Mormon Couple-Creators

Back when William first approached me about guesting on AMV, he offered this as a possible topic:

A guest post on you and your wife and your creative processes (and even how family impacts them). How do you find time to write? What helps you write? Where do your creative processes and ambitions collide/feed off of/interact with/entangle with your wife’s creative processes and ambitions? (and this even if your output her output of work isn’t huge — certainly family dampens things).

I think he asked because I had approached him about us, my wife and I, possibly doing a comics story for Popcorn Popping. We hadn’t started working on it yet, but I thought PP might be a venue for such a work, if the work tasted Mormon enough. William then had the grim responsibility to tell me PP had been shut down (two days later, the announcement appeared on the site).

Everyone has a list of someday-I-wills and one Lynsey and I share is creating a graphic novel together. But as William hinted in his suggested topic, things like family (to say nothing of desperate poverty) have prevented some of our more ambitious planned projects.

But you can’t take a born visualist and a born fictionist and not expect them to create something. You can’t stick them together and expect that. And so create we do. Lynsey has made the most amazing birth announcements. We do complex and beautiful postal art for our family newsletter, the LDotFMotNY. Lynsey is our ward’s bulletin specialist and, under her creative direction, those have ranged from gorgeous covers using photographs from the early days of the Berkeley Ward to the oh-so-witty speaker bios I’m writing for inclusion now. We have outlets, even if we’re not yet accomplishing the great things we intend to.

Because, let’s be frank, having kids makes it hard.

Yes, yes, yes. That’s an excuse and only an excuse and I admit it readily. Anthony Trollope wrote from 5am to 8am every morning before he went off and invented the modern mailbox. What makes my excuse any good?

Nothing, frankly.

Yes, it is true that I have a novel I’m trying to sell; I’ve edited an anthology that’s coming out June 1; I’m working on some other anthology projects and critical editions; I have two novel-length projects I hope to finish before the new school year starts; I’m doing some editing for other people’s projects that are coming out in the next year or two; I blog—- So I am working on thing, I am I am.

But these meager accomplishments come with a large dose of guilt. Because while I’m scraping minutes to get things done, I’m preventing my wife from similarly scraping. Her charity in letting me string words together has the direct result of minimizing her own time spent creating. It makes me feel unpleasantly patriarchal.

What I’m getting at is that we Jepsons still need to find a better balance.

As part of my pursuit of a fair balance, I am beginning a series of interviews with Mormon husband/wife artist pairs. I have an excellent one lined up for our first entry and am working on arranging more. (If you have suggestions or can help me contact artsy couples who have found success, please let me know so I can start tracking them down.)

My father-in-law says that being an engineer is godlike because it is creation and God is a Creator. This aligns with my thinking. Granted, after this life ends we will have a lot of physics to catch up on, but Lynsey and I, wife and husband, are creators. A husband and wife creating, together. What could be more Mormon than that?

5 thoughts on “Mormon Couple-Creators”

  1. Well, I’m still interested in this topic even if no one else is. And I agree: what could be more Mormon than to be couple creators?

    I don’t know if they’d be up for it, but Kristen and Guy Randle would make for an interesting interview. Certainly, the idea that both a husband and wife (and parents) could work out of their home and make a living from creative endeavors (although I’m sure it wasn’t always is) had a huge impact on my thinking as a teenager.

    The current situation in the Morris home is fairly traditional, but I could see that changing in the years ahead.

  2. .

    I’ve added them to my list, thanks.

    I’ve actually had a couple emails giving me suggestions, but hey, people — feel free to leave some here as well.

  3. Bela Petsco gave me a copy of Domestic Manners of the Americans, by Mrs. Frances Trollope, Anthony’s mother, apparently a very prolific writer. Wikipedia says she produced over 100 volumes. “Though possessed of considerable powers of observation and a sharp and caustic wit, such an output was fatal to permanent literary success, and few of her books are now read.”

    I’ve found that any writing I do increases my ability to write, gives me experience and is for my good (including the notes I make of sacrament meeting talks). In the mid-70s, before Tao-Jones decided it was a money loser and stopped publishing The National Observer, I read an article about Capra Press, a publisher of chapbooks (I prize my copy of Henry Miller’s On Turning 80–he followed it up with On Turning 90, but I don’t have a copy of that) I went to the BYU library and looked up some books by Capra and found Zen and the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury. He says writing is like Zen archery. The Zen archer becomes a master by shooting arrows over and over and over over a long period. Bradbury says a great quantity thus produces quality.

    He later added some essays and published them as Zen in the Art of Writing, also with Capra Press. Leslie Norris found it on the remainder table in the BYU Bookstore, and read our class part of the title essay.

    So you might consider blogging and ward newsletters and bulletins and other stuff your daily archery.

    As far as other creative couples, I’ve done a couple of profiles of Steven Kapp Perry and Johanne Frechette Perry. Steve said Johanne gave up a Broadway career to marry him so he wrote her a one-woman show, Polly, about one of her ancestors.

    Polly has some wonderful songs, including one called “Salt Lake City,” which includes lyrics something like,
    Forget about the great bald eagle,
    Our state bird’s a regurgitating seagull


    Don’t believe them when they tell you
    You could lose your life.
    Uh-uh, at most you’d lose your wife.

    Johanne is a bit more modest about her talents, says she hadn’t started a Broadway career, was just inclined that way.

    Invited by church groups they’ve taken the show all over the country, including Alaska, but they fly in sometime before the show and fly out right after so they never get to see much scenery except the satellite dish at the stake center.

  4. Excellent suggestion, Harlow.

    And I like your daily archery metaphor. Although perhaps I find it comforting for the wrong reasons instead of the right ones.

  5. .

    I think any work of art, no matter how pedestrian its purpose, builds glory if it is done with an eye single etc etc.

    (Incidentally, I do wonder how the next generation is going to decide which of Joyce Carol Oates books they will remember. Won’t be easy.)

    And thanks for the tip. Consider them added to the list.

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