I've been painting a lot
Have you developed or revisited any pandemic hobbies?
My next project was planning our move across the country, from New Orleans to Berkeley.
After we settled in, I was on the road to a promotion (which happened), and I also recorded a bunch of film footage (one poetry film, one documentary profile), but I have completely fallen on my face as an editor, so it's all sitting in a metaphorical vault.
After failing to learn Adobe Premiere Pro, once again my focus shifted—this time, to painting.
Painting has been fucking amazing. I used to paint in high school, mostly acrylic and watercolor. I used to paint objects, too. I painted my bike, my classical guitar, and random household goods. I still have a few relics from those days.
So when I decided to order paint, canvas, and brushes, I already knew exactly what I was looking for. It had been over 10 years. It was actually a hobby I picked up during my time in a mental hospital in high school. It was one of our teen ward group activities.
(Sidebar: In a way, being in a mental hospital is like being in lockdown. You have a lot of free time to occupy. You're isolated from the outside world. Most of your interactions are limited to the people in your immediate vicinity or your therapist.)
But back to painting—picking it up came so naturally. Since, I've been painting a lot of abstracts. I haven't done any larger pieces yet. My focus has been honing my skills on smaller canvas boards. The bigger canvases are still sitting in my closet. I've been playing around with color and composition. As a photographer and filmmaker, a lot of those composition skills have been easily transferred to abstract painting.
Most of all, though, it has felt like pure freedom. It's like being a child and playing. I have such a rich, dense writing education, that at times I become preoccupied with perfection—perfectionism feels directly opposed to freedom.
That factor is what stunts my writing the most. There's also a lot of fear of failure, since I've been trained around so many 'career poets' who I simultaneously admire and am intimidated by.
By contrast, I have no stake in the outcome of my paintings. At best, I'll post them on my portfolio or they'll decorate my house. Maybe some will be gifted to close friends. That's about it. Poetry is different for me. I want to write well, and I want to get my work published.
I think there is a lot to learn about my writing from the process of creating a painting. I hope to adopt those lessons in freedom and transfer them to my writing.
But fuck, writing can be challenging. It's not the writing, but rather plumbing one's own depths, facing one's own shadow. I've been doing that in my meditation practice, but it's so vulnerable to think about anyone seeing it.
I have been writing a lot, but I haven't found any public homes for my work because of the level of vulnerability. I don't even like being on social media anymore because I've been enjoying my privacy.
I've recently attended several writing workshops. It is something that feeds my soul, yet for a long time it felt so inaccessible. I have always struggled with burnout from working too hard at jobs, and I also actively avoid interacting with strangers, which always made it an easy decision to avoid in-person workshops.
Now with everything on Zoom, I could suddenly attend numerous workshops across the country. So far this year, I've taken workshops with Echo Park Film Center, Kundiman, (W)rites of Passage, and (soon to come) The Home School—all incredible organizations to support, by the way.
I also started film photography on a old 2002 point-and-shoot and got into the extremely nerdy hobby of mechanical keyboards. As a writer, mechanical keyboards have this typewriter-esque nostalgia. Or 3rd grade typing class nostalgia, perhaps.
(In case you were curious, I have Drop ALT keyboard.)
I used to use a shitty Apple Magic Keyboard that has a gross, tinny sound when you type on it. My typing experience is much more elevated since switching. Elevated is an understatement. It has been glorious. It is almost ecstatic, that feeling of typing on my custom-built mechanical keyboard.
I also recently got a reMarkable tablet, basically a skeuomorphic e-notebook that you write by hand on. That's where I've been doing most of my reading and writing—but I've been hoarding all my writing on there instead of transferring it to my computer.
(Also, I just learned the word 'skeuomorphic.')
I remember how enthused I used to be about sharing my work, sometimes on social media or when I'd get a new poem published online. Now, I'm like, wow, this is forever. The internet is forever, and anyone who searches my name for all time will see my work.
That's one benefit of having your work in print: only the people who really want to see it will.