Vulnerability

Newsflash: You are not a genius (Thank God!)

14 months ago I did a google search that changed my creative life.

Rumi

I typed "Art retreat Ireland", hit return and winced. Two things were going through my mind: 1) I shouldn't be doing this.

2) I need to do this.

Search presented it's results and the next thing I know I'm looking at a web page offering 'A Space for Dreaming", in 8 weeks time, in Bantry, Co Cork. A couple of days later, I'm in the post office sending off a postal order to secure my place. I made arrangements to kennel the dog, cattery (yes I made that a verb) the cat, I hurled next month's rent under the bus, followed by Ms Inner Critic, booked a hotel room.... and then I panicked. What was I doing going to an art retreat?

But, of course I knew.

I was going to find and entrench myself in a creative community. I was latching on. That there would be amazing art workshops was a bonus, but I was looking for something more, connection.

I went with that intention, I showed up, I got in there and I made myself known.

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The creative identity doesn't exist in a vacuum.

You can't just don your apron and go about your day if there is nobody around you to play with, talk to, learn from, cheer. Who will you share your creative joy with? Your discoveries, your challenges? Who will encourage you, who will inspire you? Who will understand?

In his book 'Show Your Work', Austin Kleon address the 'lone genius' myth about being a creative. This is the misleading (and damaging) idea that the 'true' artist is inspirationally independent, not in need of social stimulus, a lone genius at work. Kind of like an immaculate conception, his muse just arrives, directly on the horse of God. I must say, I can relate. I always used to place artists on pedestals, attributing to them the classification of genius.

Credit: Kris McGarvey

Kleon refers to Brian Eno's reflection on being an art student in which he says,

'like all art students, I was encouraged to believe that there were a few great figures like Picasso and Kandinsky, Rembrandt and Giotto and so on who sort-of appeared out of nowhere and produced artistic revolution.' 

However, unsatisfied with this, Mr Eno discovered that there was no such thing as an immaculate conception, that

'there was sometimes very fertile scenes involving ... all sorts of people who created a kind of ecology of talent. And out of that ecology arose some wonderful work. So I came up with this word “scenius” – and scenius is the intelligence of a whole… operation or group of people. Let’s forget the idea of “genius” for a little while...'

Thank GOD! I don't have to be a genius to make art! Phew... where's me crayons?

How liberating is that?

And I've found it to be true. I was always 'creative', I always had creative friends, but at one point in my life, I went off course and fell into a more rigid set up. I found myself sneaking my creative life, because I was alienated from my sources. And while my creative self still managed to survive, the longing inside me for something more grew stronger than the need for safety. I knew what I needed to do was to surround myself again, find a scene in which to implant myself, create the conditions under which I could not just survive, but thrive.

Yearning to belong

That art retreat in Bantry was the 'coming out' of a creative identity I had been afraid to embody. I refer to it and my decision to show up, as the gift that keeps on giving. It has led to my connecting with artists and makers all over the world. I have been inspired and encouraged to grow and flourish and I'm always nurturing and growing those connections.

What makes you stand out?

 

Every connection I've made since stems from this. It's like being listed in the creative Golden Pages! I am now a proud member of a group here in Ireland, a network of creative entrepreneurs brought together by Tara Prendergast, a creative business strategist at the helm of Biscuit. I have joined many networking groups in my time and I have to say, I've always felt like a bit of a spare at the meetings and events, maybe it's a bit cliche, but I just 'never fit in'. Maybe it's just me, but I think creatives need to do that kind of thing waaay less formally (although no less effectively) and Tara knows this, so our get togethers feel very different.

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Moral of the story? 

So, what I'm saying to you is this... GET OUT THERE and find a community. Stop waiting until you're 'good enough'. It probably won't be a geographically convenient community, so, to quote a friend of mine at the dinner table,"stretch or starve". The kind of people you're missing in your life are not all contained in your local area, it's not 'handy'. You wont bump into them or happen across them by chance. You have to reach out but let me tell you, it's worth it.

Join a FB group, take a class, pm an artist you admire, comment on their threads, their blogs, we don't bite, in fact we love that! Why not go the whole hog, give yourself a panic attack and sign up for that retreat that you have always found excuses not to attend.

You're always welcome to come and play with me in Sligo!! That's what I'm readying for you there, a big ol gathering place for all our creative selves to get together, be nurtured and inspired.

One more thing

A friend I recently made, only made possible through this kind of reaching out, gave me a little book the other day called "When I loved myself enough", by Kim Mc Millan. It's a beautiful little book celebrating the gifts we are capable of giving ourselves, once we make one very important decision.... that we are worthy. I have it open right now on my desk... here's what it says...

"When I loved myself enough, I quit settling for too little"

And on that thought....

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Always, Amanda xoxo

The Art of Self Expression - Why it’s Important

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This past year, I have been trying to answer the questions of creative identity. Who am I as an artist?

What’s important to me? Why? What do I stand for? What do I believe? Embody as an artist? What drives me?

I have to be honest and say, it’s laborious work achieving clarity about these things. I have found it hard to nail my colours to the mast. But I’m getting there.

I DO know what feels inauthentic though, so every time I pick up a touchstone that doesn't ‘feel’ right, I know. And I’ve picked up many.

Here’s what I’ve figured out so far, here’s where I do have clarity.

Being real about the human experience.

What does this even mean?

It means acknowledging the full spectrum of emotions we experience in response to life. It means being honest with yourself about how you experience yourself and others. Further, (for me) it means affording these experiences actual , healthy expression in order to live a more dynamic, authentic, empowering and rewarding emotional existence.

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I know that when I say this, or try to explain it, it always comes out awkwardly. I just sound like a dictionary falling down the stairs. How can I say this in a simpler way?

It means having a hand in creating realities that enrich you, make you big instead of small.

Sigh… so hard to articulate. Are you getting me?

I’m in a distillation process of getting this idea across in simpler terms. Bear with me, I will.

Anyway…. Why?

Why is self expression important?

I have always been as close to my sadness / dark side / shadow, whatever you want to call it, as I have been to my light. I always thought this was a bad thing. It’s not.

You know what’s worse? Resistance. Selective entertaining of the emotional life.

Having no container for expressing that which you'd rather not experience, is like sailing a little boat in a big ocean. Fine on a calm day, but when the storm comes you’re kinda fucked aren't you?

Learning the art of self expression will take you on a journey in which you become the ocean. What a powerful thought that is.

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There ya go… that’s what’s important to me. As an artist, thats what I stand for.

 

So, how'd I do?

 

Always, Amanda xoxo 

Fisherwoman's Blues

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it’s the bitterest experience

that fact

that no matter how you try

to outwit

or outrun

that in you, you wish to escape

follows

every time

    *

it’s depressing

uprooting

landing softly on the promise

that here things will be different

I will be different

only to find over and over

that no, you won’t

*

So, the boat goes out

again

and she casts her tatty net

again

farther

and deeper

and every passing day

will tear the net away

until there's nothing left

with which to feed her

From my art journal 8/25

Always, Amanda xoxo

What makes a person get out of bed?

Is it purpose? Some promise that thrusts them ahead?

Lust for life? Usefullness?

Uncomfortable bed?

Maybe it’s hope and love or a wife

Chemistry? Energy? Beautiful life?

*

Is it a case of not mattering dread

or of not seeking answers

in books by their bed?

*

Or are they awakened, absent of fear

and shameful existing that threatens to sear

through every thread, that fabrics their being

And today they can trust in themselves to be seen

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Just something I was wondering ;)

Always, Amanda xoxo

Creativity as a Holding Area

When you get into the habit of personal exploration, you develop a greater awareness. The greater the awareness, the less filtering you have access to. What does that mean?

It means that denial of hard to digest information about yourself, becomes harder. Especially when what comes up is a truth you would rather wasn't there.

The more I engage with my creativity as a means of self expression, the more I understand my process and myself. I wish I could say that I also understand better how to 'fix' the things that come up. Sometimes what comes up just feels unfixable.

Have you ever been confronted with the degree to which you disappoint yourself? 

Take for example the likes of the reality show Biggest Loser. That show can be hard to watch! Because you're seeing people, with nowhere to hide, face up to shit that just IS. NOT. EASY. Not only for them to own, but to change. In the Biggest Loser house, contestants are put through an intense process, confronted with truths that until now, they have always run away from. These are people who all have one thing in common, they are REALLY GOOD at self disappointment.

***

Expressing in Part What Can't be Expressed Whole..

All this week I've been struggling to put a blog post together, to nail down something to write about. I don't pre schedule my posts, because my process is to express here and now experiencing. I like when what is going on is the working through of something, unburdening, resolution. When my higher self is front and centre.

Then, I'm writing about things I have figured out, experiences I have transformed. I'm sharing from a place of strength, showcasing neatly packaged stories of how "I got this".

Not this week.

I know that when content or whatever I'm creating feels forced, it's because it is...and I'm trying to express something that isn't 'the thing' in need of expression.

So with this awareness, I look for what is... what is most accessible to me now? Sometimes the answer is disappointing. Something I wouldn't be proud to share, because it comes from a place of weakness, it's raw. This week, I'm stuck with such an answer.

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Messy Truths

So what do I do? I have a messy truth here, one that feels threatening. So much so that, should it be expressed straight out, would leave me feeling very vulnerable. Because I haven't figured it out yet. I don't have a tidy package of hope for you.

That's the kind of truth I've been confronted with this week.

I'll always be honest here but some truths are easier to own than others and until I find a way to figure it out, until I feel like I have owned it, it will remain orphaned.

You Can't Un-Ring a Bell

With a commitment to honest expression, comes a sense of responsibility. I've gotten to the point where I can't circumnavigate actual experience for preferred experience. When I've mapped out how to get from point A to B, I get in my vehicle, I drive and confidently take you on the journey. Like a chirpy tour guide, I'd point out the landmarks along the way and fill you in on the history. But when I'm lost and don't know where I'm going, it's tempting to drop you off somewhere else instead. Had I have written anything else today, that's what I'd be doing. I'd be dropping you off until I feel in control again.

Over the years I have found ways to stay present whether I'm moving or not. I can admit to needing to pull over because I don't know the terrain.

So I'm showing you my holding area.

I'm showing you, as best I can right now, how a particular experience, yet to come full circle, can be expressed without having to wait for it to come from a place of resolution and therefore, strength.

For now, this is where I stand.

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Orphan Girl

*

The girl on the wagon

The girl on the wall

The girl full of might

The girl you would call

*

The girl on the stage

Who sings like a bird

The girls who forever

Will never be her

*

AG 8/15

Always, Amanda xoxo

Poem ~ Thoughts at a Wishing Well

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what if I were to let you go

would that mean you have won?

what if instead of keeping score

i put to bed what's done

*

if I stop waiting for regard

for you to honor me

what then would remain at all?

nothing, probably.

 

8/15

 

Always, Amanda xoxo

The Gift of a Hollow Space

wpid-20150718_1622282.jpg.jpeg When you embark on a personal journey, there’s no doubt you will meet fellow travellers on the way.

Often, if we’ve have been walking alone for some time, we may suddenly see someone also walking their path, who may appear more certain in their stride than we. So, we find ourselves trying to catch up and join them, because we’re struggling to trust ourselves and we’d rather walk wherever you’re going and get there, than stay here and get lost on our own.

Yes, we can catch up and walk together for a while, but the only time the path feels like our own, is when it is. But how do you know?

There's an art to trusting your own compass and setting your own course.

We’re all fellow travellers. Then there’s people like Orly Avineri. She is a guide.

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This was my second workshop with Orly. The theme of this workshop was hollow spaces.

In my last post, I wrote of the hollow girl I see when I revisit an earlier time in my life. I wrote that it still hurts to remember her. I wrote about how I’ve come to understand why, but that it still packs an emotional punch. Enough sometimes to make me cry.

What I didn’t write, because it’s what I hadn't yet reconciled, is my relationship NOW with that hollow girl. As if some kind of ghost, she has continued to haunt me.

I realise I've been afraid of her. Afraid she will return.

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All hollow places are, by nature, functional. The trick is to understand their purpose.

Orly spoke at her workshop of what she meant by hollow spaces. Her view is that a hollow space is one where life is accommodated and facilitated. The nests, the vessels, the wombs. The nooks and crannies that house aliveness. I hadn’t thought about it that way. I think I have continued to identify and associate hollow spaces with emptiness, bereavement, loss.

The irony is that it was out of that hollow space that my yearning to feel alive surfaced. After this weekend, I understand now that my hollow space contained a gift. It’s where THIS life, the ME I am today, was housed.

My hollowness was a gestation, a pregnancy, my creative life waiting to be birthed.

In that post, I shared also that a fundamental part of my recovery process was the practice of noticing what made me come alive and seeking out these experiences. I did that instinctually, this blows my mind!

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Just as the acorn contains the blueprint for the oak it will become, emptiness contains the blueprint for fullness.

That’s why it hurt. Because deep down, I knew exactly, the me I was failing to be. My hollow space contained the blueprint for the life I was meant to live.

By the end of these three soul stirring days, I had come to change my definition of hollow from something empty to something hallowed. Today I sit here re-aligned. My compass calibrated and my spirit inspired to set off down the path again. I have a new understanding of where I began and why.

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Once again, Orly has worked her magic.

She led me back to my hollow space and allowed me to understand it,

not as an abyss, but as a dwelling.

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Life. Affirmed.

Buíochas Orly, thank you.

So, fellow traveller, let me ask you this…. What is the blueprint in your hollow space?

Always, Amanda

You can read the full poem here. Sweet Darkness by David Whyte