I’ve become one of ‘those people’–people who feel sad about their art. I hat them.
I was fussing and fuming in my head this morning, about
how nobody wants my artwork anymore stupid stuff, when I realized I’d become one of “those people”.
The whiney, self-absorbed, time- and energy-consuming, nobody-can-help-me, hugely annoying artist, drowning in a sea of self-pity and ennui. The people who start off any conversation, professional or personal, by heaving a soul-weary sigh and declaring…
“I feel sad about my art.”
I’ve been in several artist support groups in my art career. I’ve learned to duck and run for cover when someone takes this stance more than once. Especially if, when you offer feedback or advice, they argue with everything you say.
I hate it because I’ve always believed this is a cheat, a cop-0ut. A way of letting yourself off the hook, to shirk responsibility for getting your art out into the world.
And now I’m one of them. Let me take a moment to search for a cartoon on the internet to illustrate my point. Got it!
Over the years, as I
learned to supress my urge to kick these people became a better listener, I realized there are really two kinds of whiners:
There are those who unconsciously use the mud they’re stuck in to excuse their own inaction. Sadly (but true), nothing will work, nothing will help, no advice or suggestions will get through, until they’re ready to change it up. They may need a new creative outlet, a new way of thinking, sometimes even a new partner/lifestyle/career. But that’s their journey to make, not ours.
Others truly are aching to get out of the mud. We just haven’t been taught or shown how to do that.
And most of us, their friends, their supporters, haven’t learned how to really help.
We haven’t learned how to listen–deeply, patiently, fully.
That’s what a great support group does. No advice. No cheering up.
Instead, we listen. And ask questions. And more questions. We poke at that person, gently, until we understand better what it is they’re really asking, and what they really need.
And usually, what they really need? They either need better information, a little moral support, and/or affirmation for their creative self.
Sometimes our sense of failure is based on misconceptions. Sometimes we’ve been knocked down by a particularly rough spot in our life. Sometimes, we’ve just never actually thought about what it is we really, really, really want, in our life or for our art.
And that’s okay. In a world awash in information, it can be hard to sort out the bits that are right for us. In a world that’s always full of uncertainty, even danger, and death, it can be hard to create a space for peace and wonder and hope. In a world that measures success by our income, our celebrity, our website hits, our Facebook likes, it can be hard to know what really makes us feel whole.
I’ve been whining a lot lately. And fortunately, along with the silly (though thoughtfully offered) advice, there have been some wise listeners. too. They pointed out some thing that could
save me from working at McDonald’s help me earn some kind of income in 2016, and would still be a way of teaching/sharing/giving back to my community.
So to all the sad-about-my-art people out there, I apologize. My friend Nicci once said, “When you point your finger at someone, three more are pointing back at you.”
I hope, if you really do want to not be sad anymore, you find the peeps who will help you do that. I hope you find people who care, who listen, who shine a light in front of you, so you can simply see your next step.
Til then, another Jessica Hagy illustration, to give you a better way to look at the mud.
Last week I attended an amazing presentation by integral coach Lyedie Geer. Her website is here. The focus was time management for creative people.
Now, fifteen years ago, when I first started my artistic journey, I was on fire with professionalism. I was determined not to be that “spacey artist” with no concept of time or discipline.
I was very good at it, too. I entered juried shows early. I had a binder of my galleries, their complete contact info, my shipments to them, their terms, etc. Correspondence was carefully filed in each of their folders. My slides were labeled and up-to-date, and I had duplicates ready on a moment’s notice for any occasion. My Rolodex was full with fellow artists, show management, photographers (I had a photographer and a back-up photographer), suppliers. You name it, I had their name and phone number.
My editor at Lark Books called once, and in an hour, I’d produced every single source and resource we talked about. “Oh my GOD, you’re so organized!” she exclaimed.
Then something happened.
I can’t remember what set it off, but things…changed. I wasn’t frantic about recognition. I didn’t care about publicity or awards. I wasn’t willing to do ANYTHING to keep my income stream going.
I rode more. I wrote more. I dropped everything to be with my family or a friend in need, even when the “need” was a drink. I took in homeless puppies. I volunteered more. I took hospice training.
I paid more attention to other things: The change of seasons. Walks with my husband. Phone calls from my daughter. Driver’s Ed with my son.
The concept of time management began to annoy me. Oh, sure, I understood I could get so much more done if I actually MANAGED my time instead of letting it manage me.
But that just didn’t seem as urgent anymore. I still care deeply about my art and my art business. I just felt that more was being called for of me.
I wanted to explore that call. And everything is different.
So I attended the seminar with extreme prejudice. Borderline hostility, in fact. I assumed we were going to learn about day planners and Google calendar. I expected we would be urged to be more ‘professional’ in our dealings.
I was prepared to be bored stiff and MAYBE take away a nice idea or two. My only defense is I was also willing to be proved wrong, which is why I even went in the first place.
Well, Lyedie blew my socks off.
Her presentation gave me a deeper understanding of my creative process, and how to use that understanding to focus even more on my creative and professional goals.
Like Bruce Baker, her information is the kind I would attend to many, many times, as I would ‘hear’ something different every time. The content is powerful, and Lyedie’s presentation style is earnest and heartfelt.
Some people are monochronic, she said. Time is rigid and linear. There are rules, and expectations. This goes HERE, and that goes THERE.
Creative people are polychronic. Time is fluid, priorities are in constant flux.
To maximize our skills and impact, TIME is not the thing to be managed, but our AWARENESS.
It’s not so much about artists learning to be better businesspeople, or learning how to squish ourselves into a better business model. In fact, the monochronic world is the one that needs to adjust, and flex, and support the polychronic.
Because our creative self–WHAT WE ARE–is what’s of value to the world
And the world needs us now. Badly.
There was more, so much more. A lot of it is science-based, on what we now know about creative people, and how creative thinking works. It’s also full of hope, and wonder, and connection, and everything human. It will take time for me to process exactly what this means for me in the days–years!–ahead.
It’s simply powerful stuff.
Our entire audience of creative professionals (web designers, commercial photographers, graphic artists, etc.) applauded when she finished.
I highly recommend Lyedie to any organization that offers professional development for creative people–your local art organization, your professional guilds, art schools. Her insights can offer benefit to creative people at every level of development, from rank beginner to accomplished professional.
In fact, as I face another dramatic surgery in the weeks ahead (total knee replacement surgery, eeeeeeeeeeeeeek!) I plan to meet with Lyedie. I want a ‘life intention’ jump start.
As I recuperate, I want something pulling me away from the pain and frustration of recovery, to the rich new path I believe lies ahead. It may not LOOK much different, on the surface. But I’m hoping for a ‘unified field theory’ for myself, a way to examine, evaluate, and include all the paths and projects on my plate.
I don’t want to feel distracted and unfocused anymore. I don’t want to feel guilty about my messy studio. I don’t want to feel anxious about the new work that’s in my head, that I can’t quite get out into the world yet. I don’t want to feel like I love so many aspects of my creative self, yet feel that none of them the full attention they deserve.
I want to feel that, whatever I’m doing, whatever has my attention, and my awareness, is what I should be doing. I want to feel that there is a place for me in the world, and a need for what I have to offer.
I’ll keep you posted! And in the meantime, see if you can get your group to host a seminar with Lyedie. I promise you, you will not be disappointed.
You know what? I’m just too lazy to write today. So when this amazing post on how to tell if you’re doing your life work fell into my inbox today, I just had to share it with you. (I’ve already bookmarked Everyday Bright for future reads.)
And yesterday I was telling a friend about Eddie Izzard, and she’d never heard of him. So your chuckle for today is this clip of Eddie explaining world history for you in a totally new way.
See? Even on days when I feel like doing absolutely nothing important, I’m still thinking about you! :^)
Living with intention makes for better dogs, and makes us better artists.
Our new puppy Tuck (he’s the stylin’ dude in the blue bandana) is a delight. Tuck is our first dog ever. He’s a little too smart, but funny, sweet and eager to please. He has already added a lot to our lives. Including a few little puddles and stinky poo piles. (He’s getting much better with housebreaking, though.)
Actually, we’re getting much better with housebreaking. Which is the point of today’s post.
We’re learning that training our dog means retraining ourselves.
This weekend we hired our local “dog whisperer”, Perry Davis, for a one-hour intensive puppy training class. Perry is amazing with dogs. He doesn’t have a website (yet) but if you are interested in his services, please email me privately and I will send you his phone number.
We found we were doing some things right. But there were quite a few things we could do better. And the time to start doing better is right now, in this stage of deep learning, before Tuck hits the human equivalent of adolescence. (Parents of teens know this is when you seem to become invisible and mute to your child.)
This is the time to take advantage of natural tendencies in a puppy (eager to please, follow the leader) to lay down a good foundation for all future training.
Our dog sees us as either a leader, or a follower. We need to establish ourselves as the leaders in every situation.
For example, we’ve been using “come” to get Tuck to go along with us. And already it was not working as well as it should. He was beginning to resist going for walks on his leash, and would end up sitting in defiance while we tugged and lugged on his collar. He loves to go home, though. So I would drive Jon and Tuck downtown, and then they would walk home from there. Not something we want to become a habit.
Perry showed us that we were giving Tuck mixed messages, and not taking advantage of a built-in tendency: A dog his age (four months) wants to follow.
In order to encourage him to do what he naturally would do, we should not face him and ask him to “come”. (“Come” should ask a dog to return to you, not go with you.) We were to turn around, face away from the dog, and go, with the firm command, “This way!”.
We tried it. Sure enough, his compulsion kicked in, and he hurried to catch up. It was amazing! It worked every time. Soon Tuck was walking downtown and back with us again.
My husband Jon, as always, was quick to see the subtle structure beneath the advice and suggestions Perry offered. It was Jon who noted that the sequence also trained us.
Changing the command and the posture also changed the whole balance of energy in the interaction.
“Come” asks for something to come to you–in this case, our dog. It hopes the “something” will come.
“This way!” is you taking charge, you going your way. And expecting that “something” to go along with you.
What an intriguing metaphor….
Of course, there are many times when it’s nice to ask.
And hope is a good thing. It’s always good to have hope.
But there are also times when you need to just get going. “This way!” This is what I want. This is where I want to go. Making our intention clear to the universe.
When we know what we want, when we take responsibility for our journey, all our energy will go into supporting that. Naturally, without fuss, with enthusiasm.
Not without obstacles, of course. There are busy streets and high hills to cross on our walk. There may be setbacks and issues.
But knowing we want to go there will give us the good energy and zest we need to make our way.
Such a useful management tool for dogs. And for us.
P.S. The title comes from an old joke about a guy who named his dog “Physician.” When they went out for walks, he could say, “Physician, heel thyself!”