Friday, April 25, 2008

Uniquely Created

As I was musing over some thoughts, it occurred to me again that God created each one of us differently. When we say, "I want to be like that person" we can't 100 percent be like the person we so admire. God created that person uniquely to do what He wants that person to do. He didn't create us to be who we want to be like. That's what I love so much about teaching art. I can have a room full of students all drawing the same thing, but not one piece is the same! Each person views things differently.

I have had the privilege to sing with a worship team. I quit singing with them for awhile because the worship wasn't feeling real anymore. But that's just my view of things. To other people, it might be very real to them. God created people to worship Him in different ways. He talks to me differently than He talks to you. Each one of us is unique! I've started singing again since I've realized this.

So, when you are feeling like you aren't what you want to be, step back and remember you are who you are supposed to be in this moment, right now.

Discovering a Sense of Authenticity - Getting Back on the Horse

This is end of the review of Week 11 - Recovering a Sense of Authenticity from Walking in the World by Julia Cameron. There is only one more week for me to read, so I'm hoping to get this to you within the next two weeks. Maybe I'll get lucky and get it to you next week. :)

Getting Back on the Horse

Try again. Fail again. Fail better. ~ Samuel Beckett

We probably all have said it, “I am never trying that again!” And the more often we tell ourselves this, the more convinced we become that we can never do it again.

Julia Cameron says, “There is one and only one cure for creative injury, and that cure is to make something. If we do not make some small something, our injured yet active imagination will make an even bigger deal out of what happened to us. Sometimes, the only comfort we can find is naming ourselves. If no one else will pronounce us ‘artist,’ then we must say our name to ourselves – and the only way to say it is through art. If your painting has been pounced on, paint something, even a kitchen chair.”

The way to find your true self is by recklessness and freedom. ~ Brenda Urland

“Art is made from talent and character. Adversity strengthens our character and can strengthen our art as well. It creates empathy and compassion for the adversity of others. This deepens our heart and our art. Adversity is educational, and like many educations, it is terribly hard to recover from without help.

As artists, when human powers fail us, we must turn to the Great Creator for help. We must ‘surrender’ our sense of isolation and despair and open ourselves to the spiritual help we frequently experience as an unexpected inner strength.

It is spiritual law that no loss is without meaning in all of creation.

Because creativity is a spiritual issue, injuries to that creativity are spiritual wounds. In my experience, an artist’s anguished prayers are always answered by the Great Creator.

As artists, we are dreamers, and what we fear is the nightmare of our work being shunned, mishandled, or ill perceived. Fearing this, we allow our discouragement to globalize from one person to ‘they’, from a single tough review to ‘always,’ from a stinging rejection to ‘they’ll never.’ We elect a defensive cerebral cynicism.

We begin talking about how ‘they’ will never appreciate our work. We feel alone and abandoned, and we are – not because ‘they’ have abandoned us but because we have. We have given up not only on ourselves but also on God. We have said, ‘What’s the use?’ instead of ‘What’s next?’ Rather than risk the vulnerability of moving out again on faith, we have hidden our dreams and our hopes under what we call ‘realism about the market.’ We have said, ‘Oh, they’re all like that’ rather than allow ourselves the terror of discovering they might not be.”

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Discovering a Sense of Authenticity - Integrity


Cameron states, “What if we experiment with the idea that creativity is a spiritual and not an intellectual transaction? Not so long ago, cathedrals were built for the honor and glory of God. Art and artistry were routinely put to the service of higher realms. Higher realms were routinely credited for the worldly successes of creators.

A sense of rightness will most usually mean all’s well. A sense of wrongness will also usually mean something is wrong. Listening to such gut feelings is always worth the time and trouble it takes. When we let God be God and work through us, we experience both a sense of serenity and excitement. We experience integrity – which comes from the root word ‘integer,’ meaning ‘whole’ unfragmented by doubt or discomfort. When we experience a sense of oneness with God, ourselves, and our fellows, we can safely know we are in our integrity.

If this language sounds ‘serious’ or spiritual,’ so is the matter at hand. ‘Know thyself,’ the Greeks inscribed above their temple door. As artists, we must take this to heart, working to express our inner imperatives and not just filling the form provided by the marketplace. Settling for convention over authentic self-expression, we are falling, in the biblical phrase, for false gods. In the long run, this works out no better for us as artists than it did for those worshiping the golden calf. The ‘market’ is the golden calf. When we worship it, we deaden our souls, risking, over time, our attunement to the work that would move through us. Commerce has its place, but that place is not first.”

If you don’t tell the truth about yourself, you cannot tell it about other people. ~ Virginia Woolf

The author says, “As artists, we have a different kind of accountability than many people. What pays us and pays off in the long run is really the caliber of our work.

In cultures where creativity is embedded in the warp and woof of daily life, shyer souls may practice their creativity with more impunity. In this country, the artist is an endangered species. Grants are diminishing. Public appreciation is also more difficult to find. Too much power has gone into the hands of too few - reviewers stand in for viewers.”

If you don’t risk anything, you risk even more. ~ Erica Jong

“Fearing this process, fearing their capacity to survive it, many gifted artists allow discouragement to darken their creative landscape. Of course they do. They may lurk too long in the shadows because they lack support – the before, during, and after friends – to help them tolerate their turns center stage. Many public art situations are toxic to artists themselves. We learn to deal with them, but we do not do it easily. Just as the body must develop antibodies, so in our current culture must the artist’s soul. Not everyone can do this. Many excellent artists cannot.”

In her twenty five years of teaching, Julia Cameron says, “Working to unblock damaged artists, it is my experience that it is not that artists lack quality but that, as a culture, we lack sufficient quality of character to nurture and appreciate the artists among us. Until we fiercely advocate and nurture ourselves, we feel stifled. Until more of our reticent artists make more art, we risk continuing to believe the assessments of those who critique but do not create. The quality of our artists is not the true issue. The quality of our critical climate is. We do not have genuine receptivity to the arts.

The people who snort about there being a lack of quality in amateur art have not seen enough diamonds in the rough. They like to buy their art at Tiffany’s stamped with a brand name and someone else’s approval. They haven’t had the courage to walk through church to hear a beautiful, if untutored, soprano, and commit cash on the barrel for her education. They have not been in a school hallway or on a sidewalk and see a student sketch that caught them by the throat with its unexpected virtuosity – and inquired enough to know how they could help and support that young artist. It takes courage and heart to make art, and it takes courage and heart to support art makers.

Our culture diminishes both art and artists. Art is secular now, mere ornament, where once it was central to civilized life. Artists are seen as dispensable or, at best, marginal types, gifted perhaps, but mere filigree.”

Good art is a form of prayer. It’s a way to say what is not sayable. ~ Frederich Busch

“We have made such a spotlight-riddled, harrowing public spectacle of the arts in this country that many people with enormous talent quite sensibly choose to live outside the limelight.

In our culture, we must consciously build safe hatcheries for our art. We must find people and establish places that allow us to flourish. We must become creative about being creative.

Dreams become reality when we start to treat them as if they are real. When we stop postponing and evading them, and when we can answer ‘Today, I worked on my dream’ with a grounded specific.

Creativity isn’t something vague that we are going to do. It is something real that we actually do do. It is the refusal to sell ourselves short by shortchanging our artists with empty talk.

Often, we are afraid to try to make what we really want to make, we will say, ‘I can’t make that.’ The truth is, we could, but we are frightened to try: Not trying, we do not really know whether we could or couldn’t make our heart’s desire. Very often when we say ‘I couldn’t do that,’ we are again embracing an ideal of false independence, eschewing spiritual help. We are embracing an idea of God as a withholding God whose intentions for us are counter to our own dreams. Believing, even unconsciously, in such a toxic God, we do not see the Great Creator as a cocreator, a partner, in our dreams. Rather, we see God as a barrier, a withholding parent who denies our dreams. Most often, we are who denies them.

It is at this point that we must muster our integrity and be honest about what it is we really want. We must take the leap – or even the small hop – of faith that moves us slightly toward our true dream. This honest motion on our part is what triggers support for our authenticity – instead of support for a false self we can no longer comfortably inhabit.”

Surprise is where creativity comes in. ~ Ray Bradbury

“As we commit to our real dreams, we commit to ourselves. As we commit to ourselves, we also commit to trusting the power that created us. We are then aligning ourselves not with false gods but with the true power of the universe, the Great Creator through whose power all dreams are possible.”

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Discovering a Sense of Authenticity - Encouragement

Week 11 – Discovering a Sense of Authenticity

Author of Walking in this World, Julia Cameron says, “An artist’s life if grounded in integrity and the willingness to witness our version of the truth. Self-respect lies in the doing, not in the done.”


“Artists are people whose ‘real’ job, no matter what their paying job, is the pursuit of excellence by listening carefully and well to what is trying to be born through them.”

We will discover the nature of our particular genius when we stop trying to conform to our own or to other people’s models, learn to be ourselves, and allow our natural channel to open. ~ Shakti Gawain

Julia says, “Like it or not, artists do need pats on the head. We do need encouragement. We do need praise and we do need comfort. It does not matter how accomplished we are; it is a daunting and damaging thing to have our work ignored.”

We will run into discouragements along the way, but we must not let ourselves remain discouraged. Julia Cameron says, “We know how to stay discouraged when we are discouraged. We know how to choose our best negative friend to call. Most of us have a secret number emblazoned in our consciousness under the heading ‘Dial this number for pain and rejection.’ Most of us know how, if we are really feeling bad, we can feel just a little worse by calling it.

My business is not to remake myself, but make the absolute best of what God made. ~ Robert Browning

“We face the choice of thinking, Actually, I ‘m doing pretty well and should really respect myself for my progress, or, as we so often choose to think, I am a spineless wonder, incapable of mustering the integrity, resolve, and inspiration necessary to address a postcard. We all have people who think we are rather nice and doing pretty well and we all have other people who think – as we do often – that we could do better and be better if we would just listen to them…”

Just trust yourself, then you will know how to live. ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“For most of us, the idea that we can listen to ourselves, trust ourselves, and value ourselves is a radial leap of faith. The possibility that we can trust ourselves, our decisions, and our painstaking progress, that this trust might be enough, even admirable, requires that we muster a soupcon of optimism. Optimism about ourselves and our chances is an elected attitude. We can choose to believe the best and not the worst, but to do that we must become conscious of our own negative voice-over and decide to change our mental sound track.

Optimism is critical to our spiritual health. Is our creative glass half full or half empty? Have we wasted a decade or two not getting where we would like, or are we strong and seasoned and facing another couple of decades where our age and maturity and sheer experience may allow us to actualize areas beyond our grasp when we were younger? It’s a matter of perception – and faith.”

Perhaps loving something is the only starting place there is for making your life your own. ~ Alice Koller

Monday, April 7, 2008

Discovering a Sense of Camaraderie

Week 10 - Discovering a Sense of Camaraderie

Keep the Drama on the Stage

Julia Cameron states, “Artists are dramatic. Art is dramatic. When artists are not making artistic dramas, they tend to make personal ones. Feeling off center, they demand center stage. Feeling on tilt, they tilt at an imaginary windmill.

All of us are creative, but those of us who are for a living had better learn to create with the same quotidian grace as our cousin who works at the bank, our father who administers his department at the university, or our neighbor who manages the hardware store. When we make our creative work and our creative lives too special and too dramatic, we uproot those lives from a sense of community and continuity – and that’s exactly what we like to do whenever we get too nervous. Nervous, we create dramas to make ourselves more nervous.

You would think that someone would have the nerve to say, ‘Oh, just stop it.’ As artists, we should say it to ourselves, but drama gives us an excuse to not make art and so artistic anorexia is addictive. We get an adrenalized anxiety from not making art. We can binge on this chemical roller-coaster when work is due.

Artists become snappish when they need to make art. Artistic anorexia, the avoidance of the pleasure of the creative, is a pernicious addiction that strikes most artists sometimes and always takes us by surprise. Instead of making art, we make trouble – and we make it because we are bingeing emotionally on not making art.

As a rule of thumb, artists should repeat this mantra: Sudden problems in my life usually indicate a need to work on my art.

With our fine imaginations, artists can be drama addicts. We can also become physically addicted to our adrenalized anxiety in place of authentic creation. Too much drama is not fun, but it gives us something to do instead of making art. Until we break the code on this avoidance, we believe our dramatic scenarios.

As artists, we can be con artists. We con ourselves into thinking that our dramatic dilemmas mean more than our art, and that indulging in drama will ever-satisfy our creative impulses.”

The Good of Getting Better

In the greatest confusion there is still an open channel to the soul. It may be difficult to find because by midlife it is overgrown, and some of the wildest thickets that surround it grow out of what we describe as our education. But the channel is always there, and it is our business to keep it open, to have access to the deepest part of ourselves. ~ Saul Bellow

As a student of art, you need to make the observation as to when you outgrow a teacher. They are there in the beginning to guide us along our creative path but can later constrict our creative style. Cameron says, “Freed from outer influences, they may incubate and develop a strikingly original style. That’s the good part. Freed from outer influences, they may also hit an artificially low ceiling, having taken their work as far as they can without further input.”

Try to discover your true, honest, untheoretical self. ~ Brenda Ueland

The author also states, “Art, as remarked, is a form of the verb ‘to be’ and, as artists, our spiritual and intellectual perceptions often lead and goad our need for increased technique. We can see it but we can’t paint it. We can hear it but we can’t play it. We need help. We can get help – or we can give up, discouraged by the gap between our inner standards and our own ability to meet them.

Each of us learns in our own way and at our own pace, and yet someone’s excellent method will have something to offer us if we are willing to offer ourselves the opportunity to learn.

We must be open to finding our teachers and open to being teachable – while simultaneously holding an awareness of our equally valid, genuine perceptions and skills that must be protected.
It is an often repeated spiritual axiom that ‘when the student is ready, the teacher appears.’ When we ask to be led, we are led. When we ask to be guided, we are guided. When we ask to be taught, we are taught.

It is spiritual law that the good of our projects and our growth as artists must rest in divine hands and not merely human ones. While we are led to and drawn from teacher to teacher, opportunity to opportunity, God remains the ultimate source of all our creative good. It is easy to forget this and make our agent or our manager or our current teacher the source of our ‘good.’ When we place our reliance on an undergirding of divine assistance, we are able to hear our cues clearly, thank those who step forward to aid us, release those who seem to impede us, and keep unfolding as artists with the faith that God knows precisely what is best for us and can help us find our path, no matter how lost, distanced, or removed we may sometimes feel from our dream. In the heart of God, all things are close at hand, and this means our creative help, support, and success. As we ask, believe, and are open to receive, we are gently led.”

Before, During and After Friends

The book tells us, “As artists, we need people who can see us for who we are – as big as we are and as small as we are, as competent and powerful as we are, and as terrified and as tiny as we sometimes feel. As artists, we need people who believe in us and are able to see our large selves, and people who are able to be gentle and compassionate with our smaller selves.

Friends who see the glory but not its gory cost are the friends we may not be able to afford. Friends who see our success but do not see its stressors can tend to actually ask us to care for them just at those moments when we ourselves need care. This is why we need before, during, and after friends. We need those who can help us leap and help us land, help us celebrate and help us mourn. Some friends can do only one. Some friends can do only the other. We must find those generous enough in temperament and emotional range to do both.”

Remember, as artists we need to focus on the process of creating, and not on the product.