Monday, March 13, 2023



Ice Plant
8" x 8" watercolor 
Arches 100% cotton watercolor paper

So I’m coining a new word for my post-retirement/emergence as a person trying to make a faster climb on two learning curves: art and writing.

Frustifying: elements of frustration combined with elements of deep satisfaction.

I am experiencing both today. Bigtime. With both art and writing.

Some of us wait our entire working lives for the day when we can quit our day jobs and just do our creative work. Little do we know how difficult that new chapter is going to be. I mean, excellent or even good or even just kind of good art/writing doesn’t just happen. You know?

As a freelance writer for the past 25 years, I knew that already about writing. But I sorta didn’t know it about art.

Well, honey, I’m finding it out now: how very frustifying it can be to finally be able to devote more time to art and writing and to want to see improvement with all my heart, preferably on a daily basis, but to often be disappointed and only sometimes elated.

Today, for example: I’ve worked on this painting on and off all day, trying to make a “real” painting, as opposed to the quick sketch I dashed off yesterday in a few minutes. Guess which one I think is more appealing?

Yep: the quick one.

While waiting for paint to dry, I also worked on a very long, 33-page essay today whose working title is “Altered: How Iowans Lost Their Grasslands and Why It Matters.” It combines a narrative about land in north central Iowa that my husband and I and his ancestors have lived on and tended, combined with multiple expository sections that go into the natural history of the tallgrass prairie, the sod-busting years, the growth of the ethanol industry, and the current controversy gripping the state about pipeline projects that would capture Co2 from ethanol smokestacks and transport it to other states to be sequestered underground.

I worked on this essay for two hours, trying to strengthen the narrative sections and distill the expository sections. I need to cut the essay in half. How many pages did I cut today? Two. What did I add? A half page.


But here’s the cool part: I get to do this again tomorrow. And the next and the next.  As long as I can manage the frustifying see-saw.    


  1. Oh Suzy! I love how you are ALWAYS thinking and creating. WE are lucky because YOU can do it over and over and over! Maybe you just need to eat something wicked and yummy and have a double cocktail! Let those creative juices of yours flow like they always do! Love you💕💕 sis in law Marge!

  2. Loved reading this... and love that new word.


More About the Sally Project

I met Sally forty years ago when I was twenty and she was the one in her sixties. I was a waitress at a Howard Johnson’s restaurant on...