GO FORTH AND MAKE STUFF

There are a million reasons why you can’t/shouldn’t/won’t make your art visible in the world. There’s one reason worth your life, why you have to.

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I felt pretty uninspired yesterday. Then I made this.

I’ve have many dreams for my art over the years. Some involved artistic vision. Some involved recognition, respect, and kudos. Some involved financial rewards. Some were only for me and my sanity, my vanity, and my little rabbit heart’s yearning.

Some have been achieved. Many probably never will be. Some are still in progress.

Some I never even imagined, until they came appeared, on their own, exclaiming, “Hey, you forgot ME!!”

We all hold dreams for our the creative work we do, whether we work with words, music, paint, stone, polymer clay, gold, clay, or glass.

It’s when we try to make them present in the world that we run into trouble.

I’ve encountered so many creative people lately, strong, intelligent, gifted people, who, quite frankly, have their head up their respective asses. (In all fairness, I can add myself to that list.) Filled with self-doubt, physical/emotional/mental/spiritual/temporary and permanent setbacks, they struggle to have even an iota of their creative potential in their life.

“When I have the perfect training/situation/schedule/studio/work place/support group/guaranteed income/show/companion/gallery/social media skills/presentation/experience/audience/community/website/skills/whatever-in-god’s- name-you-think-you-need-to-create in my life, then I’ll exercise my creative talent!”

Oh dear.

This is beginning to sound like the SCOTUS nomination and Congress situation. There is just no work-around when you have so many conditions on how–and when–your creative self will engage with the world.

It’s easy to buy into these situations: When can I call myself an artist? How will I make a living with my creative gifts? Who will buy it?? What is a successful artist? Am I good enough to be an artist? These are just a handful of the mind-numbing and soul-petrifying doubts and questions that block so many of us from doing what we love to do.

I’ve been writing about this since my very very first blog post in 2002.  I’ve felt all of these ‘conditions’ and ‘restrictions’ personally, too. Examining my own caustic beliefs, working through them, and sharing that process with you, is a huge part of my own creative process. Sometimes I wonder if the only reason I was born with an artistic gift, is so I could write and share this with you.

It’s so incredibly hard, for so many people, to hear my message over the little nagging voices in their own heads, I often can’t break through.  (I’m learning that people can’t hear me until they are ready to hear me. Which helps me keep trying when I feel discouraged.)

So here’s one of my all-time favorite comic strips that explains, as only humor can, why the world needs your art. And why YOU need your art in the world… And why it doesn’t matter how much of it you put in the world, or how much money you make with it, why it doesn’t matter if it’s your vocation, your avocation, or your career, why it doesn’t matter how many people ‘like’ it (literally and figurative, thank you Facebook!), nor why it even matters if I like it or not….

In this Sally Forth cartoon panel from February 5, 2015, Ted is talking to his daughter Hilary, ten years in the future, about the real importance of her creative endeavors:

Hil, do you know why people play music? Or draw or sing or do stand-up or create?

Becauxe it’s through their art they can interpret the world. And it’s through their art they can add their ideas to the world. It’s not about having an audience, it’s about having a voice.

And if you don’t pursue your art, you may lose that great opportunity to have your say.

(And for a small reality check that every parent will recognize, Hilary replies, “Is this the very level of understanding why you never flinch when I ask for money?”)

Ponder that for a bit today.

Remember: I’m not telling you to give up your day job. I’m not telling you to sign up for American Idol. I’m not telling you what “real” art is, I’m not telling you how often or when you should make it, I’m not telling how you should do it, I’m not saying you should run off to Tahiti, abandoning your family, and lie on a beach somewhere with a umbrella drink in your hand. (Although, that sounds pretty cool, and Tahiti IS a magical place.)

And I’m not telling you it’s easy, or simple, or that there’s a right way to do it.

I’m saying you have a voice. You have just this one life to use it. And it’s NEVER TOO LATE to use it.

Okay, you have a job, a real job or role, one that you like, or even love, or a care-taking role, or anything else you simply do or have to do.

I say, you need the restoration, the sanity, the healing power you get by putting your own power out into the world, to support this other, vitally important work you do. (Think of your creative spirit as the gas you put in your car.) (Okay, the electricity you recharge you car with.)

Make room for it, even just a tiny bit of a room, in your life.

If not for yourself (although I firmly believe that’s the best reason in the world to do it), then do it for someone you love, someone else in the same boat, who holds the same fears and second-guessing and shame and despair that you do.*

Show them the real healing power of art.

Show them what it looks like.

*Yep, this is my super-sneaky strategy to encourage certain selfless folks to be a wee bit more self-ish. Did it work?

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The well-worn and much-loved comic strip that inspired today’s post.

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14 thoughts on “GO FORTH AND MAKE STUFF

    • Patrice, here is me, whooping in Santa Rosa–YIPPEE!!!! Just checked out your work–AMAZING!!! LOVE the leaves and fronds! Yes, paint more!!!!
      (Sorry, I think my cheerleading gene got activated.)
      And I’m so glad you found just what you needed to hear today.

      Like

  1. Thank you so much for this, Luann. For saying that it can be a vocation or hobby or whatever. Liz Gilbert did a fantastic post about that recently.

    I’ve been slowly chipping away at an interal defiance/resistance that says “No, please don’t make me do this. Don’t make me put even a little bit of myself out there. I can’t stand the possibility of failure, of disappointing myself. Of not measuring up. I’m not enough.” It’s mostly lack of faith. And fear. Plenty of that fear.

    As is evident, this post hit dangerously close to home. I’m standing at the edge, looking over the cliff, and getting vertigo. I want to know what it’s like to create day after day and work through the life-depleting murkiness of resistance. Does it even come from ME, I wonder? Is it mine or is it some ancestral fear that’s taken up residence as a way to protect me from old fears that don’t even exist in the now? Paper tigers and all that.

    My whole life and well-being depend on my being able to do this. To show up every day, even for 5 minutes… I want to scream in frustration… The conditions will never be perfect. They. Will. Never. Be. Perfect.

    Thank you, Luann. I’m finally hearing you after reading your blog for 7 years.

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    • OMG, Micheila, this is HUGE!!! Good on your!!!!
      YES, paper tigers!! YES, it’s an ancestral fear–part of all humans, but overused in increasingly safer situations. (What could REALLY happen if you made something, and some people didn’t like it? We envision a horde of peasants showing up at our door with pitchforks and clubs. Really? REALLY?!)

      Our minds are complex, wonderful, fantastic…(I just ran out of words… What the heck IS a mind??) things. But it’s good to remember that as we evolve, what was laid down in our heritage is never dropped. It stays, and hopefully adapts with us. Fear of the other, fear of heights, fear of new situations, FEAR OF HUMILIATION all protected us for jillions of years. But now that our culture has changed enough so that there are very few saber-toothed tigers roaming the streets, our brains work overtime looking for something to protect us against. Fear of making art? Think about that. Does that even make sense??

      Make the work that pleases YOU. Make the work that is meaningful for YOU. Have your say in the world. If you don’t know what you have to say, then practice making until you figure it out. (Or until someone like me comes along and pokes you until you come up with something.) Then speak your truth.

      Micheila, I say with almost perfect certainty, there is someone else in the world who needs to hear your truth. Because here is me, writing for 14 years now, talking about my rather small (compared to so many) journey in life.

      And there YOU are–suddenly hearing what you need to hear, today.

      Isn’t that a miracle??

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  2. Great post Luann. I think that a lot of artists have massive issues with getting their work out into the ‘Real World’, actually putting in front of people who then might judge it as unworthy etc etc. It is easy and comforting to define yourself as the artist who would be famous if only ‘they’ recognised my genius. This definition requires no action to be taken or progress to be made. . .
    The convenient truth is that if you don’t try, then you can’t fail, so artists make excuse after excuse to not get their work out there so they won’t have to face up to failure. ( I’m talking about me as much as anyone else btw)
    Getting real is uncomfortable 😉
    Jon

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    • ACK!! I wrote a beautiful reply to your comment, and I LOST IT!!! (Trust me–it was lovely!) :^D
      Okay, first, LOVE your comment, “Getting real is uncomfortable”. Ohhhh, yeah….
      Second, in our culture, there are many ways to ‘fail’. And we connect ‘failure’ with humiliation, loss of status, and fear of not being lovable. I’ve read that fear of humiliation is the second most powerful social force for humans. So, yes–if we fear that our work isn’t good enough, doesn’t sell enough, isn’t liked enough, etc., we’re going to unconsciously avoid anything that would trigger that response. As in, we find excuses not to do it.

      Unfortunately, too, once we are afraid of that humiliation, the bar is set LOWER, not HIGHER. Meaning we keep getting better at making ourselves small.

      That’s why I encourage creative people to take even the smallest step, each day, to put their creativity back into their life. It’s an act of personal courage that will reward us tenfold a hundredfold. (I was going to say a hundredfold, but I suspect that would be making a new word. Just looked it up–we’re good!)

      And that’s why I share my own tiny acts of courage with the world. To help you make yours.

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    • Your work is awesome, btw! Beautiful!! (And I’m very picky about my polymer kudos.) :^)
      I was going to contact Cynthia Tinapple of Polymer Clay Daily about it (I don’t get out in the polymer clay work world very much) but she’s already featured you twice!

      Like

  3. Luann,

    Another good post. Thanks!

    I suspect most of us are in the same leaky, doubtful boat and in danger of capsizing! Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be confidant all of the time?

    I like the central message of your post a lot. As far we know, there is only this particular life that we have been given. What exactly are you doing with it and can you come to grips with the choices that you make? Can we choose creativity for creativity’s sake? For our own sake?

    Just what I needed to read this week. Thanks!
    Libby

    PS: I thought about you too recently! I am reading a book on the Salton Sea (So. Cal) and I read a bit about the petroglyphs and geoglyphs that they have found. Seemed like it might be right up your alley, creativity wise.

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    • Libby, thank you for letting me know my writing touched you. Just like art, we never know how far our words travel, and what message they carry for others. You gave me a peek at that today. And thanks for the tip about the Salton Sea! It very well might result in a visit to such an intriguing area.

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  4. Great post. I want to share what I do with my scrap polymer clay. All of it. I make Beads of Courage for kids with cancer. Sometimes I just sit down and make Beads of Courage from new clay. Once, to my utter amazement I blogged about some American Flag beads I’d created for BOC and THREE KIDS who had received them wrote to me!!!! I also make earrings for EARS TO YOU. They are given to women on chemo days to boost their spirits. I make some de novo, some with temporary-insanity-bought beads, some with beads I’ve bought that did not live up to their seller’s claims. Guess what, the kids with cancer and the women with cancer ARE NOT ARTISTS. All they experience is the love in the gifts. I have sent in 24# of Beads of courage and have about 6# in my punchbowl. When it is full, I’ll mail them in. I also have a box I am filling with earrings. So, go make something. Do it for someone else if you are not ready to do it for yourself.

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    • As always, Susan, said with deep meaning and deep self-knowledge. “All they experience is the love in the gifts….” Beautiful!! Okay, everybody out there who says they aren’t good enough, do what Susan says! It’s great advice.
      Susan, can you share links to these programs? Post them here? Thank you!!!

      Like

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