Being Your Own Artistic Cheerleader

animal-1353073“Be fearless and know that when you feel doubt it’s okay. It’s not bad to be scared. It’s not bad to question yourself. It’s just part of the process. You’re going to be fabulous. You are going to be great.”

Harper Watters  (black, gay, ballet dancer)

It’s taken weeks to get back into my creative practice after weeks of travel and other interruptions.  Unlike having the structure of a regular job, anyone who travels the creative path has to be their own boss.  You alone have to give yourself the goals and the deadlines.  Generally, not having a social structure for encouragement, you also have to be your own cheerleader.

My two dogs think I’m the absolute best as with my spousal equivalent.  Even though I am grateful for my live-in fan club, to get my muse excited I keep a steady stream of motivational media around.

Currently, I am enraptured by these two books:

It’s Never Too Late to Begin by Julia Cameron51gfo6g52pl

Julie Cameron is a pioneer in inspiring people to get over creative blocks and to discover and pursue their passions.  Her book, The Artist Way published 25 years ago became my bible. In this latest book, she focuses on people in their midlife and beyond.  Through memoir writing and exercises you can find clarification and motivation as an older adult.  I am finding such inspiration in this book!

51oqhsbebjlWild Mind, Living the Writers Life by Natalie Goldman

I’ve always stayed away from writing books because of all the rules, which by the way, at this point in my life I think should be challenged.  Natalie is a maverick in the writing world. She demystifies the act of the writing and will get you sitting down and writing your heart out.

 

Podcast of note…If you are going to listen to one podcast on creativity, listen to170x170bb  The Creativity Habit.  Podcast # 50 on Satsuki Shibuya was earthshaking: “ Getting sick, losing everything and finding real success as a full-time artist.” Amazing listen.

IMG_1554Finally, I am using my phone as a cheerleader.  Inspirational notes on sticky notes don’t work for me.  I find them becoming invisible shortly after I put them up.  Now I am setting alerts on my I-phone for times throughout the day.  When I get an alert, I check my phone and find an inspirational message just for me.  Try it out.  You might find it as effective as I do.

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Reclaiming Your Spark: Elizabeth Gilbert On What to Do When You’ve Lost Your Passion

After traveling for over half of September, I have returned home to find I’ve lost my creative mojo.  It’s there but it’s not ready to come out of hiding.   Writing? Art?  I am just not motivated at the moment and despite my best efforts- it’s not happening by forcing it. After reading this piece by Elizabeth Gilbert today I’m taking a different tack.  I’m off to clean out the shop building so the right side of my brain can sort itself out.

Reprinted off Oprah.Com

201004-omag-liz-gilbert-949x534“I’ve always considered myself lucky that I do not have many passions. There’s only one pursuit that I have ever truly loved, and that pursuit is writing. This means, conveniently enough, that I never had to search for my destiny; I only had to obey it. What am I here for? No problem! I’m here to be a writer, and only a writer, from my first cigarette to my last dying day! No doubt about it! 

Except that two years ago, I completely lost my life’s one true passion, and all my certainties collapsed with it. 

Here’s what happened: After the unexpected success of Eat, Pray, Love, I diligently sat down to work on my next project—another memoir. I worked hard, as always, conducting years of research and interviews. And when I was finished, I had produced a first draft that was…awful. 

I’m not being falsely modest here. Truly, the book was crap. Worse, I couldn’t figure out why it was crap. Moreover, it was due at the publisher. 

Demoralized, I wrote a letter to my editor, admitting that I had utterly failed. He was nice about it, considering. He said, “Don’t worry. You’ll figure it out.” But I did worry, because for the first time in my life, I had absolutely no passion for writing. I was charred and dry. This was terrifyingly disorienting. I couldn’t begin to know who I was without that old, familiar fire. I felt like a cardboard cutout of myself. 

My old friend Sarah, seeing me so troubled, came to the rescue with this sage advice: “Take a break! Don’t worry about following your passion for a while. Just follow your curiosity instead.” 

She was not suggesting that I ditch my passion forever, of course, but rather that I temporarily ease off the pressure by exploring something new, some completely unrelated creative endeavor—something that I could find interesting, but with much lower emotional stakes. When passion feels so out of reach, Sarah explained, curiosity can be a calming diversion. If passion is a tower of flame, then curiosity is a modest spark—and we can almost always summon up a modest spark of interest about something. 

So what was my modest spark? Gardening, as it turned out. Following my friend’s advice, I stepped away from my writing desk and spent six months absentmindedly digging in the dirt. I had some successes (fabulous tomatoes!); I had some failures (collapsed bean poles!). None of it really mattered, though, because gardening, after all, was just my curiosity—something to keep me modestly engaged through a difficult period. (At such moments, believe me, even modest engagement can feel like a victory.) 

Then the miracle happened. Autumn came. I was pulling up the spent tomato vines when—quite suddenly, out of nowhere—I realized exactly how to fix my book. I washed my hands, returned to my desk, and within three months I’d completed the final version of Committed—a book that I now love. 

Gardening, in other words, had turned me back into a writer. 

So here’s my weird bit of advice: If you’ve lost your life’s true passion (or if you’re struggling desperately to find passion in the first place), don’t sweat it. Back off for a while. But don’t go idle, either. Just try something different, something you don’t care about so much. Why not try following mere curiosity, with its humble, roundabout magic? At the very least, it will keep you pleasantly distracted while life sorts itself out. At the very most, your curiosity may surprise you. Before you even realize what’s happening, it may have led you safely all the way home.”

 

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The Art of the Creative Blahs

thermometer-398735_1920It’s another hot smokey summer in Oregon.  It appears that temperatures of 90 and above and forest fires are the new normal.  Summer used to be my favorite season here but now that the jet stream has settled further south, spring and fall will get my vote.  Then air quality has been so poor you really don’t want to be outside doing much.

Motivation has been difficult.  My studio does not have air conditioning.  If I don’t get work done first thing in the morning, it doesn’t get done.  I think I’m getting summer cabin fever.  Who knew there was such a thing?

Rather than just push through it, my usual MO, maybe I should learn to roll with it and make this season the one to read, watch movies, and write more?  Maybe this is a good time to relax my expectations and go with the flow….

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The Art of Earth, Wind, Fire & Water

IMG_0819 (1)While I was at Ghost Ranch two weeks ago (see my post “Escaping to an Artful Landscape”)  I took a 5-day long pit firing workshop.  Long before we had electric and gas kilns to fire clay, indigenous people including Native Americans, extracted their clay from local deposits and fired their ceramic ware in pits they dug into the earth. Wood, droppings and other combustible materials were placed around the pots and then

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Image courtesy mikusa.com

covered with shards, moist clay or more wood.  The pit was then lit on fire and tended for hours.  This is the oldest known method of firing pottery.

Though pit fired ware is generally not as sturdy as those fired at higher temperatures in modern kilns, they can be quite beautiful- especially if the surface is burnished beforehand.  Depending on where the pot is in the pit can affect how the surface responds to flame, smoke, and oxygen. The addition of other salts around the pots can also create colorful patterns. Ceramic artists today are modifying the basic techniques and achieving

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image courtesy Eduardo Lazo

stunning results. I’ve been attracted to this method since it is so primitive & close to natural processes. Beautiful useful and decorative items can be created using only the four elements (there is water in the clay).

Due to time constraints and high fire danger at the time, we had to modify our firing methods.  Instead of digging pits we had to fire in galvanized tubs and had to fire for shorter amounts of time.  Our pieces did not achieve the range of IMG_0882colors that can be possible.  Still, I understood the process, had fun,  and plan to try this behind my home clay studio.

Below are are some of the pieces I made during the workshop.

 

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The 3 sheep were inspired by the black sheep running loose on the ranch.  I identify with black sheep!

 

 

Return from Simplicity

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Our lives are frittered away by detail…simplifly, simplify.   Henry David Thoreau

Transitioning from my art retreat at Ghost Ranch,  New Mexico back to my home base has not been an easy one (see my last post).  For one blessed week, I did not have to drive, deal with purchasing or preparing my food or tending house in my basic camp style lodgings.  My life was structured with making art, eating communal meals, hiking and other activities that were provided.  Cell phone service was non-existent and Wi-Fi sketchy. The news of the world was kept at bay.  I did not miss any of it.

So I am back.  I do enjoy my own bed, my partner, my dogs, but dealing with the complexity of daily life again is daunting.  Not only are there the domestic chores that my house and yard present, but then there is the pile of mail, email, computer tasks for my art and other business that needs tending.  It is easy for my creative pursuits to get put on the back burner.  This modern world we live in is rife with distraction.  I miss the simplicity of life at Ghost Ranch.

But, this is my reality.  For the last week, I put my head down and got into bull-dozer mode catching up on everything from laundry to weeding the garden.  Now I am back to finding more balance.  I have to schedule my art time and keep it sacred less it gets eaten away.  This is a constant challenge.  If I don’t write or create something every day I get moody.  It’s a spiritual food.  After being away, I realize that my life needs to be simplified so I can concentrate on those things most important to me.  Next year the garden will be smaller, we will get more help around the yard.  I will be purging the house of lots of stuff that is no longer needed and take myself off mailing lists.

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Escaping to an Artful Landscape

IMG_0875Everyone should have a special place that brings a sense of belonging and rejuvenation,  where you can leave the cares of the world behind and just focus on nature, relaxation and creative pursuits. I just returned from one of my special places, Ghost Ranch Education & Retreat Center in Northern New Mexico where I attended a pit firing workshop.  Being there is like stepping into a Georgia O’keefe painting.  She lived and worked on this very property.

Here I am with a tribe of other creative and like-minded people.   We are hikers, writers,

singers, welders, quilters painters, printmakers, and ceramic artists.  The ideas and energy we share in our individual workshops and at communal mealtimes is infectious.  This is important to me as an artist for I work alone and need an inflow of new inspiration to keep my own creative fires burning.  There is a camaraderie that is quickly built in a brief week here.

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Intuition and Finding Your Inner Penguin

penguins-429128_1920The Emperor Penguins of Antarctica group up in the thousands during the breeding season.  Once their chicks are juveniles, the adult penguins depart for open water to feed and bring home nutrition.  They have this knack, when they’ve returned from their foraging expeditions, of locating their young among a throng of look-alikes, solely by recognizing their chick’s call in a cacophony of penguin noise.  Parent penguins have a knack for listening.

As I’ve aged and my other physical faculties are weakening, my inner voice- my intuition is growing much stronger.  Like the parent penguins, I’ve learned to recognize it from the din of voices that surround me in my external and internal worlds.

It’s a skill anyone can develop but in our left-brained, modern culture, it’s not valued nor spoken about much.  It requires quiet, stillness, and patience.  Intuition is an inner voice easily drowned out by messages we receive on a daily basis- live your life like this, look like this, buy this, buy that, your intuitive messages often running counter to them.

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