Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Ma'am, Step Away From Your Comfort Zone by Melissa Clark

My New Year's Resolution had nothing to do with writing. In fact, it had to do with everything BUT writing. I've identified with being a writer for so long now that I think it's actually getting in my way. What if I'm an amazing golfer and I just never had the chance to explore that? Or, say, have a knack for Swahili but just never knew? I spend so much time alone writing that I fear I'm missing out on other extracurricular activities life has to offer.

With that in mind, I signed up for a stone sculpture class at the art college where I teach. I've been there for four years and only recently realized they offer free classes to their faculty. Stone sculpture isn't completely out of my comfort zone. It is still creating something from nothing, but in this case 'nothing' is a giant slab of stone and 'creating something' requires a hammer, various tools and lots of dexterity. For my stone I chose I simple, small, pinkish one. I immediately envisioned a foot - perhaps to be used as a door stop.

Unlike writing, carving stone requires much physical exertion as you chip away, layer after layer. You can identify how solid or hollow a stone is by the 'ping' sound the tool makes. The whole experience is loud, but very musical. You're not working out plot points, thinking about dialogue or any of that business; you're simply following the lead of a piece of alabaster. Similar to writing, however, when you're in a groove, time flies. Last week I was shocked when I heard the three hour class was over, thinking I'd been hammering away for maybe an hour at most.

Who knows what I'll try after this class ends in April. Perhaps I'll take up sailing or spend time in a community garden.

Like many, though, I must admit that I've slipped a little in my resolution. Two weeks ago I started writing novel #4, but it's not really my fault. See, the characters were starting to slowly circle me, appearing in dreams and speaking over me while I was trying to teach my literature class. What was I supposed to do? Ignore them?

Melissa Clark is the creator of Braceface, the animated television show on ABC Family (2000-05), the author of "Swimming Upstream, Slowly" and an instructor at Otis College of Art and Design. Novels #2 and #3 are looking for a home. You can follow her at connections clark.


  1. Wonderful post, Melissa! I do think we get so obsessed with writing (b/c it's so hard to get away from) that other outlets can pass us by. Love how you worked there for four years before realizing they offered classes to faculty for free! Sounds like something I would do! Enjoy!

  2. I'm interested in what you teach. Good luck with book four.

  3. I'm interested in what you teach, too!

    Love this post. I think it's so funny how physical exertion can make us actually think about our characters more. I find that when I'm doing an activity where I can't write things down (taking a walk, taking a shower), I have the best ideas. Just my brain's way of messing with me, I suppose.

  4. LOVE it! Nothing wrong with exploring other creative outlets...especially when you can, say, throw a little stone sculpting in your next novel. Just a thought! That's where my head goes. I try all kinds of new things, and they all end up in my writing. For that matter, going to Walmart ends up in my writing.

  5. I can relate to time flying. Alone at my writing retreat desk last week, it flew faster than ever because there was nothing to stop it. No meetings, carpool, or dinner hour to bring everything to a halt. Just me and my imagination.

  6. Melissa, I love that you're taking a stone carving class! I'm with Sharla, it's wonderful for the soul (and that writerly brain!) to experience other creative things. And, like Sharla, I see a novel in it someday! I keep saying I want to take a painting class, as I haven't painted or drawn since junior high. You're inspiring me to put that on my 2011 "to do" list.

  7. I teach literature and creative writing. This semester I'm teaching "The Literature of Madness" - love this class! Also have taught "The Narrative", "Children's Lit", "Original Young Adult Novels," "Creativity and Storytelling," etc. etc.

  8. I can't wait to see your pink foot! I want to learn how to play the piano...perhaps the girlies and I will all take lessons together.