Almost didn’t make this little fox necklace yesterday (“What’s the use?”) but then I thought, “Why not??”

I’ve been in a funk for awhile. Okay, haven’t we all? A lousy holiday market show, slow sales, a disturbing conversation with a gallery owner who used to carry my work, my studio is freezing,

I have two journals I use, one every single day and the other when I’m in a funk. The first is my daily schedule of appointments, deadlines, tasks, shopping lists, etc. Sometimes I add a few notes of a movie to watch, a book to read, or an adage/quote/insight that help me move forward.

The blort journal is where I dump my toxic, angry, sad, frustrating notes on my shitty day.

I even posted about these journals on Facebook a few days ago, where I admitted that I never write in beautiful/handmade/expensive journals, because I don’t want to mess them up. My mess of a life goes in those cheap college notebooks, or my favorite style of spiral-bound notebooks I get at TJ Maxx every time they go on sale. Hah!

So yesterday I blorted, then made a list of the things that happened that made me happy/grateful/curious/grounded.

Then, today, I read a book review in our local newspaper, called In Praise of Failure: Four Lessons in Humility by Costica Bradatan.

From a review:

Squarely challenging a culture obsessed with success, an acclaimed philosopher argues that failure is vital to a life well lived, curing us of arrogance and self-deception and engendering humility instead.

And this quote from the book knocked me over (in a good way!)

“Striving for success prevents us from dealing with our mortality and hence, from living a more meaningful life. Fear of failure can sap the meaning from our lives….”

Well, poo. That’s exactly why I’ve been sitting on my hands for a month (or two.) Why bother working on that age-old project in my heart? My work sells slowly, always has, and that’s never going to change. Oh yeah, I should do it because I want to do it, right? But my studio is already stuffed full of finished work, and whenever a gallery sends back my unsold work, it all just sits there, staring at me.

So that quote gave me a little lift, a bit of validation.

But then, I had to kill a little time today (watched pots never boil, etc.) and picked up a book I’d started to read years ago, The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives by Leonard Mlodinow. And three pages in, everything changed, again.

In three pages.

This book is about how random almost everything emotional, experiential, artistic is in life. In fact, almost everything that happens to us is random.

And how we tend to not see that, to believe that, if we do it right, if we get really good at what we do, if we even already have fame and fortune, our changes of more success, recognition, and money, are just waiting for us.


It was an echo of one of my favorite life lessons, the Four Stages of Competency. (This link will take you to my articles about that.) My favorite was the time I took a pottery class, centered and threw a pot in my first try. (“Hey! I’m a natural at this!”) And failed miserably the next five weeks to even get a blog of clay centered on the wheel.

It was when I hit the lowest point of my creative life, and found my way through.

I turned the page, and there was my second ‘hit’. You know who really scores in life?

People who don’t give up.

The author reminds us that success in movies and books is much, much more random than we think. The Diary of Anne Frank was almost never published, because it was considered pretty boring, “…a dreary record of a typical family bickering, petty annoyances and adolescent emotions….” John Grisham’s first novel was rejected by 26 publishers. Dr. Suess’s first children’s book was rejected 27 times. J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter manuscript was rejected by 9 publishers. (There are even sadder stories, but you get the drift.)

Perseverence may not pay off, too. Not in our lifetime, anyway. But if Vincent Van Gogh had quit painting immediately, we wouldn’t have his work in the world today.

Which circles back to randomness vs. predictability, and that first quote about a meaningful life.

Short story: Life is soooooo random. We literally can’t guarantee we’ll make it through the day, let alone a long life, let alone a long life filled with joy, fame, wealth, and health.

But when we embrace today, this moment in time, we let that ‘real world’ into our heart.

When we make our work because it feels good to step back from the easel, the computer screen, the kiln, the sewing maching, and think, “Yeah, that’s COOL! I LOVE IT!” With nothing more really needed than to look forward to do more the next day.

Look, if I were giving YOU advice (that you didn’t ask for), I’d tell you to make room for the work of your heart in your life, no matter how little money you make from it. It restores us to our higher, best self, and helps us do the work that DOES earn us a living.

Me? I forget that all the time. And that’s what my blort book is for. When I’m struggling, if I make the time to write, and I make myself write, I will always…alwaysget to a better place, a place that helps me get back to my own heart-work.

And I’d tell you that we have to reset that concept, that approach, every day.

That success is not the absence of failure, but the product of fate + chance + hope, minus the expectation that everything will work out in our lifetime.

Not living in the past (because we can’t change it) nor living for the future (because we are really bad at predicting it), but embracing our life, deriving our own meaning from it.  And living our best life with what we have right here, right now.

Two (or three, or four) tiny little miracles that helped me tremendously.

I’ll shut up now. My thoughts are still bouncing around in my head, BUT… I’m already back to my happy place.

And I hope you find YOURS today, too!


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.

22 thoughts on “FINDING MY WAY BACK HOME”

  1. I have followed you for more than a decade. I’m sorry you had a rough couple of months. I‘ve been there recently, very recently and am hopeful for a better year going forward. I’m doing an Artist Talk at the Lexington Society of Arts and Crafts in Lexington, MA this coming Thursday. Your thoughts and comments have been inspirational for me, and I hope to have your permission to mention you and some of your ‘meaningful to me’ quotes. Especially these today.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my gosh, YES on everything you’ve said! And thank you for your readership, for signing up for my blog, and for sharing my words!! The best gift you can give a writer is to share their work with others who might benefit.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. You always always get to me. Reluctantly, (always, because I should be using that time to write my own stuff, not read someone else’s) I open your email and you draw me in with your truth. I suppose some people like or dislike your writing but until now it hasn’t occurred to me to find those feelings. I have written creatively since I was 8. You reach down into all the 53 combined, glued-together years of every genre and let me see that, although my writing isn’t going out to an audience, the conversation is still important because my soul is speaking. My heart needs to hear that we are alive and all working on this together. You and I and all the people you reach live another day to be a part of this society, for better, not worse. Thank you, luannudell

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Just read your blog, Luann, and the part about striving for success (and countering that) reminded me of this quote from Neil Gaiman, and that this year I am PROMISING myself to make mistakes:

      “I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

      “Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something…”

      I love how you approach things. And I love your two notebooks, one dedicated to the honorable blort.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Love this! I’m growing more ‘hooked’ on Neil Gaiman’s work and words every day! (The Sandman has such beautiful moments in a dark and weary world…) Now let’s get busy writing today! <<<<>>>>


    2. Okay, Nancy, you made me tear up (as in “cry”, not “rip”) with your beautiful words. I love that me finding a tiny bit of hope with MY words, helped you have a little hope in YOURS. This is exactly why I–and YOU–need to get our words out into the world. When I’m in my best ‘low’ place, it’s enough if ONE PERSON got hope from mine. Thank you so much for this today!


  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, even when (especially when) things don’t go so well… We’ve all been there. Every winter I have to fight seasonal inertia which makes me want to hibernate and hide from it all. (In RI with dreariness right now)

    And I’ve been trying to come up with my own ways to fight the Resistance that wants to keep me out of the studio. Like an accountability Mastermind group we started and breaking big scary things down into tiny little tasks that don’t seem so bad… And concentrating on art practice and what I tell myself are experiments rather than trying to create masterpieces…

    But it helps so much knowing I’m not the only one! So thank you for your honesty and the courage to share the good and bad.

    And the blort notebook is a genius idea. I had been doing something like that but then stopped because it seemed too negative, but I think you’re right… Sometimes you have to get through all those negative thoughts before you can look past them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. OMGosh Christy, this is awesome! YES, all those practices you’ve mentioned are powerful ones, ones that have helped me, too, over the years. Thank you for ‘seeing’ me, and now I ‘see’ you. Glad my blort book style could be useful, too. Let me know how it goes, okay? <<<<>>>> (When I’m doing this on my phone, I can add hearts, but on my desktop, you just have to imagine them.) 🙂


  4. Not a comment really (I’ve done one, you probably don’t need more of that), but just to report a happy coincidence you facilitated that reinforced what you offered about the positives of failure.

    My daughter is the Distinguished Florida Blue Professor of Philosophy and Ethics at the University of Florida, and Managing Editor of the Feminist Philosophy journal Hypatia, which is an international publication. She’s got other titles and functions and she’s published some books and does quite a bit of speaking at conferences in North America, Europe, and Israel. You can even Google her, Sarah C. LaChance Adams, if you’re curious.

    When she was little, pre-school and my little shadow, she loved to “read” books and I used to write poems about her. She was always surrounded by musicians, business people, educators and people who talked about their experiences, knowledge, and work. She’d ask questions and everyone enjoyed talking to her. They still do 🤗

    When she entered school, I became aware she was struggling a little bit with dyslexia and other skills involving symbols. She had an excellent vocabulary, no speech impediment, was well-liked, imaginative, and creative. No surprise.

    But at the end of the year, in conference with the teacher and principal, I was told that she had tested as Severely Learning Disabled and was not expected to finish high school, even with tutoring and special classes. Of course, I was shocked. But I didn’t think of or feel this as failure. My elder daughter had tested as a genius (still does) and still had problems in school because she was basically bored. I simply looked for other ways to proceed in our road through society’s expectations, much like you have.

    Obviously, we found the directions needed 😊

    Yesterday she came home from the University, to her Gallery Liaison/Artist husband, two children and me, the live-in nana, pet minder, and involved mother-in-law 😏. She had just received a new book (our poor mailman) called In Praise of Failure: Four Lessons in Humility by Costica Bradatan. We all were gathered proximous to our main table, as we do when everyone comes home (to me, the dogs, the bunny, the Katydid, and other species).

    She started thumbing through the book, reading pages aloud. I asked her who it was by, how she happened to have it – and told her I had read something like that in a blog in my email – the only blog I read, in fact. I ran to my room and, in short order, found your blog post on my phone☺️.

    Ridiculously long story short, Sarah and I connected without connecting, something that was more common about 30 years ago, and you were the catalyst. As a fan of statistical anomalies, I am still rejoicing over that nearly impossible coincidence.

    If you hadn’t written those words, that day, in that way, a great healing in my own self-esteem, and a missing link between my own studies to those of my daughter would have fallen into the chasm of time. We don’t get those opportunities very often, even living in the same household.

    So, THANK YOU for working so hard each season to keep going, for not only yourself but those of us who treasure your words as much as others treasure your art (I Loved your fox necklace, by the way 💙💚!!).

    I hope that, in some way, you can treasure and accept the challenge of failure with the faith that you make a difference in this world in unplanned, unexpected ways.

    Always your fan, Nancy Bird LaChance

    Liked by 1 person

    1. First, what a beautiful story about your daughter! She’s lucky to have you for a mom. Second, the coincidence…That is amazing!!!! What a story! And yes, those books I mentioned all share information I find very very helpful. I’m always sharing what helps me get back to my better self, in hopes that other people might find that helpful, too. Third, yes, it can take time to put our failures into perspective. Things I mourned I couldn’t achieve in the past? Decades later, I see the gift in that, the beauty of the path I chose instead, instead of the path I wanted so desperately 10, 20, 30, 40 years ago. (It can take time…) 😀 And I am honored beyond belief that you find my blog so….useful? Encouraging? You’ve made my day! Thank you, Nancy!!!!


  5. Great post, as always . Have you discovered Elizabeth Day podcast ‘How To Fail?’ She interviews allsorts of people, asking for 3 failures , and what those failures taught them. It’s a truly life changing series, that one can dip in and out of. I’ll tag you on twitter.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the suggestion, Dawn! And yes, after we have time to heal and reset after a failure, it’s a LOT easier to see the lessons, gifts, insights from that failure. In the moment? Not so much! 😀


      1. couldn’t DM you, and today you were visible, but yesterday you weren’t – I’ve been following you for ages, so I expect it’s something odd with my account! so, I have retweeted a link, and tagged you instead! have a great weekend. TTFN, D

        Liked by 1 person

  6. That sounds SO FRUSTRATING, I’m honored that you persevered! I’m having online issues lately, too. I often get alerts but then I can’t find them. The internet is messin’ with us! 😬😆🤗


  7. I thought about your comment about the depressing reality of having work sit in a gallery for who knows how long and then coming back to sit in your studio for who knows how long. I’m in the same boat, glass and silver artist. Our work takes up really very little space. And then I thought about my friend who does large scale mixed media pieces (some are over 6′ tall) and thought to myself, at least I can store mine in my studio when they come back. Silver linings everywhere you look.


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