Comfort in stressful times

DSCN7825If you’re struggling to find peace in the aftermath of the presidential election, you’re not alone.

Several months ago, when I needed relief from divisive news headlines, I launched Something Beautiful Every Day, a daily blog that features my own photography and uplifting quotes from famous (and not-so-famous) authors.

You won’t find partisan politics on “Something Beautiful.” What you will find are photos of my gardens, things I’ve collected, and discoveries I’ve made on my travels. Each daily photo is paired with an inspirational  or literary quote that will lift your spirit, motivate your creativity, or get you thinking.

Version 2If you haven’t had a chance to explore this online photo diary, I hope you’ll visit soon. And if you opt to subscribe to “Something Beautiful Every Day, you’ll receive a daily inspirational post from me each morning. You can subscribe on the site, or I can sign you up if you email me at cindy@laferle.com usingSomething Beautiful subscribeas the subject heading.

A progress report: My year-long creative challenge is halfway complete

It’s hard to believe that Something Beautiful Every Day — my year-long “creative challenge” — has reached the halfway mark this month. So far, I’ve posted 189 original photos with quotations, and the new blog has logged more than 31,000 page visits from viewers in 10 countries since it went live in April.

dscn3434I appreciate all of the subscribers and visitors who’ve been waking up with me every day. Knowing you’re out there gets me out of bed very early each morning — and I look forward to sharing a new post with you before I start brewing my coffee. Your encouraging emails have meant so much to me.

Something Beautiful Every Day began on a gloomy day in March — and it has turned out to be the most enjoyable creative project I’ve ever attempted. After spending more than 30 years writing feature articles, memoirs, and personal essays, I’ve felt the need for a creative change — a different way to tell stories and share ideas.

As photographer Jan Phillips wrote: “Photos are our autobiography, a way of telling who we are.”

Inspired by Bella Grace magazine, I challenged myself to pair an original photo with a thought-provoking quotation every day for a year. Describing the project to a friend recently, I realized the daily photos I’ve posted are far more intimate than anything I share on social media networks. These images document the little things I treasure at home, gardens I’ve tended, dear pets who share my home, and places where I find inner peace. The quotes have special meaning to me as well.

dscn2598At first, I shared Something Beautiful Every Day with just a handful of close friends. But in June, a newspaper columnist encouraged me to add a subscriber option and open it up to everyone. Since then, it’s been featured in The Detroit News Homestyle magazine, HAP’s Balanced Living magazine, and was recently endorsed by Beaumont Hospital’s Sharing & Caring breast cancer support group as a “positive and inspirational resource.”

The project will end in mid-March of 2017 — one year after its launch.

Meanwhile, it’s already autumn, my favorite time of the year! I’m always moved by the rich, brooding palette of the season — and my images and quotes will reflect that in the weeks ahead. Thanks again for spending this year with me.

To view Something Beautiful Every Day or subscribe to the blog, please click here.

Photos above: Copyright 2016 by Cindy La Ferle

Spring art news

RememberExterior“If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud.” — Emile Zola

When spring rolls around, you’ll typically find me outside, preparing my herb and perennial gardens for summer. But with garden season off to a slow start in Michigan, I’ve been spending more time upstairs in the art studio. Happily, some of my newest creations are cropping up in art shows across the state, from St. Joseph Michigan’s Box Factory Spring Exhibit to the Birmingham-Bloomfield Art Association’s Annual Fine Arts Competition. For regular updates, please visit Cindy La Ferle’s Mixed Media.

A cookbook memoir

Sometimes I suggest family recipes as points of entry for writing a memoir. Does your Italian grandmother’s pasta sauce stir up memories of holiday gatherings? Do you recall your kid brother’s grin every time you bake the oatmeal cookies he loved? Using this approach, some writers end up compiling cookbooks laced with treasured family stories and traditions.

IMG_1219Anyone can turn a memoir into a work of art by combining keepsakes and recipes. For inspiration on how to start this type of project (shown at left), you might want to visit my new art blog. Please click here to learn more.

Speaking of memoirs, I’ll be teaching an evening class on memoir writing at the Royal Oak Public Library on March 24, and participating as a panelist in a discussion on blogging on March 31. Complete details on the ROPL’s Spring Writing Series (including how to register for the classes) are included in this feature on Royal Oak Patch.

Photo: “House Wife” (an altered book) by Cindy La Ferle

 

Fly your own bird

“Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” — Oscar Wilde

DSCN0126One of my favorite episodes on the hilarious Portlandia series is the one that popularized the phrase: “Put a bird on it.” Now listed in urban dictionaries, the expression refers to any creative trend that’s become so common that it’s a cliche. If you haven’t seen the episode, think of the times you’ve visited a boutique or gallery and noticed how many items are embellished with a bird. You get the idea.

On the topic of originality, freelance writer Pam Houghton recently posted several excellent tips on building a satisfying career. For me, the tip that resonated most was the one emphasizing the importance of listening to your own voice — instead of following trends.

“Some people make success look easy,” Pam wrote. “The times I tried to imitate them never worked even after repeated attempts….I had no choice then but to step back and ask, what is it that I do well?”

Pam’s post got me thinking about my early years as a journalist in the 1980s. I was a huge fan of New York Times columnist Anna Quindlen, whose “Life in the Thirties” pieces were so fresh that I wished I’d written them. I wanted to draw “aha!” moments from my readers, like Quindlen did every week. I wanted to be a family columnist, but how could I hold a candle to Anna Quindlen?

Then there was Anne Lamott, who wrote the exquisite memoir, Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year, and lots of juicy essays for Salon. Add to the fact that I also admired essayist Annie Dillard, and you’ll get why I considered adopting my middle name, Anne, as a pen name. The Annes and Annas were rocking the writing world.

On one hand, I learned something about my own taste — and writing goals — when I examined the nuts and bolts of their work. Quindlen spun the personal into the political; Dillard brought both depth and poetry to her nonfiction; Lamott broke rules and made me laugh out loud.

Luckily, I stopped short of stealing their pet adjectives or mimicking their styles. But it took a while to feel confident in my own voice.

It’s tempting to reach for something quick and easy — a bird? someone else’s idea? — when we’re timid or lazy. (As a mixed-media artist, I’ve been guilty of pasting too many birds on my collages.) Of course, it’s natural to follow trends when we’re starting out, whether we’re designing furniture or writing poetry. And while it’s true that we learn by observation, the trick is to avoid getting stuck in copycat mode. (Plagiarism is illegal, period.)

Being an original is twice as hard in the digital age. Everyone is chirping for attention, building a platform, following trends. The biggest challenge is to keep stretching your wingspan, then landing on something that’s truly your own.

— Artwork by Cindy La Ferle; copyright 2012 —