Photo Credit: Jennie Anne Benigas



July 2013

“The problem then is how you escape the tyranny of it. In a way it’s always a struggle between you and this tyrant you‘ve created that is a piece of yourself.”

Russell Baker, from Nora Ephron’s Scribble, Scribble: Notes on the Media.

Writing a Monthly Blog

Dear Reader,

In September 2004, I wrote my first blog for Judy’s Journal. My web site was initially conceived of as a platform to market my artwork. If you were seriously in the business, you needed to add a web site address to your card. A web site is a means of communication with limitless possibilities.

Adding a blog was one of the elements I discussed with my web designer, Patsy McCowan. In those days, who even knew it was called a blog? I wanted to write every month about the creative process. One hundred and seven blogs later, I am accustomed to the feeling of being on the prowl for next month’s topic.

My writing mentor, Donald M. Murray, made me understand the freedom and discipline that comes with a regular assignment. He wrote a weekly column in the Boston Globe, originally named “Over Sixty.” Renamed “Now and Then,” his editors learned that his column’s readership was not only seniors. He dispatched wisdom without age limits.

Columnist Liz Smith, whose focus is generally recognized to be entertainment gossip, lately has been devoting space to her favorite books. She writes highly personal reactions, so don’t expect a scholarly review. It’s her column, and she can write about anything she wants. It’s kind of like a blog, only she gets paid for writing it.

What caught my eye was Smith’s 5/2/2013 column, which began with a two-paragraph Russell Baker quotation that became the basis for this blog. Writers are constantly being inspired by and borrowing from other writers. We are always on the hunt for an idea, quotation, image, story or fact that will spin itself into a piece of writing.

Baker’s words leapt out of the newspaper and grabbed me, because he was describing a chronic feeling. Usually, the middle of the month is when the invisible deadline begins to take the shape of a figure with a bull whip. If a topic should present itself before then, I rush victoriously to my binder and it jot down, feeling as if I have beaten the tyrant back into its cave.

Russell Baker began, “When you start a column, you’re in a very creative state; you’re building a personality in a piece of writing. It’s a strange kind of business.” I see it as working from inside a persona: I am a writer and artist, with tools and experience to continue creating my identity with new work. Honestly, it is both exhilarating and frightening to sit down at the computer or step up to the easel and begin.

But an identity is not a static thing. He continued, “After a while the column becomes a tyrant. You’ve created a personality that is one aspect of yourself, and it insists on your being true to it every time you sit down to write. As time passes and you change, you may become bored with that old personality.” I think that Baker recognized the fact we are always learning and, in the process, we are constantly changing. To resist is to become bored.

Russell Baker finished with this: “The problem then is how you escape the tyranny of it. In a way it’s always a struggle between you and this tyrant you‘ve created that is a piece of yourself.”

Problem. Tyranny. Struggle. These three words don’t carry pleasant undertones. But I think he understood the need to embrace the whole of creativity, thorny sides and all, to coexist and know when to take a break. The struggle, the one we actually signed up for and learned to look forward to, is sure to begin again.