On January 27, the University of New Hampshire held a memorial
for one of its most distinguished professors, Donald M. Murray
(Judy's Journal - February 2007). It was sad and thrilling at
the same time because 600 of us were gathered to celebrate the
life of a productive, humble and generous man who had a major
effect on writers everywhere. While we waited for the ceremony
to begin, a slide show of Murray images pulsed on a big screen.
Three men were seated in front of me. I eavesdropped on their
conversation and surmised that they were Don's friends, the
ones who were also sketching/painting partners. I leaned forward
and began a conversation with them. "What was it like?"
"What was he up to with his sketching?" They told
me that Don was intensely curious about how art and writing
were interrelated and was collecting information about the processes
of making both art and writing, especially how the processes
were alike and different. I know that he was always working
on several things at once, but I don't know how far he got with
a manuscript, or if it was even at that stage of development.
That conversation has had a ripple effect on me. I wondered
what I could do with Don's questions. What are the similarities?
What are the differences? I studied with him and have most of
his books, which are major explorations in the writing process.
His work will be my scaffold. He was passionate about writing,
a master of the personal essay ("Some people think it's
navel gazing," he once told me.) and a constant doodler
and sketcher. His art book collection rivaled mine. Obviously,
he knew a lot about writing and art from practicing both, although
he would deny he was an accomplished artist.
In this month's journal I will list possible ways to look at
art and writing processes. By using these questions, I am erecting
the scaffold. The real work will come in future journals. Before
I began this entry, I reread my 31 Judy's Journals, and it seems
apparent that I have already begun construction. However, Donald
Murray's death has made me rewrite the contract with myself
to see what I can do now. I would call it a legacy from Don.
As I write each month, there will be no order in exploring
answers to the following questions. One of Don's guiding principles
was to be ready for the surprises, to be in a state of "expecting
the unexpected." My goal is to learn something new about
what I do and why I do it.
What is similar and what is different between
what I do when I make a piece of art or write a poem? Do the
processes change from piece to piece?
What made me a writer? What made me an artist?
How do I "look" and "listen"
as a writer? As an artist?
What am I afraid of?
What are my tools?
How do I discover a subject when I am writing?
When I am painting?
Do I sense an audience? What does that make
me do when I am working?
How do I gather resources to use in my writing
What gives me the right to call myself a writer
and visual artist? Is it because I put in the time?
As I write or paint, how do I use my "critical
eye"? What voices swim around me, telling me to do more
of one thing or to go in a completely different direction?
How and why do I revise a piece of writing?
What keeps me flexible and fresh?
What are my obsessions?
How do I collect what I might need in a future
poem or painting?
How do I use my senses?
How do I use my memories?
What do I read as a writer? What do I read
as an artist?
What dictates my form and style in a poem
or a painting?
Is there anything I cannot write about? Paint
a picture of?
What are my appetites as a reader? As a viewer?
How do I plan before I write? Before I paint?
What are my painting rituals? My writing rituals?
What are my long term goals as a writer? As
What brings me down, gets me frustrated, makes
me want to give up?
How do I know when a poem is finished? A painting?
When is the honeymoon over as I look at a piece that I believe
What does it mean when a poem is published?
When a painting is sold or gains some recognition?
Why write? Why paint?
Why keep taking classes?
How do I know what I will write or paint today?
What am I aware of as I write? As I paint?
These questions should get me started. It is possible that
I will tread on ground that I have covered in past journals,
but I may be surprised by a new thing that emerges. If you have
questions, suggestions or ideas about the interrelationships
between making art and writing, contact me: email@example.com