TODAY’S QUORA ANSWER:

Let me start by saying this phrase really annoys me.

Our readers and followers are not fish.

Just like strategies that claim to “drive people” to our websites, etc. or establishing our “brand”, which are both cowboy metaphors, this usage sounds like you are only interested in “snagging an audience”.

Your first reason to write a blog is to have a voice in the world. You have something to say, you have something to share, you have interests and opinions based on your experience and world view, and you want to get them out into the world.

Instead, some people want to have an audience. A big audience. A HUGE audience.

Which is understandable. Heck, I wish I had a huge audience!

But not at the expense of adapting MY VOICE IN THE WORLD to appease others.

There are plenty of experts out there who can advise you about SEO, ads, sites to promote yourself, etc. etc. etc. Know that most of these people may be sharing their own experience and knowledge, but they also hope to make money off YOU. After all, if there were a sure-fire way to grow a huge audience in a short amount of time, we would ALL be jillionaires.

There will be a fortunate few who can gain fame, likes, a huge audience, sponsors/sponsorship, etc. My favorites are the people who have gained great insights in how to live our best life, and how to be the best person we can be. The influencer crowd? Meh.

So follow your own path, but please consider what is really important to you in life.

Wealth? Influence? Adoration?

Or becoming your best, authentic, heart-driven self?

Your choice.

HOW TO SEE THE WORLD Part 1: What Made Me Put On My Rose-Colored Glasses This Week!

Can you tell I’ve been feeling saggy lately? Go figure (says the rest of the world who are also feeling saggy.)

Last week, something happened that made it worse.

I got my husband his dream Christmas gift this year, a little Sharing Library. (It’s like a Little Free Library. Ours is from the same family but a different company, hence “Sharing Library.) It’s been up for six months, and we restock it every week or so. It had just reached the point where people were adding as many books as were taken. Yay!!

Then one morning, my husband sent me this picture while I was at my studio:

No more books :-{Yup. Someone had taken ALL of our books. (Turns out the two remaining were actually left by a neighbor’s kiddo, who saw that they were all gone and generously added two of theirs. Love love love you Nova!)

My heart went to a sad place. Who would do such a thing?? And WHY???

I checked in with NextDoor, and with a Facebook group of fellow Little Free Library members in Santa Rosa.  At least two other people said this had happened to them, too. People shared their thoughts:

 

Was it someone with a mental health issue?

Was it someone who thought “free” meant “take ’em all!”??

Was it someone who realized they could resell them to a used bookstore???

Fortunately, I’d stockpiled some books to move on, and half-filled the library again. But it left me in a bit of a huff. As in, do something kind and look what happens! Ugh.

And then the light poured in.

Someone in the FB group offered to bring us more books. Someone else did, too. Soon we were swamped with offers of books.

One person brought theirs over immediately, and totally restocked the box. I met another person who meant to do the same, and gave me their box to store. More people did the same. Soon people from NextDoor chimed in, too.

Dozens of people offered books, brought books, left books on our porch, and left books on THEIR porch for me to pick up.

We now have enough extra books to fill up that library for months!

So one tiny act of greed/misunderstanding/poopiness resulted in hundreds of words and actions of kindness and generosity.

So what do I want to hold onto this week?

An empty giving library?

Or a little world of good deeds?

Yup. You guessed it!

If this lifts YOUR heart today, too, then I’ve done my work for the day….

When good people do good things.

 

MY QUORA ANSWER TODAY: “What Made You Write That Post Today?”

Today’s answer to a question on Quora:

“What made you write that post today?”

Something happened that triggered me. Maybe in a good way, maybe in a bad way.

It might have been something I read. It might have been something someone said.

It might have been directed at me, or had nothing to do with me.

Or I may be feeling “something” today: Feeling down. Feeling ‘left out’. Feeling ‘less than’.

Or maybe I’m feeling uplifted, relieved, happy.

Maybe I experienced a lovely little miracle, a moment of synchronicity, something that made me pause and go, “WOW!! I needed to hear/see/experience that today!”

In almost every case, writing that post was a way for me to find clarity. Or humor. Or simply peace in my heart.

And whenever that happens, I’ve realized that, if that’s what I experienced today, writing that post was my way of working it through to my highest, best self, again.

And it my words got ME there, then maybe someone, somewhere in the world, would find the same reassurance, the same clarity, the same grounded-ness, for themselves.

Even when I’m feeling down, miffed, angry, sad, scared, left out, unseen, unnecessary, I still want to believe I have a place in the world. That my creative work matters, IF ONLY to help me be a better person in the world.

Sharing those thoughts, those steps, may help someone else feel the same way.

It’s not about the likes, the numbers, the followers, the sales.

It’s not about having an audience. It’s about have a voice in the world.

And encouraging others to have theirs, too.

Kindness at the Supermarket

Quite an armfull! Me and Robin and Doug.

Here’s my first Quora answer! I keep forgetting it, until I get a new notice about an upvote. Still makes me cry when I read it.

Profile photo for Luann Udell

I was at the supermarket with my one-year-old son (Hanniford’s for you folks from Keene, NH) running “just one more errand”, when he had a meltdown. I knew what it was. He had patiently accompanied me through my morning, me trying to get all the things I needed done, until he was at his limit. He was hungry, and he was not at his best when he’s hungry. (Still isn’t at age 28!) He went into tantrum mode.

I was sitting on the floor, holding him tight, and an older woman walked by. I glanced up and gave her an apologetic smile. She glared at me and snarled, “If that were MY kid, I’d smack him!” and moved on.

I sat there almost crying myself, when along came a young woman who worked at the supermarket. I thought the other woman had complained, and thought the employee was there to ask me to leave.

Instead, she knelt down beside me and said, “How can I help?”

Now I was almost crying with gratitude. I told her he was tired and hungry, and if she could just bring me a carton of milk and a straw, he would be fine in a few minutes.

She did just that. When I told her I would pay for the milk, she just smiled and said, “On the house. Anything else I can do for you?”

I said no and thanked her, and she left.

When I am anywhere in public, and someone’s kid is having a meltdown, I now approach the parent and do the same thing. If the mom is just stressed out because the kid is being “too noisy” or “too rambunctious”, I give mom a smile and say something kind. “I remember those days! Hang in there.” Or, “Your child is so happy!” or anything that shows I am not insulted or perturbed by ordinary kid behavior. I can see them visibly relax and soften, and they often look at their child with exasperation, but also with love.

I will always remember that angry woman who judged me. I will never forget how she made me feel less-than. (I have no idea what her issues were. I just don’t EVER want to be like her.)

But I will also always remember that young woman who showed compassion for me and my son. Such a small act of kindness that still seems so big, after almost 30 years.

We have the power of our choices. And I will always try to choose kindness.

(Note: If I hadn’t been so addled, which was my normal state of mind in these early kiddo years, I would have gone back to the grocery store and asked for that young woman’s name. Then I would have told the manager that they had my loyalty as a shopper forever, because of her.)

FINDING HOPE IN THE ODDEST PLACES: The Magician’s Nephew Surprises

I revisit a beloved children’s books with new eyes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I often go back and reread books, sometimes many times. I always find something new, or something I completely overlooked the first time through.

One of my biggest overlooks was when I reread Sterling North’s beloved young adult novel, RASCAL, originally published in 1963. Although I’d read it several times, it was only as I was reading it aloud, word by word, in my kids’ classes as a guest reader, that I found the saddest part. North mentions that  he contracted polio later that year.

That last summer with Rascal was also his last year of perfect freedom.

Now I will always see that story through different eyes.

Lately, I’ve been rereading The Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis, published in 1955.  Again, I reread them several times since I discovered the books in high school. I’ve just finished the second book (in Narnia time), The Magician’s Nephew. And I found two more jaw-droppers.

This book shares the story of Narnia’s creation, and introduces Aslan, the god-like lion who’s at the heart of this series. I read page after page of the creation of stars, sky, mountains and valleys, rivers and lakes, and the emergence of animals. Aslan then selects two members of each species, male and female, and gives them the power of speech and (human) intelligence.

And then he selects several of them from several species to create his council.

All males. Only males.

I missed that in every single reading. Wow. Just….wow. (A victim of his times, perhaps. I hope.)

Fortunately, that’s not my little ray of hope today. Except the hope that if Lewis were alive today, he might choose to do (a little) better regarding a woman’s ability to be part of a wise council.

No, instead, there was this bit:

Digory, who hopes to find a cure for his dying mother, is sent to find an apple in a very special garden, and bring it back to Aslan. He’s accompanied by his friend Polly, and they will ride a horse, a fellow visitor from our world, who has been transformed into a winged horse by Aslan.

Aslan, looking to the west, gives them guidance with these directions:

“Do not fly too high”, said Aslan. “Do not try to go over the tops of the great ice-mountains. Look out for the valleys, the green places, and fly through them. There will always be a way through.”

Do you see it?

We can have a grand goal, a dream, a path we desperately wish to find through life.

But we don’t have to go to all the harsh places, the cruel places. We don’t have to always put ourselves in that position to follow our hearts.

Instead, we can honor our dreams in a way we can manage. We know that huge obstacles and setbacks are there, hard times and sad times. But there are also ways to navigate them, if we choose. On the way, there may be ways that can make our journey a little easier, if we look for them.

And there will always be a way through.

No matter where you are in your life, no matter what is holding you back, or what you think is too hard (and trust me, I KNOW), there is a way through.

It won’t be without challange. But if we look for the valleys, if we allow ourselves to rest when we need to, if we believe it’s worth flying…er…striving….for, we can find a way.

Sometimes, the way through itself is what the gift is. Getting to the other side is great reward. Yes, Digory gets the apple that eventually helps his mother heal.

But what he also gains is insight, understanding, the realization that we have the power of our choices, and the power of the choices that are right for us, and those we love. The right thing to do. The kind thing to do.

The loving thing to do.

Just for today, as the world seems even darker, as our times seem even harder to navigate…

Look for the valleys and the green places.

Look for the places that will restore you to your highest, best self.

 

DEALING WITH FAILURE: Let’s Just Call It Something Else, Okay?

One of my best works of art, one of my favorites, that got a lot of media coverage at the time. And yet it didn’t sell until the year before we left California! Failure? Success? Who can say??
(Reposting this, my fourth blog post, from December 5, 2002. )
Dealing with Failure

A reader saw my story on Meryl Streep (we have so much in common!) She commented she has overcome her inner critic from time to time, had some success—and then encounters failure. In one case, resulting in a large financial loss. It stopped her dead in her tracks. How, she asks, do you buffer failure? Is it a sign that we’re heading down the wrong path?

Buffer failure? Embrace it!

No, I’m not crazy. I hate failure as much as the next person. It doesn’t feel good, it doesn’t look good, and it usually doesn’t smell very good, either.

But I’ve learned to call it something else. It is now a “life learning experience.” Or “an experiment.” A “calculated risk.” Or “an opportunity/possibility that has been tried, and simply did not pan out.”

Whatever you called it, you met it, you got through it, and now you have a precious gift. You can decide what you learned from it. And what you learn from it is entirely up to you.

We hear all those stories about Edison trying and discarding 423 different materials before he found one that could successfully be used as a filament in his electric light bulbs. Supposedly, he would say, “I didn’t fail—I found 423 things that didn’t work!” In reality, I doubt he was that chipper at trial #218. I’m sure he had some choice words.

But the important thing to remember is, it wasn’t a failure. It was a process. He didn’t take each failure as a “sign” he should not continue. He took it as a challenge, an opportunity to explore new possibilities.

There’s a book I read awhile back, title escapes me. A collection of stories as told by assorted famous people, on their failures. Yep. Every single one of them had failed somewhere, along their road to success. You don’t take on risk without encountering failure at some point. Not one person achieved their dream by accepting failure. Every single one of them walked around it, climbed over it, punched through it, ignored it, learned from it or changed it into a victory.

Look, these people aren’t really smarter, more beautiful, more creative, more talented, more anything than you or me. They’re people. Real people. They’re just incredibly persistent. Their common denominator was once they knew what their heart’s desire was, they kept after it. Just like me and Meryl, talkin’ down that buzzy whiney voice and doin’ the work.

It’s not easy. And it doesn’t come naturally, at least not to me. I’ve had to work at not giving up. And I’ve had to work at growing a new attitude about “failure.”

I don’t put it in terms at “what did I do wrong?” I think “What did I do well? And how could I do better? What did I learn? And do I have to do that same thing again to learn that particular lesson? Or is it okay to move on to try something else?”

My first few small town craft shows were “failures.” It would have been so easy to get discouraged. Fortunately, I was committed to making what I loved, not making what would sell at a church craft fair. I realized my work was not the bargain gift item one expects to find at such a show. Although, oddly, after every show, someone would call me and buy one of my very expensive pieces (around $125 at the time.) The lesson I learned was to find a better venue for my work.

I’m still recovering from a more recent, bigger “failure.” I tried a new summer wholesale show, traditionally more of a gift market. I not only did the show, I redid my booth—new floors, new walls, new lighting. I even took a larger booth space. I did the work—did two pre-show, advertising, updated my catalog, sent out my newsletter to customers and hot prospects, created new products. I set up my booth, put on my professional artist clothes, and went to work.

I bombed.

I wrote enough new orders to cover some of my expenses, but not the major improvements I’d made. And many of those new accounts, because the economy still sagged, ended up modifying their orders downwards as the months went by.

Did I fail? To be honest, it sure felt like it at the time!

A fellow exhibitor at the show asked me how I did, and I started to list all the pluses from the show. He cut me short and said, “Why don’t you just be honest and admit it sucked?!” I didn’t know what to say. Was I being a Pollyanna?

To help me put it in perspective, another friend in the biz said, “Is money the only measure of your success?”

Wow. I had to think about that. Yes, I eventually want to be financially successful with my art and business, and I consistently act and plan accordingly. But I also evaluate my progress by other standards. Money is an important measure, but not the only one.

I took a reasonable risk—to introduce my work to a new audience and to try a new booth design/layout.

What did I do well? The pre-show preparations were excellent, the booth was great. The improvements were pricey but they are a long-term investment in my business.

Everyone loved the work, so I know it’s viable. Most of my press kits were taken from the media room—always a good sign! I picked up a dozen new accounts. I made valuable connections, including an editor at a highly respected trade magazine who was fascinated by my work. The new director of an arts foundation, referred to me by a mutual friend, found me, lined me up for a show and has proven to be a source of valuable experience and information about my targeted market. My booth neighbor was curating her first show at the museum where she works, and invited me to exhibit in their first high-end craft show. A favor for a friend at the show with equipment problems netted me his lovely glasswork in return. My daughter, assisting me for the first time, bought a faux-leopard skin cowboy hat from another exhibitor—oh my!), met the charming teenage sons of another exhibitor, and was in seventh heaven.

We had a great time.

And how could I do better? I honestly can’t think of a single thing I could have done better.

What was under my control, and what was not?

Sad to say, the economy is not under my control.

In hindsight, would I have skipped the show? Well, I’m not sure. I think I would have done it, and perhaps triaged the booth improvements. But maybe not. Doing the show forced me to make those improvements, and though it would have been nice to recoup their expense with that show, I know I eventually will.

What did I learn? I learned that something awful can happen, and it was okay. I survived. No one got hurt, no one died.

I’ve weathered my first truly bad show, and lived to tell the tale. I didn’t accept it as a sign my dream was unattainable. I kept the good stuff, I examined the bad stuff, then tossed it. Dug in and got back to work. In August, I did another show, made some slight adjustments to my business model (took more custom orders, learned a new technique for closing high-end sales) and did my best retail show ever.

Buffer failure? No. You don’t get anywhere with that approach. Sometimes the manure life deals you is fertilizer for your garden to come.

*Update for today: I am so glad I found this article today! I’ve been feeling like a failure lately, in so many ways. Which just goes to show you, it will always, always be with us.

But we get to decide, whether we give in, give up, go away…

Or can we choose to simply keep trying.

Because I still love what I do, even though I make even less money at it than I did all those years ago.

Because I can still do it.

Because I want to keep making art. Because I have to do the work of my heart.

It’s who I am. And who I want to be in the world.

NOT ALL HOMELESS PEOPLE

A little segue into a PSA today….(and updated to include links to some resource here in Sonoma County/California. Pretty sure ALL states have something similar!)

NOT ALL HOMELESS PEOPLE

There are homeless people all around us, and around the world.

We all have strong opinions about this population, mostly negative, sometimes justified, of course. And yet…

If only we could change our viewpoint. If only we could see this population having ONLY one thing in common: No place to live.

Because my premise is, “Not all homeless people…”

First, I believe our biggest anger against homeless people is our way of protecting ourselves. Blaming the victim(s) is a way of distancing ourself from what happened to them. “I would NEVER do xyz!” “That would NEVER happen to me!” We blame them for their situation,  because none of us want to believe it could happen to us. Or because, deep down, we know it COULD happen to us. Many women (including myself!) fear becoming a “bag lady”. If we lose our partner, or our job, or don’t have enough money saved, well, we could be one step away losing our home, too. And then we’ll be “one of those people.”

We are all one step away from a cancer diagnosis, one step away from losing a loved one, one step away from being scammed out of savings, of relapsing into addiction, a car accident, a tornado, hurricane, or wildfire, or any other major life tragedies. If it hasn’t happened yet, welp, yeah, maybe we’ve been careful, cautious, prudent.

But maybe we’ve just been lucky.

So first….Not All Homeless people.

Not all homeless people are drug addicts or alcoholics, although drugs and alcohol might well be how some of them mitigate the pain of sleeping on sidewalks, in the rain and cold. Not all homeless people live with mental illness, though for sure it’s harder to get help when your resources are so limited. Not all homeless people are thieves. Not all homeless people are violent. Not all homeless people are alike.

In fact, this population is widely diverse.

Out of curiosity, I checked out some statistics about homeless people. Turns out that, before Covid-19, homeless numbers had dropped by a third between 2015-2020. But Covid reversed all those gains due to illness/death, job losses, evictions, etc. Only 20% of homeless people are “chronically homeless”.  The other subgroups are significantly tied to race, gender, and income. Homeless people are disproportionately Black, brown, and LGBTQ.

Statistics also show that most health issues (mental health, addiction) cannot be addressed successfully without getting people off the streets and into homes, FIRST.

We may still disagree about who deserves our help. But here are some ideas through that barrier:

Are you an alcoholic, hopefully in recovery? Or do you have a friend or family member who struggles with this? Consider helping programs with support groups this population could benefit from.  (Lots of resources out there, dig a little and find one that resonates with you.)

Are you a veteran, or have a friend/family member in the military? Consider donating or volunteering with vet services to assist this population. (These people already get the most support, but there still big holes in the net.)

Are you a person of color, or do you have a friend/family member whose struggles are harder because of that? Consider contributing to organizations who offer support for this population.

Do you identify as LGBTQ? Or have family members/friends who do, who you care about? You may be very familiar with the difficulties they’ve faced in life. Consider working with organizations that offer outreach these people.

Do you have teens? We were all teens once! Did you struggle as a teen? Consider donating or volunteering your skills with SAY/Social Advocates for Youth, which offers services and some housing for young adults, especially those who aged out of foster care, or (as above) were kicked out of their homes for being gay, trans, etc.

Do you have small children? Were you, or do you know, a parent who is single/divorced who struggles with child care, etc.? Consider donating or volunteering for The Living Room which offers day services for homeless moms with kids.

Do you love dogs? The Samuel Jones Hall, the largest homeless shelter in Northern California, accepts clients with dogs. This is critical, because accepting services often means having to give up your beloved dog. You can donate dog food, grooming stuff, etc. to this shelter.

Do you have compassion for any homeless person who wants to do better, get better, have better? I just found an article in our local paper about two women, formerly homeless themselves, who took over three thrift shops that went out of business due to Covid-19 protocols. ((I won’t go into that story because there’s still a lot of dust settling… from the previous owners.) Intrepid Stores not only hire homeless people, they help them move forward in all kinds of ways.   The work they do is amazing. (We forget, for example, that most employers require a HOME ADDRESS when hiring new people. Guess who doesn’t even HAS a home? Yup. Homeless people.)

In fact, this is the biggest reason why homeless people resist shelter services:

They lose the power of their choices. (This is also why some senior citizens resist being placed in nursing homes. You are SAFE. But you cede control of your life, from what you eat to when you pee, for that safety.) Some shelters only serve men, some only serve women, which means partners have to separate, for example.

Even many homeless people who do enter a shelter may still have to vacate during the day. So shelters are a first step, but still a difficult one.

I believe that the harder we work to see the at-risk groups, to see the individuals in this population, the more compassion we can hold for people who did not choose to be homeless, the more we can focus on helping them move forward in life.

Because when we chose love and engagement instead of hatred and fear, we are all better for it. When we choose to see individuals, we can truly help make the world a better place.

If learning to see the actual groups, the real individuals, who need our help, and if our stepping up to the plate could rehome up to 80% of this group, that would be amazing progress, right?

Let’s try it. Use one of your skills, a little money, maybe just your time and compassion, to pick a group you can identify with. And help them take one little…GIANT…step forward.

If you thought this article was helpful, there’s even more in this post on my blog:

Hearing the Call

MIXED FEELINGS AND BETTER CHOICES

Maybe more lights would help??

 

The holidays are always a minor struggle for me.

When I was a kid, all I wanted for Christmas (and my birthday) was a pony. My parents promised to get me one when I was 13, but when I turned 13 and didn’t get one, it was obvious they were hoping I’d forgotten about it. (DARN YOU, MOM AND DAD!) (They’re gone now, so I have to get over it.) (JOKING!! I’ll never get over it.) (Er…that was a joke, too, btw. I just hope Mom and Dad are laughing up in heaven.)

I put my biggest holiday efforts into play when we had kids of our own. Not big on the outdoor lights thing, but our Christmas tree was always a delight. (Except, of course, when our cat Gus decided it was her perfect play toy and climbing pole.) (Gus lived to be 18, so that’s a lotta years of broken ornaments and branches.) I wanted our Christmas to be a time of joy for our kids.

Back in Keene NH, we enjoyed a Yankee Swap in addition to our regular celebration. Each guest brought a wrapped gift. (It could be used/regifted/a white elephant kinda thing, but not half-eaten or broken. You could not believe the people who didn’t get that….) Everyone draws a number, the number one goes first, picks a gift, and opens it. Number two the same, except they can choose to swap gifts with Number one. It continues, until the very last person gets to swap with ANYONE. (Um…it did invoke some pissed-off guests, but almost everyone eventually enjoyed it as the wacko experience it was meant to be.)

Here in California, we’ve lived in much smaller houses, and far fewer friends. Also with three cats, all of whom sometimes appear to be Gus reincarnated when it comes to obnoxious/destructive behavior. Our expectations are reduced, too, simply because we feel we already have so much: A good marriage, grown kids finding their own way in the world, CALIFORNIA!!!, and in our latest neighborhood, good people for neighbors.

And since I achieved adulthood (not an easy path!), I learned that very few people know what I want and don’t want (not their fault, I am very unpredictable in my wants and needs.)  I simply buy what I fall in love with, and give it to my hubby to wrap for Christmas. This year? An electric-heated vest I can wear in my 52 degree studio. (OTOH, my sis Sue always sends me a tin of homemade Heath Bar-like Christmas candy, so yeah, she nailed it!)

And the more confusing, overwhelming, and sad the world gets, the smaller even these issues get. It doesn’t help that my partner suffers horribly from SAD (seasonal affective disorder), and that can’t be easily fixed. (No suggestions, please, he’s tried everything except actually moving to Arabia or Africa.)

But here’s the thing: Christmas isn’t about US being happy.

It’s about how we want to make OTHER people happy.

No matter what religion/non-religion we practice, it’s about embracing the dark time of the year, and turning it into light. And love. And hope.

I’ve been in a bit of a funk since I left my last writing gig. It’s hard to write when I’m not sure if anyone even cares enough to read what I’ve written.

And yet, I’m the person who encouraged my partner to restart his own blog, telling him it doesn’t matter how many likes or followers he has. It’s about having a voice in the world. (And amazingly, he finally took my advice, someone who used to read his blog back in the day found it, and got in contact with him, and now Jon has a wonderful new job doing work he loves, with a company that appreciates who he is, and working with a team of people who value his insights and work.

And just recently, someone let me know that my writing has been a tremendous force for good in their life. (I always get a little embarassed when someone tells me that, but it meant the world to me.)

And I can’t stop thinking about what they wrote. It was powerful. It helped.

Today, I realize once again, we have the power of our choices.

We can chase the money, and fame, believing that the more of both we have, the better our lives will be.

Or we can choose to pursue our passions in the world, to share our unique gifts with others, in hopes we can help them find the courage to pursue theirs.

We can mourn the family we were born to, that seem believe we don’t really belong there. Or we can celebrate the family we choose.

We can fear the backlash, the anger, the lies that seem to break down all social norms, that separate us from each other.

Or we can strive to find our own path, our own way of being of service for a good cause, our own way of helping others who are in a hard place.

We can submit to anger and resentment. Or we can celebrate every tiny miracle, every beautiful online post, every effort others are making to make the world a better, happier, more supportive place for all of us.

We get to choose.

I wish you all a wonderful holiday, no matter which one you’re celebrating (or not), no matter how long the dark lasts.

Because today, the light begins to grow again.

And so can our hearts, and spirit.

 

CREATION STORIES and A Blast (or Two) From the Past

I’ve been thinking about creation stories lately. At a recent artists talk at a local gallery who carries my work, I mentioned it in my presentation.

We’ve known about “hero stories” for years. They’re a common theme many books, plays, and movies, all kinds of media, actually. A guy undertakes a task, has to overcome all kinds of obstacles (slaying dragons, fighting other knights, rescuing a princess, etc.) and finally earns the keys to the kingdom. Happy ending for all concerned! (Well, at least for the hero….)

Most of us have found a similar path to find the work of our heart. For some folks, they knew early on what that was, and pursued it all the way.

For others (like me), we knew…but then we believed it was out of reach, that we didn’t have the talent/perseverence/personality/etc. to find our way through. We walked away, thinking we simply aren’t good enough.

But then there’s the ‘”creation story”. It’s that powerful moment in our life, often after we get through something really, really hard, something emotionally painful, or frightening, or even life-threatening.

And suddenly, we realize what really matters to us in life.

That’s the hidden “beauty” of terrible times. The clarity we get, a new sense of purpose, knowing what’s worth pursuing, and what is merely what other people think we should do.

I’m not saying “Everything happens for a reason!” or “God will provide, trust in Him”, or “Things will get better, just wait!” or any of that shit.

When we hit a rock-and-a-hard-place, a deep pit of despair, a near-death experience, that approach simply sucks. There’s no making light of the terrible thing we’re going through. Staying positive is powerful, but exhausting, and others telling us what THEY think WE should do can be patronizing. (Especially if they have no personal experience with what we’re dealing with.)

But afterwards, when we’ve had time to recover, hopefully to heal, or adapt, to take a calm breath and pick up our life again…. When we can pause, and look back, and contemplate what the impact on us was….

THAT’S when we can find that turning point in our life.

I’ve always focused on the WHY in my own work. I love encouraging others to dig deep and find what really matters to them. I’ve written about that a lot. A LOT. (Here’s a list of articles about the power of “Why?”)

But I forgot to connect what gets us to that powerful place.

In my case, it happened after I gave up on following my dreams. It was too hard, I didn’t have the time, the energy, the space, no hope of making a living from it. It was time to “get real” and “grow up” and let it all go. Maybe things would change down the road, but not right now.

My breakthrough moment was the realization that what I wanted for my kids, the thing that could make them resilient, and joyful, and fierce with passion, I could want for myself. And the best way to encourage them to do the same, was to show them what that looked like.

The courage, determination, and persistence I gained in that moment, has carried me for decades.

Oh, I still get just as frustrated, set back, and sad about my lack of “fame and fortune” for my work. But I always circle back and realize that was never the inspiration to make it from the get-go.

Creation stories are the moments when we realize how powerful that decision is. That moment when we realize we have a story, a story only WE can tell. A story that not only fuels our life, but, when shared, might inspire and give hope to someone else, too.

One year, I taught workshops for the traveling Arts Business Institute years ago. My favorite one was working with people to find the “why” in their work. My fastest, clearest example was when one young woman in the workshop started with, “I had a baby, I nearly died, and everything changed….” I stopped and said, “THAT is your creation story!”

Something happened. Something that changed everything. We nearly die/fall/give up hope/surrender. If we’re lucky, we get through it. And if we’re really lucky…

We realize we can choose something different.  We recognize that we have the power of our choices.

We can own our desire to make/teach/write/sing/heal/travel/nurture/repair/etc. and be a force for good in the world. Because it’s so good for US.

Suddenly, all the wrong turns, the mistakes, the missed opportunities, (for me, for example, traveling across the country in the recession of the 1980’s desperately looking for a teaching job for years, to no avail) is no longer a sad story.

Because I finally found the right story, the powerful story that belongs to me.

All those “failures” simply added to my experience, shining a light on what I was NOT “meant to be”, but merging the skills I acquired to achieve those old goals into powerful new assets on my new journey:

Making the work of my heart, using the materials and techniques that felt “right” for me, and telling my story. Letting go of being “good enough”, because I simply wanted to do it.

Another insight? Once we know our creation story, we won’t be as likely to fall for this story about why we simply can’t do that thing: about holding onto the “facts” that hold us back.

And one last story about our conception of “luck” that can slow us down on our creative journey: What’s Luck Got To Do With It?

A lot to ponder, especially with holidays, new variants, uncertainty, great changes in the world.

But that’s life, right? Finding our own way home.

P.S. FORGOT, here’s a link to the Story Center’s website (a non-profit), which now offers free and in-depth paid workshops for helping us find our powerful stories: The Story Center

HOW TO BE A HERO

Yet another creative person who works at Sebastopol Center for the Arts, Ronnie Smart, who designed this signage for me when I couldn’t be in my studio for all the Art Trails hours!

And so many ways to be a creative!

Although I’m not able to be fully open both weekends of our county-wide open studio tour this month, I was able to fulfill my volunteer commitments at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, the organization that hosts it.

Volunteering is so rewarding! We can help fill in the gaps for non-profit organizations. We get to assist the very people who help us get our art out into the world. And my favorite? We get to peek behind the curtain, just like Wizard-of-Oz Dorothy did. (Er…in a good way.)

I got to meet a member of the staff I hadn’t even met before, due to the pandemic precautions.  One of them triggered a powerful memory for me.

When we lived in New Hampshire, I became a juried member of one of the oldest fine craft organizations in the country (some contend the oldest), the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen. Among other events, they hosted a highly-popular nine-day fair called the LNHC Annual Craftsmen’s Fair. I served on the Fair’s steering committee for awhile, and that deepened my relationships with the League’s staff.

And one conversation simply blew my mind. Here’s that memory:

I was talking to the woman who was in charge of accounting and finances. (I don’t remember her name, but I’ll share it if I find out!(Found her! Joan Hubbard!!! And thank you to Melinda LaBarge for her detective work!) She was always patient and kind in all our interactions, and at some point, we talked about her work history.

Her income came up, and somehow, it was clear she could have chosen to do the same work at our non-profit craft org,  at a much higher salary from a corporation or for-profit company. I was curious, and asked her why she’d chosen that.

She said, “I’m not creative, but I’m in awe of people who are! So I consider my work here a way of supporting the artists and arts I love.”

Take a minute to let that sink in.

In a culture where money is the measure of our “success”, often the only measure, and where someone who is good with managing money can make a lot of money doing that…. this person gave up fortune because of her ideals. For her love of creativity. Her respect for creative people.

I thanked her, of course, and shared that story with others whenever the opportunity came up.

But I wish I could have that conversation again, today. I would take the conversation a little deeper, and perhaps have honored her life decision even more by lifting her heart.

I know now that almost every human being is creative, in their own unique way. Creativity, innovation, the desire to be part of a tribe, and to be seen as a unique individual, are all powerful human traits. If you’ve followed my blog or my email newsletter, or my past articles on Fine Art Views, you know this is a common theme for me!

My heart has opened wide to respect many, many ways people are creative:

Whatever you love to do, (whether it’s hard or challenging or easy and relaxing, earns you a living or not), if it lifts your heart, and helps you make better decisions and be a better person…

And you share it with others, with the world (whether is selling, donating for a good cause, lending, or simply sharing it on social media, etc.)…

And it lifts the hearts of others (because they love it, or makes their life better, easier, richer, or helps them physically/mentally/emotionally/spiritually)…

And makes the world a better place…

That…is creative work. 

So “art” isn’t the only form of creativity. It can be any form of making. It can be healing, teaching, creating community, mending, restoration, repair, building, care-taking, gardening, feeding, etc.

I now know this is all creative work. Even badly-done, with good intentions and a loving heart, has its place in the world. (Here’s my blog post on Regretsy and the power of awful art.)

Today, I would tell this woman this:

“The work you do for us is creative. It makes you happy that you can support our work, and it helps us soooooo much. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for what you do!”

But I would also go deeper. I would ask her what her creative work is. If she protested she wasn’t creative, I would dig a little deeper: What is the hobby/pastime/activity that lifts her heart? I would gently walk her through my new “rules” of creativity.

And I hope it would give her more support, more confidence, in her own superpowers.

Unfortunately, she died far too early, even before we left New Hampshire. I’ve shared her story with her daughter, and she loved it.

But I deeply regret I could not share my deeper insights at that time.

And the person I briefly met at SebArts fills the same role as this wonderful woman at the LNHC. I hope to talk with her again, soon.

In her honor, I ask you one small favor today.

If you are a “traditional creative”, you know, a “real artist”, take a step back.

Let’s not fight anymore about whether pastels are “just chalk” ( that’s what cave art is made with), or argue about whether pottery is art or craft.

Let’s look deeper at all the organizations, the small businesses, the companies, the people, who support the work of our heart, in so many ways. By sponsoring it, displaying it, promoting it, buying it, or simply letting us know how much they enjoy it.

Let’s be grateful for all the reasons we can even do our work, and all the ways we can get it out into the world.

Let’s work hard to be a force for good in the world, and honor the work so many do, so we can do our work.

ANCIENT STORIES FOR MODERN TIMES

 

Yep, it’s my birthday! And remember: Terrible things and wonderful things, always fall on SOMEONE’S birthday.

9/11 hit us hard. I received a phone call on the morning of my 49th birthday, from my father-in-law (who has since passed on.) I thought it was a “happy birthday” call, but it was a “you might want to turn on your tv and see what’s happening call.”

We spent the rest of the day in despair, without hope that things could be better. Trying to explain to our children what was happening, and why. (Didn’t do well with that.)

We went for a walk in downtown Keene. We could tell who had heard the news, and who had not. Happy, normal people had not heard. Quiet, sad people had.

Today, we are a few days’ past the conclusion of the first major response to that day, for better or worse. We can look back and point fingers. But I remember not knowing what where the right choices even were. So I can’t judge too harshly.

Here is the story I wrote on that very day. It still brings me to tears. Because it is my truth, my deepest truth. I hope it encourages you to follow the power of your choices, too.

AN ANCIENT STORY FOR MODERN TIMES

LANGUISHING: Finding Our Way in the Dark

Fortunately, my little critter artifacts usually get along very well together.

 

(6 minute read)

It’s not just you. We’re all feeling little (or a lot) out of it these days. I came across the new diagnosis for this a few days ago, as I wrote about my own lost-at-sea feelings here.

This New York Times article explains this “middle child” of emotional health, between depression and joy, as “languishing”. (I was relieved to read this is a ‘thing’, and I hope it helps you, too.)

The problem is, it always does feel like it’s just us. Social media can help us stay connected even during pandemics and shut-downs. But it can also portray “everyone else” as having their sh** together, when we don’t.

I’ve shared my own experience getting through this in my last few blog posts. And I admit, after writing about them, I did feel better. For awhile.

Tiny steps forward in the studio, ala Garfield’s 10 days of 10% effort, which equals 100%.

One day, or ten days…It’s ALL good!

I committed to making one….ONE….new artifact a day. And shared it on Instagram/Facebook.

Realizing deadlines can inspire action, but reading about deadlines doesn’t.

Realizing some problems have very simple answers.

Realizing small acts of kindness and appreciation, which led to others engaging this way, helped, too.

Yet every day, I still go to bed exhausted, and wake up just as if I haven’t slept at all. My dreams are about trying to solve insurmountable problems, striving to achieve one step forward, without success.

What’s up with that?? How do I get back to my happy place? And who even cares if I do???

Welp, turns out there are even more ways to feel better than I thought!

First, while reading similar articles on emotional health, I realized one of my standard practices is considered the easiest, and the best: A gratitude list. Sometimes I’m just not feelin’ it. But when I make myself take ten minutes to list ten things I’m grateful for, no matter how hard it seems, it doesn’t take long to recognize the things that are actually going well for me: Having a loving, supporting partner. Having a studio to go to. Having a home. Access to physical therapy for pain and discomfort. I could go on….

Simply recognizing what’s good in our life doesn’t “fix” the bad. But it can shine a little light at our feet so we can take one tiny step forward, in the dark. (Now I can’t find this quote by Ann Lamott from her book, BIRD BY BIRD, but here are some others that are just as great!)

Second, my second favorite advice columnist (after Captain Awkward), Carolyn Hax , responded to a letter writer who said they can’t tell if their relationship with their partner is still based on love, or if it’s become merely “transactional”. We tend to think it’s one or the other right? Either things are great, or things are “meh”. Hax said that hitting such points can happen. But in the end, we can simply decide to choose love.

Choose love.

Yes, our ancient lizard brain tends to see the world in black-or-white, good-or-bad, happy-or-sad, etc. Human nature. Hax reminds me that we always have the power of our choices. We can be overwhelmed by everything that’s wrong with the world, and we can choose to be a force for good in it. We can seethe with anger and resentment, and we can choose not to act on it. We can have compassion for someone, and we can still set good boundaries.

For some reason, in spite of my exhaustion, my sad, hopeless thoughts, my “meh” outlook, I realized I can choose love. (I feel a little better already.)

Last, the Tokyo Olympic Games. My husband is an avid fan. Me, not so much. But I’ve learned a lot this year from this world event. So many firsts, so much empowerment, so many surprises. And so much controversy.

Simone Biles drew sympathy, compassion, and support for her own recognition of the “twisties” (aka, “the yips”), those moments when our brains disconnect, muscle memory fails, and our greatest efforts can turn into embarassing flops, or even horrifying injuries. (LINK? I was going to link to a horrible injury in a competition a few years ago, but it was TOO horrible. We don’t need that right now!) It took courage for her to take that stand of standing down when she knew it wouldn’t serve her, nor her team.

She also faced a vicious backlash of scorn and insults, being called lazy, cowardly, etc.

In an incredible article in the Washington Post recently, Kate Courtney, world champion mountain biker, shares her own experience with bombing at the Olympics this year. The self-doubt and ensuing criticism was devastating, it was humiliating, and it crushed her. She says,

At the Olympics, in particular, uncertainty and loss become visible and visceral. The challenge is clear, the emotions raw, and the outcome broadcast for the world to see. It takes courage for athletes to offer up true, heartfelt participation, knowing that very few will leave triumphant. And when the battle is over, those fallen competitors do not need to be kicked–they need to be carried. They need to be allowed to rest for just a moment and mend their broken hearts, so they can continue to bravely share their gifts with the world…. (Emphasis is mine.)

Her last paragraph speaks volumes to me today:

This is not the story I hoped to be writing about my Olympic Games. Like many others, I was searching for a sign that we could return to everything just as it was before the pandemic. But as I navigate my challenges around this experience, I am reminded that there are seasons of struggle and seasons of triumph–and that you don’t always get to choose when you jump from one to the next. Sometimes, you need help to keep going until the leaves change color. Exhaustion is not evidence of a lack of courage, but of its abundance. To deny the struggle is to deny the very thing that allows us to triumph in the end.

As I read more articles about successful artists in our area, the major sales others have made from our open studio tours, even scrolling through Instagram and Pinterest and seeing the jaw-droppingly beautiful work of others that my own work will never achieve…

I realize my own struggles are simply mine. They aren’t created by others, they can’t be solved by others. I can only sit with them, sit with uncertainty, until Clarity makes her presence known. (Words of wisdom from a wise woman friend, Sheri Gaynor.)

We all matter, in big ways and small, in great acts of courage and in tiny acts of kindness.

We all have the power of our choices, to hide our gifts or share them with the world, to choose love over resentment, resilience over despair, to embrace our broken selves because it shows us how truly human we all are. Perfection doesn’t make us a better human, but compassion–for ourselves, and for others–does.

To all the people who reached out to me over the last few weeks, who sent me their own acts of kindness, purchased my work, gave me words of love and encouragement, thank you from the bottom of my heart!

If you have your own work-arounds for getting back to your happy place., please share in the comments! What works for you might be just what works for someone else.

And if someone shared this with you, and you found it useful, you can either follow my blog (upper right corner), or sign up for my email newsletter (at the top of my website home page) for more random (but free!) advice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m Still Here!

 A single act of kindess,

Like a stone thrown in a pond,

Sends rings of ripples outward

That travel far beyond;

And joining other ripples

Flow outward to the sea;

A single act of kindness

Affects eternity.

–author unknown

 

I never thought that life AFTER the worst of the pandemic would be just as weird as DURING it. But here I am, having a rough summer and a crisis of faith.

Earlier this year, I walked away from my longest paid writing gig, 12 years of writing for FineArtViews.com. It wasn’t my highest paying gig by a long shot. But the weekly deadlines encouraged me to get regular in my writing habits, and my goal was my highest purpose:

  • To encourage creative people to keep making the work that brings them joy/solace/restoration rather than focusing on fame and money.
  • To not let others judge them on their medium, their process, their skill, etc. To embrace what helps them deal with everything else in life, whether they earn a living by it or not.
  • To persevere no matter how much, nor how little recognition they receive from it.

Because like a pebble in a pond, when we share our work with the world,  someone else’s heart might be lifted, too, though we may never have the privilege of knowing that. I also know that the most powerful connections created through my artwork, come from in-person contact (shows, studio visits, etc.)

When that goal was superceded by the financial goals of the company, I knew it was time to go. Yes, I believe in social media and social media marketing, for many reasons. It allows ANY creative person to share their work with the world, whether that leads to fame, fortune, or simply recognition for the work they do. As my favorite comic strip put it so powerfully, making the work of our heart isn’t about having an audience. It’s about having a voice.

It’s not about having an audience, it’s about having a voice.

 

But I cannot let someone else stifle my voice, either. (In their defense, that’s a normal practice in almost every biz, and they still support my website.)

Walking away from that gig felt like I’d lost both my audience and my voice.

And of course, knee replacement surgery in late June, complicated by a debilitating fall in my studio just before my surgery, has resulted in chronic pain and discomfort for months.

It didn’t help that I’d finished my year-long shrine-making series just before. Or rather, I reached a place where the next step was rather daunting, and I still haven’t figured out how to move forward. It had gotten me through the entire pandemic, but now I’m stuck again.

So I’ve been mopey, tired, constantly uncomfortable physically, whiney, and lazy for months now.

But now I can see a little light at the end of my tunnel.

What started the light was making “thank you” pearl earrings. It’s been a thing with me for years. I LOVE real pearls, and I LOVE making pearl earrings. But they hardly ever sell. So I usually give them as thank you gifts to people who are doing good work in the world, or as a thank you for something someone has done for me. I’ve donated three dozen pairs to volunteers who work at a local art center’s gallery shop, folks who work at a wonderful coffee shop back in New Hampshire (because we still mail-order coffee from them, and one person always sends a lovely, uplifting handwritten note in our package), etc.

A few months ago, I went on a pearl earring-making rampage. And it’s not gonna end anytime soon.

First, I checked in with a homeless shelter a few hundred yards down the street from my art studio. Their shelter, the largest in Northern California, is the first step towards getting a homeless person into permanent shelter and supportive services.  I asked what kind of donations suited the needs of their clients. (Now that I think about it, THAT inquiry began when I offered some food and medical supplies left over after we lost our dog Tuck a couple years ago, and offered it to a vet. They said they couldn’t take them, but that there are plenty of homeless folks with dogs who could use them. And this shelter actually lets their clients keep their dogs, an issue that’s often a deal-breaker for homeless people.)

Turns out their greatest need is individual personal hygiene items: Small packets of shampoo and conditioner, toothbrushes and toothpaste. This was harder to accomplish than I’d thought, as individually packets are being banned in some states due to massive use of non-reuseable plastics. They suggested a work-around for the former, which worked. But I was stumped by the dental care thing.

So I reached out to our family dentist, asking where they purchase their toothbrushes/toothpaste sets we get at our appointments, and could I piggy-back an order (paid) on their next order.

Their response? They donated…DONATED…a bundle of them.

So I made earrings for the dentist and their staff.

After delivering the items to the shelter, I realized I could also make thank-you for the shelter staff. A few days later, I delivered a few dozen earrings for the staff and volunteers there.

I shared this with a fellow artist. (I’d made several pairs for them, because they’d done something very kind for another artist.) They said, “OH, I have a friend who’s a dentist, I’ll see if he can donate that stuff, too!” (I just realized I should let her know I can make earrings for that office, too!)

We also rescued not one, but two oppossums this spring, and delivered them to a county wildlife rescue shelter. (One survived it, one didn’t.) It was so wonderful to find an organization dedicated to this, and it turns out they are overwhelmed with injured/abandoned baby critters this year.

So I also delivered several dozen pearl earrings to them, enough for the entire staff, interns, and their volunteers. (We also donated $$$ because that’s just as important as pearl earrings!)

Then the fall, then surgery, and now, major ennui.  I’ve been in physical therapy for my knee for almost a month, but I still have to wait several weeks for physical therapy for my fall. I’ve been achy-breaky, down in my mood, not-so-hopeful, and totally uninspired.

And yet….

I realize I really, really like recognizing our unsung heroes in life.

Recently, I learned a friend back in NH was going through a terrible loss of a loved one, and it broke my heart. On an impulse, I reached out and offered to make them something, a small fiber piece, and they reacted with great enthusiasm.

So I’ve been in the my studio several days this week, almost 3 hours a day. (That’s a record-breaker since my surgery!)

As I worked on it, I realized they were one of the folks who showed up during a very hard time in my life. Yes, I’d gifted them something back then. But it still felt great to be able to alleviate their pain in a tiny, tiny way.

As I worked, I realized I’ve also been in a position to help another good friend back there, who was also there for me during that time.

Ironically, this particular person also had great words of wisdom for me during that time.

There were people I’d gone above and beyond for, in our almost 30 years in NH. But there were a few who were NOT there for me during that difficult period, even as I had been there for them. I complained about that to this friend. And they told this powerful thought:

When we help others during their hard times, the universe sees it.

When we need help, it may come from those we helped. But it may not.

The universe, however, will provide that help, through other people, and other means.

I’ve learned over the years that hard times are….well, HARD. And when we’re in them, it’s not easy to see the good things, the gifts.

It’s only when I look back that I can see the people who did show up, the passing acquaintance, or even complete strangers  who crossed my path with a story that helped me take one step forward. The people whose wisdom helped me stay grounded, if only for a day, or even just an hour.

They are the people who helped me make a tiny shift in perspective, what I now know is an effin’ miracle.

And today, I had to share that with you.

Being grateful for the people who help us move forward. Other people being grateful for us helping THEM move forward. Others joining in. It’s a beautiful cycle that restores me to my better self.

Rambling, I know. It’s how I roll. I could shorten this, but as I wrote, more and more insights popped up.  Plus I write to get MYSELF to a better place, and this is how I do it. For example, I can’t wait to get to my studio today, because I’m am THIS CLOSE to finishing my friend’s project.

If this helps YOU today, well, that’s a gift, too! If not, no worries, I’ll be back soon with useful info, good strategies, and thoughts for hosting a successful open studio event.

But I feel a little bit better today, and I am grateful. And Garfield supports my theory that it doesn’t matter how long it takes to get our 100% out there.

UPDATE: I just found out this condition of “blah” is called languishing! And here’s a good article about it in the New York Times.

One day, or ten days…It’s ALL good

DREAMERS AND MUSIC-MAKERS

My original shrines made a great display of my work! And now the dream continues….

Sometimes I surprise myself.

When I wrote “Art for Money, Money for Art”, I was solidly grounded in my story, my artwork. But the world sure wasn’t. Ever since I’d started my professional art career, it seemed like every day, the news was full of something dire. It began with 9/11 and marched through invading more and more Mid-Eastern countries. Galleries struggled, sales wavered, and then finally, the Recession of 2008 put a dagger in my hopes of becoming a “rich and successful” artist.

And yet, my principles remained strong. I knew I was making my work for all the right reasons, even as some people mocked me for being a “Pollyanna” about my slumping sales.

When the Recession hit a few years later, I did get a little desperate. For the first time, I submitted jewelry work to a mail-order catalog. I learned a lot, a few items were accepted and published, and I made enough sales to heal my drained bank account.

But I also learned that making something strictly for money, something that was a ‘sure seller’, something I had to make hundreds of, was not for me.

Okay, I’ll admit, if I had to actually pay my own rent and put food on the table, I would do it differently. As my wonderful partner has said, “I get paid pretty well to do the work I love. It’s not your fault the work you love doesn’t pay too well.” Thank you, sweetie!

It’s just that making something to please someone else, making the exact same thing in multiples, over and over, and the betting on a sample that might bring in some money but probably not, became pretty stressful. It drained me. I was relieved to return to my happy place in my art-making.

Segue to the pandemic, where sales dropped for everyone….

One day in my studio, as I was composing yet another beautiful necklace, it hit me. I love making jewelry with my artifacts. It’s my best-selling category, too.

But I realized my studio is already full of jewelry. I don’t really need to make more, except that making makes me happy. (I’m sure autocorrect is going crazy right now…)

And I realized there was a big project I’ve been holding in my heart for almost a decade or more. I could feel it calling to me: My shrine series, from 2013.

What held me back?

  • Some technical issues I couldn’t figure out.
  • A lack of materials.
  • Worrying about whether it would sell.

I decided to simply start with what I had, and see what happened.

What happened was a small miracle.

  • Yes, I hit those technical issues pretty quickly. And guess what? After some trial-and-error attempts, I eventually figured out a good way to manage them. They were so good, I actually went back and took some earlier pieces apart and redid them.
  • I started work in a series of colors, making multiple versions that were still unique.
  • I found sources for almost everything I needed: Tiny brackets, even tinier screws, new candidates for smaller boxes and drawers, and work-arounds for every issue that cropped up.

I now have almost completed fifty shrines in my studio. (“Completed” is a relative term. Next come artifacts, and then mounting them in the box shrines.) I have so many, I’m now panicking about an upcoming open studio in June. Because my shrines have commandeered every inch of space in my studio.

Thanks and a hat tip to Natalia Gorwalski, who generously gave me these little tool/parts drawers, now painted and waxed and ready for stacking!

What kept me awake in the middle of the night?

Wondering if they would ever even sell.

I know this worry for what it is: My brain trying desperately to find a “solution” to an overabundance of shrines.

So today’s article “Fresh Drive” by Sara Genn, landed at just the right time for me. (Sara continues the journey of her father, Robert Genn, with their blog, The Painter’s Keys. Any creative can benefit from their shared insights and wisdom.)

I am again restored me to my highest, best, artist self.

Genn discusses “intrinsic vs extrinsic drive”. Extrinsic drive are the external rewards we seek from whatever we do, based on “if/then”. “If I stick to my diet, I can lose weight.” “If I work overtime, I can get make more money.” “If I create a chart, I can get my kids to do their chores.” Extrinsic drive is good for establishing new habits, getting things done, attaining our goals, etc. I would add, ‘seeking fame and fortune’ to those extrinsic goals, which is also a common goal for artists.)

But it turns out that extrinsic drive can be toxic to creative work. “Artists, it seems, are inspired by everything but an extrinsic reward.”

Aha!

“Intrinsic motivation is dependent upon three main factors; autonomy, or auteurship; mastery, or the pursuit of excellence in a given skill; and purpose, the soul-driven intention behind a quest or endeavour. Finding out one’s purpose is a lifelong exercise — and should be mutable and ever-evolving.”

My drive to make these shrines is a way to use this pandemic to work on something that has no endgame right now. I want to see them in the world. Every new one I put together is so satisfying!

I was delighted to see my “Pollyana” outlook reinforced by Daniel H. Pink, one of my favorite authors:

“Daniel Pink, an expert on human motivation, has made a case for imploring businesspeople to understand what artists innately already practice: in the near-carrotless world of fine art, where the journey is often the only reward, the ideas are inherently better. Without a known destination or straight path to victory, artists dwell in the periphery of problems and solutions, forced to look around and take time to contemplate options and routes to discovery. The secret to meaningful conceptual thinking is to circumvent the obvious and embrace the mysteries. This is how we surprise ourselves and push beyond the “first thought.” While the first thought may be the most expedient, it will not advance the artform. You must commit, over and over again, to putting yourself in the arena of better ideas, so that a process of discovery can take hold.”

Once again, I feel validated.

I started with a “first thought”. Then I quickly ran into every obstacle that’s held me back for years.

But this time, Instead of setting everything aside until I had a ‘perfect’ solution, I simply started.

As problems arose along the way, I figured a way through them, one at a time. I changed my mind about a lot of things, and learned a lot along the way. And as I got better, so did my strategies for solving problems.

I still wake up in the wee hours, wondering how I’m going to handle this or manage that. I still look at my studio and wonder, “Where will I even put all these??” “Will these ever sell??” “Should I start looking for a gallery to send an exhibition proposal to???” “Are these as wonderful as I think they are, or am I just kidding myself?????”

Go back to sleep, lizard brain. I got this! My newest mantra for my lizard brain is, “I’ll figure that out when I get there….” And so far, it works!

So for all the artists I’ve heard from over the years, especially this past year, who worry about sales, who struggle to keep making their work, who want to know how to recreate a successful time in their art career, who wonder if it’s even worth it if they can’t sell it, etc., here is my free advice:

Do what you have to do, to survive these troublesome times.

But never surrender the work of your heart, your art, your dream project.

 Find a way to dive in, today, now! Make a little room in your day for it.

Set aside your self-doubt, your worry, your self-judgment for now. Do what brings you joy. (Says Luann, scrubbing turquoise paint off her hands and face for the tenth time this month.)

We are not wishful thinkers. We are the music-makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.

Know that our artwork can inspire others on so many levels, in ways we can’t even imagine.

Follow your creative heart and never let it go.

Your comments are always welcome, often insightful, and sometimes inspirational, too! Shares, the same. You can find more of my articles at Fine Art Views, and/or visit/subscribe to my blog.

Small shrines, big shrines, and everything in between….

NEWSLETTERS (AND BLOGS!) 101 #28: Share Who You Are

It's good when your artist story/statement/tag line matches your body of work.
It’s good when your artist story/statement/tag line matches your body of work.

NEWSLETTERS (AND BLOGS!) 101 #28: Share Who You Are

Marketing is about sharing—and KNOWING—our own unique story!

 (3.5 minute read)
Yesterday a friend/fellow artist sent me a link to another artist’s “artist sentence/statement”.
It was slightly crushing, on so many levels.

The first is, they are highly-visible in their field, selling for famous mail-order art catalogs, featured on several platforms, etc. So, a little envy popped up. (Note to self: “Money/fame are not the only measure of our success.”) (See? I have to remind myself, too!)

Second, their “art sentences” was dismaying. Very, very similar to my own tag, which is “Ancient stories retold in modern artifacts.” (Let’s just say the identical word ratio was about 50%-75%.)

But what was really weird is, their work did not reflect this aesthetic.

I fumed, briefly. What should I do? Complain? To whom? Do I “own” these words? No. Do I know for sure they copied mine? No. Do I know who’s been using them longer? No.

I even subscribed to their newsletter, thinking I’d get a feel for who they really are, at heart.

And then it hit me:

Why should I care???

I can make assumptions. I can do research. I can fume all I want.

In the end, I have no control over this situation. Zip.

Even if I did, here’s what I finally realized:

Do I want to waste my precious time and energy taking this on? Do I really want to die on this hill?

 

The answer is, “Nope.”

Focusing on the negative leads to dark places, loss of energy, and distraction.

 

That artist can do “them”. I will do me.

My work has been, um, imitated, from time to time. I’m sure even more than I know! Because the ones I know about are often because the, um, imitator, actually shared that information with me. Polymer clay is a relatively new art medium, and techniques/palettes/projects get shared/copied/reposted constantly. (Oddly, the polymer people who are most protective of their “copyrights” are NOT the people who originally created those techniques/palettes/projects. Go figure.) For more insights on copying and the polymer/any art medium world, check out this article and this one by Ginger Davis Allman of The Blue Bottle Tree.)

I was going to say this is the first time my words have been borrowed. Except that’s not true, either. For a long time, some people would repost my blog posts and articles on their own platforms. Not good. Because invariably, their readers assume they wrote them! (FWIW, it’s more respectful to share a synopsis, or a personal take on how the article affected you, and share a link back the writer’s platform.)

I finally stopped that, too, unless it goes too far.

I am not saying you or anyone else has my permission to copy any of my work.

What I will say is this: People who do this? They yearn for what we have, but either haven’t developed their own skills, story, and personal vision, or have chosen not to.

There we have it. The power of our choices.

 

Today, I will unsubscribe from their newsletter. I will work on my stuff today, and let go of envy. I will scratch my head about an artist story that doesn’t really relate to that artist’s work, and didn’t encourage me to want to learn more.

And I will move on.

I will go to my studio and continue working on my new shrine series. (A customer followed up with me today, asking if I’d contacted the gallery they’d referred me to. Dang! They’re doing better follow-up than I am!)

I will focus on the work that brings me joy, and peace in my heart. I will find ways to share it today, in my social media marketing.

I will continue to only focus on what is under my control, and strive to let go of what isn’t.

And I hope with all my heart that today’s words will encourage you to do the same! (If you aren’t already, in which case, good on you!) (My husband asked me where this phrase came from, as opposed to “good FOR you”. I think it’s a New England thing.)

Your comments are always welcome, often insightful, and sometimes inspirational, too! Shares, the same. You can find more of my articles at Fine Art Views, and/or visit/subscribe to them through my blog.

WayBack Whenever: That Small Voice Inside

Oh, dear. My intentions to republish some of my old RadioUserland blog posts seem to have fallen by the wayside….

No matter. When I run across one that still speaks to/for me, I’ll reprint ’em here. (And most of them do!) (Also, thanks to Karyl Shields, who alerted me that the links don’t go to the right content any longer. Fixed! Darn you, Internet!)

Still following that “little idea” and I’m finally making some progress!
Monday, March 28, 2005

THAT SMALL VOICE INSIDE

Amy Peters, silver jeweler to the stars and Queen of self-promotion, posted a fascinating link on a forum today called “Marketing for Introverts.” I can’t find the article but her book can be found here: Self-Promotion for Introverts. Nancy Ancowitz’s insights provided very manageable steps we can take to promote ourselves and our work, and I highly recommend her article.

While poking around her site, I found an article she was interviewed for that also caught my attention. It’s called “To Find A Path, Just Follow That Little Hint” by Patricia Kitchen:

Why did this article appeal to me so much? Because a journey begins with having a place to go. And if you don’t know where to go, how do you take that first step?

Kitchen’s premise is, most people wait for a “bolt from the blue” to indicate where our true heart’s desire lies. But it usually doesn’t happen that way. Instead, she says, we have to pay attention to that tiny little hint of something that captures our interest. And follow it.

As adults, we often find we’ve lost or muffled the instinct to follow our hearts. We don’t have the time or energy to try new things, or pursue a glimmer of an interest. We lose faith in our abilities and strengths, we forget our gifts.

Last week I invited a friend to a free self-defense workshop at the martial arts studio where I study kick-boxing. I asked her on a whim, thinking it would be fun for both of us. “Oh no,” she said, “I wouldn’t be any good at that!”

I was baffled. Why would you have to be good at something to try it out? Heaven knows I have no “knack” for marial arts. And who would expect you to be good at self-defense without learning or practicing it??

But I understood the mindset. It’s that fear of NOT being good at something, the fear of embarrassing yourself in front of others, the fear of making a mistake. It’s the fear of being caught doing something foolish, or the fear looking stupid. It can be the fear of not getting your money’s worth or the fear of wasting time. It can be as awful as the fear of finding out you are NOT talented, or special, or capable of being better.

That’s why it’s so important to “follow that hint” of something interesting, new and fun. Why it’s so important to allow yourself the teensiest little opportunity to try something different. Why it’s so important to simply be open to something that piques your interest.

And why it’s so important to listen to that quiet voice within yourself that says “why not?”

Because who knows where that could lead you?

Kitchen ends by stressing that you must take active steps to pursue that hint. Otherwise, it stays a dream and never becomes your reality.

Tiny hints…small voice…and daily little steps. All adding up to a big dream come true.

NEWSLETTERS 101 #17: Share an “Aha!” Moment

My biggest "aha" moment was what put me on the path to becoming a "real" artist. Still powerful. Still works.
My biggest “aha” moment was what put me on the path to becoming a “real” artist. Still powerful. Still works.

NEWSLETTERS 101 #17: Share an “Aha!” Moment

This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. 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….”  For ten years, Luann also wrote a column (“Craft Matters”) for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explored 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.

Was there a moment when everything changed for you? Share it!

(4 minute read)

One of the taglines in my Fine Art Views (and elsewhere) is this:

“I share my experiences so you won’t have to make ALL the same mistakes I did….”

Yep, I’m hoping it made you laugh a little. But I am also here to reassure you, that when we have our own “aha!” moment, aka “the Eureka effect”, that miraculous gift of insight where we see what’s really going on, what the solution is, how to move forward from a stuck place, it’s good to share it.

It may be just what someone else needs to get out of a hole today.

Here’s one of my favorites I love to share. It’s about fear. How fear can dominate our lives, inside and out. How it can paralyze us.

And ironically, how shallow it can really be. (Yes, pun intended!)

This story is over 15 years old, and the fear I described was already almost 15 years old. If my husband hadn’t cajoled me to take a dip in the lake on that hot summer day, I might still be holding that fear in my heart.

My intention in sharing this story was to encourage others who are in the same boat. Paralyzed with fear, palpable fear. Impossible to ignore. Only “diving in” (figuratively and literally!) helped me get to the bottom of that scary lake. (Again, pun intended.)

As I linked to the Dublin Lake story, I found another related story in the sidebar, entitled “Breakthrough”. Here is where a bunch of fears, and one random comment, came together into one beautiful solution.

Now my latest insight, that came from revisiting my old blog, today:

Radio Userland was an early blog hosting site (now-defunc) site. I wrote on it from 2002 to mid-2007. (I couldn’t even access it for ages after I left, until my techie husband recoded all the urls into something I could get to easily.) (Thank you, sweetie/love of my life!)

In five years, I got maybe three comments. THREE.

Was it because I was a terrible writer? Or an uninteresting writer? I’ll leave that for you to decide! But I do know the platform had its drawbacks, for me.

It was hard to comment. I don’t even know if I could have responded to those comments. I had no way of knowing how many people visited my blog. I never thought to ask the ones that did, to share it with others.

So: No comments. No likes. No way to measure “hits”. No way to know if anyone ever even read anything. No way to know if what I wrote, helped someone else.

And yet, I wrote. I process hard places in my life, through writing. So I wrote for myself, first. I love having had all those ‘lessons learned’, insights, and free advice.

I love it when I come across them again.

Because I still need them.

As a good friend said a few years ago, “I love all my life lessons! I love them so much, I learn them again, and again, and again.”

And when I share them with the world? Priceless. As in, “free” because you get to read them here at no cost to you.

And “priceless” as in “powerful”, as in “if it helped me, and when I shared it, it helped you, then that has incredible, endless value.”

Is it coincidence that I had this realization so soon after last week’s article, on how the numbers ultimately don’t matter?

I don’t think so.

So consider sharing an insight that helped you move forward in life. An insight that helped you find your way in the dark, towards the light, and a mug of hot milk.

If it helps even one of your subscribers do the same, well, that’s pretty cool.

One suggestion: Stick with the positive, or at least end on a positive note. Not all life experiences are good ones. But when we learn something fundamental, something beautiful because of them, that inspires hope.

Of course it okay to share something we’re struggling with right now, too: Health issues, difficult life events, etc. Believe me, if you’re going through something really hard, someone else out there is, too.

And it’s okay to just gritch now and then. (That’s a word from an old high school friend, a blend of “gripe” and “bitch”, and I love it almost as much as “blort”.) In fact, it might be an opportunity for readers to make suggestions or express sympathy, which may or may not help.

But just knowing they care can mean a lot to us, too.

But don’t be too much of a Debbie/Danny Downer, either. Yeah, we all have our moments, but we also all have enough on our plates.

What is one of YOUR favorite “aha!” moments? Try it out on us, in the comments!

If you enjoyed this article, if you enjoyed this article, share it! Link back to it here on Fine Art Views, or my blog at luannudell.wordpress.com.

If someone shared this article with you, and you’d like to read more in this series, visit my articles at FineArtViews.com.

TESTING OUR ASSUMPTIONS: Faux Facts of the Lascaux Cave

Is it coincidental that this article was annoying for me, right before I begin this new series? Maybe. Maybe not!

 

I was noodling on the internet this morning, stopped to look something up about the Lascaux Cave in France, the inspiration for the work of my heart.

I came across this article in the Winchester Sun newspaper in northern Kentucky.

It’s actually a good article, focusing on gratitude for the things we take for granted in our lives. And Smith’s assumption is not only one that was taken seriously for years–that cave art is about hunting magic–it’s funny, and a gentle reminder to find the gifts we already have in our lives.

But….

It felt awkard to say this, but why rely on a totally disproven man-the-killer-ape philosphy in life?

I tried to write to her, but oddly, I could not find a way to contact her nor the newspaper. I also wasn’t sure if I were being too picky. Except…so much of the “facts”, aren’t.  That bothered me more than I anticipated. She got her point across, so maybe I should just shut up…?

So I decided not to send it, but to post my thoughts here, in my own space.

Here’s what I wrote:

Erin Smith’s article on Nov. 5, 2020, “What Good Things Have Brought You Here Today?
​I came across your article while looking something up.  It’s good, and I enjoyed it And yet….
I know the theory behind your thoughts (granted, they’re funny!) about the folks at Lascaux being tired of reindeer meat.
And it’s true, for generations, we’ve assumed all cave art, dating back more than 35,000 years now, was about hunting and sympathetic magic around hunting food animals. (My art history studies revealed Lascaux is now considered the “high gothic” of cave art, for its unique use of color.) It was “obviously” about men and boys practicing their target shooting. (Spear marks were found in some of the images.)
The elders were also teaching the boys how to draw, which is why there are animals with eight legs, and multiple heads. This is what was taught to us art history students in the ’70’s and for decades after.
And heck, maybe they WERE tired of eating reindeer meat.
But this ‘hunting magic assumption’ is now considered out-of-date.
Research shows that NONE of the caves depict the actual animals each community hunted. Yet nothing stopped them from hunting other animals.  So what’s that about?
Evidence from the sites of their communities reveal they did NOT hunt nor eat the animals mainly depicted in each cave, relative to evidence found in their settlements.
And this was not a male-only activitiy.
Turns out the spear marks were made at a later time, probably by another community that found the images after the original painters had moved on, and before the entrance to the cave collapsed. So, NOT made by the original artists.
Many of the shamans that created the images are women, and some suspect MOST of them were women. ​And evidence shows that men, women, even children participated in the ceremonies.
The ‘garbled images’? Inexperienced artists? Nope.
First, there is evidence of “multi-media” elements in the ceremonies (created in areas of the most intense echoes, so sound was probably a feature during their creation, or in the ceremonies that followed.)
There’s now evidence that through primitive artifacts, with the flickering light of torches, these images can appear to move, as demonstrated by this video by Marc Azema. You can watch the longer, most recent version here. Or the explanation of how these images were viewed here. But the last bit, at the end of them all, the montage of the large, running cat critter, is still the most astonishing. I can only imagine the intense observation of running lions that resulted in this highly-realistic rendition.
And last, at the begining of the 21st century, archeologists associate the Lascaux Cave’s work with the timing of great climate change. These people saw what we’re seeing, intense change in climate that affected their entire way of living, not over centuries, but within a handful of years. Cooler weather gave way to hotter weather, the vast grasslands were disappearing, the vast herds of animals that fed on them disappeared. One theory believes they were calling the horses back. (Most of the horses in Lascaux are pregnant.)
Someone who thinks I’m “making up a sappy story” about hunting magic said, “You don’t get it. Cave art is all about survival!” To which I replied, “So is a cathedral.”
My own artwork began with the inspiration of the Lascaux Cave. I get the clever wit of assuming they were tired of eating reindeer. I get that there was a great inspiration for your great article in this, and I enjoyed reading it.
And as Patricia Lauber said in her amazing children’s book, PAINTERS OF THE CAVES, we may never know the exact story of these paintings. They are a message that was not addressed to us.
Just sayin’ that the messages we can CHOOSE to see can carry an even bigger message that’s better for us all. There are now wonderful insights that can inspire even more insightful articles.
And we can choose NOT to diminish the spiritual work of a people lost to us in time, who were US–just as intelligent, just as resourceful, in short, just like us–to make our point.
Respectfully,
Luann Udell

 

NEWSLETTERS 101: #5 What Is the Story Only YOU Can Tell?

Yep, I'm a little obsessed with my horses. Because they represent the start--and heart--of everything I am today.
Yep, I’m a little obsessed with my horses. Because they represent the start–and heart–of everything I am today.

NEWSLETTERS 101: #5 What Is the Story Only YOU Can Tell?

Apologies, I just realized I forgot to republish this article here on my blog! This is part of my series “NEWSLETTERS 101” and this one is a biggie!

We may not be ‘used to’ digging so deep. But the gold you find there is worth it!

(5 minute read)

Last week’s article about knowing our creation story sounded simple. But I’m guessing from some of the questions I received privately that most of us don’t find it that easy.

When I work in person with someone, it’s easier. There are questions I can ask, hints in people’s responses I can follow, and body language that tell me I’m getting close. And when people get to their truth, it’s powerful to hear, and see. Their stance gets ‘brave’: They stand/sit taller, their voice deepens, their words are simple, straightforward, and powerful. And often, there are tears. From both of us!

Unfortunately, before people get there, it can be very hard. For me, and for them.

Some people get annoyed. Or angry. Or they shut down, or push back: “I dunno. I dunno. I DON’T KNOW!!! Why do you keep asking me that??!!” (“That” is usually the word “why”, and I’ve written about it for years on my blog and on Fine Art Views (along with other authors.)

I’ve written about five drafts of this article in the last few weeks, and get overwhelmed with everything I want to say. So instead, for those of you who truly want to find your story, today I am assigning you homework. THREE homework assignments, actually:

Check out this article on what makes each one of us special: 10 Things That Make A Person Unique And Different

Read carefully, and think of how you would respond to each of the aspects given.

Next, invest $5 on a copy of Kaleel Jamison’s book, The Nibble Theory and The Kernel of Power. The link actually goes to the best bookfinding tool on the internet called (surprise!) Bookfinder.com.

This book will take you less than an hour to read, but it can be a life-changer. It was for me. The first section is understanding why some people always try to take us down by ‘nibbling’ away at us until we are not a threat to them anymore.

The second section, finding our Kernel of Power, can help you dig deeper into what makes you YOU. Take your time in reading this part, and think carefully about the questions. (Also note that Jamison says how our tears come with our truth.)

Third, this homework assignment is more creative. Remember that meme that went around on Facebook, 25 Random Things About Me, where we were asked to create a list of ‘things’ most people would not otherwise know about us? (Yes, I did it, and it led to another blog post. Of course!) (And also ‘of course’, I did an entire series of articles on how 25 Random Things can help us write a stronger artist statement.)

Last, there is an unspoken element in all these assignments:

The power of our choices.

Mine came when I realized I didn’t have to be “good enough”. I simply had to make the work of my heart. It was the beginning of everything with my art.

Many people say there was no ‘turning point’ or creation story with their art. They never ‘chose’ their art career. They always knew they were creative, and simply followed that path.

If that’s the case for you, then those three exercises may give you clarity. Because ‘just following a path’ still entails many, many tiny choices along the way.

I’ve written about this process—finding our central truth, our creation story–many times. I wish I could do it in person with each of you who are still searching. I also realize, I’m a writer. I constantly write my way to my truth. (To all of you who have signed up for my newsletter or subscribe to my blog, that’s why you get emails every week instead of once a month! Can’t apologize anymore, it’s part of who I am!)

I shut myself in my studio that day I wrote my artist statement. I was frustrated many times, but would not let myself leave until it was done. And I knew when it was done.

I know there’s still nuance in it. Most people call it a poem, and I agree. I elaborate on it once people, visitors, collectors, let me know they want to talk about it with me.

But it still resonates, and it still speaks my truth: I am here, now. I am only here for a short time on this planet. I want to have my voice in this world. Writing and making little plastic horses is part of that voice.

Yep, I’m a little obsessed with my horses. Because they represent the start–and heart–of everything I am today.

I found that looking for humanity’s roots in ancient times gave me hope that we can all do better at being a good, compassionate, generous, creative human being. Including me. Again: The power of our choices.

There are many other ways I am unique. Like loving melted ice cream. Like not liking watermelon. Like taking up martial arts and my art in my ‘40’s, dyeing my hair for the first time in my ‘50’s and sitting with the dying in my ‘60’s.

All of these are choices.

You’ve made choices all along the way, too.

Think about them. Do the homework. Let me know if you have questions. I’ll do my best to answer them.

On one hand, no, none of this will be on the test. (There is no test.)

On the other hand, you already have all the right answers. They’ve been there all along.

Let them out. Let them breathe. Let them shine. Just like YOU.

If you enjoyed this article and know someone who might enjoy it, please feel free to forward this to them.

If you received this from someone, and liked it, you can subscribe to more artists’ views at the Fine Art Views blog.

And if you’d like to read more of my stuff, you can subscribe to my blog at LuannUdell.wordpress.com.

NEWSLETTERS 101 #7: Why Your ‘WHY’ Is So Important

Do we all have a deep mystery to discover?
Do we all have a deep mystery to discover?

NEWSLETTERS 101 #7: Why Your ‘WHY’ Is So Important

NEWSLETTERS 101 #7: Why Your ‘WHY’ Is So Important

(Hint: Because it is the heart of everything you do, every decision you make, and everything you make!)

(6 minute read)

Welp, somewhere along the line, this series shifted from “how to create an email newsletter” to “how to find your creation story”. I would apologize, BUT –

In my defense, knowing our creation story is the foundation of everything else we do.

Yes, we may end up making our creative work for years before we find it. Yes, it may not be a story you are comfortable sharing with just anyone.* Yes, it can changed or modified, to align with a new series of work, or for a special exhibit, etc.

But that story is in us, even if we can’t find it – yet. It is what drives us, guides us, in a thousand small ways, every day.

Knowing our creation story is a form of self-empowerment, a direct conduit to the inner passion that drives to make the work we make.

Someone reached out to me recently about this, with really good questions we may all have:

Do we all have a deep mystery to discover?

Yes, we all do. Everyone. Everyone has a story that gives some sense, some insight, into the choices we make.

Of course, many of our choices become such a habit, we forget the reason we made them in the first place. Hey, I’ll go first!

Why do you sleep on that side of the bed? (Me: I want to be closer to the bathroom in the middle of the night!) (Which is also why that changes every time we move.)

Why do I hate tuna fish casserole? (Me: I used to really hate ‘mixed’ food, I hated strong flavors like tuna fish, and my parents gave me grief every time I tried to bow out of eating it. Almost every dinner was a fight about food. Tuna fish casserole brings up bad memories, and mentioning it is a running joke between my hubby and me.)

Why do you make your artifacts out of polymer? (Me: Because I want them to look ancient, worn and damaged by time, over thousands of years. I can recreate that look with a faux ivory technique in polymer clay. Also, there’s no need to harm animals to make them, in this day and age, so polymer is more ‘life neutral’ for me. And how cool that this material began to soar in popularity as an art medium in the world at the same time I took up my true art?!)

Why the Cave of Lascaux? (Me: I have always yearned for a horse to love, I have always dreamed of riding a galloping horse, moving freely forward, flying in the wind, at one with these marvelous creatures. They were a metaphor for my longing to be an artist from my youth. The mysterious Lascaux paintings fed this longing. Now that we know more about the makers of those paintings, the synchronicity is even more astonishing!) (Recent findings on women as shamans in prehistory; that all members of this community participated in the ceremonies; that these paintings were created during the onset of swift, debilitating climate change.**)

I think I am waiting until I am an authority on (making my art) to try to look for the why.

This is not necessary to find our ‘why’. We are just postponing asking ourselves this difficult, but ultimately empowering work. Remember: We are already ‘good enough’, there is no diploma for ‘being human’, and we are all a work-in-progress.

Where does passion for working come from?

From our heart. The desire to be seen, heard, loved in the world. To be seen as an individual, and to be part of a community. To be remembered, long after we are gone. We want to make our mark in the world. Many factors guide/hinder us along the way, from how we were raised to what we perceive is valued in our culture. That’s why finding our way to this work can take time and effort for many of us.

Although I do like the idea of being a powerful force for good in the world. Who, me?!

Yes, YOU! And me! And about 98% of the rest of the world. (I’m leaving out the sociopaths and narcissists of the world, although sometimes even they often create good work in the world in their pursuit of their passions.) (Just don’t date or marry them!)

Here’s my favorite metaphor for “do I matter?”:

When we put the work of our heart out into the world, it’s like tossing a pebble into a large lake. We may not see where all the ripples go, but they are there and they go SOMEWHERE. (Look up The Butterfly Effect.)

Our art is like that.

It may take time for it to be seen. Maybe not even in our lifetime. Van Gogh died in despair, craving to be seen in the world. If only he could see his own validation now! Or it could disappear eventually. But what is left is how it affected US, and others in their own good time.

(Again, the power of the internet, and the legacy of the art we leave behind.)

The cave paintings of Lascaux were a powerful message that was not addressed to us. But that cave deeply, deeply impacted all the people who were able to see it before it was closed, and even long after. And it changed my life.

For millennia, we have had some very strict rules about who can be an artist, and who can’t. Rules about what ‘real art’ is, and what isn’t.

Rules and laws have kept women, people of some religions, people of color (outside of their own origins and present communities), people of ‘other-than’ gender, in a box, and usually not a very pretty nor kind box.

But things change. We are not in a perfect, accepting, loving world yet. But it is even more possible to have our voice in the world. The current shelter-in-place orders may force us to stay home. We may feel paralyzed, overwhelmed, anxious about the state of the world right now. But the internet, and social media marketing***, allows us, and our art, to roam the world. Access to a smart phone, a computer, a library (eventually!) give us this perfect freedom.

We do the work we feel compelled to make, and hope someday, somewhere, somehow, someone else will feel its message.

And when WE know our message, we are empowered now, no matter what happens later.

I told this person they’d inspired this article! One person’s words, even shared with self-doubt, shared with courage, and with the hope that I might answer, lit up my heart.

I hope my words today light YOUR heart, and theirs.

*You can share the gist of your creation story, if the details are too personal or uncomfortable to share. Just knowing it is huge!

**And as a side note, everyone who says, “My art speaks for itself”, the story of the Lascaux Cave paintings for years was, men-and-boys-practicing-target-shooting. New evidence now shows that “story” is completely wrong, on so many levels. We were seeing these images through the lens of our own time, with all the cultural prejudices that can block our “view”….) (To which some will counter, “Cave art is about survival!” and I reply, “So is a cathedral.”) (The power of our choices.)

**”Social media marketing” of course, is simply using the internet to get our work in front of other people, who may love it, be inspired and uplifted by it, and hopefully, even love it enough to buy it!

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