MINI LIFE LESSON FOR TODAY: The Importance of Doing What We Do

I had a little existential crisis a few days ago. No worries, it’s solved.  That is, I politely (I hope!) disengaged from a venture that wasn’t really a good fit for me. (I only took it because I’ve been freaked out by a major writing gig I’ve had for years, and had to walk away from recently.)

Anyway, a good friend and wise woman called me on it. Called me on wallowing in self-pity, when I’ve already proven I have something to give that the world needs.

So…

A few years ago, I met up with another wise woman I’d taken a workshop with, and told her how much her words had affected me.  I can still see her face as I recited several things she’d said, powerful words that have stayed with me for years.

She said, “I don’t remember saying that. You must have a good memory!”

I said, “Not really. But it was exactly what I needed to hear, and I carried them in my heart for a looooong time.”

It made me realize then (and hey, right now!) how we never, ever know how far our words will travel.

We may never know who needs to hear them almost as much as we need to say them.

And maybe we’ll find that someone has held our words in trust for us, for a time when we ourselves will need to hear them so badly.

LESSONS FROM THE GYM: The Student

Lessons From the Gym: The Student

by Luann Udell on 5/7/2015

This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews.  Luann also writes a column (“Craft Matters”) for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explores the funnier side of her life in craft.  She’s a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry).  Her work has appeared in books, magazines and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer.  She’s blogged since 2002 about the business side–and the spiritual inside–of art.  She says, “I share my experiences so you won’t have to make ALL the same mistakes I did….”

 The insights and ideas continue to flow at the gym, and this week is no exception. Today’s thoughts came from someone who will be leaving soon–the intern.

 There are many professions aligned with the health industry that, after meeting the educational criteria, also require an internship–a period of in-the-field training, under the supervision of a licensed professional, to gain the insights and knowledge that can’t be learned any other way, except in the field.

 There’s such a student now, in the last stages of their credentialing. They’ve been working alongside one of the physical therapists as long as I’ve been there. And in another week or so, they’ll move on.

 I asked them what were the most important things they’ve learned in their internship. Their answer might surprise you.

 “I think watching everyone here interacting with their clients has been eye-opening. Each client is different, personality-wise, and the therapists here always meet them where they’re at. Some people are more assertive, some are overwhelmed… You need to take that into consideration when you’re working with clients. I’ll have two people, back-to-back with the exact same issue–but the approach and the treatment won’t be the same, because this person needs to go slower, or needs more encouragement, and that one wants to be challenged. I know HOW to treat their issues, from my schooling. But this part of the healing–I had no idea! And it’s so powerful…”

 A thoughtful and insightful reply, on so many levels.

 And how does it connect to making and marketing our art?

 I immediately thought of how artists can use this same principle. We learn to interact with customers by meeting them where THEY’RE at.  (And by ‘customers’, I mean ANYONE who’s in a position to buy/support/market our art–buyers, gallery owners, journalists, etc.)

Over time, we may realize that some are assertive and confident, and we adopt a certain style of response with more energy. Others are more contemplative, quiet, not wanting a lot of interaction until they’ve processed what they’re looking at. They will read every sign in your display and look at every piece of work. They don’t want to be pressured, but they don’t want to be ignored, either. Others will stride in, look around, and exclaim, “Wow, this is GREAT! Tell me about it!”  You need to immediately jump on board, or they will lose interest and walk away. Overwhelming an introvert or underwhelming an extrovert can seriously hamper our efforts to connect others with our art. Knowing how to match our interactions with the situation, in the moment, is a powerful tool.

Then I considered the notion of apprenticeships in the arts and crafts. It used to be the main method of education for artists and craftspeople. Now, not so much. Oh, there are still plenty of workshops and classes. But the idea of working long-term with a master, while not rare, is certainly not the norm these days.  Even then, perhaps much of the focus is on technique–not the bigger but less-obvious insights of how to connect to our own artistic vision and purpose.

I think, though, that instinctively, we DO seek out those people who offer us something else besides technique and practical knowledge (which are valuable in their own right). Just the fact that FASO has articles like these, where we can all share insights about what makes us tick (with our art), and what rules are solid (“Do the work!”) and which aren’t (“It’s actually OK to just walk into a gallery and ask to show them your work!”) show how important this is for many of us, in all stages of our professional life.

 In fact, for me, becoming an artist really opened my eyes to the idea of being a life-long student–a student of life.  That’s what my writing (as much of my creative process as my artwork) is all about: Sharing what I’ve learned, with others who’d like to know.

 Finally, I realized that the Student also has something to teach US. Through them, we get to look at what we’re doing with new, fresh eyes. The exhilaration, the wonder, the excitement of those first few years of making our art–remember? When everything was possible, and nothing stood in our way.  This enormous body of knowledge and skill we’ve acquired over the years, something we perhaps have begun to take for granted–we get to see it from their perspective, as a massive achievement, something we can be proud of.

 Beginnings, middles, and endings. All have something to teach us, to expand our understanding and broaden our horizons–if we just take the time to listen.

RETURN TO WONDER

Because the world can never have too many horses in it.

Because the world can never have too many horses in it.

Well, it had to happen eventually. The end of a long-running, highly-satisfying writing gig.

I just didn’t think it would end with a whimper.

Today I turned in my resignation to the magazine formerly known as The Crafts Report, now Handmade Business.

It’s been a wonderful 8-and-a-half year run. (It would have been more than ten years, if I’d taken the gig when they first asked me, but I was working for another fine craft magazine at the time, that they felt was competition.) And I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to share my incredibly disfunctional delightfully wacky sense of humor with thousands of people every month, for more than a hundred issues.

I knew the writing was on the wall when my column was cut back to every other month, then again, when I wasn’t given any deadline at all (they’d switched editors and my email requests weren’t getting through–something that happened with disturbing frquency during my time there.) (And no, that wasn’t my fault!)

I did one last series of four articles for them, on finding, telling and expanding our story to connect our work with others more effectively. The last one should appear in this next issue.

Like the pathetic idiot dedicated writer that I am, I pitched one last column idea to them last night. And received the answer today: “Mmmmmmm……no.”

And so I’ve tendered my resignation, wished them well and moved on.

Okay, that last part? A huge lie. I collapsed in a puddle of self-pity and tears. The magazine seems to be headed on a fresh path with great energy, and I wanted to be a part of that.

They say one door closes and another opens. So far, only a query from a new online publication that wants how-to projects only, for no pay. Nope. I love tutorials as much as the next person, but writing them is not what I’m here on earth to do. (Not that I’m very clear today about what I am here for, and please don’t rub that in.) And even that came by way of a dear friend who knows I’m flailing.

You know what it’s like when it feels like the world doesn’t want your gifts? That’s how I’m feeling today.

And in the midst of this swirl of self-imposed demoralization, a small miracle happened here.

Someone posted a link to this incredible, exuberant, life-loving, robot-hugging truly free spirit, who only brightened our world for a heartbreakingly short time, Zina Nicole Lahr, a delightful woman who died so young, yet leaves a legacy that is simply, joyfully, inspirational.

And I am ashamed of myself.

I am embarrassed that I allow myself to take so much for granted. I’m mortified to act like the world owes me a living. I’m horrified I am not instead simply grateful for what I have–which is a lot.

Of course I want more. That’s human. But wanting is not doing. Nor is standing in a corner pouting because things aren’t going my way today.

It’s up to me to say my piece/peace to the world.

It’s up to me to bring my art into the world.

It’s up to me to create my purpose, my dream, and my journey, no matter what life throws me here and there.

And it’s up to me to embrace my happy thought. Zina’s amazing life reminds me that we are never too old for a challenge, for exuberance, for a sense of wonder.

Wherever you are today, whatever you’re doing, take a moment to think about what good work you brought into the world today.

And know in your heart that the world is truly a better place for it.