Everyone is on a journey
It’s incredibly easy to look at other people who are on similar paths or life plans as I am, but seemingly much further along, and get discouraged. This happens to me often when one of the many talented artists I follow on Instagram posts their latest “10 minute warmup sketch” that looks like something I would have had to have spent months on to make. I was actually encouraged, however, when one of those artists posted a side-by-side image of a drawing she had done three years ago before entering art school, and another she had just drawn as she neared the end of her art school program. The difference was astonishing, and revealing. Three years is not a long time to show such improvement and refinement in skill. It made me think about the last 15 months+ journey I’ve been on, searching for what to do in my artwork, where to take it and why I do it. In November of 2014, I fell short of a personal goal, a necessary milestone, and it pretty much spun me out into a discouraging ditch of uncertainty and insecurity about art-making. I spent most of 2015 not making art, and what I did make I mostly hated, or couldn’t bring myself to finish. Now, as I have entered into one of my most creative periods in recent memory, I can see how important that desert journey was to figuring out the work I’m doing now, and to seeing a pattern emerge for my own personal style and process. It felt so awful and lonely during that time when I doubted the value and purpose of my own work (and myself, by extension) but the ultimate lesson, I think, is that I didn’t give up. Although the negative self-talk was certainly oppressive and kept me from feeling courageous enough to create, it didn’t win. I asked myself the tough questions, got back to the basics and confirmed that art-making is definitely what I need to be doing.
Everything can be written about
Even the smallest interaction, or gesture, or turn of phrase can be explored in writing. This seems obvious, perhaps, but I know I get caught up in the banal routine of everyday and forget to be mindful of what’s available to use as inspiration. My mind is very often somewhere else, searching for something on the greener side. It’s harder to see something new in the places you live and work every day, but it’s there.
I am comfortable with time
More specifically, I am comfortable with huge swaths of unstructured time. In fact, I thrive on it. When every hour of the day is scheduled, partitioned, allotted and accounted for, it’s exceedingly difficult for me to adjust to changes in that schedule. I have recently had a few instances where unstructured time was available to me, and I discovered that I was able to fill it creatively and productively. When left with long stretch of time, it turns out I don’t immediately go to the TV or the internet or napping. I go to work. I make things and start executing ideas I had months ago. My to-do list gets smaller. I clean up old messes and make new ones. I make art. I do chores. When all I have is structured time, I find myself passing the time between bullet points with fairly mindless things. There’s not really enough time (for me) in the 15 or 45 minutes between being at Place A and getting to Event B to get into a productive, creative, potent, excited frame of mind. As if I needed any further evidence that I am patterned after so many in my family before me who are independent, entrepreneurial and “unemployable,” these recent instances have confirmed for me that I was made for free time.
Boldness feels great
Whether it’s sharing deeply about myself and my art-making or explaining to my co-workers why I’m not the biggest fan of America, it’s ok to have an opposing viewpoint. For the most part, I really hate talking about what I think about anything. The internet age has caused intelligent, respectful discourse to appear with the frequency and believability of Bigfoot. I rarely see that it is worth it have any discussions with anyone who already has an opposing view. Almost no one is actually curious or seeking information with which to process their own worldview. Yet, in March, I found myself in several situations where I decided (perhaps out of frustration) that I couldn’t and shouldn’t just shut myself up. It worked out, too. Some people did learn something from what I had to say, and no one was ostracized or burned at the stake. Whew!
Compliments feel great
As I mentioned above, I feel like I’m in an exceptionally creative and productive period right now, and the work I have been making seems like it is resonating with the few people who have seen it. At the very least, they find it interesting to look at, but I’ve also been able to have several conversations which go more in depth about it. These conversations have been so encouraging and affirming. I don’t make art for accolades, but getting a genuine compliment feels great. Especially coming out of a long period of uncertainty, insecurity and inactivity in art-making, getting this positive feedback has been a powerful motivation to continue choosing courage in creating.
What have you learned in March? Leave a comment below!