16 March

Creative Inspiration: Journey To Chatham

by Jon Katz
Journey To Chatham
Journey To Chatham

Sunday was a day of creative affirmation and inspiration for me, a day of creativity, connection and community. Good things were woven into the day from the beginning. Maria and I plotted our new garden. Several people came to Battenkill Books for recommendations and I made some good ones and we sold a bunch of books. People called the store to buy books that have been reviewed. One of my writing workshop students – Diane Fiore – who is writing a powerful series of stories on her blog about her mother and father’s struggle with aging and illness. We invited her over for lunch and she graced our lives by accepting. We left for Chatham, and a great and enthusiastic crowd with lots of questions. One of my editors, Rosemary Ahern came to hear me talk and so did John Greenwood, another of my very gifted students who has been writing on his remarkable blog Raining Iguanas. John is a prophet of creative inspiration, a former milkman now one of the most creative artists I know,  brave enough to put his great work out where people can see it. And love it.

Just seeing Diane and John was a great life for me.

My students are on a great creative tear. Kim Gifford uses photography, art and great writing to celebrate art and her love of animals. Rachel Barlow’s award winning blog Picking My Battles explores the life of the modern family with humor, animation and great honesty and poignant insight. Together we are demonstrating the power and the gift of inspiration. Telling our stories, supporting one another, not complaining about the creative life but living it. A great honor to work with these people, and it lifts me up just to see them and the astonishing distance they have come in so short a time.

In a way, I needed some renewal, and both of them sensed it. I am tired. I have been working hard in the last few weeks, writing a new book, an e-book, blogging and taking photos, continuing in my determination to be relevant in a changing world. In the crowd at Chatham was my new agent Christopher Schelling, and we went to dinner and talked for hours about the great opportunities for writings in the new world of writing, publishing and story-telling. Like me, Christopher does not spend much time wringing his hands about the decline of book writing. Like me, he sees opportunities everywhere, a golden age of writing and story-telling erupted all over. He is very excited about this blog and the community that has evolved around it. Me too.

I was surely renewed after our dinner, we have the most  exciting plans. We shared strategies about using social media, interactivity and new kinds of online communities to serve writers and writing. Like me, he believes this blog is a book all of its own, I have always believed it to be a living memoir, a new kind of memoir. It is, in so many ways, my ultimate work. At the end of the day, I was excited about my own creative aspirations, proud of my students, on fire about the future. We need to light our creative sparks, and follow them. They are sacred. We need the strength and courage to sing our songs to the world and the encouragement and support to do it.

The creative has always been and will always be something of a struggle. It is not a life for those who aspire to security or wealth. It calls for people who are mythically driven to live lives of independence and fullfillment. It is not one struggle but a series of struggles.  Not a single reward but a series of rewards. It is the only life for me.

I got a wonderful dose of creative inspiration Saturday and am grateful for all of it. Oh, and I almost forget Red. He rode to Chatham, walked into a talk and signing for the first time in his life, was greeted by scores of people, hugged by children, and when I began talking, he came and lay quietly beside me. He is a great dog, he was born to connect to people. Sold a bunch of books, too.

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