When “I Can Do That” Meets Cold, Hard Reality

I might be a writer, but I spent a good portion of last week at the Ann Arbor Art Fair, in the Michigan Silversmith Guild booth. Why? Well, in addition to creating worlds in my head, I also enjoy making things with my very own two hands. I’ve always been this way, even as a child. What started out with paper and pen and paints evolved to pottery, crochet, knitting, sewing — any art I could produce. These days I’ve taken my love of rocks and stones and beads and dabbled in jewelry making, so I guess that makes me a jewelry design artist.

Art fairs are good for many things, and the Ann Arbor Art Fair is the biggest and the best. There’s entertainment; there are talented artists. There’s more junk food (and in Ann Arbor, non-junk, organic, tree-hugging food) than a person needs. Since Michigan hasn’t had a state fair in years (budget cuts), this is the summertime venue.

The Guild has a huge booth, and there are more than enough people around to man it and to do demonstrations. There are even enough to help booth sit those who have traveled to Michigan on their own, who are in the booth all day long with no assistance or back up.

I personally enjoy people watching, and I did a lot of it under the shade of mature trees lining the walk to the U of M School of Education. Just within earshot. I couldn’t tell you how many people tripped over the uneven curb in the sidewalk, leading me to wonder about how they walk otherwise or how they drive. I wonder about those who whiz by quickly with hardly a sideways glance. Do they not like pretty things? Don’t they appreciate art, or were they dragged by their spouses? I size up those who linger, or who study every item in the case as though searching for a hidden message or a personal treasure. When they come away with their purchase, are they as moved to own the piece as much as the artist was who made it? I wondered about the people who stopped by my demo, who didn’t want to give it a try at all, and those who were instantly enamored by something as simple as making a wire ring.

I’m constantly amazed at those who slide by without purchasing, the ones who confidently announce (just under their breath) “I can do that!” Inside, I think, “Okay, sister, go ahead and try.” My jewelry features many pieces that are wire wrapped — wire wrapped on chemmies, if you know what I mean. I don’t call my jewelry business Twisted and Wired for nothing. It took many hours of practice and workshops and a strong belief in “I can do that” before I could do what I do today.

Although I might be proficient at weaving wire and twisting a simple medium into something artistic, there are some jewelry skills I can’t do well. Soldering, for one. I’ve burnt more metal to a crisp than I would like to admit to. I’m only mediocre at sawing. And chainmaille? Let’s not even go there. I couldn’t do it if a gun were pointed to my head.

It’s a similar case with writing and writers. Many people can “write” – I write. There’s a wide range of writers and writing. There’s something for everyone, and with hard work and lots of practice, everyone can be a writer.

I can remember working on my first manuscript as though it were yesterday. (The subsequent WIPs have been just as grueling, that’s why.) I started out with my pen and notebook thinking “I can do that.” Yes, I was full of myself. I learned that writing a book isn’t easy at all. It was a long, long road to “The End” (family, day job, every other interruption you can think of) but never once did I think I couldn’t finish. It was just going to take me a little more time than a normal writer. (Now, between the first draft and the first edit – one year – I nearly threw the book into the garbage, but that’s another story.) I know what I like to do, I know what I want to do, and I know with guidance and classes and careful critique, I’ll be able to accomplish what I want to do.

A writer’s reward for “I can do that” are those magic words “The End.”

In a way, I like the “I can do that” mentality. You think so? Make it happen. Make it happen despite the odds, or because of them. Be prepared to fall down, to make mistakes, to tinker with your baby, to cut it in half if you have to. Be prepared to suffer in your defeats as well as to revel in your victories. The art is what will overcome the obstacle of cold, hard reality.


4 Responses

  1. Have I mentioned lately how proud I am of you? 🙂

  2. “I can do that.” Sounds like the mantra of all those self-described (would-be) editors out there I encounter throughout the year at the moment they first learn what I and my professional colleagues do for a living. I also imagine they can fix Masserati engines and climb the Himalayas. And maybe finally pen that children’s book they’ve been meaning to write.

    • Did I tell you I can fix engines? Maybe not Masseratis, but I’ve worked on plenty of internal combustion engines.

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