“Everyday Matters” began as a simple grab bag of pages from my illustrated journals.
I’m not sure if I was lazy or clueless but I couldn’t come up with a rhyme or reason for how or why the pages were assembled. I just thought it would be cool to say, “Here are a bunch of pages that I wrote and drew over the years, — check em out.”
My editor frowned and said that wasn’t really how books worked and that I needed to come up with a theme, a story, an arc, a reason for anyone to care and keep turning the pages. After some head scratching, I decided that maybe the theme could just be “A New York diary” . Again my editor frowned. ” Just ‘New York’? What about it? What’s unique about your perspective? ‘
My next idea: maybe it could have something to do with architecture (I had already drawn quite a lot of buildings) and she asked me from what perspective, what did I know about architecture, what was my POV on buildings and I said lamely, ” I dunno, I just draw a lot of them.”
Finally, one tense Thursday evening she said, “Look, why do you draw? Why have you always drawn?” I snapped back that I hadn’t always drawn, that I’d only started a few years before, in my mid thirties. I guess I’d never told her that. “Well, why did you start?” she asked.
I explained that the reason I’d started was private, not something I could share in a book, too personal, too private. She kept prodding me until I explained that my wife had been run over by a subway train and that in the months after I had begun to draw and to chronicle our lives and stuff I liked and places I went and thoughts I had and so on.
There was a longish silence.
In retrospect, I can see how much I’ve changed over the past decade, how much freer and more open I am with the facts of my life. But then, before I had published a word about my life, I was embarrassed, super-private, oblivious to how interested and sympathetic others might be about the changes in our lives that had occurred since Patti’s paraplegia. The fact that I hadn’t mentioned any of this to my editor up to that point is amazing to me now. As is her interest in my work, given that she knew none of the story or how it came about.
“That’s your story,” she said finally. “That’s what your book is about, about how you started to draw and what happened to your family.” I protested that I could never share that sort of stuff with strangers, that it would seem like I was exploiting our story to sell books. She explained that it would be a book that would touch a lot of people if I could write it and that she hoped I could. Otherwise there wasn’t much to discuss.
I went home and talked about the meeting with my wife. She encouraged me to do what I felt was right, that it was my story as much as hers and that if it meant something to others that maybe we should share it. I didn’t know it then but Patti was saying, “Be an artist.”
I sat down and started to write. The story poured out of me, and I saw how it gave meaning to all of the journaling I’d done, that it made it all made sense, my creative rebirth, my need to document my life, my search for meaning, and the way it had brought me to this moment, to sitting down and writing this book.
At the core of my resistance was a conviction that I was not and could not be an artist. I could draw and even publish books, but I could not delve into myself and share it with the world. I had all the capabilities but I did not have that permission. In the years since I Everyday Matters appeared, I have heard from thousands of people and I came to realize that I was not the only one with this limitation. Making art, sharing it with one’s friends and strangers is a transformative experience and I have worked ever since to encourage others to try it. I’ve written several other books exploring the ways people express their feelings and capture their lives in illustrated journaling and I hope to make more tin the future.
For me, art gives meaning to my life. Sharing it with others just makes it mean even more.
Thanks to Seth Apter of The Altered Page for asking me the question that provoked this response.
16 thoughts on “Why Everyday Matters”
I’m glad you put it all on paper–I’m sure it was cathartic, and it also gives others “permission” to document their lives as well.
Was reading your book “the creative License’ this morning (recently acquired) and thinking it was a shame your site was now gone. Came to computer and Low and Behold you are back! Wonderful. Great to see you here again and hope all is well with you and Jack. Pam x
Danny: I want you to know that ever since I bought the books “Everyday Matters”, “The Creative License”, and “An Illustrated Life” from Amazon they have had a major impact on my life. I’ve read “Everyday Matters” 2 times and “The Creative License” 3 times. I look through “An Illustrated Life” at least once a week. I was a sign painter for 25 years… I drew thousands of letters but never any drawings because I never felt I could. I always wanted to draw and your books were just the kick start I needed. Thank you so much for sharing your story. (That’s enough “touchy feely” for now) Time to draw ;o)
“Why watercolor journaling?” I am often asked. And I always say “Read Danny Gregory’s Creative License and you’ll understand.” Following a snorkeling excursion in Hawaii yesterday, my brother asked, “Why after looking at fish underwater for 4 hours do you sit and paint the same fish for another hour?” I quoted him an excerpt from the article on “How to Prolong Memorable Moments” in this month’s Psychology Today magazine: “The best way to cement memorable moments is to take time between them, allowing them to fully penetrate the psyche. Journals kept can be resources to return to when harsher realities intrude.” ‘Nuff said. Thank you, Danny.
I’m so happy you’re back. My husband and I each have our own copies of your books, and we read them and refer to them often. Thank you for having the courage to share your life with so many of us who have benefited from your generosity. Blessings to both you and Jack. nancy
I LOVED reading your interview on Seth’s blog. Really interesting. Your book has been sitting in my Amazon check out cart for weeks now, waiting (not very patiently) for more funds to come in. I found your blog a couple of months ago, and have been ridiculously inspired to try and draw, and I haven’t given up yet 🙂 I am also glad that it wasn’t my computer that hated your website, because I thought it was. PHEW. I like the new redesign.
Danny…once again, your honest revelations about your life have touched me. I stalled out on the part when Patty gave you permission to “be an artist”. It was similar to a note my wife had written to me two years ago, in the event that she passed away before I did. You share from the heart, Danny…and I thank you for the reminder of the gift of “creative encouragement” our wives left for us. It carries us forward!
And I’m glad you are back online!! Staring at a white screen is not nearly so interesting as what your site looks like now…nice redesign!
[…] Gregory’s most recent post on September 21st, has caused me to think a bit. He talks about how Everyday Matters, the book, […]
I’m glad you are back online,Danny! I’ve been reading your blog since you began writing. Also purchased your books, mention you on my blog, introduce you to my friends, students and wanna-be-artists. You’ve made a HUGE impact on people’s lives. Thank you!
Danny, Thank you so much. I read your books, Everyday Matters and Creative License, in 2008 and was inspired! I sent copies to all my nieces & nephews – started an art blog for the family and one for myself – I have since realized I’m not a “sketcher” nor a “journaler” but I am a “drawer” and a “painter” – I love making art it makes me happy, is fun, and best of all puts me in the moment I know I am alive when I am drawing- I am now dying diagnosed with stage IV small cell lung cancer – and I can thank you for your inspiration and guidance to living my life more fully and once again finding the joy of making art – Know that by sharing who you are and your life with me you have made a huge difference in my life- Thank You- Kathleen
Danny I discovered your books and blog about a week or two before you went offline. Im happy you are back. I am on a proper journey of discovery. I have just had 3 weeks holiday at home and feel more relaxed and peaceful than ever, I have been drawing and trying to get others to draw. I entered the sketchbook project and can’t wait for my book to come and have also started my own blog. I don’t care if my drawings are rubbish and I am willing to share them with others but still feel shy about drawing in front of others. Im sure it will come
Greetings from Stockholm!
I was happy to find your text this morning. Just signed up on your blog just this week. After I bought three books of yours this past September. Love it. Love that you´ve shared your journey. Even though it hurts too. And today I don´t know what you refer to when you say it´s been 7 months now… And where´s your wife Patti? I guess I´m missing pieces— still have some chapters to read in one of the three books and then again- who am I to wonder. I´m a 48 year old mother of three boys who was so touched by your work that I started drawing my tea-mug at once. Then a piece of bread- we don´t have that many bagels here… And a few days ago I started drawing the view from one of our windows. And I just want to thank you. That´s why I write you now. To thank you. I´ve been getting a series of electrical-chocks lately for a black period in my life- and I too wanted to draw- always- but never did since I was scared. You have helped me find that chill from redescovering it all again. And I love you for that. And I do hope you take care.
From Sweden in red and yellow leaves,
Sharing your stuff with strangers is something few do. Those who do it enrich the lives of others.
Oops – mistyped my website before.
Dear Mr. Gregory,
I just wanted to thank you. Thankyou for sharing your books, your sketches, your viewpoint of the world. I own three of your books (creative license, illustrated life & everyday matters). I keep them constantly close when I start to doubt myself or question on if I am really ‘good’ enough to keep on drawing or putting things to print. You are a great inspiration.Everyday matters is so touching, I laugh, I cry, I enjoy it. Creative license is like my personal bible. Illustrated Life is like my teacher and inspiration. I am sure you get told that a lot, but if it helps, here’s another person who thanks you for sharing your stories, experiences and viewpoints. Thankyou. I guess I’m gushing now… as it’s had to put into words some such feelings. Thankyou for sharing your stories, your artwork, and thoughts. Thankyou for not staying silent. 🙂
I just want to say how much your book, the creative license, helped me. I come from a fine art background and began to not believe in myself and started to resent drawing and anything arty. I was in the process on deciding whether to finish off my education in the arts when i came across your book. to this day i still use it when i am struggling. It has in away saved me and also helped me realize that i want to be an illustrator. i jsut want to say thank you