The Happiness Factor

Over the past several days I have returned to journaling.  (Of course, I am using my new pen!)  Instead of crying about my problems, wah-wah-wah, I decided to approach it differently.  I decided to write about my more intellectual and artistic ideas and pursuits, to set out plans for creativity, and to take action.  In and of itself, writing is a creative process that brings a level of satisfaction and contentment that just existing does not.

The “happiness factor” is a key element to life.  Being dissatisfied is a great motivator, but I think the “pursuit of happiness” is better.  Thus, analyzing what produces happiness for me has really been helpful.  My free time – time when I can actually think and do things – is not 7 days a week.  Because I have very long workdays, I can merely function half the week.  This means doing the things life requires, like working, and then coming home, eating dinner, going to bed and getting up to do it all over again.  However, there is a small window of time in the morning, and a small window after work, and using these productively does produce a sense of happiness.  What activities does this entail?

In the morning, I enjoy reading the news and looking through blogs as I drink my morning coffee.  Most mornings I spend writing for about 15 minutes, not whining, but thinking.  Sometimes I edit photos.  In the evening, I am lucky as dinner is on the table.  Some news, some reading, some socializing, some TV – whatever.

The “doing” is helpful.  Creativity.  Writing.  Thinking.  Planning.  I looked back over the past 5 days and analyzed my feelings, my sense of happiness, my sense of satisfaction, and by doing all these things, I realized I have felt happier over the last 5 days than I have for some time.  I have given purpose and meaning, conscientiously, to a rather tight existence.  Saturday, too, I have plans:  a first-time with a local meetup writing group.

Too many times we simply flutter day to day.  I do not want to live like that.  Mortality is for real, and I want to enjoy the time left on my road before it is gone.

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The Power of the Pen

I love pens, particularly fountain pens, especially vintage ones. My collection is largish, but not like some people’s. Modern fountain pens seem just be made for making money, but every now and again a new pen hits the market that is worth considering. For me, I often turn to the Japanese companies of Namiki, Pilot, Sailor, and so on. I love the beauty of lacquer or abalone, the hand-ground gold nibs, but they cost so much! When the Vanishing Point came out, I liked it immediately, but it was too large to be comfortable. And then I came across the Decimo, a slimmer version of the VP, and bought one. In lavender or purple, whatever you want to call it, with a broad nib.

I’ve had the pen for one day.  I’ve used it a lot!  I have used it to copy quotes from my current read – Wuthering Heights – to doodle with, to practice cursive.  My checkbook has new entries in it, with a fountain pen.  Next week’s check-paid bills will be with a fountain pen.  Click!  Write.  Click!  Nib contained.

The physical act of writing is my form of meditation these days.  I write on paper with a pen.  I consider a word, then write.  Yes, I do have Scrivener, I have a Chrome book, and I have scrumptious paper that lets a nib glide across its surface.  I practice my roundhand, my Spencerian, my Palmer cursive.  Ascenders and descenders are considered for slope, looping, length.

Ink is also important.  I have bottles; some vintage, some just more than a few years old.  Colors range from trusty black to iron gall for dip pens to ones with exotic names like Poussiere de Lune.  New inks and extra converters are arriving on Monday.  More paper, too.  I can practice my penmanship and write a story or two.  Maybe I’ll write a friend a letter and seal it with wax, or write secret love letters to my husband and hide them, so he can find them years hence to open when I am gone.  Pen and ink dreams in a mechanized world.

Words, Words, Words

Paper is wonderful! Recently, it has been replaced by the computer, which makes a lot of things easier and convenient, but it is not quite, quite the same.  

For the last several days, off and on, I have been working on a story I started last January, using Scrivener as the editor.  My Chrome book is also seeing use.  And finally, paper and pen when I just don’t want to look at another monitor, or just want to go outdoors and enjoy myself.

While I am not going to go into what I am writing, I do want to explore the process of writing.  As the title of this entry suggests, words are very important.  One of the things I find so irritating in an author is a failure to provide a variety of terms.  For instance, I recall a very popular recent author whose use of the same word within a few sentences has driven me to distraction!  What is wrong with finding a synonym?  In prose, variety is important, but in poetry, the repetition of sound creates a very different pattern, and so the usage of a word numerous times may be very appropriate and artistic.

This is where paper and pen can come to the aid of the computer-produced manuscript.  I like to take what I have written and give it double- or triple-spacing.  Then, stapled together, I take it someplace outside or at a coffee bar and sit with a pen to edit.  I circle, I cross out, I re-write.  In short, I edit with a different perspective because I am seeing the writing on paper.

While I love the convenience of computers and such, I also love the feel of a good pen on a piece of paper.  The experience is physical and sensual and intellectual all at once.  And it is a very real experience – just like we are trying to create for our readers.

Pondering . . .

When I wrote that last entry, in January 2017, I was still on vacation and filled with the idea that, yes, I could do it all.  But I couldn’t.  And I can’t.  Work sucks it out of me, and what little time there is requires things which require little time – snatches of time – to do anything.

Doing nothing is worse than doing a little.  Little things add up.

And it is darn hard to realize this.

I’ve been reading a book called Essentialism by Greg McKeown.  While a lot of it is oriented toward business, it also talks about one’s personal life.  Up front, I don’t care about my job.  I do it because I need to, but it doesn’t thrill me.  It doesn’t leave me cold, either; I really enjoy a lot of it, but my personal, creative life suffers because of my work hours.

And so, part way through the book (I still am reading it), McKeown asks the question:  What is the one thing you are really passionate about?  Yes, the overwhelming question.

For days, I pondered this.  What do I really feel passionate about?  What is at the core of my being?  And what emerged is simply writing.  Writing about everything, physically writing with a pen on paper, at the computer, expressing my thoughts.  And with paper comes paint and ink and colors and words.  And history and stories and ideas and the world pre-PC.

Paper.

Little did I realize when I started this blog that Journey by Paper would be such an appropriate title.

Resources & Supplies

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Over the last few weeks I have been going through the supplies I have on hand and deciding what I need to replace or add.  I’ve added a few new tubes of watercolor, some brushes, and a tablet of paper.  I’ve looked through my books and bought a couple that really interested me.  I added a couple of pencils, some black permanent pigment pens, India ink, rubber masking, and a couple of other things.  Cleaning up and re-organizing the studio helped keep me from adding duplicate materials, as well as discard old things which were no longer functional.  I still need to inventory my 22 x 30 inch sheets of watercolor paper.

Another thing I did was to set up this blog, and go through YouTube in search of how-to videos and subscribe to channels, many of which I have added to the links here.  Making a video is a lot of work and takes time, but watching a video is one of the best learning tools.  You can stop it, start it, watch it again and again.  For me, this is one way I find helps me to master something.

Now, I need to get started at really focusing on this side of my life and do something.  I have laid down some washes and practiced on different papers – this is all good.  The truth is, I’m rather scared of doing this.  The fear of failure is there, and in the back of my mind I hear voices of the past, of comparison, and so on.  All people who pursue the arts at any serious level hear these – but the ones that really, really want it continue despite real or perceived challenges.

Onward!

Diving In

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My New Year’s resolution – intention as one newspaper put it – is to return to art and creativity as a part of my daily life.  Ever since I was a kid, paint and paper and ink have been the big draw.  The biggest problem with me, though, is distractions.  Staying focused on one thing is not easy for me.  The result is what I would like to master is pushed aside as too hard or time-consuming, or by comparing myself to this or that person.  In particular, this applies to watercolors and drawing, but it also applies to so many other areas of my life.

My life style is my main crutch.  I blame it for everything.  My 10-hour work days leave time for little else.  A 30-minute lunch where all I do is stuff food in my face to make it to the next task is another excuse.  So my question to myself is what can I do to change my sense of frustration and of waiting for more time?  More time isn’t coming, that’s for sure.  Each second vanishes before it is even acknowledged.

Art requires thought, but it also requires just diving in and doing.  I tend to get stuck in thought or stuck in doing, but somehow neither alone gives much satisfaction or sense of accomplishment.  The two need to be tied together.  Learning and practicing, thinking and doing, analyzing and trying again – this is the process.

Thus, my resolution:  for the remainder of my holiday break, I will focus on watercolor and drawing.  Once I return to work, my favorite mechanical pencil and a small sketch book, along with my camera, will be with me.  One drawing at lunch.  One photo a day.  Evenings have no guarantee of time, but the long weekends do have that element.

Let’s see where this goes.