Thursday, August 18, 2011

Color My World

Not long ago, I recruited my friend Heather to help me sort and sharpen a large bin full of colored pencils. It's testimony to the kind of friend she is that she didn't say "You're crazy," but simply rolled up her sleeves and got to work. 4 kids X 1 box a year X 12 years = a LOT of pencils. They were all different sizes. The leads kept breaking. It took two hours. Ostensibly, this exercise was on behalf of the children, but I felt a deep sense of personal satisfaction when the task was completed.

Second grade was a game-changer in my day; that was the year we graduated from crayons to colored pencils. I can still see it clearly: seated in the front row of class in a black-and-white checked dress, with a bow in my hair and a gap in my teeth, I gripped that box of pencils until my knuckles were white. Getting your own box was a rite of passage; it meant the grown-ups trusted you with things like fine lines and delicate shading. Colored pencils were liberation and progress.

The world has changed since then. Nowadays, the kindergartners get a package of Sharpies straight off the bat. (What does that tell you about society?) For me though, a colored pencil is still the slender totem of creative possibility. An entire cup full of them, points upward, offers an irresistible urging to do something great. Whatever I can dream, I can draw. And I don't even have to stay inside the lines...

Monday, August 15, 2011

Remember Me?

Mundanity has a way of killing creativity, either in one fell swoop or by degrees. Perhaps that's what compels constant travelers to get out the door, just go, before their souls are swallowed up in a sea of grey. As I survey the everyday scene surrounding me -- dishes, dirty laundry, dog toys -- I try mightily to hold on to that glimmer I felt over the weekend.

At the Travel & Food Writing & Photography Conference I just attended, I basked in the glow of some of the brightest minds in the industry. If you were to ask me why I was there, I'd probably give you the standard-form answer: to further my career as a professional writer and get those creative juices flowing more freely. Obviously, I didn't know what to expect.

Somewhere amidst that crowd of brilliant authors, erudite editors, market-savvy bloggers and fine-eyed photographers, I ran into someone I hadn't seen in awhile and might not even have recognized: Me. "Hey, wow, how are you?" I asked. "Good, good; where have you been?" said Me, "We should get together sometime. You can bring your ukulele." Now, there's an idea.

It wasn't a revelation or a transformational moment. Really, it's just a matter of recognizing and remembering that somewhere in the juggling act, in the barrenness of a busy life, you still have to be true to self. It's good to keep company with like minds. And it's great to parlay your passions into your life's path. "Do what you love and the rest will follow." Who's to argue with that? Not me...