A while back, I took part in a painting workshop (Running With Brushes with Noreen Spence and Dianne Postman). I loved it, needed it, and benefited from it for a lot of reasons, some of which I went into here. ☺
At one point, Noreen shared one of her favourite quotes from artist Sister Corita Kent: “Nothing is a mistake. There’s no win and no fail. There’s only make.”
The words were a much-needed reminder and encouragement, as I (like most artists and writers, I suspect) battle perfectionism, insecurity, and the conviction that I’m not good enough and never will be . . . Good enough for what? you ask . . . Great question, and one I never have a very satisfying answer for—just never good enough to silence my own inner critic, perhaps . . . but I digress. In the actual process of writing, I forget to be neurotic. In the moment, the story or poem or whatever I’m working on is all I can see, focus on, feel . . . and it’s amazing, joyful, crazy—and transcends all my worries. There is only make!
I did a bit of google-sleuthing, and found, to my delight, a list of rules Corita Kent created and kept posted in her classroom when she taught in the Immaculate Heart College Art Department. The gem above is one of them . . . but the others struck me as equally important, inspiring, and bravery-bolstering. I keep a printed copy of the list stuck on my filing cabinet, a mere arm’s length away, for easy reading and a soft-yet-effective kick in the pants.
Maybe you’ll find Corita’s rules as heartening and revitalizing as I did, or maybe you won’t . . . Either way, happy writing, reading, creating this week!
p.s. I have every intention of writing rambling thoughts about some of the other rules soon. You have been warned. 😉
p.p.s. The picture at the top of this post is a digital image of one of the paintings created by participants in Running With Brushes–and the original painting is being auctioned off tomorrow night (Friday, Sept. 27, 2013) at 7:00 p.m. at the Terrace Art Gallery. It’s 5′ by 4′ and absolutely gorgeous. Perhaps I’ll see you there!
In my late teens/early twenties, I decided that was it. I was done writing. I would never pen again. I quit. (I could bore you with stories of my insecurity, of neuroses and perfectionism, of worries about what people might—gasp—think of me and the horrors that come from my brain, but as I now think all those “blocks” are common stuff that all artists struggle to work through—that might even be a necessary part of the process—I will spare you. Or I’ll spare you for now. I may write about young Ev someday!)
For many reasons I couldn’t, I wouldn’t, listen to the deep inner-whisper that never let up, Write, write, write, write, you need to write, it’s you to write, you love to write, write, write . . .
Then one day I was at a friend’s cabin on Lakelse Lake (Mark Anson—I am forever grateful to you!), and I came across The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.
I asked Mark about it, and he raved about how good it was, then added, “Actually, I pulled it out because I was thinking you need to read it.”
It sounds cheesy to say the book revolutionized my life. But that’s what happened. I “did” the book. (It’s laid out as a 12-week artist recovery program. But don’t laugh. That’s exactly what I needed.) I answered all the prying questions. Took the assignments seriously. Adopted a habit of morning pages. Started taking artist dates . . .
And by the end, though I realized I’d no doubt be plagued by insecurity again off and on (and that’s definitely been the case!), I had the tools to overcome the negative voices that would see me stifled and sure I couldn’t create—and more importantly: I was infused with joy and excitement and a huge AHA! I was a writer. A storyteller. Maybe even a poet. Not crazy. (Or at least, not all the time.) Not depressed. (Ha—again, at least not all the time!) Just angst-ridden because I wasn’t doing what I was meant to do. What was essential to making me me.
Does it all sound more than a little self-helpey? I guess so. But did it help me? Absolutely.
To this day, whenever I feel my courage regarding my writing start to wane, whenever I begin to second guess the time and effort I put into something so “selfish,” whenever I doubt that I’m working in the direction I need to be, I return to the steps in The Artist’s Way. I take up morning pages again. (I probably should never stop them to begin with, but that’s another topic.) I strive to “fill the well,” which basically just means intentionally doing things that nourish your soul, like going on artist dates (a.k.a. visiting inspiring places), taking classes or workshops directly related (or not!) to fostering/developing creativity, treating yourself to a little craft-related splurge, etc.
This month I found myself needing a little encouragement, a little more play in my work (and a lot less obligation), so I decided to bring back artist’s dates. Yay! (What’s not to love about taking time out to do things that you know will inspire or refresh you?)
The two-hour paint fest was pure fun, but it also had practical carryover for my writing life—a reminder (with exuberant “practice”) to not over think, plan to death, obsess about each detail . . . just CREATE. Worry about craft and polish at some far off date when the created work is out there in full, where you can see its whole shape, wackiness, potential, nightmare spots, etc. At least that’s what I took from the workshop anyway. 🙂
I don’t know if you’re feeling a bit slumpish, or burned out, or burdened with lofty goals in whatever creative pursuit you hold dear . . . And don’t get me wrong. Goals are good. Plans are great. But artistic dreams shouldn’t feel like drudgery or chores. There will be agony and sweat and work, yes—but there should also be joy and euphoria—fun!If you’re experiencing lots of the former, not so much of the latter . . . Maybe you, like me, need to give your inner artist a play date or two. I highly recommend paint! ☺
Now I leave you with a quote Noreen gave us at the beginning of the workshop. It was exactly what I needed to hear, to remember, and to celebrate. 🙂
“Nothing is a mistake. There is no win and no fail. There’s only make.” ~ Corita Kent