Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I have finally caught up with visiting all the participants in the One World - One Heart blogger's party. And what a party it has been! Of course it's fun to enter the giveaways and fantasize about winning one of the many lovely prizes being offered. But even if I don't win a single prize, I already feel like a winner for having met so many new and wonderful bloggers. Now, if only I can find the time to return and visit some of them again. So many new friends, so little time!

It's been a whirlwind and as much fun as I've had, it's nice to come home, kick off my shoes, and relax for a bit. I feel like took off for the party at a moment's notice, leaving behind a messy house, unfinished projects, and errands to check off my To Do list. It's time to get back to my real life and get some things done.

Yet, it turned out to be time well spent.

I've spent the last 3-4 nights on the computer visiting other bloggers, almost every single one sharing their creative side, and at first I felt sort of guilty taking so much time online. Until yesterday when, I realizes that along with meeting fun new people, the blog surfing was helpful in another, unexpected way.

I tried to be selective in the giveaways I participated in. If I visited a blog but didn't comment for a chance to win their prize, it wasn't because it wasn't a thoughtful prize or because I didn't like it. It was simply because I don't have pierced ears or because I didn't know where I'd display something or because I felt guilty thinking of some international blogger having to mail something heavy to me.... any number of reasons. I figured that it was better to leave some art pieces to those participants who would truly love a piece than to just willy nilly enter all the chances. Those giveaways I did enter, I know I'd truly cherish if I was lucky enough to win.

The process of making those decisions - enter this giveway?, don't enter this giveaway? - helped me to sift through all the dozens, nay HUNDREDS, of creative mediums and genres vying for my attention, and find those that consistently make my heart thump wildly.

I read a book last year by author Eric Maisel called Deep Writing. It focused on helping writers but the idea of "deep writing" could easily apply to artists and the process of "deep creating". The theme of the book was this - that anyone can write/create. It takes time and effort and space and energy to do so. Why use all our resources, why settle for "just" writing/creating. Why not give it some thought first and choose only those projects that reach deep down inside of you and engage your soul, your heart?

It's so easy to get distracted by what other artists do, what the latest trend/genre is, what we think others will like, what we think is acceptable or saleable art. And we spend our time making/writing things we think we should make/write, that we think others will approve of or find worthy of our time. The truth is, only WE know what is worthy of our time and effort.

I had a similar, smaller epiphany a few years back about my quilting. I have the absolutely delightful pleasure of hanging with a large number of creative textile artists and quilters, many who enter competitions and deservedly win many accolades for their work. I knew that I had it in me to match any of these amazing artists, work for work, and yet I wasn't doing so. It wasn't about being capable of doing it, it was that I wasn't doing it, and no one was making that choice but me.

Instead I was busy making comfort quilts for friends and family. Time passed and brick by brick I began building a wall of guilt that I wasn't using my talents the way I SHOULD be using them. Until one day, a thought broke through and I suddenly realized that I was in fact accountable to no one but myself. I'd been complaining about not doing this or that and my friends, trying to be helpful, encouraged me to find the time, make the time. Of course this only made me feel more guilty because I knew even if I hadn't admitted it to myself yet, that nothing was truly standing in my way except a choice I'd made without knowing I'd made. I'd gotten caught up in the enthusiasm and excitement of other artist's paths without stopping to think if I even wanted to be on that same path. There they go, off to Africa, without me. Here I am, waving them goodbye. Why aren't I going with them? Not once had I asked the real question - Did I WANT to go to Africa? When I did finally take a good look at my frustrations, I realized that a very large portion of it was placed there not by others, but by me. No one was telling me or judging me, they were just trying to be encouraging because I was sending out "feeling left behind" energy. I was the one piling up the guilt.

The truth was what felt important and right at that point in time wasn't to create competitive pieces for people to ooh and ahhh over. What made my heart sing was to create simple but love filled quilts for people who needed to wrap themselves in the energy of knowing that someone cared. There were people coming into the world and leaving this world, celebrating or crying, in the quilts I made and that meant more to me than all the ribbons or awards in the world. I would have saved myself a lot of emotional wear and tear if I'd been able to think it through and say "Hey, Africa, how cool is that - have fun! I'd love to join you but, y'know what, I'm busy getting ready to take a trip to China." And then my friends would have said "Oh, cool, China. Well, you have fun too!"

Not there's anything wrong with going to Africa. I have creative awards and ribbons. They're lovely to win and display. Mine are now laying in a big dusty pile waiting for me to rehang them in the studio after some remodeling. But what made them important at the time wasn't the acknowledgement of others - although don't get me wrong, that's a fantastic feeling! - it was more importantly the sense of having accomplished something for myself, having overcome some challenge or pushed past some level I thought beyond me, going beyond my own limits and awarding myself the sense of a hard won, deserved personal victory. It was because it was the right path for me at that moment in time.

Of course one of the reasons I didn't speak of and say I was going to China was because I didn't really want to go to China. I didn't know WHERE I wanted to go. That was the problem. Did I want to go to China? Or would I rather go to Alaska? Indonesia? Cabo San Lucas? Minneapolis? I couldn't pack my bags and leave because I'd hit a point in my life where I didn't know where I wanted to travel.

I came to a decision about six or eight months ago to allow myself a year (or so) of discovery. No need to choose any directions, no need to make any long term goals. For a number of years I'd been trying to FORCE myself to find my own path and the approach was dismally and frustratingly unsuccessful. I wanted to see what happened when, instead, I greeted each day as open to an possibilities and see where it would organically take me. I haven't yet found a path with rays of light shining down on it. No neon signs flashing "This Way". But I do think this approach is working. I'm closer to finding a new direction now than I have been for a long while. I've gotten a lot done this past year, although in bits and pieces so I had to take a good look back at things to see that this was so. And I don't wake up anymore with anywhere near the weight of frustration or fear that I'm lost, that it's "too late", that I'll never find my way. I'm feeling guardedly hopeful.

For a while now, don't know how long it's been simmering, I've started to see some ideas bobbing closer to the top than others. This last half week of reading and visiting other blogs, a use of time I thought of as somewhat selfish and frivolous, has ended up being the perfect "excercise" in focusing my muse. At some point along the blogging trail the idea of "deep creating" started to accompany me. I started to visit each blog with this question in mind - who seemed to be creating from the heart, who didn't? - and more importantly - Where could I find my own deepest wellspring? I've come home from the party with a lot more blogging friends, but, happy surprise, I've also come home with a lot fewer directions calling for my attention. Flip that round, I came home with more focus. Out of the chaos comes the form.

Now I'm home, back to my real life, less frustrated at all the things I don't have time to do, and more enthusiasm and peace for working on a few more carefully chosen projects.

So - maybe it will help you to ask yourself some of the same questions about deep creating -

What purpose? What medium? What process? Small and intimate? Large and in your face? For you alone? Paint? To make a statement to the world? To seek beauty? To test the comfort zone? Quilt? To find reality? To step outside of reality and create new ground? Decorate? To simplify? Expand? Sing? Move through grief? Find joy?

What makes your heart thump wildly?


Connie Carpenter Macko said...

good question! i too am trying to decide what makes it go pitty pat the loudest! may your next adventure be a good journey!

freebird said...

Really good posting. I was feeling like I might be wasting my time but it made me realize some of my likes and dislikes too. Do I really want to do some of this or some of that? Am I trying to do too much for the time I have to give to my art? I was even burning out on reading blogs but then I would come across a really good posting and be glad I am still looking at all of them. Don't get me wrong. I have enjoyed most of the blogs but I get overwhelmed very easily. Eye candy can simply become sore eyes. The good thing is we can visit all those blogs in a slower paced way now and find the ones that speak to us and our art.
There are so many groups and contests and trades on the internet it really is easy to get in over your head. Anyhow, I didn't mean to ramble, just wanted to let you know your posting struck a deep chord with me.

Jonna Barnett said...

What an awesome post. Very thought provoking and inspiring.