see and catch up with people I know in the book arts community in San Diego as well, especially Sibyl and others from Bay Park Press.

2015 looks to be an exciting year and I want to be more involved this time around so I volunteered to help with online publicity. I encourage anyone else who’s curious or interested in book arts to contact me or SDBA!

SDBA Annual Meeting in La Jolla