Thoughts from the studio


I am sitting in my studio writing this morning.  I don’t normally write in the studio, as most of you know. I tend to write in various diners.

I write best in relative quiet. There can be hustle and bustle going on around me, but as long as the conversation and activity doesn’t affect me directly, as long as no one is talking to me directly, I can focus and write anywhere.

I recently moved what was my dining room table into the studio as part of moving my wife’s things in. I wasn’t sure what I would do with the table, but I wanted to keep it, in case one of the kids need a table as they grow and move into new apartments and houses down the road. I also figured that no studio can have too many flat places to work.

It turns out, it’s a perfect space to write. Spacious, the right height, comfortable with music playing on the Bose.

I spent some time journal writing first.

Journal writing is one of many things that fell by the wayside since my cancer diagnosis last summer. If I have a new year’s resolution, it is to reclaim my energy and discipline, to move from “I survived” mode back to “moving forward” mode.  Part of that is getting back to some of the things I used to do, to push myself to work harder than I feel like I can.

There was a time to go easy on myself. But that time is past. Only by pushing myself will I get back to, and beyond, where I was. And that is on every front, physical, mental, professional and emotional. I need to think of myself as once of my own coaching clients.

There’s work to be done.

I took the week around Christmas off. We had company and I somehow can never write when I have, or when I am, company. There’s always people around, people I don’t normally get to see. There is always conversation to be had and I want to make the most of it. To disappear for a few hours to write seems, in my sometimes too Southern manners, to be rude. My mother taught me well, I think.

So yesterday. I got to begin again. A couple of hours at the diner writing. It came easily enough, both in my journal and the two poems I wrote before heading home. Today has come easily too. I am on track.

Of course, two days do not good habits make. But it is an encouraging way to start. Being able to write so easily in the studio is also encouraging. Something different that works.

I have a couple of paintings to finish this morning. And I want to start making a large canvas. I have the frame, three feet by ten feet. Today I start applying the canvas. It’s not art, but it is the work of preparation, which is just as important.

I’ve never done it before.

I have always bought my canvas already mounted, pre-stretched, and pre-Gessoed (Gesso is the white subcoating you see on the canvases in the store. Sort of a primer for oil or acrylic paint.) It will take me a few days to get it done, I am sure.  In the meanwhile, as I prepare it, stretch it, dry it. gesso it, I will be thinking.

“What do I want to do here? Do I want to do a larger version of what I have been doing the past couple of years? Maybe. I still see themes and possibilities and growth in that style. Or do I want to make it a big experiment, and try something entirely new? I have a few thoughts on what that might be. My mind twists and turns. I have no idea yet what it will be, except bigger.

That’s a subset of what I am thinking as I go into the new year. Lots of ideas. None of them nailed down. But at nearly 65, I feel a need to be….. bigger.

I lived a pretty big life for fifty years or so, and then came unraveled. Some of my own doing. Some of related to my divorce. I came undone and the rebuilding has been long, hard and rewarding.

It’s also been life on a small scale. I went from work in the TV industry, working with clients like CNN, NBC, PBS, and others you’d recognize, to working on a much smaller scale. One on one with coaching clients, Leading a small little church in the Vermont countryside. Working with a few medium-sized companies as a consultant.

I moved to a smaller town. I live in a smaller house. I kept most of the smaller furniture when I divorced, and for the most part, what I brought into the house since then was also on a smaller scale.

I’ve loved the smaller scale, actually. I find I thrive in a one on one, or one on a couple type of work and life. I can give everyone presence. Focus. My energy. And I like that. It’s energizing in a way working in a larger stage is not. Much to my surprise, when I had to give up my big house and big yard and move to smaller places, I liked it. I liked the intimacy, and I liked that there was less work and less maintenance to deal with. There was more time to actually be with people, to write. To think. To be.

Recently, I have become restless. Not in a “I am going to blow my world up” kind of restlessness, but just in an “I am nearly sixty-five and I don’t want to be winding down. I want to be winding up again.” way.

I don’t even know what that looks like. I don’t know how to keep the intimacy of my small life and grow bigger. I just know I do.

And it starts with pushing myself. Regaining my energy, pushing my ideas, making myself work harder. Undoing the damage, not just physical, of the past few months. All the healing that will come naturally is done. From here on out it will take work.

The first step. To get back to where I was. But not as a goal. just as a first step. Heal as much as possible, and go from there. Thinking along the way.

Thanks for listening to my rambling. I do a lot of rambling in my head as the new year approaches. It’s either a good or bad habit. I am not sure which. But habit it is.

Be well. Travel wisely,



  1. Tom, your studio looks wonderful.
    You are not rambling on at all and if you are I enjoyed your rambling.
    It’s always a pleasure to read more about you and your life.
    The best of your life is yet to come!
    Be well, be happy and I wish you the most wonderful New Year!

  2. I love this post, Tom. I can connect with it in so many ways. I wanted to see what your studio looks like these days — and there it is. I get the becoming undone after a divorce, and the rebuilding. Your need at the time for living on a smaller scale was similar to my need, as a lifetime traveller (44 moves and counting), to invest myself in a local community. You know the need to still grow, even as the gravity of advancing years tries to pull us down, into complacency.

    I suspect that painting is for you is as making music is for me. And writing — your easy, conversational style of writing just makes me want to write more — to write about good times and bad, about times of clarity and insight, and times of darkness and confusion, both.

    Thanks for posting this, Tom. For safety’s sake (we’re not getting any younger) I hope your 3×10 canvas will be landscape…


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