29 September 2016

The Finishing Line

I'm getting excited about my book, as some of you are aware. It's a quirky story and it's all mine. I am loving how it is coming along. I wish I could say I finished it while I was up at my friends' cabin last week, but I did not quite do so. It's OK, though. I'm close.

I titled this post "The Finishing Line" because I am closing in on the finish, which feels familiar, like the bottom of a ski run that I have to navigate carefully because I've picked up speed but the exit of the run is fairly narrow. I see the line I need to take, which helps me see how fast to go now so I don't miss anything along the way but I get there quickly. 

While I'm undertaking my first-ever book-finishing project (and am quite sure there are many more to follow), I am also enjoying the process of making watercolor paintings, as some of you are also aware. 

I find it so delightful to sit down and say, "I am going to make a painting" and have it be finished in one session (maybe two). There's a moment at which I say, "This is finished," and it is true: it is good enough, and I can let go of it. I must confess this hasn't happened yet with that big watercolor of the sunset over the water, but I'm only one or two more painting sessions from finished with that one.

Elk herd #1 by Risë Keller


Also, I have been working from a recent epiphany: If I think of finishing a project as a project in and of itself, I am more likely to finish it. 

I know, that sounds kind of crazy, but somehow I feel I've given myself a mental short-cut or weird trick (Eureka! The one weird trick! I've found it and must share it on the internets!) for making the task of finishing my novel seem finite. 

And painting is part of this process, I am quickly becoming convinced. 

Elk herd #2 by Risë Keller

I picked up my paintbrushes, paint, and paper recently when I realized I couldn't not do so -- I had actually started carrying them around from place to place with me. If that wasn't a hint or clue as to what I should do next I don't know what it was. 

But do you know what else was happening when I picked up my paintbrushes? My inner critic was yelling at me about "not writing." I heard its snarky tone: "You should be writing, not painting." 

That only made me feel rebellious. "No one likes to be told what to do," I like to say (it's one of the things that can make being an editor a challenging occupation, heh heh). I don't even like it when I tell myself what to do!

So I put on some music to drown out that nagging voice and sat down with my simple painting kit and started making paintings.

I loved the meditative feeling and the results. I loved the feeling I have something to share with people. I feel the same way when I cook, and when I made a batch of concord grape jam from our bountiful backyard harvest.

Fall grape harvest, photo by Risë Keller


And I loved putting down my brush after an hour or two and saying, "OK, that's enough. I'm finished!" 

Finite Color Theory #1 by Risë Keller




I think I let my brain trick me into practicing the act of saying "The Thing is done" often -- and with something that felt like the stakes were low in putting the Thing out there. Because writing, for me, has been such a high-stakes Thing! And when working on a book, even if it's not a very long book, it feels like a Big Thing -- even more so if it is a First Book. I have had sections of this book that have had problems that I know need to be fixed for ages, and am just now working those things out or through. So my book is still not "finished" in the sense that the whole thing is complete at once. 

Yet the Thing that is my First Book is absolutely begging me to put it out there! And since this novel and this process are all about trusting the inner voice, and because I like where all this is going, I am going to start doing just that. 

So keep watching this space! Things are happening! Things are in the pipeline! And paintings!

More very soon!

1 comment:

Nicole Barchilon Frank said...

I'm looking forwrd to reading your wonderful book, and I love that you've found another creative way to express yourself. The two forms are clearly a beautiful pairing and the idea that one has to "write" or "paint" or anything exclusively is clearly false. It's all creative firing of neurons and magic making. Your prose will be full of color as a result and sometimes vision comes from doing somethign totally different. Thanks for sharing your process, art and thoughts!