Hello from sunny (finally) Seattle! Do you find that to be an oxymoron based on what you know about my fair city? While it does rain quite a bit, it’s not nearly the sog-fest the media stereotypes make it out to be! Perhaps, too, given that it is a day of remembrance in America for the great Martin Luther King, we have been granted a brighter sky to accompany a time of reflection on what each of us can do to make the world a brighter place.
For Seattle Seahawks fans, the sun may be shining in the wake of yesterday’s triumph, which secured their place in the most super of all American football bowls!
However, I hope the true purpose of this day won’t be lost in the clamor of excitement, or din of despair, or the machinations of everyday living, but will rather realize itself in a generous act, or kind thought, or plan for how to serve your society.
So while I have a bunch of cards to share, this post won’t feature any of them. Instead, I want to share some thoughts on the act of creating.
The Creative Journey
Over the past few days, in addition to creating quite a few cards which I will be showcasing soon, I have been giving much thought to the act of following one’s dreams, of seeking and finding purpose, of creating and communicating with others. It was due in part to reading Wida Miller’s post (of the site Beachorado) in which she discussed losing her sense of creative purpose, letting go for awhile and finding her way back. Shortly after reading her words, I listened to Matthew McConaughey discuss with Kurt Andersen on Studio 360 (a fabulous program on culture and society) his similar predicament, subsequent stepping back and then return to a meaningful, challenging role that fulfilled him artistically. Then this morning on the Take Away, I heard two mid-life women talking about realizing their passions, reinventing themselves and becoming entrepreneurs after life threw them a curve ball.
A little over a year ago, as I detail on my About Me page, I walked into craft and stamping store called Collage in Portland, Oregon. It was a world I had long forgotten about. Other pursuits had fallen by the wayside in my life as well; I had barely written since my poem was published in 2009, hadn’t sewn much since 2011, and hadn’t picked up my guitar or a new album in months. To be fair to myself, I had started my own business and was working assiduously to build a client base, further my teaching knowledge, and learn how to be an entrepreneur, all while continuing to teach in the classroom part-time. Despite this accomplishment, a part of my life was missing. While I had been craving the tactile and the visual, thinking about things outside the written word, and even feeling compelled to pursue dance (and I am not a dancer!), I was in a creative rut.
There was a wall of tags at Collage every color imaginable. Looking back, that wall seems to represent what I was looking for, what I was being drawn to. After that trip, I slowly started to express myself visually. When we took a trip to Port Townsend in January of 2013, I brought all my paper crafting supplies (which could then fit in a little portable file box!). In February, my partner bought me a Big Shot for my birthday. My initial creations were a far cry from what I am able to produce now with the accumulation of learning, practice, and amazing products.
Since then I have been more creative and excited to create than I had been in years. I never considered myself a visual thinker, though I absolutely love the visual arts and have a good eye for design; I struggle with engineering and turning images around in my mind. I have to work hard to visualize a design, and more often than not need to play around with the elements before I can execute the project. But as with dancing (at least that which is choreographed!!), how wonderful it has been to step outside my comfort zone artistically and into realms that force me to use a different part of my brain, to work wordlessly! I think this has been one of the most transformative aspects of my journey–moving from the verbal to the visual–and I can see its impact in other areas of my life, surprisingly even in my writing!
Most significant in my journey, though, is the fact that I gave myself permission to create by drawing boundaries in my professional life and letting go of thoughts or behaviors that made my career overwhelming. I continue to work on balancing my personal, creative and professional life, as we all do, but instead of anxiety or dread around my work, I feel more invested and creative in my teaching since I have allowed the time and space to create for myself.
Creating for Self and Other
I have worked, literally and figuratively, on and off stage my entire life as a writer, musician, actor and teacher. I have always taken pleasure in creating for myself, doing it, as Ani DiFranco says in Joyful Girl (click on link for a gorgeous rendition), “for the joy it brings because I am a joyful girl.” I recognize, as well though, the importance of audience and community in one’s artistic pursuits, and that is one reason why I decided to develop a website to accompany my work. The original idea behind Pinned & Penned was something of a digital scrapbook, and potential resume, for my sewing projects and creative writing. Not long after establishing the site, though, it too went by the wayside.
Over the past few months, as I have invested more in my paper crafting and engaged more with the community of paper crafters, my site has primarily focused on cards. The act of making greeting cards is something that transcends creation for one’s self or for the sake of creating in that their very purpose for existing is to be given away! I love that aspect of this art form–sharing and communication of caring is inherent in the making of a card.
Having a website presence has pushed me creatively in this realm and provided me with a growing community of writers, readers, artists, and travelers from whom I am learning so much. What I was prompted to ask, though, after reading Wida’s post, is what do I really want to do with my cards, my sewing, my writing, and fundamentally this site? How do I want to engage with an audience here in the blogosphere?
What I realized is that while I want to continue to create visually and share those paper and fabric creations with others on this site, I also want to provide a greater diversity of content. I want to write about my other passions, exposing people to new ideas in art, music, food, and culture, or places to explore based on my experiences. One of the women entrepreneurs on the Take Away is a life coach, and a question she was asked, and which she now asks her clients, is what do people come to you for? Growing up, my friends fondly referred to me “the what’s doing” section. I was never at a loss for finding something interesting to do or read, or some new place or aspect of culture to explore. Being that curious person who has always striven to, as E.M. Forester writes, “only connect”, has obviously influenced my decision to be a teacher, formally speaking. But beyond exposing students to new ways of thinking, or reading, or writing, I still relish the role of the what’s doing section; I want write with this purpose in mind, helping tourists and locals find their way around Seattle, or sharing recommendations for traveling, dining, drinking, listening, and viewing. For a little while, my partner and I fancied ourselves the next Jane and Michael Sterns. We began a blog for our travel, culinary, and drinking experiences. Though we are both writers, we found it difficult to pursue and maintain together. My goal is to pick up the thread here and see where it takes me.
What Do You Want?
While I have greater clarity about my web-presence, I am still contemplating what I want to do with my paper and fabric crafts, as well as the curriculum I design. Do I want to pursue sales of my creative work? Would that take the joy out of creating? At what level would I be comfortable with creating for profit? Do I have the desire or time to pursue such an endeavor? Would I rather focus on developing and selling my curriculum? I showcased a card recently for CASual Fridays’ Challenge, In a Word. My word was “create”. Because I have put the mental and physical energy out there, I have prepared the way for not only a creative new year, but a creative new decade, as I will be turning 40 in two weeks!
I have many new followers, and have witnessed an increase in traffic over the last few months, which is so exciting, mostly because I have been connecting with some very thoughtful, adventurous, funny, positive people. So dear reader, I will pose some questions for you to chew on:
What do people come to you for?
- What thread(s) have you dropped and why?
- Which one(s) would you like to pick up again?
- What is your goal for a current project, artistic or otherwise?
- What scares you or challenges you artistically or otherwise? How can the pursuit of this fear actually help you with some other aspect of your life?
- What dreams do you have for your life, for your neighborhood, for the world that you have not yet but would like to pursue?
I want to thank Wida for her post, and congratulate her for achieving one of her dreams. The funny thing about letting go is that when you finally do, the answers appear. It’s like I tell my writing students–they have to let their piece get cold before they can revise–true of anything in life, but more challenging to realize in our fast-faster-fastest paced world, don’t you think? She inspired me to start thinking about what I want here, and hopefully, I, in turn, have inspired you and will continue to do so!
If you haven’t heard of it, or read it, I highly recommend The Artist’s Way for those of you who may be experiencing a creative lull or needing to redefine what you want creatively.
On my way out, I will leave you with a poem by Langston Hughes in honor of Martin Luther King day and the lyrics for Joyful Girl by Ani DiFranco. Check out the link above to hear this beauty of a song.
I do it for the joy it brings
Because I’m a joyful girl
Because the world owes me nothing
And we owe each other the world
I do it because it’s the least I can do
I do it because I learned it from you
I do it just because I want to
Because I want to
And everything I do is judged
And mostly get it wrong, but oh well ‘Cuz the bathroom mirror has not budged
And the woman who lives there can tell
The truth from the stuff that they say
And she looks me in the eye
Says would you prefer the easy way?
No well okay then don’t cry
I wonder if everything I do, I do instead of something I want to do more
Question fills my head and I, and I know that there’s no grand plan here
This is just the way it goes and when everything else seems unclear
I guess at least I know
I do it for the joy it brings and a
Because I’m a joyful girl
Because the world owes me nothing and
And we owe each other the world and
And I do it because it’s the least I can do
And I do it because I learned it from you
And I, I do it just because I want to
Boy I want to, I just want to