Pushing the Edges

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   In writing this blog, it wasn’t until this last week that I thought, perhaps, it would be a good idea to begin a running list of possible topics. Usually I come up with something during the week, some experience I’ve had or something that I’ve struggled with, and I share that, offering suggestions to others who might be experiencing something similar. However, now that I have a list of a handful of topics, I find that one of them fits, and the then there is an email that I received yesterday that really fits what I want to write about.

   Sitting in my favorite coffee joint yesterday, I looked around and seemed to notice, for the first time, the art hanging on the wall. I’m sure you’ve seen something like it, where there are two to ten smaller canvases that are part of a bigger picture, and each is hanging an inch or two apart from its friends? Each little canvas could be a piece by itself, but it makes a bolder statement when hanging with a dozen other little canvases that continue the pattern or enlarge the overall statement that the artist was making. The other thing I noticed was that even the edges of the canvas were painted. I’ve seen this before, and I guess one of the advantages is that it eliminates a frame for the piece. I, for one, can take or leave a frame. I think there is something daring that has been done when an artist uses every millimeter of canvas, including the parts stretched over the wooden frame. I always look to see how exact the colors and lines continue over the side, almost expecting them to bleed onto the wall, as if they were painted where they hang.

   This got me thinking about other artists. Does a sculptor whose medium of choice is granite, ever use wood? Or wander through a junk yard then assemble the interesting pieces that were gathered? What if something they are working on breaks. Would that not be an opportunity to create two spontaneous, perhaps even abstract, sculptures? If a painter began using one particular color scheme, or a landscape, or a fruit bowl, or a portrait, and then, say, spilled a half-glass of water on the canvas, how could they stretch or alter the piece? What about placing a glob of paint in the middle of the canvas, then using one’s fingers to push and pull the material around? The 3-D effect might be interesting. The fingers might have a different story to tell than the brush. And then, after one played in it for a while, smoothing it out, covering it with another color completely, and then using the brushes? I’m not a painter, so perhaps this technique has a particular name. And what if you’re a musician? Always playing classic rock on open mic night at the local pizza place? Why not try blues or country or folk? Or, remake one of the classic rock songs into reggae. There is something about perfecting your craft, making a name for yourself with your own particular style, but then there is real value in pushing the edges of your creativity.

   The second event that sparks this post is the quote I received for recording and producing one of my novels on CD. Because I self-publish, I know how costly the whole production can be. However, I had no idea what, or how much, putting ‘books on tape’ involves. A few people have requested that if I made my novels available through audio, they would purchase it. Okay. I’m willing to give my readers what they’re interested in. With all the digital stuff out there these days, and threats of print books disappearing, I figure the more diverse, the better. If I was part of an up-and-coming rock band, I would need to play all the summer festivals that I could reach within two-days drive from where I live, including all the bars and county fairs along the way to promote and sell enough of the CD’s to break even. Did you know that a novel with 147,000 words (my third one, Of Stars and Secrets) would take 14 discs to produce as an audio? Personally, auditory is not my modality of strength when it comes to learning. I’ve attempted to listen to a story on tape, but within fifteen minutes, I have wandered out of the room or have to call my mind back to the task at hand. Several times. I also know that occasionally I doze off during a guided mediation. So, if I attempted to make it through 14 discs to hear an entire story, it would never happen. One option is to cut out parts of the story. For those who read my novels, you know that if even one page were missing, you’d be confused and lost, which is something a writer never wants to do, purposely, to their reader. The second suggestion was creating a CD with short stories. Now, that might be more doable. It could also allow me to return to manuscript #5 with renewed motivation.

   Whatever your mode that you employ when you create, what would happen if you pushed the edges? Used different colors, a different rhythm, a different material? You could discover something new about your craft, or about yourself. Always the one to take my own suggestions, I’ll be gathering up the short stories that I’ve written and perhaps a theme will emerge, or thinking about a connection, more will push their way to the surface, eager to be recorded on paper, and through sound. Until then, there are poems and short stories to enjoy on my web site www.myjoyenterprises.com

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