Category: Success & Failure

Fulfilling rewards

This morning I was listening to Macy Gray on a podcast. She said she caught her ideas for her songs when God and angels threw them at her. This isn’t as novel or “out there” as it may seem.  In “Big Magic,” Elizabeth Gilbert says basically the same thing, as does Phil Cousineau in his book “Stoking the Creative Fires.” (note: both books are good reads)

I find the concept fascinating. They’re all basically saying that there are moments when a creative idea comes to you. You can grab it and run with it…or let it pass. Gilbert goes as far to say if you let it pass, the idea might get tossed to someone else. I’ve had moments of “Oh wow! What if I do this?” I find it fascinating.

Creativity isn’t just about making a work of art. Creative expression could be starting a new business or non-profit, deciding to take a trip, inviting friends to start a support group or book club, coming up with an idea to teach a class, or… well you get the idea. The challenge is acting on the inspiration.

I come up with a lot of ideas, but grabbing them and acting on them is a different story. Reading these 2 books and, today, listening to Ms. Gray, I realized you can’t act on everything. You can easily forget an idea if you’re busy with something else or don’t write it down. Maybe you need time to percolate the reality of this creative spark. Maybe it was just an idea that passed by you, but was meant for someone else. If the idea is meant for you, hopefully it will return when you’re ready and bless you with many fulfilling rewards.

 

Back at you

I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a “beach person,” but I do love the beach. I don’t like the beaches that are crowded with people. I like walking the beach early in the morning or in cold months when no one else wants to be there. I had some time this past week to stroll barefoot in the sand and I kept running into great blue herons. This one stood still along the coast and pretended not to notice me. I was acting like a Frozen Charlotte and I knew he was watching me. Whenever I made the slightest move, his gaze would change or his body would move to reposition. It was a stand-off of mutual respect.

Had I been with other people, I know this encounter wouldn’t have happened. They likely wouldn’t have been so patient or quiet in waiting. Watching. It was magic. I watched how they interacted with people and tried to survive with the 2-legged trespassers. I watched how they adapted their feeding, as they attempted to steal the fish reeled in by the people fishing the surf. No longer the independent hunter, just a well-adapted opportunistic thief. I walked away emotionally changed.

I knew in just a few hours of my walk, things would be different for them. Instead of an occasional morning walker, they would deal with a steady stream of people passing up and down the coastal sand. They did what they could to survive. One stolen fish at a time.

This is were creative inspiration comes from; Stopping. Observing. Witnessing life around you. Take the time to slow down. The inspiration will probably be there looking right back at you.

 

 

Allow space for things to happen

The past few months, I’ve been working in front of my computer. At times, it felt like slow movements; a nagging … “get it done, get it done.” At the same time, I was reading books and paying attention to how I felt. My feelings were: why the hurry? Give it time. Don’t rush it.

“Don’t rush anything. When the time is right, it’ll happen.” – Anonymous

I’ve been trying to give myself space. I didn’t make my mental deadlines public, because I wanted to work in a comfortable way (yes, those deadlines kept changing). I didn’t want the added burden of external expectations. I’ve done that before and failed. Creativity isn’t a place to rush. However, it is a place to attend to.

I could have literally spent 8-10 hours a day working on producing my next online class. Instead I gave it time to process. Since the time I started working on this (yes, its been awhile), I’ve run into technical and software issues. And, the online hosting platform I was using announced they were shutting down. (Stop. Re-group. Time to go down a rabbit hole of research.) Disappointment and hurdles can slow you down.

I didn’t give up though. I just gave myself patience and space. If it is meant to be, it will be. Breathe.

There have been times that I pushed myself to perform and found my health was affected by it. I’m older and don’t want to live like that. I think many people are feeling this way. Covid gave us all a time to really slow down. Now as things are returning to normal, many of us don’t want to go back to our old ways. It’s Ok. Its actually healthy to step off the treadmill and meditate.

Above all, it is important to be aware of how you feel toward what you are doing. Step back, check in, and reflect. Is it important to you? If yes, take time for it. If no, then let it go. Along the way, remember to be kind to yourself. It’s ok to allow space for things to happen.

Try and succeed

I’ve been reading “The Storyteller” by David Grohl (lead vocalist for Foo Fighters). If you followed the “grunge” scene of music, you might appreciate his story. Even if you don’t know about much about grunge, its a good read because it’s a story about David’s creative journey. If you’re reading this you are probably on your own creative journey.

As I’m working through the last few chapters, he’s spending a lot of time reflecting on the people he met along the way. He looks back in amazement that a young kid raised in Springfield, Virginia could be living the life he currently has. Many of his idols and inspiration growing up are now counted as friends. He’s humble about his journey and finds it difficult to believe that he stumbled his way to this success. He wasn’t discouraged because there was a challenge ahead. He frequently refers to his journey as “fake it until you make it.”


I know this sounds like a book review; not, something I usually do. But, I’m telling you this because I see something else in the chapters of his story. I see that he showed up!! He had self-doubt and lack of experience, but he looked at opportunities with courage and tried. That to me is the lesson.

How many times have you felt discouraged and gave up, maybe even before trying? Have you ever said, “I’m not good enough, so why bother?” I can remember a few times I did. I also remember a few times I thought it, then convinced myself to generate the courage and try anyway. It is easy to look back in hindsight at the opportunities where we said “yes.” I see that each one of my “say yes” moments placed me farther down the road. That’s especially true when the opportunity turned into a complete failure!! They taught me what worked and didn’t work, making it easier to move forward to the next challenge.

If we give up, we’ll never completely know what we missed. However, I’m confident that when we say “yes,” we will grow. Its scary to take chances, but if you really want something you should try. This is important step to making art. To learn, we must try and fail. If we accept that, then we’ll only be able to try and succeed.

Find our way

So tell me, what’s with that project in your closet? You know, the one that you started ages ago? The one that you want to finish but lost your mojo? Or is it the one that you forgot about and later discovered while you were looking for something else? You know the one I mean…YES! That one! Can you tell me why you haven’t finished it?

I think all creatives have them. And, I must confess, I have my own “healthy” stash of UFOs (UnFinished Objects). Knitting projects, pieced quilts, art quilts and countless fabric tidbits that were suppose to become something.

When I “find” mine in the closet, I think to myself, “I should really finish that.” Then, I proceed to move on to whatever I was initially doing. I occasionally grab them and say…”Now its your turn!” and happily get them completed.

I sometimes envy those that don’t have abandonment issues with their art. However, not so much lately, because I’ve discovered a different attitude to take … it isn’t time. I compare it to making bread, the idea or creative energy needs to rest before it can rise.

Our society is so full of productive hurry. Do more, be more, create more … Don’t stop, because you will fall behind!

Maybe art isn’t meant to be created like that. Sure, there are those who crank out new work like they have little mice helping them at night [e.g., Cinderella]. But, it’s tiring to keep up. What if the work needs rest too? If we’re stuck, the pause can bring new insight and inspiration. Giving the work a timeout might be all we need to get the courage and confidence to complete it. Or maybe, the intermission gives us time to learn new things and find our way.

Feeding the soul and growing inspiration

I’ve been video editing a new online course I’m creating. The progress is slow, because there’s only so much intense computer time that I can handle in one day. The creative time for my art is limited and I must admit, I’m stuck.

It would be nice to have a new textile piece in progress on my work table, but I don’t know what I want to do next. My brain wanders between ideas, but nothing is sticking around to say “Start THIS one!” I wonder if you’ve felt stuck, like this. I try not to be too hard on myself. You can’t force art, but you can feed the creative sprite.

Here are some things that I’m doing to encourage a new project idea:

  • Journaling and meditation:  This is a great way to clear the clutter and negativity from your brain.
  • Sketching: – Sometimes an idea arrives, but its not fully developed. Sketch it out anyway. Just a simple drawing is all you need to remember it later. I know, if I don’t sketch it, I will forget it.
  • View artwork: Visit art galleries to see other artist’s work. They might use a theme or technique that inspires a new design idea.
  • Read: Go to the book store or library and look through art books and magazines. Much like viewing art in a gallery, flipping through pages is eye candy. If you buy the books or magazines, you can even rip out, or flag, pages for future reference.
  • Observe nature and take pictures: Even if you don’t create nature-inspired art, the colors or patterns in nature can spark design potential.
  • Experiment: Take classes or just play with some techniques or tools.

I’ve been doing all these things the past 2 weeks. Spring is definitely a time to be outside and exploring. It is also a great time to renew and grow. While encouraging my own growth, I’ve decided I want to jazz up my backgrounds on my art quilts. I’m learning how to use gouache paints to see if there’s a new way I can paint my fabrics. I also plan to experiment with several different fabric collage ideas, one from an idea I saw in a magazine and another a friend showed me. Maybe the two idea will morph into something totally different.

So, right now I’m OK not producing…instead, I’m feeding the soul and growing inspiration.

That magical place of being; reverie

I love learning new things. I never want my thoughts to be without engagement. What is? What if? What next? How? Constantly wondering and awarded with discovering something new.

This week I learned a new word, “reverie.” Merriem-Webster describes it as “the condition of being lost in thought; day dream.” Phil Cousineau in his book “Stoking the Creative Fires” describes it as the first fire that must be stoked to ignite the creative work that keeps you from going crazy.

Much like “flow,”  which was conceptualized and introduced into psychology by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi as a creative cognitive space where we step out of the routines of everyday life into a different reality. A place were we get lost in time, find effortless attention, and a balance between skill and challenge.

Both reverie and flow describe the place were creatives are lost in their task. I have held this space, have you?  Right now I’m in-between projects and craving this super absorbed space in time. I’ve been thinking what inspires my reverie. What sparks yours?

For me listening to my playlists and getting lost in music is my magical place. The lyrics fill my brain and the rhythm pulses my heartbeat. I love going to live performances and watch how the musicians transform on stage. Scott Terry (pictured) of Red Wanting Blue is one of those performers. His facial expressions show his departure from time and place. He is singing with his muse and the audience is flowing with him. In my personal journey, I’m discovering how to spark that magical place of being; reverie.

Always continue to try

I’m one who likes to keep quiet until something is definite. So many things can go wrong. (Yes, I’m also a recovering pessimist.) I believe if I share something too early and it doesn’t happen, I’d have to publicly explain why it didn’t. My reasoning is even more pronounced after these covid years. I watched so many things get cancelled; weddings, exhibits, concerts, vacations, home remodeling projects, etc. So until I know for sure, I plan to stay neutral about possibilities in my future. And that’s what I did…

Early in December 2021, I had an idea for an article for Quilting Arts magazine. This wasn’t the first time I submitted to a magazine;  sometimes the ideas get accepted and sometimes not. You have to pull together the courage to say, “no matter what the answer, it will be OK.” And yes, over the years, I’ve dealt with my share of rejections and acceptances. (Does anyone really enjoy announcing the things that didn’t work out?) You move forward by mustering the courage to try, and possibly fail, then hit send and wait.

My pitch wasn’t accepted in the way I anticipated. Instead of my idea, I was asked to do a “Show Us Your Studio” feature for Spring edition 2022. Definitely not what I expected, but, how cool was that? I had a couple weeks to pull my room together, get the photos taken, answer Vivika’s questions, and submit before Christmas. And…I made the deadline!!

As I write this, I think about my Godmother and the conversations we had before she died. She told me that one day she expected to be reading about me in quilting magazines. I couldn’t see it back then, but she did. So this one is for you, Zen. Another reminder, that we should always continue to try. 


If you don’t subscribe to Quilting Arts Magazine, you can purchase a copy here: https://www.quiltingdaily.com/product-category/magazines-ebooks/quilting-arts/

To the top

I’m currently reading “The Reluctant Artist” by Karen Kinney. Its a fast read and offers a lot of insight into the creative journey. I highly recommend it. I’m lucky enough to be reading along with a small circle of creative women who work in a variety of mediums. This book seems to speak to all of us at some level.

In her book, Kinney writes about feeding our creativity by consistently showing up which, in turn, creates forward momentum in our creativity. One feeds the other. We always want to be moving forward in our journey, the consistency is what feeds our soul. The problem with this is staying the course. It isn’t easy. Kinney references Steven Pressfield’s “The War of Art (another good, quick, read). In it Pressfield writes “The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.

So, if you’re a creative person, there’s this battle going on. You may realize your creativity is very important to you, but you also find that you’re facing resistance too. Maybe you’re finding excuses and making other things more important (e.g. laundry, cleaning the cupboards, etc.). Maybe you’re critical of yourself, your art or your motivation. Granted some  “excuses” are valid activities that need to be done, but do they have to be the priority all the time? Is there room in your life to make adjustments? Can you hush the inner self-criticism?  Are you willing to change some things to free up extra time and show up for your art practice? The more you show up, the more you’ll accomplish and the more you’ll want to want to show up.

I admit its challenging and I’m always seriously confronting my own resistance. But, I am also showing up. Does it matter if we show up for full day sessions of creative activity? No, small increments of time and attention are equally valuable to conjure momentum.

Think of it as climbing a hill; its steep and you’re tired. If we stop moving our feet, our movement stops. The longer the pause, the more time it will take to get to the top. BUT! we will still be traveling, just not as quickly if we forced our way up. It is the consistency of stepping one foot, then the other, that will get us to the top.

What you make others see

Recently someone asked me “What does it mean to you when someone says ‘artist’?” I thought I knew, but then as I thought some more I questioned my ingrained beliefs. My first thought was a creative person, but is that really what I thought? I have always been a creative person, but there definitely was a time that I truly wished I was an artist!

I think society leads us to believe that a true artist is much grander than just someone who creates. I’ve definitely remember carrying the imposter syndrome with me when I’ve attended some art shows. I’ve have felt a level of snobbery when someone looked at my art work, turned up their nose and walked away. I have even experienced rejection from art guilds which outwardly excluded certain media (e.g., photography or textiles) from their exhibits.

I guess this is why I’m so proud of Bisa Butler and her textile portraits. This past year her colorful fabric portraits hung in 3 gallery rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago. Her work proudly displayed near artwork of the world’s masters, Matisse, Rembrandt, Picasso, Kahlo, etc. Bravo for breaking (many) barriers!

So is it the media or the perceived skill level? Some might argue that Jackson Pollock didn’t use skill making his paint splattered canvases. But, Pollock is a highly regarded “artist.” So perceived skill is not what it takes to make someone an artist.

Another issue is that many people think the word “artist” means painter or visual artist. When people ask me what I do, I tell them I’m an artist. Do you know that a good majority of the time their response is “What do you paint?” Hmmm? What limits their view? Why aren’t they including musicians, potters, photographers, authors, cooks, etc?

Awhile back, I wrote about the limitation of classifying an artist based only if they sold work or not. Using “professional artist” as the definition is another argument that has little value in defining the word.

Its a lot to think about, but my lesson is that we must embrace and encourage a wider view of the word. As a dear friend said, there’s a spectrum to all of this. We have big name artists who we recognize as masters and a range of artists that are lesser known. There’s also the artist that no one ever thinks of or knows; the one who creates amazing art and never shows it to anyone.

I guess there never will be an agreeable definition, but I say embrace them all because:

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.”   (Edgar Degas)