Thursday, October 26, 2017

Turnings: Life's dizzying array of choices

Sometimes I make myself dizzy, spinning this way and that.

The two years I spent in Grass Valley were dedicated to my life as a novelist. I studied, wrote and lived the life of my characters, loving every minute of it. As I approached my move to Mexico, I had one novel in the final revision stage, a follow-on, well-begun novel that was going to be set in San Miguel de Allende, and a 55,000 word novel that I had drafted during NaNoWriMo. (There's still time to sign up ... go for it if it interests you at all.)

I wrote every day, forked out a bunch of money for a brilliant, hands-on coaching course, went to writing conferences, forced myself to meet agents, and, in general, was living the life of a budding novelist. Life in Mexico and a long fiction series about the adventures of an older woman were completely mapped out. I was ready to move on, settle down, and get cracking.

What do they say about the best laid plans? 

She is definitely laughing.

Even the walls talk to me here.
When I arrived in Mexico, however, the only thing I wanted to do was take pictures. “That’s normal,” I thought. “I’m in a new place filled with color, culture and curious new sights.” I thought I’d get back to work soon.

Didn’t happen. My camera was filling me with joy. When  an online photo artistry course came along, I started making digital art again … something that I had not done for the two years I was in Grass Valley while focusing on fiction.

Love bloomed. I was making art from photos, joining the local art society, exhibiting in a show, going deeper and deeper into art and photography. I even sold a couple of pieces. I didn’t want to write … well, blogs maybe, but not the marathon of a novel. I was done with being a writer; I was now an artist.

Of course, there is a however. I started hanging out with a poet/writer, reading our writings to each other. Soon, we invited another writer to join us and called ourselves a salon. I was forced to dig up writings from my past in order to have something to read. Reading them was like having tea with old friends. Plus, part of our process was to do a 5-minute free write to get us warmed up. Strange stuff started showing up, tapping me on the shoulder, saying, “Are you sure you’re done with writing?"

“Yes, I am done. I want to make art, make images, delve into new worlds through those images. Writing a novel is too much work, too black and white. I want color."


“Okay? That’s it? Just okay?"

          Your circus; your monkey. Do what you want.

“Okay. I will."

You would think by now that I wouldn’t be surprised by turns in the road. But, unfortunately, they still catch me off guard. I’m cruising along. The road is going straight. I’m lined up with the road. I can sit back and coast for awhile. You know what’s coming, don’t you?

"New World"
Shortly after arriving in Mexico as I was deep into the wonder of capturing images of all the new things I was seeing, an ad for an online photo artistry course appeared in my inbox. I signed up immediately and started making art every day.
I was in a new world and it was heaven, so when a bigger, better course was offered, I signed up for that, too. Suddenly, I was part of a community of photo artists. I had found my tribe. I was on the right path. The road was straight and I didn’t have to worry about curves.


Without warning, the road forked. I could continue on, or I could take the road less travelled. Damn Frost, anyway!

I thought I’d just peek to see where the fork was headed. Within a few minutes, I saw the signs, spread out over the hills and valleys like the old Burma Shave messages:

Like stories?

Put your images

together with your words.

Tell your story

your way.

Quill and



Quill and Camera is the site and new offering of Sebastian Michaels, known as the father of digital art and the developer of Awake, the photo artistry program I’m so delighted with. Now he is creating a new course for artists who want to write (or vice versa) and is offering it to all of us in his Awake students for free.

I couldn’t open the first lesson fast enough. So, here I am spinning again. This time, though, the colors are lovely and I don’t feel dizzy. I feel like I’ve been handed an E-ticket. (For those of you not old enough to know about things like E-tickets, they were the golden passes to the best rides at Disneyland.)
 Interesting ... one of the first pieces of digital art I made after joining the Awake program was called, "Coming Together." It now seems like a foreshadowing.

Bring it on, World … let’s play!
Coming Together


  1. life amazing, just go with the flow and enjoy.

  2. I love reading about your journey Joyce. I'm pulled in the same manner except that I'm not a writer so not able to share the eloquence of the lovely spinning that keeps me so unfocused and distracted as I run have another "aha"moment. I'm enjoying your art and writing!

    1. Thanks, Kathy ... living a creative life is a gift beyond what I ever thought possible. Glad we're on the journey together.

  3. I can relate more than you can imagine Joyce.
    As a sophomore in High School, I found I could get straight A's in every class but English. I was even the best of friends with our English teacher. We went on after school backpacking hikes into the local mountains and climbed every mountain peak available on the weekends. But that did not stop him from giving me an F in each class I had with him. I just signed off the occurrence to the fact that the class was in the late afternoon and along with a small group of us who owned our own cars, headed to the beach to go surfing during lunch, and never made it back to school. This went on for two years. Writing anything since makes me physically sick to my stomach.
    What I found happiness and rewards in was my art. The art my Mother had forbid me to do because I would die a starving artist. After being drafted by President Nixon and living through the Vietnam War, along with getting a GED, I was free to go back to the S.Cal. beaches. After joining a local college looking for a Major in Arts, I was told to give up the idea or become what my mother had said I would be. A starving artist.
    I didn't give up without a fight. I excelled in all my Art classes and even tutored other students along with becoming an assistant teacher. I found work with local banks and architects doing architectural renderings, until the crash of the 1980's building industry and the development of computer created renderings.
    I soon joined the accepted lifestyle of being marriade and raising a couple children by working 12-18 hours a day and 6-7 days a week.This made the family very happy but I was lacking something. After 16 years, the mariage fell apart as I was never around to share in all I had worked so hard for.
    Fast forward to the present and I am so happy to say I have found a lifestyle, a Mentor and a photo-artistic style of creating art that I love with all my heart. I finally feel happy calling myself an Artist. My income which comes from selling my works to seasonal tourists each year has increased greatly and with continued growth in what I am learning, the future looks very bright. Or so it did!

    1. Steve ... sorry you had to go through so much to get where you are and hope you continue to love what you're doing.

  4. Now the mentor is changing to adding words and phrases to our work and I feel as if I have been shot in the back, and left to be a starving artist.

  5. Steven ... I don't think this course will be for everyone ... or even should be. You're doing fine on your own path. This is just such a high for me because it holds the potential for weaving two things together that I truly love. Love being in the community with you.

  6. I can't imagine writing ever being done with you Joyce -- it comes from your bones, pours out through your veins.

    I'm so excited to follow alone! <3

  7. I love following your path Joyce. I'm currently trying to put together my photography Fellowship panel so haven't paid as much attention to AWAKE as I would have liked the past month or so and the lure of adding writing to it is one that I dare not look at just yet :)

    I'll follow it with excitement and trepidation through your eyes until I get there x