It is not unusual for me to briefly return to painting or drawing after a particularly long writing session, or when I feel stuck in a chapter or a paragraph of my work in progress. Yes, you could say I reward myself for a good writing session with my first passion—painting, and you’d also be correct if you thought I return to what I know best and did for most of my adult life when things get tough. You see, I came to writing late in life–at age 50 to be exact.
Usually, I force myself to remain seated in my writing chair by trying out different phrases, grabbing the thesaurus, breathing in and out, and visualizing the scene, because I know writers must travel through dark valleys, alleys, and around corners to get to the other side, to the light. It has happened to me—beautiful prose doesn’t always flow on demand because we have time, the inclination, or even if the muse is willing.
I am blessed to have many wonderful avenues of expression—all creative outlets—and I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t paint. I thought of this last week and came to a realization—everything we do is a creative outlet; no matter how small or insignificant it may seem to us…or others. Our creative outlets are blessings, and I am grateful for them.
How grateful am I?
My artistic gifts have always nourished and sustained me. My gifts of writing and painting keep me grounded, and make me feel vital, energized, and relevant. I do not, however, have other gifts that others might take for granted if they don’t view them as gifts and creative outlets. For example, I cannot sing a note without sounding off-key, and I don’t have the breath necessary to really belt out a song, which I’ve always wanted to do! I am not good at math, so my checking account is usually a bit messy, and I’m not a great organizer, so my writing desk isn’t neat and tidy–I was absent the day God handed out those gifts.
I am, however, highly intuitive and creative; always have been. When I was growing up, my father turned his head at the gift of intuition, as well as my gifts of creativity and imagination. His feet were firmly planted on the ground and growing up poor only led to his deeply-rooted belief that everyone should earn their way in life; hobbies were silly. When I was ready for college, my father was adamant that studying art and painting would lead me nowhere and that I would die of starvation. I wanted to pursue art and English Literature in college, but he forced me to study business, which I did. I pursued art and writing on my own while working as a secretary for seven years before I married and had children of my own.
Of course, as is life when you are a creative person (and a stubborn woman), I ended up painting, writing, and exhibiting my paintings as an adult. I now use my gifts every day, and so do you. You might bake, make beautiful flower arrangements or wreaths, decorate a beautiful room, and have a garden that people admire. You might make furniture, work on cars, cross-stitch, write short stories, make beautiful scrapbooks or invitations, or write poetry. I never took my gifts for granted because I had to fight for them all my life.
But how grateful am I for my creative gifts?
Last week, during my first book festival as a participating author, I met a tall, lanky young man who approached my author table, pushing a stroller that held an adorable infant who was rubbing her eyes, flanked by two little girls who held onto the sides of the stroller. The young man introduced himself as William and then he introduced his daughters, which I thought was beautiful. As it turned out, soft-spoken William and his brood were looking for a gift for his wife/their mother for Mother’s Day.
I answered his questions about my historical novel, A Decent Woman, and he said the book sounded right for his wife. He went on to tell me how strongly he felt about introducing his young daughters to women who are living their passions in life. I was entirely charmed by William, and my sister and I agreed that he was an amazing father.
Then William told us about his battle with brain cancer after a youth spent on drugs, playing basketball for his university only to fall and injure his knee, and about getting in trouble most of his young life. He said it was time to share his story. Well, it has been a long time since I taught creative writing, but I encouraged him and without thinking, I said I’d help him as a writing coach and I’d edit his manuscript free of charge. The words rolled off my tongue and felt right.
William thanked me, reached across the table, and shook my hand. I handed him my business card, and asked him to send me an outline of his story. He was overjoyed and when he left, I whispered to my sister, “What have I done? I’m writing and researching my second novel. I don’t have time for this!” My sister smiled and reminded me of the question I’d posed to myself the week before, “How grateful am I?” Was I willing to give back for writing a historical novel that has so far been well received? Was I serious about being grateful? It would have certainly been easier if I’d offered to read to his daughters or even babysit! Writing takes time, energy, and lots more energy. I’m 57…I don’t have all the time in the world, but I’d committed. And I always keep my word.
On Monday morning, I had a long email from William with an outline attached. I was blown away by what I read—his life had indeed been a struggle from childhood to the present. It’s a wonderfully inspirational story, and the outline will need a lot of fleshing out, but the bones are there. I will learn a lot while coaching and editing for William, and I have a feeling William will teach me more than I could ever imagine.
I know it will take us some time to write William’s inspirational memoir because he is a new writer, but we’re on the path. One chapter at a time.
(William is not his real name).
About Eleanor Parker Sapia
Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s work as a counselor, alternative health practitioner, a Spanish language social worker and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. She is a member of PEN America and Historical Novel Society. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, and is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.
A Decent Woman is Eleanor’s debut historical novel, set in turn of the century Puerto Rico. The book was selected as 2015 July Las Comadres & Friends Latino Book Club, Book of the Month. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children and she currently lives in West Virginia.
A DECENT WOMAN available now on Amazon amazon.com/-/e/B00U05ZO9M