I’ve been in a funk for awhile. Okay, haven’t we all? A lousy holiday market show, slow sales, a disturbing conversation with a gallery owner who used to carry my work, my studio is freezing,
I have two journals I use, one every single day and the other when I’m in a funk. The first is my daily schedule of appointments, deadlines, tasks, shopping lists, etc. Sometimes I add a few notes of a movie to watch, a book to read, or an adage/quote/insight that help me move forward.
The blort journal is where I dump my toxic, angry, sad, frustrating notes on my shitty day.
I even posted about these journals on Facebook a few days ago, where I admitted that I never write in beautiful/handmade/expensive journals, because I don’t want to mess them up. My mess of a life goes in those cheap college notebooks, or my favorite style of spiral-bound notebooks I get at TJ Maxx every time they go on sale. Hah!
So yesterday I blorted, then made a list of the things that happened that made me happy/grateful/curious/grounded.
Then, today, I read a book review in our local newspaper, called In Praise of Failure: Four Lessons in Humility by Costica Bradatan.
From a review:
Squarely challenging a culture obsessed with success, an acclaimed philosopher argues that failure is vital to a life well lived, curing us of arrogance and self-deception and engendering humility instead.
And this quote from the book knocked me over (in a good way!)
“Striving for success prevents us from dealing with our mortality and hence, from living a more meaningful life. Fear of failure can sap the meaning from our lives….”
Well, poo. That’s exactly why I’ve been sitting on my hands for a month (or two.) Why bother working on that age-old project in my heart? My work sells slowly, always has, and that’s never going to change. Oh yeah, I should do it because I want to do it, right? But my studio is already stuffed full of finished work, and whenever a gallery sends back my unsold work, it all just sits there, staring at me.
So that quote gave me a little lift, a bit of validation.
But then, I had to kill a little time today (watched pots never boil, etc.) and picked up a book I’d started to read years ago, The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives by Leonard Mlodinow. And three pages in, everything changed, again.
In three pages.
This book is about how random almost everything emotional, experiential, artistic is in life. In fact, almost everything that happens to us is random.
And how we tend to not see that, to believe that, if we do it right, if we get really good at what we do, if we even already have fame and fortune, our changes of more success, recognition, and money, are just waiting for us.
It was an echo of one of my favorite life lessons, the Four Stages of Competency. (This link will take you to my articles about that.) My favorite was the time I took a pottery class, centered and threw a pot in my first try. (“Hey! I’m a natural at this!”) And failed miserably the next five weeks to even get a blog of clay centered on the wheel.
It was when I hit the lowest point of my creative life, and found my way through.
I turned the page, and there was my second ‘hit’. You know who really scores in life?
People who don’t give up.
The author reminds us that success in movies and books is much, much more random than we think. The Diary of Anne Frank was almost never published, because it was considered pretty boring, “…a dreary record of a typical family bickering, petty annoyances and adolescent emotions….” John Grisham’s first novel was rejected by 26 publishers. Dr. Suess’s first children’s book was rejected 27 times. J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter manuscript was rejected by 9 publishers. (There are even sadder stories, but you get the drift.)
Perseverence may not pay off, too. Not in our lifetime, anyway. But if Vincent Van Gogh had quit painting immediately, we wouldn’t have his work in the world today.
Which circles back to randomness vs. predictability, and that first quote about a meaningful life.
Short story: Life is soooooo random. We literally can’t guarantee we’ll make it through the day, let alone a long life, let alone a long life filled with joy, fame, wealth, and health.
But when we embrace today, this moment in time, we let that ‘real world’ into our heart.
When we make our work because it feels good to step back from the easel, the computer screen, the kiln, the sewing maching, and think, “Yeah, that’s COOL! I LOVE IT!” With nothing more really needed than to look forward to do more the next day.
Look, if I were giving YOU advice (that you didn’t ask for), I’d tell you to make room for the work of your heart in your life, no matter how little money you make from it. It restores us to our higher, best self, and helps us do the work that DOES earn us a living.
Me? I forget that all the time. And that’s what my blort book is for. When I’m struggling, if I make the time to write, and I make myself write, I will always…always…get to a better place, a place that helps me get back to my own heart-work.
And I’d tell you that we have to reset that concept, that approach, every day.
That success is not the absence of failure, but the product of fate + chance + hope, minus the expectation that everything will work out in our lifetime.
Not living in the past (because we can’t change it) nor living for the future (because we are really bad at predicting it), but embracing our life, deriving our own meaning from it. And living our best life with what we have right here, right now.
Two (or three, or four) tiny little miracles that helped me tremendously.
I’ll shut up now. My thoughts are still bouncing around in my head, BUT… I’m already back to my happy place.
And I hope you find YOURS today, too!