I WRITE FOR MYSELF and Maybe for You

I’ve always known my writing is not for everyone. Some folks expect more concrete “do this” and less “we’re all in this together, and that will make us better”. That’s okay, I get that.

Sometimes that’s what I’m looking for, too. Like today. Why do none of my LED bulbs work in my old booth lighting fixtures??”  (The results: It’s complicated.)

The thing is, when people criticize my writing because that’s what they’re looking for, it’s really a moot point. There are other writers who will give them that.

Me? I share when I’m stuck or overwhelmed, or when I’m feeling “less-than”, and how I got through that, as close to “in the moment” as I can.

But here’s the deal with the “just the facts’, ma’am” approach:

I’m a woman, born in the ’50’s, who never saw an artist growing up. (There was one potter in the county I grew up in, but I only heard of her after I graduated high school, and never saw their work.) I was raised to blend in, to go along, not to talk back, and to be nice.

There were school budget constraints that created a total lack of actual art education.

My college art history textbooks featured no women artists. One author even stated publicly he did not believe women could be considered “real artists”, and of course, that meant no women artists were featured in his book until 1987.

1987.

1987, people!!!!! Nineteen effin’ eighty-seven.

Janson’s History of Art has become so problematic as Janson’s own personal canon of “real art” is, that efforts to be more representative still can’t restore its usefulness in art history education.

You know where all the women are in art history? Nudes, as subjects. For the shock value, and publicity.

I’ve seen and read examples of many, many women supporting their male partner’s art career, often at the expense of their own. The Wife, anyone?

I cannot recall one instance of a man doing the same for his wife. (Some wives-of-artists even have a secondary career of advice-giving of how to be a successful artist. Without admitting that it can be hard for us wives to have our own “wife”.)

(Full disclosure here: I could not afford to have a studio nor have an art career, nor even to be a writer, were it not for the fact that my partner’s work pays 100x more than my meager income. And he helps with computer issues all the time. But he does not do my marketing, my correspondence, my social media, sales, shop upkeep, etc.)

Even in workshops on technique, and writing about marketing, most folks refer to famous male artists. It took the Netflix “comedy” special Nanette to share the real reason Van Gogh is famous, and to frame his situation for modern art-lovers. (Van Gogh’s work was hampered by his mental health issues, not inspired by it, and his work is visible today not because he was “good at marketing”, but because “…he had a brother who loved him.”

Although making your place in the art world can be harder if you are a woman, there are several things I also am, that make it a little easier for me. I’m white. (Not a person of color.) I’m middle class. (Not born into poverty, and I was able to attend college.) (No, my family didn’t “buy” my way in, either.) I identify as a woman. (Not LGBTQ.) I was raised Christian. (Not Muslim, Jewish, or any other religion that some consider “less than”.) (And though I now identify myself as agnostic.)

All of these identities are in my favor, NOT because they make me “better than”, but because some believe these traits make us “less than.” (It does not.) These folks have far more difficulty navigating the waters of our culture, throughout our history, and to this day, unfortunately.

Then of course, there is our choice of media we use to tell our story. I cannot tell you how many times people have told me I’m not a “real artist” because of my choice of media. I work in fiber (“That’s craft!”) and polymer (“That’s just fake clay, and clay is just a craft, too!”)

There are those who tell me I’m an awful writer, because I tell a story rather than simply “get to the point and tell me what to do!” (At one point, after someone complained my articles were too damn long, I put things like “5 minute read” in the bylines. In case, you know, five minutes was too much of a drain on their time.)

So when I write, I write for myself first. I write to reassure myself–and other artists who feel the same way–that our work IS needed in the world. It DOES serve a “purpose”–it’s our voice, our chance to have our say.  Yes, making money from making our art is wonderful, empowering. But even if we don’t, we still have to find the time and energy to make it, if only for ourselves.

.And so when I write, I write for myself. To inspire myself. To remind myself, that though there are some who still would not consider me a “real artist”, the only person who can stop me from making my art (barring a drunk driver) is myself.

And the one single factor that keeps most of us from creating is…..

Doubt.

Such a little word, and so much damage comes from it! I came across this quote recently, but I can’t trace it to the original author.

Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.

This is why I share my writing with you.

Doubt kept me from trying harder. From making good decisions about my life work until my early 40’s. Doubt kept me from calling myself an artist, until I hit the wall, hard. Until the day I knew I had to do the work of my art, or I would destroy everything around me with bitterness. Doubt made me frightened, weak, and full of excuses why I wouldn’t take my work seriously.

Once I learned to pat doubt on its head, shush it lovingly, and move it back to its corner, failure was nothing. Failure I could deal with. Because if you give it your best shot, if you try and do your best, and fail? Well, at least you tried.

And then we learn to try again. And again. And again, until we either find a way through, or realize we will build a different path over, under, and around that obstacle in our way.

So when I share my beginnings, when I share my setbacks, when I share how I healed my toxic self-image, it’s because I want you to have what I have:

Hope.

Hope, and courage, inspiration, and strength, and my own definition of success.

I want this for every single artist I meet.

And though we may never meet in person, I want this for YOU.

Hope is the thing with feathers

Emily Dickinson1830 – 1886

Hope is the thing with feathers  
That perches in the soul,  
And sings the tune without the words,  
And never stops at all,  
   
And sweetest in the gale is heard;          
And sore must be the storm  
That could abash the little bird  
That kept so many warm.  
   
I’ve heard it in the chillest land,  
And on the strangest sea;         
Yet, never, in extremity,  
It asked a crumb of me.

 

 

 

Author: Luann Udell

I find it just as important to write about my art as to make it. I am fascinated by stories. You can tell when people are speaking their truth--their eyes light up, their voices become strong, their entire body posture becomes powerful and upright. I love it when people get to this place in their work, their relationships, their art. As I work from this powerful place in MY heart, I share this process with others--so they have a strong place to stand, too. Because the world needs our beautiful art. All of it we can make, as fast as we can! Whether it's a bowl, a painting, a song, a garden, a story, if it makes our world a better place, we need to do everything in our power to get it out there.

33 thoughts on “I WRITE FOR MYSELF and Maybe for You”

  1. I thoroughly look forward to each of your writings. They are inspirational. They are saved on my computer under your name. What you have to say is of value to those who appreciate your words of wisdom. And as you said, those who want a ‘how to’ article can find that so many other places. Keep on doing what you are doing. We love it! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Linjin, I’m glad you enjoyed it! And I hope someday you share your own words with the world (in a way that lets you heal, and stay protected). Because somewhere, someone is going through the same thing, and needs to hear you.

      Like

  2. I must add to these others, that I look forward to your articles. They always seem to hit me right where I am and I wonder, how do you know what I’m feeling right now? Thanks for writing the way you do and sharing your gifts, of art and word.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Karen, thank you! And that is exactly why I write, and keep on writing. We all have a story to tell, and somewhere, someone else needs to hear it. Because it resonates with THEIR story, and will encourage them to persevere. Others have done it for me, and I want to do it for others, too.

      Like

  3. Another brilliant post. You’re right about the mail domination in the arts. (I have that same Jansen book.) But society toys with us all. In the 1950s when I was growing up, boys weren’t encouraged to pursue the arts, no matter how talented they were. Especially here in the south with its total fixation on sports. Art classes might as well have been lumped in with Home-Ec classes for the girls. After a degree in Advertising and four years in the Navy, I was encouraged by friends in the Washington DC area to go back and use the GI Bill to get the degree I REALLY wanted. I did and from then on I was doing my best Sinatra impression, singing “I did it MY WAY!” Can you imagine what it feels like to hear some of those high school jocks at the class reunions tell me how much they admire what I do and congratulate me on my success?

    Emily Dickenson’s bird has some FINE plumage.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Michael, thank you for sharing your own story, and you are spot-on. Yes, in my high school, art and music were cancelled during a budget crisis. But the men’s sports program? Somehow, they found supporters came up with enough money to keep that going. (Title IV happened a little too late for me….) I’m delighted you had the kind of friends who knew (and loved) your heart! (And thank you for all the giggles lately, too, this has been another hard few weeks stacked on top of last year’s.)

      Like

      1. And you were even kind enough not to point out my typo, writing “MAIL domination.” Yes. The Postal Service has been far too powerful.

        Like

  4. I’ve thought about what you wrote and how I can take useful information from your insite and decided my story might help you.
    I will be 74 this year. My body tells me this from time to time but the artist that lives in this body has no idea how old she is. She’s been an artist for as long as she can remember. If you can make it inside a house she’s done it. Finally, after years of messing around with all kinds of mediums she’s settled down to two. Rug hooking and pastel paintings. In her late sixties she had a conversation with herself about what she really wanted to do with her remaining years of creativity. Eventually she narrowed her journey down to 5 goals. And she made herself a bracelet. With 5 beads on it. A bead for each goal. She would put the bracelet on and never take it off until all the goals had been met. What her goals were are not important to the story. The fact that she looked at that bracelet every day as a reminder is. That she watched the silver beads begin to wear and copper highlights began to show through that matched the copper of the wire they were strung on is. She opened an online store and sold her rugs. She took a class in pastel painting and entered major shows in a major city. She sold her rugs in Galleries. She watched one of her rugs become a huge pin on Pinterest. She was working towards a goal as a painter that gave her 6 years to complete and was racing through the requirements in 2 years. Her artist was thriving. And then one day……she missed getting into a show. And in the back of her mind came the Voice…..”See you really weren’t good enough after all. Why were you wasting the time and the money to do this? “. And she heard the Voice loud and clear. She stopped creating. She hooked a few rugs, but they didn’t sell. Another show rejected her paintings. Why did she even think she was good enough for people to want to see her work? And she threw out all her paperwork to show she had completed the requirements to receive the special standing as a painter. She quit.
    She sat. Her body began to feel her years. It began to object to movement. To cause her discomfort. She bought a walker.
    Out of the blue one day an email came. Her painting group was having a show. Just enter paintings. No jurying. Please contribute. The last show had a poor turnout. Please support the organization. Well, she could probably do that. After all she had paintings. She took 3 of her works to the Gallery. And another member commented on how nice her work was. And how glad she was to see her participating. At the end of the show the Gallery asked to keep her work. To sell it. Her work. No one else’s. Then one of her big shows rolled around again and invited her to submit work.
    Well…..maybe she could. Another member of her group who she admired greatly contacted her about something and happened to mention she had not made it into the special show. That it was very difficult to get into. But our artist’swork had been chosen. And guess what……it wasn’t the voice she heard…..it was the singing bird!
    She thought about her bracelet. It wasn’t the voice that inspired the bracelet…it was the bird. They both were always there. It was her choice which one she listened to. And the bird sings such a beautiful song.
    It is the choice. It is always the choice. And no one but you can make it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Linda, thank you for your story. My body turned 70 last year but like you the artist inside this body is ageless. I have had that talk with myself and I chose my mediums to put my time to, acrylic painting and sculpting in terra cotta. But, I need to finish the conversation with myself and set my goals and make my version of your bracelet. Thank you for sharing your story. As I mentioned in my response to Luann’s post: We are all on a path. Some of us are just beginning. Some are feeling progress, and some of us are further along the path and when able to, leaving trail markers and notes to those we may never meet. BUT, the bottom line is, WE ARE ON A CREATIVE PATH. TOGETHER. And that is our collective strength. Thank you for your field notes.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Linda, your story just stopped me in my tracks. So powerful, so beautiful, so TRUE. I am so glad a few setbacks didn’t hold you down for long, and I’m inspired by how you came to the surface again. I’m sure many others will be, too! Thank you for your patience, I had to make an emergency trip to the East Coast to be with my daughter right after I published this. Your story is beautiful, and my heart rejoices that your bracelet, and the “thing with feathers” saved you from self-doubt and self-judgment. You are a thing of beauty in the world!

      Like

    3. Linda, I got lost in my blog mechanics, I responded below Lynn’s comment. Bottom line: What you say is powerful, and beautiful, and I am so glad you shared your story and thoughts today! YES, we have the power of our choices, and as artists, I encourage everyone to chose our heart. THANK YOU for writing today!!!!

      Like

  5. Oh Luann! Thank you for being you! I am also a child of the 50’s – don’t know if that is why I relate to you so well- but it may have some correlation. Anyway, everything you wrote today I could relate to! Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Denise, thank you for letting me know! I think that though we still have far to go for EVERYONE to be cherished in the world, that we were on a weird “cusp”, the old and the new. And then we thought “the new” had changed things, til we realized how far our culture still have to go. So here we are, marching forward, and I’m glad you heard the music! :^)

      Like

  6. Thanks so much for your article! Frankly, I enjoy your style of writing. I feel like you are talking to me – not preaching to me. I also appreciate your sense of humor and satirical observations. Sincerely, “Another Woman Born in the 50’s!”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oooh, Rhonda, “talking…not preaching”, I LOVE THAT!!! I can’t preach, because I’m in the same place. I’ve learned being preachy means we think we know better. And I’d rather just share what I’ve learned, and have it resonate for those who are in that place, too.

      Like

  7. Amen to all that! Except for being 10ish years older, and still not out there selling works, I’m learning, exploring, creating my arts and see our sisterhood and hope in our collective futures in a very similar way. You have a voice and a forum. Keep writing. We are all on a path. Some of us are just beginning. Some are feeling progress, and some of us are further along the path and when able to, leaving trail markers and notes to those we may never meet. BUT, the bottom line is, WE ARE ON A CREATIVE PATH. TOGETHER. And that is our collective strength.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s