Thursday, December 9, 2010

Accidental Inspiration

Protection and Non-Intentions

As my life rocks and rolls right now I remember another time that was this harshly awakening, testing and rewarding. I was 16 and had just moved to Iowa from my childhood home in Vermont. It was a mix of culture shock and teenage darkness that pretty much sent me into a pit of despair. For a while I was eating one egg, drinking one bottle of diet pepsi and eating one slice of pizza per day. I was also running anywhere from 3-10 miles per day. I was worried about myself. I was angry, confused, depressed and exhausted.

Then I found something that worked like magic for me: Julia Cameron's Artists Way. I believe that it saved me: from what? I'm not sure but I knew I needed saving. I also now see that it established some fundamental seeds in my experience that have been growing without my full awareness.

Now, about 11 years later, in the midst of huge life questions, disillusionment, and self growth I almost accidentally found her again. I signed up for a retreat with her called Creativity and Divinity at the New York Open Center in NYC this weekend on a hunch that I needed it. Then today, I came home from work and decided to read or listen to something about meditation/Buddhism and creativity and I found this:

Julia Cameron on the Path of Creativity

I think I'm on to something.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Words and fun

The Swamp of Re-delusionment is my newest sculpture which is currently in the exhibition called
Curious Environs at The Art Museum at the University of Memphis)

The things I find these days that motivate me to write here are not few and far between as much as they are things that I have not found words for. In fact, I have adopted a new conscious practice of finding words to describe the things about art, emotion, creativity, flow, inspiration, contemplation, etc, that I have been struggling to find.

I have been in numerous conversations (especially with a particular friend here in NYC who knows most of the ins and outs of my life at the moment) where it's like I'm thinking out loud. I start feeling very confident about what I'm about to say because I know it so well in my experience and then I find that I start talking and it all comes out "fluffy" and actually obscures what it's trying to express and even my own understanding of it. It's really like I'm thinking it through out loud as opposed to having my thoughts fully formulated in my brain first. I have talked to other friends about their own art writing and understood that they have had similar experiences: the struggles to describe the really deep and profound things they experience. Unfortunately, in our society and many cultures within it, the ability to express something in words is one of the only ways that our thoughts are made valid by others. In fact, I have (mostly unconsciously) based much of my self worth on what I am able to express, in order to seem smart or wise. Suddenly, I am in the midst of something I am not smart or wise about and find that my fear of seeming as such actually impedes my ability to learn from it and actually become smarter and wiser.

Beyond external validation (which isn't sustainable anyway) a truth about finding words for our abstract experiences is that it allows us to do many things: communicate and connect with other people about similar experiences, to teach about these experiences and skillful ways to act with them, to notice the places where we are stuck, etc. Being able to put things into words doesn't have to be an obligation fulfilled, it can actually be a way for us to expand our understanding and capacity to deepen our life experience. The only unfortunate thing about all this is that school often lays the obligation heap on thick and leaves off (what I think of) as the MOST important part of expression: the fun part that is rooted in profound, intimate experiences.

That said, here are the places I have been finding words for my experiences lately:

The truth about all of our thoughts is that they aren't our own. Everything we have ever said or thought about, we heard somewhere else. Therefore it seems skillful (and FUN!) to choose where my thoughts come from and also to try and figure out where the rest of them came from in the first place.

Anyway, FUN is the key word (have I said it enough yet? Maybe I need new words like absurdity, celebration, buffoonery...) Don't take my word for it. Remember the last time you dragged your butt to the computer to write a paper or artist statement or whatever so that you could finish a homework assignment or apply to a residency or school? Now imagine you are writing the same paper but that the subject is more deeply rooted in something you have actually experienced, not just read about. Do you think you would have more to say? More passion to find words for it? Have something that someone else could learn something about you from? Be inspired by your experiences of joy/sorrow/humanity? I think so.