"The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible." -Vladimir Nobokov

Monday, July 11, 2016

A Drop in the Bucket: Making a Collage

I've been thinking a lot lately about the way that I prioritize my creative projects. Often I catch myself putting my ideas into arbitrary categories. Writing fiction trumps blogging. Working on the dessert cookbook I want to make trumps painting in my watercolor notebook. I want to do all of these things equally, and yet I still catch myself assigning value to things, often based on what I think other people  expect. I've told people I want to write fiction, so doing anything else feels somehow less important. That's why, today, I decided to make something that didn't have any perceived importance attached to it.

I've been daydreaming about working with paper recently. I love the idea that you can create a picture out of shapes alone, so I decided to try my hand at making a collage. The inspiration for the subject matter came from two of my favorite things: soft, warm light that stretches across a room at sunset, and succulents.


Of course, creating the illusion of light falling on anything with paper alone was an ambitious task for a novice collage-er like me. It took a little while to separate out what papers I should use for different areas (especially that parts that fell into the light), and building a semi-realistic looking cactus out of shapes was no easy task either. Once I had the most important shapes cut out I had to figure out what order to glue them down in. It should have been simple, but one wrong move and I had to peel up the shape and move it without ripping the layers underneath it.

I have so many big, long term ideas in the works, that I think I'd forgotten you could still make something in a single day. By all accounts, this little project should have been last on my list of priorities. It has nothing to do with anything else I'm working on. I don't know what I'm going to do with the finished product. And yet, I got to reconnect with what it feels like to make for the sake of making. One of my favorite quotes about the creative process comes from the writer Brenda Ueland, and while it's specifically about writing, I think it applies to all creative acts: "I learned that you should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountain top, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten: happy, absorbed, and quietly putting one bead on after another." This is how I felt while I was gluing paper today. And if I can feel that way while gluing paper, then maybe I can feel that way while writing a novel and making a cookbook and juggling all the things I want to do.  We all have to pick and choose how we spend our time, so there should be joy in the decision making, and joy in the doing.

** A Drop in the Bucket is a series of posts where I complete one item on my creative bucket list, and share the results **


  1. Hello Ms. Mills. I came across your blog when I was googling the film "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty." I am taking an extreme liking to your blog especially since I graduated with a Communications degree with a focus on journalism. I ended up making a career in Law Enforcement. I am a 27 year old male living in Las Vegas, NV. I just want to show you appreciation for your work and to keep up the amazing work.

    1. Ronald, Thanks so much for your kind words! It really means a lot to me to know that someone is benefitting from my writing. I bet you have a lot of interesting stories from living and working in Las Vegas. That's a blog I would read! Best wishes, Laura

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  3. Thanks for responding. I have sum stories, I don't know how interesting they may be. I tried making blogs in the past but the upkeep of a blog is a daily thing (maybe hourly) if you want to have a high number of readers. That's when it starts to feel like work to me and it turns me off. Maybe I'll start a Blog when I start traveling more next year. I love the art of traveling. So far I've only been to Rome, Florence, and Venice. As far as domestically I've been to Nashville, Phoenix, Seattle, New Mexico, Kentucky, and Dallas. I will follow you on IG as RonaldMitchell89149.