Tag Archives: fear

Committment to the Creative Spirit

I’ve known for a while now that when I start to feel negative about one area of my life, it will usually spiral downwards into other parts.  I often start off not feeling all that great about: a. the work I’m producing, or b. the work I’m not producing.  I  consider myself a pretty optimistic person 90% of the time, but I’m most definitely my own worst critic, and it seems that the only person whose kind words can get me out of this mess is, well… me.

I was in this funk just the other day, facing a deadline at midnight for a scholarship application to take a workshop at Penland this summer.  My college professors had written me glowing letters of recommendation, I had spent countless hours on my essay, and all I had left to do was to add a few more images of my artwork and then hit “submit”.  I was almost finished with the thing a couple of weeks ago, but I suddenly became completely absorbed in playing the piano, writing music, practicing scales and arpeggios, and feeling for the first time in my life that I actually might be really good at this whole music thing!  I’ve been playing off and on for almost 20 years, so this isn’t exactly a new passion, but it is a new sense of confidence for me.

As I dedicated myself to perfecting my playing of Ave Maria and writing my first original piece, I had naturally kind of forgotten all about the scholarship.  My lack of enthusiasm for my latest weaving coupled with my focus on music left me wondering, “Why bother? I never seem to stick with anything so why bother seriously pursuing one thing over another?”

“But then again, why bother playing piano?  I hate performing, so no one is ever going to hear me play at Carnegie Hall any time soon, nor am I going to start making an album.  In fact, I live at home with my parents, I work at a grocery store, blah blah blah…”  You see what I mean about this downward spiral?  Once I start on one thing it’s only a matter of time before all the other aspects of my life get dragged in for a harsh and unrealistic beating.  “Why bother being an artist if you can never be renowned?  Why bother being a pianist if no one will ever hear you play?  Why bother making tons of needle felted wizards that no one will ever buy because you put them in a shoebox under your bed and wont sell them on Etsy?”

Why bother making art or music if I’m never going to be seen or heard? Because what else am I going to do to add interest and beauty and substance to my day to day existence?

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Seriously, what else is going to give me the same sense of fulfillment and satisfaction and creative expansion and growth and joy and hope and self-expression that music and art give me?

So after mentally rolling around in this imaginary pile of stinky, negative, self-sabotaging poo all day, I sat down at the computer and I finished my application.

I wasn’t forcing myself to finish the application, but rather committing to what I had started.  I was putting the brakes on my fear and taking back the steering wheel.  When I finished uploading all of my images, it was the first time I had seen almost all of the tapestries I’ve woven in the past several years together in one place, and it was the first time I honestly reflected on how far I had come as both an artist and an individual.  I saw brilliant colors and imagination and stories.  I saw all of my growth, progress, discoveries, successes, failures, and most importantly, the emergence of my own authentic creative voice.

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While it’s kind of sad to see how harsh I can be on myself, the realization has given me a catalyst to commit to making some positive changes in my life.  I know fear and self-doubt and criticism will visit me again in the future .  But the one thing I know for certain is that I have never, and will never, give up on myself or my creativity.  Even if I don’t get accepted for this scholarship, the most important piece of this story is that I committed to my creative spirit, and that’s what really matters.

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Resolution: Make More Art

Sorry I haven’t posted in so long.  I have a whole list of reasons for my absence, but mostly it’s that I’ve been too busy.  Too busy caring about what other people will think of my work to make any work.  I’ve been paralyzed with self-doubt and fear, worse than my years in undergrad sitting through another grueling critique.

“It’s so… trite,” were the words of my art professor in regards to a felted piece I made with an owl on it.  Now I made this piece BEFORE owls came back into fashion and you could wear them on shirts, leggings, and socks and pour salt and pepper from ceramic owl shakers into an owl shaped bowl and eat your delicious whatever with owl chopsticks. You’re welcome.

Despite how crappy I felt after this particular critique, I still brought that felted owl bag with me out in public.  The first day I was out shopping I had three people ask me where I got it.  I probably should have just sold it to one of them, but I still had that lingering feeling, that word “trite” hanging over my head like an unrelenting rain cloud.  It just wasn’t good enough, even for the complete stranger who had to know where I got it. I eventually gave it away to a friend, but my love for putting animals on things has never gone away.

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I’ve often sketched out designs for tapestries or paintings that feature animals, stars, moons, and my passion for adding just a hint of sparkly gold.  But then my art school critic challenges me to consider just how trite it is.  Where is the concept?  The social/political/environmental struggle?  Where does it talk about the important topics of our times like gun violence, equal rights for women and trans people, and justice for the lives of young black people that were violently taken away?

I know what my work means to me, and what I want it to mean to the viewer.  My work is a reprieve, an exhale, the brightness of moon light on a dark, cold winter night.  My art illustrates the beauty and magic that still exists under the surface of the harsh realities of current events.  It’s not naivety, it’s not delusion or denial, and it’s not even trite.  My school had a motto: “Learn the rules to break the rules.”  I may have lacked the level of conceptual understanding my teacher wanted me to have, but I gained the technical knowledge to create what I’m here to make.

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I normally don’t create New Years resolutions because I feel like life is always a work in progress, and positive change doesn’t have to wait for the first day of the year.  And like everybody else who loses motivation for their resolutions, I hate the feeling of guilt when I fail.  However, I think this is the year I learn to stop giving a s**t what other people think of my work.  Not everyone is going to like it and that’s fine.  I can’t let it affect me personally.  There’s lots of art out there that I don’t like, Instagram accounts that I don’t follow, but those artists are still making.  My only responsibility is to make my art.  And to other artists who doubt themselves and their work, you need to make your art too, because there are people in this world who need it, whether it’s trite or not.

 

The Journey of Saying Yes

For several years I’ve wondered what home is, where it is, and what it looks like.  Is it an old farmhouse like what I grew up in, with vibrantly colorful gardens and a little brook?  Or is it a sunny bungalow with a big front porch?  Is it here or there, near or far?  Who lives in that home with me?  A loving partner, a giggling bunch of kiddos, a dog, a cat, a chameleon?  Who comes to visit?  Mary Jane’s Farm magazine contributor, Rebekah Teal, said it best in the January 2015 issue:

“I believe “home” might be a special combination of unique things, things that are different for each person.  When those things come together at exactly the right place and the right moment in time, something fabulous and comforting and almost magical happens.  That something is called “home”.”

Lately I haven’t felt at home in a lot of ways.  I certainly have a fantastic network of friends who give me a sense of home, but my soul is yearning for something else, some other missing piece of the puzzle.  I’ve certainly never been a city girl, but this place has it’s perks.  I can’t think of any other store like The Playful Needle that sells hundreds of colors of Appleton Crewel wool that I use for my tapestries.  Or how about the seemingly endless options for health food stores so that I don’t have to eat another donut from all of the seemingly endless donut shops that keep opening up?  And then there’s the nature and the temperate weather… it’s all kept me here for so long, satisfied and secure.

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And then last month, I realized what my soul needs right now is a return to my roots, to my soil, the part of the earth I grew up on.  I don’t know what I’ll find back there in between the foothills of the rugged White Mountains and the soothing tides of the Atlantic.  Maybe it will be the place I call home, maybe it will offer me some healing, but I know it will definitely give me the space for peace and quiet reflection.  As I’ve put the pressure on myself to find this “home” sooner rather than later, I’ve realized how defining and narrow this goal is.  I’m looking for a place to call home, but more importantly I’m looking for all of the things I can say yes to.

It’s been a heartbreaking past several weeks as more and more friends and co-workers learn of my leaving.  Unfortunately saying yes sometimes means saying good-bye to loved ones as they see you off on your next adventure.  I’ve done this before when I moved here, with no clue how I was going to make it in a place I had never lived before.  And now I can look back with gratitude and awe at how far I’ve come, and the gift the journey has been.  I’ve felt so much gratitude for my job, my boss, my team, my benefits, my amazing friends, discovering my calling as a tapestry artist, the abundance of nature, I almost can’t believe I would ever dream of leaving it.  I actually look forward to going to work because I’ll get to see my friends and nerd out on supplements.  Sure, I’d also really like to nerd out on art and tapestry weaving, but I’ve always felt extremely appreciative of this job I worked so hard to get.  So why am I leaving?  Please don’t ask me, because I’m running out of tissues.

2015-03-05 14.54.56I’m finally back into my meditation routine after several weeks of feeling like I should be spending that special time packing and crying – that was my sign I should have been meditating in the first place.  I’m working on taking things one day at a time.  Instead of dreading my last day of work, saying my final farewells, and that moment when I step onto the plane with a one-way ticket, I’m looking up at the trees displaying their fireworks of blossoms against the bright blue sky.  This spring has come early and with such vibrancy and energy I’ve wondered if it’s just trying to remind me of why I love it here so that I’ll stay.

2015-03-05 14.52.48I’ve been really enjoying my spring cleaning as well, getting rid of so much stuff I thought was valuable to me, but really isn’t.  It’s a wonderful feeling to only own the things that bring me joy, instead of drowning in all of the crap I could… potentially… maybe (never) use someday.  Angel food cake pan?  Haven’t used that in over five years.  The ugly mug I’ve never used?  Gone.  It makes me wonder why I haven’t done this sooner!  It feels so cathartic and freeing, a release of the past so I can step into the new unencumbered and ready to receive the blessings and gifts that life has to offer me.  I’m ready to say yes to this beautiful, sometimes bittersweet, but always inspiring life of mine.

The End and the Beginning

Hey, remember how I said a while back that I was going to finish this tapestry by the end of January?  Well I did it, I just forgot to tell everyone about it!  While I was out for a walk this evening the bright full moon shining down on me reminded me of this piece, and how happy I am that it’s finished…

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Compass, 2015, 14.5″ x 22″, cotton, wool

This piece embodies my own inner journey of finding and following my inner light, my “compass”, to wherever it may lead me.  Often times the voice that keeps me small and safe overpowers the soft and steady whispers of my intuition.  Ever notice how fear and worry sound so big and loud and commanding inside your head?  “Don’t do that!  You’ll never succeed.  Stay right where you are or you might make a big mistake!  What if you fail?”

But the voice of truth and wisdom is delicate and heartfelt, like bird songs in the morning.  “Why don’t you give it a shot?  You never know until you try.  This opportunity might be just what you need,” or even, “you can do great things.”

By finding and following our own inner compass, we find what our truth is, what our goals and dreams are, what we want to bring to the world, and the courage to follow that through.  This tapestry marks the end and the beginning for me, a time to get more in touch with the art I want to create.  I realize I want to work more with the symbols and stories in my own imagination, and for my own sense of personal and creative satisfaction.  I’ve been trying to design and weave tapestries to fit the demands of competitive juried shows, and while I’ve certainly had some success, it hasn’t felt authentic.  I don’t enjoy creating something to hopefully appease the aesthetic tastes of the jurors, just for the hope of tacking another show onto my resume.  I want to make art for myself, and let it reach out to those who are meant to be touched by it.  I’m not a contemporary conceptual artist, at least not right now.  My interests lie in nature and animals, mythology and storytelling.  Once I get back to the loom, it will be to weave the stories of the world into life.

Faith in a New Dream…

I feel like nothing eventful has happened in my life for some time now.  I go to work, eat food, come home, do my art, go to bed, wake up, go to work, eat food, come home, do my art, go to bed.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  I don’t like being stuck in a rut.  I also fear change.  So currently I’ve found myself in a rather odd place of limbo, scared to go in any one direction, but tired of my current stagnation.  I feel a calling for creating great change in my life, however I don’t know the who’s, what’s, where’s, or when’s about that change.  I do know that there’s got to be more than the status quo, a higher realm that thrives off the act of creation that changes lives.

I’ve been reading article after article about this Winter Solstice, trying to get some kind of insight into what my next step should be.  I keep reading that this solstice with it’s new moon twist is a great time for setting intentions, making realistic goals, and identifying how to live authentically.

So here I am, looking across an uncertain vastness towards what I can dream for myself, what feels authentic to me, and what I long to bring to the world.  It will take courage, will, hard work, perseverance, and no shortage of faith to build the bridge to get myself from my current place of Stuck to the New Dream.  The idea of faith is where I really get scared, and want to turn around and run back to something safe.  But it’s usually the safe things that keep me small and stuck, always craving the opportunity to grow and learn and evolve.  Faith to me is like believing, because what we believe in can’t be seen.

I’m having faith in what I can’t see, only what I feel deep within me to be my truth and my purpose.

I’m having faith that the teachers, tools, and knowledge will come to me to help me get there.

I’m having faith that with an open heart and mind, my dreams will turn out better than I imagine.

I’m having faith that the arts can and will create positive change in the world.

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Happy Winter Solstice!

Making time… when there is no time

I’m sure the vast majority of people, not just creative types, will agree with how difficult it can be to find the time to do what you love, especially if what you love is not how you make your living.  I consider myself fortunate as my commitments are simple.  I work full time… and that’s pretty much it.  Besides doing my errands, paying my bills, and cooking something besides a bowl of cereal, I have a lot of free time to spend as I wish.

So why do I get sucked into a youtube vortex when I get home from work?  Because there are endless hours of kitten videos to watch, that’s why!

But seriously, this is a pattern I’ve noticed with myself lately; I have quite a bit of time that, if used constructively, I could get a lot done with my art.  And not just the actual art making, but I could also be sharing photos on Facebook, posting here, sketching and painting ideas, searching for shows, etc.  When I choose to troll around aimlessly on Facebook for an hour, I am choosing to not create my work, to not bring into physical form the ideas and images I want to share with others, to not fulfill my life’s purpose: to be an artist.

I have a lot of creative friends, some of them with as much time as me to make their work, some with less.  I’ve seen the friends with less time produce incredible artworks that came from making a choice and a commitment to their art, no.  matter.  what.  I admire that, and I ask myself, “What’s my excuse?”  If I have a vision for my next piece, why am I choosing to not take the next step?

I have this book sitting on my shelf, perhaps you’ve heard of it…

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And yes, that is a little peek at my finished tapestry!

I actually have not read this book past page 37, but I think it’s time.  My resistance to making my art is not serving me and is preventing me from bringing forth the thoughts and ideas I want to share with the world.

When we deny ourselves, through fear of failure, criticism, or even success, the time to bring our artistry out into the light, we are doing ourselves a disservice.  I think of it as a form of self-sabotage, and other people lose out because they never get to experience our creations.  Our audience, our readers, our listeners will never get the chance to be inspired, to be influenced, or to be changed by the messages we wish to share as long as we continue to deny our creativity.  When we perform a disservice to our creative self, we also do a disservice to others.  It’s a lose-lose situation.

Now, I should also clarify that I’m not supporting the whole work-you-butt-off-until-all-joy-is-sucked-out-of-you kind of work ethic.  In order to be at our optimal creating capacity our minds and bodies need rest and relaxation.  Life is for enjoying, for spending time with friends and loved ones, for being inspired by others’ creativity, and for recharging.

One of my fave places to recharge, the Portland Japanese Garden

Without this time for self-care, our artistic process can lose it’s feeling of fulfillment and satisfaction, and that will surely manifest itself in the end product.

What it really comes down to is a choice.  When we have the time and energy in our busy lives to either pursue our life’s purpose or to stare blankly at the computer screen, I hope we make the first choice.  I’ve been wanting to write this post for a month now, and I guess I just needed to make the time.

How do you overcome your blocks to making your art, music, writing, dancing, or other pursuits?  If you struggle with this like I do, I encourage you to pick up a copy of “The War of Art” and read it with me.  Let me know how it inspires you to make the time for your creative work.

Finding the Way Home

I’m having a hard time getting my next weaving off the ground.  Literally, the cartoon for it is lying on my living room floor, but I just can’t seem to bring myself to commit to it, to acknowledge that this is indeed my next piece.  I keep questioning myself: Isn’t it supposed to be something else?  A different design?  Less blue?  The real crux of this issue lies with my previous work, which I absolutely love and feel it is my best tapestry out of the 1.. 2.. 3.. 4.. 5 tapestries I’ve woven.  I basically want to make more weavings exactly like it because then I know they will always be amazing, that is until I – and my viewers – get bored. 

And at the same time, I have lots of ideas I want to turn into tapestries.  I’m a very new weaver, most accomplished artists have been working in this medium for decades.  I know this because I spent the afternoon looking through every artist’s page on the American Tapestry Alliance website.  I was looking for evidence that my latest design is indeed feasible and will turn out beautifully, even better than my current weaving that I am madly in love with!  But no artist on there could prove to me that my idea will be a success, because no one has woven my design before, which is definitely a good thing.  My hesitation is also a testament to some of my other fears as a new weaver; I still don’t understand enough about the medium to predict how a design will turn out as a finished tapestry, and I am also a perfect perfectionist.  Surprisingly, tapestry weaving has been a great medium for me to learn how to let go of the annoying perfectionist tendencies and let the nature of the technique unfold. 

Mostly it’s the fear of starting again and trying to make work that is even better than the one before it that holds me back.  I keep thinking of this recent TEDtalk I watched where Elizabeth Gilbert (the author of Eat, Pray, Love) spoke beautifully on how to overcome the fear of failure.  This one line continues to resonate for me…

“Your home is whatever in this world you love more than you love yourself”

She overcame her fear of trying to produce another successful novel by returning home, to her writing, because that was what she loved more than success.  And when her next book bombed, she was fine.  She wrote another book. 

It’s so simple, really.  All I need to do is make my weavings for the sheer joy of creating them.  The past few years I’ve struggled with finding my place in the world, but when I’ve been actively creating I’m no longer participating in all of the internal chaos.  By placing my heart and my hands in my artwork, I don’t question where I’m “supposed” to live anymore.  I can trust in my journey as an artist, which is also the journey of my soul.