I used to think the saying was “you can’t see the forest through the trees.” I still like this version, even though I now know it’s incorrect.
Why do I like it? Because seeing through the trees sounds more magical to me. Like instead of focusing on the minutia you are just imagining all of the little things are transparent.
The correct saying, I’m told, is “you can’t see the forest for the trees.” Which sounds uppity somehow. It leads me to thinking that it should be “you can’t see the forest because of the trees,” but that doesn’t work either, since “because of” implies you are looking at the trees rather than looking for the forest. Right?
Anyway, any way you choose to say it, it means someone is failing to grasp a whole concept because of they are bogged down in the details.
So, today I’ll simply post my daily drawing—which is, coincidentally, of leaves—and move on.
Over the weekend, I saw a play. It was the stage version of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Since I enjoyed it and hadn’t read the book before, I decided to go to the source.
While the stage version is true to the book (so far, I haven’t finished it yet), there are shifts. Omissions.
“Chapters in books are usually given the cardinal numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and so on. But I have decided to give my chapters prime numbers 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13 and so on because I like prime numbers."
Those are the first two sentences of one of the book’s sections, by the character’s count, chapter 19. So, as a reader, by this point you’ve already noticed his shift in numbering. Yet the explanation gives us more insight into the mind of the storyteller. He orders things and understands information in a way that is unconventional.
While the love of prime numbers is included in the play, this structure of using them to chapter a book isn't. It’s a static visual printed on a page. But this information could have been included. It was a decision. Yet to me, it feels key. It rings a bell of importance.
Don’t get me wrong, the script worked. I recommend the play. But contrasting the play to the book has me thinking (again) about editing. And I mean that in the largest reach of what it means to edit.
Yes, when I talk about editing I'm talking about what I leave in and take out of a document when I am writing for clients, but I'm also talking about how we make daily choices.
What we choose to see and record. What aspects of each story matter to us.
Seeing one version of a work next to another is another reminder for me that each story you see (or read, or hear) isn’t the whole story. With a combination of inquisitiveness and research, you’ll always find there is more.
The takeaway? For me, it’s to keep looking and keep questioning. Which just happens to be true for the protagonist of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, too.
One year, I took a suitcase of books on vacation. A 10-day vacation. So, of course most of those books did not get read. If I had thought about it logically, I would have known there wasn’t enough time before I headed to the airport.
But I think I simply wanted them with me.
That same pull, for a stack of books that I can pick and choose from, is still my preferred method for ingesting facts and fictions. I like touching each page. Making notes in the margins. Using bits of paper as bookmarks.
I like their weight. The number of pages, the ongoing string of words. Thinking about the writer working on each page. The readers who read the first draft…I imagine the book at that point as printed pages held together with a binder clip. Then, a designer working on the cover and the design files going to press.
I think I process what I read differently when it’s printed, too. I’m currently reading The Silence of the Girls and working on a design project yesterday I found myself tucking the font into folds of fabric, just as I saw on the cover. Realizing the connection, I could almost feel my fingers on the pages, hear the story being told in my mind. Even though I was, actually, siting at a computer staring at Photoshop.
Yes, e-books have me on convenience. They are much easier to carry than a suitcase of books. Yet a screen delivers a variety of things. It is ongoing, uploaded and changing.
A book delivers one story.
Of course, the book will change too, but the change isn’t happening to the elements that have already been designed, approved, and sent to delivery. The book will age. If there is a coffee spill, it will be seen immediately. Or it will sit on a bookshelf, aging slowly. Daily. And the meanings of the words will be shifting too, because we are changing, and as time moves society will view the words from a new perspective.
I love printed books because they hold my memories of reading them, and as I scan my bookshelf I have mementos from different times, period of interests.
A lot have gone, been given away or sold, but I’ve kept the gems. Some were gifts. In some cases, I’m still close to those people. Others not.
Is there a better way? A cheaper way? Maybe. But it doesn’t matter. Because when you love something, you love it. That love is all yours.
And as it says on page 124 of The Silence of the Girls, “If any man love the instruments of any craft, the gods have called him.”
And that love is mine to tumble into. It’s not about logic, convenience, or budgets.
So, I’ll keep buying hardcopies. And if you love e-books, I salute you on your choice too. The stories are what matter. The stories pull us all forward.
Habits appear out of nowhere, or so it feels. But in reality, a habit is formed by repeating a behavior over and over.
So, can you intentionally start a habit? I think you can, I’m going to try. While I’ve posted about drawing before, I haven’t devoted the time needed to develop as much as I would like. It’s an off and on hobby. One I wish I took more seriously.
And isn’t that silly? To wish you took something seriously when you could simply adjust your sails and make it happen?
This time, I’m putting pencil to paper and making a change. I’m starting a daily drawing habit.
Don’t worry, I do realize stating this is the easy part. Developing the habit over time is going to take some willpower.
But here’s the thing: I know it will pay off. Drawing is a skill, it simply takes persistent and practice to get the results you want. To have the images in your head appear on the page. Like any skill, practice is key.
Ignoring the voice in my head that says 15 minutes a day isn’t enough, I’m going to start with 15 minutes a day. Because that feels manageable. That feels like I’m setting myself up for success (and I want to succeed!!).
In the morning, before looking at my phone or checking my email or reading the news, I’m going to draw. For 15 minutes. And if that ends up being 30 minutes or longer, great. But 15 minutes is a start.
Kids love trick-or-treating for a number of reasons; you're allowed to be out at night, you wear a wacky outfit (often of your own choosing), and you never know what you will collect.
Yes, there is typically candy. A lot of candy. But their bags also fill up with microwave popcorn packets, spider rings, stickers, and one year, a plant.
No lie, last year, or was it two years ago, I can’t remember, but one year, a neighbor gave out clippings from a spider plant.
I loved this idea and laughed, smiling at the neighbor with grateful appreciation as my daughter ran to the next house. One, I’m guessing, she was anxious to collect chocolate from.
Fast forward (one year or maybe two) to now. I’m on the porch admiring a plant. Suddenly, it occurs to me that this is the plant. Larger, leafy, and rooted, yes, but it is still the Halloween treat.
I so appreciated this unusual Halloween handout and wanted to thank them again, for the fun memory and a thriving porch plant. But, I’m not in the habit of ringing the doorbells of neighbors I don’t talk to regularly. I’m not up for an awkward conversation about passing time.
So, I drew the plant. Colored it with watercolor pencils. Then, I taped the drawing with a short note, thanking them for the Halloween treat, to their mailbox.
Maybe they’ve forgotten that Halloween, or maybe they have a flurry of spider plant thank you notes flooding their mailbox. Either way, it was fun for me to create and then give that creation away anonymously.
Whether it’s a plant that had to be trimmed back or a watercolor ripped from a drawing pad, it is satisfying to give away something that might bring a small smile, Halloween or not.
It was obvious, but it took talking to someone else to realize it. If you want to do something, you need to do it.
Like so much advice, it is so simple. Yet so difficult.
But I’m doing it. I'm increasing my output, creating more space so I can find more stars.
My first step in this journey is spending a bit of time in the morning, outside, doing a quick sketch, before logging in to work and write.
Today, as I trolled the bottom of my bag for supplies, I realized I only had a pen and a highlighter.
Yes, a highlighter works. But why not give myself the tools to do better?
In fact, why am I not fully supplied for my freelancing, too? A better camera? Why not. Upgrade my computer? Yup, it’s time. I need to give myself the right tools for the job. Like any good business, the needed tools have to be budgeted in.
Because here I am, talking about making stuff, dreaming about making stuff, and obsessing about my freelancing. Yet, I’m heading out to do a drawing with a purse filled with a lipgloss, a highlighter, and a phone. Then I return to an office that is functional, but in need of upgrades.
I think my personal output (and my desire for tools) waned as I chased paid gigs. I felt flat, and that dullness lingered, because I wasn’t doing the work that nurtured me. You have to do the work that makes you good at what you do. Does that make sense?
When I’m being creative, I’m primed to give my clients the best writing and imagery possible.
And here’s the cool part: Now that I’ve been taking some time for myself, to draw and write stories, I’m happier. I’m more productive. Plus, I’ve had more client work come my way than I have in months.
So, my advice to myself (and to anyone reading) is don’t chase the dollars. They’ll come. Truly, they will.
Go easy on yourself. Do what you love. And get yourself the right tools for the job.
A friend of mine always says yes to work. If a project knock on his door, he takes it. He takes the work if he’s overbooked. He takes the work if he hasn’t seen his family. He does the work on little to no sleep.
I’m not sure this is a good idea.
This is mulling in my mind as I’ve gotten two offers this week I’m hesitant to accept. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to be asked. But I’m also grateful to be in a position where I have enough work that I can say no to projects that aren’t the right match.
Work is work, it’s not a party, but at the same time you have to spend your time doing the things you love. Doing work that fills you up.
I’m learning that busy and productive don’t mean the same thing. Being productive, working on projects I believe in and learn from, helps me grow. I can be busy and not productive. Busy can take all of your time without much reward. What you do right now has an impact, why not spend your time on what matters to you?
So, I’m going to turn these projects down. And simply typing those words is a relief. I’ll have more time to do the work that matters to me. Goals and dreams are worth fighting for, so do the work that will get you there. Right?
There is nothing wrong with the projects themselves, they just aren't the right fit for me right now. Even if I would have been thrilled to be asked a while ago, I’m not thrilled now. So I’ll pass. Hopefully someone else will be thrilled when their email chimes with the prospect.
Time is valuable. Remember that, and use it wisely.
**Photo from a beach walk. Glad I took the time to take it!
After I dropped off my daughter at school, I had to stay in the spring sunshine a bit longer. When you live in Chicago, you learn to embrace sunny, warm weather when you can.
On our walk to school, I was talking about the power of practice. How you improve with effort, even if a skill doesn't come easy at first. Advice, I realized, that I should heed. My drawing skills are rusty and I miss having notebooks filled with sketches. So, armed with my own practice speech, I opted to stop for a cup of coffee and put my advice to work (while soaking in some sun).
Yes, I'm writing every day (have to, need to) but that doesn't mean I can't do some drawing, too.
I let this project go a long time ago, but I've decided it's time to finish it.
Drawing is something I think about doing a lot, but haven't been doing nearly enough of. If I want to improve, the best path is to do more drawing...I think.
More to come!
Mali Anderson is a Chicago-based content creator. She creates blog posts, web copy, original photography, and feature articles.