The Letter Project

December 27, 2009

Special Delivery (47)

Filed under: Letters — Theresa Williams @ 12:56 am
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In the following letter, Wayne Barham talks of his upcoming 50th birthday and his ongoing struggle to discover what to write about, and why.  Wayne and I decided we would write a letter to each other once a month for a year.–TW

November 30, 2009

Dear Theresa,

Here I am writing my November letter on the last day of the month—I can be such a procrastinator—which is probably my greatest flaw! I’ve been able to rid myself of most others, but not that one for some reason. Actually it’s more that I can find a million things to do, some that are a waste of time (and can waste a lot of time), like playing computer games. I can get rather addicted to them.

From the pictures you posted on Facebook, I gather that you had a nice Thanksgiving with Allen and the three boys. How are your sons doing? I can’t remember their ages when I left Ohio, but I’m guessing them to be in their mid- to late twenties by now (maybe the oldest even thirty). The picture of Allen on his motorcycle made me chuckle, because that’s exactly how I would picture him. Do you ever ride with him? I have sometimes thought I’d like to get a motorcycle; I rode one for several months during the Spring/Summer of 1981 that I spent in Florida before starting at ECU, and really enjoyed it. Floyd wouldn’t like it though, and with all the maniacs on the roads down here, it probably wouldn’t be a good idea. (Can anyone say, “midlife crisis”?)

Both Floyd and I worked Thanksgiving Day, but we went to a friend’s house for dinner afterward, which meant I didn’t have to cook dinner like I usually do. Most years, Floyd’s parents come down for Thanksgiving, but Floyd was going to a softball tournament down in Fort Lauderdale over the weekend and they didn’t feel like going to that this time, so they’re coming down for Christmas instead. Several years ago they went to that tournament with us, back when I was also playing, and our team ended up taking first place in our division, which was great fun, but even as a spectator, it makes for a tiring weekend. I actually only played for two seasons before developing bicipetal tendonitis, caused by too much repetitive throwing. I should have been more careful picking up a new sport at 45, but you know how men are when it comes to aging—we always think we’re still in our twenties! Because of the nice weather here, we get in a Fall and a Spring season, but don’t play during the sweltering heat of summer. It took almost two years for my arm to heal, and I was going to play again this Fall season, but starting a new job and not know what my schedule would be like, I decided not to play. As it turned out, I had most Sundays off and could have played 7 of the 10 weeks. Then again, my legs might not have taken it, since I’m now on my feet all day at work (ach, not in my twenties any more. )

Actually, my 50th birthday is a week from today and I’ve decided that I’m definitely not ready for it. I want to forget about it, but know I won’t be able (or allowed) to. I can already tell this one is going to be a traumatic one for me, but I’m trying to accept the inevitable by then. I guess with everything that’s happened this year, I just don’t feel I’m where I should be in my life at this point (not that I know where that is supposed to be.) Ah well, I’m trying to look at this year as a year of transition. Over all, I’ve always seen change as good, otherwise one is just stagnating, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still come with a certain amount of anxiety.

The weather turned cooler just in time for the holidays; it was actually in the 40’s during the night and quite chilly first thing in the morning; though it warmed up comfortably during the day—the kind of beautiful weather that people move down here for (at least for the winter.)

This letter I thought I’d return to some of the unanswered questions you asked in your October letter. We also rarely watch any TV, preferring to watch DVD’s, mostly all the seasons of the Simpsons, Futurama, and Family Guy that we have, as well as movies. We do have basic cable, which provides all the local networks, PBS, and so forth, but still rarely watch anything (Floyd hates the interruptions of commercials.)

I don’t have an iPod Touch, or anything like it, though it might be nice to have one. All the College Program students that I work with at Disney have them of course, and they do seem pretty neat. Don’t know that I really need one though; I think I’d rather have a laptop computer at this point, if I could afford one—it’d be more useful.

About the only writing I’ve been doing has been my monthly letters to you. The longer ones do take me many hours to write; even the shorter ones take around three hours or so. You asked about my writing space: I don’t know that it’s special or anything; my desk does face a nice window so I can get natural light during the day (though no great view), with a potted palm to my right and some shelving with books and pottery beyond that. Usually, my beautiful female cat is sitting or sleeping next to my keyboard on the left. She can be a bit aggravating when she wants to be scratched on the head or chin though, walking in front of the computer screen and all over the keyboard—even cutting the computer off! (I make sure I save frequently.) She’s extremely affectionate. We have two cats, which we dubbed Lady Guinevere and Sir Whiskers. Can you tell I’ve been a Camelot junkie? I sometimes even use the alias Gawain or Yvain (much like E. Wayne in pronunciation), which is the French equivalent. Speaking of which, she has just decided to walk across my keyboard to be rubbed. The poem “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” has always been one of my favorites. I’ve also read quite a few of the various Arthurian series out there.

As you picked up on, writing last month’s letter was a lot like writing a short story. I liked your advice to approach story writing the same way: with no “thought for any deeper meaning at first.” I will have to try that. Though generally, I have a hard time even knowing where to begin. Events in my own life tend to come to mind (I usually see my life in terms of a novel, with various episodes and chapters), but I find them limiting to my imagination. I can’t seem to get away from the autobiographical. As a gay person, society does not provide the usual scripts of marriage, career, raising children, spoiling grandchildren, and so forth; instead I have had to write my own life from scratch. And yet, I haven’t wanted to become a “gay” writer, which has its own limitations, even though it is a big part of the world that I know, and influences how I view the world (one is automatically an “outsider.”) This has always been the biggest dilemma for me. Maybe I shouldn’t stay away from the world I know in my writing, or at least use it to get at larger themes, though I’ve never been able to figure out where to go with this (the cat’s writing again on my keyboard). Do you have any ideas to pass along on how to get started? Once I get going, the words start flowing then. Maybe I should dig out the textbook that Barbara McMillan used in the MFA techniques class. I think I still have it somewhere. Or maybe I should write sort of an informal “autobiography” (not to be published, of course)—just so I can purge it from my system. Writing even just a portion of it might get it out of my way.

Well, I’m beginning to wind down, so I’ll close. Hope you have a great holiday break and get lots of writing done (the semester should be ending about now.) I look forward to your next letter.

November 22, 2009

Special Delivery (41)

Filed under: Letters — Theresa Williams @ 1:51 am
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This is my response to Wayne Barham’s November letter [see letter #39].  –TW

7 November 2009

Dear Wayne,

I so enjoyed your November letter about authenticity.  The story you mentioned—the one about the young man working in the convenience store—I believe I remember it.  It was a story you submitted to Bill Hallberg’s workshop.  That was the semester you used to follow me out to my car and we’d talk about just about everything.  We’d talk as we were walking and as I loaded up my car for the trek back home.  We were filled with a lot of naïve hope back then.  Of course, I had no way of knowing how conflicted you were about your identity.  I was drawn to your energy, intelligence, and kindness.

Thank you for letting me post your letter at The Letter Project.  At first I was glad that you gave me permission to shorten it.  But as I began typing it, I found I couldn’t let lose of a single word.  I became more and more intrigued by the settings and how they played along with the theme of your letter.  Here you were in a courtroom (the whole truth) and then a Laundromat (come clean).  You wrote of school (intellect vs. identity) and also Disney (playing the part).   And I thought—how exciting.  Your letter was like reading a great short story about someone coming to terms with the meaning of art in his life.  I will take what you said about courage to heart.  I’m ever trying to be more courageous in my writing.  It’s a hard thing to do, but I tell myself if I can’t do it—ultimately—why bother to write at all?

And I thought, this is the way all good writing happens.  We think we’re simply presenting facts (I’m in a courthouse) but the unconscious is smart.  Without knowing it, you were writing of much deeper things.  And this is how we write our stories, too.  We begin by outlining something that happened.  Gradually meaning begins hovering over our pages, little ghosts of our primordial selves.  We begin to make connections, find ways to deepen the experience of narrative for our readers.  So…as I typed your letter, I realized each detail of your letter was linked to your theme, and I couldn’t take anything out!

What happened in your letter is fundamental to all good writing, and it’s why I’m sad that people don’t write letters anymore.  In letters we find our deeper selves.

This is all I will say in my November letter, Wayne.  Just that I’m thankful for our friendship and that I thank you for renewing our contact with one another.  I’m thankful for your willingness to share your letters at The Letter Project.  And I want to encourage you to write stories as you’ve written your letter—without a thought for any deeper meaning at first.  You’ll find the connections as you write! 

Love,

Theresa

Special Delivery (39)

Filed under: Letters — Theresa Williams @ 1:43 am
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When I e-mailed Wayne to ask him if it would be okay to post the following letter to The Letter Project, he told me I could edit the letter, making cuts as necessary.  He thought the letter too long and said that much of the information seemed mundane to him. 

I chose not to edit anything; rather,  I love the meandering quality of Wayne’s letter.  Years ago I used to write meandering letters in odd places.  I remember that once during an extended wait in my car, I wrote to one of Allen’s aunts:  I had no paper with me, so I wrote the letter on a napkin.  

The settings mentioned in Wayne’s letter intrigue me:  a courthouse, a laundromat, a college fiction workshop, and Disney.  Each setting makes a contribution toward Wayne’s main theme:  authenticity in writing. 

Wayne also references Lee Martin’s letter to Amos (see letter #27) and the importance of writers’ letters in general in terms of showing us we are not alone. –TW

October 20, 2009

 Dear Theresa,

You’ll never guess where I am right now…jury duty!  Since I’ve done this before, I know that there is a lot of waiting around, so I figured it would be the perfect opportunity to write my October letter.  I don’t have a laptop so you get the joy of deciphering my handwriting—I”ll try to write as legibly as possible (which means not writing too quickly).  It’s been at least fourteen or fifteen years since I’ve written a letter manually.  I kept up a brief correspondence with Robert Early after he retired to Spain with his wife Mercedes.  Back then I even purchased a nice stationary and pen just for letter writing. 

Well, so far three panels have been called and I haven’t been called yet.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed for early release—It’s a bit like Shirley Jackson’s “Lottery.” Okay, maybe not that drastic. 

The 22nd will be my two-month anniversary at Disney.  I enjoy it but it has been an adjustment.  My previous job was basically an office job, and I have found that working in a restaurant is much more physical than I had expected.  There is a lot of lifting involved, and then standing on one’s feet all day.  In the past, if I stood for more than an hour or two,  my lower back would start hurting, but I have adjusted physically, even my back has strengthened—I don’t even have back pain any longer!  Throughout the day we rotate to various jobs, which is nice, keeps me from getting too bored.  I prefer the jobs with more guest interaction.  It’s fun talking to people from all over the world.

Of course my fellow cast members (yes, it’s all a stage) are from all over the world, especially those in the College Program—South and Central America, the Philippines, lots from China, the Caribbean.  I get along well with the college students, go figure, though their little concerns and interactions are often rather amusing to me—wait til you get in the “real” world. 

Not that Disney is the “real” world—at least not for guests.  The goal at Disney is to create a place where guests can forget for awhile that the outside world even exists.  When I announced on Facebook that I had gotten a job at Disney, I got various responses from local friends, all the way from “Oh no, not Disney…run!” to “Disney will like you, a lot!”  I wasn’t sure what this last one meant until I went to orientation and training (the longest I think I’ve ever had for a job).

Well, they’re sending the rest of us left out for lunch.  I would have had more written by now, but strangely enough, I actually knew a couple of other people who had also been called for jury duty, so I’ve spent some time talking.  They’ve both been called for panels, though.  They still might not be selected for juries.  I’ll be back.

Since I had already eaten a snack, I decided to just explore the various artwork collected throughout the courthouse (I did that last time I was here for jury duty as well).  They have a wide variety—bronze and ceramic sculpture, paintings, woodcuts, lithographs, linoleum cuts, etc, many by local artists, a couple of whom I’ve met—Barbara Sorenson and Grady Kimsey.  Sorenson often does large columnar totemic pieces in clay.  I think you would find Grady Kimsey’s work very interesting, google him sometime.  He does multimedia sculptural pieces, most often with figurines set up in a stage-like tableau (his term).  He sculpts the heads and arms in clay; then adds fabric and other accoutrements to create the figures.  He often incorporates painting and found objects as well.  The gallery where I sometimes volunteer (and where I exhibited in the past) features a lot of his work, so I met him a couple of times a few years ago (I’m not sure whether he’s still living or not—I think so, though he is fairly advanced in years.  A very nice guy.  I would like to get one of his pieces if I ever have any extra money (good luck on that!)  The pieces aren’t really all that bad, if one has the money to spare. 

Before I diverge too far, I’ll finish my last bit on Disney (left it hanging), then not bore you further with it.  The reason Disney “would really like me” is because I already live my life by what they call “The 4 Disney Basics”: project a positive image and energy, show respect to every one, go above and beyond—all of which I’ve always done.  (The other one is to stay in character, relating more to the “stage” aspect of Disney)  Anyway, enough about Disney.  Except to say that this adjustment has left me tired enough, not to do much else, like write haiku or to paint, but I feel ready to start back up again.

Fall has finally arrived—it got all the way down in the 50’s.  Everyone was acting like it was so cold!  (The breeze out of the north was rather chilly in the shade.)  I was laughing at them.  It felt good after all the unseasonably warm weather in the upper 9’s that we’ve been having.  Of course it doesn’t last—we’ll be climbing back into the 80’s the rest of the week.  After a few winters down here you start forgetting that winter even exists unless you see it on the news:  “Three feet of snow blankets the Midwest (or Northeast or wherever).”  All we ever get is what most places would call Fall (without much of the change of colors).  There are seasonal changes here, but they are much more subtle:  though many of the trees never go leafless, they do change throughout the year, losing about ¼ to 1/3 of their leaves in the winter, sending out fresh, bright green leaves in the spring, which gradually shift to the darker shades of Summer.  Various plants flower and fruit at different seasons of the year.  Bird behavior alters—the courtship of Spring, raising families and protecting territories of Summer, flocking together in Fall/Winter with the Spring and Fall migrations adding their varieties to the mix (a lot of more northern birds winter here, particularly waterfowl and shorebirds).  While the temperature/weather are our most obvious seasonal markers, the others are there, waiting for the careful observer.  I’m guessing that you’ve probably already had some “brisk” weather there?  Actually, Floyd and I haven’t seen snow since Nov. of 2000 when we were loading up the truck in Durham, NC to move down here, until April of this year when we were flying back from visiting friends in San Diego, and almost got snowed in at the Denver airport by a late snowstorm—we just did get out (five hours late) during a brief lull.  The few times that we’ve visited family in NC during Christmastime there hasn’t been any snow.  The coastal areas rarely, if ever, have a white Christmas.  I don’t remember a single one growing up there.  We generally didn’t get snow until mid to late January, if even then.

They finally let us leave at 2:30 which is good since I seem to only have brought 2 sheets of paper with me.  I’m continuing this at the Laundromat, drying clothes (our dryer has been broken for a year but we haven’t been able to get it fixed).  It’s been a rather interesting couple of years for us financially.  We also have just one car and share a cell phone.  I used to ride my bicycle to work every day—it was only three miles—and really enjoyed it; it’s so relaxing or maybe meditative is a better word for it.  Not like getting in a car and dealing with traffic.  Now I have a 25 minute commute in the car, which [I] don’t really mind since I give myself plenty of time so it’s also rather meditative/reflective; Now Floyd rides his bicycle to work which is around three miles away (or maybe less)  He works downtown at an Embassy Suites hotel.  Time to start folding clothes already; didn’t get much written.

Oct. 23, 2009

Woah!  Here it is Friday and I still haven’t finished writing my letter for October.  Looking back over what I’ve written so far, it seems a bit mundane, sort of a “day in the life…”  My new job has been dominating my life a lot lately.  Though I don’t show it, getting laid off from a job I’d been doing for 8 ½ years was quite traumatic to my equilibrium, and I’m basically having to start all over again with something new.  Fortunately, I’m a fairly fluid type of person and can go with the flow.  Still, it takes a lot of effort to build something new from scratch.  Of course there are a lot of others in the same boat.  The economy does seem to be slowly turning around though.

As far as writing about the mundane, I think I’ve always been intimidated by the idea that I have to be “profound” in my writing—way too much pressure!  (and probably the cause of most writers block).  In Lee Martin’s letter to Amos Magliocco posted on the Letter Project, I liked his comment that Richard Ford “taught me that the individual life matter[s] and would be of extreme interest to a reader if I treated it with respect, if I didn’t turn away from its simultaneous ugliness and beauty [which I would call being honest], and if I wrote with forgiveness.”

Do you remember the email I sent a couple months ago where I said that I had come across some short stories from a college workshop, which I promptly shredded for being so hideous?  It was the dishonesty of one story in particular that I reacted so strongly against.  Even as I write this, my stomach clenches (I rather loathe dishonesty, especially in myself—I’m more forgiving of others).  The story in question was loosely based on an incident that had happened to me while working a summer job in 1981 at a convenience store in Winter Haven, FL.  The first version I had turned in focused on a young man who has gotten sidetracked from his college career by his increasing responsibilities and income as he moves into an assistant manager’s position, buys a sporty new car, and generally becomes seduced by suddenly having expendable income (since ha has no “real” personal responsibilities, i.e. Family).  This changes after an attempted robbery, which I expanded from a minor incident where someone pulled a knife on me, said, “turn over the money,” and P pulled back, said “Don’t scare me like that!” and laughed slightly.  I don’t know if he was serious or not, but he ended up just laughing and running out the door.  In the story, the young man gets hit on the head with the butt of a guy because he has no real access to much money—we always dropped anything more than $5- in the till down a slot in the floor, and of course had no access to the safe.  This incident causes the young man to reconsider his career options—pretty innocuous, nothing really dishonest about it, but trite, the observations of someone who hasn’t lived much life yet (though I’d lived through a lot more than I was willing to face at the time.)  The second version submitted to the workshop kept the better parts of the setting developed and some of the quick portrait of incidental customers, while the “attempted robbery” became just the minor incident described above.  The focus of the story shirts to what was actually the most significant thing that happened to me that whole summer—an obscene phone call that I received at work.  One evening a guy in his late 30‘s, maybe early 40’s, came into the store and stayed for at least thirty minutes, moving from one section to another (and the place isn’t all that big), watching me.  I wasn’t really worried that he was casing the joint because he didn’t seem the type:  dressed in business casual, driving a Mercedes, just your typical businessman.  But I couldn’t figure out what he was doing (though I think subconsciously I knew he was “cruising” me.)  He finally left, but about fifteen minutes later the phone rings, at first all I hear is heavy breathing on the other end.  I repeat my greeting and ask “How may I help you?”  A man’s voice says, “I want you.”  “What, I ask in surprise.  “I want you,” he repeats.  I hang up the phone with no reply.

In the story I submitted the story devolves into a homophobic diatribe and ends.  It was this dishonest response that sickened me when I reread it all these years later.  In actuality, this event sent me into a period of anguished soul-searching about my sexual identity (which I already knew, but couldn’t accept at the time).  I guess this is one of the problems with writing autobiographical fiction—how much are you willing to reveal about yourself?  I wrote the story a couple of years after the event, and while I had more or less accepted my sexual identity by that point, I hadn’t actually “come out” to anyone yet.  I think honest in one’s writing is probably the most difficult aspect—it requires such courage.  It has never really occurred to me before what courage it takes to be an honest writer, even when faced with such obvious, and extreme, examples, like Salman Rushdie or others who have put their lives in danger in order to write honestly.  Not that most of us are going to be in that kind of danger, but that doesn’t diminish the other “risks” of exposure that writing honestly might entail.  This is probably why the support systems that we find in the letters between various writers throughout history are so important—there is added strength in numbers, in comradeship.

I am always glad to hear that you’ve finished a short story (or two), made progress on your novel, or completed an essay (maybe I should consider writing some non-fiction).  Keep writing, and I encourage you to be courageous!  You have many friends to lend support.

I hope you have been able to decipher my handwriting (in what has ended up as a rather long letter).  It’s your fault for handwriting your last letter—just kidding—your handwriting is much more legible!

Here’s hoping everything is going well for you.  Looking forward to your next letter.

Love,

Wayne

August 9, 2009

Special Delivery (11)

Filed under: Letters — Theresa Williams @ 3:29 pm
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This is a letter I recently received from a long-time friend.  He and I met in an undergraduate fiction workshop in 1983.  In the letter, he explains why he was out of contact with me so long.  It seems that he was out of contact because he feared the inevitable question, “How is your writing going?”  And the fact was, he had stopped writing.
 
We recently found each other at Facebook and have committed ourselves to writing each other once a month. 
 
E. Wayne Barham received an MFA in poetry from BGSU in 1990. He has been working with clay at a city-operated pottery studio since 2001 and was one of two clay artists represented by COMMA Gallery in Orlando from 2002-2008. He curated a pit-fired pottery exhibit for them in April 2003, and was part of a group exhibit at the gallery in June 2006. Also in 2003, he was included in a clay exhibit at the Orlando Museum of Art as a result of the exhibit at COMMA. He is currently represented by ClayBodies, a gallery which focuses only on pottery.  He will be posting his work soon on Facebook.  –TW

August 2, 2009 (Orlando, FL)

Dear Theresa,

It is so good to get back in touch with you.  I have thought of you and Allen many times over the years and have missed you tremendously.  I googled your name once-in-awhile to see if anything came up and discovered that you had published a novel. (Congratulations by the way!)  I’m also glad to hear that you are working on a new one.

I think that the reason I hadn’t seriously tried to get back in touch sooner is that I dreaded the question whether I had continued to write, which I was too embarrassed to admit that I hadn’t.  You had always been connected with my literary life (or lack thereof).  I have to admit that I have always felt a bit of a fraud as a writer, even while I was still at BGSU.  The words have never wanted to flow out of me, like some huge dam is holding them back.  Sometimes I have thought that maybe I’m afraid to look inside too closely (or even at the universe at large) for fear of discovering an existential abyss.  While I have always consciously chosen positive forces in my life, I don’t like the trite sentimentality that this usually leads to in art.  I know that a human life is both light and dark–and even accept this within myself–but how to wrestle this onto a page!  Okay, this is getting a bit more confessional than I usually go, which is probably the real problem.  I’ve always been too shy to really reveal myself, except to a select few.

I have pursued some artistic interests over the years, predominantly pottery (most can’t “read” pottery to get at the inner life of the potter, so it’s safe), and a little in painting (which can suffer from the same problems as writing).  I’m starting to get more into the painting side, which I know will eventually mean delving deeper; but right now, I’m still more at the mastering-the-techniques stage.  I have also been considering giving writing another try—strangely, I’m getting braver as I get older.

Since leaving Bowling Green, I have worked two jobs.  The first was at an independent bookstore, called The Book Exchange, in Durham, NC, which also supplied textbooks for local colleges and universities (including Duke).  I enjoyed this one immensely; though it got insanely busy during “book rush” at the beginning of semesters since we supplied textbooks for three undergraduate schools and four law schools.  Some days I literally stood at the cash register (which was an old push-button one from the ‘50s and didn’t calculate the change due back) for eight hours straight.  (This was mainly because I was the only one who could do this with a smile on his face the whole day.)  The bookstore had opened in the latter 1930’s, so it had a huge collection of books, mostly of the literary or scholarly kind.  It was a great place to browse.  Needless-to-say, I bought way too many of them, but it was too hard to resist when I could get them at cost.

In 1996, I started dating a new guy, named Floyd (that’s a whole other story), and in November 2000, we decided to move to Orlando, FL, because he had lived his whole life in NC and wanted to try something different.  (Yes, though we voted in NC, we were here for the “hanging chad” debacle that put a certain President in the White House.)  Here I have been working for a small company that manufactures dollhouse miniatures.  Not really that interesting, but they paid me well just to keep me.  Unfortunately, business has been gradually declining over the years (who really collects dollhouses anymore?), and I got laid off in June, so I’m job-hunting again.  No luck so far.  I have been helping out at an art gallery, though, which is inspiring me to get busy painting.  It doesn’t pay anything (unless I happen to sell something), but it gets me out of the house for awhile.  I have exhibited pottery there in the past, even curated a pit-fired ceramics show for them several years ago.  Orlando isn’t really much of an “artsy” place, but that’s gradually changing.

It sounds like you and Allen had a wonderful odyssey out West—the pictures you posted are great.  We were in San Diego back in April, but it turned out to be rather awkward trip because the friends we were visiting were on the verge of breaking up.  I did spend a lot of time down at the beach though (mostly by myself), bird-watching and exploring the tidal pools.  I grew up in Coos Bay, OR until I was ten, but hadn’t been back out West since a trip with my family over Christmas break of 1971-72, when I was twelve.

It is interesting to see in your photo albums on facebook that all your sons have grown up—they were just kids when I last saw them.  Of course, I now have nieces and nephews who are having children.  Time just won’t stop for anyone. I will be joining the 50s club in December, and haven’t decided what I think about that yet (actually, I try not to think about it at all).  For some reason, 30 was hard for me, but 40 wasn’t.  Go figure.  I guess it has to do with where you think you are in your life.

I would love to catch up with everything you have been doing (some of which I can gather from your facebook page).  Your suggestion that we start a correspondence through the mail sounds like a good plan.  The problem with email is that it’s ephemeral, disappearing with the click of a delete button; whereas, a mailed letter has a certain permanence.  You are right about writing letters—I can already feel the words stirring more than they have in years.  It is difficult to work in a vacuum.  With pottery, I go to a city-owned studio, and I find that I am much more productive while there, than I am at home, something about the creative vibes bouncing back and forth between those there at any given time.  I’ve found this to be the case with painting as well—even when your styles are drastically different.  A couple years ago, I got a bunch of videos from the library on various Impressionist painters, and the thing that struck me most was how often they got together to paint in some location outside Paris, sometimes for weeks or months at a time, even painting their own interpretations of the same subject.  Of course, they became famous for their alternative exhibitions together, challenging those of the Academy.

I’m looking at getting laid off from work as the kick-in-the-pants that I needed to actually pursue the artistic life that I’ve always craved, but always set aside for practicality’s sake.  This is now the advice that I would give to any young person bitten by the artistic bug:  pursue your passion, no matter what others might tell you—and there will be plenty of naysayers, parents being the most difficult to “disappoint.”  (They’ll come around when you succeed, usually.)  No, it won’t be easy, but it will be fulfilling.  Surround yourself with others of a like mind; they will provide some shelter from the forces in the world that would snuff out every spark of creativity that can’t be bent to corporate greed.  I get so tired of those whose only valuation of a college education is to get a job, not to broaden their experience and their minds, and whose only idea of “success” is how much stuff they’ve accumulated.  (I know this last is “old hat” in academia, so I’ll get off my soapbox.)

Now that I’m really starting to ramble, it’s as good a point as any to close.  I’ll be watching the mail avidly for your first letter.  Take care.

Love,

Wayne

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