The God of Artists

Many of us equate difficulty with virtue — and art with fooling around.  Hard work is good.  A terrible job must be building our moral fiber. Something — a talent for painting, say — that comes to us easily and seems compatible with us must be some sort of cheap trick, not to be taken seriously.  On the one hand, we give lip service to the notion that God wants us to be happy, joyous and free.  On the other hand, we secretly think that God wants us to be broke if we are going to be so decadent as to want to be artists.  Do we have any proof at all for these ideas about God?

Julia Cameron

You may have noticed that this week’s post have a bit of a theme about what it means to take our life and our art seriously.

I read the Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron around the time it was published back in 1992.  It’s a book that changed my life by expanding my beliefs about work, art, spirituality and talent.  I return to the exercises in that book every so often, and have been writing in a journal daily since the early 1990’s mostly because of that book.

I didn’t become an acclaimed artist by reading Julia Cameron’s book, but my life started to become a work of art from that point forward.  I took her following words to heart from the Artist’s Way:

“Making art begins with making hay while the sun shines. It begins with getting into the now and enjoying your day. it begins with giving yourself some small treats and breaks.  “This is extravagant but so is God” is a good attitude to take when treating your artist to small bribes and beauties.  Remember you are the cheapskate, not God. As you expect God to be more generous, God will be able to be more generous to you.”

This approach changed my life for the better, so every so often I write about Julia Cameron’s ideas and books in case she they could help you too.  I recommend the Artist’s Way and her follow-on books to any of you who are trying to write your destiny!

Daily Contemplation:

Are you generous with your inner and outer artist?

Do you believe that God or the Universe is extravagant and wants to share some of that extravagance with you?

Does God love and cherish artists?

Using Journals for Memoir Writing and More

A few of my many “pretty” journals

Do you use journals to record your thoughts, ideas, emotions, poems and stories?

When I first started journaling, I followed Julia Cameron’s ideas in The Artist’s Way.  I wrote 3 pages of long-hand on any cheap notebook or paper that I could find.  In some ways, I’ve come full circle and have been returning to that idea, and even moving to online forms of writing.

However, in the interim between then and now, I spent years writing in beautiful, whimsical, artistic and “professional-looking” journals.  Unfortunately, much of what went into those lovely books was drivel.

Yet, interspersed between the mundane and the trivial were some interesting observations about my life and times that make memoir and creative writing easier.  If I want to know how to write about life in Chicago in the 1990’s, I already have some starting material.

Even more fascinating to me is how  journal entries sometimes foreshadow the story that I am now writing in my novel.  Like this little admonishment to myself on March 2, 2001:

As long as you “control” your ship you cannot swim in the ocean and dive as the mystical whales do.

I read that now and get a shiver up my spine, because there are mystical whales in my novel now.  I had a vague idea of the novels I wanted to create then, but no idea of writing about whales (consciously).

Nicholas’ drawing of a Fumaron when he was 8 years old in 2010

Today, I was even more delighted to find the journal with drawings from my son Nicholas 2 years ago when he was only 8 years old.

One of my projects this summer  is to transfer the gems from my journals over the last twenty years into Evernote notebooks so that they can be searched more easily.

Too often we spend hours writing and don’t go back to look for the good stuff.

This weekend how about taking some time to look at your early writing, journals, art, premonitions or anything else that you might still be able to access?

If you don’t have any records of your life and times on earth, there’s no time like the present to start creating some!

The Legacy of Your Art

Almost everyone who reads my blog is an artist.  You may not look upon your work as art, but if you are creating anything original with what you do,  in my view, you are creating art.

Some art is uninspiring, derivative, or mediocre.  I doubt that anyone reading this blog is creating that kind of art.  Some of the books that I’m currently reading got me to thinking about the legacy of our art and life.

I’ve finally gotten around to reading the biography of Steve Jobs at the same time that I’ve started reading the book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

The biography of Steve Jobs is brilliant, though I can’t wondering if I would like Steve Jobs if I had worked for him.  Yet, there’s no denying he was a great artist, and left a legacy of innovation that touched millions if not billions of people.

Then, there is the opposite end of the spectrum, the quiet artist.  In the first chapter of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain describes a different kind of artist.  A social artist who was shy, quiet and strong in a different way.  Her name was Rosa Parks.  She too affected the lives of millions of people around the world with a different kind of courage and quiet strength.

Boats for Nicholas

Today, I am celebrating the art of a quietly strong artist, my mother.  Over her life, she has been creating works of art that have only been seen by her family. She created the paintings on this page for my kids and me.  I’m afraid my photos of her work don’t do it justice!

My mom studied art at Lake Forest College in 1947, after graduating a year early from high school because she skipped a grade growing up.  She was quite clever in so many ways.

She was offered a full scholarship for college, but her father, my grandfather refused to accept charity, so she didn’t finish college then.  It would be over thirty years later that she would graduate from college in 1984, with a degree in business.  She worked very hard and went on to work in the Department of the Army Budget Office in the Pentagon in Washington D.C. around the same time I moved back from New York to live in Chicago.

In recent years, she has created several paintings that she has given to me so that I could have original art in my house.  I don’t have her talent for visual art, though both of my boys do.

My mother taught me to never give up on being an artist, no matter what restrictions your world or life puts in your way.  It’s because of her to a large degree that I don’t give up on my artistic aspirations.  I just hope that I can be half the artist she has been.

A lighthouse for Alex

While it’s tempting to think that the world wouldn’t move ahead without people like Steve Jobs or Rosa Parks, I agree with words of Mother Theresa:

There are no great actions, only small actions done with great love.

Created with love, the art of my mother’s life, and my life and your life is just as important as anyone else’s.  Is it possible that our art carries the vibration of the love in which we created it?  I believe it does.  Therefore, creating art with love is the most important choice you can make for creating a worthy legacy.  I’m very grateful that I grew up with that kind of artist.

From what I can tell, creating art for love’s sake is the ultimate message that Steve Jobs wanted his biographer to articulate in his biography, so that his children could know his motivation for all that he did.

What would your biographer say about you and the art of your life?

Do You Create Vision Boards? They Might HelpYour Writing

I’ve been sharing some fairly esoteric posts about energy, strengths, weaknesses and treasure recently.  I’m feeling an urge to shift gears just a bit and talk about something a little less lofty.  So, today, I’m writing about the connections between our closets and clothes, and editing our writing.

Let me start by saying that I’m a big fan of vision boards.  I’ve been doing them for years. There so much fun to make.  I have not tried Pinterest yet for fear of addiction. With that said, I also often find that vision boards don’t usually work for me in the way that I originally intended. They almost never help me with money, relationships, getting thinner or any of the big dreams that I add to the boards.  I wish they did. However, vision boards have a wonderful way of highlighting my desires as well as the inner resources that I think I need from the outer world, but already have within me.

For instance, in the last two weeks, I’ve been buying the spring fashion magazines and cutting out pictures of clothes to put on my fashion vision board.   When I pulled together my latest fashion vision board, it was full of beautiful, bright pink, orange and lime green edgy and eclectic clothes as well as some earthy feminine pieces.  The board looked so cute, and I was so proud of myself for pulling it together. Despite all the money I don’t have, I dreamt of making my fashion vision board into a reality as soon as possible.

Then, a series of wise observations occurred to me.

First, I noticed that I had a whole bunch of bright, eclectic, edgy and earthy clothes that I wasn’t wearing. Looking even more closely, I decided that part of my problem was that my clothes weren’t grouped together well.  I also had many clothes I didn’t wear.  The closet edits of Gail King in the latest edition of O Magazine also inspired me to make some changes.

You might be wondering if this is a post on the benefits of cleaning closets.   Please humor me, I’m going somewhere with this. The process of looking at my existing resources for living my fashion vision, helped me to notice that my novel’s problems correlated very closely with my formerly unwieldy closet:

  • I had never taken the time to organize all the pieces in my novel strategically.
  • I didn’t allow myself to gratefully acknowledge what pieces, scenes, characters I loved about my novel.
  • I hadn’t grouped scenes together in a way that made the story flow better.
  • I was afraid to throw anything out because I was too worried about my word count, and wondered if I’d have any story left after editing.

My new vision board for my novel looks quite a bit like a conventional storyboard, with the difference that it’s focused on what I really love about my own book. Focusing on what I love about my novel has helped me immensely to respect it more. Organizing a writing vision board is also very good preparation for an upcoming writer’s conference that I’m going to attend one in Madison in mid-April where I need to know pivotal scenes in the novel, the climax of the story, and a synopsis that is clean and easy to understand.

My “love your novel” vision board process is not a guarantee that a novel will be any good, but it is a much more interesting way to make the process of fine tuning and editing the novel fun.   It’s also taught me that we should look at our other dreams and visions for clues about our creativity.  My fashion vision board reflected back to me that I want to create a boldly colorful, eclectic and slightly edgy, earthy and feminine fantasy novel that expresses my true personal style, and that I have existing resources to do this.

Don’t know if you do vision boards, but you might take a look at any you have created recently or in the past and see if they tell you anything new about what your writing wants to express through you.