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Valentine’s Day is around the corner. Love is in the air, so to speak. Love is an inexhaustible topic and much has been written about it. From clichéd greeting cards to Gone with the Wind, there’s room for romance. People are fascinated by complex and volatile relationships. The love triangle, a concept as old as the hills, is consistently successful in stories but with variations.

In the interest of conservation, I pull out the same Valentine’s Day card every year and put it on the bureau to show I remember my husband every February 14th. I reduce, reuse and recycle.

Writers share a bond merely in that they choose to write. I make time for another activity other than writing and that is my art. I began to paint long before I started sending out writing submissions. These two creative outlets are closer than one might think. In painting, I choose a subject or an object and draw a thumbnail sketch or I might work from a still life or model. I might sketch it first with paint or graphite on stretched canvas to arrive at the best composition. As I add color, I intuitively change and alter the piece. I rarely take breaks but I do spend time to retouch areas days later.

Writing is similar. I start with an idea, word or premise and think about possible scenarios, outcomes, and directions to take the story. In certain cases, I might use an outline but often the story grows from the initial hook. As the story develops, it may take on a life of its own. I write fast and furiously to get down all my ideas. I choose a protagonist and antagonist based on elements of people I know or out of my imagination. Like reworking a canvas, I edit and edit again. I work hard at it, rereading it over and over.

I find that art and writing both need to breathe like fine wine. I need to put the writing or painting away for a few days, come back and assess it objectively and fine-tune.

To write or paint, I like to be in “the zone.” Mental preparation is part of the process. Being in the zone means I reach a heightened meditative state during which I can be very creative for hours or over a number of days. Afterwards, I may be depleted from the level of concentration and energy needed for a task. Thus my creativity goes in cycles of low to high productivity.

I would also add that art proposals are similar to writing submissions in that they have to catch the eye of a curator or editor. Art proposals must include a unifying theme and curriculum vitae outlining one’s education and exhibition history. Likewise, a well-written query letter including a list of published writing serves the same purpose of showing past success and professionalism.

If your work is rejected, don’t take it too personally. There’s more than one variable when a work is rejected. I received a rejection letter from a journal, which received 4000 submissions per year at that time. It stated, “While we are sent a great deal of excellent writing due to space constraints we can only publish a small percentage of what we receive.”

It’s one thing to have talent but marketing one’s work is a whole other ball game. However by applying ourselves, we learn the ropes and pay our dues. Practicing one’s craft is vital. One hopes the “cream will rise to the top” and dedication will pay off.

Every step of the way, we are learning. If a work is rejected, send out another submission. Improve on past mistakes. Build a professional attitude. One must separate oneself from one’s writing. Remember a rejection of your poem or story is not a rejection of you. It’s a decision based on something you produced which you may want to go back to and re-edit. Writing is a process, which needs time and effort to develop.

So I leave you with this idiom of the month, “labor of love.” Writing is a labor of love. There are those among us who are lucky enough to live off their creative endeavors, but for most it doesn’t pay the bills. We write because we want to. It’s hard work but we do it because we enjoy it. So in this month of February, I hope you pay attention to your heart and write for the sheer joy of it.

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The following comments are for "Musings: by Sandra Yuen MacKay"
by sandra

Sandra's Musings...
Thank you for sharing this, Sandra. You are quite amazing in your thoughts, writing and style;-)


( Posted by: TheRealKarmaTseringLhamo [Member] On: January 31, 2009 )

Thanks Lena! I am encouraged by your words!


( Posted by: sandra [Member] On: January 31, 2009 )

@ Sandra
I really enjoyed reading this piece. As an artist and a writer it spoke to me on different levels.

Really glad to meet you here.


( Posted by: KatHarlander [Member] On: January 31, 2009 )

Thanks for your comments!
Words and images are both tools to communicate ideas, emotions and concepts. Aesthetics and literary work are both art forms. Process is important for both I think.

( Posted by: sandra [Member] On: January 31, 2009 )

Musing with Sandra
I look forward to your Column Sandra. The way you married both your art and writing talents to express information was excellent! Your encouragement regarding rejections is appreciated. I feel your enthusiasm and passion as an artist whether it be painting or writing shines between the lines of this Column, and for this writer it is always a great pick me up! Thank you, Gale

( Posted by: Gale [Member] On: February 1, 2009 )

@ Gale
Sandra's writing is very refreshing! I'm glad she's joined us at litdotorg and "Majestic."


( Posted by: OchaniLele [Member] On: February 2, 2009 )

response to a ''labor of love''
''I choose a protagonist and antagonist based on elements of people I know or out of my imagination.''

The language of literature finds a creative contribution, a woman with class.


( Posted by: firstedition [Member] On: February 2, 2009 )

field painter and writer -- emily carr?
Have you, by chance, heard of the British Columbian writer, Emily Carr? She wrote, among others, the book, 'Hundreds and Thousands' 1966? A fine painter, she also painted many beautiful field scenes. Worth the ''labor of love''.


( Posted by: firstedition [Member] On: February 2, 2009 )

Emily Carr
Thank you all for your comments!

first edition, I'm familiar with Emily Carr's art. I know she studied art abroad and was also mentored by Lawren Harris, one of the Group of Seven. Her work is on permanent exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery. I've read some books on her but it would make sense to read books BY her. Her story is interesting, becoming a female artist in a dominantly male profession, painting indigenous images at a time when native issues were rising in awareness and her connection to the Group of Seven. As a writer and artist, I wonder if she'd agree with my article?!!

As far as Canadian painters go, one of my favourites is Tom Thomson who died a tragic death at a young age.

( Posted by: sandra [Member] On: February 2, 2009 )

On Musing, writing
I enjoyed reading your article. It started in the right place and you took us on a journey of learning, Thanks for the pointers. There is always another thing to chalk up on the blackboard and something more to remember. That's what makes writing exciting.
One thing in all this and in everything we do is the use of systems. You have your own thoughts on art and writing . Thanks for sharing them with us.
It can be interesting to read of another's perception of different topics. Something us writers can appreciate and even think about what our next character must and must not have. I wonder what my next character will turn out to be? I'm already like you musing away.

( Posted by: Cleveland W. Gibson [Member] On: February 2, 2009 )

Down time at work
And I had to read this again.

Sandra: I'm amazed at how much practical advice and wisdom you can pack into one essay. It shows a lot of work at your end.

I agree with you that writing, good writing, is a labor of love. Even with four moderately successful books on the market, I always muse that if I got paid by the hour for my work, and not based on a royalty schedule, I'd be rich.

In the end, we don't write for the money. We write because we love to write, and we love the subjects we write about. It is a side-benefit if our writings actually start to pay the bills.

Again, I'm glad you're on board here. Even I learn a lot by reading your work.


( Posted by: OchaniLele [Member] On: February 3, 2009 )

Cleveland, OchaniLele
Thank you for your positive responses.

Cleveland and Ochani, I know you are both published writers and if you can learn something from me that's great. Sometimes we just need to be reminded to keep in focus our goals and reasons why we write.

I look back at how I wrote 5 or 10 years ago and I see progress and improvement. That gives me satisfaction too.

( Posted by: sandra [Member] On: February 3, 2009 )

@ Sandra
Here's the thing: We are all writers. All of us at litdotorg are writers!

We have essayists, and poets, novelists, and short-story writers. The list of talent here goes on and on.

The only difference between a writer and someone who wants to be a writer is this: The writer writes, while the wannabe laments about wanting to be a writer.

The only "division" among writers is this: There are published writers, and unpublished writers. With the exception of one or two people that I have read on these pages, there is no one here who should NOT be published. The array of talent archived on our pages is amazing.

The problem writers have, however is this: Publishing is a business, and writers are, at their core, artists. Artists aren't the best at business, not normally.

I want to encourage all our members at litdotorg to write: Write copiously and feverishly. And don't just write for us at lit. Write for yourselves as well. Take chances with your genre and style. It is through practice, trial, and error that one finds his or her "voice," and once you've found that, it's amazing.

Also, I want to encourage our members to take chances! Go back through the work you have here, and taking comments and criticisms into account, rewrite your work. Submit your work to professional or semi-profesional publications. With a little bit of effort, I don't think there is anyone here who would have too hard a time being published. One just has to match his or her work up with publishers, magazines, ezines, or other published venues that use their type of work.

Again, there is a lot of talent here. Some of litdotorg's writers are more talented than I! Don't waste your talents -- share them with the world.


( Posted by: OchaniLele [Member] On: February 3, 2009 )

Ochani, Dagger
I agree that there's a lot of writing talent out there. Some may not want to pursue publication and I think that's fine. Journaling or writing poetry for oneself is valuable, therapeutic and fun.

Sharing with your closest friends and family can be good for the soul. I make these fun, personalized, rhyming poems written especially for birthdays. I get a lot of laughter and smiles out of them.

However, if one sees their writing published in a journal, magazine or book, it can give one so much pleasure and boost one's confidence. There is a business side to it, to present yourself and your work professionally. As an artist, I also have to work at marketing skills.

I agree that if one's dream is to be a writer, GO FOR IT! You'll never know unless you try.

( Posted by: sandra [Member] On: February 3, 2009 )

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