Saturday, August 14, 2010

Why I’m writing this Stupid Blog

I never wanted to be a writer. I wanted to be an artist. Hell, I still want to be an artist. I was even an art major for two quarters in college and I wrote my Master’s research paper on measuring artistic ability.

My problem is that I have very little of the artistic ability I was attempting to measure with my research project. I’m relatively creative and I can think of all sorts of art I would like to do, but when pen or paint or glue goes to paper, it doesn’t look much at all like I thought it would. To further exacerbate my dilemma, I have an anemic eye for color and worse, no patience with practice making perfect (or even passable).

I have, however, throughout my life, felt successful when I write. My first writing memory had to do with my mother, who was and still is, although she’s dead, my creative role model. I remember some time in elementary school when I was supposed to write a description of myself, probably one of those stupid writing assignments we teachers love to give at the beginning of each term. My mother suggested, instead of describing who I was and what I liked, that I should address who I
wasn’t and what I didn’t like, something akin to “I’m not a tall willowy blond and I hate brussels sprouts.” At that point, I realized, by writing in a different, quirky way, people would pay attention and remember. It worked! My teacher loved my writing and thought I was a genius.

But I still wanted to be an artist.

The next writing assignment I remember was freshman year in college. I had to take that damned Speech class most everybody has (or at least had) to take. Once again, Mama to the rescue. She talked me into writing and presenting a speech on love. There I was an eighteen year old, having just packed on my freshman thirty with cafeteria food, standing before my peers, including members of the Georgia Football Team, talking about romantic love. And I pulled it off! Well, at least nobody snickered, probably because the big ones in the back were drawing pass plays in their notebooks. Thanks to Mama, I made an A in the course.

I was an art major at the time.

Fast forward some years to my early married life when I wrote what I considered to be a scathing letter to our landlord after Gary, Baby Melissa, and I moved into an apartment that hadn’t been finished. No railings on the stairs, no gate on the fence, no answers to phone calls. After the company received my letter, we were allowed to break our lease. At that point, I came to understand that putting words to paper could pack a punch (and perhaps make people think you're crazy). By that time, I'd given up on art as a profession, but still dabbled in my spare time, painting, pasting, sewing, and for one short season, macramé-ing.

Next came a letter to the editor of the Macon Telegraph about the importance of air conditioning our schools, and suddenly I’d been published. But, although I enjoyed the cool air our referendum offered, I thought no more about writing.

Then there was graduate school and lots of papers to write. For one final exam, I wrote a poem as a response to an essay question, and, although my professor scoffed at me in his grading comments, I passed the test. Another professor told me I should write a humorous column for an education journal, and while I was thrilled, I managed to keep from actually doing anything about it (other than bask for a couple of days).

When I stopped attending graduate school and started teaching it, it occurred to me that I was supposed to be doing scholarly writing in order to earn tenure. What did I know about scholarly writing? I was an artist! So instead, I wrote a couple of things that weren’t scholarly at all but got published, and I was tenured anyway.

While I was working hard at not being scholarly, I also self-published three meant-to-be funny murder mysteries some of my friends seemed to like. The most important part of that process was that I was able to create a main character who was guess what? an artist, and a crazy one at that. I finally felt like an artist myself as I painted word pictures of all the things I would have created if only I’d had the talent or the nerve. Through writing, I was able to become my main character, Annabelle. Or maybe I'd always
been Annabelle and whatever talents I have were just surfacing in a different way.

After moving to Atlanta five years ago, I didn’t write anything at all, other than lesson plans and sentences on the board for my second graders. It took turning 60 and driving down an Atlanta one-way street the wrong way to get me writing again. I suddenly wanted to do something to explain myself, to make me believe I wasn’t losing all my faculties.

I had no idea where this blog journey would lead me. The path has taken me to new friends, renewed relationships with old friends, more thoughtful thinking, puked-up memories, and a better understanding of what I can expect as I move on through this life. The great thing about a blog is the reciprocity of it all, the conversations that occur between bloggers and responders, and the great mutual support system the blogosphere provides. It's definitely not a one way street as I've received more than I've given: laughs, tender moments, good advice, great concern, and an improved personal understanding of our big old world.

And so, I think I'll keep on blogging. But first, I'm going to get out my watercolors and paint something too aesthetically benign to be even ugly. Because I am, after all, an artist.


Olga said...

I believe good writers and story tellers do paint a picture with words. I think you can safely refer to yourself as an artist. But, also, good for you to keep trying other art forms. Even if it doesn't work out as planned, you'll have some new material to write about.

marciamayo said...

Good point, Olga.

Anonymous said...

Actually I just say ditto to what Olga said. I do think good writers and storytellers are artists and I do think you should keep trying other things. You never can tell what will "take a holt of you".

Anonymous said...

I forgot to say that I loved the way you told us about your artist self. Great.

Wisewebwoman said...

Artists dabble in all media, Marcia, I consider myself an artist and writing is an expression of that. I haven't dabbled in paint in a while but I enjoy the picture taking and poems I write for cards.
I love fabric and textures - as all artists do.
What I'm trying to say is that we can't be pigeon-holed. We are artists. Period.
Artists of words.

Jean Campbell said...

My Mama worked for the Government during the Great Depression of the 1930s. She used to say, "When you write a letter of complaint write it as dumb as you know how." It took me forty years to figure out what she meant. "Write in simple sentences that any fool can understand."

marciamayo said...

NellJean, who are you and where do you live in southwest Georgia? I'm heading to your blogs to find out.

Kate said...

Oh, Marcia; I can SO relate. After crying thru the finale of SYTYCD (So You Think You Can Dance), I know I was 'meant' to be a dancer.
Do I dance? Only during the commercials! And anytime ANYone asks...and in this tiny backwater, that ain't often!

I'm delighted that writing calls you, or we would not be the classy virtual friends we are.
As for art - I agree with other commenters: your words are beautiful works of art. Play around in all the other mediums you want, but don't stop this one.

marciamayo said...

Thanks Kate. From now on, when I dab paint to paper, I will think of you dancing.

Arkansas Patti said...

Of course you are an artist. Having someone buy your work does not define an artist. If you do, you are.
The same way with writing. I am not published but I am still a "writer" because I write even though is it only a blog.
Really enjoyed the post and could relate.

One Woman's Journey - a journal being written from Woodhaven - her cottage in the woods. said...

What you wrote about "blogging" is me.
I call it a journal or online diary. It was for my grandchildren so they would know a little more about their grandma. But so many comments and new friends - it has opened up a new world. I found you on Ronni's site.

Freda said...

You blog therefore you are a writer...... and you make wonderful word pictures, so keep encouraging others the way you do and help us all to understand each others' ambitions and dreams. Every Blessing

Friko said...

Of course, you have to keep on blogging. This writing lark is what you are meant to do, the artistic bit can happen in your dreams, or spare time.
You can do both, that's obvious.

marciamayo said...

Dear friends, thanks for the kind words as usual, but then again, you had to offer them as I was virtually (yes, this time actually virtually) begging for them when I wrote about your support. What a close-knit cross oceanic friendship we all have.

Homerun Hatch Family News said...

I've always admired your writing. You are an eloquent storyteller and your voice comes through. I agree that writing is an art. You've got it girl!!

Anonymous said...

...and I always just wanted to be a writer.

Cile said...

I'm not sure I can define exactly what an artist actually IS! I don't really care if you are an artist or a writer by definition but I find you sincere and gifted for storytelling. So I'm interested in what you have to say. What ever medium you choose, it is the Marcia Mayo that shines through that makes it interesting.

Kate said...

Hi, Marcia. I tried the 'follow' thing only to discover everything is linking to an old old Blogger blog. I'm still on Typepad; this comment should link to the right place... the rest will be fixed soonest... :)

And btw, Night Monkey has it right!

Batya said...

Whenever I happen upon an intellectual article or someone attempts to draw me into a discussion on "What Is Art?" I run, I blow the trumpet and charge or just close my eyes and become invisible. Maybe art is an expression that touches another being, makes one think, wonder, question. I'm a visual person. I think in pictures flitting around between all those neurons. I see the things you write and they are full of color and texture and reflect who you are. I laugh, I have tears, I feel gratitude in sharing a connection with you. As one who is and always has been a person who cannot draw the shortest straight line with a ruler, I am in awe of anyone who puts brush to paper. It's magic to me. Just like reading your beautifully sculpted words.

mike kirkeberg said...

Keep writing. This is refreshing, good stuff.

ygbsmgc said...

I have seen your art, and while you are a better writer, you are and will be an artist. Paper bags on the walls are a clue. Damn I just saw a guy comment!! I am not the only one; nuts

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