So much is going on in my life right now. Sometimes I feel like I’m standing at the bottom of a mountain looking up and feeling overwhelmed by the humongous climb, or like I’m standing on the edge of a cliff looking down and feeling terrified of the leap I’m about to take.
This is good though. It mean I’m growing, or at least that I have the opportunity for growth.
I’m 2 pages away from filling a 300 page journal. I always feel like a big change is on it’s way when I get close to finishing a journal. My new art site is in progress, I’m preparing to apply to a big art show, I’m readjusting a lot of things in my life right now, and some other huge changes might be just around the corner. With all this going on around me, sometimes the best thing I can do it be still and feel my feet on the ground. I like to pretend I have roots and that no matter how crazy my life gets, I have stability and peace built into my soul. I can find peace in my roots.
I tried something new with this piece. For awhile now, I’ve been thinking about incorporating 3-D elements into my paintings and sculpting right on the canvas. It took a few tries and tests to find the right product and technique, but I finally settled on a special non-contracting, self-drying clay for the roots. I also mixed dirt with the brown paint for the underground area around the roots.
Creating this was an interesting experience. It took me around a month and at times, I wanted to throw the hole thing in the dumpster. Sometimes I didn’t like the way it looked, sometimes my back hurt from working with such a tall canvas (I don’t use an easel. I usually work on the floor or sitting with the canvas propped up), and the emotions that inspired this feeling were difficult to sit with for that long. I think this is what I needed to work through some fears and scary thoughts.
I don’t think I’ll be with Etsy much longer (stay tuned on that one), so I’m not going to post this is in the shop just yet. If you are interested in purchasing it, send me a convo or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org so I can create a listing for you!
Best wishes for a wonderful week!
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.
We’ve all been there, and a lot of us never seem to leave. Life seems overwhelming, scary, or confusing, or maybe all of the above.
This isn’t a gloomy post. Feeling like this sometimes is just part of life and it usually means we’re on the verge of something important. The longer we stay stuck here though, the longer it takes to get that shiny prize at the end of the tunnel.
So when my head is spinning and I have no idea what to do or which path to take, here’s what I do:
- Cling to truth: When you’re confused, nothing feels better than to anchor yourself with things that you know to be true. List them. They can be as simple as “My husband loves me” or “I am a good person”. Confusion is to not know, but having truth is to know. Once you have a grip on that, you can figure the rest out.
- Realize that everything is ok: I tend to get caught up in my own little maelstrom of emotion, but sometimes I need to step back and notice that the sun is shining, the cat is sleeping, the world is still turning, and nothing is really wrong. Not in the grand scheme of things. The drama is all inside me. I don’t have to listen to it.
- Do a tiny thing that scares you: If you’ve been cleaning the house with a Q-tip to avoid working on your novel, sit down and write a page. Set a timer. If you’ve been putting something off, do a tiny bit of it. Bribe yourself. Set a timer. Whatever gets you going, do it.
I actually did all three of these things today, and I feel a million times better. If you feel confused or overwhelmed at all, I highly recommend it.
Have a great week!
If you’ve follow me on Facebook or Twitter (hint hint) you know that I’ve recently submitted two of my pieces to a juried show. This is the Spring Salon at the Springville Museum of Art, which is one of the biggest juried shows in Utah. Nearly two-thirds of the entries don’t actually make it into the show, so it’s fairly competitive. Years ago, I actually had a piece in their state high school show, which is almost as competitive, and even won a prize, so I’m crossing my fingers to get into this one.
This is actually my first attempt at a real juried show, and it’s quite nerve wracking. One of my favorite artists, Brian Kershisnik, actually won this show last year. I feel like I’m playing with the big kids now. I’ve had all kinds of thoughts running through my head, some helpful and some not so much.
What do you think you’re doing? You’re not a real artist. This show is for real artists.
Do you really think you’re going to get in? You’ve seen this show, it’s incredible! How could you hang your work on the same walls?
They’re going to look at your work and think and think it’s kitschy or something. It’s cute. It’s imperfect and they’ll see right through you.
Just don’t even bother entering that show. Save yourself some disappointment and try again when you’re a real artist.
Just for fun, I even had another destructive thought while typing these: Do you really think it’s a good idea to expose these thoughts to your readers? You need to appear confident and fearless. No one will take you or your work seriously if they know that you think these thoughts.
Interesting, huh? And yes I do think it’s a good idea to admit to these thoughts. Every artist has them. Every person has them. I’ve written about fear quite a bit on this blog, because it’s something that I experience a lot, and it’s held me back in the past. I’ve also learned to recognize it and talk back to it. I’m not perfect at it, but if I can learn to talk back to my fears, anyone can.
Who says I’m not a real artist? Of course I am! I make art, people like it, and people even buy it sometimes. Sure, I’m not a full time artist yet, but I am most certainly now and have always been an artist.
My work is as good as anyone else’s. If I don’t get into the show, that means that the judges didn’t connect with it, not that it isn’t good. I’m fully confident in the quality of my work.
I’m young and inexperienced, but I need to start somewhere. I’ve spent a lot of time at this museum and I feel very comfortable here, so this is a good place to start.
Not everyone will like my work, and that’s ok. I don’t make art to please everyone. I make it to connect with the people who will connect with it. Everyone who doesn’t will connect with something else and won’t need my work. That’s fine with me. Most people who see it tell me they love it. If they don’t, oh well.
A lot of other amazing artist entering this show are probably thinking the same things. Especially the first timers like me.
So Saturday afternoon, despite the demons whispering fears into my mind, Sam and I took Galaxies Inside 1 and 2 down to the museum. Now I’m waiting. It’s worse than waiting for the cast list of any show I’ve ever auditioned for, because this is a beginning. If I get in, and I truly believe I have a decent shot, this show will be a solid line on my resume. I’ll have approval from the actual art world. If I don’t, it just wasn’t the right time, place, or piece. Or the judges just didn’t connect.
Housekeeping: For the time being, Galaxies Inside 1 and 2 will be unavailable for purchase, but they’ll be available if/when I get them back.
I’m also going on a trip this week and I may blog from my phone, but I may choose to completely unplug for the rest of the week. Sometimes that is very necessary.
Have a wonderful spring week!
I know what it’s like to feel creatively blocked. Most people do.
One of the biggest blocks we face is perfectionism. Perfectionism is a massive creativity clogger.
We might spend too long on a certain project because it has to be perfect. We don’t allow ourselves to move on until we’re satisfied, and we’re never satisfied. We hold on long after the passion is gone. We let other juicy ideas wither because we can’t give them the attention they need.It’s like neglecting your other children in your quest to be the perfect parent to your first.
We might find that creating isn’t fun anymore. We often doubt our abilities and the value of our ideas because we can’t express them perfectly. We might give up too soon or not start at all because we figure, what’s the point if I can’t do it perfectly?
This is a lie we tell ourselves, that our creations must be perfect to be valuable. I struggled with this one for a long time, in many areas of my life.
How do we let go?
Focus on the passion. Realize that the value is in the process. Seek truth rather than perfection.
My art isn’t perfect. My writing isn’t perfect. Nothing I make is perfect, but at least I’m making stuff. I didn’t use to. Making lots of great-but-not-perfect stuff is better than making nothing at all. Trying and failing is better than not trying.
Let go of perfectionism. Realize that perfection is a subjective term, and what’s the value of perfection anyway, at least in a creative sense. Let your creativity express itself honestly, and the result will be more valuable for it.
It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare;
it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.”
All my life, I’ve been a creative spirit. I spent my childhood drawing pictures, writing stories and poems, playing piano, and daydreaming. In high school, I added singing, acting, painting theatrical sets, and even dancing to that list. As a child, I never doubted myself. I never thought that maybe I wouldn’t have what it takes to be an artist and writer. I had no idea what creative block was, or that I’d ever been afraid to create. I just had fun making stuff.
If I’ve learned anything about creativity and creative block, it’s that the #1 creativity clogger is fear.
One of my most common fears is that I’ll never be able to out-do myself. Whenever I made something amazing, I worried that I would never top it, that I’d never have anything that amazing inside of me again. This was it. It didn’t get any better. I don’t remember ever feeling this way as a child, but from early college and on, this little nagging doubt always lurked in my mind.
As annoying and limiting as that fear is, whenever I managed to shut it up long enough to make something and let my creativity shine through uninhibited, I made some amazing stuff. I wouldn’t call any of it my most prized masterpiece, but I feel that I lot of what I’ve created is quite exceptional. Without fail, I’ve always been able to make something just as good, if not better, than what I’ve made in the past. I always have room for new stories and essays. I can always find the inspiration for more artwork. I always have new dreams and plans. If a roadblock appears, I can find a way around it once I stop worrying about it.
I think a lot of creative people have to deal with this fear, and it can actually be a powerful motivator if we think of it as a fun challenge rather than a glass ceiling. Instead of letting our fear limit us when it tells us we can’t do something, we can say “Oh yeah? Watch me!” and do it anyway.
My personality doesn’t do particularly well with the “Oh yeah?” part, but reminding myself that this fear has no basis in reality is my key to overcoming it. On the flip-side, it’s empowering to know that I’ll always be able to create something new and maybe even better. Does it even matter if it’s better? Maybe different and fresh is good enough. Maybe I can just explore a theme deeper and that would be sufficient for that time. I can go in a million different directions and never run out of things to create.
Also, a person who’s interested in as many things as I am will never run out of inspiration.
Creativity is limitless. As long we I nurture it, it will always be there. If we let it slip, it will be there when I decide to find it again. That’s the nature of creativity, and the fear is there to push us. Without a challenge, we’d have no reason to explore, branch out, or question.
Embrace the fear, trust creativity. They feed into each other, who knew? It took me years to figure this out, but hopefully knowing this will bring my more creativity in the years to come. I’ll need to overcome the new challenges. J
If you are depressed, you are living in the past.
If you are anxious, you are living in the future.
If you are at peace, you are living in the present.
I really don’t need to add anything to that, but haven’t we all spent some time in all three places?
I’ve struggled with both depression and anxiety, and the only way to let go of them was to learn to live in the present, which requires a great deal of trust. When we trust, we can let go of the future and focus on now, because we know that things will work out.
When we don’t trust, we live in fear and scramble around trying to put the future together rather than let it come together the way it needs to.
I’ve thought about this quote many times lately as I constantly rein myself back into a mindset of love and trust instead of freaking out about what the future holds. Yes, the unknown is scary and overwhelming. Yes, we need to lay a foundation for a good future, and we absolutely should do a little planning ahead to help things run smoothly.
But anyone with any experience know that things don’t always go as planned. In fact, they rarely go as planned.
So why try to force them?
Let go. Go for a walk. Watch the sun go down. Notice the abundance and joy that exists in this moment, and know that things will always work out the way they need to, and that your job is to trust and love everyone.
It’s that simple.
Over the past few months, I’ve observed that at any given time, I’m living in one of two mindsets: Love or Fear.
Love is a mindset of trust, joy, gratitude, patience, passion, and caring.
Fear is a mindset of worry, want, insecurity, judgement, impatience, and obligation.
Where would you rather be?
I think this is true for everyone.
When we’re living from a place of love, we are happy, our creativity flows, we appreciate what we have, we live in the moment, and good things seem to happen to us.
I know when I’m living in love, because I spend a lot of time writing and painting, I have to scribble down ideas in the checkout line or at red lights, I only think about food when I’m hungry and I even put off eating because I don’t want to stop what I’m doing, I’m patient with myself and others, and I feel adventurous. I trust that everything is and will be ok, and that I have everything I need. I feel grateful.
When we’re living from a place of fear, we worry a lot, spend a lot of time planning, think in terms of “should” and “have to”. We get frustrated with other people and ourselves, and we live in the past and future-anywhere to avoid the present.
Sometimes it takes me a while to accept that I’m living in fear, but it’s not hard to identify. I can usually tell because I don’t feel like making art and I spend a lot of time planning, budgeting, making lists, crunching numbers, and thinking about food when I’m not hungry. I munch a lot and feel like I need to sleep more. I feel insecure on many levels, whether it’s with money, career, or something in my body feels off and I panic.
I lose my trust in life and feel that I have to force things, because what if it won’t be ok?
Fear isn’t a fun place to live.
So if we’re living in a mindset of fear, how to we switch gears?
- Gratitude: Look around you and notice the beauty, the abundance, and the joy. Look back on your life and remember the time that seemingly bad things worked out for the better (they might still be working out)
- Have faith: Whether you believe in a higher power or not, know that God, life, the universe or whatever has a way of guiding you to what you need. Knowing this is the key to trust, trusting is the key to letting go, and letting go is the key to being open.
- Be gentle with yourself and others: To borrow a quote from the amazing Tara Wagner aka The Organic Sister, “Everyone does the best they can with the tools they have.” This also applies to you. You aren’t lazy, stupid, or weak, and neither is anyone else. While this doesn’t justify things that are wrong, just realize that mistakes are a matter of not having the correct tools, not that something is inherently wrong with you or another person.
- Know what makes you happy, and what doesn’t: I love art and writing because they open up a part of myself that I can’t access otherwise. I love walking and yoga because they connect me to my body and free my mind. I love good food, animals, spending time with people I love, and reading. Worrying, planning, and making endless lists doesn’t free me. It just works me into a mess of obsession that takes me away from things that truly bring me joy. While life does require some planning and organization sometimes, those things will never fill me.
- Love someone else: We’re all in this “life” think together. We all move back and forth between these two places of love and fear. Help make someone else’s day better, and you’ll feel good too.
Learn your own signs that you’re living in love or fear. Learn to make the shift if necessary, and life will be amazing.
I still haven’t written about a few of the paintings in my shop, so over the next few weeks, I’d like to post about each of them. They’re all significant to me and they deserve to be explained.
Even the longest journeys begin with a single step.
The only thing holding us back is our fear, which is just an emotion. It’s not an emergency. Fear is a natural impulse designed to keep us safe.
It can also keep up trapped.
All you have to do, is take the first step. Then, take another.
Repeat until you arrive.
This piece is available for purchase here.