The Creative Muse: A Book, a Place, a Conference

Imagine art embedded within snail mail.
Imagine art embedded within snail mail.

This blog post was originally going to be about a book I recently read, a book about letters and art called More Than Words, but then I realized I have so much more to say, much of it leading back to my inner muse and a kick start to creativity.

We’ll get back to the book in a moment.

So I’ll start with this: I’ll never have time to read all the books in the world that I’d like to read. I’m endlessly thankful for Goodreads, because I no longer find myself scribbling book titles on scraps of paper, then stuffing them in my desk drawer, where they’ll never be found again. With my Goodreads account, now I can keep a running tally of everything I want to read, even if I can’t get to it right away.

Well, in my process of going paperless over the last couple years, this has resulted in a to-read list of well over 500 books. And then, of course, I follow a number of insightful, interesting websites like Brain Pickings, and I end up adding at least a book or two to this ever-growing list every week. (By the way, you do read Brain Pickings, don’t you? Because if you don’t, you should start. It’s that good.)

Anyway, often when I find a book I want to read, I not only add it on Goodreads, I also check to see if my local library has a copy. I’ve come to find out that, despite the wide web of the Las Vegas library system, it only carries a fraction of the books I’m interested in ready. I knew there had to be a way to find these books. That’s when a little searching led me to our inter-library loan system … and the ability to finally get my hands on More Than Words (I told you we’d get back to that point). 

Only a couple weeks after ordering More Than Words, it arrived from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. Though the process for checking ILL books out is a bit chunky, it’s not too terribly inconvenient and that inconvenience is just an itty-bitty price to pay for the opportunity to exponentially expand our library.

So let me tell you about this fabulous book (which I discovered on Brain Pickings, unsurprisingly): More Than Words is a collection of illustrated handwritten letters (squee!) housed in the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art because they’re letters from artists and sculptures to other people. They’re thank you notes and love letters, letters written from journeys and curious word puzzles. It’s not so much what the letters say (though they’re all transcribed in the appendix of the book for those who want to read them in full) but that they’re so beautifully illustrated. I read many of the letters in their entirety, but I was really, truly enthralled by the imagery. I kept poking Cory while he was trying to read his own book, making him look at all the pictures I loved.

Here are some of my favorites:

Script as art!
Script as art!


I love this guy in the glass.
I love this guy in the glass.


Somebody write me a letter like this, please?
Somebody write me a letter like this, please?

I finished More Than Words right as I was leaving for a writing conference, BinderCon, in Los Angeles (which is where I’m at now) and dropped it off at the library on the way out of town. I’ve been thinking a lot about it over the last day and a half that I’ve been here.

There’s something about letting myself get lost in the pages of a book that really tugs at my creative muse, and it’s an added bonus that this particular book is an innovative mix of artistry.

This afternoon I took a long walk around the University of California-Los Angeles. This is where my conference is but I’m a day early (for unrelated work reasons), so I had a few hours to spare this afternoon, and I took advantage of the beautiful weather and being on a college campus. Oh, how I love college campuses. My first objective was to stretch my legs by walking to the building the conference is being held in, but then I just kept walking … and walking … and walking. The sidewalks criss-crossed across the vast expanses of green lawn. Students sat on the grass, chatting with friends or on their cell phones or reading books. A few people ran on the track. And there are roses everywhere, freshly blooming in any place there isn’t a sidewalk or yard or building.

I love the buildings here – uniform, stately and imposing – and I love how everything feels so removed from the world around it. And given the fact this is LA, there’s a lot of world surrounding this campus.

The last time we were here, we brought our girl, A, and her friend with us to check out an American university. I’d forgotten how lovely it is here, and it was easy to just keep walking, looking around, taking it all in and thinking that going back to get my master’s degree would be worth it as long as I got to spend time on a college campus again.

I’m feeling newly inspired to be here at this writing conference – a writing conference emphasizing women’s empowerment, nonetheless – thanks to my afternoon stroll, and I’m looking forward to jumping into this weekend’s sessions totally and completely. I’m not a fan of the idea of conferences in theory – the introvert in me wants to shrivel up in a corner instead – but I’m at a good place in my career to embrace new opportunities, and I’m beginning to realize how important it is that my voice is heard, that I say what I want to say because it has meaning. Energized by my recent readings, my afternoon walk, the vibe of UCLA and the purpose of BinderCon, I’m ready to take my writing – my career – to a new level.

One Response to “The Creative Muse: A Book, a Place, a Conference”

  1. Jill

    I loved the pages you showed from the book. I’ve been caught up in a book featuring fabric collage art that features “quotations” as the design inspiration. I keep going back to look at it over & over again. And I’m so jealous you’re on a university campus…I love wandering around those places. Lucky you! Hope the conference is everything you hope for.


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