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Payoffs of Persistence

February, 2022

Bankable Wins Reap Rewards

It was the shortbread cookies. Inspiration came from a holiday treat given to us by our neighbor, Catherine. They were so luscious, I considered never eating a store-bought shortbread cookie again.

My compliments to Catherine were effusive. That’s when I found out the sweet yummies our household was rationing—so they’d last longer—were from her third batch. The first and second batches? Flops, according to Catherine. It would have been so easy to give up after two failed tries. But she didn’t. I admired her persistence.

And that’s what got me thinking . . . why not try to rescue a flop of mine?

A year ago, I’d made a collage of an autumnal tree. I was pleased with one-third of it. The remaining two-thirds? FLOP. Very disappointing. Still, I made some lemonade out of my lemon by utilizing the good third in the April 2021 issue of Out on a Limb. Did that quell my chagrin over the flop? Heck no. It had been bothering me ever since.

I didn’t want to sacrifice the good third. How could I emulate Catherine and rescue this composition? Ideas swirled in my head but I was reluctant to pull out the canvas and get started.

On a day when writing projects had thrown me into deep doubt, an internal pep talk encouraged me to pivot away from the laptop and go for a bankable win.

Sometimes a win is choosing to forgo the New York Times crossword and do an easier one, instead.

Sometimes a win is making a nourishing bowl of soup from a tried-and-true recipe rather than experimenting with a complicated one in some lah-di-dah cookbook.

And for this artist, sometimes “just” working on a collage is a win when the writing chops appear to be on holiday. Collage is so forgiving. You can paste right over anything you don’t like. I didn’t have to toss out a first or second “batch.” I tackled the problematic two-thirds and came up with a whimsical composition that brings me joy. It was a good enough win.

By rescuing my collage, I rescued myself from yet another patch of creative self-doubt. “The Winning Trees” is on the wall in my studio. It will remind me of Catherine’s awesome shortbread cookies and encourage me to persist.

Going for a “bankable” win isn’t a copout. Rather, it’s a reliable lifter-upper for those moments when doubts take up too much real estate in our heads.

How do you go for a bankable win? What rewards have you reaped? I’d love to hear.

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I’m still in search of the mysterious reader named “carmelarocco” who was one of the first to offer feedback about Out on a Limb, back in December 2021. S/he will receive a signed copy of Assembling a Life: Claiming the Artist in My Father (and Myself) as soon as s/he supplies a mailing address! Click here to send a message my way.


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For those who have expressed an interest in my collages, you can follow me on Instagram. In case you missed the one that I mentioned in January’s Limb was in-the-works, here is Otis:


Why Assemble a Life? An Interview with Author and Artist, Martha Clark Scala

What motivated me to write Assembling a Life: Claiming the Artist in My Father (and Myself)? Check out this video to find out. Comments and feedback welcome!


Prompts For Joy

Click here for an antidote to any doubtful part of you.

Click here for an inspiring, animated encouragement to persist.

Click here for all previous Prompts for Joy.


About the Photos

Above: La Crepuscule. Palo Alto, CA. Photo by Martha Clark Scala.

Next: "The Winning Trees." Collage by Martha Clark Scala.

Next: "Otis." Collage by Martha Clark Scala.

Below: Geoffrey Clark's photograph of his sun- and cat-loving wife, Martha.


"A collage of words and images, artfully presented, a story artfully told. I have given this book as a gift, I have read it four or five times (okay, I was the editor--but even if I weren't I'd recommend this touching story by a sensitive writer/poet who longed to better understand her father). Martha blends love, loss, images and humor into a memorable palette."

Darlene Frank, Writer/Editor/Creativity Coach. "Tour Guide" for Spirited Voices: A Writing Journey into the Deep Imagination.

My father's photo of Mom can be found in Chapter 12 of Assembling a Life: Claiming the Artist in My Father (and Myself). This memoir is loaded with color photos (and some black and white) on just about every page. A visual feast.

For additional book reviews, click here. To purchase the premium softcover or e-book versions of Assembling a Life, click here.


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