New Year, New Board

Storyboard for 2012

This is my story board, which I’ve introduced you to here and here. Well, I’ve dolled it up fresh in honor of the New Year, which will be its 9th in my care. It’s changed considerably over the years, but not in a way that I need to necessarily recall. By inspiring thought and redrawing memories, it still lives in and serves the present. It’s a bit like when we drove through San Francisco recently and I kept pointing to a store or a restaurant or an entire building and asking “Was that there before?” What we don’t easily remember, in other words, can seem brand new. Much of what I put on the board feels like that. Familiar, yet indicative of some sort of progress and evolution.

A peek at the past:
The board in its home city of New York, circa 2004

My mom surprised me with it when I lived in New York City. We carried it the five or so blocks from the store in the Flatiron District to my apartment on 20th Street. Gratefully carless in Manhattan, I carried many things this way… a lamp from Cost Plus, a refashioned mirrored window frame (with my cousin Anne) from Fishs Eddy, a Christmas cactus from my boss, large moving bins from the Container Store when it was time to head back to California. Since then, the bins were sold at a sidewalk sale. The cactus may very well still be out on the fire escape. The lamp was given away before I left New York. The treasured mirror cracked on the cross-country and hid its wound behind a dresser until I sold it for the move down to Chile. The board, however, had to join me on this adventure.

What it looked like before
the new and the old were rearranged.

Back in 2003, my mom said I was to use the board (and what I affixed there) to inspire my writing. At the time, it hadn’t been all that long since I graduated from Boston College with an English degree and a minor in Creative Writing. I was working in magazine publishing, learning everything by watching the well-oiled machine at work and occasionally researching dozens of previously published articles in order to email a few questions to and scribe a 250-word blurb about a Hollywood actor or two. In my spare time, I was writing long, largely lack-luster short stories. They had the potential to be interesting or fleetingly pretty, but on a whole were either trying to be something much more (I now focus on novel-size manuscripts) or something much less (a joke, a whisper, an image to hold in my mind).

Another quick peek at the past:
The board during one of its horizontal incarnations,
circa 2007 in San Francisco.

Nevertheless, today the board fulfills its purpose: to allow those moments of rest in the song before the music (hopefully) continues. Empty, the board is quite beautiful all on its own, overlaid with one of those French Provencal countryside scenes of long ago, textiled in cream and pale green. But, as you can see, the fabric is rarely allowed to poke through, so full is the collection of cards from friends, quotes on writing, postcards from cities and museums, memorable tickets, buttons, tear sheets from magazines, and, most importantly, photographs of friends. (Understandably, the board is especially picture-heavy now that it’s so far from home.)

I’m curious where and how you find your inspiration. Has it always been that way? Because I know this story board is also a composite of how I used to (for hours) arrange (and rearrange) magazine photos on my black bedroom walls (we’re talking about high school here). It wasn’t a hodgepodge operation either, so I guess my organizational tendencies kicked in early. How fully formed we often are, even when we’re young. Perhaps, especially so.

When it was first settling in here in Santiago.

Today in class, we talked about our current jobs in relation to our childhood ambitions. (My mom always says you should ask a seven year old what they want to be when they grow up, and they’ll give you their purest, truest answer.) When it was time to offer my first ambition, I remembered something I haven’t thought about in ages but know I still possess back in California: Dr. Seuss’ My Book About Me by Me, Myself. The big yellow one. You might also have gotten it gifted to you when you were 7 or 8 or 9 or so. It had a rectangle on the front where you got to glue your picture and pages upon pages of questions followed by blank space, inviting you to think through the life you wanted and commit it to paper in your slowly maturing handwriting.

A Brooklyn inspiration in the same vein.

I remember there were three lines for what you wanted to be when you grew up–three future career options to ponder. I put artist first, teacher second, and left the third blank (I needed room to keep dreaming). For a hot second, “artist” equated to “fashion designer” in my mind, but I can’t draw to save my life, so that ambition was waylaid as I decided to scroll words instead of images with my pen. After all, perhaps I loved the book so much because it was the first time I was given permission, by Dr. Seuss no less, to author my own story.

Now that I’ve got writer and teacher relatively squared away, it might be time to channel my seven-year-old self and turn back to “artist.” I’m thinking collage. I’m thinking stacks upon stacks of old magazines, glue and paper-mache, and tall, tall canvases. Maybe some shellac. You know, found art in the way that a poem can be. You with me?

Ryan’s board (he made it!).
Far from the ocean most of these days,
but an inspiration nevertheless.

What did you want to be before you grew up? Are you doing anything along those lines today? Even if it’s just something you hang on the wall and rearrange once in awhile. Even if it’s just something you talk about in class in the morning and can’t stop thinking about for the rest of the day. Whatever it is, I hope it continues to inspire this year as it did last.


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