“Make Good Art”


The frozen lake outside our bedroom window. Winter, 2013.

Hibernation Station.

I was in it for over a month. Right at the height of the Christmas vacation.  During Canada’s ‘Ice Age’, or what the experts called the Polar Vortex or the North American cold wave…make that VERY cold wave.

Moving out of hibernation mode always feel very awkward, like walking on cold, wet tiles after a nice warm shower. The protective cocoon of hibernation seems so nice.  So safe.


Our backyard. There’s 3 feet of snow there now. Winter, 2013.


There’s only so much hiding one can do. Year after year, for the last decade, I go through this dark, heavy and excruciatingly painful experience.  There are days when I wish I could just get under the comforters which, by the way, always takes a while to thaw from the chilly state it’s in. If not for three kids needing their lunches packed and making sure their winter mitts and beanies and scarves are on, and “forgadsakes please put on the proper boots instead of those stylish but flimsy Doc Martens!” before they leave the front door, I’d probably be in my pajamas until noon.

Winter has never been part of me. It’s nowhere in my DNA. No polar bears in my family tree, no ma’am. 🙂

So this mama bear is back. For better or worse, for cold or colder, I choose to come back because. I’ll tell you something though, in the pulling back, I realise what I’ve always thought to be high truth: No matter how one feels, the (sm)art-advice that Neil Gaiman recently made hip holds true.

Neil Gaiman’s descriptive admonition, delivered at a commencement address to the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where he was bestowed with an honorary doctorate in Fine Arts ~

“Remember, whatever discipline you’re in, whether you’re a musician or a photographer, a fine artist or a cartoonist, a writer, a dancer, a singer, a designer — whatever you do, you have one thing that’s unique: You have the ability to make art. And for me, and for so many of the people I’ve known, that’s been a lifesaver, the ultimate lifesaver. It gets you through good times, and it gets you through … the other ones. Sometimes life is hard. Things go wrong — in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do: Make good art. I’m serious. Husband runs off with a politician? Make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by mutated boa constrictor? Make good art. IRS on your trail? Make good art. Cat exploded? Make good art. Someone on the Internet thinks what you’re doing is stupid or evil or it’s all been done before? Make good art. Probably things will work out somehow, eventually time will take the sting away, and that doesn’t even matter.”

Make Good Art.

In those hard first years of immigration, I journaled on and off. I stopped making art and started feeling crazier and crazier. Add the post-partum in all the baby-making years then you’ve got the perfect recipe for disaster days. It took me a while to wake up to it. But wake up I did. Even before NG spoke of it, I took to taking photos. Lots and lots of it. I took countless photo walks – in the spring, summer, fall and even in winter storms, snapped away with my idiot box and later on, my iPhone4s.

I started doing the 100 imperfect songs, no matter how cold the office studio that sits atop the garage which is always freezing in the winter.

I wrote and wrote miles and miles of spewed anger or despair. This time around, I listened to author and teacher Anne Lamott’s advice to find a writing buddy. Thank you, creative muses, because I did find one in CG. She helps me keep-the-hand-moving (Rule #1 of one of my favorite writing/life teacher, Natalie Goldberg) on the page and in the home and in life, no matter how shitty we felt.

This year another form of creative salvation came forth: knitting and crocheting! Oh, where do I begin singing praises for this craft?!? Do I begin by telling you about the delicious yarns made from the softest wool? How about the colors and the many combinations there are? Then there’s the bonding with my girl, Oona, who is now as addicted as I am to yarn shopping and has made her own infinity scarves and a couple of pieces for her baby cousins! To top it all, there’s the exquisite, loving warmth it provides in this bitter cold!


The first attempt. Knitting | Winter, 2013.


Need I say that there’s magic in everything handmade? Leslie told me during one of our Facetime conversations: “Até, the only thing missing is a rocking chair.“ Very funny. But not funny Haha! because the truth hurts man! Ooooh..kay. Just make sure you add my dream Siberian cat to the picture! I added. We then laughed ourselves teary at the vision of this.


My girl, Ms O, knitting a skirt for a beloved baby cousin!


Myrna later comments that we’re “birds of the same feather”. She’s been years ahead of this crochet-love affair, together with her daughters, and for the first time I understand the fascination. Some of my most precious gifts from her are handmade crocheted mug warmers and a crocheted chocolate cake! “We’re turning into proper old ladies”, she jokes. I laugh.  The kind that hurts the side and the ego.

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Decide the right time for you.

Year after year, what keeps me afloat apart from attempts at good art are fantasies of my dream beachfront home in the sun and cold drinks with mini-umbrellas. It’s okay to take breaks – the real or fantasy kind – from our crazy-busy lives.

But here’s the most vital thing, fellow creative: keep making stuff while you’re at it. Keep drawing, knitting, painting, singing, writing and whatever else it is that you secretly or not-so-secretly love doing with your heart.  Then share them when you’re ready. When you are ready.

Those who love and understand you will always be there when you come out and play.

As for those who rush and push and nag you to get out of your cocoon sooner than later, they’re just worried and concerned for you. Let them be. It’s another language for love, the way we nag our super-annoyed kids to “Put on your gloves/touk/scarf/boots and for the nth time, will you zip up your jacket before walking out the door already?!?”  It’s up to you to listen or ignore the sound. I know it’s easier said than done but I dare say to myself and you: Let’s not hate.  Just let it resonate.  Or not.


From our garden. Winter, 2013.


You and only you will know the right (write!) time for yourself.

“Do what only you can do best: Make good art. Make it on the bad days, make it on the good days, too.” ~ Neil Gaiman


Courage in Creativity,