Hearing Truth

I’ve been thinking a lot about feedback lately. In our writing/arts studio, we want creative people to feel free to explore and play–with words, paint, fiber.

For some of us, that’s enough. But others are looking for more, for feedback to finish/publish/sell a project.

So we’ve created different spaces for our various stages of production. If we’re exploring an idea, learning a new skill, or simply letting our creative side bloom, we go to Our Words or an Art Experience. If we need to know whether our project needs refining, polishing, or even tossing, we attend a Writing Workout or perhaps a private consultation with an artist.

But taking constructive feedback is difficult. Many of us struggle with perfectionism. We have trouble failing.

I love the 30/90 percent idea I read about this morning on 42floors.com:

We call it Thirty Percent Feedback.  It’s a trick I learned from our investor, Seth Lieberman.  It came about because I once asked him for feedback on a product mockup, and he asked if I felt like I was ninety percent done or thirty percent done. If I was ninety percent done, he would try to correct me on every little detail possible because otherwise a typo might make it into production. But if I had told him I was only thirty percent done, he would gloss over the tiny mistakes, knowing that I would correct them later.  He would engage in broader conversations about what the product should be.

I think writers often don’t recognize we are at 30%, rather than 90%. We begin to focus on commas, when we should be reworking language (or revising the heck out of something).

I love giving labels to ideas.


Figuring Things Out


I’ve always believed writing helps clarify our thoughts. But it wasn’t until I participated in Steve Watkins’ Memoir Class at our studio that I realized how helpful writing about our past can be.

In this six-week workshop, Steve has encouraged us to produce five pages a week, choosing various points in our life to detail and expand. I’ve written about my adventure with cousins on Rock Island, an experience with a friend in Germany, and days leading up to my father’s death. Some call this writing narcissistic, and I suppose that’s true in one way. After all, the focus seems to be on the writer. But it’s so much more than that. We look for the theme, the learning, the ways our own experience can be universal. And Steve concentrates on the craft of writing–how we “crack open” our anecdotes, what we choose for dialogue, and vocabulary we use to tell our stories.

For me, reliving details of my past isn’t always easy. I have reached into my past to expose raw places. But in writing about them, I’ve come away with a new understanding. And though I never thought I’d want to write memoir for publication, I can absolutely see writing for my children and grandchildren. There are stories to tell!



Dirty Hands


I can’t keep my hands clean these days. I’m either covered in acrylic paint or ink. Sometimes it’s both.

Today I took a gel monoprinting class from Elizabeth Woodford down at Artful Dimensions. I learned to use random items (placemats and bubble wrap among others) to create prints. Now the tips of my fingers are blue, and I’m ok with that. But before I could love being messy, I had to realize my art fills a need.

No competing. No judging. Simply creating.

Tonight I’m headed to the Visual Arts Center in Richmond for another letterpress workshop. I want to set type on a card that says, “dwell in possibility.”

Emily D. was pretty smart.