Category Archives: Authenticity
The older I get, the faster the years seem to go by. And I’m only in my mid twenties. How fast will time go by when I’m 80?!
Once again, I find myself doing what I do each New Years Eve. Every December 31st, I write my future self a letter to read on the next New Years Eve. I’ve done this for a few years, and I love to see how much I’ve grown in the past year. It also clears my focus for the year to come. I start by reading the letter from the previous year, then I write the new one. I write about the year I’ve just lived and how things went, mistakes I made and what I learned from them, and then I write about my hopes for the coming year.
Sometimes when I read the last letter, I realize that none of those hopes every came to fruition, or that I might have changed directions since then. That’s ok. This isn’t the time to feel guilty. Instead, it helps me learn to accept and be gentle with myself, to let things flow in and out of my life as they’re meant to. Also, it helps me recognize the wisdom of my past self. We spend so much time looking to the future and desiring to improve, but sometimes we forget important things too.
I also set my intentions for the new year in this letter. I prefer to set intentions rather than resolutions because intentions are more fluid. They’re less measurable than resolutions and goals, but there’s less guilt involved if I don’t accomplish them. Intentions remind me that situations change and I change. I may not want the same things over time, and intentions leave some wiggle room.
And the word itself, intention rather than resolution feels much kinder and less like a boot camp sergeant.
Here are my intentions for this year
- I intend to have more fun!
- I intend to guilt trip myself less for things I don’t accomplish.
- I intend to eat more colors and try new fruits and veggies.
- I intend to put self-care and relationships at the top of my priority list.
- I intend to be completely honest with myself and others about how I feel.
As you can see, those aren’t measurable, but they’re things to keep in mind and align myself with. These things don’t look like they fit in with building an art and writing career, but they actually fit into my vision perfectly. How can a thriving career come from someone who isn’t thriving?
Some people also set words for the new year, and I think that would be my word. THRIVE. That embodies my intentions perfectly.
How about you? Do you set intentions, resolutions, words, or anything else for the new year? Tell me!
So, I know I’ve been pretty absent around her for the past few weeks. A lot has happened. I’ve sold a couple of small paintings, had strep throat, met a rattlesnake on a hike, and turned 24. My domain even expired while I wasn’t looking! I haven’t been online much at all, and I’m actually ok with that. Sometimes we need to unplug.
Most of the reason I’ve been gone is because I’ve been in a serious creative funk lately. I’ve started a few new paintings but I’ve run into some walls with both of them. Nothing a little modeling paste and rethinking can’t fix, but walls nonetheless. I haven’t worked on my novel much, I haven’t been very active on Etsy, and my studio is such a disaster that I can barely fit in there.
I figured I could either hide behind some fluffy posts or just take a break. I chose the latter, because I knew I’d be in the mood to post again soon.
So, about creative funks. I don’t like to call them “blocks” because it sounds like something outside of ourselves that’s causing us to avoid creating, but it’s really not. Nothing that has happened over the last few months could have inevitably blocked me, but a funk, now that feels more like the sticky, mucky, internal mess that this really is. I picture it as getting stuck in molasses or tar; the gunk that clogs up our creative channels if we don’t clear it out in time. That gunk will always come, but it can either get stuck or pass through fairly painlessly.
In the past few months, I’ve uncovered and run into rejection, shock, the possibility of major change, shame, anxiety, guilt, regret, and all kinds of stuff that loves to gunk up our creativity like a giant hairball in a drain. This all came on fairly quickly and I didn’t really allow myself the time or means to move it out before it congealed. I avoided talking or thinking about it and instead read a bunch of (amazing) books, busied myself with household chores (my apartment is still a mess somehow), organized my ever-growing Pinterest boards so I can access my inspiration easier, and taking lots of walks. I knew that funk was there, but I wasn’t ready to deal with it. I’d let myself think about it in passing moments, tiny bites at a time because the whole elephant just seemed like too much.
I haven’t nailed down a surefire way to get out of these creative funks, but I do know that our spirits and therefore creativity are an ecosystem as delicate and complex as any rainforest, and all the little elements need to be there and working together in order for the whole to function properly. The extinction of one insect, the absence of one seemingly trivial ritual can potentially throw the whole system out of whack. Life is far too messy to balance properly, but we can make sure that the necessary things get taken care of. Creativity is a delicate little creature that needs proper care to survive. ”
Real” artists aren’t exempt from this. All creators struggle to keep their systems balanced, though some may have themselves figured out more than others. So, my solution for my creative funk is to do what I can to restore the environment in which my creativity can thrive. This means different things for different people, but for me it means making space for “creative playtime”, reading inspirational things like Laura Hollick’s blog or The Artist’s Way, and making sure to connect with myself by journaling and daydreaming instead of filling every free second with other reading or Minesweeper.
This morning, I’m planning to take myself shopping for art supplies with the rest of my birthday money and then having some creative playtime before I go to work. The thought of artmaking actually terrifies me at the moment, but I know that bribing myself with some new toys from the art supply store will coax me out of my shell. Whatever happens in the studio today will be ok, even if I completely ruin whatever I’m working on, make something wonderful, discover that I want to go in a completely different direction, bawl my eyes out, whatever. It’s all ok.
I’m feeling kind of lazy today, so I thought I’d let you guys help me write my post today.
My favorite question to ask people when I’m getting to know them is “What do you want to be when you grow up?” This is usually after I’ve know them long enough that they know that I’m kind of a weirdo, so this doesn’t seem odd to them. I say it this way to grown-ups instead of asking “What do you want to do?” or the dreaded “What do you want to do with your life?” which sounds too guidance counselory. I like to ask this way because this is what we’re asked when we’re children, and this is what we ask children.
Children are completely honest and don’t worry about “can’t”s or the job market or limitations of any kind. They just say what they feel. This is a good way to find our real desires.
I want to get to know you guys better, and most of you have probably been reading this here blog long enough to understand my quirks, so now I’m asking you: What do you want to be when you grow up?
I’ll start: I want/wanted to be an artist and a writer, among other things.
Ok, now it’s your turn. Lurkers, this is your chance to say hello!
A few weeks ago, I posted about how I overcame my fear and entered a few paintings into a very big, very competitive juried show. I mean, the awards are competitive, but the real goal for me was just getting in. Out of over 950 entries, about 250 were actually accepted into the show.
My work wasn’t accepted.
Even though I knew it was going to be competitive, I was a bit bummed out. For the weeks leading up to the announcement, I walked the fence between hopeful confidence and not getting my hopes up. I visualized getting into the show, I found several other shows to enter in case that one didn’t work out, and I told myself that I’d be ok either way.
I am ok, but when I went to the museum to pick up my paintings the other day, that black cloud of discouragement settled over me. That museum is one of my favorite places in the entire world because it’s always quiet and full of gorgeous art. It’s a great place to think; especially the back room where the abstract work is always hung in this show.
This day, the museum wasn’t quiet. It was busy and rather noisy after the bustle of the opening the night before. The door to that wonderful back room was open and all the noise from the other side was coming in. I studied the work in the show; amazing, as expected. I wanted to get an idea of what I can improve to help my chances of getting in next year, but the closer I looked at the perfect details and flawlessly crisp lines, the more I felt myself retreating into my little cave of fear. How will I ever compete with this kind of work? Will museums and gallery ever see the value that I see in my work? Will I be able to communicate my message clearly? Will/do people really connect with my art?
My brain knows that my work treads the fine line between the realism and purely abstract works that usually get into that show. I know that people love my art, because they tell me all the time. Not necessarily people in the “art world”, but people who feel free to enjoy art for it’s own sake. I know that I’m just starting out. I know that my art isn’t about perfection in the slightest, and that it might be better suited to homes than museums, but my heart didn’t believe it just then.
I cut my visit a little short and asked the volunteer at the front desk for my work, and she took me down into the basement of the museum, where I’d never been before. The entire basement was just PACKED with sculptures and paintings. Hundreds and hundreds of pieces. We found one painting right away, but the other one wasn’t where it was supposed to be, so I got to help the volunteer search through all the other works to find it, which was fun because I got to look at a ton of great stuff. On the one hand, seeing the quality of the work that didn’t get accepted made me feel better, because not getting in doesn’t mean that my work sucks, or even that they didn’t like it. Again, my brain knows this, but our emotions don’t always listen to our brains. One the other hand, it made me feel worse because if amazing art like that didn’t make it in, do I really have a chance?
There are plenty of other shows coming up, so hopefully I’ll get in somewhere. That doesn’t really worry me. I have some ideas to try that may improve my chances of getting in, and I did get some really fun ideas from looking at the work in the show, like attaching smaller canvases to the bigger ones for more dimension, mixing my paint with gloss medium, and stuff like that.
The problem is that I haven’t much felt like painting for the past few days. My brushed feel awkward in my hands, the colors haven’t been blending right (I don’t think I like the new brand of paint I’m trying), and I’ll admit that I’m kind of second-guessing myself. I collaged a little bit, just for fun. No matter what though, I cannot let discouragement hurt my passion. It doesn’t matter if I don’t get into a show, or if I compare myself to other artists, or even if my colors don’t want to blend.
Even if I never get to make a living as an artist, if I never get into a show or no one ever buys my work, I’m still an artist. Nothing can take that away from me. Even if I lost everything somehow, I’d still draw pictures in the dirt with sticks. I’d still get excited when I see cool trees against a colorful sky. This is true of every artist whether you’re an actor, writer, musician, whatever. If no one likes what you do or if you blow an audition, get five rejection letters in one day, or get booed off a stage, you’re still an artist.
This probably seems like a lot of drama over nothing, but I think everyone feels like this at some point. We don’t get promotions. We dont get the part. We get shot down when we finally get the courage to out that cute coworker. Our inner Simon Cowell tells us to quit what we’re doing and take up accounting instead.
I have no doubt that I’ll be successful. I know I can stand to build up a thicker skin, but that process is a tough one. So what do we do when we feel small and insignificant compared to the world we’re trying to be a part of?
Well, I put on my Beats and blast my tough girl music (at the moment, I’m listening to Van Halen. I know, I’m a monster.) and I write, or I paint something just to paint, or I stare at the ceiling and realize how good it feels just to be laying there with a fully functional body. We just keep going, that’s all. Music does help though.
All right, it’s your turn to gush. Any rejection stories? When did you feel discouraged? How do you get past it?
I was going to post about something deep and serious, but I just don’t feel like it. I feel like being a goof instead. Though I can certainly be serious and cerebral, I’m actually kind of a weirdo, though I’m sneaky about it. I have a very dry, irreverent sense of humor. I grew up watching The Three Stooges, The Muppet Show, and Benny Hill, so how could I be anything but? I love puns, slapstick, and satire.
This is probably the most random post I’ve ever done.
So here’s the goofy side:
Here I am bringing sexy back after my visit to the eye doctor.
The Muppets I most identify with:
Gonzo the oddball, and Floyd Pepper, the snarky musician who lives and breathes his art.
One of my favorite bad mood activities: Take a baby animal break.
Instructions: Google “cute baby animals” and let the cuteness overload wash away your stinky mood. Works every time.
More goofy factiods:
- I love to make faces with leftovers on my plate.
- I sing opera when I’m alone. Badly.
- I like to dance (also badly) while I clean my apartment.
- I have a habit of accidentally saying dirty things, either because my words get mixed up on the way out or because I’m just innocent. My husband finds this hilarious.
- There’s a stuffed broccoli toy at Ikea that I have to talk myself out of getting every time I go there.
- I name my houseplants after Fraggles.
What goofy things do you love to do?
The week before last, I took a much-needed trip to California with my family. Sam couldn’t leave school, so it was just me, my parents, and three teenage siblings.
We spent a day at Disneyland and I think I had more fun than anyone. I’m really just a big kid. That’s probably why I get along with kids so well. Fraggle Rock is still my favorite show and I still love the Alice in Wonderland ride at Disneyland (which we didn’t get to go on. Sad).
I realized how important it is to keep the wonder and sense of magic that we have as children, because that lives in the same part of our spirits as our imagination, and life without imagination is a pretty sad mess. Most of us catch a glimpse of that magic when we see Christmas lights or when we hear Disney music, but the magic tends to get lost in the stress of everyday life.
A few tips for keeping the magic:
- Remember how you would have reacted to something when you were a child. When riding Pirates of the Caribbean or any other ride at Disneyland, I would have totally thrown myself into that world. I would actually be on a boat in the Caribbean. I’d actually be on a runaway train in a rocky mountain. I’d be a mermaid in that swimming pool. I’d be Pocahontas on that hike.
I’ve written a few times about my experience as an art major in college. It only lasted my freshman year, and then I switched to a (highly useful) English degree after that. After changing my major, I often wandered the halls of the art building feeling sad and lost inside. I felt like a starving person with no money standing outside the Bellagio buffet.
Still, I felt like I made the right decision, just like when I dumped my theater scholarships to study art and still to this day feel a twinge of sadness when I hear showtunes.
Why did I leave art?
Lots of reasons, all of which I hope to explore here later because I feel they’re valuable, but one of the biggest reasons is that I felt like art “abandoned” me somehow. Art was like a lifelong friend who turned into a jerk once we got to college. Instead of finding my artistic voice and feeling free and creative, we debated the definition of art and whether beauty has value. The art department praised the new, edgy, shocking, and obscene while scoffing at “decorative objects”, or “pretty” art. Crucifixes in jars of urine were “art”, but a simple drawing with no other purpose than to be pleasing was not. “Hard” art was “good”, while “soft” art was not. Real art was either be sold for thousands or millions of dollars, or not sold at all. Art was for people with money and doctoral degrees, or those who were willing to starve for it.
While I took notes and felt my spirit shrinking, I could only think “Man Art, you used to be cool.”
Don’t get me wrong, I had some good times as an art major. I met some great people and had my moment of zen moments perched on a drawing horse while sketching wads of crumpled paper, but I came into the art program wanting to be an artist, and I left it wanting nothing to do with the art world. The art world was a crooked, elitist place and I wanted nothing to do with it.
Luckily, I’ve come to my senses.
I barely made any art in college. I made art for assignments, but that was about it even though I haunted the local art galleries and put all kinds of good ideas on the back burner until I felt like being an artist again. Last spring, I started painting for fun again and in the fall, Sam suggested that I try selling art. I started learning about the real world rather than the art world, and I realized that it’s not such a scary place after all; at least it doesn’t have to be. I learned about Etsy and met all kinds of artists who are real people and proud of it. (I’m not saying that edgy, post-modern artists aren’t real, it’s just the image that’s not real.)
Most of all, I realized that owning and enjoying art isn’t limited to rich collectors or people with alphabets behind their names. Art can be affordable, approachable, and most of all: fun. It doesn’t have to make a huge statement or be shocking (though it certainly can). Sometimes, art can just be pretty. It can just make someone happy when she looks at it. It belongs in homes, offices, on desks, in wallets, in our jewelry boxes, on our notebook covers, everywhere! Anyone can make it, and anyone can enjoy it. It can say anything or nothing.
Art is for everyone, and that’s one of the messages I hope to send with my own art. I don’t mean that my art is for everyone, because not everyone will like it and that’s fine. I want my art to be approachable, thoughtful, beautiful, and fun. I want it to be accessible and positive. Not everyone has room or money for large art, so I’ve started making small art as well, and I have plans to expand my shop and share my art with as many people as possible.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject. What do you think about the art world, or what art “is”?
Most of us are busy. “Busy” means different things to different people, but by this I mean that a lot of us are operating at full capacity most of the time.
Do you ever feel like you’re just spinning your wheels, or is your busyness moving you in a clear direction? Is that direction somewhere you want to go? Did you choose it? Do you know why you want to go there?
The other day, I noticed that I felt off. It wasn’t quite sadness, so I wrote in my journal to try and sort it out. I realized that I was feeling a bit lost and disoriented, and it was really uncomfortable.
How could I feel lost? I’m very ambitious, I have lots of goals mapped out, and I know the basic steps to accomplishing those goals. I sat with the feeling a little longer and realized something that I’ve never thought of before.
Goals are nothing without purpose. I have goals, but that’s not the same as having direction. Goals are what we want to accomplish, but purpose is why we want to accomplish it.
I believe we all have a purpose in this life, and that mine is to have joy and share it with others so that they might have joy too. That’s what I try to do with my art and writing. I’m not talking about the joy you feel when you watch a funny movie, but the joy you have to work for and that comes when you know yourself and learn hard lessons and develop a deeper understanding of your own purpose.
When we have purpose, we can align ourselves with that and work toward our goals much more efficiently and mindfully. When we forget our purpose, our actions feel empty.
Finding your purpose is a deep life question, but I’ve found that with some observation of your actions and desires, your talents and interests, it’s actually fairly simple. I’ll leave that question for you.
I’m curious. What are your goals? Are they part of a deeper purpose, or are you still figuring that one out?
Sometimes when I feel like I’m moving too fast or running on autopilot, I like to stop and get back on track. One of my favorite ways to reawaken myself to my own life and purpose is to get out my journal and write about what I would do that day if I didn’t have to do anything. I might also write about my ideal day, or maybe just list 20 or so things that I love to do and remind myself to build my life around those.
A lot of people think they’d lay around and watch TV all day if they didn’t have to do anything, and that may be true, but everyone is passionate about something. People need to actually do things to be happy. If you don’t know what you like to do, you might want to start there.
My day usually involves reading, writing, making art, taking walks, and spending time with my husband. Pretty simple. Some days I feel like going on an adventure and some days I’d rather curl up with a blanket and a Tracy Chevalier novel. Still, playing this little game helps me reassess what I’m doing and whether it’s getting me where I need to go. We should enjoy our lives. It’s not all fun and games; we all have things that need to get done that we’d rather not do, but the bulk of our lives should be enjoyable.
Find out what you love most and build your life around that. Use your “ideal day” writing as a compass.
Today, if I didn’t have to go to work, I’d go for a walk, work on some new paintings, prepare two of my paintings for an upcoming juried show, read a little, write in my journal, and go for a walk in the evening. Maybe a picnic with my husband. That’s actually what I’m planning to do today, more or less, just with my regular workday in the middle.
What would you do today, or on your ideal day? What do you love to do more than anything?
A lot of us aren’t happy with where we are in our lives at the moment. We aren’t satisfied with what we’re doing or where we happen to be or what we are. We here so often that we need to accept ourselves as we are and where we are. Most of us fight this notion. I sure do.
I reread Women, Food, and God by Geneen Roth last week (one big long string of Aha! moments. Read it.) and she mentioned that accepting is not the same as resigning yourself to a situation. It doesn’t mean that you give up and tell yourself that things will never change, or even worse, that you can’t change things. I think most of us think that acceptance involves giving up, so no wonder we resist it!
Accepting is acknowledging where you are and realizing that it’s ok for now. You may still want to change, especially if you don’t like your current situation. By all means, work hard to change if that’s what you really want, just don’t beat yourself up for where you are.
Acceptance is a change of attitude, that’s all. It’s not quitting. It took me awhile to let this sink in, but I realized that it’s something that I’ve always known on some level. I’ve never created significant change in my life until I accepted where I was first.I had to love myself the way I was and realize that I had to be where I was, because that’s where I happened to be. That situation had something to teach me. I accepted that knowledge, but I still wanted to change. Change happened pretty spontaneously after that.
Whenever I my situation and struggled against it, I got even more stuck. It’s like struggling when you’re sinking in quicksand (the movies always say that’s a bad idea) and sinking even faster.
What do you want to change in your life? What do you need to accept?
I’ll go first.
- I accept that I need to have a job right now when I’d rather be a full-time artist and writer. Luckily, I enjoy my job, but I’d still rather do my own thing. It’s ok though. This job takes care of me, and I’m glad to have it. I’ll still work toward my goal, but I’m happy with what I’m doing right now.
- I accept that I don’t have the money to travel the world right now, but obviously, world travel isn’t what I need at the moment or I’d have it. I can love my life anyway. I’d still like to travel and I’ll work toward that goal, but I won’t snub the joys of home.
- I accept that I have about 10 extra pounds of “winter coat” around my hips and thighs. This is a little heavier than what I’m comfortable with, but it’s ok for now. I’ll still love and take care of my body and I’ll trust it to even things out on its own.
- I accept that it’s still winter even though I’d really like it to be spring. We’ve had a lovely springy week and now there’s about six inches of snow on the ground and temperatures have dropped. I’ll take whatever moisture we can get for a nice green summer, and I’ll embrace a few more weeks of layers and hot soup.
I’ll accept these things, but I also expect change. I think the distinction here is simply attitude, because forcing change does not work. One cannot reach their natural weight by hating his or her body now. One can’t create a thriving career by refusing to acknowledge the starting point, where she is now.
How about you? What are you accepting right now? What does acceptance mean to you?