The Art of Keeping On

 How we spend our days is of course, how we spend our lives Annie Dillard

img_2025Unfortunately, when we were born we did not come with an instructional manual on how to live our lives.  We are all individuals with unique traits and circumstances.  As we go through our days there can be a lot of trial and error. There are some principles though, that will serve all of us, especially in this crazy digital age.

As a creative type, I keep an arsenal of motivational reading nearby.  The creative practice not often respected by our culture so I need all the cheerleading I can get.  Thus keep goingsaid I was more than excited when Austin Kleon released his third book Keep Going about 10 days ago.  I even preordered a copy, unusual for me.  The tag line of the book is “10 ways to stay Creative in God Times and Bad.”  If you’re sighing right now and saying “Too bad I’m not creative,” think again.  We are all creative beings. With few exceptions, we all have opposable thumbs.  That means we can make, cook, write, etc.  If you have kids – that’s the ultimate creation.  If the word ART trips you up, just insert the word LIFE or HUMAN.

Like Austin’s other books, Steal Like an Artist (on unlocking your creativity), and Show Your Work (on how to become known), this is a small affordable manual ($9 on Amazon).  It’s an easy, read full of his entertaining graphics, photographs, and words of keep going 3wisdom as well as some of his kids’ artwork.  It’s divided into 10 chapters, shown below.

I have come to some of the same realizations as Kleon himself but it is so validating to see them in print.  If you are in need of a reference in how to live and stay creative, or know someone that does, this is a good one. Worth a read, worth a place on your shelf!

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Images from the book Keep Going, by Austin Kleon

 

The Art of Finding Creative Inspiration

I find now when I am stymied on what to write about, make in my studio, or do with my day, I come back to these words by Mary Oliver from her poem “Sometimes”…..

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So simple, so powerful.

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Photo courtesy austinkleon.com

The Nuthatch Society

Growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together.

James Cash Penney

nuthatch-915435_1920Last year during the local Terroir Creative Writing Festival I found that there were four of us in our rural proximity that shared a love of writing and poetry. We are all novices on a path to discovery.  Why not get together now and again?

Last October we did just that.  The first meeting took place on a Sunday afternoon at Patricia’s lovely greenhouse. We sat at a table nibbling a delicious homemade coffee cake and sipping tea while a tangle of tomatoes and other vegetables seemingly were our audience. Then we rotated to Linda’s, my farmhouse and next month it is Deb’s turn.

A sort of agenda has emerged.  The person hosting leads off with something they’ve read that they would like to share and then some of their personal writing.  I am working on a memoir piece.  The last two meetings I have read parts of it.  We discuss and offer feedback on pieces if requested and then take turns.  We all adore Mary Oliver. At her recent passing, there has been much to share.

At our last meeting, we suggested all purchasing Oliver’s book “A Poetry Handbook” as a tea-time-2resource that we all have in common.  For writing challenge we have suggested finding a poem we like, using it as a “pattern” and then writing a new poem with our own words to share.  With all of our so-called assignments we put in the qualifier “or not.”  There is no pressure here, just pleasure.

Since I have a penchant for naming things, the name “The Nuthatch Society” came into my mind for our group.  The four of us live on rural property and we are quite familiar with these quirky little birds that frequent the foliage and feeders about our homes.  They are busy creatures, quite chatty, cute, but fierce and have the ability to walk upside down on trees.  The name seemed to fit with us.

There is value in online community but it cannot compare with four souls coming together to share a common interest over tea.  I’m so looking forward to the next meeting of the Nuthatch Society and sharing my writing and all the fascinating things I’ve read this month as well as what my fellow Nuthatches have been up to in their busy lives.  Community is a powerful thing- no matter how small.

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I was Supposed to be Blogging About My Artwork

Two weeks ago I received a message from WordPress…..

“Happy Anniversary with WordPress.com.  You registered with WordPress.com two years ago.  Thanks for flying with us.  Keep up the good blogging.”

This gave me pause on the passage of time and where I’ve come since I originally set up my blog.  Having failed to embrace other social media-Instagram and Facebook with enthusiasm to promote my art, the advice out there said: “you need to blog about your artwork.”  Okay, I thought, let’s give that a go.

Up went my first post, The Artist Demystified” on June 4, 2017, not really about my art but it was a start.  I was stunned to get one “Like”  and then double stunned when I received a “follow.” Wow, somebody read and identified what I wrote.  Then I found the WordPress Community Pool and the Weekly Photo & Writing Challenges (now extinct and sorely missed).  Then I found other bloggers and that I really liked to write and share my writing. Then I found (again) that I really hate self-promotion just for self-promotion’s sake. 

Now I’ve officially let go of the idea that my blog exists to promote my artwork since I really wasn’t doing that anyway.  If someone wanders over to my Etsy shop and purchases something, fabulous, but that’s not why I’m here.  Blogging has become a grounding force in my life

This is pretty much a blog about sharing my thoughts and experiences with others.

May my writing spark some resonance in my readers and bring forth some smiles through this process which I so enjoy.

I WAS SUPPOSED TO BE BLOGGING ABOUT MY ARTWORK

You know, make a splash

With Google Analytics

Get followers

Boost sales on Etsy

 

I was supposed to be blogging about my artwork

But then I discovered blogging as an art form

Blogging just to blog

Sending my words out into the universe

To maybe catch hold on the edge

of some other celestial being

 

I was supposed to be blogging about my artwork

And then I discovered other bloggers

With their words that fed me

And then found a hold

In my celestial body

 

I was supposed to be blogging about my artwork

And then I discovered that I just liked to make art

…… not so much the selling 

So I think I will continue to make

And I will continue to write

For no other reason than it feeds my soul

The Magic of the Deadline

“The difference between a dream and a goal is a deadline”        Unknown

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When I was teaching middle school science my life was run by daily, weekly, and academic calendar deadlines.  When I walked into my classroom door every morning I had to be ready or suffer some really awful consequences.  (Students can smell when you are unprepared).

I longed for retirement when deadlines no longer ran my life.  Finally,  I could concentrate on my art and the other things I had left simmering on the back burner.  It didn’t take me too long to realize that unless I imposed my own deadlines upon myself, my dreams would still languish on the back burner.  As unpleasant as they can be, deadlines can provide a sense of structure and accomplishment- that is if one sticks to them.  Otherwise, count on suffering a hit to your self-esteem.

bieszczady-1002402_1920It’s been a learning process. One thing I’ve realized is to have a series of deadlines mapped out.  Otherwise, when you finish one there is a sense of disorientation that can set in.  Paying for guitar lessons and showing up weekly has definitely insured progress.  My writing and visual arts practices have been trickier.

I usually get one blog post out every week and try to work on either a poem, essay or journal entry every day before I get out of bed.  Recently I joined a neighborhood writing group that meets monthly so I need something for that.  Then I go online to find publications soliciting for entries and mark my calendar with the deadline.  I have had 3 pieces published in the last 2 years with that strategy.

Artwise I just made a huge (tight) deadline applying for a juried membership in Print Arts NW, the regional printmakers association.  It was a lot of work but success!  I was accepted this week and now can put work in their holiday show.

My continuing challenge is structuring my home studio time with deadlines to be more productive.  Having a flow chart posted with milestones has worked before and I’m going to try that again.  Stay tuned…..

 

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Deadline

Dead Line

Sprawled flat in your path

Like giant road kill

Small, undetectable from a distance

Looming larger and larger

Until its great heaving, behemoth body

Brings you to your knees begging

For mercy between pathetic sobs

And muttered excuses

All the while knowing full well

Relief will only come

When you shut up and scale the smelly beast

Head down, focused

Heaving with all you’ve got

Step by step

Leaving all your whining behind

blocking your ears from the siren sounds

Of your favorite distractions

Eventually, you make it

Drinking in the expansive view from the top

Wondering why you made such a fuss in the first place

Until scanning the horizon

You notice a small lump

Blocking your path in the distance

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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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Continue reading “The Art of the Creative Blahs”

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.

Continue reading “Return from Simplicity”