Quotable Tuesday-Dana Walrath

Today’s quote comes from friend, VCFA classmate and extraordinary writer Dana Walrath. In the picture above, Dana is standing in front of her work Through the Looking Glass, a sketchbook of words and images which chronicles her mother Alice’s progression with Alzheimer’s disease. The sketchbook toured the country last year as part of the National Sketchbook Project. Fortunately, you can view the sketches and read the journal entries at her blog.

I happen to think Dana is a very gifted writer and artist so I was very curious to learn what words out there in the world buoyed her as a writer when times are hard and inspiration falls prey to the crappy voices in our heads. Here is what she said:

“Quotes resonate with particular moments. I’ve been struggling to get back with both feet into a draft of a new novel. The past few months I’ve been working on short memoir pieces, revisions of the textbook that I co-author (Dana also holds PhD and is a professor at University of Vermont in the College of Medicine), and marketing. All this has left me feeling very disconnected from the thing that really makes me feel like a writer: fiction. When I am not in the thick of writing a story, all my worst fears resurface and my imagination turns to telling myself mean stories about myself. For writing quotes to fit this scary, mean moment, I turn to an old favorite: Ted Orland and David Bayles’ Art & Fear. I love how they sum up the disconnect of art from social acceptance with this fabulous line:

“nature places a simple constraint on those who leave
the flock to go their own way: they are eaten” (p.68).

“I love that they (Bayles and Orland) emphasize the creative process instead of product and their celebration of risk taking and failure as integral to creation. While I struggle to find my way into this new story, it helps to know that:

“the lessons you are meant to learn are in your work. To see them, you need only to look at the work clearly- without judgment, without need or fear, without wishes or hopes. Without emotional expectations. Ask your work what it needs, not what you need. Then set aside your fears and listen the way a good parent listens to a child”(36).

“With these wise words and a good laugh to guide me, I am finding my way into this messy first draft, trusting the process, and celebrating my place outside the flock, but very much alive.”

Ahh, Dana, thank you so much for taking time to buoy me today.

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