Saturday, October 03, 2015

Chicken by Chicken: The End of the Long Dark Night.

It's October and time for Chicken by Chicken. This is going to a long post. I will also post about my fun Halloween chicken project at the end. I've been doodling chickens for years. They cheer me up. This past year has needed a lot of cheer.

I joined the Presbyterian church recently, and have been reading The Book of Confessions. It's a book that affirms basic Christian truths. It's the response of this denomination of Christians when it has been blindsided with confusing and destructive ideas.

So here is my history. For the past year my poor noggin' failed me. It's connected to my work. Here is the deal: you fail much as a writer. It is part of the gig. But a dark cloud came over me last year and just would not budge. I never thought my work would fail. Church, yes. Friends and family, yes. Body, yes. Circumstances, yes. But never my work. A friend told me once that my work is what keeps me floating above it all. Well, my work sank, and I sank like a stone in a deep ocean.  I headed to the doctor and, yes, learned I was suffering from straight out major depression.

My thoughts were not about taking my life or even dying. This was all about failing at my life's work. Here's the deal, good writers get paid for their hard work. Their books sell. I put out a book as dear to me and with as much of my soul as I could on a page, PLUMB CRAZY, and the result was no one cared. I sold less than a hundred copies.The publishing house cancelled my contract. Then, I began submitting a book called PROFIT that I believed was the best thing I'd ever put to a page. I had one partial request, and the agent never got back to me. Everyone else ignored my submissions.

Here's the painful litany: Fool. Idiot. Stupid. These words branded me. All those people who said you were full of it for wanting to be a writer, they were right. No one cares. You can't write a single word that anyone cares about. All the people who have passed on you, they just didn't want you to know that your work is substandard and will not rise. You are irrelevant. The success of reaching others and making a difference in this world. The dream you would be able to make a modest living at this, over. You could have worked for real all these years and your kids wouldn't be pulling out loans to get college educations. You messed up your whole life and there are no do overs.  You chased a dream, and nada. You are a freaking failure. (It's okay, folks, these words don't burn into me like hot coals any more.)

This has been hard on so many levels. My mother suffered major depression when I was a teen. She didn't really get over it until I went to college.We had no healthcare when I was kid, so mom just suffered. Thankfully, that is not my story, but even good doctors can't wave a magic wand to make me better. It's been a long road this past year. It has been terrifying.

Depression feels like a band is tied around my waist, tight and painful. It's like being plated with metal armor that you can't take off. It like living in darkness. My art has suffered. I've thought about giving it up. Another choice mom made. Man, this has been a mess. Still, I continued to move forward, but my arms were heavy like led weights, my stomach ached, and my poor brain just sank into a pit. I cried more tears last year than I ever have in my life. I'd be standing in line at the grocery store and realize my face was wet with tears. Oh, why am I at the grocery story when every movement is agony?  I refused to stop functioning through this pain. I wiped the tears and moved to the next thing on the list. I wrote a lot of lists last year.

So here is the journey. I got clinical help, and I worked on seeking goodness. I had to let some things go. I cut down on the writing events. I shoved aside the novels for almost six months and worked on picture books. It was a struggle to write one word and that is the whole picture book game. I left the church I was attending. I'd been going there for almost five years and didn't really know anyone. This was no longer acceptable. I found a church that was more open to ideas and people with differences. I planted a tree.  I hugged the cats. I wrote my lists and drew my chickens.  Silly chickens make me laugh, and I love to laugh. I taught teens who to write through a summer program TEENS Publish at the library (no pay). Gosh, I loved those young writers, so full of passion and dreams. BTW, this was a totally unprofessional act, I know, but it brought some happiness to my heart and mind, and this year happiness has been worth more than all the gold in California.

I am coming out of the long dark night. I'm working again. The dips aren't as deep. Positive thoughts are back.  I still have a ways to go, but I am hopeful. Finally my  book  CHICKENS DO NOT TAKE OVER HALLOWEEN  is for sale. I was so blessed by the silliness of this book. I hope that it blesses a few of you. I will be back next week with more confessions, chicken by chicken.

Here is a doodle for you.  It's a picture from the Chicken book.

A quote for your pocket: There may be a great fire in our hearts, yet no one ever comes to warm himself at it, and the passers-by see only a wisp of smoke. Vincent Van Gogh

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Plenty of Margins

Hi folks, fall is upon us. My husband Tim is going on an scientific expedition with JOIDES Resolution for the next two months. This is the link to his blog.  He is flying to Darwin, Australia today. I will hold down the home front for the next two months. I have all kinds of mayhem planned for this time period. I just released THE CHICKENS DO NOT TAKE OVER HALLOWEEN with Caney Creek Books.  I hope that you give this a peep.

This week I will chat about the fab-ness of creating this book. Doodling Chickens is all about play for me. It's also about the love of the imperfect.  I have grown weary of machined edges of all children's art in these days.  There is a choking perfection in children's book making these days that leaves me cold. I am still thinking about the good times with Mr. Rodgers when he would dig a hole in sand, pour water in, and then watch the water disappear. You know, for kids.

Return to your inner child this week. Take some time to play. If you have some children, all the better. Blow bubbles, play cars, pretend to be dinosaurs...whatever floats your boat. Staying close to your early years opens up your work. Believe the impossible things. Don't listen to the voices that say no. Reconnect with the wonder of days. Reconnect with silly. We grown-ups do tend toward the deep waters of serious. Come with me and splash in the shallows for a while.

Don't orchestrate everything. Leave plenty of margins in your life. Be kind to yourself. The child-self forgives easily,is up for new things, and is open to new friends. May your days be filled with laughter. May you find surprising twists and turns in your plots. May your life be filled with sweetness, health, and peace.

THE CHICKENS DO NOT TAKE OVER HALLOWEEN is all about homemade childhood. I had fun making this book, and I hope that fun spills into your life.

Buy the THE CHICKENS DO NOT TAKE OVER HALLOWEEN written and illustrated by Molly Blaisdell on Amazon for $7.99. (Way more awesome than a Halloween card.)

Follow The Chickens on Facebook. I will be posting a new chicken doodle every day in October.

Here is a doodle for you. Spanish Girl

Here is a quote for you.

Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood. Mr. Rogers

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Unexplored Country

Hi, folks. This has been my unfortunate refrain for a while: my heart aches. I've worked hard as a creative person and believe I have little to show for it. It's tough when the lowliest worker makes more than me. For sure, I've made mistakes on my creative journey, and those mistakes have cost me, but I have always believed my gift would make a place for me. Instead, I've found shut doors. This has led to more than a few nights, sitting in my rocking chair and staring off into the dark night.

Here is a mystery that is greater than me. Once there was man named Micah--he was my kind of person, against unjust leaders, a defender of the rights of the poor, and a believer in social justice. He lived over 500 years B.C.E. ago, and yet his words connect to my experience.  Here is his thought, "Though I sit in darkness the Lord will be light." I'm an American, so "Lord" isn't one my favorite words, we are not the Lord and King crowd. I recognize this Lord as the "Everlasting Intelligence" or "The Maker of the Immovable Rules" or the Heart of the Universe. When I don't know, the Heart of the Universe knows. 

It's strange how light will slip into your soul in the dark night. In the midst of tough times, hope finds me. I find myself dusting myself off, and, as if I'm some mythical creature, I feel myself rising. This season has been a place of darkness for me, and yet I look up in the night and see the infinity of stars. Light always finds its way into the dark corners. There are no words to how this comforts me. I feel drawn into the light. 

What is my response to this light? Light illuminates the terrain. It frees me to move forward. As an artist, I want to build new walls and pour histories into them. I can see the ground now and can see the best places to put the walls. For me, writing is an imagined history that is as real as any history. My imaginary wings are spreading. I see far off seas and the hint of unknown mountains. I have held myself back but now I must extend my boundaries. What will I find in the unexplored country? 

I hope that you are comforted by this. The light will find you where ever you are. I am sure of this.  I will be back next week with more reflections. 

Here is a doodle for you. Waterlilies.

Good news if this is you:

Micah 4:6 ...I will gather the lame; I will assemble the exiles and those I have brought to grief. I will make the lame my remnant,...

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Many Waters

Hi folks, storytelling is a courageous act. All art is courageous. This makes me think of all the waters we face in life. It takes a lot of courage to live. We experience droughts, floods, storms, and more. It takes vast courage to translate those experiences into art that will lend courage to others. Shock value. Sentimentality. Satire. Succor. Self. Our response to many waters shows up in our art.

We have all been in deep waters. There are days when life is just over our heads. We can't breathe or find ground. We sink or swim. These places are where everything we want is just beyond our reach. The deep waters test our mettle. It's also the place we learn to float. The deep waters are where friendships are forged. This is where we learn. Is your work shallow?  Bring in your deep water experiences.

At other times, we wander into in stagnant waters. In these brackish places time seems to slow. Will anything ever change? Will we ever find our way?  Oh, if we could be someone else. Oh, if we only we could be in the middle of it all. How does anything great come out of this unchanging suburbia? Stagnant waters are full of questions and doubt. They birth tenacity in us and bring us gifts of patience, reinvention, and courageousness. Ask your questions and dig deeper. See what happens to your art.

Sometimes, the waters rage and we must bail the boat. We are tossed around and have no idea if we will survive. We can't see clearly. We can't hear anything but the roar. We don't have control in the raging storm. We are helpless,often injured within and without. Raging waters brings us to new places against our wills. These storms stay very present with us long after they are gone. Our survival after theses storms is our story. Don't be frightened by upheaval. Raging waters bring evolution. Evolve.

Here is a quote from the Song of Solomon in the Bible: Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away. I think great writing is about giving words to the many waters that have not quenched the love in our hearts. Think about the waters you have gone through. Let those experiences guide your work.

Here is a doodle.

Water is the driving force of all nature. Leonardo Di Vinci

Saturday, September 05, 2015

A Private Journey

Hi folks,  We all have our loads of baggage. It's rare for someone to reach the lofty age of 50 without some extra baggage piled on. Most people have baggage by age 10. It is painful to me when people act like their life has not happened. The idea that we must jump around and quote positive thinking statements, refusing to feel anything but good vibrations makes me cringe. Though I love good vibrations, I want to feel everything. Whatever I can feel, I want to feel.

I do not fear the depths of sorrow. This feeling is part of me. Sadness. Yep. Anger. Yep. Agony. Yep. Striated in with all that, is pain and then happiness. Silliness. Peace. Joy. Love. A myriad of shades and colors of feeling are out there. My emotional story is just as complex as any rich soil. When you refuse your feelings, you are making yourself an arid or, even worse, sterile dirt. Embracing all of who you will help you share a better story. Don't expect anyone to exactly understand this need to experience your full range of emotions. This will be a private journey.  

It is important to feel as an artist. Every time you shove something under the rug, you shove some of your story under that rug too. Live your life this way. Air things.  Scribble in your journal. Record yourself. Play that music. Head over to your psychologist. Try confessing to a minister. Whatever gets the stuff hidden out, do it. The best artists have to keep in touch with their white hot centers with all the contradictions and confusion. They also have to think deeply, So stick your head in those clouds and see what dreams may come.  Our thoughts and our emotions are intertwined like the chemicals in DNA. Let them mix together.

Dig into your emotional story. Search out the shades of your emotions. Feel them, and they will bleed into your work. Feelings just do that. 

I will be back next week with more of the "Stuff" that makes good art happen.   

Here is a doodle.

Quote for your pocket. 

What your heart thinks great is great. The soul's response is always right. Ralph Waldo Emerson