It’s probably not a surprise that I have a lot of art supplies. I have boxes of paper, notebooks, pencils, markers, tape, canvases, paints. I have scissors, brushes, hole punchers, paperclips, rulers. I have everything that I need to make art, except the motivation. I don’t lack ideas. I don’t lack talent or skill.

What I have is depression, which likes to tell me that nothing matters. It likes to tell me that nobody cares about what I make, so why bother. It’s hard not to listen to that voice when it’s been talking to you for your whole life.

Today, I remembered the wish tree I saw in Washington, DC last year. It’s an outdoor art installation by Yoko Ono–a tree with wishes written on paper and hanging from string. The wishes are written by the public, so the art grows and changes each time somebody adds their wish.

I knew I had tags in a box, and I knew I had string in a drawer. But as I was looking for those things, I found a box of sidewalk chalk I bought last summer at the dollar store. I wrapped a piece with masking tape to keep my fingers clean, and then I walked to work, earlier than usual.

The first thing I wrote on the road was KEEP GOING. I live halfway between the beach and uptown, and it’s a very steep hill to climb. I know how hard it is because I do it every day. Then I drew a heart because that’s what you do when you have pink chalk. But as I kept walking, all the words coming to mind sound trite.

All the streets in White Rock have names, and all the streets in Surrey have numbers. As I cross from names to numbers, there’s a water fountain on the corner. A week ago, somebody left a piece of paper with three pennies taped to it. They had written,”Make a wish, and have a good day.” Judging by the handwriting, it was probably a teenage girl.

That piece of paper is gone now, and I don’t know if anybody got their wish. But, inspired by that teenage girl, I wrote, MAKE A WISH, in pink chalk letters around the edge of the water, and then I added a wish of my own: MAKE ART IN PUBLIC.

Emily Carr was born in 1871, the same year British Columbia became a province and joined Canada. She was in her 30s before she started travelling to First Nations villages, before she started her project to paint and document all their totem poles. She was in her 40s when she gave up painting after her project failed to gain any real attention from the art world. Instead, she became a landlady, the dog breeder, a potter, a rug maker, anything she could do to make money.

She was 56 years old when the director of the National Gallery in Ottawa requested her paintings for an exhibit that included the Group of Seven. Emily Carr was 56 when artists she respected told her that her work was good. She was 56 when she started painting again, going deeper into the forest.

When Emily Carr was 66, she had a heart attack and had to stop travelling and painting. She started writing instead. Her first book was published when she was 70, and it won the Governor General’s award. Emily never quite believed that she was good enough. She didn’t have a lot of people in her life who told her that. She was the youngest, and her sisters didn’t seem to understand her. Emily Carr did her own thing anyway.

It’s so easy to believe that it’s too late. But life is so damn long, and you can be a lot of things in that time.

Four Things That Are Working For Me This Week #11

  1. My sleep schedule still needs work, but the one habit that’s sticking is showering and getting dressed first thing after getting up. It’s too easy to laze around all morning in my pyjamas, but if I’m dressed, I’m motivated to find something to do. Maybe even get out of the house.
  2. When I do go out, I’m trying to pack food and not spend money. In my Christmas stocking one year, I received Rubbermaid Take Alongs: segmented plastic containers. They’re perfect for lunch on the go. There’s a big compartment and a small compartment, and you can put anything you want in them because they don’t leak.
  3. Another way I’m saving money is growing my own vegetables. My grandmother started the plants, and then I took over. I have big sunny windowsills, but the containers weren’t thriving there. Now they live on my patio where it’s more shady. The basil hasn’t done well, the parsley didn’t survive my landlord power-washing, but I still have chives, kale, and Swiss chard. (The tomatoes aren’t ready yet.) I pick a few leaves when I come home from work, and then figure out what to make for dinner.
  4. Container gardening is so much easier, and I’ve been thinking a lot about how my best work is tiny work. Short stories, blog posts, zines made with a single sheet of paper. Tiny art, tiny books, tiny yoga?

Sundays have worked for me before. I don’t love a deadline, but I do love creative limits. Making yourself do a thing within the lines. When I made a zine a week, my line was a single sheet of 8.5 x 11 paper, folded into quarters, to make a tiny 8 page book. All I had to do was fill those pages.

I’ve been looking for more podcasts by women, and recently started listening through the archives of Less Than Or Equal. The episode with Adriel Wallick, a game developer, reminded me that I had downloaded Twine ages ago to experiment with interactive fiction. But her Train Jam project really interested me.

A game jam is a group of people making a game with a time limit and a theme. We used to do this kind of thing all the time in my early days on the internet, except we were writing stories with a time limit and a theme. Games are just a different kind of story. The first jam that jumped out at me when I browsed itch.io was the Emojiam, and I was hooked.

So even though I just posted a game last Sunday, and even though today is Wednesday, I had to post something for Emojiam. Long walk at sunrise is board game you can print on a single sheet of 8.5 x 11 paper. It’s also a love story, in case you didn’t know who I am. Go download it, print it, cut it up, play it, and let me know what you think.

I didn’t make this with Father’s Day in mind, but it’s fitting because my dad is the reason I love puzzles and games. Every occasion to buy gifts was an occasion for my brothers and me to try and stump our dad. This Christmas, I got a book of logic puzzles in my stocking, and while we both enjoyed the knight’s tour game, a couple remain unsolved. (Sidenote: that Wikipedia page contains one of the best gifs ever.)

I like an open-ended game, one that doesn’t give me anxiety about getting the right answer. This is Sequoia, a word game. You can play it on graph paper or just draw a 5×5 grid and play anywhere, like tic-tac-toe. The object is to create the most words and longest words possible, using each letter only once in the 25 square grid. The trick is that you have to place the letters in alphabetical order (and choose the best letter to leave out).

Download the PDF for more instructions. You can also find the game on itch.io.

Let’s see if I can make something every Sunday.

There’s probably a good chance that you’re not going to write a life-changing hit song right now, and that stops us from creating.

I needed to hear this about how to write bad songs from Dave Monks, who plays in Tokyo Police Club. This advice is not limited to songwriting. It’s so important to let yourself write badly, draw badly, dance badly. Just do the thing. If it’s not good, the next time will be better.

But sometimes it is good! And you can’t know that when it’s still stuck in your head. You have to get it out, any way possible.

The weekend (or whenever your day off) is the best for this. It’s the time of least pressure, when you can do your own thing, at your own time. Challenge yourself. Find a notebook with empty pages and a brand-new marker, and fill one page. One color, one page. Make marks. Lines, circles, letters. Then do it again. Maybe pick a different color.

When you remove the pressure to make everything into A THING, you’ll find a lot more things are possible.

When you have too many different places to write, sometimes you don’t write at all. I bought some new notebooks last month — a 10 pack of steno pads. I should finish the first one tomorrow, which is two weeks instead of the one month I usually aim for. So I’ve been writing a lot with paper and pencil instead of on my laptop, in Scrivener, or in this text field where I can post it online. It doesn’t matter much to me where the words go just as long as I get them down, just as long as I get them out of my head.

But I’m trying to build a habit here. I think it’s important to blog, especially as a writer. It’s important to get into the habit of sharing your work. Even if you’re not sure it’s good. Especially if you’re not sure if it’s good.

This blog posts might not be the best blog post, in fact, I’m pretty sure it’s not. But it won’t be at the top of the page for very long. I have the chance to make something better tomorrow.

Four Things That Are Working For Me This Week #7

  1. Weekends. Dude, they’re the best.
  2. A whole week off.  I went on a weekend vacation last week–Vancouver to Seattle on a cruise ship, then Seattle to Vancouver on a train. Because I knew I wouldn’t have internet, I decided not to worry. Then I came home and decided to keep not worrying for the rest of the week. Just take a few days off from making stuff. It was nice.
  3. What I ended up doing instead was a lot of thinking about what I want this website to look like. It was last May that I stopped making a zine a week. I liked doing it. I’m proud I did it. But in the end, it wasn’t working for me. I’ve been experimenting these last few months to figure out what’s going to work for me now. Even if it’s not what I’m doing now, none of this has been wasted. I have to do the thing to figure out if I want to do the thing.
  4. Last Sunday was the first time I’d travelled to the US since the election in November. Washington is literally right there across the bay, but the last time I walked around Blaine, I saw a man run across the street with a rifle.  And that was before the election. I wasn’t scared about being in Seattle. I was worried about being in this city I know well and finding it changed. I was worried that I would find a different America than the one I know from my friends, from my travels, from living in a border city. I was so happy to find that Seattle is well. Seattle is fighting. I took so many photos of the words RESIST, PERSIST, DEFY in shopfront windows: appliquéd on calico banners or written on cardboard in black Sharpie. It felt good to be there, instead of watching on the internet from afar. It helped me to know that we’re going to be OK.

Pretty sure I’m officially a vlogger. Four videos today:

  1. May 06
  2. and May 07  are both, inexplicably over 16 minutes long, and I had to wait to upload them at home because the wifi where I was staying this weekend couldn’t handle them. That gave me a chance to drop in a bit of video of Saturday’s hail storm.
  3. May 08 is today’s video, one week after I started.
  4. In between waiting for videos to upload, I pieced together a few tiny clips I made on Saturday’s hike into Follow the Arrow. I spotted the first arrow on a telephone pole beside my bus stop. And then I just kept finding them along the trail. It’s filmed with the front-facing camera, in bright sun, so it’s not perfect, but that’s the point of this project. I’ve been shooting tiny pieces of video since I got my first digital camera in the mid-2000s. It’s time to actually do something with them all. It doesn’t have to be perfect; it just has to be done.

I had a day off yesterday. Usually, I try to go hiking, but the weather wasn’t great. White-grey sky and on/off rain. Instead, I walked up the hill to use my Starbucks reward for a treat and to write a while.

My local Starbucks is next to my local theatre. I had noticed that Maudie was playing, and though I hadn’t planned it, the next showing was in less than an hour.

I fell in love with Maud Lewis when I was living in Halifax. Her paintings are what the critics call “outsider” and “primitive” art, which only means she didn’t go to school to learn. Maud painted with materials she found. She painted because she was stuck in the house. She painted because it made her happy.

I wrote more in a zine I made about the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. I drew her tiny house, which lives in the gallery today for all to visit. She painted flowers on the windows and birds on the walls.

Maud’s life wasn’t all happy. Ethan Hawke is terrifyingly good as her taciturn husband. The whole theatre gasped when Everett hit Maud for talking back. But Maud’s last words to him, before she dies in her hospital bed, are, “I was loved.”

Her paintings are a bright and colourful reminder that it’s not that hard to bring a bit of joy into your life. If you don’t have paint, use markers. If you don’t have canvas, draw on the wall. If you can’t see any flowers through your window, make some. Make joy.