Tools & Talismans #25 — Laurie Wagner

I made a personal quest to mimic Laurie’s handwriting in this painting. It was such a dominant part of her piece that I didn't want to half-ass it, so I worked to get the feeling for her letter shapes and the patterns of her words and phrases, and honestly, had so much fun doing it. I got some of it, some not, but it was an exercise in putting away my natural inclination for how letters attach and descend and ascend and made me think differently about how our letters come together to form words and ideas. Kind of like learning a few phrases in another language and feeling like you have a whole new set of tools to shape your contact with others.

Writing is agitating for me — which is probably why I created a whole career around teaching people how to get past their own agitation and get a lot of messy, terrible words on the page. We teach what we need to learn. So, no surprise, I surround myself with things that will calm me down.

First and foremost, there’s the coffee. Caffeine is essential for my working brain. And then, to counter that lift off I need Peace & Calming oil which is full of bergamot and citrus. I rub it on my skin and take a deep breath. The little silver canister is from Nepal and is affectionately known around here as King Sniffy. Even my kids call it that. It’s a nasal inhaler that delivers this delicious camphor scent into your nose. It’s probably meant for colds, but I use it all the time because I like inhaling things. Better than a cigarette I think. Altoids = something to put in my mouth. Then there’s the sage which I sometimes light when I’m working or when a class is coming over. It helps me slow down and take a breath.  Gotta have a black sharpie and definitely my computer and that journal — which is where I keep my daily list of things I can’t forget, and which I consult 20 times a day. And finally, the tweezer — a habit I picked up years ago. When I read and edit online I need something — I’m not sure why — and so I randomly pluck tiny hairs off my face. I know that must sound terrible. I’m not pulling my hair out, just pruning in the smallest way as I read student papers. Again, it must calm me down.

Laurie Wagner has been publishing books and essays, and teaching writing for the last 25 years. She is a process guru and has a genius for holding space, helping people unzip what’s inside of them, and get ink on the page. A creative brain-stormer, she specializes in out of the box ways to tell your stories.


Tools & Talismans is a personal painting project where I’m documenting in watercolor the tools and talismans of 100 different women — creators and healers, thinkers and makers, wordsmiths and visionaries. Join me for a year of Tools & Talismans — I'll be sharing a new painting with you every Wednesday.

I also create commissioned illustrations for people just like you — contact me and we can talk about what you might need for your website, a book cover and etc.