I hope this post finds you all well and at home, with plenty of food and toilet paper and in good company as we all do our best to soldier on and make the very best of it. And, if the virus has found you, may your case be a mild one and your road to recovery be well underway.
If I ever felt the need for a welcome oasis, it’s now, and I’m finding that in the midst of the colossal workload and unending hijinx at The Creative’s Workshop as we just crossed the half-way mark. I’m loving every minute. We’re asked to post our work (either written or visual) daily and get feedback from our peers; to respond to 3 prompts a week; and, along the way, we’re given rich opportunities to drop into writing groups, book clubs, drawing get-togethers, Zoom calls with coaches and Seth–all in a collective effort to further hone our voices and generous offerings for the people we hope to serve through our creative work once the workshop ends.
A recent assignment asked us to identify an individual whom we feel is doing good work in our respective genre. Lynda Barry immediately came to mind for me as someone who’s offered so much in the way of connecting folks with their inherent creative nature. I respect her and her work for so many reasons: Lynda did things in her own way. She wasn’t troubled by the fact that neither her work, her look, nor her world view was appreciated by much of the mainstream in her genre (comics). From the age of 9, struggling to contend with the challenges in her early home faced by so many immigrant families, then and still, Lynda aligned herself with school and with drawing, spotting an R. Crumb book in the hands of a classmate and finding herself completely smitten with the idea that it’s possible to draw your own world and then retreat into it, as a way of coping with harsh realities that too often for her felt unbearable.
Lynda maintained her drawing practice, at first copying her respected comic artists and then eventually creating an underground comic strip of her own, which led to a series writing workshops and books, all in support of the idea that anyone can write and anyone can draw; that we’re all born creative; and that this world will accommodate even the wackiest of creative products (Lynda has a particular affinity for wacky).
More recently, Lynda accepted an instructor position at UW/Madison, where she’d intentionally cross-pollinate the students enrolled in her class–freshman undergrads side-by-side with Ph.D. students; fine arts majors with science majors. She liked the energy of this combination and felt it furthered the creative challenge and output. Lynda’s on sabbatical now, having been awarded a MacArthur Genius Grant late last year. I did a happy dance when I heard this news–her novel, irreverent approach to comics alongside her deep reverence for her creative practice and her abundant generosity in sharing these practices with the rest of us absolutely deserves the highest reward.
As I’m now starting the process of pulling together the classes and practices for The Well Within Workshop, so many of them will have Lynda’s mark on them in one form or another. I’ve recently met a woman at The Creative’s Workshop who had the great good fortune to attend a weeklong writers’ retreat with Lynda Barry, and who is herself offering a writing workshop ala Lynda within TCW. In her promo materials, she underscores the fact that Lynda wished for her teaching tools to be considered “open source,” as a way of spreading the gospel of creative practice as far and wide as possible.
(HT to Anaik for your assist with the title of this post!)