I Don’t Know…Ten Whole Dollars?

Death Valley looked like this.

And it looked like this.


My writing station. Yes, that’s a fire extinguisher in the corner. We took a 1987 water-cooled Vanagon to Death Valley; you think we wouldn’t bring a fire extinguisher?

Anyway, for the two mornings we were there, my husband and I split off for Writing time. Or Riding time, depending which one of us you are asking. David would get on his bike at about 7:30 and head out to the gravel road he wanted to explore (and, on Day 2, explore a little further.) And I would get set up at my luxurious writing spa and, as I’m focusing on these days, “do the work.” Day 1 was spent figuring out more about Draft 3 of my MG novel, but Day 2 was for picture books.

Picture books without art notes. I had promised myself I would read each of my PBs out loud, without art notes, to see what…oh, just what came about. And it was good, if you call realizing that what you thought was “done” is so not “done,” but at least the realization comes with ideas and revision possibilities.

Except for on one of the PBs. This one, without the art notes, was kind of a big blank. Not like the other one that needs a strong trip back to the drawing board. At least I don’t think so. This one, I THINK, is asking to be an art-told story, with the pictures carrying the melody and the words bringing in the harmony. (And if that is a TOTALLY failed music metaphor, I really don’t want to know, okay?)

And, of course, I can’t draw.

No, I’m not fantasizing about suddenly becoming a great artist and turning myself into an author-illustrator. Yes, okay, never say never, but that’s about the same odds as never, so it is not the plan. But I started thinking–IF I could at least make myself happy enough with my own drawing ability to at least sketch the art story out on the page, then MAYBE MAYBE MAYBE MAYBE, I could come at what the words need to be doing from a slightly different/new/more productive angle. MAYBE.

So I went to the office supply store to look at sketch books and pencils. Note, I do not say I went to the office supply store to BUY a sketch book and pencil. Because, even as I pulled into the parking lot, even as I stepped through the doors and wove my way through the aisles, I was not ready for that level of commitment.

If I hadn’t just read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, I might have stayed in the car, or backed out of the entrance, or decided not to purchase.

(Side note: Elizabeth’s sister, Catherine Gilbert Murdock is one of my favorite YA writers. Have you read her Dairy Queen books? Maybe the two of them don’t even get along, but I can’t help imagining these late night sessions between the two of them, after everyone else has gone to bed, where they’re like: I don’t know, maybe THIS word is better. I think they’d laugh more if you said THIS. Oh, yeah, that’s PERFECT.)

Okay, okay, back to the office supply store. There I am, acting all cool, looking at the art supplies, pretending that nasty little voice isn’t saying ot me, “You can’t draw. What difference does it make if you like the feel of that paper better than the other. You’ll NEVER fill an entire sketchpad. YOU’RE GOING TO SPEND $10.00 ON ART SUPPLIES?!”

Luckily, thanks to Gilbert of the Big Magic ideas, I am very much in anti-nasty-voice mode. Yes, Gilbert says I should be respectful and kind to the voice, greet it as part of myself and ask it to sit quietly in a corner until it can make an actual positive contribution, but maybe I’m not quite there yet. I’m kind of at the F.U. stage with it. Also, I am remembering that I don’t actually have to judge myself if I buy the tools and don’t use them. I don’t have to judge myself for how WELL I use them. I only had to bring them home and see if I DID use them.

Today, I used them. And I enjoyed them. And I drew something. I drew, and I erased, and I drew, and I erased, and I drew. And it was recognizable. Well, not as a character in the story, even though it started out that way, but as a something. Which felt good.

And THAT, my friends, is the Magic.


  1. I love this! And I’m all for buying art supplies. Even ten dollars worth. And I’m all for being open to playing with them and seeing where it leads you. (That last bit was definitely borrowed from Peter H. Reynolds who is my leading light when it comes to art-ish art.)

    I’m reading Big Magic right now. It’s fabulous! And exciting. And thought-provoking.

    This: “it was recognizable. Well, not as a character in the story, even though it started out that way, but as a something. Which felt good. And THAT, my friends, is the Magic.” Yes. A thousand Yes.


  2. joycemoyerhostetter says:

    Good on you, Becky!


  3. Hooray for drawing magic! I can imagine feeling EXACTLY the same way!


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