Show, Don’t Tell

A few months ago, while browsing the magazine section of Borders, I saw the coverline: “365 Days of Being 30.” At first I thought, “Been there, done that, don’t need to read about it.”

But I was intrigued.

The magazine was Art Journaling, which I normally don’t read because, quite honestly, I can’t even draw a round circle. Art is not my thing.

But as I’ve previously mentioned, I had lost my creative mojo, not typing a new, interesting word in ages, and I was eager to delve into anything that made me feel even the slightest imaginative tingle.

The story to which I’d been drawn was about Erin Kenepp, a mixed media artist and art therapist from California ( who had decided to celebrate her 30th birthday by creating art every day for a year. As anyone who has ever attempted to do anything even remotely creative will tell you, creating every day is a HUGE undertaking.

Real art by Erin Kenepp, an actual skilled artist

According to the story, she had mixed feelings about turning 30 and she decided to document her 30th year with an open art journal.

It got me thinking. One of the cardinal rules of creative writing is to “show, don’t tell.” In other words, don’t write, “Jane is happy.” Make Jane do a backflip that expresses her happiness.

Maybe I was in a state of permanent writer’s block because I had told too much and needed to start showing.

Here’s the difference between me and Erin Kenepp: she’s an artist, I’m not.

Here’s what we have in common: we wanted to document a milestone in our lives; in my case, my 40th year.

Erin’s got art skills. I do not. Therefore, I’m not limiting myself to making visual art.  But I did go out and buy a spiral-bound sketchbook and I’ve started “doing” something in it every day–writing letters and lists to my future self, designing the cover of the NaNoWriMo novel I’ll be writing next month, imitating a Georgia O’Keeffe painting (but not very well).

I pretend to be artistic and go to craft stores and art supply shops and buy cool papers and pencils and watercolor crayons and oil paints and brushes and calligraphy pens, and just about every day I do whatever comes naturally on the next blank page.

It’s only been two weeks, but I’ve surprised myself at some of the things I’ve done so far. Secure in the knowledge that none of you will ever see one page of that journal (unless I choose to share it), I’m free to try anything I want to try. Some days it’s all about a particular color, sometimes I actually try to draw something that is emblematic of the day, and sometimes I just make a list (surprising, I know) in colored pens.

Most importantly, I can pretend I’m artistic. By doing that, I’ve really opened up my thoughts to new ways of thinking, processing, and executing, and believe it or not, I’ve already seen it in the things I’ve been writing.

I’m not making gallery-worthy art, but that’s not the point. And I can’t guarantee that you will ever see ANYTHING I make in my “365 Days of Being 40” journal on this blog. But I can thank Erin Kenepp for inspiring me to adapt her idea and make it my own. I encourage you to do the same….

Who knows–if you show me yours, maybe I’ll show you mine.

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6 Responses to Show, Don’t Tell

  1. erin says:

    thank you for this post, I just found it online!

  2. simplytrece says:

    I love this!! I can so relate to not being “artistic” – but YOU are a WRITER – which is a verbal artist. I relate so well to oing out and getting ‘art-y’ stuff; took me awhile to realize that just OWNING it didn’t make me an artist.Sigh. . . But I have started paying attention to what I like, art-wise and trying to copy styles I find pleasing. I will always be a ‘words first’ girl, but hopefully I am learning to branch out. I have declared 2011 to be my year to RELEASE my inner artist!

    • My “drawing” and “art” is still awful, but it’s still fun to play with markers and crayons and pencils! :0)

      • simplytrece says:

        Yes it is. And I am having fun discovering what art I like, vs. art I really don’t. Flick’r is fun with that. Sometimes I just go there and page thru a group, looking for ideas!! But then the time comes to get off my butt and MAKE SOME ART!! Which I need to do today!

  3. iHanna says:

    What a great and inspiring post this is! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Isn’t that what we all do? Pretend to be – until we are or at least feel like we are! I know I do.

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