An Artist’s Way Through a Pandemic

Yesterday was a difficult day. I had to drag myself through it. I was bored – I was feeling the effect of isolation. We almost launched out to deliver a package to my granddaughter…no other purpose. Just to go, to get out, have an adventure. Instead I plodded through the day. Payed attention to my mundane list. It is troublesome to have a body that has a hard time with sitting for a long time, or standing, or walking. And a mind that tires easily, wanting to create but fizzles.

A book I once read on creativity…I think it may have been The Artist Way…suggested that in order to write, to be creative, an artist needs to shift gears and get out and experience life. Life experience is the meat of writing. By experience she meant out there in the world. It is there that we find the sparks, the inspiration.

During Covid, I feel bereft of inspiration. In this little world, there is no spark. There is the TV, of course. Good grief! Right now I see only images of the Covid virus and the political mess in the country. How much writing can one do about that?

I guess I am looking for a leading. This week I added something to my “to do” list each day: “Call______________________________.” I don’t know who I will call, but I have a list of folks I haven’t touched base with in a long time. Even folk I never really talk to but have their number for some reason. A couple people I will call because I worry about them during this Covid time. I fear that some of these may not even be alive.

Perhaps the Writer will see a spark in the darkness or a truth that is worthy to share.


My Book is “Plausible”

I am not sure why, but people who read my book rarely tell me what they think of it. This is pretty intimidating. I can’t help but wonder if think they didn’t like it but don’t want to hurt my feelings. Truthfully, I would rather have someone challenge me than be silent.

There have been some marvelous affirmations that came from readers, however. One friend took me aside before he’d completed the book to tell me that he thinks I am a great writer. He added, “And I know what good writing is!” He filled my soul in that moment. Another had all sorts of questions about the characters and where I’d gotten my information. She clearly felt challenged by what I wrote. Her inquiry was sincere. She wanted to share it with a sister whom she knew would probably challenge my theology. I so enjoyed our conversation and hope she will introduce me to her sister at some point.

I feel especially complimented when readers ask to buy additional copies to give as gifts. One person bought 10 copies for Christmas gifts. Two people asked me if I would come to their church and study group to speak.

Most recently, I was asked by friend for a second copy which he planned to give to a friend whom he believed would really like it. This man’s opinion means a lot to me. In addition to being a person who has a spiritual bent much like my own, he is knowledgeable about the scriptures and is aware of how The Memorial of Jesus veers from what is written in the canon. When I handed him the book at our planned rendezvous, he wanted give me a word that showed his appreciation. He struggled a bit to come up with the word. “It’s plausible,” he finally said.

“Plausible”. The word feels so right! I checked it out later in my dictionary/thesaurus. Here are its synonyms: likely, believable, cogent, convincing, reasonable, thinkable, probable, credible, tenable, conceivable, imaginable, possible, admissible, compelling, sound, rational, logical, acceptable.

I suppose there are those who, after reading Memorial would disagree with my friend. To veer from the biblical accounts, they might say, makes the stories unacceptable. I regret that some might hold back from reading it if this is their fear. For me, Memorial answers the question, “What would it have meant to know Jesus, not as a savior, as a true friend.”

My friend thought my story “plausible”. I think he got out of it exactly what the author would hope.

My Life is Raw Material

When I run out of books to read, I find myself going to my own bookcase and searching for the ones I bought with good intentions but never got around to reading. A few days ago, I pulled from the shelf Essays and Poems by Ralph Waldo Emerson. I bought it about a year ago after a friend commented that he was reading Emerson. It is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics collection. One can get it inexpensively through Amazon. A while back I read Varieties of Religious Experience from this same series. It is easy to see why these are considered classics. They speak universal truths. I find myself penciling a sentence in just about every paragraph and writing my story in the margins.

Having complained about how my life seems to get into the way of my passion, I find this morning that this is a universal problem for artistic people. Emerson offers comfort as he shows how important life experience is to the artist. I love this quote from his essay, “The American Scholar”:

Only so much do I know, as I have lived.

Simply put, if I don’t live my life, there is nothing to write about. I believe this applies to all artistic expressions including visual and performing arts. Watching the The Kominsky Method on Netflix last night, lead character/drama teacher, Sandy Kominsky, made this exact point to his drama students. Julia Cameron, in The Artist’s Way, says the same.

More Emerson wisdom:

The world, – this shadow of the soul or other me, lies wide around me. Its attractions are the keys which unlock my thoughts and make me acquainted with myself…I do not see how any man can afford, for the sake of his nerves and his nap, to spare any action in which he can partake. It is pearls and rubies to his discourse. Drudgery, calamity, exasperation, want, are instructors in eloquence and wisdom. 

Gads, Ralph! You have been reading my blogs from your heavenly place and noting my constant complaining about having so much to do that I can’t get around to writing! If I were George Bailey you would be my Clarence.

I guess I should say, “Thanks for dropping by and helping me to appreciate my life as…

raw material out of which the intellect moulds her splendid products. 

Today I go to watch my grandson Jackson’s Christmas concert. Raw material at its best.

Feeding of Body and Soul

I have been so busy, I have not had the time to keep attend to my blogging, especially to write about the adventures that my book, The Memorial of Jesus, has sent my way. One of the venues that really interests me is to share with people in their homes. Recently I was invited to the home of a woman that I went to Israel with two years ago. That trip was a life-changer for me and brought depth to the book that I was writing at the time.

Ginny lives in a charming little house in an older neighborhood in Minneapolis. It was a Saturday and she noted that in her neighborhood of St. Louis Park were many faithful Jews who would be walking about on this beautiful day in honor of Shabbat. Perfect, I thought, as we were gathering to talk about our Jewish friend, Jesus.

There were about a dozen of Ginny’s friends that sat round her living room. All were new to me, except for Ginny and one other who’d gone to Israel as well. Ginny wrote of the gathering that it “was not unlike the early members of the church…Jesus’ family and friends.” It seemed so fitting since this is exactly what The Memorial of Jesus is about. She reflected further on the experience: “This particular group had experience with contemplative prayer and biblical discussion and were open to the insights of the book.” I am grateful that she saw this because, while I get a special pleasure in presenting myself as a published author, my deepest hope is that the message will be received and make a difference in the lives of my readers.

I talked first about how the book came to be written and later moved on to highlight one particular character, as requested by Ginny, Mary Magdalene, whom I call Miriam in the book. I gave what scholars have discovered about this special friend of Jesus and then showed how I portrayed her in my book. I read for them the chapter that was Miriam telling the community her memories of Jesus.

Ginny offered tea and had her dining room table laden with small sandwiches, fruit and cheese, chips and nuts for refreshment. Body and soul were fed, just as they were when Jesus followers gathered together to pray and remember Him.

Time Juggler

After Retreat2Write,  I committed to write every day. It was a pretty hallow commitment it seems. In the month since then, I have written one blog and put in about 2 hours of other writing. I struggle to know exactly what my problem is.

At the beginning of each week, I write a schedule for myself. On each day of the calendar, I enter commitments such as doctor’s appointments, exercise classes, regular meetings, and any social plans such as lunch with a friend or a grandchild’s sports event.  Then I enter any weekly chores. For example, Mondays is for laundry and if I am going to do any cleaning, I try to do that on Fridays. I try to run errands when I am running to town for other things. Yesterday, I was in Little Falls for a meeting and an exercise class, so I went to the library, go my flu shot, stopped at Aldi’s for a couple of sales in their produce section, and dropped a book off at a friend’s house. It was a long day. I was too tired to write when I got home. I always take a nap and still start to fizzle around 5pm.

As I ponder my problem of not finding time to write, I ask myself if I am simply putting too much on my calendar. Perhaps I need to prioritize differently. Should I skip my exercise classes, designed to keep me moving along with other seniors. I sort of hate exercise so this would be an easy switch for me. But I have learned from experience that my body pays dearly when I don’t exercise and I am more likely to exercise when it is structured like on timed classes. Besides, I like the other older folks who exercise with me. We talk about our lives and laugh a lot.

In addition to all the aforementioned activity that fills my calendar, I have a list of things that need my attention at some point. Balance my checkbook was on that list and I did that this morning only to find myself $20 off on my figures. I set it aside for Bernie to look at. Other things on my list include preparations for book sales events, fulfilling duties for a a service group to which I belong, finishing a baby blanket, updating my web page, getting the pictures out of my phone, calling my brother, signing up for a class, and having my daughter change the protection program for my computer. I wish I could just check one of these tasks off each day, but two a week is about all I can manage.

I was complaining to a friend the other day and she said, “In addition, you have a very active household.” This is true and I hadn’t even included that. You would think that my husband plus a daughter living in our basement. That’s three people with three different schedules overlapping one another. Add to that the many family events that show up on the calendar, having family members come here for an event or we going to see them. Of course, everyone has this. We just have a particularly big family.

Waaah, waaah, waaah. I know. I suspect many readers gave up two paragraphs ago.

I suppose the answer to my problem is to change my expectations. I think that is what Buddha would say. I mean, I don’t really have to write a blog or another book, do I? I know that life is fragile. I have to be careful thinking I know what it is God put me on the earth to do. Maybe God put me here to be a time-juggler. Maybe others will feel my pain because it is their’s, too, the pain of dreams unmet. Maybe I am here to be a comfort to them.

I have been to many memorial services in my 74 years. I wonder if friends and family who have died get to hang around and listen to all that is said about them. Without exception, people always say nice things about their loved ones. You never hear them talk about the things they didn’t accomplish. “She left right in the middle of doing the ironing.” “He never finished remodeling the kitchen.” “She only completed half of her education.” “He died before he could get the hole-in-one he always dreamed about.” I guess those things aren’t that important to the One who is Master over life and death, nor is it important to those who are left behind.

Well, no answers today. If I finish this post, I can say that today I wrote. And if Bernie figures out the problem with my checkbook, than I can cross off one more thing on my list. When I comes to success, it is all about perspective.


I recently had the opportunity to attend my first writer’s retreat. I have been to writers conferences which I’ve found helpful and invigorating, but a retreat looked to me like a time go get away and spend large chunks of time working on a manuscript. At home, I struggle terribly with interruptions, some imposed by others, some self-imposed. It is one reason my book took so long to complete. At 74 I feel that the years before me to write are few. It is too late to be a Michener.

There are at least four books yet that I would like to write. I have devised a plan to start a  new book every six months with the hope that, if I work every day, I will be able to complete one before I launch another. A retreat felt like the perfect opportunity to get started on my second book. My publisher alerted me to a retreat being planned by another Beavers Pond writer, Elaine Koyama. She named the experience Retreat2Write. It was to take place in her cabin on a lake less than two hours away. I signed up. It took place the weekend of October 5.

First, let me say, the retreat did provide time to write. But this was just the first of the gifts of Retreat2Write. I will list these gifts as I discovered them.

The first gift was Elaine Koyama herself. I was taken by surprise by such a warm, open, down-to-earth woman. She showed me to my room and chatted happily about the guests who would be arriving in the next hour or two. She told me about herself. She is a writer in the work she does, she told me, but now she wanted to write about her story of a small town girl from Montana that made it big as  a woman in the corporate world. Like me, she had a plan and this retreat was as much for her as for the attendees. But her self-talk was short. She launched quickly into asking questions about my writing. She wanted to know all about my book and about what I was planning to do next. She had many suggestions about marketing my book – good ones. I was soon to learn that marketing is her field of expertise and through the weekend, she was not hesitant to share her gift with the writers. This was the gift that I least expected and one that I desperately needed.

The second gift of the weekend were the writers who attended. There were only five of us. (Another was unable to come at the last minute). Such a diverse group and Elaine moved us quickly into a place where we could be open and trusting of one another. We were diverse in age with me being the oldster and Andy, Elaine’s nephew being the youngest. We were diverse in ethnicity with Elaine and her nephew, Andy, being Japanese and Sonya Native American, Linda and I each Polish and German. We were diverse as writers as well. Two memoirs, a fiction,  a book on recovery and a screen play. What amazed me is the level of insight each brought out of their medium that shined a unique light for the other writers in their work.

The third gift was to me personally. Andy, an actor by trade, offered to perform one chapter of my book, The Memorial of Jesus. The chapters are monologues, friends of Jesus sharing intimate memories of him after his death. The story I chose was a character whom Jesus confronted with the truth of how he had harmed his brother. It was an emotional piece and it was an amazing experience for me as the writer to see it performed.

Elaine plans to repeat Retreat2Write in the future. I will keep my writing friends and readers attune.

Writers at the Great River Regional Library

I had an opportunity to appear at Great River Regional Library in Little Falls today along with other Morrison County writers. I am grateful to Laura Hanson for setting up this opportunity. Laura is the director at the library and brings her writer’s lens to the programs offered for the community. After all, I pointed out to her, behind every book on the shelves, there is a human being that had an idea and worked their heart out to bring a story to life so that people can learn and experience joy in life. How great it is to meet these people!

I am so excited that my book, The Memorial of Jesus, is in the library system. Libraries have been friends to me all my life starting with the little library on Lawrence Avenue in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago. All through my childhood and teen years and in the first half of my married years, I could not have afforded to buy a book, but my opportunity to read was forever nearby. Nowadays, I make a point of buying books from authors from my area especially those I personally know. I will even read a book that I would not normally choose just to support a writer.

This is my second opportunity to appear with other authors to sell my book since it was published in June. The first opportunity was in Hackensack, MN in August. Between the two events, selling only one book would not  be considered a success. This is true if selling a book was one’s only goal. I have already learned that book signings, especially in writer clusters, is not the best for me. There are other places I need to go and some of these are already on the calendar. The real benefit for me was to meet with other writers that I now view as peers. I did not know until now that the challenges of writers is so common among them.

This commonality with other writers is one reason such an event is so meaningful to me, but there is another. Two people who approached my table were writers. One was a teenager who said she felt different from her peers because she loved to read and write so much. “You are not different, but you are definitely unique.” I said. “You just haven’t found your writing pals yet. They are there among the kids you go to school with who, just like you, feel different and alone.” I talked to her about myself as a teen writing stories that I never did anything with. Like her, I felt alone and different. But I loved writing so much, I just kept doing it.

Another person I spoke to was a young man who has a completed story and is now trying to figure out how to get it published. I couldn’t tell how computer savvy he is, though I assume he is much more so than this old lady. I loved encouraging him. I invited both he and the teen to the Great River Writer’s meeting.

There were other connections made that were more heart-to-heart connections than anything else. I spoke to an Ojibwe writer who adapted a children’s book to be more meaningful for native children. I visited with a teacher of English from Pierz who talked about recognizing the seeds of writers in some of his students. One woman was a water-color artist and we shared the meaning of creativity as Spirit moving through us using our gifts as medium.

I truly want people to read Memorial, but I am beginning to think that from a Divine perspective, the book is achieving its purpose in my life without any transfer of money. I shared this idea with my daughter after I got home and she reminded me, “Isn’t the money for the sale of you book intended to help finance the publication of your next book?” Oh, yeah. I remember that now.