I love my job as a writer. I get to wake up every morning and transport myself to distant lands and distant times, all the while making them accessible and relatable to readers. I get to do research and live inside my head for months at a time. But, let’s face it, after a long day of writing, it can be difficult to feel a sense of accomplishment. I don’t have a newly-built bridge, or a painted wall, or even a stack of completed forms to look at. Just a few more megabytes on my computer hard drive.
One of my favorite things to do when I’m not writing is bake. I love combining ingredients in specific combinations, I love the process, the meditation of it (as Nico Rosso might say). I love that it gives me a sense of actually completing something. And at the end of it, I have something delicious to eat. But since Nico and I both work at home, I don’t get to bake very often, unless I want to risk him and I eating everything ourselves–which might taste good, but isn’t the healthiest option.
But I still need a creative outlet outside of my creativity. Something that gives me that sense of achievement but without all the calories. I’ve done a little painting (back when I was much younger, I was torn between visual arts and writing, then finally decided to pursue writing), but getting out my paints and canvases can be a little tedious.
A few months ago, my friends K.B. Alan and Vivienne Westlake introduced me to something called Artist Trading Cards–collages or works of art that measure about 2 1/2 by 3 1/2 inches. They invited me over one afternoon for a day of crafting and making ATCs. I was new to the art form, so I was overwhelmed and excited when I saw stacks of beautiful paper, rubber stamps, ribbons, metal charms, glitter, and glue.
I wasn’t sure exactly what making ATCs entailed, but K.B. and Vivienne soon showed me (and Nico) what the process was about. Basically, anything goes. Make them minimal or make them ornate. They can even extend off their tiny canvases. It’s all about self expression.
Within moments, I was addicted. I made ATC after ATC, cutting, stamping, gluing, and drawing myself into a creative frenzy. And the more I made, the more inspired I got, until, within the span of just a few hours, I’d made over nine ATCs!
(Obviously, the goal isn’t to make as many as possible. One of the other crafters spent nearly an hour creating a tiny, perfect collage using cutouts and colored pencils. It’s all dependent on the individual.)
Since that fateful day, I’ve become mildly obsessed with ATCs. After a long day of writing, after dinner, I like to take out my tub of crafting supplies and let my imagination go. And then, a few hours later, I look up and realize its time to go to bed, and now I have five or six brand new ATCs that are physical expressions of my creativity. It’s an incredible thing to be able to hold your expressiveness and imagination in your hand, and I’ve found it to be a wonderful counterpoint to writing all day.
If you’d like to learn more about what ATCs are or how to make them, you can find out more information here. And stores like JoAnn and Michaels sell the supplies*, but you might find yourself spending lots and lots of money (like a certain author whose initials are Z and A…ahem) in pursuit of this pastime. And I do believe it’s helped my writing too; allowing me to express myself in new ways enriches everything I do.
Tell me, what are some of your favorite forms of creative expression? Since ATCs are meant to be given away, I’ll be giving some of my own creations out to commenters. Don’t forget to get creative in your responses!
*I’m not being compensated by either JoAnn or Michaels for mentioning them.